Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Witchblade # 174


Another shake-up appears inevitable at Top Cow Comics only a couple years after their game-changing "Rebirth" event.  If you troll the imprint's message boards, you'll find a few disgruntled readers teeing off over the cancellation of the main series for The Darkness along with the abrupt demise of that artifact's wielder, Jackie Estacado.  Estacado was, of course, instrumental in the "Rebirth" plot  as he managed to build his own universe (and Top Cow's, by attrition) after uniting all thirteen artifacts of power. 

Of-late, Estacado has been killed by Sara Pezzini, bearer of the Witchblade.  While Top Cow sorts out the aftermath of their shaken stable once more and subsequently introduces Marc Silvestri's new series Rise of the Magi and Matt Hawkins' Wildfire, the interim plans for The Darkness appear to be aimed toward the one-shot Vicious Traditions and future miniseries.  Also heading for the chopping block is Aphrodite IX, albeit she is reportedly going into temporary stasis while getting a new overhaul for a third outing.  The green-haired ninth-gen terminator will be colliding with Cyber Force in an upcoming crossover event.  Should be blast watching Aphrodite XI square off against her more ruthless model V predecessor.  I'm itching to find out which Aphrodite gets her middle finger blown off first.

Amidst all of this chaos, Witchblade has rolled along as Top Cow's flagship series.  However, readers have been expected to wait out a confusing shift in location and a new role for Sara Pezzini as a backwoods town sheriff.  In the five-part "Borne Again" storyline, we're to accept at face value that two years have passed since the last arc, "Absolute Corruption," and Sara has once again relinquished the Witchblade.  Still fresh in many readers' minds is the "War of the Witchblades" epic that remains one of the finest arcs ever told in this series.

Of course, things have changed greatly since Sara and Dani Baptiste scrummed over the bisected halves of the Witchblade.  The universe reset by Jackie Estacado sent Dani onto a different path following her mother's as a  New York City cop--precisely as Sara Pezzini was for many years before moving to Chicago at the threat of the Fibbies exposing her powers. 

In "Borne Again," Sara finds herself fired from her sheriff's position as a sliver of the Witchblade returns to her.  Following that renegade piece is the Angelus, who has been both saint and sinner for Top Cow in both Witchblade and Artifacts.  Purporting itself an agent of the light, the Angelus' mission is to rule the darkness.  As this story begins, we're not yet aware Jackie Estacado has been dispatched.  Funny enough, neither is Sara Pezzini once the revelation comes from the Angelus during their clash in Issue # 174, the bloody final chapter of "Borne Again." 

Why this story ends up being cool after suspiciously coming off like an overhaul of previous storylines is we're left to wonder as readers just how in the hell Sara got into this position in the first place.  Ron Marz, one of the finest writers of the realm, baits us along and then leaves a big question mark at the end of "Borne Again."  Did Sara end up in a new reality after killing Estacado?  Is this the prelude to a new era at Top Cow?  Or is this merely a jumping ahead story, to which Marz owes a pretty hefty back story to bring us up-to-date?

Many readers get ticked off by such presumption (as they have the roundabout change in artists from Stjepan Sejic to Laura Braga's slightly more abstract illustrations), but I for one like to be intrigued, especially when something seems obvious.  Sidebar:  keep your shoulders squared, Laura, you're doing fine.

How now, Top Cow?



                       Listenin' to:  Black Sabbath - Mob Rules

Friday, May 30, 2014

"The Evolving Sexuality of Red Sonja," a piece by Ray at ReadWave Comic Books


The legacy of Red Sonja has long stood that she will bed no man who cannot best her at the sword.  The rules have since changed as Gail Simone sexually liberates the Hyrkanian she-devil in her current run with Dynamite Entertainment's Red Sonja.  Normally I'm a purist, but there are places where change is welcome and I approve of this lusty alteration to our anti-heroine.

Check out my comments about this development at ReadWave Comic Books:

http://www.readwave.com/the-evolving-sexuality-of-red-sonja_s42784


                       Listenin' to:  Subhumans - Worlds Apart

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ray's Essay Included in Neil Daniels' "Killers: The Origins of Iron Maiden 1975-1983"


Thank you a second time to rock author Neil Daniels and Soundcheck Books for including my essay in Daniels' recently-released Killers:  The Origins of Iron Maiden 1975-1983. 

Mad machine Daniels painstakingly went about digging for more Maiden gold to differentiate his book from prior works, so get on it if you're a Maiden freak (as I assuredly am).  I appear in the rear of this book inside the chapter "Metal Heads Talk Maiden."


                         Listenin' to:  Dio - Master of the Moon

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

They're Off to See the Whiz-ard...




                     Listenin' to:  Crowbar - Symmetry in Black

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Triple Play - 5/25/14

Happy Memorial Day weekend, folks!

This week's triple play hits diverse stations (as you should expect from me), leading off with some John Bush era Anthrax and the savage opening number from Sound of White Noise, "Potter's Field."  I'm more a fan of Joey Belladonna in Anthrax, but Bush was a terrific addition during his tenure and this is one of Anthrax's best written tunes ever.  Meaty stuff with some of the most crushing riffs in metal you'll snap your neck to.

Next is probably my favorite trip hop/lounge song of all-time, "Pure & Easy" from The Dining Rooms.  I love this cut's groove, the echo chamber loop and the desert-dusted guitar plunking away.  Cooler than cool.  Last for this week comes from ska heroes The Specials and "Hey Little Rich Girl" from their left-of-center, experimental More Specials albumI've always dug their merge between ska and fifties rock 'n roll on this slick, catchy number, so dig in with some Two Tone before you fire up the grill later in the day. 

Nothing like a little extra bounce for a three-day weekend!


Anthrax - "Potter's Field"


The Dining Rooms - "Pure & Easy"


The Specials - "Hey Little Rich Girl"

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: The New 52: Futures End # 3


I'll be the first to admit it.  I nearly skipped on The New 52:  Futures End.  Something in the advertising didn't settle right with me.  Probably it's because DC Comics, like their chief competitor, Marvel, is going absolutely bonkers realigning and expanding the core titles within their New 52 universe.  With the emergence of Earth 2, Justice League 3000 and now Justice League United, all notwithstanding the encompassing "Forever Evil" blowout, I, like many other comics readers, no doubt, have started waving a flag of surrender. 

In today's market, it's difficult to buy every danged book that's coming in droves.  As a music journalist and former employee of a comics shop, I'm taken aback just how much product there is to know in this medium now.   The nineties were crazy enough with the embossed covers, the solo branch-off series, guest tie-ins and bagged book gimmicks.  It's intimidating to keep up today, as are the hundreds of new bands hitting my face each week seeking attention.  However, I've been keeping up with developments in the comics world, even as it threatens to hit a full-on conundrum.  I love this stuff and always will.

While I've been a faithful reader of the New 52 Justice League and Justice League of America series, I couldn't, at-first, get on board with what appears to be another shakeup in DC land.  After a while, it's hard to escape the feeling that comics publishers lately have the "let's throw it on the wall and see what sticks" mentality.

Well, the powers that be in DC land are smart marketers and strategists.  If you made it to Free Comic Book Day this year, hopefully you snagged the # 0 debut of The New 52:  Futures End.  I was initially intrigued to see Terry McGinnis from Batman Beyond shadowing overtop the emaciated, Terminator splices of iconic DC superheroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman.  Frankly, it was those emaciated, Terminator splices that nearly turned me away altogether.

Yet I gladly (and hypocritically, I suppose) grabbed # 0 on the free book table and well, my doubts were erased.  The New 52:  Futures End still has me feeling like we're in the presence of a possible next-gen Crisis of Infinite Earths saga.  However, this thing's been gangbusters under the premise that an alien race has successfully completed a hostile takeover of (assumedly) our Earth in the future and not even the best of the best capes can do a damned thing about it.  Replicants amok as Earth falls. 

Where Futures End takes the reader is to a time where an aging Batman is one of the last surviving heroes.  Flash and Captain Cold have likewise aged and settled their differences, but forget that pact; they're toast.  Black Canary has been beheaded and assimilated for her sonic screech powers.  Even John Constantine's been buggered by the aliens, who take out Green Lantern John Stewart.  What the hell, man?

Batman, who's about to bite the bullet himself, entrusts Terry McGinnis with a crucial mission:  execute a time jump to prevent this holocaust.  McGinnis is thus slung backwards on this earth's continuum, however, he misses the critical linchpin event and finds himself working from the wrong year with no foreseeable hope of getting where he once belonged, if you can dig it.  That being said, the seeds of the alien takeover are being planted where McGinnis arrives, so consider it divine intervention or whatever you like that he's sent to this junction of the timeline. 

