Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Curious Cat Spy Club, Book 2 - The Mystery of the Zorse's Mask

I have always loved cats.  I have always loved children's mysteries.  Ergo, it makes sense that I would love The Curious Cat Spy Club mystery series.

And quite frankly, I do.  Now, the mysteries are not overly complicated, and they are written for the younger side of a young adult audience - but, they are fun and have believable characters that share not only real dialogue but face true-to-life situations (such as homework, chores, family problems, etc.).  The three young stars (Kelsey, Becca, and Leo) are far from perfect, they make mistakes, and they sometimes get their feelings hurt - but like all childhood friends, they stick by one another, and they grow and learn together as they solve these mysteries.

In The Mystery of the Zorse's Mask, Kelsey and Leo come to Becca's aid when a man comes to town claiming to be the owner of the zorse (which is a real animal - a cross-breeding between a male zebra and a female horse) that has spent the last six months at Becca's mom's wild life preserve healing from wounds inflicted upon it by an unknown source.  Becca is certain that this man is the cause of the zorse's wounds, but Kelsey and Leo aren't so sure.  When the zorse's sparkling fly mask turns up missing, the owner decides to stick around town until it is found, giving Becca a few more days with the zorse (and a few more days to prove that he hurt the animal!).

I had the pleasure of meeting the author, Linda Joy Singleton, two years ago out in California at a Sleuths convention (where, I might add, I also got to meet Parker Stevenson and Pamela Sue Martin from the '70s Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys show).  She was a truly wonderful person with a clear love for children's books.  Her fandom of children's mystery stories is evident in her writing, as well as the nods she gives to those books in her stories.  I still chuckle every time I read "Helen Corning Middle School" (fans of the Nancy Drew series will get that reference right away).

The books are told in a first person point-of-view, which seems to be the popular storytelling method these days.  She allows us to see the CCSC-world through Kelsey's eyes - a young teenage girl who is sometimes unsure of herself, looking to make friends as well as be a friend, who has a sharp mind and a heart of gold (but who has a tendency to act before she thinks, which gets her in some VERY hot water in this book).  I'm fine with that, as so many books are written from this perspective these days, you get rather used to it.  And although everything is from Kelsey's perspective, readers do get more insight into Leo's and Becca's personal lives, their family situations, and even their friendships with other students.  The one thing I thought very touching was Leo, who is usually a loner, making friends with a potential suspect, which causes a bit of friction between the three friends - but Kelsey eventually comes to realize what that new friend means for Leo, and it tears her heart when she and Becca learn a secret that this new friend is hiding.  How can she break the news to Leo without hurting their friendship?

What I'm still getting used to is the fact that the stories are told in present tense.  To be honest, I find when I'm reading that my mind automatically switches it to past tense, and there are moments where I suddenly realize it's present, not past, and I get jarred out of the story.  I've read some other books recently written in present tense, and I am left to wonder if this is not the next thing in fiction storytelling (just as first-person storytelling has become more prevalent than third-person any more).  I guess only time will tell...

As with the ending of the first book, there is a hint of things to come at the ending of this book, although we don't get the title of the next mystery as the old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books used to do back in the day.  (Well, okay, that's not exactly true, there is a one-page ad in the back for "Kesley the Spy," which is the title for the third book in the series - but it's not written into the text like the ND/HB books of old).

All in all, a very enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves children's mystery series.

RATING:  9 jewel-studded fly masks out of 10 for bringing cats and mysteries together again (which is a combination I've missed since the end of Lilian Jackson Braun's "The Cat Who..." series)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Twisted Dark TPB - Volume Four

As a horror fan, it was a no-brainer that I would pick up the first two volumes of this graphic novel series at DragonCon a few years back.  Creator and writer, Neil Gibson, was at the con promoting his books, and I liked the concept, so I bought them and thoroughly enjoyed them.

Each graphic novel is a series of short stories, each drawn by different artists.  The stories range from dark and gloomy to violent and in-your-face to subtle and ironic.  Each tale is a story in and of itself, and at first glance, they don't really seem to have any connections to one another.  But the more you read, the more you begin to see things that somehow relate them.  One story may have a newscast in the background that talks about the events of another story.  One tale may have a character who acts the way he or she does because of an experience he or she endured in another story.  In some instances, it's simply a supporting character who appears throughout several tales.

Whatever the relation, Gibson manages to weave some magnificently twisted stories that will grab your attention and leave you wanting for more.  I snagged the third volume in this series through Previews, and recently ordered (and received) the fourth volume from Previews.  As usual, Gibson doesn't disappoint.

In "The Babysitter," readers are introduced to this wonderfully caring young woman who is telling a bedtime story to the boy she is babysitting.  As he finally falls asleep, she creeps downstairs to discover two masked men holding the boy's parents hostage.  Brave, she confronts them, demanding to know what is going on, seeing the father lying on the floor in a pool of blood.  When the men don't answer, she calls them out, admonishing them that they were not supposed to hurt anyone.  That's right, she was in on it.  She, and her cohorts, set the whole situation up so that she could rob the family.  As the mother screams at her, the girl smiles and merely says, "I'm no monster.  There are no monsters.  Only opportunists."

"Story of Wolves - The Pack" and "Story of Wolves - The Company" are two stories that are nearly identical - except the first story tells the story of animals, while the second story tells the story of men (who act like animals).  The captions are exactly the same for each story, and it is amazing how much man can mimic the lives of animals in their actions and the way they seek out power.  Very well done tales.

"Little Piggy" is a sad story, about a mentally challenged boy who is taunted so much in school, that his father keeps him home and trains him in the business (slaughtering pigs for sale of the meat).  The son does well in the business, but one day an inspector shows up with her young daughter, who happens to be wearing a piggy hat.  The daughter stumbles into the actual slaughter room and when she sees the process, she begins screaming - which, to the son, sounds a whole lot like a pig squealing.  You can only imagine what happens next.  Very dark, very sad tale.

"Punishment" is a very time-apropos tale about the use of social media.  When a young boy is caught pelting a judge's dog with rocks, the judge pulls him inside.  The boy accuses the judge of simply wanting to punish him yet again (clearly, the boy is a delinquent who has been in front of the judge before) and arrogantly demands to know what he's going to have to endure this time.  The judge is calm and states that he isn't going to do anything this time; rather, he will let the boy's actions speak for himself.  He then proceeds to show him a video of the boy pelting the dog on his computer, informing the boy that the video has been uploaded and posted to the internet for the world to see.  The boy's eyes grow wide, as he realizes the world will hate him for what he has done - and the punishment from the world at large could be much worse than anything the judge would have given him!

"Accepting Help" and "Stories of Chance" are tales of irony that are less horrific.

The final tales in this book revolve around a boy that was sexually abused by a priest while at school, and the nuns who did nothing to prevent it.  The boy is grown up, and he is now getting his revenge on the nuns who allowed the abuse to go on.  He is creative in his ways of punishing the nuns, but he finds himself in danger of creating a new version of himself when he discovers a young boy hiding and watching as he tortures one of the nuns.  Carted off to jail, the man comes face to face with the final object of his revenge - the priest himself.

There is no doubt Twisted Dark is not a series of graphic novels for kids.  While there is no nudity and only mild vulgarities (if any), the stories are ... well, they are dark and twisted and (sadly) a reflection of real life in many ways.  The writing is truly amazing and the various artists meld nicely with the different stories.

RATING:  8 squealing pigs out of 10 for making me uncomfortable with the reality of the stories as I read them

Friday, January 22, 2016

Finishing School, Book the Second - Curtsies & Conspiracies

Vampires...werewolves...mechanical creatures...intrigue and machinations...

Gail Carriger brings Sophronia Temminnick back for a second adventure in the next book of the Finishing School series, Curtsies & Conspiracies.  I picked up this series some time ago because of its setting (19th century Europe), its characters (c'mon, that's a given - werewolves and vampires!), and its premise (a girls' finishing school that is secretly training its students to become spies).  This combination certainly piqued my interest, and now having finished the second book, I am definitely glad I bought them.

