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Maniac Killer Strikes Again!
by Richard Sala
Published by Fantagraphics

If Comics Noir has a name, then that name is Richard Sala!

Sala (or someone) subtitled this collection "Delirious, Mysterious Stories", and who am I to disagree? Anyone who enjoys film noir detectives and those classic Hammer horror films will enjoy these masterful stories of mayhem, mystery and manipulation.

Mysterious manipulation seems to be a standard theme with Sala, and why not? Most people are fascinated with the ideas of conspiracies, secret chiefs, inner heads, and hidden imams, myself included. How else explain the popularity of the Free Masons? These are the important issues for most people: secret knowledge, power, control. For secrecy bestows power. Thus the "National Security State" and "Official Secrets", and the new qabbala of power: DIA, MI5, CIA, MOD, MAJ, NSO...Barbarous words of Evocation indeed! And all a variation on "we know more than you, so we are more important!"

Of course, this also leads to the anti-democratic argument "Only we few know enough to make the decisions, so we don't need to bother to vote on it or allow public oversite...only WE are allowed to know enough to rule..."

Secrecy therefore becomes the tool of power, as has happened in the United States especially, as part of the general erosion of freedom and human dignity there.

Like with Peculia, the stories in Maniac Killer Strikes Again revolve around the epicenters of Secret observation and hidden control, describing an elliptical path of dark drama. These are ideas of universal fascination to humans, and Richard Sala makes good use of them to draw the reader into his darkly rich world.

This is not the modern world of clandestine politics, like the old Traitor, Reagan and his cocaine deals and his selling arms to terrorists in exchange for his Presidency...terrorists who later killed American Marines in Beruit, driving the U.S. Forces out of the city...Treason by any sane definition.

(My epitaph for Ronnie was written centuries ago by Sir John Harrington: "Treason doth never prosper, what's the reason? For if it prosper none dare call it treason!")

No, this is the classical, noir world of costumed secret societies and lone, power hungry scientists who pursue forbidden science. The promise of technology to empower the misanthropic individual who advances with the battle cry "Fools! I'll show them all!" is a potent image in our modern mythology, and Ricard Sala is quite aware of the fact.

My personal favourite in this collection is The Thirteen Fingers. If these stories are gems, then The Thirteen Fingers is a brilliant emerald: it should be made into a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock...and not the old Hitchcock, either, but the young Hitch who gave us The Thirty-Nine Steps and Rich and Strange...

Judy Drood, Girl Detective shows us a girl investigator who manages to never lose her faith in, or devotion to, her father. In a way, this light-hearted tale touches on an important aspect of childhood and fatherhood, an aspect which the author does not hesitate to explore elsewhere.

Fathers are often characters in Sala's stories.

In My Father's Brain, Sala insightfully comments on fathers and sons. It is a fun story, inasmuch as it contains plenty of action and mysterious characters. But it also has a deeper meaning as well. This story shows how much time and energy we waste seeking paternal approval, the wastefulness of our conceptualizations of our fathers as better than us. We are taught to respect and serve people who are often our inferiors, but are conditioned against acceptance or even recognition of this fact: wea re asleep, walking about dreaming that we are awake. We are emotionally enslaved to our often weak and pathetic fathers, so that when we are improvements on them we tend to deny it, and ascribe to them a superiority to us which their own inferiority is quite unable to live up to.

From this you can see that Sala's work is appreciable on a number of levels simultaneously. There are depths here.

This little Bijou is well worth having on your bookshelf. Keep it nearby for whenever you need to escape the work a day world of job and spouse into a multi level world of intrigue, romance and mysterious fantasy.

Delirious and mysterious indeed! Grade: 4.5/5

-- Marshall O'Keeffe



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