Tall tales and tall deeds.
When I was a kid, I loved the Jim Henson's Storyteller series. I didn’t quite know what it was. I only caught a few episodes, and it never quite entered my consciousness as to who Jim Henson was, though I loved watching The Muppet Show on summer mornings after Gomer Pyle and F Troop. (I have since continued my eclectic taste for programing from multiple decades, but that’s a tale for another time.) The Storyteller was pitched a little above my age group, but it was one of those shows that stayed with me, resonating without me realizing why. When I came back upon it on DVD eight years ago, I was enraptured. It was somehow nostalgic and yet completely new, as I had not seen the majority of the episodes. The series found the magic of myth and storytelling in a perfect mix that managed to invoke something primal in my consciousness, a forgotten time where stories were told over many days by an elder around a fire, when stories were something more than just an entertainment. They had a life all their own.
Some blossoms are as beautiful as they are deadly.
Takeo and the monk travel with Wind of the Sands to infiltrate a Lord’s castle for treasure enough to free Akio from the Yakuza who have kept him hostage for his considerable gambling debt. Little do they know what truly awaits them in the chambers of the lord. Intrigue, action, and sultry double crosses make this issue a great addition to the series, all the while laying out the promise of much more to come. The monk gets to tag along for the action this time, and it goes pretty much as you would expect it, while we’re left with a cliffhanger that, though an old type of trick, serves its purpose effectively, because I certainly can’t wait to see what happens next.
Forget everything you think you know.
So speaks the Ancient One to Mister...forgive me, Dr. Strange. It's also a good reminder for the audience, as well, though judging by my theatre, everyone was ready for a new kind of trip. Marvel's doing something hard, something almost more difficult than tossing RDJ into a powered suit and seeing what shakes out. They have to build it again, but in a world where we already have so many pieces and a comfortable sense of what's happening. The success and shine of Winter Soldier and Civil War have spoiled us with solidly continuing storylines that have built upon everything that came before, with Ant Man and Doctor Strange opening up new worlds (the Quantum Realm and, well, the entirety of the multiverse, respectively) that are harder to ground in reality. The only current franchise that has attempted that has been Thor, and it's not an uncommon belief that those films tend to be the weakest of the offerings we've have over the last decade. This is the ground that Marvel has to win to bring Infinity Wars to the screen, and, honestly, Phase 3 looks to be shaping up pretty well.
Once you know your enemy, you’ll not fear them. Yeah, sounds good.
Schismatic is based on a solid and horrifying premise, where parents fighting against a Lovecraftian cult are separated from their children and spend 10 years imprisoned in mines before managing an escape. Having sneaked into the heart of their enemies’ stronghold (after making some intriguing allies), they come face to face with their worst nightmare: their children. Having spent the whole of the narrative with the adults, this issue flips the script and fills us in on what the kids have been going through (now that we have confirmed that they are alive) for the last decade. It’s not a story of hope, but my goodness is it one that’s thoroughly engaging.