Edward Scissorhands [2014 Comic Book Sequel]

EdwardScissorhands01-cvrSUB-96fe8So I just finished the first issue of the new Edward Scissorhands comic book mini-series and I have some  mixed feelings on it.

It takes place many years after the events of the film. As I’m sure you already know, at the end of the film we see Winona Ryder’s character Kim as an elderly grandmother telling her granddaughter Megan about Edward and everything that happened upon his discovery.

This new story opens up with Megan, now a teenager, dealing with the death of Grandma Kim and her mother’s claims of Kim’s insanity and denial of  Edward’s existence. She attempts to learn more about her grandmother and Edward by going through some of her things. Most people have forgotten what happened, some believe he was a murderer who did kill Jim and everyone else thinks he didn’t exist and is a sort of urban legend.

However, we know Edward is innocent and he is very real and still very much alive, living in the mansion on the hill. After the events of the film, Edward disappears back into the mansion and has become more reclusive and socially inept than before. He becomes even worse after hearing that Kim passed away. He spends most of his time exploring the mansion and one day finds plans left behind by The Inventor for another creation similar to himself. He finds this creation (how after all these years he never stumbled on him/it before is beyond me) and attempts to fix him up.

A fairly solid opener for a comic book sequel to a film that is now 20 years old. Author Kate Lesh completely captures the somber tone of Tim Burton’s classic, but Drew Rausch’s art almost took me completely out of the story. It was like watching an odd Saturday Morning Cartoon that took it’s inspiration from Burton’s concept art for the film and splashed colors from SpongeBob or the Fairly Odd Parents all over it. Now please don’t take this the wrong way. I am not bashing Rausch’s work as good comic book art, but it does not work here. It’s too soft and cuddly for the world of Edward Scissorhands, a film that has made me sob on more than one occasion.

We all know that the film has a lot of insanely bright colors, it works as a beautiful contrast to the bleak whites, blacks and grays that come from Edward’s world, but there is TOO much color here. I can understand trying to pull in younger fans of Tim Burton and that’s completely fine, but it just doesn’t work for me. I would’ve preferred something in the middle, not too dark, but not this cartoony either. I prefer Gabriel Hardman’s work, like on the variant cover pictured on the right. That’s the one I grabbed at the shop.

All in all a good start to this story. I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the issues in this series. At times it took me back to watching the movie and being a fan of other work of Burton’s like Beetlejuice and Big Fish. Lesh definitely has a knack for channeling Burton.

Rating: B

Edward Scissorhands #1 is published by IDW Comics and is available anywhere comic books are sold. The mini-series is running for 5 issues.

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Wytches

Anytime I see Scott Snyder’s name attached to any comic book, my interest is immediately piqued. When I started reading his work steadily a few years ago, he quickly became (and I don’t say this lightly) my favorite person in comics. His writing has forever changed, for the better, the long standing characters of Batman and Swamp Thing. His creator-owned books such as Severed and American Vampire have made an incredible impact on the world of horror comics. This brings us to Snyder’s first work at Image Comics since 2012.

Like any great scary story the world of Wytches is one in a believable, real-world setting with normal people doing normal things. These people are gradually touched by the supernatural; strange occurrences, unexplainable deaths and disappearances and the like. The first issue introduces us to some of the main characters. Our protagonist, Sailor “Sail” Rooks, her father Charles, a creator of a graphic novel series and her mother Lucy, recently paralyzed from the waist down in an unnamed accident. They’re a regular American family except that Sail is suffering from anxiety and paranoia caused by a horrific incident just months prior.

In this first issue there isn’t too much emphasis on the evil that will come to terrorize these characters. There are some great scary moments and just a morsel of back story, but it mostly focused on setting up who our characters are and what’s currently plaguing their thoughts. Like all great tales of terror, Wytches allows the story and characters to grow without showing us too much of what lurks in the dark right away.

While reading this book I was reminded of many things such as the works of Stephen King, (a favorite of mine and a huge inspiration to Snyder’s entire career) The X-Files, The Twilight Zone and even various Spielberg films. While I’m sure these and other bits of pop culture have influenced Snyder, no one in particular stood out while reading this book. And honestly, it’s probably my own encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture that allowed me to draw these connections in the first place. At no point is there a moment that I felt could have been ripped-off from another creator. It has a great sense of familiarity without feeling like you’ve sat through this story before.

After reading this issue I did a little research on it. Snyder actually came up with the idea after revisiting a wooded area in Pennsylvania near his childhood home. He was frightened of it growing up and he and his friends would make up stories about evil things that would happen out there. Upon going back as an adult he came up with a new spin on witches and witchcraft lore and thus this series was born.

Working once again with famed artist Jock, this creative team builds a world that is real and just about steps into the fantastic. Jock’s art has a way of keeping us grounded in an everyday setting while taking our subconscious on a stroll through dream-like, or in this case nightmare-like, sensations and moods. I attribute this directly to his use of shapes and shading, but here it is Matt Hollingsworth’s use of color that allows Jock’s initial vision to truly take hold and come to life.

