ThrowBack Thursday Review: Kevin Keller Miniseries

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that somehow when no one was looking, Archie became the coolest kid in the room. Forget 90 percent of the titles being churned out by the Big Two. If you’re looking for quality and progressive comics, Archie is where it’s at. Yes Archie. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. No, I am not joking. Yes, we could be in Bizarro World. Let me get back to you on that one.

I’ve read Archie comics with a twisted fascination for many years. The whole Mayberry/Stepford theme was something of a morbid fascination. A comic book full of good-nature clean wholesome fun revolving around a gang of vanilla All-American teens required far more suspension of disbelief than any story about aliens, mutants or bionic ninjas.

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I Believe In The Dark Knight

harvey dent

 

 

A true storyteller can often have the best insight on human condition. After all, in order to tell our stories, bards must have an intimate understanding of the forces that drive us. Within most of us, there is a struggle, an arc, a journey that is ruled by an internal conflict.

Often the key to said conflict can stare back at us the entire time.

Which brings us to the Dark Knight, the second of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy which I had the opportunity to rewatch the other night.

As for the movie itself, I think everything that needed to be said has been said: Christian Bale was a solid lead; the late Heath Ledger actually surpassed all the hype in his performance and Aaron Eckhart didn’t get the credit he deserved for his role as Harvey Dent.

Throughout the film, Bruce Wayne was seeking a white knight for Gotham. Someone pure of heart who could inspire the masses to be something better (not unlike what Superman does for Metropolis and the rest of the world). With his darkness fueling him as the grim vigilante, Bruce knew he couldn’t be that champion but he hoped someone could do for Gotham in the light of day what he did under the cloak of night.

Bruce finally thought he found that counterpart in Harvey Dent. Beautiful, charismatic and righteous, Dent proved a viable candidate. He was a man who seemed to have the fortitude to stand up to Gotham’s underworld without being corrupted himself. After all, you either die a hero or live long enough  to see yourself become a villain.

Enter the Joker, a man who simply wants to see the world burn and waged a war for Gotham’s soul. While Batman was incorruptible even in dire straits, sadly the same couldn’t be said for Dent. Ultimately Batman knew that in order to save the work he and Dent had begun, he took the blame for Dent’s murder and allowed himself to become a fugitive.

The irony is that even though he probably never realized it, what lied within Batman was indeed the pure of soul champion he had been searching for, the white knight  he thought he found in Dent. For only a man pure of heart would sacrifice himself without hesitation for the greater good. Only a man pure of heart would burden himself with the sins of others. In spite of all of his darkness and brooding , Bruce was the best of them. He always had been.

The lesson here being, the solutions we often search for outside ourselves, that semblance of completion, the resolution to that internal conflict, can usually if not always be found from within.

Funny how that epiphany hit home with me. And funny how I got THAT from a comic book movie.

 

Preview This

“If you don’t want us to judge a story based on its preview, then don’t release the preview, because literally the only reason that anyone has ever released any previews of any story, in all of human history, is to get them to judge the story based on the preview. The only real point of disagreement here is that we’re not judging the story POSITIVELY based on the preview, and that we’re not pledgi

ng to BUY the story based on the preview, and that’s the fault of YOUR incompetence in creating the preview, because all we’re doing is judging the story BY THE SAME STANDARDS THAT YOU *WANT* US TO JUDGE IT. For as much as they complain about their own audience’s so-called “whining,” entertainment media hacks are the most unforgivably entitled spoiled babies in existence. “YOU DON’T HAVE A RIGHT TO CRITICIZE IT UNTIL YOU’VE PAID US MONEY TO SEE IT, at which point we won’t care about your criticisms because we still have your money.”

Kirk Boxleitner

By Dennis R. Upkins Tagged

Review: Folklore and Other Stories

 

So late last year I was chatting with my buddy Ankhesen Mie about her novella Folklore and I mentioned to her that I planned to purchase it. She insisted I wait because she planned to re-release it. I was already even more curious because this novella had already received some serious acclaim—Midwest Book Review, RAWSISTAZ Literary, APOOO Bookclub for starters—so how much more awesome could this book get?

 

I would soon find out.

 

Confession time. I was actually very reluctant to write this review. Not because the book isn’t phenomenal, in fact quite the opposite. I was so blown away by Mie’s prose, that expressing my amazement into words simply wouldn’t do this novella justice. Just the same, I’m going to attempt to do so anyway.

 

“Folklore”

When young Kazuya Kurosaki orders the disposal of a rival’s favorite, beautiful Amisi Ryan shows up with a “‘thank you’…from the dead.” Her priceless gift, an approximately four-thousand-year-old solid gold mask, lures Kazuya into a world of myth and intoxicating fantasy, and with each telling of an ancient tale, he finds himself drawn further and further away from everything – and everyone – he knows.

As a writer, I was floored by Mie’s craftsmanship. We’re actually receiving two juxtaposed stories in one: the myth behind the mask and the fates of Kazuya and Amisi. In fact the myth of the mask plays out in the modern tale with subtlety and nuance; a testament to Mie’s masterful skills as a storyteller.

 

I had to put down my iPad in sheer amazement of Mie’s story structure and execution. I would be putting down my iPad repeatedly in amazement. In hindsight with the repeatedly placing down of said iPad, no wonder it took me forever to finish this novella.

 

While I was first introduced to the Hirosawa Klan (which reminds me, I needs to see about them adopting me because they are that badass) in Mie’s novel, The Woman From Cheshire Avenue, they actually make their debut prior to that novel her in Folklore. And per the standard they delivered the awesome. But they weren’t the only ones. Without giving anything away Hirosawa rival Raiya proved herself to be a boss chick and shows why she’s not the woman to cross.

 

I was gnashing teeth when the story concluded. I wanted more. I had to find out what happened next. Leaving her audience wanting more, Mie had done her job.

 

While I knew I would enjoy the other two stories, I was certain they wouldn’t be able to hold up to Folklore. How do you follow such a strong piece?

 

I would soon find out.

 

 

“Echo”

Rory Zheng is a young traveler who arrives at Silver Wood Manor, an enchanting residence atop a mountain where he meets an array of characters. Among them are the mischievous old Irishman who designed the buildings and the chatty nine-year-old daughter of the beautiful, somber landlady of Silver Wood, whose husband is often away….

To unlock the mystery and history of the manor and its people, Rory employs some magic of his own: the art of storytelling.

While the action and excitement of Folklore hooked me immediately, Echo’s subtlety slowly, but nonetheless completely, grew on me. In a mythical and surreal world, it still had a small town/village feel to it where the characters were like family.

Silver Wood itself had as much atmosphere and character as the characters and the backdrop leant itself nicely to the story.

Comyna and Subira were a lovely and refreshing lesbian couple. It’s not often I see two queer characters of color anywhere and both characters were handled with respect and class. The Liangs were a riot and Hannigan was a hoot.

While Rory and Lara are the two main characters, I found myself not only being invested in them but becoming just as equally invested in the supporting cast members.

Once again, I was gnashing teeth when the story concluded. I wanted more. I had to find out what happened next. Leaving her audience wanting more, Mie had done her job.

Two separate stories had done this, there was no way she was going to pull off such a feat with the third one.

Or would she?

 

“The Collection”

The divorce between Jason Rang and his filthy rich, soon-to-be ex-wife Mireille is actually going well. Or at least it does until Jason lets his new fiancée Maribel actually meet Mireille. Invited to Mireille’s newly inherited mansion (fully furnished with all manner of beautiful shirtless young men), Jason and Maribel find themselves lulled into a sensual world where they learn that sometimes – but only sometimes – an entire divorce proceeding can be just another lovers’ quarrel.

 

Of the three tales, the Collection was most certainly the most experimental. As a writer, I’m usually good about analyzing story structure and anticipating where the narrative is headed. This story, I honestly couldn’t get a read on. There was lot of backstory that was shrouded in mystery. The characters reacted in unexpected (but completely plausible) ways. The conclusion was satisfying, even though the mystery was never fully resolved.

The story ultimately proved to be entertaining, complex, surreal, and more enticing than I’m comfortable admitting. And while I was left wanting more, it was an intense ride and the perfect way to end the book.

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In each of the stories, Mie consistently brings the highest level of quality to her work. Quality that is distinctive. She gives the most detailed description in settings, design, locale, attire, personal style, even the smell and tastes of the meals being served. These are worlds that she’s excited about and clearly in love with and it translates well in her stories. She wants her readers to have the same experience exploring her worlds as she does.

Folklore is also an example of experimentation done right. Mie knows her craft inside and out. She knows the rules and can bend them and break them to do some incredible feats. In fact she seriously needs to consider changing her name to Niobe or Trinity because I witnessed some  jaw-dropping Matrix style maneuvering in her writing.

Said experimentation also lent itself nicely to the plausible deniability of the supernatural bent in the stories. Each story possesses a hint of speculative elements but it’s rooted in enough ambiguity that it allows the reader to interpret the text how they see fit.

But more than anything I thank Mie for the escapism. It was refreshing to read a book where the main characters were people of color. Three dimensional, complex complicated people of color.

It was a joy to see a same sex loving couple (possibly two and if you’ve read Echo, then you know what I’m talking about) who were portrayed with respect.

It was refreshing to see a diverse set of strong powerful women whether it was Lara, Raiya, Mrs. Liang, or Mierelle.

I especially enjoyed reading these worlds where POCs are wealthy and privileged and accomplished. Silver Wood had a Latino mayor, a world renowned Asian photographer, and a rich young academic. It’s a tragic reminder that more stories like these aren’t being told and yet it’s refreshing and hopeful to be reminded that someone is.

Of course now Mie has made the worst mistake possible by allowing me to read Folklore. Now more than ever I’m a huge fanboy of hers and if she thinks I’ve been pestering her before about when her next books are going to be released, she hasn’t seen anything yet.

If this review is any indication, Folklore receives five stars. This book is what the kids would call  FLAWLESS VICTORY.

Reading Will Save The World

Talented musician and very good buddy Gordon Roque had some very awesome things to say about my novel Hollowstone. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do the Dance of Joy:
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A couple of months ago, I bought and downloaded a book called Hollowstone into my Kindle. In the interest of full disclosure, its author, Dennis R. Upkins, lives here in Nashville and is a friend of mine. Prior to reading this book, the only exposure I had to anything he has written was on his very engaging blog. I had only a vague idea of what the book was about prior to reading it.

I can honestly say, in spite of the fact that I know him, that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It tells the story of a talented young violinist named Noah Scott who is more or less plucked from obscurity in the urban Atlanta jungle and given a chance to attend an exclusive and prestigious boarding school called Hollowstone Academy.

It would be easy to dismiss this book as a typicpal coming of age story, but to do so, would be to undercut its true value.

Click here to read more….

Review: Grifter & Midnighter

So let’s talk about Chuck Dixon and why he fails as both a writer and a human being.

I read Dixon’s work for years long before I learned how outspoken he is about his hatred and disdain for LGBTQs and people of color.

Even way back yonder I always felt his work to be mediocre at best and never understood why he received all the hype he got: Gail Simone’s run of the Birds of Prey was far superior and what he did to Outsiders was unforgivable.

Needless to say I had misgivings about Dixon penning Grifter & Midnighter but against my better judgment I decided to give the miniseries a chance. After all, maybe Dixon would surprise me, in a positive way.

The verdict: trust your instincts.

It gets better…….

Kevin Keller #3-4

My review of issues #3 & #4 of the Kevin Keller miniseries is live over on Prism Comics:

 

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

– Martin Luther King Jr

I didn’t think it was possible for the storytellers behind the Kevin Keller miniseries to top the first two issues of the four part miniseries (namely issue #2), and yet, somehow, they did so with the power and fury of a 1000 suns. This is definitely one of those times where I don’t mind standing corrected.

Read more……