• Shadows On The Grave #4

    Shadows On The Grave #4
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: May 10th, 2017.
    Written & Illustrated by: Richard Corben
    Purchase From Amazon

    The fourth issue of Richard Corben’s Shadows On The Grave horror anthology series opens with a one pager where good ol’ Mag The Hag tells the quick but ominous tale of a thief named Orval Krund, a man sleazy enough to steal from the church orphan’s fund!

    From there, it’s time for The Clown, the sordid story of a small time thief named Frank Dormel. When we catch up with him he’s scouring a local carnival for a mark, unaware that he’s being watched. But with plenty of people wandering around carrying cash, distracted by all that the carnival has to offer, Frank’s chances look pretty good. He passes the rides and attractions looking for the perfect victim, but when he heads back to the trailers a strange clown tries to bounce him. It gets bad, Frank stabs him, stashes the body and steals his clown mask. With the crowd starting to thin and his chances thinning with it, he decides to check out Tasheena, a buxom and remarkably flexible exotic dancer. Afterwards, a lone carnie heads back to the trailer to count the loot from the show. Frank follows, and when the carnie and the others learn that ‘Olaf’ was killed they head out, leaving the money, to go investigate. It’s then that Tasheena talks Frank into working with her – she knows where the money is kept, but of course, this won’t end with them just taking the cash and living happily ever after, oh no…

    In Flex (co-written by long time Corben collaborator Jan Strnad) we journey to a bodybuilding competition where a man named Gunter Schwartzman wins his ninth consecutive Mr. Cosmos Championship title. That means Milton Krebs has lost nine times, and he’s none too happy about it. When he heads home through an alleyway, muttering to himself about wanting to beat that ‘grinning baboon’ a man overhears him. He offers him a vial of liquid and tells him that one drop on his tongue will give him what he needs. He takes him up on the offer and once he flexes, his muscles start to bulge and throb – the catch? This only lasts for an hour. Still, if used sparingly there’s enough in the vial to last him a lifetime, so the weird old man tells him at least. When the man tries to charge him a million dollars for the stuff, Milton decides instead to kill him and take it. Milton runs, leaving the body in the alleyway – but the man isn’t dead, he gets up, picks up something off of the ground and puts it in his pocket labelled ‘souls.’ That’s not good a good sign, and neither is the tail we see between his legs. A year later and Milton is ready to beat Gunter at the next competition, but of course, it doesn’t go as planned.

    Last but not least, the fourth chapter of Denaeus, The Black Quest! Malgia and Lustea wander through Aegronia, admiring the Malgia’s work as a sculptor until it is found out that many of them have been damaged, the work of the one-eyed Monoculus! Not only that, but he stole the black fleece as well, an object of immense magical power. On the other side of the island, Denaeus arrives at the Monoculus’ home ready for battle. When he taunts the beast and then assaults him with a stone, it sends the Monoculus into a rage at which point Denaeus and his men launch their attack. The violent and bloody battle goes in their favor thanks to Denaeus’ efforts, but the fruits of this battle, the reward for his victory, well, it isn’t at all what he had hoped for or expected.

    Anyone even remotely interested in Corben’s underground/horror work should be eating Shadows On The Grave right up! It’s great stuff – wildly bizarre, unflinchingly creative and just a whole lot of gory, grisly fun. The first two stories are done in the grand E.C. tradition that so clearly inspired him, gory horror as twisted as twisted can be – but with a moral of course. Both of them offer up the right mix of creepy horror and black comedy, the type of thing that Corben has always excelled at. The real stand out this issue, however, is the fourth chapter of the ongoing Denaeus story. The first three chapters were interesting enough but here Corben really goes for it and winds up delivering an action packed blood soaked spectacle that stands with some of his legitimately classic material. This is the half way point of the eight issue series and so far this is seriously great stuff. As a longtime fan it’s great to see Corben (with some help from Strnad this time!) getting back to his roots – not that he ever strayed too far, but this really does feel like it could have come out from Last Gasp or Pacific or Warren or Fantagor or… you get the idea. Highly recommended!

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