Tagged: novel

Mindy Newell: Columnist Columnizing

Newell Art 140421“Don’t you wish you had a job like mine? All you have to do is think up a certain number of words! Plus, you can repeat words! And they don’t even have to be true!” – Dave Barry

Some thoughts this week reflecting upon my fellow ComicMix columnists’ opinions…

Last week Martha Thomases felt compelled to once again write about the bullshit practice of attacking women who “o-pine” (as Bill O’Reilly says) and dare to speak “truthiness,” as Stephen Colbert puts it, in her column, Criticizing Criticism. Toward the end of the piece Martha wrote about a panel at Washington, D.C.’s Awesome Con (held just this past weekend) that she was planning on attending. The name of the panel was “Part-Time Writer, Full Time World.” All the panelists were women, and apparently they were going to “O-pine” and “speak truthiness” about balancing the demands of a full time job, of being a parent, of having a part-time job – with these women, the “part-time” job is writing – with having time for your personal life, all while keeping a sane thought in your head. She made an excellent point when she pointed out that there were no men on the panel.


To (mostly) quote myself in the “comments” section of Martha’s column:

“As far as the full-time job/parenting/writing/hobby balance thing, it’s not a question of whether or not men don’t do any parenting. I think a lot of men are extremely involved in their kids’ lives these days.

“But what I think what Martha is pointing out is the assumption by the con runners, or at least those who set up this particular panel, that it’s only women who are dealing with this conundrum. Or, to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they just wanted to do a “Women in Comics” panel and thought this would be an interesting twist on the subject. Either way, it does seem somewhat sexist–against both sexes for a change!

“The answer, btw – and I feel that I am qualified to answer this conundrum because I was a single parent, and also because I’m now watching Alix and Jeff juggle parenthood, work, and school – is, paraphrasing a certain global sports apparel company:

“‘You just do it’…

“While seeking plenty of help from family, friends, babysitters – and sometimes, if you’re really lucky, an understanding boss or editor.

“And then, when the kids are all grown up and have families of their own, you have the luxury of being a grandmother, and you can just love and spoil the kid and then hand him back when you’re tired or he get’s cranky or it’s just time for you to have some

“And be proud of yourself, because you just ‘did’ it.”

Denny’s and Marc’s columns made me think once again of how Marvel is doing everything right, and how DC is doing everything wrong. As I indicated in last week’s column, Marvel’s creation of a “telefilmverse” has been just brilliant in its adaptation of its comic universe’s history, in its invigoration of old concepts and old heroes, and in the excitement and joy its inventiveness is creating in both old and new fans.

I grew up a total DC geek in its Silver Age. I loved The Legion Of Super-Heroes, Superboy, Green Lantern, Supergirl, and the “Imaginary Stories” of Julie Schwartz’s Superman. In the 80s and early 90s I was hooked on all things Vertigo (Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, to name just a few), Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans, George’s Wonder Woman (even before I co-wrote it), Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s Legion Of Super-Heroes (before I was involved), Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and Ernie Colon’s Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld (ditto), Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland’s Camelot 3000 (ditto) and many more. Back then DC was a groundbreaker, an innovator, “Bold” and “Brave.”

Today when I think of DC I think of words like moribund, and mired, and morose.

Today, like Marc Alan Fishman, I say, “Make Mine Marvel!”

Paul Kupperberg’s review of  The King Of Comedy http://www.comicmix.com//reviews/2014/04/17/review-king-comedy/ is dead-on. If you haven’t seen this movie, see it.

John Ostrander: Happy, happy, happiest of birthdays! I left you a comment, but I don’t know where it went, because it’s not there now. Just know that I wish you everything you talk about in the column – to live even longer than your paternal grandfather and his continue to bang out comic series and a new novel on a regular basis. I can’t wait to read the new GrimJack series, and that brilliant novel that resides on the New York Times Bestseller list for longer than Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games ever did. I want to see Peter David green with envy (just teasing, Peter!) with your success. Hell, I want to see me turn green with envy and choleric with bitterness about your success! And I want you to remember, bro, in the words of that old poet-hipster, James Taylor…

You’ve got a friend.


