Tales of the Unexpected #1

by

01.jpgUnexpected fun from limited series

I just finished reading Tales of the Unexpected #1, and wow, you are in for quite a treat. It starts with Crispus Allen, and ends with a vampire. Unexpected indeed…

I like Crispus Allen. I like Allen when he was a living detective in Gotham Central. He always believed he would bring in the bad guy by following the rules. This of course caused him to end up dead at the hands of a corrupt cop, and subsequently the new host for The Spectre.

In Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre, Allen had to struggle with the idea of permanently becoming the Spectre, knowing he could avenge those wrongfully killed. Sadly, in the last issue, Allen had to kill his own son. While incredibly sad, it was rather touching to see the Spectre give Crispus time to say goodbye to his son. If you didn’t read this limited series, go pick it up now, trust me, you’ll enjoy it.

What was missing in Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre was the grisly method of revenge first made popular during the Silver Age. In Tales of the Unexpected, Allen and the Spectre (or is that Allen as the Spectre?), return to gruesome depictions of retribution. The cold hand of vengeance reads more like a cross between Homicide: Life on the Streets and Saw as it opens on a murder investigation of the local slum lord. The poor guy had to hack is own hand off in order to escape two weeks of torture only to be stabbed to death in the hallway.

Allen has nearly completed his detective work, but as an ethereal being, every thing he says or does falls on deaf ears, as the other investigators begin their work. As a spirit there are several things Crispus begins to discover; 1) with enough concentration he can move objects ala Patrick Swayze’s Ghost, and 2) he may not be as undetected as one might think.

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Allen next investigates the inhabitants of the Grainville Apartments, where he discovers many more problems than the murder of the land lord. One family is being harassed by a group of thugs, with indications the wife has been raped on more than one occasion by the group. The male head of the household also seems to be on edge about something or other – perhaps another murder?

At one point Allen even believes the leader of the thugs to be the killer, and begs the Spectre to come forth. But a detective who is willing to jump to conclusions based on instinct and gut feeling is of no use to the afterlife, and as soon as the thug blurts out to everyone in the room that another tenant is the killer, Crispus goes all spooky.

The tenant in question – Peter Pullito, loves rats, but a gas leak in his apartment killed them. Angry and upset, Pullito tortured and killed the land lord as an act of revenge. As Pullito begs his dead rats for forgiveness, the Spectre appears as a giant rodent, dripping life from his lips onto the dead rats in the apartment, bringing them back to life. The rats turn on Pullito and begin to eat him alive.

Trying to escape, Peter jumps out his apartment window and plummets to the street below, landing square on the car of the two detectives returning to arrest Pullito after discovering his prints on the murder weapon.

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The art was unexpected, the story was unexpected, and I loved every page of it.

But that isn’t all for this issue. The back up story in this anthology is Architecture and Mortality staring Dr. 13.

“Doctor 13?”

Yes, dear reader, Dr. 13. Doctor Thirteen is one of those paranormal investigators that doesn’t believe in the paranormal. Which is strange, since in Seven Soldiers: Zatanna, he had just started dating the magician. Even stranger, by the end of the first issue he was killed. While I read the four issue Zatanna arc, I didn’t read any of the other Seven Soldiers titles, and as far as I remember Doc Thirteen should still be dead.

Maybe one of you can fill me in on this, perhaps this is a different Terry, or perhaps this story takes place at a different time. The clothing has a retro feel to it, so this could all be pre-crisis. Hopefully this will be explained in one of the future installments.

Dr. 13 seems to have a lot of issues to work out – he doesn’t believe in the paranormal, even though he investigates it, and has some rather erotic dreams about his own daughter, Traci Thirteen, who just so happens to be a sorceress. And no, Traci Thirteen is not the Terri Thirteen, member of the Croatoan Society, seen in Week 18 of DC’s 52.

Confused yet? Me too. If the Spectre story was Homicide meets Saw, Dr. 13 appears to be a cross between Lost and Twin Peaks.

As confusing as the characters’ current placement in the DCU is, we can suspend belief for a while and dig into the Mystery of the Crashed Airplane: or Death and Dining. The mystery revolves around a plane crash in the French Alps, where the survivors had to eat each other. While it’s nothing new to dine on dead passengers, it is the method that intrigues Terry and the French government. The victims disappeared, days later found headless, skinless, gutted and drained of blood – just like a butcher prepping a side of beef. Guess when you find a dead body like that, it’s a little easier to stomach eating your best friend.

Which leads to the question:

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DOH! Darn those incestuous remarks… Like I said, Terry Thirteen has issues.

As the duo search the wreckage, what looks like a huge Yeti appears. Ever the skeptic, Terry knows it can’t be a real Yeti, leaning more toward an X-Gamer out for some fun. Turns out Terry’s partly right, it’s not a Yeti, but not a punk kid out for good times.

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Tune in next time for the next exciting installment of Bite Me Theatre

The writing by Brian Azzarello made for a fun read, not only in the banter between Traci and Terry, but his own inner dialogue and demons. The story is quite confusing at the moment, but with seven more issues on the way, this could turn out to be a real gem.

Overall I enjoyed both stories, the Spectre mostly because of my previous attachment to Crispus Allen, and Dr. 13, because, well, he’s just weird. While the reader will understand Allen’s methods better from reading Gotham Central and the Aftermath storyline, both stories in this issue set us up for further unexpected good times in the months ahead, and earn this issue a solid 4 Stars.

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Parting Shot

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