Graphic Novelty²


IDW Publishing

Behind You: One-Shot Horror Stories

This creepy collection of one-panel stories was absolutely perfect! Each page is its own little eerie story that gives you an introduction to a greater narrative of your own choosing. As a child, I loved the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg which gave you pictures and a one-sentence prompt, and this graphic novel does the same. Joe Hill, of Locke & Key fame (and fellow IDW author), gives an introduction, so be on the lookout for one of the later illustrations to pay homage to his series.

As a librarian, the picture above made me pause…you never know what lurks around the corner behind a bookshelf! Other favorites of mine included any cemetery image, the girl building a puzzle, the boy retrieving his ball, the old man with his birthday cake, the thief in the hallway of portraits, and the last picture of a long-limbed animal in the woods.

Make sure you check out Coldrick’s art at his Tapas site for more horror one-shots, some of which are animated gifs! Enjoy this book that you can read all at once, or in small little bites, and remember…look behind you!


All pictures are from Coldrick’s online work.

Free Comic Book Day 2018

For several years in a row, I have brought Free Comic Book Day to my library. I pick up a good selection of titles from my favorite comic book store, Graham Crackers, and offer them to the library patrons when they come in. I also had some Star Wars and superhero crafts available for kids to do as well. I know, I know…I’m pretty awesome to offer such epicness to my library community.  As an added bonus, I love getting a sneak peek of the titles, and this year I went a bit crazy and picked six. But…none of them wowed me, as I think last year’s selection was better.

Free Comic Book Day Vol 2018 Avengers

Now I know comics can’t always follow whats going on in the movies, but having two Avengers stories that don’t correlate with what many of us saw on the big screen is confusing. In the first story, Black Panther and Odin, Thor’s father, talk of a threat that has been hidden for a million years. We get flashbacks to six God’s from the past that must be ancestors to modern day superheros. It’s hopelessly muddled and doesn’t make sense at all. The second story about Captain America is penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and picks up where last year Hydra’s story ended. This second story has some possibilities.

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A lighthearted romp with Han and Chewie getting into a scrape and then out of it. Typical Han Solo antics but the character is drawn with a face that looks more like actor Alden Ehrenreich than Harrison Ford. A nice tie with the upcoming Solo movie, but it didn’t advance his story line at all.

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This version of Bond isn’t drawn to resemble any of the past cinematic Bonds, and that’s just as well, as not to muddle our perceptions of him. 007 is being sent out on a mission, and due to some new regulations will not have his gun on him while he travels. This issue is a prequel to a future story, and humanizes James as he prepares to leave on this new job. The story and the clean art seem promising.

Image result for free comic book day 2018 invasionI picked up this title thinking the cover looked pretty cool, before I realized it was a Captain Canuck story. I almost put it back down after that realization, but then I would have missed the awesomeness of Canadian Trudeau, American Trump and Russian Putin facing off against one another at a United Nations General Assembly. Trudeau is portrayed as the voice of reason (true in real life) while Trump especially gets a comical (also true to form) depiction. Go Captain Canuck- save our world from alien invasion!

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I am not a fan of steam punk at all, but I picked the title up as I needed some female representation in my selections. This issue has two stories set three years apart, and is filled with the tired tropes of Mechanika having to find her origins, but as soon as she finds a clue, something prevents her from following it. This bionic female is sexualized with completely ridiculous outfits. Although the artwork is absolutely beautiful, I could not get past her comical vest that pushed out her breasts. Come on now. 

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This final story was a last minute grab for me, once I saw that it is an 80’s coming of age crime story, as I’m a sucker for that era! The opening story line appealed to me, as Diego works at a mob owned business, and (true story) I’m almost positive I worked at a clothing store that was a front for the mob when I was in high school. The plot then veers into cheesy 80’s movie territory with the story of a nerdy boy who wins over a hot girl. It was cute, but I don’t know where the continuing story will go. Also, the stylized cover doesn’t adequately represent the art inside, it’s completely different. I don’t like bait and switch.

So, I really question if I will continue with any of these stories. While I didn’t hate them, none grabbed my attention enough to make me rush out for future issues. Time will tell.


Star Trek Green Lantern: The Spectrum War

I picked this graphic novel on a whim as I am a huge Star Trek fan, and thought it would be a hoot to read about the Kelvin timeline crew meeting Hal Jordan.  IDW Publishing and DC Comics partnered together to bring us “The Crossover Event of 2015” and it did not disappoint!

