Drunk and alone, the acclaimed author of The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Masque of the Red Death is reduced to introducing horror stories in a comic book.
For those unfamiliar with the series– myself included prior to this review– Edgar Allen Poe’s Snifter of Terror is a sort of single-issue anthology comic in which the titular author introduces and stars in pulp horror stories. The series’ format and tone are intentionally reminiscent of EC comics and the like, albeit with modern stylistic choices and trimming suitable for an issue of MAD magazine. It’s a very strange conceptual blend that doesn’t sound like it should work but manages to captivate and entertain all the same.
This first issue of the title’s second “season” primarily features The Tell-Tale Black Cask of Usher, a mouthful to be sure but one which accurately describes the mashed together nature of the story, which borrows from at least the four tales in the title and visually references several more. While I’m familiar with the more popular stories in Poe’s catalog (those in the title of this story, namely), I won’t pretend to be the most well versed Poe reader, so there are likely lots of nods and easter eggs not only in this issue but in the series as a whole which are lost on me. Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun reading this familiar-but-not-quite story, which is why I would feel comfortable recommending the series to even the most casual fans of Edgar Allen Poe. The comic doesn’t take itself or its subject matter too seriously, as evidenced by the cover.
The art also contributes a lot to the story. The colors are intentionally drab, and the cold nature of the entire palette lends to the bleak, empty atmosphere of the story. Occasionally contrasting warm colors pop in the best way possible, as they’re often used in conjunction with light sources like candles and lanterns. The resulting depth is evocative and engaging. Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention the blocky style and pitch-black shadows, which remind me of Mignola’s art– not an inappropriate comparison for several reasons.
In fact, I feel like the only people who wouldn’t find something to enjoy in this series would be staunch academics and Poe purists, but even given those parameters it’s clear that the creators love the content that they’re working with. My only possible concern for the series would be the potential to run out of source material, especially given that this issue incorporates four major pieces of Poe’s writing, but I would hope that in the event of an idea shortage the writers will turn to other horror standbys and cliches for the material. This could already be the case, given that there are six issues in the first season which I haven’t read, but I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing Poe interact with the work of other genre titans if not the other authors themselves.
Edgar Allen Poe’s Snifter of Terror Season Two: The Tell-Tale Black Cask of Usher (good god, seriously) offers more than just the narrative– it actually feels like a miniature version of the various magazines that it takes inspiration from. There’s a very, very MAD-esque bonus short at the end of the issue, as well as a short story and a few poems. While these maybe aren’t substantial enough to review on their own, they do add a feeling of fullness to the book. Special shout out to the poem Happy, Happy Birthday, Critic.
You can check out this issue and the rest of Edgar Allen Poe’s Snifter of Terror here!