Tag Archives: Time Travel

Movie Review: ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is a very big deal–and deservedly so! It exceeds the expectations of the most diehard fan with a heady mix of style and substance. I am so happy to have seen it and I would gladly go see it again and again. I was hoping for something special. I went in with thoughts that this could be a like a French Star Wars, perhaps divided by Star Trek, and then multiplied by Doctor Who. Something really special–and that it is!

My concern was that there might be some culture clash for some viewers: American tastes at odds with this Euro-movie based upon a Euro-comic book series. But, I conclude, that really is such a non-issue. There is a decidedly offbeat sensibility going on with this movie but isn’t that what we all love about the Star Wars franchise, along with other loopy and irreverent entertainment?

Another worry was that I had heard that this movie was too dependent upon CGI. Well, ahem, there’s nothing wrong with CGI when it works. Just think of “Avatar.” Much like “Avatar,” the CGI in “Valerian” is simply an integral part of the experience. There are so many iconic moments in this movie that are all about the CGI. For instance, the wonderfully elaborate sequence with Valerian (Dane DeHaan) running through a multitude of dimensions. Or Laureline (Cara Delevingne) arguing with some very dim servant creatures. Or, one of my favorite moments, Bubble (Rihanna) and her beautiful dance sequences.

Dane DeHaan, Luc Besson. and Cara Delevingne

There’s a very intriguing thing going on with the dynamic between Valerian and Laureline. The two are lovers but they have a lot of work ahead of them. They are intentionally distant in how they interact with each other, in an other-worldly comic book way. This disconnection between the two lovers leaves the viewer wondering about them. When Valerian repeatedly tells Laureline that he wants to marry her, it comes across as highly ironic. It would be wrong to dismiss the acting as wooden. It is part of what director Luc Besson intentionally wants. It is part of what the script aims for. I think some critics have unfairly expected more natural performances and gleefully found fault where there is none.

Given the surreal and whimsical elements in this movie, it remains a well-built and grounded piece of work. The opening sequence brings to mind the opening scenes to “Wonder Woman” set in the idyllic Themyscira. In this case, it is an ideal world of peaceful beings. The civilization depends upon little creatures who happily produce pearls that power their world. These beings, like the young lovers, Valerian and Laureline, are quite otherly. It is this otherliness that informs this rather sophisticated narrative that gently balances irreverence and idealism. Just the sort of thing you’d expect from the very best comics.

Of course, you can’t please everyone. Americans, in particular, have become quite reliant upon extra bells and whistles, even after they’ve just been presented with a formidable visual feast. No, it doesn’t seem to matter if they’ve just viewed a masterpiece–Where’s the gag reel?! they demand. And, with that in mind, you may love the video below that includes just that sort of bonus content:

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is undoubtedly a joyride of a movie. You will love it. Visit the official Valerian movie website right here.

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Filed under Comics, Europe, European Comics, France, Movie Reviews, movies, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Star Wars

Review: ‘Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation’

"Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation"

“Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation”

There’s a ragged and raw quality to Octavia Butler’s novel, “Kindred,” first published in 1979, about a young African American woman who time travels to America during slavery. It’s odd. It’s compelling. And it demands to be read all the way to the end. As I say, it’s ragged and raw, and by that I mean it’s a rough journey in what transpires and in the telling. As a time travel tale alone, it’s bumpy at best. The time travel element abruptly kicks in and, just as abruptly, the characters involved accept the situation. The narrative itself is episodic and there is little in the form of subtlety. What can be said of the novel transfers over to the just released graphic novel adaptation published by Abrams ComicArts: this is raw, sometimes ugly, but always compelling and a must-read.

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panel excerpt: a time traveller’s satchel

Octavia Butler rips the scab off a nightmarish era in America, a wound so deep that it remains healing to this day. You could say that what Butler aspires to do is give a full sense of what it means when we talk about slavey in America. There are a number of approaches you can take. If you go down the ragged and raw path, you may end up with something that is deemed bold by some and deemed heavy-handed by others. The end result could be somewhere in between. Butler chose to damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, with this novel that finds Dana, an African American woman from 1976 Los Angeles, repeatedly and relentlessly subjected to various torture and humiliation as she finds herself regularly being transported back to America during slavery. The story begins in Maryland in 1815 and subsequently follows the progress of slaver-holder Rufus Weylin, from boy to manhood.

page excerpt: dark journey

page excerpt: dark journey

First and foremost, this is a book to be celebrated. While it is a tough story to tell, it is brimming with truths to be told. Sure, no need to sugarcoat anything. There are no sensibilities here to protect. That said, while a graphic novel, this is a book with a decidedly mature theme running throughout with disturbing content. What it requires is a adult to check it out first and then decide how to proceed. Without a doubt, this is an important teaching tool but best left to high school and above.

page excerpt: slave/master

page excerpt: slave/master

As for the overall presentation of this graphic novel, it has taken an audacious approach of its own. Whether intentionally or not, it carries its own distinctive ragged and raw vibe. The drawing throughout is far from elegant, quite the opposite. In fact, it often has a rushed quality about it and I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. I sense that it’s something of a style choice. This is a harsh and dark story and so it is depicted as such. In the end, this is a truly unusual and intriguing work.

“Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation” is a 240-page, full-color, hardcover available as of January 10th. It is based upon the novel by Octavia Estelle Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, artwork by John Jennings. For more information and how to purchase, visit Abrams ComicArts.

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Filed under Abrams ComicArts, African American, American History, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History, Race, Race Relations, Racism, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Time Travel

Review: DIVINITY II #3 (of 4)

Divinity II #3 variant cover by Carmen Carnero

Divinity II #3 variant cover by Carmen Carnero

DIVINITY II is a satisfying time travel thriller. I love a good time travel tale and this series from Valiant takes us to some very interesting places. You can well imagine that if Vladimir Putin was ruling over the only superpower on the planet that he’d be quite alright with that. A chilling thought but just the right frame of mind to enjoy this comic. Great script by Matt Kindt and a very kinetic style to the artwork by Trevor Hairsine.

A whisper in Gorby's ear.

A whisper in Gorby’s ear.

We have one rogue character, cosmonaut Myshka, with the potential to shift the balance of power in favor of the Soviet Union that she so dearly misses. Hey, you learn quick that changing history is not exactly a piece of cake. You can’t just whisper into a world leader’s ear, suggest a change of course, and then expect to de-wrinkle a moment in time. Just not gonna happen. Of course, you need a very persistent sort to keep trying and that’s our Myshka. She’s set to give pep talks to everyone from Stalin to Gorbachev. Stay resolute, dudes, Communism is here to stay!

Fun stuff! We’ve seen way too many time travel tales about killing Hitler and saving JFK. That said, I wouldn’t mind a whole series, at least a one-shot issue, dedicated to Jeb Bush going back in time to kill baby Hitler. You remember Jeb Bush, right? Oh, how time flies!

Awesome variant cover by Carmen Carnero.

DIVINITY II #3 is available as of June 22nd. For more details, visit Valiant Entertainment right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Communism, History, Matt Kindt, Russia, Time Travel, Valiant Entertainment

Review: METROLAND #3 by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele

David Bowie chats with Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie chats with Ziggy Stardust

“Metroland #3,” published by Avery Hill, is the best yet of this quirky series. Of course, you want to read it all as it builds! The hints have been made from the start that there is something unusual, perhaps other-worldly, about rock stars Jessica Hill and Ricky Stardust. They keep abandoning their band, Electric Dreams, leaving them cooped up in a small castle in Greenwich just outside London. Not the worst thing in the world, mind you. Although not until you take into account that the mysterious activities of Jessica Hill and Ricky Stardust could bring about the Apocalypse!

Alright, so the world’s fate may hang in the balance. But this comic’s main appeal is its style and humor. Let me tell you, it’s a particularly British club scene thing going on here but it’s also quite applicable to any scene. The recurring theme is looking and acting cool. Go to a club. See a show. Pose. Make pithy comments. The humor and the style are priceless, way before snark was ever born–and much better. It’s a world-view honed over generations. Funny I should say that, given the nature of this narrative.

Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum!

Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum!

Ah, yes, this is a story spanning generations–or should I say it goes much deeper than that. This is unnatural. This is cross-polinating generations! Let me come clean: Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum in a huge way. Ever hear of President Elvis? No, that wasn’t supposed to happen. So, yeah, we’ve got a mad helping of Doctor Who with just the right hipster vibe.

Where is Ricky Stardust and Jessica Hill?

Where is Ricky Stardust and Jessica Hill?

You see, Ricky Stardust has been leapfrogging all through rock ‘n’ roll history making adjustments as he pleases. Rumor has it that he’s Ziggy Stardust and that he’s set into motion some cataclysmic jinx. Not the sort of thing the David Bowie we all know and love would ever do. Ricky Miller’s script has such droll humor and Julia Scheele’s artwork has such devilish wit.

Henry the Blogger!

Henry the Blogger!

As for comics about gloriously misspent youth, this is one I highly recommend. Come for the repartee and stay for the characters. There is even a middle-aged pop culture blogger who proves to be a pivotal character. Ah, there’s hope for me yet. Well, I must admit the character is pretty spot on in a lot of ways. Eerie, his name is Henry and my name is Henry. Okay, that alone gets my attention! Did someone travel back in time just to spook me? Ha, ha, I do like this Henry the blogger character!

Kevin refuses to meet with Henry!

Kevin refuses to meet with Henry!

“Metroland #3,” by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele, is a 36-page full-color perfect bound comic. For more details, visit Avery Hill Publishing right here. You can also venture over to Retrofit Comics and find Metroland right here.

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Filed under Avery Hill Publishing, British Comics, Comics, Comics Reviews, David Bowie, European Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, London, Music, science fiction, Time Travel

Review: PATIENCE by Daniel Clowes

Patience-Clowes-2016

Just like Alfred Hitchcock and Edward Hopper are familiar to neurotic connoisseurs and average slobs alike, so too Daniel Clowes is one of those select alternative cartoonists known to the general public. “Ghost World” is a bona fide cult classic that evokes better than most that special blend of Gen X rage. The Clowesian world is mired in self-loathing coupled with self-delusion forever seeking some sort of redemption through perpetual self-deprecation. Clowes perfected an ironic noir in the ’90s all his own. Since then, many readers have been catching up. His latest graphic novel, “Patience,” finds him in top form. It is published by Fantagraphics Books.

When I first moved to Seattle in 1993, Fantagraphics began publishing “Ghost World” in the one-man comics anthology, Eightball (1989-2004) by Daniel Clowes. I remember it, at the time, as being so perfectly rendered and mirroring the sarcastic bite of the hipster scene I was experiencing. It seemed too good to be true. And yet it did exist. There are other great alt cartoonists to enjoy, to be sure, but Clowes has the pulse on a certain strain of disconnected disquiet. His work will always be inextricably linked with the DIY/zine/grunge era. That’s the sweet spot his characters revolve around whether it’s 2006 or 2029. Clowes, as he ages, just keeps getting better. Like a cartoonist version of David Letterman, he cannot, nor should not, try to extricate himself from his roots. In Clowes, the Gen X muffled rage lives on. In this new book, we see just how timeless a Clowesian world can be.

This is as classic as you can get when it comes to Clowes. The title character is a young woman named, Patience. It is through the actions and thoughts of a young woman, it seems, that Clowes believes the secrets to life can be unlocked or, at least, we have our best chance at experiencing true grace on Earth. To act as our guide, and fully explain the rare quality of said lady, is a stand-in for Clowes. We begin with an attractive young couple. Patience and Jack have just learned that Patience is pregnant. While the timing is not great in respect to their finances, the two of them are happy. And then our story takes a turn that makes it, as billed, “a science fiction love story.”

Clowes has created an excellent vehicle for his vision. He has Patience, his ideal young woman, and he has Jack who, due to just the right touch of strange, becomes an ideal Clowes alter ego. This is quite a remarkable, beautiful, and ambitious work. Clowes gets to play with all the Clowesian toys in this one. It is a far better world, perhaps a tad too melancholy, but a far better world, to have the work of Daniel Clowes in it. Patience makes for a wonderful Clowes girl, full of grit with just the right amount of stubborn optimism. Jack makes for a great befuddled Everyman, just one step away from either utter self-destruction or blissful epiphany.

Patience-Clowes

“Patience” is a 180-page full color hardcover and will be released on March 21st. For more details, and how to purchase, visit our friends at Fantagraphics Bookstore right here.

And don’t miss out on the Daniel Clowes “Patience” book tour. If you are in Seattle, you can see Mr. Clowes at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery this Saturday. Details are right here.

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Filed under Comics, Daniel Clowes, Fantagraphics, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, science fiction, Time Travel

Review: IVAR, TIMEWALKER #3

Variant cover art by Brian Level

Variant cover art by Brian Level

Fred Van Lente (Spider-Man, Fantastic Four) knows how to spin a yarn. In “Ivar, Timewalker,” he takes us on a time-traveling adventure full of heart. With one of these stories, you’ve got to have a device or portal or some kind of method. Here, we’ve got the Tachyon Compass. And you’d better have compelling characters too and we do with Neela and Ivar. You see, Ivar seems to have gone rogue. And, Neela, who has been pursuing him, has also fallen in love with him. Go figure. These things happen. If it’s not attempting to kill Hitler, then love is in the air.

Back with his partner, artist Clayton Henry (Archer & Armstrong), Van Lente rolls out a daringly gritty and funny tale. It’s a balancing act, for sure. Neela is quite the spitfire and takes her fire spitting seriously. And you need a sense of humor when you delve into some Nazi torture. It gets a bit bloody but it’s all one of a piece and makes sense within context.

Ivar-Timewalker-Valiant

So, while in hot pursuit of Ivar, Neela loses him and gains a stalker, The Lurker. With Issue 3, we find Neela desperately trying to get back on track. She stumbles upon Gilad, Ivar’s brother from another life, and nearly sideswipes Hitler! And then there are these creatures from the fourth dimension who would like to have a word with Neela if only she’d hold still long enough. Pretty good stuff.

IVAR, TIMEWALKER #3 is available as of March 18. For more details, visit our friends at Valiant Entertainment right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Fred Van Lente, Time Travel, Valiant Entertainment

Review: EI8HT #1

Dark-Horse-EI8HT

Oh sure, anybody can travel back in time but Joshua is also equipped with a device that enables him to communicate back to the future. Pretty cool, except he can’t remember anything when his ship crash lands. It’s a spooky desert terrain that’s not ringing any bells for our hero.

And, truth be told, Joshua isn’t much of a hero. So begins an intriguing new comic. “EI8HT,” story by Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson, is one of those quirky lean and mean adventures that’s a lot of fun to sit back and take in.

Artist Rafael Albuquerque (American Vampire) has that slicin’ and dicin’ style of his. His faces are like masterful pumpkin creations with a strategic slit here for a mouth and two sharp marks there for eyes. The same with backgrounds and assorted backdrop, all direct and razor-sharp. I like the way he draws dinosaurs too.

There are definitely plenty of dinosaurs where Joshua has crash landed. Writer Mike Johnson (Supergirl) gives us a tight script with a neatly stretched out premise: This is what happens when a sadsack is enlisted into a clandestine time travel experiment and is lost in some other dimension not too far from The Twilight Zone. In this case, this no man’s land is known as The Meld and it’s supposed to be a place where past, present, and future converge.

Do you want to know why this comic is entitled, “EI8HT”? Well, you can read the preview pages at Dark Horse Comics. I’m guessing there’s more meaning behind that. It does make for an awesome looking logo. I’m guessing we’ll deal with infinity later on. For now, it has to do with memory and it looks like this story is going to have a lot of fun with that theme.

Like the best episodes of The Twilight Zone, a lot of the enjoyment comes from just taking in the scene. I think that’s exactly what we’ve got here and we’re in good hands.

EI8HT #1 is available as of February 11, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics

Review: ‘Here’ by Richard McGuire

Here-Pantheon-Random-House

What if that snarky comment that you thought was so clever was preserved forever, and not on some server, but in the very room that you first gave thought to it? What if every thought, every act, everything, in that room, were saved forever, beyond deletion? That is what this graphic novel is about. “Here,” by Richard McGuire, invites you to observe one particular spot through hundreds of thousands of years. Often, we see that spot as a room, a living room, in a house. But, at other times, it’s wide open to the forces of nature, both in the past and in the future.

Considering that all of time is fair game for this story, with all the vast possibilities, we do spend a considerable amount of time, a relatively brief speck of time, in a room. It’s that space, when it once was a room, that would seem to be significant. We relate to a room best, especially one in or around our own time. The ability to dwell, just dwell, in a room is the cornerstone of civilization. And the last one hundred years or so have been a golden age for room dwellers. That’s the lifespan of our main character, a living room. It helps to anchor us, being in a relatively familiar room. In this narrative, we observe a cast of characters also anchored, biding their time, wasting their time, anchored by conformity, domesticity, and convenience. What is anyone really doing? They’re dwelling.

Here-Richard-McGuire-Random-House

It’s the little things that count, we are told. But it’s the big things that really get our attention, once a myriad of little things have taken place. Little. Big. Lives are made up of both. As McGuire observes, there sure are a lot of little moments. Even the big moments aren’t so big. We see a lot of accidents take place among the characters. Accidental moments that go off with a bang. A man slips from his chair. Another man falls from a ladder. The biggest incident seems to be a man struggling to breathe, perhaps having a stroke. In all that time, that space has one noteworthy moment, a visit from Benjamin Franklin. And that, my friend, is life, in a random little space, and is par for the course.

McGuire finds the compelling within what seems quite the opposite. A random little space, what does it really matter? Ah, well, humans have loved and lost and lived over many generations upon this stage. And, if you observe the flickering images long enough, you find patterns and you find something of a story, a universal struggle. McGuire’s style is wonderfully lean, low-key, and pared down. It has as much to do with comics and it does with painting, easily evoking the world of Alex Katz, peopled with lost souls floating along in the suburbs. In the end, though, it’s all about comics as the interplay among panels heats up and we learn all sorts of things all from the vantage point of one spot somewhere in New England.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What is impressive about this book is that McGuire took a clever concept and fully followed through. As you open up the first pages, you know what may follow. Will he pull it off? I mean, look, he’s set up a premise, a room with a year in the caption box above. Is he going to really take us for a ride and have the years change in interesting ways and have us see that space in interesting ways? Yes! That is what McGuire accomplishes. And, if that’s not enough for you, then you’re one cold snarky so-and-so. The premise is ambitious and the vision is sincere. These are not things to take lightly.

The idea is that McGuire has taken us on a new kind of ride. That was the goal when this graphic novel was first just a six-page work of comics in 1989, in “Raw” magazine, volume 2, number 1. That was certainly a postmodernist shot in the arm for comics. “Here” articulated an intriguing storytelling tool with how it arranged a number of panels on a page all taking place at different times. Of course, it’s not completely new. Comics, after all, by its very nature, involves panels playing with the notion of time. Still, McGuire was introducing something new into the comics landscape. He was offering up some original ideas on points of view. He was also playing with tempo. And, he was most certainly fascinated with the quotidian, an almost morbid fascination with the minutiae of life. It was something new and in step with a rising sensibility to celebrate the mundane and everyday. His particular take on things would be taken into other directions by Chris Ware.

“Here” is a beautiful realization of an intriguing concept. It is a pleasure to read.

“Here” is a 304-page full-color hardcover, published by Pantheon Books, an imprint of Random House. You can purchase it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Chris Ware, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Pantheon Books, Random House, Richard McGuire, Time Travel

24HCD 2014: MAX AT HOTEL MAX: Part 1: Max and Lucia

This is Part One which equals six pages. As I go to check-in at Hotel Max, I have three more parts to complete. The story thus far: We meet Max and Lucia and already there is intrigue. Who, or what, are these two? There’s a supernatural vibe going on here. Max is part of Seattle. Lucia is part of Portland. Both of them find themselves attached to certain things. Max, at this point, finds himself attached to Hotel Max! In this story, we will get to know Max and Lucia. We will come to see that the Seattle monorail acts as a portal for both of them and allows them easy access to their relatively long distance relationship. Quite frankly, they aren’t totally sure who or what they are. They feel like they live in a dream and yet they manage to function day to day. This is part of a bigger webcomic that will unroll in the coming months. We will see how things develop in the coming year for “SEA/PDX,” that is the umbrella title.

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What would you like to learn about Max and Lucia? Where will our story take us? Stay tuned!

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Filed under 24 Hour Comics, 24 Hour Comics Day, 24HCD, Comics, Hotel Max, Max at Hotel Max Comics, SEA/PDX, Seattle, Supernatural

Comic-Con 2014 Interview: Charles Yu

Charles Yu is the author of the novel “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” and the short story collections “Third Class Superhero” and “Sorry Please Thank You.” In 2007, Yu won the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award. When discussing Yu’s work, Italo Calvino comes up as does Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut. What strikes me is Yu’s flair for a natural and casual humor mixed in with philosophical musings and various games with language and narrative. You can read my review of “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” right here.

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Filed under Charles Yu, Comic-Con, Comic-Con 2014, Fiction, Interviews, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Time Travel