horror comics

The Hunger #1 one-shot

 The Hunger #1
Story by Frank Tieri

Art by Michael Walsh
Colours by Milchael Walsh and Dee Cunniffe
Variant cover (as pictured) by Robert Hack

I make it no secret that I love the Archie horror comics, but they have the most irritatingly slow and irregular release schedules. There are months at a time in between issues and new ones are constantly being pushed back.

So when I saw a horror comic would be included with Archie comic’s release of one-shots was a really welcome announcement. Jughead: The Hunger is a both a throw back to classic werewolf movies like The Howling and a nod to Juggie’s enormous appetite.

It’s that hunger that gets the gang kicked out of an all-you-can-eat buffet. Well, more like begged to leave. But Jughead’s eating habits gross out Reggie a little bit too much and the two boys get into an argument. After they’re separated, Jughead vows that Reggie will “get his one day”.

But before it can get worse, Fred Andrews arrives and tells the kids that Miss Grundy has been killed by the Riverdale Ripper – the fourth victim.  Shaken up by the news, the kids split up to head home before dark.

On his walk, though, Jughead begins to feel ill when he is approached by Dilton. His heart begins to speed up and the next thing he knows, he wakes up that morning in his bed, covered in blood. Oh and with Dilton’s arm in his bed.

Knowing he can depend on his friend, Jughead runs to Archie for help. Though before he can admit anything, Archie says that already knows his friend’s secret when he saw the attack the night before. As they talk, they’re approached by Betty, who begins to kick the crap out of Juggie.

The bad ass Betty even pulls out a gun to end the boy when Archie stops her and demands an explanation. Betty tells him that lycanthropy runs in the Jones family, and the Coopers were always there to hunt the Jones’s that turn. Her friendship with the gang only happened because she pretended to be a peppy, lovesick teenager.

Archie discovers that there might be a way to save Jughead. The three head to the Riverdale Botanical Garden to find wolfsbane. A cheery Jughead consumes some. He immediately transforms into full-on werewolf but before he can attack his friends, he crumples to the floor – seemingly returned to human form for good.

Or is he?

Man, this one-shot was a lot of fun. The opening of the book shows poor Miss Grundy’s death. Remember in Archie vs Predator when the Predator enjoyed pull teen’s skulls and spines out of their bodies? Well, not to be shown up, we get a beheaded Miss Grundy here. It’s bloody, and it’s even a bit funny: The Hunger fits seamlessly into Archie Horror’s style. And seriously, Michael Walsh’s art in this is SO good.

Badass werewolf-hunting Betty is my favourite. Can we please get a full comic series of her as a werewolf hunter? Like Buffy, but hairier.

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Get your kicks on Route 666

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Route 666 Issue #1

Story by: Tony Bedard
Art by: Karl Moline (p), John Dell (i), Nick Bell (c)

There is something so intrinsically Americana about Route 66. The endless highway spread across thousands of miles. Kooky restaurants and kitschy attractions all to the tunes of endless rock and roll guitar. But what if you got your kicks on Route 666? A highway to hell, ghosts and misery? A world of the sinister underworld awaits in what is so delightfully present in the first issue of Route 666.

The 22-issue series was one of the last published by the now-defunct publisher CrossGen, who folded in 2004. Marvel said they would revive several of the titles in 2010, but Route 666 never got to see the light of day as promised in 2011. And that is a very, very big shame because this is one hell of a first issue.

Issue #1 was published in 2002, and the early millennium was clearly a great time for great female characters. Whedon’s Buffyverse was at it’s height (not to mention the crew of Firefly) and movies like Kill Bill Vol. 1 were destroying the weekend box office.

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Route 666’s Cassandra Starkweather is no exception.

She is a girl that is by no definition normal. At the beginning of issue #1, she is seen sitting and gossiping with her best friend and roommate, Helene at Welkin State University – of mental health. All harmless enough, but it doesn’t take long for the series to take a dramatically dark turn. Helene is crushed to near death in the gymnasium.

But there just isn’t something quite right about the emergency crew sent to help. They leave Helene left to die. Keeping her for something or rather someone. The ghost of the departed roommate visits the traumatized Cassie while she sleeps, begging for help. Before any questions can be answered, Helene is ripped out of the room and taken by what appears to be two black ghosts.

It isn’t too long before Cassie is sent to a sanitarium where the readers are filled in about her special ‘visitors’ – the ghosts of the recently departed. But the poor heroin’s bad luck is only beginning. There are plenty of mysteries and danger to face.

Now Karl Moline is a genius artist. He manages every time to create female characters that have plenty of personality and shape. Each one is so strong. He did the pens for the Buffy spin-off, Fray, and probably still remains the best artist the entire Buffyverse has had. Every feeling of agony and  is beautifully penciled.

But Cassie never feels like a rip-off of the other famous blonde. She clearly has mental weaknesses, but that only helps to make her more appealing. Tony Bedard’s strong writing helps shape great characters early on.

Route 666 is a gorgeous, terrifying story. Issue #1 tempts with a such a strong start that it’s impossible not to feel the need for more after the turn of each page. The first book ends with a fantastic cliffhanger. It is the perfect launch that leaves the mouth watering and the skin itching for more.

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A special thanks to all the comic shops in north eastern Wisconsin I’ve bothered to acquire the complete series. Thank you for putting up with all my harassment this past month. Here’s to another month of bizarre and complicated demands!