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Sandman Overture #4 Review : The Land Between Time

Sandman Overture 4 cover

Welcome to the first installment of The Crank File. The Crank File is an open forum where I will offer speculations, reviews and ravings on all things comics.

25 years after starting his legendary run on the fantasy horror masterpiece Sandman, Neil Gaiman returns to Vertigo to tell the story of how it all began. There was a lot to like about the first three issues of Sandman Overture and I’ve been waiting (and waiting) with bated breath and parted lips for the cover to rise on chapter four. It did not disappoint. Minor spoilers ahead.

Dream of the Endless, his feline incarnation from an alternate reality and an orphaned child walk into the ethereal city of the stars. They are searching for an insane star-goddess housed in the city’s asylum. The mad sun that they seek threatens to destroy all of existence and it is Dream’s responsibility to stop her by whatever means necessary. Just another day in the hood.

Sandman Overture Chapter 4
Sandman Overture Chapter 4

As negotiations between Dream and the star citizens break down Dream goes for help, traveling between nanoseconds to the realm of his father, the patriarch of the Endless, father Time.

Time is the father of all existence. He is the manifestation of the eternal rhythm, the constant beating that allows for things to occur and reality to form. His appearance is like that of a man living out every stage of his life cycle simultaneously. His realm, like his appearance, is shifting and malleable. Bright colors and soft overlapping shapes create psychedelic landscapes that ebb and flow and blossom across the pages. His demeanor is cold, calculated and compassionless.

Sandman Overture #4 Realm of Time
Sandman Overture #4 Realm of Time

The artwork throughout Overture has been consistently gorgeous and engaging but issue four is visually the best that the series has produced. For me, the hallmark of this series has been the sublime page compositions. J.H. Williams III and the Overture creative team are setting a high water mark for what sequential story telling can achieve through dynamic page layouts.

Issue 4 closes with a flurry of twisting, page turning action. The the story leaves Dream in a familiar predicament and suggests one more member of the Endless to come, their Mother. Could it be Mother Nature of the Endless? Feel free to use that one, Neil.

Gaiman is crafting a sophisticated vehicle for probing the nature of dreams and myths, expanding and reestablishing the Sandman universe with brilliant results. The fittingly titled Overture series is a prequel that echoes many of the same themes explored within the main canon while setting itself apart with its own unique voice and vision.

The one criticism for this title has been the long gaps between issues. I personally don’t mind waiting for a high-quality product, and this book oozes quality, but the multi-month waits have been brutal.

It’s anyone’s guess when issue 5 will actually reach store shelves. If you can’t stand the idea of waiting months for the series to conclude then you might want to wait for it to come out as a trade paperback. But if you are a fan of Sandman, like so many of us are, you need to be reading Sandman Overture right now.

Dream on.

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Fresh Popped Corn: December Trailer Previews

Once per month, we will be taking a look at movies released for the upcoming month, and telling our readers where we would be spending our movie dollars each week, based on the look of the trailers.  Links to the chosen trailers will be provided so you can see just what we are so excited about.  Movie release dates are subject to change.

We are one week late on this blog entry due to Great Stories Inc being busy at last week’s Northeast Comic Con event in Wilmington, MA.  But we are back to normally scheduled programming, so to speak.  The good news is, there was really not too much competition last Friday at the box office with only one major release on the docket (critically panned The Pyramid), and in limited release the Reese Witherspoon drama Wild.

December 12
We begin with Exodus: Gods and Kings, which puts the exclamation point on a very big year for Biblical movies.  In this round, we get Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver, and Ben Kingsley under the direction of Ridley Scott in what looks to be an epic presentation of Moses’ story.  Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson star in the comedy Top Five about a comedian whose real-life wedding is to be broadcast to a TV audience.  Reese Witherspoon’s Wild, getting an awful lot of good buzz, gets a wide release, as she plays a woman who takes to a long journey by foot as she comes to grips with tragedy and self-afflicted adversity.  Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, and Owen Wilson star in an off-beat comedy/drama set in the 1970’s about a cop who investigates the disappearance of his girlfriend in Inherent Vice.  Exodus looks like the winner here, though Inherent Vice looks quite intriguing.  Check out the trailer below.

