DC Horror Presents The Conjuring: The Lover

People of a certain age might remember sitting in front of their televisions or going to their local cinemas and watching some horror anthology series. Rather than one complete narrative, these series usually featured a collection of stories that all ended with some kind of gory or terrifying twist. They might be connected by one overarching story, but the stories themselves could vary in tone and even quality. DC’s new foray into horror utilizes this format while connecting itself to the latest movie in The Conjuring franchise. However, DC Horror Presents The Conjuring: The Lover can claim itself a prequel to the movie The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, but it owes way more to those classic horror anthology series of the past.

The main story, written by David L. Johnson-McGoldrick and Rex Ogle, focuses on young Jessica who is having a tough time adjusting to college life. Not only does Jessica miss her best friend, she feels a supernatural presence following her, one that is making her paranoid as well as isolating her from friends and family with terrifying results. Along with the main story, there are small stories focused on the artifacts found in the artifact room of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the protagonists of The Conjuring series. These stories, written by popular comic writers like Scott Snyder and Tim Seeley, range from tales of cursed music boxes to a wedding dress with a dark history.

One problem with anthology series featuring different writers and creators is the quality of each story typically ends up uneven; there might be some good stories sprinkled among the lackluster ones. However, the stories, both the main tale and the multiple artifact stories, are all pretty solid. Johnson-McGoldrick and Ogle’s story is a textbook example of slow burn that comes dangerously close to too slow for many readers, but the writers give Jessica enough layers and create enough of a sense of tragedy that she garners the readers’ sympathies. The other stories make use of their limited space and tell complete, forceful narratives that deliver sickeningly satisfying twists.

Garry Brown’s artwork in the main story feels very familiar to fans of the Conjuring movie series, with long panoramic views of rooms where Jessica is in one corner and something sinister is hiding in the other corner, which is draped in shadow. The artwork in the Artifact stories, though done by varying artists like Denys Cowen and Kelley Jones, all rely on slight variations of a realistic, painted style that makes the book almost feel like a Vertigo comic from the 1980’s. But what really plunges this book into bloody nostalgia are the spoof ads scattered throughout, all of them presenting the dark humor of many of those shows the overall book draws from.

Though this book says it connected to the Conjuring, serving as a prequel of sorts, it is in the most tangential way. Many of the stories in this book could simply stand alone in a horror anthology.This book is not only for adult horror fans, but for horror fans that fondly remember anthology series (or are younger and just now discovering them). If they are checking out DVDs of Creepshow and Tales from the Darkside, this would be a great recommended read.

DC Horror Presents: The Conjuring: The Lover
By Katie Kubert, Editor
Art by  Steve Cook, Design Editor
DC, 2022
ISBN: 9781779515087Related media:  Comic to Movie

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

Alice in Borderland

Welcome to Borderland. You’ll be dying to stick around.

In volume 1 of Haro Aso’s Alice in Borderland, life is simple, if a bit of a letdown, for eighteen-year-old Arisu and his friend Chota. Obsessed with girls and unconcerned with school, the boys spend their time skipping class and hanging out with older dropout Karube at his bar. Weighed down with family and social pressure as well as dwindling hope for the future, the trio have accepted their lot in life. All that changes with a visit to a fireworks show and a flash of blinding light.

They wake up in their own town—now rundown and absent of any people. Unsure whether they’ve been transported to the future or some alternate dimension, the three embrace their new adventure until they meet a woman named Shibuki—a woman who calls this strange landscape Borderland and reveals that it is not the grand opportunity they first believed. Borderland is an arena. Every night features games where the stakes are life and death—and the only way to stay alive is to keep playing. With no idea who controls Borderland, the four survivors must work together to face the challenges and uncover any way to get home. There are many players in Borderland, but not all of them are friendly. And many will not be going home alive.

Written and drawn by Haro Aso, the story takes its time establishing the characters before charging headlong into the tension of their new predicament. The manga is weakest at its opening, in part because neither Arisu or Chota is particularly likeable when we first encounter them. As the story continues, Aso weaves in flashbacks alongside the main action, giving the reader insight into the struggles each faces and deepening our investment in their survival. It is these secret motivations, in part, that helped bring them to Borderland for this twisted version of a chance to change their fates. Each of the four central characters brings a key strength to the group’s survival, and with each new player introduced, Aso lays the groundwork for future plotlines. Volume 1 is an exciting read on its own, and its promise of future stories makes it a strong introduction to the series.

The art has comfortably familiar manga stylings. There are some strange flourishes—particularly in characters’ expressions—but Aso largely captures the events and emotions of both quiet moments and action sequences in clear detail. In particular, the visuals shine during some of the most sinister moments of the second game, keeping the unfolding action clear while also building tension and drawing the reader into the nail-biting efforts of the characters just to see another sunrise.

The publisher rates Alice in Borderland Mature for depictions of violence and death. Along with some language and suggestive content, it’s certainly a manga aimed at more mature readers. While the themes and violence are intense at times, the content is not so extreme as to be unsuitable for older teens. With a mix of teenage and adult characters, mature teens and adults alike will certainly find something to appreciate here—especially for fans of Battle Royale and The Hunger Games as well as the more recent Squid Game on Netflix. A strong first volume with lots of thematic and action promise for future chapters, Alice in Borderland is a worthy addition to any collection with older manga readers. And with the 2020 live-action adaptation of this manga available on Netflix as well, having this series on the shelf carries the added benefit of drawing in any reader curious about the source material.

Mystery, action, and high-stakes survival—Alice in Borderland, Volume 1 is bold enough to pull you in and has enough layers to keep you thinking about it even after the last body has hit the floor.

Alice in Borderland Vol. 1
By Haro Aso
VIZ, 2022
ISBN: 9781974728374

Publisher Age Rating: M
Related media:  Comic to Movie

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation:  Japanese,  Character Representation: Japanese,

Classic Fantastic: Blade of the Immortal

What It’s About?
It is the mid-Tokugawa era in Japan, and wandering samurai Manji’s body is infested with healing worms that make him extremely difficult to kill. This “gift” of immortality is actually a curse for his bloody history of killing 100 men, including his sister’s husband. He has been told by a mystic that the cure is to kill 1,000 evil men, so when a young woman by the name of Rin begs him for protection and vengeance against an upstart martial combat school, Manji and Rin’s paths become one. For the first omnibus or so, this is the gist of the series, but the cast, setting, and motivations blossom and take on lives of their own, and blessedly so.

By the end of the series, there are several perspectives separately driving the narrative, each applying different moral standards to the problems at hand. As the body count rises, cycles of vengeance are set in motion and allowed to drive characters to the point of obsession and mutilation. The initial “villain” of the series, Anotsu, seeks to break the established, relatively coddled order of peacetime sword discipline, attracting a motley crew of anything-goes killers. The Japanese government, in turn, hires agents and assassins to counter their movement, leading to Manji and Rin stumbling into conflicts far greater than they imagined. Selfishness, duty, ambiguity, ambition – watching characters clash as they pursue and escape one another is a perpetual highlight of the series. The story’s heights often involve pushing a conflict to its absolute boiling point then swapping to another scene and letting the reader’s dramatic irony detector in their brain go off like fireworks as the scenarios converge. The effect is downright Proustian and never gets old.

As the series goes on, there is a kind of a meta element in tracking Hiroaki Samura’s storytelling style and observing how he breaks out of his own conventions. Really cool sword fights as dramatic climaxes go a long way—Samura takes “swordsman passes by an opponent at the moment of evisceration” to a whole new level. As that effect becomes regular to the point of predictable, Samura sidelines the immortal Manji in order to focus on the motives and checkered pasts of ambitiously doomed characters, elevating the series to something admirable. Just about everyone is participating in a suicide squad of sorts for different reasons, and readers might find themselves rooting against Manji by the end. Shonen tropes like “fighting for my friends” or “proving I’m the best” sometimes apply, but character arcs also delve into how to let go of hatred or commit oneself to selfless acts.

Notable Notes
Samura’s style is one of a kind, and tracking its evolution throughout the series is another joy. He dropped out of art school to make Blade of the Immortal, and he cites classic art in interviews about his inspirations.There are pages that set a scene just so, that are more exhilarating than the standout duels and close calls. Samura and his team are masters of using touches of white to create highlights across landscapes, rooms, and faces that will stop you in your tracks. A spot of moonlight in a starless sky, a slice of brightness on the edge of someone’s cheek, a glowing torch advertising safety off in the distance – the fights are fast and heavy, but the quiet moments know how to command attention, too.

