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May 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Fandoms You Are No Longer In

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the prompt is about writing about fandoms we formerly were super invested in but now are no longer a part of.

Twilight series– Believe it or not, as a grown woman, I actually liked the first novel. My book club choose it, and they had to persuade me to pick it up. As much as I would like to pretend I didn’t like it, I was sucked into the vampire and werewolf saga. As I was firmly entrenched with Team Jacob, the second book gave me a slim hope that Bella would choose him over Edward. By the third book, it was obvious Jacob had never stood a chance, plus I was unhappy about the ridiculous plot and Bella’s moping. The fourth book was a pure hate-read, but I was determined to stick it out and see how everything resolved. It was a flippin’ waste of my time.

Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series– I have read 40+ of Jonathan Kellerman’s books, over the course of two decades. Most of the novels are thrillers about psychologist Alex Delaware and his cop buddy solving complex crimes. But after 31 of these books (plus some other standalone books), I can not stand his character anymore. The books are no longer unique, and he repeats the same tropes over and over. Both my husband and I used to read the books and discuss them afterwards, so I had a hard time giving the series up, but last year I decided enough was enough.

Twin Peaks– I am on the fence about this series. A friend of mine had the series (on VHS!), so I binge watched the two seasons and the movie ten years ago. The first season was excellent, and I loved the mystery about who killed Laura Palmer, and the odd supernatural elements to it. The second season went off the rails, and the movie didn’t match the tone of the original series, but it still retained enough atmosphere for me to think of it very fondly as a whole. When I heard of the revival, with many of the same characters, I was excited. But four episodes in, I am a very unhappy camper. Lynch’s psychedelic ideas are just too way out there for me, and there has been little reintroduction to the characters of Twin Peaks that I had loved so much.  Many people are waxing poetic about it, but I just don’t get it. I will watch a few more episodes, but…

Old Man Logan– I really loved the first volume penned by Mark Miller and illustrated by Steve McNiven. I thought it was a fresh way of telling the Wolverine story and rebooting the franchise to reflect a world weary Logan. Obviously the book was a hit, as the movie Logan was based somewhat off this story. But eventually the artist changed, and worst of all, the story was moved to the Warzones/Battleworld universe. I was not happy with the A Force: Warzones series, for I think it is a lazy device to explain an anything goes plot. I refuse to read any book set there.

Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn/Chee series– Tony Hillerman wrote an amazing mystery series set in the Four Corners region about two Navajo police officers. The books were respectful of the reservation inhabitants and there often was an archaeology subplot(fun fact- anthropology was my minor in college). This was another series that spanned decades, but by his 18th book, the series was limping across the finish line when the author passed away. His daughter took up the mantle and has continued writing the series, even adding in Chee’s wife to reflect a woman’s perspective. Anne Hillerman is a solid but uninspiring writer, and the southwest flavor is gone from the series. I gave two of her books a chance, but won’t be continuing with further novels by her.

Giving up on a former loved series is hard, and I often drag it out longer than I should. What are your thought on the fandoms I mentioned?

-Nancy

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First Reviews for WW!!!

After seeing a Facebook post with a screenshot of a 95% Tomatometer for Wonder Woman from Rotten Tomatoes, I absolutely had to check for myself.

OP was wrong.

Wonder Woman has a 97% APPROVAL RATING!!!

And is the only DC Extended Universe movie (Man of Steel on) to be CERTIFIED FRESH!!!

For comparison:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with a 28% critic approval rating, 63% audience score.

The only closest rating from DCEU? Man of Steel, with 55% critic approval, 75% audience approval.

But wait? What about Marvel, who’s movies even I admit are generally better than DC’s? The highest rated Marvel film was Iron Man, with 94% of critics approving and 91% of audience members loving it.

In fact, the only other superhero movie with a 97% critic approval rating isn’t from Marvel or DC, but from Pixar! The Incredibles holds that honor.

I’m so incredibly excited for this weekend when my boyfriend and I will see it!!! BvS didn’t sit right with me the more I thought about it and Deadshot: The Movie Suicide Squad, while better, was still not as good as it could have been. I’m still cautiously optimistic for Justice League, but right now, as far as my girl’s concerned, all caution has been thrown to the wind! BREAK OUT THE TIARA AND BRACELETS THIS HYPE TRAIN HAS LEFT THE STATION

– Kathleen

The Autumnlands (Vol. 2): Woodland Creatures

Dusty and the Great Champion – Learoyd – are making their way through the mountains. They’re trying to find a great source of magic to restore Dusty’s fallen city to the clouds. They find along the way other animal clans having trouble – a goat clan, all slaughtered save one, and a sheepfold losing their children and elderly to poisoned water. Dusty seems to be getting more powerful – he can do more advanced spells, and sustain them for a longer amount of time. Learoyd and Dusty know they must be getting closer to the magic source – but who, or what, will be waiting for them when they find it?

… To be honest, this volume really didn’t make a lot of sense. There are so many new elements that are introduced, and they all seem to clash together. Nothing is explained, so it’s not apparent how everything fits. I felt I had to go back and read the first volume to try and pick up the story again (and who’s got time for that?). The art is still beautiful, and I enjoy the way it’s laid out, with chapter title pages and things, like a blend of a print book and graphic novel. It’s pretty to look at; however, the story completely lost me.

– Kathleen

Busiek, Kurt, Benjamin Dewey, and Jordie Bellaire. The Autumlands (Vol. 2): Woodland Creatures. 2017.

ElfQuest Hidden Years: Little Patch

The series ElfQuest by Wendy & Richard Pini is what first brought me into the comics/graphic novels world years ago. I was introduced to the series by my high school boyfriend (now my husband ♥) and I was enthralled. The Wolfrider saga was complex with a multi-generational elf tribe and long running storylines. The art is outstanding with such beauty and detail, and I bought the books for years. Trying to summarize the epic adventures is hard, but the story I am highlighting took place during the hidden years, when the tribe was divided and many years has passed. Tyleet, a young elf, is sharing what happened to her during the other’s absence.

When this issue came out Tyleet was a relatively new character that was the child of original tribe members Redlance and  Nightfall, and with this story she became my favorite, due to her sweetness and quiet determination. Tyleet discovers a newborn human abandoned in the forest, and tries to secretly return the child to it’s home village. When the child is again brought to the forest to die, she decides to adopt the child and raise him in the elfin tribe. While several members are against her doing so, Tyleet perseveres and raises the boy to his teen years, with everyone pitching in to teach him forest skills. Eventually though he reaches adolescence and craves to be with his own kind. Tyleet reluctantly says goodbye to her adopted son, knowing if he leaves the elves, he will not be welcome back as for everyone’s safety.

Tyleet finally discovers why he had been rejected by his birth parents, for the birthmark around his eye was deemed a bad omen, and she realizes her loving nickname for him is what had originally been the reason he had been cast out. Now it is Little Patch’s turn at perseverance and he out hunts and out provides all the men in the tribe, resulting in him being taken back into their fold. Years go by, and Tyleet secretly watches him, as he marries and becomes a respected leader.  He never reveals the wherabouts of the elves, but when he reaches old age, dementia loosens his tongue and he speaks of his childhood with the elves. Luckily he is not believed, and in one last burst of strength he comes back to the forest to find his mother Tyleet. As elves take hundreds if not thousands of years to age, Tyleet looks exactly the same to him as when he was an infant. Mother and son share one last sweet moment before he dies in her arms.

No matter how many times I read this story, I am struck to the core and cry. Tyleet’s parting words, “One brave and helpful life…two worlds the better for it. He did well, my cub. He did very well” shows a deep love that does not require blood ties. In fact, there must be something in my eye as I type right now, because tears are splashing on the keyboard. While the long tales are beyond good in this series ( as shared by Darth Toothpick in an ElfQuest post), it is this one-shot story that forever defines ElfQuest in my mind.

Check out the ElfQuest site and this particular story, Hidden Years: Little Patch for yourself, and fall in love with the Wolfriders!

Pini, Wendy & Richard. ElfQuest: Hidden Years. 1992.

Star Wars ComLINKS: Favorite Supporting Character

This month’s Star Wars writing prompt on Anakin and His Angel is “There are several amazing supporting characters throughout the Star Wars galaxy, from the noble and sweet handmaiden Dorme’ to the crazy and mischievous Salacious Crumb. Which character from the films or cartoons do you particularly love the most?”

Every month that I do the prompts, I struggle with narrowing down my choices, and this month was no different. Does supporting mean anyone besides Luke, Leia, Han, Rey or the like? Does Obi-Wan count? I was very close to picking him, as he truly was a supporting character in the original trilogy, but later became a main one in Episodes I-III. Indeed, I hope he gets a spin off movie about his years in exile, but I digress…

As Star Wars is often male-centric, with female representation grossly neglected, I want to spotlight a woman. Who better than Shmi Skywalker, the matriarch of the Skywalker clan?

But what do we even know about Shmi? Even before Disney took over the Star Wars franchise , Anakin’s mother fell to the trope of the saintly mother’s death as fuel for the main character’s development. From Bambi to movies of today (especially Disney films) the mother MUST be killed, or dead already, to build sympathy and push the plot forward. We barely got to know Shmi, for everything that made her who she was happened offscreen. How exactly did she become pregnant with Anakin? What was her background before his birth? We never witnessed her marriage to Cliegg Lars and her being a step mother to Owen. Had she been able to be a loving mother to Owen, which in turn made him willing to take responsibility for baby Luke?

There were so many missed opportunities with Shmi. She is an enigma, forced into a martyr role, so as to represent Anakin’s descent towards the Dark Side. She made sacrifice after sacrifice for Anakin, and willingly sends him off to the Jedi Order. Although I am complaining about her small role, that scene of their goodbye tore at me, for I imagined how I would cope sending my child away forever. Her only reunion with him comes at a heavy cost, and she would be devastated to know what he did afterwards.

Although I have picked her as my favorite supporting character and I feel the actress Pernilla August did as much as she could with what little was given her, her small role symbolizes to me missed opportunities. Star Wars stands out for varied and complex characters, so it truly is a shame that Shmi couldn’t be given a richer role in the Star Wars universe.

-Nancy

Black Canary (New 52; Vol. 2): New Killer Star

Dinah’s left Black Canary in the hands of Bo Maeve, their new lead singer, and gone to find out the truth about her mother. She falls in with a ninja death cult, who may have had a hand in her mother’s disappearance, at the persuasion of her Aunt Rena. She manages to escape and returns to Gotham to enlist the help of her friend, Barbara. The leader of the cult, however, follows her… and will stop at nothing until Dinah shows her a move called “the Five Heavens Palm.” Dinah’s mother apparently knew it, and it’s assumed she showed Dinah how to do it. But how can Dinah show her a move she doesn’t even know? And when she gets wind that Black Canary is in trouble, will Dinah help her friends, or continue her quest to find her family?

The art in this run is phenomenal. The characters, dressed in dark clothes, look almost cut and pasted against the neon backgrounds. It’s flat but not at all boring: lots of different angles are used to portray the same scene so that there’s depth. Dinah is a woman pulled in multiple different directions as she tries to understand her past to move forward with her future. There was also a preview of Rebirth Birds of Prey in the back! I can’t wait to get to it… after I eventually finish Simone’s run 8D;;

– Kathleen

Fletcher, Brenden, Sandy Jarrell, and Annie Wu. Black Canary (New 52, Vol. 2): New Killer Star. 2016.

Love is Love

Love is Love is a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting. Published by IDW, in conjunction with DC, writers and illustrators came together to honor those killed in the Pulse nightclub on June 12th, 2016. All the proceeds from the book will go to the charity Equality Florida to benefit the victims, survivors and their families.

As with any anthology (no matter if poems, short stories or comics), this collection was uneven. Written with the best of intentions, these one-shot stories that are only a page or two vary in tone and authenticity. Some of the comics were powerful and made me tear up, or even better, made me think about the issues beyond that page. Others were trite and lacked depth.

Winners:

Thoughts & Prayers– Lenson & Lopez: Shows how easy it is to be shocked and dismayed by something, but to let opportunities slip by and do nothing about it. Just saying “my thoughts and prayers are with you” can be meaningless. Do something to help!

Hand Me Down– Beals & LaFuente: Two different parenting styles equal two different outcomes. Our children ARE listening.

Phone Call*– DeFilippis, Weir & Vieceli: Supportive parents are the best!

Shelter Pet Adoptions*– Lope & Sadowski: Two dates- 4/3/2009 & 6/15/2016 bookened this heartbreaking tale about an owner and his dog.

Pride– Tynion & Ostertag: A highschool boy worries about wearing a rainbow bracelet to school, but does it anyway, to be true to himself.

Mother & Son *– Lindelof & Yu: A beautiful tribute to Brenda Lee Marquez McCool and her son Isaiah. Brenda died at Pulse, but told her son to run and he lived because of her encouragement. This one picture conveys so much.

*There were no titles on these comics, I made them up.

Misses:

A Swan Song– Zeus is portrayed here as a great lover of both men and woman through the ages, and a supporter of the LGBTQ community. Sorry, this guy is a rapist, if you really read the myths about him closely. Not buying this story of him as a good guy.

Basically all the DC superhero stories. I totally think these stories should have representation in them, but these one shots felt like overkill. Lets make sure we continue the equality into the mainline comics, ok?

I have to applaud this book, for these artists did not just sit back and send their best – no, they did their best and donated their time and talent to help a hurting community. The stories open lines of communication, and I hope more artists with #ownvoices can add in to the dialogue. While not a perfect book, the right intent is there, and purchases will benefit those in need.

-Nancy

The Source

And now for something completely different: a review of a music CD!

And I just gotta talk about it okay plZ BEAR WITH ME

The Source is the latest progressive metal album by Ayreon, aka Arjen Anthony Lucassen, a project of his in which he writes metal operas. He writes and plays most of the music for his albums, but invites vocalists from different (mostly metal) bands to sing the parts. Many of his albums follow a science fictional story. This album, The Source, reveals the origins of The Forever, the alien race that is at the center of the story.

Alpha, the planet The Forever originally inhabited, is dying. It’s being shut down by the Frame, the computer system that controls the entire planet. It thinks that in order to solve the ecological and political problems of the planet, it has to wipe out the entire race. Ten of the Forever manage to escape in a spaceship called the Starblade. They head for an ocean planet near the Star of Sirrah. In order to adapt to their new aquatic environment, they take a drug they call “the Source” or “Liquid Eternity” to change their bodies and minds. They alternately mourn for their fallen race, worry that they will forget their origins and repeat their past mistakes, and rejoice in their new world, the new start they have for their future. But… deep in the depths of the ocean, there is one robot who stayed faithful to their masters thus far… whom the Forever have forgotten.

The cast of vocalists is incredible: Tommy Karevick of Kamelot, Russell Allen of Symphony X, Simone Simons of Epica, Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian (both of these bands my boyfriend and I have seen in concert), Floor Jansen of Nightwish, and many more. They all sing together at multiple points in the album, and have lots of duets together, making it feel more like an opera than previous Ayreon albums. All the vocalists do an amazing job of conveying the emotions of their characters. Each song flows seamlessly from one track to the next, so that the music and the story are uninterrupted. There is a serious lack of continuity listening to the playlist of the album on YouTube vs. listening to the album on iTunes. Even the few seconds it takes for the next video to load is too long, too jarring.

There are parts that are epic, parts that are pure headbanging metal, parts that are tragic, parts that are funky with an amazing bass, parts that are creepy. It adds up to a sweeping, awe-inspiring whole. For previous fans of Ayreon, there are multiple references to past albums, both in the lyrics and within the music. For new fans, I am so sorry you have to listen to this one first, because no other Ayreon album will come close to this for you. I was completely blown away by it and it’s been on repeat since it dropped. This has permanently replaced my favorite album, 01011001… and my favorites are incredibly hard to replace!

Thank you for being patient with this late Wednesday post… and listening to me rant about metal, no less!

– Kathleen

Briggs Land: State of Grace

Briggs Land is an absolutely riveting new series about “an American family under siege” by both the government and their own hand. Set in rural upstate New York, Briggs Land is a hundred square mile oasis for people who want to live off the grid. Established in the Civil War era, the Briggs family would give sanctuary to those who wanted to live a simple life, but this anti-government colony has taken a dark turn in recent times. The village that grew within it’s fences has morphed into a breeding ground for white supremacy, domestic terrorism and money laundering.

Patriarch Jim Briggs, who is currently serving a life sentence for attempting to assassinate the president, has been leading the sect and still making orders with the assistance of his wife Grace, who visits him weekly in jail. Dismayed by his corruption, Grace decides to make a power play for leadership in the community, despite her three adult sons being valid potential leaders themselves.  Eldest son Caleb is a businessman and white extremist who feels he is being passed over, Noah is the muscle of the family with a reckless intensity and Isaac is the recently returned soldier who may prove to be a wild card.

Grace proves to be a worthy adversary in this patriarchal society, and literally survives a power coup by those that resent a woman taking the lead of Briggs Land. She has a steely resolve, but shows a love for her family and compassion for those in need. However, although she seems to want to rehabilitate the compound and honor the original intent of this secessionist group, she is also willing to manipulate others, including the FBI agents that are investigating the family. Don’t assume anything about Grace.

The artwork by Mack Chater is spot on for the gritty story and establishes the atmosphere of a trashy military compound. Sketchy with an earth toned color palette, the layout reminds me of storyboards, which is apropos as the series is being developed for TV on the AMC network. The Briggs family and the village as a whole are drawn realistically, with varied looks for these armed right wingers.  The only misstep is an oddly colored front cover to the graphic novel in which Grace is colored in blue with other family members in red. Lately I’ve seen the cover for the first issue used more often (picture with this post) which is more appropriate for the mood and frankly, just more attractive.

The world building in this story is superb, with this thinly fictionalized narrative being quite plausible in our current polarized world. There was also a short one-shot story in the back of the Avatar issue from Free Comic Book Day which adds another real world issue of meth dealership to the compound. Both stories make me anxious to find out what Grace and her complex family’s next moves will be in this fascinating crime saga.  Highly recommended!

-Nancy

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