Thursday, June 29, 2017

It came from the back of a comic book

Optical Delusion

Hunter Shea

Publisher: Lyrical Underground

Pub. Date: August , 2017

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Optical Delusions  is the second of Shea Hunter's series called Mail Order Massacres. They are based on those comic books ads children of all ages are familiar with. I'm sure you remember them. The "Sea Monkeys" that were just brine shrimp and made the water smell bad. The "submarine" made out of cheap card board and fell apart when it actually touched water. The 3-D glasses that boasted you will be able to see through people's clothes and did no more than give you a headache. Shea's first book of the series, Just Add Water covers the Sea Monkeys and a third installment will center on the submarine. Optical Delusions, as you already guessed, covers the glasses.

In this short read, Martin Blackstone's son orders a pair of those 3-D glasses from an ad in the back of a comic book. Martin sees it as a waste of a buck but on a lark tries them on. At first he just gets a headache but after a while they seem to kick in and actually work. At first Martin finds this to be a lascivious pleasure but soon the effects of wearing the glasses turn terrifying and deadly.

The first thing I noticed on reading this short piece of fiction is there are no physical monsters in it. That may seem a small thing but Hunter Shea is sort of my monster guy. He writes some of the best monster books out there. This story's scares comes from the effects of a mysterious object and the dark psychological results. I enjoyed seeing an author I admire go off into a different type of horror that I am familiar with him writing and doing it with the same effortless skill as he shows in what I have read before. I'm not really surprised , I just find it delightful and reassuring that this horror writer can make pretty much make anything a reason to keep the lights on.

I also like the setting. Both the first and second installments of Mail Order Massacres take place in the 80s which was pretty much the apex of the comic book ad craze. But while Just Add Water has a nostalgic Speilbergian feel due to its two young main characters, Optical Delusion feels more serious and scary. For those movie buffs, it made me think of that great but obscure Corman film with Ray Milland, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. But while the Corman film had Greek tragedy overtones , Optical Delusion goes for the EC Comics styled quick kill. Just what these neat little books should do.

I do not know if Shea Hunter plans to keep this a trilogy but if he does and the next one keeps up the momentous, it may be the horror trilogy of the year. Until then, you cant go wrong with this pint sized scare fest.

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