Tuesday, August 10, 2021

#IReadsYou Review: ELVIRA: The Shape of Elvira


STORY: David Avallone
ART: Fran Strukan (#1-3); Pasquale Qualano (#4)
COLORS: Maxim Šimic (#1-3); Walter Pereya (#4)
LETTERS: Taylor Esposito
EDITOR: Kevin Ketner
COVER: Franceso Francavilla
MISC. ART: Francesco Francavilla; J. Bone; Kyle Strahm; Dave Acosta and Jay Leisten with Mark Dale; Dave Acosta with Mark Dale; Dave Acosta with Brian Level; Dave Acosta with Mohan
ISBN: 978-1-5241-1197-7; paperback (August 24, 2021)
120pp, Color, $17.99 U.S. (Direct Market: August 11, 2021)

Rated Teen+

In 1981, actress and model Cassandra Peterson created the “horror hostess character, “Elvira.”  Elvira gradually grew in popularity and eventually became a brand name.  As Elvira, Peterson endorsed many products and became a pitch-woman, appearing in numerous television commercials throughout the 1980s.  Elvira also appeared in comic books, beginning in 1986 with the short-lived series from DC Comics, Elvira's House of Mystery, which ran for eleven issues and one special issue (1987).  In 1993, Eclipse Comics and Claypool Comics began the long-running Elvira: Mistress of the Dark.

In 2018, Elvira returned to comic books via Dynamite Entertainment in the four-issue comic book miniseries, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, that actually ran for 12 issues.  The second Elvira miniseries, Elvira: The Shape of Elvira arrived in 2019.  It was written by David Avallone; drawn by Fran Strukan and Pasquale Qualano; colored by Maxim Simic and Walter Pereya; and lettered by Taylor Esposito.

Elvira: The Shape of Elvira finds the Mistress of the Dark landing a role in a prestige film, but she discovers that her co-star is not who she thought he was.  This four-issue miniseries is now collected in the new trade paperback, Elvira: The Shape of Elvira.

As The Shape of Elvira opens, Elvira has received an urgent call from  her talent manager, Jill Van Nuys.  Jill informs Elvira that someone has finally offered her the kind of plum role for which she has been hoping.  It's a hush-hush film project, entitled “The Heart is the Black Lagoon,” but the film's director is the wunderkind, Billy Bullworth.  Elvira knows the director has a reputation for being strange, but she wants this role.

Elvira arrives at Bullworth's complex, and the strangeness begins when she meets Bullworth's assistant, Don Sandman, who previously started in a Bullworth film.  Next, it's off to sign an insane non-disclosure agreement, and then, a misadventure behind the bookcase.  Elvira later meets Bullworth's screenwriter-of-choice, Eddie Mezzogiorno, who is also secretive.

Finally, Elvira meets Bullworth, who is as melodramatic as he wants to be, but when he reveals what he keeping secret, Elvira can't believe her eyes.  “The Heart is the Black Lagoon” is a horror-romance, and her co-star is … Gill-Man?!  Bullworth insists that “Gill-Man” is really an actor in a supremely-designed fish-man monster suit, and Elvira is willing to play along.

However, after an encounter with two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department agents, Elvira knows something … fishy is going on.  It seems that Mr. Bullworth wants his film to spawn more than just box office dollars and Academy Award nominations.

THE LOWDOWN:  With the Shape of Elvira, writer David Avallone does a send-up of director Guillermo del Toro's 2017 film, The Shape of Water.  The highly-acclaimed movie won four Academy Awards, including “Best Picture” and “Best Director.”  Avallone also takes aim at del Toro and his earnest filmography, in general, with its artsy sci-fi and fantasy offerings.  Avallone also makes a pass at The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), the most obvious cinematic influence on The Shape of Water.  In addition, Avallone gives gentle ribbing to the 1950 Film-Noir classic, Sunset Boulevard, with some elements from the film making its way into the comedy seafood gumbo that is The Shape of Elvira.

Truthfully, The Shape of Elvira would probably work as a forty-eight page graphic novel, but Avallone's smooth comedy, sarcasm and snark, and witty asides makes the story move fast.  Before I knew it, dear readers, I'd reached the end.  Suddenly, I wanted this comic book, which could have been half its size, to be so much longer.  Some comic book fans can never be satisfied, eh?

The art by Fran Strukan and Pasquale Qualano is straightforward, but always with a wink and nod.  However, Avallone's skewering of precious pop culture comes through with a bluntness that will give some pause … before they are laughing again.  Each artist takes his storytelling seriously, while conveying that hilarity that will ensue.  I have a few quibbles about the drawing techniques, but that does not stop me from enjoying this comic book.

Maxim Šimic and Walter Pereya both present a tapestry of muted colors that occasionally have a dreamlike quality.  Sometimes shadowy and sometimes moody, the colors also give this story a film-noir atmosphere.  As usual, Taylor Esposito's lettering is solid and perfectly captures the interplay of comedy and mystery and also, Elvira's snark, sarcasm, and wit.

Elvira: The Shape of Elvira is another fun time with Elvira, and the Mistress of the Dark is a good time, live-action or comic books.  I wouldn't mind seeing Elvira and Avallone skewer the filmmography of other “visionary” directors – David Cronenberg, Tim Burton, Mario Bava, etc.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of Elvira and of David Avallone's Elvira comic books will want to read Elvira: The Shape of Elvira.

7.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2021 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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