Despite being relatively new in horror the malignant macguffin trope is still one that seems to have been used with every conceivable medium from videotapes to answer phones to websites. Quite frankly I thought I’d seen them all. However when I opened my inbox recently to find an email titled “Death Curse for review” I’ll have to admit that it got under my skin a little more than the usual demands for 65,000 Ugandan dollars. Convinced I would have 7 days to review the book or fall victim to yet another mass murdering chain letter I opened the email & dove into the unknown.
As far as I am aware my life was not on the line at any point during the reading of this book & if you happen to be a fan of old school EC horror, or just old school video nasties, then Death Curse comes highly recommended. While none of the stories in this volume are out & out scary they are all highly entertaining & show that Brockton Mckinney & Bo Fader (the writers behind all of this books twisted tales) have some pretty sweet chops in the short form story telling department. Death Curse offers up a selection of 5 tales, each drawn by different artists that are introduced by the wonderfully creepy Mr Curse & his friend, the particularly sweary, Mr Latch. It is Curse & Latch’s interplay between stories that provides the books best moments. Their nods to the camera, as well as their banter with each other, keep the tone light whilst the stories get progressively darker. While the change in artwork for these portions does sometimes take a little getting used to it is consistent enough that it doesn’t throw you out of the book entirely & the colourful dialogue between the two hosts is always there to remind you who’s who.
The presentation of Death Curse is very nice. From the cover with its sun faded look & its clearance price sticker to the inventive contents page, Death Curse is a really nice package all round. Given that all of the stories are in black & white the artists do a great job of showcasing their particular talents & each one brings something different to their respective stories. While many of the names were new to me I recognised Jason Strutz immediately on “Haven & Larry”. Having seen his work previously brimming with colour in The Order of Dagonet, & also appealing to the all ages market in Glob World it’s nice to see that he can still hit high notes on the other end of the spectrum drawing pages in black & white for an R rated book. While all the other artists in the book were new to me, seeing their work on the page has certainly piqued my interest. Chris Moreno’s scratchy work on “Vacculus” gives the story a feel reminiscient of late 80’s Eagle output. The tale itself is also very amusing & would make a great Grind House movie. Meanwhile Larkin Ford draws a fine looking, but shadowy, tale of motorcycle maintenance gone wrong in “Parting Out”, while the book closes on the rather memorable “Story Book Origin” drawn by Jonas Britt which offers something that is completely different, but also self aware enough that it is no less deserving of its place in the collection. However while all the stories are great in their own way it is opening chapter “Pack 666”, with its artwork by Bridgit Scheide, that really stands out. The story sets up the tone for the rest of the book particularly well & one panel in particular stands out as a possible contender for the “Coolest Still Frame of the Year” award that is worth the cover price alone.
In conclusion Death Curse is well worth picking up. It’s a great book that offers a good indication of where to start looking for tomorrow’s talent. If you see a copy then buy it, then once you’ve read it pass it on to friend. But make sure they buy their own copy as well. Who knows what might happen if they don’t…