The Kolchak Comics






Kolchak: The Night Stalker (Issue #1, 56 pages)
Writer: Jeff Rice
Pencils: Gordon Purcell
Inks: Terry Pallot
Publisher:
Moonstone
ISBN #: 0-9710129-3-8
Price: $6.50 (some copies have $5.50 on the cover)

Plot: Reporter Carl Kolchak dictates into his tape recorder, noting the details of "the greatest manhunt in the history of Las Vegas. Women are being killed, the blood drained from their bodies through two puncture marks on their necks. The killer possesses great strength, glowing red eyes, bad breath, and immunity to bullets. Kolchak continues to investigate despite the police and city government cover-up, and comes to believe the killer is an actual vampire. Tracking down the vampire to its lair, Kolchak destroys it with a wooden stake, only to be blackmailed into silence with the threat of a murder charge.

In General: This comic is the first to provide a full-out Kolchak story. Moonstone is proceeding with the help of Kolchak creator Jeff Rice and long-time Kolchak writer Mark Dawidziak (who is credited as editor and creative consultant). Kolchak: The Night Stalker - the comic book is to be the first in a series of Kolchak-based work (sales withstanding). For their first effort, Moonstone adapted the original TV movie, with Jeff Rice working both from his original "The Kolchak Papers", the movie itself, and his subsequent novelization.

The Cover: By Ken Meyer, Jr. An okay mood piece, with Kolchak lurking in a graveyard behind a cross with worm-like creatures coming at him and various nasties peeking out at him or lurking just (barely) off screen. I'm not familiar with Mr. Meyer's previous work. The detail on Kolchak's face seems a little blurry to me, but the stark contrasting of the orange-tinted Kolchak in the foreground and the blue graveyard setting in the background grabs the attention.

The Layout: Fifty-two pages. No internal ads! The backcover has an ad for Kolchak and other upcoming Moonstone comics (The Phantom, Crime Fiction, Moonstone Monsters). Nice glossy paper with a firmer cover stock. For the most part the comic uses the basic square-panel layout (never more than about six panels) with the occasional full-page spread tossed in. I had a page or two that were cut off just a tad at the bottom, and the glue binding makes it difficult on occasion to make out the words close to the center of the page.

The Artwork: Gordon Purcell does a relatively good job. The artwork is uncluttered, perhaps too much so - there is not a lot of background detail, and sometimes it is omitted in odd spots. Look at the panel with Skorzeny buying a car: the front dollar bill has less detail than the back ones! There is a fairly large cast of characters that Mr. Purcell has to draw. If they're not very distinctive it's less because of the detail he puts in, but rather because they all tend to blur together after a while, without the distinctive characterizations and mannerisms of the actors from the original.

For the most part Carl Kolchak looks like Darren McGavin: there are a few times when the character's face seems to change a bit. In this author's opinion, I didn't find that anyone else really looked like their actor and actress counterparts. However, there may very well have been legal issues involved in using the likenesses of so many actors and actresses. So I didn't see this lack of resemblence as any great concern. (It does look as if at least Tony Vincenzo will look more like Simon Oakland in upcoming issues, to judge by the sample at Moonstone's site).

Mr. Purcell takes advantage of the extended page length and we get several single-panel one-page spreads. The opening page shot of Kolchak and the later drawing with Janos Skorzeny striding away from Kolchak and the police are both suitable for framing.

While I read a lot of comics I've never been too clear on what the inker does. As such, the best I can say is that Mr. Pallot's work isn't disruptive or harmful. It didn't really catch my eye, either. This is a rather "dark" comic, with relatively few bright colors throughout. That seems appropriate enough for the most part, although it does make Las Vegas seem rather "dim" by comparison.

The Story: Well, anyone familiar with Kolchak has almost certainly seen the TV movie, so there's nothing here that will come as a surprise. I haven't reread my copy of the novelization within the last few months, and really didn't want to so as to avoid too many comparisons. The question to my mind was whether the comic book would stand on its own.

The first thing to be noted is that there is narrative. Lots and lots of narrative. The lettering (by Chuck Maly) is a relatively large 9 pt. or so. So Carl's voiceover narration fills a lot of the pages. The pages with minimal dialogue actually work better. Without Darren McGavin providing the voice, the narration we do have seems a bit...flat.

There's also a lot of hyperboles, which sometimes don't quite match up. After a dream sequence, Carl notes, "I'm something of a nightcrawler myself but at 8 a.m. sharp on May 13th..." and directly on the next page, "The killer had struck again." Not only are there no hyperboles on the follow-up narration, but it seems to imply that the vampire was active at 8 in the morning. Hmmm? Sometimes the narrative continues on, sometimes it peters to a stop. There's also some awkward phrasing on occasion: "How sadly right Reynolds was!" for instance - "Sadly, Reynolds was right!" would work better.

The story is fairly straightforward. There are a few odd glitches that strike me as kind of odd. For instance, we don't see what Kolchak did to find out about the initial blood drainage: instead we cut from a conference call saying the officials covered up the blood drainage to Kolchak writing a story about it. For some reason, Skorzeny raids the (due to be demolished) Old Town Hospital twice for blood. Not only does it seem odd that they would have stored blood at such a place, but why does he return there a second time? According to the narration, at least a day has passed. I don't recall if these were aspects present in the original novel and/or movie.

As with the original movie, Skorzeny is given no dialogue (although he does laugh once, and snarl once or twice). His presence is an effective one. We get more voiceover narration (from Bernie Fain of the FBI) about Janos' background). Pretty much everyone from the movie is present: the Las Vegas officials, Sam the call girl, car dealer Fred Hurley, etc. The main problem with most of the cast is they're difficult to tell apart. Mr. Purcell does his best, as I noted earlier. Still, most of the characters are middle-aged white guys. This makes Kolchak's comment about how the killer must be white ("You know damn well how cops roust black men for no good reason at night.") all the more ironic. Still, it's hard to tell them apart.

By necessity, the narrative approach means that the only person we really find out about is Kolchak himself. So all we really find out about, say, Tony Vincenzo, is what Kolchak thinks of him. Dr. Kirsten Helms (added from the novel, since she didn't appear in the movie) and Sam get a bit of personality, but that's about it.

My main concern with the story is the climax. Basically the book is an investigation story, with a few well-drawn action sequences. Then we get to the climax. Which is...well, rather anti-climactic. Carl and a bunch of policemen go to Skorzeny's rented house. They break in (Skorzeny doesn't seem to notice the busted doorknob when he arrives two pages later). He goes in, sits in his holy water-tainted coffin, burns, and the police and Carl catch up to him on the stairs. There's no danger, no threat. Carl doesn't even get to wield that cross he's holding on the front and back covers. Lt. Jenks points a gun at Carl's head and tells him to stake the vampire. This gives the whole finale a rather different tenor than either the novel or the movie.

The Timeline: Purists may be upset that K:TNS has been "modernized". The newspaper has a web site; telephones are cellular. On the other hand, the movie showing on a marquee is "Innocent Blood" (1992). A cute in-joke, but an odd bit of dating. As with "Grave Secrets", the team is trying to keep Carl up-to-date, which is an understandable decision. But there are a few contradictions here and there.

Also, I commented above on the lack of anybody in city government except for middle-aged white guys. There's a total lack of minorities and women. I don't purport to know what the modern-day structure of government in Las Vegas is, but this gives the book a curiously 70's feel despite the updates mentioned above. And yeah, all of Kolchak's TV police nemeses were mostly middle-aged or older white guys too (except for Irene Lamont and Sgt. Orkin). Hopefully as the comic progresses we'll get a little wider distribution of officials to get in Kolchak's way.

There's also a lot of emphasis on Richard Nixon for some reason - not only are there a lot of framed headlines of him in the newspaper offices, but protestors we see during Bernie's montage/narrative are carrying anti-Nixon signs too. Did the ex-President die owing someone at Moonstone money, or what? Again, the heavy emphasis on Nixon seems to date the material somewhat to the 70's.

