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Bloody Good Fun

(This  Stripped column originally appeared in the August 6-12, 1998 Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)

by Beth Hannan Rimmels

'NUFF SAID:

"I am not cute, moron. I am wearing a sword, a gun and three knives visible to even an idiot like you. It doesn't enter your mind I might be slightly dangerous?"

— Lusipher in Poison Elves #35 

Thanks (I refuse to stoop to the old "fangs" pun) to the popularity of the TV series Forever Knight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the Dark Horse Comics version debuts in September), NBM could have a commercial hit with Gustav P.I. ($9.95), if it markets it properly.

Malcolm Bourne and Ken Meyer Jr.'s fully painted graphic novel fuses the horror genre with film-noir styling in a story that alternates between 1907 Vienna and 1997 London. Gustav is a paranormal investigator and vampire, as well as one of the models for a painting called "The Kiss." He is asked by Police Commissioner Jackie McBride to help with a series of murders. McBride has little choice in going outside the department when the fourth victim turns out to be a well-known conservative politician found naked and gagged with his heart ripped out.

The art styling is wonderful. The novel actually starts with a fly's view of the scene and continues until its inevitable ending. Slashing straight lines bring moody rain to many scenes and a panel shattering into pieces reinforces one woman's world crumbling after her husband's murder.

The story is a trifle problematic. It works but begs too many questions. For a monthly or bimonthly series, that wouldn't bother me. But for the first of a series of graphic novels, it does. Who knows when we'll get more? It also strikes me as less of a mystery than its press release implies. I mostly figured out what was going on quickly, though I didn't mind since the trip was fun. The one major plot twist leads to more questions than the ending can wrap up. If these gaps were designed to keep the reader waiting for the next novel, it would work. But I'm afraid they could turn some readers off.

All in all, Gustav P.I. is enjoyable, particularly for vampire/noir fans like myself. But next time around, I'd like the substance to equal the style.

AN ELF OF A PROBLEM  OK, Drew, you topped yourself. You've thrown me for yet another loop in Poison Elves #34 (Sirius, $2.95).

A sorceress changes Lusipher's gender. Then he blows her away in the hope that her death will break the spell (it didn't). So now he's stuck in a woman's body for the foreseeable future, which is actually helping his and Jace's attempts to evade the police and Sanctuary's assassins, since they're seeking two male elves, not a man and woman.

What I didn't expect was that Drew Hayes would then use this development in #35 to rant hilariously and honestly about the indignities women face — in comic books and the real world. Let's face it: The conventional women's clothing in a fantasy series is a joke and it's gotten even worse in superhero books. Lusipher's attempts to walk in boots with 4-inch heels exposes the impossibility of it (even if the elevation makes his/her ass look good, as Jace enjoys pointing out). After falling down again, Lusipher can't help but wonder how the hell Cassy managed to walk in such monstrosities, let alone fight in them.

Luse's whining that, "This chainmail is chaffing my tits, my underwear is riding up my ass and if he [a guy hitting on Luse] keeps it up, I'm killing him" will ring true to any woman who has suffered trying to wear a thong or a pushup bra. Being ogled by drunks who would have avoided the obviously dangerous elf under normal circumstances doesn't help either. It also gives Luse a new empathy for any woman he's known who might have had to put up with that crap. By the time he's back in his body — whenever that will be — Luse might be ready to start his own NOW chapter.

The icing on the cake is the perfectly timed twist in the last panel. Poor Luse has even more problems in store, but the gag's a riot.

 

Column 1998 Long Island Voice. Poison Elves artwork 1998 Drew Hayes. Gustav P.I. artwork 1998 NBM.