Review: End Times #4 / Author: Amy Walsh, Jeff Edmond, Vin Davis, Troy Hargrove, Charles Anthony / Artist: Vin Davis, Charles Anthony / Publisher: Horrorgeddon Comics / Release Date: Out Now
“Horror comics like they used to make them,” reads the slogan of Horrorgeddon Comics, the independent publishers of End Times. Harking back to pulp fiction’s heyday when imaginative outlets were cheap, simple and plentiful, its tales seek to imitate the style of those published at the time.
Issue 4 contains a diverse assortment of creative works. Short comic tales Annie’s House, where a fire in the home of a hoarder reveals the source of her compulsion; Mr Wellington, a man’s ennui-fuelled lamentation of his pseudo-zombified half-life induced by a failed suicide attempt; and Animal Control, where backwoods pest removal is revealed to have dangers other than rabid dog attacks. There is also Mutesques and Grotations, a collection of abstract artwork illustrating the eldritch abominations seen by a serial killer who claims they are the ones who murdered and consumed his victims; The Animist, a short text story of astral travel interspersed with illustrations; and Stuck, a blank verse poem describing the helpless and directionless frustration of living in a capitalist country.
The problem with producing anything deliberately retro is the inherent double standard of a modern audience. When looking back at creative works of the past, the filter of fond nostalgia often blinds us to their inherent shortcomings that the excuse of “products of their times” attempts to justify, while on the other hand any modern equivalents are met with scorn and derision for their literary shortcomings.
Except The Animus, which is in dire need of copy editing and of roughly the same imaginative quality of something Dean Koontz might have thought of while sat on the toilet, there is little especially wrong with the magazine’s stories. They are perfectly adequate examples of horror fiction, but are also nothing more than that. They have no substance beyond enough of a set up to establish a status quo which then swerves into a plot twist, a style that, like the pulp magazines they were published in, was all but extinct by the mid-1950s. Whether or not this is a good or bad thing is really down to the reader.