LOT 13 #1
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Glen Fabry
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche Ain’t It Cool News)
Before I get into the frights and delights of LOT 13, I want to give some credit to the unsung heroes of comics: the editor.
Make no mistake editors are bosses, as such they get labeled as “the man,” especially in light of all the recent writer meltdowns in the big houses and the easy access Twitter gives them to spill their vitriol to the masses. I’m not saying these feelings are misplaced, an editor steers the ship and we have seen some comic ships crash into very rocky shores as of late. However, one editor I have never heard nary a bad word about is Executive Editor of Vertigo, Karen Berger. Whenever I talk to Vertigo writers for interviews, in tweets, or just the occasional Facebook exchange, the words used to describe Karen are “inspirational,” “Insightful” and “champion.” And quite frankly it shows in the work. I have read and reviewed almost every Vertigo title this year and I can only think of one that left me less than thrilled. It wasn’t even a bad book, it just wasn’t for me.
LOT 13 continues to show Karen’s acumen for green lighting comics that show fantasy and fantastical events are best served with heaping doses of morose reality.
LOT 13 is simple in premise, but 10000 leagues deep in execution, story development, characterization and creepiness. The best horror writers know that it’s the whispers before the scare that get the pulse pounding waiting for the next BOO. It’s a balanced juxtaposition that the “Saws” and “Hostiles” seem to forget as they simply revel in gore. I don’t fault anyone who likes copious amounts of blood and entrails, but I personally don’t find that stuff scary – merely disgusting.
Niles’ LOT 13 uses gore, but never EVER forgets to make us care about the characters who are about to meet their probable demise in later issues. It’s like ‘American Horror Story” on page and just like the show I can’t wait to see what happens next in this 5 issue miniseries.
Our story opens in Fairfax, Virginia circa 1600’s when America was still under the rule of King Louis XIV. Being a pop culture junkie, my only knowledge of old Louis is Mel Brooks’ insistence that “it’s good to be the King.” Apparently old Louis though had some peculiarities when it came to the laws of man and nature, one such law being that suicide and murder would be tried as a crime against God. So, our story opens with a family of corpses on trial, a Father who murdered his wife and kids, then took his own life. Fabry paints this ye ole court scene with just enough rotted flesh in the dead and lack of hygiene in the living to present scare without becoming stomach turning. The mob desecrates the corpses and then we flash forward to modern day.
In the present we meet Ron, his wife and three teenage children. Here is where Niles’ panache for making the familiar interesting shines. As the family prepares to leave their small apartment for the greener pastures of life in (wait for it) Fairfax Virginia, they are a family exactly like mine with the exception of the kids. I’m almost 40 like Ron, my wife five years younger and when we moved we had the exact same debate on whether my comic boxes were heavier than the ornate furniture she fills her home with. This was just one moment of realism amongst many that kept my willing suspension of disbelief firm and in place once the fantastic began to transpire.
The family finds their home in Fairfax is not quite ready yet as Walter White and his crew cook meth for another week under the fumigation tent. Salvation though isn’t far as Ron and crew find a lovely unoccupied apartment building in the heart of town, LOT 13, the same place I’m guessing that the ye olde corpses were desecrated 400 years prior.
So where is the scare and horror in present day? All I’m saying is it comes in the form of a ghost boy, a creepier than most child who starts to haunt Ron and his family individually and then collectively as the book progresses. Is there a tie to the massacre in olden times? You betcha, but I’m not going to spoil it. It’s subtle, perfect and still leaves a slew of mystery that makes me wonder if it can be resolved in just another 4 issues.
LOT 13 is perfection on page with scare aplenty, but enough human drama to make even horror haters keep turning the page.