Written: W. Maxwell Prince
Artwork: Martin Morazzo
Colors: Chris O’Halloran
Lettering: Good Old Neon
Cover A by Morazzo and O’Halloran Cover B By Lynn Scurfield
This was a strange issue. Normally, each of the stories in this series are concluded at the end of each issue. This time, the story carries over into the next issue, issue #5.
Nothing major happens in this issue either. While it lays out and builds up our story, giving us all the introductory pieces and a little background, it still doesn’t have any blood, gore or anything like that.
This time we are thrown into the mix on the first page. A man named Joel is getting dressed to go to a funeral. He is to give the eulogy for the deceased. He tells his wife he’s not sure he can live up to this task. He had lost contact with his friend, Chris (the decedent), over the last two years and feels a little awkward about delivering the eulogy for someone he didn’t even talk to for two years. He also feels guilty that he was never aware that Chris was sick and that the sickness could lead to death. Now, his friend is being buried and he has to sum up this man’s life in the best way possible…which seems very difficult for him.
At the funeral, Joel does his very best to memorialize his friend. He talks about the love Chris had for ice cream and the ice cream truck. How talented and gifted he was as a musician. He also sees Chris’s father, who abandoned his own family when Chris was just seven years old. After the service, the two of them start talking over a couple drinks. Joel asks the father where he went when he took off from his family. The father says he went to the woods and lived with a bunch of wannabe flower children, smoking dope and living the sex life of a wild jack rabbit.
But the dad explains that it was all a trap. A life of lies and illusions. He says the real escape of the mundane lifestyle was, in fact, being a father and a husband. He feels so guilty about having left his family and can’t seem to get beyond it. He talks about wishing he could hug his son one last time. Joel suggests a way that he can do just that.
Drunk as skunks, Joel is even puking, they go to the cemetery and proceed to remove Chris’s body from the casket, which is still above ground. I guess the burial is actually the next day. (Never heard of a casket being left above ground overnight, easily accessible to anyone with the inclination to desecrate the burial site. Once they get the body out, the father holds his son and talks to him, letting the guilt filled heartache pour over his dead body.
Meanwhile, we take a short interlude to the “other side” where we see Chris. He in some kind of purgatory. He is scared and his circumstances keeps changing. First, he’s covered in a bunch of tiny spiders. Then, a group of skeletons are “tickling” him with feathers while he is tied down to a round table type object. After that, a team of dogs are performing surgery on him. And it just keeps getting weirder and weirder.
Now, through the whole first half or so of the issue, every once in a while there is a speech bubble with red print in it. Each of these bubbles seem so random. One says, “What-where am I?”. Another, “Is this Hell?”. None of these make sense until we see Chris in this interlude. These are all things he’s saying as this strange torture is being performed on him.
Then, back in real life, we see some toothpick chewing cowboy who walks up on the ice cream truck and tells the ice cream man that he knows what he is doing to the people in his town and he doesn’t much like it. As he tells the ice cream man he’ll be seeing him around, the ice cream man looks terrified and the cowboy walks away…whistling.
Now, is the cowboy a spirit to fight the evil ice cream man? Is he the reincarnation of Chris, whistling his musical self through this new life? Who knows.
Although there wasn’t any real gore to speak of in this issue, the story wasn’t bad. I didn’t mind that there wasn’t any real gore because there was still a suspenseful eeriness to the story. The fact that death and some torture (of some sort) is included in the story does make it still fitting of the horror genre. I do wish that we got more horror but, I am hoping that the next issue will be the culmination of blood and guts of the story.
The artwork is still good. Morazzo and O’Halloran make a good team, bringing these images to life. This issue in particular has a lot of emotion involved and they do a great job of showing that all through the issue. The colors are very normal and easy on the eyes and also makes everything seem very innocuous. Until you find out it’s not.
I really am a fan of this series. I am always willing to give the next issue a shot. I just think these folks do that good of a job with it. I am looking forward to the next issue to see what happens.
Written: Anthony Bourdain/Joel Rose
Artwork: “Deep”- Sebastian Cabrol/”Boil in the Belly”- Paul Pope
Colors: Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover Art by Paul Pope
This issue was an incredible change from the first two. It’s almost like they were saving up the most twisted and demented stories for those that stuck it out through the first issues. These two stories are completely wild.
The first one, crudely titled “Deep” is a pure example of nastiness. The whole idea of this story is that there is a very mean and very cruel head chef in this particular kitchen. And, since everything seems to always trickle downhill, as we go through the different ranks of the kitchen staff, each one is extremely antagonistic to the chefs he outranks.
