Over the course of this year something has happened that made me giddy like a kid. Like most things that tickle people deep down, it was a simple thing–most good things are. If you’re a fan of John Carpenter, then you’ll understand. You see, growing up in the 1980’s there wasn’t the glut of really great movies or TV shows that we have today, at least not in the genres that I enjoyed. Sure, there has been a steady stream of mindless slasher and just plain gross horror movies since the 70’s, but most of them are kind of boring. Many of the most exciting exceptions to this rule happened to be the works of John Carpenter.
Mr. Carpenter has routinely produced movies that were different in their approach. Carpenter’s movies don’t insult you, even when they are bubbling with humor. If you are not familiar with John Carpenter’s work, here is a list of just a few of his works; Halloween, Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog, They Live, The Thing (the remake, not the 1950s B-movie original). As you can see, Carpenter is responsible for a lot of great, smart, and just plain entertaining movies. Now back to the things that got me all excited this year, first the launch of comics based on Carpenter’s oeuvre. This year saw the comic versions of both Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China hit the stands, bringing his (and Kurt Russel’s) two most popular heroes, Snake Plisskin and Jack Burton, to the sequential world.
The fact that these two books made their debut was awesome, but the cherry on top was the launch of the horror book Asylum. The story comes from the mind of Carpenter, Thomas Ian Griffith, and Sandy King, Carpenter’s wife. The story is a classic struggle of good versus evil with the fate of mankind hanging in the balance. You might have read other reviews of Asylum, and thought, meh, nothing new here, but that’s where you’re wrong. You see, the best part of anything that John Carpenter puts his hands on, is that he takes the most basic combination of ideas and makes them more than their sum. Take his remake of The Thing for example. Carpenter took the simple premise of the original and turned it into probably the most terrifying, intellectual horror film of all time. Taking away the gross special effects, the movie is still a great study of implied, cerebral horror. Who is The Thing? How would you know? How would you survive? The blood testing scene is still hands down one of the best horror movie scenes of all time.
Okay, I hear you, so what the heck does all of this have to do with Asylum, and in particular Asylum #11? Well, simply put, when it comes to horror no one does it better than John Carpenter, and this is a horror book. Now, I know a lot of you might point out that this is not actually written by John Carpenter, but he is the man working behind the scenes, and it’s his ideas that Sandy King and Trent Olsen are breathing life into. This latest issue of Storm King Comics’ Asylum is taking us further down the rabbit hole of this wild ride, where evil forces are trying to bring about the End of Days. The art of Leonardo Manco is a perfect fit. Manco has a rough style that adds a grittiness to the book that isn’t cluttered. And Mariana Sanzone’s colors are not overpowering, allowing the line art to speak for itself. The colors bring forth a mood that gives you as much of a gritty feeling as the art does.
In the end, I could pump this review full of needless explanations of what is happening in the story, character names, and other plot-specific commentary to fill up space, but I never do that. To me a review is meant to give you a good idea of what kind of story you are going to be getting, and not pointless recounting of page-by-page details. What I will tell you is this: if you like a good horror story, a thoughtful story that can still make your skin crawl a little at times, then this is for you. If you are a fan of John Carpenter’s work, then this is for you, because even though he’s not writing the script itself, his fingerprints are all over this thing. Asylum gives you an adult, grim, and smart story that is far too fast a read, leaving you salivating for the next issue.