The Strain #1 by David Lapham, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan


When a Boeing 777 lands at JFK International Airport and goes dark on the runway, the Center for Disease Control, fearing a terrorist attack, calls in Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team of expert biological-threat first responders. Only an elderly pawnbroker from Spanish Harlem suspects a darker purpose behind the event-an ancient threat intent on covering mankind in darkness.

In a nutshell:

John read it in: English

He liked it:     Yes

For people who like:

John’s thoughts: 

After a cliched beginning, or as one says, the short hand language of emotional button pushing ‘The Strain’ gets off to an interesting first instalment.

The use of an old folktale created for the story arc is a well heeled technique but it still satisfies on some level especially when dealing with the modern monster archive of vampires, werewolves and zombies. Setting a scene through the retelling of folk yarns adds a certain authenticity but can also be deftly used to fool one into expectations. It does so here.

The scene is a CDC agent at a plane that has landed and then gone silent. When they finally make it inside the aircraft all but 3 passengers and crew are dead. We don’t really know what the villain is, the suggestion is an old world fiend – the folktale suggests either vampire or werewolf but this is an expectation one is placing on the story as we are not told. There are hints – ‘he is here’ for example, a coffin like box is removed from the cargo hold, an old man, the boy of the folktale perhaps- has a wolf headed cane at his side.

Still it is not clear who or what ‘he’ is. Whilst I enjoy vampire stories and werewolves for that matter, I’m hoping this is something else, something not supernatural. This first issue is intriguing and I will be buying the second – if it turns out to be another vampire story I will probably stop at issue 2 unless it is of the calibre of “Salem’s Lot” or Sheridan Le Fanu.

I would recommend those interested in horror stories to look this one up, whether it develops into something special is yet to be seen but it has the seeds of a something worthwhile.

Product info and buy link :

Title The Strain #1
Author David Lapham, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Publisher Dark Horse Comics
UPC 7 61568 19174 5 00111
I got this book from Netgalley
Buy link Buy The Strain #1 at Dark Horse Comics


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.


B.P.R.D. Being Human by Mike Mignola and others

No, I still am not reading graphic novels. This is another review by John.

being_human Blurb:

Mike Mignola”s strangest heroes, in their earliest adventures! In terrifying tales of witchcraft and the undead, Abe Sapien, Roger, Liz Sherman, and Johann Kraus learn the ropes as agents of the Bureau For Paranormal Research and Defense! Abe reels with the guilt of surviving a mission that killed more experienced agents, Roger goes on his first adventure with Hellboy, Liz tells the story of how she killed her family, and Johann Kraus dies!




In a nutshell:

John read it in: English

He liked it:   Yes     

For people who like: graphic novels for mature readers, tales of the supernatural, Hellboy

John’s thoughts: 

This is another welcome anthology of short stories featuring the characters of the B.P.R.D. The collection consists of three longish strips and one very short one.

We have encountered references to Liz Sherman’s past, specifically her unintentional killing of her family, and to Johann Krause’s unfortunate demise during the Ghengdhou disaster previously over the period the B.P.R.D. stories have been published, but both were not dealt with in any great detail, and there were blanks in the narrative. This book seeks to fill in those gaps and does so relatively well.

The Liz Sherman story, whilst interesting, is possibly the weakest of these  stories in that we see how the terrible tragedy happened, but as the event unfolds it turns out there’s not actually that much to it at all, and the accidental burning of her family does not play the central role in the story that one expects.

Also there does seem to be a lack of emotion at the centre of the story as it is related, with the central harrowing event not having any deep emotional resonance even with the characters. In fact the episode reads more as a coming of age story than as something which mars her life. The main event here is how she and Bruttenholm deal with the haunting of a local community, and is standard B.P.R.D. fayre. This is a world in which magic and witchcraft exist and witches on the whole are a bad lot. The witch theme is often revisited and this is no different as  we encounter a witch haunting a local priest in the story.  Still, although I feel the key event in Liz’s life perhaps could have been dealt with better on the whole it is well written and enjoyable.

The Johann Krause story for me was much better than that featuring Liz Sherman. I feel this story could only have been written now with the character of Krause having been fully developed over the series. The villain of the piece is interesting, and the story emphasises the determination of Krause supporting the character’s arc quite well. His reasoning for donning the survival suit are both believable and unexpected. The end frame of this piece is a brilliant image that brought to mind the iconic image of the Priest in the Exorcist. The composition of that end frame is quite superb and hints at the outcome between Krause and the villain more clearly than a 5 page story. Absolutely wonderful.

The shortest piece in the anthology –  ‘Casualties’ –  is a sort of throwaway story, only a few  pages long but somehow very satisfying. For me this underlines the title of the anthology ‘Being Human’. The characters are stating the obvious but it has a nice emotional heart at it’s centre. I always enjoy these stories where we are given glimpses of the characters questioning their actions and reasoning it out. These always build on the human element, and enrich the characterisation, and although short, these type of stories are often amongst the most enjoyable.

The last strip features Roger the Homonculus who was killed earlier in the series. I like this aspect of the B.P.R.D. where the reader can revisit characters who have left the B.P.R.D. universe, often tragically. We encounter Professor Bruttenholm in the Liz Sherman story as well of course. I like the way there is no reset button on the death of a major character, it is a breath of fresh air amongst comic books where the reset button is pressed way too often. Usually we find these characters being revisited in their new stories earlier in their timeline way before the events that led to their demise come about. This is the case in this story featuring Roger and Hellboy. Roger always came across as a reluctant hero, and this aspect of the character is underlined here once more. The only problems I have with these sort of stories are the outcome and the fact that there is no consequences for the actions of a character, as if nothing takes place in the real world. Well, this is the Universe of Hellboy so I suppose this is to be expected.

This is a tale of revenge  where a practitioner of Voudoun has come to exact a terrible price for the misdeeds of others. It left me with a bit of a nasty aftertaste. Of course denouements in comics are often violent so I shouldn’t be surprised, endings are often throwaway as well with things quickly resolved. I was personally sympathetic to the antagonist and I feel the point of the story, which was somehow to help Roger grow and appear human, although he isn’t, could have been handled a bit better. Sometimes it is hard to see the reasoning behind how these stories develop – probably it’s a sign of the times – but not in a good way.

In the collection overall the writing is a bit of a mixed bag, the artwork is immaculate, of course, with some very beautiful page compositions. For a long time fan of the B.P.R.D. the anthology is a pleasant interlude between the developing major arc. Although I have some minor reservations with one or two of the stories, still, it  is certainly the case that the Universe of the B.P.R.D. and Hellboy remains the most detailed and interesting in the comics milieu at the moment, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes comics aimed at the mature market.

Product info and buy link :

Title B.P.R.D Being Human
Author Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Scott Allie, Richard Corben, Ben Stenbeck,Karl Moline, Guy Davis, Andy Owens
Publisher Dark Horse Comics
ISBN 9781595827562
I got this book from Netgalley
Buy link Buy B.P.R.D.: Being Human
More info All B.P.R.D. products at Dark Horse Comics


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? John would love to hear other opinions.


Hellboy:House of the living dead by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben

And now for something completely different. As announced some time ago I have procured a reluctant enthusiastic  guest reviewer. John is an avid comic reader (he does read other stuff as well, don’t worry) and his review of “Hellboy: House of the living dead” is his first post here. I am amazed at the shortness of his review actually, normally he is pretty long-winded and once he starts talking he never shuts up. I am sure he will find to his usual lengthy self soon enough.

hellboy_1 Blurb:

Devastated over the loss of his luchador comrade to vampires, Hellboy lingers in Mexican bars until he’s invited to participate in the ultimate wrestling match with a vicious Frankenstein monster!






In a nutshell:

John read it in: English

He liked it:     Yes     

For people who like: Hellboy, supernatural stories with unusual twists and turns

John’s thoughts: 

This is a follow on to a recent story in ‘Hellboy: The bride of Hell and Others’. The short story was titled ‘Hellboy in Mexico or A Drunken Blur’ and was one of the best in that Hellboy collection. Mike Mignola mentioned that there was at least one other Mexican wrestler story to be released so I kept my eye open.

It does at a cursory glance look like Mike Mignola  has a thing about Mexican wrestlers, probably not really an obsession but maybe the start of one. For which I am thankful. This is a really good addition to the Hellboy collections. The story is superb, and again somewhat ambiguous. I like the twist at the end. The Hellboy universe is full of monsters but it is also full of mad doctors, mad being the operative word, I like it. I read an early review copy of this book but I will definitely be buying it for my collection when it is on general release. This will be a well thumbed book.

