The Boys E02 Superheroes are Terrifying

Now this is more like it. The Boys E02 provides what I felt the first episode lacked, enough satire to fully subvert genre expectations. By focusing on aspects other than over the top violence, this episode manages to highlight the social problems caused by Supes. Granted, the first episode did this to a degree. After all, Robin’s death is the driving force behind Hughie’s quest for vengeance against A-Train.

Additionally, this episode builds on the social impact Supes. First, we see A-Train visiting a child with terminal cancer. A-Train arrives, all smiles and arrogance. Then, the kids says he wanted Translucent because Translucent is his hero. A-Train tells the kid he’ll teach him how to run when he gets better. The child does not take these words well. The whole scene is awkward and hilarious in a terrible way.

The picture shows Homelander from the Boys S02

The Boys E02 focuses mostly on Homelander as well as the fallout from episode one. Again, I am going to be as spoiler-free as possible in this review. Still, there might be some spoilery things in here. If you care, there’s your warning.

The choice to develop Homelander is a wise one. As the Superman analogue, he sets up a myriad of expectations for the audience. Such expectations should already be shifting after his actions in E01, but we still don’t know much about him. Here, we learn that he wants to be more than just a pretty face, and also that there is some darkness in him, and is the darkness that makes him scary. From when we learn of Homelander’s darkness until the end of the episode, his presence looms large. He shifts from the typical Superman archetype, to something reminiscent of JMS’s version of Hyperion in Supreme Power.

The Boys E02 There Are No Heroes Only Supes

Meanwhile, Hughie and Butcher are still trying to resolve their situation. The trouble is, they don’t have any good options. This story line pushes Hughie closer to the edge as the time to make a choice draws near. We learn that the Butcher is a mercenary who specializes in subduing Supes. Admittedly, I found the beats in this plot line a little too predictable. I understand the need for these scenes, and they do a lot of good work portraying Hugie’s struggle. Yet, the outcome never really seemed in doubt.

We also learn more about how fighting crime for the Vought corporation works. And, I would say, it works about the way you’d expect. Vought uses the most advanced technology to predict where crimes will occur, and then they send their heroes there. It’s all very efficient, but doesn’t lend itself to feeling heroic.

I appreciate this look at how the sponsorship works. On one hand, it s not surprising. If superheroes did exist and they had corporate sponsors, thing would most likely operate in this fashion.

Character Studies

The subversion of the Superman type in the form of Homelander, along with the corporate control aspect play into the theme of The Boys E02: the loss of innocence. In fact, that seems to be the overall series theme. We see this in the general portrayal of Supes in this episode, as well as the characters of Hughie and Starlight.

Each character’s story contains darkness and difficult choices. They both death with pain and loss of innocence, though in very different ways. Hughie has access to a support group. It’s dysfunctional and horrible and is going to get him in trouble, if not killed. He is grieving for Robin, and trying reconcile his need for vengeance with his need to maintain his innocence.

In contrast, Starlight processes her loss of innocence by asserting herself, and unleashing her anger against a couple of deserving assholes. She is alone and has no support structure. She can’t tell her mom for fear of disappointing her, and she has no friends. Starlight regaining some confidence is important for the character and the story. Plus, it gives us a chance to see a Supe actually doing something super heroic. Of course, she faces punishment for performing an unsanctioned Super activity, further driving home the point that there is no place for heroics in the superhero business. Plus Erin Moriarty kills it as the determined and near-desperate Starlight, infusing her performance with a contrast of nuanced emotion and bright-eyed optimism.

All in all, this episode was stronger than the first one, and I have hope that I will enjoy the show if they continue in this vein.

Have you seen The Boys E02? What did you think. Drop a line in the comments if you feel inclined.

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The Boys E01 Superheroes Suck

The Boys e01 (The Name of the Game) introduces us to a world full of superheroes patrolling the streets and fighting crime. Only, these heroes are dicks, rapists, and criminals. Think of The Watchmen mixed with Squadron Supreme, and you may have some idea of what to expect. The series is based on the comic series co-created by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. I haven’t read the comic, and I don’t know if I will. This review refrains from spoilers by not describing events, but rather providing overall general impressions.

The Picture Shows the Seven, a team of superheroes in The Boys E01

Watching this series opening episode, I kept wondering what the joke was. The set up is straightforward enough: The Boys e01 exists in a world where people with super powers are part of daily life. From this premise, the show extrapolates that people with powers would be greedy dickheads. On one hand, this is always a fun idea. On the other hand, it’s only fun if there’s a punchline beyond Ha superheroes suck!

As the first episode, The Boys e01 delivers on establishing the world, characters, and tone. That world, however, is brutish and horrible. It is a world where costumed Supers, sponsored by the Vought corporation, can murder and rape and steal at will.

