Friday, August 7, 2015

Review: 'Wally Wood’s E.C. Stories Artisan Edition'

Late last year when I made my wish list for 2015 here on Psychobabble, the first and most far-fetched entry on the list was for IDW to take “The E.C. Archives” out of Dark Horse’s hands and begin reprinting authentically colored and textured collections of Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, and The Vault of Horror. This was far-fetched because Dark Horse clearly had no plans of relinquishing such a valuable catalog and already had additional editions of “The E.C. Archives” scheduled for the coming year. Sigh.

That being said, IDW’s Wally Wood’s E.C. Stories Artisan Edition ain’t a bad consolation prize, even though it is merely a soft-cover edition of a book already published back in 2012 and it lacks any of Wood’s horror stories. However, as far as texture and authenticity go, it can’t be beat. This collection of Wood’s sci-fi, war, and two-fisted tales is very different from those garishly colorful, completely digitized books Dark Horse has been trotting out. The Artisan Edition series presents classic comics in the raw, before they were colored or cleared of pencil notes and pasted-in edits. This kind of book is definitely geared toward a very particular reader with an interest in the process before the final product. Fortunately, Wood’s intricate, lovingly rendered artwork translates quite well to black and white. The pieces in this book demand to be studied deeply to be fully absorbed. It’s the kind of book that rewards repeat perusals.

It would have been nice if editor Scott Dunbier had tossed in a horror story or two. Wood was never super prolific in E.C.’s horror titles, though he did create at least one true classic, “Judy, You’re Not Yourself Today” for Crypt (he also wrote one of the entire E.C. line’s very best stories, “Drawn and Quartered!”; Jack Davis delivered the art). Perhaps the availability of original artwork was a reason Wood’s horror work got shut out.

Still, there is certainly a lot of horror in Wood’s stories, which often veer toward the apocalyptic and depressing. A little boy gets his wish to have his workaholic astronaut dad return home for good in the melodramatic yet devastating “Home to Stay”. “Down to Earth” is a litany of airline disasters. In the poetic “My World”, Wood lays out his cynical world view explicitly with a dash of hope only evident in “The Children”, the only one of his stories in which love trounces cynicism. “Project... Survival!” is inadvertently scary due to its disconcerting distrust of science in all forms, though the fact that the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings preceded these stories by just a few years makes that extreme stance somewhat more understandable. Wood powerfully illustrates an account of that particular historical horror story in a devastating piece penned by Harvey Kurtzman, though the fact that Wood didn’t write most of the war and thriller stories means they’re generally less grim and pulpier than the sci-fi ones.

Get Wally Wood’s E.C. Stories Artisan Edition on here:
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