Overview

Cemetery Blues #1

Review

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Cemetery Blues #1

Credits

  • Words: Ryan Rubio
  • Art: Thomas Boatwright
  • Inks: Thomas Boatwright
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: The Haunting of Hernesburg
  • Publisher: Image Comics/Shadowline Entertainment
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: Jan 16, 2008

“The Curse of Wallace Manor”, a three-issue mini that started the Cemetery Blues cult fan-following, was a scandalously well put-together blend of the eerie and the oddball, desert-dry British humor peppered with honest supernatural terrors.  Typically, such comics—fun though they might be—are either simple action-packed shorts or all-ages fare, but "Wallace Manor" managed to capture the strengths of both styles, melding them into something only a handful of books ever achieve: an epic intensity that doesn’t sacrifice its more lively elements.  While “Wallace Manor” proved a memorable series, “The Haunting of Hernesburg” from Shadowline/Image, is something even better.

Monster hunters Mortimer Ridley and Falstaff—a sort of UK Abbott and Costello (if Abbott were John Constantine and Costello Quasimodo)—journey to the town of Hernesburg, led by their spirit-mentor, Mr. Lear, on the path of a vampire outbreak.  In inimitable bungling fashion, the duo traipse onto a funeral ceremony, hoping to stake a coffin’s occupant (he likely being an undead bugger, or so they assume).  But more is going on in Hernesburg than meets the eye, and soon the village’s menfolk alongside the local clergy conspire to lull these “skilled monster hunters” into helping them hunt an evil that haunts the village.  Our pseudo-heroes agree, but in the shadows lurks none other than the powerful warlock Orlok, the arch-nemesis of said spirit-mentor Lear.

So what’s going on in Hernesburg?  Why does Orlok care about the place?  That’s the mystery at the core of “Haunting”, though the point of the book isn’t so much the solving of an intricate puzzle (as anyone who spots a particular root in the town’s name already has a pretty good guess as to what’s going on) but rather, in the spirit of Bone and Boneyard , it’s to see how an extensive cast of ludicrous characters move the plot elements to play out.

The story of “Haunting” is assured, a multi-layered weave as compared to its predecessor, “The Curse of Wallace Manor”.  Writer Ryan Rubio allows himself a greater range of dialogue and character interplay, a more intuitive and less formulaic ebb and flow of comedy and violence, dramatic heft and non-sequitur parody, his script of “Hernesburg” closer to jazz while “Wallace Manor” flowed more like standard rock.  His growing confidence as a writer is apparent here, with a larger cast and story, also his deft handling of British-style syntax and wordplay.  The dialogue in CB rivals that of most Hellblazer issues, even the ones handled by authentic Brits, as the Vertigo series tends to strive for an artificial level of colloquialisms and curses while CB manages something closer to a textual Victorian aesthetic, its flavor closer to Gothic than urban and allowing for a more natural read.

But for all Rubio’s growing flair, he still needs a large dose of grit and modern-day snark for this horror comedy to succeed, and that’s where artist Thomas Boatwright comes in.  Hot on the heels of The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo , Boatwright turns his lush fantasy colors into what will soon become the standard for black-and-white books.  I don’t know if he colored the pages of CB #1 and then knew of a way to artfully translate them, or if he just plumb knows how to handle grey scale the way a colorist knows his hues, but Cemetery Blues #1 showcases an extraordinary thing: a B&W comic as intricate and eye-catching as anything in color.  His explosion of grey tones moves CB into the realm of the grandly grim and Gothic, and his characters are expressive, in body and face alike, his comedic timing spot on.

“The Haunting of Hernesberg” is candy for the eye, hysteria for the soul, highlighted by serious thrills to exercise the heart, and crazy-ass ideas to spark the imagination.  It’s Fear Agent for the horror comics crowd, and it’s godawfully good at what it does.  If you’re in any way undecided on whether or not to give this series the time of day, it’s only because you haven’t seen this.  Seriously, if you can resist that , then you’re reading in the wrong medium.

###

If you’d like to give the original self-published mini a shot, contact the creators via their website: www.myspace.com/cemeteryblues.  Issues #1 and #2 are available at ComiXpress, though the third and final has never officially been published, so drop Ryan and Thomas a line and they’ll be happy to get a copy of out to you.

And check out “The Haunting of Hernesburg” preview at newsarama.

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