The Future: Given the mix in timelines, it's hard to tell where the series is going from here. At the end Carl heads for Los Angeles, so it looks like new stories will be set in that city. Which syncs with what Jeff Rice and Mark Dawidziak did with the "modern day" Kolchak in "Grave Secrets." Hopefully we'll see the further establishment of a timeline that lets Moonstone do adaptations of the TV episodes (presumably set in Chicago) and possibly "The Night Strangler" (in Seattle).

The other question many readers, particularly new ones, may be wondering is: where does Kolchak go from here? In a sense this issue is Kolchak's "origin" (even though we find out very little about him). Does it set him up as a continuing protagonist that people would want to keep reading about? It's hard for me to say because I already know he's a continuing protagonist that I want to keep reading about. I'm not sure if Moonstone is trying to appeal to new readers. And in all fairness, I'm not sure if they can. It strikes me that there's not much here to appeal to a newcomer. You got a middle-aged reporter dealing with a bunch of other middle-aged guys and a killer who is a (by 2002 standards) fairly sedate vampire. Like the original movie (and unlike the David Chase-inspired antics of the TV show), there's almost nothing here that's hip or funny. Kolchak is still your middle-class everyman/working stiff, but (so far) without the quirkiness that Darren McGavin brought to the role.

Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with this issue. On the contrary, it's enough to convince me that Moonstone knows what it's doing when it comes to keeping the Kolchak franchise alive and well in the 21st century. The question is, will that sell an ongoing comic book series? Without a comic book that sells, they can't keep any character alive and functional. I'd be curious to know where they're planning on going here. It seems to me you need more than to simply put our beloved Carl Kolchak into more monster stories or redo old 70's stories. There seems like there isn't much for a lot of comic book buyers to latch on to here. How will Moonstone attract them? To me it seems like nostalgia will only carry them so far. To these questions, Moonstone and Kolchak: The Night Stalker - the comic book provide very few answers. But I'm willing to give Moonstone the time to come up with some.

Overall: Speaking as a long-time Kolchak fan, I can say that I liked this first issue, and am looking forward to some more. While I dwelled more on the flaws above than the virtues, there is plenty to recommend it. But...I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, as a long-time fan I didn't really feel I needed to see an adaptation of the TV movie. I've got it on tape and DVD, I've got the novel. I'm not sure that I could have been really "wowed" by any adaptation no matter who did it. So there's a sense of getting up to speed here with this issue that I didn't really need.

On the other hand...I'm not sure who I would recommend this comic to other than people I already know are Kolchak fans. Vampires in a modern setting were innovative back in '72, but no longer so thanks to author like Anne Rice, movies like the aforementioned "Innocent Blood", games like Vampire: The Masquerade, and shows like The X-Files and Buffy and Angel and The Chronicle. What I'm hoping is that Moonstone finds a way to bring new innovation to the Kolchak mythos. Otherwise their comic is just going to be a clone of the shows that themselves have their origins in Kolchak. Then I can hand this comic to people as an intro and say, "See, here's where it started, and then here's what the character is doing now that you should keep reading this comic." Hopefully, Moonstone has a plan to make Kolchak innovative once more, because Carl's future is in their hands.




The Get of Belial (Issue #2, 48 pages)
Adapted by: Joe Gentile (from a screenplay by Donn Mullally)
Pencils: Art Nichols
Inks: Jeremy Roberts
Publisher:
Moonstone
ISBN #: 0-9712937-0-8
Price: $6.95

Plot: While investigating a mine strike in Winship County, West Virginia, reporter Carl Kolchak gets wind of a series of gruesome mutiliation deaths that appear to be the work of either angry miners with picks or wild animals. Neither proves to be the case as Carl sticks his nose in and finds that the killings are connected to the movements of the Blackshear family. Where the family goes, murders follow. Pursuing the matter, Carl discovers that Sarah Blackshear is a faith healer, but there is a price to be paid for her powers of God.

In General: Moonstone brings us their second issue, which brings Carl "up to date" as it were with a standard supernatural/horror investigation in (presumably) the modern day. This is adapted from an unused screenplay by Donn Mullally that was slated for production in the show's first season in '74-'75 but went unused when the show was cut to 20 episodes.

The Cover: by Doug Klauba. A piece with Carl in the shadow of the "beast" of the story, with the title in lighter lettering across the bottom right. A little "washed out" but neatly captures the mood of the story.

The Layout: Forty-eight pages, with the 48th page a full-page ad for Moonstone comics, including the first issue of the Kolchak series. The back inside cover features a full-page ad for Kolchak, and the back cover has an ad for Kolchak and other Moonstone comics (Vampire, Werewolf, Legacy of the Invisible Man, Moonstone Monsters). Nice glossy paper with a firmer cover stock. For the most part the comic uses the basic square-panel layout (never more than about six panels) with some diagonal inserts but no single full-page spreads. Binding and cutting seem much improved over the first issue.

The Artwork: Art Nichols does a good job of capturing the faces: Carl looks like Carl and Tony looks like Tony. Carl gets a good range of facial expressions without looking too un-McGavin like. The rest of the cast of characters is pretty distinguishable with a wide range of body types. There's not a lot of background detail in most panels but what there is is pretty good. The artist also has some fun in a few shots, like the very narrow, almost invisible column-panel on page 45 of Carl climbing down a ladder.

Mr. Nichols does a particular good job with the "beast," whether keeping it in shadows (page 6 in particular) or giving us a "money shot" for the first time (page 42). Very nice, distinctive look that really captures the feel of both its demonic and angelic aspects.

There are a few spots where the artwork is unclear - it's kinda difficult to tell exactly how the beast meets its end on page 44, middle-left panel, for instance. And there's a couple of times when the art choices are a little odd - Carl is supposed to be spotting a clue on page 19 (a scratched arm) but we don't see the scratched arm clearly on that page or the following one, and it doesn't look like Carl can either. And why does Carl wear his watch on his right wrist when he's clearly shown to be a right-hander throughout?

Jeremy Roberts' coloring work is good. Again, this is a very "dim" story, both because its a horror comic and because it's set in a gloomy mining town. This kind of darker coloring works better in this story than for the Las Vegas of the previous book.

Lettering: Basic typefront stuff, but Moonstone need to get a spellchecker or something. 'Kolchak' is misspelled twice: 'Kochak' on page 23 and 'Kolcak' on page 29. There are a few other misspellings and word dropoffs throughout (page 15: "Al's widow, Joni, was taking it.", and 'sherif' on page 39). While this story is a little less wordy and more visual than Issue #1, these did tend to jerk me out of the story flow when they came up.

The Story: The basic storyline of Get of Belial is available to those who want it - Mark Dawidziak summed it up in his Night Stalker Companions. This is definitely a Kolchak piece - he does a fair amount of investigation work and is nicely characterized. He gets a couple of good "This is how they died" monologues (particularly Glen Maynard's - page 5). I'd think Carl would try something other than the "scratchy phone" gag, but his conversations with Tony are pretty good although we don't really see enough of Vincenzo.

The sheriff (although not named until page 39) is more interesting than most "Kolchak cops" - sympathetic and irritated by turns. The story works well with him because for once he's not involved in a cover-up like most Kolchak cops - he's just trying to get to the bottom of things. We just barely get enough of Sarah Blackshear to give us a feel for the character and the pages with no dialogue (of which there are several) do the most effective job of getting across her plight.

There are a few odd conversational moments in the comic: why is Sarah talking about bulldozers coming on page 3, for instance? And I'm not quite sure when Carl is talking about "eyes" if he means management lost "four eyes" or took "four eyes".

The only thing that seems a bit odd, and most likely a flaw of the original screenplay, is that Kolchak apparently feels the matter is at an end with the death of Sonny. Ummm, why? Sarah has two other sons - is there some reason Belial won't curse one of them as well? But Carl's final struggle with the beast is definitely a Kolchak kind of climax.

