Hemlock Grove: Season 2 *SPOILERS*

I did a video review for this

it’s posted on the youtube page for the radio show I co-host, Radio Of Horror. Watch it, subscribe (there’s clips from our show, video reviews for films and interviews that won’t usually be cross posted here) and you can give us a “like” on the facebook.

But there was a few thing I wanted to elaborate on a little more. That’s why you’re here right.
one major gripe I had was that the didn’t show the threesome

And as discussed in the video, this is NOT family entertainment. In general, there’s several murders, gore, plenty of sex. Hell, there is rape. Roman rapes someone and then erases her memory in season one. Through out the series they really play up this “bromance’ between Roman and Peter (I don’t like to read it that way, it makes sense that they get along since really no one would understand them) but when Miranda falls for the both of them and initiates a threeway… …there’s a blank space between when Roman follows Miranda and Peter upstairs that lasts until they are fully clothed the next day having coffee.
Oh fuck you, Netflix.

You think it’s okay to show a teenager being raped but not consensual polyamorous sex?
Fuck you. Fucking rape culture at it’s finest.
And a prime example of sexism. On two counts.
ONE) that we were shown a young woman being victimized, but an adult woman taking charge and insisting on what she want sexually (two hot men that she has romantic affection for as well as physical attraction to) results in something that is considered too taboo for it’s audience.
TWO) the friendship between the two creeps, the alternated jealousy and tenderness they have for eachother falls into the bromance trope. but sweet jesus forbid that we see that their male parts go anywhere near each other. Why play around like that then? We saw Clementine getting out of bed with a woman in season one, so homosexual relationships have been (vaguely) shown. But two men? better not. It would destroy the “manliness” or someshit. fuck that.

On the GIRL POWER
Destiny Rumancek plays a much larger role this season. She immediately gets involved with helping Peter get Lynda out of jail and is no longer hanging around just to weave some mystical shit and lead the MCs in the right direction. She has her own agenda, goals and relationships even if they are not central to the plot. Without her to use her psychic powers and kick some ass they’d have been screwed. Destiny is played by Mohawk actress Kaniehtiio Horn. She gets to shove a dagger in someone’s balls. She looks out for Peter. She hooked up with a (probably) hitman. It’s good.

Shelley also gets a more central role. Before she was sort of an accessory. She caused Olivia discomfort. She made Roman seem more likeable and human, he treated her with kindness and she brought out that goodness and light in an otherwise creepy and psychopathic character. This season she was really out on her own, she made friends on her own, she made decisions for herself (although she was somewhat betrayed by those around her while making them). She has a sweetness and understanding that remains uncorrupted despite the horrible conniving people around her, but it’s not (all) out of naivete, she understands why her mother is the way she is and accepts that.

Olivia gets some depth. Instead of the bored icequeen she becomes more empathetic. Famke Janssen delivers Olivia’s lines impeccably. While she is being treated after her near death she begins to become more human. And she fucking hates it. But then it becomes who she is. She decides to cause less suffering. She decides to do the maternal thing and save Shelley instead of herself. She wants to be good, but when Norman and Roman don’t forgive her previous misdeeds she quickly reverts to a baby snatching crazy lady. But hey, that’s self preservation. You don’t live centuries without that drive.

Why is “gypsy” a slur?
Ok, because I have heard “I don’t understand how ‘gypsy’ is racist” a few times. Usually followed by “how come no one is mad about it then?”

“Gypsy” is an ethnic slur towards the Romani people. They have been discriminated against since the 1500s. They were banned from England because Romani were seen as godless/devilish accused of witchcraft and they were evicted. 1700s saw the Romani hung without trial, mutilated by branding or having their ears cut off to identify Romani in Austria and the surrounding areas. They were murdered en masse, including children. They were slaves in Romania until 1856. In WWII, the Nazi regime saw them on par as enemies to the Aryan race along with Jewish people and blacks. The number of Romani wiped out is unclear because of different branches and lack of record keeping but is somewhere about half a million and below a million and a half Romani. In 1997, some Romani immigrated to Canada (legally, as refugees) and there was protest from neo-nazis. As recently as 2007 Romani children were forcibly segregated in Slovakian schools.
We’re talking about people who have been mistreated, profiled, discriminated against, victimized, denied education, maimed and killed because of their heritage.
And the word “Gypsy” is connected to the word “gypped” -meaning robbed, ripped off, screwed, fucked over. But really it’s the Romani who have been fucked over. so remember that next time you’re packing for vacation and hashtag your photo #gypsylife.
really? that’s not “Gypsy life” in the least.
So now you know.

