Monday, November 20, 2017

Trailer Reaction: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time was one of my favorite books growing up. I've probably read it half a dozen times, and listened to it more than that. So when I heard they were doing a big-budget movie, I admit I got excited. 

But we've had two trailers so far and, personally, I'm having some issues with them.


#1: The tagline of the film is apparently "Be A Warrior." Ummmm, no. Warrior things are not mentioned in the book. Like, ever. And considering how they actually take down the villain in the end? So I'm concerned about whatever they've reworked in this story to make it jive with their chosen tagline. Because that's not working with the story I remember.
 
#2: Meg seems too confident and comfortable; there's a work around, because most of these clips of her being confident are either at home, on her turf, so allowances might be made for that. Except she's also being shown as incredibly smart while being confident and comfortable which, in the book, was not the case. She considered herself the 'dumb one' of the family AND the odd one out, which gave her severe self-confidence issues.
 
#3: Meg is being shown as pretty smart and Charles Wallace barely gets his face on screen, let alone a word in edgewise. But I guess I should be happy he even made it into this trailer? (He wasn't in the last one.) And Meg's entire world, at this point, basically revolves around Charles Wallace.
 
#4: I'm nervous about the casting of the three Mrs. Ws. None of the actresses are what I ever imagined these three ladies to be like. If you've read the book, you know what I'm talking about; if you've listened to the audiobook narrated by Madeleine L'Engle herself, then you REALLY know what I'm talking about. Casting choices aside, I'm not too thrilled about the way they've been depicted -from imagery to costumes- either. This 'visionary' directer is definitely putting her own visionary spin on it and I'm not sure I'm going to like it at all.
 
#5: Where is Charles Wallace, exactly? I mean, this kid basically gets the whole story rolling. He's the one who first meets the Mrs. Ws, who he then introduces to Meg; he's the one who latches onto Calvin like he's necessary and Calvin then becomes necessary; Charles Wallace is the only reason Meg really gets involved in anything and I very much dislike he's being short-changed. Of the two trailers so far, he has only been seen in the second one -seen, because he is literally hanging out in the background of every scene he's in. That they haven't given any mention to him or to one of the most interesting sibling relationships I've seen in fiction makes me nervous.
 
#6: Action sequences. Where was that in the book again? Don't get me wrong, I'll give movie adaptations leeway for stories; they are ADAPTATIONS, after all. But action sequences do not a good story make and this is a lesson I don't think Hollywood understands.
 
#7: Mr. Jenkins, the school principal. I assume this is who admonishes Meg about using her father's disappearance as an excuse to act out. In the book, he's depicted as kind of a surly old man, out to get Meg, who no one likes, and the casting choice for him doesn't quite live up that image. Why is this important, you ask? Since he's hardly in the book at all? Because I think ahead and Mr. Jenkins plays a huge role in the sequel, A Wind in the Door. That's why.
 
#8: The giant flying lettuce leaf with a head better not be their version of Mrs. Whatsit's centaur-like form. IT BETTER NOT BE.
 
So from the most story-stretching to the very far-sighted, those are my big concerns so far. At the very least, the trailers give me a need to re-read the book, as there's a definite feel of wrongness I need to identify going on here.

What are your thoughts on the trailers for A Wrinkle in Time?

Monday, November 13, 2017

It's NaNo Time!

NaNoWriMo snuck up on me this year. I knew it was coming but I just kept pushing it off.

Like many things for the past several months, writing got pushed onto a back burner. At the time, I thought it was a good thing, to give myself a break and some breathing room to cope with life. Since September, my brain has finally started percolating on the story again, trying to work around plot holes and dead ends, but I never could make myself sit down and work on it.

Then suddenly it was November 6th and I hadn't so much as opened my WIP, let alone written a single word, and that familiar overwhelming frustration of failure set in and told me that now there wasn't even a point in starting, because there was no way I could catch up.

But on November 7th I told that thought to shove off and wrote 4497 words. Just to prove it wrong. Since then, I haven't written consistently, but I've made good progress, considering.

The primary reason I didn't knuckle under to that bout of doubt is because I know what I'm capable of. And thanks to NaNo's updated stats through the years, I have recorded proof of it, too.
If I once wrote over 10,000 words in a single day and over 180,000 words in a single month, I can make up for the six measly days of November.

And I feel alive again. Working on my story, writing -it makes me feel like me again. Many writers have said variations of this but I suddenly know what it really truly means to say I write to live.

It also helps that I'M ON FIRE WITH IDEAS. The history of this WIP Glass & Cinders is long and convoluted. Many years ago, it started out as a short story, which most of my friends and family told me was perhaps the best thing I'd ever written but that it need to be longer. I totally agreed with them. Even while writing the short story -for a prompt contest with a 2k word limit- I knew it needed to be a longer piece eventually. My first attempt, during NaNo 2012, was an absolute disaster. Because of the short story, I knew what I wanted to write, so for the first time ever I made an outline for my story. A scene-by-scene outlining detailing all events of the novel. And it was the most boring piece of drivel I'd ever written. I only managed to write 50k out of sheer willpower and as soon as December hit I shoved it to the side in disgust.

Why did I bother with the 50k on a terrible project? Well, firstly, I couldn't not write 50k; I couldn't fail NaNo! I've never done that (and I don't ever plan to). But mostly because I kept going back to that outline and thinking how good it sounded. It simply wasn't translating. I eventually boiled it down to the fact that there wasn't enough conflict and plot in the outline to carry an entire novel or even a novella. And I really, really wanted to write a novel.

Over the years I've re-outlined, overhauled, and completely revised this WIP maybe seven times. I've discarded characters, changed entire timelines, and written hundreds of thousands of words on plot aspects I wound up throwing out a month and a half later. Each time I've done one of these major overhauls, a new piece would fit perfectly into place -and knock half a dozen out of whack. Suffice to say, this has been my most infuriating and temperamental project to date.

My biggest problem, I think, has been my obsession of outlining this story. I've always been more of a pantser, but so many aspects of this story demanded an outline, so I've obliged. This November, however, I kind of tossed it out. I've kept a structure from the outline, but for the first time in years, I'm concerning myself more writing the story, getting those words down, letting the story and characters guide me, than trying to force them into my outline.

And, I have to tell you, it's liberating. The characters which have proven so incredibly uncooperative are suddenly showing me different aspects and angles of themselves. Plot pieces are falling together, development arcs are blossoming before my eyes, and a character that I tossed out of the project back in 2012 tapped me on the shoulder yesterday and said, "Pardon me, but this is where I belong and this is the role I play." AND IT FREAKING WORKS.

I haven't felt this in-tune with a story in a very, very long time and it is wonderful.

It's not my most-impressive word count. I think it is probably the worst I have ever done during a NaNo ever. But that doesn't bother. I'm writing again and I'm loving it for the first time in forever. That's what matters.

I've also been digging up some really good resource materials, namely:

The Celtic Myth Podshow (there are a TON of podcasts on Celtic mythology, folklore, and history, but so far this is my favorite)
Why Didn't Cinderella "Just Leave?" -This blog post from Pages Unbound talks about the reasons why Cinderella endures the abuse of her step-family and whether it's justified story-wise. Or, more accurately, whether the fact that she doesn't "just leave" is justified story-wise. If you're like me, maybe you never actually thought about the abuse angle, but yeah, poor Cinderella isn't just misused by her step-family -she is abused. This is great food for thought as I'm working on my own Cinderella retelling.

My blog posts might be a little sparse this month because of NaNo and all its ensuing chaos, but I do have several ARCs to read this month as well, so look forward to some of these reviews through December:
I, uh, maybe forgot how crazy this time of year is and maybe forgot just how many titles I have to read. BUT THEY ALL LOOKED SO GOOD!!!

How's your NaNoNovel going?
If you're not a WriMo, how are you keeping busy this November?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Is the Possible LOTR TV Show a Good Thing?

On Friday, Varitey.com dropped an exclusive that Tolkien's estate and Warner Bros. Television are in talks with Amazon Studios about a Lord of the Rings television adaptation (with a whopping price tag reportedly in the range of $200-250 million, according to Deadline).

There's certainly a lot of detail -and even entire characters- left out of the movies that a television adaptation could delve into. Nerdist points to Tom Bombadil (a character featured in over 30 pages of The Fellowship of the Ring and left entirely out of the films), but my personal thoughts turn to Faramir. He got the butt-end of the stick script-wise when they decided to strip out his nobility and common sense for the bulk of The Two Towers to use him as a convenient story device, but they also cut out so much of the beautiful romance that blossoms between him and Eowyn while they recover from their wounds.


That being said, I'm not particularly thrilled by the idea of a Lord of the Rings TV show.

Despite some flaws, the movies proved fantastic adaptations. Some of the best book-to-film adaptations to date, in fact. While there were some things they left out from the novels, it wasn't enough to make a reboot necessary, even if they do sink enough money into it to make it a reasonable contender for the films. Reboots of all kinds are currently invading the box office, small screens, and streaming services. Some of them are really good and many of them are unnecessary. (I ask you, do we NEED live-action remakes of every Disney film ever?)

If one wants to do a television adaptation of a series, I'd like to see them tackle something whose film series didn't actually cover it very well. There's some that would fall into the genre-focused push Amazon Studios and CEO Jeff Bezos seem to be looking for, an example being Harry Potter. Granted I've only seen most of these films once (and I haven't watched either of the Deathly Hollows yet), but they leave out rather a lot to be desired, in my opinion. There are also plenty of book series thus far untapped by Hollywood that could be fantastic as a TV series. To name a few, Elemental Masters by Mercedes Lackey, which retells fairy tales in a magical alternate of the early 1900s; Pendragon by D.J. MacHale, about a boy who travels to different worlds to stop the villain from corrupting them into chaos; Joanne Harris' Rune books, which retell and carry on Norse mythology.

If you're going to do something big, why not do something different?

Now, if they were to decide not to do a Lord of the Rings adaption, but instead made a TV series out of the unexplored stories and histories from Middle-earth, like material from The Silmarillion, The Lost Tales, and Beren and Luthien -that I would be interested in.

What do you think about a possible Lord of the Rings TV show?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Review | Spoiler Free


I can sum up what I love so much about this film in two words:

CHARACTER INTERACTION

The character dynamic in this is spot on and, more importantly, it works overtime in oh so subtle ways to develop and deepen the characters we know and love, hate, or simply tolerate.

Take Hulk, for example. I've never been a big fan of The Incredible Hulk comics and -while the MCU has taught me to love adorkable, haunted Bruce Banner- I'm still iffy on the Hulk himself. When I first found out that Hulk would be playing such a big role in this film, I wasn't thrilled. But you know what? IT TOTALLY WORKS. They really focus on Hulk as a separate character and develop his personality enough that, well, now I actually like the Hulk. For maybe the first time ever. Guys, that's huge. (ahem. no pun intended.)

I was actually skeptical about a lot of the characters chosen for this film (mostly Hulk) but what could have been a disastrous chemical imbalance of personalities works out as a fantastic meshing of opposites and opposition. Because it's not just about the 'team' (Thor, Hulk, Loki, Valkyrie) dynamic that works together as a whole. They've delved deeper into the characters, taking more of an Avengers-style approach, giving each character unique dynamics and relationships with each other that paints the Thor franchise as a whole, I think, in a fresh coat of paint. Within the relationships there is so much foreshadowing and inversion dynamics in play as well, the qualities of one reflected in the flaws of another and vice versa. There is so much mirroring, so many layers, it's a wonderland for a character-lover like me.

So let's pull up those 5 THINGS I'M MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO from my initial Road to Ragnarok post and compare.

1. Loki
Loki has worn a lot of hats throughout his existence in the Marvel universes and I love the turn they take with him here. Scaling back from his epic Supervillain role, down to his more realistic amoral core, going back to the character's roots in Norse mythology (in more ways than one), all of it deepening and -dare we hope?- developing his character.

Minor Spoiler: Thor: Ragnarok doesn't deliver any dramatic redemption arcs or character development for Loki, like it 'kind of did' in The Dark World -and it's perfect.

2. Thor and Loki's Relationship and Dynamic
Oh. My. Gosh.
Yes.
Just yes.
Everything about this is spectacular. 

Asgardians, we know, are prone to overreaction and theatricality. I mean, Odin banishing Thor and stripping him of his power to teach him a lesson, Thor and his ilk breaking Loki out of prison and committing treason to save the universe -the first two Thor films are filled with these big dramatic flourishes and reveals. Thor: Ragnarok handles these scenarios differently. The big moments and reveals -like when Loki is ousted and the truth about Odin- aren't the point of the story, they aren't The Plot; instead, they're character moments and they were treated as such. They have a more intimate, down-to-earth feel. They're simple. Simple but so powerful. There's no shouting or grand speeches -just being. Thor being Thor. Loki being Loki. And a little squabbling. I mean, come on, they're still brothers.

Overall, this simplistic approach makes those moments more important and to have more of an impact, because the film takes time to focus on character (unlike my complaint with Thor.)

Thor especially demonstrates growth and -in one of my favorite moments- he POINTS IT OUT TO LOKI, telling him that people are supposed to develop and grow. Thor tries to guide Loki, but he doesn't get preachy about it, which makes him feel so much more human and, possibly, more able to relate to Loki, especially this new angle of him we see.

One of my absolute favorite things is Thor's habit of throwing things at/through Loki to determine whether or not he's flesh or illusion. How realistic is that?!?

I FREAKING ADORE THESE TWO.

3. Hela
Again, OH MY GOSH.
I did not expect the twist they took with this character, but it fits so well. Again(!) offering up more layers and more dynamics between the familiar characters that continues to deepen the characters and their relationships, not only in this film, but in the films that have come before.

Cate Blanchet is amazing in this role, but we already knew that was going to happen.

4. Story
EVERYTHING!

You know me, I get distracted by all things character. But the story here is awesome, not just for the next step in the MCU, but also for it's use and adaption of elements from both the comics and Norse mythology.

5. Kirby Krackle
To my utter shame, I did not actually notice the use of this artistic element. This time around. Distracted by character, remember? I got so caught up I did not distinguish any uses of the Kirby Krackle, but I totally plan to keep an eye out for it during my next viewing.


THOR: RAGNAROK HAD A LOT OF QUESTIONS TO DEAL WITH AND I LOVE THE WAY IT DECIDED TO ANSWER THEM. At the same time, it carries on the family theme seen in the other Thor franchise films and it continues to develop and mature Thor's journey to become and understanding of a true hero. The whole narrative has a nice but different feel to it, like Thor has finally figured out his own identity and his own voice, instead of trying to follow in his father's shadow or live up to expectations.

This a serious contender for my favorite Marvel movie of all. And I haven't even talked about Banner meltdowns and what an awesome character Valkyrie turned out to be! (Who, by the way, is not just your run-of-the-mill, kick-ass, I-can-do-anything-a-man-can-do female character overrun with testosterone. She is actually awesome, due to backstory and character.) 

This movie freaking rules.

The one thing I am not sure about is some of the humor they chose to use, like the slapstick comedy and a lot of Thor screaming/yelling/yelping. This kind of humor was funny first viewing, but has a notorious rep for getting tiring quickly there after. It really depends on how the humor holds up over time to determine whether this was a 4 star or 5 star film for me.

The question isn't "Should I see this film?" but "When?"

Have you seen Thor: Ragnarok yet?
What did YOU think?

The Road to Ragnarok
Don't miss a post!

Rewatching Thor


I forgot how much blasted fun this movie is! I don't think I've watched it since it first came out on dvd, but it's a good one. The only thing I wished for while watching this anew was a better angle at the complications of Loki.

Given his further development in Avengers, but especially The Dark World, we get a better grasp of what drives Loki, which I don't think is touched on well in the first film. There, Loki is depicted as a slick trickster, but also a wolf in sheep's clothing. You get the feeling he was always destined to turn villain even before he discovers his Jotun lineage -since he had already set in motion the disruption of Thor's coronation and the scheme to trick Thor into going to Jotunheim against Odin's orders. As the viewer, I didn't feel like Loki could ever have been trusted or relied on at any point. By the time he turns full-blown villain, it comes as no surprise (admittedly, weren't trying to surprise you with it).

But after the final confrontation of the film, when Odin has stepped in to save both of his warring sons, Loki says [in reference to destroying Jotunheim] "I could have done it. I could have done it for us."

Was he trying to take over Asgard or was it all a misguided attempt to prove himself to Odin? If the latter, why tell Thor -the brother he insists he loves- that their father had died? GAH!!! Loki's a hot mess here, but not in a good way. All I knew was that something was missing in Loki's development here.

THEN I FOUND THE DELETED SCENE.

You know when you watch a deleted scene and shout at the TV "THAT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE! WHY DIDN'T YOU KEEP THAT SCENE IN? IT'S WHAT MAKES THE STORY WORK!"

This is one of those movies. There is one, apparently insignificant scene, of Loki and Thor preparing to enter Thor's coronation ceremony. It exhibits the exact, beloved brotherly behavior that I devoured in The Dark World. They tease each other, insult each other, and inspire each other; they're freaking adorable and brotherly. It introduces them both in a friendly, grounded light, while simultaneously hinting at Loki's vindictive nature and Thor's arrogance and pride.

Maybe it wasn't a perfect introductory scene, but served up foundation to the entire relationship and conflict between Thor and Loki. More than that? It would have made me more sympathetic of Loki, more heartbroken by his later betrayal. This introduces Loki not as the Trickster-soon-to-be-Supervillain, but as the mischievously lovable brother of Thor, and that would have had a significant emotional impact in the film.

According to the commentary on the deleted scene, director Kenneth Branagh cut it because it was too slow of a moment and he wanted to jump into the punchier action of the scene, Thor entering the ceremony to raucous applause, It does get the story started with a bang, but I can't help but feel this is another case of character being sacrificed for Hollywood's all-mighty action!

It's also possible I'm being a mite overcritical, given that Kenneth Branagh is about to direct the adaptation for Artemis Fowl, one of my most beloved books, and he darn well better DO IT RIGHT.

I also caught another Easter egg this time around! Since I've been reading through some of The Mighty Thor comics I was reminded that -originally- when Odin sent Thor to Midgard, he put Thor into guise of a mortal man called Dr. Donald Blake -the name of Jane Foster's ex in the movie version, an alias she and her friends tack on to the god of thunder since they don't know what his real name is.

Avengers and Thor: The Dark World
Rewatching these I had less revelations, I guess because I've seen them more recently/frequently.

In both I noticed for the first time the brief appearance of Odin's two ravens. Neither is given a role nor are their names mentioned, but it's a nice inclusion for fans. Just a little 'Here you go. We didn't forget them.'

And viewing Avengers once more I remembered Loki's most heinous act of all. I can only blame Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the resurrection of my beloved Coulson for making me forget how much I hated Loki after that cold-blooded murder. If not for the television show, would I be so infatuated with Loki's potential redemption? If not for the so typically comic book move of bringing Coulson back from the dead, would I believe Loki even deserving of a redemption?

Which leads then to the inevitable question -how can Thor believe Loki deserving of redemption after murdering Coulson? They were friends; Thor obviously mourned Coulson's death.

And even if Thor is capable of accepting that, I'm pretty sure the rest of the Avengers are going to have a major problem with that come Infinity War.

Oh, I'll definitely need popcorn for that.


The Road to Ragnarok ends tomorrow with my Thor: Ragnarok Reaction.

The Road to Ragnarok
Don't miss a post!
Rewatching Thor

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

REVIEW: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

The Road to Ragnarok continues...




4.5/5 stars
PG-13: for sexual references, some language, violence
Recommend to fans of Norse mythology, villains, antiheroes, and/or Loki
Note: This is an original novel and in no way associated with the character in Marvel comics or movies.





Loki, that’s me.
Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.
So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.
Now it’s my turn to take the stage.
With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.
From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.
(via Goodreads)
 

"Now it's his turn."

This simple catchphrase did the trick. It both intrigued me and made me wary. The biggest failings -and most common versions- of villain origin or perspective stories is that the villains are made out to be 'misunderstood heroes' only by changing the other characters and events of the story so drastically as to make the original version incompatible. I really, really hate that. If you're going to do a villain story, have the decency and skill to make the villain interesting or sympathetic without changing the details of the original, okay?! (I'm looking at you, Fairest of All and Maleficent; looking at you.) And if someone decides to tackle Loki's story -well, that could be really good or really, really bad. Either way, that catchphrase made sure I couldn't rest until I knew which it was.

I don't know if I've maybe mentioned this before, but I'm a little (a lot) obsessed with Loki. As of Thor: The Dark World and Loki: Agent of Asgard I've become obsessed specifically with his potential redemption arc story lines.

The Gospel of Loki is not one of these. It is both an 'origin' story of the God of Mischief and a retelling of the bulk of Norse mythology from Loki's side. Initially, I had misgivings because Harris is also the author of Chocolat, a book I enjoyed until the ending absolutely ruined it for me. But I needed more Loki after Agent of Asgard.

And, my dear fellow readers, I'm happy to report that THIS IS THE KIND OF ORIGIN STORY I CRAVE.

Loki, as depicted by Harris, is a compelling and sympathetic character I can't help falling in love with. He's witty, sly, clever, and irreverent; misunderstood, misused, spiteful, and lovable. Harris masters his voice, which feels both familiar and unique. Loki starts out neither villain nor hero and -by the end- he doesn't completely fall into the villain category because his foes aren't quite heroes themselves. Every character here -from Odin and Thor to Frigg and Heimdall- is more gray than black or white. Even watching Loki descend closer and closer into bad guy territory, I never stopped being on his side.
"Basically, never trust anyone." -Lokabrenna | The Gospel of Loki, pg 62
The Gospel of Loki -or Lokabrenna- is broken into books, which are then broken into the many 'lessons' Loki learned throughout his involvement with the other Norse gods. I don't know a lot about Norse mythology but I did recognize quite a few of the tales recounted here. Harris does a fantastic job -in voice and in story- shifting these tales into Loki's point of view and then seamlessly piecing them together into a larger tapestry of Loki's history. With each step Loki takes closer to unleashing Ragnarok, I couldn't stop cheering for him, crying for him, and wanting him to win. On the verge of releasing the Norse Armageddon, Loki still made sense to me. I understood his motivations and his frustrations so well I couldn't really blame him for it -that is what I crave in a book. 

This is an entertaining read, equally hilarious and gut-wrenching, masterfully woven from beginning to Ragnarok. When I first finished it, I really, really wanted a sequel, because there's so much potential for one, and I want to see so much more with this character. But I finally convinced myself that it actually could be the perfect and that it didn't need a sequel. AND THEN I FOUND OUT THIS IS A PREQUEL!


 


The RUNE series has two books already, published in 2007 and 2011.

But wait.


THERE'S MORE









THE GOSPEL OF LOKI IS GETTING A DIRECT SEQUEL NEXT SPRING!
I'm in love, you guys. In love. This is one of those moments that the book fairies have smiled down at me and said, "You know that crazy thing you wished for, that you thought wouldn't come true in a hundred years? Well here it is."

At least I'll have some more Loki shenanigans in Thor: Ragnarok to tide me over until then.

1 day to Ragnarok!

What's your favorite book based off mythology or folklore?

The Road to Ragnarok
Don't miss a post!
Rewatching Thor  

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

COMIC REVIEW: Loki: Agent of Asgard

The Road to Ragnarok!
Loki: Agent of Asgard
Writer: Al Ewing
Illustrator: Lee Garbett






4/5 stars
PG-13 for some violence, some language, sexual references/innuendos
Recommend to fans of Loki, whether of the classic or new, comic or MCU variety; lovers of anti-heroes, character development and characters who just can't seem to get it right.





Kid Loki's all grown up - and the God of Mischief is stronger, smarter, sexier and just plain sneakier than ever before. As Asgardia's one-man secret service, he's ready to lie, cheat, steal, bluff and snog his way through the twistiest, turniest and most treacherous missions the All-Mother can throw at him...starting with a heart-stopping heist on Avengers Tower! And that's just the beginning, as Loki takes on Lorelei in Monte Carlo's casinos, and heads back to the dawn of Asgard to join its greatest heroes on a quest for a certain magical sword! But when Loki puts together a crew to crack the deepest dungeons of Asgardia itself, there may be one plot twist too many for even Loki to handle! (from Vol !: Trust Me, via Goodreads)




<3 I LOVE THIS SERIES. <3

Why?

It's simple, really. I'm a character development kind of girl with a thing for antiheroes and major character flaws. Some of my favorite fictional characters are Artemis Fowl, John Cleaver, Raymond Reddington, Han Solo, Zuko, OUAT's Rumpelstiltskin and, of course, Loki. What I love about these characters is their conflicting desires and their struggle in weighing them out. That idea of wanting something you can't have, wanting it so bad you can taste it, so bad that you'll do anything to get it. In these moments, people become their best or their worst selves; here, they can commit atrocities they never would have imagined or show a bravery even they didn't know they possessed and watching this unfold fascinates me. The more painful and conflicted the desires, the better!

