Monday, April 24, 2017

Marvel Essential: Tomb of Dracula Vol. 3 by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan & others


(pb; 2004: Collects Tomb of Dracula #50-70, The Tomb of Dracula magazine #1-4. These issues were originally published between 1976 and 1979.)

From the back cover

"Delve deeper into Marvel's Golden Age of horror with the Lord of the Vampires and his host of hated pursuers, including filmdom's superstar Blade! Follow Dracula through centuries of adventures, each darker than the last! From a cosmic clash with the Silver Surfer, to a fight in the streets as a mere mortal, to literal family struggles with his daughter, the Demoness, and his son, the Angel! Includes rare black-and-white tales unrated by the Comics Code Authority!"


Review

Tomb of Dracula Vol. 3 is an uneven read. While Dracula is a larger than life character, his personality -- petty and foolish, even for an arrogant undead regent -- is too over-the-top: this made me wonder how someone this emotionally erratic survived for so long. It appears that part of the reason for his survival is that many of his enemies (even those sworn to destroy him at any cost) have the plot-convenient habit of letting him go when they have the chance to eradicate the storied bloodsucker. (Oh, they have their justifications, but they read like the dying gasps of a comic book series that should have been a miniseries or two, at best.)

It should be noted that the four issues of The Tomb of Dracula magazine that close out this graphic novel have better stories (for the most part) than the twenty-issue series that precedes the magazine.


That said, Tomb Vol. 3 is a fun, park-your-brain (if character-inconsistent and melodramatic) storyline with excellent, spooky, nostalgic and action-oriented artwork. It is worth reading, if the above caveats do not put you off.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dog Eat Dog by Edward Bunker

(hb; 1996)

From the back cover

"Dog Eat Dog, Bunker's fourth novel, follows Troy Cameron, a reformatory graduate like Bunker. A terrifying and brutal narrative, the novel tracks his lawless spree in the company of two other reform school alumni, Diesel Carson and Mad Dog Cain. . ."


Review

Caveat: Do not read this book if you are put off by racial epithets (which ring character-true), sexism, graphic brutality, ex-con honesty and noiresque endings.

Now, onto the actual review. . .

Dog
is a compelling, nihlistic crime thriller with fated, larger-than-life characters, raw language and violence, and other human-born darkness that contribute to the lead characters' certain doom. Its pace is swift, its prison-harsh rules ironclad and its bloodshed repentless (in regards to the characters inflicting said punishments). This is an excellent, rings-true read, one worth owning if you like your genre thrills gritty, wild and black-as-tar. Dog is one of my favorite reads of 2017.


#

The film version was released stateside on November 11, 2016. Paul Schrader (who also played Alex Aris, a.k.a. "El Greco") directed the film. Matthew Wilder wrote the screenplay.

Nicolas Cage played Troy Cameron. Christopher Matthew Cook played Charles "Diesel" Carson. Willem Dafoe played Gerald "Mad Dog" McCain.

Robert Maples played Jimmy the Face. Louisa Krause played Zoe. Reynaldo Gallegos played Chepe. Louis Perez played Mike Brennan. Magi Avila played "Nanny" [to Brennan's infant].


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Halloween III: Season of Witch by Jack Martin

(pb; 1982: movie tie-in novel. Based on the screenplay and film directed by Tommy Lee Wallace.)

From the back cover

"Do you know where your kids are tonight?

"The streets are quiet. Dead quiet as the shadows lengthen and night falls. It's Halloween. Blood-chilling screams pierce the air. Grinning skulls and grotesque shapes lurk in the gathering darkness. It's Halloween. The streets are filling with small cloaked figures. They're just kids, right? The doorbell rings and your flesh creeps. But it's all in fun, isn't it?

"No. This Halloween is different.

"It's the last one."


