Zenescope Entertainment is known for its interconnected superhero/horror universe populated by public domain characters, but they have also, in recent years, specialized in horror anthologies. One of their longest-running series, Grimm Tales of Terror, takes urban legends and spins them into modernized, standalone stories that always come with a harsh twist at the end. Now, the Pennsylvania-based published is giving conspiracy theories the same treatment with their series… well, Conspiracy. This particular issue, Conspiracy: Men in Black, tackles the idea of a secret government agency tasked with keeping alien activity secret from the public… or so it seems. Zenescope handles their stories writer's room style, with the core creatives of the company Ralph Tedesco, Joe Brusha, and Dave Franchini plotting the issues together, and then assigning them to various writers. Interestingly, the writers who scripted Conspiracy: Men in Black are Hans Rodionoff and Adam F. Goldberg, the latter of whom is the creator of the hit sitcoms The Goldbergs and the Bryan Callen-led Schooled. How do Goldgberg's talents translate to comics?
Conspiracy: Men in Black evokes nostalgia in two ways: the Stranger Things way, as it's set in the 1980s and leans into it with success, and also because it feels just like the horror anthology comics of the EC era. Dialogue is sparse but feels realistic as a group of characters discover an alien that is truly horrifying. Through fine details, such as the way the alien is animalistic but still intelligent enough to learn and repeat phrases by its victims, the horror crescendos until the eponymous suits get involved. And then, things get darker from there. It's a terrific and twisty standalone story that hooks the reader, all the while showing enough restraint to make it feel real and terrifying.
The art of Conspiracy: Men in Black is gorgeous, featuring the interesting combination of two Zenescope mainstays who make a great pair: artist Allan Otero and colorist Leonardo Paciarotti. Otero's inks are dark and foreboding, while Leonardo colors with sci-fi brightness. Together, they've created a beautiful comic and one of the strangest spaceships in any medium. As the ship crashes, it almost looks as if Saturn itself is about to collide with the Earth. These two, with Carlos M. Mangual on letters, make this well-written thriller into a must-have comic for horror and sci-fi fans alike.
Conspiracy is a rare title where readers can pick up any issue and enjoy it without prior knowledge. Zenescope and their titles fly under the radar, and their long-running Grimm Universe titles do require backstory, but this is something that anyone can enjoy.