Sunday, March 11, 2007

Evil Ernie: Depraved #3

Evil Ernie: Depraved #3, September 1999, Chaos! Comics
writer: Brian Pulido
penciller: David Brewer
inker: Curtis Arnold
colorist: Jason Jensen with John Merrifield
letterer: Comicraft's Oscar Gongora
editors: Phil Nutman & Brad Gould

Seems like zombies dominate the comic book shelves these days. Yet, before Robert Kirkman raised the Marvel Universe from the dead, before Bruce Campbell fought an army of darkness as a sequential art form, Evil Ernie was plotting world domination. Evil Ernie was perhaps the first "dark" comic book I remember perusing as a young collector . . . and I didn't like it. Just as I described my first impression of Ghost Rider a few weeks ago, Evil Ernie struck me as a decent idea for a tattoo, nothing more. Reading this issue now, I'm convinced otherwise. Evil Ernie's no mere tattoo . . . he'd make an excellent sleeve.

According to the Evil Ernie Timeline nestled on this issue's inside front cover, the "undead teenage psychopath" began his zombie journey in 1991 and has starred in several miniseries since, and in this one, Depraved, he achieves his magnum opus -- evoking megadeath, not the band, but the complete extinction of all life on earth. Ironically gathering undead followers with the vigor of a rock and roll show, Evil Ernie's march toward megadeath has destroyed the Mississippi Wall, a barrier that separated the living from the dead, bringing him face to face with his similarly undead parents. In a show of adolescent angst many teens must have revelled when this issue was first released, Ernie gleefully chops up his mom and dad and rejoins his army in Armageddon. Surprisingly, this concludes the miniseries, with little hope for humanity's redemption save a splinter of group of zombies that acknowledge their ability to think as life. We often debate when life begins in the womb, but to discuss when life begins when one is undead . . . that makes my head hurt.

I will confess an appreciation for Brewer and Arnold's art, specifically thanks to Jensen and Merrifield's dynamic coloring. A book called Evil Ernie: Depraved instantly creates a dark impression, but with an emphasis on the character's green, Kirby-dot-riddling torso glow, and the occasionally scarlet splash of blood or flame, a true depth of all things depraved is achieved. I wonder if the checkerboard floor of Ernie's parents' kitchen is intended to express the dichotomy of despair and hope throughout this issue, or if I'm simply hoping for a touch of some literary class in an otherwise bloody gorefest. This issue can't be that deprived!

I haven't seen Evil Ernie in a few years, but then again, I haven't been looking for him. Even if I were, I wonder if he'd stand out among the veritable army of darkness that clouds the new release racks nowadays. Still, books like Warren Ellis' Black Gas owe a debt to Evil Ernie's epic legacy. We're always telling teenagers to make something of their lives. This kid made something of his death. Talk about an overachiever.

No comments: