Archive for the Horror Category

Reading DC for a change

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Superhero with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2011 by Cara Marie

So, I have read some of the new DC 52. Mostly because this digital comic thing makes it so easy. (Whereas during the first month, only one title actually made it through till Saturday at the comic store and I am not actually interested in Batman and Robin so that did me no good.)

Animal Man 1

Written by Jeff Lemire, pencils by Travel Foreman, inks by Travel Foreman and Dan Green, colours by Lovern Kindzierski

I had heard really good things about this one, and reading it was a disappointment. The art was a turn off for me, with an amateurish feel to it. And it wasn’t till the end that I actually felt intrigued by the story. I might check it out in trade, but I don’t immediately feel it’s a character I want to spend time with, and there’s not enough attractive in it to sweep me up.

I feel a bit harsh, judging something on a single issue. But! Then I read:

Demon Knights 1–2

Written by Paul Cornell, pencils by Diogenes Neves, inks by Oclair Albert, colours by Marcelo Maiolo

And I was immediately keen on this one. The little we’ve seen of the characters, I want to know more about them – the situation is almost tangential to that enjoyment. (And it’s not that I like fantasy more than horror, because I read and love my fair share of horror.)

Plus, at the start of the second issue, there’s this panel:

'Excellent,' he says, 'I haven't eaten one of these in centuries!'

Yup, that’s a guy all excited at the prospect of eating dinosaur. It’s pretty much awesome.

Justice League Dark 1

Written by Peter Milligan, art by Mikel Janin, colours by Ulises Arreola

I’m not sold on this yet … there’s just so much packed into this issue, so many introductions, that it all seems to go by in a rush, with nothing to hold onto. But I think once we’re past the set-up, I could enjoy it. It’s not like I’m going to miss a chance to see Constantine and Zatanna together.

And I’m quite keen to read more with Madame Xanadu – I find her interesting as a character, but was a bit ambivalent about what I read of her series (ie, it doesn’t make me think ‘epic romance/rivalry’ to have the Phantom Stranger in each story, it makes me think, what, her story’s not worth telling without him? She’s lived this incredible life, but only telling the parts he’s in makes it seem small.)

Maybe that’s why I liked Demon Knights so quickly, and not Justice League Dark – we don’t see our team interact in JLD, just the forces pulling them together. Whereas in Demon Knights we get just enough interaction to think, yeah, I’m interested in reading about these people’s wacky adventures. As opposed to being interested in theory, which is why I bought JLD.

But I’m willing to give it a chance, as long as Milligan keeps away from the sadism that put me off Shade.

Wonder Woman 1–2

Written by Brian Azzarello, art by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matthew Wilson

Because surely it makes me a bad feminist comics reader to have never read any Wonder Woman. The mythology did throw me a bit, because I’ve been reading The Incredible Hercules and the different interpretations get mixed up in my brain. But I quite like the art, and I’m intrigued by the set-up thus far.

Also, I like the conversation where Hermes asks Zola what Zeus came to her as.

'A truck driver,' Zola says. 'Or a pool hustler. He coulda been in a band … I hope he was that guy …' 'Apparently, Zeus didn't have to change his form too exotically to curry your favor,' Hermes says. And Zola looks at him and says, 'I like men, Hermes. And I'm not gonna apologize for that.'

And Hermes says, ‘As you shouldn’t. But on this island, you might want to keep the story to yourself.’ (They’re on the island of the Amazons.)

Which was a nice scene to read, after all the Starfire stuff.

Plus, you know, not a swan. Any human form Zeus seduces someone in is a step up from the other options.

I also really like Strife, just making things more difficult for Diana. So I’ll probably keep reading this, because I am a sucker for mythology in comics.

Supergirl 1–2

Written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson, pencils and inks by Mahmud Asrar, inks by Dad Green, colours by Dave McCraig

I don’t have much to say about this – it’s paced quite differently from everything else, more like manga. Not much happens in a single issue, but it doesn’t happen slowly. I think it’s probably better suited to read in trade than as a serial.

