Written by: Tera Kirk
Another day, another volume of Creepy. My first exposure to Warren Publishing’s horror comic was the archival Volume 22, a collection of stories from 1979, and it set a pretty high bar for my expectations. In contrast, the tales from Volume 4, Family Values, are from the last couple of years. How do the new stories measure up?
While the older volume covered everything from sci-fi to fantasy, all of the stories in Family Values sit squarely in the horror genre this time around. Maybe that’s why they were less likely to surprise me, but there’s still something comforting in their familiar shapes. A couple of tales even rely on the audience’s familiarity to be effective: there’s a comic retelling of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Cats of Ulthar,” and ”The Executor” delves cleverly into the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe and the, uh, longevity of his characters.
The comics featuring the Creepy family provide some Sunday funnies-style levity, although the humor is firmly in the gallows. Still, the Creepys are likable (unlike most of the other characters), and their punny antics are a welcome break from all the murder and karmic punishments.
As for particular standouts, Matthew Southworth’s “Blind Contour” was one of my favorites. The story of a court sketch artist who’s losing his sight, it burns candle-slow. I won’t spoil it, but I read it twice just to take everything in. (And to enjoy the art’s chalklike fuzziness, evocative of the protagonist’s sketches and the way he sees.) Also, “The Human Condition,” by Paul Tobin and art by Juan Ferrerya, is like It’s a Wonderful Life gone horribly wrong. In Ferrerya’s hands, the “angel” manages to be friendly and terrifying in equal measure.
Although these stories are more similar to each other than the ones in Volume 22—if you see any kind of animal, there’s a good chance it’ll get a bunch of its friends together and swarm the jerk protagonist in the end—they’re still a gore-soaked treat. And the ones that trade revenge fantasy for melancholic beauty are fulfilling food for thought.