I admit I am not very familiar with the Green Lantern Corps, so I really appreciated how explanations were worked into the narrative to bring you up to speed on how the whole power rings worked along with what the different colors symbolized. Cheat sheet: green, violet, blue and indigo rings are good while red, orange and yellow are bad.  Guess what- the violet, blue and indigo rings choose Star Trek crew while the evil rings went to a Klingon, a Romulan and a Gorn. These are not aliens you want to mess with folks!

Hal explains to Kirk and crew that he and a few other lanterns were pulled into the ST universe by Ganthet, one of the Guardians of the Universe, when he utilized Last Light to save the lantern corp when they were fighting a losing battle with villain Nekron. Evil lanterns from the DC universe have also been sucked into this timeline and they align with their color counterparts, but without their power batteries, all the lanterns are at risk.

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Johnson, Mike and Angel Hernandez. Star Trek Green Lantern: The Spectrum War. 2016 (first comic published in 2015)

Without spoiling too much, it would be safe for you to assume that there are several epic fights. Almost all of the main crew of the Enterprise get to wield ring power at one time or another. Several other green lanterns show up, and working as a team, a plan is put into action to save the universe. There is humor utilized throughout and the illustrations are top notch in this graphic novel. The Star Trek crew is drawn to resemble their movie counterparts, and as such it was sad to see Anton Yelchin (although this was written before his real-life death), yet it is heartwarming to know his portrayal will live on in books. I loved the variant art throughout, with all contributing artists submitting outstanding work.

Another crossover series with these characters is planned, so I look forward to more adventures with them. As Hal summarizes in the end, combining two motto’s into one- ” I am sworn to protect strange new worlds. New life. New Civilizations. To boldly go…by Lantern’s light…where no one has gone before!”

On a side note, I recently was in a good-natured Twitter fight with my friend Michael @ My Comic Relief about which is the best Chris. While he fought the good fight for Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy, my superior choice of Chris Pine as Kirk clearly was the winner.  In fact he even shared that a student of his said of Chris Pine, “The universe is in Chris Pine’s eyes!”. Not only does this student deserve an A+, it clearly shows how right I am. That this book that I had requested weeks earlier came in this week, is the final proof that MY Chris wins!


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Locke & Key: Heaven and Earth

As an extreme fan of Locke & Key, I was thrilled to see a book of collected stories set in the world of Keyhouse. Unfortunately, this book depends on your knowledge of the six-book series to understand the power of the keys that play a significant role in the stories. As two of the three stories are prequels, you are meeting family ancestors to the Locke children, and you will see some uncanny resemblances between generations.

Open The Moon

While this story could be a stand-alone, this story is better understood if you have read the issue Small World, as this has the family found in that story. We meet Chamberlin Locke and his wife Fiona and their four children. This story centers on their sickly son Ian, who is prone to convulsions, who can’t be cured by the magical mending cabinet in their home. Ian, his father and family friend Harland board a special hot air balloon to take them to the other side of the moon. This beautiful but melancholy story reunites loved ones, and Ian’s parents make a heart-rending sacrifice for Ian.

Picture taken from Deviant Art (artist & colorist credit on picture)


This crime-noir story is set in the 1930’s and features some French-Canadian criminals that get in over their heads at the Keyhouse. Sisters Mary and Jean from the previous story are all grown up when the gangsters burst into their home and threaten them. Bombshell Mary is calm, even when her little boys are in danger and the women are forced upstairs to be assaulted. Luckily these two women know how to utilize the keys of the house to their advantage, and the crime spree ends in a shocking manner. This story is graphic and meant for mature audiences only.

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In The Can

We are reunited with the three Locke siblings from the original series in this short. Spanning only a few pages, this story takes place in what I assume would be Volume 4 when they are searching for additional keys in the house and grounds. Bode, the youngest, discovers a magical outhouse in the woods. Each time he opens the door different creatures greet him. In-jokes abound in this story, so be on the lookout for clues in the first few panels that will explain what Bode sees. That some of these creatures can be found in other IDW publications comes as no surprise.

The concluding pages in the book are a photo gallery of the Massachusetts region that the fictional town of Lovecraft is based off and the author and illustrator mugging for the camera. Then we are given three drawn portraits of Bode, Kinsey and Tyler with Locke & Key mythology behind them.

This hardback book is a treat for already established Locke & Key fans and should not be missed if you miss the series and are waiting on the Hulu series to start filming (edit- Netflix picked up the series to film when Hulu passed on it).


