New Books (January-February)


Featuring: Mary Adkins, Jonathan Ames, David Annandale, David W. Brown, Michael Carroll, Becky Chambers, Andy Clark, Dan Frey, Betina González, Andrew J. Graff, Marlowe Granados, John Gwynne, Paul Herron, T.L. Huchu, Gregg Hurwitz, Elizabeth Knox, Oliver K. Langmead, Peter Mendelsund, Annalee Newitz, Gareth L. Powell, Tim Seeley, Laurel Sills, Jen Silverman, Matt Smith, Tasha Suri, Aidan Truhen

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Vampire-Masquerade-WintersTeethTPBAn excellent new comic series, set in the World of Darkness

When Cecily Bain, an enforcer for the Twin Cities’ vampiric elite, takes a mysterious new vampire under her wing, she’s dragged into an insidious conspiracy. Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the cities, a rebellious found-family of vampire cast-outs investigates a vicious killing.

As the unlives of the Kindred twine together and betrayals are unearthed, will Cecily be able to escape and save what’s left of her family, or will she be yet another pawn sacrificed to maintain the age-old secret: that vampires exist among the living?

Born from the world of the internationally best-selling role playing game, Vampire: The Masquerade’s critically acclaimed comics debut spins a gripping and tragic tale about the Beast within us all.

Winter’s Teeth, the first Vampire: The Masquerade comic series, is an excellent introduction to the World of Darkness and its vampire culture. Collecting the first five issues, Tim Seeley et al have written a great horror-mystery. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Witchblade: Rebirth, Vol.1 – “Unbalanced Pieces” (Top Cow/Image)

Witchblade-Rebirth-Vol.01Writer: Tim Seeley | Art: Diego Bernard | Inks: Fred Benes, Alisson Rodrigues | Colors: Arif Prianto of IFS

In the wake of Top Cow’s Rebirth, Sara Pezzini has relocated from New York to Chicago and struggles to adapt to being a private detective. Pezzini quickly discovers that a change of scenery and occupation hasn’t changed one thing… the Witchblade is still a magnet for the supernatural Quickly drawn into a conflict between two mystical gangs, she must once again balance her responsibility as bearer of the Witchblade with her personal life.

Collects: Witchblade #151-155

I haven’t read a great deal of Witchblade comics, or other comics in Top Cow’s universe (Artifacts, The Darkness), but I’m somewhat conversant in the mythology. I read the first book by Ron Marz, which was itself a reboot/jumping-on-point, but then became distracted by the New 52 and a selection of other books (I’m not proud of it, but… Batman, baby!). After it was announced that Tim Seeley was taking over writing duties, my interest was piqued once again, having rather enjoyed his Hack/Slash horror-comedy series. So I dove in… And rather liked what I found.

I’m not sure that this needs a particularly long review. People who know the series already will know pretty much what to expect – it’s dark, gothic, but also slick. The only major difference is the location, as Sara has moved to Chicago (interestingly, that’s also where Dick “Nightwing” Grayson just moved to in the DC New 52). For new readers, this book has a lot of extra material that gives you some background. It’s not essential to read in order to enjoy this, though, as the concepts are pretty tried-and-true, but with some well-conceived and original developments.

Seeley blends a private investigator storyline and feel with just the right amount of weird in the first issue/chapter to get us intrigued. But then things get really weird – Sara tangles with biker witches, age-sucking creatures with a very strange version of their own ‘Witchblade-armour’, and a strange, supernatural beastie with a long history of fighting bearers of the Artifacts…

Things are not going well for Sara in her new environment, and her sense of displacement and ennui is well written. She’s finding her place, and it’s not going particularly well – on the social, financial, and divine purpose fronts. Add to this a policewoman who has it in for Sara, and a rather unsatisfying romantic (un)attachment with a stage magician harbouring an ulterior motive.

The story is well-written, well-paced and well-realised. Despite my aforementioned lack of fore-knowledge of the extended Witchblade mythos, I didn’t have any trouble following this. It’s weird, it’s sometimes amusing, it’s often creepy. The art team does a great job of bringing Seeley’s story to life on the page in crisp, sharp artwork. It’s eye-catching and vivid. I’m very glad I picked up volumes two and three in the ComiXology sale the other day, as I think I’ll be sticking around for a lot more of this series. I may have to try out the Rebirth The Darkness series, too.

If you are a fan of supernatural stories, filled with the occult, magical and gothic weirdness – not to mention a few gribbly beasties – then Seeley’s Witchblade is absolutely for you. Definitely recommended.

Hack/Slash, Vol.9 – “Torture Prone” (Image)

Writer: Tim Seeley | Artist: Daniel Lester | Colors: Mark Englert

In a dark future ruled by the Murder Messiah, street witch Liberty Lochs is on a mission to change the past. Meanwhile, horror heroes Cassie Hack and Vlad must contend with an obsessive serial killer, and a duo of slashers they thought they’d already put down.

Collects: Hack/Slash (Image) #1-4

I heard about this series last year, when I saw the second, massive omnibus edition in The Strand in New York. I had no idea what it was all about, and didn’t have enough cash to buy it. Then, after Seeley was announced as the new writer for Witchblade, I decided to give his back catalog a look (I tend to do this sort of thing). I started with the mini-series published by Image, My First Maniac, which I enjoyed a great deal. Little did I know that none of the original, pre-Image series was available on ComiXology (please fix this soon…!). This is also why I am, quite inexplicably, willing to start with the ninth volume of a series. With the final issue now out, it seemed like a great time to dive in and read the whole lot (there were only 25 issues published by Image). All in all, this is a solid, quirky, original, slightly unsettling comic. Pretty cool, then.

[This is another review that has been languishing for quite some time. A lot more graphic novel reviews to come, as I power through in my catch-up.]

To kick things off, it might be a good idea  to share the synopsis from Volume 1, as it lays out the root premise of the series quite nicely:

“In every slasher movie, there’s one girl who makes it all the way to the end. She’s the survivor… the last girl. Meet Cassie Hack, the lone survivor of an attack by a vicious slasher called The Lunch Lady. Now Cassie, along with her monstrous partner, Vlad, travel the country, hunting down other slashers before they can leave a trail of blood and terror.”

In this book, we’re dropped right back into the already-established story, but I didn’t find myself particularly lost (there’s a handy dramatis personae at the start of each issue, which will help locate other new readers). The story sees Cassie and Vlad separated from their companions, drawn away by the Acid Lady – a lurker (catch-all term for the beasties and other supernatural antagonists) with the body of an implausibly sexy woman, and the ability to dissolve others with a mere touch, as well as the ability to control them through contact. The two sides have clashed before, in a previous story-arc.


Those breasts are ridiculous!

Cassie and Vlad are forced to examine their situation and partnership – Vlad feels a little taken for granted. They decide to jettison their friends by the end, and to strike out on their own. Before that, though, they need to deal with the undead creatures who are attacking their friends… Revelations abound.

The humour in the series is pretty good. It sometimes errs a little too close to puerile/sophomoric for me, but I’d be lying if I said it never made me chuckle (see below).


Ah, boobs-in-the-face. A winning strategy in motivating your monster sidekick…

The demon dog, for example, was quite amusing. And poor Cat Curio (“Girl Sherlock”)… her story was amusing because she was more hapless than not, yet surprisingly effective and capable in a really strange way…


Those two middle panels made me chuckle.

Overall? This is quite fun. The artwork is reminiscent of Zenescope’s cover aesthetic, at times (including the bottom-accentuating cover visual), and some bodies are bizarrely shaped (particularly the women, all of whom are buxom and curvy – I wonder if this is part of the tongue-in-cheek, knowing nods to slasher movies, and the high number of gorgeous women in those, too…?). But, in general, this is a strange, slightly bonkers horror comic that is filled with tongue-in-cheek humour, bloody monster hunting, and a pretty good story.