31 Horrifying days: Day1- SkinWalkers (2007)

In honor of the upcoming TerrorCon, June 7&8, I’ve decided to embark on a month (and a day) long horror movie marathon. This will consist of classics, new films, things I’ve been meaning to watch and old favorites I haven’t viewed in a while- anything from horror themed action comedies to old school slasher to big name monsters. 

SkinWalkers may seem like a weird place to start, but i’m a huge fan of werewolves. In the film, there are two werewolf packs. One embraces the beast and the other wants “the curse to end” (wack. being a werewolf would be the coolest). A half werewolf half human child on the eve of his 13th birthday controls the fate of the species. So basically: sharp teeth +ancient prophecies +special snowflake children +sexy people and CGI.

One thing is immediately obvious: Skinwalkers are not actually Werewolves. Skinwalkers are part of a Navajo legend, those who would become Skinwalkers are highly skilled priests who take the form of animals to inflict pain and suffering, to achieve the ability to shapeshift they must kill a close family member. Popular forms include coyote, crow, owl fox.. and wolf. Which is where the skinwalkers = werewolves came into play for these particular Hollywood types. Skinwalkers’ identities must remain a secret, in the legend pronouncing the evil one’s full name would mean his death. That’s a tad easier than a well aimed silver bullet. Recent fantasy lit and TV has grabbed on to alternate versions of Skinwalkers lately, from Patricia Brigg’s main protag Mercy Thompson who shapeshifts solely to coyote, to ML Brennan’s white blooded/sharp-nailed literally wearing human skin villain, it was True Blood that came closest to the original tale with Sam Merlotte’s short time lover, Luna- she technically killed her mother (being born) and could change skin to a human. None are an exact match, the Navajo took the threat of skinwalkers so seriously that wearing animal pelts was taboo, worn only for ceremony and they did not use the hides of predator animals. 

The movie does little justice to the original source material, aside from shots that show the soon to be teenager’s gun toting grandma becoming suspicious of a hawk over head before a leather wearing biker type werewolf comes into view. If Tim lives to be 13, the werewolf curse will be broken. 3 days prior, the moon turns red and team “I ❤ being a werewolf” goes on the hunt, Tim and his human mother are quickly scooped up by the good guys. As if the threat to Tim’s life wasn’t enough from badass wolves, he’s also a sickly and asthmatic little dude. It ramps up the urgency and it’s not bad.

The awesomeness of werewolves are usually smothered by misogyny: From the barren and bitter female wolves in the Mercy Thompson series, to the dominant male wolves and crazy wild women in Sookie Stackhouse novels (and TrueBlood’s out of control Debbie Pelt) to the naked and crazy slutty slut slut wolf women in the Anita Blake novels (who are powerful, but hardly ever lead a pack, and if they do it’s because they are impulsive and brutal, not because they are good leaders). Skinwalkers escapes that trope with competent females on both sides:

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From Sonja, who wants to be a werewolf: she’s as vicious and badass as her male counterparts, fierce and no one’s lover or plaything. Sonja was played by Natassia Malthe who major had roles in Bloodrayne: Deliverance, Bloodrayne:Third Reich, Alone in the Dark 2. Not exactly big hits. But her character had value, and man could she wear that bikini top and Levis.

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Sarah Carter (TV series Falling Skies) played Katherine, sweet cute and loyal… well, that goes awry, but she’s smart and nice and still vicious when necessary. 

And of course:

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Holding it down for the humans: Rhona Mitra (Number 23, SGU:Stargate Universe, UnderWorld:Rise of the Lycans) cool headed protector willing to take on man and beast alike. She goes from disbelief to gun toting final-girl esque action-mom rather quickly.

The cinematography is good, most scenes are filmed with a reddish hue, scenes of team “keep Tim alive” are often tense while they hide from the bad dudes. Slow motion angle changes intensify action sequences There’s not much focus on the transformations but the full werewolf make up is decent if uninspired. 

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That’s Jason Behr- Tim’s father, Bad Wolf former star of Roswell and the Grudge. 

Also starring Elias Koteas from Shutter Island, Let Me In and the Killing as the leader of Team Tim. 

Directed by James Isaac …also known for Jason X ..This flick was much better than that. The ending was awesome, while the plot (by James Roday- the white guy from Psych, James DeMonaco and Todd Harthan) was somewhat convoluted, it was snappy and enjoyable and looked as flashy and spectacular as one would hope. 

But was it scary? Well, not really. It was so action packed and zany that there is no stretch of the imagination that this would happen to me and there weren’t any “jump out of your seat moments.” This is more in the vein of Underworld, Van Helsing, Resident Evil action with a horror twist. 

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Anime Review #1- Rosario + Vampire

I’ve actually been meaning to write about this one for a while. The premise is perfect. A boy who fails to get into any prestigious private schools is accidentally enrolled in a school for monsters, Yokai Academy. The only human, surrounded by snow ghosts, succubi, werewolves, vampires, witches, cat people and blob monsters quickly attracts a posse of magical females… who all want him. The age and premise make this akin to a gender-swapped City of Bones. Powerful females constantly protecting the puny human from a world that he was unwillingly cast into? Multiple suitors vying for affection? One of them is an outright stalker?

Yup.

Tsukune Aono flirts with Moka Akashiya (who is a sweet girl wearing a rosary that keeps her violent vampire form underwraps), Tsukune likes her but doesn’t like sharing his blood and isn’t 100% about dating a vampire. He is also pursued by a busty succubus, Kurumu…

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…and the super stalker Mizore.

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Mizore begins as a villain, willing to hurt Kurumu, Moka and even Tsukune himself while in pursuit of his affections. During the altercation Tsukune blames himself. Says that this is all happening because of him. Kurumu wisely speaks up, telling him that he is not to blame, “It is never the victims fault! People are responsible for their own actions!”

This is something that is few and far between in media aimed for the tween and teen set (although I wouldn’t rate this anime in that category) we often see victim blaming in YA. Examples include, audiences not liking Clary’s “friendzoning” of Simon, the “romantic” stalker Edward’s over protectiveness of Bella, Buffy’s mother blaming her for the creeper behavior by Angelus after they sleep together. So I had a fist pump moment when she blurted that out.

Tsukune is also kind of a special snowflake himself: he’s the only one that can remove the cross from Moka’s neck. He solves his problem using traditionally female tactics like talking out problems with the monster.

Although I’m touting the feminist power of Rosario + Vampire… Moka’s transformation scene leaves much to be desired in that category.

At Anime Boston there was a panel called “Fight Like a Girl: How Magical Girls Weaponize Femininity” the presenter was named Nina (if anyone has additional info, throw me a comment, I’d love to add it) and she brought up this excellent point about magical girl transformation scenes from Sailor Moon and Ballerina Tutu. The Females put on jewelry, get a hair makeover and/or change into a fancier outfit. This can have both negative and positive interpretations. From “you have to be beautiful and girly to have power” to “you can be pretty and girly and have ability as well” to “pride in your appearance can be empowering” and it is really individual preference that will dictate one’s interpretation.

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But with Moka: We get and upskirt, her breasts enlarge and her shirt busts open. Brief flashes of (albeit not graphic) nudity ensue before her hair lightens. Her inner-vampire is a true immortal in the body of a girl and I see why this happens but I have trouble concocting a positive twist on cleavage and panty shots being a sign of power. The anime itself is rated MA 18+ (there’s a BDSM teacher/monster, a perverted senior and a million upskirts) so the case can be made that this is for adults… but the characters are still Freshman and Sophomores and one member of their group is only 11, Yukari Sendou.

And the lessons learned are very teenage. Yukari, for example, faces bullying for being a witch (a “being of the borderline” AKA a supernatural HUMAN) until Moka and Tsukune stick up for her. She’s also coming to terms with her sexual orientation she falls first for Moka and then for Tsukune she wants them to have a three way relationship. In one episode, after being teased by volumptuous Kurumu she wants to grow up and visits the school nurse who feeds off her body shame and self loathing but transforms her into a beautiful womanly figure who instantly attracts attention. In the end she learns to love herself as she is and not grow up too fast. So the rating and life lessons are very incongruent. I don’t know what the rating is in Japan and I have heard that the 18+ rating is ethnocentric and based on prudish Western connotations.

