Sunday, April 24, 2011

Doctor Who: Swearing on Fish Fingers and Custard since 2010 (spoilers)

Spoilers for The Impossible Astronaut below.

When I finished watching this the first time, I was incoherent and could only manage a Ten-like triple-what.

Second First Impressions

Before I go in depth, I don't really like blogging about two part episodes. They're evil with eviler cliffhangers and evil half-stories. So it's rather like trying to evaluate a book you haven't actually read yet, and I always feel like whatever I end up writing is just shallow, shallow, shallow. But here goes.

I was proud of myself for avoiding spoilers for the most part. Still, I was not expecting the sheer unpredictable-ness of the story itself.

The Doctor dying before the first ten minutes? What the heck. And for some reason, probably because of Mark Sheppard's affinity for villains, I was expecting Delaware III to be a bad guy -- but then he wasn't! I also wasn't expecting Rory and Amy to be keeping house together while the Doctor is swanning off in balloons, gadding about under lady's dresses, and generally having the most ridiculous adventures in the history of ever.

So yes. I felt like the beginning had put me all off center because I was expecting everyone to be in the TARDIS all nice and proper instead of. Well.


So that was interesting and new. I mean, series 2 started with newly regenerated Ten and Rose. Series 3, 4, and 5 Rose is all gone, but at least the Doctor is still in his TARDIS, which is more than can be said for Future!Eleven -- because, where is Future!Eleven's TARDIS? I mean, don't get me wrong -- he looked quite dashing on the hood of his red car but it's not his transportation of it?

And he knew that Amy saw those creature-things. Could see it in his eyes. And he knew the astronaut was coming.

And the Impossible Astronaut is impossible not because it came from a lake, but because the astronaut is a child in a man's suit.

I'm guessing.

But really, the beginning and the rest of the episode really demonstrated Matt Smith's acting ability I thought. I kept on thinking as I was watching it the first time -- this is off. This isn't like proper Eleven. He's got a diary! Not even Ten started keeping a diary. And then he was always looking so old and sad.

And he tipped his hat -- got his tenses all wrong:

A lot more happens in 1969 than anyone remembers. Human beings. I thought I'd never get done saving you.
And of course a lot more happens because there's aliens buggering about that make people forget them if they're not looking at them! Then there's the parallel language that appeared in the first angel episode of the fifth season--except it was in the present tense, not the past: "I'll never be done saving you."

I doubt I'd have caught it on a first viewing if I hadn't spent most of yesterday evening and night having a Doctor Who marathon.

Character Development

Since this is the first time in the new series where all the people are the same (Eleven, Rory, and Amy), I was concerned that there'd be either stalled or ignored character development. But when Future!Eleven dies, Rory says,

There's a boat. If we're going to do this, let's do it properly.

And I can't really imagine pre-Roman Rory saying that at all. So it was nice that his character remained developed.

Then the bit in the TARDIS where Eleven is borderline paranoid about everybody and just wants to ship them off back home.

Conflict! Tension! Stakes!

And then, there was the look on River's face when he chose to trust Amy over her. Poor, poor River.

Her little monologue gave those episodes in the library new, emotional punch:

When I first met the doctor, a long long time ago, he knew about me. Think about that. Impressionable young girl, suddenly this man just drops out of the sky, and he's clever and mad and wonderful and knows every last thing about her. Imagine what that does to a girl. Trouble is--it's all back to front. My past is his future. We're traveling in opposite directions. Every time we meet, I know him more, he knows me less. I live for the days that I see him. But I know that every time I do, we'll be one step further away. The day is coming when I'll look into that man's eyes - my doctor - and he won't have the slightest idea who I am. And I think it's going to kill me.

Which is just even more compounded by the look on Rory's face and how he's making these connections between River and Amy and my god.


I also can't help but wonder how Amy using a gun will change their relationship. It'll be interesting to see if the Writers-That-Be will mess with the usual Doctor/Companion relationship that has been sort of defined in the previous series, particular in season 4 with Donna and Ten, where she basically told him he needed a companion to keep himself human, to keep himself from going too far (in fact, "Turn Left" was basically an entire episode about the importance of the companions in the Doctor's life).

Now though -- it's Amy who's gone too far -- who is, in fact, acting a little bit like Ambrose from series 5 -- so, it'll be interesting how or how far they'll tweak the typical Doctor/Companion relationship in that respect (though I can't blame them if they don't decide to be ultra-bold with is, after all, one of the most defining aspects of the show).

And what's character development without a bit parallelism?

Symmetry of the oh-my-god-i-thought-you-were-dead-but-you're-not-not-really-how-can-this-be-poke.

The Kid.

The first words we hear from the kid are:

I'm scared, Mr. President. I'm scared of the space man.

And of course everybody thinks the "space man" is the Impossible Astronaut that Killed our Beloved Eleven from the Future.

Eleven, who doesn't know about the astronaut-intent-upon-his-death, believes that the girl has told the president everything he needs to know, and he just isn't listening. Hmm.

But then it turns out that the kid is the astronaut -- unless the thing in the astronaut took her inside...but that seems an odd method of kidnapping.

I can't help but wonder if the Space Man is actually the Doctor. I mean, Donna was always calling him Space Boy. And why else would the astronaut kill the Doctor?

But that doesn't make any sense. The timing is all wrong because the child was talking on the phone to the president before the Doctor came, and the dialogue and actions don't match up if there were some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey moments at work.

So maybe it is just something similar to what happened in the library episodes...vashta-narade-like creatures eating people in space suits.

Cause and Effect, or, the Curse of the Headache-Inducing Nature of Time Travel

Okay. So. After the Doctor is killed but before they meet him in his-his present, they all agree that the Doctor wanted them to do something, that he still needed them. Then they seemed to agree, on the TARDIS, that they were going to save him.

But then River told Amy that they couldn't stop the astronaut in '69 because then the inciting event in 2011 wouldn't happen, thus creating a paradox.

I wonder, when Matt Smith decides it's time or whoever else decides, will keep this ending -- or if this will manage to re-write itself somehow, cause and effect be damned to davey jones locker.

Amy Pregnant


See that. I'm so disappointed I can't even bother to spell my indignation properly.

Dear yoda help us, I swear to god. What is up with the pregnancy storylines? I mean -- Fringe, Stargate, ergh! BIRTH CONTROL people.

I'm hoping it's not going to be /just/ a pregnancy storyline. I'm hoping it's not going to incredibly dull and melodramatic, like these things typically are. I'm hoping she's not pregnant at all, though she seemed rather certain (I'm hoping that since River and Amy were both sick after seeing the monstery forget-me aliens, she's just...assuming she is). I can't really imagine Rory not being more protective of her if she was...he seems to be the type (but in an adorable kind of way).

Unless he doesn't know either.


Assorted Bits of Awesome

You know, the Future!Eleven prologues his upcoming death, funeral, and wake with this:

I've been running. Faster than I've ever run. And I've been running my whole life. Now it's time for me to stop. And tonight, I'm going to need you all with me.

When I heard it in the trailer, I thought it was a bit generic. I mean, the Doctor running (running, in and of itself, in its various contexts and definitions) is -- pardon the pun -- a running theme in the show, but in context with the entire episode, this sounds rather specific. I wonder if the show is going to dip into some Classic Who.

These are the times when I curse my continued procrastination to watch Classic Who.

Geek fail.

The forget-me-aliens -- when they first appeared, they seemed to be quite threatening. Imposing, even. But then, when River ran into them in those old tunnels, they reminded me of rats and that's not an imposing image at all (though, it was frightening how Rory and River would see them, and, though they're still literally gasping with terror, still say, all's clear and all's well and it's like oh-my-god).

Though that would explain why the Old Tunnels were old and nobody knew about them. I've bet the forget-me-aliens have been there for just as long, making everybody forget about them and the tunnels and their little knock-off Tardis.

I wonder if they built the one in "The Lodger" too...

I wonder why they're so interested in the Doctor and him knowing all the things he must and mustn't know.

The Doctor: [regarding the presidents]. Lovely fellows. Two of them fancied me.
That made me smile.

Delaware III: What's going on here?
Doctor: Nothing. She's just a friend.
Rory: I think he's talking about the possible alien incursion.

Falling in love/flirt, despite his trust issues.

It seems like, with the forget-me-aliens, memory is going to be another important theme, just like it was in last series. I wonder how they'll play with the idea in new and intriguing ways.

Beautiful and sad.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Discourse -- Lucifer: Exodus, Volume 7 by Mike Carey

This is the volume in which two things (continue to) occur:

1). Mazikeen is awesome.
2). Elaine is awesome.

So now that Heaven is up for grabs, basically, some titans think they can just go out and claim it. Then Lucifer goes Doctor-Who on them as he defeats them in a timey-wimey fashion.

But forget that. Let's talk about how Mazikeen strides into heaven, doesn't give a single fuck that she's not wanted there, in order to warn Lucifer and foil their plans. See, the titans had created a Bizzarro-Lucifer from the memories of a waitress who used to work at Lux. So Mazikeen drags the waitress, works some magic, and voila! good guys win the day and then the angelic host is all grumpy because demons are bad and god forbid they be sullied with the presence of the likes of Mazikeen, right?

Behold the power of lesbian-love:

Oh. Beautiful.

And as for Elaine -- check this out:

She became a guardian to Lucifer's world in the last volume, but she was still in her little-girl school clothes. But now now she's grown up and her clothing changes to reflect that.

I find this absolutely refreshing in a society that infantalizes women. And, of course, the clothes continue to symbolize her Grown-upness -- there's a scene towards the end where she's disappointed with herself and angry at the job she had to do and she reverts to her school-girl uniform and then reverts back when Mazikeen tells her she's acting like a child.

Cool stuff.

But, I think the most poignant story of this volume was the one about Thole and Martin.

It was like a dark version of Dr. Seuss.

The story was wonderful -- playing with themes like love and self-hood:

I like this because it touches on a common theme in speculative fiction -- ideas of perception and selfhood. Are we humans entirely sure that the beings we mindlessly other are not individuals too, granted with "personhood" as well?

But the theme isn't hammered over the reader's head -- it's just there, in all it's simplicity.

I like this because it recognizes what a complicated emotion love is. Sometimes I feel that it's always so simplified in a lot of stories.


I adore this image. Anyway, upshot is, Thole ends up attracting himself a mate and, in the fashion of black widows, she is a bitch from hell. Of course, Martin feels rejected and, in a fit of pique and jealousy, throws away the self-stone Thole had made him.

I found the gesture to be an incredible metaphor. How many times do we everyday people just throw ourselves to the mercy of our emotions -- allow ourselves to surrender to some of our darker impulses? And I couldn't help but wonder that, somewhere when that happens, when we become villains in our own stories, that we are throwing away our selves in anger or pain or grief.

I love the background -- the fragments of faces, of identity.

Poignant. Beautiful.

Another moment of Elaine-Awesomeness:

Whereas Mazikeen fulfills the imperative of Lucifer to get rid of all the immortals in his universe with the sword, Elaine does so with the mind.

And she takes away Thole's immortality:

I may have gotten teary eyed at this point in the story:

Martin is obviously more adjusted than me. I think that Death would have been proud of him.

On a happier note: Mazikeen looking sexy and awesome as all hell

Discourse - Lucifer: Mansions of the Silence Volume 6 by Mike Carey

At first, it seemed that this was a fairly plot centric volume: find Elaine. Talk to God the Father.

And then wham.

Surprise visit of Holy-Shit-They-Actually-Went-There.

Yes. That is a literary term.

Meet Jill Presto:

mother to be of a magical baby because the tarot people raped her and impregnated her with it. Throughout the course of the story, the boy has become corporeal and is trying to cozy up to mother dearest, declaring his love for her and trying to convince her that she must love him too:

Then he becomes injured in the course of the story as he steps in to protect his vessel/mother.

And she does make her decision:

Please, Jill. Tell us how you /really/ feel. This is where I first began to stagger. I mean, you just don't see mothers acting like this in a lot of pop cultury things. I mean, even Gabriel still loved her demon spawn from Xena: Warrior Princess.

But then this took the cake:

Excuse me while I have a holy-shit moment.

Perhaps this doesn't seem so significant if viewed in a bubble -- but consider:

Take Fringe for example. Where "abortion" is never even mentioned as an option (even when it's later revealed that the pregnancy would probably kill both mother and child).

Then there's another show called Invasion -- it's about aliens, but what's the first symptom that aliens have been fiddling with the humans? When women stop acting like mothers. So -- you have a mother abandoning her kid (side character played by the chick that plays Peggy on Mad Men, btw). Then you have another primary character who's a doctor. She doesn't seem to be Off because she stops being such a good job. Oh no. Something's wrong because she stops being a good mom. She doesn't call her kids and tell them that she's going to be late after a big ass hurricane.

