Kate’s Review: “American Vampire, Vol. 8”

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Book: “American Vampire, Vol. 8” by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Vertigo, February 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Vampires in space? It’s 1965. Pearl and Skinner escaped The Gray Trader with more questions than answers, and their search for clues leads them to … NASA! You’ve never seen vampires like this before!

Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque continue their epic Eisner Award-winning story, as Skinner Sweet and Pearl touch more of the key moments in American history.

Review: It really has been a trip returning to “American Vampire” after I fell off of it a few years ago. And when I was approaching the penultimate volume, “Volume 8”, I was a bit cagey about how I was approaching the end. Partially because I felt like Scott Snyder just introduced a storyline that, to me, seemed like it needs to have perhaps a FEW volumes to wrap it up in a way that didn’t feel rushed. But also because even in the face of this new storyline, there were some hanging threads that we hadn’t addressed (hello James Book as a vampire?). So I was nervous going in, having been burned in the past when a story seems like it had to wrap up really quickly, maybe before it was ready. But I’m happy to report that my hesitance was unfounded, because “American Vampire: Volume 8”, was a stellar entry to the overall mythos!

I remember looking at the cover of this and thinking to myself ‘oh come the fuck on’, but honestly Snyder did a really good job of building up a great narrative to send Skinner Sweet into outer space that I bought hook line and sinker while it mirrors American history. We are now in the mid 1960s, and the Space Race and Cold War is at the forefront. Pearl and Skinner had a nearly deadly run in with the mysterious Gray Trader, a vampire that has power, strength, and influence that neither of them has ever seen, and are now back with the Vassals of the Morning Star, who have tapped them to join up to help try and stop this new foe. This involves satellites, Russian surveillance, and a long sleeping creature called the Tiamat that could awaken at any time and prompt the Russians to send nukes flying to prevent it, even if it means the end of the world, with the Gray Trader actively trying to set the wheels in motion to make it happen. So the VMS, with Felicia Book back in play, want Pearl and Skinner to help prevent nuclear armageddon by keeping the Gray Trader’s movements at bay by working against the satellite surveillance Russia has been using to keep an eye on the Tiamat’s potential reawakening . And it is such a creative way to take on ideas of the Space Race and the Cold War and apply it to this story. It’s really one of the more creative ways that Snyder has approached significant moments in American history and compared and contrasted it within the vampire narrative, and he pulls it off within the story, even if that story ends with sending Skinner freaking Sweet into outer space. I believed the reasoning and I really enjoyed the story arc.

But the most interesting and satisfying aspect of this book is a moment that I have been waiting for since I started “American Vampire” all those years ago: Pearl and Felicia Book finally, finally meet. And not only meet, but are teamed up on their own part of the Gray Trader mission that involves breaking into Area 51. TWO BADASS VAMPIRE LADIES TEAMING UP AT LAST?!?!?!


I love Pearl and Felicia as we all know, and I love how their differences and their differing perspectives and experiences both serve to bring out the best of them as a team. Whether it’s company woman with a lot of experience and leadership strength Felicia, or renegade but compassionate Pearl, there is no sexist bullshitting around with them being mistrustful or jealous of each other. They are very different, but their differences make for a fantastic team dynamic and I loved seeing them both come together and have their own mission. Their thread is the moment that shines the most in this volume and it has been a long time coming to see them together.

I know that the next volume of “American Vampire” is the final one. I THINK that we have pulled things together enough that we could be on the verge of sticking the landing. But at the same time, we still haven’t seen Jim Book in vampire form arrive to meet up with everyone else yet, so maybe I am anxious. Regardless, I liked “Volume 8” and what it did for moving the Gray Trader story along! Let’s see how Snyder wraps this all up!

Rating 8: Interstellar vampire horror with a dash of global peril and deepening conspiracy, “American Vampire, Vol. 8” is setting up a finale that has a lot of, uh, stakes in play.

Reader’s Advisory:

“American Vampire, Vol. 8” is included on the Goodreads list “Vertigo Titles: Must Read Comics A-E”.

Previously Reviewed:

Kate’s Review: “Hungry Ghost”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Hungry Ghost” by Victoria Ying

Publishing Info: First Second, April 2023

Where Did I Get This Book: I received a finished copy from First Second.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: A beautiful and heart-wrenching young adult graphic novel takes a look at eating disorders, family dynamics, and ultimately, a journey to self-love.

Valerie Chu is quiet, studious, and above all, thin. No one, not even her best friend Jordan, knows that she has been binging and purging for years. But when tragedy strikes, Val finds herself taking a good, hard look at her priorities, her choices, and her own body. The path to happiness may lead her away from her hometown and her mother’s toxic projections—but first she will have to find the strength to seek help.

Review: Thank you to First Second for sending me a finished copy of this graphic novel!

I had been eying “Hungry Ghost” by Victoria Ying for awhile, and even had it on my NetGalley shelf ready to go, when I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to receive a print copy and to review it for the blog. The cover caught my eye from the jump, and then reading into the backstory and summary I was even more interested. Disordered eating is something that is a difficult and charged topic, but an important one to talk about. So I sat down and began my read, and found it to be a very emotional experience.

This is a very personal and unflinching story about Valerie Chu, a teenage Asian-American girl who has been pressured by her mother to stay thin since she was a girl, so much so that she has started making herself throw up in her teenage years and obsessively counting calories whenever she eats. It’s a really difficult read at times, but I liked how candid and straight forward Ying was with what Valerie was going through, and how complicated the various factors feeding into it could be. I really found Valerie’s inner turmoil to be compelling and upsetting, and I liked how Ying explores the familial pressure from her mother, the self pressure from Valerie herself due to seeing thinness everywhere as an ideal, and the pressures to be a perfect person and to have control, and how once control is gone how much it can make things spiral. For Valerie it’s the sudden tragic death of her father that sends her off, due to her grief, and the perceived need to be there for her devastated mother whose insistence on Valerie’s thin physique has been a pall over Valerie since childhood. There were so many moments in here that made me tear up, and I liked how Ying was sensitive but also very honest about these issues and how toxic all of this is for Valerie.

I also liked the depictions of how complicated Valerie’s relationships were with her loved ones. The most obvious one is her mother, whose domineering insistence on Valerie being thin has set up her disordered eating and mental health issues. It is made very clear that her mother is very wrong for putting this kind of pressure on Valerie (from the jump you see her denying Valerie a piece of her own birthday cake when she is in grade school, which is just… wow), but Ying is also very careful to not make her into a two dimensional villain. At first I was very ‘um maybe we should be calling this out a bit more?’, but thinking about it it started working for me a bit more because 1) this is her mother, and family dynamics can be so hard to disentangle, 2) it’s clear that it’s not just her Mom that has this hang up, as we also see some of her extended family voicing similar opinions, and 3) the death of Valerie’s Dad makes her mother’s emotional state all the more fragile and complex. Ying doesn’t excuse it, but also shows that sometimes people have to stand up for themselves or set boundaries in other ways. There is also the relationship between Valerie and her best friend Jordan, who is fat and is completely comfortable within her body and herself. Valerie adores Jordan, but it’s clear that her own standards of her body are constantly nagging at her (especially since her mother is always commenting on how fat Jordan is), and as things unravel more and more it starts to have an effect on their friendship. It is a really complex web, and I really appreciated that.

And finally I really loved the artwork. Ying is a very talented artist and animator whose work has been seen in various Disney ventures like “Moana”, “Big Hero 6”, and “Frozen” (among others!), as well as other books and graphic novels. And I really liked her style for this story, as it feels very accessible and engaging, while also hitting the emotional moments and beats.

Source: First Second

I really, really enjoyed “Hungry Ghost”. It’s poignant and powerful, and I am pleased that Ying has brought these various difficult and entangled issues to a moving graphic novel.

Rating 9: A gorgeous, emotional, and very personal story about grief, disordered eating, and complex family relationships, “Hungry Ghost” is a must read graphic novel.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Hungry Ghost” is included on the Goodreads lists “2023 YA/MG Books with POC Leads”, and “Great Graphic Novels (Released in 2023)”.

Kate’s Review: “American Vampire: Vol. 7”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “American Vampire: Vol. 7” by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Ill.), & Matías Bergara (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Vertigo, January 2015

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Writer Scott Snyder (Batman, Swamp Thing) and artist Rafael Albuquerque bring together even more threads to the complex tapestry that is the world of American Vampire.

When we meet Pearl again, it is in 1960’s Kansas, an era fraught with fear of nuclear war, angry demonstrations and vast social change. But what has changed in the years since the V.M.S. attack? And where is Skinner Sweet?

Review: So we are now at the last volume of “American Vampire” that I read until I just kind of let it fall by the wayside. And as I was reading through it, I think I realized that I may not have actually finished “American Vampire: Volume 7” on my first read through, as I did not remember a lot of what I was reading beyond the first section. And I don’t really know why I didn’t keep going with it, because as I was reading this, I found myself really, really enjoying where the story was going. The new beginning was engaging, the stakes were raised, and what I thought was impossible actually came to pass: I. Actually. Liked. Skinner. Sweet.

I, too, was shocked. (source)

We have shifted into a new phase of “American Vampire”, and have entered the ending arc as well, and we start out very strong. It’s now the 1960s in America, about tenish-years after the Vassals of the Morning Star was dealt a big blow by Carpathians, after Pearl’s husband Henry’s death, and after Skinner disappeared after his betrayal. Pearl has returned to her family home in Kansas, and has started taking in runaway vampire children who are hiding from Carpathian vampires, and finds new, hidden homes for them with other vampires in hiding. She’s still connected with Cal, who is still working with VMS, and after getting hints of a man called The Gray Trader, they decide to look into what he is, and how it connects to the vampires. Meanwhile, Skinner has been making moves on the Mexican Border, but he, too, runs afoul something disturbing, so much so that he seeks out Pearl. So we have a new mystery, we have new trajectories for our favorite characters, and we have a new backdrop of the 1960s that was an incredibly restless and fraught era of change, violence, and social upheaval. Once again Snyder has managed to meld themes of America with his vampire mythology, and I was so here for it.

Pearl is still such a wonderful main character. Her grief for Henry still lingers, but she has persevered and has become a beacon of hope for vampire children, fighting off hostile neighbors and making a network of safety, and her reluctance to go back to the VMS is completely understandable. I like that she’s still close with Cal, and I love how she has been able to bring her warmth to the vampire children whilst also being VERY badass when the moment calls for it. And I think that it’s ultimately Pearl that makes Skinner Sweet work for me. It’s undeniable that they have some pretty heady chemistry, which I am always going to enjoy, but what’s interesting about Skinner is that he really does have an affection for Pearl that does seem to go beyond her resemblance to his old ladyfriend. It’s a bit cliché for the bad boy to be tamed by the love of a good woman, and by no means is Skinner redeemed in any way shape or form, but I do like seeing him recognize the help that Pearl can provide, and that he is actually being VULNERABLE and FALLIBLE and not just falling into old bullshit backstabbing that he has ALWAYS done up until now. We also leave him in an interesting state at the end here which raises a lot of questions about where his story is going to end.

And the new vampire lore is pretty interesting. We get some good body horror bits in this volume, some of which was pretty freaking squirm inducing for me and my various phobias/content I can’t handle too well hang ups. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but it’s an even bigger threat than the characters have dealt with, and it’s very imposing and, while a little ridiculous in some ways, is a fresh new villain for the final arc of this series that has gone to so many crazy places. There is a fair amount of set up to be done here, but it’s done quickly and by the end of the volume there’s a solid jumping off point to go forward from. I am a little nervous about the fact we only have two volumes left after this to wrap it all up. Where are Felicia and Gus? What about the reveal of James Book being a vampire hidden away from the world? Will all of this be wrapped up well on top of the new Gray Trader storyline? I guess we’ll have to see. I’m optimistic as of now.

“American Vampire: Vol. 7” is a good start to the end of a sometimes messy but always entertaining series. I regret not finishing it up on the initial run, but now I just have something to look forward to, I guess! Let’s see where Pearl and Skinner go next.

Rating 8: An enjoyable start to a new and final cycle of vampire lore in the heart of American history, “American Vampire: Vol. 7” jumps into the fraught times of the 1960s and shows how fraught its protagonists are.

Reader’s Advisory:

“American Vampire: Vol. 7” is included on the Goodreads list “Vertigo Titles” Must Read Comics A-E”.

Previously Reviewed:

Kate’s Review: “Codex Black (Book 1): A Fire Among Clouds”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Codex Black (Book 1): A Fire Among Clouds” by Camilo Moncada Lozano & Angel Di Santiago (Colorist)

Publishing Info: IDW Publishing, April 2023

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Navigate through monsters, mysteries, and the will of the gods with two young extraordinary adventurers in fifteenth-century Mesoamerica as they search for a missing father.

Donají is a fearless Zapotec girl who, even though she’s only fifteen, is heralded as a hero by her village. In Codex Black, Donají sets out on an adventure–accompanied by the god that lives inside of her poncho–to find her missing father. Along the way, she meets an 18-year-old winged Mexica warrior named Itzcacalotl, and over time their temporary partnership blooms into an incredible friendship.

The search brings the young pair closer to danger and deeper into mystery than either could have predicted. What exactly was Donají’s father involved with? And how did a simple search for a missing relative lead Donají and Itzcacalotl into a fight with a terrifying bat monster to defend an entire village?!

Review: Thank you to IDW Comics for sending me an eARC of this graphic novel!

I told myself that I was going to try and do more graphic novels this year, as I felt like 2022 was a bit more sparse than it should have been. And with that goal I’ve found some pretty fun reads, some of which have been suggested to me or offered up, and were therein probably not been on my radar without the outside help. And that’s really worked out in my favor! The most recent of these is “Codex Black (Book 1): A Fire Among Clouds”, a young adult fantasy graphic novel that takes place in a pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and involves two teenagers who have found themselves with magical abilities and powers. The premise alone sounded awesome, and when I saw the artwork I was even more eager to dive in!

“Codex Black: A Fire Among Clouds” is a really enjoyable first volume in the series. It has a lot it has to do in terms of setting up time and place, as well as a cast of characters, AS WELL as building a fantasy world within a historical context. We meet our two protagonists and see where they fit into the story, and Lozano does a great job of not only introducing them and making them connect, we also get a great sense for who they are. The first is Donají, a Zapotec teenage girl from a mountain village, is determined to find her father, a man who left their village and never returned, but did leave behind a poncho that houses the God Chicahualizteotl, who is there to assist her on her journey. The second is Itzcacalotl, a teenage Mexica boy who, while on a caravan with warriors, falls into a cavern and is gifted with crow wings. These two teens eventually come together and begin a journey of fantastical proportions, as Donají looks for her missing father and Itzcacalotl comes along for the ride and stumble upon thieves, monsters, and historical figures. I really loved both Donají and Itzcacalotl and their characterizations, and how Lozano slowly peels back and explores their personalities, strengths, and flaws. Dojaní is feisty and strong willed, while Itzcacalotl is a bit more reserved but also very determined to prove himself, and together they make an endearing team. I loved seeing them start to realize the powers that they both are wielding, be it the protectiveness of Donají’s poncho or Itzcacalotl’s wings, and how they interacted with friends, foes, historical figures (like Cosijoeza, one of the last coquitaos of the Zapotec people), and monsters from Mesoamerican lore and myth.

But what stood out to me most in this graphic novel was the VERY well presented historical context and information that was provided at the back of the book. As a woman who went to an American high school at the turn of the 21st century, I have VERY little working knowledge about Mesoamerican/Pre-Columbian civilizations and cultures (outside of a grade school unit on the Mayans). I’ve learned bits here and there through other books I’ve read, but it’s not extensive. So I LOVE that Lozano has such a great, accessible, and thorough historical notes section at the end of the book. It talks about the various myths of these different groups of people, and also gives historical notes and context to the events that were going on in Mexico during the time of this book before European imperialism started to take over. Given that I had been opening multiple tabs on my browser to look up some of this context, finding a good deal of it at the end of the PDF was really refreshing.

And finally, the artwork. I like Lozano’s style, with clear influence by manga and anime, with all the intricate details that harken to the cultures and styles of the people that the story is about. It’s varied and unique and I really liked it.

(Source: IDW Comics)

I will definitely be going forward in the “Codex Black” series. It’s so unique and filled with so much heart, I really can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Rating 8: Filled to the brim with fantastical mythology, engaging and well presented history, enjoyable characters, and lots of heart to spare, “Codex Black: A Fire Among Clouds” is a great introduction to a fun fantasy adventure!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Codex Black (Book 1): A Fire Among Clouds” would fit in on the Goodreads list “Mesoamerican Mythology in YA and MG Fiction”.

Kate’s Review: “Lore Olympus: Volume 3”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Lore Olympus: Volume 3” by Rachel Smythe

Publishing Info: Del Rey, October 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: All of Olympus–and the Underworld–are talking about the God of the Dead and the sprightly daughter of Demeter. But despite the rumors of their romance, Hades and Persephone have plenty to navigate on their own.

Since coming to Olympus, Persephone has struggled to be the perfect maiden goddess. Her attraction to Hades has only complicated the intense burden of the gods’ expectations. And after Apollo’s assault, Persephone fears she can no longer bury the intense feelings of hurt and love that she’s worked so hard to hide.

