Published by Dark Horse, November 2012
Written by Jan Strnad
Illustrated by Richard Corben
Lettering by Nate Piekos
As mentioned elsewhere on my blog – Richard Corben is a revolutionary. For me he is one of the greatest comic artists of all time, and I absolutely revere the man. Not too long ago I started a personal quest to purchase as much of his work as possible, no matter how rare or pricey, and pretty soon this book fell on my radar. Luckily, Ragemoor is readily available to buy. Published by Dark Horse, this beautiful hardcover book collects all four issues of Corben and Strnad’s comic, rendered in gorgeous black and white with grey tones.
What is Ragemoor? Well Ragemoor is the name of the castle which according to Herbert, its owner/long time resident (or prisoner!) “is a living being. It has a heart and a mind”. So a living castle that thinks eh? That sounds awesome already! The story starts with the arrival of an elderly man and his beautiful ‘daughter’ Anoria, to Ragemoor. The old man is related to the owner, his uncle in fact. So Herbert tries to warn both him and his daughter about the dangers of Ragemoor, and to be wary of where they set foot in the castle as it is always changing “I discover a room where none heretofore existed….or a hallway, longer by half than it was the day before” (but Howls Moving Castle this ain’t!). However his uncle does not take heed, “poppycock” he exclaims with a stubborn streak. Well we can get a pretty good idea as to what will happen next! Even Anoria is oblivious to Herbert’s cries. It is obvious from the outset that he has a liking for her, a love which takes on an obssessional nature as the story unfolds. And we also learn that there is more to Anoria than we first realise, and both she and the old man are in fact here to steal the hidden treasures of Ragemoor. Naturally, the living castle which can hear all manner of secret talk does not take to it kindly and things start to take a turn for the worst, not to mention downright bizarre and macabre!
Jan Strnad’s script is full of character , the language he uses is almost a classical English rendered in a manner which is both engaging and funny at the same time. It may not be shakepeare but it’s pretty damn close! In fact I’m sure the Bard would approve of his skills! Both Strnad and Corben make a formidable team, as mentioned by Mike Mignola on the back cover, he see’s both like the EC version of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and I couldn’t agree more.
Corben is at his astonishing best in regards to his own input here, from the dark shadows which pervade each corridor, room or cavern to the features of each character themselves. You can tell a lot about a character just by studying the way Corben renders their appearance. There’s almost an unnatural vibe to them, it is almost as if they belong in an age long ago where these sort of horror and superstition existed. The sense of depth and feeling that Corben’s art beings to the pages is equal to none, especially in the horror genre. A simple smile from a character can scare the bejesus out of you and unnerve you, or the way a character’s eyes lock onto yours. Or even the foreboding decor and setting – he truly is a genius when it comes to creating fear and unease.
As the story progresses, our protagonist starts getting more desperate in his quest to get away from the hold of Ragemoor. Its grip is all pervading and powerful. It starts to affect everyone that dwells within its walls and bend them to its will. It’s safe to say that the castle is a character in itself. Even Herbert’s faithful butler Bodrick stars to elicit signs of madness toward the end, a character who at first we assume to be the sanest out of all of them! Nothing is quite what it seems here in Ragemoor.
And by the end as more horrors start to unfold, we too as readers become victims of Ragemoor, as there seems to be no escape from this great monolithic piece of paganic rock, a castle which never sleeps. To deny its powers would be folly, as would be folly to deny that Richard Corben and Jan Strnad’s Ragemoor is an unequivocal horror masterpiece!