Inner Sanctum: Tales of Mystery, Horror & Suspense (NBM)

Legendary artist Ernie Colón conjures up comics versions of "tales of mystery, horror and suspense" from the archives of the World War II-era radio series.


110 pgs., B&W; $16.99
(W / A: Ernie Colón)
Ernie Colón is a true legend in the comics world. For one thing, he’s been working successfully in the field for more than 40 years. For another, he’s never been content to stick with one genre, so his artistic portfolio includes everything from kiddie comics (Richie Rich, Bullwinkle and Rocky) to fantasy (Arak, Son of Thunder) to science fiction (Ax) to horror (Creepy, Vampirella) to nonfiction (The 9/11 Report, Che, Anne Frank). His latest book, Inner Sanctum: Tales of Mystery, Horror & Suspense, presents seven tales from the old-time radio series (it aired 1941-1952) as graphic short stories.
There’s no pretense to literature in this volume—instead, the stories are more like guilty pleasures that allow you to escape, not only into the fantastic world of the stories, but also to a more innocent era when, as the cliché goes, radio was king. The stories are a mix of psychological horror (the kind where there’s always a rational explanation for the most irrational-seeming events) and fantasy horror (the kind where the devil really does walk the earth, and vampires are not just the product of overheated, virginal imaginations), with the more successful playing with the boundaries between the two genres. This is a fun volume to read, particularly if you have nostalgic bent, but the quality varies among the stories and overall the material feels a bit insubstantial for a hardcover book—it might have been better to package the strongest stories in one or two comics issues instead.
Inner Sanctum begins with the strongest stories and declines about half way through, as if Colón ran out of time or inspiration before completing the volume. The first story, "Death of a Doll," achieves a nice creepy feel, and Colón’s art recalls classic film noir, an entirely appropriate presentation for a story about a trenchcoated reporter, a beautiful and mysterious dead woman, and a talking doll. "Alive in the Grave" is a multiple-twist tale set in England that involves a thief and a premature burial. "The Horla" features a character haunted by a South American demon and includes some really impressive art, as Colón contrasts the darkness of the protagonist’s mental state with vibrant scenes of Carnival. His portrayal of the haunting is pretty impressive, too. "Mentalo" centers on a magician whose art may or may not be real—an interesting if time-worn premise, but not particularly well-presented as the story feels rushed and the art lackluster. I don’t have much complimentary to say about the other three stories in the volume: one is so short it’s barely a sketch, while the other two don’t have much zip, and the art seems dashed-off and incomplete.
Still, this is a volume worth checking out if you’re interested in old-fashioned horror and suspense stories. You can see a preview here and read an interview with the artist here | Sarah Boslaugh


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