Bela Lugosi's Tales from the Grave #2A comic review article by: Jason Sacks
You wanna talk horror? Just look at that horrible, squint-eyed sailor on the cover of the great new horror comic! Monster maniac Rick Baker created this spectacular image of a certain special sailor man who "yam who he yam," and who he yam is terrifying. Especially since I recently finished the final volume of Fantagraphics's sumptuous reprints of the Popeye comic strip, this cover really spooked the hell out of me. You know those covers that Alex Ross paints, where ordinary models are made to look like superheroes? Well, this cover is like the funhouse-mirror version of those covers. The realistic figure on this cover is way more spooky and crazy because he looks so real. Of course it's no surprise that one of the finest special effects artists of all time created such an amazing image, but it still is awesomely, crazily, weird.
Which is a perfect set of terms to apply to the tremendously fun story about that self-same sailor man that appears in this issue and was inspired by that amazing cover. Comic art legend Kerry Gammill writes this story for a change, accompanied with some monstrously moody art by Kamil "Kurt" Kochanski" that tells the story of a certain Sea Hag's ultimate revenge against her nasty old sailor man -- a sailor man whose one eye glows with mystic malevolence. This story is a bit slight, and the punchline depends completely on how much you know and love that certain sailor man, but the art and coloring create a fantastic atmosphere and the first appearance of the Sea Hag is legitimately chilling.
That was one of my favorite stories in this issue. My other favorite story was Mike Dubisch's "Order In/Take Out Chaos", a surprisingly dark tale of Cthulu and other mystic monsters who haunt a weird take-out joint. Dubisch's art is full of gloopy, amorphous blobs that seem to come from a distant and nasty world. This story of the world's nastiest take-out joint seems shockingly real somehow -- it doesn't seem too much nastier than any other crappy take-out restaurant that you might find in the real world, and the moody coloring, all done in shades of blue, really emphasizes both the dark mood of the story and the creepiness of the setting. The horrific seduction scene in this comic is one of the weirdest and darkest I can remember in a horror comic.
This comic is filled with great horror stories, all of which have a great combination of classic mood and a modern sensibility. Maybe the most traditional of the stories presented in this issue is Sam Park and James Groman's "Claws of the Werewolf." The story centers on a great, lost horror film, possibly the greatest lost horror film of all time. An expert comes to do a presentation about the movie -- but does the expert know a secret about the movie? This story has a great double twist ending that made me smile, but what really made me smile was how devoted Park and Groman are to horror and how wonderfully they throw in a whole bunch of Easter eggs for devoted fans.
And besides these three stories, readers get three more stories, an art gallery, an interview and several other pieces. Monsterverse knows how to give the reader a lot for their money. This comic feels like a great old issue of the Creepy comics of the 1960s or '70s -- a bunch of great comics and art for a reasonable price -- all intended for fans of real classic horror.