Saturday, December 27, 2014

Best Reads of 2014: Comic Books Written by Mark Waid

Daredevil Vol. 3, issue # 1 cover art by Paolo Rivera.
For once in comics, the art inside marches the
art on the outside, faithful readers.
Anything written by Mark Waid, but particularly Daredevil: The Man Without Fear!
Having read Mark Waid for some time, I must say that his run on Daredevil: The Man Without Fear! is consistently surprising, fun, with punchy dialogue, superb art, and character development in the Matt Murdock department. I also sampled the Indestructible Hulk and found the same. Waid, having cut his teeth on The Flash and Justice League over 10 years ago, and having penned the landmark series, Kingdom Come, has always possessed a solid grasp of the characters he writes. Moreover, he also takes dares (if you will pardon the pun) such as introducing sci-fi elements into Daredevil that ultimately pay off. Without exaggeration, Mark Waid is a master at his craft. The series is damn fun. Matt Murdock dates the assistant district attorney who tries get him to admit he is Daredevil. Horn-head even fights the Stilt Man, The Spot, stands up to four major sinister crime syndicates, and is, well, whimsical. Contributing artists who join in the fun include Paolo Rivera, Chris Samnee, Mike Allred, Khoi Pham, and Marco Checchetto.
Artist Chris Samnee apparently had much fun rendering this depiction
of assistant D.A. Kirsten McDuffie trying to get Matt Murdock
to admit he is Daredevil.
I had fun reading it, too.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Best Reads of 2014: Fiction

Motherless Child
Glen Hirshberg
Tor Books Reprint Edition, May 2014
Originally published by Earthling Publications, Halloween, 2012
Glen Hirshberg let me down for the first time. He told me, a few years back, that he couldn’t help himselfhe was writing a vampire novel that he feared was mediocre. Well, ol’ Artie lied to me. Or his fears were unfounded. Either way, mediocre, Motherless Child is not. In the novel, Natalie and Sophie, two young mothers, discover their new found vampirism, abandon their lives, and journey across the Deep South. The inherent and pervasive nihilistic sense of dread throughout the story recalls Anne Rice’s early vampire novels, with dashes of  influence from the film Near Dark (as Sean Moreland said) and a molten emotional core.

Watch How We Walk
Jennifer LoveGrove
ECW Press, October 2013
Toronto’s LoveGrove plays with time, switching from the protagonist’s upbringing in a dysfunctional Jehovah’s Witness family to her present day quest for her lost sister. The young Emilly's family unit consists of her rebellious older sister, Lenora, her alcoholic mother, and a father who also has a monkey on his back—an ambition to rise in the ranks of the Watchtower Society. Watch How We Walk hits hard, and often with agonizing accuracy, showing how the Jehovah's Witness religion breaks up friendships, families and communities. It even includes a gay uncle, allowing LoveGrove to show how an entire Kingdom Hall can turn against a queer congregation member and cast them out.

What Happened Later: A Novel
Ray Robertson
Thomas Allen Publishers, August 2007
Also a Toronto author, Robertson also plays with time and italicized dialogue. He switches from the hero’s youth —Ray's youth—and infatuation with Jim Morrison and quest for Jack Kerouac’s novel, On the Road, to Jack in his post-On-the-Road days of desultory deepening alcoholism. Who cares if the young hero doesn’t just order a copy of the legendary book (Robertson alludes to this lack of wisdom) and that the youthful, heady passages lack much in plot? So did On the Road. The passages involving Jack are cadent, rhythmic flights of language that are pitch-perfect and well-researched. I oughtta’ know.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
Michael Chabon
Paperback Edition, Harper Perennial, July 2005
Hardcover published by William Morrow and Company, New York, 1988
I have read Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Telegraph Avenue, the former of which I consider a dazzling gem. However, both novels demonstrate his talent and genius. For me, Mysteries reaffirms Chabon’s genius. He takes the simple post-college journey of protagonist Art Bechstein, dating a woman but longing for Arthur, an attractive and wealthy fellow his age, transforming it into an epic journey of emotional and sexual growth. Erudite, funny, and with a weaker ending (sometimes the reader doesn’t like the end of the road...), Mysteries is breathtaking. I was simultaneously awed. . .and envious.

