Graphic Novel Review: Birthright, Volume 2: Call To Adventure by Joshua Williamson

Birthright, Vol. 2: Call to AdventureBirthright, Vol. 2: Call to Adventure by Joshua Williamson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The sophomore slump drags down this graphic sequel as it abandons its strengths and unique points in favor of a fantastical chase and action sequence that manages to not move the plot more than a hair with its final panel and yet also manages to avoid further world-building.

The first volume establish a rich, dark tone depicting the grief of a father having lost his son in the woods. As days and weeks stretch to months and even a year, suspicions rise that the father must have killed his younger child. His wife leaves him, and the law is always probing him for evidence. He almost loses his older son in favor of his growing alcohol dependency.

Then one day a crazy man is found in the woods with a sword that claims to be the lost son, grown much older in the misaligned timelines of neighboring dimensional planes.

This volume barely shows the parents and fails to further their angle. The older brother, now much younger than the man his younger brother has grown into, is on a quest with the dimension-crossing warrior. Law enforcement now chases them, as do forces from the fantastical realm whence Warrior Mikey sprang.

We know Mikey has been corrupted into a character of questionable morality, as this was established in Volume 1. The interspersed flashbacks into Mikey’s decades off-world don’t show the cause behind the corruption. All we know is that his unrevealed plans include his still pre-teen older brother.

The father was “corrupted” in very specific ways: guilt, suspicion, accusation, abandonment, and alcohol. It’s time for the series to allow the same treatment for the lost son . . .

This series is co-created by author Williamson and artist Andrei Bressan. My rating for Birthright, Volume 1: Homecoming was 4 stars.
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Short Story Review: “Moom!” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

This very short vignette reads like a modern animal folk tale. A swordfish, after attacking an underwater oil pipe, earns the right to be transformed into a larger, more dangerous being. In its words–a monster.

Due to the animal POV not being overly anthropromorhphized, little in the way of plot and motivation is explained. The epilogue tag attempts to tie the tale to actual recent history events, but remains disjointed from the tale.

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
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Short Story Review: “Spider the Artist” by Nnedi Okorafor

4 of 5 stars.

As protests over the rights of people versus the rights of oil pipelines grow more confrontational in the American Mid-West, this short story slides in with an imaginable future in which oil pipelines wend through villages and ecologically sensitive areas of Nigeria with disregard for the villagers. Artificially intelligent, large white cyber-spiders scurry up and down the pipelines fixing leaks and dismembering humans that get to close or tamper with the infrastructure.

The narrator toys with death when she routinely slips out of the hands of her abusive, alcoholic husband and hides in the long grass by the pipeline where she can watch the “spiders” and practice her guitar. One particular spider stops to observe the music making. Day after day. Then one day, it produces its own musical instrument . . .

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
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Short Story Review: “On the Road” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

When one goes to a foreign land to immerse within a foreign culture, one expects some practices and experiences that challenge one’s worldview. However, all bets are off when the unexpected phenomenon is supernatural in nature, and horrific at that.

An American cop travels to Nigeria to visit her aunt and grandmother. A surprise 3 day downpour in the dry season has the entire village on edge and avoiding the muddy outdoors. The American opens the door one night to find a preteen boy smiling up at her with his bloody head cleaved open . . .

Then come the lizards–scads of them. The American can’t seem to escape the nightmare and the feeling that something’s coming for her. The relatives don’t seem interested in sharing what’s going on, either. . .

Few explanations are provided through this story, just horror-filled details and experiences. The silence of the locals is baffling. As is the sequence of events. An overall pattern to the supernatural is suggested that remains unfathomable despite its best attempts.

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Corpsemouth” by John Langan

2 of 5 stars.

The pre-Christian lore of many cultures is rife with monsters and magic, curses and heroes. Such is the case with the Scottish Corpsemouth, a titan-like old god that eats bodies and souls of the living and dead, both mortal and immortal. One particular legend tells of a time when Merlin summoned the monster for a battle and then banished it again before it got out of hand . . .

After the death of his Scottish immigrant father, a young American man travels with his mother and sister back to his father’s hometown to find closure. The relationship between the man and his father was on the mend, but not fully healed.

This disjointed tale veers between the man’s fantastical dreams upon arriving in Scotland and his various interactions with his father’s family. The disparate dreams all seem informed by local lore and the unsettled paternal relationship.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, which I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “Bloom”, “Children of the Fang”, “Outside the House, Watching for the Crows”, and “The Wide, Carnivorous Sky”



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Short Story Review: “The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red, Red Coal” by Chaz Brenchley

2 of 5 stars.

With the prospect of discovering life–or better yet, intelligent life–beyond Earth, one of the biggest questions is how humans would communicate with it. We aren’t always the best at communicating with each other. Or even with other forms of life on Earth.

This Lovecraftian tale imagines the colonization of Mars and the discovery of life there in the form of a long-lived creature that undergoes metamorphosis through many vastly different forms from the swimming Naiad, bubble-talking juvenile stage to the dragonesque, flying imago stage in which all communication is electromagnetic resembling a mind-melding telepathy. Most individual attempts to communicate have failed or led to insanity, but some success has been found when groups of people neural link their own thoughts via a mysterious machine and elixir, and reach out to the creature . . .

The idea is intriguing, but the story suffocates under pages of veiled dialogues worthy of a British drama. Whereas, the action is relegated to the fringes.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, which I received directly from Prime Books.




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Short Story Review: “The Scavenger’s Nursery” by Maria Dahvana Headley

1 of 5 stars.

Environmental disasters loom and bloom all over the world as a human byproduct. A sea of plastic churns in the Pacific. Landfills overflow. Smog engulfs urban centers. Once one of these disasters is allowed to fester, it begets further disasters.

This series of plotless vignettes allegorically has a variety of environmental disasters literally spawn trash and smog monsters that move and grow. Without a plot, many of the vignettes are snapshots without context as a mere outline to an eventual story. A few string together around single human characters that interact with the emergent monsters. But even here, the tale lacks character development or motivation.

A tale could be made with a focus on one or two such monsters and then developed.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “Who is Your Executioner?”.




[Check out my other reviews here.]