It's the Monstrous Mothers trope -- women so far perverted that they reject the very fiber of their being -- their motherhood -- and thus become irredeemable monsters.

And here this is being subverted in a glorious fashion.

Jill doesn't want to be a mother. She wants to have a career and have good sex. She is furious when someone tries to tell/force her that she needs to love this child. I really appreciate how they position love as a choice, as an action springing forth from someone's agency, instead of something natural.

It's self-validating. Individuality first, role second.

But the volume wasn't just about motherhood -- it was about fatherhood too. Because God the Father is abandoning the Silver City and randomness/chaos is about to ensue. Gabriel feels betrayed, Lucifer is hardly surprised. Though perhaps my favorite line so far in regards to Lucifer and God the Father is this:


Slytherins! The lot of them. And I fucking love it. I'm hoping the fatherhood theme will play out more in further episodes, but I just find the juxtaposition of a masculine character and a feminine character abandoning certain roles society has thrust upon them to be fascinating.

And, of course, I like the subversion of the typical concept of God so prevalent in Judeo-Christian societies. I mean, I don't think that "contrivance" and "manipulations" would be the first adjectives the average person would use to describe "god."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Regarding Game of Thrones (spoilers)

So I thought that the first episode of Game of Thrones (which I watched on youtube) was mostly good.

Except for one part which I find really, intensely irritating.

It was after Dany weds Khal Drogo and they go on their ride, which preludes their sexual intimacy. Well, if it can be called intimacy.

It sucks being a wife/female and all in Westeros, we'll put it that way. And because of that, it just makes what the writers' change all the worse, in my opinion.

Here's the scene in the book (though they skipped the part where Dany unbraids his hair):

He began to undress her.

His fingers were deft and strangely tender. He removed her silks one by one, carefully, while Dany sat unmoving, silent, looking at his eyes. When he bared her small breasts, she could not help herself. She averted her eyes and covered herself with her hands. "No," Drogo said. He pulled her hands away from her breasts, gently but firmly, then lifted her face again to make her look at him. "No," he repeated.

"No," she echoed back at him.

[. . .]

After a while he began to touch her. Lightly at first, then harder. She could sense the fierce strength in his hands, but he never hurt her. He held her hand in his own and brushed her fingers, one by one. He ran a hand gently down her leg. He stroked her face, tracing the curve of her ears, running a finger gently around her mouth. He put both hands in her hair and combed it with his fingers. He turned her around, massaged her shoulders, slid a knuckle down the path of her spine.

It seemed as if hours passed before his hands finally went to her breasts. He stroked the soft skin underneath until it tingled. He circled her nipples with his thumbs, pinched them between thumb and forefinger, then began to pull at her, very lightly at first, then more insistently, until her nipples stiffened and began to ache.

He stopped then, and drew her down onto his lap. Dany was flushed and breathless, her heart fluttering in her chest. He cupped her face in his huge hands and looked into her eyes. "No?" he said, and she knew it was a question.

She took his hand and moved it down to the wetness between her thighs. "Yes," she whispered as she put his finger inside her.

In the television version, Drogo skips the foreplay, never asks her permission, and, most importantly, Dany's agency is never acknowledged in the HBO version when she says yes.

I find this very problematic for me on all sorts of levels.

1. It completely removes Drogo's complexity. In the telly version, he's just a stereotypical savage who wants what's "his." He just takes off her clothes and bends her over. He's just a type--and a really harmful cultural stereotype at that, too.

2. I don't really understand why they toned down the brother's physical abusiveness (pinching her nipple, primarily) -- though, in fairness, they did get the emotional abuse spot on -- and increased Drogo's. I just think that there was a difference between the two in how they treated Dany as a sexual woman, and that the Writers-that-Be completely removed the difference by not showing the rest of the scene.

3. Dany is so awesome. None of her dialogue should be removed -- ever! (I'm only half-serious, but they really shouldn't have axed the "yes," imo).

Everything else was amazing. I love the guy who plays Jaime -- the look on his face at the end, when Bran discovers them. It's not really until later in the series that Jaime becomes one of my favorite characters because, in Game of Thrones, you don't really see his complexity. But here -- with a real actor being able to show it, without the filter of a little child's eyes, you see it plain as day. And that's beautiful.

They covered a lot of ground in a short while. Dany's final scene with Drogo (grumble grumble) is on page 85 of my book and the closing scene with Bran is on page 71.

