Blood and ShadowsBy Joe R. Lansdale, Mark A. Nelson (DC Comics/Vertigo; 1996)

This isn’t the best comic miniseries scripted by the great Joe R. Lansdale, but it is almost certainly the craziest. It’s safe to say that in this time-tripping, epoch-spanning 4-issue epic about the fearsome God of the Razor (introduced in Lansdale’s novel THE NIGHTRUNNERS), Lansdale has gone clear over the top in every possible respect.

The illustrator was Mark A. Nelson, who provides a wealth of exquisitely detailed, striking and often downright hallucinatory images. The time and care Nelson put into his artwork is evident throughout, and was apparently the reason the series, announced back in the early nineties (when I for one eagerly anticipated its arrival), took until 1996 to appear (Lansdale: “Mark, bless his heart, is one fine artist and good guy and I think the world of him, but he can be…well, slow”).

The God of the Razor is a scary top hat wearing dude with daggers for teeth, straight razors in place of fingernails, and severed heads encasing his feet. He exists to wreak hate and mutilation, and spread his twisted passions to others. Here the God first appears as a forties-era serial killer in East Texas, where he’s tracked by small-time detective Chet Daly. Daly gets far, far more than he bargained for upon discovering that a cult exists dedicated to the God of the Razor. The latter comes to exert a very direct presence on Daly’s life when the GotR kills Daly’s girlfriend and, in the series’ most striking set of panels, leaves her head and skin draped on a hat stand for Daly to find.

From there we get a lengthy western flavored flashback filling us in on the GotR’s early years, as seen through the eyes of a black man and white woman pursuing the God. The carnage here is fairly extreme, although in truth it’s just a warm-up for the mind-scraping nastiness to come. This nastiness is precipitated by an even more head-snapping time shift, which takes place after Daly ingests the brains of his dead lover, apparently a sacred, dimension-busting act. He’s deposited in a bleak ROAD WARRIOR-esque future where he becomes embroiled in the life-and-death struggles of a gang of hard-driving rednecks.

It’s here, alas, in the fourth and final volume, that the story goes off the rails in a largely incoherent swirl of stream-of-consciousness storytelling, during which several characters are introduced but fail to make any impression. A scribe like Grant Morrison might have done something vital and interesting with this sort of thing, but hallucinatory writing simply isn’t Lansdale’s forte.

The climactic showdown, with Daly and his newfound futuristic buddies going up against the God of the Razor, is also a bust. There’s no suspense, seeing as how the God has already been established as unkillable–I don’t think I’m giving anything away by revealing that the God of the Razor, in tried-and-true Freddy and Jason fashion, is seemingly defeated only to be revealed as still kicking on the final page. This of course leaves the tale wide open for a sequel…which unsurprisingly never materialized!

Blood and Shadows

By Joe R. Lansdale, Mark A. Nelson (DC Comics/Vertigo; 1996)

This isn’t the best comic miniseries scripted by the great Joe R. Lansdale, but it is almost certainly the craziest. It’s safe to say that in this time-tripping, epoch-spanning 4-issue epic about the fearsome God of the Razor (introduced in Lansdale’s novel THE NIGHTRUNNERS), Lansdale has gone clear over the top in every possible respect.

The illustrator was Mark A. Nelson, who provides a wealth of exquisitely detailed, striking and often downright hallucinatory images. The time and care Nelson put into his artwork is evident throughout, and was apparently the reason the series, announced back in the early nineties (when I for one eagerly anticipated its arrival), took until 1996 to appear (Lansdale: “Mark, bless his heart, is one fine artist and good guy and I think the world of him, but he can be…well, slow”).

The God of the Razor is a scary top hat wearing dude with daggers for teeth, straight razors in place of fingernails, and severed heads encasing his feet. He exists to wreak hate and mutilation, and spread his twisted passions to others. Here the God first appears as a forties-era serial killer in East Texas, where he’s tracked by small-time detective Chet Daly. Daly gets far, far more than he bargained for upon discovering that a cult exists dedicated to the God of the Razor. The latter comes to exert a very direct presence on Daly’s life when the GotR kills Daly’s girlfriend and, in the series’ most striking set of panels, leaves her head and skin draped on a hat stand for Daly to find.

From there we get a lengthy western flavored flashback filling us in on the GotR’s early years, as seen through the eyes of a black man and white woman pursuing the God. The carnage here is fairly extreme, although in truth it’s just a warm-up for the mind-scraping nastiness to come. This nastiness is precipitated by an even more head-snapping time shift, which takes place after Daly ingests the brains of his dead lover, apparently a sacred, dimension-busting act. He’s deposited in a bleak ROAD WARRIOR-esque future where he becomes embroiled in the life-and-death struggles of a gang of hard-driving rednecks.

It’s here, alas, in the fourth and final volume, that the story goes off the rails in a largely incoherent swirl of stream-of-consciousness storytelling, during which several characters are introduced but fail to make any impression. A scribe like Grant Morrison might have done something vital and interesting with this sort of thing, but hallucinatory writing simply isn’t Lansdale’s forte.

The climactic showdown, with Daly and his newfound futuristic buddies going up against the God of the Razor, is also a bust. There’s no suspense, seeing as how the God has already been established as unkillable–I don’t think I’m giving anything away by revealing that the God of the Razor, in tried-and-true Freddy and Jason fashion, is seemingly defeated only to be revealed as still kicking on the final page. This of course leaves the tale wide open for a sequel…which unsurprisingly never materialized!