Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Frightful Trinity

Fear, in English, hatches from the Old Saxon vār meaning “ambush”.
Fear orchestrates its ambush on the first pages of these three comics, and strategically orients the story to re-assault readers. 

The Darkness 101, Ragemoor 1 and  The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred 3 provide a host of frightful images  needing awful adjectives. A reader's willing suspension of disbelief remains necessary to experience the within these pages, and the creative teams of these books arrange elements to craft a fearful atmosphere to ambush readers with a state of dread.
Fear in fiction starts with establishing an appropriate setting. The Darkness opens with a prelude drawn by John Tyler Christopher and scripted by Ron Marz that shows a full page of Jackie Estacado standing amongst the light of a lone bulb. Tentacled creatures writhe within the shadows. Estacado holds a dead bulb in his right hand, partially in the darkness, partially in the light, but his lower left leg and foot exposed fully to the light is india-ink black. This coloration hints that direct light reveals the true nature of the character: dark. The dialogue starts the story with a question, “Awake now? That’s good. We need to talk.” A question, signifying an unknown element…and plenty texts extol the fear associated with the unknown.  An ominous portent follows the question: “We need to talk.” This assertion embodies an ambush of misfortune that can only end in pain and suffering, especially when spoken by a man half concealed in darkness with multiple–eyed and tentacled beasts filling the shadows.
David Hine and Jeremy Haun’s beginning of the main story in The Darkness depict Estacado’s arrival at home and the cheerful eager greeting by his daughter and his contented thoughts are juxtaposed with the first words voiced to him by his “perfect wife”: “Don’t touch me you bastard! What did you do? Tell me Jackie, what did you fucking do?!”Such terrible questions rarely have comforting answers.The setting for terrible events is established. 
Ragemoor sets the mood with a full splash page showing the castle high atop a seaside cliff. Man-made structure blends with the natural craggy coast with rocks that suggest skulls and hanging vines that suggest dripping blood. The text of "Fortress, sentinel, guardian, prison" inform readers that the castle that initially seems to defend, ultimately entraps. Amubshed. Long-faced Herbert warns, “You should not have come.” His direct gaze resigns the impending evil and danger Herbert knows will transpire. He doesn't bother telling listeners to leave. The ambush has been begun.

In Bulletproof Coffin:Disinterred, Hine and Kane give a three panel spread blending two different realities (heroes and a disturbed boy manipulating dolls of heroes), and the final panel having a doll of the Coffin Fly aiming his laser pistol at the reader and “FZZZZAAASSSSHHH!!!”
What is real? Who cares? Watching kids act in such a manner is creepy. Reality is unimportant; fear's ambush continues. The opening two panels each depict open graves that contain none of the playfulness or reflection of graves in Hamlet. Rather the graves on Hine and Kane's page, despite the bright colors, have firm links with the domiciles from the denizens of  Night of the Living Dead.
After setting and springing the fear-filled ambushes within the story, each book closes with promises of future frights. This structure of frightful prelude, the fearful thing revealed, and promise of more fear to come, add to the fright of the larger storyline as readers anticipate what may come. Hine and Haun close with a distilled being of the Darkness manifested as a loving parent to an adoring child.  An unsuspecting Hope Estacado eagerly and unwittingly approaches this embodied evil who leers with a Charles-Manson smile and says “My child.” Happy endings to such a set up remain difficult to conceive. The ambush resets for issue two.
Hine and Kane close issue 3 of The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred with a child hiding in bed with a lighter.  The potential horrors of this situation haunt the mind, and the haunting possibilities become more dire when the globe full of gun powder and the child's reality altering powers get recalled. An ambush awaiting a future issue. Castle Ragemoor, after killing two guests, sits firmly on its foundations unharmed. Its pagan rage momentarily quenched, it waits for its next attack. The structure of the tales of these three books ride a plot wave of fear, and comics possess and unending swell of horror to deliver; fearful ambushes waiting to break on readers month after month and issue after issue.                                                                                    

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