Is it any surprise then I fell hard for this 17-issue series chronicling the former supervillain's fight to obtain the impossible -redemption?

Even desperate to turn over a new leaf, Loki doesn't step into the role of your typical hero. He is, after all, still the God of Mischief, still the Trickster, still the God of Lies and he lives up to those expectations while (mostly) staying clear of Supervillain territory, whether he's completing some decidedly shady missions for the All-Mother or sneaking off to complete an agenda of his own.

This version of Loki is a delicious combination of loneliness, love, desire, justified anger, hurt, and guilt. This is a haunted Loki, plagued by demons of his past self -metaphorically and literally. (This is the Marvel Universe, after all. You can't just have one Loki running around, can you?)

Loki isn't just fighting to redeem himself from his past sins. He is fighting against his very nature. His destiny. Loki IS the God of Lies and all the while he is fighting for his freedom and redemption -with every heist, cloak-and-dagger mission, and epic showdown- Loki: Agent of Asgard continually poses the question: "How can the God of Lies be redeemed? How can the God of Lies ever be trustworthy?"

In my initial review of Vol 1, Trust Me, I said:
It's the kind of tale I've always dreamed of reading, one where I root for the character so hard, I'm almost afraid to get to the end, in case they disappoint me. (Don't you dare disappoint me, Loki; don't you dare make this Dark World all over again.)
Standing now at the end of the tale, I have to admit it did not end the way I expected or necessarily the way I wanted. I think it's actually better. The answers Loki finds to these questions -how can I redeem myself? how can I become trusted and worthy?- are as beautiful as they are unexpected.

This story works because -despite the high-flying adventures- Ewing is decidedly focused on Loki's character and development, concentrating as much as he can on Loki's relationships, even in the chaos of three major crossover events. (Three!) The most important relationship is not actually the complicated one with Thor, but an unexpected friendship with a mortal named Verity Williams. A mortal who can see through any lie. Needless to say, she doesn't take any of Loki's crap.

I find Verity a particularly interesting character and companion for Loki. Verity could have served as an interesting foil to Loki in a nemesis situation, given her unique ability to spot lies and deception, but instead serves as his best, truest, maybe only friend. While by no means perfect, this is one of my favorite friendships I've seen in comics. Verity and Loki both test and push each other -out of their comfort zones, into confronting their worst selves, and ultimately toward better versions of themselves.

Unfortunately, I don't think that Verity and Loki had quite enough adventures or time together on the page. They really are a huge part of why I love this comic and, while Verity is a constant in the series, there was so much story to cover in these 17-issues that I do feel Verity sometimes got the short end of the stick.

A big reason for this -and a major failing of the series, I think- was the number of crossover events it got dragged into over its short life. On the one hand, I totally get everyone wanting a chance to play with this new Loki, but it was a little ridiculous.
  • At issue #5, just when the story's getting into its rhythym, it offshoots not only into the major Original Sin event, but into a 5-issue Thor & Loki offshoot of the Original Sin offshoot called The Tenth Realm.
  • Then issue #6, THROWS US INTO ANOTHER CROSSOVER without giving us a chance to recover from Original Sin. Issues 6-9 are re-labeled "Agent of Axis" to take part in the AXIS event. Unless you actually sit down and read the AXIS event, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
  • Issues 10-13 are purely Agent of Asgard and I have to admit they're pretty epic.
  • Issue #14 tosses us into the Secret Wars event. This, admittedly, wasn't quite as jarring as the first two. I haven't actually read any other aspect of Secret Wars than this, but I didn't feel I had to. Unlike the other two offshoots, Secret Wars felt more a part of Agent of Asgard than the other way around.
Despite the story bouncing through so many other Marvel tales, I've got to give Ewing credit, because he always makes the most of it, and Loki achieves some new truth or development inside the crossover that makes them overall worthwhile for Agent of Asgard readers.

The story can be initially confusing with its time travel and references to multiple different Loki incarnations, but by the end these threads are all tied up together for a satisfying tale, one that I predict will be even better the second time because of the foreshadowing at work so early in the tale. And it is so worth re-reading.

Not completely perfect, Loki: Agent of Asgard has plenty of fun, adventure, humor, and a whole lot of heart. I can't wait to see what Loki does next.

What's your favorite Loki story?
How are you prepping for Thor: Ragnarok?


The Road to Ragnarok
Don't miss a post!
Rewatching Thor

Monday, October 23, 2017

Back in Black + The Road to Ragnarok

Welcome to the new and improved blogging grounds! I hope you love the new look as much as I do. I've got to admit, it feels so much more comfortable. As opposed to my last slap-something-on-to-look-presentable design, I feel at home here. And the best part? It totally matches the style I've been using on my YouTube channel for ages!

Never again will I belittle the effect of a good design!

I'm sorry I haven't been around the last couple of weeks. Getting back into the saddle has been harder than I thought it would be, and talking about these things I love has been harder, too. I've been distracting myself away from them with 'worthy' tasks -like rebranding the blog and designing a fancy logo. But that's just another form of procrastination. I don't need a fancy logo -my new blogger banner will work just fine- and I don't need to create an elaborate, stop-motion intro before I start reviewing books again, either. (Though, admittedly, the elaborate stop-motion thing is definitely something I'll be playing with.)

I just need to blog. I just need to review the books I read, fangirl over the things I love, and anticipate upcoming releases in the most entertaining way I can.

Like Thor: Ragnarok.

So let's talk Thor: Ragnarok.


The Top 5 Things I'm Looking Forward To


1. Loki
Obviously, Loki. What has he been up to since Thor: Dark World? I mean,  WE STILL DON'T KNOW WHAT HE DID IN ASGARD AND WHAT HE DID WITH ODIN. Why is he here now? Why is he helping Thor? Is he running from something, trying to set things right, or setting up a new scheme? But as much as I love Loki and love to fantasize about a Loki turned good, I'm most looking forward to the day when Loki actually figures out what he wants. He's been the bad guy, he's been the almost good guy, he's done a lot of things and played a lot of roles, but when it comes right down to it, I don't think Loki has figured out what it is that he wants yet. Revenge? Acceptance?

2. Thor and Loki's Relationship and Dynamic*
I'm sorry, but the total big brother/little brother interaction between Thor and Loki in Dark World is still one of my favorite things in the MCU to date. Wait, why am I sorry about that?

3. Hela
I'm very, very intrigued by this villain. In the comics and mythology, Hela is the daughter of Loki, so I am interested to see how exactly the MCU uses her and whether or not she will have a part to play in future Thanos story lines, a la Infinity Gauntlet. Plus, CATE BLANCHETT. I cannot wait to see her in this role. <3

4. Story
How? Seriously, how? How long has the Hulk been a gladiator god on this planet? How has Ragnarok come to Asgard? And -my favorite, which I found in a Facebook discussion- how does Asgard come under attack by Hela? Is it Loki's fault or somehow caused by his playing Odin and sitting on the throne?

5. Kirby Krackle
The first comics I ever read were some of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's original stuff, like Spider-Man back from Amazing Fantasy. Kirby Krackle, as explained in this great post by Dollar Bin, is basically how Jack Kirby drew unexplained energy in comics. While I've definitely noticed this in comics I've read, I would not have been able to peg it down, much less called it by name! Thor: Ragnarok is apparently the first movie to use if as an effect. ^_^


Admittedly, I've been staying away from more recent trailers, as watching too many spoils the story for me, but I have gotten over my initial "WHAT THE CRUMB WITH THE NEON?!" reaction from that teaser trailer way back when. Knowing now where the story takes place, I'm not miffed anymore that they're suddenly redesigning the Thor franchise. I'm actually pretty excited to see what's coming. Now I just need to find someone to go see it with me! (Seriously, it shouldn't be this hard...)

Consider this the official kickoff to the spur of the moment THE ROAD TO RAGNAROK, a collection of Thor, Loki, or Marvel related posts leading up to the release, culminating with my thoughts on the third Thor installment. (I will go see it all alone if I have to!)

Come back Wednesday for our next stop on The Road to Ragnarok, my review of the full run of Loki: Agent of Asgard.

*Recently I've been informed of my apparent misuse of the term 'bromance'. Guess this will have to do instead.

The Road to Ragnarok
Don't miss a post!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Chauvinism vs. Chivalry: A Harry Dresden Case Study

This post contains some spoilers for Fool Moon by Jim Butcher. You've been warned!

When posting my own review for Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, I came across someone else’s, accusing Harry of not being chivalrous (as he considers himself), but a chauvinist. In all caps. With an exclamation point.
This...irked me. Around these here parts, you might have noticed that I don't delve too much into controversial topics, but considering the amount of time I’ve spent thinking on this and forming mental ripostes, I really can’t let this one slide. I’m about to drop some opinions down.

First off, let's put these definitions up here:

Chauvinist: a person displaying excessive or prejudiced loyalty or support for a particular cause, group, or gender. “what a male chauvinist that man is” (Google Dictionary)

Yes. Buuut. We also know that when someone shouts “CHAUVINIST” they have something a little more specific in mind. I mean, look at the example they added to that definition. Male chauvinist. It’s got it’s very own subset definition! So let’s go a step farther.

Male Chauvinism: the beliefs, attitudes, or behavior of male chauvinists (men who patronize, disparage, or otherwise denigrate females in the belief that they are inferior to males and thus deserving of less than equal treatment or benefit). (Dictionary.com)

And on the other side of the board...

Chivalry: courteous behavior, especially that of a man toward women. (Google Dictionary)
Chivalry: the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms. (Dictionary.com)


Now let’s talk about Harry Dresden, as he is in Fool Moon. By his own definition, he’s stubbornly chivalrous. Throughout the story he is preoccupied with keeping the three women in his life safe:

1. Kim Delaney -a female magic practitioner and former apprentice of Harry’s. The book opens with Kim asking Harry for info about a terrifying, dark, complicated kind of magic, info Harry refuses to give her. Despite her promise that she’s only interested in theory, not practice, Harry tells her it’s scary stuff; something she’s not ready for and something she shouldn’t even want to know.

