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Graphic Novelty²

Carrie Soto Is Back

This is the fourth and final interconnected book of author Taylor Jenkins Reid. She has specialized in complex women throughout the decades- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was set in the 60s, Daisy Jones & The Six in the 70s, Malibu Rising was set in the 80s, and now Carrie Soto in the 90s (tho the book felt a bit more modern-day). Carrie was a previous cameo character in Malibu Rising, and Easter eggs are sprinkled throughout the book, making little connections with the previous three.

Carrie Soto is a driven professional tennis player who dominated the sport in the 70s & 80s but has since retired. Bored with retirement, she rejoins the tennis circuit when a younger player ties her record for Slams won. At 37, she is an unlikely player but coached by her father, she feels she can stage a comeback. And what a comeback it is, for her ambition and desire to win push her to the brink, but she perseveres. Carrie is criticized and judged, as all women are, and I saw parallels with women athletes from years ago to today- I thought especially of the Williams sisters who are superb athletes and transformed the game but didn’t fit the mold of earlier female tennis players. Her story is softened in the end when she decides the game doesn’t have to encompass her whole life, and she begins to make friendships and rekindled a romance with another player.

While I liked Daisy Jones & The Six and Malibu Rising the best of the four, this quartet of books comes highly recommended!

Star Trek Edition: The Great Fandom Swap

The following is a repost from Michael of My Comic Relief in regards to the fandom swap we recently worked on together!

Friendship is wonderful, isn’t it?  It can lead you to do all sorts of things you’d never do on your own.  I’d start listing examples but, c’mon, then we’d be off on a tangent (a beautiful, nourishing, and entertaining tangent to be sure!) which could fill pages.  Let’s cut to the chase!  My friendship with Nancy of Graphic Novelty2 – my oldest, longest, and dearest blogging friend – has led to an historic first.  I, Michael John Miller, author and operator of the blog My Comic Relief, am writing about Star Trek for the very first time.  You see, Nancy loves Star Trek and I’d never seen a single episode of Star Trek (only the JJ Abrams films).  I love Doctor Who and Nancy had only seen a few episodes in passing.  So, in the name of friendship, AMAZING THINGS, and blog content, we did our first ever Fandom Swap!  Eagerly sharing what we love with the other, Nancy chose eight episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (her favorite iteration of the show) for me to watch and I gave Nancy eight episodes of Doctor Who

What follows is a unique piece, a sort of dialogue.  You’ll see Nancy’s intro material leading me, a Star Trek newbie, into each episode, followed by my thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the episodes as well as my general feels on wading into the world of Star Trek for the first time.  Enjoy!

NancyStar Trek: The Next Generation ran for seven outstanding seasons, but I am starting off with an episode from S3, for truth be told most series take awhile to gain their footing and attract a fan base. 

Yesterday’s Enterprise S3E15

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: This episode was the perfect “going back in time to right wrongs” episode.  It features Tasha Yar, a character from the first season who had been the first Head of Security in S1 and was killed in the line of duty.  IRL the actress wanted to leave the show (so foolish!) and was given a rather ignoble death scene, so this episode in S3 gives her a fitting end, plus I liked the subplot about the possible romance between her and Castillo.  It also ended up setting up another amazing twist storyline in future seasons.  Some background knowledge: The Enterprise NCC-1701-D  is the fourth Enterprise, under Captain Picard (A was Captain Kirk, B was Captain Harriman, C was Captain Garrett). 

Michael:  My very first thought as I began my very first episode?  “Is that Whoopi Goldberg???  It is!!!”  I had no idea she was on Star Trek!  The size of The Enterprise is something my mind kept sticking on.  I’m not used to “good guy” ships being so big/full.  In Star Wars, the Rebels’ ships are so much smaller than the Empire’s and in Doctor Who the TARDIS is infinite on the inside but it’s always just the Doctor and a few companions.  To think of this ship’s “ecosystem,” as it were, is staggering.  It’s so much more “polished” than the world of Doctor Who, where the Doctor is essentially a vagabond setting things right where they find things needing sorted.  I got lost

thinking on the Tasha/Castillo romance.  The idea of meeting someone, having that connection, and then knowing they have to go back into the past which will reset your timeline and make you forget ever even having met them??  That’s a heavy thing to wrap your mind around.

