Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Measure Our Pain

Issue 3 of Mister Miracle is not an interesting issue. That isn’t to say that it’s a bad one, none of the issues of Mister Miracle are bad. It’s simply an issue that is more interested in the plot of Mister Miracle rather than the themes. Which is to say, rather straightforward in what’s going on than the previous issue’s musings on abuse and the first issues pondering of “Why shouldn’t I commit suicide?” There is, however, one moment of intrigue, and that’s the comic explicitly connecting the presence of Darkseid with the question of

Why shouldn’t I commit suicide?

This leads into the cliffhanger, wherein Scott asks if Orion’s destructive behavior is connected with the presence of Darkseid within him. It doesn’t go anywhere within the comic itself (save Orion beating the crap out of Scott), but it seems to be leading us towards interesting things in later issues, which perhaps sums up the issues lack of thematic cohesion. This is in no small part due to the comic’s nature as a transitionary issue, akin to Watchmen #7, leading us too more interesting events. The issue itself will probably work better when the entire series is collected in trade, but for now we’re left with an issue that, while expertly crafted, never coalesces into something that’s better than a series of loosely connected vignettes. There are certainly some great moments within the comic (the Christmas story, the way Mitch Gerads distorts the panels once Orion shows Scott the face of GOD, Scott’s musing on the nature of Darkseid is and his subversive conclusion, Stan Lee’s Cameo), but in the end, this is a rather good comic in a series with a baseline of great.
“God is a concept,
by which
we measure
our
pain.
I’ll say it again.”
–John Lennon, God
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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Their Children

In many regards, the best structure to use when telling stories about abuse tends to be that of children’s fiction. Among other things, the structure of children’s fiction forces the writer to not go into the graphic depictions of physical abuse, find a healthy way of dealing with the subject, and (as is the case with the best fiction) treat the audience with a mature honesty about the situation. And while the structure of adult fiction can deal with the subject of abuse well (Breaking Bad), typically it focuses on the act of abuse itself in a “rape scene cliffhanger” or “both sides are wrong and should be punished” sort of way.  Though, to be fair, even the best depictions of abuse can end up being misread as “Skyler White is a Bitch” or “Jasper did nothing wrong.”

There are numerous examples of children’s fiction that tackle abuse well: Helga on the Couch, Mark of the Berserker, Something Terrible, and Something Terrible, among others. But the one I want to talk about is the episode “Alone At Sea” from Steven Universe. The episode tells of Steven, along with his father Greg, taking Lapis, an abuse survivor, out into the ocean to help her cope with one of her triggers. They have a fun-time fishing and whatnot, but Lapis can’t stop thinking about her abuser, Jasper.

Steven tries to reassure her that she doesn’t have to be in that relationship anymore, assuming Lapis is afraid of being trapped again. Lapis replies his implicit assumption is wrong: she misses her. She’s aware of how unhealthy and awful the relationship between the two of them was, but a part of her thinks she deserved to be in that relationship. Because she did bad things, Lapis feels she deserves to suffer. It’s the part of her that asks

Why shouldn’t I commit suicide?

Which brings us quite nicely to the most interesting sequence in Mister Miracle #2. (In many regards, superhero comics [and especially Jack Kirby’s New Gods] fit the bill of “children’s fiction for adults” wherein the structure of children’s fiction is used to discuss subjects that wouldn’t be suitable for typical children’s fiction [see also Star Trek: The Next Generation {there’s a reason they cast LeVar Burton in the show}].) Shortly before going off on a mission to kill Granny Goodness, Scott talks to Barda about their relationship with Granny.

They were both raised under the cruel tutelage of Granny, to the point where jumping in lava was a normal way of getting clean. But Scott recalls a “positive” experience with her where Granny came to take Scott down from a torture pit a few days early and held him. He wonders if he likes her. In the sequence where he recounts this experience, it appears that there is only one panel, implying that Barda shares his uncomfortable feelings, despite claiming otherwise. However, on closer examination, the pure whiteness of the Boom Tube, the lack of panel borders, and the word balloon of Scott’s speech help hide the fact that the panel is, in fact two different panels. There is still a separation between husband and wife, which leads nicely into the ending of the book.