As Persephone contemplates her future, Hades struggles with his past, falling back into toxic habits in Minthe’s easy embrace. With all the mounting pressure and expectations–of their family, friends, and enemies–both Hades and Persephone tell themselves to deny their deepest desires, but the pull between them is too tempting, too magnetic. It’s fate.

This full-color edition of Smythe’s original Eisner-nominated webcomic Lore Olympus brings Greek mythology into the modern age in a sharply perceptive and romantic graphic novel.

Review: We are back to my favorite deity filled soap opera/love story “Lore Olympus”, this time diving into the third volume. This story has been taking over our book club as almost everyone has at least started it, and I cannot stop fawning over it because of every single beat it hits that just work for me. And “Volume Three” keeps the streak going, as, once again, I loved this.

Now let’s get into why! THIS IS GOING TO BE LONG! (source)

Both Persephone and Hades have some huge emotional summits they are starting to climb in this volume, and it’s still fairly separate outside of them being at work in the Underworld together. As Persephone has started her first job, Hades is trying to remain professional and emotionally disconnected, and she is trying to find her footing while dealing with a lot of feelings she needs to sort out. We still don’t really know a lot about Persephone’s time in the Mortal Realm before all of this, all we know is that she has been given a scholarship by The Goddesses of Eternal Maidenhood to go study in Olympus so long as she commits to remaining celibate. We finally get to explore how she started this journey in this volume, as we see how she was approached by Hestia, how she got paired up with Artemis as roommates, and how she may be a little hesitant about the whole thing. But then there is something else that is being hinted at. Something about Persephone’s nature, and how there is perhaps something else that she is trying to leave behind, and how Demeter is trying to cover something up. Smythe starts laying out these clues in a more earnest nature this time around, with hints towards a more fiery temperament, hints towards Demeter changing her mind on a dime about Persephone’s place in the mortal realm, and hints about a destiny to be fulfilled. Seeing all of this in tandem with Persephone’s anxieties about fitting in at school, anxieties about working at a strange job, and anxieties about her crush on Hades makes for a VERY compelling character arc, and I just love what Smythe is doing with her.

Hades, too, is dealing with his own inner battles, mostly with trying to avoid Persephone as he feels like his feelings for her are inappropriate and that he’s reading far too much into it. So of course he’s decided to make it official with Minthe, the scheming and manipulative (but also very much hurting and damaged) nymph that works for him and has been is on again, off again girlfriend for a long time. But as Hecate finds more and more reasons to try and push him and Persephone together, he starts to wonder if perhaps he has a connection to her that has been in place even before he saw her at that party. Hades as a guy who is doing his best to not be a creep and doing his best to repress his feelings, because of his fear of hurting her but also because of a hinted at past trauma (if you know the broader mythology you can probably guess it), is a bit refreshing, as it puts a lot of the agency on Persephone, which is a VERY good thing in reimaginings of this tale. He also isn’t left totally off the hook when it comes to how he is probably using Minthe, while also conceding that in some cases BOTH parties can be very, very bad for each other. It all leads to a very heartbreaking sequence for the both of them. Arg, complexity when portraying the character getting in between my ship? How very dare you, Rachel Smythe?!

But the biggest stand out for me this volume was Eros. (There will be mild spoilers here because I need to spoil to talk about why I loved this!) Eros is a figure that happens to be at the center of my second favorite Greek Myth (that of him and Psyche), and while we are getting some hints that we are moving in that direction for his plot, his main function as of now is to be a kick ass and supportive friend to Persephone as she starts to come to terms with her rape by Apollo. I think that it would be an easy out to make Eros a very flamboyant and over the top romance fiend, because Eros, BUT Smythe instead makes him, yes, a bit of a drama llama, but also SO in touch with love and appropriate ways to show love and boundaries. His reaction to Persephone’s reveal was so, so perfect for the character, and it hit me right in the feels. We are also getting a little more insight into his own background and baggage, specifically about Psyche, and how something he did has put Aphrodite into a tenuous position, and it makes him all the more complicated and interesting. I just love the role he’s playing, and very much look forward to seeing his role continue to grow and evolve as the series goes on.

Oh and also there is a lot of interesting Hera stuff here too in that she knows that something happened to Persephone, she thinks she knows that Apollo is involved, and when she tries to investigate further Zeus decides to sweep it all under the rug because PATRIARCHY. I really love what Smythe is doing with Hera too, because again, she could have just been a shrewish wife to Zeus as she seems to be portrayed in the original myths. But in this we get to see why she is so damn frustrated and weary, and it’s because she is having to remain by the side of a man that she doesn’t REALLY like who won’t even give her a modicum of respect, or really any respect to ANY women. I’m always for calling out Zeus, but I especially love it when Hera gets leeway while still being complicated.

So obviously I’m still all about “Lore Olympus” and “Volume Three” is continuing the love. It’s just so well done. I’ve pre-ordered “Volume Four”, so you know that when it comes out this summer I will be back on my fan girl bullshit.

Rating 10: Oh be still my heart, so many feelings this time around. You’re killing me, Greek Gods and Goddesses! In the best, best way.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Lore Olympus: Volume 3” is included on the Goodreads lists “Greek Mythology Retellings!”, and “Hades and Persephone”.

Previously Reviewed:

Kate’s Review: “Lore Olympus: Volume 2”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  
Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Lore Olympus: Volume 2” by Rachel Smythe

Publishing Info: Del Rey, July 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Persephone was ready to start a new life when she left the mortal realm for Olympus. However, she quickly discovered the dark side of her glamorous new home—from the relatively minor gossip threatening her reputation to a realm-shattering violation of her safety by the conceited Apollo—and she’s struggling to find her footing in the fast-moving realm of the gods. Hades is also off-balance, fighting against his burgeoning feelings for the young goddess of spring while maintaining his lonely rule of the Underworld. As the pair are drawn ever closer, they must untangle the twisted webs of their past and present to build toward a new future.

This full-color edition of Smythe’s original Eisner-nominated webcomic Lore Olympus features a brand-new, exclusive short story, and brings Greek mythology into the modern age in a sharply perceptive and romantic graphic novel.

Review: We are back for more Greek Mythology soapy romantic goodness, everybody! It has been awhile since I have had a full blown content obsession, but “Lore Olympus” has really snagged me but good. Greek myths! Humor! A favorite ship! LOTS OF PATHOS! It all comes together in this series and we are starting to parse out the various complications that are facing Persephone, Hades, and more Greek Gods and Goddesses in “Volume Two”. Our star crossed would be lovers, Persephone and Hades, are trying to find their footing after their chance meeting has set them both a little off kilter, and while that could just be a lot of pining and wallowing in angst, Rachel Smythe takes the opportunity to build up more backstory and more characterization, and it is for the better. “Volume Two” is keeping the series going strong. But yes, there is still some lovely Hades angst, and given that I LOVE to be emotionally wrecked by fiction, I say bring it on.


One of the most rewarding things about “Lore Olympus” is that Smythe is taking her time to set groundwork, characterizations, and background. We start this volume off with Persephone starting her schooling with her scholarship from The Goddesses of Eternal Maidenhood while silently grappling with the sexual assault she endured at the hands of Apollo. She loves being away from her doting mother’s eyes, but given she’s drawn to Hades she is feeling that perhaps joining TGOEM isn’t what she really wants. Meanwhile, Hades is stewing about his feelings for her and trying to keep his distance, and to make matters worse a tabloid has shown innocuous pictures of them and spinning them to seem scandalous, which threatens Persephone’s reputation. Throw in Hera’s suggestion that Persephone take on an internship in the Underworld (as she secretly wants Hades to be happy and thinks that this would help that), and the two would be lovers are being shoved into some fun forced proximity!

But these very common tropes feel fun and new in this story, and it means that we can carefully explore their budding friendship while also exploring them as individuals who are dealing with a lot of baggage on their own. I thought that Smythe is really careful but also powerful when exploring the aftermath of Persephone’s rape, and does a good job of portraying the shame, the fear, and the apprehension, especially since her abuser is inserting himself in her life vis a vis his clueless sister Artemis, whom Persephone is living with. It’s tackled in a way that feels real, but doesn’t feel melodramatic or exploitative. I’m hoping that it stays that way and isn’t used for man pain or anything like that, but I trust Smythe to continue to be mindful. We also have a lot of other facets to Persephone’s growth as she tries to make sense of what she has been told she wants from life, and what she actually wants from life. There have also been hints about some darkness involving her backstory and her nature, which is VERY interesting to say the least…

Okay now we talk about what I loved most in this book. HECATE IS HERE!!! I’ve talked about how Persephone is my favorite Greek deity, and Hades is definitely number two? Well Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, is third. I love Hecate. So I was very interested to see how Smythe depicted her, and I was NOT disappointed, as she is Hades’s COO and number two in command, who calls him out on all his nonsense and bullshit while trying to support him in other ways. She is THE BEST, and also very competent at keeping things in the Underworld running. In this the Underworld is a very necessary, non-evil place that has to be run efficiently, and having Hades and Hecate as co-runners feels very Eric and Pam from “True Blood” (without any of the clichéd longing on her part). It’s also really cool to see the depiction of the Underworld here, as we’ve seen the Mortal Realm as fields and vastness, and Olympus as an upperclass city scape. The Underworld feels a bit more hardboiled with a corporate undertone, and I love seeing how it is run, and how the various workers fit in, like Thanatos, who escorts souls to the Underworld, and Minthe the nymph (who just so happens to be in an on again off again/toxic relationship with Hades and she’s also kind of the worst but also seems pretty damaged so she isn’t just a girl to get in the way, HOW REFRESHING!).

And I’m still in love with the artwork. The designs of all these characters are perfection. I mean LOOK AT MY GIRL HECATE!

Source: Random House Worlds

I’m still obsessed with “Lore Olympus”. There isn’t much else to say, I’m head over heels.

Rating 9: Still loving this. What a fresh, soapy, emotional and sometimes hilarious take on Greek Mythology!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Lore Olympus: Volume 2” is included on the Goodreads lists “Greek Mythology Retellings!”, and “Hades and Persephone”.

Previously Reviewed:

Kate’s Review: “Ashes”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Ashes” by Álvaro Ortiz

Publishing Info: Top Shelf Productions, February 2023

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Three old friends reunite for the mother of all road trips! One of Spain’s most brilliant graphic novelists finally makes his English-language debut in this elegantly unpredictable gem.

Polly, Moho, and Piter haven’t seen each other in years. Now they’ve piled into a car for a loooong journey to a mysterious cross marked on a map. All their old personality quirks and conflicts are resurrected with new wrinkles as this surreal reunion gets underway. Up ahead are car chases, alcohol, roadside motels, banjo-playing thugs, a ship graveyard, violence, sensual tension, and, of course, a monkey!

The captivating first graphic novel from internationally renowned cartoonist Álvaro Ortiz is an explosive mix of emotional road movie and hooligan thriller in which nothing is what it seems.

Review: Thank you to Top Shelf Productions for sending me an eARC of this graphic novel!

I am admittedly a not so well organized person. This has been my reality for a number of years, probably partially in part due to ADHD and how I can be very out of sight, out of mind. This means that sometimes I miss details, be it things on my calendar or emails. That almost happened to me when I was approached to read “Ashes”, a road trip graphic novel by Álvaro Ortiz, as it was in our email box and it got lost in the shuffle. But I was very lucky in that it came up one more time, and I caught that email, and was sheepish that I had missed it before but also happy that I’d finally seen this story come across my screen. Because boy, was the description so, so weird, and therefore VERY intriguing. I consider myself lucky, and once again promise myself to be better about these things. We’ll see how that goes. But I’m glad that I did see it, because “Ashes” is unique and very fun.

