Comic Book Review: Screamland #1 | Giant Fire Breathing Robot

Comic Book Review: Screamland #1

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I never read the five-issue 2008 miniseries by the same name, but after reading Screamland #1 from Image Comics, I am diligently hunting it down.

I love comics. It’s no secret. I love superhero comics, I love crime comics, I love comedy comics, and I love horror comics. I love comics. But once in a while a book comes along that seems to stand head-and-shoulders above the rest.

Screamland #1 is that book.

Another thing I love (and I’m not sure if I’ve ever brought this up before) is the old-school, black-and-white Universal Monsters movie genre. My personal favorite is Creature from the Black Lagoon (which is rumored to be getting remade in 2013 and I’m not  sure how I feel about that) starring Julie Adams (the love of my life and girl of my dreams). So I was delighted when I read the opening sequence and Screamland’s homage to the Creature, Devil Fish, surfaced in a resort pool, just peeking his eyes out of the water as his black-and-white counterpart so often did. I read the four-page intro with a chuckle as the overweight and aging Devil Fish’s internal monologue explained what it’s like to be a washed-up has-been and as he remembers better days. But it was on my second reading of the book that I was hit with a sledgehammer by the multilayered brilliance of that scene alone.

Read on to get more of my thoughts on Screamland #1.

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When reading the opening scene again, I realized it has the heart and emotion—and is reminiscent of the closing scene—of  the 2008 Darren Aronofsky film, The Wrestler (if you haven’t seen the film, go out and see it…NOW! Well, not now. Finish reading this article and THEN go find The Wrestler). So much storytelling. And this is just in the first four pages.

To open the story with such a gut punch, I’m expecting big things from writers Harold Sipe and Christopher Sebela and artist Lee Leslie (not to mention cover artist and cocreator of Screamland, Hector Casanova) in this series.

But enough dwelling on the first four pages.

Screamland sets up a world where the 1950s monsters I hold so dear are, in fact, not actors kitted out with fancy prosthetics, but actually honest-to-goodness monsters that scored celebrity status by playing themselves. But all good things come to an end and in an age of computer special effects and 3D metrosexual, sparkly vampires, these monsters can’t get arrested in Hollywood anymore. So where do unemployed ex-movie monsters go when they get old? That’s right, the purgatory that is the convention circuit.

The two characters that find themselves front-and-center in Screamland #1 are Wolfman Carl London and Space Path star Travis Walters. These two has-beens put aside their scheduled appearances and signings and hopes of a Mickey Rourke-style comeback, when they find themselves in the middle of a crime scene where one of their fellow washed-up ’50s movie icons has been murdered.

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And as if that isn’t enough, there is also a back-up story that focuses on the Invisible Man, illustrated by Kevin Mellon. This very human monster story tells the tale of how the son of a reputable thespian deals with literally becoming invisible after a chemical accident. We go along with the Invisible Man as he recalls the path from wannabe stage actor to finally getting back to acting (but this time in front of a camera) in The Invisible Man movie. And as you can expect, there are only so many roles an invisible man is suitable for, so he recalls eventually finding himself on the convention circuit with the others.

This book is worth the cover price. I love monster stories, and I love when monster stories have a human side. This is what we get in Screamland #1. And a murder mystery to boot! So before Screamland #2 comes out next week, make sure you hit your local comic book store up for the first issue. You won’t regret it.

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