Here we have the classic tale of an idealist gone astray. Ebenezer Scrooge is a man of conviction, a thrifty and hardworking man who scorns the frivolHere we have the classic tale of an idealist gone astray. Ebenezer Scrooge is a man of conviction, a thrifty and hardworking man who scorns the frivolities of the holiday season, a lone ant in a world of grasshoppers. When his nephew comes by his place of business to coerce him into the fold of this wassail-swilling cult, our hero vows that any man who says "merry Christmas" "should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart". Dear citizen, can one read such word without a swelling of pride in one's chest? I think not. Then come a pair of bleeding-heart do-gooders to the shop, wanting yet another handout for the poor and unfortunate; in amazement at the naïveté of these fellows, Scrooge wonders aloud "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?", and having thusly put these philanthropists in their place, he sends them packing. Yes, in Scrooge we have an intellectual worthy of our God-Empress Ayn Rand; were he not born with the misfortune of being British, I'd term him a Great American Hero. And no effete bookworm is he; when a nasty caroler comes to cry his noxious siren song through the lock, Scrooge is handy with a ruler with which to chase off this warbling fiend.
But in a moment of weakness, he loses his resolve. His scheming no-good clerk Bob Cratchit conjures up the temerity to ask off on Christmas Day, and Scrooge relents. And as the wheels of industry grind to a halt, and Scrooge repairs to his bedchambers, he is visited by monstrous hallucinations that render his brain into weak, sentimental jelly. When released from this paroxysm of madness, he has become another glad-hearted Christmas-loving pod person. My good comrade, the end of this book will have you in tears....more
Before the finale, the Locke kids go back in time, first to the Revolutionary War, where their ancestors discover the Black Door in the depths of theBefore the finale, the Locke kids go back in time, first to the Revolutionary War, where their ancestors discover the Black Door in the depths of the Drowning Cave, then to the late 80's, when their father was in high school. Age-old mysteries are solved, and as is the case with many prequels, the answers revealed are by and large kind of disappointing. Want more insight into the mind of archvillain Dodge? Well, it turns out that before his episode of demonic possession, he was just kind of an affable dim bulb. What about Rendell's other friends who died in the Drowning Cave? Well, they're actually terrible, selfish bigots, but we're supposed to understand that they have good intentions and that their deaths are tragic largely just because Hill tells us so. Hill has a knack for intricate story structure, but without compelling characters the structure appears all too mechanical....more
After spinning its wheels a bit too much over the course of the last two books, "Keys to the Kingdom" finds the series shifting the plot into overdrivAfter spinning its wheels a bit too much over the course of the last two books, "Keys to the Kingdom" finds the series shifting the plot into overdrive. Hill and Rodriguez also must have felt that the plot was stalling, because they endeavor to condense the material here like never before. The challenge seems to have been paradoxically liberating: new magics are revealed with a jarring lack of fuss, and new threats pop up and are dealt with by the ever-resourceful Locke kids in the space of a single panel. ...more
**spoiler alert** After all the narrative work done in volume one, it's a shame Hill does so much wheel-spinning here. Having been sprung from his pri**spoiler alert** After all the narrative work done in volume one, it's a shame Hill does so much wheel-spinning here. Having been sprung from his prison in the wellhouse, the villain adopts some semblance of a normal teenage life and cozies up to the Locke family hoping to find the omega key. But Hill is clearly not ready for that endgame, as much of the plot here is taken up with the villain dealing with tertiary characters who might recognize him and somehow spoil his plans. The head key is a neat gimmick which Hill uses cannily to illustrate the inner lives of the Lockes: look inside Bode and you see that he is protected by his limitless imagination; Tyler, the distressingly ordinary teenage lunkhead, wants to use the key to impress girls and get laid; Kinsey, reeling from her recent trauma, uses it to silence her inner demons; Mom is so drunk and depressed that the sight of her son with an open cranium and a key in his neck barely makes her bat an eye.
