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B.P.R.D. Volume 7: Garden of Souls (January 2008)

B.P.R.D. Volume 7: Garden of Souls (January 2008)

By David Bird in Blog on May 29, 2011

I did one entry into this project last month and, obviously, I’ll only be making one this month too. Of course the April entry was at the beginning of the month and this one is at the end of the month, so its really been about two months between entries. I do intend to finish this project. My summer posting may not be better--though I hope it is--but after the summer I hope to put up about one a week. Fingers crossed. As it is I am about half way through the trades. This is the fourteenth of the twenty seven released, and 10,772 words, but there will be more out soon. A new B.P.R.D. trade in August. A new Hellboy in October. Still, I will catch up. Promise.Garden of Souls brings Abe’s history back to our attention. We start back at the mountain fortress. Roger’s last wish is being fulfilled and he’s being given a proper funeral. To keep the curious away he’s being buried as Archie Stanton. Presumably no one watches Westerns anymore.The burial seems to put an end to everyone’s mourning as life draws everyone back to their own priorities. Ben is continuing his traditional medical treatments and has an horrific vision, recalling the attack in the jungle. Johann’s continued study of the sub-basement’s records also reveals a new factor in Ben’s story: his grandmother was the Axis agent Crimson Lotus. He shows this to the others, but no one seems to think its important. Readers will immediately recognize the link between her, the doll faced monkey, and Ben, but maybe the others are right. To date this revelation has had no bearing on Ben’s character development or anything else.Liz meanwhile is visited by another vision of her Mandarin spirit guide. She isn’t happy to see him. As far as she’s concerned they’re through, it’s over. But she’s wrong. Its not over. To make this point he gives her a vision of what it will look like when things are over. The frogs have won. Giant monsters, like the one destroyed in the Black Flame, do the landscape. He calls them ‘sentinels.’ I wonder what they are supposed to be watching? This vision is actually the second time we meet her guide in this book, but we’re not supposed to know that yet.Abe’s story starts with the arrival of a package: a pocket cigar case belonging to his former self, Langdon Everett Caul. In it are three cigars and a map of Indonesia with the city of Balikpapan circled. Not sure what to make of it, he takes Ben with him to South East Asia where they end up sitting on the docks with no idea what their next step should be. Eventually he is contacted by a mentally challenged child who is acting under the control of another. Following her, Abe leaves Ben in the middle of the night, writing an address on the wall in red. Ben hurries to the police and threatens them with the US embassy if they don’t drop everything and jump to his assistance. There are two things wrong with this. First, what is the message written in? Blood? Lipstick? The latter is more conventional in scenes like this, but I don’t see Abe carrying a stick. Second, Ben is supposed to be a man of the world, but his behaviour with the police is that of a bumpkin. Your friends been gone for one hour? Maybe you should go back to the embassy and get out of our hair? Still this is a comic, so they jump.Abe meanwhile takes a boat out to a remote island and discovers a secret colony of chimeras created care for by three robots and a blond giant. The robots aren’t robots. They’re the surviving members of the Oannes Society, an occult group whose members once included Caul. The bodies of the ‘robots’ are preservation chambers, which are made mobile with mechanical arms and legs. Inside are the men, now decrepit well past 150. The blond is a member whose soul/mind was transferred from his chamber into a new body especially created for the completion of the Society’s great mission. Their mission? To save the world by destroying it. Of course. Actually, they are only going to destroy the Asian-Pacific coast and they expect the souls of the dead to be drawn to them and into their new bodies. Why are they doing this? Why do they expect their plan to work? I don’t know. The whole story line is effectively derailed by another story, that of Panya.Panya was an Egyptian woman mummified thousands of years ago and unwrapped in London in 1859. Astonishingly the moment her face was uncovered she opened her eyes. Caul was in the audience. She was taken in by the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, who guarded her and indulged her, but in time she felt like their prisoner. She was rescued by a splinter group, the Oannes Society, and taken to her current location in Indonesia, but soon realized that she’d traded one prison for another. She was the one controlling the girl. Caul was a member of the Society, but it isn’t clear whether she was ‘rescued’ before or after his transformation. They call her Naunet, the Egyptian goddess of the sea, but she resents it. Panya, meaning mouse, was an actual Egyptian girl’s name.The day is saved but we’re really no closer to knowing anything important about what happened to Caul. How did he become Abe? Why? The story ends with Abe telling Ben, “I’ve met some men here, Captain, and they all knew Langdon Caul. Knew his very well, as it turns out. But they didn’t know me.” Well… maybe not, but maybe the problem is that Abe doesn’t want to know. There’s been an attempt to write a parallel story, between Abe and Hellboy. Both are on journeys of discovery, and both seem intent on rejecting the destinies laid out for them. The difference is that Hellboy knows what he is rejecting. He is turning his back on a terrible, Hell born future. Abe on the other hand seems afraid to face up to what really happened to make him what he is today. He’s running from himself. In the end its not surprising that he threw away this chance to learn about himself. It was the last place he wanted to be.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

May Comics

May Comics

By David Bird in Blog on May 26, 2011

B.P.R.D.: The Dead Remembered #2: I am still not a hundred percent convinced of the need to go over this ground again, but this issue does do a great job of retelling the story of the death of Liz’s family. The second plot line, the witch and the haunted wood, hasn’t grabbed me yet, but there is one more issue to go.Batgirl #21: A villain is vanquished and two new ones are introduced. A friend departs and another turns against her. It’s an important issue, but it felt busy, rather than momentous.Hellboy: Being Human: This is such a great idea; I can’t believe they haven’t done it before. Everyone loves Roger, but he’s dead. Ben Parker dead. He’s not coming back. So why not tell a new story that took place before he died? The story is one of witchcraft, haunting, and revenge. Roger and Hellboy are only there to watch it unfold and put a heavy handed end to it, but it’s a great story nevertheless. Another fantastic Mignola-Corben collaboration.Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #2: The story of three mice at sea is okay. The art is fantastic. My only complaint is that the lettering Petersen uses in the captions is often hard to read.Strange Adventures #1: Another anthology. Last month it was Dark Horse Presents. This month it’s Vertigo’s Strange Adventures. While listed as issue #1, it seems to be a one shot. At least there is no word of a second issue so far, and that’s too bad. It’s a strong collection. The two horror stories, “Refuse” and “Post-Modern Prometheus,” could have been tweaked a bit, but the story quality is generally strong. The big draw is a preview of Azzarello and Risso’s upcoming series Spaceman. From what I see here it could go either way. It looks interesting, but the dialogue and tough streets looks a bit too much like there work in 100 Bullets. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just too soon to tell.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Showcase Presents

Showcase Presents

By David Bird in Blog on May 12, 2011

I’ve spent most of the last six weeks’ comics reading time going through six volumes of DC’s Showcase Presents trades. I was very excited about the series when it was announced and picked up the first five releases--Green Lantern, Superman, Metamorpho, Jonah Hex, and The Justice League of America--even though I really didn’t have the time to get into them. Once I did I was disappointed to realize that Silver Age storytelling was not for me. To each his own. I stopped buying them. Some months later I did pick up The Challengers of the Unknown, but quickly put it down. Now five years later I picked them all up again and read through the lot. The immersion experience did help somewhat. Here are my thoughts on what I’ve read.Green Lantern: Easily the best of the lot. We get to see the development of the Lantern Corp mythos--did you know the Oath was originally something Hal Jordan just made up because he thought it sounded cool?-- and we are always rewarded with Gil Kane’s fantastic art.Superman: These stories are often terrible, but mostly just okay. Our hero comes across as a sad little space orphan who is always lying to his friends. The most interesting thing in it is the develop of Supergirl. There were various versions of the female Superman scattered through the adventures, always as a gimmick, before those various elements were put together to create the actual character.Metamorpho: The sad thing about this book is how truly great it could have been. A hybrid of the superhero comic and Mad Magazine, it could have been one for the ages if only DC had let it embrace its ‘Mad’-ness completely. In fact, the worst stories were the ones to include other DC heroes. The best thing about it? Ramona Fradon‘s fantastic art. Two fun facts: 1) The elements Metamorpho could morph into were limited to those occurring in the human body. 2) His favourite element? Manganese. Seriously. He turns into it in practically every story.Jonah Hex: This was the most modern of the lot--no surprise there, given when it was made--but it was entirely too formulaic. Even when they lengthened the stories and added an arch-enemy, the stories were too much alike. I think it my appreciation have improved if I were reading it on a monthly basis, instead of all at once.Justice League of America: Very much a ‘gee whiz,’ boy’s own adventure feel to this one. This one did benefit from reading it all together, because it helped me to get into the spirit of the title. A curious thing I noticed right away was how often Batman, the one with no powers, and Superman, the one with too much power, were marginalized or cut out entirely. (Of course, they later made Green Arrow a regular member and he was little more than a B-man clone at this point.)Challengers of the Unknown: Last… and least. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Challengers. I first read them in the 90s mini Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! by Loeb and Sale (their first collaboration), then Chaykin’s and Cooke’s. When this volume was released I decided to reverse my earlier decision and try it out. It’s bad. Really bad. It reads like it was not only written for children, but plotted by a young child as well. The drawing card for this book is the art by Kirby. Unfortunately, before he was the Kirby who recreated the genre with Lee, he really wasn’t the Kirby who recreated the genre with Lee. There are moments, panels, that look great, but not enough of them. Not by a long shot.I don’t know if I’ll make any future exceptions, but from now on its one volume at a time.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

World At Large: A New Legacy?

World At Large: A New Legacy?

