The 12-issue manga “Death Note” by Tsugumi Ohba ended over 10 years ago but its legacy is still going strong. The series follows ambitious high school student Light Yagami who decides to rid the world of evil when he finds a notebook with the power to kill people. He strives to become the God of a new world, one that is without crime. He takes on the name Kira and enforces his justice across the world.
The horror manga tells a dark tale about crime, punishment, and humanity. Asking philosophical questions about good and evil that sparked numerous debates during its original run. The moral of “Death Note” is that no one person should have the power to pass the final judgment on another.
Outside of the manga, “Death Note” is also an anime TV series, a short-lived live-action series and the basis for six film adaptations. It’s also a surprisingly good musical. The series ended in 2006 but has returned with a special one-shot.
A new Kira for a new world
10 years after the events of Kira, the Shinigami Ryuk returns to the human world for another round of entertainment. He actually just wants someone to feed him more apples because he’s a junkie. He ends up giving the Death Note to a new boy named Minoru Tanaka, a middle-school student as intelligent as Light, though not nearly as ambitious.
One downside to introducing such a character in a limited format is that it’s impossible to properly connect with him. We only have 88 pages to get to know Minoru, however, the story is very clever in its portrayal of him.
Crime will adapt
Minoru is, in every way, a modern teenager raised by television and the internet. He becomes the new Kira but doesn’t see the Note the same way his predecessor did. He doesn’t want power or justice, he just wants easy money and decides to sell the Death Note!
Even Ryuk is shocked by this move, although to be fair Ryuk is often shocked by everything.
The one-shot acknowledges how the original Kira’s plans wouldn’t work now because of surveillance. The whole world is being watched, and just as crime adapts to every new advancement, Minoru adapts his handling of the Death Note. He uses the internet’s greatest weapon, Twitter, to his advantage and sets up a bidding war between countries. Whoever bids the highest number gets the most dangerous weapon in the world.
Donald Trump officially exists in the Death Note universe
There is a dangerous situation being exposed in this one-shot. It’s an 88-page allegory about the greed of already ruling nations.
In the end, it’s the United States that wins the bid, and guess who’s president? Donald Trump! Trump’s name is never outright spoken but it’s clearly meant to be him. A bloated man in a suit with a bad comb-over that throws money around like he’s living in a Monopoly game. Ohba uses this time to bluntly write out his personal opinions about Trump and other world leaders, including the General Secretary of China, Xi Jinping. It’s not pretty.
Near continues to be a wasted character
There are several callbacks to the original series including surprise appearances from old characters such as Matsuda, Aizawa, and of course, Near a.k.a. Nate Rivers. Unfortunately, I feel that Near is a weak spot in the issue.
Now living as the new L, he briefly takes on the new Kira case when the bidding war starts, but then drops it just days later when he admits defeat. At first glance, it seems as if Near’s there for pure nostalgia reasons. An attempt to resurrect the L vs. Kira dynamic despite the fact that Near and Minoru have absolutely no interaction.
Although his presence is most likely an attempt to show the difficulty in stopping the selling and purchasing of weapons of mass destruction. The sale happens in secret and the buyer is rarely an individual, but instead a group or nation. If Near is the cop in the scenario and the countries publically bidding are the criminals, how exactly could he stop it?
At one point he makes the claim that he can’t confiscate the notebook because he’s an American citizen. The police can’t arrest their own government for purchasing war tanks. I believe this is the purpose of Near in the one-shot, but it feels almost pointless. He doesn’t get to do anything.
I’ve always thought that Near was one of the more underdeveloped characters in the series. He first appeared alongside Mello in “Death Note: Zero”, as one of L’s two successors. They represented the two halves of L’s personality; Near as his analytical side and Mello as his emotional side.
However, once he’s alone Near seemed to a somewhat deficient character. For me, he just couldn’t live up to L and was almost tedious when compared to Mello. This was a chance to finally show his strengths as a character, but it never happened.
Overall, the one-shot brings us back to the world of “Death Note” but doesn’t fall completely back into the past. The story has aged but it’s aged well. It’s enjoyable but also reads like a slap to the face because of how realistic it is. The notebook is fake of course, but it can easily be a stand-in for an actual weapon of war.
You can read it for free here. (4 / 5)
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 / 5)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 / 5)
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…
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.”
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.
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.
February 6, 2020 at 1:13 am
This is a really good review. 😀