Midnight Mass: Here There Be Monsters 1

Quick Rating: Yeeesh
Title: Arturo

Writer: John Rozum
Artist: Paul Lee
Color: Sherri Van Valkenburgh
Letters: Janice Chiang
Cover: Tomer Hanuka
Editor: Zachary Rau

Popular art forms are always chasing the next big thing. Comic books are nothing if not a popular art form. Usually, they’re a bit behind the times however. Perhaps that’s because the more mass the media, the longer it must wait for enough of the masses to assimilate something. Moreover, comics must deal with the detritus of being pegged as a children’s medium. This guarantees a look-and-wait attitude on the part of publishers until enough dubious parental decisions pile up to allow for generalized acceptance.

Thus, we had the mostly-naked women phase in the mid- to late-nineties, preceded by the soap opera as storytelling phase. All of this has been overlapped by an extended drugs-and-blood-and-flesh-make-for-gritty-realism phase. Nowadays, horror has begun to raise its grotesque little head. It has gotten so you can’t swing a dead writer at a comic book convention without hitting a publisher with at least one horror comic in his stable.

Midnight Mass debuted in an earlier miniseries, which I have not read. According to John Rozum, this miniseries will give him the chance to focus on the monsters and some of what makes them tick. Apparently what makes them tick is moving into a house, slaughtering the residents, and watching cable. Our protagonists, the Kadmons, are a married couple. They fight monsters. They appear to be quite busy in their chosen profession, but then they do live in a world knowingly populated by monsters and, yet, they seem to be the only people fighting the monsters.

The art is grim, light on the light and heavy on the gray. In some respects, it has a rubber-stamp feel- I mean it looks inked into static ness. The creature designs are interesting, but I kept seeing them as Muppets. That’s for me to deal with. You will hopefully have a different reaction. Otherwise you will never watch Sesame Street again.

I don’t know why people read horror. I’m not even sure why I do. It used to be that a comic book horror story was brief with a twist ending. The art did all it could to ensure the observer had chills. Modern horror comics tell extended stories about monsters desperate for us to get to know them. The cathartic effects are limiting, at best, particularly the more graphic the horror portrayed. The horrors of King Lear’s losses by the end of Will’s play are far more cathartic than watching his friend blinded onstage much earlier. The story, so far, in Midnight Mass is repulsive. It’s neither bad nor good, which is an entirely different matter. I don’t know what that means for buying the next issue.

Waldorf’s got my leg!!!

January, 2004

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