28 July 2009

Hipira by Katsuhiro Otomo and Shinji Kimura

When I was a kid, way back in the dark ages of BC (Before Cable), there weren't many options for vampire-loving ankle-biters. We had The Count on Sesame Street, Bunnicula, and the cheezefest of The Hilarious House of Frightenstein (although as bad as it was, I remember loving it, probably because it fed my need for all things monstrous. I'm sure Vincent Price's contribution didn't hurt, either.) These days things seem a little better for the rug rats--or at least more interesting, thanks to movies like The Little Vampire and books like Hipira.

Hipira is a mischievous young vampire living in the vampire-town of Salta, where it's always night. The book comprises a series of five short stories. In "The Tale of Soul," Hipira encounters the town elder who is using magic to distill human souls into sprites. The idea is to drink the blood of the sprites in order to go to hell (which for vampires is heaven). Of course the spell goes wrong, but at least Hipira gets a friend (a sprite named Soul) out of it. The whole putting human souls through a wringer and then going to hell thing might be a tad dark for the younger set, but it's just the right kind of twisted for some of us (and is it just me or is the whole concept so quintessentially Japanese?)

In "Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!" Hipira practices flying and freaks out the entire town by imitating a rooster and making them think the sun is rising for the first time in 2000 years (they are not amused).

In "The Frog Prince," Hipira and Soul are playing in the forest at the back of the town when they come across a briar pixie who needs their help to find out why the river has stopped flowing. They discover the reason, along with a bloated monster that tries to eat them whole. They save the day but Hipira earns himself an enemy.

"School is Fun" finds Hipira in school learning about vampire history. Or at least, someone who looks like Hipira is at school. There's also an underwhelming--but cute--cameo by Dracula.

In "A New Friend" a meterorite tears through Salta's sky, letting a shaft of sun in. The initial panic over being turned into ash seems to subside pretty quickly when the vamps decide sunglasses are really nifty (how glasses will protect them from fiery instant death is not for us to question). When Hipira notices the meteor is sprouting a plant, he waters it until it grows massive and begins producing seed pods full of devil-like alien babies. It only gets weirder from there.

Hipira's attempts at being scary are ridiculously cute (a fact that he'd no doubt despise). Otomo and Kimura's backgrounds in film really show in the gorgeous, moody artwork in the book. For that reason alone I think Hipira is as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. Personally I'd love to see this animated. If you know a kid who's into vampires (or just likes things on the dark side), then this is the book for them. But then again, why should the tots get all the good stuff?

Text Bites

My name is Hipira. The truth is, I'm a vampire! Everybody had better be really afraid of me!

Hipira by Katsuhiro Otomo (writer) and Shinji Kimura (illustrator). Published by DH Press (a division of Dark Horse). Recommended for ages 12+ (but I think you could go younger).

24 July 2009

Buffy Season 8, Issue #26

Yes, it's another Buffy-related review (see previous post re: Whedon, worshipping at the altar of). Deal with it. But rest assured more non-Buffy content is on its way...

In the meantime, I have to ask again: if you're even a minor fan of the Buffyverse and you're not reading these comics, what are you waiting for? This isn't just a continuation of the TV series; it's the continuation, overseen by the man himself (Joss even gets an Executive Producer credit on the cover). Or maybe you enjoy missing out--I don't know. For the rest of you, read on.

Issue 26 ("Retreat Part 1") finds our Slayer collective on the run, not only from the season's Big Bad and his allies (an army of demons, along with Amy, a resurrected-but-still-skinless Warren, and a certain ex of Buffy's with Initiative), but also from the newly pro-vampire/Slayer-phobic world at large as well. It's not a good time to be a Slayer. Buffy's trying to keep it all together, even as she questions whether they're actually the good guys anymore and worries about what she's doing to Willow. Speaking of, be prepared for a disturbing revelation about our resident red-haired (for now) witch (she's straight again! Just kidding...) Although you never know what'll happen with the return of one of my personal favourites: Oz. There's even a flashback to one of the funniest scenes from season 7, if not the entire series. In short: an excellent issue of an excellent comic.

The series is clearly building to something huge, and I can't wait to see what happens, almost as much as I dread the finale (hope I'm wrong but I have the feeling season 8 is also the final season). But all the things you loved about the TV series are here (and then some), making this comic a must-read for Scoobies and newbies alike.* Even though #26 isn't a stand-alone issue, Oz fans might find it worth getting just for his perfectly executed reintroduction.

Oh, and did I mention it was written by Jane Espenson?

Text Bites

Andrew: When you start using bones in your decorating, you've got too many bones.

Faith: I'm just saying. Waiting for the end in a bunker under Berlin... Got a bad feel to it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Issue #26; art by Georges Jeanty and written by Jane Espenson. From Dark Horse Comics.

*Props and thanks to my brilliant SO for coming up with that one and letting me use it :)

23 July 2009

Angel After the Fall--Epilogue (Issue #23)

First, I have to apologize for reviewing out of order. Ideally, I shouldn't review Issue #23 of Angel After the Fall until I've reviewed issues 1 through 22 (and probably the TV series as well). But this blog was late in coming and now I'm behind, so in the hopes of staying at least somewhat on top of current releases, I guess I'll have to colour outside the lines a bit.

Second, there aren't actually any vampires in this issue. Well, Angel has minor cameos and Spike is mentioned (and the issue also has tie-ins with Spike: After the Fall, and Spike: Asylum), but other than that it's a vamp-free zone. There are, however, various and sundry lesser demons, Betta George, Illyria, and a T-Rex. And Gunn, naked. So all in all, we can't really complain.

I have to take a second to mention how much I love Illyria. I loved Fred too, and hate what happened to her, but Illyria is such an awesome character it's hard not to want more of her. Luckily, this issue is being spun into a five-part miniseries (Only Human) in August, so there'll be plenty of Illyria and Gunn action (but not that kind of action...probably...)

If you've already been reading AAtF, you'll want to keep going with this one. If you haven't and you're even a minor fan of the Buffyverse--what are you waiting for? The comic continues the Whedon hallmarks: great action, witty dialogue, solid storytelling, fantastic characters. Throw in some fine artwork and you're set.

Text Bites

Illyria: I have to kill you, Charles.
(Charles) Gunn: ...I agree.

Angel After the Fall--Epilogue, Issue #23; Art by Franco Urru and written by Brian Lynch. From IDW Publishing.

21 July 2009

Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer

This is such a fantastic concept, the kind of thing that makes you wonder how no one thought of it before while at the same time marvelling at the brilliance of those who did manage to figure it out. After watching Geppetto die at the fiendish hands of vampires, our favourite wooden boy devotes himself to vengeance, armed with stakes made from his ever-elongating nose.

Great concept, good art and writing (from what I can tell so far): looking forward to this one. Keep an eye out for a future review.

In the meantime, check out this preview.

Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer, vol 1; drawn by Dusty Higgins and written by Van Jensen. Coming September 2009 from SLG Publishing.

19 July 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (movie)

I love Buffy. No, forget love--I worship at the altar of Whedon. The man is a genius, not to mention creator of some of the best vampires in the history of ever. And it all started with this humble little movie. So it seems fitting to start this blog by re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992).

Part Clueless (before Clueless) with a touch of Heathers and an undead element, BtVS is a fun if not fantastic 90s teen movie. Joss wrote and Fran Rubel Kuzui (future co-producer of the series) directed, which makes me wonder how much better it could have been if Joss had directed too. But no use crying over spilled blood and all that...

You can see the seeds of future characters on the Buffy series (Principal Flutie, Cordy, Giles, Spike), which is always entertaining. Luckily, not everything from the movie made it into the (far superior) series (actually hardly anything did). Among other things that were cut, I'm particularly grateful we didn't have to continue watching Buffy moan and clutch her stomach in pseudo-menstrual agony every time she's in the vicinity of the undead. I think that was supposed to represent some kind of primordial woman power. So glad they dropped it. Also happy they got rid of the vamps' floppy elfin ears! I couldn't imagine Angel or Spike looking like rejects from the Lord of the Rings auditions.

The fight scenes are pretty lacklustre, and Kristy Swanson's acting seems like all her knowledge of teenagers was based on someone else's vague description of them. Luke Perry (Pike), on the other hand, is actually pretty good. Both his character and his portrayal are enjoyable; his 90210 experience probably helped him play another teenager long past his "best before" date. The vamps aren't overly scary or interesting--they mostly skulk around making guttural noises, laughing maniacally, and showing off their new goth-ish makeovers, but Benny (David Arquette) and Amilyn (Paul Reubens) are entertaining, getting a lot of the best lines in the film. Lothos (Rutger Hauer) would probably be more menacing without the 70s porn-star mustache and haircut and Halloween-costume cape.

I think the best way to view BtVS is not as a movie unto itself, but rather as the early rough draft for the awesomeness that is to come. Watch it, laugh with it (or at it, as the case may be) and appreciate Buffy the series all the more.

Sound Bites

Cassandra: What do you think about the ozone layer?
Buffy: Yeah, we gotta get rid of that.

Buffy: You threw a knife at my head!
Merrick: Yes, I had to show you.
Buffy: You threw a knife at my head.

Amilyn to Pike: You ruined my new jacket. (To vampire minion) Kill him a lot.

Pike to Buffy: This is no caring nurturer. He's a blood-sucking fiend from beyond the grave!

(After Amilyn has lost his arm) Amilyn: We're immortal, Buffy; we can do anything.
Buffy: Oh yeah? Clap!

17 July 2009

Mission Statement/Intro

I love vampires. Not the self-proclaimed kind who wear too much makeup and PVC (or worse--the so-called "psi" vampires who claim to feed on people's life force/energy). No, the vampires that occupy my heart are the ones that live in myth and legend and lore; the ones who inhabit the pages between a book's covers and stalk the shadows onscreen.

What brilliant creations, these monsters who are scary and sexy and make even the most upstanding citizen root for them instead of the hero of the piece. Too bad they're just as often cheesy and dull and make you wish someone would drive a stake through you instead.

This blog is a way for me to explore my endless fascination (okay, obsession) with vampires in all forms: books, comics, movies, TV, toys--even games. Anything and everything vampyr. I'll review, relate, revile, and revere. And hopefully you'll enjoy what I have to say (if not, that's okay too).

I don't claim to be an expert. I don't have advanced degrees in vampirology or book-review theory. I'm just a fan with an opinion and a forum.

Oh, and if you happen to be domestically inclined at all, check out my other blog: Domicile.

See you around the crypt...