Hello, my friends! The season of All Hallow’s Eve has returned, thus bringing the spirits of old back to soar amongst a time of fallen leaves, multiple costumes and tongue-licking treats. For 2018, we won’t be looking at a single horror-themed mini-series that spans multiple issues for weeks all the way up to Halloween. This time around, it’s time that we mixed things up and delve into the potpourri kettle. As such, I invite you all to a special themed month called the…
For this special occasion, I’ll be reviewing a multitude of various horror-themed comics before we come to a close on Halloween itself. Serving as our appetizer is a return to a familiar independent series that ties itself to the Forest City. As such, we’re gonna dive right back into…
In October 2015, I reviewed this particular series published by the Shiner Comics Group from Cleveland, Ohio. The original story was about of an aquatic abomination terrorizing said city in 1973. Through several incidents, a group of people must come together to stop this local terror once and for all. Published between Spring 2012 and Summer 2014, it consisted of five issues and a Summer Special. After a brief hiatus, S.C.G. brought their signature series back on a different note as we prepare to dive into…
Published in Winter 2017, a special release party was held on February 10, 2017 before getting released throughout the subsequent week. Unlike the first five issues which told a large-scale story in an episodic format, this entry is an anthology with three self-contained horror tales. As such, let’s kick off this spiritual party alongside John G as we take a nighttime stroll unlike no other in “Wolves Of Birdtown”.
We open on a man who’s been unable to sleep for a long time. For no reason in particular (even he’s not sure why), he decides to get dressed and wander around his neighborhood. As he’s walking, he narrates about Birdtown and how it flourished back in the Roaring ’20s due to factories that had numerous immigrants as its workers. Nowadays, the town has become rundown and stricken with poverty. During his walk, he comes across a particular abandoned house that he’s never known before. After his moment of puzzled thoughts, he continues on his way where he comes across a pair of friendly hobos on a stoop. They chat for a bit before one of the drifters tells him to be careful since weird things have taken place after dark. As he makes his way into Madison Park, he narrates about his decent life before sitting down on a bench. From there, he notices a pack of dogs running through a field before noticing that one of them is looking at him.
We then shift ahead by a month where his insomnia is still raging on. To combat his sleepless nights, he’s coped by listening to nighttime radio and even reading through newspapers & police blotters for any suspicious activity in his general area. During a particular nighttime walk, he comes across the same abandoned house from before only to find that the front door is missing. He curiously heads inside before reaching the main room. Under numerous candle lights, he sees several familiar articles hanging on the wall before he’s met upon by a young woman who creepily says that she’s been waiting for him. Our rightfully befuddled protagonist asks why, to which she explains that he’s become just as nocturnal as she is. As she calls him “nightwalker”, she wants him to join her in order to be “whole”. She then proceeds to transform into her true self as it turns out that she’s a werewolf.
The nightwalker freaks out, jumps through a boarded-up window and runs for his life while the she-wolf bears down on him. He ultimately reaches the two hobos and gets their attention onto the approaching terror. One of the drifters tries to fire his gun at her, but she proves to be too fast as she mauls the guy to death. While his fellow tramp distracts her by throwing a bottle her way, the nightwalker grabs the gun and heads down an alley just as the remaining hobo gets mutilated. He’s eventually stopped by a chain-linked fence which forces him to climb over. With the werewolf bearing down on him, he realizes that he’s not going to get the other side in time. As such, he fires the gun and scores some hits just as she’s able to bite him. Their combined weight brings the fence down as he wearily sees that he managed to kill her. From there, the tale ends with him walking away in a bloodied mess. Just then, he’s overcome by exhaustion as he collapses in his own blood pool and finally enjoys some much-needed sleep, quite possibly within the eternal rest (while a naked body stands over him, for some reason).
Our next tale comes courtesy of Liz Valasco as she shares a tale about the supernatural danger that befell upon someone just for having “Young Skin”. We open on a youthful woman who’s trapped in a house with seemingly no way out. Suddenly, she hears a loud THUMP coming from inside the wall as she discovers a secret passage and heads inside. She comes across a hidden study with a fireplace and a skull on top of it. Just then, it comes alive and tells her to come in. When she refuses, it reaches out its spectral arms to grab and pull her in. The apparition then explains that it used to be human before it became forever bonded with the house.