The Timeline: No clarification on this matter - we're not told how much time has passed since the first issue, or if this flows from the first issue or is decades later. You can't even tell where Tony is - Chicago? Las Vegas? Seattle? Los Angeles? As Joe Gentile has stated, Kolchak will remain "timeless" and I have no objection, but I could see some comic book fans puzzled by the lack of "continuity". Since Moonstone has mentioned that they will move away from adaptations hopefully they can clarify this just a tad in the future. I'd like to see if Carl ever updated to a laptop, for instance, or if he's still banging away on that old mechanical typewriter. :)

The Future: Since "Get of Belial" is another adaptation, and perhaps one of the last, it's hard to predict where Moonstone will be going from here. Like Issue #1, "Get" seems to be more of a "clearing the decks" issue before they move on to a "newer" Kolchak with new more modern-day stories (if we ever get such a thing). IMO, while Kolchak should remain "timeless" he needs a bit more modern-day background to interact with - at least we should know where he operates out of!

Overall: I found this story a worthy entry into the Kolchak mythos, and a good adaptation of the original screenplay. It's very definitely a "Kolchak" story, moreso than Issue #1. If anything, I'm getting impatient to see what Moonstone does when they get free of past stuff and produce their own stories, as Issue #3 will be doing. I'd highly recommend picking up "Get of Belial", and it looks like a few more distributors are picking it up - particularly hobby stores since Moonstone does the Vampire/Werewolf stuff. You might even be able to find it without special-ordering it as your local store. But if not, I'd recommend ordering it.




Fever Pitch (Issue #3, 48 pages)
Story by: Stuart M. Kaminsky
Pencils: Christopher Jones
Inks: Barbara Schultz
Cover: Doug Klauba
Publisher:
Moonstone
ISBN #: 0-9710129-9-7
Price: $6.95

Plot: While fighting a flu, Los Angeles reporter Carl Kolchak investigates a series of grisly deaths and discovers both strange consistencies and inconsistencies. Each witness to a death is the next victim of the killer, and each witness reports seeing a different horrific creature emerge from the victim's body as it literally explodes from the inside. Yet there seems to be no visible killer and no murder weapon. A doctor meets with Carl to provide the final grisly details, leading Kolchak to literally face his fears.

In General: Moonstone brings us their third issue, which presumably sets the tone for the stories to come. Carl is alive and well and working in L.A. for Tony Vincenzo, Ron Updyke is his co-worker, and Kolchak is pretty well integrated into the Los Angeles setting. The story is an entirely original piece by Stuart M. Kaminsky.

The Cover: by Doug Klauba. This one nicely captures Darren McGavin's likeness - it's the best of his cover works so far. The background features lighter shots of the various "monsters" from the story within.

The Layout: Forty-eight pages, with the 48th page a full-page ad for Moonstone comics, including the first issue of the Kolchak series. The back cover features the same ads as before. Unlike the previous issue there's a lot of variety in panels and their placement.

The Artwork: Christopher Jones does a good job overall. Not sure if he's the one who drops in a lot of the in-joke type things, but kudoes to whoever put in references to the "Yellow Submarine", Gordy and his lottery, Ripper murders, Las Vegas, one of the victims wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt, etc. There's a good variety of difference among the rest of the cast. There's not really a lot of detail work here, either in the characters or the background (typically a single color). The occasional close-ups are pretty good.

There's occasional dark and shadow stuff but again it's the same kinda "dim" story as previously, both because its a horror comic and because it's set at night.

Lettering: Uggh - one thing I found really, really distracting was the use of slanted letters to represent capitalization. Everywhere. It was really distracting to me, and tended to yank me out of the moment, reading-wise. Typos are much improved from previous issues and other then the occasional dropped punctuation, nothing important.

The Story: Unfortunately, this is kind of where I have to point out a few things. The general concept is pretty good, and there are some nice moments that telegraph the final resolution, particularly when you look back. Some of the witnesses mention a chill running up their spine, which takes on a more significant meaning that we find out near the end of the story. I'm no expert on virology, but the basic concept seems sound enough for the purposes of a horror/s.f. story. Interestingly, this isn't really a "supernatural" piece. That's not totally unusual for Kolchak (They Have Been..., Mr. R.I.N.G., Primal Scream). Still initially the implication is that something supernatural/monster-y is going on - they don't really follow up on this although a moment when Kolchak acknowledges this might have been interesting. "I've seen werewolves, and that, sir, was no werewolf!" :)

Maybe it's just the nitpicker in me, but there seems like there's a few glitches in the story. The basic viral concept sounds good, but it seems odd that it jumps to only one host at a time - it doesn't seem to multiply. What would happen if it did take over two people at once? Or could it? It's not clear why Carl's flu bug is in the samples from the corpse - wouldn't the coroner have taken the tissue/blood sample before Carl arrived? This seems done just to play up the otherwise amusing subtext of Carl fighting viruses both within and without.

And the ending is just . . . odd. First of all, why doesn't Carl have pictures of Dr. Kinatu? We see Kolchak taking a shot of the doctor (pg. 39) - why is Kinatu subsequently missing from the photos? When the virus "escapes" the sealed room (which is anything but - notice the big crack on pg. 35), where does the big splotch of blood that coats them come from? If the doctor didn't seal up the room (as he claimed) well enough to avoid them both getting literally hosed with blood, it makes him look even dumber.

It also seems odd that the doctor just doesn't lock up the last victim and stay away from the house - although it is a kind of Kolchakian muck-up. The ending is also kind of confusing. Carl refers to the cemetary as the "scene of the crime". We haven't seen Kinatu at a cemetary the entire issue! It's also not clear why the virus would seek Kolchak out at the end. It hasn't sought out people that knows it's an infection before - yet Carl anticipates it's coming after him for just that very reason. If the virus is intelligent (and it's not entirely clear what does drive the host body - instinct or intelligence), you'd think somebody who knows what to expect would be the last person it would seek out!

Granted, the TV show rarely had the most tightly plotted scripts in the world either - I'm not sure if Moonstone is trying to deliberately emulate that kind of thing, or these were unintentional plot holes.

The Characters: Carl is characterized pretty well and gets lots of "screen" time as it were. The running gag with the flu cures (and his reaction) is nicely done and as I noted earlier, it both has a subtext within the story itself and an amusing payoff at the end. My one gripe would be that the "vision" he gets at the end is rather generic. A hydra-headed dog. Ummm, okay. Even if they didn't want to use any previous monsters from the movie or series, this doesn't give us any insight into Kolchak when it seems a perfect time. By comparison, Kinatu's "vision" is both insightful and tells us everything we need to know about him. The "visions" of the earlier victims do so as well - note the older victim Sam has a different vision than Jillian - they're both media-related but her's is of a much more recent movie.

It also seems odd that Carl, of all people, didn't catch on that there was a trail of...44? victims stretching from Africa to L.A. before the virus hit his town. He's an investigator - that seems like the kind of thing he lives for!

I'm not sure they've quite got the hang of Ron Updyke yet in his first comic book appearance - in the series he's a combination of nerdy, insecure, and sarcastic, and they only really capture the latter here. Tony Vincenzo is presented fully in character - cyncism, concern for Carl, admiration, and skepticism all balanced out very well.

There are a host of new characters introduced, and right off hand I don't recall if some of them were introduced in "Grave Secrets" by Mark Dawidziak among his new Los Angeles cast. A few of them go unnamed - the detective on pg. 4, the morgue attendant (not Gordy :( ), and particularly Carl's co-worker that he kisses at the end of the book. Janie Watkins, perhaps? Seems any of them might be recurring characters - it would be nice to have a bit more introduction. Police Captain C.J. Murray gets a few moments, we get some background and personality, and appears to have the flair of a Rausch or Siska . . . which seems odd because he appears to be retiring and we won't see him again. Sara Bratman has some potential and an introduction so hopefully she'll stick around.

