Reviewer: Jimmy Lin
Story Title: “Hideous & Grotesque”
Written by: Bryan Johnson
Penciled by: Walter Flanagan
Inked by: Tom B. Long
Colored by: Tom B. Long
Lettered by: Robbie Robbins
I’m tired from a week at work that started 15 days ago and hasn’t ended. I’m cranky from lack of sleep and too much stress. I’m headachey from staring at patent documents and business plans. Therefore, I’m in a perfect mood to review this series.
After reviewing Karney #1, I was really hoping that this book would go to a good place. Not a happy, cheery, Eisenhower-Republican place, but to a land of coherent story-telling, interesting characters, and plotlines written by post-adolescents. If we didn’t there, I was at least hoping to see signs for the highway that take us there. Unfortunately, Karney took a hard left straight towards the county dump in Issue 2 and ended in the rendering plant with Issue 5.
The final chapter of the story (thank God for endings), Issue 5 shows the town in uproar over the discovery that some of their children have been raped, slaughtered, and served up as barbeque. Issue 5 essentially shows one character after another being burned, ripped, shot, and otherwise deaded. Both townie and freak bite the dust in some form or another (including the head freak), until only a handful of freaks are left. A couple of them take off after a kid as his father heroically holds them back. He makes it home and warns his mother, but it doesn’t get put to much use. The kid barely escapes with his skin as the mother is raped, the dad shows up, there’s a fight in the barn, yadayadayada…the series ends with a healthy “normie” baby (apparently the fruit of the rape) being spirited away by the freaks who didn’t die.
While this wouldn’t have been a bad storyline overall, the execution royally sucked. Johnson started some interesting character work in the first issue but then killed off half the people he started sketching out in Issue 2. You never learn any of interest about the freaks, other than they’re a bunch of rampaging, raping cannibals, and any townie with a backstory is usually lunch a few pages later. In Issue 2, it became apparent that Johnson had no idea how to write a story about characters; by the end of Issue 5, it’s more than apparent that he doesn’t know how to end a story. We’re meant to think that Karney ends in an ambiguous way, but no one will give two good shits about another story.
Now a word about the art: it’s okay. Flanagan is a competent enough artist, but he has sizing problems and has a penchant for making the freaks do strange things for no reason at all. “But that’s what freaks do,” you complain. No, I’m talking about visual storytelling and relating to the written content. He gets a cookie, but it’s a Chips Ahoy!, not a fresh-baked fancy macadamia-nut from the Mrs. Fields stand at the mall.