Published by Monsterverse
Cover art by Alex Tuis
Have you ever noticed some things seem just too good to be true? You keep waiting for them to fail. A streak of excellence can only go so far. James Wan’s films. Grave Robber’s albums. The state of Texas.
Bela Lugosi’s Tales from the Grave fits that bill. Three issues, three rock solid collections of horror comics that just don’t stop with the awesome. The streak can’t continue, right?
It can… but we do see a chink in the armor, perhaps a small slip in a record of near-perfect performance.
Volume 4 brings us three full stories, two short pieces, and a poster gallery from one of Lugosi’s films. The first offering is ‘The Evil Eye’, a tale of schoolyard justice with a dark twist. Solid story, good art, fun read. Next we have ‘Four-Way Split’, about backstabbing treasure hunters in a world reminiscent of Robert E. Howard’s work. Not so much a horror story as a dark adventure, I’m not sure how well it fits here, but it’s a good read with excellent, old-school artwork.
‘Legends and Lore’ is an odd page of art describing the Lord of Nightmares. Nik Poliwko’s art is absolutely fantastic, but the content seems extremely brief and underserved. Is the Lord of Nightmares even a legend? First I’ve heard of him. It’d be a good subject for a full story, but as a single-page feature, the star here is the art and the text is superfluous.
The final full-length story here, ‘The Monster,’ is challenging. I have to admit that when I was most of the way through it, I was really not enjoying it. Rob E. Brown’s artwork is highly stylized and more than a little disordered, making the action hard to follow at times. The story seems to make no sense in places, with major details just tossed out without any logical explanation. However, when I reached the end… I’ll just say that the ‘twist’ made the art fit better, and the story issues did resolve themselves. Stick with it, and you’ll dig it.
The ‘Classic Lugosi Poster Gallery’ that follows is a great one-page focus on the promotional artwork for The Invisible Ghost. Three great, classic designs are shown along with some text about the film. Fantastic for fans of Lugosi, which should include everyone.
The book closes with ‘Prince Vlad’s Banquet,’ a collaboration between two legends: artist Bill Sienkiewicz and writer (and Monsterverse publisher/editor) Kerry Gammill. Sienkiewicz’s art is as chaotic and gorgeous as ever in this tale of Vlad the Impaler, but honestly, the story format doesn’t do it justice. A strange kind of prose poem presented as one of ‘Bela’s Bedtime Tales’, it seems to exist simply to give Sienkiewicz a platform for gory, impaling goodness. I’d almost have preferred to have seen it as a silent art-only piece playing out the action using the images.
My chief complaint with Volume 4 is a few omissions. Nosferina, the new vampiric minion created for this series, is completely absent from the issue save for a pictorial appearance on the back cover. Lugosi’s introductions themselves seem minimized this time, with no ‘bookend’ piece or a story featuring the legend as part of the tale. In short: not enough Lugosi and his minions.
Should you still buy this book? What, are you insane? Of course you should. There’s absolutely nothing else out there since the death of EC Comics and DC’s horror anthologies, and you still get a great deal of quality art and fun pieces for your money. Is Volume 4 the weakest of the series so far? Yes, but that’s a really high mark. It is still a very solid horror comic in the classic vein, despite a little lack of focus and a couple odd entries. A definite must-have for every collector.
3 1/2 out of 5
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