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Monday, September 22, 2008

“The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2” (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Thomas Ligotti Website
Order “The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2HERE
Browse Inside HERE
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Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “The Nightmare Factory

ABOUT THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY: VOLUME TWO: The second volume in horror master Thomas Ligotti’s chilling series, “The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2”, is a striking collection of four terrifying stories, adapted and illustrated by some of the biggest and best creators in the graphic novel industry. The result is a visually captivating collection of graphic tales that are made alive by the artwork and palpable sense of fright contained in its pages:

…Enter a sphere where bizarre gas station carnivals serve as the first stop on the road to oblivion; a malevolent puppet steals people's identities; a deranged chemist engages in horrific experiments; and nameless beings skulk about in a stone tower, waiting to envelop the unsuspecting into the nebulous reaches of unreality...

Blurring the differences between perception and reality, Thomas Ligotti’sThe Nightmare Factory: Volume 2” masterfully probes the human psyche, locating the subtle fears that exist in us all…

CLASSIFICATION: Like its predecessor, “The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2” is suggested for ‘Mature Readers’. Personally though, I think the graphic novel is suitable for teen readers, especially considering the virtual absence of any explicit violence or language, and zero sex. Genre-wise, “The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2” firmly falls in the category of horror, but horror of the more psychological and thought-provoking kind…

FORMAT/INFO:The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2” is 112 pages long divided over four stories:

Gas Station Carnivals” (Written by Joe Harris, Art by Vasilis Lolos)
The Clown Puppet” (Written by Joe Harris, Art by Bill Sienkiewicz)
The Chymist” (Written by Stuart Moore, Art by Toby Cypress)
The Sect of the Idiot” (Written by Stuart Moore, Art by Nick Stakal)

Each story features a brand new introduction by Thomas Ligotti. The graphic novel also includes a Promotional Image by
Tim Bradstreet and a little spotlight on Jon Foster who provided the cover artwork. September 2, 2008 marks the Trade Paperback publication “The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2” via Fox Atomic Comics.

ANALYSIS: As you may recall, I’m a big fan of comic books. In fact, I enjoy reading comics almost as much as I do novels, and have periodically covered the format on Fantasy Book Critic. Ironically, the very first graphic novel that I ever
reviewed on the blog was “The Nightmare Factory”. What impressed me the most about “The Nightmare Factory” was its overall high level of quality—including the artwork, the writing and the stories them selves. So when Volume 2 showed up on my doorstep, I was pleasantly surprised. One, because I didn’t even know that Fox Atomic Comics was working on a volume 2, and two, because the new “Nightmare Factory” is just as good, if not better than the first one…

If there was one area in the original “Nightmare Factory” that was weaker than the others, it was the writing. Not to take anything away from Stuart Moore or Joe Harris—who both fulfilled their duties admirably—but I thought the narration just wasn’t on par with the artwork, and even speculated that maybe it would have been better if there had been four different authors rather than just the two. I was wrong. In “The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2”, Stuart Moore and Joe Harris have reprised their roles as the writers—each adapting two Thomas Ligotti stories—and have considerably upped their games, so much so that the writing is easily the best aspect of the new graphic novel. To be honest, I can’t really pinpoint what the difference is in the writing between the two volumes—in both, the stories are narrated from a single, unreliable narrator which emphasizes the surrealism of each tale—but I just had a better time reading Volume 2. And of the four stories, I enjoyed reading “The Chymist” the most, which is both clever and amusing :)

As far as the artwork, “The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2” features four artists—different from those that appeared in the first graphic novel—led by the amazing Bill Sienkiewicz. Of the other three, I had never even heard of Vasilis Lolos or Toby Cypress, and was only vaguely familiar with Nick Stakal. Fortunately, I’m always interested in discovering new talent and Vasilis, Toby and Nick are all extremely talented artists. What I liked about the artwork in “The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2” is that all four styles are noticeably different from one another, and wonderfully complement the story that each artist is illustrating. From a personal standpoint however, I liked the artwork better as a whole in the original “Nightmare Factory”. Regarding Volume 2, I thought the visuals provided by Bill Sienkiewicz in “The Clown Puppet” were the most impressive.

Of the actual stories in “The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2”, each Thomas Ligotti adaptation embraces a familiar horror trope—a sinister carnival in “Gas Station Carnivals”; a terrifying clown in “The Clown Puppet”; a mad scientist in “The Chymist”; and a Lovecraftian-like cult in “The Sect of the Idiot”—but don’t expect the tales to be run-of-the-mill. Like Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti writes horror that preys on the reader’s fears and imaginations, and is just as scary in graphic novel form as it is in prose…

CONCLUSION:The Nightmare Factory: Volume 1” was one of my favorite graphic novels released in 2007. In every regard, Volume 2 is just as good, or better, than the original. In other words, fans of the first “Nightmare Factory” should be more than happy with Volume 2. I know I was . . . and I’ll be even happier if
Fox Atomic Comics continues producing a “Nightmare Factory” every year…


Thomas Ligotti began his writing career in the early 1980s, gaining instant renown among aficionados of horror fiction. Since that time, numerous collections of his work have been published including Songs of a Dead Dreamer, Grimscribe, Noctuary, The Agonising Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein & Other Gothic Tales, The Nightmare Factory, My Work Is Not Yet Done and Teatro Grottesco. The Washington Post calls Thomas Ligotti “the best kept secret in contemporary horror fiction.”

Stuart Moore is a writer of both comic books and novels. His first published comic book was Para, which was written exclusively for the San Diego Comic-Con International 2003. His graphic novel work includes a collaboration with Michael Chabon as well as writing Justice League Adventures. Stuart was also a founding editor of DC Comics’ acclaimed Vertigo imprint where he won the Eisner Award for Best Editor in 1996. He has written two novels: “American Meat” and “Reality Bites: In the Jungle No-one Can Hear You Scream.”

Joe Harris made his big screen debut in 2003 with his screenplay for the Sony Pictures release Darkness Falls. The movie, conceived and co-written by Joe, was based on Tooth Fairy, his short film which presented a horrific twist on the children’s bedtime myth. The Tripper, the politically themed slasher film Harris co-wrote with actor David Arquette, was released in 2007. Harris has written for the X-Men and Spiderman franchises and Wizard magazine has described him as writing “great teen angst.”

Toby Cypress is an artist based in Los Angeles, where he is working on his latest project, the graphic novel Rodd Racer. His previous work includes The Tourist, Killing Girl, Batman/Nightwing: Bloodborne and Predator: Home World. He also works as a storyboard artist/conceptual designer for clients like Nike and Tokyopop.

Vasilis Lolos was born in Athens, Greece in 1981. He spent his early years in space, where he honed his comic craft in zero gravity. Since his return to Earth, he has published several books, including The Last Call—recently optioned for film by Universal Pictures—for Oni Press, The Pirates of Coney Island, with Rick Spears for Image Comics, and a few short stories for Marvel.

Bill Sienkiewicz is a highly acclaimed visual artist best known for his unique and recognizable work on various comic books, notably Marvel’s Elektra: Assassin, written by Frank Miller. His other comics include notable work on Moon Knight, New Mutants, Big Numbers, and 30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow.

Nick Stakal’s love of old black-and-white horror and noir movies serves as inspiration when he puts brush to Bristol. Some of Nick’s recent and notable art contributions can be seen in Image Comics’ Strange Girl and his work as the ongoing artist for Dark Horse’s Criminal Macabre, written by Steve Niles.


Mihai A. said...

Very good review, Robert :) It's nice to see that you still review some books ;)

Robert said...

Thanks Mihai! Yeah, graphic novels don't take me very long to read, so I can make an exception with them when it comes to reviewing :D

Lsrry said...

Now you know you need to read Teatro Grottesco, right? ;) It has three of the eight stories in the two graphic novels and the way Ligotti structures each tale is very remarkable.

Robert said...

The book is definitely on my 'To Read' list Larry :) I believe I have a copy coming from the publisher, but if not, I'll pick one up when I can...

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