Category Archives: Reviews

TV Review: The Strain S1E3 Gone Smooth

the-strain-logo1The Strain‘s third episode really ups the creepy factor with the transformations of the individuals picking up, and their lust to feed growing stronger.

Much like the first two episodes the third has been slow, but but the time we’ve gotten to the end, the payoff has really begun as Eph and his team begin to truly figure out what’s going on, and those infected feeling the need to feed.

The episode mixes up all of those changes with the personal stories of Eph, Jim and others. This episode really focuses on Jim, while we’ve learned why he allowed the coffin to go through. There’s also some movement on Eph and his custody battle, which seems to be going quicker than it would in reality.

The episode is one that almost gets us there for the payoff we’re waiting for. The vampires are about to start tearing things up, and seeing some of that begin to pay off is nice.

The episode gets us to the edge, and things hopefully will really kick off next episode, after the nice slow bid so far. Overall, the series has been a nice translation of the source material with the overall story rating better than the single episodes.

Overall Score: 7.75

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Review: Kagerou Project

KagePro-Wallpaper-kagerou-project-37017335-2000-786Okay let me tell you this much, I have not yet read the novels, so I’m a bit uninformed on certain things about the series, but I’ll give as much as I can.

So! Kagerou Project was made by Jin and his use of the computer music program Vocaloid. He made some fun catchy songs and along the way he joined forces with Shidu, who made music videos for them. Further down Jin had a story plot that interconnected all of his songs, making for one big hit! And it caught on.

It’s the story about people with eye powers, who went through a happening on August 14th, and were given these abilities by the medusa Azami within the Heat Haze. Each character has a different power, based upon a wish they had at the time, whether it was to hide the injuries, to be noticed, or to just understand another person, they all are good and bad. And these powers are all based around eyes, each character’s eyes becoming red when the ability is used. This is their story and how it goes round and round.

Now this is an interesting thing as the entire rise to mainstream is sort of out there. From Vocaloid music videos, to novels, to a manga, to an anime, Kagerou Project is really far from the norm of adaptations. Jin, let me just say, is an amazing song writer, as all the songs are full length with catchy tunes, and have deeper meanings than meets the eye. As someone who has yet to read the novels, as I am unable to read Japanese but I am looking for translations, I don’t really know the quality of those. The manga: Kagerou Days, still going, is quite good so far, showing just enough for you to get a taste. The anime: Mekaku City Actors, produced by SHAFT, recently ended its slotted twelve episodes, and… Could have been better, but also could have been a lot worse. Now if that isn’t something new, well I don’t know what you people want, because I think it’s brilliant.

Okay! Light spoilers under the cut!

Character time!

Our main character is Shintaro Kisaragi, a hikkimori NEET, basically a major recluse who believes he will die without his computer. Not exactly main character makings right? Well there’s a reason for his reclusiveness and it’s a mix of guilt and despair for something he believes he could have stopped or rather something he thinks he caused. Now the entire story plot starts when Shintaro is forced to leave his home for the first time in two years because his keyboard died. Because of this he is thrown into a whole new crazy world of eye powers.

Next is the pretty cyber girl Ene, otherwise known as Takane Enomoto, a highschool student who was given the power of Opening Eyes, essentially making her immortal and a computer program. She found her way to Shintaro’s computer, where he then downloaded her, and prompted to annoy the ever-living fuck out of him. She is always trying to prompt Shintaro to leave the house and become a healthier person, though he may not realize what she’s doing. She loud and humorous, but is also cranky and mean.

Momo Kisaragi, Shintaro’s sister, is an unlucky idol. Always in the background growing up she wished to be seen, and was once she gained the Captivating Eyes. Because of her power she was able to become a famous pop singer, though now she hates it. This is because she can’t seem to live a normal life. Huh, who would have thought being famous would make it hard to go to the store? Anyway, she’s upbeat and near the exact opposite of her brother, who she now sees as an embarrassment.

Tsubomi Kido, known as Kido, is the leader of the group Mekakushi Dan (Blindfold Gang). She is our tsundere character, who grew up in a rich family as a disappointment child, and so she wished to disappear and be able to hide away. She later gained the ability Concealing Eyes, able to make herself disappear and appear at her own will. Kido is actually quite timid, but comes off cold and harsh, though she’s a sweetheart. She also has the best control over her powers.

Shuuya Kano, known as Kano, is a member of the gang. From an abusive home Kano wished to hide away the injuries he was giving, but he also wanted people to believe his lies. He is a trickster character who is meant to appear as a possible bad guy character. He has the Deceiving Eyes, resulting in him being able to make elusions with himself, but only himself.

Kousuke Seto, known as Seto, is another member of the gang.  He basically grew up alone and because of that was unable to communicate very well, though he had a lot to say. His power is Stealing Eyes, almost making it as though he can read people’s minds, though it’s more him just reading information about a person. A good hearted person, Set only really sees the good in people, despite what he may hear. Next to Momo and Kano, he has the worse control over his power.

Mary, or Marry, is a ¼ Medusa. Because of this she is able to make people stop with her Staring Eyes, but only temporarily, and is unable to turn people to stone as the myth goes. She grew up with her mother until tragedy took her mother away, so instead she lived alone, until Seto brought her to the outside world. She is now a member of the MekakuDan, where she finally has friends and is not just dreaming about it.

Hibiya Amamiya is the youngest member, and only just received his powers. His story is sort of the first view we get into the actual events of the Heat Haze. He’s sort of a brat and a creep, always trying to win the love of his crush Hiyori. He grew up in the sticks basically and it shows as in the events of the story it is his first time in the city. His power is Focusing Eyes, basically making him able to see things from far away. What a loser.

Konoha, or Haruka Kokonose is our resident android. Like Ene, he used to be a highschool student, but was given the power of Awakening Eyes, which gives him his dream body. He, however, has no memory of his life before being an Android, so you know mostly squat unless you’ve seen any of the material. He’s gluttonous and a bit slow, but he also is a skilled fighter. Like his human counterpart he is kind and just wants friends.

Ayano Tateyama, who believed that red, was the color of heroes, left a mark on all the characters, whether they knew it or not. Now it’s no surprise that Ayano is a character long since passed away, but not in the sense that you would get. She was a character who wanted to save what little happiness she had and had to ‘died’ in the process.

Now here’s where the spoilers become a little heavy.

Basically to enter the Heat Haze and receive an eye ability you have to die. Often times with another person, though this isn’t always true. You are placed into an endless loop of your death until you emerge from the Haze. So basically all those happy chipper songs and ideas you had about this story? Nope, it’s only despair from here on out. You see because the powers being given are actually snakes, which possess the dead bodies, granting their final wishes, which then begin to gather around the Queen snake.

See, what did I say, misery.

But anyway, on to the next bit since characters went on for a long time (Sorry there was a lot of them and their all really important.)

The art style I personally think was much better in Shidu’s hands, as they really loved the characters. You can see this in the music videos, which are just stunning at times. They also got many of these videos done in less than 3 weeks, which is impressive. The manga is well done as well, each character pretty much standard, though some of the anatomy is… Not mentionable, but that’s normal. Now the anime, which had a whole new art staff, because no one bothered to hire Shidu, the bastards. This was good and bad. SHAFT has a string of very good animation, see Madoka Magica, but it also has that very bad habit of getting things just barely done before it airs, often still fixing things. Basically if you want quality, wait for the dvd/bluray, because then it will all be much cleaner, also see Madoka Magica. It shines in places, like the opening is very clean, whilst some scenes in the actual anime are just funny from how cringe worthy they are.

Okay so warning right now, if you are going to watch Mekaku City Actors, there is an episode… Where the animation just changes to 3DCGI, which… Dear lord I watched it right after the subbed version came on and it scared me at first. Episode nine be prepared for it.

Now onto music. This is really where the whole thing shines most because this is what made Kagerou Project so big. Now for those who don’t know Vocaloid is a Japanese computer program that makes music. You guys know Hatsune Miku, yeah, that’s Vocaloid. Anyway a lot of these songs are just fantastic, from the loud drum solo of Yobanshi Decieve to the soft guitar of Ayano’s Theory of Happiness, to the haunting lyrics of Toumei Answer, to the upbeat sound of Yuukei Yesterday, and to the final notes of Summertime Record. I love all of these songs. Now be warned that the originals are sung by a computer automated voice, and not everybody digs that, it took me a long time. Not all of them have music videos made by Shidu, some were fan animated, which just shows the pulling power. In the anime they took advantage of this and a lot of the best parts of the episodes is where the audience got an amazing cover of a song we had come to love and it always fit just right and felt like a music video in ways. I think, personally, that’s where the anime shined best itself, when it showed the roots of this entire story. Because without that music it wouldn’t even be here.  And I guess the most important thing is that Jin, who made a lot of this himself, sang that final song for that final episode.

This is a story about eyes and the people who are affected by it, but for me, I see as a story about growing up. Summertime Record, the final song, is about moving forward but promising to meet each other again. I think that’s why I personally love Kagerou Project, because it’s that final story before things become normal, but it’s only boring if you let it be. Tell the story over and over so people don’t forget, so you yourself don’t forget. “The lonely kids will take a stand.”

I say look into this, I know it isn’t for everyone, but try it out. People do English covers of the song every day and I think a lot of people could connect with the characters, just as I do with characters like Shintaro. But for now I’ll just give a rating based on my enjoyment of each individual piece. The novels will get a proper rating once I’ve read them.

Kagerou Project (Music/Videos): 10/10
Novels: ???/10
Manga: 7.5/10
Anime: 7/10

TV Review: The Strain S1E2 The Box

the-strain-logo1The Strain‘s second episode picks up where the first left off, and also does not hold back at all when it comes to the gore, having the CDC and Dr. Goodweather attempting to figure out what crushed a man’s head. Then there’s an issue with the quarantined individuals being let loose.

The second episode is still setting up what’s to come, and the various players involved. The comic, and story, was very much an ensemble cast and we’re still just meeting, and getting to know everyone. No one person saves the world in this story, it’s a group effort, and a lot of those people aren’t exactly likeable.

One thing that plays out solidly in this second episode is Goodweather and how his personal life’s issues affect his work life. He has a family melting down, a son he’s trying to not let down. Goodweather is actually not super likeable, there’s something very grating about him. But, he has his moments, especially when dealing with his son. And then there’s something towards the end of the episode, that really opens Eph up a lot. This is a perfect example of the slow reveal of the show.

And that’s the show as a whole so far. This isn’t a quick show at all. Reveals come slowly and calculated. If you need a horror story with lots of quick scares, this isn’t it… yet. The show is as much about the virus, the terror that causes society to melt down, as it is about someone’s personal life melting down. And that goes for everyone whose life is explored.

What’s interesting for me watching the show is knowing a lot of what’s coming, but how it plays out on television is really interesting, especially since we’re seeing personalities come to life.

The show has been slow so far, but the payoffs are coming.

Overall Score: 7.75

The Leftovers – “B.J. and the A.C.” – Review & Recap

Leftovers“Cause I’m not the one
No I’m not the one
You wanted it all
But I’ll give you none
Cause, I’m not the one”
- “I’m Not The One” – The Black Keys

I am sure there are a lot of people who take everyday matters for granted such as work, family and religion to name a few. Sunday night’s episode of The Leftovers hinted a little at that last one, filled with symbolism about what believing and having faith means and how it affects people in different ways. It was another great chapter in this equally amazing series. The show is not for everyone, I understand, and I believe quite a few people will find it artistic and dramatic enough for their tastes. I love seeing in the comments, after I post an advanced preview or a review, how fans initially didn’t care for the series and then came to love it, discovering little nuances that made all the difference. That is the genius with the creative team behind The Leftovers, whether it is the writing, editing or directing.

Last week we were treated to a whole hour of the Reverend and what he has been going through post Sudden Departure. B.J. and the A.C. gave us the whole cast again and what they have been up to. The town of Mapleton is gearing up for the big Holiday Dance fundraiser for the new library. After that interesting cold open, which I will get to later, we see Kevin pulling a fast one on Patti, the leader of the Guilty Remnant. The GR is quickly becoming the object of our animosity and Kevin brought Patti in to his office to, secretly, make sure her and her clan will make an appearance much like they did at the parade in episode one. He sees them as a nuisance and wants to arrest them all for trespassing, but being The Leftovers I imagined something else entirely was going to happen during the dance. Kevin definitely doesn’t hide his hatred towards Patti and the GR, especially when he casually offers her Drano to drink.

“There is no family”, reads the sign that Patti draws for the chief, reflecting much of what this episode is about. This brings me to the difficult time I had deciphering the cryptic episode title and, during a revealing moment watching with a friend, I think I figured it out. B.J. and the A.C. possibly has many meanings when interpreted by different people and yes, I am using that as a cop-out in case I am wrong with my meaning. The “B.J.”, I figured, means “Baby Jesus” and the “A.C.” took some time, but I came to the conclusion that, based on the theme of the episode, represents “Abandoned Children”. “Baby Jesus and the Abandoned Children” is the perfect title for this episode. Abandonment issues play a central role not only in this episode but the series as a whole. The fundamental element of the Sudden Departure was the majority of the remaining population feeling abandoned by their families and friends and left behind by their God.

Kevin spends the majority of the episode reluctantly locating the “Baby Jesus” figure that was stolen from the Nativity Scene. In one of the best cold open scenes, we see baby dolls being created from scratch in a factory. We view every step that is taken to produce the dolls from which one will be used to represent Mapleton’s Baby Jesus. The imagery used was perfect in how it symbolized Mapleton’s current religious outlook. The solution the mayor gave Kevin was appropriate as well, “Go buy a new doll and say you found it in a ditch or a Dumpster”, giving measurements as if the Baby Jesus were as interchangeable as that. The scenes spoke volumes and is one of the reasons why this series is so impressive.

Tom and Christine’s story line is one that I enjoy seeing every week as I find it so interesting. I wonder if Christine or Tom are falling for each other and you can see hints of it in this episode. They are in a cafeteria when a half naked man approaches them while shouting at Christine to “get out of his dreams” and that he knows what’s inside of her. His dream is that of Christine, walking over the dead who are all in white. Not necessarily a dream sequence that I have come to love from The Leftovers, but dreams do play an important role in this series and that, I suppose, counts as one. The crazy man roughs Christine up a little until Tom intervenes, having to take her to the hospital as a result for a checkup on the baby. Tom begins to lose faith in his whole journey due to the fact that Wayne has not called yet to instruct them what to do. He definitely feels ‘abandoned’ by his former mentor and father figure, Holy Wayne. For those of you confused about what happened next I will explain. If you do not want to be spoiled (like I haven’t spoiled the episode already for you, sorry) then stop reading. The call was a recorded message asking if he wants to join the Barefoot People. We have not been introduced to them until now. They wear no shoes and color a target on their foreheads so they become invisible, so the “creator” can find you easier. They do this so they can remain inconspicuous to the authorities looking for anyone associated with the Holy Wayne Movement. We learn quite a bit about Tom and Christine as well as our other favorite characters in this episode. (Spoilers ahead) Tom is apparently not Kevin’s natural child, revealing to the officer in the hospital that he was ‘abandoned’ by his real father.

