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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Comic Review: This Damned Band #4 from Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Tony Parker
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Cover Artist: Tony Parker
Genre: Horror, Humor
November 04, 2015
Format:FC, 32 pages; Miniseries
UPC:7 61568 25799 1 00411
Bassist Alex Lodge owes a lot of money to his . . . “pharmaceutical representatives,” and now they’ve come to collect. With something satanic already afoot in their recording chateau, can the band make it out alive? The Mephistophelean misadventures of Motherfather continue, from Paul Cornell (Wolverine, Action Comics) and Tony Parker (Mass Effect: Foundation)!

* A hilarious documentary-style thrill ride of black magic and rock music!

“He writes kick-ass comic books.”—George R. R. Martin (Game of Thrones)

Picking up right where issue 3 left off, we find the members of Motherfather mid-confrontation with masked, gun-toting mysterious dudes who are bent on getting money from Alex. Still at the chateau and still reeling from the death of their producer and sound engineer, the band and their followers have a lot thrown at them, from the obvious gun-toting threat to the suspicion that their pragmatic manager may have more to do with the occult than he’s let on. The results can be intriguing…and weird. Really, really weird.

You know that album that you buy because you’re in love with certain songs (Do we all even remember albums), but end up forwarding through some tracks because they just don’t strike you one way or another? You know that group who you love certain songs but you have to really think if you’d be willing to pay to see them live? That’s what this title is becoming for me, and this issue is a prime example. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really strong points. There’s great tension in parts, there are some really creepy images that make certain story points pop, and there are some genuinely funny bits. My problem is that it feels like the overall story momentum is being put on the backburner for the horror comedy tone.

Here’s my thing. Spinal tap works because yes, there are some ridiculous plot points, but it’s grounded in the reality of touring and rock music and performance arts as a whole – a truth that makes the ridiculous funnier and cringe-inducing for those who have been there. The problem with adding a paranormal plot to the mix is that at some point you have to get to the punchline, answer the mystery, especially if it’s foreshadowing is pretty obvious. It’s a little too obvious comedy to really give me chills, and the serious stuff grounds it too much to be wacky comedy. On their own, those sections have definite strengths, but fused together and it gets a little disjointed.

Maybe there’s a massive twist coming and I’ll eat my words. I really hope so, because if all of this is building to “there’s dark forces at work after all!” I’m not finding enough individual moments to fully enjoy the journey. Plus, there were so many occult-rocker stories from the mid-seventies era, part of me keeps waiting to see if more of that is going to be added in. Maybe that’s my problem – I’m too much of a geek for the time period that it’s getting in the way.

There are certain characters I still love – Justin and Summerflower are probably the most intriguing, but the typical rocker tropes are overused in other cases. Poor Kev, doomed to be the dumb one for long-term comedic effect with a mushroom McGuffin. His hallucinogenic sequence is funny at first, takes care of the obvious threat, and hints that maybe there’s more going on, but for me it just went on a bit long. Clive, Bob, and Alex aren’t really fleshed out enough to matter until something they do suddenly shoves things along.

There’s also the quirk of art styles changing when the docu crew splits away from the band. While I get it and it makes sense, I don’t necessarily like looking at it, and find that the weaker plot elements occur when this transition is made. It’s like those groups that come on all ROCK N ROLL YO and just try way too hard when they actually would be brilliant if they scale it back a notch.

The thing is, I want to believe in this title and I wouldn’t be continuing it if I didn’t like it. However, I want to love it, because the overall idea is just so amazing and there is a distinct haunted house vibe that makes it fun when it’s on. I want to pull for it like the local band that you just know can break through if given a real chance. There are genuinely brilliant sequences and ideas, but there’s also a whole lot of other stuff that slows things down and a ton of unanswered questions. Do the mushrooms summon something or is it all just a drug trip? Is it all an elaborate con by Justin and management to get control of the band? What happened to Gold? Where did the gun come from, what’s up with the creepy room change? While it all keeps me somewhat intrigued, it’s also still offshoots of the question I’ve been chomping at the bit to have answered the whole time:

When. Do. We. Get. To. The. Demons!?

3.5 sheep

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