Weekly Reading Round-Up : 10/20/2019 – 10/26/2019

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

My reading selection of books released this past Wednesday offers no real thematic connection to stitch together — no preponderance of first issues, no mix of firsts and lasts, nothing like that — so we’re just gonna get totally random with this week’s “capsule review” selections, and the verdicts for each are, likewise, all over the map —

Forcing a “milestone” label onto a book that’s been around for, like, less than two years seems a bit of a reach, but Marvel is no doubt eager to capitalize on the runaway critical and commercial success of The Immortal Hulk, and so #25 has indeed been marketed as some sort of “landmark” issue, and saddled with the extra pages and $5.99 price tag that comes part and parcel with such a purported “occasion.” Fortunately, cash-grabs don’t come much better than this stand-alone “cosmic” story that bears distinct echoes to Alan…

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Eastern Bohemia : Shinichi Abe’s “That Miyoko Asagaya Feeling”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I’ve been meaning to get some more Manga into the mix on this site, and fortunately for me (and, by extension, you) Black Hook Press is more than happy to accommodate by means of their very solid critical outreach efforts — to say nothing of the consistently-noteworthy physical packages they put together for their expertly-curated releases.

Take, for instance, their latest — a long-overdue (for Western audiences, at any rate) collection of the early-to-mid 1970s autobio strips by pioneering master of the form Shinichi Abe entitled That Miyoko Asagaya Feeling, edited and assembled by Mitsuhiro Asakawa (who also provides a superb biographical essay) and translated by all-around Manga renaissance man Ryan Holmberg, whose association with any project marks it as being worth a purchase. The material presented herein has largely flown beneath the North American radar, but as far as making up for lost time goes, something tells me…

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A Pretty Impressive “Stunt”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Annie Koyama’s “farewell tour” wouldn’t be complete without one more release from Michael DeForge before Koyama press closes up shop, and while his latest, Stunt, may not qualify as a “book” so much as a stretched-out (in terms of its page count and physical dimensions) Chick tract, it’s certainly as thematically and conceptually dense as any of this one-time-ingenue cartoonist’s previous works, and further reinforces the almost giddily-obsessive nature of the psychosexual and physical terrors that are congealing and coagulating into something very much like a core “portfolio” of concerns at the heart of his overall artistic project.

Roll call : duality, the amorphous nature of identity, bondage and submission (both mental and physical), Cronenbergian body horror, fame and celebrity, overwhelming sexual need, personal apocalypse, and fluidity as the only constant.

Among other things, of course, but those are the big ones.

Rendered in blacks, whites, and blues that…

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Horror on TV: Suspense 3.18 “The Tip” (dir by Robert Stevens)

On tonight’s episode of Suspense, Elaine Court (Felicia Montealegre) just wants to relax.  In fact, considering that she’s recovering from a recent heart attack, it’s actually very important that she be allowed to just relax.  Too bad there’s a strange man (Stanley Ridges) who keeps mysteriously appearing!  One day, when Elaine returns from a trip out, she finds the stranger waiting in her home….

This episode originally aired on December 26th, 1950.  Seriously, the day after Christmas!

Stepping Through Simon Hanselmann’s “Bad Gateway”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve been of a mind that Simon Hanselmann should dump Megg, Mogg, Owl, and the rest of the gang and do something different. Move forward. Push himself to expand his horizons by letting go of the familiar.

On a purely technical level, he’s definitely been honing his craft — his cartooning has become more precise and refined, while his painting has graduated from the “impressive” to the “magnificently rich and detailed” — but in a larger sense, I felt that he’d been every bit as stuck as his ensemble cast, all this aesthetically-proficient work wasted on dead-end narratives about characters who, by design, were never going to amount to shit. Sure, Megahex was masochistic fun, but Megg And Mogg In Amsterdam was largely more of the same, only in Amsterdam, while One More Year was, well, one more year. I get that…

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Creepshow, S1 Ep5, “Night of the Paw” and “Times is Tough in Musky Holler”, Review


Halloween is approaching! We should not forget to discuss the fear of failure, which this episode did not have a problem doing.  Wow, I’ve reviewed some hot garbage, but this was the mathematical derivative of garbage because it was the rate of change from boring to embarrassing.  The only bright spot was veteran Bruce Davison’s performance that was wasted on such hackneyed craptastic material.  Sad.

The first story was about a Monkey’s Paw. Yep, Nicotero decided to do a monkey’s paw story….on purpose. It follows the typical trope: Get a Paw, make three wishes, and they all suck somehow, but this time with mediocre zombie makeup.  Honestly, it looked like Party City was missing some 2 dollar makeup.  We should all feel sad for the time that I shall never get back.

The second story was auditioning for the Walking Dead radio show because half of the rushed hot mess was exposition.  A mayor and cronies go bad during a zombie apocalypse and town executes them.  This story also had some second tier Walking Dead zombies and David Arquette who basically did agonized facial expressions whenever he was on camera.  I used to really like David’s acting, but now he just looks like he’s tired and needs to angry poo real real bad.  Maybe, David decided to get some gas station sushi, wash it down with past questionable milk, and go to set? That’s what his acting told me.

This show has potential for actual greatness, but man, if Nicotero doesn’t do some quality control, it’ll just be another schlocky horror series like Two Sentence Horror.


