Art by Vasilis Logios
Colours by Sam Palmer
Available from MarioCovone.com
It’s 1983, and the sleepy Midlands town of Kettering, England, is rocked by a savage murder in the local park at the beginning of Mario Covone’s six-issue comic series Video Nasty. Drafted in to investigate is inspector David Gorley, who finds himself pressured into linking the grotesque incident with the growing popularity of horror films – dubbed ‘Video Nasties’ by the media at the time – by his politically-motivated Chief Constable.
Disbelieving of the link between film and real-life violence, Gorley sets about immersing himself in the sadistic material lining VHS rental shelves, soon drawing a disturbing parallel between the increasing number of brutal slayings plaguing the town and scenes from various horror movies. As the bodies pile up without a corresponding increase in evidence, the situation becomes ever more dire for Gorley – but is the killer really just a blood-crazed man in a demonic suit or something much more sinister?
On a base level, Covone’s Video Nasty is a simple ‘whodunnit?’ tale, with our desperate inspector moving from crime scene to crime scene, anxious to get to the bottom of the killings while the story continues to throw the requisite red herrings and hints at the reader. Covone sets up a few nice kill sequences mirroring various ‘nasties’ of the time, especially one related to Ruggero Deodato’s infamous Cannibal Holocaust.
Thrown into the investigation are various side characters, including the local Neo-Nazi gang leader and the horror-loving video rental clerk, though few are particularly well developed. Most rounded of the supporting characters is B-movie director Alan Derry – desperate to protect his filmmaking career, he rather naively offers himself up to the media as a voice of reason, only to be summarily dragged through the mud amidst the anti-horror fervour of the era, much to his chagrin. The final revelation of the killer’s identity and motivations feels rather too abrupt and expository, also, even for the more dialogue-driven format.
Underneath the simplistic nature of the story itself, though, lies Covone’s astute tackling of the mentality of the times: career politicians and those seeking to ride on their coattails playing an easy media-fuelled blame game as distraction in order to win over the very hearts and minds that they were, on the other face, riding roughshod over. The cards are on the table quite early, with initial reactions to the first murder on the news including one local man pointing the finger squarely at “all these bloody immigrants” – an ignorant accusation that makes as much sense as the assertion levelled at horror movies that immediately follows it. It’s a story that focuses on this use of distraction for means of varying degrees of manipulation and evil, and it does it very well.
The panel art by Vasilis Logios is suitably low-key and grim, matching the written material with a style that hearkens nicely to the historical setting, sporting some excellent full-page images such as Issue #1’s victim pausing at the entrance to the park while his stalker approaches from behind. Cover art for each issue by Graham Humphries is excellent – visceral, evocative, and a perfect draw for horror fans.
As an independent release, Video Nasty is a clear success for Covone and Co. With Series 2 having been announced, here’s hoping that the writing truly finds its stride, rounding out the characters a little more and avoiding the uncomfortably abrupt blast of a climax that sees this first turn for the theme fall just short of excellence, but remain well worth picking up.