Hi folks! Hope everyone is still taking the time to take care of themselves. Things are still really tough, so I figured I’d give an easy breeze of content this week. Let’s leave the logistics of this semester’s academic season behind and just kinda talk about books for your kids and family! Maybe some kids are readers at home, or maybe some students just need a new book to pick up, right? It’s 2020, and I can guarantee you kids are bored of the Harry Potter books and movies, or maybe Percy Jackson wasn’t cool enough. Maybe the pre-teens don’t like all those intense YA books like The Hunger Games, or Divergent, and are sick and tired of The Maze Runner always running the maze! (That’s a joke, that’s not how the book goes.)
Anyway, this year has definitely made me feel old, and has got me reminiscing over some of the books I grew up reading, and it made me want to share my top five children’s sci-fi fantasy books!
NUMBER FIVE – Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant
A tale for those who thrive on mystic endeavors into the secret unknown, SkulduggeryPleasant was one of those classic middle-grade novel series. Focusing on a young girl named Stephanie Edgely and her sudden apprenticeship under the mysterious detective, Skulduggery Pleasant. And yes; he is an ancient magical skeleton. Pretty rad stuff. The first book had humor, dark fantasy elements, and an expansive mystical world built in London that can keep readers shuffling through the dozens of books in this series. A fantastic series to start any young reader on that may love this genre.
NUMBER FOUR – Jeff Smith’s Bone
This comic series might actually be the first comic I ever picked up. Forget the superheroes, and forget the manga, because these old school fantasy comics made up the hot wave of middle-grade literature in the late 90’s. Aside from maybe one character smoking a tobacco cigar, this series is a great pickup for a young reader who loves treasure hunting high-fantasy stories about a Chosen one taking on magic evildoers to protect the villagers’ home. A great series for middle-grade readers on that can help them branch out into reading fantasy novels and Western comic books.
NUMBER THREE – Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
So, for those of you who read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this book series takes the legend of that philosopher, Nicholas Flamel, and brings him to the modern era where he mentors a pair of twins with his wife in their small little bookstore. When other ancient evil immortals track Flamel down, they steal a book that contains most of his hidden secrets, and the twins are then thrown into a race across the country, meeting many magical and historically well-known characters in the series like Joan of Arc, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, and Mars, the Roman God of War. This series explores fantasy magic, sci-fi mythos and ancient legends that make Harry Potter seem like a snore fest. Highly recommend this series for any fantasy lovers and readers who love history.
NUMBER TWO – Z Brewer’s The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod
This series is a classic. Yes, it is a teen vampire book series, but it stands out from the other cheesy vampire romances; The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd has humor, angst, and intense drama that kept me as a reader wanting more and more. The lore of vampirism, and even being half-vampire (which is interpreted as a culture in a very neat way) doesn’t feel dramatized or even forced in this series. Vlad’s story is just the story of a young teenager struggling to get by in a really difficult life, given his circumstances; between murderous teachers and students, to vampire hunters, and the general anxieties and depressions behind being an orphaned kid in a small town. It became a bit of a comfort series to read for me as a young kid, if I’m being honest. I feel as though other kids might enjoy this series as well, and would definitely recommend this to others as well.
NUMBER ONE – M.T. Anderson’s The Game of Sunken Places
M.T. Anderson’s The Game of Sunken Places was an amazing children’s fantasy novel because of the sheer imagination and concept behind it. It’s like Jumanji, but with three times the mysteries and plot twists, with dangers and terror that made this fantasy sci-fi book series a wildly underrated top tier series. With a game that two boys come across during a vacation trip, they discover that the rules of the game aren’t so clear after all, and if they don’t work together, then they may not make it out alive. M.T. Anderson deserves more praise for this series than he’s ever gotten, and it stays firmly on top of this list of fantasy children’s book series.
And there you have it. Some great new sci-fi fantasy children’s books to pick up (for you or your kids) and not a moment too soon either, which each of these carrying enough spooky vibes to make this fall a great reading season! Thanks for sticking around, folks. Stay safe, and stay lovely ✨
If Gods blessed you with powers, would that make you one? Or does that just place you on a tier-level below the source of your abilities? It’s okay, don’t dwell on the existential question for too long, because thankfully we’ve got the answers for you. Hi, folks, and thank you for being patient with this anticipated post (just getting back to the day job grind) and welcome to my first ever Official Stars and Monsters comic review!
I was honored to be offered an opportunity to review the comic series Leaders of the Free World by one of the creative minds behind it, Corey Pruitt (better known as Task on Twitter) and quite frankly, it might have been the one of my most exciting experiences since the initial launch of this blog. Task is not only a comic writer, but also a podcast host on Supersuit Show, but also a major source of influence in the vortex that is the comic twitter community (Spider-Man fans hate Spider-Man, it’s the truth!) Task allowed me to preview his first two issues of his series, drawn by Elijah Johnson (also known as @artbyatlas0 on Twitter), and share some of my thoughts on Leaders of the Free World #1 and #2. So without further ado, let’s jump right into it!
I dove right into the first issue with the same initial thought that new readers to any series worry about; “Will I be overwhelmed by the world that was built before me?” I suppose the breakdown of the Free World mythos stems from the origin of the Godsend, a group of super-powered gods who arrived to the planet, each instilling themselves in one nation, and essentially committing to their nation’s image, government policies. In return, the Godsend provided tech and knowledge to help advance the world, which inadvertently birthed a new generation of super-powered beings: the Archetypes, a less powerful group of people who created more conflict than safety in the world. After a war killed a third of the world’s population, the Godsend issued laws to limit an Archetype’s activity to only their respective country. This is the lore of Leaders of the Free World.
This series starts with an excellent brief look at the world’s history in the form of a history class, narrated by Surreal, a teenage Asian-American descendant of the an ancient god known as the Monkey King. He fits every relatable aspect of being a teen whose heritage holds more power than they realize. With great power comes great responsibility, and thankfully, we don’t have another Uncle Ben-esque character to reminds Surreal of that. Instead, he meets Eco, the Son of Gaia, who is a superstar wrestler with abilities drawn from, well, Gaia. When these two characters meet and share scenes together, there’s definitely an undeniable chemistry between the two when it comes to the hilarity in their bantering back and forth, and Eco’s unconditional support towards Surreal. The young Monkey King doesn’t know his own true worth yet, and thankfully, the powerful and wise Eco stands beside him from the very beginning, showing a kind of trust that makes me reminisce about the days when Luke Cage and Iron Fist teamed up in Marvel’s Heroes for Hire series.
As I continued through the issue, I enjoyed the spotlight on these two characters a lot, while also finding myself more enthralled by the joy in seeing Surreal’s old school hip hop playlist scattered across text-boxes in the comic. It creates an entertainingly new and fun experience in a comic book that feels as authentic as a classic comic series as you go through each panel. It was one of the things I was most excited about discussing with Task. When asked where the inspiration for this came from, Task said, “I always listen to music when I write. So I thought ‘What if each issue had its own soundtrack?’ It’s a way for the reader to see where my headspace was at during the creative process.” Nicely done, Task. We love it.
One of my other favorite story threads in this issue specifically included the introduction of Moonshine, the wildly erratic and drunken female superhero whose abilities appear to rival even Superman. It was just one of the many things I enjoyed in this first issue, and I could easily list more, but I have LOTS more to gush about!
Aright folks, this is my favorite issue of the two for sure! In Leaders of the Free World #2, we are introduced to my absolute pairing of characters in this set universe. Like Ying and Yang, we meet Medic and Doctor Seance. Medic is, well…if God was a woman, to put it perfectly. As an angel of war and peace, she’s a balance between life and death. In nothing but merely scrubs, she manages to kick enough ass to make Jessica Jones second guess her career as a comic book badass. Alongside her is Doctor Seance, an evil necromancer whose character visual design homages aspects of Robbie Reyes’s Ghost Rider, with a symbiotic relationship to Medic like that of Venom, and a sinister and calculating villain mind that crosses between Lex Luthor and the Batman Who Laughs. These two characters, joined together by a holy and flaming halo over Medic’s head, embark on a quest to join the other lead heroes as they prepare for a crisis of epic proportions.
This, however, prompted me to ask Task about the bonds between the various characters, like the development between Surreal and Eco, or between Medic and Doctor Seance. Task’s response was, “When I came up with the characters I had to ask myself ‘Who would get along the most? Who would hate each other?’ Surreal and Eco are both mythical beings born into a life that they never asked for. So they relate to each other the most. Medic and Seance have history that will be explored throughout the series. I don’t want to reveal everything now but let’s just say you will be surprised.”
As I continued on in this issue, completely enthralled by the concept of Medic and Doctor Seance (and Surreal’s Mix scattered through this issue as well to help set the tone), we soon learn more about the hardships that some of these characters hold in their personal lives. Medic, being a superhero and all that, is still a medical doctor, and has a duty to both the world she saves and the world she inhabits. When she turns to work from battle, she unfortunately fails to save her patient’s life. She storms out, completely broken, and her coworker consoles her by stating a sad, but accurate fact of life. She says, “You can’t save everyone all the time.” When I read this comic panel, it was then that I knew this was going to continue to become a really powerful story, with a really exceptional writer behind this stunning and beautiful line work. And, just as the moment on the page was beautifully had, it was interrupted by a beautifully nostalgic shot…
*CUE FREEZE FRAME*
The story returns to the initial group, with Surreal. Eco, Tech-Neek, and Moonshine briefly meeting, but it’s just as an invasion brews in the sky above them. From that, to their hilarious first encounter with Doctor Seance, we get really funny dialogue, awesome action sequences, and super dope nostalgic homages to things in nature of, say, giant mechas, or Power Rangers, or maybe even Dragon Ball Z, or just plenty of West Coast classics to keep the action seamless like a swift breeze under Surreal’s feet. Another one of my favorite shots out of this back half of this issue is most definitely Eco’s greeting to the invaders, known as the ominous Outreach. We get some top-tier Samoan representation, some more amazing character moments amidst the action, and an epic finale shot that may tease an epic clash between two of the most powerful beings on the team. Both beautiful and strong women, might I add.
