By Alan Grant and Shane Oakley
Renegade Arts Entertainment
Channel Evil is both somewhat pedestrian and somewhat spectacular, an everyday tale of straightforward PG13 horror meeting some truly great art. The story doesn’t innovate, doesn’t go anyplace new, but it does deliver something genuinely entertaining and thrilling and fun.
I always seem to have the same problem with any book that is trumpeted, as this one is, as “spine-tingly twisted“, “a masterwork of terror that chills you to the bone“, “scariest work of horror” etc. Maybe it’s just me? maybe I’m somehow numb to horror? I don’t think so, I think I just respond better to creeping terror rather than out and out, in your face horror. All I know is that many comics claim to be horrific, claim to be scary, but few actually manage to make me in anyway scared enough to check that the doors are locked.
And Channel Evil is most definitely in your face horror rather than creeping terror. No spines tingled, no bones were chilled here, instead I found that Channel Evil was actually a cracking little horror-thriller, solidly crafted and really enjoyable. Really, really enjoyable.
No, seriously, really, really enjoyable. Read in one go and finish it with a real sense of boy that was cool and fun and over the top and so well done enjoyable.
In Channel Evil you get to meet crappy local TV nobody Jez Manson, way lower on the TV rung than Jeremy Kyle but just as odious, whose Blackpool TV chat show is sheer lowest common denominator fodder, his audience tuning in to see him mercilessly pull apart anyone dumb enough to come on. He may be charismatic, but it’s a small town small time charisma, and there’s a sense that he’ll never go beyond regional TV. However all that’s about to change.
He’s about to find fame in spectacular and bloody fashion, in a manner completely beyond his control, as a great and powerful old God reaches out, and evil is channelled.
It all starts with his girlfriend and a suggestion that they might want to see Conni Verona, a woman claiming to be able to channel the ancient entity Horam. Typicaly sceptical after seeing the show, all Manson can think of is to invite Verona on his show anyway, figuring whatever happens he can get some cheap publicity from belittling her daft beliefs.
You know where it’s going now don’t you?
Oh yes….. it’s all there in the title after all.
Evil is channeled …
… Say hello to B’aal, ancient storm God, pissed off and very, very nasty….
From here, everything goes spectacularly wrong. The trashy TV show host has an equally trashy agent, who does the trashy agent thing and his boy’s celebrity starts to rise, incredibly, exponentially fast, and before you know it Manson is big news, the talk show host putting on a supernatural show.
But Manson’s not really able to enjoy this forced fame rush. He’s far too preoccupied with the crushing headaches, the horrific dreams, the visions, and the unsettling feeling that he’s responsible for some unspeakable things … if only he could remember. But it’s all so out of control, and before he can do much about it, he’s headlining in front of a huge national TV audience, the perfect stag for an ancient God to take control in brutal and bloody fashion.
The biggest problem I had with Channel Evil comes from a sense of compression; Grant wanting us to buy into the incredibly rapid progression of Manson’s celebrity, and it just doesn’t ring true.
Same as the supposed massive special effects laden spectacle that is each manifestation of B’aal. It’s not that Oakley doesn’t get the visuals, it’s more that the visuals aren’t allowed the space to garner a reaction. They just happen and we’re told about their impact, never allowed to see that impact. It’s a small but important missing piece, and serves to pull me back from what I’m reading, not allowing me into the story as much as I’d like to be.
But even with that little gripe Channel Evil is still a fine, fine book, easy on the nerves sort of horror that’s difficult not to really enjoy.
And with great, great art.
Come on, did you think I wasn’t going to mention the art?
Oh, not a chance.
The art is entirely the reason I got this in the first place. Because I’ve long enjoyed Shane Oakley’s work since first seeing it in the pages of Mister X. Simply put, he’s one of those artists who fascinates me, can’t really do any wrong, and I’ll jump at the chance to see anything he does. My biggest problem is that he doesn’t do enough. But here, in 4 issues, there’s some spectacular stuff going on. Many people would look at his work and characterise him as a horror sort of artist, in fact, he’s more than likely to describe himself that way. But I don’t see that at all. Hell, just look at some of the art on here. Apart from that transformation scene, I’ve deliberately picked scenes that show just how great Oakley’s art is away from the horror stuff.
It’s too easy to see Oakley’s art simply in terms of the contrast, his chiaroscuro style, the sharpness of the black and the white playing off each other and creating such angular, distinctive forms. But whilst I’ll admit these are quiet bloody magnificent, that alone isn’t enough to make me so impressed. No, look again at the art here. The way Oakley composes his pages, the style, the look is simply perfect to my eye.
That piece above, the couple of panels of perfect contrast, the stark black and white of the nightmare in one panel, perfectly, beautifully followed by a panel of such light, such graceful organic lines. Class.
Or this below. Fan-f-ing-tastic.
Oh, and before I leave you, this edition is not only the first time the whole Grant and Oakley series finds its way into print, there’s also the extra bonus of an unpublished story by Grant and D’Israeli giving us an extra glimpse into the mind of B’aal. A great little extra.
But lets not pretend; the main draw here is the unashamed fun of the main story, and those gorgeous black and white lines and shapes of Oakley’s art.