Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Lazarus Book 4: Poison (#16-21)

"I have seen the wrath of God in a Lazarus... and I had to look away" - Sister Bernhard

Time for the another look at the dystopic future world of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's series Lazarus.  The titular Lazarus is a woman called Forever "Eve" Carlyle, the youngest of the five Carlyle children, genetically modified to have superhuman strength and speed as well as being able to recover from lethal injuries just short of decapitation.  The world she lives in sees every country ruled over by either a single family or split amongst a couple, this providing the main conflict of the series as the former USA and Canada are divided between the Carlyles who own most of the west and their bitter enemies the Hock family who run the eastern side.  In the last volume we find out that apart from Eve the rest of the Carlyles are very long lived and Jakob Hock had taken the errant Carlyle, Jonah, prisoner in an attempt to unlock the secret of their long lives.  A Conclave was called in book 3 and Eve defied orders from her father to assassinate Jonah and let him escape. After a duel with Sonia Bittner, Lazarus for Hock's allies the Bittner family which Eve won, Jakob was ordered to give up all the research he got from Jonah.  Instead he spat some kind of poison at Malcolm Carlyle and declared war on his family, which, thanks to various treaties and alliances would drag several other families into the conflict as well and it is some weeks later with war in progress and Malcolm still incapacitated that we begin Book 4.

This book also reintroduces us to the two characters Michael and Casey who first appeared in book 2.  Formerly of the social class "Waste", they were elevated into "Serfs" during the annual Lift; Michael on merit due to his extreme intelligence and Casey on Eve's recommendation after she bravely took down a suicide bomber.  Michael is now studying medicine at Stamford university and Casey is in the army.

Before the "Poison" arc starts proper, we have another interlude, this one called "Mercy". It follows the group of nuns who travel around the former US giving medical aid to those who can't otherwise access it.  The story is told via one of the nun's journals as well as computer readouts and online conversations. They are travelling into Hock territory, which is the most hostile of the three that control various parts of the US and Mexico.
The mysterious virus is delivered
The story deals with one of the nuns having a crisis of faith and getting involved with a plan to release a modified virus.  When she meets the person who is to give it to her, they are ambushed and the doctor with the virus kills every one of the soldiers and before dying, injects the virus into the nun.  With no options left to her the nun having fully lost her faith leaves the mission, which appears to be in a warzone now, but ends up being caught by Hock soldiers (it's possible she meant this to happen) and as she is being beaten, a masked Lazarus appears on the scene and destroys her assailants then reveals himself to be Joachim, Morray's Lazarus and that she is "safe now", she tentatively reaches for his hand and her cross swings off it.  Which ends the interlude on a note that will surely be picked up in later issues.

The Poison arc then starts in a place called "Duluth".  Carlye and Hock forces have engaged each other there, Carlyle hold the city and have to stop it falling to Hock or the whole tide of the battle will turn.  Casey's unit is fighting there and pitched combat takes place in the snowy town.
Fighting in Duluth.
Eve is at Carlyle's base in the Southern Sierra Nevada watching her father on a hospital bed the Hock poison that incapacitated him keeps mutating everytime the find a way to stop it. Bethany, Eve's sister, says "he's going to stay like that forever.  Until we either find a cure.. or lose the battle." Eve goes into his room and holds his hand:

Eve: "The war... it isn't going well. You planned for this.. I know you did...you had a plan. What do I do daddy.  Tell me what I should do..."

We then cut to Lazarus Sonia Bittner, her family having come over to Carlyle's side.  She is being purged of all Hock's chemical treatments which is somewhat unpleasant for her.
Eve looks in on Sonia.
Eve comes to check on her, and Sonia says she doesn't like being seen like this.  But Eve reassures her they have both seen each other at their worst.  Sonia thanks her for evacuating her sister and mother and she is grateful.  Eve is then called away to a briefing.

The war briefing mainly focuses on Duluth and how losing it would be "catastrophic".  They'd lose a supply line and Hock would have a foothold in their territory they could resupply from and begin a full blown invasion.  The tactic now is to clear Hocks air defence their so they can safely resupply and reinforce the troops there.  The decision is made to send Eve to Duluth.