Consider this series rated M with good reason, and it’s not just lopped limbs and four-letter words. Characters have sex, including with prostitutes, and one long-running sadistic antagonist in particular derives pleasure from raping while murdering. Women are not strictly victims in this series—several are skilled, principled fighters who absolutely hold their own—but there are nonetheless a lot of violated women.

Having said that, the drama and carnage sometimes serve as a backdrop that makes the chapters of traveling and humor utter delights. The series earns big laughs whenever it slows down to show characters commenting on their journeys thus far or airing rumors about characters they haven’t seen in a while. Manji, Rin, and the rest are prone to exclaiming out loud when a situation gets out of control or downright weird (such as having to retrieve Manji’s body parts following a fight), which is another humorous highlight.

The “Demon Lair” arc is one of the greatest sustained combinations of setup, confrontation, and payoff I’ve ever read in action manga. It’s the culmination of Blade of the Immortal’s unique mixture of realism, anachronisms, sci-fi, and horror. It will spoil your expectations for arcs to come, for slow-burn schemes in other manga, and even for D&D campaigns.

Blade of the Immortal has been adapted into two different anime series, a live-action movie, and a novel.
The series won Japan’s Media Arts Award in 1997 and an Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material in 2000.

Blade of the Immortal influenced Naruto’s creator, Masashi Kishimoto, in a number of ways, including his style, plotting, and character design.

As if you needed more proof this series came about in the 90s, the English release reads left to right! This is no simple mirror flip – a “cut and paste” method was used to manually move panels around. Each volume contains a deeper explanation of this as well as Samura’s sound effects and anachronistic dialog.
Manji wears a giant Buddhist swastika on his back, and every volume of the series includes a lengthy disclaimer explaining the honorable history of the symbol and how it’s different from the Nazi swastika.

Uninitiated readers may gravitate toward the bloody sword action and Manji’s cocky attitude, but the picaresque plotting and elegant dramatic build-ups are what usher this manga into the Classic Fantastic.

Why Should You Own This?
Each three-in-one omnibus is $22, which is a great deal for one of the best samurai manga ever made. And for the dedicated collector or librarian with money to spend, Dark Horse will be releasing a deluxe, hardcover omnibus edition in October of 2020, which will retail for $49.00.

Classic Fantastic: Blade of the Immortal
By Hiroaki Samura

Omnibus I9781506701240
Omnibus II9781506701325
Omnibus III9781506701721
Omnibus IV9781506705699
Omnibus V9781506705675
Omnibus VI9781506705682
Omnibus VII9781506706559
Omnibus VIII9781506708171
Omnibus IX9781506708188
Omnibus X9781506708195

Dark Horse, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)
Series Reading Order: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blade_of_the_Immortal (Wikipedia or Goodreads)

Browse for more like this title
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)
Character Traits: Japanese
Creator Highlights: BIPOC Creator
Related to…: Comic to Movie, Comic to TV

The Empty Man: Recurrence

In 2014, Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey introduced their horror series The Empty Man to horror and thriller lovers alike. Now, Cullen is back with a second installment in the series that focuses on one family and the pandemic that is now affecting their family and attracting the attention of a faction of groups, none of which anyone is sure they can trust. Get ready for some gore, scares, and ideas so disturbing they might just remind readers of what is currently happening in our modern day political and societal atmosphere.

The Kerry’s are a regular family, living their lives, going to school and to work, until one day Melissa, mother to teenager daughter Vicki and wife to husband Andrew, starts experiencing changes that look very familiar to what both Vicki and Andrew are seeing on the news. There are definite indications that something is taking over Melissa, her psyche, and her life. As the family watches with horror, they see the self-mutilation and irrational thoughts and actions that Melissa is exhibiting, but how can they desert her in her time of need? How can they turn her over to the government, or worse, the shadow groups that have developed to “cure” the afflicted by any means necessary, not knowing if they will ever see her again? When a strange group, the so-called Whisper Oracles, shows up at their door knowing that Melissa is infected, Andrew is skeptical and turns them away. But then Vicki is approached at school by two people who say they want to help her mother—but everything isn’t always what it seems. Maybe these two outsiders can help keep the Kerry family together and, hopefully, cure whatever it is that is affecting Melissa and what intends to infect their entire nation and world—The Empty Man.

