I have a fondness for slashers. I like watching the remorseless killer hunt down the group one-by-one, killing each member as they break some arbitrary moral code. I like the ludicrously elaborate executions and hunts. Most of all, I like the final section, when one white-faced, terrified girl (sometimes a couple) turns at bay, and takes the fight back against the killer.
So I was very excited when I heard about Hack/Slash. In this series, slashers are a form of undead – those so filled with rage that they come back, to get revenge or to live out some trauma. Cassie is a final girl – someone who survived an encounter with a slasher. Now, with her gigantic, tacitrun sidekick Vlad, she goes after slashers all across the US, hunting the hunters of secretive teenagers and promiscuous sorority sisters.
It’s fun. Hack/Slash has all of the required elements of a slasher – blood, sex, fear, and catharsis. What’s really great is that it has them all multiple times. Each story has a new monster or monsters, a new cast of moribund teens, and a new kind of gory violence. It’s ridiculously over-the-top, and I love it. There are horrifying deformities, action-packed combats, and revealing costumes – all the things that make slashers fun are jammed together in one book.
And frankly, I’d forgive a book an awful lot of clumsiness for providing that. Thankfully, with Hack/Slash, I don’t have to. There are moments of pathos amongst the titillation, and the characters are well-constructed and sympathetic, rather than just cardboard cut-outs. You end up rooting for Cassie and Vlad not simply because they aren’t monsters, but because they’re damaged and wary; you want them to get the happy ending they keep giving other people.
The first omnibus takes up Cassie and Vlad’s story part-way through – they’ve already spent quite some time hunting slashers, and you never get to see Cassie’s first ever hunt, when she was a victim fighting back rather than a predator in her own right. I would have liked more of the backstory – I immediately ordered the prequel upon finishing this book, which tells you something about the overall enjoyment I’ve derived from the series. Regrettably, the prequel doesn’t actually fill in any holes; it starts as she starts hunting, only briefly touching on what set her on that path. I get why the authors have done that, but I still would have liked to have seen everything from the very beginning.
The art style varies as different artists come on board – there’s no single consistent style between issues. I preferred some to others, but everything was clear and understandable.
It’s not a perfect series – it relies a little too much on nerd culture stereotypes, and I’d like to see it deal with a wider variety of victims/settings in the future. But these are minor quibbles – it’s hugely entertaining, widely varied, surprisingly deep, and I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone who likes slashers.