Fangs – Sarah Andersen

fangs cover

What happens when a 300-year-old vampire meets a charming werewolf in a bar? Well, in Fangs it’s the start of a beautiful – if odd – relationship.

example panel from Fangs

There’s a lot to like about this book. The humour is – sorry not sorry – ‘fangtastic’ (haha!). I loved the doggish behaviour from a big scary bloke who turns out to like having his tummy tickled on a full moon as much as any labrador. And the vampire doing her makeup in a mirror that shows nothing of what the makeup is being applied to.

And yet, it took me a while to get into this, and it was hard not to write ‘I wanted to love it more than I did’. I really really love Sarah Andersen’s Sarah’s Scribbles comics, and it was perhaps the very different artwork style here that threw me a bit. It’s a bit disjointed, too, less a story and more a series of humorous vignettes – although that’s maybe less surprising – and the humour is rather gentle, if a little dark.

But then… It wasn’t hard to keep reading and as I did I realised it was less about pithy one-liners and more revealing about relationships in general. The match here is rather sweet, all things considered. You don’t have to be undead or a shapeshifter to see the rather lovely way this portrays a … unique? … partnership, and what makes it work.

example panel 2 from Fangs

Take it for what it is rather than comparing it to the author’s other work, and actually this is a really nice, if slightly slim volume.

NetGalley eARC: 115 pages
First published: September 2020
Series: none
Read from 26th-29th August 2020

My rating: 7.5/10

Bloodlust and Bonnets – Emily McGovern

Bloodlust and Bonnets cover

“Somewhere in Great Britain at the tail end of the Regency…”

Take an English Regency setting and a nice young lady who’d rather be anything but, throw in Lord Byron (you know, from books), a mysterious, non-binary adventurer, a giant psychic eagle (who happens to be French), and send them all vampire hunting through the upper echelons of English society…

panel from Bloodlust and Bonnets

Oh yeah, and do it all under the penship of the wonderful Emily McGovern, who gave us the fantastic My Life as a Background Slytherin webcomic (if you haven’t discovered this – go go go!), and you can throw in some familiar flouncing. I’m not sure, but there might even be a bibbling little cameo…!

I utterly adored this book. It’s fun and irreverent and a bit daft and a lot of joy. It plays with all of the tropes from fiction of the period – Lucy goes to a ball, to Bath (natch), is talked down to by men and her social superiors (!), and meets a rich widow with an unfortunate habit of losing husbands. But as well it has a lot to say about current society, be that gender roles or the desirability of pockets in dresses.

The simple drawing style still captured such a lot of expression, despite the characters’ facial features being limited to eyes and eyebrows – I’m impressed! The colours are lovely, too.

If I had to make a complaint, then it’d be that the plot is a bit rambling. But then, that’s also part of the joy.

another panel from Bloodlust and Bonnets

Recommended for those who think a mashup of Pride and Prejudice and Dracula is well overdue!

Paperback: 203 pages / 12 chapters
First published: 2019
Series: none
Read from 25th December 2019 – 1st January 2020

My rating: 9/10

Mythologica – Stephen P Kershaw

An Encyclopedia of Gods, Monsters and Mortals from Ancient Greece.

“Myths are important. Greek myths are much more than children’s stories… They might, or might not, be true, but this doesn’t take away their power. They are traditional tales that are incredibly important to the people who tell them. But they are also free-flowing, adaptable, and very good for us to think about. They help us to understand the world.”

I absolutely adore Greek mythology, so even though this is marketed as a kids’ book, it still caught my eye. And how would it not – have you seen the artwork!?

mythologica_argosThe modern, abstract style is beyond eye-catching. It’s not something I’d associate with a book for children, but hey – what do I know? I loved it myself, although I did wonder if some – like the picture of Argos covered in eyes would perhaps be a little scary for younger kids.

I don’t think this is for too young an audience, to be honest, although that’s more to do with the myths than the language. The latter is fairly dumbed-down – I was particularly unimpressed with Athena being “totally awesome in battle” *eye roll* – but you might struggle to explain why Zeus married his sister, for instance.

The text was a bit of a let down after the art, with the briefest of bios on fifty various characters from the Greek pantheon and myths. Each gets just one page, meaning they are often quite ‘busy’. There’s perhaps an overdose of different fonts used trying to separate out various snippets of text, but again, perhaps this would be ‘exciting’ to a childish eye?