Well, that's only part of the story.  As an eleven month weekly series, Futures End is obviously going to focus on other characters and through the first four issues (including 0), we stumble upon the death of Green Arrow as the focal point for the story to begin unraveling.  We follow McGinnis, but only in increments.  Along the way, DC brings in other mid-tier heroes such as Firestorm, Grifter, Mr. Terrific and Frankenstein (this one being from the recently-canceled Justice League Dark). 

The aftermath of Green Arrow's death turns into immediate conflict for Firestorm, who is blamed for Arrow's death by not coming to his rescue in time.  Firestorm (who's gone through all sorts of hell since the mid-eighties) is comprised in the New 52 universe of the split personae of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch, now ushered into college age.  At this point, they're sick of one another (and in Ronnie's case, sick of being half of Firestorm), which increases tensions.  Mr. Terrific comes off as a pompous, rich superhero, an ebony, less gonzo take on Booster Gold, if you will.  Green Arrow's death is a mere photo op for Mr. Terrific, but Terry McGinnis is in his hair as of Issue 3, and we have quite a long ride ahead of us. 

Grifter is the most intriguing side character so far and his implications have far greater reach into halting the oncoming alien invasion.  He's stalking and slaying known aliens hiding inside human forms.  We get deeper into his head more than anyone else in the series as he has the cold, self-ordained mission to kill anything that's not human, per se, even when the aliens are using the forms of children.  Grifter's dialogue is snappy and amusing as he consults a brainy cellar dweller named "Justin," who is doing some recon for him on possible alien transients in the northeastern United States.

In just this short time, the superstar writing team of Brian Azzarello, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen and Jeff Lemire have opened a handful of doors to a series that will reportedly affect the entire New 52 universe.  Lois Lane has been sucked into the plot as she's been given an anonymous summons.  Her astuteness leads her to believe she has found Red Robin, presumed to be dead, and thus Futures End takes another twist heading into the fourth issue next week.

Crisis New 52?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Batman Beyond is officially indoctrinated into DC's recurring roster.  That hardly sucks.


                           Listenin' to:  Prong - Ruining Lives

Friday, May 23, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Poem for My Son


Poem for My Son


I've been down smooth roads
I've been down bumpy ones too
and I'm tired, so very tired

Sometimes I tell God it's okay
to welcome me home when I sleep
and still I wake
I know this is His will

My love for you is profound
it's the real thing
you inspire me to remember who I am
the world is an ugly place, but it's beautiful too
lucky me,
I get to see it through young eyes again
and I know like I know
the monsters aren't real

You may not carry my blood
but my soul goes in your pocket
running, jumping and playing
F R E E

I save my best smiles only for you, child
everything else hides from you, as it should
and thus my journey seems a little less solitary


Ray Van Horn, Jr.
5/14/14



                    Listenin' to:  Madness - One Step Beyond...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sad, But Beautiful


Superhero pallbearers man the casket of 5-year-old Brayden Denton of Indiana, who recently passed away from a brain tumor.

You don't have to be a comic book geek to appreciate this touching gesture. Excelsior.



           Listenin' to:  V/A:  Ronnie James Dio, This is Your Life

Monday, May 19, 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sunday Triple Play - 5/18/14

Welcome back to another Sunday Triple Play!  Hope you enjoyed last week's selections and I especially hope you trip on this week's round as well.  For my metalhead contingency who come by The Crash Pad, I have your fix coming next week, stand by...

First up this week is The King hitting his glory in the closing number of the fantabulous '68 Comeback Special, the live rendition of his gut-searing interpretation of Walter Earl Brown's "If I Can Dream."  Originally recorded by Elvis two months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this proves Presley was as sensational a spiritual/gospel singer as he was a rocker and romantic.  Feel the emotion in this one, won't you?

The second round comes from Orlando Cachaito Lopez's sultry "Mis Dos Pequenas."  I'm a big fan of Latin music, especially that which yields heavy percussion.  No disappointments here.  I got turned onto Orlando Cachaito Lopez courtesy of the first soundtrack to the HBO series Six Feet Under (a show I miss dearly) and I really adore this number.

Speaking of sultry, last up is Atlanta Rhythm Section and their best-known number, the super-sexy "So Into You."  I remember digging the hell out of this song as far back as my childhood, but these days, I get fired up in a more adult manner anytime I play it...and I play it a lot. 

Let's groove, baby.