Wild Fell
Michael Rowe
ChiZine Publications, December 2013
Rowe, a Toronto scribe as well, goes gothic in his second book. Jameson Browning leaves his father, suffering from Alzheimer's, in a seniors' home, and purchases an estate to start life anew. The gothic horror abounds in the abandoned northern Ontario estate on Blackmore Island, but also continues in Ottawa, Canada. Jameson narrates this daring second-person tale that kicks you in the soul on the last page. This is a ghost story, but some of the ghosts lurk in Jameson's past, one troubled by child abuse and by the ambiguity of a narrator who may not be reliable. Rowe also dapples with playing with the past and present. What is it with these fine Canadian authors and toying with time?  This is a fine and leaner follow up to Mr. Rowe’s first horror novel, Enter, Night.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Best Reads of 2014: Comic Books - Joe Hill's Locke & Key

To kick off my favourite reads of 2014, I am starting with comic books, the Locke & Key series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, now collected in six beautiful trade paperbacks.

The short version
The fabulous Kinsey, older brother Locke, and their younger brother, Bode.
It's a great, immersing series. Three siblings, Locke, Kinsey and their baby brother, Bode, along with their grieving and self-medicating mother, move back to Keyhouse in Lovecraft, New England. The kids  soon discover that the residence contains magical keys that can open to doors to other places, or erase memories or do other fantastical things. They must defend themselves and the keys against a demon bent on acquiring them and letting loose more badness into the world. Their daily life is imperilled in horrible and fantastical ways.

Niggly details
Admittedly, Hill doesn’t know much about hockey—a subplot features an entire hockey team sporting Jason-Voorhees-style goalie masks. The story is also a little reminiscent of weekly TV episodes in places, with intense inter-familial going-ons.  Other critics have complained that the series starts slow, but it's all set-up for  later pay-off. Patience, kiddies.

What I like
That said, Rodriguez’s highly stylized art is gorgeous, their use use of panels is innovative (splash page, background, side bar—you name it), and Hill merrily chugs the plot along with well-defined, imperfect characters. There are also plentiful nods to 1980's pop culture and horror icons, predominantly H. P. Lovecraft mythos.

Hill presents an intergenerational struggle against evil, with plentiful flashbacks (His dad loves doing that, too, coincidentally, but Hill is damn good at it, too.). Hill has a fondness for bonding characters when they are kids, as King does in IT. And Hill also throws in a life-altering event in their youth; however, have no worries, there is no orgiastic plot point as there was in King’s IT. This flashback-and-old-evil-and-intergenerational storytelling is layered, a la Sandman (by Neil Gaiman) and thoroughly immersing.

I’ve read Hill’s story, “My Father’s Mask”, also about a disturbed family and young hero, and I must say that I like what he does. However, by entering the comic book medium, he is doing the King storytelling tradition one better. While Stephen King has adapted many works for comic books, Hill created this baby.

And this baby deserves a second read—a rarity for someone with my tight schedule.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sean Moreland publishes in Black Treacle Magazine

I got some great news from a colleague recently, but could not reveal it until now. The inestimable Sean Moreland has published a horror story "Moth Belly Blues", in Black Treacle Magazine's eighth volume, along with weird, wonderful work by David Annandale and J.M. Reynolds. You can download it, free, here, at the Black Treacle website. Mr. Moreland is Editor-in-Chief for Postscript to Darkness, an antho of weird horror fiction, but also a fellow member of my writers' group, The Little Workshop of Horrors. Congratulations, Mr. Moreland!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Town & Train available in Canada

Looking for a scary read, with interesting characters, and a great story?  My first horror novel, “Town & Train”, is now available to order in hard copy and kindle from!