“WINTER’S EDGE” #1 (Comic Review)

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Originally published at Fangoria.com on Dec. 12, 2010

The first issue of WINTER’S EDGE (Vertigo Comics) is a vast array of exciting horror tales centering around Christmas. Death, demons and mythical creatures lurk within the illustrated pages. These short tales are written by noteworthy authors (Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis and Brian K. Vaughan) and drawn from talented artists (Dave Gibbons, Paul Pope and John Bolton).

Supernatural detective John Constantine is the best choice to represent Scrooge, the lonely man who despises Christmas. In Ennis’ “All Those Little Boys and Girls,” the drunken Constantine reminisces about his past friends from his youth. As he recalls their innocent faces, Constantine realizes that anyone connected to him succumbs to a horrible death. Artist Glyn Dillon creates a melancholy atmosphere, providing little hope for the man who must always endure the holiday truly alone.

In “Tell Me,” the tale within a tale, Constantine learns a valuable lesson from a ghost who recounts his last days alive. The narrative by Paul Jenkins contains a heartbreaking theme about second chances and neverending love. The most entertaining of the Constantine shorts is “Another Bloody Christmas,” where the detective is on a race to stop a vicious demon dressed up as Santa Claus. This is an absolute fun read, written and illustrated by the great Gibbons.

Readers of comic books and literature will definitely enjoy “A Winter’s Tale” by master storyteller Gaiman. The short story is narrated by Sandman’s young sister, Death, who has second thoughts about being the Grim Reaper. As she walks across a field of blinding white snow, Death wonders if she has learned anything from watching other people die. Gaiman’s lyrical prose captures an emotional journey of loss and forgiveness. His writing is punctuated by the abstract artwork of Jeff Jones.

The most surprising narrative in the collection is “Sow and Ye Shall Reap.” The unexpected heroine in the story is Tefé Holland, the rebellious daughter of the plant monster, Swamp Thing. Tefé confronts a suicidal man as he points his shotgun directly at her head. In just a few pages, Vaughn portrays her with incredibly strong characterization. Artist Roger Petersen illustrates these panels with shadows and a strong tone in red. This is a great prequel to a promising new series. 

Whether the stories in WINTER’S EDGE are supposed to be downtrodden or comical, the messages specifically hit their mark. Your eyes will either be drawn to Bolton’s fully painted panels or the grittiness of Pope’s imagery. WINTER’S EDGE is 100 pages of page-turning writing and spectacular artwork. A few of these stories will make readers think twice about the meaning of Christmas. Out in stores now, this is the perfect gift to comic book fans during the holiday season.