This graphic novel is quirky and fun, with odd characters, a nutty premise, and a monkey companion named Andrés. Reading the description was a trip, but admittedly very enticing because of how trippy it was. And once I began reading, I realized that we were not only going to get a bunch of quirks, but also a sometimes emotional story about a group of friends who have to come to terms with the death of one of their own, and with the fact they all drifted apart when that, at one time, seemed unlikely. Polly is the high strung one, Piter is laid back and quiet, and Moho is a bit of a hardened degenerate. But when their friend Hector dies and leaves them the request to take his ashes and dispose of them at a place on a map he left behind, the three left behind feel the need for closure. Whether that’s closure for Hector, or for their friend group in general, remains to be seen at the start. I liked getting the background for the friends, seeing how they found each other, and in some ways how they drifted apart, and how we can see the pieces as to why they want to do this even though they aren’t close anymore. As someone who has had a number of friendships ebb and flow and come and go throughout my life, but who knows there are a couple that I would probably feel a need to reconnect with in similar circumstances, it just felt very realistic when examining the ways people grow apart, in part due to changing values, bad behavior, or just plain distance and lack of time.

AND THEN THERE ARE THE WEIRD THINGS, and I say that in the most affectionate way. Moho, Piter, and Polly have to go on an emotional road trip, but there are definitely wacky aspects to it. Whether it is Moho’s monkey Andrés, whom he saved from a run down circus and who gets his own little backstory vignettes, or two biker-esque thugs on their trail who have a love for the banjo, or a ghostly presence that is revealing itself to each friend as the story goes on, and it reminded me a bit of the kind of quirky caper that you may see in a Coen Brothers film. It also made the tension feel pretty high at times as they all realize that they are being followed, and that this trip may not be plagued only by awkward friendship baggage, but also true danger. But always done with a bit of cheekiness. I mean, there is a silly little monkey! The stakes are high but it never feels overdramatic in the way that things unfold. And just for funsies we also get some historical tidbits about cremation, be it as a process, a historical footnote, or a use in various cultures death practices.

And finally, the art style is so unique and unexpected. When I first saw it I found it a bit jarring, but I quickly started to appreciate and enjoy it, and didn’t feel like it took away from some of the more tense and emotional moments. And honestly it really worked when it came to Andrés the monkey.

(source: Top Shelf Productions)

“Ashes” is both humorous and bittersweet, a study in how friendships evolve and change, and a wacky road trip romp. It comes together well and is very entertaining.

Rating 8: Funny, emotional, and bursting with adorable monkey shenanigans, “Ashes” is a charming road trip story about changing friendships.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Ashes” isn’t on any Goodreads lists at the moment, but it reminded me of a Coen Brothers movie as I was reading it.

Kate’s Review: “Lore Olympus: Volume 1”

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Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Lore Olympus: Volume 1” by Rachel Smythe

Publishing Info: Del Rey, November 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Experience the propulsive love story of two Greek gods—Hades and Persephone—brought to life with lavish artwork and an irresistible contemporary voice.

Scandalous gossip, wild parties, and forbidden love—witness what the gods do after dark in this stylish and contemporary reimagining of one of mythology’s most well-known stories from creator Rachel Smythe. Featuring a brand-new, exclusive short story, Smythe’s original Eisner-nominated web-comic Lore Olympus brings the Greek Pantheon into the modern age with this sharply perceptive and romantic graphic novel.

Review: It has come up before on this blog, but I absolutely adore the story of Hades and Persephone from Greek Mythology. That said, I am always VERY wary of new and updated takes on this myth, as I am always worried that well meaning creators will take this thousands of years old story and critique it through a modern day lens and decide that it is wholly unacceptable (and to be fair, it’s not like I can blame them because HOO BOY, the optics of it). I am always FAR more interested in adaptations that, instead of making it about grooming, abuse and uneven power dynamics, tap into the very ample potential of a story about a woman discovering her own power and coming into her own on her own terms and with agency… And yeah, it sure doesn’t hurt if there is some steamy romance involved (what can I say, I love a depressive demon nightmare boy and Hades is the originator). So when a Book Club friend asked me if I had heard of “Lore Olympus” and told me what it was, my first question was “okay…. you know my tastes with this story, am I going to like this?” And she said “OH yeah”. So I got “Volume One” from the library, and sat down one night intending to start it. But then I proceeded to finish it and ordered all available volumes to be added to my personal library. Suffice to say, I loved “Lore Olympus: Volume One”.

This is everything I need in a Persephone and Hades story. Everything. (source)

“Lore Olympus” is a long running web comic that takes on the Taking of Persephone with a lot of modern sensibilities, a distinct soap opera attitude, and a slow burn romance between two super different, super complex, and super likable Greek deities. The first is Hades, the sullen and emotionally damaged King of the Underworld. In this Hades is a corporate overlord who lives alone, tolerates his more fun loving brothers Zeus and Poseidon, dotes over his EXTENSIVE dog collection, and buries his past traumas of being a son of Kronos and ALL the baggage that entails. The other is Persephone, the goddess of Spring who has just come into her own, leaving a very sheltered life in the Mortal Realm to be roommates with Artemis on Olympus as she begins her studies and starts a (reluctant) journey to remain a maiden devoted to purity. Through a series of coincidences and the pettiness of other Gods, Hades and Persephone meet, and thus begins a very, very slow burn that brings in not only a VERY lovely romance, but also other well known deities and their nonsense, updated interpretations of various myths, and the start of a story of two people who have a deep, deep connection finding out things about each other as well as themselves. “Volume One” is setting up a lot of the groundwork, introducing us to a huge cast and a lot of settings, and it is done with a lot of heart, a lot of humor, and so many different emotional beats. I loved this start of getting to know both Persephone and Hades, seeing their aspirations and their slowly building friendship and the peeling back of their layers. I love how sad and awkward and brooding Hades is. I love how effervescent and charming and, shall I say, edgy Persephone is. I love that we are getting teasing moments about their characters and what multitudes they contain. I love how Rachel Smythe is being slow and deliberate as she starts to carefully explore the romance that these two will surely have. Because when they interact, it is such a joy.

