Overview

The Claws Come Out GN

Review

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The Claws Come Out GN

Credits

  • Words: Pat Lewis
  • Art: Pat Lewis
  • Inks: Pat Lewis
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: Bad Date, Abominable, Prowl, and Zombie Trouble
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing
  • Price: $19.99
  • Release Date: Dec 5, 2007

Pat Lewis has made a living, thus far, inside the SPX scene, churning out mini-comics and  sequential shorts galore, gaining a cult fan following and garnering widespread critical acclaim—while Lewis’ mainstream exposure has remained limited, he sits upon multiple award nominations, including the 2004 Ignatz Award Nominee for Outstanding Minicomic ("Thankless Job"), 2004 Howard E. Day Prize Nominee (for "Obsessive Crush"), 2006 Howard E. Day Prize Nominee (for "One Horse Town"), and the 2006 Howard E. Day Prize Nominee (for the story "Abominable", which appears here, in this very compilation).  So it was nigh time the man was snatched up by one of the larger comic publishers, in this case IDW.

Following Troy Little’s Chiaroscuro and presaging the December release of Dara Naraghi’s Lifelike, Lewis’ The Claws Come Out is IDW’s second collection to compile work of a celebrated independent illustrator, wrapped inside a surprisingly affordable, gorgeous hardcover binding.  Four different stories make up the meat of the book (with a few bonus shorts piled into the back).  The tales are thematically conjoined: each stars a tough-talking, free-spirited woman, each femme fortis squaring off against an enemy of supernatural or extraterrestrial design.  And each and every one is pretty damn funny.

Lewis’ inspiration stems more from Sunday newspaper funnies and Cartoon Network animation than anything more comic book-ish, though his narratives don’t suffer in the least for it.  His style is a mish-mash of strips and shows, old-school and new alike, presenting a semblance of something utterly familiar, easily digestible, yet never so household as to be called derivative.  There’s a touch of Archie and Calvin and Hobbes to his figures, a score of Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory to his creatures.  But the truest charm lies in the fact that the book isn’t for all ages, and in fact, becomes highly if not unsympathetically blood-thirsty at the least provocation, no matter the innocent and child-like flavor the non-murderous scenes play out in.

Each tale is framed and bridged by an Elvira-esque narrator named Lily St. Dead, a vampire who cracks bad puns with the best of the Crypt Keeper’s.  Moving from “Bad Date,” a send-up of the Buffy vampire-hunter genre, to the aforementioned, award-nominated “Abominable,” which focuses on a lady scientist as she tries to escape the Abominable Snowman while simultaneously dodging her evil boss’ plans to do her in, to “Prowl,” a wordless and utterly enthralling tale of alien abduction with one supremely kick-ass twist, to finally “Zombie Trouble,” an all-new 44 page story about a gypsy spell-caster and her inadvertent reanimation of all the world’s dead, The Claws Come Out encompasses darn near every major monster jonesing horror fans cyclically crave.

Though while the subject matter proves largely pastiche, Lewis’ panache as a storyteller is entirely unique, mixing in irreverent humor, parody, and farce with honest drama, character, and even a dash of true-blue horror.  The women, for all their purposefully cardboard cut-out outlines, encompass a broad range of…uhm…broads, the nuance of their differences bringing about a faultlessly entertaining book, start to finish, no trick repeated, no character conceit overstaying its welcome.  Furthermore, the stories which Lewis plunges his gals into maintain all the quirk expected of a small press creation, while, I think, due to Lewis’ inspiration derived from more classical source material, offering an unusually steady and coherent line of A to B action.

The Claws Come Out comes highly recommended.  I loved reading it.  I hated to put it down, even once (I had to do it, once—nature called and I’m just not a toilet reader), and I wouldn’t explicitly call myself a hardcore fan of cartoon comedy horror (I generally dislike comic strips, and rarely, if ever, turn on the television).  Nonetheless, TCCO had me from the first page, with Lily St. Dead dressed in facial and bath towel, to the thoroughly enjoyable “Bonus Material” which consisted of a number of two-and-three page shorts, all of which struck gold to a nearly greater degree than the main events themselves!

Chiaroscuro…The Claws Come Out…if Lifelike proves half as enjoyable as either of those, IDW may just have found its sweetest branch on the publishing tree yet: the hands-down coolest of the undiscovered small press.  If they can keep this kind of selection a-comin’, they’ll be giving Fantagraphics and Top Shelf a run for their money.

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