Hack/Slash: My First Maniac

ON

Hitting comic shops June 1

“Cassie Hack: Year One” would have been an apropos subtitle for this relaunch of Tim Seeley’s horror-action comic book series “Hack Slash.”

Under the guidance of a different publisher – Hack relocated from Devil’s Due to Image Comics – Seeley is getting back to the basics for his strongest issue in the series since it first began. He peels away at the psychology of his teenage heroine and delivers a striking narrative that is like night and day compared to the stories he was cranking out beneath the Devil’s Due banner.

“Hack/Slash,” from day one, has demonstrated pure potential and Seeley was right on track tapping that potential through the title’s early issues as Cassie and her pal Vlad took on sundry slashers in “monster of the week”-style one-shot stories. He balanced humor and horror, establishing the rules of his universe and embracing the archetypes of the genre that keep us coming back. The foes he tossed at Cassie were inventive and amusing. And at the end of each story, we learned a little something special about Cassie’s persona. Then what worked so well gradually got lost along the way once “Hack/Slash” became a monthly series. A mythology was expanded upon and Seeley tossed in everything, including the kitchen sink, and included cameos from Chaos Comics! fave Evil Ernie, Chucky (of Child’s Play) and Herbert West (Re-Animator). Calling on threats from another dimension, secret labs and costumed vigilantes? The more far-reaching the series became, the more I lost interest. The intimacy of Cassie’s journey lessened and the parallels between “Hack/Slash” and the slasher film genre grew farther and farther apart.

“My First Maniac” is Seeley’s chance to set things right and if he can maintain the pitch-perfect tone he’s set in issue one, he’s off to a great start. Issue one of the relaunch analyzes Cassie’s formative years. After the death of her mother – who came back from the grave as “the lunch lady” – and after Cassie had to put her down, but before she embarked on a country-wide manhunt, with Vlad, to eradicate slashers. This is Cassie at her most exposed. There’s something unsettling squirming inside of her that was stirred by the death of her mom and is constantly prodded – from the minute she comes home to her foster family and from the daily teasing she gets from the other girls. This issue is solely about Cassie coming to grips. Coping with that unsettling feeling and facing it head-on.

Seeley, with artist Daniel Leister, both creatively play with what’s roaming about in Cassie’s scarred mind, sometimes utilizing the gruesome, behemoth sight of the Lunch Lady on a number of occasions – an omnipresent reminder of her past. The writer also pokes fun at what’s considered current genre entertainment as he alludes to the fact that Cassie is reading “Twilight.” What every normal girl should be doing, right? But both the reader and Cassie know that’s total bullshit. Where this issue’s strength lies is Cassie’s running narrative. It’s somber, macabre, and sharp as the finger nails that rake Cassie’s face during a brutal beating she takes from her classmates. And the decision Cassie ultimately makes that sets her on the path she chooses comes about organically.

This issue’s a total character profile, light on the action but is nonetheless a fully satisfying read. If it’s slashers you want, well, I suspect they’ll be coming in full force. Leister and Seeley present a few solid teasers here and I’m looking forward to what’s coming. I’m thrilled to see “Hack/Slash” is back and delivering on the bloody goods.