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Crazy 8 Press Launches PRISM on Vella

Crazy 8 Press Launches PRISM on Vella

Crazy 8 Press’ latest project, PRISM, takes the 11-year-old publisher in a new direction. This time they are exploring the storytelling possibilities in Amazon Kindle’s Vella program. Five of the ten partners have been working for the last six months on the project, which debuts today.

Hildy Silverman, one of the most recent recruits to the self-publishing hub, helped brainstorm the project and then volunteered to steer it as editor. She is joined by Mary Fan, Russ Colchamiro, and cofounders Aaron Rosenberg and Robert Greenberger.

PRISM supposes that the crew of Apollo 17, the final crewed visit to the moon, found an alien artifact and secretly brought it back to Earth. Over the next decade, other odd pieces of metal began to “activate”. PRISM was formed to find and locate all the pieces to understand how they fit together and what the combined device might do. Of course, others are also interested in these artifacts, so the race is on, taking the agents around the world hoping to secure the pieces before they possibly become weaponized.

The series is set in the mid-1980s and Silverman explains why this period was chosen. “We decided to set our PRISM stories back when investigations couldn’t be quickly conducted and resolved via Internet and/or cellphone, to make locating the shards more of a challenge,” said Silverman. “That way, we could have fun sending our agents off on adventures around the world doing the legwork required to find the shards–and get into all sorts of trouble while they’re at it.”

Each of the authors was given free rein to create the characters for the series

, providing the chance to develop agents and foes of various backgrounds and also tell a wide variety of stories. In the introductory episode,  Greenberger’s “Partners”, readers will meet an established agent, a former New York cop, while Fan’s agent is an 18-year former ballerina.

“We all had fun developing agents of varying ages and personal characteristics at different stages of their careers,” Silverman said. “Their unique backgrounds inform their reactions to missions and interactions with friends and foes alike.”

C8 has released the initial running order of stories:

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June 9             “Partners” by Robert Greenberger

June 16            “The Mind Game” by Hildy Silverman

June 23            “The Junkyard Gambit” by Aaron Rosenberg

June 30             “Sound of the Sea Part One” by Russ Colchamiro

July 7                “Sound of the Sea Part Two” by Russ Colchamiro

July 14              “The Golden Gambit Part One” by Mary Fan

July 21              “The Golden Gambit Part Two: Pointe Blank” by Mary Fan

The Vella system makes the first three installments free to readers and then subsequent episodes are paid for using tokens

, each episode charging an amount based on the word count. The stories are available on the web at Vella and in the Kindle app. Readers receive 500 free tokens to use as they please and can then buy additional tokens in bundles starting at 200 for $1.99. Readers also have the option of voting for their favorites and responding to surveys from the authors.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Unveils Bonus Clips

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Unveils Bonus Clips

To celebrate the release of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, check out these clips from the film’s special features!

Celebrate the world’s hero and prodigal movie star Nicolas Cage when The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent arrives on Digital June 7 and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand June 21 from Lionsgate.
Easter Eggs

I’ll Take It

Playing Nicky

The Amazing Everything, Everywhere All At Once arrives July 5 on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD

The Amazing Everything, Everywhere All At Once arrives July 5 on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
The mind-bending action-adventure Everything Everywhere All At Once arrives on 4K Ultra HD™ + Blu-ray™ + Digital, Blu-ray + Digital, and DVD July 5 from A24 and Lionsgate. The film stars Michelle Yeoh as an unlikely hero who must channel newfound powers to fight fearsome dangers from the multiverse. Directed and written by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

, the writing-directing duo collectively known as the Daniels (Swiss Army Man), Everything Everywhere All At Once will be available for the suggested retail prices of $42.99 for 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital, $39.99 for Blu-ray + Digital, and $29.96 for DVD, respectively.
 
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a flustered immigrant mother, is contacted from a parallel universe and told that only she can save the world. The unlikely hero must learn to channel her newfound powers and fight through the splintering timelines of the multiverse to save her home, her family, and herself in this big-hearted and irreverent adventure. With Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong, and Jamie Lee Curtis.
 
4K ULTRA HD / BLU-RAY / DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Audio Commentary with Writers-Directors Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
  • “Almost Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Everything Everywhere All At Once” Featurette
  • “Putting Everything on a Bagel: Cooking up the Multiverse” Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary
  • Outtakes
  • Music Visual
  • Theatrical Trailer

CAST
Michelle Yeoh                         Crouching Tiger

, Hidden Dragon, Gunpowder Milkshake,Crazy Rich Asians
Stephanie Hsu                        Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Ke Huy Quan                          Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,  The Goonies,Encino Man
Jenny Slate                             Obvious Child, Zootopia, Gifted
Harry Shum Jr.                       Crazy Rich Asians, Glee, Shadowhunters
with James Hong                    Big Trouble in Little China, Kung Fu Panda, R.I.P.D.
and Jamie Lee Curtis             Halloween, True Lies, Freaky Friday

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 2022
Title Copyright: Everything Everywhere All At Once © 2021 A24 Distribution, LLC. Artwork & Supplementary Materials © 2022 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Type: Theatrical release
Rating: Rated R for some violence, sexual material and language
Genre: Sci-fi, Action, Adventure
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: Spanish and Chinese (Traditional), English SDH
Feature Run Time: 139 Minutes
4K Format: 2160p High Definition 16×9 (1.85:1) Presentation with Dolby Vision
4K Audio: English Dolby Atmos
Blu-ray Format: 1080p High Definition 16×9 (1.85:1) Presentation
Blu-ray Audio: English Dolby Atmos
DVD Format: 16×9 (1.85:1) Presentation
DVD Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Audio

Enigma: The Definitive Edition by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo

Enigma: The Definitive Edition by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo

There will probably be spoilers. If you worry about such things on a thirty-year-old obscure Vertigo comic, well, I wonder how you manage to live in the modern world, but go off and read something else on the Internet instead.

I don’t think I read this the first time out. I think I’d remember it. But it also is very much the kind of thing I was reading in 1993: I followed nearly all of Vertigo, and was a fan of Peter Milligan’s writing. So I both don’t know how I missed it and can’t figure out how I could have read it and utterly forgotten it.

I’m talking about Enimga: The Definitive Edition , a spiffy new-ish edition of an eight-issue comics series from those heady early Vertigo days, when it was “superhero comics with adult themes” and not “HBO-style shows in comics form.” Ah, were we ever so young! It was written by Peter Milligan, in the middle of his Shade the Changing Man run, and drawn by Duncan Fegredo with colors by Sherilyn Van Falkenburgh.

And, to be reductive, it’s the story of an sociopath. A mass-murdering sociopath, who either has never been socialized at all or is the usual pulp-fiction mutant who is better than humanity and so entitled to treat us as we treat ants. (Or, perhaps, both.) We think he’s a superhero, throughout most of the story, because he wears a funny costume, because someone very much the same was in an old comic book, and because he seems to be killing villains. But we learn – and, if we’re any good readers at all, we suspected this much earlier – that he made every one of those villains, and so is both directly a murderer and someone who has deliberately created mass-murderers. I don’t think there’s even a word for that. 

We are supposed to be on his side, because He Is Sad, and because he has a sexual relationship with the narrator. I say “has a sexual relationship,” clinically, because I doubt he feels anything like “love” – I’m pretty sure he feels no human emotions of any kind – and the guy he has sex with is in love with him for those same manipulating-humans powers that he used to create mass-murderers.

Yes, I’m talking about Enigma: our title character. This is the story of a young man with fabulous powers and a bizarrely impossible upbringing, whose interactions with the outside world are about 95% murder, but, on the other hand, he’s a tall attractive man with cool clothes. And apparently that is enough to make a mass-murderer into a hero.

I don’t even want to get into whether this was a positive or negative depiction of a gay man. (Wait. Am I kidding? A mass-murderer who literally turns another man gay to love him? I would struggle to find anything positive there, other than “it was 1993, and a gay man existed in comics. Yay!”)

