A couple of summers ago, I reviewed some books, as I am wont to do. One of them was An Augmented Fourth by friend of the Ladies and local celebrity Tony McMillen. Since then, Tony’s written and drawn a comic, Lumen. Since the first four issue arc has just drawn to a close, it felt like a good time to tell you all about it – you can get in on the ground floor of what I hope will be an ongoing series, while still getting a complete story.
The story of Lumen begins with a young man, Esteban Vela, who stumbles upon a suit of armor and a lantern one day after following a falling star. It sounds romantic, except for two things – one, the armor still holds its previous occupant. Two, Esteban lives in the Nocterra, a world enshrouded entirely in darkness. There are no stars, not even falling ones, and being too romantic in a world like this is will get a boy killed. Still, inspired by tales of “the legendary Vaquero Rubus Bramble…the hero who was supposed to lasso the sun,” Esteban decides not only to take the armor, but promptly finds himself embarking on an epic quest.
You see, while the sun is gone, devoured by “the Beast that fell to earth,” there is one source of life and light in the Nocterra – lumen, a glowing substance that allows plants to grow. It also provides energy; it’s the power source for Esteban’s armor as well as the various weapons and mechs designed by his nearest neighbor, Detta the science witch. It’s Detta who sends him on his quest, to obtain the lumen horde in the southern castle. All that stands in his way are giant fungus monsters, the Fun Guys, who thrive in the darkness of the Nocterra. No problem for a hero, right?
The story has many of the best elements of a fairy tale – a magical destiny, a witch, a quest, even an animal companion and a pretty girl – while still managing to feel entirely new and unique. McMillen has clearly spent a lot of time on world-building, thinking through the rules of his night universe and how it operates, and he deploys it brilliantly, through the illustrations and actions of the plot rather than through tiresome exposition. Likewise, the characters all have distinct voices and personalities – I could hear Esteban’s cocky bravado (and its undercurrent of doubt and fear) in my head perfectly.
McMillen’s art is likewise wholly unique, loose and smudgy, yet sharp and distinct when it needs to be. The use of color is amazing in a book about a world cast in darkness, and book three has a multi-page sequence that manages to be clever without being gimmicky. And the Fun Guys – well, no one draws a monster like Tony. Each are named after actual mushrooms – there’s a great single page shot of different types in issue that looks cool AND had me reaching for google to see what a “Gristly Domecap” looks like here on our Earth.
All told, Lumen is an impressive debut comic from a writer I know is only getting better, and I can’t wait for the next arc.
If you want to read Lumen, the first copies are sold out in print but available online at McMillen’s Etsy shop, and the later issues are available either online or here in Boston at Comicazi and Hub Comics. Even more exciting, the first issue is up for FREE over at Tony’s website. So get on over there and check it out!
The weather is turning cold again and for a lot of us, that can mean fewer spontaneous trips and a bit more time at home drinking warm liquids, watching Netflix, and reading.
Most of the titles here are on the newer side, so they should be easy to find. Remember, your local shops can help track these down for you as well. For the titles I’ve already read, I added a mini review for some extra info.
Books that focus heavily on the lives of women:
Satoko and Nada, by Yupechika; published by Seven Seas Entertainment
Princess Jellyfish, by Akiko Higashimura; published by Kodansha Comics
Tokyo Tarareba Girls, by Akiko Higashimura; published by Kodansha Comics
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (if you haven’t read it already) and its sequel My Solo Exchange Diary, by Nagata Kabi; published by Seven Seas Entertainment
-This book can be quite brutal in its honesty and might not be an easy read for some, but I’m happy to say that it really left an impression and I’m happy this book exists.
The Bride Was A Boy, by chii; published by Seven Seas Entertainment
-This is a rather sweet and fluffy story that reads like an introduction to transgender and LGBTQIA issues in Japan. An enjoyable and quick read.
Intriguing shonen stories that aren’t super-popular like My Hero Academia but deserve some love:
The Promised Neverland, by Kaiu Shirai; published by Viz Media
-I flew through the first volume of this story in a night. It’s dark, filled with suspense, and had some truly scary monsters. If you like books that are on the darker side, you should look this one up.
Dr. Stone, by Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi, published by Viz Media
Sweet gay stories that aren’t already covered by the first category:
That Blue Sky Feeling, by Okura; published by Viz Media
Go For It, Nakamura!, by Syundei; published by Seven Seas Entertainment
I Hear the Sunspot, by Yuki Fumino; published by One Peace Books
Like these recommendations? Visit Morgana’s blog at MangaMaven.com for more recommendations and a peek into the life of a comic shop manager.
As the Ladies resident (but not only) lover of spooky things, I wanted to share three things I am doing to get in the spirit for what is my highest holiday – Halloween!
I’ve only recently started listening to Darkest Night having learning about it via Deadly Manners. We’ve mentioned some spooky podcasts before and there are lots of them out there, but this one really distinguishes itself though the sound design. As you are told in the intro, this podcast really is best experienced with headphones, but beware…the experience can become quite immersive. No joke, the other morning I was listening to an episode while walking to work and I literally leapt across the sidewalk because I forgot the sounds were only in my ears.
Darkest Night is a story based podcast that follows Project Cyclops, an experiment where severed heads are sent to a lab for a process that draws the blood from a victim’s optic nerve so the moments before their death can be experienced and documented….but is that all that’s really going on here?
Rating: 4 out of 5 severed heads
Whooo boy, we finished this over the weekend and what an emotional roller coaster. This Netflix show whips you from fear, to sorrow, to anger as it pairs terrifying images with the equally terrifying human condition. The Haunting of Hill House is a modern adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel and a love-letter to the 1963 film The Haunting (also based on Shirley Jackson’s novel). Like all good horror, it’s not just about ghosts or murder. HoHH looks at trauma, obsession, and grief and how the lasting impacts can follow you through life, even if you think you have locked them away.
Don’t get me wrong – this is real deal spooky. As you watch, pay attention to everything, because things happen in the background and in your periphery to keep you as off balance as the characters are. Episode 6 is particularly masterful is how it pulls you reluctantly through long shots that become more and more dizzying to reflect the downward spirals of the characters.
Too late in the series I really started to key in on the color symbolism used in the filming, and now I want to watch it all over again to follow that thread. Seriously, if you haven’t watched this yet, I’m a little jealous of you getting to experience it for the first time.
Rating: 5 our of 5 red doors
Hopefully some of you were able to make it to the Comicazi Cookie Clash this year. It’s an amazing dessert filled event for a great cause, Boston Partners in Education. While I am not someone who loves or thoroughly enjoys baking (I’m not great at the exactness of it since I tend to like to experiment – not a good idea in baking unless you are really down with the science), I have competed in the cookie clash every year since its inception. Fun fact: The Cookie Clash started originally as competition between The Red Menace’s cookies made with love (she LOVES baking and is quite good at it), and my Cookies made with Hate™ (recall: I don’t love baking).
But I digress…this year I decided I wanted to go for flash rather than substance and made these gooey eyeball cookies for my baker’s choice entry. While these cookies taste good – sort of a cheesecake sugar cookie, they aren’t super exciting or nuanced. But then again, you aren’t making them for nuance, you are making them because they fun, colorful, and involve so many candy eyeballs.
The best advice I can give it to follow the recipe directly, and that getting the neon food coloring colors is totally worth it if you want that bright popping color. I also got 3 different sizes of candy eyes and found that the mixing of different sizes really adds a lot to the aesthetic. Otherwise, these cookies are pretty easy and a lot of bang for your buck.
Rating: 4 out 5 Beholder eyes
After much anticipation, the world was finally introduced to the first female Doctor. And, to the credit of the writers, the Doctor accepts the change and immediately moves on to the action. However, being part of a group that always has an eye on how women are portrayed in the world of popular culture, I couldn’t help but want to add my voice to those discussing this “first” for the Doctor Who franchise.
So, I give you a mini review of the first episode of Season 11’s “The Woman Who Fell to Earth.” Buckle up and consider this your spoiler warning.
While many of us are currently finding ourselves staring Fall in the face as we start school, enjoy our last beach day, or prepare for Ladies Con, it’s hard to remember that summer is technically not over yet. Well, at least it isn’t over officially until September 23rd, the first day of Fall. So until that time, there might be those of you out there holding onto summer with everything they have – and I’m here to help you with that. I have three get reading suggestions that will not only help you remember how the warm summer sun feels, but also how it can make you feel like no other season can.
For several years I’ve written a summer reading post around the Fourth of July. It’s the perfect time – Memorial Day may be the unofficial start to the summer season, but the Fourth is the heart of it. This summer in New England has been particularly aggressive – a brutal heat wave that’s started earlier and lasted longer than we usually see around here. And so I should probably offer you some light, breezy reads that you can bring to beach and promptly forget about. But I’m nothing if not a contrarian, so instead I’m going to offer two pieces of fiction to make you think, and one cookbook to lighten the mood and because I’m personally going to use it a lot this summer with my new ice cream maker.
Summer is often a time for sitting. Sitting on the beach, sitting in a fishing boat, sitting in traffic. Not all these situations may be conducive to indulging in summer reading. As the person who is often the driver for summer travels I can confirm, reading and driving, super frowned upon. (Note: This is a joke, I don’t even talk on the phone while driving).
There are tons of educational and current events podcasts out there, but summer is also a time for escapism and I think we could all use a break from the daily assault of what’s going on in the news media. So, here are 3 serialized story podcasts for you to enjoy while staring at a either body of water, or the break lights in front of you.
Despite being a pretty avid podcast listener and this absolutely being in my wheelhouse, I was a bit late to the party on this one. The Black Tapes Podcast is presented by Pacific Northwest Stories (PNS), and Minnow Beats Whale. It’s a docudrama hosted by Alex Regan, and presented as a journalist investigation rather than a narrative story. Alex begins her podcast series by looking at unusual jobs, but it very quickly takes a new direction when she meeting Dr. Richard Strand, head of the Strand Institute and his black tapes files. The Strand Institute’s mission is to debunk the supernatural, but what happens when they come across things that can’t be easily explained away?
I binged this one hardcore. It’s 3 seasons and seems to be completed. Shout out to it for being responsible for me cleaning out my closet because I just put my headphones on and next thing I knew, I had a nice pile of items for donation.
Check this out if you like: The X-Files, Serial, Supernatural
This is another one from PNS. After loving The Black Tapes so much I decided to further explore the PNS offerings (and there are still others I have in my queue). Tanis is similarly structured as a journalistic investigation, and hosts who are familiar from The Black Tapes are featured. The central question of this investigation is What is Tanis? Is it a place, a person, a feeling? Nic Sliver sets out to answer this question and is quickly pulled into a terrifying mystery that affects him and everyone he interacts with.
I’m still listening to Tanis, it’s 4 seasons and it still going. It took slightly longer to grab me than The Black Tapes, but once it did grab me, I always make sure I have at least 3 episodes downloaded on my phone and ready for listening.
Check this out if you like: horror based mystery, things about cults, and salty hackers
Did you know that AMC/Sundance were into the podcast game? Me neither until I happened upon Deadly Manners. Deadly Manners is also a murder mystery, but much more of a “who done it” done in the style of a classic radio drama. There is a fancy dinner party at a grand house during a snowstorm. Soon enough people start dying, and with no one able to leave, and a host who insists the party must go one, will any of the guests survive the night?
What makes Deadly Manners so much fun is the voice talent. You will hear some very familiar voices including Kristen Bell, RuPaul, and LeVar Burton. This is another completed podcast so very bingeable.
Check this out if you like: Clue, some over the top voice acting, and twists.
All of these podcasts – plus our own podcast – are available via iTunes. Let us know any others that we should be checking out!
Earlier this month the American Repertory Theater (ART) started previews of Jagged Little Pill, a new musical directed by Diane Paulus featuring the music of Alanis Morissette and a book by Diablo Cody. Previews are essentially try-outs. Creators work on the show as the performances go along. Some things get cleaned up and expanded on, others get cut. The one thing we can almost be certain of is this: if the show makes it beyond Cambridge (on tour or to Broadway) it will be a different creature than it was in the beginning. And this is a good thing because I saw Jagged Little Pill during the first week and while there are some interesting moments, I think this show has a lot of transformations to go through.
