Chances are you're reading this review because of one of two reasons: 1) you're a loyal fan of Mike Mignola's work or 2) you've read/purchased the previous hard cover edition of Joe Golem and the Drowning City and are toying with the idea of upgrading for Dark Horse's Deluxe Edition HC. As a huge Mignola fan I am slightly biased by his gorgeous art, but I hope to set that aside to provide you with a brutally honest and opinionated review.

First and foremost, the premise behind Joe Golem and the Drowning City is a fascinating one. Set fifty years after torrential earthquakes and a rising sea level have left city of Manhattan submerged under 30 feet of water, fourteen-year-old Molly McHugh finds herself an orphan living in the extremely dangerous Drowning City. As luck would have it, she is rescued from her meager life by an elderly psychic named Felix Orlov, aka Orlov the Conjuror. Never expecting Orlov to be a  true psychic, she slowly yet surely realizes her caretaker's powers are indeed real--real enough to attract the wrong kind of attention from the villainous Dr. Cocteau and his gas-mask wearing monster men. But they're not alone. A clock-work detective named Simon Church (a nod and a wink to Sherlock Holmes) and his hulking strongman Joe Golem have secretly kept tabs on Orlov over the years, expecting just such an attack. Joe leaps to Molly's defense and thus begins our pulp adventure. Everything you would hope to expect from a Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden co-authorship.

Now that you're expectations are high, allow me to readjust them accordingly.

Joe Golem and the Drowning City is not just an illustrated novel (that's right, fans of Mignola, this is NOT a graphic novel--please don't be confused), this is one-hundred-percent a Young Adult illustrated novel. Just what does that mean? Well, if you believe The Hunger Games holds literary merit over Lord of the Flies and Battle Royale, than you're going to find this book to be the best damn thing since Frozen Yogurt became known as "Fro Yo." Sentence development, unnecessary ramblings, and shameful amounts of white space (this book could easily be half the size if formatted properly), this book reeks of the tropes found in Young Adult fiction. This is not to say that the book is bad and the writing is poor (co-author Christopher Golden provides some charming visuals unnecessary of any illustrations and his opening sequence is one of the most captivating I've read in years) but only that I was unprepared for the quality of the work.

Fans of Mignola's art and comics like myself might be disappointed too. I've already mentioned that this is NOT a graphic novel (second warning), so what should you come to expect? I counted three illustrations that take up the entirety of a page, the rest are of a marginal size, all of which are in black and white. For the most part Mignola's artwork represents old Germanic woodblock prints, however in Joe Golem there is no action or gusto in these pieces compared to his comic art. They all  feel silent and inert, simple and more sketch like than what you might typically consider an "illustration." 
Now for what you've all been waiting for--discussing the Deluxe Edition. From what I can tell (keep in mind I read a digital copy) there is absolutely nothing different from the first hard cover addition other than the size,  slipcase, limited edition signature plate (this book is limited to 1,000 copies), and the inclusion of the previously unprinted "Joe Golem and the Copper Girl" (which you can still purchase digitally). All of these amendments for nearly fivefold the original price (unless you rush to Amazon where it's currently going for $62.99). Personally, I believe the St. Martin's Press edition published earlier this year is superior solely for the gorgeous art on the dust jacket alone--plus it's already a hardcover! But if you have the money to burn and feel like owning some kind of bragging right, you can fork up the generous wampum for the most expensive and over glorified Young Adult novel I've ever seen in existence.

Overall rating: 3/5

"Once Upon a Bye..." Stephen King Returns to the Dark Tower - 'The Wind Through the Keyhole' - Review by Ryan T. King

Throughout the last year, many of my friends have egged me to read George R.R. Martin's series A Song of Ice and Fire. To this day, I have not. Nor have I watched any of the popular HBO television series. For good measure I've managed a general rule of thumb for beginning continuing series in book format: I'll read it when it's completed. Most often times there is only one way of reading a series and that is consecutively, one book after the other, until the final's spine is bent and worn from tender and approving hands. I stand by this rule after rereading the Harry Potter books whenever a new one was released (5 and 6 I disliked the most and bemoan ever revisiting) and once more I regretted diving into Robert Jordan's first The Wheel of Time books before learning he passed away before it's completion... Such death might have befallen Stephen King in 1999 and ended any chance of a conclusion to his Dark Tower series. But fortunately for many fans the world wide--drum roll, please-- King lived to tell the tale.

Released last week, King returned to his finished fantasy saga with a middle installment The Wind Through the Keyhole, and sure enough, I was there with my foot in my mouth, ready to continue a series I thought I had once finished. Set between the events of The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass and The Dark Tower V: The Wolves of the Calla, King proclaims this new mid-world adventure "Dark Tower 4.5" but ensures new, prospective readers that this tale can be enjoyed without reading any other Dark Tower escapade. How is this possible? Well, without giving away too many spoilers, the story of The Wind Through the Keyhole is a story within a story within a story. And just how does that make any sense whatsoever? To put it simply, the gunslinger Roland and his ka-tet are holed up during the onslaught of a ferocious storm. While waiting for the storm to pass, over a campfire Roland tells two stories to his friends: one about a quest to hunt a skin-man (mid-world's version of a werewolf) and a children's fable about Tim Stoutheart, a young boy befallen with troubles in an episodic fantasy adventure.

After King's first attempt and success at prequel material for the Dark Tower series in Wizard and Glass, my expectations for this books were unintentionally high. With that previous episode, King somehow managed to spin a preexisting tale with enough intrigue, surprises, and beloved new characters, all the while keeping a manner of suspense, to ensure the book a keystone in the Dark Tower series. This reaction caused me to open Wind Through the Keyhole with the same expectations. Sadly, the stories delivered about Roland and his ka-tet do not advance the reader in his or her understanding of the overarching Dark Tower series. While reuniting with Roland, Susannah, Eddie, Jake, and Oy is as relaxing as sipping on iced tea during the summer heat, any ominous threat is little to none considering King's Constant Readers know all the characters survive between books 4 and 5. King merely uses a torrential storm as a plot device to lure his characters into an excuse for Roland to relate a past story.

This first story involves Roland's hunt for a murderous creature known as a skin-man, a shape-shifting human that changes his or her body into various werebeast anomalies. In Roland's journey, his father sends him with Jamie DeCurry in hunt of this skin-man. This sandwiched story offers an interesting premise, but does not feel as filling as one would hope. Several characters are introduced but none of them are built with gusto like in Wizard and Glass. Even the search for the skin-man becomes slightly bothersome, obtrusive, and borderline boring when no action sequences unfold until the very end. Although King creates a horrendously terrible monster, we only ever see the creature's aftermath or hear of it's destruction. Both of which result in little to no fear for the skin-man and results in almost a complete lack of caring. If someone forced me to put a label on this genre, I would call it a murder mystery with slight elements of horror. The only offering this tale adds to the Dark Tower series is insight into Roland's plagued memory of killing his mother and how he managed to cope with his loss in the following years. But even the small element of revelation we get is nothing eye-opening.

The true gem within this novel is a story Roland tells a young boy while waiting to confront the skin-man. This story features the same title as the title of the novel and is truly a reason for fans of Stephen King (whether you've read this series or not) to give this book's pages a flipping. If I could describe this tale-within-a-tale I would say it's a perfect cross between King's Eyes of the Dragon and his short yet sweet novellas in Different Seasons. Yes, this story is that good and definitely worth the read. Once readers begin this fairy tale like adventure, they will begin to understand one of King's main reasons for writing this book was to get this story off his chest. Of course he could have thrown it into a collection of novellas but seeing how it involves mid-world, Randal Flagg, and gunslingers alike, the story does not feel misplaced. As I said earlier, the story revolves around a young boy named Tim Stoutheart who encounters family troubles. His recent predicament causes him to undergoes a quest into the deep, dark forest with plenty of twists and turns of both the fantastic and the macabre to make anyone wonder where this creative wonderment has hidden inside King over the past several years. My strongest hope for this story is King's possible intention of creating something larger out of this character. He leaves Tim's world open ended and hints to various adventures forthwith. Seeing how most of his book are interwoven, anything is possible and hopefully King decides to return where this story leaves off. A Dark Tower spinoff would be a great surprise.

All in all, my trouble with this Dark Tower entry is equally outweighed by the pleasure of a single story that encompasses most of the book's 300+ pages. Roland and his ka-tet's story is 34 pages long,  the skin-man prequel is 107 pages, and the separate Tim Stoutheart adventure is 155 pages for good reason. On a side note, I am a little depressed the book was not mass printed with illustrations like many of King's previous Dark Tower books. There was a limited 1,500 copies printed with illustrations from Jae Lee (artists behind Marvel's Dark Tower comic series) but forking over the extra cash for those copies is ludicrous. Plus, in my opinion, the cover art featured for this mass-market hardcover is one of  my favorites of Stephen King's novels. For those unbeknownst to this series, I certainly recommend reading the previous Dark Tower novels to enjoy this book completely but if you're a little restricted on time these days, I'd suggest flipping through to the middle and enjoying one hell of a read. You won't regret it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Top 10 Penguin Classics Cover Art  by Ryan T. King

The expression "never judge a book by it's cover" is often right, except in the case when professional artists are hired to create illustrations for some of English literature's most famous titles. Over the past several years, Penguin Classics has published a bucket full of novels with exceptional cover art by some of today's most cherished contemporary artists. Today I give you a top ten list (in no particular order) of the best Penguin Classic covers created to date.

1. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl,
cover art by Jordan Crane

2. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac,
cover art by Jason

3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley,
cover art by Daniel Clowes

4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain,
cover art by Lillie Carre

5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville,
cover art by Tony Millionaire

6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey,
cover art by Joe Sacco

7. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair,
cover art by Charles Burns

8. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster,
cover art by Art Spiegelman

9. Heart of Darknesswritten by Joseph Conrad,
cover art by Mike Mignola

10. White Noise by Don DeLillo,
cover art by Michael Cho

Click here to view more contemporary Penguin Classics cover art.

In the latest issue of HorrorHound magazine (issue #33), the boils and ghouls that staff the horror themed periodical want to know what your favorite highlights in the horror industry were for the year 2011. The nominations have been separated in eight different categories: Best Original/Theatrical Movie, Best Sequel/Remake Movie, Best Limited Release/Direct-to-DVD Movie, Best DVD/Blue-Ray Release, Best Collectible, Best TV Series, Best Gore Scene, Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Director. A list of the nominations is provided below. You can email your pick (one vote per person) for each category to and when you're finished voting, make sure to vote for the Rondos too!

The nominees are:

The nominees are:

The nominees are:





The nominees are:

-Evil Dead 2: Special Edition (Lionsgate)
- Intruder (Synapse)
-Island of Lost Souls (Criterion)
-Mystery Science Theatre 2000 vs. Gamera
-Zombie: Ultimate Collection (Blue Underground)

The nominees are:

-Ghostbusters Ghost Trap (Mattel)
-Jason Voorhees (Sideshow Premium Format)
-The Munsters Action Figures (DST)
-A Nightmare on Elm Street Action Figures (NECA)
-Predator 1/4 Scale Figure (NECA)

The nominees are:

-American Horror Story
-Death Valley
-The Walking Dead

The nominees are:

-Drive-In Massacre (Chillerama)
-Party Attack (Dream Home)
-Human Pinata (Hobo With a Shotgun)
-Centipede Removal (Human Centipede 2)

The nominees are:

-Amanda Heard (The Ward)
-Bailee Madison (Don't Be Afraid of the Dark)
-Lin Shaye (Insidious)
-Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing)
-Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman)

The nominees are:

-Joel Courtney (Super 8)
-Nick Damici (Stake Land)
-Micahel Perkins (Red State)
-Min-sik Choi (I Saw the Devil)
-Rutger Hauer (Hobo with a Shotgun)

The nominees are:

-J.J. Abrams (Super 8)
-Jason Eisner (Hobo with a Shotgun)
-James Wan (Insidious)
-Joe Cornish (Attack the Block)
-Kevin Smith (Red State)

One of the most underplayed genres in sci-fi/fantasy in my opinion is the Steampunk genre. There are, however, sub-genres of Steam Punk; Victorian and Wild West for example. I prefer the latter, probably because in my house growing up I was raised with movies like The Magnificent Seven and El Dorado. Very rarely can genres be mixed without having the final product be a complete mess, leaving you feeling cheated.   However, I’m happy to say, that isn’t always the case. Dead Iron: The Age of Steam by Devon Monk is a unique novel that mixes Steampunk, Wild West, Fantasy and Horror into a story with outlandish villains, wild devices, and supporting characters that made me excited to finally have a fun and thrilling Steampunk adventure.

We open in the small town of Hallelujah, Oregon where drifter and bounty hunter Cedar Hunt has secluded himself reeling from the guilt of his brother’s death, and the curse he bares every full moon. In this town Mr. Shard LeFel has brought in a crew of steam powered “matics” building a railroad that is sure to make Hallelujah the center of business for Oregon. However, people have started to disappear from the small town of Hallelujah; Jeb Lindson, husband to the local Witch Mae, and the boy Elbert Gregor, son of the town blacksmith. Cedar is recruited by Mr. Gregor to find his boy, dead or alive. Slowly with the help of Mae, the drunken miners the Madder brothers, and the deviser prodigy Rose, Cedar uncovers what darkness the railroad has brought to their town, and that the missing people in Hallelujah are the least of their problems. Together they discover that there are worse things than cursed bounty hunters and witches; boogeymen are real, and very dangerous.

The world that we step in with this novel is a world that is similar but very different than our own history. It is post Civil War and the devisers (inventors of sorts) that flourished after the war have brought about “The Age of Steam”. These devisers have created “matics” used to build and assist people with their everyday jobs, and Airships used to carry people from one end of the country to the other, all powered by steam. Iron and steam are the only things of true worth, unless you have magic on your side. Despite the technological advancements in this world, greed and despair grip every character that graces the pages. Many are torn between their personal vendettas or desires and the societal constraints that bind them to the dull lives they are currently living. The bleak living conditions of the characters present a dark and real vision of what the west was in that time. It was a kill or be killed time in American history, and in this novel technology seems to have only made things worse. The author does a fantastic job building a world that is just slightly different than our own American history of that time. It felt believable considering the amount of magic, steam, iron, and curses that were present. It felt like a true frontier town where people shot first and asked questions later.

Even though the world is a large part of the experience, the true joy of this novel came from the characters. Cedar is highly educated and has suffered more loss than one man rightly should, and now he is cursed and bound to the full moon. Mae is a distraught woman desperately seeking vengeance for her lost husband, using spells and bullets to hunt down whatever took the love of her life away. The Madders are the drunken bunch of miners who live in the mountains and only come down to drink and cause trouble, but there is a power in them that the town’s people respect and fear. Rose is the twenty-something daughter of the local general store owners who secretly devises small “matics” in her spare time, despite the wish of her family to settle down and marry like a woman should. The story follows these characters, swapping point of view nearly every chapter, pacing each characters movements with each other’s until their inevitable crossing that finds them fighting for one common goal. I personally wasn’t thrilled with Cedar Hunt as the protagonist until about halfway through the book. He is a bit too brooding for me until things he’s believed in for the better part of the book get turned upside down. In my opinion Rose is the shining star of the novel. She is an adopted girl who is mysterious and cunning with a sharp tongue. Every chapter she was in was one to remember either from her own actions, vague revelations about her past (which are still mostly unknown by the end), or just a few choice words she exchanges with other characters. 

The villains in this story were just as detailed as the heroes. The Strange are the demonic creatures that are plaguing the world with their evil. They have the power to shapeshift, teleport, devise living, breathing creatures out of wood and blood, and kill with ease and stealth. There are several Strange that are presented throughout the novel, their leader being the secretive and extravagant Shard LeFel who was banished from his homeland. LeFel pulls the strings behind a larger picture that no one is truly aware of. He manipulates the people of the town into doing his bidding with his silver tongue and glamorous looks. The real danger though, lies with his servant, Mr. Shunt. Shunt is one of the most evil creatures I’ve had the experience of knowing. He is a deviser in his own right, but not from iron and steam (even though he does use them), his media of choice is bone, blood, flesh, and gears. Several times I found myself disturbed and disgusted by his actions in the novel, making him a great and dangerous obstacle for the rag-tag band of heroes.

Although I felt that the story was very well written and I enjoyed most of the characters, I felt that at times the pacing was off. There were sections of the book that seem to fly by so quickly with the action or the gripping dialogue that I thought I was going to fly through the book in one sitting. That was quickly marred by a couple of slow points in the story where I felt that the author was trying too hard to work romance or sentiment into a story that I personally didn’t feel was needed considering the world and situation that the characters found themselves in. Thankfully these slow points were ended before they became too grating and were replaced by more character development, or further revelations in the overall story. 

The above setback aside, the story of devisers, steam, iron, and evil made for a fun and enjoyable read. There were a couple of “twists” that I saw coming, but were usually followed by something a bit more unpredictable. I appreciated this because it kept me reading in anticipation of what was going to happen next. The final climax was as thrilling and action oriented as anything I have read recently. I honestly wasn’t sure who was going to live and who was going to die up until the final heart wrenching scene. The book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, and after a bit of research I discovered that Devon Monk is coming out with a sequel titled Tin Swift: The Age of Steam. I’m truly looking forward to reading more about this world and the characters that fill it. The coming adventure is no doubt going to be bigger, darker, and have more ramifications on the world. 

Devon Monk’s Dead Iron: The Age of Steam is a great novel for anyone who enjoys horror, fantasy, Steampunk, or well written characters. This book was a random book I picked up at Borders as it was closing, and I’m glad to have been intrigued by the cover and the synopsis enough to buy it. Although not a perfect product, I am able to overlook the minor problems and just enjoy the hell out of what was delivered in this fascinating world. This novel reignited my interest and fascination with Wild West Steampunk, and I eagerly look forward to the next installment. This book was a reminder that America was truly built on blood, sweat, and gears.


The 10th annual Rondo Awards are upon us! Announced yesterday is the official ballot for this year's Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards--a horror, fantasy, science-fiction fan-based award ceremony. Created at the Classic Horror Film Boards (CHFB) in 2002 by David Colton and Kerry Gammill, this underground award ceremony has officially hit a decade run. The nominations are finalized after selecting suggestions from the likes of horror fans, pros, and enthusiasts offered year round at the CHFB. The nominees are finalized by founder David Colton (a classic horror fan) along with the help of 20 other classic horror fans from all over the world. Now that the list is available it it up to YOU to decide who should win this year's Rondos. To see this year's nominations and begin voting, look here.

The Rondo award is a miniature version of a Rondo Hatton
bust seen in the Universal film, House of Horrors.

Review: HorrorHound, Issue #30, July/August

Recent nation-wide Borders store liquidations brought a certain ounce of glee to me this week. No, not because a chain of bookstores are going out of business, but rather the great deals they have on newly published magazines. All of the periodicals in my local Borders (and possibly yours) are now 40% off! What was once considered over-priced magazines have turned into reasonably-priced magazines. This includes the gem of my purchases and my recommendation to all fans of horror and horror comics: HorrorHound Magazine, issue #30, July/August.

As any avid fan of the horror genre knows, there is never enough horror to go around. Hence the creation of many popular magazines that chronicle the past, present, and future attributes in all things Horror. Such magazines include FangoriaFamous Monsters of FilmlandRue MorgueFilmfax, and Scary Monsters Magazine. Unlike the other fright rags, HorrorHound outperforms their competition in a number of ways. I suggest to examine the following 7 categories in a horror magazine: film coverage, interviews, articles, layout, theme, collectibles coverage, and Easter eggs.

It's hard to imagine a magazine such as HorrorHound worrying about something as excessive as a theme, especially when their particular specialization in a certain film genre already screams thematic continuity. However, if there's one thing I've learned about HorrorHound, its that the creators of this magazine are a very dedicated crew that bring forth a unique vision to their consumers. The latest issue is dubbed a "SPECIAL COMIC BOOK ISSUE" which includes recent and past dealings in the phenomena of the horror comic. Article topics include CreepshowThe Walking DeadFright Night (the remake and original--did you know about the comic series?),I...Vampire, and Men's Pulp Magazines among many others. Included, down on the bottom of almost every page, is a small Easter egg, or featurette, that happens to detail a horror comic book. 

The amount of horror coverage does not end with comic books. The easy to follow layout makes HorrorHound one of the easiest to read and eye appealing magazines dedicated to the horror industry. Inside coverage includes detailed photographs of new films, toys, and DVD releases, as well as memorable collages of old VHS-tapes and special collector pieces, such as Fright Night writer/director Brian Holland's personal collection of Fright Night movie props. New fright flicks are welcomed with cast interviews and director reportage, while classic oldies are graced with lovely feature pages called "HorrorHound retrospectives" that include every and any possible collector memorabilia. Best yet, the magazine contains very little promotional adds that don't deter too much from original content. 

Honestly, I've always had two dilemmas with HorrorHound, and as I write this blog with my copy in-hand, I revoke both problems. My first complaint was in regards to the publication being bi-monthly. Just call me a two-year-old spoiled brat who wants it now, now, Now, NOW, NOW, NOW! Yeah, that's me. But after really getting the chance to look it over, read, and re-read the articles, I can say how much I appreciate every amount of space utilized in the efforts of creating this issue. Not a scrap is wasted. Even the font size changes for certain accommodations. My second pet peeve was and still is a bit personal. $7 bucks for a magazine! Holy crap, dude! Do you think I'm rich or something? Do you think the word "loaded" is tattooed to my forehead? I hope not. Once again, this is a personal issue and most of the time relates not only to this magazine but all magazines. HorrorHound however is the only exception in mind. Every penny I spent on this magazine, even at liquidation prices, was worth the purchase. Enough so that I've decided to succumb to my long time urge of subscribing to HorrorHound. If you're any kind of horror fiend like me, I recommend you do so as well.

As for the next issue of HorrorHound, look forward to an all encompassing issue dedicated to the intergalactic space beings! Special features and topics will surround the following movies: The ThingInvasion of the Body SnatchersWar of the Worldsetc.

More information and subscription orders may be found at HorrorHound's official website here.