John Ostrander: 65

So there I was, flailing around for this week’s topic. The clock was ticking and time was running out. And then it hit me like a wet sock on the end of my nose – it’s appearing on Sunday, which happens to be my birthday. Not only my birthday but my 65th birthday which is supposed to be one of those big hoohah numbers. A milestone (I hope Brother Michael Davis lets me use that word). It marks me officially as a Senior Citizen (as if my balding pattern and gray to white hair hadn’t already done that).

I’m doing all of those things you’re supposed to do at this age. Join AARP? Done that. Applied for Social Security and Medicare? Done and done. Gimme that governmental teat to suckle. Sorry, Junior, but I’m soaking up your financial future and destroying your freedoms. Ask various media.

Except, of course, they don’t give me all that much. Of course, there may not be Social Security by the time you reach my age but I didn’t think it would be there when I reached this age so who knows?

And, of course, I’m going to retire.


Even if I could afford to retire (which I can’t), why would I stop writing? I love this gig. It’s part of my bones at this point. This is what I do, this is what I am. Writing isn’t like playing sports; the knees may go but, with writers, so long as your mind isn’t completely shot (careful!), the probability is that you can just keep getting better and I think, I hope, I believe that I have.

Regrets, I have a few but then again too few too mention.

Crap. I’m quoting “My Way”. I’m not a fan of the song. Too self congratulatory for me. The only ones who can sing it and make it work are Frank Sinatra and John Cleese at the end of George of the Jungle.

Crap. Now I have it running through my head.

Crap. Now I have the disco version running through my head.

Yeah, now it’s going through yours too, right? You’re welcome.

Anyway, I can look back and see some things I do wish I had done differently. I wish I had done a few more creator-owned projects. Balancing those against the for-hire work is generally a better idea, I think. Folks like Peter David and Mark Waid have done a real good job of that, I think.

I also wish I had gotten into prose more, gotten some novels under my belt. Again, folks like Peter David have done a good job with that. Yes, there are times I wish I was Peter David. Most of the time I’m fine with being me but there are times. . .

But know what? I’m 65. I’m not dead. There’s time to make changes and start doing both prose and creator owned projects. My paternal grandfather lived to be 100 and his daughter lived to be 101. In this day of crowdfunding, it’s more possible than ever to get new work out there.

And I have new projects I’m working on with partners I’ve worked with before. There’s possibilities of a novel or two that I’m actively pursuing. One of the projects that I’m doing with Tom Mandrake, Kros, you may have seen mentioned on Facebook. Timothy Truman, Mike Gold and I are discussing more GrimJack. Lots of stuff I can’t discuss yet but I hope to tell folks soon.

And I’m on social media. I have my Facebook page, I have my Twitter account. Still learning how to use the latter but I’m out there pitching.

When you get right down to it, 65 is just another number. It doesn’t really mean anything in and of itself; the meaning is what we ascribe to it. Getting old? Naw. Pulling back? Hell no. Going to Tahiti? Well, I wouldn’t say no but not on a permanent basis.

I’m just getting started.

Photo by JD Hancock

Jen Krueger: Binge Reading Comics

A friend of mine has multiple subscriptions at multiple comic book shops. He gets excited for every new issue, and has been consuming comics this way for most of his life. Try as I might, I just can’t understand this, though not because this fervor for comics is foreign to me. It’s the issue by issue thing that I’ve never been able to come around on.

Maybe some of this stems from the way I was introduced to comics. Years ago, I saw Neil Gaiman do a reading of short story and poetry material at the Printer’s Row Book Fair, and the first booth I stopped at afterwards had the The Sandman graphic novels for sale. It was the first time I’d seen the name of an author I knew on a graphic novel, and having been so entertained by that author only minutes before, I figured I’d give this foreign format of storytelling a shot. I read it in one sitting and couldn’t get my hands on the next trade fast enough. By the end of the month, I’d devoured the whole series and become interested in finding other comics I’d enjoy even half as much as I had loved The Sandman.

But even as a comic book convert actively looking for more to read, I just couldn’t bring myself to start with anything short of a trade or graphic novel because single issues of comics have always struck me as unfulfilling, just bite-sized bits of big stories. (more…)

REVIEW: Beware the Batman Season 1 Part 1

1000x1000_BewareTheBatmanS1As much as there has been a fascination with Batman since his debut 75 years ago, lately, the trend has been to examine those vital origins. This began back with the Christopher Nolan Batman Begins and will most likely be on display next fall on Fox’s Gotham. In the comics, Scott Snyder is wrapping up his own take on that first pivotal year in the cape and even Cartoon Network took a stab at it with Beware the Batman: Shadows of Gotham. The latter debuted last July only to be unceremoniously yanked off the air in October after 11 episodes. A total of 17 are known to exist out of the 26 ordered but despite promises the show remains off the schedule.

Meantime, Warner Archive recently collected the first 13 stories onto a two disc Blu-ray set billing it as Season One, Part One. From a content standpoint, the idea of looking at those early days is ripe for exploration in any form. Interestingly, under Executive Producer Sam Register, the production team led by Glen Mirakmai, Mitch Watson, and Butch Lukic proclaim this is Batman (Anthony Ruivivar) after being in action five years. He’s no novice by then and depending upon which continuity you follow, he’s clearly a veteran hero. That length of experience puts him at odds with how he’s portrayed, somewhat unsure of himself, somewhat error-prone.

And unlike his one-man crusade as seen in the superior Year One animated film and graphic novel, he was on his own. Alfred was reluctantly aiding him but here, he’s a willing and very active participant as his one-0time experience as a secret agent handily comes into play. James Gordon (Kurtwood Smith) is still a lieutenant at the outset, graduating to commissioner during this season. What doesn’t work at all, for me, is the adding on of Katana (Sumalee Montano) as Alfred’s goddaughter and Robin surrogate. Batman should remain a loner if you’re exploring those first days and years and if he gets a sidekick, it should certainly not be someone from another culture with her own baggage but someone more organic to the story, such as Barbara Gordon, who merely crushes on the Caped Crusader here.

That said, the series gets kudos for avoiding the tried and true villains in favor of a wide assortment of lesser lights starting with Grant Morrison’s silly Professor Pyg (Brian George) and Mister Toad (Udo Kier). The second episode introduces a darker, more malevolent Anarky (Wallace Langham) who is the meta villain for the arc and has eschewed his comic book-based philosophy in favor of being a criminal mastermind. We also get a deadlier and less silly Magpie (Grey DeLisle-Griffin). On the other hand, we get Ra’s al Ghul (Lance Reddick), Lady Shiva (Finola Hughes), and the League of Assassins so the Dark Knight certainly has his hands full.

The series is also rich with other elements of the DC Universe such as Michael Holt and Simon Stagg; and if Stagg is on hand, you can bet Rex Mason (Adam Baldwin) is here, too. In fact, “Toxic” is one of the stronger stories as Mason becomes Metamorpho and is first seen as a threat dubbed the “Golem of Old Gotham”. There’s also Jason Burr, introduced in “Safe” but who recurs and sharp-eyed readers know he is destined to become Kobra.

The series looks different, with the figure work being more angular and distorted than one expects. The CGI-animation is somewhat off-putting but better than the last straight Batman series but nowhere near as good as the original Animated Series or The Brave and the Bold. The strong writing makes you overlook the odd visuals which is a benefit.

The Blu-ray disc looks and sounds just fine, as one has come to expect. And being from the cut-rate Archive arm, there are no extras.

