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Why Lovecraft Country’s ‘I AM’ episode is the beating heart of the HBO series

Lovecraft Country, episode 7 “I Am”

(Beware! SPOILERS abound for Lovecraft Country “I Am.”)

If you’ve stuck with Lovecraft Country up to episode 7 you might’ve already realized that this show is on a mission.

Each episode, almost self-contained in scope, puts the series’ heroes in situations more commonly found in storytelling genres dominated by white male narratives. War, horror, adventure, and science fiction each get the chance to be used as statements on the perils of narrowing the possibilities of story by not acknowledging the rich differences found in diversity.

The lead up to episode 7, thus far, has seen the show put its own racially-conscious spin on the haunted house story (ep. 3 “Holy Ghost”), the Indiana Jones-like adventure story (ep. 4 “A History of Violence”), the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-like doppelganger story (ep. 5 “Strange Case”), and the classic war/romance story (ep. 6 “Meet me in Daegu”), each sharing in cosmic horror as the common thread. While Tic (played by Jonathan Mayors) is still the driving force behind the main story, this layered exploration of genre lets every character have their turn behind the wheel.

It’s with episode 7, though, where the show lays its heart and soul bare, with us looking in as if through an open wound that shows signs of healing. It’s aptly titled “I Am.” and it’s where science fiction comes in to drive the following point home: not only does black representation matter, it can create stories the likes of which we haven’t been allowed to see.

In this episode, Hippolyta (played by Aunjanue Ellis) takes to the road to find answers about her husband’s death and the secrets pertaining to an orrery she had previously found. Her search leads her to a mysterious observatory that can open a rift in reality to other dimensions and universes.

Hippolyta’s love for astronomy is played to great effect here. What was once an endearing character trait that made her more relatable and interesting turns her into a key character with access to information few others in Tic’s group can access. Hippolyta felt like a strong background character all the way up until this episode and not having her play a more central role in the unraveling of the main mystery after everything that just happened to her would be doing a disservice to the character.

Lovecraft Country, episode 7 “I Am.”

What makes “I Am.” the proverbial heart of the show lies in its approach to science fiction as a genre that feels tailor-made to portray the black experience. The specter of systemic-racism creeps into the episode as Hippolyta’s journey into the multiverse puts her into several potential realities her character could’ve perfectly fit into if given the chance to define herself within it, hence the episode’s title. The show takes the opportunity to celebrate possibilities rather than merely protesting the lack of representation, something it’s already established and done well in previous chapters.

Throughout her multiversal jumps we see Hippolyta become one of Josephine Baker’s dancers in 1920’s Paris, an Amazonian warrior from the all-female Mino or Dahomey military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey, and a space explorer cataloguing alien life in a fashion similar to how her husband researched new safe routes for his travel guides, an activity he didn’t allow her to participate in for fear she would get hurt on the road (an excuse Hippolyta challenges in the episode to great effect).

Lovecraft Country, episode 7 “I Am.”

Each version closes with Hippolyta declaring “I Am…,” which claims the character’s right to create her own self-identity within each genre, unencumbered by the expectations and prejudices of white male-dominated perspectives.

The episode goes lengths to portray each version of the character as deserving of their own series. It continues the show’s mission of showing how black representation in these genres has been absent or downplayed for far too long, denied by a culture that systemically devalued non-white perspectives (and still does). We get a sense of the type of stories we’ve lost in the process.

While that sense of loss is present and palpable–as it is in every episode thus far–the storytelling realities the show has brought to the fore also come with an unrelenting sense of hope. Hippolyta’s science fiction voyage and its several stops provide new avenues of story that demand to be explored. It amounts to a resounding “it’s about damn time” for the masses.