The episode ends with a direct confrontation between Lapis and Jasper wherein Lapis outright rejects Jasper’s advances in favor of a more healthy relationship and physically removes Jasper from her space once she tries of hurt Steven. Big Barda likewise rejects Granny and beats her to death once she tries to emotionally manipulate Scott.

But Scott is still unsure of his relationship with Granny. He never had that definitive end to the relationship that Lapis and Barda were able to get for themselves. Scott is still in that murky grey area between abuse and catharsis. This is an area that Tom King excels at writing in, and which Scott must escape from.

Also, Alexa!Mother Box is hilarious.
“Some people want to achieve immortality through their children. I want to achieve immortality by not dying.”
–Andrew Hickey rewriting Woody Allen, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!
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Friday, January 11, 2019

A Rough Excerpt of "My Own Utopia: An Examination of Space Utopianism in Wartime"

What follows is a rough idea of the themes and ideas I’m planning on exploring in one of the chapters of One Must Imagine Scott Free Happy on the series The Omega Men by Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda as well as the approach it will take. It was commissioned by Aleph Null through Patreon.

…But what makes it all the more galling is that one of Trek’s major influences explored this territory so much better. That influence being the Dirty Pair. For those unaware, Dirty Pair is a series of light novels, anime, and comics about a pair of trouble consultants who work of the World Welfare Works Association (3WA) named Kei and Yuri, who are hired for various jobs from investigating the disappearance of a child in a city owned by a corporation who does weird experiments involving the remains of a long dead race of aliens to infiltrating the mob to chasing a cat around the city as The Lovely Angels. It should be noted that their escapades typically end in high body counts as a consequence of completing their missions, giving them the derogatory nickname “The Dirty Pair.”

The society depicted in Dirty Pair is typically read as a utopian one, albeit in the Omelas sense as opposed to the typical Trek sense. That is to say that while socially, humanity has improved immensely over the years, there are still some of the lingering economic concerns of the era be it the ability of the uber-rich to do whatever they want, regardless of the ethical implications or the political corruption that allows patently evil people to remain in power. [FOOTNOTE: This is perhaps best exemplified in the episode Love is Everything! Risk Your Life to Elope!!] People still die horribly and the guilty don’t always get caught in the end. Indeed, the Lovely Angels work on a paycheck to paycheck basis, sometimes even for exposure. As I have said before, capitalism is a utopia. It just depends on where you look at it from.

But in terms of the themes of this chapter, it’s perhaps best to look at the episode Red Eyes are the Sign of Hell Chase After the Killing Squad! There are many similarities between the episode and The Omega Men. Both involve members of a, for lack of a better term, space police entering a relatively internal matter focusing on a group of rebels going up against a government for a better life. Both involve the complex nature of child solders as a background theme and the ways in which those in power will try to destabilize a situation for their own benefit.

Where they differ is in the scope. Omega Men deals with an entire federation of planets having a civil war over the cruelties of the system done largely for financial gain whereas Red Eyes is invested in a singular backwater planet being manipulated by forces outside the conflict for financial gain. And yet, Omega Men, for all its scope, is a more personal story. One focused on the experiences of those within the conflict from the guilt-ridden murder bots to the disillusioned pacifists to those who use rebellion for their own gain. Whereas Red Eyes takes a more overview look at the situation at its current stage, not even glancing at the causes and motivation of the war. [FOOTNOTE: This is most likely due to the length each story is provided. The Omega Men is a twelve issue series whereas Red Eyes are the Sign of Hell Chase After the Killing Squad! is a single half hour standalone episode of a 10 episode series.]

