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August 2020

The Boys (Vol. 1): The Name of the Game

Amazon Prime is releasing Season 2 of their TV show rendition of The Boys comic book series on Friday. My fiancé and I watched Season 1 earlier this year and are rewatching it while eagerly anticipating our Friday night plans 😉 We love it so much, I thought I’d check out the first volume of the comic. I’ll talk about this first volume of the comic first before comparing it to Season 1 of the show.

Don’t worry, this review is free of spoilers =)

Superheroes are real, and they are backed by the most American institution: big corporations. What happens when they mess up? Hughie is about to find out. After his girlfriend, Robin, is accidentally killed by A-Train, one of the Seven (think Justice League or Avengers for this world), he is approached by a man named Billy Butcher. Billy wants to recruit Wee Hughie into a group called The Boys. They are backed by the CIA specifically to keep the Supes in line. Hughie wants justice for Robin, but at what cost? Annie January, also known as Starlight, is the newest member of the Seven. It’s been her dream ever since she was a little girl growing up in the rural Midwest. However, she’s about to find out that being among the best of the best is not what it’s all cracked up to be…

The point of this series is to subvert common superhero tropes. As such, the comic is very graphic, in terms of both violence (some of which is sexual) and sexual content, neither of which are seen often in traditional superhero comics – at least not to this extent. None of the characters presented are especially good people. They’re not all bad, but none of them are particularly good, either. In this world, Supes are the faces of corporations and businesses, not operating independently. As such, they serve the ends of the corporations first, and of the greater good to a lesser extent. The art of the book, especially in the coloring, is dark and murky, as if you’re seeing the world through a dirty lens.

Overall, I think the first season of the show did a much better job with this story than it’s source material, for a couple of different reasons.

First, and I’m not sure if this is because I simply watched the show first, but I felt the story in the book went way too fast. A plot point that is revealed very late in Season 1 is presented in the book within the first half of the first volume. This absolutely killed any mystery or tension behind it. At that point I felt there was no longer any point to reading. Other plot points were switched around from the book to the show, which in my mind only served to aid in the deliciously slow reveal of that big twist.

Second, there is a large level of violence in both the book and the show. In the book it felt much more gratuitous and as if violence was in there for violence’s sake, not necessarily to move the story along. While I can close my eyes at some parts of the show (and definitely needed to), it’s harder to skim a graphic novel. You still see the parts you want to skip over! This is fine for some readers, but still definitely not for me.

Third, as mentioned before, none of the characters are particularly good people. Perhaps this changes as the graphic novel series goes on, but here in the first volume I didn’t get the impression that any of these characters were redeemable whatsoever. None of them were particularly human, just cardboard stereotypes, even the people we’re supposed to be rooting for. The show takes steps to humanize all the characters. We are shown the good qualities in these bad people, making us wonder if we are supposed to really hate or like them. Volume 1 of the book series doesn’t offer any of that, so readers just… plain don’t like them.

The Boys can be a great subversion of the superhero genre, and does succeed in both comic and show form – but overall the winner in my eyes, and my ultimate recommendation, is the show on Amazon Prime, not the graphic novel series. If you can stomach the gratuitous violence and love to love very bad people, pick it up!

-Kathleen

Ennis, Garth, and Darick Robertson. The Boys (Vol. 1): The Name of the Game. 2010.

Graphic Novel Suggestions

Graphic novels have been growing in popularity but it seems at times that prejudice against them remains, with a lingering doubt about their literary merit. But as a former elementary teacher, and now a current teen librarian, I can say confidently that graphic novels are a magnificent way to bring a story to life. And other educators agree, as teachers and librarians on the 2014 New York Comic-Con panel Super Girls: Using Comics to Engage Female Students in the High School Classroom listed these benefits and skills that are strengthened by graphic novels: “motivating reluctant readers, inference, memory, sequencing, understanding succinct language, and reading comprehension.” To find out more about how graphic novels can be used in education go to the website CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for they have featured articles that are designed to lessen confusion around the content of graphic novels and to help parents and educators raise readers.

There is great variety within graphic novels, with many genres available beyond the stereotypical superhero stories (although those can be great too!). No matter your interest, there is a graphic novel for you, so I have pulled together some of my favorites to highlight.

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Diversity is key in literature and even stronger when an #ownvoices author can share their experiences with the reader. As such, here are a few Diverse Reads:
Roughneck
Roughneck by Jeff Lemire is a beautifully told standalone tale of a brother and sister’s quest to reconnect with one another and their cultural identity written and illustrated by the talented Jeff Lemire. Lemire handles the storyline of Derek and Beth’s Cree heritage with grace and respect and show the reality of native families becoming disenfranchised from their cultural heritage. The ending is open to interpretation, and while I at first looked at it one way, re-reading it I saw a more melancholy but poignant way of concluding the story.

 

The graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s story, Kindred, was extremely well done. Butler’s original novel, published in 1979, was a groundbreaking story that liberally dipped into historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy within a time-traveling framework. The author
herself called the story “a kind of grim fantasy”, and this adaptation shows just that. This was a heartbreaking story, and through the juxtaposition of main character Dana’s experiences in two different centuries, this fantasy novel actually gives a highly realistic view of the slavery era.
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The Outside Circle, written by Patti LaBoucane-Benson and illustrated by Kelly Mellings, tells the fictional tale of a Canadian First Nations man that comes to terms with his heritage and who begins to take responsibility for his life. The story is based on the reality that many Native people face (in Canada and the US), for the government took away thousands of children from their families over the years, breaking the circles of community and fragmenting generations of people with no connection to their tribe anymore.

 

 

Strange Fruit by JG Jones and Mark Waid has an interesting premise: what if a black Superman landed in the segregated South during the 1920s? This magical realism tale is based on the historical 1927 flooding that affected many towns in the South along rivers. As the threat of disaster looms in this story, and racial tensions are mounting, an explosion occurs nearby. An alien ship has crash-landed and out climbs a naked black man, whose ship disappears into the river muck. This novel raised more questions than it answered, but was certainly thought-provoking.

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Even though most people who know me would agree that I am a friendly woman who smiles a lot and has a good sense of humor, I obviously must have a dark streak for I love Dark and Disturbing books:

Locke & Key is truly one of the best graphic novels I have ever read, hands down. It just dominates. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are superb storytellers, and the six-volume series is strong from beginning to end. The story starts with a family tragedy as the Locke family is terrorized by two students who have an ax to grind with the father, Rendell. After the father’s murder, the shattered family leaves California and heads to Massachusetts to start over at the Locke family estate but malevolent horrors await them there. The new Netflix series based on this series is strong and choose to show more of the fantasy vs horror aspects of the story.

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët was macabre, unsettling and gruesome. I loved it. This seemingly sweet graphic novel starts out with a lovely young woman having tea with a prince, and it is going splendidly well, that is until great globs of red stuff start falling on them. As everyone runs for safety, the view shifts away for a long shot, and you see little creatures pouring out of the orifices of a dead girl. And the story continues to go sideways from there.

Another series that I found outstanding was Revival, written by Tim Seeley and illustrated by Mike Norton. It was an atypical living dead story, in which a handful of dead suddenly came back to life. They quietly rejoin their former lives, not even realizing or remembering their deaths. Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region. I loved this series even before I won​ a contest run by Seeley and Norton, in which I was drawn in as a cameo character in the eighth and last volume. I will talk about this honor until my dying day.

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Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction and these non-fiction stories or based on fact stories are a great example of Real and Gritty:

The March trilogy is a perfect example of how graphic novels can bring educational content alive. This non-fiction series is a vivid account by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell about Lewis’ human rights struggle and the greater Civil Rights movement. Students can learn so much from these three novels as they bring history to life and supplements what textbooks only briefly touch on.


Briggs Land by Brian Wood and Mack Chater is an absolutely riveting 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 its fences has morphed into a breeding ground for white supremacy, domestic terrorism and money laundering.

Rebels: A Well Regulated Militia is “a historical epic of America’s founding” and is very accurate in describing this exceptionally good graphic novel by Brian Wood (again!) and Andrea Mutti. It gives a window into the Revolutionary War era based in the NE corner of our new nation in the late 1700s. Divided into six chapters, Wood first gives us a lengthy portrait of the fictional character Seth Abbott and his journey from farm boy to one of the well-respected leaders of the Green Mountain Boys. Then we are given shorter non-linear vignettes of other loyalists and patriots and their contributions to the war.

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Now that I’ve covered other genres in graphic novels, I want to share some Classic Superhero stories that go deeper than most:

Although Superman: American Alien by Max Landis has Superman in the title, it is really focused on Clark Kent stories. Each of the seven stories features a different artist and are put in chronological order to fill in the gaps in the Superman canon. We start with Clark as a boy learning how to fly, move through his adolescence, and finally settle in his early years in Metropolis. Every story is strong and fits in seamlessly with what we already know about Superman. I highly recommend this book, for it humanizes him. All seven stories are excellent, and they flow and connect into one another to form the larger picture of who Clark Kent is and who he will be. A must buy for Superman aficionados!

Kingdom ComeKingdom Come, written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Alex Ross, was praised by IGN with the statement, “One of the greatest comic book stories of all time”, and they were not far off the mark. I am typically more a Marvel fan, but this DC story was fantastic for the moralistic debate featured in the storyline. The artwork is top-notch, with a distinctive photo-realism look and holds up 20 years after first being published. This book stays true to each character’s back story, so kudos to the team’s familiarity with the history of all the superheroes! As such, the epilogue was a perfect ending.​

Vision- Little Worse Than A Man by Tom King and illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta is as far from a superhero story as possible. While grounded in the Marvel universe, with cameos by other Avengers and villains, this book is about our definition of humanity. This quietly ominous story had such power and felt especially moving to me to read at this time when I worry about our nation’s future. I feel some in our country have embraced a bullying rhetoric, and turn a blind eye to facts and justice for all. It’s sequel Little Better Than A Beast was equally strong.

 

Marvel 1602, written by the esteemed Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert, was marvelous (get the play on words?)! The story was a perfect way to freshen up the franchise and reboot some of the hero’s storylines. The story takes place in 1602 and is an alternate world in which Europe and colonial America’s history is jumbled and out of order due to a rift in the timeline, with America’s first child of European descent, Virginia Dare, surviving and traveling overseas to London with her bodyguard Rojhaz. Court intrigue during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I abounds, and there are several betrayals, with many of the mutants needing to travel far to escape persecution for being “witchbreed”. Eventually, America becomes a sanctuary for these people with magical abilities, and an answer as to why they are in 1602 is made clear.

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While I could wax poetic about many other books, I hope those featured encourage you to pick up a graphic novel for the first time or introduces you to new titles if you already are a fan.  Happy Reading!

-Nancy

*This post was originally on another blogger’s page as a guest post, but as the blog is no longer active, I transferred it back here, since I wrote it myself back in 2018. I have learned to keep a copy of my guest posts as I learned the lesson the hard way when another post written by me disappeared when another blog was deactivated.*

The Witcher (Vol. 1): House of Glass

While traveling through the Black Forest, Witcher Geralt of Rivia is joined by a fisherman named Jakob. He’s been widowed, and explained how he lost his wife to the bruxae, otherwise known as vampires. She haunts the world still, watching Jakob from afar. Geralt and Jakob stumble upon (or are led to?) a mansion hidden deep in the forest. Inside, they find a succubus named Vara, who tells them they are inside the House of Glass: so named for the stained glass windows that shift and move inside the walls. Jakob is sure his Marta is in the house somewhere; he hears her calling, so he goes to find her. Geralt feels something is wrong… but what? Does he need to solve the mystery before the house will let them leave?

My first introduction to the world of the Witcher was through the Netflix show. I’ve been promised the book series as a future present, so thought to start my reading journey with the graphic novels 😉

This one is best described as a supernatural horror. The tension is built up as readers move through the house with Geralt, constantly waiting for some horrible monster to pop out around the corner. The cold, dark color palette only serves to heighten the tension and deepen the sense of mystery.

I was surprised to find that Joe Querio (unknown to me before this title) was the artist for this book. I could have sworn it was Mike Mignola. I was half-right: Mignola drew the covers. Querio’s style is similar to Mignola’s in the blocky shapes of his figures and backgrounds, though not quite to Mignola’s extremes. It’s easy to see why these two artists were chosen to provide the art for this book. Not only are they similar in style, but their styles suit the brutal, savage nature of the world perfectly.

It seems a common theme in the world of the Witcher is the ever-present grey area between good and evil. The art serves this theme here also with heavy shading in character’s faces, leaving the reader to infer character intentions for themselves. The central mystery of the story also serves this theme well, though I can’t say more without spoilers.

If you’re enchanted by The Witcher series on Netflix and are looking for more, but are daunted by the books and games, this is a great introduction to the literary universe.

-Kathleen

Tobin, Paul, and Joe Querio. The Witcher (Vol. 1): House of Glass. 2014.

Basketful of Heads

Joe Hill is having a moment. With his Locke & Key series now on Netflix, and his novels and short-story collections in high demand, DC has given him a prestige project, his own label- Hill House Comics. While not all of the graphic novels under this label will be penned by him, this first story is.

Set in September 1983, on Brody Island in Maine, the story establishes an 80s horror flick vibe. June is visiting her boyfriend Liam who is wrapping up his summer job as a deputy before going back to college in the fall. But a prison break (with a homage to Hill’s father Stephen King) puts their reunion in jeopardy. The two head to the police chief’s palatial estate during a growing storm and are amazed by the chief’s Viking artifacts collection. A battle-ax comes in very handy when the convicts land on their doorstep…

There are some twists and turns as to who the convicts are and who they are connected to on the island. As June fights for her life, grabbing the first weapon in sight, the ax’s power manifests in that the decapitated head is still alive and can continue talking. But heads begin to roll (!!) as June tries to find Liam and has to fight off several more criminals. Many secrets of corruption on the island are revealed by these talking heads. A final show-down discloses some heartbreaking truths and June obtains justice for a young woman who had been used and abused that summer.

Artists Leomacs and Riccardo La Bella really captured the era and northeast region well. There were crude jokes with some characters getting an almost Mad magazine type of caricature treatment, especially three times when a character is drawn with two heads as they are reacting to news. I loved the chapter breaks, as June’s basket fills and how the chapter numbers are symbolized. These sight gags, plus others, matched the tone of the narrative and made me laugh.

I enjoyed the dark humor as the horror-aspect of it all was played fast and loose. Thanks to NetGalley for this advance copy, for with this graphic novel as the first in the collection, I am looking forward to the others coming out in the months ahead. Joe Hill, both in graphic novels and books, is now definitely a favored author of mine.

-Nancy

Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey (Vol. 1)

Akiko Higashimura, manga artist best known for her work on Princess Jellyfish, shares the beginnings of her artist’s journey in the first volume of this manga memoir. She starts her story during high school, where we see her big dreams and ambitions of being a shojo (young adult romance) manga artist! … But her not-so-good grades. Still, Akiko loves to draw, thinks herself pretty good at it, and is sure she can get into art school on talent alone. That is, until her friend Futami reminds her that it’ll take more work than that, as Japan’s college applications are very competitive and demanding. She invites Akiko to come to an art class with her, taught by an independent teacher named Hidaka Kenzou. Akiko quickly learns that Hidaka-sensei is VERY demanding, even harsh. Can she put up with him long enough to take her college exams and get into art school?

I found this memoir very refreshing for a couple of reasons. First, it seems I am becoming a bit more open-minded to manga after all =) It’s always touching to see creators publish personal memoirs in the format they are most familiar with; it makes the story feel more immediate and intimate. Though the art is a little more realistic and less in the stylized manga style, visual tropes of manga (angry veins, sweat drops, sparkling backgrounds) are still found.

Second, and maybe most important to me, this manga shows how HARD it is to be an artist! It’s hard work! Akiko shows us this through her schedule with Hidaka, his insistence that they keep a log of the time they spend on each drawing, as well as her own character development. As a teenager, she thought she could coast by on talent, but it takes significant time and effort to hone her craft, which is 100% the case, against many assumptions people have of art and artists. As an artist myself, reading this gave me vivid flashbacks of undergrad: long hours sitting or standing in the same spot in the studio, hauling art supplies and projects up 3-4 flights of stairs, nursing various aches and pains in my dorm afterwards. The result? I’m a much better artist than I was before.

