Posts tagged horror
Book Review: Jago by Kim Newman
Review by: Prof. Jenn
One of the most brain-happy things Kim Newman does in his novels is incorporate pop culture, literary allusions, and history together in a postmodernist bird’s nest that houses the eggs which are his original plots. Jago is no different (at one point, even some of the characters remark that their situation is “postmodern”), but unlike his Anno Dracula series of books, Jago is a bit heavier on the original plot than the allusions.
Paul and Hazel have moved to a little English town called Alder to work on a dissertation and pottery, respectively. Across the village is the Agapemone, a classically-creepy obvious-cult wherein all the inmates are happy, brainwashed, blindly worship their smarmy leader, “share love,” etc. As the big music festival nears, the tension of the native villagers and London or “hippie” outsiders ramps up to a height. Of course, when the festival arrives, everything goes completely to Hell. Literally.
Jago is an intricate, multifaceted novel, taking the multitudes of various (round, well-written) characters and puts us in each of their POV at just the right times to make us scoot to the edge of our seat wondering what will happen next. Enough surprising character deaths (and gruesome violence) happen that by the time the climax occurs, we really truly don’t know what the outcome will be.
Also included in this volume are some short stories in the same universe as Jago. They are well-written, and marginally interesting re: backstory, especially for some of the more powerful/mysterious figures from the novel, but I could have done without them.
Bottom Line: Very dark, but very good. Highly recommended.
Joyland by Stephen King
Review by: Prof. Jenn
When a new book by someone like Stephen King is imminent, there is perforce lots and lots of hype. Especially through this particular label; Hard Case Crime is doing a really cool thing with its releases. The covers echo those of old-school pulp novels, and will always be real paintings, not digital works. They will not be published in e-book form, nor in hardcover, only paperback. Read more about the reasons for these (IMO: awesome) choices here.
So there are plenty of trappings and baggage already before one enters into a book like this. And when I heard “American nostalgia” I rolled my eyes, attempted to drown out the John Cougar Mellencamp song in my head, and took the plunge.*
Now I normally think of Stephen King the way I do about J.K. Rowling, and the way I used to about Anne Rice: an amazing storyteller, gifted as far as creativity and brilliant at character creation, just without the actual writing skill-chops to pull off the enormous ideas pouring forth.** Joyland, however, is an exception to this opinion of mine, and in fact makes me want to go back to other King pieces and see if I was wrong all along.
The story is told from the POV of our protagonist in his 60s, telling us the story of That One Summer as though we’re an old friend on the porch over a cold brew. The voice is parts dry humor, stoic melancholia at the passage of time, and pure wonder at the events narrated. The story itself centers around an amusement park, and our protagonist’s summer (and beyond) working there. It’s part warm and fuzzy coming-of-age story, part adventure, part eerie ghost story. In the best possible balance between the three.
I will admit, I did see ‘who dunnit’ coming. But not too soon, and I have a suspicion I only knew exactly when King wanted me to. The murder mystery is put forth perfectly–a writing professor of mine once said about murder mysteries: “It’s not what the reader knows, but when he knows it that’s important.”*** King feeds us just the exact right size and number of plot snippets at just exactly the right times through the arc of the story, until by the time we’re taking that final ferris wheel ride, it’s as tense and gripping (and admittedly over-the-top action movie fun) as it should be.
Bottom Line: Joyland is very highly recommended. Don’t miss it.
*It’s cool if you like those things–to each his/her own. It’s just not my thing.
**I have a feeling I’m dodging tons of hurled virtual eggs and tomatoes here.
***One Keith Abbott, from Naropa University.
Planning on hitting up Stan Lee’s Comikaze this year? You should be. This year looks like it’s going to be spectacular. Just the comic, scifi, gaming, fantasy, anime, and horror expo you’d expect to see from Stan Lee. Take a look into what’s in store for this year:
I love that Dot Com will be there. I hope he gets plenty of “No one can hear you, Dot Com!” jokes.
All in all, it looks like a fantastic lineup, and tickets are now on sale. Beyond that, we have some insider info that they’re having a 72-hour sale on tickets right now. So if you’re planning on going, now’s the time to check out your options – weekend passes, in particular, are a great deal today.
Chin Music #1 Review
Writing: Steve Niles
Art: Tony Harris
Review by Melissa Megan
Apparently, Chin Music is about a guy named Shaw who can leap through time and possesses supernatural powers. He’s on the run from some other creepy dudes who also have powers, like tearing his skin from his bones. Apparently he has landed in Prohibition era Chicago and must now contend with the local police, gangsters and the supernatural underground. I say apparently because Image Comics tells me that this is what’s happening in Chin Music, but to be perfectly honest I only understood about half of that premise reading through issue #1.
I hate to criticize Steve Niles at all because I really love pretty much everything he puts his pen to, but this introduction just didn’t connect with me, story wise. There’s a lot going on, but not all of it is clear. Granted, it’s a pilot issue, so there’s lots more story to tell and time to tell it. I have all the faith in the world that Niles will pull the plot together in future issues and that my confusion will disappear. Not being crystal on what’s going on in this issue doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t enjoy it, however. It is action packed, moody, violent and spooky. I just don’t ‘get it’ yet.