December 19
Peter Jackson will say farewell to his Tolkien franchises once and for all with the release of The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies.  And with that knowledge, we suspect there will not be any room at #1 on this particular week for any other film.  The theatrical remake of Broadway smash hit Annie will be competing hard for the second slot, however, starring Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx.  Fans of Robin Williams should know that they still get to see a few more performances on the big screen including Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.  Ben Stiller suspects there is more left in this franchise’s tank.  Mr. Turner is a biographical drama about an eccentric British painter.  And Goodbye to All That is a comedy/drama about a divorcee Dad who sets life to a new chapter with his daughter.  At the risk of sounding predictable, there is no way anything will usurp our desire to see The Hobbit trilogy come to a close.  Behold Smaug….er, I mean the awesome trailer for fantasy geeks like us.

December 26
One day after Christmas, we will all be full of good cheer with any luck, and if we were good, Santa might have stuck some free movie tickets in our stocking!  *Hint* *Hint* Santa Claus!  And how shall we cash them in, if we are so lucky?  Angelina Jolie directs the WWII true story, Unbroken,  of an Olympic runner, Louis Zamperini, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese.  Sure to be a moving chronicle and another story from America’s Greatest Generation.  James Franco and Seth Rogen are unlikely assassins recruited by the CIA to kill the leader of North Korea after the two TV Show hosts land an interview with him in the aptly titled, The Interview.  Hilarity ensues.  Another Broadway show gets the Big Screen treatment as Into the Woods gets released, starring Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Emily Blunt.  Clint Eastwood directs American Sniper, the story of a Navy SEAL on record with 150 confirmed kills, starring Bradley Cooper.  Mark Wahlberg plays a literature professor and high roller getting in all sorts of trouble in The Gambler.  Tim Burton directs a film unlike most of the films we are accustomed to seeing from him in Big Eyes, about painter Margaret Keane and her legal struggles with her husband following her success, starring Amy Adams.  Well, this would seem to be the most eventful and interesting week of all in December.  American Sniper is our pick of the lot with one of the most gut-wrenching and riveting trailers we have seen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZtrhRRw53Y

What will you be watching in theaters this month?

Back in three weeks with the January lineup!

-The Great Stories Team

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Comic Pick of the Week (December 10, 2014)

Guest blogger Ken Lee makes this week’s selection for us, and it is actually a book that was released last week.  We have decided that to ignore it would be criminal and thus……

Great Stories selects……

Tooth & Claw #2 (Image)

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Tooth & Claw is back this month with a new-ish name but more of the same high-quality, high-fantasy action that we were treated to in issue 1.

For those of you who missed last month’s spectacular 44-page debut, the recently re-named Autumnlands Tooth & Claw tells the story of a society of anthropomorphic animals set in a magical world. Magic’s power is fading from that world and it is having devastating effects upon their way of life. While leaders and wizards from across the land gather to discuss how to address the increasingly dire situation, a group of rogue mages devise a plot to restore magic back to the world by summoning the legendary warrior, the Great Champion.

Writer Kurt Busiek had a lot of pages to work with in issue 1 and many of those pages were used to build out a detailed fantasy world with rich, varied cultures and complex social problems. The second issue of the series returns to a standard twenty two page format and the action is tighter as a result. It spends little time before throwing the reader headlong into their first bloody conflict.

Magic and steel collide with flesh and hide in issue 2 and the results are predictably violent. One of the things I really like about this title is the animalistic dichotomy. Beneath its occasionally cute and cuddly exterior, Autumnland Tooth and Claw is dark and unapologetically brutal in nature. Illustrator Benjamin Dewey’s use of heavy lines and kinetic style captures the action with dramatic results. His battle sequences are well-paced and *ahem* graphic. And then there’s lots of gore too.

