Separation of Sleeve and State: Adaptation and Altered Carbon

This post contains spoilers – including the endings – for the Altered Carbon book and television series.


Without question, Altered Carbon is my favourite book. I first picked it up thirteen years ago from my uncle’s garage sale, mostly because my 15-year-old visually-oriented self thought the shiny cover looked kickass. Turned out the words inside were pretty great, too.

The cover of my original copy was really, really shiny.

Today, I can’t count how many times I’ve read it (my Goodreads profile has it pegged as at least 5 since I joined the site in 2012, and I’m currently undertaking a sixth). Sure, there are things about it that don’t work no matter how hard you squint, and some problematic scenes that were, thankfully, spared from adaptation. Some of the prose is overly flowery, itself a habit of author Richard K. Morgan’s writing at large, and the conclusion to the overarching murder plot is a wee bit convoluted; even with at least five documented rereads, bits of the how and why elude me. But I still get a funny little jolt of joy whenever I crack it open, from the first pages of Takeshi Kovacs’ gruesome death and imprisonment by the Protectorate, all the way to that note perfect final exchange between Kovacs and Lieutenant Ortega. Morgan’s world is immersive, layered and brutal, at once an exotic depiction of a technology-rampant future and a strident polemic against our path towards it. The sequels Broken Angels and Woken Furies, though not quite as beloved as the first book, are also fantastic stories in their own right, flitting Kovacs fluidly between genres and settings without being overly jarring.

That meant the recent Netflix series had a tall hill to climb with me. I was intrigued by the trailers, which seemed to nail the visuals but miss the mark on some of the characters and dialogue. A cursory trawl through the accommodating Altered Carbon subreddit yielded no shortage of folks just as skeptical as me. But I did my best to remain optimistic, hoping against hope that the final result – enthusiastically endorsed by Morgan himself – was closer to a success than a failure.

In the end, it was an even split. There are parts of the series I love as well as the visuals; Joel Kinnaman is Kovacs, no question. I had my doubts on his casting, but they were quickly allayed by the end of the first episode. Ditto for Kristin Lehman’s turn as ancient seductress Miriam Bancroft, and Byron Mann’s far-too-brief appearances as Kovacs’ original sleeve.  The revamp of the Hendrix hotel into a Victorian, Edgar Allan Poe-styled parlour with AI to match – played with aplomb by Chris Conner – was an inspired choice, even if it was one presumably dictated in part by estate licensing rather than pure creative divergence.

And my goodness, that Nemex gun is a thing of beauty. Not since Blade Runner has there been a sci-fi gun this immediately cool.

But there are just as many parts I hated. Though actress and fellow Aussie Dichen Lachman kicks ass, the careening curves of Reileen Kawahara’s new storyline – shifting from corrupt corporate executive in the book to a yandere long-lost sister to Kovacs in the series – doesn’t sit well with me, not least of all because it hamfistedly wrecks the ending. Much of the dialogue, aside from lines cribbed right from the book, is devoid of subtext, preferring to (over)tell rather than show. Some of the violence and nudity steps right over the line from stylistic to exploitative; Taratino, this ain’t (and yes, I’m fully aware a lot of the book is ruthlessly vicious and overly sexual, but I’d argue the show goes a tad far in places).

But I still enjoyed the show, despite the above – and many other – flaws that gnawed at me throughout. It is, simply, an imperfect rendition of a personally-beloved book. The reason I liked it comes down to one thing: this is not my book.

I’d definitely have been kinder to the Altered Carbon TV series if it had had an entirely different name and characters. Granted, the hyper-violence would still be an issue, but a clean break from the roots of the story would’ve substantially changed my opinion for the better, not least of all because of how personally attached I am to the book. A number of the storytelling choices would’ve sat better if it weren’t my favourite story playing them out on screen. The show is an incarnation of the words on the page, bringing Kovacs, Ortega, Kawahara and all the rest to life (except for Trepp who, in a missed opportunity for the show, never shows up to go on a coke-fuelled rampage with Kovacs like in the book). But it’s not a perfect recreation the way something like the Watchmen movie tried to be – and look how that turned out.

What it is, is someone else’s interpretation; a new text of its own making that draws from the well of an established story. Series creator and showrunner Laeta Kalogridis read the book, had an idea for a TV show based on it, and the result is now sitting in your Netflix queue, quietly waiting for you to press play on Episode 1. Though both texts share the names of characters and places, plot turns and worldbuilding, the TV show is not Altered Carbon the book on screen; though it’s an adaptation of the book, it’s not a recreation of it.

Which, when I frame it like that, means that no version of this series – irrespective of how well it lifted scenes from the book, like Kovacs and Miriam Bancroft’s long, slow, intricately detailed and deeply discomfiting sex scene – could ever pass muster as an adaptation of the book. Even if we got Watchmen-esque levels of textual worship, slavishly bringing Morgan’s words to the screen with the kind of attachment to the book that would shame an industrial magnet, we’d be setting ourselves up for disappointment. However, if we read the book as one thing and the series as another then there is invariably a disconnect between our expectations as book readers and our enjoyment factor as viewers. At the same time, to dismiss the show’s connection to its source material is a fundamental error, given that it is those words (or a version of them) that are brought to life in 4KHD.

The Altered Carbon series fulfills a number of needs, beyond Kalogridis’s desire to tell a story based on another story. For an existing fan, it truly is viscerally enjoyable to see these words made flesh, watching Kinnaman’s Kovacs stomp down the streets of Bay City or weave through the twisted Star Trek-esque hallways of the flying brothel Head in the Clouds. It also caters well to newcomers, as the show’s reasonably warm online reception indicates. In a world dominated by the visual, it’s handy to provide viewers a way into a story if they’re not able or willing to sit down and read the book. Business-wise, the show offers Netflix an outlet to compete in the ever-increasing prestige genre television ball game (even though, despite claims to the contrary, it is definitely not Netflix’s answer to Game of Thrones), compounded by the now-franchised nature of the story across the show, novels, audiobooks, social media ARG content and upcoming comic books, just for a start. Using that adaptation as a jumping-off point for more franchising options, potentially including another original novel from Morgan, suggests lots of exciting possibilities (I’d recommend everyone read Clare Parody’s awesome article, ‘Franchising/Adaptation‘, to get an idea of what those options might enable).

But more than anything, the adaptation of Altered Carbon firmed up something for me: there needs to be a disconnect. Not a complete divorce – as I’ve said ad nauseum in this piece, the book and the show are obviously and inextricably linked – but a separation. The series might be a visual incarnation of the words Morgan penned sixteen years ago, but it’s still just an incarnation. One version, potentially of many, where being able to separate those versions from one another could ultimately lead to a lot more enjoyment.

