Hack/Slash, Vol.9 – “Torture Prone” (Image)

Writer: Tim Seeley | Artist: Daniel Lester | Colors: Mark Englert

In a dark future ruled by the Murder Messiah, street witch Liberty Lochs is on a mission to change the past. Meanwhile, horror heroes Cassie Hack and Vlad must contend with an obsessive serial killer, and a duo of slashers they thought they’d already put down.

Collects: Hack/Slash (Image) #1-4

I heard about this series last year, when I saw the second, massive omnibus edition in The Strand in New York. I had no idea what it was all about, and didn’t have enough cash to buy it. Then, after Seeley was announced as the new writer for Witchblade, I decided to give his back catalog a look (I tend to do this sort of thing). I started with the mini-series published by Image, My First Maniac, which I enjoyed a great deal. Little did I know that none of the original, pre-Image series was available on ComiXology (please fix this soon…!). This is also why I am, quite inexplicably, willing to start with the ninth volume of a series. With the final issue now out, it seemed like a great time to dive in and read the whole lot (there were only 25 issues published by Image). All in all, this is a solid, quirky, original, slightly unsettling comic. Pretty cool, then.

[This is another review that has been languishing for quite some time. A lot more graphic novel reviews to come, as I power through in my catch-up.]

To kick things off, it might be a good idea  to share the synopsis from Volume 1, as it lays out the root premise of the series quite nicely:

“In every slasher movie, there’s one girl who makes it all the way to the end. She’s the survivor… the last girl. Meet Cassie Hack, the lone survivor of an attack by a vicious slasher called The Lunch Lady. Now Cassie, along with her monstrous partner, Vlad, travel the country, hunting down other slashers before they can leave a trail of blood and terror.”

In this book, we’re dropped right back into the already-established story, but I didn’t find myself particularly lost (there’s a handy dramatis personae at the start of each issue, which will help locate other new readers). The story sees Cassie and Vlad separated from their companions, drawn away by the Acid Lady – a lurker (catch-all term for the beasties and other supernatural antagonists) with the body of an implausibly sexy woman, and the ability to dissolve others with a mere touch, as well as the ability to control them through contact. The two sides have clashed before, in a previous story-arc.

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Those breasts are ridiculous!

Cassie and Vlad are forced to examine their situation and partnership – Vlad feels a little taken for granted. They decide to jettison their friends by the end, and to strike out on their own. Before that, though, they need to deal with the undead creatures who are attacking their friends… Revelations abound.

The humour in the series is pretty good. It sometimes errs a little too close to puerile/sophomoric for me, but I’d be lying if I said it never made me chuckle (see below).

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Ah, boobs-in-the-face. A winning strategy in motivating your monster sidekick…

The demon dog, for example, was quite amusing. And poor Cat Curio (“Girl Sherlock”)… her story was amusing because she was more hapless than not, yet surprisingly effective and capable in a really strange way…

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Those two middle panels made me chuckle.

Overall? This is quite fun. The artwork is reminiscent of Zenescope’s cover aesthetic, at times (including the bottom-accentuating cover visual), and some bodies are bizarrely shaped (particularly the women, all of whom are buxom and curvy – I wonder if this is part of the tongue-in-cheek, knowing nods to slasher movies, and the high number of gorgeous women in those, too…?). But, in general, this is a strange, slightly bonkers horror comic that is filled with tongue-in-cheek humour, bloody monster hunting, and a pretty good story.

I haven’t managed to get the next volume (“Dead Celebrities”), yet, but as soon as I have the available, disposable funds, I’ll be sure to expand my collection. I did, however, get hold of Seeley’s Revival, which was on sale through ComiXology a little while ago. I hope to review that very soon, as I’ve dipped in already and think it’s equally weird and cool. (Wow, that has got to be the least eloquent endorsement, true as it is…)

I’d recommend this for anyone looking for something a little different – a mix of horror, comedy, supernatural, and even a smidgeon of super-hero themes. Seeley’s a talented writer, and I look forward to reading a lot more of his work.

Hack/Slash: “My First Maniac” (Image)

HackSlash-MyFirstManiac-TPBWriter: Tim Seeley | Artist: Daniel Leister | Colors: Mark Englert

Exploring Cassie Hack’s first case: 16-year-old Cassie has just been forced to kill her mother, the undead murderer known as the Lunch Lady! Now faced with overwhelming guilt, she must decide if she can make a life with her foster parents and at her new school, or if she should use her new-found slasher-killing skills to save other screaming teenagers! But does the apple fall far from the tree?

Collects: Hack/Slash – My First Maniac #1-4 (complete)

I don’t think I’ve read much else by Tim Seeley – maybe a taster for his new run on Witchblade. But, the other day I saw that Hack/Slash has finally come to an end, and decided to give it a try. Image Comics only published the final 25 issues of the series, plus a couple of mini-series spin-offs. Unable to hunt down the pre-Image comics on ComiXology, I decided to pick up this spin-off, dealing with Cassie’s first case. And I rather enjoyed it, in all its bloody, slasher-movie bonkers glory.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to characterise the overall feel I get from this book. A grimdark Buffy? Someone on argued that Buffy was already rather grimdark. So a grimdarker Buffy? Perhaps. I guess the series’ strength is that it can’t so easily be defined. It draws from many strong traditions of slasher-/horror-movies, adds a dollop of dark, dark humour, and spits out something rather original and engaging. It doesn’t shy away from the uglier side of human nature (of any age or social grouping), and Cassie goes through a lot of hell to grow into the monster-hunting/-slaying bad-ass she is at the end.

The series packs a lot into the first issue. But, this doesn’t slow things down at all. Instead, it makes for a substantial, intriguing and gripping introduction to this world. Cassie’s in foster care, and the issue tells of how she came to strike out on her own. The story of the rest of the mini-series develops as she moves around to Buffalo Center, chasing after rumours of a lurker. It’s brutal. It’s visceral. It’s very good.

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In Buffalo Center, Cassie connects with a couple of the local in-crowd, one of which helps her develop her goth-chick look. There’s a rumor surrounding an old farm on the edge of town. And kids are going missing… I didn’t predict how the story was going to develop, and there were a couple of interesting surprises sprinkled into the story.

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Seeley has injected a good, dark sense of humour into the book. It’s sometimes very dark, but always amusing. It’s not riotous, but I smirked and chuckled a couple times. It’s not exactly deep, but I can certainly see the beginnings of something complex and addictive. Seeley & Co. have created something pretty special and unique, here.

Overall, I enjoyed this quite a bit. The art style is reminiscent of some of Zenescope’s covers and internal art, but the story is much stronger (in some ways, this is more mature – like Buffy meets Eli Roth in a dark alley, before they stumble into a Stephen King novel…). It’s definitely not for kids, or the too-easily scandalised or shocked. But, if you like horror fiction, movies, or comics, especially ones with a self-conscious, knowing sense of humour, then Hack/Slash could be the perfect comic for you.

I’ll definitely be reading more of this – and, in fact, by the time this review goes live, I will have read the first Image collection, “Vol.9 – Torture Prone”.

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Original Mini-Series Covers