Tim Palmer, Fanbase Press Contributor

Tim Palmer, Fanbase Press Contributor

This zero issue of Brain Boy is the perfect introduction to Dark Horse’s new telepathic hero, Matt Price, who doesn’t like to be called Brain Boy.  Or if you already read the three-issue miniseries, this gives you the chance to see just how writer Fred Van Lente kicked off his Brain Boy reimagining, as the character was originally created in the sixties. Compiled from Dark Horse Presents #23-25, which appeared months before the Psy vs. Psy miniseries, and drawn by Freddie Williams II, known best for his work on DC Comic’s Robin and Flash, this is still the Matt Price we know and love, but he hasn’t been assisting the United States Secret Service for very long. That only becomes apparent when his current mission runs afoul of assassins, and he has to call his employer, Albright Industries, for help, which is a spectacular and clever scene, like many of the scenes in this issue.

Polar: Came from the Cold, written and drawn by Victor Santos, is an excellent espionage noir thriller.  Black Kaiser (It’s a code name but the only name we get.) is a retired spy marked for extermination by a secret organization that once employed him, but even after years of retirement he won’t go down without a fight.  We are never told his real name, because Black Kaiser is who this man is and has been for years.  He is a spy and a killer through and through, and while he is still a man, his skills are so deeply ingrained in his psyche that he can call upon them without a thought and without hesitation.  What Santos does with this simple, straight forward story is truly exciting, and he does it with a three-color palette of white, black, and orange, and largely without any dialogue. 

I had never before read any of Dean Motter’s Mister X.  I knew of his Terminal City series, and I had flipped through a few single issues of a Mister X miniseries at a used bookstore some time back. I remember being intrigued by the art style but didn’t get the rest of it enough to pick the issues up.  But, that experience planted a tiny seed of curiosity, so when the chance came to review Dean Motter’s Mister X: Eviction & Other Stories from Dark Horse, I snatched up the opportunity and did a little research online to prepare myself for whatever it was that was Mister X. And, let me tell you, nothing can truly prepare you for Mister X and the world of Radiant City.

The fourth outing of Knuckleheads is what I call the “morning after” issue.  The morning after you fight a giant monster, throw up and pass out, get thrown up on, and get covered in giant monster goo – so, your average night out.  The Knuckleheads creative team knocks it out of the park again, continuing a hilarious story, building on their entertaining, enjoyable, and relatable characters, and just making me laugh . . . a lot . . . and out loud.  The dialogue and visual jokes are whip-smart, and add in a dash, or a maybe a splash, of scatological humor and you end up with a kind of comedy that is not being done in any other comics.  Or at least any other comics that I know of or am reading.  Yes, that is a blanket statement on top of a blanket statement, but it’s always warmer under two blankets.

The third issue of Brain Boy brings the Psy vs. Psy story arc to its roaring conclusion, but not without offering tantalizing hints at what adventures, dangers, and mysteries may be on the horizon for telepath Matt Price.  Writer Fed Van Lente has successfully developed and deepened the character of the egotistical young telepath, who has grown something of a conscience over these first few issues.  Raised by Albright Industries’ Bio-Vancements division after the death of his parents, and often found working for the U.S. Secret Service on psychic safety patrol for high-ranking government officials, Matt Price’s life used to be all fun and (mind) games.  But, that seems to be changing, maybe in a good way, or maybe in a slightly less good and much more deadly way.  It kind of depends on the situation, and in this issue Price finds himself in more than a few situations that will take all of his brain power, and I mean that in the most literal sense. Van Lente sets out some intriguing stepping stones in this issue that invite you further into the burgeoning Brain Boy universe, and he sheds just a tiny bit of light on Albright Industries, albeit to introduce more questions - very engaging and possibly even menacing questions.

Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman exploded into prominence in 2008 with Waltz with Bashir, an animated film that dealt with the Lebanon War, and with his latest film, The Congress, he tackles a mind-bogglingly surreal and multi-layered story, mixing live-action and animation into a wonderfully original science fiction tale.  The Congress played as part of AFI Fest’s World Cinema series, which is fitting, because the story is a universal one that goes beyond place and country and into the realm of ideas and imagery. Adapted from the science fiction novel The Futurological Congress, written in 1971 by Stanislaw Lem, also the author of Solaris, Folman’s tale tells the story of the very real Robin Wright, playing herself in a world that looks very much like our own, but just a bit off, at least at first.

Director Frank Pavich’s magnificent documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune played at AFI Fest in the Special Screening series and is the most exciting, energized documentary I have seen in a long time. It’s all about the making of a science fiction movie.  To call this movie about the making and eventual non-making of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version of Dune stunning, phenomenal, and a truly cinematic experience is not an understatement.  For those who may not know, as I didn’t, Alejandro Jodorowsky is the enigmatic writer and director of the highly unconventional cult films El Topo, which became the first true "midnight movie," and The Holy Mountain.  Both films are a creation of their times, the early seventies, and both delve deeply into the bizarre, the surreal, and the abstract, defying traditional film conventions and standards.  If you are completely unfamiliar with these movies, a quick internet search will give you an idea of Jodorowsky’s very unique and mind-bending sensibilities.

Blue Ruin, screening as part of AFI Fest’s American Independent series, is a small film that simmers with anger, sadness, confusion, impulsiveness, and regret.  Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, Macon Blair plays a beach bum who returns home after his parents’ murderer is released from prison.  For the first quarter of the film, we don’t know hardly anything about him, only that he is resourceful and does not require much to get by.  It is only after he enacts his revenge on the killer, shaves, changes his clothes, and goes to visit his sister, that he actually becomes the character of Dwight, and that is only the beginning of the story.  But, even still, Dwight is a blank slate to be imprinted on.  He was a beach bum as a result of his parents’ murder, and now he is who he is as a result of carrying out his act of revenge.  Blair is soft-spoken and has wonderfully expressive eyes and soft features that hide a quiet, determined intensity.  He is incredibly ordinary and average, which makes him a very relatable character and his actions all the more extraordinary, if not more difficult.

The Fake is a dark, disturbing, and nihilistic animated tale from South Korean animator/writer/director Yeon Sang-ho.  The story centers on a village that is going to be flooded due to a dam construction and is seeking solace in a church set up by a con man looking to drain the villagers of their savings before moving on to the next scam.  Everyone is living in a blissfully ignorant religious fervor, until Min-Chul comes back into town and starts to make trouble and tries to blow everything to hell.  But, Min-Chul is no hero.  He is profoundly foulmouthed, a violent drunk, a horrible misogynist, an abusive husband and father, and an all-around abrasive and unlikeable person.  He truly has no redeeming qualities.  After an altercation with the con man at a bar in the city, Min-Chul ends up at the police station where he sees a wanted poster for the con man, and so when he later sees him at the church, he calls him out as being a fraud, and sets in play a chain of events that can have no positive outcome.

Congratulations! is a most interesting film.  Written and directed by Mike Brune, and shot completely in one location (the interior and exterior of his parent’s home), this is a film that takes the well-worn police procedural convention and turns it on its ear within the first five minutes, and then just keeps on turning. Little boy Paul Gray has disappeared, literally, from the family living room during his eldest brother’s high school graduation party, right under the nose of his mother, played by the wonderful Rhoda Griffis.  And so, naturally, the Missing Persons Department is called in, and this is where all conventions end.  Leading the investigation is Detective Skok, brought to life in earnest by John Curran, but Skok is unlike any Missing Persons detective you have ever seen, or probably ever will see.  He asks strange questions, has out-of-the-box ideas, and yet is completely serious.  This is where the comedy comes from, and the movie is driven by a weird, deadpan, absurdist type of humor, but it never breaks into jokes, because no one is making any jokes.  Who would make jokes about a missing child?  And yet, you laugh when Skok questions Paul’s mom about just that.

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