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“Don’t call it an adaptation,” begins Enrica Jang, editor of
THE POE TWISTED ANTHOLOGY (Red Stylo Media), at the top of her introduction.
“POE TWISTED is something different. A challenge to a new crop of writers and
artists to be inspired by Poe rather than retell him.” The idea is an appealing
one, and THE POE TWISTED ANTHOLOGY digs deep into his canon to come up with a
collection that dances from macabre scenery to mysterious crimes to hysterical
The difficulty of the anthology is the limited number of
pages the writers have to establish characters, relationships and conflicts
that make an engaging read. While every piece contained within THE POE TWISTED
ANTHOLOGY is at the very least intriguing, a few are able to further surmount
that challenge and create a miniature world. Out of the gate, “Absolution”
(written by Jason Ciaramella, art by Enrique “Zeke” Savory Jr. and colored by
Alex Cormack) translates the loss and self-deprecation of the narrator from
Poe’s “The Raven” into a modern tale of a father’s inability to move on from a
catastrophic mistake, as he is hounded by the memory through a forgotten
electronic talking toy dinosaur. The story transitions between the past and
present smoothly, with clear but subtle details of the father then—happy with
his son on Christmas—and now as he wallows in misery, finishing with a bright,
vibrant and effectively violent final panel.
“Eldorado” (written by Sherezada Windham Kent with art by
Alex Cormack) is a fascinating and disturbing entry following a weary
adventurer and his horse Aurelio, cursed to never die until they reach the
eponymous legendary city of gold. Hopeful that “it will be enough” to end their
decrepit journey, they enter a prospecting town of the same name and are
immediately met by five dangerous characters. What follows is a stay in a
rough, gun-driven place reduced to eating itself alive as a fire consumes
whatever’s left behind. The art of deep, bold colors and ill-defined lines is
perfectly balanced by the decaying, run-down setting, and the storytelling
holds many tiny details that make what could be considered a simple idea into a
disturbing new take on an old genre.
While the introduction establishes that one need not be well-versed
in Poe’s work to enjoy the pieces within this collection, a few of them
struggle to be equally engaging, or read as lifeless without a Poe refresher.
“Zombie Cruise” (written by Marta Tanrikulu with art by Mark Mullaney) starts
off with a fun idea complemented by a simple art style, with character designs
somewhat reminiscent of Jeff Smith or Scott McCloud. Wyatt and his
mad-cow-diseased wife Lydia take a cruise with Lydia’s sister Helen for rest
and relaxation, only to unwittingly, through an administered experimental
medication, spread a zombie infection while at sea. The plot becomes dull
despite the potentially exciting and funny premise, and characters are
introduced with established individual traits that seem to have little bearing
on the events around them, while the nautical setting plays little part in the
action. It was only after perusing Poe’s “The Oblong Box” that I understood the
choices made in, and had a greater appreciation for, “Zombie Cruise.”
“Dead Man’s Hand” (written and illustrated by Phillip
Jacobson), in which a young man who fancies himself the best poker player on
campus makes an unfortunate bet for head of the table with a “weird chick…into
the demon-goth Hot-Topic shit,” falls into the same, almost directionless area.
While sporting a bouncy energy and an engaging design element (a combination of
Penny Arcade and Vera Brosgol), the piece initially reads like a topic chosen
in a creative writing class (“write eight pages, and the only rule is you must
include a card game”). There’s an imbalance created in the care taken to
describe the mundane details of the two protagonists and the antagonist—from
what they look like to whom they hate and why—and the lack of motivation behind
the action. Again, only a glance at the Poe inspiration, “Never Bet the Devil
Your Head,” reveals what seems at first a banal story to be a clever twist on
the old tale.
In between the main pieces are one-off pages of smart and
hilarious 1800s culture and Poe commentary (art by Andrew Jerz and Jason Strutz).
A faux coming-attraction insert that frames Lenore from “The Raven” as a
demon-battling action heroine, and another page that places Poe himself
listening through the floorboards for the “beating of the hideous cuteness” had
me laughing even when sandwiched between tales of misery and murder.
The gloomy, despondent world that people ultimately create
for themselves, and the details of the rising dead and decomposition, are
themes common to not only Poe but to horror itself, and THE POE TWISTED ANTHOLOGY
commits to its proposal of a visual tribute to the dark master of words while
representing the genre’s wide range. It’s a fun read overall, full of new
artists to keep an eye on—and got me looking up Poe again after 10 years.
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