Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Freddy Vs Jason Vs Ash: Nightmare Warriors (Wildstorm Comics)

Freddy Vs Jason Vs Ash: Nightmare Warriors

This 2009 follow-up miniseries to the previously reviewed Freddy Vs Jason Vs Ash from Wildstorm Comics picks up some six months after we left off. Ash is retired from deadite slaying and living an idyllic suburban lifestyle with Carrie, a fellow survivor of the previous grudge match. The Happily Ever After ends abruptly, though, when Ash returns from the liquor store to find his dearly beloved hacked and/or slashed to death.

Jason is alive and well again, thanks to the magic mojo that mama Voorhees instilled in him years ago with the fabled Necronomicon--the very same Book of the Dead that a shady branch of the U.S. government has recently gotten their paws on and intend to use to become the superest super power in the world. Just think--an unstoppable army of deadites doing Uncle Sam's bidding, lead by infamous child killer Freddy Krueger. What could possibly go wrong?


The freshly-returned Freddy's not much for being a puppet, though, and has plans of his own to use the power of the Necronomicon to take over the world. And if he can get Jason to fall in line and take orders, well, that's all the better.

Ash stumbles into an army of his own--not an army of darkness, but an army of survivors, of both Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Utilizing all of their special talents, they hope to take down these monsters once and for all.


Sound like a lot of plot? Well, it is. And a plot this big takes a pretty big cast to pull it off, and therein lies the major problem with this series. There are just too damn many people to keep an eye on, and every time you think the cast is complete, somebody new gets thrown into the mix.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy seeing familiar faces pop up again, but the writers tried to do too much in one short six-issue story arc. It would have been better to have them appear throughout separate minis rather than all at the same time. It's a comic book, not It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

--Neil Gordon from Nightmare on Elm Street 3
--Maggie Burroughs from Freddy's Dead
--Stephanie Kimble from Jason Goes To Hell
--Stephen Freeman from Jason Goes To Hell
--Alice Johnson from Nightmare on Elm Street 4, 5
--Jacob Johnson from Nightmare on Elm Street 5
--Rennie Wickham from Friday the 13th 8
--Tina Shepherd from Friday the 13th 7
--Tommy Fucking Jarvis from Friday the 13th 4, 5, 6

And surely others that I forgot. That's not even making mention of some of the cameos, such as the spirits of Nancy Thompson, Amanda Krueger, and the original dream warriors themselves.


As you can tell, a bit of familiarity with the key entries in both the Nightmare and Friday franchises will help the reader out quite a bit. I'm familiar with all the films, and even I found myself struggling to keep up on occasion.

There's good art, good writing, and good action. It was all just a little too busy for my tastes.  It was initially conceived as a 12-issue maxi-series, and then the giant story had to be condensed into 6 issues.  It definitely shows.  A decent follow-up, but not nearly as much fun as its predecessor.


--J/Metro

Friday the 13th: Abuser and the Abused (Wildstorm Comics)


Friday the 13th: Abuser and the Abused

Wildstorm Comics released this one shot Friday the 13th special in 2008.  Maggie is a high schooler whose mother died under unknown circumstances, and following that death she began to escape deeper and deeper into herself. Treated as a "freak" and a "monster" by her peers, it's no surprise that her low self-esteem lands her in an abusive relationship with the hormonal asshole Steve.

But after the 23rd time that Steve hits her, she swears that it will be the last.


So what does all this have to do with Jason Voorhees? Little to nothing, actually. It takes place near Camp Crystal Lake, and it's there that Maggie finally decides to take her stand. Jason pops up around the halfway point for an extended battle sequence, but that's pretty much it. He's not lurking around any corners throughout the rest of the tale, and this doesn't add anything at all to the mythos. It's just another couple notches added to Jason's belt, and seems as if it could have been a deleted scene from any given Friday the 13th film.


The story, while not a bad one, is very simple, and so is the writing. The narration is given to us via Maggie's journal entry, so we're privy to her thoughts without a lot of unlikely exposition.

The artwork is strangely cartoonish, almost like Los Bros Hernandez doing Archie at times, which bothered me at the beginning, but I had gotten used to it--and even began to appreciate it--by the story's end. The action sequence is actually pretty strong, and there are some striking panels on display here.

Along with the violence there are some sexually suggestive scenes (and even a nip slip or two), which no good slasher of any medium should be without.

Overall, this could have been a nice warmup to a limited series, but as a one-shot, it leaves something to be desired.


