After three months of picking up three comic book issues whenever I remembered to go to the store (IE every time I heard a new issue of Doomsday Clock was out), I felt a little strange with just my two Power Rangers books. So when I saw issue one of a series I might have interest in just sitting there, I grabbed it on a whim. That was Samurai Jack: Quantum Jack.
As you can guess, I know absolutely nothing about this series. I can figure from looking at the physical book that it first came out in September last year. That Jack has somehow been…split?…into multiple versions of himself? At least, that’s what the cover implies to me. Other than that…frankly, this comic book was a letdown. A whole lot of nothing. Now, I know that Samurai Jack as an animated series had some incredibly minimalist episodes, without even dialogue. But…it opened with a bang. It opened with that two-parter that sucked us in and showed us why we wanted to watch more. And when it was adapted into comic form before, that first issue was the same opening to give new readers the same investment.
Quantum Jack, on the other hand, dives right into the story, shows us a Jack we haven’t seen before, and doesn’t give us very much to grab onto. I don’t like this particular Jack, I have no interest in the creature he wants to rescue, and there is no infodump anywhere to tell me what this series is about. And yes, I have the internet at my fingertips and can easily go look it up, but why should I? I’m not sold on the first issue, so I see no reason to invest my time any further. I guess the mystery of “what’s going on” is supposed to get readers interested and wanting to know more, but I want a little more information before I give the series any more time or money. I know that not every episode or issue of Samurai Jack was great, so I need proof that this spinoff is doing more than trying to cash in on my nostalgia.
So, to continue the nostalgia train with something far better, I decided it was time to finally finish The Dark Crystal Creation Myths. Yesterday I had mentioned receiving an amazon box with shorter material in it; one of those was volume III of the Creation Myths. It’s been a long time coming, if only because I kept forgetting about it until that young adult novel reminded me that it would be good to know how the story ended.
To recap what we know, the movie is a hero’s journey that concludes an ancient saga and begins a new era for the world of Thra. Jen’s quest to heal the Crystal represents years of work, of waiting, and of hope on the parts of so many others. The world itself is far from what it was – Jen and Kira are the last of the Gelfling race and even the Skeksis and Mystics have declined far from the peaks they had once attained. Their world is ending, and at the end of the movie, Kira and Jen must now build a new one from the ashes of the old.
And because so much time had passed before either of our protagonists there was born, so very much of their history was forgotten beyond recall. Well, except for what Aughra might know, but she doesn’t just give out answers to people.
The Creation Myths takes a reader back to the opposite end of the spectrum, briefly covering the beginnings of Thra itself, and of Aughra, before diving into the story of how the Crystal cracked. In many ways these three books are the story of a new character never before seen or mentioned in the Dark Crystal mythos; Raunip, the son of Aughra.
He is a trickster, who cannot or will not trust the goodness of what he sees and, being Aughra’s son, he can see more than most would like. The peoples of Thra such as Gelflings and Podlings consider him a friend, if only because they are too naive to know or care about the darkness inside him. The Creation Myths is about his journey toward understanding and compassion.
It’s also interesting to see the “birth” of the Skeksis and the Mystics. Here, instead of the ancient and dying races of the movie, the two are young and strong, full of fire to do what they perceive as right, good, and necessary. Neither is anywhere near the peak of their power by the end of the third volume, but we can see the beginnings of what will eventually become the rotten and decayed endings.
I have greatly enjoyed these graphic novels. Reading them, seeing the origins of the creatures who are so integral to the movie, it helps me understand the world in ways that enhance the experience. The art has the same feel as the sets and costumes too, although there is the occasional panel where I just have to wonder how lazy the artist felt because it looks nothing like whatever it’s clearly supposed to be. Other than that, it’s pretty solid.
I love worlds as rich as that of The Dark Crystal because there’s so many ways you can revisit it and find something new to enjoy and appreciate. It’s like movies where I watch all the special features because they continue to enhance my experience and understanding of the world. Sadly, not all worlds, movie or book, are like this, which is why I take special note of the ones like this.
It’s important to remember two things when creating a fictional world in any medium. Firstly, there’s got to be a foundation to what we see. People, places, cultures, and languages don’t just come out of nowhere. Secondly, we don’t need to see the foundation. If you listen to some of the commentary on The Lord of the Rings, they talk about how much information they pulled out of the books to create the designs on a character’s weapon that the audience can barely see in the movie because the item is always in motion when it’s onscreen. It’s important and good that they production design team did all this research, but it’s not something the characters in the movie need to tell the audience.
