Sunday, December 19, 2021

Image Comics delivers new installments in Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' "Reckless", Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's "Bone Orchard Mythos", and the conclusion of Jonathan Hickman and Mike Huddleston's "Decorum" in 2022

A decade has elapsed since the DC New 52 marketing campaign and initial Marvel Now! reboot, and Marvel and DC comics continue to find themselves caught in the throes of the worst of flash-in-the-pan commercial gimmicks and redundant reboots. These have been rolled out as an endless cavalcade of corrective measures to adjust from the previous misguided realignment of their properties, only to find themselves back at square one, and with an ever diminishing readership. All of this done at the imperative of their various marketing branches, (beholden to Disney, Warner Bros), over the benefits of trusting in their creative artist and writer teams to build substantial storytelling within their fictional universes. In the long term, this will be their loss. Readership will go where talent, creativity and the rich rewards of artists who are invested in the depth and value of their work is not only appreciated, but the desired objective. The 'big two' have sacrificed this creative imperative in a series of illusory market grabs, under the auspice of lining their pockets. But the numbers have stated otherwise, with readership of Marvel and DC books remaining continuously down since the mid-2000s. Even the rare and occasional adventurous foray they have published, like that of Jonathan Hickman's truncated X-men reimagining, have fallen short of their initial conception. Hickman himself expressing a kind of pragmatic resignation to the reduction in scope and creative expanse that was to be his planned five years of stories for the franchise. Instead it was the case that, "Inferno was to be Jonathan Hickman's Final X-Men Comic". After the bold rebuilding of the X-men properties suffering from years of neglect and poor conceptions, Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva delivered the stunning House of X / Powers of X, the opening salvo of, "Jonathan Hickman's Multi-year Plan to Reinvent the X-Men". These two intertwined books were meant as only the opening chapter of a significantly more expansive story, but with Hickman’s departure as editorial Head of X, "Marvel's X-Men Creators Discuss the Conclusion of the Reign of X Era".

So be doubly thankful for independent publishers like Image Comics and their creator-owned contract ellicing new work as they celebrate the imprint's 30th anniversary with a series of anthology books and a one-shot compendium. The aforementioned Jonathan Hickman will be concluding the richly conceived galactic epic of "Decorum", which he and Mike Huddleston labored to complete over the first year of the pandemic. Right on the heels of his initial success with the dual X-men books, the two creators quietly began this labor of love, dedicating a longer-than-industry-standard developmental timeline to each issue, which reached its conclusion this month with the (possibly final) eighth issue. In the wake of the book's completion, its an ideal time to revisit their interview from the series' launch, “Decorum's Hickman, Huddleston, Talk the Book's Unique Style of Sci-Fi”. Another project begun during the lockdown of the pandemic was the most recent title by the multiple Eisner Award-winning team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and their expansive Criminal series of noir thrillers. This newest series of hardcover graphic novels will feature self-contained stories in the life of one Ethan "Reckless", and read as some of the finest examples to date of, How the Pandemic Pushed a Comics Legend to Reinvent Pulp Fiction". Lastly, another major undertaking is in development from the writer-artist team that gave birth to the dimension hopping gothic horror of "Gideon Falls". Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino will be collaborating on a series of graphic novels, one-shots and miniseries, which will cumulatively describe their own "Bone Orchard Mythos". This new horror universe will be prefaced by a one-shot prelude, with "The Passageway" and the miniseries "Ten Thousand Black Feathers" and numerous works, in various formats, proposed to span years of forthcoming titles to follow. The two creators discuss process and their exclusive contract with Image for this project, with their creator-owned horror universe launch on the horizon, "Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino unveil The Passageway to ‘The Bone Orchard Mythos’".

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Blood Incantation at Substation and Wolves in the Throne Room at The Crocodile: Jan 8 & 11

The month of January sees two shows in town at Substation and the newly reopened The Crocodile straddling the
heavier end of sounds issuing from the mutating offshoots of black metal. The related global scene's ongoing and burgeoning development have encompassed melodicism and atmospheres lifted from shoegaze and spacerock, eruptions of heavy psych rock, industrial drumming, synth exploration and electronic atmospheres, and pure experimental noise. The expansiveness of this sound is further detailed in Brad Sanders' essential overview, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World". Beyond this primer, deeper reading and curation from this spectrum can be found in the past decade of excellent selections in The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus column, covering releases dominantly sourced from labels like, Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, 20 Buck Spin, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, Flenser, Neurot and Relapse. First among these two nights is Blood Incantation performing from their The Quietus 2019 Albums of the Year charting, "Hidden History Of The Human Race". This assembly of tracks took their already explorational sound into truly progressive, inventive death metal with variegated song structures and a haunting intergalactic bent to the lyrical themes. Technical and occasionally delirious in its precision, the performances are precise without being flashy, and occasionally ornate in their psychedelia without the encumbrances of gaudiness. Tangents are taken into doom and meditative synth workouts, which then return to death metal riffs and unexpected structural shifts, all executed with assurance. The second of the shows features the Northwest's own brand of doom and folk-inflected psychedelia from Wolves in the Throne Room, a further refinement of their embracing fusion of these sounds can be heard on their newest album "Primordial Arcana" for Relapse. As detailed in the interview with The Quietus, "Beyond the Darkness: An Interview With Wolves in the Throne Room", their seventh studio album disregards distinctions between their previous metal and ambient characteristics, finding a newly organic, free-flowing hybrid in the process. Breaking down the dichotomy between these two sounds, the album creates an often melodious interplay that washes with an uplifting grace rarely heard in music of this darkness and weight.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Ryusuke Hamaguchi's "Drive My Car" at SIFF Cinema: Dec 10 - 23 & Northwest Film Forum: Jan 5 - 9

In just the last year, Ryusuke Hamaguchi has delivered a set of two new films, exhibiting an even higher nuance and complexity than that previously seen in his already notable body of work. Hamaguchi is part of a new 21st century corpus of filmmakers from Japan, this "New Wave of Japanese Filmmakers" dominates much of Taste of Cinema's "The 25 Best Japanese Movies of The 2010s (So Far)", with Hamaguchi's 5-hour domestic tranquility stunner, "Happy Hour", ranking highly. The first of this year's films took home the best screenplay award at Cannes for it's adaptation of Haruki Murakami's short story of the same name published in the "Men Without Women" anthology. As Peter Bradshaw's review in The Guardian states, this "Mysterious Murakami Tale of Erotic and Creative Secrets" has a through-line of related concerns also explored in “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy”. More than a "Triptych of Light-Touch Philosophy", "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy" is a deceptively unassuming movie, which watches as a mildly subversive observation on the goings-on between men and women, and at its core is an exploration of, "What We Talk About". By this, Manohla Dargis means to say that the film maps a geometry of desire expressed in sometimes casual and cruel intimacies that are divulged through three extended segments. As men and women circle one another, they exchange confessions and accusations, through a cascade of words, gestures, and glances. It is through these effusive dialogues that they slowly come to unveil the nature of their central yearnings, fears, and intentions. Taking a major prize amidst the abundance on offer at, "Berlin Film Festival 2021: The Most Impressive Selection in Years", this would be the first of the year's awards for Hamaguchi, with more to come in the following months. The second of these films premiered at Cannes to outstanding reviews, foremost for its deftness in navigating the complexities of “Haruki Murakami and the Challenge of Adapting His Tales for Film” and bringing "The Mystery of Murakami" to the screen. Manohla Dargis also reviews this entry from Hamaguchi, praising it as a quiet masterpiece, in which the director utilizes the rather slight story by Murakami to consider grief, love, work and the soul sustaining, life-shaping power of art. There will be two regional opportunities to experience this award-winning turn of "A Director Taking Your Heart for a Spin", first of which at SIFF Cinema in December, and the Northwest Film Forum the following month.