Halloween is just around the corner, and with the holiday comes all sorts of comics filled with horror and the grotesque. Evil Ernie was a mainstay in the 90’s horror comic scene, and he makes his return this month in a new Dynamite Comics ongoing series. Has the Evil One aged since his heyday over a decade ago? Or will Dynamite bring back the dark and twisted humor that Chaos! Comics was known for? Major Spoilers takes a look at EVIL ERNIE #1…
Snider and Craig are creating something fantastic
Entire back story needs fleshing out
Previously in EVIL ERNIE: Ahh, the late 1990’s. It was a great time to be a teenager, where comics were “kewl” and the world had not yet had a chance to crush my spirits. Evil Ernie was one of the tentpole titles of now-defunct Chaos! Comics. I fondly remember reading the adventures of Evil, an undead teenage psychopath who was on a mission to exterminate every living thing on Earth in order to bring the well-endowed Lady Death to planet Earth, at which the two would *ahem* get their groove on. Evil Ernie was violent and over-the-top and never tried to be more than what it was on the surface: a bloody horror story with a sick sense of humor. However, the reader doesn’t need any of this background information before picking up the book. Lady Death is nowhere to be found (she is currently the subject of her own series published by Avatar). Instead, EVIL ERNIE #1 provides a fresh look at the old corpse.
A RETURN TO CHAOS, A RETURN TO HORROR
The dark humor that was present in the Chaos! series is not present here. No morbid puns, no gallows humor. Instead, the book takes on a serious tone as it examines the origin of Evil Ernie, and I must say it all works really well. Lady Death is not missed in this incarnation of Evil Ernie, and Jesse Blaze Snider, son of “Twisted Sister” frontman Dee Snider, knows how to weave a tale of bizarre horror.
The story takes the reader through some rapid flashbacks. We begin with a look at Ernie in utero, and see his family killed through a horrendous act caused on by what’s hinted to be demonic possession. No motive is given, which creates some nice intrigue. We then jump forward to Ernie at age 13, where the boy has already become a psychotic killer. Now, this jump in setting took me a moment to process. No real explanation is given for what made Ernie snap and begin murdering en masse. However, the reader is given a look at Ernie’s foster father, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to put two and two together.
The third act of the book is certainly the most impressive. As now 19-year-old Ernie is put in the electric chair and waits for the switch to be pulled, the reader begins to get some motive behind the killings. Ernie believes that he sees people for the evil that they hold inside, and believed his murder spree was a righteous act, cleansing the world of sinners. We also see some snippets of some great moral debate, including discussions of whether the sinner or the sin is the greater threat and the morality of killing when the victim is evil. Some neat thoughts that I hope the series continues to explore.
Of course, Ernie is not executed when the switch is thrown. It is here where the book enters into full-blown supernatural mode, and we see Ernest Fairchild mutate into Evil Ernie proper. The book ends before Evil really flexes his muscle, but considering that he is left in a roomful of people who have dubious morality at best, issue #2 looks like it will be a bloodbath.
HOW CAN ART THIS NICE BE SO EVIL?
Jason Craig has the unenviable task of having his work on Evil Ernie compared to that of the late Steven Hughes, who turned in some awesome artwork for the early Chaos! books. Craig’s work in this book is solid, but I was extremely impressed by the approach Craig takes when depicting Ernie’s view of the people around him. The panels have a sort of “split-screen” style, where the reader simultaneously sees the real world and Ernie’s hellish visions. This technique goes a great way in making one wonder if Ernie is insane or if he truly does have some sort of demonic influence. These scenes are powerful and memorable, and a creative example of how to make horror work in a comic book. The characters and backgrounds all have a certain ethereal ugliness to them, which in this type of series is a good thing. Having worked on Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash, Craig has a background in horror books, and his style is right at home in these pages.
BOTTOM LINE: FRIGHTFULLY FUN
If you are a fan of slasher films, Evil Ernie is the book for you. While the entire backstory of Ernie needs more fleshing out, what we get in issue #1 tells us enough to get hooked. I can’t wait for the second issue. Also, the simple fact that I’ve become newly invested in characters that were extremely one-dimensional back in their prime is a good sign that Snider and Craig are creating something fantastic here. I love horror movies, and Evil Ernie reads like one of the classics. If you’re looking for a horror book that doesn’t have the words “walking” or “dead” in the title, I highly recommend this title. There’s a lot of fun to be had with Evil Ernie.