Thanks to the many superhero movies and shows that have flooded theaters and streaming services, people are by now well familiar with the superhero origin story. Once the hero is bitten by a radioactive animal, caught in a nuclear bomb explosion, or discovered they get powers while under a yellow sun, they choose a costume, a superhero moniker, and begin fighting crime. That’s the basic story of Night Club, Volume One; written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Juanan Ramirez, except this story includes an intoxicating, bloody blend of vampire tropes.
The hero in question is Danny Garcia, a high school student and future viral sensation who is gravely injured in a stunt gone wrong. Lying in the hospital with a series of broken bones, young Daniel is visited by a vampire who recruits the young man in a war with other, more murderous vampires. But Danny doesn’t want to be just a soldier in an immortal war. He can take being shot, climb walls, and transform himself into mist or a swarm of bats. All he and his friends Sam and Amy need are luchadore masks, and some extra clothing to keep out the sun, to become superheroes who save the day while recording their exploits to put up on social media.
Some might be familiar with Millar’s more out there works like Wanted and American Jesus, but Night Club, reflects a more traditional approach to its superheroes. Millar’s story relies on the tried and true formula of typical superhero origin stories. Once Danny discovers his powers, he and his friends (whom he recently turned into vampires) enjoy their superhuman abilities until they encounter a larger and deadlier threat, which is a family of older vampires who murder rather indiscriminately. Millar doesn’t reinvent the wheel here. He simply smashes vampires and superhero tropes together, but Millar, who has also written several superhero comics for Marvel, tells a fun superhero story.
That superhero energy is maintained thanks to the dynamic artwork of Ramirez, who depicts these teen heroes as leaping from car to car, exploding into a swarm of bats, and baring their teeth at criminals. That style, along with the designs of their superhero costumes, enforces the idea that this book is a superhero story that just happens to feature vampires. Being that these heroes are vampires, Ramirez also depicts the necessary amount of blood and violence to show that these heroic vampires are still vampires who drink blood and who tend to combust when exposed to sunlight.
This book will soon have a show on Netflix, but Millar and Ramirez’s book works well beyond being a media tie-in. Though this book happens to feature creatures of the night, this superhero story has more in common with Spider-Man than the Crow, less about revenge and more about teenage power fantasies. This book’s teeth might put it in the adult section, but it seems tailor-made for adult superhero fans who loved watching Spider-Man swing above the New York streets and who’ve watched vampire movies like The Lost Boys multiple times.
Night Club Volume One By Mark Millar Art by Juanan Ramirez Image, 2023 ISBN: 9781534399914
Publisher Age Rating: 16 years and up Related media: Comic to TV
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
The 1980s is considered by many to be a renaissance for movies featuring martial arts. Sure, there were heroes with bulging biceps, quotable one-liners, and very large guns, but there were also action stars who needed no real acting experience, just a black belt in a given martial art. Those movies might not have aged well, and some may even laugh at the unintentional comedy of martial artist/movie starts like Steven Seagal or Jean Claude Van Damme these days, but Eight Limbs, written by Stephanie Phillips and illustrated by Giulia Lalli, might owe some of its narrative DNA to the martial arts movie formula. Rather than being a throwback, however, Phillips’ story updates the martial arts story for this century.
Joanna Carr was a Muay Thai champion until she lost her title in a brutal fight. She went into retirement to raise a family and open her own gym. Joanna seems content to raise her family to train other fighters until a longtime friend asks Joanna to take in troubled foster teen Mari. Joanna soon begins mentoring the girl, training her how to fight. When a misunderstanding drives Mari away, she soon gets involved with a dangerous underground fighting ring. Now, Joanna must step into the ring and fight to rescue her protégé.
Fans of martial arts movies might find the plot rather familiar: a fighter gives up on fighting only to be forced to step back into the ring when everything is on the line. Phillips, however, completely excludes the toxic masculinity and avoids the cliche of a climactic martial arts battle that leaves one or both combatants near death. The crux of this story is the steadily growing bond between Mari and Joanna and how that bond is tested. The martial art of Muay Thai is more a way to give Mari and Joanna the focus and discipline needed to overcome the problems they both face, rather than just another way to pummel a human body into hamburger.
Muay Thai is also known as the art of eight limbs, hence the book’s title. The Muay Thai fighter uses two fists and two feet like other martial arts, but the fighter can use brutal knee strikes and punishing elbow strikes on their opponents, and this fighting style is beautifully depicted by Lalli, showing everything from the fighter’s stance to a freeze frame of a kick connecting. The artwork isn’t quite the hyperkinetic action one would find in an anime, but its grounded depiction of one-on-one combat grounds the overall story.
This book is made for those with a martial arts mindset, but it’s less about Mortal Kombat-style fatalities and more about the spiritual side of martial arts, how martial arts help people discover who they are, what they’re capable of, and especially what is important in life. Joanna might not be doing feats that made Seagal and Van Damme famous, but one could argue that she is a more evolved form of martial artist for this more emotionally and socially aware time.
Eight Limbs By Stephanie Phillips Art by Giulia Lalli Humanoids Life Drawn, 2023 ISBN: 9781643375861
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Horror fans, and even those who aren’t horror fans, are familiar with the murderous exploits of supernatural killers like Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, but very few people wonder what these killers do when they’re not killing. Where do they go to escape the authorities? Where exactly does a seven-foot tall behemoth with a hockey mask and machete go to blend in? He and others like him go to Wilmhurst, a gated community for a very specific type of monster. This is the premise of Where Monsters Lie, written by Kyle Starks and illustrated by Piotr Kowalski.
The book introduces readers to many of Wilmhurst’s residents. These include Pearl and Frankie, a woman in a relationship with a murderous doll, and nigh-indestructible murderer Daniel Dawson. It is, in fact, Dawson who ends up creating one of Wilmhurst’s biggest threats by letting someone survive. Said survivor, Connor Hayes, is a former special agent that has trained both body and mind to deal with these kinds of killers, and he has amassed an army of police officers to breach Wilmhurst’s defenses and finally stop the monsters who call Wilmhurst home.
The premise of the book seems too thin to sustain a multi-issue story, but Starks gets a lot of mileage with Wilmhurst’s various citizens, most of them being thinly-veiled homages (or even parodies) of well-known horror icons. One such example is Professor Puzzleman, who murders his victims with over-complicated death traps like Jigsaw from the Saw series, except the professor seems much less competent.
This dark humor is also reflected in Kowalski’s artwork, especially how he depicts violence. When the police descend on Wilmhurst, it’s a murder spree full of graphic yet comedic violence as the murderers become the victims. The color red is generously applied to the page and sharp instruments of all kinds are used to sever appendages and slice jugulars. Starks’s comedic tone pairs perfectly with Kowalski’s expressive character designs. The prevalent expressions experienced by many of these killers, along with Connor Hayes, include wild-eyed, psychopathic rage/glee when committing violence and slack-jawed, horrified embarrassment when their murderous plans fly off the rails.
The tagline of the book reads Cabin in the Woods meets Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil and it sums up the book rather well, since it contains the metafictive deconstruction of horror tropes seen in “Cabin” paired with the gory violence bordering on slapstick seen in Tucker and Dale. Naturally, adult fans of either or both of those films will like this title, as well as any fans of slasher horror. That said, the ending of this first volume might feel incomplete to some, though it’s just as bonkers as the rest of the book, but that incompleteness might excite slasher fans who love a good sequel.
Where Monsters Lie Vol. 01 By Kyle Starks Art by Piotr Kowalski Dark Horse, 2023 ISBN: 9781506734200
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
As countless movies, shows, biographies, and behind-the-scenes documentaries have shown us, being famous is a double-edged sword. Fame puts people on pedestals, but that just means those on pedestals can’t reach anyone down below. Yet no matter how much the so-called dark side of fame is covered, people still crave celebrity and social media has made it more accessible than ever. Another bit of media that deserves a dark-side-of-celebrity tag is Parasocial. Written by Alex De Campi and illustrated by Erica Henderson, Parasocial is a new take on the well-known trope of obsession turned dangerous.
This story’s object of obsession is Luke Indiana, a star whose brightness has considerably waned. Once the breakout star of a sci-fi show, he now makes his money traveling the convention circuit while also soaking up his fans’ adoration (of course, he’s also staying safe during the pandemic). At one convention, Luke runs into his biggest fan, then runs into her again when he’s stranded out on a desert road. Lily’s Good Samaritan act is the perfect opportunity for her to capture Luke and bring him to her trailer, where celebrity and stalker engage in a battle of wits and wills that just might darken Luke’s star permanently.
A lot of people might compare this story to Stephen King’s Misery, but compared to King’s gradual horror, De Campi’s story is like riding a bullet train. Within the confines of this single graphic novel, De Campi reveals Luke’s backstory, that of an actor whose focus on himself is to the detriment of those around him, and then takes off with Luke’s abduction and attempts to escape. Luke might be a shallow, narcissistic actor, but readers will root for his escape as he learns to dig deep within himself. Lily is not a monster like Misery’s Annie Wilkes; she simply wants Luke to reciprocate her feelings for him. The dichotomy of the two characters actually highlights their symmetries and makes their dialogue intriguing.
What helps move this story along at a frenetic pace is Henderson’s artwork. The contrast between the fine-boned, strikingly handsome features of Luke and the more realistic yet average appearance of Lily shows through images which side of the fan/celebrity spectrum both fall even before De Campi’s story starts scratching their individual surfaces. The standout of Henderson’s artwork, however, is when she evokes social media. Whether it’s through text messages or Instagram posts, these panels keep the story moving without getting bogged down by exposition while also exploring the boundary between the persona social media sees and the reality.
This book is a self-contained story that doesn’t go across multiple volumes, which might be appealing to those looking for a quick, exciting read. Adults who love graphic novels, a good thriller, and a story that doesn’t demand too much of their time should savor this surprisingly filling story.
Parasocial By Alex De Campi Art by Erica Henderson Image, 2023 ISBN: 9781534399372
It might be hard to believe, but there was a time when Marvel superheroes weren’t necessarily everywhere. They couldn’t be streamed directly into your television any time you wanted. Many of these heroes may have already found their way onto lunchboxes and underwear, but the one place kids were guaranteed to find their adventures was on the comics rack. For a few cents from a hard-earned allowance, a kid could catch up on the latest adventures of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. This is the world Patrick McDonnell, creator of the comic strip Mutts, remembers fondly and his book The Super Hero’s Journey clearly shows his love for these heroes.
Doctor Doom has realized another nefarious plot that will bring him closer to his goal of world domination. Superheroes are too busy arguing with each other to stop Doom’s plans; things look dire. Luckily, Uatu the Watcher has decided he must no longer merely watch and must once again interfere (his usual M.O., honestly) in order to set things right, all while creator McDonnell illustrates what these comics truly mean to him and why they have stood the test of time.
This particular work is hard to categorize. If just looking at the overall plot, it seems like a book that could be stuck in a library’s children’s department until a well-meaning parent checks it out for their child to read. However, McDonnell is doing more than just reskinning a story and calling it his own. He’s incorporated biographical information about himself and how as a child he was drawn to these heroes. He’s brought in quotes from deeply spiritual writers like Eckart Tolle and Henry David Thoreau. This book is less a story on defeating Doctor Doom than it is defeating mental and spiritual obstacles that hold humanity back, an idea he claims that Marvel books illustrate. This deceptively simple story is a love letter to the Marvel Universe that also introduces a discussion of what these stories say about the human and superhuman condition.
The panels McDonnell chooses also illustrate that this is more than just another story where superheroes ban together to stop a greater threat (no offense to Thanos and Avengers: End Game). The panels incorporated into this book show his admiration for comic book luminaries like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. McDonnell also inserts his own drawings, which add a surprising humanity to these superhumans. Uatu goes from looking like an omniscient cosmic being to just a Good Samaritan who wants to help the people he’s found stranded on the road.
While this book would be ideal for any adult collection frequented by patrons who love not just the Marvel movies but the Marvel books of yore, it might also be a hard sell for some. Librarians may find they have to contextualize the book, explaining that, although McDonnell might be known for a comic strip with cute animals, this super hero’s journey is quite ambitious.
The Super Hero’s Journey By Patrick McDonnell Abrams, 2023 ISBN: 9781419769108
Publisher Age Rating: Preschool and up NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Horror readers might be familiar with the name Stephen Graham Jones. A writer of indigenous fiction that features slashers, werewolves, and vengeful spirits, Jones is steadily becoming a household name in horror. Having already won major horror and science fiction awards like the Stoker from the Horror Writers Association and the Locus Award from Locus magazine, Jones and his fiction has appeared on the New York Times best seller list. However, he’s not a writer who just rests on his laurels. Like many writers who’ve been in the writing game for a while, he isn’t just sticking to just one medium; he’s also broken into comics. His most recent foray into storytelling through words and pictures is Earthdivers Vol. 1: Kill Columbus. Illustrated by Davide Gianfelice, Earthdivers is a time travel epic about the dangers of trying to unravel history and how bloody such undertakings can be.
