Category: Things To Read

Mystery and Magic: Two More Great All-Ages Reads

It can be hard for parents to navigate the shelves at a comic shop, particularly if they haven’t read a lot of comics themselves. The misconception that all comics are for kids is waning, but hasn’t totally been extinguished yet. Luckily, most shops have a section devoted to all-ages books, and staff trained to make recommendations. Here are a couple that I’ve enjoyed, if you need to spark some ideas.
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Comics Characters You Should Get To Know: Thanos

This post will feature spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War largely in the form of a character study, but also in the form of point of the Infinity Saga story in the comics.

Maybe you have seen Avengers: Infinity War by now, or maybe you haven’t. But surely you have at least heard of Thanos, the Mad Titan by now. When The Goog and I first started dating now 16 years ago, he asked me if I was familiar with the Infinity Saga the way one of those kids with the suits and backpacks (you know the ones) might ask if you have heard about the Good Word. We have been an Infinity Saga household ever since. A big part of what makes this massive event/cross-over story so compelling is not just the coming together of so many of the Marvel Universe’s heroes (and anti-heroes), but that Thanos, as the catalyst, is such a compelling and complicated villain. Continue reading

Movies and Books to Look Forward to in 2018

The new year has arrived, bringing with it the usual vows of self-improvement, opportunity for fresh starts, and hope that the coming twelve months will be better than the previous. It’s a traditional time for optimism.

Unfortunately, New Year’s Day 2018 doesn’t find me full of anticipation for the new year. Aside from the bigger problems of the world that haven’t disappeared with the 2017 calendars, my husband and I are both sick. We’re also still recovering from the emotional drain of the holidays. And temperatures aren’t venturing above 30 degrees. Don’t get me wrong; my life is good and I’m still grateful for what I do have.

Still, it can be tough to find enthusiasm for the new year when I’m more inclined to curl up in a blanket with my dogs to stay warm. However, I’d like to feel that sense of a fresh start and anticipating the new. So I am focusing on something I am definitely looking forward to in 2018. I’ve asked the other Ladies what they are looking forward to as well so click through to find out what we can’t wait for. Continue reading

The Red Menace’s Top Five Books of 2017

By all accounts, 2017 has been a difficult year, one plagued by natural disasters, tragedy, and a polarizing political climate. Yet, in spite of it all, or in some cases even because of it, we’ve been privy to some incredible stories this year – books that challenge, enlighten, inform and inspire. Here are a few of my favorites – some I’ve reviewed here before, some I haven’t. All of them are written by women.
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Smalerie Reads Christmas Comics: The Return

While it’s very possible that I’m the only one getting a kick out of these seasonal comic creations, this year I decided to revisit the ghosts of blog posts past and share some more holiday themed comics with you all.

 

The Last Christmas – Story by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, Art by Rick Remender

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Image: Image Comics

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Henchgirl Review

Back in July, Smalerie shared a recipe for a hamburger. What it lacked in deliciousness it made up for in creativity and in its physical resemblance to the product that inspired it – the Cthulhu burger in Kristen Gudsnuk’s Henchgirl. At the time, she mentioned she wasn’t going to review the book; the focus of the post was the horrifying delicacy she’d created. Since then, we’ve discussed the book at Comicazi Book Club, and hosted Kristen as one of our guests of honor at LadiesCon.

Kristen at LadiesCon 2017.

So it seems like a good time to review the book and let you know that if you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon, you should.

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3 Manga Titles The Red Menace Recommends

In my last post, I mentioned that there were some manga I was excited to share with you all. Since nothing else took my attention this time around, let’s talk about them.

I should note that I haven’t yet read a lot of manga – I really enjoyed Ranma 1/2 when I was just getting into comics, but that was nearly 25 years ago, when the selection of good translations in America weren’t as plentiful as they are now. Additionally, there are SO many manga, in every genre you can imagine. Separating the wheat from the chaff, or even just what stories might be interesting to you in particular, can be a daunting task. Luckily, there are folks out there who can help. Comicazi has a manga book club – I learned about one of these titles from their list. Another I learned about from my pal Morgana, who is the manga maven at Comicopia, a store with a great selection of manga. The last was given to me by my husband, who thought it just looked up my alley. So here are my three picks – don’t be afraid to ask your local shop for other suggestions!
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Food and Fandom: Henchgirl’s Cthulu Burger

We are less than 2 months away from LadiesCon and things are getting crazy. Crazy in the best ways possible, but still quite a lot of twists, turns, and surprises. It’s during these times that we need to make sure we’re taking the opportunity to take a deep breath, brush up on your R’lyehian, and praise the Elder Gods.

If you haven’t read Kristen Gudsnuk’s Henchgirl, you should really do one of the following: a) buy it now so you have a copy for Kristen to sign at LadiesCon or b) buy it at LadiesCon and so you have a copy for Kristen to sign. Ok ok, I know I’m really driving the point a bit hard here, but there’s a reason we reached out to Kristen as a guest.

Without turning this post into a review, I will tell you this much. Henchgirl is such a charming and funny story. It’s filled with such great visual gags and puns that when I found myself faced with these panels…I knew immediately what I had to do.

 

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Image: Dark Horse Press

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Image: Dark Horse Press

 

Yes, I needed my very own Cthulu Burger!

Normally when I do these Food and Fandom posts, I like to post a recipe. I’m not going to do that this time for a few reasons. The main reason is that there are times when (due to the either the complications of your project or the limits of your own culinary skills) you know that you’re going to have to choose between something that tastes great but is visually plain or something that looks amazing but will NEVER WANT TO EAT AGAIN.  I chose and well, um…you’ll see.

