The follow-up to Test Tube is another treat for fans of experimental comics. This time, González takes on the western genre with a bleak tale of a fatThe follow-up to Test Tube is another treat for fans of experimental comics. This time, González takes on the western genre with a bleak tale of a father and son who make one wrong turn too many. The dark and hallucinatory events that follow recall the best of Lynch or Cronenberg. González notes that this was originally envisioned as a longer saga, but the compressed length works well as the horror lingers long after the last page is turned....more
Ellis and Worley turn what could be a run-of-the-mill Everyone Meets Everyone gathering of supernatural heroes into a genuinely chilling thriller. WorEllis and Worley turn what could be a run-of-the-mill Everyone Meets Everyone gathering of supernatural heroes into a genuinely chilling thriller. Worley's art is drenched in shadows and often incorporates unconventional "camera" angles, giving the whole thing a disorienting feel. That sensation is only heightened by Ellis's script, which has a strange echo with the real-life publishing history of these Golden Age characters. ...more
Shifting from moments of bawdy humor to sheer horror, No Mercy turns the concept of "teen fiction" on its head and sticks with you long after it's donShifting from moments of bawdy humor to sheer horror, No Mercy turns the concept of "teen fiction" on its head and sticks with you long after it's done. I just finished issue #9 and am still recovering. De Campi, McNeil, and Lee are doing something incredible with this book, using the tale of a gang of lost kids to explore universal themes of belonging and acceptance. This is no mere allegory, though. The creative team makes sure you well and truly care about each character before pulling the rug out from under you. ...more
Even Homer nods, and Garth Ennis is certainly due a slip after scripting roughly 40 issues of the Marvel Universe's pre-eminent psychopath. This is thEven Homer nods, and Garth Ennis is certainly due a slip after scripting roughly 40 issues of the Marvel Universe's pre-eminent psychopath. This is the first time Ennis's one-shot stories have really felt like filler, even with a cameo from upcoming Daredevil season 2 co-star Elektra Natchios. The rather conventional horror story "Hidden" features some impressively moody artwork from tom Mandrake and some of the author's trademark tastelessness. However, it's missing the soul-crushing character insights of previous arcs. In contrast, Frank takes a backseat in the opening storyline, "Brotherhood," which just happens to be this collection's finest hour. Ennis (once again with Dillon) filters questions of duty and honor through the story of two cops who've unknowingly caught the Punisher's attention. These three issues are packed with the kind of character-defining dialogue you used to find in Tarantino films, leading our players to a final act that's as inevitable as it is illuminating....more
The 300-plus page count of this first volume is a clue to Plastic Farm's epic ambitions. For the first several chapters, creator Rafer Roberts (aidedThe 300-plus page count of this first volume is a clue to Plastic Farm's epic ambitions. For the first several chapters, creator Rafer Roberts (aided by the occasional guest artist) crafts memorable but seemingly standalone tales of rough justice, childhood nightmares, and desperate measures. But as so often happens, things are more connected then they initially appear.
Luckily, the growing complexity of the plot doesn't sap PF of its initial energy. Roberts is a skilled scripter, and his gritty, zine-influenced artwork adds to the book's cohesive feel. His collaborators also make the most of their particular chapters, adding pathos or dark humor as called for.
PF is a deliberately uneasy reading experience, both in its lack of traditional narrative and its macabre subject matter. Occasionally, it can be a little too overeager to cultivate that mystique. Nonetheless, fans of transgressive speculative fiction should find more than enough inventiveness and cosmic mystery here to keep turning the pages until the end....more
I typically skim through the acknowledgments, but I was interested to find that this book traces its lineage back to Campbell's 1979 thriller, The FacI typically skim through the acknowledgments, but I was interested to find that this book traces its lineage back to Campbell's 1979 thriller, The Face That Must Die:
"Back in the seventies Julie Davis, one of my editors at Millington, suggested a way of re-conceiving [that book] to make it more emotionally involving. Though I didn't take her advice, there's a sense in which Ghosts Know develops the theme she thought I should have made central to the earlier novel."
TFTMD is the only other Campbell I've read to this point, and I have to say I appreciate that the author left the original as is. This book certainly feels more intentional in many aspects, including its taut plot and sharp satire of current corporate and media climates. But that tight control may be why I didn't find it quite as rattling as its less-restrained precursor.
I did still find quite a lot to like, however. Campbell's talk-show host narrator is savvy and well-intentioned, but also exhausted by his efforts to make the world -- and his own life -- any better. An interview with a stage psychic seems like an easy way to reveal another charlatan and gently educate his audience at the same time. When the family of a missing girl turns to the psychic for help, though, the lines start to blur -- as they so often do.
Ghosts Know works best as a look into the minds of media personalities (and their often-conflicted motivations), but may disappoint readers looking for more of Campbell's trademark dark flourishes. ...more
John Lees follows up his And Then Emily Was Gone, his masterful tale of Scottish horror, with a successful crime-thriller set in a superhero-adjacentJohn Lees follows up his And Then Emily Was Gone, his masterful tale of Scottish horror, with a successful crime-thriller set in a superhero-adjacent universe. Oxymoron, a killer obsessed with contradictions, is the sort of costumed villain you'd expect to see Batman or Daredevil taking on. But there are no heroes in tights to save the day here; only Det. Mary Clark, whose humanity might be the only thing that stands in the killer's way. Lees and Cormack craft a tension-filled, emotionally intense narrative, one with no guarantees of anyone making it through unscathed....more
"Guillermo del Toro and the creators of True Detective have done much to bring Lovecraftian horror into the mainstrFrom my review for Broken Frontier:
"Guillermo del Toro and the creators of True Detective have done much to bring Lovecraftian horror into the mainstream over the last several years. But while a generation of new adult fans has been discovering the thrills of decades-old weird fiction, one audience has gone under-served: middle-grade readers. Luckily, Matt Gardner and Rashad Doucet have remedied that with Alabaster Shadows.
This unique graphic novel draws on familiar concepts and motifs from Lovecraft and his peers, especially the Cthulhu Mythos, without being a direct adaptation. Readers with even a passing interest in the topic will find references throughout, but Gardner and Doucet ensure that the material is more than just window dressing.
Alabaster Shadows works on many levels: as a homage to Lovecraft’s world-building; as a sharp coming-of-age metaphor; and as an entertainingly paced, charmingly drawn adventure that’s a perfect gift for reluctant readers."
Andi Watson's all-ages graphic novel shows that love can blossom in the most unexpected of places: the royal kitchen of the King of the Underworld, foAndi Watson's all-ages graphic novel shows that love can blossom in the most unexpected of places: the royal kitchen of the King of the Underworld, for instance. The combination of romantic comedy, classic monsters, and food appreciation could easily be too much in the wrong hands, but Watson's confident, gently indie style goes a long way toward tying all of the disparate strands together. Sometimes, the book can feel a little too much like a showcase for Watson's impeccable eye for movement and facial expressions (something I would have thought impossible for a cast of characters that includes a skeletal creature whose head/torso is a single bulbous eye). Those expecting a rip-roaring plot will inevitably be disappointed. The emphasis on relationship drama and family matters provides a strong foundation for the material, though, and will likely resonate with readers of manga where such themes are more common....more
This is the comic equivalent of Ellis's Crooked Little Vein, using a noir framework to investigate humanity's darkest, strangest urges. However, thisThis is the comic equivalent of Ellis's Crooked Little Vein, using a noir framework to investigate humanity's darkest, strangest urges. However, this series has the advantage of Templesmith's art, which helps fill in much of the world-building that Ellis's prose left out. In any event, the pair has done a fine job of making Snowtown, the titular "feral city," one that I'd never want to visit.
That's limiting when it comes to storytelling possibilities (and brings to mind a quote from Grant Morrison during his Batman run to the effect that Gotham must have some redeeming qualities, or else no one would want to live there). At times, the parade of miseries in these pages can feel like overkill, and the characters mere plot pieces.