The Timeline: As noted above, "Fever Pitch" seems to be the real "kickoff" to the comic book. It's L.A., Tony and Ron (and Janie Watkins? Gordy?) are all around, Carl's got a job and he looks to be working there for a long time. (Although presumably still with dreams of making it to New York - in another nice touch, note the snow-globe on his desk). If this is how they're going to handle the "timeless" aspect it works pretty well. There's a few minor elements (such as referring to the movie "Anaconda") but nothing overt or upsetting. And yes, we see that Carl has moved into the era of word processing.

The Future: "Fever Pitch" is really the first "true" story produced entirely by Moonstone from an original piece rather than an adaptation. It's a good one, and a good change of pace - it kinda sets things up without being too specific, leaving them plenty of room to (hopefully!) expand the setting and the characters in the future.

Overall: It struck me that the story could have been much more tightly plotted and clarified in a few spots but otherwise I'd say the combination of art, story, characterization, and Moonstone making Kolchak "their own" came together pretty well here. "Fever Pitch" sticks within the "Kolchak Format" and yet still manages to bring in a twist or two to make it unique.




Lambs to the Slaughter (Issue #4, 48 pages)
Written by: Joe Gentile (Story by Joe Gentile and Mark Dawidziak)
Pencils: Trevor Von Eeden
Inks: Ken Wolak
Cover: Doug Klauba
Publisher:
Moonstone
ISBN #: 0-9721668-8-2
Price: $6.95

Plot:Teen runaways are going missing in L.A. in record numbers and Carl Kolchak is given the assignment by his editor Vincenzo to investigate. But a crazed survivor turns up and his story leads Carl to CEO Marcus Polk, a man with a vested interest in cloning due to his inability to father a child. From there the trial leads to an abandoned prison and the killer. But can Carl escape a maze of intrigue to find out the truth...and live?

In General: Moonstone brings us their fourth issue, which follows in the pattern set down by #3 (and the novel "Grave Secrets" by Mark Dawidziak). Carl works in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Dispatch (aka, the "Disgrace"), with editor Tony Vincenzo and fashion reporter Ron Updyke, and Carl has plenty of contacts in the L.A. community. The story is an entirely original piece with script by Joe Gentile and story by Joe Gentile and Kolchak scribe Mark Dawidziak.

The Cover: by Doug Klauba. This one doesn't seem as detailed or quite as good at "capturing" the Darren McGavin look, and it's a kind of generic piece.

The Layout: Forty-eight pages, with the 48th page a full-page ad for Moonstone comics, but not for the Kolchak series. The back cover features some new ads. the same ads as before. Unlike the previous issue there's a lot of variety in panels and their placement. There's only one full-page spread, and no page numbering

The Artwork: Trevor von Eeden kicks off his work here - Mr. von Eeden is an...'acquired' taste, but I've enjoyed his work since he used to work at DC on Green Arrow, Thriller, and a brief stint on Outsiders. It's nice to see him back, as I haven't kept up with his recent work elsewhere. I wouldn't say his capture of McGavin, Oakland, and Grinnage is spot-on, but he definitely gives the characters the same "feel" - kind of more an iconic representation of them then a literal photo-capture. Although Carl seems to have a lot more hair then Darren McGavin did in the 70's (and it's brown rather then red). Von Eeden's new characters, Marcus Polk and Theresa Termini, are distinctive as well (although Ms. Termini's eyebrows seem to be visible through her hair occasionally - it's a von Eeden kind of style thing :) ). The other characters are distinctive - you rarely have trouble telling von Eeden's characters apart.

There's a lot of solid blue shadowing, and red-and-blue lighting - as always, not unexpected with a darker style of horror artwork. Von Eeden does a good job of keeping the monster in the shadows Kolchak-style.

Lettering: They got rid of the use of slanted letters from the previous story, Fever Pitch. Yay!

The Story: The story is fairly solid, although a little vague in spots. We're never quite told who Polk is, for instance. One second the survivor utters his name, the next Kolchak is breaking into his office. On the other hand, Carl talking with the street woman Ms. Christoff seems to take a bit longer then it should. It's an interesting exchange but runs a bit long.

The science seems a little iffy - how do you go from human cloning to a 8' tall carnivorous half-man/half-bull minotaur that requires a mythological pattern to keep it in check? This seems like a story that started with a concept ("Let's have Kolchak take on a minotaur!") and kinda worked backward to come up with a rationale for the idea. It's also the second story in a row to feature a science fiction concept (and the next story, "Devil in the Details," keeps up this trend). Hopefully not all the "new" stories will dwell entirely on s.f. and ignore the supernatural - the original series was grounded more in the latter then the former.

The other somewhat awkward thing about the story is that...well, there isn't much there. Kids go missing. Carl stakes out bus stations, follows people kidnapping kids to abandoned prison, and defeats monster. There's no indication that Carl couldn't have used a gun or anything, so the rest of the stuff in-between, which basically establishes the origin and "vulnerability" of the monster that doesn't seem necessary, seems kinda unnecessary. Locating the monster doesn't seem too important here or is the focus of a story the way it is in the TV series and movies - it's more of Carl investigating just to put together a story. This gives "Lambs..." an odd feel. Not necessarily a bad one, since much of this in-between is filled up with characterization (see below). Maybe it's the fact that the monster is in a prison (both literally and figuratively) - half the fun of a Kolchak episode is watching Carl trying to locate a mobile opponent.

The Characters: With Gentile and Dawidziak, probably the two most knowledgeable people on Kolchak that Moonstone (or anyone else) has, doing double-duty on the story, this is the best part of the issue. Carl displays pretty much every characteristic that he did on the show - alternating cynicism and optimism combined with a lousy ability to run a bluff or lie, along with exasperation on his entire career and the direction it's going. Kolchak does get a romantic relationship, harkening back to the movies (rather then the TV series). It's done pretty well here (unlike in the next issue), although it doesn't seem we'll be seeing Ms. Termini anytime soon. :( We also get to see Carl interact with Tony, Ron, Ms. Termini, and the returning Professor Helms. (One note - it seems odd that Carl doesn't recognize the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur but Vincenzo does - Kolchak needs to learn how to do a Google search!)

The Kolchak/Vincenzo relationship is done well - we get a bit of Tony's backstory. It is a little jumpy since Tony is back to yelling at his intrepid reporter by the end of the episode but I suppose that's par for the course, and overall Vincenzo is really well done. Nothing new on the Kolchak/Updike front but that probably isn't going to change anytime soon.

Other then the aforementioned Cole and Termini, we don't get a lot of new characters - only one of Carl's police contacts, Weber, as well as Ms. Christoff. Hopefully Weber will show up again (note: she doesn't in the next story) - it would be nice to see a recurring cast other then just those from the TV series.

Overall: A generally excellent piece - I'd like to see them move back toward the supernatural a bit more rather just science fiction (note: "Devil in the Details" doesn't change the trend). The story itself seemed a little rushed in spots, but there weren't any big plot holes like in the previous "Fever Pitch." Overall "Lambs..." is a average (or somewhat better) story that's rather straightforward and big on characterization.




Devil in the Details (Issue #5, 48 pages)
Written by: Stefan Petrucha
Pencils: Trevor Von Eeden
Inks: Ken Wolak & Dawn Groszewski
Cover: Doug Klauba
Publisher:
Moonstone
ISBN #: 0-9726443-7-7
Price: $6.95

Plot:Businessman Chester Fredersen receives a wrong number in the middle of the night...and dissolves away. The police believe that Frederson absconded with his company funds, but Carl looks into the case and soon realizes there's more then meets the eye. When Fredersen's sister disappears under the same circumstances, Carl is sure their brother Barry is responsible - a suspicion confirmed when Barry begins to recover from the dehibilitating disease he is suffering from. It doesn't take long for Carl to figure out the how and why, but dealing with Barry Frederson after he dies - and comes back - may be another matter entirely.

In General: Moonstone brings us their fifth issue, which follows in the pattern set down by #4. Carl works in Los Angeles at the Dispatch (aka, the "Disgrace"), with editor Tony Vincenzo, fashion reporter Ron Updyke, and Miss Emily. The story is an entirely original piece written by Stefan Petrucha, author of Dark Ages: Assamite Topp's X-Files comic book, and much more.