One more caveat -- Robb? Theon Greyjoy? I'm not sure if Greyjoy made an appearance, but I think the guy who plays Robb (who I think is Robb?) would make a better Greyjoy. I never pictured Robb as being so douchey.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Discourse - Lucifer Volume 5: Inferno

I have to say that this is probably my least favorite of the series so far. Which isn't really saying anything because I stayed up past my bedtime reading it, Mazikeen is still my personal hero, and Lucifer is still up to his usually charismatic, trickster self.

I guess I got the feeling that this text was all about setting pieces in order for more substantial character arts and Awesome Happenings -- which is totally okay. Set-up whets the appetite for more. If every minute of everything was awesome, then there would not be an awesome.

I wasn't really expecting Mazikeen's husband to show up. That was an interesting story-line -- I like how she defeated him, how because she was a woman, nobody taught her, nobody expected her to learn -- but she did. Empowering.

I also liked the character Lys. She's been infected with humanity, she's scrabbling for her father's authority. All good stuff. Looking forward to see what'll happen next with her.

I think when one of the most tender moments was when Duma came to Lucifer's aid. There is so little compassion -- true compassion -- like that left in the world. I find it utterly beautiful wherever I see it. And when he tells Lucifer that three have defied God's will -- he looks so sad.

Speaking of compassion -- there was an odd little arc about Miss Zim'et and Sabah. There is this trope that the Big Bad is always going to want human life, babies, or some virgin -- but they wanted Sabah's tumor, thus saving his life. I wasn't really expecting that, and I thought it hinted at an interesting direction. I hope to see more of where this leads.

I guess the most surprising character was Solomon -- I wasn't really expecting him to show up. I'm glad that they kind of commentaried on that blind fanatacism, forcing them to question whether they truly are doing God's will, even if they think they are.

Good stuff.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Supernatural First Impressions

Supernatural "My Heart Will Go On" (6.17): Spoilery

I heard that this episode had Fate in it. And I was really dreading it because one of the things I like about Supernatural is that it's very gung-ho about free will and giving Destiny the bird and what-not. And when I heard "Fate" I translated it as a personification of the fate that we see in texts like Beowulf, etc. So I was very much leery of the idea, to say the least.

But I was wrong! It was the Greek goddesses of Fate, which was a huge relief. And it renewed my appreciation for how well Supernatural navigates the tension between fate and free will because it's a rather nuanced idea that flicks like Star Wars always failed to properly explore.

Also -- Fate was a badass. Not only was her librarian look super hot, but she was a strong female character -- which Supernatural, despite it's otherwise awesomeness -- rather lacks (since we're talking about strong female characters, it was nice to see Ellen and to hear that Jo was off being an awesome hunter).

I really loved how Fate called Castiel out on the carpet. I thought she was complex -- she's angry that the world is suddenly a chaotic-topsy-turvy mess more so than usual, she's angry that she's lost her job--that the rug's been pulled out from under her feet, and she's angry that Castiel has been abusing angel privileges and saving boat-loads of people to fund his angelic civil war. And instead of wringing her hands, she goes through the proper channels, and then when that fails, does something about it. Very cool.

And you know, since we're talking about gender (I know, it's all I can think about these days--hopefully that part will get turned off soon, it gets a little exhausting sometimes), I really liked how the show sort of played with some stereotypes that are so commonly applied to women:

Don't be so emotional, Castiel tells her. You're confused. And the show subverts that by really playing off the different emotional dynamics at work here -- both the individual ones and the cosmically broad ones.

Sometimes I think the problem with shows is that they go too far in a polarized direction: either a woman is a stereotype in that she's passive or what not, or she's either the kick ass standard bearer that says This Show Believes in Feminism Because Look At How Macho This Woman Is. And so I liked that Supernatural did have her being emotional and reasonable at the same time. It was realistic and three dimensional and awesome.

And, if we're talking about three dimensional characters: Castiel.

I think it takes guts to take a fan favorite and to put him in circumstances where his motivations and desires will, perhaps, conflict with what made him so lovable in the first place. In Season 4, he was heaven's bitch, just accepting what he was told. In Season 5, Sam and Dean showed him what it meant to be human. But then he got put in charge of heaven and now he has some serious decisions to make. And he has conflicting motivations, and he must choose, and instead of doing the right thing, he tries to have his cake and eat it too (I couldn't help but think that his little speech to the boys about how they taught him about freedom etc. was sort of preluding a course of action that he knows they probably won't agree with in a future episode).

