Friday the 13th... The Comic! (Part 5 of 6)

Issue 5

Rather surprisingly, this issue doesn’t pick up where the last one left off, instead it opens back in the hospital, where the Sheriff is interrogating Sally while she’s strapped to her bed, doped up on ‘all kinds of meds’. He’s desperate to find out exactly what happened at Crystal Lake, and recaps the death of the three victims we know about, dropping quite a bombshell in the process. It seems that the stoners’ bodies were covered in tiny bite marks, matching the jaw radius of different ages and genders of children.

He mentions this in passing, although it seems to be a pretty important point. After all, we know that the stoners died just a couple of days earlier – where on earth could those bites have come from? We readers know that this fact establishes the ghost children as actual, factual monsters – as if their attempt to drown Sally hadn’t done that already – but to him, this has got to be something of a crazy twist! Back in the first issue, he announced he was skeptical about the whole ‘Death Curse’ thing, but there’s no way he can justify skepticism any more, is there?

That question will have to wait, because right now he’s just concerned about finding out what happened to the other victims, which causes the flashback to resume.

During the siege – which I guess is officially now just one day earlier, as opposed to thirteen – Jock, Rico, Alisha and Girlfriend are hiding in the main cabin when they see a car driving up. Recognizing it as their boss (Gaines)’ car, they unbar the door, let him in, and try to explain the brutal slaughter they’re in the middle of experiencing. For the record, his appearance here, dressed in a suit and alive, takes him out of the running for being the copycat that Sally killed at the end of the last issue.

Jock and Girlfriend drag Gaines outside and show him the severed heads to demonstrate the desperation of their situation. Thankfully, the vomit coating they received last issue has been washed off by the rain. Despite having seen two corpses, and assured that a killer is on the loose, Gaines is still stupid enough to accuse the Jock and Girlfriend of slashing the tires on his car when he finds himself with four flats.

We don’t have to put up with his stupidity much longer though, since, in the least-Jason kill yet, Gaines gets an arrow through the throat in mid-complaint. That’s right, Jason just fired an arrow into someone’s throat. Perhaps some of the people reading this aren’t Jason-obsessives the way I am, so I’ll have to explain this a little more clearly. Take a look at this guy right here:

A big hulking force of nature, he’ll break through a wall and then impale you on the loose timbers he just created by doing so. He’ll crush your skull with his bare hands, or use a machete to decapitate both you and the two people standing next to you.

Now try to imagine him pickup up a bow, knocking the arrow to the string, raising it to one eye to aim, pulling back the bowstring, and firing. Kind of a silly image, isn’t it? As ancient warriors go, he’s more of a barbarian than a longbowman. When it comes to distance weapons, Jason focuses on throwing things like hammers, knives, and darts. At the outside, he’ll use a spear gun. But that’s it.

Why didn’t he just throw a knife into this guy? Excellent question. One that only the writers can answer. Perhaps it has something to do with showing this series of images:

Would the writers completely misrepresent Jason just to get a little gore, or is this just another copycat, thus explaining his utterly out-of-character weaponry? Let’s table that question for now, and move on to the next scene which, oddly, is back in the present with the cop.

He recaps the arrow murder we just witnessed, then mentions the drugs Sally was just on. Apparently she was being treated for a bi-polar disorder and depression.

Hold on. Are the writers seriously having the Sheriff suggest that Sally killed everyone? Didn’t he just explain that he had physical evidence that ghost children were chowing down on the corpses? Let’s move on.

Back in the main cabin, Jock and Girlfriend flee the phantom bowman and get into yet another argument. Accusations fly far and fast, as various characters frantically accuse Sally and Beardo of being the killer. Naming Beardo as a possible murderer also gives the writers a chance to drop a Brokeback Mountain reference, which was two yaers out of date even at the tie the comic was produced. As for their theories, Sally obviously couldn’t have fired the arrow, she was busy killing the copycat. While Beardo couldn’t have been the copycat (not enough time to get into costume), he could well have fired the arrow, since he’s clearly crazy.

