Publisher: Rebellion Publishing
Writers: Maura McHugh, Kristyna Baczynski, Olivia Hicks, Alec Worley, Kek-W, Cavan Scott
Artists: Robin Henley, Mary Safro, John Lucas, DaNi, Simon Coleby, Vincenzo Riccardi
Release Date: 30th September 2020
So last week I made no bones about how I felt about latest ‘jumping-on’ Prog from 2000 AD, but what we have here is, for me, the highlight of Rebellion’s annual output. While Misty was a little early for me to be reading (I was only 6 when they stopped publishing it), Scream was very much the biggest influence on my future reading habits, even now, and Rebellion’s investment in the Treasury of British Comics has brought back some much beloved titles that I thought were lost and gone forever.
The 2020 issue of the Misty & Scream special brings us a mixture of old and new with six tales of terror that should have something to curdle the blood of every reader.
First up we have Thief of Senses, a Gothic tale of a family haunted by a malevolent spirit which feeds on human senses – sight, hearing, speech – until nothing is left but disembodied, silent, unresponsive, blackness and unending madness. This story has a great premise, good pacing, builds tension well and, given the opportunity to develop into a longer offering, I think this could be a really great OGN. The artwork is good but lacks something in detail and depth which just takes the edge off the tension. That being said, this still remains a really good opening entry.
In The Aegis, the under-appreciated costume and props department are doing their best to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear that is the latest school musical, and are fed up with being at best ignored and at worst treated like amusing minions. Allowing years of real and perceived slights to boil and fester, they believe they have found a way of getting some measure of pay back using Athena’s mythical shield. A shield which, according to legend, turns all evil that gazes on it to stone however, it’s always wise to make sure your own intentions are pure first. For me this is the weakest of the entries, but it’s still an interesting tale with a neat twist and moral lesson.
Bumps In the Night is a nerve-grinding story of everyone’s favourite horror trope. Namely, scary hobo clowns. This has the feel of an old Scream comic story and although the story itself is easily recognisable, there will never be a time when it’s not good to have a scary clown story to read. The artwork in this story is a wonderful combination of fairground brightness, gaudy colour and dark, dirty and disturbing shadows. There’s an almost Kelley Jones feel to the characters and the clowns themselves are satisfyingly nightmare fuel.
Black Beth returns in The Witch Tree which, at first glance, is less horror and more swords and sandals, but scrapes through by dint of the inclusion of witch doctors, pagan sacrifice and ancient blood rites. The artwork in this story is just fantastic. It reminds me of Angela Kincaid and Massimo Belardinelli, and just a little bit of Guido Crepax. I love the way this story is delivered – there’s a feeling of the early Hammer Horror and Italian movies of the 60s & 70s about the whole thing, and more than a little Barbara Steele in the depiction of Beth. This is by far my favourite entry in the book purely based on the artwork.
I’ve been a long-time fan of Black Max. As a kid this book felt like it was written specifically for me. WWI dog fights, giant demonic bats, horror and bloodshed in equal measure, exactly what any self-respecting 8-year-old wants to read! I’ve been loving the new Black Max stories too, providing as they do an exhilarating mixture of nostalgia for the old and genuine enjoyment of the new storylines that have been coming out. In this special, Maxine Newland, Great Granddaughter of Captain Rick Newland continues her journey to discover the truth of her father’s death and stop Von Klorr from bringing his war to the land of the living. Again, I love the artwork in this entry. It has the dark and demonic world that Newland and Klorr are trapped in depicted perfectly, blood red sinew and decay depicted perfectly in both the living aircraft “Polly” and the tattered, rotting soldiers and equipment of Von Klorr’s troops.
Last but far from least is The Dracula File. Again, this is a title that harks back to the Scream of the early 80s and tells the tale of Russian KGB agent Demetri Stakis as he chases Dracula across Europe to London in a bid to end his evil reign. I wasn’t a massive fan of this when it first came out, but re-reading it more recently I’ve come to appreciate it much more and this entry, being something of an ending to the original stories, works really well for me. The artwork is really good, in some ways I think it’s better than the original, but then the quality of the printing and paperstock on the original was pretty awful so allowances can be made. I honestly don’t think you need any prior knowledge of the story to enjoy this entry, either. It makes sense as a compact and well-written standalone story. The ageing vampire hunter being captured and treated as a murderer by society, his containment and the inevitable final showdown with the very real Prince of Darkenss is not a new concept by a long chalk but it is delivered here so very well!
On the whole then, and I think it’s a mixture of age and nostalgia talking, I think that the best stories in this Special are the ones that are either taken from the original Scream & Misty publications or, in the case of Black Beth, the ones that are presented in the style and feel of the original.
As always, at this time of year you could do a lot worse than pick up a copy of the Misty & Scream Special if you’re looking for something ghoulish and scary, and this year’s is definitely a good addition to anyone’s collection.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek