Connect with us

Published

on

Welcome back to Haunted MTL’s ongoing horror comic review feature, Graphic Content. In our third installment, we’ll be keeping up with John Constantine: Hellblazer, Killadelphia, and Sink.

We’re always on the lookout for new titles to cover, so leave your suggestions in the comments.

John Constantine: Hellblazer #5

This issue we continue to spend time with John’s current generation of characters while also dipping back into the past. For fans of Vertigo’s run, a familiar set of names should prove exciting. It has been fun to see the new-world magic butt up against John’s old-world magic. Even back then, however, John was a rebel, so his positionality in the magic world allows him to bridge a gap and highlight what seems to be the idiosyncrasies of both eras in a fun way.

John’s old Vertigo-era contact, Clarice Sackville, pops up to let John know about something key, a prophecy of sorts: the final death of John Constantine is approaching. Particularly entertaining is Clarice playing on John’s ego with expertise. As for Map’s fate, we’ll need to stick around for more information.

Also enjoyable? John’s frustration with Tommy Willowtree. What is especially fun is the polyamorous representation in the book with John, not a stranger from sampling carnal delights from anywhere he can take them, even a bit shocked by Willowtree’s more modern concept of relationships.

Advertisement

What has been most fun about this current arc is a sense of growth in John. When it comes to comics from “the Big Two” progression in characterization is often something that is temporary at best, and non-existent at worst. With John Constantine: Hellblazer, we’ve managed to see John grow in significant ways, and this issue may be the most substantial example of that with him putting aside his own crap and supporting someone else that is not an immediate benefit to himself.

This is, unfortunately, the last issue with MatĂ­as Bergara on art duty. His style may not be what one immediately thinks of for Hellblazer, but I appreciate the look and it worked perfectly well for what the story was. It wasn’t necessarily that this arc, “Scrubbing Up” was a light sort of story, but it was certainly a bit more whimsical than what one may expect. Bergara’s work was solid and he is definitely in a short-list of artists I would love to see on the book again.

Five issues into Hellblazer and I am still very much looking forward to each and every installment. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

John Constantine: Hellblazer #5 was written by Simon Spurrier, illustrated by Matías Bergara, and colored by Jordie Bellaire.

Note: As of this installment of Graphic Content, John Constantine: Hellblazer #5 does not seem to be listed on DC’s website.

Advertisement

Killadelphia #6

We conclude the first arc of Killadelphia with this sixth issue, “Sins of the Father Part VI, For God and Country.” Does one of my favorite horror comics around stick the landing?

Overall, yes it does. This issue does a great job of presenting a level of finality while leaving the series open to move forward, as one would hope. Yet, I have my quibbles, but it is fairly minor stuff. My main concern is the vampiric “battle” that wraps up Adams, John Sr., and Tevin’s plotlines. I’m not really a fan of big, flashy vampiric powers and while I think Killadelphia as a whole presented some great vampires, I am not the biggest fan of what feels like a DragonBall Z kind of beam combat. It just doesn’t feel appropriate for the tone of the book.

Also, having the complete volume, I can safely say that I wish the series was a little less compressed. Specifically, I think two more issues might have fixed some overall pacing that I see going on now with the entirety of the volume available. This is all hindsight, of course.

What I am intrigued by most regarding this issue, though, is where it leaves the series going forward. Two particularly key figures seem to be gone, now, and while I am concerned about their absence, I am also intrigued by the potential in the shakeup of the world. Particularly given the rather public appearance of the vampires as the book progressed. This has the chance to really alter the landscape of the book and Philadelphia itself. Overall, as a first volume, it is very satisfying and I am very much eager to read volume two.

From what I have gathered, Jason Shawn Alexander will be continuing art duties going into volume two, and I am highly pleased by that. I’ve written quite a lot about Rodney Barnes’ storytelling here, but Jason Shawn Alexander’s artwork is a pretty perfect vehicle for what Barnes is doing. In one of my first reviews of the series I spoke about a level of grittiness to the artwork, and the series has not only kept that consistent but also refined it. This is a great looking book, and volume two should maintain that trend.

I also should mention the great coloring choices by Luis Nct. The palette is very subtle with a heavy emphasis on reds, as one would expect from a vampire book, but the usage of those reds is particularly skillful across the first volume.

Advertisement

It’s going to stink not having Killadelphia to read in my monthly pull from my local comic shop (shout out to Digger’s Comics!) but I am glad there will be more in the near future. As a whole, I think the first volume stands out as one of the best vampire comics I have ever read, despite some minor issues I had here and there. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Killadelphia #6 was written by Rodney Barnes, illustrated by Jason Shawn Alexander, and colored by Luis Nct.

Sink #2

I enjoyed how utterly messed up the first issue of Sink was to keep reading it. Sink #2, “The Door at the End,” is more of the same, so your own mileage may vary if you would be down for it. For someone like me, it is a perfectly fun comic. I am still having a little trouble with some of the Glasgowisms present, but we can chalk that up to my being an ignorant American.

The series, at least going off of the first two issues, feels anthologized. Different slices of a fucked up, hyper-violent Glasgow. This time around we follow the fallout of a MĂ©nage Ă  trois gone horribly, violently wrong through the perspective of a new character. This new character, Sharon, is a fixer of sorts who hails from Sink Hill, the neighborhood that gives the series its name. She arrives to dispose of a corpse.

Only what was dead doesn’t seem to stay dead in this case. Or does it? What follows is a dance party with an apparently homeless man, a discussion of a really messed up dream, and a surprisingly effective fake-out.

It’s all very moody stuff but there is a certain catharsis in that. Sink isn’t a feel-good story and among the selections in this installment of Graphic Content it has the distinct vibe of feeling hopeless, in a way. That’s not a bad thing though. Sink seems to be a series of feel bad stories but that is not meant to disparage what is going on in them as the stories are very much rooted in exploring trauma… just violently. John Lees seems to be looking at a very damaged place that just seems to try to sort that damage by inflicting more damage and it’s a good read. Very sad, but good.

Advertisement

Alex Cormack’s art is well suited to this type of storytelling. It’s a broader, cartoonier style than Jason Shawn Alexander’s work in Killadelphia, but it has the same sort of overall grunginess. Sink is a rough read about a rough place, and the visuals are just as rough. It all fits.

Overall, Sink is shaping up to be a fun anthology series. It’s definitely made for an interesting portrait of Sink Hill over the course of two issues, and it makes one wonder what other stories lurk in that seedy, violent neighborhood. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Sink #2 was written by John Lees and illustrated and colored by Alex Cormack.


With Killadelphia on a break, looking forward to a new title entering the mix with Graphic Content #4.

Agree or disagree with the reviews? Have a title you think I should cover? Let us know in the comments.

Advertisement

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Book Reviews

Blood Meridian, a Book Review

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, (1985) is a Western (or Anti-Western) epic novel by Cormac McCarthy.

Published

on

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, (1985) is a Western (or Anti-Western) epic novel by Cormac McCarthy. This review discusses the digital copy of the First Vintage International Edition.

The kid wanders the West as a survivor and thug. After getting caught up with the ominous Judge Holden, his life remains forever entwined with the cruel force of the man. The kid becomes a soldier, a scalper, and an outlaw but always finds Judge Holden somewhere in the distance. Civilization approaches the untamable West, which forces the kid adapt or die. But it is Judge Holden who remains: an unchanging force of cruelty.

A field of reeds overlooked by a sky divided by dust yellow and sky blue. McCarthy on top and Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West below.
Cover Design by Chip Kidd and Cover Illustration by Larry Schwarm

What I Liked

Cormac McCarthy remains one of the most brutal authors, both in narrative and writing. You will feel the danger of the West, its inhuman cruelty, and fear for the kid. Many often call Blood Meridian McCathy’s magnum opus. As a result, if this brutal novel satisfies your readerly tastes, you’ll have his entire collection to sample.

Judge Holden remains a true force of evil and cruelty masked in human form. McCarthy likes to represent forces of nature through his antagonists. Judge Holden doesn’t always directly antagonize, but his role becomes increasingly clear as the novel continues.

Few authors convey cruelty like Cormac McCarthy, who structures his writing so that sentences bleed into each other in frantic syntax. I mean this somewhat literally as he removes quotation marks in dialogue or creates blunt sentences to reflect the mood he wants to display.

Advertisement
White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

Era-appropriate (using “appropriate” loosely here) racism encompasses this novel in a rather uncomfortable and upsetting way. We are dealing with the West, where scalping earned payment and slavery was a debatable issue. McCarthy doesn’t shy away from this reality. It also should be noted that some characters thrive in such industries. This reality certainly doesn’t make the reading any less harsh.

There is graphic violence and cruelty in every chapter, altogether influencing nearly every page. It will be a hard read for those sensitive to any kind of abuse, because all kinds appear in this novel. Few horrors depict the cruelty of man like a Cormac McCarthy novel, and Blood Meridian is no exception. In fact, it might be the leading example.

Cormac McCarthy sitting for an interview. A collection of books rest on a bookshelf behind him.
Cormac McCarthy

What I Dislike, or Food for Thought

McCarthy provides brutal and challenging prose. Blood Meridian is more accessible than many of his other novels; regardless, it still provides a difficult reading experience for those unaccustomed to his style. After the first two chapters, you’ll grow accustomed to the style, or it might be a skip. I say the first two as Chapter 1 runs through the boy’s life to the point of his adventure, which might be its own sore spot for some readers.

Don’t expect realism in the novel. As mentioned, McCarthy favors villains that represent a force of nature. This stylistic choice often makes his characters, largely the antagonists, superhuman forces.

Following down this criticism, or consideration, also extends to realism holistically. McCarthy brings life to his interpretation of the West, the States, and Mexico. Don’t expect accurate descriptions of locations or historical events. I didn’t note many historical inaccuracies, however I’m also not versed in that era.

Blood Meridian deconstructs the pop-culture West, lingering on the horrors of the era and the indifference of the West. Expect the psychological nature of man to be the center of its haunting.

Final Thoughts

Cormac McCarthy earns his reputation as one of the great living American authors, and Blood Meridian remains one of his most haunting novels to date. Few authors dare to display the cruelty of man, producing emotional truth and horrid images that can twist a reader’s stomach. Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian dares all that and more.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Book Reviews

A Pilgrimage of Swords, a Book Review

A Pilgrimage of Swords (2019) is the first novel of a grimdark fantasy series (The Seven Swords) authored by Anthony Ryan.

Published

on

A Pilgrimage of Swords (2019) is the first novel of a grimdark fantasy series (The Seven Swords) authored by Anthony Ryan. The book is technically a novella, running slightly short of a novel-length, but reads like a collection of short stories. This review will cover Subterranean Press’ digital copy of the novella.

Desperate to change his fate, Pilgrim forfeits his name on his quest to meet a mad god. He and his fellow pilgrims travel a dangerous road filled with abominations and horrors in the desperate hope that they might have one prayer answered. With a twisted sentient sword, he fights his darkness and the God’s abominations in the hopes of something better.

Mountain and desert region with named sections: The Crescent, Crucible Bridge, The Whispering Sands, Chapel of the Absolved, Valkerin Road, City of Spires, The Kraken Grave, The Execration
Interior Design by Desert Isle Design, LLC

What I Liked

As mentioned, this novella reads like a collection of short stories. Each story tackles a specific challenge and region. The strategy works well in building the torment of the journey and keeping the reader consistently engaged.

A voice plagues Pilgrim, constantly antagonizing him at every step of their journey. The style in which this “voice” delivers their intrusive thoughts, while not inherently unique, remains an enjoyable and satisfying read. The voice itself becomes a favored character of mine. Pilgrim and “voice” share a dynamic of brooding hero and antagonizer. Again, not unique, but done with great effect.

Despite the tight word count, several twists effectively engage the reader, helping to add to the world that we only get a glimpse of.

Advertisement

While the supporting cast doesn’t have as much time dedicated to them, they collectively add to the experience with unique perspectives and dynamics.

In terms of horror, the final chapter provides the most stunning examples. This review is spoiler-free, but the build-up certainly exceeds expectations for the first read.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

A Pilgrimage of Swords resides on the lighter side of grimdark high fantasy, but it remains grimdark. The world of A Pilgrimage of Swords is uncaring and cruel, producing characters that reflect that, functioning as opportunists.

Animals do die, and children are equally prone to potential death. Again, not entirely out of character for the setting, but it should be mentioned for readerly consideration.

