In case you're wondering what lurks beneath the cut, I'll give you a hint ... it's published by Lightning Comics! Lightning Comics: Your Destination for Quality Comix!
Before we begin, be sure to read my ground rules for these posts if you haven't already. Okay? Okay! Today's selection is The Fury of Hellina #1 from Lightning Comics, which was written by Steven Zyskowski, drawn by Terral Lawrence, and inked and lettered by James M. Anderson. It has a cover date of January, 1995. Yes, it's a 1990s comic. Fear it!!!!!
I'll get this over with quickly: The Fury of Hellina is a terrible comic book. It's definitely not new-reader-friendly, and even if you've dealt with some crappy comics over the years, it's pretty bad. The cover (which, unfortunately, is the best art of the book) promises "cult-bashing," yet no cults get bashed. I'm not sure why you would use the adjective "cult-bashing" if no cults get bashed - that seems awfully specific, and then it doesn't deliver!
It gets worse on the inside front cover. "Lightning Comics," the frontispiece explains, "was born out of the desire to give you, the comic enthusiast, the very best entertainment as well as highly sought after modern collectibles." [Emphasis mine.] Oh dear. You know that can't be good. I wonder if only one issue of Hellina will fund my daughter's college education, or maybe I'll need two? Jesus.
It gets worse. Oh yes, it does. On the first page, Hellina stands on a rooftop in Chicago, looking down at the city. This is her outfit (in case you can't see it clearly enough on the cover):
The pencil work of Terral Lawrence, the artist on this book, looks like a bad version of Chris Wozniak's art ... and when your pencil work is a bad version of Chris Wozniak's art, that's just not very good at all. But while Hellina is posing there, we get words. Oh yes, my good readers, we get words. Here, verbatim, are all the words on the first two pages:
Omniscient narrator: Chicago ... the infamous "windy" city. It's midnight ... the beginning of a dark new day. Entranced in thought, Hellina concentrates on waging the ULTIMATE crusade!!
Hellina's internal narration: Corruption and violence run rampant throughout this city! And while stopping Lucifer's evil from destroying the lives of the innocent feels like a never ending fight ... I must intensify my thoughts ... focus on locating the greatest source of evil. And when I find it ... it shall be destroyed!
I've found a darkness! A chill pierces my soul, as if an icy raindrop was racing down my spine!
Screams! They're not too far away ... coming from an alley nearby! Strange?! I feel as though I'm being guided by a strange but familiar force. I must be prepared for the unexpected!!
Yes, the exclamation points are all in the text, and they never let up - characters are apparently yelling at each other throughout the book. Hellina finds three men "ripped to shreds," and she believes that "whoever or whatever" did it can't be human. Yes, because we know humans can't be that savage. Why, that would be crazy! She looks at the wall of the alley and see "Hellina" written in the victims' blood. So, of course, she swears that when she catches up to the person who did it, their blood will be painted on the wall! Charming.
We switch to an abandoned church in another section of Chicago, where another vigilante "prepares to access the night ... in search of evil!" His name is Ramen Alexander Perg, he's sentenced to live for 500 years on earth, and he's motivated by love for a woman with whom he hopes to be reunited in heaven. Oh yeah, Perg looks like this:
He yells to no one in particular that every night at midnight he's allowed to roam the streets to "cleanse evil from the souls of the weak" but he must return to the church at daybreak. In what I hope is an intentionally hilarious metaphorical monologue, he rants: "I thrust my dagger into the foreheads of evildoers! The feeling ... I'm hesitant to say, is exhilirating! The power, the dominance, the satisfaction ... should not be so compelling! When they see my blade about to penetrate their flesh, they fear their life is about to end!" You know, most people take care of their daggers at home with the latest issue of Ladies' Home Journal, Perg. You should try it. Perg exposits that his "dagger" permits people to start a new life in a better direction, and while he's never had to cleanse anyone twice, he's prepared for it! Ooh, foreshadowing! Perg teleports around for a while and eventually comes across the three dead guys in the alley. He thinks "Damned!" when he finds them, believing that in all his years in Chicago, he's never seen such "savage butchery!!" Again with that? Where have Hellina and Perg been hanging out? Oh, and Hellina just abandoned the bodies without calling 911? Good job, Hellina! Even better, she moved the bodies, too - here's how she found them:
And here's how Perg finds them:
Not only did Hellina move them, she reattached one of the victim's head! She's totally into performance art, man! (I suppose these could be three completely different victims, but it's not clear from the text. Wow, something unclear in this comic - alert the media!)
Luckily for Perg, one of them is still alive, and he tells our pal that Hellina killed them. Oh, damned! That's not going to make Perg happy, and indeed, he freaks out just a bit, especially as he's already "cleansed" her once (and she totally dug getting penetrated with his dagger, I'm sure). Perg is a bit confused about Hellina - should he be angry or happy that he gets to "penetrate" her again?
Meanwhile, close by, Hellina is posing on a rooftop again, but we know that "rage continues to burn within" her - well, that's nice. Suddenly Perg teleports in behind her and tells her that her evil will now be cleansed for good. Oh, sorry - for good! Hellina tells him she has no desire to mix it up with him again, but Perg, ever the ladies' man, says, "Of course you don't, Hellina! But lies will only increase my pleasure eradicating the evil which once again has consumed your mind!" So, when Perg goes out on a date, does the date have to say stuff like, "Why yes, Perg, I dig those shoulder pads! Ooh, your dagger is so big, Perg!" Does that "increase [his] pleasure"? Hellina tells him that if he wants a fight, she'll give him one, so he whips one of his chains at her and snags her around her arm. She throws him off, saying "Female intution tells me there's no reason to escape! Victory shall be mine!" Um, what? They bash each other for a panel or two, and then Hellina gets out her whip, telling Perg she's "beginning to feel a little bit BITCHY!!" He responds with the immortal catchphrase, "It's CLEANSING TIME!!" (I swear that's what he says. Would I lie to you?)
Hellina tells him she once respected him, but now she has to destroy him. Before she can do that, however, a silhouetted figure on a nearby rooftop starts laughing and gets her attention. She leaps up there, wondering who would dare mock her battle with Perg (besides, you know, all the readers), and comes face to face with ... (wait for it) ... Catfight. Yes, Catfight. Let's let her explain her raison d'etre:
She zaps Hellina with her energy spear, but that's nothing to Hellina! Our heroine leaps at her and slashes her across the face, asking how she likes the sight of her own blood. As she grabs Catfight's throat and pushes her back over the edge of the building, Catfight answers that it doesn't bother her, because she doesn't "really exist!!" Fuck the heck? Suddenly she transforms into the form of Hellina's one true love, Michael ... whom Hellina killed for Satan. Damned, that's harsh. The momentary distraction allows Catfight to gain the upper hand, but then Perg (remember Perg?) shows up and tells her, "YOU'RE the evil I sensed on the streets!!" He stabs Catfight in the back of the head with his dagger, casting the demons within her soul back to "the fiery pits of hell!!" She whines that she can't go back, and then disappears, leaving a ring behind. Weirdly enough, it looks like getting the demons cast out of her caused her to gain some weight, as well:
Hellina picks up the ring and exposits that it was once hers, given to her by Michael ... "one week before [she] killed him." Perg shares that he lost the love of his life, too, which is why they both fight, and they part as allies. Hellina puts the ring on and says, "I pray the good Lord will forgive my trespasses ... but not forgive 'he' who trespassed against us, Michael!! 'He' can never be forgiven!" The book ends with her once again brooding on a rooftop, promising Michael that they will one day be reunited!!!!!
Man. I don't think I can say much more about this. Oh, I guess here's one thing: In the letter column (hells yeah there's a letter column!), we discover that Hellina is twenty years old. I don't know why, that really struck me as funny. Anyway, it's obvious from this entire comic that the creators were tying this into every other Lightning Comic release - there are plenty of footnotes explaining where events they refer to occurred - so I guess that's something if you're interested in delving into the Lightning Comics Universe. Other than that, this is just a lousy book. It's ugly, it's poorly written, and it's wildly insulting to women (and men, for that matter, but it's really insulting to women). I can't imagine someone picking this up as their very first comic and thinking the medium has anything positive to offer in terms of entertainment, and that's a shame. This is like watching a women's prison movie as the first film you've ever seen - how keen would you be to return to the multiplex after that?
Lightning Comics has long departed this world, and that's a good thing. I'm perversely curious to read another one and see if it's as bad as this one is, but I'm certainly not going to look for it! Has anyone out there ever read anything else by the company? If so, did you immediately volunteer at an orphanage in some war-torn country to regain that piece of your soul that you lost? That's what I feel like I need to do!