Uzumaki, a Japanese Classic (Review)

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I fucking love Junji Ito! He is the master. The legend. If you love comics and weird, supernatural shit, he’s THE MANGAKA to read. Junji Ito is the only horror writer/artist whose work makes me physically ill and or gives me nightmares. Seriously, it takes A LOT to frighten me and Junji Ito’s drawings get under my skin each time. If I think about “Glyceride” too hard, I get sick all over again! Ugh! *shudders*

Newcomers to Ito’s work should read “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” or the celebrated “Tomie” series. Ito’s influences are H.P. Lovecraft, Kazuo Umezo (I’ll review his comics in another post), and Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of “Akira.”

I recently got my hands on the complete hardcover edition of Ito’s famous spiral horror, “Uzumaki.” I wanted something other than “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac,” and “The Walking Dead” in my horror comic book collection. “Uzumaki” looks so pretty on my shelf now. I’m fangirling, I know, but Jesus Christ, I love comic books in hardcover! Why aren’t all comic books published in hardcover? *drool* There are lush, color pages, too, which is nice. I’ve only ever read Ito’s work on scanlation sites. So it is nice to own a physical copy of the man’s brilliance.

“Uzumaki” is terrifying, gorgeous, hilarious, and weird all at once. Ito steers clear of blood and splatter and uses psychological mindfuckery to frighten his readers instead. The basic premise follows a schoolgirl and her town’s obsession with supernatural spirals. Ito has an incredible imagination–each chapter is more insane than the previous one. The distance between reality and fantasy is what drives the horror, here. Reading his comics is like tripping on literary-acid. The stories seep slowly into your subconscious, scrambling your disbelief, and then throwing your renewed perception together in haphazard, unrecognizable ways. It’s nothing short of genius. His art isn’t beautiful. In fact, it borders on the simplistic. And yet that’s why it works! If he drew elaborate dreamscapes, it would be too fantastical for the reader to accept. Ito’s straightforward approach adds to the story’s credibility. I always feel strange when I read Junji Ito’s comics. I hope you will, too. He really is one of my favorites. He’s right up there with Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Anne Rice, Chuck Palahniuk, and other modern classics, I think.

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No Surrender (Review)

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No SurrenderNo Surrender by Dale Lucas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This military-historical-horror novella was my first exposure to Dale Lucas. I had heard good things about the author’s ‘Doc Voodoo’ series and so I gave the novella a go. ‘No Surrender’ is a “Lovecraftian Horror,” and successfully blends American Civil War history with H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Like a proper Lovercraftian yarn, the horror slithers at a snail’s pace, starting first with Yates and his hysterical retelling of the Terrible Awful Thing he saw in the woods. Orion Bell, the madman-scientist-occultist who now leads the Ku Klux Klan, is butchering Negroes to resurrect an ancient, evil deity. Of course no one believes Yates, but Lieutenant Kenning marches Union soldiers into the woods to investigate the claims anyway.
The weirdness progresses from there. They encounter a town full of crustacean-people who chase them onto a roof, terrified runaway slaves, a mansion haunted by a manic, homicidal bride, and of course, Nyarlathotep (aka Terrible Awful Thing that Yates saw in the woods.) I won’t spoil what happens because the story is so short. But it’s a fun read—gory in some parts and full of local color and atmosphere. Faces are nailed into tree trunks and everyone goes insane. Fun stuff.
I liked how Lucas weaved civil war history and the Ku Klux Klan into his plot. You will feel Florida’s mosquitoes and stifling humidity on each page. The author lives in the St. Petersburg/Tampa-area where the story takes place. And his regional knowledge shines through, here, as he paints the geographical landscape.
Alternate historical stories are great because familiar ideas are retold in creative ideas. Normally, I am bored to tears by American Civil War stories. Seldom are they interesting or informative, but Lucas manages to pack the historical references in without droning on like a 6th grade social studies textbook. I heartily recommend ‘No Surrender’ to anyone who enjoys H.P. Lovecraft or dark, military thrillers.