Review: The Raven and the Red Death

With Halloween quickly approaching, I felt it’d only make sense to read Richard Corben’s adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and The Masque of the Red Death. If you’ve managed to graduate high school, at some point you’ve read these stories.  Being that they’re some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that nothing new can really be done to them to make a modern audience want to read a comic book version of it.  However, Corben delivers in all accounts in his twist on both of these stories. In The Raven, instead of re-hashing the poem for the millionth time, Corben decides to put his own take on it entirely.  The main character, Arnold is obsessing over his dead girlfriend Lenore, and actually hallucinates that she’s in the room with him.  Arnold tells Lenore how much he’s missed her, and tries to kiss her.  But he’s interrupted by…you know, ‘rapping at his chamber door.’  He goes back to Lenore, but before long he hears the noise again, and sure enough the raven crashes through the door.  This is when he looks at a picture of Lenore and realizes she’s really gone and gets furious with the raven.  I won’t spoil any more of the story, but the conclusion was nothing short of a great horror ending.

The Raven and the Red Death CoverCorben’s adaptation of The Red Death doesn’t stray too much from the original tale.  A king’s people are dying from a plague called The Red Death, and he decides to have a party rather than actually try to help them.  This is still relevant today with the gaps between social classes and questionable decisions of world leaders.  The party the king decides to throw is a lavish masquerade ball.  Each room in the Castellated Abbey is painted a different color, and the guests will all dress up in different colors as well.  All colors but red, which is the color reserved for the room with the clock in it.  No guest is to actually wear the color, however.  The party is a great success-there’s drinks flowing, musicians playing, people dancing.  The people under Prospero are having the time of their lives.  That is, until Prospero sees a mysterious figure with the banned color red on approaching the red room and the clock strikes midnight…

It’s pretty impressive that Richard Corben did both the art and writing on this one.  Although I wasn’t necessarily blown away by the art, it fit both stories perfectly.  The Raven was rather terrifying and downright disturbing at some points, while the extravagantly bizarre setting of The Red Death made you feel like you were actually at the ball.  His adaptations, to me, were more interesting than the original Poe versions themselves.  Obviously there wouldn’t be this comic without Poe’s stories, but I think Corben did a fantastic job at putting his own twist while keeping the story fresh.

If you’re in the spirit of Halloween and are looking for a great comic to sit down and read, look no further than this book.

Score: 4/5

Adaptation/Artist: Richard Corben Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/30/13