Monday, February 03, 2014
Review: The Hidden
Those characters are hidden from the reader in the title of the book (despite their appearance on the cover, rendered in such a Salaean manner as to be unrecognizable from their more popular, Golden Age Hollywood-inspired designs), and are, in fact, hidden from the reader throughout much of the story as it unfolds: One in plain sight, the other behind the scenes, only revealing himself as the story reaches its climax.
It's hard to talk about the comic without revealing that which is hidden, and I'm reluctant to do so, as the surprise is one of the book's many charms. I'd suggest if you have any interest in Richard Sala's work (and it's hard for me to imagine a comics reader who wouldn't), or in radical new takes—visual as well as narrative—on old horror story standards, you stop reading this blog post and make to your nearest library, comic shop, book store, Fangagraphics.com or online book seller and do what you can to get your hands on this 2011 book.
It opens with a young college professor awakening from a nightmare to see his small town being torn apart by giant men-shaped creatures, tall enough to peer into second story windows and to grip the young, voluptuous women Sala excels at drawing in one hand, each with stiched-up, mask-like faces. He knew this would happen, and flees.
He awakens in a cave after a rather vivid nightmare...
Their group picks up more survivors, a pair of caterers that witnessed what seems like the cabal of powerful people behind this end-of-the-world scenario, although their leader mentions a behind-the-scenes partner.
Finally, the amnesiac, now-bearded professor leads them to a compound of an old associate, and goes to confront the hidden monster behind the mysterious goings-ons.
And that's as much as I can tell you without spoiling anything.
Sala unravels the reveal gently, with first the name of the professor (Victor), the colleague's rambling, long-winded recounting of their discoveries of how to extend life and reanimate the dead, through the application of electricity to the brain and the combination of body parts from different cadavers.
And, finally, Victor meets his "son," a gigantic—at least 15-feet tall—rotten-faced but well-dressed ghoul with a bizarre way of talking. "So—he it is—finally come to be in the presence of myself, since so many years," the monster greats his maker, "Hiding in always time—this was unsuitable, he it is."
These are his "new men," and unborn life is the only kind they'll tolerate. They sick to wipe out the old men (and, especially, it seems, the old women) and start over, the media moguls and powerful politicians the caterers saw gloating over the end of the world being mere pawns.
It's not the most intricately plotted of Sala's comics, but it is probably his grandest and most epic in terms of scale, and it's full of suspense, mystery, horror, violence and a perhaps surprising amount of action—at the climax, Victor and Colleen fight off a horde of new men with a hatchet and grenades.