Review Date: 10/24/2008

 Anita Blake-The Laughing Corpse #1
Pencils & Cover by RON LIM
Monkey Variant Cover by RON LIM

Since Halloween is upon us, I thought it appropriate this week to review two "holiday appropriate" comics.  Let's see whether the good comic reader will be tricked or treated to read the following comics:
Anita Blake-The Laughing Corpse #1

     Marvel has just published issue #1 of a new 5-issue mini-series of Anita Blake.  The comic is based on fiction writer Laurell K. Hamilton's extremely popular fiction novel series whose main character Anita Blake is a St. Louis-based vampire and werewolve hunter.  Marvel's first comic adaptation of the Anita Blake fiction world was 2006's immensely popular Anita Blake Vampire Hunters-Guilty Pleasures series.
     Issue #1 is adapted from a Hamilton story by Jess Rufner with artwork by Ron Lim and June Chung.  The story begins with a brief narrative explanation that Anita Blake is a court-appointed vampire executioner, authorized by the St. Louis court system to hunt-down any members of the now legally-recognized vampire community who break the law.  Interestingly, Blake is also an Animator, with the ability to resurrect the dead as zombies.
     The issue's plot is almost two separate stories.  In the first half of the comic, Blake is offered a million dollars by a very shady reclusive millionaire to resurrect a two century-old corpse, an offer that she refuses.  The story then shifts to Blake assisting the local police in a very mysterious (and bloody, of course!) dismemberment murder that clearly has supernatural written all over it.
     This is one excellent comic book, that you don't have to be a straight-out horror or macabre fan to enjoy.  The art is of the highest quality and the plotting is top notch.  But its the personalities and dialogue that put this comic at the top of the recommended list.  It's probably due to both Blake's acclaimed writing skill and Rufner's adaptation ability, but irregardless, this comic succeeds in delivering in two key ways.
     First, Blake is wonderfully portrayed as a realistic person trying to straddle the supernatural and everyday world.  Its very entertaining to see her consider being a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding and investigating a dismemberment as equally stressful.  Secondly, the comic's creative team is masterful at extracting elements of horror from very ordinary situations.  Blake's extended confrontation with the benignly-smiling mysterious millionaire is just as creepy, if not more so, than her investigation of the blood-soaked murder scene later in the comic.
     All in all, a strong first issue start to what looks to be a fun read of a Halloween-season mini-series; definitely a sweet treat from our trick-or-treat grab bag!

Angel-After The Fall #12
Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch (plot)
Brian Lynch (w)
Nick Runge (a)
Runge, Alex Garner (c)

    After reviewing a comic about a vampire slayer, it's time to jump the fence and review a comic about an actual vampire.  Angel-After The Fall, published by IDW Publishing, is based on the very popular Angel television series that was spun-off from the hit 1990's t.v show Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  The "After The Fall" comic series addresses the final season of the t.v. show, which centered on the heroic vampire Angel and his confrontations with the demonic Los Angeles law firm Wolfram & Hart.
     Issue #12 is written by Brian Lynch with art by Stephen Mooney.  Unfortunately, this is a very difficult and unenjoyable comic to read.  There's too much of a focus here on following whatever the events were of the final season of the t.v. show, with the result being that we don't have a comic book plot, but rather a storyboard lay-out, with terrible art to boot, of a partial segment of a t.v. episode.
     As such, I can't even summarize a story plot for you; Angel roams a demonic Los Angeles having pretentious conversations with some people in his life.  There's a ghost who fades in and out, and a neat-looking dragon shows-up in a few panels.  But again, one has no idea what the heck is going on in the way of an actual story, here.  As the writer Gertrude Stein once said about the city of Oakland, "there's no there, there."
     I'm most likely offending hard core Buffy and Angel fans, but an honest thumbs-down on this one.  If fans are reading this comic from issue #1 on, issue #12 most likely makes sense. I think this comic was designed for the hardcore t.v. fan, and tries to follow the t.v. show format too faithfully, almost serving as a collective drawing of t.v. show scenes.  As such, it has absolutely no stand-alone comic book issue strength, so I can't recommend that you pick it up and try to read it.  Keep reading if you're an Angel fan already on-board, but don't jump into issue #12 and try to give this a read at this stage of the 16-issue series.
     So that's it for our Halloween Week reviews, one tasty candy treat and one disappointing egg-your-house of a trick.  Enjoy the real Halloween next week, and try to avoid those real-life vampires and vampire-slayers!


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