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Hack/Slash #15 - #17

Posted: Monday, November 24, 2008
By: David Baxter

Tim Seeley, Barry Keating, Brian Yuzna
Emily Stone, Mark Englert (c)
Devil's Due Publishing
Plot: The critically acclaimed monster and slasher inspired comic teams up with Dr. Herbert West -- the Re-Animator himself! -- for one of the most significant and relevant crossovers in recent memory, possibly of all time. Cassie is on the trail of the father she never knew, and the latest road leads to the new assistant of West, as the good doctor struggles to bring back the dead without creating the usual rage-fueled revenants, monsters such as those that populated the '80s B-movie circuit. And their latest test subject is Cassie’s mother’s corpse!

Raves and Whistles: Hot damn, this was a crossover. The first chapter was slow to start, I’ll admit, and while there were plenty of hints dropped about Cassie’s search for her father, her recent slaying of her mother (who was a revenant slasher killing machine called “The Lunch Lady”), the expectation was, of course, that this being a Re-Animator character crossover, that this would all be but window dressing, a motivation for the characters while they, plot wise, detoured to have three issues of fun with the inimitable Dr. Herbert West. Not so. In the second and third installments, events got heavy, and shockingly vital to the series’ mythology as a whole. This was arguably the most important Hack/Slash story to come down the pike to date. And it wove in Mr. West organically, smartly, fluidly, and thrillingly. This is hands down the ultimate model of what a crossover can and should be.

Tim Seeley is a fella whose progress I haven’t followed in recent years, but his scripting, as evidenced here, has fine-tuned like the sugars of a grape reduction into an authentic balsamic liquid-love. Cassie and Hack have evolved into distinctive voices, distinctive characters, and his (and Barry Keating’s) portrayal of Herbert West is spot on; as a huge fan of the Re-Animator films, even the later ones, I have not one complaint, or difficulty with a lone line of dialogue or character reaction. Even better, West is now -- while easily allowed to walk into the sunset and no longer by any sort of necessity play a part in Hack/Slash -- a crucial component to the ongoing saga of Cassie and Hack. Think about it: how incredible would it be if Robocop could be a major part of, oh, say, DC’s Cyborg? Or perhaps looking at an example that actually occurred: the xenomorphs from Aliens in Wildstorm’s Stormwatch, or Bruce Campbell in Marvel Zombies. These stories made an impact (and produced sales figures) that far outstrip the Batman vs. Aliens of our time.

Emily Stone provides full art (with Mark Englert on full colors) for the three issues, and while I felt her work wasn’t as dynamic as Seeley’s (who was the last I’d seen to draw Hack/Slash, back in the day), her style didn’t take very long to grow on me, and indeed, her Herbert West and the sheer lunacy of the re-animated creatures she concocted and drew onto the page were impressive as sin. She’s much cleaner and softer in stroke then Seeley (who could get ink and detail happy) but if the scene truly called for some intense detail, she provided it in spades. The rest of the time her sparser touch actually helped to humanize the characters, remove the dynamic comic book hyper-realness of it all, which especially in a story as emotionally charged as this, proved a big benefit.

Final Word: So Devil’s Due had to make a choice --Diamond wouldn’t let them distribute these three issues due to a weak (and borderline fallacious) albeit existing cease-and-desist order from some Re-Animator merchandise seller. The choice: should Devil’s Due can the whole thing? Rewrite the story so that West wouldn’t take part? No, in the end, they decided to damn the torpedoes, distribute the three issues independently, outside of Diamond, and stand behind their creative teams on the whole. Sound like a wild choice to make? Gutsy? Ballsy? Well, it won’t be once you’ve read these issues. Together they comprise one of the best multi-media crossovers ever made. And the choice to stand behind such incredible entertainment is nothing less than elementary.

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