IDW rolled out a real Christmas beauty for Agents Scully and Mulder. Mulder finds himself visited by three seasonal spirits, but the rules of A Christmas Carol have undergone some modifications, and they don’t always jive too well with Fox. He’s always been a haunted man, and he’s been fueled by the mysterious disappearance for decades. It’s what pushes him forward. And while he won’t receive the answers he so desperately seeks, he will pick up on a few things that slipped from Mulder’s memory banks.
I know we’ve now left Halloween far in the past, but for horror fanatics like myself, that’s no reason to stop pretending Halloween isn’t 365 days a year. And since its Halloween (still) It seemed like a perfect idea to jump into a holiday themed book, like the Archie Halloween Blowout 2012, for example.
In my personal opinion, it’s important to take risks with comics and graphic novels. There are a great deal of brilliant works out there that go underrated or entirely unheralded when in truth, they may just be impressive enough to earn a place on your personal favorites list. I understand that the average consumer probably can’t afford to grab every book to hit stands or digital outlets on a weekly basis, but I also understand that we’re a little predisposed to the idea that sticking with our established favorites is the safest route to travel when contemplating where to invest our hard-earned bucks. A book like Angel Catbird calls that approach into question, and then some.
Written by: Matt Molgaard
When you pick up anything Joe Lansdale has created, you know you’re holding something special. The man’s made a living by sharing his outrageous and original ideas with the masses, and we’re a better lot of fans for it. Steam Man is just another top flight tale from Lansdale, and as you’d expect, it’s stuffed full of wild imagination and epic showdowns.
Written by: Daniel Hadley
In a world where man didn’t release enough greenhouse gasses and the world is plunged into a bitter, wintery apocalypse, two survivors and their pet badger (honestly never seen that one before) travel the snowy wastelands, battling the harsh cold, gangs of marauding killers and the everyday turmoil that comes from post-apocalyptic survival. It’s not terribly original but it is very entertaining. Having not read the whole series I was somewhat dropped right in the middle of Winterworld’s story but being as its nothing overly complicated that wasn’t too much of an issue.
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.
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.
I can’t read more than 20 or 30 pages of a fantasy novel, but when you put that story on a page with magnetic illustrations, and you gift these unique creatures varied appearances, my interest level rises, significantly. After just five pages or so, I knew I’d be reading King’s Road: The Long Way Home in a single sitting, eyes straining as I stare at a five inch cellphone screen.
The read justified the strain on the eyeballs, and I’ve got no regrets having tuned out the world around me in order to be sucked into a fantastical world where heroes and beasts call the same landscape home. Not that we spend much time in any magical lands of any sort. No, this story takes place here on earth, but King’s Road is a story that hasn’t met its conclusion, and though I’ve not been familiar with the title prior to today, it’s very obvious that an alternate reality will force the story’s protagonists to return to a realm I’ve yet to see.
Peter Hogan manages to tell a story that is both fast-paced and slowed for consideration of those who may not be familiar with any of this fantasy brouhaha. His story is straight forward, and his characters are all likeable – even a vile “queen” who rules a universe under shady and sinister methods. In fact, she didn’t just land the gig of a universe, the treacherous traitor ambushed the king, who just so happens to be the brother of the story’s hero, and rightful king to a still unknown kingdom.
Loaded with action, it’s impossible to do anything outside of admire the work of artists Staz Johnson, and Phil Winslade who create some nasty beasts with which our heroic family must tangle. What’s even more impressive is that somehow, all of these morbid monsters – cyclops, trolls, and winged freaks of nature – fit comfortably in our own world. An army of monsters doesn’t even look out of place at a strip mall. That’s excellent work from Johnson and Winslade, and it’s all held together by Peter Hogan, who’s created something extremely special here.
I never thought I’d say it, but I can’t wait to read more of King’s Road!
You can look into the single issues, or the trade paperback, right here.
Written by: Ike Beal
The ghost story is one that’s been stagnant over the past decade or so: either the spook or specter is in a place or it’s in a person. After that, the story runs through the motions and generally meets a dim conclusion. While the conventions can be used to great effect in works such as Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House, it takes an understanding of atmosphere and plotting to pull it off and make it effective. Subversion of the standard haunt is where, in my opinion, the real stand-outs are- stand outs like Anya’s Ghost; a graphic novel that pulls off almost everything it sets out to do with grace and class.
Anya’s ghost is a-typical and fun; coming-of-age sprinkled with paranormal isn’t earth-shattering, but the way it’s done here is special. This is because Brosgol has a deep understanding of her characters, all of which have a level of personality and wit about them; Anya’s depth and character arc is half of why the story works so well. While the arc is typical of an identity politics-laden high school story, Anya herself is natural and her realizations about life well-handled. It’s a shame that she’s one of the few characters that is handled with such care, Emily- the titular ghost- being the only other character in this duet that receives the same kind of depth. Other characters seem only to act as emotional pivots to tell Anya how much she’s changed.
Interplay between Anya and Emily is tit-for-tat the best thing about Anya’s Ghost. Interactions are natural; it really feels like two teenagers are conversing- although Emily could use a more ye-olde colloquial twang to her dialogue. Realism aside, their burgeoning and curdling friendship works wonders and drives the story’s emotional beats effectively.
The other half of the appeal is the wonderful art on display. Brosgol’s cinematic angles, conveyance of motion, emotion, and depth, and a lovely use of balanced, symmetrical shots make Anya’s ghost a joy to look at. Dialogue heavy scenes are endlessly engaging, as the dialogue and panels work off of each other without detracting from each other. It’s tough to make dialogue as engaging as the art, but Brosgol does this effortlessly. Couple that with a mastery of light and shadow within the confines of a simple aesthetic, and a color pallet that accentuates the mood, making it reminiscent of an old Hammer flick, and you’ve got something special on your hands.
While being a more-than-worthy read, my biggest grievance with the story is a small piece of lost potential; Anya’s Russian heritage. Issues such as body-image, relationship issues, and teenage rebellion are done with an air of subtlety and tact that I’d have loved to see carried over to the topic of her foreign heritage. Though it was touched on, it’s given little depth beyond a mention in the opening pages. It’s a personal gripe, but the rest of the story is so well-done, it’s a shame it wasn’t better developed.
Anya’s Ghost works wonders as an emotionally packed mellow-drama, and the horror elements let it stand out from formula conventions from both genres it represents. Line art so clean, one could eat off of it is icing on the cake.
There are a few things that make this story rather unique. First, we see Ellen Ripley and Call reunited which is awesome and leads to the other aspect of this tale that kicks serious tail: We’re dealing with post-clone-super-modified Ripley. The one we met in Alien: Resurrection. These are two points that immediately won me over, as I’m big on the idea of post-Resurrection tales. Throw in Terminators and Predators and a guy like me – a product of the ‘80s – is just about in Heaven.
We’ve got a Terminator working to create the weapon of all weapons, something clearly capable of disposing of Aliens, androids, clones and Predators alike. This Terminator, who operates under the alias Trollenberg certainly looks to be the major villain of the story arc, but we quickly learn that he’s only one piece of the puzzle. It’s the creature he’s been putting together that poses the real threat. The hulking beast is capable of obliterating everything – Predator, Alien – you name it, with the greatest of ease.
So how in the hell can Ripley and Call bring the insanity to an end, and how do they dispose of what eventually is revealed to be an Alien, Terminator hybrid?
Pretty intimidating predicament.
We won’t dig too deep into conflict resolutions, because you can still get your hands on this book today, although at a somewhat hefty price. It’s not cheap, but it is worth it, and it is a story line that truly has a massive fan following despite some sketchy reviews and – admittedly – a couple hazy plot points. I think the greatest complaint has been that the story itself feels a bit too murky. But in 2016, having now read a lot of Alien, Predator and Terminator books, and seen a few new film additions of each of those franchises, I can appreciate this one for what it aims to do. It’s something of an earlier crossover book (not uncharted territory, but for years a pretty sporadic occurrence), and it falls into a few potholes as can happen in crossover stories, but it feels like a pretty straight forward, even if a little outlandish, idea that’s stronger than more than a single comic I’ve read and film that I’ve seen.
I’ll take this book all day and night. It unites three of my favorite childhood monsters and brings them together for a respectable battle (I’m greedy and readily confess to wanting just a bit more action from the story). I enjoyed this far more than a lot of the franchise books I’ve read – so many in fact I couldn’t even kick off a list. I enjoyed it more than Alien vs. Predator. I enjoyed it far more than Terminator: Genisys. It’s a fun book that doesn’t fall as flat as some reviews might lead you to believe.
Respect goes out to Mark Schultz who writes a fairly convoluted but quite enjoyable and infectious book. As for artist Mel Rubi, not much need be said other than holy hell – beautiful art!