King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

I had heard about the new King Arthur movie a few months back. I knew I would be seeing it in the theater regardless of how good it actually appeared.

I am a fan of the King Arthur legend. It went hand in hand with my dive into mythology when I was in grade school. I remember reading the translation of Le’ Morte D’Arthur and being lost in the grandeur of the story. I also remember watching Excalibur way before I should have and loving every minute. Seeing a new interpretation of this beloved favorite is something I always look forward too.

In addition to being a story of King Arthur, this movie had two other things that made me want to see it. I am a fan of Guy Ritchie . I love the aesthetic he brings to a movie. It will not be conventional and will be full of frenetic energy that captures the attention. I looked forward to seeing his interpretation of the legend. Then their is Charlie Hunnam. OMG! Those eyes and that presence. I had to see him as King Arthur.

Spoiler Warnings On!

This is not your standard King Arthur Legend. Mages, including Merlin, stand apart from humans and have lived in peace with the humans until the rise of Mordred. He rises up against the humans and begins to assault the shinning city of Camelot. He assaults the city with magical fire and giant elephants of great destructive power. His assault seems unstoppable as the city walls are breached and her soldiers are disintegrated. Uther Pendragon, ably played by Eric Bana, suits up and draws Excalibur and runs head-long at the elephant carrying Mordred.

In true action hero style, Uther scales the giant elephant and climbs into the howdah to confront Mordred. In a quintessential slow motion fight, we get to watch as magic and an artifact clash. Where this is never shown in previous movies, Excalibur is shown to be the artifact that it is touted to be as it shrugs off the assault of Mordred and allowing the forces of darkness to be routed.

It is with the clean up from the attempted coup that the true shadow over Camelot is revealed. Vortigern begins purging the land of mages. In secret, he strikes deals with dark forces and undertakes regicide. It is Uther’s final battle that seals the fate of a young Arthur. He is placed in a boat as his father strives to keep his son from facing the same fate as he. It is Arthur’s fate to be taken in by the ladies of a house of ill repute. We get to watch as he learns to survive the mean streets of Londinium and create his own shadow kingdom right under the nose of the false king.

I will admit that I love this movie. It gives me everything I want from a King Arthur Movie.

First, I love the new take on Arthur. Instead of being the son of a lesser night we are given a Arthur that had to learn to survive abuse at the hands of those stronger than him. We get to see this in the montage of him growing up. Instead of it creating a monster, it solidifies the core of chivalry in a very different manner. Instead of courtly love, it makes it about caring for those that you care about and doing all you can to protect them. This speaks to me.

I like that instead of Merlin, we have a female mage. Astrid Berges-Frisby does an excellent job of playing the enigmatic grey eminence that dances around answers and yet still needs Arthur to embrace whom he is. She brings a different energy to the part that was refreshing. I also liked that the take on the mages was much more elemental and druidic than presented in some of the previous movies.

The thing that was by far my favorite thing of this movie is Excalibur. In most every telling of this tale, it is a magical sword that determines to whom the crown will fall. Beyond that, it is just a piece of metal with a bit of provenance. Here, Excalibur is a mother fucking Artifact. Notice I used a capital A there. The sword when in use displays runes of power which is a trope, but I fucking love it. When Uther faces Mordred and Excalibur lights up displaying the runes lining the blade, I wanted to cheer. There is a scene where Arthur is cornered in the dojo in Londinium. His friends and supporters are about to be slaughtered by the King’s men. Arthur Steels himself and puts both hands on the hilt of the storm. He then becomes the eye of the storm that descends upon his enemies and devastates them. He then collapses as he is unable to fully handle the power that he holds.

It gets better! In greek mythological fashion, he has to undertake a katabasis! To wield Excalibur, He has to let go of the things that are holding him back. He must travel into the shadow lands and see that which he doesn’t want to see. He has to see the death of his father. See the nightmare that haunts his dreams ever night and causes him to shy from the touch of Excalibur.

To top it off, the design of the villain in the final fight is a wonderful homage to Frazzetta’s Slayer. So good!

King Arthur: Legend of the sword delivers everything I want from a King Arthur Movie. It has action, magic, intrigue, and drama. It presents a different view on Arthur that is a refreshing perspective. The acting is solid and the casting does a bit better to give a little more diversity to the legend. I love Djimon Hounsou as Bedivere. It qualifies for me as an excellent gamer movie. If you like table top RPGs, you will enjoy King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

Three bear paws out of four. I bearly recommend this movie!

Emotional Spectrum

It has been a long time since I’ve written about myself.

I was looking back at one of my old blogs and realized that It was way back in 2012 when I was just beginning the process of coming out that I had stopped writing about me.

I had used as framework for my musings, The Emotional Spectrum.

For those not in the know, I am referring to the different Lantern Rings from DC Comics. It started with the Green Lantern which represented willpower. As the storyline progressed other colors on the rainbow were added. It started with Yellow and fear and later Violet representing love. It was leading up to Darkest Night that the spectrum expanded to include all the colors of the rainbow as well as white and black.

I will freely admit that it is a simplistic approach to emotions and yet it resonates with me. The idea that emotions can be weaponized and harnessed for good or ill is both literal and figurative. You can see in everyday interactions how emotions are manipulated by others to gain advantage and leverage against others. The stories that are possible within this idea are also limitless.

Which always leaves me a bit disappointed in DC and it’s handling of the Emotional Spectrum as they take no risks and tend to leave everything in the hands of the old tried and true without tapping the depths that can be found in this idea.

so, I will put fingers to keyboard and talk a bit about where I am today and what I am doing to push forward. It will be centered around each of the Lantern Rings and I will not shy away from the Black or the Red.

If you would like to see my first crack at it, you can find it here. Start at the Emotional Spectrum and work your way up.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

I was very excited for the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. The first movie had done such an excellent job of introducing us to these characters and to the Marvel Cinematic Universe cosmic setting. It had the right blend of comedy, action, and character beats that it was within my top five of Marvel movies.

My high level thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 are that I really enjoyed the movie but it had some flaws. None of these flaws are enough for me to say not to see this movie in the theater, but did make me pause and think about it afterwards.

Spoiler Warnings On!

There are lots of things to like about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.

We are once again given a space opera. The action is big, loud, and gorgeous. There is no reference to a hive of scum and villainy but there is a chase scene through an asteroid belt. The effects are wonderful as always. In particular, I liked the design choices in how Ego told his story to Peter and the rest of the crew. It took an intimate moment between father and son and made it creepy and distancing.

Volume 2 does not disappoint on the character beats either. Each member of the team had been given backgrounds in the first movie that had many loose ends. These are pieces of the puzzle that help flesh out the movie as well as being one of my favorite things in comics. Volume 2 takes the time to find these threads and explore them so that we get a better understanding of the Guardians themselves. one of my favorites is Yondu. It is a consistent story point that Yondu makes such a big deal of being hard on Peter and yet never doing any of the horrible things that he said he would do. This thread leads to a poignant moment between Yondu and Rocket as things look bleak. We also get to revisit the relationship between Gamora and Nebula. Though the idea of child soldiers is dropped, we do get to see what life was like from the perspective of the less successful of Thanos’ daughters.

These character beats highlight the underlying theme of family. In the first movie, we get to watch as this group of misfits come together to form their own family in the end. In volume 2, we get to watch as this idea is explored a bit more in depth. The same interplay between Rocket and Peter can be seen on display. But instead of letting the sharp sarcastic barbs fly fast and furious, there are consequences. The movie takes the time to illustrate that once you care for someone that those barbs you toss about without thinking take on a much greater power. Peter’s playful quip about Trash Pandas becomes a dagger with out thought and the damage is much harder to repair.

The flaws are neither glaring nor numerous. They are just enough to take me out of the movie and wonder why these choices were made.

I will admit that I love baby Groot. He is adorable. But, did we need so much of him? He dominates the opening credit scene as he dances around and we get glimpses of the action in the background. It is a unique way of showing us the action but it felt like a waste of time as Groot himself never takes part in the battle. In addition, Groot is used as a sledge hammer to drive home the the theme of family in this film. The guardians are immersed in a powerful conversation. Throughout the conversation Groot is passed around and cradled by each member in turn.

Ego was…disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Kurt Russell as the living planet. He did an excellent job as a manipulative yet uncaring cosmic being. I just had hopped that he would have been allowed to be the living planet as opposed to being made a celestial. This is a deep cut for me but the celestials in the marvel universe are sort of the creator race. Their powers are vast and unfathomable. I had hoped that Marvel had learned from the first movie in this series that they could just go with the craziness that is the cosmic marvel universe and run. The audience had accepted a talking racoon and a plant. A living planet that was tired of being alone would have fit in just fine.

The initial plot that starts the movie is very thin. We get to watch as the team guards batteries from an interdimensional beast. This seems very low rent for a team that has successfully defeated Ronan the Accuser. It further thins as this empire is willing to throw all its resources against the Guardians even after a good portion of their fleet is destroyed by a single creature without a ship. There is no pause to contemplate that this might be a poor life decision and that whatever those people have stumbled into might better be left undisturbed.

