|I don't usually celebrate Halloween, but this year|
I've put a little bit more effort in
Scream and Misty are two classic comics from before my comics reading time. Only introduced to the medium in 1986 thanks to Oink!, these two celebrated titles completely passed me by. But I know of them both and the impact they had on kids at the time. Scream was a boys' horror comic in 1984 which sparked controversy at the time. Well, I say "controversy" but it was the usual lazy tabloid-esque nonsense Oink! would also be subjected to and which still continues to this day. The fact it only ran to 14 issues (thanks to an industrial dispute, not the comic itself) but is still so fondly remembered speaks volumes. Misty was a "supernatural and horror comic for girls" between 1978 and 1980, which surprises me because thanks to its reputation today I assumed it had lasted much longer.
While today there are some aimed at a particular gender amongst the very young, comics aren't really segregated between "boys" and "girls" titles anymore. The reprint collections from both of these comics have been enjoyed across the board and have proved popular enough for new owners Rebellion to produce a brand new special based on both. Containing 52 pages it's made up of four strips inspired by Scream and two by Misty. I was very hyped for this as it'd be my first experience of both titles but what we have here is something of a mixed bag. Don't get me wrong, there's some absolute gems in here, but there's also some average fare and one decidedly bad strip. Here, I'll take a brief trip through each and share my own personal views. Hopefully at the end you'll be able to decide if it's for you and if you buy it (or already have) and have different opinions on the strips please leave a comment at the bottom. We're all different after all.
THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR
In the original Scream the Maxwell Tower was overseen by an intelligent computer system which went to extreme methods to protect itself and its tenants, zapping troublemakers to the thirteenth floor where they'd be transported to another dimension. There they'd be punished in a manner befitting whatever they'd done. It's all very Twilight Zone and the setting, atmosphere and pacing are spot on here. In Guy Adams' update a group of thugs are beating up local kids for YouTube videos and unwittingly pick on a tenant of the towers, the events sparking the gradual return of Max.
Having two artists with completely different styles, John Stokes and Frazer Irving, illustrate the two worlds is a neat idea and it's great fun reading Max's dialogue in particular as he awakens to a new world vastly different to the one he left behind. These nice touches in the dialogue combine with a genuinely creepy outcome for the gang and a nice, confined story. I can see fans of Max being very happy with his temporary return and for me it's a great introduction to the character and setting (the strip is followed by an advert for a collection of reprints coming soon) and the perfect way of bringing him back for a special, where a complete story needs told in a restricted amount of pages. It's all off to a good start then, surely that's the format the other stories would follow too?
THE DRACULA FILE
It would appear not. The Dracula File has already been collected together by Rebellion and this is referenced within the first panel of the second strip, which is written by Grain McEntee and drawn by Tristan Jones. This is clearly a sequel strip and over the course of the first few pages it fills in the gaps of how Dracula has evaded capture in the intervening years. But what starts out as a rather interesting conversation between characters ends up not amounting to very much at all. Basically nothing really happens and the conversation even turns rather dull, which is a huge disappointment after the promising start. There's a few references to his tales from Scream and when you turn the page there's.... that's right, an advert for the Dracula File reprint collection. Hmm. I hope this isn't a pattern, because this story feels like little more than an advert for those previous stories.
DEATH MAN: THE GATHERING
The next strip is a strange case indeed. Written by someone called Feek and drawn by Henry Flint who has done some superb Judge Dredd work, there's a whopping two pages of introductions for no less than eleven characters from various titles now owned by Rebellion, before the strip itself! On the surface this might sound like a fan's dream, especially when favourites such as The Leopard of Lime Street, Steel Commando and Blake Edwards of Death Wish are included. But the strip is only six pages long, meaning some characters are reduced to one-panel cameos and overall it feels like an exercise in shovelling in as many various comics titles from Rebellion's newly-aquired back-catalogue as possible, rather than telling an actual story.
Four characters don't even appear until the last panel and it... just ends. It's clearly a set up for further stories, but with no plans to bring back Scream (or Misty) it's either been left deliberately open-ended or maybe it'll reappear as an ongoing tale in 2000AD. Either way, this is a poor showing and feels like a stunt strip more than anything, which is something I wouldn't expect from a company who has so lovingly taken care of, and respected, 2000AD and all of its characters over the years. I could see fans of the characters in Death Man being rather peeved with this.
