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Nightcrawler 2004: A Review

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Darick Robertson, 2004’s Nightcrawler marks the third time Nightcrawler had a solo outing, but the first time he had a multi-volume (two to be exact) run as opposed to the previous two four issue runs. This has to be one of my favorite Nightcrawler centered runs thus far, with Way of X being another and Claremont’s 70’s and 80’s being a good X-Men run that also happens to have him in it.

Minor Content Disclaimer

This series does use the term g*psy twice when introducing Margali in two issues. As well as two stereotypes: Margali being a fortune teller and her and her family being a part of the circus. I had previously learned that fortune telling is a common stereotype for Romani people while the stereotype of them working in the circus (and certain entertainment fields) is something I learned recently.

Based on what I currently know, I am viewing this similarly to how I did with Moon Sister, namely a Q&A and synopsis (can’t remember if the term was used in the book at the moment). That being, I do not believe the people behind the series were trying to be malicious. Misinformed and/or uninformed? Perhaps. There is also the fact that this is an almost twenty year old series, which more than anything, gives context for how Romani characters has changed in the years since.

That does not mean I am excusing the term or stereotypes. I many be giving them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to intent, until proven otherwise (if proven otherwise). It is still an issue even if they weren’t meaning to be. Nor does it’s age excuse it. It may provide context for how Romani characters were approach then compared to now, but that doesn’t mean the series gets a pass.

I strive to be as mindful as I can be when it comes to reviews, recommendations, and the like. And when making reviews for books or any media (movies, shows, etc.), if there’s something that people might want to know about (ex. content warnings or a disclaimer for terms/topics/etc. that might seem jarring or problematic), I will mention it.

Synopsis

This run focuses on two different yet interconnected stories. The first volume deals with demons and murder in a hospital. The second, deals with Nightcrawler’s past and how a demon named Hive was associated with it.

In The Devil Inside (issues 1-6), Nightcrawler is tasked with investigating the murder of thirteen children at a hospital with the only survivor, a young boy named Seth, being the key to unraveling the true nature of these murders. With the help of the night nurse Christine and Ororo keeping an eye on the case, Nightcrawler finds out the haunting and supernatural reason behind the murders and Dr. Childs’ involvement.

In The Winding Way (Issues 7-12) Nightcrawler is tormented by a series of surreal dreams involving his past at the circus and something called the Soulsword. This leads to Kurt, alongside Christine and Logan to investigate the circus he had spent quite a bit of time in. And along the way, Amanda Sefton and Margali Szardos, Nightcrawler’s adopted family, alongside Dr. Strange antagonist Nightmare, come to help. After Nightcrawler learns about what is going on and how to stop an array of demons looking for the Soulsword, it concludes with a surprise visit on his birthday.

Positives

This series has quite a few good things in it. The art is good. The story is neat. And the supernatural elements to it feel suitable for a Nightcrawler series.

The artwork here is pretty good. Darick Robertson, who has work on The Boys and Legends of the Dark Knight, did a good job. Greg Land, who also worked on the X-Men story Second Coming, is also mentioned as an artist for the series as well, and I think what he contributed is good too.

Though not the most magically savvy like Magik or other sorcerer/sorceress Marvel characters, I did think that having the supernatural element to this series was a good approach. I feel like Nightcrawler stories do have some versatility to them. Some that readers have seen include swashbuckling adventures with pirates, exploring his past, exploring his religious root, and learning to embrace himself for how he looks even if others do not. The direction this run took I feel works with his character. Because while he isn’t a literal sorcerer, his whole shtick with being a “demon” I feel works with how this story also deals with him fighting them, including the brief interaction with Mephisto, as well as his history with Margali and Amanda, two known sorceresses, who help him out with both main plot points in this run. This story also mixes events from his past with the occult stuff with the present conflict, like what really happened the night Nightcrawler killed Stephan, which I think was an interesting way to explore that. Overall, I think the supernatural aspect of this story really works for this series.

Tying into that, I think the story was a well written one. The transition from the first main plot with the hospital to Kurt searching for answers in regards to the Soulsword was solid. The story about the ghosts haunting the subway was a good transitional issue before it got into the main plot of The Winding Way. While the concluding issue wrapped up the necessary plot point that needed to be.

Nothing really felt out of place for what this series was trying to tell, and I liked how it tied a few things together. Namely how the Soulsword and the demons involved with attacking Kurt and his allies ended up tying into Kurt’s past. Without spoiling too much, it tied into a ringleader who wasn’t particularly kind to Kurt. It was also tied to the death of Stefan Szardos’, Margali’s son, which happened after Kurt promised Stefan that he would to stop him by any means should he lose his way.

As far as characters, I think this series handled them well. No one felt out of character. The characters who had a main role outside of Kurt (for obvious reasons) include Ororo (Storm), Logan (Wolverine), Christine Pakmer, Amanda Sefton, Margali Szardos, Hank McCoy (Beast), and Nightmare. Other characters include the doctor at the hospital, the young boy that survived the incident at the hospital, the ghosts of the miners, and the ringleader. And the main antagonists were the demons involved with the hospital murders and the ones sent to retrieve the Soulsword.

Kurt was the star of the series and it did a great job of handling his character and how he approached the conflicts in it. I also really enjoyed how Storm interacted with him as well as Nightcrawler, Storm, and Logan worked together for an issue. The banter between Nightcrawler and Beast was also amusing and insightful. Honestly, I think this series is one of the best examples of just how well he connects with his friends and fellow X-Men and how well of an impact he has on people.

When it comes to this series, I feel like it did a lot of good things. The art was good and the transition between the two main stories was solid. I enjoyed both stories and feel that characters, especially Nightcrawler, That said, this is not a perfect series, and I do have a few critiques. But before that, I wanted to quickly discuss Margali and Amanda as characters separately.

Margali and Amanda: As Characters

The reason I want to separate these two is because I wanted to talk about what I felt they did right in terms of Margali and Amanda as characters. Because while I do not approve of the term or stereotypes, I do want to address what I believe was done well with the characters and their characterization.

In terms of characterization, I would say they were done well. They do not have a lot of appearances since their debut in 1976 (Amanda) and 1980 (Margali and Stefan). Amanda has a few more appearances due to her relationship with Kurt, but both characters aren’t as utilized when compared to other X-Men characters. So having them here was nice. That said, the reason I feel that their characters were done well was because of the role thy had in the series. That being to help Nightcrawler with his cases and showing how he valued his family.

As magic based characters, they had a better understanding of what was going around Nightcrawler and the supernatural conflicts he was looking into. Margali also had a better understanding of the Soulsword and it’s whereabouts. As Kurt’s family, they always have significant. Because Margali took him in when Mystique had abandoned him, Kurt developed a love for his adopted family. So much so that he still sees Margali as a mother, calling her “mother” and “mamí” on several occasions. Family and acceptance has always been important to Nightcrawler’s character. Especially with how most of the world shuns him for being the way he looks. And this series exhibits that through flashbacks, how he interacts with Amanda and Margali, and how they are there to help him.

It’s also worth mentioning that Margali and Amanda were never villainized for being Romani. They were treated as characters and as people.

As for the issues in series surrounding how they are referred to and affiliations, I can say that they are no longer members of the circus and Margali is no longer a fortune teller. And though they haven’t appeared as often as say Wanda or Pietro, I’m sure they will/would be referred to as Romani in future appearances (I’m uncertain what issues they appear in after Kurt’s death in 2010’s Second Coming and his post resurrection solo in 2014, so I cannot say if they have been referred to as Romani in between those). The only thing that has stuck is their past in the circus, which I do not see that changing anytime soon due to Nightcrawler’s past being so linked to Margali and the circus.

However, overall, I would say that Margali and Amanda were treated well as characters. Though the language and stereotypes are there, which are issues regardless, they weren’t villainized in the series for being Romani. And the role that they had was key in helping Kurt and building on how he views his adopted family.

Criticisms

When it comes to negatives, there are two main critiques I have: Christine’s role after the events of the first six issues and a key element to Amanda and Nightcrawler’s relationship that is still present today.

When it comes to Christine, I feel like they didn’t know what to do with her after the events from The Devil Inside. While she is there for support, it just didn’t feel like she had much to do. The biggest point being the state of their relationship, and the uncertainty of it working out. They do end up breaking up with Christine stating that she would be moving for a job, and Kurt agreeing it was probably for the best. Though he did offer to try and make things work.

Other than that, she didn’t have that much purpose during The Winding Way. She and Logan do accompany him on his journey back to the circus he spent time in, both agreeing to come along when asked. Other than that, she ends up getting attack and almost killed. And when it comes to the main conflict, Christine didn’t seem to have as much to do outside of some dialogue and a sense of urgency after she’s attacked. It’s a shame because I feel they could have done something more with her (not sure what at the moment). Though if they only wanted to address their relationship and break up, I feel they could have done one of two things: have Christine stay behind and reveal that she no longer thinks things will work out, or she comes along and after seeing Kurt getting severely hurt, she decides to call it off because she can no longer take the stress of worrying about him dying.

Overall though, I just think that Christine loses something between The Demon Inside and The Winding Way.

When it comes to Nightcrawler and Amanda’s relationship, there has been an aspect of it that always felt odd to me. That being that they dated. At first glance, it might not seem like much to worry about. The problem is, Amanda is Margali’s daughter, and Margali adopted Nightcrawler. Thereby making them adopted siblings.

Even if Nightcrawler wasn’t officially/legally adopted by Margali, she still adopted and raised him as her own. And yes, this isn’t the only time they were romantically involved (they were in some of the earlier X-Men runs and again in the 2014 Nightcrawler solo). However, considering how Nightcrawler sees Margali as a mother and Stefan a brother, which is reciprocated, why the same was never said about Amanda is strange. Yet, Marvel has repeatedly gone back to them dating, despite them being essentially siblings.

Now, to give credit where it’s due, this is probably the least questionable instance in my opinion. In the series, they aren’t together in the present. They were in the past, which is shown through a memory where Kurt teleports to save Amanda when a stunt goes wrong. And in the heat of the moment, they kiss. Then it’s later addressed that Nightcrawler had broken up with her due Amanda to not always being completely honest with him. It may have a few minor instances where it’s referenced, but other than that, I do feel like this series had the least questionable instance of their romance based on the fact that they weren’t together anymore.

The handling of Christine and Kurt’s relationship with the Amanda were the bigger issues I had with the series. Those, and the problematic elements surrounding the apporach to Romani characters, mainly Margali (the stereotypes and term). Christine could have been handled better in the second half of the series due to it feeling like she wasn’t as needed. And while I don’t think Amanda is a bad character and am fine with her having a good relationship with Nightcrawler, I do have an issue with them being romantically involved due to Margali being a mother to both of them. As for the term and stereotypes, regardless of intent or the time it was released, is an issue. I do hope (and currently presume) that they have since learned about the nature of the stereotypes and term and have become more conscientious of it.

Conclusion

I would give this series and eight and a half out of ten. Overall, I would definitely say that this is a really good X-Men stories and one of my favorites when it comes to Nightcrawler. It had a good atmosphere the supernatural elements and the story it told was an interesting one. It also gives some nice insight into Nightcrawler’s past and how it ties to the cases in the present. And the characters for the most part are really good. Kurt as the lead especially, as well as characters like Storm, Wolverine, Margali, Beast, and Amanda.

It does, however, use some terminology and stereotypes towards the Romani that haven’t aged, and in hindsight shouldn’t have been used (unfortunately, there might not be much that can be done about their past in the circus given it’s significant ties to Nightcrawler’s backstory). And while Christine and Amanda had some good contributions to the series, there are a few issues with them. Namely, it doesn’t feel like Christine had much to do in The Winding Way and while it was in the past and not exclusive to this series, Amanda’s romance with Nightcrawler has always been a strange choice to me due to their relationship to Margali.

If you’re looking for a good X-Men title, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Nightcrawler is worth a read.

5 Eccentricities I Have as a Reader

As a reader, there are a few quirks I have when it comes to reading (and media/entertainment in general I suppose).

-ArtsyOwl

Trying a little prompt to help get the ball rolling after about a month off (lack of writing motivation, thy name is writer’s block). This was based on a prompt about five things I’m good at. However, an idea came to me. talk about five things that I’ve noticed about myself when it comes to reading and books in general. Mostly, these are things that I do periodically and one is something I’ve noticed because of how frequently I use the library.

1. Fast Reading

Everyone reads at a different pace. Some people may be fast readers, some read a little slower, and others somewhere in between. For me, I would say that in most cases, I am a fast reader. On average, I am able to get through a two to three hundred page book in a day or two. Especially if I’m really into the book and don’t want to set it down. I may be able to attribute this to the fact I always liked to read and/or how I have always been able to get through a couple manga volumes in a day.

I know it might sound like I may rush through a book but I don’t. I am able to get through a book and understand what is going on at the pace I read at. Sometimes, I do have to go back and read a section, but that won’t always be the case and isn’t something I attribute to just my pace (ex. getting distracted).

That’s not to say that I won’t take my time with certain books. Longer books or books that may have more intricate details are books that I will slow down and take my time with. For instance, Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien is a book that I will take my time with due to the story, characters and concepts being things that would need a slower pace. Another example would be a book I am currently working through The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi. Technically, I started this book a few moths ago, but life happens, I got distracted with other books, and motivation has been on and off. That said, because it is a bigger book and I want to make sure I’m understanding the world, it is a book I wanted to take my time with.

Generally speaking though, I would consider myself a faster reader. And the reason I consider that as something I am good at is because it’s something I’ve grown into. I don’t feel like I am better than others for it, it’s just something I’m good at.

2. Partial Memorization of the Dewey Decimal System

If there is one thing nonfiction sections in libraries are known for, it’s the Dewey Decimal System. This is how the libraries organize where things are located and is primarily used with organizing the nonfiction section. Each section will cover a specific number range (ex. 100-199.999Z, 600-699.99Z, and 900-999.999Z), will cover a specific topic (science, philosophy, languages, etc.), and each topic will have subcategories (animals, poetry, algebra etc.).

The bigger sections that I have memorized are the religion, history and geography, literature, languages, and the general range for science and math (Science has two sections, applied where you’ll find tings like math and astronomy for instance and natural science for things like wildlife). As far as specific topics in these categories, I know what range cooking, pets, mythology, fairytales/folktales, Egyptian history and geology/gemstones fall into.

Of course, I don’t have the whole system memorized, which is were the librarian would be more helpful than me. However, if I am able to help direct someone in the right direction, I will. The fact that I even have some of it memorized is something I feel is good to know. Because if I wanted to find a topic from the ones I remember, or was directing someone to any of those topics, I know where to start looking.

3. Trying Something New Every so Often

While there is nothing wrong with sticking to genres and/or authors you enjoy, I do think trying something new every now and then is a good thing. Like for me, I personally tend to lean towards fantasy, historical fiction, the occasional nonfiction and biography, graphic novels/comics, manga on occasion, and general fiction. Someone else might prefer romance, and the next person might like mysteries and horror. It all depends.

I doubt I am the only one who does, but every now and then I may want to read something new, like a genre I don’t typically read or a single book from a genre that catches my eye. When that happens, I’ll try to find something that interests me, if it hasn’t already crossed my radar. Some I like, some I don’t. For instance, I was never a big fan of westerns, but I ended up watching the 2021 Netflix adaptation of The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage, enjoyed it, and then read the book, which I also enjoyed. Or Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series, an urban fantasy series I tried that has since become my guilty pleasure read. An instance of me trying something new and disliking it would probably have to be P.C. Doherty’s Ancient Egypt Mysteries/Amerotke series. It’s not that the series is necessarily bad per say, I’ve just tried picking the series up two or three times and could not being myself to finish it. The farthest I think I got was book four and it’s a seven book long series.

But yeah, trying new books on occasion is something I feel like I’m good at. I know what I like and am at least willing to try other things. I don’t see it as a requirement for reader and I think it’s perfectly fine if someone wants to stick to what they like. Trying something new every now and then is just something I feel good doing, even if I don’t always enjoy it.

4. Trying to Find That One Good Thing About a Book I Dislike or a Flawed Book. Fiction Specifically.

I’m going to try and avoid using “bad books” because while I do believe there are things that can make a book bad objectively (ex. grammar, story telling, and characterization), objectivity and subjectivity of what makes a book bad may get confusing. So for the sake of discussion, I’m approaching this as books that I disliked that either had good or average reviews, or books that I’ve read and disliked that have generally bad review scores. This is also strictly for fiction as a whole. Nonfiction is a different playing field. Especially since things like accuracy and research is crucial with the topic a nonfiction book is discussing, regardless of whether it’s an informative piece or an opinion based one.