Then, we focus on one chef in particular. A sous chef. This guy gets very and disgustingly close to his subordinates. In this day and age, he would probably be considered a pervert (at minimum) and a sexual predator (at most). There would definitely be a sexual harassment suit, maybe even criminal charges. He literally pokes and prods at his chefs until there is actual physical pain, focusing the majority of his efforts on one poor guy. He gets his ears pulled and twisted, his arms held tight and high behind his back like bullies do and worst of all, this sous chef very aggressively “gooses” his employee. Apparently, he doesn’t just poke or pinch someone’s ass…he gets at them like he’s digging for gold.
Our battered chef (no pun intended…but, it fits nicely don’t you think?) meets a co-worker that seems to have the answers this young man is looking for…and a solution to his problem.
The second story is “Boil in the Belly”. This is a story that could make your stomach churn. This is the story of an actual hungry ghost. One that takes up residence in the form of a boil on a young chef’s stomach.
As if that wasn’t already nasty enough, the boil grows into a mouth and talks, requesting to be fed…constantly. This thing cannot get enough food and frankly, watching this boil eat, our young chef can’t stomach to eat anything himself and starts to starve to death.
His fate is not sealed though. There IS a way to remove this ghost from inhabiting his body.
I will let you read the endings for yourself…(gags)…I think maybe, that’s best this time.
As I stated before, these were stories to make you cringe. I can’t get over the elements that they chose to put together in these tales. Some of this stuff DEFINITELY doesn’t belong in the same story, conversation or even the same room as food (whether it’s raw, being prepared or already cooked…it makes no difference).
Still, what a great and gigantic leap into the horror genre. This is where this series should have started.
Written: W. Maxwell Prince
Artwork: Martin Morazzo
Colors: Chris O’Halloran
Lettering: Good Old Neon
(Cover A by Morazzo and O’Halloran, Cover B Mike Shea)
I’m not sure how much I liked this issue. I felt like the story was bland and didn’t have any kind of scare or horror to it really. The reference of vanilla in the title is extremely apt here. When we hear something described as “vanilla” we figure it’s plain, ordinary, not exciting, boring and perhaps, even bland (like I said earlier).
The story is about a has been rock star who was a One-Hit Wonder. He never really moved on from those days and has been living in the past, unable to let go and move on with his life. His song was a huge hit but, he never could match that kind of success afterwards and his career fizzled out into nothing.
The main part of the story is about this rocker that is supposed to save the world with a rock song.
There’s no creepiness. No blood, no gore, no murder, no ghosts. Nothing. This is more of a science-fiction issue to be honest. And while I have nothing against sci-fi, I just don’t have an affinity for it.
The artwork in this issue isn’t like the first two either. I’m wondering if there isn’t something going on with this team and maybe they aren’t working as well together as they used to. It's not that the artwork is BAD it's just not as good as the first two issues.
Nevertheless, I am anxious to read issue four, hoping it will be better.
Writer: Ben Meares
Artwork: Jason Muhr
Colors: Marco Lesko
Letters: Fabio Amelia
Ohhhh the phantom toll booth!!!! Pay the toll, drive straight to Hell. Route 66 is a famous highway. It’s famous for a number of things…including death. In this story, we have four young people on their way to California for a Spring Break to be spent on a beach for fun in the sun.
A little rundown on our young travelers. We have Richie, Ginny, Adam and Alexis. Richie and Ginny are both single and Adam is dating Alexis. Richie has a thing for Ginny and Ginny doesn’t seem to mind to much, although she doesn’t overtly return his flirtations. Richie has been enlisted to drive to California with the other three riding with him. Adam is a musclebound neanderthal who drinks too much and is just an ass. Alexis is quiet and subservient to Adam as he tends to push and order her around.
Now, while on this road trip, as with any road trip, they come across weird, strange little shops along the way. Richie has a propensity for the odd and unusual and he enjoys places like “Captain Spaulding’s” with the famous Murder Ride. Adam is not a fan and gets more and more irritated with each place Richie stops at.
They stop to get gas at a place called Stumpy’s (reminds me of Stucky’s). While there, the lovely redhead worker tells them the story of the phantom toll booth to Hell on Route 66. Richie really wants to drive Route 66 but, Adam is aggressively voicing his want to travel the interstate instead, razzing Richie about all the time and energy he’s wasted along the way.
They get back on the road and soon, Adam has had enough alcohol that he is getting mean and physical with his girlfriend, Alexis. After she voices her opinion, Adam slaps her. Richie is NOT ok with this and confronts Adam, warning him that, if he hits Alexis again, Richie will break his thumbs. After getting Alexis’ permission, Adam is allowed to get back in the car and they continue their trip.
Richie concocts a plan to get on Route 66. They have a tire blowout and, because of drunken Adam, they have another confrontation. And Richie breaks Adam’s thumbs, just like he warned he would. The three get back in the car and go on their way, leaving Adam in the desert at night by himself.
