BookBin2016: The Cape: 1969

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Quick review time, denizens. The Cape: 1969 is prequel to The Cape, which I reviewed at the end of last year. Again, we’ve got Jason Ciaramella writing the graphic novel script for Joe Hill’s original story, with Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel handling the artwork.

For this story, we learn how the Marine Corps patch that Eric’s mom had stitched onto Eric’s cape when he was a little boy was able to make it possible for him to actually fly. It’s a…bizarre revelation. It’s also a revelation that carries with it an extra reveal concerning Eric’s behavior as an adult who discovers that the cape can make him fly.

I don’t really have much else to say about this novel. Any more and I run the risk of ruining secrets. It’s a quick enough read, if you’re interested in the story. In fact, if you’re really interested, Amazon sells a deluxe edition of both graphic novels together.

Final Verdict: Even though I could get both together in one edition, I think I’ll pass on this story. It was an interesting enough way to wile away some time while sitting at the service shop getting a tire replaced recently, but it’s not really a story or artwork I feel compelled to revisit.

BookBin2015: The Cape

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So what do you think my reaction is going to be, based on all that you’ve read here at the lair of my love for Joe Hill, when I stumble upon a graphic novel based on one of his short stories? Um. Let me think.

I’m going to grab it from the shelf like I’m a wild dingo and it’s the first food I’ve seen in a week, and I’m going devour it in one sitting, that’s what’s going to happen.

So it was with The Cape. Although, for full disclosure, this graphic novel is based on a short story by Hill as translated for a comic by Jason Ciaramella, with art by Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel. This being said, I don’t know exactly what comes from Hill’s story and what might be uniquely Ciaramella. All I have to say is, whoever thought of dropping a grizzly into a convertible as retribution against the driver? That’s just mighty twisted brilliance right there.

Other than that, this graphic novel is a “what-if” tale about a young man who had a horrible accident when he was a kid, falling from a tree while playing with his brother, and never really recovered. Instead, he kind of just slides through life without drive or ambition or any will to do anything. That is, until his girlfriend breaks up with him and he finds himself living in his mother’s basement. It’s here that he discovers his mother didn’t throw away the cape he wore as a kid (and was wearing the day he fell from the tree). It’s also here that he discovers that the cape from his childhood can make him fly. Forreals.

Does he take this newfound ability as a sign that he should change his life and begin to do good? Come on, now. This is a Joe Hill story, people. Of course he doesn’t! He uses it to exact revenge on everyone he believes has wronged him. Which, by the by, leads to the grizzly bear dropped into a convertible.

Brilliance.

To be sure, the bleakness runs thick through this tale. We begin our journey feeling sympathy for our primary character, Eric, when we learn that his father was killed in battle and Eric wears one of his dad’s Marine Corps patches on his cherished cape…and then he falls from the tree and suffers severe trauma that continues to plague him through his adolescence…but then? Then, when he returns home and discovers his cape and its powers? Not so much with the sympathy anymore. Hill’s characterization of a megalomaniacal turd blossom is overwhelmingly successful. Ciaramella breaks it all down satisfactorily for comic consumption, while Howard and Daniel provide solid, straightforward line work and coloring for the visuals.

Final Verdict: I liked this novel well enough and thought the artwork was enjoyable, but I don’t really see any reason to add this to my graphic novel collection at this time.

BookBin2015: Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega

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Okay, this one is going to be very brief, as Alpha & Omega is the last in a series of graphic novels that I already have professed multiple times to love. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez created a tantalizing, terrifying world in this series of novels that I definitely cannot wait to revisit in its entirety, thanks to the box set I bought earlier this month.

I have to say that this final novel did let me down a bit, but I believe that this was due more to the setting in of the depressing truth that this was the last Locke & Key visit I would get to make to Lovecraft, Massachusetts (yes, that still cracks me up every time I think about it). I think a sliver of responsibility for this disappointment also rests with the fact that so much time passed in between all my forays into this realm. Again, looking forward to re-reading them all at once, rediscovering what made me love this series in the first place, and hopefully discovering some more of the many enthralling ways that Hill and Rodriguez blew me away with their artwork and storytelling.

Huzzah and hooray.

BookBin2014: Locke & Key: Clockworks

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Remember back when I reviewed volumes 2-4 of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key graphic novel series and stated that I loved those volumes so much that I had already added myself to the library wait list for the fifth volume, Clockworks?

Finally.

That’s right, it took almost 8 months to finally receive the fifth volume…and it subsequently took me less than a day to consume it and still be left starving for more.

I’m not going to go into details other than to say that this volume finally provides the full back story for how Rendell Locke and his friends ended up unleashing the demon that has been plaguing his children. More captivating Hill storytelling set off by beautiful Rodriguez artwork. I cannot reiterate enough that if you love well-crafted horror and stunning illustrations, then these books are a must-read for you.

