First published in November of 2016, ‘Short Sharp Shocks’ offered up six delightfully sinister short comicbook horror tales written by Dammaged Comics’ very own Dave McCluskey with artwork by Lukasz Marko.

DLS Synopsis:
Richard Glimm had been a very naughty boy.  He was responsible for the deaths of nine people.  And now, for his final judgement, he must sit and watch as other lives are brought to an abrupt conclusion.  His job, as told to him by the dead, is merely to guess the sting in each tale.  But should he get it wrong, then he’s in for a short sharp shock of his own…

Graveyard Shift - 7 Pages
Detective Andy West knew he’d have his work cut out for him if he was going to catch the cemetery rapist.  It wasn’t that the perpetrator had been particularly cunning about his crime.  It was what the witnesses who’d been around the vicinity said afterwards.  Immediately following the poor victim’s scream, they’d seen the ghost of a little old woman shuffling down the road, wearing nothing but a white hospital gown and slippers.  From that West just knew that this case was going to be one of those strange ones…

Women Drivers - 8 Pages
She was just heading out for a bit in the Aston.  Of course, the way she was driving was going to bring her to the attention of the police.  Still, that was never much of a problem for a girl like her.  She just used her assets, and together with the cargo in the car’s boot, she’d be on her merry way before long…

A Change Of Heart - 6 Pages
Father Kerrigan had just received word from the resident psychiatrist at the nearby high security prison that they needed his services.  James Gretty – the man the press had daubed the ‘Family Fiend’ some twenty years ago – was calling out for some moral guidance.  He’d had a long time to dwell over the murders.  A long time to think about what had happened.  And a long time to consider what he may not have actually done…

Frozen - 7 Pages
Linda was the only kid on the isolated complex.  It was something her father was very conscious of.  But she seemed to be doing ok.  She’d go out skating on the frozen lake each day and come back smiling and refreshed.  Although recently she’d started talking about a friend she’d met out there in the ice.  She called him Oscar.  An imaginary friend out there in the bleak snow-covered conditions worried him.  Still, with spring on the way, the ice would soon melt and she’d no longer be able to go on the lake to skate.  It was probably for the best…

Plug – 7 Pages
Over the centuries and generations, man had washed his ablations and ablutions down into the drains, completely unaware of what they were creating.  Little did they know that a new life form had evolved.  And over the years it thrived.  Now reports of strange unexplainable attacks in people homes had started to emerge.  No one seemed to know what the hell was going on.  What sort of creature was responsible for all the bloody deaths.  Other than eight-year-old Brian that is.  Brian knew all too well.  And he had a special bond with it…

The Lodger - 6 Pages
They’d not had the new lodger for long, but already the boy decided he didn’t like him one bit.  The guy seemed shifty.  Always had such a pale face and he was forever clutching that case to him.  There was definitely something wrong about the man.  However, the lodger saw things in a very different way.  He was feeling suffocated in the house.  The landlady was fine, but the boy was always lurking.  Always on his back.  Always peering in on him.  He couldn’t take it anymore.  He had to get out…

DLS Review:

Dave McCluskey’s the fella behind Dammaged Comics.  He’s no stranger to writing horror tales for graphic novels, already having a fair few titles under his belt.  With ‘Short Sharp Shocks’ – as he details in his afterword – it’s an anthology of stories that have been buzzing around in his head for a very long time – the likes of ‘Plug’ and ‘Graveyard Shift’ were in fact among the first stories he ever wrote.

Indeed, what you get with ‘Short Sharp Shocks’ is a particularly varied and diverse collection of horror shorts, designed to make you grin with horror-fan glee at every little sinister twist and turn that’s thrown in.  None of the stories are hugely complex, layered with substories, or anything of the sort.  They’re all designed to get straight to the throbbing heart of the matter, butcher the organ, then get the hell out leaving the corpse to cool off in its wake.

The whole construction of the anthology is in a similar vein to a ‘Tales From The Crypt’ double bill; with our undead host providing a comical interlude-cum-introduction between each story.  It’s a simple but incredibly effective way of pulling all the short tales together and making the anthology feel more as a complete whole.

The collection kicks off with a brief three page introduction set in a death row style auditorium where we see British serial killer Richard Glimm strapped into an electric chair by our skeletal host.  The rules of Glimm’s punishment are quickly laid out for the benefit of him (and us).  Then it’s on to the first short story – the gritty supernatural serial killer thriller ‘Graveyard Shift’.

To be honest, having ‘Graveyard Shift’ as the opening story potentially wasn’t necessarily the best choice.  It’s by far and away the most involved and tightly packed of the offerings.  Each frame throws down a meaty chunk of storyline – condensing the story into just six short pages.  It really does feel like its bulging at the sides.  From the outset you’re thrust into a whirlwind of events that twist and turn, which fails to allow the reader any time to become accustomed to the style of stories being presented.  That’s not to say it’s not an entertaining read.  But for a starting piece, you can’t help but feel that by the time you’ve got yourself into the swing of things, the first stories over.

Next we’re treated to potentially the oddest story in the collection.  ‘Women Drivers’ is a story without much direction.  That is other than the clearly orchestrated mission to throw you off guard with a final sudden jarring twist.  Nevertheless, pure entertainment is at the root of the beast.  In fact it’s hard not to smile as the story dances around on relatively (and no doubt purposefully) thin ‘politically incorrect’ ice.

‘A Change Of Heart’ is a pretty standard ‘Tales From the Crypt’ affair with that all-important surprise twist in its tail.  Similarly, ‘Frozen’ takes us down a reasonably well-trodden path for horror stories – although once again McCluskey pulls the rug out from under us with a gloriously fiendish horror ending.

‘Plug’ on the other hand is just a stone’s throw away from spectacular.  It’s got one of the wonderfully B-Movie style stories that just makes you grin from ear to ear.  A beastie named ‘Plug’ that’s been slowly feeding and growing down in the sewers and drains.  Love it.  If only there was more of it.

The final offering in the collection – ‘The Lodger’ is if I’m honest, a bit hit and miss.  Concept wise I’m on board.  Seeing an already sour living relationship going downhill fast, first from one perspective then from the others, is a concept rich with potential.  However, it’s McCluskey’s use of lyrical rhyming to tell the story that doesn’t work too well.  Often the choice of words feels painfully forced, merely selected for the sake of rhyming.  In others it’s clunky and misses the beat of the already established flow.  It’s a shame really, as the story itself is quite entertaining.

However, the main drawbacks with the collection are undoubtedly with the dialogue (which is decidedly ropey in places), the use of ‘old school style narration’ to explain what’s going on (it’s a lazy way of doing it) and a sinful spattering of typos that really take away from the overall quality of the publication.

With the artwork Lukasz Marko’s pen and ink work is raw, vibrant and rich in energy throughout – which fits the almost ‘punkish’ feel to the anthology well.  Personally I generally like a less sketchy style of artwork in graphic novels and the like.  However I certainly see the merits in this type of approach.

The colours and shading also work particularly well throughout the collection – in places singlehandedly bringing the story right out of the page.  Splashes of bright red blood look clinically brutal.  Grey skin looks pallid and deathly cold.  There’s clearly plenty of thought that’s gone into it.

Ultimately what you get with ‘Short Sharp Shocks’ is a fun and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek read from start to finish.  For those that used to enjoy those quirky ‘Tales From The Crypt’ style horror shorts from the 80s, this one’s going to feel like an absolute blast from the past.

The collection runs for a total of 53 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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