I’ll admit to having missed last year’s “Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight” mini-series, in which writer/creator Alex de Campi created four stories that paid homage to the over-the-top grindhouse film genre. With a follow-up, “Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out” #1 debuting this week, I finally took the time to take a look at De Campi and R.M. Guera’s comic. Now I’m kicking myself for having waited so long.
Without giving too much away — part of the fun is the surprise in store — the first half of “Slay Ride” introduces us to a family in an isolated town in the Canadian plains. This Christmas Eve, killers have massacred most of the members, but a frail mother and a rebellious step-daughter need to get out the sleigh and try to rescue the other local families from the killers, even as they exact their own revenge.
The always-dependable De Campi’s story is a lot of fun; this is the kind of plot that could easily have used up all eight issues in this mini-series, but by compressing it down to just a two-parter, there’s not a moment wasted. The script moves at a brisk pace, but you also never feel rushed or out of control. We end up with a cast of characters who are all tarnished in some way, but whom are still compelling through their personalities as you follow them from one scene to the next. Every time you think you know what’s happening next, a little surprise will get you (and the story) jumping all over again.
Guera’s art fits the bill for “Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out” #1 perfectly. The big moments in this comic are illustrated in a way that grab your attention right as well; the leering faces of the three killers (who also vaguely look like some fast food mascots) are hard to look away from, to say nothing of our protagonists Shayla and Mother Wolf. But as much as I love how Guera draws the characters, it’s the little details that make the art sing. A set of footprints in the snow is wonderfully evocative, as the prints move into the shadow and towards the killers. Branches from trees overhead forming a demonic face on the moon is hard to look away from even as you do a double-take. And all the while, the snow outside just builds and builds. Guilia Brusco’s colors are a perfect match for Guera’s art, too; the blues and purples of the bathroom scene, for example, bring a level of coldness to the proceedings as they unfold into horror. The muted outdoor colors in general bring to mind the way that the winter weather leeches everything away. And then, as we go inside, the living room of the house suddenly snaps back into a full color palette for an area that is deceptively inviting even as horrors are lurking within.
“Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out” #1 is deliciously bonkers. It’s just fun, pure and simple, and I can’t think of a better homage to grindhouse. Since each story stands on its own, what better time than now to give it a whirl? De Campi and Guera have given us a great premiere; I can’t wait for the second reel.