Thursday, December 3, 2015

Survivors’ Club #3 Review and *SPOILERS*

Written By: Lauren Beukes and Dale Halvorsen
Art By: Ryan Kelly, Eva de la Cruz, Clem Robins
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: December 2, 2015

I Get By With a Little Help From My Demons

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

We return to Vertigo’s twisted version of Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, except instead of a tight-knit crew investigating a mystery, we’ve got a bunch of traumatized people pursuing three distinct stories, and instead of Scooby Doo we’ve got the hectoring, invisible Mr. Empty plus the creepy ghost monster Kiri hangs out with, and instead of the Mystery Machine van, we’ve got the arcane, secret pasts of every member of the Survivors’ Club hanging over them perpetually. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same, so we can figure that all of the crazy things happening in this story will be the result of the crazy old caretaker who hates meddling kids. Right? Right?? Oh no, this is going to be the further exploration of humanity’s seedy underbelly and the psychological torture we put one another through, isn’t it? Well, I’m prepared to have my blackened heart torn from my ribcage and shoved in my face as proof of my basest nature, how about you? Read on!

Explain It!

After a cold opener featuring Kiri unleashing her ghost-monster-aunt-thing on a philandering douchebag to whom she was supposed to serve a summons, the issue begins with a great page that brings the reader back up to speed using five horizontally-arranged panels which briefly explain where each character is at that point in the story. It was so well-done, and I wish other comics would take this lead—no big wall of text preceded by IN THE LAST ISSUE…, no meandering exposition to explain the ins and outs of comic book multiverse theory, just a quick snapshot of where everyone is at this moment to bring the reader rapidly up to speed. Great work, Survivors’ Club team, it really helped me to jump right back to the action and remind me of all the gross, disturbing things that happened last issue. To that end, Harvey is with his mother at a nursing home confessing to the murders he thinks he’s committed—he’s not sure, you see, because he’s had a break with reality. That’s something he shares with his elderly mom who doesn’t seem to fathom that her son is a brutal murderer. Scenes of Harvey talking to his mom are woven with panels depicting Sexy Alice sewing her twin Polite Alice back together, Harvey having dismembered her in the last issue. As Harvey’s mean invisible friend Mr. Empty appears to remind him of a previous engagement to murder someone, Sexy Alice gives Polite Alice’s reformed, scarred face a smooch, which would be sort of sweet if it wasn’t so goddamned awful spooky.

Elsewhere in Los Angeles, Chenzira and Kiri and going to Grant “Geeforce” Fuchs’ house to see if they can find the video game that caused him to rip out his own throat. Kiri is able to gain access to the house because her ghost-monster-aunt is an expert at picking locks, which I suppose is a useful skill to have if feeding on the mortal souls of evil people stops paying the bills. Chenzira and Kiri root around the cluttered environment of the crazed gamer, and Chenzira explains how the game board from Akheron, the video game which destroyed her South African village in 1987, might have made it to Oregon to screw with Geeforce—indeed, she thinks the motherboard may have been seeking Chenzira all this time. They find his laptop, which is what they were looking for, and leave.

Finally we are at Simon Wickman’s loft apartment where he is hanging out with Sexy Alice, showing her files he’s compiled on every member of the Survivors’ Club. I guess they’re at that point in their relationship where they can reveal felonious acts to one another. Simon then tells all about his childhood at the Muskagee House, which is totally not anything like the story of the Amityville Horror and why would you ever say such a thing, and confesses that he made it all up. He was coached by huckster exorcists and given fake blood capsules in order to capitalize on the 1980s Satanic panic and make a quick buck. Just as he is finished confessing, Harvey shows up with Mr. Empty in tow, ready to commit murder, but as he approaches the apartment, Simon begins having seizures and artifacts from the Muskagee House start morphing and mutating exactly as described in the faked events from his youth. Sexy Alice opens the door to a surprised Harvey, and then the floor opens up and swallows Mr. Empty, which is probably the closest thing to a happy ending that you could expect in this book.

I’m still pretty much as lost now as I was at the end of the last issue, and I don’t mind a bit. This story is unraveling very slowly and very thoroughly, showing parts to a whole that have yet to fully congeal but which are fascinating in and of themselves. I don’t really get why Simon Wickman went all possessed-guy right after revealing having faked the whole thing as a child, it’s just another conundrum wrapped up in a larger mystery that is folded into a riddle that has yet to be devised. The art serves the creepy vibe of the story perfectly and the whole thing is highly readable. I wouldn’t expect anyone to jump on at issue number three, but I’d say you could follow along pretty well, thanks to the easy recap page that really delighted me. I would like to get some sense of the story by issue number four, however. At this point, I’ve spent twelve bucks, and for another four I could have just bought a creepy novel in trade paperback.

Bits and Pieces:

There’s not a lot of core story progress in this book, and I’m not even sure what the core story is, but I really enjoyed this issue. The eerie moments were well-spaced and the whole thing seem to roll along a lot smoother than issue number two, though perhaps having learned more about several characters instead of a lot about one character had something to do with it. This book is definitely a slow burn, so if you’re looking for high-paced action and easily-solvable mysteries you should probably watch Scooby Doo, Where Are You? and leave the demonic wallpaper and lock picking ghost monsters to the adults.

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