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New Images from  Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two

New Images from Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two

There are new faces aplenty, and one notable (masked) face missing, as the plot continues to unfold in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the feature-length animated Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two will be distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital starting July 27, 2021, and on Blu-ray beginning August 10, 2021. 

The four new images from the film are:

Poison Ivy takes command of Gotham City’s criminal forces – and Bruce Wayne’s mind – as Batman: The Long Halloween

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, Part Two begins. Katee Sackhoff (The Mandalorian, Battlestar Galactica) provides the voice of Poison Ivy. 

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two could be subtitled “Rise of the Villains” as most of Gotham City’s rogues’ gallery joins the fracas – including Mad Hatter and Scarecrow. Voiceover superstars John DiMaggio (Futurama, Batman: Under the Red Hood) and Robin Atkin Downes (The Strain, Constantine: City of Demons) provide the voices of Mad Hatter and Scarecrow, respectively.

Laila Berzins
A new Falcone comes to the table as Carmine “The Roman” Falcone’s daughter Sofia arrives for  Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two. Laila Berzins (Genshin Impact) gives voice to Sofia, and Titus Welliver (Bosch) voices Carmine.

Batman is conspicuous in his absence as the mob wars and the influx of classic villains dominate the news in Gotham City. District Attorney Harvey Dent (voiced by Josh Duhamel) and Police Commissioner James Gordon (Billy Burke) lament their missing colleague while hoping the Batsignal will finally get his attention early in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two.

Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms hits Disc Aug. 31

Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms hits Disc Aug. 31

BURBANK, CA – The fate of the universe once again hangs in the balance as warriors come together for one final clash in Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, an all-new, feature-length film produced by Warner Bros. Animation in coordination with NetherRealm Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The film arrives from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack on August 31, 2021.

Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms will be available on Blu-ray (US $29.98 SRP; Canada $39.99 SRP) and 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (USA $39.99 SRP; Canada $44.98 SRP) and Digital. The Blu-ray features a Blu-ray disc with the film in hi-definition and a digital version of the movie. The 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc in 4K with HDR, a Blu-ray disc featuring the film in hi-definition, and a digital version of the movie. Pre-orders will be available for the Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack beginning June 28, 2021, and for Digital starting on July 8, 2021.

Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms picks up shortly after the explosive finale of Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge, the 2020 blockbuster hit that initiated these animated films – which are based on one of the most popular videogame franchises in history. In Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, our team of heroes are besieged by the enemy forces of Shao Kahn – forcing Raiden and his group of warriors into a deal to compete in a final Mortal Kombat that will determine the fate of the realms. Now our heroes must travel to Outworld in order to defend Earthrealm and, simultaneously, Scorpion must find the ancient Kamidogu before it’s used to resurrect the One Being – which would mean certain destruction of all things in the universe. Time is short and the stakes are high in this action-packed continuation of the Mortal Kombat journey.

Joel McHale (Community, Stargirl) and Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) return to their lead roles as Hollywood star-turned-fighter Johnny Cage and all-business warrior Sonya Blade, respectively. Also returning for the sequel are Jordan Rodrigues (Lady Bird, The Fosters) as Liu Kang; Patrick Seitz (Mortal Kombat X, Aggretsuko, Naruto: Shippuden) as Scorpion & Hanzo Hasashi; Artt Butler (Her, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) as Shang Tsung & Cyrax; Robin Atkin Downes (The Strain, Batman: The Killing Joke) as Shinnok & Reiko; Dave B. Mitchell (Mortal Kombat 11, Call of Duty franchise) as Raiden, Kintaro & Sektor; Ikè Amadi (Mass Effect 3, Mortal Kombat 11) as Jax Briggs & One Being; Grey Griffin (The Loud House, Young Justice, Scooby-Doo franchise) as Kitana, Satoshi Hasashi & Mileena; and Fred Tatasciore (Robot Chicken, Family Guy) as Shao Kahn.

New to the Mortal Kombat Legends voice cast are Matthew Mercer (Critical Role, Justice Society: World War II) as Stryker & Smoke; Bayardo De Murguia (Tiny Pretty Things) as Sub-Zero/Kuai Liang; Matt Yang King (Mortal Kombat 11 video game, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five) as Kung Lao; Paul Nakauchi (Carmen Sandiego, Overwatch) as Lin Kuei Grandmaster; Emily O’Brien (Days of Our Lives, Constantine: City of Demons) as Jade; Debra Wilson (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, MADtv) as D’Vorah.

Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms is directed by Ethan Spaulding (Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge, Batman: Assault on Arkham) from a script by Jeremy Adams (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II) and based on the videogame created by Ed Boon and John Tobias. Rick Morales (Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, Batman vs. Two-Face) is Producer. Jim Krieg (Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) is Producer. Executive Producer is Sam Register. Ed Boon (NetherRealm Studios) is Creative Consultant.

Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms Special Features

Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital

  • The God and the Dragon: Battling for Earthrealm (Featurette)Go behind the scenes and inside the creative process of bringing Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms to action-packed life on screen.
  • Voices of Kombat (Featurette)Join Joel McHale , Jennifer Carpenter, and the cast as they detail the process of creating unique and compelling voices for the larger than life characters in the film.
  • Kombat Gags: Gag Reel (Featurette)Step inside the VO booth with the cast of the film for all of the flubbed lines and outrageously improvised lines from the cutting room floor.
  • Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms Audio Commentary (Audio Only)Producer Rick Morales and Screenwriter Jeremy Adams take the audience inside the art of writing and animating the film in this feature length audio commentary.

Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms will also be available on Movies Anywhere. Using the free Movies Anywhere app and website, consumers can access all their eligible movies by connecting their Movies Anywhere account with their participating digital retailer accounts.

BASICS

Blu-ray – $29.98 USA, $39.99 Canada

4K UHD Combo Pack – $39.99 USA, $44.98 Canada

Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray Languages: French, German, Latin-Spanish, English

Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray Subtitles: Dutch, French, Latin-Spanish, English-SDH, German – SDH

Running Time: 80 minutes

R for strong bloody violence throughout and some language.

REVIEW:  Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

REVIEW: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Reviewing any adaptation requires two trains of thought: is it a good representation of the source material, and is it a good story standing on its own. Frankly, I don’t play video games or watch much animation these days, so in watching the 4K Ultra HD release of Sony’s 2005 Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, I had to view it as a story only.

I do know how wildly successful and popular the Final Fantasy franchise has been through the years and apparently this seventh iteration was a real big deal once upon a time. So

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, I’m told the film begins where the game left off which means it has to recap enough for those, like me, new to this, and fast enough so as not to bore the diehard fans.

Apparently, the film left something to be desired and the 100-minute film was beefed up with more material and it’s this “Complete” version we have, now running 2 hours 6 minutes. That’s a good thing since this takes some getting used to. Apparently, the evil Sephiroth tried to suck the soul out of the planet, only to be defeated by Cloud Strife, but not before the major city of Midgar was destroyed. Now, two years have passed and our protagonist is asked to aid the world once more in defeating the antagonist, who has managed to send his spirit into the terrible trio of Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo.

There’s fighting, magic, meaningful exchanges, and action. Does it make a whole lot of sense to someone new to the franchise? No, not really. Too many elements show up without context so it’s a nicely produced CGI animated feature that doesn’t work for outsiders. Watching it can feel endless for those not in the know and for those familiar with the franchise, I’[m told this is a very strong, successful entry.

The film is released in a combo pack containing the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital HD code. The anime CGI animation is quite strong with striking visuals. The 4K version is stronger than the Blu-ray, especially with the color grading, but both have a relatively weak source material to work from given the film came out 15 years ago. As a result, there are some transfer issues, more notable in the Blu-ray than the 4K so it’s nice to have both. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Japanese track is excellent, superior to the English track.

This is not exactly the prettiest movie ever made considering the inherent source flaws, the animation detail which is well below modern standards, and the bleak color spectrum content, but Sony appears to have done everything within its power to make this look as good as it can. Mild adds to sharpness and a fairly good HDR color grading run have improved the look of the movie a good bit over Blu-ray but do be aware that the steady stream of aliasing remains for the duration.

There are no new features, but the 2009 Blu-ray release’s special features carry over intact. These include Legacy of Final Fantasy VII (6:38);  Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII (23:55); Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII Compilation (29:43); On the Way to a Smile-Episode: Denzel (28:07), an OVA focusing Denzel, set between the game and the film; Sneak Peek at Final Fantasy XIII (7:12); five trailers for Advent Children Complete.

REVIEW: Batman: The Long Halloween Part 1

REVIEW: Batman: The Long Halloween Part 1

Warner Animation has been more miss than hit when adapting long comic book serials into a 90 minute or less feature film. Thankfully, they finally learned the lesson and are adapting Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s thirteen-part Batman: The Long Halloween into two films. The first part is out tomorrow and I am quite pleased with it.

The overarching plot has to do with the serial murders of people connected to crime boss Carmine Falcone (Titus Welliver) as the triumvirate of Commissioner Gordon (Billy Burke), District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel), and Batman (Jensen Ackles) all occurring on holidays. The hunt of the Holiday killer propels events as each attempt to thwart the next killing fails, leaving the good guys reeling and Falcone scared.

Set early in Batman’s career, a recurring theme is his lack of skill and experience as a detective. This is hammered a little too hard and neglects the years Bruce Wayne spent training before returning to Gotham City to assume the guise of the Dark Knight.

The adaptation

, written by Tim Sheridan and nicely directed by Chris Palmer, is more faithful than its predecessors while still modifying events, none of which are objectionable. There is a lot of duality seeded throughout but my favorite are the subplots contrasting the marriage of Jim and Barbara (Amy Landecker) Gordon (complete with young Babs and James Junior) with that of Harvey and Gilda (Julie Nathanson) Dent. Another nice touch is the stirring romance between the bat and the cat, as Selina Kyle (Naya Rivera) gets more screen time.

Loeb has a formula for Batman stories which started here, stretching out a story to ensure each key member of the rogues’ gallery gets used to help spur sales. But, as we see so many of them locked up in Arkham Asylum, it feels overstuffed considering where we are in the Caped Crusader’s career. And the extended use of the Joker (Troy Baker) begins to feel like padding, slowing the actual mystery. Instead, I would have preferred seeing more of Gordon and Batman sifting through the clues with Julian Day (David Dastmalchian), better know as Calendar Man.

An interesting point is raised that the Gotham underworld is under attack, not from Holiday, but from the increasing number of crazed villains drawn to the city or its protector.

The suspects are nicely given their moments, notably Carmine’s son Alberto (Jack Quaid) and rival Sal Maroni (Jim Pirri). Others are mentioned but we don’t get to them until part two. Speaking of which, we end the film on a fine note, not a cliffhanger, but questions left to solve and the viewer eager for part two, scheduled for digital download on July 27 and on disc August 10.

The look is wonderfully atmospheric and the thick outlines of the characters actually work given the subject matter. The action sequences are thankfully not overblown and the Batmobile gets some nice moments. All of this is well-supported by Michael Gatt’s score.

The movie is out on Blu-ray and Digital HD and looks just terrific on disc, with a good, solid color scheme, and no obvious errors. The key extra contained on the disc is the most disappointing DC Showcase offering of the lot. Sheridan utterly fails in adapting The Losers, a collection of World War II heroes who lost their solo strips. Rather than give us an interesting, character-based story about heroism and loss during the war, we get the trite visit to Dinosaur Island. Captain Storm, Johnny Cloud, Gunner, Sarge, and Pooch are joined by the token Henry “Mile-a-Minute” Jones, and the Chinese Special Agent Fan Long. It’s such a wasted opportunity.

Sadly, there is nothing else of note other than the obligatory Sneak Peek of Batman: The Long Halloween – Part Two (9:10). The disc is rounded out with From the Vault – Batman: The Animated Series: “It’s Never Too Late” (22:24).

The Man Without Talent by Yoshiharu Tsuge

It’s fascinating the way that art comics are similar across vastly different cultures, the same way adventure comics are. (“OK, there are these guys, with crazy powers, wearing colorful clothes, and they fight!”) If I were being saturnine, I’d say something like “it’s almost like we’re all human beings.”

The Man Without Talent  is almost forty years old, by the Japanese man Yoshiharu Tsuge, and it could almost have been made by Joe Matt last decade. Oh, sure, the cultural signifiers would be all wrong, but the core of the story, the one man who just doesn’t want to do anything, is remarkably similar.
Man Without Talent is a series of six linked stories about the former manga-ka Sukezo Sukegawa, who now tries to make a living selling stones next to the Tama River – stones that he found in that river. It’s a quixotic pursuit, but we soon learn Suzeko has been through several of them already: fixing and selling cameras, being an antiques dealer, a crazy dream to build a toll footbridge. All of this is to avoid making more comics, which are both harder work and barely remunerative to begin with. (Suzeko is not much in demand as a comics-maker, he complains, but he actually has established contacts there, so it’s hard to see that would be a worse career option than the ones he actually chooses.)
Suzeko has a wife and a young child; the three of them seem to have no other family in the world, no strong connections. One of the stories tells of a “vacation” – to a lousy, cheap hot springs, combined with a mostly-failed attempt to find rocks in another river – where they specifically say that they don’t have anyone else in the world: no parents or siblings, whether alive or near or what, and no close friends. They exist on the margins of society, in the company of a loose group of similar people – shop-owners one step above beggars, men who salvage random junk for a living, rock dealers, and other oddballs.
What all of these people have in common, which is only lightly commented on, is a distaste for the bustle and forcefulness and go-getter pace of modern life, of urban living. They want to be left alone, to do not much, and to just get by. So they mostly do.
Yoshiharu Tsuge’s own life is very close to Suzeko’s – this is the kind of story where the reader is expected to understand that Suzeko is not Tsuge…but that he’s not Tsuge in a mostly technical, official sense. This edition has a long essay about Tsuge by the translator, Ryan Homberg, which notes that Tsuge has not produced any comics – or, apparently, done work of any kind, since this book was published in 1987. So, in a way, Suzeko did win: he got what he was looking for. I doubt that made him happy: Suzeko is not someone made with the capacity for much happiness.
Man Without Talent is an art comic, and one from a culture on the other side of the planet from me. So it is quiet, and elliptical, and filled with details of a culture I know only from other works of art. Anyone willing to spend the time, and with an inclination to find the slacker life worth examining, will find this deep and resonant. The only real criticism I could make of it is that the text is all typeset in a very obvious font; comics don’t need to have hand-lettering, but their letters should look like individual effort went into them.

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

Ascender, Vol. 1: The Haunted Galaxy by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

So I was, to put it mildly, not happy with the way Descender ended . I knew that there was a sequel to that series — this is it, Ascender — but I figured I would not be coming back after writer Jeff Lemire set up a Backswing Fantasy larger than any seen previously. (Larger both in the backswinginess and the fantasy: this is full-bore dragon-starship goofiness here.)

But the local library had a copy of Ascender, Vol. 1: The Haunted Galaxy , and that last Descender volume was literally the only time I’d read a Jeff Lemire comic and not really enjoyed it, so I thought I should give it a chance.

I tend to suspect the Descender/Ascender transition was the plan all along, since Ascender is not so much a thematic riff on Descender, or another story set in the “same” (vastly changed) universe, but a flat-out pure sequel. The main character of Ascender is Mila, the roughly nine-year-old daughter of Andy and Effie from Descender, and the main action of this volume is Andy and Mila running away from danger to get to another character we recognize from the previous volumes.

That is to say: you could start here, but starting here is not the point, and not the expectation. This is for people who read Descender. (And that makes me think, with my old fantasy-editor hat on, that this will want to be a trilogy eventually — what would that make the merged science/fantasy galaxy’s story? Leveler?)

You may have also noticed that Bandit, the robot dog, is on the cover along with Mila, so mentioning it shouldn’t be a spoiler. His arrival sets in motion the plot, which so far is running on the same kind of rails as Descender, with two cases of “that person has got to be dead” already showed prominently, one immediately subverted and the other obviously going in a very specific direction. It’s all a bit lazy and obvious, I’m sorry to say.

In related news, the Big Bad is a vampire queen named Mother – I guess it’s positive that she’s of the old and morbidly fat style of evil vampires, not the slim and seductive type? – who is the latest in a centuries-long series of vampire queens who apparently immigrated in from some other universe between the end of Descender and this book. (Seriously, there’s nowhere in the universe shown in Descender they could have been. I’ll buy “the universe flipped to magic, and now we have vampires!” but not “oh, and they’re centuries old, because they were actually .”) She is casually cruel to her underlings and rules the galaxy with a bloated fist, because of course she does, and she somehow did all this in less than a decade.

There are Rebels

, because any Star Wars-inspired story worth its salt has to have them, and they are obviously the good guys. Mila will join them, eventually, but probably not until book three – my guess is that she meets them in passing in book two, maybe with her keepers at the time getting into a violent disagreement with the Rebels, and then that has to be papered over later. The Rebels have a secret Sorcerer leader, whom the evil vampire queen is of course insane to find and kill, but said sorcerer does not seem to be actually good enough at the sorcery thing to make the Rebels any kind of match for the Forces of Evil.

(Oh, and the sorcerer is almost certainly a robot. My money is on Tim-21, but it’s definitely not going to be a new character. I expect his big reveal will be at the end of one of the volumes: maybe two, more likely three.)

Ascender looks wonderful, moves quickly, and is full of action, adventure, and vigor. It’s also hugely derivative and barely exists as a thing of its own, being a Descender remix by DJ Star Wars using beats from several hundred years of generic horror. I may read more of it, if I can keep getting it from the library, but I’ll be damned if I’ll spend money on this.

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

The Law Is A Ass #541: I Don’t Care How Many Times You Repeat the Adjective, The West Wasn’t That Wild

The Law Is A Ass #451: I Don’t Care How Many Times You Repeat the Adjective, The West Wasn’t That Wild

Night of the Skulls

I watched an old episode of The Wild Wild West the other day; well duh, there haven’t been any new episodes in decades. It was “The Night of the Skulls”, in which James West, intrepid Secret Service agent during the U.S. Grant administration and our hero, shot and killed his intrepid Secret Service partner, Artemus Gordon. And that was just in the teaser.

Now don’t worry (not that I was worried about any of you being worried; I wasn’t, because I knew you weren’t), we learned at the beginning of the episode’s first act that Artie was still alive. We learned this, because Artemus Gordon, master of disguise, was posing as the minister at his own funeral and Jim went to it to confer with Artie. It seems Jim had pretended to kill Artie to attract the attention of The Skulls, a secret league of assassins, so that he could infiltrate them and learn what they were up to. (To what they were up? Up to what they were? What say we just ignore that silly rule?) (There, I’ve always wanted to end a sentence with a proposition.)

Jim accomplished his goal. By the end of that funeral scene, the Skulls had spirited Jim away from the funeral in their personal and modified hearse. How the Skulls knew Jim was going to be present while they were planting Artie in the dirt I don’t know. I thought criminals returned to the scene of the crime, not the scene of the grime.

But spirit Jim away

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, they did. Soon he was standing before the Skulls. Including its leader who wore a mask to conceal his identity. I don’t know why he bothered. As soon as that earlier funeral scene went out of its way to introduce Stephen Fenlow, a United States Senator described as being fairly new to Washington, the identity of the Skulls’ mysterious leader was more obvious than the murderer in a Columbo episode.

Senator Fenlow had assembled a league of assassins with eight members. He then set them against each other in a kill-or-be-killed contest until only three assassins were left. Fenlow presumed the survivors would be the best assassins of the group so the best people to participate in the next part of Fenlow’s plan, a coordinated strike that would kill the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State. Then Senator Fenlow would offer himself up to a country that was suddenly without a leader as a replacement President and be accepted as leader by acclamation.

Other than the fact that it would have meant that the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State all had to die, I almost wish that Jim and Artie had let Fenlow get away with his plot. If only so that we could have seen his face when he learned that he had wasted his and our time with a scheme that was so far from best-laid that it had ganged agley before it even started. Fenlow, you see, would have needed to kill a lot more people in order to become President.

It may surprise you to know that the United States Constitution has a provision for what happens if the President and Vice President both die. It shouldn’t surprise you, but it may. So in case it does, let me state that Article II, § 1, Clause 6 of the United States Constitution authorizes Congress to declare who should act as President should the President and Vice President both be unable to serve in the office. Under the aegis of this provision, Congress has passed three Presidential Succession Acts: the Presidential Succession act of 1792, the Presidential Succession Act of 1886, and the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.

The Wild Wild West took place during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant served as President from March 4, 1869 until March 4, 1877. So the Presidential Succession Act of 1792 would have been the one in force during his terms in office. Under the Presidential Succession Act of 1792, the line of succession was Vice President, President pro tempore of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, then the members of the Cabinet in the order that the departments over which they presided were created. (This would be Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, and downward until you reached the lower levels of successor that ABC plumbed for Designated Survivor.)

Did you see the thing that made Senator Fenlow’s plan even more stupid that it seemed at first blush? (And that first blush was the type you’d get when you realized your dream that you were addressing an auditorium full of people while nude wasn’t a dream.) Under his plan, Fenlow would have killed the wrong people.

After killing the President and Vice President, he needed to kill the President pro tem of the Senate, not the Secretary of State, because the President pro tem was next in the succession line. Even if Fenlow had successfully killed the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State, no one would have acclaimed him President, because the next successor, the President pro tem, was still alive and kicking and would have kicked Fenlow out of contention.

Moreover, even if Fenlow killed the right three people, he would have had to kill a lot more people (the Speaker of the House and then the entire Cabinet) before the country could, or would, have turned itself over to some silly junior senator. Especially a silly junior senator who didn’t even understand the workings of the government he wanted to preside over well enough to know the presidential line of succession.

Maybe Fenlow shouldn’t have had all his candidates kill each other. Then he would have had a few more assassins to kill more of the successors who stood between him and the presidency. Of course. Not all of them, but some. Fenlow never had enough assassins to kill everyone that stood between him and his becoming President. It seems that when it comes to the question of who should replace the President, the United States believes that nothing exceeds like successors.

The Contradictions by Sophie Yanow

Most of the reviews and blurbs I’ve seen about Sophie Yanow’s graphic novel The Contradictions  focus on the radical politics, on how Sophie is learning about anarchism and communism and feminism and various related isms as a college student spending a year in Paris. But that seems to me to be entirely surface, and not what the book is about at all.

Sophie does meet Zena, who pulls her into that radical world. And The Contradictions is centered around a road trip the two of them make together, to Amsterdam and Berlin, the spring break of that year. But The Contradictions is about Sophie’s unrequited desire for Zena.

(Here I need to back up briefly, and explain a standard reviewer tactic. When I say “Sophie,” I mean the character in this story, as written and drawn by Sophie Yanow. When I say “Yanow,” I mean the author of the work. I have no way of knowing how close Sophie’s experiences are to what Yanow actually experienced, and that’s besides the point, anyway: I’m not talking about a life, I’m talking about a work of art. And Yanow has clearly, carefully, constructed this book – it is very much a work of art, based to some unknowable degree on her own life and experiences.)

And I mean “desire” in a broad sense. I think Yanow is showing that Sophie wants and desires so many things about Zena: her passion, her energy, her enthusiasm, the way she knows who she is and what she wants to do. Sophie both wants Zena and wants to be Zena. 

Sophie is gay: she makes that clear early on. She’s not in a relationship as the book opens; we don’t see her in any other relationship in this book. Zena is coming out of a relationship with a boy, and we don’t see her start a new one. Sophie, in the course of the book, never says anything explicitly to Zena. (There is a moment, late in the book, involving controlled substances, written messages, and a certain four-letter word.) And Yanow does not present them as being in a physical or romantically emotional relationship – though they clearly are in a close friendship, and Sophie obviously wants even more closeness.

I find it hard to believe Zena is clueless. I don’t think Yanow means to show Zena as clueless. Zena has faults – The Contradictions is in large part the story of Sophie coming face-to-face with Zena’s faults – but she is good at seeing opportunities. So I believe that Zena is deliberately stringing Sophie along.

Zena is a woman of passions

, the kind of person – so common at that age – who does nothing in small ways. She’s passionately committed to veganism, to anarchism, to her own role in smashing everything she sees as horrible and making a better world. And if that passion comes out in petty theft, because that only harms evil rapacious corporations? That’s fine with Zena.

Sophie, though, needs to figure out if she’s fine with all of that as well. And if she’s fine with Zena’s lack of passion for the things Sophie cases about: art and museums and dancing, things large and small and in-between. Sophie’s politics are more centered in art and feminism; Zena’s are more performative and anarchist. Zena is the kind of passionate person who only has room in her life for her passions. And the road trip at the center of Contradictions is where Sophie has to live with Zena, and all Zena’s baggage, for an extended period of time.

If I wanted to be cute, I might say that Sophie stuck around because she thought she could become one of Zena’s passions. Maybe she did. Maybe Yanow was implying that. And maybe there was an element of how-flexible-can-this-person-be in the desire: Sophie learned that Zena was exactly as inflexible as she said she was.

Zena is not a bad person at all. By her own lights, she’s as good as a person can possibly be, and she’s not wrong in horrible ways. (Just in smaller, actually-living-in-a-world-with-other-people ways.) But she’s strong medicine, especially if you don’t agree with her on every passion. And who does agree with anyone else on every passion?

So The Contradictions is, maybe, a falling-in-and-out-of-love book. A book about an infatuation. And, yes, the politics is a huge part of the appeal: Zena, and people like her, are sexy and exciting because of their unwavering commitment to unpopular ideals. But Sophie has her own ideals, which do not entirely line up with Zena’s, and her passions may be quieter, but that does not mean they are not passions. Zena is not someone who has much time for people who disagree with her on fundamental things…and nearly everything is fundamental with Zena.