Essentially, when I read a book that I don’t end up enjoying, I try to find at least one good thing about that book. Granted, not every book I dislike will have one good thing, but I do try to find something. Whether it be a concept that had potential, a scene, or a character, if I can find one good thing, I’ll mention it. It may not make the book anymore enjoyable for me, and I may be woefully optimistic, especially if it’s a poorly received book, but it’s a way for me to try to see if there is one good thing in an otherwise unenjoyable story.

Two examples of this are Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley and The Draco by Chuck Austen. In the case of Sun Sister, it was my least favorite book from the Seven Sisters series. I think I rated this a (low) three out of five stars. I didn’t dislike it enough to give it anything lower, but I did think it was the weaker book of the series. For this book, the one good thing I gave to it was that the story was there, even if I thought it could have been better. I could see what they were going for and appreciated the character growth for Electra, though the execution felt a little rushed in some areas and could have used something more in others.

For Chuck Austen’s The Draco, it would be Azazel. This story was for all intensive purposes, bad. Characterization was bad with characters feeling poorly written and/or not in character, it had one or two major plot holes like when it came to how Azazel could get out of the Brimstone Dimension, and the story itself wasn’t that well executed. There’s also the art, though I doubt better art would have helped much, and the reception of Azazel was not that great. That said, I do think that Azazel is the only good concept from this story. I know him being a demon (or the mutant equivalent) doesn’t sit well with some people and the initial plan for Mystique and Destiny is what some would have preferred happening. I don’t think they’re wrong in thinking that. I just think that given what they were able to do in 2004 and not being as bothered by the demon bit, that Azazel isn’t necessarily a bad character in practice nor is his concept as Nightcrawler’s father.

If I can, I will try to find one good thing about a story I didn’t enjoy. Not every book I dislike will, and I wouldn’t want to say that is the case. However, if I do find something good, I will note it.

5. Marry-Go-Round of Reading Interests

I’m the type of person who will get interested in a subject or topic for a while. This can include things like a character, a series, a concept, a location, a theme, and an animal, among other topics. For instance, I recently started getting into Marvel, mainly X-Men, and it’s been one of my bigger interests as of late. And every now and then, they will change. Sometimes it is something new entirely, other times it an already existing interest of mine.

This cycle of interests also works it’s way into what I read. In some ways, it’s weeded into what I read. For instance, the aforementioned X-Men interest. Wanted to read up on Nightcrawler and have been reading quite a few comics with him as well as X-Men and Wolverine comics in general. Alternatively, psychology is an interest of mine and recently I’ve been interested in learning about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The reason for it has to do with curiosity and me wanting to learn more/educate myself on it.

That said, not all of my reading interests will align with my other interests. For instance, every now and then I may want to read a specific genre because I’m looking for something new. Sometimes I’ll want to read that genre for the month or throughout the year. An example would be biographies. Most times it’s on someone I know, but every now and then a biography that I might not consider crosses my radar and I decide to read it. This year, I ended up reading five biographies and memoirs in total, with a few on my to read list going into next year.

Conclusion

Those are my five eccentricities I’ve noticed when it comes to reading. Little things that I’ve either noticed I do or have memorized. Do you have any little tricks or habits that you notice when you read? If so, what are they?

Cry Wolf: A Review

Since I’ve talked a few times now about Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series, and recently reviewed the prequel novella, it’s time for a review of the first book. Cry Wolf is the first book in the series, excluding the Alpha and Omega novella (which is considered a prequel) and the This is my favorite of the series and is the book I have read the most.

Disclaimer

While this story doesn’t go into graphic detail, it does touch on some sensitive subjects. Mainly referenced trauma and violence against Anne while she was in her previous pack.

Synopsis

The story picks up some time after the events of Alpha and Omega. Anne is the mate of Charles, the first and only born were wolf and son of the pack leader Bram, who is trying to get acclimated to the new pack. As she tries to adjust, she and Charles go to a funeral for a pack member, she meets Asil, a downdraught with a drinking habit. Due to Anne being a rare Omega, who’s role is to be a soothing presence in the pack, she .

Positives

I think this book set up the world pretty well. Since it does it’s own thing, away from the Mercy Thompson series, this is something it would have to do to keep it as it’s own separate thing. And I think it does it pretty well. It might feel a bit more contained since it does focus a lot on Anna, Charles, their pack, and the few people they do interact with, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I see this series as really focusing on building the relationship between Anna and Charles alongside their relationship with the pack and how they handle situations that they are needed for.

I also think it sets up a number of characters really well. The dynamic between Anna and Charles is a bit different when compared to Mercy and Adam. Which I think is kind of important since they are the couple readers are following in this series. Individually, Charles

I also think that how they set up why two werewolves cannot have kids and the dangers of trying. That might seem like something that feels a bit like a trope, but I don’t think it’s set up in a way that feels bad. Plus, it also helps further explain why Samuel, Charles’ (half) brother, thought having kids with Mercy, a Coyote shifter, would be potentially safer had they gotten together. Basically, it would be very high risk and the mother would die because of it. They mention this in Alpha and Omega, which devastates Anna, who had always wanted kids even prior to her changing. And again here when explaining how Charles’ mother, who Bran changed in order to save her life, had died giving birth to Charles. So it kind of explores why it’s avoided from two different perspectives.

Negatives

Having read this book as many times that I have, I won’t say it doesn’t have flaws. I’ve narrowed it down to common tropes, some of the characters, and how Asil seems to be the only one with first hand experience with Omegas.

While not always a bad thing, it does have some of the typical tropes you would expect from the genre. Like how urban fantasy a lot of times will focus on vampires, werewolves, witches, and fae. Or how Charles is essentially the enforcer for his father, who is the head, the North American werewolves, which would probably fall into a subcategory of supernatural enforcers. Though, typically, Charles is sent to check in on or handle other werewolf packs as needed as opposed to all of the supernatural creatures. The only time he does is if his father needs him to, but usually it’s to keep the werewolves in line.

I would say this may also hit the Chosen One trope but to a lesser degree. What I mean is that Anna could be considered a “chosen one” type character because she is an Omega, which in universe is a rarity. The only reason I think this is the least offensive of the tropes is because she isn’t made out to be someone that everybody wants because of it. Some members of the pack are interested, but once Charles officially steps up as her one and only, it gets dropped. Plus, the only reason Asil is interested is because his late wife was an Omega as well and Anna reminded him of her.

Now tropes aren’t necessarily bad. I just know that what tropes people are fine with and may find annoying may depend on the person. However, these tropes I don’t think were terrible to the point of being overbearing. Granted, I also don’t read a lot of Urban Fantasy either, so I haven’t really read enough to be that annoyed with it in this series. These are simply tropes that may be common in this genre and I know that can be something that might annoy people.

Going back to Asil for my next criticism, him being the only one with information on Omegas kind of feels odd. On the one hand, from a story perspective, I can get why. He’s a lot more closed off after the death of his wife and is at odds with Charles for a portion of the book. So Charles going to him to make some kind of amends and get help for how to approach Anna makes sense. However, I would like to think that there would have been a record or something about Omegas because he had first hand knowledge. That way, when he dies, there would be some way to access the knowledge he has, should Charles, Bran, or any other werewolf encounter one after he passes. That might not be necessary at this moment, but something I think would be a consideration.

There may be other flaws that I have that I’m not thinking about at the moment. However, these are two that I feel this book has.

Conclusion

I would probably give this book an eight and a half out of ten. Overall, I think this was a solid enough first book in the series. I feel it sets up the world and characters well enough. Though it does fall into some of the tropes Urban Fantasy is known for as well as how they handle Asil and his knowledge on Omegas to some degree. And while not all of the characters or parts of the story land, it’s still a nice little guilty pleasure read for me.

The Power of the Dog: The Book vs The Movie

Believe it or not, it has been about six months since I last talked about the novel and Netflix Oscar Nominee The Power of the Dog. While I had a few ideas for possible posts, motivation and ideas had stagnated. However, if there was one thing I hadn’t considered doing at the time, despite having read the book not long after seeing the movie, was doing a comparison between the book and movie. Because while the movie did keep pretty close to the book, there were a few differences between the two.

Similarities

Starting off with similarities between the two, as an adaptation, the movie does hold true to elements of the book its based on. There’s the story, characters, and the relationship between said characters.

As for story, it does follow the book pretty faithfully, save for the events behind the death of Rose’s husband and Peter’s father, which I will get to momentarily. It still tells the story of two brothers who are quite different and how George ends up marrying Rose after the death of her husband. And Phil’s torment her throughout is still a prevalent factor.