One of my last questions, more of a fanboy-gushing moment, was me asking about what could be teased to other fans of this series, whether it be epic shonen-styled fight scenes between certain highly powerful characters, or the brief tease of the mysterious Mr. Excellent. Task answered with, “I’m trying to make this world seem as big and alive that I can. And that there’s more going on than what is happening in the books. Mr. Excellent’s story will lead to another story arch that I am excited to share. And it’s funny how you brought up the fights with Lunar because let’s just say she’s not entirely sold on the idea of this team up yet. Where she comes from she reigns over these beings, not collaborate with them. Issue 3 is on the way folks. Stay tuned.”
Well done, Free World. You have a special place in my love for comics now, and I cannot wait to see what an amazing franchise this becomes soon.
No weekly plugs this week, folks. Not like I usually do, I mean. No, all I want to suggest to my readers is to check out this new comic book ASAP. This is seriously one of the most enjoyable comic reads I’ve had in a very long time, for sure. It’s pretty amazing, and the series is available on Comixology right now, or, if you’d like, you can follow the writer @uptotask, or the artist @artbyatlas0 on Twitter.
Switchin’ up my outro like I usually do too, folks. This time, I’m quoting Gamer Presidential Candidate, Mr. Ace Watkins.
Happy Wednesday, folks! I hope everyone is enjoying their time right now, making good use of their energy and efforts these days. May has just started, and Mother’s Day is around the corner, and with that, I hope everyone is able to reach out to a loved one, where ever they may be. Nobody is ever completely out of reach, if we reach out just a little. With a few moments out of our day to check up on friends and family costs nothing, and it’s important to open up just a little bit more. That’s my message to my readers this week. If we just open up our hearts a little bit more, I promise, we’ll all be that much more happier.
Now, with the sappy stuff out of the way, I wanted to shine a spotlight on some creative works that I found myself completely mesmerized by with this week. Granted, one of these is a novel that I had already read, but just came across when my sister was cleaning out her room. It’s an amazing piece of science fiction in the YA genre of literature, and dare I say might be the juiciest and sexiest crime thriller around as well. I pitched it to my sister as “Professor X vs. Magneto” meets Grey’s Anatomy, but, she’s busy watching Money Heist on Netflix. For those of you who know exactly what book I’m talking about, I just want to thank y’all for putting me onto this series. I love y’all!
The book is Vicious by V.E. Schwab, first of her Villains series and predecessor of Vengeful. It’s so lovely how dark this tale is, while taking readers on a suspenseful journey across a gritty comic-book-styled world. The story follows Victor Vale and Eli Ever, two college roommates and medical students who explore the possibility of near-death experiences being the catalyst that can awaken superhuman gifts within them. As the two embark on this journey as academic rivals, they become obsessed with the results, leading to a battle between the two brilliant minds as they use their newfound abilities to destroy one another as arch-nemeses.
If anybody has read this book, then you know why it’s such a highly recommended novel. Along with V.E. Schwab’s wonderful writing style, development of the characters in her stories, and the sheer scope of the superhero dynamics she explores in the series, it’s also just a hell of a great time for any fan of revenge thrillers. 10/10 coming from me, folks! And if you aren’t interested, then we can at lest admire these gorgeous covers.
I, personally, was drawn into the series by the premise of unlocking newfound abilities through pushing one’s self to the brink of death, and to be brought back with a new breath of life. Vicious doesn’t dwell heavily on the sci-fi aspect of the abilities by allowing Victor and Eli’s medical student backstory to help ground the concept in a realistic scenario. That being said, I found the unique look at a human’s untapped potential to become superhuman in Vicious vastly more fascinating than, say, a radioactive spider, or “You’re a lab experiment, Rogers; everything special about you came out of a bottle.” (Yes, I’m calling Marvel out, let the Disney overlords take me away.) There’s something truly extraordinary about the possibility that, in order to become the more capable version of ourselves, all we need to do is dare to explore scientific experimentation in a trial and error fashion, while also gambling one’s own life. That’s what the two characters, Victor and Eli, end up doing, but with completely diametrically opposing mindsets and viewpoints. At the start of the novel, Victor is a lonely cynical atheist, whose trust issues stem back to his absent parents, while Eli is a loving and passionate young man, whose big heart is a result of his devotion to a righteous God. As the two’s philosophies and beliefs contradict one another, they test the theory with less interest in the ramifications or consequences of these tests, but rather out of pure jealousy and rivalry. Victor believes he can accomplish this by succumbing to a messy overdose, while Eli believes he can create a controlled environment in order to slow his heart rate to the point of nearly flat-lining. As the experiments continue, with success, more and more chaos ensues, and we see what it’s like when two people attempt to play God with their lives and those around them.
Untapped potential and superhuman abilities? Perhaps these two could’ve, I dunno, stayed in school and cured cancer or something. They were both arguably smart enough to become amazing men, and instead they just…well, I suppose you’d have to read the book yourself to find out what happens to these two young men.
On another note, I wanted to continue the conversation about untapped potential with another creative project I came across. This one also came about when my sister jokingly asked me “Why don’t you get into computer science? Make a video game or something.” Now, if anybody knows me, they know I absolutely abhor math and science form a professional standpoint. I say this fully aware that I just went on and on about a book involving medical students, but, you will never catch me learning how to code in Python or anything like that. However, my sister did spark an idea in me that led me to a pretty worthwhile investment (if you can even call it that; I spent maybe 20 bucks on this only.) Anyway, check out Dreams, a video game that is essentially a game creator system published by Sony, from the creative minds behind Little Big Planet.
It’s a weird concept to explain on paper (or screen?) but basically, the game allows you to utilize mechanics found in video game development engines to create your own video game projects! In Dreams, tutorials on the development of levels, characters, and stages are optional, as you are also given free range to test out and play other creations made by other users. Whether it’s a remake of Super Mario 64 in the Sony game engine, a test run of an original video game character’s animations, or a completely rendered cinematic of the Batman: The Animated Series intro. There are also music-based projects, like synth machines and piano rolls, and visual environments used for background noise and concentration, like study beats! There’s even some weird remakes of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, but that’s for the meme-loving gamer.
Speaking of gamers, if anybody is looking for any good light-hearted satirical humor tailored to gamers AND politics, check out Ace Watkins’s podcast, The Ace Watkins Presidential Hour. Their latest episode features Ace Watkins and his team as they discuss Hillary Clinton’s endorsement of Joe Biden, weigh the pros and cons of drinking bleach, and talk through what grinds their Metal Gears. So, ya know, just another President candidate, spittin’ stuff that’s quite normal in comparison to, ya know, those in Office.
I do want to give a big thanks to my sister who, without her finding my copy of Vicious and her inspiring me to try out Dreams, I wouldn’t have had anything to discuss today! So, for that, I’m going to shout her out, my immensely supportive pain in my ass sister. Love ya. Stay safe, folks.
Hello, America! Trying out new greetings during this time, and I admittedly also have reruns of the Bernie Mac show on in the background, so I choose to believe my intro is just me channeling the Return of the Mac (cue comedy rim-shot! *ba-dum-tst*🥴). Today also marks the first day of me officially launching this blog post on my site as a freelancer! So, we’re off to a great start this month as well. Taxes got filed, papers got processed, and the oil in the weird little machine mandating both resistance and compliance is, ya know, running. But it’s time we take another break from the heaviness and denseness, America, because today is a holiday. It’s Star Wars Day!
That’s right, folks, this is for all of the Jedi Padawans, Jedi Masters, or even the few Sith Lords who are “just misunderstood” (looking at y’all, Reylo shippers 🙄). Today, we are observing the impact of a franchise that started off as a sci-fi flick that even George Lucas himself expected to fail. Star Wars, starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and the late Carrie Fisher, was meant to be a one and done deal for Lucas, but fans were enthralled by world that had been built, the conflict that had been struck, and the battles won by the mystic monk-like space wizards known as the Jedi.
Now, I’m an avid sci-fi fan and casual Star Wars fan. I loved the original trilogy, mildly enjoyed the prequel trilogy, and I genuinely liked the sequel trilogy up until everyone became divided over the last film in the saga. At that point, I just didn’t bother watching it, and I had already been spoiled on the ending, and I truly am just impartial to it. In the words of the Han Solo himself-
That being said, there is something I would love to highlight and talk about today, on this gloriously wonderful Star Wars Day. Whether or not you were a fan of the films, the extended universe created in novels and comics, or the amazing television shows, one thing fans could agree on is that Star Wars was always strongest when its driving force was family. Luke Skywalker was only able to become a fully powered Jedi, and go on the galactic journey that he did because of his friends and family. They were his support system, so to speak. Han was the strong, yet cynical friend who believed in Luke more than the Force itself. Leia was, well, his long-lost sister who’s Force-sensitivity helped guide the Rebels and the Resistance in the war against the Dark Side. Then you’ve got RD-D2 and C-3PO. They’re just two little robots that, in my head-canon, are in romantic relationship. Star Wars is a love story between these two droids and nobody can tell me otherwise.
Anyway, I digress; Star Wars is a series centered around families that support each other, and as the story branches out, we see how love and kindness, or rather lack of it, can shift an entire dynamic between a mentor and his pupil, like Obi-Wan and Anakin. All Little Ani needed was to practice more unconditional love, and he wouldn’t have become the space nazi dark lord that he was, right? Or perhaps we see it in the lack of compassion that Anakin’s son, Luke, showed for Ben Solo, aka, Kylo Ren of the Knights of Ren and the space neo-nazi dark lord. As the story shows the heroes prevailing on the side of the Jedi and the Force, those who were corrupted by greed, anger, and power, were victims of inherited trauma, essentially. Anakin is shown rejecting unconditional love and kindness in his hear, but finally opens his heart to compassion when he dies in the arms of his son. Fast forward chronologically in the Skywalker Saga, and that very same son, Luke, is now rejecting unconditional love and kindness to Anakin’s grandson, Kylo, who essentially channels the same anger and thirst for power that his grandfather fell victim to. Luke doesn’t find that unconditional love until he meets Rey, the new hero in this story. She also ends up saving Kylo’s soul the same way Luke did for his father, sort of breaking a chain or a cycle in the Skywalker lineage.
