Posts tagged demons

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Chin Music #1 Review

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comics_chin_music

Chin Music #1 Review 

Writing:  Steve Niles

Art: Tony Harris

Review by Melissa Megan

Apparently, Chin Music is about a guy named Shaw who can leap through time and possesses supernatural powers. He’s on the run from some other creepy dudes who also have powers, like tearing his skin from his bones. Apparently he has landed in Prohibition era Chicago and must now contend with the local police, gangsters and the supernatural underground. I say apparently because Image Comics tells me that this is what’s happening in Chin Music, but to be perfectly honest I only understood about half of that premise reading through issue #1.

I hate to criticize Steve Niles at all because I really love pretty much everything he puts his pen to, but this introduction just didn’t connect with me, story wise. There’s a lot going on, but not all of it is clear. Granted, it’s a pilot issue, so there’s lots more story to tell and time to tell it. I have all the faith in the world that Niles will pull the plot together in future issues and that my confusion will disappear. Not being crystal on what’s going on in this issue doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t enjoy it, however. It is action packed, moody, violent and spooky. I just don’t ‘get it’ yet.

The artwork by Tony Harris is brilliant here. It’s thick with atmosphere and very, very pretty. Some of the panels are framed in art deco borders, like intricate picture frames. This lends quite a bit of flourish to the pages and really helps set the retro style of the book. Harris’ characters all seem to have large, chunky facial features and knobby knuckles, but it’s less of a distraction than a style. I found his play with color and texture very pleasing to look at.

All in all, Chin Music seems like it could be a quality series. As long as the story isn’t too difficult to grasp, there’s a good idea here and some unique styling. I’ll definitely be keeping up with this one and am anxious to see Steve Niles develop it further.

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Review: Locke & Key Omega #3

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Writing: Joe Hill

Art: Gabriel Rodriguez

Colors: Jay Fotos

Review by Melissa Megan

 

The evil, murderous Dodge has settled himself in to little Bode Locke’s body and succeeded in getting his hands on the long sought after Omega key. The “Last Dance” has begun and it’s ugly. Bode/Dodge is headed to the black door to welcome his terrible, alien friends to this world and he won’t let anyone stand in his way, starting with poor Nina Locke.

While darkness is falling over the Locke house, Tyler and Kinsey are enjoying prom with their friends. Tyler accepts what he can get from the woman he loves and comes to terms with the tragedy of being in love in high school. Kinsey revels in the unique qualities of her closest friends and as the night comes to a close, chooses the after party over home. Everyone is headed for the caves, where the final party of the year is just beginning, in more ways than the Locke family realizes.

If you’ve been reading Locke & Key, by now, if you have a heart, you should be desperate to see this family come out on top. At the least see them stop hurting. The Lockes have lost so much and struggled so hard to keep their family whole, it kills me to watch them be defeated by the weasley, arrogant Dodge. And as much as I really, really hate to see Locke & Key come to an end, the suspense of how it will all end is becoming unbearable. Oh please, please let the Locke family stop the demons. They deserve that much.

 

What'€™s Up, Tiger Mommy?

Supernatural: What’s Up, Tiger Mommy

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I was meeting with students last week about their research papers and had asked them what types of narratives they enjoyed, regardless of medium, and one of my students mentioned Supernatural. I immediately stopped talking research and started talking Winchester, as you do, and mentioned that the second episode of the show really highlighted how this season was going back to its roots – back to the characteristics and motifs that created an invested audience in the first place. The student’s emphatic nodding and subsequent response told me two things: 1. People really hated the last two years; and 2. Jeremy Carver truly is taking the show back to its origins. The showrunner debacle is fodder for another piece, but the first two episodes of the season have dedicated themselves to bringing back the Winchester struggles that encapsulated those early years of Supernatural and that created such a devoted fan base.

It’s not that we don’t have an overarching mythology that is consuming the early episodes, but they’ve proven to be a lovely blend of impressive, and oftentimes humorous, scenes, coupled with a Winchester response that simply wasn’t as consistently evoked over the past two years.

