In accordance with the annual celebration of everyone’s favorite nightmarish holiday, I decided to focus the first post of this type on a little comic series that has quickly climbed to the top of my list of favorites: Hack/Slash!
In every cheesy, exploitative horror movie focusing on grotesque killers butchering remarkably stupid teenagers, there is always one girl who survives until the end. This girl (most often a virgin) is the only person who has the chance of surviving the story and even vanquishing the monster.
But what if her journey didn’t end there? What if she didn’t just stop at killing that one monster (or, as the series labels them, “Slashers”)?
Meet Cassie Hack, the daughter of single mother and school lunch lady Delilah Hack. Cassie was often bullied at school, which eventually led to her mentally unstable mother killing said bullies and dicing them up to serve with the school lunch. When Cassie alerted the police, Delilah killed herself rather than be captured.
But Delilah didn’t stay dead, and instead rose from the grave as a ghoulish monster “Slasher” who continued to kill her daughter’s tormentors until Cassie was forced to kill her mother again. Traumatized by the experience (who wouldn’t be?), Cassie ran away from her new foster home and dedicated her life to saving other innocents from Slashers like her mother. Along the way, she met the monstrous but kind-hearted Vlad (think a benevolent version of Jason Voorhees), who became her constant companion in the fight against evil.
At first glance, the series appears to be as juvenile as the genre it is paying homage to. The majority of the covers depict Cassie in revealing outfits and saucy posses, usually accompanied by BUCKETS of blood and guts. But the old saying “never judge a book by its cover”definitely applies here. Yes, Cassie is used as an object of fanservice quite frequently, but a lot of the time that is only relegated to the covers. Inside, you’ll find plenty of female characters falling into a wide range of age, skin color and body types that you probably won’t see in anything published by the Big Two.
Writer Tim Seeley has come out and admitted that he’s “into some pretty weird shit,” but that passion mixed with his compelling writing is a match made in heaven. Cassie herself is a very complex character. She struggles with her inner rage, fearful of the possibility that she could become a Slasher just like her mother. What’s more, her being bullied during childhood has really crippled her self worth. In her own words, one of the reasons she’s still a virgin is because she foolishly believes no one will find her attractive.
Vlad, meanwhile, acts as her conscience, and is definitely the more innocent of the two, which is not something you would expect at first glance. Due to his physical condition, he was abandoned as a child, before being found and raised by an elderly butcher. When his surrogate father died, Vlad met up with Cassie and the two became life long companions, and their friendship is at the very heart of the series.
For the supporting cast, we have couple Lisa Eslten and Chris Krank; aspiring actress and stripper Margaret Crump a.k.a Georgia Peaches; slightly over the hill groupie Gertrude Hall; Samhain, a Slasher trying to do good; Cat Curio, one of Samhain’s former victims; and Pooch, a demon hound from another dimension who is creepy and loveable all at once.
Thanks to Seeley’s writing, all of these characters feel like real people who the readers can identify with. They are also significantly more progressive than a lot of the stuff we see in Marvel or DC at the moment. I mean, how often do you see a romance between a white woman and an Asian man, like with Lisa and Chris? And the title has formed a small LGBT following due to its respectful treatment of bisexual Cassie and her on-again/off-again relationship with Margaret.
But fans of the Slasher genre need not fear, because it isn’t all just romance and angst. Cassie and Vlad have an entire Rogues Gallery of villains, each one inspired by Tim Seeley’s (seemingly) limitless knowledge of trashy horror tropes. Bad seed turned dream killer Ashley Guthrie, catholic school girl sorceress Laura Lochs, the seductive, man hating Acid Angel, and the Hostel-inspired Dr. Gross are just the tip of the iceberg. And that’s not even counting the crossovers, where Cassie and Vlad have matched wits with classic horror icons such as Chucky, Evil Ernie, Michael Myers and even Ash from Evil Dead.
And the best part is, thanks their annoying tendency to always come back for a sequel, these villains never stay down no matter how bad Cassie messes them up. It’s certainly a refreshing alternative to another contrived escape from Arkham Asylum, isn’t it?
Overall, this series is definitely my favorite on-going being published right now. I recommend this title for everyone, whether you’re a fan of the horror genre or not. The characters here are very enjoyable, and the series is constantly running the gamut of emotions from hilarious, scary, tragic and heartwarming. It certainly fills the hole left behind since Buffy ended, and I can definitely see fans of that series loving this.
Now, could we possibly tempt Tim Seeley to do a Samhain spin off to give us a substitute for Angel?