By the light of the stars alone

This is the perfect spot.

This park, though in the heart of suburbia, was designed to take in the sunset framed over a dogleg in the river.  Two majestic oaks, hundreds of years old have been pruned and prodded to create a natural proscenium arch. It sets the stage for an act that is unbeatable this time of year, a summer sunset.

The sunset paints the sky with a shades of red, orange, and yellow. The heat lingering on the earth as the great burning eye descends behind the horizon to abdicate the sky to those lesser lights.

The sunset is gorgeous and yet is not what draws me to this park each month. It is these lesser lights that will soon grace the dome of the heavens that draws me to this place at this time each month.

The light begins to fade first. The streetlights begin to buzz and slowly awaken. The lightening bugs, as if to protest the dying of the light, begin winking their lascivious lights into the night. The night blooming flowers strewn along the fences that line the edge of the park near the river’s edge begin to yawn and stretch their petals.

The colors begin to fade from the sky as the inky darkness rises to claim the night from the iron fist of sol invictus. The sounds of the insects and birds change their tenor. The sweet songbirds that graced the day time skies are snuggled down in their nests. The night birds take wings and their somber coos and hoots fill the void of the night. The crickets chirp as they begin their nightly rounds and the moths flutter to the points of light that create their own tiny globes out of the void.

I sit on my bench. The sounds and sights of the twilight wash over me. The heat of the day is the last to surrender to the night. It clings to every inch of the park like a lost lover that will never see their paramour again. This last caress must be savored and stored away against the despair of lonely nights to come.

Twilight.

A time of transition.

A time of change.

This is why I come to this place at this time each month.

I come to remember that I am not trapped. I am not a slave. Watching the fading of the light and the people wending their way through the park as the night embraces the earth. I hear all the noises that permeate the park. From the lap of the river at the parks edge to the giggle of the teenagers fumbling in the bushes. The scents of the are carried to my on summer’s zephyr breeze. The sweet scent of evening primrose, jasmine, and primrose. The acrid smell of exhaust and rotting trash. All of these crowd my consciousness to let me know that the darkness draws nigh and that I should be afraid.

I shiver as full night takes hold. The lessons that have been beaten into cry out for me to run home and lock myself indoors. The night brings nothing but sorrow and pain. The darkness harbors malicious intent that it wields with frightful abandon.

Flee!

Run!

Hide!

I breathe.

Four beats in, four beats out.

Repeat.

Mother night wraps her arms about me as full dark claims the land.

The twinkling of stars and the street lamps the only illumination.

The baleful eye of sol’s sister does not grace the vault of the sky this evening.

With her absence, I am free!

The last red haze that tinged my consciousness slides away. The buzz of anger and rage fades away on the sounds of a night hunting bird. The tension in my body slowly drains into the bench and down to the earth’s waiting arms.

They say to cower away from the night, to shun the darkness. The darkness devours your intellect and humanity leaving nothing but a husk. They never change and never risk the darkness to see what life might be like if risks are taken. They call me freak and abomination because I risk the night.

I know the secret though.

Night is not the jailer nor the prison. It is but the vehicle by which this rage is driven. Selene, with her silver chains, enslaves us. Drives the beast to rage.

The secret is to witness this twilight, this time each month. Be washed in the inky blackness of a night with out the moon and drink in the light of the stars. Step out without fear of the night and embrace the silent songs of the stars as they lift up one’s mind out of the pain of the nights too come.

I have taken the risk and been richly reward. This night, this perfect night belongs to me.

I breathe.

Four beats in, four beats out.

I change and their is no pain.

I change and their is no rage.

There is only me and the beast as one.

Tonight I run by the light of the stars alone.

I run and nothing has to die for me to stop.

And for a little while, the stars alone set me free.

 

Comics Issues

If you’ve read some of my posts, you will know that I enjoy reading comic books. I look forward to new comic book day and seeing what has shown up in my pull list and what interesting titles may be lurking on the shelves at my local comic shop.

The thing is, I am a reader of comics, not a collector. This presents me with several issues which I ponder at length. These issues all fall neatly into the larger consideration of digital versus hard copy.

Digital makes the most sense when viewed from the logical perspective.

First there is the storage issue. As I am not a collector, I do not have long boxes to keep my comics in. I do not bag and board my comics either. I pick them up from my local shop and read them. After being read, they sit in a pile in my home getting in the way. Digital comics would eliminate this problem completely. I would be able to store the comics I bought in the cloud and have nothing cluttering up my house.

Next there is the convenience factor. On new comic book day, I could get out of bed and tap on my iPad and have my comics that I get each week purchased in a matter of a few minutes. Even if I am unable to do it within the comixology App, the website is pretty intuitive and makes the purchase simple and easy. There isn’t the worry of getting to the shop before it closes.

Finally, there is the guided view that comes with most items purchased online. The digital version of a book allows you to follow the story in a different manner. As the name implies, it guides the the from image to image in a fashion much different than what I normally do when reading a comic. It provides a different perspective on the issue which is enjoyable.

Despite all this, I still buy the physical copies of the comics I read.

One of the biggest reasons I do this is to support local shops. It sounds altruistic but it isn’t. In my area, finding people that liked comics, games, and other nerdy things was not easy. The fastest way to find those that shared similar hobbies was going to my local comic book store. I would be able to get my comics, find the newest roleplaying game, and talk about all of these things with other people at the store. I want this type of environment to be around for future generations that are into comics. So, will support a local comic shop that I believe in with my money and my time.

As much as the digital versions of comics are more convenient, I enjoy both the physical artifact of a comic book as well as just browsing the shelves to see what else might be interesting. There are hardback collections of titles that I enjoy that are gorgeous. I may see a picture of them online, but picking them up in the store and appreciating their sheer beauty is something altogether different. I have also recently been to the comic book store with friends. Walking around with them as they pick up their books and having them make suggestions of books for me to try was moving for me. It took an experience that has normally been solitary and made it all the better.

I also like having someone to talk to about what I am buying at the time of purchase. I have found out about titles that I have enjoyed being cancelled from my local comic shop. I have also been given recommendations of titles that are similar to what I normally buy that have turned into some of my favorite books at the moment. The computer does this but I have yet to have any luck with the algorithm actually picking anything that I enjoy. It’s funny. I am a shy person but I enjoy the human interaction around the things that I enjoy. Talking to the people at my local comic shop makes my day even when I might not be up to full on interactions.

Finally, despite always having a pile of books that I have read, I don’t mind. Like i said, I am not a collector. I will take the pile to my game night or to a friend’s house and let them go through the books that I have and take what they like. I let them see if there is anything that I enjoy that they might like and give it a try. It makes it easier for them to get into this hobby I enjoy and I spread a bit of joy when I do this.

How do you buy your comics?

Why do you chose to buy them in that fashion?

Share your answers in the comments.

Welcome to Night Vale

In the past few months, I have been one of the ten thousand a lot.

One of the things of which I was ignorant was Welcome to Night Vale.

My tastes in science fiction and fantasy tend to run towards the more mainstream variety. Mythology being the dominant theme that occupies most of the media that I consume. I love things that are quirky but they have to brought to my attention if they fall outside of my sometimes limited vision.

Welcome to Night Vale is just such a quirky podcast that straddles many genres and does it with a style and grace that is just breathtaking. The show takes the cosmic horrors that populate the writings of H P Lovecraft and August Derleth and blends them with the existential horrors that populate the lives of those of us living the life suburban. A good example of this is when the radio show speaks of the local bowling alley. The audience will be informed of the ancient city that has been discovered in a hole by the pin setter. The discovery prompted by the loss of a bowling ball falling into the depths of the city and the noise it makes echoing across the vast halls. The narrative then quickly swings to the mundane as the owner asks that people getting their bowling shoes know their size so that this part of the process could go quicker.

Welcome to Night Vale embraces the idea of the uncaring universe and shows the perseverance of human nature as it’s citizens try to continue on with their lives despite knowledge of their small place in the vast cosmos.

There is so much to love about Welcome to Night Vale. There are certain things that provide anchors for me to the show that I wanted to point out in particular.

First, There is Cecil, The Voice of Night Vale. He is our window onto Night Vale and the host of the radio show to which we are listening. He tells us of the community radio station for which he works as well as about the people that live in the town. He is the human connection to this strange place that is nestled somewhere in the deserts of America. As the show progress he provides us personal asides both in context to the stories that he presents as a journalist and out of context as a member of the community of Night Vale. A perfect example of this is Steve Carlsberg. There are points where things are going wrong and Cecil will become distracted by something small going wrong in the community and will blame Steve. He will go on, at length, how Steve is the one to blame for not doing things the way they are supposed to be done.

Cecil is also an unreliable narrator. He is our human connection to all this weirdness. As we listen, he paints us a picture of a place that is in turns, weird, wondrous, and prosaic. He tells us stories of the people, the culture, and the government of Night Vale. All these things bring us, the listeners, into his circle of trust. As we listen, it quickly becomes obvious that Cecil is not giving us the whole story. Not out of maliciousness, but due to the very nature of Night Vale itself. There are points where he points out that writing utensils are illegal as are books and yet he has attended school and has taken notes on stories that he reports on. Combine this with frailty of the human mind when confronted with the immense powers of things like the Glow Cloud. It comes to town and we are given ongoing reporting on the crisis. At the peak of the crisis, Cecil reports that the denizens of Night Vale have begun worshipping the Glow Cloud and then begins worshipping as well. When we return to Cecil in a non-worship mode, we learn that he has no memory of the past time period and that all recordings of what has happened are blank. Did what we just here about the community really happen or were the stories that we listened to during the episode just fabrications of the Glow Cloud?

I also love that despite the horror and absurdity that are part and parcel of Night Vale, the core of humanity is never lost. It embraces the dichotomy of humanity and shows the listener the heights to which humans can reach and the lows to which they can descend. It does this by illustrating that Night Vale is a small insular town and yet embraces diversity. Cecil provides the best example of this. From the first episode, we get to watch as Cecil falls in love. A scientist, Carlos comes to town to investigate the oddities inherent in Night Vale. We get to listen as Cecil waxes poetic in his descriptions of Carlos whenever he enters the narrative. Welcome to Night Vale is a community radio program and we get to listen as Cecil goes from a crush on a handsome scientist to dating him and this is perfectly acceptable by community standards. For me, this was a standout and something that drew me in quickly as this was a place that was weird but accepting. But the show also doesn’t allow you view the citizens as fine upstanding people though. It takes the time to show them as insular and fearful of change as are most humans as well. There is an episode about a traveling carnival. As the story progresses, we are set up to see this thing as some traveling evil that has come to prey on the city. The build up is similar to the movie, Something Wicked This Way Comes. At the climax, we watch as the people of Night Vale unite to drive out the interlopers. As they flee, we get to see that it was just a regular carnival and that Cecil and the people of Night Vale have given into to fear of Strangers and done something horrible as the carnies flee for their lives from the hatred of these people whom have become as monstrous as some of the threats that they have faced.

I am so glad that I was introduced to Welcome to Night Vale. It brings me into a weird, funny, and scary world that is welcoming and terrifying in turns. The storytelling is so engrossing that I look forward to each new episode to see what little piece from prior stories will crop up and become the next big bad. This show also has a penchant for punching you in the feels with no warning and this something that elevates this from entertainment to art in my mind. If you have not listened to Welcome to Night Vale, you should remedy this egregious error quickly.

Four Bear Paws out of four.

I bearly recommend Welcome to Night Vale!

American Gods No 1

You may have noticed from previous posts that I have a thing for mythology. Tales of the gods and their progeny fascinate me and will always garner my attention. It was this love of mythology that attracted me to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I had loved his work on Sandman and him playing with myth in the modern era was enough to entice me to read the book.

When I heard that they would be doing a comic adaptation of the book, I was excited. The first issue came out last week and I snatched it up as soon as I saw it. I did not get time to read it until over the weekend.

I read the issue twice in one sitting. The first reading was filled with that giddy excitement of getting something you’ve been waiting for. The second was to fully process what I read.

After processing, I have to say that the first issue of American Gods is Meh.

I know!

It feels like sacrilege to say a comic by Neil Gaiman is just Meh!

Hear me out.

I have read this story before, several times to be exact. I am familiar with the rhythm of the narrative and flow of characters. I have images in my head that I have conjured in these many readings. This leaves a comic a very high bar to achieve.

This first issue, as one would expect, tackles the opening of the book. Literally. We follow the beginning in an almost reverent fashion. The panels tell us the story of Shadow and his Campbellian call to the post of the hero. This issue picks up on the languid pace that the book always seemed to have in my mind and stretches that across these pages as well.

I know this story. I know the cadence that it begins. The slow drum beat that builds and builds over so many pages. I enjoyed it in novel form but it seems laboriously slow in comic form. Instead of getting lost in the prose, I felt like the story dragged moving from panel to panel. The bits and pieces of the story that kept me rapt were built into the descriptions in the prose and are lost in comic form as they are just backgrounds.

The art is my second stumbling block. Like I mentioned, the descriptions in the book add more to the narrative than detract and brought you into the story. These pieces are given little attention in this issue. The art style is reminiscent of Breaking Bad. It has a gritty and half formed feel that just grates on me. It is well done done but just does not work for me.

Overall, I was disappointed in this issue. I was expecting a more dynamic retelling of the story and what I am getting is the story just retold. The art style leaves me cold and I miss the tiny bits that stood out in the prose that are glossed over in the comic. I am going to give issue no 2 a try but I am not holding out hope.

I would give American Gods No 1 two bear paws out of four. It is a retelling of a story I already know without adding anything new. The art is good but of a style that just grates on me. If you are new to American Gods or must have everything by Gaiman, pick up american Gods No 1. Otherwise, wait for the trade.

Animosity: The Wake

My taste in comics can be described as vanilla. My fandom runs the regular superhero circuit with a few forays into the independent arena with titles like East of West or Thief of Thieves. My exposure to companies other than Marvel, DC, and Image is also limited as Valiant has been the only new company added to my pull list in a long while.

Luckily I have friends that also read comics and have decided that my horizons need to be broadened. I went out to my friend Stick Pup’s local comic shop to check it out. My habit is to always buy something at a local shop if I visit to show support for the people in my fandom in the area. I picked up several Rick and Morty trade paperbacks and some Star Wars comics for a friend. While looking around, Stick Pup began adding things to my pile. The list is a bit extensive and I am slowly plowing through it. The piece that stood out for me was Animosity from Boom Studios.

The trade for volume one was gorgeous. The cover, as it should, arrested my eye. It is a picture of a little girl with a rifle on her back, her loyal dog by her side. Standing outside the light, the shadowed faces and glowing eyes of wolves can be seen looking on. I was sold from this image and it was the first thing I read from the pile when I had the chance.

The premise behind Animosity is that one day, all the animals on the planet woke up. Not in that they were asleep but that they were not conscious in the way that humans are. The story then spools out from there. The animals gain not only consciousness but understanding as the world is not suddenly filled with billions of two year olds. The animals just awaken, as if from a dream. For the most part, these new sentients have the cognitive capacity of an adult with exceptions just like humans. The results are spectacular.

I love the story that Bennett has created. she creates a world where instead of the animals becoming another zombie plague, they become people just like us. They have their own motivations, their own capabilities and biases. She highlights these individual quirks throughout the story with little scenes illustrating how the animals dealing both with their relationships with humans and other animals. In particular, the first few pages we get to see as animals wake up in various situations. There is a recurring panel where there is a family at the vet with their god, obviously struggling with the decision to put him down. The next panel we are shown the dog telling them “Don’t cry. I understand…I forgive you.” Gut punch! On the flip side there is a series of panels with cute pandas being cared for. The tilt happens and they have grabbed guns and are committing suicide crying, “Why did you keep us alive for so long?” Another gut punch.

These vignettes serve as a backdrop to the journey of Jesse and Sandor, an 11 year old girl and her loving dog. WE get to see how the family survives the early days of the awakening and how the two then survive after things go south. Bennett takes the faithful dog trope and turns it on it’s ear as everything in the world goes sideways and that loyalty and caring are tested in ways that are sometimes difficult to watch.

I talk about the story but the art is stupendous on this book as well. The panels I mention earlier are all small squares, part of a larger page. But each one captures the tone and emotions and conveys it unmistakably.De LaTorre has way of capturing complex scenes and communicate the myriad emotions with aplomb. He takes the depth of the story that Bennett has crafted and renders it lovingly on the page.

I could rave about this book a lot but I don’t want to spoil it. Bennett has crafted a world that I want to know more about. I devoured this story quickly and am waiting for more. The art lives up to the standard that the story sets and leaves nothing behind. My one caveat is that if you are soft hearted where it comes to animals, then this may not be the book for you. The violence can be brutal and heart-wrenching.

This is a four bear paws out of four book. You should definitely pick up the trade and add the second series to your pull list. I am looking forward to seeing more of the Journey of Jesse and Sandor and those that they pick up along the way.

I bearly recommend this book!

Logan

Several months back, there was talk of a new Wolverine movie. It was bantered about that it would be a variant of the Old Man Logan comic book. I was not interested as the prior Wolverine moves had been lackluster outside of the performances provided by Hugh Jackman.

