Cellar of Nastiness
by Steve Niles, various artists
(IDW, 2005)

Steve Niles has amply demonstrated his warped imagination by sending a legion of vampires to a lonely Alaskan town where the sun doesn't rise for 30 days. For more insight into his strangely twisted creative vein, descend into his Cellar of Nastiness for a handful of short, unrelated tales.

The book begins with a modern retelling of the Jekyll and Hyde yarn, co-written by Kris Oprisko and featuring the jagged, mottled artwork of Nick Stakal. Jekyll in this case is a pair of brothers, both of whom would do anything to keep their funding intact for research into the chemical mysteries of the brain. The story proceeds in the general direction you'd expect, although it certainly turns the violence up a notch and stirs the tension with Stakal's sharp edges.

For a humorous turn, "The Very Big Monster Show" features the cartoonish art of Butch Adams. Young Theo feels bad for the classic movie monsters who have been replaced in the nightmares of modern society by gorier but less imaginative creatures. By strange coincidence, Theo discovers an ancient manor in his town where, lo! the sad and retired monsters live and sulk. But Theo has big ideas, and pretty soon he's leading a road trip to Movieland where, he hopes, Frankenstein, the Mummy and all the rest will show those upstarts how it's done.

"Bitch," drawn in action-comic style by Josh Medors, is a fairly nondescript future battle of the sexes. "Torg's Big Day," drawn by Chee, shows the misadventures that can occur when a caveman is beamed into a modern laboratory -- and when a well-armed scientist fails to keep track of his weapons. "Making Amends" again features art by Medors, this time in scratchy black ink, as a criminal seeks atonement for a past deed. Finally, Ben Templesmith provides loose sketches in sepia tones as Niles unfolds the story of the "Neighborhood Creep."

This set of stories is occasionally cute, occasionally spooky, but sets no great new benchmarks in Niles' career. It's more of a curiosity for your collection than a necessity, but it's still a pleasant reading experience.

by Tom Knapp
23 December 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.