--J/Metro

Friday the 13th: Bad Land (Wildstorm Comics)


Friday the 13th: Bad Land

This 2008 two-issue miniseries from Wildstorm Comics features two different stories from two different time periods being told concurrently.

The first story takes place hundreds of years ago, before the Crystal Lake area was settled, and three pioneers--Joseph, Ben and Ethan--find themselves stuck in a horrible snowstorm. They seek shelter in a Native American dwelling where a woman and her baby are hunkered down, but their unscrupulous behavior earns them the ire of her husband when he comes in from the cold.


The second story takes place in modern times, with three hikers--Jeremy, Phil and Diane--lost in a horrible snowstorm. They seek shelter in an empty cabin (which is actually a cabin house within Camp Crystal Lake), but when Phil learns that Jeremy and Diane have been carrying on a secret relationship behind his back, his jealousy sends him back into the snowstorm in anger--where Jason Voorhees is waiting.

The stories have plenty of similarities, but a good number of differences as well. Although the Native American husband is standing in for Jason in the past, the major difference is that the pioneers (at least two of them) deserved their punishment, whereas these hikers in modern day were virtual innocents. But then again, Jason is obviously working under a different moral compass than the rest of us.


In both timelines, just as the bloodshed has begun, one remorseful character begins declaring "This is a bad place...a bad place...a bad place", perhaps suggesting that the area truly is cursed, although smart money is on the fact that the scenes from the first story are the cause of the curse, not the result of it.

I enjoyed this story because it added to the mythology of the franchise through suggestion, not through blatant statement. We're never specifically told that these events are tied together, they merely unfold side-by-side, and we're left to make our own deductions. Given the urban legend/ghost story nature of Jason Voorhees, this makes a lot more sense.


There's plenty of sex and violence, though the artwork is occasionally sketchy. There are times when it's difficult to tell some of the characters apart, especially two of the pioneers, and Jason is depicted as a hulking brute, but his wrists are so thin and frail that I doubt he could lift his machete, much less embed it in somebody's skull.

Depicting these events in a blizzard was a novel idea, as we've never seen Crystal Lake out of season. The stark white backgrounds make for a great contrast to the plethora of red ink.


--J/Metro

Freddy Vs Jason Vs Ash (Wildstorm Comics)


Freddy Vs Jason Vs Ash

This 2007 6-issue miniseries from Wildstorm Comics begins five years after the events of Freddy Vs Jason, and the citizens of Crystal Lake have begun calling the town Forest Green again in order to distance themselves from the horrible past. They've also opened up a new big-box store that should really stimulate the local economy--a Super Mega Ultra S-Mart. And guess who's getting transferred?

One Ashley "Ash" Williams, the Senior Housewares Domestic Engineer from the Detroit store, not to mention seasoned demon killer and badass extraordinaire. It seems the Necronomicon, the flesh-bound Book of the Dead, is somewhere in town, and Fate has lead Ash here to take care of business.


Ash isn't the only one who wants the unholy book. Freddy Krueger, trapped in the fractured mind of Jason Voorhees wants it too, and that can't be good for anybody. Manipulating Jason once again, it's a race between everybody's favorite machete madman and everybody's favorite one-handed smartass to get the Necronomicon from, of all places, the fruit cellar of the old Voorhees house.

This of course devolves into a three-way slaughter of epic proportions.

This is a comic book version of the movie you always wanted to see, but will never get the chance to. All three franchises are portrayed faithfully and intermingled in a way that is pretty much genius. Pamela Voorhees used the Necronomicon to resurrect Jason after his drowning? Finally an explanation!


Jason, of course, doesn't speak, but you'll be happy to know that his theme music appears at the same time as he does--you just have to read it aloud. You want to know badass? He kills somebody with a clipboard. A CLIPBOARD!


Freddy is not the Freddy of the original Nightmare on Elm Street, but the pun-loving jokester he had become over the course of the films. He has some great moments, the best of which is him reenacting some scenes from the Evil Dead movies when Ash falls asleep.


Ash's character is rock solid here, and I could literally HEAR Bruce Campbell in my head while I read his lines. He provides the narration for the series, and the opening scenes, as he comments on the death of a character who tried to go all Final Girl on Jason pretty much sums him up in a nutshell.
"Once you've stared down death and cheated the grim reaper your life changes. Do it more than once while you watch everyone you know get turned inside out like bloody sock puppets and you start to go down a very dangerous path. You think, 'Why me? Why was I special? Why was I spared and no one else?' Then it hits you. The only reason this could be is because you were 'chosen' to survive. You were 'chosen' to free the rabble from the terrors of the monster of the week. You were 'chosen' to be the hero and save the day. And with all the faceless schmoes out there counting on you to do what 'chosen ones' do, you start to believe it. Maybe you can do it. 'Why not?' Maybe you are that special one that has the 'please screw up my life with this destiny-has-picked-you-to-be-a-hero gene' and this is just part of fate's master plan for you. Sorry, kid. You were a trooper, but there's only one Chosen One, and for better or worse, it's me. God knows I've spent enough time trying to talk people out of believing in me. But in the end you can't outrun fate, plain and simple..The name's Ash...and I am the Chosen One."

Hail to the king, baby.
--J/Metro

Friday The 13th: How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Wildstorm Comics)


Friday The 13th: How I Spent My Summer Vacation


This 2007 two-issue miniseries from Wildstorm Comics gives us a vastly different perspective on a vastly familiar character, which is always a welcome change of pace.

As a child, Jason Voorhees suffered from a slow mind and facial deformities, making him the recipient of plenty of ridicule.  Years later, his mother took out all kinds of revenge for him, and a short time later, Jason returned to continue the tradition.

And yet people never learn that opening a summer camp around Crystal Lake is a bad idea.  It seems that someone has done it again, and as fate would have it, young Dave Falkner--who suffers from "a bone disorder called Craniodiaphyseal Dysplasia"--is in attendance this year. With his own facial deformities mimicking Jason's, Dave finds himself in a precarious condition after Jason shows up for the traditional campsite slaughter--taken under the wing of the unkillable killing machine.


For roughly a week, Dave survives in the wild under the tutelage of Jason, and he has the time of his life...despite all the murders that take place. All the while, they are pursued by the local nutbag sheriff, the FBI, and the military.

This one was a bit of a mixed bag for me. It was interesting to see Jason Voorhees depicted in a much more sympathetic light than we're used to. His connection with the boy was brotherly and heartwarming, while the final panel broke that previously-warmed heart.

As Jason is, unbelievably, the protagonist this time around, his pursuers become the antagonists--another big change. Sheriff Tanneyhill is a dangerous meth-addicted schizophrenic, and is a bit over-the-top for my tastes. It would have been more effective for me if he was just a typical, small town lawman, and the morality of rooting for the killer was left in the grey area.


It was difficult for me to buy how easily Dave accepted the Voorhees lifestyle, and some of the sentiments he leaves us with are dangerous ones indeed, especially in these days where young people slaughtering innocents seems to be happening every day. I don't buy into the theory that depictions of violence in the media influences violence in real life, but this seems to be condoning these acts.

"You gotta understand, when you're different like Jason and me, it's just a fact of life. If you wanna survive, then sometimes a buncha assholes gotta die."


An uneven, but occasionally enjoyable, entry in the franchise.

--J/Metro

Friday the 13th: Pamela's Tale (Wildstorm Comics)


Friday the 13th: Pamela's Tale

This 2007 two-issue miniseries from Wildstorm Comics is a flashback within a flashback, essentially. This story opens with a familiar scene, torn from the original film, depicting budding camp counselor Annie hitchhiking to Camp Crystal Lake. After a brief encounter with Crazy Ralph (poor, doomed Crazy Ralph), and a ride halfway with a friendly truck driver, she ends up in the vehicle of Pamela Voorhees--AKA Jason's mama.


In the movie, we're only given a few moments inside the vehicle with Annie and the unseen driver, and we're not privy to any of the driver's side of the conversation. So what did they talk about during the ill-fated drive?

Well it turns out that Pamela told Annie her story. We flashback to a much-younger Pamela who had just recently discovered she is pregnant, and struggling with how exactly to tell her abusive husband.


From there, we're taken along as Pamela leaves home and arrives in Crystal Lake to start a new life for herself. A new home, a new job, and, in time...a new baby.

Baby Jason is anything but cute, and he's also anything but cuddly. We're witness to the beginnings of his homicidal stirrings, the unsettling relationship with his mother, and yes, even the events that directly lead to his drowning.


And we all know how poorly Mrs. Voorhees reacted to that.

The art was pretty good throughout both issues, wavering only on occasion and rendering a familiar character just a lit bit...off model. The writing was very strong, and although we covered a lot of land over just two issues, it never seemed rushed. It flowed naturally like a good story should.


Simply put, this is a fantastic story. This is precisely how licensed material should be handled. It fits neatly into canon, and builds upon existing mythology; it doesn't just rehash the same old bullshit, and it doesn't disrespect everything that came before it.

As niche of a title as this is--think of it as the storyboards for a deleted scene--it's definitely not for everyone. It is aimed solely at fans of the franchise who are hungry for a little bit more.

Highly reccommended for Fri-Fans.

--J/Metro

Friday the 13th (Wildstorm Comics)


Friday The 13th (Wildstorm Comics)
  
  

In this 2006 6-issue miniseries from Wildstorm Comics, a group of mostly-pretty young people arrive at Camp Crystal Lake for their summer jobs. They have three weeks to fix up the place before the Grand Reopening and the children start arriving. Like always, though, Jason Voorhees has other plans.

Okay, so when it's summed up like that, it sounds like it came from a plain white box labeled Generic Slasher Plot. But there's a little more to it than that. Not much, but a little.


There are new elements to the mythology at play here, which is refreshing when dealing with a franchise that grew a little stale towards the end of its run. For instance, we catch fleeting glimpses of a massive pile of dead bodies at the bottom of Crystal Lake...that don't seem all that dead at all. This is never fully explored, just hinted at in bits and pieces.


Also, the final issue begins with a flashback to 1850, and involves the slaughter of a tribe of Native Americans--possibly linked to the events depicted in the Bad Lands miniseries, in some way.

There's not a whole lot of story going on here, and most of the beautifully-rendered panels are showcases for gore and murder--or bickering and debauchery.


With the sex, drugs and brutal violence, this six-issue story arc more faithfully captures the vibe of the franchise than any other series I've read. It could easily have been just another Friday the 13th movie--which could be a good or bad thing, depending on your viewpoint.

--J/Metro

Jason X Special (Avatar Comics)


Jason X Special 

This 2005 one-shot special from Avatar picks up immediately after the events of the movie Jason X, as UberJason plummets to Earth 2 to continue his slaughter. No, wait, he's back on the spaceship. No, wait, he's back at Camp Crystal Lake.


No, actually, it's none of these things. He's hooked up to the holodeck and only thinks all of these other things are happening. Kristen, some hot young future babe who is controlling the holodeck, floods Jason with nanotech bugs to collect a tissue sample. She seems to think that grafting this sample onto her boyfriend will restore his health so that together they can repopulate their planet.

But you just can't keep a Voorhees down.


Dear Lord, I can't believe I typed any of that.

I'm no fan of Jason X the movie, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm no fan of Jason X the comic book. On the printed page, it's even more of a train wreck. It's dull and confusing and full of bullshit scientific jargon that is meant to impress but only made me roll my eyes.

These Avatar issues are all striking out, in my opinion.  They're just a lot of empty ink--most of it red.


--J/Metro

Friday the 13th: Bloodbath (Avatar Comics)

Friday the 13th: Bloodbath (Avatar Comics)


This 1995 three-issue series from Avatar Comics begins with the same tired premise:  five teenagers arrive at a summer camp near Crystal Lake a week before the season officially begins, looking to earn a little extra cash by fixing up the place for the owner before the kids arrive.  As soon as night falls, they all pair off and begin making with the hanky and the panky, until Jason Voorhees shows up and butchers a few of them.

This tired premise is actually just a front for the real story--these kids were all specially selected by some shadowy global organization called...The Organization (pretty original, huh?), and used as bait to lure Jason into a trap.  They hope to capture him, study him, and use what they learn to make billions of dollars.

But Jason never goes down without a fight.


The real story, while slightly meta, and a little more original than the tired premise it stems from still isn't very good.  It's actually pretty damn dull.  There is a lot of death and bloodshed, sex, nudity, and hot girl-on-girl action...but even that can't save it from its own inherent mediocrity.


The characters are barely characters.  They're all instantly-forgettable slasher victim stereotypes, crafted for no other reason than to be torn apart with edged weaponry and maybe show a nipple or two on the way down.  Neither possibility really piqued my interest.

I've heard a lot of people praise the art in these issues, but i have to say that I really don't get it.  Sure, it's passable, and a hundred times better than anything I could put together, but the characters all look so static and stoic that the action is never convincingly portrayed.  It would work much better in a story that wasn't so reliant on fluid movement and adrenaline, but here it feels too herky-jerky.

Pretty disappointing.


--J/Metro

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