I used to really love Supergirl the movie when I was little – because she had the same name as me! That’s pretty much all I remember.

I don’t really get a sense of what Kara is like from these two issues – other than very confused – nor of the direction it’s likely to go in. Fingers crossed for teenage hijinx.

Comics in brief

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Superhero, Young adult with tags , , , , , on September 10, 2011 by Cara Marie

Hexed – Michael Alan Nelson + Emma Rios

In theory, I should have eaten this right up, but in practice, I was underwhelmed. I think I might have prefered it as a novel – I don’t think there was enough development for me to really connect with Lucifer as a character, even though all the pieces were there. (I did like her employer, art curator Val, a lot, and am glad she survived. I’d read the series all about her.)

Hellblazer: Hooked – Peter Milligan + artists

Dear Peter Milligan, I would prefer not to think of one of my favourite characters attempting to rape women, by love potion or not. Just because it didn’t work out that way doesn’t mean it’s not introducing skeeviness that wasn’t there.

So, uh, I think I’ll be skipping the rest of that run.

Nomad: Girl Without a World – Sean McKeever + David Baldeon

This, on the other hand, I really liked. It’s about Rikki Barnes, the girl Bucky from an alternate universe, stuck in our world with no Captain America to call her own! I like that we skipped the origin story, so she’s starting from a place of confidence. She might not be sure of her place in the world, but she’s sure of her own abilities, and doesn’t hesitate to step up and be a hero.

Basically it’s a really good YA comic, the sort of thing I wish the Minx line had come out with.

Also, I love that Black Widow gave her her Nomad costume (even though I liked her original costume better) and was all sneaky about it. It was like in the Protector of the Small books where Alanna was Kel’s secret benefactor. Except not completely obvious!

Comics in brief

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Superhero, Young adult with tags , , , , , , , on June 6, 2011 by Cara Marie

Hellblazer: City of Demons – Si Spencer & Sean Murphy

This is definitely on the horror side of things, and on the disturbing, I-wonder-if-I-could-throw-up side of horror. And it does it effectively, and for the most part without going over the top. The one part I thought was overkill came as the end, and while I see the narrative need for that trick at the end, (skip) I thought the [prelude to] sex was unnecessary – particularly him finding her closet of BDSM toys directly prior to the reveal that, hello, she’s EVIL. Because the two things are connected …

But asides from that, I enjoyed it very much. I was expecting a more nihilistic ending than we got, so that was a nice surprise.

Runaways: Dead Wrong – Terry Moore & Humberto Ramos

I’ve read the first trade of this, but none of those in-between – I didn’t like the first enough to bother, and only got this because I thought it might be worth trying again with a different author. However, while this volume might encompass a complete arc, it is in no way a self-contained story, and it was difficult to get the backstory from context. My memory of who the characters were was also very vague, and while I was intrigued by the the f/f couple, I really had no investment in any of them.

Which is kind of sad, because there’s aliens and apparently galactic wars with entire planets getting destroyed, but maybe I’ll just have to stick with rereading Starfleet Academy for that.

Iron Man: The Inevitable – Joe Casey & Frazer Irving

This was a self-contained story, on the other hand, and even with my knowledge of Iron Man being limited to a) the movies and b) the X-Statix/Avengers crossover arc, it was easy to follow. I may not be entirely sure what happened, but I was never actually confused :D As long as I can tell who won, it doesn’t matter what power-up they used to do it.

I enjoyed it quite a bit, mostly because Tony Stark is ridiculous (and that little moustache he has in the comics never fails to entertain). ‘Oh, woe is me, my name is Tony Stark and I keep getting people killed. No-one believes me that I’m not Iron Man anymore! Oh well, I can still beat you in a fight!’

I’m exaggerating, he wasn’t nearly that angsty. And the woman he gets killed at least died out of professional curiousity, not as a way to get to him. Alas, she pushed the boundaries of pseudoscience too far.

