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Tag Archives: series

Gerard Way (yes, that Gerard Way) has always loved comic books. He and Gabriel Bá launched the first issue of The Umbrella Academy in the fall of 2007, and I first read the comics a few years later. V had copies of both The Apocalypse Suite and Dallas, and let me borrow them. I was instantly hooked.

February 15th saw the release of a live-action adaptation of The Umbrella Academy, and as of last Monday night, I’ve finished my first run-through of season one. Holy god damn, that was amazing.

The story follows an unconventional family. Years ago, several dozen children were born on the same day, with none of their mothers having shown any previous signs that they were pregnant. Wealthy eccentric Sir Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of them, six of whom demonstrated incredible superpowers. Together, the children fought crime as the Umbrella Academy. That was then. Before Ben died. Before #5 went missing. Before Luther departed for the moon.

Now, Sir Reginald has died, and the surviving children have come home to pay their respects, but are interrupted as the long-lost #5 makes an unexpected reappearance. He claims he’s been in the future, and that he’s come back to help the Umbrella Academy stop the apocalypse, which is now only a few days away.

Given that Way and Bá created an intensely bizarre world together, but it’s a beautiful framework for the Netflix adaptation to be built upon, and build it does. As they prepare for the impending end of the world, the Hargreeves siblings bond and bicker, healing some old wounds and inflicting new ones. Luther attempts to lead as he once did, but can’t conceal that he’s not the same person he was before he left for the moon. Diego tries to maintain his activities as a local vigilante, but a previous relationship with Detective Eudora Patch complicates things. Allison, despite her celebrity status, struggles with her recent divorce and separation from her daughter. Klaus battles addiction and ghosts of his past. #5 is adjusting to reverting to his thirteen-year-old body and finding a way to cope with his PTSD. Ben is still dead. And Vanya, the “normal” one of the family, just wants a place to belong.

The casting of the characters couldn’t have been more spot-on. Robert Sheehan (Klaus) and Ellen Page (Vanya) aren’t strangers to superhero universes (Sheehan starred in the early seasons of Misfits and Page played Kitty Pryde in multiple X-Men films). They’re joined by a stellar cast, including Cameron Britton and Mary J. Blige as Hazel and Cha-Cha, a pair of time travelling assassins who are sent to ensure that the apocalypse takes place as scheduled.

The Umbrella Academy‘s soundtrack is killer too, as should be expected of a series with Gerard Way at the head. From a solo dance party scene featuring Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” through #5’s fight scene set to “Istanbul, Not Constantinople” by They Might Be Giants to Way’s own cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter” in the closing credits of the final episode, it’s pitch perfect.

Over the course of 10 episodes, you get more character development than we’ve seen in the comics (so far, but with story arc #3, Hotel Oblivion, we’re starting to see more, and Way has mentioned several more planned story arcs). Considering the relatively sparse nature of the original plot of The Apocalypse Suite, I’m happy to see that the showrunners have blended some elements of Dallas into season one, giving us a far more well-rounded bit of story. I don’t doubt that Netflix will pick this one up for a second season, and I look forward to seeing my favorite dysfunctional super-family again soon.

 

Hey y’all. It’s been a while since my last book review, so I’m going to talk to you for a minute about Neal Shusterman’s Thunderhead. Minor spoilers for Scythe will likely occur throughout, given that this is book #2 in trilogy.

Thunderhead is set in a future world of plenty, where death and poverty and illness and war have been eliminated by the Thunderhead, an artificial intelligence developed from what we currently call “the cloud.” Every human has nanites in their blood that reduce pain from any injury, and slowly repair any damage. And if by some unfortunate accident, you happen to die, a drone will recover your body and take you to the nearest facility where you can be revived (your first one’s free!).

However, in order to curb overpopulation, the Thunderhead allows for the Scythes. Scythes are an order of highly skilled assassins (of sorts) who exist to keep humanity’s numbers in check. They maintain a quota of gleanings, permanent deaths for a chosen few to remind people of the mortality that the entire race once faced. Anyone who is gleaned by a Scythe earns immunity for their family for a year.

Book one in the series, Scythe, follows Rowan and Citra, two young teens who are chosen as apprentices to Scythe Faraday, who intends for one of them to become his successor. Their training leads to the widening of schisms within the Scythedom, and soon they find themselves pitted against each other over the right and wrong ways to go about their duties of gleaning.

Thunderhead picks up several months after the events of Scythe, with Citra now serving as Scythe Anastasia, and Rowan operating in the shadows, gleaning other Scythes who he deems to be immoral and corrupt. Dubbed Scythe Lucifer, he lives a life on the run while Anastasia is honored for her rather benevolent take on gleaning (giving her victims a month’s warning, and allowing them to choose the means by which they will die).

This book introduces more perspectives from the Thunderhead itself, giving the reader powerful insight into the all-powerful AI’s thoughts and concerns. We also meet Greyson Tolliver, a young man who has devoted his entire life to serving the Thunderhead, and has his loyalty tested to the extreme. While this can feel like it’s drawing attention away from Rowan and Citra, it contributes to the worldbuilding. And while Scythe had a phenomenal dystopian feeling, there were many questions left unanswered that are picked up in these chapters and monologues.

Now Anastasia and her current mentor, Scythe Curie, have been targeted by a mysterious attacker who seems intent on ending them both permanently, while Rowan grapples with the consequences of his actions as Scythe Lucifer. The Thunderhead muses on the Separation of Scythe and State, lamenting its decision to refrain from interfering with the actions taken by members of the Scythedom, finding clever ways to work around the various safeguards that it has installed in society (and maybe finding out more than it was ever meant to know).

All in all, Thunderhead is a powerful followup to Scythe, a worthy companion and, to my simultaneous joy and rage, the second book in a trilogy. Book three is due in 2019, and I can’t wait to see how this all wraps up.