Title: "Son of the Return of the Serpent II"
Story (out of 33 pages): 24 p.
Writer: J.M. Sweet and Jonah K. Eastman
Penciller: Kenton "J.C." Washam
Letterer: J. Antwon Shea
The issue opens with a voiceover: Jon, talking to his psychiatrist. He is describing the latest in a series of recurring dreams. He is walking in a strange cemetery one night, where he arrives at a particular grave marker--Hiss Hole's. The stone, blank at first, changes to reveal his own name. Suddenly his own decaying hand comes bursting out of the dirt to grab him...
Remembering the dream causes Jon much stress. The doctor, a man named Adam Kane (whose face Jon never sees, it being always in shadow) suspects he is only experiencing residual guilt from his hand in the villain's death and suggests he "reject [his] vow" to defend the world in favor of a normal teenage life. Jon seriously considers taking Kane's advice...until he suddenly sees a young girl
(the one he saw shot to death by a man with a bandaged face back when he was a boy ...and remembers that Kane isn't his regular doctor, suddenly realizing he's dreaming. Kane leans out of the shadows and reveals himself as Hiss Hole....
Jon awakes in a panic...which only becomes worse and worse when he keeps finding himself in dream after dream. He sees the same little Mexican girl again and again, who keeps delivering him the same warning in Spanish--Peligre! El vato momia! Los suenos son matarle! He suspects she's one of Hiss Hole's tricks, sent to taunt him out of his last bit of sanity. By now a sleepless, emotional wreck, he starts to wonder if he has really lost it this time--especially when bruises show up on his face from his dreamland escapades. Josh, desperate to keep his friend alive and sane, goes to Molina for help.
Realizing that the dreams are Hiss Hole attacking him from the world beyond, the empath suggests she and Jon meld in a "waking trance". She hopes to lend Jon strength to face and purge the demon. Faced with nowhere else to turn, Jon consents to let her put him to "sleep".
However, once within, Hiss Hole attacks and severs Molina and Jon's bond. Jon is now alone, stranded in his own hellish subconcious, and at the mercy of the psychopathic, vengeful snake....
According to editor J.M. Sweet, the photoreal graveyard scenes were supposed to be the Carr Cemetery in Armorel. However, there was a malfunction with the digital camera used to take the pictures that caused them to not transfer into the computer, so the backgrounds were all culled from a Yahoo! photo search of various cemeteries.
This issue is largely an homage to horror movies and the slasher genre, particularly within the dream sequences themselves:The concept of a disfigured killer who stalks his victims' dreams is, of course, a nod to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Specifically, there's a nod to the scene in "Dream Warriors" where Roland Kincaid says, "Let's go kick this motherf---er's ass all over dreamland!" on page 18 (which also revolved around the concept of entering the dreamworld awake via hypnosis).
The arm violently bursting from the dirt (page 2) is a nod to the end of Carrie (1976).
The concept of a therapist proving to be a disguised villain (page 5) was used in THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN #24,
in which Quentin "Mysterio" Beck--as famous psychiatrist Ludwig Reinhart--attempted to make Spidey think he was going mad and fool him into unmasking himself. It was also used in Stephen King's short story "The Boogeyman", in which a patient sees a therapist who turns out to be the same monster who killed his kids and drove his wife to suicide, in disguise.
page 10-11. The graphic views of Hiss Hole's corpse and his being resurrected from the grave by a stroke of lightning was lifted from Friday the 13th VI, in which a disturbed young man--and former victim of Jason Voorhees--digs up his grave and opens the coffin to display his gruesome, maggot- and worm-ridden body. He suddenly flips out and plunges a metal pole through the dead killer's chest (here, it's a shovel). Lightning strikes the pole and brings Jason back, also strengthening him greatly.
Hiss Hole's giant snake form on page 20 is reminiscent of the bannister snake Betelguese uses to appear to the Deetz family in Beetlejuice (which Jon even alludes to on page 21, calling his jokes "Tim Burton parlor tricks". Tim Burton directed Beetlejuice.
On page 25, Jon's violent illness while under the trance recalls the famous pea-soup scene from The Exorcist.
Hiss Hole drops the phrase "Well, now I wouldn't say that" in each dream. This was a line repeatedly said by The Little Man From the Draft Board in "Draftee Daffy" (Clampett, 1945), each time Daffy thought he eluded the fellow bringing his draft notice.
Josh is shown to (sometimes) share a room with Jon again. This was last seen in
"Lil' Romeoh-No", and before in
page 6. The number of Hiss Hole's burial plot is BFO5-41. That's the production code and number for this story (DABF05, #41). He says he found it at a website called "Find-A-Stiff", a parody of the actual real-world site FindAGrave.com.
Look hard: two of the names on the stones Jon runs past are "Hayes" and "McCullough". This refers to singer Isaac Hayes and actor/comedian Bernie Mac, who both passed away within a day of one another while this issue was being pencilled. Ironically the two had just completed work on the same film project.
Look hard: A stone bearing Mack Burke's name and date of death can be seen in the foreground of one panel (page 10). Burke was the managing editor of the school newspaper in SweetTart.
page 7. The cemetery groundskeeper is never listed by name, only called "The Scotsman" or "Drunken Scotsman"--indeed, he doesn't seem to have any name, being only billed "Drunken Exposition Scotsman" in the script. He is an homage to Groundskeeper Willy from The Simpsons, having a similar accent and mannerisms.
page 19. The scene with Jon seeing all his worst enemies in funhouse mirrors (in his mind) is a nod to a amnesiac Bruce Wayne's nightmare in a Batman: The Animated Series ep titled "The Forgotten".
Jon refers to Hiss Hole as "Mirror Master" (20)--alluding to a Silver-Age foe of The Flash who used mirrors in his crimes to trick his foes, create elaborate illusions, and even travel between dimensions.
Hiss Hole says "Ah--something new has been added!" (21) This line was used in "The Hep Cat" (Clampett, 1942) and even turned up on the cover of the May 2007 issue.
Dream Marcie's skimpy gold bikini on page 25 is a nod to the one Princess Leia famously wore in Star Wars VI: The Empire Strikes Back.
At one point in the fight (page 26) the dream landscape turns into a parody of perhaps Salvadore Dali's most famous work (i.e. the painting with all those weird melting clocks hanging in trees).
Title: "Making of 'Son of the Return of the Serpent II' "
Story (out of 33 pages): 9 p.
Writer: J.M. Sweet and Jonah K. Eastman
Penciller: M.S. "Nat" Cohen
Letterer: Shane T. Eaton
Colorist: Annette T. "Jo" Shaw
Gort hosts a behind-the-scenes look at the production of ''Son of the Return of the Serpent II'', including deleted scenes, how certain effects were done, and interviews with the actors and director of the piece.
page 29. The celebrities who "star" in the "film" are (from left to right) Clark Gable (Jon), Meryl Streep (Molina) and Ed O'Neill/Al Bundy (Josh).
The "deleted scene" was actually storyboarded for the original story, but cut for space constraints and redrawn to accommodate the stuntman. Another actual cut gag mentioned but not seen was "pendulum blade death trap".
page 36. The story Jon tells is an urban legend generally attributed to comedian Sid Caesar. The "Derby" is the famous Brown Derby, a pivotal nightclub in Los Angeles. The original shut down in 1985 and only exists as a decorative shell over a strip mall, built at the original restaurant's location. "Woody" and "Steve" are Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg, respectively.
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