Which reminds me of one thing that really strikes me every time I read the Creation Myths. Song is a powerful force in the world of Thra, which resonates with the Crystal. The Creation Myths narrator mentons at one point that “uni” means “one” and “verse” is a song. So the universe itself is a single song, of which each rock, plant, and animal is a single note. How’s that for an eighties kids movie trasncending the level of understanding you might expect?
Well, a single comic book issue and three graphic novels didn’t seem like enough reading today. And while I could watch Thor: Ragnarok another two or three times instead, I opted to pull an actual book off my shelves to reread. Yes, there is still the Pile and it’s not gotten any smaller, but at the moment I just wanted to revisit something somewhat familiar. So, I reread Hunter by Mercedes Lackey, mostly because I want to reread Apex, but why start at the end?
Hunter is of course our introduction to Lackey’s dystopian young adult series. The world went to hell with global warming, climate change, the magnetic poles switching, and some crazy Christians throwing an atomic bomb into the mix. All of this together somehow triggered, or combined with, the Breakthrough, where all sorts of bizarre creatures from the Other Side appeared in our world. The creatures often resemble monsters from various mythologies, which also provides information on how to combat and kill them. This also sees the appearance of Hunters, Mages, and Psimons into the world.
Something about the Breakthrough allows for magic to truly be practiced and now those who are born with the skill see it blossom. It’s referred to as “popping Powers” because it happens so suddenly in the first two cases. Psimons, on the other hand, are telepaths, telekinetics, etc. Josh Green, Prefect Charmand’s personal Psi-aide and Joy’s romantic interest, relates that he remembers thinking at his parents to communicate long before he could talk. That, in fact, they had to put Psi-shields on him to force him to learn to speak.
At the present in Joy’s world, Apex is the capital, located somewhere near where Washington D.C. would have been. She herself is from the Rockies, a distant and isolated region in comparison. It’s a long train ride into the city that clearly illustrates the difference between the locations…and the difference between being a random turnip (country bumpkin) and a high-level Hunter. There’s some very real similarities between Hunter and The Hunger Games, but the latter didn’t have great world construction. Yes, in both, everyone outside the capital gets the short end of the stick and there’s varying levels of shittiness, but Hunter‘s world has a clear and obvious explanation in the Othersider incursions that are constantly being fought off by any group of humans of varying sizes. Most importantly, as Joy herself observes, the Othersiders never forget that Apex is the true target to be taken down. The number of incursions into the capital’s territory dwarf anything she saw out in the mountains, and drive home that yes, her people only get the the oldest cast-offs. But they’re able to survive and make good lives with those. Apex truly needs the newest and best of everything if they’re to remain intact.
And, of course, Joy has secrets to keep about her home. If Apex knew what was truly hidden out in the mountains, they’d almost assuredly come to take it all. But it may just be Joy’s mission to seek out all the dirty little secrets Apex hides within its Barriers. After all, given that this is heart of humanity on the North American continent, Apex’s secrets could be the salvation or downfall of everyone.
Anyway, because I am a crazy person, in addition to all the above and watching a certain movie yet again, I also read Elite today. It’s the continuation of Hunter of course. Joy is now a member of the Elite and thus no longer subject to the insanity of being a ranking Hunter and a stalked celebrity. Everyone still knows who she is and far too many people idolize her in a weird way, but she deals with them much less. Of course the Hunts are far more difficult…and the secrets she’s begun to plumb are far more deadly.
It all seems fairly routine when she escorts civilians to their workstation in the sewers, but then everything goes south as Joy discovers a new type of Othersider no one in Apex has seen or heard of before. Her Hounds can tell her they’re Nagas, but they still have to figure out how best to kill them. And that’s not even the worst thing she finds in the tunnels beneath the city.
There’s a lot of struggle and strife in any city, and because of her position and her uncle being in charge of the police, Joy is caught up in the top-level political infighting. Being Hunter Elite protects her from some of this, but not enough to avoid suspicion entirely. Especially not after the fiasco over a certain Hunter at the end of the previous book. And that Hunter hasn’t forgotten her…not in the least. He’d love to see her dead at just about any cost.
Still, there are lights in the darkness. Some of them come from the most obvious and unexpected place, others from parables that make excellent teaching stories, and still others from the goodness that can be found inside of any person if they try.
I do really love that part of the climax. The teaching parable that is. Makes me smile every time. But it’s getting late and I have work in the morning, so I better wrap up this post and get to bed. Tomorrow I’ll start Apex and we’ll see how long it takes me to finish that while working overtime and having a social life.