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Welcome back to Haunted MTL’s ongoing horror comic review feature, Graphic Content. In our fourth installment, we’ll be keeping up with John Constantine: Hellblazer and Sink. With previous favorite Killadelphia on break, we’re giving a new series a try titled The Grieviling, from a well-regarded horror comic team.

As always, we’re always looking for title suggestions. So please let us know in the comments what you’d like for us to tackle.

John Constantine: Hellblazer #6

A striking, moody cover.

Issue #6 is a single-issue story titled “Quiet.” This issue spends some quality time with John’s newest assistant, Noah who has been floating in and out of the hospice care where his mother resides since we were introduced to his character. This episode uses time with him to examine some of the other lives within the ward, but more to the point, provide a glimpse of the ills of society. This issue plays on a larger leftist critique on the Tory government though Noah’s own story. This is classic Hellblazer storytelling; monsters and metaphors. The comic turns the satirical eye to a building of the elderly and the infirm, unable to die, turning it into a site of stalking by a ghost, feeding on the lives of the dying.

A ghost that just so happens catches the eye of John Constantine thanks to Noah. While John is quick to figure out what is going on, the day is “saved” as much as it can be in Hellblazer through Noah. John may be forever damaged goods and a right bastard, but something about him seems to make others into better people. It’s a quick, single-issue story, but it’s fine stuff.

Aaron Campbell returns to art duties and as expected his art is a perfect fit for Constantine’s world. The illustrations are about as rough as prior issues, in that the forms are solid but the lines have a rougher quality to them, like a pencil or a pen that is drying up. It gives Hellblazer‘s London a certain aura. Especially given Jordie Bellaire’s coloring style. Characters are given full-color consideration whereas the backgrounds offer more unified and slightly limited pallets. There are, of course, the glimpses of the magical world which have a very painterly and abstracted air to them. The Campbell and Bellaire team-up continues to impress.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

John Constantine: Hellblazer #6 was written by Simon Spurrier, illustrated by Aaron Campbell, and colored by Jordie Bellaire.

Sink #3

Sink‘s minimal cover designs are well done.

Sink #3 is a story titled “A Head Full of Wasps” and continues the anthologized glimpse at the damaged lives of Sinkhill. This time around, however, the story starts us off in Edinburgh and introduces us to another Sinkhill toughie, but one who has changed significantly in their time away from the neighborhood. The story follows the old killer, at the behest of the children of a recently passed friend, returning for revenge.

It’s a fascinating issue revolving around identities, dead-names, and again, as with the prior two issues, the ways trauma manifests within and around people in this community. Also, the clowns are back. Horrifying. While this is definitely more of a crime book, I feel comfortable tackling it as horror. I mean, sure enough, horrific things happen. If you read horror for monsters then maybe with Sink it works because the monsters themselves tend to be so abstract. Sinkhill itself is a monster. Transphobia is a monster. The various horrible bastards of each story are monsters in their own ways.

While each issue has been anthologized in tackling different figures, there are connections being formed. I also hope we see more of Florence again. That’s an interesting view of the world I’d love to experience more.

Alex Cormack’s artwork here is stunning and the paneling in a particular moment with a shattered glass is fascinating and an example of the kind of visual storytelling only ever possible in comics. Of course, the comic is also suitably bloody with buckets of gore after a particularly brutal bar brawl. Of particular notice are the way Cormack tackles scarred and lacerated hands. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Sink #3 was written by John Lees and illustrated and colored by Alex Cormack.


The Grievling #1

The Grievling looks great from cover to page.

The Grievling is a two-part limited series that pairs horror-comic icon Steve Niles with artist Damien Worm. The first issue is a moody, simple tale of accidental murder and asks difficult questions of the culpability of minors.

Lily is the “weird” girl at her school. The sort of arbitrarily chosen punching bag of the normative-skewing children at her school. Lily’s time spent at the graveyard, at her mother’s grave freaks out local kids and on Halloween night their bullying of her results in tragedy. Lily comes out of the experience with a new lease on life and a strange new entity along for the ride. It’s very much like the first half of a pilot of a Netflix-style drama. It’s effective storytelling and there is a good setup to something larger, but it feels extremely calculated. Less a true desire to tell a story on its own terms and more of a desire to have a book to pitch to studios.

Granted, the story isn’t bad, and sure enough there is potential for an amazing show, but The Grievling is just a pre-visualization for something else. It’s not a comic because it needs to be a comic. It’s a marketing tool. It is a fine read, and it is interesting, don’t get me wrong.

It just feels so much like a marketing tool. The arbitrary two-issue length seems too calculated and whatever elements that interest most about the concept are not likely to be explored well enough. There is a compelling story in here about the dark side of children but that is likely not going to be explored well enough within two issues, leaving the antagonist children as just hollow characterizations of kids gone bad with little of the exploratory depth the characters deserve. Hell, Lily’s relationship with her father and the tragedy within her family also need room to breathe, but two issues just does not seem like enough space to tackle that.

Damien Worm’s artwork is great for the material and it’s no wonder Niles and Worm have continued to work together. They seem like a perfectly aligned creative entity. Their previous work on The October Faction is well regarded, and Worm’s style delivers for the story playing out in the first issue.

I just wish the end product didn’t feel so calculated for a Netflix deal.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

The Grievling #1 was written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Damien Worm.

Stay tuned for another installment of Graphic Content this month. If you have a comic you’d like to see us cover please let us know!

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

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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.



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.


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.


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)

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Horror in graphic novels

Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 5



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.”

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.

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Book Reviews

Dread Nation, a book review



Imagine if you will, a world in which the Battle of Gettysburg wasn’t just the end of the American Civil War. But that it was also the start of a zombie apocalypse. We’ve now entered the world of Dread Nation.

Written by Justine Ireland and published in 2018, Dread Nation is an alternate-history horror novel that considers what our nation might have looked like if zombies had risen at the actual battle of Gettysburg. What results is a dark, twisted, entertaining novel that is truer to reality than it should be.

Our main character is Jane McKeene, the black daughter of a plantation owner’s wife. She has a fairly comfortable childhood, being raised by her mother and the other women on the plantation as an adored and willful child. 

Outside of her family’s plantation, horrors abound. There is the grotesque living dead, of course. But there is also raging racism that leads the leaders of America to do horrifying, monstrous things. Things like taking black and Indigenous children from their families and placing them into schools designed to train them to fight the living dead.


I feel like it would be irresponsible to note here that schools intended to indoctrinate Indigenous children were a very real thing. Children were taken from their families and forced to assimilate into a WASP way of life. They were taught to be servants and told to be grateful for the opportunity. That’s scary enough without zombies, frankly.

By the time Jane is old enough to be taken, there is hope that the zombies are under control. Cities, like Baltimore, are up and running. The well-to-do attend theater and lectures and even bask in electric light.

Under control, of course, is a fragile concept. 

Jane is sent to Miss Preston’s School of Combat. The girls there are told they’re being trained to be Attendants. Their life will be one of servitude, to stand near wealthy white women and protect them in case of a zombie attack. Jane seems like she’s going to have a decent future. She’s good at her lessons, and good at killing the dead. She’s less good at following the rules. She gets in trouble for sneaking out at night, getting newspapers, and not minding her etiquette lessons.

Cover of Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Worse, she’s often compared unfavorably to Katherine, a classmate who cannot do wrong. She’s an elegant young woman, but perhaps too pretty for her good. She’s refused several Attendant jobs because women find her too pretty to be around their husbands.

When Jane discovers a secret about Baltimore that the mayor would rather no one else know, she and Katherine are thrown on a train and sent to a frontier town far out west, called Summerland. Summerland is run by a racist preacher and his hateful son, who happens to be the sheriff. Jane has to get herself and Katherine out of the town before they’re both killed, either by the living dead or the racist leaders. 


This novel was a delightful blend of zombie story and alternate history. And it manages to do justice to both genres. 

On the historical side, there are all sorts of delightful details that are just a little wrong. Just a little different than our Civil War buffs will remember. It feels like this world is just a step away from ours, as if we were to trip in our world we might fall right into this one. 

It’s the zombie story part though, that of course had my attention. And it should surprise no one that this part was fantastic. The dead are always creeping nearby, always a threat. The simplest actions have to be adjusted because the dead are always there.

What makes a zombie story good, though, is how the living responds to the threat. Who becomes a hero, and who becomes a monster? This is the real attraction to a zombie story. And it’s deeply and richly explored in Dread Nation.

This is the sort of book that is perfectly written, and by the only person who could have done it. Justina Ireland is from Pennsylvania, like me. You don’t grow up in Pennsylvania without understanding Gettysburg. The blood from that battle sunk into the land we were raised on. It’s in our very essence. And of course, Pittsburgh is the home of zombie stories. Ireland picks up the traditions of Romero and does the old man very proud.


Dread Nation is exciting and infuriating. It has enough twists to keep you guessing and just a little touch of magic. It’s honestly the best book I’ve read so far this year.

I will tell you that the story ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Fortunately, the sequel, Deathless Divide, is already out. So if you’re going to read Dread Nation, which I highly suggest, make sure you have the second one close at hand.

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