Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stitch 'em Up - Stiched #3 - Review

Stitched #3 (wraparound cover).
Allow me to first express how my stomach churns to write this. It churns because I am reminded of all the gruesomely horrific series Avatar Press has produced in the horror genre. I've seen families brutally massacred and raped by a disease infested swarm of cross-faced maniacs in Garth Ennis' Crossed. I've read an entire comic where an undercover female FBI agent is forced to give oral sex while being sodomized by a sex cult (all before being raped by an amphibious Lovecraftian creature) in Alan Moore's Neonomicon. And now... now in issue three of Ennis' latest horror tale Stitched, readers find out the origins behind the titular monstrosities known as the Stitched. And believe me when I say this is not a comic for a weak stomach.

 Beyond the rivers of carnage and bloodshed that Avatar Press is so well known for, I am always invested in their titles solely for the purpose of enjoying a good story. Without a doubt, this is my main reason for sticking with any series; whether it appears in television, book, or comic form, a strong story must exist to pull my strings and get me to lay down some hard cash. As luck would have it, Avatar Press is not merely a publishing group known for disturbing content but rather disturbing content built around a solid, conceptually interesting story-line. Stitched is no exception.

Stitched Short-Film Poster

Before the comic, Stitched started as a short-film written and directed by Ennis in 2011. Tank Jones, Lauren Alonzo, and Kate Kugler starred in the short as a group of American soldiers lost in the hostile mountains of Afghanistan after their Black Hawk crashes. With one of the team wounded, the three soldiers must make their way across the desert terrain without gaining any attention of the locals. Little do they know they face a much bigger threat than Al Queda soldiers. They face a dark force known as the Stitched. This premise is not exactly original. In fact, it is slowly becoming it's own horror subgenre, something I call "warror," a blend of "war" and "horror" films. Jason Hignite over at HorrorHound shares my feelings, labeling movies like Resident Evil, Predator, and Dog Soldiers as "paramilitary." No matter your choice of misnomers, I would like to assure you, Stitched holds up as a strong comic using these two genre blends.

Part of the reason the comic is good is due to Ennis' ever entertaining dialogue. Ennis' history in the comic industry includes the popular Vertigo series Preacher, Dynamite's The Boys, and his run of Marvel's Punisher. I easily consider him one of my favorite comic book writers, right beside Alan Moore. My only problem so far with Stitched is the fact that it is a series. In my opinion, the only way to truly enjoy Ennis' work is if it's collected in one volume for one big, luxurious read. This makes rating a single issue extremely difficult.

Stitched #3 (regular cover)
Mike Wolfer's artwork is similar to most art featured in Avatar Press comics. The depictions of humans are recognizable but not perfect (especially in the facial features). But once the bump-in-the-night spookies come out to play, readers truly see the merit behind the art. Take for instance any of the covers for the Stitched series and you will see just what kind of horrific goodness you have in store as a reader. The Stitched creatures are a clever concoction of the classic Universal Mummy blended with the KKK. However, revelations in this months issue will tell just how these ghastly things came to be. Wolfer also adds a convincing hand when depicting the Afghanistan environment. Of course, it all appears to be rocks and sand but not once have I thought, "Damn, that looks out of place."

All in all, issue three of Stitched is worth reading. However, I strongly feel readers will find a collected volume more satisfying than picking up the single issues. I will admit that if you are looking for the next line of horror like that of Crossed, Stitched is not it. The story and art are strong but not as epic and gripping as the original Crossed serious was. Without the comparison, Stitched remains a gruesome book for any starved horror fan.

Stitched #3 (gore cover)

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