From there, things take an icky turn when it says that it has enjoyed “the pleasure of young skin” as it proceeds to hold her arms before lifting up her shirt to touch her chest (which I will not show for the sake of good taste). The perverted spirit then says that it needs her to keep itself and the house alive as it attempts to rape her. Fortunately, she’s able to lunge towards the fireplace, grab a poker and stab her supernatural attacker through the head. The skull still shows some movement as the story ends with her slamming her foot down on it before pondering on what to do next.
Our final tale comes courtesy of Jake Kelly as a tale for survival comes from a smelly, rotten and mentally-tormenting place which shall befall upon “A Girl In A Garbage Truck”. We open on a woman named Judy as she’s having dinner at a restaurant with her boyfriend Marshall. It turns out that he’s been a less-than-faithful partner due to his unstable temper, which reached its breaking point when he hit her two days prior over a gas bill. During that time, she’s been preparing to break it off with him by storing her valuable belongings at work and then retrieving them the moment she terminates this failure of a relationship and immediately move in with her sister Julie. As such, she tells Marshall that it’s over between them. He’s stunned but delivers a calm reaction. With no intention of going home with him, Judy also explains that she’s taking a cab. Marshall offers to walk her towards a more favorable spot to call for one due to them being in a less-than-favorable neighborhood, to which she agrees. It turns out to be a huge mistake for her when they head into an alley to take a shortcut as Marshall hits Judy on the head and knocks her out. Assuming that he killed her, he proceeds to take both her purse & cell phone before dumping her body into a dumpster and covering her in garbage. During the next day, he placed her cell phone and a brick into her purse before tossing it into the Cuyahoga River. Meanwhile, a pair of garbage men arrive in their faulty truck (described in the narration as “The Beast”) and unknowingly dump Judy into their vehicle alongside their garbage. Due to some faulty hydraulics, she was spared from getting buried under refuse. The garbage men then drive their faulty vehicle back to “the yard” but instead of placing it in “the bay” which would have gotten it fixed, they instead parked it in a faraway corner before acquiring a working truck and getting back to work.
At Noon, Judy regains consciousness and quickly realizes her current situation. She bangs on the side of the garbage truck and screams for help, but she’s too far away for anyone to hear. Not only that, but the careless refuse men didn’t bother to tell their boss that their faulty truck was in need of repairs. She then felt along the side of the container’s walls for some form of exit, but there was none to be found as she breaks down and cries. Around 6 pm, hunger and thirst starts to become a concern for her. After discovering a discarded bottle of half-consumed water, she drinks that before scourging through the trash bags for things to keep her alive. She found several beaten up and worn down items in addition to some partially-discarded food that ranged from moldy to maggot-infested. Over the next several days, she would carefully consume her findings and even pick off as many maggots from certain foods as she could before eating it. She even used a discarded notebook and a still-working pen to keep a log of her progress while even stripping down to her bra and panties. As far as reliving herself of bodily waste, she would pee on a far side of the truck and poop into one of the garbage bags.
As the torturous days went by, Judy considered suicide with the sharp glass shards but stayed away from committing it altogether. Whenever she heard a faint noise outside that sounded like some form of outside help, she would bang on the side and scream. Alas, it was also a no-go. From staring at the sliver of outside light with her slowly-wandering mind to consuming her dwindling supply of dirty food, her sanity was dwindling with every passing day. At night, she started to get the feeling that she wasn’t alone and suspect that there was a creature that watched her from the dark. With its ominous breathing, glaring yellow eyes, sharp teeth and wicked claws, it tormented her despite it being a figment of her mentally-deteriorating imagination.
Then one particular day, the same garbage men from before finally broke down and informed their boss of their actions due to the broken-down nature of the vehicle. Had it not been for several other trucks having similar mechanical problems, then he wouldn’t have thought nothing of “the beast”. On Day 32 of Judy’s unintended imprisonment, a worker by the name of Hayes would drive the vehicle to a more considerable part of the yard before punching out for the night. Because Judy was in too much of a warped state, she didn’t realize in time that help was nearby as she bangs on the side and scream to no avail. She tries to reach for the partially open roof, but she’s unable to. She then decides to give it one more night for someone to find her, but the unseen creature inside also agrees with her decision.
