Pop quiz, gentle readers! Are we watching several small children while their parents travel for a funeral, or looking after very drunk friends who never seem to sober up:
- Can’t stop crying, can’t tell us why
- Want to watch a specific thing, can’t tell us what it is, what platform it’s on, or whether it’s real or something they dreamed
- You want to say something, to them or someone else without being interrupted? Hohoho, no you w–I said hoho, n–NO YOU W–fucking forget it, Jesus, I don’t even remember what it was.
- “[absolutely unintelligible but very urgent] [sounds no human language has ever used] [screaming] [cartoon theme song with extreme concentration and seriousness] I LOVE YOU!”
- Counting the seconds until they pass out
I SHOULD HOPE IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING that this is the reason for this week’s late article. Those drunk babies take terrible dictation.
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The slums of LA are ablaze.
Tyrell executive Ilora Stahl, head of a secret programme to transfer human consciousness into Replicant hosts has launched an all-out attack on Sector 6-b determined to flush out and kill a renegade Replicant called Nia, who was once part of her covert programme.
Having escaped, Nia has been triggering logic short-circuits in the organic programming of once loyal Replicant servants, causing them to rebel against their human masters.
Now as Ilora’s security force of Replicants attack the city, ex-LAPD detective Cal Moreaux has teamed up with an escaped experimental Replicant called Asa, who has been uploaded with the consciousness of a dead Tyrell scientist. Together they must expose Ilora’s conspiracy before the city burns to the ground.
Writers K. Perkins and Mellow Brown, and artists Fernando Dagnino and Marco Lesko have brought a powerful new dynamic to the future noir world of Blade Runner as they explore themes of gender identity, human exploitation and slavery set against the backdrop of a world on the brink of ecological collapse and rampant unchecked genetic manipulation.
Blade Runner Origins is, and I say this with full awareness of its significance, the absolute wildest shit the franchise has ever seen, and it is incredible.
BR has been a running concern for forty years and has always asked some pretty great questions–What Measure Is A Non-Human, how do we know our memories are real, how did Edward James Olmos start a fried-chicken empire in his retirement if real animals are extinct–but has, in hindsight, also not asked some really obvious ones: if we can implant human-memories in Replicants, can we implant a human consciousness, and if so, does that mean a consciousness is just a machine made of memories? What about like, *vague gesture*, gender stuff? Also if we can build them however we want, and we’re using them for definitely actual literal slave labor, why aren’t Replicants basically Dragon Ball Z characters in terms of speed and strength? And how can a prequel series address any of these satisfyingly without making it a huge plot hole that they weren’t included in the original works? How have we not heard about any of this, in hindsight, incredibly obvious and interesting bullshit? It’s the Problem With Prequels: generally speaking, if they were good or explored meaningful or interesting parts of that world or story that we haven’t already seen, they would’ve just made them first.
Turns out there’s actually a good reason for all of it! For example, at least the first generation of replicants were herculean physical specimens, for to perform the slave labor, and it didn’t take long for them to ask themselves why they should be slaves to people whom they can crush into small wet cubes, so subsequent generations were closer to human-scale in strength; there are similarly satisfying reasons why we’ve never heard of anything happening in this series, and so it pulls off the rare trick of injecting entire new ideas into this world without breaking the original works.
Listen, this could easily become just a love-letter to this recent series-system of comics (hahaha whoops already has), but one thing is undeniable: in order for all of these to have been Things of The Past by the time of the original works, something bad is about to happen in this volume; unless I miss my guess it’s going to be what tips Los Angeles (and so the world) into the full-blown climate apocalypse we previously saw it to be, and this is one of the few series I would trust to both handle that and effectively juxtapose it with the other issues described, like a female human mind being uploaded into a superpowered male Replicant body, or Cal Moreaux’s sister waking up from her coma, and to what lengths the Tyrell Corporation will go in order to silence them all. Man what good comics, shit.
Ichigo’s taken on an under-the-table bodyguard job for a woman who’s about to default on a huge amount of money! Through all his trials and tribulations at the “illegal” security firm Li-On, he’s learned a thing or two about what it means to protect someone… but the Ten’ichi Union is about to hatch a conspiracy that could rock not only Shinjuku, but all of Japan!
First of all, if you haven’t heard of Desert Eagle or how much I fucking love it yet, go read this review I did of the first volume; you’ll know pretty immediately if it’s for you or not. (Hint: It absolutely is if ‘things that beat ass, own bones and rock socks’ are for you.)
The last volume saw Ichigo all but destroyed; Apple and Peachy were forced to abandon him for Mysterious Crimes Reasons and because of fire, respectively, and he ended up bound into the service of the fantastically illegal Li-On Security Company, where he began to learn a crimes-trade and actually get some friggin’ job-satisfaction by finally being allowed to protect people, specifically people who are in danger from powers the Law can’t reach.
The series has been pretty clear on a couple of things so far:
- Crime is not inherently immoral, but criminals need a Code
- Drugs do not have a place in that code (at last not in Ichigo’s), and
- Eliminating small-time small-crime types has no deleterious effect on their larger, more dangerous superiors.
Had I been asked to conjecture, I would say that I think the Ten’Ichi Union is in the process of knocking out large drug-dealers so they can swoop in and have a complete monopoly on the drug trade (the mentioned conspiracy) under the banner of making it ‘safer’; I think Ichigo will receive this poorly, and there will be punching aplenty, just like Mum used to make.
I cannot wait to see how wrong I am.
Stephen Graham Jones—New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians and My Heart is a Chainsaw—makes his ongoing comics debut with Earthdivers! The year is 2112, and it’s the apocalypse exactly as expected: rivers receding, oceans rising, civilization crumbling. Humanity has given up hope, except for a group of outcast Indigenous survivors who have discovered a time travel portal in a cave in the middle of the desert and figured out where the world took a sharp turn for the worst: America. Convinced that the only way to save the world is to rewrite its past, they send one of their own on a bloody, one-way mission back to 1492 to kill Christopher Columbus before he reaches the so-called New World. But taking down an icon is no easy task, and his actions could prove devastating for his friends in the future. Join Stephen Graham Jones and artist Davide Gianfelice for Earthdivers #1, the beginning of an unforgettable ongoing historical/sci-fi slasher!
SGJ is my favorite horror author on the scene today, as I believe you may have gathered from my glowing reviews of Night Of The Mannequins and The Only Good Indians; the only reason I haven’t done one of My Heart Is A Chainsaw is because I’m still processing it and need another read-through before I can express anything but adrenaline-glassed, tear-stained awe. I don’t know who could read about two people burrowing through a dripping corpse-pile to avoid being murdered in the woods and be like “Yeah I think I got everything there was to get out of that”, but it’s not this citizen, I’ll tell you that much.
So it takes a power on par with his to get me to do something I have literally never done before, ever, in the 15 years I’ve been reading them: I bought an individual issue of a comic instead of waiting for the trade because I simply cannot and will not be made to wait. I preordered the above on Comixology and placed an order for one copy of each all four alternate coverd courtesy of Things From Another World, a comic shop back in my old Milkwaukie, OR stomping grounds. (Whatup Clackamas Town Center Mall? Y–you guys still mad about when we snuck into Pineapple Express after we paid to see Swing Vote and it sucked? WELL DON’T BE MAD AT US, BE MAD AT KEVIN COSTNER.)
I will most certainly be doing a full review of this issue once my physical copies arrive, but even the brief blurb above gives us plenty to chew on:
First, a quick search reveals that ‘Earthdiver’ is a term found in the spiritual traditions of some American Indian* tribes (Like the Blackfeet from whom Stephen hails), referring to figures in the creation narrative who quite literally dive into the primal waters of the fundament and bring soil from the seafloor to form the Earth itself; it also seems to refer to figures who fight and reclaim lost or stolen land for the gods, and it’s easy to see how both meanings apply here.
Second, I’m fascinated by how…unconcerned this title is with the morality of its mission; or rather, how clearly it holds the larger morality in whose service it is about to do many many many murders. Stephen is first and foremost a goddamn sucker for the slasher genre, and transplanting that to the 15th Century is a Camp Crystal Lake-clear way of stating, as a work, that everyone who gets absolutely murderated in this story deserves it, they’re all slavers and colonizers and, intentionally or not, played a part in the genocide that followed Columbus’ expedition and the society that grew in its aftermath and eventually killed the human race. I’m not exaggerating, “America has to die for Planet Earth to live” is the text:
I love America, but in the way I loved my cat enough to let her go when we learned she had a borked immune system and kidneys that never grew properly; fundamental, systemic problems that prevented her from ever being healthy or seeing her third birthday. The difference is that if offered infinite chances, I’d still adopt Celebrated Local Cat Holland J. Cat again 100% of the time, and I genuinely don’t know that America was ever a good idea, at least not in anything resembling any version of things we got.
And look, obviously these ideas are there, obviously we’re supposed to be thinking and talking about them, but Stephen would turn in his VHS copy of A Bay Of Blood before forgetting that this has to be an absolutely gore-drenched good time, full of people we care about, people we hate, and ways for them all to die horribly and inventively, so on that score I think we can rest assured.
I also feel safe in assuming that things won’t be as straightforward as “Yo just put the ‘pain’ in ‘Spain’ and the ‘knife’ in the ‘Italian’ when he comes to solicit funding from Isabella I and Ferdinand II”, both because that’s boring and anticlimactic, and because unless we’re following these asynchronous assassins literally hour-by-hour like so many Kiefers Sutherland, I doubt their mission would justify a self-described ongoing (as opposed to mini or limited) series. Also, some documentation I’ve seen has described these issues as Earthdivers Book One: Kill Columbus, and I am thrilled and terrified both to see where on Earth (and which one) this concludes and where it could possibly go afterwards.
Overall, Stephen is just the Man, always has been, and reading him is a fantastic way to support both a marginalized author who deserves your attention and the kinds of fucked-up stories you love, you sick little freak.
*It is my understanding that ‘Native American’ has fallen out of favor due to the implication that this place was always America-to-be and that they were just kind of…keeping it warm for Whitey. Tribe-specific nomenclature seems best if it can be done with confidence and correctness (which I cannot), but I also see ‘American Indian’ getting a lot of mileage, and many just refer to themselves as Indians because fuck you, this is what they’ve been called for five hundred years now, they’re not about to change names again, and that’s fair too. If my use of ‘American Indian’ is incorrect or hurtful, naturally that’s on me and I’ll adjust as necessary with all apology.
Meet the Parents!
On the outside, Ichiro and Shiori are the perfect couple, with a comfortable, blossoming relationship that seems to be heading towards marriage. In reality, they are hindered by a mysterious engagement pact, which has the power to inflict one-sided retribution upon Ichiro whenever Shiori feels upset! Having caught wind of the situation, Shiori’s parents show up out of the blue to confront them, determined to separate the couple and bring their daughter back to the island. Ichiro and Shiori will have to stand together to brave her parents’ disapproval… Although, could this finally mean a solution to annulling the pact?!
This series is so goddamn cute, and as much as I’m heartstring-plucked by every volume, I’m actually more impressed with the pacing and use of arc on display; Vol. 1 I thiiiiink ended with them going from Accidentally Married to Official Couple, and in Vol. 2 they go from Official Couple to Officially Smooching, so you get a real sense of narrative (and romantical) progression every time in a way that feels perfectly natural and correct. This should be no surprise, since the author’s previous series, Sweetness And Lightning, ran 12 volumes, which is actually very modest for a manga series, especially one so well-received as it was; he has natural inclinations toward (relative) brevity that served that series well, and while I’m certainly not hoping for AGND to end anytime soon-soon, I think it’s clear from both a creative and audience standpoint that this isn’t a story built to run fifteen years, which would turn its sweetness sickly and its emotional tug-of-war exhausting, and also we’d wonder why those children haven’t grown up and gotten jobs yet.
