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REVIEW: Flash Crossover Crisis: Green Arrow’s Perfect Shot

REVIEW: Flash Crossover Crisis: Green Arrow’s Perfect Shot

Flash Crossover Crisis: Green Arrow’s Perfect Shot
By Barry Lyga
320 pages, Amulet Books, $13.99

I’ll stipulate upfront that Barry Lyga is an old pal from his days at Diamond Distributing. I’ve delighted to see him become a successful YA novelist and here, he brings his two worlds together in the latest of Amulet Books’ series of novels based on the CW shows. Lyga has been writing books based on The Flash, mining the show and the comics it is based on for a satisfying blend.

This novel is actually the first chapter that, as the title suggests, will involve not only Team Flash but Green Arrow, the Legends, and Supergirl. What could possibly require so much firepower? Well, let’s start with the arrival of speedster refugees from Earth-27 and their oppressors, the Crime Syndicate of America. Harassing the residents of that world is Anti-Matter Man (a one-off foe from the JLA-JSA team-up in Justice League of America #47-48), a seemingly mindless creation from the anti-matter universe of Qward.

See? You definitely need to know your DC lore to fully appreciate the Easter eggs scattered throughout the novel. Thankfully, Lyga pauses to explain al the television continuity references, especially as they relate to characters and previous episodes.

Now, if the CSA isn’t enough of a problem, Joe West and Dinah Drake, Black Canary, are on the hunt for crimes seemingly perpetrated by the Bug-Eyed Bandit, but they also encounter Irwin Schwab. Yes, Barry has managed to integrate Ambush Bug into the narrative and it makes the reader chuckle.

Readers need to pay close attention, because the story here and in his previous trilogy, are set in a splinter reality, one where Flashpoint didn’t happen so, for example, Dig’s child is still a girl. It’s a neat way to offer up the same flavor of adventure without messing with the still-evolving television continuity. The temporal mechanics of this splinter reality and it’s own multiverse may give you headache so best not to think too much about that but focus instead on the story.

There’s plenty of rising action, plenty of fighting with Ultraman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring, but what’s real interesting is the hidden, growing menace posed by Owlman. We get this through Earth-27’s James Jesse, who is not the Trickster, but deathly afraid of the costumed criminal.

If Lyga could have done anything differently, it would have been to to focus more on the characters, their personalities, and their interactions. He does this with Joe and Dinah but it just made me want to see more.

This YA novel is a good, easy read and if you enjoy the series its based on, then you’ll have a good time here. You can expect the second installment in 2020.

Unsurprisingly, these successful shows have inspired their own spin-off series in various forms, the latest being the Crossover Crisis trilogy by Barry Lyga. I was given a chance to have a look at the first book, The Flash Crossover Crisis: Green Arrow’s Perfect Shot, thanks to Abrams Books and its imprint responsible for the book series, Amulet.

So, as with everything else I’ve ever reviewed, let’s start with the design! I really like the way this book looks–it isn’t a graphic novel, it is a YA novel, but it has the pizzazz of a graphic novel. I learned that César Moreno, the cover illustrator, has an extensive background with producing covers and posters for comic book series, so it makes sense. He also has done the covers for several other The Flash series novels that Lyga has written, so he definitely knows his stuff.

The inside of this book seems as though it was put together just as carefully. Although the Flash has the big name on the cover, the inside of the cover is Green Arrow’s forest green. Every page of the actual story has a lightning bolt design, with the beginnings of chapters dominated by lightning bolts radiating from the chapter number. This is used to great effect during the climax of the book when the design is switched up a little (the normally white page is colored black, while the design and words still stand out in gray and against a white text box, respectively). The care in design is also evident in the “To be continued…” teaser page, where the lightning bolts rush across the page, as if the Flash has just run by, already onto his next adventure.

The book is set up in something of a comic book format: although it’s primarily in text, we still get things like “the story thus far” in the beginning, a teaser for the next volume, and so on. These are also nice touches and makes the book easier to pick up for readers new to or not very familiar with the Flash.

A strength the book has is easing readers into the Flash’s universe. I’m more familiar with the Flash in his animated ventures, so I appreciated the economic explanations for things that appeared to be tied in with both his and Green Arrow’s respective live-action shows. Towards the climax, there were a couple of new elements introduced quickly that I had trouble keeping up with, but not being too familiar with either live-action show, I’m not quite the target audience for this story. I imagine that a fan of the related shows wouldn’t have this problem at all.

Nonetheless, I found the story a fun venture–it really does feel like a comic put to text, keeping the usual vigor and excitement, with an unfolding mystery that I could imagine as a regular comic story very easily. It involves mirror universes overlapping, with different villains (who are seen as heroes in their brutish worlds and are identical to certain heroes in our Flash and Green Arrow’s world) appearing in Central City with the help of a dimensional rift, along with thousands of multiverse refugees. They are harbingers for even bigger troubles in both this and presumably later books in the trilogy.

The Flash and Green Arrow in Legends of Today

This isn’t the first time the heroes have lent each other a hand, either! (‘The Flash,’ “Legends of Today”)

Although that is more or less the main plot, there’s also a lot going on in B and C stories that also have to do with the alternate worlds interacting to some extent. The story never flags and it never feels overwhelming, either: it seems that, for the most part, action-heavy or high-tension moments are balanced with just as important, but more leisurely-paced chapters. Leisurely compared to the Flash’s normal pace, of course. To be honest, it’s what I would consider the “B” story–featuring Brie Larvan’s bees and her brother–that has me the most intrigued for the next two The Flash Crossover Crisis books. There’s something about those robo-bees! The multiverse villains also tease a bigger story that will come to a head for the patient that makes you want to stick with things, not to mention the book’s actual teaser which names Supergirl as a player in book two.

One thing I noticed and appreciated was that Lyga does not appear to talk down to his audience. The book is officially classified as YA by Abrams and Amulet Books. Sometimes this means that existing stories are repackaged and reduced to the simplest terms. Lyga does not seem to be afraid of challenging his target audience and regularly throws high school vocabulary in as well as high school math (to his credit, he takes the reader through the math as succinctly and clearly as one probably can, though it still filled me with dread because, you know, math). He is also great at presenting examples to explain these ideas, again, without talking down to the reader. He just nudges them along. It’s a hard thing to balance, but Lyga manages it.

Another upside–or possibly downside, depending on how you look at it–of this book is that I found it a relatively fast read. As I said earlier, I found it as vibrant as reading actual comics, and sat down with it in the same way, reading it in just two or three longish sessions. A recurring thought was that if the book was a comic, I would already be waiting for the next issue to continue the story. I was glad I didn’t have to wait for that! (Although, of course, I have to wait for the next book in the series.) The upside is that there are several other Flash books by Lyga to tide a reader over while waiting for the next The Flash Crossover Crisis, as well as a related Supergirl series by Jo Whittemore.

All in all, this was an enjoyable book that reminded me why I had liked the Flash so much when I was actively watching Justice League or other DC property-cartoons that featured him. Although the Green Arrow was also in these shows, I don’t recall paying much attention to him, and I now feel like I ought to go back and give him a fair shot; he seems like an interesting character as well.

I also think this would be a great book for reluctant readers, as well as regular readers in its target audience. As I said, I like that it doesn’t talk down to its target readers, and it’s exciting enough that I think readers won’t mind having to look up a few words or suss out a concept on their own. (I only hope that I’m not the one a kid asks about the math!)

The Flash Crossover Crisis: Green Arrow’s Perfect Shot by Barry Lyga will be hitting bookstore shelves on August 13. It is currently available for preorder.

Join Barry Allen, Oliver Queen, and the rest of Team Flash and Team Arrow in an all-new adventure from author Barry Lyga. Crossover Crisis: Green Arrow’s Perfect Shot is the first in a trilogy that finds our heroes facing a crisis that could end not just their universe, but all of them.

I have apparently been living under a rock for years, because I didn’t even know that there were books based on the DCTV CW shows; that was silly of me. Of course there are books based on those shows. I mean, even Teen Wolf had books. Anyway, the Crossover Crisis series will feature characters from The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow. Green Arrow’s Perfect Shot focuses primarily on Team Flash and Team Arrow and has a mystery in each city. In Star City, a serial bomber somehow connected to Brie Larvan is terrorizing the city, while in Central City, a dimensional breach has opened and thousands of refugees from Earth 27 are pouring through, fleeing Anti-Matter Man, who has rendered their planet uninhabitable.

