Tag Archives: fantasy

Shelf Bite: Rat Queens

RatQueens_01_02_finalFangirls unite

‘What’s with men and tentacles? I’m sick of this shit.’

Following the success of Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga, Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch’s Rat Queens continues to deconstruct the sci-fi and fantasy genre. Where Saga deals with high concept and more surreal devices, Rat Queens is perhaps closer in tone to Terry Pratchet; simply not justified by a mere ‘Python meets Thrones’; this is balls to the wall storytelling with four of the best female characters to grace the pages of the medium for a long while. Pinup bombshell, Hannah the Elf, fashion hipster dwarf, Violet, atheist human cleric, Dee and the hippy lesbian Halfling thief smash their way through the sword and sorcery sub gene in an effortless read. Inverting the cliché imagery of scantily clad females, Rat Queens is a fresh depiction of various female body types and places the cliché, heroic male as ‘second fiddle’. With the current influx of the fangirl community revitalising comics, it is not hard to see the current trend, even from the big two’s Ms. Marvel and Gotham Academy, yet Rat Queens clearly remains top of the game. Current volumes are: Sass and Sorcery and The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth.

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The Nao of Brown

urlA sequential State of Mind

‘I had a feeling something wasn’t right, it was over my shoulder and inching up on me…it doesn’t always happen like that…’

Glyn Dillon’s tale of obsessive compulsion and the meditative journey one would seek to keep their head above the dark waters of depression is both a unique and often profound look at a particular state of mind. The story forces us to examine a mental state and reminds us of an often forgotten, illusive persuasion of where we should be – our mind planted in the present…’the now’; while all the time we strive to move forward and become more aware of our surroundings and the influence of others.

The Nao of Brown is as alarming as it is charming; and Dillon’s half-japanese character, Nao is the very embodiment of these juxtapositions. The story intends to fracture and unnerve and place you in her red shoes – presenting an individual divided by culture she has been left to seek her own identity where she attends classes on Buddhism to help improve her state of mind while rating her anxieties out of ten. Her cute, elven features – black bob and splashes of red add to her mischievous personality that often spirals in to violent fantasies of harming others. But while there are obvious moments of delusion, there are her interests that keep her (relatively) grounded where her obsession with Japanese Ichi comics sparks an infatuation with a local washing-machine repairman who resembles a title character called the ‘Nothing’. While their relationship develops, the love of her work colleague is eluded to amongst their trivial banter and is perhaps the one person who is truly able to pull her to shore.

nao-of-brown-10oct-2nd_12

The schizophrenic nature of the narrative is chosen deliberately to draw us in to Nao’s own, irrational feelings. We are often confused, then comforted, disturbed…yet reassured. In one scene involving a pregnant woman, Nao’s thoughts of harming the woman are visualized in alarming detail and we are often left alone with her figuring out whether she has actually committed such a heinous act. If you are a parent, the scene is magnified…quite literally.

The Nao of Brown is the perfect mix of Miyazaki fantasy and kitchen sink drama as her own story is interspersed with that of fictional author, Gil Ichiyama’s Ichi character, Pictor – a humanoid tree soldier whose world is brought to life further through Dillon’s dedicated website that presents an animated trailer, interviews and all manner of Easter eggs. It is during these pages that the style contrasts the subtle washes of Nao’s personal story and focuses on more distinctive lines reminiscent of ancient woodblock prints and the spirit of Moebius that infuses this sequential masterpiece in a rich tapestry of history and mythology that mirrors Nao’s own journey.

In the end we are left with the journey and one that reminds us of what is important in life. If you’re willing to invest in this story then be prepared to leave a piece of yourself behind.

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Bunraku

bunraku_xlgA silent mix of loud style and tradition

‘Great lessons are often found in defeat.’

There’s a lot to enjoy in Guy Moshe’s cocktail of East meets West – a criminally underrated film that utilizes digital production techniques to blend both pop cultural references with more than enough nods to the art house and early cinema. Part German expressionism, martial arts, video game, film noir, sci-fi, fantasy and comic book – it would be easy to label such a post modern mix of styles a pretentious affair. But where the visual layers unfold, the story follows a simple structure of heroic stereotypes and paper-thin plot which some will argue is its downfall.

In a world reminiscent of communist rule, guns have been outlawed and the sword is once again the way of the warrior. Nicola the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman) rules with an iron fist, accompanied by his femme fatale, Alexandra (Demi Moore), nine lethal assassins and his Red Gang that instill more than enough fear amongst the locals. While The Woodcutter’s right hand man, Killer no.2 (Kevin McKidd) taps dances his way through a barrage of assailants closer to a scene from West Side Story, our two protagonists, androgynous samurai, Yoshi (Gackt) and The Drifter (Josh Hartnett) clash in their quest to seek out the evil tyrant. Guided by the wisdom and intuition of The Bartender (Woody Harrelson), our two protagonists cast aside their differences and use combined skills to inspire the downtrodden citizens to forge an army of their own. Through set pieces closer to theatre and reminiscent of silent cinema, our heroes break bones and crack skulls as the screen literally cuts and folds like the pages of a pop-up book and graphic novel.

Closer in comparison to Stephen Chow (Kung-Fu Hustle) than Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, Moshe’s myriad of influences are clearly worn on his sleeve. Here is a filmmaker opening his toy box and although certain ideas seem lost in the sandpit at times, the narrative moves along at just the right pace. It is here where Moshe uses his devices effectively to remind you of role play – the title, Bunraku – a form of Japanese theatre in which puppeteers, dressed in black and invisible to the audience, manipulate their characters, accompanied by a chanted narration and musical instruments – a perfect, one word summary, if ever there was one.

This isn’t a film about depth of story but more a film that allows the visuals to piece the narrative together – which is what all good films should do. Turn the sound off and this is a masterstroke and genuine return to tradition. In that respect, Bunraku works on the levels it was intended.

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