But you already knew all of that, didn’t you? Yeah, unless you’re a nerd like me, then this might’ve been a hell of a lot to digest. Fear not though, because this May the 4th can still teach everyone one thing; use the Force! Channel the Force, and reject anger, and greed, and power. Instead, open your heart up to love the same way Jedi open their heart up to the Force, and perhaps then you will find your support system as well.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for y’all today, folks. I’m using the theme of family to work on my upcoming story, The Dark Within Us, and in the meantime, I hope everybody enjoys whatever Star Wars fun y’all are having today. May the Fourth Be With You! 💫 Be safe, and stay lovely, folks. Until next time. Peace.✌🏽
Hiya, folks! I’m finally back! I wanted to post an update about some things on this blog, with how I’m going to organize things here and how regularly I’m going to post. I only realized I needed to do this because I had two weeks where I had started posts for Stars and Monsters, one Arrow related and one Bojack Horseman related, and failed to finish either, and have spent what free time I do have working on these projects that I’ve hardly mentioned. That being said, this post will also address what these projects exactly are and such!
In regards to the weekly post format, I may have to just start posting whenever I’m available instead. I found myself struggling to meet my “post-every-Wednesday” schedule and end up posting, you know, weeks later or something. Also, I don’t always post on Wednesdays either, so posts will just start coming periodically. And with that, I want to share what has been keeping me busy these past few weeks!
The Dark Within Us is my upcoming fantasy sci-fi story on Wattpad. It follows 17 year old Ronnie Reid, a kid from Chaseville, California, as he joins a band of monster slayers on a journey through a hidden dark world. It’s sort of going to be like a novella, one that touches on what it means to find a family, and to discover the truth about your life for the first time ever. This is going to be the first part of a trilogy that follows Ronnie and the rest of his family as they encounter entities of darkness and evil in the world. So far, part one of this trilogy is in its early stages of development, with a prologue available to read on Wattpad for free right now!
Beat Inside My Soul is an upcoming sci-fi animated series that follows a group of teenage ravers who gain the ability to weaponize sound from a new deadly party drug. The teens, led by by thriving DJ Simon Bates, unite their abilities and efforts to stop a drug epidemic. With the story in the final stages of development and in the early draftings of the screenwriting process, I am also reaching out to animation designers, musicians, dancers, and other artists to help develop visuals for the animated series. My hope is to have a finished script for the pilot pitched to animation studios or streaming services like Netflix.
“Anomaly” is an upcoming sci-fi superhero comic series that follows Seth Gibson, along with his best friend Jordan, and his little sister Reina, as he learns to harness his newly discovered ghost-like abilities, and fights to take down a local street gang called Erebus and their leader, Adonis. This crime action series touches upon trauma, sexuality, addiction, and other themes. Once I’ve secured artists to work on at least the first comic issue, I hope to pitch the series to some comic book publishing company, or perhaps just post online as a web comic, maybe on Webtoons.
These stories all take place in different points in time, with The Dark Within Us having early 2000s setting, Beat Inside My Soul taking place in the 2010 era, and Anomaly taking place in the 2020s. At some point, these stories will address their connections with one another.
With these projects being lined up, along with this blog, I’m going to start posting updates on each of these stories through this blog, with the occasional fanboy posts about other stuff being released! One that I’m excited to write about is Harley Quinn – both the new movie AND her animated series in DC Universe. We’ll also talk about other stuff, other music, shows, and Doctor Who too! OH GOSH Doctor Who is so good right now.
Anyway, out of the two projects, I do have one chapter up for The Dark Within Us and a link to music for Beat Inside My Soul, which also just features my music made under SyckBeat. There is one song, a mashup, made for the animated series posted on there as well, so check that out! Will post again soon when I can. Thank you, everyone, for keeping up with my erradict posts and all that jazz! Stay amazing, folks! ✨
Hi there, folks, it’s ya boy. I’m back after a week and, honestly, I feel bad. I told myself I’d post weekly, but I just had a rough time trying to piece together a post last week, so I needed some time to let some ideas mull over. I was tempted to do another Crisis on Infinite Earths post after the Arrowverse crossover ended, but I might hold off on making another big fanboy post about that for a while, just to let things sink in.
Instead, I wanted to talk about what I was aiming to write about last week, which is this animated sci-fi action movie on Netflix called MFKZ. It was originally an animated short called Operation: Blackhead, then a comic series that went by MFKZ, which all got made into this collaborative anime styled movie between a French production company and a Japanese animation studio. It’s directed by the same anime director that worked on Batman: Gotham Knights (which was anime-inspired, at least) and a French rapper.
Now, when you ask anybody about this movie, they’ll tell you one of two things. Either you’ll be told that the movie is a must-see for its visuals and animation style, which I agree with, or you’ll be told to not watch this movie because it’s an incoherent mess of a plot, and a ludicrous waste of time, which is, like, partially true. This movie is an aesthetically pleasing trip with sick visuals and an amazing soundtrack, with the occasionally jarring sequences that are definitely meant to act as a sort of vibe check for the viewers, as a sort of way for the movie to ask “Hey, are you still with us?”
So, if I were to provide a synopsis for MFKZ, I would describe it as sci-fi action/crime thriller about this cartoony kid, Angelino, and his equally cartoony flaming skull headed companion, Vinz, as they endure misadventures through the crime-infested corrupted Dark Meat City, which is this weird urban combination of Los Angeles and São Paulo. We see what it’s like for these two outcasts living in a city with issues like poverty, gang-related crime, and oppressive police forces, all through the perspective of an anxious and self-conscious kid. Looking at the world from this viewpoint makes the movie really enjoyable for the first half of the time, considering how refreshing this sort of environment is for an anime styled flick.
The characters are my one of my favorite bits about this movie, even though some people argue that the characters aren’t written well at all. You’ve got these three, the most goofy looking cartoons, reminding you to not take this movie so seriously, even though there are moments where the movie asks you to do so. With the orange cat named Willy, you’ve got the friend in the trio that is a literal vibe killer, banging on your front door shouting loud enough for your neighbors to hear. He’s the character that is kind of just…in the way of everything? Like, he’s the friend that’s just there, but you go to when you need a favor or something. His first appearance sums this up a lot. Aside from him, you’ve got Vinz, the flaming skull. He’s voiced by Vince Staples, so, cool tidbit there! He is Lino’s best friend (and arguably is in love with Lino, but that’s another conversation) and is sort of the ride-or-die that you grow to rely on. Vinz lives with Lino as they both struggle to make their roommate situation work, which is actually a funny scene with well written irony sprinkled there, but as plot progresses, Vinz sticks by Lino, regardless of what happens, and believe me, a LOT happens. He’s the MVP for sure.
Lino, the hero and prodigal messiah or whatever, is the guy just trying to live his life, and gets thrown into battle with sketchy suit thugs, local street gangs, and a conspiring government made up of aliens in disguise. He’s arguably a poorly written character, but I don’t necessarily agree with this, mainly because while others see his lack of interests and goals make him a bad character, his entire character is written around the fact that he doesn’t know what he wants. There’s this cute anime-looking scene where the trio is resting after a chase sequence with the suited thugs, and as they see shooting stars, Willy asks Lino what he’d wish for, and the guy says “I dunno…I just wanna be a somebody.”
And that’s sort of where Lino’s character is rooted in. He’s anxious because he’s lost his job, he’s on the run all of a sudden after a run-in with thugs in suits (which, after watching the scene during several rewatches, I’m convinced it all happened because Lino was genuinely paranoid and spooked the thugs), and he’s losing control over his life, control over these prophetic visions he gets (which leave him convinced he’s tripping, just like I did my first time watching) and over powers he starts to gain after each violent encounter (these moments are depicted with a shot of his heart bursting into flames in his chest and his eyes grow animal-like, which was actually a really cool detail for each action sequence). Lino is a mess from the start of the movie, because he and Vinz want to leave DMC, but they don’t. Lino says something along the lines of them having “No jobs, no money, no car, ain’t got a shadow of a prayer,” and it sort of sums up Lino’s anxieties. As the movie progresses, we see Lino exhibit these anxious tendencies, starting from an accident and him losing work to gaining these visions, trippin’ out, convincing himself that police and priests are monsters (more on that later), to taking charge in these encounters with thugs, cops, and other adversaries, and you can see the anxieties in those situations shift from him to Vinz, the only other person with him throughout all of this, and Lino ends up, as he so cleverly puts it in the sickest car chase ever, “fucking handling it”.
Okay, I mentioned the visual aesthetics of this movie, but what if I told you that there was LORE? Yes, we get a brief scene at the beginning of the movie that alludes to, like, “plot,” but then the first half really is just focusing on Lino and Vinz getting through everything. Towards the middle of the movie, the plot shoves lore at you by introducing the antagonist, which is a government suit who is actually the leader of an alien race called the Macho (which might be commentary on toxic masculinity, but that could be just me), and we also have the Luchador sequences, where they’re wrestlers, but are also, like, ancient guardians tasked with fighting against evil, but they are waiting on ANY evil to emerge? And they randomly team up with a scientist (who is visually very cartoony, which makes me wonder if using cartoon-looking people is an artistic choice or if there’s lore attached to that too) who defects from the Macho scientists or whatever, and there’s stuff there. Meanwhile, we learn the origin of Lino’s powers, stemming from being half Macho (it’s why he’s a black ball headed cartoon I think) and his mother died at the hands of some enforcer as she protected Lino and his father, who is Macho, but…takes the form of a dog with an eye hanging from his eye socket? So Lino MIGHT BE HALF DOG? ALL UNCLEAR.
See, this is the thing that people begin to complain about. The story makes no sense when you REALLY buckle down and try to digest the lore and plot that’s handed to you after a while, because a lot of it is just weird. Like, you can tell there were a lot of ideas and creative story elements at some point, but they really don’t mesh well after a while. Luckily, none of this is the movie’s strong suit.
