Trade Post: Harrow County, First Wave & Black Widow

Every few weeks I find myself requesting any number of trades from the local library system. They come in in spurts and I get to them as I can. I can’t think of much in the way of connections between Harrow County Volume 1, First Wave and Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread, but I enjoyed them all, so there’s that, I guess!

harrow county vol 1Harrow County is a witchy horror comic by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook from Dark Horse. This first book — officially titled Harrow County Volume 1: Countless Haints — compiles the first four issues of the series which follows Emmy, a young woman who comes to realize that her fellow country denizens might want to murder her for being the reincarnation of a witch they killed about 18 years ago.

Packed with characters I want to learn more about, a slowly unfolding mythology and some amazingly creepy art by Crook (whose style reminds me a bit of Jeff Lemire’s, but with a more comic strip shape if that makes sense) I’m definitely hooked and want to find out what else happens to Emmy, her dad and the unusual creatures she’s come into contact with. In a way, it reminds me of a smaller-in-scope Hellboy with a young woman protagonist which adds a new, interesting angle that I’m sold on. Time to see if the second volume is available at the library!

first waveBack in my Wizard days, DC seemed to be snatching up random characters or rebooting old imprints and trying to incorporate them into the DCU with little success. They brought back Milestone and Tangent and also tried to bring the THUNDER Agents into the fold. I actually preferred what they did with First Wave, which mixed classic pulp-inspired characters like Doc Savage, The Spirit and Justice Inc. with non-powered DC folks like Batman and the Blackhawks into a new universe. Things kicked off with the Batman/Doc Savage Special by Brian Azzarello and Phil Noto and then moved into the six issue series called First Wave by Azzarello and Rags Morales.

I wasn’t very familiar with Doc or Spirit the first time I read these issues, but have read a few things since then. I think Azz does a great job of bringing in all these different characters and not only keeping them clear, but also giving them business that works for them. I had a little trouble keeping track of all the balls in the air towards the end, but I still enjoyed the pulp-y quality to the tale which was enhanced by Rags’ art which always excels at capturing facial expressions while also drafting solid action scenes. Reading this made me want to dig up the issues of the Doc Savage and Spirit series’ that launched out of this as well as the Batman/Spirit one-shot by Jeph Loeb, Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone which I remember being a lot of fun.

black widow vol 1 the finely woven threadFinally, let’s wrap things up with Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto. THis is the rare comic that I picked up just to check out the artwork. I like Edmondson and have interviewed him a number of times for Marvel.com and also dig Black Widow as a character, but you just don’t get enough Noto-drawn comics! I mostly see his stuff online and on covers, so getting to really dive into a book that plays to his strong suits — beautiful but dangerous women, great action — was a lot of fun and a treat for the eyes. I especially like how he outlines various elements in a spidery red that draws the eye from object to object.

Story-wise this book focuses on Black Widow’s desire to make amends for the bad things she did in her past by taking on various jobs around the world and using that money to support her victims’ families as well as a web of support around the world. The one-and-dones are a nice change of pace, but I admit to having trouble reconciling an international killer who is also a member in good standing with the Avengers. Then again, that’s probably just be getting too much in my own shared universe-loving head!

Riding With The King: Revival By Stephen King, Read By David Morse

revival stephen kingAs I mentioned when writing about Stephen King’s Joyland audiobook, I got it as well as Revival for a pair of car trips that wracked up about 20 hours of drive time. The former turned out to be a somewhat horror-light mystery with a lot of engrossing characters and a fun setting. Revival has all of that, but also turned out to be a much more horrific and darker experience. Continue reading Riding With The King: Revival By Stephen King, Read By David Morse

Riding With The King: Joyland By Stephen King, Read By Michael Kelly

joyland audio book stephen kingA few weekends back, I went on a 10-ish hour trip to hang out with some of my grade and high school buddies near Hocking Hills, Ohio. I knew I’d need some fast paced, engrossing audiobooks to listen to while I made the solo trip. When perusing that section at the library, I immediately headed to the Ks and found myself a pair of Stephen King books: Joyland and Revival. I grabbed the former because I have a hard copy in my to-read box and the latter because, well, it looked like it would get me through the rest of my trip there and all the way back. Continue reading Riding With The King: Joyland By Stephen King, Read By Michael Kelly

Halloween Scene: See No Evil 2 (2014)

see no evil 2A decade ago, a bunch of friends and I went to see See No Evil at the theater at the Palisades. We all worked at Wizard together and liked horror movies so it seemed like a good idea. My memory tells me it wasn’t. Not that it was a terrible movie, just that it wasn’t very good. A bunch of kids running around an abandoned hotel they were cleaning up for some kind of rehab program only to run into a slasher played by wrestler Kane. It became a joke with us when it came to picking movies, but was eventually replaced by the terrible When A Stranger Calls remake (which we saw on my birthday) as a new low not long after.