Carriger has created some delightful characters in this series.  Sophronia is a curious, strong-willed Nancy Drew-style young lady who never forgets her manners or modesty, even when climbing along the balconies on the outside of the massive airship that houses the school or facing down a hive of vampires. Dimity is her roommate and friend, who is timid (from which her name is undoubtedly derived) and very Bess Marvin-like in nature - she's unsure of the whole spy business, but she's definitely up for a new dress or sparkling accessories.  There's Sidheag, a tall, gangly Scot who is very tomboyish and dislikes all manner of femininity.  And there's Agatha, the follower who manages to keep all of the others in check.

And what would any good series be without a good foil?  Well, this one has a doozy in Monique de Pelouse, the belle of the ball (or so she thinks).  She has been held back at the school and demoted to the first class - - yet, she holds her head high and maintains an air of superiority over all those around her.  Sophronia sees through the phoniness, but in this book, she discovers that Monique is a lot more than what she seems.

In this steampunk world, there are conspiracies everywhere, and Sophronia stumbles upon one involving a crystalline guidance valve that could be used to allow ships to fly higher into the aetherosphere.  It seems there a number of groups after the valve - the vampires, the picklemen, as well as others.  What Sophronia can't figure out is how her school is drawn into this and why they are suddenly taking a trip to London to see the latest in dirigibles, which the creator claims can climb into the aetherosphere and reach its destinations faster than any other ship.

And all the while, Sophronia must deal with classes, an ingenious test of all her learned skills to date, and the boarding of a group of boys from the rival school for evil male geniuses - one of whom takes a liking to Sophronia and won't take no for an answer.

This series really does have it all.  It's fun reading, it's fast paced, and it has tons of believable characters with real reactions and dialogue.  I would have to say by far, my favorite is the young sootie, "Soap," who works in the engine room and who has developed over these first two books a distinct crush on Sophronia.  Carringer is slowly building the relationship between these two, and it will be interesting to see where she ultimately takes it.

The series is definitely more about the intrigue and the espionage and conspiracies, but there is a certain element of mystery to it that would appeal to readers of that genre as well.  I hope Carriger keeps this series going for a while.

RATING:  9 dangerous plots out of 10 for proving that a book series about a world with vampires and werewolves does not have to be sparkly!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dark Shadows Audio Book 30 - Dreaming of the Water

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dark Shadows, which first aired back in 1966 (before I was even born!).  I fell in love with the show when I first watched it back in the 1980s as reruns on NBC and later PBS, and that love has never faltered, even after a failed revival (which was exceptionally well done, I thought - just not given a proper time slot to garner ratings) and a horrific film by Tim Burton (not even going to discuss).  While Lara Parker has written several books and has a new one coming out later this year, it is the audio dramas that is really keeping the show alive for me these days.

The next one in the series, Dreaming of the Water, tells the story of Sebastian Shaw after he takes poor Maggie Evans to Windcliff Sanitarium.  Actors Christopher Pennock (Sebastian) and Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie) reprise their roles from the show, and they do an outstanding job of stepping back into characters that they have not played in who know how many years (although, to be honest, Scott has been doing audio dramas for some time as Maggie now, so I guess she was probably a bit more comfortable playing the part).

The story follows Sebastian as he drops Maggie at the mental asylum, only to be struck down by a vision of a "blond" Maggie in very real danger.  When he awakes, he discovers he is a patient at the institution, but he cannot remember the past six months since he had the vision and was admitted.  His new doctor, Laurie Norris, arrives, and in grand Dark Shadows tradition, she has an uncanny resemblance to Maggie Evans, except she has blond hair (just like his vision).  Sebastian realizes he must convince this woman she really is Maggie Evans and save her life from the events in his vision.

