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October 2017

The Legion of Monsters

What better way to celebrate Halloween than with the 1975 first (and only) issue of The Legion of Monsters?

A few years ago I was at the Naperville Graham Crackers comic book store with my husband when I admired a fantastically kitschy painting of three monsters. My awesome husband then surprised me with the picture at my next birthday, and I proudly put it up in my living room every October. When I put up a photograph of the painting on my wall on Twitter, Graham Crackers noticed and told me that it was based off the classic Legion of Monsters cover and they sent over a copy to the DeKalb store for me.

Pulling out the musty magazine out of it’s plastic covering was a walk through another era and I loved it! There were four stories along with a letter from the editor, a monster movie update and gloriously dated ads.

The Frankenstein Monster: The Monster and the Masque  Story: Doug Moench Art: Val Mayerik, Dan Adkins & Pablo Marcos

Frankenstein is just lounging around some city alleys when he sees a beautiful women running by on her way to a Halloween party. Following her in, all the sexy revelers assume he is in costume and talk to him and offer him alcohol. Cynthia believes him to be the strong silent type and dances with him. But he is later fooled by her murderous husband and the murder is pinned on him. Well, Frankenstein won’t stand for that!

The Manphibian: Vengeance Crude Plot: Marc Wolfman Script: Tony Isabella Art: Dave Cockrum & Sam Grainger

A rip off of the Swamp Thing, two aliens emerge from an oil rig, after being trapped for eons. One is clearly the villian, having killed the other’s mate years ago, and he is bent on destruction. The other tries to save a woman who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, but both manphibians are hunted by the oil rig workers as well as the owner of the oil company. Both monsters escape, but the hunt is on…

The Flies Script: Gerry Conway Art & Plot: Paul Kirschner & Ralph Reese

A “freak” formally from a circus sideshow has taken up residence on the outskirts of a town. Some boys and men taunt him as he collects garbage to bring back to his shack where he cares for flies, and he finally snaps when one of the boys sneaks into his home and destroys his fly friends. When a police officer checks for the missing boy, he is horrified as to what Chuckles did for revenge. The art reminds me Mad magazine, for it is deliberately caricature like.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Death, Be Thou Proud! Writer: Roy Thomas Art: Dick Giordano

A long prologue covers previous chapters (found in other magazines) and then advances the story of Lucy as she was being converted into a vampire, and how Dr. Van Helsing and the men who loved her tried to save her. Appropriately Gothic looking, this story begged for more chapters.

In addition to the epic stories, the ads that skewed towards males are cringe worthy now. So many mail in advertisements, but they were that era’s pop-up ads that we have on our computers today. This was such a fun read, and I want to thank Graham Crackers for bringing it to my attention!

-Nancy

*I copied the magazine pictures from a review on Marvel University (scroll down quite a bit to find it).

 

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Spinning

Tillie Walden’s routine consists of waking up at the crack of dawn, going to synchronized skate practice, going to school, going to figure skating practice after school, then going home and doing her homework before sleeping. The next day, it happens all over again. On the weekends, she competes. The routine is familiar. Comforting. During an uncertain time in her life, Tillie clings to it with all she has. Her family has just moved from New Jersey to Texas. She transfers to an all-girls private school, but still has problems with bullies and grades. She also falls in love with her first girlfriend. When everything is changing – family, friends, feelings, even skating – what will Tillie hold onto, and what will she find the strength to let go of?

I’ve been waiting for this GN for a while after reading a great review in a publisher’s journal at work. There was a picture of the cover accompanying the review, and I was immediately drawn to it – purple/yellow is my favorite color combination. I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint. It completely sucks you in and keeps you in your seat until the very end. Tillie’s story of change feels just like yours – that period in middle school when everything is changing, and you don’t know what to hold onto and what to let go of. I was not an ice skater, but her stories of the cliques of the other girls in her groups resonated with me.

The art is sparse and two-dimensional – there is often an object or figure in one panel, the background either a block of white or deep purple. Yellow is used sparingly, to highlight only important or dramatic parts of the story. Lots of negative space portrays Tillie’s feelings of loneliness and emptiness better than her words could. A beautifully rendered graphic memoir.

– Kathleen

Walden, Tillie. Spinning. 2017.

 

Roughneck

Roughneck is a beautifully told standalone tale of a brother and sister’s quest to reconnect with one another and their cultural identity written and illustrated by the talented Jeff Lemire.

The story opens in the fictional small town of Pimitamon in northern Ontario, Canada, which means “crossroads” in Cree. This detail is important as it is symbolic for the theme of the story and recognizes the heritage of the main characters. We meet Derek Ouellette, a hulking former NHL player, who was kicked off his professional team for excessive violence on the ice. While he is a local legend, he is always on the defense for he is often baited by antagonistic men, eager to brag that they fought with the drunken brawler.

Derek has the support of Ray, a former childhood friend now turned police officer, and Al an older man who manages the ice rink in town. He will desperately need their help when his sister Beth comes back into town as she is addicted, pregnant and on the run from an abusive boyfriend. The siblings reconnect after many years apart, as teen-aged Beth had ran away when Derek left to join the NHL. When Beth’s drug addiction issues come to a head, Al lets the siblings use his hunting cabin out in the bush, so Beth can detox. Alone for the first time in years, Derek and Beth reminisce about their childhood with a Cree mother and a drunken white father. Tragedy in their family shaped them into who they are now as adults, but both want to break free of the violence and despair that engulf them, thus the symbolic crossroads from earlier comes into play.

Lemire handles the storyline of Derek and Beth’s Cree heritage with grace and respect. The sibling’s began to appreciate their heritage and take some steps in reconnecting with their mother’s family. The reality of native families becoming disenfranchised from their cultural heritage, is mirrored in the excellent book The Outside Circle, which also deals with First Nation individuals whose circles of community were broken which led to fragmenting generations of people with no connection to their tribe anymore. The ending is open to interpretation, and while I at first looked at it one way, re-reading it I see a more melancholy but poignant way of concluding the story.

The artwork is trademark Lemire, with sketchy and minimalist lines. Most of the story is in black and white with overlays of blue wash, which effectively shows the icy coldness of Canadian winters. There will be an occasional splash of red, showing the blood that Derek beats out of others. When the story has flashbacks to the sibling’s youth, more color is introduced, but with soft water colored hues. He captures the feel of small towns with their varied local inhabitants, and showcases the beauty of rural landscapes.

I enjoy much of Lemire’s work for Marvel, DC & Image, but it is his stories in Essex County and Roughneck that truly show his skill as an outstanding storyteller.

-Nancy

Lemire, Jeff. Roughneck, 2017.

 

Pokémon Helps My Anxiety

Nancy has had her turn raving about Pokémon, and I thought I’d chime in =P

I have a confession to make first: I was not really big into Pokémon when I was a kid.

Sure, I collected some cards, and got a GameBoy Advance and Leaf Green for Christmas one year, but after that… nothing. It was one of those things where I was into it mostly because all the other kids at school were. I never even finished Leaf Green. I was never able to beat the Elite 4. So it was part of my childhood, like every other ’90s kid, but it just didn’t stick.

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The first and only Pokemon game I owned as a wee lass.

Last year, when I started working and making big girl money, I got a new phone so I could play Pokémon Go. I loved it. I was very surprised when I kept loving it. Honestly, I figured I’d get bored of it and delete the app a few months later, if my childhood experience was anything to go by. But I still love it and play every day – I’m especially excited now, during the Halloween event. I love catching all the spooky Pokémon – especially the Houndours!!! (they are so cute and angry and I love them)

My fiance and I play PoGo all the time together. He’s a Pokémon nut, and was ecstatic when I wanted to play PoGo with him and started asking him more and more questions. He bought me a 3DS and Pokémon Moon last Christmas so we could keep playing Pokémon together even when it was too cold for PoGo. I remember opening my 3DS and installing Moon on it the same night he gave it to me. We lay together in the dark, on the air mattress we use when he stays with me at my mom’s house, and started another adventure together.

