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REVIEW: American Underdog
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REVIEW: American Underdog

Okay, so why is ComicMix reviewing a football movie? Well, first of all, we’re a little more than just comics and secondly, it stars Captain Marvel himself, so there’s that.

Besides, it’s about a real-life hero, and who doesn’t love heroes?

Kurt Warner’s story is well worth exploring and the Lionsgate Home Entertainment release of last year’s American Underdog does a fine job recounting the story. For those unfamiliar, Warner was a star at Northern Iowa but spent four years unable to get signed by an NFL team. Finally, the Green Bay Packers signed but released him in 1994. He then played three seasons for the Iowa Barnstormers in the brief-lived Arena Football League before finally making it to the NFL with the St. Louis Rams. Once there, he led what has been dubbed the Greatest Show on Turn, culminating in winning Super Bowl XXXIV.

It’s a story about perseverance and support at home, in the form of his loving wife Brenda (Anna Paquin). Levi, at 41, is a little old to be convincing as a man half his age, but his enduring charm and charisma makes that easy to overlook. Together, they make a charming couple, and their scenes anchor the film’s emotional story. Brenda has a blind special needs son, Zach, and Hayden Zaller make a fine debut in the role.

Dennis Quaid, as Coach Dick Vermeil, leads a fine supporting cast that includes familiar faces such as Bruce McGill and Ser’Darius Blain. Best of all, Levi is reunited with his Chuck costar Adam Baldwin, who plays Warner’s college coach.

Directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin, better known for their Christian-themed movies, certainly are reverent here, avoiding some of the sport’s rougher edges. The film is inspired by All Things Possible by Kurt Warner with Michael Silver, and the screenplay comes from Friday Night Lights veterans Jon Erwin & David Aaron Cohen and Jon Gunn. They are supported by a strong score from Composer John Debney.

Make sure you watch all the credits since there’s some touching archival footage of Warner and Zach.

Available in Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD, the movie look strong with a fine 1080p MPEG-AVC with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, The high def transfer and rich color palette are nicely presented. The accompanying Dolby Atmos and a core 7.1 Dolby TrueHD Master Audio track works just fine.

The disc is packed with a fine assortment of Special Features, an above average collection including Audio Commentary from Directors Andrew and Jon Erwin and Producer Kevin Downes; “Inspired” (16:08), about the production; “Making the Cut” (13:45), about the editing; “A Coach’s Faith” (30:48), focuses on Vermeil and his biggest fan, Saturday Night Live’s Heidi Gardner; “New to the Scene: Hayden Zaller” (6:10); “Meet the Champion” (14:49), Warner himself speaks;  “Behind the Game” (8:13);  “American Underdog: Behind the Story” (3:39); and, Deleted Scenes (17:44), with and without director commentary.

Walter Hill’s Extreme Prejudice Arrives on Blu-ray and Digital May 17
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Walter Hill’s Extreme Prejudice Arrives on Blu-ray and Digital May 17

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
The acclaimed Vestron Video Collectors’ Series delivers a double-barreled, brawny Western with Extreme Prejudice, arriving on Blu-ray™ + Digital on May 17 from Lionsgate. Directed by Walter Hill (The Warriors, 48 Hrs.) with story co-written by Academy Award® nominee John Milius (1979, Best Writing/Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Apocalypse Now), this action-packed shoot-’em-up stars three-time Academy Award® nominee Nick Nolte (2011, Best Supporting Actor, Warrior), Primetime Emmy Award® nominee Powers Boothe (1980, Outstanding Leading Actor in a Limited Series or Special, Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones), Maria Conchita Alonso (The Running Man, Predator 2, Spread), and Michael Ironside (Starship Troopers, Total Recall, Top Gun). Extreme Prejudice includes hours of new special features, and will be available on Blu-ray for the suggested retail price of $17.99.
 
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
Directed by the legendary Walter Hill, this gritty, modern Western is regarded as a classic and features an all-star cast with Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe, Maria Conchita Alonso, Rip Torn, and Michael Ironside. Lean, mean Texas Ranger Jack Benteen (Nolte) locks horns with a former friend, Cash Bailey (Boothe), now a ruthless drug kingpin. Though they’re on opposite sides of the law, they share a love interest in the sensual Sarita (Alonso). When a crew of rogue soldiers descends upon the border town for an off-the-books mission, all roads lead to a bloody, to-the-death showdown, as loyalties shift and the lines between good and evil are blurred.
 
BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Audio Commentary with Film Historians C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke
  • Isolated Score Selections with Audio Interview from Music Historian John Takis
  • Interviews:
    •  Interview with Director Walter Hill
    • “The Majorʼs Agenda” ― An Interview with Actor Michael Ironside
    • “The War Within” ― An Interview with Actor Clancy Brown
    • “Capturing the Chaos” ― An Interview with Director of Photography Matthew F. Leonetti
  • Teaser Trailer
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Vintage EPK
  • Still Gallery

CAST
Nick Nolte                               (Warrior, Affliction, The Prince of Tides)
Powers Boothe                       (Sin City, Sudden Death, The Avengers)
Michael Ironside                     (Starship Troopers, Total Recall, Top Gun)
Maria Conchita Alonso           (The Running Man, Predator 2, Spread)
Rip Torn                                  (Men in Black, The Larry Sanders Show,
                                                The Man Who Fell to Earth)

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 1987
Title Copyright: Program Content and Package Artwork: © 1987 STUDIOCANAL. All Rights Reserved. Package Design and Summary:  © 2022 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Type:  Catalog Re-Release
Rating: R
Genre: Action, Western
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
Feature Run Time: 104 Minutes
Blu-ray Format: 1080p High Definition, 16×9 (1.85:1) Presentation
Blu-ray Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio™

DC Shines Spotlight on DC Showcase at WonderCon
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DC Shines Spotlight on DC Showcase at WonderCon

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) will host a panel spotlighting its upcoming release, DC Showcase – Constantine: The House of Mystery, at WonderCon in Anaheim on Friday, April 1 from 6:30-7:30pm in North 200A.

The panel will focus on the yet-to-be-seen Constantine: The House of Mystery extended short, while also discussing the three other animated shorts included on the upcoming release: Blue Beetle; The Losers: and Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!

Confirmed to participate on the panel is Rick Morales, supervising producer over all four of the animated shorts; Ernie Albacker, who wrote the script for Constantine: The House of Mystery; Jennifer Keene, writer of Blue Beetle; Jeremy Adams, who conceived the story of Blue Beetle; Tim Sheridan, screenwriter for The Losers: and Paul Giacoppo, writer of Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!

The panel will also include Dave B. Mitchell, who gives voice to both Gunner and Sarge in The Losers, as well as some special surprise guests.

In addition, fans will be treated to a few never-before-seen clips from Constantine: The House of Mystery, as well as some lookbacks on the other three animated shorts.

Launched in 2010, DC Showcase was originally comprised of four animated shorts: The Spectre (2/23/2010), Jonah Hex (7/27/2010), Green Arrow (9/28/2010) and Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam (11/9/2010). An additional short, Catwoman (10/18/2011), was attached the following year to the release of Batman: Year One. For 2019-2020, DC Showcase returned with five shorts: Sgt. Rock (8/6/2019) Death (10/22/2019), The Phantom Stranger (3/17/2020), Adam Strange (5/19/2020), and the interactive Batman: Death in the Family (10/13/2020).

DC Showcase: Constantine – The House of Mystery will be available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Blu-ray (USA $24.99 SRP; Canada $29.99 SRP) and in 4K on Digital starting May 3, 2022.

Chris Pine’s Hell or High Water Arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital SteelBook May 17
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Chris Pine’s Hell or High Water Arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital SteelBook May 17

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
The Western crime-adventure Hell or High Water arrives on 4K Ultra HD™ + Blu-ray™ + Digital SteelBook® May 17 from Lionsgate. The film stars Oscar® winner Jeff Bridges (2009, Best Actor, Crazy Heart), Chris Pine (Wonder Woman franchise, Star Trek franchise), and Ben Foster (Galveston, 3:10 to Yuma). Hell or High Water 4K Ultra HD™ + Blu-ray™ + Digital SteelBook® will be available for the suggested retail price of $27.99.
 
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
Oscar® winner Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster lead this acclaimed action-drama from the writer of Sicario. When a desperate father learns the bank is going to take his family’s land, he and his ex-con brother decide to rob the bank, putting themselves in the crosshairs of an aging Texas Ranger in a riveting story of crime, punishment, and brotherly love.
 
SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Enemies Forever: The Characters of Hell or High Water
  • Visualizing the Heart of America
  • Damaged Heroes: The Performances of Hell or High Water
  • Red Carpet Premiere
  • Filmmaker Q&A

CAST
Jeff Bridges                 Bad Times at the El Royale, Crazy Heart
Chris Pine                   Wonder Woman franchise, Star Trek franchise
Ben Foster                  Galveston, 3:10 to Yuma

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 2016
Title Copyright:Hell or High Water © Coman Movie, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Artwork & Supplementary Materials ®, ™ & © 2022 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Type:  Catalog Re-Release
Rating: R for Some Strong Violence, Language Throughout and Brief Sexuality
Genre: Western Crime
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
Feature Run Time: 102 Minutes
4K Format: 2160p Ultra High Definition 16×9 (2.40:1) Presentation 
4K Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio™, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Audio, English 2.0 Dolby Audio Optimized for Late-Night Listening, English Descriptive Audio 
Blu-ray Format: 1080p High Definition 16×9 (2.40:1) Presentation
Blu-ray Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio™, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Audio, English 2.0 Dolby Audio Optimized for Late-Night Listening, English Descriptive Audio 

Hulk & Thor Battle Once More in Banner of War
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Hulk & Thor Battle Once More in Banner of War

New York, NY— March 25, 2022 — Donny Cates is currently taking two of Marvel’s most iconic characters on transformative journeys in the pages of HULK and THOR. And next month, the acclaimed writer will smash both sagas together in an all-new epic: HULK VS. THOR: BANNER OF WAR! Hitting just in time for the two heroes’ 60th anniversaries, this five-part crossover will kick off in HULK VS. THOR: BANNER OF WAR ALPHA #1 before exploding in the pages of both Hulk and Thor’s hit solo titles throughout May and June. Tackling ongoing mysteries from both series and featuring artwork by rising star Martin Coccolo and covers by legendary artist Gary Frank, the story promises to deliver Thor and Hulk’s most glorious battle yet and the showdown will have a shocking impact on both characters’ futures.

In the aftermath of the opening arc of HULK which saw the debut of TITAN and the “God of Hammers” arc that ended with the death of Odin, both Bruce Banner and Thor Odinson have both undergone massive changes, but one thing remains constant — their heated rivalry! When mysterious circumstances bring them into conflict once more, will the God of Thunder be able to triumph against a Bruce Banner who can now control his rage? Get your first look at the fight that will go down in Marvel Comics history in the HULK VS. THOR: BANNER OF WAR trailer, featuring never-before-seen artwork!

“Well, I was a little surprised that Marvel approached me to write this, if I’m being honest. I’m mostly known for writing very small, very quiet, intimate comics, so I had to—ha!! Sorry. Couldn’t keep that up. Yeah, this is gonna be bonkers as hell, guys,” Cates said. “We’re going to break EVERYTHING! Happy birthday, Hulk and Thor! Hope you enjoy MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF VIOLENCE!” 

Moonfall Arrives as 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, On Demand April 26
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Moonfall Arrives as 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, On Demand April 26

SANTA MONICA, CA (March 21, 2022) – Legendary action-adventure director Roland Emmerich returns when Moonfall arrives on Digital April 1 and on 4K Ultra HDCombo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand April 26 from Lionsgate. From director Roland Emmerich (Midway, Independence Day franchise) and writers Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser & Spenser Cohen, the film stars Academy Award® winner Halle Berry (Monsters Ball, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum) , Patrick Wilson (Midway, The Conjuring franchise) , John Bradley (Game of Thrones, Marry Me), Michael Peña (Narcos, Fantasy Island),  Charlie Plummer (Lean on Pete, Spontaneous), Kelly Yu (Lost Promise), Eme Ikwuakor (On My Block, Inhumans), Carolina Bartczak (Painkiller), and Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games franchise, The Undoing).

In Moonfall, a mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler (Academy Award® winner Halle Berry) is convinced she has the key to saving us all – but only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson, Aquaman) and a conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley, Game of Thrones) believes her. These unlikely heroes will mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love, only to find out that our Moon is not what we think it is.

Moonfall  4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $42.99, $39.99, and $29.96, respectively. 

