Weekly Book Buzz: The Art of Charles Vess Review (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Date: Sunday, January 17, 2010

 

Not a lot on the docket this week unless you are a comic book fan in which case there are several very interesting genre releases including Image Comics’ Soul Kiss, DC Comics’ Dead Romeo, and Desperado’s Deadworld: Slaughterhouse. I’ve mentioned before that I think that Deadworld is simply the best zombie comic ever produced and its been going strong…on and off…for nearly 25 years. 
 
Kage Baker, author of the World Fantasy Award-nominated House of the Stag, is very ill and battling a brain tumor. If you’d like to send her your well wishes you can e-mail her at the following: materkb@gmail.com or snail mail to: Kage Baker 331 Stimson, Apt. B, Pismo Beach CA 93449
 
New This Week
 
The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, Rich Horton (Prime TPB)
 
The first volume of The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy features over a quarter million words of fiction by some of the genre's greatest authors, including Peter S. Beagle, Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Ian McDonald, Sarah Monette, Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, Robert Reed, Patrick Rothfuss, and many more, as selected by Rich Horton, a well-known and well-received contributor to many of the field's most respected magazines.
 
Steppe (Planet Stories) Piers Anthony (Paizo)
 
Alp, a 9th century Turkish war-chieftain, is whisked away from his tribe and his era at the moment of his death, and finds himself in 2332. This future is ruled by humans called the Galactics who preside over a live-action game where the participants can actually die. Against his will, Alp is forced to fight once more.
 
Star Trek: Spock - Reflections  (IDW Graphic Novel)
 
A Vulcan, on Romulus ? Absurd! Or is it? In the follow-up collection to the smash hit Star Trek: Countdown movie prequel, we discover what could drive a man to abandon all he knows and go to live with the Federation's sworn enemy, his real motivations, and how he looks back at what brought him to this place in his life.
 
The Darkness Origins Volume 2 (Darkness (Top Cow Graphic Novel)
 
Go back to the beginning and rediscover what made The Darkness one of the most talked about titles of the last 10 years. Jackie Estacado, mafia hitman, blessed and cursed on his 21st birthday with the ancient power of The Darkness. When his ancient enemy The Angelus comes searching for a new host, Jackie finds it hits quite close to home! Collects The Darkness #7-8 and #11-14.
 
Dead Romeo (DC Comics Graphic Novel)
 
Jonathan Romero, aka "Dead Romeo," was the lead singer of the '80s rock band "The Dead Romeos." But that was before a mysterious set of circumstances turned him into a vampire and sent him straight to Hell. Now he's back on Earth and he has a difficult choice to make: Kill his true love and earn his permanent release from eternal damnation - or protect her and burn for eternity. Either way, someone is going to die! It's vampires, romance, rock and dismemberment like you've never seen before!
 
Soul Kiss Steven T. Seagle (Image Comics Graphic Novel)
 
There's hell to pay...so pucker up! Ten days. Ten kisses. Ten souls. That's the deal LA production assistant Lili Bloom made with The Devil to get out of a dire situation. But there's a big difference between wishing someone would go to hell, and actually having the power to send them there. Caught between a lip-lock and hard place, will Lili make good on her commitment? Or will she choose to kiss her one true love goodbye instead? The debut Image series by acclaimed Vertigo writer Steven T. Seagle (American Virgin) lavishly illustrated by Marco Cinello is collected for the first time in this stand-alone volume featuring the five-issue series along with never-before-seen "director's cut" material including production and development art, as well as a conversation between the creators.
 
Deadworld: Slaughterhouse Gary Reed (Desperado Publishing Graphic Novel)
 
Many humans find themselves trapped in a world of the walking dead and the living who will do anything to survive. The promise of "Safe Haven" reveals a much darker and sinister purpose, when victims find themselves in a medical facility, a "Slaughterhouse," which will stop at nothing to combat the zombie plague, including using humans as guinea pigs. Survivors find that the greatest horror may not be the zombies - but their own kind!
 
Criminal Macabre: Cell Block 666 Steve Niles (Dark Horse)
 
Cal McDonald faces his greatest challenge yet - hard time! Framed in the death of a cop, Cal finds himself at the mercy of a sadistic and corrupt police force. But now, in some of the bleakest moments of his life, the things that make him different from the rest of the world might be the only things capable of keeping his sorry butt out of deeper trouble. Because it turns out that the things that would make most people want to give up and die - the strange, inhuman voices coming from adjacent cells, the mysterious visitors, the unlikely saviors in demonic disguise - are the things that have kept Cal alive long enough to see a way out. And just when Cal begins to unravel the conspiracy behind his own downfall, he uncovers a nightmare world of murder and corruption at the prison that has dozens of former prisoners turning in their graves - and clawing their way out!
 
Reviews
 
The Apocalypse Door (Peter Crossman) James D. Macdonald (Tor Trade)
 
 
James McDonald takes Templar Knights out of medieval times and updates them for the 21st century in The Apocalypse Door, and the result is an exciting begin to a new series. Peter Crossman appears as if he is perhaps a CIA agent yet he is actually a member of an organization that is far older…the Templar Knights which still exist as a faction to battle evil. Crossman is assigned the task of locating several missing UN peacekeepers that were kidnapped in Jerusalem. Investigating a warehouse in New Jersey with his partner Maggie fails to find the peacekeepers but does turn up a barrel full of fungus that recoils at the cross and bleeds when cut!
 
Is the fungus an alien race or a product of underworld evil? Toss in Nun assassins, Teutonic Knight rivals, and the threat of Armageddon, and McDonald presents at story that zips by with all manner of craziness…but in a good way. Crossman is part warrior monk and part James Bond and the book is narrated first person much in the style of hardboiled detective stories of the past. A fun read and quite unique compared to a lot of the other urban fantasy crowding bookstore shelves these days. Grade A-
 
Drawing down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess (Dark Horse Hardcover)
 
 
Charles Vess has been one of the preeminent American fantasy artists for over thirty years. In this new collection from Dark Horse, four decades of Vess’ whimsical fantasy and comic book are on display in a handsome, hardcover volume. This includes some of Vess’ most early work from the 1970s which has never been previously published. To me, Vess is the consummate fantasy artist. His work has an eldritch and lyrical quality to it that seems to come naturally. His illustrations of the Fairie Realm are the standard by which all other artists should be judged. Yet it is his comic book work that Vess has perhaps found his greatest success.
 
Included within are some of his best-known cover work including Web of Spider-Man #1 with its gothic setting of Spider-Man perched atop a pair of gargoyles; his many covers for DC’s Swamp Thing and The Spectre, and his work with Neil Gaiman on The Books of Magic. Also included are examples of Vess’ work for novels, gaming products, children’s books, theater posters and albums. His Theater Bristol illustrations especially are gorgeous and capture the look and feel of earth 20th century American folk art.
 
Vess provides a commentary on many of the pieces inside and each illustration is noted with title, year, and art form used. This is an astonishing edition devoted to a true master of fantasy. Grade A


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