Taking place in modern-day suburban Connecticut, Jagged Little Pill strives to prove the timelessness of Morissette’s music by creating a story very much in the middle of today’s social complexities and challenges. If you take some time to check out the internet buzz about this show, you’ll see the word “woke” bandied about a lot. And I suppose that’s what the show’s trying to show us…that it, in itself, is “woke.” But is it really? And for that matter, is the show any good?
I’m perfectly fine admitting that I never thought that I would be writing this post. I was never a huge fan of the Evil Dead films and as a person who has seen many of her favorite intellectual properties canceled or rebooted with less than stellar results, the absolutely perfect Ash Vs Evil Dead series kinda annoyed me. The tone is spot on, the horror elements are both unique and hilarious, and Ash is the same kind of person he’s always been. This series is proof that reboots can be done, and done well… And almost as if to add insult to injury, Ash Vs Evil Dead accomplishes the very thing that the previous films lacked – interesting and capable female characters.
What? An article arguing that Ash Vs Evil Dead is feminist and contains not one but two notably kickass female characters? Indeed. So here we go.
For those of you not as familiar with the show, when we first meet Ruby Knowby (played by the suspiciously ageless Lucy Lawless) she claims to the be the daughter of Raymond Knowby – the professor in the Evil Dead films who discovers the Necromonicon and Kandarian dagger. I don’t think I would be spoiling too much to say that Ruby’s history is much more, um historical? complicated? spooky? than that.
What makes Ruby a great character is that she’s smart. Smart enough to connect herself to Ash’s past and insert herself into this life. She’s also smart enough to adjust her plans to the circumstances around her. You almost feel shocked when an idiot like Ash gets the better of her, but I think that’s the point. It’s engaging because Ruby is formidable and interesting in her own way. She gets annoyed at Ash but always manages to keep her goal in sight. A well-written villain (and acted – Lucy Lawless is GREAT!) is one that you’re excited to see, love to hate, but also find appealing on some level…even when you know you shouldn’t. Ruby is one of those villains. Oh, and she’s a woman. Well done, TV show.
The other awesome female character in this show is Ash Williams’ friend/teammate Kelly Maxwell. In many ways, Kelly starts off as a basic “strong female character.” She puts Ash in his place when he tries to flirt with her and is basically angry all the time and bitterly sarcastic. In a lot of shows, this would have ticked off all the boxes for their required strong female elements, but over the seasons of the show, Kelly has proven to be more than that. Her attitude is linked to her life and past rather than just it just being a personality trait. Better yet, she even becomes more comfortable showing other parts of her personality including extreme loyalty to her friends and loved ones.
Kelly becomes even more interesting as a character when you compare her with her counterpart on Ash’s team, Pablo Simon Bolivar. Rather than just having Kelly fill in what may be considered the more feminine role on the team, most of that role sits comfortably with Pablo. Kelly is the one who takes to fighting more naturally and it’s Kelly who formulates a lot of strategy and planning. Additionally, when it comes for the group to take a break, Kelly is the one who grows restless with no demons to battle while Pablo is perfectly content to stay in town with Ash to both support him and set up a food cart. Pablo is the one serving as the emotional heart and team cheerleader. Best of all, it isn’t a bad thing and he still is a force to be reckoned with on his own.
I personally find it very exciting to find awesome ladies in surprising places. Ash Vs Evil Dead proves that you can not only reboot an older male-focused property but also update the story to include more women characters who serve as much more than plot devices. There are rumors that the third season of this show could very well be the last, so if you’re a fan of kickass ladies and inventive horror action sequences, you should be getting your hands on this in hopes that the series might continue a bit longer. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it. I certainly was.
Hey all – Today we bring you a guest post from Honorary Lady, The Goog. He went to see Ready Player One this weekend, and since Tiny Doom opted out on this one, we asked him to share his thoughts. Ready? Go…
This is going to be heavily laden with spoilers about the plot (or lack thereof), and less spoilery about the movies easter eggs.
Hello internet, it’s The Goog, aka Castle Thunder Graphics, aka Dan and I enjoyed Ready Player One.
…okay, I see some of you are still here, so let’s chat.