Green Arrow’s Perfect Shot reads just like an episode of The Flash with one key difference – Flashpoint never happened. All of the characters are perfectly recognizable; I can picture them clearly and hear their voices in my head. There’s not a lot of introspection or exposition, but in a book like this where we already know the characters, they’re really not necessary, and I don’t think the book is lacking because of it.

The writing style is simple, and this is a quick, easy read, but it isn’t dumbed down. I imagine it’s much like reading a script for one of the shows. Also, as someone who is familiar with both shows but hasn’t watched in quite some time, I wasn’t lost or struggling to figure out who was who or what was going on. There is backstory peppered throughout, and for people who are caught up, it might seem a little redundant, but for someone like me, it was very helpful in allowing me to follow along. I really liked the story and am completely intrigued by the concept of the alternate timeline – I kind of hope that comes up at some point in the series.

Fans of The Flash and Arrow who are looking for more adventures with these characters will like this book. It was rather an enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to the next books in the series!

——-

Crossover Crisis: Green Arrow’s Perfect Shot by Barry Lyga is published by Amulet Books and is currently available wherever books are sold.

*I was provided with a copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

By Barry Lyga

320 pages, Amulet Books, $13.99

I’ll stipulate upfront that Barry Lyga is an old pal from his days at Diamond Distributing. I’ve delighted to see him become a successful YA novelist and here, he brings his two worlds together in the latest of Amulet Books’ series of novels based on the CW shows. Lyga has been writing books based on The Flash, mining the show and the comics it is based on for a satisfying blend.

This novel is actually the first chapter that, as the title suggests, will involve not only Team Flash but Green Arrow, the Legends, and Supergirl. What could possibly require so much firepower? Well, let’s start with the arrival of speedster refugees from Earth-27 and their oppressors, the Crime Syndicate of America. Harassing the residents of that world is Anti-Matter Man (a one-off foe from the JLA-JSA team-up in Justice League of America #47-48), a seemingly mindless creation from the anti-matter universe of Qward.

See? You definitely need to know your DC lore to fully appreciate the Easter eggs scattered throughout the novel. Thankfully, Lyga pauses to explain al the television continuity references, especially as they relate to characters and previous episodes.

Now, if the CSA isn’t enough of a problem, Joe West and Dinah Drake, Black Canary, are on the hunt for crimes seemingly perpetrated by the Bug-Eyed Bandit, but they also encounter Irwin Schwab. Yes, Barry has managed to integrate Ambush Bug into the narrative and it makes the reader chuckle.

Readers need to pay close attention, because the story here and in his previous trilogy, are set in a splinter reality, one where Flashpoint didn’t happen so, for example, Dig’s child is still a girl. It’s a neat way to offer up the same flavor of adventure without messing with the still-evolving television continuity. The temporal mechanics of this splinter reality and its own multiverse may give you headache so best not to think too much about that but focus instead on the story.

There’s plenty of rising action, plenty of fighting with Ultraman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring, but what’s real interesting is the hidden, growing menace posed by Owlman. We get this through Earth-27’s James Jesse, who is not the Trickster, but deathly afraid of the costumed criminal.

If Lyga could have done anything differently, it would have been to to focus more on the characters, their personalities, and their interactions. He does this with Joe and Dinah but it just made me want to see more.

This YA novel is a good, easy read and if you enjoy the series its based on, then you’ll have a good time here. You can expect the second installment in 2020.

Prey hits Homes and Theaters Sept. 27

Prey hits Homes and Theaters Sept. 27

LOS ANGELES, CA – [August 28, 2019] – Cinedigm Corp (NASDAQ: CIDM) has officially announced that it will release PREY, directed by Franck Khalfoun (Amityville: The Awakening), theatrically and on VOD September 27, 2019. From Hyde Park Entertainment, ImageNation and Blumhouse Productions, the terrifying thriller stars Logan Miller (Escape Room, “The Walking Dead”) and Kristine Froseth (Apostle) as two young strangers forced to run and fight for their lives against a mysterious and deadly force lurking deep in the jungle of a secluded island retreat.

Other members of the PREY ensemble include Jolene Anderson (Harrow), Jerrica Lai (Crazy Rich Asians), Phodisdo Dintwe (The Cul De Sac), Anthony Jensen (Nazi Overlord, The Gallows Act II) and Jody Mortara (Blood Relatives). PREY is written by David Coggeshall and Franck Khalfoun, and produced by Ashok Amritraj, Jason Blum, Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff. Executive Producers include Couper Samuelson, Jeanette Volturno, Alix Taylor, and Priya Amritraj.

