Comics Uncovered: Hack/Slash [Feature]

HACK/SLASH follows the adventures of Cassie Hack, a survivor of a serial killer’s murderous rampage. The ultimate personal tragedy for Cassie is that the slasher she endured and defeated was her own homicidal mother, leaving a sense of guilt and responsibility for the victims of the murder spree and a constant awareness of her own inner demons and internal darker tendencies. Cassie channels this rage and guilt into traveling the country and hunting slashers. These slashers are no mere run-of-the-mill Norman Bates types either. They're killers risen from the grave by their deep rage and hatred toward the youthful exuberance of life; like most horror movie antagonists, this makes them remarkably difficult to dispatch.

Fortunately, Cassie isn’t alone in her cross-country crusade. She's joined by a hulking behemoth named Vlad, a masked man wielding dual machetes who is often mistaken for a slasher himself. The unlikely duo forms a close bond and proves to be a natural team when it comes to combating all sorts of slasher threats, from a killer that commands zombified animals to a murderer that preys on young people through their dreams like Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Even Chucky, the mass-murdering doll from Child's Play, and Evil Ernie get in on the action, meeting a fate of bloody retribution thanks to Cassie and Vlad.

Underneath all the gory action is a story about finding your own place in the world. While Cassie travels the nation rescuing teens and young adults from supernatural sadists, she never really identifies with those that she saves. She feels constantly out of place and alienated from normal people her age. Part of what makes Cassie such an effective slasher hunter is that she understands the slasher psyche, the part of her mother’s legacy that lives on in her. As such, readers can and have identified with Cassie’s social isolation. The same is true of her deep-seated insecurities and fears about her own sinister potential; while Cassie is hard as nails, underneath it all, the scared, vulnerable girl that faced down gruesome death at such an early age still hides under that tough exterior. In that sense, Cassie and Vlad are more than just avengers against the evil that goes bump in the night, but also misfit icons for those that never felt like they fit in with their peers and for those who have to brave their inner demons every single day.

With that said, HACK/SLASH doesn’t necessarily dwell on Cassie’s soul-searching and isn’t particularly heavy-handed in its deeper themes and commentaries. At its core, HACK/SLASH really is an extensive celebration of the low-budget slasher flicks from the 1980s, with clear nods to genre mainstays like Friday the 13th and Halloween. And while Tim Seeley subverts and pokes fun at the tropes prevalent in slasher movies and the horror genre in general, HACK/SLASH itself is not a parody or send-up, but a rollicking horror comic in its own right.

Blood will run and people will die, and not peacefully or in their sleep. First and foremost, HACK/SLASH is a horror story, and Seeley makes good on the terror and violence tied so firmly to the genre. And while it is certainly gory and blood-soaked, the violence in the series is never particularly revolting or unsavory, with many of the kills performed just enough off-panel to leave the grisly details to the readers’ imaginations. While being a fan of slasher movies especially enhances the appreciation of and joy to be found in HACK/SLASH, Seeley has constructed an ongoing epic that is welcomingly accessible to more casual fans of the genre.

The main HACK/SLASH series, one-shots predating the ongoing series, and various specials have been collected across five omnibuses, giving new readers the entire HACK/SLASH experience while providing the ultimate must-have collection for longtime fans of the series. Each of the omnibuses are chock full of special features and behind-the-scenes materials including character sketches, unused artwork, fan photoshoots, and even a look at a stage adaptation of the series. Additionally, the most recent HACK/SLASH miniseries, HACK/SLASH: SON OF SAMHAIN (written by Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley and drawn by Emilio Laiso) has been collected in its own trade paperback.

For over a decade, Tim Seeley and his group of rotating artists have delivered consistently bloody good fun in the pages of HACK/SLASH, a love letter to a genre that once ruled the roost in movie theaters and video stores across the country. Poised for a full-fledged return this year, HACK/SLASH proves there is still plenty of murderous mileage to be had from the venerable, critically acclaimed series. In the meantime, Image Comics has the entire classic run collected for those looking to read the whole bloody affair for the first time or for hardcore fans looking to get the maximum HACK/SLASH experience.