And though none of the environments in issue 2 are nearly as breathtaking as the views from the floating city of Keneil,

ToothandClaw1-Sprawling

Dewey’s artwork continues to amaze and delight. I love the painted splash pages that nod to the illustrated fairy tale books and I love the way animal faces are rendered naturally yet are still capable of conveying subtle reactions and emotions.

tooths2

There are spiritual undertones in the Autumnlands, ones that speak of death and change and fear. It’s refreshing to see a comic book dealing with these issues upfront although they sometimes feel a bit clumsy. The revelation of the Great Champion’s true lineage probably caused a bit of controversy but maybe not necessarily for the right reasons. The reinforcement of religious themes is heavy-handed at times and often made at the expense of character and plot these events development. After two issues we still know very little about our young protagonist or where the events are leading him.

We have more mysteries than answers at the moment (what is up with those ravens on the inside of the front cover?) but I am thoroughly enjoying this series and excited to see what happens next to my hairy, furry and feathery friends.

Issue 2 of Autumnlands Tooth and Claw came out on December 3 and could still be found on the shelves at your LCS. Issue #1 is sold out at the distributer level and will go to reprint. The second print drops January 7, 2015 alongside the release of issue #3 which introduces a new character.

Enter: Goodfoot the Sly. Is she here to help the wizards…or herself? [Hint: herself.]

Kaark, Truth finder! Kraak!

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Comic Pick of the Week (December 3, 2014)

Great Stories selects…..

Wolf Moon #1 (Vertigo)

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Just because we are long past Halloween does not mean we can’t bathe in the joy of a new werewolf series brought to you by DC’s edgy Vertigo line of graphic novels and books.  This six-issue series is off to a very promising start as writer Cullen Bunn pens the tragedy that befalls Dillon, whose friends all fall victim to a horribly savage beast deep in wooded isolation of their hunting trip.  Having survived the attack, but not without personal injury, he is up against the clock to find his nemesis before the cycle of the werewolf begin anew.

The violence and gore is pretty graphic, so this book is not going to be for all audiences.  The feint of heart and weak-stomached should probably turn their attention elsewhere (hey, the new issue of Penny Dora just came out!).  The horror hounds (pun slightly intended) will be rejoicing, however.  And they will be particularly happy with the grotesque artistry displayed by Jeremy Haun, who puts his own stamp on the werewolf graphic novel genre.

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris

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Comic Pick of the Week (November 26, 2014)

Great Stories selects….

Gotham By Midnight #1 (DC)

gotham_by_midnight

Darkness, dread, and isolation are not themes unfamiliar through the vast landscape of Batman titles of yesteryear and today, but this week’s newest entry into the lore certainly ranks very highly in all of the aforementioned categories.  And for that we applaud the creators, including writer Ray Fawkes and artist Ben Templesmith.  Templesmith’s images are beautiful and disturbing in one, which only makes the story all the more effective.  And what is that story?  Well, if it were possible to blend seasoned bits of Constantine, X-Files, and Sherlock Holmes into one Gotham Goulash, you might be on to what is being cooked up for your eyes.

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Fans of the supernatural, macabre, and dark world of Batman should give themselves an early Christmas present and pick up this book.  You really won’t go wrong.  And for the weak-kneed, sheltered lot of us out there, there’s always that My Little Pony book….just kidding.

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris

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Comic Pick of the Week (November 19, 2014)

Great Stories selects……

Spider-Woman #1 (Marvel)

Spider-Woman-2_612x931

Not too much of the Spider-Verse has really excited our team, but this week it has our attention with the release of Spider-Woman #1.  Written by Dennis Hopeless with art by Greg Land, the debut issue is really part of a larger story that weaves itself through a multitude of Spider-Man related titles, which is the major drawback for this story.  If you have not followed the Spider-Verse storyline or if you are unfamiliar with Jessica Drew as Spider-Woman, this is probably not the book for you.  The issue begins as a pretty obvious chapter in the larger story and there is no real “get acquainted” exposition, relying on your familiarity with the source material.  Outside of this, however, the book is well written with just the right levels of humor and action to make for some entertaining reading.  Land’s art is pleasing to the eye and the “prohibition Spider-Man” and Silk characters are perfect companions to Jessica.

portrait_incredible

Also out this week is Punisher #12, which features Castle’s return to the streets of Los Angeles (after spending the last few issues in South America), with the help of his old friend (Rachel Alves-Cole from the Rucka Punisher run)…a nod to Nathan Edmonson for acknowledging the awesome story that preceded his and the continuity that it represents.  For those waiting for Frank to dish out some justice to Dos Soles, your time has arrived.  And he even sends an epic message to the Howling Commandos, who are still hot on his trail and determined to bring the greatest anti-hero in the Marvel stable down.

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris

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Comic Pick of the Week (November 12, 2014)

Great Stories selects…..

Superior Iron Man #1 (Marvel)

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Spinning off the pages of the latest Marvel event, Axis, Tony Stark’s old demons have come back to haunt him setting off a dark new chapter for Marvel’s armored avenger.  Writer Tom Taylor (Injustice: Gods Among Us, Earth-Two) takes the reigns for this new direction with the help of artist Yildiray Cinar (Huntress).  Extremis 3.0 is unleashed by Tony Stark in what could be his biggest revenue-generating brainchild yet, but at what cost on the buying public?  And what does Pepper Potts think of Tony’s plan?  Rest assured, she has never been shy about giving Tony her honest opinion, but her concerns run deeper than the Stark Industry business agenda.  And her contingency plan contains some surprising elements.

For those mature readers out there, Vertigo has a new release called The Kitchen which follows a group of street-wise females who earn their respect on the streets of New York when the men in their lives aren’t there to provide ill-gotten gains.  We are sure it’s not for the squeamish, but Vertigo has given us some good titles over the past couple of years including the now-running Coffin Hill and New Deadwardians (favorites of ours).  Check it out!

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris

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Fresh Popped Corn: November 2014 Trailer Preview

Once per month, we will be taking a look at movies released for the upcoming month, and telling our readers where we would be spending our movie dollars each week, based on the look of the trailers.  Links to the chosen trailers will be provided so you can see just what we are so excited about.  Movie release dates are subject to change.

November 7th
Fridays in November are cold and often dreary, so let’s head to the theaters to shake off the malaise and have some fun!  The seventh brings with it the release of the much-anticipated Interstellar, starring Matthew McConaughey as an astronaut and father who decides to go on a mission that may very well save mankind (no, not from a giant asteroid a la Armageddon).  Christopher Nolan (Legend of the Dark Knight) directs.  The Theory of Everything stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as Stephen and Jane Hawking, in their early years of life, love, and the pursuit of knowledge. Disney’s Big Hero 6 will set out to bring the superhero concept to the next animated level.  We are betting on this one to be a Box Office juggernaut with cineplex’s chock full of kiddies and parents alike.  Horror movie Jessabelle will try to capitalize on an audience who still has not gotten Halloween out of their systems, with a Cajun flavored haunting tale.  The Better Angels is a biopic of sorts following the early years of Abraham Lincoln in what could be a very interesting entry, starring Jason Clarke, Diane Kruger, and Wes Bentley.  Frodo, er, we mean Elijah Wood continues with his move into the horror/thriller genre with Open Windows.  The movie is being labeled as the Rear Window for a new tech generation as Wood attempts to save the life of his webcam infatuation from a sadistic killer.  We are betting Alfred Hitchcock would be underwhelmed at the comparison.  And On Any Sunday:  The Next Chapter, documentary filmmakers bring us another look at the sport/recreation of motocross forty years after the original documentary aired.  Our pick this week has to be with Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.  Last year’s big serious sci-fi extravaganza was Gravity, which while beautifully shot, had a less than impressive story.  It seems we may have the opportunity for both in this release.

November 14th
Foxcatcher is an amateur wrestling drama that serves as some new territory for actor Steve Carrel who takes on the role of famed sponsor John DuPont.  Channing Tatum is Olympian Mark Schultz with Mark Ruffalo playing his brother in what appears to be a pretty riveting drama.  Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels reunite in Dumb and Dumber To (sic) in what appears to be a sequel that recalls the quality of Ace Ventura 2.  Get some new material guys!  Jon Stewart directs Rosewater, a true story about a journalist who spent over a 100 days being tortured in an Iranian prison.  The Toy Soldiers is a whoa is me drama about life in the 80’s, which looks utterly obnoxious (yes, we are getting very opinionated in this column…ha).  Tommy Lee Jones and Hillary Swank are an unlikely pairing transporting three crazy women across Nebraska state lines in the frontier drama The Homesman.  Kirk Cameron puts Christ back in Christmas in Saving Christmas.  And finally, Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays a teen vocal phenom who struggles to handle her fame in Beyond the Lights.  Looking at this line up, it appears that Foxcatcher is the winner.  Check out the trailer below.

November 21st
We already know what movie will rule the pre-Thanksgiving box office.  The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay Part One will undoubtedly be the movie most people will venture to, but what other movie fare is out there for us?  Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightley star in the WWII drama about a team of British codebreakers called The Imitation Game.  The third entry into another horror series, this one called V/H/S: Viral will spell doom for those who pursue the underground home movies that feature terror-filled and other-worldly phenomena.  The Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal gets the big screen documentary treatment in Happy Valley.  And Extraterrestrial will compete with V/H/S for that 18-35 male demographic as alien visitors show up to probe helpless victims foolish enough to chase the lights in the sky, featuring the GREAT Michael Ironside.  At the risk of ticking off the Katniss fans out there, we’ll be putting our movie dollars into The Imitation Game.  Though we also had a good chuckle at the Extraterrestrial trailer, which could end up being kind of fun, plus it has Michael Ironside darn it!  Check both trailers out below (if you dare).

November 28th
After all the turkey has been eaten and the football games are over, those of us who have the good fortune of having Friday off from work will be able to sleep a bit late and then think about some of that Christmas shopping that we’ll be needing to get around to.  Since Black Friday crowds are not our proverbial cup of tea, however, we’ll need something else to do.  Laughs will be in the offering as Horrible Bosses 2 hits theaters, starring Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston.  As well, families will have a nice option as the famous tuxedo birds from the awesome Madagascar movies get their own film in the simply titled Penguins of MadagascarRemote Area Medical is a film about a group that offers medical services to rural folks who have no hospital and insurance access.  Before I Disappear is a drama/comedy about a guy who is down on his luck, drug addled, and ready to check out on life when a relative calls and asks him the favor of watching her child.  More horror ensues when a scary childhood storybook takes on sinister reality in The Babadook.  And those of you looking for some Discovery-channel style big screen features will get the documentary Antarctica: A Year on Ice.  Since Thanksgiving is a family weekend, we’ll be checking out those hilarious penguins with the whole crew in tow.

What will you be seeing in theaters this month?

-The Great Stories Team

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Comic Pick of the Week (November 5, 2014)

Great Stories selects….

Penny Dora & the Wishing Box (Image)

PENNYDORA_01A_1

It is one day before Christmas and a young girl finds a mysterious box on her doorstep that holds within it a magic unseen.  With the power to grant wishes, Penny will come to understand that things that are too good to be true can often bring one more trouble than pleasure.

Penny Dora & the Wishing Box is being sold as an all ages adventure, and can be a great story to share with your kids (not to mention the kid in you).  Artist Scottie Young has plugged this Michael Stock written and Sina Grace drawn tale, and we could not agree more.  Image has been churning out some awesome books, and we hope their streak continues!

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris

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Comic Pick of the Week (October 29, 2014)

Great Stories selects…..

Deathlok #1 (Marvel)

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Yes, the cyborg killing machine is back with his own title with a script penned by current Punisher and Black Widow writer Nathan Edmonson.  Not having seen a Deathlok title since 2000, it seems that the TV Show Agents of Shield has provided an opportunity for Marvel to begin a fourth series.  Notice there is no “he” when we refer to the history of Deathlok appearances, and that is because there have been five individuals to have run with the mantle of being the ultimate weapon of destruction.  Born from the pages of the recently wrapped Original Sin event, Henry Hayes is the man and the machine this time around, and SHIELD is pulling the strings, but for what purpose?

And for those of you who like freebies, Halloween Comicfest sponsored specials, Afterlife with Archie and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special Edition may be available at your local shops.  Got to love free, right?  🙂

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris