Do you remember those movies that we all used to stare at in the video store? The ones with the amazing titles, the lurid cover art, and the awesome-sDo you remember those movies that we all used to stare at in the video store? The ones with the amazing titles, the lurid cover art, and the awesome-sounding synopses, but no actual stills from the movie on the back? The ones that, whenever we rented them, inevitably turned out to disappoint us completely?
SuperGhost is the book that we all wanted those movies to be. It's got an irresistible logline and the manic energy of a Full Moon Home Video release, but without any limits on budget (or imagination). One of the other reviewers read it while eating a bag of gummy bears; if you can find a bag of gummy severed limbs, that seems like a perfect compliment to this book. If not, I suppose gummy worms'll do. If not that, a pint of ice cream, in a pinch....more
Let me just get this out of the way before we start the review: For my money, at least two of the greatest masters of the weird tale who have ever livLet me just get this out of the way before we start the review: For my money, at least two of the greatest masters of the weird tale who have ever lived are alive today and working in comics. One is Mike Mignola, and the other is Junji Ito. This is not just Junji Ito’s first horror collection in eight years, but it’s also the only collection of his unrelated horror shorts that’s widely available in print and in the English language right now. That, in itself, is enough to make Fragments of Horror a cause for celebration and the fact that it’s in a gorgeous hardcover edition that looks spectacular on the shelf alongside Viz Media’s other recent Junji Ito releases Uzumaki and Gyo makes it doubly so.
Honestly, if you’re a Junji Ito enthusiast, then just knowing that there’s new work out there is probably enough to get you ordering. If you’re not, then it’s probably because you haven’t yet been introduced to his work. While Uzumaki remains his towering masterpiece and an indispensable piece of modern weird fiction, there are much worse places to make your introduction to Ito’s work than in the pages of Fragments of Horror.
In his typically self-deprecating author’s note at the end of the book, Ito wonders whether his horror instincts have returned, but it doesn’t take much reading to find out that they have. In fact, Fragments of Horror reads very much like what it is: a return to form. In this volume, you’ll find a cross-section of just about everything you can expect from Ito’s work, from the sublime to the grotesque, and from the serious to the silly. There’s a poignant tale right next door to a ludicrous one. Almost all of them contain Ito’s trademark talent for a perfectly-timed panel, the equivalent of the jump-scare reveal in a movie at just the right moment but all the more impressive because Ito allows it to linger.
While Ito has better stories in other books, this is a great collection and an admirable sampling of what makes a Junji Ito story stand out, whether it’s being terrifying or just ridiculous. “Futon,” the first story in the book, is a pretty perfect primer of what you can expect from Junji Ito, all in a compact eight pages, while stories like “Dissection-Chan” and “Blackbird” feel like classic Ito tales. There’s even a touch of his tendency to repeat characters, as the couple from “Futon” show up again in “Tomio – Red Turtleneck.” “Magami Nanakuse,” meanwhile, is a perfect example of one of Ito’s sillier stories.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how well Fragments of Horror stacks up next to Junji Ito’s previous horror collections. For those of us who have already been indoctrinated in the cult of Ito, each new story is a treasure. For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of discovering him, this will serve as a fine introduction. What is important is that the people at Viz Media seem to know the importance of the occasion and have treated Ito’s first collection in almost a decade with the reverence it deserves. The edition is beautiful and sturdy, and just seeing pictures of the cover online cannot possibly do it justice. Once you’ve held it in your hands, you’ll know that this is a special book, one that deserves a special place on your shelf....more
When it comes to comics based on video games, you never really know what to expect, especially since I'm entirely unfamiliar with the property. But thWhen it comes to comics based on video games, you never really know what to expect, especially since I'm entirely unfamiliar with the property. But this had art by Joe Querio and a Mike Mignola cover and the setting seemed intriguing. I wasn't disappointed. The story could easily have become crass and exploitative in the recent "gritty" video game vein, but Paul Tobin kept it readable and made Geralt a more-than-usually affable take on the typical hero of this sort of tale. Querio's art is beautifully suited to this kind of stuff, and his takes on several of the monsters were very creepy. Solidly done, and if there's another volume, I'd happily read more!...more
In what may be the first true Mignolaverse book without Mignola's name on the spine (someone correct me if I'm wrong), Kim Newman and Maura McHugh ablIn what may be the first true Mignolaverse book without Mignola's name on the spine (someone correct me if I'm wrong), Kim Newman and Maura McHugh ably take the reigns of one of my favorite Mignolaverse characters for a bizarre and very, very British romp. Tyler Crook, lately of the B.P.R.D. series, is on art duties, and he's well-suited to the material, particularly when giant eels or gory deaths are involved. Though it will be tough for any other Witchfinder trade to reach the dizzying heights of the first volume, this was a welcome return to form after the disappointing (for me at least) second installment. ...more
Giallo Fantastique is something special, and I'm not saying that just because it contains my story "The Red Church." I liked The Children of Old LeechGiallo Fantastique is something special, and I'm not saying that just because it contains my story "The Red Church." I liked The Children of Old Leech as much as anyone, but with this anthology and 2013's Tales of Jack the Ripper, editor Ross Lockhart show's that he's got a master's eye for selecting "strange stories at the intersection of crime, terror, and the supernatural," as the back matter for Giallo Fantastique would have it.
If you're unfamiliar with either of the two terms that make up this book's title, worry not, as Lockhart's erudite and concise introduction gives a clear context for both the genres of the Italian Giallo and the French Fantastique. From there the book wisely opens with Michael Kazepis's "Minerva," probably the closest thing to a full-on Giallo film in print form that you'll find here, following that up with Adam Cesare's "In the Flat Light," which reminded me of a dead-serious take on the Giallo-parody/homage film The Editor in all the best ways.
Of course, as with any anthology, not every story is going to be 100% to my taste, and there are one or two tales in Giallo Fantastique that were great, but fell too far afield of the Giallo tree for my personal preferences. Still, for the most part, the anthology is a perfect cocktail of the vivid and surreal world conjured by the very best Gialli. Other highlights include MP Johnson's unusual and perfectly-titled "The Strange Vice of ZLA-313," and E. Catherine Tobler's "The Threshold of Waking Light." And John Langan's "The Communion of Saints" is worth the price of admission all by itself. Right after I read it, I described it on Facebook as "the bastard offspring of a John Langan story and a Stephen Graham Jones story, in all the best ways," and I stick by that. It's one of my favorite stories from one of my favorite contemporary writers, hands down.
Really, though, no matter how much some stories may stand out, no one tale is the real star of Giallo Fantastique. The real star is the book itself, the rare instance of a themed anthology that truly lives up to its high-concept. And even if you don't end up liking the book, just look at that amazing cover! Don't you want that thing on your shelf? ...more
I didn't actually get to read all the stories in this book before I had to move on to some other stuff for various reasons, but I read enough to knowI didn't actually get to read all the stories in this book before I had to move on to some other stuff for various reasons, but I read enough to know that it's an impressive collection. Anyone who knows Ellen at all knows that this is kind of the collection she was born to edit, and it shows. I'm personally a little saddened by the prohibition against "evil" dolls, because I do love a good evil/possessed doll story, but I understand why it would be necessary, and I think it did push some of the authors to stretch outside of what you might generally find in an anthology with this theme. Standouts for me included "Gaze" by the always-reliable Gemma Files and "Daniel's Theory About Dolls" by the equally-reliable Stephen Graham Jones....more
In addition to being probably my favorite editor working in the field--and not just because he frequently buys my stories--Ross E. Lockhart is also anIn addition to being probably my favorite editor working in the field--and not just because he frequently buys my stories--Ross E. Lockhart is also an author to be reckoned with, and his novel Chick Bassist is one of the best I've read in recent years. This is an ebook collection of light and humorous holiday stories, ranging from a giant monster scenario to a Robert E. Howard tribute and beyond. My favorite was probably "The Killer Fruitcake That Ate Petaluma."...more
Full disclosure: This book contains my story "Lovecrafting" and it was edited by my good friend Jesse Bullington.
Starting with a particularly clever lFull disclosure: This book contains my story "Lovecrafting" and it was edited by my good friend Jesse Bullington.
