All posts by Adrienne Clark

Adrienne Clark is a writer, editor, and musician living in Seattle. She writes about pop culture around the internet and specifically about all things spooky at When not writing, she can be heard playing with indie dance band Killer Workout. She's a firm believer that every day is Halloween.

Junji Ito’s ‘Uzumaki’ Review

Written by: Adrienne Clark

Something is wrong in the town of Kurozu-Cho. Kire hasn’t noticed anything, but her boyfriend, Shuichi, is convinced that there is an evil in the town. It’s making him dizzy. He’s convinced; the town is infected with spirals.

Shuichi isn’t the only one who’s obsessed with spirals. His father has amassed a huge collection of spiral objects and sits and stares at them for hours. That is, until his wife throws it all away in an attempt to rid him of his obsession. Kire and Shuichi look on as Shuichi’s father screams at his mother. How could she do this? Then suddenly his mood changes. He doesn’t care about his collection because he says he can express the spiral through his body. And express it he does, by spinning his eyes separately in their sockets. Two days later, they find him dead, his body disfigured, coiled into a back-breaking spiral.

Uzumaki Manga Horror Comic

Thus begins the most quietly disturbing comic I have read to date.

Uzumaki by Junji Ito is an unexplained horror that chills even as you don’t understand it. The back cover calls it “terror in the tradition of The Ring” and yet I don’t see it as a fair comparison. I’ve never read the Koji Suzuki novel, but I have seen the films, and The Ring reads as a straightforward narrative. This story moves in, well, spirals.

This comic is all twists and turns without much narrative explanation. Uzumaki draws you in, pulling you along through unspeakable terrors, and then, just as you begin to think you understand the infection at the core of this story, Ito changes the scope. The town’s spiral infection is both mental and physical, internal and external, and seems almost personal in its manifestation. Some characters evolve physically, changing shape until their outsides reflect the spiral. Other characters devolve into madness, narcissism, and cannibalism.

The only rule, it seems, is that there are no rules.

This is Uzumaki’s greatest achievement. When a reader has no chance of understanding what’s possible then every moment is filled with terrifying potential.

And yet, the horror is balanced by the sheer beauty of the images created. Yes, they are disturbing, but you can’t look away. A woman’s hair curls and spirals upward, creating a mesmerizing and oppressive vision everywhere she goes; star-crossed lovers entwin their bodies until they are a distorted monster. These images are the driving force of Ito’s creation, and they are horror perfection.

The narrative moves along, stopping to explore smaller stories and ideas inspired by the idea of spiral infection. One of my favorites follows Kire in the hospital. While recovering from a previous horrific adventure, she uncovers a coven of pregnant women who are drinking blood, recently born babies physically infected with the spiral, and what exactly the “mushrooms” are made of in the hospital meals. I rarely express myself out loud while reading, but this sequence was an exception.

These small tales are often simple in their scope and are not always cumulative toward the larger narrative. The overall focus of the series is to watch our characters struggle as they try to escape their infected town, but many times a single issue will simply exist without any indication of how it fits in with the larger arc. These issues build a strong sense of place and verisimilitude. This world is not one of a singular horrific event, this is a world where horror is woven into every waking moment. An everyday occurrence like brushing your hair can suddenly warp into an unimaginable, life-changing situation. There is no warning and just when you think that you’re safe–well you know how it goes.

At only three books long, this beautiful manga was over too soon. But the images won’t soon leave my mind. And isn’t that the goal with horror? If you can leave the viewer with a perspective-changing image, you’ve won.
Infect your world with Uzumaki. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Get it here.

Rating: 5/5

Uzumaki horror manga Junji Ito

Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley’s ‘Hack/Slash: Son of Samhain’ Review

Written by: Adrienne Clark

I hadn’t read all of Hack/Slash before reading this story line. Many of the Hack/Slash stories are one shots (a stand-alone issue with a story that isn’t part of an ongoing series) so it’s usually not necessary to have read every previous story. Son of Samhain (story by Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley) followed suit as a stand-alone mini series; however, you would do well to be at least somewhat familiar with the series when you dive in.

Let’s do a quick run-down of the 5-part plot.

