The Undertaker Morton Stoneby Michael Brown, staff writer

Hello, comics fans! It’s Thursday, which means it’s not Wednesday, which means New Comic Day here in the States has come and gone. Hopefully, you’ve managed to get your new releases from your pull list, file, subscription service, or whatever your local comic book shop calls them, or maybe you had them digitally downloaded. Regardless, it is my mission to bring you my personal picks of the week, every Thursday. So, without further ado… let’s talk comics, shall we?

*The Undertaker Morton Stone #1 by Gary Chaloner, Ben Templesmith, and Ashley Wood: Gestalt Comics*

Horror is a difficult genre to get across in comics. Not impossible. Just difficult. The artist and writer have to be in sync, and they both have to be able to deliver a story that will genuinely scare the reader. And, honestly, this task lies more heavily on the artistic team than the writer. You can have the most horrifying, nail-biter of a vampire tale ever written, but if the penciler and the inker and the colorist produce a sloppy, comical, vampire that can’t visually back up the writer’s tale … well …  you’ve got nothin’.
Gene Colan and Marv Wolfman’s Tomb of Dracula from Marvel back in the 1970’s- ’80’s is a good example of horror done right in comics. I would even go so far as to say that, speaking as a kid growing up in Ohio who was just getting into comics, Denny O’Neil and Jim Aparo’s Batman for DC Comics was pretty darn scary. Even now as a 40-year-old with kids of my own, I still think Batman’s Rogues Gallery, as portrayed by the skills of those two comic craftsmen, was terrifying. Tales From The Crypt, Dark Horse Comics’ Creepy anthology series, and DC’s House of MysteryHouse of Secrets, and other horror anthologies were staples of comics for years were proof that horror and comics can coexist. Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s 30 Days of Night for IDW Publishing is the best example of a horror tale expertly done in comics lately. And it’s Templesmith’s art, inside and out, shared with fellow artist Ashley Wood and working in tandem with Gary Chaloner’s wordsmithing, that makes this comic what it is.
The Undertaker Morton Stone is the black-and-white tale of of a man who saw his wife and daughter die at the hands of a psychotic villain called Mr. Noddy. Morton Stone was arrested for the crime and put in an asylum, where he spent several years. Now free and just a bit unstable and twisted, Stone digs the graves at Corkscrew Cemetery but he has revenge on his mind. With a souped-up hearse and his dead and stuffed dog Crypt Toe by his side, Stone will track the fiend who ruined his life.
Australian Gary Chaloner’s, whose writing resume includes companies like Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse, scripting of this tale of vengeance is beyond just good. The voice he’s given his character Morton Stone is twisted and off-putting. Sinister, even, that made you forget he was the good guy in the piece. And Ben Templesmith, another Australian, whose art we’ve seen in 30 Days of NightStar Wars Tales from Dark Horse Comics, and IDW’s G.I. JOE, from 2008, among other things. His shadowy, dark, surreal, ghoulish penciling is the perfect complement to Chaloner’s words. And last but not least comes Ashley Wood, yet another Australian, who lends his creepy craft to the backstory of Mr. Noddy and Morton Stone’s family. A good start to a potentially good  indie horror series.
 The series and stories to come are a labor of love from Chaloner, Templesmith , and Wood and are being reprinted by Gestalt Comics, with some added new material. At this moment, this first issue of the series only exists in digital format, but a print collection is slated for sometime this year.   
Cover of Daredevil #36

Cover of Daredevil #36

*Daredevil #36 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee: Marvel*

*CONTAINS SPOILERS!!*
Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have turned Daredevil  into a hot ticket with their version of the Man Without Fear, with most fans and critics agreeing that this is the best Daredevil to come out in in some time. Comics legend Waid has pulled Matt Murdock from his dark, depression days as written by Brian Michael Bendis, and injected him with some optimism and a return to his superheroic roots. In the 35 issues of the new and happier DD,  we’ve seen Matt Murdock alter his career, get a new girlfriend, team up with the Silver Surfer, and take on some classic Marvel foes, such as Klaw and Doctor Doom , and even some Marvel Monsters, Frankenstein and Jack Russell (Werewolf by Night), show up. But it also wouldn’t be Daredevil without some angst. Matt has had to deal with Foggy’s getting cancer and being hospitalized. And dealing with a secret society out to destroy The United States’ justice system. The Sons of the Serpent.
Daredevil #36 is the  second part of a two-part story and final issue of the Waid/Samnee era, closing this chapter of Matt Murdock’s life with his final fight with the Sons of the Serpent. The epic showdown comes to an end as he uses one last gambit to bring down the group once and for all: the truth. And this last, desperate act will put a period on the Bendis/Alex Maleev arc and change DD’s life irrevocably, including a new base of operations.
Mark Waid’s writing in this chapter of Daredevil has been exemplary and everything that long time fans of Daredevil like about the character. And Chris Samnee’s art complements Waid’s writing perfectly. It has a Dave Stevens feel that isn’t abstract or off-putting, but very clean and sharp with believable fight sequences. And in addition to  Daredevil, Waid and Samnee have also done two critically-acclaimed Rocketeer mini-series for IDW Publishing, so you can catch them there as well.
But while this is the end for this particular era of the blind lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen, readers are assured  at the end of the comic that Waid and Samnee and Daredevil will return, beginning next week in a four-issue series of digital comics, and then next month for the Marvel NOW! premiere of The All New Daredevil.
Next week, get your tinfoil hats on and sharpen up your conspiracy theories because I’ll be talking about IDW’s third company-wide crossover … The X-Files:Conspiracy. Like Infestation and Infestation 2 before it, Conspiracy pulls together IDW’s licensed properties for one big event. I’ve read the first couple of these and they’re fun… mostly. And I’m always looking for a good comic, so if you have any favorite picks I need to know about or you just want to talk comics, leave a comment below or email me at michaelbrown@kryptonradio.com.
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