As such, she used all of her remaining strength to reach for the open roof. She finally grabs it and starts to pull herself out. Thinking that she’s feeling the creature grabbing her leg, she kicks at it and causes it to relinquish its hold. Now that she finally got out of the garbage truck, she made her way though the shadowy and dimly-lit parts of town towards one particular place. After arriving at Marshall’s house at about midnight, she used a spare key hidden under a nearby fake rock to let herself in, grabbed a kitchen knife, crept upstairs to his bedroom and allowed him to wake up just enough to see her before she stabbed him to death. Afterwards, the story ends with her dialing 911 and leaving the phone on the counter before heading out into the yard and laying down to drink some rainwater while imagining her newly-deceased scumbag of a boyfriend trapped in the same garbage truck with the same unseen creature.
We then close out Issue 6 with the seventh episode of “Commodore’s Cleveland” as Zombie Perry weaves a tale about a supernatural fight-to-the-finish against “The Westside Vampire”. As far back as the 1860s, Irish and Italian immigrants have come to America and have settled in Cleveland’s westside. At the turn of the 20th Century, Romanians began to come over from Transylvania. Not too long afterwards, several young Irish ladies began to disappear over the course of several years. The mystery came to a head when a woman named Emma Shaughnessy was discovered dead with familiar bite marks on her neck. A Romanian pastor named Father Epaminonds Lucaci deduces that there’s a vampire hunting them, so a call goes out to all citizens of every ethnicity to combat their otherworldly foe. A champion featherweight boxer named Johnny Kilbane answered the call as the vampire gets challenged to a boxing match and accepts. With Johnny’s gloves blessed in garlic-infused holy water by Father Lucaci, a ring was made at the intersection of West 65th Street and Detroit Avenue as a clash of good-and-evil takes place in front of a large crowd. The fight lasts for 6 1/2 hours and 112 rounds until 7 am rolls around, as it ends with Kilbane delivering a fierce uppercut that finally engulfs the vampire in holy flames, though it was rumored that he turned into a bat and escaped. Afterwards, Johnny would go on to retire from boxing in triumph. From there, the issue ends with Zombie Perry mentioning that Emma’s body disappeared from the morgue and hasn’t been seen since.
Overall, this is an interesting potpurri bag of an anthology issue. “Wolves Of Birdtown” has a main character whose insomnia served as some potential for a symbolic or allegorical arc for him to face. There’s not much done with this other than some timely strain that I didn’t really feel during my read. While there’s not much development outside of the main character, it’s still thrilling once the She-Wolf transforms and pursues him. The artwork fits the rough, down-and-out street-level atmosphere which succeeds in giving a solitary feel to the main character with Shiner Comics’ signature color scheme suiting really well with this tale. “Young Skin” feels like it needs to be expanded upon or at least have more meat to it. While the pencil-drawn artwork is a nice touch and the main study does deliver a false sense of comfort, there’s several story aspects that would have greatly helped. How did this girl get trapped in the house? Did she have similar experiences of icky abuse that relates to the situation? Who was the perverted spirit like in his previous life and how did he end up in his predicament? Certain things that would have helped this empowerment tale against the supernatural feel more complete, whole and stand out more. Finally, “A Girl In A Garbage Truck” has the feeling of a main dinner and serves as the best of the three tales (not counting “Commodore’s Cleveland”). When Judy is trapped in that defective trash truck for over a month, the several pages of dark panels, dim light and limited action combined with a possible sense of nearby terror helped give off a good sense of exhaustion. I felt really bad for her as she fought to maintain her physical and mental strength while in a confined place for so long. While it does deliver a satisfying ending, it good that its still unnerving since she still committed murder and has let the authorities know what she did, thus giving an unnerving sense of completion. Still, this beats its other two stories and gets my preferred recommendation. As for Zombie Perry’s seventh tale, it’s suitable for what it is. The face of this series delivers a tale that may be related to real-life Cleveland lore since it’s very imaginative. All in all, this and the rest of Issue 6 is still worth checking out. Make sure you head over to Shiner Comics Group’s website and check out their material. If Issue 7 gets made, then I’ll gladly sail on over to it and see how it fares with this new direction.