Digging into Maddness (or I finally finished the Soul Eater Manga): my White Whale

Soul Eater, the anime series about scythe miester Maka and her scythe-human hybrid partner Soul and her band of monster hunting friends, was one of my most influential anime series. It’s haunted aesthetic, great fights, animation, and fun characters made a giant impact on my teenage years. It was a series I watched three times in a row back on YouTube when companies would post whole episodes for free in an early streaming attempt. It was a series I loved but learned later was lacking due to wrapping up with an anime-original conclusion. That made me seek out the manga to find the truth only to be confronted with an insanely accurate adaption. This shocked stall made me sit on the manga, stuck at vol 9, always wondering what the future was like. What was different? How did it change what I thought was a pretty solid ending. After more than a decade of wondering I finally found out… and it’s amazing.

It feels important to say that I never felt unsatisfied watching Soul Eater. Despite, now clearly, only hinting at much more interesting ideas and story concepts, they all felt beyond the bounds of our characters. Kind of what Hunter x Hunter does, but unintentionally. Sure, Maka and the rest grow and change. Maka, the daughter of a human and a weapon, awakening both sides of her parentage to help win the day, is crucial to the series. But so is Black Star and Kid’s arc, though they are basically deeply compressed versions of what the manga does. My point is that the anime was so set and focused around the core team and their missions that all the expanded lore felt like just that. Lore. Not important or necessary, just flavor text. Unfortunately it will be hard to go back to the series knowing so much of what I know.

The odd thing is that even with this expanded information the broad strokes of what the anime covers and what the manga explores feels relatively small on the larger plot. Both series are consistent until Crona, non-binary (I assume. They call them a he, but has always clearly been non-binary. Though that does lead to… you know what, they’ll get their own section) child to the witch Medusa, turns on the DWMA and corrupts Stein further before leaving. In the anime they turn themselves in near immediately while in the manga they split and then a DWMA investigator, JB, is killed when he gets too close to the truth. In that divergent point it feels like more should happen, and it does in the details but not the broad strokes.

In the broad strokes, the DWMA take on Arachnophobe by attacking their castle, then end up having a final battle with the Kishin, master of Madness. In that fight Death the Kid unlocks his full potential, along with Black Star getting to go all out. Finally, Maka has a realization and beats the Kishin. That describes both series pretty well. It seems like Ohkuba gave his rough sketch for the rest of the series and Bones did what they could. Except for all the specifics (so that’s what the book of Eibon is, and I finally get to see Kilik do stuff!) and important character beats that surround the series main idea: order vs madness.

Every character arc revolves around the idea of order: the modern systems, perfection, symmetry, and balance; versus the discordant, erratic, and isolating nature of madness (and paranoia). If this were a longer form piece (like a whole book on this series) I would dig into every character, but even just a cursory look at our lead Maka and Soul prove the point. Maka, the bookish and strong willed meister has deepseated issues when it comes to her father cheating and mother getting a divorce (the fact we don’t see the mother at all feels like a mistake in both). She is compassionate, but scared of being weak. She is physically the weakest of the group and through her struggles must realize that it’s okay not be strong because you have others around. In her worst moments she feels useless and has nothing to contribute but when paired with Soul she has power. Meanwhile Soul, the too cool for school musician, has his own fears and madness about not being good enough. He comes from a line of musicians and chose to run away instead of face that linage. To prove his path a different way. But with Maka he learns his music doesn’t have to measure up as long as it reaches people.

This same examination can be done for Kid and Black Star. Kid, a symmetry obsessed grim reaper jr, must learn how to find balance in the imbalance. He is interesting to compare to Black Star because of how similar their arcs are. Black Star, often disparagingly called a Naruto Clone (which he is not. Naruto is brash and loud in hopes he gets himself to believe it. Black Star does believe it and wants the world to see) wants to be the strongest person around and will go to every length in order to achieve that goal. In both cases they give into madness and must be snapped back into seeing rationally. They both have more supportive and stable weapons. Kid using twin guns Liz and Patty, while Black has the multi-tool Tsubaki.

I might be more of a story guy, but even outside of that, if you come purely for the action, the series has that too. Though not as intricate as the anime, the manga is incredibly dynamic and readable (like the action is not the story). The choreography is stellar. Every fight feels fair and well planned out. The multiple page fight scenes flow so well. With panel work that gives enough detail to give a picture in your mind while also having enough connecting tissue to form a bigger fight. The moments of more classic “anime” style fights with overblown powers that come out of nowhere never impact the current battle to feel cheap. They often come out of character revelations and declarations. The big power surges also aren’t how they win. Instead they often give the edge enough to either talk down the foe to an extent, or use another method of magic in order to win. It never relies on pure power to win but soul (pun kind of intended). This doesn’t mean there aren’t epic as hell moments that makes me sad the anime never got to adapt.

It is hard to deny that the manga isn’t a better story. It’s themes and characters are even more fleshed out, along with an even more intriquet world and setting. But if I were to say there is one character failed by the series it is Crona.

