Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Shotgun Wedding

Top Cow Comics is building themselves a hot streak.

Aside from the red-hot sales machine Batman Eternal # 1, which debuted this past week, Top Cow's miniseries from William Harms and Edward Pun, Shotgun Wedding, is April's other smoking gun comic, pun intended.

Like Batman Eternal, Shotgun Wedding is hitting readers in weekly doses, so be prepared to put aside a little extra bread in your comics budget for the month, because thus far through two issues, it's worth the indulgence.

The comics press is billing Shotgun Wedding as a cross between Kill Bill and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  You might as well throw True Lies into it if you must compare this four-issue mini to Hollywood action blockbusters.  Midway through the issues released so far, Shotgun Wedding most resembles Mr. and Mrs. Smith.   However, William Harms goes an extra step with his blazing plot. 

The story focuses on a pair of assassins, Mike and Chloe, who were once engaged.  Summarizing half of the storyline, Chloe had saved Mike's life in the past after a hit that went wrong in Antalya, Turkey.  Chloe makes a deal with her sicko mark to free Mike from a sure death.   While Harms bops around between past and present modes of his quick-paced story, we know at this point Mike has jilted Chloe at the altar and moved on to a new life and a new love, Denise, whom he is betrothed to.  Obviously, Denise has no clue Mike's a hit man by profession.

Chloe has tracked Mike down and to this point, we know she is out for vengeance against her former lover.  We also know she's a loose cannon, prone to psychopathic behavior beyond the scope of her performance as a black ops specialist.  Mike appears to kill out a sense of duty, while William Harms leads us to believe Chloe gets off on the art of killing. 

Thus the stage is set with Mike and Denise's upcoming wedding for an assumedly brutal dénouement. 

The black and white art by Edward Pun makes Shotgun Wedding nearly as gritty as Sin City minus Frank Miller's stone washing effects that made the latter series more pulp versus noir, which Shotgun Wedding treads close toward without feeling smoky nor overtly sexual.  Still, there's plenty of pulp interplay in this story and there's an escalating sense of twisted tragedy in William Harms' tale that has already claimed lives and suggests further bloodshed yet to fling across the most sensitive areas of his plot. 

Shotgun Wedding stomps like a beast and is nearly within the genius of Ed Brubaker's Fatale, giving Top Cow and Image Comics, by attrition, something else to brag about.

Listenin' to:  Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention - Freak Out!

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