Publisher: Dreaming Big Publications
Books based on role playing games are not unheard of, they might be less common today, or less of an intricate part of the fantasy genre as they were in the heyday of Forgotten Realms or DragonLance, but one does come across the odd Warhammer 40k books and for what its worth they are fairly decent. Plushinomicon is one such book, a collection of short tales set in the fantastical world of Teddy Bear Island. Teddy Bear Island is an RPG created by Orcs Unlimited and was created through a Kickstarter campaign. The world of Teddy Bear Island is very much like any old fantasy world, filled with the same old creatures one might encounter in Dungeons and Dragons like elfs, dwarfs or orcs. It is also filled with something different, something very different; stuffed animal zombies and they all live on the island, once created by a Fluffomancer. As a role playing game this concept does open up to several interesting possibilities and certainly hilarious problem solving scenarios.
Plushinomicon is in short a collection of ten short stories by a variety of authors and among them even the editor herself. The stories all center around Teddy Bear Island, it might be about getting there for one reason or another and adventures on the very isle itself. There is a wide variety of characters all typical heroes that are easily recognizable to those familiar with the fantasy genre.
It is futile to try to recap the short stories within the pages of Plushinomicon and they might just be directed to those who have played the game or who may be interested in doing so. Most of the stories are structured the same way and with a minimal amount of intrigue, in short, they are very quick reads that don’t challenge the reader at all and it comes across more like a collection of adventures that the authors have played through themselves and found funny enough to share. Unfortunately the authors aren’t given enough space to create compelling tales to excite and scare the reader and that is one of the big downfalls of this collection. Of course there is some understanding that this is all based in a strange world that maybe isn’t supposed to be taken so seriously, but there is still an overwhelming feeling that more could have been done.
Though the prospect of villainous zombie plushies sound like an entertaining way to spend some time these stories are not close to other RPG based counter parts and one would most likely be served better to pick up a DragonLance or Forgotten Realms.
Genre: Horror,bizarro, Science-Fiction
Publisher: Burning Bulb Publishing
Boston Lust is the third installment from Nigerian author Wol-vriey about the very hard- boiled Bud Malone and as the previous two it takes place in a not too distant future Boston. This time Malone is confronted with a serial killer who is praying on gay/bisexual women, leaving them both sexually spent as well as drained of blood. This foe does not show up in pictures and the puncture marks on the women’s bodies all point to the work of a vampire. It hits Malone a bit close to home when a woman he has previously helped, as well as had romantic dealings with, turns up as one of the victims. It becomes even more sinister once Malone realizes that the vampire has stolen a ring of great power that he himself retrieved from the Abstracta, a sort of parallel city intertwined with Boston.
Malone is contacted by the beautiful Trudi Carmen to venture into the Abstracta to pair the ring with a white version she is in possession of, but instead it becomes a hunt for the vampire leader who has been praying upon the women of Boston.
Boston Lust is a story filled with action, thrills and sex. It is part noir, part erotica and part science fiction all blended in quite the stew. It is obvious that Wol-vriey knows exactly what he is doing and that he possesses a great imagination. The characters surrounding Malone and the various creatures that he encounters, from golems and talking rats to godlike beings playing basketball on a court made from human skin all show a depth and complexity that adds very much to the tale. On the one hand this is the strength of Boston Lust, but on the other hand it is somewhat detrimental to it as well. There are many questions that never get answered, at least not here, it is very possible that what the Abstracta really is and where the creatures come from is discussed in an earlier book, but in this one it leaves the reader wanting more. With quite a limited intrigue, this does cause the book to fall a bit flat. It would indeed have benefited from more meat and added dimensions.
There is also a good deal of graphic descriptions of sexual encounters, causing Boston Lust not to be for every reader, but for those who can handle scenes on par with Fifty Shades of Grey or Outlander this does not actually take away from the story, instead it enhances it.
All in all Boston Lust is a book that holds the reader’s interest for a good while. It never becomes dull, there are never any slow moving parts, so that while passes one quickly. It maybe doesn’t satisfy ones demand for finer literature or intrigue and it creates questions that one needs answered and maybe that gets the reader interested in Wol-vriey’s other work.
Writer & Artwork: Richard Corben
Publisher: Dark Horse
There is something very appealing with Richard Corben’s comics. Maybe it’s his way of telling a story; calm, haunting, dark with a great deal of sadness. Maybe it’s the artwork; solemn almost Botero-esque in their appearance with a way of expressing their feeling so they almost leap from the pages. It might also be that as a reader one is reminded of the days of Heavy Metal, both the magazine and the movie that entices or the lure of a world inspired by the likes of Poe, Lovecraft and Howard.
Rat God is released in the wake of the amazing Ragemoor, a Lovecraftian tale of a evil men and living stone, but is like his previous title Big Foot, in color. Corben’s art is often times amazing in black and white, if one is in doubt then a glance at the pages of Haunt of Horror is due, but the use of color in Rat God creates a vibrant tapestry of life that one would be hard pressed to find in other comics.
The opening issue introduces the young man Clark Elwood, very similar to H. P. Lovecraft both in countenance and attitude, who is driving on a dirt road towards the town of Lame Dog. He is looking for a woman, Kito Hontz, whom he met at Miskatonic University in legend haunted Arkham. On the road he meets her brother Chuk and they travel on together. Elwood is not a very pleasant figure and it is obvious that something has happened between him and Kito that makes him venture on this quest in the woods of New England.
Parallel to this the reader is treated to a tale of two natives being pursued by something sinister after having ventured where they should not have.
Rat God promises to be a tale honoring Lovecraft’s greatness as well as in a way criticizing his bigotry, but also following in his cultural footsteps. Corben’s artwork is beautiful and the story has a nice pace and the next four issues will hopefully prove to excite the reader.