Road Rage

Lately I have been on a Stephen King and Joe Hill kick, and Goodreads noticed. Recently I read The Cape and and on the “readers also enjoyed” sidebar Road Rage was recommended.  I was able to track down a copy and was pleased to see that the book included two short stories- the first written by the father and son duo of King and Hill, but also included an adaptation of the classic story Duel by Richard Matheson.

Throttle: Written by Stephen King and Joe Hill, Adapted by Chris Ryall, Art by Nelson Daniel

With an introduction by Stephen King, the reader is given a homage to Richard Matheson, for this first story was originally included in He is Legend, a book collection of Matheson-inspired stories. King gives Matheson partial credit for shaping him into the writer he is today.

We are introduced to a group of ten bikers, that have a Sons of Anarchy vibe, although they are called The Tribe. The three main characters are leader Vinny, Lemmy, and Vinny’s son Race, with the other bikers getting less face time. At a truck stop they are discussing a drug deal gone wrong, that resulted in a death, and their plans to try to recoup their losses. The leaders speculate that one of the truckers might have overheard their conversation , but figures “No one with any sense would want to get involved in their shitpull”. They were wrong. Out on the road the trucker comes after them, and blood and mayhem endue. You will just have to read the story to find out the trucker’s motives, and the resulting causality count.

The story is illustrated by Nelson Daniel who did the art in The Cape, also written by Hill. I enjoy his work, and liked his computer generated dot matrix that he uses for shading. He was able to make each biker unique looking, and had some great layout designs in his panels.

Duel: Written by Richard Matheson, Adapted by Chris Ryall, Art by Rafa Garres

This story included a second introduction, this time by Joe Hill, and he recounts some fond childhood memories of road trips with his father. As a child he had been fascinated with the movie Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg, and he and his father had fun in the car imagining what they would do under the same circumstances.

The premise is simple, a traveling salesperson is on a deadline, and wants to pass a trucker on a desert stretch of highway. He does so, but the trucker is incensed and starts to play cat and mouse games with the hapless driver. The driver pulls over at a truckstop, knowing he will now be late for the meeting, but as he fears for his safety, he wants to let the menacing trucker go by. Unfortunately for him the trucker also stops as to continue their driving duel. To find out who wins the duel you must read this book and/or watch the movie! In fact, the movie is my Friday night plans, as I was too scared by it in my younger years to watch it to completion.

The art is reminiscent of the famous painting The Scream by artist Edvard Munch, with the swirling lines and emotion of fear coming through the work. Colored with a muddy palette the browns, yellows and oranges aptly depict the barren landscape. At first I was not a fan of the illustrations, and was turned off by the impreciseness of how the driver looked. But his seemingly melted face conveyed his terror as his day went to hell in a blink of an eye.

I would definitely give this book a recommendation, but it will come as no surprise to King and Hill fans, the book is for mature audiences as it has quite a bit of violence with some graphic illustrations.


A variant title page showing King & Hill!


The Cape

The Cape came recommended to me by Graham Crackers staff on several occasions. I want to know- what about me makes them think that I would like this incredibly dark story with an anti-hero who is so very twisted? But they were right…I really liked it.

The story is based off a short story written by Joe Hill in his horror anthology 20th Century Ghosts. I haven’t read it yet, although it is on reserve at my library so I can end up comparing the two. I am shocked I haven’t read this collection, as horror short stories are a favorite of mine. This review will actually be covering two stories, the original The Cape, and the prequel The Cape: 1969.

The Cape– Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella, Zach Howard & Nelson Daniel

The story begins with two brothers playing superheros together. The older brother Nick plays The Streak, while younger brother Eric wears a cape and is named Red Bolt. While climbing a tree Eric falls onto a tree branch that pierces his head. Fast forward to the teen years and Eric is  slacker who inexplicably gains a beautiful and tolerant girlfriend Angie. After numerous surgeries, he is plagued by blinding headaches that he claims prevent him from attending college or gaining meaningful employment. A few more years go by, and Angie has become a nurse and Eric’s brother Nick is attending Harvard Medical. Filled with jealousy and resentment, the relationship ends, with Eric moving back to his widowed mother’s house.

In his childhood home he rediscovers the cape he had worn as a child that he thought his mother had thrown out after his accident. Putting it on for nostalgia’s sake, he is shocked to realize he can fly. He visits his ex-girlfriend Angie to show her what he can do, and this is where the story goes sideways. O.M.G.- what he does next! I will not spoil it, for you need to experience it yourself.

