Let me just start off by saying that when I was a kid, I was hugely attached to Puppet Master. More than A Nightmare on Elm Street and maybe even Friday the 13th, this was the franchise that got me into horror as a child. The inherent campiness, the charm, the strange sense of mythology, the early films reeled me in and hooked me good.
When they ran out of money and couldn’t afford to make films the quality of the first four or five, it didn’t stop Full Moon. They still made them. They still felt an obligation to the fans to keep the series alive and it’s sort of hard to blame them for that. Curse of the Puppet Master has some fun sequences, but excessive stock footage and just about everything from Retro Puppet Master onward were just cheaper and progressively less entertaining attempts to recapture the fan-driven success of Puppet Master III.
It’s worth pointing this out because, along with a lot of people, my best hope for the comic book when it was announced was something decent. With the direction the franchise had taken, I didn’t let myself expect something really good and the last thing I expected was something new.
But that’s what this new issue and this new arc are giving us. For the first time in two decades, this franchise feels fresh. Now, the first three issues were good, they were a great return to basics and would have actually served as the perfect template for a movie reboot that recaptured the tone of the first two features. It was modernized and had some interesting twists, but it felt in some ways like a traditional Puppet Master story.
In the opening of “Rebirth” we’re treated to what could have easily been an interesting standalone story. A psychic has collected some of the puppets fans might recognize from the franchise as the ones that appeared for about two seconds and were never seen again, as well as some new ones. These puppets are sort of rented out for a 24-hour period so that someone can bring them to life for a short while for a specific task. Like, for example, you really want to kill a specific person without any possibility of the murder being traced back to you. It’s a neat concept.
But things take an even more interesting direction once the puppets realize that this woman, this witch, offers them what they’ve always wanted: a way out. These living puppets begin to realize that they don’t have to be living puppets anymore. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but I will say that nothing will be the same from here. It’s a game changer. After this issue, I suspect the entire Puppet Master mythology will be spun on its head and as a fan I could not be more eager to see that happen.
I never thought I’d see a creative move of this magnitude happen to this franchise and I applaud writer Shawn Gabborin for having the gall to do it. The art, at the same time, keeps getting better and better. There’s a particularly cringe-worthy kill, proving that it still isn’t forgetting to bring the horror while it moves the story forward.
For anyone who’s ever been a fan of the franchise or even remotely curious, I urge you to check this one out. Now’s the time to jump on board. You don’t have to read the first three issues to understand what’s happening in this one—not that doing so would hurt.
“Rebirth, Part One” is a well-told tale that gets extra points for finally pushing this series in a new direction.
WICKED RATING: 8.5/10