I love how palpable his shame is: even as he's denying Fate's accusations about his motivations for saving the Titanic, you can just see it (and he's obviously not used to lying, that's so adorable and beautiful and simultaneously sad that he's learning how to -- especially in context of that one episode where he asked Dean why people lie). And, even though he stopped Balthazar when she threatened to have Dean and Sam killed, I can't help but think that it was also because he knew she was right.

And then of course, he lies to Sam and Dean, covering for himself, blaming Fate because he's not brave enough to blame himself.

I can't say I'm thrilled with the direction that Castiel is being taken from a personal, squeeing fangirl point of view, but I have to say that, as a writer, I really respect the show for not keeping Castiel as Sam and Dean's backseat angel buddy. I feel like there are high stakes for the character, like the show is taking the opportunity to explore more of his character to make him round and full and real, and it just thrills me.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gender Alert: Mad Men

In the fourth season of Mad Men, the second episode "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" has a mini-arc involving Peggy in which she must decide whether she wants to accept or reject the advances of her current boyfriend, who wishes to have sex with her.

He says to her that he wants to be her first--and she does not correct his assumption that she is a virgin (though the first season established her fling with Pete and the subsequent child, along with exploring tensions between her choice as a career woman vs. a mother).

The reason I mention it is because my human sexuality class recently had a superficial discussion regarding virginity (superficial because the class is one hundred plus people and we were already behind). Needless to say, the topic was rather hot and controversial, but it came about that it is still popular for women to be less than truthful about how many people they've slept with or simply outright saying they are still virgins, even if it's not so.

I find it sad that we are in such similar circumstances where women are forced to censure themselves simply because of how they will subsequently be viewed by society (indeed, I find even the idea of "virginity" to be a relic of an ignorant past and best to be abandoned entirely).

There is, in fact, no winning in this kind of situation. For Peggy, she is objectified no matter what she chooses. Because the boyfriend wants to be her first--whether as a status claim or "to take her" is not entirely clear through the course of the episode, but I can't help but think it's one or both of those motivations--he objectifies her from a person to a thing of conquest.

If she corrects his assumptions (assumptions which limit her sexuality is an individual), then she will be labeled a slut or a whore--denigrating terms in and of themselves.

Obviously the issues aren't so strong today, but they are still present.

That's really one of the reasons I like Peggy so much--it's fascinating to watch her (and Joan) navigate these power structures so deftly.

Speaking of Joan, I rather loved her scene in "The Good News" when, after she receives flowers from Lane, she storms into his office, confronting him about he has infantalized her, making her feel like a "helpless little girl." Of course, it was a result of a mix-up in flowers, but that her beliefs regarding Lane's motivations were even an option reveal the sort of disrespect she has to navigate on a daily basis.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Discourse - Lucifer Volume 4: The Divine Comedy

Unfortunately, again, I cannot remark at length about the text and must limit myself to highlights only.

Lucifer as Anti-hero, Lucifer as Character

This text introduced an interesting juxtaposition of Lucifer.

First, it begins with Lucifer revealing himself to the citizens of his newly populated world. He towers above them, a figure of strength, and a taker of no bullshit.

His first command is the forbidden commandment of worship.

This is, inherently, an image of strength. Lucifer is beautiful in his rebellion, in his absolute self assuredness, in his confidence, and, most importantly, in himself.

However, as the draws towards its end, that strength is undercut with a newly revealed aspect of his character.

It's not when he falls when the Cards attempt to establish themselves as gods in his universe. It's not when he falls prey to a magical attack from behind (a plot point simmering since volume 2), it's not even when he goes forward into hell to face the angel completely powerless (which is, ironically, an image of strength in and of itself).

It's when he converses with Death that he reveals the fragility of his character, of his inexorable will.

He does not accept death, he flings himself against her in anger and denial - and she cooly, confidently gives him a piece of her mind and advice while she's at it.

The differences between their manners is staggering -- and it adds more depth to an already complex character.

I think that's one of the reasons I love this image so much:

It incapsulates the very nature of their conversation.

And it is beautiful.

As for the anti-hero - Lucifer knows how Elaine adores him. How she loves him. How she'd do anything, absolutely anything. How young she is.

And he does not warn her that in giving life to him, she will sacrifice it for herself.

That moment is so poignantly sad.