Bride of the Water God: vol 1 – Yun Mi-kyung

This is very pretty, but the story didn’t grab me – girl gets sacrificed by her community to fulfill the title role, god turns out to be in the form of a somewhat bratty young boy, except for at night, when he is older. He keeps this a secret, even after she meets him in that form. I feel like, been there, done that. I don’t think I’ll bother checking out the rest.

Patterns you don’t want to see

Posted in Books, Comics, Crime, Fantasy, Horror with tags , , , , on February 10, 2011 by Cara Marie

I read a lot of Mike Carey in January. I’m a big fan of his writing: I like his complex plots, where you never get how everything fits together till the end; I like how full of myth and mystery his stories are, the dark places they go; I like how endlessly fascinating his characters are.

But when you read a lot of an author at once, patterns begin to crop up. In this case: please, Mike Carey, can we stop with the rape?

Could be triggery; also spoilers for many of Carey’s works

My best books in 2010

Posted in Action/adventure, Books, Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction, Short stories, Young adult with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by Cara Marie

It’s that time again! These are my favourite 2010 prose releases, in varying detail; I’ll hopefully come back to the comics later.

Young adult fiction

Life Swap (Abby McDonald) was a book I was not expecting to enjoy as much as I did. An English and a Californian girl ‘swap places’ – they’ve both applied for an exchange program at the last minute, and are accepted with the proviso that it is a direct swap – so Tasha, who has been a bit of a slacker, is doing political theory at Oxford, and Emily is taking film studies. There’s a great deal of culture shock, and struggling to meet people’s differing expectation. I loved both parts of the story: Tasha’s coming to a sex-positive understanding of feminism, in the face of more judgemental attitudes, struggling to do well when no one thinks she can; Emily learning to loosen up, to look outside the life she’s always had lined up for herself, and discovering other things she’s good at.

There’s romance for both of them, which does and does not work out, but which are important for what they learn about themselves in the process. They befriend those they hadn’t thought they could relate to, and they befriend each other too, messaging each other, trying to figure out how to not feel so alone.

I was expecting this to be a light read, and it is, but it’s also a fine character study, smarter and more satisfying than the cover would lead you to believe. It’s sold as YA, but it’s set at university/college, and it was nice to read about people closer to my own age and stage in life.

A book I did have expectations for, on the other hand, was the sequel to Anna MacKenzie’s Sea-Wreck Stranger, a gorgeous, low-key post-apocalyptic novel. Ebony Hill did not disappoint.

(This spoils the ending of Sea-Wreck Stranger, but I don’t know that’s a big deal – that book ends in a pretty inevitable way.)

Having left the island she grew up on, Ness is still trying to find her place in a new society, that while more technologically sophisticated, is not having an easier time of it. Trouble strikes when the farm Ness is staying at comes under attack.

The novel deals matter-of-factly, unflinchingly with the consequences of these attacks – not just the loss of life, but the threat to the city that rely on the farms for survival. The community fleeing isn’t an option: people need that harvest. And Ness gets caught up in this.

The novel doesn’t valorise fighting: Ness does what she needs to, but her skills are elsewhere, and just as necessary for survival. The story has a very practical focus, which is one of the things I appreciate so much about it. This isn’t a bleak or romantic post-apocalypse story, it’s people doing their best to thrive as well as survive; it’s the rebuilding of society, and how fragile that is. I think it’s a kind of story there should be more of.

Honourable mention: Sarwat Chadda’s Dark Goddess, the sequel to The Devil’s Kiss. Even more of an adventure story, and with a less Abrahamic focus. More female characters too. Billi is a marvellous heroine, struggling to deal with conflicting loyalties, determined to do her best and do her job and save the world while she’s at it. I enjoyed this a lot.

