Hell has frozen over, because I’m now an Amazon Kindle owner. Over the years, readers have noticed me being very adamant about owning real books, not some overgrown calculator. But I recently moved states, and a close friend of mine gave me a Kindle as a going-away gift, and it was very easy to fill it up with tons of ebook. So this (and most likely the next few columns) will focus on some Kindle reading (not all official), starting with an author who probably would have embraced this technology like no other.
At the end of the very first chapter of BABAYAGA, a mistress meanders through memories of her lover as he attends to his post-coital toilette. This is Paris. The mistress is worldly; the scene is languorous; the musings (and prose) lush to the point of overripe.
Zoya lingers over Leon’s chubby good cheer, delights in his charms and his foolishness, laughs fondly over his recounting of his other female relationships (his bitter mother), but frets at a question he innocently asked: “How do you stay so young?” And there’s meant to be an interesting counterpoint in the chapter’s final line, as Zoya ponders a set of spiked rails on a fence, a perfect place to impale Leon’s skull.
All four of these capsule reviews are for currently out single issues from Vertigo. Man, I love Vertigo if only because there’s so much diversity in this pile. And I can’t imagine another publisher for some of them — they’re just so delightfully weird!
TOM STRONG AND THE PLANET OF PERIL #1 — The first of this six-issue miniseries is by TERRA OBSCURA alum Peter Hogan and and Karl Story, and Christ Sprouse (BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE). I loved Alan Moore’s Tom Strong back in the day and appreciated the first TERRA OBSCURA stories as a great experiment. This issue felt like old home week while leaving me both wanting more and to fill in the gaps between the last stuff I read and this. If you’ve ever liked the character of Tom Strong, get this. If you would like an evolving world that revolves around an aging pulp/science hero, check this out.
COLLIDER #1 — Note: Due to a copyright issue, COLLIDER has already been renamed FBP: FEDERAL BUREAU OF PHYSICS from issue 2 onward. Any subsequent reprints of #1 will bear the new title. Whatever the name, it’s by Simon Oliver (THE EXTERMINATORS) and Robbi Rodriguez (HAZED). The laws of physics have become more like rules of thumb over the last few years and the disasters caused by this are handled by the FBP. Our main characters are a handful of the usual suspects: the young, self-destructive agent; the aging cowboy agent; the suit-and-tie, overeducated douchebag boss agent. They think they have a handle on their jobs, and then the last page happens. I’m intrigued by this first issue and I loved TV’s FRINGE hard enough to want that itch scratched again. FBP looks like it might get that job done, and admirably.
TRILLIUM #1 — I haven’t read much from Jeff Lemire, but what little I have did not wow me. His GREEN ARROW is a fairly blatant grab at Marvel’s HAWKEYE aesthetic, and just saying the title of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK makes me feel dumber. But TRILLIUM is really fascinating. The first issue is split in half with an introduction to both viewpoint characters who are separated by 1,876 years and some undisclosed number of light years, but united in the search for a white flower with many purported healing properties. These are two damaged individuals looking for some kind of validation in their discoveries, although I’m not entirely sure what damaged or how they’ll be validated. The character work is robust while still living many unanswered questions; the art is weird and evocative in a way I find just right for an oddball mystery across time and space. I’ll keep an eye out for the second issue for sure.
THE WAKE #3 — I haven’t seen the first two issues of this 10-issue series by AMERICAN VAMPIRE‘s Scott Snyder and PUNK ROCK JESUS‘ Sean Murphy, so I have no idea what’s going on. But it looks like a sorta horror-movie/thriller thing going on in an underwater installation, and there’s a fish monster that is poisoning everybody with hallucinogenic venom that shoots from its eyes and then kills them by ripping them into pieces. There’s also something going on with a main character who studies whales that leads to a big reveal. And also something to do with Mars nearly 4 billion years ago. But it’s crazy and tense and beautiful to look at. So I have no idea what’s going on … but I really want to. —Joshua Unruh
Crissa Stone, the career criminal introduced in 2011’s COLD SHOT TO THE HEART, returns for Wallace Stroby’s KINGS OF MIDNIGHT. Not much has changed for her … and that is pretty much the main problem with this work, now in paperback: Not much has changed.