Eve leaves and bumps into her sister Johanna who is a little annoyed she wasn't invited to the briefing, Eve brushes her off.  She goes into to see her brother Stephen who as the eldest is running the family now.  Stephen is being reassured by his male lover Rihan that he is a better man than his father.
Johanna, Stephen and Rihan.
Johanna tells Rihan to "fuck yourself off" and he leaves.  Stephen says she's a "full bitch" today. She tells him Rihan needs to know his place, "he's a jumped up serf who landed in your bed.  Not a member of the family".

Irritated, Stephen asks what she wants. She says she wants to help, but he and Eve won't let her and Eve just blew her off. "She not supposed to be able to do that" she says.  Stephen says she should concentrate on keeping her domain secure and leave running the war to him.  She says she gets the feeling that since the Conclave, Eve has been telling him Johanna's help isn't wanted.  But "she's not in charge of the family right now.. you are."

We then find out what Michael has been up to, he's been attending Stamford University. As he walks chatting with a friend, the principal brings Bethany to meet him.  He's been doing some theoretical work on "rapid in vivo predication and response in the HLA-complex".  She tells him to pack a bag and come with her.

Stephen is recruited by Bethany.
Then we hook up with his friend Casey in the barrack at Duluth.  She gets a promotion from Lance Corporal to Coporal for her general badassery.  A new guy joins them and they get "special assignment".  They sit down and are introduced to Eve, who says "you are mine now".

Eve: "Together we are going to secure Duluth and kill every last Hock son of a bitch we can find".

We then jump forwards to Eve taking out a squad of Hock soldiers.  She returns and the whole squad move out on patrol.
A Lazarus in action.
Michael meanwhile has been taken to the Carlyle compound where Malcolm lies in the grip of the Hock poison.  Michael is advised by James that this place holds a lot of top secret work and there are restricted areas he'll be shot if he enters.  He is taken into see Malcolm, and Bethany is there as well.

He examines him and says it's a systemic attack and is it adapting on the genetic level?  Bethany says it is hence their interest in his work. She tells him this is the probably the best equipped research laboratory in the world, he will have anything he needs to cure Malcolm.

Back in Duluth, Eve and the squad hunker down in a wrecked building until nightfall.  Casey asks if Eve remembers her.  Eve gives a potted account of Casey's experiences at the Lift and says, "we both know what it means to fight despite the pain".  Casey smiles to herself.

Then we cut to Johanna meeting up with her brother Jonah's ex-bodyguard. He says she betrayed him, he turned on her brother for her and now he's mopping floors.  She says he can have it all back if he does one little thing for her...

Stephen is talking with a man called Edgar (Morray) about the war situation. Bittner has collapsed in western Europe and D'Souza has been able to focus their attention to his forces in the south.  They need reiforcements.  Stephen isn't sure they can spare anyone.  Edgar says Malcolm had a plan for this, and Stephen says well he didn't share it with him. The conversation ends, and Rihan comes in and comforts Stephen.
Stephen feels the pressure.
At the medical compound, Marisol (Eve's trainer) is helping Sonia Bittner recover from purging all the Hock crap out of her system and getting her back in shape.  Michael is in the room studying and Marisol teases him saying she doesn't know who he is.   But puts him at ease and leaves with Sonia saying it was a pleasure to meet him.

In Duluth, Eve and her squad take down another Hock one.  Eve then says their intel is soft but the first air defence emplacement is about a klick and a half away. Suddenly one of the not quite dead Hock soldiers puts a bullet right through Eve's brain.  The others shoot him then go to their fallen commander who shows no signs of life.
Uh-oh...
The alarms back at the Carlyle medical facility go off to let them know Eve has "died".  There's something wrong.  The unit start squabbling about who's fault it is, turns out it was the new guy.  They anxiously wonder if she'll come around.  Those monitoring her say her core temperature is plummeting, "I think we've lost her."

When the unit realise she might actually be really dead, they decide to carry on their mission.  Casey takes control.  There are protests:

Casey: "We have our mission and we are going to complete it.  So grab your straws and suck it the fuck up."

They move out and leave Eve's body behind taking her sword with them.  Bethany contacts Stephen and tells him that they have lost Eve.  She wants to know if they should activate the "termination protocols."

