Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Review: Eduardo Risso’s Tales of Terror

Eduardo Risso’s Tales of Terror
Features eleven stories written by Carlos Trillo, art by Eduardo Risso, translation by Maria Barrucci, lettering by Jason Ullmeyer, no original publication details given, Dynamite Entertainment, 2007, 154 pages of comics, US$14.99

At first, it seems unfair to put only Eduardo Risso’s name above the title, as every one of these stories is written by his frequent Argentine collaborator Carlos Trillo. But then again, it is probably not the stories themselves that will lead anyone to buy this book. They are efficient little shockers, of the school of EC Comics, with ironic O Henry twist endings, but without EC’s air of moral retribution. Most of the characters are pretty nasty, and many of the set-ups are clichéd (a marriage between a vampire and a werewolf, for example). The most affecting tale concerns a mummy’s boy forced by his mother into becoming a torturer’s assistant – and I’m sure you’ve already guessed who he will end up having to torture.

No, it is Risso’s art that provides the best reason for buying this book. It is an art that thrives on the tension between fluid shapes and precise delineation, between fine line and solid shadow. When Risso draws a wobbly line, we know that it shows not uncertainty, but the clear edge of a wobbly shape. The composition contains the same dynamic pull. Sometimes, Risso uses a simple grid, but the panels are out of balance, their contrasts of dark and light, weight and emptiness spinning the reader giddily across the page. More often, the panels float more freely, but they are always perfect rectangles, anchoring the moment.

All of this benefits enormously from being reproduced in crisp, unadorned black and white. Something of the strength of Risso’s draughtsmanship is diluted in the colours of 100 Bullets or Batman. But here, he can show his mastery of chiaroscuro, with displays such as this page, on which an invisible woman performs a striptease.

So perhaps calling it Eduardo Risso’s Tales of Terror is only fair after all.

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