"Love Stories to Die For #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Dirk Manning
Illustrated by Rich Bonk and Owen Gieni
2013, 48 Pages
Comic released on September 4th, 2013
One could argue that love and horror have a long history together. Jason killed a bunch of young people in love (or at least lust) in Friday the 13th. Damien in The Omen lived for as long as he did thanks to a mother's love. But what place does Cupid's arrow have in comics (outside of plunged into the heart of a victim)? Dirk Manning explores this a bit in Love Stories to Die For, an oversized flip book from Image Comics' Shadowline imprint. He's crafted two short tales showing just how far someone is willing to go for someone they love. Being that these are from the mind of Manning, there are some fast twists and a few gruesome scenes.
The first story, entitled Bloodlust: Deceiver of the Gods, focuses on a soldier named Erik Skullsplitter in Germany circa 946 AD. He and his troops have been hired by a group of monks to protect the monastery from thieves and vandals. These aren't your average miscreants though. They're vampires. The bloodsuckers are unlike anything the soldiers have faced and a glorious battle begins. But something isn't right here and Erik is determined to get the bottom of it.
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I can't reveal the love angle without giving away the brutal twist at the end of this story, but, it's a pretty good one. I will say that it will tug at the heartstrings of any parent. I was expecting it to be a bigger part of the story than it was. Instead Manning pulls it in towards the very end.
Bloodlust: Deceiver of the Gods was illustrated by Rich Bonk. His style grew on me over the course of the tale. It reminds me of the old Prince Valiant comic strips but far more gruesome. Erik Skullsplitter and his gang are harsh and tough. You can tell right away that they don't take crap from anyone. On the other end of the battlefield, the vampires are fierce and will stop at nothing to unleash bloodshed. There are some great scenes with the vampires tearing up people and being torn up in return.
Literally on the flip side of the comic is Symptom of the Universe. The two stories could not be further apart. While Bloodlust is a medieval epic with vampires, this one is a sci-fi thriller in the vein of Alien. A man battles his way through a space station, facing down hordes of horrific alien beasts, to get to his wife. He's ready to sacrifice himself to destroy the vessel as long as she goes free, but there's a chance he can make it back to her in time. He just has to get through all these levels. It's a touching story but one with a twist that will leave you questioning who you're routing for. Do you want him to succeed at all if the aliens are only the beginning of his problems?
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Owen Gieni delivers some dynamite artwork for Symptom of the Universe. He manages to capture both the futuristic feel of the setting and the total hopelessness that the main character faces. This man is literally fighting for his life and the one he holds most dear and it shows. The aliens are hideous and yet somehow something I want to learn so much more about. You only get a few glimpses of them, mostly seeing the carnage that they've left behind. This makes the final reveal all the more satisfying.
Love Stories to Die For is an interesting concept. Flip books have come back into fashion as of late. They provide a fun way to get two stories for the price of one. Dirk Manning is an expert when it comes to short comics and his talents really excel here. I hope to see more from this series as I'm interested in what kind of twists and turns are up the writer's sleeves.
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