It Chapter 2 Reaction–I’m Trying to be Open Minded

So the It Chapter 2 trailer came out, and my reaction is about what I expected. I love the book. It’s not perfect, but it is dark and scary and gross. The novel encapsulates a plethora of horror tropes, and adds to them in new ways. Truly, Kings was at his coked out best when he wrote it.

Update: My full review of the film.

I am a fan of the original mini-series, though I admit it is far from perfect. The thing I felt the mini-series got right was the kids. The child actors buoy the first half, as do the writing, and of course Tim Curry’s Pennywise. Comparing Tim Curry to Bill SkarsgĂ„rd doesn’t interest me. They each bring their own ability to the role, and each does a good job, albeit in a different way.

The first installment of the remake offers some good scares, the basement being chief among them. Additionally, that film gives us the House on Neibolt Street, which was awesome. However, beyond that, the movie didn’t do much for me. I know a lot of people like it, and that’s fine,I am not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t like (mostly). However, I am here to give you my It Chapter 2 trailer reaction.

As you may have guessed by now, the trailer left me wanting. I am trying to keep an open mind about it because I understand movies and novels are different media. Looking at the book and the film as separate entities is a good way to keep expectations low. Also, it helps take each on their own terms. The book will always be better, but that doesn’t mean the film won’t be enjoyable.

Why I have a lukewarm reaction to It Chapter 2

First, much like the first part, it feels very rote and by the numbers. Of course, the amount of horror tropes employed in the source material probably has something to do with this. Still, there doesn’t seem to be much of a fresh take on the horror, or the novel.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love a straight up adaptation. We won’t be getting that, which is fine. They are separate things. What I want from the films is for them to keep the spirit of the novel. I can’t say part one did that for me. And, it looks like part 2 will be very much in line with that.

Lest you think I am being a negative Nancy, there were some things about the trailer I liked. First, the house of mirrors sequence looks good. Pennywise is torturing Bill and threatening to kill that kid in front of him, which I hope happens. This scene is not in the novel, but torturing the adults is how Pennywise gets his kicks, so it’s fitting.

The picture shows James MacAvoy as Bill in It Chapter 2
Click to enlarge

Also, I like how haggard Richie looks, as that captures how his adult self starts to unravel when he returns to Derry. And of course Skarsgard will be great as the titular monster.

All in all, I am not super stoked about this film. I want to be, and I will do my best to be open to liking it when I see it. This is just a trailer, after all, and we all know judging films by their trailers is silly. However, previews should make people excited for the film, and I am not there. I know many others are, and that’s okay. Disagreements are fine, and they are best when kept civil.

Shallow Creek Review Deep Scares in Short Stories

This is a review of Shallow Creek, a collection of short stories centering around the titular town. It will not focus on each individual story, but rather the overall feel. The premise of the collection is simple. Storgy, the publisher, provided the authors with ideas and characters to use to develop the town. This is an interesting technique because it allows the authors to write their own stories, and bring their own voices, but it also helps maintain collection cohesion.

This image shows the cover of Shallow Creek, a collection of short horror stories.

First, this collection of short horror stories presents a wide range of terrors and characters. The town itself has seen better days, as is often the case in such things. Once upon a time, it flourished, but now its downtown is dying, the Church is failing, and the whole place exists under a shadow. Many of the tales feature the same characters, but in different ways. For example, sometimes Krinkles the clown actually shows up and joins the story, and in others readers only encounter him as a face on a cereal box. This method adds a nice twist to the standard thematic collection.

Despite the disparate authors involved in the collection, there is a unified voice, or at least tone. Reading through it, I was never taken aback by shift in style. Each author manages to stay true to the overall tone of the tome while adding their own twist. I have read many short story collections, but seldom have I encountered one as thematically rich as this one.

Shallow Creek A Brief Review of a Few Stories

This review of Shallow Creek focuses on a couple stories rather than each individual story.

The first story I want to focus on is Pentameter by David Hartley. This is the story of Jud, a broken man. He is the lighthouse keeper, and only speaks and understand Pentameter. Initially, this focus on Jud’s speaking style seems like a gimmick, and it is something that could easily become grating. However, the story that emerges through poetic form is gruesome, creepy, and powerful. Could it have been told in a more traditional prose style? Of course, but the impact would have been lessened.

