I love Japanese folklore and horror. I also love the wise dogs of Beasts of Burden - dogs that use witchcraft to protect the world. Normally, they’re protecting their neighborhood, but we’re getting a flashback to World War II during which a dog (Emrys) and his master have arrived in occupied Japan, where decapitations have been occurring.
I will never know true, unfettered fear. Not like some people. I’m not wearing that as a badge of honor, it’s simply a reality of the world we live in. I have more fear for other people than I do myself, and yet, I’m afraid. Like so many of the rest of the world, we are taught to fear: fear the other side, fear circumstances yet unseen, fear the unknowable. Especially in the last four years, as a culture we’ve lived in a cacophony of fear, because we see just how vulnerable we truly are: vulnerable to the whims of a terrible leader, vulnerable to a wide-ranging disease, vulnerable to the people who are supposed to protect us.
There’s an absolutely masterful sequence in the third issue of Dead Dog’s Bite in which shadows are used so effectively that you feel a real sense of dread and danger simply from their existence, long before that danger is confirmed, and even then, it’s kept abstract, like a nightmare.
America has a fascination with violence, everything from our Mortal Kombat games to Saw films. Somehow, somewhere, that desire for violence became a necessity in our lives. It’s not very often when that violence is used to make a point or to tell an emotional story. Often, you have to look overseas or seek out World War II or Vietnam films that will use violence to remind you that “war is hell.” In America, we have learned to glorify the act of violence for the sake of violence. So, when a story comes along that treats you to a healthy dose of ultraviolence and then wings you emotionally in the end, that’s something special.
The Many Deaths of Laila Starr is a hell of a premise. Death is fired because immortality may become a thing, but what will death do to make sure that she retains her job? How far will she go? But this isn’t Neil Gaiman’s Death of the Endless, this isn’t the Western version of death in a cloak, this is the Hindu Goddess of Death with six arms - Kali - and she’s fiery.
Writers Fleecs and Forstner are taking their time, every issue slowly upping the stakes for our lovable piecemeal dog family that has been taken in by a serial killer after he murdered their female owners. Yikes! The genuine originality of this idea is only bested by the execution of it.
If you read my review of Ultramega #1, you’ll see my unabashed enthusiasm. I love a great kaiju story… Heck, I love a terrible kaiju story, but make no mistake Ultramega falls in the former category. It is stellar. The first issue introduced us to a world in which people turn into kaiju, and three humans were given the power to turn into protectors and fight them off. You saw how weary these heroes were, how depressed they were. The battles were insanely cool, and the ending was a shock!
The writing team of Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden jump right into the action with this new series. It’s World War II with witches (both good and bad). The British Allies have a special item, and they need to get it to safety before they’re all wiped out.
James Stokoe’s Orphan and the Five Beasts is continuing to be as deliciously weird as I was hoping it would be! Taking its inspirations from manga and anime like Berzerker and Fist of the North Star and Hong Kong kung-fu cinema, Stokoe has fashioned a tale full of Chinese mythological world building and epically daffy anime-style battles. It’s perfectly magical and freaking badass.
I wasn’t sure if I would have anything new to say after reading another issue of Home Sick Pilots, but let me tell you, folks, each issue includes so much story that there’s always far too much to say. Just when I thought this series would be finding its way to a conclusion… it makes a hard left turn. The absolutely unexpected occurs.