Category Archives: Books

Review: Rasputin Volume 1: Road to the Winter Palace by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo (2015)

Rasputin: Road to the Winter Palace

Rasputin: Road to the Winter Palace
Image, 2015 (containing material from 2014-2015)
Writer: Alex Grecian
Artist: Riley Rossmo

Review by N Emmett.

Ah, Grigori Yefimovitch Rasputin. Alongside Vlad the Impaler, Elizabeth Bathory and Jack the Ripper, he is one of the few historical figures to enter the popular imagination as a horror character comparable to Dracula or Frankenstein – as evidenced by the 1966 Hammer film  Rasputin the Mad Monk. In fact, he is possibly the only such figure to occur in twentieth-century history. There is something enthralling about this dark magician, who held sway over the court of the Romanovs and showed a seemingly superhuman resistance to assassination attempts.

But yet, a look at the facts shows that there is precious little to substantiate this idea. Rasputin’s rotten reputation came about largely because he was a convenient scapegoat for the public’s resentment towards the ruling class. The bizarre story of his death, meanwhile, was likely embellished a good deal by his murderers: Richard Cullen has posited the theory that the five known assassins were covering up for an sixth man, a British spy named Oswald Rayner. This spy, so the theory goes, was ordered to murder Rasputin before the holy man could convince Russia to pull out of World War I.

It is high time that popular fiction gave Grigori Rasputin a re-evaluation. Writer Alex Grecian and artist Riley Rossmo have risen to this task with Rasputin Volume 1: The Road to the Winter Palace, an ambitious attempt retell the Rasputin legend with all of its supernatural intrigue while, at the same time, acknowledging that the man was not as bad as he has been painted.

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Review: Fantastic Films of the Decades Volume 1: The Silent Era by Wayne Kinsey (2015)

Fantastic Films of the Decades Volume 1
Review by N Emmett.

Fantastic Films of the Decades Volume 1: The Silent Era is the first in a slated 9-volume series by Wayne Kinsey. The collection aims to provide an overview of fantasy, horror and science fiction films from the dawn of cinema through to the end of the 1970s – after which the field was forever altered by the coming of VHS, and with it the direct-to-video film.

In his introduction, Kinsey quotes Alan Frank as saying that “You can’t do any reference book anymore because it’s all on the net, which is a tragedy.” While the pros of online scholarship obviously outweigh the cons, it is hard to deny that such tomes as Frank’s Horror Movies: Tales of Terror in the Cinema are on the verge of extinction, even though leafing through a lavishly-illustrated book on cinema history offers an experience that Wikipedia has never really duplicated.

But if the first volume is anything to go by, Fantastic Films of the Decades will make a worthy epitaph to this dying genre of book.

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Review: Wytches Volume 1 by Scott Snyder and Jock (2015)

Wytches Volume 1

Wytches Volume 1
Image, 2015 (containing material from 2014-2015)
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jock

Review by N Emmett.

The people who were persecuted for witchcraft throughout history were not witches: they were merely the followers of witches. The true Wytches are a race of supernatural beings that can grant wishes – at the cost of a human life.

Sailor Rooks is a thirteen-year-old girl with a traumatic past: one time she wished that a school bully will go away forever, and the Wytches obliged by spiriting the bully away before her very eyes. Unaware of the full story behind this incident, Sailor’s parents take their daughter to a new school for a fresh start after moving house.

But Sailor is still troubled by the Wytches. Her father Charlie realises that something is very wrong, and takes it upon himself to solve the mystery and save his daughter.

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Review: The Haunting of Emily Stone by Amy Cross (2015)

The Haunting of Emily StoneReview by Jaq D Hawkins.

I found this rather good.

The story starts out in the prologue with a horrific murder that happened two-hundred years before. It’s rather gruesome so consider yourself warned. There are some more disturbing scenes later, but it isn’t constant gore, I promise!

The premise of the story is that a paranormal investigator gets a case that looks like it may be the real thing and becomes very excited about it, only to be disappointed when irrefutable evidence proves it to be an elaborate hoax. Only it wasn’t entirely faked. A little girl had a genuine experience and her mother tried to cash in on it, faking photographs and coaching the child to perform for the investigators and media.

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Review: Locke & Key Master Edition: Volume One by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez (2015)

Locke & Key Master Edition: Volume One

Locke & Key Master Edition: Volume One
IDW, 2015 (containing material from 2008-2009)
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodríguez

Review by N Emmett.

Locke & Key Master Edition: Volume One collects the first two books in the Locke & Key series by writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodríguez.

The first book, “Welcome to Lovecraft”, begins with the Locke family moving to a New England town named Lovecraft (one of multiple shout-outs to various horror writers to occur in the series) after the household patriarch is murdered. While Mrs. Locke and her teenage children Tyler and Kinsey try to pull their lives back together, the youngest child in the family, Bode, makes a peculiar discovery. Dotted around the house are various magical keys, each with its own properties…

The first key which Bode comes across allows him to have out-of-body experiences. When his family members ignore his stories of whizzing around the house as a ghost, he goes looking for new friends – and finds one, in the shape of a mysterious woman who lives down the well.

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Review: Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge (2011)

Bottled AbyssReview by Jaq D Hawkins

The original release of Bottled Abyss was nominated for the Bram Stoker award in 2012, and it’s easy to see why by the end of the first chapter. The 2015 re-release that I’ve read is described by the author as the “updated and preferred version.”

The prose is very descriptive and emotive. It actually gave me quite an emotional kick in the gut when the story started out with Herman and Janet reacting to the loss of their daughter, each in their own way. For Janet, that comes in the form of alcohol and suicidal tendencies. When Herman goes out to look for their missing border collie dog, the heartrending goes even deeper, then takes a sudden supernatural turn.

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Review: Deadlands Volume One: Dead Man’s Hand by various (2015)

Deadlands Volume One: Dead Man's Hand

Deadlands Volume One: Dead Man’s Hand
IDW/Visionary Comics, 2015 (containing material published previously)
Writers/Artists: Various

Review by N Emmett.

Based on the Deadlands role-playing game, Deadlands Volume One: Dead Man’s Hand contains several short stories by a range of different creators. The tales are set in an alternate-history version of the American West, where sea monsters, zombies and occult powers are an accepted part of day-to-day life.

It is a setting with a lot of genre-mashing potential. Alas, the assembled writers have struggled to make anything of it…

Let us start with “Death was Silent”, by writer Ron Marz. This story features a mute gunman named Hoyt Cooper who communicates by making words magically appear on a blackboard that he wears around his neck. The concept turns out to be completely redundant: as this is a comic, all of the characters communicate though text, and the story never finds any way for Cooper’s condition to be anything more than a gimmick.

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Review: Exsanguinate Book One: World of Blood by Killion Slade (2013)

ExsanguinateReview by Eden Royce.

In addition to writing, I love gaming.  Mostly tabletop RPGs a la Dungeons and Dragons, but I’ll try just about any game once—board games, card games, online quests to rescue princesses in other castles. That Exsanguinate includes gaming and other geeky culture like writing code and such warms my heart.

Exsanguinate is a beautiful book, and I don’t say that often about horror novels. The cover is stunningly rendered and the inside of the book is no different.  Time and attention is paid to the inside fonts and images at the beginning of each chapter.

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Review: The Dead Rider: Crown of Souls by Kev Ferrara (2015)

The Dead Rider

The Dead Rider: Crown of Souls
Dark Horse, 2015 (some material published previously)
Writer/Artist: Kev Ferrara

Review by N Emmett.

It is 1892, and Nevada is stalked by a frightful vision. The Dead Rider was granted immortality by a witch, only to realise too late the high price of this condition. His body continued to decay even as he lived, and after a period of gunfights, desert journeys and attacks by vultures, the man continued to walk the West as a decomposing husk. Worst of all, the Dead Rider is forced to keep on killing against his wishes…

Many of the old-school Westerns had a fatalistic touch to them. The black-hatted lawbreakers were doomed to be defeated by the white-hatted lawman: that was simply their lot in life. The rigid demands of formula manifested in the storylines almost as divine providence.

The Dead Rider: Crown of Souls by writer-artist Kev Ferrara takes this phenomenon to a new level. When the hero kills a villain, he genuinely cannot stop himself: his curse forces him to shoot people dead, even as he apologises.

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Review: Better Boxed and Forgotten by Andrew Charles Lark (2015)

mysticsReview by Jaq D Hawkins

Daniel Lintz attends his grandmother’s funeral, feeling uncomfortable among her colleagues, who tend to be Nobel laureates in Physics. It comes out that the grandmother was well respected among her peers and a genius, if not a great grandmotherly type. Her father was also a respected physicist and has left records of unknown experiments in the basement of the old mansion that has now passed to Daniel.

The story is told in first person from Daniel’s point of view and we learn much about his grandmother in the first chapter, especially that she was an interesting and intelligent lady. Yet she kept secrets well. The mansion itself is very run down, much like the inner city areas of nearby Detroit. Daniel, after being given a tour of the house by his grandmother’s lawyer, including hints of the secret documents he has inherited, decides he wants to fix up the house, despite financial objections from his wife.

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