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Anita Blake, The Laughing Corpse: Executioner #3

Posted: Tuesday, January 12, 2010
By: Shawn Hill

Laurell K. Hamilton, adapted by Jess Ruffner
Ron Lim, Laura Villari (colors)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Anita Blake, The Laughing Corpse: Executioner #3 arrives in stores tomorrow, January 13.

Plot: Didn't all this start with a rich guy who tried to boss Anita around? Now she's trapped in his house, and he might be the least of the horrors she has to face tonight.

Comments: Let's go through what Anita faces, in succession this issue. She's captured by the man who ultimately set a murderous zombie free in the St. Louis suburbs. One of his thugs tries to soften her up with jujitsu. She dislocates his knee.

Then she jumps on the crotch of another thug with both feet, making him very angry (when he recovers). Then she runs into her rival voodoo queen, the amoral Dominga, who (worse yet) has brought along her horror show monster (the only one left after Anita's investigations forced her to destroy the rest), a Lovecraftian writhing mass of dead body parts. That smells really really bad.

It's a Hamilton trait that the actual monster isn't the worst thing in the room, as it's clear that Dominga and Gaynor are the real evils here. They bargain over Anita's fate, which is either to raise someone so long dead a human sacrifice is required, or become Dominga's zombie servant due to Anita's evident (but relatively untrained) power, or some vile mixture of both fates. Killing them both is something I wouldn't count out of the equation, but the odds are currently running the other way.

To top it off, Anita finds herself tied up to await whichever fate, and her intended sacrifice is a "softened-up" Wheelchair Wanda, meaning someone beat up a crippled prostitute. Gaynor and Dominga are icons of disgust, and Lim has a lot of fun with Dominga's frail grandmotherly looks and Gaynor's aging fat-cat ones. Ruffner also seems to enjoy the way Anita goads all of her enemies with insults (hoping to trip them up, but making her look either brave or foolish).

Lim also captures the fight action pretty well, as Anita (despite being a tiny hottie) seems nearly capable of taking down all of her larger foes, admittedly relying on the element of surprise, and their tendency to underestimate her threat as much as her own skill. For, as she says, "if two people are equal in skill, the bigger one will win." That cold-blooded pragmatism is what sets Anita and her vampires (there aren't many in this story, but they're coming eventually) apart from some of the many other approaches that have proliferated lately. If the current team can continue to pull off issues as viscerally thrilling and full of film noir dialogue as this one, I have hopes they can follow Hamilton into the darker fates coloring Anita's future adventures.

That's definitely the implication at the end of the issue, as the thug without the knee injury arrives to make a rape threat to the bound Anita. He's way too stupid to realize he's just making her mad.






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