I love how Carey isn't afraid to make it absolutely real.

Lucifer, Michael, and Yahweh

I liked how Lucifer and Michael became two sides of the same coin essentially. Lucifer is full of this inexorable will, Michael full of creative power. Without them both, the new universe would never have come to be.

They are, in a way, a circle, incomplete without the other. And this is seen even more clearly in Michael's fall.

I'm eager to see how volumes 5 and onwards will explore this circle that's sort of coming into light. And, of course, I could be misreading it, but I hope I'm not.

I love how offended Lucifer was when Death compared him to Yahweh -- even as he conveniently ignores all their other similarities: creation (the big bang encore), a first people, appearing on high and delivering a commandment - simply differing on the nature of the commandment.

It's interesting that in this and other literature about the devil, folks have always commented on Lucifer's pride, the pride that eventually lead to his downfall.

Yet, he commands people not to worship anybody -- not even him.

And, on the contrary, the god of the Bible is a jealous god, demanding the sole worship of himself.

It's just interesting, the juxtaposition of the two characters in parallel with each other.

I also liked the subtle (and not so subtle) commentary on religion. Lucifer's world was perfectly happy and content without religion -- they were beautiful and intelligent, so much so that Rachel slips into that universe with wonder and amazement.

This world - torn apart by war and there are still nations living impoverished and uneducated.

And it's only when the Cards come claiming to be gods that true, national disaster strikes.

My atheist heart thrilled.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lucifer and Death

Words cannot adequately express how much I love this image.

It's so rare to see a woman carrying a man like this. Or a man in such a vulnerable position.

Oh my god.

Discourse - Lucifer Volume 3: Dalliance With The Damned

Unfortunately, this is going to be less a review and more of a highlights. So, without further adieu (since I still have Volume 4 to read and it's due back at the library tomorrow):

Lucifer as God; Angels as Demons

Still enjoying the inversion that's going on here. Lucifer makes his realm and his only command is

Bow down to no one. Worship no one. Not even me. Do you understand?

So beautiful.

And then of course one of the angels comes to the man in the form of a serpent, inspiring doubt in the man's (the man's! gender-bender) about Lucifer's role as creator as well, the paradox (so popular in Christian mythology) of freedom in slavery to a deity, polarizing opinions of good and evil, the philosophy that the end (or, in his words, the intent) justifies the means, the nature of desire, and other things of a philosophical nature that I wish I had the time to more thoroughly think about.

Still. Gender-bendery goodness, nature of good and evil, all good stuff.


Yesterday, I enthused how Mazikeen didn't tie herself down to Lucifer and how she went off on a journey and how I still liked it, regardless of how much the reader saw of her journey or not.

Well. I'm here to tell you that Mazikeen's journey was bad ass.

She goes to find her identity, and is instead elected leader of the Lilim after she outwits her trial (since her fellows thought she had betrayed them by staying with Lucifer).

And when in hell, someone introduces her as Lucifer's consort? Oh no. She's having none of that.

Also, I really love how she refused to play act by costuming to the period that Hell had set as its desktop.

I also think I want her t-shirt: normal consciousness will be resumed.
I think I know my next Halloween costume. Oh yes.

So, in volume 2 she left to find her face -- a quest for identity. And then she found her identity in a role of leader of the Lilim. And when Lucifer refused to ally himself with them -- she didn't stay again. She left with her people. I think that's so great.

And you know what's also great? That Lucifer isn't threatened by her not staying with him all the damn time.

Pain As A Drug

One of the things I've learned in my writing class is that people -- and especially writers -- thrive off the misfortune of others. We love to gossip about it. Etc.

I've often thought about this -- noticing the little ways I myself take pleasure in the pain or discomfit of others (I can only speak for myself, but I think every individual has their own private bit of themselves that enjoys the non-happiness of others in their own unique way).

And that was illustrated (heh, pun) here, with the pain powder that was...orgasmic. But it was orgasmic because it wasn't true pain, not like he later describes:

One of the nobility of hell has picked me out to be her toy. Compared to you I am happy indeed. But somehow it rings like false coin. Do you remember the first lad or lass you loved? When you felt your chest was too narrow to hold your heart? When it seemed the world was made anew by your passion? And do you remember the fear that comes with love? The fear that it cannot last? The fear that you cannot be worthy of it? Truly we were not. none of us. But did it not come anyway? How we have poured our souls into another's lips and eyes. How we have died and been born again in the ebb and flow of their breath. All gone. The flesh you loved is dust. The words you whispered stir no echoes. And it may e that the one you loved most dearly sits at supper now with angels, and has forgotten your name. They think they mortify us with whips and wheels. But then, they have neither lived, nor loved. In truth -- they know nothing of pain at all.

