Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Image Firsts: Hack/Slash and Dead@17 - Part 1

My sincere thanks to our regular correspondent and friend of Escape from Tomorrow Simon Breeze for another insightful comic book review - or in this case two comic book reviews.

Remember you can read more from Simon over on his
blog where, of course, you can also enjoy looking over his wonderful art.

Hack/Slash and Dead@17 - reviewed by Simon Breeze

The genius trend of the ‘One-for-One-Dollar’ comic books continues, and long may it do so I say as I genuinely believe that it is bringing new readers to comics that they may otherwise have given a miss. Readers like me in fact, who has happily invested a Dollar or two here and there, a Dollar that I would not normally have spent, and then ended up getting the collected editions of some of these fantastic reads or taking them on as part of my monthly pull list.

The most recent publications from the One-for-One Dollar line that I have dabbled in are from Image Comics, namely Hack/Slash and Dead@17. Both comics fall onto a similar playing field as far as I'm concerned - horror with a female teen protagonist - yet, to their individual credit, are very different reads indeed.

Today I'll talk about Hack/Slash and later in the week Dead@17 ...

Written by Tim Seeley with art by Stefand Caselli and Emily Stone
Published by Image Comics

At first, I must admit, I had almost decided that Hack/Slash wasn't for me before I had even picked up a copy. It is a long story, here is the short version:

The covers that I've seen have been, for me at least, somewhat misleading, and at a quick glance I assumed that the comic was little more than a shallow attempt to have an attractive girl as skimpily dressed as possible covered in blood and gore - I genuinely thought that was all the comic had to offer me - how wrong could I have been?! Now for some people this approach would all be great stuff, but for me, not a chance. I like my horror scary and clever, and much to my joy, Hack/Slash has this in buckets!

The comic follows Cassie Hack, who strikes back at the monsters and murderous bad guys known as ‘Slashers’ with the help of a gentle giant known as Vlad, who is mostly always seen within the comic wearing a gas mask to cover his disfigured features. This first issue treats us to two stories told as one with a series of flashbacks that gives us the story of how Cassie Hack’s troubled childhood led her to the interesting life the comic follows, cut throughout the second story where we are shown Cassie and Vlad’s most recent case - 'Gross Anatomy'.

The flashbacks brilliantly tell Cassie Hack’s bizarre childhood and follow that urban myth of the school cook killing, cooking and serving all of the bad children at the school as meals to the good children. In this case, the cook is Cassie’s mum, the bad children are the ones that are picking on her daughter, and it is Cassie herself that brings her mum to justice when she discovers just what is going into those school ‘lunch specials.’ The flashbacks also allow the opportunity to tell the brief story of how Cassie and Vlad met and became the dynamic monster hunting duo that they are today.

In the main story, Cassie has used herself as bait to catch the latest Slasher. The trap appears to have gone wrong and Cassie has the unfortunate turn of events of being captured and severely tortured at the hands of the Slasher, losing more than one of her toes in the process ... and almost her life. The story ends with Vlad finding the captive heroine and saving her and the day by killing the bad guy. But at what cost?

My last comment there is the thing that I loved about this comic - ‘But at what cost?’. Cassie is as hard as nails and watching her being painfully tortured and mutilated panel after panel is gut wrenching, yet cut with the reason as to why she is as hardened as she is and her motives, you cannot help but buy into her as a character and the situation she has found herself in. She has no superpowers, those toes are not growing back, and the brutal beating she receives is not going to heal overnight. It would be easy in a comic to ignore these things, sweep them under the carpet with some thin explanation, and move on. Hack/Slash embraces these things and the consequences that follow them, which is what makes this comic so good. The last few panels when Cassie is dressing her wounds reminded me of a great moment in the film Casino Royal, where James Bond is cradling a broken Eva Green in his arms as she sobs in the shower after the brutal events just prior. This scene gave the film grounding in the real world for me, it made the unbelievable violence and events that preceded it more believable, and it gave me a strong emotional tie to the characters. This is exactly the same feeling I had as I watched Vlad cradle the sobbing Cassie in the bathroom at the end of this first story.

Hack/Slash is probably not for everyone, it is brutal and violent but it has a fun side too, although I would recommend this comic to anyone who reads with that warning. The comic is not about the situations that Cassie Hack finds herself in; it is about the character of Cassie Hack and how she is dealing with them. Now that might sound a little confusing, so I will simply say, if you can buy into the character of Cassie, you will buy into this comic, and Cassie is a very likeable and convincing ‘real’ person, which is the strength behind this comic.

I have read a lot of new titles (well, new to me) over the past year and only one or two have gone onto my ‘must own’ list. Hack/Slash is one of those titles. I give it a blood splattering five out of five!

In the second of this two-part feature I'll be taking a look at another of Image's titles, Dead@17.

As I say, thanks to Simon for another fantastic review - a timely one as well as only last week Image released the Hack/Slash: My First Maniac trade paperback for a bargain $9.99.

Hack/Slash: My First Maniac trade paperback
story by Tim Seeley, art by Dan Leister, cover by Jenny Frison
112 Pages, full colour, $9.99, S&N LTD ED Hardcover $29.99

HACK/SLASH: MY FIRST MANIAC, the sellout Image Comics debut miniseries is collected! This critically acclaimed hit explores Cassie Hack's first case. 16-year-old Cassie has just been forced to kill her mother, the undead murderer known as the Lunch Lady! Now faced with overwhelming guilt, she must decide if she can make a life with her foster parents and at her new school or if she should use her new-found slasher killing skills to save other screaming teenagers! But does the apple fall far from the tree?

Includes never-before-seen sketches and an introduction by Allison Scagliotti, star of SyFy's WAREHOUSE 13.

More details can, of course, be found at
Image Comics.