The first protocol is to recover the body, which Stephen points out is in the middle of a warzone.  Stressed he says he'll inform Johanna who is having dinner with Jonah's former bodyguard Mason.  She authorises him to do something nefarious saying she update his chipset, he's to tell anyone who stops him that he's to escort "her" to Johanna.   He'll then bring her to Vancouver where she'll be waiting to "auction her off to the highest bidder."  Mason reluctantly agrees.
Johanna plots away.
Marisol is supervising Sonia Bittner, who is still weak after her system was purged fully of Hocks chemical enhancements.  Marisol says she is pushing herself too hard, Sonia says "every minute I am not ready is a minute I am not helping". James and Bethany have provided Sonia with new enhancements, which are bought in to her.  Sonia asks if Eve takes these and Marisol says, "since she was very young".

Casey's team creep through he snow in Duluth and make it to the first air battery, "now what?" one of them asks.  Then we cut to a Hock unit finding Eve's body.  Back at the medical facility James realises what happened, Eve stopped taking her treatment regime,  She's still going to recover it's just the process has been "retarded."

And Eve comes to and attacks the soldiers who found her.  She is feral to start with, but as James and Michael monitor her, her memories and personality come back online as well and James sends Michael to fetch Bethany.  He leaves and bumps into Mason who is sneaking about the facility.  Eve takes out the whole unit with ease and stands recovered, thinking about what to do next before walking out into the streets of Duluth.
Lazarus arises.
We then cut to Johanna meeting with family friend Arthur. He tells her Eve was almost lost but they have got her back.  Johanna says Eve might be the "only thing keeping this family standing".  He tells her representatives of the Moray and Carragher family are arrving tommorrow, they are coming to see if Carlyle can still head this alliance.

She says Stephen will reassure them, Arthur says "we both know he won't."  He suggest Bethany would make a better family leader in these circumstances.  She says Stephen won't voluntarily step down, and they'd never convince him.  Arthur shows her something on a computer pad and tells her to talk to him and do it soon.

In Duluth Casey's team move ever closer to their target.   They discuss their plan, and the new guy admits he really doesn't want to be here.  "Join the fucking club" says Casey. At Carlyle headquarters  Johanna finds Stephen's lover Rihan.  She says to him "I know why you haven't told him".  She says she knows he didn't tell Stephen because he might do something rash and send him to James for treatment:

Johanna: "And because you love him as much as he loves you...you don't want to get him into trouble."

Rihan takes the data pad.  He says he and Stephen have been together for twenty years.  Malcolm allows it but they are forbidden to marry. "I'm a serf.  That's all your family will let me be".

He says the tremors are getting worse and he's having a hard time maintaining his balance. Stephen hasn't noticed yet because he's been so overwhelmed with the war. He asks if Johanna is going to tell him.  She say no, she is offering a deal.  We don't find out what it is, because we see Rihan leave.
Johanna plans...
Then Johanna phones the people in charge of the security in the place to tell them she needs an alert putting out for an "illegal chipset". "I need all permission revoked immediately" she says.

Elsewhere, Sonia, Marisol and Michael are relaxing and chatting. Sonia says she has two sisters, Michael says he has none now.  Marisol is an only child.  Sonia says she and her sisters have never met their father, her mother says there would be "no point".  Marisol picks up a message and leaves saying she forgot to take care of something.

Mason is in a restricted area.  Suddenly Marisol attacks him and disarms him when she tells him he doesn't have the priviledges to be there.  He tries to tell her Johanna sent him, but she shoots him in the face.
One loose end dealt with.
Back with Sonia and Michael he asks her about the regime she is on, and that it's the same as Eve's.  He starts thinking because Malcolm would be on a similar treatment regime.  Marisol returns saying Eve is Sonia's favourite subject, when asked if everything is all right, she say "right as rain".

In Duluth, Casey's team finally engage the enemy. Under supressing fire "new guy" sneaks in and attaches an explosive to the air battery.  He slips away and there is a big explosion.  The team pull back and meet up again with New Guy.  Then their escape route is cut off by a tank.  It fires but not at them, at the Hock troops coming up behind them.  When they are all dead, Eve stands up in it and politely asks Casey for her sword back.

