Because time isn’t always kind: economic reviews in a world full of waste!
Thomas Ligotti is not the name-brand horror author he probably deserves to be, but hopefully THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY will help change that, introducing him to a whole new audience. This Fox Atomic anthology adapts four of his stories – all heavily influenced by H.P. Lovecraft – into comics. Results are 75 percent solid. THE SANDMAN‘s Colleen Doran provides art for the first and best story, the WICKER MAN-ish folk tale “The Last Feast of Harlequin,” about an unusual town’s unusual tradition. 30 DAYS OF NIGHT‘s Ben Templesmith illustrates “Dream of a Mannekin” (puppets = creepy), while Ted McKeever visits “Dr. Locrian’s Asylum.” Only “Teatro Grottesco” fails to excite, though no fault of artist Michael Gaydos.
Recently my wife read a novel in which a woman dumped her dead hubby’s ashes into a deep-fat fryer at a restaurant. “Isn’t that the sickest thing you’ve ever heard?” she asked. Having just read Chuck Palahniuk’s HAUNTED, I responded, “Not by a long shot.” After all, this quasi-novel kicks off with a short story about a kid whose guts get sucked out his butt during an ill-fated masturbation session in the swimming pool. It’s just one of many twisted tales provided by a motley crew who assemble for a unique writers’ retreat – unique in that they’re trapped against their will. As they grow increasingly insane, so do their stories. The one about a sex doll is particularly good ‘n’ gross. The poems, I could do without. This is a polarizing work; I happened to love it, even if it wears out its welcome. Its glow-in-the-dark cover, however, never will.
Although the cover of Mary SanGiovanni’s debut novel THE HOLLOWER may look like another entry into the invisibility genre, it’s actually one in psychological horror, with nothing disappearing except the sanity of its various characters. These include a cute bartender, a recovering coke addict and a mentally retarded girl and her exasperated brother, all of whom keep spotting this strange man in a fedora and trenchcoat, who sometimes makes it rain bugs. He’s called The Hollower, and he screws with people’s minds. SanGiovanni’s story follows a rather circular route, with these characters taking turns getting messed with, over and over again. Finally, it goes somewhere, only to end with a sequel-ready hook (and part two recently was sold to the same publisher). It’s a second-base start for a writer I expect to see hit a triple next time.
H.P. Lovecraft meets CAPTAIN BLOOD in Elder Signs Press’ HIGH SEAS CTHULHU, an anthology edited by William Jones and consisting of 20 instances of “swashbuckling adventure” set in the Lovecraft mythos. You know what this means: lots of slimy, tentacled, underwater creatures. Most of the authors – among them, Alan Dean Foster, Michael McBride, Gerard Houarner, Tim Curran and John Shirley – take the period-piece narrative-diary route as Lovecraft himself often did … and therein lies the problem: The stories are too similar. It’s only when HIGH SEAS branches out – as Michael Penncavage does in a contemporary-day, corpse-aplenty tale – that the book flows your way. Mind you, these cookie-cutter stories aren’t bad at all – you can read any one and come away pleased – but they’re not different enough to make a cover-to-cover read smooth sailing.
Don’t recognize any of the authors in HORROR LIBRARY: VOLUME 2? That’s exactly the point: to introduce you to some fresh talent. Some highlights: Stephen Bacon’s “The Trauma Statement,” in which a man is constantly receiving phone calls forcing him to make difficult choices on a dime (inoperable tumor in your stomach or a child you don’t know gets hit by a motorcycle?), while in John Rector’s “A Season of Sleep,” a woman is forced to pull the trigger against a family member turned zombie. The protagonist of Sunil Sadanand’s “Trapped Light Medium” uses his future-predicting powers to tip off photographers for cash, while the narrator of Michael W. Lucas’ “Opening the Eye” describes a homemade trepidation with a drill he finds in a dumpster. Other stories try to get by on disturbance alone; shock still requires story to work effectively, and when at least three stories end with an abrupt gunshot, conceit has become cliché. Still, even with well-intentioned missteps – Cameron Pierce’s dreamlike “I Am Meat. I Am in Daycare” – there are plenty here to make this LIBRARY worth repeat visits.
Cinematic boogeyman Freddy Krueger goes graphic in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: BOOK ONE, WildStorm’s trade-paperback compilation of six issues of its recently launched comic. That means two completely story arcs are included, each not too terribly different from one another, but still not too terrible, either. The first, “Freddy’s War,” finds a new girl in town terrorized by Freddy in her dreams, only to confront him with the help of her well-armed Army dad. The second, “The Demon of Sleep,” finds several students terrorizes by Freddy in their dreams, only to confront him with the help of an ancient amulet and an attempt sacrifice. From writer Chuck Dixon and artist Kevin West, these tales don’t break new ground, but they’re enjoyable to read, more than competently drawn and better than a majority of the ELM STREET screen sequels.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: BOOK ONE is even better, which is to be expected since it’s scripted by JONAH HEXers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. Compiling the first six issues of the WildStorm title, it finds the infamous Camp Crystal Lake being reopened for potentially lucrative business to a morbidly curious public. A multiracial cast of young people has been hired to clean the place up. But there’s a kink – wait for it – Jason Voorhees is still hanging around! And as drawn by Adam Archer, he’s got a serious ax to grind. Er, make that a machete, which is planted in various body parts in gorier-than-usual detail. Sex, drugs and chopped-off skulls – what’s not to love?
There’s a lot to dislike about THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: BOOK ONE, the first half-dozen issues of the WildStorm comic book based on the glossy remake of the grimy film original. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s story – dubbed “Americarnivore” – picks up after the events of such, with a slew of clueless cops descending upon the Hewitt home to investigate. Damn straight they meet up with Leatherface, Sheriff Hoyt and the rest of the dysfunctional family of freaks. Wesley Craig’s art makes it difficult to determine just who’s who among the good guys, and unfortunately, the entire thing is just as nihilistic as the movies. There’s a line where bad taste crosses over into just plain bad, and this leaps past that. –Rod Lott
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