Basket Full of Heads will Roll (a Comic Review)

Even as specifically horror season ends it is still getting cooler and darker, still spooky. So I figure it’s fine enough reason to finally look at the first in DC Comics and Joe Hill’s Hill House series: Basket Full of Heads.

Joe Hill, the son of horror legend Stephen King, has had his share of smash works that I never got to experience correctly. Locke and Key being the best example. The TV show was lacking and the audio drama, though hypothetically compelling, was neigh unlistenable or understandable at moments. Outside of that his short story collection Strange Weather was full of mostly misses. Yet I am compelled to keep giving him chances. It’s clear he is talented and Basket Full of Heads

Following in the classical Kingian horror tradition of a classic drama turned dark by mystical forces the book follows June, a college student visiting her boyfriend, a deputy intern for a local New England port town. On her visit to help him clean out the house boat he was living on the night takes a dark turn when the worst storm collided with a collection of inmates breaking out of jail. When June is confronted by one of the inmates she goes for the protection of an axe only to find that when the head is removed it keep on ticking. With the help of her decapitated counterparts she will work out what happened to her boyfriend, Liam, and find the true darkness the town was hiding.

The book is incredibly satisfying. That’s not a word I use often in my writing, but that was the final feeling the book left me with. A twist on the revenge-horror trope that positions the creature getting revenge as just a college girl trying to save her man. It’s an incredibly tight narrative. Every person she kills has an interesting story of how they relate to the larger mystery, along with a final twist that feels totally believable and callable.

The art, by Leomacs, works overall but is a little cartoony in places. The worst of it is shown when they try to do a head turning back and forth. It might supposed to look scary, seeing a two headed person, but instead looks silly. It also does not hold a candle to the fantastic, ominous, and dynamic cover art. It gives a much more realistic portrait of what the book is like that the book itself doesn’t totally give.

Though the atmosphere of the covers sells the book it is not really what the book is about. Again, the person in the rain jacket, axe, and basket of heads is a twist on revenge horror entities. The person under that hood isn’t scary and neither are the events that occurre to her. Not in the traditionally horror way. Instead the book is about (take a shot cause this feels like just a theme of works now) systemic horrors. How corruption can spread throughout an idealic looking community. It’s about how greed, power, and fear of losing both causes men to do terrible things to people. Sure it’s not piss your pants scary like a hay ride full of killer clowns with chainsaws (totally not a random example from personal life), but is more realistic and prevalent than we would want to believe. I mean there is a reason why an examination of the police and police procedures have been so hot for such a long time.

This book was a solid start to this line. Sure, more books have come out since and seem interesting, but it’s good to have a strong baseline quality, and that, for my misgivings about Joe Hills work (all little of it I have read), is definitely baseline. It’s got strong ideas, pretty good characters, a good premise, and strong ending. It’s hard to ask for more with such a short series like Baskets Full of Heads.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Pizza Girl drifts On By (a Book Review)

I read a lot. I try to get through a book a week or a comic book/manga/graphic novel in a day or two. This means I mostly read stories with “sequential art” in them. Not because I hate normal books, but I find trying to pick one out daunting if it’s not part of a series or a known author. I decided I wanted to change that and pick up all the new books I could starting with debut novel by Jean Kyuoung Frazier, Pizza Girl.

Set in the early 2010s the story follows pregnant and unsure of her future, Pizza Girl. She’s eventually given a name near the end of the book, but that doesn’t matter. She drifts through life. Lives with her Mom and boyfriend/baby daddy Billy, works at a pizza parlor, and is just dejected with what to do in the future. Everything changes when she delivers a Pickle-Pizza to Jenny, a new move in to the California neighborhood. They form an odd kinship that seems destined to either last forever or drive Pizza Girl deeper as she gets more and more lost.

The story is one of the many growing Millennial Quarter-life crisis/coming of age stories. It reminds me of Ingrand Goes West in a lot of ways with that. Though, Pizza Girl the character is one who had to drive to do anything in her life and unsure of what to do even if she wasn’t pregnant, at a dead end job, and didn’t graduate high school. It is a big help and a great choice to make this a first person narrative then. It allows us to get into her head, see where she is coming from based on the experiences both forced on her and ones she made. One example of a situation forced onto her was her father was being a consummate drunkard. Meanwhile, in her own life, she had a history of more running from problems than facing them. Like skipping class or choosing to fail assignments in school because she didn’t like them. Though they are never paired together it is clear that comes from having to group up so quickly, and now that she’s pregnant it will keep advancing leading to her not having a childhood she could be proud of and give to her own child.

As a coming of age narrative, it is a very simple and straightforward one of them. It’s not a very long story. I don’t just mean in page count, coming at at just over 190 pages, but in plot. Oddly enough though it is a book that, even as it’s substantially light on plot, could have been much longer and felt just as satisfying. Most of this first person book is told in summary. Pizza Girl will go over her day and some key events but will never dwell on them. She’ll go into details about character appearances and actions but very little dialogue. It makes sense doing it that way. She is coasting through life, so she will not spend the time dwelling on it when she retells it or narrates it back to the reader. It puts up more in her head. It makes sense. It just creates some problems.

