‘Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers’ – Comic Book Review

The title, Bubba Ho-Tep, probably conjurers images of Bruce Campbell as Elvis who switches places with an Elvis-impersonator named Sebastian Haff and hits the road impersonating Sebastian impersonating himself. He falls and ends up in a rundown retirement home, where he meets Jack (Ossie Davis), a man of color who says he is President John F. Kennedy. The pair encounter an Egyptian mummy in western wear (complete with a shiny belt buckle!) who is sucking the souls of residents via their anuses. If you are not familiar with the cult film from 2002 directed by Don Coscarelli (and based on a 1994 novella of the same name written by renown horror writer Joe R. Lansdale), then definitely check out the film (and my Fanbase Press essay as part of the "Thankful For" series last November). The new IDW Publishing comic book, Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers, is a prequel story to the film and novella.

Writer Joshua Jabcuga (The Mummy: The Rise and Fall of Xango’s Ax, Scarface: Devil in Disguise) drops the reader right into Las Vegas and introduces the familiar older Elvis, contemplating his plan to switch places with Sebastian, and walk away from the very public lifestyle and, more importantly, from the Colonel who has a stranglehold on Elvis’ mother’s soul. In the premier issue, Jabcuga establishes the alien threat and a covert call to arms by President Nixon to the Colonel and the team he assembles. Readers are introduced to the team, their mission, and then the late evening conversation between Elvis and his team member, Raven, providing background information as well as insight into the characters. Jabcuga gives nods to the sarcastic life observations that Elvis expressed in the film. The pacing is brisk which works well given Jabcuga is setting the foundation for the upcoming issues. The issue is edited by Joe Hughes (formerly with Comics Alliance and Vertigo).

Joining Jabcuga are artist Tadd Galusha (The Cowboy with Many Hats, Dream Thief), colorist Ryan Hill (Rick and Morty, Dark Matter,) and letterer Tom B. Long (The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Uncle Scrooge). Galusha excels on many levels in this issue; his panel layouts are varied, balancing and playing with the white space with engaging compositions, such as the vertical panel of the brain specimen and the three-quarter profile of Raven. Additionally, his detail work, such as the establishing shot of the Nocturne with the swirling smoke and vines, contrasts well with the contemporary motifs of the rest of the story. Paired with Hill’s choice of color palette, the art pops images off the page or alternatively, bathes character faces’ in lights and shadows brilliantly. And, Hill’s color choices set the otherworldly elements with an eerie glow that is atmospheric and reminiscent of black light posters of the 1970s. Rounding out the visual powerhouse is Long’s lettering. Everything from the narrative boxes to the speech balloons and the sound effects are easy to read, balanced, and well placed in their respective panels. He adds easily missed touches: the series of “Oh!”  contained in heart-shaped balloons or the thin headlines indicating a change in time/location. The issue is visual candy for the eyes.

This new series will likely appeal to a wide audience, in addition to Bubba Ho-Tep fans of the novella and film. Readers who enjoy stories featuring alternative histories, aliens, and horror comedy should add this title to their pull lists. Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers promises to be a fun prequel to the film and a welcomed addition to the Bubba Ho-Tep canon.

Note: This series does have adult themes and images which are not appropriate for younger readers.

Creative Team: Joshua Jabcuga (writer), Tadd Galusha (artist), Ryan Hill (colorist), Tom B. Long (letterer), Joe Hughes (editor)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
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