Elvis Presley - "If I Can Dream" (from the '68 Comeback Special)



Orlando Cachaito Lopez - "Mis Dos Pequenas"



Atlanta Rhythm Section - "So Into You"

Cool Comic o' the Week: Godzilla # 1 (2012)


The King of Monsters is back yet again to smack down theaters and comic shops.  While the reviewers appear divided about the new Godzilla flick, indie comics publisher IDW rolls out a new miniseries, Godzilla:  Cataclysm this week.  Thus, all systems go at IDW.  Like Marvel and Dark Horse before them, IDW has shoved a lot the 'zilla down our throats in recent years.  IDW's Godzilla books have proven far better than the nineties Godzilla animated series on Fox Kids that was barely superior to its disastrous American feature film counterpart.  We need not go there any further.

IDW's runs include numerous other miniseries such as Godzilla:  Gangsters and Goliaths, The Half Century War and Kingdom of Monsters.  Then you have IDW's proposed full runs that reached their ends in a hurry, such as the simply-titled Godzilla prior to the more recent Godzilla:  Rulers of Earth recurring series.  You should be able to track down the former, wholly collected in the deluxe trade paperback Godzilla:  History's Greatest Monster just released last month.

IDW's Godzilla started in May, 2012 and ran only 13 issues, but it certainly left an impact out the gate with the debut issue.  An expositional scene featuring a gay wedding intercut by a giant tarantula (assumingly Kumonga) attack turns the simplistic Godzilla ethos on its ear with a sympathetic countercultural nod.  Zipping into an immediate fight for survival in "Forty Stories of Sheer Terror," Godzilla has resurfaced for the kabillionth time, only he's got his talons and fire breath turned upon Washington, DC. 

The White House obliteration in Independence Day hit a nervous mark that was chilling for its time, but in the more mindless world of Godzilla, the destruction of the Capitol building is just part and parcel.  At least it's not Tokyo, Nagasaki or New York.  The story hustles along through the point-of-view of a quasi-retired British special ops solider named "Boxer" in care of a young girl, Murakami, who has already been traumatized in the past by the tower-tall lizard menace.

Godzilla # 1 moves along briskly through the pen of Duane Swierczynski as Boxer does his damnedest to save Murakami from the crumbling high riser they live in, one that was purported to be impervious to monster rampages.  Chuckle, chuckle.  Looking a bit like a sequence out of Die Hard for a bit, Boxer and Murakami manage to pull off a frankly astonishing escape.  However, a brutal twist at the end of the first issue sets the somewhat apathetic Boxer into action.  The final frame has him calling in a favor from a mysterious friend named "Urv" to wage full-scale war against Godzilla and the other mega-monsters that have been storming Mother Earth.

There's a lot of suspension of disbelief required to hang with this story, in particular Boxer's survival after having the razed Capitol building dropped upon him.  Hey, suspension of disbelief is prerequisite whenever you sit in the presence of Godzilla, for crying out loud.  You don't come to this stuff for Othello.  If you somehow stomach your way through King Kong vs. Godzilla, nothing seems improbable afterwards.

Simon Gane's artwork on this series strikes of a collision between nineties Marvel art and Japanese manga, mainly with the human characters.  Appropriate enough as an homage to Toho Studios, but Gane saves his best touches for where they count.  Godzilla looks badass in this series (my son calls Gane's rendition "creepy") and while Rodan's a bit abstract in the one frame he's featured in the first issue, Battra's swarm over Seoul bears a classic comics look.  All setting up a killer two-page spread featuring "the most fearsome of them all."

Word.


                        Listenin' to:  Elvis Presley - Loving You

Friday, May 16, 2014

Comic Book Reading Spot of the Week: 5/16/14


It was only a matter of time before the little guy wanted in on the action.



                       Listenin' to:  Miles Davis - Bitches Brew


Thursday, May 15, 2014

10 Songs I Could Care Less About Hearing Again


This post is inspired by that conniving, satanic, marketing Trojan horse ditty, "Let it Go" from Frozen, which might as well stand as this generation's Snow White or at least The Little Mermaid, since it has crossover appeal to both young girls and boys and it carries a hundred memorable (and highly annoying) tunes.  What'd we ever do to you, Disney?  We continue to feed your coffers by taking our children to the Mecca of Mouse as a collective society.  Did you have to drum up something as evil and stinking catchy as "It's a Small World After All?"

For a moment, I thought it was just me.  Maybe I needed to get my head out of my bum, but parents nationwide (and no doubt worldwide) are sounding off how their children are driving them bloody bonkers with repetitive plays and worse, sing-alongs of "Let it Go."  Those bastards at Disney knew what they were doing; they re-released Frozen in the theaters as a hypothetical karaoke party.  Don't worry Mr. Mouse and friends, I'll be back to Florida whenever I can scrape the duckets.  I'm hardly immune to the charms of the happiest place on the planet.  Still, that damned song...  The cold never bothered me much until now.