Amanda Returns: Scorned 2 (1997, directed by Rodney McDonald)

Released in 1993 as a part of the 90s Skinemax explosion, Scorned was one of the best of the many films to co-star Andrew and Shannon Tweed.  The story of a vengeful widow (Tweed) hellbent on destroying Stevens’s family proved to be so popular that it was inevitable that there would be a sequel.  Four years later, the mayhem continued in Scorned 2.

Tane McClure takes over Shannon Tweed’s role as Amanda, who has amnesia and can’t remember anything about her previous life as a sex-addicted sociopath.  Amanda is now married to psychology professor Mark Foley (Myles O’Brien) but she’s haunted by nightmares (which are made up of scenes lifted from the first Scorned) that provide clues to her former life.  While Amanda seeks help from a hypnotherapist, her frustrated husband ends up falling for one of his students, Cynthia (Wendy Schumacher).  Cynthia already has a boyfriend but she’s willing to screw a professor if it will help her grades.  When Amanda discovers that Mark is cheating on her, she snaps and reverts back to her old ways as she seeks revenge on everyone who she feels has betrayed her.  Further complicating things is that Alex Weston (Andrew Stevens, reprising his role from the first Scorned) has recently arrived on campus and is seeking revenge for the death of his son.

Scorned 2 was made during the dwindling days of Skinemax, long after the heyday of late night cable’s popularity.  It even featured a scene in which Cynthia’s boyfriend explains how computer passwords work, which is not something that anyone had to worry about when the first Scorned or its many imitators were initially released.  Unfortunately, Shannon Tweed did not reprise her role as Amanda.  Tane McClure was not a bad actress and bore a superficial similarity to Tweed but she just didn’t have Tweed’s ability to make even the stupidest dialogue sound natural.  Andrew Stevens did return but his character is largely wasted.  The real star of the film is Wendy Schumacher, for giving a credible performance while showing how far one student will go to keep up her grades.  Considering the cost of college, can you blame her?  Today, as with many of the films of that era, the main appeal of Scorned 2 is one of nostalgia.

Game Review: 9:05 (2000, Adam Cadre)

(Image by Adam Cadre)

I’m still working on my review of Heavy Rain so, while I do that, why not play Adam Cadre’s 9:05?

9:05 is a text adventures which opens with a scenario that should be familiar to anyone who has previously played an interactive fiction game.  It’s the morning.  The phone is ringing.  The person on the other line says that you have overslept and the boss is asking why you’re not at work.  Now, you have to get out of bed and quickly do what you need to do to be able to leave the house.  It’s a scene that has served as the premise of many IF games but 9:05 adds a macabre twist at the end, one that makes the game worth replaying.

9:05 is a short game and most of the puzzles are deliberately simple to solve.  It should not take any longer than 5 to 10 minutes to play the game for the first time.  If you’ve never played an IF game before, 9:05 is a good one to start with.  If you’re a veteran player, you will enjoy the way that 9:05 plays with and subverts the usual IF conventions.

The game can be downloaded from here.

Horror Scenes That I Love: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Finale

Today’s scene comes from the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is one of the greatest horror films ever made.  Needless to say, since this is the final scene, it’s a huge spoiler if you somehow haven’t seen this movie.

Enjoy, dance, or laugh maniacally.  I leave it up to you.

Book Review: Shadow of Evil by Greye La Spina

Direct from my aunt’s paperback collection, it’s the story of Portia Differdale and her aunt Sophie!

The time is the 1920s.  Sophie has come to Brooklyn, in order to live with the recently widowed Portia.  Portia, unfortunately, is having some issues with her neighbors.  Portia’s late husband was an occultist and, now that he’s died (more or less a victim of his profession), she’s decided to continue on his work.  Needless to say, the local gossips aren’t particularly happy about that.  Personally, I would love to live next door to an occultist, just because I would always some place to send any spirits who showed up in my house.  “Really, you’re undead?” I would say, “Head on next door.”  Sadly, I guess that’s just not the ways things were done in Brooklyn back in the day.

Anyway, Portia is lucky enough to have a potential new suitor.  His name is Owen and Sophie thinks that he would be the perfect new husband for Portia!  Portia, for her part, agrees.  However, it turns out that someone else has her eyes on Owen, as well.  Princess Irma Andreyevna Tchernova is wealthy, beautiful, and charming.  The uninhibited and flirtatious Princess Tchernova soon appears to have all the men in the community under her spell, including Owen!  None of them seem to find it odd that the Princess has an oddly silent servant or that she owns several wolves.  Not even the fact that the Princess eats nothing but meat strikes anyone as odd….

Except, of course, for Portia.  It doesn’t take long for Portia to figure out that there’s something sinister about the Princess but will she be able to save Owen from her grasp?  Read the book to find out!

Greye La Spina was born in 1880 and stared writing horror fiction in the early 20th century, at a time when it was considered somewhat scandalous for a woman to even write fiction, much less horror.  Shadow of Evil was originally published over the course of three issues of Weird Tales in 1925.  It was then reprinted, in paperback form, in 1966.  The cover at the top of this post (and which my sister shared earlier this month) is from the 1966 edition.  Since that time, the book has been occasionally reprinted.

It’s a fun read.  La Spina was a lively and entertaining writer and she tells this tale with the right mix of melodrama and satire.  La Spina obviously loves her unconventional characters and the story is as much about their desire to be independent from the conventions of society as it is about any paranormal activity.  It’s got everything — intrigue, romance,humor, scares, thrills, and a wonderful atmosphere.  It’s an enjoyable story and, if you can track down a copy, one that’s worth reading.