Cover to 'Vinegar Teeth' #1. Art by Troy Nixley and Guy Major/Dark Horse Comics

Cover to ‘Vinegar Teeth’ #1. Art by Troy Nixey and Guy Major/Dark Horse Comics

By Clyde Hall. One of the tougher genres in cinema is the Horror Comedy, at least given the relatively low number compared to output in other categories, and the even smaller number of good ones produced. These are salad days for comic book horror comedy, though, and the scale is decidedly tipped toward Good-Great for the quality of work that’s out there. So, how does a company put together something fresh in the same vein?

If you’re Dark Horse, you tap Troy Nixey and Damon Gentry to indulge their inner shoggoths for a four-part buddy-cop-action-horror-comedy called Vinegar Teeth. Their first issue assaults the unsuspecting reader with noirish cops and robbers, shuffling creature-things of tentacled viscera, big hats, bigger laughs, and enough Bloops, Splorts, and Glorps to fill a Spike Jones record. And that’s just the first six pages.

Veteran police detective (and professional inebriate) Artie Buckle has an undercover operation compromised when a targeted local crime boss gets eaten by a shambling Dunwich horror. Not only is Buckle’s career-advancing arrest denied him, but the monster turns out to be a decent enough sort who was only trying to help. Facing re-election, Mayor Thorne curries voter favor by boldly making the creature (nicknamed Vinegar Teeth) a Brick City Police recruit and assigning Buckle as his Field Training Officer.

Interior page from 'Vinegar Teeth' #1. Art by Troy Nixley and Guy Major/Dark Horse Comics

Interior page from ‘Vinegar Teeth’ #1. Art by Troy Nixey and Guy Major/Dark Horse Comics

Co-scripters Nixey and Gentry said they drew inspiration for the relationship between Buckle and his new ‘partner’ from cop-buddy films of the ‘80s and ‘90s, including 48 Hours, Red Heat, and Alien Nation, but the opening story reminded me most of Midnight Run. (An animated adaptation could do worse than Robert De Niro gruffly voicing Buckle, and Charles Grodin imbuing Vinegar Teeth with amiable innocence.)

The inaugural issue establishes their frenemies status, sows seed for the shrouded malevolence threatening the city, and hints at Vinegar Teeth’s connection to it. At first, the story may feel a little padded, nudged forward between copious panels of ichor and muck. Quickly you realize how much the creative team enjoys unfolding each little dark corner of their creation, and how. Like a kid peeping between fingers at a late-night monster show, you want to see more.

The book has equal parts farce, slapstick, and gallows humor offset with oozing, pustule-covered horrors, both owing much to Nixey’s pencils. Departing from his usual style, the art here is Gahan Wilson puréed with Rick Geary, exaggerated and macabre enough to guarantee a titter. The blended genres and the creators’ love for each sets Vinegar Teeth apart, the result posing the question, “What if Alfred Hitchcock produced a Cohen Brothers film, based on an H.P. Lovecraft story adapted by Charles Addams and John Huston?” The answer? We all win.

Dark Horse Comics/$3.99

Written by Damon Gentry and Troy Nixey.

Illustrated by Troy Nixey.

Colors by Guy Major.

8 out of 10

Check out this five-page preview of ‘Vinegar Teeth’ #1, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics!