Friendship can light any darkness.
It happens to everyone: You’re in your home, safe in your bed, and, suddenly, you bolt upright. Something has moved, something made a noise, something is out there. You turn your light on, and you feel better. You may check your room, peek out the window, take a light-footed stroll through the house, but you allay your fears, the insidious fear of familiar spaces in the dark. Even places we’ve lived in our whole lives become otherworldly and alien when the lights go out; it’s part of us being creatures addicted to sight. The worst is being alone in the dark: no way to bring light and no one to comfort you. That’s the underlying thought behind Lyndon White’s all-ages book, Sparks and the Fallen Star, an adventure in total darkness, where you find that the bravest thing, sometimes, is just to stand with someone.
Will you just stand here? Mind your chin on the trapdoor then…
Skottie Young returns to his drawing duties, and we're given another fun turn as he explores one of the conventions he leans on heavily in this world: Larry's Hat of Holding. First off, this is the first he's referred to it, so the name made my polyhedral-rolling self squee a bit, but it's really entertaining that he takes the existence of it as an excuse to make an entire issue. Having been adventuring in Fairyland for three decades, lot of things have ended up in this magic chapeau: critters, weapons, people, and an unspeakable evil or two.
Honor is a tithe paid in blood.
I love westerns. It wasn’t always the case, but after I spent some time driving out west and seeing the land, I found an appreciation of the genre. Rick Remender has a new series that is draped in his sci-fi sensibilities but has the West at its heart, and it perfectly utilizes the slow burn to great effect. In Seven to Eternity, folks who haven’t sold out to the Mud King (equivalent to greedy landowners and bankers, but seemingly with more of the whole “your soul is mine” kind of vibe gong on) have been either subsumed in a great war or pushed to the outer boundaries of the world. One family has stayed out of his reach, but when their patriarch is brought low, they’ll have to decide how they’ll move on, and not everyone can agree how it should be done.
When last we met our intrepid heroes, Emporia, Tor, and Dane were trying to find their way back to the children who were about to get a good look at the inside of a grenade and then the vast expanse of the vacuum of space. Cheery. Things get explosive at the top of this one (Yeah, I sometimes want to slap me, too.), and we see the results. With the rash of insanity that we’ve seen so far, I can say there are a few moments of calm in this issue, but as you would expect, they don’t last long at all.
To the top of the roof, to the top of the wall…
Myths are an incredibly important part of the human condition. We weave tales into our collective consciousness that become the foundation of our shared experience. With the incredible increase of content outlets in the last decade, people are becoming much more fragmented in their entertainment options and the stories that bind us together, but myths are deeper than that. They envelope and transcend television, internet, and radio. The mythos of Santa Claus is one such, and though the holiday that’s associated with his story is Christian in nature, I’m a firm believer that it has spun away from that context to be its own unique, non-denominational entity, where the traditions that predate Christianity within his tale are coming to the fore every now and again. Jim Butcher has done it with a wonderfully joyful and sinister approach, and then there’s Action Lab’s Sleigher which is ridiculawesome, but Grant Morrison approaches this paragon of goodness and giving in his own way, putting his own unique touch on a story that lives within a large part of people.
Fol rol de ol rol.
I first read Neil Gaiman’s Troll Bridge in his short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors. In typical Gaiman fashion, it’s a story that is both familiar and disquieting, one where you feel like you’ve heard it before but you’re still surprised by events. In that way I’ve always found his writing to be a little like a nightmare, but one that I can’t stop myself from wanting more of. I’m not sure that this entirely makes sense, but it does convey the fact that I’m already familiar with the tale and that I find the original work terribly moving and upsetting (again, in a good way. It’s so hard to accurately describe this without the weight of word connotation misconstruing my meaning. Gaiman makes me have to redefine language.).
Love cures all ills. Or most of them.
The last series of Samurai left us on a happy note, though tinged with mystery. Having freed the Island with No Name from the grip of a Yakuza heavy, Takeo and his brother pursue the mystery of the sigil and note that he was left along with his unconscious state. Buoyed by their good fortune and incorrigible Buddhist companion, they set out to take the world on their terms, but it’s not long until the world imposes on them.
Betvin Geant and Kay have consistently produced a thoughtful, engaging, and thoroughly entertaining book in Rise of the Antichrist. What’s incredible is that every issue has managed to up the ante in scale and scope, mining the source material and creating a depth of character that drives the plot. The premise of a man with powers and a history of mental illness assuming the role of the Savior makes for an unusual hook, and what makes it truly interesting is the fact that the story rides the fine line between deranged superbeing and actual son of God. Michael manages to always find an answer through his faith, but it’s never overtly evident whether these are actually signs from a deity or the result of a mind searching for answers and finding them in itself. This issue ramps all of these things to 11 and leaves us with one hell of a final page.
And so, too, must all things end, and what then?
Have you had that moment when a story finishes, regardless of the medium, and you find yourself disoriented? Like you’re caught between the place you were in the tale and the world in which you pay your taxes and do your grocery shopping? You take a deep breath, your focus having been so completely in that other place that you scarcely breathed, and whatever compelling part of the story that drew you so far in lingers awhile, overlaying your reality like an AR game. This is the feeling that some of the greatest stories I’ve read have left me with, and every one of them lingers into the “waking world” (for lack of a better term), because the truth that lays at the heart of them was powerful. Rick Remender has assembled just this sort of tale from top to bottom, and the finale is wonderfully executed. There's a breath after the last page where you'll need that moment to remove yourself from that world, and the cautionary tale within will stick with me for a really long time.
There is no spoon, but there's lots of ice cream.
In The Matrix, Keanu Reaves went on a quest of self-discovery that was laden with import, high tension, and the fate of the damn world hanging in the balance. Hard Wyred is a lot like that, but with much more "I know Kung Fu" and less "I would know the One because I'd love him." It's what would have happened if James Gunn had directed The Matrix instead of the Wachowskis. Don't get me wrong, that film is a classic and a paragon of the form, but it's fun to watch these guys turn the basics and go sideways with it.