I haven’t managed to get the next volume (“Dead Celebrities”), yet, but as soon as I have the available, disposable funds, I’ll be sure to expand my collection. I did, however, get hold of Seeley’s Revival, which was on sale through ComiXology a little while ago. I hope to review that very soon, as I’ve dipped in already and think it’s equally weird and cool. (Wow, that has got to be the least eloquent endorsement, true as it is…)

I’d recommend this for anyone looking for something a little different – a mix of horror, comedy, supernatural, and even a smidgeon of super-hero themes. Seeley’s a talented writer, and I look forward to reading a lot more of his work.

Hack/Slash: “My First Maniac” (Image)

HackSlash-MyFirstManiac-TPBWriter: Tim Seeley | Artist: Daniel Leister | Colors: Mark Englert

Exploring Cassie Hack’s first case: 16-year-old Cassie has just been forced to kill her mother, the undead murderer known as the Lunch Lady! Now faced with overwhelming guilt, she must decide if she can make a life with her foster parents and at her new school, or if she should use her new-found slasher-killing skills to save other screaming teenagers! But does the apple fall far from the tree?

Collects: Hack/Slash – My First Maniac #1-4 (complete)

I don’t think I’ve read much else by Tim Seeley – maybe a taster for his new run on Witchblade. But, the other day I saw that Hack/Slash has finally come to an end, and decided to give it a try. Image Comics only published the final 25 issues of the series, plus a couple of mini-series spin-offs. Unable to hunt down the pre-Image comics on ComiXology, I decided to pick up this spin-off, dealing with Cassie’s first case. And I rather enjoyed it, in all its bloody, slasher-movie bonkers glory.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to characterise the overall feel I get from this book. A grimdark Buffy? Someone on argued that Buffy was already rather grimdark. So a grimdarker Buffy? Perhaps. I guess the series’ strength is that it can’t so easily be defined. It draws from many strong traditions of slasher-/horror-movies, adds a dollop of dark, dark humour, and spits out something rather original and engaging. It doesn’t shy away from the uglier side of human nature (of any age or social grouping), and Cassie goes through a lot of hell to grow into the monster-hunting/-slaying bad-ass she is at the end.

The series packs a lot into the first issue. But, this doesn’t slow things down at all. Instead, it makes for a substantial, intriguing and gripping introduction to this world. Cassie’s in foster care, and the issue tells of how she came to strike out on her own. The story of the rest of the mini-series develops as she moves around to Buffalo Center, chasing after rumours of a lurker. It’s brutal. It’s visceral. It’s very good.


In Buffalo Center, Cassie connects with a couple of the local in-crowd, one of which helps her develop her goth-chick look. There’s a rumor surrounding an old farm on the edge of town. And kids are going missing… I didn’t predict how the story was going to develop, and there were a couple of interesting surprises sprinkled into the story.


Seeley has injected a good, dark sense of humour into the book. It’s sometimes very dark, but always amusing. It’s not riotous, but I smirked and chuckled a couple times. It’s not exactly deep, but I can certainly see the beginnings of something complex and addictive. Seeley & Co. have created something pretty special and unique, here.

Overall, I enjoyed this quite a bit. The art style is reminiscent of some of Zenescope’s covers and internal art, but the story is much stronger (in some ways, this is more mature – like Buffy meets Eli Roth in a dark alley, before they stumble into a Stephen King novel…). It’s definitely not for kids, or the too-easily scandalised or shocked. But, if you like horror fiction, movies, or comics, especially ones with a self-conscious, knowing sense of humour, then Hack/Slash could be the perfect comic for you.

I’ll definitely be reading more of this – and, in fact, by the time this review goes live, I will have read the first Image collection, “Vol.9 – Torture Prone”.


Original Mini-Series Covers