Moonmaster: Ace Journalist!

Must remember to read that after I'm done reading Miracle Man.
 
Do your articles inspire people to pick up comics? They're pretty good.
 
ProjectX2 said:
Do your articles inspire people to pick up comics? They're pretty good.
Not that I know of.:( But my Planatery review was my first in depth analysis sort of thing. My monthly reviews were written more for people who already read comics.
 
V for Vendetta
By Moonmaster

"Good evening, London. It's nine o' clock and this is the voice of Fate broadcasting on 275 and 285 in the medium wave…It is the fifth of the eleventh, nineteen-ninety-seven." It is 1997 and everything you do or say is monitored. Your every liberty, oppressed. Your very identity, destroyed. Such is the world of V for Vendetta. V for Vendetta is a magnificent story by the incomparable Alan Moore (Watchmen, Miracleman, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and artist David Lloyd.

The nightmarish society of Vendetta is set in motion in the early eighties, the same period that it was written in. A near nuclear war causes a massive political upheaval in England. Several groups vie for power in the chaos of wartime England, with one group coming out on top. They are a fascist faction known as Norsefire. They wrest power and swiftly enforce their ultra-conservative, race purifying doctrine. Concentration camps are established and their ovens are fed a constant supply of minorities, non-Christians, homosexuals and socialists. Many face horrific experiments. One of those people is a man who resides in Room 5 of the Larkhill "Resettlement" Camp. Room V. He survives every one of their hormone injections and radical surgeries, harnessing a keen and terrifying intellect. He plots and builds and develops a new outlook on the world. With a burst of tear gas and a scattering of napalm, he escapes from the camp by walking through a shroud of flames.

Now it is 1998, four years later. A sixteen year old factory worker named Evey Hammond is about to be raped by operatives of the government, known as "Fingermen", when a masked man bursts from the shadows to rescue her, like a hero from an adventure novel. He has no name, but you can call him V. He wears a mask of the British revolutionary, Guy Fawkes. Soon after meeting Evey, he destroys the Parliament building. V is a terrorist and a vigilante. He takes young Evey to his lair, the Shadow Gallery. Here he keeps the last vestiges of a free society: music, literature, and art. V himself speaks with the bravado and poetry of a classical literary character, spinning webs with his words. V takes Evey in and she soon assists him in his assault on the government. This assault begins simply enough. He brings poetic justice to the men and women who kept him imprisoned at Larkhill. These men and women have done what many S.S. men did after World War II, they have been reintegrated into society, no one knowing the sins they committed in the past. Once V has carried out his vendetta, he moves on to bigger and better things.

He realizes that he must teach Evey in the ways of the Revolutionary. He releases her to the world and then manipulates her into a sad and painful drama. She is forced to go through all that V went through, not knowing that it is all a game. In the end, she comes out successful. Her tears and her pain teach her what it truly means to be free and why it is worth everything in the world. V plays many games. He manipulates those within the government. He causes turmoil and corruption. He uses a machine to manipulate the people into action and manipulate Norsefire's leader into apathy and detachment. The vicious cabaret plays out. It plays so softly that one barely notices that it is playing at all, but the dominoes are set and with a flick of V's finger, they all fall down in a beautiful and intricate pattern. And when the dominoes topple and the design is revealed, so too does the government itself topple. V reaches his revolution, and dies without regret in the process. Or does he?

Moore's writing is filled with complex allusions and word play. He beautifully paints every character, no matter how insignificant, and leaves no one hollow or inhuman. Lloyd uses extremely complex lines and shadows in order to bring every dark and complicated aspect of Moore's writing to light.

Let me revisit my question, does V die? The answer is "No". "There's no flesh and blood within this cloak to kill. There's only an idea," he says. "Ideas are bulletproof." V is not a man; he is a symbol, a symbol of anarchy and freedom. During V's manipulation of her, Evey reads a letter from another victim of oppression. Her name is Valerie, and her letter also showed V what he was fighting for. In the letter she writes, "I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish…Except one. An inch. It's small and it's fragile and it's the only thing in the world that's worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us."

V is that inch. He is the freedom and the individuality that can never die. That inch had driven every battle that has ever been fought in the name of liberty. You will always have a role to play, a song to sing. One that you alone control. This inch allows men to die knowing that nothing is worse than losing your freedom. Nothing.

V for Vendetta is a truly powerful work about freedom and passion that teaches us that there is always something to fight for. We must simply realize that it is there and how important it is. "Since mankind's dawn, a handful of oppressors have accepted the responsibility over our lives that we should have accepted for ourselves. By doing so, they took our power. By doing nothing, we gave it away. We've seen where their way leads, through camps and wars, towards the slaughterhouse…Tonight you must choose what comes next. Lives of our own, or a return to chains. Choose carefully. And so, adieu."
 
Very good, Moonie. Was this published as well?
 
I finally read Fight Club last week, and I thought that it would be an appropriate subject for my first non-comic review.

Fight Club
By moonmaster


When Chuck Palahniuk released his first novel Fight Club in 1996, it became a pop culture landmark. It's tale of self-destruction, social dissidence, and psychosis struck a chord with a country of people who feel trapped in the modern world. David Fincher's film adaptation three years later only cemented its place in the popular consciousness even more. But the story is often misunderstood. To the uninitiated, it is a testosterone driven story that endorses violence and aggression. This is a shallow assumption. Fight Club is really an apocalyptic tale of the extremes of modern life.

The novel's narrator is never actually given a name, but in most reviews and analyses he is called "Jack". Jack works as a recall coordinator for a major car company. His job consists of deciding whether automotive defects are serious enough to warrant a recall. He has become rather disenchanted with modern life. Jack suffers from insomnia. On night, he attends a meeting for men with testicular cancer, out of morbid curiosity. He is surprised to find that this meeting gives him a sense of comfort. He begins attending a different support group every night, each with a different alias and story. In the arms of these strangers who are face-to-face with their own mortality, he finds solace and eventually, sleeps. But this all come crashing down when Marla Singer begins coming to the meetings, too. Marla is also a faker, and her presence keeps Jack from feeling the same emotions he usually feels. He begins to despise her for ruining his ritual of tears and catharsis.

Exacerbating the situation, Jack is pushed into a rigorous routine of business travel. This relentless new schedule does little to help his sleeping habits or his sanity. He wonders, "If you can wake up in a different place. If you can wake up in a different time. Why can't you wake up as a different person?" Jack meets Tyler Durden while on vacation. Tyler is a projectionist, waiter, soap maker, and the first person Jack thinks to call when he comes home to find that his IKEA filled apartment has exploded (by gas leak). And a few hours later in a bar, Tyler asks Jack a simple favor: "I want you to hit me as hard as you can."

Fight club evolves out of Tyler and Jack's weekly brawls. Others join them and when the weather turns cold, they move from the bar's parking lot to its basement. Fight club has a simple set of rules (you've probably already heard the first two). Fight club becomes a place where working stiffs come to release their aggression and revolt against everything safe, painless, and "modern".

Jack lives with Tyler in an abandoned mansion on Paper Street. Much to Jack's dismay, Tyler begins a sort of strange relationship with Marla Singer. Jack hates Marla's rude and strange behavior and fails to understand her and Tyler's twisted relationship.

To the men of fight club, Tyler becomes a sort of guru, complete with a doctrine of anarchist philosophy: self-destruction over self-preservation, a rejection of material goods, an embracing of primal nature, and complete apathy to the prospect of death. Tyler teaches these things to Jack through acts of pain and fear. Jack achieves a kind of violent Zen that wavers depending on the situation. His new attitude creates some very interesting situations at his straight-laced office job.

Tyler's next objective takes the form of something called Project Mayhem. Project Mayhem is a group dedicated to bringing about the end of civilization. Their ultimate goal is a reversion to the barbaric world of ancient man. They work towards this with acts of terrorism and mischief. The members of Project Mayhem are the men of fight club, retrained by Tyler to adhere to his every command. Jack strongly questions Tyler's actions.

Then one day, Tyler disappears. In Jack's desperate search, he discovers that Tyler has established fight clubs all over the country and men with black eyes and broken teeth seem to be spreading like a disease. During one startling conversation with the manager of a fight club, Tyler begins to question his sanity. He decides to call Marla and in their conversation he learns the truth. He is Tyler. He always has been. Tyler is simply a personification of Jack's fed-up, overly macho side who he switches places with whenever he believes he is asleep. "If you can wake up in a different place…in a different time. Why can't you wake up as a different person?"

Jack tries to fight back against his other persona, but Project Mayhem has other plans. Tyler finally gets out of hand and with just minutes before Tyler's world-altering plans will come to fruition, Jack decides the only solution is to shoot himself. Tyler dies, but miraculously, Jack survives. Tyler is finally gone, but we learn in the end that Project Mayhem may never die.

So what is Palahniuk trying to tell us? There are certainly a myriad of themes to be examined when one reads Fight Club (though according to Palahniuk, his books are just about lonely people trying to make connections). But I thought that the biggest theme of Fight Club was emasculation. After all, it does seem to be the motivation for most of Jack's actions and the reason why the members of fight club are willing to follow him. They all share a common theme of emasculation in the modern world.

