“SCREAMLAND” #2 (Comic Review)

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Originally published at Fangoria.com on July 2, 2011

With the clever setup established, SCREAMLAND #2 (Image Comics) jumps right into the premise and starts off with its murder at a horror convention. What if the possible suspects happen to be an alien, a slasher and a werewolf? When you have a room full of monsters, where do you even actually start? As the mystery plays out, this is also a smart and satirical look at life as actors in Hollywood.

It’s not easy being an out-of-work actor, especially when you look like a freak. Carl “The Wolfman” London and Travis Walters, ex-SPACE PATH engineer, discovered the Invisible Man, Izzy, had a secret film in his hands. Before he could reveal what the footage held, Izzy is suddenly found murdered. Though no one at the convention can see the Invisible Man, Izzy’s blood is splattered all over the walls and floor. With no help from the police, Carl and Travis reluctantly appoint themselves to solve the murder.

In a room full of monsters, who could have wanted Izzy dead and stolen the film from him? Travis believes the Mass, an alien blob from outer space, had something to do with the murder. Carl disagrees and believes they should be following the Midnight Slasher, who loves killing teenagers. They argue amongst themselves while walking across the hallways of a horror convention, passing leagues of annoying fans who all want autographs for their collection.

These two has-been actors are not really the type of people you want leading a murder investigation. Using knowledge from his acting gigs, Method-trained Travis is pretending to be a brilliant detective. Rude and overweight, Carl stumbles along from one important clue to another. Are they really heading toward the culprit or is the real killer stalking them?

Author Harold Sipe (pictured) and Christopher Sebela have crafted a quirky murder mystery, driven playfully by its humorous dialogue. Travis has been depressed since the latest SPACE PATH movie was rebooted with a younger cast. Now given a reason to live, Travis suddenly sprints back into action. The amateur sleuth even dresses up as one of the characters he played in a detective TV show. Even the protagonists, including Carl, have reasons to murder Izzy. Could Carl, the actual killer, be investigating Izzy’s death, hoping to find the clues that lead back to him?

The art by Lee Leslie pokes fun at popular culture by making smart use of its setting, the Fanstasyscape Con. The hallways and hotel rooms are always in tight and compact panels, creating a vibe of claustrophobia. In a laugh-out-loud moment, Travis is using a phaser TV prop as his weapon of choice. The washed-out colors by Buster Moody boost the cartoonish expressions of the characters.

Hilarious and suspenseful, SCREAMLAND #2 is brilliant horror satire and a spellbinding murder mystery at the same time. After being replaced by CGI, would a movie monster resort to murder to become famous again? There’s a killer lurking around at a horror convention… Why didn’t anyone think of this before?