When making a burger based on Cthulu, octopus was the most obvious choice. I was able to find frozen cleaned octopus in my regular supermarket quite easily, as well as a recipe that would allow me to cook it in my sous vide. I had never cooked octopus before and using such a controlled temperature was a pretty surefire way to ensure that the octopus would be soft and tender rather than horrible and chewy.

So I started with something that looked like this:

 

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I may or may not have performed a puppet show for my dog with these.

Did some stuff to it:

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Dead Cthulu waits dreaming.

 

And hours later, I found myself with this:

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Tentacles like butta…

The recipe also informed me that I should clean, then either grill or fry up the octopus to get the legs and tentacles nice and crispy before serving. So I did that too.

Next, I laid out my ingredients on my sacrificial altar/cutting board and got to work assembling what might very well be my most horrifying creation yet.

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Photo contains: garlic mayo, romaine lettuce, toasted brioche bun, vine-ripened tomatoes, octopus, and the last shreds of my sanity

BEHOLD AND TREMBLE WITH FEAR YOU FOOLS! *warning: prolonged exposure to this slideshow may result in madness

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I’m really proud of how I was able to get his worshipers to bleed from the eyes just right!

I delayed as long as I could taking these pictures. It wasn’t because I didn’t think I would like octopus. I’ve had it before and liked it a lot. It was the idea of eating it with bread and the other burger fixings that made me start to back away towards the door.

I mean, does this cross section look appetizing to you?

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It kinda looks like a Hell Mouth.

Since I wasn’t about to go at this alone, The Boy and I each took a half, bit in, and well…

Do I get points for accuracy if it tastes like it’s been asleep under a lost city in the Pacific ocean for thousands of years?

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that bad. But dang, it tasted fishy. And the soft octopus with even softer bread was not something I found enjoyable in any way. No, it was not good. Nope. Nope. Nope.

In the case that you’re wondering what went wrong, I chatted with Tiny Doom and she believes it was a problem with the octopus recipe that I used. My recipe said that marinating the octopus before cooking was optional, so I skipped that step to save myself a little time. Tiny Doom has cooked octopus with great success but has always let it braise in red wine first. Perhaps that’s the key to removing the fishy taste? Maybe my frozen octopus wasn’t all that great? I’ll probably give cooking octopus a shot again, but will use a very different recipe.

Still, Lord Cthulu makes quite the dashing figure as a burger.

 

Summer Reading 2017: Mythology and Monsters

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but here in Massachusetts the weather has finally embraced full-on summer, the kind with clear blue skies, warm nights, and the occasional thunder-storm to keep things exciting. It’s a great time to hit the beach or a park and catch up on some reading, so here are some suggestions to get you started. Continue reading

Comic Review: Clean Room Vol. 1

When I discovered that Gail Simone was writing a series for Vertigo, I was annoyed with myself for not knowing about it sooner. I mean, seriously Smalerie? Gail Simone. Original horror series. Get on it, girl.

So I did.

Then I wrote a review.

 

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Image: Vertigo

 

The Plot

After Chloe Pierce loses her fiance to suicide, she embarks on a mission find out what could have driven him to take his own life. When all signs point towards self-help guru Astrid Mueller, Chloe will stop at nothing to find the truth behind Astrid and her mysterious organization.

My Thoughts

When writing a mystery/horror story, the author has the difficult task of providing enough intrigue to keep the reader interested without making them frustrated. Clues need to be left behind like breadcrumbs or shiny pebbles leading you out of the dark forest. Clean Room handles this so well that I simply could not stop reading the first trade. At one point I was forced to put the book down, and it almost felt like the story followed me, hiding in a dark part of my mind and forcing me to think about it when I should have been concentrating on dinner conversation or watching an action flick with my family. I think reading this one as the issues came out might have driven me crazy.

 

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Image: Vertigo

 

From the description alone, I’m sure that most of you have figured out this book is for mature audiences. There are some VERY disturbing things that both happen and are referenced in this book. And while there were a few times when I felt that certain language and nudity might have been used more for the shock value rather than because it added to the story or said something about a character’s true nature, this story intends to strip characters down to their emotional cores and that is rarely pretty.  But regardless of how ugly it gets, it still remains an engrossing read.

Mueller’s organization is an extremely secretive and organized one, providing more access and information as you go up the ranks. While this structure is common among many organizations, there is a lot here that reminds me of Scientology. It’s still early in the story for me to say if Mueller and her followers are dealing with their reality in the best way, but this book makes you really wonder what’s happening behind closed doors. This is true both in the story and in the outside world. What’s being kept from us? What do we have the right to know? And how high do the stakes need to be for you to give someone complete power over you? It makes you question authority and feel uneasy. And it’s very possible these questions might never really be answered in the story, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth asking.

 

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Image: Vertigo

 

The Art

Jon Davis-Hunt’s artwork is slick and detailed. His art and Quinton Winter’s colors match the writing well and create a really creepy and stark environment. This is especially true when we get the contrast between the Clean Room itself and the outside world.  I will admit that there were a few times I felt that the characters seemed too stiff, but it still kinda works once you start to understand what’s really happening in the story. Without giving any spoilers, I think it’s safe enough to say that what you see on the surface is not always a reliable tool for truly understanding the world of this book.

As for the monster factor, I found them to be suitably creepy. You know when you run across something that’s just spooky or gross enough that you need to share it with someone? To either validate your feelings or just to make someone else shudder? Well, let’s just say there were a few times I found myself showing a page to whoever was unfortunate enough to be in the room with me.

The Verdict

It’s great to see Gail Simone writing, well, pretty much anything.

The story builds, feels satisfying enough to keep you reading, and I defy you not to run out and get Vol. 2 immediately.