The action is why we stay for this film, though, along with the music it’s accompanied by. This is what took me a while to really figure out. The movie is great for so many reasons, while also being stupid. Watching it is most definitely a trip as you start being spooked around the same moments Lino gets spooked with dark visions, trippy visuals, feeling a wave of mild hypnosis with a cleverly done black and white hypnotic sequence, but the real fun lies in the action. As I mentioned, Lino gradually becomes more and more capable with each action sequence, with the first stemming from true paranoia as he takes down threatening thugs stooge-styled to horror music, followed by a sick dubstep fight sequence with Nazi-looking SWAT police (which confuses me because the next action sequence has a normal looking police officer on the street, which might be the first time the local authorities got involved in the antics in the film), and then we get my favorite scene, the ICE CREAM CAR CHASE (the music makes the scene the best, with the synchronizing of the ice cream truck’s music with a sick beat), and, like, a few scenes shot to hip-hop and reggaeton, which ALL are great. Even the songs playing in these character’s downtime rules! It’s calming, it’s urban, it sort of brings the world to life a little more (excluding mythical wrestlers and alien goo monsters).
The soundtrack for the movie really proves to be the highlight of the movie, which really is only enhanced by the action sequences. That being said, the story might’ve been written AROUND those scenes, but I can live with that. Visually, the movie is great, and like I said, there are a lot of cool creative story elements thrown into MFKZ. I wish I could go on about the romantic subtext between Lino and Vinz, the Macho-alien being an analogy for toxic masculinity, and the subliminal details that all seem to allude to entirely different ideas that most viewers would ignore because of the mindfuck that the movie is, but as I went through my notes that I jotted down about the plot during my second viewing of the film, I realized how much of a mess those thoughts are, and as much as I tried to capture and articulate the ideas that MFKZ is trying to express, it’s just so hard to do. So we’ll just say that the movie is a fun time if you maybe, like, smoke a bowl, turn your brain off for an hour and a half, and enjoy the visual trip and sick music.
Anyway, stay tuned next week because I’m gonna go on about ANOTHER amazing animated property that utilizes music in a similarly sick fashion, but maybe better!
Greetings! Hope everyone had a lovely holiday season. Classes start up again soon, and people are getting back into the work grind, and I have been ITCHING to get through the week and find time to write another post. I was debating what the first post of the year should be about, but after having went through all of The Witcher on Netflix and slowly watching The Mandalorian on Disney+, I realized what I had to talk to you guys about.
It’s no secret that these two shows started to take the world by storm, really. With Disney+ being a big step as far as streaming services go, getting all of the content that Disney now owns onto one platform for families was exciting. That being said, majority of the content really is just for families. Like, The Simpsons are there, and it might be the only FOX property as far as I know (which is weird because they don’t even have FOX’s X-Men movies or anything, just their old cartoons), but majority of the content really is tailored for family oriented viewers and, like, a stupid amount of unscripted series and documentaries. Like, this might very well be a streaming service for your grandparents. That being said, Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian fits in that demographic and then some, seeing as it’s an expansion of Star Wars lore (your grandparents’ franchise), while also creating a solid and enjoyable series for fans who pretty much know nothing about Star Wars. I’ve considered myself a casual fan of the series, having seen all of the movies excluding the latest (just haven’t had time), and I absolutely adored The Mandalorian.
There are really two kinds of viewers watching the show who know nothing about Star Wars. You’ve got people who start the series because of the hype it’s gained and go in entirely blind and find that they really can enjoy it without all of the context of the Star Wars universe, because what’s needed to be understood is in the series anyway. You’ve also got the people who want to watch the series, but believe that watching the Star Wars movies will enhance the experience and is almost required. That being said, I don’t think that’s the case, and I think that’s what made this series a real treat.
On the other side of the nerd spectrum, you have fans raving about Netflix’s The Witcher. Now, not much needs to be said about Netflix at this point, it’s been around, it might always be around, and right now it’s Disney+’s biggest contender (sorry DC Universe, maybe just market your service a little better, because I’ve only ever seen ads for Harley Quinn on Adult Swim, and that’s after the platform has been out for over a year), and most of their credit goes to Lauren Hissrich’s The Witcher being one of the most streamed shows to date. That title also went to The Mandalorian for a while, both of which topped Stranger Things, which is a pretty big accolade to earn. Now, when it comes to viewing The Witcher, which is based off of a video game series that is based off of the book series, it kind of feels difficult to encourage anyone to say that they need to go to the source material to enjoy the series, because that’s not the case. I didn’t play the games, even though they seem super rad, and I haven’t read the books either, but this show was REALLY neat.
That could have something to do with the queer subtext I got to enjoy between Geralt, the titular character of the series, and Jaskier, the bard who would GLADLY toss a coin to the Witcher’s taut ass, or just seeing Henry Cavill shirtless that many times (as opposed to a dude who literally never removes his armor). It could have also been seeing these female characters completely owning the series, more so than Geralt himself sometimes, especially when there’s SO MANY OF THEM! I didn’t know who I desired to kick my ass more, the Princess Ciri, her dope (but arguably racist) grandmother and Queen Calanthe, Yennifer the Witch, or Renfri, the chick from the first episode that never come back (she might’ve been my favorite, hot take!)