I also really loved the way that Smythe brings in all sorts of other Greek Mythology players and inserts them into this modernish remix of the lore. You get some fun contemporary interpretations of these characters, like Zeus and Poseidon forcing Hades to attend rowdy brunches with them, or Artemis being a well meaning but condescending roommate, or Eros being a bit of a hot mess romantic (who is dealing with his OWN baggage, with hints to his messy relationship situation with Psyche, YES PLEASE, MY OTHER FAVORITE MYTH). But we also get some darker moments and characterizations, with Smythe turning well known players on their heads and making them more sinister. The most obvious example of this is Apollo, whose Golden Boy reputation hides a personality that oozes with malevolent privilege run amok. But my favorite was Hera, the long suffering wife of Zeus who, in original mythology, is always portrayed as a shrew of sorts. In “Lore Olympus” she definitely has a nasty streak, but you can tell that it is due to a deep unhappiness that she is living with, and not just because of her philandering husband. I really, REALLY love Hera in this series.

And finally, the artwork is very cute. Smythe has this really easy to connect to style, that can shift on a dime from cartoony and quirky humor to absolutely breathtaking imagery. The use of color is phenomenal and I just love how she has designed all of the characters.

We are off to a fantastic start in “Lore Olympus: Volume One”. I look forward to seeing how Hades and Persephone grow as a couple and as individuals.

Rating 10: BE STILL MY HADES/PERSEPHONE LOVING HEART. What a fun, emotional, and slow burn take on one of my favorite Greek Myths of all time.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Lore Olympus: Volume One” is included on the Goodreads lists “Greek Mythology Retellings!”, and “Hades and Persephone”.

Kate’s Review: “American Vampire: Vol. 6”

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Book: “American Vampire: Vol. 6” by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Ill.), et al.

Publishing Info: Vertigo, March 2014

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: This volume of American Vampire collects eight amazing stories set in the world of American Vampire, with “lost tales,” new characters and old favorites. Don’t miss these stories brought to you by series creators Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, as well as other awesome comics talent like Becky Cloonan (Batman), Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon (Daytripper), Jeff Lemire (i>Sweet Tooth), Greg Rucka (The Punisher, Batwoman), Gail Simone (Batgirl) and many more! Also collected here is the stand alone tale of Fan-favorite character Travis Kidd–the vampire hunter who likes to “bite them back”.

Review: So during my first read-through of “American Vampire”, there is a clear shift that I remember that kind of started after “Volume 5”. I looked into “Volume 6”, saw that it was a short stories anthology, and decided that I was going to skip it. After all, I wanted more plot. I wanted to see the aftermath of Pearl losing Henry, and the aftermath of Felicia and Gus going up against the Carpathians. I didn’t want a bunch of short stories that didn’t seem to progress anything. But since I’m doing the full read this time around, I got myself a copy of “Volume 6”, and figured I’d just grin and bear it. But I was such a fool, guys, because I actually ended up really liking the anthology series that is “American Vampire: Volume 6”.

While it’s true that these stories don’t really progress the main plot forward after the huge changes and aftermaths of the previous collection, it actually ended up being nice to have a breather after all the things that happened. It also serves as a way to see some more explored characterizations of some familiar faces, while also introducing characters from the past who end up tying into characters that we recognize, and how vampires have touched the family lines decades or even centuries previously. Since this is a short stories collection, I will do my usual thing of talking about my favorite three in depth, and then expanding upon the collection as a whole.

“The Long Road to Hell” by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque (Ill.) : This is another Travis Kidd offshoot story, and while Travis hasn’t ingratiated himself TOO much into our main characters timelines as of yet, I thought this was not only a good way to show another, more empathetic side of him, while also showing the inherent tragedy of some vampires. Young lovers Billy Bob and Jolene are in love and running scams of unsuspecting people, when they are targeted and turned by a vampire gang in hopes of using their thievery skills. But Billy Bob and Jolene run, and are desperate to find a cure of their new conditions. On the road they pick up a transient little boy who can read people’s personalities, and try their best to keep their monstrous nature at bay. Then they run afoul Travis Kidd, vampire killer, and they have a choice to make. I loved how tragic this one was, with two really likable and scrappy lovers just doing their best in a world that has kicked them down, only to be doomed because of bad luck. I just adored Billy Bob and Jolene, and seeing Travis have to reckon with the fact that not all vampires are soulless killers was some good growth for him as well.

“Bleeding Kansas” by Rafael Albuquerque and Ivo Milazzo (Ill): Albuquerque shifts roles from illustrator to author, and while I didn’t REALLY like the art design, I really loved the concept of the story. Gil and Marie Jones are a young married couple with abolitionist ideals, hoping to move to Kansas to help build a new state that shares their dreams for social justice and equality. But when they arrive to find a hostile town filled with slave owners and sellers, who are hiding other secrets about themselves. I HIGHLY enjoyed the references to the future pro-slavery vs abolitionist violence and conflicts that were going to come up in Kansas later, the most famous probably being John Brown, and I liked seeing some of Pearl’s ancestors (grandmother and grandfather I believe) having to go head to head with the kinds of creatures their granddaughter would ultimately become.

“Essence of Life” by Gail Simone and Tula Lotay (Ill): This is my favorite story in the collection, and it centers of secondary antagonist Hattie, Pearl’s old roommate turned femme fatale vampire. In this story we get to see the life she was living in Hollywood before she met Pearl, where she is so desperate for stardom that she trusts in the wrong people. She’s now writing a letter to Pearl to explain why she did what she did, and to tell her that she felt like she really had no choice after everything she’d been through. I love that Gail Simone was the author for this one, because she does a stupendous job of turning Hattie from simple backstabbing jealous bitch into a somewhat sympathetic, but still very vile, villainess. It’s hard not to feel for her when you see the horrible crap that happened to her, just as it’s hard not to let out a shout of ‘GOOD FOR HER!’ when you get to the rage-filled and cathartic conclusion.

Forgive the bad photo, I needed this one specifically. (source: Vertigo)

The other stories have their strengths and weaknesses. I don’t really feel like I ever need to know more about Skinner Sweet (I’m still on the anti-Skinner train!), so I kind of skimmed his stories. But I did like seeing other villains get some background, as well as more explorations about race, class, and American violence. All in all, it’s a solid collection!

Don’t make the same mistake I did, friends! If you are reading “American Vampire”, don’t skip over “Volume 6”! It expands things in ways that make the story richer.

Rating 8: This is a pretty solid set of tales within the “American Vampire” universe, with some expansions on character connections, characterizations, and general vampire lore and history inside the universe.

Reader’s Advisory:

“American Vampire: Vol. 6” is included on the Goodreads lists “Vampire Anthologies”, and “Best Comics Series Since 2000”.

Previously Reviewed:

Kate’s Review: “American Vampire: Volume 5”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  
Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “American Vampire: Volume 5” by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Ill.), & Dustin Nguyen (Ill.)

Publication Info: Vertigo, March 2013

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: In the first story, series mainstays Skinner Sweet, Pearl and company return to Hollywood in the ’50s during the Red Scare. In a time where America was on the lookout for the next Communist threat, was the real danger something far more insidious? A major turning point in American Vampire lore begins here!

In the second tale, familiar face and vampire hunter Felicia Book is “retired” from vampire hunting when she gets called back into action to track down and kill the most powerful vampire of all time. The hunt takes our heroes through post-war Europe, behind the Iron Curtain and into the heart of Russia to track this deadly enemy

Writer Scott Snyder (Batman, Swamp Thing) and artist Rafael Albuquerque bring together even more threads to the complex tapestry that is the world of American Vampire.

Review: When it came time to pick up “American Vampire: Volume 5” for this re-read, I remembered that I liked this volume a lot the first time I read it, but didn’t really remember why. So I was wondering if taking it on again almost ten years later was going to be a different experience, as lord knows I’ve already had some perspective shifts in the first four volumes. But almost immediately upon jumping in I realized that there was a reason I liked this volume so much, and it was pretty evident that was going to be the case once again.

Our first big story is set in 1950s Europe, with Felicia Book and her son Gus (both living more normal lives due to the supposed ‘cure’ for vampirism she got at the end of her last major arc) spending their time in France. When Felicia is approached by her former VMS boss Hobbes asking her to help the group track down a stolen Dracula (yep, THAT Dracula, the long dormant leader of the Carpathian vampires) she gets pulled back into a job she left behind because Gus is now being compelled by the notorious Count. Felicia continues to be my favorite character in this series, and I loved seeing her fight tooth and nail to keep her son safe, while also feeling lots of resentment about being pulled back into the Vassals at behest of her old friend and boss. I also think that Snyder did a good job of bringing in Dracula without making it hokey or, frankly, stupid. It’s certainly not the first time a modern vampire story has brought Dracula into the fold, but it’s a successful way to bring him in because it feels unique but also rooted in the source material, but also doesn’t overwhelm. Watching Felicia, Hobbes, Gus, and other unlikely allies track down Dracula in ways that mirror the way Dracula is tracked down in the original novel is just fun (I especially like the way that they bring in a Renfield character as well as substituting Soviet soldiers for glamored peasantry), and it all leads to a significant shift in Felicia’s and Gus’s storyline. I’m always happy to spend time with Felicia and Gus, and this really puts them at the forefront of their lovely mother/son relationship.

The other big story is back in the U.S. and has Pearl and Skinner (gag) at the forefront, and brings them back to her origins as an American Vampire in Hollywood. Now it’s the 1950s and Hollywood is undergoing the Red Scare, and Pearl and Sweet are recruited to investigate studio execs and other power players who may be harboring vampires. Pearl, however, is also contending with her husband Henry’s coma, as his attack at the end of her last arc has left her worried that she’s going to lose him. The relationship between Pearl and the absolutely sweet and wonderful (but mortal) Henry has been such a mainstay in this series, but time has been aging Henry while Pearl has stayed youthful, and his mortality is oh so very clear right now. I have always loved Pearl and Henry, and as the series has gone on Snyder has subtly addressed the elephant in the room of how she will ultimately have to say goodbye just due to the reality of their situation. I couldn’t give less of a fuck about how Skinner fits into all of this, though I do admit that I DO enjoy seeing a sire and his fledgling team up, especially after she believed she killed him during WWII. On my first read of this I remember really resenting the fact that Skinner is actually kind of tolerable in this arc, but because it’s mostly due to Pearl and their connection I guess I’m going to allow it. That said, he’s still so static and boring in his malevolence. It was just nice seeing Pearl be able to deal with the baggage there at least a little bit, while also revisiting the trauma that started it all back in Hollywood and the cesspit it is. The women continue to be the shining stars of the series, and, like Felicia, Pearl finds herself at a crossroads by the end of this volume. But hers is far more melancholy.

This was the best volume yet. Snyder both brings things to proper ends, but also opens new doors with more possibilities on the horizon. Keep Pearl and Felicia in the spotlight, “American Vampire”. They continue to be amazing in their complexity and resilience.

Rating 9: The strongest volume yet, with many things coming to conclusions and other things just beginning.

Reader’s Advisory:

“American Vampire: Volume 5” is included on the Goodreads lists “Vertigo Titles: Must Read Comic Books A-E”, and “Best Adult Vampire Books”.

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