It’s a horror comic anthology from 2010! But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a review here at the Atomic Junk Shop!
One of the writers in this anthology, Frank Verano, was nice enough to send me this comic back in April. Yes, it’s October. I told you I was behind! Don’t Look! came out in 2010 from Last Minute! Comics, which, according to Verano, was a small press run by some of his friends and him in Philadelphia (Verano lives in Bensalem, which borders northeast Philly and is the southeastern-most township in Bucks County and is about 20 minutes from where I grew up). The problem with Don’t Look!, which has nothing to do with the quality, is that I’m not sure where you can buy it. I’ve looked around a bit, but I can’t find it. So does it really matter if I review it?
Well, I’ll do it anyway. As usual with an anthology, there are good things and not-so-good thing about the book. The first story is the best one, which gets the book off to a rousing start but doesn’t bode well for the rest of it. That story, “Frozen Dark,” is by Christopher Mangun, Swifty Lang, and Michael Lapinski, who later in 2010 (or possibly 2011, I can’t remember exactly) did Feeding Ground, a pretty good horror comic about immigrants from Mexico. Their story is set in Tibet and taps into a young monk’s fear of a Yeti, and it’s both wryly funny and somewhat tragic. Lapinski’s art is nicely done – he uses beautiful negative space and some computer effects to create a wintry scene, and his monster drawings look like exquisitely carved woodcuts. It’s a very keen story. [Lapinski told me on Facebook that he has some copies of the anthology. If you go to his website through the link right there, you can contact him and see if he’d be willing to part with one!]
The rest of the anthology doesn’t quite live up to it, though. The second story, “Jimmy and the Pangboche Hand,” ends far too abruptly to really even be called a story – Dan O’Connor, who wrote it, sets things up well, but then ran out of room, I guess? “Disperse Red 9” by Verano and Nick Klinger, is a bizarre, psychedelic trip into the mind of a man who might be crazy. I’m not entirely sure that I get it, but Verano creates a creepy atmosphere and Klinger’s use of multimedia gives the art a weird, heightened-reality kind of feel. It’s probably the second-best story in the book.
“Girls’ School” by Robert James Algeo is not bad, but it’s also a bit strange. An FBI agent is dating a young lady who lives in a dorm, and he has to sneak out before the R.A. catches him. Unfortunately for him, eerie things are lurking in the hallways. It’s not bad because Algeo creates a creepy atmosphere, but it doesn’t make much sense, and the events that occur have an impact on our FBI agent but we don’t know why. “The Cleaners” by Mary Iampietro and Rick Ritter is another decent concept – a group of people hired to clean out a laboratory where things are lurking – but it’s another half-story, as we get very little about what’s in the lab and why, even, they don’t finish what they start. “Fear” is a neat story by Chris Murphy in which monsters find themselves the hunted, and while it’s kind of sad, Nelson Diaz’s cartoony art helps keep it light even as characters die left and right. Mike Crawford’s “Meat Stanley” is a bit obvious, but it’s still a fun story about a guy trying to pick up a girl in a bar who gets far more than he bargained for. Crawford’s thick lines and nice details provide a good contrast to Stanley’s flashbacks, which are drawn with light pencils, and he gives the world a squalor that the story deserves.
“Itchy Balls” by Paul Zdanowicz is a parody of schlocky horror movies, and it doesn’t work very well. It’s mildly amusing, but the Photoshopped art doesn’t really look that great. Winona Nelson’s “Casseopeia” is a finely drawn, darkly humorous story about a cyborg who wakes up on his spaceship after the entire crew has been killed, and his attempts to get the onboard computer to tell him what happened. Nelson manages to give the computer, which doesn’t have a body, a very nice personality, which makes the story work quite well. Nelson Diaz returns with a goofy story about two philosophical zombies, one of whom is really bored with the zombie life (as he puts it, “all we do is walk around in circles day in, day out, grunting and moaning like cats in heat”). Finally, Ian Berger and Scott Cooper give us “Honey, Lovey, and the Thing from Beyond,” in which a bored housewife’s desire to redecorate her new house leads to terror. Cooper manages to get the suburban angst of the two main characters quite well, which makes the story a bit harsher than the script makes it and adds a nice edge to it.
There are only a few stories that don’t really work at all, while there are a few others that are pretty decent but don’t seem to be complete stories, more like fun little ideas that don’t really grow into good stories. That’s not surprising when it comes to anthologies, which are usually a mixed bag, and it’s not bad for such a seriously independent anthology like this, by creators who didn’t have a ton of experience in comics at the time. Again, I’m not sure where you could find this, but it’s an interesting project, and if you happen to see it in a bookstore somewhere, you could do a lot worse than to pick it up and check it out. I don’t have too much else to say about it, but it was pretty cool of Verano to send it to me, so I’d like to thank him. Indie comics are always neat!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