Aw man, Puppet Master was my JAM back in the day! Also, I may have brain problems. But I don’t see how the two things are related.
Puppet Master (Action Lab Comics)
The Bodega Bay Inn has been abandoned for fifteen years and the haunted hotel has become a hot spot for horny teens brave enough to spend the night there. Like clockwork, seven horny teens show up for a weekend of debauchery. And in short order, they’re all killed by the living puppets of Andre Toulon: The Puppet Master!
For those of you who may be somewhat bewildered, the Puppet Master franchise from Full Moon was a fairly popular phenomenon that’s fallen into disrepair in recent years. You see, every generation has their master of low budget, shlocky horror cinema. In the ’70s it was Roger Corman, in the ’80s it was Troma, and in the early ’90s it was Charles Band and whatever he was churning out at Full Moon, with Puppet Master being the flagship franchise (though we all know Subspecies was their more intellectual endeavor).
But somewhere around, oh, Puppet Master 5, the series crossed that threshold from low budget to no budget and it’s been downhill ever since. And now consider that we’re currently on Puppet Master 10, plus that non-canon SyFy Channel original movie where they became cyborgs and teamed up with Corey Feldman to fight the Demonic Toys. I sort of stopped loving the franchise around that transition. I mean, despite my affections, I just can’t bring myself to watch Retro Puppet Master more than three times.
This new miniseries (a three-parter titled “The Offering”) is something of a return to form for the quality-challenged horror series. There’s no production budget to worry about here, so writer Shawn Gabborin and artist Michela Da Sacco are free to use the killer puppets as much as they want and in whatever way they want. Even the costliest installments in the franchise had to use stop-motion judiciously for money purposes, but this comic straight opens with the entire rogues gallery of murderous marionettes storming through a window and slaughtering a hobo.
Best of all is that all the puppets from the series are present and accounted for: Blade, Pinhead, Tunneler, Jester, Leech Woman, Torch, Sixshooter, and Decapitron. Again, the movies always had to pick and choose which puppets they could use based on the budget, so I don’t think we ever got the complete line-up in a single film. Well, excluding Puppet Master: The Legacy, but that doesn’t count because it was a fucking clip movie (yes, they made a clip movie).
Gabborin’s script is paced like a horror film and that has it’s highs and lows. I get the feeling that this story is going to read better all at once in a collected format, because as a single issue you’re left wondering just what the hell the plot is. These teens show up at the Bodega Bay and then we’re left to watch them die one at a time until the page count runs out. The only mystery or semblance of a plot germ is the identity of the puppet master controlling the dolls, who appears in cryptic fashion during the prologue but vanishes after page 3.
But hey, if all you want to see are the puppets killing people, then you’re in luck. The kills are pleasantly brutal, with Gabborin and Da Sacco finding different ways to use the powers of the puppets. Tunneler and Pinhead get some pretty good licks in.
You can tell Gabborin sat down and subjected himself to the DVD box set, too, because he slips references to events from the movies throughout the dialogue. The continuity of the Puppet Master franchise has never been particularly competent, so he isn’t under much stress to keep the timeline consistent, but I appreciate the effort.
What I appreciate even more is that the puppets are downright EVIL again. Around the Academy Award winning epic Puppet Master 3: Toulon’s Revenge, the puppets transitioned from villains to anti-heroes and the tone of the series changed in a way that sort of turned me off (though I always liked Puppet Master 4). Gabborin’s taking things back to basics and the puppets kill indiscriminately again, whether the victim “deserves” it or not.
Admittedly, Puppet Master is a pretty niche brand, but it has its fanbase and this comic is aimed to please them. If the last few movies have left you feeling cold (that weird Axis of Evil shit), then you should give the comic a swing. It feels much closer to the earlier films in the series, which is good, because those are the best ones.