Saturday, September 25, 2004

Bad Mojo, the latest publication from AiT/PlanetLar to grace my mailbox, is a Stephen King-ish horror story which owes a debt to the Bard of Maine's own Thinner. Written by Abel's William Harms, and ably illustrated by Steve Morris, it tells the tale of a minor-league prospect who, with a couple of his friends in along as he drives all night to Florida for spring training, accidentally has a late-night sleepy-eyed fender bender with probably the last person he should have run into- a middle-aged, recently divorced and downright cranky witch, who (naturally) doesn't appreciate her car getting banged up- and, instead of suing the poor schnook, lays a curse on the guy which causes him to die each day at dawn (now there's a movie title for ya) and come back to life at nightfall. Of course, this isn't a pleasant experience (they even do an wince-inducing when you think about it autopsy on the fellow at one point), and eventually they go to the witch to get her to lift the curse. Of course ('cause let's face it- it wouldn't be much of a story if she actually listened to reason, now would it?), she refuses, but then dangles some slim hope in the form of a request for a grim errand, and in return she might reverse her spell. This leads to conflicts with the local law enforcement officers and the townspeople, all narrow-minded religious jingoistic nutcases apparently...and eventually the fellows are forced to make a unpleasant, and ambiguous decision at the end.

Bad Mojo does indeed make the reader uncomfortable- we kinda-sorta sympathize with the unfortunate would-be baseball player, especially since he finds himself in a no-win, Chinese-finger-puzzle-type predicament. This sort of thing always makes me squirm, anyway. I'm a little at a loss to understand why his buddies stuck with him as long as they did, given the extremity of the situation, but it's explained pretty well, I suppose. It took them a lot longer to call his agent than I would have figured, and I'm also a little surprised that they didn't call for help from anyone back home. I was most unhappy with the ending, though- it's way too open-ended, and one wishes for more of a resolution. I know, I know, life's like that sometimes- but you know how I am about ambiguous endings.

I was very impressed by Steve Morris' art- he has a nice style, realistic, but not too realistic- and by that I mean stiff and posed-looking- a bit reminsicent of Geoff Darrow, perhaps, or even someone like Steven (JSA) Sadowski or J.H. Williams. A couple of the sequences that are done in shades of grey (to depict twilight or early-morning, I suppose) were a bit hard to follow (and this is probably intentional), and that was a bit annoying, but otherwise he does an excellent job, and really enhances Harms' script- something which his Abel collaborator failed miserably to do. I hope to see more from Mr. Morris in the future.

Bad Mojo succeeds in generating some discomfort and horror, almost in spite of itself, and is worth a look if you're in the mood for something to read around Halloween. If nothing else, I'm more aware that if I'm even driving late at night and get really sleepy, I'll pull over rather than risk sideswiping a witch! B+

Update: After that sharp-eyed Bill Sherman pointed out something pretty important (but easily overlooked) that I had missed (and which help certain events make a lot more sense), I corrected a couple of things in the above review. Muchas gracias, Bill!

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