Friday, December 9, 2016 • Afternoon Edition • "Bring your own straight jacket."

Comic-book Cover of the Week winner for 9/7/11 was Swamp Thing...

Comic-book Cover of the Week winner for 9/7/11 was Swamp Thing...

By xaraan in Blog on September 17, 2011

Comic-book Cover of the Week winner for 9/7/11 was Swamp Thing #1 Click the image to go to the Outhouse for nominations for next weeks winner.Authors: xaraanRead more http://theouthouseblog.tumblr.com/post/10326231202

Spider-man redesign contest

Spider-man redesign contest

By xaraan in Blog on September 17, 2011

Artist and poster ‘fahd’ submitted some redesigns for Project Rooftop’s spider-man redesign contest and kicked off a thread discussing options for redesigns, getting poster input and talking about some of the other art submissions. “The idea was to show the intensity between Peter (the man) and the spider, and to just make people think whether Peter is in control of the spider or whether the spider is in control of him given even the movement of the costume.The spider is great power, while Peter (wants to be, or maybe is forced to be) great responsibility. This is why the costume is only in two colors.” There are several other designs showed off in the thread and as always a variety of opinions shared.  Links to some of the other artists are worth checking out as well, some great fan designs. Spider-man redesign contest threadAuthors: xaraanRead more http://theouthouseblog.tumblr.com/post/10325748111

Battle Royale

Battle Royale

By David Bird in Blog on September 12, 2011

Battle Royale (2000)Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, Starring Aki Maeda, Takeshi Kitano, Tatsuya Fujiwara, and Taro YamamotoThis eleven year old import has been getting a lot of press these past couple of years due to the similarities with the popular Young Adult series The Hunger Games. In Fukasaku’s movie the turn of the twenty first century has seen the collapse of Japan’s economy and social norms. The government’s response includes a program to keep teens in line, and provide entertainment for others at the same time: Battle Royale. Each year a class of high class students are abducted, brought to a isolated locale, and made to fight to the death. Each student is forced to wear a collar that will explode after three days—unless all the other students are dead. Its kill or be killed and the ultimate test of who you can trust, who your friends are, and how far you will really go to defend yourself.This year’s class is gassed while on a field trip and wakes up on an island that has been evacuated for the game. The entire class finds themselves in one room with Kitano, a teacher one class member knifed the year before, two “exchange students” they’ve never seen before, and enough soldiers to make sure everything is set off in a orderly fashion. After their orientation each student is given a bag that includes, among other things, their weapon. These vary widely. Some kids get machine guns, others pot lids. They leave the building one at a time and run out into the night.Fukasaku came into this picture with a directorial career that was decades long, and included groundbreaking films and many awards. It’s as well made and acted a movie as one could hope for, zipping along from fatal encounter to fatal encounter as each student has to make a choice—or have someone else’s choice forced upon them. Like Hunger Games, however, it has an obvious weakness: the kill or be killed concept is too strong. Audiences don’t want to identify with characters that can kill people, innocents like themselves, even if their circumstances require it. Killings happen fearfully, clumsily, accidentally, stupidly. Only one student, a girl named Mitsuko, really embraces the bloodlust. Another, Ogawa, another girl, refuses to play altogether, rejecting her bag and jumping from a cliff. Groups of friends band together for mutual protection, though, for some reason, that usually fails miserably. The movie relies on the two exchange students to keeps things moving. One, Kiriyama, is a psychotic, who has joined in for the thrill of killing. The other, Kawada, is a survivor of a previous Battle Royale, and brings his experience and judgement to bare—something the others, being children, don’t have. He teams up with a young couple and together they attempt to beat the system and survive.It all makes for a much more accessible movie, providing the audience with heroes and villains and more traditional story lines. I suspect that if it had relied on the series of vignettes of the kids responding to their situation, we would have had a very different movie. Perhaps a better one; perhaps one in which most of them were paralysed with fear and doubt and simply waited until the time limit ran out, hoping for some kind of rescue.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