Marc Alan Fishman: In Defense of the Hustle

Marc Alan Fishman: In Defense of the Hustle

This past week, I joined a panel of fellow indie comic publishers in a Q & A session revolving around the industry. There were some great questions bandied about, but for my money? The best concerned ‘the hustle’. When you’re a garage band, your merch doesn’t march into the stores without serious work. As I’ve detailed before, the way into every comic book shop is paved in broken glass, and tarnished dreams. Indie publishers’ best chance at initial sales comes first and foremost in face to face pitches. But you see, on this panel, I sat next to two other gentlemen… each representing a side on the teeter-totter of salesmanship. It got me thinking about the process of building a brand, and how those who are readying themselves for their first cons on the other side of the aisle might benefit from knowing the lay of the land.

On one side? I had Dan Dougherty. As many fans and followers of this column know the name by now… Dan is my quintessential nemesis. He’s a sharp wit, a deft hand, and an amazingly well-coifed comic creator. At the comic cons? He’s on the side of the introverts. A fresh smile, a board to draw on, and typically a “table helper” to help handle purchases if his hands are otherwise occupied. But in order to crack the nut, if you will, one must mosey past and have their eye caught on his wares. And after a decade in the trenches, his table is a veritable warzone of brilliance. He has well over a dozen projects available at any time – including the next ‘Revival’ if he keeps it up with “Touching Evil”, and Hellboy-by-way-of-the-Red-Line with “Bob Howard: Plumber of the Unknown”. At the end of the day: Dan wins his customers over with the slow burn. He lets those interested come to him, confident that if they saw something they liked? They’ll like picking it up.

On the other side? I had Onrie Kompan. If Dan’s pitch is a 1, then Onrie’s is a 100 on a 10 point scale. Unlike nearly any other creator I’ve seen in the Artist Alleys… Kompan untethers himself from behind his table, stands, and literally plucks passersby to pitch to. He’s quick on his feet. He knows to butter up the sale with a free giveaway. He mercilessly doles out his elevator pitch. It takes less than 15 seconds to hear the price. And if you give the glint of a yes? Onrie’s already up-selling you from single issues to a graphic novel. It’s jarring to see, to be a part of, and I safely assume… to sell next to. But the proof is in the pudding. Kompan continuously sells out his wares at each successive show he attends.

For those who know me and my Unshaven cohorts… you’ll no doubt see how I consider myself somewhere between the two extremes. It also helps that unlike Dan and Onrie… we’re 3 men to their solo acts. We have a consummate pitchman though, in our writer, Kyle Gnepper. While he doesn’t stand in the aisle to attract would-be suitors… he does stand and beckon to any passing by. In fact, it’s become a bit of a larf for those who know us (and know Kyle can’t remember a face to save his life) to listen to his pitch only to chortle off a snarky response. Gets him every time. But for those folks who don’t know us? Being able to pitch our Samurnauts series in a succinct set of seconds makes for quick turnaround. We’ve enjoyed our victories – with increasing sales per show – now for 5 years strong.

Honesty time, kiddos. My title of the article, “In Defense of the Hustle”, comes out of the debate Dan and I had on the car trip home from the panel. And yes, I drive my nemesis to gigs now, what of it. You see, prior to knowing Onrie by name, I knew him by reputation. Upon knowing I would soon share a space at the dais with someone I’d previously professed “Crossed the invisible line between hungry creator, and used car salesman”, I was resigned to enter the discussion already jaded. But Dan, politician that he is, asked for me to give Mr. Kompan a chance. And I did. And he spoke. And he won me over. Not with his book mind you – I respect that his Yi Soon Shin series takes creative non-fiction to new heights… it’s just not my bag per say – but with his enthusiasm. Truthfully, I’d never step around my table to hawk my wares. But I respect that Onrie has the extroverted nature to do it, and do it relentlessly. And according to his sales figures? He’s on to something. But perhaps akin to Mark Waid’s allegory on breaking in to the industry itself… his way is his way, and no one else’s to take. And so long as he’s not selling next to me (and his neighbors have been properly vetted on his approach)? God bless.

So, I open up the column to your opinions. When you walk down the aisle to a comic con, do you prefer your creators be playful and shy? Can you handle the hard sell on a 5 dollar book? Or do you think there is an etiquette to pitching your passion to passersby? I’m a capitalist through and through… but my friends, what are you?

Mindy Newell: Reading Is Fundamental

Dorothy: What kind of a horse is that? I’ve never seen a horse like that before!

Guardian of the Emerald City Gates:  And never will again, I fancy. There’s only one of him and he’s it. He’s the Horse of a Different Color you’ve heard tell about.

—The Wizard of Oz, 1939

I love to read.  I read every chance I get, including always bringing a book with me to read on my lunch hour.

I don’t get people who don’t read.

They make me crazed.


REVIEW: The Book Thief

the-book-thief-blu-ray-releaseThe Coming of Age book has become fodder for dystopian science fiction and fantasy while some of the toughest Worldbuilding is done right here, on the planet Earth. Things don’t get more dystopian than growing up in Nazi Germany during World War II. As captured by Austrian author Markus Zusak, The Book Thief is a harrowing, sorrowful tale about life during wartime. The 2005 novel is amusingly narrated by Death and tells of his fascination with Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse), who comes to his attention when collecting her brother.

The novel has been justly feted over the years and the inevitable film adaptation arrived in November and is now out on disc from 20th Century Home Entertainment. The film is faithful without fully capturing the novel’s tone, aided by some solid performances, excellent production design and a John Williams score that justly earned an Academy Award nomination without imitating his Schindler’s List, which covered much of the same time.

Liesel winds up handed over to Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) Hubermann for safekeeping and she has to make new friends and form new attachments in an unfamiliar environment. While Hans quickly grows to like Liesel, Rosa is upset that the brother and the money to care for him has vanished and seems to take it out on the ten year old. When it appears she is illiterate, slowly Hans teaches her to read and books become precious to her. She also becomes the object of fascination to the boy next door, Rudy (Nico Liersch).

Life is further upended when Max Vanderburg (Ben Schnetzer) shows up, obligating Hans to pay a debt stretching back to World War I – in this case, honoring Max’s father for saving Hans’ life. The scenes between Max and Liesel are among the book – and film’s – best.

The rest of her life in the small community is a varied bunch and you can’t help but wince to watch the children inducted into the Hitler Youth. This includes the ritual book burning where she rescues The Invisible Man and keeps it, despite the mayor’s wife, Ilsa Hermann (Barbara Auer), knowing her secret. Her bravery is later rewarded when Liesel is tasked by Rosa to bring the Hermann’s laundry to Ilsa, opening a new chapter for her.

The book is nicely condensed and is serviceable for those who haven’t read the book but once more, the richness of voice in print is absent from the film. While Rush and Watson do nicely, they can’t carry the whole film which is at time disjointed and lacking in the Zusak magic.

Overall, the transfer to disc is fine and worth a look. The extras that accompany the Blu-ray include a handful of mostly superfluous Deleted Scenes (6:34) and an assortment of  featurettes on the making of the adaptation,  A Hidden Truth: Bringing The Book Thief to Life (31:05). I appreciate that Zusak is well represented here but overall this is a perfunctory set of short pieces.


REVIEW: Cleopatra in Space

Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice
By Mike Maihack
169 pages, Scholastic Graphix, $12.99

cleo01_frontcoverThe allure of Cleopatra VII has endured over the millennia and continues to be a source of fascination for people young and old. As a result, she is an easy subject to inject into novels, plays, and unfortunately, this graphic novel. What could have been a fun, interesting, character-driven fish out of water story became a by-the-numbers young adult graphic novel that bears no resemblance to the source.

