Into the back issue box #8

For today's selection, I have two horrifying words that should make you run screaming into the hills: Brian.  Pulido.  Brian!!!!  Pulido!!!!

(As always, read the ground rules here.)

Suspira #4 (of 4) ("The Great Working") by Philip Nutman and Mike Okamoto, created by Brian Pulido!!!!!  Published by Chaos! Comics, August 1997.

You thought it was going to be something with Lady Death, didn't you?  Admit it!!!!  Well, this is jaw-droppingly scarier than something with Lady Death ... a spin-off!  Yes, this is The Ropers of the Lady Death comics, which means ... well, I'm not exactly sure what that means.  It doesn't have Jeffrey Tambor, which it certainly could have used!

Since this is the fourth of a four-issue mini-series, we expect some sort of closure going in, which we get.  On that front only does this qualify as a decent comic book.  Oh, and the inside front cover gives us a nice overview of what has come before.  I'd try to summarize it, but it's so much better to just reprint it verbatim:


She is a child of Light, but Darkness flows in her blood.  Her name is Felicia Chavez.  She is a witch ... 

As a young girl, Mexican immigrant Felicia planned on giving her life to God and the Church, but her destiny would lead elsewhere.  Raped by a corrupt landowner, despairing and suicidal, she fled her home and fell into the hands of Luis Velez, a charismatic cult leader.  Among his Order of the Weeping Woman, she gave birth to her bastard son, only to learn that Velez was also known as Epitaph, a disciple of demonic forces.

Witnessing the sacrifice of her son, she stole Epitaph's magickal rituals and recklessly summoned the demon Glazbolaz in a failed bid at revenge.  Instead, she found herself bound to Glazbolaz and trapped in limbo for 33 years.  Now, she has returned, only to find her old enemy Epitaph has grown more powerful since then.

She found Epitaph involved in a ritual called the "Great Working," an attempt to summon Chorzon, the Gatekeeper of Hell, so that he could return to Hell and gain revenge on his former mistress, Lady Death [PULIDO!!!!!].  Felicia succeeded in closing the passage between Heaven and Hell - at a price.  She has lost the connection with Glazbolaz that she believes was the source of her magickal power, and Epitaph himself escaped to his stronghold in Mexico, taking her best friend Lydia Nero hostage along the way.

Pursuit has weakened Felicia further ... and she's also been faced with a horrifying truth.  Not only is her bastard son Ramon alive - but he's one of Epitaph's most loyal minions!

Now that's a summary!  If it made your head hurt, don't worry - the issue itself will make your head explode!  We start in Guadaloupe y Calvo, Mexico, in the Sierra Madre Occidental range.  It's 1 November, All Saints' Day, 9:13 in the evening, at the Crypt of the Church of the Blessed Virgin.  No, these details have absolutely nothing to do with the story, but they're still important, damn it!  In a brief history lesson, we learn that in the 1600s, Spanish invaders swept through the country, bringing Christianity to the Aztec natives.  They killed those who did not accept the new God, but the old religion was not wiped out so easily!  Never mind that the Spanish really wiped out the Aztecs in the 1500s!  We're moving on!  Down the basement of a Catholic Church, mind you, is an Aztec altar -  funny how no one noticed it for four hundred years.  Lydia Nero lies on the altar as bait to lure Felicia there, because she ruined his ritual.  Felicia is wrapped in weirdo energy bands, claiming that it's not her son because he's dead.  Epitaph tells her that her son had so much power he couldn't sacrifice him.  His mistress, Dona Perpetua, trained him in magic, and Epitaph says they, along with Felicia, could have been a happy family.  He tempts her to come over to the Dark Side.  She stalls for time to figure out how to free Lydia, and she accepts his offer for the time being.  He tells her he wants to bring Hell to Earth, but she says that Lucifer no longer rules Hell.  She must have been reading Sandman!  He doesn't believe her, so he ... well, let's let Nutman tell us: "As Epitaph's etheric tentacles - protoplasmic extensions of the evil festering inside him - connect with Felicia's positive core, her divine hearth, they trigger a chain reaction ..."  Is it just me, or does that sound vaguely dirty?  Anyway, this chain reaction "between an angelic soul and a devil's heart tears them apart, opening them up to the sensations of the abyss.  Her divinity prevents Felicia from ever entering Hell, but, during the eons she was bound to the demon Glazbolaz, they watched the unraveling of Hell's hierarchies.  She has seen sights no mortal was ever meant to witness."  Okay, a couple of things here.  I'm not exactly sure why she's "divine," and "during the eons" she was bound to the demon?  In the introduction, it says 33 years.  Sure, that's a long time, but not "eons."


Anyway, this weird melding fragments Epitaph's mind and knocks Felicia unconscious.  As she wanders around her subconscious, she sees the man who raped her, who turns into her mother, who rejects her.  Then she sees the demon Glazbolaz, who calls her - would I lie? - a "puny wench" before she figures out it's actually Chorzon, not Glazbolaz.  Boy, that would have been a faux pas, wouldn't it?  Felicia, in a wonderful moment of "girl power," accepts both the darkness and light inside her, which causes the earth to rumble.  Meanwhile, back the real world, Epitaph is struggling to defeat Felicia on the psychic plane.  Lydia wakes up and realizes she needs to help Felicia.  Back in Felicia's mind, she tells Epitaph she no longer fears him, because he's just so pathetic.  He "rejected Heaven," but "Hell has no use" for him.  He taunts her, which pisses her off, so she gouges out his eyes with her thumbnails.  Felicia is fuckin' hard core!


