Welcome to the Comic Archive! There have been so many amazing stories, characters, and series produced from comic book publishers for almost 100 years now; this column will serve to celebrate some of the tales you may or may not know about. Each week, we’ll take a story arc or trade paperback/collected story from a non-new comic (three years old or further back), and discuss the details with you.
Steve Niles is a great writer. He is the man who brought us 30 Days of Night and he is credited as being one of the contemporary comic book writers to really bring horror comics back into prominence. That having been said, the “Steve Niles Omnibus” is a clear attempt to package together some of his weaker stories and offer them at an attractive price.
The Omnibus contains four different mini-series, which equates to sixteen comic books and a whopping 416 pages, all for a very attractive price of $24.99. The four mini-series contained within the Omnibus are included in their entirety, so you do get four distinct and complete stories in this tome. The stories included are: Aleister Arcane (3 issues), about a late-night horror host who gives an ungrateful town more than they bargained for upon his death; The Lurkers (4 issues), a story about the various incarnations of the living dead and how they exist in the shadows of our society; Secret Skull (4 issues), the tale of a supernatural crimefighter who discovers there is more behind her powers than even she realized; and Wake the Dead (5 issues), the story of a scientist’s attempt to reanimate the dead with predictably mixed results.
I was able to sit down and read the entire Omnibus in one sitting, and I had mixed feelings while reading through these stories. I am moderately familiar with Niles’ signature creation, 30 Days of Night; I have read multiple 30 Days graphic novels and I own the movie. As I mentioned previously, I do feel that the stories included in this collection are definitely not his best. While I enjoyed the uniqueness of Aleister Arcane and the quirky melding of superheroes and the undead in Secret Skull, the other two stories left a lot to be desired. The Lurkers had an interesting premise but felt rushed, and the ending was a complete trainwreck that made no sense whatsoever, and Wake the Dead is nothing more than the movie Re-Animator told in comic book style with a few attempts at minimal plot differences. That having been said, you do get a lot of story for the money; I guess it’s up to the reader to truly decided if they prefer quality over quantity.
The one thing I did really enjoy about the Omnibus is that each story has a different artist, and it was really great to see these different creators bring each story to life in very different ways. Unfortunately, when talking about the overall “feel” of the Omnibus, we have to touch on the flow and pacing of the books, and that is something that simply doesn’t hold up as well as the visuals. Allow me to elaborate.
While I really did enjoy Aleister Arcane and Secret Skull, the re-hashed story of Wake the Dead and confusing plot of The Lurkers really brought the overall entertainment value of this book back to an average level. Come to think of it, the score here should really be below average, since Wake the Dead and The Lurkers made me angrier than Aleister Arcane and Secret Skull made me happy! I truly feel that Wake the Dead is a complete rip-off of Re-Animator, as the similarities are plentiful and obvious. Without giving too much away from a spoiler perspective, The Lurkers really falls apart at the end of the story, which is where most solid stories can give their reader a sense of satisfaction – not here, unfortunately.
Secret Skull is a great melding of a more classic superhero story with the other-worldly elements we’ve come to know and love from Niles, but unfortunately, this story alone isn’t enough to save the overall score from the bland use of the living dead in The Lurkers and a fairly predictable storyline in Aleister Arcane. Many aspects of each plotline felt so rushed and haphazard that the believability of the stories really suffered as a result. Again, it’s hard to go into vivid detail without giving the stories away, but Wake the Dead and The Lurkers once again really bog things down. While Secret Skull requires a double suspension of belief, from working on the supernatural and superhero fronts, Aleister Arcane also has some problems with the realistic nature of its story.
Don’t get me wrong, now: this is not a disaster of a book by any stretch of the imagination, and there were some definitely interesting and unique aspects of the Omnibus. Like I said, earlier, for $24.99 you do get a lot of book… it’s simply up to you to decide whether you think it will be worth it.
Got a comic, character, or story arc that you’d like to see covered by the Comic Archive? Feel free to list it in the Comments below or send your recommendation directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – see you in the funny papers!