But the haunting atmosphere of these eight issues was enough to keep me turning the pages. I'm also more willing to forgive the lack of character momentum in this volume knowing that Ellis has an (as-yet-unreleased) ending in mind. Unfortunately, it seems like it may be a while before we discover what that is -- the last issue came out in 2009, and there's been no indication of a return in the near future....more
I'm a fervent believer in Angel's rightful spot near the top of the Whedon pantheon. This collection provided a welcome return to the show's Season 1I'm a fervent believer in Angel's rightful spot near the top of the Whedon pantheon. This collection provided a welcome return to the show's Season 1 setting, when the classic noir tropes were most apparent. The brightly colored art is a far cry from the show's moody atmosphere, but it's a nice reminder that there's more than a little of the avenging superhero in Angel's character genetics as well....more
I'll be honest: the only reason I sought this one out was the "all-indie" final issue in this volume, featuring greats like Bob Fingerman, Tony MillioI'll be honest: the only reason I sought this one out was the "all-indie" final issue in this volume, featuring greats like Bob Fingerman, Tony Millionaire, and Gilbert Hernandez. Most of the jokes in their stories are stretched pretty thin, but it's still refreshing to see such visually subversive takes on the classic franchise. Unfortunately, getting there means slogging through the other three-quarters of the book. There were a few stories that piqued my interest, mostly because of the artists involved. Ben Templesmith offers a dark Jedi crime thriller that reads like "S7ven" in space, and Greg Tocchini brings his detailed eye to a tale of mad science gone wrong. However, it's hard to imagine most of these other stories getting published with their characters swapped out for anyone else. For fans, that might not be so bad. But if your appreciation for the series is lukewarm or worse (like myself), it's hardly worth the effort....more
Niles pares down his hard-boiled, hard-drinking supernatural detective to the essentials here, and the result is one of the better entries in the seriNiles pares down his hard-boiled, hard-drinking supernatural detective to the essentials here, and the result is one of the better entries in the series to date. The councilman who's been dogging Cal's steps finally catches up with him, landing our "hero" in prison with an assortment of ne'er-do-wells. You can probably guess how things go from there (poorly).
The work of artist Nick Stakal was new to me. I really dug his sketchy figure-work and chiaroscuro layouts. I did find the ending to be a little too pat, but that's a minor quibble for an otherwise devilishly entertaining read....more
I read this on KC's website a year or so ago, but I saw the collection was coming out and thought it would be a great addition to my "Boo-d Reads" sheI read this on KC's website a year or so ago, but I saw the collection was coming out and thought it would be a great addition to my "Boo-d Reads" shelf, so I'm adding it now. If you enjoyed early Gunshow comics like "The Ghost Ship" or "The Blood Cloud," this has a similar feel: plenty of slightly uncomfortable outsider humor with an undercurrent of emotional realism. I also really liked the weird "early animation" art style Green employs as he riffs on Dante's Inferno, Alice in Wonderland, and other tales of nightmarish journeys into the subconscious....more
Battle-scarred Suzanne and devout holy man Lope are on a quest to track down the enigmatic vampire, Seth. Suzanne is prepared to sacrifice everythingBattle-scarred Suzanne and devout holy man Lope are on a quest to track down the enigmatic vampire, Seth. Suzanne is prepared to sacrifice everything in the process, but Lope has hope that she might still be saved... This is a fairly predictable tale of revenge that's elevated by its interesting world. With a little searching, I discovered that this takes place in the same universe as McDonald's ongoing webcomic Sorcery 101 (however, Kel relinquishes art duties here to D. Shazzbaa Bennett). I'm not familiar with the series, but this standalone graphic novel is a fine introduction to McDonald's combination of mundane blue-collar reality and remixed fantasy archetypes. The plot picks up momentum during a surprisingly creepy final act. Bennett's art style isn't for me, but it's also hard to judge on this story alone (a few too many scenes end on almost identical panels of Suzanne snarling in disgust). However, it's more than enough to get the job done. Read it for yourself here: http://www.sorcery101.net/as-we-were/as-we-were-cover/...more
John Constantine's story has always been draped in noir trappings, but Azzarello takes the hardboiled elements further than most. On the surface, theJohn Constantine's story has always been draped in noir trappings, but Azzarello takes the hardboiled elements further than most. On the surface, the American setting and underworld focus of his run invite lazy comparisons to 100 Bullets. However, it turns out Azzarello's no slouch at this horror thing, either. In this volume, he delivers a trio of tales that each reveal a different side of John's dark world.
In the opening one-shot (art by Steve Dillon), an overhead conversation sheds light on a forgotten crime. The four-part title story (impeccably illustrated by Frusin) recalls The Shining with its snow-covered setting and claustrophobic feel. Finally, "Lapdogs & Englishmen" (drawn in an effective indie style by Guy Davis) ends things on a lighter note with a tale of John's punk days—or so it seems. But then again, his past generally does have a way of catching up with him......more