I missed all the holidays. Here we are, end of January, and I do not have much topical to say. Well, the Super Bowl is tomorrow, but let’s face it, that only really appeals to fans of the two teams playing, leaving the vast majority of football fans non-plussed. I’ll watch it, I guess, like everybody else for the party, but I don’t have a dog in that fight … maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned dog fighting in this particular context. Too late now.

Since there is no holiday, I am going to burn a few hours of what is left of my life in a private celebration by finally watching the entire Friday the 13th blu ray set I got all those months ago. There you sit in your little tin box, sweet blu rays, sad and lonely. I’ll get you out, at long last, and see which group of screaming butt-punches who write reviews on Amazon are right about your picture quality and features. And after that, all these other sets: Chucky, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Resident Evil, Underworld, but not Halloween – I have issues with that Halloween box. But I digress. I will get back to these another time. Right now, let me get to it and tell you about what I have been reading.

I have been neglecting comics for six months or so. I have missed some big news. First, the bad news: say goodbye to Fables (Vertigo). I know good things can’t last forever, but this news from Bill Willingham was a kick to the gut. I have really enjoyed this book for years, primarily because of the consistently exceptional writing and the continuity in the artwork. Most comics that run for more than two or three years face shifts in the creative team and sometimes very significant tonal changes. Consider a good comic that took many major turns before finally being completely broken by the publisher, Hellblazer. The title that spawned Hellblazer, the often brilliant Swamp Thing, had more than a couple tectonic lurches itself, some of them good (e.g., Alan Moore) and some of them not so good. Another good example is Spawn. None of that happened with Fables over its entire run. Sure, I can pick out arcs that I liked the most, but I can’t find a single one I disliked at all. It will be missed.

On the potentially good news side, Marvel’s recapitulation event Secret Wars confronts us all in May. I am probably far too happy about this. I am remembering the last Secret Wars event and how much I enjoyed it. The Inhumans are not typical superheroes and Black Bolt (and Medusa) are unusually compelling characters. Some people say I’m cynical (my daughter), some people call me paranoid (my wife), but any time I see something that looks like it might be good I immediately start to get that sick, sinking feeling in my stomach. Oh no, I think, they’re going to fuck this one up, aren’t they? Let’s hope Marvel doesn’t strangle Secret Wars in its crib. Get back to you on that in June.

In actual comic reading, I had a couple of pleasant surprises this month. That almost never happens. The Harley Quinn Annual #1 (DC) is a scratch and sniff issue. I thought when I saw it that the idea is so silly, ridiculous, and juvenile, why should I even bother. I decided to read it and not do any scratching, but that didn’t work out because there was a scratch patch on page one over Harley’s jacket. What am I going to do, not scratch it? No. It smelled like leather. Maybe I am getting so old now that I am reverting to childhood but this was a lot fun. The writing is cleverer than I expected it would be and the artwork is colorful and sharp. If there are any of these left out there do yourself a favor and pick a copy. While you’re at it, go ahead and see if you can find Archie Comics’ new book, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Here again, this is not the kind of title that would normally appeal to me. What do I care about the issues a teenage girl faces, witch or not? I don’t. But this comic looks fantastic – the artwork by Robert Hack matches perfectly the setting which starts in 1951 and jumps through to 1964. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s story is at once creepy and whimsical, the final passages verily daring you not to buy issue #2. Excellent. I cannot believe I like this Sabrina comic. But I do. Highly recommended.

I am running short of space for this installment, folks, so I am going to jump to two quick books I wanted to let you know about. The first is The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert (Tor). I sometimes worry that my favorite deceased authors are slipping into obscurity. I do not care about their legacy so much. I do care about readers, presumably young ones, who do not know about books like Dune because they are missing out on an experience they would remember for the rest of their lives. It is hard enough to keep track of novels of yore, let alone anything else, short stories. Short fiction gets no respect at all in the scheme of things. Herbert is still somewhat remembered for Dune, and his writing therefore has not completely disappeared, but how many people have ever read his short fiction? And how could you ever find it if you wanted to read it? Now you can, with this new Tor book, but obscurity impatiently waits for us all, even the very best writers like Frank Herbert. Get this while you can. It is not horror, as such, but it is 700 pages of brilliant writing. There is no downside and no regret.

If a 700 page tome is a little daunting, here is an idea for something a bit more compact: Nathan Ballingrud’s The Visible Filth, new from the British imprint This Is Horror. It reads like a cross between David Lynch’s Lost Highway and Kathe Koja’s The Cipher. And it is set in New Orleans. Anything set there has my immediately and complete attention. Ballingrud’s story, though, would have grabbed me had it been set in Iowa City. It starts out with a quick dose of weird and lays into you with a growing sense of dread. In The Visible Filth, the dread is a real and living thing. Recommended.


Nightmares Illuminated is written by Wayne Edwards, ©2015 by the author, all rights reserved. Contact eMail: [email protected]