Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tales From the Darkside #1 Review and **SPOILERS** - Just for the Hell of it Review

Summer Bummer

Written By: Joe Hill, Michael Benedetto
Art By: Gabriel Rodriguez, Ryan Hill
Lettered By: Robbie Robbins
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: June 22, 2016


When I heard there was going to be a Tales From the Darkside comic book series coming from IDW publishers, I thought, “Great! I loved Tales From the Darkside on television as a kid!” Then I read further to find that Joe Hill was writing it, and I thought, “Fabulous! He’s a great author who wrote the horror novel Heart-Shaped Box!” Then I read yet further and saw it was being drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez, and I thought, “Spectacular! Gabriel and Joe teamed up on the incredible IDW series Locke & Key, and Rodriguez is one of the best artists working today!” It was then that I decided not to react to a press release until I had read the whole thing. I was a huge fan of Tales From the Darkside as a kid, I watched it as young as eight years old, when it would air on Saturday nights at 11 PM on WPIX, just before Saturday Night Live on WNBC. It was important to temper Tales From the Darkside with the sketch comedy show, like a chaser after a stiff belt of hard liquor, because the show would scare the wits out of me quite often. Even after not having watched the program in thirty years, there are still episodes that give me the chills to think of. Plus, horror comics are my most favorite genre of comic book! We’re learning so much about me in this intro, but will the review be as informative and one-sided? Read on to find out!

Explain It!

Going into this comic, I didn’t know that this and the handful of issues that follow were actually a pitch to the CW Network to revive the series, now adapted for funnybooks. This doesn’t really affect my opinion of the comic book one way or the other, but it does make me wonder what might have been had this been picked up for a series on network television. Would it have been charming and spooky, like the original? Or an over-the-top shockfest like American Horror Story? We’ll never know, and perhaps are richer for the loss because it got us a pretty amazing-looking comic book. I’ll just get this out of the way now: Gabriel Rodriguez and Ryan Hill put an absolute clinic on this comic book, and even if the story was a complete turd you would still have gotten your money’s worth just from the visuals. I mean, wow. I hope that the reason Rodriguez isn’t drawing all the things is because he doesn’t want to, because if he hasn’t been approached by every comic book editorial staff from here to Zenescope, then editors aren’t doing their jobs!

So this story is about Ziggy, a kid fresh out of high school who’s having the summer of his life. He’s staying at his mom’s house while she’s away on business, and partying into the wee hours with the local set of beach bums and bunnies at the pad. This leaves him precious little time for sleep, even for his cushy job as head lifeguard at the local pool. He nods off one day, and awakes with a start to find that, while he snoozed, a woman named Ellen died in the pool from over-swimming. See, this is why I never exercise! It can kill you, I swear! Her husband, Mr. Miller, prosecutes, but Ziggy is found not guilty because Ellen had a heart condition and plus just look at that widdle face, he wooks vewwy sowwy. Despite being free, Ziggy falls into a deep depression and holes up at his mother’s house, no longer receiving visitors or throwing righteous pool jams. At least, none that are shown.

One day, Ziggy does take a few steps outside, and a streetlight blows out, a crow reveals a serpent tongue, sunflowers wither on their stems and a three-eyed cat comes over to meow at his feet. If that happened to me, I would never go outside again. Any one of those things would send me into my bedroom for life. Oh, crows have serpent tongues? Well, fuck the outside world forever then. Not only that, but everyone has frozen around Ziggy, except for this guy who looks exactly like those scatterbrained dudes in movies that warn disbelievers about an imminent threat that no one heeds. He runs over and warns Ziggy that he’s incurred a Darkside Event, which is like a wacky, cosmic prank played on people who have either done something very, very good, or very, very bad. Then, before he can impart his killer recipe for buffalo hot wings, the man falls asleep on the spot.

Time having resumed, Ziggy finds that anyone who looks at him knocks right out like a cat, no matter where they are. He strolls around town, putting people everywhere to sleep, unable to ask anyone for help. Even 911 thinks he’s full of shit, and Ziggy is out of options so he calls his ex-girlfriend Maddy, with whom he acted in Macbeth during senior year, but then was caught cavorting with the locals when she returned from a theater workshop in England. She answers his plea and comes to his house, but Maddy insists to see him, and when she does she falls asleep. She awakes to find Ziggy looking down at her, wearing the mask he wore during Macbeth and having covered all of his exposed skin. He explains his predicament, and says he’s got to confess and tell the police it really was his fault that Ellen died because he was sleeping on the job. Just then, Ellen’s husband Mr. Miller pulls up in a Jeep and orders them both into the car!

He handcuffs Maddy to the roll bar and, while driving the car, he keeps his gun trained on Ziggy and tells him to take a bottle of pills or he’ll shoot Maddy. Ziggy is more than happy to kill himself out of guilt and sense of duty, but Mr. Miller doesn’t want to see him pop pills while wearing a mask, he wants to watch him put the drugs in his mouth, because obviously he’s seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and knows people sometimes fake taking their medicine. He moves the mask, just enough to fall asleep at the wheel and smash the car into a guardrail on a steep cliff over some crashing waves, because of course it is. Ziggy pulls Mr. Miller, or his body, clear of the car, then goes back to rescue Maddy, which—duh—he can’t because she’s handcuffed to the teetering vehicle. She tells Ziggy it’s not his fault, then asks to see him once again. She falls unconscious, and Ziggy stays with her, smiling and tearful, as the car falls into the sea.

Whew! That was one heck of a story. The plotting and artwork is absolutely impeccable, as stated in the beginning of this review, and worth the price of the book alone. But this particular tale from the Darkside was also very entertaining and compelling, and ended in a bittersweet way that is much better than the ham-fisted way I went about retelling it. I really recommend this book to anyone that likes to get a little spooked while reading and those who appreciate high-quality comic books, and if it stays at this level then it’s going to be a memorable run.

Bits and Pieces:

What is in fact a rejected series pitch adapted for comic books has turned out, thus far, to be one hell of a comic book. Well-told and paced much like a three-act, half hour television show, Joe Hill has provided something just frightening enough to linger on, but not keep us awake at night. As good as it is, the story pales in comparison to the artwork, which is absolutely gorgeous. Check this out if you've been looking for something to scratch that horror comic book itch.

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