Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Tenth Day of Comic-mas: Terror Learns a Lesson!

Christmas isn't a holiday void of fear. Shoppers desperately scrambling for the perfect gift, families frantically cleaning their homes for the big dinner, children staying up Christmas Eve night with their fingers crossed . . . behaviors all rooted in fear. Fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of disappointment. Everybody can relate to at least one of those fears, and most can probably add to the list. Consider the characters in this special holiday issue of Terror Inc.

In Terror Inc., a mob informant on death row is afraid his family will experience the holidays without him, so he hires Terror to utilize a few of his posthumous body parts and create a final Christmas memory. Huh? Apparently, Terror is a creature that can attach others' body parts to his and experience their skills and memories -- which comes in handy when the mob tries to capture the informant's family, and Terror uses that failed Olympic track star's legs to race them down, and that circus bearded lady's whiskers to disguise himself as Santa Claus. In the end, the typically greedy, naturally creepy Terror softens up a bit, bringing down the mob and giving the informant's family something to remember him by, in the form of holiday origami figurines about the house. It's the warmest feeling a comic book like this can offer its readers, I suppose, particularly at Christmastime.

I pulled Terror Inc. #8 from a discount bin several months ago, drawn to its twisted holiday imagery, not to mention the clever cover blurb: "You'd better not shout, you'd better not cry, you'd better not pout, get ready to die . . ." I'd never heard of Terror, though, so I was grateful for the classic Marvel-style exposition that somehow incorporates the title character's powers or origins into the natural dialogue of the story. The ability to take and use body parts is Frankenstein-esque in its appeal, but Terror himself is pretty peculiar looking, his face adorned with these odd whiskers that demand as much explanation as his abilities, but they're still a mystery to me. Since he teeters the border between life and death . . . are they for balance?

Fortunately, this issue was well balanced, between the semblance of holiday nostalgia it sought to evoke while also offering the right amount of carnage its faithful readers undoubtedly expected from its monthly installments. Oh, no, not that Carnage, who was just rising to popularity in Amazing Spider-man -- but Terror Inc. apparently does tether itself to the Marvel Universe with a Wolverine team-up next issue. If I ever see that ish, I'll consider picking it up, to see how a gruesome hero like Terror finds his place in the Marvel Universe. Obviously, he isn't around anymore . . . but considering the recent trend to resurrect apparently failed or C-list characters in both the DC and Marvel realms, I wouldn't be surprised if we see him again.

Fear has a way of doing that. Even during the most wonderful time of the year, terror always finds a way to rear its ugly head.

Terror Inc. #8 was published in February 1993 by Marvel Comics and was written by D.G. Chichester, illustrated by Horacio Ottolini, lettered by Steve Dutro and Rick Parker, and colored by Steve Buccellato.

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