Johnny Lawrence Is Not Cool Rather He’s a Total Dick

Cobra Kai is on Netflix and it is awesome, but I have to say Johnny Lawrence is not cool. The show goes to great pains to paint Johnny as a true blue asshole. However, it also paradoxically attempts to make him sympathetic. Now, this latter point is understandable. After all, his is the main viewpoint of the show.

If you haven’t seen Cobra Kai, rectify that as soon as you’re done reading this post. It’s an excellent show, but I am not going to go into details about it. Suffice to say, it tells the story of Johnny and Daniel 30+ years later.

The Image shows Johnny Lawrence, who is not cool with the words Cobra Kai printed across them.

Since the show came to Netflix, I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter about how cool Johnny Lawrence is, but he is not. He’s a toxic man with toxic behavior. Johnny lives in the past, is it’s prisoner in fact. And his story is a tragic one, but that doesn’t give him an excuse. It might help make viewers sympathetic toward him a bit, but he’s still an unrepentant asshole.

“He tells it like it is,” I hear people say. “Johnny’s no pussy, he calls pussies what they are,” is something else I hear. This embrace of the worst qualities of Johnny indicates the sad obsession people have with dickheads. Look no further than the current POTUS of the US. People who support him say they like him because he tells it like it is. They like him because he helps them ‘own the libs.’ He comes off as strong, but is ultimately weak and cowardly.

Johnny Lawrence is not cool, and it may be unfair for me to compare him to Trump. However, the fact that some people give for liking Johnny are the same given for liking Trump.

What do you think?

Watch Cobra Kai!

Lovecraft Country Novel is a Good Spooky Yarn

I started the Lovecraft Country novel, written by Matt Ruff after watching the first episode of the new HBO series. I stopped watching the series and started the book. As such, I won’t be comparing the book to the show because I am not in a position to do so.

The image shows the cover of Lovecraft country novel, a house sits atop a hill that looks like an octopus with tentacles.

The Lovecraft Country novel does what the best horror does: uses the fear of the unknown to explore humanity. And what’s even more clever about this book is the use of racism to really drive the horror home. Without the racism that permeates the book, both in large and small ways, this would still be a good book. However, by placing the racism Atticus, George, Letittia, and the other characters face, this book really grounds the reader in reality. This is important when dealing with otherworldly forces because it gives readers something to grasp onto. And in this book especially, because of H.P. Lovecraft’s awful racism, the hate and bigotry take on an even more sinister notion.

Now, the idea that the real monsters are humans is nothing new in the annals of horror entertainment. But in this book, that adage takes on a deeper meaning. The characters are never safe in this book, even when it seems like they are. They are not safe from the cosmic threats they face, nor are they safe from cultists who would control those threats. And of course, they aren’t safe from racist attitudes and people, even in the North.

The combination of the racism and the existential horrors facing the characters makes the Lovecraft Country novel stressful to read. It’s a harrowing look at the persistence, permeation, and persistence of racism.

Racism is the Real Horror of Lovecraft Country Novel

Yes, bulging fleshy blobs that will kill you are scary. But, what’s even more terrifying is the everyday horror of bigotry the characters face daily. Reading this book gives readers some insight into what BIPOC face on a regular basis, and while fictionalized, we can’t ignore the lessons. Sure, the racism might feel too extreme or cartoonish, but that’s just not the case. I don’t think it is possible for creators to present racism as over exaggerated or too extreme. I know there are some people who do, but that’s silly, especially when Tulsa happened, the Red summer happened, Emmet Till, and countless other examples.

By focusing on the racist aspects of the world, and Lovecraft himself, the book forces the reader to confront US history. Now, there isn’t a deep dive into the causes of racism, or all of the horrible events done under its name. However, there is enough surface exploration to evoke curiosity and the need to know more, which is one purpose of art.

I don’t want to make it sound like the Lovecraft Country novel is a drab and dour affair devoid of hope of laughs. It isn’t. Despite the dire circumstances the characters face, they still manage to laugh and smile at times. They manage to live, even in a society that takes every pain to suppress and humiliate them. For me, this is the key to the book. If it had been all racism and existential dread, it still would have been good. But, it wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable or effective.

Have you read it? Let me know in the comments what you thought. Thanks for reading.

The Only Good Indians is full of Revenge and Terror

The Only Good Indians, written by Steven Graham Jones, is a hell of a good book. Briefly, it tells the story of four Native American Men (Indians as they refer to themselves) who make a mistake. At first, it doesn’t seem like a mistake, but it is. And it’s a big one, as they, and we the readers, come to find out.

The image shows the head of an elk with its horns on the cover of a book titled The Only Good Indians.

I don’t want to get too much into the plot details because the story is fairly straightforward. However, the way Graham develops and unfolds the story is masterful. From the beginning, The Only Good Indians, offers a sense of dread and fear. Oh, and violence, too, of course. This book has some moments of extreme and bloody violence that are visceral and powerful. The gore and the blood and the cruelty are not gratuitous; rather, it all serves the telling of the story.

At its core, The Only Good Indians is a story of pain, suffering, revenge, and atonement. Though, to be fair, that last one is iffy as its achievement is arguable. The novel also explores the dichotomy between Indian tradition and the modern world. This theme is a common one in Graham’s writing, and he really fleshes it out here.

All four men involved in making the mistake struggle with their identity and place in the world. They may know who they are, but they don’t know why, or what to do about it. Some have dreams of leaving the reservation, while others unhappily stay there. There’s so much truth about humanity in this novel, it hurts.

The Language of The Only Good Indians Sings With Fear and Pain

Graham knows how to use language to its maximum effect, providing sparse yet vivid details of frozen landscapes, dead animals, and bloody body parts. As I read this book, I felt the pain of the characters, their fear, and the chill of winter.

Beyond,that though, I could also feel their hopes, dreams, and contrition. It is not fair to call the characters in this novel evil or bad (even the killer isn’t evil, just forlorn). They aren’t saints, either, but rather are striving to do the best they can. Of course, when we try to do what’s right, or at least what’s right for us, things can go sour quick.

The depth Graham gives the people in this book is enviable and admirable, as are his terrifying descriptions.

If you like horror stories and Native American stories, then The Only Good Indians might be right up your ally. Check it out. And if you’ve read it, let me know what you think in the comments.

Mexican Gothic Is a Creepy Gothic Novel

Mexican Gothic written by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a spooky and disturbing novel. I loved it. Briefly, the story centers on Noemi, a debutante in Mexico City. Her father has received a letter from her cousin, Catalina. The letter is strange and compels Noemi’s father to send her to High Place, where Catalina and her husband live. Arriving at High Place, Noemi discovers her cousin is ill and bed-ridden. From there, the story takes off and the spookiness begins.

The image shows teh cover of Mexican Gothic, a woman in a red dress

This is a Gothic novel, no doubt, and that is clear from the description of High Place. Similar to many Gothic mansions, High Place has seen better days. Once, it was magnificent and full of servants and clean and bright. Now, however, it is run down, dirty, and only has a handful of servants. Also, it stands high above the nearest village up a dirty road rutted by rain. High Place suffers from dampness.

I am not going to give a plot synopsis, suffice to say that Noemi faces many challenges throughout. What I do want to focus on, though, is Garcia-Moreno’s writing. The first paragraph hooked me so strongly that I read all 305 pages in about 5 days. That may not seem like much to some of you, but I think it’s pretty good.

Moreno-Garcia does a fantastic job of evoking Noemi as a character. The young woman is believable. She likes to have fun and party and dance with the boys. She’s carefree and strong willed, but I never felt that she was the spoiled brat people called her. Maybe that is just because I like her.

Beauty is in short supply in Mexican Gothic, Noemi and Catalina being really the only examples. However, ugliness abounds. The house is ugly, the servants are ugly, Catalina’s in-laws are ugly.

The Ugliness of Mexican Gothic

Speaking of the in-laws, there are Howard (the patriarch), Virgil (the first born, he’s handsome but cruel) and Francis (not a looker, innocent). But the ugliness in Mexican Gothic is more than just physical. Its psychological and primal. This is a primal book, despite its Gothic trappings. Or maybe because of them.

At any rate, Noemi experiences first hand the ugliness of High Place and its inhabitants in a tale that sent shivers up my spine and made my heart sink more than a few times.

I can’t recommend this book enough. If you’re interested in Gothic literature, and are looking for a twist on the classic genre, check this one out.

Have you read Mexican Gothic? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments. And as always, thank you for reading.

Mongrels: The Secret Lives of Werewolves

Mongrels, written by Stephen Graham Jones, is a novel about a trio of werewolves trying to survive and stay hidden from the world. This novel contains a wide variety of werewolf folklore, but with a twist. Now, to me, werewolves are some of the coolest creatures of the night, as well as the most tragic. Unlike Vampires, many people don’t consider them sexy or cool Rather, they are beasts and brutes and gross. Mongrels doesn’t shy away from this latter aspect of the wolf, but it puts it in a greater context. Also, werewolves just have more personality.

The image shows the cover to Mongrels, a book about werewolves.

A vampire want to seduce you and drink your blood. Vampirism is about controlling others. Werewolves, on the other hand, are all about fighting the beast within. A werewolf will lose control, that’s a given. However, the trick is maintaining control as long as possible. It’s kind of like sex in that way. Both vampires and werewolves have come to represent two sides of the STD coin. They both carry a disease that passes through the blood. Vampires, however, often seem to have the choice whether or not to pass the disease to their victims. Werewolves, on the other hand, especially in Mongrels, have no such choice.

Mongrels and the Dangers of Werewolf Blood

Werewolf blood is dangerous. It turns non-wolves into a weird hybrid that will not survive. If you are born with it, you have a better chance. But, that presents a whole new slew of problems. The werewolves in Mongrels, Aunt Libby, Unlce Darren, and the unnamed narrator, are constantly on the run. The transient nature of their lives demands it. Wolves are meant to run, not settle down.

I don’t want to give too much away, so I will be staying away from too many plot details. I will say, though, that the novel moves at a crisp pace, and has moments of humor and sadness. Like any good novel should.

What I most appreciated about this novel was the deep dive into werewolf mythology and history. Sure, Jones probably made most of it up based on some research. And yes, I know werewolves are the stuff of fantasy. But, here, he has done a stand up job of offering a new take on an old monster. These characters not only feel real, but so does their curse and affliction.

Plus, I always find it fun to read a new version of a classic. I wouldn’t say the novel reinvents the werewolf story, but it definitely knocks downs some walls to create new hallways.

If you’re looking for a well written novel about one of the coolest monsters in the canon, then read Mongrels.

Have you read it? Let me know what you thought about it in the comments. Thank you for reading.

After the People Lights Have Gone Out Review

After the People Lights, authored by Stephen Graham Jones, is a collection of fifteen short and scary stories. Normally, when I review a short story collection, I try to find a commonality between the stories. After all, publishers place specific stories in specific collections for reasons. At least, that’s what it seems like to me anyway.

The image shows the cover for After the People Lights Have Gone Out which is an old house with a window with light coming out of it.

Is there a common thread that runs between all these stories? I am not sure. I do know, however, that they are all entertaining and spooky. In these tales, Jones presents several visions of people on grief and pain. Sometimes that grief is for things that have happened to them, such as in the final story. In others, it’s due to the things they have done, or the things they left unsaid. This latter idea is clear in the story Uncle.

Aside from pain and grief, another common element to this stories is general creepiness. There are some truly disturbing moments in this collection along with some lovely language. And this, I think, it was really makes the prose in After the People Lights Have Gone Out sing. Jones not only presents us with vivid and gruesome images, but he cuts to the heart with his language. No, it’s not overly flowery or arcane. It is, however, clear, easy to understand, and true. The truth of his language compels the reader to keep reading, even when the events of the story are awful and you want to stop reading.

Jones seems to understand what makes people tick, especially in their weakest and most vulnerable states. His descriptions of emotional and physical places are sparse but effective. He paints a strong outline for readers, trusting them to fill it in. A worthy skill, and one that makes this a must read.

What do you think?

Colossal A Movie About a Woman and a Toxic Man

Recently I watched Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, and Dan Stevens. The premise of the movie is elegantly unique. Hathaway plays an online writer whose life is spiraling out of control. She’s got a drinking problem, which leads boyfriend Dan Stevens to kick her out. In desperation, she returns to her home town and things go from bad to worse.

This is a kaiju movie, to be sure, but it’s different. First of all, the focus isn’t on the monsters so much as the people in Colossal. Why? Well because the monsters are tied to specific people and to specific places. This approach to the genre is exciting and helps the movie succeed on many levels. What also helps is that Hathaway is as charming as ever, even when she’s a drunk jerk.

The image shows the monster from Colossal on a laptop screen as Anne Hathaway stares out the window.

Hathaway’s character Gloria discovers that she is tied to or controlling the monster that’s attacking Seoul. It manifests in a certain park that she walks through while drunk. Once she does, she makes every effort to stop destroying the South Korean capital. Unfortunately for her, her new boss Oscar is also tied to the destruction in Seoul. Only instead of being a giant monster, Oscar manifests as a giant robot.

From the moment we meet him, the film presents Oscar as a bit of a creep, but generally a decent dude. Of course, appearances are deceiving, and that is especially true in a movie where giant monsters act as avatars for humans. Soon, Oscar, who obviously has a lifelong crush on Gloria, starts to show that he’s not a great guy after all. He delivers furniture and other items to her, saying that they discussed the things the night before. She doesn’t remember, but she accepts the gifts anyway.

Colossal Turns From Fun to Scary In the Blink of an Eye

Soon, however, Oscars affections turn even more sinister, as he reveals his true self. When he learns of his connection to the giant robot menacing Seoul, he decides to use that knowledge to control Gloria. And that is the crux of Colossal; men trying to control women. The film takes care to present Gloria as flawed but generally well meaning. Oscar, on the other hand, is flawed and full of ill-intent.

This dynamic shifts what could have been a fun monster movie into more psychological territory and an exploration of abuse. Gloria threatens to leave her home town and go back to her old life. Oscar says of course she can do that, but he will attack Seoul every day until she returns. This is abuse 101, and adds a real sinister aspect to the proceedings. This element has more power because of how genial and goofy Sudeikis is, even in this film. He’s playing against type here, and it works quite well.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this movie, though at times it was difficult to watch. I am glad that there was no sexual assault because that would have been an easy and lazy trope for the filmmakers to fall into. However, make no mistake, there is plenty of abuse in this movie, both physical and emotional. It’s well worth a watch, IMHO.

Have you seen Colossal? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Social Isolation and the Immune System

The other day a thought occurred to me. What is happening with social isolation and the immune system? By that I mean, how are our immune systems reacting to being away from people? This thought led me to another one: will we be more susceptible to common viruses when this pandemic over? I am not trying to scare anyone, and I don’t have the answer. I do, however, have the Internet, which can be a valuable resource.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything that really answers the questions I have about social isolation and the immune system. I am working from the assumption that our immunity will weaken. It only seems logical to me. Think about the elderly folks who get the flu from their grandchildren. They may have had immunity at some point, but they lost it. Even vaccines have a shelf life when introduced to our systems.

But, again, I don’t know. I am not a doctor, nor a medical specialist of any kind. However, as I haven’t been able to find much information about social isolation and our immune system, I am starting to think it’s not that big of a deal. Of course, my feelings mean nothing in the face of facts. Sadly, though, the facts are sparse in this situation.

But, just because we don’t know if isolating ourselves from each other right now doesn’t mean there aren’t steps we can take. Before I continue, let me be clear. Social distancing is essential right now. Do it as much as you can. Please.

Social Isolation and the Immune System: Staying Healthy After This

Some things to do to ensure a healthy immune system are things we should all already be doing. The first thing of course is wash your hands. This is basic hygiene, but it is so important. Beyond cleanliness, we can also ensure we’re getting enough sleep. Sleep affects the immune system and promotes good health in general.

A healthy diet is also essential. Fruits, veggies, lean protein are all good foods to eat at any time, and can help keep us going. Additionally, washing our produce with cold water (not soap like that video by the nurse suggests), and cooking our food completely will help keep us safe from sickness.

Again, these methods aren’t anything new or mind boggling, but they are probably our best bet for preparing for the end of the pandemic. Of course, the pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon, and there might be more research coming out concerning what all this social isolation is doing to our immunity.

And even then, we still might get sick. In fact, I’m in social isolation. I live with my sister (a doctor). She brought a flu home the other day and I got sick. It was a small bug, thankfully. But it got me anyway, and I’ve been washing my hands, sanitizing my phone, and generally doing what I am supposed to do. You never know what will get you sick. And I think that holds doubly true for the post pandemic era, whenever it arrives.

Stay safe out there, and take care of your mental and physical well being as much as you can. And look at cute pictures of animals. It will at least bring a smile to you face. And smiling is good for the immune system whether or not you are in social isolation.

The image shows a cute picture of a pug to help people boost their immune system while in social isolation

Return to Night of The Zealot: Arkham Horror LCG

Return to Night of the Zealot is a deluxe expansion of sorts for the Arkham Horror Living card game. The set offers players an opportunity to replay the original campaign with added encounters, and extra cards. Before I continue describing this box set, I want to say something. I haven’t yet finished the play through in the original core set. So why am I writing about this box, which offers a replay of that campaign? Well, I have a few reasons.

The first reason I’m writing about Return to Night of The Zealot is because I haven’t written about anything in a while. And sure, that doesn’t really answer the question beyond, it gave me something to write about. And for now, that is enough.

Secondly, I wanted to write about something that made me happy, and this box set does that. It’s got beautiful box art, and provides some nifty cards that the characters can use, making it a nice way to expand deck building possibilities. And sure, the art isn’t much different from that of the original set, but it looks pretty anyway.

The image shows the box art of the Return to the night of the zealot game box

The whole set includes 66 new cards, 20 of which are for the players. This may not seem like much, especially for the price point, but I think it’s worth it. Why? Well because the box not only offers new material, but it also offers a nice storage space for all your Return to the Night of the Zealot storage needs. And easy storage is always nice for these types of games because your collection can grow quite quickly, and the core box just isn’t large enough.

Another neat thing is that the box comes with dividers to help with organization. Again, an essential thing as your collection grows.

Return to Night of the Zealot Is Good But Leaves Me Wanting a Bit

So far, I have focused on the things I like about this box set. I have also been fairly abstract in discussing it. This is because I don’t want to go through all the cards, nor do I want to spoil anything for potential players. There is, however, on thing that I think FFG could have done to make this better. It would have been simple, easy, and not cost much. As I mentioned earlier, this set has dividers to help with organization. Sadly, these dividers are only for the scenarios found within the campaign.

Granted, that is better than nothing. However, I would like them to have included dividers for the different classes of character cards as well. As it stands, we still have to make our own if we want that. And yes, I know it’s not that big of a deal. Still, when you spend 25-30 dollars on a storage box (with game components) it would be nice to have a little more flash.

Overall, though, I am happy with my purchase of this game box, but that’s probably because I really like the game anyway.

So, those are my thoughts on Return of the Night of the Zealot. Have you played the Arkham Horror LCG? Have you played with this set? What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading, and stay safe out there.

Jack Irons Issue 2: Things Get Weird in the Best Way

If issue one built the stage for the series, Jack Irons Issue 2 begins to fill that stage. And it does it with aplomb. This issue is a history lesson, which is to say it is expository. It informs us of important events that have transpired in the history of humanity, while depicting how those events have shaped the current world of the comic. It’s a heady issue that does a lot of heavy lifting. And you know what? It nails it.

The image shows the cover of Jack Irons Issue 2. The four horsemen are in the background, Jack is in the foreground.

Issues or chapters such as this can be tricky to pull off. You run the risk of boring your reader with info dumping. And a bored reader is an unhappy one. Thankfully, Jack Irons issue 2 never bores. It does, however, often delight.

How does it accomplish this task, exactly? Well, for one, the creative team throws the reader right into the thick of things. The world has been taken over by the Four Horsemen, humanity slaughtered and nearly extinguished. However, due to our unique nature, we resist and begin rebuilding. I have a few things to say about the Horsemen and humanity’s resilience.

First, writer Cody Fernandez presents the apocalyptic harbingers in a unique fashion. Not only in terms of how they look, but also their purpose. I don’t want to spoil too much so I will only say that I fucking love the Horsemen in Jack Irons issue 2.

And concerning humanity’s resilience: this is a classic trope in space science fiction. I can’t say that it is one of my favorites, maybe because it’s been overdone. Or maybe because it’s hard to think that other more advanced species wouldn’t be as resilient. Having said all that, though, I will say I didn’t mind it much here.

In Jack Irons Issue 2 Hope and Hate Have an All Out Brawl

Maybe the reason I didn’t mind how humanity’s persistence works in this comic is because there is a somewhat fresh spin to it. The resiliency of humanity fosters their hope, which is their only true weapon against the Horsemen. That is a good thought. It might be along the lines of faith in good vs faith in evil, but it’s different. Here, hope is enough. No religion needed.

It’s this battle between hate and hope that drives the story in this chapter of the comic, and that’s a strong concept. In fact, it’s a strong enough concept to keep the story kinetic in an expository story. Of course it helps that the layouts, art design, line work, coloring, and inking are excellent. Take this page, for example:

The image shows a page from Jack Irons issue two. The top is a saloon, the middle shows a man giving a speech, the bottom shows the White house exploding in orange.
Click image to enlarge

This is How to Write Visually for the Reader

This is high quality storytelling, and a stupendous example of an easy to read page. The top tier shows a single image: Cody’s, Jack’s drinking establishment. The panel itself is square and clean. However, the art within the panel is sloping and uneven. The slope of the hill on the reader’s left side pushed the eye from the upper left caption box to the lower right. Words and pictures working together to provide a sense of movement and momentum, even when there isn’t any.

The second tier uses this trick as well, only it’s even more powerful. The captions and the dialog bubbles help our eyes march across the page, but allow us to linger on the man in the middle. He’s so big and larger than life he’s bursting from the two panels behind him. And the bottom panel is all warm colors as we see the White House go up in flames. Again, the caption boxes guide our eye perfectly.

Comics is a vast and wild medium, and people can tell stories how they want. With that, though, comes the need to teach your readers how to read the comic. Jack Irons issue 2 does that with ease from the first page to the last.

Aside from providing a visual feast for the reader, this installment also gives us more about Jack. Not a whole lot, mind you, but we do have a better sense of who he is. I still want to know more, though, which is why I backed issue 3. And I loved this fucking issue, as well as the one before.

You can too by following this link. I encourage you to do so. Thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts or comments, please leave them in the comments section.