What I'm...Reading??: Puppet Master #1
Some people probably don't know this, but in another life, I review comics. Imagine my surprise when one of the franchises that helped spawn this website decided it was time to take another dip into the world of comics, with Puppet Master #1 from Action Lab - Danger Zone. I'm not entirely sure on who the heck the creators are behind this, since they book failed to include a credits page. Grumble. But I *think* the writer is Shawn Gabborin with art by Michela Da Sacco.
Actually, it was almost pretty easy to pass up, since I normally skip over licensed material, for a myriad of reasons. However, I had some extra cash, and it IS Puppet Master, so I decided I'd give the first issue a try.
And damnit, I was quite pleasantly surprised.
The plot of issue one is boneheadedly simple; a group of kids looking for a good time, some creepy fun, break into the old Bodega Bay Inn, which has become legendary because of the murders and myths around it. Once inside, the puppets lurk in the shadows and start picking them off.
That's it, that's the plot. And that is just fine. It is classic Puppet Master formula, and it's exactly what you want the story to be. It's classic tropes, it's a good setup, and it gets the ball rolling. You're not coming to Puppet Master for anything deep, and really. People show up at the hotel and start dying in brutal ways? That is Puppet Master at its BEST right there.
They cut out all the malarkey about new puppet masters, new puppets, new convolutions to the mythology...at least for now. This book is pure setup and introduction to the concept, and it cuts through all the problems of the later movies and finds the core of what made Puppet Master great.
That being, puppets killing people for a bloody good time. This is, quite frankly, the best Puppet Master story I've encountered since Puppet Master 2 or 3. I lean towards 2, but the thrid movie WAS good, if annoyingly prequelish.
All the favourite puppets are here. Heck, they even included that loser, Decapitron. I swear though, if Tank showed up, I was ready to check out. But nope, this is firmly established as post PM5 at least, which is probably as far back as you could rewind things without getting too confusing to the old fans. Now, they don't answer what happened to the new Puppet Master they chose in 4/5, but I really REALLY don't care.
Like I said, this cuts through all the crap, and gets to the core. They toss aside that annoying plot thread, and the entire issue is just focused on introducing the Inn, the basic lore you need to understand it, and plenty of mayhem being caused by the puppets. That is ALL you need, and it totally works.
And making the inn this mythic, notorious place, that has had ghost stories spring up around it is perfectly natural, fits great into the already established mythology, and is a great modernisation playing off the current trend of urban explorers going into abandoned places. Leaving totems (ahem...) for the mythical puppets to protect those who visit the inn is also a nice, natural touch.
The art isn't really great, and doesn't particularly stand out, but it gets the job done, for what it is. I have no major complaints, it's just pretty basic as far as art goes, you can find it most anywhere. The colouring gets in the way some times, by making things a little too dank and monochromatic. I know what they were going for, but they didn't quite pull it off.
Being from an indie publisher, there's plenty of violence, and a pretty gory scene of Tunneler digging through one person's head, and out another's is a highlight of the book. There's plenty of references to the movies to make old fans smile, which I certainly did. But they wisely don't get bogged down in that continuity, and only give you the necessary bits and a few references that don't interfere with your enjoyment if you don't get them, they're just establishing details.
So, the plot is basic as hell, there's a few more issues to go, but if you want classic Puppet Master done in a way we have not seen since the early days of the franchise, you absolutely have to check this out. This is the most Puppet Master story in probably 20 years, and I hope they keep that going for the rest of the story.
There are better comics out there, better horror comics too, probably, but better Puppet Master stories? Those are few and far between. If you miss the gory glory days of these Full Moon monsters, this is the way to go.