A Fistful of Dollars

A Fistful of Dollars

By David Bird in Blog on September 6, 2011

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)Directed by Sergio Leone, Starring Clint EastwoodMy four year old wanted to watch something she’d never seen before, so I put on A Fistful of Dollars. Not what she was looking for, I suppose, but in my defence I’ve sat through a lot of kids movies and kids aren’t the most critical of audiences. Actually I expect to be watching a lot more movies on Mondays from now on. She starts kindergarten this week and will be in class next Monday. My wife also works Mondays, so I can get a couple of hours to sit and enjoy what I want and I’m looking forward to it.In 1964 Clint Eastwood was an American TV star who went to Spain to make a cheap Italian western. Apparently he was far from the first choice (that was Henry Fonda) but the end product would make him and Leone international stars and launch a whole new sub-genre of Westerns. The movie itself is a remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, a fact that didn’t escape the Japanese director’s lawyers and would cost Leone fifteen percent of his profits and some Asian disribution rights. Leorne repsonded by pointing out that Yojimbo was based on Red Harvest, which was based on the 18th century Italian play Servant of Two Masters (and people say Wikipedia is no good for anything!).In the movie an American gunman is on the Mexican side of the border and comes across a town in which two gangs are competing for dominance. He decides the best way to make a little money isn’t to join either group, but to play the two off one another. The leader of one gang has taken a woman from her family, claiming her husband owes him a gambling debt. The American plays his game skillfully, but the woman’s plight eventually forces him to put his better nature ahead of his better judgement.Fistful was so influential that its hard to watch it and realize how original it was. Eastwood’s film personae was largely created here. But almost 50 years later it remains a suspenseful and rivetting action film. Throughout the movie Eastwood’s character—called ‘Joe’ by the undertaker, but known to movie fans as The Man With No Name—uses his wits first and his gun second. That he’s a phenomenal shot is established early, when he insists a group of other gunmen apologize for frightening his mule, but his game depends on being able to out think the gang leaders; especially Ramon, who is as clever and as skillful a shot as he is, but also willing to kill anyone he needs to to make a dollar. If you’re a Western fan, you’re probably already familiar with this movie. If you consider yourself a film buff, but avoid Westerner—shame on your pretentious self!—you need to check this one out. Really, anyone who’s looking for a good way to spend a hundred minutes will be well rewarded for their time.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Hellboy Volumes 8-10

Hellboy Volumes 8-10

By David Bird in Blog on August 29, 2011

This project was originally conceived as a Hellboy/BPRD discussion thread, where each volume was discussed in publication order. Then it was pretty much just me, continuing in the same order. Now I am going to cut a few corners and hopefully finish it all up. I am going to do all the Hellboy titles together, then do the special stand alones (Abe, Lobster, and Witchfinder), the 40s Bureau stories, then the current Bureau stories. There are three Hellboy volumes. Volumes eight and nine, Darkness Calls and The Wild Hunt, launch the story that only just ended with The Fury, and volume ten is a collection of short stories. It may be more correct to say that Darkness and the Hunt represent the culmination of everything that’s happened to the Big Red One. They also represent the triumph of the mythic and folkloric elements of his story over its pulp fiction origins. There has been a bifurcation, with the former setting the tone for stories set in the present and the latter setting the tone for the nostalgic short stories--represented in Crooked Man and other short story compilations. Darkness and the Hunt are dominated by women: Hecate, Baba Yaga, Nimue, Alice Monaghan, Vasilisa, Morgan Le Fay, and witches. Lots and lots of witches. Events are set in motion when Igor Bromhead, a weaselly little confidence man we’ve met before, manages to trap Hecate, the Queen of the Witches, and attempts to usurp her throne. That doesn’t work out too well for him, but the witches are still left without a leader. They choose Hellboy. He says no. Enter another weaselly little character we’ve seen before, Gruagach. We first met Gruagach as the little goblin changling that was put in place of the baby Alice Monaghan. He fought Hellboy and ended up trapped in the body of a pig. Since then his hatred for Hellboy has turned into a bloody-minded call for revenge and destruction. So much so that he works to see an old pretender to the throne made Queen of the Witches, Nimue. Nimue is best known for sealing up Merlin alive a stone tomb, but in the Mignola-verse she is a character so dark that all of the other witches came to fear her. They killed her, chopped her up, put her in a box, and put the box in a deep well under the guard of a giant. With Hecate gone and Hellboy refusing the throne, the witches accede to Gruagach and free her. Back before facing Gruagach’s revenge Hellboy must face the anger of one of the most famous witches, Baba Yaga. Still upset over the loss of her eye she manages to call him into a mystical version of Mother Russia and sets her forces against him. Much to her consternation, she is not the only “god” in the “thrice-tenth kingdom” and other mythological figures are pleased to see her aims frustrated. His chief aid comes in the form of a little, Vasilisa, a Cinderella-like character who actually does appear in the stories of Baba Yaga. Vasilisa is instrumental in saving Hellboy and returning him to the real world. The Russian witch learns that she cannot take revenge on Hellboy. If she will get what she wants--in eye for an eye--she must wait until he is ready to give it to her. Events in The Wild Hunt begin with an olde English giant hunting club--seriously--and go on to reveal a lot about Hellboy’s past and future. Not long after the hunt, Hellboy travels to Ireland to see Alice Monaghan. Alice was swapped for Gruagach in 1959. That would put the girl well into middle age by now, but she’s still a beautiful, freckled redhead. Events quickly take them to Queen Mab and then to Morgan Le Fay. We learn a lot of stories in these two volumes, including Gruagach’s, and Hecate’s, but the most impressive is the story of Hellboy’s maternal ancestry. Le Fay was the mother of Mordred, who had a daughter, and that daughter had a daughter, and that daughter had a daughter... All the way down to Hellboy’s mother, Sarah Hughes. By the demon Azzael, Sarah had a son: Hellboy. The true heir to Arthur. I don’t know how that’s supposed to work. British monarchies, at least until Victoria, were not matrilineal, but let’s just go with it for now. Armed with his ancestor’s sword, Excalibur, Hellboy boy can save the world from Nimue’s blood lust. But there’s a catch. There is always a catch. If he does take up the sword he sets himself off down the path to fulfilling his destiny as Anung Un Rama. Considering how much more I’ve written about Hellboy volumes that aren’t nearly as important as these two, it feels a little odd to stop here, but, really, I could go on and go. Someday I might. In a comics market saturated with Big Events things happening here are truly seminal. Before I stop, however, I have to point out the work of artist Duncan Fegredo. A British artist, best known over here for doing a Jay and Silent Bob mini, he has done a fantastic job in both volumes. He’ll be stepping aside now, because Mignola is coming back to draw Hellboy again, but I am not alone in thinking Fegredo could be Hellboy what Guy Davis was to B.P.R.D. He’s that good. Volume 10, The Crooked Man and Others, is a collection of four short stories. The title story is a three issue mini drawn by Richard Corben. It was inspired by Appalachian folk tales and the the pulp stories of Manly Wade Wellman. I have to admit I had never heard of Wellman before opening this comic, his character Silver John, or John the Balladeer was a major influence on Mignola at the time he created Hellboy. I don’t recall any mention of him in the Hellboy Companion, however. “The Crooked Man” takes place in 1958. Hellboy has been on assignment in the South and decided he would “wander” his way back home, hiking through the Appalachian Mountains. There he comes upon a tale of witchcraft and deals made with the Crooked Man--a local incarnation of the devil. Or perhaps just a devil. For the purposes of this story it really doesn’t matter. Hellboy is no sooner on the scene than Tom Ferrell, a prodigal son and Mignola’s take on Wellman’s John, also arrives home after many years travelling. Together they face down the evil and set things right. Its a strong story, and all the stronger for Corben’s art. In his introduction Mignola says that he couldn’t have pulled it off without Corben, but in reading it my mind went a step further and wondered if it were written for Corben. It really seems to play to all his strengths. The other three stories are much shorter. “They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships” was put together as a free comic insert for a Hellboy video game. “In the Chapel of Moloch” was published as a one shot. And “The Mole” was a Free Comic Book Day giveaway. They’re all solid stories, but none of them are exceptional. That’s wraps up Hellboy to date. There are more volumes coming very soon, but I am far enough behind in this and don’t want to wait. Next up are three volumes each starring a different character: Lobster Johnston, Abe Sapien, and Edward Grey.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Summer Hiatus

Summer Hiatus

By David Bird in Blog on July 5, 2011

I've decided to take a couple of months off blogging. See you in the fall!Originally Pubished at: David Bird

