The EC Archives: Shock SuspenStories, Vol. 1

The EC Archives: Shock SuspenStories, Vol. 1The EC Archives: Shock SuspenStories, Vol. 1 by Al Feldstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This gorgeous, full-color omnibus collects six issues of SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES, hokey thrillers in the inimitable EC style. Each tale comes with a twist ending that might have been original and startling in the 1950s but is now more likely to elicit embarrassed giggles and eye rolls than shivers. Most of the twists come in the form of karmic comeuppance: A bear hunter with a bear skin rug in his cabin is killed by a bear and turned into a human skin rug — Noooooooo! Some twists, oddly, require no punishable transgression on the part of the characters and seem to come out of the blue just to be mean: A man accidentally contacts a beautiful alien woman on his monitor screen, over time they talk and fall in love, she finally crosses the galaxy to be with him on Earth, and it turns out she’s actually 200 feet tall — Noooooooo! Of more interest are the morality plays that appear in each issue, EC-style, twist-ending examinations of thorny societal topics like police brutality, violent nationalism, and racial and religious bigotry. In one, an anti-Semite and his friends harass, beat up, and ultimately kill a Jewish couple who move into his neighborhood, only to discover he himself is adopted and actually Jewish, at which point his friends turn on him and beat him just like they did to the couple — Noooooooo! The earnest hokeyness is part of the charm of revisiting these old comics, of course, and fans of the twist-in-the-tale style of suspense and horror will get a kick out of this collection. The introduction by Steven Spielberg, who grew up as a nerdy kid who loved the escapism of reading EC comics, is quite touching.

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