Book 1
Cassie Hack is hiding from herself by working as a bounty hunter. In a former life she hunted a different kind of prey–monsters. When another infamous monster hunter named Delroy tempts her out of retirement, they find themselves in Mexico uncovering a monster (no pun intended) plot to bring to life the God, Attan-Soolu.

The perspective toggles back and forth between our monster-hunting heroes and Morinto, the leader of a group of monsters who spends most of his time waxing poetic about the plight of monsters. Humanity defeated them centuries ago and drove them underground. Now, Morinto is building an army to return to the surface and take it back

The climax comes when Hack and Delroy discover a mysterious kid being held captive by the monsters. The hunters fight to free him. He returns their bravery by biting Hack’s arm and running away.

Book 2
Morinto confronts the mythical god beast, who has been made only to destroy, and listens to no one but Attan-Soolu. Fortunately, Morinto has perfected his brain-controlling bugs. With no effort at all, Morinto conquers the beast. Now the god beast believes Morinto is Attan-Soolu and will what whatever this monster leader wants.

Hack and Delroy track the mysterious boy that ran away. It turns out that he has a murderous streak as well. His name is October (Ocky for short), and Hack comments on how familiar he looks.

Book 3
Hack and Delroy take a moment away from monster hunting to discover more about Ocky’s past. It turns out there is a reason he looks so familiar to Hack.

Morinto’s past is revealed. It turns out that his mother was a member of an occult organization called the Dark Order. When she passed she prayed to have her powers passed to her son. Between this gift of dark power and the god beast, Moritno is able to build the monster army he needs to go to the surface.

Book 4
The battle is on between our hunters and the monster army. While Hack fights to survive against Morinto’s mind control bugs, Delroy takes on the god beast all on his own. That’s all I can say without spoilers so, on to…

Book 5
Hack and Ocky (seriously, has there ever been a less intimidating nickname?) take a moment to reflect on whether they should return to the battle or make a run for it. They know what choice they have to make, and once they do, they hatch a plan to send the murderous monsters back beneath the surface. But, can evil ever really be defeated?

Our heroes drive off into the sunset even as a new threat begins to take form.

This fun, if somewhat basic, story puts the classic “Hero’s Journey” structure to good use. It leans heavily on the reader’s familiarity with the classic structure. This way the story can focus on action rather than character development.

The characters are delightfully simple in both their motivations and their dialogue. I say delightfully simple because that is exactly what I’m looking for in a story like this. Cassie Hack is a smart-mouthed monster hunter who never loses her cool. Her sarcasm and bravery fire on all cylinders at all times and can only be matched by her empathy when she meets someone in need. She’s tortured, too, but only in so far as it helps break up the actions scenes and give her a motivation.

This story centers around a potential monster war, This simplicity of character was a good choice to compliment the story. If the action had been complex, but the characters one-dimensional (or vice versa) then I would have questioned every moment. For example, in the course of a page Hack kills several dozen monsters. Had her character been more complex, I would have wanted a better explanation for her abilities. Maybe spend time with her showing Ocky or Delroy how to do what she does. But, as it is, she’s strong, they’re evil, done and done. Works for me.

What did slow the story down were several passages of Morinto pontificating on the state of evil, humankind, and his desire to rule. I understand that the writers had to give him something to do, and they needed to build Morinto up as a threat that the reader would find believable, but it didn’t work for me. When you’re going to give a character time to say something that’s meant to be profound, it better be a pretty unique perspective. Instead it just bogged down the story with something akin to a passage from a teenage goth’s journal.

The imagery (by Emilio Laiso) is spot on, with a focus on shape over detail. Every monster is bigger or badder than the last, making for a beautifully intimidating army. Although sometimes the similar coloring on the baddies would confuse me for a few panels, which would take me out of the story as I scrambled to make sense of who was talking and if I knew them.

Hack/Slash: Son of Samhain is a fun comic for anyone who likes the horror genre. Although this miniseries is without some of the more famous guest stars that people have come to love (check out the Evil Dead crossover for a really good time), it’s still a totally readable monster story. Killing monsters is what Cassie Hack does best, and it’s always fun to watch someone kill (OK, pun intended that time) at what they love.

Order it here.

Rating: 3/5

Hack Slash Son of Samhain