By: Richard Corben (story adaptation & art)
The Story: An all-time great adapts Edgar Allan Poe’s classic story for comics.
Review (with little SPOILERS): To share a little secret, this wasn’t even a comic I planned to review this week. There was another comic that was supposed to fill this “slot” in my schedule, but it was so boring and lousy that I couldn’t even finish it (and it was an extra-long ~50 pages–ugh). Thankfully, I still had The Fall of the House of Usher #1 lying in my stack of books.
Honestly, I had forgotten that this comic was even coming out. When the guy at my LCS handed it to me, I kinda looked at it funny because I almost never buy comic adaptations of well-known books. My thought is, “If I want to read about a work of literature, I’ll just read the book itself….” I immediately noticed, “Oh–it has a nice Richard Corben cover.” And then I noticed that Richard Corben had done the entire book – words and all – and it suddenly made sense why I’d put it on my pull list months ago.
The first thing to know is that this isn’t a word-for-word illustration of the classic Poe story. Corben has taken the Poe story and adapted it slightly; the story has a unique path even if it still goes to the same basic emotional places as Poe did. The story still follows a (i) central character, (ii) his old friend Roderick, (iii) Roderick’s creepy house in the forest and (iv) Roderick’s sister, but the flow and details of the plot are slightly different than Poe. I view this as a positive. If I wanted to read Poe verbatim, I’d just read Poe.
The main selling point of this story is how Corben makes the atmosphere “unsettling” instead of outright horrifying. If the house were out-right horrifying, the main character would just bolt. But since it is merely unsettling, he keeps wandering further and further into the story. Remember, he supposedly hasn’t seen Roderick for a number of years, but considers him a friend. He doesn’t want to bolt and be rude. In fact, the comic reminded me of an experience I had in college when I went to another college to visit an old high school buddy. I hadn’t seen him since high school, but the guy had been uptight and straight laced. I go to his house and it’s in a horrible part of town with music pulsating out into the streets. When I go inside, it is like a scene out of True Romance and my friend has turned into Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman’s character). People were coming in and out of the house selling drugs, everyone was high, there were crack-whores in the corner, weapons laying everywhere… But, I just kinda went with the flow because I didn’t want to act like my old friend was weird.
THAT is what Corben’s House of Usher is like. So, the main character walks inside the house and there are open coffins everywhere. “Okay, that’s kinda weird…wonder why Roderick has all these dead people here?” Then the main character views some of Roderick’s pencil drawings of a nude woman (full-frontal) and remarks at how outstanding they are. “Who is the model and how do you get her to come out here in the forest to your home?” Roderick replies that the model is his SISTER. “Umm, okay…” Throughout the story, the main character keeps seeing stranger and stranger things, but by the time he realizes that this house is seriously screwed up, it’s really too late to flee. And where would he go anyway? The house is in the middle of a creepy forest.
I’m eager to see how the story wraps up with the second issue. Also, yay for THAT! In the hands of a less scrupulous publisher/creator, this story would have been stretched over 12 issues. Richard Corben will get it done in two issues.
Conclusion: Make sure to check this out. Even if the story is vaguely familiar, Corben gives it a few twists. Plus, its amazing to see how a masterfully Corben is able to perfectly calibrate the emotional reaction between horrifying and merely unsettling.
– Dean Stell