February 8, 2009

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Dark Horse Book of the Dead

Written by Various Authors
Illustrated by Various Artists
Dark Horse

I'm rather sad that this is the last of these anthologies for me to read, but how can you argue with a collection that starts with Kelley Jones doing a zombie story and ends with Jill Thompson illustrating zombie dogs?

Once again, editor Scott Allie puts together a solid collection of horror tales centering around a theme, this time people who should be dead but just can't manage the job.

As mentioned first up is Jones and his crazy pencils, telling the tale of man who must stay away from a horde of zombies. An abrupt change of art brings us the obligatory Hellyboy entry, where our red hero takes on a ghoul with his usual literary tact: "You sick piece of crap!" Mignola's writing continues to be strong in these vignettes, with this story using Shakespeare as a framing device.

Robert Howard of Conan fame is Gary Gianni's author-muse this time, illustrating one of his one-shot stories about a man with an immortal heart. Even in something so short, Howard's love of the outsider shines through. I have to admit, however, that I wasn't overly fond of Gianni's choice of illustrations this time.

I think the best piece, however, is Bob Fingerman's, where Death decides to take a holiday, leaving a very confused youth in search of hand-sized condoms. It's slapstick black comedy at its finest.

Eric Powell uses his realistic etching style to "adapt" a story of the Wallace expedition, an artic expedition gone horribly wrong, as the white men blame the native for a crime far more hideous than any human could possibly conceive. Given some of the stuff we've seen in teh Goon, this was almost disappointingly restrainted.

Perhaps most interesting in this set is "The Magicians," where a son uses magical powers to raise his father from the dead to ask him for advice. Rather than going for the creepy, Allie and art partners Paul Lee and Brian Horton put together a poinent story of a family split apart by the dark arts and perhaps a bit of redemption.

Evan Dorkin and Jill Thomson end things, as usual, with the dog pack and their stray cat friend. This time, a character from the past comes back for her revenge--using the power of zombie dogs! Do I really need to say more than that?

These four Dark Horse anthologies are really good, and you'll enjoy any of the ones you choose to read. I suggest late at night, with a flashlight...