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Colton Worley
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
A dead body found in the woods, a man sets himself on fire and walks into a lake and a fortune teller is haunted by a terrible visage. All these things seem connected with the town of Blackcross in Washington. A place were Rob Benton is being hidden by the FBI after witnessing a mob killing. He hasn’t coped with it well and lives like a slob in between working at the pharmacy. He is also haunted by mysterious dreams as well as texts that confuse his federal contact. Whatever is going on it seems as if it’s coming to Blackcross.
Blackcross is billed as coming from the pages of Project Superpowers, Jim Kreuger and Alex Ross’ intriguing tale using public domain super heroes. At first glance, which is all that the initial issue really gives the readers, Blackcross is a darker animal than the traditional story of super heroes. This seems more to be a crime story of the neo noir kind and that is mainly due to Worley’s haunting artwork. Though the first issue reveals very little of what one might expect in the future of this title it gives the reader enough to become invested and there are Easter eggs placed here and there for the odd golden age comic lover.
It is easy to become excited by Blackcross, yet there is cause for concern. Six issues have been announced and it feels that this might be too conservative. The slow build in the initial issue hints at a slow build, but the low number of coming comics makes one believe that, true to Dynamite’s form, the story will become rushed and suffer because of it. On the other hand this may not happen and one may just have to trust the genius that is Warren Ellis.
Legenderry: Green Hornet
Writer: Daryl Gregory
Artist: Brent Peeples
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
In the wake of Bill Willingham’s Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure we find ourselves back in this elaborate world of fantasy, steam, adventure and pulp figures. Dynamite Entertainment announced a while back that they were releasing three spin offs from the initial series and that they would be Green Hornet, Vampirella and Red Sonja, these would continue the storyline and take it in very different directions.
The story opens on Undertown where we are introduced to a young man enlisting the aid of the street gang The Velocikings. What his agenda might be is shrouded in darkness, but it becomes clear in the end that he is in league with a figure by the name of Tin Man. At the same time he seems to be waging a war on the boss of the underworld; The Veiled Lady, the woman who married the demonic Blackmass in the original arc. This comes to a head early on as The Velocikings go head to head with the lady’s gang The Toffs.
While this is going on Britt Reid, Green Hornet himself, meets with the new millionaire in town; Chesterfield Grimes. Grimes seems to be interested in where Reid’s alliances are and this, naturally, causes suspicion in the mind of the Hornet.
There are a lot of things going on in the first issue of Legenderry: Green Hornet, which isn’t unusual for Dynamite Entertainment’s stories. The original Legenderry had so many characters introduced in each issue, without creating any back story, that it was more confusing than fun. Green Hornet on the other hand is paced differently, even though the reader is treated to three, seemingly, separate side tales the setup of these stories aren’t so confusing. As a reader one is treated to three varied cliff hangers all creating a desire to see where this is going.
Green Hornet proves that the three Legenderry spin offs just might be the ticket to further what was a very good story to begin with. The fault with the original arc was that it never really felt that it came to a resolution and there were just too many questions left unanswered.
The artwork, though not as clean as in Legenderry, creates the right amount of grit and sharpness for this steam punk world. Gregory also does well at keeping up the language and feel as was started by Willingham, but with a little bit more tongue in cheek and glint in his eye, cutting some of the seriousness out of the violence and mayhem.
When detective John Tallow loses his partner in a gun fight with a naked maniac his life, as he knows it takes a turn. Not only because his only friend gets his brain splattered all over the stairwell, but it opens up a world that he has previously shut out.
While going door to door in the building after the shoot out the police on the scene uncover an apartment filled with guns. Guns stuck up on the wall in a strange pattern and as if this wasn’t enough each gun seems to have been involved in two murders, one classic and one unsolved, as if the killer was matching guns to victims.
Being forced back from leave Tallow becomes assigned the task of solving the case, an impossible feat it would appear. Tallow proves that he is the man for the job and discovers an intricate web of murder and lies that go higher than your average deranged serial killer.
Ellis, who is of comic book fame (Black Summer/Transmetropolitan), tells this story with ease. In his book Crooked Little Vein he proved he was more than competent when it comes to write fiction and with Gun Machine he only cements this. He also proves that he has mastered the Thriller genre or Hard Boiled crime fiction if you will. The language his hard, the characters brutish and New York the bitch mother of a backdrop worthy of Mickey Spillane or Dashiell Hammet. The characters, and in particular the antagonist, navigate the city with ease and reflect on the history of it and how it has changed through the ages.
John Tallow as the antagonist comes as a bit of surprise since it from the beginning appears that his partner will take this role, until his brain gets blown out. Tallow is a reluctant hero, he is antisocial, brooding and surly, but he does possess the qualities a New York detective needs. To most of his superiors he is set up to fail, becoming the scape goat for the fiasco that the case must become. Like the reader these people are in for a surprise. Tallow’s partner has always been seen as the smart one, the good cop, but with him gone John shines.
Tallow doesn’t work alone, with him are two CSU agents; Scarly and Bat, two outcasts who do as they please and who both seem an ill fit in modern society.
In the end this is what this book in my opinion is about, people who refuse to fit in. The antagonists and the protagonists are all misfits in one way or another. How this is you will have to read for yourself. At the same time it is also a story of crime and what has become of us as a people, the police radio that Tallow listens to in the car regales him with tales from the street, all brutal in one way or another, and how the police reacts to it.
Gun Machine is an excellent read for anyone who likes gritty crime novels set in modern times and without the sexism and macho attitude that we are left with from Mike Hammer and Sam Spade.
Gun Machine is available now on Kindle/Print/Audiobook and has been picked up by 20th Century Fox to become a TV show