It’s not as jarring as I thought it’d be, jumping into the world of Star Trek for my very first time.  My most vivid connection to a character from this episode was Tasha then Picard (obvs.) and Data and Whoopie.

Sins of the Father S3E17

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: Worf, Klingon Head of Security, defends his family’s honor and has to make a sacrifice.  This episode really showed Klingon society.  Worf has proved to be one of my favorite characters, and later very capably made the jump to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and helped anchor the series that was initially struggling before it hit its stride. 

Michael:  Worf is one of my most vivid Star Trek memories from my youth, seeing him in ads in my comics or on TV.  I always thought he was a villain (he kinda scared me) given the way he looked.  Since Klingons freaked me out as a kid, it was interesting to see an episode so focused on their culture.  They were as intense and violent as I would’ve expected but there was a surprising warmth and familial connection.  As I observed above, the very military nature of this show is so foreign to me.  I don’t normally watch or read things like this.  The hierarchy.  The routines.  The protocol.  It all fees so…strict.  I got a rush o’ feels when Worf asked Piccard to serve as his cha’DIch.  And when Picard replied in Klingon??  It felt surprisingly sweet for a show I was only on my second episode of.

The Best of Both Worlds S3E26 & S4E1 (two-parter)

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: The Borg, cybernetic humanoids that assimilate individuals into their hive-mind, are introduced.  Captain Picard is captured and assimilated!  His time there would forever change him and would tie him to another character (Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager – which was Captain Janeway’s ship) who also was formerly a Borg, and the two co-star in the series Star Trek: Picard.  This was an excellent cliffhanger episode and really made me anxious for the start of S4.  In the years since, the Borg have become the Big Baddies of the franchise, and are over-used TBH. 

Michael:  What came to mind whenever I thought of Star Trek as a kid, before ever seeing an episode, was their color coded uniforms, the shape of the Enterprise, Picard, the Klingons, and the Borg.  So to see the introduction of the Borg was exciting!  The Borg gave me major Cybermen vibes – a cyborg species seeking to assimilate everything and operating through a hive mind.  So this was kinda cool :).  This threat felt familiar.  It makes me wish I gave you an episode of Doctor Who with the Cybermen in it!  I get your anxiety over the summer, too.  My notes at the end of Part One literally said, “That’s where they did the ‘To Be Continued…’ cutoff??  How did people wait all summer to see the next one?!?

This episode was the first time through this I felt really invested in the story.  Like I was on the edge of my seat watching!  I also keep thinking of how often I saw the Borg, the assimilated Picard, and their big ol’ cube ship in my comic ads as a kid.  So much of my sense of Star Trek comes from those ads.  Going into the second episode, even though I knew Picard would be ok (somehow), I still felt a pit in my stomach as Ryker takes charge and Guinan gives him his li’l pep talk to do so.  My notes for the end of Part Two, “What was with that ending??  Was it just a sobering reflective moment or are they still in his head someway??”

The Inner Light S5E25

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: Probably my favorite TNG episode ever!  Picard is always so stoic, but here he gets to raise a family and the ending will gut you.  The flute…tears!!!  It makes you wonder how long you yourself would fight against knowing you were in the wrong era/world and give in and live the best life you could under the new circumstances.

Michael: Knowing this is your favorite TNG episode ever had me really excited to see it!  I can see why you like it (and I don’t even have the emotional connection to the series/characters that you do!) and it did give me a lot to think about!  Waking up in a world I know is wrong but everyone else says is correct would be so overwhelming!  I presume I’d spend a lot of time crying and ultimately find myself committed.  Even if I had another family and natural supports, I’d be haunted by what I knew was right and what I knew I’d lost.  Could I go to bed with a women I just met who was certain we were married?  When would I commit to an illusion?  When would I accept it as “real”?

I figured out the twist when Picard and Batai were talking about the planet being doomed but that didn’t make it any less emptional.  What a beautiful reflection on the power and purpose of history!  History, when done right, should pull us into a people and we should come to love them – their life, their culture, their ways, their world – just as we do our own family.  But history often fails.  Though when it doesn’t, well it can forever change our lives as it did for Picard.  The flute scene at the end, while I was expecting something like it, was so poignant!  This was an episode!  I see why you love it so much!  On the one hand, my gut reaction was it was kind of a dick move on those people’s part, to hijack a consciousness to share their story with the world.  But as soon as I thought about it for a few moments I realized…what else is the point and purpose of history?  Yes, it’s hard but it should be.  WOW.

I, Borg S5E23

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: An injured Borg drone is captured and Picard has to decide if he will use him as a weapon against the Borg, who have become a huge threat to the Federation.  What happens when this former Borg begins to demonstrate free will? 

Michael:  Seeking out an area “for colonization” carries a different connotation in our age of growing awareness of the horrors of empire.  Dr. Crusher’s immediate compassion for the wounded Borg boy was welcome, especially after their last encounter.  I really like her character for that :).  Picard plotting a potential Borg genocide with Data is not unsurprising (heck, Star Wars adores genocide) but it still makes me sad.  The whole military-centric drive of the show, in fact, is something that has yet to feel like it “fits comfortably” for me.  I love how the more Geordi gets to know Hugh, the more uncomfortable he feels with the program he’s designing.  Conversation breeds connection and connection breeds communion.  The last episode tugged on the ol’ heartstrings but watching Hugh voluntarily go back to the Borg to protect Geordi from their pursuit hit hard.  I just wanted them to save Hugh!  Why couldn’t they take him with them??  Why didn’t he become part of the crew??  Siiiiigh.

The First Duty S5E19

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: Wesley Crusher, the doctor’s son who had been a regular in the first few seasons but had left the Enterprise to attend Starfleet Academy, is back in this episode and he is in trouble.  He and some other cadet pilots made a stupid decision while flying and a crewmate died.  This isn’t truly one of my very top episodes, but it ties in nicely with the next episode I am having you watch.  Aside – the actor playing Nick Locarno would later be recast and play Tom Paris in Star Trek: Voyager.  For legal reasons, he couldn’t be the same character in two different series. 

Michael: “Captain’s Log: Stardate…”  “Space – the final frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship, Enterprise.  It’s continuing mission, to seek out new life, to explore new star systems, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”  “Resistance is Futile.”  It’s so cool to finally be experiencing these classic lines for myself as part of their narrative rather than just hearing them as an oft quoted piece of pop culture!  Picard told Wesley the duty of every Star Fleet officer is to the truth – scientific, historical, and personal truth.  I really like this frame of what they do.  And I got to see future Earth – future San Diego, it looks like – for the first time!

Lower Decks S7E15

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: We get a look at the younger crew members of the ship, and one of them is from the episode The First Duty.  This gives us a different perspective of the ship, seen from the crew who are part of the “lower decks.”  This premise is the basis for the new series Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is a cartoon, but ties in with the entire franchise.  A very bittersweet ending, but realistic that sometimes captains need to make decisions that they know could hurt or kill their crew, but is for the greater good.  

Michael:  In some ways this episode reminds me of Scrubs S9, with it’s focus on the ensigns on the ship and their concern about their careers and promotions and coming up in Star Fleet.  I was really happy to see Sito back from the last episode.  I like her.  Watching her talk with Picard in the wake of what happened at the Academy was hard.  We’ve all been haunted by mistakes but how do you come back from something like that.  Do you?  Can you?  I like how this episode explored that.  I love how often they hang out in the bar/restaurant on the Enterprise.  I like the overlay of senior officers and the ensigns playing poker – regular poker on a regular poker table

with regular cards – and chatting, too.  It gave a strong sense of continuity between those on the Enterprise and us.  It felt more like our possible future, you know?  Ok, so here are my literal stream on consciousness notes:

“If Sito dies in this episode…I’ve not seen enough Star Trek to learn their narrative rhythm yet but it seems like this could be setting her up for a tragic ending.  I am rooting for her!  I really like her as a character!  She can’t die here!  If I lose Sito after the flute scene and losing Hugh, I am gonna be in a rough place!  I am not comfortable with this whole hostage ruse/escape pod pickup scenario.  I am not liking this one bit!”

What a heartbreaking way to end.  I mean, it makes sense.  It is bittersweet, as you said.  And it certainly leaves me awash in my own emotions around the crew of the Enterprise.  Part of me is surprised I became so connected to these characters in just eight episodes – and Sito who was only in two of them! – but part of me isn’t.  I’m an empath by nature and I’m easily pulled into a well written story.  Also, Star Trek has been popular for sixty years precisely because it pulls people in like this.

Nancy: I hope you enjoyed your window into my beloved franchise, and if I had another episode I would recommend the last episode of the series, All Good Things, which wraps up the series nicely.  It had a perfect ending scene with all the main characters.  While of course Star Trek: The Original Series is the granddaddy of the entire Star Trek universe, I believe you can truthfully say it was Star Trek: TNG that revitalized the franchise, and all series that came afterward are truly based on TNG.  For anyone interested in getting into Star Trek for the first time, of course, I recommend TNG, but the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is absolutely fantastic and will make a Trekkie out of you yet!  In the meantime, Live Long and Prosper!

Michael:  I did enjoy this!  In fact, I enjoyed it so much by the start of “The First Duty,” I began to consider watching Star Trek on my own, making it another big series I explore alongside Classic Doctor Who.  This is HUGE as I feel I never have time for the TV people tell me I “should” be watching (in fact, I just wrote about my reluctance to jump into new TV shows here).  But I was open to – even eager – to explore more of the Star Trek universe on my own.  The main reason I haven’t yet was I wasn’t sure if we’ll make this Fandom Swap an annual thing we return to so I held off ;D.  But I’m SO GLAD we did this!  And I’m really happy you chose TNG for me to begin with as almost all the Star Trek memories I have from my youth are about TNG.  Now I finally got to see it for myself!

I chose to end with this picture as a) I mentioned above how much I enjoy the characters regularly hanging out at this bar on the Enterprise, b) Worf is one of Nancy’s favorite characters, and c) my heart still hurts for poor Sito! / Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: Stay tuned for my piece on Doctor Who next week!!!!!

Wastelanders: Doom podcast

This is the fifth season in the Wastelanders podcast series about an apocalyptic world set in the Marvel universe. After four seasons about various aging and displaced heroes, this season follows Doctor Doom.

“After thirty years of imprisonment, Doctor Doom has freed himself and seeks revenge on the former allies who betrayed him on The Day The Villains Won. To achieve this, he teams up with Valeria Richards, the daughter of his most hated enemy, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four – but whose side is she really on?” *Some spoilers ahead*

A Super Hero Walks Into a Bar

Finally, the podcasts are starting to come together with an introduction that directly links this one to the first Wastelanders podcast about Star-Lord! We meet Valeria, who has the tools left from the F4 team and begins to work with Johnny, a former barkeep and hired gun. We also get a character from that first podcast that seemed to make a drastic turn toward evil in the last episode (their motives are very suspect).

A Fantastic Four

We are given some backstory to Doom and Valeria’s relationship- he is actually her Godfather, as he helped deliver her years ago. For 30 years he has been bidding his time and learning new skills as he was held captive and plotting his revenge.

Mask-less

The villain Klaw recounts what happened to the F4 family, and it was heartbreaking. We find out what Valeria’s powers are and how they prevented her from dying and why she still looks so young. We get yet another reference to the Wastlelanders series- in regards to Wolverine and Red Skull.

Destructive Interference

We discover the petulant Doom is stronger than he has been acting, and he has an evil plan (of course). But he could be an anti-hero as he seems to care about Valeria despite his bluster.

Truth Serum

Valeria takes Doom, Cora and Johnny back to her secret compound to regroup. She shows off her F4 and other hero gadgets she has been collecting, which should help them with their adventures. She is not sure of Doom’s plans, so she slips him a truth serum and gets him to admit that he is looking for the Cosmic Cube.

Thunder Sandstorm

The motley crew heads to the entrance to the Negative Zone and meets some other unlikely villains- Sandman and Kingpin. The Cosmic Cube seems to be a hot commodity.

