Lily Reads Comics – The StoryTeller: Giants

I’m never one to miss a Jim Henson comic, but it sure can take me a while to get around to reviewing them. In a prior installment of Lily Reads Comics, I shared The StoryTeller: Dragons, and now that the newest series, The StoryTeller: Fairies is reigniting interest in the stories, I’m excited to share them with you!

Tale One: The Peach’s Son

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale One features story and art by Conor Nolan with letters by Warren Montgomery.

This first issue in the series is based on the Japanese folktale of Momotarō, which translates to “Peach Boy” or “The Peach’s Son.” In folklore and in the comic, a giant peach is discovered by an old childless woman while she is washing clothes in the river. When she and her husband cut into it to eat, they discover a baby boy inside.

I think it’s clever how the comic imagines the boy from the giant peach growing up to be a giant himself. The old couple loves and supports him as their own son, but the villagers mistrust someone who looks so different. When displaced people arrive with stories of ogres, the giant boy offers to help them reclaim their homes, hoping that it might also vindicate him in the eyes of his neighbors.

On his journey, the boy befriends a wolf, a monkey, and a crane. I love a good camaraderie story, and I was looking forward to each of the animals using their unique talents to help the boy. The only disappointment I felt was because the story wasn’t longer, because by the time our fellowship meets the ogres, the comic was already past the halfway point, so there wasn’t much time to indulge in elaborate teamwork-heavy battle strategies. That’s a personal preference, though; I don’t think the story is really lacking and it ends happily, as The StoryTeller series often does.

I loved the artwork in this issue, especially how it portrayed the StoryTeller. Conor Nolan really nailed it with the facial expressions, and whether they were on humans, animals, or ogres, they were compelling and emotive. It’s always a good sign when I find myself staring at pages long after I’ve read all the words, and I did just that!

My only lingering questions originate from a panel on the second page. When the old peasant woman is doing her washing in the river, there are six giant peaches and she manages to bring one of them home. Could there have been giant children inside the other peaches? What are their stories?

Tale Two – The Tailor’s Daughter

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Two features story and art by Brandon Dayton with coloring assistance by Spencer Holt.

This second issue draws on stories from Russia, Norway, and France, and from the start, it had me wondering how it would surprise me. The StoryTeller series has a penchant for opposing our expectations when it comes to a character’s intentions. Like some issues from The StoryTeller: Witches and The StoryTeller: Dragons before it, the giant of our first tale was a hero, and I thought that some twist might reveal a kind heart inside the grotesque giant of this story.

Also like our first hero, the protagonist comes across three animal friends on her journey, but instead of joining her to fight, they offer her gifts. After receiving the best needle and pincushion from her father, the tailor’s daughter rescues a goose, a hare, and a mare from the giant’s snares. When they learn she is travelling to the castle to marry the giant and fulfill her father’s promise, they give her a magic collar, magic boots, and a magic comb, respectively, saying that she will need them more than they will.

She arrives at the castle to find her betrothed has monstrous table manners, but he does give her full access to everything the castle has to offer — the gardens, the libraries, the halls — except for the cellar. But as the Storyteller says, “You can’t tell a story with a shut door anymore than you can with a shut mouth,” so you know she’s going to open it. I won’t tell you what she finds, but you can bet that she will put all of her gifts to good use!

The art style here was very different from its predecessor, but I loved it just as much. The castle afforded many opportunities for dense bookshelves and laden tables, and I wanted to soak in every detail. That led me to discover one tiny continuity error, though. The magical comb doesn’t appear in her hair until the panel when she opens the cellar door. I suppose it is magical, after all.

Tale Three – Pru and the Fomorian Giants

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Three features story and art by Jared Cullum with letters by Warren Montgomery.

Before this comic, I had no idea about the Fomorian giants of Irish mythology (or The Forgotten Realms, for that matter). They are the foes of this tale, and based on their size in comparison to humans, I’d say they might also be the largest giants of the series.

The Fomoire are the catalyst, but they take a back seat to the story of the bond between siblings. The arrival of these giants separates Pru and her little brother from their parents, and after three years of living on their own in the wild, Pru is adept at protecting Spoon (we have reason to believe this is not the name his parents Mathghamhain and Fedlimid gave him) with her slingshot and her father’s drum. When she can’t defend herself, a mysterious spirit named Púka comes to her aid. Spoon takes to Púka immediately. But Pru is tired of always having to look after her brother, and in her frustration, she blames him for their parents’ fate. By the time she can take back her words, it’s too late. Spoon wanders off alone to prove himself and is quickly captured by a Femoire!

To save her brother, Pru teams up with Púka whose shapeshifting abilities are sure to come in handy. And Mathghamhain’s words, “Family stays together,” may take on a whole new meaning.

Jared Cullum’s watercolors created something special in this issue. I was impressed by the way Cullum conveyed motion in an early panel with a giant’s shadow overtaking a horse, and it was a perfect medium for the ethereal movement of Púka. Setting Púka apart with speech bubbles that were a different color than those of the mere mortals was a nice addition. I loved that the first form we saw of the shapeshifter was a bear, since Mathghamhain means “bear” in Irish Gaelic.

And remember when I said that stories in the StoryTeller series tend to have happy endings? That isn’t always true. The world of Pru and Spoon was changed forever when the Fomoire arrived. Their tale cannot right all the wrongs, but it still manages to end on a hopeful scene.

Tale Four – The Fisherman and the Giant

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Three features story and art by FeiFei Ruan with spot illustration by Sonny Liew.

This is normally the part where I give a little bit of cultural context or begin a plot synopsis, but I have to start with the art style because it is so striking.  FeiFei Ruan creates a surreal atmosphere with delicate, fine lines that draws on traditional Eastern art styles, but creates an entirely new experience. The comic, like much of Ruan’s work, is done in only a few colors. Please take a moment to marvel at the first three pages in the gallery below.

You don’t even know what a treat you’re in for as the comic continues.

This tale is based on the story of the fisherman and the genie from The Arabian Nights. In this version, the genie has been replaced with a powerful giant that can even change into a large bird. It all starts with our fisherman taking pity on the fish in his net when he discovers they used to be humans. They were the former inhabitants of a beautiful island, but when the ruling giant’s heart was broken, he decided to make all the humans disappear. When the fisherman arrives on the island, he is greeted by a courtyard of stone soldiers. Three mice try to deter him, assuming he seeks to gain the giant’s magical powers like all the rest who were turned to stone, but he tells them that his only desire is to stop the giant. The mice spell out the secret to the giant’s destruction, but even they can only help the fisherman for so long before the giant turns them into a three-headed dog to pursue our hero.

The story is simple and straightforward, and with all of his tools and allies, the fisherman is sure to triumph. But I won’t spoil the ending for you!

 

Jim Henson’s The StoryTeller: Giants was released as a hardcover graphic novel in August 2017. If you love the look of these stories, why not head to your local comic book shop and order them all in one volume? While you’re there, you could pick up the first issue of Jim Henson’s The StoryTeller: Fairies that came out last month. I can’t wait to read the rest of the latest series.

I’m excited to share more comic books with you in my next installment of Lily Reads Comics. Until then, let me know your thoughts on the tales from The StoryTeller: Giants!

Advertisements

Lily Reads Comics – The Power of the Dark Crystal Volume 1

In an effort to help me catch up on some fantasy films I had managed to miss out on, my friend Yusuf (@Morgul_blade) introduced me to The Dark Crystal. I really enjoyed it, and like so many of the others on my assigned viewing list (e.g. The Black Cauldron), I was a bit sad that I never saw them as a kid, because I knew I would have cherished them.

In my recap, I remember telling Yusuf that I could really see the film as a comic or graphic novel and that I’d be really excited to see what BOOM! Studios was doing with it in their series of comics. Well, being the great pal that he is, he sent me The Power of the Dark Crystal Volume 1!

The Power of the Dark Crystal is based on screenplays by Craig Pearce, Annette Duffy, and David Odell. The 12-part comic series is written by Simon Spurrier, illustrated by Kelly and Nichole Matthews, and lettered by Jim Campbell.

The Power of the Dark Crystal Vol. 1
Cover by Jae Lee and June Chung

Having had literally no idea what the book would be about, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t simply a rehash of the story from the film (though honestly, that would have been fine with me). This tale starts many years after the events from the movie; it has been a century since Jen and Kira healed the cracked Crystal and banished the terrifying Skeksis. The first pages show a shining Crystal Castle and a seemingly thriving land of Thra, but I was immediately put on edge when I saw piles of offerings around the Crystal.

Many of our favorite characters and creatures are back — Jen and Kira, Aughra, Fizzgig, Gelflings, Podlings, Landstriders, and more — but we are quickly introduced to someone so completely new that even the Gelflings don’t know of her kind’s existence. Thurma is a Fireling whose people live in a fiery realm near the core of Thra. She has traveled to the castle to ask for help from the Gelflings, but her entrance doesn’t exactly go smoothly. While she sneaks around evading guards in search of the Crystal, she sees the greedy and unsympathetic side of the Gelflings.

Kensho is an exception. When a Podling family is turned away from the healing light of the Crystal, Kensho offers them his birth stone as an offering. Seeing this, Thurma supposes, “Perhaps the Gelfling aren’t so bad after all…” Eventually, these two strike up a friendship, but it is immediately tested when Thurma asks permission from the newly awakened Jen and Kira to break the Crystal to save her people.

We learn throughout the book how it was that Kensho came to serve as an acolyte at the Crystal Palace. Unbeknownst to the kindly Jen and Kira, a blight has been despoiling the countryside for years. When Kensho’s village came to seek the healing powers of the Crystal with no offering, he selflessly offered his service, allowing his loved ones to be revived. When Thurma hears this story, she reminds him of his willingness to do anything for his people and how she took her mission for the same reason. This thread connects them but can also divide them.

I try to keep my posts as spoiler-free as possible, so even though The Power of the Dark Crystal Vol. 1 covers six comic issues and half of the story, I’m going to conclude my summary of the plot by saying that the world of Thra is rattled, and we can only surmise how the prophecy will be fulfilled:

“When feeble shines what once was bright
And secret spheres succumb to night —
If inward passes the slivered light
One world dies
Another made right”

(Talking with Yusuf made me realize that even though I think that I know what the prophecy alludes to, prophecies are always tricky things!)

The writing in this book was really enjoyable, and I felt that the dialogue struck a good balance between an homage to the film (in the form of Jen and Kira, especially) and fresh language that introduces a new era and characters.

The artwork was beautiful, and I can’t say enough good things about the thoughtful ways that Thurma’s fire was portrayed. It can be a reflection of her mood but also provide comedy as this misfit Fireling copes with being in a different physical surrounding. There were also some gorgeous panels that took advantage of motifs from the movie without being confusing or difficult to read.

The Power of the Dark Crystal #2
Variant cover by Sana Takeda

This novelized version included the single issue covers as well as variant covers and other art that hearkened back to the design aesthetics used in the films. I loved it all, but I’m sure that long-time fans would appreciate those pieces even more.

The single issues are still being published (Issue #9 was released last Wednesday), and Volume 2 comes out in hardcover on April 28, 2018. I hope you’ll check it out for yourself because I think it is a worthy sequel and legitimately wonderful on its own.

 

I’m excited to keep reading and keep sharing comics with you in my ongoing series Lily Reads Comics. I’d love your feedback on any particular books that I’ve reviewed and how I could provide more value with my reviews (a rating system? book by book synopses?). And of course, I’d love to know your thoughts on The Power of the Dark Crystal Volume 1!

5 Fandom Friday: Five Villains We Secretly Love

Whether they are physically alluring, compelling to watch, or simply misunderstood, we all secretly have villains that we actually root for.

We’re keeping up with the spirit of Five Fandom Friday with our own prompts, and this week, we are daring to admit to Five Villains We Secretly Love! Do you see any of your favorites on our list?

#1 – Lucius Malfoy

Harry Potter Series

Maria: Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t deny Lucius’ evil side, I’m also not sugarcoating his views. In our world, he’d be an arrogant racist, and I’m all against that. Having said that, I cannot deny that Movie Lucius is such a dandy that he is almost on parr with Gilderoy Lockhart. Everything about movie Lucius in the early films is just so extra, so over the top that I cannot help but love him and feel for his character in the last films as his life starts to unravel.

#2 – Eris

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas

Lily: I loved the movie Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas when it came out, but it wasn’t entirely because of the heroic deeds of the protagonists. Eris, the goddess discord, was so entrancing to watch that I was always excited to see her. This is largely due to the interesting effects used to create her smoky appearances and movements (Eris is a combination of a hand-drawn character with added 3D effects).

She just wants to add a little chaos into the world, and she happens to use mortals as her playthings. But if you use her own rules to beat her at her own game, she accepts it…rather gracefully.

#3 – Wilson Fisk

Daredevil

Lily: The first time we meet Wilson Fisk, he is about to put himself out on a limb to ask a woman out on a date. He’s nervous and vulnerable, and I instantly felt empathy for him. His backstory is revealed throughout the first season of Daredevil, and we learn that a catalyst for his violence was wanting to protect his mother, a noble motivation. In his mind, he is the hero — like Matthew Murdock, he sees himself as the caretaker of his city. He just turns into a scary, calculating rage monster to make his vision happen.

#4 – Bart Curlish

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Lily: She’s crazy. She’s erratic. She’s hilarious. She’s deadly. Bart Curlish is the opposite of Dirk Gently in that she’s a holistic assassin and is meant to kill whomever she kills. And she has killed a lot of people. But never the wrong person.

Just like Eris, I was always looking forward to when this character would show up, even if her motive (“Kill Dirk Gently”) runs counter to the rest of the show. Honestly, sometimes I really wished for her to fulfill her mission just because I wanted her to have that win.

#5 – Gollum/Sméagol

The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings

Lily: When we first meet Gollum in The Hobbit, he’s a menace and an obstacle to be overcome (though the riddle game between Gollum and Bilbo is my favorite scene in the whole Hobbit movie trilogy). It’s in The Lord of the Rings that we become sympathetic towards him, or at the very least, can find him pitiable. He is single-minded from the moment he sees the ring, but it is his moments of compassion for Frodo that hearken back to the simple creature he was before the One Ring corrupted him. However, without that corruption, he would not have been able to empathize with Frodo.

He’s a complicated character, to be sure, but when people ask me about my favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings, Gollum is always in the top ten.

 

Did we leave any of your favorite villains off of our list? Be sure to let us know in the comments who we missed!

You can check out all of our past 5 Fandom Friday posts here, and we’d love to know if you have any suggestions for future topics!

Lily Reads Comics – Ladycastle

It sure is about time for me to jump back into my series of comics reviews! Happily, I’m finding that there are comics out there for everyone, even those of us who don’t care to keep up with endless superhero universes and spinoffs. In prior installments of Lily Reads Comics, I shared The StoryTeller: Dragons and Toil and Trouble, two series by Archaia that I really loved. However, I did promise that I wouldn’t only be talking about Archaia books, and I’m making good on that!

It has been over a year since my last comic book review, and I’ve been lucky enough to read several good books. It just so happens that Ladycastle from  BOOM! Studios will be released in trade paperback on October 24, so it seems like the perfect place to start.

Ladycastle is written by Delilah Dawson with art by Becca Farrow and Ashley A. Woods; the covers are by Ashley A. Woods and Elsa Charretier (variant)

Issue One: Welcome to Ladycastle

Issue One: Welcome to Ladycastle

When King Mancastle refuses to pay a toll, he and his men are cursed, and all (except one) are eaten by a dragon. Sir Riddick is the only man to return to the castle, where the women have taken over the roles of the menfolk and the eldest princess has been locked in a tower. The story opens with Princess Aeve describing her daily routine with a decidedly Rapunzel-esque song…

When I began singing along to the tune of “When Will My Life Begin” from Tangled, I knew we were off to a good start. Many of the other denizens of the castle are introduced with a song in the style of “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast. For years, Princess Aeve has been answering their letters as though she were an advice columnist. One person who never sends her letters is her younger sister Gwyneff. She resents Aeve for not marrying and therefore keeping their father away looking for a suitable husband, but Merinor the blacksmith chastises her for not being more sympathetic to her sister’s incarceration.

Now that Sir Riddick is the only man to be found, he assumes he will take on the mantle of king. But the Lady of the Lake is the one who bestows the sword of the king, and Merinor is the one to wield it! Keeping the mantle of “king,” she and the princesses set about to make ready for whatever the curse might bring.

The first foe to descend upon the castle does so in this issue, and Princess Aeve chooses to face it in a way contrary to Sir Riddick. And here we come to the first thing that bothered me. Aeve recalls a letter she received from “the well hag,” Hagatha, that is the key to their first victory. But other than one panel in which she neither speaks nor is named, the reader is completely unfamiliar with this character. I thumbed to the front of the comic, wondering if I had forgotten the aforementioned letter or Hagatha’s introduction, but there was nothing. This disjointed and hastily resolved battle left me a little wary, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from continuing with the series.

Issue Two: That Pesky Werewolf Problem

Issue Two: That Pesky Werewolf Problem

I’ll try to keep the rest of my review relatively spoiler-free, but the cover and title of Issue #2 have already given the second cursed adversary away!

The book opens with King Merinor singing a lyrically-altered rendition of “I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight” from the musical Camelot. Rather than a boisterous tune about being afraid to get married, I imagined her song as much more melancholy and vulnerable, punctuated by clang of her blacksmith’s hammer. She’s scared, but there’s no time to give into fear with werewolves howling outside the walls.

Merinor, Aeve, Gwyneff, and Sir Riddick head to the library to do some research on werewolves, and they discover that a secret librarian has been tending to the books. Yanni has been living in the dungeon-turned-library for years since her husband banished her there after she was paralyzed in a cart accident. She’s a font of knowledge and reference books, though she’s scared to go above ground after years of hiding because of her husband’s shame. The king supports her no matter what she decides, and she chooses to join them above ground, using her new job as the castle’s carpenter to make some battle-ready upgrades to her wheelchair.

The castle has little time to prepare before the werewolves are upon them. And again, I found myself disappointed in the rushed battle sequence. I appreciated that the ladies were armed with their wits, but there was another twist that came out of nowhere. When Princess Aeve jumps out of the window from the tower, she looked too happy to be plummeting to her death, so I scrambled to think of what she might have prepared for this eventuality. I ended up rolling my eyes and muttering, “Oh, of course,” because it seemed to be another solution pulled out of thin air.

Like Issue #1, though, the next adversary shows up before this chapter closes, and I couldn’t just leave it there. Besides, I liked some of the characters and was looking forward to another chance to see King Merinor in her awesome armor!

Issue Three: When Harpies Attack

Issue Three: When Harpies Attack

Again, the cover and title of this issue gives it away, so it’ll be no surprise that harpies are the next creatures to visit Ladycastle!

As we have become accustomed, the book opens with a song that seems awfully similar to another song we might be familiar with — this time, it’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” So I guess the source material doesn’t technically have to be a musical, but this series still manages to pick music that will end up being stuck in my head long after I finish the issue.

Some more new characters are introduced, and I’m kind of torn about how I feel about this. On the one hand, it’s nice to meet new characters with new skills. Dr. Quacksilver knows a thing or two about harpies, and though she no longer has to hide her face, she chooses to keep wearing her native costume. It also turns out that the Queen (the second wife of King Mancastle) still abides in the castle, and she is enlisted to teach everyone etiquette for their mandatory tea party with the harpies. Her lessons come complete with cue cards and Fight Club references. However, for only a four issue series, the time with these characters is all too brief. For example, we haven’t seen Hagatha or Yanni since their respective issues. I found myself wishing that this tale could be much longer — something like Castle Waiting, a series I’m sure I’ll find myself writing about sometime soon.

Even given my qualms, I was happy to see Gwyneff be the one who solves the harpy headache, and she and Aeve start to mend their relationship. King Merinor begins to wonder if this curse was actually good for them, but that’s right before Gwyneff suddenly disappears down a hole and a new enemy appears at the gate.

Issue Four: The Black Knight Rises

Issue Four: The Black Knight Rises

The final issue wraps a lot of things up, and there’s another twist that harkens back to what seemed like a throw-away line in an earlier issue. After my prior complaints, you can imagine that I really appreciated this pay off!

What song is used in the first pages? It’s “Ten Duel Commandments” from musical Hamilton, (which is itself a reference to “Ten Crack Commandments” by The Notorious B.I.G.). I don’t keep my love for Hamilton a secret, so obviously, this was another big win for me.

I also liked that a number of those smaller characters made appearances and got to use their skill sets, even though they only made their way into a few panels.

To find out how the story ends, you’ll have to read it for yourself! You can request the individual issues at your local comic book shop or wait until October 24, 2017, to get the trade paperback.

I’m excited to share more comic books with you in my next installment of Lily Reads Comics. Until then, let me know in the comments if you’ve read Ladycastle or if you plan to pick it up this month!

Five Questions After Watching Luke Cage

When it comes to Netflix’s Marvel shows, I mark the air date on my calendar and try to keep the weekend free for a good old fashioned binge watch. Needless to say, I was one of the many Luke Cage viewers who contributed to Netflix’s crash on Saturday.

lukecage

I thoroughly enjoyed the show, its music, its characters — heroes and villains alike. But like many comic book properties, it left me with some nagging questions that I hope will be resolved in future seasons or other Marvel shows.

In this SPOILER FILLED post, I share my Top 5 lingering questions. So don’t go past the Swear Jar unless you are caught up on Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

lukecageswearjar

#1 – What’s in the Swear Jar??

Pop’s death was an awful moment in the show, broken up by an endearing exchange between Pop and Luke about not swearing in the barber shop. With his dying breath, Pop makes sure to say, “Swear jar,” and it seems that this is in response to Luke’s foul language. But I was convinced that there was something else in the swear jar — something so important that Pop had to tell Luke before he died. I waited and waited for Luke to open the jar up for a shocking reveal. And…nothing. Now I have to hold out for Season 2!

lukecagejudasbullet

#2 – So Luke Cage’s Skin Isn’t Unbreakable?

Though it’s never explicitly stated, we’re lead to believe that the metal on the Judas bullets is of Chitauri origin. I get it. If you can’t actually kill or even break the skin on a hero, it doesn’t give the villains much to work with. But it makes me wonder…if Chitauri metal can pierce Luke Cage’s otherwise unbreakable skin, would Wolverine’s Adamantium claws or Black Panther’s Vibranium ones?

revaandluke

#3 – What is Reva mixed up in?

Reva sure manages to accumulate all kinds of sensitive data on thumb drives. In Jessica Jones, she leads Jessica and Kilgrave to a buried yellow USB drive with video footage of the experiments performed on Kilgrave as a child. In Luke Cage, she has a white USB drive in the motel where she meets Luke after his prison escape. In a later episode, Luke brings out a USB drive necklace filled with data that Dr. Burstein (aka Mr. Sketchy Prison Scientist) had lost. Burstein says, “Reva died for this, didn’t she?” and if it’s the same one from Jessica Jones, that’s exactly what happened. But to be honest, it’s a bit unclear whether all of these thumb drives carry the same data. No matter what, we don’t know the half of the underworld experiments Reva is mixed up in.

lukecagediamondback

#4 – Hammertech is still around?

Iron Man 2 introduced us to Justin Hammer, the founder of the weapons manufacturing company Hammertech. Hammertech desperately tried to compete with Stark Industries, particularly in the super suit market. The last time we saw Justin Hammer was in the Marvel One Shot “All Hail The King” when he was locked up in Seagate (yes, that Seagate) prison. Presuming he’s still serving time, who is running the company, pumping out weapons and supplying Diamondback with a super suit?

#5 – When does the soundtrack come out?

Watch the above video to learn how every episode was expertly crafted with music and performances to fit the mood and themes. Even the title of each episode is a track from Gang Starr. Luke Cage’s music supervisor Adrian Younge explains that they thought of each episode as an album. So…when do these albums drop?

 

Do you have any outstanding questions after Season 1 of Luke Cage? Leave your theories or favorite songs from the soundtrack in the comments below.