A Nightmare on Elm Street #1 (2006)
By: Trist Jones on October 27, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Cover Art
Publisher: DC/WildStorm
Writers: Chuck Dixon
Art: Kevin West
Looks as though horror comic enthusiasts finally have something to cheer about. After being exploited and nearly totally wasted over at Avatar Press, the three big hitters of cinematic horror have finally found their home at DC Comics' WildStorm imprint, and I, as both a fan of the franchises, and comic books, could not be happier. I won't go into the gory details about Avatar's run (it's something they do well enough – though if you're interested check out the older reviews), but needless to say that the moment I saw that DC had nabbed Chuck Dixon to write the first arc in their planned ongoing Nightmare on Elm Street series, I was sold immediately.

A Nightmare on Elm Street has done what Avatar failed to do: take the cinematic franchise and make it into a comic book. Yes, physically, Avatar did do this, but any comic reader will be able to tell you that all Avatar really did was take the same old thing you see over and over again in the films and show it to you in printed form – which, in all honesty, wasn't worth the money it cost to buy. It's all well and good getting film adaptations of comics and vice versa, but comics based on a franchise like this need to expand beyond what the fans have already seen, and this looks to be the book that's going to do it.

This introductory issue gives us the low down on Jade; a senior level teen who's just moved into Springwood with her brother and father, having been somewhat of a mobile family with her father being in the military. Jade's pretty down to Earth, not a punk rock bitch or sorority queen, or plain-as-day victim like the lemmings/mean main characters that inhabit the Avatar universe, which is a welcome change from the very start (and those eager for the Freddy-ness of it all, the first signs of his presence are right there as well). Her brother is also a fairly level character, not really falling into the stereotypes that often plague both the films and the previous comics, and what happens to him as early on as it does is really unexpected. Her father is a bit of a comic book dad, in that his profession and personality are a little too revealing of what is to come, but he makes for interesting reading nonetheless. My only real gripe is the newfound friend, who seems to be a bit of a social outcast in much the same vein as… well… just about every other social outcast that appears in these sorts of things (the goth/punk girl who's constitution usually seems far greater than our protagonists). This girl's appearence was the only moment to elicit a sigh throughout the entire book, but to be fair, it is early days and she only appears towards the end, basically befriending and filling Jade in on the Freddy Krueger legend.

With all the main characters set up, Freddy hides largely in the wings (and dreams) for this first issue as the story begins. When you whittle it down, what you have is essentially a teaser. The characters and story are set-up, and some interesting (although perhaps a little obvious) nuggets of information are dropped along the way, and though Freddy is barely in this issue, there are plenty of Freddy moments that serve the same purpose as they did in the original film. He does appear in full in a couple of panels, and Kevin West draws him fantastically, looking much closer to Englund than Avatar's interpretations.

West's artistic style is much more akin to modern comic book art than what we saw in Avatar Press's books. It's a much more mainstream look, which so far works fine, although how well it holds once things start going South remains to be seen. The colouring is the only thing so far that bugs me about the art. As I said, it's more mainstream than Avatar's run, and the colours are perhaps a little too "comic-booky" for a horror book, as opposed to the danker, grittier look achieved by Greg Waller, but as I also said, it's early days, and with Freddy on the horizon and some insane shit promised by Dixon, the colours may not matter once things reach their apex.

The writing can't really be faulted so far either, and all signs are pointing to good things on the horizon. Dixon has written so many different characters and genres for a multitude of companies and is such a versatile comic writer that it would be almost impossible for him to fuck up on this. In a number of interviews, the man has stated how much potential there is for the character and the world to be expanded upon (Brian Pulido: please take note) and also knows the difference between writing horror for films and writing horror for comics (meaning 'boo-scares' and gore to try and scare people the way it does in movies doesn't really translate to comics – again: Brian Pulido, please take note). There are a couple of somewhat corny moments of dialogue, but given the title these can be overlooked, and some of the signposts put up do tend to spell things out a little more than they should, but at least it isn't anywhere near as predictable as the Avatar books. Thankfully, Dixon manages to avoid the trappings of the films in terms of rehashing old stories, and the nature of the medium means the slightly more odd Freddy stories (something along the lines of Freddy's Dead) will probably come off working a lot better in print. Oh, and Dixon has also stated rather loudly how much he wants to bring Nancy back into things, so I'm pretty sure we've got the winner we've been wanting for a long time on our hands here!

In the end, what you have is a decent set up for what looks to become a truly kick-arse Nightmare on Elm Street; one that manages to deviate from the mediocrity that plagued this franchise as a comic, and one that will hopefully wash away the bland aftertaste of Avatar's wasted potential. The price is certainly right (being the same as a standard comic) and for the collectors, you might want to ask your comic shops about the variant covers (ones which are nowhere near as hard to obtain – or as excessive in numbers – as the ones Avatar published and sold for prices too insane to justify). Freddy fans, grab it!
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