House of Waxwork (#1) – Gabe Soria, Kevin Bergeron

2 out of 5

I reeeeeally want this to work, but unfortunately, the inaugural outing of Waxwork Records’ comics imprint is pretty amateurish.

Fittingly (coming from a record label that specializes in dressing up its releases), the packaging is awesome: a great Phantom City Creative cover and ghoulish puke-green color scheme; bizarre, textured cover paper stock that makes it feel like an old, musty dollar-bin book; movie-poster mock-up intro pages to each story; and a cheesy Crypt Keeper-esque host: The Die-Rector.  The rest…?  Woof.

Gabe Soria does a Jumanji spin in ‘Occult Slumber Party’ – which is already misleadingly titled, as the title has nothing much to do with the content or even the in-story game to which it gives its name – which is definitely a valid idea: having a family play a haunted house board game which sucks them inside the game, limited / helped by the decisions made when setting up the game.  But Soria’s characterization is as generic as it gets, and his sense of escalation is atrocious.  So it’s a good idea that, script-wise, gets zero use.  Artist Christian DiBari doesn’t help matters, with his human figures too loose to express much emotion (mother and daughter are so similar looking as to be confusable, as well), non-existent space considerations – making the action scenes fall flat –  and an apparent lack of desire to draw anything except for one cookie-cutter gargoyle monster type.  The latter could be a script direction, but it’s the same issue as the human figures: even if they’re all gargoyles, they should have some personality.

The second story, Lighthouse Keeper, by Kevin Bergeron, fares better initially, with an ex-con taking up the eponymous job at a completely sea-surrounded lighthouse, where he’ll be left for three months solo – post being warned by his boss that the isolation can drive people bonkers.  Which it does, of course, after which the story devolves into a series of Gotchas.  The setup and lead-in is well handled, but the last few excessive twists deserved the same amount of page space; as is the story feels uneven.  Jonas Scharf’s art is much more solid than DiBari’s, giving a sense of time and place, although the cast still suffers from lookalike syndrome.  And letterer pro Rachel Deering makes the odd choice to write in a bold, large, capitalized font when the characters are traveling via speed boat, which absolutely makes sense as the characters would be shouting above the noise, but it’s one of those effects that requires sync up with the artist to sell it, which doesn’t happen, making it look like the characters are suddenly yelling for no reason.  BUT MAYBE THEY ARE BECAUSE DRAMA.

Oh well.