Now driving down Route 66, Ginny is starting to really have a thing for Richie and they are beginning to really dig each other, as evident by the depiction of them making out against the back of Richie’s car after beating up Adam.
Do they find the toll booth? What happens on Route 66?? Ohhhh, if only I were going to tell you!!!
This was a great story. I thought they did a great job with the tale and the artwork in this issue. The story moves along so smoothly that you really just breeze right through the whole comic in a matter of minutes. This was truly a suspenseful read and had a great ending. Although, yet again, this is NOT an urban legend I am familiar with, it doesn’t mean the story isn’t out there somewhere. The only toll booth story I know of is one where people throw cadaver parts into the booth instead of money as a prank. I suppose this COULD be a twisted take on that premise…taken way further.
Still, as always, the very talented folks at Zenescope keep the gems coming. If you haven’t gotten ahold of any of these issues, you are truly missing out.
Writer: Ralph Tedesco
Artwork: Vince Rodriguez (pgs. 1-15)/Babisu Kourtis (pgs. 16-23)
Colors: Fran Gamboa with J.C. Ruiz
Letters: Fabio Amelia
This was a great rendition of a chain letter spook story. We’ve all probably gotten those chain emails that promise bad luck if we don’t forward the message. A lot of people just ignore it and move on, nothing ever happening that is attributed to the chain letter. But, in this issue, we have something so much darker and more sinister.
In this story, a guy named Steve receives an email notification on his phone. The message is from a name familiar to him. When he checks the email, he sees this:
“Now that you opened my email, you need to perform a simple task: Kill one person you know. Anyone.
You will never be caught for the murder, so take solace in that.
If you do not complete this task, five people you know and care about will begin to die one by one until the task is completed.
Each person more important to you than the last.
The clock ticks.”
He doesn’t really pay much attention, thinking it’s just all around weird and goes on with his day. That night at his job as a bartender, Steve gets razzed and berated by his boss, Pat, as usual.
The next day while out with his girlfriend, he gets a text that informs him one of their friends, Mickey, has died in a car wreck. Steve is surprised and shaken but, doesn’t connect it with the email.
That night at work, one of the waitresses quits. Pat is being an ass and she’s not going to take it anymore. After she leaves, Pat yells at Steve again and tells him to get back to work.
Meanwhile, Steve’s step-sister is enjoying an evening on the balcony with her boyfriend when, all of a sudden, she thinks she sees something that scares her and she falls against the railing. It breaks off the balcony and she falls to her death.
Now, Steve realizes things are getting real. That’s two people he knows that have died since he read that email. But, to stop it he has to kill someone. How do you choose who to murder in cold blood?
Starting to feel the pressure, Steve decides to find and talk to the person that sent him the email. So, he has his girlfriend go to the airport to pick up his parents while he drives to talk to this Michael Hogan, the sender of the email.
They talk and Steve’s fears are confirmed. Michael does suggest an out…Steve could kill himself, since there is no rule against that stated in the email. Having his fill of information for the night, Steve decides to return home. There is bad news awaiting him when he gets there.
So, who dies next? Does Steve do the unthinkable? Once again, I’m not going to give it away.
My favorite piece of imagery in this issue would be the car wreck. It’s a great piece of art! The rest of the issue is good and works well with the story. The whole tone of the artwork is actually very complimentary to the story as it moves along.
These urban legend stories are making me anxious for more and more issues like these.
Writer: Joe Brusha
Artwork: Sean Hill/Babisu Kourtis (pgs 13-23)
Colors: Fran Gamba with J.C. Ruiz/Valentina Cuomo (pgs 13-23)
Letters: Fabio Amelia
Zenescope has decided to do something different with this volume of the series. This year they are focusing on Urban Legends. The scary campfire and overnight party stories we have all told for generations have now been brought to life in full color in these issues.
The interesting thing about Urban Legends is that they are practically always rooted in some sort of fact. The story starts somewhere. Over time it gets embellished and more fictional but, somewhere in history there was an event or series of events that has inspired the legend that now exists. Now, I happen to have an encyclopedia of Urban Legends and nowhere in that huge book, nor online, can I find any information about the story behind this first issue. It’s also an Urban Legend I have never heard before. All that being said, it doesn’t mean the story doesn’t exist somewhere, I just don’t know where.
This story is about a group of three boys in high school. You can tell they aren’t the brightest bulbs in the box and they also have no respect for the female gender, no matter what age. It also involves a teacher, a new female student and a haunted high school.
The tale is twisted and a little complicated and since, I don’t’ have the knowledge of the original story, there’s only so much I can tell you because I don’t want to ruin the story, plus the events of this issue tie directly into the upcoming feature film that we are going to get from Zenescope sometime this year (at least that’s what I’ve read online).
