Monday, May 9, 2022

The Warren Report Issue 84: May 1977



The Critical Guide to
the Warren Illustrated Magazines
by Uncle Jack
& Cousin Peter

Steve Hickman
Creepy #88

"Castles Made of Sand" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Eye for Eye, Fang for Fang" ★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Carmine Infantino & Ernie Chan

"Do You Believe in Sinsigs?" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Temple of Seilos" 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"Iron Man" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Second Childhood" 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Ramon Torrents

A man builds "Castles Made of Sand" while other versions of him die in other dimensions in a world where belief is outlawed. I think. Obscurity is no stranger to the world of Warren funny books, but this one could very well be the most incomprehensible pile of road apples we've encountered on this long and torturous journey. There is literally no story here unless you're stoned and make one up based on the not-so-purty pictures. Jack's college-educated so perhaps he can clue me in on what Gerry Boudreau is trying to say with all his flatulent Harlan Ellison-wannabe prose. An early front-runner for worst story of the year. Doug, come back, we miss you.

Speak of the devil! Count Ronay entrusts his young son, Varma, to a local shepherd named Strack. Varma has become tired of hanging around the castle all day and wishes to accompany the young sheepman on his daily chores. The day turns to night and the boys are attacked by a huge wolf. Strack carries the boy back to his father's castle and the two promise not to reveal the true identity of Varma's wounds.

A few nights later, during the full moon, a village girl is torn to shreds by a wild animal, and Varma confesses to his father that he might be a werewolf. Ronay refuses to kill his son and instead proposes locking him in the basement dungeon during the full moon, with Strack to watch over him. Ten years go by and Strack becomes a strapping young man, so handsome in fact that Ronay's wife takes to wearing sheepskin to bed. Ronay catches the lovers but keeps quiet, biding his time until the next full moon.

When the time comes, Ronay KOs Strack and tosses him into his son's dungeon cell. The full moon rises and screams and growls come from the basement. The next morning, Ronay awaits his son's return in his parlor. Unfortunately for the dopey Count, it's Strack who arrives, explaining that it was he who was the recipient of the werewolf's bite a decade before and Varma who is the actual caregiver in the cellar. Of course, there's nothing left of Varma to care about and Ronay soon joins his son in the afterlife. 

Yep, as I said, there's nothing surprising about "Eye for Eye, Fang for Fang," but it's an entertaining read, reminiscent of Warren's early days with Archie Goodwin at the helm. There's very little Carmine peeking through Ernie Chan's inking, but the art is decent, even if all Carmine/Chan serve up are a whole lot of talking heads. The werewolf itself cameos in only a handful of panels. 

We got more sense out of playing 
"Abbey Road" backwards.
Kip is a Sinsig, a mutated whatchamajig that magically appeared on Earth one day; the race of Sinsigs only hope that someday they will not be the victims of prejudice and hatred. Anyway, Kip (who looks human but has a really long tail) is playing hide-and-seek with a bunch of human kids one day down at the crick and, while he's hiding in a tree, comes across a fairy impersonating an oyster. No, seriously! The oyster explains to the bushy-tailed rapscallion that he's from The Land of a Million Myths, the place where all imaginary creatures like elves and the Easter Bunny and intelligent politicians go to die when no one believes in them anymore.

To prove his point, Oysterboy takes Kip to MillionMythLand and directs him to the Infirmary of the Idols, where an emaciated Santa bides his time until the Grim Reaper comes for him. Oyster explains that Kip has to go back to Earth and convince all his friends that if they don't believe in the Tooth Fairy, the boogeymen will come for them. While Kip is explaining this theory to his buds, the goblins come. Kip instructs his homeboys to laugh in the face of the monsters, thus conveying the message that, while they believe in night terrors, they think they're funny, not dangerous. Yeah, I'm confused too.

There's almost too much mythology packed into Gerry Boudreau's "Do You Believe in Sinsigs?" to be anything but confusing. And that whole "believe in them but change your beliefs in the bat of an eye" nonsense at the end really lost me. And, other than the heavy-handed "The ink is black/the page is white" message you knew Gerry just had to throw in, why does this kid need a tail? Ostensibly, Oyster picks Kip because he's a minority that kids can believe in and perhaps he can spread the word across the land that myths are real, but the damn message is too complicated for a 60-year-old comic book nerd. How does a pre-teen squirrel decipher all that rigmarole? But, hell, I'll give Boudreau an extra half-star for coming up with something that approaches imaginative.

Stare into the abyss...
Rieker, a hardboiled PI of the future, travels the galaxy searching for the notorious Seilos, a telepath wanted back on Earth for some undisclosed reason. Now Rieker's voyage takes him to the asteroid known as Phobos, where he learns that Seilos has brainwashed the inhabitants into believing in a "Frog-God." Those who don't buy into the cult are forced telepathically to commit suicide. Rieker stumbles across an agent from a rival agency, a gorgeous blonde with killer gams named Rena, and the two join forces to track down the wanted man.

Bruce Jones's homage to the likes of Mike Hammer, Shell Scott, and Mike Shayne (and, yep, Philip K. Dick), "The Temple of Seilos" is a boatload of fun, stuffed full of gumshoe cliches and tough dialogue (Her place was furnished in early tasteless...). There's a lot of very complicated and textured plotting at work here. So many of the important clues laid out before Rieker turn out to be nothing but window dressing in the end. The Frog-God? What's that about? The mother and father photo? Intriguing and confounding at the same time. The grizzled detective, dizzy blonde, and machine guns would indicate that Rieker/Seilos might not be a man of the future. And why is he asleep? So many little bits of brilliance, like Rena's pistol/lighter and the mantra that swirls around inside Rieker's head ("Looking for Seilos is like an insane man's conscience searching for his soul") and, of course, that final panel. Naturally, the first thought that came to my mind, while the final events unfolded, was how close the twist was to William Hjortsberg's celebrated reveal at the close of Falling Angel. But that novel was not published until the following year. Turns out Bill Hjort might have been a Warren reader.

"Iron Man" (a really dumb title) is a six-page quickie about a knight who becomes fed up with a magician's tricks and challenges the wizard to a jousting duel. The knight seems to have the upper hand when he beheads the magic man, but sorcery wins the day. A disposable bit of fluff with some nice (but typical) Maroto pin-up art.

Spoiled and rich, Lionel Chadwicke III grabs his best friend/veritable slave, Knobby, and heads to the Tropics to find a more swinging atmosphere. The duo stumble across a village of primitive natives who practice such charming rites as burning their babies on hot coals for the sin of being born. But all the ancient rites and jungle atmosphere are forgotten when Chadwicke spies a beautiful native priestess and decides she's coming home with him to live in his sprawling mansion as his wife.

The honeymoon doesn't go as smoothly as Chadwicke had hoped; Irena (the name Chad slaps on his Nuka princess) spurns every romantic move the man makes on her. In a frustrated, drunken stupor, Chadwicke rapes Irena and, nine months later, she gives birth to their child. Chadwicke winds up in a mental institution and the baby is abandoned in the deteriorating estate. Knobby finds the burned and starving baby in its crib and, while trying to aid the child, he drops a pen onto the bed. Returning to the crib, Knobby finds a message scrawled on the baby's sheet--"Knobby--for God's sake help me."

Eons ago, when I did a first reading of the entire Creepy run for the "Best of Warren" article in The Scream Factory, I raved that "Second Childhood" was Bruce Jones's "best work" and that "the final four panels are among the most chilling presented in illustrated horror." Ah, youth! With a second reading, I'd downgrade my initial hyperbole and, instead, exclaim "It's pretty pretty pretty good!"

Forgetting that there are several hilarious gaffes and plot holes within the story (Why do Knobby and his gang look like they're in their early thirties on their way to the senior prom? How the hell do they get Irena on a plane without a passport? Why would Knobby give a baby a pen to play with while "he hurried to the bathroom?" Where did Irena disappear to? And, most glaring of all, where did Knobby hear about the events that went down in the bedroom of Chadwicke and Irena?), "Second Childhood" remains an effective read, chiefly due to that startling final panel. 

The tale is told in an almost Poe-like fashion, with the best friend narrating the woeful tale of the pampered protagonist's plight. "The Fall of the House of Chadwicke." Torrents's art is fabulous, some of his best work, and seldom looks staged and showy. Irena is gorgeous and, as I've already said, that final panel is a stunner. Though we've seen glimpses of brilliance from Bruce Jones already, this issue might be his coming-out party.-Peter

Jack-I don't have a prior love for the work of Bruce Jones and I'm afraid his stories in this issue didn't do much for me. I thought "Temple of Seilos" was bad sci-fi with clunky dialogue, and it was just sad to see Sanchez struggling to depict the incredibly sexy woman that Jones was describing. "Second Childhood" wasn't much better, with Torrents drawing panels that (to me) look staged and awkward, as if every one is swiped from a photo that doesn't quite match the needs of the story. I agree that the ending is horrible, but I'm not sure what was going on in most of the story. I much preferred the knockout cover, which is based on this tale.

I continue to enjoy Infantino's art, so I liked "Eye for Eye, Fang for Fang," even despite the predictable ending. I did not care for "Do You Believe in Sinsigs?" at first, but it won me over by the end. Maybe I was still reeling from Boudreau's awful prose in "Castles Made of Sand," a story that features terrible writing but lovely art. "Iron Man" also has some decent art by Maroto, but to what end? The DuBay story is flimsy and ends abruptly. Once again, I enjoyed Brancatelli's column more than any of the illustrated stories.

Vampirella #60

"The Return of the Blood Red Queen" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"He Who Laughs Last... Laughs Best" ★1/2
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Carmine Infantino & Gonzalo Mayo

"Riding Shotgun" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Wish You Were Here" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Fallen Angel" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Esteban Maroto

Having lost her eyes to an unruly demon, the Blood Red Queen is back for revenge, with a plot to steal Vampirella's eyes! She uses a dwarf in a bizarre jester's uniform to lure the Drakulonian to the Blood Queen's lair. Meanwhile, our favorite Foster Brooks wanna-be, Pendragon, gets toasted and winds up between the sheets with a chick named Mistress Quickly, who's obviously above his pay grade. Nonetheless, she seems up for some action and Pen is only too happy to give it the old college try. That is, until the woman's boyfriend sneaks in the bedroom window and conks the inebriated magician on the head.

The duo rummage through Pen's effects and unearth the Chrimson [sic] Chronicle, a book that can summon demons and all sorts of stuff. The girl winks at her beau and sighs, "It's this book that will bring us what we want, Dickie love!" Pen picks that moment to come around and Dickie Love whacks him another good one, this time a little too hard. Has Pen drunk his last Whiskey Sour or has the enormous amount of alcohol running through his veins made him immune to death? Luckily, Conrad Van Helsing is tuned into Pen's brainwaves and he and Adam are out the door to rescue him. Just then, a news bulletin comes into Conrad's head: Vampi's about to lose her eyeballs! Which way to turn?

It's neither better nor worse than any of the preceding installments (how many times I've typed that sentence), but what may save the day for "The Return of the Blood Queen" is that Bill DuBay is given quite a bit more space to stretch out his story. I'm not saying that, in the end, the story will be any good, but at least we're spared another rushed climax. Why would Mistress Quickly think the Chrimson [sic] Chronicles would be anything more than an overdue library book? Will Dube shine light on that next issue? 

My favorite scene would have to be the exchange between Adam and his pop, when the elder VH is trying to tune into Pen's location; when the old geezer sees the sign (which is flashing right above his head) and works it out verbally for his son ("I see a big hamster, no wait, a guinea pig, no, wait it sounds like guinea pig..."), Adam blurts out: "A boar? It can only be the Boar's Head Tavern! Gosh, dad, you're the best!" The final panel of the quartet (above) shows VH Sr. doing some kind of dance as he and his super-intelligent son exit stage left. Priceless!

Canavan and Benning have been playing practical jokes on each other since college, but the ante is raised when a bored millionaire named DeMascus gets wind of the rivalry and offers high rewards to the man who can keep besting the other. Once the checks start showing up, the pranks become even more dangerous. When Canavan picks up the gorgeous Miss Soames at a local bar and brings her home for some good times, the poor woman is subjected to giant snakes in bed, a corpse in the closet and, the pièce de résistance, a shark in Canavan's swimming pool! 

Canavan finds some evidence in the girl's purse that leads him to believe she's been sent by Benning and, as he chases her down the street, she's run over by a truck. Canavan returns to his house and, visibly distressed, blows his own brains out. The driver of the truck peeks in the window and returns to his vehicle, where Benning and the lovely Miss Soames wait. Shortly thereafter, Benning is collecting a check from DeMascus but wonders why the amount is so small when surely this is the top prank. Nope, replies the smiling DeMascus, he's just heard from Canavan, very much alive and ready for his even bigger check.

Though I thought "He Who Laughs Last... Laughs Best..." had one too many endings, it kept me smiling throughout its bulky, ten-page length. What's with the art, though? Gonzalo Mayo is credited with the inks but it looks like on several pages he just couldn't be bothered. There's a startling whiteness to too many panels.

At a lonely truck stop 200 miles south of Las Vegas, a trucker meets up with a beautiful succubus and accepts her challenge of love and death. There's some really dicey art  to be found in "Riding Shotgun." Just look at our sample panel, where the succubus meets up with one of the models for the Mars Attacks bubblegum cards. Gerry contributes yet another nonexistent script, this time peppered with goofy CB slang ("Eyeball the seat covers on that pavement princess, willya? Get yourself some hundred-mile brew and pedal along!"), already dated by the time this issue hit the stands. Heck, by early 1977, C.W. McCall was already back to doing two shows a night in local Choke and Pukes in Monkey Town. 10-7 good buddies.

Ex-science fiction writer Killdeer and Hughsen pine for the days when they were pumping out novels and thrilling the world. Now, they're just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl year after year. Killdeer swears he'll make it back to the planet where his true love, Shawnee, resides just as soon as she aims that T-Beam towards Earth and teleports him into her arms. 

Tired of waiting, Killdeer dons a rocket pack and heads for space. His friends and family think he's a suicidal loon, but sometime later they receive a picture postcard of Killdeer and Shawnee from space. A genuinely sweet sci-fi tale and, for once, Dube omits the saccharine (well, for the most part). "Wish You Were Here" kinda reminded me of "The Escape Chronicles," only not nearly so pretentious.

"Fallen Angel" is another of Maroto's sideways stories, this one starring a mermaid who falls in love with a man without a tail. She goes to her father and asks to be changed into a surface dweller; he reluctantly agrees to her wish but warns she can't come back. The mermaid swims up to our world and takes her place with her new guy. Too late, she learns he's a Casanova, playing the field. Broken-hearted, she swims out to sea and drowns. The graphics are nice, but there's really no story here. It's more of a fairy tale with boobies. And the sideways panels are annoying as hell. Ever tried watching your favorite show with the TV laying on its side? 

Our favorite award event of the year, with just as much relevance as our contemporary Oscars, would have to be the Warren Awards! And it's time to hand out those little league trophies once again. All I have to say about this year's selections is: Best All-Around Writer: Bill DuBay. Just let that spin around inside your brain for a few seconds.-Peter

Jack-"Wish You Were Here" inspired me to put the Pink Floyd album on while working on this post. I read all of your comments and they still haven't started singing. Oh, the '70s! As for that long-lost decade, this issue of Vampirella made me wonder if there was an editorial decision to focus on stories of beautiful women in this mag. Hopefully, that will be the case, in order to distinguish it from Creepy and Eerie. I really enjoyed the Adam Strange-like "Wish You Were Here," though it would have been more fitting if Infantino had drawn it! Still, Ortiz turns in eight sharp pages and the narrative provides a satisfying mix of sci-fi and wistful nostalgia.

I liked the cliffhanger in "The Return of the Blood Red Queen," as well as the usual fine art by Gonzalez. The story was decent and I'm looking forward to more. "He Who Laughs Last..." demonstrates that Infantino can draw a gorgeous woman when he wants to...and that the Warren folks have certainly upped the number of shots of topless women as of 1977. The surprise ending was not bad! Like you, I cringed at the trucker lingo in "Riding Shotgun," but the panel you reproduced was easily my favorite in a story that goes nowhere. Finally, I was plodding through the first few pages of "Fallen Angel" when I realized I was reading "The Little Mermaid." I have to say that I prefer the Disney version.


Eerie #83

"The Day Before Tomorrow"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay(?) or Budd Lewis (credited)
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Kansas City Bomber"
Story by Jim Stenstrum
Art by Jose Ortiz

Story by Roger McKenzie
Art by Leopoldo Duranona

"Presto the Besto"
Story by Jim Stenstrum
Art by Carmine Infantino & Dick Giordano

Gat Hawkin, the only man to flee from the Alamo before the Mexican army attacked, is surprised to see a big Rook appear from nowhere and a man emerge from inside the machine with guns blazing. Gat later witnesses a man lead a small boy into the Rook; Gat touches the machine as it takes off through time, and both Rook and Gat land the day after the Battle of the Alamo is complete. Gat sees the man and the boy exit the machine and he realizes that the boy holds Jim Bowie's knife. The man takes off again in the Rook, alone this time, and Gat is once more touching it, so he goes along for the ride.

Lee van Cleef?

The Rook lands in a small Arizona town in 1874, where Gat witnesses the time traveler (who helpfully talks out loud to himself and identifies himself as Restin Dane) follow a raven that grabs a bit of wire from the Rook in its beak and flies away. Gat sees a poster advertising the arrival in town of a master gunfighter, who just happens to possess Jim Bowie's knife. Gat determines that the gunfighter is the adult version of the child he saw with Restin Dane after the Battle of the Alamo.

