First up is “The Night After I Took the Data Entry Job I Was Visited By My Own Ghost,” a story about as outlandish as its overly long title. It’s a horror comedy about a man who’s haunted by his own ghost who becomes more popular in life than he is. It causes him to change the course of where his life is headed, also interrupting the ghostly visit. It’s a humorous tale, very lighthearted with a heavy dose of pop culture reference. It’s a good, safe introduction to the rest of the stories.
“The Dead Boy Detectives: Run Ragged” follows, a very short story meant to be continued in the next issues of Vertigo compilations. Unfortunately there’s just not enough time spent on developing this story before it leaves off with a cliffhanger, and this makes it difficult to get into. It could have used a few more pages to flesh out small details, especially for those who don’t know the background of the Dead Boy Detectives.
A highlight here is “Wallflower,” an emotionally poignant story about a couple who start a life together, encounter the passage of time, and find that despite the various barricades set up between the two, they can never disconnect the ties of love that bound them together for so long. It’s not horror in the traditional sense per se, but it’s a lingering story all the same.
“A Bowl of Red” and “Bride” are the other two stories that capture the imagination. The former is a tale about the devil’s chili, a bowl made with the undead pepper that’s so spicy it might just melt your skin off – although if you can harness its power, you could have eternal life and grow peppers from your nipples. It’s a unique story, and it has some great artwork from John McCrea. “Bride” is just plain strange, and its surreal imagery really hits home – a widowed man snorting his wife’s ashes, eating her, or trying to will her back to life is really sort of depressing, especially when viewed through the distorted lens of the story.
The other tales included in this compilation are fine but not very notable. Some are too stunted for their own good, like “The Dark Lady”; others progress predictably, like “Ghost-For-Hire.” Still, any stories about ghosts are good in my book, and reading this comic on a cooler, windy day like today with the sunlight slanting through the trees reminds me of fall days where the leaves have begun to get brittle and crunch under your feet, and whoever might be following behind you.