Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Slashie Awards: Slashermania (2017 Comic)

Slashermania (2017 Graphic Novel)
Rating: ***1/2
Author: Russell Hillman
Pencils: Ron Joseph, CJ Camba
Inks: Jake Isenberg, Ron Joseph, CJ Camba
Colours: Harry Saxon
Number of issues: 1

If properly handled, slasher movies with gangs of killers are something I could always look forward to. From the child cults of the Children of the Corn franchise and the inbred mountain families of the Wrong Turn series, to the trio of killer clowns of Clownhouse (1989) and the trans-dimensional mutants simply known as the Neon Maniacs (1986), I always find myself marveling at these maniacal groups functioning and identifying themselves as a single entity, or how each of them has their own thing going and, when packed together in a single film, almost always guarantee a collectively awesome hour and a half with their gimmicks and quirks while doing away victims.

It's this mindset that had me looking into a then Kickstarter comic project known as Slashermania, the graphic novel answer to the question "what do you get when you cross Battle Royale (2000), Sleepaway Camp (1983), and $LA$HER$ (2001)?", featuring not one. Not two. Not Four. But ten slashers stalking the woods and cabins for fresh victims! Of course, I was ecstatic then both as a slasher nut and a comic book geek. Now, three years later and thanks to a good online buddy, I finally got to read it not too long ago as of writing this!

So, did the large cast of masked and not-so-masked killers brought the same gory and brutal delight as, let's say, the 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes did as a multi-killer slasher story? Yes. Yes it did....

Until the last third of the book.

In this gore-filled comic set in the 80s, a secret show is held by someone going by the moniker Blade Killington where rich individuals pay by the millions to see what is basically live snuff, committed by costumed killers. This apparently have been going on since 1980 and the further the years go by, the larger the number of victims-to-be gets unknowingly roped in and, in turn, the more killers participate. By the end of each show, an award ceremony is held, handing these slashers the "Slashies" for categories such as the Best Male Solo Death, the Best Female Solo Death, First Kill, Biggest Multiple Deaths, and the much desired Slasher of the Year award, all narrated and recapped throughout by two jolly former competitors-turned-host and hostess with an excitement as to match any football announcers.

Long story short, it's the friggin Slasher Olympics!
Our competitors, ladies and gents!
Now it's 1983 and the killing grounds selected for this year's show is a refurbished camp site, where a total of 50 teenagers will be dropped into and be done away by the competitors: former-vigilante-now-psycho Captain Night, silent hulk Franklin Frost, lusty femme fatal Madame Tragedy, the quippy March Hare, powertool-ready Mechanic, gender-confused Sammy, old-fashioned Signor Gialli, the medically deadly Unknown Doctor, torchlight-wielding Usherette and the musically-inclined Virtuoso. As night falls, these hunters will hunt their prey and it soon becomes clear that nothing will stop these mad folks. Nothing, except, a final girl who will soon thirst for revenge...

Story-wise, Slashermania is definitely a slasher story at its best and worst; on one spectrum, I love the quick pace of the story and the satirical take on violence as entertainment, with the latter had me chuckling a bit on how casual the spectators can be as innocent (and not-so-innocent) teens meet their maker in such horrifyingly painful fashion. The whole carnage is treated as mere sport complete with guest stars such as psychiatrists and tabloid writers commenting on the events, past victors and survivors settling their differences long enough to sit on the same couch to catch up. These "back stage" portions are where most of the rightfully exploitative and witty writing shines, doing a pretty good job building the backdrop behind this twisted event.

When it comes to the teens at the camp prior and in the midst of the carnage, though, this is where most readers will be challenged; for a typical slasher fan who wants nothing more than bodies getting hacked to bits left and right, character building can be optional so long as the resulting death is worth their time, may it be in execution or build-up. The teens in Slashermania clearly lack any further depth apart from being one-dimensional meat for the slashers to kill, most of them characterized similarly as "horny", "gay", "dumb", "stoned" or simply "there", uttering what is technically the same lines concerning how high they are from whatever drug they're smoking or how horny they are for that one guy or gal. Their large number, as well as their lack of focus and development may as well be intentional since the main showcase here are the killers and the gory deaths they will soon bestow upon these children.

And bestowed upon them their gory deaths they did and it just looks fantastic! The overall art looks good for most pages, though I do notice the quick decline on quality around the last act. Until then, the details and coloring strikes a late 80s/early 90s vibe to them, and it sticks pretty close to the exploitative elements of a good slasher with gratuitous sex scenes and full frontal nudity. That being said, the carnage around the first night are some of the better looking ones I've ever laid eyes on, and the quality of the kills are gloriously gruesome enough to makes me wonder what some of these cool kills and attacks would look like in live action. It's tame when it needs to be tame, savage when it needs to be savage, inventive when it needs to be inventive (multiple deaths by shower scalding? Genius!), all in the making of a true slasher story.

