“ALEISTER ARCANE” (Comic Book Review)Book and Comic Reviews,Books/Art/Culture,News Svetlana Fedotov
Back in 2004, Steve Niles was just another little fish in a big pond. He had done several original works for a series of small press companies, had mild success with his runs on SPAWN and HELLSPAWN (where he met his future collaborative partner Ben Templesmith), and was spending his off hours shopping around a vampire movie script titled 30 DAYS OF NIGHT that no one would touch with a ten-foot pole. In the middle of getting kicked out of movie studios with a comically over-sized boot, he managed to pen a three-issue comic titled ALEISTER ARCANE for IDW Comics. With artwork by Breehn Burns the work was a spooky little footnote in his comic career and quickly fell to the wayside, until now. Once again helmed by IDW, the comic has been recollected and reprinted into a second collection for fans who missed it the first time around and for those who don’t want to wait for the movie.
The comic revolves around the tragic tale of the title character, Aleister Arcane. Once a prominent news reporter, Aleister Green dreams of entertaining fans and spreading his love of scary movies as a TV horror host. Leaving LA, he moves back to his hometown Jackson, Oklahoma at the age of 61 and immediately begins a Saturday Night Creature Feature. Unfortunately, the town doesn’t have the same passion for slashin’ as he does and proceeds to ruin his career, his health, and his life. Their hate unleashes something terrible and evil within him, a curse that destroys the whole town and the only thing that can stop it are the children that the town tried so hard to keep away from Aleister. But will they figure out what to do before everything is gone or are they doomed just like their parents?
ALEISTER ARCANE, like any good horror work, not only scares its readers but scrutinizes the flaws of society as a whole. It explores the old “mass panic” mindset that can overtake any town, especially when ideas and creations deemed unsavory, something that has reflection in real life such as the Comic Code in the ‘50’s and the Dungeons and Dragons satanic panic in the ‘70’s. Even the Communist Blacklists during the Cold War is a prime example of how not going along with the status quo could destroy a person’s entire life. There is a lot of sympathy for Aleister Arcane and it almost makes his subsequent curse a forgivable offense. Here’s a man who truly believed in freedom of speech and letting children think for themselves and was ruined. It makes the monsters that much more justifiable.
As stated, there will be a movie in the future based off the comic. While there is yet to be a release date, the combined talent of Jim Carrey and director Eli Roth promises a work that will be true to the feel of the comic while maintaining a healthy interpretation of the source. They will have plenty of material to work with. Alongside Steve Niles, who already has proven a talent for the written word, Breehn Burns artwork is the perfect storyboard for the movie. There is a wonderful touch of cinematic layout that accompanies his work and an eye for knowing when to illuminate a scene and went to bathe it in shadows. The colors make the entire work pop with a subdued palette that gives the work a very dream-like quality. The only complaint would be that the human figures are a bit stiff and lack the same fluidity as the rest of the art as well as some of the angles and faces are kind of wacky, most likely a reflection of the comic being an early work, having been made twelve years prior.