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Reviews Mon Jun 20 2011

Horror Double Feature Review

Double Feature is an ongoing digital comic effort by the fine folks at Four Star Studios, featuring a series of stories based around a central genre, be it horror, sci-fi or action. Each issue is split down the middle, featuring two tales from different author-artist teams. In a way, Double Feature is like the classic Saturday popcorn cinema, served up on a new platform -- the digital comic book -- in a way that is both fun and forward-thinking.


The first entry in this initial foray is "Monsterology", written by B.Clay Moore with art by Ryan Browne. Featuring the adventures of the gruff, Kurt Russell-esque Colonel Robert "Cannonball" Kennard and the always affable, young Billy Cosby-ish Dr. Curtis Lacy, "Monsterology" wastes no time getting to the point. The pace is brisk and the action is plenty. Moore moves things along with aplomb, refraining from wasting the reader's time with excessive window dressing. Browne's art is equally rapid, rendering scenes with a dynamic energy that keeps the reader's focus front and center. Actions define the characters, and given the space constraints, this approach feels spot on. Tone-wise, I couldn't help but shake the similarities between this yarn and the Atlas Comics' monster of the month features churned out at Marvel pre-Fantastic Four.

The second spot belongs to "Kid Cthulhu", written and drawn by Sean K. Dove. Perhaps more horror-themed than the preceding story, "Kid Cthulhu" follows the titular character in his occult investigations of (where else?) Arkham, Massachusetts, appropriately steeped in Lovecraftian lore. With a far more animated and angular art style than one would expect, "Kid Chthlhu" feels like a deranged Saturday morning cartoon. Nevertheless, despite the cleverness of the title, this feature had a number of gaffs, such as the confusing initial brush with the antagonist, that distracted from the overall story. Perhaps this wouldn't be as glaring in a full twenty-two page comic, but since this feature is only eight pages long it is very noticeable. Still, I look forward to future episodes due to the tight connection to Lovecraft's source material.


While both features are well done, it is how they're packaged that makes Double Feature Horror stand out. As with all Double Feature endeavors, the comics are available digitally. This means lower cost and greater accessibility, especially for the technologically inclined, bookshelf bereft, or casual comic reader. Furthermore, each issue downloaded comes with creator commentary and behind the scenes features, acting as a comic book translation of DVD director commentary.

Four Star Studios is committed to blazing a new trail for digital comics. With massive shakeups in the print industry and publishers continually placing their bets on safe sellers, Double Feature looks to reconcile the gap between print and digital comic mediums by offering fun, fresh content from some of Chicago's best and brightest.

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