But then, there was the trailer set to Hurt performed by Johnny Cash. It struck me right in the feels and I was all in. Further trailers were presented with even better soundtracks. Any reticence on my part to see the movie evaporated.

I went with two friends and watched it in the VIP section of my local Cinemark and was transported to a very different world.

It was a much darker world than that of previous movies, but by far the, the best world of all the Wolverine and X Men movies.

Logan is a well made and delivers a simple, solid story with good acting from Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. It takes up threads that have been strewn about the various X Men and Wolverine movies and brings them all together to be examined under a very harsh light. It takes the story found in Old Man Logan and blends it with the story of Cable and Faith. It adds a dash of The Last of Us too present a grim dark dystopian future where sometimes the best you can hope for is to die fighting.

The studio took a risk and allowed Logan to be rated R. This was an excellent decision for both the character and they story that is being told here. Logan has always stated that he is the best at what he does and that what he does isn’t nice. Here, the director puts paid to this statement as we watch a mutant with claws that can cut through anything actually fight with them. The results are brutal and bloody and shows you what an actual fight with Wolverine would play out like.

In addition to the brutal violence we get Logan and Professor X having conversations that use language that one would expect from people at the end of their rope. Yes, Fuck is used. It is used both for shock value but it is also used to lend a gravitas to the conversations that these characters have as they struggle to reach the end of life with some dignity or respect left in tact. The conversations between Charles and Logan are in turns comedic and poignant. The ability to use all the words in their vocabulary makes the conversations feel more organic and less stilted.

Logan takes up the fears of the middle aged man and makes them manifest is harsh and brutal ways. The dystopian future wherein the story takes place has no more mutants being born and those that are left being isolated. Logan struggles in a world that has left him behind with failing health, few friends, and an aging father figure that needs much more support than he can return. The loneliness and isolation are palpable from the opening scenes. Hell, the movie even touches upon erectile dysfunction in a scene after a fight. Logan is cleaning up his wounds and dealing with a claw that would not come out during the fight. We watch as he forcibly pulls the claw out and winces and bleeds to get everything back in working order.

The movie also finally takes up the idea that Wolverine has been fighting for a very long time. It shows a logan that is isolated from the world but not just because of whom he is but because he no longer knows how to interact with a world that doesn’t require a fighter. This is highlighted by a scene in the Las Vegas hotel. Charles is watching Shane on the big screen with Laura. He explains how this was a touchstone movie for him. The scene that is playing is where shane is explaining that there will not be guns in the valley anymore, they’re not needed and he will be leaving. It is a quintessential piece of americana that is easily missed unless you’ve spent some time with westerns. It points out that not only does Logan not know how to be a part of this world, but that the damage to himself from fighting so long leaves him unable to get outside of himself to try and be better.

The final thing that made me love this movie was how it took up the idea of family. Once again, we are here at the end of the line with Charles and Logan. We, the audience, know the story of the family that was created around these two. We get hints of how that ended and the guilt that both feel over the outcome as well as anger at each other over not doing more to avert the catastrophe. All these emotions come pouring out at they try to save Laura from the Reavers that seek to recover her. She becomes the catalyst that allows Logan to pry off scar tissue and take one final stab at doing the right thing. Watching the process is painful as you want the four color Wolverine that we have been given before but this iteration feels more authentic and more vulnerable and thus better.

Logan is definitely four bear paws out of four. For all of the above reasons as well as many easter eggs strewn within the movie referring to many other great stories and characters that we will hopefully get to see someday on the big screen.

Make time to see Logan on the big screen, you will not regret it.

Midnighter & Apollo

Once again, I have been remiss.

DC Comics has had a title out that I’ve been reading since issue one and it is definitely something that I should have spoken about here.

Midnighter and Apollo replaced Midnighter after it’s short run. It picked up the story of these two gay super heroes after they had been reunited at the end of Midnighter. The title is currently on issue six.

I was ecstatic that these two once again received their own title. I had been a fan of the characters since The Authority. I know that they had appeared prior to that but one remembers their first exposure to character more than the actual first appearance.

Let’s start with the obvious reason for enjoying this title which is that it features a gay couple. For superhero comics and DC Comics, this is something that is rare. So, getting to see my tribe represent in one of my favorite media makes me happy. In particular, Orlando treats them like a couple. there is touching, kissing, and the regular interplay that you find between any couple. There is no shying away from it or treating them like they are just a team like Batman and Robin. A good example is two panels from this latest issue where the two are fighting their way out of hell. In one panel midnighter says, “You blew me up. how’d you know I wasn’t the bendable one?” In the next panel Apollo responds, “Please..you think I don’t recognize the back of your head?” Priceless!

It is this normalization of the relationship that makes this book stand out for me. This treatment had been a staple of the characters back in The Authority but had been stripped from them when they graced the pages of the New 52 at the beginning. Seeing it being embraced once again was like seeing a piece of art being restored. It made me happy.

The other reason I am currently enjoying Midnighter and Apollo may not be so obvious. I am a fan of greek and Roman mythology. I have mentioned this on my site many times. So, watching Midnighter and Apollo play through the Orpheus and Eurydice myth made me squee with delight!

For those unfamiliar with the myth, allow me to give a brief synopsis. Orpheus, the son of Apollo, was a great musician. He fell in love with the Eurydice, a woman of unique beauty and grace. It was believed that their union was perfection that would endure. But like all things, a prophecy was made that told of Eurydice’s coming demise. Upon her death, Orpheus’ grief was so great that even the gods were moved. Apollo and the other gods provided him their protection so that he might descend into the underworld and retrieve his love. Hades had one catch, that Orpheus could not look back upon his love until they had returned to the surface. Having been so long without her and not trusting Hades, Orpheus looked back and lost his love forever.

The greeks did love their tragic love stories.

I love that Orlando uses the classical katabasis as the hook for a six issue story. He takes a story that is a quintessential love story and allows it to encompass these two characters and evolve just like the greek myths did in their retelling to each new audience. It allows you to know the basic story structure you are going to see throughout the story but the details are where you will be kept wrapt.

Orlando does not disappoint.

My one nitpick with the book so far is the art. It is good but there are no points where I want to spend more time with the art. Even the covers lack the punch that I get from my other favorite titles. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t elevate the story the way I expect the art too in a comic.

Midnighter and Apollo is a great comic. It provides a great story with good art and excellent representation. Definitely something you should have on your pull list at your local comic shop.

Three out of four bear paws.

Faith No. 9

I have been remiss.

I talk about a lot of things and I have not spoken about one of the best comics out currently.

If you are not reading Valiant Comic’s Faith, you are missing something special.

It was way back in May of last year when I was introduced to this title. I wrote about it here. Valiant gave Faith her own mini-series in the spring of last year. I read it cover to cover and was captured with the hope and fun that was conveyed in the pages of the book. It was unlike any other books that I was reading at the time. The main character, Faith, was a woman of size. She was not portrayed as some fumbling fool or some overpowered demigod. She was a well rounded character that had a geeky heart that made it easy for me to identify with her.

I was elated when it was announced that she would be having her own ongoing series as well as appearing in the pages of Harbinger: Renegades.

Faith has been on my pull list since the first issue.

The current issue that came out this week is number 9 and typifies the reasons that I love this book.

Jody Hauser and Kate Niemczyk give us a day in the life of Faith in this issue. The very first page hits on one of the best thing about this title which is the diversity the cast. The first page gives the reader a look into how Faith’s supporting cast begins their day. We see Mimi, Jay, and Paige each start their morning at a different time and a different way. Each life is treated equally and with respect. Niemczyk’s art is gorgeous as always and makes these domestic scenes all the more heartwarming for the attention to detail. Their normalcy provides a nice contrast to the next page which is a full page of the building where they all work with Faith flying in just in the nick of time.

We follow the group through a normal day’s work at the Zipline offices where faith works. A new intern has began to work at the office. This provides a new wrinkle for the small group of journalists that have come to call Faith, in both roles, friend. The issue provides each person’s view of how they view themselves as they help Faith maintain her cover identity. Each story is presented as a fantasy sequence with art by Marguerite Sauvage. These vignettes provide insight into how the characters wished things were in full reality as well as how knowing Faith has positively impacted them over the time they have known her.

I won’t spoil the end, but it was good!

I love these slice of life stories for heroes. They ground the character as well as providing a more in-depth look into the supporting cast. I was already a fan of Mimi, Paige, and Jay. In nine issues we gotten to see each of these characters become more important to Faith. This issue we get to see how Faith has become important to these characters and why they do what they do.

The storytelling is wonderful. The use of timestamps to highlight the progress through the day is nice. It provides a bit of urgency in a story that could have been a slow read. Each character is given time to breath and strut in the spotlight which I love. The art is stupendous with the transitions between the two artists being seamless. The transition between the two styles fit well with the story and provided and another bit of drama that was just right.

You should be picking up Faith from Valiant comics. Issue Nine is an excellent jumping on point as it gives a good idea of what has gone before without feeling weighed down with exposition. The art is beautiful and will have you flipping the pages just to look at it again. You definitely should add this to your pull list.

Four bear paws out of four.

I bearly recommend it!

 

The Great Wall

When I first heard of The Great Wall, I was unimpressed. I heard the cries of whitewashing and quickly climbed on the bandwagon. The first trailers did nothing to dissuade me from this this viewpoint.

I then saw a trailer that introduced the idea of monsters.  I will freely admit that my mind immediately jumped to Chinese dragons. In my head I was all, “Fuck Yeah!” The idea of the Great Wall being built to defend China from monsters was intriguing. I asked my friends Rob & Terry if they would like to go see The Great Wall with me and they said yes.

The Great Wall is, at it’s heart, a gamer movie. The plot is a straightforward adventure scenario. Our intrepid adventurer, William, is on a mission to find black powder and bring it back to europe to become rich. He and his comrade Tovar are the only survivors of their caravan to reach the Great Wall. Their lives are spared when it is discovered that they have defeated one of the monster that has been assaulting the wall on their own. What follows is William’s process of discovering what it takes to defend the wall from the monsters and what it takes for him to trust someone one. The visuals are well done, and the acting is good, if a bit predictable.

Spoiler Warnings On!

I loved the costume design. The army that stood watch on the Great Wall was divided into different functions. Each function had a different style of armor. Their armor was very stylized animals with a particular color. The most flamboyant were the blue crane units which were composed entirely of women. Their job was to leap from platforms on the wall into the monsters that were climbing up in order to slay them before they reached the top. The colorful armor made what could have been a dark and brooding movie something much more vibrant and visually exciting.

I also appreciated that they took the time to create an army unit that was entirely composed of women. The unit’s leader also happened to be the general’s favorite commander. The twist comes when the general is grievously injured. Instead of going with what would be standard, he gives command of the army to Commander Lin Mae, the leader of the all female unit. in addition, there are no points in the movie where her decisions are questioned by her commanders. Her orders are treated just like any other general and this was refreshing to see and unexpected.

The visuals on the movie were also gorgeous. The monsters in the movie are sadly not chinese dragons. The monsters were Tao Tie, a mix of fu dog and demon. The look was something that was definitely chinese in origin. The CGI was well done with there only being a few instances where I could call out the effects for being obvious. There is also a scene at the climax of the film that is beautiful. William and Mae are fighting up the inside of a pagoda. The sun is shining through the windows creating a myriad of rainbows through which the two fight and move to save the day. It was wonderful!

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Matt Damon was not the whitewashing that I was lead to believe he would be. william’s character provides the initiating action which brings the audience into the film. He and his companion bring a base reason for seeking out this foreign culture. They originally are seeking to exploit it for it’s riches without any knowledge of the true richness present. As William moves through the events that unfold around the wall he comes to appreciate this new culture as well as rethink his own perspective. It strays far from the idea of whitewashing and outside of William and Tovar, the main characters are chinese. In addition, William is not the sole savior in the movie. Lin Mae and Tovar both take turns rescuing our erstwhile protagonist and the climax of the movie require both Lin Mae and William to work in concert.

The Great Wall is a wonderful gamer movie and an excellent B Movie with grade A effects. It does everything I would want out of a gamer movie without sacrificing a solid design aesthetic. The plot is straightforward and the acting is acceptable. Well worth seeing at a matinee, especially if you are a gamer.

Three out of Four bear paws!

North American Bear Weekend 2017

For over two years I have had the goal of going to a Bear Run.

I am a shy person and going to an event alone is not something that I am confident in doing. I have let the time pass so that any run that I looked into the host hotel was sold out. I was able to avoid stepping out of my comfort zone.

This year was different. I had several friends that were planning on attending a bear run that was right in my backyard. North American Bear Weekend is held in Lexington, Kentucky. Just about an hour down the highway from me. So, before I could let the specter of procrastination allow me to miss another Bear Run, I went online and purchased my North American Bear Weekend Pass, added the Bourbon/Beer Tour and booked my room at the host hotel.

