Cameron: The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All is a master class in short fiction. Laird Barron proves that with only a few pages he can conjure up some of the greatest cosmic horror and fill this terrifying world with believable characters. While Laird may indulge in similar themes as Lovecraft, especially the idea that the more knowledge one has the more danger one is aware of, to call his work Lovecraftian is to insult how incredibly original he is.
I am an enormous Lovecraft fan – a fact I’ve made quite clear over a few of these columns – but even he had some pretty glaring flaws in his prose. Most notably, his characters never really felt or talked like real people; a side effect of Lovecraft mostly staying indoors and avoiding people at all costs. Born and raised in Alaska, Laird Barron is no stranger to the isolation that breeds horror, but having worked multiple jobs he also has an affinity for creating a realistic setting for his supernatural terror.
Astoundingly, there is no dud in the whole book. Almost every collection of short stories will have one or two stories which fall flat, or at least don’t match up to the quality of the surrounding fiction. Here, however, Laird proves he is a capable and consistent writer. It excites me to read such an incredible author at such an early stage in their career. From this one collection of short stories, I have a feeling Laird Barron will go on to be one of the most important names in the history of horror fiction.
It’s an electrifying feeling to be alive at the same time as such an incredible author, but it also makes my wallet rather empty. At least I have all these books to keep me company.
Alastair: As a rule, I try not to talk about the same author’s work two columns in a row. When it comes to Ten Grand, however, I figure I’ll make an exception. Written by J. Michael Straczynski (Superman: Earth One) and illustrated by artists Ben Templesmith (Fell, 30 Days of Night) and C.P. Smith (Wolverine Noir), Ten Grand is yet another fantastic supernatural horror title from the talented folks at Image.
Ten Grand is still relatively new, but as far as I’m concerned it’s worth keeping an eye on. It follows the trials and tribulations of Joe Fitzgerald, a former mob-enforcer turned undead demonologist/occult detective. Yep, you read that right. He promised his wife Laura that he’d quit the hitman life after one last job – except that job turned out to involve demons that kill Laura and mortally wound Joe. As he dies, he is offered a deal by an angelic force: in exchange for his services, Joe will be allowed to see his wife for five minutes every time he dies for a righteous cause. Once the five minutes are up, however, it’s back to the land of the living to continue the fight.
Ten Grand really is a wild ride. It reads like a mix of Hellblazer, R.I.P.D. (the good bits) and DmC, the latest entry in the Devil May Cry video game franchise. Templesmith’s art is fantastic; it’s dark, gritty and perfect for the supernatural horror story. After Templesmith’s spot-on start, C.P. Smith’s flatter, grit-less art just seems bizarre. This dramatic change could be deliberate, however: Joe is entering Limbo as Smith takes over. Art gripes aside, Ten Grand has a story that screams anguish and could easily hook a horror fan. While the change in artists is jarring, it’s worth sticking around.
Written by Cameron Urqhuart and Alastair McGibbon