The Top Ten Comic Books of 2021!

1. MONSTERS by Barry Windsor-Smith (published by Fantagraphics):

Barry Windsor-Smith’s MONSTERS is going to top almost every “Best Of” list this year, and deservedly so. The back story of how veteran comic book artist Windsor-Smith came to create his magnum opus is nearly as fascinating as the book itself, but we’ll set aside the behind-the-scenes melodrama in this review. (If you want to delve into the back story, I suggest reading the comprehensive interview conducted with Windsor-Smith in the pages of COMIC BOOK CREATOR #25.)

MONSTERS is quite possibly the most intense, emotionally searing graphic novel I’ve ever read. In 1964, at the height of the Cold War, our protagonist, Bobby Bailey, is chosen by the U.S. Army to be the subject of a secret experimental program that has its roots in Nazi Germany. As the story progresses, we are introduced to a complex web of characters connected through synchronicity, coincidence, fate, and unfettered violence. The story is an examination of psychological and physical abuse that spans the course of decades and multiple continents. At the macroscopic level, this is a sociopolitical tale of Cold War paranoia and intelligence skulduggery run amok. At the microscopic level, it’s a tale of domestic violence and child abuse amped up to the nth degree. It soon becomes clear to the reader that the constant physical and emotional torture, lies, and manipulation to which Bailey has been subjected throughout his life is an extension of the physical and emotional torture, lies, and manipulation to which the entire population of the United States was subjected by the military-industrial complex during the twentieth century and beyond.

2. EVERYTHING IS SUPER by Captain Rottsteak (published by Birdcage Bottom Books):

After the first wave of revisionist superhero comic books that emerged in the 1980s (e.g., Rick Veitch’s THE ONE, Alan Moore and Garry Leach’s MIRACLEMAN, Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ WATCHMEN, and Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill’s MARSHAL LAW), one might have concluded that the pessimistic deconstruction of superheroes had reached its inevitable end. Alan Moore certainly thought so. In the late 1990s, he made a valiant attempt to drag superheroes back to their optimistic past in such retro comics as SUPREME, TOM STRONG and TOMORROW STORIES, the latter two titles created for Moore’s own line of superhero books, America’s Best Comics. By the time the twenty-first century rolled around, it didn’t seem as if anything more could be done with the concept of the revisionist superhero. Following Alan Moore’s lead at America’s Best Comics, the most readable superhero comic books in recent years have had a much lighter tone (Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s DAREDEVIL, Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s SILVER SURFER, and Grant Morrison and Dan Mora’s KLAUS being prime examples). After all, how many ways can you tear a superhero apart?

In his new graphic novel, EVERYTHING IS SUPER, Captain Rottsteak has uncovered more than just a few new methods of autopsying the corpse of the superhero archetype. The world of EVERYTHING IS SUPER is populated by nothing other than superpowered beings (no doubt a commentary on how superhero epics, once a debased sub-genre of American literature, has spread like a cancer into almost every available space in pop culture — to the discomfiture of cinephiles like Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Jane Campion, Denis Villeneuve, and Alan Moore himself), aside from a single notable exception: an average human being named Lloyd “the Human Hemorrhoid” Herman. The narrative skillfully interweaves various deranged episodes involving Lloyd and his super-powered friends, Toby, a narcoleptic who pisses fire when he’s asleep, and Kevin whose x-ray vision enables him to spy on unsuspecting women while they’re going to the bathroom. The satirical message of Rottsteak’s story soon comes into focus: As the definition of “super” becomes more and more common, the bar for what’s considered “heroic” has fallen so low as to include Lloyd’s repulsive companions. How this situation mirrors our own world is left for the reader to decide. The onslaught of scatological humor on display in EVERYTHING IS SUPER is, perhaps, the only rational response to a world immersed in hollow, one-dimensional, corporate-controlled fantasies masquerading as visionary, profound, grand mythologies.

3. POISON FLOWERS & PANDEMONIUM by Richard Sala (published by Fantagraphics):

Back in December of 2017, I wrote about Sala’s THE BLOODY CARDINAL in a Cryptoscatology post entitled “The Cryptoscatology Top Ten: The Best Comic Books of 2017!” On November 18, 2019, Richard Sala quoted from my review of THE BLOODY CARDINAL on his Facebook page. I was pleased to know that he approved of my assessment of his book:

Note to my readers and to lovers of unusual comics in general: I hope to finish up my web serial THE BLOODY CARDINAL 2 by the end of the year (at the rate of a page or two (or 3) a week…. Psst! There’s a new one coming tomorrow). Then sometime next year (??) the story will be one of four graphic novels in a hefty omnibus from Fantagraphics. — So I have been glancing back over my shoulder at The Bloody Cardinal book which came out in 2017 — and while doing so I discovered a very nice quote about it from a column on the 10 best comics of 2017 (on which it was included). Of course I am much too humble to repost it here…

Just kidding! — how can I resist since the reviewer kindly name checks two of my paisanos!:

“Imagine Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler (a playfully self-reflective novel in which a pair of obsessed readers explore the interdependence of art and reality) mixed with an Italian giallo slasher film directed by Mario Bava, throw in a man dressed like a big red bird and a cast of innocent young women in danger of being the homicidal fowl’s next victims, and you won’t even come close to the treasure trove of strangeness awaiting you in Richard Sala’s perversely humorous graphic novel, The Bloody Cardinal.”

Grazie!

Richard Sala’s final book, POISON FLOWERS & PANDEMONIUM, is an omnibus of four previously uncollected graphic novels: THE BLOODY CARDINAL 2: HOUSE OF THE BLUE DWARF, MONSTERS ILLUSTRATED, CAVE GIRLS OF THE LOST WORLD, and FANTOMELLA.

THE BLOODY CARDINAL 2 continues the violent exploits of the title character, the descendant of Leonardo DaVinci, a “lone master criminal” known by the nom de plume “The Bloody Cardinal,” a serial killer with the head of a crimson bird. In this sequel, our young heroine Phillipa Nicely discovers a portal to another dimension in an antique wooden cabinet (“the devil chest”) owned by a famous explorer named Professor Cleeves. This portal leads to the realm of the mysterious “blue dwarf” referenced in the subtitle. Mayhem and death inevitably follow.

In MONSTERS ILLUSTRATED, a nameless young woman wanders into a used bookstore called Forbidden Books and discovers an ancient tome entitled HOW TO KILL GHOSTS. According to the strange old man who runs the shop, the book is a folio painted by “an obscure artist who created a number of watercolors depicting creatures described to him by a famous occult investigator named Armand Trouvé. Trouvé supposedly had the ability to travel through time and various dimensions in his quest to observe, catalog, and, in some cases, confront and destroy inhuman monsters.” We then see the entire folio, an embedded narrative that creates a “nesting dolls” effect not unlike John Gardner’s 1980 fantastical novel, FREDDY’S BOOK.

In CAVE GIRLS OF THE LOST WORLD, a young boy named George discovers a manuscript in a bottle while strolling along the beach. The manuscript is a handwritten journal entitled “The Unbelievable Yet True Saga of the Cave Girls of the Lost World.” Mirroring the structure of MONSTERS ILLUSTRATED, the reader is given the opportunity to peruse the journal. The journal chronicles the adventures of about thirty inadequately clothed college girls who, after surviving a plane crash, find themselves “stranded on a strange plateau” that’s “home to all manner of prehistoric creatures, active volcanoes, carnivorous plants, quicksand, and — perhaps most significantly — a tribe of barely human, neanderthal-like creatures.”

In FANTOMELLA, the title character is a female assassin who wages a one-woman war against the forces of evil, which includes Doctor Agonia and her army of once-human feral creatures and a masked criminal known only as The Writer who confesses to Fantomella, “You realize, of course, that it is not enough for those in power to simply kill the restless and rebellious. More may come along. We must destroy their yearning and desires. We must murder their imagination and originality, crush their creativity. That way they are satisfied with whatever we give to them,” just before she shoots him in the forehead.

POISON FLOWERS & PANDEMONIUM is a grimoire of twisted and salacious fairy tales, a sincere paean to Sala’s cinematic inspirations and pulp fiction roots — all in all, an appropriate capstone to Sala’s impressive career in comics.

If you’d like to learn more about Sala’s work, I suggest watching a retrospective entitled “RICHARD SALA: FAREWELL TO A FAVOURITE” produced by FOR THE LOVE OF COMICS in May of 2020 in the wake of the artist’s unexpected death at the age of sixty-five.

