Comic Review: Hack/Slash Vol3 Friday the 31st. Intelligent horror with a good dose of Sexy

Hack/Slash Vol3 Friday the 31st.

Writer(s): Tim Seeley
Artist(s) : Stefano Caselli Emily Stone  Mark Englert, Matt Merhoff ,Nate Bellgarde, Andy Kuhn

Published by: Image, initially by Devil’s Due

Plot:

Cassie Hack is the daughter of a serial killer who she had to put down herself. Now, in the company of her friend Vlad, she hunts other monsters, and makes sure they stay dead. A slasher hunter!

The Review:

I actually met Tim Seeley on a convention when he was peddling the first issues of Hack/Slash for Devil’s Due, and at the time of the meeting he came across as a well-humored creator, who was enjoying his time in the spotlight, and had no qualms about the “fan” service he was including in his book. Heck! He seemed even proud of it!

That was something that caught my attention about him. He was not apologetical, nor over-intellectualizing the fact that his heroine, Cassie Hack, was sexy, showing skin and kicking ass.

If memory serves me right, Stefano Caselli was there, and I thoroughly enjoyed his art, so I got him to sign me something (or was it Dave Crosland? Can’t remember. Gotta look at my collectibles chest)

When I took the comic home I have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised. The story had meat, and it had a good flowing narrative. The art was well in sync with the story, and above all, the cheesecake moments were so justifiable, that I felt enthralled with the story, and forgot how hot Cassie was drawn.

That’s how I always thought sexy should be. In the 1990’s we barely could have sexy. Comics “were supposed to be for kids” and thus, if some of the x-men ladies look good, they couldn’t look sexy. And if supergirl flew in a short skirt, a leg had to always be drawn in a certain way so we wouldn’t be able to tell if she was wearing granny pants, or flying commando. And all the rules DC had about the poses the she could be drawn… my god!

But my rant is not an issue of whether we get to peek up a super heroine skirt. It was always an issue of artificiality, like they do on TV.  And how we sacrifice realism for the sake of “protecting the kids”…(God how I hate that phrase, such a synonym for “I am a lazy parent”)

Two characters kiss in the TV. Then they go to bed, and you hear the music and more kissing. Then, when the lady has to get up and go somewhere… she takes all the blankets with her???

WTF? Isn’t that completely incredible (as in absent of credibility?) Well, the same artificiality concept worked for most heroes back in the day (and some still do it today). They could be good-looking, but never sexy, and if they were sexy, they had to abide by all these “prude” rules.

Hack/Slash has that unique quality that you find in rare comic books, of blending in the perfect proportions sexiness, with good storytelling, great art, with an attitude that refuses to apologize for anything it does. And most of what it does it does well.

Now, I had great faith in Devil’s Due publishing, for taking a gamble in these new titles, and making them successful, so I was sad to hear that lately they SEEM (Legal Disclaimer: It is my subjective and personal opinion) to be mismanaging the property, and their relationships with the artist, till finally Tim Seeley decided to take his creation to Image.

It saddens me cause I’m always cheering for the underdog, dreaming of witnessing the next big publishing rising through the flotsam, and giving The Big Two a run for their money, but hey! If you mess up, you reap what you sow, and besides, although Image is almost the third piece of The Big Three, it seems to be treating this property well, and publishing it in a consistent manner that us fans are grateful for.

Thus, I will review a volume published by Image, and not one of the ones launched by Devil’s Due, specifically the TPB  Hack Slash Volume 3: Friday the 31st

This Comic is not for children. Although I wouldn’t label it only for Adults either. In my humble opinion the appropriate age is after 14 for this book, but hey! Each family different rules!

Tim Seeley uses with undisputable mastery a device that sets him apart from other writers, and every aspiring comic-book writer should pay attention to what I am going to say next:

He takes a very abused genre (Slasher films) and gives it a totally new perspective that makes it innovative.

You, young scribe who think you know the perfect formula for the next superhero book… did you get what I said??

You, aspiring script writer who think that your orcs and your elfs in your fantasy will be different from the rest… did you understand what I said here?

Seeley minces in the right proportions action, gore, teen-drama, and personal relations, and that, sir, is commendable!

This coming from a guy who felt himself loosing braincells while TRYING to read one of the Twilight saga books.

I have no problem following Cassie on her personal drama for the following 3 reasons:

  1. They are believable conundrums. She is a teen after all.
  2. They don’t last too long. There is enough action to distract me from the teen-angst bullshit.
  3. The character oscillates between strong and vulnerable, so I don’t mind. The formula works.

Notice that none of those reasons is “Because she is hot”. The fact that the character is sexy is something enjoyed a posteriori, after I’ve read the book once, and I enjoy the twist and turns, the punches and slices, and now I get to study the art in more detail.  Now I don’t mind that the art is showing me a hot girl!

The first arch is about the encounter Cassie VS Chuckie (yes, the doll) and lo and behold, I never had to wince nor flinch nor even once dodge cheesy dialogs or clichés. We are given a “personality” narrative, where Cassie and Chucky have to do a Team-up to recover an amulet, in a story of trading bodies. Now this story is not that original and it’s been done before, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Simpsons, but what makes it excusable is the rapid fire dialog between Cassie and Chucky, all supported by the solid artwork of Matt Merhoff .   Matt has  a great control of vignette distribution, and his angles keep the story fresh and the reader enthralled.  It disturbs me a bit that his Cassie sometimes looks more like a 14 year old than an 18 year old, but I’ll attribute that to artist’s growing pains.  He does demonstrate he can set the tempo with sequential frames that set the pace very well, and his technique is proficient and clean.

And Chucky is rendered very masterfully as his annoying persona, a deviant amoral serial killer trapped in a doll’s body.

The second arch on this TPB introduces what it called “The Series” and is one of those examples of masterful story telling. The first few pages we are given a flashback/origin story where those who don’t know the origins of Cassie get to find out, and those of us who already know get to see another dimension of that we didn’t know about before. That, interpolated with a villain that enjoys cutting Cassies toes, and who also turns out to be a psychiatrist? Wow…

And that is just the prelude to a story that later devolves into a Faustian deal for an untalented rockstar. That prelude carries enough personality that more than makes up for the cliché of the flashbacks, and the teen-angst, and the been-there-done-that device of using a narrative balloon to navigate through time sequences “THEN” ….“NOW”. Why, you may ask? Because of the reasons I explained before: When you do it with a new style, a powerful artist backing you up and contributing a new voice, you are allowed to do it.

Now, I we have to sing some praises to the art rendered by Emily Stone, since she makes the graphical part of the storytelling come across with a style that is very engaging and solid. The colorist, Courtney Via is a perfect complement to her lines. She is put in charge of setting the mood in the right amount, and make the flashbacks distinguishable from the present without falling in the corny category. But Emily Stone portrays a playful Cassie, a hilarious but strong Vlad searching endlessly to get “dropped from the virgins’ list”, a self-centered Six Sixx (artist that makes a deal with the devil) who is utterly flawed. All throughout the book she sustains a humanity and hilarity that creates a perfect contrast to the gravitas and menace projected by the main story of demons wanting to inseminate virgins. She understands the value of cinematic sequence to set the temp (check out the panel when Six and the Demon chick try to zap Vlad only to discover he is not a virgin anymore), but without over-using them. She manages to pull something that I’ve seen few people do well: Panels without borders.

When most artists use this technique, they don’t realize they wind up with a mumble of lines and strokes that overpower the balance of the page, unless you happen to be proficient at your technique and generous and humble like Emily Stone is. Because it takes a certain degree of humbleness to admit that not everyone wants to see you fill every inch of the page with the phenomenal ink emanating from your megaorgasmic rapidrograph! So, in order to do borderless panels, you have to have a sense of composition that trumps your ego, and you have to put the aesthetics of the page before your desire to ink every single square inch.  This is something that the budding artists should take note and learn from Emily Stone, because she does it well and better than anyone in recent memory.

Now some of you may notice that there is a difference in the Cassie’s drawn by Matt Merhoff and Emily Stone.  Matt seems to prefer his starring ladies with more curves and rounded, while Emily strives for the slim and mean slasher/killing machine.  Fortunately, the artistic direction didn’t allow this book to go all over the map, and each artist do their own thing with Cassie. Maybe we can thank the fact that Tim Seeley is an excellent penciler of his own right, so we have an artist who can tell a story, keeping tabs on other artists telling his story. Match made in heaven!

So, on my Critics rating, Hack/Slash TPB from Image get

7  STARS

This is how I like my cheesecake. With a generous serving of good story, and a side dish of good art!

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