CURSED COMICS CAVALCADE #1
Written by Tim Seeley, Gary Dauberman, Vita Ayala, Kenny Porter Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko, Mags Visaggio, Michael Moreci, Bryan Hill, Dave Wielgosz, and James Tynion IV
Art by Kyle Hotz, Riccardo Fedirici, Victor Ibáñez, Riley Rossmo, Gabriel Hardman, Minkyu Jung, Dexter Soy, Christian Duce, Felipe Watanabe Mark Buckingham, Jonas Trindade, Andrew Pepoy, FCO Plascencia, Sunny Gho, Matthew Wilson, Ivan Plascencia, Trish Mulvihill, Jordie Bellaire, Romulo Fajardo, Jr., Veronica Gandini, Steve Wands, Clayton Cowles, Tom Napolitano, Josh Reed, Deron Bennett, Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: October 10, 2018
A creepy collection of ten spooky comics featuring characters from across the DC Universe, by superstar creatores, just in time for Halloween!
Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1 is a typically excellent DC seasonal anthology, this time celebrating Halloween with some creepy comics. Comics are limited to eight pages each, but each comic tells a complete self-contained story and does so with panache and amazing art.
Themes range from body horror (a Swamp Thing comic by Tim Seeley, Kyle Hotz, FCO Plascencia, and Steve Wands) to overcoming childhood fears (a Zatanna comic by James Tynion IV, Mark Buckingham, Andrew Pepot, and Jordie Bellaire), to the terror of sleep paralysis (a Superman comic by Mags Visaggio, Minkyu Jung, Jordie Bellaire, and Josh Reed). Each comic tells a reasonably satisfying story, and each does it with outstanding art that’s a treat to pore over.
The opening Swamp Thing story follows a research scientist who’s been absorbed by a fever dream following infection by her own biological experiment. The story is fine, a bit of a pot boiler on a standard Swamp Thing theme, though the dialogue and narrtion are sharply written. The art, though, is utterly gorgeous, featuring sinewy, fleshy plants laden with eyes and mouths and other things that should not be on plants. The color work is bright and lush completely absorbing, melding seamlessly with the line work while lending it vibrancy.
Next is a relatively quiet Batman story with an amusing twist by Gary Dauberman, Riccardo Federici, Sunny Gho, and Steve Wands. It plays cleverly with classic slasher movie tropes to keep the reader guessing where exactly it’s going. The misdirection and surprise turn in this one is enough to keep it interesting, and it’s a tightly executed eight pages. The art has a sketchy, pencil-forward quality that aptly suits the story and is a little different than what we typically get from DC superhero comics.
Third is a Wonder Woman story by Vita Ayala, Victor Ibáñez, Matthew Wilson, and Clayton Cowles. This one puts a Wonder Woman spin on a common cross-cultural myth, the Siren, the Mermaid, the Lorelai, the Russalka, all women who use seduction to lure unsuspecting innocents to watery demises. It’s an interesting exploration of the myth, approaching it from the angle of Wonder Woman’s boundless empathy and love as a way to humanize the monster. The art is striking, especially the “turn” the creature does from lady to monster and back.
Fourth, Kenny Porter, Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, and Tom Napolitano have an interesting and surprisingly relatable tale about Guy Gardner. Guy gets pulled from his vacation to deal with a rogue spaceship, only to discover it’s being piloted by a forgotten Green Lantern. The best horror operates in metaphor, turning our fears into monsters. This story builds off of the fear of being consumed, then forgotten, by our work, of the idea that we dedicate our lives to our careers, yet the moment we leave, our footprint on the institution is wiped away. It’s a lot more poignant than you’d expect from a comic about Guy Gardner.
Mags Visaggio, Minkyu Jung, Jordie Bellaire, and Josh Reed do something similar in their Superman story, which creates a monster out of the real-life terrifying phenomenon of sleep paralysis. Superman has to deal with a frightening, ephemeral experience as he wakes up in the middle of the night, unable to move, but detecting something, a phantom, in his room that menaces him and Lois. The story is beautifully drawn and is one of very few pieces of fiction I’ve encountered that deals with how terrifying it is to have your mind fully awake while your body is unresponsive.
A tale of the demon, Etrigan brings together Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko, Trish Mulvihill, and Clayton Cowles. I have to admit, this story disappointed me a little, particularly since I’ve previously loved Hardman and Bechko’s work on Green Lantern: Earth One and Invisible Republic. The art is atmospheric and moody, dark and sketchy, depicting a mysterious posession in New Orleans during the yellow fever epidemic of the mid-1850s. It’s a treat to look at, but the story falls a bit flat for me. It feels like a story that needs a bit more space than what it has, so much of the storytelling is done through expository dialogue and the characters are never more than cutouts. I feel like this same story, told in 24 pages, could have been leagues better than what’s presented here in eight pages.
The Green Arrow story, by Michael Moreci, Felipe Watanabe, Jonas Trindade, Romulo Fajardo Jr., and Deron Bennett is another potboiler, and, like the Swamp Thing story, is rescued by its beautiful art. The coloring, in particular, is delicate and well-matched. The story, about Green Arrow pursued by a monster during a heat wave in which he’s pushing himself too hard, has a fairly cliché resolution with no real twists and nothing we haven’t seen a dozen times before. Yet the monster is terrifyingly drawn and Ollie and Dinah’s expressions are full of emotion and life.
Bryan Hill, Dexter Soy, Veronica Gandini, and Carlos M. Mangual give us a riveting preview of their upcoming Outsiders book with a Black Lightning/Katana team-up. Jefferson and Tatsu are in Japan, attempting to protect a young girl haunted by a malicious spirit. It’s a great action set piece, and the two characters have a fun dynamic together. Soy and Gandini are an amazing art team, delivering viscerally exciting action, poignant slow moments, and terrifying monsters. I feel like this is an art team that’s been slept on in the past but they’re one of my favorite pairings working in comics today.
Solomon Grundy takes a heroic turn as he teams up with Robin in Dave Wielgosz, Christian Duce, Romulo Fajardo Jr., and Tom Napolitano’s story. After stopping a rampaging Grundy, Robin learns that the undead giant is trying to remember a trio of girls he needs to rescue from before his most recent resurrection. This leads the pair to the lair of Professor Pyg, where a brawl ensues. This is another action-packed story, with some surprisingly poignant moments to it. The art team delivers some solid action for a story that hovers just above the level of cliché.
The anthology wraps up with a Zatanna comic by James Tynion IV, Mark Buckingham, Andrew Pepoy, and Jordie Bellaire. It’s a bit of a metatextual meditation on Halloween, as Zatanna is left to find her own fun in rural Wisconsin on Halloween and teaches a brother and sister some lessons at a haunted hay ride. It’s a fun, cute little story with appropriately expressive art by Buckingham and Pepoy. Particularly fun is when Zatanna works her magic to make the spooks that have been haunting the panel borders throughout leap out into the pages to entertain the frightened sister. Bellaire brings nicely autumnal tones to the coloring to end the anthology on a pleasantly nostalgic note.
All told, Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1 is a gorgeous exhibition of some of DC’s top talent telling a variety of fun, spooky stories with their star characters. There’s nothing life-changing in here, but it’s a solid collection and well worth your time.
The Verdict: 8.0/10