Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Reason For Dragons


The last thing a high school outcast needs out of life is something really weird happening. Wendell hasn't built and form of relationship with his stepfather aside from feeling awkward and intimidated by him. His stepfather Ted is big... and intimidating. Telling Wendel stories like how he annihilated a guy for scratching his pride and joy, a motorcycle named Lilly doesn't help the situation. Wendell’s only peace comes from going to the woods and escaping into a book. But that peace doesn't last when the local school bullies challenge Wendel to a feat of bravery. Grab some programs from the grounds of an abandoned renaissance fair that is allegedly haunted. It should have been easy. But then he meets a medieval knight… who is tasked to slay a dragon… that just might be real.

This is both a coming of age story and a tale of redemption. The very unlikely insanity that happens on the renaissance fair grounds not only helps Wendel to grow up, but it also accomplishes another seemingly unlikely feat, Wendel and Ted form a bond. It is also the tale of Sir Habersham, a knight who just might be crazy, but might also be telling the truth about a dragon.

Created by Chris Northrup with art by Jeff Stokely, The Reason For Dragons comes from the ashes of a cartoon Northrup was creating with artist and writer, Sean Murphy. The laptop with all their work was stolen. But fortunately for us, we still get to experience the story. In this books introduction, Murphy recounts the tale of how The Reason For Dragons came to be this graphic novel published by Archaia Entertainment. The main story is not too long. It's pretty much the perfect length to get lost in a fantasy tale for a little while. The Reason For Dragons also contains some other shorter tales that flesh out the characters some more. It's an all ages book that adults and kids should find entertaining. I wanted a little more time between Habersham and Wendell, but in no way was I disappointed with anything about this book. I really enjoyed it. Maybe it will become a cartoon again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tomorrow Land


Tomorrow Land, not to be confused with the Disney film and section of Disney World, is a sci-fi/zombie apocalypse novel by Mari Mancusi. It skews a little more into the young adult genre than I would typically read, but after my wife and I met the author at Wizard World in Austin, I decided to take a chance. There are a lot of zombie stories out there. That is the good thing about a zombie apocalypse. You can apply it to any time and place. In the case of Tomorrow Land, this apocalypse takes place in the near future of 2030. The youth of the word had moved on from being obsessed with mobile social media into the world of virtual social media with VR systems that allow them to enter the virtual internet.

Just before the world was about to fall, Peyton Anderson was a normal girl in high school. Or as normal as any teen can be with a father that is anti-technology government conspiracy theorist. And of course the world would fall apart just when it looks like she is about to find her first true love. But her father has a different destiny for her. Four years after the outbreak, Peyton emerges from a bunker under her house. She does not know what the world will be like. All she has to depend on are the cybernetic enhancements her father gave her. She must go to Florida and find her father and the scientific colony he was setting up under Disney World. She will also get help from the boy she abandoned before the fall of civiliation, Chris Parker, who has his own demons that could jeopardize everything.

The story flashes back and fourth between the outbreak in 2030 and the 2040 post apocalypse. I enjoyed the scifi/zombie elements a lot. The zombies in this world are the result of infection. No dying and reanimating here. Kind of like what we saw in I Am Legend. As usual I don’t think of things until I begin typing. It is somewhat poetic that in a world where people disappear themselves into a world where nothing is real that the population would fall to a disease that strips humans of their identities and turns them into a mindless hoard.

 The book is really interesting and I did enjoy it. But the teen angst took me out of the story sometimes. Especially in the 2030 chapters covering the initial outbreak. Although this could be a non-issue for some people. I mean, let's be honest, no matter what goes on in the world, as long as there are teenagers, there is going to be some levels of angst. But I will give Mancusi credit for not making Peyton the classic girl who needs to be saved. Even though she does need Chris to navigate the brave new world, and there is the budding romance subplot, Peyton is mission focused to get to her father and deliver a cure that is hidden in her cybernetics. And while Chris is the love interest, he was not a melodramatic motorcycle hood with a heard of gold, if you get my meaning. He is definitely flawed. But I never got a sense in the story that Peyton needed to "save" him.

While on the surface Tomorrow Land appears to fall into the YA romance mold (not that I am any kind of authority on YA), it does push into some hard sci-fi elements and themes, even directly referencing classic sci-fi. I wish the world in 2040 would have been fleshed out some more. I wanted to spend more time in 2034 and explore that world. For me too much time was spent on the initial budding romance in the early outbreak in 2030. It's close to a 50/50 split between the pre and post years. Or it felt that way to me. There are two human colonies in the book that are direct contrasts to one another and we only get a little time in each. Although thinking about it, it's also possible Mancusi gave enough time to those places. While I wasn't thrilled by some of Tomorrow Land's elements, I did find it to be a good read. It's staying on my shelf and I look forward to reading more of Mari Mancusi's novels. I have her Scroched trilogy in my backlog of things on the shelf I really need to get through. Book nerds know what I 'm talking about.

You can find out more about Tomorrow Land, Mari Mancusi, and her other novels at MariMancusi.com

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Force Awakens



CAUTION

THIS IS A SPOLIER LOADED REVIEW

(But really, you should have seen The Force Awakens already)

There is a cheesy part of me that want’s to say “This is the Star Wars you are looking for.” True as that statement may be, it is a bit eye rolling. Anyway… Star Wars: The Force Awakens is what we fans have been hoping for. Full disclosure, I am in the camp that wasn’t too thrilled with the prequels. Obviously they are popular enough to be successful. But I never felt the heart with them that I felt while watching the original trilogy. But this is about the new film. And I thought it was great. Not perfect, but it does bring back the feelings I had for the originals. So let’s break down the movie.

The general plot. Okay… It is a bit of a rehash of A New Hope. The First Order, which is kind of like a cult of the old Empire, converts a planet into a Super Death Star, able to destroy entire systems, not just a single planet at a time. An in the end a hand full of fighters are able to penetrate the defenses and blow it up. Oh, and the protagonist, one of them anyway, grew up on a desert planet and escaped on the Millennium Falcon. There is a bit more to the story, but that is basically it.

So the characters:

Rey

Basically Rey is the new Luke Skywalker. It’s no coincidence that she is on Jakku, a desert planet and has talent with the force. There is a mystery about Rey. Who are her parents and why was she left on the planet when she was so young. It seemed to me that Han knew something about her. But it’s plainly obvious that she is strong in the force, so strong that thing like the Jedi mind trick come to her without any training. I almost want to say she is Luke’s daughter. That would be more interesting and a good story. Mabey a bit obvious maybe.

Fin

FN-2187, aka Fin, was conscripted (kidnapped) by the First Order when he was very young. He doesn’t even remember his family. He was raised, trained, and indoctrinated by the First Order to become a Stormtrooper. But on his first mission, Fin could not be who the First Order wanted him to be and defected. Some made a big deal that Fin is portrayed by a black actor, but I don’t get the problem. All the Stormtroopers lose their faces and identities. Evil has no color. Or you could just say The First Order has an excellent EEO policy. Side note, if you were paying attention, one of the other Stormtropers was female. And I’m not speaking of Phasma.

BB-8

Poe Dameron’s BB series droid who went on the run and came across Rey and then Fin. As with R2-D2, the filmmakers were able to get a lot of emotion out of something that doesn’t technically emote much. In this case, a ball with a floating head. With electric beeps and minor movements, BB-8 comes to life, has a personality, and gives another layer of heart and humor to this film.

Poe Dameron

The Resistance X-Wing pilot who is the best fighter pilot in the Republic. He is a bit of a hot head, but we really don’t get much character development out of him. Poe is sort of being positioned as the new dashing rogue that was Han. They make it obvious that Poe is an ace pilot, but hopefully we get a little more development for his character in the next film.

Kylo Ren

Okay, the big reveal. Kylo is Ben Solo. Son of Han and Leia. He was one of Luke’s students who apparently went rogue and destroyed Luke’s school of new Jedi. Nothing is mentioned of what happened to Luke’s other students or even how many there were. Anyway… Kylo is a MAJOR fanboy of Darth Vader. He somehow missed the memo that Vader reverted to Anakin at the end. Kylo’s biggest issue is that he is more unstable than the young Anakin. Like lightsaber wrecking everything, super tantrum unstable.

General Hux

Hux is the commander of The First Order’s forces. He is also Kylo’s chief rival in the First Order pecking order. We don’t get much time and information about Hux. He and Kylo have a sort of grudging respect for one another. Mostly they don’t like each other.

Captain Phasma

Captain of the First Order Storm Troopers, we really don’t get much time to get to know about Phasma. She is the Boba Fett of The Force Awakens. She looks fantastic and her awesomeness is implied, but we don’t really get to see it.

Supreme Leader Snoak

The big mystery. Snoak’s existence is not a secret, but his identity is. He is the head of the First order and the one pulling the strings behind the whole operation. Many fan theories are out there about if he is actually a new character or not. But don’t expect any answers until maybe the next film at the earliest. I won’t join the speculation on Snoak’s identity, there is enough of that out there.

You know the rest. Leia is now General Organa. Han is still a rogue. Somewhere along the line they drifted after Kylo/Ben went all dark side. Chewbaca stick by Han’s side. There are still some questions that need answering. We know Luke disappeared after Kylo destroyed the Luke’s effort to rebuild the Jedi order. We don’t know if there was a formal Jedi school or how many students Like even had. More importantly, is Rey Luke’s daughter or was she a most talented student? And of course, does Kylo know who she is? Another interesting question is why isn’t Leia a Jedi? Presumably she was busy with the New Republic government and didn’t have much time for training. Speaking of The Force, is Fin force sensitive? There are subtle hints that he could also be somewhat strong in the force. Of all the Stormtroopers, how is he the only one that we know of that was able to resist The First Order’s indoctrination? Kylo also stared at him briefly after Fin didn’t fire on civilians when his unit was ordered to. I could be nothing. Like Rey, he seemed to have some luck with things.

All in all, it is a great return to Star Wars. It really goes back to basics as far as archetypal characters like the original and generally the story was pretty simple. The prequels felt a little over thought. The Force Awakens will be a solid foundation to build this new phase of the Star Wars mythology. We just have to see if Lucasfilm (under Disney) can deliver more quality films with more original stories. But the future does look promising.


Monday, November 16, 2015

High Frontier Trilogy


Chris Claremont made name for himself as a comic book writer for the X-Men comics. Much of his work on Marvel’s mutants has become some of the most influential work on the X-Men and the Marvel Universe. His work has also inspired much of the X-Men movies. But Claremont did not limit himself to comics. He also co-wrote a book series with George Lucas dealing with events that happened after the Willow film. Claremont also wrote three original novels that have come to be known as The High Frontier Trilogy. These books are First Flight, Grounded, and Sundowner.



First Flight follows Air Force Lieutenant Nicole Shea on her first space mission in command of a ship and crew in the earliest says of humanities first steps into interstellar travel. This first mission was to lay beacons within the Earth’s solar system to help with future space travel. Her mission runs into a mysterious rogue group of heavily armed and equipped mercenaries called a Wolfpack, and then onto first contact with an alien race.


Grounded further explores the mystery of the Wolfpack and a plot to kill Lt. Shea. All the while Shea is helping to further build the alliance with the feline race called the Halyan’t’a. While the Hal, as they are called, are a slightly more technically sophisticated species, they still have some technical hurdles to overcome and an alliance with humanity is formed to trade technology and expertise. The mysterious conspiracy that is keeping Shea grounded on earth puts her deeper into a wider conspiracy that could derail the alliance with the Hal.


In Sundowner, Nicole Shea, now a Captain, is completing her work as the head of a joint Human / Halyan’t’a project to make a new space ship that will benefit both species. But even when one conspiracy ended in Grounded, a new threat emerges from a group who wants Humanity to be free from alien influences. The story continues onto earths first faster than light star ship, the Constitution, and then to the Halyan’t’a’s home world. The story ends with the unraveling of the conspiracy and the origin of the Hal’s religion.

Claremont created an amazing universe with these books, and as he has done while working with Marvel, created amazing characters. The world he build in this series is not too far from our own to seem impossible. This Earth taking its first steps into interstellar travel is in our not too distant future, so the technology is not too far fetched to understand and the politics and motivations of the players are not things we are unfamiliar with. Lt. Shea I would describe as similar to Ripley in the Aliens movies and Starbuck in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series. Although Shea is much more a stable personality than Kara Thrace. Though Shea does have a love interest, this is more of a subplot and she spends most of the series figuring things out on her own.


In a way, the universe Claremont created in this series feels like the beginning of the word of Star Trek when Humans and Vulcans first began working together. While the series ends before anything like the Federation or Starfleet happens, it is easy to see how a natural continuation of this story would lead to a Trek like existence. If I had to make a criticism, it’s that the end of the third book got a little too much into the religion of the Hal and that even though there was a resolution to the story, I felt like there should have been more. It does though end in a place where if he wanted to, Claremont could continue the series. If you are looking for a good story with a strong female character, you might want to give these books a try. You’re not likely to find them in stores, my copies are from a used book store. You can, however find them online at sites like Amazon.

This article originally appeared on SciFiPulse.Net

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

5 Comic Book films Guillermo Del Toro should direct


Guillermo Del Toro has made a name for himself with dark fantasy and horror movies. Most notably Pan's Labyrinth and the Hellboy franchise. He also directed the sci-fi giant monster vs. giant robot action film, Pacific Rim. Del Toro also has many writing credits to his name. He has a talent for horror, supernatural, and humor. So as to not drag this out too much, here are 5 Comic Book films Guillermo Del Toro should direct:

1. Midnight Sons


There is a Justice League Dark film that was going to be directed by Del Toro, but he dropped out due to scheduling concerns. A similar potential project exists with Marvel. While they are not the Dark Avengers, The Midnight Sons are a supernatural team of Marvel heroes that have battled dark and demonic forces. I have mentioned a Midnight Sons film before as a potential Marvel film now that the rights to three key members are back under MARVEL Studios control (Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, and Blade). Del Toro has done a Blade film already, FYI. Blade II. Just putting that out there.

2. Rat Queens


Rat Queens is begging for some sort of adaptation. Del Toro was close to directing The Hobbit films and Rat Queens would give him the opportunity to work his magic on a fantasy project that is kinds close... ish to middle Earth. Rat Queens is a little more edgy in tone and humor then Tolkein, but it would be pretty close to what he did with Hellboy. Dee, Betty, Hannah, and Violet are a team that parties as hard as (if not more so) than they fight. And they are the best around at getting things done. Magic, mayhem, mystical creatures, monsters, giant god squids in the sky, and some drug humor. It would be epic.

3. Joe the Barbarian


I have raved about this series too. It's kind of like a darker Never Ending Story. So imagine what that film would be like if Guillermo Del Toro directed it. He has already done a film with a young protagonist in Pan's Labyrinth. This story of Joe, a teen diabetic who starts to hallucinate after his blood sugar gets too low, is an epic story filled with amazing creatures and characters. Joe goes on a quest with his rat guardian Jack to save his home and protect a fantasy world of toys from King Death. And who wouldn't want to see Doug Jones bring an human sized armored warrior rat to life?

4. The New Mutants: Demon Bear Saga


A New Mutants film is in the works at Fox already. But Del Toro could add a new dark spin on the X-Men universe. This would be a second or third film in a franchise. The Demon Bear killed the parents of New Mutants member, Danielle Moonstar, and then came after her. It has the ability to transform people into demonic Native American warriors and does so when the whole team comes to Moonstar's aid. The story was written by Chris Claremont so you know it is good already. Del Toro could do wonders with this story.

5. NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind


Yeah. Let your mind consider this one for a bit. Guillermo Del Toro filming a live action version of a Hayao Miyazaki classic. If this one doesn't fan the flames of your inner fanboy/girl you are either lying to yourself or you are dead inside. NausicaƤ is the princess of a small kingdom that gets caught in the middle of a war between two larger nations. The world is already dying due to the spread of a toxic Forrest and the giant insects that inhabit it and now the conflict of two warring nations threatens the survival of the Valley of the Wind. Giant monsters, part fantasy, part dystopian future, and Del Toro has already given a nod to anime with Pacific Rim, this more than anything else could be huge if (huge IF) could ever happen. It is already a fantastic animated feature.

I doubt any of these project would happen with Del Toro being as busy as he his. Though, chances are these projects all could happen at some point. Again, The New Mutants is already on the slate at Fox.If sometime in the distant future when Guillermo Del Toro has free time between his own films and other big studio projects, maybe he could give one of these a shot.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Could Identity Crisis make it to film?


Would DC and Warner Brothers be brave enough to film Identity Crisis? Odds are no. But lets break this down a little. Marvel has unquestionably set the bar high with The Avengers franchise. DC is understandably building it's own Justice League franchise in response. And why wouldn't they? Fans want it and it's just good business. Even though the Justice League universe was started with Man of Steel, it won't really start to form until the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which will also introduce Wonder Woman and Aquaman. As for other characters, rumors are pointing to Doomsday as being the force that brings everyone together. But that is just a rumor at this point. Warner Brothers is also expending the DC cinematic universe with the Suicide Squad film. So we have the Justice League origin story ready to go. But where to from there?


As is the case with MARVEL, there is a lot of iconic source material to choose from. Honestly I hope Kingdom Come will eventually be filmed. If it happens at all, it will not be the first story DC approves. And it's more like a years down the road, Infinity War kind of thing. But another part of me wonders if another direction could be taken. What if DC tried to tell a story that was more personal? Something that is very humanizing. What if they chose to adapt Identity Crisis? If you didn't read that miniseries, it is really good. The spoiler free description is someone kills the wife of one hero and threatens the lives of the loves ones of other heroes. Some heroes and loved ones don't make to the end.


The story reveals dark secrets and decision that question the ethics and moral standing of the League. The question is would people want to see their favorite characters in a murder mystery thriller? It could be done with a similar tone as Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There wasn't a whole lot of super powers in that one and it was brilliant. It would also take the introduction of a few more League members to fill out the story. Identity Crisis on film is a long shot at best. At most we might get moments inspired from the story or subtle nods to it. But in another world, it would be a fantastic film.


This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted at SciFiPulse.Net

Friday, October 16, 2015

FX picks up Y: The Last Man


I’ve been talking about it. If you are a fan, you’ve been talking about it. Now it’s finally going to happen. After years in movie land development hell, Y: The Last Man might finally show up where it should have all along, on television. The FX network has picked up Y: The Last Man for development. Created by Brian K. Vaughn. Y is about Yorick Brown, the only human male survivor of a plague that wiped out all male life on the planet in a bloody instant. The only other male survivor is his Capuchin monkey, Ampersand. He is on a mission... to find his girlfriend. Keeping him alive and humoring him along the way are a group of women trying to save the the human species.


Two things may directly contribute to Y actually making it into production. First, The Walking Dead. While hit zombie series hay yet to get any love from any award show, MILLIONS watch the post-apocalyptic series. And like TWD, Y has a lot of diverse characters and a great story that could hook viewers. Second, Mad Max: Fury Road. It was labeled a feminist movie (which could be valid, but I just thought it was a great action film), but beyond a few guys on the internet, no one cared. Y is a story with only one male in it. The entire cast, leading and supporting, is female. And TV viewers will be introduced to Agent 355. Think TWD's Michone as a secret agent with special operations military training.


Hopefully if it does go into production the series will mirror The Walking Dead in character building. Because the characters are what will sell the series. It's post-apocalyptic, but there are no monsters. Essentially, Y is one long road film with many character studies. The cast of characters are very interesting, but if not done right, a TV series could feel flat. What it also has going for it is that the characters are racially diverse and the story crisscrosses the United States and takes us to different countries. It would gives us looks into how different people and other cultures would deal with a global crisis. The series has the potential to be groundbreaking drama. There is definitely humor and some action. But what made the series fantastic is the characters. Hopefully FX will bring it to life and pull it off.


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