Back in the real world, Lydia gets free and uses her chance to strike.  She takes on Epitaph's lover (his "whore of Babylon," as he calls her at one point), Dona Perpetua, but when Dona's head and arms come away from her body to attack, Lydia realizes she might be outmatched.  In Felicia's mind, Epitaph is revealed as an even uglier demon than we thought, and he shows Felicia how evil she truly is, which she rejects by ripping one of his eye stalks off (when his demon form appeared, he grew eye stalks; don't they all?).  She flees to an Aztec temple (in her mind), where a naked apparition tells her she is a child of the sun god and now it's time for her to "defeat the false god who calls himself Epitaph and deliver him to me."  She asks him how, and he tells her to use the Aztec blood that flows through her veins.  Well, of course!


Meanwhile, Dona Perpetua is strangling Lydia, as well as making out with her.  I suppose she's sucking the life out of her, but it's a weird lesbian fetish-asphyxiation moment, and it creeps me out.  As Felicia presses her advantage in the mind-realm, she realizes Lydia needs her help.  This leads us to the confusing endgame, which is, if possible, even more convoluted than what has come before.  I guess Felicia is back in the real world, trying to decide whether to kill Epitaph or save Lydia.  It's that whole Darkness/Light thing she's got going on.  Some Aztec zombies show up out of the blue and attack Ramon, who has been pretty much standing around the entire issue.  Felicia blasts the zombies, trying to save Ramon, while Dona Perpetua's disembodied head and arms finishes off Lydia.  The Aztec thing from Felicia's vision shows up out of the cracked earth and takes Epitaph, Dona Perpetua, and Ramon down into the ground as punishment.  Lydia's spirit tells Felicia to let her go, because she's going to Heaven, but Felicia calls on "Mother Life" to restore her, and Lydia comes back to life.  The three bad guys are beaten, and Felicia flies away with Lydia as the narration returns, bombastic as ever: "As she rises into the night sky, the radiant strength of her true power - the power of life - dispels the dark clouds troubling her thoughts.  This is the way it should be.  This is the way it has to be - the way of the right hand path, of life, of light.  But without darkness, there can be no light ..."  Cue dramatic music!


Then we get an epilogue back in New Mexico, as Felicia and Lydia are hanging out with some dude.  Lydia tells Felicia she summoned Felicia with some hidden books, and they beg Felicia to stay with them.  Threesomes all around!  Felicia, however, says they are all just pawns in a grand scheme beyond mortal understanding, and she needs to seek out answers.  She transforms into a bird and flies away.  The narration tells us she senses that something terrible is on the horizon, for herself and all mankind.  And she knows this is only the beginning.  We end with the (ominous? disturbing? unfortunate?) warning, "The end ... for now!"


This is really a ridiculous comic book.  The plot wasn't all that hard to follow, because of the summary and the pretty straight forward style, but it's so convoluted and goofy that we don't really care.  And minor plot points are weird, like Ramon's role in the whole thing, who the heck the Aztec dude is who sucks the bad guys down into Hell (Huztilopoc, the sun god, whose altar it is?), who the Aztec zombies are and why they hate Ramon so much (I suppose they just wanted him because he was unlucky enough to be standing near them, but still - where the heck did they come from?), and, you know, why we care.  Nutman tries really, really hard to make this all sound "important," but it's such a silly plot and so full of cliches that we really can't take it at all seriously.  It has some camp value, I suppose, but there's no reason to think the three issues preceding this are worthwhile.


The art is something else that works against it.  It's fully painted, so it's supposed to look prettier than if it had just been pencilled and inked, but there are a lot of awkward poses in this book and not much of a sense of motion when they characters are, in fact, moving.  It's actually nice to see Mexicans who actually look, you know, like Mexicans, so that's a plus, but while the art gets the job done, it's not as spectacular as it's supposed to be.  And, of course, there are a lot of cleavage shots.  See below for a gallery!


For a first-time comic reader, this would be a wild read.  It might be enjoyable for the sheer goofiness of it, but if you've never picked up a comic before, you might be surprised by the demons and gore and people getting strangled and talk of evil and horror and rape and death.  There's nothing completely objectionable about it, it's just a bit surprising.  You wouldn't be put off comics by it, but you might be put off by the pretensions of the book, which really tries way too hard to be "serious."

I have no idea if we ever got the long-anticapted follow-up mini-series.  Chaos! went under (I'm not sure when) and Brian Pulido took Lady Death, at least, to Avatar.  So perhaps we learned what evil Felicia fought next, but does it really matter?  And one last thing before the cleavage gallery - in the back of the book they actually have a page of pictures of people who have gotten tattoos based on Chaos! characters.  How do you feel today if you have a tattoo of Evil Ernie or Purgatori?  Lame?  Stupid?  Still cool enough to get the chicks?  I'm just wondering.


But let's check out the shameless cleavage shots.  All of these are from the actual issue!  Considering the book is about demons trying to take over the world, we get a lot of cleavage for our comic dollar!  (And yes, I know making fun of a Chaos! comic for its overabundance of cleavage is like pointing out I'm an idiot for supporting Philadelphia sports teams for 25 years - i.e., rather obvious - but it's still fun!)










All right, kids, I'm off to Egypt for a couple of weeks.  I hope it's not like that Egypt, because that would be too weird!  You scamps behave yourself while I'm gone!

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