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2013 YiR: My 10 Favorite Comic Series

Posted in 2013 year in review, book review, comic books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2014 by vagabondsaint

And now, my 10 favourite comic series of 2013, presented in no particular order (except #1):

#10. Batwoman (until #25)

Batwoman #17 cover by J.H. Williams III

I’ve already discussed how badly DC ruined Batwoman by losing the creative team of W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III, so there’s no need to rehash that here. I will just say that, while I’m not trying to hate on the current creative team of Marc Andreyko and Trevor McCarthy, they’re just not as good as Blackman and Williams were.  Nowhere near it, and McCarthy’s attempts to give us a little Williams-esque work with flowing, irregular panels and unusual perspectives just makes me miss Williams more.  But the book was great before #25, so it’s on this list.

#9. Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman #20 cover by Cliff Chiang

Brian Azzarello is just not a superhero writer.  His work on the crime noir epic 100 Bullets was fantastic, of course, and his run on Hellblazer got me back into liking John Constantine (before DC ruined Constantine in the New 52), but his Batman and Superman stories were less brilliant (though the Batman stories are pretty good).  His dirty, gritty, morally-grey, doublespeak style just isn’t  suited to the brightly-colored, black-and-white morality of the spandex set, and that’s okay.

When it was announced that he was going to be writing Wonder Woman in the New 52, I was skeptical. Even with artist Cliff Chiang (whom I’ve loved since the Beware the Creeper mini-series – pick it up if you can find it), I didn’t think Azzarello could pull it off.  How could he? He’s just not a superhero guy!

Apparently Brian Azzarello knew that too, because Wonder Woman is not a superhero comic book. Yes, it stars Wonder Woman, of course, but if you’re expecting big fights against supervillains in colorful costumes and an arc of morality tales every 4 to 6 issues, you’re in for a delightful disappointment.

Instead, Azzarello made Wonder Woman into what basically amounts to a family squabble writ large – writ as large as possible, really, since the family involved is the pantheon of Greek Gods.  In its 30 issues so far, there hasn’t been a hint of anything like a supervillain appearing, just gods pissed off at each other over things that would land normal humans on a week-long episode of Jerry Springer.

And it works.

Kudos to Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang for making a book starring a superhero into a brilliant mythological journey, where the gods are every bit as petty, vain, short-sighted, conflict-laden, and selfish as the humans that are supposed to worship them.  I’ll be sad when their run ends this year.

#8. Superior Spider-Man

Superior Spider-Man #22 cover by Guiseppe Camuncoli

You should be reading this comic.  Why are you not reading this?  Hurry up before Peter Parker comes back!

Long story short: Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus, swapped minds with Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, and let his own body die with Parker still inside it.  Since then, Otto has been determined to be a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was, and oh boy, has he done it! He’s much more creative with using his powers, he’s become proactive against villains like the Kingpin, and he;s basically been kicking ass.  Go read this comic before Peter Parker comes back in a couple months.  Otto’s adventures have been hilarious.

And speaking of hilarious comics. . .

#7. Superior Foes of Spider-Man

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #7 cover by In-hyuk Lee

Boomerang.  The Shocker.  Speed Demon. The new Beetle. Overdrive.  These five has-been H-list villains have united to form the new SINISTER SIX! (And yes, they know there are only five.)

Actually, they got together because Boomerang promised them an easy score: procuring the cybernetic, still-living head of former crime boss Silvermane, reportedly lost when his cyborg body was destroyed.  Of course, Boomerang lied and double-crossed them, but how and why he did so makes for a great, highly entertaining read.

Writer Nick Spencer (who you will see again on my list of least-favorite series of 2013) has made these characters totally believable.  They went from Spider-Man punchlines to lovable-loser-type punchlines in their own book. I can’t say much more without spoilers, but trust me, this series is worth the read!

#6 : Transformers: Robots In Disguise and Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye

Transformers: Robots In Disguise #18 cover by Atilio Rojo & Casey Coller

Yes, I’m lumping these two together because they’re closely related (events in one affect events in the other) and they end up virtually combining for the their big Dark Cybertron crossover at the end of the year.

Transformers: RiD chronicles the adventures of the Transformers on Cybertron.  The War is over, and the planet is now led by a coalition government consisting of Bumblebee for the Autobots, Starscream for the Decepticons, and Metalhawk for those who did not choose a side in the war.  Meanwhile, Transformers: MTMTE follows the adventures of Rodimus (once Rodimus Prime) as he leads a group of Autobots through space, in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron.

Notice what’s missing? HUMANS!

There are NO HUMAN BEINGS in these comics! That’s why these are my favorite Transformers comic series ever! Without people to constantly save and/or menace, the Transformers themselves have become much more human and much, much more relateable. They have been since the beginning, and this year they continued the trend with fun, occasionally dark stories leading up to one of the most organic-feeling crossovers I’ve ever read.  It felt like it flowed naturally from the stories, like they’d planned the whole thing from the beginning. . .but nobody does that, so that can’t possibly be the case.  Anyway, good stuff for Transformers/giant robots/good comics fans!

#5. Afterlife with Archie

Afterlife With Archie #2 cover by Francesco Francavilla

 

Starting in October, this series just barely made it into the 2013 list. . .but 2013 was a year that saved the best for last (the #3 book on this list also started around the same time and only got 2 issues in before the end of the year)!

Possibly the most unexpected Archie comic since 1994’s The Punisher Meets ArchieAfterlife with Archie is the brainchild of writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who also adapted Stephen King’s The Stand for Marvel Comics) and artist Francesco Francavilla. In this series, the zombie apocalypse begins in Riverdale!

Without giving away too much, it goes like this: Reggie accidentally runs over and kills Jughead’s pet Hot Dog, then flees from the accident scene without telling anyone.  A grieving Jughead takes his dog to Sabrina (the teenage witch), who brings it back to life – but as a Pet Sematary-style creature that bits Jughead and. . .well, things go zombie from there pretty quick. And before you think I spoiled anything for you, let me tell you: that all happens in the first issue.  Things get considerably stranger from there!

One longtime character reveals their real sexual orientation, some siblings reveal their Lannister-like relationship, lots of familiar characters become zombies – and they’re just on issue 4!  It’s like Aguirre-Sacasa goes into writing every issue wondering how he can make it more of a mindf*** than the last one, and oh wow he succeeds every time!

