When Mark Miller (“VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS”) released his original sequel to Vincent Price’s grossly overlooked “THE TINGLER” it was a major treat for those who grew up on classic horror fare from the master of horror himself. Since then Mark’s work on the “VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS” series has been some of the most intriguing and nostalgia inducing reads in comics. So when Mark shot me an e-mail last month and asked me if I’d like to preview and review the latest entry, “WITCHFINDER GENERAL”, he didn’t have to twist my arm very hard. Read on for our special review of the book to get you prepared for our one-on-one with the scribe next week!
Vincent Price originally made “THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL” in 1968 with director Michael Reeves on the cheap, and as such still stands as a film that not many remember from the horror legend despite the box-office success. Which is sad to say, because the film is a fantastic piece of horror that not only showcases some fantastic backdrops and cinematography, but also a riveting portrayal of the Witchfinder General courtesy of Price. There was also no shortage of controversy surrounding the film, with many UK critics lashing the film for its graphic content.
Miller’s take on the story is a prequel revealing the origins of Matthew Hopkins (Price’s character in the film), a man who is so insanely infatuated by the young and beautiful Bethany to the point that it is bordering on psychotic. One morning he awakens to the sounds of horse hooves on the ground out in the square of his small town. A group of villagers (Bethany among them) has gathered to see the arrival of a of Witchfinder, a man who as Bethany puts it is a “accuser, finger pointer, a punisher.”. Matthew doesn’t flinch at the arrival and instead reminisces about the grisly meeting the two had in the woods the morning previous that he regards as “romantic” and “beautiful”.
The story itself is a quick, razor smooth read. You’ll probably breeze through this one within a few minutes as there isn’t a lot of wordy dialogue or narration. Instead the book seems to possess the innate ability (that some great works do) of presenting the reader the inevitable outcome ahead of time and riding the coattails of the revelation until the end. It is fairly obvious from the very beginning that the reader is dealing with someone that is utterly out of his head with Matthew leaving the only real question to be just what sort of horrible act is he going to perform? Obviously Bethany does not reciprocate her admireror’s feelings and it is only a matter of time until the ice breaks and Matthew realizes it.
It is this feeling of dread for the young girl that makes “WITCHFINDER GENERAL” work. Readers will undoubtedly come to the realization of just what Matthew will do before he himself even knows, and even if that takes a little bit of the fun from the story it also feels refreshing since the story doesn’t opt for the over used “twist” at the end. There are also some fantastic pieces of gore and death to add edge to the story, and the artwork from Lopez is a great fit for the style the story is going for. There isn’t ever a question of continuity bridging the film the story is taking from and the story itself, and it would almost behoove one to read this story before seeing the film itself if they have not yet exposed themselves to the cult classic.
When all is done and read Miller’s “WITCHFINDER GENERAL” acts as a fantastic accompaniment to Price’s now 40+ year old classic adding enough rich backstory to wet even the most die-hard fans pallet. No small feat when you stop to think about the storied legacy behind the films these stories are tied to. A quick, sleak, unnerving, and fun genre read that is not to be missed by Vincent Price fans when it hits stores this coming Wednesday. (MSRP-$3.99)
4 Out of 5 Skulls