Issue(s): Nightstalkers #5, Nightstalkers #6
Punisher War Journal six hundred and whatever: I just got back from a trip to Hawaii and a rescue & destroy mission in Oregon to find out that I'm scheduled for a guest appearance in two issues of the Nightstalkers. All in the same goddamn month. Apparently I just need to hold down the fort until Ghost Rider shows up for issue #7. This book must need some serious sales help. But I've already been involved with way too much mystical #@#$@!. I just appeared in Darkhold and did a mission for Dr. Strange's Secret Defenders. Enough already. Ah, well. Just give me stuff to shoot and I guess I'm happy. The War never ends...
This arc starts with the Nightstalkers going after some real monsters: puppy killers!
They mistake Hannibal King for the monster they were summoning, and he engages in some appropriate irony in killing them.
Live by the puppy, die by the puppy.
The leader of the cultists, Shiv, takes the wrong lesson, though.
Fleeing, Shiv stops a car, and kills a mother and son, fulfilling the ritual he had started earlier with the puppy. The father fights back, and then the Nightstalkers show up to finish the job, although they find that Shiv can't die.
The Nightstalkers bring Shiv and the father to a hospital. Shiv later escapes. The father's name is Adam Casim. The Punisher happens to be in the area, and seeing the parallel in the losses of their families, the Punisher foots the hospital bill and vows to get vengeance for Casim.
However, Casim later wakes up, changed by Shiv's ritual and inspired by the Punisher's words, and vows to get his own vengeance.
Casim takes his crusade against the occult very seriously. He goes after anyone even slightly superstitious.
After going on a killing spree on psychics and occult store owners, he comes across the Punisher (who has been hunting Shiv).
Shiv, also changed now, shows up too.
The Nightstalkers are nominally in this book, too, and they eventually arrive, trying to convince Casim to not kill Shiv (which is pretty bizarre considering the Nightstalkers have been doing more then their share of killing in these issues, as they would readily admit, and the other guy telling Casim to stop is the frigging Punisher).
But Casim won't listen, so Frank Drake blasts Casim, and Blade's weapon kills Shiv.
Punisher says that in "saner circumstances" he might wonder about the Nightstalkers, but he's fulfilled his guest star duties and he leaves.
I'm at a loss regarding what this book is supposed to be about. It's bleak as hell, that's for sure. We have three really interesting characters, but they're all just tense and angry and snippy at each other all the time, and the plots they get involved in have no flavor to them. They should be running a mystical detective agency. Hannibal King in particular is supposed to be like a pulpy detective guy. They do have a case in these issues that i didn't cover, exposing some phony psychics, but they even say that they're just going through the motions as a "front" while fighting their war on the supernatural (why have a front?). And the plotting/storytelling is a real mess too, the way things jump from scene to scene. Ron Garney's art draws some nice panels - interestingly cartoony - but his layouts are overly busy. The bigger problem is D.G. Chichester, who drops us into the middle of every scene and makes the characters equally explosively angry and angsty whether they are dealing with psychic frauds or demons from hell. Then there's the fact that every plot does boil down to "demons from hell" which is repetitive and exhausting. Back in the Tomb of Dracula days, the plots managed to be more menacing without being so apocalyptic.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I actually find the art pretty good based on the panels you posted. The story-telling seems pretty strong and I really like that panel of the dog running towards the other dogs.
Posted by: Wanyas the Self-Proclaimed | September 23, 2016 3:59 PM
When i say the layouts are busy - there are tons of inset panels mixed with lots of splashes. It's kind of overwhelming and it kills the emphasis, like making an entire paragraph bold. But yeah, the action is clear from panel to panel and i do like Garney's art.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 23, 2016 4:17 PM
The "excess is style" of the 90s doesn't do these horror-themed books any favors, nor does it do much for Chichester's efforts to bring horror tropes into books like Daredevil. But then, the early 90s was also when the same sorts of excess finally caused a lot of the horror franchises in film to collapse.
Here, for example, Casim seems like a character we're meant to see as an example of body horror. But his dialogue and the narration keep piling on the angst, and his convoluted origin tries to make him a foil for both Shiv and the Punisher.
So the underlying concept -- a guy who loses his family and his humanity because of a mystical ritual and relentlessly pursues revenge -- just makes Casim seem like a standard-issue "scarred 90s antihero who goes too far and has to be put down" instead of a disturbing revenant with half his skin hanging off of him.
In concept, Casim's not too different from Tomb characters like Jason Faust or the Faceless Man, but the execution is just so loud and tacky.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | September 23, 2016 4:22 PM
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