Written by Doug Moench, Peter Bagge, Alex de Campi, Dan Braun and Bruce Jones
Illustrated by Mike Norton, Dave Stokes, Peter Bagge, Henrik Jonsson, and Ramon Torrents
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Two incredibly strong original stories are paired with a troubled reprint in another issue of Dark Horse's horror quarterly.
Veteran horror writer Doug Moench takes a turn at the "rob a tomb at your peril" theme by taking the reader to Guaeamala, where a man with advanced technology stops at nothing to go after a pristine treasure to sell it to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, there's a reason why everyone from the local inhabitants to the Director of Archaeology and Antiquities tries to stop him. This goes exactly how you think it would, with a satisfying end for the would-be explorer and a new horror unleashed on the world.
Mike Norton and Dave Stokes crowd the panels just a bit too much in the early going, fighting against Moench's typically wordy characters by giving each panel plenty of details during the expositions sections. Once we switch out to the pyramid, they have more room to breathe and their creature, whom we first meet in humanoid form before turning into a Carnage-like being, is fast-moving, viscous, and terrifying. There's nothing innovative here, but it's still a lot of fun for classic horror fans.
The pacing on this one is great, especially because of the slow way the horror ramps up until it gets to "Oh God, that's disgusting--but awesome" level by the time the musician is being attacked. The level of body horror here is set to eleven, and de Campi is aided and abetted by Henrik Jonsson. His panels really sell the story, with tight close-ups of menacing or bulging eyes or changing the reader's perspective to increase the level of horror. One panel actually made me briefly turn away, and I'm not squeamish at all. The level of detail is strong throughout, especially in the end splash page.
Ending on a horrible pun that shows de Campi's understanding of dark comedy, this is one of the best horror stories I've read in years from a master of the genre.
Speaking of dark comedy, Peter Bagge's buffer pieces are as funny as always, as the Creepy family has exaggerated antics like home-grown chiropractic care, running away from home, and hoarding too much stuff. With little touches like a stuffed Dodo or literal skeletons in the closet, Bagge, working with edior Dan Braun, does a great job in the "Sergio Aragones" role.
Unfortunately, the choice of reprint in this one is really bad. Bruce Jones writes a story that's simply unacceptable to a modern reader, about a wealthy man who exploits those around him, especially women. He loves them and leaves them, until he goes to "the tropics" and effectively steals and eventually rapes a native priestess. The man gets it in the end, but still--this is cheap, lazy, racist storytelling with women as nothing more than props. Ramon Torrents does okay with what he's given, refusing to rise to the bait and taking the luridness out of the narrative as much as possible. Still, it's one thing to put this in a collection of the originals, but for the life of me I can't figure out why it's in a modern book as a selected reprint.
However, don't let that stop you--just read all the new stuff, and you'll find another great addition to your horror comics collection.