I found that an interesting concept.

Lucifer as Anti-hero

There's this problem, see, with anti-heroes in stories. Anti-heroes walk a fine line. They can't be too base because then they'd make poor protagonists and then nobody would like them anymore.

Sometimes writers try to avoid this by defanging or declawing them, as it were. Spike sort of went through something similar (unfortunately).

It's difficult because you don't want them to stagnate and be boring, but they can't really be someone whom they're not at the same time (I fancy all characters have this problem, it's just really obvious and more noticeable with anti-heroes in my experience).

So, there are these two scenes where Lucifer is a magnificent anti-hero -- and the writers could have shied away and had him done something more palatable.

But they didn't.

First, he gives a demon a soul. I mean that's just. Wow, that's just cruel. And I'm in awe of it and yet, at the same time, that's...cruel (well, I suppose one doesn't become lord of hell for nothing). But yet - it's a testament to the multi-facetedness of the character.

The second bit was when some kids snuck into his house -- and prayed to God. Of course, he wouldn't save them for that. It reminded me of those people who are like -- and thank god my loved one survived this terrible accident when, in reality, it was because someone was a damned good doctor who gave a shit about his job.

So I really enjoyed that scene as a writer -- because Lucifer's still an anti-hero here instead of bowing out and taking the noble option -- and as a person who is appreciative of social commentary, wherever it can be found.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Discourse - Lucifer Volume 2: Children and Monsters

I really liked this one, especially in light of traditional Christian portrayal of Lucifer.

For example, it's continuously stated throughout the text that Lucifer is too proud to lie, which is in direct opposition to texts like Paradise Lost that portray Lucifer as the great deceiver (I really want to write about that but I'm afraid it's going to have to wait, cry cry cry).

My rebellious, atheistic spirit also appreciated the parallel of Lucifer to Christ: three days in "hell" -- with a kind of resurrection. I think it's good to have antagonistic characters like Lucifer - it keeps people on our toes about what we think of as good and evil.

I also enjoyed the portrayal of the angels as major assholes without a care who gets caught in the crossfire in their desire to eradicate Lucifer and expand the domain of heaven (wow, sounds almost human). In fact, one of the characters even calls them "scumbags." Again, I think this challenge of what people typically consider good is an excellent way to keep people examining their value systems.

(I wouldn't be even slightly surprised if Eric Kripke admitted he slept with both Sandman and Lucifer under his pillow.)

Finally, even though she wasn't a really player in this volume, I really appreciated the character Mazikeen. Throughout the books, she's constantly shown with a mask over her face (I don't remember if the reader ever saw her without the mask in the Sandman volumes or not), and finally, in this Lucifer volume, the reader gets to see how the other half of her face looks like.

Well, throughout the course of the action, a well-meaning character manages to heal her entirely -- in other words, her face is now completely healed.

In fact, she is beautiful.

But it isn't her face, and Mazikeen is very resentful of that someone took it from her.

I really like this on several levels.

One, her identity is not rooted in her level of attractiveness. So many times there are these stories that show women pursuing this societally constructed definition of beauty, in fact, rooting their identity in such a cause (I'm thinking of flicks like the Princess Diaries where you having the ugly duckling transformed into the beautiful swan and somehow finding herself in the journey from average jane to stunning sex-bot).

I find Mazikeen's a delightful twist on this particular trope in literature.

Two, for a long time she has served Lucifer. However, she refuses to wait for him to help her and, when he is busy with his own plots and schemes, she goes off on her own to find her face. To find her identity.

I don't know how much of her journey the reader will see, but that she just went off on her own was such a delightful and unexpected example of women going off on their own journeys. So many times, women are presented as sacrificing their own identities in order to help men along on their own coming-of-age journeys, and it was just so nice to see something different and empowering.

I am seriously crushing on Mazikeen. Not beautiful Mazikeen, but masked Mazikeen.

Just the inversion of so many tropes - so many times, masks are seen in literature as personas that hide a true identity. Yet Mazikeen uses the mask to express her identity - it is a part of her.

Yes. Much love to Mazikeen.