The Cover: by Doug Klauba. This one is adequate, but kind of generic.

The Artwork: We finally have the same artist - Trevor von Eeden - for two issues in a row. That's a good thing both for fans of Mr. von Eeden (myself included) and for those who looking for a consistent feel for the Kolchak book. von Eeden's work remains top-notch, in particular his Miss Emily - his work on panel 5, page 13 and panel 2, page 14, capture Ruth McDevitt exactly. There's not quite the broad cast of characters #4 had for von Eeden to work with, and I wish he had created a few more distinctive characters - Detective Curtis (a nod to the movies' producer Dan Curtis, one assumes) and Fredersen's doctor look somewhat similar, as do Chester's sister and wife. A couple more redheads or blondes among these four characters might have worked better. Again, the characters are more iconic then photographic, but that's fine here.

The art and inking is a little lighter here then in the previous issue - even the outdoors night drawings are clearer. von Eeden gives us one full-page spread that pretty much captures the entire Kolchak concept - something evil this way coming (and looking pissed) and Carl trying to snap a picture. Mr. von Eeden follows that up with a two-page spread that's also impressive and very Lovecraftian.

The Story: The story is quite frankly the highpoint of the series to date. It's a solid piece in the Kolchak movie/series vein, so to speak - mysterious deaths, police cover-up and/or indifference, and a twisted whacko human menace (like The Devil's Platform and The Trevi Collection). This means the bad guy/monster-of-the-week (or at least the guy responsible for the monster-of-the-week) has some personality, up to the last little bit of remorse. The real monster is quite creepy, as is the concept of someone slowly and (presumably) painlessly disappearing body part by body part.

The science is okay, although I'm not big on the apparent trend of science fiction rather the horror/supernatural threats in Kolchak (and #6 looks to be more of the same). It's probably a matter of poor scheduling rather than deliberate intent, but hopefully they'll vary the nature of Kolchak's beasties a bit more.

Carl's investigation is a little more intricate then in #4. I'm not sure, however, that I quite buy Federsen's sister Diana throwing herself at Kolchak quite so...enthusiastically. This is in line with the movies and their novelization, but it comes across as a little abrupt here (and what does Theresa Termini from #4 think of Carl's brief romance here?). I'm also kinda curious how the son is killed when there's no phone nearby and how the monster(s) get back to Barry after doing their dirty work. But those are fairly minor complaints - overall the story is suitably creepy.

The Characters: Petrucha displays a good grasp of the characters, particularly the regulars. Kolchak and Updyke aren't quite so hostile, although there's not quite the sense of comraderie between Kolchak and Vincenzo that Gentile and Dawidziak had in #4 (although the running theme/gag with the robot is amusing and lets Petrucha showcase the office cast individually). Carl is at his best here - perhaps a bit too talky and I found sometimes the running narrative got in the way a little as Carl seems to talk all the time - letterer Vince Sneed must have been very busy indeed. Still, almost all of Carl's monologues are beauts, so even when you're being distracted from the action by the running narrative the words are worth reading.

Among the new characters besides Barry Fredersen, we get Detective Curtis, who might be a continuing character. Yes, the TV series had a different head captain each week, but it might help for the comic to set some new ground and create its own continuing characters. Dr. Lefter, the other continuing character, is the typical semi-weird Kolchak contact and info go-to person. She's interesting, but probably not someone we're going to see again.

Overall: "Devil..." is probably the best Kolchak issue to date as Moonstone continually improves on an already excellent start. I had no major problems or concerns with the issue itself - my only suggestions would be to move away a bit from the science fiction and work on a supporting cast beyond the series and movies, but these concern the series as a whole rather than this specific story.




Pain Most Human (Issue #6, 48 pages)
Written by: C.J. Henderson
Pencils: Greg Scott (with Terry Pallott, John Statema, & Dave Ulanski)
Colorist: Andrew Maitland
Cover: Doug Klauba
Publisher:
Moonstone
ISBN #: 0-9748501-1-X
Price: $6.95

Plot: Carl has taken refuge in a bar in New York City and Tony has to track him down. Carl has a story to relate concerning the nice "normal" case that he asked Tony for - deaths at an airforce base in upstate New York. A story of government cover up and mysterious lights in the sky and aliens. Carl got out alive, but what he saw...well, seems to have driven him to the thin edge of sanity, something he'd only be grateful he could get drunk enough to forget.

In General: Moonstone brings us their sixth issue, which follows in the pattern set down by #4. By now you know the drill - Carl works in Los Angeles at the Dispatch (aka, the "Disgrace"), with editor Tony Vincenzo, fashion reporter Ron Updyke, and Miss Emily (the latter two missing this issue). The story is an entirely original piece written by C.J. Henderson.

The Cover: by Doug Klauba. This one seems a bit rough compared to Mr. Klauba's earlier work. I found it difficult to believe this is the same artist who did Fever Pitch. To its credit, it hints at what's going on in the story without giving it away and it actually does relate to the story. Several of the previous covers have been a bit generic.

The Artwork: We get a new artist, Greg Scott, and his style seems to have provoked some...controversy on the forums, to say the least. When Mr. Scott is doing art that has more of a noir "feel" to it, he's spot on. Pages 4-6 and 47-48 are a good example. When he's doing detail work, his renderings of Kolchak and Vincenzo are excellent.

But...then we have some work throughout that is a lot less detailed, and just...well, goofy. The picture of Wayne Chambers on page 19 is a good example - the poor guy looks just weird. Some of the renderings of Kolchak are very detailed, and sometimes they're very simply non-lined images. Panels 2 and 4 on page 13 are a good example - it's hard to imagine the artist who drew Carl on page 48, 4th panel, is the same guy who drew the stuff on page 13. Or the page 48 artist drawing Chambers on page 19.

Unfortunately, it's hard to determine who is/isn't the artist for a given panel, since no less then four folks are listed, although Mr. Scott is given the main listing. I'm not familiar enough with his or the other artists' work to make a panel-by-panel determination. I'm assuming that the most detailed work (and it's thankfully in the majority) is Mr. Scott's, in which case his work suits the Kolchak story exceedingly well. But having the artflow disrupted by the other artist's radically different style was extremely disconcerting, to say the least.

And then there's the colorist, for which Andre Maitland gets full credit. Pages 22-23 and 30-35 tend to be a bit darker then necessary, even for the dark/spooky/noir setting of Kolchak. The opening and closing pages with the bar are just right. But some of the brightly bit stuff is a bit...too, bright. Returning again to page 13, there's a lot of pink here. Lots and lots of pink. More pink then you can imagine. It's almost painfully bright. There's only a few pages like that, but it's still kind of disruptive to the general flow of art throughout.

The Story: The story, set up with the framing piece of Carl narrating what has gone before (see "The Sentry" for a similar example) is a solid piece. We get to see Carl in all of his typical roles - investigator, break-in guy, gadfly at a press conference. However, I'm still not entirely sure I buy Carl as a romantic-figure leading-man kind of guy. Regardless of my personal feelings, though, there seems to be a rather heavy reliance on this in the squarebound books and I wouldn't mind seeing him take a break from dating or going to bed with a woman every issue. The comic-format series Tales... seems to have the right idea here.

The alien plot is a good one, and we get to find out something about Carl in the process. There's never really any clear indication of why he wants a normal story - Carl never really does answer Tony's question of "So what happened in between yesterday and today?" (page 7). I just which it happened a bit more naturally - say, with Carl referring back to the events of previous issue. Instead it seems introduced just to make a good promo line and make Carl's disillusionment at the beginning more poignant.

The art and story definitely come together on pages 39-44 when Carl catches up to the alien (somewhat puzzling described as "Little Guy" - he seems larger then Carl) and he undergoes an extremely painful vivisection at the hands of human scientists. The final conclusion definitely leaves an impact on the reader. Carl's "recovery" (with some help from Tony) seems a little too quickly resolved, so it might be something we see a bit more down the road.

