Howdy, pardners. Before we git to this week’s hootenanny, some corrections and apologies must be shared. Last week, the person I called James Delos is actually Karl Strand, which kills me a little, because that name is so rich in meaning. “Strand” is German for “beach,” as in the place where they found all the dead hosts, and “strand” is English for either “land bordering water,” “to leave behind or abandon,” or “a fiber or filament twisted together to form a unit,” OR “one of the elements interwoven in a complex whole.” You could not have done more if you named this character “Karl Metaphor.” He is, after all, the one who said, “How did all these disparate threads come to create this nightmare?” Karl Strand wants to know the manner in which the strands came together!?! Damn, people.
“Fundamental Comics,” a monthly editorial series that introduces readers to comics, graphic novels, and manga that have been impactful to the sequential art medium and the comic book industry on a foundational level. Each month, a new essay will examine a familiar or lesser-known title through an in-depth analysis, exploring the history of the title, significant themes, and context for the title’s popularity since it was first released.
I think the showrunners of Westworld binge watched a lot of Game of Thrones during their time off, as Season Two, Episode Two seems like a GoT episode: lots of exposition, four or five running plotlines, nothing resolved, and pawns being moved into place for some crazy stuff three to four episodes from now. But precious little actually happens.
Star Wars is kind of my thing. I have been a fan for forty-one years now. It was my thing since I first saw the film on a rainy afternoon on Cape Cod in June, 1977. Our family was camping (for the first time ever), and it rained for three days straight. By the third day, with three wet, crazy kids under ten, my folks decided we were going to a movie to get out of the rain, whatever was playing. What was playing was a thing called Star Wars, and 121 minutes later, I had found my new religion. I saw it seven more times that year. It was the first film I saw more than once. (VCRs weren’t a thing yet.) I saw all of the prequels multiple times in the cinema, even Phantom Menace. My siblings saw the movies, but it was never their thing. They’d seen the film when it came out and said, “It was all right,” and moved on with their lives. I obsessed.
While applauded by critics, the bold and subversive nature of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, directed Looper’s Rian Johnson, has left the Star Wars fanbase fractured between those who absolutely loved the film, those who absolutely hated it, and a few left in between. Easily the most divisive Star Wars film so far, The Last Jedi, perhaps, was destined to be controversial given the monumental task set forth, such as the return of the iconic character of Luke Skywalker to the franchise (Mark Hamill appeared in a mere cameo at the end of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but audiences truly spend time with their original trilogy hero in this film.) and the final on-screen appearance of the late Carrie Fisher (a.k.a. Princess Leia), for example. Perhaps nothing could truly be as purely satisfying as what our own imaginations have whispered to us regarding what we might witness in that darkened theater. And, while I disagree with many of his choices, director Rian Johnson is someone who took the story in a distinct direction and changed the characters and the mythology in lasting ways going forward. Fans cannot be expected to love every choice made and story told, but we must acknowledge that for Star Wars to survive and grow with new generations, it must evolve, be given room to change, and provided the opportunity to take chances and even fail at times.