Or maybe he’s not the killer, since the next page reveals that the person Sally killed with the cistern lid was Beardo. And he wasn’t in a costume. Yeah, I’m confused too. The Sheriff says that she didn’t take her medication for three days, which could have ‘contributed to hallucinations’. I had no idea those were a sympton of manic/depression, but let’s move on. To how this whole fake-Jason Beardo thing is an utter cheat. Up until this point the entire story has been told from the point of view of the omniscient observer. Everything that has happened has been presented as the impartial truth – to suddenly switch over to a subjective viewpoint with an unreliable narrator at this point is an incredible betrayal of the audience’s goodwill. Especially when you consider this image from the end of the last issue:

See her fingers? We’re shown her physically touching a mask that does not actually exist. And in the next panel, she’s recoiling at the sight of the thing that was under the mask. Of course, it’s possible, and even stated in this issue, that she was recoiling because she realized that she actually killed Beardo, but the mask-life implies something that flat-out didn’t happen. They could have shown the hand reaching for the mask, but that wouldn’t have created the implication that she was discovering something terrifying beneath it. Of course, doing that is flat-out dishonest.

Also, with Beardo dead, we’re probably not going to get answers to any of the big questions – for example, what was going on with Beardo? Why was he stalking Sally? Why did he attack her with a knife? Did he defile her pills? If so, why? More importantly, when could he possibly have had time to do that? His presence is accounted for the entire afternoon, and Sally was going to get the pills while he was arguing with Jock. Did he do it on the way to the cabin he hid out in? If so, once again, why?

Back in the present, the Sheriff accuses Sally of causing the accident that killed her ex-boyfriend (the one who broke up with her the night of his death). So basically, he’s accusing her of committing all the new Camp blood murders. What about the cannibal ghost children?!

The comic returns to flashback-land, as Sally freaks out about all the blood everywhere and starts to strip off her clothes, explaining why she was naked at the beginning of the story, and leading to an incredibly confusing series of images.

This is her foot slipping on the bloody floor – note that she’s wearing her pants.

This is her falling against a sink – note the pants in her right hand. Also note the comic violating the ‘no sound effects in modern comics’ rule. And violating it in a really puzzling way, too – was there any chance that the audience wasn’t going to understand what a nasty injury that was?

This is Sally lying unconscious on Beardo’s corpse – note that the pants have somehow ended up in the corner of the room, on her left side, folded in a pile.

And here’s where things get really creepy. Who should turn up in the doorway to look down at the unconscious Sally…

..And fondle her beautiful golden locks…

…and admire her murderous handiwork…

..before gently carrying her ‘cross the threshold out of the bathroom?

This entire sequence is so utterly dumbfounding that I’m almost too shocked to bother pointing out that, despite the fact that all this is taking place during an epic rainstorm the artists neglected to draw Jason being the least bit damp in this whole sequence.

Perhaps realizing that their audience has incredible misgivings about the scene they just witnessed, the writers takes us immediately back to the main cabin, where people are still arguing with one another. In doing so, the writers seriously misjudge what crosses their audience’s misgiving threshold. Luckily we’re spared the argument spinning into another multi-page ordeal as Girlfriend decides, for some reason, to look out a window, and winds up with a machete in the face. That’s right, in the face:

I’ve been avoiding focusing on the goriness as much as posssble up to this point, mostly because I have such extreme trepidation about it. It’s not that I don’t have an appreciation for gore, I’m just deeply uncomfortable with the way it’s being presented here. Look at the picture above – the anatomical detail that’s pored over, the fetishization of violence – this comic does something that only the goriest french films before it have attempted. It doesn’t present the gore – it demands that you look at it.

In additon to that wound I showed when recapping the first issue, this exact injury happened twice more in the franchise, both in The New Blood. Here are the moments of impact from that movie:

Note the blurriness and lack of detail, the way the impact is disguised by the back of the head, so only the aftermath is seen later on. Here’s the same kills as originally presented:

It’s clear that gore is happening, but it blurs by so quickly that the worst parts are essentially subliminal. That’s the thing about gore in film – it lets the viewer decide their own level of involvement in the more disgusting elements. In the theatre, the splatter flies by. Back in the VHS days, serious fans could freeze-frame a shaky image or buy an issue of Fangoria to get the lowdown on makeup appliances. Now that DVD technology is a reality, the true hardcore gore fans can go through each kill frame by frame, revelling in the excess.

