Witch Doctor, Volume 2: Mal Practice by Brandon Seifert

51BSf43LI3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Witch Doctor is a fun, engaging series, and is oft times hilarious in its delivery, but is unfortunately still something I just couldn’t get into on my first run through.

Granted, I had three children clamouring for my attention when I was reading it, constantly asking questions like “Why is she scratching him?” and “WHAT’S THAT!?” over my damned shoulder… but one would think the constant barrage of colour and charism that this book exudes would make me push my little ones aside for a moment.

Or maybe I’m just going to have to give it another read… I’ll be back.

Here, read the synopsis while I’m away.

Dr. Vincent Morrow, specialist in supernatural diseases, is back – but this time, he’s the patient! In the second collection of the hit medical horror series, Doc Morrow himself is targeted by shadowy supernatural forces. With his body betraying him, Morrow races against the clock to diagnose the threats he faces – and to punish those responsible!

– from Amazon

Witch Doctor, Volume Two collects Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation and Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #1-6, and thoroughly, but unintentionally, confused me within its first few pages. I felt as if I’d lost something by not reading Volume 1, but not to worry! I have a solution! It’s called “buy volume one and read that first, smartypants!

Seifert writes his characters both wittily and with a very apparent respect for the classic heroes and villains of horror’s past. His comedic delivery is virtually flawless, and is maybe only hampered by the verbose nature of the dialogue that drives everything. This is something readers might really have to dig into a few times before it becomes easy reading fare. 

The art in this volume is beautiful, instantly filling a void between the more modern Gabriel Rodriguez and Bernie Wrightson’s old-school style. As a fan of the funnybooks, I would say Lukas Ketner has his shit together in a massively impressive way, and takes what could be something akin to a relatively tame Lovecraftian sci-fi/horror/fantasy tale, and breathes new life into it.

While I wouldn’t suggest this for younger readers, I would throw down with it a few more times before calling it quits on the Doc. There’s promise here, but for now it’s not my cup of tea.

Witch Doctor, Volume 2: Mal Practice is nominated for a Stoker in the Best Graphic Novel category, and is up against some heavy hitters. It stands a good chance, though, as it’s story driven, has a fantastic staying power, and is one of only two nominated pieces I can see that could easily continue its story and still provide a marked level of entertainment.

C.

Cemetery Club by JG Faherty

A different ‘club’ and a different author, Journalstone Press editor Christopher C. Payne sent me a copy of JG Faherty’s Cemetery Club which is totally unrelated in storyline to Gregory Bastianetti’s Jokers Club. From the website:

20 years ago, four friends awoke an ancient evil living beneath the town of Rocky Point, NY. Now it’s back, and only the Cemetery Club can stop it before everyone ends up dead. Or worse.

This book has a little bit of everything: zombies, paranormal entities, gore-galore and just a hint of B-movie juiciness. On top of that, the plot flows beautifully and the major characters are easily worth your emotional investment. I’ve seen some reviews of the book comparing it to King’s It, but I just don’t see it. Yes, a group of friends reunite after time apart, but after the first few chapters you’ll see that Cemetery Club stands on its own.

The plot centres around Todd, John, Cory and Marisol – the Cemetery Club – who would meet up in the local cemetery every day to do all the things that teens hiding from their parents do. The story takes place in present day, with Faherty expertly weaving flashback chapters masterfully throughout, giving the reader a little bit more insight as to what his characters went, and will be going through.

There are three types of monsters that are encountered: paranormal, physical, and human. You might think that ‘physical’ and ‘human’ are the same, I assure you they are not. Not only is the town under siege, but the people in charge of the town are some of the more unsavory characters in the book. This might seem cliche, but once you discover the hidden connections between the personalities, the human monsters and their actions seem that much more despicable.

By glancing at the cover, you can probably guess what I mean when I say ‘paranormal monsters’. I’d like to point out that even with such an overt clue, Faherty does a great job of keeping the mystery of the monsters alive by having many of the townspeople weigh in, thus involving the reader in the mass hysteria being experienced in the book. I’d be giving too much away by saying more, but I will say that the physical monsters are the kind we know and love, with an entertaining spin on how they came to be.

Getting back into the characters, I must say that the effort put into creating the four protagonists is very much appreciated. I CARED about them: I felt sorry for the alcoholic, worse for the abused spouse, sympathized with the disturbed person (don’t judge me) and wished (for the most part) that my life mirrored that of the lawyer. That’s enough of a teaser for now.

Cemetery Club is a well-crafted read, Journalstone and JG Faherty impressed me with this one. To pick up your copy of the book, visit the Journalstone store. For more information about JG Faherty, you can visit his website.

Holiday Horror for Kids – Santa Claws by Laura Leuck

Santa Claws tells the story of Mack and Zack, two monster brothers who are getting ready for Christmas.  This clever rhyming tale takes you on a hilarious voyage, revealing the toys Mack and Zack are looking forward to (including potion kits and vampire bats), describing Santa Claws in all his gruesome glory, and walking you through the grisly monster versions of all your favourite Christmas traditions.  From decorating to caroling to baking, these monsters do it all as they prepare for Santa Claws’ visit.  The story is fantastic and creative, and combined with Gris Grimly’s dark yet somehow adorable illustrations, it’s a real winner.

If anything could push this even higher in our good books, it’s the little details in the book design.  The inner covers are made up like old catalogue pages, featuring products like ‘Green Goo Fangpaste’ and companies such as “Marge’s Vampire Bats’.  The back of our hardcover copy sports a full-page ad for ‘Vampbell’s Garbage Soup’.  The gruesome cuteness adds a whole new layer of awesome to an already great read.

To put it ever so professionally, Santa Claws rocks our socks.  Buy this book.  Buy it now.  It’s rare to find great horror-themed Christmas stuff for kids, and this stunning book is definitely an essential volume for your personal library.  Little monster lovers will be clamoring to hear this every December for years to come!

13 Drops Of Blood – James Roy Daley


James Roy Daley gathers 5 of his favourite published works and adds 8 brand new short stories to give readers a thorough cross-section of his work with 13 DROPS OF BLOOD. What awaits those who search for Blood? From the website:

From the author of THE DEAD PARADE comes 13 tales of horror, suspense, and imagination. Enter the gore-soaked exhibit, the train of terror, the graveyard of the haunted. Meet the scientist of the monsters, the woman with the thing living inside her, the living dead… James Roy Daley unleashes quality horror stories with a flair for the hardcore. Not for the squeamish.

The synopsis doesn’t note the science fiction or dark humour stories that await, choosing instead to focus on Daley’s preferred genre while leaving two surprises for the reader’s discovery. The book is divided into 5 sections: Horror, Monsters, Zombies, Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Dark Humour. On first glance, those might seem redundant but upon reading, one begins to understand Daley’s methods.

HorrorThe Exhibition begins the book with a with resounding visceral, almost torturous feel. The story is told from two points of view, which converge in a bloody climax.
The Confession is a more cerebral ghost story in a noir setting, with a decent (albeit foreshadowed) twist.

MonstersBaby is a love story with a monster thrown in. The premise is good to begin with but loses momentum with too many twists and turns.
A Ghost In My Room gives nearly everything away in the title. The premise isn’t anything new, and the ending is telegraphed.
Jonathan vs. The Perfect Ten creates a Wild-West feel in a dirty small town. Jonathan creates monsters, the monsters create havoc. This piece ends the section very well.

ZombiesThe Hanging Tree is another Wild-West period piece. The sheriff is shot, somebody must pay for the crime. Red (the new sheriff) and Doc carry the deed out, but their curiosity regarding a curse on the Tree proves to be their undoing. An enjoyable piece.
Thoughts Of The Dead is a first-person narrative from a zombie’s point of view. The government has found a way to cure the disease, and the narrator must now type everything he has experienced. The slow-burn that the character experiences is quite well done.
Summer Of 1816 is rooted in history, as it’s the fictionally altered tale of Mary Shelley’s conception of FRANKENSTEIN. The story is good,and though the ending is once again foreshadowed, the research Daley put in is quite noticeable and gives the story an authentic feel.
Fallen takes us inside the mind of a man no longer willing to live with the zombie apocalypse. He gets his wish, though I credit Daley for taking an unconventional route.