Eve sits on the tank and gobble some rations.  Casey tells her they really thought she was dead, she asks what happened "I made a mistake" says Eve (in the previous book Jonah planted the seeds of doubt over just what the treatments she takes are actually for).  They are going to attack another battery tommorrow and she orders them all to get some sleep while she is look-out.
Eve back in control.
The next day, Moray and Carragher arrive with their Lazari  which panics Stephen.  Johanna says to Johanna that they don't trust him with their father at death's door.  He sighs that he thought he'd do better than this.  He says Rihan won't tell him what she promised but she should "do right by him".  Then he goes to the meeting.

Michael goes to see Bethany who is by her father's bedside. He asks for some of her DNA.  She says DNA comparison has been tried and didn't work.  He knows that but because the toxin is so adaptable Hock must have used DNA from a member of the family to create it.   Bethany realises, "he fucking mapped Jonah".  They rush out of the room.

In Duluth Eve and her team use the tank to advance on the next air battery.  It comes under heavy fire and they move on to take a bunker in a strategic position.  The tank is taken out but not before they've blown a hole in the bunker. Then they rush with Eve in the lead and finish the rest off.  Eve tells them to fall back to this position, she's going to take out the fire team.

At the meeting, Carragher points out that their coalition is under fire across the world and it looks like Carlyle territory is about to be overrun and it looks like they are losing the war.  Johanna says "looks can be deceiving".  And things are about to change,
In the Hock control room.
Eve breaches the air support control room and kills everyone inside.  She then broadcasts on the Carlyle frequency that she is in control of target "Greyhound" and that their forces can advance.   The meeting back in headquarters are aso watching as Eve uses that air battery to destroy the final one.  The uplink of it's position has to be done manually and Carragher says she won't have time. "You underestimate my sister" says Johanna.

Casey's team are under heavy fire, and one of the is killed so they fall right back into the bunker.  Another is taken out, now only Casey and one more is left.  Eve takes out the final gun and the air is clear for Carlyle forces to move back into action she orders an air strike on the position she in to take out that gun now it's served it's purpose.

She goes and finds where Casey and the other soldier are holding the line from Hock attack. They move further into the bunker although Eve is hit a few times.  Johanna tells the watching people, "the tide just turned".  And would they like to stay for dinner to dicuss what to do next?
Things look grim for Eve.
After the airstrike Casey and the other one look for Eve.  She's been crushed under some masonry and lost a leg.  She looks quite dead and her sword has been broken.  "She'll come back" says Casey.

Back at the medical facility Michael's idea is working, it seems Malcolm might get better. Marisol appears and says "she's gone walkabout".  When James asks how, Marisol says:

Marisol: "She's a fucking Lazarus.. it was only a matter of time before she slipped the leash".

As they order a lockdown and James goes to track "her", we cut to Sonia Bittner praticing with her sword and suddenly a young girl with a sword walks in and introduces herself, "my name's Forever by the way.  Nice to finally meet you".
A new Eve appears...
And THAT is a cliffhanger!  I'd always been curious as to why Eve was so much younger than the rest of the family but I hadn't realised there would be a Eve production line in operation even though in retrospect it makes perfect sense.  It also makes the lack of love shown to Eve by the rest of her siblings understandable if she's just part of a long line of engineered killers abandoned and replaced when they finally get killed, the bodies used to udpate the next one.  Overall the book is tremendously exciting and great to see humble serfs Michael and Casey continuing to prove their worth to the "masters."  Michael Lark's artwork continues to impress, especially the snowy landscape of Duluth where visibility is almost zero sometimes but you can still tell what's going on.  And he continues to be master of depictions of hand-to-hand combat.  Greg Rucka builds a real web of intrigue with Johanna's machinations at the centre of it, and to be fair she does show more confidence and strength when dealing with the other families than "nice" Stephen does even if Bethany is the one being lined up to take his place.  Using Stephen's partner against him is a low blow, but perhaps neccesary if the war is to be won, and with the prospect of Malcolm recovering, thinks don't look as bleak for Carlyle at the end of the book than at the start.  We have as well as what's going on with the infected nun and the her being rescued up by Morray at the start of the book to be unravelled as well.  Look out for volume five coming soon to this blog.

18 comments:

  1. Gosh, where to start? I know, somewhere completely off-tangent.

    Your initial paragraphs for me thinking about the prevalence in stories of decapitation as a sole vulnerability. Zombies, vampires, the lass here, inexplicably French accented highlanders etc. Now of course us normal (albeit badass) humans are also somewhat affected by having our heads chopped off. *So we actually did something about it!* Neck protection in the form of gorgets (steel) or stocks (leather) have been a common form of armour pretty much since about five minutes after we invented swords. You'd think in a world like here that has brought the sword back as a melee weapon they might have resurrected that too. Especially as otherwise Eve has some pretty practical looking armour.

    Funnily enough I was watching a Remembrance Day related documentary the other day about real life war horses. As part of that there was a discussion with some modern horse guards about the practicalities of the sword in modern combat.

    But back to the story. It reminds be a bit of things like Gatacca and In Time (which I only found out the other day were by the same bloke, which explains a lot). Not just the idea of an elite and an underclass but the slightly retro and achronisitc style. Glamour and squalor. Future tech and cocktail parties. Intrigue and ennui.

    I was perhaps a bit less surprised that Eve was one of a series of clones. Weirdly I'd assumed she was from your previous blog. That's interesting. I wonder if it was something about being a step back from the subject matter that made it clearer; like a Monet painting. I wonder if subconsciously you *did* know and that influenced your earlier take on this so you left some subliminal clues that I picked up on?


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  2. Some of the Lazari have helmets that attach to their armour, Eve seems a little reckless in comparison. Well she is 19 and possibly has been "programmed" that way so an updated model can be released as soon as possible.

    ANd mentioning that, honestly the fact she was part of a production line was a complete surprise to me, but I must have been unconciously aware as you say because like Saga, I'm making it a policy not to read the next volume in the series until I have written up a post on the one I am up to. Volume 5 isnn't out until Januray and I am fair champing at the bit to read it now!

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  3. Maybe she just likes to show off her pony tail? And nobody likes 'helmet hair'. Top tip though: if you're ever in a position where you want to surrender always take of your helmet. It minimises the chance of you getting shot (also sunglasses)

    Speaking of combat, the artwork is very good on that. It can be very difficult to get right (in the sense of realism). I wonder if he uses reference material? Or maybe he just sets up those little wooden dummies in fight poses. That'd be pretty cool actually. Hours of fun, especially if you do the dialogue.

    Of course whilst the moves may be realistic from an anatomical point of view they're arguably (from the limited sample here) a bit sporty. Then again practical moves look a bit unspectacular even in moving media, so probably even more so in static art. I'll go along with your suggestion that Eve is a bit reckless for whatever reason as an in story justification and imagine there's an off panel scene where that tutor bollocks her for high kicks and not wearing her helmet.

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  4. I think the helmetless thing is perhaps a combination of showing her as young, reckless and confident but also a way to differentiate her from the often facially armoured soldiers so it's an artistic choice as well.

    Same with the sword combat, Michael Lark does I think a pretty good trade-off between making it feel real and also making it look interesting. In the previous issue when Eve had to fight Sonia (who is armed with a straight sword) they start with flourishes but as it wears on and they get tired and injured they start the close range headbutting, punching and disarms.

    Finding out there has been many Eve's makes me sad about Marisol her tutor now. In book 2 we see how Marisol was her mother figure (now it's totally obvious why Eve never met her mother) and finding out that Marisol takes on new ones knowing full well they are desinged to flame out and die young is a little tragic.

    That said, it did answer a question I have had as to why Sonia Bittner and the Muslim lass from book 3 could be such Eve fangirls when Eve is so young. And why Eve never questions this because she is drugged not to question or disobey.

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  5. I suspect it's mainly an artistic choice too. Helmets are a problem in media for that. It's a trade off between realism and being able to identify characters. Kubrick in FMJ got around that by encouraging the actors to customise their helmets (one of the few times he delegated an artistic choice). Cameron did something similar in Aliens (as no doubt you know)

    I wondered what you'd think about the sword fighting bearing in mind your expertise in this area. It's an interesting debate about their practicality as a weapon. Of course the best contribution to that debate is the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. My favourite commentary though on the subject is that brilliantly snarky guy in Blade 3 when he's demonstrating the gun.

