Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: Harvey Horrors Collected Works- Chamber of Chills Vol. 1

HARVEY HORRORS COLLECTED WORKS: CHAMBER OF CHILLS VOL. 1 (PS Artbooks, 2011; Hardcover)
Collects Chamber of Chills Nos. 21-24, 5-7 (cover dates June, 1951- April, 1952)
Artists: Bob Powell, Vic Donahue, Al Avision, Joe Certa and others
I love my '50s pre-code Horror comics. As the golden age of collected editions rolls on unchecked, every stone is getting unturned and runs that would only be collected in the realm of dreams are now becoming a reality. Take Chamber of Chills, for instance. Once the darling of only the most affluent collectors or torrent divers, these lost classics are now readily available in a high-end hardcover format. 
My opinion of the material in this book is exactly the same as in my recent review of Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s, so refer to that if you haven't already read it. Several stories from the issues collected in this book are also presented in that one. This is the first time that these issues are collected in their entirety, however. And I do mean entirety, down to the house ads and advertisements, even the back cover advertisement. This helps add a touch of authenticity as well as nostalgia to the material, and it also helps put the material in perspective of the era in which it was originally released. 
The Shrunken Skull, from Chamber of Chills No. 5, is a fine example of Bob Powell's top notch artwork. The story is gripping, and there are several sequences that haunt me. Again, one must bear in mind that this pre-dates Psycho or any slasher/Horror flick by many years.

I love how the violence is strongly implied but seldom shown. There is more gore in these Harvey Horror titles than in EC Comics of the era.  
The OCD zone- This is a beautifully produced hardcover, on par with other high end books from publishers such as Fantagraphics. The paper is an uncoated stock and pleasant to the touch. It's smell is intoxicating and, given the printing process secrets known only to the Chinese, possibly toxic. (Hint: It's the lead and mercury together that give it that sweet smell.) All kidding aside, this is a beautiful book. The cover images are screen printed on the book itself. The book boasts sewn binding and lays completely flat from the first page to the last.
The restoration is high resolution scans. The scans tend to skew a tad dark, probably not noticeable to any but the most uber-anal retentive of collected edition snobs. Pete, the publisher of PS Artbooks, has had much interaction with us fans over on the Crisis on Infinite Comics forum on the Masterworks Message Board, and has already addressed and corrected this “problem” with the second book in the line, Witches Tales Vol. 1 (available now!). This is impressive, because most publishers simply wouldn't care or even bother to try and improve their product, or at least this quickly. If the ever-so-slightly dark scans in the first book of this type is the biggest hiccup this publisher has, then we are in for a treat. They plan to collect the entire Harvey Comics and ACG Horror line in hardcover. My heart sings while my wallet and bookshelves (and wife) weep.

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