Monday, April 04, 2011

Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse

Y'know, it seems like there's just no such thing as originality in comic books these days.

Take Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse by 30 Days of Night artist and co-creator, Ben Templesmith. I mean, if you've read one comic series about a wormlike demigod who wears dead bodies likes new suits, spending most of his time sharing drinks with an undersexed automaton sidekick and female bodyguard in an bar run by his ex-girlfriend who just happens to be guarding a pan-dimensional gateway in the basement, all while saving the world from the occasional apocalyptic supernatural threat … well, you've read 'em all, right?

One of the things so interesting about the Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse series is that it relishes its absurdity. From the first short serial printed in Lo-Fi Magazine through the more recent releases from IDW Publishing, the series' one expectation from the reader is to sit back and enjoy the show. The book doesn't bore the reader with pesky little details like "backstory" or "origins". Nope. Instead, we open up with Wormwood hiring his new bodyguard out from under his ex at The Dark Alley Strip Club. Explaining his need for protection and help in dealing with monsters, Wormwood sums up the entirety of the series perfectly by responding, "Only a moron would actually go looking for the bloody things. I just tend to, uh, attract a certain type of people."

True to form, it's only ever a matter of time before Wormwood finds himself up to his undead neck in trouble. The first arc finds Wormwood stumbling across a plan involving some poor blokes' erectile dysfunction pills laced with dark, demonic juju in order to bring forth an elder god to devour the planet. In another arc, Wormwood and his crew have to take a "Wizard of Oz"-esque journey to the Land of the Leprechauns to bring back their Queen, the only creature that can cure Wormwood from a rabid Leprechaun bite he picked up during a particularly rousing round of Leprechaun cage fighting. It's all just another day at the bar … er … office.

If you've ever seen Templesmith's artwork before, particularly in 30 Days of Night, you'll know that his vision is a perfect fit for this sort of material. With all of the over-the-top, quirky characters in Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, Templesmith's unique style just sort of clicks here. And as for the monsters? Whether it’s a drunken leprechaun, or Cthulu-like face sucking priest, or any one of Wormwood's stylish meat suits, no one does freakishly creepy monsters quite like Ben does 'em.

Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse isn't like anything you've ever seen before in comics. And I'm not just talking about Templesmith's distinct brand of artwork. The guy's got some pretty good chops as a writers as well. Granted, you'll see some obvious influences from books like Hellboy or Hellblazer or just about any other book with "Hell" prominently featured somewhere in the title. Even so, it's the book's witty dialogue and sharp scripting make Wormwood stand out on the shelf. If you're looking for an off-beat action/comedy with a healthy dose of gory horror, you can't go wrong with Wormwood: Gentleman's Corpse.

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