King of the Negative Zone

This crew enters the topsy-turvy Negative Zone and discovers that Kingpin has found the Cosmic Cube himself. There is a battle of wits between everyone and suddenly the Shadow King (who had been the one who orchestrated the massacre at Professor X’s Mutant Academy due to how he manipulated Wolverine) appears and there is more mayhem and double-crossing.

Tee Off

Doctor Doom is held prisoner at Kingpen’s compound and learns that there are cracks in his empire. Not surprisingly he bests Kingpin and Shadow King and heads out to the neighboring Hulkland. In the meantime, Valeria and Johnny bond and have a brief romantic moment before they head to Hulkland too.

Getting Angry

Doom confronts various Hulks, including the She-Hulk, Amadeus and Bruce. Are there double crosses? You betcha! There is a sad death and Cora the Recorder realigns her allegiances. While there have been references to Wolverine and Star-Lord, no mention or tie-in yet with Hawkeye or Black Widow.

I Am a God

Yet another battle of the wits between Doom and Hulk, with each of them utilizing the Cosmic Cube’s powers. Cora the Recorder continues to be a problem, and Valeria shows up at the end for a confrontation between her and Doom. Her motives have always been a bit suspect, as she straddled the line between hero and anti-hero, but seems to take a turn for the worse at the end.

And then *finally* we get confirmation that the next season will tie in all the heroes from the previous Wastelanders podcasts: Star-Lord, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Wolverine!! I’m still a bit salty about how long it has taken for these seasons to tie in together. They should have added more links to one another and given previews at the end of each season regarding the next one. Maybe the producers read my previous blog posts and took heed 😉 I now forward to the next (and what I assume will be the concluding) season of Wastelanders.

Written by Mark Waid & James King and directed by Jade King Carroll

Voice Cast:

Dylan Baker as Doctor Doom

Rebecca Naomi Jones as Valeria Richards

Nadine Malouf as Cora

Danny Burstein as Hulk

Keith David as Kingpin

John Hawkes as Klaw

Kristen Johnston as She-Hulk

Elijah Jones as Johnny

Hamish Linklater as Sandman

Series Artwork by Steve McNiven (who illustrated the original Old Man Logan)

So Much For Love: How I Survived a Toxic Relationship

Part memoir, part self-help book, Sophie Lambda is a French illustrator who shares her disastrous love affair with a narcissist.

Sophie meets television actor Marcus at a Paris party and feels an immediate connection. After they re-meet months later they begin to correspond by texting and soon arrange to meet. The relationship progresses quickly and Sophie falls deeply in love. Marcus also declares his love for her and she feels like a new woman. As time goes by, cracks appear, but Sophie makes excuses for these first signs. The highs with him are just so wonderful that she balances the lows for far too long. Plus, Marcus expertly manipulates her making her doubt herself and he separates her from friends that would have noticed his toxic behavior.

Two-thirds of the way through this graphic novel, Sophie finally breaks it off with him, but the drama is not over, as he lies to others and tries to cover his multiple affairs. She begins therapy, as she is devastated and unable to recover from her emotional turmoil. Her therapist guides her through how to recognize a manipulator, and she realizes that there were signs early on that she swept under the rug because she was blinded by love. With a few stops and starts, she regains her life and her sanity and ends up helping Marcus’s next girlfriend when he continues his unhealthy patterns. Thus the last third of the book is a self-help manual, as Sophie shares her hard-won wisdom with others who might find themselves trapped in a toxic relationship.

The art is delightful, as Sophie takes a self-deprecating look at her life and builds comedy into it. A trash-talking teddy bear (unseen to all but herself) is her ally, and she isn’t afraid to show her own foibles. She keeps to a simple black-and-white color scheme, adding some blues and reds on occasion to amp up the emotions. Paris and French countryside landscapes are additionally appealing and the 300-page book goes by quickly.

While I have been lucky in love, I have witnessed unhealthy relationships in my extended family and in some friends’ lives. So while I may not have experienced these pitfalls myself, I hope this guide could help me be a good aide to someone who might need a hand in the future.