Tyler tells the men that they are a generation that was raised by women, and he's right. It's become quite common for father to abandon their children, either literally or emotionally. They've been raised in a society that devalues men. Palahniuk argues that feminism has bred men who feel that they are inferior and that their natural masculinity is being repressed. Their fathers abandoned them because it was an easy way of reasserting their masculinity. Now they do the same, but by methods of wide-spread destruction. They wish to be modern barbarians, they wish to break down civilization and rebuild it to suit their own needs.

So is Fight Club some sort of scathing indictment of feminism? A way of placing the blame for all social disorder on feminism? It's actually quite the contrary. It is important to note that at the end, Jack begins a serious, healthy relationship with Marla, much deeper than the degrading, physical one she shared with Tyler. Palahniuk has admitted that the ending of the film was much better than the ending of the book. In the final shot of the film, Jack and Marla stand hand in hand at the center of the screen. In their relationship we see can see a healthy balance of feminism and masculinity, true equality. The one idea I found most prominent in Fight Club is equilibrium. The only way to keep the modern world from driving us insane is to look at ourselves. In a society that is so obsessed with extremes, maybe the best position is the middle ground.
 
Anyone read it?

The other day I got some of Palahniuk's other books: Haunted, Stranger Than Fiction, and Diary. So far, I'm a few chapters into Haunted. Goodwill was right, "Guts" is the most stomach-churning story I have ever read. By the end I had a migraine and I felt like throwing up. It was actually hard to read.
 
I haven't read it.

The scene where he realizes that he and Tyler are the same person...I can't imagine how that would read in a book. It was done very well in the movie; to read that would seem anticlimatic.
 
E said:
I haven't read it.

The scene where he realizes that he and Tyler are the same person...I can't imagine how that would read in a book. It was done very well in the movie; to read that would seem anticlimatic.
Its done the same way as in the movie. Marla tells him over the phone that he is Tyler. Its practically the exact same dialogue as the movie.
 
WE3


"Nature gave them claws and teeth. Man gave them guns."

A dog, a cat, and a rabbit. They were once known as Bandit, Tinker, and Pirate. Now they
are 1, 2, 3. WE3.

WE3 is a 2005 mini-series from artist Frank Quitely and my very favorite writer, Grant
Morrison. Morrison's comics are eccentric and electric, and the man is nothing short of a genius.
Though I've largely neglected his past work in my reviews, expect this to be the first of many
Morrison articles this year.

Grant Morrison is a writer from Scotland whose been working in mainstream comics for
nearly twenty years, a practicing "chaos magician", and an ardent crusader for animals. It began
when Morrison got his first big gig at DC Comics, Animal Man. Animal Man is the mind-bending
journey of washed-up superhero Buddy Baker as he discovers the mysteries of the universe and his
own fictional existence. Grant also made Buddy a kind of animal rights activist, and Morrison
himself followed suit. "So it was that shortly after the beginning of my work on Animal Man, I joined
the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group and I ate my last ever steak. Since then I've survived
exclusively on water, grass, peanuts, and the kindness of strangers." Animal Man is excellent and
I'll likely be reviewing it soon, but let's get back to WE3, another, more focused commentary on
animal rights.

Our friends 1, 2, and 3 are animal weapons: pets turned cybernetic death machines by the
U.S. Air Force. Entombed in metal and wires, they are the most dangerous animals on the face of
the Earth. And even more interestingly, they can talk. Their machinery allows them to emote in a
sort of computerized shorthand.

Despite their undoubted effectiveness, WE3 is being decomissioned and "decomissioned"
means dead. WE3's primary creator, Dr. Roseanne Berry, has grown quite attached to the animals
and is greatly distressed by the news. In a brave move, she sets them free.

The government scrambles to find them, but WE3 only have one destination, a vague and
mysterious place called "HOME". Soldiers are deployed to recapture the animals, inciting a killing
spree like you've never seen. Between all the violence, 1, 2, and 3 develope distinct personalities. 1
wants nothing more than to find his home and be a "GUD DOG". 2 uses every oppurtunity she gets
to express her distaste for man ("SSST!NK BOSS!"). And 3 ... Well, 3 is just hungry. Always
hungry.

WE3 learn to cooperate as they fight their way through everything the Air Force has to
throw at them, including some terrifying new producst of the Animal Weapons program. Let me
make this perfectly clear: WE3 redefines ultraviolence. The stars of the book jump and bound
through frenetically paced and inventively told gore fests, rendered beautifully by Quitely. Quitely is
usually a "love him or hate him" kind of artist, but all you can do here is love him.

WE3 isn't all about the violence, though. In fact, once you get past all the blood and guts,
you discover something rather amazing. WE3 is really a touching story about three pets looking for
a place to belong. Think "Homeward Bound" but with guns and explosions. Morrison really makes
you feel for WE3. 1 lamenting his murder of an innocent man ("BAD DOG"), a tearful Dr. Berry
trying to tell 1 that his real name is Bandit, a member of the group sacrificing their life so that the
others may live. The whole series is just heartbreaking.

And that's how it gets you thinking. Unlike the countless animals being subjected to cruel
and painful tests in real life, WE3 can tell you how they feel and who they are. Each issue of WE3
sports a cover displaying each animal's missing poster. Yes, they were all once someone's pet. On
3's poster you learn that, according to Johnnie and Claire, Pirate "likes lettuce and carrots". It's
sad, but it really gets to you.

WE3 is one of the most well-crafted mini-series in recent memory and Morrison and
Quitely are an unstoppable creative force. WE3 is a simple tale of friendship and belonging, draped
in action movie excellence.
 
I cried like a ****ing baby reading We3. It reminded me of my dog that had died, and everytime I saw 1 talking I cried. I think it's the first comic book that made such impact in me. And I think that is why I like Morrison so much.
 
Three new stories this month for your mental consumption:


Halloween Movie Review

Scary movies have been a staple of Halloween happenings for decades now and have covered just about ever subject imaginable, monsters from outer space, vampires and warewolves, ghastly ghosts and all kinds of knife-waving nutjobs. But one genre has stuck out in my mind like a rotting coprse and is the only type of horror movie that really scares me: Zombie movies. Ever since I saw "Night of the Living Dead" as a kid, I've absolutely loved zombie movies. I even own The Zombie Survival Guide (A vital text for anyone wishing to survive the upcoming Undead Apocalypse). There's nothing scarier than the end of the world, especially when it's beating down your front door with it's bloody fists. Civilization crumbles and all of Man's accomplishments are nought but dust scattered to the wind. Zombie movies have used this Apocalypse scenario as the basis of many excellent films.

The end-all, be-all of zombie movies is George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead". "Dawn" is the sequel to "Night", which shocked audiences and revolutionized the horror movie genre with it's brazen approach toward tough social issues and it's nihilistic twist ending. It took ten years for the sequel, but Romero did not disappoint. "Dawn of the Dead" begins in the midst of an epidemic that is causing the dead to return, as a young couple and a pair of SWAT team officers escape from Pittsburgh by helicopter. After some wandering, they find the perfect safe haven, a shopping mall. The mall provides them plenty of food and shelter, but the place is filled to the brim with zombies. They must clear the mall and adjust to life there while facing a series of painful challenges, including some rowdy new arrivals.

"Dawn of the Dead" is perfect. There isn't much debate about that. Excellent writing, great performances, a surreal score, and one of the best taglines in movie history ("When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.") combine to make the best zombie movie ever. And just like "Night", "Dawn of the Dead" is a magnificent social commentary. In the film, the zombies return to the mall because "it was an important part of their lives". As the film progresses, the characters surround themselves in oppulence and begin to forget the mad world outside. "Dawn of the Dead" is clearly an indictment of consumerism and materialistic culture. George Romero has proved time and time again that horror movies can be intelligent and can have something to say, and "Dawn of the Dead" is a prime example of that.

Now something a little more recent, "Trainspotting" director Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later". A team of animal rights activists break into an animal testing facility to free the chimpanzees inside, but the chimps have been infected with a biological weapon, a blood disease that causes them to go insane with rage. Before they know it, the activists are themselves infected. 28 days later, the film's main character Jim wakes to find London deserted and desolate, except for an endless mob of nocturnal, "Rage"-infected people. He's saved by a tough-as-nails survivor named Selena. Jim and Selena later meet up with a father and his daughter and the whole group heads to a distant military base, in search of an alleged cure for infection. But at the military base they only encounter more terror, this time from an enemy even more dangerous than the infected.

So "28 Days Later" isn't technically a zombie movie, but despite it's lack of shambling corpses, the movie fits all the right criteria. The characterizations and acting are spot on and Boyle's direction is nothing but phenomenal. "28 Days Later" is one of those movies that you can watch over and over again and keep on finding new tricks and inventive shots. "28 Days Later" also carries on the tradition of social commentary. The disease that ravages the U.K. is a biological weapon, disturbingly similar to the kind that are being developed in the real world. "28 Days Later" is a frightening example of what could go wrong and how we would suffer.

My last zombie flick is a little British oddity called "Shaun of the Dead". Written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, "Shaun of the Dead" is a zombie comedy. To clarify: Not a parody of zombie movies, but a comedy with a zombie element. Surprisingly enough, the movie is hilarious. Electronics salesman Shaun (played by Pegg himself) is an average guy from London with a whole mess of problems. Everyone is urging him to dump his lazy, irresponsible friend Ed and his relationship with his girlfriend Liz is on the rocks. When Liz finally dumps him, Ed takes Shaun for a night out to forget about his troubles, which of course involves getting completely drunk. The next morning it takes the two of them an hilariously long amount of time to realize that London is in the middle of a zombie-crisis. Their first plan of action is to rescue Shaun's mom and Liz, and head to the pub to wait things out, but as expected, nothing goes according to plan.

"Shaun of the Dead" is British humor, which means it's very smart and very dry. It's refreshing to see a movie with such reverence for the subjects that it's based on. Unlike the "Scary Movie" series and horror films it bases it's comedy off of, "Shaun" never mocks zombie movies. However, it does derrive a lot of great comedy from the stumbling, moaning attributes of the typical movie zombie. I can definitely say that I'll be looking forward to Wright and Pegg's next movie, the upcoming "Odd Couple" cop comedy "Hot Fuzz".

Zombie movies have become a fruitful genre for anyone looking to do something a little more original with horror movies. That's why they've been host to such smart stories and even hysterical comedy. I'm sure I'll be in love with zombie movies for years to come, and I hope Hollywood feels the same way. Long live the undead.


Dignity: A Right That We All Deserve (Editorial)

Recently I discovered a short-lived column on my favorite writer Grant Morrison's website. The first few installments of the column were standard Morrison insanity until one entry, about a week after September 11th. Morrison explained his thoughts on the tragedy and gave a list of things that we need to watch out for. One of his foremost warnings was to not allow the government to use the events on 9/11 as an excuse to violate people's basic human rights. Unfortunately, Morrison's predictions have come true.

Last September, President Bush attempted to change Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, forbidding the inhumane treatment of enemy combatants in wartime. Essentially, Bush wants to reduce the amount of rights given to prisoners of war, in terms of interrogation and trial. This is yet another extreme measure undertaken in the "War on Terror" (A ridiculous and idiotic phrase for reasons too numerous to talk about here). For years, the government has simply ignored the Geneva Conventions. Now, it seems that they want to alter it to their own needs.

What would be the ramifications of redefining the Geneve Conventions? Prominent figures on both sides of the political spectrum, such as John McCain (Who endured six years of extreme torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese) have argued that changing the rules would send a message to other nations that they may do the same, endangering American soldiers abroad. "The Bush proposal would send a signal that the United States has abandoned its commitment to human rights, and invite other nations to reinterpret the Geneva Conventions as they see fit, eliminating protections for American troops seized in future conflicts." While this would certainly be a dreadful situation, what concerns me more is the more general violation of basic human rights.

These kinds of violations are nothing new to the current administration. Two years ago, CIA agents anonymously told sources that the CIA uses painful interrogation techniques, such as beating suspects and placing them into exceedingly uncomfortable and restrained positions for extended periods of time. The use of "waterboarding", a technique that causes extreme stress by simulating the sensation of drowning, was also confirmed. On an interesting sidenote, the television show "The 4400" aired an episode a few months ago that featured a scene of someone being waterboarded. The episode was later pulled from the air because the scene was dubbed too graphic. Despite the cruelty of such techniques, they are not technically defined as torture. This precedent was set by the European Court of Human Rights in the 70s when these kinds of methods were used by the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland.

Psychological interrogation techniques, like sensory and sleep deprivation have also been implemented. Documents have shown that the government's definition of torture only seems to include the prolonged and sustained administration of pain, or mehods that result in serious bodily harm or death. Never mind how painful said methods are, or how long lasting the severe psychological effects may be.

Guantanamo Bay has been perhaps the most public example of post-9/11 human rights violations. The military base is located in Cuba, granting it's prisoners exemption from the Bill of Rights and the basic rights granted to prisoners of war and regular domestic criminals. Suspects can be placed in Guantanamo without reason for an indeterminable amount of time. Prisoners face so-called "Combatant Status Review Tribunals", but only after years of unjustified inprisonment and under unfair conditions. These reviews allow hearsay evidence, evidence obtained through torture and evidence withheld from the prisoner. Unlike the justice system that we're used to, prisoners being reviewed by a tribunal are assumed guilty and must prove themselves innocent. Interrogation techniques such as "shortshackling" (chaining a prisoner uncomfortably to the floor) and extreme uses of sound, light, and temperature have also been reported.

A startling number of Gitmo detainees have taken their lives while in captivity. Officials have had the audacity to refer to prisoner suicides as protests or rebellions. Could it not be that the psychological pains endured at Guantanamo are enough to drive some people to suicide? Apparently, the government doesn't think so.

One example of the conditions at Guantanamo came from the Tipton Three, a trio of British men who were arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 and held at Gitmo for three years. The men attested to having been beaten and tortured, all in an effort to get them to sign phoney confessions. The men were never charged or given legal representation and were released without explaination in 2004. The account of their ordeal has since been made into a recent, award-winning documentary called "The Road to Guantanamo".

Even more publicly than Guantanamo Bay, the 2004 images from Abu Gharib prison in Iraq stunned the world. Prisoners were put in humiliating and degrading positions. Suspects were beaten and sexually abused, even raped. Dogs were used to frighten hooded prisoners. These abuses would not have come to light if it weren't for photos taken by guards being leaked. Unlike other violations, these incidents were mainly carried out by isolated soldiers, apparently without the sanction of higher officials. But the fact that the guards at Abu Gharib were allowed to get away with their crimes for so long underlies an inability to spot injustices.

Another controversial method used by the government is known as "extraordinary rendition". Extraordinary rendition is when a suspect is deported and taken somewhere else for torture and unlawful interrogation. Basically, since we aren't allowed to torture suspects, we can detain them and ship them off to a country that does. There was the innocent Canadian who was kidnapped and sent to a Syrian prison to be abused, the German who alleges that he was captured in Macedonia, drugged, and sent to Afghanistan for brutal interrogation, the London Ethiopian who was sent to Morocco by American agents to be tortured until he was forced to say that he was a part of Jose Padilla's "dirty bomb" plot.

In the past, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has complained about media coverage of alleged torture. I'm sorry Mr. Rumsfeld, but I don't think that the problem is those reporting your human rights violations, but the violations themselves.

With the President recently admitting that there are secret CIA prisons where no established rules of treatment apply, the evidence of the injustices committed by the government are beginning to pile up. John McCain's arguement that the President's blatant disregard for basic human rights laws may endanger American soldiers is certainly a valid way of convincing other politicians to take acion, but as I've said, the violation of human rights itself is what disturbs me.

No one deserves to be tortured, and if torture is the most effective method that the government can implement in order to prevent terrorism, than they seriously need to rethink how they are handling the "War on Terror". Stooping to torture is the lowest low that this administration has fallen to and may be viewed as one of it's worst crimes when future generations look back at this period. I can only commend the brave efforts of those who have tried to expose these crimes.

The use of torture may protect national security to some extent, but not using torture will without a doubt protect something even more important: Basic human dignity.


Promethea

Transcendent, brilliant, beautiful. I could think of an hundred adjectives to describe Promethea, but one in particular seems to be most appropriate: "Magical".

Really, that's exactly what Promethea is about. A 32-issue comic book series written by the legendary Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Watchmen) and illustrated by the soon-to-be-legendary J.H. Williams III (Seven Soldiers of Victory, Detective Comics), Promethea was published under Moore's Wildstorm imprint, America's Best Comics, between 1999 and 2005. While Moore's other ABC ventures were certainly fun (Tom Strong, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Promethea stands on an intellectual and artistic level of it's own.

Promethea focuses primarily on Sophie Bangs, a New York college student living in the neon, super-scientific world of the ABC Universe. While writing a research paper of the phenomenal reoccurance of the name "Promethea" in various literary works, Sophie stumbles upon an incredible 1500 year old story. In the 5th Century, a young girl named Promethea's father was killed by a Christian group for being an hermetic scholar, a kind of magician. Her father's dying wishes allowed Promethea to become a living story, a tangible symbol of the human imagination. Promethea can be invoked into the material world through art, hence her name popping up so much. Promethea manifests into people when they write about her or inspire someone to write about her. When the last Promethea becomes old and tired, Sophie inherits the role and is transformed into a flying goddess with caduceus (A staff with two snakes wrapped around it) in hand.

Promethea is greeted by a cynical and grimy world with apprehension. Moore's ultra-futuristic New York is an exaggeration of the real world, a world that's become obsessed with technology and material things and has forgotten about spirituality and imagination. Cue Sophie. See, Promethea's father sent his daughter into the higher planes of existance for a specific purpose. It's Promethea's job to end the world, the physical world. There are quite a few people who are opposed to this, for obvious reasons, but Sophie has more important issues to deal with, mainly learning about what magic(k) really is.

The past Prometheas take Sophie through the world outside of petty physical life, the Immateria. A place where stories grow and ideas blossom. She learns about the holy properties of love from a magician named Jack Faust. The spiraling snakes of her caduceus show her how the 22 major Tarot cards tell the story of the Universe.

When the former Promethea dies, Sophie is surprised to find that she does not live amongst the other Prometheas, but continues on into the afterlife in search of her dead husband. Sophie follows after, into the Kaballistic Tree of Life. Despite the shallow devotion that most celebrities seem to have in it, Kaballah is actually a rather brilliant form of ancient Jewish mysticism used to map out existance itself. It's all quite heady, but Moore and Williams III explain it in the most eloquant and effective way possible.

The Tree of Life in Kaballah is a shape made up of ten spheres, called Sephiras, that represent the original system of planets and are linked by 22 paths that correspond to the major Tarot cards. Sophie visits each one, snaking her way up the tree. Setting off from the material world (Sephira 10), she first visits the ghostly inhabitants of the ninth sphere, home to dreams and the eternal night. The Greek god Hermes tells Sophie about how all things (even human beings) are composed of language in Sephira 8. She swims in the green sea of emotion and love that is Sephira 7. The Sixth Sephira represents the human soul, the golden country of the purest form of self. Higher up are the spheres of divine Judgement (the order and structure of existance) and divine Mercy (the comforting security that we are all part of the same Universe).

The last three spheres form a triangle that essentially represents God. The first is Understanding, as in the understanding of God, as represented by the woman. The second is Wisdom, the expression of that Understanding, as represented by the man. When man and woman get together, we get the expression of God. The greatest of all revelations, The Big Bang. The last Sephira, at the very top of the tree, is the Godhead. God is everything, all of us, all at once. The existance of everything in one place and one moment. From the blinding light of God, Sophie soars back down the Tree of Life and back to the tenth sphere.

I'm going to take a moment here to expound upon how magnificent J.H. Williams III's art is. No other artist can create such mood and atmosphere. His completely out of the box storytelling techniques make reading Promethea an incredible experience. Throughout the entire series he displays a massive amount of diversity and talent. From standard penciling to complex painting, Williams III can do it all. For instance, every sephira has an artistic theme. There's the burnished golden hues of the soul, the ocean blue Van Gogh painting of Mercy, the endless whites and complex geometric structures of God. No other artist could have captured the sheer scope of Moore's story.

Speaking of Moore's story, Sophie comes back from her existential adventure as a different person. She grows up and is enlightened just in time for everything to go horribly wrong. The government gets wind of Promethea's plan to "destroy the world" and systematically arrests everyone linked to her. Sophie escapes and lays low, assuming a mundane life with a boyfriend under a new name. But her past catches up with her, and when the government backs her into a corner, Promethea returns and the end of the world is set in motion. Time and space begin to go all wonky. New York becomes a mishmash of symbols and psychedelic imagery. Despite the positive nature of Promethea's task, the world reacts with fear. Sophie frees her friends and soon, it begins. A dreamlike haze spreads across the globe, entrancing everyone in it's glow.

And then Promethea speaks. She speaks to everyone, to everyone in existance. She admits who she is, a fiction. A character in a comic book. But she explains that she is just as real as anything else you can see. Breaking the Fourth Wall is nothing new to comic books, but not to such a blatant and effective degree. Promethea proceeds with her conversation, explaining the basic concepts that we've already learned, focusing on the idea of unity, that we are all apart of the same point and the same moment. She explains that the material world is but a dream, a game of make believe that she has been telling us, but we've grown up now. We're ready to stop pretending.

And then, everyone wakes up. And nothing has changed. Well, at least that's what it seems. It turns out that the end of the world is simply an awakening, a revelation. As Sophie's boyfriend explains it, "It doesn't end with a bang, right? Or a whimper. It ends with 'Hey, yeah, I get it.'" Things are brighter and happier, and people are more in touch with the spiritual. The gritty, futuristic New York City has morphed into a technicolor circus, like some city from Oz. And Sophie is no longer Promethea. She's just a normal person again, but a much happier one.

The world continues on, but with a new song in it's heart. We could all afford to have a little bit of that song in our hearts, words that you may never forget. The final words that Promethea speaks before fading away into the darkness.

"Rejoice. Return now to your separate moments, selves, and rooms, and know that separation for illusion. Know that you were one, were here, and in eternity are here forever. Here, where sudden firelight in your soul startled you from your worldly slumber.

"Stay awake."
 
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I should mention that we're going to start putting comic strips in the paper, so thanks to my suggestion we're going to try and get the Perry Bible Fellowship. Sweet!
 
Good article. I did notice you spelt werewolf wrong though.

And Promethea hurts my mind.
 
Ex Machina
By Moonmaster




"deus ex machina (DAY-us ex MAH-kin-ah):
Literally, "god from the machine." A person or
force that arrives to provide an improbable
solution to an impossible situation, named after
the mechanical device used by Greek dramatists
to lower actors playing deities onto the stage."


The above-mentioned plot device is where the Wildstorm comic book series Ex Machina (written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Tony Harris) gets its title, and it is undeniably a persistant theme in the book. Indeed, the series' protagonist Mitchell Hundred must be used to the deus ex machina, as "improbable solutions to impossible situations" seem to be a simple fact of his life.

Hundred's story begins in 1999, when the 30-year-old civil engineer is asked to investigate an anomalous object spotted under the Brooklyn Bridge. Upon further investigation, he finds a kind of machine, which promptly explodes in his face. Suddenly, his head is bombarded with voices and sounds. Somehow, he finds that he can hear-and command-machines. Mitchell begins building things, and a friend comes to the wild conclusion that Hundred has been blessed with some kind of glorious new destiny. Against all better judgement, Mitchell Hundred is convinced into becoming the "Great Machine", the world's first living, breathing superhero. In a year of undertaking this role, Mitchell learns some valuable lessons and becomes a controversial figure.

By 2001, he decides that running around in a costume trying to maintain the status quo serves no one and that he can only truly make a difference through more conventional means. He resolves to fix the ultimate broken machine: politics. In the summer, he reveals his identity and announces his candidacy for the mayor of New York City. At first, he is merely a darkhorse candidate; he's kind of a joke, really. But on September 11th, Mitchell and his abilities stop the second plane in New York and he saves thousands of lives. He wins the election by a landslide.

This is a very long setup for the actual running premise of the series, which follows Hundred's first term as New York's mayor, from the beginning of 2002 to the election in 2005. So, obviously, Ex Machina is a book that's set firmly in the recent past, and this gives it a clear sense of hindsight. Storylines intelligently tackle relevant political issues of the past six years.

I, for one, am a big fan of metaphor. I love having to unravel the meaning of a story for myself. But sometimes comics have a glut of metaphor, something that I suppose comes from the fact that most mainstream comics fit into the "science-fiction/fantasy" genre, which is, by its very nature, ripe with symbolism. This is why Ex Machina is refreshing. It's straightforward, honest, and realistic with a capital 'R'. There has been some criticism of the 9/11 aspect of the series, but what it does is ground the series in reality from the outset.

Most of the story arcs deal directly with hot-button political issues: censorship, gay marriage, drug laws, the war in Iraq. And it's always interesting to see how Mayor Hundred deals with his challenges. Vaughan has stated that the book was inspired by his own dissatisfaction with current political leadership. Hundred is an expression of an idealic leader. He's a smart, but fairly normal and likable person who makes rational decisions without taking any partisan influence into account.

It's not all politics, though. There's a fair amount of suspense and intrigue. Most storylines feature some sort of mystery subplot. The series rarely features an entirely linear story, with the past playing a huge role in events. Mitchell's old superhero career is an integral part of many stories.

The simplest comparison I've found for Ex Machina is that it's "The West Wing" meets "Law and Order" with a dash of "Heroes". Comparing it to television is fairly easy since the series has a distinct and intentional "tv drama" feel to it. It's like reading an HBO show.

Tony Harris's art contributes to this. The book is done using heavy photo reference and it shows. The characters emote with incredible accuracy and everything is done with realistic detail.

Which leads me back to the issue of realism and how 9/11 plays into the series. What Ex Machina is really about is heroism, and what events like September 11th have taught us about it. Twenty years ago in the seminal comic book series Watchmen, Alan Moore first challenged the black and white nature of superhero morality, and in many ways Ex Machina continues in this tradition. Mitchell Hundred learns that "superheroism" doesn't necessarily equal real heroism. In a way, we've forgotten that politicians can be heroes. The idea is almost laughable. Maybe it's their fault, maybe it's our fault, maybe it's a little bit of both. But reading about people like Franklin D. Roosevelt just makes you wonder why politicians today can't be that real and that noble, why they can't seem like heroes.

Mitchell Hundred is the kind of person we need nowadays. A superhero turned mayor. It's seems ridiculous, but it's a nice thing to think about, isn't it?
 
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