AIT / Planet Lar
Writer: William Harms
Art: Steve Morris
BW, 80 pgs
$12.95 US / Higher in Canada
During the late 1980s and into the 1990s, I was a big fan of late night horror shows such as Tales from the Crypt and Tales from the Dark Side. Typically, they were on in the wee hours of the morning so I’d set the VCR, tape the shows and watch them the following day. Each program consisted of two or three short horror vignettes, quirky and creepy little stories that didn’t scare as much as they simply entertained. Bad Mojo, a new graphic novel written by William Harris and illustrated by Steve Morris, reminded me of these shows. The story plays out like an extended episode, albeit one with better writing and visuals then any of the stories that appeared on those shows.
Bruce O’Connor is on the verge of realizing his childhood dream– playing professional baseball. He’s driving across country with two friends to keep him company, on his way to training camp. One evening, Bruce nods off behind the wheel, veers into the oncoming lane and hits another car. No one is seriously injured, although both cars take damage. The driver of the other car turns out to be a witch who just so happens to love her car. Enraged, she places a curse on Bruce: Every day at dawn he will die and when the sun goes down he’ll come back to life. Of course, Bruce and his friends don’t believe the woman’s words, but that all changes when the sun rises.
William Harms’ first graphic novel was Abel. Taking place in Nebraska during World War II, Abel was a story of racism, betrayal and murder. Folks who picked up this graphic novel buy this new talent found themselves reading a surprising and chilling story. That one story announced Harms as a serious writing talent.
In Bad Mojo, Harms directs his skills toward a macabre tale that entertains to the very last page. Not intended to be scary or grotesque, Bad Mojo is a story about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bruce and his friends aren’t bad people. They’re just a couple of regular young men who happened to crash a car into the vehicle of a man hating witch. As it turns out, the witch has little patience for men, a local legend that terrorizes the surrounding community with her devious, hurtful, but never fatal (not permanently, anyway) curses.
With Bruce dropping dead everyday at dawn, the focus shifts to his two friends who must struggle to find a way to get the witch to lift the curse, while dodging the authorities who want to question them about the accident. It’s quite difficult to remain inconspicuous when you’re lugging your dead friend around.
The premise sounds darkly silly, but Harms doesn’t let his story become silly. He keeps his writing serious, letting the reader experience the desperation felt by Bruce’s friends, and giving us some unsettling descriptions of what it is like to die and come back to life again with memories of your own death. “I can feel the blood in my veins stop,” Bruce says after once such revival. “Can you imagine that?!” Thanks to Harms’ writing, yes, I can.
Steve Morris had never worked with Harms before Bad Mojo. They hooked up online. Harms was looking for an artist to illustrate his Dead or Alive comic. Morris responded to the request, but found Dead or Alive wasn’t to his liking. Harms then presented him with Bad Mojo, and thus began the collaboration.
Morris’ is as good an artist as anyone you’d find working the panels over at DC and Marvel, already surpassing some of that talent while certainly showing the potential to eventually rival some of the big dogs. His panel layouts are by the numbers, but he fills each with just the right captured moments of time and place. My only complaint is Morris has decided to represent night by casting his panels in a heavy shade of grey. This makes it difficult to discern all the fine detail of his art, but I’ve got to give the guy credit for experimenting.
Horror comics are making a comeback these days, but as with horror movies, there are more bad than good. Bad Mojo isn’t scary, but it is eerie and, at times, unsettling, possessing an underlying dark wit that makes it entertaining throughout. I would, therefore, place Bad Mojo in the category of good horror comics. (Chad Boudreau)