Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hack/Slash Omnibus volume 1 review

    I love Hack/Slash.

    Abandoning all premise of objectivity, I've got to say this is my favorite independent comic currently ongoing and I suggest everyone go and pick it up. I also suggest people pick up the twenty dollar omnibus for the series and buy them each in turn. I could go on with my needless fanboy-ism but I think you all get the picture. So, instead, I'm going to dial it back and try to objectively talk about the series.

    The premise of Hack/Slash is a somewhat darker take on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer: different in execution but coming from the same roots. Cassie Hack is your typical Final Girl in a slasher movie, the slasher being her mother in this case. She's a soft, nerdy, virginal, introverted girl who brings down the big bad monster. Unfortunately, her mother proceeds to come back from the dead only to force her to put it down again. You see, in this world, serial killers are prone to resurrecting themselves as undead monsters.


    Re-inventing herself as a sexy Goth girl, Cassie travels across America with her partner Vlad to hunt these supernatural immortals. Vlad is, quite ingeniously, a "good" version of Jason Voorhees. He's a gas-mask wearing deformed giant raised in near-complete isolation who has latched onto Cassie because she's, quite literally, his only friend in the world. A lot of the comics humor comes from the fact that Vlad is arguably better adjusted than Cassie despite his appearance and upbringing.

    The first omnibus collects a bunch of the one-shots and mini-series which initially introduced Cassie Hack to the world. The first story, Euthanized, is a surprisingly effective horror story that takes its premise dead serious (pun intended). Girls Gone Dead nicely analyzes the "Good Girl vs. Slut" dynamic so frequently parodied in horror movies where the villain is the kind of Bible-thumping bad guy who would approve yet oozes hypocrisy.

    As a religious man, I approved of the fact the satire limited itself to a very limited part of the Christian faith. I also enjoyed Slice Hard, which had poor Cassie having to choose between assisting a corporate conspiracy and helping her friend Vlad get a normal life. I even liked Hack/Slash vs. Chucky despite the shameless crossover promotion which certainly motivated the story.

     Did I dislike any of the stories? Not really. However, I wasn't too enthusiastic about Hack/Slash versus Evil Ernie. Despite the attempt to write a deep and meaningful story about the premise (seriously), I've never been a fan of Devil's Due. Evil Ernie is a parody of 90s anti-heroes taken to the grimdark eleven so the story trying to find emotional poignancy in a world where he hasn't killed 90% of the planet is....difficult to take seriously. Even there, the art is beautiful and we get a sense of Cassie's loneliness.

    I have only one real major complaint about the volume:

    The cover.

    This isn't a minor complaint either. I'm a married man who has difficulty explaining his love of comics to his wife sometimes. This particular cover is deliberately vulgar and seems designed to appeal to the shameless exploitation lovers of the fandom. The cover makes the book difficult to read in a public place and implies the book is nonstop fanservice. What's interesting is while Cassie Hack wears rather fetishistic Goth-wear, I actually found that element of the series tamer than mainstream comics. It's only to the point that Cassie Hack is anatomically possible but that's something.

    Indeed, I think the comic might actually due better to dial back even further because I'm a "less is more" kind of guy (or, technically, more is more since we're dealing with women's state of undress in comics). Cassie is an enjoyable comic heroine and while I love sexiness, I think it could actually be something for readers other than boys (both teenage and otherwise) given how well-realized and well-written a character. I was still impressed enough to order the entire series, however, so this is exalting with faint criticism.

    A warning for the squeamish at heart, Hack/Slash is a comic based around 1980s horror movies. There's parodies of Pet Cemetery, Friday the Thirteenth, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jaws, and (of course) Child's Play. There are plenty of places the series gets gory and a lot of the supporting cast for each issue gets killed. Still, your love of the series is likely to only go up the more you have experience with these stories. I will say, however, I prefer the original work and and know the series only gets better when it reaches Volume 2.

    This is a great comic, though, and one of the best I've read in a very long time.


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