Published on November 27th, 2014 | by Steven Roman
Review: John Carpenter’s Asylum, Vol.1 (NSFW)
John Carpenter. You hear or see this legendary director’s name, and immediately you think of such classic horror films as Halloween, In the Mouth of Madness, The Thing, The Fog, and Christine (not to mention his action flicks Escape From New York and Big Trouble in Little China). This is a guy who knows horror. So when you’re presented with a project with his name attached to it, and its title is John Carpenter’s Asylum, you tend to pay more attention.
Now, to be completely honest, there are a couple of hitches to start off with:
First, this isn’t so much a review of the hardcover collection as much as it is an overview of the series’ first six issues—when Storm King Productions asked reviewers to look at the collection, months before the collection was published, they didn’t send a PDF of the book but of the previously published issues that comprise it. Makes it impossible to give an opinion on the finished graphic novel.
Secondly, as you might have suspected already, given the intellectual property–branding relationship between comics and Hollywood, although the title is John Carpenter’s Asylum, Carpenter does not write the series. Rather, it was created by his wife, producer Sandy King (In the Mouth of Madness, Ghosts of Mars), and writer/actor Thomas Ian Griffith (a writer on the NBC dark-fantasy series Grimm), and then turned over to the top-notch team of artist Leonardo Manco (DC’s Hellblazer, Marvel’s Hellstorm: Prince of Lies) and—for the first five issues—acclaimed comics writer Bruce Jones (Marvel’s Incredible Hulk, Warren’s Creepy and Eerie) for execution. So, even though Carpenter himself doesn’t appear to be directly involved (beyond endnotes in the comics), the project’s creative force still has the dark-fantasy/horror pedigree required for it.
But hitches aside, how it is it? you ask. Well, let’s get to opinionatin’…
A demon is on the loose on the streets of Los Angeles, possessing folks and creating murderous mayhem, and the only ones who can stop it are a defrocked priest/exorcist and an LAPD homicide detective. Sounds like the setup for a Lethal-Weapon-meets-Hellblazer tale (or it could just be Griffith’s Grimm pedigree showing), and there’s definitely that sort of vibe to the material, especially considering that Manco’s rendering of ex-priest Daniel Beckett has more than a hint of John Constantine to his world-weary, tattooed, blond-haired looks (probably unavoidable, given Manco’s association with the Vertigo character). His reluctant partner, Detective Jack Duran, is the typical hardheaded, cynical cop who refuses to believe in the supernatural until, as the saying goes, shit gets real. And, as expected, the two of them don’t get along—their constant bickering and distrust are straight out of Buddy-Cop Movies 101, only the bad guy they’re chasing is a hellspawn.
The story is serviceable enough—Jones has written more than his share of masterful tales on other projects—but it’s Manco’s art that’s the real prize here. Every page crackles with energy: action scenes move at warp speed; his men are handsome, his women beautiful (and often nude), his demons hair-raising; and the storytelling prowess that made him so popular in drawing the adventures of John Constantine and Damian Hellstrom is in full effect.
Bottom line? The story will definitely interest fans of action-packed horror, and if Carpenter turned this into an actual film I’d certainly buy a ticket. But what you’re really here for is the lush artwork by Leonardo Manco, and he doesn’t disappoint. If you want to see a prime example of why Manco is one of the top artists in the horror genre, and one of the best modern-day comic artists, period, then check out John Carpenter’s Asylum, Vol. 1.
John Carpenter’s Asylum, Vol. 1
Written by Bruce Jones, Sandy King, and Trent Olsen
Art and cover by Leonardo Manco
Publisher: Storm King Productions, Inc.
Suggested for Mature Readers
$34.99 U.S. hardcover • $19.99 trade paperback
On sale now