As the description might indicate, torment and suffering are recurring motifs in the story. While the tortures certainly are sadistic, readers get the aftermath. The novel doesn’t linger in its sadism.

A party of 7 and a hyena travelling up a bridge with a giant knight statue at its center. The Bridge overlooks a waterfall.
Dust Jacket by Didier Graffet

What I Dislike, or Food for Thought

As A Pilgrimage of Swords is a high fantasy novel with light grimdark elements, the horror reflects that concept. There are tense moments, and characters are prone to danger, but genuine horror remains lacking. The novel doesn’t claim itself as such, but our audience should consider this. However, walking gods of madness twisting their environment to reflect their psyche shouldn’t be ridden off too quickly.

While I mostly enjoy the brevity of the story and how the chapters read like short stories, it limits the time we have to invest in the characters and setting. This novel is the first of a continuing series, so this criticism doesn’t inherently apply to the other novels. This first introduction remains easy to recommend for those looking for a quick read, not a long investment.

Advertisement

Many plot beats are predictable and can somewhat underwhelm a reader when the obvious thing happens. I will admit that this isn’t too often a hindrance but compromises to accommodate the tighter word count. Luckily, there are plot twists to minimize this underwhelming predictability, but the chapters could still utilize an extended word count.

The name doesn’t exactly fit this first entry of the series. It might be a perfect name for the series, but this novel’s pilgrimage has little to do with swords.

Final Thoughts

A Pilgrimage of Swords has a few haunting moments but is an otherwise enjoyable and quick read. If a grimdark set in a high fantasy where cruel gods walk the earth sounds like an interest of yours, this will certainly satisfy that itch. While it remains a little too brief, this is by design and part of a larger narrative.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Continue Reading

Horror in graphic novels

Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 5

Published

on

Well, you won’t get rid of me that easily… Ha ha, I lied about coming to the end and the afterlife in the Creepy Comics Collages segment, it was just an opportunity for rebirth. Besides, it’s World Collage Day! So having come into another comic book to rework, here we go again…

The Voice creepy comics collage by Jennifer Weigel
The Voice creepy comics collage by Jennifer Weigel

Creepy Comics Story 9: The Voice (of God or Reason or perhaps an homage to my ex)

“Come to me my children, the voice of God awaits!… Don’t let them escape!” Please beam me up out of this weird comic collage alternate reality. “God I am your hand! Lift me… to your place. I commend my spirit!” I want to go back to dreaming about starfish.

The computer programmer behind the scenes turns to face us and smiles. “Guardians! This is a place of God!… Come to the true voice of God!” “I am everything.” “Come to the voice!” And the horrific AI generated creatures abide by his every coded word.

Just like last night in the — signs posted for Nightmare, No Exit. The deer spirit faun screams in surprise, “Eeek!” “No! I defy you!” She returns to the form of a little girl with arms outspread to the open sky. “Y’know, a day like today makes all the stuff that happened last night seem just like a bad dream!” The dream seems so real…

Somewhere in the city, the computer programmer sits up at night in pensive monologue, “You try to make a difference… But it doesn’t really matter.”

Advertisement
The City creepy comics collage by Jennifer Weigel
The City creepy comics collage by Jennifer Weigel

Creepy Comics Story 10: The City (Metropolis becomes self-aware)

This segment is brought to you by Dead Artists and Talking Dinosaurs. No really, wait for it…

Woooooo Uhhhh Wooooooo Uhhhh… Wump! Uff! Wump! Uff! “She belongs to The City!” The Glenn Fry 1985 hit single looms ominously overhead as Metropolis becomes self-aware. “The City… will live!… The City… will breathe!” The City gasps for air, “Got to… breathe!… Got to… Breathe!

Her breath is the wind… Her eyes are windows. Her heart pumps fluid through buried plumbing… “I’m The City!” Her mind is The City!

And we have a celebrity appearance by Rich Koz “Son of Svengoolie” WFLD 1973: “I take a nap for 10,000 years and look what happens… some-body builds a city!” Kerwyn chimes in, “Geez! Somebody’s been busy!” And we cut out to a scene of Svengoolie standing alongside his coffin.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

Well, that’s all folks. Or is it? For now, any way… until I get more comic books… Duh duh DUHHHH…

If you want to see more art, check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending