Satan?s 3-Ring Circus of Hell


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Satan?s 3-Ring Circus of Hell


  • Words: Robert Steven Rhine
  • Art: Various
  • Inks: Various
  • Colors: Various
  • Story Title: Various
  • Publisher: Asylum Press
  • Price: $19.99

Robert Rhine produces his newest graphic novel, and it sure does deliver on the promise of its title. Welcome to Hell. Enjoy your stay.

Along with a collection of artists, Robert Steven Rhine takes his readers on a trip through some of the most disturbing stories one can find. Satan’s 3-Ring Circus of Hell, Rhine’s new trade paperback collection, is made up of over 40 stories. In them, he runs the gamut of horror archetypes, from zombies to cannibals to serial murdering clowns, Rhine dabbles in every playpen. If you were looking to get your fill of dismemberments, cannibalism, and, of course, Satan himself, you’ve come to the right place.

The artwork on this book is completed by a plethora of comic book artists. Unless you are a diligent follower of all comic book artists, mainstream and underground, the name you are most likely to recognize is John Cassaday. But that isn’t to say the work in the book isn’t top notch, for at many times it is, as Cassaday is joined by over 40 other artists. Each artist illustrates one of Rhine’s own short stories or provides a one page piece to fit in between the stories based on Rhine’s ideas. And Rhine plays to each of their strengths. Never is an artist made to look out of place on any story. And with the disturbing nature of the stories and with their shortness of length, each of the artists is asked to match. With only a few instances out of the large number of artists not hitting the mark, you will never be disappointed in what you’re seeing. Although you may be disgusted enough to turn away.

Because Robert Rhine is trying to disgust you. He’s trying to disturb you. And in a sense, he completes his goals. Witha sense of humor that matches his disturbed imagination, Rhine pulls no punches. He playfully uses clichés for no other reason than to break them down and destroy them, in the vilest ways possible. He uses cheesy situations and stereotypes but takes them to their most illogical conclusions. The single page splashes he had artists produce sometimes fall flat, as he is not able to (excuse the pun) flesh them out, but each of the short stories has something you can take from it, whether you would like to or not. And if a particular story doesn’t tickle your fancy, it’s only a few short pages until the next one.

The only problem with the whole thing is that it almost seems like the format plays against the overall enjoyment of the book. There is no real resonance from any of the stories. Reading this, the only thing you can take from each story is "That was disgusting." Then 5 pages later you’re saying the same thing again. And just with the massive number of stories in here, you’re going to end up saying "That was disgusting" a whole lot, which almost makes the book a struggle to get through. If this one book were split up into a few collections, or if Rhine interjected more works of short prose fiction (as he does late in the tpb) it would help to pace the book better. It’s a shame to say it about a book of this quality, but it just may be too much.

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