The first story arc, “The Hunt for the Dire Beast,” is concluding with issue five of Battlecats, a digital comic book series from Florida-based Mad Cave Studios. In fact, it is hard to believe but it was a year ago that I reviewed the premiere issue of this series. Hopefully, you have been following the progress of my reviews and perhaps even started reading the series yourself. In case you are not familiar with the series, this is an epic fantasy tale that follows a squad of warrior cats – Battlecats, in case you didn’t catch the titular title – who have been sent on a quest by King Eramand III to return with the head of the kingdom’s arch nemesis, the La Marque dire beast.
Do you love zombies? Whether your answer is yes or no, wouldn’t you agree you would prefer to be chased by the likes of the Night of the Living Dead? Their pace was somewhat of a leisurely jaunt compared to more recent alternatives. It would have to be a better circumstance than trying to outrun one in Zombieland. If you’re still unsure about what kind of undead you’d rather be surrounded by in a zombie apocalypse, then perhaps you should check out the opening sequence to Dawn of the Dead. Have you been convinced that the slower-paced “walking dead” would be the better choice?
“Step up into my greenhouse and speak your names.”
“I see Flames and blood.”
“I hear screams and dying… Your past is your past. You know why you are here, as do I… Once you cross my threshold and enter my home, there are only three things I require of you. There shall be no violence, no lying, and no lateness. Break one of these and you forfeit your right to remain here…Welcome to my home.”
Well, another issue of Wic/Div has been released, and with it comes some of the biggest revelations of the series thus far. We've basically been hearing for most of the series about the impending doom that is to befall our cadre of psychotic and hedonistic Gods once their ninety years on Earth are up. They're to die, without question, only to be reborn again some time later. Their fearless leader, Ananke, knew this, and in order to preserve this way of life, intended to sacrifice four of the Gods to stave off something called “The Great Darkness.” That didn't exactly go well, as the Gods revolted and killed Ananke, leaving everything kind of up in the air.
Be careful who you love. That line might work as the tagline of The Shadow Glass from Dark Horse. Written and illustrated by Aly Fell, with letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot ®, this lush and beautiful graphic novel brings us to the time of the Golden Age of England (1500s), where magic and lust are intertwined.
Found within the tome of this new collection of horror stories, you’ll find Richard Corben spinning tales inspired by the likes of old EC series like The Vault of Horror or Tales from the Crypt. Calling it a tome is a bit hyperbolic, but this is thirty-some pages of a fun throwback to when horror was far more innocent.
Mag the Hag is our storyteller, and much like the Cryptkeeper, he introduces us to all the stories and has a clever turn of phrase at the end of each. In one story, two puppets are actually tiny, little creatures. In another, two people are stranded on an island after a plane crash and run across horrific roots. In the third, a wife unintentionally finds a way around 'till death do us part, and the final tale is an ancient story about gods and a man who has great strength that will continue in issue two.
The stories are a fun romp. I can’t say anything scared me or gave me chills, but I did smile with fondness whenever our protagonists stumbled unknowingly towards their wretched fates.
The thing that makes this most worthwhile is the simply stunning black-and-white art from Corben himself. He’s a master of bringing life to the absurd, weird, and horrific, and he gives himself plenty of opportunity to do so in this first issue. His work as an artist is epic and surreal through his characters' long faces and eyes that seem to come to life. It’s a haunting landscape, because the humans are warped ever so slightly, almost as if they were mocking the reader with how closely they resemble us.
Is this comic going to be worth it for just anyone to pick up and buy? Most likely not, but if you’re a horror fan or a fan of Corben, you really can’t go wrong.
As Cullen Bunn lets the roots of his mythology in Harrow County grow ever deeper, he hasn’t forgotten about the human element. Emmy may not be who we or even she thought she was, her real family may be made of monsters and people with god-like powers, but she’s still Emmy. She still has a father that raised her as a daughter, she still has neighbors, and there still is a world full of humans outside Harrow County.
The Life and Death story arc has quite literally been everywhere, and it’s quite literally about surviving every circumstance. That’s the only through line I can make of it. It’s like Dan Abnett was given all the ingredients and just started stirring. There doesn’t seem to be any larger function or endgame here, just a push to get through to the next cool idea. The unfortunate thing is without that endgame, the story that tethers the cool ideas together isn’t always the strongest, and the characters aren’t always the most intriguing. They end up being shuffled around like chess pieces, simply reacting to what’s coming without a goal beyond survival or without an anchor point to make them relatable.