If there is any must-read book on this list, I’m completely failing because they should ALL be must-reads.  But if you only choose one to just check out, make it this one.  It is a horror book, so I know it’s not for everyone, but if you’ve ever been an Archie fan, or thought Archie comics couldn’t be dark, moody, and exciting, read this book!

I should also note that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was named last month as Archie Comics’ first-ever Chief Creative Officer, and immediately tapped Lena Dunham (creator/writer of HBO’s series Girls) to write a miniseries for Archie Comics.  If he gets the whole company moving in the directions he wants, maybe next year they’ll be my Publisher of the Year, instead of just being 2013’s runner-up (that’ll be in a later post).

#4: Life with Archie

Life With Archie #27 "Grill of Thrones" variant cover by Mike Norton

This might be my favorite cover of the year. . .

I have never made a secret of my love for this book, and 2013 gave me no reasons to stop loving it.

If you’re not familiar with Life With Archie, I’ll give you the basics: every issue is split into two stories.  One story follows a future timeline in which Archie married Betty; the other follows a timeline in which Archie married Veronica. Hijinks and the best soap opera ever committed to the comics page ensue.

LWA already made headlines with the marriage of Kevin Keller to his boyfriend Clay Walker in #16 (which is going for about $35 on Ebay in excellent condition) and its willingness to address social issues in 2012. So what happened in 2013?

Well, in Archie Marries Veronica: Veronica and Archie have left Lodge Industries only to have their careers manipulated unknowingly by Lodge’s rival Fred Mirth, Kevin Keller ran for a US Senate seat with Veronica’s help, reality-show star Reggie gets talked into causing fights with his girlfriend Betty to increase ratings (nice commentary on “reality” TV there, writer Paul Kupperberg!), and Veronica gets framed for corruption!

In Archie Marries Betty: Betty’s successes at work make Archie jealous, Veronica helps Cheryl Blossom start a breast cancer foundation, Jughead has to deal with his sister Jellybean’s shady new boyfriend and Midge’s difficult pregnancy, Reggie’s dad is trying to recover from a heart attack, Reggie runs ragged trying to take his dad’s place at the Riverdale Gazette, and Veronica is running Kevin Keller’s Senate campaign, which Reggie is hesitant to endorse, and Mr. Weatherbee is trying to find new love after the death of Mrs. Grundy!

It’s still a fun, occasionally sad, book. . .but it will also be ending this year with #36, so once that happens, you’ve no excuse for not giving it a read!

#3. A Voice In The Dark

A Voice in the Dark #1 cover by Larime Taylor

 

 

A Voice in the Dark also started late in the year, but it jumped right out of the gate and onto this list in much the same way that Afterlife With Archie did.

Why?

First of all, bi-racial female protagonist. From Seattle.  So, right out of the box we’ve got a decidedly atypical protagonist.

Second, the protagonist is a murderer. I’m not spoiling anything here; she says it pretty quick in the first issue.

But instead of being about her killing more peoplethis story is about her struggling with dark urge to kill as she deals with the normal frustrations that all of us encounter – up to and including stupid people.  How would your daily interactions change if you knew you could kill someone and probably get away with it?

When our protagonist Zoey (extra points for not giving the bi-racial protagonist a stereotypical name) starts college in a small California town, she decides to start a college radio call-in show. Her format is that people can call in anonymously and discuss their darker, deepest, most hidden thoughts and desires. It goes horribly wrong with the very first call.

Also, this small California town has a serial killer of its own – so what’s going to happen when they meet?

A Voice in the Dark is a well-written and beautifully-illustrated book (also unusually-illustrated, but I’m not going to tell you how), and is pleasantly grounded in reality.  It intrigued me from the very first issue and has kept me there. . .so much so that I buy an extra copy of issues for a friend to read!

#2. Sex Criminals

COVER OF THE YEAR! Sex Criminals #1 cover by Chip Zdarsky and Matt Fraction

COVER OF THE YEAR! Note that this is the cover of the FOURTH printing of #1. A sixth and possibly final printing came out last month.

 

Yeah, I’m on the Sex Criminals bandwagon. I bought the first printing of the first issue, then bought the fourth printing because just look at that awesome cover.

Sex Criminals is about Suze, a woman who discovers that time stops when she has an orgasm, leaving only her unaffected.  When she meets a man with the same amazing ability, hilarity and hijinks ensue.

My favourite quotes from issue 1:

“So I did what any otherwise good, emotionally-frozen, role model-less girl would do the day after rubbing one out the first time.”

“come to our awesome PARTY where for 5 BUCKS you can DRINK while SAVING BOOKS from destruction at the hands of the S***HEAD BANK that foreclosed the library oops sorry I didn’t mean to write the word S***HEAD on a PUBLIC POSTER”

“This book is dedicated to the brave men and women who love 2 f***”

Yes, this IS a mature readers title. It’s a coming (ha!) of age story, it’s a crime saga, it’s a love story, it’s hilarious.  The best part of the book is when Young Suze is forced to go to the “Dirty Girls” at school for advice on sex.  What follows is a montage of (hopefully) made-up sexual positions with hilarious names like “twerging,” “brimping,” and “auto-erotic twerging.” No way in hell I’m showing the images here.  If Chip Zdarsky wants me to, he can draw them up and send them to me.

The second issue is where the book really takes off, with the first Sex Criminals letter column!  My favorite quotes from that:

“EGGS. EGGS IS MY PROBLEM.”

“HI DANIEL YOU SOUND SEXXXXY.”

“Thanks for writing and KEEP ON RUBBIN'”

Those were the safest things I could say without needing a ton of asterisks.

Anyway, go read Sex Criminals, if you’re mature enough, and can handle sex and crime and funny.

#1. Saga

Saga

 

Yep, another immensely popular comic book.  My shop-owning friend literally cannot keep copies of the Saga trades in his shop.  When the third trade came out last month, he ordered 35 copies and took barely a week to sell them all.  That only sounds low if you don’t live in Seattle, where there is a comic book shop every 3 miles. In a really saturated market, that’s a lot.