For Blumhouse Productions, PREY marks the latest in a lengthy run of chilling films tailor-made to get under the skin of horror fans everywhere. With Blumhouse and Franck Khalfoun reuniting following the debut of 2017’s Amityville: The Awakening, Khalfoun has taken his signature, spine-tingling style and moved it from the iconic and creepy Long Island, New York locale to PREY’s perilous jungle island.

PREY will open in several major theatrical markets including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Orlando, Dallas and Houston.

Insight Editions offers up 2 GOT Books for the Holidays

Insight Editions offers up 2 GOT Books for the Holidays

The Photography of Game of Thrones®
Photography by Helen Sloan | Written by Michael Kogge

Enter the world of HBO’s global television phenomenon Game of Thrones with The Photography of Game of Thrones (Insight Editions | November 12, 2019 | $75.00)—the definitive photographic collection of the hit series.

This deluxe compendium features sumptuous photography from the making of HBO’s unparalleled hit show Game of Thrones. Offering a rare peek behind the scenes of one of the most popular and revered television shows of all time, The Photography of Game of Thrones gives fans an exclusive look at some of their favorite characters and moments in gorgeous detail.

The official principal Game of Thrones unit photographer, Helen Sloan, has compiled the most iconic shots from the acclaimed show. The best of her collection, along with the work of the unit photography team, is featured here. Bold and gorgeously crafted, The Photography of Game of Thrones captures in striking detail the scope and nuance of the show, celebrating a world of iconic characters, shocking moments, breathtaking locations, and much more.

The Photography of Game of Thrones
Written by Michael Koggee | Photography by Helen Sloan
Insight Editions | November 2019 | 9.75 in. × 13 in. | 320 pages
Art & Making
Hardcover | $75.00
ISBN: 978-1-68383-529-5

The Art of Game of Thrones®
Written by Jody Revenson and Deborah Riley

Filled with gorgeous illustrations and artwork from the HBO hit series, The Art of Game of Thrones (Insight Editions | November 2019 | $75.00) is the definitive Game of Thrones art collection.

Game of Thrones has been one of the most popular and successful television shows ever created. Beautifully crafted and presented in a deluxe, large format, these pages present a visual chronicle of the meticulous work done by artists to bring the world of Westeros to life on-screen.

Fans will recognize thrilling moments and stunning locations from the show. Showcasing a multitude of fascinating and beautifully rendered images and previously unpublished works of art, this collectible book contains the visual legacy of Game of Thrones and is a must-have for fans of the show.

The Art of Game of Thrones
Written by Jody Revenson and Deborah Riley
Insight Editions | November 2019 | 9.25 in. × 13 in. | 320 pages
Art & Making
Hardcover | $75.00
ISBN: 978-1-68383-533-2

Tone-Deaf Headed for Homes Oct. 22

Tone-Deaf Headed for Homes Oct. 22

It won’t be a quiet death when Tone-Deaf arrives on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital), DVD, and Digital October 22 from Lionsgate. This film is currently available On Demand. An entertaining, over-the-top genre bender, the home invasion thriller has been called “pure insanity” by Film Threat and was an official selection of SXSW 2019. The “unflinchingly brutal” (Boston Hassle) film stars Robert Patrick and Amanda Crew. Written and directed by Richard Bates, Jr., the Tone-Deaf Blu-ray and DVD will include a making-of featurette, and will be available for the suggested retail price of $21.99 and $19.98, respectively.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
After being dumped by both her boss and her boyfriend, Olive (Amanda Crew) flees the city for the weekend and rents an ornate country house from an old-fashioned widower named Harvey (Robert Patrick). She’s hoping for a few days of peace. What she gets is a weekend of sheer terror, as Olive awakens Harvey’s darkest urges—and is plunged into a blood-soaked fight for her life.

BLU-RAY / DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
• “The Struggle Is Real: Making Tone-Deaf” Featurette

CAST
Robert Patrick Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The X-Files, True Blood
Amanda Crew Silicon Valley

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 2018
Title Copyright: Tone-Deaf © 2019 Yodo Film, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Artwork & Supplementary Materials © 2019 Saban Films LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Type: Theatrical Release
Rating: R for violence, language throughout, sexual content and some drug use
Genre: Thriller
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH
Feature Run Time: 88 minutes
Blu-ray Format: 1080p High Definition 16×9 2.39:1 Presentation
DVD Format: 16×9 2.39:1 Presentation
Blu-ray Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio™
DVD Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio

UK Fans can Aim for Dead Center Oct. 11

UK Fans can Aim for Dead Center Oct. 11

ARROW FILMS is pleased to make available the International trailer for THE DEAD CENTER, the brand-new thriller from “a masterful new voice in terror” (Nerdist), Billy Senese, director of the acclaimed A Frankenstein Story. Helmed by genre stalwart Shane Carruth, the creator of Primer and Upstream Color, THE DEAD CENTER is a unique tale of existential terror that explores the demons that live inside of all of us. The film features exceptional supporting performances from Jeremy Childs (Preacher) and Poorna Jagannathan (Big Little Lies).

In further news, ARROW FILMS is also delighted to announce that they have acquired world-wide rights to the film. Fran Simeoni, Arrow’s Director of Content and Distribution, had this to say:

“We have had a fantastic experience working on THE DEAD CENTER with Billy, from the trade and critical response to fans and our own enjoyment of building the campaign and assets. It’s always a gift to be able to work on films you enjoy and that offer so many opportunities and this has been a pleasure to do so in collaboration with Billy. To extend our investment on the film to a global level was the next logical step and we look forward to bringing the film to more audiences.”

Director / Producer Billy Senese adds:

“My relationship with Arrow began with them acquiring the rights to my film, THE DEAD CENTER, in a few of the larger territories. But as we worked closely together on the release, I knew I was in the right place. It was a natural transition to lock in a worldwide deal with them. They’ve shown a true investment in my film. Not only with the money side of things, but with their time and care. They are curators. As a filmmaker, this is very important to me. Being with Arrow has been a great partnership, and I look forward to our upcoming release.”

The Dead Center will be released in UK and US Cinemas, and on 4k Digital HD, on October 11, 2019 and available to buy on DVD & Blu-ray from October 14. Pre-order the Blu-ray here: http://bit.ly/DEADCENTER.

SYNOPSIS
WHEN JOHN DOE ROSE FROM THE DEAD, HE BROUGHT SOMETHING BACK.

When a very dead suicide victim (Jeremy Childs, Preacher, Nashville) disappears from the morgue, it sets in motion a chain of events that has the power to immolate everything, and everyone, it touches.

Troubled psychiatrist Daniel Forrester (Shane Carruth, Primer, Upstream Color) is drawn to help a mysterious patient who is brought to the emergency psych ward in a catatonic state with no memory of how he reached the hospital. As if to exorcise his own demons, the doctor feverishly tries to break through to his mysterious patient. But as a spate of mysterious deaths shake the ward to its core, Forrester comes to suspect that there is more to his new ward than meets the eye. As he comes to realize what he’s unleashed, a desperate race against the forces of evil threatens to swallow him whole.

The Dead Center is a smart supernatural thriller that explores the demons that live inside all of us from writer-director Billy Senese, recently hailed as a “masterful new voice in terror” (Nerdist).

PRODUCT INFORMATION

Runtime: 93 mins approx. (DVD and BD)

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray™ presentation
• 5.1 DTS-HD master audio and lossless stereo audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Commentary with writer-director Billy Senese, producer-actor Shane Carruth and co-star Jeremy Childs
• Commentary with writer-director Billy Senese, producers Denis Deck and Jonathan Rogers, and cinematographer Andy Duensing
• A Walk Through The Dead Center, an in-depth making-of documentary featuring new interviews with writer-director Billy Senese, producer-actor Shane Carruth, cinematographer Andy Duensing, and many others revisiting the locations and discussing the production
• Nine deleted scenes, including an alternate ending
• On-set interviews with actors Shane Carruth and Poorna Jagannathan
• Head-Casting with Jeremy Childs, a brief look at the creation of the make-up effects seen in the climax of the film
• Intruder, a short film from 2011 directed by Billy Senese and starring Jeremy Childs
• The Suicide Tapes, the original short film from 2010 directed by Senese and starring Childs that later inspired The Dead Center
• Midnight Radio Theater, six chilling radio plays (“Insomnia”, “The Long Weekend”, “Disposable Life”, “The Suicide Tapes”, “The Woman In The Basement”, “Blood Oath”, “Flu”) written, produced and directed by Billy Senese
• Theatrical trailer and teasers
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jamie Graham

Vikings Season 5 Part 2 Storms Homes Oct. 8

Vikings Season 5 Part 2 Storms Homes Oct. 8

From Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment comes VIKINGS: SEASON 5 VOLUME 2, which will debut on Blu-rayTM and DVD October 8. Catch up on the latest of the popular franchise before the new season premieres later this year and enjoy special features including extended and unrated episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentary with series creator Michael Hirst and Vikings star Gustaf Skarsgard.
 