Review

Halloween III sports a fun, fast-moving storyline (as it should, given its source film). Martin, who also penned Halloween IIagain lays thick the Samhain dread, occasional gore and B-flick cheesiness -- and, for the most part, it works. (In the beginning of the book, Martin makes Challis's thoughts a bit too melodramatic -- I write this, bearing in mind that Challis is an alcoholic whose life is in lonely, sad freefall. . . thankfully, Challis's over-the-top self-pity and loathing of corporatism make up less than a quarter of III.)

This is worth reading and owning, if you can overlook the above criticism and enjoy unrepentant, sometimes wondrous B-movie cheesiness (in whatever form it takes).

III is followed by the barely-connected-if-at-all Halloween IV, another movie tie-in novel -- this one penned by Nicholas Grabowsky. (Note that the film's alternate title is Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.)

#

The film, upon which the novel is based, was released stateside on October 22, 1982. Tommy Lee Wallace scripted and directed the truly-a-B-movie flick.

Tom Atkins played Daniel Challis. Stacey Nelkin played Ellie Grimbridge. Dan O'Herlihy played Conal Cochran. Michael Currie played Rafferty. 

Note: Series creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill had envisioned the Halloween films, whose first film centered around Michael Myers, to go beyond that iconic serial killer. The Halloween movies -- however many there were -- would revolve around the holiday in a creepy, thematic way, with different stories and different characters.

When Halloween became an unexpected hit, a sequel was expected by the studio that released it, so Carpenter and Hill, with much reluctance, caved to the studio's wishes and scripted the Myers-centric Halloween II.

Halloween III did not do well at the box office. Fans were confused by the absence of Michael Myers in this second sequel, so they did not go to see it. Or, if they did, they often bad-mouthed it. This put the kibosh on Carpenter and Hill's original vision. (Years later, Halloween III would be regarded by many as a cult classic.)

The next sequel, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, was released stateside on October 21, 1988. As indicated by its title, the series had succumbed to the unimaginative pressure of its short-sighted fans and its producers and every Halloween film since then has featured Michael Myers.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Thank You For Coming to Hattiesburg by Todd Barry

(hb; 2017: nonfiction / humor. First Foreword by Jesse Eisenberg. Second Foreword by Doug Stanhope.)

From the inside flap

"Hello. It’s Todd Barry. Yes, the massively famous comedian. I have billions of fans all over the world, so I do my fair share of touring. While I love doing shows in the big cities (New York, Philadelphia), I also enjoy a good secondary market (Ithaca, Bethlehem). Performing in these smaller places can be great because not all entertainers stop there on tour; they don’t expect to see you. They’re appreciative. They say things like “Thank you for coming to Hattiesburg” as much as they say “Nice show.” And almost every town has their version of a hipster coffee shop, so I can get in my comfort zone.

"My original plan was to book one secondary market show in all fifty states, in about a year, but that idea was funnier than anything in my act. So, instead of all fifty states in a year, my agent booked multiple shows in
a lot of states, plus Israel and Canada."Thank You For Coming to Hattiesburg is part tour diary, part travel guide, and part memoir (Yes, memoir. Just like the thing presidents and former child stars get to write). Follow me on my journey of small clubs, and the occasional big amphitheater. Watch me make a promoter clean the dressing room toilet in Connecticut, see me stare at beached turtles in Maui, and see how I react when Lars from Metallica shows up to see me at a rec center in Northern California."


Review

Before reading this wry-humored book, I would recommend watching some of Barry's standup routines. If his stage work does not elicit a laugh-out-loud (or otherwise appreciable) response in you, this is probably not a book you will enjoy. If you do enjoy his quietly spoken, sly humor, then you should consider -- at the very least -- checking out this concise and gentle-hearted offering from a comedian who is the top of his game.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Guardian Angels by Joseph A. Citro a.k.a. Joseph Citro

(1988: sequel to Shadow Child)

From the back cover

"Four years have passed since the slaughter that took place at the old Whitcome house. Four years since the tiny picture-perfect town of Antrim. Vermont was devastated by the ugliest event in the town's history. Now the bloodstained Whitcome walls have been painted over, the broken-down doors repaired. And a new family has moved in.

