Before reading this comic, I was only somewhat familiar with the Puppet Master series. I’d heard of it, but I hadn’t watched any of the ten films. I have no idea if they are any good. After reading this comic, I’m not that inclined to find out.
In Charles Band‘s Puppet Master, a bunch of attractive young people go off and party at an abandoned hotel which has been the site of many mysterious disappearances. As one would expect, bad things happen. Puppet Master follows horror conventions through and through. People have sex, then they die. Other people go looking for them, they die too. If any of this comes as a surprise to you, if you feel I’ve somehow spoiled the plot, please go watch Friday the 13th, or better yet, a good movie, like Halloween or Scream.
If what I’ve described above to you seems appealing, you know who you are. If the slasher genre isn’t your thing, Puppet Master has nothing for you. I myself enjoy a good slasher tale. If its well told, engaging, has characters I care about, and most importantly is scary, then I’m interested. Puppet Master really only meets the bare minimum of requirements in any of those categories.
The characters in Puppet Master are so bland they don’t even have archetypes. We don’t spend enough time getting to know them to even put them in categories like jock, or nerd, or what have you. Despite having read the comic multiple times, I can’t tell you any of the names, or what they did. Its difficult to tell who is alive and who is dead sometimes because nobody has any defining characteristics. I think one guy is supposed to be rich, but that’s about it. They speak mainly in expository dialogue, or trite observations about how creepy the abandoned hotel is. There are some sparks of life from the script, but those are few and far between. The characters aren’t very bright, they do obviously dumb things, and induce much eye rolling with their antics. Rare was the death that evoked any kind of emotion from me.
Luckily, the artwork is of a far higher quality than the script. Michaela Da Sacco‘s visual style is an evocatively grubby mix of broad strokes and scratchy lines. It deftly evokes a grimy feel for the abandoned hotel and its denizens. However, what really sucked me in is Yann Perrelet’s gorgeous coloring. Perrelet uses a range of contrasting dark blues and reds to illustrate an oppressive feel for the hotel. Perrelet‘s colors are rich and deep, and evoke the work of modern horror cinematographer John R. Leonetti, most famous for his work on Insidious and The Conjuring, but who also did puppet themed Dead Silence . Perrelet effectively uses whites and reds for blood and light against the blue hotel background, and the result is minimalist but striking. Nothing in the comic kept more interested than the strong art.
The killer puppets themselves are somewhat engaging. Their designs are varied, and they effectively carry out violence in some gross and freaky way, but they can’t measure up to modern horror puppet icons like Annabelle. My favorite puppet design was probably a fire-breather named “Torch” with “Blade” as a distant second. The puppets are creepy, to be sure, but a good horror comic needs a much stronger monster to really freak me out.
I’ll admit that there was one thing I really liked about Puppet Master, and that was the final page. It contains a terrific stinger that some of you might see coming, I personally didn’t, and I really liked it.
Overall, I can’t recommend Puppet Master. If you have slasher cravings, Puppet Master should satisfy them, but anyone looking for something actually scary in comic form will be disappointed. Part of me really feels horror shouldn’t be this formulaic in a post Cabin in the Woods era. Puppet Master lacks the creativity of Tales from the Crypt, the atmosphere of Harrow County or the intelligence of The Walking Dead. Puppet Master has some cheap thrills, but horror fans deserve better.
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