A distinctive horror tale with stark characters and radiant artwork.


When the mob uses a fortuneteller’s predictions for its criminal benefit, things quickly turn violent and macabre in this graphic novel.

Psychic Helen Wilson charges a meager $25 for a reading at her Naugatuck, Connecticut, home. Those who pay for her services witness her astonishing abilities to foresee future events and apparently speak with the dead. But Luigi Nicolo watches Helen guess plays during a baseball game. Once his mob boss uncle, AC Nicolo, gets wind of this and believes Helen is legit, he sends Luigi to intimidate her. After all, she can boost the gangsters’ capital with predictions that make bank robberies a cinch. When one of those heists goes bad, AC suspects Helen betrayed him, and he responds in typical mob fashion. But Helen may be the wrong person to cross, and her retaliation is more horrifying than anything AC can imagine. In a concurrent plot, Helen seemingly derives her power from her “zodiac table.” This story gradually reveals the origin of the table, which, though clearly antique, is much older than it looks. Xalabarder’s tale is based on a 2014 book by Evans, Biltz, and Bousquet called Horrorscope. Xalabarder’s graphic novel, though predictable (even for nonpsychics), establishes memorable characters. For example, Helen is an empathetic woman who uses her powers to help others, while police Detective Merton Howard succumbs to a growing fascination with the fortuneteller and her enigmatic table. The narrative’s latter half, in which zodiac-inspired creatures take the narrative reins, bursts with bloody, graphic imagery. It’s a fine display of Xalabarder’s art, particularly the assorted colors; muted blues adorn night scenes and contrast with intermittent sepia-toned flashbacks. In a standout 1950-set sequence, the only color among black-and-white images is the glaring red of blood. The story’s open ending as well as a few unknown character fates suggest that a sequel will follow.

A distinctive horror tale with stark characters and radiant artwork.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021


Page Count: 81

Publisher: WestWinds Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.



Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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Using modern language, McDonald spins the well-known tale of the two young, unrequited lovers. Set against Nagar’s at-times...


From the Campfire Classics series

A bland, uninspired graphic adaptation of the Bard’s renowned love story.

Using modern language, McDonald spins the well-known tale of the two young, unrequited lovers. Set against Nagar’s at-times oddly psychedelic-tinged backgrounds of cool blues and purples, the mood is strange, and the overall ambiance of the story markedly absent. Appealing to what could only be a high-interest/low–reading level audience, McDonald falls short of the mark. He explains a scene in an open-air tavern with a footnote—“a place where people gather to drink”—but he declines to offer definitions for more difficult words, such as “dirges.” While the adaptation does follow the foundation of the play, the contemporary language offers nothing; cringeworthy lines include Benvolio saying to Romeo at the party where he first meets Juliet, “Let’s go. It’s best to leave now, while the party’s in full swing.” Nagar’s faces swirl between dishwater and grotesque, adding another layer of lost passion in a story that should boil with romantic intensity. Each page number is enclosed in a little red heart; while the object of this little nuance is obvious, it’s also unpleasantly saccharine. Notes after the story include such edifying tidbits about Taylor Swift and “ ‘Wow’ dialogs from the play” (which culls out the famous quotes).

Pub Date: May 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-93-80028-58-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Campfire

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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