Words: Snyder, Scott and King, Stephen
Pictures: Alberquerque, Raphael
Vertigo Comics, 2010
Look, I’m not coming late to this vampire craze, I promise. As we’ve already established, I like my vamps covered in blood and ripping out throats, rather than dry-humping their teenage girlfriends to the dulcet strains of some emo band – or as Mr. King so evocatively tells us in his introduction:
“What should they be? Killers, honey. Stone killers who never get enough of that tasty Type-A. Bad boys and girls. Hunters. In other words; Midnight America. Red, white and blue, accent on the red.”
And boy, if the throat-ripping vampire is your scene, you could do worse than Skinner Sweet, the dark star of the American Vampire comic book series.
I know I’m gushing here, but honestly, this comic is just luminous. The writing is brilliant, the artwork glorious. Because the story traces Skinner Sweet across several decades of his existence – from his creation as a vampire in the 1920’s, in point of fact – careful attention has obviously been paid to the costuming of the characters and even their manner of speaking. It’s just very freakin’ cool.
I know that you shouldn’t judge a story when you’re only part of the way through it, but for this I’ll break my own rule. As a stand-alone story, Bad Blood, the Skinner Sweet origin story, works particularly well, but like many comic books which are built specifically for the drip-fed format, as you move through the volumes, it becomes more daunting to simply ‘pick up and play’. Which is not to say you can’t do it, but I’d be loath to suggest such a thing when the beginning is so good and adds so much to your understanding of the comic. Read the rest of this entry
Tom Doherty Associates/Tor/RXR, 1995
ISBN 978 0765357151
I think I’ve already written about books with characters that make you wish they were real so that you could punch them in the face. The nice thing about that feeling is that it comes from all walks of literature – my own personal list includes Cathy from Wuthering Heights, Harold Lauder from The Stand, and both Bella and Edward from the Twilight books (but I have a feeling that last one is pretty common). Mostly, it’s because that character is either an ass of a human being (or not-so-human being in Mr. Cullen’s case), or is going about getting what they want in a really stupid way. In Harold and Cathy’s cases, I can deal with it, because the overall story is pretty good. But there are some idiot characters of literature that just will not be dealt with.
Like Robert Neville.
Alright, so he’s not as much of a douche as you might expect, having witnessed his wife and daughter succumb to the dread disease which carries off most of the rest of the planet. And to be fair on him, the guy has been living on his own for quite some time when the novel begins, so he’s developed certain routines and ways of thinking. I think that the scariest part of the characterisation of Robert Neville is how far away his intellectual faculties have slunk. Because obviously, the guy ain’t dumb. But my query is how come it takes him so long to start figuring out a cure for the virus? I mean, surely a major catalyst would be the nearest and dearest getting sick, right? But Neville is painted quite a few times within the narrative as being a passive creature, almost resigned to bobbing along in the flow of events. Which is totally fine, you need people like that… but just don’t make them the last people on earth. Or, maybe do, but don’t have them whining and moaning every five seconds about how annoying it is to lathe stakes, how you really should find a better method of disposal… and then not do anything about it. Hrumph! Read the rest of this entry
Books of Blood, volumes 1 – 3
ISBN:0 75151022 X
Did you ever look through a kaleidoscope as a kid? Do you remember twisting the end to make the little bright jewels and beads inside fall into different patterns? Remember how some of the patterns where better than others, even though they were all beautiful – some of the patterns inside were just a little on the dull side, and although they were all pretty, some just didn’t have that certain something.
Books of Blood is a little bit like that. Some of the stories enclosed in the three-volume set (the Books were originally published as individuals, and then combined at a later stage, which is apparently how Clive Barker had intended to publish them all along) are amazing – descriptive, interesting subject matter, good character development. I wouldn’t say that they were strictly scary – some of them are certainly creepy, but I can read them before bed without any ill effects. However, some of them are rote, or done better by other writers (The Yattering and Jack being a case in point – that whole concept was much better done by C.S Lewis in The Screwtape Letters).
BCA (by arrangement with Hodder and Stoughton), 1992
There is a certain talent to setting yourself limits. Stephen King is probably most well-known for his epic stuff – The Stand, the Dark Tower cycle, and other books where there is lots going on, either in lots of different places or with lots of different people. Gerald’s Game is the opposite. There are really only two characters who are fleshed out to any great degree (not counting the dog), and only one real setting. There are remembered characters and settings, but none of these occur concurrently with the events of the novel.
The story begins with Gerald and Jessie Burlingame gettin’ frisky at their holiday home at the lake. Given that I read Bag of Bones probably about two months before I started reading Gerald’s Game, that there was a little deja vu-ish for my taste. Granted, you read enough of any author, you start to see the zipper in the back of the costume, so to speak. Anyway, specifically the form that their friskiness takes is some mid-range bondage – up from scarves, down from pretzelling yourself into fancy knots; so, handcuffs, which Gerald has obtained from a courtroom associate. Jessie’s not wildly keen about them, but will take any sex with Gerald that she can get. So far, so rote. Unfortunately for Jessie, her day gets worse when Gerald has a massive heart attack, and has the ill grace to perish on the bedroom floor with her still handcuffed to the bedposts. That’s really as much as I can tell you (it’s nothing that you couldn’t get off the front flap anyway – albeit, minus the sarcasm) without giving the rest of the story away, so if you think you might read this book, stop now, ’cause after this, here be spoilers.
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