The artwork by Tony Harris is brilliant here. It’s thick with atmosphere and very, very pretty. Some of the panels are framed in art deco borders, like intricate picture frames. This lends quite a bit of flourish to the pages and really helps set the retro style of the book. Harris’ characters all seem to have large, chunky facial features and knobby knuckles, but it’s less of a distraction than a style. I found his play with color and texture very pleasing to look at.
All in all, Chin Music seems like it could be a quality series. As long as the story isn’t too difficult to grasp, there’s a good idea here and some unique styling. I’ll definitely be keeping up with this one and am anxious to see Steve Niles develop it further.
Writing: Nick Spencer
Art: Riley Rossmo
Review by Melissa Megan
Crazy, winged holy man is massacring everyone that moves over at the hospital. The pet superhero of Bedlam PD, The First, is taking a major ass-whooping while he attempts to stop the killing. Fillmore Press has landed himself an exclusive sit down with convicted child molester Father Warton. Warton suspects immediately that Fillmore is no detective and that his interest lies deeper than just putting a stop to the murders that he directs from inside the prison.
Fillmore gets right to the core of what Warton wants and needs, possibly his real drive behind ordering his ‘archangel’ Eric to kill. Warton wants to know the sins of the children of god. Fillmore has plenty to confess. And there is the key Fillmore needs to solve the case.
The highlight of this issue is definitely in the ‘psycho to psycho’ chat between Warton and Fillmore, which not only gives a deeper look at the illness driving the priest but also reveals just how in touch Fillmore still is with his alter ego, Madder Red. And really, that’s what we’ve all been wondering, isn’t it? If Madder Red is truly buried beneath the new psyche of Fillmore Press, or simply lurking just under the surface, waiting for the right moment to make his glorious comeback?
Besides the revealing interview, there’s not a whole lot of edge to be had here. I appreciate the attempt to maintain a solid story line, but it’s tough to offer the chaos and brutality that Bedlam has produced in previous issues, then follow it up with slow burn story progression heavily reliant on dialogue, without it feeling like it’s slowing down. I don’t want this story to slow down, I like that it slaps me in the face with every issue. Maybe I’m expecting too much. It’s not over yet, but I really hope for a return to the intensity that I’ve come to identify with Bedlam. Regardless, I still say everyone should be reading this series.
Writing: Steve Niles
Art: Christopher Mitten
Review by Melissa Megan
Cal McDonald and Eben Olemaun have been battling it out in the middle of Los Angeles. Eben is out for revenge after the murder of his wife, Stella, by creating an army of vampires and feasting on the human race. He sells this plan to his followers by convincing them that vampires should no longer hide in the shadows of night but become the superior race on earth, knocking humans down on the food chain. Cal is now among the world of ghouls, walking and fighting but not necessarily living. He’s been tormented by a black vomit illness since his ‘change’ and struggles to maintain the strength needed to defeat the vampire leader and save the human race.
Final Night is the final issue of the Criminal Macabre/ 30 Days of Night crossover and writer Steve Niles has declared that only one of the series will survive when it’s over. I’m not a spoiler type, but I will tell you that I’m very happy about the outcome.
Cal pulls himself out of the rubble, entrails and organs on the floor, ready to keep kicking ass. That is what the man does best, at the sacrifice of his own physical and mental well being. It’s obvious to his best ghoul buddy, Mo’Lock, that he won’t be sticking around for much longer in his current condition and Mo’Lock is determined to do anything he can to save Cal. Blood is required to heal his already dead body, but who’s blood? And how much?
Meanwhile, Eben has released his army upon the Los Angeles night, beginning with the busy party strip. They feast, tear and demolish their way through the crowds, hungry for destruction and blood. Eben has Detective Alice Blood, Cal’s love interest, and knows that Cal will come for her. The two leaders will soon come face to face with their armies; ghouls versus vampires. Only one side can win this fight and there’s no doubt blood will be shed.
I’ve been reading Criminal Macabre for years, it’s one of my top favorite series. 30 Days of Night is also quality work, just not as much of a draw for me as the big, rag tag personality of Cal McDonald. Steve Niles has pulled off this crossover with skill, managing to let the two main characters meet and go to war without diminishing the power of either. These are two bad ass dudes, each with their own personal agendas and commitments to their cause. Christopher Mitten’s art has been a treat and a perfect companion to this story. I’ve very much enjoyed seeing the two clash and I think the conclusion of Final Night will satisfy readers, regardless of who you were hoping to see come out on top.
Writing: Joe Hill
Art: Gabriel Rodriguez
Colors: Jay Fotos
Review by Melissa Megan
The evil, murderous Dodge has settled himself in to little Bode Locke’s body and succeeded in getting his hands on the long sought after Omega key. The “Last Dance” has begun and it’s ugly. Bode/Dodge is headed to the black door to welcome his terrible, alien friends to this world and he won’t let anyone stand in his way, starting with poor Nina Locke.