The writer of this drama keeps the supernatural elements present, as Sebastian relates to the doctor how he first discovered his abilities to see the future, and how the vampire Roxanne Drew took control of him and is the reason Maggie was brought to Windcliff in the first place.  Sebastian discovers, while in the care of the doctor, that his abilities are growing, and he finds he can now enter the dreams of the doctor, who he firmly believes is Maggie, despite her protestations to the contrary. The suspense builds to a very tense conclusion, told in true Dark Shadows style, and Sebastian's future is left open, leaving listeners (and me!) to wonder if we will get future stories about where Sebastian goes from here.

I can't stress enough how much I enjoy these dramas, and how so episodic they are.  Listening to them (and I know I say this every time but it is so true!) is just like sitting in another room while the TV is airing the episode, and you can hear the dialogue and action, you just can't see the screen.  I give so much kudos to Big Finish Productions on the high quality of these audio dramas, and since the stories continue to come out, I hope that means sales are remaining successful for them to continue the series for a long time to come!

RATING:  10 fateful horoscopes out of 10 for a tense, dark story that surprises you by not leading you where you think it's going.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Short Lived Comic Series #2 - Portia Prinz of the Glamazons

Eclipse Comics put out a large number of titles back in the 1980s, many of which were exceptional reading (and far surpass most of the comics that are published today).  Titles such as DNAgents, Ms. Tree, Crossfire, The Liberty Project, New Wave, Airboy, Scout, and countless others.  It was truly a shame the company was unable to sustain itself, and eventually closed its doors.  Some of the titles went on to other publishers, but many of them ended up in limbo, pretty much never to be seen again.

Enter: E-Bay!

Through the joys of E-Bay, as well as local comic conventions (and those wonderful boxes of 50-cent comics), I've been able to find some of those old series that I missed out on back in the day (and some that I did read back then, but later sold for various reasons) and purchase them to read.  One of those happens to be Portia Prinz of the Glamazons.

My brother gave me the entire 6-issue run as a Christmas gift this year, so I was thrilled to be able to sit down and read it.  The series was written, drawn, and lettered by Richard Howell, who I best remember from his issues of All-Star Squadron and the Shadow War of Hawkman at DC Comics. What I did not realize was that this series was actually a reprinting (with some additional story and art), as Howell originally wrote and drew the series in the mid to late 1970s.  But that's okay, because Howell did an amazing job telling a very intellectual story in a humorous, campy way.

Portia is the daughter of the queen of the Glamazons, a race of women who resemble the early days of the Amazons from the Wonder Woman comic.  The major difference is, the Glamazons have no problem allowing men that they personally select to come live on the island as their loves and mates, allowing them to partake of the fountain of immortality if they are worthy.  In this tale, the Glamazons are faced with the decision of whether or not to allow technology to come into their society.  An ambassador of the technocratic outside world has come to the Glamazons' home to bear witness to the benefits of technology, yet all the while, she is scheming to actually take over the society and destroy it from within.

Howell provides some very thought-provoking observations on technology and how it can affect, and ultimately rule, the lives of people - which, considering this was written in the '70s, and later added to in the '80s, is amazing, because reading it in today's technological age, is amazing, as he really hits the nail on the head when talking about how people have become so addicted to technology that they lose social skills and basically allow the technology to rule their world.

The characters, most certainly Portia herself, are all over-the-top, with stereotypes of every kind. Wendy and Richard Pini, who provided an introduction in the first issue, said it best:

"As the foremost pseudo-intellectual snob in her own island-based culture, Portia plays with ideas endlessly for her own amusement and, occasionally, for the benefit of those within her circle and without. Her motivations arise out of selfish whim, megalomania, genuine love, or any combination of the above. And she makes no apologies for her arrogance.  Why should she?  After all, who could be a better judge of Portia's many strengths and virtues (Weaknesses?  Hardly!) than Portia herself?
"Did we mention that, despite her obvious superiority to practically everyone and everything, Portia is not above enjoying a spot of levity at her own expense?  She is truly a well-adjusted person, a self-confident person--but not necessarily an unusual person, at least not if you examine the other denizens of the immortal Glamazon culture."

The series is told in a very soap opera manner, with loves and betrayals, with secret agendas, blackmail, kidnappings, and hidden pasts.  It is funny, it is thoughtful, it is outrageous, and it is chock full of story!  That's right, in the time it takes me to read just one issue of this comic, I could easily read three, maybe even four, comics published today.  That's because Howell is not afraid to use more than three panels on a page.  He is not afraid to use word and thought balloons as his characters talk, think, and interact.  Howell is not afraid to give readers plenty of story for their money.

And all of the above is exactly why I so much enjoy reading those independent titles of yester-year.  It's not just about the pretty art or the splash pages or the "big name" creators. It's about a writer and artist who have a story to tell, and all of their blood, tears, and sweat clearly come across in their finished product.

Oh, I have to wonder - just what would Portia Prinz be up to today, and what would she have to say about our world and its society now?

RATING:  9 dramatic monologues out of 10 for keeping my interest in comic books alive!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Greetings from Somewhere, Book 1 - The Mystery of the Gold Coin

I happened to be in Barnes & Noble some months ago, and as I was perusing the children's books, looking for any new mystery series, I happened to glance through the Chapter Books area, looking to see if they had the new Nancy Drew Clue Book series.  As I was looking over the shelves, I saw some titles that jumped out at me.  Mystery at the Coral Reef.  Mystery of the Lion's Tail.  Mystery in the Forbidden City.  Of course, loving this throwback to the old days of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew titles, I pulled out some of the books and gave them a quick flip-through.

The series, "Greetings from Somewhere," is about twins, Ethan and Ella Briar, whose parents take them traveling around the world.  Everywhere they go, the twins stumble upon a mystery they must solve.  Definitely a concept for a great mystery series, so, being the adventurous reader that I am, I picked up the few titles they had there (and ordered the rest from Amazon).  And after months of sitting on my shelves, I've finally started to read the series, beginning, of course, with the first book.

The Mystery of the Gold Coin.

Now, first off, I have to say - this is definitely a book for beginning readers.  At 118 pages (which, sadly, is pretty close to the same length as the Hardy Boys books these days), the font is quite large, and there are numerous internal illustrations, pretty much on every other page. Thus, it makes for a short story and a quick read.  The sentences are short, and the vocabulary are easy-to-read words that would be easily understood by 6 to 9 year olds.  Obviously, this  ended up only taking me about 15 minutes to read - yet, surprisingly enough, it was a cute little story, and I can imagine that had this series been around back when I was in first or second grade, I would have enjoyed it.

This first story is relatively tame - Ethan and Ella are told by their parents that their mother has accepted a new position at the newspaper where she works - she is going to be a travel writer, meaning the family will be traveling the globe as Mrs. Briar writes her stories about the various countries and places.  The twins are unhappy at first, not wanting to leave their friends and hometown - but after a visit from their grandfather, who gives them each a gift, they begin to warm to the idea.

The mystery focuses on a gold coin that Ethan is given by his grandfather.  They morning they are ready to leave, Ethan finds that he has lost his coin.  Ella (who enjoys writing mystery stories herself - her latest one is "The Case of the Missing Diamond" [p 24]) convinces her brother that they can play detective and solve this mystery of the missing coin.  They set off through town to retrace their steps from the previous day to find the coin.  At the bookstore, when they mention what they are doing, the owner comments, "A mystery?  You mean like something from a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys story?" [p 76].  It seems any more, you can't read any mystery without some sort of reference to Nancy Drew.

Ultimately, they find the coin and the mystery is solved.  It's a cute story, and for parents whose children are just reaching the stage where they can read, I would highly recommend this series, based on this first book alone.

RATING:  8 globe-trotting detectives out of 10 for good clean family fun and easy reading!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery, Book 2 - Cinderella Six Feet Under

The second entry into this unique little mystery series was just as good, if not better, than the first.  As a fan of the various takes on fairy tale characters (loved the Fables comic series and have thoroughly enjoyed most of the Once Upon a Time television series), it comes as no surprise that I would enjoy a mystery series that is fairy tale related.