A word about the art. Richard Corben is a marvelous artist and his very idiosyncratic style is perfectly suited to this book. Those stories Richard Corben illustrates I am always drawn to. His characters are grotesques, but grotesques infused with life, the images just leap from the page, full of action and a style that is extremely appealing. I hope to see more Hellboys drawn by Mr Corben. All things considered this graphic novel is definitely up there with the best of the Hellboy series and I highly recommend it.

Product info and buy link :

Title Hellboy: House of the living dead
Author Mike Mignola & Richard Corben
Publisher Dark Horse Comics
ISBN 978-1-59582-757-9
I got this book from Netgalley
Buy link Buy Hellboy: House of the Living Dead
More info Other Hellboy products at Dark Horse Comics


Have you read this book? What did you think of it?


Broadening the horizon

    New ideas for my teleidoscope:
  • It’s not a conscious decision that I made nor was it a mere accident. I noticed that on netgalley they have quite a few Dark Horse Comics available. One of them caught my eye because I remembered that I had seen that sort of cover in our house before. So I asked my husband whether he would want to blog about the newest B.P.R.D. graphic novel “Being human”. Answer: yes! See how easy it sometimes is to find a co-blogger! John is an avid reader with a very eclectic taste and – other than me, I only read Archie – he loves comics/graphic novels. So I “hired” him to talk about graphic novels on my teleidoscope from time to time now.
    His first review will be coming up soon.
  • Also I added a new feature to my book reviews. Whenever a book is set in a certain location I will add a few images of that location and maybe a map. That way you can picture the whole story better in your mind (or at least I can). Examples are my posts about “Murder on the Flying Scotsman” and “I wish someone were waiting for me somewhere”.
  • Plus, I am adding additional info (videos, author websites, lists of books in order etc.), if there is any, to the product info area.
  • And this new idea popped into my head today when I saw a bookstore bingo tweet about “A moveable feast”. In the future, when there is a bookstore bingo tweet about a specific book or author I will add it to the bottom of the post. Example can be seen here in my post about “A moveable feast”. Not that it will be particularly helpful, but it’s fun!
  • The Steampunk Challenge will be coming to a close soon, and I am planning a new reading project for 2012. I am not calling it a challenge, as it is not that big and limited to a small number of specific books. Check back in October for more info.

The new boy in town

I’m a big Archie fan. I used to read it years ago, then stopped and got back into it recently when news came out that Archie is going to marry Veronica. Thank God that that statement turned out to be somewhat misleading.

I learned today, with a few days delay, that there is a new boy in town, Kevin Keller. Kevin is gay and obviously needs to fight off Veronica’s advances. Sounds like fun, too bad he will be introduced for the first time in “Veronica” in September and not in the Archie comic itself. But maybe in time he will make his appearance there, too. I sure hope so.

Anyway, it’s nice to see that Archie keeps up with the zeitgeist.


A shot at manga

Picture by Peat Bakke at flick'r So far I’ve never read comics, but my husband does. I always browse around in the manga section of our local comic shop (because they look so cute), but never bought anything. I rather make up pictures in my own head instead of reading a picture story.

My only experience with comics at all in the past was “Guilty Pleasures” and that was a total disappointment. I mean, I hate Anita Blake anyway, so why I bothered in the first place I don’t know. Then the artist did it all wrong, people didn’t look like I imagined them, too many curls, it just didn’t feel right.

Then I heard about Marvel’s Pride & Prejudice coming out. Sounds nice enough, but look at the sisters! Bloody hell! What were they thinking? The all look like they are on drugs. Jane looks like a right bitch. I don’t think so.

Recently I saw on Elisa Rolle’s LJ her reviews of Yaoi and I thought, maybe there is more to manga than I thought, :-). To cut a long story short, I found some Yaoi that sounded interesting enough on a swap site. The first one I’m going to get is Fake (v.1) by Sanami Matoh. It sounds like a story I’d read in novel format, so it might be quite enjoyable – I hope. On the other hand I might be totally wrong and find out that manga isn’t my genre after all. I’ll see.