Not particularly a fan of the way the characters are drawn; it's sort of a manga style, and their cartoony features clash with the more realistic backgrounds. In the first volume this was less of a barrier, as involving as the storytelling was. I was hoping it would improve, though....more
This would deserve five stars for "Pancakes" alone, but "Box Full of Evil" is also top-drawer. Mignola's shorter stories can be a bit anticlimactic, tThis would deserve five stars for "Pancakes" alone, but "Box Full of Evil" is also top-drawer. Mignola's shorter stories can be a bit anticlimactic, though in the case of "The Varcolac" that's plainly be design; there, the anticlimax is jarring enough to make for a good joke....more
I rather missed Mignola's art here. Of the stories here, only "Hellboy versus the Aztec Mummy" is drawn by the author; it's short and there's not muchI rather missed Mignola's art here. Of the stories here, only "Hellboy versus the Aztec Mummy" is drawn by the author; it's short and there's not much substance to it. The other artists do striking work, particularly McMahon, but their depictions of the main character are as a rule a little too cartoony; his is a figure that benefits immensely from being rendered in Mignola's spare, expressive style. Richard Corben draws Hellboy pretty well; where people reading Mignola might mistake the hero's shorn horns for a pair of goggles, Corben given them the texture of cut stone.
These aren't Mignola's best stories either. "House of the Living Dead" is a gothic horror pastiche with some clever moments that can't quite elevate the whole. "Hellboy versus the Aztec Mummy" amounts to little more than a fight, and it ends in a draw. The Coffin Man stories drawn by Moon and Ba are similarly anticlimactic (this is a particular disappointment for those familiar with Coffin Joe, the inspiration of the Coffin Man, who could be a nemesis on par with Rasputin)....more
The epistolary structure is interesting, and has its pros and cons. A character writing his or her last words in desperation, or fearing that the wordThe epistolary structure is interesting, and has its pros and cons. A character writing his or her last words in desperation, or fearing that the words they write are their last, can be compelling, gripping stuff. But the book is badly paced, with a lot of redundant passages, as when a victim of the vampire is transfused time and again, or the numerous updates on Renfield's condition, which are hardly necessary when he serves such a small purpose in the narrative. Another demerit is the needlessly florid descriptions, as when Mina attempts to articulate the geometry of Van Helsing's skull. Stoker is forever having people give grand speeches of friendship and love and waxing on endlessly about Mina's virtuous soul. Curiously, it's Dracula himself we see precious little of, and who is destroyed too easily in the end, with only a small obligatory sacrifice on the part of the heroes....more
It's rather what you'd expect from a fairy tale mashup from Gaiman. I found the protagonist, who's basically Snow White with a liberal dash of Xena WaIt's rather what you'd expect from a fairy tale mashup from Gaiman. I found the protagonist, who's basically Snow White with a liberal dash of Xena Warrior Princess, rather undeveloped, pining for unchallenging married life one moment then charging off on a heroic quest the next. When dispensing details about her history, Gaiman holds his cards a little close to his chest, and it doesn't benefit much from being treated as a mystery. Great illustrations, though, and the subversion of the Sleeping Beauty tale is well done....more
Lethem has the germ of a promising coming-of -age story here, perhaps, but it's lost in an underdeveloped setting. The Marsh family, recoiling from aLethem has the germ of a promising coming-of -age story here, perhaps, but it's lost in an underdeveloped setting. The Marsh family, recoiling from a tragedy, leaves postapocalyptic Earth for The Planet of the Archbuilders. This alien world is dotted with the ruins of an old civilization. Bioengineered food grows plentifully. The dominant species largely abandoned the planet long ago, apparently, leaving a few stragglers who remain placid and childlike even when violent human xenophobia eventually comes to the fore. Life, frankly, is a bit too easy in this alien world, and no one really seems to work, or to have anything to do. ...more