blogging by Andrew Wickliffe


Shadows on the Grave (2016) #8


Shadows on the Grave  8I just got the final reveal in the Deneaus conclusion. Not like I just finished reading it and got the reveal; a few hours later, sitting down to write about Shadows on the Grave’s finish, I got it.

I should’ve gotten it earlier. Maybe I would in a single sitting reread (I mean, probably not, but we’re pretending here). It’s a nice touch. It doesn’t change anything about the final chapter, but a nice touch. Creator Richard Corben’s had a bumpy road with Deneaus, the only serial in Grave, and it’s nice he’s got it to a solid finish. The art’s particularly lovely, with lots of white space for the open skies and empty landscapes. It contrasts the very busy panels of the rest of the book, which mostly takes place in graveyards.

Literally.

Over fifty percent of the other three short stories and two one-pagers takes place in a graveyard. The non-graveyard one-pager, opening the book, involves a corpse. Corben’s got his standards, and he hits them well here. Well, after the first story, anyway.

The first story’s another robber story; some dude is going to rob an antique shop and pawn the goods somewhere else for cash. The shop owner can tell there’s something skeezy and kicks the guy out, who then watches the store owner acting weird about a cabinet. Of course, the robber will return for the cabinet, with its contents providing scary fodder for the rest of the story.

The MacGuffin’s only okay because Corben does a weird epilogue thing where he skips some of the action. The epilogue doesn’t work, making the MacGuffin less of a disappointment in comparison. Lots of scary, ominous details, though.

They really come through in the following story, about a couple of kids playing in a graveyard. One dares the other to go into a child killer’s crypt, only for the gate to get stuck. Corben uses the same epilogue device here and to great success. Corben writes a lot more this issue since he’s still doing eight-page stories, and there’s not much action in them, and the prose here’s better. He’s more patient with it.

The next story—also a graveyard story—has a woman visiting her mother’s grave, then her three husbands’ graves. Corben does a quick exposition dump, then turns it into a zombie action story with a couple unexpected turns (outside the zombies). No epilogue device in this one (though I’m now thinking about how Corben usually just does them in narration, not scene). Anyway. Another really strong entry. While the first story’s lacking, the second two more than make up for it, then the Deneaus finale brings the issue to a strong close.

The back cover one-pager bids Grave and its readers an amusing, witty farewell.

The series has ranged from excellent Corben to uneven Corben. The art’s always been on point, even when the writing’s been wanting (more often than not, that writing isn’t Corben’s). In all, an outstanding Corben horror anthology.


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