I love a good conspiracy theory. I’m not someone who believes in them, though. I just find them endlessly fascinating—especially as a storytelling device. With how often they’re used in serialized TV, it’s amazing that more comics don’t embrace conspiracies, given how serialized modern comics are. The Department of Truth, a new series from James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds, dives headfirst into conspiracy territory, weaving a tale that is as captivating as it is surprising. The writing is a masterclass in world-building, character development, and mystery storytelling. The artwork is superb, being beautifully atmospheric without hindering the storytelling. All in all, it’s a must read. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: This review features mild spoilers for the first five issues of The Department of Truth. Read at your own risk.)
The Department of Truth, volume 1: The End of the World (written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Martin Simmonds) COLE TURNER has studied conspiracy theories all his life, but he isn’t prepared for what happens when he discovers that all of them are true, from the JFK Assassination to Flat Earth Theory and Reptilian Shapeshifters. One organization has been covering them up for generations. What is the deep, dark secret behind the Department of Truth?
Time Lord Victorious, the first Doctor Who multimedia crossover event, is a story told via multiple mediums—including novels, audios, short stories, and comics. The novels appear to contain the core storyline of the event—the Tenth Doctor’s battle against the Kotturah—leaving the audios, short stories, and comics to flesh out that main story. With the Big Finish audio dramas detailing how the Eighth Doctor gets drawn into the story and the short stories fleshing out the world of Time Lord Victorious, that leaves the comics to flesh out the Tenth Doctor’s backstory before the events of the novels and to explore how the Ninth Doctor joins the fray. While both comics feel a bit disconnected from the rest of the Time Lord Victorious event, “Defender of the Daleks” and “Monstrous Beauty” are still fun Doctor Who stories well worth a read.
Something about the late summer/early autumn months makes me crave spooky stories. There’s nothing better than curling up and reading a scary story or watching a scary movie on an early autumn afternoon. It’s a nostalgic feeling for me and I am constantly on the lookout for new and unique spooky stories to read. So, naturally, I adored Abby Howard’s The Crossroads at Midnight, a graphic novel collecting five short stories. Feeling both classic and contemporary, it’s the perfect fix for horror-lovers looking for something new to sink their teeth into. Plus, the artwork is gorgeous. (5 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for a fair review. All thoughts are my own.)
The Crossroads at Midnight by Abby Howard An old woman living alone on the edge of a bog gets an unexpected — and unsettling — visitor, throwing her quiet life into a long-buried mystery. An isolated backwoods family stumbles into good fortune for a time with a monstrous discovery in the lake behind their house, but that time is running short. And a misfit little girl, struggling to make friends, meets an understanding soul one day at the beach: but why will he only play with her alone at night? All these lonely souls — and more — have reached out into the darkness, not knowing what they might find.
Around the dark edges of reality lurk unknown beings with unknowable intentions — ordinary objects can become cursed possessions, entities who seem like friends can become monstrous, and those who seem monstrous can become the truest companions. In this collection of evocative, unnerving slice-of-life horror, five stories explore what happens when one is desperate enough to seek solace in the unnatural, and what might be waiting for us at the Crossroads at Midnight.
Halloween is right around the corner, which means now is the perfect time to find some new and interesting spooky tales. Some of my favorite spooky stories are those aimed at younger audiences. I love a good horror movie or novel, but so often those stories aimed at adults go into such extreme corners of horror that they just aren’t fun. This isn’t the case with horror stories aimed at younger audiences. These stories rely on creating scary atmospheres and balance their spooks with clever ideas and a sense of fun. This is exactly what the first book of Abby Howard’s webcomic, The Last Halloween, does. The Last Halloween is in the same vein as many classic spooky stories. It balances interesting and unique characters, scares, and a sense of adventure, spinning an atmospheric tale that is as addicting as it is fun. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for a fair review. All thoughts are my own. Additionally, there may be mild spoilers ahead.)
The Last Halloween: Children by Abby Howard It’s a lonely Halloween night for ten-year-old Mona. While everyone else is out having a ghoulishly good time, she’s stuck inside without so much as a scary movie to watch. Just when she figures this evening can’t get much worse, a giant monster appears in her living room, proving her very, very wrong. Running for her life, Mona quickly sees that she’s not alone; trick-or-treating’s been canceled due to monster invasion! A barrier keeping billions of monsters at bay has broken and the horrific hordes have descended upon humanity, wreaking bloody havoc everywhere they stomp, slither, or squish. She may not be equipped for it, but it’s up to Mona to save the world with a team of fellow weirdos by her side. Perhaps they will succeed. Or perhaps this will be . . . The Last Halloween.
I enjoyed BBC’s Sherlock when it aired. Like any long-running show, it had its ups and downs; its good parts and its bad ones. While the last season of the show may not have been great, its earlier brilliance was not erased. In fact, I believe the show peaked in its second season. Those three episodes were Sherlock working on all cylinders. This is what interested me in this manga adaptation of the season’s first episode, A Scandal in Belgravia. Adapted and illustrated by Jay, this volume adapts the first half of the episode. As an adaptation, it’s fine. The artwork is neat and much of the episode’s wit is retained, but some of the show’s charm and visual flair are lost in translation. (4 out of 5 wands.)
Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia Part One (written by Steven Moffat, adapted and illustrated by Jay) Fresh from confronting Moriarty in the end of The Great Game, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) are called to save the royal family from blackmail at the hands of Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), a dominatrix known as “The Woman”. Adler pulls Sherlock into a complex web of mysteries involving the CIA and the MOD, with secrets that could threaten to threaten international security and topple the monarchy.