The book begins in a post-apocalyptic future, where much of humanity has retreated from a broken and dying earth. The story follows a group of indigenous survivors who discover a cave that allows those who enter to travel through time. These survivors decide that the only way to save the world is traveling back in time, killing Christopher Columbus, and preventing the creation of America. However, the man they send to accomplish this task, a linguist named Tad, might not have the skills or the mentality necessary to kill Columbus before he and his ships reach the New World. Not to mention that messing with any timeline is bound to create some truly horrifying consequences.
Though most of this story is head-spinning time travel science fiction, Jones’ signature style is obvious, not only in the subject matter as it deals with the plight of Indigenous peoples from different moments in time, but in how the story moves. Jones is foremost an efficient writer, never letting flowery language or unnecessary explanations slow down the plot. With the time travel narrative wreaking havoc on the order of events, readers will have to pay attention or lose track of what’s happening. That simply makes Jones’ story a roller coaster ride where readers will enjoy the story even if they feel like they’re gripping the safety bar with white knuckles. Sticking with Jones’ story will reward readers with a wild tale full of horror with occasional snatches of humor and heart.
And speaking of horror, Davide Gianfelice proves he is the right artist for Jones’ story. This story does get bloody and Gianfelice shows he has the chops to depict the red stuff flowing out of the body in a variety of ways while the supernatural elements (or whatever fever dream hallucinations Tad is seeing) can raise a reader’s hackles. He also shows a penchant for detailing more mundane details that help immerse readers. He depicts various characters, from the slightly futuristic-looking survivors to the surly sailors in the 15th century, in a way that grounds the story in reality before those characters’ bodies and minds are put through various traumas.
Writers often experiment with different mediums with varying levels of success. They might alienate fans of their earlier work or even show that are ill-equipped to create in the new medium. It is fortunate that Jones does not have that problem. This is a great choice for graphic novel selectors who want a robust horror section and is an excellent choice if the selector serves patrons who are fans of Stephen Graham Jones.
Earthdivers, Vol. 1: Kill Columbus By Stephen Graham Jones Art by Davide Gianfelice IDW, 2023 ISBN: 9798887240459
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Charles M. Schulz’s name is as synonymous with comic strips as printer’s ink. His comic strip Peanuts moved beyond newspapers and into books, television, movies, and even products like snow cone machines. Peanuts’ lead character Charlie Brown has never kicked the football held in place by Lucy Van Pelt and that fact has been a consistent metaphor for Charlie Brown’s existence. Though Schulz (or “Sparky” to his friends) had a great deal more professional success as a cartoonist than Charlie Brown received at sports, there are many similarities between the cartoonist and his socially awkward, self-deprecating creation. Artist Luca Debus and writer Francesco Matteuzzi explore the parallels between Sparky and Charlie Brown in the biography Funny Things: A Comic Strip Biography of Charles M. Schulz, and in a format the icon known as Sparky would appreciate.
Charles “Sparky” Schulz was a boy growing up in Minnesota with lofty aspirations of becoming a cartoonist. Sparky was never an outgoing child, more willing to talk about his drawings than about himself. But he managed to live an interesting life. Even before he created the Peanuts characters, Sparky was a staff sergeant during WWII, active in his church, and an avid hockey player. Thanks to Charlie Brown, Sparky worked in television, traveled the world, and gained a fanbase that continues to grow. However, he still had his “Charlie Brown moments” where he would feel anxious and awkward, whether fretting about his interactions with others or considering the nature of the universe. Even in his final days, Sparky needed to be convinced that he was indeed beloved by his family and by his many fans.
This work is biographical, but its format and its humor keeps it from ever getting dry. The creators tell Schulz’s story using four panel comic strips that tell a continuous story, from his early childhood through his two marriages and from the early beginnings of his singular creation to near the end of his life when a stroke and various health problems forced him into retirement. The scope of Schulz’s life, as presented by Debus and Matteuzzi, is broad but skims over what could be darker moments of the book, such as how Sparky’s infidelity broke up his marriage or how Schulz’s father died suddenly just as his studio burned down. This book might not be for those who prefer their biographies to show a subject’s ugly secrets, but its lighter tone makes it a testament to the subject who inspired it.
