"Crawl Space Omnibus" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Originally published as Night Mary #1 - #5, XXXombies #1 - #4, Sorrow #1 - #5, Sea of Red #1 - #13, and Creatures #1
Written by Rick Remender
Illustrated by Kieron Dwyer, Peter Bergting, Francesco Francavilla, Salgood Sam, and Paul Harmon
2014, 712 Pages
Graphic Novel released on June 10th, 2014
Being a horror fan can give you lots of options. Do you want vampires? Zombies? Some sort of monster? What if you can't decide? Fortunately, Rick Remender has you covered. Before he was writing comics like Uncanny Avengers and Captain America, Remender wrote a bunch of horror books. Image Comics has collected a number of those series in a big 700+ page omnibus called Crawl Space. Included in this tome are Night Mary, XXXombies, Sorrow, Sea of Red, and Creatures, and each one showcases a different set of spooky stuff, so there's plenty to choose from here. Remender also worked with some very talented artists including Kieron Dwyer, Francesco Francavilla, Salgood Sam, Peter Bergting, and Paul Harmon.
I could sit here and rattle off the pros and cons of each of the five stories included in Crawl Space, but then this review would be a million pages long and no one on the Internet is going to get through all that. Instead, let's talk about the comics that really stand out. There's not a bad one in the bunch, but there's one that easily jumps to the top. That is definitely XXXombies. The art featured on the cover of this collection is from XXXombies, and for good reason. It is without a doubt the most fun, over-the-top, gruesome comic included here. I'm just going to throw this out there: zombie infants. You still with me? If so, XXXombies is for you!
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Here's the deal with this story. In the summer of 1977, a zombie-filled plane crashes in Hollywood. No origin is provided for the virus and none is needed. XXXombies centers on a group of porn stars that get caught up in the zombie plague. A first-timer's hard-assed trucker father is trying to save her, while a mob boss is looking for the adult film director to collect the money he owes him. Mix it all together and you've got yourself one helluva comic. The best part about XXXombies is that it doesn't take itself seriously. It's insane and funny and the kind of thing that would be right up Garth Ennis' alley. This is the kind of comic that I wish gets turned into a movie. It would translate perfectly to the screen as a rated R comedy. Granted, they might have to do something about those zombie babies.
Kieron Dwyer's artwork on XXXombies fits the time period perfectly. It looks like it's right out of Boogie Nights. His pencils can be a little loose, like there might be one more pass on the inks to tighten things up. This never hurts the art though. Dwyer captures emotion and works with the comedy of the story very well. There's a great set of panels where a porn star is filming a scene with a zombie, only no one knows it's a zombie. You don't see the action. Instead you see the onlookers and their reactions as things go awry. It's exactly what you'd think a person's facial expression would look like in the situation.
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On the other end of the spectrum is Sea of Red, a harsh tale of revenge featuring vampire pirates. A few centuries ago, Marco becomes a victim of villainous pirate Blackthroat. After being turned into a vampire himself, Marco was strapped to the front of a sinking ship. Fast forward to the present when an asshole filmmaker finds him and takes him in, offering him the chance at vengeance as long as it can be recorded. Sea of Red is presented as a straight up revenge story first but then takes a very different turn halfway through before getting a bit muddy and convoluted. It would have been a perfect story had it finished around issue 6 or 7 with a sudden twist that drastically changes the way that you've perceived the entire story so far. Instead it went on for a total of thirteen chapters, making the story bigger and bigger, getting into the backstories of some of the other characters and developing a worldwide vampire war.
Sea of Red includes artwork from Salgood Sam, Paul Harmon, and Francesco Francavilla. Instead of black and white, the art is drawn in black and red with occasional uses of greys. It matches up with the subject matter in that regard, almost as if this is how a vampire would see the world. Although the artists change throughout the book, they were able to utilize a similar style to keep the artwork consistent.
Crawl Space is a solid read for any horror fan with a dark sense of humor. If you've made it this far, I think you're in that boat. After reading through this massive volume, it's no wonder that Rick Remender is writing some of the biggest books to come out of Marvel today. The guy can make a great story and there are five prime examples included here, each with a different sub-genre of horror. Where else are you going to find zombie porn stars, vampire pirates, and Teddy Roosevelt in one book?
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