I’m always on the lookout for new comics. I don’t follow the industry particularly closely, so a lot of titles slipped my attention. But I kept hearing about Nnedi Okorafor’s LaGuardia. It was part of Dark Horse Comics’ Berger Books imprint, a line of titles spearheaded by Karen Berger of Vertigo Comics fame – an editor whose work I’ve adored. It was a sci-fi comic that imagined an alternate Earth where aliens had integrated themselves among humanity – a premise that’s right up my alley. And it just won Eisner and Hugo Awards. So, I finally read it. And, man, it’s good. While I wish it was a bit longer, LaGuardia is a superb read. Featuring gorgeous artwork and intriguing world-building, it’s reflective of our current societal problems and a wildly captivating read. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: This review may contain spoilers.)
LaGuardia (written by Nnedi Okorafor, illustrated by Tana Ford) In an alternate world where aliens have integrated with society, pregnant Nigerian-American doctor Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka has just smuggled an illegal alien plant named Letme Live through LaGuardia International and Interstellar Airport…and that’s not the only thing she’s hiding.
She and Letme become part of a community of human and alien immigrants; but as their crusade for equality continues and the birth of her child nears, Future—and her entire world—begins to change.
I enjoyed the first season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy. Sure, it wasn’t entirely faithful to the comics, but they did a great job at capturing what felt like the spiritual essence of what Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá did in the comics. And a lot of the character work in the first season was excellent. So, of course, I was excited to see what a second season of the show would look like. After all, season one’s ending had departed so far from what the comics did that I genuinely had no idea where the show would go after that. Well, as it turns out, season two would go on to loosely adapt the comics’ second arc, Dallas, to mixed results. It retains all the positives and negatives of the first season, with the positives being even better and the negatives being more blatant. It’s an enjoyable, if flawed, watch. (4 out of 5 wands.)
Five warned his family (so, so many times) that using his powers to escape from Vanya’s 2019 apocalypse was risky. Well, he was right – the time jump scatters the siblings in time in and around Dallas, Texas. Over a three year period. Starting in 1960. Some, having been stuck in the past for years, have built lives and moved on, certain they’re the only ones who survived. Five is the last to land, smack dab in the middle of a nuclear doomsday, which – spoiler alert! – turns out is a result of the group’s disruption of the timeline (déjà vu, anyone?). Now the Umbrella Academy must find a way to reunite, figure out what caused doomsday, put a stop to it, and return to the present timeline to stop that other apocalypse. All while being hunted by a trio of ruthless Swedish assassins. But seriously, no pressure or anything.
There will always be something devilishly fun about multi-Doctor stories. I don’t know if it’s the knowledge that, in-universe, they’re just not supposed to happen or if it’s the joy of witnessing multiple incarnations of the Doctor interacting with each other at the same time. Whatever it is, it’s fun to witness. So, the moment I heard that Titan Comics’ ongoing 13th Doctor line would feature an arc where the 13th Doctor, Yaz, Graham, and Ryan meet up with the 10th Doctor and Martha Jones during the events of Blink, I was super excited. It sounded like a bucket and a half of fun. And, having read the arc, it was exactly as much fun as I’d have liked – though, as always, I wish it was a bit longer. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: There may be mild spoilers for A Tale of Two Time Lords ahead.)
Doctor Who: A Tale of Two Time Lords (written by Jody Houser, illustrated by Roberta Ingranata) The Thirteenth Doctor is back with her friends – Yaz, Ryan and Graham – in a brand new time-travelling adventure. This time she faces the horrific Weeping Angels – who else can help her out but one of her previous incarnations: the Tenth Doctor himself! Landing in the swinging 60s, the Thirteenth Doctor and fam are stranded in the middle of a territorial battle between the Angels and the creepy Autons, all the while having to avoid her former self and causing the universe to implode! What could go wrong?
Making an audio adaptation of The Sandman seems like a great idea. There’s a lot of ways to convey fantasy settings using just sound and it feels like the perfect medium for The Sandman. I mean, it’s a series about the power of stories and what better way to experience the story than to close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you, right? And, in all honesty, that’s basically what Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman is – though, I’d argue it skews a bit closer to an audiobook than a true audio drama, but for most people, that’ll be just fine. For me, I enjoyed the adaptation but I wish it embraced the power of audio dramas a bit more than it does and relied less on narration to explain the “missing” visuals. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: Mild spoilers may follow.)
The Sandman (written by Neil Gaiman, adapted by Dirk Maggs) When The Sandman, also known as Lord Morpheus—the immortal king of dreams, stories and the imagination—is pulled from his realm and imprisoned on Earth by a nefarious cult, he languishes for decades before finally escaping. Once free, he must retrieve the three “tools” that will restore his power and help him to rebuild his dominion, which has deteriorated in his absence. As the multi-threaded story unspools, The Sandman descends into Hell to confront Lucifer (Michael Sheen), chases rogue nightmares who have escaped his realm, and crosses paths with an array of characters from DC comic books, ancient myths, and real-world history, including: Inmates of Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum, Doctor Destiny, the muse Calliope, the three Fates, William Shakespeare (Arthur Darvill), and many more.
I don’t normally review screenplays – and I especially don’t normally review screenplays that were never produced. But I am making an exception here. Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman has had a long road to being adapted for another medium. A film version languished in development hell for 20-some years before finally getting turned into an upcoming Netflix TV series and an Audible audio drama. One of the writing teams attached to the film was Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, most famous for writing Shrek and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. In 1996, they wrote a draft of a Sandman film. That draft is publicly available for reading on their website, Wordplayer. It is for this reason that I feel comfortable reading and reviewing the script – the writers have put it out there and, at that point, it’s fair game to be looked at. And, in all fairness, I actually think their attempt at adapting The Sandman is a relatively good one. Obviously, those comics are better suited for a TV series, but as far as film adaptations go, it’s pretty solid. (3.5 out of 5 wands.)