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THE UPTURNED STONE
By
SCOTT HAMPTON (Heavy Metal/Kitchen Sink; 1993)

This graphic novella is a horrific coming of age tale with stunning artwork by Scott Hampton, one of the foremost talents in the comics field (as anyone who’s seen his art in BATMAN, STAR TREK, HELLRAISER and the Robert E. Howard adaptation PIGEONS FROM HELL well knows).  Hampton also scripted THE UPTURNED STONE; in that arena it’s not quite as impressive, however!

     It concerns four pre-teen boys living in a small North Carolina town circa 1969.  Ghosts lurk in the area, one of which makes itself apparent when the boys unearth the “world’s biggest pumpkin” in a local cemetery on Halloween night.  All partake of a pie made from said pumpkin, leading to some disquieting dreams which impart a murdered boy’s last minutes.  It seems the latter’s ghost is now afoot, and expects the protagonists to avenge his killing.

     There’s far more to Hampton’s expansive narrative, which also contains nostalgic detours involving a garage band and the boys’ budding sexuality.  I think the tale would have benefited from a longer, more leisurely framework a la Graham Joyce’s somewhat similarly themed novel THE TOOTH FAIRY.  As it is, THE UPTURNED STONE is too short, with an excess of information crammed into an overly compact 64 pages.  The ending is also a bit of a disappointment, tying the whole thing up with an overly pat STAND BY ME-like flourish.

     But from a purely visual standpoint this book is a masterpiece of macabre invention.  Light and shadow are unforgettably intermingled in Hampton’s evocative paintings.  The stand-out artwork occurs during a climactic encounter on pages 45-57, a flawlessly rendered, wordless evocation of apprehension, desperation, confusion and sheer terror.

 


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