Thursday, August 8, 2013

Locke & Key!!!!

            Ok, first thing to say about this series is that even if you’re not a comic book person (which I am not necessarily, despite the growing number of graphic novels in my bookcase) you might love this as I do! If you like fantasy/whimsical/horror-type stuff, this is definitely for you. Honestly, it took me a while to get into the graphic novel format. I’ve always been a reader, and illustrations are fun, of course, but I’m not a big superhero person and most of the superhero stories are so developed that I felt like I couldn’t jump into the stories without knowing soooo much background, and that kinda turned me off. However, when I discovered these alternative comics with more fantasy-type stories that I could read from the beginning or that were one-offs, some of which had really amazing art, I started to get into them more and more. I can thank my friend Dannie for that, and for introducing me to Locke & Key specifically, which is one of the very best GNs I’ve read, and one of my favorite stories, period.
            The basic premise is that there is a place called Keyhouse, a mansion on an island off of Massachusetts, in which there are magic keys that can make certain things happen when turned in a lock. Now, keys are just cool to start with, both because of their symbolism and their aesthetic beauty, and the designs of the different keys in this series are sooo neat! Check these out:
And of course, you can buy physical keepsakes of these keys, too. Sweet, sweet merchandising!
            The series starts with an attack (this is where the horror/gore part comes in a bit) on Rendell Locke and his family in their west coast home. He, of course, is a member of the ancient Locke family who designed and made the keys of Keyhouse. Eventually the story brings us to Keyhouse and reveals the backstory while unfolding the conclusion in the present. I think the story is really well balanced with action/gore, psychological intrigue, mystery, and emotion.
            It’s also really suspenseful. In fact, readers are currently anxiously awaiting the last two issues of the series!! Yes, that’s right, the series is ending. So for those of you who (like me) don’t know where to start (or end) with Spiderman or Batman or a longstanding series like that, this series might be good for you in that way. I was interested to hear Joe Hill (the writer) make much of this at the panel where we heard him speak at Boston Comic Con last weekend. He specifically mentioned Spiderman as an example (which I found interesting considering that he sold some of his first writing to Marvel for Spiderman) and argued that when you have a series that doesn’t end you lose all stakes for the characters. You know that they’re going to come back somehow, some way, and go on, so the emotional impact of all of their tragedies and victories become reduced over time. I totally agree. And I think it’s just easier for me to read. (Maybe I’m a completist. Is that a thing? My word processor doesn’t seem to think so, but I mean that I don’t like to miss parts of a story. I like to start at the beginning and read to the end and let it be over. Hard to do that with Spiderman.) Anyway, JH said the he had always planned for this series to have an end in the not-too-distant future.
            I’ve read (and own) the graphic novels 1-5 as shown above, and the first issue of what will be book 6, which is the cover with the keys. There are 3 or 4 more single issues out, and I may have to go buy those instead of waiting for the book because I’m so excited about the end of the story right now. That’s something that Joe Hill talked about in the BCC panel as well-the challenge of a good ending. I couldn’t help but think of Stephen King’s Gunslinger when Joe Hill was discussing endings, because I’m sure he heard about that kind of thing from his father (didn’t I mention JH is SK’s son? Quite a shadow to work under, hence the alias, I assume, but he’s really a good writer in his own write, er, right if this story’s any indication, and a bit more comfortable in the spotlight if that panel was any indication. Actually, seeing JH with his kids at the booth made me think about stories that SK sometimes told about his early life when his kids were small, and they look quite a bit alike, so it was almost like time traveling watching them.)
            Anyway, there’s not much else to say because I don’t want to give anything away for those who might read the series, and there is a lot to spoil, but read these, seriously. The story is great and the art is beautiful. Gabriel Rodriguez, the artist, is really talented. He was also at the panel, and it was cool to hear how much they had collaborated on this project. Apparently they wrote a Locke & Key Bible for themselves to get the backstory straight. THAT is something I’d love to see in print someday!
Sigh… waiting…

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cluck: Murder Most Fowl


Ok, I found this book on clearance at the River Run bookstore in Portsmouth, and honestly, how could I not have bought it???? If the punny title doesn't sell you, listen to the review from the back cover:

"The Best Undead Chicken Novel of All Time" - Lloyd Kaufman, director, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

See what I'm saying? The BEST undead chicken novel of ALL TIME!!

Also it was apparently made into a play in Denver last year...

So...pretty amazing, right?

I kind of wish I had seen the play because I wonder what tone they took with it and how it came off. The book was funny, quite funny in parts, but based on the cover I thought it was going to be more goofy funny and it was actually quite a bit darker than I had thought it would be.

The basic story is of a bunch of undead chickens who are haunting a farmhouse (and tormenting the farmer who torched them-hence the cover art) and the "Exorciste de Volaille", or chicken exorcist, Arnold/Armand, who comes to release them into the afterlife.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the story was The Order (of undead chicken exorcists, of course), which were portrayed as constantly smoking, disdainful French caricatures. They actually remind me a lot of the Watcher's Council on Buffy in their role in the story, except that in Buffy they were non-smoking, uptight Brits.

To me, the most hilarious bits were the explanations of chicken logic. For example, floating images of tomatoes to lure humans in, because apparently chickens can't resist tomatoes, so it will definitely work on humans too. They are confounded when it doesn't really work, and yet they keep trying it again, and again, and again. And apparently food takes up a big portion of chickens' attention because when the farmer sprinkled gasoline to burn down the coop, they didn't realize it wasn't food until they tried to eat it. Then, when they found that "it tasted acrid and smelled strange...they only lapped up a little bit of it." Also, when the farmer lit the coop on fire, the chickens jumped into the coop because the coop is a safe place...every chicken knows that. Etc.

On the other hand, it was really pretty gross in parts, like the descriptions of the undead chickens. Consider this scene: 

"In the middle of the pavement, the chicken squelched once more, moving further from the upturned crate and the pair of near-forgotten Nikes. A limp neck, unnaturally long, was exposed. A broken eggshell of a skull topped it, a cracked beak and two lifeless black pits for eyes were exposed. Everyone was watching as it moved again, and then turned. A wet, rubbery spasm rippled up the thing's neck. It looked up at them...First swelling, as if with the intake of breath, the thing grew huge, and then in a long putrid sigh it deflated, shrinking with the acrid hiss of expelled gases. The chicken, now flopping about in its newly deflated sack of rotting skin, hobbled forward as it began to draw power into itself."

Maybe I just have a weak stomach, but...yuck. Not saying I didn't enjoy it, just...ew.

I found the plot a tiny bit overwritten. Maybe it was partly that the author jumped around temporally and topically in each chapter, which I don't particularly dislike, but which made it a little hard to put all of the pieces together in the end.

However, I think the characters are awesome, very enjoyable to get to know, including the personifications of the house and Arnold/Armand's car, which was an unexpected bit of fun. Arnold/Armand himself is pretty kick ass, sort of a down and dirty type who doesn't over-think his job as a chicken exorcist, just gets to it, but also has a heart.

That makes me think of the ending, which I don't want to give away, but which had a nice little twist to it and was satisfying to me.

I know that most people who read this are going to want to borrow the book, so I'm going to make a rule about first messaged, first served, but if you all wait patiently I can get it to you in time. =)

Monday, January 7, 2013


Hey, so I know I haven't written in a while. If there are any faithful readers out there, I apologize. Life got busy. But I have been reading, of course! A few things I probably won't get into in the blog, but some I hope to. 

I started Shipley's outdated In Praise of English, and though he seems to be an English Nazi, in the sense that he seems to think that the entire evolution of human language has led up to and culminated in English and it should dominate all others... in spite of that I am enjoying the word nerd aspect of it, thinking about etymology and how words have changed over time. I inevitably learn something from that, even if it's just about one particular word, and I can share that with my students too. I may or may not blog about this one, but I'm not that far into it now anyway.

I also started reading the Anne of Green Gables series because when I got engaged and started planning my wedding I wanted to read Anne and Gilbert's love story again. I don't know that I will have anything to blog about that, but if so it will be after I finish the series.

I've read a couple of others that won't show up here, but one that I hope to get back to is the Illiad, which I read for the first time in an edited translation from like the 70s. I wasn't expecting to be so into it and I'd really like to discuss it and get other people's reactions.

Happy new year, all! I hope to write again soon!