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Which Occurs in the Wake of What has Gone Before – Sandman Meditations

Sometimes, the English language plays along. A god-like king of dreams has died, and so there is a wake. Dreams, in the literal sense at least, die upon the dreamer’s waking, and so, too, in The Sandman when Morpheus is no more: the dreamers wake.

There is a sense of quiet throughout this chapter, a quietude. And more so: gravity. Not for lack of words; there are plenty of words throughout these pages. Instead, the quiet, grave, pensive sorrow filling each panel seeps from the pencil lines and muted hues, the scored shadows along most of the edges, and all the downcast eyes. Though the chapter is not rich with plot, it gives an inescapable sense of motion, an undercurrent — the characters are all drawn toward the last page, the last panel. It’s the greatest, grandest view of the Endless we’ve yet seen, but also in many ways the coldest, for they look like stone monuments against a slate sky. “They are the family,” a character says.

Lemire and Kindt’s The VALIANT Ends and is a Turning Point

The VALIANT #4 came out this week from VALIANT comics and it’s about beginning and endings, life and death, mortality and eternity. Not of the miniseries, nor a story arc, but for the VALIANT universe. Even more, it felt like a message written to me, a long time fan, within this completely mainstreet hyper-dramatic action horror thriller. It was a countdown to a valiant zero hour. For the line and me.

Review – STAR WARS Tarkin. What the Sheev?

Let me get out of this way, I role with James Luceno and I always will because he was 1/2 of the team that brought me Robotech in novel form in the ’80s. That said, there is good James Luceno and bad James Luceno. Good James Luceno is Labyrinth of Evil which combined with Matthew Stover’s kick ass novelization of Revenge of the Sith is the Star Wars prequel as it should have been told, not whatever it was that happened on to the screen. Good Luceno is Darth Plagueis. Bad Luceno, and I know perhaps the majority does not agree with this, is Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader. It’s a book blessed with a cool concept and central character, a story everyone wants to see — Vader being Vader — but it really fails to turn the concept into actual moments that payoff the promise of premise. Never has there been a Star Wars book that I question what seemed to be general opinion on more than I did with The Rise of Darth Vader.

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A Little Harmony for Robotech Movie Gold on the Sony Silver Screen

I’m half Japanese. I’m an american. I’ve lived in Japan for a lot of my earlier childhood and 1/4 of my life. I have land there. I knew ramen was life since the ’80s, and not cheap college student menu before U.S. hipsters of the past several years did. I even rocked a bento strong in elementary school, some of which were Macross branded. I was introduced to Macross through Robotech though, as I suspect most people in the U.S. were, but in my years in Japan, I’ve never come across anyone (the count is officially zero) who seem to care more about how Robotech came into being as I have in english speaking message boards in the 21st century. They have theirs, we have ours. As a child of both worlds it was never really a conflict, so it’s always puzzled me why it’s a point of actual active contention for anyone. Especially people who have to be grown to even know what either of these franchises are or were. If you look at any news related topics involving Robotech and Harmony Gold it is almost impossible not to go three reactions down until finding an, again, oddly American, Macross flag waving rebuttal to your enthusiasm. It’s not even a remotely personal subject. How can it be?

The Ant King and Other Stories by Benjamin Rosenbaum – Review

Imagine Borges and Dali hanging out at Pee Wee Herman’s playhouse, and you have a brief inkling of what Rosenbaum’s fiction is like. The Ant King and Other Stories is Rosenbaum’s debut collection of short fiction, which features pieces have been that have nominated for genre awards, and have appeared in a slew of venues, from Interzone, Realms of Fantasy, and McSweeney’s. The content ranges from postmodern fables, flash fiction, pulp fiction, all told in precise and distinctive, if not exactly poetic, prose. The imagery—which is what propels the stories as much as plot—is always startling and surrealistic. Rosenbaum mixes literary forms and narrative styles like a DJ.

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game of thrones

Darkstar of Dorne – Reconsidering Gerold Dayne in the Game of Thrones

This is an “article” I wrote a few years ago (so please keep in mind any new HBO or GRRM based revelations weren’t at my disposal) that made rounds on Tumblr after I wrote it on a now defunct Tumblr I had. Beyond simply wanting to keep it from disappearing from the web, I actually wanted to read it again after running into a more recent and very fly theory regarding Darkstar’s (Gerold Dayne) possible father over at Elio’s board dedicated to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. For those who only experience what you call Game of Thrones via HBO, this covers a thus far minor character you probably won’t meet until season 5 who debuted in book 4, A Feast for Crows, if at all. I cleaned it up a bit just to remove references to other material that was on my old blog that wouldn’t make sense now. I’d add that since the time that I wrote this it is more than likely the dedicated truth finders of the series have unearthed numerous theories that completely discount what in comparison is a childish half-thought on my part about Darkstar. They are exceedingly good at that and have been for more than a decade.

Bringing it On | a Jessica Bendinger Interview

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking with Jessica Bendinger, screen writer, director, and now author.  Her best-known work, at least in my age demographic, is writing Bring It On.  Jessica also wrote and directed Stick It, with Missy Peregrim and Jeff Bridges, and last December she published her first novel with Simon & Schuster, titled The Seven Rays.  It’s a young adult caper into karma and destiny and love and teenage hilarity, and I got the scoop on her inspirations, intentions, and more in our conversation…which you can read below!

The Evolution of the Serial Killer

America has always been crazy about serial killers.

They’re our homegrown werewolves. They click with the fast-food car culture that roars in the country’s busy, busy heart. They fit neatly with our cult-of-celebrity-style national mythology.

These beasts that seem like men, mowing through victims like McDonald’s cheeseburgers, speeding for the televised takedown by John Q. Law – how can the USA not be wild for them?

Real = Angst – The Grim ‘N’ Gritty Trend Of The Non-Powered Superhero

Arrow, the WB action television series, starring Stephen Amell’s abs, based on the DC comic book series, Green Arrow, recently debuted and has now been picked up for a full season.

Honestly, I haven’t seen the show yet, and had little intention to do so after what I felt looked like a lacklustre trailer. However, it seems the show has become somewhat of a hit, and is getting pretty good buzz in the dark corners of the internet, which is no small feat, considering it’s based on a comic book, and seems vaguely embarrassed of that fact (case in point: it won’t call itself “Green Arrow,” as that is somehow more ridiculous), and comic book readers are not known for taking changes lying down, instead preferring an elaborate outraged-sitting position akin to extreme-yoga.

Strong Bonds – 007 from DR. NO to SKYFALL

British singer Adele has yet again proven herself to be a family friendly version of Amy Winehouse by recording a theme to a James Bond film, by (unlike the late Ms. Winehouse) actually getting the song recorded. And yeah, the song Skyfall (from the new James Bond film, the name of which I’m drawing a blank on…) sounds like the same kind of bland crap that normally gets made for these films. Just when I thought they’d maybe turned a corner with the Jack White-performed theme song from Quantum of Solace (perhaps the theme songs are inversely correlated with the quality of the films), which was so catchy that I could actually slap the meat curtains to it, as the common phrase goes.

Boozed Up And Beaten Down: Noir, Realism, And Alcohol

Booze and crime goes hand in hand like booze and being hugely attractive and winning in life. I am drinking while writing this, because something something simpatico and shit. After speaking with my editor about the topic of this week’s column, I was told “Liam, you’re a pathetic drunk, either clean up your act, or write about it!”

And here we are.

Victimless Emmys – Crime TV In 2012

The thing one must always keep in mind with industry awards is, aside from a marketing perspective, they mean exactly nothing.  Less than that, even.  If a show I particularly enjoy can move a few more DVD sets on the after-market by slapping an “Emmy winner!” sticker on it, or if that little gold statuette helps convince the suits upstairs that said show should be renewed for another few seasons, then that’s just hunky-dory.  But if the Academy of Television Arts(?) and Sciences(!) doesn’t see fit to acknowledge certain shows or actors for their fine work, that certainly should be no skin off anyone’s nose.  The Emmys are like whipped cream: Great as a nice topping, but if you eat them right out of the can, you’re likely to get a stomach ache.

The Covers of Hard Case Crime

Looking over two of the most recent book covers from Hard Case Crime (HCC) you can’t help but see a pattern. The Comedy Is Finished by Donald E. Westlake has a gorgeous painted cover from Gregory Manchess, and False Negative by Joseph Koenig has its own delightful image from Hard Case Crime stalwart Glen Orbik. Aside from being fantastically well made, both covers feature women in the primary roles. Both women are also naked with modesty only being retained via strategically placed hair or a sheet.

The question becomes, why does the naked woman trope fit so well onto the cover of a pulp crime novel?

The Pigs That Are Their Food – THE KING OF PIGS And BLEAK NIGHT

The Korean Film Festival in Australia (or KOFFIA, the acronym they’ve mercifully given me so that I don’t have to type out “The Korean Film Festival in Australia” too many times. I am not paid by the word, which is clearly why I’m so concise with any tangents and diversions within my pieces, and only stick to the most pertinent of assertations and never crowd the parentheses) has played its second year in Melbourne, and, as I can often be found yelling to people on the train, Korea currently has some of the most exciting filmmaking in the world. On top of the generally excellent pedigree, they’ve also been making what I would say is some of the most innovative and uncompromising crime films since America was doin’ it right back in the ‘70s.

My Name Is Markham – The TV Sensibilities of NEAR DEATH

Near Death is one of the spate of high-quality comic books Image has been cranking out over the past couple of years, and I finally did myself the favor of reading it.  Of course, now it appears the series has gone on hiatus just as I am getting on board (sad trombone).  Fingers crossed that it starts up again and soon, but in the meantime, Near Death is a nice little jumping-off point for talking about comics for comics’ sake.

Heading Back to STUMPTOWN – Greg Rucka Vs. The Comic Book Industry

After last week’s rant about Ed Brubaker, I got a lot of feedback during my weekly titty-signings from fans of Criminal Complex. Many were the pleas for me to satisfy all the sexual desires of the myriad fans of my writings on comics and movies that I done gone posted onna innarnertz (I had to be all “ermahgerd, lol guyz, like seriously, keep it on topic! I don’t care how many boobies you have to offer me! Let’s talk comics!”) Exhausting.

How My Load Got Shot | By Jedidiah Ayres

I just read a review of the film F*ckload of Scotch Tape that ended with this paragraph:

“In the end, F*ckload of Scotch Tape is the cinematic equivalent of a repeated kick to the nuts with just enough of a break here and there to give you some hope that maybe, just maybe, the next kick won’t come. But that next kick always comes, and it’s not going to stop. This is not an easy flick to experience, and I don’t know if the word ‘enjoy’ is the right one to use, even though I can’t dismiss the merits of the film even if it made me feel like shit. Stinky, watery shit. Fuck, you’re going to kick me in the nuts again, aren’t you?”

Up Jumped The New World Order – The New Rules of Satanism In Pop Music

Before we get too far into this, I want everybody to remember that there was a time when the members of Mötley Crüe were presumed to be dangerous servants of the Devil.

I should also say that I’m relatively new to the notion of Illuminati Satanism, and that anything you read herein has been out there in some form or another for ten or more years.  If you’re pressed for time, I can save you the trouble of reading on and just tell you right now that I think the whole notion of selling one’s soul to the Devil for a few years of fame is a load of horseshit.

The City Of I Will – Why BOSS Is Kelsey Grammer’s Greatest Work

It’s strange when you consider that Boss is Kelsey Grammer’s first major dramatic role.  He has always been known for playing upright, no-nonsense roles, but for laughs.  Boss season 2, which premiered this past Friday on Starz, is definitely no laughing matter, and regardless of how lauded Grammer has been for his comedy work, the role of Chicago mayor Tom Kane will be what he is remembered for, if there is any justice in the world.

Then again, a major theme of Boss so far is that there is no justice in the world.  So there’s that.

Thawing Mr. Freeze – The Life And Death And Life Of Schwarzenegger’s Career

The implications of resurrecting Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For the record, I voted for Gallagher.

In the Second Great American Mindfuck of the early 21st Century, also known as the 2003 California Gubernatorial Recall Election, I was one of 5,466 watermelon-hating voters who chose to throw away their vote on comedian Gallagher rather than the action star Schwarzenegger, security guard Gary Coleman, porn merchant Larry Flynt, porn star Mary Carey, sumo wrestler Kurt “Tachikaze” Rightmyer, or any of the other names on the packed page of, er, uniquely qualified candidates provided at polling places across the Golden State.

“Ya Wouldn’t Bloody Like Me When I’m Angry, Mate” – Eric Bana’s Weird Career Progression

Australian of many hats (and presumably berets, gloves, scarves and other assorted fineries) Eric Bana, is close to signing on to star in Lone Survivor. The Peter Berg-directed flick based on the events of SEAL Team 10’s “Operation Red Wing,”  where the Navy SEALs were ambushed while on a covert assassination mission in Afghanistan in 2005. Bana is to round out a cast that already includes Marky Mark (Wahlberg), Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, and Taylor Kitsch in the role of “Taylor Kitsch is acting.” Peter Berg will also be handling the screenplay duties on this one, adapting the book of the same name that was penned by Marcus Luttrell. Complex – and my pants’ – favourite, Mark Wahlberg is set to play Luttrell, the member of the expedition who wrote the book about his experiences upon which Lone Survivor is based. No telling at this stage who the ‘lone survivor’ of the title is going to be.

Get A Haircut Robert Pattinson – COSMOPOLIS

Well, kids, it’s almost here.  The wide release on August 17th of Robert Pattinson’s latest vehicle, the David Cronenberg film Cosmopolis, is only days away, and if you listen closely, you can hear the eager squeals of anticipation from Bobby’s legions of fans.  And now there have been brand-new stills released from the film, which we bring to you today courtesy of The Playlist.  It never quite fails to fascinate just how these guys, these screen idols, continue to elicit such rabid devotion from so many.  It’s not that I don’t understand or anything; after all, I’ve nursed quite a few celebrity crushes over the years and still do.  And as we’ve discussed here before, Pattinson’s presence in this film will lead many to the works of his director and co-stars, many who may not have shown any interest in such otherwise.

Handicapping VEGAS – Taking Bets On CBS’ 1960’s Sin City Drama

If your name is Michael Chiklis, you may not want to read this.
I’ve taken a liking to dropping giant, elephantine shits on upcoming network television premieres, particularly the high-gloss product.  I love doing it, because so much of the upper-echelon drama series fall into the Complex Realm of spent shell casings, nitrate tests, clipped dialogue, and squinty glares, and I’m kind of protective of all that stuff?

Books Punch Your Face – The Crime Midsummer Reading List

Eight noir novels to help fill your endless summer with a sense of overwhelming dread and paranoia.
Okay, so I’m the professor who wakes up three weeks before the end of the semester and hits everybody over the head with a pile of mandatory reading assignments that everybody has to crowbar in between midnight finals cram sessions and kegstands, but you know, only if they hope to make it out with a passing grade.

What Are The Odds These Crime Film Remakes Will Happen?

Well, it’s a day ending in “y,” which means it’s time for Criminal Complex’s resident “typical internet fucktard” to vigorously blow his horn every which way over your face about film remakes. Film announcements are a lot like possums – cute to look at, but likely to disappear up your arse before anything more comes to fruition [A common Australian expression – Ed].

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The Kindly Ones: Part 13 – Sandman Meditations

The King is dead. Long live the King.

Those sentences have been rattling around in my mind’s ears ever since I finished reading the thirteenth, and final, chapter of The Kindly Ones. They’re traditionally said at ceremonies of monarchical accession, but mostly they remind me of E.M. Forster’s distinction between a story and a plot. In Aspects of the Novel, Forster maintained that “The king died, and then the queen died” is a story, while “The king died, and then the queen died of grief” is a plot. A story is a narrative of events; a plot is a narrative with causality.

The Posthumous Donald Westlake: It’s All Bullshit

Donald Westlake, ever the prolific author, has had two novels released since his death on New Year’s Eve of 2009, both brought to us by the stellar Hard Case Crime imprint.  The first, in 2010, is called Memory, and was thought to be his only “lost” novel, until crime writer Max Allan Collins unearthed a manuscript for The Comedy Is Finished, which was published earlier this year.  Now, I’m not sure that these novels carry a certain extra weight for their timing—that is to say, had Westlake published these novels when he had written them, would they ring so much more important to me?  Or would they be just two more examples of Westlake’s superior writing skills, part of a canon that was revered within the genre well before the man’s passing?

It doesn’t matter.

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The Ten Most Dangerous Broads In Film

It’s Ladies’ Night at the Complex.

We’ve covered a pretty broad spectrum of shady characters over the past few months around here, but with Mother’s Day coming up in a few weeks, we felt it entirely appropriate to tip our collective hats to all the wonderful women that keep us under a thin layer of sweat.  Presenting the ten meanest, craziest, and most scandalous chicks to ever set the screen on fire.

Alert: Spoilers abound.

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The Kindly Ones: Part 11 – Sandman Meditations

You will be relieved to learn, I know, that I survived the suspense of the cliffhanger at the end of Part 10. And as with so many of the surprises (and suspenses) of The Sandman, it was less and more than it appeared. We might have expected Nuala’s luring of Morpheus at the end of the previous part to lead to a story of great explosions back in the Dreaming, or we might have guessed Part 11 would give us an epic attack by the Furies, or we might have feared a giant climax of gigantic giantness to lurk around the corner, with Nuala as a devious double-agent of the forces of evil.

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Apocalypse Whores: Seijun Suzuki’s GATE OF FLESH

Welcome to post-World War II Tokyo. The Occupied City. It’s a crime-fest. Aside from yakuza-run markets, gang wars, gambling, and seemingly everybody on the grift, prostitution  is so utterly widespread, there’s even a governmental department named The RAA (Recreation and Amusement Association) specifically established to relieve the occupying troops of pent-up libidinal urges that could possibly be exorcised in even less wholesome ways. The ensuing  fuckfest is prodigious. So prodigious that  the moat around the Imperial Palace becomes “so clogged with used condoms”  it has to be “cleaned out once a week with a big wire scoop.”

Joe R Lansdale: Where Does He Find The Time?

Seriously.  I can hardly find the time to read the man’s voluminous output, and that must take at least a little less time to write it.  So how does he do it?

Joe R. Lansdale’s first book, Act of Love, went into print in 1980, a novel about a truly psychopathic serial killer set in Houston, TX.  Lansdale has not slowed down in the thirty-plus years since, this past year seeing the release of his YA novel, All the Earth, Thrown to to the Sky; a novella, “Hyenas“, featuring my personal Lansdale favorites, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine; and now the latest from Little, Brown’s crime imprint, Mulholland, Edge of Dark Water.

What Are The Odds That INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS Will Turn Out To Be A Crime Movie?

Though largely regarded as humorists, directors Joel and Ethan Coen have produced some of the finest crime movies ever committed to film.  Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, and their adaptation of No Country for Old Men are straight-ahead crime movies enriched with the Coens’ visual style and lip-smacking dialogue.  Even Fargo, though the thick Minnesota dialect draws huge laughs, couldn’t be more of a crime movie.

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The Kindly Ones: Part 10 – Sandman Meditations

Dear Reader, see me squirm. After watching Nuala insist that Dream come to her to grant her boon, and after reading Dream say, “As long as I remain in the Dreaming, no real harm can occur,” and after then reading Nuala say, “My Lord … you are no longer in the Dreaming,” and Dream reply, “No. I am not,” I turned the page only to discover that I had just read the last words of Part 10, and thus must stop.

Dear Reader, I work hard to stick to our agreement about this experiment. I do not read ahead before I write down my meditations. I do not consult reference books or Wikipedia. I risk bushels of blunders. The purity of the experiment is what matters, and I have kept the purity I promised you at the beginning, Reader.

Crime Book Cover Wars, Part 1: US vs. UK

I do judge books, despite the well-worn proverb, by their covers. I judge them by their creative flair or their uninspired “just slap a massive gun on it and ship it to the stores” laziness. I judge them by their logos, either in homage to a theme or a period, or by the dull standards of current mass-market thriller ubiquitousness, where it seems almost every book bears the same tedious, blocky, occasionally embossed typeface as the next. In an era where the e-book has begun its takeover and sandwich-board wearing prophets proclaim “the death of the book,” cover design is, along with pricing, paramount (unless like Penguin, you strip your covers back to a simple, single, striking design and charge peanuts for it, which is also a great move).

Odds That Oliver Stone’s SAVAGES Will Be Any Good?

Director Oliver Stone is bringing Don Winslow’s SAVAGES to the big screen.  But will it be any good? “Bet.”

Don Winslow’s 2010 novel Savages is one of those books you chide yourself for not reading sooner, even if you were able to get your hands on an ARC in ’09.  The drug-dealing anti-hero(es) and the adventures of the Mexican drug cartel are all reinvested with some relevance and some actual personality in the pages of Winslow’s novel.  Opening with a brief first chapter, the twin thematic powerhouses of minimalism and breakneckism (in both pace and morality) shoot you through to the conclusion, which is about as Mexican a stand-off as you’re likely to read.  There’s no time to do anything but take a deep breath and hope you come out on the other side (not all of you will).  If/when you do, it’ll be a day and half later and you will not have eaten and your hair will be all messed up.  That’s how good Savages is.

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The Kindly Ones Part 9 – Sandman Meditations

By the end of the ninth chapter of The Kindly Ones, some characters may have found things they were looking for: Rose Walker may have found her heart, and the Corinthian may have found Lyta Hall’s son, Daniel. I say “may have found” because only a fool proclaims certainties about a Sandman story before it is finished (if then!), and I aspire to be less of a fool.

In The Mick Of Time: 7 Best Irish-American Crime Flicks

There’s always something that’s just a little dirtier about Irish crime movies.  Irish movie mobsters don’t wear silk suits and don’t tip off an impending whacking with a kiss on the cheek. In fact, in most cases, it would appear that they don’t even shower.  That would require foresight and diligent planning, which are qualities not typically on display in an Irish-American crime film.

With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, we thought it would be a good idea to tip our hats to the grand tradition of Irish thuggery in American film while we are all still coherent enough to do so.

Why AWAKE Is About To Become The Best Show On Television*

*For those who are still jonesing for something to fill the void in their life left by Lost.

Just to get past the nagging qualifiers, I’ve been hyping this show since the moment I heard the premise and saw the trailer for it (I won’t post it again here as I have been spamming the Complex for the past three months).  I have a nasty habit of doing this.  As a result, the sight of Chinese Democracy sitting on the shelves at Best Buy with a $1.99 price tag gives me stabbing pains in the abdominal area every time I go to pick up batteries.

The 10 Perviest Crime Films

Crime films give every genre a run for its money when it comes to getting hardcore. Murder, torture, kidnapping—they have it all and in many cases, they show it all. Even the lion’s share of the horror genre doesn’t hold a candle to scenes like Mr. Blonde getting down with a duct-taped cop and a straight razor.

Silent House – Elizabeth Olsen Screams With Talent

Silent House holds a lot of dark splendor for such a lean feature.

This trim 88-minute thriller is rendered in a single shot. That artistic effort alone makes it worth the price of admission.

It braids in a lot of other captivating elements: Subtle unfolding of the plot. An eerie, understated atmosphere. Mounting tension that wrenches into the surreal for the final act.

Best of all, Silent House has the golden thread of Elizabeth Olsen’s talent to hold it together.

Mass Effect 3: Multiplayer that actually interests me

I’m not typically a fan of online multiplayer modes in games. I’m not suited for it; I’m generally not very competitive, not very social, and I just find a well-designed single player scenario much more enjoyable than the frantic chaos of the typical online deathmatch. I’m also, at least where he genres that dominate that sort of gameplay, such as first-person shooters and fighting games, are concerned- just not that good, and I’m not particularly interested in spending time being stomped into dust over and over again by opponents I have no chance against.

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The Kindly Ones Part 6 – Sandman Meditations

We have reached a sort of middle: the sixth part of The Kindly One’s thirteen parts. Thirteen, of course, being an odd number does not split evenly in two. Fans of Part 7 might find it more comfortably middle-ish, being for all intents and purposes the beginning of the second half, while fans of Part 6 might argue fervently and ferociously that their part is really the middle because it’s the end of the first half. Fans of Part 8 might then dispute the fans of Part 7 for the title of Beginning of the Second Half, invoking all sorts of ancient statutes requiring that second halves be shorter than first halves if the halves are not equal halves.

So there you halve it: the halves and halve-nots.

LILYHAMMER Drops On Netflix

I’ve been keeping an eye open for Lilyhammer since word of its over in Norway.  The complete first season of Steven Van Zandt’s sleeps-with-the-fishes-out-of-water comedy series was released onto Netflix this evening, in its eight-episode entirety.  Always here to service our faithful followers, I dove into the first episode and brought back my observations.

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The Kindly Ones: Part 5 – Sandman Meditations

Given how complex the narrative of The Kindly Ones is revealing itself to be, I would be a fool to pretend to be able to come to any conclusions about it yet, or even to pretend to any knowledge of quite what is happening beyond the immediate events of each chapter. This is by far the most difficult of the Sandman volumes to proceed through in an issue-by-issue way; every time I reach the end of a chapter, I groan with the effort of restraining myself from turning the page. While such restraint fulfills the goals of this experiment in reading, and somewhat mimics the experience of the original readers who had to wait between issues of the comic, it’s still unavoidably frustrating.

Honky Tonk Heroes | by Benjamin Whitmer

There was a time when being an admirer of Cormac McCarthy was more than a little like being a member of a cult.  It was before Oprah, when the only way you’d have heard of him was by word of mouth. There were no movie adaptations, and if you knew anything about his life, it was that he was living in a cheap hotel room in El Paso working on his next novel.  Which, you figured, was just as it should be. Depending on your particular bent, you could stay up all night discoursing on either Suttree or Blood Meridian — nobody’s ever been known to love both of those books equally — much to the irritation of friends and family alike.

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The Kindly Ones Part 4 – Sandman Meditations

When Carla comes to visit Rose in the fourth chapter of The Kindly Ones, Rose is getting ready to videotape an episode of the sitcom Roseanne. She tells Carla that she is hoping to write something about three sitcoms in particular: Roseanne, The Addams Family, and Bewitched This information comes as she and Carla discuss, among other things, the difficulties and weirdnesses of families. (And from A Doll’s House we might remember that Rose knows a thing or two about weird families.)

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johnny shaw

The Art of Going Too Far – Johnny Shaw Guest blog

I think that I found my voice—or at least my confidence—when I was a graduate screenwriting student at UCLA. Although I had been writing for a number of years, it was at UCLA that I pushed myself and understood and accepted failure as a positive possibility. Good writing is ambitious. Which means that good writers must be willing to fail.

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The Kindly Ones Part 3 – Sandman Meditations

The sadness of Hob Gadling is, for me, among the most poignant recurring elements of The Sandman. In the third part of The Kindly Ones, Hob’s sadness stands in counterpoint to Lyta’s growing anxiety and, then, horror and hatred.

Previously, we have learned that all lives are brief, but what we learn now is that the pain of death comes from those lives suddenly losing synchronization. As Hob stands at Audrey’s grave, he says, “I thought we’d have longer.” This is what anyone who loses a loved one is likely to feel. I and some of my closest friends all lost parents when we were at very different ages, and yet our feelings of that experience were more similar than different. Prolonged illness may dull the response to death a bit as we feel grateful that the sufferer is no longer in pain, but even in those circumstances where we feel relieved to reach the end, the combination of death and love collapses time. We always think we’ll have longer.

Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story… Stripp’d

If you wander around a second hand book shop and start leafing through old history textbooks you will rapidly notice that history used to be nothing but stories about men with beards and top hats. Looking back on this state of affairs, we can now see that one of the reasons for this is that people naturally tend to gravitate towards stories that interest them on a personal level. Because of this, bearded men wound up writing books about other bearded men to the point where history became nothing but a collection of stories about bearded men (with or without top hats). This pattern did not change until the demographics of university education began to change and an influx of non-white, non-male students created a generation of non-white, non-male historians who reached professional maturity in the 1960s.

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neil gaiman

The Kindly Ones: Part 2 – Sandman Meditations

The second chapter of The Kindly Ones develops two stories: the story of Lyta, who has now called the police because of her missing son, and the story of Cluracan and Nuala, who have gained Dream’s permission for Nuala to leave the Dreaming and return to Faerie.

But I’m not going to write about any of that.

We’re still just starting this story, and so I’m going to pause and discuss something tangential, though it begins with this story. Or, rather, it begins with me deciding not to read this story in a particular setting.

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The Kindly Ones: Prologue and Part 1 – Sandman Meditations

The prologue to The Kindly Ones contains an image that is pure pornography for someone like me: an endless library. A library of books not written, of books that authors and readers have only dreamed. We’ve seen it before in The Sandman, and come to recognize the librarian, Lucien, but it is here in Kevin Nowlan’s art that the wondrous scope of the place is most enticing to me. We see Lucien standing at the top of a library ladder, pillars of shelves all around him, floors of stacks leading to the unseen, infinite horizon. There’s an M.C. Escher quality to the image, given all the symmetrical lines. We might imagine that the stairs of one floor lead in a loop to the stairs of another floor, creating an ouroboric space without entrance or exit. There’s a particularly wonderful detail in the image: the bottom right corner of the panel shows a cluster of books lying as if on the top of a shelf. They’re in the foreground of the picture, tantalizingly close to us, all come-hither look and attitude of, Hey big boy, don’t you just wish you could open me up and have a peek…

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WORLDS’ END – Sandman Meditations

Worlds’ end and words’ ends; end as conclusion and end as purpose. We’ve reached the finishing line of this story arc, and the stories within stories reveal by the last page what seems to be their outer shell.

This conclusion does what the best conclusions do: it ties up some loose ends while heightening the overall sense of mystery. We might say we like stories that have clear, unambiguous endings, but do we? Depends on the we, I suppose. No-one who likes such endings is likely to last through many Sandman volumes.

J. EDGAR Is Leo’s Show, All The Way

It struck me as I was watching J. Edgar that as much as I enjoy James Ellroy’s work and how funny I find his depiction of Hoover in his Blood’s a Rover, it actually is a really cartoony version of the guy.  Ellroy kinda does that a lot, and that’s fine, as not only do I like cartoons a lot, it was also Ellroy’s mission in his “Underworld U.S.A.” trilogy to deflate the images of these men that have defined 20th century American history.  Clint Eastwood’s film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, also seeks to do this, but in a much more subtle way, which also still ends up (in my eyes, anyway) severely discrediting the man who created the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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guilty of romance

Murder, Sex, and True Fake Crime in Sion Sono’s Guilty of Romance

“Oishi sausage des!”

–Sion Sono, Guilty of Romance

Okay, hands up if you know what a love hotel is? Yeah, right, feel free to skip ahead.

For those who don’t:

A love hotel is basically a venue that you pay for by the hour to go and have sex with someone. They are frequently themed and full of weird shit (I once spent the night in a room with a cage over the bed and manacles bolted to the bathroom wall). It’s essentially an industry built on infidelity, which in Japan is almost as common as a hot meal, so it’s a smart industry at that. Anyway, picking up from last time, Sion Sono’s true crime-ish Guilty of Romance is loosely based on a love hotel murder in Shibuya. We open with detective Kazuko Yoshida (Miki Mizono) arriving at the grisly crime scene where a body has been found and several limbs have been replaced with mannequin parts. The film flashes backwards and forwards from there as the events leading up to the murder unfold alongside the autopsy and detective work.

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Cerements – Sandman Meditations

The word necropolis etymologically means “city of the dead”, but its everyday definition is “cemetery” or “burial ground”. In the penultimate chapter of Worlds’ End, the necropolis of Litharge is more literal — a city built from the dead and devoted to the dead, a metropolis of morticians.

It’s an evocative, strangely beautiful idea. Certainly, it’s efficient: with all the corpses and their detritus contributing to the creation and maintenance of the city (once the appropriate rituals have been attended to), Litharge provides a model of sustainability, with one of the best recycling programs in all the Sandman stories.

5 TV Crime Show Crossovers That Must Happen

There are top-rated crime shows every season these days, with something illegal to appeal to anybody somewhere on the airwaves. Whether it’s the tone, the characters or the narrative, the diverse range of crime storytelling hits chords with all kinds of viewing markets.

It’s our contention that some of these chords must intertwine, and make sweet, sweet TV love with each other. Or, more likely, make an absolute disaster of a show that would be too ridiculous not to watch.

These are those 5 TV Crime Show Crossovers That Must Happen.

Johnny Depp’s THE RUM DIARY Is Like Two Movies in One – REVIEW

I walked away from watching The Rum Diary with feelings as dichotomous as the two halves of the film.  The first half is what the film appears to be in the trailers, while the second is a fairly serious take on corruption and the censorship of news by those who control what is printed.  Neither part is entirely satisfying, for differing reasons, and the two halves hang together rather awkwardly.

THE THREE MUSKETEERS Is a Hot, Delicious Mess | review

I did not go into this newest version of The Three Musketeers with high expectations.  In point of fact, I expected the film to be kind of bad.  I find myself forced to confess a reluctant admiration for just how bad it turned out to be.

What I expected was a historically inaccurate melodrama, with some good swordfights, cheesy dialogue, a stable pretty men and an abundance of pretty costumes.  I got… a historically inaccurate… something.  I think it bordered on theater of the absurd, but I can’t come up with a film equivalency.  Oh, and (spoiler alert) airships.

5 Ways the US PRIME SUSPECT Is Better Than the UK

In crime TV, there’s another major push underway from NBC, Prime Suspect, that is bringing A-list talent to bear in an effort to seize some of those sweet, sweet CBS crime junky ratings. In Prime Suspect, Maria Bello, seen in such edgy theater releases as A History of Violence, plays a tough NYPD cop that just happens to be one of the ladies. But don’t be under the impression put forth by the ads growling that it’s “like nothing you’ve seen before.” It’s a full-fledged rip-off of a British TV show.

Crime Imitates Life: Danny Ocean Gets More Chicks than Terry Benedict

There are myriad reasons why people become artists—creative drive, fame/notoriety, money.  Actually, that’s about it.  But one reason not discussed all that often is simple boredom.  The non-creative life can be a real drag, working a regular job, marrying a regular spouse in order to birth regular kids.  Artistic endeavors, especially in this modern western culture, are just as much a product of the artist’s malaise/ennui/boredom as it is the demand of the public for such distractions from their own malaise/ennui/boredom.

Whatever Her Name Is, She’s Brilliant: The MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE | Review

It’s a role of intense emotional shifts frequently conveyed internally. It’s a portrayal of severe emotional and psychological damage created with such subtlety and intelligence it’s hard to imagine any healthy twenty-two year old pulling it off, let alone one related to seemingly vapid child star/fashion designer twins. Yet, here we are.  I have a new favourite actress.

The raves are in.

Here is mine.

What Are the Odds Tom Sizemore Is Gonna Get Killed on Hawaii Five-O?

Despite his most recent snag with the law, Tom Sizemore has turned over a new leaf, one not grown from the coca plant.  His guest role this season on CBS’s Hawaii Five-O as straight-laced IAB cop, Captain Vince Fryer, fits nicely with Sizemore’s new-found path of cleanliness and sobriety.  We here at Criminal Complex truly hope this all pans out, as Sizemore has always been a fine actor and seems like a cool guy to hang out with.  But if life imitates art, this new role could also mean that Tom Sizemore might get mortally wounded.  Again, we can’t stress enough how horrible this would be, but let us take a look at Tommy’s track record so far, shall we?

The Mortician | New Orleans Film Fest movie review

The Mortician is almost impossible to classify.  I saw it described as “post-apocalyptic,” but it’s not really SF; a fair number of people in line with me for the screening thought it was horror because the main character is a mortician, but it’s not horror; technically I guess it’s a drama, but it’s not what I think of when I hear “drama.”  The movie is set in a city that has gone to hell, with gangs running rampant and new bodies coming into the city morgue almost daily.  When a young woman’s body is fished out of a canal and brought to the morgue, the mortician (Method Man) finds himself embroiled in the tragic aftermath of her death, especially for her son (Cruz Santiago)—who is now also being targeted by the same man who killed his mother.

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The Golden Boy – Sandman Meditations

The tale this time is a mystical Manichean parable of an alternate America, and it’s a story that uses severe simplification to highlight our governing myths.

(Let me pause here first to say that an inn with a library full of many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore seems to me the perfect rest stop in a storm. The Worlds’ End becomes a stranger building with each chapter, but the addition of a bibliophile’s wing seems eminently civilized to me.)

96 MINUTES | movie review via New Orleans Film Festival

96 Minutes is a festival gem.  With the films screening in competition, you never really walk in sure of what you’ll get; like Forest Gump’s box of chocolate, sometimes the film’s a truffle and other times it’s a coconut macaroon (and you hate coconut).  I went into 96 Minutes almost blind—I read the blurb but did not watch the trailer.  The screening was at 9:50 on Saturday, day 2 of NOFF 2011, and the theater was maybe half-full, which is a shame because this movie is powerful. 

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human chair

Edogawa Rampo: The Godfather of Japanese Crime Fiction

In a story entitled “The Human Chair,” an anonymous, physically repulsive furniture maker builds a large, beautiful chair that he can climb in and out of to enjoy the sensuous delights of having woman of all physical types sit on him. When the chair—with him inside it, of course—is moved to a luxurious hotel, he falls in love with not only his cocooned world, full of shifting female flesh relaxing on top of his own, but also various other “qualities found in…the sound of the voice, body odor.”

Crime Imitates Life: CASINO’s Ace Rothstein Is an Artist of Chance

Sam “Ace” Rothstein is the number one gambler in the country.  He is so good at betting on sporting events that by merely betting on a team, he increases the odds for that team on a national scale.  A talent like this is not inherent; Ace may be something of a natural at gambling, but he only got to be this good because he remained focused.  As his best friend Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci, narrates, “He didn’t bet like you or me…He bet like a fuckin’ brain surgeon.” When we see Ace on the floor of his Tangiers casino, his face is grim, determined.  Focused.

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Hob’s Leviathan – Sandman Meditations

Stories within stories within … how many withins are there in this story? There’s the story Jim tells, which is the primary one in the Sandman story called “Hob’s Leviathan” — as with all the Worlds’ End tales, at least up through this one, it is a story-within-the-story. But there is also the stowaway’s story, which is told within Jim’s story and so is a story-within-the-story-within-the-story. And then there are the various allusions and references, from the punning title (cf. Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan) to Jim’s final statement, which echoes Moby Dick‘s first sentence. Traces of stories within all the other stories…

Ludwig II… Stripp’d

0. The Challenge of Escapism

Like Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), we live our lives obsessed by thoughts of escape. Escape from our jobs, escape from our relationships, escape from our friends and escape from a life dominated by work, travel and a raging torrent of TV dinners and talent shows that carries us all the way to our graves. Capitalism is the greatest prison of all because its walls are built not of bricks and mortar but of dreams and aspiration. The marketplace is saturated with opportunities to escape the mundane drudgery of our lives: Get a better job! Move to the country! Get plastic surgery! Get a better boyfriend! Get a better body! Dress like Cheryl Cole! We work impossible hours at impossible jobs in the hope that someday we might find a way of being another person in another place.

‘Bellflower’ is Long on Art, Short on Ultra-violence

South by Southwest favorite Bellflower finally made it to New Orleans this week. The movie’s description placed it well inside my sweet zone for films, so I made a point to go to one of its two screenings.  Overall I liked the film.  It had some beautiful and creative filming, the acting was solid—rare in an independent film—and the premise was both interesting and well executed.  I also, however, felt a little bit…oh, what’s the word I want here…underwhelmed by the level of violence which was not as “extreme” as the film’s descriptions implied.  Probably this says more about me than it does about the film, because there was violence, and it was devastating. 

‘Get Low’ Should Have Been Better | review

Get Low is one of those movies that really should have been better than it is.  The film has an interesting premise and the cast to pull that premise off, and yet somehow it simply falls flat.  I would like to know the intent behind the film, because intention is the difference between a failure of execution and a failure of conception, and perhaps that would matter to some viewers. 

‘Something Wild’ Is Just That, But In A Good Way

The boring life of businessman Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) suddenly changes when free-spirited Audrey (Melanie Griffith) “kidnaps” him for a weekend trip. They pose as a married couple, attend Audrey’s high school reunion, and visit her mother. But when Audrey’s ex-husband Ray (Ray Liotta) shows up, freshly out of jail, this film takes a turn into dark territory.

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Sequences at the Inn and A Tale of Two Cities – Sandman Meditations

Worlds’ End begins with a prelude illustrated by Bryan Talbot and Mark Buckingham in which two people get in a car crash during a mysterious June snowstorm and find their way to a magical inn, the Worlds’ End.

That plural apostrophe is easy to overlook, but the plurality of worlds at the inn is immediately apparent to the viewer from the first panel on page seven, which offers our initial sight of the other characters who are waiting out the storm, or storms — characters of such physiognomic variety that they might be ready to attend Mardi Gras or a particularly good Halloween party. We’re experienced enough by now with The Sandman, though, to suspect these aren’t costumes.

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Brief Lives: Chapter 9 – Sandman Meditations

All lives are brief. That is what we learned early in Brief Lives, and now, in the last chapter, the lesson is offered again in various guises. Stories have conclusions, even stories of the Endless. They are Endless, but not Immutable.

Death is feared by all, even those, like Orpheus, who yearn for it for a thousand years. When she arrives, bringing a last border to life, she opens up a vast unknown. (Or perhaps it is not vast. The unknown is, by definition, unknowable until it is known. It could be narrow, tiny, crushing, nothing.) Death is the one constant in an ever-changing universe. (That sentence lies. If the universe is ever-changing, then change is also a constant. Death and change dance together in the ever-changing universe.)

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Brief Lives: Chapter 8 – Sandman Meditations

Were Sandman a conventional story, this chapter would be the climax of Brief Lives. But Sandman is not a conventional story.

And in many ways, chapter eight is a climax. Events have been building to bring Delirium, Dream, and Destruction together for the first time in 300 years, and that meeting is portrayed here. The meeting does not explode with screaming and yelling, it features no hostage attempts or murders or giant exploding squid. For the most part the characters just chat, then Destruction goes off to another universe.

‘Antz’ May Give You Sympathy for the Little Guys

Now I’m going to leave a lot more crumbs on the ground.

A neurotic worker ant (Woody Allen) in love with a rebellious princess (Sharon Stone) rises to unlikely stardom when he switches places with a soldier (Sylvester Stallone). Signing up to march in a parade, he ends up under the command of a bloodthirsty general (Gene Hackman), enlisted to fight against a termite army.

All the Real Girls Has Honesty, But Too Many Fake Moments

Little Southern love can be so beautiful sometimes. Other times it just blows.

Paul (Paul Schneider) lives large in a small Southern town, where he’s made a sexual conquest of nearly every eligible female. Everyone, that is, except for his best friend’s sister, Noel (Zooey Deschanel), a committed virgin. When Paul falls unexpectedly for Noel, he swears he’s not out for sex and seeks to prove it to her with his actions. But Paul finds love much harder to manage than plain old-fashioned lust.

Ooku: The Inner Chambers – Volume 6

Okay, so here’s the thing…

I started in on the sixth volume of Ooku: The Inner Chambers without bothering to re-read either the previous volumes in the series or my thoughts on those five books. As a result, I spent most of my reading time trying to remember who the various characters were and what their struggles were supposed to signify. I know that this makes me sound like a bit of a scatterbrain but Volume 6 does not feature any self-contained story lines, instead it concludes storylines from the previous volumes and lays the foundation for a storyline that will (hopefully) feature in Volume 7 if and when Viz Media get round to translating it. Given that characters in Ooku frequently change names and physical appearances with the passage of time and the somewhat interstitial nature of this volume’s narrative, I think that my disorientation is at least understandable, if not forgivable. I mention this because, as I struggled to make sense of the images and words that swam before my eyes, it suddenly occurred to me that I might have been reading this series in completely the wrong manner.  Let me explain…

Notes from New Sodom | The Bleating of the Lesser Snipewank by Hal Duncan

You may have heard of the UK lawsuit where Seven Days in the Art World, was reviewed in the Daily Torygraph by Lynn Barber, one of the people she interviewed for it. In her takedown of the book, Barber explicitly said she couldn’t trust Thornton’s claims regarding her rigorous research. Why not? She’s one of the interview subjects named, she said, and she never gave an interview:

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Brief Lives: Chapter 7 – Sandman Meditations

One panel in particular stands out in this chapter of Brief Lives. On page 23, the bottom left panel gives us a sihouetted figure, bright yellow eyes his only visible features, standing against a dark blue-purple-red sky. This is an anomalous panel in a chapter that has been mostly bright, or at least neutral, in color tone, with no other character entirely silhouetted in a panel.

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A Hope in Hell – Sandman Meditations

“A Hope in Hell” feels like a turning point, a moment when the creators of The Sandman took a new step forward in the progress of their work and skills. There is a drama to the story that emanates not from any one element, but from a coordination of structures.  We have seen strengths of art and writing throughout the first three stories, but it is not until the fourth that these strengths are both consistent and cooperative enough to create a sense of depth greater than anything that can be pointed to in a single panel or on a single page.

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Dream a Little Dream of Me – Sandman Meditations

The third Sandman poses some problems for me, someone who has read almost no DC comics and has only the vaguest sense of their characters and history. The vagueness and sense share a source: popular culture in general. You’d have to live in some remote part of the world, away from billboards and newspapers and televisions and radios, to avoid all references to DC characters, given how many of them have metamorphosed into stars of movies and TV shows. I was going to write a sentence in which I listed them, but then I realized I don’t know how many of the characters I’m thinking of are DC characters.  Many, I’m sure, are Marvel characters. In fact, I probably have a greater sense of Marvel characters than DC characters, because the only comic I read as a kid was G.I. Joe, and that was a Marvel comic, so there were ads in it for other Marvel comics. At least, I think it was a Marvel comic.  I’m pretty sure of it, in fact. I remember the rectangle in the upper left corner of every issue’s cover that showed Spider-Man or somebody, not the DC circle.

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Brief Lives Part 6 – Sandman Meditations

The sixth chapter sits roughly in the middle of Brief Lives, and it is suffused with a kind of mid-life melancholy. Or perhaps not melancholy exactly, but rather pensive yearning and contemplative reflection. Reconciliations and reconfigurations. The characters’ histories are long and a bit dusty, and many seem now on the verge of significant change, though no-one knows what that change will be. Everyone knows their stories must go somewhere, but there are nearly infinite wheres out there.

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Imperfect Hosts – Sandman Meditations

Throughout the second Sandman, I kept wishing the characters would stop talking.

Everything in a comic is visual, but though we pull the words off the page with the same eyes that perceive the pictures, they serve different functions and go to different parts, I suppose, of our brains.  Were we to be dropped into the diegesis, we’d still perceive the characters and settings through our eyes, but the words that they speak would enter through another organ: our ears.  Same thing if the comic were a movie, or at least a movie since the advent of the talkies.

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Brief Lives: Chapter 5 – Sandman Meditations

At the end of the last chapter, I suspected Delirium driving a car would lead to some interesting adventures. In life, someone driving like that would be terrifying, but in our story here it’s hilarious, partly because I assumed she wouldn’t kill anybody, and so it was okay to laugh. Upset some people, certainly; cause some minor crashes even, yes, but if she wreaked so much havoc that anyone died, it would create a tone for the story that could be unsettling in an unhelpful way, making the comedy too dark to be comedic. The traffic on page four is akimbo, but spaciously so. If Delirium had tried driving in, say, Boston, where the roads are often narrow, confusing, and terribly overcrowded, the results might have been a bit different.

Cowboys and Aliens Is As Dry and Tough As Jerky

I love anything with aliens, but what I love even more is an original take on anything with aliens. I also love me some Jon Favreau; so, naturally, I was stoked for this genre bender. But my months of anticipation quickly fizzled as I found myself looking at my watch thirty minutes after the lights dimmed. I blame the same Hollywood laziness that sabotaged Green Lantern and will continue to ravage the box office until studios dedicate more time and money to story development. It’s the sad tinseltown tale of a talented cast wasted on sloppy storytelling. I did enjoy some aspects, however. Setting an alien invasion in the old west made for a funky-fresh tone that was consistent throughout. The spaceships were surprisingly un-cheesy, and the action sequences were, in many ways, exactly what you’d expect and want to see out of such a film. And yes–Daniel Craig is still a badass.

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Brief Lives: Chapter 4 – Sandman Meditations

There’s something thrilling about the secret spaces of secret identities. Sometimes, of course, they’re fascinating in and of themselves — think of the Batcave, or of Doc Savage’s Fortress of Solitude. But they’re still thrilling when they’re a basement room in a nondescript suburban house. That’s where Capax had stashed the souvenirs of his long life, as his son shows Dream and Delirium. The place reveals nothing to the son except that he had no idea what sort of person his father was. Krugerrands, strange substances, weapons, blank passports — as the son says, “This is like a spy movie or Mission Impossible or something.” (If only he knew just whom he was telling this to!)

Simone Boyce and the Game of Thrones Cast at Summit Entertainment’s Comic-Con Soiree

In the game of Comic Con, you win or you die. And I won. I felt like Bran as I scaled the levels of the Hardrock Hotel San Diego, drawing closer to the building’s rooftop pinnacle and the premiere event of the evening. Along the way, I encountered a BASTARD, who happened to be dining across the great hall with a ruthless HORSE LORD, a vicious QUEEN and some other broken things. We reached the top of the tower–Summit Entertainment’s Comic Con soiree–where the BASTARD introduced me to his mates:  a brunette KHALEESI and a scruffy KINGSLAYER.

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Brief Lives Chapter 2 – Sandman Meditations

Early in Tron: Legacy, some of the main characters sit down for a meal together. This struck me as odd when I watched the film, because at that point in the story, the characters were inside the virtual reality of The Grid, and were really nothing much more than conglomerations of computer code. Computer codes, of course, need something to sustain them, but they don’t usually go around having dinner with each other.

It’s an interesting and appropriate choice, though, for the story, because two of the characters are actually digitized humans, and we humans have built all sorts of rituals and habits around food.

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Brief Lives Chapter 1 – Sandman Meditations

Now, opening the first pages of the seventh collection of The Sandman, some of the fun comes from knowing right where we are in the first panels. Disorientation has certainly been an element when beginning these stories, because they could be anywhere or anywhen, but re-orientation is also an important component — at first, the stories re-oriented us to narratives and characters from outside the Sandman universe, tales that began as myths or legends or novels or other comics, but now that we have hundreds of pages of this comic itself behind us, the re-orientations can be gloriously Ouroboric. Guessing at the re-orientations and then watching them unfold can be an exciting position to be in as a reader, and is one of the attractions of serial stories in general, though especially common and complex among The Sandman’s tendency to bust out the metatextual moves.

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon – movie review

The Autobots aren’t here for the good of humanity; they’re here for the good of America. We catch up with them attacking a nuclear weapons facility in an unknown Middle Eastern country (probably Iran). Luckily, the Transformers’ political ideology closely mirrors our own, with Optimus Prime regularly spouting off declarations of freedom. Absurdities aside (and this film can be as dumb as it is big), this is the most massive summer movie you have ever seen, and it throws near-perfect action scenes at you like it’s no big deal for two and a half hours. The movie has serious story problems, and we’ll get to that later, but the fact remains that this is one of the best action movies ever made, both for its eye-watering visual effects and the choreography of destruction. To top it off, the 3D is actually really good, shot with the same cameras as Avatar, though not quite as effective. The movie has shades of James Cameron in it, but while Michael Bay has become the best action director around, he can’t squeeze a drop of emotional connection out of his characters, as Cameron could with ease. The movie is definitely too long, and a lot of fat could have been trimmed from the first and second acts, because by the time you walk out you will be exhausted.

Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight Review

Though not billed as such, this book is the last part of an unofficial trilogy. Battle of the Fang effectively bridges the story begun in McNeill’s A Thousand Sons and Abnett’s Prospero Burns to the ‘present’ of the 40K universe.

A thousand years has passed since the bloody end of the Horus Heresy, and the leader of the Vlka Fenryka (aka the Space Wolves), Harek Ironhelm, learns of the location of the Thousand Sons’ renegade primarch, Magnus. Presented with the chance to put Magnus’s evil to an end, Ironhelm musters all but one of the great companies and sets off to hunt down Magnus and destroy him

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Ramadan – Sandman Meditations

UPDATE: A portion of this essay is based on a misreading. Not just a questionable interpretation or one of my more idiosyncratic reveries — no, literally a misreading, and one I did not learn about until after my mistake was already public. Please see the note at the end.

“Ramadan” is the final story in Fables & Reflections and was originally published as the fiftieth issue of Sandman. Appropriately, it’s a stunner. P. Craig Russell’s art is rich and imaginative, given extraordinarily vivid coloring by Digital Chameleon, and the story itself is one that seems simple for much of its length and then, in the last pages, gains new complexity and resonance.

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james rollins

The Devil Colony | James Rollins Interview

The extremely talented author James Rollin is with me today to talk about his latest Sigma Force novel, the 7th in the series, The Devil Colony. Was America originally supposed to have 14 instead of 13 colonies? Who is a largely forgotten Founding Father whom you probably have never heard about in school? Did the Lost Tribes of Israel make it to America and settle here? From the dark secret origins of the United States to cutting edge nanotechnology, the action-packed and suspenseful novel The Devil Colony might be the best Sigma Force book yet!

I intend to get to the bottom of this and find out the answers to these and even more Burning Questions by water boarding–er, I mean interviewing James Rollins. Will there be any broken bones? I can’t promise that, for legal reasons. You’ll just have to read the following interview to find out for yourselves!

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Parliament of Rooks – Sandman Meditations

Before we get all philosophical and meditative (which we will), let’s begin by considering the many forms of the human and non-human characters in “Parliament of Rooks”. A lot of credit goes, I expect, to penciller Jill Thompson, who moves from the very thin lines of Lyta and her son Daniel, figures in a world of primarily horizontal and vertical shapes, to the rougher, thicker lines and shapes of the Dreaming, where the characters need to align with their representations from previous Sandman issues and from their incarnations in other comics. In addition to all that — enough to give even a talented artist a headache — somebody, most likely either Thompson or Gaiman, decided to depict Abel’s story of the early days of Death and Dream as a mix of anime and what looks to my eyes like some sort of Saturday morning TV cartoon show from the ’80s (it’s the sheep that creates this association for me; I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly why).

Return to Cerebus, cried the Earth-Pig Born! Part the Second

After what seemed two clunky beginning issues, Cerebus hit its early stride with the introduction of Red Sophia, and it built from there. Over the course of the next ten issues, Sim’s ability to see to the heart of whatever subject he was skewering served him well. And it was a skewer, make no mistake; the Cerebus Syndrome trope had not been invented yet.

Hell, it was still the late 1970’s. A lot of things hadn’t been invented yet.

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The Song of Orpheus – Sandman Meditations

Hearing the same story over and over is tedious, but hearing variations on a familiar story can be fun, as we’ve seen many times in The Sandman. The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the best-known of the Greek myths, and in a first reading of “Orpheus” (or “The Song of Orpheus” as its chapters are titled) the interest lies in comparing our knowledge, however vague, of how the traditional story progresses with our experience of how it takes shape here. Will Eurydice die and enter the underworld? Will Orpheus seek her? Will one of them turn around and thus cast Eurydice back into eternal death? How will the old myth mix with the new myth?

Sucker Punch – A Study On The State Of Comics

Sucker Punch is possibly the most spectacular failure I’ve seen in a while. It’s certainly ambitious, it’s got lots to praise, but there are far too many efforts falling flat or possibly offending for it to be considered a success. Aside from its merits or lack thereof, I want to look into what this movie means. This isn’t a comic cinematic experience, it’s an original screenplay, but it might just be the best visual representation of what comics mean. I believe Sucker Punch to be a statement on what comics are so hit the jump to see how I make this conclusion.