Tag Archives: Fantasy

Comics Review: Clockwork Lives: The Graphic Novel

Clockwork Lives: The Graphic Novel

Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

–Neil Peart, RUSH – Subdivisions ( Signals Album 1982 )

Any kid growing up in the ’80s and in tune with popular music was listening to Rush in 1982. I fondly remember the single, “Subdivisions,” with its eerie biting satire. Flash forward thirty years, Rush released its 19th and final album, Clockwork Angels, in 2012. The lyrics written by Neil Pert, were adapted into a comic book mini-series by Boom Studios in 2014. And now we have a new Clockworks tale to tell, Clockwork Lives, published by Insight Comics. It is a treat for fans, new and old, promising to deliver something trippy and unusual, another ode to nonconformity.

If I were to storyboard out this narrative, I would be anticipating some really weird and fun visuals. Here’s the thing, this whole story is about dreams and telling stories where anything is possible. The premise is quite whimsical: the great clockworks conductor has passed away; if his sheltered daughter wishes to gain her inheritance, she must venture out into the world, beyond her little hamlet, and collect wonderful stories into a special book.

The Death of the Father

Be prepared to take in one intriguing image after another. It’s like Jethro Tull meets The Wizard of Oz. Or Ozzy Osborne meets Tintin. Or, better yet, steampunk meets The Canterbury Tales. So, curl up in a nice comfy chair and just take it all in. This is coming from Rush’s Neil Peart, after all. Co-writer Kevin J. Anderson worked with Peart on the original Clockwork Angels comics adaptation. As Anderson states in the Introduction, with this new tale, Peart and Anderson did not have album lyrics to guide them. This time out, the world of the Watchmaker, the Anarchist, and Albion, would be set free to develop further.

The Fortune Teller’s Tale

The art (Benjamin Rboly, GMB Chomichuk, Juan Vegas, Moy R., Tom Hodges, Tony Perna, Vic Malhotra) here is gorgeous with a true steampunk sensibility. And the cover, by the way, is designed by Hugh Syme, who did the covers and illustrations for Clockwork Angels and just about every single Rush album.

As our main character, the mellow Marinda Peake, soon learns, it’s good to strike out on one’s own. Before you know it, your life can blossom from a “mere sentence or two” to a true epic. It will prove an enjoyable journey for any reader.

Clockwork Lives: The Graphic Novel is a 176-page full color hardcover available as of June 26, 2018. For more details, visit Insight Comics.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Insight Comics, Insight Editions

Comics Review: SKINNED from Insight Comics

SKINNED from Insight Comics

If you’ve been to your local comics shop or bookstore, you may have noticed the colorful cover for Skinned, a new graphic novel and part of the Insight Editions imprint, Insight Comics. Taking a look inside, I was immediately impressed with its vivid, daring, and hip approach. Written by Tim Daniel and Jeremy Holt, illustrated by Joshua Gowdy, and lettering by Matthew Meylikhov, this is an eye-popping, sleek and fun comic that will bring to mind such comics as The Wicked + The Divine and American Gods. There is definitely a blending of sci-fi and fantasy elements with a millennial sensibility.

SKINNED from Insight Comics

And, if you love a good twist on sci-fi tropes, I believe you’ll be pleased with this story that gives us a delicious take on how easily humans are overwhelmed by their own technology. This is a wonderful satire that does not get bogged down by its targets: artificial intelligence, virtual reality and human folly. Instead, it jumps right in and brings the story and art up to a high level of excitement and urgency. You’ll get a psychedelic jolt along the lines of The Wizard of Oz and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and, in that spirit, one you’ll want to come back to it.

SKINNED from Insight Comics

The big thing that captivates everyone in this story is iRIS, enhanced-reality contact lenses that provide users with their own unique take on reality. You no longer have to dread another day with its randomness and challenges. Why not give everything a nice fuzzy fun beach theme or some other calming fantasy? Do it enough, and you’ll never miss reality again, right? Sounds like too much of a good thing and, as we come to see, it is. But thanks to two star-crossed lovers, Aldair and Bouy, humanity may find a way out of its voluntary enslavement. This is quite a fun book with a lot of energy and originality to spare.

Aldair and Bouy might just save the day!

Skinned is a 128-page full color hardcover and is available now. For more details, visit Insight Comics right here.

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Review: THE BATTLES OF TOLKIEN

THE BATTLES OF TOLKIEN

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings epic world includes not only elves and trolls but a whole civilization spanning some 37,000 years. Such a vast timeframe involves war and numerous battles. There have been atttempts to sort through these events but never before in a book filled with such a high level of artwork and commentary. Now, we have “The Battles of Tolkien,” by David David, published by Thunder Bay Press. It is both a beautiful and detailed book. It would make a wonder gift and certainly one to consider for Dad on Father’s Day.

The Battle of Unnumbered Tears

This collection of commentary, art, and maps will prove to be insightful and a delight to any Tolkien reader. Each battle has a map and various artist renditions. David Day’s commentary has a sense of authority and enthusiasm that will keep you reading on from battle to battle. By the end of the book, a Tolkien reader will have a greater understanding of the work and an invaluable keepsake.

Glaurung at the Battle of Sudden Flame

David Day is a poet and author who has published over 40 books of poetry, ecology, history, fantasy, mythology and fiction. David Day’s books, for both adults and children, have sold over 4 million copies worldwide and were translated into twenty languages. This work is unofficial and is not authorized by the Tolkien Estate or HarperCollins Publishers. Other Tolkien titles by David Day include “An Atlas of Tolkien,” “A Dictionary of Tolkien,” and “Heroes of Tolkien.”

The Elven City of Tirion

“The Battles of Tolkien” is a 256-page flexibound. For more details, and how to purchase, visit Thunder Bay Press right here.

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Review: SEVEN TO ETERNITY #1

seventoeternity-image-comics-jpg

Image Comics reports that, in order to keep up with overwhelming customer demand, it is sending SEVEN TO ETERNITY #1, written by Rick Remender, drawn by Jerome Opeña, and colored by Matt Hollingsworth, back for a second printing on the same day as the issue’s release. And that makes total sense. This is the just the sort of quirky, weird, action-packed comic that will excite many readers. This is the tale of Adam Osidis, one reluctant hero confronting, The Mud King, one scary evil ruler. Both characters are up for a fight–or perhaps a discreet understanding of some sort.

Welcome to the kingdom of Zhal, ruled by The Mud King, officially known as The God of Whispers. How this works is left sort of mysterious. Part of it has to do with The Mud King having cast a spell on all of the kingdom’s inhabitants. Much weighs upon whether or not someone will take up The Mud King’s offer, whatever that may be. Under no circumstances would Adam’s father bend his knee and accept any offer from The Mud King. That did not work out so well for Zebadiah Osidis. There is a whole village in exile hiding in the mountains because of Zebadiah Osidis’s defiance. So, maybe Adam can figure something out.

This is definitely one of those big deal titles right up there with the likes of Jonathan Hickman’s celebrated Image Comics series, EAST OF WEST. This new breakout hit reunites the creative team behind Uncanny X-Force. You have all the depth and texture of a story you can really sink your teeth into. There is so much referred to and implied here to keep a series roaring for years. That said, we have a steady and compelling narrative unfolding. We’re in good hands with Adam, our reluctant yet cunning young hero.

SEVEN TO ETERNITY #1 is available as of September 21st. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Review: ‘The Chronicles of Era: Book I’ by Scott B. Henderson

The Chronicles of Era: Whispers of Redemption (Book 1) by Scott B Henderson

The Chronicles of Era: Whispers of Redemption (Book 1)
by Scott B Henderson

The first thing that will impress you about this comic is the beautifully rendered work, finely detailed and full of energy. “The Chronicles of Era” is Scott B. Henderson‘s visionary epic, the work he’s likely most proud of, I would imagine, and he should be. Whether or not you’re a fan of sci-fi/fantasy, there’s much to enjoy here. We have a striking hero, Seth, a young guy with a distinctive swagger. When your main character comes across as alive and interesting, you’re off to a very good start.

A dream within a dream?

A dream within a dream?

Henderson has a relatively rigid style that actually works well here to convey a sense of urgency. This is a harsh brave new world, a fantasy akin to the work of George R. R. Martin. Gods from a different time and place seem to be lurking in the background. You know, that sort of thing. That said, I was intrigued by the fact that Henderson’s characters, while depicted in a tight manner, have a lot of life to them. And I was impressed with Henderson’s use of some gay subtext. It is one of those blink-and-you-miss-it things. Our hero, Seth, having gotten to know Sid a little better, takes his hand and leads them off to bed.

Let's Go To Bed...

Let’s Go To Bed…

A blink-and-you-miss-it moment. That makes total sense given that Seth is of a low station with limited freedom in a hostile environment. It mirrors real life and what other art forms can do with revealing only certain bits of information. Seth’s elastic sexuality is in clear view as well as sort of a secret within this book. Besides that one moment, there is nothing else quite like it, although Seth does enjoy wandering about in just a pear of jeans and leather sandals like a teen heartthrob. And the stage does seem to be set for him to become involved with, Caitleth, a beautiful aristocratic young woman. So, while Henderson gives ample time to war games and fantasy worldbuilding, he is also quite capable of evoking the oozing sexuality of youth. Henderson proves to be an interesting and insightful storyteller.

Reading "The Chronicles of Era"

Reading “The Chronicles of Era”

Book I covers the first three chapters to this epic fantasy graphic novel under the story arc, “Whispers of Redemption.” For more details, visit Scott B. Henderson right here.

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Filed under Comics, fantasy, George R.R. Martin, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Sex

Review: Farlaine the Goblin (Kickstarter campaign ends May 18th!)

Farlaine the Goblin!

Farlaine the Goblin!

It is high time we talked about goblins. You like goblins, don’t you? The Green Goblin has maligned the good name of these creatures. Take Farlaine the Goblin. He’s a tree-loving shaman! In fact, Farlaine the Goblin is a lovable little guy who seeks out fun and adventure and the main character of this wonderful all-ages comics series.

Farlaine the Goblin books

Farlaine the Goblin books

The creator of this comic wishes to remain in the background. We just know him as, J. Having had a chance to read the first four books in the series, I salute J. Not only that, I congratulate J on a terrific Kickstarter campaign that ends May 18th! Every penny helps when you’re a cartoonist. Check out the KS campaign and join in right here.

Reading Farlaine the Goblin

Reading Farlaine the Goblin

I get a lot of comics to consider for review. I have read a lot of comics, believe me. What I appreciate about the Farlaine the Goblin series is its determined spirit and engaging whimsy. It is not easy to maintain that jovial tone throughout such an ambitious work as this, comparable to the work of Jeff Smith. Each book in the series follows Farlaine the Goblin as he searches for a forest he can truly call his own. But he will need to go through a number of adventures before he reaches his goal. This is a comic that will easily provide a laugh and lift your spirits. We can always use more of these comics that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Panel from Farlaine the Goblin

Panel from Farlaine the Goblin

“Farlaine the Goblin ~ Completing the Series” is the Kickstarter campaign in support of completing the 7 volume all-ages comic about a tree goblin shaman trying to find a forest. Books 1-4 have been released. J is embarking upon the remaining volumes, 5-7. Keep up with Farlaine the Goblin right here. And follow Farlaine the Goblin on Facebook right here.

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Book Review: ‘Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories by Charles Beaumont’

Charles Beaumont on the set of "The Howling Man." Illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Charles Beaumont on the set of “The Howling Man.” Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

How do you describe the distinctive character of the landmark television series, The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)? Well, it has everything to do with its unique literary quality. And how to best speak to that? Charles Beaumont (1929-1967), one of its celebrated writers, is a perfect example. Let’s look at a new collection of his work, published by Penguin Classics, “Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories by Charles Beaumont.”

"Perchance to Dream" by Charles Beaumont

“Perchance to Dream” by Charles Beaumont

What a treat this book is for any Twilight Zone fan since here you have some of the original stories by Beaumont that went on to become classic episodes. And you also get them in the context of his work for various magazines of the era, a total of 23 stories in this collection. Consider the title piece, “Perchance to Dream,” first published in Playboy, October 1958, and then turned into a TZ script and broadcast November 27, 1959. A distraught man enters a psychiatrist’s office in fear that he will die if he falls asleep. He is certain this will happen since he sees things that tell him so. For instance, if he stares long enough at a painting, the figures will move around and talk to him. Here, perhaps Beaumont borrows a little from “The Golgotha Dancers,” by Manly Wade Wellman, first published in Weird Tales, October 1937. It’s just enough to fuel another strain in the tradition of weird fiction dating back to Gothic literature. In this case, we have a man in a contemporary setting who has been reduced to a quivering heap as his only solace, to dream, has been denied him.

Charles Beaumont Ray Bradbury

Rod Serling was a writer on the rise, already with a reputation for first-rate work like “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” when he decided to try something new. It was to be an anthology series of science fiction and fantasy, the best possible route for him to continue to pursue his social commentary. When Serling approached Ray Bradbury for advice, Bradbury presented him with four books by authors he should know: Ray Bradbury, John Collier, Richard Matheson, and Charles Beaumont. Dark fantasy is what Serling was seeking. Beaumont seemed to be dark fantasy incarnate. He was a brash young aspiring writer when Bradbury took him under his wing. In a year’s time, Beaumont was well on his way. In 1950, at 21, he sold his first story to Amazing Stories. And, in 1954, Playboy magazine selected his story “Black Country” to be the first work of short fiction to appear in its pages. His astonishing trajectory would end by a mysterious condition that would cut his life short, at 38, in 1967. A fascinating documentary by Jason V Brock provides great insight into this unique life and career.

Browsing through the titles, you’ll find a wealth of creativity spanning many genres, all of them embracing a sense of the macabre. The opening lines to “The New People” (1958) lure you in with the misgivings of Hank Prentice over buying his first home, that embodiment of the American Dream. Instinctively, he fears for his wife and son: “Too late for what? It’s a good house, well built, well kept up, roomy. Except for that blood stain, cheerful.” And so commences a fine piece of horror with a fine bite of social commentary. Conformity has brought each member of the neighborhood together. However, in order to cope with and stave off boredom, we discover this group gives new, and bloody, meaning to the quaint notion of “community.” In the same spirt as Richard Matheson, Beaumont conjures up a fable that questions our so-called dreams and aspirations.

Charles Beaumont’s work has a distinctive style and it is far from formulaic. What he did was follow a certain way of revealing a greater truth. Beaumont confronted that clean wall of 1950s conformity. He looked closer to see the stress cracks forming. He responded with fiction that helped to tear that wall down.

“Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories by Charles Beaumont” is published by Penguin Classics. For more details, visit our friends at Penguin Random House right here.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, Penguin Random House, Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone

George Clayton Johnson (1929-2015), RIP

"Nothing in the Dark" by George Clayton Johnson

“Nothing in the Dark” by George Clayton Johnson

Writer George Clayton Johnson past away this Christmas day at 12:46 PST. His son, Paul, posted an announcement. He said of his father, “He was more than a reknowned writer, fan & hemp legalization advocate, he was a truly loving father & husband. Dad understood some truths deeply….understanding, tolerance & love, and above all, we’re all the same and should be cared for as human beings…no homeless…no hunger, but charity for all.”

For those of you new to George Clayton Johnson, he was, and will always remain, a spirited beacon. He was able to take his love for science fiction and fantasy and realize some excellent writing. A prime example is his work on The Twilight Zone. He wrote some of the most memorable episodes, including “The Four of Us Are Dying” (1960), “A Game of Pool” (1961), “Nothing in the Dark” (1961), and “Kick the Can” (1962).

Of this work for The Twilight Zone, it was “Nothing in the Dark” that was his favorite and, perhaps, his all-around favorite of everything he wrote. The story has a favorite theme for him, the game of trying to cheat death. In the episode, Gladys Cooper (played by Wanda Dunn) is doing her best to avoid death by remaining in hiding. Attempting to reassure her is a handsome young man, Harold Beldon (played by Robert Redford). If only Gladys will give herself over to Harold’s logical and gentle words, she may find peace. Of course, this is the off-center world of The Twilight Zone with nothing as it may seem.

In the end, this is a story with an unpredictable and satisfying resolution. In a similar fashion, George Clayton Johnson bid farewell. He was in hospice care and it was assumed he was near the end a number of times. Ultimately, it seems, he got his wish, hung on until Christmas, and left on his own terms.

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Review: ‘Reading Richard Matheson: A Critical Survey’

"I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson

“I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

The work of Richard Matheson (1926-2013) is certainly suitable for in-depth analysis. It is through an academic lens that you can plumb such insights as the one about the recurring nemesis in Matheson’s groundbreaking novel, “I Am Legend.” As Charles Hoge describes, in this first survey of its kind, the neighbor-turned-vampire who repeatedly taunts the protagonist is part of a literary tradition dating back hundreds of years. Instead of being hidden away in Bavarian castles, vampires were known to call out their victims from their own village. It is a simple distinction like that which Matheson runs with to create one of the most influential books in pop culture.