By David Bird in Blog on May 3, 2011

It looks like today’s election will be a game changer. Maybe. Stephen Harper finally got his majority government. He’s been Prime Minister for five years now, having won two minority governments. Harper is sort of a reverse Trudeau. When he was first elected in 1968 Trudeau was the beneficiary of a deep seated need within Canadians for something a little more glamorous than what they were used to. A little bit of the Kennedy magic up north. Harper, an economist with the personality to match, has suffered from the left’s need for a George W to demonize. But Harper and his majority isn’t the big news. Its not the game changer. No, that’s the NDP’s new status as the official opposition and the end of Mackenzie King’s nearly ninety year legacy.William Lyon Mackenzie King was prime minister of Canada from 1921 to 1930 and 1935 to 1948. He was our war time leader and our longest serving prime minister. As the leader of the Liberal Party he succeeded where the Liberal leaders in the UK failed. There Labour outflanked the Liberals to the left, replacing them to create a simple left-right choice for the voters. King, on the other hand, stripped the Liberal Party of Canada of its ideological underpinnings and created what was essentially a party of middle class professionals. It was a winning strategy and one of King’s greatest legacies. They leaned left under King and continued to until the eighties, when, beginning with Trudeau’s last government, they began to lean right. These shifts weren’t driven by ideas, but by reading public and international opinion. Trudeau’s shift wasn’t quick enough to save them from defeat, but once they returned to power party leader Jean Chrétien gave the nation its most conservative government to date. (It’s interesting to point that out to people condemning Harper. They never dispute it, but they still dismiss it. Facts often get in the way of haranguing Harper.) Under Chrétien Liberal pundits used to argue, why would you vote for the Conservatives when you’re already getting solid conservative policies from us? Perhaps that, as much as the uninspiring leadership from Dion and Ignatieff, is what helped the NDP supplant them. Why vote for a conservative party when you can have actual The Conservative Party?So now Jack Layton is the Opposition Leader and the New Democratic Party the Official Opposition. Will he be able to keep it this way? The NDP managed to create a left-right dichotomy here in BC decades ago, but they pushed passed the Liberals to form the government of Ontario in the 90s only to see the Liberals retake the province. Which way will it go for Layton? Personally, I’ve never seen him as a future prime minister--but then I’ve never seen him as the Opposition Leader either. Too often he’s come across as a university leftist. Someone who’s spoken his piece without any real consideration of getting elected. That’s not a bad thing, of course, but I doubt that’ll continue now. He’s also got a lot of new, completely inexperienced parliamentarians. A great many from Quebec. In recent years the French left has been hampered by the leadership of the Bloc Quebecois, which has focussed on advancing the province and not on national issues and needs. And most of these are not just new to parliament, but to the party itself. Interestingly, one caucus member he’ll be able to turn to for support is his wife Olivia Chow, herself a NDP Member of Parliament for the last five years.So now we have our first majority government since the 2004 election. We’ll see a lot less dealing making, because the government doesn’t need to make any deals, but we’ll see also get to see what could be a historic starting point for Canadian politics. Will we become a two party state? The answer to that question really lies with Mr. Layton. His leadership will see either a new legacy, replacing King’s, or a lost opportunity. Either way, the next four or five years promise to be interesting.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Countdown To Withdrawal

Countdown To Withdrawal

By David Bird in Blog on May 2, 2011

Bin Laden is dead. Ten years ago his terrorist network, Al Qaeda, murdered three thousand people by destroying New York's World Trade Center. He had been given a safe haven by the Taliban government of Afghanistan, so, under American leadership, NATO invaded the country and sent both the Taliban and Al Qaeda fleeing for the hills. Unfortunately, Afghanistan is 98 percent hills. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have remained at large, active from secret bases in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. Many, including military leaders, have admitted its a lost cause. Not enough troops. The Afghan leadership unpopular and corrupt. The reasons are many, but with Bin Laden at large there was no chance of withdrawal. Without the NATO presence the Taliban would retake control and Al Qaeda would be free to train and plan future attacks. For all the talk of nation building that's why were still there. At the heart of the mission has always been 9/11 and Bin Laden. And now he's dead. How long until we withdraw?Originally Pubished at: David Bird

April Comics

April Comics

By David Bird in Blog on May 2, 2011

Batgirl #20: Steph wins the first round with her new nemesis, The Order of the Scythe; and, thankfully, it was not a SUV, but a boxily (“boxily”?) drawn compact.B.P.R.D.: The Dead Remembered #1: Okay, but just okay. It was a lot of set up and not much new ground. This three parter is supposed to tell the story of Liz Sherman and her early days as a ward of the Bureau. Its never been the subject of a story in itself, but it has actually been touched on more than once and I don't know what more they can bring to it.Casanova: Gula #4: Fraction and Co. finishes up the old business and are already at work on new business, Casanova: Avaritia. Having read the original run of this series, there weren’t any surprises for me, but it held up well and I am eager for more.Dark Horse Presents #1: Dark Horse’s anthology’s first issue and… its looking pretty good. With any anthology there are bound to be winners and losers and this issue had one of each. The rest were fine, but so many were only the first chapter of longer stories that I am withholding judgement at this point. The winner and loser? The loser was the short story by Ellison. A pot shot at Ann Coulter? Who cares? The best was McNeil’s “Finder: Third World.” Finder in colour! I’d like to see more.Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish: Hellboy + cattle mutilation + aliens + teen devil worshippers. We’ve had aliens in the earlier Hellboy comics, so they are a part of the broader Mignola-verse, but it didn’t really come together for me.Infinite Vacation #2: Issue one set up the concept and issue two sets up the problem and cast of characters. Hopefully issue three won’t be delayed and the story will be off and running. Still very interesting.Rasl #10: Doors are opening and closing for Robert/Rasl. A solid chapter in a larger arc, but series’ many delays are costing this title. This chapter would have been a much better read if the flow of issues were smoother. Also, I seem to be one of the few readers still bothering with the single issues. Smith is a huge success. If he spent more time getter this one out, it would be as big as anything Kirkman puts out.Who Is Jake Ellis? #3: A good issue. Things are turning around and it looks like Jon is going to become more pro-active. We still don’t have a lot of answers, but this issue left me expecting a lot from issue four.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Sometimes You Just Know What You Want

