Friday, February 24, 2017

LAST DAYS by Brian Evenson

I first discovered writer Brian Evenson after reading his reprinted short story, "Any Corpse," in Gamut Magazine. The story was a bizarre and dazzlingly original sci-fi/dystopian/horror that really defies explanation. It led me to seek out more of his work. This novel is just as original and it's actually rather startling in it's boldness and novelty. Last Days is about an undercover cop named Kline who's deep in depression after his hand is chopped off by a bad guy. He's then approached by a cult of people who believe that amputation brings one closer to God, and is forced to solve a murder in their midst. The book gets crazier and crazier as Kline falls deeper into the rabbit hole that is the Brotherhood of Mutilation.

Evenson not only does a great job at showing the gradual loss of sanity that anyone would understandably go through if thrown into this world, he also maintains a really singular atmosphere. I doubt that there were more than two people in the whole book who had all of their limbs! The world in which this book exists is filled with people with multiple body parts chopped off, which creates a vibe that I haven't really witnessed in other books. And through all of it, Evenson's relentless writing moves through the strange tale at a nice tight clip. I'm now even more curious to read another book by Evenson to see what other ideas he can come up with.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

VELVET by Ed Brubaker

Well color me impressed!

Brubaker once again creates a graphic novel that can be used to show people that comic books aren't just all about flying superheroes and aliens, and this is his best work that I've read so far! This time, the story is about Velvet Templeton, secretary for the head of the elite international spy agency ARC-7. After one of their top agents is killed and she finds herself framed for the murder, Velvet must use skills that no one expected she possessed to clear her name. You see, Velvet used to be one of ARC's most skilled field agents before retiring to a safe desk job in secret. But it turns out she's still got the juice!

What follows is a fully action-packed spy thriller in the same vein as the James Bond and Jason Bourne thrillers, balanced with a lot of the same espionage intrigue as John Le Carré's stories. So if you have even a passing interest in any of that stuff you'll love this. Even if you don't you'll probably still love this.

It took me a while to read it not because it was slow or boring but because I kept taking ridiculous amounts of time to gaze at every page. It has some of the most gorgeous artwork I've seen in a graphic novel yet. I'm not super knowledgeable with the ways comic book production works so I don't know who to credit for the lighting in comics. Is it the colorist? If so, kudos to the MVP, Elizabeth Breitweiser, and her stunning lighting and colors here, in conjunction with Steve Epting's detailed drawings. Every page is lovely and filled to the brim with texture.

I read the story in its three individually released volumes and each chapter becomes more exciting than the next, with exhilarating set-pieces, a plot that moves so fast, if you blink you'll miss it all, and characters with shady intentions. And it's all grounded by Velvet herself, a resourceful secretary who can kick anyone's ass and hold her own against fellow badasses like Bourne, Jack Bauer, and Chuck Norris. This is the best work I've read so far by Ed Brubaker, this time working outside of his partnership with artist Sean Phillips, collabing with Epting instead, the artist from his Captain America run, who provides slicker edges to the art than the down-and-dirty Phillips, and seems like a better fit for this world of international spy-work. You can read it now in its cheaper three part releases, or wait until this deluxe hardcover edition, which will undoubtedly have a bunch of cool extras!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

WORD: STORIES by Edward Lorn

Consider this one a sort-of Lorn Literary Sampler!

Edward Lorn is mostly know for his work as a horror storyteller, and while this book can be seen as a departure by some and is a collection of stories that aren't horror at all, several of the stories definitely can qualify as horrifying, with one about a man dangerously taking part in a 30-pound burrito eating contest, and another about a dude obsessed with masturbating and spreading his man juice all over things that people will likely touch.

Each tale in the collection is different in terms of story and concept but the through-line here is the same talent that you can find in Lorn's other work: the general verve and maturity with the way he approaches story, characters, and themes. Almost all of the tales were pretty enjoyable, with the exception of the last one, "glamis" (which I found a bit tedious and boring). But none of them particularly blew me away. The closest was "lounge," a story of a varied group of survivors drinking away their sorrows at a bar in a war-torn American city. Don't start with this as your first book by Lorn, but definitely give it a go once you get into his work.