These three boys (Evan, Steve and Bobby) are convinced to explore the supposedly haunted high school by the new girl, Trisha. Now, remember that these boys are narcissistic, chauvinistic and well, dumb. There are rumors about things that happen at the school after midnight such as blood running from the faucets in the chem lab, a teacher drowning in the pool and now haunts the halls and a boy being found hanging in the second-floor bathroom. As they are going through the school finding all the creepy spots they see cops pull up, get freaked and bolt. In the commotion, Evan and Trisha get separated from the other two boys. The Evan gets a text from Bobby that says they weren’t spotted by the police and they are heading home. After trying to make a move on Trisha and getting rebuffed and being separated from his friends who have now left to go home, Evan heads home and goes to bed.
The next morning, Evan’s mom frantically wakes him up saying that Steve’s parents and Bobby’s mother have all called and the boys didn’t make it home the previous night. Evan assures her that they did and goes to show her the text Bobby sent but, it’s not there.
Where did they go? What happened? I’m not going to tell you. That would ruin it for you. These are truly great comics and you really should go get this issue. It’s a good one.
I will say that, as always, I really enjoyed this issue. I loved the story and the way it played out. Especially since it was a story I had not heard before. They artwork is great, as usual, and like the other issues in this series, it did not disappoint.
Written: Joe Keatinge
Artwork: Leila Del Duca
Colors: Owen Gieni
Letters: Ed Brisson
Created by Leila Del Duca and Joe Keatinge
I’m not really sure how I feel about this comic yet and I’m not really sure where it’s going. I really tend to prefer comics that get right down to the dirty details from the get go and this one, well, it didn’t quite do that.
It begins with a little girl, Kate, and her father. They are explorers…of planets, galaxies, the universe. This kid is seven and for her birthday her father takes her to the moon for an expedition. What a crazy-ass gift!!! Don’t most seven-year olds get bicycles or sporting equipment or dolls or something??? But no. This kid gets an expedition to the moon. And does she appreciate it? NO. Just like any seven-year-old she can’t even begin to comprehend the incredible experience laid before her at her feet…literally. She just complains that it’s boring and they are the only ones there and it’s so blah, blah, blah. Soon, she and her father are accosted by “something” that is there on the moon too. They run away, firing some sort of space weapon as they flee and they make it back home.
Then, Kate starts thinking and tells her father she isn’t sure she wants to be an explorer. He explains that their family, for generations and generations, have all been explorers. He tells her it is up to her whether the legacy continues.
Jump forward twenty years. Her twenty-seventh birthday. The world surrounding Kate is one in which humans and aliens exist together. The characters kind of remind me of some of the character depictions in Guardians of the Galaxy.
It seems that every year on her birthday she goes to her father’s grave and visits him. This year, while sitting and talking to her father’s headstone, she is attacked by things I can only describe as ghost Samurai warriors. There’s a lot of them. And they are yelling “Ku!”. She starts running her mouth that she’s not your average dainty female and that she’s dealt with their kind before.
But, before she even gets a chance to destroy these monsters, another character appears. Is this Ku? Is Ku what they call HER kind? We don’t know. But, this character is strange looking. If you’ve ever seen Return to Oz (1985), there is a friendly character that helps Dorothy named Tik-Tok. He’s a short, fat, round, metal guy that was some sort of Royal guard at one time or something. Well, this character that appears before Kate, he looks just like Tik-Tok but, a more sinister and wicked looking version.
He tells here that they (I guess his crew or whatever) were hoping she would show up and proceeds to imply that he knows quite a bit about her. Furious, Kate retorts that they know nothing about her but, she is quickly caught off guard with evil Tik-Tok’s response. He tells her he does know about her and he also knows what her father was always protecting her from. She assumes it’s people like this monster and blurts out such an accusation. But, he eerily and angrily corrects her, telling her that it’s not people like him, it’s people like her siblings!
For a first issue, this was okay. I know they leave you hanging on purpose and I expect that but, I do at least like to be introduced completely to the characters. Especially if they are going to be such a matter of importance, like evil Tik-Tok. I don’t even know his name. I don’t like having to call him something from another story but, at this time, I don’t have a choice. Plus, when I first started reading, I kind of thought maybe this comic was meant for younger people but, by the middle it was clear it really wasn’t.
I will say that the artwork is pretty cool in this issue. There are some great color choices to emphasize the ghosts and such. The artwork style also kind of changes according to the time period of the story. That is an interesting story telling tool by the artists to separate different parts of the storyline. It does make it easier to follow but, mostly it makes it more interesting visually.
It’s going to take me some time to locate more issues of this comic. It’s from 2014. But, I’ll do my best to get some more. I’m actually quite interested in this Tik-Tok looking character.