For now, the fate of the world doesn’t rest upon the Winchester shoulders, and that makes for some interesting dynamics. Yes, of course, the tablets of God and the secrets they contain are epic, but for now the overriding question is whether to permanently shut the gates of Hell. Okay, in typing that out it sounds like a fantastically significant event, but the first two episodes have given the impression that the choice will either shut the gates permanently, seemingly rendering the Winchester business shut, or that life would continue on as is, with demons wreaking havoc and hunters tracking them down and ganking them. Compared to the apocalyptic scenarios of the past few seasons, this seems almost tame.

Tame? No. But what it has done is forced the struggle to a more internal one – something I argued was necessary last season. The Winchesters are coming full-circle back to their original personalities – Sam wants a life with no hunting, but not if it means the sacrifice of an innocent, and Dean wants this life over, whatever it takes, and if an innocent is hurt in the process, so be it. This creates more of the ethical tensions that we’re accustomed to seeing in the sibling relationship. Is there a right choice? Does Sam’s decision not to hunt scare Dean because there is no longer a home base? There is no Bobby? Without Sam in the passenger seat, does Dean see the long highway in front of him with despair? He jokes of beaches and fancy drinks, but with no one but his brother, does life just seem like a lonely proposition?

All of this Winchester trauma is underlying the behaviors manifested throughout a very enjoyable episode penned by Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin. The focus is still Kevin Tran, who is traveling with the Winchesters to find the tablet that Kevin has secreted away. Kevin, however, plays the mother card, wanting to make sure that she’s okay. After all, he hasn’t seen her in a year. This, of course, serves to annoy Dean, who wants to stay on target. But if there’s one person who can understand the mother card. . . .

One of the rewarding elements to having the Tran family as added sidekicks is not only for the humor factor (the touching reunion interrupted by Dean and Sam rudely throwing holy water in Linda’s face), but also for the simple moments that make the audience realize that the Winchesters work on a level of awareness that we almost take for granted at this point. While Kevin waits for a glimpse of his mother, Dean notices the mailman who returns three times and the gardener who is overwatering a plant – Crowley’s demons sent to watch over Linda. More importantly, as soon as they walk in the house they smell the demon inside, possessing Linda’s friend Eunice, and with little fanfare deal with the problem.

Demons they can handle. . .Linda Tran? Well, she’s another story entirely – and a fantastic one. She’s a fierce mother when it comes to her son, but shows little fear when confronted by her son’s new reality. She and Kevin must both get inked with anti-possession tattoos, during which she barely flinches and Kevin hyperventilates and cries. Yet the real test arrives when the recovery of the tablet reveals that not only has it been stolen from where Kevin has hidden it, but that it is now part of a supernatural auction. This is an auction being run by the god of greed, Plutus, whose assistant, Beau, delivers an invitation to Kevin, and then begrudgingly adds a plus three for the Winchesters and Kevin’s mom. Again, Linda doesn’t even balk at any of this, rolling with the madness if it means ensuring the safety of her son.

There is a tense moment when in trying to figure out how they will be able to afford the word of God, Sam hints that they could trade it for the Impala. Even I gasped.

It’s at the auction that the other season strength is seen with the arrival of Crowley. This is a character that’s not only great in his comic relief interactions with the Winchesters (especially during Leviathan season), but should also prove to be a valuable enemy for this season’s arc. Crowley is sarcastic, but menacing. He seems like someone you’d like to grab a beer with and talk sports players who sold their souls for winning seasons, but he would then snap your neck at the end of the evening. While it is amusing to watch him fight with Sam and call him Moose, his natural nemesis is Dean. Crowley’s not a stupid man. He knows that Dean is the one who will make deals and dirty decisions, and will sacrifice people for the greater good. Sam was fun for Crowley when he didn’t have his soul, but now he’s simply a roadblock to Crowley getting what he wants. As Crowley warns Kevin at the end of the episode, “Run. Run far and run fast, ‘cause the Winchesters, well, they have a habit of using people up and watching them die bloody.”

The auction is a fantastic scene. Not only does Linda punch Crowley in the face, but there are also drool-worthy items for sale – including one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks and Thor’s Hammer, which Sam will eventually use to kill the Norse god and brother of Odin, Mr. Vili, who purchases it with a finger of Emil and 5/8th of a virgin. The group combines resources to come up with $2000 in cash, a credit card, and a Costco membership. What’s great about the scene is how confident they are that this will end well. But when the first item up for bid, the amulet of Hesperus, starts at three tons of dwarven gold, the group knows that they’re doomed, much to Crowley’s amusement. Crowley and Samandriel, an angel sworn to protect the tablet, begin a bidding war for the word of God, ranging from three-million dollars, to the Mona Lisa, to the moon, but to no success. Beau sweetens the pot by adding Kevin to the sale – buy the tablet, get the prophet. This, in turn, leads to a very Winchester move – Linda gives them her soul for Kevin’s freedom.

I realize it’s only two episodes in, but another thing that this season has excelled at is guest casting. Kevin, Linda, Benny, Mr. Vili, Beau. . .they all have moments that seamlessly integrate into each episode, and, more importantly, work well on a character level with Sam and Dean. There is very little so far that feels forced. Even Plutus, the god of greed who dresses like a New Jersey mobster, is menacing without being excessively out of place.

As Supernatural is wont to do, it’s Dean that’s confronted with the critical choice at the end. Sam is left to wield Thor’s Hammer to destroy both Beau and Mr. Vili, but Dean is the one to chase down Crowley, who has inhabited Linda (after Beau burned off the anti-possession tattoo). When he catches Linda/Crowley, and holds the demon-killing knife to her throat, it’s abundantly clear that if Kevin hadn’t shown up that Dean would have killed her, without remorse. A fact that Dean confirms to Sam a few scenes later.

We don’t know what’s happened in the year that Dean was missing, but clearly the experiences have affected both Winchesters. Sam’s year has softened him and brought back his conscience – and it’s made hunting seem like a life best left behind. Dean though. . .something happened to Dean in Purgatory and we’re only getting drips of the story. Dean has come back to the world a warrior, and by the end of the episode Kevin gives voice to reason when he tells him to shut up – to stop regaling him with platitudes about the realities of a life fighting demons. Dean is back to the end justifying the means, and as he hints at the end of the episode, if he had killed Linda he would have hated himself but “what’s one more nightmare.” The final minutes of the episode spell out Dean’s psychological struggle. Kevin has taken his mom and fled, leaving a note saying that without the tablet, they don’t need him any longer. Sam is nearly apoplectic, as Crowley will still be pursuing Kevin, and can’t figure out why he would do something that stupid. Dean, unable to look at Sam, replies, “He thinks people that I don’t need any more, that they end up dead.” Sam, looking like he’s been sucker-punched, tries to console his brother, assuring him that’s not true, but it leads to a significant final scene – a flashback of Castiel in Purgatory, desperately reaching out, trying to hold onto Dean’s hand, and screaming his name as Dean lets him go.

I think we still have much to learn about how Purgatory broke Dean.

Other Flashbacks:

Dean and Benny continue their quest to find Castiel, and Dean has morphed into full soldier mode, manifesting pleasure at killing to fulfill his mission of finding his angel friend. At the auction, Samandriel, an angel of god, shows up to protect the tablet and ask Dean about Castiel’s disappearance. This leads to a flashback where Dean very happily finds Castiel, hanging out by a river and looking pensive. Castiel has regained his sanity, but is not quite pleased to have Dean show up. It’s interesting that Benny is the one who jumps to Dean’s defense – who verbally attacks Castiel for abandoning Dean when they landed in Purgatory. In an almost pathetic moment, Dean defends Castiel, saying he must have been fighting off some beast and has been looking for Dean ever since. Yet Castiel confesses that he ran away – that he must be left alone because the Leviathans have put a price on his head and he’s trying to keep Dean safe. Dean is Dean though, and unconvinced by Castiel’s argument tells Cas that he refuses to leave Purgatory without him. Cas agrees. What happened here? How did things end so fractured? And what really happened to Castiel?

Random:

  • Nice to see Dean back to his old routines – eating giant hamburgers, saying “son-of-a-bitch” with situational intonation, and getting annoyed at basically everything everyone who’s not a hunter does to delay his process.
  • Sam with the reverse exorcism. . . .interesting
  • The scene where Linda takes down the pawn shop owner was priceless.
  • Is there anything better than when Crowley arrives and says “Hi boys.”
  • I can’t see Mr. Vili without seeing him as a fortune teller in the fantastic The X-Files episode, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.” Things don’t end well for this man in supernatural shows.

One of my favorite moments:

Beau: “Oh if you’re worried about the safety of the prophet rest assured that we have a strict no casting, no cursing, no supernaturally flicking the two of you against the wall just for the fun of it policy.”

Sam: “Is that right. How’d you manage that?”

Beau: “Well, I am the right hand of a god after all. Plutus specifically.”

Dean: [snorts] “Is that even a planet anymore?” [totally chuffed with himself]

Beau: [disdainfully] “It’s the god of greed.”

–Dean rolls his eyes, while also looking quite pleased with his joke.

 

 

What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?

Supernatural: We Need to Talk About Kevin

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“Change of tone” and “back to the beginning” appeared to be the mantras of Supernatural’s 8th season premiere, “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”  Former writer and producer Jeremy Carver has returned from a two-year absence to take over the role of showrunner, and the shift is marked.

As you might remember from the final moments of last season, the Winchesters’ lives were transmuted with the well-placed swing of a bone soaked in the blood of the fathers. Given that the brothers have traveled to heaven and hell, it’s not much of a surprise that purgatory has come into play. It was a nice way of separating the brothers, with Dean and Cas left in great peril, and Sam not knowing what had happened to his brother.

Now it’s one year later.

We’ve seen Sam without Dean – actually we’ve seen this twice.  In the fantastically funny and emotional episode “Mystery Spot” (written by Jeremy Carver), we watched as Sam fell apart, becoming a soulless (shades of things to come) hunter whose only focus was killing things and tracking the trickster who destroyed Dean.  Then, when Dean goes to Hell, and after four months without his brother, we are introduced to a Sam that has become fixated (with the help of Ruby) on using his powers to kill demons and save the people they’ve inhabited.

This is not the Sam we meet in the premiere.  Even more important than the girl in the bed that Sam is exiting is the dog that Sam seems bereft to leave.  As seen in “Dark Side of the Moon,” one of Sam’s happiest life moments involved running away from the family business and getting a dog.  While there are hints that during Dean’s time away Sam has been involved in things he’s not yet willing to share (especially his life with the girl in the bed), Sam has moved on from hunting – he’s abandoned all the burner phones; he’s stopped listening to messages; and he didn’t look for Dean.  This in and of itself is a significant development in the sibling relationship.  Can you imagine a time when Dean would not look for Sam?  Yes, I know Dean led a new life when Sam was trapped in the cage, but that’s different.  If Sam had just disappeared, right in front of him, would Dean really give up looking, regardless of what they had promised each other?

Of course, Dean has some secrets of his own.  He’s emerged from Purgatory, bloodied and almost feral.  Although it’s unclear how he made his escape, it seems to have involved smuggling out a vampire, Benny (Ty Olsson), in his blood – a vampire he then brings back to life by “releasing” Benny’s “soul” onto his unburied bones.  And then there’s Cas, who Dean says didn’t make it out of Purgatory, but the story is vague, and there’s an implication that perhaps Dean and his new vampire brother are hiding something about that story.

Plus, did I mention Dean’s friends with a vampire!?!?!

So while the show doesn’t begin with the brothers living in some kind of hate spiral, they do not emotionally exist in the same place.  Dean admits that he’s not the same person he was a year ago, but immediately resumes his hunting life – a life that Sam begrudgingly begins again. And I’m not quite sure Sam is rejoining the life.  He gives off the vibe that while this might be a welcome family reunion, it’s a temporary hunting mission. If it weren’t for all the things that have happened in the interim, it would almost be like the first episode of the series.

These differences manifest almost immediately in the narrative involving Kevin Traan, the very young prophet of the Lord, who has escaped from Crowley and needs Winchester help. Kevin Traan, who had been calling Sam for help for over six months, with his messages not only going unanswered but unheard.  As Dean sits and listens to message after message, we see the sibling rift become exacerbated.

It’s really at this point that the new storytelling element comes into play.  Reminiscent of LOST, the show is now reliant upon flashbacks to tell the story of Dean’s year in Purgatory and Sam’s year without hunting.  I’ve heard mixed reviews about the flashback motif – I think it can work, as long as they aren’t reliant upon, as Stephanie Wooten called it, “the brothers looking all ‘deep’” as a necessary component of the transition.

The Purgatory flashbacks illustrate how Dean’s entire year was spent trying to survive – that he was seen as nothing more than “man-meat” by the creatures surrounding him and every day involved hand-to-hand combat.  It’s like a year long Hunger Games and you get the impression that he got little sleep and little sustenance.  In the flashbacks he’s looking for Castiel, unfortunately with little luck, but he does meet vampire Benny, who explains that there’s a portal out of Purgatory, but it can only be used by humans – he will help Dean, as long as Dean carries Benny’s soul with him during the escape.

Sam’s flashbacks involved his life-changing event of hitting a dog with his car, and then forming a bond with both the canine and the vet, Amelia.  While there weren’t many scenes with Amelia (Liane Balaban), her ability to banter with Sam gives me hope that there might be a female character on Supernatural who isn’t (fingers crossed) a demon and might actually serve as a regular.

This first episode sets up for the viewer the conflict arc that we’re going to follow – at least for a little while – with the Winchesters and Kevin in battle with Crowley and his minions.  Crowley needs Kevin to translate more tablets, but underestimates Kevin’s wily nature.  This is a great new character addition to the show.  He can handle the Sam/Dean dynamic, has moved past his fear/confusion about being a prophet, and is brave enough to fight Crowley and his demons.

Kevin also misleads Crowley about the content of the tablets, offering him a way to open a hell gate, when in reality he’s found a way to purge the Earth of demons. . .forever.

This revelation invigorates Dean, but causes Sam to reflect upon life and free will.  It’s definitely the Sam of old who ponders whether Kevin can make it out of this adventure alive, and if not, then is it really worth it – is sacrificing the life of one for the good of the Earth justification for closing down the gates of Hell?  Dean, reminiscent of his second season personality, finds this a no-brainer, but Sam just isn’t convinced.

Unfortunately, as long time Supernatural viewers are aware, running with the Winchesters and fighting evil doesn’t happen without consequences.  In this instance, Kevin’s friend (high-school girlfriend) Channing.  Possessed by a demon, Crowley is willing to return her, unharmed, to her university life, if Kevin is willing to walk away from the Winchesters and join his team.  Dean is the one who calls Crowley’s bluff, and Crowley allows Channing momentary sentience.  It’s enough to make Kevin question his position and he agrees to go with Crowley, much to Dean’s chagrin.

But as I already said, Kevin is a wily one, and instead of handing himself over he sets a trap, dumping buckets of holy water on Crowley and Channing.  As the boy escape, we get a gorgeous slow-motion scene of Crowley snapping Channing’s neck while the Impala’s passengers watch.

The episode ends with Dean taking a call from a “wrong number” and then sneaking away to call Benny.  The two share a cryptic conversation in which Dean asserts that he regrets nothing they did in Purgatory – that it was necessary for their survival and escape.  He also advises lying low, but assures Benny that if he needs help, Dean will be there.  For someone who can demonstrate such a black and white attitude towards demons, monsters, and evil, Dean has the most complicated relationships with supernatural creatures.  The flashback structure will clearly serve as the means to disseminate details about what evil deeds transpired in Purgatory, and it will not be a shock to discover they have something to do with Castiel’s absence.

Jeremy Carver’s reign has begun by bringing in elements of the show that hearken back to earlier seasons.  Behaviors, philosophies, monsters, even weapons are all familiar to long-time viewers.  It’s a way of reassuring the audience that has been dissatisfied with the past two seasons that things have gone back to an earlier mindset, but that the stakes are still high.  How successfully Carver can continue this trend is the real question.

And can I just say, how flipping fantastic was it to finally have the Impala back on our screens?

Reading is Fundamental

Supernatural: Reading is Fundamental

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“What is that?”

“It’s, uh, Kevin Tran. He’s, uh, in Advanced Placement.”

When we last left the Winchester boys they had performed their Ocean’s Eleven con and stolen Dick Roman’s block of mud. The episode, written and directed by Ben Edlund, wastes no time in exposing what was hidden in that mound of dirt – a tablet. But not just any tablet: a tablet so old that the writing is unknown to humans; so old that when striking a hammer against the rock to free the tablet the skies erupt with thunder and lightning.

 

“That sound like somebody saying ‘no, wait, stop’ to you?”

“Uh yeah. Yeah.”

“Yeah. . . Oh well.”

And with the breaking of the rock two things happen: a resistant prophet is created in the guise of high-school student Kevin Tran and Castiel awakens. Yes, Cas is back. Again. And he’s got some chemistry with Demon-Meg. Cas has evolved though. He’s more zen – he can track the flight of bees through a garden and into the world. He hates conflict. He just wants to see where the universe takes him, preferably with little threat to his well-being. Luckily he can explain to the Winchesters about the tablet.

“If someone was going to free the word from the vault of the earth, it would end up being you two. Oh I love you guys.”

This tablet isn’t just some engraved stone text hidden away in the blowing sands; this tablet is the word of God. Words that Dick Roman wants safe in his hands because they contain a method of stopping the Leviathans. However, angels can’t translate the tablet, only a prophet can — Kevin Tran. As he explains, it’s an “in case of emergency note.”

Yet the true significance of Castiel in this episode is not to help explain the tablet or highlight its history, but for the moments between Castiel and Dean that seem to point to a healing in their fractured relationship. From the outset, Dean is concerned that Castiel will be a mass of brain jelly, unable to vanquish the trauma from both his actions while being God and the splintering of Sam’s mind. In fact, Sam is the one who seems to recognize first that Castiel doesn’t seem to be broken; Dean looks hesitant.

This hesitation is explained when Dean and Castiel have their sit-down in the game room. . .over a game of Sorry! Dean wants the pre-God Castiel back. His desperation bleeds through in an emotional plea for Castiel to button up his coat and help him fight Leviathans. Castiel keeps apologizing, but Dean won’t accept it – he sees Castiel’s current behavior as almost a mocking of their plight. His airy declarations and detached observations leave Dean with more emptiness. Is Castiel really sorry or is he just playing a game? Dean’s pained refusal of Castiel’s apology points to the latter. Yet his interaction with Hester and Anais, angels who have come to take Kevin and the word of god to prophet training, denotes a Castiel who, while seeming rather simple, is actually an angel who is on a different plane of being than everyone and everything around him. This existence makes earthly concerns beyond him.

“You seem troubled. Of course that’s a primary aspect of your personality so I sometimes ignore it.”

"Pull my finger."

Castiel has a conversation with Sam too, who expresses his concern for Castiel’s sanity after he took on Sam’s fragmented mind. Sam acknowledges that if Castiel hadn’t taken on that burden Sam would have been done for – Lucifer had pushed his mind as far as it would go. And Castiel confirms what was long believed, that Lucifer was Sam’s manifestation – an avatar of Sam’s suffering – and that once the echoes of that figment of Sam’s terror had dissipated, Castiel was left with, as he says, everything. Like Sam, Castiel was also at the breaking point, unable to move past all of the blood on his hands, but by taking on Sam’s pain, it actually made him better. It’s a concept that, like Dean, Sam doesn’t understand. Both Winchesters want to “fix” Castiel, but that’s not an option. Castiel is satisfied with his current state – he doesn’t want to go back to the angel he once was, and it doesn’t even seem that it’s truly an option for him regardless. What role he will play in the next few episodes is unclear, but I can see this blissed-out Cas being a part of Bobby’s salvation.

“I’m surrounded by large unhappy dogs.”

Demon Meg is also a new part of the Winchester team. She’s chosen a side and doesn’t feel there is safety in being left alone. It’s not, for now, that bad of a deal. She sees that they are being followed by demons, sets up a secret meeting with them, and kills them. Whether it’s because she’s really on their team or simply has a soft spot for Castiel is unknown, though I do think she’s crushing on Cas. She proved that when she killed the angel Hester before Hester could kill Castiel.

Meg spits out one tasty morsel of information. In a scene where the Winchesters are trying to decide where her loyalties lie, she reveals that she’s on whatever team is most likely to bring down Crowley. Dean responds, “Crowley ain’t the problem this year.” Frustrated, Meg retorts, “When are you gonna get it, Crowley is always the problem. He’s just waiting for the right moment to strike.” Interesting. I’ll admit I haven’t given much thought to Crowley over the past six months, so his entrance back in the game, most likely when the Leviathan threat is at an end, is a tantalizing proposition, and could also make season eight an strong one.

“I don’t know. I think the line might panic when they turn this corner and see the blade assembly up ahead.”

The Leviathans weren’t front and center this episode, with the focus on angels and prophets, but there were a few key moments that demonstrate more of the monsters’ plan and the power. There is a brief hint about the design of the slaughterhouse being built for the processing of human cattle, and it’s very evocative of the Doctor Who episode, “The Age of Steel,” where Cybermen are “upgrading” humans in the Battersea Power Station. Orderly lines of people walking through the factory, eventually turning and entering large silo structures where spinning blades come from the ceiling before “processing” them. It’s not a comforting image.

The other moment, that once again illuminates the threat of the Leviathans, is near the end when Kevin Tran returns home, escorted by two angels who have a mission to protect him before leading him to the desert for prophet instruction. The detective investigating Kevin’s “kidnapping” is, of course, a Leviathan in human form. This is no season five – there’s no angel power that can suddenly end a Leviathan. Leviathan Collins states, as he’s sticking his hand into the angels’ guts and destroying them, that “rock beats scissors, Leviathan beats angel.” There’s nothing the angels can do to defend themselves and Kevin Tran and his mother are left at the mercy of the Leviathan.

What can kill a Leviathan? The bone of a righteous mortal, washed in the three bloods of the fallen. The first must be a fallen angel, and Castiel quickly and easily gives them a vial of his blood, but we still don’t know who the other two fallen are, nor what bone of a righteous man will be used. I tried to read the notebook page that Sam was reading and all I could glean was that it looks like the other two need to be the ruler of fallen humanity and the father of fallen beasts. Exciting!

 

 

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Random Notes:

Neanderthal poetry that’s perfectly aligned with the spheres. . .who knew.

 

C: “Hey, this is the handwriting of Metatron.”

S: “Metatron?!? You’re saying a Transformer wrote that?”

D: “No, that’s Megatron.”

S: “What?”

D: “The Transformer is Megatron.”

S: “What?”

C: “Me-TA-tron. He’s an angel, he’s the scribe of God.”

Sam’s indignant confusion during this scene is one of the funniest character moments in the series. So very Ben Edlund.

Anathema title

Review: Anathema

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Anathema  is a gothic love story packed full of monsters, lesbian persecution and magic. Written by Rachel Deering (Womanthology) and inked by Chris Mooneyham, the introduction of this story is emotional and heavy, with a style reminiscent of classic horror. Mercy introduces us to her backstory, one of fire and brimstone that will eventually lead her to abandon herself to a monstrous power in order to exact revenge on those attempting to send her true love’s soul to hell. Along the way, we learn about the villain of the story, who happens to have a very sinister history of his own. We meet some interesting demons who represent him.

 

The first issue of this story starts out on a very classical theme of witch burning but quickly takes a turn for something much deeper and more complex. I enjoyed this aspect of it, that it was not completely predictable or even written inside the confines of any horror story box. The characters all brought their own histories, the motivation of revenge and guilt pushes you to immediately feel an attachment to the heroine and the story veers in so many unexpected directions that there are multiple doors left open for future issues to take you in.

 

The art is also really cool. It’s heavy handed, melancholy, with lots of shadows and thick lines to get the point across, which vibes well with the story. Some of the panels felt almost mosaic-like, practically overlapping each other in a very pretty way. Then others are more open, sprawling scenes that make you feel like there’s an entire landscape beyond the edges of the page, if only you could stretch it a little further. For me, the art was the star of this book, although to be fair, it’s easier to convey great art in one issue, where writing can take a bit more time to develop properly.

 

I recommend Anathema. The first issue may or may not be your cup of tea, but I can see this story building up to something nicely detailed and fun to read. It’s refreshing to see a story that can both touch on modern day issues like discrimination of gay relationships and also paint a very old fashioned monster picture that feels genuine and not campy. I know Rachel Deering is quite passionate about her work and that in itself is well worth supporting; we all know the comic industry could use a little more chutzpah, a bit more metaphorical ‘balls’ behind the work.

This leads me to Kickstarter, which is where you can go to support the future of Anathema. Make a pledge, get the comics and support independent writers and artists who are working hard to bring you quality reading material. Do it!

 

 

Divine_Collins

Divine: The Series

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Divine: The Series, created by Ivan Hayden and Kirk Jacques

A little over two months ago I was asked to review a relatively new web series that had recently finished its first season run. Yes. Two months ago. Sorry about that Swoots. Normally I relish the challenge of watching and analyzing a show oriented around the supernatural, especially one that has the casting coup of everyone’s favorite Angel/God, Misha Collins. Yet in this case, something was keeping me from feeling the urge to devour the episodes, as I would, say, with a new season of the Guild.

I finally figured out what it was and can thankfully say: don’t do as I did. Fire up your browser and tear your way through the six episodes on offer until season two rolls around.

Divine: The Series was written by Ivan Hayden (visual effects supervisor on Supernatural) and Kirk Jacques, directed by Hayden, and created and produced by Hayden, Jacques, Collins, and Jason Fischer (production coordinator on Supernatural).

The story follows the travails of three priests in a run-down mission on the wrong side of the tracks, who endeavor to care for a being (angel? miracle?) named Divine, who walks the streets protecting the innocent (and penitent) from the demonic creatures who threaten humanity. The narrative employs a modernist (and post-modernist) conceit of non-linear storytelling, dropping the viewer in the midst of a plot stream, with few clear indicators throughout the series as to the chronological orientation of each episode. Hayden, in one of the making of videos, asserts that time is of no consequence, with each episode dropping more clues about who these people are, what brought them to this religious outpost, and what the mission of the divine creature really entails.

Misha Collins as Father Christopher

Before I detail the things the series does well, let me first tackle that which kept me procrastinating the task at hand. The series is incredibly smart to drop Misha Collins into the first episode, ensuring that the rabid Castiel/Supernatural fan base will be hooked from the outset. It is unfortunately in this initial episode that the miscast character of Jin first appears. Actress Chasty Ballesteros sets the mood as the episode’s first speaker and it is so tonally ill judged that if it wasn’t for the presence of Collins you might be tempted to simply leave at the outset. The typical Jin line delivery is to scream, and said delivery is so wooden, for a character that seems such a cliché, that it takes a monumental effort to get past it and to keep watching. I am loath to call out just one person as the primary problem with a show, but every time Ballesteros is on-screen the story withers. Even the scenery chewing character of Jack in episode 2 can’t steal her crown. What makes it all the worse is that, for the most part, she is surrounded by people who can act, which makes the character stand out in ways that it simply wasn’t meant to.

However, there are enough things done well in the series that you shouldn’t let Jin keep you from watching. Granted, it took me two months to reach that point.

The visual effects are rather stunning for a web series, especially in episode two. It’s not at all surprising to discover that many of the cast and crew have worked on Supernatural because this series feels like an offshoot of that. Hayden has said that he wanted the series to feel like a graphic novel and it does – the atmosphere, the characters, the narrative could all easily grace the pages of a comic book that explores demons and divinity.

Ben Hollingsworth as Father Andrew

The three actors who play the priests (Misha Collins, Allen Sawkins, and Ben Hollingsworth) are the strongest of the ensemble and ensure that the episodes tie together in a way that keeps audience interest. In fact, I would argue that Hollingsworth’s arrival in episode three, as Father Andrew, is the moment that the storyline becomes more than supernatural special effects and actually begins to explore the mythology and purpose behind the show. It was episode three that changed my mind about the series and led me to watch the rest posthaste.

However, season one is not going to tie things together in a neat bow – if you’re looking for answers you’re going to need to wait for season two.  Season one delivers many mysteries, which are augmented by the non-linear approach to storytelling.  It’s a bold move, spending a season of episodes establishing a foundation, unsure of what will happen with the viewership, but I guess that’s a benefit to a web series – you’re not tied to a network and its rating requirements.

So my overall verdict: definitely watchable, if you can get past the initial acting hitch at the outset. If you’re not convinced by the first two episodes, hang in there for episode three and the narrative development. The special effects are fantastic, as is the music, and if you can get hooked by the storyline, then you’ll look forward to the next season.

 

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