There’s also how Phil treats Peter throughout the movie. Starting out with picking on/tormenting Peter to the slight shift where he decides to take Peter under his wing (which to some degree was kind of a ploy to isolate Rose). Then it gets to where Phil seems to see a lot of Bronco Henry, a man Phil looked up to and was close to, in Peter.

The characters were pretty consistent from the novel to the movie. How opposing Phil and George are is still there. As is how Rose and Peter react to them.

The focus put on the mountain range, how Phil views Bronco Henry, and the eccentricities of Peter that were pretty accurate. And while the movie has some areas where it has quiet pauses, I think that body language could be used in place of some of the introspective the book had.

Overall, The Power of the Dog as a movie was a pretty faithful adaptation. It kept the characters consistent from the book to the movie, kept the interactions and relationships intact, and it followed the story pretty faithfully minus one or two scenes. However, for how faithful it was, I do feel that it had one or two key differences between the two.

Differences

The main differences would be the details behind the death of Rose’s husband, how that might effect Peter from the viewer’s perspective, and how it uses the third person perspective the novel.

When it comes to the overarching perspective from Phil’s point of view, there are a few instances in the book where it feels like there is more of a focus from Phil’s point of view. Now, the book is written in the third person, so it can lend itself to not having to worry about focusing one character. However, there are a few instances of Third Person Limited perspective, which is where it feels like it focuses mostly on one character.

It does this in two different ways. The first few chapters, where it focuses on Rose’s family and her husband. There it sets up what readers will come to expect with Rose’s family. There’s also a period where it focuses on everybody, or who the scene may call for, like when Rose is moving in with George. Then, at some point, it does feel like this limited third perspective falls on Phil, later on in the book. An example being towards the climax when Peter and Phil are in the farm working on the rope, where it has him reflecting on the last time he was close with anyone (excluding his brother).

In the movie, viewers get a general third person perspective. Some scenes will focus on George and Phil, George and Rose, Rose and Peter, and Phil and Peter, depending on what the scene calls for. If I had to give the movie a character it might have given more of an overarching focus on, it would be Phil. Because, regardless of the fact that Phil is inherently the antagonist of the story, it seems like he is a driving force and focus of what goes on as the story progresses.

Also worth mentioning is the Native American family. If I recall correctly, it was a father and son or grandfather and grandson duo. In the movie, they do have a few scenes, the one where Rose gives them the leather, which Phil was adamant about not selling to them, being the important one. This family does have a few more scenes in the book, with this aforementioned exchange happening as well. I thought I should include that, because while this Native American family does show up, they did have a little more development in the book.

The biggest difference does come in the form of Peter’s father and how that might affect how people perceive Peter in the movie. In the movie, viewers will learn that Peter’s father took his own life. This event shown and is only mentioned in a conversation he and Phil have.

This conversation still happens in the novel. However, the novel addressed this within the first few chapters of it. It sets up who his father is and how he was a doctor and what the motive behind his death was. In the novel, we learn that he does worry about Peter, who at the time wasn’t as healthy as he could be, and was a target of Phil’s jokes. Which was something that had been prevalent in the book later on as well as in the movie when Peter and Rose are living with George.

Without spoiling too much, Peter’s father was worried about Peter, and comments about Peter being a “sissy” were something that really bothered him. And like it was referenced in the later scene in the book and movie, Peter was the one to find his body.

The reason I say that this can effect how viewers might breakdown Peter’s character. I had seen a case made that Peter might have been something of a sociopath and/or having a hand in his father’s death. In the case of him being a sociopath, I’m not entirely sure if that was the case, since I feel like what he did later on in the story could have been a form of trauma response and wanting to protect his mother, who didn’t really stand much of a chance when it came to Phil’s torment. However, that may depend on who you talk to.

As far as Peter having a hand in his father’s death, I can see how that could have been assumed or considered in the movie. Because of how his father’s death is addressed and Peter’s actions later on, along with the theory that Peter might be a sociopath, I could see why some viewers might have deduced that he could have been responsible. That’s not necessarily the fault of the movie, but because viewers never got to see what happened to his father, it could leave itself up to interpretation. Had the movie included a scene addressing his father, be it a scene at the beginning with a time jump to when the movie actually starts or a flashback, I think it might have helped explain things just a little more.

In conclusion, the major differences in the film include how the third person perspective seems to be used and the scene expanding on what happened to Peter’s father. As well as a scene or two more with the Native American family.

Conclusion

Overall, as an adaptation, I would say 2021’s The Power of the Dog Netflix adaptation was a solid and faithful adaptation. It followed a lot of the core elements of the novel it was based on. And though it might not have included some of the context behind the death of Peter’s father, I don’t think that hurt the movie. Though it could lead to some differing interpretations of Peter. All in all, though, I would say it was a pretty faithful adaptation.

Holy War: What it Did Wrong and How I Think a Story on Nightcrawler’s Priesthood Could Work

Having read a portion of Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men run, I don’t think it would surprise anyone who has read it if I said it is a bad run. In a way, that is the nature of comics. Some authors’ runs are good, some alright, and some bad. It all really depends.

Chuck Austen certainly falls into the bad category. While he might not be at the top of everyone’s disliked list, I can’t recall the last time I’ve heard people say any of his comics were good. Points made for why he is considered a bad writer comes down to things like characterization, characters introduced, stories, and how he treated a number of female characters during his run.

Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, I do think there were good concepts in his run. That despite the stories themselves being executed poorly, the concepts themselves are not bad. For instance, Nightcrawler at one point being a priest, but not anymore isn’t a bad idea. It’s just how Chuck Austen choose to approach it that made it a poorly received story.

That said, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Chuck Austen’s two worst arcs happen to center on Nightcrawler (Holy War and The Draco). And while I might think there was potential for some concepts in both, I by no mean think they were good stories.

Because of that, I thought I would take these two arcs and see how I think they could have been made better. I finished Holy War earlier this month and I had read The Draco back in August. So I thought this would be a good time to look back at these two arcs and how I think they could have been written better.

I decided to divide it into two different posts so that each arc can be discussed as thoroughly as possible on their own. I’m starting with Holy War since it came first and isn’t as poorly received as The Draco (though not by much). And to approach it, I have divided it up into three parts: A brief synopsis of the story, what the problem was, and what I would do to fix them.

Holy War

Holy War (423-424) was a two part conclusion to wrap up a plot point with the Church of Humanity. After an incident on the school grounds, the X-Men look to investigate. As it would turn out, Nightcrawler ended up becoming a priest though them. The only problem: none of the X-Men remember this happening when Nightcrawler knows he would have told them. When they go to look into it, not only do they find out that the Church of Humanity is attached to several deaths, but was looking to make Nightcrawler a pope only to then expose him as an antichrist so that they could convince people of the Rapture.

What Did Holy War Do Wrong?

For me, one major issues boils down to making Nightcrawler the figure head for this group’s plan. Yes, he looks sinister to the average person (a.k.a. he looks like a demon), but if there’s one thing Nightcrawler is known for is being a Catholic. Even if it’s not always front and center. So making him a pope only to make him an antichrist would feel wrong for the character.

I also feel like it’s super odd that people are surprised that Kurt would want to be a priest or had actually became one. While he might not “look the part”, his fellow X-Men should know that he’s Catholic. Heck, Logan and Kurt did talk about it during the Claremont run back in the 70’s and 80’s. So it’s not like him stating he’s religious is that much of an anomaly. It also shouldn’t be that farfetched that he could be a priest. Sure, it could be odd at first because they know people have given Nightcrawler flack for him being a “demon”, but not to the point that no one thinks he could be a priest. This issue hits Havoc the most since he was the most vocal about how Nightcrawler shouldn’t be a priest because of how he looks.

I also wasn’t too thrilled with how Cyclops approached Nightcrawler at the beginning. It’s more of a nitpick for me, but something about Cyclops how he approached Nightcrawler felt too belligerent for me. I get that six X-Men getting hurt was an issue, but lashing out at Nightcrawler felt like overkill.

How suggestive characters were in this arc is another issue. Both verbally and visually. I can agree that this was an issue because a lot of the comments and how one or two female characters looked felt unnecessary. And the story could have been fine without it.

Before I If I had to give this anything positive, its the art. I know the art might not mean much considering I’m mainly talking about the story itself, however, if there was one thing that I thought it did better than The Draco, it was that. Because while Philip Tan does the cover art, which is a critique for The Draco, the artwork in the story itself is fine.

