Before getting into any kind of review-type situation, I would like my readers to take a look at that headline up there. I’ll even post it down here: Cabra Cini: Voodoo Junkie Hitwoman- Dark New Year. This is, so far, my favorite title of the year, beating out the equally provocatively named Bitch Planet* by a decent margin. It asks so many bizarre questions. Is she a hitwoman who is a junkie for voodoo? Is she a junkie and hitwoman who uses voodoo? Is she the kind of hitwoman who kills heroin addicts who use voodoo and will take no other targets?
You see? The possibilities are endless.
Now, why is it important to go off on this tangent before getting into the review of Cabra Cini? Simple. A title creates a certain thought exchange in the mind of its reader. A work’s title creates expectations and ideas. It creates a thing that the book has to live up to. A title like Cabra Cini: Voodoo Junkie Hitwoman creates the expectations that the book is going to be trashy, involve voodoo, and probably a lot of crime and criminal elements. It hypes the kind of crazy criminal fun that one might find in a Doug TenNapel or Rob Schrab book.
And it is for this reason that I’m actually a little disappointed with the taste I got of Cabra Cini: Voodoo Junkie Hitwoman.** Dark New Year is a small story and a sampler, and while it’s intriguing and hits the right spot in a kind of ’90s-throwback way, reminding me of Top Cow and DC Vertigo, the problem is that from what I see, it doesn’t go far out enough. It’s good, but it doesn’t seem to push.
Dark New Year begins with our heroine, the titular Cabra Cini, on her way to find and kill a wannabe goth who exsanguinated his girlfriend while playing “vampyre.” Cabra is a hitwoman by trade, something like a darker, female John Constantine in that she mashes together voodoo with other various mystical traditions to create her own workable magickal repertoire. As the opening text boxes and exposition tell us, she used to be a former prostitute and crack addict who used voodoo to kill her pimp, finding herself addicted to the idea of magic and especially voodoo. And so, she becomes a voodoo junkie hitwoman.
With the exposition mostly out of the way, Cabra opens a portal to Limbo, the supernatural “waiting place,” using a strange ritual involving a tampon as a “fertility symbol”. Once inside, she is confronted by the disembodied voice of The Rook, ruler of Limbo, fights with a creepy construct in a gas mask, is confronted by the spirit of her ex-pimp, and finally fights with a creepy telepath named Mr. Wash-up. It’s a quick story, one that works more as a character piece. It’s followed by a quick preview of the upcoming miniseries involving a racist named “White Out” trying to introduce ethnic cleansing. While these can’t be used to judge what is to come, there are a few reasons I turned it over and over in my head for a little while.
And to be perfectly honest, I feel like Cabra Cini is holding back. It irks me.
There is a lot to like in these pages. I’ve always been a huge fan of ’90s horror comics and “darker” comics, despite the tendency to tear those kinds of comics down a lot these days. While the art in the concept gallery seems a little rough, the actual page art is great and gets a dark feeling down without being boring or hard to read. It is, all in all, a well put together book, and the short stories are actually pretty entertaining, even if they’re quick and kind of end just as things start to take off. Furthermore, I like the references they put in to other works including obscure British sketch comedy. It’s nice to know there are people who are freaks in a similar way to me.
Similarly, Cabra Cini is actually a pretty cool character. While her backstory feels a little generically dark and traumatizing (abusive pimp, drug addiction, murdering someone with voodoo), she’s one of the few occult heroes or heroines to admit that she is actually doing things the wrong way and openly admit it. In these few pages, she owns her screwed-upness pretty thoroughly, be it ruminating on how she loved the man she killed in a weird way or the ritual that starts off the first short.
She’s flawed, but, and I never thought I would have to explain this, she doesn’t brood over how flawed she is, and that’s a breath of fresh air in comics. It’s rare a character actually understands and has come to terms with their lives in comic books, especially the darker ones.
But for everything it gets right, I just feel like it doesn’t go far enough out. Even in the older days, when dark occult comics were still a dime a dozen, they pushed their concepts a little further. In Cabra Cini, Limbo appears to be a brown cavernous area with dirt pathways and blue energy arrows leading from place to place.
Cabra uses a set of weapons that are kind of pedestrian, including a katana and a large-caliber revolver. Despite the occasional weirdness, it seems a little too straightforward, and perhaps it’s the title and the amount of stuff I’ve read like this, but the idea and the synopsis and hell, even writing that plot out there made me excited about Cabra Cini. But upon delivery…I just wish there were more of it.
If that’s the case, if the sample wasn’t completely indicative of the whole, I’m looking forward to the Cabra Cini miniseries. It’s certainly one to watch, and the team has an interesting thing on their hands. While perhaps it didn’t reach its full potential in the comic, it’s foolish to judge based on just that. So my verdict? Reserved hope. Very reserved. Here’s hoping the Cabra Cini team can blow my misgivings out of the water.
*I assume it’s about a future where the American Kennel Club does all its breeding on a single large planetmass, and no one will be able to dissuade me otherwise. If not, WORST BOOK OF THE YEAR.
**That title is a joy to type.