That sense of progression is on full display here: up to this point, Ichiro has been a red-facedly willing but still captive suitor, unable to fully consent because psychokinetic leash or whatever, and if there is (as indicated) a way to dissolve the pact, it frees him up to participate voluntarily in the relationship and actually commit to it, instead of making the admittedly smoochy best of a situation that he’s enjoying but in which he really has no agency and so cannot fully engage. I think we’re all safe in assuming that Shiori, having gotten a taste of freedom, independent life and/or human-smooching, will be disinclined to return to her island, so I anticipate some “princess learning how real people make ends meet” shenanigans that in a lot of other series would be a chance to really stick it to the aristocracy, but AGND is so sweet and good-natured, I can’t help but be sure it’ll be adorable. I would acknowledge the possibility that her parents will be won over by Ichiro’s goofy working-parent/sibling haplessness, but that would be pretty anticlimactic, and given this series’ open, winking-with-both-eyes love of shojo stories and tropes, I can’t imagine it would turn down a chance for Maximum Drama.
I really love this series, like a lot, it’s made with such love and care and it’s so sweet and warm and a wonderful balm against, well, *gestures broadly*; if you haven’t read it I really recommend you either do so or check out my full review of Vol. 1 here to be further convinced.
They are the last children on Earth…and they also happen to be vampires.
For longer than they can remember, these child vampires have lived a life of eternal wonder amongst the ruins of humanity. But shocking events fracture the group and set them on a path of discovery that will shatter their innocence forever.
Lord of The Flies meets vampires in the first volume of a bold new ongoing series from JEFF LEMIRE & DUSTIN NGUYEN, the Eisner-winning creative team behind the bestselling DESCENDER and ASCENDER series.
Collects LITTLE MONSTERS #1-6
As I am contractually obligated to remind the good reader, I am a simple man: I see the Jeff Lemire, I buy and read the Jeff Lemire; mine is a simple religion, and I keep its tenets.
But I’d be hard-pressed to ignore a series this promising even if I wasn’t a Twelfth-Æon Underwater Welder in the Holy Cult Of Jeff. I feel like this is a really obvious scenario given how big and adaptable its parts are, and how often we’ve seen iterations of most of these ideas, but never together, at least to my knowledge; most works that include Wampire Babies really only do so enough to touch on what a bad fucking idea they are, citing what Dan McCoy of The Flop House called “the amorality of youth” wherein ‘innocence’ is not so much freedom from the evil inclinations of the adult mind, but the inability to realize that pulling the wings off a fly is evil due to having no understanding of the concept. Wampire media that does feature them to any real extent usually skips the “How does that work” parts and zoops straight to them being 600-year-olds in wee bitty bods, rarely examining how weird and difficult that would be much further than saying “yeah this is my familiar who acts as my parent”, as in Let The Right One In/Let Me In, What We Do In The Shadows, etc. Interestingly enough Lemire has previously touched on this topic from a different angle in his absolutely fucking spectacular Black Hammer series, wherein grown-ass Golden Gail is stuck in a child’s body and is losing her fucking mind going through 4th grade seventeen times, not being able to buy her own liquor and smokes, and being rejected romantically by one of her teammates (although that one is because he’s into dudes; wisely, Lemire doesn’t even hint at the other, squickier problems inherent to the question, although boy howdy Let The Right One In/Let Me In does.)
