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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Creatures of the Night

As Valentine's Day draws near we at New readers... think you should be offered a variety of romance themed books to mark this particular day.  Being the kind of people we are, these won't be your typical boy meets girl stories, rather they will represent oddities and interests from among our comic collection.  Read on for the first suggestion....

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Illustrations: Michael Zulli
Letters: Todd Klein
Publisher: Vertigo

What's it about?
It's comprised of two tales, The Black Cat and The Daughter of Owls, based on Neil Gaiman's short stories of the same name.  They have a touch of the Gothic romance feel to them, despite not being about love or relationships.  Instead, these stories concern Good and Evil and the fight between the two.

The Black Cat concerns a family of cat lovers who discover a new stray amidst their lives one day, a mysterious black cat.  Soon they discover this feline coming home with unexplained injuries and as they seek to learn the cause of these they find that the fate of their family appears to be tied into the fate of the cat.

The Daughter of Owls is written in the style of John Aubrey and starts with a baby girl being found abandoned on the town steps.  She has no name, no family and is only clutching an owl pellet.  The townsfolk deem her unholy and lock her in an old convent to grow up alone.  As she grows older news of her beauty spreads and tragedy strikes.  Is she human or does she belong to the owls?  What befalls those who would harm her?

What's good about it?
The stories may be short but they are compelling and unsettling and will leave you wanting more.  Gaiman writes beautifully and his prose is matched by Zulli's art.  The stories leave you with questions concerning the nature of evil - what is it?  How do we recognise it? How do we guard against it and what will become of those caught up in it's fight?

Using animal imagery and as avatars of our morality these two stories examine all these questions and provide a warning to us about ignoring evil acts.  Gaiman is a master storyteller and weaves tales that whilst lacking length certainly pack an emotional punch.

The stories these are based on have been superbly adapted to comic book form.  From the hardback cover to the inlay sheets, the font used for the credits, the art, the lettering and the prose, this is a wonderful thing to own and would make a gorgeous gift.

What's bad about it?
The art sometimes reads more like an illustrated book rather than a comic so if you're looking for a straightforward beat 'em up story, or simple drawings, you will be disappointed.  As it's quite short the reading experience is over quickly, but the ideas will stay fresh in your mind and leave you thinking for days afterwards.

What's the art like?
It's all painted and as mentioned above the art complements and draws out the meaning of the prose wonderfully.  Zulli brings out the essence of the themes and meanings within the story and depicts them perfectly within the pages of the book.


Other Information
Price: £10.99
ISBN: 1840239115 (Hardcover - well worth getting)

Due to the nature of the stories and some of the art this is listed as a Mature Readers title.  If you wish to read the original stories you can purchase Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman.

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