The story Bunn and Del Rey tell is compelling and terrifying in such a way that readers can immediately relate what is happening in the story—albeit it make believe—to what is happening in our political and social discourse in the world today. “The Empty Man Made Me Do It” is always left scrawled in blood, paint, or who knows what on places where something horrific has happened in his name. More and more residents are infected and start to die because of this untreatable and unknowable disease. How can society fight back against something they don’t know, see, or understand? What they are soon to find out is that The Empty Man is real, and the terror he brings with him will infect everyone unless he can be stopped… but, how?

The illustrations are beautifully rendered in dark and sepia tones, portraying a world that is bleak and dark. Everything is drawn with a dream-like soft and flowing quality that furthers the feeling that readers are in some sort of dream-like state themselves, wondering what is real and what is The Empty Man’s influence. Darkness and bleakness permeate the terrifying and hallucinatory type of illustrations, which fits the story perfectly. Panels are laid out traditionally, with lettering often spanning across pages to further the terror that permeates through families, walls, towns, and Earth.

The Empty Man: Recurrence is a great book for older teen and adult horror and thriller readers due to the amount of violence, gore, and blood that is integral to the story. This book, while part of a series, is also a perfect standalone book for those who haven’t read the original series from 2014. A perfect read for a dark and spooky winter night with all the lights off save for the slight glow illuminating the engrossing and terror-inducing pages.

The Empty Man: Recurrence
By Cullen Bunn
Art by Jesús Hervás, Niko Guardia
ISBN: 9781684153565
Boom! Studios, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 15+

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Writing about adaptations, whether from book to movie or vice versa, is always tricky business. Can you judge a work solely in a single medium or should you review it against the another medium? Can you judge the medium solely on its own merits or will your opinion be influenced by the other form(s)? Like I said, tricky.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is the compilation of issues #1-6 of Mark Millar’s Kingsman comic, which was originally published as a trade collection in 2012. With the advent of the movie with the same name, the book was republished in 2014 to much acclaim, and was republished again in 2017 with a new cover as a tie-in for the second Kingsman movie, Kingsman: The Golden Circle.


Back to the comics: the story begins when our anti-hero, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, is jailed after a night of debauchery and car stealing. Saved by Jack London, an uncle he’s barely seen, he learns Jack is part of the secret service and Eggsy will be given one chance and one chance only to clean up his life by following his uncle’s footsteps. After much hesitation, but ultimately wanting a better life for his mom and baby brother, Eggsy agrees.

The chapters carry the parallel stories of Eggsy’s education and determination on getting out of the situations and passing his classes; such as sniper training and carjacking, and etiquette lessons and the story of Dr. James Arnold. Arnold is a millennial billionaire psychopath, who is convinced the only way to save the planet is by killing 75% of the population, and he has the means and intent to do so.

As the storyline’s progress, Eggsy is running against the clock as Dr. Arnold attempts to take over the world. James Bond-style gadgets, physical prowess, and spy genre conventions are employed throughout the storyline, so for fans of this kind of action/spy drama, there aren’t a lot of surprises. Pop culture references are peppered throughout. The action is well paced and tight within each chapter, however the writing can get a little sloppy at times with plot devices dropped and picked up again rather than followed straight through. Another problem is the use of technobabble by Dr. Arnold and his minions when they talk about the electronics they are using to obliviate the planet’s population. Their plan makes no technical sense. To the casual reader it will not be a deterrent, but it may be irksome to anyone with more than a passing interest in computers and technology in general. Overall, these inconveniences do not make the book any less entertaining to read.

A potential big problem with the story, and one I argue with myself on what stance I take, is the casual racism exhibited by Dean, Eggsy’s stepfather, and Sir Giles, a contemporary of Jack’s. On one hand, I argue with myself, you can illustrate these characters without falling into stereotypes of other cultures. Dean is an uneducated, gruff, from the streets kind of man and Sir Giles is an upper-crust landed gentry who sees everyone not of his status as below him. On the other hand, the casual racism is exactly the perfect way to illustrate the way these men’s upbringing has created a flawed understanding of the world around them. Your mileage may vary.

The art is on pace with the subject manner. The characters are well realized and expressive, the subject matter is clear with bloody parts that look like bloody parts and not just red coloring against the background. I did not find the art to be bad or good, it just is what you’d expect from a book that wavers between trying to be entertaining and be provocative. However, what did impress me was Ambrosia, Dr. Arnold’s girlfriend, whose skin tone is that of a person of colormade more striking by the fact that there are no other people of color in the book. (A note on representation for readers who are familiar with the filmin the book Dr. Arnold is white while the movie’s villain, Valentine, is played by Samuel L. Jackson, who is black and his henchwoman, Gazelle, played by is the French-Algerian actor Sofia Boutella.). Another kudo to the artist for drawing Ambrosia’s body realistically; it’s a relief that for once, a woman looks like a woman and not a Barbie doll.  