Issue one was a great introduction to the series and I really look forward to what comes next. I highly recommend picking this one up. If it’s anything like Snyder’s previous horror comics it should leave you with a sense of wonderment, a sick/somber feeling in the pit of your stomach and allow you to remember why you were once afraid of the dark. On top of being a great issue, it’s a hefty 30 pages long with NO advertisements to disrupt the storytelling. Can’t beat that for $2.99. Also if you’re up to it and your local shop is selling it, there is an awesome Ghost Variant cover for this issue. I was able to get it for $5.00, but I’ve seen some stores selling it for $10-$15.

A-

Wytches #1 is published by Image Comics and is available everywhere comic books are sold.

*New York Comic Con Update* – It was announced this weekend that the film rights are being shopped around so we may be seeing a big screen adaptation within the next few years.

Annabelle

So I went to an advanced screening of Annabelle and I gotta say while not an outstanding horror film, it was much better than I expected it to be.

The point of this movie is to serve as a sort-of prequel/spin-off to James Wan’s mega-horror-hit The Conjuring. Personally, I see that film as one of the best horror movies of the last 15 years. It’s obvious that Warner Bros. knows that most of the public feels the same way which is why the marketing for this film relies so heavily on this film being connected to it. In reality, the only connection is their version of the Annabelle doll.

The film is meant to show us the origins of the Annabelle doll. Why it becomes evil, why it follows certain people around and eventually, how The Warrens ended up with her. The story opens a year before nurse Debbie and her roommate are terrorized by Annabelle. Dr. John Form [Ward Horton] and his doll collecting, pregnant wife Mia (one of many nods to Rosemary’s Baby) [Annabelle Wallis] are living in Santa Monica starting their life together. They go to church, have caring neighbors and are just happily loving life. Being 1969, the characters are shown in this strange limbo of moving out of a more wholesome time when people could leave their front doors unlocked and hearing about the Manson Family on the news (used in a more than exploitative manner here). One day John comes home with a special porcelain doll to complete a set Mia’s been putting together. She loves it, even though it’s quite hideous and merrily adds it to the collection.

The terror starts when, Annabelle Higgins, the estranged daughter of their next door neighbors returns with her crazy hippie boyfriend to wreak occult havoc on her parents. The carnage spills over into John and Mia’s home, with Mia being injured, crazy hippie guy getting shot to death by the police and Annabelle taking her own life while holding the latest addition to Mia’s collection. After this event, the couple is understandably freaked out and take a few extra precautions around the home. Being a haunted house movie, strange occurrences start up with the characters barely taking notice until a fire starts in the home putting Mia in the hospital and causing her to give birth a little early. She refuses to return to the house which is fine because John just got a job in Pasadena. So the perfect little family unit moves to a fancy apartment building near the hospital, but of course things only get worse from here. With the help of a friendly neighbor and their priest, the Forms try to figure out how to end their problem.

This is a more than obvious attempt to ride the coattails of The Conjuring, but Annabelle is actually a decent horror movie. While there is a definitive plot running throughout, loosely based on the claims of the real-life victims, the film does focus more on creepy situations than bogging us down with a lot of dragged out exposition, though some exists. I’m more than fine with that. This movie is not meant to be taken as seriously as it’s predecessor, it’s a creepy doll movie. That’s it. Oh and there’s a ghost…and a demon…and Alfre Woodard running a creepy bookstore. Don’t go in with “horror classic” expectations and you’ll be alright.

The characters are believable enough and it was nice seeing some lead actors that I’m actually unfamiliar with, other than Alfre and Tony Amendola who played Father Perez. Overall the film did rely on a lot of cheap scares, but it did manage to pull out some truly terrifying moments and imagery as well. The score and sound effects help move the scares along as you would expect and the best moments are the ones that use the “less is more” angle. Being that the director is a long time collaborator of James Wan, some instances were reminiscent of Wan’s work, which is great being that this exists in a world they both shaped for cinema. From time to time you will get a sense of “been there, done that.” Either from the stylistic tones that are clearly lifted from everything Wan has done, especially Insidious, or from the homages to horror classics, but it’s OK. This movie is still a fun, creepy ride that stands on its own, even if you haven’t seen those other films. I also really enjoyed some of the plot twists throughout. Some things actually left me guessing and I appreciate that. I can’t have all of the answers all of the time.

A true stand-out sequence that I can only call the basement/storage room/elevator scene was comprised of fantastic imagery that I haven’t seen the likes of since the original A Nightmare on Elm Street and Silent Hill 2 (the game, not the terrible movie sequel). The direction of the scene leads you down various paths so you think you know what’s going to happen next, but your expectations are cliché, and thankfully, not used. If you’re not crawling out of your seat when the elevator doors open, you never had a childhood fear of what lurked in the dark. This scene alone was almost worth the price of admission. It owes something to the two horror masterpieces I just mentioned as well as Rosemary’s Baby again.

A thought that stands out in my mind, as far as scare quality goes, is that I do not have that sense of dread making my way through my darkened house to climb into bed. That deep-rooted fear that a great horror film gives you after a late night viewing; it’s just not there this time around. However, the film did make me jump a time or two and gave me the creeps while I was viewing it and it was fun while it lasted. It’s a serviceable film, but probably won’t be remembered many years from now. If you are a big fan of these films I have to recommend seeing this. If you’re still unsure, you can always grab a cheap matinée or wait for a rental.

Maybe it’s because I initially had such low expectations, but I’m gonna give this film a solid B.

Annabelle is directed by John R. Leonetti, with James Wan serving as Executive Producer this time around. The film opens everywhere Friday October 3, 2014.