Tag Archives: adam cesare

Why the Best Horror Book of 2020 is Clown in a Cornfield

Clown in a Cornfield
Clown in a Cornfield, cover

To an extent, the title of Adam Cesare’s latest book, Clown in a Cornfield, feels like an affront to expectations. We have a YA horror book about teens navigating social media, high school, and rage-filled teachers all hinging on the promise of an actual clown possibly picking off kids in a cornfield. Having read Cesare’s excellent, and surprisingly meta, cannibal movie homage Tribesmen, which shows a profound love and understanding for 1970s horror cinema, I knew something else was hiding in the fields. And that something turned the book into one of the best examples of horror fiction in the context of Trump’s America, and the year’s best in the process.

Clown in a Cornfield follows Quinn, a high schooler that moves into the town of Kettle Springs with her dad following the death of her mom. Now an ex-city girl, Quinn goes about understanding the town and its people but also the looming presence of its recent past, the thing that divides the town into those who see progress as moving forward and those who see it as keeping up with traditions. This is where the titular clown comes in. The rest deserves to be read.

The setup is deceptively recognizable, seemingly on purpose. The story starts with a look at Quinn and her dad going though a short adjustment period, Quinn in particular getting to know the people she’ll eventually get to rely on to survive the deadly events that clown authors.

Cesare takes his time putting every piece in place before taking the reader through a hellish gauntlet of inventive slasher violence, all of which takes cues from John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and a lot of 1990’s horror movie imagery if only to build on them and make them his own. Once the killing begins, the book settles into high tension and doesn’t let up even when commenting on the ideas that prop up the story.

The buildup to the clown horror comes with a few twists on the formula that sets this story apart from the conventional slasher. The teens that drive the story don’t fit the traditional mold of jock, nerd, hot, or final girl characters of old. Instead, Cesare skillfully dodges some of the sexual and “school as a rite of passage” subtexts that govern a lot of classic slasher stories in favor of showing a group of teens that more genuinely reflects the current state of American society.

Adam Cesare

Instead of prom and homecoming queen and king competitions or relationship woes tied to characters losing their virginity, Cesare creates a cast of young Americans that talk about guns, are comfortable around them, and know how to handle them; that embrace social media and make it a point to flirt with its most dangerous aspects; and who know perfectly well what they represent to the older townsfolk (hints of The Lost Boys here).

Kettle Springs is a small town where it’s not hard to imagine every other car sporting a ‘Make America Great Again’ bumper sticker. And yet, the book doesn’t judge the entirety of the town for its conservative leanings. On the contrary, it provides a more complicated human panorama of it, with varying degrees of political inclinations even within the targeted group.

This is perhaps one of the most impressive things Cesare accomplishes with his characters. He breaks away from the black and white morality of the traditional slasher, in which the ‘good’ teens and the ‘bad’ teens could be identified from a mile away, in favor of presenting teens that are not just different from one another but also from the preconceived notions we have of them. This bleeds over into the book’s take on what small-town America was, is, and could be.

Explaining what Cesare does with slasher morality in the story would result in spoiling some the book’s biggest surprises, but it does make for one hell of a killer clown. Frendo is a part of the town’s economic history, being the face of an abandoned factory that at one point was at the heart of Kettle Springs. He was a symbol of success at one point only to later become an imposing symbol of defeat.

Frendo wastes not a single instance of violence on simplicity. Every death, blood spurt, or dismemberment is masterfully choreographed, unafraid to go into detail, leaving the reader with just enough information to let him or her fill in the rest. It’s also hauntingly realistic in parts. Whereas many slasher movies go over the top to create memorable death sequences, Clown in a Cornfield keeps things more plausible, holding back to make the more explosively violent parts truly unforgettable.

Frendo is one unsettling clown, but what drives the killings and how sinister things get in the process is what really scared me to the core. Unlike the Freddies and the Jasons of the genre, Frendo is one killer I completely believe can come after me. Whereas the aforementioned slashers are known for carrying a sense of dark fantasy and myth about them, Frendo seems like an actual inevitability should America continue on the path it’s currently on.

