7 THINGS THAT I’D LIKE TO SEE IN AN UPCOMING FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM FILM

So here it is. The first Fantastic Beasts was a good effort for a first screenplay and a crowning achievement for the CGI team, but as a film it was… fine. It went on too long and wasn’t bad, but lets face it if it didn’t have the Potterverse brand it would be pretty much nothing. And yet we’re getting a load more of those films. So, what could help bring them up to scratch? Well here’s my top 7 things I’d like to see in the upcoming films. Warning, spoilers for Fantastic Beasts ahead.

1. A LOT OF COLLABERATION WITH OTHER SCREENWRITERS

Yeah, JK Rowling knows how to created a brilliantly set up mystery and well executed mystery, but cinema is a very different beast and though FBAWTFT was pretty good for a first screenplay, her lack of experience really shows. The aid of a more polished screenwriter would have gone a long way.

2.PAY FULL ATTENTION TO THE WORLD ENDING THREAT

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The biggest problem with Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them was that it didn’t focus on its main plot. It had one of the darkest moments in the entire franchise- the cruel death of an abused kid with learning difficulties- yet I felt nothing for him because the movie didn’t build that moment up. The main plot was relegated to the sidelines and seemed superfluous until the end of act three where we learnt it was the main plot.

Instead we got endless hijinks with magical creatures which went on for far longer than it needed to. Seriously, the film was less focused on the main quest less than I am when I’m playinjg The Legend Of Zelda. In fact, that’s what this film felt like! It was basically Scamander pissing around trying to round up all the Cucco’s and then thinking ‘oh yeah, Ganondorf Grindewald is trying to take over, better actually do something! Dubious deus ex machina away!’ At the last minute. I bet she could have made that work as a novel, but in the tighter confines of a screenplay it felt unfocused.

3. A SAVAGE EDITOR

Yeah, at least 10 minutes could have been cut from the gotta catch em all magical creature league. A really harsh editor would help. Maybe the lady who edited Fury Road? She did an excellent job and it sounds like she had her work cut out for.

4. BETTER FEMALE INCLUSION

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Poor ol’ Hermione. She really was the only female in class worth our attention.

Females often get sidelined in mainstream media (although this is greatly improving), so when you see female writers like Meyers , Rowling and Cassandra Claire create such lackluster female characters, you can’t help but think ‘why’?

Don’t get me wrong, Hermione was great (though mainly because the movies toughened up her character and transformed her from the nag who puts a damper on the boy’s fun to a badass whose friendship is valued equally to Ron’s). But she was the only central female until Luna came along. In the Harry Potter series, if you named the 10 most plot central characters (Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Voldemort, Snape, Sirius, Hagrid, , Draco, Neville), the only female you would get would be Hermione… okay and maybe Professor McGonagal, though all her importance comes from being Dumbledore’s 2IC. In Fantastic Beasts our two female leads included basically Scamander’s sidekick and another beauty who gets paired with an unattractive guy (because you shouldn’t judge on looks… if you’re a woman. Men get to choose mates based on looks all the time, but if women hold men to the same standard, they’re vain).

To be fair, all of the leads felt a bit one note throughout the film- except the muggle. But in future films I hope we have more active and complex female leads who are on par with the complexity of characters like Snape and Sirius Black.

5. MAKE UP FOR ITS LACK OF POC CHARACTERS

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The only thing even more abysmal than her track record for female characters is her track record for POC characters. While if you named the top 10 most plot vital characters you would get one female, you would not find a single POC on there. In fact, I’m not convinced that you’d find one on the top 20 most plot vital characters- as although Shacklebolt became Minister of Magic, lets face it, he was the least prominent Auror and didn’t make too much of an impact by himself. In FBAWTF we have a euthanist and an incompetent Black Boss, as well as some random background characters, and you really can’t pretend to say your series that tackles prejudice if your cast list is whiter than Trump’s cabinet picks. It sounds harsh, but true; allowing the audience to sympathise with the victims of prejudice only when its happening to someone like you does not challenge a damn thing.

Rowling, you are such a good ally on Twitter. Lets see that reflected in your films. Be the change you advocate. Give your POC fans the chance to finally see themselves in your universe, and give POC actors the chance to prove shine alongside their white counterparts. Who knows… perhaps we could have a daring Indian/ middle Eastern guy who could be a jerk with a heart of gold who one day could be future Aladdin.

6. TREAT DUMBLEDORE THE SAME AS YOUR LEADING STRAIGHT CHARACTERS

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Yoda once wisely said ‘do, or do not. There is no try.’

