Monday, October 5, 2015

Guide to Werewolves, Part 1: Shadow Reavers #2

A comic so disgustingly gory, it will make you beg to read Demon Hunter again

Black Bull Entertainment was a division of Wizard Entertainment, the publishing company that produces Wizard Magazine. Through Black Bull, Wizard jumped into the world of comic creation in early 2000. Their first miniseries, Gatecrasher, was authored by none other than Kingdom Come’s Mark Waid, fresh off his successful Flash run. In late 2000 it became an ongoing and two other titles were added to the Black Bull stable. One of these was Shadow Reavers. Never has one comic book made me want to take a bath so badly.

The story in Shadow Reavers is a basic good magicians vs bad warlock plot and as usual the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. Our heroes are Exile, whose power seems to be a bunch knowledge about arcane stuff and how to fight with a spoon (you’ll see), Golem, a resurrected dead body that doesn’t speak but does kick ass, and the witch Helen, with powers that the book only hints at. They are opposing the evil warlock Lord Vigil and his stable of shape-shifting werecreatures / assorted monster, etc. The story so far is that Helen has sent Exile and Golem to protect two sisters who will become powerful witches in the future. How does she know? I’m thinking that “Psychic Friends Network” telephone number. Unfortunately Exile and Golem arrive too late and one of the sisters, Claire, is killed. That leaves the pair protecting her sister Jesse Vala from a horde of nasty werecreatures. 

Warning to anyone reading beyond this point!: you might want to get a towel. Nelson and Dennis Janke are the artists here and they really pour on the blood and guts. Mike Searle and Pat McCallum’s plot serves up plenty of opportunities for them to splash it around too. Get out those rain slickers and the plastic tarp you used when Gallagher was touring.

I’m thinking that if a pack of mutant animal things broke through the  wall of my house and killed my sister, moving to a new place would be a given. Oh, maybe Exile is saying Jesse should get out of the way? Seems so. Great way to open a book, lots of action that quickly moves us into the story. Exile next inquires about where Jesse keeps her formal dinnerware. Either that or he’s really bad a geography.


And so it begins. Exile shoves a gravy bowl through one were creature’s skull. If only that were the limit of what the Jankes were willing to show. Also, I’m with Jesse in thinking a shotgun is a much better weapon against beasties than some lame plates and silverware. I’m wrong, but whatever. Jesse wakes enough to guide Exile into the dining room and the “china cabinet”. That’s an ingenious device that is used to store (da-da-DAAN!) CHINA. Hey, they are superheroes not interior decorators. Exile has the Golem work a delaying tactic for him.

So Golem is the undead warrior version of the Energizer Bunny. All this bloodshed is a small prelude of what is to come. Meanwhile Jesse leads Exile to the mysterious “china cabinet” with some wolfmen in hot pursuit. Notice how the Janke’s panel layouts and penciling looks very much like John Byrnes. Anyway, Exile digs in the drawer and he pulls out what he was looking for.

To which everyone’s reaction is:

Not to fear, Exile’s not crazy. These demon werecreatures are like walking power kegs that react to even trace amounts of silver. Thus he’s just found an unbeatable weapon stash. At this point he demonstrates the spoon’s effectiveness for Jesse to see. Note: I’m going to ask that everyone in the reading audience cover themselves against the showers to come.

What a great sound effect! BLORCH! And…uh…what great art? Get ready folks because…

Yes you are Exile, yes you are. You’re about to coat the next four pages in so much blood, guts and goo that you will outdo Warriors of Plasm on the grodiness scale due to the sheer volume of gunk. Hard thing to do, considering WoP is about a whole freaking planet made up of intestines. You will leave it stuck to walls, ceilings, furnishings and people. It will dangle from your lips and get smeared in your eyes. Gore will hang so thick in the air the audience will be able to taste it. It will take an entire army of Merry Maids to undo what’s going to happen. Don’t just take my word for it, see for yourself.

