REVIEW: “The Autumnal” by Daniel Kraus, Chris Shehan, and Jason Wordie

An idyllic town hiding an unsettling and disturbing underbelly is one of my favorite horror tropes. There’s just something inherently scary about places that seem too perfect. And it’s a trope that Daniel Kraus uses to perfection in The Autumnal. Featuring a tense and emotional script from Kraus, some hauntingly abstract artwork from illustrator Chris Shehan, and gorgeous colors from Jason Wordie, The Autumnal delivers a rumination on generational trauma that’s as emotionally satisfying as it is scary. It’s a traditional creepy town story wrapped around an emotionally raw story about a mother and her daughter just trying to survive. And it’s a delightfully haunting read. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(Note: I received an ARC of this graphic novel from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. Additionally, mild spoilers follow.)

The Autumnal
Written by Daniel Kraus
Illustrated by Chris Shehan
Colors by Jason Wordie
Following the death of her estranged mother, Kat Somerville and her daughter Sybil flee a difficult life in Chicago for the quaint—and possibly deadly—town of Comfort Notch, New Hampshire. From NY Times best-selling author, Daniel Kraus (The Shape of Water, Trollhunters, The Living Dead), and rising star Chris Shehan, comes a haunting vision of America’s prettiest autumn.

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REVIEW: “The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem”

Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is my favorite My Chemical Romance album. It’s this wonderful explosion of sound, color, and joy. All of the promotion that surrounded it built up this wildly creative world that was delightful to spend time in. I loved the original True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys comic, too—the one that came out a few years after the album and concluded the story that began in the music videos. Yes, it was a bit abstract, and the ending didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I loved it anyway. I say all of this because I wish I liked The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem more than I did. It’s a great premise, with some delightfully gritty and horrific artwork. But the story is just… disappointing. (3 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss and Dark Horse. All thoughts are my own.)

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem
Written by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon
Art by: Leonardo Romero
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
The Fabulous Killjoys, once a group of teenage exterminators determined to save reality, have lost their way—and their memories. After a period of mental confinement, former Killjoys leader Mike Milligram gets de-programmed and hits the road to bring the gang back together for a final showdown against an evil pharmaceutical corporation, their monstrous hitman, and savage gang rivals.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Home Sick Pilots, Volume 1: Teenage Haunts”

A punk rock ghost story sounds pretty cool, right? Home Sick Pilots often lives up to its cool-sounding premise, but the plot and characters surrounding that premise are a little too thinly sketched for the comic to work as well as it could—for now, anyway. Simply put, volume one of Home Sick Pilots is a promising start to an ongoing series, but it’s not a home run. On paper, all of the elements are there. The artwork is great, the premise is intriguing, the pacing is solid, the broad strokes of the plot work well, and even the characters are interesting. The problem is just that not enough time is spent on any one thing, so everything feels a bit glossed over as though this volume is more of a prologue than a first act.

Home Sick Pilots, Volume 1: Teenage Haunts
Written by Dan Watters, illustrated by Caspar Wijngaard
In the summer of 1994, a haunted house walks across California. Inside is Ami, lead-singer of a high school punk band- who’s been missing for weeks. How did she get there? What do these ghosts want? And does this mean the band have to break up? Expect three chord songs and big bloody action as Power Rangers meets The Shining (yes really), and as writer DAN WATTERS (Lucifer/COFFIN BOUND) and artist CASPAR WIJNGAARD (Star Wars/Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt) delve into the horrors of misspent youth.

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REVIEW: “Killadelphia vol. 2 – Burn Baby Burn”

The first arc of Rodney Barnes and Jason Shawn Alexander’s Killadelphia ranked among my favorite comics of 2020. It was a breathtaking, gorgeous, layered story that blended absurd-yet-scary horror with gritty, grounded character drama. So, naturally, I was pretty excited to see where the comic would go from there. That first volume ended in a way that opened numerous narrative doors for future stories. And that’s a pretty exciting place for a second arc to find itself. Now, to be fair, Barnes and Alexander certainly take advantage of those numerous avenues—but it comes at the cost of narrative coherence. While the first volume of Killadelphia was something new and exciting, the second volume feels like more of the same—with all of the pros and cons that come with that. The world is explored with more depth, but the narrative is often unfocused, with an ending that’s less of an ending and more of a beginning for another story. There’s too much going on and not enough time to explore it with. (3 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review will remain as spoiler free as possible.

Killadelphia vol.2 – “Burn Baby Burn”
Written by Rodney Barnes
Illustrated by Jason Shawn Alexander
Adams’ battle to reshape the United States in his own twisted vision might have been thwarted for now, giving Jimmy Sangster a moment of respite, but the war for a new America rages on! Now, as Abigail steps out of the shadows, she unleashes a new violent terror upon the city some have renamed Killadelphia. But this time, it’s about creating as widespread a web of fear imaginable as she rips the beating heart from the city itself.

Can Jimmy stop her or will history repeat and force him to meet the same fate as his father?

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REVIEW: “Tales From the Umbrella Academy: You Look Like Death” by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, and I.N.J. Culbard

One of the best things about the first season of Netflix’s adaptation of The Umbrella Academy was the way it developed Klaus. In the comics, he wasn’t depicted as much more than a troubled drug addict who could talk with the dead. But the show dove deep into his past, expanding upon the trauma he undergoes by exposing himself to these unrestful spirits, and giving him a heartbreaking love story and an unhealthy amount of Vietnam PTSD. The show turned a character who was merely quirky in the comics into a character that was multi-layered and deeply complex. So, in the wake of this, the announcement of a Klaus-centric prequel comic was exciting. What kind of a past would the character’s creator, Gerard Way, (and co-writer Shaun Simon) give him? How much would it differ from the show? What happened to eighteen-year-old Klaus after he was expelled from the Umbrella Academy? As it turns out, these aren’t really the questions at the front of the comic’s mind. While it does explore some of Klaus’s trauma and psyche, You Look Like Death is more of a fun romp with a fan-favorite character than an intimate character study. But honestly, it’s so much fun that that’s not much of a problem. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: I was provided an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss and Dark Horse Comics. This review may contain mild spoilers, but will mostly be spoiler free.

“Tales From the Umbrella Academy: You Look Like Death”
Written by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon
Art and Colors by I.N.J. Culbard
When 18-year-old Klaus gets himself kicked out of the Umbrella Academy and his allowance discontinued, he heads to a place where his ghoulish talents will be appreciated—Hollywood. But after a magical high on a stash stolen from a vampire drug lord, Klaus needs help, and doesn’t have his siblings there to save him.

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REVIEW: Dark Horse Comics’ “Norse Mythology – Volume 1”

Characters from Norse mythology remain a popular facet of modern pop culture. These days, most people are probably familiar with the Marvel comics/film versions of deities like Thor, Loki, and Odin, but elements of Norse mythology frequently pop up all over the place. Famously, Neil Gaiman borrowed heavily from Norse mythology for his 2001 novel, American Gods (which got adapted by Dark Horse Comics as a comic series in 2017, so it’s only appropriate that he published his own retellings of Norse tales in 2017’s Norse Mythology. And now, Dark Horse is bringing these closer-to-authentic Norse tales to the world of comics—where the Marvel versions of these characters got their start. The first volume of this series—adapted by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by Russell, Mike Mignola, Jerry Ordway, Piotr Kowalski, David Rubín, and Jill Thompson—is a very faithful adaptation of Gaiman’s source material. Like Dark Horse’s American Gods adaptation, very little is changed here—but it works very, very well. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: Thanks to Edelweiss and Dark Horse Comics for providing a digital ARC of this title. All thoughts are my own.

Norse Mythology: Volume 1
Adapted by: P. Craig Russell
Illustrated by: P. Craig Russell, Mike Mignola, Jerry Ordway, Piotr Kowalski, David Rubín, and Jill Thompson
Gaiman and Russell team with a legendary collection of artists to take readers through a series of Norse myths, including the creation of the Nine Worlds, the loss of Odin’s eye and source of his knowledge, the crafting of Thor’s hammer and the gods’ most valuable treasures, the origin of poetry, and Loki’s part in the end of all things—Ragnarök.

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REVIEW: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (The Snyder Cut)

Three and a half years after the release of the maligned theatrical cut of Justice League, Zack Snyder’s original cut of the film is almost here. It’s been a long time coming but thanks to the support of many fans and the desperation of a streaming service in need of new content, the world can finally see Snyder’s full take on the Justice League. The biggest question on everyone’s minds is whether this new cut is better than the theatrical cut. The answer is both simple and complicated. In many, if not most, ways, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is miles better than the theatrical cut. However, even with all the extra content and context, this new cut provides, several of the theatrical cut’s problems remain. And they’re joined by some new problems exclusive to this version. It’s not a bad movie or anything—it often borders on being a good one. But it’s a too-long film that suffers from bad pacing, a lack of focus, and characters that still feel more like archetypes than three-dimensional people. Long story short, it’ll please those who adore Snyder’s movies, annoy those who hate them, and leave the rest of us in a middle ground of partial pleasure and partial displeasure. (3.5 out of 5 wands.) 

NOTE: This review will generally be spoiler free. There may be references to plot points that are shared between both cuts of the film, but most of the newer stuff will be hinted at instead of spoiled.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League
(written by Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio; directed by Zack Snyder)
Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) enlist a team capable of protecting the world from the impending threat of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his Parademon army, who are scouring the universe for three hidden Mother Boxes that would enable Steppenwolf to transcend worlds, lay waste to all enemies, and restore his good standing with his master, Darkseid (Ray Porter). Though most of Batman and Wonder Woman’s initial efforts are met with resistance, they ultimately recruit Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and The Flash (Ezra Miller). But in order to help preserve the future of mankind, first they must each overcome their own demons.

After Steppenwolf secures two of the boxes buried deep within Themyscira and Atlantis, the superheroes are forced to take advantage of Cyborg’s unique connection to the one remaining. Harnessing the box’s capabilities to resurrect a final team member (Henry Cavill), they inadvertently provide Steppenwolf with an opportunity to obtain it – setting him up for imminent domination. With DeSaad and Darkseid waiting in the wings and posing catastrophic threats of their own, can this unique band of heroes dismantle the Mother Boxes before Steppenwolf’s synchronization is complete?

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REVIEW: “The Department of Truth” Volume 1 – “The End of the World”

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?

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious” Comics (“Defender of the Daleks” and “Monstrous Beauty”)

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.

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REVIEW: “The Crossroads at Midnight” by Abby Howard

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.

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