Not as representative of the eerie or uncanny as previous volumes, but a greater variety of story. More surreal and a good number of just strange experimental seeming short prose pieces. They all have a plot, of a sort, but to say many are surreal and enigmatic would even be a bit of an understatement.
There were a few science fiction, oh okay, let's call them speculative fiction entries, that partook of the Dickian or James Tiptree feel.
Overall I was not as captivated by this volume in the series, but it was still well worth the money and you will find that Parker's anthologies are quite unique in this genre/type of collection of original stories.
The book is beautifully produced, more elaborately than its younger siblings, with a fully embossed and colored binding and a full color frontispiece. As usual a beautiful production by Tartarus at a competitive price for a limited edition and it will look great on your shelf with all those other mostly cream colored Tartarus volumes.
Some are just funny, some are political or social vehicles, and some are thought provoking or sad. But all are rather unique takes on characters, some of which are one page long, some a few pages longer. Some are word heavy while others use art more than the written word to convey their message. Some attempt to blend the two. Some fit into the Marvel-verse splendidly, no warped aspect, some do warp to make their point and couldn't possibly be considered canon.
These quirky tales are not only a delight, but brought to life by some of the best in the business. True, many don't fit into the mainstream comic arena: their odd hipness, the art itself or the writing style simply wouldn't fit in with Marvel in particular. However, it's nice to see Marvel poke this fun at, well, itself. It's nice to see something that isn't in the style that is the usual.
It's a lot of fun, in fact. Although probably not as much fun if you don't have some familiarity with the characters. And yes, the Jeffrey Brown X-Men story was the highlight for me.
In Japanese folklore, there is the belief that a disquieted spirit, one who has died still troubled by a deep resentment or anger toward those it considered immoral and malevolent ( such as enemies or murderers), will not let go of its attachment to the physical world, in a sense not having been extinguished or quelled by death; having taken such hostile feelings to the grave, will be unable to rest in peace, and therefore will re-emerge by supernatural means fueled with vengefulness.
Kwaidan or 'weird tales', is a collection of 20 gothic Japanese sketches written by Greek- born, Japanese emigrant Lafcadio Hearn. He created these stories from a mixture of Chinese and Japanese folklore retold over generations through both oral and literary traditions. Kwaidan, published in the same year of Hearn's death (1904), is set in Japan's Edo period (1603-1868) which Hearn renders expertly with vividness and authenticity.
Some of the tales are perhaps stranger and mysterious to the western reader than gruesome in content, as in the short sketch Jikininki - Man-eating Goblin: about a ravenous shape-shifting entity. A priest died having lived a selfish life with an appetite for material things, is reincarnated with an insatiable hunger for the morbid. His digressions in this infernal form is less than ecclesiastic, but one only hopes he says 'grace' before digging in.
Most of the stories tell of ghostly apparitions or reincarnations, of supernatural beings who have taken human form. The following are just two examples of longer pieces in Kwaidan, superbly adapted to film by Masaki Kobayashi in 1964.
The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hōïchi -
Hōïchi-the-Earless is a fantastic ghost tale built on historical events that took place 700 years prior at the Straits of Shimonoséki (Battle of Dan-no-ura), the last battle between the Heiké and Genji clans where the Heiké, along with their child emperor, were completely annihilated. The sea, the shore and all its creatures had become haunted, so a temple was built to appease the Heiké ghosts.
One evening Hōïchi, a blind lute player at the temple is commanded by a samurai ghost ( naive Hoïchi is unaware that the samurai is a spirit) to sing the ballad of the fallen Heiké. His singing so moves his supernatural audience that he is commanded daily to perform. When the temple priests hear of Hoïchi's daemonic encounters, they attempt to protect him with sutras written all over his body, but plans go grotesquely wrong.
'The Snow-Woman' is a haunting fantasy, beautifully told: Hearn's best known and most memorable story. Two woodcutters, Mosaku and Minokichi, caught in a snowstorm, take shelter in a vacant boatman’s hut. While Mosaku sleeps, Minokichi is awakened to the vision of a woman in white blowing the frosty breath of death on Mosaku, then moves her gaze to the frightened Minokichi. Yuki-Onna, in a moment of benevolence, spares his life but instructs him never to repeat what he has just witnessed or she will kill him. Many years later this threat comes back to haunt Minokichi in an eerie, chilling twist.
As a fan of Japanese goth, I heartily recommend Kwaidan - a quick, satisfying sampling both in written or movie version, to add spookiness to the season.