Mike Maihack is a talent and clever storyteller and the art and color make the book a fun, if irritating, read. He has an open style that is expressive and a restrained color palette so you’re not overwhelmed. He’s been producing this as a webcomic since 2010 and the first cycle of stories is being collected by Scholastic’s Graphix imprint in April. A second volume is already promised for 2015 so they’re expecting great things.

Fifteen year old Cleopatra (or Cleo to her friends) is snatched from Egypt by a piece of technology that sends her far into the future where she has to attend an intergalactic school in order to fulfill her destiny of saving the universe. Her teacher Khensu, a talking cat, tries to mentor her, tempering her youthful exuberance and adolescent ways with exasperating results.

The future world is made up of species and races from around the galaxy, all of whom are looking to Cleo to save them from the Xerx War that threatens life as they know it. Additionally, they have no way of sending her home so she can fulfill her first destiny, to be the last great pharaoh of Egypt’s classic period.

History shows Cleopatra was fourteen when she was named co-regent with her father, Ptolemy XII, until his death when she was eighteen. So right here, the book makes little sense. Secondly, she arrives in the far future and at no point does she appear confused by the languages, the knowledge there is life beyond Earth, the technology, etc. Sher arrives, is assigned classes, and settles into dorm life where she is a slacker student but a deadly shot.

This is not the Cleopatra of history, the wily, tough leader who charmed two Roman leaders and oversaw her people after prolonged battle.  None of what we know of her personality is here, instead we’re given a modern day plucky teenager and we’ve seen that. We’ve seen the “savior” storyline, we’ve seen ti all before so plopping Cleopatra into this does nothing but trade on her name.

There is little explanation about why the organization that recruited her is acronymed .P.Y.R.A.M.I.D. or why there are Egyptian touches, such as her sphinx sky cycle, so far into the future on another world. Similarly, the Xerx is reminiscent of Xerxes, the Persian, conqueror of Greece as immortalized in 300 while their leader is Xarius Octavian (the surname being that of Caesar’s son who wound up with Egypt after Cleo killed herself).  The supporting cast is visually interesting but woefully under-utilized. What could have and should have been something different is a cookie-cutter approach to a young adult graphic novel, so it’s all the more disappointing that her 8-12 year old readers will know nothing of what the true Queen of the Nile was like.

Dennis O’Neil: How Long Can You Go Without Faking It?

Story ideas are pretty malleable. I once presided over/rode herd on/sweated out an 1,100+ page continuity that began as a plot for two 15-pagers.  Hemingway is credited with writing a story in only six words.  (Go on. Google it.  I’ll wait.)  I did something a while back, just a bit over 500 words, that, I think, qualifies as a story, though some might disagree, (and because we cherish the First Amendment, if for no other reason, we welcome their dissent.)

Slick magazines, back when my mother was reading them, featured stories complete on one page.

Superman’s origin, which, you might recall, involved an exploding planet – we’re not talking small, here – was originally told on one page and the first Batman story ran a mere six pages, but it was very close to a Shadow novel that must have been in the neighborhood of 45,000 words.

[[[The Great Gatsby]]], often cited as a great novel, is 47,094 words. [[[War and Peace]]], ditto on the great novel label, goes 587,287.

So, is there a point to all this?  Let’s try to find one.

Story ideas, and literary forms, might be malleable, but that doesn’t excuse scriveners from the labor of plotting and structuring. You can’t just plunk yourself down at the keyboard, decide you’ll do an 1,100-pager and begin to perpetrate the opening of this Sahara of a continuity. No, check that: you can begin the aforementioned perpetration, but a prudent person might advise against it. The danger is that, toward the end, you might find a lot of loose ends that defy knotting, or you might have given your characters problems that they can’t solve and still stay true to whatever else you’ve established.  Or you might just run out of plot. Then, you begin to improvise. You fake it. You pad. Are you, by now, boring the reader? Admit the possibility, anyway.

