Posts tagged vampires

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Review: Final Night #4 of 4

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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.

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Review: Criminal Macabre: Final Night- 30 Days of Night Crossover #2

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Writing: Steve Niles

Art: Christopher Mitten

Issue #2 of the Criminal Macabre / 30 Days of Night crossover continues the clash of Cal Mcdonald, hunter of everything supernatural and evil, and vampire leader Eben Olemaun. Eben is building  a huge army of blood sucking monsters in hopes of taking over the world from humans. Cal and his ghoul sidekick, Mo’Lock, have teamed up with a pretty female FBI agent named Alice Blood. For the first time, Cal is actually getting some assistance from law enforcement, mostly because the vampires have been massacring agents and police officers all over L.A.

Cal is a ghoul now and having some challenges adjusting to that, but it hasn’t stopped him from carrying on his business or living hard. Eben Olemaun is kicking ass inside his circle to reclaim the remains of his wife and to express his rage over her death on the human race. Very soon, these two will clash and the battle will be ugly.

Crossovers are a tough thing in comic books; stories are not written to melt in to each other and combining them often takes something away from one or the other. This combination is working, maybe because the backdrop of supernatural power struggles are so similar in Criminal Macabre and 30 Days of Night. The personalities of Cal McDonald and Eben Olemaun are both intense and raw, there can only be an explosion when the two are brought together.

Steve Niles has been rumored to say that only one of these characters (and their series) will survive this crossover. Personally, I’m betting on Cal McDonald and Mo’Lock. I’ve been a fan of the Criminal Macabre series for years and it would be a terrible loss to comics to see his story end. Do you hear me, Steve? Let Cal live!

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Review: 30 Days of Night #10

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Writing by: Steve Niles

Art by: Christopher Mitten

Eben’s vampire army is growing by the hundreds every day. He’s driven to get revenge for the brutal death of his love, Stella. he is also attempting to forge some kind of alliance or at least a truce with the deceitful European vampires. At the same time, FBI agents are crossing lines to find an advantage in their fight against the blood thirsty creatures. They’re bringing big guns and no fear, throwing rules and protocol to the wind.

Scary tale spinner extraordinaire Steve Niles continues the trek of Eben and his immortal tribe of vampires in 30 Days of Night #10. This series has been going for a long time now, and it’s featured a few artists along the way, but the work of Christopher MItten feels really harmonious here. Issue #10 doesn’t bring much action, really, but instead takes a slow burn to build up the tension for upcoming confrontations and likely messy battles.

30 Days of Night is one the best horror series on the shelves today, so if you aren’t already reading it, start now. There’s plenty of material out there already.

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Review: Criminal Macabre Omnibus Volume 2

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Writer: Steve Niles

Artist: Kyle Hotz, Nick Stakal, Casey Jones

Colorist: Michelle Madsen

Cover Artist: Fiona Staples

Ah, Cal McDonald. The cranky, drug-addled hunter of supernatural miscreants. I’m going to assume that most of you are familiar with Criminal Macabre already, and if you’re not, well you need to remedy that, ASAP. Criminal Macabre is one of those classic indie titles that swims with the likes of Preacher, Hellblazer and Hell Boy. It’s just way more fun to battle with ghosts, vampires, werewolves, ghouls and various otherworldly evils when the hero is a little rough around the edges, showing his own battle scars, often self inflicted. And don’t forget Mo’Lock, Cal’s always composed but never quite dead, ghoulish side kick. Mo’Lock always shows up unannounced, ready to assist in whatever way he can, even if that means giving Cal a good ass kicking to get him back on his feet.

This trade collects Criminal Macabre Volumes 4-6, the one-shot story Feat of Clay, “The Creepy Tree” and “The Trouble with Brains” from MySpace Dark Horse Presents, and “Hairball” from Dark Horse Presents #102-#105. There are so many great stories in this book and personally I always find a little extra satisfaction having my favorite works collected in TPB or hard cover. They just look pretty on the shelf and it’s easier to brag about your collection when you can just point and smile. This is 368 pages of pure fun, fantastic horror writing and edgy artwork.

I think my personal favorite in this collection is Two Red Eyes. This particular story starts with Cal getting the living shit beat out of him by a powerful local official with police ties, his girlfriend being hunted by an ancient vampire and a legion of ghouls showing up to be his own personal army. The story reveals Cal’s lowest lows; his ability to love is still alive and well, if buried deep below a thick layer of pills and alcohol. The art is gritty and heavy, but realistically detailed.

Criminal Macabre Omnibus Volume 2 is available now through Dark Horse comics. This is, most definitely, one worthy of a prime spot on your bookshelf.

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Book Review: Ian Healy’s Blood on the Ice

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Review by Prof. Jenn

Ever hear of the phrase, “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”? Well in Ian Healy’s Blood on the Ice, the blood is of a different flavor than your basic in-game scuffle. And in this era of post-brooding-Louis and sparkling bloodsuckers, that’s a good thing.

Healy’s snickering, boyish humor is a highlight of this novel—from the characters’ postmodern comments on vampiric pop culture to the hockey teammates’ constant good-natured trash talking to the wry snarkiness of the “narrator” (a lovely twist as to the identity of the narrator I won’t spoil for you, but wait for the delightful punchline) pull us through this story with tight action and a keen series of cliffhanger chapter endings.

The basic dramatic action is as follows: our slightly naïve young protagonist is a part of a sub-sub-par hockey team in Canada (the Fighting Aardvarks—an awesome name), and is caught in the crossfire as his teammates slowly begin to transform into vampires. Already we have an unconventional pairing—hockey and vampires—that oddly makes a lot of sense. As we follow Hammie through one failed and one successful romance, through his slow discovery of why his teammates are acting so strangely, to his hilariously guilt-trippy parents, unusually brilliant history of vampires and probably the funniest character entrance ever (by a character with an equally ridiculous name: Doogie Van Halen), you get the picture right away that this isn’t your common vampire story, nor is it your common sports-underdog or rom-com story either: it’s a crazy mix of all these things and in the middle, you have characters that are so realistically drawn, you can’t help but root for the home team, even as they mold matzoh balls into bullets.

Three things Healy does especially well in this book: 1) his treatment of the female characters and the romance brewing alongside the action is not in any way sappy, but completely realistic: his women are strong yet feminine, Hammie’s adorable-yet-not-cloying attention to his new love spot-on, and his inclusion of a Goth girl is perfect within the panoply of characters. 2) Healy’s action sequences are exciting without being confusing, detailed without being weighty, and gory to the funniest degree. Of course, we should expect Healy to be good at action scenes, as it’s a bit of a specialty for him: http://www.writebetteraction.com/.   3) the thread of the wry Narrator is gripping throughout—sort of a Chorus to the main throughline of the action.

Overall, this is a thrilling, funny read, and I highly recommend it.   ~Prof. Jenn

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The book’s page on Smashwords:  http://www.smashwords.com/b/38012

His e-book store:  http://www.ianthealy.com/blog/?page_id=1321

 

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5 Tips for the Aspiring 18th-Century Vampire Hunter

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SO.  People are kicking the bucket left and right. A mysterious blight on your community is wiping out entire families, smothering them in the night, when no human could be doing so.  You and your fellow villagers have your suspicions that you’re dealing with a vampire–but what do you do now that you know?  It’s not as easy as waiting for him to rise from the grave and staking him through the heart, particularly if this is not something you’ve done before.  Here are some tips and tricks for helping you hunt down these foul creatures.


TIP #1 Trying to track an anonymous vampire plaguing your village, but can’t seem to figure out who it is?  Try walking a pure white horse over the graves of the recently-deceased members of your village, particularly those who have died before their time (either as a result of pestilence, tragic accident, or particularly drowning and suicide).  Extremely sensitive to these agents of Satan, your horse should be able to locate any vampire in a snap!  Not sure that you’ve got the right guy?  Once disinterred, signs of vampirism should be evident: a swollen, surprisingly well-preserved corpse that often bleeds excessively when punctured and nails and hair that have continued to grow past death.  Vampirism often runs in the family, so for extra safety, be sure to check out the graves of other deceased relatives–and almost certainly if they’ve died by the hand of the vampires in question.

TIP #2 Vampires cannot enter a clean house; it therefore stands to reason that, in order to keep them out, keep your digs in order.  On the other hand, this can be a convenient vampire trap: allow your home to fall into disrepair and just wait for the full moon.  You just might catch him red-handed (and fanged)!  As a bonus, vampires have a compulsive need to organize things, so, wait a few minutes after the vampire has entered your home to take any action, and you may well end up with a clean house in addition to a slain creature of the underworld.

TIP #3 While on the hunt, carry around a light but messy snack, like sunflower seeds, trail mix, or even M&M’s (an interesting futuristic chocolate candy that melts in your mouth, not in your hand).  Much like they compulsively organize, vampires are afflicted with arithmomania and love to count things, so you can scatter your snack to distract your arithmomaniac nemesis and run in a pinch–and if you don’t end up needing it, at least you’ll be left with a delicious snack!

