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I ran into Free League Publishing at GenCon 2019 by mistake. I was looking for another booth and I found this Aliens looking creation. Turns out, I found the booth for their Aliens RPG game! The art sucked me in and so did their gaming concept–once I get over my facehugger phobia, I might even play it!

This isn’t an Alien game, oh no, this is a massive graphic novel adaptation of an HP Lovecraft keystone story. The Call of Cthulhu runs deep here at HauntedMTL (you might have noticed our star system, eh?), so when Free League Publishing offered up a review copy, I said hell yeah!

A book as big as Cthulhu

Francois Baranger

First–this book is massive. I mean, the poor girl at the post office was trying to figure out what it was when she handed it to me. It’s maybe a bit ‘too big’, really. There aren’t too many bookshelves that are set to ‘stun’ for the height of this beastie.

Size ain’t everything, so let’s get to Kraken (see what I did there?). The story is one we all (should) know by now. I won’t critique Lovecraft other than he’s probably why many of us are here in horror one way or another. The art by Francois Baranger is the reason this version of the story exists. Does Baranger pull off the impossible and add to Lovecraft or does his work, like so many others, fall at the wayside of ‘opportunity lost’?

Francois Baranger

Baranger + Lovecraft = Amazeballs

Well, if you saw the Cthulhu rating in the title, then SPOILER–you know what I’m about to say. Baranger’s work is amazeballs. There are some things that don’t sit right with the faces for me, but that’s a stylistic choice. The work with the monsters and action scenes are damn near perfect. I’ve sprinkled a few in this review with my favorite being the featured image here.

What works well for Baranger is the color, the motion, the show and hiding just enough that we can experience the dread of the story come to our visual cortex. I love the monster work here–simply love it. I know any graphic or visual adaptation of the written word takes a mighty big risk as an imagination is more powerful than most artistic ability and once an artist places a drawing down–it becomes the ‘thing’ weighed against your nightmare. I have to say, Baranger might not have gotten everything ‘exactly’ how I saw it in my head, but it’s damn close.

Francois Baranger

The Verdict

If you are a fan of graphic novels, Lovecraft, Cthulhu, or just really huge books in general, then this is the book for you. It won’t make a good stocking stuffer (unless maybe you’re shopping for Shaq) but this would look great all wrapped up for your favorite Lovecraft nut in your family. Go ahead and click on the link here to shove it in your amazon cart–you can thank me later.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

H.P. Lovecraft is a giant of horror literature and popular culture. Since the 1920s his short stories and novels has spellbound generations and influenced countless games, comics, novels, records and films. His short story The Call of Cthulhu, written in 1926 and first published in Weird Tales in 1928, is an absolute classic. Now, french artist François Baranger presents the ultimate illustrated version of the story. Baranger’s The Call of Cthulhu is a 64-page hardback book in the huge 262X350mm folio format, bringing Lovecraft’s horror to life with lavish, full-spread images.

From Free League Publishing
Francois Baranger

Book Reviews

What Have We Done: Alex Finlay Produces Another Hit

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  • Jenna: A stay at home mom with a secret assassin past
  • Donnie: An alcoholic rock star
  • Nico: An executive producer of a reality television show

They all have a past, but who is out to get them?

The Plot

Jenna, Donnie, and Nico share a troubled past. They were all orphans who lived at Savior House — which is much less savior, much more terror. When their friend Benny, a famous judge, is murdered and the FBI comes looking, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico must race against the clock to figure out who is targeting them.

The Verdict

From the author of The Night Shift, which I reviewed here, I would expect nothing less than what Finlay has delivered. Finlay notoriously creates stories with palpable thrill and spine-tingling revelations.

I particularly enjoyed the character of Jenna. She is a reformed assassin living a normal life as a new stepmom. When she is called in to make a hit and her family is threatened, she goes badass mom on ’em. While I still thought Donnie and Nico as characters were engaging, it was nothing for what I felt for Jenna.

Also, major props to Finlay for creating a character that kills with a very unique weapon. Read it to find out more!

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Book Reviews

“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut

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Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.

I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.

The Plot

Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.

Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.

The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.

The Verdict

This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.

Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Buy it here!

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Book Reviews

A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

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The Plot

“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?”  — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.

The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.

Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.

The Verdict

This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.

It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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