"Fifteen-year-old Will Crockett could have told his mother and stepfather that the bargain price on the Vermont house was too good to be true. But they never listened to him, anyway. Now weird things were beginning to happen: open doors that he knew he had locked; strange scampering sounds on the porch roof. A sense of being watched. His parents didn't believe him, but Will knew something was wrong -- something so twisted and evil that only a kid's imagination could conceive of its horror."


Review

Guardian is an okay follow-up to Shadow Child. While the characters are well-written, the storyline feels disjointed at times. Citro could have easily streamlined the novel's flow into a more smoothly-told tale by eliminating some of the set-up scenes which read a bit clunky. Not only that, it seems as if the Gentry have more powers than they did in the first book -- at one point, they are almost god-like with their magic.

The novel's saving graces are Citro's superb characterization, his deepening of the Gentry's mythological roots (as well as their collective role in the world) and the last hundred or so pages which explode with supernatural carnage, violence and other sexualized horror.

If you are interested in reading this, I would recommend checking it out from a library before buying it -- unless it is for a bargain-basement price or you are a fan of Citro's writing who must own everything he has published.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert

(1984: fifth book in the Dune Chronicles)

From the inside flap

". . . the planet Arrakis--now called Rakis--is becoming desert again. The Lost Ones are returning home from the far reaches of space. The great sandworms are dying. And the children of Dune's children awaken from empire as from a dream, wielding the new power of a heresy called love."


Review

Heretics is a good, slow-build read. Leto II has been dead for thousands of years. The Bene Gesserit and the Bene Tleilaxu are still engaged in power struggles with each other whilst squelching insurrection within their own ranks. Other groups, including the wild and sexual Honored Matres, have entered this cautious lead-up to war. (The Honored Matres are intent on supplanting the Gesserit Sisterhood and the Tleilaxu.)

Not only that, a young girl (Sheeana) -- a possible descendant of Siona, who helped bring Leto II down -- and a recent Duncan Idaho ghola are showing signs of rebellion, whom the Gesserit and the other groups must control or kill.

Heretics has some interesting characters, Herbert's usual epic-minded writing and potent, series-changing twists, making this a worthwhile entry in the Dune series. For Dune purists who love the Atreides storyline but not the other group politics, I would suggest borrowing it from your local library first (if you are so inclined).

Followed by Chapterhouse: Dune.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Feverish Fiction issue #2 (January 2017) edited by Michael Faun

(2017; dark/horror/speculative fiction magazine. Published by Sleazy Viking Press.)

Overall review:

The second, limited-run issue of Feverish Fiction is even better than the first. The magazine has expanded its works to include an oddball, chuckle-worthy cartoon (by Justin A. Mank), as well as several pin-ups (in various thematic states of undress). And, of course, there are B-movie-esque stories and a poem to further entertain its readers. It is worth owning, if you are an adult fan of small press magazines and bordering-on-bizarre horror and sex works.

Stories, other works:

1.) "Canvasses" - Lucas Mangum: The phrase "living art" becomes a media-strange reality in this short, sexualized work. Good read.


2.) "A Virgin Among the Frankenwitches" - Alex S. Johnson: A woman (Leelah) discovers that being pursued by would-be rapists and murderers is not the worst imaginable fate. This appears to be a fun, fairy tale-esque hybrid-homage to Jess Franco's cinematic works (or at least one of them).


3.) "In the Dungeon" - K.A. Opperman: Lust, skeletons and BDSM highlight this sensory-intense poem.


4.) "Story of Spaceship, 12 Little Men Probed Today" - Joe Dorris: Amusing news story about a strange 1955 occurrence centering around an alien attack.


5.) "Other Me" - C.M. Saunders: The appearance of a man's doppelgänger presages his dark, twisty end.


6.) "The Happiest Place On. . . Well You Know" - S. Nycole Laff: Satirical take on the shambling undead and Disneyland -- funny and hues-close-to-nightmare-reality story. This is my favorite work in this issue.