I want to say, first and foremost, that this is not a review. This is a outright attack, mostly because I’m a huge Evil Ernie fan, and I think this is an attack on his, uh, good name. Back when I was in high school, EVIL ERNIE was one of the three titles that got me back into reading comics. I have known Ernie’s creator, Brian Pulido, for many years (in fact, he invited me out to my first comic book convention), so it would seem natural for me to side with him when it comes to this, rather than the fools over at Dynamite.
I’d like to say that I came to this issue as a professional, meaning that I was objective, but I just couldn’t do that. Ernie’s not just one of my favorites, he’s in my DNA. Any betrayal of him, I’m going to take as an offense against me.
To be fair, if anyone was going to attempt this resurrection, Jesse Blaze Snider isn’t a bad choice. Remember back in the day when STRANGELAND came out? Part of that movie’s promotional material included references to it in Chaos! Comics. Dee Snider was behind that movie, and Jesse Blaze is, indeed, his son. It makes sense for the younger Snider to helm this project, no? Well . . . he did write about the Muppets once upon a time, but that can be forgiven, right?
No. I firmly believe that we did not need any more Evil Ernie stories. When he perished at the end of EVIL ERNIE: WAR OF THE DEAD #3, and even when the Chaos universe ended at the conclusion of ARMAGEDDON #4, thus taking Smiley with it, I thought it was a very satisfying finale. It had been a great story, a fabulous story, one of the best horror had to offer at the time, and I didn’t need to know anything else.
Chaos! started it when they rebuilt the universe from scratch, including a new Ernie title. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, either. Years after Chaos! went bankrupt, DDP tried bringing back our favorite teenaged undead psychopath, but it was so terrible that no one had a good word to say about it.
At least Dynamite’s attempt isn’t that bad. This doesn’t make what they did right, but still.
Right off the bat, they turned me off with the stupid cover. Take a look above. Is that some kind of joke? I’ve seen junior high kids with more talent, but forget that for a moment. Look in Ernie’s eyes. HE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE PUPILS! His eyes are supposed to be pure white. That’s one of the many things that makes him unsettling. And stop trying to make his grin look realistic. It’s supposed to be inhuman, which, again, is another thing that makes him unsettling.
There is one problem with rebooting this series, and that’s Lady Death. It would seem she is the only character that Dynamite doesn’t own, so they had to do this whole thing without her. Admittedly, that’s pretty hard to do, since without her, Ernie would not have become what he did. That should have been a sign to turn back while they still could, but no. They just had to plow on.
How did they fix this? By changing everything. We start out with the night that Ernie was born. His parents and brother were in a car wreck, killing his brother and fucking up his parents pretty badly. He still managed to make it into the world, and we later come upon him as a teenager, walking twenty miles to visit his father at a maximum security prison. He seems innocuous at first, but as it turns out, he’s there to kill his old man. He slices him up and stabs him, screaming, “Who’s smiling now?!” A shock? No, because Ernie has been killing 665 people in his home town before coming to kill his father, so he’s had practice.
First of all, who can take that line seriously? You might as well have gone full-Bruce Campbell and said "laughing" instead of "smiling." Secondly, this story loses power because Ernie’s father (all right, step-father) is now a known criminal. The thing that made the original Ernie stories nasty was that no one ever suspected his white-bread, goodie-goodie parents of being the depraved lunatics they really were. Ernie could be living next door to you. Now? Everyone talks shit about the loser son of a psychopath who is rotting in jail as we speak. We don’t think much of this kid. That's not frightening at all. And lastly, if Ernie had really just killed 665 people, why the fuck didn’t the guard recognize him? Surely a story like that would be on the news. Besides, do you realize how difficult it is to kill that many people? This kid’s only thirteen. Not even the real Ernie killed that many people to get him committed.
Also, remember that we’re supposed to sympathize with Ernie. It’s hard to get on the side of someone who killed 665 people and tried for 666. Snider tries to fix that problem by having Ernie believe that all of them were evil and had to die, especially his old man, who was supposedly the worst of the bunch. We even get treated to a scene in which we see how Ernie views the world. To be fair, it was well done, but this is still not OUR Ernie. No, our Ernie snapped and killed his parents. He lost his shit and went on a killing spree, driven by a spirit named Lady Death, who we originally believe to be a figment of his imagination. (Those were the days!)
So . . . how does Ernie become supernatural in this one? Guess. Ah, fuck it. Never mind. He gets sentenced to the electric chair. In this moment, we meet Dr. Thomas, who seems to be the only good person in the room. We also meet the warden, and it’s strongly suggested that he broke himself a piece off of some underage Ernie. And then, he gets zapped. The problem is, there’s a weird green light anomaly, and it gets into Ernie. It’s suggested that it might be the souls of the people who he killed. Anyway, it turns him into an undead psychopath bent on . . . well, certainly not megadeth.
How mind-numbingly lame. The first time out, Ernie was fried in a misguided attempt to cure him. Mary Young had only the best of intentions, and instead of fixing him, it killed him and turned him into a killing machine guided by Lady Death. With this scenario, we have complexity. With the electric chair, we have business as usual.
What is Ernie guided by this time? Apparently, there is a war between, are you ready? Heaven and Hell. Go fuckin’ figure. Whenever someone good dies, they join Heaven’s army. Whenever someone evil dies, they join Hell’s army. Ernie is supposed to go through his undead life, killing people he believes to be evil, completely unaware that he is actually helping out Hell. It’s kind of an interesting idea, but nowhere near as interesting as the original. The first Ernie sought to kill every single human being in the world—megadeth—in order to bring his beloved Lady Death to earth so they can be together. In other words, he did everything for love, as misguided as it may be.
Incidentally, many of you may be wondering if any of the other original characters will be returning. It seems that Dr. Young has been replaced by Dr. Thomas. However, Dr. Price was mentioned as the prison psychologist who allowed Ernie to go to the chair wearing his favorite leather jacket (and Smiley). Personally, I hope that’s the extent of it. Leonard Price was one of my absolute favorite comic book characters EVER, and I don’t want to see him raped by Dynamite. My longtime readers will know this (anyone else here remember my comic book reviews in the
Leader?), so I’m not going to go into it
too much. Snider has mentioned in an
interview that he’ll be bringing in General Ramsey for a brief cameo. That seems to be the extent of it. Elmhurst
All right, Snider fucked up pretty badly, but does the art at least look good? Uh . . . no. Sorry, but Jason Craig tried to make things look too realistic. Granted, Steven Hughes is a tough act to follow (he’s still one of my favorites, and he’s been dead for maybe ten years), but when it comes down to Ernie, none of us want a realistic picture of him. We want the exaggerated, fucked-up images. Even Smiley kind of sucks. The button’s teeth shouldn’t be needles, they should be just plain old teeth.
The worst thing about all of this: Dynamite clearly intends for this to relaunch the entire Chaos! line (minus Lady Death). That means Purgatori and Chastity aren’t far behind.
We don’t need any of this. The entire Chaos! universe came to a satisfying ending in ARMAGEDDON #4. We don’t need anything after that. I felt kind of turned off when Chaos! brought in the new universe (although I liked that Bedlam was still around, and he remembered everything that had happened before, unlike the others).
Will this win new Ernie readers? Maybe. Provided that they don’t remember the original, that is. For the rest of us, I’m sure I speak for us all when I say I hope the venture fails. I’m not usually this malicious when it comes to art, but I feel the need to defend Ernie’s sanctity. I keep trying to tell myself that it’s just a completely different story, that I shouldn’t care so much. Forget it, Bruni. It’s
Chinatown. But I just can’t let it go. Imagine if a close friend of yours had died,
and a bunch of people came along and fictionalized his life. You’d feel pissed off, wouldn’t you? That’s how I feel right now.
I didn’t mean to ramble on this long, but it’s a subject I feel rather passionately on. Fuck it. I don’t ordinarily quote Forrest Gump, but “that’s all I have to say about that.”