Haloween is the time of ghosts and monsters, a time for people to enjoy the spooky side of life. For Halloween 2018, I’m reviewing Cursed Comics Cavalcade, a collection of stories that celebrate the paranormal. The collection has ten stories that feature iconic superheroes like Batman and lesser known characters like Etrigan. Each story has a different creative team, so I’m reviewing each one in order.
Swamp Thing In ‘The Spread’
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Kyle Hotz
The first story focused on Swamp Thing, a superhero who’s dedicated to protecting the environment. His desire to save ‘The Green’ drew him to a lab, where a scientist had been experimenting with a new form of yeast. The scientist tested it on people, hoping it could be beneficial to mankind. However, the yeast would have caused a virus to spread, so Swamp Thing purged the human subjects to stop it from happening.
I enjoyed this story for the strong writing and characterisation. Seeley presented Swamp Thing as a force of nature. Although it looked like he was rescuing the subjects at first, his only concern was protecting The Green. Hotz art is great as well, especially the plant backgrounds.
Batman In ‘Gorehound’
Writer: Gary Dauberman
Artist: Riccardo Federici
In the second story, Batman investigated a series of murders carried out by a horror film enthusiast called Gorehound. The panels were presented like a classic horror movie. Familiar tropes included creepy woods, a damsel in distress and a psychotic killer. The damsel in distress was revealed to be Gorehound. She saw herself as Batman’s ‘final girl,’ the one who was meant to get away.
I appreciated Dauberman’s presentation, as there wasn’t a lot of dialogue. Federeci’s art told the story through grey, windswept landscapes. Overall, ‘Gorehound’ was the weakest story in the collection for me.
Wonder Woman In ‘Siren Song’
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Victor Ibanez
Taking place in Greece, ‘Siren Song’ featured Wonder Woman protecting a small community from a Siren. This was one of my favourite stories because of the setting and characterisation. Ayala’s Wonder Woman is powerful and vulnerable, believing in the power of love, yet recognising how it can be used to harm people. Despite her strength, Diana fell under the Siren’s spell, making the creature an ideal villain to clash against Wonder Woman’s compassion.
Ibanez’s art deserves to be praised as well. It had a great blend of elegance and creepiness, perfect for a Halloween tale.
Guy Gardner In ‘Life Sentence’
Writers: Kenny Porter & Riley Rossmo
Artist: Ivan Plascencia
Ever wanted to read a story about ghosts in space? Look no further than ‘Life Sentence’ written by Kenny Porter and Riley Rossmo. The story revolved around Guy Gardner investigating a prison ship full of possessed aliens. The source of the haunting came from the spirit of a trapped Green Lantern.
I found the comparison between the ghost and Guy to be intriguing because both had dedicated themselves to duty. Guy made it clear he became a Green Lantern to save people and didn’t care if he was forgotten. Guy’s example helped the ghost to move on, ending the story on a happy note.
Etrigan In ‘Yellow Jack’
Writers: Gabriel Hardman & Corinna Bechko
Artist: Gabriel Hardman
“Where killing is concerned plagues are indiscriminate, quite unlike the choices made by mortals. Alas, the line between our selfish natures and the demons hiding within us are not always so clear.”
New Orleans is one of my favourite cities in the world, so of course I was going to enjoy reading a horror story about The Big Easy. Set in 1853, ‘Yellow Jack’ featured Jason Blood and Etrigran The Demon. I found the themes of this story to be compelling because they revolved around the evil that humans are capable of.
Jason Blood managed to separate himself from Etrigan, only for The Demon to possess another. Blood recognised his selfishness and agreed to help the wife of the man that Etrigan possessed. Eventually, Blood and Etrigan came back together. However, The Demon killed his previous host to spare the wife from suffering her husband’s abuse.
Superman In ‘Strange Visitor’
Writer: Magdalene Visaggio
Artist: Minkyu Jung
There’s no doubt Superman is one of the most famous superheroes of all time. He’s also one of the most over powered and I think a good Superman story involves pitting him against a psychological threat. Magdalene Visaggio found a way to make an invulnerable man feel vulnerable.
In ‘Strange Vistor’ Clark was menaced by a shadowy creature in the night. It made him feel helpless, to the point he wondered if he was experiencing sleep paralysis. The creature made him so scared that he almost attacked Lois Lane. The threat was revealed to be Xa-Du, the first person to be imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. Superman couldn’t touch Xa-Du, which made him feel like a genuine threat.
Visaggio deserves recognition for showing a different side of Superman and creating an original story.
Green Arrow In ‘The Monster In Me’
Writer: Michael Moreci
Artist: Felipe Watanabe
Michael Moreci told a simple story with ‘The Monster In Me.’ It featured Green Arrow hallucinating a monstrous version of himself while on patrol. Green Arrow had been fighting crime without a rest, which caused him to think back to his time on the island. Black Canary provided support for Ollie, reminding him that he needed to slow down. The character driven story was complimented by Watanabe’s art. The amount of facial detail is some of the most impressive I’ve seen recently.
Black Lightning & Katana In ‘Mercy Killing’
Writer: Bryan Hill
Artist: Dexter Soy
In my opinion, ‘Mercy Killing’ was the most unique story because of the setting and characters. Black Lightning teamed up with Katana to protect a girl from a Japanese monster called the Kuchisake-Onna/Demon Mother. The demon prayed on the souls of lost children and Black Lightning stood his ground against her. Katana finished the demon off by using Soultaker to cut off its head.
I enjoyed the dynamic between Katana and Black Lightning. The former is used to working alone, so it was great to see her fighting alongside another superhero. I’ll never get tired of praising Dexter Soy’s art either. The vividness and colour is unreal. ‘Mercy Killing’ also provided a perfect set up for the new Batman and The Outsiders series.
Robin & Solomon Grundy In ‘The Devil You Know’
Writer: Dave Wielgosz
Artist: Christian Duce
This story included one of the most unusual pairings in the form of Damian Wayne and Solomon Grundy. After realising Grundy had been searching for three girls who he considered to be his family, Robin chose to help him. Their search led them to Professor Pyg, who had kidnapped the children.
Wielgosz showed a more vulnerable side of Grundy that I don’t think has been explored enough in comics. His interaction with Damian was touching and reminded me of the friendship between Jason Todd and Bizarro. The ending had a bittersweet feeling, as Grundy said he wouldn’t forget Robin’s help, even though Damian knew that he would.
Zatanna In ‘Halloween Hayride’
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Mark Buckingham
“People don’t often want there to be magic in the world. But on this rare night, they take down those barriers. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to embrace the unknown, and see if they might learn something about themselves. It’s Halloween, they want anything to be possible. Not such a bad thought, eh?”
The final story focused on a young Zatanna Zatara and the relationship with her father Giovanni. They’d arrived in a small town for a magic show, though Zatanna wanted to get things over with as quickly as possible. She found herself jaded about Halloween because of how much real magic she dealt with on a regular basis. Giovanni urged her to see the magic of Halloween through the eyes of another.
Zatanna met a girl called Sammie, who was being picked on by her bother. Zatanna used her magic to scare Sammie’s brother and create a Halloween experience that she could enjoy. I thought Tynion did a good job of showing the wide appeal of Halloween and how it can change people’s perspective of the world.
My favourite tales from Cursed Comics Cavalcade were ‘Siren Song,’ ‘Mercy Killing’ and ‘Yellow Jack.’ But all the creatives who worked on the collection should be proud of what they developed. Halloween brings people together and the anthology hits all the right notes of emotion, imagination and mystery.