by Jessica Greenlee
Richard Corben’s Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and the Read Death retells two of Poe’s most famous tales, often using Poe’s own words, but adding a darkly humorous twist to create a pair of beautifully spooky original tales perfect for Halloween.
In his hands, “The Raven” becomes a twisted tale of mystery and death, with Mag the Hag’s indifferent observation adding an edge of humor. Here, the art accompanying the poem tells a new story: What you always thought was happening in the poem is not what happened–or not what is happening this time. Moreover, the narrator/viewpoint is not entirely reliable: Where is Lenore, really?
“The Red Death” begins with a recitation of Poe’s “The Haunted Palace” as declaimed by a mysterious hooded figure to a markedly unimpressed Mag the Hag. The rhythm of the stanzas moves the reader from one story to the next, and the poem translates soon enough into “The Masque of the Red Death,” Poe’s twisted tale of an orgy held during plague times and the price paid by the party-goers.
If the text retains all of the nineteenth-century flourishes and weight, even in retelling, the art is unapologetically modern, almost cartoonish at points. The dissonance, far from detracting from the horror adds to the sense of unease and displacement. The cartoon prince of “The Red Mask,” for example, is a character out of tune with his surroundings; the failing is in him, and the subsequent downfall all the more deserved. In both tales, Mag the Hag’s blasé presence adds a note of unexpected humor. She is unimpressed by ghosts and ghastly birds alike.