Sci-Fi/FantasyThe Relation Ship A child is tempted aboard a ship where he remains until his temptress no longer fancies him. This read like a YA romance and is probably the weakest story of the 13.
Suffer Shirley Gunn creates an Earth where dogs are more intelligent than humans. Shirley’s dog is able to communicate with words, and warns Shirley of her imminent suffering. While fantastical, the concept is solid though the ending again is foreshadowed.

Dark HumourHumpy And Shrivels are two out-of-luck drunks who choose to test the rumour about the haunting at their local cemetery. This one’s quite droll.
Curse Of The Blind Eel teaches the reader numerous witty synonyms for both “shit” and “taking a shit”. It also educates the reader on exactly how to avoid being bitten by a vampire (hint: it involves shit). Daley ends the collection by showing off his abilities with wordplay and his rather peculiar sense of humour.

Genre fans will enjoy the Horror, Monsters and Zombies sections, as Daley’s output here ranges from good to great. The Sci-Fi/Fantasy section may be for some, but definitely doesn’t fully showcase Daley’s talent. Dark Humour should only be read with a strong stomach and morbid curiosity.

For more on James Roy Daley, visit Books Of The Dead Press.

7 Brains by Michael Louis Calvillo

7 Brains from Michael Louis Calvillo took me for a ride. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, never having read any of Calvillo’s previous works, this little book kept me on my toes right from page one.

Humanity is on the cusp of a New Evolution. Yep! Pure Emotion has curdled and given way to empty solutions, a gilded edge of bling-bling exteriors masking Rampant Corruption, Souring Evil and Internal Pollution. Our hero, Malcolm, the reluctant man with a reluctant plan, purpose fluttering in his chest from zero to a million miles an hour in seconds flat, holds the keys to the kingdom of light. All he has to do is eat seven lovely brains and set things right. He’s got a hacksaw, and a hammer, and a set of determined, pearly whites. Can he usher in hope before the imminent descent of everlasting night?

The story is told by Malcolm, himself, in first person. After only a few pages it becomes apparent that Malcolm is quite possibly insane. Calvillo’s narrative invites the reader into Malcolm’s mind, and paints a picture of a happy, yet troubled man. Malcolm’s nightmares draw upon legitimate human fears, while his conscious mental state evoked a genuine sympathy from this reader. As the pace of the story quickens and the antagonist is introduced, Malcolm further straddles the line of insanity, yet remains grounded by his constant love for his family.

Calvillo pushes the boundaries of classification with his antagonist. I began reading expecting a zombie splatter-fest, but that opinion was quickly squashed as Malcolm’s degeneration is protracted and “zombie” becomes improper terminology. Elements in both story and narrative suggest a paranormal antagonist, however that idea is quashed by the antagonist himself.

I said before that this book took me on a ride, and that’s the best way to describe it. 7 Brains is emotional, psychological horror. Having said that, this book contains all the gore and uncomfortable situations that hardcore readers will crave, and will test those limits at least twice. Calvillo made this book incredibly funny in areas where the humour was best served, and the punchlines were delivered effortlessly. Calvillo also examines the human condition, as each of the 7 brains represent human attributes that in Calvillo’s world, (and in ours, I’d agree) have been rendered extinct. Malcolm is forced to make gut-wrenching choices, and Calvillo’s world is so expertly constructed that all choices offered to Malcolm could have a terrible outcome.

7 Brains is only a taste of what Michael Louis Calvillo has to offer, and as a chapbook, it’s a bite-sized portion of awesome. You can order a copy from Burning Effigy Press, and check out Calvillo’s other works on his website.

Maritime Monsters by Steve Vernon

For those who are fans of folklore, monsters, or just a good yarn, this picture book is a real treat. Steve Vernon’s wild tales about the monsters of the Maritime region are brought vividly to life by the talented illustrations of Jeff Soloway, creating a lively picture book that kids will love.