OK. It is stylishly written, and even more stylishly drawn. Fegredo starts out scratchy, maybe even shaky, but he settles down, and the style suits the story very well. It is full of mysteries, and the reader does not realize how horrible Engima is until said reader is near the end of the book.

And our viewpoint character is, thankfully, not a mass-murderer. Michael Smith is instead one of life’s small losers: not very important, not very interesting, not very memorable. But he’s at the scene of a murder by a bizarre villain, and remembers that villain from his old childhood Enigma comics, and that sets off the whole plot, as he starts to think he’s central to all of the craziness. He’s not wrong

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, but he’s not exactly correct, either.

As I said above, he does find Enigma – the live person now using that name, as well as the crusty old writer who made the comics stories twenty-five years earlier – and fucks the former. He learns that Engima has massive, bizarre powers, but none of us learn why. Perhaps just because it was 1993 and this was a DC comic book; there had to be someone with superpowers in it.

This is a well-crafted, smart, intricate story that seems, at this distance, to be an apology for an appallingly horrible person. Enigma would be a villain in any other comics story, and rightfully so. A pitiable villain, and one that could potentially be redeemed, but, still, the mass-murder thing is hard to overlook.

I’m not sorry I read this, but all of the praise as a “lost classic” seems vastly overwrought to me. It was an attempt to have gay men in comics, yes, and it was not entirely a failure. I do have to say that, of the three gay men here, one is a middle-aged alcoholic failure, one is a mass-murdering sociopath, and the third was turned gay against his will by the sociopath – and that strikes me as not entirely a positive and loving and realistic depiction.

Such is Enigma. Consider yourself entirely spoiled.

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

Well-Regarded The Northman Comes to Home Video June 6

Well-Regarded The Northman Comes to Home Video June 6

Universal City, California, May 31, 2022 – After witnessing firsthand the murder of his father, a Viking prince (Alexander Skarsgård) devotes his life to avenge his father’s death, save his mother and reclaim his kingdom in THE NORTHMAN, available to own for the first time with exclusive bonus content on Digital June 6, 2022 and on 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition, Blu-rayTM Collector’s Edition and DVD June 7, 2022 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Visionary director Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse) creates “an absolute beast of a movie” (Phil de Semlyen, Time Out) with his latest film, boasting an 89% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Featuring epic action sequences and “packed with phenomenal performances” (Ross Bonaime, Collider) by Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, and Ethan Hawke now with exclusive never-before-seen bonus features including nine deleted and extended scenes and exclusive behind-the-scenes featurettes.

The film is written and directed by Robert Eggers, and stars Alexander Skarsgård (Godzilla vs. Kong, The Legend of Tarzan), Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies, Moulin Rouge), Anya Taylor-Joy (Queen’s Gambit, Emma), Willem Dafoe (Justice League, Spider-Man), Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Before Midnight), Claes Bang and Björk (Dancer In The Dark).

EXCLUSIVE BONUS FEATURES on DIGITAL*, 4K UHD, BLU-RAYTM AND DVD:
• DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES
• AN AGELESS EPIC – An in-depth look at how filmmakers, cast, and crew immersed themselves in Norse history and mythology in an effort to make THE NORTHMAN the most accurate Viking epic ever filmed.
• THE FACES OF VIKINGS – The cast of THE NORTHMAN, alongside director Robert Eggers, discuss the depth of the characters and their experiences working together.
• FEATURE COMMENTARY WITH CO-WRITER/DIRECTOR ROBERT EGGERS

EXCLUSIVE COLLECTOR’S EDITION BONUS FEATURES ON DIGITAL*, 4K UHD, and BLU-RAY™:
• AMLETH’S JOURNEY TO MANHOOD -Aurvandil’s initiation of Amleth into manhood is one of the most pivotal points on his journey. Take a deeper look at how filmmakers and cast crafted this mysterious ritual.
• SHOOTING THE RAID – Go behind-the-scenes of the raid and learn how different departments worked together to pull off this intricate sequence.
• KNATTLEIKR GAME – Learn all about this little-known game

, how the scene was filmed, and why it’s an essential moment for Amleth.
• A NORSE LANDSCAPE -We explore the spectacular shooting locations of THE NORTHMAN and discuss how filmmakers were able to overcome the unique challenges of shooting the film in Northern Ireland.
*Digital bonus features available from select retailers

THE NORTHMAN will be available on Digital, 4K UHD, Blu-ray™ and DVD
• Digital lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite devices. Users can instantly buy or rent.
• The Movies Anywhere Digital App simplifies and enhances the digital movie collection and viewing experience by allowing consumers to access their favorite digital movies in one place when purchased or redeemed through participating digital retailers. Consumers can also redeem digital copy codes found in eligible Blu-rayTM and DVD disc packages from participating studios and stream or download them through Movies Anywhere. Movies Anywhere is available only in the United States.
• Blu-ray™ unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.
• 4K Ultra HD delivers the ultimate movie watching experience, featuring the combination of 4K resolution and the color brilliance of High Dynamic Range (HDR).

FILMMAKERS
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, with Ethan Hawke, Björk and Willem Dafoe
Original Score By: Robin Carolan, Sebastian Gainsborough
Produced By: Lars Knudsen p.g.a, Mark Huffam p.g.a, Robert Eggers p.g.a, Alexander Skarsgård p.g.a, Arnon Milchan
Written By: Sjón, Robert Eggers
Directed By: Robert Eggers

TECHNICAL INFORMATION DVD:
Street Date: June 7

, 2022
Selection Number: 1962214979 (US) / 1000814963 (CDN)
Layers: DVD 9
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 16:9 2.00:1
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity
Languages/Subtitles: English, French Canadian and Latin American Spanish
Sound: English (Dolby Digital 5.1 for Feature and Dolby Digital 2.0 for Bonus Content), French Canadian (Dolby Digital 5.1), Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Run Time: 02:16:50

TECHNICAL INFORMATION BLU-RAY™:
Street Date: June 7, 2022
Selection Number: 1962214980 (US) / 1000814964 (CDN)
Layers: BD 50
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 16:9 2.00:1
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity
Languages/Subtitles: English, French Canadian and Latin American Spanish
Sound: English (Dolby Atmos for Feature and Dolby Digital 2.0 for Bonus Content), French Canadian (Dolby Digital 5.1), Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1)
Run Time: 02:16:50

TECHNICAL INFORMATION 4K UHD:
Street Date: June 7, 2022
Selection Number: 1000814606 (US) / 1000814962 (CDN)
Layers: BD 100
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 16:9 2.00:1
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity
Languages/Subtitles: English, French Canadian and Latin American Spanish
Sound: English (Dolby Atmos for Feature and Dolby Digital 2.0 for Bonus Content), French Canadian (Dolby Digital 5.1), Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1)
Run Time: 02:16:50

Nicholas Cage’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is Unleashed for Home

Nicholas Cage’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is Unleashed for Home

SANTA MONICA, CA – Celebrate the world’s hero and prodigal movie star Nicolas Cage when The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent arrives on Digital June 7 and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand June 21 from Lionsgate. The adrenaline-fueled comedy stars Academy Award® winner Nicolas Cage (Best Actor, Leaving Las Vegas, 1995; National Treasure Franchise, Gone in 60 Seconds, The Rock), Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Narcos, Game of Thrones), Sharon Horgan, Ike Barinholtz, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, with Primetime Emmy® Award winner Neil Patrick Harris (Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, Glee, 2010; How I Met Your Mother, Gone Girl, Harold & Kumar franchise), and Primetime Emmy® Award and GRAMMY Award® winner Tiffany Haddish (Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, Saturday Night Live, 2018; Best Comedy Album, Black Mitzvah; Like a Boss, Night School, Girls Trip).

In this wildly entertaining, action-packed comedy, Oscar® winner Nicolas Cage plays…Nick Cage! Creatively unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, the fictionalized version of Cage accepts a million-dollar offer to attend the birthday of a dangerous superfan (Pedro Pascal). Things take an unexpected turn when Cage is recruited by a CIA operative (Tiffany Haddish) and he must use his legendary acting skills, channeling his most iconic and beloved characters to become a real-life action hero.
 
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent 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

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, respectively. 
 
4K ULTRA HD / BLU-RAY / DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES  

  • Deleted Scenes (with Optional Audio Commentary by Writer-Director Tom Gormican and Writer-Executive producer Kevin Etten)
  • The Mind
    Meet the filmmakers and learn about the creative decisions behind the film. A film made with love

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    , passion, and massive talent.
  • Glimmers of a Bygone Cage
    He’s back. Not that he went anywhere. Go back in time in this behind-the-scenes featurette and relive Nicolas Cage’s journey as an actor and see how a legendary career inspired both filmmakers and cast to create a new era of Cage.
  • Everybody Needs a Javi
    Nick Cage meets his ultimate fan. Discover why Pedro Pascal was the perfect choice to play the charismatic, lovable, and eccentric fan with a dark, dangerous secret.
  • Nick, Nicky, and Sergio
    The man, the actor, the legend. Take a look inside Nicolas Cage’s mind and find out how this film is the culmination of a legendary career, but also a new beginning for one of the most versatile actors of our time.
  • Second Act Action  
    And . . . action, and more action! Immerse yourself in the exciting world of stunts and special effects that helped to create incredible, well-choreographed action sequences with the help of the latest in high technology for filmmaking.
  • Cages 5 and Up
    Don’t kids say the darndest things? What if what they said were lines from some of your favorite Nick Cage movies? We thought you’d never ask.
  • SXSW Film Festival Q&A Featuring the Cast and Filmmakers.
  • Audio Commentary by Writer-Director Tom Gormican and Writer-Executive Producer Kevin Etten

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES 

  • Deleted Scenes (with Optional Audio Commentary by Writer-Director Tom Gormican and Writer-Executive Producer Kevin Etten)
  • SXSW Film Festival Q&A Featuring the Cast and Filmmakers
  • Audio Commentary by Writer-Director Tom Gormican and Writer-Executive Producer Kevin Etten
Rain Like Hammers by Brandon Graham

Rain Like Hammers by Brandon Graham

Genre fiction in comics tends to be straightforward: it explains the world and the stakes up front, then sends a generally pretty obvious Protagonist off to Do the Thing, which far too often is Saving the World.

Brandon Graham, in his afterword to Rain Like Hammers , describes that as being like a Japanese game show where the goal is to get someone to eat a hot dog as soon as possible after waking up. And he’s not into speed-eating hot dogs.

Graham’s stories tend to start in a more leisurely fashion. His camera-eye is focused, but not insistent. Hey, look over here, it says. Something is going on; I wonder what it is?

Rain Like Hammers collects a five-issue comics story – the issues were published in the first five months of 2021, and this collection came out in August. They’re long issues, too – the book is unpaged, but I think they’re 48 pages each. So my first question is: how serialized was this? Clearly, Graham created it in five chapters, but I really doubt he did that during those five months. But those afterwords – there’s one for each issue

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, two pages each of sketchbook-style comics – do show the process of making the book; he seems to have made it in order, finishing each page in turn and not going back to rework based on better ideas later.

At one point he mentions his initial plan was to have five loosely-connected single issue stories – maybe, I think, ones that all came together in the final issue? – and that’s clear in the transition between the first two issues, which are entirely different, about entirely different people in entirely different places. But, in the end, this is mostly one story, seen from a couple of angles, with a second story as a way in and a bit of parallax later.

We start out in a mobile city, on some alien planet in some future. Eugene is new in Elephant City: he finished his schooling recently, and came here on purpose, to do some keeping-the-city-running job that Graham doesn’t explain in detail. Eugene is a bit lonely, finding his footing in a new place and new to adulthood. But he seems like a sensible, devoted person: we think will be OK, we want to trust him, he hope he will do well. His story for the first issue is mostly low-key, but something from outside this world is causing trouble for many of the animal-named crawling cities, and we see a little of that here.

The second issue begins what then seems to be the main story, and we may wonder what happened to Eugene, for many pages. (We will find out.) A supercriminal, Brik Blok, is heading to Sky Cradle, a space habitat of some kind that is the seat for the rulers of this part of human space: a group of self-selecting immortal families. We think he is dangerous, we think he is exciting, and we are not entirely sure if we are on his side.

What Brik Blok is coming to do on Sky Cradle is something we learn quickly, but we learn more and more details over time: we learn it iterated, first the headlines and then the depths, eventually getting to things Brik Blok didn’t know himself. Brik Blok’s initial plans, whatever they were, fail before he even reaches Sky Cradle: he’s in a different body, in an society he doesn’t know well, with a new uncertain ally or friend.

Brik Blok is coming to save El. Or maybe retrieve her, or maybe support her. She is young and smart and, we believe, on the side of right. She’s part of a program of “candidates” for immortality: they are tested and twisted and transformed to become more of the ruling class. We start to think we don’t like this ruling class, and start to feel more positively towards those who resist. We quickly learn she did not choose to join this program…though we learn more details later.

Rain Like Hammers is mostly the story of Brik Blok and El. Two people fighting against the power structure, or trying to – both with incomplete information at this point in their lives. (This is the kind of SF where people can live a very long time – maybe even if they’re not officially one of the “immortals” – and who they once were and what they once did could be forgotten or lost or mislaid.)

They do not foment a revolution. They are not even trying to topple the immortals: their aims are smaller, more specific than that. As I said at the beginning, this is not that kind of comic: they are not going to Do the Thing, not going to Save the World.

But they, and Eugene, may be able to save themselves, and get away.

Graham tells this story from the inside, with pages full of quiet moments and strange details of this far-future world. His SF is always deeply distinctive, with things he never explains, a big lived-in universe full of odd creatures and people, all living their own lives and wandering across his pages. He tones down the wordplay these days, especially in more serious, grounded stories like this one, but there’s still some of that joy in the complications of language.

SF that requires the reader to think about it and make up his own mind about it is rare in comics – it’s not all that common in prose, frankly. That’s what Graham does; that’s what this is. Any reader who likes that kind of SF should check it out

, or anyone who likes stories with a bit of gnarl to them.

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

Steeple, Vol. 2: The Silvery Moon by John Allison

Steeple, Vol. 2: The Silvery Moon by John Allison

As I type this, my post on the first volume of Steeple was written close to a month ago but has not yet gone live. So I am trying to space things out on this blog, but I may not be spacing them quite far enough for my own systems to work well. (Let’s hope I remember

, once that post does go live, to drop in a link here somewhere.)

In any case, this is a sequel to the first Steeple , which was written and drawn by John Allison with colors from Sarah Stern and letters from Jim Campbell. The first collection also appeared first as a five-issue series of floppy comics.

Steeple, Vol. 2: The Silvery Moon , by comparison, appeared originally on-line at Allison’s site , and is an all-Allison joint. (There is a cover by Max Sarin, presumably in an attempt to draw in the Giant Days audience.) This one collects two somewhat discrete stories, and I can even link you to those stories online, on the cheekily-titled steeple.church site: The Silvery Moon and Secret Sentai . I just noticed they were (still) there; I haven’t been as good at keeping up with Allison’s new comics there over the past couple of years as I vaguely searched for a copy of the first Steeple book to read first.

Anyway: this is set in a different corner of the Scarygoround -cum-Giant Days-iverse

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, down in the Cornish town of Tredregyn, where Rev. David Penrose upholds the glory of the Church of England by battling invading mermen every night (and doing essentially nothing vicaresque besides that) and the Magus Tom Pendennis does what he wilt at the Church of Satan down the lane, and what he wilt is generally sneaky and not always nice, but it tends not to be what one would actually call evil.

It’s more like a football rivalry than a battle for the soul of the town, honestly: the locals line up with their rooting preferences, and it seems like Satan is well in the lead, maybe because he always has the best tunes and dancing.

Our main characters are Billie Baker and Maggie Warren; the trainees in the two churches. Billie came to town for the CoE, but, through some odd events at the end of the first book, the two have switched roles, with the lusty, motorcycle-riding Maggie now assisting Rev. David and energetic and immensely good-hearted Billie now organizing community outreach for Satan.

Allison, as usual, has a decent-sized central cast, who are interestingly quirky. I don’t think these folks have gotten quite as defined as the Giant Days crew or his best Bad Machinery characters (Lottie Grote, for example), but they’ve had fewer pages to do so to date.

In any case: this is two more adventures of Billie and Maggie, one with a werewolf and one with a Japanese guy in a funny costume. They are both Allisonianly quirky and fun, and he’s filling out the details of this corner of his world nicely as he has more pages and time to do so.

I’ve said it many times: Allison is one of the most entertaining, and most distinctive, comics-makers of his generation, and his stories are always fun and always different from what anyone else is doing. How can you not want to read that? 

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

The Golden Age, Book 2 by Roxanne Moreil and Cyril Pedrosa

The Golden Age, Book 2 by Roxanne Moreil and Cyril Pedrosa

Endings are harder than beginnings: any story-teller will tell you that. So if I quibble that The Golden Age doesn’t end as well as it begins

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, I’m largely saying that it’s a story, and that’s what stories do.

Reading the second half

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, though – the graphic novel or bande dessinee The Golden Age, Book 2 , written by Roxanne Moreil and Cyril Pedrosa, and drawn by Pedrosa with some coloring support from others – there were several times my editor’s pen itched to make notes. I don’t know if these would have made the story better, but if I were involved in the creation, these are the things I would have asked.

First, Book One follows Tilda, the older child of the now-dead king of Antrevers. The beginning of Book Two looks like it might follow her younger brother, who finally gets a name (Edwald) for what I think was the first time at the very end of this book. Edwald does not become our viewpoint at any time here; this is still Tilda’s story. And maybe it had to be. But for a story about political factions and civil war, about opinions on how the world is supposed to be, about noblesse oblige and the democratic impulse, about the battle for the soul of a kingdom, something wider than just Tilda and a handful of advisors as viewpoints would have been useful. As it is, Edwald’s side is basically an evil caricature, with nothing good or positive about them, not even stability or continuity, and that feels like a lack.

Second, both books begin with the same group of peasants, standing in for the whole population of Antrevers, the ones who will be affected by all of these battles and decisions by nobles and kings. It looks like those people may be important to the action of the story, as thematically they are important: The Golden Age is the story of a transition from autocracy to something like democracy, in a very simplified sense. But they really aren’t. The masses are there to fight against each other, while the Important People stand in the center of panels to declaim and fight each other, to do the Important Things. The Golden Age says that it’s about them, but like so many supposedly-democratic works of the fantastic, the strong single person is more interesting, easier to work with narratively, than a mass of “just ordinary people.”

I like parallels; I like books to set things up and then knock them down; I like guns on mantlepieces to be taken down at just the right moment and fired. Golden Age does not quite do those things; it instead is caught up in a vague supernatural element that seems to inherently corrupt all of the autocratic rulers of Antrevers and a possibly prophetic old book of political philosophy (or is it mean to be religion? It’s presented in the manner of a religious text

, but its matter is political). Golden Age seems to want to say this mystical book is the Law of the Universe, but the actual operation of the magical things here is deeply obscure: are they set up by a god or gods? were they the embodied power of the ancient kings who stole power from the masses? were they self-generated somehow? are they actually operating against each other, as they seem to be, or is there some deeper balance underneath them?