2. Karrin Murphy -a Chicago police lieutenant who heads up the Special Investigations division. She deals with the weird cases, the ones that oftentimes have ties to Harry’s magical community. He works as her consultant on these cases. In an effort to keep her safe from the dark side of said magic community, Harry tends not to ‘consult’ Murphy on these cases so much as run out to try and solve them himself, thus keeping her out of harm’s way.

3. Susan Rodriguez -Harry’s girlfriend? She’s also a journalist determined to prove to the world the existence of the magical community. She likes to bribe or bully info out of Harry, who tries not to tell her anything that could land her into too much trouble.

There’s a trend here. Harry takes it on himself to keep these three women out of danger and, because they’re women and he’s a man, obviously this means he’s a chauvinist -


Oh wait.


What about Tera West? She’s the female shapeshifter who hires Harry to help her fiance. Harry also suspects she’s an amoral and immortal creature of the Nevernever, so he has no worries about keeping her safe and out of harm’s way. He doesn’t particularly trust her, either. But he does trust her to carry out parts of the plan on her own and he does trust her with his own life -and the lives of others- on more than one occasion, because he knows that she is capable and resourceful. Even though she’s female.

That’s not very chauvinistic of him.

But wait. There’s more.

Let us not forget the Alphas. Harry finds himself teaming up with a group of college-aged werewolves -focusing specifically on the MALE werewolf Billy- and he tries to protect them just as much as Murphy, Kim, and Susan. Because they’re young. Because he doesn’t want to get them killed. Because he feels responsible -as a skilled and experienced wizard- for their safety.

Chivalry. Right there. That’s chivalry.

Generally speaking, chivalry is a courteous act while male chauvinism is a patronizing one. I see many people today -in books, TV, movies, and real life- who can’t or won’t recognize that there is a distinction between the two, who will see all attempts from a man to assist a woman as a sign that he believes her weak and incapable, and for many that is a woeful misrepresentation of their actions. Just like poor Harry here.

Just because a man protects a woman doesn’t mean he believes her incapable of protecting herself. Most of the time, it only means he wants to do it for her. It’s a kindness, but it seems to be more often met with a resounding chorus of ‘chauvinist’ rather than a ‘thank you’.

Now, I’m not going to argue that Harry’s reasoning and actions in this book aren’t flawed. They’re totally flawed.

What they aren’t is chauvinistic. If Harry refused to share the information because he believed Kim, Murphy, and Susan -on the basis of their gender- were incapable of handling it -that would be chauvinism. If Harry refused to share the information because he didn’t believe, on the basis of their gender, they deserved to be involved in it -that would also be chauvinism.

As it is, Harry refuses to share the information these ladies want out of a desire to keep them out of harm’s way -that’s chivalry. But it’s more than that, too. Like Murphy, Harry has set himself a dangerous task of protecting innocents from a very dark and specific kind of harm -unfortunately for him, the innocents under his watch are bound and determined to go meddling with it anyway. He might not have a police badge, but Harry possesses skills and knowledge far and above anyone else’s experience, and so it falls to him to protect them from what they don’t understand.

There is, however, a line that Harry is crossing, from protective to misguided over-protectiveness. In Fool Moon it even points out that, by withholding information from Murphy, Harry is actually crippling her ability to protect herself and others -which is her job. In trying to protect people himself, instead of equipping those willing with the means to protect themselves, he’s actually putting them in more danger -and Butcher uses this excellently as a character flaw.

There’s one more thing Fool Moon reveals about Harry, which I think is the root cause of it all -flaws and strengths- and that is someone from his past named Elaine. Someone who Harry cared about. Someone who Harry failed to protect from the darkness within the magic community. Which explains his stubborn chivalry, but explains even better how that chivalry manifests itself into over-protectiveness and trust issues, especially concerning magic.

Throughout the story, Harry is continually faced with hurdles of his own making because of these misguided acts of over-protectiveness -but he comes to recognize it. He knows his refusal to help Kim contributed to her death; he realizes that Murphy doesn’t trust him because he doesn’t update her on magical dangers and threats, instead trying to handle them on his own.

Harry hasn’t acted yet on this revelation to improve his relationships with Susan and Murphy, but I’m looking forward to see how it develops him in book three.


Conclusion:
Harry’s FLAW is being OVERPROTECTIVE, not chauvinistic.
His STRENGTH is his DESIRE TO PROTECT OTHERS, aka gallantry, aka chivalry.

In Full Moon, Harry’s flaw and his strength continually butt heads, and that is a great way to force Harry to recognize them as such and to give him an opportunity to overcome the flaw and hone the strength. It’s a great way to make Harry feel like an actual human being.

And for that I say bravo, Mr. Butcher; bravo.

What are your thoughts on the matter?
Please join in the discussion!