Adam Cesare gave us an important horror book in 2020, one that hits closer to the real horrors America has lived through these past four years. Its commentary on tradition, progress, and what’s expected of newer generations is as sobering as it is terrifying. Give Clown in a Cornfield a read and make sure your windows are closed and your doors locked because Frendo isn’t the stuff of nightmares. It’s the stuff of reality.

Preview: Jim Henson’s the Dark Crystal Age of Resistance Vol. 2 the Ballad of Hup & Barfinnious

Jim Henson’s the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Vol. 2 the Ballad of Hup & Barfinnious

(W) Jeffrey Addiss, Will Matthews, Adam Cesare (A) French Carlomagno (L) Jim Campbell (CA) Conor Nolan
In Shops: Oct 14, 2020
SRP: $22.99

AN OFFICIAL PREQUEL TO THE HIT NETFLIX SERIES! Return to Thra in a time before the Age of Resistance to meet Hup – the breakout star of Netflix’s hit Dark Crystal series, who’s a Podling cook dreaming of being a Paladin – and who discovers that sometimes it’s not good when your wishes come true! One day, the chivalrous bard Barfinnious comes to Hup’s village with tales of former glory and charms the Podling into leaving his small town to journey into adventure. But the longer they travel, the more Hup begins to doubt that Barfinnious is truly who he says he is… Based on a story by Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance series writers, Will Matthews & Jeff Addiss, Adam Cesare (Clown in a Cornfield) and French Carlomagno (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) present an official prequel to the next chapter of the pop culture phenomenon, now streaming on Netflix. Collects Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5-8.

Jim Henson's the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Vol. 2 the Ballad of Hup & Barfinnious

Preview: Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance #8

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance #8

Publisher: Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Writer: Adam Cesare
Artist: French Carlomagno
Cover Artists:
      Main Cover:
Mona Finden
    Variant Cover: Kelly and Nichole Matthews
    Unlocked Retailer Variant: Jake Wyatt & Jen Bartel
Price: $3.99

Set up and then abandoned by his hero and mentor, podling Hup has no choice but to fulfill the promises Barfinnious made to the village, and fight the great Beast that has been plaguing them. Armed only with his trusty spoon and his culinary wits, will Hup succeed in saving the village, or is something darker lying in wait for him?

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance #8

Preview: Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance #7

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance #7

Publisher: Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Writer: Adam Cesare
Artist: French Carlomagno
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Cover Artists:
      Main Cover:
Mona Finden
    Variant Cover: Kelly and Nichole Matthews
    Unlocked Retailer Variant: Conor Nolan
Price: $3.99

After some hard times on the road, Paladin-turned-bard Barfinnious and his noble Podling squire Hup finally get to relax and enjoy their hero’s welcome at a festive Spriton village. But a mysterious Beast is lurking in the shadows, threatening the lives of the Gelfling villagers. What should be a simple fight for a former Paladin soon turn dangerous, and the truth behind Barfinnious’ grift begins to emerge.

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance #7

Your First Look at Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #7

BOOM! Studios has revealed a first look at Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #7, a twelve-issue comic book series based on stories from writers Jeffrey Addis and Will Matthews, of the critically acclaimed Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.  The series introduces untold histories of key characters from the show, and feature explosive events tying into the award-winning series from The Jim Henson Company, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

In Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #7, available in stores on March 25 2020, writer Adam Cesare, artist French Carlomagno, and letterer Jim Campbell present the story of fan favorite Hup and brand-new character Barfinnious.

After some hard times on the road, Paladin-turned-bard Barfinnious and his noble Podling squire Hup finally get to relax and enjoy their hero’s welcome at a festive Spriton village. But a mysterious Beast is lurking in the shadows, threatening the lives of the Gelfling villagers. What should be a simple fight for a former Paladin soon turns dangerous, and the truth behind Barfinnious’ grift begins to emerge. 

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #7 (of 12) features a main cover by illustrator Mona Finden, a variant cover by acclaimed artist Conor Nolan, and a connecting cover by artists Kelly and Nichole Matthews.