I’m also going to skip the “Final Verdict” section, because I’m getting these novels. No ifs, ands, or buts. IDW has released the final volume already, so technically, I can go ahead and start stacking up now. I’m torn, though. Do I wait to see if they release a packaged set of all six books? Maybe a special edition set with bonus materials? Or do I just start buying the separate books now?

Decisions, decisions. Mayhaps it’s time to e-mail IDW directly to find out if they have anything planned. To the lair inbox, stat!

BookBin2013: N0S4A2

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I suppose it was inevitable that I would finally encounter a work from my latest literary heart-throb that simply didn’t enrapture me in the same ways as his other works. I just wasn’t expecting that moment to come so quickly in our relationship. Yet so it went with Joe Hill’s latest offering N0S4A2.

In this particular world of Hill’s devising, there are people who are able to create conduits to other places, either real or fictional, through the power of their minds. For young Victoria “Vic” McQueen, she learns that she can find missing items for people by using her ability to create conduits thanks to her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike and the “ghost” of the Shorter Way Bridge that once stood in ruins near her house. On the flip side, there are people like Charlie Manx, who uses his ability to create a conduit through his connection to his Rolls Royce Wraith (a rather possessive possessed car, if you ask me, Christine) to steal children away to “Christmasland,” a place of his own devising that allows him to drain the children of their life rather vampiristically (in a metaphorical sense) while letting them live in what he considers to be the perfect childhood utopia…a place where it is always Christmas, always happy, always festive. Of course, McQueen and Manx cross paths early in the novel (it only makes sense since one is a stealer and one is a finder), and cross paths again years later, to settle the score from the previous encounter.

Hilarity…well, you know the drill.

I’m not really certain what exactly didn’t click with me with this newest tale from Hill. I enjoyed the fact that the protagonist was a strong-willed girl with a wicked imagination and a pretty fascinating secret ability…and who would grow up into a flawed but still likeable, still imaginative young woman, damaged by that ability and seeking respite from the scars of that damage.

The supporting characters were also quite interesting and multifaceted, for the most part. I think, though, that the ultimate failing of this book, for me, was in both the story and its antagonist. First, I’m kind of through with vampires. And while this book isn’t exactly a vampire tale, the invocation of vampirism through the slightly-too-cute-for-its-own-good title forces me to envision Charlie Manx’s draining of life from the children he kidnaps as akin to the actions of that fabled creature of the night. Plus, there’s the hook teeth and the only traveling after dark that really hit it home.

Really, though, more than vampires, Charlie Manx slowly began to evolve into one particular character in my mind, based on descriptions of his physical appearance, his age, his mannerisms, his olden-days slang…halfway through the book, I realized that I was picturing Manx as an even more ill-tempered C. Montgomery Burns.

I’m willing to bet that Hill would not think this was excellent at all.

Of course, I then began to imagine Manx’s latest henchman, Bing Partridge, as a cross between Smithers and Barney. I even started picturing Vic McQueen as sort of like Lisa Simpson. Unfortunately, I also started to picture her lover as Comic Book Guy (for reasons that are quite obvious if you read this book). Again, all this was not helping at all with the horror element.

Worst. Comparisons. Ever.

Plus, there’s the fact that Hill crammed as many in-jokes as possible into this book, both in reference to his own previous books and most definitely in reference to his father’s works. N0S4A2 contains a panoply of Kingian references and allusions, which I admit both amused and irritated me. I’m glad that Hill is starting to be a little less tetchy about people knowing he is King’s son. However, a few times his “wink-wink” throwbacks to some of his father’s greatest hits (Cujo, Pet Sematary, Christine) teetered very, very close to too cute. I don’t want “cute” in a horror novel.

It wasn’t until after I read the book that I learned that I probably should have looked for the audio version instead. The entire book was read by none other than Kate Mulgrew. You have no idea how intriguing and frightening this is to me. I feel like I need to experience this story as narrated by Captain Janeway. I will absorb her powers and make a nice Kiev (and if you get that joke, Red’s got a place on her kitchen staff just for you).

Final Verdict: I’m still very much enamored of Hill as a writer, but I definitely did not consider this to be one of his better offerings. Still, if I can get my hands on a copy of Kate Mulgrew reading it? You bet your sweet Cujo I’m gonna give that a whirl.

BookBin2013: Locke & Key 2–4

I can’t believe that it’s been more than a year since Joe Hill welcomed me to Lovecraft. More than a year since I first encountered the Locke family as they began their long emotional journey back from the brutal home invasion in their San Francisco home that left their father murdered and their mother broken in many ways.

It’s been too long. It’s time to catch up on old times, denizens.

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That’s right, I recently succumbed to my need to enter a library and binge on whatever I could find of interest…and part of what I found were the next three graphic novels from Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key series: Volume 2: Head Games; Volume 3: Crown of Shadows; and Volume 4: Keys to the Kingdom.

More revelations about the truth behind Rendell Locke’s murder as well as his life in Lovecraft. More keys. More secrets. More discoveries. More darkness.

This is a seriously dark story. I would expect nothing less from Hill—not because he is Stephen King’s son but because he has proven himself to be an incredibly capable storyteller in his own deliciously demented ways. I have to confess, denizens, I am quite in love with Hill’s works. So in love that as soon as I finished these graphic novels, I put myself on a waiting list for his newest book, NOS4A2, as well as the next Locke & Key novel, Clockworks, even though it hasn’t even arrived yet in our library system’s collection (never mind that I’m already third in line on that list!).

Combine Hill’s skills with Rodriquez’s absolutely stunning artwork and add in a dash of connection between these two talents that works in the most wonderful ways and what you have is a story world that pulls you within its gloriously sinister landscape and refuses to let you go. More importantly, you won’t want it to let you go. For all the fear and horror transpiring around you, you’ll want to stay. And when you reach the last page of the fourth book, the true terror will hit you when you realize that now you have to wait for the next reveal.

Oh, the humanity!

For full disclosure, if you don’t like horror or if you don’t like graphic or grotesque artwork, you won’t like the quaint deathtrap town of Lovecraft or any of its demonic delights. Rodriguez unleashes a phantasmagoria of sinister visuals upon you with his art. But it is absolutely beautiful in its abhorrence.

Final Verdict: I am, 100-percent without-a-doubt, going to purchase these novels for my collection. However, I’m going to wait until the entire series is out before I do. Perhaps IDW Publishing will package them all together in one set. Whatever way they market these books, I don’t care. They will be mine. Oh yes, they will be mine.

BookBin2012: Horns

This must be Joe Hill’s lucky year at the lair. He caught me under Locke & Key, then I let him stuff me into his Heart-Shaped Box. Now I’ve been willingly eviscerated by his Horns.

The follow-up to Heart-Shaped Box, Horns is in many ways another of Hill’s takes on supernatural revenge. This time, however, you’re placed in vengeance’s corner rather than opposing it. We meet up with Ignatius “Ig” Perrish on the morning that he wakes up to discover that he has grown a pair of horns. Sadly, this is just another layer on the pile of not-that-great things that have begun to slowly crush him. It’s been almost a year since the love of his life, Merrin Williams, was violently murdered, leading to him being tried, and ultimately cleared due to suspicious circumstances. Still, everyone believes he did it, so he’s pretty much a prisoner anyway, just without the bars.

And now he has horns. Horns that have the disconcerting effect of encouraging anyone who sees them to reveal the darkest parts of themselves to Ig. He learns a lot more about his friends and family than he may have ever wanted to know…but he also learns what exactly happened to Merrin. And thus kicks in the vengeance.

Well, not exactly. Hill doesn’t tell a traditionally linear story, choosing instead to shift readers backward and forward through the layers of the tale, giving you just enough to keep you slightly in the know, but never quite ahead of the story. Ironically, for a story about a man slowly turning into a demon, written by the son of Stephen King, I’d actually peg this as less of a horror story and more of a…supernatural coming-of-age/suspense thriller. With horns. And one of the almighty worst puns pertaining to an indigo-colored article of women’s clothing that I think I have ever read. I promise you, denizens, it is groan-worthy.

Horrifying punnage aside, Hill once again proves that he is a skilled storyteller of his own making, obviously inspired and encouraged by his lineage but quite capable of standing on his own literary merits. He’s also able to create some incredibly bleak and demented characters. And they’re purely human, which makes them that much more upsetting, I think.

Final Verdict: I might actually want to add this one to my collection. I loved the layering of the story, the way it shifted so effortlessly along the plot’s timeline, never missing a beat, never relenting. I also loved the characters (or loved to loathe the characters); Hill’s ability to craft humanity in its myriad forms through nothing more than words is remarkable. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, even at its darkest moments, and simply makes me that much more of a fan of Joe Hill.

BookBin2012: Heart-Shaped Box

So, remember how crazy I went over the first volume of Joe Hill’s graphic novel Locke & Key?

It’s definitely a series that I want to continue reading, just as soon as the local library starts bringing in other volumes. Either that, or I might just break down and buy the set. I don’t know. Cheap Loba is cheap.

Regardless, I was impressed enough by Hill’s writing that I knew I wanted to experience it in its longer, less-illustrated form. When I returned Locke & Key, I checked to see if the library had any of his books in stock and…huzzah! Indeed, they did.

This is how I ended up reading Heart-Shaped Box…and falling even more in love with Joe Hill.

Okay, for full disclosure, I’m just going to come out and say what I alluded to in my review of Locke & Key: Joe Hill’s full name is Joseph Hillstrom King and he is the undeniable offspring of Stephen King. Why undeniable? Look:

Beyond the aesthetics (by the way, I’m not entirely convinced that Hill is King’s kid…I think King is slowly reincarnating himself and becoming Hill…mark my word, soon King will just disappear and all that will exist will be Hill), Hill definitely inherited his father’s ability to spin a nice, solid scary story. With his debut novel, he tells the tale of aging metal rocker (and oh-so-subtlely-named) Judas Coyne who, in his retirement, likes to work his way through young women on a state-by-state basis (he’s currently with Georgia, but Florida is about to really rile him up), name his dogs after fellow rock musicians (he owns two German shepherds named Bon and Angus), and collect all manner of creepiness. He owns an authentic snuff film, a witch’s confession, and now, thanks to a weird online auction, he owns the spirit of an old man, which comes attached to a suit that arrives packed in? A heart-shaped box.

Hmm.

There is, of course, more to the story behind this haunted suit as well as who is haunting it and how they are linked to Coyne. Hill wouldn’t be much of a horror writer if he couldn’t spin this bare-bones synopsis into something far deeper, far darker, and far creepier than what I’ve written here. Okay, it’s not a lot deeper. He’s not Tolstoy. He is, however, quite a capable storyteller, with a clean, captivating style reminiscent in all the best possible ways of his dad’s earlier works.

I hate to compare son to father, but really? If you’re going to be compared to someone, wouldn’t you want it to be someone like King? Hill manages to take two popular horror tropes—the “possessed artifact” and the “supernatural revenge” plots—and combine them into a well-paced and convincingly told tale of terror. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises along the way, but the ones that do come along are enough to continuously pull you further along on Coyne’s wild ride toward either redemption or perdition.

I’m not telling you which one he ultimately finds. Guess you’ll just have to read to find out…

Final Verdict: I don’t know if I want to add this one to my own collection. As much as I liked reading it, I don’t know if I would ever revisit it. I feel as though I’ve gotten all I can from it, for now at least. However, I will gladly recommend this to horror fans, especially those who love Stephen King.

BookBin2012: Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft

Okay, I’m just going to wait a moment while all you Cthulhu geeks wear yourselves out from your fannish squee frenzy.

All better? Good.

Yes, the subtitle of this first volume of what is currently a five-volume series (the fifth volume has yet to be released, however) is a sly bit of homage to that great proprietor of purple prose himself, H.P. Lovecraft. And, where else would the fair city of Lovecraft be located than in Massachusetts? I’m sure it’s quite close to Arkham and the prestigious Miskatonic University.

For the purposes of this graphic novel, Lovecraft is also the location of Keyhouse, the ancestral home of Rendell Locke, the family patriarch whose brutal murder during a home invasion sends his widow and three children on a cross-country journey from San Francisco back to the East Coast town he once called home.

Of course, any place located in a town named Lovecraft isn’t going to be level in any sense of the word. Keyhouse is vast, twisted, and full of secrets. Believe me when I say that you’ll be dying to learn them all.

Locke & Keye is a collaboration between celebrated genre author Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez. I’ve raved about Rodriguez here at the lair already; he’s the artist behind the CSI graphic novels I’ve recently reviewed, the best being Secret Identity. I was so over-the-top happy to see more of Rodriguez’s exceptional art, which is even more impressive when he’s working with original characters rather than ones based on predetermined appearances. His visual translations of Hill’s bleak, unsettling tale spread through the pages of this novel in a rich, haunting diaspora.

I don’t want to go too far into the details of the story itself. Suffice it to say, the crux of the story is discovery…discovery of strength, of secrets, of keys to unlocking all the mysteries hidden within the confines of the Locke family’s new home and new life. Hill is a king among storytellers, and this is a shining example of his royally inherited prowess.

And if you think that last sentence was a little bit leading, you might have something to stand on there. I won’t say any more about it. I’ll just leave this photo of Joe Hill here, for you to ruminate on for yourselves…

Final Verdict: I completely enjoyed the first part of what I’m hoping to discover is a holistically creepy, captivating series. Bottom line is, if the subsequent volumes are even half as amazing as this first part, it’s going to be an awesome ride from here. I’ve already added this volume to my wish list (alas, this was yet another library loaner) and am contemplating whether or not to just dive in and collect them all. I do believe that my graphic novel collection is growing more rapidly than any other part of my library…and, with stories like this one lining up for consideration, I’m very much okay with that.