June's Comics

June's Comics

By David Bird in Blog on July 1, 2011

50 Girls 50 #1: I picked this up because I am a sucker for retro SF comics, but I don’t expect it to end up on my pull list any time soon. It’s written by Doug Murray and Frank Cho, but drawn by newcomer Axel Medellin. The premise is that Y chromosomes are somehow “incompatible with wormhole travel” and so we get a fleet of ten ships staffed by all woman crews, seeking resources Earth desperately needs. This story focuses on two members of the ESS Savannah, who crash land on a planet whose atmosphere contains chemicals that rapidly corrode plastics. And wouldn’t you know it! Their clothes are pretty much all plastic. Nobody’s aiming very high here.B.P.R.D.: The Dead Remembered #3: I’ve been skeptical about this one since it was announced, and I will admit that it’s proven better than I expected it to be, but it’s still just okay. I can’t really say that it has added much to the series as a whole.Batgirl #22: The good news: another fun issue, with Steph traveling to London and teaming up with Squire. The bad news: this is a two parter and the second part will be in Batman Incorporated #9. That’s not even released until August 10, the same week as the last issue of Steph’s run.Dark Horse Presents #2: On the whole this issue keeps pace with issue one. There are no interviews or prose stories, however, and only three of the ten stories weren’t continued from issue one—and two of those three launch stories that will be continued in issue three. I like the episodic stories, but I think the series would be stronger if there were consistent number of stand alone stories too. Mix up the formats as well as the genres!Hellboy: The Fury #1: As soon as I put this down I realized I’d made a mistake reading it first. Nothing else this month was going to measure up (and nothing did). Hellboy takes on Nimue and the all the good men of England stand behind their rightful King. The Big Two have spent the last five or six years selling epic events, but there’s more awesome in this one issue than in any ten of the recent events.Who Is Jake Ellis #4: The penultimate issue sees Jake lead Jon through a building that could hold all the answers, or send him back to square one. It’s a tense, straight ahead thriller that sets up the answer to the titular question. Very good.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

All Nighters #1

All Nighters #1

By David Bird in Blog on June 15, 2011

Writer: David Hanh, Artist: David HahnPublished by Image Comics 2011Image Comics has become home to another orphaned title. Last year it rescued Brandon Graham’s King City from Tokyopop’s discontinued OEL line—only half of which saw print before cancellation—this year it’s rescued David Hahn’s All Nighter.All Nighter was originally done for DC’s MINX imprint. MINX was a young adult line aimed at teenaged girls and headed by the much vaunted Karen Berger. The whole line was cancelled in just under a year and a half, leaving Hanh with a nearly completed OGN and no publisher. At the time he was quoted as promising to see it in print. It’s taken him a couple of years, but here it is.All Nighter is the story of Kit Bradley, an art student needing to make some changes in her life. At the top of her list is dumping Dwayne, her long time boyfriend and partner in crime. I don’t mean that figuratively. The two make ends meet with the occasional B & E. The book gets its title from the local hang out, a 24 hour diner catering to twenty-somethings. We meet her family, her two roommates, one of whom works at the diner, and we meet two more characters, Martha, who, if solicits are to be believed, will prove very important, and Jim, who stirs up some tensions among the roommates. On paper Kit is not a very sympathetic person. She steals and lies and, she claims, has killed her mother, but she doesn’t come across that way at all. She comes across as a real person, frustrated at not being able to put her adolescence behind her—a sign that Hahn’s skills as a writer are a match for his skills as an artist and that his new mini is off to a strong start. But you don’t have to believe me. Hahn has put the entire first issue online. He sent me the link last month and I owe him an apology for not getting this up sooner. My offline life has been crowding out my online life a little too much lately. But check out the link. Read it, enjoy it, and pick up all five issues!Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Make Me One With Everything

Make Me One With Everything

By David Bird in Blog on June 15, 2011

I don't know who Karl is, but I'm impressed! If I were to ever meet the Dalai Lama, I'd like to think I'd try something like this.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Captain Canuck

Captain Canuck

By David Bird in Blog on June 13, 2011

Support for the Vancouver Canucks is everywhere in the city. If you go down to the Victoria Harbour promenade, you'll find that even Captain Cook has joined in and is now sporting a team jersey. Local Boston Pizza franshises have been re-named Vancouver Pizza for the duration of the playoffs.Right now Vancouver is leading 3-2 and needs only one more win to take the series. Game six is tonight and I hope they finish it, because my schedule won't let me watch game seven and there'll be no point in trying to watch it later. If they win, you'll hear the celebrations all through the city. So, here's hoping they win tonight.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Spider-Nam

Spider-Nam

By David Bird in Blog on June 8, 2011

James Stokoe, author of the fantastic Won Ton Soup and (the not really my thing) Orc Stain, has put his spin on the Amazing Spider-Man. It's just four pages on his blog, but Marvel would be crazy not to incorporate this into their next volume of Strange Tales.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

If You Believe In Yourself, You Will Know How To Ride A Bike!

If You Believe In Yourself, You Will Know How To Ride A Bike!

By David Bird in Blog on June 4, 2011

Originally Pubished at: David Bird

World At Large: Rapture Ready?

World At Large: Rapture Ready?

By David Bird in Blog on June 1, 2011

Still here? Me too. As everyone knows, the end of the world came and went on the 21st of May. Harold Camping, a television minister who preaches a numerological based form of end time prophesy, had predicted that at 6 p.m., in each consecutive time zone, God’s judgment would begin with earthquakes and the righteous being “raptured” to meet the Lord. In the thirty years since I’ve become a Christian I’ve run into these ideas before, though never one that generated as much media interest, and never one that has generated as much contempt—not just within the groups that you’d expect, but within the Christian community as well.But for all the attention Camping drew to the idea the God was going to ‘rapture’ His people away, there was little discussion of what exactly is meant by the concept. There was even less discussion of how it is actually a new teaching—one unheard of before the mid-nineteenth century, when it was promoted by an Irish clergyman named John Nelson Darby. Darby’s teaching, collectively called Dispensationalism, would later form the basis of the Schofield Study Bible (1909), which would promote it throughout the US and UK. A distinctive feature of Dispensationalist eschatology, the study of the end times, is the idea that the Church will ascend to meet Jesus in the air before His actual return to set up an earthly kingdom. A lot of terrible things will precede Christ’s return, but Darby taught that the Church would not have to suffer through them. Christ would take His people safely out first. In spite of efforts by its advocates to prove otherwise, no one taught this doctrine before the rise of Dispensationalism.Eschatology has always been an important part of Christianity. Arguably Christianity itself grew out of Jewish eschatology and the expectation that the Messiah was coming and that he would bring justice for his people and peace on earth. When the Messiah did come (hey, I am a Christian after all), things didn’t quite meet their expectations. He came, sure, but instead of setting up an earthly kingdom He set up a spiritual one. He was crucified, buried, resurrected, and ascended into Heaven, promising to come again and bring about the sort of triumphant new world the Jews had been expecting in the first place. The first generation of Christians fully expected to see this happen in their lifetime. When some of them died without seeing it, others began to worry. Paul wrote to believers in Thessalonica:But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.1 Thessalonians 4:13-17And in the next chapter he wrote:Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:1-11While they often cite of verses as well, these two passages are the hooks on which the Dispensational idea of a separate “rapture” of the Church hang. Verse seventeen of chapter four, highlighted in the first quote, describes the Church rising to meet Jesus on His return. But what Paul is writing about is not the escape of the Church. He is addressing a concern that members of the Thessalonian church had regarding those who had died waiting for the Second Coming. Paul assures them that all of Jesus’ followers will rise to meet Him, not just those still living when it happens, and that’s how it was understood for almost the entirety of Christian history.Verse nine of chapter five, highlighted in the second quote, is quoted to prove that the Church will not have to suffer the wrath God will pour out on the Earth before He returns, but the point Paul is making here is that the Church is meant to walk uprightly and that we should do exactly that. We were not meant for Hell, the “wrath,” but for Heaven. And, again, that’s how it was understood through most of Christian history. When I say these interpretations were held for most of Christian history, I mean universally held. They are still held by the majority of Churches. One of the interesting things about Dispensationalism and being ‘rapture ready’ is their dominance over Christian media, particularly in the US. It’s a dominance that tends to overshadow other positions. Historically, most Americans followed the Calvinist teaching of the Puritan forefathers and were Postmillenialists, believing that the coming of the Lord would be ushered in by the evangelical work of the Church, which would create a universally Christian world and only then would Jesus come.Being a Pentecostal, pre-tribulation Dispensationalism was one of the first things I was taught. Almost immediately I saw that the idea of the Church escaping the Great Tribulation, as its called, was inconsistent with many scriptures and I adopted what is called the “post-trib” position. This accepts the historic—and, yes, scriptural—teaching regarding the Church and the tribulation, but retains the Dispensationalist understanding of the Bible and the Church. Over time, however, due to the inconsistencies of Dispensationalism, I studied the matter out and rejected it altogether. (This was one of the first things I blogged about.) Ultimately I decided that what was more important than any of the ‘isms’ was that I be ready. That I walk as a Christian each day, living the values I profess, so that I will be ready whenever He comes. Whenever that happens.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

A New Look?

A New Look?

By David Bird in Blog on May 30, 2011

Yes, I've been messing around with the look of the blog. No, it isn't final.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

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

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