It happens.  A person far wiser in the ways of Big Media recently confirmed what I’d read somewhere.  Sometimes, writers and producers of television entertainment begin a protracted and complicated storyline with no clear idea of how they’ll get from A to B. They make it up as they go along.  Sometimes they get away with it.  Sometimes.

I know that some Nineteenth Century literary luminaries – Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky to name two – serialized their novels before publishing them in hard covers.  I wonder: did they make it up as they went along?  Did they do outlines?  Plot summaries?

What we did, my comic book colleagues and I, was make pretty detailed outlines, in consultation with our freelancers. We all knew what story we wanted to tell and had a reasonably firm idea of how it should end.  There was a few small disagreements: some of my merry men wanted the outline to be detailed; I wanted to leave wiggle room and preserve the option of someone having a better idea along the way.  But we generally knew where we were going and how to get there.

One more thing: that outline assured us that we had enough plot to justify the number of pages we were planning to occupy.  We could and did permit side plots to run in parallel with our central story, but we wanted none of that padding stuff.

Is here any padding in the preceding 551 words?  Well…

Box Office Democracy: “300: Rise of an Empire”

300: Rise of an Empire is a movie that made me doubt my own sanity.  I watched that movie and wondered if I had completely imagined the ending of the original movie and, for that matter, the graphic novel it was based on.  I distinctly remembered that story closing with a mass of people being told the story of the brave 300 and how their sacrifice inspired the Greeks to band together and now they would fight the Persians and now their victory was assured.  I had to run to YouTube to find this clip to assure myself that that is how the movie ended.  It’s too bad no one involved with 300: Rise of an Empire bothered to do 40 seconds of searching because they could have avoided completely negating their entire first movie.

300: Rise of an Empire takes place before, during, and after the original film and tells a highly fictionalized version of the Battle of Salamis (for example, in the real battle the light from the sun was not exclusively orange and grey).  Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is leading a rag tag band of a Greek navy against the unbeatable Persian navy led by Greek-born warmonger Artemisia (Eva Green).  While leading the war Themistocles must also help Calisto (Jack O’Connell), the son of his friend Scyllas (Callan Mulvey) become a man and a soldier, a process achieved mostly through meaningful glances that seem to constantly threaten to turn this movie into another kind of Greek affair.

The Greek navy happens to be hopelessly outnumbered in this battle much like the Spartan army to the south but these soldiers, who are called out as being poets and sculptors before the fighting begin, handle themselves just as well as the Spartans do in the first movie dispatching dozens of Persian sailors for every casualty.  It kind of weakens the greatness of the fantastic Spartan army if it turns out that any Greek of the streets with a spear and a shield could have performed about as well.  There’s also the moment when Themistocles and his men find out that the 300 have fallen and rather than be inspired to unite as one Greece like they showed at the end of the first film it inspires everyone to want to give up and have many long conversations about how hopeless they are.  It’s a rare movie that can make me feel bad for trampling over the plot points of its predecessor when I didn’t even like that movie in the first place.

You might have noticed something about all those names in parentheses in the preceding paragraphs, they all play Greeks and they’re all remarkably pale English, Scottish, New Zealanders, Australian, or French people.  It’s whitewashing and it’s offensive, the only dark-skinned people in this movie are on the Persian side and they’re overwhelmingly incompetent or cowards.  Even Xerxes is retconned in to being the pawn of Artemisia and her anti-Greek ambition.  Artemisia is the palest person in this movie, which stretches credulity to the breaking point as they portray her as a Greek-born slave turned Persian admiral.  None of those activities seem like they would be conducive to avoiding the sun.

The worst thing about 300: Rise of an Empire is that it’s going to be used to defend Zack Snyder.   He must be something more than the only person fighting Michael Bay for a seat at the musical chairs of the world’s worst directors if he can leave a franchise and see the quality plummet like this.  Maybe there is some measure of artistry in all that slow motion if someone copying the technique can make it look so much worse.