Hack/ Slash: Revenge of the Return Part 4
Story: Tim Seeley; Art: Emily Stone, Fernando Pinto, Stefano Caselli/ Seeley & Splash!, Rebekah Isaacs; Letters: Brian J. Crowley, Crank!; Colors: Courtney Via, Andrew Dalhouse; Publisher: DDP
This trade paperback collection, billed as a Tim Seeley/ Stefano Caselli Production, contains four stories that first appeared in issues 5-10 of the regular Hack/ Slash series. Coming in late on Hack/ Slash, it’s obvious to me that some story threads woven through this volume harken back to previous issues and foreshadow things to come. So let’s just dive into “Revenge of the Return” on its own merits.
In my introduction to Hack/ Slash, I see that the series tracks a gothy girl in her late teens, Cassandra “Cassie” Hack, the daughter of a scientist and a serial killer (her mother, “The Lunch Lady”). Having missed the early volumes, I’m not sure how Cassie’s slasher-slaying sidekick, Vlad (not a vampire, believe it or not), fits in exactly. He is inhuman; super-humanly large, strong and tough; and appears to possibly be of extradimensional origin. Cassie and Vlad hunt slashers, serial killers, and, on occasion, other types of monsters, human and otherwise.
Tim Seeley writes all of the Hack/ Slash tales and, on occasionally, provides artwork. The first story in this collection, “Love Stories”, deals with a former pin-up model and Ms. America, Emily Christy, who is now an undead-like creature who can regenerate with fresh blood and living tissue, which is soon provided by a young intern obsessed with Christy since his youth – much to his detriment. This issue has two subplots: one involves a budding romance between two allies of Cassie’s, Chris and Lisa, and their dealings with Lisa’s insanely jealous (or just plain insane) ex-boyfriend Kyle. The second subplot leads into the next issue and heralds the return of one of Cassie’s and Vlad’s past slasher enemies, Father Wrath, a madman who has a habit of burying crosses in the skulls of would-be sinners. Emily Stone illustrates this issue and returns a few issues later.
“Double Date” is a fun (a word not always easily applied to the rest of the book) story with art credited to four different artists (though who did what is anyone’s guess) who render the story in a deliberately naïve style that is both mockery of, and homage to, longtime Archie artist Dan DeCarlo. In this amusing Riverdale riff, a Father Wrath copycat killer (from last issue) is at large at Haverhill High. The spot-on art brings us to an interesting quality about the series. Through the often wildly disparate art styles per story arc, and the tonal dexterity Seeley wields in his narratives and dialogue, Hack/ Slash manages to abrubtly shift gears from horror to humour, irony to drama, and near-slapstick to grueling gorefests. Moving from harrowing to humourous in the bat of a bloodied eye occasionally threatens to undo or unravel the book, but, for the most part, a decent equilibrium is achieved.
Next up is the three-part “Tub Club”, which picks up the Emily Christy thread from “Love Stories”. Cassie and Vlad take on a group of lesbians at the seemingly prim and proper Franco-Belle College who bathe and cavort together in blood and various other bodily fluids to maintain youth a la their heroine, Countess Bathory. Christy is revealed to be behind the frenzied frolics, using the girls’ blood to transform herself into a demented creature called the “Ourobouros”. This is definitely the most viciously nasty story in this collection – but very entertaining.
The gorgeous art by Rebekah Isaacs (and colouring by Andrew Dalhouse) reminds me at times of Adam Hughes, lush and pristine, with heavy emphasis on the female form in various states of undress. It’s good to see woman artists (Rebekah and early mainstay Emily Stone) take on a female character who’s become a fanboy pin-up icon of sorts – a status Seeley gleefully exploits with a plethora of guest artists doing their take on Cassie in pin-up style illustrations.
In “Little Children”, the book’s closer, Emily Stone returns to the art chores as Cassie reluctantly is drawn into a search for the truth about her father, a scientist named Jack Hack believed to be dead. Jack worked on revenants (undead creatures fueled by vengeance), and injected their genetic material into a pack of feral children. Cassie has no choice but to off the vicious brood, leading Vlad to doubt how just how far they should go. Cassie soberly reminds Vlad, “that’s what we do. We hunt monsters”. This final issue of the collection has a more consistently serious tone than usual, and demonstrates Seeley’s near-mastery of genre-juggling.
It’s perhaps a saving grace (if not a calling card) of the book that it doesn’t take itself too seriously – nor, oftimes, do its characters take events around them very seriously no matter how horrific. It’s a fine line, and, again, it’s to Seeley’s credit that the reader is still able to invest in this world and its characters.
Despite its copious gore and staggering body count, I’m hesitant to label Hack/ Slash a horror book. There is virtually zero suspense in the stories but somehow I don’t think that’s what Seeley is going for – though on occasion he does manage to hook you with a carefully woven web of story. As a humour book, especially of the pitch black variety, it passes with blood-red colours, however. Not as hamfisted as Whedon at his most self-indulgent, Seeley coyly ramps up the pop culture references – to real people, to fictional characters, and even to fictional characters that are real within the Hack/ Slash “universe”; i.e. Chucky from the Child’s Play films. In this vein, I understand that future issues also veer into Lovecraftian terrain.
The sharp pungent dialogue rings naturalistically no matter the scenario; the breathlessly balls out energy and carnage are finely garnished with gallows humour; and the sheer outrageousness is usually executed with, yes indeed, class. These are likely the reasons that Hack/ Slash is enjoying its current popularity. That, or maybe folks just like to see a scantily clad goth chick clubbing slashers and monsters to death with a spiked club.
- Image Comics: August 2011 Solicitations (graphicpolicy.com)
- Hack/Slash Meets Zombies vs. Cheerleaders – lots of fun! (roscoesdreams.wordpress.com)
- Series Preview: THE SECRET CIRCLE (mralphafreak.wordpress.com)
- ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Hobo With A Shotgun’ And Lessons Learned In Today’s Twitter Report (splashpage.mtv.com)