Fans of HBO’s Watchmen can find certain converging ideas between Hippolyta and Dr. Manhattan, especially in that show’s eighth episode, “A God Walks into Abar.” Manhattan’s decision to give Angela Abar, a.k.a. Sister Night, the choice of remaking him into a black man in that episode spoke to the importance of giving black creators the leading voice in the storytelling process so what we can see how new perspectives come to life. Something similar happens with Hippolyta, only she’s recreating herself under her own conditions with no need for anyone’s permission.

“I Am”/”A God Walks into Abar”

Lovecraft Country’s “I Am.” is yet another statement on the importance of self-identity and creative agency in fiction. The show has been successful in showing how fiction can respond to the needs of many, regardless of skin color, but it’s in this chapter that we see the argument come full circle. It’s a call for justice in representation with the guarantee that it has no intention of settling for anything less than creative control. Hippolyta is now the new face of that claim in Lovecraft Country, and it looks like “I Am” is the new rallying cry.

Review: Doomsday Clock #1

To put it bluntly, Doomsday Clock #1 is what many comic book fans (And Alan Moore wherever he is.) have feared: a direct sequel to Watchmen. The story is set in an alternate version of 1992 about five years after the events of the original series. An actor (Robert Redford) is president, the world is on the brink of nuclear war, Ozymandias is a fugitive and pariah, Dr. Manhattan is missing, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre are still happily retired and don’t appeared, and the book focuses on the new Rorschach in town. With the exception of the final scene, Doomsday Clock #1 isn’t so much a crossover, but Watchmen II. It takes its times and gives readers a flavor of Moore and Dave Gibbons’ even more dystopian universe and kicks the plot into gear in a way similar to the back half of the original series than the initial investigation into the Comedian’s death. (Edward Blake would probably appreciate the opening riot scene though.)

Writer Geoff Johns does a pretty fair impression of the smelly, ink blot mask wearing vigilante and adds a few wrinkles of his own like his willingness to compromise and throw his lot in with criminals “in the face of Armageddon”. Having a writer, who is mostly known for writing straightforward superheroes and space cops, go into a twisted not-so-Randian psyche, is a little awkward though, and seems like a kid in his father’s clothes than the ruthless prose of crime writer Brian Azzarello in Before Watchmen: Rorschach. This clumsiness fits into the story as Rorschach II has some of the same abilities as the original character like the ability to pull off a pretty decent prison escape, a prodigious stench, and paranoia (He’s one of the few characters in this universe who uses a “gas guzzling” car.), but he “breaks character” a lot and acts like an empathetic human being even to murderers. His secret identity is pretty obvious too thanks to a diversity deficiency in the original Watchmen

Artist Gary Frank’s pencils are incredibly detailed, and he doesn’t use a nine panel grid every page although he sticks to the three row setup of panels with the exception of the title. However, he creates the occasional symphony of juxtaposition like when the US government finally goes nuclear, and Rorschach does his prison break thing. Frank’s work is strong and unwavering, like the original Rorschach’s conventions, and for the most part, colorist Brad Anderson stays out of his way and lets his pencils shine. Anderson does have a couple tricks up his sleeve like color coding some panels to different characters, such as brown for Rorschach, gold for Ozymandias, and alarm red any time there’s a nuclear threat.

Johns’ use of alternate history elements in Doomsday Clock #1 are fairly on-the-nose as he turns President Redford into President Trump of the early 90s with his incessant golfing, ties to Russia and North Korea, obsession with a single news network, and polarization of political discourse in the United States. His sheer ineptitude (and invisibility) turns Ozymandias into a sort of sympathetic character even though he was responsible for so many deaths in the original Watchmen. Ironically, Ozymandias has the same mission: saving the world.

