Forbidden Surgeries of the Hideous Dr. Divinus GN – S. Craig Zahler

2 out of 5

I do think I understand the m.o., here: Forbidden Surgeries of the Hideous Dr. Divinus is essentially a trashy z-grade movie made as a comic, certainly picking up on some of the visual and thematic inclinations in writer / artist Zahler’s previous visual forays in film, but definitely following the self-aware crassness of his written-by Puppet Master credit. Now take what that may suggest – male-centric storylines; grindhouse and sexual violence; pointless nudity; baiting humor – and remove any need for censorship, or, as per the magic of comics, any budgetary restraints. Assuming you’ve at least enjoyed Zahler’s other works, or found something in them that led you here – this is an off-brand book that I have to believe you’d find either recommended via similar things or from following Zahler – this all sounds fairly promising, yeah? Unfortunately, I’m not sure it all translates well to the medium, or that Zahler is yet of the skill to do so.

Floating World Comics, the publisher, has its share of comix style stuff, so the rough look of the book – the linework is clean, but undeniably amateurish – isn’t an immediate knock, but I think it’s rare when that style is applied to a 100 page narrative. And when that is the case – I’m sort of thinking of Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit as a good comparison – having some experience with layout and pacing goes a long way toward readability. It’s certainly possible Zahler has that experience, locked away in drawers of drafts, but it unfortunately doesn’t come across on the page: this is stuffy stuff, stiff, non-characters and fairly static framing making for pages that get the job done but not much more, and its more wild ideas are mired by the overlain exploitation crust; instead of all of this combining for that ideal, sweaty, rescued-from-the-garbage vibe I believe is being attempted, it’s a tad too self aware to work, while also being too amateurish looking to support that awareness. Ya gotta start somewhere, I realize.

In Forbidden Surgeries of the Hideous Dr. Divinus, a mobster and a cop – brothers – track down a creepy creep who’s kidnapping people and experimenting on them. Flashbacks to a secret from many years back fill us in on the Whys, with rape and racism sprinkled in for some faux grit.