Rat Queens, Vol. 6: The Infernal Path

Rat Queens, Vol. 6: The Infernal PathRat Queens, Vol. 6: The Infernal Path by Kurtis J. Wiebe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

THE INFERNAL PATH is very welcome return to form after a confusing vol. 4 and a disappointing vol. 5! Our foul-mouthed adventurers are back with an all-new mission to save their old adventuring chum Sadie’s kingdom from an army of orcs under the sway of the truly disgusting “fleshers.” Sadie is a great addition to the team, even if only a temporary one for this arc, and her blatant flirtations with both Orc Dave and Hannah are hilarious — especially considering Sadie has been transformed into an owl.

The loose threads of the previous storyline are still present. Dee remains concerned about the aftermath of waking the god N’rygoth, while Hannah, Violet, and Betty are worried that the evil, alternate version of Hannah is still out there causing trouble, which makes THE INFERNAL PATH more of a transitional story than part of the major arc. Still, it’s pretty great. Kurtis J. Wiebe’s writing is as sharp as ever. I’m getting more used to Owen Gieni’s art, but there were still a few panels where I couldn’t quite tell what was happening.

This volume also includes the “Neon Static Special,” a one-off cyberpunk adventure with an alternate version of the Rat Queens in a futuristic setting, but it’s not all that great and doesn’t bring anything special to the table. The Rat Queens work much better in their natural D&D-on-crack setting. I’m looking forward to the next volume!

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X’s For Eyes

X's For EyesX’s For Eyes by Laird Barron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This highly enjoyable novella starts off almost as a twisted, satirical take on THE VENTURE BROS., drawing from the same source material — THE HARDY BOYS, JOHNNY QUEST, DOC SAVAGE — before diving into the cosmic weirdness and ecumenically cursed families we’ve come to expect from Laird Barron. An entertaining, pulpy romp, but with the author’s tongue planted firmly in cheek throughout.

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Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones

Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your BonesScary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stories in this third volume of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series are definitely a step up from the second volume, and include a handful of stories that are on par with the first. They’re a little more advanced, too — a little longer and a little more complex, but still great for kids. My favorite is “Maybe You Will Remember,” a story about a girl on vacation with her mother in Paris when her mother falls ill and the girl is sent by the hotel doctor to fetch medicine for her. But when she returns, no one at the hotel recognizes her, no one, including the doctor, remembers her mother, and the hotel room they were staying in looks completely different. There’s an air of Robert Aickman’s “strange stories” to this one — that is, until Alvin Schwartz posits a rational explanation involving a city-wide conspiracy, which saps all the fun. Stephen Gammell’s illustrations are more on point than ever in this volume, perhaps the best he’s done for the series. Some of them are truly frame-worthy.

I’m very glad I finally got to read these books, even if I came to them forty years too late. It’s a treat to read the stories that were so formative for so many of my friends. On a more academic level, it’s interesting to see what scares young readers compared to what scares adult readers. There’s not a lot of atmosphere or detail to these stories, for example, but there are lots jump-scare climactic surprises and recurring tropes like cemeteries, unexplained noises, and vengeful spirits looking for items that were stolen from them. I will leave what this might mean up to greater minds than my own. All in all, I found reading Schwartz’s trilogy to be a charming and rewarding exercise.

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More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

More Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkMore Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found the stories in this second volume of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories series to be less memorable or interesting than the stories in the first. Still, one story stood out above the rest for me, and maybe even above the stories in the first volume: “The Drum.” It’s about two little girls, sisters, who find another little girl in the middle of a field playing with a drum, out of which come a little mechanical man and woman. The sisters are so taken with this drum that they ask if they can have it. The girl tells them she will give it to them only if they act really bad at home, which they do, drawing on the walls, breaking dishes, even beating the dog with a stick (monstrous!). Their mother begs them to stop, threatening to abandon them to “a new mother with glass eyes and a wooden tail” if they don’t. But the girls don’t stop, the other girl never gives them the drum (“I never meant to give it to you. It’s just a game we were playing. I thought you knew that.”), and of course waiting for the sisters at home at the end is their new mother. There’s something so eerie about the dream logic (or really, nightmare logic) of this story that it got under my skin and stuck with me.

As for the other stories, they’re easily read and quickly forgotten, at least by this reader, who is admittedly way too old to be reading these books. But as a friend of mine pointed out, the books are really about Stephen Gammell’s beautiful, creepy illustrations. If I were a small child, those illustrations would scare me a lot more than the stories would. Anyway, on to the third and final volume!

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News & Updates

  • 06/12/2019 — Rat Queens, Vol. 6: The Infernal PathRat Queens, Vol. 6: The Infernal Path by Kurtis J. Wiebe My rating: 4 of 5 stars THE INFERNAL PATH is very welcome return to form after a confusing vol.…Read more »
  • 06/09/2019 — X’s For EyesX’s For Eyes by Laird Barron My rating: 4 of 5 stars This highly enjoyable novella starts off almost as a twisted, satirical take on THE VENTURE BROS., drawing from the same source material — THE HARDY BOYS, JOHNNY QUEST, DOC SAVAGE — before diving into the cosmic weirdness and ecumenically cursed families we’ve come to expect from Laird Barron.…Read more »
  • 06/02/2019 — Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your BonesScary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz My rating: 4 of 5 stars The stories in this third volume of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series are definitely a step up from the second volume, and include a handful of stories that are on par with the first.…Read more »
  • 05/31/2019 — More Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkMore Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz My rating: 3 of 5 stars I found the stories in this second volume of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories series to be less memorable or interesting than the stories in the first.…Read more »
  • 05/29/2019 — Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkScary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz My rating: 4 of 5 stars I was surprised to find that SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK was a collection of folk tales and campfire tales from around the world rather than the original stories I was expecting, but that turned out to add to my enjoyment whenever I recognized a story.…Read more »

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