Sometimes You Just Know What You Want

By David Bird in Blog on April 25, 2011

This show went a little off script when a little girl decided she liked red more than blue or green.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

The Bears Of Idun

The Bears Of Idun

By David Bird in Blog on April 15, 2011

This is a short story I wrote last year. Well, finished last year. I hope you it enjoy it. (It goes without saying--or it should go without saying--that its mine. I own it and all the rights to it are mine.)Andre Lumin and Tom Novak sat at the controls of their Mercurian rover and watched the lander’s ascent. It rose up like a lost balloon, becoming a barely discernable speck, before its drive roared into life and it burned a bright arc across the evening sky. Seconds later it would be back in space.Tom looked out on the planet’s surface. The windshield’s optics created a false day, but the Brisingamen cluster still dominated Idun’s sky. Their landing site was a barren, level field in an area of low hills. It was covered in loose stone and bare rock and located a couple of hours north of the shore that was their first destination.They were here to study the tardigrade-like creatures that had been detected by orbital probes. On Earth 'water bears' were microscopic animals capable of living in the harshest environments. Morphologically the bears of Idun seemed to differ only in size, but that difference was astonishing. Those spotted averaged six meters in length and stood over two meters in height. They represented evidence of complex life, and they were coming to represent something more: the giant tardigrades had since been detected on a dozen more planets in this area of space. A mission to Idun was quickly put together from available resources. Two ships were already scheduled to be in the area, six months apart. The first would drop off the two man crew and the second would pick it up. Simple. Expedient. No one knew what could be learned in that time--planets are huge once you set down on them--but they had the personnel, the equipment, and the opportunity to make what many saw as an important first contact mission.The rover was painted a bright yellow, a nod to an earlier generation of heavy equipment, sat on eight wheels and was heavily shielded. It would serve as their home, lab, and transportation. The labs were built along the right side exterior, hidden behind a large panel, which lowered to serve as an access platform. Robotics allowed them to work the labs from within. Andre eased it off the gravel and onto a slope covered in lichen. Ahead lay fields of blue, purple, red, and white. They saw no flowering plants. He proceeded cautiously. He had studied out the terrain carefully, but the charts showed only the vegetation and not the ground beneath.Looking through a monitor, set to natural optics, Tom saw everything fade to a pale indigo. He was enjoying the ride. It wasn’t often that he found himself in a vehicle fixed to the surface by local gravity. He had been an astronaut for ten years. Andre, the mission commander, had twenty-five years seniority.The two didn’t talk. They liked each other well enough, but they had spent their journey to Idun debating the implications of the bears and now were determined not to let their differences define their relationship. Tom wondered if there was any connection between these tardigrades and the tardigrades of Earth. Andre was skeptical."If there was a connection, why haven't we found any in the vast area between here and Earth? No. It's better not to draw such fantastic analogies. The size alone implies a very different physiology.”Tom hadn’t been willing to let the matter go so easily. “True, but Terran species are also known to have giant antecedents. The sloth and the…”“No, no. Nothing on this scale. Calling them tardigrades, or bears, it only sets up biases in our observations. Whatever these creatures are should be taken on its merits. The fact that they are on so many planets, that's much more important, much more wonderful, than having microscopic look-alikes on Earth. I don't mind telling you, I've spent my whole career dreaming of meeting another spacefaring species and now, after all the time we've spent exploring our universe, we finally discover a real indicator. Now that's exciting!”His whole career was something Andre was quick to raise in any conversation. Not only was he more experienced, but his whole family was deeply involved in astronautics and had been since the beginnings of human space exploration. Tom was the only member of his family to leave Earth and he couldn’t trace its involvement past his own interest, which grew out of summers at the lake. There he would float on the surface of the water, staring up at the night sky, and imagine himself among the stars. He couldn’t really fault Andre’s reasoning, but even if they limited the bears to this area of space, how was it possible that they were on so many different planets? They saw no signs of civilization, or of the material culture associated with civilization. Tom began to advocate a wait and see policy.They drove through round hills, following a course Tom had predicted would lead them to the tardigrades. Some hills were barren, but others were covered in leafy plants, many of which grew as high as trees, their stems twisting together to form a supporting trunk. In one place enough of these plants grew together to form a small grove. A forest primeval.Circumventing a small hill, they found themselves at the top of a cliff overlooking the sea. Andre drew the vehicle as close to the edge as he dared and the two suited up. There was a loud, rolling, droning noise, punctuated with pips and whistles. They walked to the edge and found themselves near the center of a wide, round bay. Fifteen meters below beneath them stretched a broad, gravel beach crowded with bears. Andre stretched out his arms, delighted at such early success, “There are hundreds of them! Congratulations!”Tom’s first response was to modestly wave off Andre’s praise, but he was also excited. Hundreds. The huge tardigrades covered the beach. He used his suit's vocal commands, “Adjust visuals. Increase magnification. Stop. Camera record.”The tardigrades were uniform in size, though their coloration varied from red, purple, blue, and gray. Roughly matching the vegetation. There were no youth or eggs anywhere. Watching them Tom thought of seals gathered together to find mates and breed. But they weren’t seals. He reminded himself of Andre’s earlier point: don’t let analogies color your judgment.Each bear had four pairs of legs and above each pair ran a hardened plate, dividing the bears’ torsos into four segments. The front and side borders of their scapular plates were smooth, but along the rear edge of these frontal plates grew a series of triangular points, with those on each side growing out to form much longer horns. Some Terran water bears had corresponding filaments growing from their plates. Each of their eight legs ended in four claws. They movements were supple, deliberate. Those in the water bore their weight so evenly that they seemed to be floating. On various parts of their bodies, though mainly on their heads and backs, were growths that reminded him of digitate corals. They shone with a pale bioluminescence. Were they parasites?At the water line was a pool shaped like an enormous tardigrade print. Time and water had eroded it and Tom suspected it was simply a depression in the ground. It looked about three meters across. How big would a water bear have had to have been to make that?Tom was about to raise the question with Andre when his visor lit up green and his suit's alarm system began an insistent warning: “Caution! Caution…”His feet seemed to give out from under him and for a moment he was unsure of what was happening. He leapt back as the edge of the cliff collapsed, taking Andre with it.“Andre!” There was no answer. “Andre!”He stepped towards to edge, then stopped. He could feel the ground shift beneath his feet. Was Andre dead or injured? The fall was high enough to kill a man, but Tom couldn’t assume his teammate was lost. He would have to get down there.Tom ran back to the rover. He knew the quickest way to get to Andre. He moved the vehicle up parallel to the cliff edge. It came equipped with a small service crane, intended to load heavy samples. Tom fastened himself into a harness and, using a remote, lifted himself over the broken edge. The cliff was a sandy grey, the areas exposed by the collapse a dull white. With the top missing, the remaining cliff face jutted forward, preventing him from a smooth descent. He jerked to a stop only a third of the way down. He couldn’t climb over it. Wherever he touched the cliff more dirt and rock was loosened and fell down towards Andre. This wasn’t going to work.Turning himself around, Tom looked down. He couldn’t see Andre, but he could see the bears. On the beach. In the water. They weren’t eating. They weren’t doing anything. They just seemed to be waiting. How were they going to respond when he drove the rover down to the bottom of this cliff?Tom quickly returned to the rover. It would take more than an hour to reach Andre. Even if he did survive the fall, would he survive long enough for Tom to reach him? It was too long for Tom’s peace of mind. He felt the tension growing down his shoulders and back. In his hands as they gripped the controls. He was angered at the senselessness of it all. They plan for every contingency so when accidents did happen it’s always seemed to be something unexpected, trivial. Something stupid. If Andre wasn’t dead, would Tom spend the rest of the mission caring for a wounded man? He tried to distract himself from these worries by concentrating on practical considerations. He did a mental review of the mission plans and tried to figure out how much could be accomplished alone, but that only brought back to his current situation. He saw a lot of tracks heading toward the shore, but he didn’t see any bears. He didn’t know why they were gathered, but it seemed they were all there.Tom moved the rover down onto the gravel beach. At first he didn’t seem to draw any attention, he planned to stay on the periphery, but he hadn’t gotten far before individual tardigrades began to separate themselves out from the larger group. They seemed to position themselves between him and those nearest to themselves. They would rear up on their four hind legs and arch their heads down, emphasizing the horns that grew out from their frontal plates. He slowed and watched them. Each was protecting a smaller group within the larger herd, but none were moving towards him.Unfortunately, the terrain of the beach drew him in closer to the bears. One of the bears stepped out and moved along side the rover. It reared up, placing its forelegs on the vehicle, like a dog trying to see over a fence. Tom watched it move around him on the external feeds. It seemed to be trying to look at the top. It came down and walked around the vehicle. It moved to the front and climbed up again. It ignored Tom, who sat only centimeters away on the other side of the windshield. Its underside did not have any plating, though there were skin folds around the legs. It climbed down, seemed satisfied and turned away. He was able to drive for several minutes before a second leader investigated him, this time without actually touching the rover. It walked in a semi-circle around the front and right side, pausing to rear up in a dominance