I haven’t mentioned Yanow’s art, because I’m a words person, and because it intimidates me. She has a razor-sharp ligne claire (and I feel like a poser just typing that, though it’s absolutely the right term) style that leaves nothing to chance, just precise lines on the paper and inky blacks where needed. It’s a pretty absolutist style, which is deeply resonant for a book about someone as absolutist as Zena: I don’t know if Yanow always works like this, but it’s an amazing match of matter and style.

The Contradictions is a deep, resonant book that won’t tell you what it’s about; even the title slips out of your hands when you try to explain it. It is a great graphic novel that is as much about love as politics. And I hope Sophie Yanow will keep making books this strong for decades to come.

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

Gotham City Takes the Spotlight in New Long Halloween Images

Gotham City Takes the Spotlight in New Long Halloween Images

Chasing Catwoman across the skyline of Gotham City, Batman leaps from one building to another – perfectly framed by the full moon

Supervising Producer Butch Lukic gives Gotham City the full noir treatment in Batman: The Long Halloween

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, Part One as seen in four new images released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

“I wanted to give the film a timeless look, kind of like the book, where you can’t pinpoint the actual time period,” said Lukic, who cited 1940s crime films and The Godfather as further inspiration for the film’s stylish, nuanced art direction. “I really set out to make Gotham City a character onto itself. All the backgrounds were thought out to have a look or feel of classic cinematography. I even shadowed most of the backgrounds myself to get the right style of lighting needed for particular scenes, and to give the film that classic noir look.”

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the feature-length animated Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One will be distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital and Blu-ray on June 22, 2021. 

Butch Lukic’s art direction shines throughout Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, particularly in his use of shadows and lighting – as evidenced by this image of Catwoman (and her shadow) sprinting across a Gotham City rooftop.
Deep shadows and a dark, haunting color palette go beyond the dialogue to inform the scenes in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, and this is particularly noticeable in this image featuring Bruce Wayne meeting with Carmine Falcone in The Roman’s office.
Wayne Manor offers an even more ominous appearance in Supervising Producer Butch Lukic’s vision of Bruce Wayne’s stately home in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One.

All Together Now by Hope Larson

There’s something deeply pure about a middle-book about middle-schoolers. The characters are in a point of their lives where they’re growing and changing – not still the people they were as kids, and not even the teenagers they will be in another year or two, much less the actual adults they will eventually become – and the story is similarly middle, starting from another book it hopes we’ve already read and handing off at the end to a book the author may not have even planned out yet.

It’s very thematically appropriate, is what I’m saying.

That’s how I think about All Together Now , Hope Larson’s new graphic novel for 2020 and a sequel to 2018’s All Summer Long . It picks up soon after the end of the previous book: Bina is still thirteen, it’s still the same year, and she still wants to write and play music. But the entanglements and problems are different, because it’s not summer anymore – All Together Now begins in September and runs through nearly the end of the year. So Bina is back in school, has formed a band with her new friend Darcy, and hardly sees her neighbor and one-time best friend Austin, who has a punishing travel-soccer schedule.

So the Bina-Darcy band needs a drummer, and gets one, which changes everything, and keeps changing things. And Austin eventually circles back, with a different opinion of Bina than he had before.

Things change. They can change really quickly when you’re thirteen.

Together is the same kind of book as Summer: episodic, quiet rather than flashy, introspective rather than dramatic. It’s about how Bina feels about what’s happening as much as it’s about the things that happen…and, to be honest, Bina isn’t really sure how she feels about the band-drama and the next-door-neighbor drama a lot of the time.

Books about people this age often have the young people bemoaning the changes, and wanting things to stay the way they were, forever – Bina had a bit of that, in Summer. She’s still not thrilled with all of the changes now, but I think she’s happier, or maybe just resigned, about the changes. Maybe she’s starting to see the places the changes could take her, and those are thrilling and frightening, like all adult life is. That’s a good sign for her: life is change

, and the earlier people realize that, the better off they will be.

All Together Now is another fine, deep, naturalistic graphic novel by Hope Larson, following a long string like Chiggers and Mercury . I’m not as plugged into that world, so I hope the reason I don’t hear about her work as much is because I’m not part of that conversation, and not because she’s little-known. This book, in particular, should be in every middle-school library in the country: it has a lot to say to other actual and aspirational thirteen-year-olds.

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