First published back in August of 1993, the Eclipse Graphic Novel’s adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story ‘The Life Of Death’ from the author’s ‘Books Of Blood: Volume Six’ (1985) followed in the footsteps of the successful ‘Tapping The Vein’ (1989 - 1992) adaptations.  The graphic novel also included an adaptation of ‘The Murders On The Rue Morgue’ that was adapted from Barker’s original short that appeared in ‘Books Of Blood: Volume Two’ (1984).

The Life Of Death - 56 pages
After undergoing a hysterectomy that almost killed her, Elaine Rider finds herself aimlessly wandering around in a lethargic and depressive daze.  And then she comes across the workmen beginning their task of demolishing the towering stone structure of All Saints church.  Intrigued, she goes to take a look, and in doing so encounters a strangely jolly man named Kavanagh who quickly befriends her.  Kavanagh soon reveals his fascination with death, drawing Elaine into his morbid obsessions.  And that’s when she starts to feel the urgent desire to enter the locked vaults of the great church before the numerous bodies of the dead are removed.  A sealed tomb that is being opened up for the first time in years.  An underground crypt where victims of a deadly plague were thrown into and left to rot.  A mass grave that Elaine Rider is about to explore...

Oh good god yes this is a dark one alright.  The gloomy depressive atmosphere of the short hits the reader like a brick wall from the very outset, smothering the reader from there on with misery and a mysterious longing.  The character of Elaine Rider is certainly an intriguing one.  Her internal loss pushes her to a restless meandering.  And her emptiness ultimately leaves her open to the advances of the strange fellow named Kavanagh.  And with Kavanagh sparking a new interest for the deceased in her, the gradual decent from a slight morbid curiosity into a full-blown obsession with the dead for Elaine is an unnerving one to witness.  Furthermore, the misguided longings of the desperate woman and ultimately the horrifying conclusion to the tale makes the short a hard one to swallow.  It’s certainly one of Barker’s darkest offerings.  And with the incorporation of a graphic scene of necrophilia, it’s got some pretty darn strong elements in it as well.  It’s like something Jörg Buttgereit might have penned, only with a more spiritual finale.  And it’s a damn compelling read.

Fred Burke’s graphic novel adaptation, like with Barker’s original short, is a slow burner that wallows in a murky water of depression, only to be hoisted out of the perpetual despair of loss by a strange new obsession.  Burke’s gloomy, almost dreamlike pace and meandering storyboard sits well with the original; showing a conscious thought for the slow descent of our principal protagonist.  Artist Stewart Stanyard’s illustrations are fittingly murky and washed-out, suiting the mood and atmosphere to a tee.  But it’s the guttural and disturbing end sequence where the graphic novel really shows its stuff.  The suggestive imaginary, single tone colour and shift to a black storyboard plate really bring out the impact for this finale.  A damn fine job at adapting a tricky story to depict in storyboard format.  And very rightfully deserving of the title tale.

New Murders On The Rue Morgue – 30 pages
After receiving a desperate telegram from his friend Catherine Laborteaux pleading that he come to Paris at once, seventy-three year old Lewis Fox drops everything to come to the aid of his dear friend.  Upon arriving in the wintery streets of Paris, Lewis (the real-life descendant of Poe’s supposedly fictional detective - C. Auguste Dupin) meets with the distraught Catherine to be told that her son, Phillipe Laborteaux is being charged with murder.  A savage butchering of a young red-haired woman that she is convinced he did not do.  Lewis promises to help his close friend, and so goes to the police to speak with Phillipe.  But what he finds is a man who has given up all hope in life.  A broken man who wants nothing more than to die.  A man who speaks of a horrifying past that has returned to the streets of Paris.  A past thought to be the work of fiction, that is now slicing through flesh and spilling its victims’ blood once again...

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story ‘The Murders In The Rue Morgue’ (1841), Barker’s inspired return to the bizarre tale of ‘Jack The Ripper’ style murders at the hands of an orang-utan in the streets of Paris is as wildly contrived as the original was.  Indeed, the duplication and shadowing of the twisted murder-mystery plot is as much a homage as it is a delightfully ingenious new spin on the story.  Merging fact with fiction, Barker plays with the past and present, reaping a new set of tragic murders onto the picturesque Parisian backdrop.  The setting is instantly captivating, the handful of characters fleshed-out and bleeding with woe.  The whole story retains somewhat of a Poe-esque  atmosphere, whilst incorporating a new layer of bloodshed and a very dark adage of black comedy.

Steve Niles’ graphic novel adaptation of the short is a slightly stripped-down version of Barker’s original tale, with a few subtle changes brought in to suit the play of the storyline into the frame-by-frame structure better.  And it works!  The tale, in its original version as well as in this more recent comic adaptation, are both slow-burners, working up to the strange plot in an escalating show or gruesome murder mystery.  Hector Gomez’s illustrative artwork is stunning throughout; creating a mood and bold presence with excellent use of colour and stylistic frame structuring.  The tale is certainly not the most suited for a graphic novel adaptation, but working closely together, Niles and Gomez have created an excellent adapted re-working of the original black comedy soiree.

The graphic novel runs for a total of 86 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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