All of that to say that it looks like this series neatly sidesteps the question of “how would Eternal Babies work in a real society” without giving us an unsatisfying “don’t worry about it” by keeping the Wampire Babies and removing the society part instead. One must admit, it’s an elegant solution, and one that puts a very interesting spin on the tried-and-true Lord Of The Flies structure which, if we’re being honest, has worn pretty thin; we know that’s not generally what actually happens in that kind of scenario, and also that book was a scathing critique of very specific British school-culture stuff at the time, and loses a lot of clout sociologically speaking outside that context. Given that food and shelter presumably won’t be an issue for these children (or at least not in the same way), there’ll be fertile ground to see how an actual society would eventually cobble itself together, or not I suppose, but my firm belief in the essential–if mulish and grumbling–cooperative and caring nature of humanity demands that I do not suppose.
…of course, these kids might not have a humanity anymore.
Celebrating ten years of SAGA!
At long last, Hazel and her star-crossed family are finally back, and they’ve made some new…friends? This collection features the latest six chapters of the most epic adventure in comics, including the series’ double-length first issue back from hiatus.
Collects SAGA #55-60
FUCK YES SAGA‘S BACK BAYBEEEEEEE.
I had intended to do a run-up of the series before this dropped, but SEE THE INTRO TO THIS VERY ARTICLE and agree, nodding sagely, that time makes fools of us all. I remember of course What Happened at the end of Vol. 9 because my outraged “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME” is still echoing back and forth in the airspace above Lake Michigan (trust me, this warrants an unusual spoiler-respect from me), and I don’t see any version of events where that doesn’t fundamentally change the dynamic of the entire title in ways brimming with potential and also gross-sob tears.
I will say this much: I did reread the first volume for a project that sadly didn’t end up working out, and it’s still really good, but 2012 was a hell of a long time ago, some shit has for real happened and I just hope its energy has…I don’t wanna say ‘matured’ because earlier in this very article I made jokes about drunken toddler secretaries, Admiral Adama starting a fried chicken empire, and the Muppet Babies where you’d least expect them, so who the hell am I to talk about ‘maturity’, but still. It’s perfectly fine that Alana and Vaughan/Staples all think Alana is super hot, I just don’t need visual and textual reminders of it on every page, not for pearl-clutchy or prudish reasons but because listen, if I wanted to go read the boobiest books available under pretense of female empowerment, I could go read Red Sonja, or any of the million Deja Thoris titles that somehow manage to make her look even nuder than she would be if she actually wore nothing. Maybe the series actually addressed that as it went on and I just forgot, or maybe this second half of the story will take the opportunity to do so (and either way I’m certainly going to finish the run-up before reading this one), or maybe this book will keep on keeping on in the way that seems best to it, and that would be fair enough too.
Collects She-Hulk (2022) #1-5.
Smashing new adventures starring the best character ever! Jennifer Walters, the Sensational She-Hulk, is no longer savage – and now she needs to put her life back together. She’s got a legal career to rebuild, friends to reacquaint herself with (and maybe represent in a court of law) and enemies to…well, she may not want to connect with them, but they are definitely going to connect with her. And Jen is about to be sent down a road she’s never traveled – one that will shake up her life…and possibly the whole Marvel Universe! One of the most dangerous things ever to exist lands in She-Hulk’s lap, and she’s got to figure out what the heck to do with it. Good luck with that, Jen! And with…Super Fight Club?!
Look: I don’t know from She-Hulk except in the context of Immortal Hulk where I think it’s a She-Hulk, not the She-Hulk(???) and I haven’t seen the show. I know three things about this title and its creative team, and they were more than enough to convince me to hit preorder:
- It was almost 50% cheaper than a trade this size usually is at $7.99 before my Comixology Unlimited discount, which seems petty but is a consideration, both for readers just trying to get into the character (or comics altogether!) and for people like me who already spend objectively too much on them.
- I understand that the ink for the series–somehow even the digital copies–was made with the tears of all the dudebros who were mad about the Disney show, and that really does just provide the most delicious colors, including one you can’t get any other way called ‘Mauve Misandry’.
- 👏SUPER👏POWERED👏LAWYER, or really an examination of any mundane job in a super-powered world where new considerations have to be made.
