REVIEW: Dark Passages: A Collection of Six Short Stories by MJ Preston

Short story collections are tricky. An anthology gives a reader variety. If a story doesn’t hit it, another author is right around the next turn of the page. A novel, although a single author, has length on its side. There’s time to lure readers down dark corridors to reveal… more darkness and shadows in the… Continue reading REVIEW: Dark Passages: A Collection of Six Short Stories by MJ Preston

REVIEW: Expiration Date edited by Nancy Kilpatrick

Like most dark fiction anthologies, Expiration Date is about death. Unlike most collections, however, editor Nancy Kilpatrick does not hand us page after page of brutality, horror, mutilation, and death that haunt our worst nightmares. The authors here explore the horrors of death, but through well-planned chapters, this anthology does, as Kilpatrick suggests in her… Continue reading REVIEW: Expiration Date edited by Nancy Kilpatrick

Other Dead 6 cover

THE OTHER DEAD #6 of 6 (IDW, March 19, 2014 release date) Writer/Co-Creator: Joshua Ortega. Co-Creator: Digger T Mesch. Art: Qing Ping Mui. Art (Epilogue): Mike Shoykhet. Inks: Jose Aviles, James Lyle, and Qing Ping Mui. Colors: Blond. Letters: Tom B. Long

The good news is that you don’t have to be a regular reader of THE OTHER DEAD in order to appreciate the contents of Issue #6. In fact, if you’ve stayed on the sidelines all this time you can still get a pretty good feel for the atmosphere and tone of the mini-series by jumping on right here. What you will be treated to is an intense story of human survival against impossible odds. Issue #6 spins a grisly yarn that pits the team of seven characters against one nasty obstacle after another until the final resolution some 23 pages later.
The bad news (well, for some of us) is that it ends without any explanation of the events that caused the animal epidemic to occur. There is also no indication that the contagion has been halted, or even contained. (The epilogue contains more bad news). On the other hand, there is so much more story to tell that many readers will be glad to know that a second THE OTHER DEAD series will debut later this year. Rightly so and very welcome news to many of us, as we have only seen a little cross-section of this imaginative creation (a clever spin on standard zombie tropes). There’s a much bigger world here, and I suspect an even bigger story to tell. Bring it, gentlemen!
Everything comes to a gigantic broil in Issue #6 as the intrepid band of survivors make their escape from the surrounded homestead only to end up in an even worse place. As they await the President’s extraction team to rescue them, they face an even tougher selection of raving mad berserker animals out for human blood and guts. Instead of facings squirrels, rats, birds, deer and bear they must hold out against more exotic animals, including zebras, elephants, lions, tigers, caribou, boar, and a rampaging rhino. Just as they seem to be safe, their luck turns sour as they crash their helicopter inside a wild game preserve!
This issue is a gigantic showcase for the incredible illustration skills of artist Qing Ping Mui, who doesn’t hold back and lets it all out: great detail, savage action, red-eyed rage, faces of determination, fear, despair, and also hope – – it’s all here. The rest of the art team does a superb job of highlighting his fine work and are equally up to the challenge of inking and coloring scenes that for the most part take place in the dead of night and in the middle of a hurricane force storm = dark, cloudy, gray, red and atmospheric times three!
Not to be missed are the scenes involving a crazed and determined rhino with more lives than Morris the Cat. Brave little Tommy puts a lubricated exclamation point on the end of that encounter.
Perhaps it was done so no one feel cheated, as one member of the party doesn’t survive the opening scenes. There may be some readers out there who were rooting for the animals to claim final victory and be disappointed that anybody survived. However, when the actual President of the United States gets inserted into the storyline, you should be anticipating a somewhat happier ending. Seriously, did you expect writer Joshua Ortega to kill President Obama off?
During the course of this story, there are instances of symbolism as well as the possibility of deeper meaning for readers who might want to explore further. But, there is never any indication that an actual political statement was under the surface story. THE OTHER DEAD does portray the President in a favorable light, as he responds the way American citizens expect their president to respond in a time of crisis – – with bravery, patience, leadership and determination. Sure enough, when the situation calls for balls-to-the-walls intensity and time to fight back with fury and defend humanity, he lets it all hang out. There probably won’t be a Republican Party rebuttal to the events of THE OTHER DEAD. (Besides, didn’t somebody once say that Republicans don’t read comics?)
Some may say the story ends, appropriately enough, with both a religious and then an inspirational message. No sooner does little Tommy get on his knees to pray (and joined by redneck Chet) than his prayers get answered. Then, Chet turns to the President to infer “Take it you ain’t that religious, either”. Obama responds with “Oh, no, I am . . . but I also put great faith in humanity.” After reading this series from the beginning and never experiencing even a whiff of spiritual essence up to this point, I remain skeptical that this was writer Ortega’s intent. I seriously doubt that he suddenly began to drink or wash with holy water and came up with this ending as a result. Rather, I believe the clue to the inspiration for the entire series is exhibited (and not for the first time, just much bigger here) on the very last page. There is a clever interpretation of a famous logo there (“His Master’s Voice”, the RCA Victor dog). It wasn’t holy water that kept things flowing – – it was a little sumpin’ on the order of a more adult beverage.

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THE AUTEUR #2 (ONI PRESS, April 16, 2014 release date) Written by Rick Spears. Illustrated by James Callahan. Colored by Luigi Anderson. Lettered by Sick Rears (ha!) – – – Publisher’s Disclaimer = The Shocking Scenes You Are About To See Are Not Suggested For The Weak Or Immature.

(Notes: It’s rare to find a comic that combines humor and satire and does it well these days. The list is very short – – say, just THE AUTEUR and TODD, THE UGLIEST KID ON EARTH. I can’ think of anything else that hits the mark like these books. For that reason I want to give lovers of good satire a heads-up notice to get their order in early for THE AUTEUR #2 before this sells out in pre-order like Issue #1 did. Since smaller publishers determine their print runs based on advance orders, we need to get the word out about this book so everyone who might enjoy it gets their chance. The kind folks at ONI PRESS provided me with an advance copy so I could write this review. However, my request for a bag of money was never even acknowledged. I’m doing this strictly for the love, like all the other reviews you read here.)

DECEPTION IN MODERN MARKETING NOTIFICATION: Please note that this is not a new issue of KING OF THE MONSTERS. Godzilla does not appear in this story anywhere and his image on the cover is purely coincidental. Rather, it is meant to symbolize the train wreck of a jury trial that occurs in Issue #2. It’s as if Godzilla traded places with that blind folded armless lady statue who holds the scales of justice. You appreciate the symbolism, don’t you?

It’s good that I was alone at home while reading THE AUTEUR #2, so nobody had to see or hear me laughing out loud in a hysterical fashion. However, the family dog did look at me funny and then quietly stole off to the secure confines of her pet crate.

I previously wrote about THE AUTEUR #1 on these pages and you can re-read that review here if your memory is short or your recall just escaped in the bubble of that last mind-fart . . . . . .

In ISSUE #2, desperate film director Nathan T. Rex follows through on his brainstorm idea that ended the last issue and seeks to hire a noted serial killer as a “murder consultant” on his upcoming slasher exploitation flick called “President’s Day.” The issue opens with two quick satirical looks at satanic cults and college sororities (do you see the link there?). That segues into a flashback scene depicting the gruesome murder that led to the arrest of the X-faced serial killer Darwin.

This leads to a prison meeting between Darwin and T. Rex, where he is persuaded to allow T. Rex to represent him when his case comes up to trial. Meanwhile, the news media is already having a field day with the latest developments on the President’s Day film.

Obviously, the prosecution objects to the sudden interjection of T. Rex in a funny scene that just gets more ridiculous and hilarious as it moves on, and will remind many readers of the mechanisms of the modern justice system.

Prosecutor: “Objection! He’s not even a lawyer.”

Judge: “Let’s see. Mr. Rex . . . we have a law degree from the Legal Eagle Online University and a State Bar license dated . . . yesterday. However unorthodox, these look legitimate.”

T. Rex: “They better be. Cost a fortune!”

The defense employs a classic theme from the other celebrity named Darwin (“Survival Of The Fittest”) and also does a fine job of pointing out the detrimental character flaws of the murder victim in order to sway the jury to his point of few. I never thought I would be persuading someone to purchase a comic book by telling them that the biggest part of the issue is a court trial. How exciting can that be? (When you stop laughing you can tell me.) There’s also a gratuitous fantasy/dream sequence thrown in the middle to placate the other side of our brains, where we learn another cool meaning for the acronym ATM.

As you might suspect, Darwin is freed and begins his new role as murder consultant on the film. Of course, from his point of view everyone and everything is visualized as his next bloody victim. His first piece of advice makes a lot of sense – – get rid of the mask.

Darwin: “It’s stupid and limits your vision and hearing.”

T. Rex: “Okay, sure. But obviously we need the mask. It’s kind of a genre thing and it looks great on the poster.”

Pure Hollywood, and very accurate.

The art by Callahan is as bold and brilliant as ever, and this issue his style reminds me of both Mike Wolfer and Geoff Darrow – – both very appropriate influences considering the subject matter here.

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THE AUTEUR #1 of 5. (ONI Press, March 2014). Adult content suggested for mature readers.

What catches attention immediately is the eye-popping cover, done in a glaring vivid style that evokes memories of the underground comics of the 1960’s.

Auteur cover

Coincidentally (perhaps) “auteur” is a French word originating in the 1960’s and used to describe “a filmmaker whose individual style and complete control over all elements of production give a film it’s personal and unique stamp.” (Definition courtesy of Indeed, THE AUTEUR is the story of a “dirtbag” Hollywood producer out of fresh ideas and seeking out fringe remedies to start his creative juices flowing once again. The creative team on this book is all-out in its efforts to gain your attention. THE AUTEUR is outrageous, over the top, and in your face.
Writer Rick Spears (also lettering the book as “Sick Rears”) details his main character (producer Nathan T. Rex) in broad, bold strokes that manage to evoke a little empathy due to the extremely pathetic nature of his situation and his efforts to reclaim his damaged reputation in Hollywood. After a string of hit movies his last production “Cosmos” (an epic space opera similar to Star Wars) fell to the bottom of the toilet bowl.
The studio that funds him gives T. Rex one last chance to pull out of the tar pit he’s mired in and prevent extinction. He’s desperate for ideas to use in his new film, a slasher pic titled “President’s Day”, and looks for inspiration.
His search brings him to The Vatican (the strip bar, not the Pope’s home) where he looks to a nun (the pole dancer, not the holy woman) for ideas and is told to have faith. He finally turns to charlatan/guru Doctor Love, whose psychedelic-laced elixirs transport Rex to “idea space” (wonderfully depicted in bold, vivid colors and wild hallucinatory images). After several journeys, Rex gets the inspiration to add an unusual expert as consultant on “President’s Day”.

auteur 2

THE AUTEUR is indeed, as it’s editor claims, gritty and hyper-violent and very original. The images would frighten but they simply surprise us in guilty pleasure fashion due to the skills of artist James Callahan. Editor Charlie Chu aptly describes Callahan’s style as “Looney-Tunes-on-PCP artwork that’s is one part skater hooligan and one part Geoff Darrow. His artwork makes me think he’s only read Jack Kirby comics while hoarding Garbage Pail Kids cards.” The color work by Luigi Anderson is so bright and bold it looks flourescent.
Where this five-part story will end and the path it will take is anybody’s guess. The fun will be in the journey, so board the magic bus and let’s go for a wild ride!

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Vampires, Zombies and Wanton Souls

By Marge Simon and Sandy DeLuca

ISBN-13: 978-0982855447

$17.00; 156 pages; February, 2012

Elektrik Milk Bath Press


It’s not very often that I judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Vampires, Zombies and Wanton Souls, it’s hard not to. Draped in a colorful palette of reds, grays, and blues, DeLuca wraps both the cover and the spine in a woman’s hair, concocting a gentle, yet vicious maelstrom of curls. The female looks off into in the distance, refusing the viewer’s eyes in a seductive glance, eyes wide open, piercing blue, lost in focus. The brushstrokes lead the viewer in, and then push them away, much like Simon’s women between the pages. In a stunning marriage between poetry and art, the two artists not only call to the definition of the feminine, but question its innocence and ferocity. Are these women misunderstood angels? Devils? Or perhaps maybe they are something much, much worse.

What’s most beautiful about this collection is the way that Simon and DeLuca feed off each other’s muse, off each other’s interpretation of the lifeline of their characters. The vampires, the zombies, the wanton souls… Simon and DeLuca don’t just write and paint them. They become them. They devour the girl’s stories, their heartbreaks, their sins, and then they retell their deaths and rebirths with ink and color, metaphor and line.

And it’s frightful what these women have done.

Simon tells the story of the seductress, the victim, the murderer, and DeLuca paints the blood on her face and the circles under her eyes. If you flip through the collection, you’ll meet a flash of color—bright and dull, absent and vibrant—and catch the stares of many a woman wronged, not to mention the wrath of a woman scorned. Simon speaks of love taken to the edge of a cliff, of back-alley sex after the stars go blank. DeLuca siphons souls with the curves and strokes of her girls, hypnotizes men with the full pout of luscious lips. It’s hard to imagine who’s deadlier: the ladies on the page, or the ladies creating them?

Take this collection as a cup of tea, but one mixed with rose petals and poison. There is great beauty here—women who have survived, conquered, thrived—but there is also death, destruction, power. It’s easy to be attracted to danger, especially when she bats her eyes at you, and whispers promises in your ear. It’s hard to walk away from fate, to push past the desire, the need to explore and sate your curiosity. But sometimes the people we want the most, the people we yearn for the deepest, are devils masked in the moonlight, sirens walking the earth. This collection is a warning as much as it is a celebration.

Readers and viewers beware: beauty can kill you, but it can also bring you back.

But as something different. Something darker.

Something with fangs. With cravings.

Something without a soul.


Stephanie M. Wytovich

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The Best of the Horror Society 2013
Edited by Carson Buckingham
2013, The Horror Society Press
350 pages, ISBN: 978-1490597683, $18.95


The Best of the Horror Society 2013 rounds up twenty-eight tales from contributing members, eight of which are reprints, but representative of the fine skills that the society has to draw upon. Founder Scott M. Goriscak explains the genesis of the organization in his Foreword as an effort to bring together artists of all walks to facilitate collaboration in the horror field. Editor Carson Buckingham sums up what horrifies her in the Introduction: “After you have passed from dread to terror, horror is wreckage left for you to deal with emotionally and psychologically, and sometimes physically…”

“Ceremony” by the legendary William F. Nolan is a bona fide classic (originally printed in The Year’s Best Horror, 1985) in which an unsuspecting traveler to Providence, Rhode Island is detained by a broken-down bus in a small town whose inhabitants are gearing up for a very special celebration – one in which our waylaid visitor is named Guest of Honor. Unfortunately, it literally sucks to be him.

Kevin A. Ransom proclaims that “Tendrils Never Lie”. In this tale, a latchkey kid becomes the caretaker of a strange plant. Ransom keeps it creepy in this one. Although the plot is a bit predictable, it’s not easily forgettable.

There is no shortage of stories and novels concerning Venice and the timeworn mask that will not come off the doomed wearer. That said, “The Mask” by Lisamarie Lamb is a welcome addition. It is haunting and just as beautifully written as a Venetian Waltz.

Editor, Carson Buckingham offers “Lemminaid” for thirsty readers, and it is a sweetly sour treat. This one comes across like a Rod Serling childhood-memory-gone-wrong Twilight Zone episode, but much, much darker. The surprise ending actually works its magic quite nicely.

“Central Coast” by Jason V Brock (a reprint from Brock and Nolan’s The Bleeding Edge), is a story about cursed wine – a component which recurs in a few of Brock’s stories. The plot of the story is laid out starting in the present, going to the past, and then to the future. The flavor of Southern California is really captured, from wine tasting to the characters’ involvement in the porn industry. The gruesomeness (ever stepped on an eyeball?) is all the more shocking when contrasted with the superb character development.

What is it about Wisconsin? Weldon Burge’s story, “White Hell, Wisconsin” is a thriller. There’s nothing supernatural – it’s all very natural, and creepy. A plow driver stuck in an unrelenting snowstorm is terrorized by a group of sick little bastards. Although written well before the “Polar Vortex” of early 2014, it struck a nerve as I was reading during this time of year; it will chill you to the bone. It was originally printed in Burge’s collection Broken: Stories of Damaged Psyches.

Richard Thomas’s brutal “Victimized” (a reprint from Murky Depths #15) horrifies with grit and intensity. It builds in tension perfectly as the protagonist plots and exacts her revenge. Thomas leaves nothing to the imagination and the thoughts of the main character are so real that you can nearly taste the blood and feel your heart quicken as you experience it with her.

“Normal is Relative” or so Dan Dillard would have you believe. A short entry, but still effective, about a man, his fiancée, and his brother who barges in to nearly ruin his plans for the perfect evening. At least only two of them die.

“The Horror Society’s 2013 Igor Award Winner” is emblazoned proudly above the title for Doug Lamoreux’s “The Procedure” setting high expectations for the story. Fortunately, it doesn’t disappoint. Medical horror is fun, and this one is great. One might also wonder if Lamoreux has had some bad experiences in doctor’s offices with ditzy assistants.

Shapeshifting, tequila, and desert hijinks abound in Joe McKinney’s “The Little Church of Safe Crossing”. Now we know what those border patrols are up to on Christmas day: No good! This one originally appeared in Help! Wanted: Tales of On-the-Job Terror.

When a doll shows up in a horror story, you know it has to be evil. “Madeleine” is a gift from a strange great aunt to a little girl plagued by nightmares. The aunt promises that the little doll is magical and can take away bad dreams. Julianne Snow pulls off a new take on this one, primarily by integrating repetitive dream sequences in the prose and by deftly capturing the essence of a six-year-old girl.

Christian Larsen is a fun guy. Well, you would think so from this humorously gross story about a deadly mold: “It Has Teeth”. No one will want to see anything moldy after this crazy tale.

“Masquerade” (originally printed in WATCH anthology) by Dave Jeffrey offers a surreal point of view story in which a trapped soul turned to the dark side witnesses a similar seduction of another.

Rose Blackthorn’s “Black Bird” has a great set up where a woman is stalked by a bird. Unfortunately, the payoff isn’t as good as the beginning and the plot leaves much to be desired. Blackthorn’s writing is convincing and suspenseful and perhaps other stories would be better realized.

“Adjoining Rooms” by Scott M. Goriscak is a curious entry in this book of otherwise stronger stories. The first sentence has a dreadful comparison between elevator doors and a “snail crossing a leaf”. The last sentence, “It was Dante’s Inferno,” accurately describes how a professional envisions hell: trapped having to read a never-ending stream of writing like this.

In “The Clown”, Henry Snider manages to put a different twist on the scary clown trope.

Nicholas Grabowsky brings us “The Inspiration & Horror of George & Hugh” where some horrible thing born of the lowest scum of society goes on a rampage. Unfortunately, there is a printing error in the story – the text is printed in a lighter greyish tone that doesn’t match the rest of the book. Strangely, his bio in the back of the book is in the same weird grey font.

“Moving Day” by Mark Onspaugh picks up the pace again with a fun, modern take on a poltergeist yarn.

Charles Colyott was a name unfamiliar to me, but after reading “Soft Like Her” I will be looking for more. I loved this piece. Set up as a suicide note from one-half of a conjoined twin, it is even better than it sounds. Colyott evokes just the right feeling and believability without being trite.

Abuse is a difficult subject matter. In “Black Mary”, Mercedes M. Yardley illuminates the mind of an abducted girl whose has been terribly violated and held captive for years, but she does so with a deftly delivered unreliable narrator style which is never exploitative, but still conveys the appropriate fear and confusion.