4K ULTRA HD / BLU-RAY / DVD / DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES 

  • Audio Commentary by writer/producer/director Roland Emmerich and writer/producer/composer Harald Kloser Listen to audio commentary by writer/producer/director Roland Emmerich and writer/producer/composer Harald Kloser. 
  • Against Impossible Odds: Making Moonfall Filmmakers and actors offer an insider’s view of the genesis of the film, a look at the epic action scenes, and a deep dive into the most groundbreaking moments of the film. 
  • Exploring the Moon: Past, Present, and Future What have we learned about the Moon through the ages and where is human exploration of our nearest celestial neighbor going next?  Scientists, historians and astronauts reveal all!
  • KC Houseman Speaks the Truth!  Unearth recent viral videos from Megastructurist KC Houseman. 
  • Sounds of the Moon Discover how the filmmakers utilized a palette of unique sound effects to bring the world inside of the Moon to life.

PROGRAM INFORMATION

Year of Production: 2021

Title Copyright: Moonfall © 2022 UK Moonfall LLP. Artwork & Supplementary Materials ®, ™ & © 2022 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Type: Theatrical Release

Rating: PG-13 for violence, disaster action, strong language, and some drug use

Genre: Sci-Fi

Feature Run Time: 124 Minutes

Closed-Captioned: N/A

Subtitles: Spanish, French, English SDH

4K Ultra HD™ Format: 2160p Ultra High Definition, 16×9 (2.39:1) Presentation 

Blu-ray Format: 1080p High Definition, 16×9 (2.39:1) Presentation 

DVD Format: 16×9 (2.39:1) Presentation 

4K Audio Status: English Dolby Atmos, English Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Blu-ray Audio:  English Dolby Atmos, English Descriptive Audio, , French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

DVD Audio:  English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital,

HBO Max’s Aquaman: King of Atlantis Swims for Disc Debut April 26
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HBO Max’s Aquaman: King of Atlantis Swims for Disc Debut April 26

BURBANK, CA (March 24, 2022) – Monstrous creatures, devious foes and incredible underwater adventures populate Aquaman: King of Atlantis, an action-packed mini-series now coming to Digital and DVD (USA $14.99 SRP; Canada $19.99 SRP) as a feature-length animated film on April 26, 2022 courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, the mini-series premiered on HBO Max on October 14 to rave reviews from both critics and fans alike. James Wan (Aquaman) served as executive producer through his Atomic Monster production company on this playful reimagining of the iconic DC Super Hero and tells an original tale about Aquaman’s first adventures as King of Atlantis.

Aquaman: King of Atlantis begins with Aquaman starting his first day on the job as king of Atlantis – and he’s got a lot of catching up to do. Luckily, he has his two royal advisors to back him up: the scholar Vulko, and Mera, the water controlling warrior princess. Between dealing with unscrupulous surface dwellers, elder evils from beyond time and his own half-brother who wants to overthrow him, Aquaman must rise to the challenge and prove to his subjects – and to himself – that he’s the true heir to the throne, and holder of the trident!

Cooper Andrews (The Walking Dead, Shazam!) leads the cast of Aquaman: King of Atlantis as the title character, and he’s joined by Gillian Jacobs (Community, Invincible, Injustice) as Mera, Thomas Lennon (Supergirl, Reno 911!) as Vulko, Dana Snyder (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Justice League Action) as Ocean Master, Andrew Morgado (Supergirl, Archer) as Mortikov, Kevin Michael Richardson (The Simpsons, American Dad!) as the Royal Announcer, Flula Borg (The Suicide Squad, Pitch Perfect 2) as Mantis, and Kimberly Brooks (DC Super Hero Girls, Batwheels) as Hammer. Also providing voices is Chris Jai Alex, Trevor Devall, Armen Taylor, Kaitlyn Robrock, Regi Davis, Ludi Lin, Robbie Daymond, Erica Lindbeck, Laila Berzins and Erica Ash.

Victor Courtright (ThunderCats Roar!) and Marly Halpern-Graser (Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) served as showrunners and co-executive producers. Courtright and Marly Halpern-Graser conceived the story for the mini-series/film, and Halpern-Graser, Bryan Condon (Right Now Kapow) and Laura Sreebny (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power) co-wrote the teleplay. The mini-series was executive produced by James Wan (Aquaman), Atomic Monster’s Michael Clear (Annabelle Comes Home), Rob Hackett (Swamp Thing), and Sam Register (Teen Titans Go!). Keith Pakiz (ThunderCats Roar) served as director on all three episodes of the mini-series.

Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting by Brian Gordon
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Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting by Brian Gordon

Sometimes there are things that you know you like, but you realize you’ve never really dug into.

Brian Gordon’s comics strip Fowl Language is like that for me: I realized I’ve been seeing it randomly probably since it started (2013, I think), but never actually tried to read it. So I did.

I grabbed this book, Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting , since it seemed to be the earliest of the three published so far. (Further exploration shows that to be true.) It collects about a hundred of those strips, which break down almost evenly into single panels (many of which would make great posters or response memes; Gordon is good at the crisp specific saying) and four-panel strips.

Gordon, as I understand it, sometimes cartoons about other things, but most of Fowl Language is about his kids. In the strips collected here – from the 2013-2016 time period – there were two of them, first a boy and then a girl, and they were very young, first babies and then toddlers and maybe up to preschoolers. You know: the loud, demanding, incoherent, psychopathic years.

My children are vastly older, which may make reading comics like this more distant but also makes them more entertaining – I can remember all of that, but the scars have mostly healed.

They are all from the point of view of the father, who is not exactly Gordon. His name is “Dickie,” but that comes up almost never. Well, and also he’s a duck, like the rest of the family – you might have noticed that. It’s a cute cartooning thing, and it ties well into the title, which also refers to the fact that Dickie is admittedly not the world’s best parent.

So this is somewhere in the humorous-parenting world alongside Ian Frazier’s “Cursing Mommy ” pieces and Guy Delisle’s “Bad Dad ” books. That’s good company to me, and Gordon can do both the funny and the sentimental. Also, to be clear, his sentiment is modern and inclusive, not the same old vague American glurge, with great comics on GTA games, gay marriage, and how kids can be assholes. (That’s not my language: that’s straight from the comic.)

I expected to like Fowl Language in larger doses, and I did. There are two more books: I might have to find them, and see how the duck-kids have grown up, and if Gordon is cartooning about pre-teen hell these days. I bet he’d be great at that, too.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Always Never by Jordi Lafebre
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Always Never by Jordi Lafebre

Stories don’t have to be told forwards. Sometimes a story can be told best in reverse.

The description of Jodi Lafebre’s graphic novel Always Never  makes it sound like a late-in-life love story: mayor Ana and Zeno, who has been for decades almost equally a doctoral student in physics, a commercial sailor, and a bookstore owner, finally are in the same place at the same time in their sixties, possibly ready to finally give their relationship a chance. And that is where the story starts…in chapter twenty.

The following chapters are also the preceeding chapters, as Lafebre traces the story of their lives backwards, jumping a few days here, a decade there, to wind all the way back to the moment when they met. We get previews of their history as we go: Ana and Zeno, like everyone else, talk about their shared past.

But, also like everyone else, they can’t talk about what hasn’t happened yet. So what we see later in the book will color what we’ve already read that happens later in time, but the narrative will continue moving forward. Which is to say: backward.

It’s not just a way of telling the story, though. Zeno has a theory about time, about the possibility of rewinding time, and his long-delayed doctoral dissertation is about exactly that. And that dissertation may have been accepted as the book opens, which means….he’s right?

That possibility stands behind the entire story, and crystallizes the final moments here. This may be exactly what he theorized – but, if it is, that’s outside of this story. If time rewinds and tells a different story, what happens then?

Ana and Zeno are mostly separate, those long years, trading letters – sometimes actually trading them, sometimes writing and discarding those letters, for themselves rather than for the other one – talking on the phone, thinking about each other, and mostly living their own lives. Ana married and had a daughter, who is grown with a child of her own by the beginning (or end) of the book. Zeno was engaged, in his telling, many, many times, but nothing more than that – how do you tie down a sailor?

There are other motifs besides the doctoral thesis, other pieces that recur. One of Ana’s longest projects as mayor was building a bridge for her town, connecting what seem to be the neighborhoods on top of two very steep hills – and that project takes much longer, and goes through more changes, than anyone expected. But, of course, because of the way Lafebre tells the story, we see it completed first – because of the way he tells this story, we see the end of everything first.

That, almost paradoxically, makes Always Never a more positive, happy story. We already know how it will end; we know things will be just fine. What we don’t know, or don’t know enough about, is how it begins.

