Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Ragemoor Review (Jan Strnad, Richard Corben)

I picked up Ragemoor purely for Richard Corben – a horror comic drawn by the legend himself? I’m in! And on the art front, I wasn’t too disappointed, but found the unpronounceable Jan Strnad’s script somewhat lacking. That said this might be a case of the writer accommodating the artists’ wishes, like Corben gave Strnad a list of things he wanted to draw and Strnad tried to make a story out of it. 

The book is an interesting mix of two horror staples, Poe and Lovecraft. Ragemoor is a huge gothic castle perched on the edge of a cliff, inhabited by a young aristocrat and his faithful butler, who is visited by a relative and his wife who’re looking to scam them out of their castle. Except the castle is ALIVE – it’s literally this massive stone Transformer that goes from being a monster to a structure and back, over and over! Built atop the blood and bones of a death cult, the grounds are defended by skull-faced baboons from innumerable moloid-like creatures and the castle’s staff consist of a small team of Kafka-esque giant bugs! And the young aristocrat can never leave…

I liked the old school horror aspect of the comic. The gloomy haunted castle and its history is corny as hell but when presented alongside Corben’s art, I can forgive a lot. Strangely, Corben’s black and white art does seem to deteriorate in quality as the book continues. I’m not sure if it’s because he ran out of time and rushed it, or it’s intentional like the art becomes less detailed and focused because the characters are getting crazier and its reflecting their loosening grip on reality. 

And while seeing Corben illustrate this book’s horrors is certainly delightful, after a while I wished there was more of a story here. It vaguely becomes about the young aristocrat giving Ragemoor an heir but then descends into unfettered madness. Again, maybe that was the point but it’s not very compelling to read. It doesn’t help that the book is somewhat skewed tonally – it’s more or less your cheesy, melodramatic gothic horror and that’s fine, and then the baboons show up and start fighting some weird little monsters and it starts to feel comedic. Maybe that was unintentional but I would’ve preferred straight horror and think that would’ve worked better overall. 

Ragemoor definitely isn’t Corben’s best work but if you’re a fan like me it’s worth picking up for at least the excellent art in the first half of it. It’s also worth checking out if you like horror but don’t mind it with nonsensical, somewhat random and silly twists throughout.


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