Grimm TALES of TERROR QUARTERLY: H. H. HOLMES
Writer: Jay Sandlin
Artwork: Rodrigo Xavier & Allan Otero
Colors: Maxflan Araujo & Vinicius Anddrade
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
From the first time I stumbled upon an issue Zenoscope has always been a bit of a different publisher for me. If all others were Early Readers, this was Teen and Young Adults. Using familiar characters and creatures this publisher always portrays a world that is far from perfect. In these stories heroes are tempted and culpable. Meanwhile villians are capable of acting benevolently in their malevolence. Other stories were about worlds long ago far away, Zenoscope found ways to prove long ago and far away could still have been here just not now. No more clear example is needed than in writer Jay Sandlin’s Grimm Tales of Terror Quarterly: H. H. Holmes.
Far from fairy this tale opens in the modern world. Deborah Newton for all her significance to the story has very little screen time. Her importance to this story is interesting given the fact that it is later indicated her unimportance to anyone is what caused her fate. As openings go what happened to Deborah seemed far from what I have come to expect from Zenoscope. As the first chapter closed I still wasn’t sure what I was reading. This is the publisher that I have known for gothic and gore. Was I really reading a murder mystery from Zenoscope?
H. H. Holmes could easily have been one of three stories. Deborah Newton, her death and it’s investigation could have told just one portion. Instead Sandlin has cleaved the cast of characters so closely that 100 years of hidden horror is unfolded within an hour. Deborah’s death brings about a suspiciously suspicious death investigation headed by Susan Murphy. She has been contacted by an investigator, the clearly duplicitous Harold Myers. As suspects go this guy has Scooby Doo bad guy reveal written all over him so I never really trusted him. Walter Lewis and the maintenance guy Trevor round out the cast in what I would call Story 1 taking place at the Gemini Hotel. They are tasked with finding Deborah’s killer. Of course they also have to survive themselves since the killer may already know they are on the hunt or be among them.
Story 2 begins once Harold Myers stops being a PI for Deborah Newton’s family and starts being a college professor. The story uses this moment wisely as it gives it two opportunities. First Deborah’s death confirms the truth that there is more than one bad guy out there. Second it allows Myers to reveal he suspects Deborah’s death is a copycat of the (real life) serial killer H. H. Holmes and the Murder Hotel. Okay so maybe this is a Zenoscope comic.
Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, I just can’t say enough nice things about him. Witnessing this issues artwork detailing his devilish dealings, how he lived and took others lives it’s no wonder this killer was a perfect choice for such an epic anthology. He is written as evil personified making what the story describes as his fate very convincing. Though given the reality of that portion of the story do I really want it to be true? The Murder Hotel and Holmes history segments were easily my favorite from a story standpoint. A perfect summation for this symbiosis would be when saw meets the supernatural. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the rooms at the H. H. Homes were built for cruel intentions.
Tales of Terror Quarterly is a massive issue at 74 pages. To tackle the duties of illustrating this issue Zenoscope has an team per tale. Xavier and Araujo see to detailing the maniacal modern mystery at the Gemini while Otero and Andrade produce the historical horrors of H. H. Holmes. If not for the clear changes in centuries I doubt anyone could tell one team from the other. These talents are part of this reason this story comes together so cohesively.
These duos provide artwork for the issue that I can only describe as disturbingly delicious. As I mentioned the team ups seemed to be decided by the decades but that’s the only difference. Both teams clearly had no problem getting their “hands” dirty. Whether it is Murder Palace of the Gemini both showcase what I can only describe as “grimm” The Holmes scenes in the past are much more extreme and gripping easily making them the standouts. However Susan’s present investigation plays with the imagination. Somehow seeing a blood soaked table and wondering what happened is just as terrifying as witnessing the event.
Story 3 has little to do but play with the plots established by the previous “tales”. Story 2 and the tale of Holmes is clarified and it’s importance to the survivors of Story 1 is discovered. During this story the significance of the use of “Gemini” in the name of the hotel becomes apparent. I had questioned whether this comic felt like a Zenoscope tale. Grimm Tales of Anthology fits just right for this publisher. I can’t say every twist in the last story suprised me but the how(s) and the to what length(s) are surely shocking. Staying true to it’s tradition this issue captured that which is fantasy and that which is familiar. A story of the “Gemini” much like the Greek tale of long ago. A story of the pursuit and price of gaining either physical or merely printed immortality.