Monthly Archives: February 2014

Review: “Tales Of The Vampires” by Joss Whedon et al.

Title: Tales Of The Vampires
Writers: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard, Jane Espenson, Brett Matthews, Ben Edlund, & Sam Loeb
Artists: Alex Sanchez, Paul Lee, Cameron Stewart, Scott Morse, Vatche Mavlian, Jason Alexander, Ben Stenbeck, Jeff Parker, Ben Edlund, Tim Sale, Cliff Richards & Sean Phillips
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Miniseries)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2004

I’ve mentioned my fondness for anthologies before, right? Good, no need to retread that. I mentioned that I like how they free writers to explore background characters and the worlds created by popular franchises? Ok, no need to say that again either. Did I mention how I enjoy the wide variety of artistic styles in a comic anthology? I did? Oh. Well, looks like this introduction is almost entirely redundant then….In that case, without further ado, let me introduce Tales Of The Vampires. As with the previously-reviewed Tales Of The Slayers, the writers of the show Buffy The Vampire Slayer team up to tell a wide variety of tales from the Buffyverse. This time, instead of focusing on the Slayer end of things, we are treated to a slate of tales about particularly interesting vampires throughout history. Some are familiar, like Spike & Drusilla or Angel. Others we have never met before now, but are destined to leave their mark on the Buffyverse nevertheless.

Joss Whedon and Alex Sanchez start us out this time with the frame story for the anthology, Tales Of The Vampiresabout a group of young Watcher trainees being taught not to underestimate their foes by listening to a captive vampire tell tales of his fellows. This tale is told in starts and stops in between the other tales of the miniseries. We then travel to Prague in The Problem With Vampires by Drew Goddard and Paul Lee to discover just what happened to Drusilla prior to her arrival with Spike in Sunnydale at the beginning of Buffy Season 2. Whedon then teams up with Cameron Stewart to tell the story of Stacy, a young girl who is attacked by a vampire only to find everything she ever wanted in the darkness. Jane Espenson and Scott Morse bring us Spot The Vampire, a fun little rhyming puzzler in the classic seek-and-find genre. Brett Matthews and Vatche Mavlian take us to 1888 Whitechapel, as a detective with a secret attempts to track down the infamous Jack the Ripper. Jane Espenson then teams up with Jason Alexander to tell the tale of a young man raised by his vampire Father. Drew Goddard and Ben Stenbeck then take us to just before the start of the Buffy Season 8 comic series, as Buffy confronts the legendary Dracula in an attempt to reclaim Xander from his entranced servitude in Antique. Jane Espenson and Jeff Parker transport us to 1933 Kansas, at the start of the Dust Bowl, for the tale of a young farmboy trying to figure out the rules of his new condition. Ben Edlund handles both writing and artistic duties for Taking Care Of Business, chronicling the meeting of a vampiric ex-Inquisitor priest who believes he’s still doing God’s work with a pudgy young man claiming to be God himself! Sam Loeb and Tim Sale then give us Some Like It Hot, about a vampire who finds a way to walk once more in the sunlight. Brett Matthews and Cliff Richards then take us back to flesh out the Buffy Season 3 episode Amends as Angel battles his personal demons in Numb.  I’m also including here a story from the Dark Horse one-shot Drawing On Your Nightmares, because there’s really nowhere else it fits. Not sure where you can find it reprinted, honestly. Dames is written by Brett Matthews and drawn by Sean Phillips, and tells the noirish tale of a gambling vampire and his encounter with a damsel in distress.

From a writing perspective, I enjoyed Joss Whedon’s frame story Tales Of The Vampires even if it happened long before all but like two of the stories it was supposedly framing. I admit the ending too me somewhat by surprise, too. The Problem With Vampires deserves mention both for Drew Goddard’s writing, which was excellent enough that I could actually hear Spike and Drusilla saying their lines, and for the art. But I’ll get to that in a minute. He also actually made me feel sorry for Dracula in Antique, which was an unexpected bonus. I also very much liked Stacy (again by Whedon) and identified strongly with the character as a confirmed sci-fi/fantasy geek myself. At least, you know, until she turned vampire….The pseudo-children’s poem Spot The Vampire was very well done, so kudos to Jane Espenson. Speaking of Espenson, both her other tales here were stellar. Father was poignant, and Dust Bowl was a great story of a young vampire figuring out the rules of his new existence without any help from anyone else. Brett Matthews failed to surprise me with Jack, but I have a stubborn weakness for Jack The Ripper stories for some reason. Only, I thought Jack the Ripper was supposed to have been Lothos, the Big Bad from the movie/The Origin? Merrick definitely implied as much. His writing on the Angel-centric story Numb was spot-on though, and I enjoyed Dames as well. Ben Edlund’s Taking Care Of Business proved to be a delightfully quirky tale, one I greatly enjoyed. Artistically, Paul Lee’s work on The Problem With Vampires deserves mention for managing to capture Spike and Drusilla so perfectly. The style Vatche Mavlian adopts for Jack isn’t exactly my favorite, but I must say that it fit the tale perfectly. Cliff Richards perfectly captured Angel for Numb, which isn’t to be taken for granted.

CONTENT: Violence, as you would expect from this series. Vampires drink from victims, sometimes with graphically-depicted results. Others are turned. Some are staked, which isn’t as gory given their tendency to crumble to dust. Mild profanity. Some sexual innuendo, but nothing too explicit. You can decide for yourself whether Buffyverse vampires are occultic, but you shouldn’t be surprised that they show up here. They’re in the bloody title, after all….

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Comics/Graphic Novels, Reviews

Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 4

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-#44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In my first post, I looked at some of my favorites from the anthology. This time, I’ll look at some more of those that didn’t make the cut. Not that they’re bad, some of them are great, they just didn’t “do it” for me like those others did. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

Also, the giveaway is still running at the first post in this review series! Check that out here!

  • Coyote Gets His Own Back, by Sarah Monette. (***)
    This one is really too short to describe without rendering it moot. I wasn’t really a fan of this one, just didn’t connect with it. Doesn’t mean you won’t. CONTENT: Violence, some gruesome content. No sex or language.
  • Waiting For Beauty, by Marie Brennan. (***)
    An incredibly disturbing take on Beauty And The Beast. I wasn’t a fan, but maybe you will be. CONTENT: No explicit sex, violence, or language, but it is pretty disturbing nonetheless. I can’t tell you why, because spoilers.
  • Murdered Sleep, by Kat Howard. (****)
    This almost made my best-of post. As with most of the other times I’ve said that, I’m not sure why it fell short. Perhaps partially because I’m not at all certain I understood it. I think I got it, but I could be mistaken. Anyway, this was an excellent tale of a young woman who receives an invitation to an endless party in the land of dreams…and the costs inherent in accepting such an offer. CONTENT: Some violence. Mild sexual innuendo. No language.
  • Armless Maidens Of The American West, by Genevieve Valentine. (****)
    In the woods surrounding town, there’s an armless maiden, still covered in blood from where her father went mad and chopped off her arms. She lives out there, pitied and feared, with no human contact until one day a grad student comes to town looking for data for her project entitled Armless Maidens Of The American West. It would seem that this is not an isolated phenomenon…. Faintly disturbing, but I really loved the writing style here. CONTENT: Some implied violence. No profanity, and no overt sexual innuendo. There are a few speculations about why her father did what he did, and you could take that train of thought in a sexual direction if you wanted to, but the author will give you no help there.
  • During The Pause, by Adam-Troy Castro. (****)
    Our world is about to end. There is nothing we can do to stop it. Our world will end, and we will suffer endless torment as a result. Not even death will offer an escape, except for one brief moment moments/eons into our torment…and in that moment, we will have a choice to make. I won’t say I enjoyed this story all that much, but I definitely admire Mr. Castro’s imagination and craftsmanship. The entire story is crafted as a message from another world in the path of the wave of destruction, warning us of what is to come. It was actually fairly chilling…. CONTENT: No explicit sexual content, language, or violence, although the descriptions of what is to come can be a bit disturbing.
  • Always The Same. Till It Is Not, by Cecil Castellucci. (****)
    Here we have a challenging tale about what happens after the zombie apocalypse, told in first-person POV by an ex-zombie. I really enjoyed it, and I have to say it was really well done. I can’t say too much about it without giving things away though, so I’m gonna shut up. CONTENT:  No profanity. I don’t think the characters even know any. There is, however, a fair amount of evocatively-rendered violence, as well as some moderately explicit sexual content.