I don’t have any numbers on this, but I can’t imagine that of the tens of millions of people who’ve watched Friday the 13th films any more than a fraction of a percent fall into that exreme hardcore category. A few thousand, maybe ten at most. I think it’s safe to assume that Gray and Palmiotti belong in that crowd, because the above image is, by far, the most extreme visual to have appeared in the franchise. Worse than the torso split from Jason Goes to Hell, or the liquid nitrogen from Jason X. Let’s take a look at the next frame:

Note the detail the artists have used to to depict the inside of Girlfriend’s head(*7). The care that went itno making sure the little squiggles that represent exposed brain matter stayed consistent from image to image. This is violence that borders on pornography, since actually showing the gaping wound doesn’t get anything across that showing the attack from behind does. Anything but forcing the reader to endure some spectacular gore.

And have no doubt, the comic makes the reader look at this – if there’s one thing you can guarantee, it’s that anyone who picks up your comic and reads it is going to take a look at every panel, and when one of them is as visually arresting as this is, they’ll stare at it anywhere from a few seconds to a minute – giving this one image of brutality literally thousands of times the exposure that those single splatter frames from the films enjoyed.

In this moment, the intent of the comic becomes clear – this is a story produced by the hardest of the hardcore, for the hardest of the hardcore. Any casual fan of the franchise or newbie who first encountered Jason when he was versing Freddy need not apply. Whatever you were coming into the comic, the writers and artists were going to treat you like someone who lives and breathes splatterporn. And while there’s something honest about that,- I can’t help but be saddened to see Jason aiming for such an incredibly small market because – believe me – anyone who isn’t part of that subbest of sets is going to be turned off by this image, maybe enough to keep them away from Friday the 13th in the future, and that’s an insane thing to do when you’re dealing with a character who has more visibility and mindshare with the public than any horror icon since the universal monsters. Hell, if you handicap the fact that he’s a specific person rather than a version of an already-classic monster archetype, Jason’s bigger than anybody but Frankenstein or Dracula.

With that in mind, doesn’t aiming a Jason product at an audience that couldn’t fill up half a sports stadium seem like a bit of a marketing faux pas?

From there, the story moves back to the hospital room, where the Sheriff spends a full page accusing Sally of killing her boyfriend. I hate to digress again so soon after so lengthy a digression, but what is the point of any of this? Whether Sally killed her boyfriend or not is completely irellevant to the story we’re in the middle of. Yes, she killed Beardo, but even if she hadn’t been crazy from the depression, that still would have been a reasonable thing for her to do – after all, he was coming after her with a knife. All of this stuff about her sordid past seems like it’s setting something up – but by this point, there’s nothing left to set up! There are only three non-Sally characters left, and they’re currently being besieged by Jason. Why are the writers trying to make us suspicious of Sally when we know for a fact that Jason’s the one doing all the killing.

Sure, bringing in subjective stroytelling with the whole ‘Beardo is Jason’ sequence could possibly create some doubt in our minds. Had it not been followed by the ‘no way it could possibly have been subjective’ scene of Sally being knocked out cold and then lovingly tended to by Jason. I can’t believe a Friday the 13th story exists that has caused me to just write that. For Sally to be the killer, the entire content of the flashback so far would have had to have been one long lie, and no one is stupid enough to betray their audience that completely. Well, no one but the filmmakers responsible for High Tension, obviously.

And even if it was all a lie, what about the cannibal submarine ghost babies? Why does the Sheriff keep changing the subject from them when they’re clearly the most important part of the investigation?

We drop into the flashback, where Sally is lying naked and bloodcovered on a bed, next to the corpses of Beardo and Girlfriend. Finding this to be understandably distressing, she runs off into the rainy night, extremely naked.