Adult fiction

Mira Grant’s Feed I have already written about a bit. Zombies as science fiction rather than horror. I feel like I need a second copy of this so I can give it to more people. I got a text from my mother while she was away saying, “I never thought a book about zombies would make me cry.” Me neither.

Tansy Rayner Robert’s Power and Majesty was fabulous secondary-world fantasy, in a classical rather than medieval setting, with fantasy elements that felt fresh, a focus on female friendship, the kind of fucked-up secondary characters you hate to like, and a heroine who is able to save the day because of her feminine qualities, and be a better leader because of them.

NK Jemison’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms managed to hit a lot of my story kinks beautifully, in a way that reminded me of my favourite Tanith Lee stories. I love love love stories that are really mythic, so I raced through this. The sequel is also very good, though less id-y and maybe not as well structured. On the other hand, Oree was more memorable to me than Yeine, even if Yeine’s story-arc hit me more, and I enjoyed the different perspective it gave to the world.

Honourable mentions for new books in continuing series: Tanya Huff’s The Truth of Valor kept it fresh, and Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Chaos went even more epic than before. Seanan McGuire’s An Artifical Night was probably my favourite new urban fantasy book for the year, in a year which really solidified my love of the genre.

Short story collection

I picked up Angela Slatter’s The Girl With No Hands at Worldcon, after I heard her putting a copy of The Secret Feminist Cabal aside and deciding that meant her stories were probably ones I’d be interested in. My favourite is ‘The Living Book’, which despite beginning in a fairy tale setting, perfectly fulfills my robot kink. Many of these stories are drawn from fairy tales, finding other ways to look at them. It’s other ways to look at things in general, including a disturbing antidote to all these zombie love stories I cannot believe exist. There’s a lot that verges on horror here, all beautifully told.

Movie night write-up

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Junior fiction, Movies, Science fiction with tags , , , , on December 21, 2010 by Cara Marie

We started off with Serenity, because L’s family have bought a new tv and he wants to show off his blu-rays. It was a positive start to the evening. My favourite moment is still Mal railing against the idea that you can “make people better”. Probably because that was such a theme in the sci-fi I read as a kid: that your society would constrict you and guide you to be how it wanted, and to prevent that is something worth dying for.

Okay, so the results of the Miranda experiment are a little more fatal than those in the books I’m thinking of, but they stem from the same desire.

While I am speaking of abominations, we followed up Serenity with Transformers. People who watched this as a child think of it with a fondness I cannot understand. They also rave about the soundtrack. Which I suppose was okay, but really, as far as I can tell the movie was simply an excuse to kill all the old Transformers and replace them with new ones. It is action scene after action scene, and it is utterly boring.

It is no wonder L has no respect for the personhood of robots, having grown up on this. He did comment that you would never see this kind of violence in a kids’ movie about people.

The Descent, on the other hand, I liked a lot. Horror movies often don’t do much to freak me out: it turns out what you do is stick in some spelunking and scenes that hit my fear of heights and I’m ready to jump. This wasn’t true for everyone.

It was kind of sad that this was a horror movie, because (though the horror is signposted) the first half is very much an adventure, focusing on the six women, their physical strength, competence and determination. The women think they’re exploring one cave system, but the leader, Juno, has taken them to another, unmapped and unnamed. So when a tunnel caves in behind them, they don’t know if there’s any way out. I would have been quite happy if it had stayed an adventure story; I enjoyed it as a horror, but it didn’t feel as fresh.

Juno, the one who got them into trouble, is my favourite character, because she’s so recklessly ambitious.* She hasn’t told them where they’re going, and their rescue plan has been filed for the wrong location, but they are experienced and prepared. Even with the cave in, the accidents, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t have got out alive except for spoilers!

Achievement: bad movies

Posted in Action/adventure, Comedy, Horror, Movies with tags , , , on November 23, 2010 by Cara Marie

It is a bad sign when you have a movie night and the most entertaining movie you see is called Frankenhooker. And after that we were really too drained by the awfulness of it all to go on. Too bad: I actually fancied seeing Calamari Wrestler and Yo-yo Girl Cop.