The storyline in the movie is 85% true to the book, which is a good indicator of how well the book is written and received. I recommend this book to libraries wanting to collect movie adaptations and tie-in covers but not necessarily if they already have a copy of a previous edition of the graphic novel that are in good shape. I would not, due to mature content, violence, and images, recommend this for teen audiences. But I would recommend it to readers who enjoy a bit of James Bond-esque adventure and may be new to the Kingsman world.

KINGSMAN: The Secret Service
by Mark Millar
Art by Dave Gibbons
ISBN: 9781534305229
Image, 2017


Wonder Woman, vol. 2: Year One and The Legend of Wonder Woman, vol. 1: Origins

With the Wonder Woman movie having a successful summer at the box office and multiple comics depicting Diana’s origin being released in the past year, it’s a great time to compare how the different elements of her origin are being presented.

The most recent origin published is Wonder Woman, vol. 2:  Year One by Greg Rucka and artist Nicola Scott. Rucka and Scott are both familiar with Wonder Woman as they have worked on the character for years. Year One describes how Diana leaves Themyscira (also known as Paradise Island) to live in the contemporary DC Comics world. Steve Trevor’s plane crash is the impetus for her exile from the Amazon’s world, but most other aspects of her origin are updated or left as a mystery. Rucka expertly modernizes Diana and her supporting characters with believable modern motivations, cultural identities and sexual orientations. Steve is depicted as a competent and caring military man. Etta Candy is a skilled combat tactician and Dr. Minerva (the future Cheetah) is a troubled academic who knows enough to understand Diana’s ancient language.

Much like in the movie, Diana is depicted as new to the ways of man, but not naïve. She takes action but doesn’t surrender her values. Scott’s artwork is realistic and beautiful. She is a good artist for Wonder Woman as she draws women’s’ faces and bodies well from a variety of perspectives. If anything, her male forms seem too perfect, which is an interesting switch from most comics. Rucka and Scott make good choices about when to depict violence and when to leave things to the imagination. For instance, there is a contest to see which Amazon will accompany Steve back to the US. During the final contest, we don’t see how Diana wins, we just get the reveal that she will be the champion as she comes out dressed as Wonder Woman. Later in the book, she defeats someone we think to be Ares through inaction and her golden lasso, not through a drawn out battle scene. Rucka seems determined to focus on Diana’s mission of peace, not her skill at war.

Rucka also seeks to reset her origin story. In recent comics, a major change to Diana’s origin is that she was really a child of Hippolyta and Zeus and not made from clay. The movie Wonder Woman (spoiler alert) also adopts this part of her origin, which explains why she is so powerful. Rucka doesn’t reveal where she comes from, but makes it clear that she has been lied to about many things over the years, including her god-like beginnings. In this story, her powers are bestowed upon her from the ‘patrons’ on Earth, the Greek Gods. All of this serves to open up storytelling possibilities for future writers.

Another recent Wonder Woman book, The Legend of Wonder Woman, vol. 1: Origins by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon, puts Diana back in the context of World War II and takes up the original birth story by having Diana formed from clay. There are many elements of her origin that show up in this book as well. Her training in combat, Steve Trevor’s crash landing, her victory in combat to become the Amazon’s champion, her introduction to the larger world and characters like Etta Candy are represented in both books.

Once away from Paradise Island, the stories diverge quite a bit. In Legend, Diana eventually goes to Europe during WWII in search of an ancient evil, which she fights and defeats. The evil she must ultimately defeats harkens back to Iron Giant and Attack on Titan in some ways. It also connects to DC’s long history in it’s reveal, which should engage longtime comic book fans. In general, her cartooning style is light, funny and visually appealing. Dillon’s coloring does a fantastic job and the artwork really pops off of every page. This story is a delight on many levels.

Both books are worthy library purchases for most teen collections, particularly since there is so much interest in Wonder Woman at the moment. Year One is more graphic and violent in tone and art style. Legend is much more lighthearted and humorous even though it tells a dark story as well. I could see De Liz’s book being appropriate for older elementary kids as well. There is very little blood in the violence depicted in her book, but there are many occult references as the evil Diana must face raising the dead, among other things. It is a shame that DC chose to discontinue De Liz’s take on Wonder Woman. While both books are good, De Liz’s will be the one I will be recommending to kids interested in memorable Wonder Woman stories that capture the hope and lighthearted nature depicted in the movie.

Wonder Woman, vol. 2: Year One
by Greg Rucka
Art by Nicola Scott
ISBN: 9781401268800
DC Comics, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 12+

The Legend of Wonder Woman, vol. 1: Origins
by Renae De Liz
Art by Ray Dillon
ISBN: 9781401267285
DC Comics, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 12+

Must Have: Deadpool

Today’s graphic literature fans are enjoying a golden age of television and movies undreamed of. Whether you’re a fan of superheroics, spy-thrillers, or horror, there’s something for virtually everyone. But what happens when someone goes looking for the books that inspired their favorite shows? More often than not they get confused,.

It’s fairly simple to track down The Walking Dead books. iZombie and Preacher (soon to be a series on AMC) have been collected into neat little volumes. Even the various volumes of Hellblazer aren’t too difficult to navigate for those proud Constantine fans still hoping for a revival on The CW Network. But where do you send the little girls who want to see more Supergirl? The tweens who want to read about The Flash? The teens who want more Green Arrow?

Face Front, True Believers! We’ve got the reading lists to help you save the day!


Thanks to Thomas Maluck (TM) and Jennifer Wharton (JW) for writing the recommendations in this list.

Recommendations are listed alphabetically by title.

Content notes: Content notes for all titles listed here consist of “bloody violence and crude humor”.

Suggested Age Range: Age ranges for all titles list here are “15 and up”

Deadpool, Vol. 1: Dead Presidentsdeadpres

Written by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan
Art by Tony Moore

ISBN: 9780785166801
Published: 2013

Elevator Pitch: This is the first part of a much longer Deadpool series, kicking off here with a SHIELD-assigned black ops mission to take out reanimated ex-presidents (can you imagine the PR nightmare?). Deadpool is happy to play the absurd jester of the Marvel universe, but there’s plenty of tragedy and regret in Wade Wilson’s life in future volumes, too. (TM)

Appeals to: Fans of Deadpool! And ghosts of dead American presidents.


Deadpool by Daniel Way: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1complete

Written by Daniel Way and Andy Diggle
Art by Steve Dillon, Paco Medina, Carlo Barberi, and Bong Dazo

ISBN: 9780785185321
Published: 2013

Elevator Pitch: The Skrulls are attacking and Deadpool is there to save the day. Or join the Skrulls. Or ruin the day. Or…what the heck is he doing? Well, trying to get paid for oncebut he’s going to have to defeat Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers first. Also includes several short stories, including Deadpool going up against Wolverine! (JW)

Appeals to: Fans of Deadpool, Wolverine, and general violence.

[Note: This series was previous collected as Deadpool, Vol. 1: Secret Invasion, Vol. 2: Dark Reign, and Dark Reign: Deadpool/Thunderbolts in 2010.]


Deadpool Classic, Vol. 11: Merc with a Mouthmerc

Written by by Victor Gischler and Mary Choi
Art by Bong Dazo, Kyle Baker, Rob Liefeld, Matteo Scalera, Ken Lashley, and Ed McGuinness

ISBN: 9780785197300
Published: 2015

Elevator Pitch: Deadpool’s zombie head is getting on his…well, it’s getting annoying. It’s time for Headpool to return to the Zombieverse, but getting in is easier than getting out. (JW)

Appeals to: Fans of Marvel Zombies.

[Note: This series previously collected as Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth in 2010.]


Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universekills

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Dalibor Talajic

ISBN: 9780785164036
Published: 2012

Elevator Pitch: An asylum breached by villains attempts to brainwash Deadpool, but instead the voices in his head thin out to just one: a psychotic murderer. What use is Iron Man’s armor or The Hulk’s strength against a determined assassin who can regenerate? The pitch is in the title! (TM)

Appeals to: People who like to start debates with “Who would win?” or have otherwise been itching to see Deadpool square off with a good deal of Marvel characters.


Deadpool vs Thanosthanos

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Elmo Bondoc

ISBN: 9780785198451
Published: 2015

Elevator Pitch: Deadpool is finally going up against his rival for the fair, er, skeletal hand of deathThanos. But could there be another entity in this love triangle? (JW)

Appeals to: Fans of the movie wanting to try some shorter stories, with extra violence and a fun visit to hell.