In addition to characterizing Jud with his mental tic, the pentameter immediately informs readers that they are in a weird story. Furthermore, it helps illustrate how disconnected from the world Jud is. As the story progresses, we see that he has a few worldly connections, a voice on a CB radio named Mike that feeds him instructions, and Sian, a teenager who seeks his friendship. At first, Sian doesn’t grasp the idea of using pentameter to communicate with Jud, but she quickly groks it and the two become fast friends. There is also the matter of Jud’s wife, who he talks to often but the reader doesn’t meet until the end of the tale.

All of these elements combine to create dread, which is what I want from a horror story. Tension builds as Mike gives Jud instructions to sabotage the carnival that has recently come to town. When each of these attempts fail, the stakes rise, and things become even tenser. The escalation with Mike mirrors how his relationship with Sian develops. One is destructive while the other has the potential to save him. The resolution of which is terrifying and inevitable.

Thematic Resonance

The other story I want to mention is Backwards by Adrian J. Walker. This tells the story of the town Sheriff, another broken man. He has been investigating a murder, to no avail. As a result, he has earned the ire of the town, as well as lost faith in himself. He wishes to be anywhere but Shallow Creek, but that seems unlikely.

This story is different from Pentameter, and the other stories in this collection as it has a sci-fi bend to it. However, thematically, it keeps to the core of the collection. It tells the story of broken people in a broken town. Trauma is one of the strongest threads that holds this collection together, and Backwards has trauma in spades. The Sheriff has to reckon with his failures, and inability to change his situation. This is relatable to readers, and a hallmark of good stories, horror or otherwise. Also, it echoes Jud’s situation in Pentameter, though the resolutions are quite different.

All in all, this is a good collection of horror stories held together with strong thematic elements. It explores flawed characters and their struggle to survive in an inhospitable town. Some the horrors found in the creek are supernatural, while others are human. Many of the tales are dark bloody, and brutal, while others are more subtle and psychological. Each story in this collection is grounded in a hyper-real world that never feels fake or unbelievable, which might be its biggest strength. Horror works best when it feels possible and probably, and Shallow Creek delivers on that front.

Thank you for reading. If this collection sounds up your alley, get it ASAP. It’s well worth your time.

Search For Alice Is a Fresh Twist on Fairy Tales

The Search for Alice, a novel by Amy Koto is a modern twist on Alice and Wonderland and fairy tales. It tells the story of 16 year old Kallie Bennet, a social outcast searching for ways to fit in. Well, kind of searching. Defining Kallie as someone in need of peer approval is not entirely accurate. Rather, she, like many of us at that age, is searching for her place in the world. Friendship and acceptance are of course part of that search.

The picture shows the cover for The Search for Alice novel

Unfortunately, due to her circumstances, Kallie doesn’t have the best options for friends. For one thing, she seems to be on the poorer side of the socioeconomic scale. For another thing, her mother is an abusive drunk, and neither of these things lend themselves to socializing. The one group of girls she does hang out with treat her more like a charity case rather than a friend. Amanda, the leader of the clique, is clearly in the ‘popular girl mold’ right down to the obsession with boys and money. She reminded me of Cordelia Chase from Buffy the Vampire slayer.

Kallie herself is bitter and angry and a loner. Though, she does still seek validation from Amanda on more than one occasion. Which makes sense; no matter who we are, there is always a time we want validation from others. Koto never presents Kallie as unlikable, despite how easy it would be. Kallie cries a lot, and complains a lot. Both of these traits are easy to overdo, but Koto walks the line nicely. She wants us to sympathize with Kallie, and she makes it easy to do so.

Search for Alice in a Twisted Wonderland

As you might expect from the title, the Search for Alice is a different take on Alice in Wonderland. In this version, Kallie sees Alice instead of the rabbit, and follows her into the strange world. However, things are much different than in the original tale, which is good. No one wants to read the same story as the original. Or, if they do, they can just read the original.

In this tale, Alice is an enigma. She appears to Kallie every once in a while, but never says anything. Furthermore, Kallie has an idea of what is going on because she has read the book, and is a child of the real world. This meta angle could become tiresome, but Koto never takes it that far. She always presents Kallie as uncertain of the world around her, even as she possesses some knowledge.

The novel is full of some good twists, turns, and character moments. Also, it is a quick read, not taking long to build momentum and not stopping until the end. It is the first in a series, so there is more to come. The second book is already out, in fact.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. The descriptions are visceral, and the action is tense. The language sometimes feels unsophisticated, but that’s okay. This novel is clearly meant for the YA crowd. That is not to say they can’t handle sophistication, but appropriate language for your audience is necessary.

If you enjoy fairy tales, Alice in Wonderland, and modern twist on old stories, then this book is for you. Purchase it here.

Have you read this one? Let me know what you thought in the comments. Or better yet, leave a review for Amy Koto on Goodreads or Amazon. Thanks for reading.

Finding a Way Out When Depression Strikes

I haven’t been doing so great lately. I’ve been depressed, and indulging too much in unhealthy habits. Also, I’ve been slacking on work, and giving into the urge to just lie in bed too much. When life gets like this, I often have trouble finding a way out, and I know I’m not the only one.

Depression is a funny beast in that you never know when it’s going to strike. This recent episode is a great example; I was doing fine until I wasn’t. What happened? I wish I could tell you. All I can say is that things were going swimmingly, and then one afternoon I went shopping and everything started falling apart. Standing in line, listening to the excellent Flight Risk Podcast, a feeling of dread overtook me. My stomach dropped and my eyes flooded with tears, which I quickly wiped away. Crying in a Chinese supermarket is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s also not great.

After paying for my goods, I walked home and crawled into bed. At least, I put my groceries away first, a small thing, but something to be proud of nonetheless. For the next two and a half weeks, at least, my days consisted of work, junk-food, booze, and bed. These are not winning way of finding a way out of depression.

The image shows several wine bottles, which hinders finding a way out of depression
A collection of all the wine I drank last week. 7 bottles in 7 days. Not good for my health in any way.

How I am Finding a Way Out

I’ve taken some measures over the past few days in an attempt to break out of this deep darkness. I’ve started eating better, cutting out most of the junk-food in place of fruits and veggies. I love fruits and veggies, but when depression strikes, I find them difficult to eat. When the soul aches, I crave unhealthy junk, which is always a bad idea. Sure, greasy fast food burgers may taste good (they don’t, really), but they just add to the sadness.

In addition to attempting to change my eating habits, I have cut out the booze this week. I love to drink, but when finding a way out of depression, alcohol is not a good guide. Aside from being a depressant, it makes for sluggish mornings and unclear thinking. Furthermore, it is full of calories, which leads to weight gain, which can lead to more awful thoughts. It’s a vicious and terrible cycle.

I’ve also been trying to go for walks more. I haven’t necessarily been too successful on this front because of low energy levels, and it’s really hot here. But, I have at least made some effort, which is more than I’ve done recently. Walking has always been good for me. It gives me time and space to turn my mind off and clear the cobwebs. Of course, it also provides me time to overthink, something that is not always a benefit when dealing with depression. Still, it offers a way to get moving, gets me out of bed, and those have to be good things.

Moving Forward

The methods I am using for finding a way out of this funk I am in seem to be helping, but it’s still really early in the process. Almost anyone who’s suffered from depression can tell you there is no easy fix. Exercising and eating a proper diet can help, but they are not miracle cures. However, if we keep at them, and continue to build good habits, we can reinforce our defenses against this beast that drags us down. They can help us say no to the terrible and dangerous thoughts that rush through our minds.

By keeping our efforts up, we can show ourselves that we have worth, that we can accomplish things, and that we are not the scum depression calls us. To that end, I am going to keep my alcohol consumption to a minimum for a while, and I am going to keep eating fresh food. And, I am going to start writing more. I’ve already done this by starting a short story a couple days ago, and now by writing this blog post.

Battling depression is not easy, and it takes time, but I will continue to fight it. This battle is one I’ve been engaged in for most of my life, and I am not going to stop now.

Mental Health America link for those looking for help and resources for their depression.

Thank you for reading.

The Boar on Shudder Brings the Scares

The Boar is a fun creature feature with a cool monster. The premise is simple: a giant boar is terrorizing the Australian bush. As with all monster nature films, it is the characters and the action that matter the most. When watching films of this sort, the audience needs something to hold onto. Whether that hold is characters you care about, or characters you want to see die doesn’t matter.

This picture shows the movie poster for The Boar.

In a rare move, the likeable characters outnumber the unlikable ones, which makes it even more tense when danger rears its ugly head. The only truly unlikable named character was Robbie, a twenty-something douche bag. Actually, he wasn’t terrible, but he was a twenty-something d-bag.

Bernie, on the other hand, is a character who could have been too much. He is big and gruff, but with a heart of gold. I always find it funny to have a character with those two traits. Beyond the humor, though, it adds tension to the story because you never know if or when Bernie will snap.

The Boar runs for 96 minutes, which is the sweet spot for these types of movies. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it moves at a quick pace. We see a fair amount of the titular beast, but mostly in short glances. Much like in Jaws, this lack of fully seeing the beast adds to the movie’s scare factor.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this flick. The acting is solid, and there are some good tense moments. The characters have surprising depth, and the beastie looks cool for the most part. There are, of course, a few cheesy CGI shots, but nothing egregious. The ending was a tad disappointing.

Have you seen this movie? What did you think? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading.

Monster Party Review: A Robbery Goes Wrong

This is my review of Monster Party, a 2018 horror film available on Shudder, where I watched it. When I decided to watch this flick, I didn’t know anything about it other than thieves rob the wrong place.

First, a quick synopsis. Casper’s (Sam Strike) dad owes 10,000 dollars to a human scumbag, and if he doesn’t pay then the scumbag will kill Casper’s dad. This need for quick cash is what motivates the crime. Iris (Virginia Gardner) works for a catering company, and has a job at a very high end house the next day. Lucky break for Casper, right? Dodge (Brandon Micheal Hall) is Iris’s boyfriend, and he agrees that they he and Casper should pretend to be caterers, too, and steal whatever they can. Iris is not happy about this plan.

As you will see, as my Monster Party review continues, she has every right to be unhappy. Iris describes the family as weird and controlling, and that is evident immediately. When we first meet Roxanne Dawson (Robin Tunney) she is obviously stressed out. One of the reasons for her behavior is that the boys aren’t wearing the right clothes. Instead of sending them away and calling for replacements, she sends them upstairs. Why? To borrow clothes from her son, of course. I mean, that’s what people do, right. The daughter, Alexis (Erin Moriarty) shows them to his room.

The image shows Alexis, a young blonde woman smiling at the camera as if she knows what will happen at the monster party.
Alexis, the least creepy Dawson.

So, Casper and Dodge go upstairs and meet Elliot, a clearly disturbed individual. He makes some crude jokes about about how hot Iris is, and Dodge takes exception. This motif recurs throughout the film, and it’s always gross.

Speaking of gross, the dad Patrick Dawson (Julian McMahon) appears with bad facial hair which screams scuzzball.

The Guests Arrive to the Monster Party

After all the set up is out of the way, and the audience has a basic sense of who the players are, the guests arrive and shenanigans ensue. I want to say in this review of Monster Party that the filmmakers do a good job of setting up the tension. From the opening shots of the film that show the Dawson’s starting their day to the characters’ behavior, the filmmakers make it clear something is wrong. They add to this by having a young woman, Becca (Sofia Castro) mouth the words “Help me,” at Casper and Dodge as she enters the house.

Everyone in this film is a little weird, so there’s that. Plus, it is a horror movie, and those don’t always have the deepest characters. Still, I would have liked to get to know Casper, Iris, and Dodge a little bit better before the fun began. I am not sure what the movie makers could have done, but I wish they had tried. As it stands, Casper, Iris, and Dodge are mostly cyphers–blank slates. This works in horror films, and it mostly works in this one, but it also leaves me wanting.

So the dinner is on, as is the thieving. Iris stays downstairs to serve drinks and food while Casper and Dodge mess with the security system. They figure out a way to keep the cameras from spotting them when they go for the safe. However, there is a catch. One of them has to manually shut off the cameras every two minutes by pressing a button. Dodge gets that duty as Casper goes for the safe.

Let There Be Blood

At this point we start to get a better sense of who the guests are, and what the monster party is for. It seems these people are recovering addicts, and with help from Milo (Lance Reddick) they are beating their addiction.

In this moment, we don’t know what the addiction is, but we can guess it’s not drugs or alcohol. Roxanne begins the dinner with a speech about how she went running one day and saw a homeless man, and that was it. That’s the story.

Why does this matter? What is the point of this story? I think it is to foreshadow the reveal that these people are murderers who are trying to leave their murderous ways behind them. Which it, does in hindsight. However, when she gives the speech it comes off more as a way to remind us that these people are strange and nothing more. But, it works very well in that regard.

Meanwhile, Elliot has busted Dodge upstairs. Dodge thinks quickly and says he needs the bathroom. Elliot follows him because he’s looking for a bit of the old ultra violence. The house alarm sounds, and the blood bath begins.

Impressions and Thoughts

I am not going to go into much detail about what happens when the killing starts, suffice to say that there is some good gore and blood. If you are a fan of dismemberment, stabbings, and general horror movie violence, you should like this aspect of the film.

The kills themselves are not very inventive, and the camera frames the scenes from strange angles at times. Aside from these quibbles, the action is entertaining and easy to see. Though, sometimes the camera hides the action, or the characters do things which don’t make a ton of sense. But then, that is a common trope in horror movies.

I wouldn’t say this movie is particularly scary, though it does have some tense moments. It also gets a little ridiculous at times, but overall it was enjoyable. The fact that is is just under 90 minutes (credits included) helps keep the pacing tight and the action moving. There aren’t really any surprises or twists in it as it is more of a straightforward affair.

I loved the premise, though, and think there is some real potential for someone to come along and do something great with it. Unfortunately, those people were not the ones who made this movie.

Overall, I’d give it a 7/10 and say there are worse ways to kill an hour and a half. Lastly, if you love horror movies but don’t subscribe to Shudder, you should. It’s a great site with lots of classic films and new ones as well.

Have you seen Monster Party, and did you like my review? What did you think of this film? Let me know in the comments. I always love hearing from my readers.

Don’t Root For Villains: They’re Awful

In the past ten years or so, if not longer, an idea has taken hold in storytelling circles. The idea is that the villain should be sympathetic. Well, maybe not sympathetic, exactly. Rather, the villain should be relatable and realistic. The reasoning goes, no one is the antagonist in their own story. Therefore, readers or viewers should be able to connect with the villain. To some extent, I understand and agree with this. After all, mustache twirling villains grow tiresome right quick. However, I also hate the idea that a villain has to be complex or sympathetic, or relatable. Villains are villains because they have chosen a path that leads to harming others in order to gain their objectives or get revenge. This is not something to cheer for. Don’t root for villains.

It is not difficult for me to understand why people see the need for well rounded villains in our entertainments. As I wrote earlier, one note villains are boring. Single note heroes are boring too; there needs to be more to the characters. Where I take issue is the idea that a story is better if the villain wins, or that it’s more interesting if the bad guy obtains victory. Should the bad guy be clever? Yes. Should they be a match for the protagonist? Of course. Does that mean we need to hope they win? No. Don’t root for villains.

Is a story sometimes better when the hero suffers, or even loses? Yes. Such things go against audience expectation, which is usually a great thing. Furthermore, it sets up the idea that the hero is fallible, which is not something that is always clear. Nevertheless, if the villain wins we shouldn’t feel good about it.

Don’t Root For Villains: They Don’t Deserve It

Look at Game of Thrones, for example. (The TV Show as I haven’t read the books.) That is a show where there are very few straight up heroic characters. It is also a show where the villains tend to win more often than not. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as there is some hope that good will prevail at some point. Does it have to be all roses and rainbows for the heroes? No, but it would be nice if they somehow managed to overcome evil and win the day. But should we be rooting for Cersei? Or the Mountain? Joffrey? The Night King? Are those the characters we really want to see win? And if so, why?

The image shows the Night King from Game of Thrones. He wants to kill everyone, which is why we don't root for villains.

(Note: I started this post before the new season of GoT started, and now I add Dany to my list. To be fair, though, I have never really considered the Mother of Dragons ascending to the throne a good thing.)

Generally, the structure of stories go something like: hero is big and bold, faces villainy, villainy wins for the moment, hero wins the day. Many people find this formula boring, and I admit it can feel routine and silly. If the hero always wins, it seems like there is no reason to tell the story.

Victory at a Price

However, just because a hero wins, doesn’t mean they didn’t suffer. In fact, some of the best stories are the ones where, yes the hero, or protagonist if you prefer, wins, but also suffers. A victory that comes at a great cost to the hero is the most interesting to me. In the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Batman achieves victory over the three adversaries he faces. Each coming at a cost. The mutant leader bruises his body.

Then, the Joker murders a bunch of people and stabs Batman repeatedly. Batman beats Joker within an inch of his life, but doesn’t kill the Clown Prince of Crime. Even at the end, he fails to take action that would ensure Joker never hurt anyone again. Then Joker manages to break his own neck, rendering Batman’s code pointless. Here is a two-fold example of failing while succeeding. Bats failed to save the bystanders, and then he failed to stop the Joker. Joker did that all on his own.

Additionally, this scene provides us with a glimpse of Joker’s triumph. He failed to goad Batman into killing him, but he did murder a bunch of people that Batman wanted to save. A win for a Joker, and a loss for Batman.

Finally, still in the Dark Knight Returns, Batman fights Superman. He has a plan, and he wins, but again at a cost. Not only does bats get some broken ribs for his troubles, but he also has to fake his own death. Essentially, after this, the Batman is no more. (Until Dark Knight Returns 2, that is.)

We don’t root for the villains in this story, but their successes make Batman’s failures, and ultimate victory, more meaningful. He faces adversity and overcomes it.

Why Root for the Villains?

The real world is scary enough and is full of enough real assholes and villains . Do we need our entertainments to reflect reality so much that we watch the bad guys (or antagonists, if you prefer) win? Have we become so jaded that a heroic victory is boring and predictable?

I am not arguing for boring stories. I am, however, arguing that a story can still be interesting and entertaining, even when we know the heroes will win, most of the time. Heroes win, and they should. People read stories to escape, and a happy ending helps.

A good story about a villain you want to see reach their goal can work. I’ve read and seen a few. There’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, I enjoy stories told from the villains’ perspective, as long as they still fail and get their comeuppance.

The Americans is a good example. Elizabeth and Phillip are villains presented as protagonists. However, they are evil, murderous liars with few redeemable qualities. I wanted them to live, but I didn’t want them to win.

My issue is the idea that a story is boring or uninteresting if the heroes win. The journey matters more than the ending. If you need the hero to fail and the villain to win for the journey to be fun for you, then we have distinctly different ideas about stories.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.


Netflix Takes Suicide Blame due to 13 Reasons Why

Netflix takes suicide blame because of 13 Reason Why. Researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital have found that in 2017, the suicide rate among the between 10 and 17 crowd was at a five year high. This increase happened the month following the show’s debut. And now people have blamed Netflix for this increase in suicides.

The image shows a poster for 13 reasons why, the show for which netflix takes suicide blame

This is awful. I haven’t seen the show, but it’s always felt skeevy to me.
However, correlation does not mean causation. Is it possible ’13 Reasons Why’ influenced these poor kids to take their lives? Yes. Is it provable? Hard for me to say. Should Netflix have been more responsible with how they marketed this show? Probably. But, I can’t blame Netflix or this show for the increase in suicides unless I want to start blaming TV and video games for violent behavior.

I am not saying it’s impossible that this show influenced children who were already emotionally frail and a danger to themselves to take that next step. However, I am saying, it certainlty wasn’t the only thing.

Regardless, it is a damn tragedy that these kids took their own lives. It’s a tragedy their candles were snuffed out too soon. The fact that we don’t take the mental health of our children seriously is the larger issue. If we took the time to listen to and care for the children in our society, maybe, just maybe, we could prevent this.

Netflix Takes Suicide Blame, But Other Share the Blame, Too.


Instead, we tell them to suck it up when they get bullied. We shame them for getting sexually assaulted. Our continued destruction of the planet has to cause them anxiety. We allow mass shooters to bring guns into their schools. Furthermore, we pressure them to succeed in life and love. We tell them they need to do well in school. They hear the constant refrain of hard work equals success.

As adults, we instill in them the sense that they have to be the best thing ever, otherwise they are failures. It’s all too much for a teenager to take. What’s more, they shouldn’t have to. We need to be more understanding and aware of what our children are going through. Every adult has been through puberty. We know what it’s like, even if we don’t remember. At that age, it can be difficult to understand what is happening to us. Moreover, it can be difficult to understand how temporary those times are. As adults, we need to be there for the younger generations in any way we can. Not to do so is doing them a disservice.


This Netflix show may have contributed to these awful deaths, but it is far and away the main reason. Again, I am not defending the show or Netflix, but I am saying that if we are going to place blame it might be easy to blame a show, but it’s more worthwhile to take the harder route and look at our own actions and how our inaction has kept the door open for kids to think suicide is their best and only option.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Star Wars Needs Mandalorian

Star Wars Celebration 2019 happened recently, and it brought tons of news. First, of course, was the trailer for Episode IX (read my reaction here). Overshadowed by all the hoopla concerning Rise of the Skywalker, was something that Star Wars needs: the Mandalorian. Why do I say this?

The Star Wars galaxy is huge. It encompasses countless planets and citizens, and yet, the majority of the stories we have seen and read follow a select group of those inhabitants. The prequels, the Clone Wars animated series, the Original Trilogy, and the new movies all focus on the Skywalkers in some way. Now, don’t get me wrong; I dig the Skywalker saga. It is arguably what made the franchise so successful in the first place. However, with such a large canvas for storytellers to use, I am disappointed the galaxy feels so limited.

The Image shows what Star Wars needs: the Mandalorian in action. He is shooting a blaster pistol at some unfortunates.
The Mandalorian, played by Pedro Pascal. Image from the teaser trailer.

Star Wars needs to feel bigger, and finally it will because of the Mandalorian. Set five years after the Return of the Jedi, the series will give us our first glimpse of something new. Will it still rely on the films? I am certain, but I do hope that it won’t have the titular character chasing after Solo or Skywalker. In fact, I hope the characters we know from the movies are nowhere to be seen or heard. Maybe a mention of how they are fighting the remnants of the Empire, or establishing a government. Those things I could live with, but nothing more.

Star Wars Needs Original Mandalorian Stories

There are plenty of stories to tell using the premise of a Mandalorian bounty hunter (who isn’t Boba Fett) that we don’t need the OT characters. Instead, have this warrior working for a criminal organization, bringing in the rabble. Maybe he used to work for Jabba and is now freelance. I want them to use this opportunity to explore the seedy underbelly of Star Wars. As a bounty hunter, his options are limitless.

Show us new locations and introduce us to new characters. Expand the galaxy to the size it deserves. If the creative forces can do this, then I will be there for it. Who am I kidding? I am already there for it. I think I am more excited about this than episode IX, mostly because it is something new.

Han Solo was an anti-hero turned hero. Rogue One fully introduced the idea of gray morality to the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian has the opportunity to expand on this under developed aspect of the galaxy. Not everyone needs to be a big hero of destiny, nor do they have to be absolute evil. The far away galaxy needs a bit of moral ambiguity. It creates interesting and entertaining story opportunities, and helps people relate to it.

Personally, I love the good is good and evil is evil aspect to Star Wars, but I also welcome the development of a different type of character. The galaxy is a big place with enough room for all types of characters.

The Stories I Want

I am about to start an Edge of the Empire Role Playing game with some friends. They want to play bounty hunters and smugglers, and while I haven’t seen the Mandalorian, it has already helped me by providing a sort of context. Right now the idea is the players have to hunt down a Twi’lek who stole sensitive information from their boss. They need to retrieve the information and return the thief to face punishement. It’s a simple setup, but I think it has lots of potential.

As I was planning this adventure, I started thinking about the kinds of stories I want from the Mandalorian.

I want heist stories, intrigue stories, investigations and kidnappings. In short, I want crime stories set in the Star Wars universe.

In addition to the types of stories I mentioned above, double crosses always work well in criminal underworld tales. A Star Wars story about how the Mandalorian’s friends double crossed him could be a lot of fun. In fact, such a story could set up a Lone Wolf and Cub type dynamic with him turning to bounty hunting to fund his vengeance.

Stars Wars needs the Mandalorian and the stories it can tell. I have faith that they can tell good ones.

What about you? What stories or jobs do you want to see the armored warrior participate in? Are you excited for this show? Tell me in the comments.

Tie Fighter #1 Review: Imperial Pilots Take the Stage

In the Star Wars universe, the aesthetic of the Empire is unmistakable. Imperial ships are gray, angular, and easy to recognize. This look helps them strike fear into their enemies and present a unified front. Unlike the Rebels, the Empire announces its presence. However, this unity also makes the Empire seem like a faceless mob of people, which is effective. What could be scarier than a faceless death machine? Here, I review how Tie Fighter #1 attempts to address that style, and answer how well it succeeds in its task.

The image shows the cover to Tie Fighter #1, the focus of my review. We see a tie pilot on the inside of his space ship.
Tie Fighter #1 Cover. Click image to enlarge

The Empire is without a doubt an evil organization, and they have proven this time and time again. First, they build a weapon of mass destruction. Then, they take a Princess and a diplomat hostage and torture her for information. Next, they use their weapon to destroy her home planet. All of these things are terrible actions taken by a terrible and oppressive government. This issue attempts to add some context to these actions, and present the other side of the coin. For example, are the Rebels really terrorists? Do they deserve what the Empire is doing to them? When thinking about my Tie Fighter #1 review, these were questions I had to grapple with.

