Saturday, February 19, 2011

Girl on Book Action: Guest Review - RobotMatt Talks "Hack/Slash"

Aside:  I know, I know, two guest reviews in a row, not to mention that there has been very little girl in the girl on book action, lately.  I am a bad little blogger, but I assure you that after this amazing piece by our good friend Matt I will return to writing form.  After all, my big day of academic achievement is over and it'll be a few months before the next one.  Until then, please enjoy this guest review.

A short aside about Matt:  Wondering who Matt is?  Well, wonder no more!  Matt Rowbotham dwells in the jungles of Canada from which he occasionally emerges to record critically acknowledged podcasts Sarcastic Voyage and the Post Atomic Horror. (Available at and respectively.). He also writes the occasional column for Post Atomic Horror's website.


You know what I never get tired of? Girls beating the shit out of monsters. It's a tried and true format. Hot girl + slathering monster = good times for all. It worked for Buffy, it worked decidedly less well for a shit ton of crappy titles from Image back in the 90s and it works for Hack/Slash.

Hack/Slash chronicles the adventures of Cassie Hack, the teenage daughter of the notorious Lunch Lady killer. The Lunch Lady murdered dozens of high school kids before turning them into mystery meat in the cafeteria. When she was discovered, she killed herself. And then came back to start all over again. Cassie kills her (again) and then heads out into the world to rid it of other so-called Slashers. She eventually joins up with an accused serial killer Vlad and the two travel across America killing killers. Hack/Slash is a horror comic, but it's a very specific type of horror comic. It is a very loving riff on the slasher movies that were especially popular in the 80s and 90s. Simple premise: Dude with an interesting gimmick and a knife kills teenagers for an hour and a half. And if you, like me, spent the weekends of your youth watching them by the dozen, they hold a very special and bloody place in your heart. Let's be clear here. The comic is exploitive as hell. The lead protagonist is clearly designed to titillate and the language and violence are gratuitous. Just like the source material.

Hack/Slash has two very specific things going for it.  Firstly, the characters have a lot of heart. Cassie and Vlad are extremely close, without being romantic (something I actually like seeing in books with male and female protaganists) and the supporting cast are also likable. An unconventional family of victims, former serial killers
and sweater banging helldogs form around Cassie and Vlad.  Secondly, the book is extremely funny. Cassie is quippy in a completely unannoying way and Vlad is deadpan with a ridiculous accent and Pooch, the above mentioned helldog never fails to delight me. Tim Seeley is, for the most part an excellent writer. He keeps what could quickly be an extremely boring concept fresh with new and original monsters and is willing to experiment with his characters and settings. One chapter in Book 1 is made up entirely of short 'trailer' style stories, each

telling a story in only a few pages. Another chapter involves an invasion of Lovecraft's Deep Ones of a  Riverdalesque town and the entire issue is drawn in the style of Archie comics.

The only times the story really seems to fail are the crossovers.  Volume 3 features crossovers with two other horror books "The Living Corpse" and "Halloween Man." Neither story is written by Seeley and they both suffer for it. Living Corpse is a rough but largely inoffensive story that covers its shortcomings with some damn fine art. Halloween Man is just bad. The writer, Drew Edwards, seems much too pleased with his own characters. The dialogue is wooden and stinks of comic cliches. The two characters crossing over even have a misunderstanding before uniting to take down a common threat and the whole thing feels lazy. The only one which really seemed to work was the meeting of the H/S crew and Chuckie, the killer from the Child's Play movies. Seeley clearly enjoyed writing Chuckie and having Cassie face an actual well-known horror movie monster felt like a big deal.
Artwise, the books vary.There is no regular artist on the book, although artists do stick around for individual arcs. The art shifts from thick lined Bruce Timmish cartoons to thin lined hyper detailed sketches reminicent of early Image. It varies depending on the mood of the story being told.

In the end, it's an extremely fun comic. If you enjoyed watching Jason Vorhees shove a pitchfork through a camper's eye mid-coitus, even on the eighteenth time, this is probably the horror comic for you. Hack/Slash is very aware of its roots and is more than willing to embrace them.

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