display, and then turned its attention back to the water. They were all turning their attention to the water. That was just as well. Tom had driven as far as he could. If he was to get any further, he would have to do it on foot.He stepped cautiously from the vehicle. He wasn’t far from the cliff face that Andre had fallen down, but there was a lot of rocky ground to cover. He watched the herd. They were quieting down considerably. A dull drone was all that was left of the earlier clamor. They were anticipating something. But what? He would worry about that once he had his crewmate.The rocks were dry and bare. If he wasn’t in his suit, they would have been no impediment at all. Still, they didn’t slow him much. He could see Andre, face down amidst rock and rubble. Tom wanted to call out, but considered the silence. He didn’t want any attention now that he was outside the safety of the rover. From atop a rocky outcrop he could see the water stretched out before the bears. The surface glowed. It reminded him of the moon reflecting off the lake of his childhood. Tom hopped down and ran to the body. Whatever other injuries Andre had sustained during the fall, he had landed on his head. The visor plate was cracked and the connective brace between the neck and shoulders was buckled.Tom knelt beside the body. Confirming what was already obvious, he accessed the data port on Andre’s left forearm. “Health status?”There was no status to report.He ran a check on the suit’s diagnostics. They were fine. Undamaged by the fall. Andre Lumin was dead. He reached down, intending to turn the body over, but stopped. Andre deserved better. Not some stupid accident. Tom stood and began to consider the situation.He climbed back atop the outcrop. The water shone. “Natural optics.”The Brisingamen lit up the night sky and the bears’ skin tones shone with a spectral glow in the light of their coral-like growths. The light in the water was not a reflection. Something under the water was moving closer to the shore. The bears began to push forward. The ones in the back now crowded in with the others and the ones in the front hurried into the water. He could hear their footsteps and the splashing of the water, but they had stopped making any noise at all.Suddenly the source of the light emerged from the water. It swayed a bit as it climbed higher above the waves and was still some distance from shore. Only as a second one began to emerge did Tom realize what the first one was: a truly colossal tardigrade, at least thirty meters long. Nothing this big had walked on Earth for millions of years.It upper body was a city of light. It seemed completely covered in the cones. A luminous reef, walking in from the sea. As the first approached the shore a third began to emerge. The bears on the shore rushed towards them, crowding their feet without fear. The second and the third also climbed up out of the water and were approaching the shore. They moved slowly. Tom wondered if it was because of their great size--did they require water for mobility?--or were they just being careful not to step on anyone?With the first two were on the shore and the third close behind them, Tom stepped down from the rocks and began to make his way to the rover. One of the giants stopped. The other two looked to it. The hundreds of waiting bears stopped pushing forward. Tom was still. He watched the giant. The brightness of the cones on its head obscured its eyes. “It’s me,” he realized, “I’ve interrupted something.”The giant began moving in his direction. Tom stood there and watched it approach. The bears made a path for it. Its size compensated for its seemingly slow movement, and it quickly covered the ground between them. A small group of bears came forward with it. They too were covered in the glowing pillars. Intuitively, Tom understood that they were herd leaders.The group encircled him, standing shoulder to shoulder, as the giant stood over him. Looking up he could see the face and mouth of the giant. It reached out to him. His mind filled with images of suns and charts, routes and summers at the lake. He didn't know what to make of it. It was as though he had been asked a question he hadn't heard and was giving up answers he didn't understand. The journey to Idun. The landing. The arrival at the shore. Andre’s fall and his attempt to rescue him. The group now crowded in and he could see nothing but their faces pressed together and against him. He felt his heart beating, but he wasn’t afraid of them. A chorus of sound erupted. Things seemed to fold into themselves. For a moment everything went white, then black.He woke up feeling the wind on his skin. He was lying in grass, unsure of what had happened. His suit was gone. So was Andre’s body. He sat naked in a field of grass.The herd leaders gathered a few yards away. Stomping and murmuring, they were positioning themselves around a point he couldn't see. Their voices began to sing back and forth to one another. The pitch grew and modulated until it became the same sound he had heard while standing at the center. They bent space around themselves and blinked away. Again, it was as though his vision folded in on itself. A wave of vertigo washed over him. He held his eyes shut and buried his face in the grass.The disorientation passed and he stood. He was at the lake of his childhood summers. What had just happened? Andre had met his spacefarers and Tom had been brought back to the place where he had first dreamed of space. Dreams, memories, aspirations. If the bears of Idun had no connection to Earth before, they certainly had one now. He felt the grass on his feet, the coolness of the early morning, and began to make his way towards the water.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