    "Of course it doesn't have the range of a sword"

    I love all the philosophical implications of cloning and identity. It's a bit like in the residential evil film where there's gazillions of mila jojojojovavivivitches. The best take I've ever seen on that though is in a story where teleportion works by making a copy of the original but without destroying it. It's a bit like the Tom Riker stuff but done really well. (there's an instory reference to the philosophical training candidates actually receive that explores the issues)

    Of course a lot also depends on whether memory and consciousness is also copied. In pure cloning then arguably every eve is an individual. But that raises issues too. She's effectively from a family of hereditary slaves. No wonder they have to drug her. It took the Romans three servile wars before they realised training your slaves in combat wasn't the brightest idea. (The Spartans wouldn't even allow helots to handle weapons let alone learn how to use them)

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  6. Heh, yeah swords do have a range disadvantage. Now I suspect we have AL LOT more to learn about the functions of the Lazari in their various families but bear in mind so far we've only seen Eve, Sonia and Joachim in action and they all wield swords, they seem to be designed to take punishment until they can fight at close range and that's when they excel and are usually teamed up with normal folk who can suppress for them while they get in position. And if Eve is anything to go by they act as field commanders and warfare experts too.

    Of course I am waiting on volume five which is due out in January to find out more about clone Eve, right now it looks like they are different people just with the same upbringing. I'm wondering how much other Lazari know about this, like if Joachim keeps putting the moves on each Eve, or if he genuinely doesn't know either. Ah so many questions! Of course the downside of her not taking her drugs was it nearly killed her, so her family have her stitched up good. Still I've not seen her as badly wounded as she was at the end of this boon, fingers crossed for her because she's a cool character who poses a lot of interesting question about identity and the shenanigans her family get up to.

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  7. They remind me a bit of the weapon master characters in Dune (what we're they called) but even though they took care of everything from hand to hand combat to mass space battles they were primarily sword people. I think it's referenced in some of the books that sword fighting (as well as being practical in a culture where energy weapons or high speed ballistic weapons can't be used because of how shield technology works) also teaches you transferable tactical skills. I initially thought there might be some convention amongst the families to specifically limit combat to avoid escalation, but clearly that's not the case. Maybe lazeri do have a parallel role analogous to champions in the age of chivalry so that's why they dust up their close quarter skills? Who knows; but it's fun to speculate.

    I hope joachim doesn't put moves on new Eve. She looks about 15 dude! Eww.

    Unrelated: I watched silent running again last night. Someone must have been chopping onions nearby. How anti social. I had forgotten though just how sweet that bit is where one of the drones taps the other one to let him know Freeman has arrived. It was such s great directorial idea to use people inside the costumes and actually let them react as humans would. It's subtle but makes them such relatable characters. Can see why Lucas went down that route with R2.

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  8. Well the Lazari are supposed to fight and settle things between families as Sonia and Eve battled at the end of Conclave. But when Sonia lost, Jakob Hock was an extremely sore loser and just literally spat on the result (and Malcolm) and dragged everyone into the current war. I must say I'm curious as to why Hock seems to be the only family minus a Lazarus as he was relying on his now not-ally's the Bittner's to fight for him. He certainly doesn't lack the technology to create one. Mysterious.

    Silent Running, haven't seen it in year but can still remember it clearly. I might have to indulge in a dvd copy at this rate.

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  9. We have a saying "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". However I'm going to ignore that and assume there's some very significant reason for the lack of a lazarus, and it's not just a whim.

    Heh, now my mind's going down a linked stream of consciousness thing about things that aren't there being clues. Dogs that didn't bark. Holes in the ocean. That bit in the Star Wars prequel where they detect the invisible planet by its gravitational effect. There's probably something significant in all that, although it could equally just be I've got a combination of post court comedown and lack of sleep.

    I'll see if I make more sense after a nap!

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  10. Have a nice nap!