There was a lot to enjoy in both of these series. A lot of which the shows have in common (sexy angsty freelance dads earnin’ big bucks while becoming adoptive fathers), but that isn’t to say that these shows don’t have critical differences (like one being in space and the other being in a fantasy realm).
Both The Mandalorian and The Witcher both feature protagonists who embody the warrior archetype; they both are seemingly the last of their kind, and carry the weight of that with them, which leaves these two with walls built between them and other people. They have been betrayed, and have had their trust broken, and now live their lives as nomads who kill for coin and credits, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake and tales of their endeavors told in rumors and songs. That is, until their journeys go from simply taking jobs in self-contained anecdotes to bringing children into Mando and Geralt’s arms. Mando is tasked with killing the child, but he’s not a heartless monster, so he decides to save the child! Geralt has no intention of having a child, but he sort of stumbles his way into becoming a godfather of a princess in comedic Stooge fashion.
Now, the only reason I’m not writing about how these shows are pretty much the same thing as one another and giving them shit for it is because, well, these shows really aren’t the same at all, despite the warrior-dads thing. And yes, it goes beyond the surface and is more than just the sci-fi and fantasy aesthetics. In terms of what the shows do, they have episodes that each focus on a singular event occurring, like, “The One About The Prison Break In Space”, or “The One Where I Join A Quest To Slay A Dragon”, which makes it feel as though each of their eight episodes truly are a single chapter, or a peek into these character’s lives in a journal of sorts. The structures of these shows are what really get me. In The Mandalorian, Mando doesn’t meet the child until the end of the first episode, which is sort of the inciting incident, but from there, the story progresses forward in a way where time isn’t necessarily tracked, but we know that everything is occurring sequentially. It doesn’t feel as though there are big gaps or time jumps between scenes or episodes aside from, but we don’t really get much detail as to how much time has passed. This doesn’t make for a jarring experience, though.
However, when one is viewing The Witcher, we are watching Geralt’s story occur, along with Ciri and Yennifer, two of the wonderful female characters I mentioned earlier. Now, each of these three characters’ stories all start at a certain point. Geralt’s story starts with him meeting Renfri in a village. Yennifer’s story starts with her as a hunchback being sold to witches and inducted in their academy of sorts. Ciri’s story starts with her fleeing her kingdom after it is conquered by an enemy kingdom (who don spooky black armor that couldn’t scream “we’re the bad guys” any louder). Now, as these stories progress throughout the episodes, there’s a lack of an overlap until a certain point. Like, we’re seeing things happening to Geralt, and to Yennifer, and to Ciri, and they all go places and do things, and for a while, we’re like “huh, when do they…?” and then we start to get to points where certain characters that, say, died in certain episodes reappear later, and interact with Geralt, or Yennifer, or Ciri (the Big Three, so to speak), and then it starts to dawn on us…the show’s structure isn’t linear at all.
See, that’s what got me. The Witcher is told from three perspectives, all of which pretty much start at different points in time, and only one of which is actually taking place in the present. This isn’t explicitly clear right off the bat, which might’ve confused some viewers, and would’ve upset me if it hadn’t all come together by the finale. It isn’t until the last episode that we see these three characters make it to the same point and place in time (and no, I don’t mean TIME TRAVEL, that’s another post I’m writing soon). The last episode is also when we finally get a child in Geralt’s arms, which is a wild contrast to Mando’s parental journey. One gains a child by the start of the show, while one gains a child by the end. One follows a linear plot, and the other jumps between years in the story. Favreau and Hissrich both follow drastically different writing structures, but somehow utilize wildly similar formulas in how their protagonist’s arcs progress, which in turn has created the new archetype we all love and appreciate now: grumpy warrior dad!
Anyway, that’s all I really have. I’m not over here writing essays, so this might be the cleanest wrap-ups I will write for a while. If you’re wondering which of the two my favorite was, it’s pretty close, but I’d have to go with the show with the dude who was naked more often (Sorry, Disney, your family-oriented marketing is wholesome, but that’s all it is). But in all seriousness, The Witcher is a series I went in completely blind for, which might of left me with a lot less expectations than I did for The Mandalorian. I knew Star Wars, so I might’ve expected a certain type of show, and despite thoroughly enjoying the series, The Mandalorian never made me go WOW (except scenes showing off Cara’s guns…as she holds her rifles and stuff). I did go “aw” a couple of times, but that’s what I’m talking about. It wasn’t saucy like I had hoped. The Witcher scratched that naughty itch for me, while also having me go “WAIT A MINUTE” when the plot lines converged, leaving me pleasantly more entertained than the former. That’s just my hot take, and anyone else’s take is just as valid! Let me know some of your thoughts. Stay lovely, folks!
(Sorry, I don’t have a punchline for the title. Maybe comment some if y’all think of one.)