I was very lucky that friends decided to take me under their wing for the weekend to make sure that I had a good time and help out if the event became overwhelming.

NAB was a great run. I may not be experienced with a Bear Run but I have attended many gaming conventions of varying size and I think they are a fair comparison for a Bear Run. Unlike many smaller conventions I have attended, things ran smoothly throughout the run. This was impressive knowing that this was a new venue for the event. The registration experience was quick and painless. It took only a few minutes to get through the line and have my wrist band.

There were events scheduled each day to provide the attendee with something to do. These ran the gamut from pool parties with karaoke to dance parties with different themes. There was a gaming room that supported the local Gay Straight Alliance and a vendor hall as well.

There was so much going on that I did not get to all the things that I wanted too. There are several things that made the run a great time a

Ursatron T Shirt

nd I wanted to call them out here.

First, was the vendor hall. I mentioned that I go to gaming conventions so a trip to the vendor hall is always in order. I didn’t know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. It consisted of over a dozen vendors. The preponderance of them selling cool bear t-shirts. There was also a leather vendor, kilts, underwear, wood art, decorative glass, jewelry, a bootblack, and men’s grooming. Needless to say, I spent a lot of money. My favorite shirt that I picked up at NAB came from Growl Wear. The had a shirt that is entitled Ursatron. It has a giant robot similar to Voltron done with bears! I saw this and I was all “Take my money, Please!” Scott and Kent who own Growl Wear were very kind and helpful and even when I could not make up my mind what I wanted to buy. I ended up picking up four shirts from them. I picked up shirts from KillerBob Graphics, and Bear TShirts.

There was also a leather booth in the Vendor Hall, WolfStryker Leather. I was drawn into the booth by the harnesses that had the Flash symbol as well as several other nerdy pieces of leather. I went in and looked at them a

Ursatron detail

s they were well done. They had several Harry Potter pieces as well. I finally decided to take the leap and tried on a harness. It was a pretty fun process.The people at WolfStryker made me feel very comfortable and my friend Terry helped me make a good choice. It was fitted and fixed in under a half an hour and I had a wonderful new harness that made me feel handsome!

Finally there was a booth that had burned wood and copper art work pieces. There were many pieces with a bear motif as well other nerdy pieces. I fell in love with one piece in particular. It was a tribal owl holding a key. Just beautiful. The name of the booth was Pyrography & Copper Work Lb. Turns out that I was given the Owl later in the weekend as a gift. It was a bit overwhelming. The artist was there but I forgot to tell him thank you for creating such a beautiful piece.

The piece I received

The run itself was a bit overwhelming. There are lots of people there, but unlike a gaming convention, I had a limited frame of reference for which to interact. Everyone was cordial and polite but my inherent shyness definitely made me feel out of place.I was lucky to be at the Run with friends who made it much more comfortable for me.

There were two things that I did get to do that were fun and I wanted to talk about. There was the pool parties. The hotel pool was taken over by the bears and Karaoke was happening. It was a very relaxed sort of event. There were bears of all types in the pool so it was easy to not be self conscious in the pool or hot tub. There wasn’t the judgmentalness that one would expect from a gathering of gay men. Everyone was laughing and having a good time. It was something that was new to me and was very exhilarating!

Another of the events that I enjoyed was a dance party. The one that I chose to attend was the Jocks & Socks Dance. I saw it in the program and decided to do it despite it being well outside of my comfort zone. Dancing! In a jockstrap! With People Around! Before the dance, I went to my room and got ready. I just sat there for a while and contemplated not going. My friend, Bill, texted me to see what I was doing. I explained and he just replied that he was at the bar with some of our friends. So, I plucked up my courage and went down to the bar. My friends and I were able to convince Bill to join us at the dance. It was amazing! Once again, Bears of all types with no judgement, just dancing. It was so good! The music was amazing as well. DJ Shane Phoenix Harris provided an excellent soundtrack for the night.

Overall, I had a good time at North American Bear Weekend 2017. It was run filled with guys that crossed the spectrum. It felt like an environment that was welcoming to those of all types without being judgemental. The people who put the run together were calm, cordial, and organized and seemed to care very much about everyone’s experience at the Run. I definitely want to go back and purchased my tickets to the next run on the last day of the Run.

Four out of Four bear paws. If you have not been to a Bear Run before, I have to say that giving NAB weekend a try as you will not go wrong.

I bearly recommend it!