I was telling my son, one of the billions of kids suckered by this corporate whore sugar pop that I'd be happy if I never heard "Let it Go" again in my life.  It kind of took him aback, since he knows music is a major part of my life.  I'm not really a Negative Nancy and only those who truly know me know the songs and musicians who get under my skin.  Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me."  There's an example.  Betrayal.  I'll never get over it, sorry, guys.  It's High 'n Dry and Pyromania all the way.  On Through the Night, sure.  At least it doesn't have "Animal."

So I got to thinking about songs that have been played to flippin' death like "Let it Go" that I can't just hack any longer.  If I controlled the airwaves, you can be certain none of these popular cuts would make it onto one of my playlists.  In some cases, I love the band or artist, like AC/DC, the Chili Peppers, Van Morrison or Lenny Kravitz.  Kiss was my favorite band growing up and through my teens.  Guns n' Roses are iconic despite the flagrant in-house appetites for self-destruction.  All that being said, I never want to hear "Sweet Child o' Mine" again.  Nor "You Shook Me All Night Long."  Everybody else still does, God bless 'em, but I'd sooner listen to "Love is an Open Door" from you-know-what.  Ummmmmm...scratch that.  Excuse me a second while I refill my coffee.

Every time I hear those "whoa-oh-ohhhhs" on Collective Soul's "Shine," I feel my stomach plunge.  The Millennium Force at Cedar Point, that's a drop my tummy can take.  Roxette, I like some of your stuff, but you ripped off the Wilson sisters with "Listen to Your Heart."  Everyone knows it, but it still gets played on retro and soft rock stations.  Feh.  Lionel Richie, I have one word for you, brother:  Commodores.  Van Morrison, I'll concede a spin of Moondance today, since that's a sweet slab and the title track is one of the sexiest songs ever laid down, but I sure as hell don't want to "sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la" any longer, "la-dee-da."

Thus, I offer you ten songs I know are pointless to flag in a list of tunes I could care less about hearing again, since it's guaranteed I'll hear at least four if not five of them today in some fashion or another--and not by choice, either.  Damn you, FM.


1.  AC/DC - "You Shook Me All Night Long"
2.  Kiss - "Rock 'n Roll All Night"
3.  Guns n' Roses - "Sweet Child o' Mine"
4.  Staind - "It's Been Awhile"
5.  Roxette - "Listen to Your Heart"
6.  Van Morrison - "Brown Eyed Girl"
7.  Lionel Richie - "All Night Long"
8.  Lenny Kravitz - "American Woman"
9.  Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Soul to Squeeze"
10.  Collective Soul - "Shine"


                       Listenin' to:  Van Morrison - Moondance

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Two Series I'm Gonna Miss," by Ray Over at ReadWave


Nothing lasts forever, as the adage goes.  Nevertheless, I'm unhappy a couple of strong comic series are hitting their ends, Dynamite's sexy Miss Fury rework and Ed Brubaker's magnificent Fatale.

Over at ReadWave in my Comic Books corner, I give a few thoughts about these cancellations. 

Linkage:

http://www.readwave.com/two-series-i-m-gonna-miss_s37791


Listenin' to:  The Flaming Lips - Transmissions From the Satellite Heart

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Try Hocking This On Ebay




                              Listenin' to:  Aerosmith - Rocks

Monday, May 12, 2014

Break Day


 
 
Taking the day off from writing to officially notch my 44th.  I was able to celebrate my birthday over the weekend with the Orioles game on Friday (special thank you goes to my friend Aura for that
hookup) and my favorite wings at MaGerk's Pub in Federal Hill, Baltimore.  Hope all of you mommies out there had a special day yesterday!  Back with more stuff (as Chuck Barris would've said) throughout the week.  Cheers...




                         Listenin to:  The Stooges - Fun House

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sunday Triple Play - 5/11/14

New feature here at The Crash Pad, Sunday Triple Play.  Without much explanation needed, I'm sure, I'll be tossing out three song clips each Sunday, and it's a guarantee I'll be mixing up genres.  That's just how I roll.

For the first go-round, I'm hitting you with some funk, some punk and some Goth.  Funk Factory recently came to me upon recommendation from Image Comics artist Mathew Reynolds.  If you hear more than a couple familiar slices here that remind you of the Beastie Boys, it's no coincidence.  Quite a few samples were lifted from this track, "Rien Ne Va Plus."

After that, we bear witness to a young Henry Rollins and Black Flag in their hilarious rip on apathetic couch potatoes, "T.V. Party."  Those are followed by a personal all-time favorite, S.S.Q. (as in onetime eighties diva, Stacey Q) and the uncomfortably sensuous "Tonight (We'll Make Love 'Til We Die)" from the classic horror romp, Return of the Living Dead.

Hope you dig... 


Funk Factory:  ""Rien Ne Va Plus"



Black Flag:  "T.V. Party"



S.S.Q.:  "Tonight (We'll Make Love 'Til We Die)"

                                    

Cool Comic o' the Week: Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight # 8


After an insane eight issues, Dark Horse Comics' Grindhouse:  Doors Open at Midnight miniseries comes to a conclusion with the second half of their final two-parter, "Flesh Feast of the Devil Doll."

Part of me is already going daaaaamn! since I just hooked up and blazed through this gory, sleazy, over-the-top homage to pulp horror and campy sci-fi, or in the case of the "Bride of Blood" storyline, a brutal rape revenge story in the vein of I Spit On Your Grave, set in the Feudal Ages.  To be at the end of its run already?  Writer Alex De Campi and Dark Horse editors Ian Tucker and Brendan Wright give allusion that Grindhouse:  Doors Open at Midnight has a potential future in the letters section and I'm all for it. 

As the title would indicate, Grindhouse:  Doors Open at Midnight has been a no-holds-barred splatter-rama with heaps of profanity, filth, nudity and visceral gore.  Not exactly in the hardcore digusto-class of Faust,  Grindhouse:  Doors Open at Midnight has nevertheless been an explicit miniseries that began with the riotous "Bee Vixens From Mars" and now wraps with "Flesh Feast of the Devil Doll."  Each of the four stories that makes up this series have been spread over two issues a pop, and De Campi has craftily worked his gonzo stories within that format.  No mean feat in that, so kudos, Mr. De Campi. 

Just when you think two issues are hardly enough, De Campi somehow wraps each tale with thoroughness, plenty of grue and usually a subtle punch line that feels damned close to actual grindhouse cinema. What Quentin Tarantino attempted with his Grindhouse films and only partially succeeded at, De Campi goes full throttle, appeals to closet perverts and then clocks his readers with enough spatter to give EC a hearty hello from the future.

Many readers responded best to "Prison Ship Antares" which hilariously mixed women prison exploitation films with Heavy Metal-esque sci-fi.  I too favor that one, but the concluding story arc, "Flesh Feast of the Devil Doll" is a hell of a wrap-up. 

I was expecting this story to be a hoist of "Jenifer" from the Masters of Horror t.v. series from Showtime with its seductive mutant chowing down on her sexual conquests, but De Campi sends it off on another tangent.  Roasting Friday the 13th and other camp slaughter flicks with zombie lore, "Flesh Feast of the Devil Doll" pits a girls hockey camp (!) in upstate New York against a carnivorous creature bred from the days when the land belonged to the Oneida territory tribes.  I've been to this area many times and have a good feel where De Campi is referencing (I've seen Binghamton, too, brother), but hold on tight for lots of sexual innuendo, angel dust, lesbian cracks, boobs, boobs and more boobs (at least in the first part, anyway) and every gross offense he can cram into this story before everything goes to bloody hell. 

Our main beastie is in search of virgin prey to sacrifice, but De Campi turns the tables as our hockey hotties cross paths with a pack of horny males and are forced to fight the evil undead together in order to survive.  The virgin prey in this instance is male, and our lead heroine, Tina, sets off to rescue him, even at the cost of her arm.  One of the craziest characters on the hockey team, "Babs," comes to the rescue (late, of course) during the bedlam to the tune of Phil Collins' "Sussudio," of all things.  You can just hear it wailing on a movie screen, heh.  Almost as nuts as Christian Bale's humping playlist in American Psycho.

There are a lot of horror and grind revival comics out there, but Grindhouse:  Doors Open at Midnight is the first thing in ages to get this subculture slime right since Machete.  Ian and Brendan, pull some strings over there, willya?



                              Listenin' to:  Kiss - Love Gun

Friday, May 9, 2014

Comic Book Reading Spot of the Week - 5/9/14


Free Comic Book Day at Third Eye Comics, of course!