I got the impression that this manga is just as much an ode to Hidaka as it is documenting Akiko’s journey. They have an interesting relationship. Though Hidaka is harsh, he is honest and a realist, which tempers Akiko’s teenage idealism and arrogance. She obviously looks back on him with admiration and fondness. I’m fascinated to see how their journey together unfolds.

-Kathleen

Higashimura, Akiko. Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey (Vol. 1). 2019.

Undiscovered Country

Years ago, America suddenly walled itself off from the rest of the world and went silent. It has been shrouded in mystery until a message is received granting a small group approval to go inside. What awaits them?

We are introduced to a group of seven individuals who have been selected for the mission- the war hero pilot, Lottie a medical doctor and her adventuring brother Daniel, Ace who is an expert on American culture, a journalist Valentina, and two political representatives from warring alliances, Janet and Chang. Given specific coordinates, they take a helicopter into American air space but are shot at and they crash land in the desert. Confused as to why they were invited in but then attacked, they see a surreal Mad Max type of group coming at them, but luckily a masked man ushers them into the safety of a cave.

And this is where the story goes sideways. As they ran for safety the group saw that the vehicles coming at them were pulled by a motley assortment of creatures such as walking sharks and other sea creatures. The masked man leads them to a group of rebels who are hiding underground and talks of a mystical spiral that needs to be discovered that will help them solve the mystery of why America closed and why it has changed so very dramatically.

The art was strong, with a dusty and apocalyptic vibe. Fun was obviously had drawing the fantastical creatures and the strange armada of vehicles in this new America. While I found the storytelling confusing, the art tried to tie it together and give visual clues to help the narrative. I enjoyed the chapter breaks with quotes from former citizens of the US about their experiences when they became stranded outside of the borders. The book ends with a lengthy and informative afterword by the two authors, a timeline of events and many well-drawn variant covers.

I have to say, for all the buzz I’ve heard about this book, it fell flat for me. I heard about Undiscovered Country a year ago and it sounded fascinating, for with our current political climate, this story seemed to be timely. However, despite many good parts of this graphic novel, all the pieces didn’t equal a cohesive story for me.  I won’t be continuing with further volumes, for while the group will be journeying on the Spiral, I felt this story spiraled out of control. So instead, if you truly want to read an excellent gritty dystopian tale that has a timely political message, you should read Warlords of Appalachia by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Jonas Scharf.

-Nancy

Magus of the Library (Vol. 2)

Now that Theo Fumis is seven years older, he is on his way to the great city of Aftzaak to take the Kafna Exam! He has not grown out of his desire to become a librarian, and wishes to give back the book that Kafna Sedona lent him when she visited his home village. Aftzaak is a long way away, and there are many grand sites and places to visit along the way. Of course, there are friends to be made as well: Mihona, another Kafna hopeful on her way to the exam; Alv, a street-wise youngster; and a citlapol (albino creature) with two tails that Theo names Uira. Together, they travel and arrive in Aftzaak. The Kafna exam is, by all accounts, a grueling experience… can Theo even make it through the first part?

I adore every part of this manga. Of course, I love it because librarians are central to the story 😉 But the worldbuilding is absolutely phenomenal. Each chapter of this volume takes place in a different city along Theo’s route. The chapter pages have illustrations and information about the city, or a monument or natural phenomena nearby. Each city has its own distinct artistic flavor that only grows in scale the closer we get to Aftzaak. It’s interesting to see not only Theo’s character, but the art and world evolve right along with him.

As mentioned in my review of Volume 1, it appears that much of the artistic influence was taken from Middle Eastern and Indian (by that I mean India the Asian country, not Native American tribes; my apologies for any confusion) cultures. It’s more of the same here, in costumes and architecture. In essence, a blend of all of my favorite things.

The grand scale of this literary adventure, coupled with my visual Kryptonite, ensures that I’ll be following this manga very closely.

-Kathleen

Izumi, Mitsu. Magus of the Library (Vol. 2). 2019.

Twilight Zone (2020): Season Two

Last year when I heard Jordan Peele was producing and hosting a new Twilight Zone series, I was excited, for I am a huge fan of the original. I have watched many of the 1959-1964 series episodes over and over again and my family looks forward to the TZ marathon that the Syfy station puts on television every New Years Day. I also was a big fan of the 1985-1989 series, although I did not watch many episodes of the 2002-2003 series.  I was pleased with the first season as a whole, although it was a bit uneven, so I looked forward to this second season.  Careful- a few spoilers in the following quick recaps.

Meet in the Middle:

Phil, a lonely bachelor who longs for a romantic connection yet doesn’t seem to have the ability to form one, unexpectedly makes a telepathic connection with a woman Annie. Not understanding how it happened, they are both freaked out, but in time form a friendship and later a romantic connection. Desperate to meet her in real life, Phil heads to meet her, but when Annie disappears a secret about her is revealed.

Downtime:

Michelle, a beautiful and professional woman, finally lands her dream job as the manager of a high-end hotel. Elated, her victory is short-lived when the world seems to stop in their tracks and she is left as the only one who is aware of reality. But her reality is soon called into question when it is discovered she is a he who is living out a fantasy world in his sleep. A heart attack and then a coma has stranded him in this alternative world, but Michelle wishes to stay there, despite having his real-life wife try to convince him to disengage from the dream and come back to her. An interesting episode about perceived reality and how our online personas can become more real to us than our physical lives.

The Who Of You:

A struggling actor, who is behind on the bills and suspects his girlfriend is cheating on him, decides to rob a bank. Unexpectedly, his consciousness slips into the teller’s body, and her’s into his. He decides to slip out with the money now that he’s in a new body, but then his consciousness hopscotches from body to body, all while his original body is now in police custody. This was a fun episode as the police detective clues in that personalities seem to be slipping in and out of the original bearded actor. It goes without saying that there is an additional sly twist at the end for the actor to deal with.

Ovation:

The classic “watch out what you wish for” when an aspiring singer is gifted a coin that brings her fame and fortune. But the constant adulation and ovations comes at a cost and becomes so over the top that Jasmine realizes it is not authentic. Her sister throws the coin away for her and Jasmine goes into seclusion. During this time there is a new singer who becomes an overnight sensation, and who it is comes as no surprise. This perils of fame episode was weak.

Among the Untrodden:

As weak as the previous episode was, the next proved to be my favorite! Irene is a nerdy girl who transfers into a boarding school and immediately comes under fire from mean-girl Madison and her nasty group of friends. Irene is fascinated by ESP and during a science-fair experiment clues in that Madison has latent powers. At first dismissive, Madison eventually agrees to meet with Irene and the two girls do experiments to figure out what powers Madison holds. Woven into the story is Irene’s need to be accepted by Madison and her posse and we watch Madison start to look out for Irene. Later you will suspect that it is actually Irene with the powers and she’s manipulating everybody, but the episode has some surprising twists and turns in store.

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This episode is a mix of The Abyss and Alien movies, in a short 30-minute burst. Scientists are studying newly discovered octopuses that because of a thinning ice sheet have been captured for the first time. The different teams are secretly planning to monetize or weaponize their findings, but the highly intelligent octopus has other plans. An entertaining monster-of-the-week episode with a fun but highly unrealistic ending.

A Human Face:

Grief overpowers logic in this meh episode. A grieving couple whose daughter committed suicide is packing up as they prepare to move when an expected cosmic flare occurs. But this flare brought a shape-shifting alien to their home who takes the form of their daughter. The mother immediately embraces the alien as her daughter but the father resists. The alien even admits that she is there to conquer Earth, but human emotion has made her reevaluate her mission. The ending was preposterous with too much of a need for suspension of disbelief.

A Small Town:

A sweet episode in which a small town’s mayor’s widower finds a magical model of the town and begins to make repairs to it that correspond to the real town, but then the slimy current mayor begins to get credit for the improvements. The widower resorts to some petty aggressions but eventually has to fess up when things go wrong. The episode could have gone deeper with the political angle, but instead concluded with a happyish ending.

Try, Try:

Imagine Groundhog Day but with a creepy stalker. A graduate student studying Indigenous masks is saved from being hit by a truck outside of the museum she is headed to, and once inside runs into her good Samaritan. The two hit it off, although the man seems to be hitting his marks a little too perfectly. It is revealed he is in the middle of a time loop, and every day he relives his meeting with her, with an intent to make her love him. But his nice-guy persona wears off and he comes off as a psychopath who only views her as a conquest. The conclusion is left ambiguous as to what will happen next, which I felt was apropos for a TZ episode.

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Gah. This messed up episode is their conclusion for season two? An overly commercialized and sterile world is linked to the original series episode To Serve Man and to the Kanamit alien species. I’m not even going to summarize this episode- it was boring, weird and far from clever. The only good thing I can say is that George Takei voiced one of the trio of the Kanamit aliens which is a nice nod to the original series, as he starred in the episode The Encounter before he became famous on Star Trek. If this had been in the middle of the season, I could have moved on, but it was a bad idea to end on this note.

Of the ten episodes, Among the Untrodden was by far the best, with Downtime and The Who Of You being strong contenders. I enjoyed some guest stars such as Topher Grace,  Gillain Jacobs, Christopher Meloni, Jenna Elfman, Morena Baccarin and Joel McHale. The quality fell off in later episodes which was a shame. But keep in mind any anthology like this is going to have clunkers. There are some absolutely cringe-worthy episodes from the original, but I still think fondly of the entire series, so I will hope there will be a season three of this new updated Twilight Zone.

-Nancy

Top 5 Bands I Want to See at a Music Festival

Though it’s not Wednesday, I felt a Top 5 was in order to memorialize 2020’s music festival season. Who else misses outdoor music festivals??? My sisters, fiancé, and I love to go to concerts together. The last one I went to was Lollapalooza last year – that’s more than enough time to go through some SERIOUS concert withdrawals!!! Here are the 5 bands (that I’ve never seen live) I would choose to create the perfect music festival for me:

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5. Nirvana

Unfortunately for me, I was far too young to be aware of Nirvana’s existence when they were together. Fortunately for me, I was old enough to appreciate their sound without the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia when I finally gave them an undivided listen. I love the murky, distorted sound of their instrumentals; listening to Nirvana makes you feel like you’re floating underwater. I have listened to a few of the many live bootlegs available on YouTube, but of course it’s not the same as being there in person! One would need a time machine to go back and see this flagship grunge band live.

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4. Evanescence

Though I don’t follow this band anymore, they were my first “gateway” band, as it were, into the symphonic and power metal that I love today. I still spin their first 2 albums from time to time if I’m feeling like a throwback to high school. Amy Lee is an iconic vocalist and I would love the chance to see her perform live someday.

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3. Powerwolf

This German power metal band differs from the majority of the genre in that their music deals with dark fantasy themes, as opposed to traditional sword and sorcery. And I can’t get enough of it! Their melodies and lyrics are so catchy, it’s hard not to want to howl along. I bet their concerts are phenomenal and I can’t wait for the next time they’re State-side.

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2. Lana Del Rey

Though most of the music I listen to is metal, I LOVE Lana Del Rey. Her deep, jazzy vocals combined with the blend of nostalgic, yet modernly cinematic music just… SPEAKS to me on a deep emotional level. I often try (albeit very, very badly) to emulate her during my shower karaoke. Of the modern artists I haven’t yet seen live, she is at the very top of my bucket list.

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1. Nightwish

When you say “symphonic metal,” the first band to most people’s minds will likely be Nightwish. The Finnish band defined the genre in the late ’90s and have consistently been producing best-selling albums since. I hate to say I’m not much a fan of their new work. Through 3 separate vocalists, I can safely say I am a Nightwish purist and prefer their older albums with Tarja Turunen the best. Her classical voice, combined with the keyboards and orchestral elements, created an enchanting magic that the band has often tried to emulate but failed to capture ever since. I’m gonna need another time machine for this one!

There you have it! My Top 5 bands that I’ve never seen live who I would need to create my perfect outdoor music festival. Of course, I would also need a gorgeous summer day, a food stand with burgers, fries, and ice cream, and a time machine to make some of these bands come back. Come on, someone’s gotta get on it during quarantine! 😉

Kathleen

 

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