This is the fourth post in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
Part One (My personal favorites….)
Part Two
Part Three
-Part Four
Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Novels, Reviews, Short Stories

Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 3

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-#44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In my first post, I looked at some of my favorites from the anthology. This time, I’ll look at more of those that didn’t make the cut. Not that they’re bad, some of them are great, they just didn’t “do it” for me like those others did. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

Also, go check out part one of this review series. There’s a giveaway!

  • A Member Of The Wedding Of Heaven And Hell, by Richard Bowes (****)
    This one almost made my favorites list. I’m still not sure why it didn’t. According to Mr. Bowes, the hosts of Heaven and Hell never leave their respective realms anymore. Instead, they recruit humans who show certain predispositions, imbue them with a measure of their power, and employ them as proxies in their endless cold war. Now both Heaven and Hell are in an uproar, as a wedding between two of their agents prepare to wed…. CONTENT: Brief sexual innuendo, non-explicit. The implication that one character may have been molested as a child. Mild violence. Mild language.
  • Copper, Iron, Blood And Love, by Mari Ness (***)
    This is a tale of the raven’s daughter, one of seven children born to a woman in the village of Sandel and the only one to survive their mother’s madness. This is also a tale of the blacksmith’s daughter, who loved the raven’s daughter for saving her life. There is also a poet, a singer, or a prince, depending on who you talk to. First off, I didn’t really like this one that much. I didn’t “get it” when I was reading it. On reflection, however, it is growing on me. The vagueness that annoyed me at first glance now looks more like Ms. Ness taking on the tradition of folk tales and how they are a little different every place you find them. It’s an exploration of how stories evolve, and maybe a comment about never really knowing which one is true. I’m still not a fan, but I can at least appreciate the craft and technique here. CONTENT: No language. Implied violence. Possible implication of a character having been molested.
  • Love Is A Parasite Meme, by Lavie Tidhar (***)
    (Ostensibly) the last two people on an Earth devastated by unexplained disaster set out to forget certain words they deem useless. I didn’t really get pulled into this one, whether it was the never-explained fate of the rest of the world or the fact that I was put off by the titular declaration concerning love. I did like the ending, but not enough to redeem the experience. CONTENT: Harsh, R-rated language throughout. No violence. Non-explicit sexual content.
  • Tomorrow’s Dictator, by Rahul Kanakia (****)
    Science has cracked the secret of mind control and brainwashing. Visit the right therapist (or whatever they call themselves where you’re from,) one little adjustment and voila! That smoking habit that’s stubbornly refused to be beaten? Gone forever. That job you despise? Now you love it. Perfect, right? And just perfect for that cult you’re trying to start that is having trouble keeping your converts committed…. CONTENT: Mild sexual innuendo. No language. No violence.
  • Winter Scheming, by Brit Mandelo (****)
    Harvey is disturbed, haunted by a relationship gone wrong. To tell you more would be to invite spoilers, and I really don’t want to do that. Instead, I’ll simply say that this strange story involves reincarnation, a taciturn bird lady, a golden owl, and an act of nearly divine retribution. Shutting up now…. CONTENT: Strong lesbian sexual content. Violence, evocatively described. Harsh R-rated language. Reincarnation counts as occult content, right?
  • In The Dark, by Ian Nichols (****)
    There is a darkness that lives deep in the Earth, hungry for the dark and dreary dreams of humanity. The miners know this, and so they sing songs bright and cheerful to keep the darkness at bay. But not all who travel through their lands are familiar with this timeless enemy, and there are those who love nothing more than songs of heartache and pain…. There was a beauty to the prose of this story that I’m sure I can’t do justice to in description. I really enjoyed it, and it narrowly missed making my best-of list. CONTENT: Implied sexual innuendo, but nothing explicit. No language. No real violence, though there are some frightening elements that I’ll not elaborate on because spoilers.

This is the third post in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
Part One (My personal favorites….)
Part Two
-Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Reviews, Short Stories

Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 2

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In my last post, I looked at some of my favorites from the anthology. This time, I’ll look at those that didn’t make the cut. Not that they’re bad, some of them are great, they just didn’t “do it” for me like those others did. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

  • The Leavings Of The Wolf, by Elizabeth Bear. (***)
    Dagmar is an animal researcher with a problem. Multiple problems, really, although they are all connected. The root of her issues is her recent divorce (or, depending on who you ask, her recently-ended marriage). Through the course of the messy divorce, she gained enough weight that she can no longer get her wedding ring off of her finger without destroying it, which she is unwilling to do. So, in a quest to lose her excess weight and free herself from the wedding band, she runs. One day she finds herself in a part of the woods that is completely new to her, and there connects with her ancient heritage…. This was a good story, but it didn’t really work for me for some reason. Maybe because I didn’t have much in common with the main character? Ms. Bear did a good job of developing her, but as a young newlywed-and-happily-married male I didn’t really identify all that strongly with Dagmar the thirty-something divorcee, and the implication that marriage is sometimes the equivalent of sticking your hand in the mouth of a wolf rubbed me the wrong way.* I liked the Norse mythology, but not enough to salvage my opinion of this particular tale. CONTENT: Mild language. A little bit gruesome in one particular part, but not too disturbing.
  • The 24 Hour Brother, by Christopher Barzak. (****)
    Remember the story The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button? Brad Pitt film, Oscar buzz, all that? This story is kind of like that. Except that it isn’t. A haunting story about family, loss, and inevitability. There’s no suspense here, you know how it will end almost from the beginning, but this isn’t a story where that matters. This isn’t about fooling readers with a twist ending. This is about the inevitability of death, and how sometimes the scales of fate don’t balance properly. I didn’t enjoy it, but I don’t think Mr. Barzak intended me to. CONTENT: No language, violence, or sexual content. Still not really intended for kids, or at least not for ones who wouldn’t understand.
  • Faithful City, by Michael Pevzner. (****)
    This one almost made my previous post. A young man is given a vision calling him to a far-distant utopian city away from the wasteland the rest of the Earth has become. Upon arrival, he is asked to come to the temple and join the city, shedding his flesh and joining his spirit with the rest of the city’s inhabitants. Is all as it seems, or is the city a far more sinister predator than is being let on? I really liked this one, and I can’t pinpoint why I chose to omit it from my list of favorites. The premise is mildly disturbing, but I read disturbing things all the time. If I had an aversion to being disturbed, I probably wouldn’t have picked up this anthology. CONTENT: Some violence.
  • Sweetheart Showdown, by Sarah Dalton. (****)
    My initial reaction was to compare this to the Hunger Games, but that’s a bad comparison. The Sweetheart Showdown competition isn’t a large-scale ordeal serving to suppress revolution, but is instead far more disturbing. It’s basically a Miss America pageant that ends in gladiatorial combat, for no discernible reason than the entertainment of the masses. Again, I really liked this one and it almost made the cut for my previous post. Can’t say for sure why it didn’t…. CONTENT: Slightly gory violence. Some sexual innuendo. Brief language.
  • Bear In Contradicting Landscape, by David J. Schwartz. (***)
    This is the tale of a writer who meets the character from one of his unpublished short stories on the train one day, and they strike up a friendship. I love the idea, have even played about with some of the ideas involved in my own work, but the ending just didn’t work for me. I hate to admit this, but I just didn’t “get it.” Maybe you’ll fare better. CONTENT: Sexual content, not too explicit. Brief language.
  • My Body, Her Canvas, by A.C. Wise. (****)
    In a studio converted from a slaughterhouse, our narrator allows a troubled tattoo artist to transcribe her nightmares into his flesh. Very beautifully written, with incredibly evocative prose, but it was very bleak. It’s a little unclear as to whether there’s actually something strange going on here or if our narrator is just unstable, but in either case the relationship is hardly healthy. I’m sure some people will like this, but it wasn’t for me. CONTENT: Sexual language and innuendo. Strong language. Possibly some occult content, depending on the narrator’s sanity.

This is the second in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
Part One (My personal favorites….)
-Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

*Yes, I know not all marriages are a good idea. I wasn’t born yesterday. I just didn’t particularly want to read a story built around that idea.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Reviews, Short Stories

Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 1

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In this post, I will be examining my personal favorite stories from the anthology. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

    • The Bread We Eat In Dreams, by Catherynne M. Valente. (*****)
      The first story in the collection is a surprisingly haunting tale of a demon banished from Hell. Gemegishkirihallat, or Agnes, as she’s called these days, begins our story as an exile not only from Heaven but from the diabolical realms as well. In Hell she was the master baker, baking the bread for the nobles of the Underworld, bread that would be used to torment the famished souls of the damned with the sweet delicacies they would never be allowed to taste, the bread we eat in our dreams. In Hell she had camaraderie, friends, or as near to friends as a demon is capable, even lovers from time to time. In Hell, she wasn’t alone. Here on Earth, this is not the case. She is a demon alone, without the companionship she craves, and when people eventually come to this abandoned piece of land that will one day become New England she will be unable to resist their companionship. But when a demon lives among Puritans, the end result is nearly inevitable…. Agnes’ tale draws most of its impact from the way Ms. Valente spins her prose. She sucks you in from the first paragraph, painting an incredibly vivid and evocative picture that dares you to even try and look away. The conclusion is built slowly and gently, piece by piece from the beginning of the story, so gently that you don’t even consciously register until the end that this is the central question of the whole tale: what in the seven rings of Hell could a demon do to deserve banishment from that unholy place? This is certainly a different take on demons, and I’m not sure what to think of it theologically, but I am definitely intrigued. I urge you to give this story a try. CONTENT: Sexual content, non-explicit. Mild violence, not too disturbing. The main character is a demon, so there’s a bit of an occult flavor.
    • So Glad We Had This Time Together, by Cat Rambo. (*****)
      Another very strong story, this time told as the protagonist writes to tender her resignation from the TV network she works for. As she composes, we’re treated to her recollections of the past year or so. She has been one of the leads on a new show, Unreality Television, which is basically Big Brother with a vampire, a werewolf, a medium, a guy who’s demon possessed, and a couple normal humans to pull in audiences. Everyone knows they exist, somewhere in the shadows, but nobody has ever pulled them into the light….until Unreality Television, that is. The result? Ah, now that would be telling. I really liked this one–especially for the ending, true, but I was hooked long before that. I’m going to chalk it up to the writing, Ms. Rambo’s voice and the tiny hints she drops that everything is not as it seems. I’m not sure what else to attribute it to, since the story is most certainly a lot better than how I’ve described it…. CONTENT: References to violence and sexual content, but nothing explicit. Mild language.
    • The Second Card Of The Major Arcana, by Thoraiya Dyer. (*****)
      The Sphinx walks the streets of Beirut, searching for the one who awoke her from her millenia of slumber and asking riddles of all she interacts with. The penalty for failing to answer is a swift and sure death. To what purpose was she awoken? Read on and find out… Pointing out that this is a story about the Sphinx may be a minor spoiler, unless you either know your tarot deck and catch the reference in the title or you pick it up from the continued riddling, but I can’t really describe it otherwise and it’s a minor spoiler at worst. So why does this one make the list where others did not? I honestly can’t say, except that I really enjoyed it. CONTENT: Mild violence, in that people die when they fail to answer her riddles. No language or sexual content. Does the sphinx count as an occult figure?
    • Decomposition, by Rachel Swirsky. (*****)
      What can I say about this story without giving things away? It was incredibly disturbing, for one thing. The tale of a man driven by vengeance, and what form that vengeance takes…. Very well written, very disturbing. Be forewarned, there are even hints of necrophilia in this particular tale. Not for those with a weak stomach. CONTENT: Brief language. Mild violence. No overt sexual content, though there are some innuendos and a hint of necrophilia. Strong occult content.
    • The Silk Merchant, by Ken Liu. (*****)
      A young man sets out to redeem his father’s name and prove that the legendary Shimmersilk actually exists. Yet another disturbing tale that has made it into my favorites list…I must be a secretly twisted individual or something. I called the ending, but that doesn’t have to serve as a black mark. CONTENT: No language. No sexual content. Little overt violence, but several very disturbing ideas and revelations.
    • Ironheart, by Alec Austin. (*****)
      In a dark future, a dark past, or a dark parallel world humanity is at war with the Fae. This war has raged for years, fueling and fueled by dark magic and necromancy. With no more adults to feed to the war, children have been pressed into service. Fallen soldiers are revived with necromancy and sent back to the front to fight and die again. Usable parts are “Frankensteined” together and sent back out. The way the war was described, terms used and the dynamics of how the stalemate had cemented, I can’t imagine that the first World War was not an inspiration here. CONTENT: Strong violence, sometimes disturbing. Harsh language. Sexual innuendos, non-explicit.
    • Sexagesimal, by Katharine E.K. Duckett. (*****)
      In the afterlife, all you are is memory. It is your currency, your very existence, until you’ve used up all your memories and simply cease to exist. For Teskia and Julio, this is very dangerous because all of their memories are shared. And Julio has inexplicably fallen ill…. This story was…haunting, is I think the best word. I didn’t particularly like the ending, I prefer things to be more hopeful than that as a rule (don’t worry, no spoilers) but the story had grabbed me so tightly that it made my favorites list anyway. I’m not sure what the time stamps signify, I wasn’t able to puzzle them out. This could be the fact that I was reading a challenging story after a truly crazy day at work, but oh well. If you figured it out, please enlighten me! CONTENT: No profanity. Some sexual innuendo, but nothing explicit. No real violence, but one scene is fairly disturbing for reasons I’ll leave unexplained because spoilers.