Tie Fighter #1 Review: Sympathy for the Empire

Due to the fact that the Empire is evil, one could easily assume that its troopers and pilots are also evil. This is not a bad assumption to make. When I read this comic, I wondered how the creative team would make me sympathize with its protagonists. How would they develop these characters and present them in a sympathetic light? It is a dicey question, to be sure, especially considering the current real world political climate. “Fine people on both sides,” and all that.

I am not here to talk politics, much, but it bears keeping in mind that this comic asks the readers to side with a government that murders citizens by the billions and rules with fear. This is not the first time a Star Wars comic has tackled such issues. In fact, Dark Horse had an ongoing series called Empire, and it was great. Why? Well, first of all it came out in the early 2000s. a simple time, and it never tried to make the Imperials sympathetic. Instead, it showed the whole Empire as conniving and paranoid and evil. In classic Star Wars fashion, it presented the galaxy far far away in the moral absolutes it so often deals .

Anyway, back to my Tie Fighter #1 review. We first meet Squadron 5 (Shadow Wing) as they blast some Rebel ships to hell. After a job well done, they return to their capital ship, the Imperial Star Destroyer Pursuer, where the reader catches the first glimpse of some of these pilots.

The image shows two shadow wing pilots, Lyttan Dree and Jeela Brebtin talking after a space battle. Jeela has an intense look on her face.
Click image to enlarge

Characterization Through Artwork

I like this page for a couple of reasons. One, the artists do a good job of capturing the vastness of an Imperial Star Destroyer. These things are huge, and that size is not easy to capture on the page. However, Roge Antonio and Michael Dowling do a fine job of translating that feeling to the page. Additionally, the art immediately tells us what we need to know about the two characters on the page.

Dree stands with his head at a near level angle, and has soft edges. These two elements combine to demonstrate a sense of naivety and inexperience. He is a lieutenant so he can’t be that inexperienced, but the art helps convey that he maybe isn’t strictly by the book. Actions he takes later in the issue confirm this suspicion.

Brebtin, on the other hand, is dark colors and angles. She is severe and serious. The art and her words tell us this. The difference between how Antonio and Dowling present these two Imperial pilots tells the reader all we need to know. One of them follows the book and takes their job quite seriously while the other has a more relaxed attitude towards things. If we had to choose one of these characters to be sympathetic to, it would most likely be Dree. He seems like a nice guy caught up with a bad organization, whereas Brebtin appears fully committed to the Imperial cause.

Politics of the Empire

As an organization that relies on fear to hold power, the Empire should suffer from a large amount of paranoia within its ranks. Thankfully, this issue addresses that fact, showing the fear and paranoia of the Imperial pilots on several occasions. Why is this important to me? One, it helps add an aspect of humanity to the cast. If they were all good little soldiers who never questioned the Empire or orders they would feel unrealized. Even the best soldiers have questions. Whether they ask those questions is another matter.

Imperial Paranoia. Click to enlarge.

Second, having the characters question their superiors, and each other in some instances, the creative team establishes that not all is right in the Empire. If its troops and pilots have doubts, Imperial leadership will have trouble keeping things together. As a bit of foreshadowing it works quite well.

Finally, the paranoia gives the comic a great way to further characterize Imperial forces. We see that they have to navigate an extremely rigid and authoritative system where one slip up could result in severe punishment. As readers and Star Wars fans we know this, but it helps to see it there on the page.

These elements work together to assuage the idea that you are reading about, and supposed to root for, the villains.

Tie Fighter #1 Review: Should You Read It?

If you are interested in a different perspective on the Imperial vs Rebel conflict, then this issue is a good place to start. It’s got some space battle action, some intrigue, and some good characterization of the galaxy’s villains. As this is a first issue, it is mostly set up, but there are a few good surprises in store.

Of course, if you have no interest in seeing the Empire in a sympathetic light, then stay away from this book. There are, however, hints that traitorous activity is afoot. A defection plot, maybe? Or possibly, rebel infiltration? Either of these choices would add a new layer to the proceedings and offer real reasons for reader sympathy. All in all, I was entertained by it, but your mileage may vary.

Have you read this comic?

Did you love the Tie Fighter game from Lucas Arts? I did, despite playing as a bad guy. Y-Wings were just so much fun to shoot down.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think about this book, this post, or Star Wars. Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you.

The image shows the credits page from Tie Fighter #1, which I review in this blog post.
The ones responsible for this. Click image to enlarge