As the explosive second half of Vikings Season Five begins, Ivar the Boneless’ tyrannical reign as king of Kattegat ushers in a new Dark Age for Scandinavia. And while Bjorn and Lagertha flee Ivar’s murderous forces with Bishop Heahmund, Duke Rollo’s return brings even more upheaval. Meanwhile, Floki battles the elements-as well as his settlers’ thirst for revenge-in beautiful, desolate Iceland. Ultimately, the sons of Ragnar and old sworn enemies must become allies to challenge the despot Ivar, who has declared himself a god. The gut-wrenching action and dramatic plot twists reach a fever pitch as the season unfolds.
 
Vikings is an international Irish/Canadian co-production by World 2000 and Take 5 Productions. HISTORY broadcasts the series domestically in the U.S. MGM Television brought the series to the network and brings the series to the global audience, serving as the worldwide distributor outside of Ireland and Canada. Vikings is produced in association with Corus Entertainment.
 
Vikings: Season 5 Volume 2 Blu-ray™ Bonus Features:

  • Extended Versions of All 10 Episodes
  • The Creator’s Audio Commentary with Michael Hirst and Actor Gustaf Skarsgard 
  • The Epic War of Ragnar’s Sons 
  • The King and the Warrior Bishop
  • Deleted Scenes

Vikings: Season 5 Volume 2 DVD Bonus Features:

  • Extended Versions Only of All 10 Episodes (does not contain broadcast episodes)
  • The Creator’s Audio Commentary with Michael Hirst and Actor Gustaf Skarsgard 
  • The Epic War of Ragnar’s Sons 
  • The King and the Warrior Bishop
  • Deleted Scenes

 
Vikings: Season 5 Volume 2 Blu-ray™ Specifications
Street Date:         October 8, 2019
Run Time:           444 minutes
Audio:                 English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Subtitles:             English SDH, Spanish, French
Aspect Ratio:      Widescreen 1.78:1
 
Vikings: Season 5 Volume 2 DVD Specifications
Street Date:         October 8, 2019
Run Time:           444 minutes
Audio:                 English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:             English SDH, Spanish, French
Aspect Ratio:      Widescreen 1.78:1

I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner of War in Stalag IIB, Vol. 1 by Tardi

I probably should say this first: this book is titled I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner of War in Stalag IIB, Vol. 1 . And it’s credited to “Tardi.”

One might easily assume “Tardi” means “Rene Tardi,” the chap who was a POW. But one would be wrong.

Rene died in 1986, and never drew comics. (There are some of his sketches in the frontmatter here, so I don’t want to say he didn’t draw anything. He could draw better than me, for one thing.)

This “Tardi” is his son Jacques, who originally used both of those names for his bandes dessinees until the weight of all of those other French cartoonists who only use one name got to be too much for him, and he succumbed to the lure of the single moniker.

Even in a case, like this one, where that creates confusion. Style is more important than anything else, eh mes amis?

Rene POW is a 2012 comic — translated into English for a 2018 publication in the US — based on a series of notebooks that Jacques made during conversations with his father in the early ’80s. One may presume that he had the idea for this book even then; Jacques Tardi had been a working cartoonist for over a decade at that point. But it took a few more decades for him to get around to it, during years when he told stories about The Great War and Paris detectives and Adele Blanc-Sec and American crime and steampunky super-science and many more.

For a book that claims to be a memoir of WWII, Rene POW has some very odd elements. It starts off with an introduction by Dominique Grange, which is mostly about her father and only secondarily about Rene Tardi. Somewhat later in the book, the reader realizes that Grange is Jacques Tardi’s wife, but the book does not explain this explicitly anywhere. In honor of that connection, Rene meets Grange’s father in that POW camp later in the book — they didn’t actually meet then in real life, or at least didn’t remember it.