So, anyway, there’s a magical box and a magical book. The book is supposed to be in the box, but the box seems to be the source of all the bad stuff and the book the source of all the good stuff, so thematically, locking the good stuff inside the bad is a weird metaphor.

I should be clear, after going so deeply into the weeds: this is the subtext, and only occasionally reaches the level of text. The story here is that Tilda’s tired, mostly unpaid, deeply fragile army is besieging Edwald’s castle, and not doing well. Tilda has had a vision of victory, and is utterly uncompromising in that vision, but does not seem to notice ways that the actual world does not line up with her visions. Meanwhile, another army loyal to Edwald is on its way: Tilda’s forces need to win quickly, or will lose forever. And she’s already shattered most of their strength in repeated pointless assaults on a portion of the curtain wall she is sure her forces can break.

So the story is about the siege, and the fight, and who lives and who dies, and how they kill each other. The big ending includes the book and the box, and whatever magics they have. And, as I said, it works pretty well but feels not quite as crisp as it should be to me.

Pedrosa, though, gives us another set of absolutely gorgeous pages, striking in their vibrant colors and stunning in their energy. That makes up for any gaps in the themes: the book powers over any possible quibbles through pure visual power, culminating in a stunning phantasmagorical conclusion. 

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

REVIEW: Uncharted

REVIEW: Uncharted

Tom Holland has proven a charming actor, capable of poignancy, humor, and super-heroic action. Stretching beyond his work as Spider-Man, he detoured into an adaptation of the Uncharted video game, coming off more as a cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond than an original character, which is not at all his fault. He is an appealing performer and you want to root for him to succeed.

The PS3 game this is based on works fine as a video game and its sequels (or so I’m told, I don’t have time for video games) but the simplified storytelling conventions for a video game need to be expanded and evolved for filmed entertainment. Here, screenwriters Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway (working from a story by Judkins, Jon Hanley Rosenberg, and Mark D. Walker) let the fine cast and their audience down.

Bartender cum thief Nathan Drake (Holland) is recruited by Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) to help locate a hidden treasure. A treasure that Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) thinks belongs to his family so you can see the conflict coming a mile away.

There are some lively set pieces that show Spider-Man prepared Holland for the stunt work and he sells the bits and pieces. Director Ruben Fleischer is just fine working with action as seen in his previous films

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, Zombieland and Gangster Squad but as seen with his two Venom films, doesn’t recognize storytelling weaknesses in the script, demanding better. He brings a visual flair without a tremendous amount of attention paid to characterization. As a result, the thrills are there but the emotional connection to the stakes and characters are absent.

Some credit for how effective the film is goes to producers Charles Roven, who made fine contributions to DC’s filmed heroes, and Avi Arad who got things rolling with 2000’s Spider-Man film.

This is a visually interesting film given all the locales, very much Bond-inspired. You can see why some are lobbying for him to be the next 007, although I suspect he’s too young and too pretty to fulfill Ian Fleming’s description.

Anyway, this is a passable evening’s entertainment and little more although it could have been.

Sony Home Entertainment has released this in the usual formats including the reliable Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo. The 1080 p transfer is just fine for home viewing, letting you see all the details, without annoying distractions. The

Uncharted Blu-ray, Audio Quality   4.5 of 5 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is up to the challenge, easily matching the visuals.

The film performed well enough at the box office although pre-Covid I suspect it would have been deemed a disappointing

, coming as it did a mere two months after Spider-Man: No Way Home. Holland’s coat tails may not be long enough yet.  This may explain why the special features are perfunctory.

We have Deleted & Extended Scenes (10:23); Never a Dull Moment: Stunts & Action (5:54); Becoming Nathan Drake (3:59); Audio Commentary: Director Ruben Fleischer; Villains, Backstabbers, & Accomplices (4:20); Charting the Course: On Set with Ruben Fleischer (4:28); The Buddy System (3:49); Big Action Breakdown: C-17 Globemaster (5:03): Music Video (1080p, 2:38): and the music video “No Mind” by Milkblood.