Sunday, February 12, 2017


This novella doesn't waste time with set-up, exposition, introductions, prologues or any other bits of literary lollygagging. It jumps right out from the first paragraph at a full sprint and never stops until the end. Someone has stolen Polly, Blacky Jaguar's beloved 1959 Plymouth Fury. It turns out that Blacky is a crazy Irish badass and he'll stop at nothing to get Polly back and give the thieving bastards a right proper beatdown.
"I ain't beyond a little old-fashioned revenge."
It's a simple plot that's punctuated with Colón's economy. His writing is immediate and unadorned, much like Blacky himself. Well, maybe Blacky is a bit adorned, he does drive a Plymouth Fury and wears his hair like Elvis. Blacky is a difficult protagonist because he's a total villain. He's a fully unrepentant criminal that is willing to kill or maim to get what he wants. But you get a sense that he has a code and he works because Colón makes him so damn charming and fearless.


Thursday, February 9, 2017


This first volume of DC's new Batman Rebirth relaunch comes out the gate starting with a bad stumble, a one-shot hand-off issue where it seems like literally nothing happens. It's totally a throw-away story. What follows is a six-issue arc that sports an interesting concept but this story also falls a little flat. Two new heroes have risen in the city, Gotham and his sister Gotham Girl, who really look up to Batman and have Superman/Wonder Woman-like abilities. But they might not be ready to be heroes themselves.

The idea of new heroes in Gotham is interesting and the idea of having them corrupted was also cool but the execution is a real missed opportunity and very forgettable. I would've loved to see Gotham's desire to see justice done grow to extreme vigilantism, which is what causes him to kill, leading to Batman having to put him down, but instead he goes bad because a new throw-away villain with the power to control emotions brainwashes him? Meh. Boring.

And we never really got a sense of how powerful Gotham and his sister truly were, so I didn't buy it at all that he defeated every member of the Justice League single-handed like they were just random thugs. That would be kind of a big deal! It just feels like the book wasn't fully conceived to it's full potential and filled half-ass ideas. And what's the deal with Batman always wanting an partner? I've ALWAYS hated that idea.

Oh well, the upcoming second volume has a pretty cool plot and it seems to feature Bane, so I'll check that out and I hope it's better.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Imagine Alice in Wonderland if Alice was stuck there for 30 years and in that time turned into a crazed, homicidal maniac.

You see, once upon a time there was a cute little girl named Gertrude who, like any little girl, dreamed of going to a colorful land of teddy bears, rainbows, and powder puffs. She's able to get her wish but in order to leave Fairyland, she must find the magical key to unlock the door back to the real world. How hard can that be right? Well, fast-forward 27 years later and not only is Gertrude still looking for that fluffing key, but she's also a 40 year old woman still stuck in a toddler's body. AND she's kind of gone a bit insane. Wouldn't you go a bit mad too if you spent nearly 30 years seeing pastel colors and eating sugar puffs every fluffing day?
This first volume in this most-definitely-not-for-kids series is downright hilarious. I laughed with every turn of the page, as Gert, along with her battle ax and her guide Larry (a chain-smoking fly who's seen some shish), cut a bloody swath all across the magical kingdoms of Fairyland in search of the magic key. Scottie Young's baby-art style is the perfect foil for this subversive adult material. You'll find yourself rooting for the bad guy in this one, and eager to see what happens next with Gert and her adventures.


Monday, February 6, 2017


You ever been thrown off your game by a surprise headbutt to the face? I have. And that's what reading this book is like. There will be many decent, morally-sound human beings that probably won't like this one, but if you're like me and enjoy reading dark stories about self-destructive, morally reprehensible assholes, then this one will float your boat. Almost every story in this collection left me reeling at the end, not only by the deplorable subject matter but also by how impressively precise and assured Rawson's style is in the crafting of each tale.

These are true short stories, each one being an average of about 8 or 9 pages, with Rawson truly in command of the characters and the language. His writing is great all around, punchy and profane.
Pauline and Christy, they were both in their twenties but the warzone world of gash for cash had turned them into something resembling squeezed out tubes of toothpaste.
There's a theme to the structure here too, where each tale opens with the main character in the middle of a compromising situation, and then the twists and surprises lie in what got them to that point.

Although I really enjoyed it, I wouldn't recommend this to everyone; it may be hard for some readers to take. There are almost no redeemable characters in this at all, the whole thing is filled with meth addicts, crooked cops, mass murderers, adulterers, etc. In fact, one of the minor weaknesses of the collection is how repetitive it feels at first, especially in the first third, where it seemed like every story starred someone strung out on drugs. And another reason why I didn't give it a perfect score is because of the plethora of typos. That's usually not a big deal for me but it got a bit ridiculous. That aside, I really enjoyed EVERY story here and I was never let down. I dare you to read "Memory Lane," "The Referral System," "The Clipjoint Romance," "Three Cops," or "Hide and Seek" and not want to read every story that Rawson has ever written.