Over in the main cabin, Jock, Alisha and Rico realize that they’re essentially just sitting around waiting for Jason to kill them. Finally they agree to do the only sane thing, and try to run away. What follows this decision is one of the most egregious examples of off-panel nonexistance I’ve ever come across.

Here’s Jock, looking out the front door of the cabin – earlier scenes have conspired to let us know that the front of the cabin is relatively open. Remember also that Jason is nearly seven feet tall these days.

Here’s Jock walking out the front door of the cabin, clearly not seeing anything scary ahead that might stop him from walking forward.

This is Jock looking from side to side, making sure that Jason isn’t anywhere nearby, waiting to spring out and kill him.

Now observe Jock, one split second after that last frame was taking place, being beheaded by Jason in another example of absurd hypergore.

You may be wondering exactly where Jason was standing that he could have been directly in front of Jock, yet not seen by him. It was that magical land called ‘off-panel’, where everything is in a quantum state of both being and non-being. Only instead of observation determining their existence, it’s plot convenience.

Rico and Alisha run out of the cabin as Jason misses a machete slash, creating yet another odd continuity thing, as Alisha’s shirt seems to be soaking wet just half a second after she ran out into the rain, despite it having been the dry shirt she had changed into upon entering the main cabin.

Actually, the rain is done really poorly across this entire sequence. No one is visibly wet, and most of the time they don’t bother showing any rain drops striking anything except in the following panel:

This werid art problem is created by the decision to not actually draw the rain as part of the pencil or ink stages of the art, but rather to digitally add streaks and blooms of white during the computer colouring process. I’m not going to go into the whole issue of whether this is incredibly lazy of the artists our not, instead I’m just going to present the greatest cover in the history of comic books:

It’s possible I didn’t have the strongest point in the world to make there, but I’ll take any opportunity I can get to show that cover.

With Jason delayed for a second by having his machete lodged in a doorway, Rico and Alisha make their escape with limited success, as Alisha manages to trip and fall in the mud. This would prove immediately fatal, if Jason weren’t busy sidling up behind Sally, who’s standing fifty feet away from the couple, utterly naked in the pouring rain. Even more puzzlingly, despite the fact that she’s naked in the rain, Sally’s nipples are entirely flaccid, an odd bit of art that, once again, I won’t be depicting here.

Something about her posture and vulnerability speaks to Jason, which leads him to offer her a machete in friendship. No, seriously.

Yeah. That happened. And then Sally took the machete and stroked it gently. Instead of getting into just how incredibly far off-character this whole scene is for Jason, or just how far the crude sexual innuendo of watching a naked woman fondling Jason’s machete is out of the tone of both this comic and any piece of Friday the 13th fiction, I’m going to just move on to how little sense this ending makes from a story standpoint.

This is what Sally looks like when Jason offers her the knife:

And here’s what she looks like somewhere in the vacinity of fifteen minutes later:

Quite a change, isn’t it? Bashed-in face, missing fingers. She’s a mess, frankly speaking. Which raises the question, after spending two issues establishing Sally as a mentally unbalanced chick who loves to murder, what did the writers think our expectations of this final image were going to be? It seems like they want us to think that there’s an outside chance of Sally taking the machete and helping Jason out with the whole murdering thing. Hell, look at this grinning, knife-happy closeup that closes the issue:

Now, that might be a compelling way to hang a cliff, if there was any way in hell a single member of the audience could possibly think that was going to happen. Do they honestly think we won’t remember the first issue of the comic, where she was fleeing from Jason? By giving away the ending at the beginning, they’ve removed any chance of the audience honestly thinking that there’s a chance of Sally winding up palling around with Jason.

The only thing I’m left wondering at the end of this issue is just how Jason is possibly going to catch Rico and Alisha. After all, he’s spent at least half a minute trying to push in on Sally, and what with his famously languid gait, how could he possibly manage to catch up with them, since all they’ve got to do is head straight down a road until they get to the highway.

No, Jason’s going to have his work cut out for him at the start of the next issue. Unless, of course, they use the intervening month to utterly cheat and change the relative locations of everyone.

Time for the Big Finale!

(*7 – Also note her lack of a belly-button!)

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