World At Large: Kids These Days!

World At Large: Kids These Days!

By David Bird in Blog on April 12, 2011

I overheard someone complaining about the behaviour of teens. I live in a community where almost a fifth of the population is of retirement age, so that‘s hardly news. This time, however, the complaints were coming from someone who couldn’t have been much older than twenty. Still, not that surprising. As soon as children can talk, they start differentiating themselves from those younger than themselves. “I am not a baby!” is a complaint that starts with toddlers and seems to continue far into adulthood.This month, to broaden the World At Large’s subject matter, I thought I’d look at something other than politics and consider this perennial complaint. Are kids ruder, more out of control, than they were when “we” were kids? The answer is no, but quoting statistics and studies never seems to quiet the critics, so instead I thought I’d look at a few of the reasons why we, young and old alike, are not like the polite, well mannered people of generations past.Two of the most important reasons are wealth and democracy. They may seem like unlikely culprits, but manners were strongly connected to class and deference. The complex ordering of table utensils is a hold over from a time when good manners were a complicated part of everyday life. Well, complicated to us. The underlying principle was quite simple. Defer to the rich and powerful. Ignore the poor and minorities. As long as everyone knew who everyone else was, it wasn’t complicated at all. Would they really give up their seats to a lady? Sure, but they didn’t confuse ‘woman’ with ‘lady.’ They are not synonyms. A lady was a woman of property. The wife or daughter of a gentleman. A gentleman would not give his seat to the cleaning woman. He wouldn’t share a table with her in the first place. At one time not showing the proper deference had real consequences. Your ‘betters’ actually controlled your jobs, owned the land you lived on, and so forth, but as democracy spread, power shifted to the middle class and, nominally, at least, to everyone else. If we are all supposed to be equal, why would one person be privileged over another? Once the costs of poor manners disappeared, we lost a major incentive to exercise good manners.Wealth is connected to class, but its also connected to privacy and personal space. Today, ideally at least, the parents are the only members of the family who share a room. Each kid has his own. In many families there is also more than one television and computer. And this has an important impact on good manners. In 1800 the average family had seven kids. By 1900 the average had dropped to four. Today the number of children per family averages out to one. When you had nine people, seven kids and two parents, living in a small, often one or two room, home, manners provided a formalized code of conduct that created a psychological space around each member. We don’t have those spaces now. We don’t need to create a space within ourselves, because we have it outside ourselves. If you want to get away and have some privacy, go to your room and close the door. Its right there. Only a century ago, only the wealthy could do that. Now it’s the norm. A well mannered life used to be a necessary part of our external and internal conduct. We needed it to get through our day. We don’t anymore.Of course, beyond broad socio-political matters, if people were going to learn manners, they would have to be taught To be seen role modeled in our daily lives. And who is going to do that? The old couple down the street? When today’s seniors were kids, they weren’t running home to help mom and pop bring in the crops. No, they’d watch TV and listen to rock and roll. The teen as the suburban-television-watching-rock-and-roll-listening-juvenile-delinquent is a cliché that goes back over sixty years. Back then people were making the same complaints about kids we hear today, but kids then did have one advantage: the adults in their lives were willing to grow up and be adults. The Boomer generation is unique in wanting to celebrate and cling to its youth, but if Boomers are still young and hip, where does that leave their children--and, given how old many Boomers really are, their children’s children? Why they’re just babies. And you love babies, but treat them like equals? I don’t think so. And this brings us right back to the twenty year old complaining about teens. If we infantilize everyone under forty (or fifty, or sixty), we can hardly expect them to act like adults.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Donald On Marriage

Donald On Marriage

By David Bird in Blog on April 11, 2011

Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Testing... Testing... Is this thing on?

Testing... Testing... Is this thing on?

By Jude Terror in Blog on April 3, 2011

So I'm testing out the new blog template. Not much to see here, so I recommend you move along. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Still here? So I'm making the kids some chicken nuggets and tater tots. Got Wrestlemania on with the sound muted. I'm waiting for Amy to get home from work so we can watch it together, but the last time we tried to DVR a PPV, it cut out in the middle and recorded nothing but black screen. I called Comcast and they told me some bullshit like you're not allowed to DVR a PPV or whatever. They were definitely lying, because if you weren't allowed to DVR a PPV, why would you be allowed to DVR a PPV? Physically, I mean. On the box. So fuck them. But just in case, I decided that I'll keep this on while I'm DVRing, so I can see if it goes black again. If it does, I can cancel the DVR and we'll just have to watch it on the replay at 11PM. Pretty click set for Wrestlemania tonight. The ramp is shiny. Now I post some pics, to see if they work. Written or Contributed by: Jude Terror

Hellboy Volume 7: The Troll Witch and Others (October 2007)

Hellboy Volume 7: The Troll Witch and Others (October 2007)

By David Bird in Blog on April 1, 2011

Volume seven is a real boon to Hellboy fans, because it collects together a half dozen stories published outside the comic’s normal run. Four were published in a Dark Horse anthology series put out between 2003 and 2006. These were, in chronological order, The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, of Witchcraft, of the Dead, and of Monsters. I’d read a couple of these in borrowed copies, but as big a fan as I am, I didn’t feel compelled to buy whole volumes for one story each. The three other stories include one published in Wizard, an original tale done specifically for this collection, and one two parter that actually was published in comic’s regular run.Of the four gathered from the Dark Horse anthologies, “The Ghoul” and “Dr. Carp’s Experiment” are solid, if unremarkable, stories of Hellboy on assignment for the Bureau. All seven stories take place in the past, before our hero struck out on his own. ‘The Troll Witch” is easily the strongest and most effecting in the collection. Based on a Norwegian folktale, it tells the story of two sisters, one beautiful and one ugly. Or trollish. Hellboy is as much an audience member as the reader, but the story loses nothing for that. My favourite, however, is “The Hydra and the Lion,” which tells us the true story of one of the great figures of mythology. This story was done by both Mike Mignola and his daughter Katie. As far as I know, this story is their second collaboration. The other was “The Magician and the Snake” which won them an Eisner, making Katie, at age seven, the youngest person to win the award, and is collected in The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects. I enjoyed both stories enough to believe she could have a future following in her dad’s footsteps.Two of the remaining stories are unconventional vampire tales. The first, “The Penanggalan,” is drawn from Malaysian folklore and tells the story of an old woman who accidentally kicked her own head off and now it leaves her body, with internal organs still attached, and goes out to suck the blood of the living. Another solid story, first published in Wizard, I think its principal strength is that is shows up a pre-modern revenant. The second is “The Vampire of Prague,” illustrated by P. Craig Russell and written for this collection. (The P stands for Philip, by the way.) It tells of a man who is cursed to feast on the living until he can be beaten at cards. Russell was a good choice for a story that takes place in Prague. Its architecture and his art both invoke a fairy tale atmosphere. The story is a humorous one. Its moral: don’t give weapons of mass destruction to Hellboy.The last story is “Makoma.” Other than a few introductory and concluding pages, which were done by Mignola, it is illustrated by Richard Corben. Mignola says that he found this story in an Andrew Lang Fairy Tale book, but couldn’t remember which one. Luckily, I own all the Lang books and can tell you that it’s the first story in The Orange Fairy Tale Book, 1906, “The Story of the Hero Makoma.” He’s a Zimbabwean fold hero. The comic book version was published in two issues in 2006. The first half follows the original tale fairly closely, though in it the hero gained the powers of each giant he defeated, but the second half is all Mignola. This marks the first Hellboy story from Corben, he’s done a few since, and a move by Mignola away from illustrating. His return has been announce, but in the five years since this story, he has not been the principle artist of his creation.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Yes, People Are Strange

