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Back From The Grave:
Grumpy Old Monsters #1

writers: Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta
artists: Paco Cavero and Guillermo Mendoza

There are four phases in a good film monster's life. First, its first appearance, in which it establishes itself as (as Count Floyd would say) really scary, kids. Then come a few sequels, each one slightly less shocking than the one before, no matter what the studios would have you believe.

Then they meet. Finally, their careers reach their nadir when comedians enter the picture: think Abbott and Costello, who met Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, and even Jack The Ripper (yep, that one was heeee-larious).

IDW Publishing is about to offer up a fifth phase for the film monsters: retirement. In Grumpy Old Monsters, announced last week, writers Anderson and Moesta explore the sunset years of creatures who cannot seek the sunrise anyway.

The monsters in repose have all gathered at the Rest In Peace Retirement Home, "…for mature monsters with special needs." Serving as both a "where are they now" and vague parody of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, the first issue mostly covers the new status quo for the old creatures of the night.

Prince Pu-Ho-Tep narrates, his sad state almost oxymoronic. Mice nest within the confines of his body, and somehow his bandages have developed a curved spine and a pot belly. He smiles as he remembers his glory days, which is more than the aged Dracula can do, stuck eating his buffered blood jello. Though the vampire may wish for something more substantial to sink his teeth into, those same choppers float in a glass for cleaning.

Perhaps the Wolfman and Invisible Man fare better - only male pattern baldness plagues the lycanthrope. But things have gotten so stale, the workers so casual with their charges, that fake excitement gets generated when a denizen appears to have drowned.

The Van Helsings are on the scene, though, as they should be when monsters are near. However, they've gone into real estate, and their latest plan to rid the Earth of evil involves redeveloping Castle Frankenstein into Transylvania Shores, a luxury condominium complex.

With the utmost respect for these monsters they've still reduced to cartoons, the writers have set up a pretty good plot. It's still not quite as funny as it should be, but there's a nostalgia that carries the book further than it has a right to go. From references the characters make, it's clear that Anderson and Moesta treat every classic Universal film as canonical.

That may be hard to reconcile with the art of Cavero and Mendoza. It owes far more to Gold Key's Li'l Monsters than anything from the Universal days. But it does establish a unique look. Dracula has the sagging appearance of an owlish muppet. The Frankenstein Monster's body bulges where clearly, his connections are coming loose.

And finally, there's no way that cute little Tiffany Frankenstein, who mobilizes the monsters, could be anything but a cousin to Little Lulu.

Grumpy Old Monsters makes a promising start - but it remains to be seen if it has something of substance beneath its charming surface.


Grumpy Old Monsters will be released in November, a 4-issue mini-series retailing for $3.99 from IDW Publishing.

Derek McCaw

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