The were-things flee, and as we’ll learn in just a bit they take the body of Jesse’s sister with them. Exile makes a proclamation that I and the rest of the audience can whole-heartedly agree with.

On the disgusting meater (heh!), this one goes to eleven, Exile. I’ve hidden this comic from my wife because I knew it would repulse her so badly that she might torch it before I could finish my review and from my 10 year old from fear it would send him into a state of catatonic shock. I’m pretty hard to gross out, but even my stomach turns when I look at these panels. And the worse part is that the messy goop acts pretty realistic. Note what happens here:

Exile wipes his eyes and it LEAVES A TRAIL OF BLOOD SMEARED ACROSS THEM. Uck! That’s the kind of realism in comics that I don’t need. And I’ve got more bad news: none of these folks is headed for a shower anytime soon.
Jesse has an emotional moment, as is completely understandable for someone who’s lost her whole family and is covered in an obscene amount of animal entrails. Exile calms her somewhat and then realizes that the cops are on the way.


I’m wondering what kind of shampoo works best on devil guts? The level of detail here is pretty astonishing and…excuse me, I’m going to go vomit.

Ok. I’m back. Just in time for Exile (don’t look at his blood-smeared face) to make the discovery that the were-dudes became part parrot (by eating half of Polly. Don’tthinkaboutit. Don’tthinkaboutit.) and escaped with Claire’s body. Our Shadow Reaver team beats feet out of the house. (Thank God! No more shots of that disgusting battlefield. Just make it through these few panels and we’re out of the proverbial gory, sticky woods.)

Then the cops show up, including one Detective Braxton. Seems Braxton may be on Exile’s trail. Knowing there could be wounded people in the house, Braxton and the beat cop bust in. (Great! Back in the house we go. Maybe it won’t be too bad?) The beat cop finds Jesse’s mother’s room with the door broken in and blood spatters on the walls. (urp.) Braxton, meanwhile, checks out the living room. (Urp! Excuse me. *vomits*)

That’s just completely excessive. I mean really, really excessive. I’d like to comment on how well done these panels are (and the art IS good) but I just can’t. That is like a Fangoria fanboy’s wet dream in there. Oodles and oodles of entrails, hacked off limbs, torsos, half-decayed wolf/human heads litter the entire page. Maybe I’ll be the one burning the book after I’m done with it. 
Moving on, we visit the head warlock, Lord Vigil, for a couple-three pages. The bad guy here is so bad that his word balloons are all black and the writing’s white. I’ve noticed that done in other books too and I must say that in the right hands it’s a useful effect. He’s happy to have Claire’s body but sends his wolf-bird back for Jesse. Neat scene and a much needed break from the yuck factor.

See, he’s got the bad-ass bald look down and everything. Back to Exile and Golem, who’ve reached Helen’s house with bits of bloody goo hanging off of them. Helen and Exile have a bit of argument over why they didn't leave earlier and save Claire, when a surprising visitor makes an appearance.

Yup, ghostly dead sister comes back for a pep talk, prompting Exile to mutter through bloodly lips that “this time it’s so much worse.” The final five pages belong to another minion of Lord V’s, a human who appears to be guiding some kind of giant creature around that’s killing people. The issue ends showing the things immense shadow on the ground.

Shadow Reavers got up to issue 6 before Wizard rethought the whole comic publishing idea. They bailed out and these three titles were cancelled with no hope of resurrection.

On a side note, this issue wasn’t gory enough for someone at Black Bull. So they added a contest where readers could win a $3,000 mockup of a dead werewolf autopsy. I’ve included one of the four pages of nasty photos in the back. Which all leads to one question, what would you do with a life size werewolf body if you won one? It can’t very well sit on the dining room table. And the money value of it makes it a nasty tax surprise for the winner (assuming they are over 18.) Enjoy while I go mop up the mess I’ve made in the bathroom.

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