There is fridging and superhero on superhero rape, and it is all played seriously, which is good as these are serious topics. But, the episode doesn’t really explore these topics, rather treating them like the tropes they are. So, instead of providing viewers with something fresh, the episode leans heavily into traditional superhero conventions. I suppose I was looking for a bit of a bigger twist.

Did you watch The Boys e01? Are you planning to? If not, why are you even reading this? If you have, comment and let me know what you think.

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All Roads End Here Apocalyptic Bleakness

All Roads End Here, a novel by David Moody is apocaylptic bleakness at a frantic pace. From the very start, the desperation of the world never fails to jump off the pages. Moody has created a cracked world in danger of splitting completely apart. In a nutshell, this novel is about a virus or some other afflction that turns many people into Haters. What’s a Hater? Hater used to be human, but now they have only the desire to destroy the Unchanged (non-Hater humans). If you think of the creatures in 28 Days Later, you’ll be on the right track. Only, the haters have some intelligence, and aren’t complete mindless brutes. Just mostly.

The picture shows the cover to All Roads End Here by David Moody. The cover is red and black

The book takes place in an English city, and the main character, Matthew Dunne, ha spent nearly three months in the wasteland. For three months, Matt survived by avoiding Hater patrols and sacrificing friends and acquaintances. His one goal: to get home to his girlfriend Jen. Matt’s willingness to do anything to get to Jen is noble, and provides motivation. However, keeping Jen safe seems to be his only reason for survival, which I find off-putting.

Finally, he reaches the city only to find it a Mad Max style warzone. Helicopters hover, strafing the hordes of Haters massing and attacking the city. Troops and bombers make appearances as well. The descriptions of the battles engage and excite, and there is a lot to like about this book in the early goings.

All Roads End Here Lacks Character

However, as the novel progresses and we see more of Matt and the people living at his house with his girlfriend, the excitement wears off. At least, that’s how it was for me. Moody writes excellent descriptions, and he builds a well realized world about to collapse. Unfortunately, he doesn’t populate that world with characters I care about, making it difficult to invest in the story.

When reading this type of novel, I find I need characters to latch onto. They don’t have to be sympathetic. Nevertheless, I like it when they aren’t complete assholes. And that is my biggest issue with All Roads End Here–I don’t like any of the characters. Actually, I can’t stand any of the characters. They could be real people, which is probably why I don’t like them. In a world where society has gone to shit, I need people I can root for and feel a connection with.

Did I root for Matt? Of course I did because he is the protagonist. Having Matt as the point of view character forces the reader to side with him, at least a little. He’s telling the story, and we want that story to continue. Therefore, we want him to live. At least for a little while.

For me, the novel became repetitious and lost a little bit of momentum for a stretch near the final third of the novel. Thankfully, it was a short stretch of pages, but it did solidify why the book wasn’t clicking for me. The reason I felt things were slowing down and becoming a slog is at that point I didn’t care about the characters. Even Matt. Once I accepted that, it was easy to finish the book.

Last Thoughts

Overall, I would say All Roads End Here is worth the read, especially if you like post-apocalyptic literature and genre pieces. It has some vivid descriptions and exciting set pieces. The battle-bus, and the waste management segments come quickly to mind.

My biggest issue was that I didn’t care if the characters lived or died. This isn’t Moody’s fault, simply a missed connection between reader and author. No one changed by the end of the proceedings, and I don’t find static characters particularly interesting.

Have you read this novel? If not, maybe give it a shot. As always, thanks for reading.

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The Den New England Gothic Novel

The Den is a New England Gothic style novel by Abi Maxwell. It tells the story of two different families, each facing difficult choices and circumstances.

It begins with the sisters Jane and Henrietta, and their dysfunctional family. Henrietta, age 15, has started to rebel, smoking cigarettes, and having sex with her boyfriend. Jane, 12, spies on her sister as she desperately aches to get closer to her. It’s all very dramatic and high hysterics, but with a slightly modern spin on typical New England Gothic by adding in some other intrigues and red herrings, though I suppose these are hallmarks of works in the genre.

The Picture shows the cover of the Den a New England Gothic novel. There is a long haired girl sitting on a chair, looking over her shoulder.

In addition to the coming of age aspect of the first part of the novel, there are secrets galore in this book. Jane and Henrietta’s mother keeps a secret art studio in the attic. Plus, Henrietta is pregnant and sneaking around. These are not the only examples of secrecy in the Den, but to reveal them would spoil the surprises in this New England Gothic novel.

Instead of focusing too much on the events of the book, I want to focus on the structure. The novel has four different narrators: Jane and Henrietta who I discussed above, and Elspeth and Claire. Elspeth and Claire are two sisters with a connection to Henrietta and Jane. The two pairs of sisters mirror each other in action, story, and trauma. Henrietta and Elspeth, while not terribly strange, are somewhat odd names. On the other hand, Jane and Claire are relatively plain names. Beyond the names, though, there is the behavior. Henrietta and Elsbeth appear adventurous, independent, and sexual. Their sisters, however, are as steadfast women who stand by their families and run the danger of becoming spinsters. Clearly, these stories have a deep connection.

The Den New England Gothic Meets Today

Maxwell does an excellent job of weaving these disparate but connected tales into one clear vision. As I read this novel, I was mostly able to follow the threads and twists and turns. Sometimes, I admit, the text turned where I didn’t expect. I love that. Gothic literature, no matter the region, needs some good mystery and conspiracy. The Den provides that at just the right times and in just the right amounts.

As for the modern twist, Henrietta and Jane are alive in the 1990’s, and as such have phones, cars, the internet, etc… This provides us with a glimpse of how this genre and these stories are going to look as we move further away in time from the roots of these types of tales. However, The Den never feels fully modern due to Maxwell’s ability to maintain the style and features of New England Gothic writing. These include improbable coincidences, loss, forgiveness (or lack thereof), pain, family, coming-of-age, and sacrifice.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and if you like Gothic style writing with a bit of modernization thrown in, you might like it too. Check it out. Thanks for reading and leave me a comment if you are so inclined.

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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.

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The New Joker Trailer is Stylish but Boring

I am a huge fan of the Joker as a villain. I really dig his craziness, and he puts forth the contradiction of silly and violent. Plus, clowns are freaky, so he’s got that going for him. However, it is difficult to make a story that features him as the main character. He works best as a villain, a response to the insanity of the world, or the harsh rigid control of Batman. In order for him to stand on his own the audience has to see him as sympathetic. And while that may be possible, it is also misses the point of the character. We should never root for the character, which is what the new Joker trailer clearly wants us to do.

The whole look and feel of the trailer wants to remind us of a 1970s flick about a man whose life is in the toilet, and suffers one too many grievances at the hands of society. In the trailer, goons attack him several times. One time they steal his sign and hit him over the head with it when he gives chase. In another scene, they beat him up on the subway. All of this takes place with his voice over about how the city is going to hell. The call backs to Taxi Driver are blatant. Of course, these comparisons make sense, considering Scorsese’s name came up quite a bit surrounding this movie when DC announced it.

Look, Scorsese has made some good films, and people like his aesthetic, especially his 70s aesthetic. However, I don’t think we need this kind of movie right now.

That’s Not Joker in the New Trailer

Sure, they call him Joker, and he wears a clown mask, and later suit reminiscent of Joker’s style. But really, the character looks to be the Clown Prince of Crime in name only. Joker is a psychopath; a sinister murderer, and rapist. We should never feel sorry for him, or have sympathy for him.

The image shows Joker in the new trailer as he walks down a hall. He is in a stylish suit and wears clown makeup.
Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker. I like his suit if not much else. Click image to enlarge.

In The Killing Joke before he turns into Joker, he’s a chump and a stooge who we don’t feel too sorry for. He maybe deserves our sympathy at that point, but not once he turns into Joker. And how does that happen? He gets pushed into Acme goo and it breaks him. He doesn’t, however, becomes the resident psycho clown of Gotham because he was picked on too much.

Maybe there is some catalyzing event in the film that the new Joker trailer isn’t showing us, but even if there is I don’t know. I don’t need to see another movie about the white guy pushed to him limits and them goes crazy. We’ve seen it in Falling Down (one of my favorite movies, BTW). We also saw it in Taxi Driver. It’s happened in Death Wish, and a variety of other films, and is old hat by this point.

It’s Not a Small Movie

Plus, as arthouse as DC want this movie to look, we have to keep in mind this is a mainstream flick with a wide release. It’s not some indy film that will release in 20 theaters and blow our minds with its choices. It’s a part of a multi-million dollar juggernaut that will just reinforce the white man’s vengeance tale yet again. I am a white dude who tends to enjoy these types of stories, but I don’t need any more of them.

It isn’t necessary to tell a movie where Joker is the hero, or to try to make the audience relate to him. He is the boogeyman, an agent of chaos, insanity in an already insane world. The only Joker stories we should tell are the ones where he gets his comeuppance. Batman handing him his ass? I want to see that. Jim Gordon blowing his kneecap off? Sign me up! Barbara Gordon breaking his spine? I’ll see that movie twice in the theater. Joker is there to hate and despise, not to emulate or adore.

I am not saying audience members will fall in love with Joker in this movie, nor am I saying that’s what DC wants us to do. However, I do find it ambiguous and a little dicey that they have decided to present the new trailer for the Joker movie in this way.

On a positive note, it does have Zazie Beetz in it, and she’s spectacular. Also, Joaquin Phoenix is a good actor, so the performances should be good. It might end up being a good flick, but I won’t be holding my breath.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

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