Hack/Slash began as a series parodying the exploitation culture of slasher movies and now for a second collection seems determined to be placed squarely within that culture, any but the most obvious parody absent. It’s a process begun in Torture Prone, where any difference was hard to distinguish, and between them artists Kyle Strahm and Daniel Leister produce page after page of Cassie and any other woman featured in as few clothes as possible. The excuse is the main story of a slasher murdering vapid pop celebrities, shallow of purpose and mighty of ego, Tim Seeley taking the most obvious of targets and barely exaggerating the behaviour. Has he just given up, or has he decided he might as well make some money by giving an audience what they want? Either way, beyond an opening Fantomah pastiche, he supplies nothing but the obvious.

Seeley isn’t helped by the art. Strahm has enthusiasm, but a fair distance to go before reaching professional standards, and Leister can be professional, but isn’t putting as much effort as he did into earlier stories. Perhaps all that exploitation’s taking it out of him.

Eventually Seeley reveals there is a bigger plot, tying into the other-dimensional Nef Lords, who’ve vowed revenger on Cassie and Vlad, and are sending their agents to Earth. Once that’s established Seeley takes a major wrong turn by using threatened rape is as a cheap story device, and numerous plot holes occur in the rush to a predictable ending. It’s not his finest moment.

A final story teams Cassie with Hatchet, star of what was then a relatively recent horror film success. Seeley lends his characters to Benito Cereno, who takes them to the Louisiana swamps where the hatchet killer operates. It’s a traditional slasher story, and surprisingly the best of the collection. It follows the time honoured plot of sticking a group of people in a confined location and then killing them one by one, in this case a group of spoiled young millionaires, and although simpler than the remainder, it works for what it is, with suitably gloomy art from Ariel Zucker-Brull.

This collection is gathered in the fourth Hack/Slash Omnibus, along with the following Marry, F*ck, Kill.