The Characters: Kolchak and Vincenzo are pretty much front-and-center. There are several secondary characters, including a PR man who looks suspiciously like a homage to Wally Cox of "The Night Strangler" (see page 28, panel 1). Both Carl and Tony - Vincenzo pretty much solos the first three panels. the relationship between the two characters is pretty much the centerpiece of the issue here - we don't really find out what Vincenzo thinks of Carl's story, but clearly what matters is that he listens to Carl, doesn't have a screaming feat, and actually is concerned about something other then getting the story out.

Carl is good here, alternating between the poetic to the investigative to the noir-detective while keeping the basic humanity that Darren McGavin brought to the role. My only note would be that once again the running narrative gets in the way a little - there are 3-4 pages of nothing but Carl talking. And talking. And talking. Letterer Vince Sneed must be a very busy man indeed.

Overall: "Pain Most Human" is a nice solid effort which takes the Kolchak/Vincenzo relationship up a notch and gives us a thoughtful story with some insights into both Carl and the human nature. My only real gripe would be the...variable nature of the artwork. If Mr. Scott returns to the book in future I hope that he gets to do the whole thing.




Pain Without Tears (Issue #7, 48 pages)
Written by: C.J. Henderson
Pencils, Colors, & Cover: Dennis Calero
Letter: Terri Boyle
Publisher:
Moonstone
ISBN #: 0-9748501-5-2
Price: $6.95

Plot: "And then they killed me." Kolchak finds himself on death's door in defense of a beautiful woman with strange powers. Rekindling a part of him he thought extinguished, she haunts every thought his mind can hold. What is her secret, and why are so many willing to KILL to control it? And how will CARL survive the twin bullet shots to his body and soul?

In General: Moonstone brings us their seventh issue, which follows in the pattern set down by #4. By now you know the drill - Carl works in Los Angeles at the Dispatch (aka, the "Disgrace"), with editor Tony Vincenzo and the staff of the TV series (although only Monique Marmelstein makes an appearance here). The story is an entirely original piece written by C.J. Henderson - Henderson's second story in a row. Unfortunately, the pages are still unnumbered.

The Cover: by Dennis Calero. Calero gives a different feel to the prestige issues, taking over from Doug Klauba (who has done every cover since Ken Meyer, Jr. on Issue #1). The cover art is consistent with the interior art as a result and it's an image designed to attract attention on the shelves while showing somethign that happens in the comic itself. The detail, particular Carl's face, is a little rougher then I might have preferred - it's difficult to tell it is Carl.

The Artwork: We get a new artist, Dennis Calero, and his style varies back and forth. Some of his art is photo-realistic while in other spots it's very unlined - the picture of Carl at the bottom of page 13 is a good example. There are a few spots where the secondary characters tend to blur together - there's a lot of criminal thugs floating through and sometime they're a bit hard to tell apart. Calero might have been better off making them more distinct. When Calero does the more photo-realistic work it's very good and captures the noir feel, but the occasional lapses into lesser detail make it look rushed.

The Story: The story takes an in media res approach similar to "The Sentry," with the first five pages repeating later on in the issue after the rest of the story "catches up" to it. Basically it's a personal piece for Carl with no monsters per se. Carl gets another romance - one a bit more realistic then some of the other come-and-go relationships of the past. However, that also means we know it's pretty much doomed from the start. Along the way we get to see Carl in a good suit and taking some heroic efforts to save his newest girlfriend. He also gets to have a heart-to-heart with Vincenzo - another effort to establish them as friends more then employer and employee. That part of it works pretty well.

There's a little bit of investigation on Carl's part as he tracks down Yitt. The main complaint I would have is that the story is a bit erratic in spots. Characters show up and disappear (like the police on page 33 - where'd they go?) and I lost track of who was after Yitt in the final scenes no matter how many times I read and reread the issue.

Finally there's a nice bit of references as Carl relates to Yitt all the monsters he's fought, encapsulating the movies, series, and Moonstone comics. I wish the art on page 8 showing Carl's "history" had been a little clearer. There's also a few minor gltiches in the writing - on page 9, for instance, it says, "...only to find another a human boy..." for instance. I think thee's supposed to be something between "another" and "a" there.

Overall I'd rathe story pretty highly. Youi do have to work a bit to deciper some of what's going on but it's a rewarding effort.

The Characters: This is primarily a Kolchak piece - there's nothing out-of-character here and we get a few more looks into Carl's coping with a career that seems dedicated to nothing but unwanted and undesired encounters with the supernatural. It does seema bit similar to Henderon's preceding effort - both the title ("Pain" in both) and Carl sitting around in a bar when someone shows up to let him unburden his soul. As noted above, the brief bit with Tony and Carl together works well showing their friendship - it's not subtle, but it does the job.

Henderson maintains Carl's narrative style from the previous issue, going from poetic to the noir-detective while keeping McGavin's humanity. Carl isn't quite as chatty as last issue - yes there's times when there's a lot of narrative but it's more appropriate here when it is used.

The new main character, Yitt, is set up pretty well. She does come across as a bit ruthless, or human if you prefer. She leaves Carl to deal with the thugs earlier on, and lures them all together to wipe out each other. It's a little hard to buy the romance between her and Carl - presumably her special "powers" account for some of the abrupt intensity of Carl's feelings toward her. In fairness that's a question Carl himself raises at the end, and even the readers are left to wonder.

The rest of the cast are pretty unforgettable, although there are a few stabs at characterization such as with the guy who she asks if he's happy doing what he does.

Overall: "Pain Without Tears" is another solid effort by Henderson, giving a reasonable romance for Carl and picking up on and (hopefully) resolving some of the issues raised last issue with Carl's ongoing career woes over the supernatural. There are a few weak points but generally Henderson improved over the last issue and will hoepfully continue to improve if he works on future issues.




Mask of Moment (Trade Paperback, 10 pages)
Written by: Stefan Petrucha
Pencils: Andy Bennett & Dave Aikens
Cover: Doug Klauba
Colorist: Wally Lowe
Letterist: Terri Boyle
Publisher:
Moonstone
ISBN #: 0-9726443-9-3
Price: $17.95

Plot: Carl gets his own exclusive "interview with a vampire," when he meets with Avad Gyorok, a self-confessed vampire and a suspect in the disappearances of beautiful young woman. Is it deja vu all over for Carl, or does Gyorok's have a darker secret...

In General: As a note to the reader, "Mask of Moment," is not a standalone story. It's an original story presented in Kolchak: The Night Stalker - Volume 1, a trade paperback compilation of "The Night Stalker," "The Get of Belial," and "Fever Pitch." So if you don't have those first three issues of the prestige-format series, now'd be a good time to pick them up. If you already have them, then if you're a complete-collector type it won't be a tough choice to pick up this collection for the additional story. If you have those issues but are wondering whether to pick up the compilation just for "Mask of Moment," well...read on.

The Cover: by Doug Klauba. A pretty standard generic pic of Carl stalking a ghost in a graveyard. He's carrying a cross (is the ghost a vampire) and seems a little more brave then one usually expects. There'a a fair amount of detail but not too much. Since this is a compilation the generic nature is appropriate. The chapter break artwork are the covers from previous prestige-format issues.

The Artwork: On to the new story and its artists, Andy Bennett & Dave Aikens. The art on "Mask of Moment" is, quite frankly, rather...bland. Not a huge amount of detail. Carl looks like Carl. Given the story brevity, the action takes place in pretty much one place. It's all very black-dark blue-dark greyish color-wise for the most part. Overall, the art...does its job. Nothing bad, nothign spectacular.

The Story: I'll avoid spoiling the "twist" of the story here, but lets say it takes Kolchak where Kolchak has never gone bfore. The short itself is pretty straightforward, given the relatively small page count. Carl meets with monster, monster attacks Carl, Carl defeats monster. There's a little bit of off-screen investigation work and generally Carl is portrayed as a competent reporter. He quickly gets in over his head, but no surprises there.

