Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Big Book Of Kolchak!

I've been in a Kolchakian mood lately, so I picked up a book that has been tempting me for some time. The Big Book of Kolchak reprints the first two Moonstone trade paper collections which themselves gathered up the first seven Kolchak comic book adventures the company published. The original trades were in color on slick paper and having already read the first of these, I can safely say that this volume which collects twice the stories on flat stock in glorious black and white is a much superior product. These stories are much better told in black and white, as the shiny color mitigates the mood and atmosphere, of which there is ample.

The collection begins with the Jeff Rice and Gordon Purcell adaptation of the original Night Stalker story. In this one we meet again Janos Skorzeny and relive his reign of terror in Las Vegas. This story blends elements of the classic television movie and the original novel as well as adding some new touches. So even if you're intimately familiar with the original show, there is some new stuff here for you. The artwork by Gordon Purcell looks much better in black and white.

The Get of Belial by Joe Gentile and Art Nichols is a rockem' sockem' Kolchak adventure which takes him to the coal fields of West Virginia where he encounters a most unusual and mysterious family and the demon which seems to haunt them.

Fever Pitch by Stuart Kaminsky and Chris Jones tells the nightmare tale of a very specific disease which finds its way to America from the wilds of Africa. This particular affliction moves from one person to another, one at a time and brings not only gruesome death, but also a very particular kind of fear.

There is a very short Kolchak tale which has only appeared in these collections titled "Mask of Moment" by Stefan Petrucha  and artists Andy Bennet and Dave Adkins, in which Kolchak encounters his second vampire, or perhaps not.

Devil in the Details by Stefan Petrucha and Trevor Von Eden tells the wild tale of technology gone amok and of an exceedingly dysfunctional family in which murder is only the beginning of the horror.

Pain Most Human by C.J. Henderson and Greg Scott takes Kolchak into territory normally covered by Mulder and Scully, two FBI agents who were inspired by his adventures. Find out what happens when Kolchak meets an alien.

And finally Pain Without Tears by C.J. Henderson and Dennis Calero is a very heartfelt tale of a woman with an amazing talent which causes her to be the focus of an intense search by large and powerful folks. Kolchak helps her, but as it turns out she helps him  so very much more.

These are good solid tales, better than I expected frankly. Kolchak is presented as a most flawed human being, at times just trying to stay out of trouble, but always finding it despite himself. The Kolchak stories have the risk of becoming repetitious and dull, repeating familiar beats without fail but eventually without interest. This collection doesn't fall into that trap, at least not often.

The artwork is generally good, though it does vary from story to story. My favorite rendition of Kolchak might just be Trevor Von Eden's. This is a very reasonably priced collection and I highly recommend it. This is the way to read Kolchak comics.

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