  • Weaving Dreams, by Mary Robinette Kowal. (*****)
    Eva is a witch. A witch with a doctorate, in fact, and her current project is assisting a local historian in attempting to learn all he can about the area’s past from the local population of Hidden People. She’s being careful, following all the rules…or so she thinks. As it turns out, she and Giancarlo have inadvertently upset some major players in the faerie realm, and they’ll have to think fast unless they want to pay the price…. I enjoyed this one. I usually do enjoy stories featuring different takes on the fae, especially after the wonderful things the Dresden Files has done. I found out in searching out the link that this is actually a revised version of the story–the first version had some serious accidental racism and reinforcement of negative tropes, which was exactly what the author did not want to do. If you’re interested, check out the link. It’ll get you to the author’s blog where she talks about the revision and the reasons behind it. CONTENT: No profanity. Mild sexual innuendos and flirting, nothing too explicit. No overt violence, as such, but some discussion of it.
  • Sprig, by Alex Bledsoe. (*****)
    At a renaissance faire in Bristol, a young boy misplaces his parents and begins talking to one of the fairies. The ending is perhaps a bit predictable, but I loved the story anyway. It was very cute. CONTENT: Mild sexual innuendo–very mild. No profanity or violence.

This is the first post in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
-Part One (My personal favorites….)
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

6 Comments

Filed under Books, Reviews, Short Stories

Review: “Tales Of The Slayers” by Joss Whedon et al.

Title: Tales Of The Slayers
Writers: Joss Whedon, Amber Benson, Jane Espenson, David Fury, Rebecca Rand Kirshner, & Doug Petrie
Artists: Leinil Francis Yu, Tim Sale, Ted Naifeh, P. Craig Russell, Steve Lieber, Mira Friedmann, Gene Colan & Karl Moline
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Standalone Graphic Novel Anthology)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2002

I like anthologies. It’s fun to pick up a collection of works by different people, see how different writers handle a common theme or idea. In a graphic novel, that also translates into lots of different art styles, which is also cool. Some you’ll enjoy better than others, but that’s fine because the next person to pick up the book will probably have a whole different set of favorites. In the case of a media tie-in, an anthology has the added benefit of freeing an author from the bounds of what is happening in the show, allows them to explore character histories or even totally unrelated tales set in the same universe. In this particular anthology, the writers of the show Buffy The Vampire Slayer teamed up to write a series of short tales about different slayers down through history, from the first slayer all the way up to Fray living an undisclosed amount of time in the future.

Joss Whedon and Leinil Francis Yu start things off with the Prologue, visiting the first slayer as she is cast out of her village to fight the demons alone. Whedon then teams up with Tim Sale to bring us a tale (in verse!) of a medieval slayer defending her town in Righteous. Amber Benson and Ted Naifeh then take us to the bloody days of the French Revolution as a young slayer is pointed at an aristocratic accused-vampire in The Innocent. Jane Espenson and P. Craig Russell take us to Regency-era Britain, where a young slayer stalks her prey at a country ball in Presumption. We then whisk off to the American West with David Fury and Steve Lieber in The Glittering World as a young navajo slayer takes on the vampire who killed her Watcher, and witness the founding of Sunnydale. Rebecca Rand Kirshner and Mira Friedmann take us to Germany at the rise of Nazism, as a young slayer learns that not all evil is undead in Sonnenblume. Doug Petrie and Gene Colan take us to Harlem in the 1970s in Nikki Goes Down! as slayer Nikki Wood seeks to avenge the death of her cop boyfriend, dead at the hands of a vampire smuggling ring. Finally, Joss Whedon takes up the pen once again, this time teaming up with Karl Moline in Tales to bring us a story of a future slayer, Fray, as she discovers her heritage for the first time.