What a Better Story Could Look Like

I have a few ways that this could have been fixed. First off, separate wanting to make Nightcrawler this antichrist figure and Nightcrawler being a priest. In theory I could see both being their own story. From there, I could see a few ideas playing out.

Note: Kurt is no longer considered a priest. There’s a panel or two that addresses this in I believe Legion of X. There, he states how he went through all the vows and such, but due to circumstance, certain things didn’t hold up any longer. The vow of chastity being one that didn’t hold up.

  1. Kurt becomes a priest, but leaves the church he’s stationed at because of overwhelming anti-mutant sentiments: This is one of two options where Kurt does become a priest, but decides to
  2. Kurt becomes a priest and the church he’s established at respects and appreciates him, but burnout and/or his heart not being in it anymore is what prompts him to retire: This one is a happier alternative to the previous one. Maybe he does go through the process of becoming a priest and finds a church where things work out for him. He’s respected and the people there accept and really like him. However, he ends up retiring. Maybe juggling his daily life, the X-Men, and priesthood makes him feel burnt out. Or perhaps, he feels as though his heart is no longer in it due to juggling everything and feeling like he isn’t as helpful as he could be. So he retires, leaving the church on good terms and is offered a position if he chooses to return in the future.

These are a ways I feel could have been a better story for Holy War. For me, I think if they removed the whole take down the Catholic Church by revealing Nightcrawler is the better option.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I do feel Holy War could have had the potential to be a good story had the story itself been written differently. Personally, I think if they just did a story focusing on Nightcrawler as a priest but eventually retiring, I think that would have been a better idea in the long run. Nightcrawler retiring on his own terms, be it from burnout or feeling it was his time, or the church loathing mutants, I feel would also be a reasonable way for him to no longer be a priest.

Note that I did consider an idea for the cult idea where a group tried to use Nightcrawler’s likeness for their cause. And in it, Nightcrawler would denounce it both in private and publicly (via a broadcast showing him taking down the cult that paraded around with his likeness). However, given how poorly received that angle in Holy War was, I thought it best to avoid what an alternative focusing solely on that would look like.

But what do you think? Do you think the concepts behind Holy War could have been good? Why or why not? How would you approach an altered version of it?

Transformers: Age of Extinction

It’s been a while since I did a review for the Michael Bay Transformers movies (a.k.a. the Bayformers movies). I meant to continue on with it, but other topics came to me a lot quicker and I ended up getting sidetracked. But I’m back now to continue on with the reviews. And with the release of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts coming out next year, now feels like a good time to pick these reviews back up.

With this being the fourth installment in the franchise, Transformers: Age of Extinction decided to try new things. New characters were introduced, both human and Cybertronian alike. the Dinobots make their debut. Human/Cybertronian conflicts are picked up and a way to introduce Galvatron was introduced.

This movie was played a lot on FX and it’s sister channels. So much so that I did get around to it thanks to FX, since Dark of the Moon was the last of these movies I watched in theaters and had no interest in doing so with the others.

The Review

I would say that this is a very middle of the road movie. There are things that I liked about it, and things that I didn’t. However, compared to say the first movie or Dark of the Moon, I wouldn’t say it was one that I really enjoyed.

Positive: The Designs

As always, the designs of the Cybertronians is something I enjoyed. Optimus and Bumblebee have stayed relatively the same. Optimus keeps his general look and color scheme with him looking more aged and/or worn at times, while Bumblebee keeps his iconic yellow with a bit more black.

I also liked some of the designs of some of the newer Cypertronians introduced. Mainly Crosshairs. Lockdown has a neat design too, as does Galvatron. Hound’s is pretty solid, and I am mixed about Drift’s. The faces may seem a bit uncanny or too humanoid, which I won’t deny. It does feel a little odd that the faces seem more human and less mechanical. That’s not to say that faces didn’t have aspects that would be considered slightly humanoid in previous movies, it’s just a lot more apparent here.

Either way, most of the designs are pretty solid. And when it comes to Crosshairs’ design, I think what I really liked about the design was how it had that trench coat look in the back. It might seem weird, but I liked how it didn’t seem as dense when he moved. It moved like it was a coat and not metal, if that makes sense. Kind of like it was like the mechanical/metallic version of a coat moving.

Negative: The Plot Feels Disjointed at Times

Is there a plot? Yes. Did each part of said plot seamlessly work into the next? No. While the overarching conflict might have been the hunt for the Autobots and using other Cybertroninas to create a market and the government being involved. That said, it feels like there are three different plot points that just don’t seem to blend into each other that well.

One is the Autobots and Cade Yeager’s group being pursued. Optimus doesn’t want to deal with the humans anymore after everything they put them through. He also wants to retaliate for what they did to Ratchet. And along the way, he find some faith in Cade and his family and wants to figure out what’s going on back on Cybertron.

The second plot point would be the Lockdown portion. Lockdown is hunting down Optimus because their creator is looking for him. This is kind of tied with the whole government perusing Optimus plot, where he’s working with Kelsey Grammer’s character, but for his own purpose. Not because he wants to help them.

Then there’s the whole Dinobot subplot. That one feels the most jarring to me. Because while the Dinobots are neat characters and seem like a cool addition, their introduction doesn’t feel at all natural. But I’ll get into that a bit more in a little.

And somewhere in there there’s Galvatron. Which is a neat addition and a neat way to bring back Megatron. Even if this is the second time he was revived (he was revived in Revenge of the Fallen, lived through Revenge of the Fallen dying in Dark of the Moon, and revived again here).

All of these plot points are fine on their own. However, to me, it doesn’t feel like they worked together as well as they could. It feels like there is a lot going on, but it might not always feel like it connects.

Positive: Introducing New Characters

Granted, some characters were better than others in this movie, but I do think that it was a good idea to start with a new batch of characters. Sam’s story was pretty much told. Though it would have been nice to know what happened to him between this movie and the last (there might be an explanation in a tie in comic or something, I just don’t recall if they addressed it in the movie).

And in terms of Cybertronians, I do think the additions for the most part are neat. Lockdown made for an interesting villain and I do feel like the Autobots introduced were neat in their own ways. Galatron felt like a cool additon and a change in how Megatron came back, which kind of lines up with how he came back as Galavtron in the cartoons and comics.

Negative: How the Dinobots Were Introduced

Now, I don’t think anyone would be opposed to the Dinobots appearing necessarily. Sure, they might be treated more like animals in the movie when compared to them being more of a different subsection of Cybertronians, however, the Dinobots are a neat addition. Especially since blend two pretty popular and iconic creatures: dinosaurs and robots.

What I think the issue is, is how they are introduced. As I mentioned previously, it does feel disjointed at times, and I think how the Dinobots were introduce is the biggest factor in that. They were alluded to at the beginning of the movie, but between that and when they were brought in, there was no mention of them.

Mixed: The Human Characters

One critique in terms of newly introduced characters would be with the human characters. They do tend to feel like the weakest link in these movies in my experience. Or at the very least that’s something people have the most criticisms with in terms of characters (not always, since Mudflap and Skids are an example of criticized Cybertronians, but it’s usually the human characters that people may draw the most criticisms from in terms of characters). Cade I feel like was a solid change in main human characters, a father and mechanic who wants to protect his family. I don’t think Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci’s characters were too bad, maybe not as well utilized, but compared to some human characters, not the absolute worst in my opinion. The worst in this movie, at least for me was Tessa and Shane. I just didn’t really care for them. They did help at various points, but they weren’t all that interesting in my opinion and I think I was just kind of tired of the budding romance that these movies had.

Positive: Frank Welker as Galvatron

This might sound like an odd positive, but it was one that I appreciated. While I certainly enjoyed Hugo Weaving’s time as Megatron, I liked how they brought back the original voice of Megatron. That being Frank Welker.

Previously, the only actor that they had brought back from the original 1984 animated series was Peter Cullen. And though Frank Welker would go on to reprise the role for a few games and the next movie, Transformers Prime was the first series that reunited these two as their staple characters four years prior. So having him reprise the role in a movie was nice.

I also think it’s a neat nod to the 1986 animated movie, where there was a voice actor change. In the movie, when Megatron became Galvatron, Leonard Nimoy took over for Frank Welker. The latter would go on to take over for the remaining two seasons of the animated series, however, there was that voice change when the character changed.

And I feel like that’s kind of what they did. Though considering Hugo Weaving was a little bit more selective with his roles around the time Age of Extinction was under way, that might not have been the initial intent. Even so, I just think a neat way to have that switch, even if it wasn’t why that change was made.

