Cassie Hack is the ultimate Final Girl – the sole survivor of a horror story who manages to turn the tables on her would-be assailant. But Cassie doesn’t just dispatch her potential dispatcher; she proactively hunts and destroys slashers, monsters, and all sorts of creeps, undead or otherwise. Along with her simple-minded but kind-hearted protector Vlad, the two carry out vigilante justice of the supernatural kind by protecting the innocent from the real-life Jasons, Freddys, and Chuckies of the world. Welcome to the world of Hack/Slash…hope you survive the experience.
While the details of Cassie’s initial foray into slasher-hunting have already been the subject of previous entries in the long-running series, Hack/Slash: Back to School fleshes out her formative years by picking up immediately after her fateful meeting with Vlad. Still grappling with the trauma of her first kill, an undead slasher called the Lunch Lady, who just happened to be her own mother, Cassie finds herself at a crossroads between waging war on unnatural evil and living a normal life. When violence erupts at a local diner, followed by the arrival of a fellow slasher-hunter, the two set off on a journey that might just give Cassie the best (and worst) of both worlds.
As far as origin stories or prequels go, Hack/Slash: Back to School manages to provide a fine jumping-on point for new readers while delivering something new for long-time fans. Comic’s new “it girl” Zoe Thorogood takes a stab at filling in the gaps of Cassie’s origin with a story and style that fit seamlessly with world Hack/Slash creators Tim Seeley and Stefano Caselli started back in 2004, while delivering a story that is 100% Thorogood. Handling not just story and art duties, but inking, coloring and lettering the whole damn thing, Thorogood’s opening chapter is a frequently violent, often hilarious book that captures the gore and depravity of the series and strangely works as a companion piece to her Eisner-winning graphic novel, “It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth.”
Fair warning to the squeamish: some of the violence is incredibly nasty and may be triggering to some. I found myself hoping that the diner scene was some hallucination or daydream (spoiler: it ain’t) but I have mad respect for Thorogood and Image for not holding back. Fortunately the twisted humor and slasher-flick atmosphere undercuts the violence that some might consider in bad taste. By the time you get to the quasi-subtle joke about tentacle hentai, you’ll forget all about the machete-wielding guy in the bunny costume. And, yes, that is in fact a sentence I just wrote.