It’s here, Stemheads! The long wait is now over! The new issue of Blood & Gourd is finally seeing release, and whoa baby! Was it worth it! No, really…… Was it worth the wait? Well, we aim to answer that question with this review.
Newer readers of the site may be asking themselves just what the Hell I’m yammering on about. They may even be asking what the Hell a “Stemhead” is. Then again, as Horror And Sons is not the only media outlet to cover the previous issues of Blood & Gourd, there’s a solid chance that they themselves have already experienced the nightmarish fun of a Halloween at Henderson Farms, and have gazed in awe at the botanical behemoth that is “The Gourdfather”!! (Did I really just refer to this site as a “media outlet”?)
For those uninitiated, Blood & Gourd is an independent comic series written and created by Jenz K. Lund and published by Dead Peasant LLC. In the first issue of the series (released 2016), a pre-Halloween pumpkin festival held at financially collapsing Henderson Farms turns into a hellscape of projectile-produce-induced pain when the farm’s pumpkins turn into fang-bearing monstrosities with the ability to launch themselves at their prey.
The entire concept sounds insanely ludicrous, and make no mistake, it is just that. It’s an idea right on par with, and seemingly inspired by, the cult classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. That said, while the scenario itself is intentionally laughable, the way that the human characters react to the situation ripening before them is quite serious. Deadly serious, you might say. Watching characters commit suicide as opposed to facing the chaos and madness playing out in front of them doesn’t provoke many laughs. Well, unless you’re a heartless bastard.
Making the events feel more sinister in nature is the presence of an enigmatic corporation who seem to be behind the pumpkin uprising, but in fact may be pawns to a much more powerful force. Whatever their true role, these men are deadly precise and unflinchingly remorseless in achieving their ultimate goal. Whether it be brutally murdering those folks that the pumpkins don’t claim first or “feeding” children to a mysterious presence hidden in a greenhouse basement, their actions cast a very dark tone over the comic. Well, darker tone.
However, it is this contrast between the cartoonish idea of “flying killer pumpkins with teeth” and the bleak thought of a corrupt corporation tainting what is (or was) generally considered a “holiday for kids” (much like Halloween III: Season of the Witch, another film which undoubtedly inspired B&G), that makes Blood & Gourd not only “work”, but helps it establish a uniquely ghoulish sense of humor. Witnessing a mother getting her head chomped on while her child watches in terror is normally some pretty grim shit, but when the thing gnawing on her brains is a big ol’ goofy pumpkin? Well, it’s still pretty gruesome, but now it’s okay to laugh. A little.
It’s also worth noting the “ecological horror” overtones of Blood & Gourd. While it is never said (or even implied, for that matter) that environmental abuse is the cause for the pumpkin revolt, there is possibly an underlying social message to be found within the panels of this tale. Don’t worry though. It’s just a subtle implication and not something that the author tries to beat you over the head with.
There is more than likely a supernatural, ancient force at play in the panels of Blood & Gourd. The evils here are more akin to ancient druids and vengeful spirits, bolstering the true horror aspects that one would expect in a tale set during Halloween. And while the previous two issues in the series do provide tonally appropriate reading for the Halloween season, they are definitely entertaining (and twisted) enough to be enjoyed at any time of year.
If you’d still like a little more information on the first 2 issues of the series, please check out our reviews of both issues! Here’s the links!
As issue #3 opens, the survivors of the assault on the pumpkin festival are in the midst of retreat. Some have gathered in groups, while others make their attempts at escape solitary. Generally, the odds aren’t in the favor of those that fly solo. They aren’t much better for those in groups either.
Kitty Henderson, daughter of the farm’s owner and the series’ de facto heroine, is leading such a group through the back fields of her family’s property. A murder of possessed crows lingers menacingly in the air overhead. It’s during this sequence that another character mutters the words “Hope’s gone.” This line, whose true significance has yet to manifest itself, almost serves as a mantra; an overall theme to the issue, if not the series as a whole.
It doesn’t take long for this sentiment to be reinforced, as readers will discover just mere pages later. While I do not want to give much away, let’s just say that one such group of escapees soon discovers that their refuge is not quite as impenetrable as they had assumed. As if things weren’t bad enough, it’s around the same time that those “crowned” by the killer pumpkins begin to rise, albeit with some assistance from the crows. Now, adorned with jack’o’lanterns for heads, they turn on the former families and friends.
Readers are also treated to their first glimpses of the much-mentioned basement, but not a full reveal of what lies in wait. This may feel like a “tease” to some readers. Make no doubts… it is just that. This will answer a few questions that fans of the series may have had, but will undoubtedly leave them wanting answers to many more. Get used to it, folks! There will be much more of that before the issue ends.
The series’ main source of comic relief (and coincidentally, the series’ obligatory “badass”) returns as well, adding a welcome bit of levity to the otherwise grim tone. Blood & Gourd #3 may benefit from this touch more than the previous issues as the violence and deaths on display here feel much more brutal and cold-blooded than before. From gouged eyeballs to vine impalements to heads crushed in an apple press (and much more), there is no shortage of blood to be spilled by the enigmatic Mr. Pleasant and his “organization”, as well as by the various pumpkin monsters.
Despite the absurdity, violence, horror, and gore dripping from each panel, the issue ends on a massive downer note. As if to rebuke the mantra of “Hope’s Gone”, the issue reminds us that “hope” has a different meaning to each of us, and that even in the darkest of moments, we can each find our “light”. Or it reminds us that, ultimately, we’re all fucked. I guess either answer works here.
While fans of the series will be pleased to see more of the events at Henderson Farms unfold in the panels of B&G #3, as well as receive more hints of just what is truly happening and why, there are sure to be some readers disappointed that yet another issue ends with numerous loose ends. If the problem here is that the material presented has left the reader hungry for more, then that’s really the best problem a creator can have. We, as readers, have to understand that these indie publishers just can’t churn out a title at the speed and quantity that the major players do. And maybe that’s for the best as the finished product often tends to show a higher level of care and attention to detail.
Pencils and inks for Blood & Gourd #3 were handled by Jonas Scharf, with color again contributed by Fran Gamboa. Once again, the artwork is in capable hands and, in my opinion, is much stronger than in the first issue of the series. As with previous issues, the stylistic approach is a mélange of whimsical and grotesque. This helps the comic create its shifting balance of comedy and horror. If I have one complaint, it’s that with as imposing a figure as “The Gourdfather” is, I do wish there would have been at least one full-page image of the character in its full glory.
Personally, I consider this to be my favorite issue of the series (so far). While there is legitimate argument that the issue doesn’t advance the plot as much as it could, it’s simply just an entertaining read. The series’ staple morbid sense of humor becomes exponentially more macabre thanks to the issue’s overall bleak tone.
All 3 issues of Blood & Gourd are now available for purchase in print or digital versions at webleedhalloween.com. There are also Blood & Gourd T-shirts and other merchandise available on the site as well.