Locke & Key: Season Three

The six-book graphic novel series Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez is an all-time favorite of mine, so I was thrilled when Netflix adapted the books into this three-season series. Season One was strong, with more emphasis on fantasy vs horror than the books, with Season Two starting to veer off the original storyline. Each season has consisted of ten episodes, and this final season continues to tell the tale of the Locke family who are fighting an otherworldly evil and has been doing so for generations.

The trio of Locke siblings- Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode- finally used magic to let their mother and uncle know about the supernatural happenings. In the past, once someone became an adult they forgot about the magic, which had been happening to Tyler as he neared eighteen. I liked this change from the graphic novels, as it was becoming more and more unsustainable to keep such shocking happenings from the adults, and as a mother myself, I appreciated this tweak. If my kids were facing supernatural horrors, I would want to help them!

This third season changed up the storyline significantly, with a villain from the past brought to the modern day. Both in the book and in this series, the Lockes were able to use a magic key that enabled them to visit their home during the Revolutionary War when much of the magical mayhem began. But in this adaptation, an evil soldier and his two sidekicks come into the Locke’s world and try to find all the keys and assure their domination. I was rather meh about this new direction, for while I wanted some changeup in the narration so I wasn’t bored, I missed the opportunity to get to know past Locke family members that the series (and now spin-offs) have featured.

Uncle Duncan wasn’t featured as much this season (I wondered if IRL the actor had other commitments) although there was a nice wedding to his boyfriend at the beginning of the episodes. The mother, Nina, got a boyfriend with minimal drama, as especially the two oldest kids recognized that she needed to move on after her husband’s death and be happy. There were several unjust deaths (Gordie deserved better!) and the kid’s friends took a backseat.

While I have to admit I wasn’t as invested in this season as the previous two, the last episode really brought it home. The family working together (love!) realized that although they defeated the evil soldier, they needed to dispose of all the keys. The keys had only brought misery upon the family for generations, and while tempted to keep them, they understood they needed to put a stop to the dark magic. But as a family, they used one last key to briefly reunite with their father and had an extremely touching reunion with him. Nina, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode were all given small happily-ever-after moments and the series came to an apt conclusion.

All in all, this three-season series did justice to Hill and Rodriguez’s graphic novel series. Due to excellent casting, viewers welcomed the Locke family into their homes, and some twists and turns away from the original storyline kept it fresh. I’ll miss this Netflix series, but I will keep on the lookout for more graphic novels in the Locke & Key universe, as it remains a favorite of mine!

The Weight of Blood

I loved this retelling of Stephen King’s classic horror story Carrie! Updated by Tiffany D. Jackson to reflect the modern day, this novel also adds in the insidious effects of racism, making this a layered and timely narrative. I listened to this book on audio, and its full voice cast kept me mesmerized.

Set in a small town in Georgia in 2014, Maddy is a bi-racial girl raised by her single white father, who has forced her to hide her racial identity her entire life. Homeschooled as a child, she has been bullied and ostracized since starting public school in seventh grade. An incident at school with her hair during her senior year, reveals her secret and she is mocked for it, but of course, the bullies claim they are not racists, they were just joking. The bullying intensifies, and the students decide to have their first integrated prom to diffuse the bad press their school is receiving. Wendy, a white popular student who feels guilty, convinces her football star Black boyfriend Kenny to ask Maddy to the prom as penance. Due to the trauma she has endured, Maddy begins to discover she has telekinetic powers that come into deadly play when what you know will happen, happens at prom.

The framework of the story is set up as a podcast as a true-crime enthusiast and a skeptic research and discuss the horrific day. This switching between the past and the present day is effective and lets these podcasters muse about how the long-reaching legacy of racism led to Maddy’s breakdown. This chilling book was excellent and expertly braided in dark themes, making this more than your typical horror story. A few threads were left unexplored in the conclusion, so I would love a sequel!

Delphine

Happy Halloween! My graphic novel horror pick this year is Delphine, which takes some classic fairy tales and subverts them.