And yet, from both there’s a sense of disillusionment at the very nature of war within them. Both stories view the war as a pointless slaughter that only helps the cruel and breaks those who want a better world. There is no Mekon to be slain, no barbarians hounding at the walls of this world we call Utopia, no Spiders throwing bombs from a far off land. Not even a Section 37 keeping the peace from the shadows. Merely people in a bind forced to make deals with the worst kinds of people who see war as a means to an end. Everyone else just gets consumed and the survivors are left wondering why.

Nowhere is this clearer than in both stories endings. In The Omega Men, after Kyle tries desperately to convince everyone that there is a better way to deal with this than just killing the bad guy and succeeding with almost everyone, the Princess cuts off the villain’s head, “winning” the war. Disillusioned, Kyle returns to Earth and is debriefed by some member of the government about what’s happened since he left Vega. To keep it short, everything’s gotten bad, if not worse than before. Some have fallen because of the power they wield while others are on the run because of what they did for the greater good.

Indeed, the general tries to frame the war as a battle with a literal evil empire as part of his pitch to Kyle to be on his side in the next war. While this statement is true in that the Viceroy was involved in massive genocide as well as general fascist tendencies, the statement that he led an evil empire is to simplify the war Kyle just fought in order to make joining the next one much simpler. It ignores the people who fought on both sides being anything more than slabs of meat to be thrown at one another, as if being a star war makes the war any less horrific. That the people holding a gun at your face aren’t as afraid to shoot at you as you are at them. [FOOTNOTE: For more on “The Enemy,” see The World Haters.]

It is perhaps fitting that Kyle’s response is to reject the notion of the enemy and the ally, of Us and Them, of, to use his words, the savage and the civilized. In effect, he keeps the same perspective he had at the start of the story: the world is more complicated than just goodies and baddies. People are people in the end and he is one of them. But the invocation here, in this final moment, on the eve of yet another sodding war, sparks an edge of rebellion.

But Red Eyes are the Sign of Hell Chase After the Killing Squad! offers a bonfire. When the dust settles and everyone’s dead, it’s revealed that the person behind the titular Killing Squad was an arms merchant who has been prolonging the war by kidnapping veterans and brainwashing them into being emotionless killers who will not stop. They do not feel pain, do not want for food, lack any mercy or empathy. They are the perfect soldier, the terminator of worlds. [FOOTNOTE: As an aside, there’s an interest in the series with the Terminator. In the second episode of the OVA series, No Thanks! No Need For a Halloween Party, taking the piss out of the famous robot by having it bum around the City it’s in while still being demonstrating its status as a threat. Affair of Nolandia, the first Dirty Pair film, has its Terminator analogue as a massive threat and a physical representation of the cruelty the corporation at the heart of the story does to gain power. And What?! The Boy in the Mansion is a Terminator, the penultimate episode of the original series, used its Terminator analogue as a metaphor for how loss can bring good people to do bad things.] One who will follow orders no matter what, even if it means killing a child.

In truth though, there’s not much difference between these kidnapped men and a typical soldier. As Morrison notes, most people didn’t volunteer to fight in WWII. “People,” Morrison said, “are afraid when a guy says to you “Mr. Morrison, we’ve got a war here, and you’re a person we want to fight for us – will you please come and fight for us?  If you don’t come, you’ll get a fine, or you’ll be put in prison.  You’ll maybe get ten years.  We might even shoot you.”   I think it’s easier without the Emergency Powers, like they had during the war, to protest, but in this country, despite all the talk, we don’t protest easy.  We allow a £10 fine to deter us.  But with a ten years prison sentence, or a prison sentence that’s indefinite, like some of the COs got – a year in prison, ready to come out, give them another year – that kind of thing, and pile it on, I would suggest that’s more of a deterrent than the fear of possibly dying.  It was the threat that they knew, rather than the one they didn’t.  Take it from me, if Churchill instead of his Blood, Sweat and Tears thing had said “Any man or woman in the forces who would like to give it all up and go home, can” – he wouldnae have got the microphone out his mouth before he’d been trampled to death in the rush.  That’s a fact.” (Grafton, Looking Back) Really, the only significant difference is that these men were kidnapped and brainwashed with machines rather than coerced and indoctrinated.

But this difference is enough to enrage the Lovely Angels and, as their name implies, they bring their wrath upon the war profiteer. And so, they kill him. Given the ambiguous nature of the ending and the nature of the series as a bunch of standalone episodes that don’t necessarily follow one from the other, it is plausible to say that the Lovely Angels died at the end. But they died taking down one arms merchant. One. There are other arms merchants like him out there. The idea of using other people like machines to kill other people for the sake of making a buck is not a new one. Indeed it’s the very foundation of war. None of these stories offer a means to escape from this cycle.

Is this the best we can hope for? To bend the knee to powers we know are monstrous and cruel because they wear the aesthetics of Utopia? That there needs to be cruelty in this universe because without it, we would be seen as weak and be consumed by the barbarians at the gates? That the only way to keep a Utopia afloat is for us to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight while the frozen mask just smiles? That the only acts of useful rebellion that are possible… merely a reference only we’ll get and the ability to take them down with us? Are we trapped forevermore in this binary cage we call Endless Wartime?

Well…

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

One Truly Serious Philosophical Problem

Why shouldn’t I commit suicide?

There’s a video up on YouTube by the channel poparena that analyzes the TV Show “Moral Orel.” It opens with two anecdotes from the speaker’s life. The first consists of the young speaker learning about Heaven and, without a hint of depression or malice, suggests that his whole family kill themselves. He questioned, “Why waste time her paying bills, going to school, mowing the lawn, when we could be in Heaven right now?” Given the state of the world as known by a child, he had simply reached the most logical conclusion that we should all escape our miserable lives and go to Heaven and be happy forever. His parents shut the argument down, though without giving any spiritual argument to back it up. The speaker notes that there’s nothing in the bible that directly talks about suicide.

Why shouldn’t I commit suicide?

The second consists of more pleasant fair: 9/11. At the time, the speaker was in a relationship. Much like his family, she was very religious. Like many people, she was distraught about the events of that day. In particular, of those who decided to jump out of the World Trade Center, as that would mean they wouldn’t go to Heaven. The narrator notes how this attempt at suicide is, on some level, a sympathetic one as it allows those who would either burn to death or slowly suffocate to at the very least die on their own terms.

Why shouldn’t I commit suicide?

The analysis goes on to look at the nature of suicide through the lens of the way in which the Bible’s Singular Vision doesn’t take into account the various reasons one might want to commit suicide. Whereas Mister Miracle #1 starts Tom King’s run by looking at this motivation of suicide: the world is terrible and I want to escape it.

Why shouldn’t I commit suicide?

Consider the world of Mister Miracle #1: Oberon, Scott’s manager and best friend, is dead (an assisted suicide that Scott was the executioner of); Darkseid, literally the physical embodiment of the worst, has the Anti-Life Equation, which declares that life is meaningful only if you die for Darkseid; Scott sometimes looks at his wife, Barda, and doesn’t even recognize her;

Why shouldn’t I commit suicide?

Orion, Scott’s step brother, frequently comes over to Scott’s house to punch him in the face; Highfather, Scott’s father, is dead; Donald Trump is

Why shouldn’t I commit suicide?

President of the United States (indeed, around the same time the comic came out, Trump threatened to nuke North Korea); and Tom King has just started writing a depressing hyper-formal 9-Panel Grid Tom King Comic about one simple question:

Why shouldn’t I commit suicide?

Given this, why wouldn’t you try to escape? And, in the opening pages (wonderfully drawn by Mitch Gerads, whose sketchy style fits with the wrongness of the world, especially in its use of tape) Scott decides to say “I should.”