TIP #4 Speaking of delicious snacks, is famine wreaking havoc upon your village?  No problem!  The best way to truly be rid of a vampire is to cut its head off, remove its heart, and burn it (and the human heart is notoriously difficult to burn).  But here’s the convenient part–the most surefire way to be done with it is to feed the leftover heart to the vampire’s living victims and relatives.  Empty stomachs won’t be a problem anymore!  Talk about your heart healthy recipes.

TIP #5 Being tracked by a particularly nasty vampire you just can’t seem to shake?  If the situation has become particularly foul, you can ward him (or her) off by smearing yourself with his blood.  Just keep in mind that this is only for the most extreme situations, as this action may well make you susceptible to becoming a vampire yourself.

REMEMBER: No matter your certainty that you’re dealing with an actual vampire epidemic that had to be quelled before it got out of hand, the church does not officially recognize the existence of vampires and will not look fondly upon your nighttime exploits–so, if they start poking around, lie (unless you like serving time).  Don’t believe me?  Just ask our friends from Lastovo Island.  Even if your local clergyman is behind you, do not mistake his support for that of the church at large.  Be extra careful–it only takes one person to squeal and everyone involved will be excommunicated if not much worse.  Still, it’s a small price to pay for ridding your home of the scourge of evil.

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Supernatural: Live Free or Twi-Hard

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Okay.  So that happened.

What a bizarre little episode.  It started out as one thing and then morphed into something else entirely.  I think my judgment of the episode might change based on what happens in the rest of the season, but for now this episode felt very disjointed.

Thoughts:

Opening teaser:  Caveat. . .I’ve never read any of the books in the Twilight series, nor have I seen the films.  And they aren’t in my future.  I read the first chapter of the book and decided against it.  So I’m sure that multiple jokes passed over my head.  I know enough to recognize that it was a spoof of the Bella/Edward relationship, with the characters named Kristen and Robert in honor of the actor counterparts.  Given that I have read a few pages, I can say that the painful dialogue is a reflection of the books — even taken directly?  Yet, it was a funny little moment that proved to be nothing more than a distraction from real events.  A moment where Supernatural could get their digs in about the Twilight series, and argue that vampires are bloodthirsty beasts not romantic and slightly emo boys, but it felt like an opening that belonged to another episode.  Because everything that came after really had more to do with the metaphysical condition of Sam and Dean than illuminating the makeup of vampires.

Monsters:  I know this season is meant to be more of an exploration of the origins of monsters — to tell more of their story than before — but as of yet, the monsters have really just been a means of showing us the degree to which the Sam/Dean relationship is fractured.  Clearly there is something underlying the Campbell quest.  The search so far (in the episodes we’ve seen) has been focused on alpha-monsters, but for purposes that we have yet to understand.  This episode hinted that the monsters are rising and forming armies, unconcerned with hunters (for some reason this reminds me of the Lord of the Rings — evil creatures forming armies and banding together to defeat all that is good in the world) and, at least with the vampires, sending messages along a psychic network that momentarily renders them unconscious.  It also results in a hallucination worthy of a David Lynch film.

Now, I’m not arguing that I need everything explained to me immediately, but I’m worried that in the quest to show just how messed up Sam really is, that we’re losing some of the richness promised in the backstory of monsters.

Random Aside: I vacillate between the Campbells having evil intent or misguided intent, and as a result I can’t decide whether they want to hunt the alpha-monsters to eliminate the monarch or if they want to capture them to create some kind of Jurassic Park.  Or, even creepier, maybe they want to cross “The Island of Dr. Moreau” with “The Most Dangerous Game” and create a game reserve where the monsters could be bred and then hunted.  Or I could be getting carried away because it’s almost Halloween.

Dean:  Something that I started thinking about last season was that while bad things happen to Dean — losing his father, Sam dying, starting the apocalypse, his inability to save Ellen, Jo, et al. — he is never the one possessed or turned into a monster.  He doesn’t have demon blood running through his veins.  He’s never been taken over by a spirit inhabiting an asylum.  Until this episode.  In the moment that Dean is infected with vampire blood, I couldn’t help but watch Sam and wonder if there wasn’t a part of him that was thrilled to see his brother finally suffer the indignity of contamination.

