COMICS: Through the Wood, Beneath the Moon (a dark poem)

Matt Smith and Tom Pappalardo
Through the Wood, Beneath the Moon (a dark poem)
Caliber Comics

Creating a sense of horror in a comic book can be a daunting task these days. With the current profusion of wanton gore, insane clowns, and killer toys throughout the zine world, are there any novel ideas left to send chills down the collective spine of a jaded audience? Luckily for Caliber Comics, their new one-shot book successfully identifies and exploits one of those novel ideas: the nursery rhyme. While fairy tales have often been transformed into film horror (e.g. Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves), never before has a comic taken such a benign genre and twisted it into a more grotesquely frightening final product.

The main character of this Dr. Seuss-styled nightmare is Alec Dear, a merry soul who resembles a cross between Freddy Krueger and a Nazi soldier. Alec prances into a rural burn facility, sticking used lollipops on the heads of horribly deformed children and promising to rescue them from their critical conditions. As should be expected from a story that's subtitled "a dark poem," that rescue takes on a grim form as the hero pulls the children off their life-support systems one by one. After the local police and media stumble upon the purported samaritan, he begins a series of increasingly demented tactics to outsmart them, the most horrible of which involves dangling the children's lifeless bodies from their IV units and manipulating them like puppets for the captive audience outside the hospital.

The point of this Kevorkian escapade is questionable, but the authors' vivid illustrations and wonderfully fluid storytelling fit perfectly into the nursery-rhyme format. And although their rhyme techniques leave a bit to be desired ("But wait," mumbled Alec, "A clever idear!"; "Hey, clown!" he called out, "come stand over here!"), this magical yet maniacal diversion from the standard comic gorefest is quite entertaining. It provides horror not through severed limbs but through the repulsive behavior of a sick individual who, believing he's doing the right thing, seems disturbingly more real than any fairy tale.

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