ADVANCE REVIEW: Ragemoor #2 (of 4)A comic review article by: Zack Davisson
ADVANCE REVIEW! Ragemoor #2 will go on sale Wednesday, April 18, 2012.
After the splendid confusion of Ragemoor #1, I was looking forward to the second issue because I really had no idea what to expect. The first issue seemed like a nice, self-contained little Gothic horror story so I didn't know if Strnad and Corben would deliver further stories of the house that rage built with new occupants, or if the same cast of characters would return.
To my surprise, I got the latter. Ragemoor #2 takes on the story right where the first issue left off, and the descent into weirdness continues.
While there are still some elements of Gothic horror remaining; The splendorous Anoria is locked in a high tower, driven insane by her encounter with Ragemoor. Her naïve suitor Master Herbert seeks to pierce her madness and win her love with melancholy verse and a captor's affection. But when Herbert decides that he can only win Anoria's love by becoming a true man of action, by defeating the skull-faced baboons that ravaged her, then we begin to peel back the layers of Ragemoor and find that things are even stranger than we thought. Cockroach cooks. Giant bug cults in the basement. And of course, the skull-faced baboons.
Ragemoor is only recommended for those with a high tolerance and love for the bizarre. I can't imagine a casual reader picking this up and enjoying it. Strnad and Corben seem less concerned with putting forth a coherent story than with playing with Gothic tropes and filling each panel with as much weirdness as possible. I am sometimes unsure of their intentions; is this a straight-forward horror story? Is it a parody? Is it both? Some of the scenes are so outrageous that I am sure they must be having a laugh, but then the tone is deadly serious.
One of the things I enjoy about Ragemoor is that I have no idea what is coming next. From panel to panel, I could never guess where the story is going. The cockroach cooks took me by surprise, even after seeing the skull-faced baboons. And then I really didn't expect to see a man blow up like a balloon then pop and spew maggots all over. Cause yeah, that's how Ragemoor rolls.
Fortunately, backing up all of this weirdness is Richard Corben's art. I am a total Corben fanboy -- have been for decades. I love his odd, tube-headed people, his German expressionist deep shadows, and the crumbly, chunky façade he layers on every surface. Everything is out of proportion in Corben's world, with makes for an unsettling symmetry. A character smiling in one of his comics is the most chilling scenes you can read, because that character is almost certainly mad. Corben gets to play in Ragemoor. Without the confines of a deep story, he fills the comic full of his particular dark vision, in glorious black-and-white.
There are two more issues to go of Ragemoor, and I still don't have the slightest idea what to expect. Is someone going to turn into a cockroach? Will a brave, handsome young hunter come to rescue the splendorous Anoria locked in her tower? Just how much human folly will Castle Ragemoor tolerate before it brings down the house?
I have no idea. But I am looking forward to it.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.