And then the book itself is framed as Rene telling the story to Jacques. Rene looks like he did at the time of the war, a strong, angry young man in his uniform, and he narrates the book — sometimes as a voice coming out of nowhere, sometimes as his young self in the scene. And then Jacques appears as a schoolboy, maybe ten or thirteen, who wanders through the scenes without being part of them, questioning his father in words that mostly seem to be post-Rene’s death but sometimes do turn into a conversation between the two men.

So this is neither exactly what Rene wrote nor a true collaboration between the two. It is instead based on notes made while Rene was alive, but full of questions and second thoughts that Jacques only had after his father was dead. But that’s the only way to collaborate with the dead: to take everything they did and said, and present it as honestly as possible, while also pointing out the things they didn’t do or say.

POW life in WWII was horrible, and the French had it nearly the worst. (The Russians probably had it the absolute worst, and the Americans probably the “best.”) Rene Tardi was in Stalag IIB for basically the entire war; he was captured just as France fell. So he has a long time of horrible events to cover here, and they are horrible and unpleasant and full of hideous details.

This is not quite as searing as Tardi’s books about World War One; this book is about his own father, who survived the war. But it’s still a war story, and it’s a reminder of how much war destroys — not just the people who are killed and the cities that are flattened, but also what’s broken in even the people who survive.

[1] Completely unconnected footnote: I realized, when putting together this post, that I don’t have a snarky tag for France. (England has There Will Always Be An England , for example, but I tend to use the vaguer Foreigners Sure Are Foreign  for the whole rest of the world, which may not be the best plan.) My first thought, since my tags tend to be super-sarcastic and borderline obnoxious, was Wogs Begin at Calais, but that’s vastly too offensive.

So, instead, I’m creating the slightly less offensive new tag 246 Kinds of Cheese, in honor of De Gaulle. I trust you will treat this with exactly as much seriousness as it deserves.

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

REVIEW: Lego Batman: Family Matters

REVIEW: Lego Batman: Family Matters

There seems to be no end to Lego films featuring pop culture’s greatest heroes and villains. Out now from Warner Home Entertainment is Lego Batman: Family Matters, featuring the Caped Crusader (Troy Baker), Robin (Scott Menville), Nightwing (Will Friedle), Batgirl (Alyson Stoner), and Batwoman (Tara Strong) facing off against the Red Hood (Jason Spisak), Scarecrow (Steve Blum), Wizard ((Ralph Garman), Penguin (Tom Kenny), Killer Croc (Nolan North), Riddler (André Sogliuzzo), Solomon Grundy (Fred Tatasclore) and Two-Face (Christian Lanz). What more could a kid want?

The movie is released in numerous packages but the target viewer will want the Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD combo pack with the bonus Mini Ultimate Batmobiel (84 pieces).

Writer Jeremy Adams takes Under the Red Hood and modifies it for the younger audience. Given the title, you know there will be a lot of focus on the Batman Family, and these are the best moments in the 79-minute production. The action is fine, but overall, it’s a so-so production compared with the fresh, cheeky previous productions.

There are quips, asides, breaking the fourth wall, but it all feels too familiar. The story, directed by Matt Peters, moves along fine enough, but just doesn’t excite the viewer.

The movie looks fine in Blu-ray, at the 16×9 aspect ratio, with good colors and crisp images. The Dolby Digital soundtrack is up to the match, capturing the colorful biffs and pows. There are no special features given the target audience’s obvious lack of interest in such content.

Mix Picks: Mountainhead #1

Up in the corner of every IDW cover, the corporate brand image has been temporarily modified to help celebrate the company’s (impressive) 20 years in business. The iconic IDW lightbulb icon implies a level of creativity and fresh ideas. And their new comic Mountainhead lives up to that – it’s fresh, different and gripping.

This series starts out telling the story of the Stubbs family – a father and son team who are always on the run and living off the grid. They break into houses and burglarize them.  It’s not quite as straightforward as all that, though. One key tenet of their modus operandi is to not get sucked into the never-ending messaging of our consumer-focused society.  The father reminds the son, Abraham, during a break-in, that “it’s all just stuff”.   Additionally, the father reinforces the concept of not defining oneself by one’s possessions.   That’s a great message, but when Abraham comes a across an electric guitar, the reader can see it gets more difficult to hang onto these highfalutin ideals.

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