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Dave Robbins

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Dave Robbins grew up in the suburbs of New York looking south to the possibilities of The City, later finding potential throughout America. In addition to his contributions here, he is a fiction writer. His stories travel those nexuses where menace and wonder thrive in equal proportions and his pop culture interests live along those same paths. He is convinced that nights in the woods are scary, that little virtue is found saloons and that nothing good ever happens after midnight. These days he can be found wearing some of the same flannel shirts he wore in the pre-grunge era.

Winnebago Graveyard #1 Review

When are people going to realize that creepy roadside carnivals always represent manifestations of evil, and stopping at them at the spur of the moment never ends well? Add the overbearing Dad, obnoxious kid, whiny Mom and the last minute decision to leave the phones in the Winnebago (which is both their lodging and only source of transportation), to get exactly what you would expect to find.

In Winnebago Graveyard there is a whole lot of cliché to overcome. Not that a familiar opening is necessarily a bad thing, but I’m not left with much of an incentive to care what happens next. The characters are thin and so far at least, the plot is worn out.

In order to stand out in an already crowded field of the supernatural, there has to be a hook, there has to be something special. I see none of that here. I do like the art, though. It is suitably dark and gross where required and does more to set the tone than the writing. Overall there’s not much to see here. Move along.

5.5
Score
Winnebago Graveyard #1
The Bottom Line
I like stories about demonic cults as much as anyone, maybe more so, and I’m pretty forgiving about slow builds, but the pace and originality need to pick up right quick. This is not a promising start.
Yes!
The art is evocative and moody as it should be and does much to set the tone and tell the story.
No...
There is nothing here that we haven’t all seen before.

Black Cloud #3 Review

Zelda is a creator and destroyer and is far more powerful than we knew. In its third issue, Black Cloud has also grown to become more than just a story about mayoral politics. We’ve got a bigger picture now – a far more interesting one with time travel, multi-dimensions, and such, but it’s still about politics, isn’t it?

As the story gets broader and the worlds get wider, the role of Zelda in it all gets quite a bit more important, and more interesting. We find that the revolution has succeeded after a fashion, but what has been wrought is not the ideal the rebels strived for. And beyond that, Zelda made it worse, then ran away. There might be fantastical elements, but where an individual stands in the midst of conflict is where the drama lives.

The questions of who is the monster and the why of the monster are great themes for the continued series. Zelda is flawed and cowardly and faced with the consequences of her actions. The story is how she will deal with it all. Is she a hero and leader or just a culprit? I’m not sure where all of this is going and that is a good thing.

7.5
Score
Black Cloud #3
The Bottom Line
Quality art and intrigue. Hinkle blends the real and unreal to the right kind of unease for the reader. Latour and Brandon deliver a layered story in a complex world that defy expectations.
Yes!
Zelda is a rich character with conflicting motives and history. We can think we know what she should do, but never what she will.
No...
Zelda needs to take responsibility sooner rather than later, or at least step up. Running away only captures interest for so long.

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 6 Review

I don’t know where to look first or which detail to concentrate on. Probably not everything means something, but it all gets me thinking. Why are the neon bar signs so similar? Who is drinking Bordeaux with Cole? When Tracey advised in Part 1 to “not over think it,” she gave good advice. I don’t know what’s going on, but I like it nonetheless.

A third of the way through Twin Peaks: The Return, and I am convinced that there is not a frame of film or line of dialogue wasted. The evolution of Cooper like the evolution of the series continues and as his competence and communication return, the story is drawn further into Twin Peaks. We see the traffic light at Sparkwood and 21, hear the glories of Norma’s cherry pie and find out what Red and Richard Horne are up to.

Hawk may have found what’s missing in the handwritten pages he pulled from the stall door. Laura’s secret diary maybe? Will there be a mention of Cooper and the Black Lodge? Albert has tracked down the one person who knows Cooper the best, who is, of course, Diane.

As slow and deliberate the pace has been, there is progress and in the detail is the joy. Lynch knows we are watching, gives us the morsels he knows we crave and then goes on to do whatever he wants.

9
Score
Twin Peaks: The Return Part 6
The Bottom Line
So far, I couldn’t be happier with The Return. It has all the Lynchian genius and enough nostalgia for the old series without being bogged down by sentimentality.
Yes!
The traffic light at Sparkwood and 21! Pie at the Double R.
No...
I’m pretty much over the Dougie scenario. I think it’s time to move on.

American Gods Season 1 Episode 7 “A Prayer of Mad Sweeney” Review

I’ve been all in from the beginning with American Gods. Shadow Moon has been charismatic and befuddled and the perfect audience surrogate for this world beneath the world. That neither he nor his patron, appear in this episode at all speaks to the depth of the characters and the sophistication of the complex story. There is a lot going on and everybody plays a part.

Sweeney may be an idiot in Mr. Wednesday’s estimation, but this week’s examination of the Leprechaun’s introduction to the New World goes a long way to making him a more sympathetic character. Ibis’ telling of his origin story builds a stronger connection between the dead wife and Sweeney. We see Emily Browning as Essie McGowan, the self-reliant Irish lass with the tales of the Aes Sidhe. Her devotion to the people of the Fairy Mound allow for Sweeney’s manifestation. Essie’s behavior and personality are not that different than Laura Moon’s. The two of them are intertwined as by now we know so are the ancient and the modern beliefs.

In this episode, Laura has become a character to be reckoned with. I especially liked the ice cream truck solution to her fly attracting decomposing corpse.

9
Score
American Gods Season 1 Episode 7 “A Prayer of Mad Sweeney”
The Bottom Line
American Gods has been consistent in atmosphere and storytelling skillfully making the gods more human and the humans more godlike. Next week is the finale and I’ll be sorry to see it end.
Yes!
A more introspective approach making Sweeney more vulnerable actually makes his character more interesting. He may be an idiot after all, but he’s become more likable.
No...
With only eight episodes, the season is too short and definitely feels rushed.

Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 9 “Empress of Mars” Review

I love it when the Doctor shows up uninvited. This time he arrives as NASA is awaiting contact from a Mars probe, only to discover the slogan “God Save the Queen” hidden beneath the polar ice. So off to Mars in 1881 and some stranded British Army soldiers from the Victorian Era and an Ice Warrior they named “Friday.”

As Doctor Who villains go, the Ice Warriors are pretty sophisticated. They have culture and history, ethics and motivations. Their appearances have some depth in that these denizens of Mars have always been more than one-word directives such as “exterminate” or “delete.” They are recognizable “people” who are neither friends nor enemies but have the potential for both. That is exactly what this episode explores and what is the most interesting about them.

When the TARDIS acts up and leaves Bill and the Doctor we are left with the dilemma of sovereignty presented in the aftermath of Imperialism. The Doctor gets it all sorted, of course, with the sage advice of “We must live together or die together.”

7.5
Score
Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 9 “Empress of Mars”
The Bottom Line
A good use of a classic villain in an intelligent and hopeful episode.
Yes!
Missy and how good is she really? The TARDIS seems to like her— must mean something, Right?
No...
Nardole. He’s more of a plot device than a character at this point, and an inconsistent one at that.

Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 1 “The Few Who Dare” Review

I don’t care how much of the Kool-Aid she pretends to drink, Rachel is too much of a sociopath to fall in with the cult of the Revival. I doubt that P.T. Westmoreland, the alleged 172-year-old founder buys it either, but that’s only one of the likely twists and reversals this final season promises. It also puts every clone in peril and isolated from each other which will be thrilling, I’m sure.

There are some fresh badasses too. Art’s new partner Detective Enger (Elyse Levesque) is the most ruthless and chilling Neo so far and maybe more than he can handle –a welcome addition that ratchets up the tension considerably. And who is Mr. Frontenac (Andrew Moodie) who intimidates Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and declares that there is only one faction? He certainly doesn’t talk like a Neo.

This episode is fast paced and loaded with intrigue. Even the boys at Rabbit Hole Comics are on the case. Scott (Josh Vokey) and Hell Wizard (Calwyn Shurgold) use their gaming expertise to try to contact MK.

So the “Final Trip” has a lot to accomplish in a very short time. I don’t expect all of the loose threads to be tied off neatly, but I do hope we get to see some favorite characters. I have a wish list of my own. Where has Cal (Michiel Huisman) been and what is he all about? What is Siobhan (Maria Doyle Kennedy) ex MI 6 or something? She has a particular set of skills that have never been explained to my satisfaction. Has Vic (Michael Mando) finally achieved serenity? Maybe I’ll never know.

8
Score
Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 1 “The Few Who Dare”
The Bottom Line
A great start to what I hope is a worthy closing season. Who will survive? I get the feeling that not everybody gets away unscathed.
Yes!
The strength of the series has always been the distinctiveness of each of the sestras and here that is emphasized by their separation and conflicting agendas.
No...
Delphine is assigned to Sardinia without explanation. Really?

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones Review

My first encounter with this author was in his werewolf novel Mongrels which I thoroughly enjoyed. Mapping the Interior is another story about family dynamics and history with the terror ratcheted up. We are introduced by way of a horror story to twelve-year-old Junior who carries the stories of his culture and long dead father. He also sleepwalks and he sees ghosts. But this story isn’t really about ghosts is it, just like Mongrels wasn’t about lycanthropy? 

