Death Curse #1 review

Horror hosts Mr Latch and the Curse offer a quintet of unsettling tales in the first issue of this adults-only new book from writers Brockton McKinney & Bo Fader and their artistic chums. Our fictional storytellers are a creepy guy with a pudding bowl haircut and a puppet baby who looks as if he’d eat you as soon as look at you. They share their wares via video nasties, an oddly dated concept, but I suppose you gotta have a gimmick. The framing sequences are visualised by Chris Moreno – who also provides the eye-catching cover – and very well-staged.

First off, the new recruit to a scout troop gets more than he bargained for in ‘Pack 666’, a breezy fable drawn by Bridgit Scheide, whose work can go from cute to cutting in an instant. And the use of grey tones – Death Curse is printed in black and white – enhances the already appealing artwork. You may guess what’s coming, but it’s a lot of fun getting there.

More surprising is the tale of ‘Vacculus’, because it’s so darn out there – this Count is one sucker you don’t want to be having a dust-up with (click on image to enlarge). As with the introductions, the dialogue’s a tad coarse for my delicate English sensibilities, but the air of good-natured grossness prevails. Chris Moreno obviously had a ball drawing this, giving real expression to his characters in wild layouts. My favourite panel shows the legal aftermath of a car crash, it’s hugely atmospheric and almost alive with movement. I do think, though, that if the hooker has to get her (massive) bits out, so should the client. Equal objectification in horror anthologies, if you please.

‘Haven and Larry’ is puzzling, as horror hosts from the neighbourhood (‘the Haven of Horror’, apparently) drop in on Mr Latch and Curse, offer to relate one of their gems, and are roundly dismissed. I think it may be a stealth ad for a future companion title. It’s drawn in a pleasant, scratchy style by Jason Strutz, but again, the semi-clad Haven implies that this book isn’t even considering that anyone other than teenage boys might wish to try it.

‘Parting Out’ is an accomplished offering involving a cute young biker and a sinister old mechanic. There’s suspense to be had in wondering who is actually stalking whom, before a well-composed reveal. The illustrations by Larkin Ford are spot on, hitting all the dramatic beats, and there’s a nice use of Letratone.

And finally, we learn the ‘Storybook Origin’ of Mr Latch and Curse in a disgusting little vignette drawn by Jonas Britt, whose soft storybook style makes the horrific scenes all the nastier. This one went a little far for my tastes – I’m more The Haunting than Saw – but it does what it does very well.

So with Haven and Larry being the only unwelcome guests at this Lost Story Studios party, I’m voting Death Curse #1 a hit, a fun update on the old EC horror comics for today’s viscera-demanding kids. Me, I’m rather relieved it’s in black and white …

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