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My fiance bought both and wrapped them together (so he wouldn’t be tempted to start one) and let me choose first. I chose Moon ❤

This past winter, I went through a really hard time. My health (mental and physical), my work, my relationships (even that with my fiance) were deteriorating. Suffice it to say, it sucked. Big time. I felt fragile, exhausted all the time, and constantly on the verge of tears. I hadn’t felt anxiety that bad since grad school.

But I had something I didn’t have in grad school, and that was Pokémon.

I would come home from work every night, get in bed, and turn on my 3DS. Pokémon Moon has a feature called “Poke Refresh” where you can feed your Pokémon Berries, groom them, and pet them. I would spend an hour or two before falling asleep leveling up my Pokémon and taking care of them in Refresh. It probably sounds stupid, but petting my lil buddies, feeding them, and watching the little hearts appear above their heads, made me feel better. Like, if I couldn’t take care of myself, might as well take care of some cute virtual creatures, right?

It made me feel like I was doing something good. That I had done something good that day, no matter how small.

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LOOKIT THE LIL VULPIX SHE GIVES KISSES D,X ❤ 

My 3DS was sitting on the floor next to my bed for a while, because I started having eye issues on top of everything else. My eyes just got too tired after staring at the computer all day for work to play Pokémon every night. Gradually, though, things got better, and I got better. The entire time I had been playing PoGo regularly, and my fiance has made it a habit to send me plushies of my favorites, so it wasn’t like I wasn’t totally without Pokémon.

Things are starting to suck again. After all the time and money I sunk into my degree, I’m starting to question my career choice. Winter is coming and that’s always a hard time for me, especially the holidays. My fiance and I have decided on a date that’s years out, but thinking about all the wedding details has overwhelmed me more times than I’d care to admit in the bare month and a half we’ve been engaged.

Knowing just how to cheer me up, my beautiful, wonderful, darling finance sent me a new Bombshells figurine and a Nintendo e-shop gift card for Sweetest Day this past weekend.

What did I spend it on? Pokémon Silver.

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Going back to (almost) the beginning.

Though I only played Leaf Green as a kid, I love Silver so far because it takes me back to that time when I was young. I am enthralled by Pokémon technology and how close it is to our own today. Those guys predicted the future, I’m telling ya. Everyone in the Pokémon universe is so nice and friendly, and I talk to every NPC I come across… and anyone who knows me in real life knows I never talk to anyone if I can’t help it.

And, of course, I’m catching new lil buddies. I can’t pet them like I can in Moon, but it helps.

It helps.

– Kathleen

Batman: Earth One (Vol. 1)

During his mayoral campaign, Thomas and his wife Martha are murdered. Their young son, Bruce, is left with no one in the world – save his father’s friend Alfred. The ex-Marine has been granted sole guardianship of the boy, and he reluctantly accepts. Bruce grows up hell-bent on revenge, eventually donning a black cowl and cape to take down the animal who killed his parents. Trouble is, that animal is currently mayor of Gotham City… and he’s currently paid off just about everyone, especially the police. With no one to turn to, no one to trust, he strikes out on his crusade alone.

Kinda the same Batman you know, kinda a different one. Geoff Johns is a fantastic writer, and there are twists and turns abound. No one is who you’ll expect they’ll be in this arc, and half the fun is finding out who fits where. The villains are genuinely disturbing, and we get a hint or two that Bruce himself may be more than a little mad. The art is – typical Batman art, for lack of a better word: dark, a muted palette, and plenty of blood and gore. I look forward to the next volume!

– Kathleen

Johns, Geoff, and Gary Frank. Batman: Earth One (Vol. 1). 2012.

Here’s Negan!

The Walking Dead’s favorite psychopath now has a backstory! This slim volume shows us Negan before the zombie apocalypse and in the days following, and we learn what shaped him into the charismatic villain that we love to hate.