Still.. there’s nothing empowering about wind blowing your skirt up.

If you can get passed that it is very good and lots of fun. I enjoy seeing how the group of friends gets out of trouble and am impressed with how often opening their circle up to other characters- who are mainly female- solves conflict. I also enjoyed the varied interpretations of monsters, and despite pandering to male audiences there is some genuine girl power.

Review! IN THE DARK a Horror Anthology

Drawn from a wide range of inspirations, stories reminiscent of childhood campfire tales, or Lovecraft-esque, or teenage action influenced and featuring creepy kids, self-sacrifice, monster hunters, petty revenge or something more existential, good people going bad, and bad kids going good from the tampering of horrific entities. What if the reason that jerk always checks his phone so much is that he needs to know when he’s going to change into a horrific beast? Nothing is as it seems here IN THE DARK.

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Among my faves:

The Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley penned story Guilloteens a punk rock Buffy homage with a Scooby gang monsterhunters and on one night they find a house being used by were-wizards for nefarious reasons. Were-wizards. So cool. Cute characters and extra blood spatters made awesome by artist Christian Wildgoose.

All Things Through Me by Mike Oliveri, artist Mike Henderson follows the son of a fallen priest who can communicate with the dead and has a knack for possession on a house call in a small town and stumbles on something local law enforcement would rather he hadn’t.

When the Rain Comes by Steve Niles is a creepfest about repercussions of fearing what you don’t understand. Damien Worm’s super creepy art is killer here, cloudy scratches, scribbled silhouettes capture the essence of the mysterious creatures that come forth to a farmhouse after a flood.

The Body by Tim Seeley, art by Stephen Green, mixes urban violence with a supernatural avenger.

Final Meal by Christopher Sebela and Zack Soto makes me glad to be vegan after reading this eerie tale about feeling like a God on the top of the food chain following a sad character who can’t get enough of sucking life from between his teeth.

The One That Got Away, written by Scott Snyder (who, y’know, writes both metropolis and Gotham’s heroic dudes) plays off our expectations when a young boy is approached by a knife wielding character.

Brian Keene’s The Lost Valley of the Dead is set in a wild West zombie plague. Tadd Galusha brings it with well drawn zombie animals sporting dripping fangs and exposed ribs. In trying to escape the disease they find a hidden entrance to a world of dinosaurs ..things get even crazier when the T-Rex ingests the zombie coyotes. Zombie freaking dinosaurs.

Swan Song by Rachel Deering takes a break from the plethora of werewolves and features a gorgeous vampire and the dashing would be hero who unknowingly unleashes a monster.

Extra treats- faux vintage ads and page 185’s horror trivia crossword! I’m thinking about sending $3.25 to get my “Creature in a Crate”.

Whether you like your villains internal, supernatural or humanly homicidal and your main characters twisted, teenaged, tragic or triumphant and your settings futuristic, realistic or rustic IN THE DARK has something for you. If you didn’t get in on the ground floor for this one order one from your local comic shop, IDW is printing and shipping this rad compilation soon.

Book Review- Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon #29

Do I have to read the whole book to say with certainty that this is the worst book I ever read?

Night play is a Dark Hunter novel. It’s about werewolf type creatures that are cursed. Half of the species has human hearts and half animal hearts. There are also Bears and Hawks and other shapeshifters. It doesn’t really matter, because aside from shitshows of manliness the whole umm… plot… is kind of in the back ground.

Yeah, so the main character, Vane, is mourning his brother who is in a coma and expected not to recover, they are being hunted by their father. His sister and mother are both dead for the same reasons. Sounds really… tragic? overly dramatic? angsty? Doesn’t matter. For the first half of the book you’ll almost never hear about it. Vane meets “Bride.” a woman working in a vintage shop and falls madly for her.

And we follow these two idiots around forever. I’m on page 141/371 and I don’t know how much more I can actually stand.

Here are SOME of the offending issues:

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Vane goes into her shop and asks her for a recommendation for a gift. She asks if its for his GF. He says “I could never be so lucky.” and she thinks he could get any girl, who would turn him down -and I quote- “On second thought, she hoped she never met a woman that attractive. If she did,she would be morally obligated to run her over with her car.” No you wouldn’t! No you would not be ‘obligated’ to cause her drastic physical harm! What the fuck is wrong with you?! How other women look is none of your damn business! Insecure freakshow.

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Vane, after creepily asking Bride if she worked in the store alone SMELLED that she got scared and thought “But then, (humans) were weak, especially their females.” This is the main character. Who I think I’m supposed to think is troubled but charming… BUT FUCK YOU.

He says his last name “Kattalakis” and she says, “That’s very different. You must have a hard time spelling it for people.” Why the fuck would he have a hard time spelling his own name, bubblehead?

Later, they get marked by a thing that says they are soulmates. Vane takes this a sign that he should stalk er… “protect” her and he changes into wolf form and spies on her having an annoying conversation with her friends about “who’s the fattest’ One; I hate that shit. Normalized chick behavior of talking about who’s fat and what freaky diet they are on. For some reason this is acceptable female bonding. And of course, two, Vane is pretending to be a canine and spying on her and sleeping inside her house under false pretenses!! NOT romantic. NOT sexy. NOT charming. Sick. 

Bride’s ex shows up to drop off her stuff. He’s an ass to her. Vane, in Wolf form, bites him. Taylor, the ex, says he will sue. Bride says she will say that Taylor threatened her and who will believe him? So now this uncomfortable, but NORMAL adult interaction has turned into a shit show of manliness. Which is bad enough, but then THEN to top it off, Bride says that she will make false allegations that he was intimidating and/or abusing her. So, let’s just make it look like women make flip decisions to file false abuse charges. Just lying hos when they don’t get their way, huh? Then Vane in human form shows back up and gives Taylor a black eye. After throwing tens of thousands of dollars around to get movers to take Bride’s things inside. Once again, our he-man hero doesn’t need words, he just needs physical violence and big paychecks. Also, why he has so much money makes no sense.

He does, at one point, ask for consent. Very rad. unfortunately this came directly after stalking and ‘one true love that i must protect’ BS, “I might toss you over my shoulder and ravish you again.” “Would you really?” “I would if you’d let me.”

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But a meager 4 pages later; “He’d never understood what had driven his father to attack his mother. Now he did Every part of him simmered for (Bride). It was feverish and raw and he wasn’t sure how to control it. I’m sorry.. abuse and rape are presented as something that happens when someone is “passionate”? I mean, what the fuck here? He’s just so attracted to her he might violate her! Fucking romantic, huh?

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I’m all set.

We have a MC who is a confirmed violent stalker who thinks rape is a normal way to show affection. Bride is a fickle, shallow, boring, low self esteem having Pollyanna. She spend pages upon pages focusing on her negative body image and shitty internal dialogue. We’re supposed to see that Vane thinks she is beautiful. But he’s a fucking creepy stalker. His word don’t mean shit in my book. Fuck it, in anyone’s book. Beauty starts from within. And a woman with no self confidence who only sees herself reflected through the eyes of a man, who hates other women because of their appearance, who cannot deal with normal grown up social interactions on any level? Nope. Not beautiful.

The characters names: Daimon, Kyrian, Acheron, Vane, Fang, Bride.

NO ONE HAS THESE AWFUL NAMES

How long must I tolerate this crap? Will I DNF or see how many glaring flaws I can add up? Tune in next time.

Legends of Red Sonja #1

Dynamite’s favorite Ginger, adventurer and swordslinger, She Devil with a Sword RED SONJA!

There are 3 parts of Red’s Legends contained in this issue, the first piece and framework, “Legends of Red Sonja” by Gail Simone who is currently writing the main Red Sonja series art by Jack Jadson (all female writers, no gender protocol for artists, as Gail Simone said, the men need a chance). The second, “Eyes of the Howling God,” written by Nancy A. Collins, Bram Stoker award winning horror author, who created a character, Sonja Blue, as an homage to Red. And the third, “La Sonja Rossa,” written by Devin Kalile Grayson with art by Carla Speed McNeil, Grayson has written loads of comics Batman, Catwoman and a 5 year stretch writing Nightwing.

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A band of assassins are hunting Red Sonja. Hard to believe, amirite? They are united only in their hatred of Sonja. Driven by their need for vengeance. The Learned Assassin, Eles, has been hunting her the longest.