Still desperate for enough money to assure her lover’s parole from a Texas prison, Crissa leads a two-man team on what should be a quick and easy heist. It all goes wrong afterward, however, when her partners argue about their take. Crissa ends up on the run and is further frustrated when she loses a big chunk of her stolen cash to a crooked money launderer.
While CROSSCUT is the first Nicholas Colt thriller from the pen of author Jude Hardin I’ve read, it’s actually the second in a series of five books and growing. His style is pure thriller, remarkably over-the-top and featuring extreme consequences. People die, brutally, and these books would probably not be for the squeamish.
In this installment, Colt is asked by an acquaintance to look into the disappearance of her husband. He was a cop in small town in Tennessee. One day, he is called to a home and then is never heard from again. When the police investigate, they find two people murdered, and two others missing along with the cop. Colt is reluctant, but when he discovers that the victims had slanted crosses carved into their foreheads, he changes his mind.
Understandably, Andrew J. Rausch just can’t seem to pull himself away from Herschell Gordon Lewis. Having co-authored a book with Lewis last year in the heartily recommended THE GODFATHER OF GORE SPEAKS, Rausch wrangles Lewis once more as a participant in GODS OF GRINDHOUSE, a collection of interviews with 16 notable filmmakers, almost all known best for their work as directors.
I’ll state my one caveat right upfront since it’s right there in the alliterative title: While synonymous, the term “grindhouse” is not always interchangeable with “cult movies.” That quibble aside, I had an absolute blast with this book from Bear Manor Media. I read it in one sitting, in roughly the time it takes it watch any given one of the guys’ most memorable flicks.
At least until THE INVISIBLE CODE hits this Christmas season, the new-to-paperback THE MEMORY OF BLOOD is the latest addition to Christopher Fowler’s wonderfully entertaining Arthur Bryant and John May mystery series. As in the novels that came before it, the nature of the crime, as well as how it is investigated, more than justifies its being assigned to the Peculiar Crimes Unit.
Robert Kramer, the wealthy producer of a new play at the New Strand Theatre in London, is hosting a party at his stately mansion for the cast, crew and other assorted individuals. The evening turns tragic when Kramer’s young wife decides to check on their baby son.
If you are already familiar with C.J. Box, it’s probably through his popular series featuring Joe Pickett, the Wyoming game warden often called upon to solve crimes far beyond the realm of hunting and wildlife. This new novel is his fourth stand-alone. But don’t let that stop you from reading it. THE HIGHWAY is a superbly written, wonderfully effective and suspenseful thriller, and easily among Box’s best.
Danielle Sullivan and her younger sister, Gracie, are driving to Omaha to visit their father for Thanksgiving weekend. Then Danielle, the driver, announces that they are instead going to Montana to visit Justin Hoyt, a former boyfriend she hopes to win back. But shortly after their car breaks down on a dark stretch of highway near Yellowstone National Park, the two girls disappear.
I hadn’t heard of SACRIFICE before it was passed to me for review. Apparently, Sam Humphries (AVENGERS A.I., UNCANNY X-FORCE and a few more Marvel things) and Dalton Rose self-published all but the last issue before it sorta vanished for a bit. Dark Horse decided this was unacceptable, helped the guys produce a final issue of material, and now has produced a collection of the whole series.
I can’t blame myself for missing it the first time. I try to keep an eye on interesting new comics work, but there is just so much coming out of so many small presses that I miss things. And, honestly, SACRIFICE has a weird-enough high concept that is far enough outside even my eclectic wheelhouses, I may have written it off. I really shouldn’t have.
Recently I read Stefan Jaworzyn’s THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE COMPANION, which sets out to cover the entire franchise (up to its 2004 publication date, at least), yet does it in a way that’s lazy, shoddy and unfriendly to the reader. By contrast, Paul Kane’s THE HELLRAISER FILMS AND THEIR LEGACY shows how a retrospective on a horror-film franchise — or on any genre, really — should be done. It’s not difficult.
Jaworzyn’s book is not new, and neither is Kane’s, but the latter is now available in a reprint — and in a much more affordable paperback edition, at that — from McFarland & Company. Needless to say, any HELLRAISER fan worth his or her satanic salt should own it.