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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)

ToothClaw2_CVRB

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)

9hOaOqu-wolfmoon1b thumb_OCT140382

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