The book pays homage to Charles Schulz, and Debus’s artwork does so by referencing the medium that made him famous. Telling Schulz’s story through four panel comics (with occasional larger, full-color comics) is like opening up the comics page of the newspaper. This “funny pages” look extends to the characters that populated Schulz’s life, especially Schulz at different ages, from quietly anxious child to shy, creative adult. The overall book is over four-hundred pages of these panels, but the breaking up of these moments in Schulz’s life into four panel comics, which are quite humorous, keep this biography from being a complete slog. There may be a question of authenticity, as there’s always the question of how much accurate information was sacrificed for the punchline. Nevertheless, it gives the highlights of Schulz’s life and portrays him as very much like Charlie Brown; serious, self-effacing, and surprisingly deep.
Librarians might be tempted to simply put this into their graphic novel collections, but it would be better served in their biography shelves. Even if it’s using pictures and panels to tell its story, its story of Schulz the artist, husband, father, and spiritual man is an enjoyable exploration into what made the man who made Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
Funny Things: A Comic Strip Biography of Charles M. Schulz By Francesco Matteuzzi Art by Luca Debus Top Shelf, 2023 ISBN: 9781603095266
Death is a natural part of life, and in fiction, death (or at least the personification of death) will often have a starring role. Sometimes, death isn’t just one person but an enterprise dedicated to getting souls to their final resting place, and that is the case in the universe of Grim, Vol. 1 and Vol 2. Written by Stephanie Phillips and illustrated by Flaviano, Grim is a journey through an imaginative, visually vibrant afterlife on a road paved with well-worn tropes.
At the dark heart of Grim is a reaper named Jessica Harrow. Most reapers are culled from humans who have died, but Jessica does not actually remember how she died or even what her life was before she became a reaper. As she begins to delve into her past, she soon finds herself hunted by her fellow reapers, but her reward is not going to be a peaceful journey to the great beyond.
Readers of dark fantasy and of the “chosen one” trope will find Jessica’s storyline familiar. She is apparently the only one who is capable of fixing what is broken in the natural order because of who or what she is. Vol. 1 has the moment when what Jessica thought she knew is upended, while Vol. 2 showcases her trying to stay one step ahead of the reapers pursuing her. While this basic element of the story is nothing new, Phillips does present some ideas that give it a fresh and vibrant coat of paint. Those familiar with Joseph Campbell and his hero’s journey might recognize Jessica’s companions and fellow reapers. Sardonic rocker Eddie provides the comic relief, while Marcel, the obvious straight man, serves as the group’s stalwart, brooding rock. What really stands out, however, is how Phillips reinterprets some notable entities like the Fates, making them colorful drag queens instead of cloaked hags..
They travel through a world that is beautifully rendered by Flaviano. The afterlife Jessica and her friends move through is full of shadowy stone arches and austere Gothic spires, scenery that is both alien and familiar. Even the scythes, the reaper’s traditional weapon, is given a visual upgrade that makes it look like it’s part of an ‘90s action figure’s accessories. Even the very pedestrian city of Las Vegas is bright and vibrant, a depiction befitting a city that is known for being a brightly colored jewel in a desert.
Grim doesn’t necessarily tell a new story, but it tells its very familiar story well. Fans of this book might have already enjoyed works by Patricia Briggs and Sarah J. Maas, or even YA fiction like that of Suzanne Collins. Its depiction of the afterlife puts it in dark fantasy territory, but Grim overall has the bones of a fantasy adventure.
Grim Vol. 1 and 2 By Stephanie Phillips Art by Flaviano BOOM! Studios, 2023 Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781684158829 Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781684159055
Publisher Age Rating: 16 years and up NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Even those who don’t own a Netflix subscription are familiar with the show Stranger Things. Many have noticed how the series sparked a wave of intellectual properties that uses the show’s spooky ‘80s nostalgia. Some properties may feel derivative while other properties use the Stranger Things atmosphere to create something that tugs at the heartstrings while serving up pulse-pounding thrills with a generous side of B movie horror that sticks to the ribs like gravy and biscuits. One such book is The Rock Gods of Jackson, Tennessee, written by Rafer Roberts and illustrated by Mike Norton.
One can be forgiven for not having heard of the Rock Gods of Jackson, Tennessee (so as not to confuse them with the other Rock Gods). But they’re an immediately lovable group of rockers, even if they aren’t the coolest. There’s the band’s overeager mouthpiece and emotional center Doug, gentle giant Lenny, and rebel-inside-a-strict-household Jonny. Along with juvenile delinquent Marty, who is by far the coolest of the group, they have a chance to open for world famous Tommi Tungsten and show everyone who thought they were losers that they’re anything but. However, a stampede of mutant pigs capable of destroying their town might upend their rock n’ roll dreams.