While darkness is falling over the Locke house, Tyler and Kinsey are enjoying prom with their friends. Tyler accepts what he can get from the woman he loves and comes to terms with the tragedy of being in love in high school. Kinsey revels in the unique qualities of her closest friends and as the night comes to a close, chooses the after party over home. Everyone is headed for the caves, where the final party of the year is just beginning, in more ways than the Locke family realizes.
If you’ve been reading Locke & Key, by now, if you have a heart, you should be desperate to see this family come out on top. At the least see them stop hurting. The Lockes have lost so much and struggled so hard to keep their family whole, it kills me to watch them be defeated by the weasley, arrogant Dodge. And as much as I really, really hate to see Locke & Key come to an end, the suspense of how it will all end is becoming unbearable. Oh please, please let the Locke family stop the demons. They deserve that much.
Writing by: Alex DeCampi
Art by: Christine Larsen, Tim Durning, Cassandra James
Valentine is a French soldier in 1812, stumbling through a blizzard in Russia with a fellow fighter when they come across an injured couple and attempt to help them. The stranger gives Valentine a package and demands that he deliver it, no matter the cost. They are attacked by a huge, red eyed army and Valentine is shot down while escaping, his last memory being of a beautiful woman dragging him in to the water as his body bleeds out. And thus begins his crazy journey through a world wrought with dangerous demons and monsters, delicate magic, newly discovered origins and mystical lands.
Valentine was originally a digital only book, and free to read on Comixology. Well, it’s still free to read, which is incredible. Now you can also get it in print, as a collection. It’s a really well written story, encompassing both a war setting and a fantasy element. These two are sewn together nicely and the action flows smoothly so there is never a dull moment. The art is very pretty, vibrantly colored and expressive, the many creatures well drawn to feel like brand new monsters we haven’t seen before. The whole story has a sort of dreamy vibe in the way that Valentine is never completely sure what is real and what is being conjured for his mind.
This book is an enjoyable and fresh read and well worth purchasing in print, even if only to support the creators so they can continue to write more of it. I would love to see what new adventures await Valentine in his search to find his purpose in the world, reconnect with his lost love and battle the evil forces trying to harness his power for devious means. Valentine, Vol. 1: The Ice Death is available now from Image.
Writing by: Ian Thomas
Art by: Adam Bolton
This is the story of a little boy who has lost his pet and sets out on a journey to find it. He’s searching for his Shoggoth; what exactly that is remains a mystery until the end. This is a children’s book but with a definite horror theme, filled with gloriously detailed monsters and ghouls. As the boy travels through all sorts of spooky terrains and encounters all sorts of creatures he’s disappointed when each one is not exactly his Shoggoth.
The art of Where’s My Shoggoth is just plain gorgeous. Super detail, gothic coloring, so much careful attention to the particular textures and weight in each individual environment. Although the creatures are satisfyingly scary for an adult to enjoy, the boy’s easy bravery and casual attitude towards them keeps the story from ever being too terrifying for a child. The kid never shows a bit of fear when faced with a new beast, which keeps the story light-hearted. It’s a very crafty, well done approach to children’s material with in the horror genre.
Where’s My Shoggoth is a brilliant mix of Dr. Seuss style rhyme and rhythm, classic ‘searching for my mommy/pet/friend’ story line and H.P. Lovecraft demons. There are some extra great goodies included here too, like a Chutes & Ladders type board game. In all aspects, this is a fantastic book for the kids who enjoy a little scare and of course just in time for Halloween!
Where’s My Shoggoth is available now from Archaia.
Writing: A.J. Lieberman
Art: Colin Lorimer
Ben was a successful surgeon until a nasty drug habit caused him to allow a woman to die on his table, exposing his addiction and his incompetence and eventually resulting in the loss of his medical license. After being approached by some powerful people running an illegal organ trade business, Ben quickly realized that his new job is despicable in enough ways that not even the lure of money and power are temptation worth doing it. He decides to blow up the business and try to rescue the latest victim, who he stole organs from, in an attempt to satisfy his relentless guilt.
As the Feds close in on Ben and clue him in to just how much trouble he is in, he realizes that his short stint in the organ theft business was enough for the people at the top to put the heat on him. His next choice is to throw himself in to a quest for revenge; calling in a favor to a rich man who’s daughter Ben saved gives him just the right partner he needs to pull it off. The millionaire clients that pay the organ business to keep them healthy and off of organ donation waiting lists are Ben’s targets and he wastes no time starting the hunt.
Harvest #3 picks up the pace nicely that it lacked in the first two issues, pushing the story in to new territory with more action and a plot that has potential to carry several more issues. I’m not going to say that Harvest is blowing me away just yet, but it’s definitely entertaining, morbid and unique. Those are all traits that are plenty to keep me reading.