    The cool thing about creator owned series is you know that the writers have everything fully planned out, rather than having to be able to hand it off to someone else a couple of years down the line so don't plan many long term goals. So I trust Greg Rucka has his reasons, I just neeeeeeeed to know them now!

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  11. Ooh thank you, I did. The nicest part was that initial confusion when the alarm went off thinking 'bugger, I have to get up' then remembering 'ooh no, I can have a nice cup of tea and a bit of a chill, then go back to bed again'. That's sheer bliss. One of my favourite things when I was a kid was waking up in the middle of the night and it siling it down outside. Then just as the depression that you're going to have to go to school in that I'd remember it was a Saturday and I didn't have to. Oh I love that memory. I can still conjour up the feeling now.

    But I digest. Is it always the case that a creator owned series means there's a predetermined story line I wonder? It does of course allow for that but I wonder if authors always avail themselves of the opportunity. For every j Michael stravinsky (or whatever hes called) who does plot things out there may also be a Stephen King who just starts with a bunch of characters in a situation and then just allows them to go where they please. I can see the attractions of both methods. I love it when everything comes together at the end and you can revisit and see all the foreshadowing and chekhov's guns etc. But the free-form approach also has its benefits. I think it can lead to a more naturalistic storyline. Like real life not every set up has a payoff. In a way an 'anti' narrative can be very satisfying.

    Speaking of which, have you seen that thing where someone reviews the 20th century as if it were fiction? I think you'd like it, it's very clever. There's a nice bit criticisin WW2 for having a deus ex machina ending with a never before mentioned superweapon 'that is then promptly forgotten about, even though it would have been the obvious solution to the heroes predicament in the Korean and Vietnam episodes'

    But I think that does illustrate why sometimes a lack of coherence, when done well, can make for a very satisfying story, even if not everything is resolved or explained.

    The story here though is good whichever way he's doing it. If he is allowing himself to paint himself into corners he's come up with some interesting ways out to date. I don't know whether to he pleased or jealous that he's also written a love letter to the Sanbaggers. It's like the song Gordon is a moron, I accept his superior talents, but I'm still going to harumph a bit about them. :-)

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  12. Naps are great, I tend to have one a day due to my pain meds and they give me cool dreams as well.

    Yes I have seen that 20th Century "review" it's hilarious! I suppose it's difficult to know what a writer has planned out and what takes on a life of it's own. When I looked at the Cerebus series there is an entire volume where Cerebus and his creator talk with each other and "Dave" admits Cerebus took on a life of his own and things often turned out different from what he had planned.

    But then you have someone like Alan Moore who meticulously plots out his work from start to finish, if you read "From Hell" the amount of research he put into telling the story is amazing. More comic books need appendices!

    One series I am just writing up now, "Saga" I really do wonder if BKV is letting things develop as he goes along around a loose skeleton of a plot. I guess I won't know until he ends it. Although his earlier series "Ex machina" seemed very strictly constructed because the format was running a present day storyline around flashbacks that filled the background in slowly.

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  13. Well I'll reiterate my grumble that the danger of fleshing things out in flashbacks is you get a Clone or Time war. But to pick up on your point about new writers taking over, there was a story in 'Action' about a boxer called Blackjack. It was a very realistic take on how a young black lad from London had taken up boxing to escape racist bullying. Then the writer was told he was needed on a new story and someone else would be taking over (one of his mates actually) so in the last episodes he wrote he contrived a cliff hanger where Jack had to win a kung fu tournament to get his wife back from the mafia despite having suddenly gone blind.

    Seconding your love of appendices. I also like those little 'secondary source' things you get in Moore's work such as the experts from journals and newspaper articles. It adds a whole extra level of depth. I picked up some YA novel called Acid from the charity shop a while back and each chapter had stuff like an Internet page or a transcript of a police radio message or a pamphlet. It was easy to just skip over them to get on with the story (which was pretty self contained) but if you bothered to read them they added a load more detail about the backstory and additional explanations as to what was going on.

    Your my media guru, what's the term for when you tell a story through the use of documents? Like in Dracula? I love that when it's well done. Also, have you seen the original Andromeda Strain? That's very well done as although it's mostly just a film of whats currently occurring technically it's a flashback from the real contemporaneous story which is the enquiry into the eventd of the film. It's very subtly done but the little voice overs (from the enquiry) just add a whole layer of 'seasoning' as it were.