Crona, description given above, was the character I never liked the most but did feel the most attachment too. They were always nervous, unsure what to do in most situations, and was terribly awkward. This came from their incredibly abusive upbringing under Medusa. They literally could not understand others but where able to when Maka finally resonated with their soul. From there the arc is the same, but Crona is made much more redemptive and immediately in the show than manga. In the show they realize how dumb it was to listen to Medusa and go over to the DWMA side and help take down their mother. It might be read as too easy, but you also shouldn’t assume the arc was done. They’re still a teenager with room to grow. Crona in the manga is the long game. Finding Crona and bringing them back is Maka’s main goal for the rest of the series. Unfortunately Crona is not treated nearly as well.

For much of the book they are just absent. Never checked back in with, only mentioned. When they are finally seen they have been so wholly corrupted by Medsua that they’ve become a single minded monster with incredible power and broken psyche. A psyche that gets worse when he ends up killing his mother in the best single chapter or a manga, probably ever. A kid so starved for affection that when they are given some by the person who believed in them only to constantly abuse them that they kill her and decide to try and absorb everything. It makes the possible reading of non-binary problematic by saying they’re monsters. Of course they do come around eventually and act as sort of the soul of humanity realizing what they must do in order to purge madness. That is a unique idea that would have worked better if they were more prominent in the middle chunk of the book.

Though what I often used that time they were absent focusing on was Ohkuba’s growth and maturity as an author. The early parts of the book were incredibly crass. Nudity and sexual innuendo abound. It’s not bad, but felt juvenile. So it was neat to see himself push that from the book or reincorporate those ideas in fresh ways that, by the end, when the old sex-comedy bits return they feel fresh and more mature in a way. The joke was not just about seeing girls naked or touching boobs, but how the characters relationship change to those events. It’s subtle but almost secretly genius.

It is also hard not to want Bones to do a FMA Brotherhood and come back to remake the whole series or adapt the bits they missed. Not just for the fights they could do justice too with even better animation skills, but because music becomes such an integral part of the story that getting to hear what the composer would do with the musical ideas would be a joy to hear and see. It’s a great series that I am glad I finally got to read to completion. But the lingering thought I have is not just how good the book is, but how artistic and bold it feels in comparison to Fire Force. I like what I have read and seen of Fire Force (vol 13 or 14 and the first season), the Fire-demon fighting manga, but it also feels less styalized and bold. Kind of just standard. That could change. He could keep evolving as an artist, but even if it is good it won’t carry the weight this massive series has in my soul.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Basket Full of Heads will Roll (a Comic Review)

Even as specifically horror season ends it is still getting cooler and darker, still spooky. So I figure it’s fine enough reason to finally look at the first in DC Comics and Joe Hill’s Hill House series: Basket Full of Heads.

Joe Hill, the son of horror legend Stephen King, has had his share of smash works that I never got to experience correctly. Locke and Key being the best example. The TV show was lacking and the audio drama, though hypothetically compelling, was neigh unlistenable or understandable at moments. Outside of that his short story collection Strange Weather was full of mostly misses. Yet I am compelled to keep giving him chances. It’s clear he is talented and Basket Full of Heads

Following in the classical Kingian horror tradition of a classic drama turned dark by mystical forces the book follows June, a college student visiting her boyfriend, a deputy intern for a local New England port town. On her visit to help him clean out the house boat he was living on the night takes a dark turn when the worst storm collided with a collection of inmates breaking out of jail. When June is confronted by one of the inmates she goes for the protection of an axe only to find that when the head is removed it keep on ticking. With the help of her decapitated counterparts she will work out what happened to her boyfriend, Liam, and find the true darkness the town was hiding.

The book is incredibly satisfying. That’s not a word I use often in my writing, but that was the final feeling the book left me with. A twist on the revenge-horror trope that positions the creature getting revenge as just a college girl trying to save her man. It’s an incredibly tight narrative. Every person she kills has an interesting story of how they relate to the larger mystery, along with a final twist that feels totally believable and callable.

The art, by Leomacs, works overall but is a little cartoony in places. The worst of it is shown when they try to do a head turning back and forth. It might supposed to look scary, seeing a two headed person, but instead looks silly. It also does not hold a candle to the fantastic, ominous, and dynamic cover art. It gives a much more realistic portrait of what the book is like that the book itself doesn’t totally give.

Though the atmosphere of the covers sells the book it is not really what the book is about. Again, the person in the rain jacket, axe, and basket of heads is a twist on revenge horror entities. The person under that hood isn’t scary and neither are the events that occurre to her. Not in the traditionally horror way. Instead the book is about (take a shot cause this feels like just a theme of works now) systemic horrors. How corruption can spread throughout an idealic looking community. It’s about how greed, power, and fear of losing both causes men to do terrible things to people. Sure it’s not piss your pants scary like a hay ride full of killer clowns with chainsaws (totally not a random example from personal life), but is more realistic and prevalent than we would want to believe. I mean there is a reason why an examination of the police and police procedures have been so hot for such a long time.

