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Review: Basketful of Heads #7

Basketful of Heads #7

Basketful of Heads deserves to be mentioned along the same lines as Meir Zarchi’s I Spit On Your Grave and Park Chan-wook’s Lady Vengeance, movies that flip the idea of revenge on its head. These films create characters that match male violence with a unique female resolve to return it in kind, and then some. Joe Hill and Leomacs’ story about a girl with a magical axe and the means to use it on corrupt and evil men does precisely that while also adding a thing or two to make the violence on display say more than it’s usually allowed to.

This seven-issue series, largely inspired by the aforementioned films plus a healthy dose of EC Horror comics, sets its aims on a cast of evil men that try to keep lead character June Branch from rescuing her boyfriend—a police officer named Liam that threatened to expose the corruption behind Brody Island’s own police force.

Issue #7 brings things to an already expected final showdown with the biggest and baddest cop of the bunch, but it does so with an unexpected twist. I won’t spoil it here, but Hill and Leomacs wade through lesser known waters to look at different kinds of evil and just how well they work in tandem even when they’re not directly related. Just how severely the men who succumb to these evils should be punished is a question that is answered as clear as an axe to the neck. It makes you think on what’s tolerable and what shouldn’t be.

That the final confrontation has echoes of Cape Fear in it and how it plays out also adds to the overarching sense of discovering new roads towards retribution that deal with the bad things we’ve yet tired of facing.

As has been the case throughout the entire run, Leomac’s art and Dave Stewart’s colors continue to bring out every ounce of 70s horror the story taps into to the forefront without letting those same elements overpower the narrative. There’s a sense of impending blood-letting that is carried by the colors that crescendos to the point of complete synchronicity with the unraveling of the story.

Letterer Deron Bennett continues to take advantage of every opportunity to give the SFX and the text a life of its own. Bennett does an amazing job of giving everything a very rhythmic and animated quality, with sounds bleeding into the background and speech bubbles threatening to burst with the violence behind some of its lines. Basketful of Heads had a team that understood the story and what it needed to shine.

If the first six issues didn’t make it clear enough, Hill’s script set out to make the story’s message crystal clear in its conclusion: bad men make the world a horrible place, and they’re good at it. The talking heads of evil men hound June almost constantly and each new male character that emerges into the story is always just shy of having a sign over his head reading “bad man about to get chopped.”

Much like the EC Horror comics of old, the message is spelled out without an ounce of subtlety in the process. While it’s an interesting message to keep exploring (being that it’s timeless, unfortunately), I did feel it tried way too hard to make sure everyone got it. It’s classically moralist—a true ‘good vs. evil’ story that’s comforting to have around when grey areas get too muddy—but by the final pages I was getting a bit impatient with it as I had got it from the first issue onward.

Fortunately, this doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of Basketful of Heads. The final moments do a great job of bringing everything full circle and the twists and turns in this final issue do bring new things to the table in terms of who also deserves the axe but doesn’t always get it. It’s worthy of discussion and it invites a controversial opinion or two. I guess that’s the thing about stories with axes. No matter the cut, they always leave a bloody mess behind.

Story: Joe Hill Art: Leomacs
Color: Dave Stewart Letterer: Deron Bennett
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: Buy and read it to your axe

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyKindleTFAWZeus Comics

Review: Holy F*cked #1

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 12.48.53If you’re looking for something new, hilarious and completely original, look no further. Holy F*cked is the comic for you.  It’s an interesting blend of adult humour and a slice of life with a hint of adventure.

Set in Los Angeles, Jesus and Satan along with their friend Maria are leading happy lives.  Jesus skates, Satan’s a housewife and Maria does charity work. However when word gets around that Jesus and Satan are expecting a baby, someone in Mount Olympus is angered by this news due to a tragic past event involving Jesus and he begins his journey to stop this pregnancy.

Written by Nick Marino, the comedic dialogue is consistent throughout. The tone is friendly, entertaining with the right amount of colloquial language.  From panel to panel there wasn’t a moment I wasn’t laughing or smiling to myself.

Arruda Massa is the artist of Holy F*cked and it’s terrific.  The art is exciting, fun and wild.  It has a late 90’s/early 00’s Cartoon Network nostalgia feel to it.  Moreover it’s fascinating to see a unique and modern portrayal of Satan and Jesus in terms of how they look and dress as well as how they speak.

In addition to the great comedic content and wonderful artwork, the characters are one of the best things about Holy F*cked.  It’s intriguing to see bibliographical and mythological characters together which is another reason why it’s so innovative.  Nonetheless there could be a little bit more about the characters as well as what they’re seen doing and saying since they feel a little unfamiliar.

On the whole, Holy F*cked is absolutely glorious and this is an awesome first issue.  It’s fast pasted, lively and like I mentioned before, hilarious.

Story: Nick Marino Art: Arruda Massa
Story: 8.75 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Definite Buy!

The creators provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Book Review: Another Day by David Levithan, or Another attempt to make money off a successful book

another day

Thee years ago, David Levithan, author of numerous contemporary novels, put out  a book called Every Day. It was met with criticism; some loved it, others hated it, I didn’t care. The book was not enjoyable, but not worthy of being loathed — it had shortcomings, but they were not that many.

Today the sequel/companion that was never supposed to materialise in flesh is out. And it’s bad. Desultory and tedious, Another Day tells the pretty much same story of Every Day, however, this time through another character’s eyes — Rhiannon’s.

Never have I been a fan of alternate point-of-view stories, but as the publisher sent this to me I decided to give it a try. Pushed myself to like it, but it was hard to get through this one. The writing is good, but it, alone, cannot save the book. The emotional pull that Every Day conveyed is gone and, maybe because I know how the story unravels, Rhiannon is not a riveting center of attention.The book ends on a cliffhanger, which makes me dread the worst — that an actual sequel may come out in the future.

On the whole, Another Day is a book with great writing, but barely has any other redeeming qualities, which can make me recommend this one. Nevertheless, if you have yet to read Every Day, you might enjoy this one. It will probably have some gravitas if you do not already know the story.

2.5/5 stars

Review: Will Eisner’s The Spirit #1

TNSpirit01CovAPowell“Who killed The Spirit?”

I must say this was just a good ol’ fashioned reminder of what was the Golden Age of comics. The Spirit is a character (created by master comic book legend Will Eisner) who has been around since 1940 and reading this harkened back to that time period. For those who are unaware, The Spirit is the crime fighting alter ego of hardboiled private detective Denny Colt. The quick easy explanation is one night on the trail of his arch-enemy Dr. Cobra, Denny barges brazenly into a fight and in the process of getting shot at is exposed to a chemical which “kills” him in the line of duty. Long time fans know though, Denny Colt does not die. He was actually in a state of suspended animation and he comes back to fight crime. (Perfectly acceptable comic book logic there.)

Now this latest volume from Dynamite Entertainment serves as our reintroduction to The Spirit and his world. When I read who would be helming this project I was excited. Matt Wagner who is a long time fan of Will Eisner and pulp comics, made me feel this would be in terrific hands. I had only wished he was drawing in addition to scripting the book. Nevertheless I remained very hopeful.

The issue opens up with a splash page of a Central City Gazette Newspaper and it’s headline “Who killed The Spirit?” I like how the date is blurred out but from the surroundings and the rest of the comic you can tell it’s supposed to be in the  1940’s. Leaving it blurred allows for the reader to have a suspension of disbelief and keeps the story timeless. (Something that all comics should be in my humble opinion) Immediately after the splash page we are reintroduced to Commissioner Dolan, who is being interrogated by a newshound demanding he reveals what he knows about The Masked Mystery Man’s disappearance. Of course Dolan brushes it off by stating he knows what we all know, and that’s nothing.  Refreshingly the reporter states he doesn’t believe it as there is way too close of a connection to the late Mr. Colt and the good commissioner. (Good for him, a reporter with brains in the Golden Age is rare)

Dolan gets to his office for a reprieve to think to himself about the events that lead to Denny Colt becoming The Spirit and in the process reintroduce his origins to new readers. As he’s reminiscing, the arrival of his daughter Ellen (a striking blonde beauty usually clad in all white, who just happened to be love of our masked hero’s former life) She’s there to introduce her daddy to her new beau Archibald Shale who is up and coming on the fast track to be a district attorney. Dolan exchanges pleasantries and Ellen shows Archie out of the room for a moment of private time with her father. The Commissioner says a comment alluding to his daughters relationship with Shale being a sham, and Ellen gets defensive. Commissioner Dolan reminds her of what today is the anniversary of. Ellen then says it’s been two years since Denny’s death and she’s moved on. She had to. On her way out of the office though she breaks down to her dad that she really misses him. Dolan replies to his daughter “We all miss him.” “All of us.”

We then switch gears and go across town to the office door of Strunk & White: Private Investigators. One of the partners is actually Ebony White, long time sidekick of The Spirit now out on his own. Apparently the fledgling team is having trouble drumming up clientele and they are willing to take just about any case to keep the doors open. Sammy Strunk the younger partner to Ebony heads out with him on the case. There is a scene in the car where he asks Ebony what his real name is (Obviously his parents did not name him Ebony White or they have no sense of irony) and it’s a funny little moment.

After the name revelation, the rest of the issue features the introduction of a new character and a new direction as the former sidekick decides to honor his mentor by finding out what happened to him. This obviously sets up the tone for the new series and giving some face time to the supporting cast which I am ok with to start out.

Overall: This was a fun little read, but it read quite too quickly. I wanted a little bit more from this team’s opening salvo as I have always been a fan of The Spirit character and pulp comic heroes in general. I thought it was cool to reintroduce the audience by fleshing out the supporting cast without the title hero around (reminded me of the episode of Arrow where the team has to endure in Ollie’s absence) but it’s something that can only be done for an issue or two before it becomes tiresome. The writing is good enough and faithful to the source material, but I expect a little more oomph from Matt Wagner and I hope his turns it up a notch in subsequent issues. The art however I had a major disconnect with. I know it’s supposed to be presented in the style of comics in the 40’s with the simple page layouts and even the word balloon imaging but this was a definite miss. This was my first introduction to Dan Schkade’s art and it was just far too inconsistent. Main characters like The Spirit, Commissioner Dolan and Ellen were all rendered great, but any of the minor characters all came off looking very childlike. I’m hoping the art improves as he progresses because it really took me out of the story. I wish this title great success as it has so much to offer. I can’t wait to see what makes The Spirit comics great: Action, mystery, jaw dropping death traps, femme fatales, fisticuffs and did I mention the Femme Fatales? Unlike the hero himself, I hope this title doesn’t stay in suspended animation too long.


Story: Matt Wagner Art: Dan Schenke
Story: 7.5 Art: 5 Overall: 6 Recommendation: Read (for The Spirit fans)




Video Game Review: #IDARB (Xbox One)

idarb screenEmbrace the chaos. That could be the official motto of #IDARB.

As far as I can tell, there are a lot of firsts that #IDARB (which stands, incidentally, for “It Draws a Red Box” — more on that in a minute):

– First game to allow both tweets and Twitch comments to alter gameplay
– First game whose first “letter” is a hashtag
– First Xbox One game to incorporate QR codes to import new player characters
– First game to exist that is a cross between soccer, basketball, and Jumpman.

(Seriously, does anyone remember Jumpman? Jumpman was the best.)

Maybe you can find examples of the above “firsts” pre-#IDARB, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is, #IDARB is relentlessly innovative in its approach to competitive gameplay, even as it is relentlessly primitive in its execution. It is very plainly a game that could only exist in the 2010s, even as it goes out of its way to look like a game that could never have gotten out of the ’80s.

Here’s the basic idea of #IDARB: There are two teams of one to four players per team, two goals (one for each team), and one ball. Each team tries to pick up the ball and throw it into the goal. Each player can either pass, shoot, or knock the ball out of an opponent’s hand. The farther a shot goes and the more things it hits on its way to the goal, the more points it scores. Spectators, if they so choose, can lob “hashbombs” through Twitter or Twitch, which range from either aesthetic weaks to wholesale changes to the game. Timely example: #llama will make a llama (it looks more like a camel, but, like, whatevs) appear in the background of the playing field, along with a little shout-out to lo-fi dev demigod Jeff Minter.

That’s it! That’s the whole game! The arena is a bit of a platforming nightmare, but it’s well-designed enough to give any player a number of paths to get around opponents. The action is fast, but you get used to it quickly. It doesn’t take too long before you can be competitive, even if it’s almost impossible for those of us with human reflexes to perfect trick shots. Walking into the goal (with the ball, of course) is worth one point, and it’s the best way for a new player to get started.

This is a game designed as an eSport, something that can be played quickly and competitively, something for which a huge tournament bracket can be played through in a couple of hours. As such, it’s frenetic and fantastic.

idarb_etTry and play it by yourself, however, and it’s a little less fun. There is a single-player campaign, but it’s buried a bit in the menus, and there’s very little tension in learning the predictable patterns of computer opponents. Anyone who’s played a video game before will blow through the whole thing in a couple hours.

There’s plenty of fun to be had in creating and importing various characters as well. There are easily-manipulated editors for creating your own 8-bit sprites, and there’s a neat little tracker program for putting together some music. You can even import via QR code. I imported the little dude to the left because I want #IDARB to evoke every childhood memory I ever had. I programmed a theme song for him that sounds like a chippy dubstep version of the Indiana Jones theme song for maximum cognitive dissonance. For a game that so often seems to say “why not?,” it seems appropriate.

#IDARB started out of a single tweet: Other Ocean developer Mike Mika said “I’ve started a new project, it draws a red box,” and from there, he incorporated feature requests from his followers to turn the game into what it is today. What it is today, then, is a riot — something best enjoyed in short bursts but a total blast to play, especially with some friends and an audience.

Maybe it doesn’t sound like your thing. Well, it’s still free until tomorrow (February 28) for Xbox Live Gold subscribers. What do you have to lose?

Score: 7.9

Review: Naruto

Naruto-Shippuden-Ninja-Storm-RevolutionIn honor of its recent final chapter we’re going to be looking at Naruto. Yes, the ninja who never shuts up and sounds like someone who smoked for a majority of their life, that’s who we’re going to be looking at today. Naruto was created by writer and artist Masashi Kishimoto, who originally made a one shot of the character, who was changed only slightly into the hyper active character we know today. It has recently finished with a total of 700 chapters and the anime is still ongoing currently with a “final” movie having just recently premiered.

Alright story for those who don’t know:

Twelve years prior to the original start of the story the village of Konoha was attacked by a nine tailed fox, who was then trapped into a new born baby by the village leader, the fourth Hokage. This child’s name was Naruto and Christ did he get the short end of the stick. Made into the town pariah he is forced to grow up not only as an orphan but also the most hated member of the town for mistakes he didn’t make. The children his age even dislike him, just based upon how their parents acted to him, and that made for a very difficult and lonely childhood. But fear not because Naruto doesn’t care, well he does, but he would never show it. He wants to be hokage and prove to the village he can be more than some hated reject. So he decides to become a ninja despite having failed as a student so many times before. Finally achieving his goal, he strives to become the strongest ninja in all of Konoha and prove to everyone that he isn’t a waste of space!

There’s a lot more that I won’t exactly bring up, just in case there are people who are interested in reading the manga or watching the show still. But basically its Naruto’s quest to acceptance and the friends he makes because of that. It’s cheesy but hey the kids love it for some reason. I know I did when I was young and watching it.

Naruto is our lead, obviously, and he is… Endearing? Really he’s a fine character with a lot of enthusiasm but there’s just a lot of energy that you have to match up with. He basically raised himself, never knew his parents, and doesn’t understand why everyone in the village hates him. Well he finds out, but even then he has a hard time understanding. He’s a bit thickheaded like that. He wants to be hokage and shouts it to the world with a, “Dattebayo!” (Believe it). We want him to succeed because he grows up so well over time that you can’t help but want him to wear the stupid hat of power, because you grew up with him.

Sasuke is the second main character I suppose in that he is sort of a driving force behind a lot of Naruto’s actions. Loved by everyone in the village Sasuke is a bit jaded on the whole people thing, often seeing them as similar because none of them try to get to know the real him. All the girls his age adore him to the point of stalking and it’s a wonder no one’s ended up with a restraining order. He and Naruto start off hating each other, seeing each other as annoying, but eventually they learn to trust each other. I don’t really care about him, he’s kind of a huge jerkwad, and that’s all he ever amounts to being.

Sakura is our leading lady and probably the character with the most growth, minus the last few chapters, but yeah. She’s hotheaded and intelligent but is scared of showing people what she’s really like out of fear of rejection. Starting off she just sort of comes off as a girl desperately in love with Sasuke and someone who has literally no motivation for anything really. That does change quite a lot that she’s strong and independent. She uses her strength and intelligence to become a strong female medical ninja who still holds onto what she loves.

There are a series of like a hundred plus other characters, which yes they are important, but that would take a whole lot of time.

The animation is… Well it’s shonen jump alright! That’s not saying Masato Kishimoto isn’t a good artist, but at times it is very wonky, but only in earlier chapters. Now for those who may not know, shonen is a ‘boy’s’ oriented genre of manga, which includes titles like Bleach or One Piece, and typically is showcased in the magazine Shonen Jump. For the most part the manga is a lot more detailed than that of the anime, merely because the animation crew likes to make everyone appear as bland as possible. Though the fight scenes are really good in both series, though once again lose a lot because of the more defined sketchy art style of Kishimoto. Now that isn’t to say that there are sometimes that I wish there had been a cleanup crew, because dear lord if I could count the number of times I’ve seen extremely sloppy execution done during the Chunin Exam arc. Ultimately though it was a very unique style that I don’t think will ever been done quite the same.

The sound is, not the best in either English or Japanese really, but if I had to choose I’d rather listen to five hundred episodes with subtitles. That isn’t me saying the dub isn’t good either, though I would never… It’s not good. Watch it in Japanese, preferably, also because they don’t butcher the opening theme like a lot of Dubbing companies did in the early 2000s. Now Viz Media did the dub, but once again, all it really did was launch Yuri Lewonthal’s career along with a few choice others who were already in the dub scene. This includes Kyle Hebert, Steve Blum, and Crispin Freeman. Also Liam O’Brian! These are the only people I think are of note, but hey, everybody likes different other voice actors. Any who, the music is also pretty good, sad flute instrumentals abound though. Because it is a longer anime it has multiple openings and endings. I would say there are a few that are really stellar, but there is a lot to go through. I personally really liked a lot of the Shippuden themes.

I have a lot of issues revolving around this show because of fans and the ultimate final few chapters of the manga. I grew up with Naruto, so I do end up having a lot of embarrassed nostalgia about it, I was as we used to call them a Narutard. I will defend that this is a good show with a lot of really good heartfelt moments, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there is problems. Ultimately it comes down to the final arc and plot thread that just felt like it was ham-fisted into the reader’s faces. It felt almost like an insult to us as readers. I can’t be too angry though, it isn’t my work, its Kishimoto’s, but I can’t help but be a bit angry.

Still as a fan and a reader I have to thank Kishimoto for the last 15 years and congratulate him on completing Naruto. After such a long time it’s time to say goodbye even if it feels like letting go of an important friend. It’s an endearing show that if you have the time, read or watch it, it’s heartfelt where it needs to be and silly in the same way.

Narurto: 7/10

Review: Space Dandy

11721369493_f26faa7b11_oIf you like anime you’re going to like this anime. If you don’t like anime you’re going to like this one. From Studio Bones and director Shinichiro Watanabe we have been given the goldmine that is Space Dandy. The series began in 2014, surprisingly in America before Japan, and was an instant hit. It’s a bit crude in places but also has the same deep sentiments that we gain from works like Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo. With an omnipresent voice that narrates all of the happenings with and around Dandy we are immediately kicked in the face with these storylines and plot that would probably never work in a different anime.

The story is literally about a Space Dandy, who, and I quote, is a dandy guy in space. What more could you want? It’s also basically an episodic anime with an overarching story line that we, as the audience, always are wondering where it is going to take us. But ultimately each episode is pretty fun and a standalone reason to try and sit down and watch this show. Also we have restaurants in this show called Breasturants, otherwise known as BooBies, which dear lord is probably a play on Hooters, or something. But anyway we have our three characters we are most faced with and then the other plot which an empire is trying to get their hands own our hero, because he may be the key to winning a galactic war.

So as said above we have Space Dandy, our dandy guy, and man is he just that. He is the best character to take away from probably this entire last new anime season. He’s on the hunt for new aliens to try and make a living off of, but ends up in high stakes shenanigans all the time. Dandy loves women and the booty, which he proclaims quite often. If he could live off the food at BooBies he would, but that’s just unrealistic. Still he has a sense of what is wrong and right while keeping a light sense of attitude towards most situations. While he can be entirely selfish he also usually ends up doing the right thing because deep down he is just a good guy. The big secret around him is also very cool and well done, which is another reason to sit down and try this out.

QT is Dandy’s second in command, an older model robot, and probably the most intelligent of the three mains we have. Shown to be older in model he is otherwise shown to be able to feel and process emotions like a human would. This makes it interesting as we have a robot who can love and be annoyed by things around him, and it makes for good storytelling as well as character development.

Meow is the unfortunate Betelgeusian that meets our heroes in the very first episode through a series of events. A bit of a pervert he is our otaku-esque character with very little want or care of pleasing his captain. Also he’s basically a cat. So he acts like one in certain situations despite a hatred of being called one. Everyone wonders why he left his home planet when he is such a homebody, basically, already, and it’s found that he didn’t want to end up in a mundane never ending life of boredom, which makes him quite endearing. He loves traveling with Dandy and QT, finding the excitement he couldn’t at home.

Then we have a whole slew of other characters that are technically side characters but are still important to the story plot overall and how it progress our main characters and forces them into situations. I won’t go into them because there are a lot of them, but I mean if you sit and decide you’re interested in the show you’ll get to meet them anyway.

The animation in this is… Just splendid. Every now and then it changes to a different style that is just as equally interesting as the plot. Each character is unique and independent, from Dandy’s pompadour to Dr. Gel’s gorilla like body. Also in the same style as Gurren Lagann it is big and encompassing to the point of being ridiculous. Yet we love it, we can’t help but want Dandy to go through another monologue where he just goes on about surfing and how life is just like that. Also it’s bright and shows exactly what we would want space to be like in that situation, people with hair that sparkles like the stars themselves or spaceships painted with Hawaiian shirt patterns. I cannot help but feel that this animation is the beginning much more top notch animation we’ll see in the future, especially from Studio Bones.

I want to talk about the dub before I go into the soundtrack. There is rarely a time that I will say watch the dub, but watch the dub dear lord it is golden. And in all technicality the dub for once is the original due to it airing in America before it did in Japan. For one Ian Sinclair is a perfect Dandy, hitting just that right amount of humor when it’s needed that you can’t help but want him to keep going. Colleen Clinkenbeard is also in the series which also ups how good this dub is to the point I want to call it pure perfection and put it on a shelf next to Cowboy Bebop forever. I have heard excerpts of the Japanese cast and I just prefer the English this time. It just feels far superior by simple matters of casting and the performance. But seriously just do it for Sinclair’s Dandy, it’s so worth it, just like you’d watch Bebop for Steve Blum. I cannot stress enough how rare it is that I will recommend a dub over the Japanese, so please if you take anything away from this and decide you want to check it out go and watch this version.

Now we can talk about the soundtrack. It’s so nice and uppity that you can’t help but feel good when the opening theme Viva Namida by Yasuyuki Okamura, which has its swoon worthy vocals that you can’t help but feel like yes this is worth my next twenty-four hours instead of sleeping before class. Also to give you an even bigger reason to watch the dub, we have episodes where the characters sing, and Sinclair as well as the rest of the cast actually sang the songs. They actually took the time to record these songs and make it fit the characters they were portraying. They don’t have Dandy sing in a perfect coo, rather his voice cracks when he sings higher notes, it fluxgates between octaves when he struggles to get that lyric out. It’s glorious. The mixture of music and dialogue was done very well that I didn’t struggle to hear or interpret what was going on.

I do have issues with this show. It isn’t the pure perfection I have built it up to be so far. Actually there is that issue of it being an episodic show. A lot of the episodes are throwaway ones that honestly you could skip a lot of. We have an interesting overarching plot that barely gets touched on because of hijinks that could be left to the side instead. That isn’t overtly bad as we’ve seen it well executed in Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, but we also want to just get to the point of what is going on. And we do get to it… Eventually. No spoilers of course, but still it just feels like it takes a while to really get to what we wanted. While each episode is unique and good I don’t feel that it works well to the degree it wants to.

Ultimately though,

Space Dandy: 8/10

Movie Review: Wolf Children

19fzrgtjpt7tcjpgDo you like stories that will make you cry? Well this full length feature anime film may just be for you! It isn’t often that we praise an anime film that isn’t a Miyazaki work, but hey the times called for a movie about growing up as a wolf and a human. Okami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (Wolf Children) was released in 2012 by director Mamoru Hosoda. From Studio Chizu and Madhouse we were given a touching tale about a human woman and her attempt to raise her werewolf children.

The plot is pretty simple in the exact way that it is a mother, Hana, raising her werewolf children alone after the untimely death of her werewolf lover, duly named Okami or the Wolf-man. She struggles of course with the problems of where she should go if she’s having problems, how to hide the fact that her children are werewolves, and how it affects the way Ame and Yuki grow up.  She moves out of the city because of this and into the country-side where she is able to raise them in private and live a peaceful life. With these choices come both problems where the children have to choose if they want to be human or if they want to be wolves and how that changes their own perceptions of themselves.

Hana is the mother of the two children who struggles to raise her two children alone, while also sustaining a life for them via gardening, and how she deals with these problems. Intrigued by Okami from the moment he sat down in the same classroom as her, she made it her mission to find out both who he was and how she could become closer to him. Because of this she found out that he was what he assumed to be the last werewolf and was afraid of hurting her in any way because of what he was, but she still loves him despite those things. She is constantly a support for her children but also wishes to keep the reality of them a secret from the world out of fear of what would happen if anyone found out. Hana always tries to do best by her children but ultimately also stunts them from making choices of their own because of this.

Yuki is the eldest of Hana’s children and is a complicated young girl wolf. From the get go she is very pushy and bratty with her family, wanting to get out of the world she is locked away from, but she also realizes why her mother is keeping her hidden. The older she became the more she was faced with the choice of what it meant to be a normal girl and if she wanted to part of that world she had to choose between the wolf and the human inside of her. In school she is popular but also in constant fear of changing in front of her classmates by accident.

Ame is the youngest of Hana’s children and appears less complicated but then becomes the opposite of what he was set up to be. Easily startled and sick he was always babied by Hana and sought to stay in the human world as he hated how the other animals treated him and each other. However the older he got the more he became disillusioned and disgusted by humanity, and began to leave for the words more and more than his sister ever did. He no longer hides how he feels about people and never lets his sister shout him down.

Souhei is Yuki’s classmate and driving force in her need to become more human. Right off the bat he realizes something is off about her and constantly tries to talk with her or try and be friends with her. This however frightens Yuki, because he could easily find out her family’s secret because of his intuitions. Still he makes a friendship with her despite the hardships in the beginning between them.

Okami is the wolf man that Hana falls in love with, who he initially tells to leave him alone, but later also falls for. He fears what he could do to her, having chosen to live not only as a human but also as a wolf, which he tells her is why he was always pushing her back. Still with her acceptance of him he is able to grow and love her as well as have a family with her. Unfortunately he is sort of killed off early on in the movie to further progress Hana’s story, but hey it’s all for the sake of plot!

So animation wise this film is brilliant. It was developed to have the lightest of tones when it was just right. If you don’t want to watch this movie I implore you that there is one scene you have to watch, and it is the snow scene. The way the wolf children and their mother run through the snow and jump in piles is so beautiful and is only made better by the soundtrack. Also the characters could be more individualized but they weren’t terrible to the pint of disliking the movie, there are very clear ways of how to figure out which character is which. And that how subtle and beautiful this is because it doesn’t rely on the design of a character, they want you to know the character because of the story and what they’re going through. The animation of the wolves was also well done, not in the same sense as Wolf’s Rain, but in its own lighter style that was soothing comparatively to the big subjects it was dealing with. We also were given a beautiful array of nature that seem right out of a painting to give you that raw and artistic feel that is the forest or the countryside. If I could rate this film on just the animation style it would get a ten and I would have no regrets.

The music is literally on the same level as the animation style. The soundtrack was done by musician and filmmaker Tagaki Masakatsu, who brilliantly does his job. Each piece of music fits exactly where it needs to be, once again if there is one song to really take away from this film it is the piece played during the snow scene, which is so graceful and has the same excitement in it that the characters do for the snow. The other to take away is the song Okaa-san no Uta (Mother’s Song), which is literally Hana speaking to her children at the end of the movie and how no matter what she hopes she has done right by them and taught them to be strong. It the single most beautiful sense you can feel the love in that song and how it really is what this move is about, the love of the mother for her children. If a single song of the soundtrack can do that then you know that it is doing its job right. I would wholeheartedly say that you could just listen to this soundtrack and just relax and feel peace and calm with it. Light and lovely like it’s animation I wish I could rate this just on these two things.

Alright in terms of sub or dub I can’t really say much considering I have only seen the Funimation dub, which I thought was really well done. While some could argue that you could give or take certain voice actors I personally saw that the good outweighs the bad. We have veterans of the business like Colleen Clinkenbeard as Hana, which immediately should tell you that it is going to be a good piece of dub. While I suppose the children actors could be better they also could have been far worse, not everyone is going to have the same opportunity the Fullmetal Alchemist did. Still the dub could have been better but it also could have been a lot worse from what I’ve seen.

Now just to wrap up with the ideal amount on the buildup in story. It never feels rushed, instead it flows very beautifully in a way that shows growing up. It’s spaced out in a way that I always could feel like careful care and attention was taken into account. While I wish there had been more time take on Ame’s story and how he grew into the choices he then made I also didn’t feel like it took too much away either. I have no real complaints about this film really, I felt everything was done in the way that the writer intended, and it was beautifully done.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Review: Southern Bastards Vol. 1 “Here Was A Man”

southern bastards 1 coverSouthern Bastards
, story by Jason Aaron and art by Jason Latour, announces its intentions on the very first page: a jumble of signs pointing out churches a few miles ahead, overgrown woods creeping up to the highway, and a dog taking a crap by the side of the road. It screams at you, “This is what I’m about, this is what I am, and I don’t care what you think.” And really, that’s what the South is all about.

Being from the South myself, I can relate to much of this comic. I have a preference regarding vinegar versus tomato based barbeque sauce. I’ve been to high school footballs games (my school’s mascot was a Rebel, even) on Friday nights and I’ve seen how important those games were. I think a restaurant lacking in good sweet tea isn’t much of a restaurant at all. And yeah, travelling around the South, and even among the older generations of my own family, I’ve experienced some prejudice towards other people.

This comic is about all of those things, particularly family, to an exaggerated, hyperbolized extent. This comic is all about history, which the South has in spades.

Earl Tubb (a man most likely in his 50s or 60s) returns to the fictional Craw County, Alabama, in order to sell his dad’s house. He comes driving into town in a “Y’All Haul” truck, thinking that he’ll be gone within three days. He’s wrong. Earl finds that his hometown has a larger hold on him than he thought, that it’s more important to him than he thought, and he stays to right what he views as the wrongs in his town: he takes aim at the corrupt coach of the local high school football team, who apparently has his fingers in everything.

There are a few through lines in this book. One is particularly gross, but effective: most issues we see a really mangy, stray dog barking or taking a crap somewhere. It speaks to the low down nature of the characters, as well as the griminess of the subject matter in the story and art. The second through line lends this story an element of personal tragedy apart from the larger, Greek tragedy stylings of the plot: while there aren’t narration boxes, Earl Tubb spends a few panels of each issue on his cell phone leaving messages, and we don’t know who he’s calling (and who never calls him back) until the very end. As the story progresses, his phone calls get more and more desperate. It’s through the messages he leaves that we learn how Earl Tubb really feels. We learn about how he’s breaking, little by little. When he finally bursts into tears as he’s leaving yet another message, it feels earned, and it’s one hell of a gut punch.

A huge reason why that moment is so powerful is the absolutely brilliant work of Jason Latour. His artwork is perfectly matched to the story. It’s scratchy at all times, but extremely expressive during the emotional scenes, and extremely violent during the fights. His work captures the weight of every punch and the visceral crack of every baseball bat to the ribcage, and I never lost track of who was who or where people were standing in a scene. Plus, and this is really the best part of all, his art really made me want to eat some ribs.

Sidebar: this release includes a cover/variant cover gallery as well as a recipe for fried apple pie that looks simply delicious.

I really can’t say enough good things about this book. I will recommend it to every single person that I know. It speaks to me both personally and as a lover of comics. The story is memorable and tragic, the art is flawless and animated. If you missed these four issues, please pick up this trade. It’s easily one of my very favorite comics right now, and I can’t wait for #5.

Story: Jason Aaron Art: Jason Latour
Story: 10 Art: 9.5 Overall 10 Recommendation: Buy it RIGHT THIS INSTANT

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

The Leftovers – “The Garveys At Their Best” – Review

Leftovers“Once upon a lonely
The sky was black and stormy
I was on my way to King Marie
This day of disaster
My heart was beating faster
I ran all the way to King Marie”
– “The Girl From King Marie” – Jody Reynolds

The departured were all regretted at one point. Laurie regretted…oops, let me start my Review at the beginning, much like that incredible episode did on Sunday night. All the way at the beginning. Then I can explain that first sentence and continue my thought. It’s a good theory, I think, and I will need all of your help to see if it is somewhat true or close.

The Leftovers aired their penultimate episode, The episode immediately before the finale, on Sunday night and it was exactly what we have been wanting and waiting for since the pilot. In a series that predicates itself on the events of October 14th, all we wanted to know was what happen on October 13th or, more precisely, what happened immediately prior to the moment of departurism (note: departurism is a word I just invented…I can do that…I think…but we all know what it means). The seconds, minutes, and hours before the Sudden Departure. And we got it in a brilliant flashback that Damon Lindelof has become a master at portraying.

So, let’s start at the beginning. A theory I had stated before is that the dogs are symbols of the Guilty Remnant. The episode this past Sunday has given us a load of answers to our burning questions and provided some twists and turns in the process. One twist is that the dogs are not the Guilty Remnant…hear me out. I think the dogs represent Laurie. Kevin is represented by the deer. I’ll give some interesting supporting evidence throughout my Review so keep an eye out for it and we can discuss in the comments below. More on this later.

We see Kevin right away in his beautiful home, with his beautiful family, as we are transported back in time three years (4 years?), just days before the SD. Much like there was a scar, or flaw, on the island of The Lord of The Flies, there is also a crack, or scar or flaw, in the foundation of the Garvey home (remember: Kevin sees above the painting the crack in the wall like a lightning bolt). The writers do a wonderful job at setting up our characters lives prior to the universal ‘tic-toc’ leading up to the SD. We see Nora Durst and her happy family at a time when she is ignorant to the fact that her husband is cheating on her. We also learn that Patti was a patient of Laurie’s long before Laurie had taken the white.

Not everyone was happy. That is not what the writers were trying to show us. People were not happy, then out of nowhere the SD occurs and people spiral into despair. Kevin was lying to his wife. Nora wanted out of the “juice-box” cycle of life. Patti was kicked out of her home by her ex-husband. We finally learn why Patti puts some crap in a bag and wrote “Neil” on it and left it on his porch. Laurie, her psychologist, told her to get rid of her bad emotions from her relationship by doing this.

One of the big revelations of life before the SD is that of Jill. Jill was, uncharacteristically so, very happy. Very very happy. I did not see a scene without her smiling ear to ear or singing. she loved her dad and thought her mom was the greatest. We know Jill as the melancholy school girl who is sad and angry at the world for destroying her family.

Getting back to my theory that Kevin is represented by the deer and Laurie by the dogs. When Kevin Sr. is telling his officers about the deer in town, he instructs them to put it down because it is dangerous and unstable. Kevin wants to save it, bring it back to the woods, and let it go. Much like he did with Patti. He took her to the woods, and let her go. Kevin is just trying to save himself from becoming unstable and from going crazy. At the surprise party, Kevin tells Laurie the deer is just ‘confused’ much like he has been for the entire series thus far. To top it off, Nora’s daughter tells her that “maybe the deer is just looking for it’s family?”. Kevin’s dream sequence a few episodes ago also alludes to this theory. Kevin hears rumbling from a nearby mailbox. Remember this is where Kevin hides his cigarettes from Laurie. When he gets closer, after seeing a deceased Laurie in the back of a truck, a dog pops out and barks viciously at him. Which brings me to Laurie being represented by the dogs. Laurie is the one that wanted to get a puppy and we see her coddling one with, none other than, Gladys (who seemed happy, but we know she lost someone in the SD). Laurie tells Kevin (finally happy they found the deer) “It’s trapped, better go save it”. Notice how Kevin was happy about the deer and upset about the prospect of the dog. Kevin, as the deer (he even sees his reflection in its eye), is trying to not get chewed up and eaten by the dogs as we saw in the first episode of the season.

And finally, what I noticed about the people who were departured; the common thread amongst them. I noticed that they were all regretted by one of The Leftovers. Kevin regretted having the affair. Nora regretted her family, if only for an instant. Sam (the baby that departured in the pilot) was regretted by his mother who threw her hands up to Laurie in the car. I wonder if we will be able to point to this in the future as we learn of more people who lost someone on the SD.

This was definitely my favorite episode of the season. The writing was perfect and the flashback was orchestrated very well. It was great getting a lot of answers to our questions and seeing the SD before it happened and how it affected our main cast. The Leftovers, week to week, is a bleak look into the lives of the citizens of Mapleton and this past Sunday we were given a break form the morose souls and shattered bits of humanity. It was nice, even if it was for only a little bit of time, to see our characters in a different light and somewhat happy frame of mind. But, of course, this is Mapleton, and no one stays happy for long.

Thoughts and Discussion

– The music in the episode:
“Shotgun” – Junior Walker & The All-Stars
“Punching In a Dream” – The Naked and Famous
“Young Blood” – The Naked and Famous
“Without You” – Usher
“November” – Max Richter – This is actually the piano music you hear in nearly every episode when things are becoming clear or at the end of an episode when revelations occur.

– Did you notice…The Sudden Departure occurred at 2:23:48 PM. ’23’, ‘4’, and ‘8’ are LOST numbers. Other LOST references include the numbers 4, 8, and 42 on Laurie’s prenatal monitor in the doctor’s office.

– Did you notice…Jill’s Science Fair experiment dealt with Entropy.

– Did you notice…Laurie’s calendar quote reads – “The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground”. It is a small insight into life I believe. Nobody feels the world around them; they create their own world as they go. Maybe? What do you think this means?

– I like the little foreboding nods to the eventual SD. Like when Kevin Sr. stated “You have no greater purpose”, or Nora saying, “For the next four weeks, I have no family”. Kevin also saying to Tom, “Sometimes, you have to pretend”.

– Did you notice…Last week Patti told Kevin that Laurie counseled her. Now we know she meant it literally.

– Patti predicted the day of the SD. I suppose it could be chalked up to “A broken clock is right twice a day” type of thing, but still.

– Does everyone remember The Pattersons? The deer goes into their house where Kevin goes upstairs to corner it. These are the people that Nora interviewed for their SD check a few episodes back when they lost their boy with Down-Syndrome that we saw in this flashback episode counting coins and directing Kevin to the location of the deer.

– The deer could also represent feelings of being trapped. It affected certain peoples lives on the show. Just like the deer wanted to be free so did Kevin. The woman who hits the deer took a different route. The deer affected the woman Nora’s husband was having an affair with. And the old couple taking care of the boy with Down-Syndrome who tells Kevin that leaving the house “is not going to happen”. Kevin felt extra trapped which was foreshadowed by the dear having the balloon of “It’s a Girl” covered in blood on it. I love the symbolism in this series (The metronome on the floor of the school that Kevin stares at was perfectly placed).

– “A man says to the Universe…Sir, I exist” This was a great speech by Kevin and appropriate. The Universe responds, “The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation”.

– My favorite part of the episode was when the car full of women pulls up to Kevin sitting on the curb. They ask, “Are you ready?”. Did they think he was part of the Guilty Remnant? They could not have formed yet formally, but what if they knew beforehand? Kevin WAS wearing white. Maybe they thought he was a member? Maybe they were from wherever Dean came from or whoever speaks to Kevin Sr.? The situation could not have become any more mysterious as the manhole cover rattles and explodes in a fury of fire and heat. Did Kevin even think about this moment when he learned of the SD event all over the world?

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