Meanwhile, Dane follows the raven into an abandoned mine shaft, while Gat murders the local sheriff and takes his place. In the mine, Dane finds a robot and activates it; the metal man reveals that he was left there by visitors from another planet, who also left lots of cool stuff that Dane can now use. In town, Gat meets a prostitute named Kate McCall and orders her to help him trap Bishop Dane, the gunfighter with the Bowie knife. Back in the mine shaft, Restin becomes master of the alien stuff and is temporarily blinded; the robot tells the raven to lead him out of the tunnel.

Kate tells Bishop the truth and Gat's plan is foiled. Bishop escapes and Gat sends Kate and another woman named January Boone to deliver a message to Restin. He can see again, and he shows the women "time tapes" that not only explain what's going on, but also show that Restin will have to save Bishop Dane. Restin confronts Gat, who lets loose with a machine gun, aiming at a ramshackle house where Bishop is hiding out. Restin manages to save Bishop by means of an "experimental teleporter" that sends them through time just before one of Gat's bullets can find its target. Gat remains in 1874, determined to "become... the master of all time!"

I'm sorry that it took four paragraphs to summarize this 20-page "epic," but there's a lot of plot thrown at us in this installment. The credit in the mag says it's written by Budd Lewis, but the GCD says the writer is Bill DuBay and gives no explanation for the change. Hopefully, one of our esteemed readers will know what's up. Bermejo's art is pretty good, though I didn't find Kate particularly attractive. She looked like the artist used an old photo as a model. There is also a panel at the top of page 17 where Gat looks just like Lee van Cleef.

Perhaps my favorite exchange in the story is on page 22:

Restin Dane: "But what is Rook's greatest secret?"

Gat Hawkins: "Alright, what is Rook's greatest secret?"

Restin Dane: "That's something you'll never learn, Gat Hawkin."

Who's on first?

On the plains of Kansas, 15 years after the "Holy cost," Hard John Apple is confronted with a Russian soldier who calls herself Tarara Boomdeyov and who says the Red Threat Army is attacking to U.S. in order to replace religion with politics. Back at Hard John's compound, the tables are turned when his orangutan, the General, grabs Tarara by the hair. Hard John shows her his "Nuclear Hit Parade," 1250 nuclear missiles that are armed and ready to launch. At Prot headquarters, the word goes out to kill Hard John.

I gave "Kansas City Bomber" two stars solely due to the art by Ortiz; the story is a dreadful combination of corny names, recap, and hokum. The symbolism or metaphor, if you can call it that, is heavy-handed and obvious, while the plot is nearly non-existent. Why spend ten pages on summing up a bad story from a prior issue? The new events could have been handled in two pages. Most unforgivable is the racist caricature of the African preacher, who says: "Me chillun, I will lift youse miserable dregs from dis holycost."

Many years ago, a young Black boy met an older Black man named Gaffer at a carnival. A wizard with card tricks, Gaffer was fired from his job but couldn't stay away from carnivals, with the boy by his side. His luck ran hot playing a roulette wheel, so hot that the man running the game invited him to come back at midnight for some real action. At the witching hour, Gaffer and the boy are drawn down to Hell, where the barker--who turns out the be the Devil--seems to have the upper hand until Gaffer tricks him by stepping on his tail. Gaffer wins and he and the boy set off for more adventures.

Is anyone reading this blog Black? If so, I'd like to know your reaction to "Temptation." For the white readers, would you feel comfortable sharing this story with a Black friend or colleague? I sure wouldn't, and that's the biggest problem I have with it and any number of Warren stories. The'70s were not the dark ages, and this sort of dialogue and caricature was not acceptable then, nor is it now. The old "deal with the Devil" plot is a standby, and I admit I got caught up in it by the end, but the drawings of Gaffer and the dialect were really tough to take.

"Presto the Besto," as escape artist Preston Zwinge is known to his legions of fans, is the man who could not be killed. He has escaped from being dropped in a mine shaft, eaten by a killer whale, and trampled by a bull elephant. His latest escape, at a charity fair in Catcall, South Carolina, will be his most difficult yet. Wrapped, chained, encased in cement, and dropped in the river, Presto thrills the assembled crowd as the minutes pass, but after a while, his son has him pulled up and he appears to be dead. The crowd and the local authorities refuse to believe it and follow his corpse around, expecting him to revive. Even after an autopsy and burial, no one is quite sure whether that's the end of Presto.