Negative: It Didn’t Feeling as Engaging and Feels Familiar

Maybe it’s because of how often FX played it, or maybe it was me just not being as invested in the movies after Dark of the Moon, but it doesn’t feel as engaging as it could have been. When this movie was released in theaters, I don’t recall being as invested in or excited about the movie. Not enough for me to want to see it in theaters anyways. And then when it had its home release, I didn’t feel compelled to but it like I had with the first three.

And when it comes to FX, it did feel like they played this one more than any other movie in this franchise. There isn’t anything wrong with re-watching a movie or a station to play the movie however many times it pleases, I just feel like they played it excessively. And that didn’t really help me feel like it was worth catching until I finally decided to sit through the whole thing.

The plot could also factor in since it doesn’t feel like it tried too many new ideas. There were some, like the dynamic with a new cast of characters and the creation of Galvatron, but other than that, I don’t feel like it took as many risks as it could have. That doesn’t mean I think the plot was all bad. I can see what it was going for. I guess it feels rather formulaic. It feels a bit similar to the previous movies (ex evading the government, a big showdown with Megatron, a battle with the other big bads like Sentinel and the Fallen, etc.).

Conclusion

I would probably give this movie a 6.5 out of 10. I feel like there were some good ideas here, like new characters, neat designs and bringing Frank Welker back. The human characters I feel are a hit or miss group in these movies, but characters like Cade, I think were alright. However, the slight disconnect at certain times, how the Dinobots were introduced, and the fact it didn’t feel as engaging or new did bring this movie down for me.

But what did you think of this movie? Did you enjoy it? Why or why not?

Almost There by Farrah Rochon: A Review

The thirteenth book in the Disney Twisted Tales series, Almost There asks the question: What if Tiana Made a Deal that Changed Everything? A question that this novel looks to answer.

When I first heard that this book was coming out, I was intrigued. Though 2009’s Princess and the Frog didn’t catch my interest when it was initially released, it is one that I have revisited and really enjoy. The art and music were really good and the direction it took the story was interesting. This is also the movie that introduced us to Tiana, Disney’s first black princess. All and all, I would say that The Princess and the Frog was a solid movie and deserves the appreciation and enjoyment it has received in the years since its release.

Almost There is the thirteenth book in the Twisted Tales line and was the one I had the most curiosity for after the last two books. Go the Distance was a nice one and What Once Was Mine wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for when I read it (loved the concept, wasn’t fond of certain decisions). And while I had an inkling for what they might have gone with in terms of twisting the story (Tiana taking the deal), how it was executed was neat.

And having just recently finished the book, I thought it was time to review it. Note: I will try to avoid as many spoilers as possible, but as always, Possible Spoilers Ahead.

Synopsis

The story begins with a few scenes from Tiana’s past. A lot of it being about her father and establishing moments from the movie and built off of it. Readers then jump to the present where Tiana makes a deal with Dr. Facilier that will give her her father back in exchange for an elixir his friends from the other side want her to use.

When she agrees, with one little detail missed, she gets what she had always wanted. Her friends safety, her own restaurant and her father. However, when eerie things begin to change. And when Dr. Facilier comes back a year later to collect and follow upon that missed detail, Tiana finds herself thrown into a world of trouble, and it’s up to her, Charlotte, and Naveen to reverse what the Shadow Man created.

Positives

What I thought was really good about this book had to do with the story, some of the characters, and the setting. It was also interesting to see how it worked off of the established connection Tiana had with her father and their love for cooking. It was also really nice to see these two bonding and how it eventually dealt with Tiana’s love for her father and the grief that comes along with it.

For the story, the direction they went with made sense. I did speculate that Tiana would take the offer Dr. Facilier gave her, but where such an offer would go, I wasn’t sure. That said, it does feel like a logical direction for it to go the way it did, and I think it was executed well for the most part.

As for characters, I did enjoy how this story developed Charlotte a bit more. While Charlotte would be a sort of iconic character in the movie, she only had so many scenes. Here, readers get to see more of her and Tiana’s friendship and Charlotte having some development. Naveen also got a little development too. Like him reflecting on possibly going back to Maldonia after receiving an invitation back, and what that would mean for him. Of course, Tiana got quite a bit of development as the protagonist, which includes how she handles Facilier and the restaurant. As well as how she approaches Naveen now that everyone is back to “normal”.

The setting of the story is also pretty neat too. It still takes place in 1920’s New Orleans which is nice. And while holding onto the music, food, and character the movie had while set in this time period, it does have a moment where it seems to address (if only in an implication sense) about the climate at the time in regards to race. While the movie has that scene with Tiana and the investors at Charlotte’s party with how they present her not getting the building she had her sights set on, Almost There has a scene involving Charlotte and Tiana at a clothing store where one of the workers states Tiana isn’t allowed to shop there (Charlotte does try to defend Tiana in this situation to her best ability while Tiana doesn’t want to start a conflict because of it).

Negatives

As for negatives, while I wouldn’t want to say it feels like it is formulaic, but I suppose the ending could have been a little different. On the one hand, I did like how it was a sort of psyche out. On the other, I kind of saw something a little different (like Facilier “running out of time”). But that’s just me.

One other thing I think they could have done was more scenes with Mama Odie. They do go to see her, but I feel like there could have been more scenes with her. Especially since there was a whole scene with Charlotte being perplexed that everyone but her knew who Mama Odie was. I just felt they could have done more with it.

Conclusion

I would probably give this book a 4.25 out of 5 stars. It’s certainly one of my favorite of the Twisted Tales series and I love how it approached the story. From the characters to how it addressed the plot and setting. I only wish they had done one or two things differently.

The next book in the series is one I heard might be a possibility. That being a Pinocchio set book. The title is When You Wish Upon a Star and is written by Elizabeth Lim, who previously wrote the Mulan Twisted Tale Reflection. When You Wish Upon a Star will focus on the Blue Fairy and asks: What if the Blue Fairy wasn’t Supposed to Help Pinocchio? and is expected to be released on April 4th 2023.

Release Dates, Dragging, and Repetition: Why I Have Some Reading Fatigue With the Mercy Thompson Series

I’ve talked a few times now about Patricia Briggs’ two major series, Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega. I’m also slowly, but surely, working on reviewing the main books of the latter (Outside of Alpha and Omega, I don’t really want to review the other short stories. They’re nice, but not stories I want to review at this time), which may lead me to a third read through of the series (second read through for Wild Sign and probably the fourth for Cry Wolf) since, outside of Cry Wolf, which I’ve read the most, my memory is a little foggy in regards to the others.

Anyways, this isn’t about reviews and rereads. This is about the Mercy Thompson series. I’ve previously gone on record, a.k.a. blogged about, how I prefer the Alpha and Omega series over the Mercy Thompson. However, I haven’t really gone in depth into why. I know I’ve stated how I like Anna as a female lead more than Mercy in terms of personality, how I prefer Charles and Anna’s relationship more than Mercy and Adam’s, and that the length of Alpha and Omega (as it currently stands) doesn’t bother me as much as Mercy Thompson’s. Some of those are more of a preference type thing, but there are a few thing that stop me form enjoying Mercy Thompson more. Nowadays especially, which is unfortunate since I do enjoy Mercy Thompson.

In an attempt to discuss the series, I thought I would take the time to breakdown some of the criticisms I have with the series. As well as why I may feel a bit more fatigued with the series. These will include how the series at times feels like it drags, some repetition, and the release dates.

What I Enjoy About the Mercy Thompson

Before I jump in to my criticisms, I thought I would take a moment to discuss what I consider positives of the series. Because, despite the criticisms I have, and the preference for the other series, I do enjoy this series. Maybe not to the same level as Alpha and Omega, but enough to say that I do genuinely enjoy the series.

One thing I enjoy is the relationship between Mercy, Adam, and Jesse, Adam’s daughter. I like the relationship they were able to build over the years and it’s neat to see how well Jesse and Mercy get along. I know that there are a few tropes with stepparents and stepchildren in media. A few examples include, the evil stepmother trope, the stepparent who tries so much to win their stepchildren affection and/or trust, and the child who dislikes the change that comes with a new stepparent which may sometimes include hating the stepparent.

Mercy and Jesse don’t really seem to fit into any of the previously mentioned tropes. More than anything they appear to enjoy each other’s company with Jesse not too bothered by Mercy getting with Adam. The major conflict that they would have comes with Jesse’s mom. But it’s mostly between Mercy and Christy and how the latter treats everyone around them.

