Improbabilities and absurdities – the inky milieu of most comics. Most people know about superhero comics’ absurdities like an invincible man who can fly and shoot eye-lasers or an angry Canadian with metal-plated bones. Comic creators use the medium of sequential arts to tell stories of superhuman heroes and villains doing things modern CGI rendering is only just catching up to. If it’s any indicator just how effective comics are at making the impossible possible in people’s minds, think about this: it took nearly half a century for Hollywood to make an Avengers movie that actually satisfied most comic fans’ pre-conceived notions. While the supes genre definitely monopolizes the medium, other genres, like sci-fi and horror offer their own brand of reverent absurdity to comics. The latest issue of No Place Like Home hits a high water-mark of insanity within the first five pages.
Dee, the central figure in No Place Like Home, returns home to Emeraldsville, KS to mourn her parents’ recent passing. Led to believe it was the result of an especially violent tornado, Dee soon finds out that there is something much more freakish was behind it all. With her buddy and fan-darling Lizzie, Dee starts to find out the deep, dark, deadly secret behind the string of deaths in her quiet hometown. In this issue, Dee, Lizzy and Sherriff Frank fend off an attack from a flying monkey in the middle of a graveyard. The monkey is able to escape and flies off carrying an unconscious Lizzie in his ugly paws. After getting patched up at the hospital, Frank finally reveals to Dee what happened back in ’59 and what set this whole chaotic course into motion. Meanwhile our monkey friend is still making murderous rounds to the rest of Frank’s friends and Lizzie, down but not out, ends up through the proverbial looking glass halfway between Emeraldsville and …well, somewhere with a lot of angry flying monkeys.
This issue kicks off with a page full of hissing monkey face and right into Lizzy, Dee and Frank trying to kill it before it kills them. Frank shoots it and Lizzie stabs it in the back with its own knife, but it shakes that off and just before it goes in for the kill on Lizzie, this winged monkey punches her in the face with a mean right cross. That’s one of those moments where you do a double-take and say to yourself, “Oh damn, that winged monkey just punched that girl in the face!” Angelo Tirotto’s story is always just at the edge of this kind of insanity, but in its quieter moments, captures the wicked side of small-town America vibe. Emeraldsville has its share of bake sales and county fairs, but it also teems with an unspoken gravitas. Underneath the shiny façade of a happy farm town, Tirotto’s characters share dark secrets that inexorably bind them together and could also potentially tear them limb from limb. The tension brimming to the surface in No Place Like Home keeps things on edge so when something pops off, like a flying monkey attack, the reader is primed and ready to go.
On top of that you’ve got Richard Jordan’s art, which has evolved so much in just three issues. His characters aren’t all beauty queens (except for Lizzie, please don’t beat me up!), but very real looking people. There aren’t any super models (except for Lizzie – please don’t hit me!) or body builders with impossible abs, just regular folks with regular body types, which makes it much more unsettling when they’re being dragged to their untimely, bloody, horrific death by a devil-monkey. By using regular looking people, it helps the reader put themselves into the story. This isn’t some completely unrealistic city where everyone’s a beauty queen, its Anytown USA and that means it could be YOUR town. Throw in Richard Jordan’s cover which is s-s-s-s-sick and you can’t not buy it. That twister of cars, skeletons and Dee looks like something out of a sub-conscious fueled nightmare. Plus it looks like she’s flying so the superhero hardliners might think she’s got the power of flight and pick it up anyway.
No Place Like Home features probably the most entertaining letters section with the character of Lizzie answering the series’ reader mail so be sure to flip to the back to check that out as well. This one is a true comic thriller, but with horror/super-natural elements. Tirotto and Jordan, despite the fact they’re both British, are in the beginnings of producing a classic American Gothic tale. Where many comics use gore or violence to scare the reader, No Place Like Home uses an underlying, unsettling tension to make the reader ill-at-ease with anticipation. Plus, you know, monkey-face-punch!