Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery: Graphic Classics Volume 21

A comic review article by: Penny Kenny
Ten years ago Eureka Productions published their first Graphic Classics volume, Edgar Allan Poe. To celebrate their anniversary, Eureka returns to Poe with volume twenty-one, Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery.

Tales collects fifteen stories and poems, opening with Maxon Crumb's illustration for "Alone," a short poem in which Poe acknowledges and embraces his macabre nature. Crumb combines primitive art aesthetics with collage techniques and figures similar to those found in Moebius's Incal and Leo's Aldebaran series to create a striking image.

Antonella Caputo and Reno Maniquis's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is everything you could want for an adaptation of the classic story. Caputo's cuts are judicious, keeping the flow of the story intact. The characters of the proto-Holmes and Watson and the world they live in come to life in Maniquis's art. It has a naturalistic feel to it, which makes the horrific moments that much more dramatic.

Molly Kiely puts Poe himself in her illustrations for "To Violet Vane." The short poem is one of Poe's more positive works. Kiely's style, which brings to mind Charles Dana Gibson's "Gibson Girls" and the Art Nouveau movement, compliments it beautifully.

Michael Manning's illustrations for the scientific horror story "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" are more stylized and stiff than Maniquis's, yet they suit this tale of hypnotism and un-death.

Neale Bleanden gives the poem "A Dream Within a Dream" a whimsical, abstract, Underground Comix look that works surprisingly well with the philosophical subject.

"Berenice" is a gothic tale of a mentally tormented young man and the young woman who innocently pushes him over the edge. I wasn't familiar with this story, but Tom Pomplun's adaptation makes me want to seek out the original. Nelson Evergreen's illustrations are beautiful. The way he uses light and color to create effect is marvelous.

While Roger Langridge's illustrations for the poem "Eldorado" have an almost comic look to them, they ultimately give the short tale of a knight on a hopeless quest more of a kick than a more realistic take might have.

"Hop-Frog" is the story of a jester, the woman he loves, and the cruel king who controls both their lives. Lisa K. Weber's comic drawings are bright and amusing, taking away a bit from the story's climax; yet she has a wonderful mastery of how to tell a story. The action flows easily from panel to panel. There is a sequence of four panels used to illustrate Hop-Frog's gate that is terrific.

In "The Oval Portrait" a man takes refuge in an abandoned chateau and stumbles upon the story of an obsessed artist. I'll leave it to the literary scholars to analyze Poe's writings, but he certainly had an obsession with obsession. Craig Wilson is another artist who uses light and shadow to great effect. The gothic atmosphere is thick and yet the reader can clearly follow the action.

Brad Teare uses a woodcut like style for "The Man of the Crowd." This story didn't really do anything for me, though I'm not faulting the art or Rich Rainey's adaptation. It's one of those stories that makes a statement on the human condition, but does so with self-importance and without a great deal of plot. Those have never appealed to me. The adaptor and illustrator did a good job with what they had to work with.

Illustrator Andy Ewen and colorist Benjamin Wright combine Edward Gorey and Native American art to create the illustrations for "Spirits of the Dead," a poem which has a less depressing quality than many of Poe's works dealing with death.

"King Pest" is a comic-macabre story centered around two sailors who enter a plague ridden city and feast in an undertaker's establishment with King Pest and his associates. There's a bit of physical action in this story and Anton Emdin does a nice job of portraying it. The characters are grotesque but not frightening and have a stretchy, fluid quality to them.

In Ron Sutton's interpretation of "The Tell-Tale Heart," a punk girl takes on the lead role. This is extremely effective, as it gives the story a "ripped-from today's headlines" kind of feel which increases the horror factor.

I don't know what it says about me, but "The Masque of the Red Death" is my favorite Poe story. There's something about the masked figure passing through the decadent Prince Prospero's wild party while the people die of the plague outside that resonates with me. Maybe it's the lush description. Or it might be the story's fitting end. Either way, I expect a lot out of any adaptation of it and Stan Shaw doesn't disappoint. The colors are rich. The human characters have a sharp, arrogant feel to them and there's a nightmarish quality that pervades the whole thing.

"The Conqueror Worm" is a poem you can't help but feel H.P. Lovecraft enjoyed. Besides the titular worm, there's the whole theme of humans helpless and hopeless in the hands of greater powers. The art by Leong Wan Kok is collage like. The figures are outlined in such a way that they stand out from the backgrounds. The worm has an opalescent look that's quite striking.

Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery is a solid collection of Poe's works that belongs on the shelf of every Poe fan and horror aficionado. Suitable for twelve-year-olds and up, it also serves as a reader friendly introduction to the master's works for teen readers who haven't encountered him yet.

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