Another thing I enjoy is how Mercy isn’t a werewolf. While she was adopted by Bran Cornick, the head of the North American Wolf pack, Mercy herself was not a werewolf. Rather, a coyote Walker (she can turn into a coyote). So while the series may follow a trope of mostly werewolf and vampire characters, the lead is not one, which is neat. It’s a neat way to give it a somewhat different avenue.

With that out of the way, I’m going to get into what issues I have with the series.

Repetition

When it comes to repetition, it’s not so much that each book feels like the another so much as elements and dialogue. Obviously, each book has it’s own story to tell with it’s own conflicts and resolutions. However, this is an ongoing series with thirteen book as of this post, there are bound to be elements that feel familiar.

For me, aspects that felt repetitive have to do with internal dialogue, perspective, and plot points. Internal dialogue and perspective kind of go hand in hand, but I felt were distinct enough to separate. While some of the world building plot point at times feel repetitive.

In the case of perspective, it has to do with the fact that it is written in the first person (I/we). As such, there may be a limited amount of perspective from the world as far as other characters. That’s not to say that first person is necessarily bad, since I do enjoy first person when don right. However, first person can really go off of what the character knows as opposed to third, which could be a little more flexible in terms of perspective, emotion, and input.

For instance, in book eight, Night Broken, it deals with Adam’s ex-wife, Christy, getting into trouble. She knows that the pack sees Christy differently than she does due to the fact that she was apart of their pack a bit longer (Mercy had left the Bran’s pack as a teen and had been living on her own for years by the time the series started). We also know that she isn’t Christy’s biggest fan in terms of trust and what she did when she was with Adam. Mercy is also aware of how the pack sees her (Mercy) differently. That’s something that does get brought up once or twice in the book. And since we only really get to see her perspective, readers can only get so much as far as what people think about Christy and Mercy. Whereas third person, there would probably be the opportunity to get perspectives from everyone, or a select few characters in a more broader sense. Because of that, Mercy’s perspective may come off as repetitive and limited.

Moving on to internal dialogue, what makes it a bit different from the first person perspective of the series, are things that Mercy herself brings up. Vocally, through her thoughts, and how she experiences the story. One such example is how she refers to Bran and Samuel, Bran’s eldest son. There are a few times where she expresses how and why she that she left his pack, in the broader sense, how she knows certain traits about Bran, and how she perceives Bran. For Samuel, she mentions how they were a couple but separated and reflecting back on it. There are also a few times where she reflects on being on her own, how she felt she was fine not being in a pack prior to joining Adam’s, how she worries about Adam and how she doesn’t always know what he’s thinking. For me, it feels like these topics do come up several times throughout the series, and feels rather repetitive.

My third and final area that feels a bit repetitive is how it reminds the readers about aspects of the world. How vampires don’t really like werewolves, save a few like Stefan, is one such instance. How the fae shouldn’t be taken lightly and always tell the truth is another example. While I get why these aspects are important, it doesn’t need to be as frequently reiterated as it feel like it is.

These aspects to me are what make the series feel repetitive at times. The perspective and internal dialogue reiterate what Mercy knows several times throughout the series. While the reminders of the world and it’s characters is another.

Dragging

When it comes to the series dragging, I’ve narrowed that down to how long it has been running and the stories not always being as engaging. I know series that have long runs can be good, but that doesn’t mean a long running series can feel like it’s dragging on. For example, Naruto. I still have yet to finish the series (What is motivation, am I right?), but I do have a general idea for how this series ends. The manga runs for seventy two volumes or seven hundred chapters. On the one hand, it probably needed that much to get where it wanted to end, so it running that long theoretically could be fine. However, whether or not it felt like it dragged with certain arcs and/or could have ended sooner is a discussion that can be had.

In the case of the Mercy Thompson series, I am not sure how exactly it’s overall story is meant to end, if there is a planned ending at all at this time. It’s still ongoing either way, but if you asked me, “What is the end goal for the series” I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it’ll be with Mercy and Adam settling down and having a child (since a walker and a werewolf having a kid wouldn’t be as fatal as a werewolves having a kid with another werewolf like it was with Charles’ mother). Or maybe it’ll end with Mercy, Adam and Jesse leaving the North American pack. But that’s just speculation on my part.

What makes the series drag for me does have to do with the later books. For me, the later books don’t seem as engaging. I think I started feeling this around book nine or ten. That won’t stop me from reading the series, since I am on, and own, book thirteen. However, I’d be lying if I said that the last few books haven’t been as engaging for me.

If I had to give it a set reason, it probably has to do with the stories themselves. Since it doesn’t have an endgame at this time, it feels like the series is rolling with conflict after conflict in a way that feels like there isn’t much direction overall. That might be just me, but may be why it feels like it drags on.

Release Dates

For my final, and more so external, critique with the series is how frequently the series has been released. Something I have come to realize is just how frequent Mercy Thompson is updated when compared to Alpha and Omega. This is probably a slightly personal one for me, but I do feel it’s one worth mentioning.

Because I am keeping tabs on release dates for both Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega, mostly for the latter, I’ve come to realize a pattern with their release dates. I initially noticed this book five of Alpha and Omega, Burn Bright (though technically since book two, Hunting Grounds, but I realized this when I was waiting for book six, Wild Sign to be released) and really picked up on this trend recently.

I’ve noticed that every three years an Alpha and Omega book will be released and in between those released, two Mercy Thompson books will be released. With short stories sprinkled in as Patricia Briggs chooses. An example of this is when books five and six of Alpha and Omega were released. Burn Bright was released in 2018 and Wild Cards was released in 2021. In between these two books, the Mercy Thompson series saw the release of books eleven and twelve: Storm Cursed in 2019 and Smoke Bitten in 2020.

According to the page on released books on Patricia Briggs’ website (https://www.patriciabriggs.com/books/), there is a timeline for the seventh book of Alpha and Omega and the fourteenth book for the Mercy Thompson series, both of which are untitled at this time. The fourteenth book of Mercy Thompson series, is set to be released sometime next year (2023) and the seventh book of the Alpha and Omega series is set to be released some time in 2024.

Because of how consistently the Mercy Thompson series is released, I do feel that this could be a contribution to why I’m feeling a bit more tired with the series. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a series having a set release date between books, but getting a book almost yearly feels a little over the top (I’m not even sure how to refer to it’s release cycle to be honestly whereas Alpha and Omega come out with a book triannually). At least for me anyways.

Conclusion

While the Mercy Thompson series is one that I enjoy, I’ve come to notice a few reasons why I’m not as fond of it as I am with the Alpha and Omega series. Some repetition, release dates, and some stories feeling like they were dragging have hindered some of my enjoyment. Regardless, I am still going to continue on with the series, with the thirteenth in my possession currently.

Have you read the Mercy Thompson series? What are your thoughts on it? Are there any critiques you have with the series?

Sandman (2022): A Review

For the first time in a long time, I found myself enjoying a new series. That series being the recently released The Sandman series on Netflix. Going into this series, I was pretty hopeful. And having read the first two volumes, which this season covers, I can honestly say it was a pretty faithful adaptation.

Since this show is still relatively new, I will avoid spoilers as much as possible. But in any case, POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Synopsis

When Morpheus, better known as the Sandman and Dream, is captured in an attempt to resurrect a man’s son, he spends the better part of a century (one hundred and five years to be exact) trapped and without his tools. Upon his release, Morpheus is on a mission to retrieve what was stolen from him and get revenge.

Along the way, he will return to his home in the Dream World, meet Matthew, his new raven companion, and visit Lucifer Morningstar as he retrieves what was once lost. And as the dust settles, he will be reunited with his sister, the ever charming and insightful, Death and learns of someone known as The Vortex, which could prove catastrophic if not approached accordingly.

This first season covers the first two volumes of The Sandman series, Preludes and Nocturnes and The Dollhouse.

Positives

When it comes to positives, I think there are quite a few. The most significant for me being, the story, the characters, the casting, and how it translated as an adaptation.

I also like the darker fantasy tone it had. As someone who enjoys fantasy, it’s always nice to fins a good series, book, or what have you in this genre. And The Sandman does that really well for me.

Its also worth noting that Neil Gaiman, the creator of The Sandman comics. So while I do think they did really well adapting it, it’s neat that Neil Gaiman did have a hand in the production. So I would hope he enjoyed how the show came out.

The Story

As a story, The Sandman is an intriguing one. The idea of the personifications of things like dream, death, desire, despair, delirium, destiny, and destruction living among us is a concept that can certainly create some interesting and philosophical story. And it was.

In general, what I think this season did really well was the approach and set up. It sets up the world and characters well. It knew what it wanted to do with it’s story and setting and did it in a way that I felt was well executed.

As an adaptation of the first two volumes of the comic, I think it did really well. While Neil Gaiman had a hand in it’s production, it was able to, not only tell the story pretty accurately, but have necessary changes and additions that worked.

The Characters

The characters were also interesting. Each one having their own story to tell. There’s Rose, who’s looking to find her brother after they were separated when they were younger, Doctor Destiny (a.k.a. John Dee), who, after escaping an Asylum, wants “everyone to live with their truth” and for a “more honest” world, and Corinthian, who wants to be his own person and prevent Morpheus from stopping him. Though not all of the characters we get to see outside of The Endless, these are just a few examples.

While only four of the seven Endless (the group of entities that Morpheus is apart of) appear in this season, they were all unique and fit what they personify well. Morpheus takes his job as the ruler of dreams very seriously, knowing how it effects the waking world and how destructive the lose of it can be.

Desire, though not appearing as often as Morpheus, makes a great impression and sets up what to expect with their relationship with Morpheus. As well as their twin Despair, who does make a brief appearance. Should a season 2 get green lit, which I’m confident will happen, I feel that these two will get a lot more attention and development.

And then there’s Death, the oldest Endless introduces thus far, and the second eldest over all. She was the one that Alex Burgess was looking to capture when he got Mopheus instead.

Casting

I do believe that the casting choices were great. I know casting can cause debate on initial reveal and sometimes after, but I think that the casting choices were good. Some of my favorites include Mason Alexander Park as Desire, David Thewlis as Doctor Destiny, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death, Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, and Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer. Tom Sturridge also pulls off Morpheus really well. Not only in appearance, but in voice too. He sounded how I would expect Morpheus to, so I really enjoyed his portrayal.

And of course, there are other casting choices I thought were really well too. Even in voice work like Patton Oswald as Matthew the raven and Mark Hamil as Merv Pumpkinhead.

Overall, I do think that the casting choice was good. It’s also pretty diverse, which I think is pretty cool. I also think it works. For instance, with Desire being very ambiguous as far as their identity (in the comics Desire is often referred to as sibling). So casting Mason Alexander Park (They/Them) in the role, I feel was a good choice. Plus, I really think they bring a real charm to the character, and I can’t wait to see how the character develops from here (Death too, because I really want to see more of her too).

Critiques

I don’t really have that many negatives for this season. However, while I might think this show is really good and a great adaptation, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s flawless. That said, my critiques are very minute.

One being that I feel like it could have been an episode or two longer. It might not need it, but I feel like another episode or two would be a nice way to help develop things a little further. That’s not to say I think it’s rushed, which I don’t. I just feel that there could have been an episode that made helps explore Desire a little (without giving too much away), and maybe an episode that explored Rose and Jed Walker past a little more. Again, not exactly necessary, but something. Plus, Desire will probably get more development and screen time in later seasons.

That’s all I can really think of as far as critiques. I suppose upon a rewatch, I might find something else. However, I don’t really have many critiques of the show at this time.

Conclusion

I would give this show a ninety percent. I do think they did a great job adapting the first two volumes of Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic. The casting and characters were great, the story was told really well, and it has an aesthetic that really fits this gothic, horror fantasy. The effects were also really good too. And while it might have one or two flaws in the form of maybe being a little longer, overall, I think this is a really good show and I would recommend it.

Of course, I know it might not be a show for everyone, which is fine. The comic and the Netflix adaptation are a bit dark (I’ve heard that the diner scene was kind of unsettling for one or two people), so I wouldn’t expect it to be for everyone. However, if you are looking for something a little different and/or a dark fantasy, I would recommend it.

With that said, I leave you with the following questions: Have you seen the show yet? If so, what were your thoughts? Are you planning to watch it? Since it’s pretty much a guarantee that a second season will be made, what are some of your hopes going into it? Do you think it will, or should, cover the next two volumes (Dream County and Seasons of Mist)? If you have read the comics, do you think it was a good/faithful adaptation?

Atlas the Story of Pa Salt, the Final Book of The Seven Sisters Series: My Hopes and Expectations.

When The Missing Sister came out back in 2021, I initially thought this would be the last book in the series. Since each book focused on a sister and the seventh being based on the one that went missing, it would make sense. However, checking Goodreads, like I do, I found out that there will be an eighth book. From my understanding this was in the works prior to her passing and announced not long after The Missing Sister’s release.

According to an interview for The Missing Sister (https://lucindariley.co.uk/seven-sisters-series/the-story-of-the-missing-sister/q-and-a/), Lucinda Riley initially planned for this book to be seven books long. However, she didn’t feel like The Missing Sister could tie up all of the loose ends, feeling that she wouldn’t be able to do it justice. So she started on Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt to finish the series.

And while she did pass away a few months after the release of The Missing Sister, that doesn’t mean it will go unfinished. Since she already had passages and key notes on the story in the works, her eldest son Harry Whittaker, will continue, and finish, the story. According to Goodreads, the book has an expected release of January 2023, however, her website states that it has an expected release in Spring of 2023 (https://lucindariley.co.uk/seven-sisters-series/atlas-the-story-of-pa-salt/).

With that said, I thought I would take a moment to discuss some hopes I have for this book. As well as some things I am expecting. I suppose both are interchangeable, but I do feel some topics might fit more as expectations while others fit more so as thing I hope they include.

Honoring Lucinda Riley’s Memory

With this being not only the last book in the series, but the last book by Lucinda Riley, I feel like this book could be a ceremonial way to say farewell to the author. Whether that be in the form of an “in memory of” section” or some form of tribute to the author in the acknowledgements or notes at the end, I think there should be some form of way that the author is remembered. I’m sure there will be, and that’s not to say that Harry Whittaker shouldn’t get credit for his part, just that this book could be a way to honor Lucinda Riley’s memory.

Exploring Pa Salt’s Character

This is titles Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt, so it’s pretty much a given that it will be about Pa Salt. He had a presence throughout the series, but readers never really got to know the character on a personal level. Only how each sister remembers him.

My hope is that this book will give some closure with Pa Salt as a character. Since his character has been dead since the very beginning, I would hope that this goes over who he was as a person, exploring why he adopted each sister, and the lead up to his passing. Let his story be told in a way that works with the story and wraps it up with the sisters learning more about their father.

The Past and Present Storytelling

This might sound odd, but I would hope that it keeps up the tradition of it being told in the present as well as the past. Not only because the series is known for it, but because I feel that it has to. Again, with Pa Salt being deceased, readers won’t exactly be able to get a first hand account of the character. Rather, the sisters learning more about the man who brought them all together. That would be the present bit.

As for the past portion, it would focus on Pa Salt’s life. Here, readers would get to learn about who he was as a person, where he came from, how he became the man he was, and how he found each sister. And much like the other stories, it should go through a big part of his life. It can start with him as a child or young adult (preferably the latter) and go all the way up to his death.

As far as perspective, I could see this taking a slightly different approach. Normally, each book would be told in the first person for each sister and third for the person from the past. I believe The Missing Sister was the only book that told it from the third person perspective for both. Here, I can see it using solely the third person for both perspectives since it would be his story and D’Aplièse getting answers and learning more about Pa Salt. Alternatively, it could be written from third person for the present part and the first person for Pa Salt’s. That would be a nice change of pace while also utilizing something that the series was known for. There is also the chance that the present could shift a first person perspective for each sister, but I feel like that would be unnecessary and could get confusing.

Ending the Series on a High Note

Since this will be the conclusion to the series, I feel like it should end on something of a high note. That would include wrapping up the loose ends it didn’t get to in The Missing Sister, ending with each sister having learned something, show where each sister ends up, and ending the series on a good conclusive note. While I’m not expecting perfection, I do think that it should resolve what it needs to and feels gratifying. Not rushed. Nor do I think it should end on a happily ever after. It would be nice to see it ending on a happier note, but I’m not looking for a happily ever after necessarily. If one or more of the sisters feel like they have to reevaluate their life or how they viewed Pa Salt, that’s okay. But at the same time, they did get a sort of happily ever after at the end of each of their story, and I don’t think that has to be tossed.

Conclusion

These are just a few things I hope for when Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt is released. If you’ve read the series, what are your expectations for it? Is there anything you hope gets addressed? Are you excited for it?