“Step up into my greenhouse and speak your names.”
“I see Flames and blood.”
“I hear screams and dying… Your past is your past. You know why you are here, as do I… Once you cross my threshold and enter my home, there are only three things I require of you. There shall be no violence, no lying, and no lateness. Break one of these and you forfeit your right to remain here…Welcome to my home.”
Coming off the excitement of Episode 3, the fourth installment of Season 2 of The Man in the High Castle slows down as it puts the key players in place in what feels like a setup episode for upcoming action and plot resolutions.
Well, another issue of Wic/Div has been released, and with it comes some of the biggest revelations of the series thus far. We've basically been hearing for most of the series about the impending doom that is to befall our cadre of psychotic and hedonistic Gods once their ninety years on Earth are up. They're to die, without question, only to be reborn again some time later. Their fearless leader, Ananke, knew this, and in order to preserve this way of life, intended to sacrifice four of the Gods to stave off something called “The Great Darkness.” That didn't exactly go well, as the Gods revolted and killed Ananke, leaving everything kind of up in the air.
As Episode 3 builds tension between characters, confrontations and interactions keep us on edge and in anticipation for some hefty climaxes. Characters previously involved in separate storylines cross paths, such as Inspector Kido (Joel de la Fuente) visiting Juliana’s parents (Daniel Roebuck and Macall Gordon) and Obergruppenführer Smith (Rufus Sewell) questioning Juliana (Alexa Davalos). As we hold our breath, characters must not slip up in order to avoid potentially dangerous consequences. The music in this episode is loud and poignant, which also heightens the intensity and makes each scene even more dramatic. The dangers seem more real as some characters teeter on the brink of their breaking points.
Be careful who you love. That line might work as the tagline of The Shadow Glass from Dark Horse. Written and illustrated by Aly Fell, with letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot ®, this lush and beautiful graphic novel brings us to the time of the Golden Age of England (1500s), where magic and lust are intertwined.
“Love creates. Love heals. Love gives us hope.
“Love is Love.
“And my heart overflows with love for you all.” -Marc Andreyko, New York Times best-selling writer and organizer of Love is Love
In Episode 2, a withered Ed McCarthy (DJ Qualls) returns and is reunited with Frank (Rupert Evans) who now owes the Japanese. At this point, Frank’s plot doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Juliana’s (Alexa Davalos), but I imagine that what he builds for the Japanese will ultimately connect to the other main storylines. It seems likely that Joe (Luke Kleintank) will run into Juliana again too, even though he currently thinks she’s dead. Misinformation and deception are so common in this show that the characters really shouldn’t trust anything that anyone tells them.
Found within the tome of this new collection of horror stories, you’ll find Richard Corben spinning tales inspired by the likes of old EC series like The Vault of Horror or Tales from the Crypt. Calling it a tome is a bit hyperbolic, but this is thirty-some pages of a fun throwback to when horror was far more innocent.
Mag the Hag is our storyteller, and much like the Cryptkeeper, he introduces us to all the stories and has a clever turn of phrase at the end of each. In one story, two puppets are actually tiny, little creatures. In another, two people are stranded on an island after a plane crash and run across horrific roots. In the third, a wife unintentionally finds a way around 'till death do us part, and the final tale is an ancient story about gods and a man who has great strength that will continue in issue two.
The stories are a fun romp. I can’t say anything scared me or gave me chills, but I did smile with fondness whenever our protagonists stumbled unknowingly towards their wretched fates.
The thing that makes this most worthwhile is the simply stunning black-and-white art from Corben himself. He’s a master of bringing life to the absurd, weird, and horrific, and he gives himself plenty of opportunity to do so in this first issue. His work as an artist is epic and surreal through his characters' long faces and eyes that seem to come to life. It’s a haunting landscape, because the humans are warped ever so slightly, almost as if they were mocking the reader with how closely they resemble us.
Is this comic going to be worth it for just anyone to pick up and buy? Most likely not, but if you’re a horror fan or a fan of Corben, you really can’t go wrong.
As Cullen Bunn lets the roots of his mythology in Harrow County grow ever deeper, he hasn’t forgotten about the human element. Emmy may not be who we or even she thought she was, her real family may be made of monsters and people with god-like powers, but she’s still Emmy. She still has a father that raised her as a daughter, she still has neighbors, and there still is a world full of humans outside Harrow County.
The Life and Death story arc has quite literally been everywhere, and it’s quite literally about surviving every circumstance. That’s the only through line I can make of it. It’s like Dan Abnett was given all the ingredients and just started stirring. There doesn’t seem to be any larger function or endgame here, just a push to get through to the next cool idea. The unfortunate thing is without that endgame, the story that tethers the cool ideas together isn’t always the strongest, and the characters aren’t always the most intriguing. They end up being shuffled around like chess pieces, simply reacting to what’s coming without a goal beyond survival or without an anchor point to make them relatable.