With a colourful full-page illustration, imaginative story and loads of factoids for each of the fifteen monsters in the book, you’ll learn more than you even knew was possible about the mythical beasts of the maritimes. From location and diet to a detailed physical description and special advice for monster-hunting, Vernon covers it all.

From ‘Old Hook Snout’ to ‘Sheila the Sea Hag’, this is a great little book. As a set of bedtime tales, entertainment for your little one’s next campfire soiree, or just for fun, you won’t be disappointed!

Bit by Bloody Bit: Stephen King’s IT – Part 2: June of 1958

When we left off last week with King’s It “Part 1: The Shadow Before,” the author was just giving us a taste of what to expect from this macabre tragedy – psychological horror with just hints of grotesquery. Before we head into “Part 2: June of 1958,” King takes the reader on a little detour into Derry’s past in a piece called “Derry: The First Interlude.” Here King anchors Derry in a deeply afflicted, sordid history by way of Michael Hanlon, the only one of the seven Losers to stay behind in this town and our personal tour guide / historian. In what are represented as Hanlon’s own personal notes, perhaps meant for future publication, he asks, “Can an entire city be haunted?” Hanlon finds a few different interpretations of “haunting” in his research, but the one most perturbing is “A feeding place for animals,” which begs the question “What’s feeding on Derry?”

Perhaps the uninitiated would have you believe it’s a killer clown known as Pennywise feeding on Derry. But It is more than a dancing clown with a taste for children. It is not just a mirror for our worst fears. It permeates the town and manipulates its people.

King’s attention to detail pulls the reader in and adds a personal edge to the story, but the scrupulous effort to craft its history makes the subsequent horrors in this town bone-chilling. By establishing the origins of Derry – from the time it was settled by a group of about three-hundred English known as the Derry Company to present day – King will give his readers a scare that won’t be easy to shake. If this cancer feeding on Derry is the impetus of their troubles, couldn’t It be the source of our own? As a child, I was plagued by a fear of monsters under my bed and in my closet. As an adult, I am paralyzed by the fear that human monsters could invade my home and torture my family. Although It centers around the seven Losers each with their own fears, there is something to scare everyone in It. Just like our seven protagonists, It will terrorize you.

Part 2 focuses in on The Losers, tracing back from their lives now to the children they once were in lengthy flashback sequences. We’re taken back to the formidable years of bullies and monsters, both of which brought this group closer together. Each member faces nasty apparitions and even more complicated real life drama, but the friendship they share leaves me with an aching nostalgia for my own childhood. Like them, my past is riddled with human tragedy and emotional scars, but they came with the sweet memories of unbreakable bonds with friends. And like them, those memories tucked away not quite within reach, are just waiting to be triggered by a friend from my past. In the age of Facebook, it’s hard to imagine the flood gates that open upon hearing the voice of a childhood chum some 27 years later, but King expresses that feeling magnificently. Sometimes it’s a euphoric feeling or that sick vertiginous creep from memories that wound. In the case of the latter, Ben Hanscom puts it best when he laments, “My God, I am being digested by my own past.”

We see the impact of The Losers’ emotional trauma on their adult lives. This is further reinforced by King as he takes us back to the origins of their friendship and troubles. However, this time King focuses more on the strength of childhood friendship, memory, and fear. Part 2 has an equally disturbing psychological depth compared to Part 1, but this time he amps up the gore effects a bit more. That is not to say King aims to challenge the reader’s gag reflex for the sake pushing their own limits. His style is more subtle. Every rotten piece of flesh, every talon edging out of the darkness has a specific purpose and often times they tie back into the story later. One moment reflects back to another which in turn connects to this one which will reemerge in the future and so on, just like the complicated tapestry that makes up our own lives.

What is terribly dark and delectably horrible in It blossoms slowly. The events are terrifying, but the way King tells this tale is exquisitely beautiful. Part 1 was just an appetizer, now we are beginning the main course. King’s It buries itself further into my conscience. I can’t be completely sure if It is to blame, but ever since I started this book I am having terrible nightmares! So beware, dear readers, beware!

Come back next week – same time, same Bat channel – for “Part 3: Grownups.”

Visit Cemetery Dance Publications to find out more about their massive 25th Anniversary Special Limited Edition It.