By Alan Grant, Shane Oakley, D’Israeli, Suzanne O’Brien & various (Renegade Arts Entertainment)
Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: spooky chills for dark winter nightsâ€¦ 8/10
As the nights draw in, thoughts just naturally turn to hunkering down by a fire, eating to excess, drinking to oblivion and scaring the bejeezus out of each other with uncanny stories.
In that hallowed tradition comes a stunning (mostly) monochrome treat from veteran comicbook craftsmen Alan Grant (Robo-Hunter, Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Batman, The Bogie Man, plus one or two other things you might have heard of) and Shane Oakley (Fatal Charm, Mister X, Albion) which began life as an apparently cursed miniseries from Renegade and Berserker Comics in 2009.
That story is well covered in the brace of Introductions by author Grant and his film-making partner in creative cooperative Renegade Arts Entertainment, so I won’t waste your time here. However, with Channel Evil finally completed, the spectacular results have been released as a gripping grimoire of wicked wonderment with even more appreciations and reminiscences from horrorist Doug â€œPinheadâ€ Bradley in his Foreword before a decidedly different scary story starts in, of all places, Blackpoolâ€¦
‘Don’t Touch that Dial’ opens with ambitious local TV presenter Jez Manson doing what he loves most: ripping apart and humiliating a minor celeb on his talk show. Having crushed another eager hopeful, the Man of the Hour celebrates by taking his glamour model girlfriend Lian for a walk along the Central Pier and is cajoled into seeing a show starring medium Conni Verona.
The mouthy sceptic is unimpressed with the psychic’s message of universal peace and love as she â€œchannelsâ€ her spirit guide Great Horam – but on seeing the packed and enrapt audience Manson knows money when he smells itâ€¦
Arranging for Connie to appear on his show is easy and avaricious agent â€œFast Mickâ€ also senses more priceless publicity and ratings in store. Unfortunately when Conni is interviewed on Channel X-33 things don’t go as expected as she turns his ridiculing ambush back upon him, daring him to try and contact the spirit dimensions himself.
Forced to comply, Jez has a go and, after four millennia, the pagan god Ba’al finds himself a new and extremely inviting vesselâ€¦
Jez’s transformation is terrifying, compulsive and hypnoticâ€¦ until Conni snaps him out of his possessed state with a smart slap across the face. Manson is dazed and visibly shaken but all Mick can see is the astounding viewer reactions and offers from the major networks for more of the sameâ€¦
Brushing off Conni’s warning about messing with the unknown, Jez and Mick go on a club-hopping bender but the exhausted interviewer begs off early, heading home to crash out.
Later that night three rowdily drunken stag night partiers are burned to deathâ€¦
‘Interference Pattern’ sees Lian arrive home after a â€œPage 3â€ gig to find Jez in an uncharacteristically gloomy state, morbidly dwelling for reasons even he can’t explain on the triple homicide.
Across town, meanwhile, world-weary Sergeant Niven and his junior partner Detective Tate start their investigations at the morgue. All they’ve got to go on is three crispy charred corpses, a jerry can with an almost useless partial fingerprint and a brain-fried wino who might have witnessed the attackâ€¦
Jez is enduring horrific nightmares of slaughter and conquest, punctuated by demands from a supernal maniac that he surrender his bodyâ€¦
Mick does more than amorously solicitous Lian to quash those night terrors. The wily manager has arranged a live broadcast from Louis Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors for Jez to display his captivating new talent before an eager audience and sensation-hungry world. Once again Ba’al does not disappointâ€¦
After a stunningly baroque and grotesque display which brings the gods of television clamouring to his door with their chequebooks out, Jez heads for home utterly exhausted. Exultant Mick finds him there crashed out next day, with no memory of the intervening hours. Lian is there too. Well, at least most of her isâ€¦
With Manson utterly oblivious to the situation, Mick does what every good manager does and fixes things. Utterly unaware of what he’s done, the presenter is far more worried by a spate of bloody atrocities across the country. He’s convinced they’re all Ba’al’s work.
The police, thanks to that partial print, have listed Jez as a person of interest and paid a visit, but once again the agent has all the bases coveredâ€¦
Despite everything he seen Mick is still sceptical, but agrees to fetch Conni Verona to â€œfixâ€ either Jez’s delusion or – just possibly – the demonic intrusion. When he returns, however, his client is missing, giving the agent time to arrange one more televisual spectacular for the massesâ€¦
With the police closing in and Conni and Great Horam poised to banish the invading spirit the stage is set for a cataclysmic climax, but as you’d expect the ferocious ancient god has his own ideasâ€¦
Dark, witty, razor-paced and genuinely suspenseful, Grant’s Channel Evil delivers a potent punch to delight modern fans of mood and mystery, couched in slick and subtle terms and illustrated with devilishly stylish aplomb by Oakley and Suzanne O’Brien, but this wicked chronicle does not end there.
Also included is a gallery of covers and variants by Wayne Nichols, Mark Buckingham, Frank Quitely & D’Israeli, a fascinating glimpse into Oakley’s process via an extensive ‘Sketch Book’ feature, and a brilliant, informative and blackly hilarious bonus story as the red-handed storm god himself gives a candid in-depth TV interview which reveals his astonishing history and literally brings the house down in ‘An Evening With Ba’al’â€¦
Smart, sharp and unforgettable, this is a spooky yarn no grown-up fear aficionado will dare to miss.
Channel Evil Â© 2012 Renegade Arts Entertainment and Alan Grant.