Overview

Gene Simmons House of Horrors #2

Review

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Gene Simmons House of Horrors #2

Credits

  • Words: Jason Henderson, Joshua Hale Fialkov, et. al.
  • Art: Sharp Brothers, Andy Kuhn, et. al.
  • Inks: Sharp Brothers, Andy Kuhn, et. al.
  • Colors: German Toerres, Marc Rueda, et. al.
  • Story Title: Wings of the Deep, Dad?s Last Message, et. al.
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing/Simmons Comics Group
  • Price: $9.99
  • Release Date: Nov 14, 2007

I will say this about Gene Simmons’ House of Horrors #2: the stories within had me thinking about them long after I’d read them.  That may be a no-brainer definition for what good horror shorts are meant to be, but while the stories’ conceits were fantastically conceived, the construction of each was, I felt, disappointingly enacted.  The art was a stellar assortment of wide-ranging talents, but the stories themselves didn’t hold quite the bite they needed to, especially for a package priced at $9.99 per pop.

The book opens with the coolest effin’ weird-horror idea I’ve encountered in a long time, with a story by Sword of Dracula’s Jason Henderson and classic adventure-strip art by the Sharp Brothers.  “Wings of the Deep” puts forth a wildly inventive concept inside of a identifiable story mold, but while the set-up is ingenious, the payoff proves simply too uninspired to succeed.  More than merely a letdown, the final pages play out awkwardly, though Henderson’s creature and the Sharp Brothers’ design are both praise-worthy to a religous degree.

The follow-up is “Dad’s Last Message,” a truly sinister little ditty by Joshua Hale Fialkov  (Elk’s Run) and Firebreather creator Andy Kuhn.  Of all the stories in issue #2, this one resonates the most, with a clever if simple tale and an execution that, for all its lack of surprise, does manage to impact.  Kuhn’s pencil and pen poetry portray a bleak, sparse, terrifying landscape.  When the horror is absent, the setting remains placid, unimposing, but when scary bits begin to creep in, the same visuals take on a malevolent, hopeless quality to their lines.

Third of Five reigns from superstar Mike Baron’s imagination, and while this story is indeed the most old-school and compressed, with a cast and (most especially) lead that grow as fleshed-out as any short-story character can be, Baron somehow loses control of the wrap-up, and the final page falls flat, unfortunately proving the story to be one that did depend on its last moments to work.  Artist Gabe Eltaeb (co-conspirator with Mike Baron on the webomic The Hook ) puts forth a solid bunch of pages, offering a style many fans will find familiar alongside a Mike Baron script, flavors of late 80’s and early 90’s small press comics abounding, but even this causes the story to seem straight-forward and streamlined, requiring an ending that actually works, and in “Acid Rock,” everything but the ending actually works.

Fourth on the roster is “The Blacktop Killer” by The Highwaymen’s killer writer-duo of Adam Freeman and Marc Bernardin .  This one wields a certain cunning to its execution, with a twisty end that just may surprise a number of its readers, though many will see it coming a bit too early on to garner any honest pleasure from it.  Artist Drew Moss will likely be the most judged of the talent in HoH #2, some enjoying his highly stylized scrawl, most writing him off as “untalented” due to his inordinately loose lines.  “Blacktop” ranks as the second best of the book, though, for its story and its art, and the only story besides “Dad’s Last Message” to truly work as a whole.

Finally, the book closes on “Last Meal” by NYC Mech’s Ivan Brandon with art by issue #1 contributor Jeffrey Zornow .  Zornow is a fantastic horror artist, cartoon-inspired though a master of twisting his images into ghastly appearances, clothed in a picturesque palate.  Sadly, Brandon’s story, while steeped in well-drafted dialogue, is one that requires far too great a suspension of disbelief to dig into.  Which may seem a ridiculous critique in an anthology of this sort, but while the other stories utilize supernatural or monstrous conceits, “Last Meal” moves solely on the characters’ own motivations, and so when the crazy parts get underway there’s simply no justification as to how or why the people involved would ever do what they do in the end.

House of Horrors, now two issues in, is a solid anthology, with stories that will definitely entertain, but the overall quality needs to improve.  Both issue #1 and #2 were plagued by tales that weren't polished to the shine they could have been, embodying ideas that were clothed in scripts that didn't show off their naughty bits properly, at least not in a classy way but just in a slutty way (to drive the metaphor down, down, down into the ground).  The talent, I think, were good selections, throughout both issues, though the stories chosen didn’t limelight the limit to what these writers and artists are capable of.  And, for the exorbitant price tag of $10, this book absolutely must prove itself to be better.  The best of its kind, in fact.  And it could be, which is the true crime of it at least thus far.

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