graphic novels

All posts in the graphic novels category

SJ Reads: Krampus Shadow of Saint Nicholas

Published December 11, 2017 by admin

Time once again to visit a holiday book for the season, and keeping with the inadvertent theme, we’re going to look at another graphic novel:

krampuscomic

Note that this is not a comic/novelization covering the same story of the movie, though it is set in the same universe. If you like the movie, you’ll probably like the comic, and vice versa. Honestly, I think this even fleshes out the movie a little bit and gives more of a reasoning to things that happen there – it kinda gives a slightly different vibe to the last scene, because you have more of a sense of the full scope of things that are going on (and although it’s mostly subtext, I felt like there’s more of a feel of why, too).

This is somewhat more like Trick R Treat than Krampus, in that it combines different narratives in an almost anthology feel, but does a better job of blending them into one narrative at the end. A down-and-out mall Santa, a cop who runs into the person who ruined his life, and a rich businessman each earn a visit from Krampus, and each have to do their part to ward off the anti-santa and his minions and save the town’s Christmas.

If you love the over-the-top aspects of the movie like the evil toys and elves and such, you get much more of that here. You also get to see more of the realm inside Krampus’s sack, and honestly I feel like the limits were pushed much further here at times than in the movie. You also definitely get a moral – this isn’t just bizarreness for its own sake. Though it does feel like it almost runs away with itself at times, the creators do a great job at reining things in toward the end and giving the reader a fulfilling, complete journey. Definitely a great companion to the film, though you don’t have to see it to appreciate the book. I honestly read this long before I saw the movie and loved it a lot. Probably best for teens on up and those who like horror/can have a sense of humor about the holidays, this is a fun title that’s every bit as quirky and creepy as the film it springs from.

 

 

 

 

 

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Free fic, reviews, and all that fun stuff

Published December 7, 2017 by admin

It’s time to see what I’ve been up to whilst I was Nano-ing last month!

Ghosts

No matter the time of year, this is a great read that combines family and the supernatural. As always, Raina Telgemeier weaves interesting plot with relatable characters. Read my full review for Books by Violet here!

 

babyandme

Also for Books by Violet, I talk about a manga series that would be great to introduce kids to the medium. What happens when Takuya has to help shoulder the responsibility of raising his younger brother, even though he’s still a kid, himself? A lot of feelings, a lot of growing up, and a lot of hilarity. If you like cute titles and are interested in giving manga a go, definitely check out the full review. 

 

natsume

 

Because I will scream about this series until everyone reads it, I’m talking about Natsume’s Book of Friends on I Smell Sheep. Another great intro to manga, this series has more of a paranormal bent, but it also episodic so you can really start anywhere without feeling the pressure to hit every volume. Beautiful art combines with emotional plots, humor, and just the right amount of tension in this story about an orphan trying to repair his grandmother’s legacy and while learning to be more like a human and less like the spirits only he seems to be able to see. Read the full review here

creepy chair.png

Back for another round of the Ladies of Horror flash picture prompt project! This was my image this month, and man did I have a blast coming up with a story to fit! Be sure to check out what I came up with!

 

 

SJ Reads: Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol

Published December 4, 2017 by admin

zombiechristmas

 

I really considered how to do SJ reads this month. I have an addiction to Christmas/holiday fiction, and there are a TON of great titles out there.

My notes are also scattered everywhere, so I really need to re-sort and dig through. I decided to keep with the unintentional theme to finish out the year, though, and go with holiday graphic novels/comics (and not just because those are closest at hand).

I love a good holiday story, but sometimes it’s nice to see how other properties use the holiday season in their own franchises. You can find some really interesting, unconventional reads that way – and it’s sometimes fun to find holiday stories that are a bit unconventional.

Today, we look at Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol.

This was given to me a few years ago as a gag gift, and I think the person was a little shocked that I love it as much as I do. On the one hand: what the ever-loving hey. On the other, it’s a title that lives up to the name. While it doesn’t interact with any of the other Marvel Zombies titles, it is definitely A Christmas Carol with zombies. You’d think this would be stupid, but it actually ends up working really well. The basic premise is the plot of A Christmas Carol, but amid a zombie outbreak that’s overtaking the workhouses (admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve read it, and I’m trying to jog my memory while writing this). Setting Scrooge’s personal journey against an actual threat of death and destruction, while finding out that the whole thing may actually be his fault…it’s intense.

It stays true to the original story and takes time to get you through all the beats. While there are a lot of zombies, they’re not slammed up in your face all the time – they’re somewhat part of the environment, unless they’re illustrating the obvious metaphors of the story. It’s a really interesting twist to the tale, and highlights more of Scrooge’s plight and the whole life vs death theme that’s quietly going on underneath the original.

Granted, here’s the thing: to enjoy this you almost have to like horror, like comics, and like the original story. It’s not really a gag interpretation and it’s not over-the-top gore for gore’s sake or meant as some punchline. I’m actually fairly impressed by the care that obviously went into this.

While I’ve read worse in Walking Dead, there are some intense illustrations, and this book does carry a parental advisory. However, compared to most of the other horror comics I’ve read in my life, this is easily doable for teens and up who are into this kind of thing.

The day I was given this, I sat and read it a few times, because I expected it to be a one-note title, and I kept finding little nuances to appreciate. Plus, the art is vivid and grotesque in interesting ways, and the new twist really makes you appreciate the familiar characters and plotline. I definitely recommend a read through – it may not get you precisely into the holiday spirit, but it will help you appreciate what you have around you, for sure. Also a great gift for horror comic fans.

Find it here

 

 

 

 

New Reviews! #manga #comics

Published November 21, 2017 by admin

I know, I need to get caught up, though this time I do have a decent-ish excuse. Writing has taken me away a bit this month, but I’ll get to that on another post. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to:

babyandme.jpg

This tends to be one of my stress/comfort reading series, and it’s really good for a wide range of ages or if you’re looking to get into manga with a low-stakes, easy plot. It’s also cute as can be and hilarious. To read my full review of Baby & Me, check out Violet’s blog!

Crogan's Adventures

Adventure, history, and genealogy are front and center in the Crogan’s Adventures series. Framed by incidents in the modern-day Crogan family life, each volume looks at a different ancestor in a different point in time. It’s a great series to get kids hooked on history and interested in their own family trees. Check out the full review here!

petshop

 

This was one of the first manga series that I read, and if you like anthology horror it’s a really unique way to get into reading manga. All of the stories are linked to the mysterious Count D’s petshop that sells animals of a more…exotic variety, let’s say. And with strange pets, come contracts, and with broken contracts, comes a price. To read my full review, check out the smells like sheep blog!

alice

Pushing the horror theme just a leetle bit longer, I take a look at the first volume of Alice in Wonderland by Kaori Yuki. There’s some great things here, some things to consider, and I also discuss what it means when you can only find the first volume of something. To read my full review, go here!

 

 

 

SJ Reads Bonus: Tomie by Junji Ito

Published October 26, 2017 by admin

For whatever reason, I haven’t really been getting into too much that falls into the realm of horror this year, until very recently. A friend and I got talking about manga and I mentioned that I admittedly fall more into the shojo-type reader (for better or worse), and because he knew I really like horror and wanted to diversify, he recommended the work of Junji Ito. At the moment, Tomie was the first book by Ito I was able to get my hands on, so I brought it home with little expectations, figuring it might kill an evening during a stressful week.

Holy. Balls.

This book…this book…

Tomie

This book had a slightly slow start for me, but once it got going, it really sucked me in. We begin at Tomie’s funeral, where we learn she’s been hacked to pieces by a psychopath, leaving behind her grieving friend and boyfriend. And the teacher she had an affair with. And other classmates who weren’t too fond of her. And by the way, it was her class that killed her after an accident. And then she comes back to class the day after her funeral like nothing has happened.

And that’s just the first story.

The really interesting thing about Tomie, is not just that she’s beautiful, but that she isn’t what I’d call a typical horror monster. I think she’s referred to as a succubus, but I don’t think that’s a really accurate term for whatever this thing is – if there is an actual term for it. There’s also a really clever, repeated use of her name throughout, so you don’t have to name her as a creature or thing – she’s Tomie. She’s not necessarily out to suck the life from someone or anything else…if anything, she craves other people’s attention. And the more they give to her, the more she wants, until she drives them so mad that they commit murder..which usually ends up being her.

You would not think you could fill a book with stories about this, but Ito does it. And they’re unsettling, uncomfortable, and diverse. You have two hikers who find her frozen while they’re looking for the one hiker’s missing brother. You have the two girls who find the strands of Tomie’s hair that one girl’s father has kept and end up infecting their whole class with bits of Tomie. You have medical experiments, a young boy torn between Tomie and his mother, a girl who is manipulated various times by her, a strange salesman selling bits of Tomie to create a mass amount of her to infect the world, a warped plan of vengeance….it just goes on and on.

Really, that’s where it’s effective as a volume. It wears you out. It just keeps going, and you can’t stop reading. You want someone to come out on top against her and just when you think it happens…the other shoe drops.

The art is magnificent for horror manga – Ito really pulls out all the stops. I will say, having become used to shojo style art, it was a little bit of a switch for me, but very quickly the art becomes more detailed and expressive once you’re let loose on the roller coaster. This stuff is over-the-top, dramatic, gory, and monstrous. The different forms Tomie takes, the way she regrows, or reforms herself, plus the variety of her deaths as people desperately fight back…it’s a lot to take in. The sheer amount of different ways Tomie regenerates and clones herself, the different expressions of people as they lose their minds, the different ways they try to rid themselves of Tomie through terror and love…it’s intense.

And really, for me, that’s where the horror came in. Story-wise, all the ways that love is shown to grow manic, obsessive, and toxic is deeply unsettling. The people that you want to cheer for turn horrible, or you just know in the pit of your stomach that they’re going to be victims and be touched forever once Tomie shows up, because once she does there’s no escaping her. There’s no underdog awkward girl coming out on top, no one getting the last laugh. As horrifying as the illustrations are, they were almost cathartic after the tension of watching Tomie manipulate people. She’s intensely cruel and apathetic in turn, her manipulations are really uncomfortable. You’re put in the horrible position as reader as not wanting to cheer for her death, but not quite blaming the other characters when they snap, either.

I think, in horror, it’s common to try to game the story, to have in the back of your mind what you would do, how you would ‘win.’ I just don’t think there’d be any way to win with this creature and the intense, obsessive emotions she provokes just by being around people. And that is absolutely terrifying, especially considering her desire to mutiply and go out into the world – the thought that these stories may not even cover all the multiple Tomies that were made in one of the stories just makes the whole concept even better (and thinking long-term on it so much worse).

What also bothered me with this is that, essentially, the monster is a young woman whose purpose is to get killed repeatedly, so does that propel misogyny and the whole succubus/evil woman stereotype in horror? Usually I’d give an immediate yes, but with this,  I’m honestly not sure. I feel like I should have something to say on that, and yet the story really says as much or more about how other people take to Tomie, about their own inherrent monstrous qualities that are lurking below the surface, as much as whatever she’s supposed to be. Really, no one is innocent in this book, no matter how much they claim to be. Tomie may affect people, but you also get the sense that that desperation is already there, and is drawn out rather than implanted. In some ways, she does have agency – it’s just incredibly twisted.

Still, it does worry me that so much of the theme of this is violence against a woman, even if she obviously is not human and is very much drawing out the reactions of others in a calculated way (you could argue that inciting her own death makes Tomie potentially grow and multiply faster, and as long as she’s not being ignored, she’s somewhat satisfied..if she’s ever satisfied). My own reactions to the book have given me a lot to think about, and I’d be curious to know if there’s supposed to be any further symbolism or anything there, or what the thought process was. This is a book that definitely makes you consider who you are and how you’re reacting to the material, so while I found myself entranced by the story, I was also highly unnerved that I was so taken by it, too. And you get the feeling that that’s the way the character would want it, which also mildly freaks me out.

This book gets under your skin quickly and stays there – it’s definitely haunted me long after reading. A fast read, it also probably isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not one of the most unsettling horror books I’ve read, but I think the visuals help propel it to the unnerving category much quicker than a straight novel. I definitely recommend this one, but be warned – Tomie comes back, and she likes to stick with you.

Creepy Reviews, get yer creepy reviews!

Published October 24, 2017 by admin

So, being down a week means I have more fun stuff to share with you today!

black butler

My latest manga review for I Smell Sheep is up – to celebrate all that’s creepy this month, I’m taking a look at Black Butler! While it’s not without it’s problems, it does some really good things to subvert typical horror cliches and characterizations – if you can stick with it. To read the full review, go here!

princess decomposia

 

And to prove I can write about and even like cute stuff, too, I reviewed Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula over at Books by Violet! It’s a really fun, different sort of look at vampires and monsters, plus there’s a plucky heroine and some fun scenes in this quick read. Definitely be sure to read the full review!

ghostopolis

 

Also at Books by Violet, I’m taking a look at Ghostopolis – I mean, with Halloween around the corner, you’ve got to have ghosts, right? Fast pacing and some really original world building are the big features in this story about what life is like on the other side – and what happens if one of us might get dragged over there before it’s time. Definitely worth checking out the full review if you like a lot of action and interesting twists and turns with your creepy. Read more here!

 

OldeSchoolCoverFinal_650X433

It occurs to me that I shared this around media but not here – so a long time ago I did a thing for Friday the 13th (the day, not the franchise. I’ve had dealings with Jason, but that’s a whole other story). Once in a while I fanfic myself and the not completely good and not actually a bird character Clyde, from Olde School. So, if you’re in the mood for something to read to kill some time and laugh at me getting sucked into one of my own worlds, here you go. 

Also, it’s October, and I write creepy stuff, so…

Buy My Stuff

Specifically, might I suggest the 1800’s vampires vs lumberjacks short read Mooner? 

Or how about taking a chance on a bunch of shorts ranging from weird to what the hell in Lost in the Shadows?

I’ve also got a story in the horror anthology The Grotesquerie, as well as shorts in Curious Incidents,  The Big Bad and The Big Bad 2

 

 

 

 

Review Roundup!

Published October 10, 2017 by admin

Time to see what I’ve been up to this week!

anyasghost

I’m looking at some creepy YA graphic novel offerings this month, so of course I had to go with the classic Anya’s Ghost for Books by Violet! A tale that really hits on the outsider theme in school/teen years, it also includes a really unique ghost and some truly unnerving moments. Read the full review here!

 

babyandme

 

I’m back at I Smell Sheep with another manga review! This time it’s the shojo-tastic, downright adorable Baby & Me. If you want a decent-sized series that’s full of cute to take your mind off your troubles, this is definitely one to check out. Read the full review here!