Maniac Killer Strikes Again
by Richard Sala
(Fantagraphics, 2004)

Richard Sala is quirky, possibly even demented, both as a writer and an artist. As previous reviews of his Peculia books have indicated, his imagination bends and twists until it finds expression on the printed page.

Maniac Killer Strikes Again is a pen-and-ink collection of stories from two decades or so preceding the Peculia books, and it shows a clever, perhaps disturbed mind in search of an outlet -- or perhaps just a refill on his medication.

The stories here, including the lengthy serial piece "Thirteen O'Clock," are not as polished or coherent as Peculia's tales. But they're fun, in a weird sort of way, as mad doctors cackle, masked vigilantes creep along alleyways, fanged plants eat beautiful (but nosy) reporters and hideously faced crooks kill people with corkscrews. (And that's just a very brief summary of the first story.)

My favorite piece in the collection is "My Father's Brain," which shows a young man's desperate quest to regain the missing organ from an evil villain's well-guarded lair. It's short and speedy, as his flight unfolds before us -- and the payoff is a killer.

You certainly wouldn't want to be a character in Sala's stories, as even the protagonists often come to unfortunate ends, but ragged art and jagged prose may well sate your secret yen for insanity.

by Tom Knapp
12 May 2007

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