Starting with a particularly clever logline--all of the contributors were asked to read H.P. Lovecraft's seminal essay on the genre, "Supernatural Horror in Literature," pick a passage, and write an original story in response--Jesse has assembled one of the most creative anthologies to come out of the huge boom in Lovecraft-themed anthos. The stories in Letters to Lovecraft are all over the map, both in style and theme and in their connection to Lovecraft. Some are overt, some not so much, and some are all the way over into, say, werewolf country. What ties the stories together is that they are almost uniformly smart and well-written (and then there's mine), with particular favorites coming from Livia Llewellyn, Gemma Files, and Robin D. Laws. ...more
In a volume that feels very much like it's building toward something after the climax of Chapel of Bones, we see Lord Baltimore assembling a group thaIn a volume that feels very much like it's building toward something after the climax of Chapel of Bones, we see Lord Baltimore assembling a group that will, presumably, ultimately go up against the Red King and his agents. For now we have a couple of stories, one about a town besieged by witchcraft, the other about the fate of the Inquisitor Duvic.
The first story features illustrations by new Baltimore artists Peter Bergting, whose work is fun and evocative, though I can't help missing previous series artist Ben Stenbeck, who remains my favorite non-Mignola artist to work on a Mignola book (tall praise indeed). I guess I'll just have to take solace in the fact that he's moved on to Frankenstein Underground.
The second story was my favorite in this volume by a margin. Stenbeck's art is as good as ever, the werewolf is portrayed beautifully, and the scenes in the castle at the end had a wonderful Castlevania vibe to them that few other things can capture. ...more
There's so much to say about Vermilion, and I am in the grips of a summer cold right now, and so probably can't do it justice. When I learned that MolThere's so much to say about Vermilion, and I am in the grips of a summer cold right now, and so probably can't do it justice. When I learned that Molly Tanzer's debut novel was coming out, I was already suitably excited, as Molly is a friend and one of the best writers working in our field right now, but when she described it as "taking place in past of Big Trouble in Little China," I was all kinds of hooked, and the end result didn't disappoint.
Other reviewers have certainly covered most if not all of what I'd like to say about this book, but it's fun and smart and diverse and daring and adventurous, with a world that feels at once fully-formed and begging for more exploration. If I have one complaint, it's that I wanted to see more of Lou's pyschopompery, which was just utterly fascinating from top to bottom, but with any luck this will just be the first of many adventures with Lou and company, so I'll get more in future books!
Maybe I'll write a more cogent review when I'm less sick, but for now, this book comes about as highly recommended as books can come from me....more
It was weird reading Rosemary's Baby for the first time. I've read books before where I already knew the plot well in advance, or where I'd seen the mIt was weird reading Rosemary's Baby for the first time. I've read books before where I already knew the plot well in advance, or where I'd seen the movie, or what-have-you, but seldom has it been so much a case of deja vu as this one. Partly because I saw the movie for the first time not that long ago, and partly because the movie is at least as good as--if not better than--the book, and also hews extremely closely to it, so reading the book felt more than just familiar.
It's also got an odd structure, even for a short novel. A structure more like a short story, one that circles around a single phenomenon, and hinges on a reveal. Which, everyone already knows what that reveal is, even if you haven't ever seen the movie or read the book. The book is still effective and still cleverly written, but the waiting for what you know is coming transforms somehow from dread into a kind of impatience, or at least it did for me.
Still, in those early chapters, when Hutch is talking about the history of the Bramford? It doesn't get much better than that. ...more
I liked this. It was a cute, fun read, that shows some of the strengths of having an expansive superhero universe to play in, while still telling a smI liked this. It was a cute, fun read, that shows some of the strengths of having an expansive superhero universe to play in, while still telling a small, nicely self-contained story. I liked the flashbacks showing Black Canary and Zatanna's friendship developing, and I liked how each one of them was a unique character from the other. Also, I just like Black Canary and Zatanna, in general....more
The recent Abe Sapien books have been some of the best stuff that's coming out of the (consistently excellent) "Mignolaverse" lately, and normally I lThe recent Abe Sapien books have been some of the best stuff that's coming out of the (consistently excellent) "Mignolaverse" lately, and normally I like books that are basically a bunch of stand-alone short stories better than I like a big overarching plot, but Strange Places didn't come together quite as well for me as the last couple of Abe Sapien books did. Which isn't to say that it's bad--there's some excellent stuff here, and Max and Sebastian Fiumara continue to do fantastic work on art duties, continuing to make the Abe Sapien titles their own in much the same way that Guy Davis did with B.P.R.D. back in the day--but it never quite reached the same heights as Dark & Terrible & the New Race of Man or The Shape of Things to Come. ...more
I love P. Craig Russell, I love The Graveyard Book, and I loved Russell's previous adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, so I was really expecting toI love P. Craig Russell, I love The Graveyard Book, and I loved Russell's previous adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, so I was really expecting to love this, but something about it just left me cold. I can't put my finger on why, and maybe it was just the wrong time for me to attempt reading it.