This book was a solid start to this line. Sure, more books have come out since and seem interesting, but it’s good to have a strong baseline quality, and that, for my misgivings about Joe Hills work (all little of it I have read), is definitely baseline. It’s got strong ideas, pretty good characters, a good premise, and strong ending. It’s hard to ask for more with such a short series like Baskets Full of Heads.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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A Volume-by-Volume Checkin of Eden Zero: Volume 9

Volume 8, which feels like it either just came out or I was far later and getting to than I realized, was fine. It was both better than some of the good stuff in Fairy Tail I read, but didn’t have the energy that book did. It seemed like Mashima was just going along with the flow. That was also the end of a long, for this series, story and that could have been the cause as well. This volume can be a whole new start for him. A fresh change that can really get the juices flowing.

Taking place shortly after the end of the previous volume, the Edens Zero crew is recovering and learning about Rebecca’s Ether Gear. After an accident cause Rebecca to pass out, she wakes up to discover Shiki and the rest of the ground team have gone to attack Drakken Joe before they strike them. This leads to multiple assaults, the Shining Stars revealing their true power, and one on one fights worn Drakken’s elite guard.

Though it seems strange to just jump right into another big showdown arc, the pacing does feel like it matches the adventure space-serial vibe the book is going for. Maybe having the inciting incident happen off screen when Rebecca is asleep, then revealed as a flashback later is a very over complicated method of tell the story, but also makes up so little of it. The only real issue this book has when it comes to stacking up against the previous is tht it jumps from a villain owning a planet-city to a villain owning spaceship-planet-city. Same exact setup and everything.

So far, though, the details have made the difference. Mainly the sets of fights, powers, and characters getting the spotlight. Firstly, the Shooting Stars back on the Eden Zero finally get some development and are shown as useful in combat, and have their own hobbies. The team healer, Sister, who is also a sadomasochistic/BDSM-torturer is a fun gag, and Witch being able to use multiple powers is fun. Secondly, onthe spaceship, the battles have so far been more inventive thanks to the powers of the villains. Having someone who can control water and make people turn into puddles when they cry is neat, a quick sniper showdown across the city feels different, and we finally get a brief space battle. None of these fights are ones that Shiki can just punch real good. He might use that power, but they seem to require more analysis and skill than that.

The character who gets the most focus emotionally is Pino, the fifth star (I think, it’s been so long), and emp andriod who meets her abuser outside of the planet. If you recall, I certainly didn’t, Pino was on a planet sent back 50 years in its past, she escaped along with Weisz, but the future selves exist out in the present. They run into the present, older, version of the villain from that arc. Pino is rightfully freaked out, but this older version of the man has clearly mellowed and wasn’t involved with any of those crimes against Pino. This is only a brief, and not focused on element, of the volume. But it is present and clearly building to something.

The rest of the arc seems to be building and circling back around to the early intrigue stuff around the adventure guild and the guy in charge. It reminds us that Drakken signed up to work with the man in charge, Noah, and is after the Eden Zero. They also clarify that they needed the Four Stars of the Demon King not because they were literal locks for a door, but because put together they were so powerful that breaching outside they cosmos would be easier with them.

This volume still has problems. Rebecca is captured again. Even if she wasn’t captured recently, it still feels like she’s often captured every arc. That is also more disappointing because she is being setup to be incredibly important to the universe. Strong powers, possible visions of the future, etc, but then she is always easily beaten to be captured and talked to. The other issue is how flat the book still feels. Despite having cool powers and supposedly being fast pace, which it is only because it doesn’t take long to read a chapter, the book isn’t dynamic. Every panel is the most straightforward way to convey information, and none of the art is anything more than standard. It works, but when much more dynamic and energized work like Jujutsu Kaisen is out there, it can’t compare.

It is hard to see where the book is going. It has an overarching goal it is working too, but seems to be going at its own, almost casual pace, to get us there that trying to call where it is going to go feels impossible. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but also not a good thing. Maybe more will be revealed when this book hits the double digit mark.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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So, Rise Against did a Song for DC’s Death Metal (a look at Broken Dreams Inc.)

Watch the video: https://youtu.be/fSure8z1lF4

DC’s Dark Nights: Metal was one of the biggest, craziest, darkest, and more beloved event books in comic history. A real metal inspired story and look that’s been escalated with all I’ve seen in this sequel series, Death Metal. It is almost perfect synergy to get a song to illustrate all the book represents and stands for and Rise Against is a great pick.

I like Rise Against as a band. They made two of my favorite songs, Satellites and Savior. They have a strong command of writing a song while making it feel epic. They do, in their lesser songs, devolve into just screaming and not advancing the song. That makes them a good if possibly risky pick. Thankfully they stick to what works for them.

Forturnetly and unfortunately they made a Rise Against song. It’s not bad in anyway. The beat and riffs rock. There is a lot of power and energy behind both the production and lyrics. When turned up loud, it feels like a big song about… well it’s what most Rise Against songs are about, loss of innocence, death of the American dream, general rioting against big businesses. So, yeah it’s not really a song about the DC heroes.

Part of this disconnect I’m feeling comes from how I don’t know what the story of Death Metal. Maybe Death Metal is all about automation taking over, riots of the underclasses, and are the children of lesser gods (this part I do believe). This isn’t to say I want an anime OP for the book… actually I do. That would be awesome! I just want something somewhat related to the heroes and their struggles in the book, and that did kind of happen.

What? You don’t remember Mercenary by Panic! at the Disco? The song produced for the Batman: Arkham City game, it is also a good song and, though can be equally vague in the way post-first album Panic! can be, but at least its bridge uses a Jonathan Crane voice line as a bridge to put us in the head of Batman. Broken Dream Inc could be getting into Batman or one of the other character’s heads, but again I wouldn’t know the story.

The video for Broken Dreams Inc uses art from the comic along with additional ADRd lines to frame the events as something the heroes created. It makes the line, “A chaos we ourselves created,” literal by having the chaos be The Batman who Laughs and the scenario of this Heavy Metal Apocalypse be on the heroes heads as something they must solve. The video also tries very hard to find literalizations of song lyrics in the book. A truly funny example is, “And they’re changing the locks on the doors,” paired with the Joker closing a jail cell. It’s goofy in a way I don’t think they intended. Even with the pairing of comic pages it is hard to see the relation other than the lyrics being what the heroes are saying to The Batman who Laughs and his villains, but that’s not nearly as explicit as they think it is.

There was no place to really put this since I framed this as the song relates to the the DC universe and characters, but the title “Broken Dream Inc” is a great title and used really well. It is given one line, but feels like it’s supposed to be informed by the line before and after. In the chorus and they sing, “When the factories are automated/Broken dreams incorporated/Gather your things but there’s nowhere to go,” they make the line about broken dreams feel more like something added to the factories and business. The peoples broken dreams are incorporated into the business so you can try to leave but you won’t go anywhere. The line says that businesses, corporations and the like are not just made by the people in charge but by those who gave up everything to work there. Who had dreams of their own but were broken under the weight of the impossible system we live in. It is a really haunting line that far more interesting way to use it, instead of being the name of an actual corporation.

More comic companies need to do this. Sure, Death Metal is more closely related to an actual genre of music (though I would not classify Rise Against as death metal, they are the most normie friendly metal they could get), but that doesn’t mean more comic companies can’t do this. Adding a secondary, multi-media element, that isn’t as intrusive as a tie-in novel or game, but can get the themes and tone across is brilliant. Songs are the perfect medium to accomplish that task. They can be as brief, lyrical, and bombastic as needed all while never being crucial to understanding the text of the story. A whole event book that had a song tied to each release and was meant to be listened to with each book would be epic and really unique. And since unique is all the comic book industry has left it sounds like a great idea.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!

A Volume-by-Volume Checkin of Eden Zero: Volume 8

Eden Zero continues to be an incredibly strange series to try and cover as someone who reads not just a lot of manga, but many books, and watches a ton of shows and movies, and track progress in a creators work by how they’ve evolved, changed, or stagnated. All of this amounts to me see Eden Zero as both the pinnacle of what Hiro Mashima can do as an author, but think it’s come too late.

To frame this, this volumes marks the end of the current arc to find the last of the four androids that helped the previous demon king, Valkyrie. Shiki and company beat Kurenai, the despotic queen of the planet and mother to crew member Homura, free the planet from her control, and outrun a conflict with pirate Drakken. This comes at the price of finding out Valkyrie is dead, depressing her sisters and letting them find their humanity.

Why this is so interesting is because it feels like all the emotions Mashima often concentrated on to solve problems have finally been put into proper use. Everything around Homura and Valkyrie is incredibly strong. Mashima gets the idea of found family, the power sacrifice can have on the people helped by it, and what duty’s children have to their parents at the end. That all works as intended.

Rebecca even gets interesting stuff to do in this volume. Well one interesting thing, but that is still some progress. During a fight with one of the side characters in the arc, an otaku, she realizes all the tests they faced a couple volumes back were foreshadowing for their current tests. This somehow unlocks her own powers of super speed and jumping to become Leaper… yeah, that’s the name. It’s kind of dumb and makes me think of lepper, but that’s it. The outcome might be silly, and her outfit she wears in the fight, but the revelation is interesting and one of those strong chicken-and-the-egg scenarios. If it was planned out then that’s interesting, but if it was by accident that too makes it also just as compelling. It turns a possible trope of his writing into an element of the series.

Unfortunately that is where the niceties end. Not because it is bad, but because it feels tired. The rest of the story, and looking back, what the whole story felt like, was just that it was tired. It has these fun ideas but is forced or forces itself into needing to complete the less compelling ideas because it’s tradition.

Reading Shiki’s final fight against Madame Kurenai and her robot did not feel exhilarating in the way it was supposed to. Maybe it wasn’t, but when I think of more compelling fights earlier into Fairy Tail that is a problem. This comes back to how odd it often is for a manga author to have multiple series. It’s not-uncommon, but most have a defined series that takes off and makes them. It is not common for an author as successful as Mashima to complete a series like Fairy Tail and jump then into a new series. That’s not bad necessarily. It’s praiseworthy that he’s not sitting on his laurels, but the impact of jumping headlong in makes it seem either like a rebound book or he has burn out and is just working on with his evolving instincts.

I couple be totally wrong about this, that’s fair. However most panels and pages do not have life to them. They are far more workman than anything passionate. The lack of consistent backgrounds, dull group shots, and underwhelming splash pages do not hit the way they should even as the narrative work in those pages is good, or at least fine. Passable. A solid C+.

Reading this I was often comparing it with Black Clover. Though they have nothing in common other than medium, Black Clover has that same devil (literally in both cases)- May care attitude to the world. It is focused more on drawing cool ideas that also work to expand the world, but feel like it directed by artistic passion all the same. The difference is that Black Clover bleeds passion. Even as the story as the characters are dull stereotypes the passion in getting to draw for Shōnen Jump is palpable. Eden Zero doesn’t have that. It’s just flying on auto-Pilot.

Behind the scenes I was about to stop covering the manga. Not because it bored me, but because I didn’t get much from it. The series could go on for another 60 volumes after all. Plus, checking up on its releases felt like more work than I got out of it. But, following do-diligence, I found out volume 9 comes out in a few weeks. It seems fair, then, that I follow it up to where I took Fsiry Tail, volume 12. Maybe it could improve on these faults. Maybe the passion would soon flood the page as Mashima gets to expand the universe further, or maybe I’ll get the same tipid “yeah, it’s fine. I can’t see it being anyone’s favorite, but it’s a 6/10.” Only time will tell.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!

New Mutants is an Experience We’ve Been Waiting for A Long Time (a Review)

New Mutants is an experience so many of us have been waiting for, even if you don’t care about the movie, because it’s a return to the cinema. That is, on top of a movie that has been in delayed and development for years, even after being completed. That makes it all the more exciting and terrifying to see how if it lives up to any sort of hype.

Following Danny Moonstar, a girl whose reservation is destroyed in a tornado, she awakens in a strange facility and learns she’s a mutant. She’s allowed to work on training her still mysterious powers, and meet with the four other mutants at the facility in hopes of leaving to join a second school. Unfortunately her appearance at the facility has coincided with strange visions and haunting dreams arresting the patients sanity. Now these new mutants must find the source of the nightmares and find out who is truly running the facility in order to be free.

The film is strongly compelling. Not necessarily in any bad ways, but more in how it feels like a movie that was supposed to be realessed years ago. A movie late to a trend that it should have rode to great success but now is stuck in this limbo state as Marvel and Disney come up with plans for the X-Men in the MCU.

New Mutants is much more of a hang-out, talk-it-out mood piece with horror elements than it is a horror film, or action film. This works to its benefit in setting up the cast. Each of the five mutants feels very distinct and accurate to their comic counterpart. That accuracy does not make it good, but shows the team mining material already there to give a more grounded spin. This results in a film that focuses on the real trauma people would have when they find out their mutants. The damage, dread, and regret that is only ever hinted at in the pages of the more mainstream books is brought fully out and on display. They’re all tragic figures trying to work out their deal and be better. That is all present and feels X-Men.

The particulars of that, and how a story like this: one more comfortable having characters hold conversations about how damaged they feel and why they may or may not be able to movie on, deals when it has to end with a big climax and have twists to reveal is less than satisfying. Without giving anything away, the source of the monsters is revealed just as the true purpose of the facility is exposed to them. This leads to a climax where the group must come together and finally use their powers to help save their friend. It ends well enough and is resonate with the theme of understanding and patience over force but is lacking.

It reminds me in some ways of Project Power. The difference is that Project Power needed a climax and came up with a boring solution. This film felt like I should have had a climax, or, if it did, it should have been something far more subdued. Instead the film feels like it was forced to find a way to have a big action scene at the end and did their best with it.

All of this makes it a compelling movie now, but should have been a better movie at release. The more grounded, character driven, slow burn origins were all the rage. Heck they tried and failed to do that with Power Rangers, but this one had a chance. These characters do honestly come alive as their guarded personalities fall to reveal their true selfs and they bond to form a team. It feels purposeful, with the horror only used to accentuate and manifest what the characters are feeling. Turning the abstract in the physical. It works at that, but does feel compromised to get it there.

Also, despite the long production time for the film, none of that time was used to clean up the effects. Some, like spoilers for X-men fans I won’t give away, look good. Others are very bad and hinder the horror when it looks far more cartoony than scary.

This movie wanted to be Buffy. I don’t mean that in the sense that most things want to copy what Whedon and his ilk did with their respective shows. I mean Buffy, literally. They play it all the time in the background and it is distracting (because I’d rather watch that. It’s season 4 if you’re interested). It makes diagetic sense, but also is used as foreshadowing. The issue is that Buffy, though dealing with the same general theme, is far more focused on building a threat to fit the story and arc, not the other way around. Buffy doesn’t spend its time talking until a monster shows it. It’s about the monster in all of us. New Mutants is about that too, but doesn’t hit the mark.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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A Look Back at my X-Men: X-Men Evolution Season 4

I would be incredibly interested in the production history of this series, and this season specifically. The season feels like the team somehow knew it would both be it’s last but were unaware of the limited episode count. The season ends climactically enough, and we’ll get to that, but also sets up ideas that it doesn’t pay off (in the season), again, we’ll get to it.

So much of this season feels consistent with season three. The character dynamics most of all. The New Mutants still do not get a whole lot of development outside of a single trait, and because of the limited count not every character in the main X-team gets a character arc to round out where they started. Kitty is the worst for this. Her biggest development is who she ended up with, and that she made a friend with someone else. I don’t think her arc was around that, but fine.

Jean and Scott also don’t get a whole lot. The most is retconning the fact they graduated, I think. They’re seen at school once or twice, but not in class. We see Duncan outside of school once and is still wearing his jersey, but that makes sense for someone who peaked in high school, but it’s still not clear. The two do, however, start to act as mentors for the New Mutants. They don’t do a whole lot with it, but it works.

Spyke’s arc is better explained. Last season he left the team because he was beginning to look like a freak. That didn’t make sense because Kurt was on the team. This helps fix it by better explaining how he is a protector for the mutants without protection. It’s still not clear why the mutants he’s with cannot go to Xavier’s mansion, but that was always a question until the Krakoa stuff. His episode is also low key the most important in the season.

Kurt arguably gets the least but is teamed up with de facto protagonist Rouge. It’s honestly hard to say if she is the protagonist. As I’ll get to later, the season doesn’t have a singular focus outside of the villain plot so she is not the focus, however, she does get the lion’s share of character development, and also the best of the development. She goes from hating Mystique, and constantly being used, to learning to be useful and not used, to taking that to the ultimate conclusion of saving the world. This does pay off well with Mystique by having both her and Kurt call her out for still not caring about them no matter what she says. It’s good stuff.

Most of the development for the X-Men works in a vacuum, unfortunately that short episode count and inability to use it correctly ends up forcing all the development into b-plots. The a-plots for most of those stories also set up a lot of threads that don’t go anywhere. Principal Kelly finally puts his plan into action by running for mayor and trying to remove the mutants, but that’s in its infancy. Xavier finds out he has a son and accidentally lets loose a monster, and X-23 is finally freed (I guess that’s more of a conclusion, but feels open-ended). That is on top of building the threat of Apocalypse.

It seems strange to have the big bad be Apocalypse. Not bad, but for the time, weird. Out of the many series and ideas X-Men media use he always seems to be the least explorered. The most recent, and worst, is the live action X-Men version. This is better than that. For one, this feels incredibly climactic, and like a true fight for the X-Men and company. They also beat him in an interesting, if kind of easy, way. It’s fun that Magnetos’s big plan in the first season was to increase mutant power, and in this season he gets that boosted power but doesn’t get to enjoy it. The rise of Apocalypse to the public and that the choas that ensues is interesting for mutant relations, but nothing is done. The X-Men save the world but the world doesn’t know. I think the season is hurt by not having a stated theme like the first three. Each one builds on the last. Season one was all about living a normal life, two was about coming out, three was about building relationships and the issues that will entail, four is about a giant blue mutant who has a plan no one knows for most of the season but is just bad. Jumping to acceptance by the public would be too much for sure, so I’m glad they didn’t go that route. I think it works in practice, but is weaker for it.

What I have been dancing around however is the big reveal speech at the end. Once everything is back to normal, Charles, having read Apocalypse’s mind, is able to give the writers the ability to have their cake and eat it to. In this speech Xavier pays off all the ideas as visions he sees. He sees the rise of humans being against them, and Dark Phoenix, and a grownup team that signifies how the X-Men will always be ready to stand for his ideals. This makes every thing I said about something not paying off a lie. It is paid off, and paid off in the season, but not fleshed out in the way past seasons were. That writing trick is very interesting and doesn’t feel as cheap as it should. It plays as hopeful even as we know they’ll struggle through hardship. I mean it wouldn’t be the X-Men if they didn’t.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Umbrella Academy Season 2 is a Better Second Season than Most (a Review)

Umbrella Academy Season One felt like a message to the world that Netflix didn’t need Marvel or DC heroes to make a riveting, stylish, strongly character driven series. It was such a breath of fresh air that ended on a really good cliffhanger. The problem, now, is that it’s a season two and Netflix series are infamous for not having success trying to follow up the storys that came before.

Umbrella Academy season two has the family scattered to the winds of 1960s Texas after Five’s attempt to save the family at the end of the first season. When Five finally arrives he learns the apocalypse they tried to stop followed them. He saved and tasked with finding his family and figuring out what happen to end the world in 1963. Unfortunately, but characteristically for the Umbrella Academy they are caught up in their own drama and a new group of time assassins is after them to make sure they don’t muck up the timeline anymore.

Much of this season remains as consistent as the first. The projects whole style and action is as slick and energetic as ever. The banter back and forth feels very fresh and like it is siblings bickering as it should, and the problems the team faces do feel very driven by their own problems and issues, which is nice.

Where the show fails is in the particulars of some of those characters, not all. I mean giving Allison, a literal voiceless character who has the ability to tell anyone to do anything she wanted, a connection to the civil rights movement in Texas is brilliant. That feels like a big push and extension of what she was working on in the previous season. Luther on the other hand feels like he’s in a comedy. He is only focused on Allison once he finds her, sulks, and is comic relief. None of his underlying father issues and body dismirphia is addressed nearly as well as it could have been or was last season. In just those two they give the dynamic of how most characters are. One feels more watered down while the other feels rooted more in where they were last season.

The interesting stand out, again, is Vanya. She enters the picture with amnesia of everything but her name. Thankfully Ellen Paige is a great actress that her budding romance with the woman that took her in, and the friendship she bonds with the woman’s autistic child is great. You really feel for her and her struggle to find out who she is, and the challenges they face along the way. They even make her being the catalyst for the apocalypse again be better than it had any right to be. I think it works because her actions are more a domino in the chain over the be all end all. Additionally, the way that’s resolved really does right by a character that did not get a lot of love outside of that moment.

There are some new characters, most of them are not as interesting as the bounty hunters from the first season, one of which gets a cameo at the start of the season. The best would be the increased focus on the Hargreeve senior and his relationship with the model he would use for their robot mother. Outside of him there is a trio of new assassins to deal with, and a double agent. Unfortunately the double agent only gets really interesting at the end when everything is revealed about her. The villain plot with the time agency this season is also not as interesting as it should be since the Handler’s hiding the most interesting information from the audience for a majority of the show.

I would be hard pressed to say anything in the season was outright boring or bad (something I can’t do with the likes of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and others), but it is far less tonally consistent with too much unfunny or tedious comedy.

A word I would say to best describe the season is clean. The season feels very simple, straightforward, and has no frills attached to it in comparison to the more complicated first season. Unfortunately that complicated nature was what brought the characters to life in a way this season did. This feels far more planned out, and ends up being less interesting for it.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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A Look Back at My X-Men: X-Men Evolution Season 3

The title of this series is now automatically wrong for I have not seen the rest of the show before this viewing. I thought I did, though it’s hard to tell when you’re a kid just how much or how little you’ve seen of a show with constant reruns (for a great polar example I thought I only saw a little bit of Cowboy Bebop as a kid only to buy the DVD set and realize that was the whole how) but this is all new. Though, I guess these versions of the characters are the ones, or voices, I think of when I imagine these characters so it stick… Barely.

The season picks up immediately at the end of the last, mutants exposed, Mystique completed her elaborate plan, and the X-Men are decimated. From there it becomes both the series I imagined the second was trying to be, while also feeling incredibly calculated in a way the past seasons did not. We’ll get more into that, but I find this period of mutant history interesting and could be explored more. I had not read the very first X-Men stories or Ultimate versions of them, but the idea of seeing the birth of people dealing with mutants is interesting. This Hickman/ Dawn of X books try a similar idea with Karkoa but the idea of looking at the first mutants coming out to the world is a great idea and concept to move the series forward.

On the whole this season is not as thematically consistent at what each episode is trying to convey. The season starts very strong. The first episodes do focus hard on mutants coming out to society, and how the X-Men try to show that they are not monsters, but heroes. From there it spends a couple episodes in the micro, showing how the X-Men and other mutants are treated by people who once knew them and were friends with them.

This should be a season of success. It does what I wanted last season to do, spend time with each group to build up to a finale while not forgoing the character episodes and arcs. It does that, unfortunately the arc they decide to go with for this season does not match with the stated theme this season wanted.

This Coming Out season starts strong. It has some misses, Spyke’s mutation changing and choosing to live with a group of underground mutants could have used more fleshing out, but it works. Outside of that each episode does a good job of showing the mutants as being helpful, getting pepole to see they aren’t monsters, but still aren’t respected or liked. The token government hearing feels underdeveloped, but since the show makes mutants feel like they are on a small scale it works better.

Where this all goes a little off the rails thematically is with the big finale (not the final episode, but two-parter). The finale starts from a good place, going back episodes earlier to when Rouge lost control of her powers, and her growth back to feeling normal is strong, but her getting mind controlled so early seems like a missed opportunity to do more character work. This feels especially true when Rouge finds out Mystique was part of the reason she got adopted. Unfortunately Rouge being mind controlled takes that away from her and makes it just a prolonged chase to find Apocalypse and free him. There could be something about Apocalypse being freed to tie into mutants being publicized, but other than just that idea nothing more is done. Maybe there will be next season, but as it is most is not done great.

Another weakness of the season is the balance of going to each group to see what they’re doing is fine, but since Apocalypse takes over whatever schemes Magneto is planning feels just kind of left, even after doing one of the most horrible things he’s ever done.

None of this is bad (it’s kinda bad that they leave Scarlet Witch the way they do, and don’t address it more. Feels underdeveloped). It all just feels very formulaic. This might come from binging a show that wasn’t made to be, but it just feels like every episode is just a continuation of a previous one in one way or another.

The big departure from this is the introduction of X-23, recently seen in Logan, but started here. That is one of the best episodes of the show. The episode has the best animation by far. It uses so much movement and strong fights to show her prowess. On top of that it is really well written, and gives Logan something new to deal with since his whole Weapon X deal ended so soon into the shows run.

Speaking of Logan, it’s also clear the movies got big and were exerting influence onto the show. The biggest example is the loss of Wolverine’s outfit. He has just a simple black shirt with some yellow stripes. Not a great, but does bring him into line with the other X-Men. But making Rouge such a big character, and teaming her up with Logan often really feels like the network wanted the show to look more at the movies. I mean there is a showdown in convenience store in a wooded area where Logan helps Rouge escape (I think that was in the first movie. I actually don’t know them that well. I know First Class and Days of Future Past very well, but I only know bits of the others).

Despite the big villain plot of the season not matching up with the theme the final episode of the season does. It has the X-Men on a cruise where they accidentally use their powers and have to use them again to fix the problems they caused all while centering around Samara, a magama user from season 2, trying to understand her powers. There is some questionable race relations stuff in this episode (white savior is the thing I’m thinking of), but I think it’s a good example of how the media biases people’s outlooks. That isn’t explicit, but it’s clear the ship passengers are scared of what they are while, and calling them mutants means they had to have seen the news. Meanwhile the islanders accept them and their help and from their very stereotypical portrayal probably haven’t watched the news. Even with that it works well, and is a good closing point on the season.

Next season is the last, and shortest. There are still plots up in the air that I’m interested to see how they resolve them!

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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My JK Rowling

I never cared much about Harry Potter. That is not saying I think it’s bad and has always been bad. I did hold that impression when I was younger. I just mean that I read the first 6 books, saw all the movies and came away with a feeling of meh. I don’t care about them or get why they were so popular. I have family members who will die by the series, but it just felt so uncreative and stale compared to the manga and anime I was reading/watching at the same time. So JK Rowling finally falling off the wagon after multiple early attempts with her backfill canon nonsense is not something that hurt me. She is just another misunderstanding person who refuses to see people the way they want to be seen. I don’t like it, but her being hateful doesn’t hinder anything for me personally with her series. I mean it’s a wizard book where they shoot lasers from their wands.

That isn’t to say I don’t have someone that hurt me. I do. His name is Joss Whedon.

Joss Whedon is often seen as one of the kings of nerddom, and boy that profetic. Most people know Joss Whedon as the Avengers and Firefly guy (Firefly is bad by the way. Fight me). He knows how to write compelling, funny, and entertaining characters while also knowing how to be thoughtful. That makes it all the worse that he, himself is not a thoughtful person off the page and screen.

Things started when it came out that he had been cheating on his wife for a bulk of their marriage and tried to spin it that what he was doing was a good thing. That’s bad enough, cheating on your wife, but then trying to stay the hero makes it all the worse. Unfortunately lots of people commit adultary, and as bad as that looked he really only had to deal with the direct people in his life. He hurt them and them alone in doing it, no one else.

That’s changed recently upon the statements of many people on his myriad projects saying that Whedon was abusive on set. This started with Ray Fisher coming out about how he acted during the filming of Justice League. And I’ll be honest, without the full backing of any evidence it was hard for me to support him on that. I mean they reshot an entire movie in a fraction of the time it took to shoot it the first time. I can imagine a schedule like that would make every irritated. As in to say that it was not an ideal situation. He should not have taken out frustrations on an actor, but it sucked for everyone.

Unfortunately it got worse. Accusations by Buffy production staff and James Masters himself all paint Whedon in terrible, bullying light.

Now being a bully isn’t the worst thing you could be. It’s bad, but not the worst. Yet something does make it the worst. That is everything Whedon writes and stands for.

In much of Whedon’s writing, that being all of it except Doll House (I haven’t seen it) there is a profound take down of that toxic male culture. Xander from Buffy is that exact person Whedon is talking to in his writings, a nerd who can be rude but learns to grow, change and be better by the end. That’s kind of shown in Mal from Firefly, Scott in his X-Men run; both Captain Hammer and Dr Horrible fall into that category making them far more interesting protagonists since they are equally flawed, and why his villains end up losing in both Avengers films. They are too full of themselves to see their flaws, and boy…

I say all this because it makes sense. I stated early that Whedon is seen as a nerd king and the thing about nerds is that once they have the power to abuse others they do. Just look at the numerous outings in the comic and gaming industries as of late. It all centers around men who have gotten power they didn’t have before and are abusing it to feel bigger and better, and that’s what Whedon has seemingly done, and considering he rails against it that hurts.

Unfortunately I don’t know where to go from here (the path is unclear) much like many Harry Potter fans. My personal feelings are tied so deeply in his work that imagining not watching Buffy during a personally hard time is a rough prospect, or watching his new show if that ever comes out. The best one can hope for is that he learns to change, and unlike JK Rowling who believes she’s right about the issue, seems more possible. Everything is out in the open, and it seems like he is getting pushback for it, but it’s not proof of anything yet.

I am still debating whether to watch Doll House or not. It’s an impossible choice I feel, and what makes it worse is that it shouldn’t be. It should be easy for me not to. I guess that says I have stuff I need to work on too (Unrelated, but I’m never touching Nobuhrio Watskui’s stuff. He’s a pedophile or was caught with periphnalia of that. That’s an easy choice to make).

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!