                             Listenin' to:  Fela Kuti - Zombie

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Most "Blab" Worthy Album of My Reviews for Blabbermouth from the Prior Month


Bands that lose members after hitting their stride signals something amiss in camp.  However, Arch Enemy, which recently suffered two blows with the departure of key personnel, uses this opportunity to reignite themselves.  War Eternal has new blood and appropriately, a new kick.  A hell of a kick, at that.  Below is the intro and ending to my review for Blabbermouth:


The news of Angela Gossow stepping down as the front of ARCH ENEMY is still fresh as the band launches their latest album, “War Eternal.”  The new record features THE AGONIST’s Alissa White-Gluz on the mike and former ARSIS guitarist Nick Cordle, who gets his first album representation following the 2012 departure of Christopher Amott. 

Change often sucks, but hardly in this case.  The new blood in ARCH ENEMY has propagated a tremendous creative spark in Michael Amott.  Simply put, “War Eternal” is the best ARCH ENEMY album in years.  Though Angela Gossow held her post with honor, the songwriting under her tenure fell into a script that’s observed on occasion here, but stepped well beyond.

                                         *************

The band’s tireless performance on “War Eternal” is comparable to a veteran baseball team with a powerful batting lineup giving a new pitcher a seven run lead to break in with.  Blue-coiffed Alissa White-Gluz can rip esophagi with them best of them and she’s a natural fit for ARCH ENEMY.  She possesses excellent pentameter even in ralphing mode and she sounds like a demoniac on “As the Pages Burn.”  It doesn’t hurt to have her predecessor looming in the background as the band’s new manager.  Gossow must be feeling proud, if bittersweet that ARCH ENEMY hits a higher level of craft on “War Eternal” than they have in a long time.  There are transitional moments in a band, but this is a veritable catharsis. 
 
Be on the lookout for the full review soon at Blabbermouth!
 
 
                 Listenin' to:  Bad Brains - Into the Future

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Double Your Pleasure: 10 of the Greatest Double Albums Ever


It takes a lot of balls to presume your audience will plunk down extra duckets for a double album, no matter your stature in the industry.  Considering a lot of artists have issued the deuce and bloated their packages with filler fluff or experimental oddities enlightening only to themselves, if you dare release a double album, I've said time and again in record reviews it had better be special.

While Soilwork recently released the last very good dual dunk with The Living Infinite, the beast known as the double album is usually just a jewel in the rough, as Kiss sings in "Ladies' Room."  Kiss themselves issued two of the best double live albums in rock history, Alive and Alive II, but focusing on singular studio releases of then-new material from musicians, it gets a bit hard to justify dishing up two LPs in one package.  Guns n' Roses' Use Your Illusion I and II don't count, since they were separately delved and not everything on those albums stand up as classic, though "November Rain" justified the excursion altogether.


To be frank, I'm a bit annoyed and silently offended that vinyl manufacturers today are spreading out single length albums over the course of two slabs in most cases.  Perhaps the way vinyl is cut in modern times (particularly in generating a contemporary plug for digital recording systems versus trusty ol' analog) forces the issuance of two records in one package, but the marketing degree bearing my name automatically smells profiteering bullshit.

Nevertheless, there have been inarguable masterworks and some right there on the cusp of perfection amongst the double album format.  The Beatles' White Album will remain the greatest double recording of all-time until the planet explodes.  The Clash come right behind them with their paralleled spirit of creativity and exploration.  London Calling is nearly as devastating as The White Album and had The Clash played their cards better with their ill-fated triple album Sandinista! they could've had themselves a second killer double shot.  Instead, Prince gets honors for delivering two classic double albums, 1999 and Sign o' the Times.  Then what the Minutemen did with their insane roving on Double Nickels On the Dime should never be attempted again by anyone, because it remains a magical slice of geek punk that's still tighter than Queen on their best day.

At any rate, here are my top ten favorite double albums, submitted for your perusal:

1.   The Beatles - The White Album
2.   The Clash - London Calling
3.   Prince - Sign o' the Times
4.   Minutemen - Double Nickels On the Dime
5.   The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street
6.   Chicago - III
7.   Smashing Pumpkins - Melon Colie and The Infinite Sadness
8.   Pink Floyd - The Wall
9.   Prince - 1999
10. The Cure - Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

Special Mentions:

Bruce Springsteen - The River
Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti
Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde





           Listenin' to:  The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Recap of Free Comic Book Day 2014 at ReadWave



Over in my "Comic Books" corner at ReadWave is a recap of this year's bitchin' Free Comic Book Day at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, Maryland.