But, back to that artwork. It’s so refreshing, so challenging from any other Greek myth artwork I’ve seen. I’m feeling very inspired – and I’d grab a ‘coffee table book’ version of this for that alone!

NetGalley eARC: 112 pages
First published: 3rd September 2019
Series: none
Finished reading: 1st September 2019

My rating: 7/10

Preludes and Nocturnes – Neil Gaiman

preludes and nocturnes cover

Graphic novels should, it feels, appeal to me a whole lot more than they do. As it is, I read so fast the artwork tends to get lost, and it’s tough to make myself slow down enough to savour it. It works, then, to go back for rereads – like this, of a series that I rather adore.

I love Neil Gaiman’s work anyway, but never more so than with his tales of the Endless: Death, Dream, Desire, et al. The first collected volume is wholly centred on Morpheus, the ‘Sandman’, the King of Dreams.

We start when a cult’s ritual to summon and bind Death (Dream’s big sister) goes awry, and it’s the dreamlord who ends up trapped in a bubble for decades. Meanwhile more than one world starts to fall apart. Fair enough to assume Morpheus will escape, but can he fix everything his absence has caused in the worlds?

And so we set off on an extremely dark and bloody tale that takes our hero to hell and worse. There’s no shortage of cameos, tying this into the wider DC universe: from Arkham Asylum and a few familiar inmates, to a certain John Constantine, and a character that would go on to spawn (pun intended) further comics and a whole TV series: Lucifer Morningstar (looking not very much like Tom Ellis, and a great deal like David Bowie, as it happens…!).

Talking of looks, the artwork… to be honest, doesn’t do a great deal for me here. It’s fine, but it’s not as special as my brain remembers or I think the series deserves. It does improve, but at this point in both the series and the decade, it’s all just a bit so-so.

The story, however, is where it’s at. Gaiman also draws heavily from myth, from Cain and Abel to the Fates, and much more. It makes a lot of sense that Dream is so key to story telling, and all stories are part of it. I love the interplay, the different strands, the way all these realities clash and combine.

Much as I adore the overreaching story (in 11 volumes or so) I’d have to agree with the author in his afterword that these opening chapters are him finding his feet. It’s only towards the end that I really felt we were starting to settle into the characters.

But, the best is very definitely still ahead, so well worth dipping a toe into the beginnings…!

Trade Paperback: 240 pages / 8 sections
First published: 1989
Series: Sandman book 1
Read from 31st March – 6th April 2019

My rating: 7/10 – and so much more love for the rest of the series

The Dresden Files: Dog Men – Jim Butcher

dresden files dog men cover

“Get up, Dresden.”

(Story by Mark Powers, Art by Diego Galindo)

The Dresden Files is one of my all-time favourite series, but it’s been a long wait since the last novel. So, despite not being a huge fan of graphic novels, I absolutely jumped at the chance to nab a copy of this. I hadn’t even known that there was a canon-approved series of graphic novels, but you don’t need to have read the rest before this – or even the main series, really, but why wouldn’t you?

“I was ready. I was confident. Usually that means I was f-‘ed.”

Harry Dresden is asked by senior Council member, Listens-to-Winds, to accompany him on a case. Of course, it’s as much a ruse to get Harry away from his self-recrimination and nightmares, although it says a lot when a grisly murder scene and some non-human monsters are less bad than his nightmares!

The artwork here is pretty good, but given my previous attempts with the format were the gorgeously illustrated Sandman set, this was unlikely to compete. In fairness, some of the bigger ‘location’ panels are great, but I wasn’t desperately impressed with the depiction of Harry himself – limitations of any pictorial adaptation of a series, your readers have their own mental images!

The character still comes across exactly as he does in the main books, though – all pop culture and offbeat humour, offsetting the rage and fearsome power. The story is fairly slight, with rather two-dimensional supporting characters, and a little heavy on the lessons for our hero. Still, while we’re waiting impatiently for the next novel in the series, it was really nice to check back in again with the best wizard called Harry 😉

NetGalley eARC: 146 pages / 6 issues
First published: 2018
Series: Dresden Files graphic novels book 7 (collection of issues 1-6)
Read from 3rd-18th February 2018

My rating: 7/10