RETURN OF BLACK MAX: BLOOD MOON
Oh this looks rather good, doesn't it? Black Max was a feared World War II German pilot who attacked his enemies with two giant bats and he's now returned, undead! Kek-W is no stranger to 2000AD readers and with this set up I was looking forward to this strip, particularly with the chilling artwork above from Simon Coleby and Len O'Grady. Unfortunately it falls into the same trap as The Dracula File, in that it feels like an advert more than anything.
What's particularly frustrating is that what's here would be very good if it were the first part of a new story in an ongoing comic. It introduces a young girl called Maxine Newland in the modern world, establishes Black Max's return and some of the imagery is just what you'd expect from a modern update to the horror comic genre. Unfortunately, just as it gets going it's another strip which just stops, this time on a bit of a cliffhanger with Maxine actually asking a question, which just isn't going to get answered. It's incredibly frustrating, especially when this sudden ending is accompanied by another plug for a reprint collection at the end of the story.
THE RETURN OF THE SENTINELS
For the final two strips it's now Misty's turn and the first story is a huge improvement over the last few. In fact this is my favourite strip of the whole special. The Sentinels are twin high-rise blocks in a down-trodden area, one of which has remained empty for decades and is secretly a portal to an alternate reality. On the surface this is a bit similar to The Thirteenth Floor with someone entering a block of flats and getting temporarily transported elsewhere, but in reality this is vastly different.
Two youths with nothing better to do break into one of the buildings and soon one finds herself being arrested. So far that's nothing new for the area or for Jennifer, but bit-by-bit it soon becomes clear that while things on the surface look normal, under that surface things are very different. It may be her country, her town, but the world around her has shifted for the worse. I don't want to spoil this as it's genuinely a good script and somewhat powerful to read in a comic, but let's just say in this post-Brexit, Trump-world we find ourselves living in it's a vision of a possible future that's genuinely scary. It's all properly self-contained and feels like it's been properly planned to fit the one-off nature of the comic. Great stuff indeed written by Hannah Berry and drawn by Ben Willsher.
FATE OF THE FAIRY HUNTER
A good start for Misty then, but can she keep it going for the final story? Not quite. Fate of the Fairy Hunter from writer Alec Worley and artist Dani starts off well with a sinister fairy making an offer to disgruntled coffee shop customer Wanda Hannigan which seems just too good to be true. The first two pages of this four-page strip contains great dialogue and a genuinely intriguing set up. The black-and-white artwork is lovely too, the line work as bold as the characters' facial expressions. Their eyes in particular, a little larger than normal, perfectly suit the style and give an extra depth to the meaning of their words and their reactions.
Unfortunately, as intriguing as the set up is the pay off is rather lacklustre. Again, if this was the first part of an ongoing serial I'd be very excited about what was to come, but these fours pages are all we'll get. Misty the comic didn't have that many ongoing stories and didn't really have any recurring characters apart from Misty herself as editor, the stories were self-contained and so Fate of the Fairy Hunter suits the format in that regard. It's just a shame the potential wasn't carried through. Which is what I'd say about this special as a whole really.
There are some fun extras included here like pin-ups, a faux letters section and even a chucklesome Horrorscope hosted by the two editors, Misty and Ghastly McNasty. However there's also a spot-the-difference page which reeks of a desperate bid to fill a page. Also, of course, there's plenty of adverts for the various collections which form part of the Treasury of British Comics range too, as I've said throughout.
SHOCKINGLY GOOD THEN?
While these adverts are to be expected and normally I'd be excited about what was on offer, the way the majority of the stories here have been handled I finished reading this comic with the distinct impression this is more a piece of marketing, rather than a proper return for these two comics giants. Ironically, if they'd focussed on simply producing great one-off stories like The Thirteenth Floor and The Return of the Sentinels, the comic would've been a much better advert for their graphic novel collections!
In conclusion, out of the six stories I feel there's two superb entries, three average ones and one which should never have been attempted in the first place. If you're already a fan of The Dracula File and Black Max you may get more out of their stories than me, but definitely as a newcomer to both Scream and Misty I'm rather disappointed. I may look into collections of the two I enjoyed, but unfortunately the others have put me off a little, although I'm told not to let them do that and to hunt down the collections as the originals were magnificent.
Have you read the new Scream & Misty yourself? What did you think? Have you any recommendations for particular Treasury of British Comics collections I should set my eager sights on? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
To finish off with on this night of terrors, a truly horrifying sight, spotted last Saturday near the small village of Straid:
Scream & Misty is available from your local shop (a cover variant with a Misty & Scream title is being sold from specialist comics shops) or from the 2000AD online shop.
Happy Halloween pig pals!