Alternately violent and comic, with a subversive sort of satiric spirit, Stars and Other Monsters is a most unusual vampire tale. It almost feels like a Bizarro novella at times, when Phronk really rides the narrative edge, but it never quite crosses the line, remaining absurd but entirely accessible.
Where else can you find David Letterman, a down-on-his-luck paparazzi, a vampire cougar, an extraordinary clever dog, a celebrity hottie with a taste for the dark arts, and a homeless man who is not nearly as crazy as he appears? The story starts simply enough, with Stan Lightfoot sitting in his car, waiting for the aforementioned David Letterman to kiss, hug, or otherwise hold the woman with whom he's been having an affair. It's the photo that will make his career, and he's a press of a button away from capturing it when his car is bumped from behind . . . and Letterman is obliterated by the car that did it.
Taking the driver's advice to get out before the police can come is probably the worst decision Stan has ever made, but it isn't until later than night that he discovers why. It seems the kindly driver was actually a vampire, blinded by the sun, and she wants his help tracking down Damien Fox, the celebrity hottie upon whom she's developed an immortal crush. If Stan doesn't help her, she'll kill him and his dog. If he does help her . . . well, she still plans to eat them, but at least it may buy him time to escape.
What follows is a very odd sort of buddy road-trip story, as they two make their way across America, with Stan keeping the dog's directions as vague as can be. It's quite funny, and almost romantic at times (in a Stockholm syndrome kind of way), but then it gets very dark when we discover the truth about Damien Fox and his plans for his pregnant girlfriend. There vampire hunters are a nice touch, simple bodyguards outfitted with pseudo-scientific gadgets by the crazy homeless man, and his true identity turns out to be a genuine surprise, and one that brings Stan's story full-circle.
The climactic battle in Wal-Mart, with Dalla creating a make-shift army from the late-night shoppers, is definitely the high point of the story, with everything coming together in a grand finale that pays off in more ways than one. Without spoiling the fun, there's even an appearance from a certain celebrity guest star to help save the day. It's a very bloody, very violent, sometimes cruel story, but one that is also very funny - ranging from satiric snark to slapstick absurdity. Stars and Other Monsters is just that, a story of stars and monsters, but neither one may be who you expect.
Published June 13th 2014 by Forest City Pulp