GORE SHRIEK (#1, 1986)
Originally, I was going to review another EC title, but I can't find the fucking thing. Fortuitously, my copy of the first issue of Gore Shriek was staring at me when it came time to select a replacement. By sheer coincidence, this is an EC-style anthology. You probably haven't heard of this series, unless you happen to be a pious comic connoisseur. To hazard a guess, it's because the medium experienced a desiccation of horror throughout the 80's. In spite of slashers scaring up profuse coinage at the box office, a taste for grue didn't bleed over into four-color format until the 90's rolled along. FantaCo, a modest publication house, sought to fill the void left behind by The Cryptkeeper and Uncle Creepy.
Ironically, Gore Shriek spurns the time-honored tradition of having a sardonic host. There is no wrap-around narration. We just get straightforward bloodshed that touches on everything from rapacious parasites to zombified farmers. Now, this series has corralled one mean reputation in the Internet age. You could say that it has a cult following, so my expectations were fairly bloated going in. And...meh. Don't get me wrong; it's cool, but I wasn't flabbergasted by eye-popping artwork and gilt-edge storylines. People consider this to be the best horror comic of all time. In consequence, I don't feel like a dick for wanting something a little more grand.
Gore Shriek starts off on the wrong foot with "Host." While it parades sickening levels of skin rot (including pustules and muscle-grinding microbes), the detail is lost in busy black-and-white illustration. I have nothing against B&W comic books, but at times, I couldn't even tell what I was looking at. Plus, there were too many characters to keep tabs on. The untitled second vignette is the polar opposite. It's simple, atmospheric and somewhat shocking (a monster peels off the face of a 5-year-old girl). I don't have anything negative to report on "Zombie Toolshed." It concerns zombies...in a toolshed. Dig the twisted, profligate ending.
The issue closes with "Cottonmouth," a three-page tale of wicked requital that moved me to scratch my head. Maybe I'm obtuse (no, that can't be), but this succinct yarn confused the hell out of me. Am I supposed to know what the undead ghouls are referring to? Am I analyzing it too much? I don't get it. I mean, kudos to Steve Bissette for his fantastic artwork, but his story doesn't make sense. Again, I seem to be in the minority. Gore Shriek is worth owning for the kickass cover alone, so I certainly don't despise it. It has its moments. I wouldn't mind reading other FantaCo titles. Savage Dragon says, "There weren't enough superheroes!"