Link up here:

http://www.readwave.com/free-comic-book-day-2014_s36520



           Listenin' to:  Minutemen - Double Nickels On the Dime

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: The Tick Free Comic Book Day edition 2014


So how'd y'all make out on Free Comic Book Day, everyone?  Get some cool goodies?  Hopefully you supported the store you raided by purchasing as well as pilfering.  I was happy to grab a nice handful of books, as was my son, who did well with the junior leagues of books offered on FCBD.  Thus far, I've enjoyed Sherwood Texas from 12-Gauge Comics, Xenescope's Grimm Fairy Tales # 0 and Top Cow's zero issue launch of Marc Silvestri's new series, Rise of the Magi.  I still have yet to read Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy FCBD shot, Bongo Comics featuring The Simpsons, Valiant's Armor Hunters and Avatar's Uber:  The First Cycle.  My kid beat me to the punch on DC's Future's End, so Daddy will need to do a little late night snooping to catch up with that one.

For me, it's all about The Tick on Free Comic Book Day.  Since 2010, New England Comics have reliably issued a book for The Tick and better yet, they're filled with original, full-fledged stories.  They don't just give you a half glass promotional or reprint here.  NEC's FCBD offerings of The Tick are always the best of the lot and if you're one of the loonies who camped out for the event, I sure hope you got your copy of this one. 

As ever, Jeff McClelland delivers a chuckle-filled satire of the superhero ethos with The Tick.  It's a shame the Fox t.v. series and subsequent cartoon were never really given the opportunity to mature, but then, it makes the long wait in line (depending on where you go for FCBD) well worth it if you snag this one each year.

This time, The Tick and his bunny-eared sidekick, Arthur are pitted against The Hoarder, a bloated bobcat space alien designed to rip on both DC and Marvel's space collector villains.  The Hoarder has zapped and bottled up The Tick and Arthur's home city as they enjoy lunch and spend an hour yakking over the merits of tax reform.  Of course, this being Arthur and The Tick, you can imagine how that conversation goes:  one-sided intellect from Arthur and The Tick posing the use of a cereal box decoder ring to resolve their "debate," if you want to call it such.

For extra comedic effect, McClelland takes a nod out of It Came From Outer Space by dropping in a rugrat-sized alien with a broken down space roadster.  Out the gate, the crash-helmeted alien "envoy" gets one of the book's first gut-buster lines as he's being interrogated by Tick and Arthur:  "How do you know I had anything to do with that?  I'm not a sinister guy.  That's profiling!"   Somehow coming to an agreement, the alien agrees to help our heroes chase down The Hoarder within the solar system to retrieve their city.  Tick yells "Shotgun!" more than once in this tale as they tote inside the cramped spaceship, and you automatically know this is going to a bumble-filled ride to the finish.

The Tick FCBD 2014 is another winner and I roared as Tick finds a pile of comic books circa the 1990's amidst massive piles of junk and he yells with glee, "These must be worth a fortune!"  You had to have been around comics during that decade to get McClelland's in-joke.  I worked in comics retail in 1992 and '93, so my laughter came a very empathetic place.

Then the back story with Tick parading childishly as "The Lone Santa" is a quick-fired crackup that leaves a hilarious final stamp upon the issue and upon Free Comic Book Day itself.  There's still time to get to the head of the line for 2015, ya know...


                         Listenin' to:  Redd Kross - Neurotica

Sunday, May 4, 2014

May the 4th Be With You!


As today is recognized as the annual Star Wars day to mark A New Hope's original release date in 1977, here's a handful of pictures I grabbed at Lego Land, Kansas City and their impressive Episode II dioramas.

While we wait for J.J. Abrams to wrap on Episode VII, I'd like to wish all of my fellow Force Freaks a fun May 4th.  As a PSA, just watch who you cross lightsabers with. 

Due to Free Comic Book Day yesterday, I have pre-empted Cool Comic of the Week.  Stand by for that selection tomorrow.  Salud, Cinco de Mayo's just around the bend!





Photos (c) Ray Van Horn, Jr.


                       Listenin' to:  Whitesnake - Lovehunter

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Happy Free Comic Book Day!


Happy Free Comic Book Day, peeps!  Just came back from the madhouse celebration at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, Maryland, but it was well-worth the venture.  It's all about the sales, the freebies, the cosplays, the Star Wars Clone Troopers and Stormtroopers.  Above all, it was about the professionalism of the store staff, who managed the influx of hundreds of comic book fans admirably.  Truly, a holiday for nerds, as they announced in the store.  With many comic shops suffering financially, this was a magical turnout to be a part of.







Photos (c) Ray Van Horn, Jr.


                  Listenin' to:  Saxon - Strong Arm of the Law