Issue #4 of the ongoing Puppet Master comic book promised big changes for the franchise. In fact, it promised to spin the entire mythology on its head by taking the puppet characters we’ve loved over the past eleven films and finally granting them human bodies. Well, Puppet Master #5 delivers on that promise. It may only be a temporary solution, but it is so interesting as a fan to finally see these characters speak and interact with each other as human beings.
There is also an incredible care for the source material and the established canon of the films that I just can’t praise enough. Plenty of comics based on horror movies contradict the material they are based on. There have been licensed Friday the 13th comics that haven’t bothered to look up the proper spelling of Voorhees. With Puppet Master, you almost expect it given how frequently those features contradict each other. Instead, all we have here appears to be an admiration and respect for the franchise. All of the former puppets retain the human identities they had in the films, even those who were only hinted at. Hell, Tunneler was only ever named in a trading card and still that name—Joseph Sebastian—is retained here.
With Torch, we’re actually getting some backstory for the very first time. It’s just a glimpse, at the moment, but it’s pretty dark. This was apparently a boy, named Erich—I’m guessing Erich Chenee, as that was the alias Toulon took in Puppet Master II, when Torch was made—who, unlike the others, actually was a Nazi. I’m guessing he was a member of the Hitler youth. He cornered Toulon and the puppets killed him, but Toulon felt horrible about it because Eric was only a child. At least, that’s my understanding of it from the little we’ve seen so far.
Right at the beginning we have a strong emotional moment when Hans—the former Jester—asks to keep the puppet, saying that he still feels attached to it. When Herman, the former Pinhead, says he should have had enough of that thing, Hans explains “They weren’t all bad times.” It’s a powerful, poignant bit of nostalgia that manages to have its impact without feeling heavy-handed.
But of course, there’s a catch. We as horror fans always know that no good thing comes without a price. It’s one of the oldest and most powerful methods of storytelling in the genre. Here, the catch is that even though the human souls have abandoned the puppets, the puppets themselves are not uninhabited. We don’t know what’s driving them now, although it is fun to theorize, but one thing’s for certain: They’re hunting down their former owners.
While I’m sure the body count will only get higher, it’s tough to see one of them already fall in this issue. It’s easy to root for all of them, to hope that they make the most of a human life, and even in the space of less than a full issue we feel attached to one of these former puppets. It’s a short amount of time for a death to have an impact and the fact that it works is a testament to Gabborin’s writing.
The artwork continues to be top-notch as well. The human likenesses of the puppets are excellent. They look like their own individual human beings, but the essence of that puppet they were and that personality they displayed even without dialogue in the movies is still very much intact. It cannot possibly be an easy balance to maintain, but here it seems almost effortless.
If you’re a fan of the Puppet Master series, I urge you to check this comic out because it is written for you. It might be the most fan-conscious thing to ever happen in this franchise. At the same time, if you’re not a fan, I urge you to check this comic out because it is the most likely thing to make you a fan. You’re going to get attached to the characters here right off the bat in a way you might not have when watching the movies for the first time, and in a way you probably never expected.
WICKED RATING: [usr 8]