Deadpool’s Art of Warart

Written by Peter David
Art by Scott Koblish

ISBN: 9780785190974
Published: 2015

Elevator Pitch: Deadpool, acting as a wafer-thin author stand-in, wants to make money from writing a book, so he decides to rip off The Art of War by employing its wisdom on several factions across the Marvel universe. What starts as a prank project starts to take on a life of its own and threatens the world. (TM)

Appeals to: Sun Tzu fans, anyone wanting to see a scheme spiral out of control.


Hawkeye vs. Deadpoolhawkeye

Written by Gerry Duggan
Art by Matteo Lolli and Jacopo Camagni

ISBN: 9780785193104
Published: 2015

Elevator Pitch: Somewhere out there is a flash drive containing the identities of every SHIELD agent, and it’s up to Hawkeye (Clint Barton), Hawkeye (Kate Bishop), and Deadpool to retrieve it! Oh, but Clint was brainwashed to sabotage the whole effort. And nobody wants Deadpool around, which leads to much bickering. (TM)

Appeals to: Fans of goofy crossovers or the Fraction/Aja run of Hawkeye (this book features some visual cues borrowed from that series).


Night of the Living Deadpoolnight

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Ramon Rosanas

ISBN: 2014
Published: 9780785190172

Elevator Pitch: Deadpool wakes from a coma in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and must fight to survive, riffing merrily on zombie movies and tropes along the way. Will Deadpool ever get to marathon Golden Girls again? (TM)

Appeals to: Fans of zombie fiction and black/white/red coloring.

King of Thorn: the movie

king-of-thorn-box-artThe movie King of Thorn is a modern day adaptation (albeit a somewhat loose one) of Sleeping Beauty. And like the original fairy tale, the characters earn the happy ending only after some horrifying trials.

In the year 2012, the world is gripped with fear as a new pandemic, the medusa virus, circles the globe. If you catch it, you have sixty days before your body turns to stone and you die. Luckily the Venus Eye Corporation has perfected cryostasis, allowing it to freeze victims until medical science develops a way to cure them of the disease. But they only have room for 160 people. They select their chosen few to enter “Noah’s Ark” and put them to sleep. When they wake up, the chamber is covered in thorny vines and there are horrifying monsters roaming about. Within minutes, said monsters have reduced the group of 160 to a mere seven survivors. Now they have to figure out what happened to the world and how long they’ve been asleep before they turn to stone and crumble to dust. And that’s just the first fifteen minutes or so of the movie. But to say much more would spoil a lot of the plot. Suffice to say, the allusion to Sleeping Beauty is entirely accurate and the movie knows it.

The art in this movie varies. While the traditional animation is excellent, the transitions to CGI are noticeable and distracting. While this doesn’t happen often, it’s frequent enough to be annoying. Other than that, the movie looks fine. It’s not Studio Ghibli-quality animation, but it’s not jarring. The people are drawn so they look like people (proportion wise) and the monsters are genuinely creepy looking.

The soundtrack for this movie is top notch. While it’s not obtrusive, it easily conveys the melancholy and despair the characters feel, both when they’re going into stasis and leaving the world they knew behind, and later when they have to traverse a hellish new landscape without knowing how long they have to live. It’s subtle and sad, making it easy to empathize with the plight of the characters.

Both the subtitled version of the movie and the dubbed version were well done. I personally preferred the dubbed version this time, as the characters are intended to be from all over the world. That’s much easier to pick up on in English, because they all have different (if stereotypical) accents. It’s also worth noting that this movie is based on a manga of the same name, although apparently it takes some liberties with plot and characterization. So if you like one, you might try seeking out the other.

The movie is very firmly in the adult column. With lots of swearing, nudity, graphic death and explicit violence, this isn’t for anyone under 17. Despite a few animation issues and the fact that it’s only suitable for a limited audience, this is a movie worth watching. It’s clever and subtle and builds its plot at just the right pace so that the mystery stays alive throughout the entire movie, but you don’t feel frustrated by it. This movie is well worth watching.

King of Thorn: the movie
Funimation, 2012
directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama
110 minutes, Number of Discs: 2, Single disc/DVD
Company Age Rating: M/17+
Related to: by Yuji Iwahara