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #7

Preview: Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance #6

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance #6

Publisher: Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Writer: Adam Cesare
Artist: French Carlomagno
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Cover Artists:
      Main Cover:
Mona Finden
    Connecting Variant Cover: Kelly & Nichole Matthews
Price: $3.99

Podling cook Hup has joined the famous Paladin Barfinnious as a squire and set out from his small village for the first time! It seems that Hup’s dreams of becoming a Paladin himself are finally within reach. But when Barfinnious is more focused on making some quick coin than on performing acts of bravery, Hup realises that his trust may have been misplaced.

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance #6

Your First Look at Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #6

BOOM! Studios has revealed a first look at Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #6, the next chapter in a twelve-issue comic book series based on stories from writers from the Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Jeffrey Addis and Will Matthews, introducing the untold histories of key characters from the show, and featuring explosive events tying into the critically acclaimed production from The Jim Henson Company.

In Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #6, available in stores February 26, 2020, writer Adam Cesare, artist French Carlomagno, and letterer Jim Campbell present the story of fan favorite Hup and brand-new character Barfinnious.

Podling cook Hup has joined the famous Paladin Barfinnious as a squire and set out from his small village for the first time! It seems that Hup’s dreams of becoming a Paladin himself are finally within reach. But when Barfinnious is more focused on making some quick coin than on performing acts of bravery, Hup realizes that his trust may have been misplaced.

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #6,

Preview: Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5

Publisher: Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Writer: Adam Cesare
Artist: French Carlomagno
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Cover Artists:
 
    Main Cover: Mona Finden
    Variant Cover: Kelly & Nichole Matthews
Price: $3.99

An all-new arc spotlighting Hup, the heroic Podling from Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Introducing a new creative team of writer Adam Cesare and artist French Carlomagno (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.)

Hup is a Podling cook who dreams of being a Paladin. When the chivalrous bard Barfinnious comes to Hup’s village with tales of former glory, Hup leaves his small town to follow him.

But the longer they travel, the more Hup begins to doubt that Barfinnious is truly who he says he is.

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5

Your First Look at Barfinnious and Hup in Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5

BOOM! Studios has revealed a first look at the new story arc in Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5, the next chapter in a twelve-issue comic book series based on stories from writers from the Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Jeffrey Addis and Will Matthews, introducing the untold histories of key characters from the show, and featuring explosive events tying into the critically acclaimed The Jim Henson Company production.

In The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5, available in January 15, 2020, writer Adam Cesare and artist French Carlomagno present the story of fan favorite Hup and brand-new character Barfinnious. Hup is a Podling cook who dreams of being a Paladin. When the chivalrous bard Barfinnious comes to Hup’s village with tales of former glory, Hup leaves his small town to follow him. But the longer they travel, the more Hup begins to doubt that Barfinnious is truly who he says he is. Can he trust the smooth-talking bard to help him realize his dreams or will his future as a noble knight end before it ever really began?

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5 (of 12) features a main cover by illustrator Mona Finden and a variant connecting cover by artists Kelly and Nichole Matthews.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5

Hup the Podling Becomes a Hero in Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5

BOOM! Studios has announced a brand new creative team for the next story arc of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a twelve-issue comic book series based on stories from Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance writers Jeffrey Addis and Will Matthews, introducing the untold histories of key characters from the show, and featuring explosive events tying into the critically acclaimed Netflix series from The Jim Henson Company, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

In Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5, available on January 15, 2020, writer Adam Cesare and artist French Carlomagno present a story of fan-favorite Podling Hup and brand new character Barfinnious. Hup is a Podling cook who dreams of being a Paladin. When the chivalrous bard Barfinnious comes to Hup’s village with tales of former glory, Hup leaves his small town to follow him. But the longer they travel, the more Hup begins to doubt that Barfinnious is truly who he says he is. Can he trust the smooth-talking bard to help him realize his dreams or will his future as a noble knight end before it ever really began?

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5 features a main cover by illustrator Mona Finden and a variant connecting cover by artists Kelly and Nichole Matthews.

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #5
« Older Entries