But Saga, unlike, say, Fifty Shades of S***ty Erotic Writing or Twilight, is actually good.  Brian K. Vaughan has crafted a well-written sci-fi story of forbidden, unlikely lovers on the run from both sides of an interplanetary war.

Wow, that was actually a really good summation.

Of course, Vaughan’s writing isn’t the only reason to read this book. Fiona Staples’ art is just so beautiful.  She captures expressions and body language perfectly.  Her characters are detailed and lush, even when you wish they weren’t (Chapter Seven), and her aliens are fascinating xenobiological forms.

Look, I could natter on and on and on about Saga (especially considering that my favorite comics moment of 2013 happens in it).

But really, I’d just rather you went out and bought the first trade and read it.  Seriously, this book has a legion of fans for one reason and one reason only: it’s a damn good book.

In fact, it’s my #1 favorite comic of 2013!

VS – 4.22.14

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Left! My Review of “He Left Her at the Altar, She Left Him to the Zombies” by Katie Cord

Posted in book review, evil girlfriend media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2013 by vagabondsaint

(Author’s Note:  Katie Cord, friend of this blog, does not know I am writing this review.  Don’t tell her until the end, would you?  Thanks.)

So there are a couple-or-three things I need to get out of the way before I get to actually reviewing the book He Left Her at the Altar, She Left Him to the Zombies by Katie Cord.

leftcover2

First thing is:  I am not typing that title out over and over again.  We’ll be calling it Altar/Zombies from here on out.

Second: this book is currently out of print.  Katie Cord self-published it a few years back, before starting Evil Girlfriend Media. The copy I bought from her in September 2013 was one of the few remaining in her possession.  If, after reading this review, you wish to join the growing chorus of those begging her to republish Altar/Zombies, please feel free to send a message on her site. You can still get copies on Amazon, but be prepared to pay a bunch.

Third: this book is a little rough.  I was warned before I read it that it was self-edited, and Katie makes no claims at all to being an editor.  Definitely could use a little more polish before the repub. . .hopefully Katie can find an editor that works cheap (hint, hint).

Okay.  All that said, let’s get on to the review!

He Left Her at the Altar, She Left Him to the Zombies is brilliant.

Seriously.

I’m not even a zombie fan, and I loved the hell out of this book. Reading this book, I started to understand that good zombies stories, really good zombie stories, are about the survivors, not the zombies.  Katie clearly already knew that, and painted ten pictures of normal, flawed (some deeply so) human beings struggling with the sudden reality of dead people not staying dead.  It’s about the discovery of a new world through abrupt change (more on that later).  Whereas The Walking Dead is mostly about Rick Grimes trying to do right by his troupe of survivors and bring some order to the new lawless world, these stories are about people who are just people – not exemplars of a higher ideal, not moral compasses for other survivors, not even shining examples of the heroism everyone should aspire to – just real, average people shoved into extraordinary circumstances.  Those are the stories Katie is telling here, and they are simply brilliant.  Brilliantly written, very well characterized, deeply flawed, people – those people always make for more interesting stories than archetypes and pure heroes, and Katie does a fantastic job with them here.

Enough raving – though I could go on for quite some time – let’s get to the stories.  As with WSB, I went through and took notes on each story.

1. Puberty – This is the second time I’ve read a version this story.  An elongated version was written for the writing group that Katie and I used to be part of; that was the first version I read. Gotta say it – sorry, Katie – I like this version much, much better.  Shorter and more to the point, this version, just as it is, could and should be the first chapter of a novel-length story. It’s a great coming-of-age story, the feeling of transformation is very well portrayed, and the story is just so, so good this way! It’s such a sudden, abrupt transition from day-to-day boring life into this strange new world – the suddenness makes it so good and really pulled me along with the heroine into her new, unwanted life.  So much better this way!

2. Daddy’s Girl – Another story that could be part of a larger one, “Daddy’s Girl” is an interesting look at life inside a military family with an overbearing patriarch.  He’s mostly like Bill Cosby, but that he records all the family’s conversations is a disturbing detail – it’s like if Cliff Huxtable worked for the NSA. But it’s not about him, it’s about his daughter, and how she uses the lessons he taught her, from a prom gone awry to the wonderful twist at the end.

3. The Language of Survival – If you ever want to read a story that will dissuade you from being a professional pedicurist, this is it.  Oh my God, other people’s feet. Ick. That part of the story is pretty grody, but enjoyably so! There are a lot of moving parts in this story, from Amy’s relationship with her vapid sister April and domineering Auntie Xian to the pale creepy guy that’s there for a surprise meeting, and then the zombie problems start – all of these elements are expertly juggled in the story, which is why I love it!  And it manages to be funny in the middle of all that, too!  This story continues the theme from the other stories of a new world being discovered, but Amy is the one who uses the opportunity to break free of her old life and be someone new – a very satisfying ending to a very good story.

4. He Left Her at the Altar, She Left Him to the Zombies – Well, the title kinda gave the plot of that one away, didn’t it?  But it’s still well worth reading! Especially for the protagonist Maddie, who is, point-blank, a terrible, terrible person! “Bridezilla” is one of the many words that could be used to describe her, and one of the few I can say on this page.  She’s a selfish, spoiled, self-absorbed, ruthless, unholy terror of a woman – and that, as I began to realize with dawning horror, makes her extremely  well-suited to survive a zombie apocalypse.  In the movies, that type of person never makes it to the end, but in reality, they would not only survive but possibly prosper, because they’d do whatever it takes to insure their own survival.  A funny, but brutal lesson to learn.  Well taught, though!

5. Marriage – This was my least-favourite in the book, actually.  I felt the marriage problems were smoothed over too quickly, and, if the story had continued, would only return in greater strength later.  But at least I cared enough about the characters to think that much about them, as those who know me know that I don’t often do with real people.  It’s still a well-written look at an astereotypical marriage, with a breadwinner wife and lay-about husband, but ugh.  That guy.

6. The House and Kid – While the last story looked at an un-traditional marriage, this story looks at a painfully traditional marriage, and works all the better for being a counterpoint to the previous story.  Looking back, I realized that this is the first story in the collection of a smooth, orderly life, falling suddenly into chaos; a point wonderfully illustrated by the zombie PTA that shows up – and I am not kidding about that.  At its heart, this is a story about all the little things we fuss over every day, and the knowledge, brought by horror, of what it is that really matters.