Easily the most enjoyable story in this issue of Eerie, "Presto the Besto" benefits from sharp art by Infantino and Giordano, as well as a breezy script by Stenstrum. The death traps that Presto escapes are absurd, satirizing the sort of magicians and escape artists who were popular at the time. The best thing about this story is that there is no surprise ending--Presto is dead, he stays dead, and from all indications he's not coming back.-Jack

Peter-The second chapter of the Rook saga is way too long and complicated. I get the feeling that Dube was making up the rules as he went along. It's a stretch to believe this gunman from 1836 would put two and two together and come up with "time machine"! Still, you have to admire Dube adding little parts to the young mythos (at least I think the robot and crow will be continuing characters--I've never read these things before). Only time will tell if this fantasy series is just a load of hogwash or a startlingly original concept. I guess I'm a captive audience.

I found the sophomore adventure of Hard John (and His Nuclear Parade) to be vastly superior to the first chapter ("An Angel Shy of Hell," way back in Creepy #64). There's a high humor factor and the plot is drawing me in. I miss Rich Corben's art and I still think it's a bit too much like "A Boy and His Dog" (in this case, "A Boy and His Orangutan"), but there's no sign of pretension. That's a win for me.

The premiere of "Gaffer" did absolutely nothing for me, but the final story, "Presto the Besto" was, indeed, the Besto. I love the magician's accelerating danger quotient. Stenstrum reminds us that he's got the best sense of humor of any of these Warren writers (Presto" has the same light, farcical tone as "Super Abnormal..."); Bill DuBay, Best Writer, my ass. The Infantino/Giordano team hits for extra bases once again; they, like Stenstrum really get this lighter fare. Probably not a coincidence that the best story this issue is the only one not belonging to a series.

Next Week...
A major shifting in the
Bat-titles art chores.
Things might get messy!

1 comment:

Quiddity99 said...

I've read this issue at least 4 or 5 times over the years and I still don't understand what "Castles Made of Sand" is supposed to be about. Easily one of the most nonsensical stories Warren would ever publish. Makes me think of the days when T. Casey Brennan would write similar incomprehensible stories that somehow made their way into the magazines. "Eye for Eye, Fang for Fang" on the other hand comes off as way more of a traditional horror story. I figure this has to be an inventory story as Doug Moench was long gone from Warren at this point. "Temple of Seilos" is an interesting tale although I was a bit confused by it and not as high on it as you. Not much to "Iron Man", but enjoyed the Esteban Maroto art. "Second Childhood" is a fairly strong wrap up and the best story of the issue for me in story and art. Torrents continues to do a good job at providing a pretty scary atmosphere.

The original Blood Red Queen of Hearts was one of my favorite Vampirella stories to this point (helped by some great Esteban Maroto art); this second appearance is not as good but I don't mind them bringing her back if only since Vampi has to this point hardly ever had a recurring supernatural villain character (the closest would probably be Dracula who was in the strip from around issue 16 - 20 or so) and that's a nice way to mix up the formula. "He Who Laughs Last" was a pretty good story; I too at first thought there were too many endings although given the practical joke nature of the story it does kinda fit. Some great Luis Bermejo art, but not much of a story to "Riding Shotgun". "Wish You Were Here" was a pretty decent story, albeit one with a very predictable ending. I didn't think of the connection to "The Escape Chronicles" but that is an apt comparison. "Fallen Angel", comes off much like "Sleeping Beauty" from two issues ago, as if Dubay took a Maroto story drawn overseas (my speculation, no official word of that on these stories), and wrote a new story over it. This is very much "The Little Mermaid" as a Warren story and works quite well for me. Maroto also turns in one of his most beautiful looking art jobs. Great way to wrap up the issue.

The non-sci fi parts of this Rook story seem like something I've read a million times before and seems like a cliché western story. A so-so story for me that similar to most Rook stories, goes on too long. I'm fine with the choice to bring back Hard John Apple as a recurring character, and kinda surprised they didn't reprint the original story (sans color) to get it started. Like you though I feel this initial story spends too much time retelling the first one. Am at least interested in seeing where it goes from here though. "Gaffer" is one of the more memorable series from this era of Eerie for me and one I look forward to revisiting although my recollection is this opening story is the weakest of the series. Pretty good concept with "Presto the Besto". As they did all those things to him I thought that there was no way he could come back alive from it. And that's exactly what happens!