Tag Archives: Death

I’m Still Here

Sorry for the lack of communication these first few weeks of the year. 2016 has already turned out to be more hectic than most of 2015. I’ve got several new writing projects which I should hopefully be able to share with you shortly as well as a lot of life and work stuff going on.

One weird thing from the beginning of the year was the passing of a fellow member of the OSU Men’s Glee on New Year’s Day. This was a guy who was my age, actually even a little younger. He sang at my wedding. The Men’s Glee does this tradition during tailgating that I appropriated for my proposal and reception. The guys will take a girl and have her sit in the middle of a group of us while we sing “My Evaline” to her (a little livelier than Weezer). The pinnacle of that moment is the lyric “I love you, say you love me…”. After an affirmative response, all cheer and wave our arms above the lucky girl for “meet me in the shade of the old willow tree”.

For the proposal it was “I love you, say you love Trube…”, asking my wife to marry me, then cheers.

This is the first peer I’ve lost, and for so random a reason, and it’s bound to get anyone thinking about their own mortality. But honestly for me, a lot of my time has been spent trying to remember this guy I spent some of the best years of my life around.

The Men’s Glee is like a fraternity, and it’s a shared experience that still leaves so many fond memories for me. Concerts in small towns, riding on the bus, watching Tommy Boy, going to San Francisco, and singing in the horseshoe. These were supposed to be lifelong friends, “brothers in song”.

For some of us, that’s been true. Facebook and social media can give you the illusion of contact without needing to actually see or talk to anyone. You know what’s going on in their lives, you can like a photo, maybe leave an occasional comment, and that’s enough to sate your curiosity. My circle of real friends today is pretty small, the guys from church, my writing friends, and a few people from college.

I went to the funeral, which was a Catholic mass (a new experience for me), in part to connect with some of my Glee friends from the past, and to get some sense of connection with this person I’d lost touch with. Only a few of the guys came, though it was amazing how easy it was to fall back into old relationships. A lot of these guys are still around where I live. I could see them more often. But I know that in all likelihood I will let the business of my life and the “craziness” of my schedule keep  me confined to the patterns I’m comfortable with.

I learned more about this young man’s love of the outdoors and our shared love of dogs. I sat and knelt and prayed and sang. And I mourned the loss, to his family, his young wife, to all of us. I hugged my old friends, and said goodbye to another as bagpipes played “Amazing Grace”.

I’m honestly not sure I’ve processed this. My way of dealing with most experiences is to keep going from one moment to the next. There’s so much I want to do with whatever time is left to me. And a moment like this certainly teaches you that tomorrow is never promised. And there are uncomfortable revelations about my use of time, the relationships I’ve let slide, and just how things can get away from us all.

This is probably a moment I need to do more with than just write about it. But that may be all I do.

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Reviews: Outer Limits Edition

Ghosts, heroes, the end of the world. Comics let us explore all of these ideas with just a few pen-strokes. In today’s post we have a hero born in death, a world on the brink of being engulfed by the sun, and a kid just trying to heal the hole in his heart.

The Bigger Bang

Writer – D. J. Kirkbride, Artist – Vassilis Gogtzilas

TheBiggerBangCosmos is a man feared as “the universe killer”. His birth destroyed Earth and countless other worlds. Though he could not control the circumstances of his birth, Cosmos lives to try to save as many lives as he can, even though everywhere he is feared and has no one to talk to. A fighter commander who is sent to kill him instead is falling in love with him, but can she be trusted? And can they both stop a king intent on destroying everything in his path?

I like the concept, and little details like how small Cosmos’ voice is when he first speaks, a calm voice in a being so powerful. There are some spectacular feats accomplished, including absorbing the energy of a sun going nova and re-directing the energy of a volcano.

Gogtzilas’ style is rough and scratchy. It lends the page a more sketchbook like quality than a finished product. Toothy grins extend long beyond the borders of their faces, and everything is drably colored. Despite the cosmic and other-worldly tale, there seems to be a gray haze over everything. Some of the character designs are quite imaginative, and evoke more of a space fable or pulp adventure than a serious story.