7. The Pet – In my notes, I called “The Pet” a “quietly, and therefore gloriously, disturbing story”.  Like the title story, the female protagonist in this one is not a good person; Mariah Braxton (I just got that name, haha) is also selfish and self-centered. The difference is that Mariah rationalizes away her guilt over the terrible things she does, unlike Maddie, who just never felt guilt.  So there’s a little more hope for Mariah.  In the end, though, Mariah reveals herself to only have wanted the same things we all want, which makes her a little less horrifying than Maddie was, but still every bit as ruthless.  Something else I liked about this story: it’s told from Mariah’s perspective, and Katie does a great job of making the reader sympathize with a terrible person.  Maybe you won’t want to, but you will, and you’ll like it in the end.

8. Your Cheatin’ Heart – This story takes place in Mississippi, which reminds me: What are you trying to say here about my home state, Katie? I don’t want to give too much of this story away, but it’s my favourite of the collection and it shows that Katie has a completely-correct-yet-completely-depressing grasp of human nature.  This is EXACTLY what would happen in a zombie Apocalypse, if enough of humanity survived. It’s hilarious and it explores an avenue of depressingly-realistic human reaction to the zombies that I’d never seen done before.  The good news here is that this story is reprinted in the recent collection Roms, Bombs, & Zoms, published by Evil Girlfriend Media. This story alone is worth the price of that book!

9. The Plan – “The Plan” is more a traditional ghost story than it is a zombie story, but still a good one that earns its place in this collection.  The failed “raise the dead” ritual was a nice, humorous touch.  This is the most character-driven story; it does read a little dry early on but picks up quickly enough to prevent you from losing interest.   It also maintains the theme of the risen dead making a new world, a new life, possible, and does so in a way that’s perhaps more traditional than the other stories in this book, but isn’t out of place with its motifs.  It’s about where you came from, where you’re going, and what the people that didn’t get there have to say about it.

10. The Cure – Up front: this story is heartbreaking.  It’s so sad.  It’s gonna grab your heartstrings from the beginning and not let go. But it’s so well-crafted and the characters so well-developed that you have to read it.  Olivia Jayce makes a compelling protagonist, and her love Dani is a very tragic figure in the story, and her struggles with her illness gave me a new respect for those who care for the disabled.  Olivia makes a deal with Umbrella Corp a shady pharmaceutical company to save her love, and the results. . .well, just read it.  It’s a very sad, very evocative story. I know that may scare some of you away, but I like it when a writer makes me care enough to feel what they want me to feel.  I like emotionally evocative writing, and this is a shining example of that particular bit of word-crafting.  Also, it wouldn’t be out of place as backstory in a Resident Evil game; in fact, it reminds me of the very sad back-story shown in the credits of Resident Evil 4, about how the poor villagers just wanted medical treatment and were instead infected with. . .okay, I’m digressing.  Just read the damn story (and play Resident Evil 4; it was the last one before Capcom thought co-op or AI players were a good idea).

In fact, read all of the stories.  They’re all wonderful in their ways, all working along the same themes but exploring those themes in very different ways.  The variety is great, the characterization is spot-on, the emotional involvement with these characters is very high, and you may stumble over a spot here or there that needs editing but it’s not enough to distract from the enjoyment of these ten brilliant tales.

Get this book if you can, and if you can’t, ask Katie to re-publish it here!

VS – 12.23.13

Bewitched – My review of Witches, Stitches, & Bitches

Posted in book review, brilliance, evil with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2013 by vagabondsaint

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: In the interests of disclosure, I’ll tell you now that I am friends with Katie Cord, founder and CEO of Evil Girlfriend Media, and am acquainted with several of the authors featured in WSB. At least, I was when I started writing this review. Given my penchant for brutal honesty in reviews, we’ll see how many are left after it’s posted.)

Witches, Stitches, & Bitches (hereafter WSB) is an anthology of short stories, with each story featuring, in some interpretation, a witch, stitches, and *sigh* a bitch. (I really don’t like that word.) WSB is also the first book published by Evil Girlfriend Media, a new publisher founded by Katie Cord. WSB came out on September 13, 2013, so why am I doing a review two months later? Because I’ve been really busy and am horribly behind on my reading, that’s why.

I’ll start with the cover (which is a great cover, by the way). It feels good, it looks good. It doesn’t feel or look cheap, flimsy, slapdash, or anything other than professional and well-put-together. It’s a little thing, I know, but how a book looks and feels are important qualities to me.

On to the anthology itself!

On my second reading (and yes, I liked I enough to read it twice without another book between), I took notes on each story to base my reviews upon. Here we go, into the world of WSB!

1. “Blood Magic” by Gabrielle Harbowy – I loved “Blood Magic.” It’s an artful, graceful take on a horrible situation. It intrigued me that the standard victim trope is turned on its head, in that the method of the abuse ending is – well, you’ll just have to read it. I’m trying not to give spoilers here. The way in which Harbowy describes Aya’s feelings as she suffers and struggles through the day are a master class in gently describing a terrible circumstance without losing any of the emotional impact. I also liked the lack of padding and unnecessary details – it is a short story that tells the tale, engrosses you in the heroine’s plight, gets its message across and gets out before you have time to get tired of it. Short, elegant, beautiful, and sad, “Blood Magic” is a really strong start for this anthology.

2. “Urgent Care” by Christine Morgan – The opening line really sets the tone for this story: “Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose dumbass big brother got caught up in an occult gang war.” This story is going to be very real, very gritty, and lets you know that from the jump, which I appreciated. It’s unapologetic urban fantasy in a style very reminiscent of Kim Harrison and Jim Butcher, but with its own distinct voice. It is also to Morgan’s credit that she employed one of my least-favourite literary devices, past flashbacks that continue throughout the story, and I hardly noticed it until the second read. The flashbacks are smooth with the flow of the story and don’t disrupt it at all, which is lovely to read. The romantic aspects of the story are a little obvious, but not enough to detract from the grim tone and feel of the setting. The dialogue is well-done, and I ended up really liking Larrah, despite her. . .we’ll be polite and call it “brusque”. . .demeanor. It’s obviously part of a larger story, one I know I’ll be eagerly waiting to read.

3. “The Knitted Man” by Bo Balder – This is a very charming, enjoyable short story with a, I think, a larger meaning about love that I couldn’t entirely grasp, but I think that’s more my fault than Balder’s. Even with that, though, it’s still an interesting story, and the Aunties were amusing.

4. “Spare Parts” by Stephanie Bissette-Roark – From my notes: “Mary Shelley meets Jim Butcher at the Punisher’s house.” Violent, gory, funny, and sad, Stephanie (I do know her) runs an emotional gamut in this story. It’s a bit long, and I learned things about crime scene cleanup that I never needed to know, but it kept me enthralled throughout. The last scenes were a bit more convoluted than the straightforwardness of the rest of the story, with a main character making some odd choices, but that could easily be explained if the story is continued (hint, hint). A quality read that slips just a little bit at the end.

5. “The Secret Life of Dreams” by Tom Howard – In my notes, I wrote that this story is “a brief burst of wonderful strangeness that leaves you confused, curious, and smiling in its wake; tells you exactly everything you need to know to follow the story and exactly nothing more.” I don’t really have another way to describe it – you have to check this story out for yourself. It is absolutely worth it.

6. “Frogsong” by Kate Brandt – The straightforward storytelling of “Frogsong” makes it a great follow-up to the previous story. It’s a nice modern take on a morality tale, and has a closing line I wish I’d written: “The powers of our hearts call to us, and generally we follow the song.” I so wish I’d written that! Alas, Kate Brandt beat me to it, and I begrudge her nothing for it. As for how I liked the story, well, I loved Daphne, didn’t feel sorry at all for Frank, and did feel sorry for Nellie, so I think Brandt hit exactly the emotional evocations she was going for. That is indeed a mark of high-quality writing.

7. “No Substitute” by Caren Gussoff – Whereas the weak point of “Spare Parts” was its convoluted ending, “No Substitute” is weakest in its beginning. On the first page, 8 character names (I’m counting “Delanor sheriff” as a name) are thrown at you with no context and not much about their relationships (Kate is a friend of Poppy’s, Jonquil is Poppy’s mother, Wisteria is Poppy’s aunt). It’s like the story hits the ground running too fast and stumbles. The relationships between those people are explained early on, so the story does get up to its own speed after that stumble. There is a bit of a “whodunit” element to the story, though the suspect list is pretty short, and one character makes a really odd decision that drives the story forward but just doesn’t make much logical sense (read it and you’ll see what I mean). It’s a solid story, but not without its flaws. Also, the name “Ber Breyan” kept reminding me of longtime University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant, and I couldn’t quite get the mental image of him out of my head when I read the name.  I think that says more about me than it does about the story, though.

8. “Forgetting Tomorrow” by Bob Brown – I will say this now: I think fables are overdone in current pop culture. Between TV shows Once Upon A Time and Grimm, movies like Snow White and The Huntsman, Tangled, Hansel and Gretel, and of course the Disney Princesses, and comic books Fables and Grimm Fairy Tales, and numerous other novels out there, fables are just being done to death right now. All that said, “Forgetting Tomorrow” manages to stand out in that crowded field by following a character that I haven’t seen in any of those other fable interpretations (no, I’m not going to say who). Kudos to Bob Brown for writing a fast-moving, engaging story that stands apart in a saturated market!

9. “The Bitchy Witch Queen And The Undone Stitches” by Garth Upshaw – I guess it’s only fair that the longest story in the book should have the longest title, right? Also, I guess it would make an interesting band name. Anyway, don’t let the light tone of the lengthy title fool you – this is a pretty heavy story. It’s a fully-realized world, with details given aplenty in drips and drabs as opposed to flow-breaking info-dumps, which I liked. It’s also, I think, a fair approximation of what our world would be like if magic really existed – there would still be social inequality and class warfare, just along different lines. That’s the world this story occupies, and Upshaw really makes the world live and breathe. In terms of world-building, I would say this story is the best in the book; the characters are also pretty well-developed, but given the length, they’d damn well better have been. The somewhat preachy ending, along with Lianne’s choice to make it so, detracted a little from my enjoyment of the story, but not much. Upshaw built a good world here – I hope he’ll return to it to tell more stories.

10. “Not Even If I Wanted To” by Kodiak Julian – It’s an interesting modernized take on Hansel & Gretel, from a very different perspective than other tales and, thank God, not starring Jeremy Renner. It’s by no means a bad story, but it really didn’t grab me and pull me in as much as the other stories did. That may be down to Julian’s stark, this-is-what-happened style. The first-person narration here seems to be a little detached, and that carried over to me in reading it – I felt detached from the story, not engrossed in it. Again, by no means a bad story, but not as vibrant and alive and the others in this book.

11. “Yes, I’m A Witch” by Julie McGalliard – The second page of this story contains a line I absolutely fell in love with: “It tasted of chemicals and disappointment.” Brilliant. McGalliard has an attention to small details that speak volumes, such as the mismatched door on the otherwise undescribed car of Sharyn’s sister’s car; it’s such a little thing but it told me so much about Sharyn’s family and home situation. I love writing like that, that gives me meaningful small details instead of walls of miniscule, unimportant ones. Also, the primary setting of this story makes perfect sense: 1981, at the beginning of the Satanic Panic. That societal fear of basically things that were not mainstream, so encouraged by and ensconced in the rise of the religious right, is perfectly reflected in Tabby’s mother. No other time would have had that movement in society, so this is that rare gem of a story in which the setting really matters to the story. Not many stories are that way nowadays, and I loved it here. Granted, it also brought back painful, awkward 80s memories, but I’ll not hold that against McGalliard. It also reads a little like a cautionary tale, but isn’t heavy or preachy in its message. “Yes, I’m A Witch” is one of my favourites of the anthology, no question.

12. “The Far Horizon” by J. H. Fleming – As I think I mentioned before, I’m not a fan of stories that switch back and forth between past and present for their entire length. Fleming employs that technique here, and does okay with it. This is also another example of a story with just the right amount of detail – not too much, not too little, and that’s a technique I am a HUGE fan of. This story zips right along at a great pace, starts off greyish in tone and gets darker as it goes, and wraps up in an open but very satisfying conclusion. It’s a very good story overall.