The first book, Snow White Red-Handed, was more of a set-up mystery.  Yes, there was a murder, yes there was humor, and yes, there was some ingenious ways to bring the fairy tale mythos of Snow White into a real world setting (albeit in the mid-1800s).  But there was also a lot of "getting to know" the characters.  Ophelia Flax, the American variety hall actress who has made her way to Europe with her somewhat dim-witted actress friend, Prudence "Prue" Bright (notice the juxtaposition in her name and her nature); and Gabriel Penrose, the university professor who has more than a passing interest in fairy tales and their historical realities (and who also happens to fall head over heels for our dear protagonist).

With the characters and their histories now firmly established, this second mystery gets right into the action, as Ophelia and Prue arrive in Paris to find Prue's long-missing mother, Henrietta, who is believed to have married a thought-to-be wealthy husband.  Only, they find her missing, and no one seems to care.  Not the husband.  Not the two step-daughters.  Not the irritable man-servant.  They are all more concerned with the dashing prince, who has arrived in Paris and is throwing a lavish party to make a very important announcement that will forever change one young woman's life.

The only problem is - upon their arrival, Ophelia and Prue stumble upon the corpse of a young woman outside the house.  A young woman who bears a very uncanny resemblance to Prue!  But if no one cared about Henrietta's disappearance, they seem to care even less for the identity of this poor murdered girl.  Even the police care very little about her, not even bothering to learn her identity.

The author weaves a very intricate, well-written mystery with loads of suspects, all with valid motives and opportunity.  Maia Chance brings her characters to life with humor and sophistication, and breathes depth into even the most minor of characters within the story.  As with the first book, it is next to impossible to figure out whodunnit, until the story starts racing to its conclusion.  Which, for me, is always the sign of a great writer, as it tells me the author is not just going through the ropes with her story.  However, anyone considering picking up this series should be warned.  It is very dense.  Just shy of 300 pages, Chance provides striking details of her characters and settings, and while the story is certainly fast-paced and flows smoothly, it is written from a British point-of-view and often engages not only in flowery wording, but also utilizes a number of British colloquialisms that may not necessarily be familiar to American readers. Me, though, I thoroughly enjoy it!

And just as she did in the first one, Chance manages to intermingle the spotlighted fairy tale story into the murder mystery itself.  This time, it is Cinderella.  Not only is there a ballet of Cinderella's tale being performed in Paris within the story, but poor Prue takes on a semblance of Cinderella herself.  She is scorned by her step-sisters, she is the poor girl who wants to be the belle of the ball, and she finds herself more often than not stuck in the basement kitchen scrubbing pots in a mouse-infested kitchen (since the fat cat just lays around the house and never tries to catch any of the mice).  She does ultimately get to wear the gown and go to the ball - - but I won't spoil it by telling you what happens at the ball.  That would certainly ruin all of the fun of getting there!

Definitely looking forward to the next book in the series - Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna.

RATING:  9 sparkling stomachers out of 10 for spinning a new twist on the story of Cinderella and giving me an amazingly enjoyable read.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Daughters of the Dark Oracle - The Curse of Ragdoll

Comics aren't for children anymore is not just a tagline - it's pretty much the truth for most comics being published today.  And I'm not just referring to the small, independent companies - DC and Marvel have integrated so much profanity, violence, and dark themes into their comics, that had I picked up today's comics when I was younger, I probably wouldn't have been as interested in them.

But that's not to say that just because they are aimed at adults, they are bad. There are some really great comics out there, particularly from independent and self-publishers.  I have found that the work of the indy creators is more enjoyable because the writers and artists have so much more freedom to just tell a great story - they aren't constricted by stories that must be told in 6-issue format to fill a trade paperback; they aren't forced to integrate company-wide crossovers into their stories; and they aren't inhibited by editors who are telling them what they can or cannot do in their stories.  They can simply tell the stories they want to in the number of pages and number of issues that the story requires - nothing more, and nothing less.

Daughters of the Dark Oracle is definitely one of these great comics.

I bought this title based solely on a small blurb in Diamond Previews book.  A haunting world of horror is unveiled, beginning with the Ghastly Award-winning tale, "The Curse of Ragdoll," by creator Mike Wolfer (Lady Death, Friday the 13th, Gravel).  As the female Frankenstein's monster begins her heart-stopping mission of vengeance in 18th century Europe, you'll also meet Countess Bathory, the Wolfwoman, the Siren, and more!  If you love Hammer Films and Warren Publications from the '70s, this one's for you.

How could I not pick this up?  I loved the Friday the 13th issues that Wolfer wrote for Avatar Press.  I enjoy the Hammer Films of the '70s. And I absolutely love horror tales.  So I ordered all four issues, and once they came in, sat down to read.

First, I did not realize that the story had been previously published.  According to the preface, Wolfer created the story back in 1998, published as a 7-part serial.  This book tells the same tale, but with a revised script, all new lettering, new art, and entirely new pages not seen in the original serialized story.  Further, the original story was a self-contained tale; now, "The Curse of Ragdoll" is but the opening chapter in a much larger saga.  It is framed by snippets of geologist Sir Peter Wyndham, who has discovered in an ice cave on a Carpathian mountain peak, a century-old journal that tells the story of a woman who calls herself "Ragdoll," a supernatural being composed, like Frankenstein's monster, from the body parts of various people - the only difference is, her parts come from the bodies of murdered women, all who cry out for vengeance!

The main story of each issue reveals the details of those vengeful acts, as retold in Ragdoll's journal. The deaths of vile men who have brutally murdered women without a second thought.  And the chase given by Inspector Pike and Sergeant Claus, who are looking to put an end to the murders once and for all.  Their paths are destined to cross, as Ragdoll continues her quest for vengeance, and as readers, we begin to realize that Ragdoll isn't necessarily the villain of this tale.  She appears on the scene at the most unexpected moments, pointing accusatory fingers at men who think themselves above the law, who believe women are there to service them and then be tossed aside.  Sure, she acts as judge, jury, and executioner, but in 18th century Europe, would these men have been punished otherwise?

The series ends in the forest near Wolfsburg (interesting choice of names, considering the tale focuses on a werewolf roaming the woods), where a young girl, Heidi, and her lover are forced to meet in secret or face the wrath of her abusive father.  As any story such as this goes, he catches them, shocked to discover that one of them is the werewolf that has been seen in the area.  Of course, Ragdoll shows up, intent on ending the life of the man who killed Heidi's mother, a part of her now living on in Ragdoll, screaming for retribution.  There is plenty of violence here at the end, and there is definitely some surprises, as well as some sadness, as lives are lost and those left behind must live with the consequences.  The ending also leaves many questions for the reader to ponder...

What happened to Ragdoll?  Is her thirst for vengeance quenched?

What will Inspector Pike and Sergeant Claus do now that they have faced Ragdoll?  Will they continue to hunt her down, or will they realize she is simply punishing those who most deserve it?

And what of Sir Wyndham, who has now read the truth behind this supernatural creature?  What will he do with this knowledge?

Wolfer, who provides both the story and the art, does a magnificent job.  He writes characters that are more than stereotypical.  He breathes life into them, making you care about the ones you should and detest the villainous degenerates (and find yourself rooting for Ragdoll to rid the world of).  The art, in beautifully drawn black-and-white interiors, is amazing.  There is no weird "stylistic art" that seems to be permeating the mainstream comics of today.  The people look like people, the backgrounds are detailed, and there is no exaggeration of human body parts.  (And yes, there are certain body parts shown throughout the tale.  As I said at the beginning, this is definitely an adult tale, and there are naked women, as well as naked men, depicted.  There is also a lot of gore and violence - after all, this is a horror tale.)

This comic tale is exactly why I read so much more independent work these days.  It is engaging, it is well-paced and not padded with unnecessary exposition nor numerous unnecessary splash pages, and it makes me long for more.  Which, thankfully, there will be, when the second mini-series comes out in a few months!  I can hardly wait.

RATING:  9 bloody rampages out of 10 for giving me such a great tale of horror (yeah, admittedly it could have been a 10, but I had to knock off a point for some of the gratuitous nudity - but, then again, what's a horror tale without gratuitous nudity?)