Tag Archives: horror

Book of the week 37: Severed #2

Sorry, I just can’t get it up… My book of the week review, that is. I’ve got a pretty busy week with work flowing into my evening hours, so instead of my normal (and timely) 600 word review, these are my abbreviated thoughts on Severed #2.

Book of the week 37.
1. Severed #2
(Image comics)

Okay, Scott Snyder, Scot Tuft and Attila Futaki have quickly become comic book Gods in my book. In just two issues, they have created a world so realistic, so raw, yet brimming with boyish naivety and childlike optimism. This slow burning horror story set in the 1920’s really is an amazing, unique endeavor in today’s market. Last issue we met the main character, 12-year-old Jack Garron. He wants to meet his natural father, and to do so he ran away from his foster home and jumped on a freight train. This initially didn’t turn out very good. But this issue Jack’s luck takes a turn as he gets his two sole possessions back from the child molesting train-cop and finds himself that rarest thing of all in the hobo life… …an  actual friend. But even his new-found friend is wearing a mask. We also learn that last issue’s villain Mr. Porter is a man of many names and it’d be more accurate to call him ‘the salesman’ (a vocation fitting perfectly in the historic context of this story), also we learn that he’s no mere sharp toothed child molester, but something far more terrifying. Meanwhile it’s very interesting to see how Jack is fooling himself about his background (after he’s learned that he’s a foster child, nothing seems real to him anymore other than his father inspired hobo life) and how he handles his first big disappointment.

The art by Attila Futaki is just as unique as the story. For lack of a better word, this feels kinda European (which is a bit ironic as both artist and reviewer are European). With his painterly style and cinematic storytelling Futaki lets his art breath and gives each panel enough room to maximize atmospheric effects. Just like last issue, I like Futaki’s color pallet, which strongly and effectively affects the ambiance of the scenes.
Art: 9.5 (some spots not as detailed as to make this perfect)
Writing: 10 (perfect!)
Overall: 9.7 (Oh, and check out next issue’s cover, now that’s creepy!)

Advertisements

Runner ups for week 37: Crawl to me 2, Swamp Thing 1, Jezus Hates Zombies 1

2. Crawl to me #2 (IDW Publishing)
I reacted quite strongly (with my whole body) to this issue, because of this follows a guttural review (sorry, I’ll be swearing up a storm), describing my reactions as I was reading. Just to be clear: This is a horror book about a young family who is vacating their new home were something is horribly wrong. [written at page three:] The first couple of pages had me going ‘What the Fuck?!?!’, almost every panel. [Written at page nine:] Holy shit, I know this can’t be real. Ryan, the main character also knows this, but holy shit is this working on my nerves. We’ve landed smack dab in crazy town. [Written at page ten:] And just when you think things have turned back to normal, people have no eyes. This is some fucked up shit! [Written at page fifteen:] OMG she’s just cutting her hair, but it’s SO fucking creepy!!! [Written at page sixteen:] But I guess that means Ryan isn’t crazy (or at least not the only one whose crazy), as the scissors are talking to her… ‘You know what you have to do right?’. Oh no. No. Not the baby, right? [Written at page seventeen:] And then it looks like the baby’s gonna bite it… Shit man… [Written at page eighteen:] I’m clenching my fist here and have a weird feeling in my stomach… Things are not right. [Written at page twenty-two:] And it ends with the creepy child molester’s belt buckle. Wow, this went fast, but it was scarier than a fucking roller coaster!
Art:9               Writing:9        Overall:9

3. Swamp Thing #1 (DC comics)
It took me a while to get into this issue. I didn’t really care for the first half, but the story really picks up in the last third. That’s the part where we learn about a dreadful new villain (emphasizing once more that Swamp Thing is unmistakably a horror title). This part also shows how Alec Holland is plagued by ´the green´ (Swamp Thing’s connection to all of the world’s flora) and his memories of being Swamp Thing. While I wasn’t particularly excited about the writing, the art though… Oh, my God can this Yanick Paquette guy draw. He was already wonderful recently on Batman Inc., but with this series he has even improved upon that. For a random example of his unequalled artistic qualities, the first page of this book has the best looking pigeons I’ve ever seen in a comic book. They don’t just look like random birds, colored to look like pigeons. These are some realistic goddamned pigeons. Also in my review of Justice League #1, I said Superman’s new costume looks kind of like a royal ceremonial armor. …Well scratch that, in this issue he looks like a fascist superhero… Which I bet is not what DC was aiming for…
Art:9.5                        Writing:8        Overall:8.8