We first watched a Thai movie, Spirited Killer 2: Awakened Zombie Battles (actually about the fifth in a series). It’s a martial arts horror comedy … I think. Plot? Let me try and figure it out …

So I did some shopping while I was away

Posted in Books, Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Manga, Science fiction, Superhero with tags , , , , , , , on September 9, 2010 by Cara Marie

I do not think I am made for big cities. I am a walker, and I will accidentally walk for far longer than I meant to. Particularly trying to find places to eat in the CBD. I don’t know why it was so hard, Brunswick St was overflowing with places. Fitzroy in general was more comfortable for me, like the difference between Cuba Street and Lambton Quay. Only instead of streets, you have areas the size of my whole city.

But big is definitely better when it comes to book stores. And comic stores: I walked around Minotaur for about half an hour with my mouth open. All these things I wanted, that I would usually have to order in. Just sitting there. AMAZING.

It should be no suprise I bought a lot of books. The ones I have read so far:

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories – Hagio Moto

Movies I have been watching

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Movies with tags , on August 11, 2010 by Cara Marie

A few Saturdays ago, it came out that I had never seen Fight Club. “What!” says A. “How can you not have seen Fight Club?”

“It’s old!”

“But you’re always having movie nights. How can you not have seen it?”

“Obviously the boys have been remiss.”

Then she gets this smile, and says, “Ah, that means you don’t know the twist.”

“I didn’t even know there was a twist,” I say.

When I was at high school, a lot of the boys did watch Fight Club. They then decided it would be fun to beat each other up in the playground. Clearly, I decided, Fight Club was a stupid movie, for stupid teenage boys. I had no interest in watching it.

But now A tells me there’s a twist, and she won’t tell me what it is. So the next Monday after school, I visit the video shop. The clerk and I wonder which section it’s shelved in (‘thriller’). “It’s a bit of a guys’ movie,” he says, and I say, “That’s okay, most of the movies I watch are guys’ movies.” He gets a bit apologetic.

I go home, I go up to my room where no-one can walk in on me, and I put on the movie. This is the reason I got a flash new monitor – secret movie watching.

Halfway through, I decide they’ve shelved it in the wrong place. It should be with the comedies. I also decide it’s an illustration of why young men should not repress their homosexuality, at least up until I realise what’s the twist is going to be. And then I kind of wished it had been Edward Norton the whole time. He was hot when he was mean.

Other movies I have been remiss in not seeing: 28 Days Later! What a bad Cillian Murphy fan I am. What a bad fan of the post-apocalyptic. After watching Inception, I decided I really need to rectify this. I did not even have to go to the video store this time, because I had actually borrowed the movie from my cousin … a couple of years ago. Bad, bad, bad.

Is it stating the obvious to say that I loved it?

Part of the reason was when they got taken in by the soldiers, and I flashed back to Aliens 3, like, great, how long before they try and rape the women. Which is a very uncomfortable feeling, and part of why I think Aliens 3 was such an abomination. But 28 Days Later didn’t just brush it aside. And they went there. They went there, and it was just so utterly, satisfyingly condemnatory. No excuses made. That is when I fell in love with the movie.

Which isn’t to say it’s not also horrifically violent. It’s a zombie movie, but the most awful violence in the film is between the living.

On the lighter side, Cillian Murphy spends a lot of time naked or shirtless. It actually got distracting during the gore sequences, which may have been a good thing. Also, when the zombie contagion is spread by blood, I would not go kissing someone whose face was covered in blood. Just saying.

Ink I was given by a friend, and I went into it knowing nothing about it. The way it begins is very weird: we see this band of people zapping into the world, and then they seem to show us people’s dreams. We see many people’s dreams, only one of which will be revisited.

And here is what I was not expecting: it is an honest-to-goodness fantasy film. Urban fantasy, yes, which is not so unusual, but with other realms that we actually see. And I was really pleased with that, I was pleased with the guts of it. Particularly considering the low budget of the movie – it still managed to be quite gorgeous, and made good choices in what it needed to pull off the fantasy. I think I’ll have to show it to L, for that reason.

The central story is really the relationship between a man and his daughter, and how the man fails as a father, and fails as a person. The fantasy aspect is the people who twist time and reality to let him get beyond that. If you think about it too much, it is paradoxical, yes, but then I have a fairly low tolerance for time travel. I didn’t mind.

I probably would have liked more of the other worlds, actually, how it is that the Storytellers come to do what they do, why they do what they do. I suppose they are angels, really, with another name. I would have liked more of them.

And on that other recent movie about dreams: you know what I really want to see? The version where it’s a high school musical, not a heist. Think of the possiblities!

Many John Constantines

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Movies with tags , , , , , , on June 15, 2010 by Cara Marie

From the Listener review of Constantine:

Kind of a mess, and another reason that the god of comics, Alan Moore, hates Hollywood. Moore invented John Constantine in Swamp Thing and the Hellblazer spin-off comic-book series has been in production since 1988. Moore envisioned Constantine as a working-class warlock from Liverpool; an anti-hero who does questionable things. Here, he’s Keanu Reeves, a supernatural detective with a love interest and lung cancer.

I’m quite fond of Constantine – mostly for Tilda Swinton as Gabriel, yes, but I’ve watched it three times, so I obviously don’t mind the ‘mess’. But it’s not that that got my back up reading this review – it was the attempt to defend Alan Moore’s honour. Because, okay, Moore invented John Constantine. So what? He never wrote an issue of Hellblazer – which has been running for longer than I have been alive. That’s 22 years of other people creating this character and his story. Why does Moore get any more ownership of the character than them?

I could understand, if you wanted to diss the movie, saying it was a reason for Garth Ennis to hate Hollywood. He wrote the arc the movie is mostly based off, and roughly a third of the whole series. So if Ennis were pissed off that they changed John’s tricksy manipulation of three lords of hell to a redemption story, well, fair enough. But no, Alan Moore ‘god of comics’ gets the credit.

I do think that John in the comics and John in the movie are very different people – however, the dichotomy the review tries to set up seems off to me. John in the comics solves enough mysteries that it doesn’t seem off to describe him as a ‘supernatural detective’ and he certainly has enough love interests! And while the movie moves him to Los Angeles, and gives him a different back story, it is still trying to show John as an ‘anti-hero who does questionable things’. I don’t know that it entirely succeeds, but the intent seems to be there.

I found the ‘love interest’ comment particularly funny, because for me the thing that defines how movie!John and comic!John are different is that in the movie, John doesn’t kiss the girl. And that’s in character for him. Whereas in my understanding of comic!John (and admittedly, I’ve probably only read half of Hellblazer) John would always kiss the girl.

So I don’t disagree that they’re quite different characters. But it’s hardly the first time a comic book character has had an AU, is it? That’s the nature of the beast. You don’t get exclusive ownership. That’s why the company owns the copyright.

And the prioritisation of invention over the continual work of creation rubs me the wrong way.

***

In other comic-related thoughts, I am reading Lucifer at the moment, and I would just like to draw hearts around Dean Ormston’s art. It’s just very attractive to me. Plus, it’s fun to see other people drawing Ormston’s monsters, because they are so obviously his designs.

And then thinking about that makes me think of Books of Magick: Life During Wartime, which had plenty of monsters in it (as well as an AU version of John Constantine, actually). And I only have the first half, because they never released the rest in trade and it’s a damn pity. And then I think of Books of Magic, which I loved as a teenager, and I think, I would really like to reread that.

I am feeling all nostalgic now! I read all these Vertigo comics as a teenager, borrowing them off my sister’s partner. (He has children now. That means not so many comics.)

You know, I’m sure there was something else I’d meant to do this evening.