4. NIGHT HUNTERS by Alexis Ziritt and Dave Baker (published by Floating World Comics):

Since the publication of William Gibson’s NEUROMANCER in 1984, there have been numerous attempts to capture the revolutionary spirit of cyberpunk fiction in graphic novel form. None of them have been entirely successful… until the welcome appearance of Alexis Ziritt and Dave Baker’s NIGHT HUNTERS, a dystopian science fiction story that satirically deconstructs the corporate-driven, authoritarian future now being built around all of us. In an age when even “independent” comic books seem to resemble their mainstream counterparts more and more, it’s refreshing to encounter the unique artwork of Alexis Ziritt, the unflinching characterizations of Dave Baker, and their shared vision of a fascist Venezuela one hundred years in the future.

5. THE FORBIDDEN SURGERIES OF THE HIDEOUS DR. DIVINUS by S. Craig Zahler (published by Floating World Comics):

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler’s debut graphic novel, FORBIDDEN SURGERIES OF THE HIDEOUS DR. DIVINUS, combines the well-worn mad scientist tropes of such midnight horror flicks as Georges Franju’s EYES WITHOUT A FACE and Robert Fuest’s THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES with the violent, carnivalesque absurdism of William S. Burroughs (who enjoyed reveling in the bloody antics of his own fictional mad doctors such as the infamous Dr. Benway in NAKED LUNCH).

In a “coastal American city” known as New Bastion, homeless people are being kidnapped from the streets and used in horrific experiments conducted by the hundred-plus-year-old grandson of a British aristocrat named Lord Tisby. After a bus crash victim named Lillian Driscoll is abducted from the hospital, her two brothers (detective Leonard Driscoll and “illicit businessman” Tony Driscoll) team up to get to the bottom of these baffling disappearances, dragging them into a surreal mystery involving extreme body horror worthy of the likes of Clive Barker and David Cronenberg.

6. THE SILENT INVASION: DARK MATTER by Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock (published by NBM Publishing):

Many different artistic influences led to the creation of my 2014 book, SPIES & SAUCERS, one of which deserves special attention here.

When I was a teenager I stumbled across an unjustly obscure comic book called THE SILENT INVASION by Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock. The series ran for twelve glorious issues and was published by a very small independent comic book company (located at that time in Long Beach, California where I now live) called Renegade Press. Hancock’s paranoia-laced scripts brilliantly evoked the bygone era of the 1950s (or at least the way we most wish to remember the 1950s, i.e., through the lens of such pop cultural artifacts as INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and other noirish science fiction B-films). Cherkas’ fluid black-and-white artwork was unlike anything else populating the newsstands at that time and distorted reality in exactly the way my sixteen-year-old mind wanted it distorted. To this day I can’t say I’ve discovered a comic book that has the power to usurp THE SILENT INVASION from the Number One position in my personal pantheon of sequential art faves. Though Hancock and Cherkas’ series bears little resemblance to the tales you’ll find in SPIES & SAUCERS, nonetheless Cherkas’ artwork managed to establish the proper ambiance very early on in the writing process. If a book could have a cinematography credit, Cherkas might very well deserve it for SPIES & SAUCERS.

THE SILENT INVASION: DARK MATTER is the first new addition to the series since 2002 when Cherkas and Hancock completed Volume Three, THE SILENT INVASION: ABDUCTIONS (collected at last long last in book form in May of 2020). The first two volumes, RED SHADOWS and THE GREAT FEAR, take place in the 1950s and follow the exploits of intrepid journalist/everyman Matt Sinkage as he attempts to unlock the secrets behind an ostensible extraterrestrial invasion of Earth. The third volume takes place in the 1960s and switches our point of view to private detective Phil Housley as he tries to track down the elusive truth about what really happened to Matt Sinkage after the events of Volume Two.

This fourth and latest volume takes place in the early 1970s and changes our point of view once again. At first we find ourselves following the adventures of Walter Sinkage (Matt’s brother) as he joins an alien abduction support group, the Church of Cosmic Enlightenment, in order to understand and come to grips with Matt’s unhealthy obsessions. This curiosity only leads to Walter’s own disappearance, at which point the narrative switches once more: this time to police detective Eddy Dime whose passionate dedication to the Sinkage case leads him down a rabbit hole of paranoia from which there is no return.

In this dark universe created by Cherkas and Hancock, an ardent fixation on “alternative facts” behaves almost like a virus, jumping from one carrier to another, leaving only sadness, emptiness, and destruction in its wake. Nonetheless, as the series progresses through the decades, it also seems obvious that Matt Sinkage and friends have been the victims of a genuine government conspiracy not unlike the one experienced by a gullible but patriotic electrical physicist named Paul Bennewitz back in the 1980s. (In case you’re not familiar with it, here’s a quick synopsis of the outlandish Bennewitz affair: Military intelligence agents, such as Special Agent Richard Doty, led Bennewitz to believe he was being spied on by nonexistent aliens in order to maintain the integrity of certain Top Secret projects that were underway at Kirtland Air Force Base, which was located not far from Bennewitz’s home. For more information on this tragic and convoluted episode in UFO history, I suggest reading Greg Bishop’s excellent 2005 nonfiction book, PROJECT BETA: THE STORY OF PAUL BENNEWITZ, NATIONAL SECURITY, AND THE CREATION OF A MODERN UFO MYTH.) Therefore, oddly enough, some of the more outlandish elements of THE SILENT INVASION have a basis in truth.

As the mythology of THE SILENT INVASION expands, its tone grows more and more existential. What seemed to begin as a cartoonish parody of 1950s McCarthyism has deepened in seriousness over the decades as the real world morphs by slow degrees into the metanoia-infused universe of a black-and-white science fiction comic book series. One wonders if this descent into pessimism and hopelessness will continue in subsequent volumes. I assume there will at least be one more sequel, as a fifth volume entitled COSMIC ORDERS is mentioned in the back of DARK MATTER. I suspect this tale will be set during the 1980s presidency of Ronald Reagan, whose extreme right-wing worldview added so much fuel to the professional paranoid’s bag of tricks.

Since the early 1990s, the American public has been deluged with novels, films, television shows, and comic books that revolve around conspiracy theories and UFOlogy. By far, Cherkas and Hancock’s approach to this subject matter is among the most sophisticated, elegant, and entertaining. THE SILENT INVASION was THE X-FILES long before THE X-FILES was even a wispy notion in Chris Carter’s head — and is a thousand times more mature and illuminating than that much ballyhooed television series.

7. BUNNY MASK by Paul Tobin and Andrea Mutti (published by AfterShock Comics):

A little known subgenre of the fantastique revolves around the symbolism of rabbits: Lewis Carroll’s ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (1865); Chad Grothkopf’s comic book superhero, HOPPY THE MARVEL BUNNY, who debuted in FAWCETT’S FUNNY ANIMALS in 1942; Mary Chase’s Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play, HARVEY (1944); Henry Koster’s 1950 film adaptation of Chase’s play starring James Stewart and Josephine Hull; Russell Brandon’s 1965 satirical science fiction novel, THE YEAR OF THE ANGRY RABBIT (adapted as William F. Claxton’s 1972 horror film, NIGHT OF THE LEPUS); Rankin and Bass’ 1971 television movie, HERE COMES PETER COTTONTAIL (featuring Vincent Price as an evil, time traveling bunny named January Q. Irontail); Richard Adams’ 1972 novel, WATERSHIP DOWN; Gary K. Wolf’s 1981 mystery novel, WHO CENSORED ROGER RABBIT? (adapted as Robert Zemeckis’ 1988 live-action/animated film, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?); Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw!’s fondly remembered comic book series, CAPTAIN CARROT AND HIS AMAZING ZOO CREW (1981–83); Stan Sakai’s long-running samurai comic book, USAGI YOJIMBO (1984-present); Larry Hama and Michael Golden’s standalone graphic novel, BUCKY O’HARE (1986); Richard Kelly’s debut cult film, DONNIE DARKO (2001); and Byron Howard and Rich Moore’s animated film, ZOOTOPIA (2016). Now we can add Paul Tobin and Andrea Mutti’s BUNNY MASK to the mix.

BUNNY MASK chronicles the travails of a man named Tyler Severin who’s kidnapped by Leo Fisher, the psychotic father of a young girl named Bee. Leo forces Tyler and Bee to help him dig inside a cave in order to satiate a mysterious voice inside his head he calls “The Snitch.” When Tyler uncovers strange, bunny-like petroglyphs inside the subterranean cavern, a creepy woman in a bunny mask appears out of nowhere and proceeds to mess with the lives (and minds) of both Bee and Tyler, whose destinies become entwined with the woman in the Bunny Mask fourteen years after they first discovered her lair. BUNNY MASK is a bizarre, suspenseful, and disturbingly atmospheric horror story that puts the darkest of dark spins on the legend of the Irish pooka.

8. HAHA by W. Maxwell Prince, Vanesa Del Rey, Zoe Thorogood, Roger Langridge, Patrick Horvath, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Martin Morazzo, and Chris O’Halloran (published by Image):

In his 1983 book, MYSTERIOUS AMERICA, the noted cryptozoologist Loren Coleman wrote about a wave of “phantom clown” sightings that rolled across the United States in the early 1980s. Reports of encounters with clowns who seemed to be up to no good poured in from Boston, Kansas City, Omaha, Denver, etc. After a flurry of demonic clown activity, the phenomenon almost died out (despite brief resurgences in 1985 and 1991) until 2016 when dozens of states began reporting ominous clown encounters, so much so that “various police departments” began “urging residents to take clown-related precautions” (according to a 10–7–16 BOSTON GLOBE article). At one point the mysterious clowns even invaded my home base of Long Beach, California — specifically, 10th Street and Cherry Avenue in Cambodia Town (as reported in detail HERE).

This bizarre activity preceded Andy Muschietti’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s IT by a full year. When Muschietti’s film hit theaters in September of 2017, it stoked the public’s fascination with creepy clowns even more. The release of Todd Phillips’ critically acclaimed JOKER in 2019 bombarded the collective unconscious with further unsettling clown imagery. In such a clowncentric milieu, perhaps it was only inevitable that somebody would come along and produce an anthology of comic book stories devoted entirely to weird clowns.

The main perpetrator of HAHA is W. Maxwell Prince, who writes all six of the stories contained within this collection. Each tale is illustrated by a different artist, a choice that emphasizes the wide range of emotions and effects evoked over the course of the anthology: pathos, bathos, horror, comedy, and everything in between.

The first story, “Bartleby Rejects the Premise” (illustrated by Vanesa Del Rey), is about what happens when a beleaguered amusement park clown named Bart decides to stand up to a bank robber while attempting to deposit his final paycheck. The second story, “Rudolph on the Road to Funville” (illustrated by Zoe Thorogood), is about a happy-go-lucky mother-daughter road trip to the same amusement park from which Bart is fired in issue #1. The third story, “Remi Says…” (illustrated by Roger Langridge), is a nearly wordless tale about a struggling mime who discovers a lifelong friend in a discarded robot named Marcel. The fourth story, “Gustav in the World of Floating Objects” (illustrated by Patrick Horvath), is a metaphysical fable about an alcoholic clown who abandons a boy’s tenth birthday party by shrinking down to infintesimal size and crawling into his own helium balloon. The fifth story, “Pound Foolish Makes a Casserole” (illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta), is about an elderly woman who once worked as a clown at R.K. Chesterfield’s Traveling Circus and now spends her twilight years in an old house that the neighborhood children — members of the Mid-Yard Mischief Club — believe to be haunted. The sixth story, “Happy Hank the Very Happy Clown” (illustrated by Martin Morazzo and Chris O’Halloran), is about Gustav’s desperate co-worker, Henry Papadopolis, who drinks whiskey and smokes weed every night and is trying three different forms of therapy to treat his anxiety and depression. On the last day of his life, he must to decide what to do about the parakeet flapping around inside his chest.

HAHA is one of the most inventive comic books of 2021 and the perfect gift for the clourophobe in your family you wish to drive out of your life as quickly as possible.

9. THE GOOD ASIAN by Pornsak Pichetshote and Alexandre Tefenkgi (published by Image):

Among hardcore mystery fans, a heated debate has been roiling for years: Which is the most noir city, Los Angeles or San Francisco? Los Angeles can boast Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe, of course. San Francisco has been owned by Dashiell Hammett and Sam Spade since the 1930 publication of THE MALTESE FALCON. Some of the most classic films noir have been set in both cities. In Los Angeles: Robert Siodmak’s CRISS CROSS (1949), Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950), Joseph Losey’s THE PROWLER (1951), Robert Aldrich’s KISS ME DEADLY (1955), Roman Polanski’s CHINATOWN (1974), and Curtis Hanson’s L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997). In San Francisco: Frank Tuttle’s THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), Orson Welles’ THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947), Anthony Mann’s RAW DEAL (1948), Edward Dmytryk’s THE SNIPER (1952), Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO (1958), and Don Siegel’s THE LINEUP (1958). These are only a few key examples.

Advocates for San Francisco being the noir capitol of the world will now have THE GOOD ASIAN to bolster their arguments. Pornsak Pichetshote and Alexandre Tefenkgi’s story takes place in 1936, fifty-four years after the implementation of the Chinese Exclusion Act. This law prohibited Chinese immigrants from entering the United States legally; it also prevented them from being hired as police officers. Our main character, Detective Edison Hark, was born in Hawaii where such restrictions did not apply. (Hark is based on Apana Chang, the real-life inspiration for Charlie Chan, Earl Derr Biggers’ famous Hawaiian detective who first appeared in Biggers’ 1925 novel, THE HOUSE WITHOUT A KEY.) Many fictional detectives possess the hard won ability to travel between different worlds separated by clearly fixed, delineated social strictures. In Robert Aldrich’s KISS ME DEADLY, for example, we see private detective Mike Hammer navigate the gritty streets of Bunker Hill just as easily as he strolls along the swimming pools of Beverly Hills. In the case of the THE GOOD ASIAN, Hark is uniquely suited to investigate the disappearance of Ivy Chen, the young lover of Hark’s adopted millionaire father, Mason Carroway. Hark’s childhood spent being raised by a wealthy white family in San Francisco, coupled with his law enforcement background in Hawaii, grants him the resourcefulness to maneuver between his fellow (albeit abusive) police officers and the Asian community of Chinatown, some of whom are antagonistic to Hark due to his intimate relationship with the police — a relationship that causes Hark tremendous self-loathing and guilt. As he himself confesses in issue #3, “You want to know how Oriental cops help? By pretending they’re someone they’re not. By sneaking into Oriental opium and gambling dens. By snitching. That’s the cost of helping… being a rat.”

THE GOOD ASIAN is a meticulously researched murder mystery that illuminates the racial and class divides of the twenty-first century just as much as it examines the violently dramatic social problems of Depression-era San Francisco.

10. THE MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR by Ram V and Filipe Andrade (published by Boom! Studios):

There have been many memorable works of fiction in which Death is personified as a character, including Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Masque of the Red Death” (1842), Selma Lagerlöf’s novel, THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! (1912), Victor Sjöström’s 1921 film, THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE (an adaptation of THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS!), Ingmar Bergman’s film, THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957), Ray Bradbury’s short stories, “The Scythe” (1943) and “Death and the Maiden” (1960), Fritz Leiber’s Hugo and Nebula Award winning novelette, “Gonna Roll the Bones” (1967), Piers Anthony’s novel, ON A PALE HORSE (1983), Jonathan Carroll’s novel, FROM THE TEETH OF ANGELS (1994), Neil Gaiman and Chris Bachalo’s graphic novel, DEATH: THE HIGH COST OF LIVING (1994), and Christopher Moore’s comedic novel, A DIRTY JOB (2006). Ram V and Filipe Andrade’s THE MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR is a stellar addition to this list.

Somehow managing to come off as whimsical and morbid at the same time, Ram V and Filipe Andrade combine the dark humor of Kurt Vonnegut and the off-kilter imagination of R.A. Lafferty to tell a unique magic realist tale about a near future when humanity is on the brink of a major evolutionary breakthrough thanks to the birth of Darius Shah, a child in Mumbai destined to grow up and discover the secret of immortality. As a result, the Hindu goddess of Death is fired from her lofty position and excommunicated to Earth where she is forced to incarnate as a young woman named Laila Starr. In her new human life, Laila immediately begins scheming to track down Darius Shah and murder him while he’s still a helpless infant in order to regain her rightful position in her supernal “ivory tower” located “in a high place, far beyond mortal clouds….”

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Robert Guffey’s books include Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Widow of the Amputation & Other Weird Crimes, Until the Last Dog Dies, Chameleo, and Spies & Saucers.

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Robert Guffey

Robert Guffey

Robert Guffey’s books include Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Widow of the Amputation & Other Weird Crimes, Until the Last Dog Dies, Chameleo, and Spies & Saucers.

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