Yes, People Are Strange

By David Bird in Blog on March 31, 2011

Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Godzilla: King Of Monsters #1

Godzilla: King Of Monsters #1

By David Bird in Blog on March 30, 2011

Oops! When I did my March round up, I missed one. I was looking at my pull list and forgot all about a special new issue, Godzilla: King of Monsters. My local, Curious Books and Comics, was one of many shops who chose to get stepped on by Godzilla in an effort to boost sales. It certainly boosted the store's profile. More than one person, with zero interest in comics, but aware that I am a customer, had heard about the issue and asked me if I knew about it. And when I brought my copy back to work--I picked it up on my coffee break--a lot of people were checking it out and saying that it was a great idea.Now, personally I am no fan of the giant rubber dinosaur, so I won't be buying more issues, but the first one was good. He shows up and immediately sets to tearing Tokyo apart. The only head scratcher for me was seeing the Japanese use nukes, but I guess that's only slightly less likely than a giant fire-breathing dino. If you do like Godzilla, he is off to a solid start.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

March’s Comics

March’s Comics

By David Bird in Blog on March 25, 2011

Good news! I’ve come up with a great get-rich-quick scheme: pay me not to read your favourite comic! That’s right. Give me money or you’ll never see it again! Pretty much every comic I on my pull list gets delayed and delayed and delayed. This month I was supposed to get Infinite Vacation #2. Ha! B.P.R.D. is the only one that comes out on anything like a monthly schedule. Sure I want to move away from monthlies and towards trades, but if I hadn’t added a couple things this month I would have bought a grand total of two comics this past month. Two. I am not ready for that yet.B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Gods #3: Wow! This arc may have only been three issues long, but its been a great arc. A lot of people complained that the last one, King of Fear, which was meant to complete a much longer arc, was a bit of a let down. It certainly made for a dull finish. This one should have been the official end. Great cliff hanger and a huge question mark over the actions of Fenix and Devon. Were they right? What do they know?Batgirl 18 & 19: I had dropped Batgirl and all my other Bat-titles over the last two months, but since I was looking for something to beef up my comics reading I put Steph back on the list. Batgirl may not pull a lot of weight in the DCU. Its actions won’t see any consequences outside its own covers, but if you’re looking for a monthly comics fix this is a reliable, upbeat place to go.They were both solid issues, but I enjoyed issue 18 more. Klarion and Batgirl made for a delightfully funny duo. I particularly like Steph’s little confrontation in Limbo Town. Actually, I liked a lot of things in this issue and laughed out loud more than once. Steph’s quips are starting to remind me of a well written Peter Parker. (Come to think of it, if you throw in her time management problems…) Issue 19 strikes a more serious tone and seems to be bringing elements from earlier issues to a head. it’s the first of a two part-er. For those who’ve read it, please tell that’s meant to be a Bat-Mini Coop and not a Bat-SUV!Casanova Gula #3: Two very strong issues--and that's in spite of the first half being too quick a read. In a nutshell, we get an attack on E.M.P.I.R.E.'s lunar base in the first half and the aftermath in the second. We also lay the seeds for some serious debate/dissension about what it means to be human. Something I hope to see explored in future arcs.Each of these reprints has included an interview and this issue's is with Brendan McCarthy, who has returned to comics after twenty years in film and television. Very interesting. Who Is Jake Ellis? #1 & 2: I also picked up the first two issues of Who Is Jake Ellis?, a new title about a former CIA analyst, Jon Moore, who was detained by persons unknown and escaped due to the mysterious Mr Ellis. That makes it sound a lot more conventional than it is. Ellis is a shadow-like figure than only Moore can see or hear. Moore has been successfully hiding for a few years now, but as our adventure begins his covers blown and everyone is after him.So that’s March. A good month, all-in-all, even if I did have to bulk up my pull list.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

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