Halloween has long been my favorite holiday, so I’ve decided to return to reviewing comic books with some regularity this month. Every week this month, I’ll post at least one special Halloween-oriented review, criticizing the issue based on its reverence for this hallowed holiday season through four distinct categories worth up to five points each. The comic that earns the total possible 20 points could be one of the best Halloween issues ever!
Reese's Pieces #1 & 2, October 1985, Eclipse Comics
writers: Otto Binder, Michael Cahlin, Chuck McNaughton, Jerry Siegal, Bill Pearson, Terry Bisson
artist: Ralph Reese
colorists: Denis McFarling, Tim Smith, Teresa Bieri, Philip DeWalt
PREMISE: A comic book named after candy with covers promising grotesque horror? What says Halloween better than that? In this case, “Reese” is Ralph Reese, contemporary horror comic artist, and Eclipse Comics compiled some of his most notable work into these two single issues. It’s a reverent miniseries, tipping a hat to a master craftsman, and admittedly had I not bought and read it, I would never have known who Ralph Reese is. For its sheer educational value alone, I’ll give these issues four out of five points.
STORY: These two issues contain four stories each, ranging from Twilight Zone-like weirdness to straightforward horror and gore, and interestingly some of them repeat the same thematic concept or macabre twist -- which, admittedly, over the course of Reese’s career, may not have been apparent, but is strikingly obvious when compiled in a mere two issue miniseries. For instance, in the first issue, when his girlfriend is eaten by a band of sewer dwelling mutant cannibals, the guy’s wanton rage turns him into one of the creatures. Similarly, in the second issue, a greedy hunter tracks and kills a Yeti within the beast’s sacred circle and eventually turns into a Yeti himself. Greed as a justification for violence or horrific transformation is actually a common thread throughout, as is the weirdo-with-a-conspiracy-theory shtick. Because some tales are more thought-provoking than others, these issues earn three out of five points.
ART: If Eclipse Comics sought to expose Reese’s work to fans that may never have heard of him otherwise, mission accomplished . . . and I’m sold. Why this guy never achieved Brian Bolland status is beyond me, because his detail-oriented line work and intricate cross-hatching remind me of Bolland’s. The style does vary somewhat with the subject matter, too; the two-page story “Midnight Muse” has a strong photographic quality to its realism, whereas “The Skin-Eaters” is drawn in a Conan the Barbarian style, appropriate considering the subject matter deals with aliens versus humans in a barren wasteland. I have to give this series five out of five points in the art department, since it’s a virtual portfolio of a single man’s brilliantly frightening work -- a graphic haunted house with just one man pulling the strings.
PACKAGING: Okay, here’s the problem. A few significant printing errors throw off this otherwise enthralling compilation of work. First of all, the covers are reprints of interior panels, which is fine, but issue two’s quality pales in comparison to issue one, probably because the panel selected was more of a frontispiece and isn’t as intricate. When expanded to cover size, some detail is lacking and makes the initial impression of the entire issue less favorable. More notably, though, is the “Midnight Muse” story from issue #1. Obviously intended to be a two-page spread, the story is printed on a page turn, so panels are literally cut in half, and I actually read the story wrong before I realized the error. For such a serious oversight, this series gets a mere two out of five packaging points.
TOTAL: Thirteen may seem like a low score with twenty points possible, but thirteen is also the creepiest of numbers, so considering Reese’s artwork earned the full five points possible in that category, I hope he’d be strangely satisfied. Oh, well, it’s just like a sack of Halloween candy, isn’t it? A mixed bag . . . but in this case, the Reese’s pieces are pretty sweet.