Caliban (2014) Review

Writer Garth Ennis

Art Facundo Percio

Even in the far future, corporations will develop space technology only to explore, mine and harvest needed resources for their giant corporations on Earth. This story focuses on Caliban, a transport ship which carries the miners and supplies to resource rich destinations. Although this sounds like a grand adventure of exploration, for the crew it’s mind numbingly boring blue collared job at least until the Caliban makes first contact while in warp space.

Ennis begins this new space truckers story arc with a less is more formula. We’re introduced to Nomi with the starlog Sci-Fi trope. However, instead of wasting panels on world building, and history lessons, Ennis uses Nomi’s narration to establish the tone and world this mission is set in. Garth Ennis is a master at writing tight dialogue which still adds layers of depth and personality to each of his characters, and Caliban is no exception. From using nervous stuttering, words like “stuff” to describe technological “things”, to the jokes and insults, each character is uniquely defined within a panel or two. Also, Ennis uses the lack of Alien contact since the beginning of space exploration to emphasis the isolation and mundane lifestyle of a space trucker. Not only does Ennis show the improbability of a collision in a warp zone, but also the collision involving contact with alien life only adds to the mystery of the situation.

While Garth Ennis takes a less is more approach to Sci-Fi, Facundo Percio embraces the opposite. Percio artwork is crammed into every bit of cargo space of the ship. For example, the backgrounds are heavily layered with control panels, monitors with multiple lines of code, wires falling out of each console, even the Caliban clothes are highly detailed with patches, buttons, zippers and so on. Furthermore, although the characters are expressive during conversations, their eyes quickly become lost in vacant spaced out stares which adds the feel that the crew has been on this ship for much too long. The cramped panels, the vacant stares, and the warp space collision just further the overall claustrophobia of space travel.

What is always amazing is how Garth Ennis is able to use minimalist tight dialogue and narrative and create a psychologically tense thriller which keeps you guessing what will happen next. In addition, Ennis will lace his stories with just enough hyper realism in order to establish a familiar connection, rather it be mythology, conspiracies, or quantum theory, and it just shows how much care and detailed work Garth Ennis puts into his stories. It’ll also be interesting to see how Ennis writes Shakespeare’s Tempest into this Sci-Fi mystery. Ennis combined with Percio tireless artwork are sure to give us another great psychologically and claustrophobic thriller.  Image

A Serbian Film (2010) Review



 Srdjan Spasojevic


 Aleksandar Radivojevic (screenplay), Srdjan Spasojevic (screenplay)


 Srdjan Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic

They say that rape isn’t about sexual gratification; rather, the act is about power and dominance. A Serbian Film demonstrates this message in horrific detail. With an introduction which shows the son watching his father star in a softcore film, this movie clearly doesn’t want to hide it’s depraved intentions. The plot is about Milos, a fading porn actor being approached to star in his last smut film. However, as the movie progresses, it turns out this isn’t the normal production and film Milo is familiar with.

The prevailing theme of the story focuses on the idea of the nuclear family. This movie showcases how patriarchal dominance is exerted through sexuality and violence. The first act spends much of its time desensitized the act of sexual activity. This is made more clear when the wife ask why her husband, Milo, never has sex with her like he does with his former porn stars. He states it was because he loves her and that was a job. After the story moves on to act two, sexual acts become more brutal and their depictions are used as a form of dominance. By the time act three hits the top of its disturbing crescendo, we see sex and violence complete subvert the idea of family.

In the meantime, the writers also give forth some interesting philosophical subplots which may or may not have been fully realized by the time of climax. First, in the snuff film, an actess is introduced who becomes dominated by physical and sexual assaults. Next, Milo is shown a tape which depicts her giving birth to a baby which also becomes sexually assaulted. Although this is the point where the director of the snuff film gives privy to the overall themes behind his motivation, it’s quite hard to take him seriously and not view this as splatter porn when he is yelling, “I gave birth to Newborn porn”. Once more, the actress is shown as Milo is portrayed having sex with her before ending her life during his climax. Thus, ending the dominance cycle of sex and violence.

Although the film begins on a digital camera and looks cheap with boring camera angles, the screenplay really does save the day. There’s a point where we are watching found footage with the protagonist, and each tape shows just enough to pull the viewer in and discover what happens with the next tape. Also, the third act runs a parallel path with the protagonist and a flashback to his previous day. This mixed narrative keeps the pacing alive and doesn’t allow the viewer to flinch of walk away from this spiraling madness. Furthermore, although Milo begins with a picturesque family and as a warm father, by the time the movie hits its stride his violence and chopped up memory makes the audience really question this unreliable narrator. The production design also adds to the overall cerebral madness. The sound design has the eery hollow sounds combined with the industrial score and set production of industrial warehouse contrasting with the bright family home also added to the nightmarish tonality.

Overall, this is a movie which spirals down and beyond depravity while doing a wonderful macabre illustration of dominance through sex and violence. This movie isn’t for everyone nor does it pretend to be. It’s more for those who have an affinity for exploitation.