Once again Stephen Graham Jones takes the heart-ache and loss within a broken family, places the telling in the context of the supernatural, and reveals truth. The struggles, ongoing dread, and helplessness of the pre-teen man of the house become that much more intimate and appalling.

I’ve read several Tor releases recently and this is the shortest one so far. At barely fifty pages, I would rather see this in an anthology than a stand-alone release, but that’s on the publisher, not the author. I’m not going to be like those one-star Amazon reviewers that complain about packaging.

 

Stephen Graham Jones’ Mapping the Interior will be released June 20th, 2017. Click here to get a copy!

The Divided States of Hysteria #1 Review

Howard Chaykin has always styled himself as a snarky and provocative critic of the American Reality. He is both gadfly and confessor. In The Divided States of Hysteria, he goes all in, using familiar characters and targets and lack of restraint. He tells us right away what this story is all about:

“Unable to raise their eyes from their self-mythologizing, self-serving, self-obsession to shake off the post-crisis malaise and move on to whatever shitstorm lies ahead.”

From there he pulls no punches. Once again, Chaykin courts controversy, has no desire to be politically correct, and will gleefully point out the hypocrisy of every stripe. If the intent is to piss you off, then the debut issue is a roaring success. The horrible and profane are here to save the world. Get used to it.

There are callbacks to American Flagg and Black Kiss, but the problem is that for all the commentary on the state of the nation and ruthless inflammatory characterizations, will there be a worthy story beneath it all? That remains to be seen. Still, there’s nobody like him and stylistically his art is sharp and evocative.

9
Score
The Divided States of Hysteria #1
The Bottom Line
Howard Chaykin is back whether you want him or not. Expect a fist in the face and a face full of provocation splashed onto every page. You are dared to look and dared to look away. You are warned.
Yes!
Audacious, outrageous, and incendiary. You’re gonna love it.
No...
Audacious, outrageous, and incendiary. You’re gonna hate it.

Extremity #4 Review

The pursuit of vengeance has led to a hand-to-hand confrontation and the destruction of a family. The endless cycle of fear and anger is inhuman and Rollo will have none of it. Ironically, it is the indestructible machine Shiloh that teaches the lesson of mercy.

Extremity is still the violent and action-packed splatter fest that it has always been, only now we see the deeper emotional conflict that makes for a richer story. Jerome is still driven by his desire to wipe out the Paznina and now he may have found the means to do so. Now that Rollo is on his own, though, the story is taking a wider view of what the world is like beyond the battle.

The pages are full of amazing battles and fantastic creatures, but the added personal story and conflict will sustain the series with the more immediate and relatable stakes.

8
Score
Extremity #4
The Bottom Line
I came for the gore but stayed for the story. Extremity gets more interesting and nuanced with every issue and the artwork remains vivid and superior.
Yes!
Great battles and fight scenes.
No...
The turn towards the family drama was expected, but maybe unwelcome.

American Gods Season 1 Episode 6 “A Murder of Gods” Review

The war has started and Mr. Wednesday is scrambling for allies. The god of the volcano, now of guns and ammo seems like a good choice, but can he be trusted? Wednesday explains to Shadow that he knows who he is and knows who he was as if that is sufficient.

Meanwhile, the Leprechaun, the Dead Wife, and the Cab Driver have teamed up despite conflicting agendas. Mad Sweeney wants his coin back, Laura might be able to become truly alive and Salim just wants to find the Jinn again.

Shadow confides his encounter with dead Laura to Wednesday (AKA Grimnir/Odin) at the Happy Vulcan Bullet Factory, so his resistance to belief in the supernatural has pretty much been eliminated. It’s not so much that Shadow trusts his boss, but he figures that like it or not that’s whose side he’s on. He also sees what happens to those who betray.

8
Score
American Gods Season 1 Episode 6 “A Murder of Gods”
The Bottom Line
The table has been set. Shadow Moon sees that his survival depends on his relationship with Wednesday and his ability to succeed. And then there is his stalker-ish dead wife to think about.
Yes!
Fantastic dialogue and complex intrigue. With only two episode left we know what is at stake and it looks likely to be epic.
No...
There are a lot of loose threads that might not be able to be resolved to satisfaction in the little time that is remaining.
General-DC Comics

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SUPERMAN #25 Review

I honestly don't even know where to begin. Comics like Superman #23 are the reason I love doing what I do. I've never had a job where the work itself was a reward. My biggest reward has to be this series. I jumped in just after "Superman Reborn" and every issue since has pulled me in deeper. Each time adding a new type of creepiness. This time it's of the A Clockwork Orange variety.