In “The Premature Burial,” Eisner Hall of Fame inductee Richard Corben takes two of Edgar Allan Poe’s most suffocating (figuratively and literally) stories and spins comic book gold. There’s nothing quite like an illustration of a man buried alive to drill that concept deep into your psyche. And additionally, nothing quite like watching a man sweat as his friend seals his tomb to make you stop and gratefully inhale gulps of air.
WRITTEN BY: Richard Corben
ART BY: Richard Corben
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
RELEASE: April 2, 2014
I probably don’t need to spend too much time on the genius of Edgar Allan Poe. But he is a genius. And he knows how to construct wonderfully awful stories that gnaw at your gut. Many of his stories make you feel an overwhelming sense of fear and claustrophobia, and “The Premature Burial” is a very literal representation of those emotions. Richard Corben does a fantastic job constructing an adaptation with the same sentiments. His adaptation breeds both fear and claustrophobia, as well as insanity, psychosis, and madness.
This comic book adaptation combines elements from Poe’s classic short stories: “The Premature Burial” and “The Cask of Amontillado.” In the former, we learn of a man, slighted by his bride-to-be, angered, and driven to cause her “death.” Though, as the title would suggest, she isn’t completely dead, and wakes up to exact her revenge. The story is hectic and frenzied, which at first seems like a poor adaptation, but in the end feels more like a very purposeful tactic on the part of Corben. The tone of the story aligns with the emotions of being buried alive.
In the second part of this one-shot, Corben takes on “The Cask of Amontillado,” Poe’s short story about a man who tricks his friend into walking straight into his own tomb. Montresor retells the story of how he entombed his best friend, Fortunato, several decades earlier. Although he has succeeded in getting away with the crime, he apparently decides now is the time to share his evil deed, as he is dying himself.
Corben excels at evoking emotions via facial expressions. This is where is art shines. The pure terror he conveys with one simple look is astonishing and it’s exactly what a story like this needs in order to flourish. Though his art is not my personal favorite, it works extremely well for this comic. And although I’d love to see Poe’s classic literature paired with a hyper-modern style of art, it’s just not realistic.
The subtle hysteria that Poe’s work creates in the reader’s nervous system is alarmingly delightful. Being buried alive is a horrendous thought—add to that Poe’s charming storytelling and Corben’s swift adaptation plus finely tuned art and you’ve got the makings of a genuinely frightening comic book.
Reviewed by – Bree Ogden