I’m glad I watched that movie, though. I’m sure we had a good time and probably didn’t really have anything better to do that night, but it also made me look twice when I saw See No Evil 2 appear on Amazon Prime. That second glance lead to a click which informed me that the film not only starred the delightful Danielle Harris — a horror icon with a lifetime of experience going back to Halloween 4 and 5 — but was also directed by the Soska Sisters who made the still-gives-me-the-willies American Mary. That trumped less than great memories and my general disinterest when it comes to WWE projects.

So, a decade after seeing and not particularly enjoying the first installment in the franchise, I gave the sequel a watch on my Kindle. It’s far from the best way to watch a movie, but I was impressed with how good it looked. I also thought that the closeness of the screen and the headphones made the whole experience feel even more confined, which added to the ambiance. But even without all that I think I still would have walked away singing this film’s praises.

Much like Halloween 2, this one kicks off right after the events of the first one and picks up in a hospital where Kane’s Jacob Goodnight is eventually taken to. But before he starts getting his stab on, we meet morgue employees Amy (Harris), Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) and Holden (Michael Eklund). It’s Amy’s birthday, but once news come across that Goodnight and his victim’s are coming in, she cancels her plans with her friends and says she’ll stick around. Her friends — including her brother who looks like Thor, Tamara played by American Mary star Katharine Isabelle, her boyfriend and a girl with a crush on Thor — pop up with a nice little surprise party for her and her co-workers. As you might expect, Jacob wakes up and starts making short work of the gang.

There’s a lot of relationship/lust elements at work to go along with the non horror moments which adds some character stuff without getting too complicated. All in all SNE2 is a great, straightforward little slasher movie with just the right amount of gore and characters you don’t want to see iced too quickly. And it’s even got a fun little ending, even though I thought they telegraphed a part of it a bit to obviously, that sets this up as a potential franchise that I could definitely get behind, especially if WWE and Lionsgate continue giving great directors like the Soska sisters a chance to do their thing with moderately backed projects like this.

So, if you’re looking for a modern slasher with a nice mix of masked killer, solid cast and mostly believable moments (there are a few kill cheats, but I’ve already forgotten most of them) then give See No Evil 2 a watch. I had such a good time, I’m willing to go back and give the first one another look. Maybe I’ll like it more now.

Halloween Scene: Nightmare Weekend (1986)

Nightmare-Weekend-1986Oh my goodness, you guys. Nightmare Weekend has got to be the most bonkers movie I’ve seen in a good long while. Maybe that’s because it’s the ONLY credit to screenwriter George Faget-Benard’s name or that director Henri Sala mainly seemed to deal in French erotica or the fact that it deals with, well, everything, but Nightmare Weekend is that rare movie that tries to do too much, fails, but still manages to entertain.

You probably want to know what the movie is about. I’ll try to let you know, but there are a surprising number of characters in this movie and far too many of them are brunettes who look very similar. I also don’t remember any of their names and apparently neither does anyone else who’s watched the movie.

So there’s this college girl whose dad is a scientist working on some kind of super computer. She leaves school to visit her pops. At the same time, dad’s assistant (she’s evil) invites one of the daughter’s friends and two others to a seemingly different house to test the computer on (they don’t cross paths until towards the end of the film, so unless it’s an enormous house…your guess is as good as mine). Somehow these tests include taking seemingly innocuous items like a watch and turning them into metal balls that can be programmed to attack various people Phantasm-style. Instead of drilling into the victims, though, they either fly right down the throat or…hide somewhere so they get consumed. If you’re wondering how something like this could cure people, as the assistant claims early on, you’re as confused as I was.

Sound crazy? We’re just getting started. The main girl wants to date this guy in town so she talks to her computer about the best way to get his attention. You’re thinking, “But computers couldn’t do anything cool like that in the 80s!” And you’d be right if it wasn’t for George. George is the girl’s computer, a TV inserted into what looks like a princess castle set from The Land of Make-Believe in Mr. Rogers Neighborhood that can play rudimentary computer games and display text. Oh, that’s right, there’s also a green-haired hand puppet who she communicates with who is basically the interface for the system. No I’m not making this up, I promise. Here’s proof.

You’ve got to wrap your mind around this whole George thing pretty early on, even before the main killings start, so it’s a lot. George can also talk with the dad’s system. There’s one scene where the main character is playing a game in her room, but inadvertently controlling someone’s car in the real world. BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT! It’s about the balls that turn people into crazies who lick spiders, claw people during sex and drown in nearby water.

nightmare weekend poster 2There are so many crazy parts of this movie! The college girls make it seem like being a scientist is like the best, most respected and wealthiest job in the whole world! George! The arachnophobe practically Frenching a Tarantula! Everyone at the bar! The alcoholic chauffeur! That scene where — I think — two people are getting down in a limo while the driver is trying to fix the tire, the passengers are on a picnic just a few feet away and a random guy on a motorcycle is standing…somewhere nearby dancing to his radio shirtless. You really have to see it all to believe it. I’m still processing it all and should probably watch it again. You know, for science.

Nightmare Weekend was a French film shot in Florida in which all the dialogue was eventually dubbed, which explains some of the off-kilter-ness on display. It also probably explains why Troma decided to distribute this one. There’s a Blu-ray version of the film from Vinegar Syndrome, but I streamed it on Amazon Prime. It’s pretty dark at times so you can’t always see what’s happening, something that’s not helped by the fact that the end of the movie bounces from day to night far too quickly. Still, if you like all-out craziness, then give this one a watch.

Oh and for what it’s worth, as someone who spends an inordinate amount of time at the computer, I’d fully support a system like George. I’d much rather talk to a weird, animated hand puppet than type everything out or talk to Siri.

Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think Of The Children: The Ghost Next Door by R.L. Stine

goosebumps the ghost next doorAs I mentioned when I reviewed Christopher Pike’s Weekend, I was way into the world of young adult horror in my earlier years. Long before I dove into the mega scare franchises that had taken on legendary status to a kid growing up in the late 80s and 90s, I read a metric ton of books by Pike and R.L. Stine.

So, when I saw a free copy of The Ghost Next Door from Stine’s epic and beloved Goosebumps series, I had to grab it. I don’t think I read this one as a kid, I’d probably moved on to Fear Street by that point, but it was a fun look back at the kinds of stories I remember from childhood.

In the cast of The Ghost Next Door, Hannah’s all alone in her small town during the summer. Her friends have all gone off to camp or are on extended vacations, so she’s pretty surprised to see Danny appear and say he’s been living next door for a while. Hannah and her family have no recollection of him actually moving in and weird, wild things start happening that make her think that he’s the titular specter.

Not to toot my own horn too much, but I called the big twist pretty early on this 1993 book for children. I take more pride in that than I probably should as a 33 year old man. But, I think this would have made my 10 year old brain SPIN had I read it in 1993 when it first came out. I’ve often said that it doesn’t really matter how good the movies are you see as a kid because they become important for a variety of reasons. In other words, the very idea of playing with narrative structure like Tarantino did is mind-blowing even if you saw it for the first time by one of the many 90s imitators (or if your first exposure to the Citizen Kane story was through an episode of Tiny Toons or Alvin And The Chipmiunks or whathaveyou).

Let’s call this paragraph SPOILER TERRITORY if you’re so inclined to avoid such things. The big reveal here is that Hannah is actually the ghost, which explains why her friends aren’t writing her back and only a few people actually seem to interact with her. I caught on to this when she was writing the letter to her best friend complaining about how nothing was happening (I think she actually says “Everything is dead around here,” or something to that extent) and she wants to hear back. It seemed unlikely that her bestie would totally abandon her like that (or maybe I’m just a hopeful romantic when it comes to besties). I wonder if kids who read this book were more or less likely to catch the Sixth Sense twist coming because they’d been exposed to something similar.

Okay, back out of spoiler country now. I had a great time reading this story, not just because it was a nice trip down memory lane, but also an easy read that I could pick up and put down while I was taking care of the kids for a few days. It also makes me want to get a Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think Of The Children podcast because it’s super interesting finding out what kinds of stories we gravitated to as kids and how they changed the way we understand how these things work. Maybe in a few months…

Alternate Universe Trade Post: Exiles Ultimate Collection Vol 2 & Revolver

Sometimes I grab a series of trades the purposefully have a connection while other times I just grab whatever looks interesting out of my boxes. In the case of this week’s post, I did the latter, but realized that I had a nice connection in that both the second Exiles book and Matt Kindt’s Revolver feature characters dealing with the differences in the realities they experience! Want to know more? Hit the jump! Continue reading Alternate Universe Trade Post: Exiles Ultimate Collection Vol 2 & Revolver