Once upon a time…there was a college student (who remains unnamed throughout the story) who falls in love with the mysterious Delphine. The two had been on the cusp of a new romance when she was called back to her hometown to care for her ailing father. While she had promised to stay in touch, she doesn’t, thus sending this substitute Prince Charming on a quest to find her. This young man finds excuses to explain what is happening at first but soon enough realizes these disturbing experiences are not normal. There is symbolism that is recognizable from fairy tales- a poisoned apple, a coven of witches, a group of dwarves, a kindly woodsman and a big bad wolf- but it is all jumbled together in a manner that can not be understood. All the while, his lost love Delphine remains out of reach.

The art is done in duotone, with browns dominating, giving it a moody shadowy vibe. The paneling structure is straightforward, often four to six panels per page. Only the chapter breaks give you full-page illustrations with additional color. Most of the town inhabitants are gaunt, with extreme features that are caricatures of villains you would see in fairy tales. While at first, the illustrations seemed lackluster, they grew on me and matched the ominous tone of the narrative.

Twisted tales are popular and often overused storytelling devices, but in this case, it really works. Elements of fairy tales and horror are braided together well, and you will wonder what you would do if you were dropped into a macabre village with no escape!

Year Zero: Volume Two

I’m a sucker for zombie stories, so I picked up this new Year Zero series, which proved to be World War Z in graphic novel form.

In the first volume, the outbreak had just occurred and we were introduced to five different individuals all over the world. While I expected this second volume to pick up with those characters again, instead we meet four new ones a few months into this new apocalyptic world. There is the sadistic Columbian drug lord, a pregnant woman trapped in an Arizona big-box store, a Rwandan doctor consumed with guilt, and a Norweigan sea captain and her two grandchildren who are trying to elude pirates on their fishing boat. The fates of these new survivors were more at risk than in the first volume, which made it harder to connect with them, as some died and others had implied grim endings. We also get some world-building in the form of a few letters throughout this slim volume.

While Benjamin Percy remained the author, the artist and colorist changed to Juan Jose Ryp and Frank Martin. The art remains strong with great details, with coloring shifts for each location change, which helps somewhat with the constant back and forth. I do wish Percy spent more time with each character at a time, for often it shifted every two to three pages.

While I still remain interested in this series, I’m not up for volume three to introduce even more characters. I hope they start to connect the characters still left alive from these first two volumes, and begin to braid their stories together as they learn to cope with the new world order.

The Haunting of Hill House

I have heard great things about this novel, plus I loved author Shirley Jackson’s short story collection The Lottery and Other Stories, so I went in with high expectations for this story. Disappointingly, it didn’t deliver due to a lack of scares and characters that I didn’t connect with.

The premise is that a paranormal scientist, Dr. Montague, recruits people who have had paranormal events occur in their life come stay at the infamous Hill House that is rumored to be haunted. He reaches out to a dozen possibilities, but only two, timid Eleanor and bohemian Theodora, plus Luke who is the future heir of the house, commit to staying. A married pair of caretakers cook for them and tend the house, but leave by 6 pm as they refuse to stay in the remote location after dark. The original four start to experience strange phenomena, with Eleanor seeming to be the most susceptible. The supernatural happenings are always unseen, with implied threats, but not physical manifestations. The four veer between documenting these events and then acting as if they simply are on holiday at a country estate. Later, the doctor’s imperious wife, and family friend Arthur join them; but again it is Eleanor that the house seems to be focusing on.

Published in 1959, it is a product of its time, so the dated references both help it and hinder it. In many ways, I enjoyed this look into the late 1950s era, which relied on letters to reach out to people and no technology to help or distract them. However, the overnight guests were inexplicitly snippy and spiteful with one another with fragile Eleanor getting on my nerves, especially with her oft-repeated ” Journeys end in lover’s meetings” quote. But Jackson did describe the Gothic house well, with excellent world-building of the house’s dark past.

The conclusion came suddenly, with the Doctor insisting that Eleanor leave by herself with no assistance, and of course, this week-long experiment ends tragically. Since I can’t help but look at the narrative through a modern lens, there were so many other things this group could have done differently to have a better outcome. But then, it wouldn’t have become a classic horror story if it ended well, would it?

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