Gary Frank’s super close-ups of frightened human faces in the opening montage of Doomsday Clock #1 do a much better job at showing world that was already hell plunging into a deeper, darker circle of that hell than any faux Rorschach voiceovers and tacked on worldbuilding from Geoff Johns. You can see the slobber in the mouth of a rioter as he goes at a police officer with a broken bottle and shatters the glass in one of Ozymandias’ old buildings. In a clever twist, the bank of TVs with endless channels in Ozymandias’ lair is turned to one showing that his actions didn’t lead to a utopia, but a dictatorship. Frank is one of the rare photorealistic artists that doesn’t have any stiffness to his work finding a sweet spot on Scott McCloud’s “picture plane” and bringing humanity to characters that would be action figures or distant gods in other artists’ hands. This skill comes in handy when a certain character appears in the last several pages. He’s also fantastic with gestures, and Johns realizes this by including a mime themed supervillain in the story that is fairly grounded and very violent in the Watchmen tradition.

Doomsday Clock #1 shows that for better or worse, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Brad Anderson are taking their time with their DC Rebirth/Watchmen crossover and spend time reestablishing and tearing down the world of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ comic before having Superman punch Dr. Manhattan or having Ozymandias and Lex Luthor swap plans for world domination over vodka sodas. Johns’ writing is awkward, but his plotting is focused and gets the proverbial clock ticking while Gibbons’ art is a real treat. Some parts of Doomsday Clock are pretty groanworthy, but others are pretty damn cool.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: Gary Frank Colors: Brad Anderson
Story: 7.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Read 

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

DC Entertainment Officially Announces “Before Watchmen”

Official Press Release

DC ENTERTAINMENT OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCES “BEFORE WATCHMEN”
This summer, DC Entertainment will publish all-new stories expanding on the acclaimed WATCHMEN universe. As highly anticipated as they are controversial, the seven inter-connected prequel mini-series will build on the foundation of the original WATCHMEN, the bestselling graphic novel of all time. BEFORE WATCHMEN will be the collective banner for all seven titles, from DC Comics.
“It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. “After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original.”
Stepping up to the challenge is a group of the comic book industry’s most iconoclastic writers and artists – including Brian Azzarello (100 BULLETS), Lee Bermejo (JOKER), Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL), Darwyn Cooke (JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER), John Higgins (WATCHMEN), Adam Hughes (CATWOMAN), J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS), Andy Kubert (FLASHPOINT), Joe Kubert (SGT. ROCK), Jae Lee (BATMAN: JEKYLL AND HYDE), J. Michael Straczynski (SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE) and Len Wein (SWAMP THING).
BEFORE WATCHMEN includes:
–       RORSCHACH (4 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo
–       MINUTEMEN (6 issues) – Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
–       COMEDIAN (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones
–       DR. MANHATTAN (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist:  Adam Hughes
–       NITE OWL (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert
–       OZYMANDIAS (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee
–       SILK SPECTRE (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner
Each week, a new issue will be released, and will feature a two-page back-up story called CURSE OF THE CRIMSON CORSAIR, written by original series editor Len Wein and with art by original series colorist John Higgins. There will also be a single issue, BEFORE WATCHMEN: EPILOGUE, featuring the work of various writers and artists, and a CRIMSON CORSAIR story by Wein and Higgins.
“The original series of WATCHMEN is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire,” said Dave Gibbons, WATCHMEN co-creator and original series artist.
“Comic books are perhaps the largest and longest running form of collaborative fiction,” said DiDio and Lee. “Collaborative storytelling is what keeps these fictional universes current and relevant.”

Heroclix – Dr. Manhattan


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Wizkids will be releasing Dr. Manhattan in the Spring of 2011 and it will be playable with other Heroclix figures.  The retailer exclusive will include a new dial and new map.

Heroclix Dr ManhattanFrom the Wizkids website:

Per the special rules accompanying Dr. Manhattan, the special terrain cannot be damaged or destroyed, but it does change according to Manhattan’s Empathy Dial (only used during scenario play).   Clockwork Terrain can become any terrain type depending on where the Empathy dial is set at any given point in the scenario.  If your arguements and attacks gain his attention, you can convince Dr. Manhattan to shed his aloofness and return to Earth with you in order to stave off armageddon!

The figure is released April 2011 and retails for $79.99.