When I bought the book it was shrink-wrapped in plastic, so a casual shopper couldn’t flip through it and find out more about Negan without actually purchasing the book. The book is much shorter than I would have expected, and was a quick read.

The book begins a few months before the world goes to hell, and we meet Negan who is a foul mouthed gym teacher who has a nasty quip for everything. He seems to respect his wife Lucille, until we see him cheating on her, despite her recent cancer diagnosis. Negan has a parallel with Rick, as the zombie’s attack while he and his wife are in the hospital. I do not want to share anymore than that, because the point of the book is to show Negan’s journey from being a regular asshole kind of guy to the monster we know him as.

But I will say- I was highly disappointed in this story. It’s hard to share why without giving away too many plot points, but Negan’s arc wasn’t as complete as it should have been.  There was more character development of Dwight and Sherry and the the group that will evolve into The Saviors, than with Negan. Plus, there seems to be a discrepancy between this book and a conversation he and Rick have in Volume 28.

I also had been intrigued that Negan seems to have an aversion to rape, although certainly not killing, and I was curious if they would address some of his contradictions. While they dance around the subject, it wasn’t truly answered. So I ended up feeling the plastic wrap was to prevent shoppers from backing out of the purchase once they discovered this book doesn’t quite pass muster. Some of the ingredients for a good narrative were there, but they were not fleshed out enough. Borrow, do not buy this book (that’s what libraries are for!) to get your Negan fix.

-Nancy

Kirkman, Robert, Charlie Adlard & Cliff Rathburn. Here’s Negan! 2017.

Top 5 Wednesday: Books Featuring Zombies!

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This month’s T5W topics center around Halloween, and when asked to pick my favorite type of scary creature, I knew zombies was it!

Revival is a favorite of mine, and I have written a lot of posts about it. In this now completed series, twenty three people inexplicably come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin. The “Revivers” are not your typical zombies looking for braaaiins. Instead they quietly rejoin their former lives, not even realizing or remembering their deaths. Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region. The series is being developed into a movie through Shatterglass Films.

Deluxe Edition One

Deluxe Edition Two

Deluxe Edition Three

Deluxe Edition Four

The Walking Dead is the grand-daddy of all zombie series.  A fascinating premise, that is getting a bit long in the tooth now, but is still beloved by many. I list the three compendiums I have reviewed on my blog, but I have also been keeping up with the smaller volumes as they come out, and putting reviews up on my Goodreads account.

Compendium One (Volumes 1-8)

Compendium Two (Volumes 9-16)

Compendium Three (Volumes 17-24)

This book must be listened to on audio…it was beyond good. The story covers the history of the world wide war against zombies, and the narrative covers a reporter getting first hand accounts from survivors that tell about the beginning of the epidemic, the resistance, and the aftermath of the zombie catastrophe.  Some of the standout characters/stories were Todd Wainio, the Redker Plan, the North Korea speculation, the female Russian soldier, the pilot of the downed plane, and the family at the Manitoba campsite. A tiny criticism, is that I figured out every supposed surprise in the stories, and the connections between the world-wide characters strained credibility. The actors voicing the characters in the audio edition were perfect- Mark Hamill! Nathan Fillon! Denise Crosby! Jeri Ryan! Common! Alan Alda! I will definitely be listening to this story again and again.

Negan has been a prominent villain in the long running The Walking Dead series, and is a perverse mix of monster and savior. The question of how he became so twisted and his backstory during the zombie apocalypse is explained in this book that just came out the same week of Volume 28.

After is a strong collection of nineteen short stories about life “after” a catastrophic event. As with any compilation with various authors, some are stronger than others. One of the standouts was  After the Cure by Carrie Ryan. It  took the zombie story trope and subverted it. Vail is a teenager that was previously a zombie like creature but was given a cure to rehabilitate her. Society has a hard time accepting those rehabilitated people back into their communities, and the people themselves still feel some degree of hunger and a need to be back with their undead packs. Despite the melancholic nature of this story, there was a nugget of hope built into the end.

Who would have thought that zombies could be so appealing, but my reading list doesn’t lie!