Darkness: Vicious Traditions (2014) Review

darknessAlex Kot is mostly known for writing cerebral social commentary, and this one shot doesn’t deviate from his favorite theme. The story begins shortly after Romans have conquered a northern tribe. Estacado, a descendent of the Darkness, awakes among a slaughtered heap of bodies. He begins a quest to seek out the Roman commander Legatus to avenge the death of his brother and tribe. This is a quick paced story splattered with gray mud and gore. What makes this story Kot’s is the internal monologue which kicks against the fourth wall and makes it read like an anti-war sermon. Although Dean Ormston’s backgrounds lack the world building detail, the artistic demonstrations of the death and supernatural quickly remind its readers what comic books can get away with. Besides, with its video games, ongoing and the Top Cow crossovers, the world building isn’t necessary. It still has plenty of other details to absorb. For example, the thick shadows blacking out panels when the Darkness powers begin to seep through is a nice touch. With its writers and fresh artists, Top Cow is a publisher to be reckoned with and this quick one shot is no exception. Just like its big brother Image, it doesn’t matter if you are picking up Artifacts, Darkness, Cyber-Force, or any other Top Cow title. They will all be solid and beautiful reads.

Hannibal (TV Series) Review

ImageSo far, the Hannibal tv series is shaping up to be the most mind bending ongoing series. At first many were sceptical if we really needed another Hannibal. After all, we already had five movie adaptations. Plus, not only has Thomas Harris not published anything new on our favorite antagonist, but also he was nowhere near the production of this series. Regardless, Bryan Fuller’s reimagining expands on and is filling in a lot of the Hannibal world’s missing gaps. Currently, the series takes place before the events depicted in Red Dragon although the series still focuses on the Red Dragon protagonist Will Graham, played by Hugh Dancy. The series focuses on Graham’s ability to deeply connect with serial killers. This connection gives him the ability to  figure out motivation and therefore intricately create a psychological profile of the killers. However, this series elaborates on how Graham can’t simply turn off his empathic ability, and we see Graham’s mental state slip his motivations into a psychotic abyss. The writers narrative use of the Unreliable Narrator storytelling beautifully emphasises Graham’s deteriorating sanity. This is actually what makes the series stand apart from the other adaptations. Previously, we saw Will Graham use this ability, but when the hunt was over, he would often return to his previous sane state of mind.

When Hannibal Lector, played by Mads Mikkelsen, meets Will Graham, Lector, being a cold-blooded sociopath, finds Graham’s ability completely fascinating. First, Lector tries to emulate Graham’s ability by duplicating the murders of serial killers, which leads him to being called the copycat killer. This is another creative reimagining. Although copycat killers have been used in countless psychological thrillers, this one definitely has its own unique flavor. Also, we watch Lector establish the same social and professional bonds of Graham. However, his main motivation is to finally find a person who can connect and understand Hannibal Lector. This is where Lector’s infamous Cat and Mouse interaction starts bleeding through. Throughout the series we see Lector manipulate Graham into not only understanding Lector’s twisted point of view but also carry out the same murderous behaviors.

The production’s mise-en-scene is similar to Swedish Noir style which dreadfully enhances the fact that Hannibal Lector’s cold shadow is cast upon all the players of this series. The murder scenes are elaborate macabre art shows which could’ve gained praise from Salvadore Dali. There are times I find myself scratching my head wondering how this show is being broadcast on NBC’s primetime. If Hannibal keeps up the momentum, Fuller has plans on devoting a season to every Hannibal chapter. I for one cannot wait to see the introduction of Clarice,  the reimagining of Hannibal, and how he will tie Will Graham back into everything. The great thing about stories that already have a pre-established ending is that it gives the creators more time to focus on how to flesh out everything that came before. Right now, Bryan Fuller has convinced me that Hannibal Lector’s story is worth going back to.

Dead Shadows (2012)

ImageThe overall story of Dead Shadows feels like an homage to 80’s scifi horror, in particular Night of the Comet.  In the first five minutes, we see our protagonist, Chris, watch his parents die after the Halley Comet flew by. Although it looks like modern times, we are suppose to believe ten years have passed. Chris becomes a tech nerd who slowly builds a relationship the girl next door. The first act makes the story feel like a slow burn Ti West movie. However, that script got thrown out for something that barely resembles a shooting script. The rest of the movie is a montage of campy and somehow diverse mutated parisians melting or ripping each other to shreds. Some scenes are stacked on top of each other in a way where it would have made more sense if we were given a missing scene title card. The only continuity that remained intact in the end was the characters consistent bad decision making. For example, why is he making out with that naked spider woman? Overall, this is a cheaply made scifi horror which gives it a nostalgic flavor. Maybe if they dumped the first act the movie would have felt more focused.

World War Z

ImageThis was Max Brooks first attempt at a full length fictional book, and it sadly shows. However, the fact that this book is composed of short interview narrations by many different characters in the World War Z world, the book reads very quickly. What Brooks lacks in his writing he more than makes up for in his detailed concepts of what would the human race do if they faced a zombie apocalypse. Brooks takes us behind the scenes and shows us the horrific reactions initiated by groups of people, different governments, and even pharmaceutical companies. This wasn’t a book that focused on the fear of oncoming zombie hordes rather it focused on the fear created by people making frightening decisions that had an effect on millions of people. My favorite section of the book would have to be Decimation.