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Back in the late nineteen seventies and on into the nineteen eighties, there
was a monthly magazine called Heavy Metal. A U.S. version of the wonderful
French magazine Metal Hurlant (Screaming Metal), HM took stories from
artists from around the world and translated them, with more and less
success, to English. It became wildly successful. So successful in fact,
that it spawned a movie that tanked and a movie soundtrack that soared.
TEX ARCANA, written and drawn by John Findley, was clear cut, make no mistake, Horror. It took the tired tropes of Vampires and gave them new life. How? Findley made use of his artistic skills to present a vampire that was not simply evil, but the very nature of evil. Demonic faces and spirits danced all around him, in him, and through him, at every moment. This vampire was more than just an undead human, he was an elemental force. What's more, it colored how this Vampire saw the world. Every human he saw was a swirl in their own life force, strong or weak though that may be.
Yes humans, both weak and strong, are curious creatures. They have their own system of beliefs and faith and some faiths are replaced by others over time. Such is the American Southwest town of Hangman's Corners. When a vampire comes to town, the townsfolk, all deadly serious about confronting and overpowering the new threat, each have their own ideas of what will and what won't work. And where you have disagreements, you have fights. And out of this is the comedy born.
John Findley, very cleverly, presents TEX ARCANA as Comedic Horror. At the beginning of the first story (there are three and a fourth one in the works) this is done without 2D slapstick characters or specific idiots who are there as comedic relief. He fully fleshes the townsfolk of Hangman's Corners out and then brings humor to the situation by demonstrating the very ridiculous manner of our natural interactions that is the human condition.
As good as the story is, the art is perfection to match. Done entirely in incredibly detailed black ink drawings, the art invokes the spirit of the old west - every face reminiscent of the style of drawing found in wanted posters of the time. As the story progresses, Findley introduces two new characters, both demons from hell, as the requisite comic relief. When they get trapped on earth, however, they turn philosophical and start pondering the meaning of existence, at least as seen from the eyes of a demon.
Such is Findley's storytelling ability that its dang near impossible to figure out where the story will twist or turn next. Findley throws out all the old vampire tropes. Yes, the vampire falls in love with the food, but, having been drained of too much blood, his chosen paramour is too drowsy to fully understand his desires or return his love.
Right at the point where it looks like the bad guys are about to win and everything seems hopeless, into the story rides (walks? I think he just materializes!) that mysterious, legendary figure: Tex Arcana! Only Tex has the intimate knowledge of the supernatural to set the wrongs to right and adjust the multi-dimensional playing field. At least I think he does. Maybe he's just a willing puppet and the person pulling the strings is really his lover, a witch woman of indeterminate age who speaks a language that's derstandable (as opposed to UNderstandable, capiche?). Then again, maybe someone provides HER power!
Lush pencil and ink artwork, a solid (yet never pedantic) grip on historical accuracy, the comedy of human error, plus all kinds of things that go Bump In The Night, yer gonna love this stuff I'm telling ya! Bizarre and intelligent, in TEX ARCANA, John Findley has mastered the ethos of American myth.
5 Rabid Fanboys: This one is a classic.
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