The killers themselves are mostly a treat, with each being a take on classic slasher villain tropes from the mute indestructible hulk to the limber wisecracker, as well as proto-slashers like the classic black-gloved Italian giallo criminal and even a Norman Bates-inspired crossdresser type. Their designs are pretty great and accurate to the kind of villains normally popping up in slasher flicks, though I will admit some of the better ones were those that were simply mentioned in the background. (The bondage themed Pain/Pleasure Principal? Chemical-themed Biohazard? What the shit?! Those are some of the cooler looking slashers!) Their variations meant that the immense bodycount here are  mostly done away with the killer's own shtick (The Virtuoso sings with his target first before bashing their brains in, for example. Or, my favorite, The Usherette wielding weaponized torchlights), but it is nice to see that a bigger deal of the killcount are good old-fashioned brute force and stab wounds.

So it seems Slashermania has both guts and glory on a high mark, but does it last forever? This, sadly, is where the book's biggest flaw comes in and it's gonna be kinda tricky talking about this without giving away much. As mentioned, it was all fun and games for both these slashers and the sick audience watching until one of the survivors decided to get even and, while I normally don't mind a survivor getting back on the killer, this could have been done better. Since the characterization of the teens was stiff, our little avenger could have been anyone and, to be truthful, she doesn't strike as anything remarkable except, I dunno, being street smart? Doesn't really count much for its worth seeing I could point out about two to three other kids in that camp who were street smart given I could recall their names since they all blend in together too well...

Apart from the bland survivor, I also can't help but feel that the comic's ending was rushed and I can tell from its many plot holes. For instance, for a guy who's supposed to be rich enough to have people back up this blood show with millions of dollars, you would expect better security to, I dunno, prevent one kid from entering the premises and kill them off before any real damage can be done? Also, for a group of serial killers who managed to pile up 50 or so victims for over a day and a half, had it occur to them that they could just, well, pile up on the angry, pissed-off teen and mutilate the kid to death? Heck, one of these freaks even brought it up! Yes, Sammy, why can't you just help Franklin out and tackle the little ankle biter down and chop off their limbs so it'll be easier to finish them off? Numbers, lumbnuts! Use 'em!

Now, I suppose this book is trying to point out the flaw in slasher logic, but damn, that finale was pretty lazy. I expected more stalk-and-hunt survival action between the survivor and the ten to nine remaining killers, but all I got was cheap death porn. And I hate cheap death porn. (Before you point out, yes, I am aware that most of the book is death porn but until the later bits, the first two thirds of killings were gorgeous, creative and a hell lot better thought out.)

Still, I wouldn't let a sour ending ruin a good book. For most, it was a great read and certainly worked up a lot of eye candy for my inner gorehound and love for slasher villains. Definitely not the best slasher comic out there, but Slashermania has its charms and it's worth reading if you're a big fan of dead teen horror flicks who just happens to be craving for some bloody carnage. With sweet art, badass killers and a jet black sense of humor, go grab a copy of this graphic graphic novel fresh off the prints!

1 male knifed through the gut
1 female gets a dagger through the head
1 female axed between the legs
1 gets a dagger through the neck
1 male gets a metal spike through the groin while being fellated
1 female impaled through the mouth with a metal spike while fellating
1 male seen impaled with a metal rod
1 female seen killed
1 male ran through with a machete
1 female shot on the head with a pistol
1 male decapitated with a kukri
1 male beaten to death with a torchlight
1 female had her throat slit with a razor
1 male set ablaze
1 male and 1 female set ablaze with a thrown burning victim
1 female powerdrilled through the head, exits to an eye
1 male lands head first to a bear trap
1 female brained to death with a guitar
1 male pushed to a bonfire, had a leg axed off
1 female held down in a lake, drowned
1 male vivisected with a machete, lunged ripped out with a hammer claw
1 male had his legs cut off with a machete, brained with a hammer
1 female gets a glass shard to the chest
1 male had his head crushed with fridge door
1 male vivisected with a scalpel
1 female stabbed on the temple with a knife
1 male had his throat cut with a kukri, disemboweled with a chainsaw
1 male and 1 female eviscerated with a chainsaw while copulating
1 female shot on the eye with an arrow
1 female shot through the neck with an arrow
1 male brained with a wrench, dropped back first to a vehicle lift
1 female stabbed on the head with a daggered torch light
1 male stabbed with a daggered torchlight
1 male gets a daggered torchlight through the head, exits to mouth
1 male nearly decapitated with a daggered torchlight
1 male and 1 female gets adouble throat cut with a cane sword
1 female had her throat slashed with a scalpel
1 female dismembered with a hacksaw
5 males scalded to death inside a rigged and locked shower room
1 female brained with a sledgehammer
1 male brained with a sledgehammer
3 females and 2 males caught inside a burning cabin
1 male eviscerated with a chainsaw
1 male and 1 female gets a double gutting with a chainsaw
1 male and 1 female dismembered with a chainsaw
1 female had her face eviscerated with a chainsaw
1 female killed with a chainsaw offpanel
1 male stabbed with a cane sword
2 males and 1 female found poisoned
1 female found shot
1 female shot
1 female shot
1 male shot
1 male and 1 female shot dead
1 female decapitated by an elevator
1 male shot on the head
1 male stabbed to death with trophies
1 male seen shot on the head
1 male shot on the eye
1 female shot on the head
1 male shot
1 male axed through the chest
1 female hacked with an axe
A number of people presumably killed in fire

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