4. Jesus Hates Zombies. A Jurassic kinda life #1 (215 Ink)
This was one of my favorite reads in some time. Especially the number of chuckles (and even laugh out louds) it got from me made it rocket up the chart. The story by Stephen Lindsay doesn’t particularly make a lot of sense (however, I haven’t read the first Jesus Hates Zombies series, so who knows?), but if you want to read something completely different, you should really try it out. While the main character is Jesus (H.?) Christ, this isn’t your momma’s Jesus. For one thing, this Jesus curses like a sailor. It’s surprisingly refreshing to read the son of God go: ‘Sweet candy cane strap-ons! Is it really you, buddy? Fucking miracles never cease!’ Other important characters in this are Abe Lincoln (Jesus’ main wingman in prehistoric times), Benjamin Franklin, (SPOILERS) Elvis Presley and the animated wheelchair of Steven Hawkins (?)… The story: Jesus and Abe are stuck in prehistoric times, which for some reason is becoming infected with a zombie epidemic. They’re struggling with the decision of just getting back or saving reality as they know it. I thought that beyond the Walking Dead I was zombied out, but this proves me wrong. It actually a very good story, both exciting and funny and accompanied by outstanding, energetic artwork by Belgium artist Rob Croonenborghs. The book is black and white, uses a lot of effective dot patterns for extra texture. The only problem I had with this is the format. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with a smaller format, I thought some of the more diminutive panels became a bit unclear because of the scale. But seriously go check it out, it’s a ‘gloriously fun-filled prehistoric romp’ of 64 (!) pages.
Art:8.5                        Writing:9        Overall:8.7

Book of the week 36: Locke and Key. Clockworks 2

1. Locke and Key. Clockworks #2 (IDW publishing)

The cover of Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez, published by IDW.

The cover of Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez, published by IDW.

And once more it befalls writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez that their comic is my book of the week (just like seven weeks ago, and ten weeks ago). It’s really easy to make this my pick again, however it’s pretty hard to write something new about this series (since I already wrote about how great this book looks and how wonderful it reads twice already).

If you haven’t read anything of this series, I think you could pick up this issue and enjoy it. But if you don’t read the previous four volumes you’re really doing yourself a disservice. To shortly pitch this series to new readers: it’s about the three Locke kids who live in Key house, in the town of Lovecraft (Massachusetts), with their mother and uncle. Throughout Key house, there lay hidden a hundred different keys, with diverse magical properties (one to open heads, one to open a portal which turns you into a ghost, one which turns you into a giant, one which turns you into an animal etc…). One of the keys has the power to end the world as we know it (the Omega key) and that is the key that the main bad guy Lucas ‘Dodge’ Caravaggio is after. Dodge has gotten his hands on a couple of the keys and doesn’t shy away from using lethal force to get what he’s after.

Another beautiful splash page by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

Another beautiful splash page by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

The latest issue of Locke and Key. Clockworks, picks up the story again, after the events of the last volume (Keys to the Kingdom) and a little bit of (much appreciated) background information got to us in the last issue. While the Locke kids think that the bad guy is dead, he’s actually closer to them than ever, and well away to achieving his nefarious goals.

The inside of Tyler Locke's mind, as drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez. From Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, published by IDW.

The inside of Tyler Locke's mind, as drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez. From Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, published by IDW.

Just to show you that this really is a dark horror book (SPOILER) this issue opens with the youngest of the Locke kids, Bode, throwing another kid under the school bus. Another example, showing just how fantastical this story is at certain points (SPOILER): the girl, Kinsey Locke, had removed her hate and fear from her head, using the Head key. Since then, the embodiment of her hate and her fear were confined in a closed-off coke bottle (they actually drowned in the never endings stream of tears of the fear embodiment). This issue, they escape from their bottle, climb into the oldest Locke kid’s (Tyler) head and wreak havoc in there. In part turning Tyler into a self-pitying, destructive crybaby. Just to show the amount of thought that the creators put into this book: the embodiment of Kinsey’s hate is wrapped up in newspapers. Reading this issue I discovered that the newspaper headings change every panel, to address something that’s currently happening. I’ll have to go back and see if they did this from the start. If so, that’s some pure genius Easter egg hunting material!  And just an example of the godlike artistry of Mr. Gabriel Rodriguez: I have never seen shards of broken glass flying through the sky depicted so beautifully as this:

Really, have you ever seen any better shattering glass in the pages of a comic? Art by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW publishing's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

Really, have you ever seen any better shattering glass in the pages of a comic? Art by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW publishing's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

Oh, and did I mention that Tyler and Kinsey find a new key at the end of this issue? I’m guessing it’s the Time key or the Clockwork key or some such, as there’s an hourglass on it. I can hardly wait to find out what it does.
Art: 9.5           Writing: 9.5    Overall: 9.5

Book of the week 31: Severed #1

The theme of the my comic book reading this week was the number one. Besides a one-shot and a few books that did not fit in theme, I read ten number one issues. Let’s just say it’s a good warming up for DC’s September reboot. I’m really glad with my selection of books this week, many high scores and even a solid 10 in Severed #1. Also I’m delighted with the selection of different publishers books I’ve sampled this week, ranging from IDW, Dynamite, DC, Image, Abstract Studio, Marvel to SLG.

1. Severed #1 (Image comics)

The cover to Severed #1, with art by Attila Futaki, published by Image comics.

The cover to Severed #1, with art by Attila Futaki, published by Image comics.

I had not heard anything about this title before hand and went in without any expectations (except for expecting Scott Snyder to deliver one hell of a story). It was while looking at the cover though, that I first started to fall in love with this book. The cover explicitly channels the look of the eighties horror movie posters I’ve grown up with. Furthermore, a great design element on the cover is the use of the art nouveau-ish decorative borders (coincidentally also used in the Snyder co-plotted Batman: Gates of Gotham miniseries), which even incorporate the logo of Image comics.

The first thing that struck me, when I opened the book, was the color. The first scene is a flash-forward, (technically the rest of the book is a flashback, but whatever…) set in or around the nineteen sixties, which is most apparent (besides the television performance of Elvis and the distinctive furniture) by the orange hue of the living room wallpaper. In the following flashback, which takes place in 1916, the scenes all have their own color palate, which doesn’t pop off the page as does the first sequence, but are still very vibrant and dashing to look at.

Popping colors by Attilla Futaki, from Severed #1, published by Image comics.

Popping colors by Attilla Futaki, from Severed #1, published by Image comics.

The second thing that stood out to me where the pencils, I’ve never seen the work of artist Attila Futaki before, and I’ve never seen anything like it. In fact, the art felt so new to me, that I had to warm up to it a few pages before I started loving it. I’d say it’s a bit painterly, yet has a very classic aesthetic which harkens back to the more detailed and loose art styles that could be found in old EC comics. As it turns out Futaki is a Hungarian artist, who has recently been awarded the Hungarian Zorad Erno award for best artist of 2010. Judging by the art in this issue, that prize was well deserved. It’s a really unique style and perfect to set the mood for this horror series.

Here's Jack, waiting to get on the train to begin his Hobo life. Art from Severed #1, by AttillaFutaki, published by Image comics.

Here's Jack, waiting to get on the train to begin his Hobo life. Art from Severed #1, by AttillaFutaki, published by Image comics.

Writing-wise the first sequence, set in the sixties, is used as a rather cliché framing device to set the story up. However, since this story seems to be steeped in eighties horror movies, certain clichés are just part of the territory and in that context work like a charm.  In the first few pages of the flashback we get to know Jack, a talented violin player in his early teens, who after a heartfelt and good-humored bedtime conversation with his mother runs off into the night to live the life of a hobo. “See the country… Play the streets for nickels…” He wants to walk in the minstrel footsteps of his father. Things almost immediately go haywire. But at least he meets up with some hobo’s who may or may not be helping him out. We also get introduced to Fredrick who is taken out of an orphanage by one mister Porter, who is likely to be the villain throughout this series. And what a classic villain he is. Porter is introduced as working for General Electric and Frederick has been selected for an apprenticeship at his company. In the car the boy and Mr. Porter talk about business. When the boy asks about Porter’s rough way of dealing with things, the man says with a grin: “Behind these pearly whites, I got razor sharp teeth.”  When the boy laughs at this reply, Porter continues straight-faced: “I’m serious, Freddy. These babies are all show. Underneath… My real ones are sharp as knives. But sales is all about appearances and it’s hard to sell anything if you look like a shark.” This moment had me laughing out loud, because of the absurdity of the dialogue, yet it provides a horrible feeling of foreboding. This sequence stands as a good example of how the writing of the team of Scott Snyder and his newcomer, childhood friend Scott Tuft works. It hits on all the right notes; a little humor; a little drama’ some emotion; excitement; and a lot of ominous subtext.