Rafer Roberts’s story feels like if Stranger Things took place a little further south and didn’t take itself too seriously. This band’s members might not have the cool factor of Metallica or Mötley Crüe (or even Warrant), but Roberts makes them all immediately relatable. Doug has a surplus of confidence but a dearth of musical talent. Lenny is constantly being misjudged because of his size. Jonny is desperately trying to break free of his religious upbringing. Even Marty, the truly talented one, is enduring a less-than-stellar home life. These are the lovable heroes that are destined to save the day in their heroic but comedic manner.
There is an element of danger, one that is beautifully portrayed with a countdown up to the concert, but the danger is never too dark. Norton’s artwork strays far from any kind of realism, going more for a clean animation style that gives a certain lightness to the book more reminiscent of ‘80s B-horror movies. This book doesn’t skimp on the gory effects. There’s no shortage of mutated pigs (some even have extra heads!) and several characters die seemingly out of nowhere. Even when the book is having the citizens of Jackson, Tennessee be pig food, the story never loses its heart and that’s the friendship that, in this moment of Jackson’s near destruction, binds the Rock Gods of Jackson, Tennessee.
Those who have lived during the ‘80s (or loved ‘80s metal) will love this book as well as horror fans who don’t mind having a few giggles with their gore. The book’s writing and its characters, both past and present, ground this horror book and prevent it from being just another blood-splattered book or Stranger Things knockoff.
The Rock Gods of Jackson, Tennessee By Rafer Roberts Art by Mike Norton Dark Horse Books, 2023 ISBN: 9781506729404
Publisher Age Rating: 13-16 years
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Horror fans can spot each other in a crowd. Sometimes it’s by whether a horror icon like Freddy or Jason adorns their shirt or is plastered on their vehicle’s window in sticker form. Horror fans can also spot each other by what they say, whether it’s discussing the films that make up the horror genre or specific lines from these films. Horror fans who happen to be creators will also let their love for horror slip into their work; some even allow it to permeate in very meta ways. The book Evil Cast, Vol. 1, by writer and podcaster Kyle Stück and artist Enrico Orlandi, is a supernatural romp that serves as a fitting, almost gushing, love letter to the genre.
This is one instance where the writer literally injects himself (and his fellow podcast host) into the story. Kyle and his partner Noah Baslé, in the real world, do the Humming Fools podcast that interviews artists and creatives. In the Evil Cast universe, they host a podcast that is dedicated to debunking supernatural phenomena. Then, Noah starts having dreams which pull both men into a world just beyond our perception. They are both quite familiar with the tropes that make up horror movies, but what happens to all their knowledge when the tropes become real?
Stück’s story attempts to ask that question as the two podcasters find themselves ill-equipped to handle the strangeness they’ve fallen into yet are also the only ones around to deal with it. The comic isn’t necessarily original, but it doesn’t need to be. The entire world that Kyle and Noah occupy is built with the bricks of modern and classic horror references. Even the setup of Kyle and Noah investigating the supernatural feels like an episode of ‘90s hit The X-Files, except there are no FBI agents and both men are the skeptics. The rest of this volume’s story is both men being fish out of water until they slowly realize that the stories they discussed and dismantled on their podcast might have had more truth than they originally thought.
As they embark on their odyssey into the unknown, the tone of the book becomes readily apparent, having less to do with the movies referenced in the variant covers expertly drawn by Orlandi. It has more to do with the classic cartoon Scooby-Doo, which featured a group of kids and their talking dog solving mysteries (Admittedly, younger and perhaps hipper fans will probably think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The horrors encountered by Kyle and Noah are harrowing but the humor elements keep the terror from becoming too oppressive. The banter of Kyle and Noah is so fast-paced, reading their exchanges sometimes feels like watching a competitive tennis match, but Orlandi’s art style also keeps the story moving. The artwork is similar to what Mike Mignola did for Hellboy, but the brighter colors help the book strike the appropriate balance among comedy, horror, and action-adventure.
To say that this book is for horror fans feels like saying the blood in this book’s pages is red. Librarians looking to cater to the diehard horror hounds among their patrons should give this book a look. Continuing volumes will hopefully flesh out the story that looks to remain a fun dark ride.
Evil Cast Vol. 1 By Kyle Stück Art by Enrico Orlandi Markosia Enterprises, 2023 ISBN: 9781915860132
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Ecuadorian, Character Representation: Ecuadorian,