Your typical all powerful being has to have some kind of flaw, or they’re not very interesting (re: Superman). Cosmos’ weakness is guilt, and an inability to connect with people due to the massive scale of his power, and the fear of his reputation. This is explored well at first, in the places he finds solitude and in the worlds he tries to save, but in the end comes down to a fight between one big bad, and the good guy. Redemption through force against an opponent he doesn’t have to hold back against isn’t much of a revelation.

Overall, this isn’t bad, but the art style will probably be a turn off to some of you.

(3 stars | Good as a limited series, and could have gone longer if it took some different directions)

Low – Volume 1

Writer – Rick Remender, Artist – Greg Tocchini

LowThe human race is at an end, the Earth about to be swallowed up by the sun, making the surface a toxic airless wasteland. We have never gone to the stars, our closest step sending a few probes we’ve long forgotten about. All the human race can do is sit at the bottom of the ocean and wait for time to run out. And do a lot of drugs and have a lot of sex while we wait.

A mother loses her husband and her two daughters to pirates, the daughters stolen and the husband slain for a battle suit and a legacy of hatred. Years pass and there is a faint hope that a probe has found a habitable planet, but the probe and its data are trapped on the barren and lifeless surface, and the only help the mother can find to get it, is a son who has succumbed to the same fatalism as the rest of the human race.

Right off the bat, this book is NSFW. There’s swearing of course, including overuse of the c-word (though maybe that’s just a trigger for me). And if you thought Saga could be a little shocking and depraved … well … it is, but this title could give Saga a run for its money with some of its clear parallels to the fall of the Roman Empire and the accompanying orgies

Remender’s good at pulpy action, and like Black Science you can never count on exactly who is going to survive. Tocchini’s visuals can be a treat, vast underwater cities and wildlife. But this is definitely a “mature” title. I think the idea that the human race will remain stuck on Earth even millions or billions of years later seems a bit of a stretch. In addition to overuse of the c-word, Remender likes to work his title into the plot in every chapter, talking about how low people have fallen, or how low a certain action is. It’s a little corny.

The final two issues are quite good and set up the next arc well. While not as good as Black Science, this is still worth a look if you can get past some of the content.

(4 stars | Seriously, read this at home)

Doomboy

Writer and Artist – Tony Sandoval

DoomboyD is a depressed teen coping with the recent death of his girlfriend Annie by playing lonely sessions on the beach, and by beating people up with his guitar. His grief has caused a literal hole in his chest, which he tries to cope with by playing his feelings into the sky, and also on an obscure radio frequency that makes him a local unknown legend, even among the people who hate him.

It’s a tightly focused piece, taking place largely over the course of a summer and the Doomboy sessions. Most characters either have very tiny eyes and big foreheads, or there eyes are completely covered by their hair. The mouths are large when open and small when closed.

I found the asides and remembrances a little distracting, but I loved the sequences that visualized the music as giant squids or clouds climbing across the sky. There are some little details, like the purchasing of a star or Annie drawing eyes on D’s guitar that add to the fantasy and mystery elements, while at the same time staying grounded in understandable pain and loss. The final sequence is a bit confused but overall it’s a nice tale of using musing to cope with grief and connect with people, and how we can be inspired by even the bad things that happen in our lives.

There are some sketches at the back for the original short inspiration for the story which provide some interesting background. Not quite up to the prestige price it is being offered at, but good to pick up or maybe check out from your library.

(3 stars | An imperfect piece, but worth a read)

Wayward Volume 1

Writer – Jim Zub, Artist – Steve Cummings

WaywardA girl, Rori, daughter of a Japanese seamstress and an Irish engineer comes to Japan after a falling out with her father to live with her mother. Her mother’s job keeps her out weird hours, and so Rori is given plenty of time to explore Japan, including some dark corners where she’s attacked by turtle men, and saved by a girl who seems to have some special relationship to cats. Soon she begins to see her own powers to see the strings of the world around her, and other people with power are drawn to her, for good and evil.

As much as this is a fantasy story set in Japan, it also seems very rooted in the real Japan, and not the land of oriental mystery that’s in a lot of these stories. The difficulty of being a girl with red hair in a Japanese school, the urban life of the working class in Japan are just a couple of examples of this authenticity at work.

Zub draws on a lot of legends and creatures known as Yokai, while creating his own legends. At the back he explains all of the various creatures and their origins in Japanese mysticism. There’s a lot of humor and the tone is a little lighter than the rest of the pieces in this post. Cummings art is very grounded in real architecture, while still allowing for the presence of evil creatures and magical girls. Like a lot of first volumes, this will leave you hungry for more, and in some way the story is just getting started, but I trust Zub to take us the rest of the way.

I was looking forward to this for a while and was not disappointed when I found it on NetGalley.

(5 stars | Good balance of fun, action and fantasy)

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Tales to Suffice

One of the perks of being a member of NetGalley is being able to read tomorrow’s books today. But admittedly I’ve been kind of a bum and I don’t always get around to reviewing the titles until long after they come out. Luckily, NetGalley has a pretty wide array of comics and graphic novels available and I tend to actually get time to read those before the deadline. So here today are three new books that have either just come out or will be coming out in the very new future. Hopefully there’s a little something for everyone (and I can alleviate some of my guilt over free ARCs 🙂 )

Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick

prettydeadly-01There’s been a trend in comics lately for end of the world apocalyptic tales with western trappings and well … Pretty Deadly is another of those. If you like Image’s East of West this might be for you, but it honestly wasn’t really my cup of tea. Action scenes, particularly those involving hand to hand combat, come across as blurry and confused. There’s some interesting imagery, including an opponent who dissolves into thousands of butterflies upon being defeated (and if you liked that you’ll get to see that same person killed twice this way). One character in particular, a young girl who wears a vulture on her head, is drawn very inconsistently, and I was finding it hard to pinpoint her exact age.

The story itself seems drag in some places, and move too fast in others. We spend a lot of time with a man in a whorehouse and only a few pages explaining the actual goal and objectives of all players involved (one of whom is Death). There are a few twists and turns that may interest readers who are more invested in this genre, but for me it seemed like a lot of blood and running around for a being just trying to put off the natural cycle of succession (or somehow eliminate Death entirely which is a bad thing…?)

Maybe this title will evolve with more issues, but it’s debut arc (issues #1-5) didn’t work for me. (2 out of 5)

I Was The Cat by Paul Tobin

cover47201-mediumAs a cat owner it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Burma, the talking cat protagonist/antagonist of this graphic novel, has spent his nine lives trying to take over the world. Allison Breaking, a blogger and journalist, is recruited by Burma (who absolutely swears he’s done with the whole taking over the world thing) to write his memoirs, as a way of introducing the talking cat to the world, and revealing his influence over key figures throughout history. Basically each of his tales are a power behind the throne story for some of the world’s greatest (and infamous) leaders, from Good Queen Bess, to Napoleon to Blofeld? (James Bond).

After a while I found this narrative style repetitive, only serving as way to increase the unease of Breaking and her friend with whom she’s staying. Burma’s real plans don’t really kick up until the back half of the book, though I must admit some of his plans for world conquest are innovative. The artwork is excellent and gives a good differentiation between the historical periods being discussed and modern day London. And some of the talking cat moments are funny, particularly when someone pulls his whiskers.

Overall there are a few points of interest but it could have used to lose about 40 pages of filler. An enjoyable enough read, but not one you’ll probably return to again and again. (3 out of 5)

Super Ego by Caio Oliveira

cover47106-mediumThis was definitely my favorite of the bunch. A psychiatrist takes on the job of trying to help super heroes work out their problems, from drinking to survivor’s guilt, to just figuring out how to talk to a girl. We’ve got stand ins for just about every super hero trope, from the Power Rangers to Iron Man (who in this iteration is a man who pilots a giant Mexican wrestler robot complete with mask, El Lucahdor De Fierro)  to even Hawkeye.

But the toughest of Dr. Ego’s patients is Lester, a young kid born of a brief liaison between the Wonder Woman and Superman equivalents. Accepted in neither world, Lester has the power to juggle planets, but he just wants to be able to go on a date with a girl. He’s thin and lanky because he’s never able to exert himself enough to build up muscle mass.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when he has to fend off an alien invasion and instead of just attacking sends them a resume of his previous battles, complete with quotes from other races saying that Earth just isn’t worth it. “Why doesn’t anybody ever read the resume?” he thinks as the aliens inevitably attack and are defeated.

Dr. Ego’s own motives and back story become relevant toward the back part of the book and may make you question whether he’s a force for good or evil. But either way, he’s the only one the suits can talk to. The artwork is imaginative and colorful, and the different superheroes are both recognizable and engaging. I found myself tearing through this one, and wishing there was more (sequel maybe?) (4 out of 5)

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PS. The title for this post is drawn from another series of comics I picked up from StoryBundle. Mostly not very good, but they did have one gag I liked, which was a poster for a new movie entitled “Oh S&*t, Bees!” though they may have cribbed the idea from “Oh F%!k, Zombies!”

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A light breeze blew, and she knew he was dead

How should a series end, particularly one we’re writing?

It might seem to some that this is a strange question for a young author who is just starting out to ask, but we (writers) all think in epic ways. We don’t see ourselves as what we are now, but what we will become, and for a project that will take us years, perhaps the rest of our life, this question needs an answer.

I propose two kinds of series each of which might have a slightly different answer to this question. The first is the “episodic” series, often in the mystery or thriller genre. This follows a single character or set of characters who may grow and change over a series of books, but each book is self contained and the quantity of books is more determined by the desire of readers to keep reading and writers to keep writing. The second is the epic story, think “Wheel of time” a story we in all seriousness might not finish in our lifetime.

For the episodic story the solution can sometimes be very simple. If the author does not want to write the series anymore, or knows it will be their last, they will kill their main character. Agatha Christie did it Poirot, Colin Dexter did it to Morse, and Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill Sherlock Holmes (who much to his dismay just didn’t stay dead). I understand this impulse if you are the sort who does not trust your characters in the hands of others. There is a lot of regrettable (though some good) Sherlock Holmes novels out there, and much as I love Poirot I don’t trust anyone but Christie to write him properly.

There’s just one problem with this solution, it kinda sucks for the readers.

Take Morse for example. Dying in the fashion he did was the ultimate conclusion of his alcoholism and his depressive life. But we wanted to see him redeemed, both through his association with the young detective Lewis, and perhaps finding some kind of love with someone. You invest in a character for a long time and you want payoff, and if you don’t get it, then you don’t know why you spent the time (just ask those who watched Lost all the way to the end).

You want the reader left with some sense of finality, that maybe this is the detective’s last case if it really is the last, but with a ray of hope that things will keep going on. The story that’s being told is over, but not the lift of the character.

What about the epic?

Well, that can be a different story. A lot of epic science fiction story tellers either tell generational stories, or stories set in a vast universe which they can dip a lot of characters in and out of. My own “epic” series is structured in this fashion, with two or three book groupings all set against a 105 year timeline.

But let’s face it, I’ve got firm outlines for 4-5 but have only written parts of a couple and these are not going to be my next projects out the door, or even the one’s after them. It’s possible that with all of the different fascinating stories I want to tell that my epic will be unfinished. What then?

Well, not being a Wheel of Time fan myself I don’t know how that went, though I hear fairly well. But another series that was a favorite of mine, The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov, did not fair so well. The three B’s of modern sci-fi, Benford, Brin and Bear teamed up to write the “Second Foundation” trilogy. I didn’t make it past book one, I stopped somewhere around the 120 foot holograms of Voltaire and Joan of Arc making love. No joke.

I think if an author is to do a hand off then it needs to be someone chosen by the author, or with a real stake in making the work excellent, like Christopher Tolkien or Brian Herbert (maybe). But I think the safest path might be to not write yourself into a corner. Keep your audience yearning for more, but sated should they not get it.

Now I just have to figure out how to do that and I’ll be all set 🙂

Who would you trust to finish your work (if anyone)?

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