13. “The Three Gateways” by Eva Langston – This is another story with a “cautionary tale” feel to it, but one that wraps up really well and in an unexpected way. Langston does an excellent job of characterization here as well’ there’s no pure saints and no pure sinners. I like that. In all of it, Langston writes really well and sucks me into the story. I even liked Luci the Teenage Goth Witch, mercenary though she was, and the spells described feel pretty real to me. It’s a great grey story, well worth the read.

14. “For Want of a Unicorn” by Camille Griep – This story is hilarious. I cracked up several times reading about the worst Fairy Godmother ever and things working out for the heroine in spite of the FG more than because of her. I love this story so much! It’s a take on a fable-ish world rather than directly on a fable, which is good, and it’s very smartly written. I love a good humour story, one that doesn’t insult the readers’ intelligence for the sake of a joke, and Griep pulls that off very, very well here. Definitely one of my favourites, if not my outright fave. LOVE IT! More from Camille Griep, please, now, thank you!

15. “Blood of the Mother” by Alaina Ewing – I began this story with a bit of apprehension, becomes it starts closer to the middle of the story than the beginning, and I am automatically wary of stories that start off that way and then flash back to the earlier bits of backstory. THANK GOD this story doesn’t do that. The necessary backstory is filled in through dialogue and the narrator’s thoughts, a much more less obtrusive method that didn’t pull me out of the story. (Hear that, writers? If you can’t start me at the beginning, then catch me up along the way; don’t put the story on pause to go back to what happened before.) It’s a well-written, solid witchy adventure story that moves along at a quick, smooth pace. My only complaint is that, at times, Terra feels like the sidekick in her own story.

16. “Dress of Fur and Fangs” by Rebecca Fung – Last but not least, we have this story, which starts off light in tone but gets very dark around the middle, when the “bitch” shows up. This story had, in my interpretation, a running theme on body images, filtered through a Potter-esque world, with a message on the dangers of envy as well. I can’t say much more than that without spoiling it, and I have no desire to do that, but I can say that, for me, it made me really think about the messages society tells women about their bodies. It’s an intriguing and thought-provoking story that loingers in your head after reading it, and concisely written to get its point across without being heavy-handed about it. (I should probably learn from that.) A very good read, and a great way to bring this anthology to a close.

So, now you have my review of these 16 stories. Now I’ll answer the most pressing question: is WSB worth buying?

The answer is a heartfelt, enthusiastic OH HELL YES WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR. If you like witches, stitches, bitches, and/or well-written, intelligent, engrossing stories, this is the anthology for you! It’s available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback formats (I haven’t jumped onto the ebook bandwagon yet, because I am old and set in my paper-reading ways) so whatever your preference, it’s easy to get your hands on a copy.

Which you should do.

Like now.

Don’t make Katie have to put a curse on you.

UPDATE: Because I don’t think clearly at 3 AM, I made a mistake.  I did not mention the terrific editing job on WSB done by Shannon Page.  Having been an editor myself, I am very vigilant for editorial errors when I read; in the past few years, most books have driven me to conniption fits over how many errors make it to print.  I am pleased to report that, thanks to the diligence of Shannon, there aren’t any.  Seriously, none.  No typos, no continuity slips, no nothing.  Clearly Ms. Page is a superhuman editor, perhaps editor of the Xavier School’s monthly newsletter, and deserves to be recognized as such.  I apologize for the oversight.

Life With Archie: The Bravest Comic On The Stands?

Posted in book review, brilliance, comic books, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2013 by vagabondsaint

AUTHOR’S NOTE: When I posted my last entry (Unhappy Trails:  A Farewell To “Scalped”, 12/13/12), I also had this entry in mind and had, in fact, planned to write it that night.  However, by the time I finished that entry, it was 4 AM, I was tired, and decided instead to write this article the next day.  That next day, I didn’t wake up until after noon Pacific Time.  As a matter of habit, one of the first things I do after waking up is read online news, and after reading of the events of December 14, 2012, I decided to delay this post. I think it’s been long enough now.

I’m going to go ahead and say this:  Life With Archie is the bravest comic book on the stands today.

Why, you ask?

Because they’re not afraid to take a stand on issues.

Take, for example, marriage equality.  (I don’t call it “gay marriage” because that implies an explicit difference between “straight marriage” and other types of marriage, and since all marriage is two people that love each other making a public, legal commitment to each other, I see no need for the distinction.)

Gay characters are not new to comics.  Underground comics have had homosexual acts and characters depicted since the late ’60s. . .but of course, that’s the underground stuff, and who pays attention to that?  Mainstream comics publishers largely ignored homosexual characters until the 1980s, when DC published their first obviously gay character, Extrano (“strange” in Spanish) for the mercifully short-lived series The New Guardians in 1987.  The biggest reveal, however, was that Marvel’s character Northstar, longtime member of the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight, was gay (because he’s already French-Canadian, so why not make him gay?), though his creator revealed later that he was supposed to have been gay from his first appearance in 1979 but wasn’t due to an anti-gay character policy at Marvel Comics.

After that, gay and bisexual characters fell out of the woodwork.  The Authority’s  Apollo and Midnighter were the world’s finest gay couple; Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, a major supporting Batman character, was outed as a lesbian by Two-Face; John Constantine of Hellblazer was revealed to be bisexual (though he mostly sleeps with women and is married to a woman);  Hulkling and Wiccan of The Young Avengers were a gay couple; the new Batwoman is a lesbian; and in revising their entire universe, DC Comics made Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of Earth-Two  gay (sorry, Jade and Obsidian, the guy who was your dad pre-revision is now gay, so I guess you won’t be coming back for the New 52). . .the list goes on and on.  By 2010, you wouldn’t think a gay character would make news anymore.

But it did, when Archie Comics, long thought of as the most traditional, wholesome, conservative, “safe” comics company out there, introduced an openly gay character named Kevin Keller in Veronica #202.  It made news worldwide that gay had finally come to Riverdale, and at that point, it was a surprising move but not exactly a groundbreaking one.

