Friday the 13th Comics

jason voorhees has found his way into the comic book realm many times over the last few years through various publishers. he’s become friends with leatherface, fought with bruce campbell, and even battled the futuristic jason x version of himself. i may look at some of these mini-series later, but the series i want to look at right now is the first one i found and my favorite thus far: the first 6-issue mini-series published by wildstorm simply titled friday the 13th.

can jason work on the printed page? i distinctly remember reading the novelization of friday the 13th in elementary school and being utterly freaked out by the scene where the cook, annie, gets her throat slashed… so yes, jason’s effectiveness in print can be similar to that in film. but can anyone write and illustrate a comic that properly conveys the mood of the early films and treat the character of jason appropriately? i didn’t really think so and expected to find only ridiculous plot-lines and bizarre match-ups like those mentioned earlier. and that’s exactly what i found in the majority of the comics out there… jason has become rather ridiculous in the film series and that’s doubly true in the world of comics. however, i was quite surprised to see that the latest publisher to get their hands on the rights to the crystal lake killer seems to be treating jason with an incredibly amount of respect. it’s not perfect and i’ll dig into the details shortly, but it all boils down to this… this comic should be made into a film — this story has the potential to be the best sequel in the entire series.

the comic starts off strong with jason chasing a naked, bloodied girl through the forest. the girl is rescued by an older couple in a winnebago who take her to a hospital. from there the rest of the story is told in flashback as the girl recounts how she came to be in the horrific circumstances in which she was discovered.

from there the plots hits familiar territory, echoing many things from the early films. there are some hitchhiking kids who stumble into a diner near crystal lake. there are kids smoking weed, a strange guy indicating impending doom and, most importantly, someone is trying to open camp crystal lake again. the twist this time is that they plan to use the camp’s unseemly reputation as a selling point. kids all go to camp and listen to ghost stories around the campfire… at ‘camp blood,’ the stories are true. i don’t know if kids would really be begging their parents to be sent to ‘camp blood,’ but it’s largely irrelevant since we know the camp will never actually open — not when a large group of young, attractive teens have just wandered into jason’s turf.

from there we spend a little time learning about the characters who will undoubtedly all be dead soon. there’s the gay guy, the angry jock, the tough guy, the slut, the crazy girl, etc. etc. the interesting thing about the structure of this is that it’s far more similar to a screenplay than a comic. apart from the opening scene which frames the real story, jason voorhees doesn’t make an appearance until the last page of the second issue. that’s a lot of pages of setting up characters and mood… but, just as it would be on screen, it’s time well spent and makes the final two thirds of the story work much better than if they’d rushed jason’s introduction. there’s lots of nudity and spring-loaded-cat scares to keep the audience interested, but the bulk of the time is spent setting up backstory and plot threads that will pay off in later issues.

it may start a bit slow, but by issue three jason has shown up and all the familiar plot devices start popping up. someone stole the cell phones… cars won’t start… tires are popped… the roads are washed out. all the classics are used to isolate our group of teenagers from any hope of help or rescue.

what follows is much what you’d expect — a whole lot of jason stalking and killing people. what might surprise you, however, is that there’s actually a story unfolding at the same time. there’s not much i can say without giving a lot of it away, but the story features a rather clever plot twist that i’d thought i had all figured out… until it twisted again. the story also gives a new version of jason’s origin, actually explaining how he could have drowned in the 1950s and yet be walking around killing now. i won’t say it’s the absolute perfect origin story for jason voorhees — but it is several magnitudes better than anything offered in the films thus far (yes, i’m looking right at you, part 9).

where the story fails to work is in some of the character interactions. some characters are simply annoying and there are some ridiculous moments like when two gay men have a lover’s spat while knowing full well a maniac is stalking them… or when a character decides they absolutely have to go get their medication right now, despite there being a killer outside.

as for jason’s look, he’s hidden in shadows a lot of time (as he should be) and, surprisingly, when shown fully, he actually looks scary… a rather drastic change from his appearance in most other comic adapations and in all the sequels since part 7. visually he’s shown as he should be — an intimidating and terrifying monster who cannot be stopped.

if you can dig it up somewhere, i highly recommend checking this series out. it’s structured well, it treats jason with more respect than he’s seen in decades and, since it’s obvious it can be done well, it makes me hopeful that the next film in the series (the remake currently in production) might actually have a chance at getting things right.

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