Archive for July, 2014


REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER
by Pat Mills and Olivier Ledroit

Cover of the 1st volume of REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER, featuring the protagonist Requiem and his magnificent soul-blade. It ain't easy being a vampire in hell.

Cover of the 1st volume of REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER, featuring the protagonist Requiem and his soul-blade. It ain’t easy being a vampire in hell.

What can I say about Pat Mills? He’s practically the British Stan Lee. He founded the UK’s #1 long-running comic magazine 2000AD back in 1976 and it’s still going strong today. One of his greatest creations is SLAINE, who I’ve talked about in a previous review (SLAINE: THE HORNED GOD). Pat has authored many long-running 2000AD  characters, but he also has been telling the story of “vampires in hell” in the pages of HEAVY METAL magazine for the past few years.

REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER is the fantastic creation of Mills and French artist extraordinaire Oliver Ledroit. It was released over time in 10 volumes of 50 pages each. Yes, that’s a 500-PAGE GRAPHIC NOVEL. The art is, in a word, spectacular. Each panel is fully painted, and Ledroit has some of the coolest designs and otherworldly landscapes in the history of graphic novels. You don’t have to be a vampire fan to enjoy REQUIEM; there are plenty of different monsters, spectres, werewolves, and demonic entities to go around. (FYI: “Chevalier” is the French word for “Knight.”)

Requiem_02dlHere’s how Wiki describes the basic plot: “The story is set in a world called Resurrection [where] people are re-incarnated into monsters according to the sins of their life. Vampires form the elite of the society and the ruling class. The more cruel one was in life, the better he is rewarded on Resurrection…[where] everything appears to be the opposite way around than on Earth. Land has replaced the oceans, while seas of perpetual fire occupy our known continents and time flows backwards. People do not get older but rejuvenate until they become a foetus and ultimately are forgotten; their memory follows the same cycle and is ‘lost’ as people get younger.”

Dracula himself rules over the vampires of Resurrection, and he claims the cover of volume #3.

Dracula himself rules over the vampires of Resurrection, and he claims the cover of volume #3.

That only scratches the surface. What we have in REQUIEM is one of the most beautifully-drawn horror tales every created. A true odyssey of macabre adventure. There’s really no describing in words what Ledroit’s eye-popping, jaw-dropping art does on the page. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by how beautiful he makes this horrible world seem. The vampires are vicious, gorgeous, and sadistic, waging an eternal war against the “Gods of Limbo” and their undead servants. But all of this spectacular art would be beside the point if the story wasn’t so well told. Pat Mills is a master storyteller, and REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Currently HeavyMetal.com offers this story in a number of different packages: You can order the REQUIEM Collection, Volumes 1 and 2, which includes the first 6 chapters of the 10-chapter story. Each volume will set you back about $20 before shipping. Chapters 7-10 are not yet available in print in the USA.

Requiem_04dlHOWEVER—if you have a Kindle or E-Reader—you’re in luck! You can download ALL TEN CHAPTERS for $4 each. Finally, the best possible deal—the one I chose—gets you the ENTIRE 10-chapter, 500-page graphic novel for a measly $20!!! This kind of rare deal, folks, is the reason I bought a Kindle Fire in the first place.

I’ve read the first 3 volumes and am currely on the 4th. I’ve never been more grateful to have an e-reader. The painted panels look gorgeous on my hi-def Kindle Fire. One caveat: The story of REQUIEM does feature a lot of violence, blood, and sadistic behavior. But what would you expect? It’s about vampires fighting an eternal war for control of a hellish afterlife!

Requiem_05dlFor fans of fully-painted, non-superhero graphic novels, it just doens’t get any better than REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER. But don’t take my word for it, go to www.heavymetal.com and look at the free samples from each volume. Your eyes will pop, your blood will race, and your mind will be blown. Mine certainly was—and continues to be every time I dive into a new chapter.

Could REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER be the greatest vampire epic ever written? I say “Yes, it very well could be.” If you’re not offended by violence and nudity, you must check out this book.

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THE SPECTRAL LINK
by Thomas Ligotti

Getting any new material from the great Tom Ligotti is always a special treat. A dark treat, of course, with an edge of insanity and super weirdness. Ligotti is one of the greatest living horror writers, but the last decade hasn’t been a prolific one for him. He only writes when he’s inspired to write, and thankfully he’s getting inspired again.

THE SPECTRAL LINK is a small hardcover containing one short story (“Metaphysica Morum”) and a novella (“The Small People”). It’s metaphysical horror firmly in the “weird fiction” tradition. As I expected, both stories are brilliant examples of what Ligotti does best.

What’s different about this volume, compared to his other works, is a dark sense of humor that penetrates both stories. The humor never distracts from the dread and horror of the tales, but adds a new facet to the gleaming diamond of Ligotti’s talent.

Instead of describing the plot and contents of each story, let me just say that any horror fan—or any fan of weird fiction—should get this book immediately. It’s delightfully creepy and completely original, just like all of Ligotti’s work.

Here’s piece I posted here back in March about Ligotti:
https://johnrfultz.com/2014/03/16/the-spectral-link-ligotti-returns/

 

When I was 11 years old this was the coolest thing I had ever seen: “Taarna,” the final segment of the film HEAVY METAL. This is the climax of the movie set to Sammy Hagar’s “Heavy Metal” song from the film’s soundtrack. My buddy Ivan and I snuck into this Rated R film in 1981 because we just couldn’t miss it. Rock-and-roll sci-fi with a sword-and-sorcery twist. CLASSIC.
Blew. Our. Minds.

 

Galaxy_by_Inwe1Another summer means another “reading season” for me. This is the time of year when I’m not teaching so I’m free to dig into the pile of books I’ve accumulated over the last twelve months.

Yep, I buy books all year long—can’t get enough of ’em. Yet my reading proceeds at a crawl because of my busy schedule until summer hits. It’s kind of a tradition for me to blog here about what I read each summer, so let’s get to it:

The-Light-is-the-DarknessTHE LIGHT IS THE DARKNESS by Laird Barron
I’ve greatly enjoyed reading Barron’s many story collections and his terrific first novel THE CRONING. LIGHT is something between a novella and a novel—call it a short novel if you will—and it actually came out before THE CRONING. It has everything that Barron’s fans have come to expect from him: Hard-boiled protagonists, creeping evil from beyond space/time, and a two-fisted plunge into cosmic phantasmagoria.

Barron’s protagonist is Conrad Navarro, reigning champion of a global underground gladitorial fighting ring. He’s a modern-day Beowulf or Conan, although he might remind readers more of Frank Miller’s Marv (from SIN CITY). Barron channels his crime-noir skills here as Conrad’s journey into mystery takes him behind the veil of consensual reality, where he discovers the horrible truth about himself and the nefarious forces that killed his brother and stole his sister.

It’s dark, slick, mysterious, and brutal. It’s Laird Barron, a one-of-a-kind talent, at his most uninhibited. If THE CRONING was a cerebral descent into cosmic terror, then THE LIGHT IS THE DARKNESS is a blood-soaked roller coaster ride through a world of decadent horrors. Along with the incredible “Hand of Glory”, this is one of Laird’s best stories, hands down.

HornedGodSLAINE: THE HORNED GOD
by Pat Mills and Simon Bisley

Next up: COMICS! It’s the Summer of SLAINE for me. Pat Mills created this Celtic hero in the pages of 2000AD, where he chronicled the character’s adventures for many years. The very height of those adventures came when a young Simon Bisley came onboard to illustrate a new series of Slaine installments beginning in 1989.

The result was THE HORNED GOD a 3-book magnum opus that helped make Bisley an art legend. It also gave Mills the chance to bring Slaine’s world to life in a deeper way than ever before. Bisley’s fully painted panels are breathtaking, and often he changes techniques in the middle of scenes to evoke emotion or contrast.

HornedGod2The story of Slaine doesn’t begin in THE HORNED GOD, but it serves as a great introduction to the character for anybody new to Slaine’s world. Ukko the Dwarf, Slaine’s longtime companion (the Sancho Panza to his Don Quijote, if you will) is scribing the story in the remote future, so we get a story within a story, often with Ukko’s skewed and humorous viewpoint.

Mills uses Slaine to explore and expound on Celtic mythology in ironic and unexpected ways. Bisley’s art is equal parts Frank Frazetta and Richard Corben, with a bit of Bill Sienkiewicz. In short, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and perfect for such a mythic story.

HornedGod4Sea demons, undead monsters, phantom dragons, and marauding hordes of men and beasts come to life in the weird world of pre-history that Mills envisions. The Celtic women are strong and gorgeous, often mighter and more deadly than their male counterparts.

Slaine isn’t your typical “musclebound barbarian,” he’s a complex character in a savage world of magic and brutality. He’s a servant of the Earth Goddess, a slayer of dragons, a “warp-spasm” warrior, and a man determined to save his long-suffering people from diabolic forces. Rarely have story and art blended so perfectly into the construction of an illustrated fantasy. THE HORNED GOD is a must for any fantasy fan’s graphic novel library.

808708COMPANIONS ON THE ROAD by Tanith Lee
This is actually two unrelated fantasy novellas packaged into a single slim paperback originally released in 1975. This was the same year Lee was nominated for a Nebula Award for her debut novel (THE BIRTHGRAVE). The first novella is “Companions on the Road,” the story of a cursed goblet and two soldiers who steal it from a burning castle after a seige. It becomes a “road story” of haunting spirits and deadly curses, but the magic is underplayed in favor of rising menace.

The second half of COMPANIONS ON THE ROAD provides great contrast, as the sorcery factor is amped way up. “The Winter Players” is a tale of feuding sorcerers where Lee lets the magic fly. The young sorceress protagonist discovers the depth of her power as she pursues a thief who stole a holy relic from her seaside shrine. The tale builds in depth and complexity, delivering a stunning and clever conclusion.

I liked the second novella (“The Winter Players”) better than the first, but both are superb works from one of Lee’s most prolific periods (i.e. the 70s)—which also happened to be the Golden Age of Sword-and-Sorcery. No coincidence there…