Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Untold Tales of Purgatori #1

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! Based on its cover, I couldn’t think of a better way to start this series than with Purgatori #1.

Untold Tales of Purgatori #1, November 2000, Chaos! Comics
writer: Steven Grant
illustrator: Al Rio
inker: Tie
colorists: Jason Jensen & John Merrifield
letterer: Comicraft’s Oscar Gongora
editors: Mike Francis & Brian Pulido

PREMISE: Purgatori is a bloodthirsty Egyptian slave girl turned vampire. This issue is a prelude to her ongoing series, establishing some of its canon, I presume. So, while the cover of this issue depicts Purgatori as a Jack O’Lantern-loving witch, she’s actually a demonic vampire, before vampires were all the rage, to boot. This combination of beloved Halloween iconography grants this issue a solid four out of five in the premise department.

STORY: In 57 B.C., a band of British druids rebels against their traditional code in a demonic bid to embrace a new age. Unfortunately, they killed the wrong druid in their quest for power, because his lover is a witch that summons and possesses Purgatori to avenge him. The leader of the rebels inhabits the body of a devilish lord to match her might, but the combined power of Purgatori’s strength and the witch’s blood alchemy conquer all. In the end, the mourning witch muses that wearing a demonic mask is a practice best kept to an annual celebration. So, this story’s bid to contribute to the origins of Halloween seals another four out of five points.

ART: Al Rio and Tie’s art teeters between the exaggerated trappings of the ‘90s, taking every opportunity to contort Purgatori’s feminine frame into the most sexually suggested poses possible, and some blockbuster action sequences that rivals the heyday of Dale Keown’s Hulk work. While Rio and Tie don’t hesitate to drench everything in blood, and rightfully so in a comic about a demonic vampire, I would’ve appreciated a heightened use of darkness or shadow to accentuate a sense of dread and mystery. In the Halloween-oriented department, the art earns this issue two points.

PACKAGING: Although I purchased this issue for a mere quarter at the Los Angeles Comic Book & Sci-Fi Expo a year or so ago, I was fortunate to find its glow-in-the-dark variant cover, and with its minimalist title dressing, that stark image of a devil-horned vampire witch stirring a cauldron surrounded by Jack O’Lanterns makes this issue a veritable Halloween decoration. It actually sets a high standard for the other issues I’ll review in this series -- whether or not a collector could actually hang them up to celebrate the holiday. Setting a standard gives Purgatori a well-earned five out of five points.

TOTAL: Fifteen out of twenty points. A great start! Too great, in fact. So great . . . it’s scary.


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