Shadows on the Grave #2 is not a bad comic, but it does show how far down I’ll follow creator Richard Corben without batting an eye.
Once again, Corbin’s got multiple done-in-ones, then a chapter in his Greek epic. If it weren’t for the Greek epic featuring a cyclops eating a bunch of soldiers, it’d be a talking heads story. But, damn, can Corben draw a rampaging cyclops. It’s also incredibly confusing since there’s no real recap of the previous entry; I’d forgotten it was all about some Greek hero who needed to get out of town. I thought it was all about the cyclops.
I’d be very curious to read the story on its own, not the fourth entry in every issue in an anthology. Especially if there aren’t any recaps.
The first three stories are all fifties or sixties-era stories set in the very rural South. Not connected, of course, but fertile ground for horror comics. They just go on a little long. Every story runs eight pages; for the three horror stories, it feels like Corben’s trying the vamp a couple of pages away. The Greek chapter? He needs at least another couple pages, if not all six he’d get from cutting down the horror stories.
The first and third stories are the most successful, with both having a nephew robbing a rich aunt. The first, the aunt’s alive, and the would-be robber is bringing along his girlfriend to do the deed, his brother presumably around trying to do the same thing. They go out to the aunt’s house in the woods, and strange, horrible things happen with little explanation. Corben races to get to the murderous intent section but then drags the rest of the story.
Beautiful art, though.
The second story’s the least successful. Some kid follows his uncle into the swamp, where the uncle has a strange, horrible experience, then the nephew has a strange, horrible experience, and nothing gets explained at the end. Corben goes for haunting and doesn’t pull it off, making it one of his least successful stories… ever. Corben always pulls it off.
The third story’s the best, just because the setting’s excellent. This time the robber nephew–a different one, obviously; the first story’s robber nephew was a beatnik or at least adjacent, this robber nephew’s a greaser—this time, he’s robbing a corpse. He just can’t find his way around the graves, so he asks an old mourner lady for help and, damn, if he doesn’t want to rob her too. The graveyard’s phenomenal.
Then there’s the Greek epic chapter, with the hero starting his quest with some ominous foreshadowing. Or possibly a cliffhanger tragedy; it’s unfortunately hard to tell because Corben does a montage on the last page without establishing what’s changing. Other than the lighting.
So also not successful. But Corben does have the cyclops kicking ass, so it more than covers.
Corben was seventy-seven when this book originally came out, so he gets all sorts of passes, but still. I was expecting Grave to be great start to finish; I hope he gets his groove back next issue.