For me, the interplay between series and book hit that separation point with Episode 7, made almost entirely of content original to the show. I won’t mince words; I hated that episode, not just for completely misfiring with Kovacs’ backstory from a bookreader’s perspective, but also because it was a clunky, overwrought, predictable and thoroughly unsatisfying hour-and-change of television. But it was also the point where a little switch in my brain went from seeing the series as “text-on-screen” to more “version-of-text-on-screen”. It made the last three episodes – which maintained the skeleton of the book’s climax but veered off-script more than once – more enjoyable to watch, even if my inner book fan wasn’t quite happy with what I was seeing.

Though I was *really* happy when I saw this in Episode 1.

We’ve already seen so many screen adaptations of beloved stories since prestige television and internet streaming became widespread, and we know we’ll continue to see more. Hell, who’s to say there won’t be a reboot or a Battlestar Galactica-esque reimagining of this adaptation thirty years down the track? Would it be compared to the first Altered Carbon show from 2018, or the novel from 2002, or a combination of every Altered Carbon version made – every sleeve worn, if you will – up until that point? Or would we be able to take each version as its own, separate incarnation, tied to the same source but fundamentally distinct from one another?

Anecdotally, I know a lot of people who can’t read The Lord of the Rings anymore, feeling that the film trilogy has displaced it as the ur-text of the story (not so much The Hobbit films, though). The notion of a dominant version that overshadows all the others is certainly one you could argue. However, rather than preferencing one over the others as the key representation of the mother narrative, I choose instead to read them as the films being a superlative adaptation of an existing story, a version I happen to subjectively get more pleasure out of than the book, the same way I enjoy the reimagining of Battlestar over the original show, and the same way I prefer the book of Altered Carbon rather than the series Kalogridis and Netflix made of it. By separating the book and the show, rather than prioritising either or seeing one as a true embodiment of its source material, it’s easier to experience both as their own things, even if there’s one sleeve I like more than the other.

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“A Jedi, like my father before me”: The Star Wars films have an Identity Crisis

This post contains spoilers for The Last Jedi.


Attack of the Clones is the most ironic Star Wars title of all.

Episode II ranks regularly as one of the worst films of the franchise. It’s stodgily acted, goes hell for leather on the CGI, has an at-times nonsensical story and is not an intellectually or viscerally satisfying movie. Even as popcorn entertainment – which is, by and large, the franchise’s stock in trade – the film doesn’t do well, at least until that last twenty minutes of Clone War ‘splosions and far too many lightsabers.

But at least, compared to both what came before and after, it’s doing something different. Not necessarily well, and most of its storytelling decisions are drawn from a well of dumb, but different nonetheless. The political intrigue on Coruscant and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s secret mission to Kamino and beyond don’t really have antecedents within the films that came before, and there’s certainly no other Star Wars film that puts as much of a focus on the romance (which is, provably, for the better). For a movie that’s part of a franchise dedicated to reliving and copying what’s already been done, I’d argue that Attack of the Clones is the least similar of its brethren.

We know that Star Wars lives and dies on the power of its nostalgia. The sequel trilogy was bankrolled by Disney as a deliberate throwback to what made the series great back in the 70s and 80s; no more of this Clone War crap or any trade tarriffs and dry political bullshit. The Force Awakens, for all its innovations and social progression – for starters, having a central trio with no white guys as the heroes – is more or less treading a lot of the same ground that A New Hope spent its time on. There’s even a lot of that at work in the new expanded universe, with classic writers like Timothy Zahn being enlisted to give us the origin story of the character he made his name from back in the 90s, in an attempt to draw old-hand readers into the new continuity.

It might seem like I’m taking Disney’s work to task, but the truth is I love the majority of their output since they acquired Lucasfilm. I enjoyed The Force Awakens and loved The Last Jedi (not as in love with Rogue One, which gets progressively worse every time I watch it). The novels and comics are (mostly) quite good, and do a great job filling the space left by the absence of the original expanded universe. There’s every reason to love the nostalgibaiting Disney use as their primary approach to the galaxy far, far away.

But at the end of the day, what does that make Star Wars about?

That’s a dumb question; of course we know what it’s about. A decades-spanning space opera about the eternal struggle between good and evil, mostly centred on a prophetically-powerful bloodline created by immaculate conception. We’ve known since 1977 what Star Wars is about.

What we don’t know, and what Disney are going to have to decide, is what the franchise is about.

Say what you will about Attack of the Clones and its wooden acting, bad romance and overuse of CGI. Speak ill of the prequels as a whole if you like, since Lord knows I do at every opportunity. But at least they, and the original trilogy they were connected to, had a purpose: the prequels told the story of Darth Vader, which informed the original trilogy’s story about Luke Skywalker, all taking place within that eternal good and evil struggle. The identity of the franchise, at least as far as its films were concerned, was clear and readily understood.

So when The Force Awakens dropped in 2015 as an almost point-for-point retread of A New Hope, the immediate thought was that we were in for more of the same. Not only did director JJ Abrams smash the nostalgia button with a mallet, we also knew this was the start of a Disneyfied franchise. We’d already had seven years’ experience with the Marvel Cinematic Universe at that point, and those films are more or less copies of each other in terms of structure, tone and plot developments (though if early buzz is any indicator, it seems Black Panther might buck that trend a little). The following year saw the release of Rogue One, a standalone story that drew much of its audience power from being a literal prologue to A New Hope by featuring almost every element of that film, up to and including Darth Vader’s original voice actor. As I said before, I like a lot of what Disney’s put out since 2015, but it was all comfort food. Familiar, safe, warming.

The two films were coupled with the announcements of not only Episodes VIII and IX, but also of a Han Solo standalone film, another about Boba Fett, and rumours of a third involving Obi-Wan Kenobi, the latter even potentially starring Ewan McGregor back in his Jedi robes. It served at the time to make one thing clear: the Star Wars film franchise identity was now firmly rooted in sanctifying those original six films and the story they’d created. If Marvel can make cookie-cutter capefilms with little substantial variety between them, then why can’t George Lucas’ magnum opus? Those copies, explicit and derivative, sell like hot cakes, so there’s no reason to break from that mold.

That made the surprises of 2017s The Last Jedi all the more potent. Yes, it copped a lot of the same accusations as Awakens did in being a derivative film; a friend of mine likened it to a hybrid of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and to a point he’s not exactly wrong. But the film seemed to consciously buck that nostalgic security blanket that Awakens and Rogue One hid beneath, dismissing almost every callback or hint at a replica of the original mythology that JJ Abrams introduced in the previous film. Given the mystery surrounding her parents, the prior movies had trained us to expect Rey to be a Skywalker and to follow a similar path to Luke; turns out she’s a nobody whose late parents were drunkards. Kylo Ren seemed primed to turn back to the Light Side, in a confrontation with Supreme Leader Snoke that near-completely copied the climax of Return of the Jedi; nope, Kylo’s full evil, yo. A confrontation with the First Order on a white planet seems like a distracting tactic so the Rebellion can flee, a la The Battle of Hoth; nah, the Rebels are making their last stand on Crait and, until Luke shows up, are pretty sure they’re going to lose (also, Hoth had snow and Crait had salt – differences, people). Part of why I loved the film so much was because it had a foot in both camps, giving me the nostalgic pandering that I expected along with the newer twists on the formula that I didn’t.

The similarities between The Last Jedi and its forebears are inescapable, but I’d argue that the film does enough that it hints at new directions for next time. Director Rian Johnson is a creative storyteller and a huge Star Wars fan, so those little hints of transgression from the replication of the past convinced me that he’s more concerned with newness, rather than nostalgibaiting, even if the former comes disguised within the latter. One could almost call Johnson as the leader of a rebellion in and of itself. Retroactively, that made the announcement of his own Star Wars trilogy a welcome one.

But that potentially fresh approach directly refutes both the model that Disney have fashioned with Star Wars and Marvel, and the road map they’ve laid out for Star Wars‘ future. Abrams is back for Episode IX, and while I have no doubt it’ll be great, chances are good that it’ll go back to the well for its story rather than forge one of its one. If the recently-released Solo film teaser shows us anything, it’s that the film looks content to soak in the same nostalgia bath that Rogue One wallowed in. This morning’s announcement of DB Weiss and Dan Benioff also getting their own run of Star Wars films – earned off the back of their work as Game of Thrones showrunners – hasn’t really told us anything, but if they’ve been hired to put their Thrones-style sensibilities into the Star Wars universe, we could potentially be looking at a franchise content to not only copy itself, but also to copy other franchises. I apprehensively await the gore-spurting lightsaber fights and Wookiee sexposition.

To call Star Wars derivative is nothing new; most good stories are ones that borrow from others. At length in his fantastic book, Chris Taylor documents the filmic, artistic and structural influences that went into George Lucas creating the original films, some of them blatantly ripped off from the source material. We also expect a franchise to keep creating new texts for both its fandom and its stakeholders; the MCU will probably be making films and TV shows long after the heat death of the universe. But Star Wars right now is in a period of awkward transition, where one of its tentpole installments hints at a desire for change while the others contently remain in the familiar. A franchise spawns a lot of replicas, but there’s nothing to say that it can’t make something aberrant, either.

Going forward, Disney needs to decide what kind of identity the Star Wars film franchise is going to have. Will it be content to make copies of copies of copies of itself for as long as we’re keen to throw money at them, or is there a genuine impulse to explore strange new worlds and to seek out new civilisations? (shit, wrong franchise) All of this might be conjecture, since we have no idea yet what kind of narrative thrusts that Johnson and Benioff & Weiss’ respective films are going to have. But they’ll undoubtedly be a good indicator of the kind of film franchise Star Wars is going to end up being, for better or worse.

 

*CLOSED* COMPETITION TIME – The Mighty Thor: Thunder In Her Veins

Please note: This competition has now closed.

This is your chance to win a copy of the Marvel graphic novel The Mighty Thor: Thunder In Her Veins, recently covered in my review. You want to win this one because it’s a damn good read!

On offer is a code for a digital copy of the book, which can be redeemed in the Marvel Comics app. All you have to do is like “The Genre Fiend” on Facebook, then email your name and an answer to the following question:

“Which superhero’s mantle would you want to inherit for a day, and why?”

Send your details and answer to thegenrefiend(at)gmail(dot)com – the competition is open now and will close next Friday, August 12.

lady thor cover

Introducing The Genre Fiend

Hi. My name’s Chris.

I’ve been penning comic reviews, opinion pieces and miscellaneous ramblings since 2010, back when all I had was a blog called Mind’s Eye and a truckload of graphic novels purchased wholesale from Comic-Con. Six years on, I’d like to think my writing’s evolved to the point that it’s at least somewhat interesting to read now.

During that six years, my work’s gone through a few identities and had a couple of facelifts. First, it was a duo of blogs; the aforementioned Mind’s Eye, which was the next best thing to a sporadically-used LiveJournal account, and Sunday in the Comics with Christopher, a weekly comics review page that simultaneously justified my Comic-Con purchases and poorly utilised a Stephen Sondheim reference while doing so. These two sites did the fusion dance to become The Writer’s Multiverse; originally a team effort with a few other writers, the new site was a platform for my previous work and some attempts at short fiction (“attempts” being the operative word, there).

Now comes the next phase. Now comes The Genre Fiend.

The term “genre fiend” was first coined in Aaron Allston’s Strike Forcea supplement for the Champions roleplaying game. It’s meant as a somewhat derogatory term to describe a type of roleplayer who is “a rabid fan of a certain type of fiction” that they’d like to see applied to the game in painstaking detail (see also: this post about superheroes in roleplaying games).

In that sense, the term could apply to me. I may be a bit of stickler for genre conventions, but I’m not so married to classic molds that I can’t love how a story goes outside its genre boundaries; some of my favourite stories break those molds and do exciting things. No, the term “genre fiend” more readily applies to me in a different sense.

Merriam-Webster defines a fiend as all three of the following:

  • an evil spirit: a demon or a devil
  • a very evil or cruel person
  • a person who is very enthusiastic about something

Let’s focus on the last of the three here (though I’m sure my fellow miniature gaming players could occasionally describe me as “very evil or cruel”).

I have been wildly enthusiastic about most forms of genre fiction – predominantly science fiction, fantasy and superheroes – since I was old enough to watch Star Trek (2 years old – you never forget your first love). My home is decorated with posters and Pop Vinyls from various franchises I adore. I have more comic books, sci-fi blu-rays and Batmobile models than I know what to do with. I can quote the entirety of the first two Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy radio play seasons. My academic career has so far been spent penning critical work on Batman, Star Trek and Doctor Who, among others. Hell, the pop culture shelves of my apartment have been photographed by police officers to make other police officers jealous of their contents. I am, for all intents and purposes, a passionate genre nut.

So what do you do with a passion? You channel it into something awesome.

The Genre Fiend is my work, from both here and abroad. It collates all my posts from the previous incarnations of my website(s), and collects the majority of my external work from other websites (particularly from Goodreads and Geek of Oz, the latter of which I also write regularly for). It’s the one place where you should be able to find all the words I’ve strung together into semi-coherence. More importantly, it’s the one place where I can enthusiastically share my passion with you.

The site is predominantly divided into four sections:

  • Chris Kills Comics: The main review/discussion space for comic books and graphic novels. Expect no mercy.
  • The Mind’s Eye: As it was six years ago, so it is now; a section for rants, ravings and rational(ish) discussions from yours truly.
  • Draft Material: A platform for pieces of my fiction work, still in-progress. Critical feedback is always appreciated.
  • External Portfolio: The spot for all the work I do outside of this website, with links to such content covering Anime, Video Games and Books.

In addition, the site uses banner and logo artwork drawn by the incredible, wonderfully talented Laura Wellington – check out more of her sterling work over at www.pizqit.com, and tell her how awesome she is.

This is the place where I extol the virtues of what I love, and viciously savage the failings of what I don’t. I’ll talk about things on the surface and stuff a little deeper down. I’ll be critical, analytical and, most of all, personal.

Enjoy your stay with my enthusiasm.

The Five Lords: Seeing the World

To celebrate hitting 50,000 words on my latest draft of The Five Lords, here’s another scene for you to experience with your eyeballs. This is separate to the scene I posted here a few months back; where before we were with Koron and his captors on the continent of Caras, this scene takes place in Kantis, the eastern continental neighbour of Caras. The scene is part of several Interregnums spaced throughout the story, where characters across the world, far away from our protagonists, show how they’re surviving the aftermath of the Great Punishment.

 

Enjoy!


 

Image taken from Most Beautiful Places: http://mostbeautifulplacesintheworld.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Winter-sun-at-Broadway-Tower-by-skipnclick.jpg
Image taken from Most Beautiful Places: http://mostbeautifulplacesintheworld.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Winter-sun-at-Broadway-Tower-by-skipnclick.jpg

 

It was a beautiful morning for all of Kantis.

            In Mimia’s mind, that was saying something. Kantis was the second-largest continent in the world, succeeded only by their western neighbours of Caras. The nation itself consisted of a multitude of ecological zones and weather systems; one city-state could be falling victim to the fiercest storm known to mankind, whilst another on the opposite end of the continent could be enjoying perfect seaside weather. For the day to be unilaterally gorgeous for all parts of Kantis was no small feat.

            Mimia knew the day was so good because she consulted her World Bowl, filled to the midway with Seeing Water. It cast her gaze high above the countries of the Kantis Empire, giving her a Lord’s-Eye view of the ground. No clouds, no rain, no encroaching storms. As far as she could tell, Kantis was in for one of the best days it had ever been gifted since the Punishment.

            She smiled, leaning back in her rocking chair, the World Bowl on the table in front of her. The room was at the top of the local Seer’s Tower, several kilometres inland from Kantis’s easternmost shore. The town of Kalab, famed in old days for its spicy food and hospitable locals, lay in ruins not six hundred metres from where the Tower stood.

            The thought of that made her smile ebb a little, but not much. A good day meant the Five – or, at least, one or two of them – were pleased.

            Loud footsteps from the Tower’s staircase told her Strenna had returned from her hunt. Sure enough, the younger woman reached the top of the stairs with an expertly-slain deer wrapped around her shoulders. She deposited it on the floor in front of Mimia’s table wordlessly, then took a long gulp from the water pitcher on the mantelpiece.

            ‘How many were there?’ Mimia asked, leaning back and closing her eyes for a moment. The breeze from outside gently kissed at her cheeks pleasantly.

            Strenna swallowed loudly, then regained her breath. ‘I counted sixteen, at least. This one was a little slow.’ She prodded the deer gently with the tip of her boot. ‘We should be fine for a few days.’

            Mimia nodded slowly, eyes still closed. ‘Can you remember the last time we had a breeze like this?’

            Strenna put down the pitcher and stepped out onto the balcony. From there, Mimia knew she had a full view of the ocean, the shore and the border jungles that lined it for kilometres. The younger woman stood there a moment before turning back to Mimia and wryly remarking, ‘Doesn’t take much to make you happy, does it?’

            ‘Not these days, no.’

            ‘Good. Means I don’t have to try hard.’ More footsteps told Mimia that Strenna had walked over to the table, probably to peer into the World Bowl. She confirmed that by asking, ‘See anything good today?’

            ‘Only the lovely day ahead of us.’

            ‘What did you give up for it?’

            Mimia opened her eyes, regarding Strenna with sardonic expression. ‘If I could tell you, I would.’

            ‘Uh huh.’ Strenna flicked a finger through the water. ‘Seems an odd price.’

            ‘Maybe. But it’s worth paying. I’ve told you that the last fifteen times.’

            ‘If I could, you know I’d throw this thing out,’ Strenna said seriously.

            ‘You’ve told me that the last fifteen times, too.’

            ‘Yeah, well, history has a way of repeating.’ Irritated, the younger woman went down to start skinning the deer. Her knife flashed quickly into her hand before making the first cut.

            ‘Do you really have to do that here?’ Mimia asked lightly.

            Strenna grunted in the affirmative. ‘Might attract bandits if they see me downstairs. I think I saw tracks near one of the jungles.’

            That wasn’t good. Mimia hadn’t presumed they’d be found so quickly. Granted, Strenna might only have seen animal tracks that looked like those of ruffians, but it was better not to take chances. They’d have maybe one more day before they’d have to leave.

            They still hadn’t found what Mimia had come here for, and the nearest Seer’s Tower was six days by horse gallop. Time was running out.

            ‘Are you sure they were bandits?’ she asked.

            ‘Pretty sure,’ Strenna replied, cutting off parts of the deer’s flank.

            ‘How sure is pretty sure?’

            ‘Decent chance. Why?’

            ‘I need to know for certain.’

            ‘Then use the Bowl.’

            That startled Mimia. In the four months since they’d first met and started traveling together, Strenna had never suggested using the Bowl as an option for anything. Fifteen separate conversations had given Mimia fifteen impressions that Strenna disapproved of using it. But now she’d apparently changed her mind, and in the space of a few seconds, no less.

            Strenna seemed to catch that she’d thrown Mimia a little. ‘I’m allowed to change my mind, y’know.’

            ‘Of course,’ Mimia said, ‘but it’s just…surprising.’

            The knife cut more off the deer, peeling skin back from the pink, raw muscle underneath. ‘You’re clearly intent on using it to find what you’re looking for. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from you, it’s that you can’t be shaken from a path once you start walking it.’

            Mimia smiled lightly. Good thing she’s learned something, at least. ‘It’s for the greater good.’

            ‘Sure it is.’ Strenna didn’t sound convinced. ‘Just do your thing, if you’re gonna do it.’

            It seemed trivial, now Mimia thought about it, but she couldn’t go outside if there really were ruffians out there. The power of the Bowl was only meant for strong magical purposes, given what it took to use it. But hadn’t she only just now used it to see the weather, itself a trivial thing these days?

            It’s beautiful. But maybe that’s a key.

            To see the tracks from here would not require a large memory. The weather today, and the picturesque view of Kantis, would do.

            Mimia clasped both hands to the rim, filled her mind with the memory of seeing Kantis, and poured it into the Bowl.

            What little of the water that had been flicked out when Strenna drew her finger through it returned. The clear water was replaced by the image of sand, small dunes piled near a beaten dirt path. Small footprints led across them, from out of the image and into the nearby jungle. She leaned in, looking closer, and saw…

            Yes. Definitely bandits; humans, at any rate. Those tracks were too narrow to be any local animal.

            Mimia stood from the table, walked around Strenna’s dressing of the deer and pulled the doors of the balcony shut. ‘We’re staying in today, and tonight. We’ll leave in the morning.’

            Strenna nodded, seemingly unsurprised. ‘Shame. It’s going to be such a nice day today.’

            ‘Oh,’ Mimia frowned, moving back to the table, ‘is it?’

            The water had gone clear again.

The Five Lords: People Skills

I’ve been writing a story for the past couple of years. It’s the beginning of what I hope will be an epic pentalogy of medieval fantasy and fantasy western (that’ll make more sense once you read the finished story). Notice I said ‘hope’ in that last sentence; there is every possibility this story, once complete, will be a confusing mess of self-indulgent confusingness. The fact that I use words like confusingness should clue you in to the lack of writing caliber present in this story.

The series is called The Five Lords, named after the five androgynous gods who watch over humanity. The first book, Storms, takes place a few months after an event called the Great Punishment; the Five have destroyed most of humanity, at the height of their hubris and selfishness. Small pockets of survivors eke out livings and attempt to find homes, while others subsist on indulging whatever pursuits they wish in this newly unconstrained and blighted world.

One of the latter is Koron of Burning Sigil. He’s a Brother of the Blood, an ancient order of mystic swordfighters with strict ritual practices and beliefs (think if the Jedi were crossed with Shaolin monks, only a little more jerkish and possessed of the super-blood of Claire from Heroes). Koron was part of a group of survivors, but he’s been cast out for various reasons and is now spending his days hunting wild animals. Because, really, why not?


Image taken from Laughing Crow Permaculture: https://laughingcrowpermaculture.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/a-linguistic-permaculture-of-the-oak/

He’d walked for days.

            This was not the worst situation he’d ever found himself in – in terms of the immediate surroundings, anyway. He wasn’t stranded without a horse in the Abranthi Desert, nor was he at the bottom of a mine shaft in Skalleck. He was walking through a forest not far from Ascoth, with a full pack and waterskin on his person, a sharp sword on his back. In terms of where he physically was in the world, this was not as bad as things had been before.

            But right now, he could not think of a worse time in his life. His Brother was dead. The camp had abandoned him. Commander Drake would probably kill him if they ever met again. As far as Koron knew, he was the last surviving Brother of the Blood. The mythologies and lessons of an ancient, powerful order older than most of the rest of the world now rested solely with him.

            Koron did not want that responsibility. Right now, he did not want any responsibility. Right now, he wanted to kill something.

            He’d found an appropriate target last night; a scather lizard, long and quadripedal. Its lengthy tongue had probed around several trees during the day, gathering food for the family Koron knew must be nesting somewhere nearby. Scather lizards usually left their nest for days at a time, returning with enough food stored in their digestive pouch for the young to survive for weeks.

            The lizard, in full daylight, was a dark, burnished yellow with the odd black or brown scale, like a badly roasted cob of corn. It had light violet eyes above a wide mouth that hid a long, sticky purple tongue. The tongue snagged food – insects and small animals, usually – and swallowed it into the digestive pouch, where it would be slowly suffocated until it could be regurgitated for the younger lizards.

            The pouch was on a particular side for the lizards – left for male, right for female – and became engorged the more the lizard swallowed. This one’s pouch was on the left, and looked fairly full. That told Koron the nest was close by. It might have seemed ruthless to be hunting this lizard and its family; scather lizards had no edible meat or use for their scales. They were considered a pest given how frequently they consumed other wildlife, and the caustic secretion on their tongues had been to known to have a deleterious effect on human skin.

            So he stalked the scather lizard, resting a hand gently on the dagger Ordo had allegedly used to kill himself. The sword would have been overkill, and right now Koron relished a challenge.

            The lizard ponderously waddled towards a giant crack in an ancient greatoak a few feet away. It squirmed against the ill-made opening, squeezing its bulk through and slipping its tail in quietly afterwards. Koron bent his head towards the tree trunk, hearing tiny little cries and snaps alongside the repulsive regurgitation sound the parent lizard made as it gave its children its hard-hunted food. The little cries became muted as the babies started eating.

            To kill this scather lizard and its family may have been somewhat strange, possibly even cruel. He doubted Ordo would have approved. But then, like Drake had said, things weren’t up to Ordo where Koron was concerned anymore. He could hunt and kill a bunch of lizards if he wanted. Who could stop him now?

            He slowly unsheathed the dagger and prepared to stalk towards the trunk. The lizards kept eating, and it was only through his Blood-enhanced hearing that Koron heard the arrow whistle towards him.

            He threw himself backwards and onto the floor of the forest, the arrow just narrowly missing his nose and striking the ground a short distance to his left. In response, he replaced Ordo’s dagger and retrieved a throwing knife; the blade travelled end-over-end in the direction the arrow had shot from, towards a cluster of ferns. There was a dull thud, followed by something heavy hitting the underbrush.

            Koron’s hand was already firmly grasping the hilt of his sword, swinging it over from the sheath at his back. He held it two-handed and charged into the underbrush, swordtip aimed ahead of him. No colour besides the dark and muted autumnal leaves greeted his eyes, and thus no confirmation of a kill from his throwing knife. He stepped into the ferns where his knife had flown, heart pumping, eyes searching frantically.

            Come on, you whoreson. Shoot a man while he’s

            There. He saw it; a body lying face-first, its legs splayed. It had obviously been caught mid-run. The dull glint of sunlight reflecting off metal in the back of the body told him where his throwing knife had gone.

            Koron smirked, a little disappointed. That had been too easy. He’d’ve preferred a chase, maybe even a duel. Something to liven up his current state of mind.

            His sword went back into its sheath while he stepped up to examine the body. With a quick motion he retrieved the throwing knife, embedded almost as hard into the body’s back as if he’d stabbed the person close-up. The corpse wore dull brown clothes, nothing terribly interesting. Probably an idiot bandit who thought I’d be an easy mark.

            He started to shift the body over onto its back, but stopped halfway. The figure had no face, but rather a stitched calico flat that had been rounded and stuff with something firm. A dummy.

            He rose from his crouch, hand rising to his sword again. Before he could brush the metal, there was a click behind him. It sounded an awful lot like a crossbow.

            ‘I really wouldn’t,’ a woman’s voice warned him from behind.

            Koron closed his eyes slowly, gritting his teeth. Taken in by an elementary trick. Idiot. ‘Crossbows don’t fire arrows,’ he observed.

            ‘No, they don’t,’ the assailant agreed. ‘This one does, though.’

            ‘Horseshit,’ Koron told her. ‘You’ve got friends nearby.’

            ‘A foul mouth on this one!’ the woman called out. ‘We’d best keep our manners about!’

            Five figures dropped from the trees, each dressed in clothing similar to the dummy. Koron made out three women and two men; the women all held crossbows, one of the men carried a yew longbow, and the last man had both hands on the hilt of a sheathed broadsword at his waist. Everything looked unremarkable about them except for the last man’s sword, which made Koron’s eyes widen slightly.

            The pommel bore a very distinctive purple gemstone, reflecting the light as brilliantly as a flaming torch in a darkened cave. The sheen of it was known as heartlight, named not for the organ but for the feeling it instilled in people who looked at it. Those of righteous disposition were bolstered by its luminescence, whilst those of a fearful or evil nature had their inherent cowardice amplified.

            Heartlight gems were as rare as they were invaluable, and usually only found in the pommels of swords belonging to king, queens and their retinue. Koron’s enhanced sight allowed him to see the edge of a bird’s wing sigil wrapped around the hilt, twining the edge of its feathers into the metal of the pommel.

            This man was, or had been, a guardsman of the King in Ravensweep. Given the weathered sword, he judged the man to have been fairly high within the guardsmen hierarchy. Maybe even a Guard Captain himself.

            Should that garner respect, or scorn? It wasn’t as if non-Blood lessers were entirely worthy of his respect. The Blood were above and beyond simple mortality. Even with a Heartlight gem – which would not affect Koron in the slightest – this man was probably nothing special now. It wasn’t as if he had a King to guard anymore.

            The others all watched intently as the lead guardsman, hands still resting at his hilt, strode forward confidently to look Koron up and down. The man was tall, lean and weathered like his sword. A salt-and-pepper beard framed a strong chin beneath faded charcoal hair. His knuckles, in prominent view on the sword hilt, were scarred from countless fistfights. He smirked, but not in a condescending fashion, his sky blue eyes glittering. ‘What’s a sworn Brother doing this far from the Temple?’

            The armour and sigil on Koron’s own sword probably gave it away. He suppressed the urge to bite off a retort. ‘Hunting.’

            ‘You mean that thing?’ The guardsman pointed in the direction of the greatoak trunk containing the scather lizard. ‘Not going to get much meat from him.’

            ‘I didn’t say I was hunting for food.’

            ‘True,’ the lead guardsman admitted, stroking his beard thoughtfully. ‘Does the Brother have a name, or should we make one up for him?’

            ‘My name,’ Koron shot back, quicker than he’d intended, ‘is go fuck yourself.’

            The others laughed quietly, right before the woman holding him hostage slapped him across the back of the head. It stung in the cool afternoon breeze. Koron ground his teeth and closed his eyes, opening them once the stinging subsided. She had one hell of a slap in her.

            ‘Well, Go Fuck Yourself,’ the lead guardsman said amusedly, ‘my name is Steth. My companions are Ansel, Kem, Jessa and Karryll. The one with the bow at your back is Tal.’

            For emphasis, Tal pressed the end of the crossbow bolt hard into Koron’s back. ‘Hello.’

            What a merry band of jolly robbers. ‘Wonderful. I’m sure I’ll forget those names in due course.’

            Tal slapped him again, harder this time. He felt it might leave a lump once it subsided. The others laughed again, Steth joining them this time.

            I swear, Koron promised himself, they’ll all lie bloodied at my feet when they let me go.

            ‘You’re not a very likeable young man, are you?’ Steth observed. ‘Far too quick to condemn and threaten. I’d be more accommodating to your captors, were I you.’

            Koron glared at him. ‘Good thing you’re not me, then.’

            ‘Also true. For one thing, I’m much prettier. I would like to get to know you, though.’

            ‘What for?’

            Steth shrugged, seeming far too nonchalant. ‘It’s not every day that one of the Blood strays across our path. Even rarer that we find one without a sibling present. I thought your kind hunted in pairs?’

            So they think as lowly of me as I do of them. Excellent. At least there’s that common ground. ‘Who says I came alone?’

            ‘We’ve been watching you for the past half-day.’ The other man with them – Ansel, was it? – piped up. ‘There’s no-one but us and you for kilometres around. We move fast in the trees.’

            ‘So you’re elf-born, as well as stupid?’ Koron spat.

            Ansel raised an eyebrow. ‘Stupid?’

            ‘You’ve captured a Brother of the Blood. The Five don’t look kindly on that sort of thing.’

            ‘Last I checked,’ Steth cut in, ‘the Five Lords in general weren’t really to do with your Brothers and Sisters, were they? That was more a Lord of Blood thing, specifically. Hence the name, I guess.’

            This man bore himself with near-regal air; there was no doubt in Koron’s mind that he was of high birth, almost certainly an upper-ranked guardsman from Ravensweep. He commanded immediate respect from the others, and they all interacted convivially whilst following his orders. But he was too casual, speaking in a way that one might reserve for a conversation between men at a bar. He was observing things about Koron like Morgan might, without the slightly crazed undertones. Had Steth been a full Guard Captain, he should have beaten Koron bloody at the first quip and left him broken in their wake. Ravensweep Guards had a reputation as being swift and brutal when necessary, especially if their honour was impugned.

            Not this man. He simply nodded, looking away more thoughtfully as he pondered his observation about the Five. He happened to be right – Koron’s brethren and the Lord were not same-named by coincidence – but Koron wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of knowing that.

            ‘You think we should just kill him?’ Tal asked calmly, prodding him again with the crossbow. ‘I don’t think he’ll be saying much with fists or friendship from us.’

            ‘True,’ Ansel agreed. ‘Might as well kill him and be on our way.’

            Koron laughed bitterly. ‘So much for high and noble guardsmen.’

            Steth blinked. ‘Excuse me?’

            ‘You’d kill a man you find in a forest,’ Koron replied, ‘and call yourselves noble. I wonder what your King might think, were he still alive.’

            There was a long, protracted moment of silence from all six of them. Koron grinned, having finally hit a nerve. Quite pleased with himself that he’d managed-

            ‘Who said we’re here from the King?’ Steth asked.

            Koron’s grin vanished. ‘What?’

            ‘Who said,’ Steth repeated, ‘that we’re here because of any King?’

            ‘Or Queen, for that matter,’ Tal added.

            Steth nodded. ‘Or Queen. Tell me, who said that at any point?’

            It was a rare moment where Koron was temporarily lost for words. He tried to recover quickly, lest they think this an unexpected weakness. ‘Your sword. That Heartlight gem could only be wielded by one of intense emotional affect. It’s given to Guard Captains in Ravensweep.’

            Steth examined the purple gemstone thoughtfully, as if viewing it for the first time. ‘Yes. That is true, isn’t it?’ He pulled the sword from its sheathe and examined the light reflecting off the glinting blade. ‘Usually those we come across are deferential when they see this. They think, “Oh, thank the Five! Ravensweep is here to save us!” They don’t usually swear and threaten to kill us. It makes the whole thing much easier.’

            A sinking feeling crept into Koron’s gut. ‘What whole thing?’

            Now it was Steth’s turn to grin, and it was a wholly unsettling expression to be seen on a face that, only a moment, had been jovial and friendly. ‘We’re building something.’

            ‘Something grand,’ Ansel added.

            One of the other women – Kem, maybe – chimed in with, ‘Something that has never been done before.’

            ‘And we need people to do it,’ Tal said from behind Koron’s ear.

            ‘Lots of people,’ one of the other women, Jessa, supplied.

            ‘Quite a lot of people, actually,’ Steth clarified. His sword went back into the sheath. ‘I took this from my employer after the Great Punishment, because she told me it would make things easier. Worth its weight in gold, it is.’ He tapped the hilt appreciatively. ‘But clearly it won’t work on you. Must be that wretched Blood in your veins.’

            Koron lips curled back in a snarl. ‘If you’d like, I could show you what it can really do.’

            ‘A tempting, if violent, offer, but I don’t think so,’ Steth refused. ‘I think I’d rather just take you with us to the building site. You’ll understand soon enough. You’ll probably even thank us, in fact.’

            Tal hauled Koron up and held him fast, the crossbow still nuzzling his back. She took her other hand and deftly unclasped the belt holding his sword to his back, before grabbing it by the sheath and tossing it to Karryll. ‘Don’t touch the hilt,’ Tal warned as Karryll caught it. Then, to Ansel she said, ‘Would you mind?’

            The big man strode forward, long locks of lanky, dirty blonde hair waving in motion. He reached out a massive hand cautiously, retrieving Ordo’s ritual knife from Koron’s waist. As Ansel slipped it into his own belt, Koron’s anger levels tripled. They’d kidnapped him for an insidious construction project, and now they’d taken his Brother’s knife away.

            Yes. They will all die. Somehow, some way, I will kill them all.

            ‘Any other weapons on your person?’ Steth asked casually.

            Other than my trained, bare fists and years of knife-honed combat reflexes, you mean? Koron smirked wryly. ‘Go to hell.’

            Steth matched his expression, then walked towards him. ‘Silly man. I’ve been there already.’

            He rammed his fist into Koron’s head, leaving the Brother to take residence within the utter blackness.

Superman/Wonder Woman: Power Couple

Superman/Wonder Woman was facing a very uphill battle before I turned the first page. It was written by Charles Soule – whose work until now I hadn’t read, but whose Swamp Thing had been labelled “crap” and Inhumans merely deemed “passable” in online circles – and illustrated by continual writing offender and male gaze aficionado Tony Daniel. It spun out of a last-page reveal done rather hamfistedly at the end of Geoff Johns’ The Villain’s Journey. Hell, it was a book about two of the three biggest DC Universe players hooking up and dealing with relationship troubles while kicking ass. That idea on its own sounds trainwreck enough.

Further, I was also a little worried it might be relationshippy the same way Batman/Superman is; that is, not having anything power couple 2apparent but relying almost entirely on subtext to tell the romantic story of two lost souls who are perfect for each other. I guess that’s more something Tumblr fans would be eager to search for, but c’mon, neither of those two guys will be happy with anyone else but each other.

But colour me absolutely surprised. Superman/Wonder Woman: Power Couple is not only a good book, not only a great book, but quite possibly one of the most nuanced and relatable comics I’ve read all year.

No, I have not taken leave of my senses and no, DC are not handing me sacks of gold to positively spruik their story. Trust me, if this were bad I’d have no qualms about opening with both barrels.

The premise is simple in summation; Supes and WW are together, working out relationship stuff, while Christmas happens, Doomsday attacks and Zod emerges from power couple 4the Phantom Zone. Sounds a bit The O.C. meets Smallville, but as I said the simplicity is in the summation. Our deuteragonists spend an awful lot of time exploring deeper questions and ramifications specific to two superbeings gettin’ it on in the modern age, and its from that well of character focus that Power Couple draws its primary strength.

One of the largest complaints levelled at Superman and, to a lesser extent, power couple 6Wonder Woman is a lack of relatability. They’re big, powerful, well-muscled heroes who kick more ass than a donkey sadist. Supes is an alien. Diana is from a mythical island. There’s little grounding for readers to draw a relatable line from; which is why Batman works so crazy well as, for all intents and purposes, a regular human devoid of superpowers who hones his skills to a razor’s edge.

Power Couple seeks to tackle that lack of relatable attitude head-on, bringing the titular characters down from their apparent pedestals and doing its damnedest to show you that gods and aliens are people, too. Out of costume, Diana goes shopping at Harrods for a Christmas present to give the Man of Steel. Superman allows Wonder Woman inside his Fortress of Solitude as an analogy for lowering barriers and letting love inside. The neat little trick Bruce Wayne pulls by getting the Justice League to do the heavy lifting on crime for a day while Clark and Diana take a breather is, however brief, great.

power couple 5

Where Power Couple excels is in the depiction of its, well, Power Couple. It’s of a similar mindset as Peter Tomasi’s Batman and Robin run where the narrative is a father-son bonding story that just happens to be about superheroes. Here, S/WW is a love and
relationship exploration that happens to contain two of the biggest leading characters in the DC Universe as its protagonists. While the inclusion of named villains like Zod and Doomsday feels somewhat perfunctory to the main narrative (and, considering the apparent retcon of Superman’s death never happening, opens a ton of continuity questions about the latter best asked at night with a bottle of Glenmorangie), it adds to establish that, yes, this is a real deal story with Superman and Wonder Woman fighting crime and also being in a relationship. The premise sounds ridiculous, but the execution is really damn worth it.

Because one thing Power Couple does, that no other superhero book I’ve read that features a romantic relationship can adequately pull off, is make me give a hoot about the relationship itself, rather than just being in the ‘shipper mentality of “OH MY GOD I WANT THEM TO STAY TOGETHER FOREVER OTP”. The reasons why these two are attracted to each other, the fears they each bear about respective burdens and the impact on the world at large, the reasons to keep fighting for what they have rather just throw in the towel – that’s the real, understandable and well-laid-out heart of Power Couple. Their joining makes sense. The issues they raise with each other make sense. The pros and cons make sense. In defiance of my initial impression of the book, this is not simply a smooshing-together of two well-performing characters in the hope they’ll give birth to profits. This feels natural.

Unfortunately, it’s not perfect. The dialogue by Soule is, to put it kindly, mostly wooden. I get that Superman and Wonder Woman power couple 1don’t necessarily converse with the casual, lackadaisical human tone someone like Barry Allen or Hal Jordan might, but surely they don’t always sound like a Renaissance cosplayer pointing out the weather in stolid, lumpy wordplay. There are moments where the flow is a bit better, and Batman’s dialogue is one of the little highlights when it’s used less for a brooding anti-hero and more for a concerned friend during his chat on the moon with Superman (if there’s one thing this book underlines, it’s that Batman is a total bro). Zod and Faora don’t have much to work with, but they’re passable. In general, it’s ok if you don’t look too closely at it.

The art, similarly, has its flaws. Daniel is back after embarrassing himself on Detective Comics and thankfully eschews a lot of the grimy palette he forced on us during those dark times. The use of colour and realistic proportion is better, being much closer to his sterling work on Batman RIP and not unpleasing to look at. But at times battle scenes can be a bit messy, and transitions between some scenes appear to be missing a few panels to get from A to B. But overall its pretty alright.

I’m sorry if my critiques for art and dialogue are brief this time round, but I’m honestly pleasantly surprised at how engaging the story was. The move towards imparting more grounded, human troubles onto our self-made comic book paragons of goodness will power couple 3no doubt raise the same cries as always – “Superman’s meant to be above such things! He’s our idealised perfection!” – but I refute them. I like it when Batman struggles with loss. I like it when Green Lantern isn’t always on the ball. And I really, really like it when two flying brick characters get together for more than just the sake of plot. Even if their particular characterisations are only contained to this book rather than Justice League or their respective solo books, it’s still refreshing to have two DC heavy hitters be a little bit more human for once.

Go read Power Couple. Go get yourself some of those feels the kids are talking about. You can bitch about Doomsday later.

power couple cover

PUBLISHER: DC COMICS

STORY: 4/5

ARTWORK: 3/5

DIALOGUE: 3/5

OVERALL: 10/15

BEST QUOTE: “You’re so strong, Clark. But you’ve never been trained to fight. Power isn’t everything. I, on the other hand, studied under the actual God of War since I was a child. You have things to learn, and I’m just the woman to teach you.” – Wonder Woman

Whosoever Holds This Hammer, If She Be Worthy

Thor’s a woman now.

FemaleThor-660x495

I’d like to cut some of you off at the pass right now, coming out with negative comments regarding such a headline. I’ll avoid many comments regarding the need for a greater presence of strong female characters in cape-comics, coz that’s an issue that needs way more than what this cursory post addresses. Rest assured, that is definitely an ongoing discussion worth having, and this news does tie into it.

For now, this is to quell any knee-jerk reactions to today’s little tidbit. Let’s get straight in there.

 

This has been done before

First and foremost, this ain’t the first time an Asgardian has been of another gender in recent memory. Let’s not forget Loki – y’know, that guy played by Tom Hiddleston that most of tumblr’s fanbase seems to think is the hottest thing since Texan steak sauce – was once a lady, and indeed remained as such for much of J. Michael Straczynski’s awesome Thor run. Yes, we should all admit that gave us the weirdest boners at the time.

Asgardian physiology and mythos is liquid enough that a character switching genders is not outside reality, narrative-wise. And hell, sometimes they can be prettier in the opposite. I mean, hell, doesn’t the idea of a statuesque blonde throwing a hammer around just sound hot?

 

This does not seem like a token effort

BsmM8A6CUAAJYHJOne thing the above Loki example was not, was token. Without getting into spoilers, the hop from balls to boobs had severe story ramifications and actually served a purpose rather than just acting as an attempt to mollify fans with a greater female presence. Something Straczynski is exceptionally good at is including story elements with reason, not just as a throwaway plot point used for shock value or différance.

By the sound of it, and from having read the earlier volumes of Jason Aaron’s run on Thor: God of Thunder, this does not sound like a play for points either. Aaron’s established himself as a credible, engaging and thoughtful writer with structure rather than shock value forming the basis for his narrative. I’d trust this development in his hands, not least of all because those earlier volumes are awesome. Plus, he has a habit of employing some fantastic artists, so it’ll look damn pretty into the bargain.

I know the level of weight and exposure Marvel are giving this plays it off a bit as a publicity stunt, and if it were almost any other author I’d agree with you. Aaron strikes me as the kinda guy not to include something for the sake of just including it, and I’m interested to see what he does with it.

 

This is not the craziest thing to happen

Thor was once a frog. He was also a horse guy. He was also dead. He was also another guy called Tartarus.

Let’s be honest, like the article at the top of this page is – this ain’t the weirdest thing to happen to Thor, or any superhero for that matter. If Batman can shoot a god and get sent back in time, if the Avengers can fight the Justice League in another universe, and if Scott Lobdell can continue acquiring writing work, then bloody anything is possible.

 

SUWAS

I’ve decided this is my new acronym for:

Shut Up, Wait And See

It applies to Batffleck, the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film, and anything to do with Mass Effect 4Batman vs. Superman or the excision of the Fantastic Four from Marvel’s repertoire.

The issues haven’t even come out yet. Let’s hold off on the judging until the damn thing gets released, shall we?

I’d like to refer to my twin go-to examples for SUWAS – remember Ledger and Hathaway in Nolan’s Bat-films? Remember how we thought they’d suck? Remember how they did the exact opposite of that?

Yeah.

And, if all else fails…

 

This change won’t be around forever

Comic book continuity is so fluid it practically comes with its own margarita shaker. Almost nothing introduced in most cape comics is held onto once the author who gave it birth moves on to greener pastures. Just look at the mess Robert Venditti’s making in ripping up the Green Lantern carpet that Geoff Johns spent so much time laying down.

So if it does turn out that Thor with estrogen was a bad idea, it won’t last long. Hell, even if the reception ends up positive I only give it less than a year to stick before it gets retconned when Avengers: Age of Ultron hits screens. As Jonathan Hickman is keen on reminding us in his New Avengers run, “Everything Dies” – including gender-swaps.

 

With all that in mind, let’s SUWAS and come back here after October to talk about it. Until then, try keeping the expletives hurled at Marvel for ruining your favourite embodiment of hammer-tossing testosterone to a bare minimum. Or not at all. Whatever works.

WELCOME

The Writer’s Multiverse – a free, easily-accessible hub of creativity, social commentary, opinionating and storytelling.

 

The purpose here is to provide both readers and writers with an outlet for their creative minds; read some of the best storytelling ever to hit the internet, or add some of your own to expand our plethora of gifted writers. Fiction, reviews, comments, poems, recipes, ruminations – all of it can go right here. This little spot here. No, not there, that’s where the cat sleeps.

 

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