The narrative continues with Nick and their mother getting pulled in. There are some flashbacks, showing the boys with their mother, which does not explain the rage that Eric has inside him. He had a loving mother, a big brother that teased him but also protected him, and a supportive girlfriend. What shaped him into the monster that he became? A final showdown between the brothers occurs at the end, and a bit of dialogue found at the beginning is repeated at the end, this time with a different significance.

The artwork is a perfect match for the ominous story. A subdued color palette represents Eric’s current darkness, while a lighter more colorful palette show his happier flashbacks. The art has a gritty realism to it, with an interesting layout of panels. I definitely was reminded of the Locke & Key series that Hill also penned, although the artists are different.  For me, the only drawback of this story was how Eric so quickly became evil. I wish there had been more character development in his story arc to explain his choices. Perhaps after reading the short story this graphic novel is based on, it will add more depth, and I will understand how Eric became so depraved.

The Cape: 1969– Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella & Nelson Daniel  *This story was written by Jason Ciaramella, but based off Joe Hill’s earlier story and included his input.

This second story was an interesting prequel. We are transported back to the Vietnam War to explain how Eric’s cape came to have powers. First we meet Eric and Nick as even younger children with their mother reading their father’s letters from Vietnam. Their father Cory is a captain and is a medevac helicopter pilot. We learn he is MIA after his helicopter crashes in the jungle.

We are shown how Cory makes it out of the crash alive, but is quickly captured by the Viet Cong. Forced into a cage, he is later joined by a tattooed witch tribesman that the soldiers found living in the jungle.  The two men are pitted against one another by the cruel captors, with the intent for only one to survive. Cory is shocked when the mystical man begins to levitate, and despite the other man not seeming to be evil, Cory kills him so he can survive the contest. Before the tribesman dies, he touches Cory’s army patches on his shirt, and imparts his power to him. This begs the question- what’s the story behind the magical man? Unfortunately, we never learn more.

With this new found power Cory is able to escape his captors, but wants revenge. He comes back determined to kill all the men in the Viet Cong encampment. Instead of using his powers to truly leave and return to his family, Cory is determined to inflict as much pain on others as he can, and to no one’s surprise, it proves to be his downfall. Later another soldier finds some remains of Cory that includes the patch that is mailed back to his wife. She sews it on Eric’s cape to remember his father, not knowing that is is infused with power and rage.

The art is again excellent and very evocative of the era. Despite much of the story taking place in the jungle, little to no green is used. Instead, the camp is a dull brown, which I think embodies the loss of hope. Oranges and reds are used liberally in the Vietnam narrative, with the colors symbolizing to me the phrase “war is hell”. The colors definitely influenced my interpretation of the story, which was melancholy and grim. You knew as a prequel this story would not end well, and it did not disappoint on that regard.

Both stories were excellent but had plot holes that begged for more backstory. Looked at as a whole, I liked them, but do not go in expecting the stories to truly make sense if you start thinking too deeply about them. The violence is extreme, so consider that if you want to read the two stories. However, I would definitely recommend to mature readers who like their stories dark.


Love is Love

Love is Love is a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting. Published by IDW, in conjunction with DC, writers and illustrators came together to honor those killed in the Pulse nightclub on June 12th, 2016. All the proceeds from the book will go to the charity Equality Florida to benefit the victims, survivors and their families.

As with any anthology (no matter if poems, short stories or comics), this collection was uneven. Written with the best of intentions, these one-shot stories that are only a page or two vary in tone and authenticity. Some of the comics were powerful and made me tear up, or even better, made me think about the issues beyond that page. Others were trite and lacked depth.


Thoughts & Prayers– Lenson & Lopez: Shows how easy it is to be shocked and dismayed by something, but to let opportunities slip by and do nothing about it. Just saying “my thoughts and prayers are with you” can be meaningless. Do something to help!

Hand Me Down– Beals & LaFuente: Two different parenting styles equal two different outcomes. Our children ARE listening.

Phone Call*– DeFilippis, Weir & Vieceli: Supportive parents are the best!

Shelter Pet Adoptions*– Lope & Sadowski: Two dates- 4/3/2009 & 6/15/2016 bookened this heartbreaking tale about an owner and his dog.

Pride– Tynion & Ostertag: A highschool boy worries about wearing a rainbow bracelet to school, but does it anyway, to be true to himself.

Mother & Son *– Lindelof & Yu: A beautiful tribute to Brenda Lee Marquez McCool and her son Isaiah. Brenda died at Pulse, but told her son to run and he lived because of her encouragement. This one picture conveys so much.

*There were no titles on these comics, I made them up.


A Swan Song– Zeus is portrayed here as a great lover of both men and woman through the ages, and a supporter of the LGBTQ community. Sorry, this guy is a rapist, if you really read the myths about him closely. Not buying this story of him as a good guy.

Basically all the DC superhero stories. I totally think these stories should have representation in them, but these one shots felt like overkill. Lets make sure we continue the equality into the mainline comics, ok?

I have to applaud this book, for these artists did not just sit back and send their best – no, they did their best and donated their time and talent to help a hurting community. The stories open lines of communication, and I hope more artists with #ownvoices can add in to the dialogue. While not a perfect book, the right intent is there, and purchases will benefit those in need.


Free Comic Book Day 2017


The library I work at has hosted Free Comic Book Day the last three years (thanks to me!!!) so I was excited to get a sneak peek at the comics before the public did. There were four that I zeroed in on. Quick recaps follow.

I had most been anticipating this comic, as Skottie Young released the cover awhile back and I loved the mash up of Image characters with Gertrude the foul mouthed sociopath from I Hate Fairyland. She encounters and brutally attacks members from The Walking Dead, Saga, Southern Bastards, Black Science, Paper Girls, Invincible, Chew, Revival and The Wicked +The Divine. The ending with the Image partners was a fun shout-out. This comic was definitely a winner for it’s sick humor.

The Next Generation crew is looking pretty bad-ass here. This prequel to an upcoming comic series features Captain Picard, Troi, Data, and Tasha Yar on the Starship I.S.S. Stargazer in a alternate universe in which the Klingon/Cardassians alliance is powerful.  Low ranking crewman Barkley gets a chance to shine in this issue, and reestablishes equilibrium of one person’s fate no matter what universe they belong in. An after note by the authors whets my appetite for further story lines in this Mirror Broken universe.

An appealing prequel to the upcoming movie, this comic gives us a duel narrative of Diana on the island of Themyscira and Steve Trevor in military training. Although both arcs show them with good friends, both seem dissatisfied and yearning for more. My only small criticism is that if this was a prequel to the movie, I was surprised the characters weren’t drawn more similar to the actors that will be portraying them on the screen.

I was most leery of this title, as Marvel has had uneven success with their events, and I’m of very mixed feelings if I want to invest time in the Secret Empire, after being so dissatisfied with Civil War II. Captain America comes out as a secret agent of Hydra, and his former friends and heroes fall in battle against him. This very short introduction to the upcoming series has me torn. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t sucked in either. Time will tell if I want to continue. The last half of the comic was a fun Spiderman vs The Vulture story. It had some snappy dialogue between the two about “you’re so old that…” and had a tease for future story lines.

All in all, all four of my choices were solid. I plan on continuing with most of the story lines, and isn’t that the intent of the event, to make us want to buy future issues?


Locke & Key: Small World

Usually, I only review graphic novels vs single issues, but this is Locke & Key, I obviously needed to make an exception. Small World is a one-shot, but the creators plan a few more of these type of stories, covering some of the history prior to the original series that will be under the umbrella of Locke & Key: The Golden Age.

The Locke family has lived on the Keyhouse estate for over 250 years, and this particular story takes place in the early 1900s. Chamberlin Locke and his wife Fiona give a gift of an ornate dollhouse which is a replica of their own, to their daughters Mary and Jean. The magic Small World key creates the family in miniature and the girls can watch their family in the dollhouse. But in this supernatural thriller, things take a sinister turn quickly. Soon the miniature girls and their brothers Ian and John are fighting for their lives when a spider takes up residence in the dollhouse.  The artwork is again superb, with Locke family traits being readily evident, plus the keys we are familiar with are utilized to great effect in the story.

The note at the end of the issue, From The Publisher’s Desk, is what truly excited me for it included information about the future of Locke & Key. Creators Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez share news of the script that Hill is writing for Hulu (edit- Netflix picked up the series to film when Hulu passed on it) based on the series, and hint at a new Locke & Key comic series called World War Key. Be still my beating heart- a live series and a new six-book cycle??  So I am thrilled that I hopefully have many more years of Locke & Key epicness ahead of me!

Make sure you check out my reviews for Volume One and then the remaining horror series, Volumes Two through Six.



Hill, Joe, Gabrriel Rodriguez & Jay Fotos. Locke & Key: Small World. 2016 Variant Covers

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