He met her when she was a thief. Sonja was prying the ruby eyes out of “the Howling God” statue when she was caught by monks with moons on their foreheads, seems she was defacing their religious idol. They try to grab her, then their leader threatens her with a ‘unique’ punishment since she’s the first female out of many thieves to try to deface their god. He says she can be “the temple whore” or she can face him in combat.

What does she choose? “Do you need to ask?”

Their leader goes all “Howling God” himself, turning into a wolfman. She stabs him through the chest and beats him dead then she goes about her business thieving. Eles was there that day, blind in one eye from facing her. He trained and learned the dark arts to face her once more and settle the debt for her blinding and slaying his god.

“Red is Her Name. And crimson follows her like vultures to a corpse.”

One legend rolls into the next as night turns into day and the Grey Riders meet with Captain Vitale Boulos who claims that Sonja sunk with his last ship. Red wasn’t the only beauty aboard the ship. There was another woman. And that woman? She summons a Kraken. She found out she was going to be sacrificed to a god, so no one can really blame her. “They say it is a great honor to be so chosen, but she, you know, perhaps she felt unworthy.” 

Sonja fights the creature from the deep with everything from her sword to her teeth. The Captain says she went down honorably, died fighting. But the riders don’t buy it, they’re sure she made it out of the water.

So they search on, but we have to wait for the next issue for the Legends of Fiction to tell the Legends of Red Sonja.

It’s no secret the Red Sonja and Gail Simone are my faves. (and all female authors adding their own twist? How could I not L<3VE this series?) So far the tales have been epic and extraordinary. A Wolfman and a kraken in the first issue? Awesome. The different phases were woven together perfectly, the art, the violence? Amazing. Very tall tales, by using perspectives of different travellers and adventurers, it creates an atmosphere where the stories are larger than life, like the history of great legendary tales passed down through oral traditions. Clever. Next issue features YA fantasy writer Tamora Pierce and steampunk romance author Meljean Brooks. So it will be interesting to see what authors from outside the action/comics realm bring in to the story. Word should travel quickly about the Legends of Red Sonja.

The Underburbs Vol. 1

The Underburbs follows the story of 13 year old Angela who stayed home sick and missed trick or treating. Instead her brother tries to summon a demon. A spooky portal springs up and out pops Countess Winifred and the Hammer bust out ready to take over the human world that Winifred feels is mocking monster-kind. Winifred is a vampire and she turns Angela’s bro and his 2 friends into monsters, then she tells her father how she crossed into the human world.

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Seems monsters have lost interest in the human world once they found a source of clean burning fuel. 

Angela crosses over to the other side to reverse the curse. She also makes friends with a wolfman. The wolfman encourages her to go monster and they bust out the classic monster tropes. 

Angela and Winifred double cross each other. Angela becomes the costume BtVS style (a Halloween classic)! The town gets smothered in an evil mist that turns them into monsters. Winifred heads to a Halloween party to… uh, “help” them.

Next they go to Mall-Mart to… well, this time to threaten everyone with certain doom if they don’t comply. The humans at Mall-Mart are in no condition to comply and are paranoid and pulling shotguns on children mere minutes after the crisis begins + more zombie tropes. 

“Basically, ya gots two types of zombies: fast n’ slow.”

Winifred unleashes her hoarde on “Maul-Mart” Angela tries to get a grip on her powers, 

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I picked up the trade paperback collection and it included all this rad bonus material by creators Joe Haley and TJ Dort. Aside from references to Wolfman lore, vampire manners and Dawn of the Dead (zombies liking shopping centers) the bonus bits also clue us in to Resident Evil easter eggs, and that our main protag and antag are named after characters in Sleepaway Camp and the Shining. Cool!

I heard Underburbs is a regional comic, so if you aren’t rad enough to be from MA, you can order one at IndyPlanet or say Hi to Haley and Dort at NYCC! 

Snag an issue. It’s cute, its fun, it’s clever with all the classic horror references. Spooky cool kids that are light on the gore, heavy on the sarcasm. Wonderful Halloween treat.

Angela is a typical 13 year old, trying to be mature and smart while still being pretty freaked out. Winifred is too self assured, spoiled with a rebellious steak less subtle than the Bride of Frankenstein’s highlights:

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the two play off each other well, great supporting cast of well known and lesser known monsters.