Either make Dumbledore’s sexuality a vital, represented part of his character the same way sexuality is important to every straight character in the Harry Potter and FBAWTFT series- or just say flat out it’s not going to happen.

If she doesn’t want to do that, then fine, stop giving LGBT fans false hope and stop with vague statements and taking credit for something that was scribbled on the character notes which failed to make it into the main story (which is what Word of God is).

7. KEEP UP THE BRITISHNESS

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With everything centred around North America and having to listen to the words ‘white picket fence’ over and over again (most boring fantasy ever), Hogwarts always was a breath of change and fresh air. It was just so British, and even if we’re with the North American wizarding world, a parallel world where the Americans are the grounded, level headed ones (come on, Americans, you know you deserve a bit of ribbing after voting in your new Commander In Tweet!) I hope it remains so.

9 THINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE FROM MULAN, THE LIVE ACTION REMAKE

As much as I love Disney, I have mixed feelings when it comes to the Live Action remakes. On the one hand,  The Jungle Book really benefitted from an update, while on the other, I thought Beauty And The Beast was too perfect to be updated, and the live action proved me right.

However, when I heard of Mulan’s live action update, I felt like it made perfect sense. It’s based on a story that is very maleable and rich for creating new and astonishing interpretations. Plus, while the origin has its charm, it’s far from a perfect movie and there are some updates that this film would really benefit. What updates you ask? Well, here are my top 7 things I would like to see from the Disney Live Action.

1) A DISNEY VILLAIN WORTH FIGHTING… UM, AGAINST

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Oh Shan Yu, what high hopes we had of thee. He SHOULD have been one of the greatest Disney Villains ever created, but he was so utterly forgettable. While Lady Tremaine had to make to do with turning a teenage girl into a domestic servant, and Shir Khan was defeated by a ten year old, this villain threatened all of China and I barely remember anything about him. He’s a general who’s slaughtered children, and yet the most memorable thing about him was his eyes. This needs to be fixed in the live action.

It’s time to give us the kind of Disney villain we crave, the kind we still haven’t had since Hades. Make him big, powerful, menacing, larger than life… a man who inspires fear the minute he enters the room. A man who’s built up even before he appears on screen. Disney, give the swishy villains a break and make Shan Yu a dark, macho badass: a warlord who’s always calm and calculating, never needing to raise his voice, even as he sharpens his sword while dropping implied threats to his minions if they should fail him.

2) REAL MARTIAL ARTS AND ADVENTURE

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This is the most perfect choice of films to make a live action. Unlike with BATB, the original was far from perfect and Disney has not told the definitive version. There’s plenty of scope for change and for the writers/ directors to bring something new to the table.

This film lends itself perfectly to a good old fashioned adventure. I would love to see Mulan do some real martial arts and engage in some blood pumping stunts. I mean, Mushuu killed the villain in the original while Mulan mainly flails around wildly. I want to see a big epic climax.

3) DON’T CAVE INTO THE PRESSURE TO MAKE IT INTO A MUSICAL FOR NO REASON

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Love the songs, but this film is no The Little Mermaid. Songs aren’t necessary to make this film work and could serve to destroy the tension.

As much as I enjoyed the songs, Mulan is a film that really doesn’t call for it. It is better suited as an action adventure.

Remember when back in the 90s, a live action version of 101 dalmations was made and there was a controversy because the dalmations didn’t talk? Well, in hindsight, it was a good choice. Talking dogs would have been more jarring because it didn’t have the animation to soften the surrealness of it all, and it gave us all we wanted from the original: cute puppies and a GLORIOUS performance from Cruella DeVille.

In this case we don’t really need them. It’s an epic martial arts, swashbuckling, sword fighting adventure filled with girl power! It has a more serious conflict, and the musical element could diminish that.

4) IF MUSHU DOESN’T WORK, DON’T FORCE HIM

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Forget Mushuu, I always wanted to see THIS dragon in the film.

Comic relief characters like Mushuu are often wildcards. Sometimes they work really, really well (Aladdin, Despicable Me), but sometimes they can turn into a complete nightmare (The Magic Sword, The Hunchback of Notre Dame). I enjoyed Muushu’s performance… most of the time. But he did jarr with the film’s tone and I doubt him translating well to a live action with a slightly less campy tone.

I can see him looking good, but none of the designs which would make him awesome would make him look funny. The last thing I want is another CGI monstrosity on our hands ala Beauty and The Beast. And I don’t want him completely breaking the tension or destroying the Chinese atmosphere.

Disney, if Li Shang is not essential, than neither is Mushu.

5) GIVE US AN ALL SOUTH EAST ASIAN CAST

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Gotta give them credit, Disney does seem to be sorting themselves out on this front.

To be fair, I think Disney has enough sense to do this with at LEAST the leading heroine and most of the cast. I mean, it really did everything right with Moana and Lilo and Stitch, and took a risk and cast an unknown Indian kid in The Jungle Book remake. Plus, criticise it all you will for its treatment of Tiana, Disney  sadly is more inclusive than Pixar or Dreamworks, and has made some of the most genuine efforts to self reflect on what it can do better. With their dependence on marketing Mulan as their one and only Asian Princess, I doubt they would cast a white person to play her.

But yeah, while I’ll doubt it’ll do an all Chinese cast, an all Asian cast would be terrific.

6) A STRONGER PERSONALITY FOR MULAN

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Yeah, Mulan was brave and all, but in terms of personality, she is the typical goofball missfit who sings to their own tune and saves the day. She is Flick, Hercules, Quasimodo in that respect and not too interesting in and of herself.

Even if she starts out unsure of herself (although the heroine from the Chinese poem was pretty damn confident), I wasnt to see some real steel in her performance. I want a complete ferocious badass, a true action hero. I’d also totally want her to full on defeat the badguy without Mushuu’s help, making her the second Disney Princess who full on killed their opponent! The first, of course, being our beloved Tiana.

7) A MAN WORTH FIGHTING FOR

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Pictured here the very beautiful Japanese actor, Jin Akanishi

I get Li Shang won’t be in the movie, and that’s fine as not all stories need a romance. But I think it would be good to include a handsome, macho male lead. Firstly, we all need more handsome Asian guys on our screen.

But more importantly, studies into sexual attractiveness and race have shown that South East Asian men are deemed the least desirable in part due to unfair perceptions that they are less manly than other races. You know, those delicate flowers whose various cultures spawned such feeble warriors such as the Gurkas, Samurai, and the Shaolin monks.

Having a strong, masculine and desirable Asian male lead shown to a wide audience won’t solve the problem, but it would help.

8) A MORE MEANINFUL INCLUSION OF CHINESE CULTURE

Disney have improved a lot since the Renaissance when it comes to writing race. They incorporated Polynesian culture pretty well into Lilo and Stitch and Moana. Hell, even the European films had a bit more of an identity than just ‘generic fairytale land’, with Brave feeling distinctly Scottish, and BATB at least incorportating more of the 1700s French aesthetic into their live action.

I’m hoping they will include the Chinese culture into Mulan in a more meaningful way, because while the original was good it felt like a Western film with pretty watercolor aesthetics. Maybe they could bring more Buddhist philosophy and martial arts teachings into it, as well as perhaps taking the ancestral spirits a little more seriously.

9) ANOTHER GAY DISNEY CHARACTER

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After the whole mess of an April’s fools joke from Pink News surrounding a Gay Simba, it proves that people are still. But LaFou did not stop Beauty and The Beast’s box office success.

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But the problem with LaFou is that he is a walking stereotype and camp joke. What message does it say to gay kids… hey kids, you’ll never be the hero, but you get to be the obsequious mincing side kick who servilely drools over the big manly straight man! Progress!

Mulan is a perfect film to include a proper gay character when you think about it. Mulan already subverts expectations of gender and masculinity by ending with our heroes in drag; I’ll Make A Man Out Of You is a camp classic; there’s some theories that Li Shang was having a big gay crisis thanks to Mulan’s cross dressing and most importantly, people have already seen a gay interpretation of the character of Mulan. The stage is set. And there’s so many possibilities.

If they were uncomfortable with having a gay romance, they could easily do a Persona 4 style ass pull and have a gay male soldier find himself attracted to Mulan, and after he learns the truth he realises that it’s definately only men he’s attracted to. There could be a sad and poignant talk under a cherry blossom tree in spring about how they both knew they were different, but perhaps in different ways and come on! This writes itself!

Representation matters, and after all the work gay staff, musicians and writers have put into making their films the classics they are, I think its time to show that gay men and women are people worth including in their works!

That’s what I want to see from a live action Mulan, and I’m interested to hear your thoughts

BADASS PRINCESS OF THE WEEK: THE STORY OF THE CRYSTAL SHIP

It’s been a long time since I did a Princess of The Week; a series where I look beyond Snow White and Beauty, to the Awesome heroines who are just as strong and adventurous as their male counterparts Last time, we looked at a dragonslayer and a woman who used her wits to become the Sultan.

This week- as part of the prompt of the day challenge (inspired by the theme of magic)- we’re going to look at The Crystal Ship, a story where a young girl travels to the ends of the kingdom to rescue her Prince.
Continue reading BADASS PRINCESS OF THE WEEK: THE STORY OF THE CRYSTAL SHIP

BOOK REVIEW: MEN OF THE OTHERWORLD- by Kelley Armstrong

BLURB: I don’t remember the first time I changed into a wolf. One night I passed out, and awoke to find my body covered in yellow fur. My brain was beyond reacting. It took this in its stride, as it had everything else in my new life. I got to my feet and went in search of food.

As a curious and independent six-year-old, Clayton didn’t resist the bite – he asked for it. But as a lone child werewolf his life is under constant threat. So when enigmatic Pack member Jeremy Danvers saves him, Clayton is determined to protect his adoptive father, no matter what the cost.

So begins this gripping collection of four tales chronicling the bloody feuds of the American Pack, and the coming of age of Clay Danvers, a very powerful – and very singular – werewolf.

REVIEW: In spite of my gripes with paranormal romance, I love Kelley Armstrong’s writing; she’s funny, descriptive, her action sequences are great and I love her sense of snark. Out of all the different supernaturals that occupy her Women Of The Otherworld series, the werewolves are my favorite creatures. So when I found out this book was all about the werewolves with (almost) no other supernatural creatures, and minimal romance, I was in. Men Of The Other World was everything I’d hoped it’d be. Or at least, the Clay novellas were. The stories surrounding Jeremy’s heritage were a disaster zone, but I’ll get to that.

The two longest, Savage and Ascension,  cover Clay’s upbringing and Jeremy’s rise to Alphadom.

Savage mainly covers Clay’s meeting with Jeremy and his attempts to fit in with the pack, while Ascension covers the pack politics surrounding the power struggle that emerged over who will succeed an aging Dominic as Alpha.

Even though I hated Clay’s relationship with Elena, as a character he was interesting. A man who was turned a wolf as a child ( a sort of modern Mowgli), his story was fascinating and one that begged to be told. And Savage does an excellent job of this.

His meeting with Jeremy is very emotional and shows the patience of the man. Although this story is being told retrospectively from the POV of adult Clay,its still done in a way which employs the thought processes of child Clay. As someone who became a wolf when he was four and left human society until he reached the age of seven, Clay had initially forgotten how to understand human speech and has become a feral, slowly starving in the world.

Even though there’s no dialogue (Clay had forgotten how to speak at this point), and Clay doesn’t understand what’s going on, the emotion is all there. Clay’s mindset is that of well, a cross between a frightened child and scared animal, whose mentality is purely fight or flight, not fully comprehending what’s going on and only coming to Jeremy for food. He sees Jeremy’s attempts to try and dress him as a ‘game’, and it takes a long time to build trust. Armstrong doesn’t rush this, and we have repeated incidents of Clay running away, causing trouble and making Jeremy’s life extremely difficult.

This really demonstrates the compassion of the character, and his patience. Another wonderful thing about this story is that we finally see the werewolves (other than our Italian businessmen) hold down a job. In Women Of The Otherworld, it always felt vague how they were managing to afford this huge property as neither Clay, Elena nor Jeremy’s jobs were shown having much impact on their lives. Here, we see Jeremy having to deal with managing accounts and the inheritance of Stonehaven on his own, and having to deal with translating work to keep the place afloat. This added a lot of authenticity to the book, and it was so wonderful seeing him having to deal with financial issues rather than living in the almost Disney Princess fantasy land where he can just get loads of money selling the odd painting because he’s just that super talented.

It was also great seeing a young Nick growing up with Clay, and their friendship and how his easy going nature clashed with Nick’s loner personality.The power struggle within the pack was fascinating and it was interesting seeing how the different power struggles clashed, although I don’t understand how Malcolm could have ever been a viable contender. Malcolm himself, was just a big, mean ball of macho bile; he doesn’t have a job, is continuously antagonistic to everyone. I honestly didn’t understand why a sensible Alpha like Dominic tolerated him, because he’s such a pantomime villain and a loose cannon. Sure, he’s a great fighter, but he’s nothing that couldn’t be replaced by a good shot gun. What did save him from cartoon villaindoom, however, was his fascination with Clay. I liked how they were both sort of different sides of the same coin, and Malcolm uses his wolf ideology to justify his cruelty, while Clay, allegedly more wolf than human, cannot understand this senseless cruelty.

One thing I did really hate was how quickly Clay went from being behind his peers due to being in the wild so long, to suddenly being extremely gifted and talented and ahead of everyone else. This happened in the space of a year or two. I’m sorry, but this is complete nonsense. There’s no way Clay could have caught up so quickly, and the only reason he does is because he’s meant to be this super special love interest. Clay is impulsive, irrational and lacks judgement and is extremely primal. He has shown absolutely no sign of having a brain for the entire series, there’s no way I buy him as this super special genius.

But all in all, I absolutely loved these novellas and enjoyed them more than a lot of Elena’s books in the main series.

Infusion and Kitsunegari

Now, with a heavy sigh I have to get to the disaster that is Jeremy’s Asian heritage. Oh my, why did she have to do this? You see, in this Jeremy is half kitsune on his mother’s side (which isn’t a spoiler- if a Japanese supernatural turns up in urban fantasy, it’s always a kitsune). So basically, a kitsune comes along, breeds with Malcolm in order to give Jeremy cool Asian mind powers and is killed conveniently when she’s completed her utility. Yeah, that sounds a bit cold but that’s basically all she is- an exotic baby maker that gives her son superpowers.

The problem is that this is the poster boy for badly used mixed race protagonists in urban fantasy, which is excellently deconstructed in this article here. The only reason that she’s Asian is so that Jeremy gets cool exotic powers, and of course after she’s done that, she’s of no further use so she’s done away with. Nothing of her heritage is passed on to Jeremy, she’s never treated as a person, and none of Jeremy’s heritage affects his life or him as a person- you’d think that growing up getting racially abused by his father and being the only mixed race Asian amongst a bunch of white men would have some affect on him. But no, it’s brought up so little in the series this feels like a bizarre ret con. This is even lazier Mixed Race writing than Zoey Redbird was in HoN, who at least acknowledged the existance of her heritage (even if it’s only to justify her super special spirit Pocohontus powers)- and if I’m saying an element is worse than anything in HoN, that’s the most damning criticism I can heap on something.

Worse still, in Infusion, the reason that the kitsune grandmother uses for choosing to throw her grandaughter at Malcolm is because their race is dying and they need ‘strong blood’. Yeah, POC wanting the ‘strong bloodline’ of white people is a racist trope that’s been around for centuries, and though I’m sure Armstrong didn’t purposefully write it that way because she’s not a white supremicist, it sounds so much like this it’s impossible to ignore. Also, having a Japanese woman throwing herself at a white man in the 40s… when the Americans were throwing Japanese Americans into internment camps? Man, that’s pretty bad.

It appears they do at least acknowledge the racism and the mother does say that she was playing on Jeremy’s Racist attitudes… but because she’s given no character it all feels played straight.

It gets even worse in Kitsunegari, as a gang of Kitsune attempt to seduce Jeremy away from Jaime in mangled English saying ‘I for you.’ So basically:

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Yes, we went there: we went full ‘me love you long time’, and it doesn’t even have the excuse Full Metal Jacket did of being written in the 80s. Or Southpark for being Southpark. These creatures are literal submissive sex objects, and apart from being desperate for Jeremy’s superior white- um, werewolf – semen, they’re given no agency, no will of their own compared with the other supernaturals of Armstrong’s world. They are literal sex objects throwing themselves to be used by the white male protagonists, and that is one of the most pernicious, nastiest racial stereotypes surrounding Asian women. This wouldn’t be so bad if there were more Asian characters, but Women Of The Otherworld is whiter than Donald Trump’s porch after a snowstorm. Hope Adams is the only non white narrator in the series, while Zoe Takano is the only asian character in the series… and she wasn’t exactly very competent in Broken.

I mean, why are the Kitsune dying out when the werewolves are doing just fine? Surely there were plenty of other supernatural creatures nearer home they could breed with? Why travel to a country they were on bad terms with for their supernatural sperm doner. Plus, kitsune and shape shifters in Japanese mythology typically try and breed with nobility, so the Danvers would be of low blood and beneath them.

It’s a shame we had to do this, to walk into so many unfortunate racial tropes for no other reason than to give Jeremy a bit of extra magic- which could have been done another way, as to my knowledge mind powers aren’t amongst the typical kitsune skill set anyway ; it was interesting delving into Malcolm’s twisted psyche, and Jaime was her usual awesome sassy self. Plus, it was nice seeing Jaime and Jeremy interacting as a normal couple, having to make time to see each other, working around each others schedules and responsibilities. Damnit, why did we have go there book? You were so brilliant otherwise!

VERDICT: Ignoring the tropey racial disaster zone that were Infusion and Kitsunegari, Men Of The Otherworld was an excellent collection that did everything a set of short stories about a main series should do: they told a story in their own right, and added a lot of depth to the series main characters.

RATING: 4 wolves out of a pack of 5

And on a final note, the English cover looks so much, and so much better than the alternative version. It’s good to know that at least Women Of The Other World is going equal ops on terrible torso pictures:

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The Mermaid’s Snare

My legs were aching. My heart worked harder than it had ever done before, but it didn’t matter. I had her- the mermaid curled against my chest.

“Get back here!” cried Father John, “She’s not human! Such a union will be cursed!”

“We’re in love! That’s all that matters.”

I dove into the ocean- opened my eyes…saw my shimmering tale. My heart soared. We could be together.

Miriana was smiling. I looked at her pretty face, at her naked breasts- I pulled her against me…kissed her neck, her chest, slid my hands down her…down her… I paused

“Umm… honey.” I said , “How do we…”

“Oh silly.” She said. “Not like that!”

“Wait…. What?”

“We mate by linking fins.”

“Are you kidding me!?”

“What’s the problem.” she said, “It’s just breeding.I mean, it’s not like it’s fun.”

My blood turned cold- and not just because I’d turned myself into a reptile.

“Andrew,” said Miriana, “Why are ?”

My body was shaking. My scream echoed through the whole ocean.

“Curse you Father John!”

REVIEW: ARES, BRINGER OF WAR (OLYMPIANS 7) – by George O’Connor

This is what this entire series has been building up to: The Trojan War, and oh my God, is it completely and utterly glorious.

It begins with a battle; chaos in the battlefield; when strategy fails and it turns into a chaotic bloodshed. That’s when Ares appears. And this is introduced by an epic 300 style battle with an epic narration about war happening as we watch Ares kick the crap out of people. I mean, check out this panel and try and tell me that it’s not made of awesome:

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The whole novel is full of excellent fight scenes that really brings excitement back to The Iliad. We have the battle between the King of Sparta Menelaus against Prince Paris, Athena teaming up with Diomedes to wreak havoc on the battlefield, and of course that fateful, heart breaking battle between a grieving Achilles and Prince Hektor. The battles are exciting, not least because its not just a clash of swords, but a clash of characters- each with their own skills and agenda.

Though this novel is called Ares, he is not really the protagonist. This is very much an ensemble piece, and If anything, the story is about Athena, with Zeus playing the role of quiet chessmaster, observing silently from afar as the Gods fight, always in control. But even so, Ares isn’t forgotten and plays a very important symbolic role- being the foil to the manipulations of the seemingly more civilised Olympians.

One of the greatest strengths of O’Connor is that he is really far stronger at bringing a new perspective to the Greek Gods that were despised in the original myths. Athena and Apollo were two of the most beloved deities, and yet are far more cold and less sympathetic in this series, while the reviled shrew Hera, ditzy Aphrodite and the hated God of War Ares (the essential personification of masculine cruelty) are given a brilliantly complex portrayal. He is reviled by his own father Zeus in favour of Athena, and admits that while she is the Goddess of strategy, he is the God of bloodshed and violence is all he can bring. As a result, all he has is strength and he is constantly outwitted by Athena. And yet he has a sort of stoic nobility about him.

Even though he is the personification of violence, he knows what he is and there’s no deception about him. He never starts the battle- but he’s summoned as a result of all the other characters and their epic scheming. That’s pretty complex and is done in such a subtle way.

War of the Gods:

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I can’t talk about this graphic novel without its central draw, the war of the Gods. Oh my God, was it amazing. In all the previous books, we’ve been introduced to most of the main players- Athena, Apollo, Poseidon, Hera- and seen their strengths, know their backstory, grown to love O’Connor’s incarnation of them. Now we get to see them fight.

It is everything I wanted, and oh my God, was the confrontation between Hera and Artemis perfection… All this culminating in Hector vs Achilles, in which the tone changes… the war is no longer heroic, but sad and the weight of the bloodshed falls upon them.

The only downside:

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The one theme that bugged me is that it often contrasts Ares and Athena by the fact that he has children but she doesn’t, and therefore she’s far colder. It makes sense that Aphrodite criticises her for this (because that’s one Goddess not under her control), but this seems to be Ares’ and the novel’s assessment of her too and I’m not sure I think this is valid. It overlooks the reason why she had to be a virgin. The reason why Athena is a virgin is because the relationship between and husband and wife in ancient Greek society (especially Athenian) was so hierarchical, so unequal and riddled in misogyny that remaining a virgin was the only way she could be her own person, powerful in her own right and not lorded over by her husband.

Making her asexual and divorced from femininity was the only way the Greeks could relate to her, such an important Goddess because of their hatred of women. Afterall, Hera was the Goddess of marriage and the personification of the most typical way of life for women; she was Queen of the Gods and wife of Zeus and yet she was reviled in the Aenead, The Illiad and The Odyssey; Aphrodite was the personification of the feminine allure and was likewise portrayed as silly, weak and a cause of disorder. Divorcing herself from femininity was the only way she could be ‘the exceptional woman’ and a Goddess wielding so much power and agency, and this is something that really should have been acknowledged if we went down.

But still, this such an astonishingly minor quibble and believe me, it amounts to nothing doesn’t do anything to detract from how perfect and amazing this graphic novel is. Also, ‘not now Hermes, I’m gloating’ is one of my favourite lines in anything.

Verdict: This graphic novel is perfect in every way and every man, woman and child needs to read it now! I’d recommend reading its prequel Aphrodite: Goddess of Love first (which covers the judgement of Paris), for maximum impact.

Rating: 5 almighty smackdowns / 5

The Secret of The Sailor and The Kraken

Everyone knew the story of  my grandad. 50 years ago, a Kraken had terrorized our town. Killed a lot of people, including my Uncle. That’s when Grandpa snapped; with only a hunting knife, he went out and killed the monster and became a hero.

But one of the strange things about him was that he always walked along the sea front alone, late at night.

I followed him one night. I watched as he stood by the ocean. Moonlight glittered on a shiny black tentacle.

He didn’t even look up, “I knew you’d find me, lad. I’d like you to meet Ella. The Kraken’s daughter.”

“But… why?”

The old man gave a heavy sigh.

“Ella here’s a herbivore.” He said slowly, “Tried to feed her some tuna but she wouldn’t even touch it.”

“Then…”

He put his hands deep in his pockets.

“I found out…” he said, “many years ago, my son was seeing another man. Your mother said some men found out and didn’t like it. Were gonna blackmail him. Don’t know who.Apparently the thought of me knowing was worse than death to him.”

He kicked a rock.

“I’ll never know what happened- if it was someone else who killed him, or he did it himself.” his voice choked “All I know is that people still go missing, my son’s gone, and killing that Kraken didn’t do a damned thing.”

He gave me a long, tired look.

“If you only remember one thing I’ve told you, remember this.” he said, “It’s easier to kill a monster than look in the damned mirror.”

Grandpa walked away into the night,not looking back.

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This is my 280 word submission for the flash fiction challenge, Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. Each week we submit a story of approximately 100-175 words based on a photo which we use to center our short stories on. It’s really beyond the word length and is probably ineligible, but I had a good story and decided to share it here anyway. Hopefully it’ll be a good read anyway. For more information, click HERE.

FLASH FICTION: Last Man In Paradise

I opened the stone door, to the other world; the one I thought could only be a delusion. Paradise. My breathe caught in my throat. It was… real. All those years of fighting, grey clouds, bullets. Watching my father die. Now I was here, in a field of endless green.

I held a flower in my hand. Bright and red and beautiful. It withered and turned to dust. I scattered its ashes. It turned the grass brown. I smiled. There were no people here; no houses, no cities. Not the wars. The angry crowds.My father; the mob dragged him away. Now there was nothing but singing birds.No one else here. I walked back out the stone door. Let Paradise be.

FIRST LOOK: Full Metal Alchemist The Movie (2017)

It’s a great year for anime adaptions. Ghost in the Shell is getting a movie, there’s another Death Note film being made in the USA, where hopefully the monsters will look less like they came from a low budget PS2 game. Now, Full Metal Alchemist– the series that spawned two of the most beloved shounen anime of all time- is getting a live action film.

I like the look of Edward Elric, who has hair of a true anime hero which must take hours each day to do; however, I am suspicious why we didn’t see him use his Alchemy and just got a load of cutting from Edward to the alchemy symbol. The huge cast of fleshed out characters and the nuanced portrayal of conflict where even the big bads seemed somewhat humanized, can’t make a mark in just an hour- but they could at least make with the cool battles we loved to watch? This better not be like ATLA where it was just a bunch of guys fusing their mind powers to fling rocks around which made you wonder why they didn’t just throw the things. Hopefully its budget will be better than this trailer suggests, so I shall move forward sceptical but not without hope

Also, is it somewhat weird that Attack On Titan and Full Metal Alchemist were set in Europe (or vague European land) and its made by and filled with a load of Japanese people (though this is accurate for Mikasa), while Ghost In The Shell and Death Note  are Japanese but filled with white people?

 

I HATE FAIRYLAND Vol 1-by Skottie Young

The humor around this centres on a bloody, cathartic subversion of the cheerful kiddie shows; a cute little girl entering the candy sweet fantasy world and hating every minute of it, before being slowly driven into an ax crazy murderous rage. With a premise like that, what could go wrong?

Well, quite a few things, but at the start, it’s pure comedy gold. We meet our heroine, Gertrude- our  Alice expy- getting sucked in to the magical fantasy land against her will. And the whole sequence is hilarious. The cheerful fairytal narrative playing which refuses to take into account the pain and misery that Gertrude is suffering in the panels. Gertrude is getting beaten, abused and sent into her own personal hell, while all the citizens of Fairyland smile, insensitive to her obvious pain.

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This is so deliciously cruel that it’s hilarious, and when we get to the breaking point where she blows the narrator to smitherines, it was hilarious. We see her get hurt and abused in this wonderland, the world that is usually fun and sweet actually turning into a groundhog day nightmare where she’s stuck there in child form for 27 years.

The artwork serves the story spectacularly as well. Young has created an incredibly cute, childlike asthetic that looks like every true fairytale land you imagine, so when the maiming does happen the juxtaposition takes maximum effect. We see brains, and blood, and cute little critters flattened in this bright, adorable artstle- it’s like if Nightmare on Elm Street took place in 100 Acre Wood.

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The problem is that after this strong start, things go downhill. The comedy relies purely on Gertrude being a jackass and maiming and everything in sight- which has potential, for a little while. With the right set up. After all, Happy Tree friends was funny, and Conkers Bad Fur Day had a similar concept of a crude, heavy drinking protagonist in a childish setting and was pretty creative, even if not always laugh out loud funny. But the problem is that the jokes didn’t have the right set up to land properly, and as a result the heroine is more annoying than the saccharine creatures she maimed.

At the beginning, we see Gertrude murder the moon (who is the narrator)The reason it worked when she shot the moon in the face was because our heroine had been pushed to breaking point: we’d seen her sucked into Wonderland, get continuously abused while a cheerful narration played, seen her trapped there for 27 years, all while having to listen to that same narration who’s insensitivity and lack of shits given about her pain made him seem sadistic. She was a woman on edge, and not only was this built up and cathartic, it was subversive because she’s not just saying ‘fuck you’ to the annoying creature, but destroying the forth wall and saying ‘fuck you’ to convention in a Deadpool and She-Hulk like way. The death was also extremely overkill and creative and a joy to read about.

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When she attacks the citizens of the town, she doesn’t have the same set up. The reason . In order to get to the payoff where blowing the citizens was justified, it needed to be set up; they needed to be annoying, Gertrude needed to be pushed to her very limit again. Maybe they could have annoyed her by singing cheerful songs at her, or constantly charged her with silly things like stepping on a crack or littering ala Demolition Man, or maybe she could have been lost and . But no: the reason they attack her is because she’s commiting a robbery- for no apparent reason.The creatures aren’t annoying and detestable, but just seem like perfectly nice, likeable creatures just trying to go about their daily lives, when Gertrude just randomly attacks them.

She’s senselessly hostile for no reason.In fact, she’s just such a two dimensional nasty that she’s actually a hundred times more irritating than the saccharine animals- she’s like that gobby 12 year old on X-Box live who has to be nasty and spiteful because they think it makes them look cool. I think Young is relying on our own annoyance with saccharine characters like The Care Bears and Barney The Dinosaur to make us hate the citizens of Fairyland, which doesn’t work. Even if you have analogues to existing characters, you still have to build them up and make them work in their own right.

When the Queen does send someone to deal with Gertrude, it’s because Gertrude is serial killer who’s committed mass murder. The Queen, far from being the antagonist, so far seems to just be doing what she has to in order to protect her kingdom. This could work if Gertrude was set up to bra villain protagonist and the Queen the real hero, but that doesn’t seem to be the case as it feels as if we’re supposed to think Gertrude’s reaction to this world is completely natural- which it isn’t.

VERDICT: Overall, I Hate Fairyland has an uneven start and is very hit and miss. When the jokes are properly set up, it’s funny, but other times it just relies too heavily on the image of a cute little girl maiming cute animals being inherently funny- which is great on a t-shirt, but to carry a whole series? Whether the series will find its feet remains to be seen.

CONTINUE OR DROP: Continue for 3 more issues.