Of course turning Dean into a monster — into that which he hunts — is clever.  In early seasons we watched Dean struggle with his (then) very black and white interpretation of good and evil and how he couldn’t adhere to this philosophy when the monster was Sam, so this was a nice opportunity to watch Dean’s struggle with being a monster.  The problem is that I’m not sure he really did.  He immediately decided that he needed to be killed.  Not too surprising I guess, but on some level I felt that infecting Dean provided a construct so that he could mess up his relationship with Lisa, complicating a situation that was perhaps going too smoothly for the writers?  Were they worried that the audience would bristle against Lisa’s easy acceptance of the hunter lifestyle?  That scene with Lisa and Ben, which will obviously have implications over the next few episodes, felt really contrived — not the acting, but the writing.  Or was this a meta-reference to the girl/vampire relationship and how, in reality, it truly is impossible and messed up?  (Yes, I know vampires are not real.) ((But they might be.))

Another disappointing element to Dean’s infection was that he really didn’t have any insights into vampirism, beyond the fact that they are sent psychic messages.  No greater understanding of the monster itself or moment that would serve as an epiphany for the audience.  It seemed that the true purpose of infecting Dean was simply to show just how screwed up Sam is, and put the final nail in the trust coffin.  Knowing that Sam allowed him to get infected — enjoyed it even — was really the final straw for Dean.  He knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Sam he has always loved and cared for does not currently exist.  That final moment of the episode, by the Impala, where Dean asks Sam whether he has his back, knowing that the answer is going to be a lie, was pretty solid — and very disheartening.

Though I must say that Dean’s scene in the nest, when he has to take out all of the vampires, was very cool.  And, again, the hallucination/message scene was fantastic.

Sam:  Okay, now I really feel like Sam has lost his soul, because how else do you explain, unless he’s a demon, his callous behavior during Dean’s infection?  That moment, where you realize that Sam is not going to help, would be shocking enough on any normal day in the Supernatural universe, but then to watch his face curl into a sadistic half-smile, was horrifying.  It’s the scene that justified the entire episode.  It’s like the writer recognized that viewers would be questioning the depths of Sam’s fragmentation and wanted to sucker-punch us all.  This was no “Sam’s not right” moment; this was a “Sam is effed up in ways you couldn’t possibly imagine” moment.

Apart from Sam’s secret pleasure at Dean’s vampirism, the other thing that I found significant was his pursuit of information.  Sam’s constant barrage of questions — “what did you see?” — in moments when he should have been concerned about the welfare of his brother was telling, and pointed to an underlying mission that seems to differ from that of the Campbells.

The moment where Samuel questioned Sam, wondering if he allowed Dean to become infected so that he could infiltrate the lair, was a good one.  While we might not yet understand what’s going on with the Campbells, this scene emphasized that we cannot take for granted that their purpose coincides with Sam’s agenda.  Samuel looked both concerned with, and disgusted by, Sam’s behavior, so I think we really need to worry about the Campbells and Sam separately.

The tone of this episode, and Sam’s place in it, made me shake my head at my naive assumptions about last week’s episode.  I commented on how happy I was to see a somewhat normal Sam in “Weekend at Bobby’s” and clearly my interpretation was off.  This was a wholly different creature in this episode.

While I’ve been happy so far with the season (prior to this episode), I do have a concern about pacing.  I’m not sure that Supernatural always knows how to time their reveals — or balance the episodes that come between.  In the early years of The X-Files, you would have episodes that pushed and developed the alien mythology, but interspersed throughout the arc they would present hilarious episodes that did nothing more than point to the inanity of the human condition.  In so doing, the viewer would get a break from the dark paranoia, and would have a moment of humor.  Yet they were able to do this without disrupting the path — without making it seem as though the audience was witnessing a filler episode.

I’m not saying that this episode was filler, but I question whether the reveal, regarding Sam, is proceeding at the correct pace.  We know that Sam is broken, but giving us a relatively normal and empathetic Sam in “Weekend at Bobby’s” disrupts the depth of his wrongness.

Regardless, the trailer for this week made it seem like the Sam issue is about to be tackled in full force.  And maybe once that issue is clarified a bit, then we’ll get even more background into the whole monster conundrum.

Burn Baby Burn

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I’ve really enjoyed the phenomenom that is True Blood these last couple of years… until this season.  This season has been painfully dull (in my humble opinion) and I have to admit I was very pleased to realize that this past Sunday was the finale.

While I haven’t watched it yet – tonight’s the night – I did read an amazing recap on the episode on io9.com

True Blood Season 3 Finale recap on io9.com

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that season 4 will be like Dexter’s season 4 and redeem itself.  Only another year to find out.

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