“Ellen” is the object of obsessive affection for Harold, the alter-ego of a deranged killer. Although Harold proclaims “I am not evil,” writer Lee Pletzer convinces us by the end of the story that the real protagonist is.

Ian Rogers offers “The Luminous Veil”, a freshly expressed suicide story that is a bit cold, but in a way that suits the snarky teen protagonist. It was a little long, but with excellent vocabulary and interestingly told. It was first printed in Bare Bone #11.

“Daddy” by Aaron Dries is weird. Good weird. Grown-man suckling a baby doll on his naked teat weird. A nod to The Shining and Psycho, but still original and freaky. A minor printing error (apostrophes replaced with greater-than symbols) didn’t prove too bothersome to detract from the content.

T. E. Grau tickles the reader with “Beer and Worms”. Anyone who grew up in rural American will recognize these characters. Spot on and well told fishing tale. Even though you can see the end coming from a country mile, you are rooting for it.

There are elevator rides that last longer than Robert S. Wilson’s “The Boy in the Elevator” but it is still terrifying. It’s an idea that leaves a lasting impression, something that William F. Nolan calls “the echo effect” where the reader will keep imagining what could happen next long after the reading is over.

“Weird” threw me for a loop. I thought for sure that I had read it before. I even checked the front matter of the book to see if it was a reprint. Dean M. Drinkel freaks me out, man. Loved it.

L. L. Soares starts off “Venus” with a jaded couple visiting a rundown carnival freak show and ends with all senses engaged in a delightful horror. A little bit “Little Shop of Horror” and a little bit Nolan’s “The Pool”, this one harkens back to the classics.

“Hotties” (a reprint from Unnatural Selection, 2001) by Mort Castle is a fitting end to the anthology. It is told via a clever presentation of teen Internet posts interspersed with historical accounts of arsons and bombings. It’s a fun piece of work, but it is unfortunately marred by formatting errors which seem to be rampant throughout the book. This entry’s unique format suffers greatly from the haphazard “search and replace” attempt to standardize all the texts resulting in issues like newsgroup names having extra spaces in them, a single comma underlined where no other underlines were present, and an orphaned signature at the end of a letter.

Overall, the content of this book is quite strong, but the formatting errors were rather distracting at times. One story underwent seemingly random breaks in paragraphs, even mid-sentence. And in addition to the errors already mentioned, some stories’ paragraphs had first line indents out of whack, and other sections had punctuation replaced by totally wrong characters all together.

Despite these issues, editor Buckingham delivers on her vision for the book. It is recommended reading for a cold snowy night or a warm summer day back in the woods; an enjoyable showcase of horror.

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Evil Jester Press

Anthology of short horror stories.

Various authors and artists.

32 pages. Full color. $3.99 digital copy.

$3.99 plus shipping and handling for print copies.


That headline above is the slogan that greets visitors to the website for EVIL JESTER PRESENTS #1, which debuted on December 12, 2013. The good news is that Issue #1 delivers on the promise and deserves the attention. When you click on the link for press releases, a giant comic page greets (and threatens) you and gives a good indication of what the contents of Issue #1 will contain . . . . . . .

EJP comic press release

“I’m a hopeless geek with nearly 60,000 comics in my collection—much of it horror—so this is truly a dream project for me,” said Taylor Grant, Evil Jester Comics co-founder and editor-in-chief. “For years I’ve wanted to bring back the types of horror comics I read as a kid and infuse them with the modern sophistication of today’s best horror writers. We have done just that.” As for whether or not EVIL JESTER #1 can achieve those ambitions – – – Grant is dead-on !

Author Jonathan Maberry begins the introduction to Issue #1 and refers to a developing writer’s imagination and style influenced in the formative years by a steady diet of EC Comics, CREEPY, EERIE and VAMPIRELLA magazines. He adds: “That’s probably where I learned how to tell a good horror tale. They didn’t waste time. They were mostly six, eight and ten page complete stories that jumped right into the plot and didn’t slow down until the last shocking panel.”