Until February 2012, when, in the pages of Life With Archie, Kevin Keller married his boyfriend, Dr. Clay Walker.  Gay kissing was still new to comics then; longtime homosexual Northstar had just finally kissed his boyfriend on-panel the year before (after almost 20 years of being out of the closet); although The Midnighter and Apollo had been shown kissing before then, Neil Gaiman had been exploring gay and transgender themes in Sandman, and John Constantine had been in several homosexual sex scenes, they weren’t as mainstream and being written by mostly British writers besides.  At that point, marriage equality was only the law of the land in six states and the District of Columbia, with many many more states having laws on the books specifically preventing same-sex couple from getting married, so it was a pretty bold move for “traditional, wholesome” Archie Comics to make at the time.

Just to add a little more controversy to Kevin and Clay, their story was that they met in the military, when Kevin was injured fighting in Iraq and Dr. Walker had been his medic. . .and this was just after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Archie Comics wasted no time jumping on that subject, and the issue containing the wedding (#16, if you want it; it sells for $20-$40 now) of Keller and Walker became one of Archie Comics’ fastest-selling issues of all time (which is no mean feat, considering they’ve been going for over 70 years).

But that’s not why I call Life With Archie the bravest book on the stands.

(SPOILERS FOLLOW.)

In issue #22 of Life With Archie, Clay Walker is shot while attempting to prevent a robbery. (Had to be the black guy, didn’t it, Archie Comics?) Luckily, he survives the shooting and the would-be robber is captured after being clocked with a hammer by the store’s owner.

In issue #24, Kevin discovers that the unnamed shooter was a previously-convicted felon who bought the gun from a licensed dealer through a “loophole” (it’s later stated that he’s talking about the gun show loophole).  Kevin then rattles off a few statistics (“gun-related homicides are more than twenty times higher than in other developed nations”) and announces he is retiring from the Army to do something about it. . .and his “something” is. . .

Wait for it. . .

Kevin Keller decides to run for the US Senate on a gun-control platform!

Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) just proved in November that an openly-gay candidate can win a Senate race; she became our first openly-gay US Senator and was sworn in on Thursday, January 3, 2013.  So you could say the precedent has been broken. . .except that #24 came out in November and was solicited three months earlier (as all comics are), so the story was written before her election, when she was still running a very tight race against Tommy “I’m gonna kill me some Medicare” Thompson.  (It’s worth noting that Tammy Baldwin still can’t legally marry in her home state, though she can have her same-sex marriage from another state recognized in Wisconsin as a “domestic partnership,” so Kevin Keller’s still got one up on her.)

In issue #25, Kevin expounds more upon his gun-control views, states a strong view that the Second Amendment pertains to the right to bear arms for “a well-regulated militia” and asks “why do we need an estimated 200 million guns in the hands of this country’s 300 million citizens?”  (His number is actually quite low; the 2007 estimates are 88.1 guns for every 100 US citizen,which comes out to about 274 million guns in this country, a figure that has no doubt gone up, since there were massive spikes in gun sales every time a black guy got elected President.)

Now, I am sure that some of you are saying that it’s not such a big deal to jump on the gun-control bandwagon now, after what happened in Newtown.  You’d be right; that terrible tragedy has changed a lot of views on gun control for many people, as it and numerous other tragedies before it should have done.

And I’d agree if it wasn’t that Life With Archie #24 came out in November 2012, and #25 hit the stands (and my greedy little palms) on Wednesday, December 12, 2012. . .two days before Newtown.

And that’s why I call Life With Archie the bravest comic book on the stands today:  it took on marriage equality before the 2012 electoral sweep that nearly doubled the number of states with legalized marriage equality with a firm, unmistakable statement of support; it took a strong pro-gun-control stance before the tragedy that catapulted gun control back into the national conversation; and it’s poised to do even more with Betty-and-Veronica rival Cheryl Blossom having been ravaged by breast cancer and now starting up her own foundation to fight breast cancer.

I never thought I’d say this, but here it is:  I wish Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image Comics, and IDW had half the intestinal fortitude that Archie Comics does when it comes to addressing relevant social issues.

Life With Archie: the best-written and bravest comic book on the stands today.  Go read it, it’s brilliant.

VS – 1.6.13

Unhappy Trails: A Farewell to “Scalped”

Posted in book review, brilliance, comic books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2012 by vagabondsaint

Holy crap, what a ride.

After five years and 60 issues, Jason Aaron and R. M. Guera’s noir masterpiece, Scalped, came to an end a couple of weeks ago with the release of Scalped:  Trail’s End, the tenth and final collection.

And just. . .wow.

There is s spoiler below, just so you know, but it’s given away at the end of the first issue.  If you absolutely can’t stand spoilers, stop reading this and go read Scalped.  It’s that good, just go read it instead of my craptastic review.  Everybody else, you’re going to be a little spoiled.

Scalped is the story of a Lakota reservation in South Dakota, seen through the eyes of its inhabitants, most notably: Lincoln Red Crow, the bloody-handed chief and community who wants nothing more than prosperity for his people at absolutely any price and may have killed some FBI agents in the 70s; Catcher, the enigmatic loner who still follows the old ways and has visions of their gods; reservation officer Falls Down, who may be the most (and nearly only) genuinely good person in the whole story, and Dino Poor Bear, a single father with a family that is physically and/or mentally ill and who wants nothing more than to leave the reservation once and for all.  Our protagonist, our guide to the reservation, the eyes that show us this poverty-ridden, drug- and alcohol-ravished community, is Dashiell Bad Horse.

Dashiell left the reservation – more to the point, was sent away from the reservation – 15 years ago by his mother. Dashiell returns seemingly for no apparent reason 15 years later, angry, full of piss and vinegar, and eagerly kicking the crap out of Lincoln Red Crow’s soldiers.  This of course gets him pulled into Red Crow’s office, who decides Dashiell Bad Horse would make a better soldier than an enemy, and because Dashiell’s mother, Gina Bad Horse, leads the protests against Red Crow’s soon-to-open casino.

So remember when I said that Red Crow might have killed some FBI agents in the 70s?  FBI Special Agent Bayliss Nitz certainly remembers, and will do anything he can to inflict pain and suffering on three of the people that were involved: Gina Bad Horse, Catcher, and Lincoln Red Crow.  Agent Nitz figures the best way to nail Red Crow is to send a mole onto the reservation and into Red Crow’s organization to find evidence of wrongdoing and nail Red Crow on murder charges.  His choice?

FBI Agent Dashiell Bad Horse.

