Monday, July 16, 2012

Review- THE HAUNT OF FEAR ANNUAL VOL. 2

THE HAUNT OF FEAR ANNUAL VOL. 2 (Gemstone, 1995; Softcover)
Collects The Haunt of Fear Nos. 6-10 (cover dates March/April- November/December, 1951)
Writers: Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein
Artists: Graham Ingels, Wally Wood, Jack Kamen, Jack Davis, Johnny Craig, George Roussos, and Joe Orlando.
EC Comics rule. I gush every time that I review an EC book, and I always will. They are simply the best written, best drawn comic books ever made. I love the mechanical lettering, as helps these books look more fresh than many of the comics from that time period. These comics were so revolutionary and so groundbreaking at the time, and still hold up today. Bear in mind that these ironic twist endings that were an EC hallmark in these issues pre-date The Twilight Zone by 8 years.
The Gorilla's Paw (HoF #9) is a blatant ripoff of The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs. Grave Business and My Uncle Ekar (both from HoF #10) are also standouts in a book of standouts. Every single story is memorable and I would classify them as works of art. Show me your favorite modern day creators. Bendis. Kirkman. Hickman. These old school monsters would tear them apart with sheer storytelling ability.
My Uncle Ekar is especially chilling. It is the story of a child who is picked up in the middle of the night by the police. When they ask him what he's doing out at that hour, he states that he was watching his uncle kill people. The police were incredulous, and asked him more details. He told them where the body could be found. They went to check it out, and he was right. They start freaking out and begin pressing him for more information on his uncle. The boy states that he's not really his uncle, but he wants to grow up to be just like him. The police start freaking out, because the child admits that he wants to grow up to murder people. I won't give out a few details pertinent to the story, as I don't want to ruin the reveal. I try to honor spoilers, even on 60 year old comic books. Needless to say, this one haunted me, and I wrote this recap of it days after reading it. I keep going over it again and again in my head. 
Artwork by Jack Kamen.
Jack Kamen's artwork is beyond incredible. He draws beautiful people, which belie the atmosphere of the stories. Graham Ingles is another master of the macabre. Heck, all of these cats are masters. This was art for the sake of art, with these guys all just trying to impress one another with their talents. Remember, comic books were not a credible artform back then, and there wasn't any money in it for the artists or writers. No websites or comic conventions to interact with the fans. These guys did it for the love of it. 
Artwork by "Ghastly" Graham Ingels.
I have a complete EC New Trend collection, between the Archives and the Annuals. I have to read many of them, so expect EC reviews for years to come!
The OCD zone- This is an EC Annual. If you do not know what an EC Annual is, then read on. Russ Cochran and Gemstone released monthly periodical reprints of every New Trend and New Direction title. They produced extremely large quantities with an eye towards selling back issues direct. These Annuals were an ingenious repackaging of those floppies. This has a cardstock cover with glued binding, and are essentially trade paperbacks. They are five single issue comic books glued into a squarebound cover.
The color palette is very close to the original issues, much more so than the EC Archives. My only gripe is that the blacks don't seem to lay properly on the paper. The paper is a Mando/heavy pulp stock, pretty much the standard paper grade from 1992 (when these single issues were reprinted by Gemstone).

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