Lafebre tells this story in a mostly-sunny palette and with character designs that seem to my eye to have a bit of animation influence in them: these are people made to move through space, to interact with their world, to be dynamic in their bodies and faces. And even as Ana and Zeno end up on opposite sides of the world, we’re on their side – on the side of each of them in their struggles, and on the side of wanting Ana-and-Zeno to be together. (Although Lafebre manages that in large part by keeping Ana’s husband Giuseppe mostly in the background; his version of this story would be very different.)

Always Never is assured, confident, lovely, and sweet. It’s also remarkably happy for a love story about two people who spend forty years about as far apart from each other as possible. I see it was the first book Lafebre wrote after drawing a number of bandes dessinées from other people’s scripts; he’s clearly been taking notes along the way.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness by Peter Kuper
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Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness by Peter Kuper

I’m not crazy about adaptations

, by disposition. I’d generally rather see new stuff in Creative Format X, rather than a Format X version of a story that worked well in Format Q.

I seem to be in a pretty small minority in that, though. The world demands movies from their comic books, TV shows from their novels, opera from their stories about historical figures, stage musicals assembled from random songs. And vice versa: look at the deeply incestuous “casting thread,” in which random observers squee over which actors in TV-shows-based-on-books should be their favorite characters in a potential movie-based-on-a-comic-book.

On the other hand, I don’t mind as much with old stuff. A new movie based on a Shakespeare play? Yeah, OK – that’s closer to the point to begin with. A graphic novel based on that hundred-year-old book everyone has heard of? Well, I suspect it’s because the publishers want to get in on that sweet, sweet adopted-by-a-million-school-systems money, but it’s closer to the original format, and might bring in new readers and…OK, why not?

That’s how I came to Peter Kuper’s adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s short novel Heart of Darkness , which has the usual quirkiness in its title common to adapted GNs. (It always reminds me of “Rod Torfulson’s Armada! Featuring Herman Menderchuck!” for a reference none of you will get.)

Kuper has a detailed, inky art style and goes in for fleshy, unpleasant faces a lot of the time, which are all strengths with this material. He also is adapting the story basically straight: it’s not transposed to the modern world and moved to another continent or “reversed” or anything like that. He even maintains the fussy frame-story element, though I’m unclear whether the benefits (believability, collegiality) of that ever outweighed the vast lost of immediacy.

Kuper’s introduction is about one-half process description and one half responding to Chinua Achebe’s mid-70s declaration that Heart is inherently racist and colonialist. Kuper disagrees with “inherently,” and emphasizes Conrad’s anti-colonialist credentials, but responding to that kind of criticism in his frontmatter tends to undermine the book. Remember: if you’re explaining, you’re losing. Kuper starts explaining, and explaining something he didn’t have to bring up in the first place, before the reader gets a chance to see the story itself. Afterwords, says Andy who is not actually the King of the World of Books despite his grandiose visions, is the place for material like that if you absolutely must include it.

Otherwise: this is Heart of Darkness. Marlowe goes upstream on a river the text does not name (but is clearly the Congo, and Kuper shows it as such on a map) in a continent equally unnamed (also put into clearer images by Kuper), first to be captain of a boat on that river but eventually to find the mysterious and central Mr. Kurtz. He tells this story to a group of others, including one who is officially our narrator, lounging on a boat in the estuary of another big river (the Thames) on another continent (Europe) that the text also pointedly does not name.

Kuper does his best to give the (entirely unnamed, mostly background) Black characters more stage business, agency, and importance here than exists in the raw text – this is their world, and the various fat, stupid, and greedy white people are invaders – but they’re not really part of Conrad’s story, so this is not always successful. They’re still scenery, even in Kuper’s version: there to make changes on white men, the ones worth telling stories about.

Achebe’s criticism is still valid: that’s what I’m saying. Kuper does what he can, and the story is not in favor of colonialism, but it’s still a hundred-year-old story by a white guy about another white guy going crazy from the jungle atmosphere.

But that’s Heart of Darkness. That’s the story. Kuper does a good job of retelling it, of moving all those Black people at least closer to the center of the story, but it’s still about one relatively good white man thrown into a milieu of horrible white men and going through a transformative journey to find the one iconic white man who embodies the place.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.