Lord of Gore (#1 – 5) – DB Stanley

3 out of 5

A surprisingly well-written and realized murder mystery set against the backdrop of horror gorehounds, Lord of Gore plays almost like a noir, replacing fog and trenchcoats with bloody beheadings and leather-clad murderers.  But DB Stanley almost pulls off something really impressive: using the sex and blood fascinations of the horror scene against it; finding the people behind these obsessions.  …Almost, as I said: ultimately, the first arc of this tale gives in to some of what it maligns or satires, confusing the tone.

Artist Daniel Leister is a great match for the tricky balance Stanley is trying to achieve: his thick lines and rough figures have an appropriately sweaty, B-grade vibe to them.  He’s not always up to the task of choreographing the action, and his motion lines are more distracting than directing, but again, this sort of adds to the grungy nature of things, and the colors across the series (mostly Sean Forney) find an also matching palette of muddied up, grounded colors.

Lord of Gore proposes quite the complex history of a film series – eponymously named, featuring The Headmaster killer – with a weird web of directors and producers and stars that have kept the series alive over decades.  Our main character is series writer Danny Graves, finding himself at axe-end of an apparently real life Headmaster, who has been targeting those tangentially related to the films.  Danny teams up with his friend, Lord of Gore superfan Matt, and Abby, a family relation to a Gore star, to try to sift out the rhyme and reason of what’s going on.

The amount of names and background events Stanley throws at us is a bit overwhelming, but by not wallowing directly in the sleaze of his fictional films and instead fleshing out the humanity of Graves and his compatriots, as well as the investigating Officer Keller, we don’t really feel at enough of a loss to quit reading – the characters have roped us in – and sure enough, after a few issues, the lengthy recaps on the inside covers (proving that complex history mentioned above) register easily enough: we know the names, we know the story.  That, in itself, is a damned impressive accomplishment, that all indications point to this being a violence-obsessed fluff pieces, but it’s successfully story and characters first.

Alas, the mire in which everyone wallows (despicable film people, porno sets, sensation-profiting paparazzi) starts to feed in to the overall tone, and the mystery and killings requires an ante up to an absurdly evil person that disappointingly wasn’t given much motivation beyond being evil.  But: Lord of Gore is still a unique blend of styles, and its roughness-around-the-edges is more charming than not.  I’m interested to see where the next volume leads…