Apparantly Mr. Porter really has sharp teeth. Great writing from Snyder and Tuft, from Severed #1, published by Image comics.

Apparantly Mr. Porter really has sharp teeth. Great writing from Snyder and Tuft, from Severed #1, published by Image comics.

After reading I concluded that this may very well be one of those special cases where a comic book is actually crafted and executed perfectly. The first issue of Severed is genuinely creepy, funny, moving and as intriguing as should be expected from a first issue.
Art: 10      Writing: 10     Overall: 10

Book of the week 29: Locke and Key. Clockworks 1

Wow. For those that have been reading this blog from the start it’s already obvious what a big fan of IDW’s Locke and Key series I am. For all the others, let me try to explain the genius of this wholly original series by writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez (warning this part contains mild SPOILERS concerning the plot of the first 24 issues): Over the span of four six-issue miniseries the reader learns to know the Locke family, consisting of teenagers Tyler and Kinsey, their inquisitive little brother Bode and their mother. In the first issue of the initial mini-series (Welcome to Lovecraft) the father gets murdered, after which the kids and their mom relocate to the town of Lovecraft, Massachusetts, to inhibit the family estate Keyhouse. In this first series we get to know the characters a bit, for example we learn about brooding teenager Tyler’s guilt about his father’s death. This introduction to the characters however, forms the backdrop of young Bode finding a dark spirit-like ‘echo’ in the well house and ends with him being forced to release this being. Throughout the series we learn about the existence of strange and mysterious keys with magical properties that are hidden throughout Keyhouse. Bode keeps finding these keys and experiments with them. Throughout the course of the series, his older siblings learn about the existence of the keys and use them to their own advantage, as well as to fight the dark force that has been released from the well house. This being is looking for one key in particular, namely the ‘black key’ and does not shy away from killing anyone that gets in his way. While this alone would be enough to produce one hell of a story, the book is elevated even more by the way Joe Hill portrays the characters through believable dialogues and realistic interactions, that make the characters get under your skin. Like the greatest works of fiction, this is not only a book about horror and magic, but more so about emotional interactions.

This issue takes place around Keyhouse in the year 1775. All the characters are new and this initially leads to some confusion about what is going on. We get introduced to some forefathers of the twentieth century Lockes, some familiar locations are visited and a whole lot of explaining gets done. For starters we learn the significance of the drowning cave and the hydraulic pumps, but most importantly we learn the origin of the magical keys.

On the writing side, this issue is pretty wordy and I found the first half a bit hard to get trough. The second half however kept me turning page after page, while an unsettling feeling settled in my gut and my heartbeat steadily rose. Not only do major plot points get some background, also the link to the works of H.P Lovecraft gets made very explicit. Not only do we get a reference to the fabled icy desert plateau of Leng, we even get some chanting of Lovecraft’s language of the Old Ones: ‘Ia! Ia shubniggarauth!’. While this issue left the cliffhanger of the previous volume dangling, it delivered a whole new dimension of terror to the story.

Three random )parts' of panels from Locke and Key. Clockworks 1, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez. Do you see the Dillon (upper), Allred (middle) and Corben (lower)? Or is it just me?

Three random (parts of) panels from Locke and Key. Clockworks 1, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez. Do you see the Dillon (upper), Allred (middle) and Corben (lower)? Or is it just me?

Art wise, things were beautiful as always. I find it hard to describe Rodriguez’ style, but this issue I thought I recognized a bit of Steve Dillon in the earlier pages, a hint of Mike Allred in one of the splash pages and further on a dash of Richard Corbin. I’m not saying Rodriguez is aping these artists! These are just little bits of resemblances I see here and there. All in all a great start to this fifth volume of Locke and Key. Seriously go and buy it!
Art:9      Writing:8.7         Overall:8.9