    "So you're telling this committee that the world nearly ended because of a piece of paper getting stuck?"

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  14. I'm afraid I'm going to have a media guru fail here, because I was trying to think of a similar term after I watched the film "Chronicle" which of course is a film assembled from a range of media sources. Not exactly the same but similar enough that it's bugging me there doesn't seem to be a term for it. Combing TVtropes (which I can access again yay for wasted time) hasn't helped.

    I'm a huge fan of DVD commentaries I love learning trivia and getting insights into the creative process, hence my love of appendices. DC have released some series like "The Sandman" in these HUGE Absolute Editions that have all the creative decisions explained and so on but as they cost around £70 a pop I haven't been able to indulge. Boo. Hell even a detailed introduction to a book is welcome, Garth Ennis writes particularly amusing and insightful ones.

    I have seen "The Andromeda Strain" though it was a looooong time ago. I like films with a pseudo documentary style like that.

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  15. Ooh it's bugging me now cos I'm sure there is a technical term. Heh, do I risk a tvtropes visit tomorrow? It's not exactly conducive to getting any work done.

    Yeah, there are quite a few films that I enjoy as much (sometimes more) for the commentary as the film itself. Same with written stuff. I'm a big Asimov fan and the introductions he does in his collected works are worth reading just on their own. Part autobiography, part analysis of the writing process and all hilarious. He had a wonderful touch for snarkiness and faux egocentricity.

    Andromeda Strain is one of my fave films. Scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. Combining women's studies and commentaries I'm sure you know that in the book all the scientists are men. The director wanted to add the woman scientist but the actress said she'd only do it if he avoided all the usual clichés (like fawning over the clever bloke who saves the day). He said he'd deliberately picked her just because he knew that wouldn't be the case and that's why she's such a wonderful character. Another great snarker, but completely believable in the role. And that almost documentary style is one of my favourite genres. AS is a great 'procedural'. I love films where they just plug away and apply logic in a totally realistic way.

    Although that bit in batman where he works out who the villains are is also cool too.

    "the sea has fish and where there's fish there are penguins! Also 'C' stands for Catwoman!"

    CSI eat your hearts out.

    Right I'm now gonna hit the hay and try not to stay awake wondering what that word is.

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  16. Ooh it's bugging me now cos I'm sure there is a technical term. Heh, do I risk a tvtropes visit tomorrow? It's not exactly conducive to getting any work done.

    Yeah, there are quite a few films that I enjoy as much (sometimes more) for the commentary as the film itself. Same with written stuff. I'm a big Asimov fan and the introductions he does in his collected works are worth reading just on their own. Part autobiography, part analysis of the writing process and all hilarious. He had a wonderful touch for snarkiness and faux egocentricity.

    Andromeda Strain is one of my fave films. Scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. Combining women's studies and commentaries I'm sure you know that in the book all the scientists are men. The director wanted to add the woman scientist but the actress said she'd only do it if he avoided all the usual clichés (like fawning over the clever bloke who saves the day). He said he'd deliberately picked her just because he knew that wouldn't be the case and that's why she's such a wonderful character. Another great snarker, but completely believable in the role. And that almost documentary style is one of my favourite genres. AS is a great 'procedural'. I love films where they just plug away and apply logic in a totally realistic way.

    Although that bit in batman where he works out who the villains are is also cool too.

    "the sea has fish and where there's fish there are penguins! Also 'C' stands for Catwoman!"

    CSI eat your hearts out.

    Right I'm now gonna hit the hay and try not to stay awake wondering what that word is.

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  17. Epistolary Novel!

    Well that's the phrase I was thinking of anyway; even though it's not quite the same thing. That would be 'scrapbook story' apparently; although I think they just made that up.

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  18. You know the one thing I could clearly recall about the Andromeda Strain was that it has a good woman character in it. She obviously left a mark, add it to the list of things I need to get around to watching again. Big fan of Asimov here as well, grew up raiding mum's book cases for his collected stories.

    Epistolary Novel sounds close enough for now.

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