The last bit that bugged me was Yondu. We learn that Yondu broke the Ravager code in regards to children and that he was allowed to continue to wear the colors but was not given any of the support that this would normally entail. We learn as the story unfolds the true horror of what Yondu has done appears. In the end, The Ravagers end up giving Yondu what he hoped for but there is no reason for this. Rocket admits that he broadcast the last moments between Peter and Yondu. This is enough to give Yondu a personal redemption but does nothing to explain why the Ravagers would now consider him a member of the group once again.

Overall, Marvel has still done a good job with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. It gives me more space opera that I enjoy as well as character moments that provide a connection for me with a movie. A little less baby Groot and a little more on in regards to plot would have made this an excellent movie.

Three bear paws out of four. Well worth watching on the big screen to enjoy space opera in it’s natural habitat.

Bear Brotherhood

Community.

Belonging.

Fitting in.

All of these things are the siren song of the geek.

Before I came out, I spent time on the internet perusing the different communities and was very happy when I discovered Bears. Here was a group that originated in the IT sector before it was even a big thing. They were of the same body type as me and seemed to have a large amount of members that enjoyed geeky things like I did.

The more reading I did, the more the idea of Bear Brotherhood kept cropping up. this was the idea that this community was open and accepting of all those that called it home. This community would provide a place that provide a welcome to those who did not fit what, at the time, was the standard of gay male beauty.  Everyone wants to feel accepted and that they have a place where they fit in. This is an important concept with incredible power.

The idea of Bear Brotherhood makes sense. It paints the bear community as empathic and accepting and is used as a means of bringing people together. Having a community that, on the face of it, is accepting of all members and provides a safe place for people to come together and find acceptance is admirable. When this happens, we bears will experience a connection with other bears that is enriching both on an emotional and physical level.

This concept is made manifest in the bear community both online and in events such as Bear Runs, Bear Dinners, Movie Bear groups, and any of the myriad bear gatherings that exist across the face of the planet. Each is designed to reach out to members of the Bear community based on a range of commonalities. They exist to encourage and enhance Bear Brotherhood.

It is in this expression that the power of Bear Brotherhood is experienced in it’s myriad forms. The things that people either forget or gloss over is that the expression of an ideal is always mitigated by the group dynamic as well as the desires of the more powerful personalities present. You organize a get together where the objective is for bears to come together around a central theme and feel comfortable. If the majority of the people who show up are there to find someone to hook up with, the idea of Bear Brotherhood is an elusive beast to capture.

Notice, I did not say absent.

If you are an outgoing or popular bear, you will be able to find this type of connection even at events where the group dynamic is about hooking up. It is the shy and less popular bears that will have a much harder time in this environment. They have came to meet new people and feel accepted. Where they came expecting to feel welcome and accepted, they end up facing the same feeling they would get if they went to a bar. They will attempt to make conversation and the frustration and fear will build as the absence of community is quickly felt.

This idea of community is also utilized in a manipulative fashion. The aforementioned hijacked event for the purpose of hooking up is just one. If you’ve attended a bear event that has a charitable aspect to it, then you’ve seen the manipulative aspect in full force. These events tend to have cute volunteers whose job it is to go around and sell raffle tickets or some other means of generating revenue for said charity. There are those that are straight forward and tell you they are collecting for charity. There are also those who leverage that sense of community and create that feeling of belonging in order to get the money flowing.  I am not saying this is wrong as it is a standard sales tactic. It is just problematic as those shy bears whom have shown up to feel like they are part of something will come into this interaction with a very different perspective and are at the minimum going to feel let down when they realize their perceptions and reality do not mesh.

I know that I am coming across a bit harsh on the idea of Bear Brotherhood and community. I am pointing out the flaws and leaving off that feeling of that one does get when that connection happens. I am a firm believer in the ideal of Bear Brotherhood. It is important that we make all bears feel welcome and like they belong. We live in a world where we aren’t accepted and there are those that constantly strive to not only marginalize us but to even destroy us. That we have a strong, supportive community is something that does matter. I think that is why it is important to take a look at the community that we participate in and have created with a critical eye. By doing this, we can create a better place for us.

It doesn’t take much effort to take a good community and make it great. If you look at yourself and those around you and ask a simple question, “What am I missing?” Then you take that step back and you might notice that person sitting at the edge of the group that has felt the vibe not being conducive to just having conversation. You might notice that person treading water at the deep end of the pool at a bear run and wander over and ask, ” How is your run going so far?” It is a platitude, but small steps are needed to complete any long journey.

So do me a favor bears. Keep believing in the idea of Bear Brotherhood. But, always take the time to step back and look at the community or event you are at. Look at it critically and see where it might be failing someone. When you see this flaw, step and do something about it. If we don’t create and support a community that lifts up all of us, who will?

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, and Jasmine. 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.