The other artists working on this edition are pretty much uniformly great, but they also all feel here like they're pretty much just doing their best P. Craig Russell imitation, which sort of made me wish that he'd just illustrated the whole thing. (With the big exception being Scott Hampton's contribution, which looks just like Scott Hampton.)
Again, I feel a bit bad giving this two stars, because it should have wowed me, but I'd feel worse giving it any more, because it just didn't. Maybe I'll come back and try it again in a few months and have better luck. ...more
The LoJo books so far can be divided pretty neatly between the first one and all the subsequent ones. Part of this has been artist Tonci Zonjic, who hThe LoJo books so far can be divided pretty neatly between the first one and all the subsequent ones. Part of this has been artist Tonci Zonjic, who has become the Lobster Johnson artist. Of all of the volumes after Iron Prometheus, this one is almost certainly the best, packing in more weirdness, more allusions to later stories, and a deft touch throughout. Zonjic's art is perfect for the material--and he even does a reasonable facsimile of Mignola's trademark cover layouts for the cover of the trade. Probably my favorite part was the gradual accretion of the implied history of The Lobster, which actually made things weirder even as it sort of explained them, which nobody is better at than Mignola....more
Eric Orchard is a national treasure (except for the part where he's from another nation). I don't actually remember where I first ran across his work-Eric Orchard is a national treasure (except for the part where he's from another nation). I don't actually remember where I first ran across his work--maybe his adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer's "The Situation"?--but I've been a fan for a long time, and we've been friends online for years now. As I type this, there's an original ink drawing that Eric did of a myconid hanging on the wall of my office. So to say that I've been eagerly awaiting the advent of his first graphic novel is an understatement, and Maddy Kettle is worth the wait.
The most obvious thing that's great about Eric's work is his art, which is unlike anything else around, in all the best possible ways. But there's more to it than that. While his storytelling here may seem simplistic, and while conflicts often last only a couple of pages, there's something absolutely timeless and classic about the story of Maddy Kettle and the Thimblewitch, something that throws back to classics of children's literature like The Wizard of Oz. Everything here feels right, even as it feels delightfully strange, and there's a wonderful emphasis on friendship and understanding, delivered in ways that are too seldom seen, even in all-ages literature.
I've gotten a glimpse of some of what's coming in the future from Eric, and so I can say with some confidence that Maddy Kettle is the start of something big. So get on board now....more
Read this one for a second time--though apparently the first was back before I used Goodreads--because I'm writing the introduction for the forthcominRead this one for a second time--though apparently the first was back before I used Goodreads--because I'm writing the introduction for the forthcoming reissue from Valancourt Books! Westall is a favorite of mine, so may this be the first of many of his books coming back into print! ...more
I wrote the introduction to this book, so you can read it to see what I thought! (Actually, that's a trick, the introduction doesn't really tell you wI wrote the introduction to this book, so you can read it to see what I thought! (Actually, that's a trick, the introduction doesn't really tell you what I thought, it's basically just a bonus short story, only by me instead of Nick.)...more
Pretty much everything I said about Silvia's prior collection This Strange Way of Dying also goes for Love & Other Poisons. These are mesmerizingPretty much everything I said about Silvia's prior collection This Strange Way of Dying also goes for Love & Other Poisons. These are mesmerizing stories of magic and the fantastic--sometimes the horrific, always the strange--but always with a core of perfect human pathos that keeps them feeling grounded and immediate. Some of the best I had read other places; in tables of contents that Silvia and I shared, such as "Abandon All Flesh" from Tales of Jack the Ripper or "Man in Blue Overcoat" from Handsome Devil. As in This Strange Way of Dying there are vampires here, and overtones of Lovecraft, and the occasional steampunk trapping. There are stories here that pull from Poe ("Variations of Figures Upon the Wall") and Stoker ("A Handful of Earth"), but all of the stories are pure Silvia, shot through with Mexican folklore and the tone of effortless unearthliness that Silvia manages to well.
I've worked with Silvia many times as an editor, so it's easy to forget that she's also one of the best contemporary writers I know of. Fortunately, Love & Other Poisons is here as a reminder....more
Richard Corben is a living legend, and Spirits of the Dead represents him doing some of the best work he's ever done, with the possible exception of tRichard Corben is a living legend, and Spirits of the Dead represents him doing some of the best work he's ever done, with the possible exception of the Hellboy story "The Crooked Man." This is by no means the first time that Corben has tackled adaptations of the stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe, but it's him at his most confident, his most assured, and his most Corben. Not only is the artwork sublime, but the stories, which are often loose adaptations, are frequently brilliant. I especially loved some of the touches in "The Conqueror Worm" and "The Masque of the Red Death." The use of lines from the poem "The Haunted Palace" in "Red Death" were deployed to particularly brilliant effect.
This is a book that's great for Halloween, and one that I'll be returning to again and again. Well worth checking out. ...more
One of the great things about the Hellboy universe is how many different things it can be. Whatever you like from other books, chances are there's anOne of the great things about the Hellboy universe is how many different things it can be. Whatever you like from other books, chances are there's an awesome analog in the Hellboy books somewhere. This time out, the already post-apocalyptic B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth series becomes an apocalyptic superhero showdown in a ruined New York, with bizarre and kinetic art as only James Harren can supply. ...more
Maplecroft reads like a way better version of one of those books from the Monster Lit craze that hit a while back: It's Lizzie Borden: Cthulhu FighterMaplecroft reads like a way better version of one of those books from the Monster Lit craze that hit a while back: It's Lizzie Borden: Cthulhu Fighter, only way, way better than that sounds.
I've been a fan of Cherie Priest for a long while now, and I love her blend of horror and adventure stories, though I tend to like them better when they angle nearer the horror and farther from the steampunk. That said, Maplecroft is very much in the same vein as some of her earlier historical horror novellas, such as Those Who Went Remain There Still or (moreso) Dreadful Skin. It's not a novella, however, but a novel, and what feels like the beginning of a series (the subtitle of "The Borden Dispatches" would help bear this out).
While in lesser hands the Lizzie Borden vs. Cthulhu angle would become really silly really quickly, this is actually a remarkably subtle story, with the "Cthulhu" (never actually called such) angle remaining an ominous presence always on the horizon, but never wanting for creepy monsters or unsettling phenomena in the short term.
If anything holds Maplecroft back, it is the feeling of being the beginning of a series. The story wraps up nicely, while still leaving a lot of ambivalence to be picked up in later books, but there's also a sense of hesitancy to the book's final chapters--as though maybe there'll be more, and maybe there won't--that pulls a little bit of the punch. Otherwise though, great work from Priest here, and I really, really enjoyed it....more
Like the previous volume this one is new, and deals with wrapping up the series. It's a pretty fittingly epic conclusion, but it can't quite deliver oLike the previous volume this one is new, and deals with wrapping up the series. It's a pretty fittingly epic conclusion, but it can't quite deliver on the power of the earlier volumes, and at times the events feel a bit rushed. Still, there's some great moments here, and it's a fitting end to one of the best comic series I've ever had the pleasure of reading....more
The Courtney Crumrin series is one of the best comics around, full stop, and in a more perfect universe it would enjoy some of the acclaim and recogniThe Courtney Crumrin series is one of the best comics around, full stop, and in a more perfect universe it would enjoy some of the acclaim and recognition that Harry Potter has experienced. So when they reissued the whole series, now in color and, more importantly, hardback, I replaced all mine, and only just now got around to finishing up the (new) two final volumes.
Sadly, they're not as good as what led up to them, which is not to say they aren't still good, they're great, but this one relies too much on wrapping up plotlines from previous volumes, meaning that it can't stand on its own as well as they did. Also, things feel a bit rushed and, perhaps necessarily, a bit repetitive as a result....more
This was an impulse purchase the the Half Price Books clearance sale, and it was okay. A manga prequel to The Ring/Ringu it does about what you'd expeThis was an impulse purchase the the Half Price Books clearance sale, and it was okay. A manga prequel to The Ring/Ringu it does about what you'd expect from that, though it's frequently a little choppy and hard to follow. Still, it reminded me of how much I like horror manga done well, so maybe it's time for some Junji Ito rereads in my future......more
Full Disclosure: This volume contains my story "Walpurgisnacht."
For the second anthology from Ross Lockhart's Word Horde imprint, he and co-editor JusFull Disclosure: This volume contains my story "Walpurgisnacht."
For the second anthology from Ross Lockhart's Word Horde imprint, he and co-editor Justin Steele choose to honor the "carnivorous cosmos" of one of the finest living practitioners of the weird tale, Laird Barron. It's perhaps a ballsy move, but also a logical one, the kind that seems so obvious the minute it's mentioned to you.
Like with Tales of Jack the Ripper, they'e assembled a truly stellar cast of bright lights of the weird fiction field to pay tribute to Laird, and they also let me slip in somehow. It's a book that's packed with standout stories, and there's pretty much not a dud in the bunch.
Perhaps most impressive, nobody is simply content to ape Laird, and every single story can be enjoyed, I think, without a prior knowledge of his body of work, though said knowledge will up the enjoyment quotient considerably. Nobody is sleep-walking through their story, or taking the easy road. Virtually ever tale is a near-perfect evocation of Laird's "carnivorous cosmos," while still staying true to the style of the individual authors; a considerable accomplishment. It's a book that I think is going to get a lot of well-deserved attention, and one that I'm proud to be a part of....more
The new continuing adventures of the newly-evolved Abe Sapien continue in this volume, combining two stories "The Shape of Things to Come" and the lonThe new continuing adventures of the newly-evolved Abe Sapien continue in this volume, combining two stories "The Shape of Things to Come" and the longer "To the Last Man." The stories maintain the great old TV series feel of Abe wandering from place to place, encountering new characters in each "episode" and dealing with new threats and phenomena. "The Shape of Things to Come" features some amazing myth-building, but not a lot in the way of story, while "To the Last Man" feels more like a complete episode. I like how in both it's the characters around Abe who get the big arcs, while Abe is mostly present as observer and catalyst.
Once again the art chores are handled by Max and Sebastian Fiumara, who are really making this series their own. These are mostly great stories, and if they suffer at all, it's from working too hard to ground everything in its context of the larger framework of stuff that's going on in the universe at the moment. This new Abe Sapien series works best when it's doing smaller, personal stories about the effects of this new world on everyday people, only brushing up against the bigger plots.
That said, the slow buildup of Gustav Strobl has been fantastic, and comes to an interesting turning point here....more
Seems sort of an odd choice to have wrapped the Baltimore storyline around to the point where the novel ends so, well, suddenly, but it pays off decenSeems sort of an odd choice to have wrapped the Baltimore storyline around to the point where the novel ends so, well, suddenly, but it pays off decently well. For all that this volume does, in fact, retread the events of the novel, it doesn't feel as much like a retread even as the first volume did, somehow. And coming full circle but leaving the story open to continue frees up the narrative from the "Baltimore chasing Haigus here and there" structure that the series has had so far.
And, while I was just kind of pooh-poohing retreads, I have to say that I would have loved to have seen Ben Stenbeck's take on images from the stories of Childress, Rose, and Aischros, even just a frame or two from each. ...more
The concept of this one is neat, but feels a little... underdeveloped, maybe? And I'm still not sold on the art of either Jason Latour or Laurence CamThe concept of this one is neat, but feels a little... underdeveloped, maybe? And I'm still not sold on the art of either Jason Latour or Laurence Campbell. Not because there's anything wrong with their art--both are good--but because they just don't seem to fit into the Mignolaverse as well as some of the other artists, at least to my eye. That said, this is a fun piece of WWII comics action, the Sledgehammer character (originally in the first Lobster Johnson book) looks great, and I really liked the writing on the Black Flame's dialogue (monologue?)....more