I really enjoyed this particular graphic novel. Writing-wise, I particularly enjoyed Jane Espenson’s Presumption, with it’s dialogue that paid obvious homage to Jane Austen’s characters and style and its killer twist just when you think you’ve figured out what’s what. I also tip my hat to Joss Whedon’s epic poem that serves as the narration for Righteous. From an artistic standpoint, the only tale I actively disliked was Mira Friedmann’s in Sonnenblume, but I admit freely that that is a matter of personal taste. I just hate that particular style, regardless of who is drawing it or what franchise it belongs to. Leinil Francis Yu’s artwork in the Prologue reminded me of Jan Duursema’s in certain Star Wars books, but that may have something to do with the character design of the first slayer resembling a more primitive Quinlan Vos. Tim Sale’s art in Righteous reminded me slightly of Mike Mignola’s, if slightly less stylized. Gene Colan’s take on Harlem in Nikki Goes Down wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I have to admit it fit the tale really well. It reminded me of something else I read a long time ago, but for the life of me I can’t place it. Lastly, the Karl Moline art in Tales is perhaps not my favorite style, but one that I’ve read quite a few excellent stories in and so have a certain fondness for….

CONTENT: Vampire violence, both biting people and being staked or otherwise killed. One is decapitated in a spectacular two-page spread. A girl is burned at the stake for witchcraft, and several other humans are killed as well as the vampires you would expect in a Buffyverse collection. Mild profanity. Brief sexual innuendos, pretty mild. Buffyverse vampires could be considered occult content, given their demonic nature.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Comics/Graphic Novels, Reviews

Review: “Star Wars: Darth Vader And The Ghost Prison” by Haden Blackman & Agustin Alessio

Title: Darth Vader And The Ghost Prison
Writer: Haden Blackman
Artist: Agustin Alessio
Series: Star Wars (Legends Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2013

I shouldn’t have to preface these things with an explanation of my uber-fandom anymore, so I won’t. With no further ado, Darth Vader And The Ghost Prison!

The newly-minted Empire has only been in existence for a matter of months, but already cracks are beginning to show. General Gentis, Imperial hero and headmaster of the Academy, has orchestrated an elaborate coup. Strategically-placed explosives around the Imperial palace distract the guards while a powerful bioweapon is deployed, killing everyone inside with the exception of the Emperor who is barely able to sustain himself with the Force. Now the fate of the Empire is placed in the hands of Darth Vader, Moff Trachta, and young Lieutenant Tohm, fresh from the academy and one of the few cadets not included in Gentis’ plot. Coruscant is no longer safe for the ailing Emperor, and these three uneasy allies will have to seek out a secret Jedi facility in which to hide and regroup. It remains to be seen, however, how safe they can possibly be in a facility filled with prisoners deemed too dangerous to be turned over to Republic authorities….

Haden Blackman writes another stellar Star Wars adventure, following up his earlier successes and giving us yet another glimpse into the mind of Darth Vader in the early days of his new existence. In addition we gain some insight into the origins of Moff Trachta, the fan-favorite character first introduced in the first arc of Star Wars: Empire. Trachta’s run there was tragically short, but his character grabbed our imagination and even gained him an action figure eventually. New character Lieutenant Tohm rounds out the cast of protagonists, and is a character I was very much looking forward to seeing more from in later books. Add to this the chance to explore a secret Jedi prison, and there’s lots to love about the writing in this collection. Even better, however, is the artwork. Agustin Alessio turns in some really stellar work here, the kind of stuff I usually expect from Dark Horse and the lack of which I was complaining about in my last Buffy comic review. Anyone who can get Vader to show emotion (not easy, given the lack of facial expression his helmet imposes) can draw comics for me any day!

CONTENT: Quite a bit of violence, occasionally disturbing, such as the aftermath of the bioagent the conspirators release or the aftermath of a prison riot. No profanity, and little to no sexual innuendo. There’s some light flirting with a couple Twi’leks in a bar, but that’s about it.

2 Comments

Filed under Books, Comics/Graphic Novels, Reviews, Star Wars