And that’s where Scalped begins:  Dashiell returns to the rez, and is revealed (to the reader) as Nitz’s mole at the end of the first issue.  That’s the spoiler.

Believe it or not, being caught in the war between Red Crow and Nitz is pretty much the high point of Dashiell’s life for most of the series.  This is a story that takes its noir very seriously: each story arc, rather than presenting some happiness here, some sadness there, a problem, and a resolution basically boils down to the philosophy “things always get worse.”

And things always get worse.  Unrelentingly, unrepentantly, unmitigatedly worse.  Poor decisions are made, worse consequences follow, violence and drug addictions spiral out of control, body parts get lost, Red Crow’s hands only get bloodier the harder he tries to clean them, Dino Poor Bear falls in with a bad crowd, Falls Down falls down, Catcher starts losing his mind, and Dashiell. . .the shitstorm around Dashiell is just terrible.

And it’s still one of my favourite comic book series of all time.

Scalped wears its influences proudly.  You can see bits of old Westerns in the behaviours of some of the characters (especially Sheriff Karnow of the neighboring county in Nebraska, where rez people go to buy alcohol).  The dialogue, character complexity, and noir nature are deeply reminiscent of my favourite TV show ever, Deadwood, which Jason Aaron specifically cites an an influence and also took place in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  There is also a bit of Garth Ennis’s Preacher in the writing, which Aaron also cites an influence.

Speaking of that character complexity:  Aaron nails it very well here.  No one is pure.  People do bad things for good reasons and good things for bad reasons all the time in Scalped.  There are no real heroes or real villains; even Red Crow comes off a lot like Al Swearengen of Deadwood, doing bad things for the good of his people.

That’s what makes it  noir, and that’s what makes it good.  Guera’s art is a bit too dark at times; some scenes are difficult to make out, but that’s a small complaint to make in comparison to the rest of the fantastic work done on this series.

Best of all, the ending is neither overly sappy nor overly dark – it simply fits.  Consequences come back to haunt everybody in the end, and that’s really as it should be.  No one gets out with clean hands, and some do not make it out alive.    It’s a dark story, and glorious in its darkness.  It’s a simple story made wonderfully complex by its characters – just like life.

So why are you still here?  Go read Scalped.

Oh, by the way:  Scalped is violent.  Nearly everybody gets shot at least once, there are vicious beatings, stabbings, and horrific crimes committed by terrible people (also by well-meaning people).  If you can’t handle violence, this is most definitely not the story for you.

Hoka hey.

VS

The Death of Compassion: A Review of J.K. Rowlings’ “The Casual Vacancy”

Posted in book review with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2012 by vagabondsaint

Well. That definitely wasn’t a Harry Potter book.

After 7 books (8 movies) of wizardry and witches, magic and mischief, and dragons and, umm, other fantastic creatures, J.K. Rowling has moved on. This is her first post-Potter book, and if you were expecting anything remotely like Harry Potter, you’re in for a disappointment – but a surprisingly pleasant one.

The Casual Vacancy is, unlike the Harry Potter series, completely grounded in reality. No magic, no dragon, no fantastic creatures, no big hero to save the day from the dastardly villain, and – perhaps most importantly – no clear-cut line between good guys and bad guys.

So, what is this book about? Ostensibly, it’s about a small rural English village and the conflict over whether or not to keep the council estates – what we here in the US would call “the projects” – as part of the town or dump it on the neighboring village and alleviate themselves of a financial and social burden. It’s about replacing a leading member of the village council after his sudden demise, about the political and social fight to take his place. But it’s also about the oft-intrusive intimacy of small towns and the secret lives people manage to lead even when faced with each other every single day. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it’s also about how the middle- and upper-classes view the poor, the poverty-stricken, the unfortunates.

That said. . .most of all, at its core, at its heart, The Casual Vacancy is about the death of compassion.

That death happens in the first few pages; everything beyond that is fallout woven into the narrative of the impending council election and decision of what to do with the council estates. And it is well worth the read.

J.K. Rowling’s characterization is excellent. One can’t help but come to know the residents of Pagford as intimately as if one actually lived there. . .moreso, in fact, for her use of a third-person-omniscient perspective gives the reader insights into all the hidden secrets and thoughts of every resident chronicled. The characterization is, in my opinion, the best part of the book; it’s what makes one care enough, or at least want to see some come-uppance enough, to read through all the way to the end. Even the largely unlikable characters are fleshed out well enough to keep one deeply engrossed in their saga.  At times, it’s even a very painful read, as major characters suffer setbacks and tragedies.

On top of that, reading this gave me the inspiration to write a story of my own, which hopefully someone will review on this site one day. 🙂

So why not 5 stars? The pacing is a little slow, and the first half of the book was a bit of a slog. It took me two weeks to get through that, but once I did, I finished the rest in two days.

The Casual Vacancy is a great book; a well-written journey through the various mindsets of first-world society-at-large in a quite fitting microcosm with a very, very bittersweet, eye-moistening ending, a good read for anyone who likes a well-crafted story with complex, interesting, human characters.

Oh, and this book is definitely not for kids.

Go read it.

 

VS

My Review of Dark Horse Comics’ “Supernatural Noir”

Posted in book review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2011 by vagabondsaint

Supernatural NoirSupernatural Noir by Ellen Datlow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My experience with short story collections leaves me with one general rule of thumb about them: in any given collection, most stories will be just okay, a few will be standouts, a few will be bad or worse. Supernatural Noir falls right into line with that rule.

While none of the stories are outright terrible, most are just fair to middling. There are some standouts, however; Melanie Tem’s “Little Shit,” Joe Lansdale’s “Dead Sister,” Tom Picirilli’s “But For Scars,” and, surprisingly, Caitlin R. Kiernan’s “The Maltese Unicorn” (“surprisingly” because I’d read only one Kiernan book before this story, and hated it with such a passion that I refused to read any more) are the great stories of this collection. They’re the ones that balance the noir and supernatural aspects perfectly, whether it be in the mere ghostly whispers in “But For Scars” or the entire world has embraced the supernatural as in “The Maltese Unicorn”.

The rest of the stories are okay. Solid enough, for the most part, but not as strong or as memorable as the ones listed above, and some seemed to struggle with the noir/supernatural balance well.

My only question is: Why isn’t there a Jim Butcher story in this collection?

View all my reviews