-Nancy

Fables (The Deluxe Edition): Vol. 9

Working together, the Western and Arabian Fables, led by Prince Charming and Sinbad, have finally figured out a way to strike back against the Adversary and take back the Homelands. They’ve combined magic with Mundy technology, and the results are devastating to the Adversary and his forces. But the Adversary has one more trick up his sleeve, and he’s sure as hell not going down without a fight. Who will come out on top? And what kind of repercussions will this war have… on both Homeland and Fable territory?

As ever, there is much more packed into this volume than my short summary… I don’t want to give anything too important away =P The suspense of seeing how the war was going to turn out keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time – and even after, once the smoke clears and things start hitting the fan again. There were some issues drawn by other artists that I think missed the mark of the subject matter. Strange, because all others have been wonderful so far! Not a big deal, though. As always, I eagerly await the next volume.

– Kathleen

Willingham, Bill, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Niko Henrichon, Michael Allred, Peter Gross, and David Hahn. Fables (The Deluxe Edition): Vol. 9. 2014.

Hype or Like Friday: I’m A Scaredy-Cat…

It’s Friday the 13th today! And what better way to celebrate than with this writing prompt- Hype or Like Friday: I’m A Scaredy-Cat… list the top 13 books and films that scare you the most! You will quickly see I like my horror stories short and scary. I am a big fan of Stephen King, but typically only of his shorter work.

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by various authors

Impressive collection of horror/fantasy/paranormal short stories that were all inspired by old movies or books. The inspiration of each story is listed at the end of each story, but the fun is in guessing before you know for sure.

 

Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King

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King became too wordy for me a long time ago, so I now stick to his short stories for I feel he writes them very well. I liked how not all of them had horror or a supernatural element to them, but they all brought the characters to life. Some authors write a whole book and you still don’t have a fully fleshed out character, so I have always felt short story writers who can pull you in quickly are the best authors.  My favorites were Everything’s Eventual (listened to this on audio-Justin Long nailed it), Riding the Bullet and The Road Virus Heads North.

 

Poe: Stories and Poems by Edgar Allen Poe, adapted by Gareth Hinds


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When I wrote my discussion post on whether classic stories should be adapted into graphic novels, I deliberately left stories about Poe off. I love many of the macabre poems and short stories he wrote, and I had heard that this adaptation would be out soon. The illustrations here are evocative, and I will be reviewing this particular book in a few weeks. (Edit- here it is!)

 

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Four very dark short stories with Big Driver and A Fair Marriage being my favorites. This was the book that truly gave me the most chills, as they were very realistic and grim.

 

Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez

One of the best graphic novel series I have ever read, Locke & Key starts with a family tragedy as the Locke family is terrorized by two students who have an ax to grind with the father, Rendell, who is a high school guidance counselor.  After the father’s murder, the shattered family leaves California and heads to Massachusetts to start over at the Locke family estate, where Rendell’s younger brother Duncan provides them sanctuary. But alas, more evil awaits them there. This supernatural thriller set in a small coastal town is a winner and is being developed for a series on Hulu.

 

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These early stories of King stories grab your attention, and wonderfully describe the characters and locale in just a few pages. Favorites were Jerusalem’s Lot, Strawberry Spring, Children of the Corn, and I Am the Doorway. That many of these short stories were adapted into movies say a lot about the strength of his writing.

 

As for the movies…

Alien– There is no place to escape in space! That alien is so freakin’ creepy.

The Ring– The urban legends are true! Don’t watch the video!

The Blair Witch Project– The first of the “lost footage” movies that was perfectly done and set the stage for a new genre.

Poltergeist– I watched this as a child and it freaked me out. Children in danger, killer clown toy, and a house built on a graveyard- this had everything to scare me!

Carrie– Religious fanaticism, telekinesis and mayhem at the prom!

The Silence of the Lambs– Cannibalism and mind games at their finest.

Arachnophobia– Spiders…nuff’ said.

Give these stories and movies a chance, and you’ll be sure to have a frightfully good time!

-Nancy

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