I’m sure there’s more to know, I’m sure there’s more to love, and I’m sure I’ll learn all of it in due course, but for now I feel great about this purchase, and as far as I’m concerned the above list leaves very little room for any of you not to buy it.
🚨HONORABLE NON-COMIC MENTION🚨
Take a journey through the history of Japanese role-playing games—from the creators who built it, the games that defined it, and the stories that transformed pop culture and continue to capture the imaginations of millions of fans to this day.
The Japanese roleplaying game (JRPG) genre is one that is known for bold, unforgettable characters; rich stories, and some of the most iconic and beloved games in the industry. Inspired by early western RPGs and introducing technology and artistic styles that pushed the boundaries of what video games could be, this genre is responsible for creating some of the most complex, bold, and beloved games in history—and it has the fanbase to prove it. In Fight, Magic, Items, Aidan Moher guides readers through the fascinating history of JRPGs, exploring the technical challenges, distinct narrative and artistic visions, and creative rivalries that fueled the creation of countless iconic games and their quest to become the best, not only in Japan, but in North America, too.
Moher starts with the origin stories of two classic Nintendo titles, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and immerses readers in the world of JRPGs, following the interconnected history from through the lens of their creators and their stories full of hope, risk, and pixels, from the tiny teams and almost impossible schedules that built the foundations of the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises; Reiko Kodama pushing the narrative and genre boundaries with Phantasy Star; the unexpected team up between Horii and Sakaguchi to create Chrono Trigger; or the unique mashup of classic Disney with Final Fantasy coolness in Kingdom Hearts. Filled with firsthand interviews and behind-the-scenes looks into the development, reception, and influence of JRPGs, Fight, Magic, Items captures the evolution of the genre and why it continues to grab us, decades after those first iconic pixelated games released.
Listen: am I mad that this really feels like it steps on the toes of the book I always wanted to write wherein I ask Hironobu Sakaguchi about the cultural history and legacy of Dungeons & Dragons in Japan, and how influential it must’ve been for them to straight-up copy the engine for the first Final Fantasy? Yes, obviously I’m mad about that. But I also didn’t get a journalism degree, learn any Japanese, or get a job at a publisher or news out let of any kind, so I think Aidan and I can agree that mistakes were made on both sides, and I look forward to his Edible Arrangement of Apology.
RPGs, and specifically JRPGs, are my favorite kinds of video games and always have been; I’ll play the hell out of a Zelda or a Metroid or a God Of War, but I’ll take a Final Fantasy or a Star Ocean over all of them any day, as was probably clear from my glowing, over-wrought recommendation of Star Ocean: First Departure R in my most recent Other Pursuits roundup. The genre and properties mentioned are all huge parts of my childhood and sense of self, and I’m not going to explain or argue their importance or objective value any better than anybody else could, and certainly not better than this dude will; I’m just thrilled to be here, and hope that one of the things on which I’ve spent the most time and thought in my life gets a proper look with the care, expertise and seriousness/fan-joy it deserves.
(I would also recommend without reservation and with worrying emphasis the entire Boss Fight Books line, including their entries on various Final Fantasy titles and Chrono Trigger, it’s just fantastic work from people who clearly love what they’re doing and the thing they’re doing it about, as I hope will be the case here.)
That’s me! My tiny inebriated executive assistants have gone home! I’m gonna go reheat some tortellini and see if that restraining order from Clackamas Town Center is still on the books.
What did you all get this week? What other beloved figures from sci-fi history do you think should start chain restaurants, and why is the only correct answer Mark Hamill’s Markaritaville, where the milk is always blue and the puddin’s always fresh? What have you done to hilariously spite misogynists lately? What do you think the capital of Ohio will be called if they, as is their stated goal, kill Columbus? Let me know in the comments, and until next time be good to yourselves, be good to each other, wear your goddamn masks, and never use baby secretarial help, my files are now sorted as to whether or not they make reference to whatever the hell a “Blippi” is.