Issue #1 debuts with stories from noted writers Jack Ketchum, the same Jonathan Maberry, William F. Nolan, and Joe McKinney. Ketchum’s story ‘The Box’ , adapted by editor Taylor Grant with art by Beni Lobel is the opening offering, and a great choice as the text version was the winner of a Bram Stoker Award for horror writing. While all the stories in EVIL JESTER PRESENTS #1 are capable of inducing shudders that originate in the spine, nothing creates a full-body feeling of dread like ‘The Box’, which may continue to haunt long after the last page is finished. The tale is narrated by a father, who begins as a happy family member taking his wife, son, and two daughters on a Christmas shopping trip by train when an seemingly innocent moment of curiosity triggers a dramatic change in the family dynamic. This goes well beyond the tropes of dysfunctional families – – more like disintegrating families. Even in the most visibly adjusted families, we’ve all heard parents wonder if deep down they truly know and understand their children. ‘The Box’ takes that parental dread and projects it into a worst case scenario. As the distance between the father and his family members grows further and further apart the sense of isolation and loneliness is overwhelming. You’ll be making room for ‘The Box’ in your storeroom of memories, as this is a story that may linger on. Artist Lobel is very adept at portraying facial expressions and conveying the emotions that affect the characters in the story. Once bright and beaming faces turn pale and indifferent as the story progresses. Lobel also colored the story, and uses both warm and cold colors in the appropriate panels and scenes. Chilling, indeed.

The second story ‘Swallowed’ is also an adaptation of a Joe McKinney tale, done by writer Aric Sundquist with art by Esteve Polls. It’s a luridly illustrated story of a swampy residential area that creates extra-large events. When a formerly pet snake, now enlarged beyond python size, returns to its former homestead in search of nourishment there are surprises in store. This shorter story left me feeling clammy but I squirmed out of that because there were more stories to experience.

The next tale, from noted author William F. Nolan, brought back the feeling of dread with its speculative projections of a long-term alien invasion of Earth. If you were the invader and wanted to conquer a planet for the long haul, you might want to win over a major contingent of the population to your cause. Wouldn’t it be much easier to influence and then train younger, impressionable minds rather than focus on the adult population? That might mean needing to eliminate anyone over a certain age, oh, say six years old. As adapted by editor Taylor Grant with art from Salva Navarro (that brought back memories of Wally Wood and Jack Kirby) ‘Small World’ is not to be over-looked. The poor adult narrator of the story spends the entire time in flight from pursuit by the younger generation of . . . aliens? Guess again. This is the second favorite story of the issue.

Issue #1 concludes with ‘Like Part Of The Family’ adapted from Jonathan Maberry’s story by Aric Sundquist and Taylor Grant, with art by Nacho Arranz. What starts out as more of a crime/detective tale takes a dramatic turn and morphs into a completely different kind of story. An attractive woman hires a friendly detective to help enforce a restraining order filed against her abusive husband. Nothing and no one is exactly who they seem to be.

EVIL JESTER PRESENTS offers a nice blend of horror and speculative fantasy, and even manages to include some familiar monsters (with subtle changes). Twist endings. A general feeling of dread. Stories that get their point across in a minimum of pages and pack a punch. Congrats to editor Taylor Grant and publisher Charles Day! I believe you have pulled it off.



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VISUAL FRIGHTS: The Play’s The Thing

BALTIMORE: THE PLAY  (Dark Horse Comics, November 2012  $3.50) Story by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden.  Art by Ben Stenbeck.  Colors by Dave Stewart.  Letters by clem Robins.   A plague is wiping out half the population of Verona, Italy in 1917. Into town rides the vampire hunter Lord Baltimore in search of the ancient Haigus.… Continue reading VISUAL FRIGHTS: The Play’s The Thing

The 2012 GHASTLY AWARDS announced

  from the official press release . . . . . . . . . .   The Ghastly Award Judges are proud to announce the Winners of the 2012 Ghastly Awards.  Nominees were chosen from entries nominated by their professional peers:  Comic Book Artists, Writers, and Publishers. Winners were chosen by the Ghastly Awards… Continue reading The 2012 GHASTLY AWARDS announced