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Aleister Arcane #1-3
By Steve Niles and Breehn Burns
Published by IDW
$3.99 USD per issue

This three-issue mini-series focuses on the life and hard times of Aleister Green, a man comfortable with the life as a "C-grade local celebrity" that his job as a TV weatherman has given him. Aleister also has a taste for horror and science-fiction, and his career and his interests intersect when he becomes a late-night horror movie host.

In this real-world era of out-of-control FCC over-regulation and peremptory censorship, the parable of Aleister Green rings especially chilling. Transformed into Aleister Arcane for his late-night audience, Green shocks viewers (and station officials) with his gory, over-the-top stunts. He is quickly blamed for all manner of societal ills, and when a young child loses a hand supposedly because of another child spurred on by Arcane's TV antics, Green's life slowly begins to slip away from him.

Niles makes Green a thoroughly appealing man, someone who just wants to have fun with ancient myths and legends, but who doesn't realize the power others can have over his very existence. He becomes embittered, a lonely old recluse who has lost everything except his huge house filled with mementos, and perhaps something more, in that hidden room in the basement...

The key character in the story is not Arcane, but Lauren, a 13-year old girl who meets him while trick-or-treating one Halloween night. She and her friends grow into a genuinely charming friendship with Arcane, and in the final days of his life, he is comforted and delighted by their interest in his old tapes and memorabilia. Lauren and Arcane are polar opposites in just about every way, but they share a love of horror stories, and she becomes the anchor to both his humanity and the story itself.

Burns provides the great range of moods and emotions Niles's story demands, from the staged goofiness of Arcane's TV act to the genuine, visceral horror that is visited upon the town when Green's final wish becomes reality. As for the story itself, by now you know (or ought to) that Steve Niles can always be counted on to deliver the goods. As with his other works like 30 Days of Night and the Cal McDonald stories, the real horror comes wrapped in irony and off-kilter weirdness that is often genuinely funny.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot here, because in three short issues, this is a delightful and surprise-filled romp through the horror genre. With IDW's high-quality production added in (good, thick paper stock and excellent reproduction of the full-colour artwork -- IDW does a better job of this than Marvel and DC put together), this is a quality series that should appeal to anyone who likes a good scare grounded in interesting, human characters. Grade: 4/5

-- Alan David Doane



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