It was this seismic shift from monsters in castles to monsters in the suburbs that would change everything and influence everyone from George Romero to Stephen King. Yes, you can thank Richard Matheson for the zombie apocalypse. He essentially invented it with his 1954 horror novel, “I Am Legend.” Well, there’s more to it. And you can dig deeper in this first ever substantial study, “Reading Richard Matheson: A Critical Survey,” edited by Cheyenne Mathews and Janet V. Haedicke, published by Rowman & Littlefield.

The original “I Am Legend” novel is an elegant and tightly written work. Our protagonist, Robert Neville, must figure out, with Sherlockian exactitude, what has brought about a world-wide pandemic of vampires. It is a prime example of work from the first phase of Matheson’s career. The theme here is man as victim of his own environment. By the time of Matheson’s work on the landmark television series, The Twilight Zone, his theme has broadened to man as victim of his own making. Within these two themes, a multitude of work can be examined. It is with this survey that we receive an essential collection of serious thought on a writer who Stephen King has ranked with Poe and Lovecraft.

In a piece that focuses on the noir character of The Twilight Zone, Cheyenne Mathews demonstrates both Matheson’s artistry and how well The Twilight Zone holds up to critical scrutiny. Cheyenne writes: “Through science fiction tropes of time travel, alternate realities, and new technologies, Matheson emphasizes the physical and social displacement that afflicted both men and women during the attempted postwar return to normality.” And, in describing what is considered the most noir Twilight Zone episode, “Night Call,” Mathews writes: “The second act of the episode conflates Elva’s personal anxieties with her social alienation, as she becomes increasingly disconnected from the other characters, who attempt to downplay her distress.” Of course, there is Matheson’s most celebrated TZ episode, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” but, as Mathews makes clear, it is part of a bigger picture. Outside of Rod Serling, who wrote the majority of scripts, Matheson wrote the most episodes and they were all gems.

A man of his time, and ahead of his time, Richard Matheson has secured a place for himself within not only great science fiction, horror, and fantasy, but great fiction in general. Ultimately, Matheson’s work strikes a universal chord. We can explore the specific era he worked in and how he spoke to concerns of postwar paranoia and shifting gender roles; and, like Kafka, we can place him within some of the most eloquent writers on the human condition. Matheson was weary of being labeled a genre writer. Perhaps one of his fellow writers and friends, George Clayton Johnson, summed it up best when he said of Matheson that he was one of the “serious storytellers whose works were artful gems of wisdom fiction.”

“Reading Richard Matheson: A Critical Survey” is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the origins of today’s pop culture at a deeper level and gaining a greater appreciation of the work of Richard Matheson.

Richard-Matheson-Twilight-Zone

“Reading Richard Matheson: A Critical Survey” is a 262-page hardcover published by Rowman & Littlefield.

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Filed under fantasy, George Clayton Johnson, Horror, Richard Matheson, Rowman & Littlefield, Sci-Fi, science fiction, The Twilight Zone

Review: WOLF #1, published by Image Comics

Wolf-01-Image-Comics

“Wolf,” is a new comic (script by Ales Kot; art by Matt Taylor) in which we follow Antoine Wolfe, a hard-boiled paranormal detective, down the sun-kissed streets of a noir-infused Los Angeles. The streets are indeed sun-kissed and beautifully harsh thanks to the intense colors by Lee Loughridge. Like any good crime story, we savor the details. One excellent moment simply has Antoine approach an anxious German Shepherd in his path with a mellow, “Meow.” From the start, we know this is going to be one weird tale as we begin with Antoine covered in flames one moment and completely unscathed the next.

Wolf-Image-Comics-Ales-Kot-2015

This original fantasy/horror/crime saga is worthy of comparison to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. The narrative rolls along quite smoothly as the plot develops. Antoine is steadily revealed to be adroit as well as a bit out of his depth as we find him caught up in something of apocalyptic proportions. Ultimately, his fate will be linked to that of an orphaned teenage girl. And, through it all, we have a compelling clash between fantasy and gritty crime drama. For instance, Antoine may have supernatural powers but, as an African American, he is regularly reminded that he is not welcome in some places. And Los Angeles is depicted as a twisted wonderland, an amalgam of wilderness and concrete jungle. And full of magic. Wait until you meet Antoine’s pal, Freddy, a most Cthulhu-like fiend.

I am often asked where the best comics are coming from and the short answer is Image Comics. A perfect example is Wolf.

WOLF #1 is available as of July 22nd. It is a 64-page comic priced at $4.99. For more details, visit our friends at Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Image Comics, Noir