October 8, 2013

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Halloween Horror: Grindhouse Doors Open at Midnight #1

If you love horror,you've come to the right place! It's another entry in Panel Patter's Halloween Horror 2013! You can find all my entries by following this Halloween Horror tag.

Written by Alex de Campi
Illustrated by Chris Peterson and Nolan Woodard
Published by Dark Horse Comics

A small town is buzzing after a cursed beehive leads to mass murder while its honey ramps up the sexuality of all who touch it in this over-the-top horror piece that I can honestly say is quite unlike anything I've ever read in a comic.

Grabbing the hypersexual drive-in horror movie vibe by the throat, Alex de Campi wastes no time in letting you know this is going to be a comic heavy on the sex and violence. We get a woman touching herself on the first page, and shortly after that, two female friends start making out while a man prefers to go after his beer.

Before long, the violence half kicks in, with the seemingly innocent killing of a bee followed by a gruesome killing that would make Lorena Bobbitt proud. By the time we reach the end, de Campi has hit just about every note pitch-perfect, including ending on a cliffhanger that might just cause a nightmare, thanks to the work of Peterson and Woodard.

It's not easy to make a comic like this without tipping over the edge, but de Campi manages it--just barely. It really helps that despite working in some absolutely despicable tropes, she does a great job keeping the dialogue fresh and modern. There's a female character with some integrity, too, to balance against the women who are under the influence of the bees. Those little touches make this something that's compelling reading beyond a quick, "oh that's a funny parody" sort of way.

I don't know how de Campi selected her artists, but Peterson and Woodard nail this one. They're able to switch between trashy scenes of sloppy make-outs to jaded cops to brutal violence. Peterson's lines remind me a bit of Marc Laming, with perhaps just a bit more exaggeration about them. He's not shy about bringing the images of the story right into the reader's face, such as when Garcia's eyes explode from an extreme close-up at the bottom of a nearly full-page image of gore, that itself bursts out of a bed of roses. Woodward's colors are dulled but vivid, as though a bit of black was mixed into the reds, blues, and yellows that he uses to emphasize the dark nature of the story. When we are out of the horror realm, it's all garish and bright, which provides a stark contrast.

Grindhouse isn't for the easily disgusted or those who knee-jerk when they see female characters being exploited. Trust me, Alex knows what she's doing--and that's giving horror comics fans a loving tribute to another part of the horror genre. If you have any affinity at all for the drive in gore-fests, then make sure you're picking up Grindhouse. It's absolutely amazing at what it does, and any fans of horror need to check this out as well. It's like the old EC comics turned up to eleven--and that's a good thing.