At the Holiday Dance, Kevin greets everyone with the news that he located the Baby Jesus, which turned out to be stolen by his daughter, but returned by the twins. It seemed fitting that virtually no one cared, given the current religious tone of the series and episode. Mapleton has definitely lost faith and it shows. They feel ‘abandoned’ by their God. They feel ‘abandoned’ by their family. This is the source of constant adjective I see used to describe The Leftovers, bleak. “Baby Jesus and the Abandoned Children” speaks to the whole of the series as much as it does this particular chapter. Jill Garvey feels abandoned by her parents, especially her mom. Why else give a gift asking, “Don’t Forget Me”. No one wants to be forgotten or abandoned, let alone a child by her mother. Tom feels so abandoned after the SD that he jumps from one group to another looking and hoping to find a home. Maybe he is so protective of Christine and her baby because he doesn’t want it to suffer the same fate of feeling the way he does, knowing that Wayne is probably long gone and not coming back.

Kevin’s initial plan to apprehend the GR backfired. His reference of the situation with them as a ‘briar patch’ seemed apt by episode’s end. A briar patch is a term used to describe a theoretical quandary or impasse. It is An intellectual or philosophical issue abounding with seemingly unresolvable problems, which, at this point, is exactly what the Guilty Remnant is to Kevin. He wants to catch them, but they seem to be a step ahead solidifying themselves as the villain of the season. They knew Kevin was trying to catch them during the dance so they planned to execute a plan of their own. While the police resources were being utilized in one area they decided to break into people’s homes and steal their photos of the Departured, leaving the frames. To what end, I have no idea, but I imagine it is because they think people have forgotten about the SD and what happened. When people come back from the fundraiser they will see their loved ones gone, in a sense. People will come and feel ‘abandoned’, again. I assume this what the GR hopes to accomplish. They don’t steal anything of monetary value, however, they just go house to house and rob people of what they treasure most…family. And remember what Patti wrote to Kevin at the beginning of the episode…”There is no family”.

This episode, B.J. and the A.C., is filled with thought provoking scenes and excellent acting. After last week’s episode we are asked again, “What does it mean to believe?”. What does it mean to have faith? Were all these people of Mapleton abandoned by their God or was something else at play? Kevin, who is definitely losing his grip with everything around him, barely believes anymore proclaiming to Nora in the hallway at the dance, “It’s not real”, referring to the Baby Jesus doll in his hand. I know he was just saying it about a doll, but I think he meant a lot more. It would explain his action of tossing it out the truck window as if it means nothing to him or anyone anymore. And, hey, he can always just go to the store and buy another one, right?

Thoughts and Discussion

- This episode had some great music throughout. Besides the one I referenced above, here are the rest for those that want to know:

“Joy To The World” – Christmas Carol — Right before Tom & Christine’s encounter with the crazy half-naked man
“I Don’t Want No Bloodstains” – Smokey Hogg — Kevin brings the doll back to the Nativity Scene
“All These Lights” – The Grouch and Eligh — The Twins get pulled over by Kevin
“I Must See Jesus For Myself” – Lin Greenwood — Closing Credits

- I wondered how the Rev would be dealing with matters in his own life after the events of last week and thought it was really cool how he was the one who “saved” the town and brought his “spare” Baby Jesus to replace the one that was stolen. Apparently his faith has not wavered even after everything that transpired.

- To play off of the ‘abandonment’ topic again, I thought it was fitting that Kevin’s car stopped working (probably also symbolic of this broken world and town) after he used the Lord’s name in vain and, therefore, had to use the truck he was given from the man who shot the dogs in previous episodes.

- Did you notice…The doll company is called “Aforda”. As if it is not a slight already that the Baby Jesus is being replaced by a generic doll, the name of the company alludes to something that is of a cheap and poorly made origin.

- Did anyone else think the operator from the recorded message when Kevin was calling Tom sounded very annoyed? Lol.

- Did you notice…The Guilty Remnant member that came up to Tom outside the hospital had a wound on her forehead. Apparently Mapleton is not the only place where they get attacked.

- Did you notice…We finally get a closer look at the “Loved Ones” company we have been seeing and hearing ads about. The company creates life-like bodies that people who lost someone in the SD can purchase for burial. That’s uber creepy. Also, did you notice the logo for the company? It is a stick figure drawing of a family with the “mom” floating up. I thought that was clever.

- Does that sheriff in the very beginning of the title sequence remind anyone of Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead?…no?…ok, forget it…

- Did you notice…The cold open ended with the Baby Jesus there one scene and gone by the end, mirroring the Sudden Departure. Also, probably mirroring how some people felt about their God abandoning them during the Sudden Departure.

- Did anyone else think of the scene in Game of Thrones, where Lord Edmure fails three times to set the funeral boat ablaze with a flaming arrow, when Jill was about to do the same thing with the Baby Jesus?

- What does everyone else think about Kevin’s car abruptly not working and Tom’s phone ringing at the appropriate time? Is it something supernatural?

Review: Black Market #1

BlackMarket01_CoverARay Willis is a broken man, a disgraced medical examiner making ends meet by preparing corpses at a funeral parlor. His scientific genius is being wasted—that is, until his estranged criminal brother Denny shows up on his doorstep, supposedly cleaned up and proposing a once-in-a-lifetime partnership to cure not just cancer, but all disease. The catch? It exists within the DNA of superheroes.

Writer Frank J. Barbiere, has teamed up with artist Victor Santos for a modern spin on the superhero mythos. Having read mostly superhero comics growing up, I’ve always wondered why these people with such amazing powers never tackled major issues like disease, poverty, education, or many other issues that we actually have to deal with. You’ve seen this pop up once in a while, but really, there  hasn’t been a series that I can think of that’s tackled this head on.

When I finished reading Black Market #1 my head was spinning as to where the series would go. There’s so much potential here, and I have no idea where Barbiere goes, but he’s set up a world of gray, where some bad actions might be for good, and asks what exactly makes a hero. Mix that with science, a corporation, and there’s just so many questions I have! This might have some superheroes, and some criminals, but the comic is so much more, layered with moral ambiguity.

Barbiere’s fantastic story is brought to “life” with Santos’ art. Santos is an artist who is on the edge of blowing up huge and a creator I’ve been watching since I first came across his work in Mice Templar, Polar, and most recently Furious. Santos’ control of the page is amazing, creating panel transitions that not only draw your eye in, but creates a sense of movement, and story telling that’s fantastic. I felt guided by his art, as he in a way tells his version of the story through art. The combination is fantastic, especially Santos’ jumping between past and present, using subtle clues enhanced by help from the colorist.

Black Market is loaded with potential, and after one issue I’m more than intrigued as to where it goes. For me, the first issue entertained, and got me to think, not just about the issue, but the superhero genre as a whole.

Story: Frank J. Barbiere Art: Victor Santos
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

The Leftovers – Two Boats and A Helicopter – Review

Leftovers“Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your light
I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

No masters or kings when the ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin
In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am human
Only then I am clean
Amen. Amen. Amen”
- Take Me To ChurchHozier

Spoilers for Episode 3 of The Leftovers Below

I struggled with writing this Review. It took me some time to understand how the title, Two Boats and a Helicopter, related to the story being told in this chapter of The Leftovers. I was stumped for a little bit. I usually spend some time analyzing what message writers are trying to get across to the audience and it most often does not take that long. I suppose the reason this episode took a bit longer is because it is religious in context and maybe there is no definitive way to explain the meaning because it will have different meanings to everyone who watches. For those of you who do not know the origin of the episode title let me explain. It is a very old joke that when told brings to mind theories of faith, blind faith, miracles and hope. I believe there is a lot of wisdom in jokes. In fact, while watching this episode I was reminded of a joke I heard Woody Allen tell in the movie Anything Else. It must have been over 6 or 7 years ago, but I always thought about it when giving advice to someone about doing things for themselves and not rely on outside assistance, even from their faith. Here is the joke:

“There’s an old joke
about a prize fighter in the ring.
He’s getting his brains beat out.
And his mother’s in the audience,
and she’s watching him getting beaten up.
There’s a priest next to her
and she says, ‘Father, pray for him.’
And the priest says, ‘I will,
but if he could punch, it would help.’”
- Woody AllenAnything Else

This episode of The Leftovers deals primarily with the trials and tribulations of Reverend Matt Jamison. I have to say that this was one of my favorite hours of television. I think the story was put together so creatively and the dream sequences in The Leftovers keep getting better and better. I would imagine that anyone not a fan of this series, or ‘on the fence’ since the pilot, is a fan now after watching this episode.

Until now, Reverend Matt Jamison was a minor character. He was largely in the background and we only saw him for a few moments; once at the parade when he was handing out fliers, hugging Nora when she was being followed by Aimee and Jill, and a few other times. The cold open involves the Rev in front of his small congregation due to its dwindling attendance as a result of the Sudden Departure and followers waning faith. You would think after witnessing the SD that people would have a renewed interest in faith and religion, wanting to be on top of the list if it were to repeat itself. That’s what I think anyways. There’s a lot of aspects of civilization I imagine happening as a result of experiencing a Sudden Departure, but maybe the creators will delve into that area as the season or series progresses. He finishes telling the story of when he was a little boy with cancer when a man enters and kicks and punches Matt. The man did this because the Rev hands out fliers alerting people to the malevolent actions of some of the Departured, one-by-one.

The reverend does this because he believes the people that ‘left’ must be exposed for who they truly were and what they truly did, because if you can’t separate the innocent from the guilty, everything that has happened to them, all of their suffering, is meaningless. Most people believe that the Departured were ‘chosen’ for the Rapture by God. If that is true, then they must have been good people and everyone not taken is bad. The reverend hopes to alert the community that there was no method to who was taken or why. He creates fliers of each individual announcing their atrocities while alive.

This episode is my favorite for many reasons. One is the fact that it elicited so many intense, edge-of-my-seat, scenes and moments. The first 30 minutes were all set-up and the final 30 was like soaring downhill of a roller coaster ride. When the Rev was at the Roulette table I was actively cheering him on, wanting him to win and catch a break. He may do some dumb things (like the fliers), but deep-down he a very good person. He baptized Craig’s baby “on the house”. He donates clothing to the Guilty Remnant. He pays his wife’s caretaker when he has nothing left for himself.

Reverend Matt’s impetus was his vision of the painting in his wife’s bedroom. The painting is the left panel of the Jabach Alterpiece by Albrecht Dürer in 1503 or 1504. It depicts the prophet Job sitting, with a desperate expression on his face, after Satan has defied him to keep his allegiance to God even in the most tremendous afflictions [1]. If you notice in the painting, his properties are on fire (much like the in the dream sequence) in the upper left. His wife is pouring water over him while a small devil flees in the background. Reverend Matt is very similar to Job. Job was beset with horrendous disasters that took away everything he holds dear; his family, health, and prosperity. This mirrors the Rev’s life in many ways. The Reverend kept waiting for the two boats and the helicopter, knowing that God will reward him. He kept his faith through all of his adversity.

The episode’s title is “Two Boats and A Helicopter” and is a reference to a very old joke. It mirrors what Reverend Matt has been dealing with throughout the episode. Is he holding out for hope? Is God testing his faith like the Rev mentioned to Nora? He had opportunities to avoid being robbed and subsequently smashing that man’s head on the ground. He also didn’t have to help the Guilty Remnant member that was struck by a rock thrown by the same person that incapacitated him by the same device.

Here is the joke for those who have never heard it:

There’s a huge flood and a man climbs onto his roof as the waters rise around him. A boat shows up and the guy says, “Climb in, I’ll get you out of here.” The man replies, “No, I’m waiting for God to save me!” The boat moves on. Soon the waters are half way up the roof and another boat comes by. “Get in,” The guys says, “I’ll get you out of here.” The man replies, “No, I’m waiting for God to save me!” So the boat moves on. Now the waters are really raging and the man has to climb on top of his chimney to stay above them. A helicopter flies up and they throw down a ladder. “Grab the ladder and we’ll get you out of here,” they yell. “No,” replies the man, “I am waiting for God to save me!” The helicopter flies away and the man clings desperately to his chimney as the waters rise. Soon he is overcome by the flood and drowns. When the man arrives in heaven and sees God, he is very upset. “Lord,” he says, “I trusted you to save me? Why didn’t you deliver me from the flood?” “What do you mean?” God replies, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”

There are, of course, many versions, but that is the basic telling. The Rev is the man turning down the boats and the helicopter. God is testing him by giving him many outlets for his situation. He needs $135,000 to keep his church from being sold. He only has a day and in that day goes to great lengths to accomplish what he set out to do. However, there are obstacles in his path that he must continually overcome. Are the obstacles a metaphor for the tests God puts in front of him? I would love to hear all of your thoughts regarding this. Is it God that put the pigeons in front of the Rev? The first pigeon showed up on the front steps of the church, then two showed up on the roulette table he used to win all that money. Was that God delivering a boat or helicopter to the Rev? Three pigeons sat on a traffic light that blinked red, which the Rev took to mean that God wants him to bet on that color. Is the whole episode a tale about how miracles can come from anywhere? That God may be watching over all of us and helping us on our path? Is the ending supposed to mean that even though God helps us along the way we still must be able to fight? That is what I believe the episode is about in all its complex glory. The writers are trying to tell us that God may be watching over all of us, but that doesn’t mean we are helpless. We must exercise our free will to be able to continue the fight. You must do more than just believe. It may not end the way the Rev wanted, but at least he gave it everything he got. And who’s to say that it won’t pay off in the end?

Thoughts and Discussion

- Did you notice…The cork board in the Rev’s office has fliers of some of the Departured and newspaper clippings I imagine are for future fliers. One article reads, “U.S. exports toxic waste to third world countries.”

- The lyrics at the very top are from the song that plays at the very end of the episode when the Reverend views all that he has worked to preserve being transformed by the new owners, the Guilty Remnant. The music selection so far in The Leftovers has been excellent. The writers have picked the best tunes and lyrics appropriate for the scenes they overlay or the episodes they represent.

- The other song in the episode is Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together”. I thought the placement of the song was funny as it was right after the Rev smashing the man’s face form the casino into the ground for stealing his winnings. Also of note for all you LOSTies, this song was in the LOST episode, “Some Like It Hoth”.

- I thought it was interesting that during the dream sequence a young Nora repeats the phrase, “Why isn’t anybody doing anything?” and the Rev’s wife says, “Why do you persist?”. Again mirroring his quest to follow the path to his ultimate goal.

- Nora mentioned Matt’s issue with a certain judge. I assume this is the judge whose flier Matt created is framed and on the wall in his office. It is also the flier that Kevin’s father wrapped the money in that Matt found under the grill. It basically states that the judge collected illegal bribes, but we are still uncertain about the connection to the Rev. We are also uncertain as to why the Rev took down the street signs with the judge’s name on it. Hopefully we will find out in future episodes what it all means. Something to make note of.

- Did you notice…There were many LOST Number references in this episode. I don’t like to compare anything to LOST, but thought it was ok to put in this section of the Review. The judge paid $42,000 for a cigarette boat. The Rev’s first winnings gave him a total of $40,000, his second $80,000, and third $160,000. The roulette table the Rev is gambling at is located in Pit 4. The second number the Rev wins on is Red 23.

- Did you notice…The book on the nightstand in the Rev’s house is “Perforated Heart” by Eric Bogosian. It is about a man who discovers his old journals from when he was much younger and discovers how much he has changed over time and the pivotal moments of his life.

- In the church scene in the beginning of the episode behind the Rev is the word Epiphany. This word is used in the New Testament to mean several things, one of which is the Second Coming of Christ.

- Keith Gordon directed the episode and I think he did an incredible job especially with the dream sequence. Damon Lindelof & Jacqueline Hoyt wrote the episode.

Thank you for reading my Review! I hope you enjoyed it. Please comment below, I would love to hear all your thoughts on this awesome and amazing episode!

[1]-Wikipedia

Review: Rocket Raccoon #1

detailAs the almost-guaranteed-blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy nears its August 1st release date, much will be said about the gunslinging anthropomorphic raccoon. While intergalactic law enforcement would undoubtedly classify him as nuisance wildlife, I think it’s safe for the rest of the universe to view him as a fun loving antihero. Marvel is celebrating nearly four decades of Rocket’s existence with this entertaining issue number one from writer/artist extraordinaire Skottie Young (and a host of variant cover artists, David Petersen‘s wins the grand prize though).

Young’s comedic script keeps a quick pace, from jailbreaking a damsel in distress to Groot’s WWE showdown (read: disaster) to Rocket’s high-speed chase from the authorities. Though Star-Lord plays a minor role, as the title suggests, this is Rocket’s show, so don’t be disappointed by mere cameos from the rest of the Guardians. In a layered plot line, Rocket is not only being framed for murder by an apparent doppelgänger, but also being hunted for more personal reasons. Both plots work, and easily have the potential to cross paths with entertaining results.

Skottie Young makes the arduous task of writing and illustrating look easy. After much thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that his drawings evoke a ToeJam and Earl vibe (any other Sega Genesis fans?), especially Star-Lord’s cliff jumping panel. Colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu‘s reds, oranges, and yellows merely add to my conclusion. Rocket Raccoon #1 won’t break down comic barriers or raise up comic awards, but it is fun to read, fun to look at, and fun to look forward to…and at the end of the day, isn’t that why we spend $3.99?

Story: Skottie Young Art: Skottie Young
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

TV Review: The Strain: Night Zero

the-strain-logo1The Strain is a horror thriller that tells the story of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the head of the Center for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called upon to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. As the strain spreads, Eph, his team, and an assembly of everyday New Yorkers, wage war for the fate of humanity itself. The first episode kicks off when a commercial airliner lands and stands silent, Goodweather investigates the plane to find that the passengers are infected by a vile plague, setting up the chaos that is to come.

The television show is based on the 2009 vampire horror novel by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan which has three volumes released. Its been since adapted into comic books released by Dark Horse Comics. While I haven’t read the books it’s all based on, I have read everything Dark Horse has released so far, which is nice to compare it all to, as both that and the television series have a visual component. While they share a lot, the comic fans will have something to enjoy as the television’s pilot episode expands a bit upon what was in the comic, but is familiar enough.

The series, which airs on FX, is pretty brutal, with some gruesome scenes that I was shocked to see even on the channel. That’s great, as it tells me the viewer to not expect the series to hold anything back. What’s interesting though is seeing these characters, who I’ve only read their dialogue, play out on the screen. The personalities I envisioned were there, with some characters I thought being dicks, being portrayed exactly that way.

What the series really does well is handle the viral aspect of it all. The idea of vampire as virus has been handled in numerous stories before, but this one really does it well, especially with the use of the CDC as one of the driving forces. The idea of the virus, and terror of one spreading unforeseen is present throughout much of the episode, it’s a dread that works beyond well ramping up the tension with each passing minute.

What’s also nice is the series basically lays it out there as to what’s going on. The big bad is seen, how this particular pathogen is spread is somewhat explained. There are some dots that need to be connected, but overall, it’s there for us from almost the beginning. While we know what’s going on, part of the fun, and entertainment, is seeing how Goodweather and his team figure it out for themselves…. as well as seeing the greater conspiracy.

Much like a virus the episode sets up the seeds to grow and expand with a few plot lines and enough characters to keep us entertained and looking forward to where the series goes. As a debut goes, there’s more than enough to get me to come back for more.

Overall Score: 8

Review: Knuckleheads: Fist Contact

knuckleheads-copy-1209fTrevor K. Trevinski was massively hung over when he was given the cosmic powers of The Crystal Fist, so he has no idea how they work. Trev, his roommate Lance, Pizza Guy, and Emma, the “hot drunk English chick,” embark on a hero’s journey, hitting every pothole along the way.

Knuckleheads is one of the numerous series lately that have taken on superherodom from the point of view of the every man. Collecting the first eight issues that were released as digital comics, Knuckleheads: Fist Contact is an entertaining, and funny look at what would happen if super powers were given to someone who should absolutely not have them.

Written by Brian Winkeler with art by Robert Wilson IV, the series naturally introduces us to our cast of characters, with the bigger reveal as to where things are going, and why they are, towards the end. This is a lot of set up with a pay off that’s well worth it.

As a digital comic published by Monkeybrain Comics, each issue is bit sized humor with quick punches that works well in digital form. Collected together through Monkeybrain’s partnership with IDW Publishing, those jokes build up into a solid narrative that delivers with a great punch at the end. Bringing the story to visual life, Wilson’s art reminds me of Mike Allred’s and there’s something about the style that fits the slackers whose tale it visualizes.

Overall Knuckleheads is an entertaining series that’s a great read either in print or its digital form. It’s a story of an everyman given cool powers, and with that, it becomes easy to relate to as we imagine how we’d react in the same situation. Do yourself a favor and pick up the trade, or if you don’t want to dive in that much, an individual issue can be purchased for less than a dollar digitally.

Story: Brian Winkeler Art: Robert Wilson IV
Story: 7.75 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.75 Recommendation: Buy

IDW Publishing and Monkeybrain Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Under The Flesh #1

TEMPLATE PAGE SET UP.indd“Staring at the shapeless clouds is therapeutic, sometimes…now it reminds me of a dull screensaver…looks like it’ll be pouring soon.”
- Lt. Ruben Lobos

I am a very big fan of the Zombie genre and The Walking Dead is one of my favorite comic books. I would watch George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead as much as I could and couldn’t be happier when the sequels were released. So, when any kind of Zombie story comes out I gravitate towards the media like a kid at…well…a comic book store. One day, surfing the web, I came across some really cool art and discovered Under The Flesh, a zombie story still in its infancy with incredible characters and a great premise.

In Under The Flesh #1 creator and writer, Gilbert Deltres, introduces the characters of this bleak new world in a manner that best displays the core team of survivors being lead under Lt. Ruben Lobos. Lobos is an elite soldier injected with cell-fusing nanobots that battles viruses while enhancing physical strength and cognition. On the day he was injected, appropriately dubbed ‘Desolation Day’, the world succumbs to an unknown pathogen that only infects the male population. He flees the infected with his jealous girlfriend, Dinah, in tow. They end up with the rest of the cast at a local library for safety as the issue begins to heat up. We don’t learn much more about the Lieutenant’s superhuman abilities, but only issue #1 has been released so far with a KickStarter project already underway this month and more of the story coming out soon.

What made this comic stand out is the fantastic art by J.L. Giles. What initially caught my eye was his incredible action scenes that made me feel immersed into each panel and sequence. The expressions on each of the character’s faces are expertly drawn to give you a better understanding of their trials and misery. The tagline reads that governments crumbled, global military powers wiped out, and societies demolished and all of that is masterfully conveyed in Giles illustrations. I especially enjoyed the landscape scenes that made each page come to life with the perfect use of shades of purple and blue.

In the world of comic books it is extremely difficult to get your work noticed and seen by a large audience. Independent writers and artists have an extremely tough mountain to climb unless they create an amazing story with interesting characters and imaginative illustrations that bring life to the narrative. The creators of the comic book Under The Flesh, Gilbert Deltres and J.L. Giles, have done just that and more. The writing and art harmoniously come together to deliver a comic that you just can’t stop reading. And with Issue #1 available and a KickStarter project underway hopefully we will have plenty more of this story soon to satisfy the Zombie killer in all of us.

Story: Gilbert Deltres – Art & Letters: J.L. Giles – Cover: J.L. Giles
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Check out their KickStarter page at:

http://kck.st/1zhwFmk

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