The biggest problem this, mostly summary, approaching to telling the story is that I get very little of the tone in certain scenes. She will have conversations but since are mostly summarized I don’t get the chemistry, bonding, and depth one would get in fuller conversations. This leads to many of the characters feeling more hollow than they mean too. Her boyfriend Billy should be incredibly interesting, and has a reveal near the end that should feel bigger. Unfortunately none of that is fully established because many scenes are just glossed over. Again, that is the point, but it feels like wasted potential. Something that goes for every side-character in the story. They do their narrative job but come at the cost of being flatter for it.

However, since it is mostly written out instead of debated in text, the writing needs to be good and it is. Nothing ever gets too abstract and flowery that the point is lost, but nothing so bland and straightforward either. The world and environments are painted just enough to get a necessary enough picture to convey meaning. The bulk is, again, in summary, and those summaries do feel like full stories in themselves. The prose combines just enough detail to paint a picture and combine it with the right amount of context to get across everything it needs to. Some paragraphs do go on long, or feel like they could be chunked better, but it’s not ergregious or distracting.

The book is a compelling enough time. Pizza Girl does come alive and feels like a person you would know, but does have growing up to do. Even as the book closes it’s not a perfect arc. She is on her way to being better. Her life with her Mom and Billy is on its way to being better and with the closing lines it’s clear none of this would have gotten her to that place if she didn’t put the pickles on a pizza for Jenny, and end up falling for her in some way.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!

Axiom’s End is My First Book Review (a Review)

YouTubers writing books is nothing new. I just haven’t read them, and/or never watched the channels they were connected to. This is different however. I have been following Lindsay Ellis for a long time. Since her days as the Nostalgia Chick for ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com, a now defunct website (there is a sequel website, Channel Awesome, but is a total husk of what it was) that featured a slew of content creators who did comedy-based reviews of media from the late 2000s-early 2010s.

In comparing the kind of content she releases now compared to then it’s easy to how her evolution. What I find most interesting, and this is something most mainstream readers might not know, but at one point she crowdsource a novel, a YA paranormal romance, that I never read, but this is different. That book was self published. This one has a full publisher behind it, and is kind of a let down.

To explain, the novel follows Cora, a directionless 20-something with a tumultuous family situation. Everything changes for her when an alien object screeches across the Los Angeles skyline and lands in the exact same spot another foreign space object did. From there debates about alien life and existence come into play when Cora’s family is approached by the CIA over the incident due to the above tumultuous family life. The debates harden into a reality when Cora finds an alien breaking into her house, and after a series of events she ends up working with the alien, Ampersand, to find his people before he is discovered by others of is race and killed for what he knows. To accomplish this Cora becomes Ampersand’s interpreter to the humans. From there the relationship between the aliens and humans come into conflict as the true menace hunts them down.

It’s hard to really pick out what just does not work about this book in the end. Most everything else in the book works fine enough. The writing is clear, descriptive-if a little too much sometimes. It’s paced well enough for a more ET-like first contact story than a War of the Worlds or Day the Earth Stood Still. Cora is also a fine enough protagonist. She doesn’t have the most defined arc, but she is certainly empathetic and easy to stay with throughout the narrative. Heck, even the alien society feels fairly well thought out. Not super clear how they advanced so quickly despite their strict hierarchical nature, but are an interesting group and uses the idea of language in really fun ways.

Then, if it’s all fine where is the problem? Well that’s kind of the point, the problem isn’t in the story, it’s what’s glossed over and mostly in the background. The unexplained tumultuous family life alluded to earlier is that Cora’s father, Nils, is an Edward Snowden-type leaker of truth. He leaks major information on his blog, along with writing post against the American government. This is shown through epistolary blog posts, news articles, and emails by tertiary characters. This does help flavor the world, but is also the most interesting stuff and it’s just left in the background.

One major example is how the President, George W Bush, steps down from office after the knowledge of alien existence comes to the public. It gets a few passing mentions in story and in the logs, but nothing really changes in the narrative like it should. I understand part of the point is how unimportant the president is when it comes to certain knowledge, however a big political shakeup should feel massive in the narrative, and it does not. A second example is used a hand-wave explanation on how characters get out of their captivity. The setup is in one of the epistolary entries and then comes back at the end to save the day without the characters involved having to do anything to get free. It just feels rushed and like the narrative was too tied up by staying with Cora as the POV character.

As annoy as the outside information being more interesting than the narrative is, the real issue is how weak the ending ultimately is. The book feels like it ends with no resolution to the main questions raised. Sure, the big bad of the novel is dead (who, too, was also far too in the background of the narrative to feel threatening until the last 50-100 pages or so, but works as a foil for our heroes), but the question about what Ampersand and Cora will do, and their relationship moving forward is left far too ambiguous for any definitive reading. It makes all the questions of co-relations and teamwork with extraterrestrial life the book brought up feel pointless by being too centrist about the topic by the end of the day.

Centrist feels like an apt word for the book. Not that it preaches centrist ideology, but just how middle of the road the whole affair ends up being. It has some good ideas about what intelligent alien life could be like, and what conversations could be like with them as it pertains to learning their language and vice-versa, but none of the characters stand out, the third act feels very generic, the epistolary entires feel more like flavor text than important to the narrative until it’s swung too far in that direction, and the ending does not answer the what if statement of first contact with aliens.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!