The Water Babies, 1994 ed., Charles Kingsley
“I just feel like children’s media used to be so much more honest about the world, you know. Not full of sentimental moralizing.”
Here you go.
“What’s this?”
Some twee Victorian bullshit featuring a character called Doasyouwouldbedoneby.

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In a nice brownstone, Winston Knight, collector of vintage photography equipment and news anchor is relaxing by…watching video-tapes of his newscasts and taking selfies with old photo plates, which, when developed, turn into not at all-Cronenbergian duplicate people. Winston is using said duplicates to provide himself with a perfect alibi for a series of serial killings which he is using to drive up his station’s ratings. Ryan, who to weeks ago was willing to join a cult for a girl he thought was cute, is returning home from a date when he witnesses the dupe’s latest machete murder. As Ryan tells his story to skeptical cops, Winston destroys his selfie, eliminating the dupe. The cops are so skeptical in fact that, now that they have a lead, they call up their suspect and tell him the name of the witness. Good job, Not Canada cops!

The next night, Ryan takes his new girlfriend Cathy along to discuss the situation with Knight, the result of which is that she ends up witnessing Knight and his dupe together. As she runs from the pair, Jack tells Ryan and Micki that he has been researching items in the manifest and discovered that the TV station Knight works for bought an antique camera from Lewis. When Cathy is killed, Ryan goes into a rage and confronts Knight, snatching his selfie before it can be destroyed. Since Knight has only a five hour window before being “replaced” by his dupe, that makes him Knight’s new target.

An overly complicated scheme to get the camera back from Knight leads to the creation of a Jack duplicate with instructions to kill Micki and Ryan and confess to the machete killings, while Knight’s remaining dupe decides to destroy his creator in order to become a real boy. Knight arranges a live broadcast in front of the shop, and Jack’s dupe fails to pass muster when it doesn’t realize that cursed antiques can’t be destroyed, which is a moot revelation as that’s when Knight’s dupe shows up. Jack’s dupe is destroyed, and Knight’s is stabbed (bleeding development fluid), and the broadcast goes off with the revelation of Knight’s dupe. Time runs out for Knight, who fades away, and the dupe dies shortly after, bleeding to death after it turns into a real boy. And the fact that a newscrew recorded a man literally fading into nothingness on live TV goes unremarked.

A better than average episode, even if three Ryan mooning over girls stories in a row is a bit much. The antique is clever and straightforward, with a gimmick that makes sense both for the object itself and the person using it. The suggestion is put forward for the first time that Lewis himself may have been telling people how the curses work, which slightly complicates things as up until now it’s been clear that the discovery of curse mechanisms have been accidental, with some items passing through multiple hands until they activate.

A Very Robey 80s

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The Bloody Chamber, 1993 ed., Angela Carter
Hey, it’s the book all those people doing “revisionist fairy tale” comics, plays, tv shows all swear they haven’t read at all, nope.

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When last we left our intrepid band, Ryan and decided to stay with the Penitites, and Micki and Jack discovered that the dream-murder quilt they’d gone in search for was actually a fake…

In the colony, Effie Stokes is gloating over keeping possession of the quilt when another one of the Penitites, Elder Florance, spies her with it. Reverend Grange is also informed that the other Penitite colonies are considering stepping in and removing him from leadership over his bachelor status (and those pesky financial questions), and that there are rumors that all the recent deaths are the result of Ryan practicing demonology (despite the deaths starting before he arrived), and that an Inquisitor is arriving to inspect the colony. Florence tells Ryan of her plan to take the quilt from Effie and give it to the Reverend, which mostly involves telling Effie she’s going to tell, leaving Effie no choice but to go to sleep, neatly framing Ryan for Florence’s death. Ryan tells the Reverend about the quilt, and is promptly sworn to secrecy until Grange can learn the truth.

That night at dinner, the Reverend announces to the colony that he has chosen Effie as his new bride and that they have already been secretly married, which goes to show how much of a dope Ryan is. That night Effie makes her bid to take over the colony completely by placing the quilt on her marital bed with Grange, only to find that she’s now in his dream of killing her. And Grange wraps her body up in a blanket and hides it in the cellar. When the Inquisitor arrives a day early, the colony members do their best to frame Ryan for the murders, although he is having none of it, but Grange takes the opportunity to tell Ryan that he’s been expelled on the Inquisitor’s orders. When the Inquisitor actually summons Ryan for an interview, Grange is forced to use the quilt again, once again putting Ryan in the frame, with no higher authority to prevent him from ordering Ryan burnt at the stake.
Because, you know, they don’t have to actually obey the law, apparently.

Jack and Micki finally arrive at the colony after their long series of increasingly unlikely comical car troubles to find Ryan condemned and no one there actually willing to listen to the fact that they don’t have the legal authority to try Ryan and that they’re all going to go to jail for first degree murder. Laura searches for the quilt as Ryan is tied to the stake, finding Effie’s body in the process and presenting the bloody blanket as proof to the rest of the colony. Grange makes a break for it, hiding in the mill where he’s put the quilt because sure, a working mill, no one will notice a quilt with Satanic markings on it in there, and getting tossed through a window in a struggle with Ryan. And Ryan goes back to the shop and Laura becomes the new colony leader.

So, the underwhelming first part turns out to have and underwhelming second part. The story here actually holds up slightly better, as there’s less padding in general. It’s pretty much just a solo outing for John LeMay, but he’s not given much to do all the same other than to exposit angrily about the quilt, and doesn’t get much interaction with most of the guest cast.

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The Crime Cult, 1975 ed., Maxwell Grant

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