The Characters: This is primarily a Kolchak piece. The story is told entirely in voiceover narrative, so we don't really get much insight into the "monster," Avad Gyorok. He's a monster to be pitied, in a twisted kind of way. The story is really here to give us some insights into Carl. We find out why he seeks out the truth for his readers and a bit of what he thinks of humanity in general and the "monsters" that stalk in in particular.

The voice narrative is a bit...too much, perhaps. And some of it seems to be a bit more...poetic then Kolchak typically gets. You feel like Carl reading Faye Kruger's writing in The Vampire as I must admit, I never thought of Carl as the guy to use the word "whither," for instance. The wording just seems a bit...well, wordy in spots. As I noted previously on another issue, the letterer (Terri Boyle) must have a busy couple of days.

Overall: "Mask of Moment" does what it sets out to do - give us a relatively brief 10-page story as a bonus to a compilation book and gives us a few looks at Kolchak and what makes him tick, and gives us a unique "monster" to examine. Stefan Petrucha does what he sets out do and delivers in spades.




Eve of Terror (Issue #8, 48 pages)
Story by: Stephen Lord & Michael Kozoll
Adapted by: Joe Gentile
Pencils: Walter Figueroa
Inks: Chad Hunt
Colors: Tricia Hale
Cover: David Michael Beck
Publisher:
Moonstone
Price: $5.95

Plot: Carl Kolchak is hot on the story of a scientist who is mysteriously, and quite violently, murdered. With his patented skills as a world class snoop, he discovers that the laboratory, and the shadowy figures that fund its experiments, have much to hide. But when a seemingly unrelated murder takes place with Kolchak as its only witness, there is no power on earth than can stop our man from uncovering the horrible truths behind these deaths.

General: By now you know the drill. Moonstone. Kolchak. Comic book. Trade format. Set in the modern day, presumably. It's a little hard to tell here since this story, like "The Night Stalker" and "The Get of Belial," is Moonstone's adaptation of an unproduced script from the original series, written by Stephen Lord and Michael Kozoll, and adapted with additional original material by Joe Gentile. So the era and location of the story could be almost anywhere. The comic runs 48 pages, unnumbered, with no interior advertisements except on the inside back cover.

The Cover: We get a nice fairly realistic and clearly drawn shot of Carl backed into a corner, compliments of David Michael Beck. Nothing fancy, and Carl's face seems a little...slanted, but it's enough to catch the attention and there are some nice details such as the boom box that features later in the story.

The Artwork: With Walter Figueroa we get yet another new Kolchak artist. He has a clear clean-cut style which might seem a little out-of-place in a Kolchak comic, but it works well with the settings of the story - much of the story takes place in laboratories and on rooftops in the daytime. The few shadowy panels (mostly featuring the conspiracy) are sufficient. Figueroa's Kolchak looks like Kolchak, and his Vincenzo looks like Vincenzo, without being photo-exact. His women are certainly...attractive, although I wish he had distinguished between Veronica Mason and Gwen a bit more. His backgrounds are fairly straightforward without a lot of detail, although there are a few exceptions.

There are some odd glitches in points - on page 43, panel 3 Carl emerges from a rooftop door but in panel 4 suddenly it's moved 90 degrees to his left. We also find out on page 45, panel 2 that Carl apparently glues his hat to his head! :) Also on page 3, panel 1 it's very difficult to determine how the injection sequence worked. On the other hand, Figueroa's action sequences are nicely done, and probably further accentuated by the lack of sound effects - ironic, given the story's subject matter.

Colorist Tricia Hale's work nicely compliments Figueroa, although a few coloring errors creep in. For some reason Lt. Hurlow starts as a brunette then becomes a blonde when he's at Deckbar's apartment (starting on page 9, panel 5), then eventually goes back to a brunette again for the rest of the story. Also, on page 25 panel 2 the murder's hands are colored Caucasian flesh tone, which makes the story a bit more confusing. Which brings us to...

The Story: It's difficult to tell how much of the story is altered from the original screenplay. One gets the impression the whole Rife machine/conspiracy angle is an add-on by Gentile, probably to make a simpler story (woman becomes Jekyll/Hyde type due to exposure to sound waves) into something more suitable for modern audiences and today's more story-driven comic. This does make the title a bit off, however, since "Eve of Terror" now doesn't really mean anything - I believe Eve was the name of the scientist in the original screenplay.

Unfortunately, the story is somewhat of a mish-mash and one wonders if it's the attempts to update the original screenplay. Again, it would be interesting to see how much of the original remains and how much is new. As I noted above, the physical and occupational similarity between Gwen and Veronica means I was a bit confused as to who was being killed halfway through the story. Craig Temple's role in the story seems to be more coincidental then anything. He happens to be the conspiracy's front man, and Carl happens to be at a press conference involving him, and the killer happens to track Temple down (despite being described as an "indiscriminate, and messy") and murder him.

The history of the Rife machine is also vague - Royal Rife's name is tossed out, and we hear about the conspiracy as 70 years old. However, what happened 70 years ago or what has been happening since then is never explained. The conspiracy's plan is also rather vague. Carl says Deckbar "was not exactly controllable" but she apparently kills whoever the conspiracy wants her to. Or maybe they're trying to kill her (by activating the implant) but she just goes berserk and kills people the conspiracy happens to want dead. And despite their ruthlessness, the conspiracy leaves not one but two witnesses behind.

There's also the final build-up, where Carl reveals what he knows about the Rife device's healing powers. Presumably he was told that by his contact Tommy/Bela earlier, but he waits until the end to narrate/explain it. It would have worked better to let the readers in on the information when Carl got it, rather than waiting for the end.

So there's the Rife device, which the conspiracy doesn't have, but they do have a different unnamed sound device that creates semi-programmable killers. It's not clear how Franks got the Rife device, or why he didn't just give it to them in the first place since he was "involved with the military as far as getting hold" of it. Or why he left it on a table with a big sign saying "Rife" on it (see page 1, panel 2). It's all a bit confusing, even upon several rereads. I'd have to agree with Carl, who notes on page 29 that "This seems really disjointed."

The sound pollution angle, carried over from the original screenplay, seems further tacked on and doesn't seem to signify anything. It's not random noise that creates the killer (which again I believe was an angle from the original screenplay), but rather deliberate noise.

The Characters: If the story is a bit of a difficult read, then what makes the issue fun is the character bits. Perhaps due to the fact this is an adaptation rather then part of the current storyline in the squarebounds, Kolchak is in fine "normal" mode here rather than the rather depressed individual of the last couple of issues. He's alternately aggravating new policeman-of-the-week Lt. Hurlow, hitting on women, annoying people with questions, bouncing off Vincenzo, boasting of his abilities, and confident he'll come out on top just as he was in the original "Night Stalker" movie when he's ready to break his story.

Vincenzo has a few fun moments although the rest of the Kolchak supporting cast is curiously absent (Ron Updyke gets a name check). Lt. Hurlow is a fun addition to the ranks - he likes to bust doors open with his fists and hoist annoying reporters into the air. But at the same time he and Vincenzo share the same gastro-intestinal specialist, compliments of Kolchak. He makes a change from the typical middle-aged Kolchak police-nemesis and one wonders if Carl's right when he thinks Hurlow deep-down appreciates him. Probably not, but a little secret respect wouldn't hurt.

Gwen the roommate becomes Carl's ally throughout the story and at least initially she gets to do a bit of sparring with him over his attitude as a reporter. She kind of fades away personality-wise in the back half of the story, however.

It would be nice to see both Gwen and Hurlow return - Gwen is now a partner with Kolchak against the conspiracy. However, as this story may not fit into the present-day Moonstone continuity and we don't get a lot of recurring characters in the trades, it's unlikely they'll return.

Carl's contact Bela/Tommy is interesting, although he doesn't get a lot to do, and the other guest characters have their little moments and all. There's nobody totally forgettable and the character moments help to keep the issue going when the story gets a bit confusing.

Overall: "Eve of Terror" left me with a rather odd sensation after reading and rereading it several times. As the writer somewhat acknowledges through Carl, who says, "This seems really disjointed." Also, even for Moonstone's rather loose continuity, "Eve" is hard to pin down. It doesn't seem to be a direct adaptation like issues #1 and #2, but it doesn't really fit into the current continuity, either. It's actually closer to the regular-format series in the setting and feel, although it doesn't have any connection to that, either.

For the first time with a Moonstone Kolchak comic, I got a headache from trying to follow the story. It's not that it's complicated, or if it is then it's too subtle for me to figure out. Rather, it just seems to be missing bits and pieces - while what is happening "on-screen" is clear enough, the motivations and background behind what we see isn't at all clear.

Overall, I'd recommend the issue - it's my favorite to date in terms of artwork even though I realize that it isn't a style that would work with every story. It's also a strong one in terms of characterization - there are no deep new revelations here, but Joe Gentile seems to be enjoying himself just "doing" Kolchak and Vincenzo and some enjoyable supporting cast members like Hurlow and Gwen. I don't believe there are any other scripts out there for substantial adaptations, so this may be the last such story we see of this story, but hopefully Moonstone can come up with a few others.




Black & White & Read All Over (Kolchak Special, 48 pages)
Publisher:
Moonstone
Price: $4.95

A Cover: Ron Frenz and Ken Wolak
B Cover: Dave Ulanski and Ken Wolak

General: Moonstone brings us a special 48-page black & white one-off. The hook here is that we get three different views of Kolchak as he relates three tales to Tony Vincenzo's psychiatrist to give the guy some background on what Tony has to put up with on a daily basis.

The A cover has Carl in full monster-hunting paraphernalia in a nicely-detailed drawing with nods to the Kolchak episodes "Horror in the Heights" and "The Vampire. Only the awkward shadowing of Kolchak's right eye detracts. The B cover is a pretty straightforward with Carl facing off against the antagonist from the first story.

Framing Sequence
Written by Dave Ulanski
Illustrated and Lettered by Chris Burnham

The framing sequence basically does what it sets out to do - give Kolchak (and the writers) a chance to relate three different stories, from three different angles, about Kolchak. We get a little insight into Kolchak, and a little insight into the off-screen Vincenzo. Dr. Waustermund comes across as a believable character, although perhaps just a bit too accepting of Kolchak's stories. Then again, maybe he's just humoring him...

Chris Burnham's artwork is...okay. He generally makes Kolchak look like Darren McGavin, and Dr. Waustermund look normal and consistent. I'm not big on the decision to have monster-type...flashbacks? Ghosts? Something in the background in some of the shots. And Carl is in a few odd poses, such as on page 14 panel 1. Assuming what we're seeing is what the psychiatrist is seeing, I'd think Carl was nuts if he was cowering from imaginary snakes. And I have no idea what the...thing around Carl on the last page, last panel is supposed to be.

"Stoned"
Written by Peter David
Penciled by Kirk Jarvinen
Inked by Keith Williams, Lettered by Bill Halliar

Yes, that Peter David. If you're looking for traditional Kolchak, this is the story of the collection for you. The only real problem is that at 11 pages it's bare bones and just whizzes by, and a few things go unexplained, like how Carl knows to cure the monster's curse. Along the way there's a nod to another "banquet of glorious cheese" and a bit on having Carl return to New York City. Clearly David is having fun with doing a Kolchak piece and his affection for the series is well-known, dating back to his first "Alien Nation" novel. This story, like the others, pretty much take place outside of the Moonstone's Kolchak continuity - probably safest for the writers that way, and one imagines at least some of the writers will handle it the same way in the upcoming anthology.

The art by Jarvinen is a bit tighter then I've seen in his "Tales..." work to date - perhaps the smaller page count gave him some breathing space. He uses sharper more detailed pencil work then his other Moonstone work to date, and the black-and-white inking by Williams serves him well. He also has a fairly distinct take on the monster with its eyes. Also he does a nice job of muscle tone and shading on page 6 panel 4.

"The Spike"
Written by Clay & Susan Griffith
Penciled by George Broderick
Inked by Ken Wheaton, Lettered by Chuck Maly

This story gets an extra two pages and a bit more character development and detail. It's basically a backstory piece on Tony Vincenzo and a somewhat predictable one. It's told from the perspective of Carl investigating his friend's and boss' past history. We find out about Vincenzo's pre-editorial work as a reporter and to no surprise he had a brush with the supernatural. It rather directly spells out why Vincenzo keeps Carl on and lets him do what he does. Frankly, this was covered a bit more subtly in "Tales..." #4 and also perhaps contradicts what was said there. Presumably the stories here are part of the official Moonstone/Kolchak continuity, but if so hopefully this one will go unmentioned in the future.

There are also a few sloppy editorial incidents: "uslcers" on page 15 panel 3, and a character who changes names in the space of one panel on page 19. The story itself does a workmanship job of setting up Vincenzo's history but there's not a lot more there. Only the last three pages really perk it up, with Carl and Tony sharing a drink and then a final voiceover with Vincenzo in church.

And the art...I'm not familiar with George Broderick's work and while I can't say I'm a fan of his style here, for the most part he does an okay job. My only real complaint would be that the characters aren't drawn consistently. I don't expect every artist to do a photo rendering of the main characters, although Broderick does so once or twice. He's the first artist on any Moonstone Kolchak project that I would observe that if the character wasn't wearing Kolchak's clothes, and it wasn't a story about a guy named Kolchak, I'd never know I was looking at Carl Kolchak in the majority of shots. On the other hand Broderick does slip in a few inspired moments like the Las Vegas Daily News cup and the photo-type drawing of New York City on page 18.

"The Stuff I Leave Out"
Written by Stefan Petrucha
Illustrated by Robert Hack
Lettered by Chuck Maly

And we come to the last story, portraying Kolchak as the reporter of the factual. This is told by Petrucha in the style of an flashback narrative, which would have worked better if the art was distinctive enough to set off when the scenes change from past to present. It's also told entirely in voiceover narration, further making the transitions more difficult to follow. Also there's a bit of bad timing - although this comic special came out before the new Night Stalker series, the story's basic concept shares a similarity with one of the early episodes. It is also somewhat similar in theme and concept to Petrucha's early work, "Mask of Moment."

Hopefully it isn't a trend, but as in "Mask of Moment" Petrucha relies very heavily on voiceover narration and not at all on word bubbles and "on-screen dialogue" as it were. While there's certainly a place for narration even in an action sequence when presenting a comic story, a mix of the two seems to work better - both "Stoned" and the recent "Eve of Terror" work better than the constant and pervasive Kolchak narrative given here. Mr. Petrucha seems to be adding more narration as he goes along - "Devil in the Details" it was a little noticeable, "Mask of Moment" it was a lot so, and here it seems to be edging up into the excessive.

The real problem of the story is the art, and I stand corrected - there is an artist beside George Broderick who can draw a Kolchak that isn't recognizably Kolchak. The opening shot of Kolchak is...less than flattering, rendering his face as abnormally...well, fat, and making his neck as wide as the lower part of his head. The action sequences are awkward, particularly Carl falling through a window into the basement then getting to his feet within the pentagram a few pages later. There are a few shots where we're dealing with a recognizable Carl Kolchak - page 40, panel 2 comes to mind - but they are few and far between. While the story was average or a little better, I thought the art dragged it down considerably, making everything difficult to follow.

Overall:

While I thought all three stories had adequate stories, the artwork of the last two drew me out of the unfolding narratives. The theme that Moonstone was aiming for, to portray three different aspects of Carl Kolchak, didn't quite seem to jell. Only the third story really differentiates one "side" of Carl. The first story with Kolchak the Monster Hunter doesn't really explore that angle as much as present a standard monster-hunting story. And the second story focuses more on Vincenzo than Kolchak.

I found "Black & White..." a merely average work despite the fact it's presented as more of an "event" one-off. I'd certainly recommend the first story, suggest the second with some reservations, and generally avoid the third, while the framing piece is mostly harmless.





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