For this second volume in the Secretary of Dreams series from Cemetery Dance, Glenn Chadbourne has set down illustrations for an eclectic mix of early Stephen King short stories. It's great to see some of these older works (everything is from 1978 to 1985, with the lone exception being 2002's "In the Deathroom") brought to new life by Chadbourne's talented hand in what is, I believe, a greatly improved effort over the first volume of Secretary.
The six stories alternate between heavily-illustrated text pieces and traditional comic book layouts. The three illustrated texts - "The Monkey", "In the Deathroom" and "Nona" - are in my mind the selections that work best. King's stories are laid out in the usual book format with full-page illustrations interspersed throughout. Chadbourne's work includes both pen-and-ink drawings and full paintings (everything in my advanced copy is in black-and-white), all of which do an exceptional job of capturing the mood, drama and atmosphere of the stories. There's one particular drawing in "The Monkey" of the title creature which I'm pretty sure is going to surface later on in a nightmare, and I'm not looking forward to it at all.
The other stories - "One for the Road", "Gray Matter" and "Strawberry Spring" - employ more of a graphic novel layout, with large blocks of text (every word of King's original stories is reprinted) set in and around the artwork. In volume one I found the stories presented in this style to be the weaker of the selections, but Chadbourne's grasp of graphic storytelling has improved greatly in the interim. These stories (particularly "Gray Matter") have an EC Comics feel to them, which is a Good Thing. Chadbourne's humans have an unsettling woodcut feel to them, and when he cuts loose on the gore and creature work it practically drips from the page. He also brings tons of atmosphere to the settings - the snowy night of "One for the Road" is incredibly well realized, as are the horrific crime scenes of "Strawberry Spring".
These stories come from that period of King's career when he was really firing on all cylinders in the short story arena, and as such these are works that many King fans know and love. Breathing new life into them is no easy task, but Chadbourne has more than risen to the challenge this time around. Cemetery Dance once again presents Secretary of Dreams in an oversize hardcover format that really gives the artist's work a fantastic showcase. It's scheduled to be released in October. Highly recommended.