He is then reminded of the answer to the question.

Why shouldn’t I commit suicide?

It’s the same answer Grant Morrison gave the last time a Mister Miracle tried to do it in Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #4: because we will always bring him back. We want more stories about Scott Free and how he suffers and dies for us again and again and again and again until we decide to torture him some more. All because we believe there are no other stories, let alone superhero stories, than ones about conflict and eternal pain. Because, in truth, those are the stories that we have to live in without release, save one…

In response to all of this, the series seems to be asking, “Ok, so how do I get out of this?” I look forward to finding out.
“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”
-Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Ambitions and Dreams (Intro)

Since August of 2017, I've been writing reviews for the magazine PanelXPanel on the comic book series Mister Miracle written by Tom King and drawn by Mitch Gerads. It's a story that has themes and ideas I have been grappling with for a long time now. It's perhaps one of the greatest comics of all time. And for the next 13 weeks, I will be uploading the reviews to the blog. This series of reviews will highlight my growth as a critic and include things not featured in the original PanelXPanel issues (of note, the one on issue 8 did some structural things that were understandably cut from the full release) as well as a few minor grammatical changes. There are things here that I got right and things that I got wrong. But then, I never put stock into being able to predict where a story is going. I'm more interested in how I feel as I read it.

Given the nature of these reviews (and a bit of structural artistry) it might be best any people in the audience with triggers related to abuse, suicide, and other such traumas to block the tag "One Must Imagine Scott Free Happy." This series of reviews delves into those subjects, among others of a similar nature throughout the series. If you feel you can handle such subject matter, I hope you enjoy the series of reviews.
"All life on Earth is subject to the rumbles and rockings of the parent structure which has no control over the disastrous effects of its stresses and strains on whatever thrives on its surface. The ambitions and dreams of men are irrelevant to this planetary giant, which pursues its own way in its own manner. Man is its child, tenant and still, to this date, its captive."
-Jack Kirby, The Great Earth Cataclysm Syndrome!
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Monday, December 31, 2018

Oh God, December Killed Me. Here's a quick piece on Duck Comics

Commissioned by Aleph Null PanelXPanel #18 can be purchased here.

Sarah Jolley is a writer and artist I found out about on tumblr through her various Duck Comics. Duck Comics, for those unaware, is a colloquial term to refer to the various comics based on and around Donald Duck, in particular the work of Carl Barks and Don Rosa. Jolley’s Duck Comics tend to focus more on side characters such as Gladstone Gander and Fethry Duck than the more famous characters. But within them, she is able to find a depth in even the most progmatic of characters. Her stories range from slice of life affairs involving who gets the armrest on a plane trip to tragically romantic tales of people who can’t be together due to their own hang ups and flaws to “Armageddon, but with Ducks.” But in truth, The End of the Rainbow is about more than that. It’s about the nature of wishes and how stories don’t need to have definitive endings to be important. It’s about the ties that bind us and what it means to be lucky. Its use of color ranges from stark black and whites to wistful sepia. It’s a wonderful comic and I highly recommend them all to you.

Sarah Jolley's work can be found here. There's only one day left to support the One Must Imagine Scott Free Happy Kickstarter.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Exterminating the Lovely Angels

So a few years back (2014 or 2015?), I had a conversation with Josh Marsfelder of Vaka Rangi and Eruditorum Press Fame about Dirty Pair fan fic ideas. One of them ended up as The Black Suit post of Fearful Symmetry. This is the other one, albeit edited slightly for reasons of grammar, continuity, and guilt. You can find the original version somewhere on google. (As I recall [and no, I can't check because it was on his twitter account, which he's since deleted], Josh said it was like one of Adam Warren's Dirty Pair comics [I think the either one with the Yuri clone or the one where they're partnered with dark reflections of themselves, though don't quote me on it], but better. [Though, admittedly, I could be using my memory to prop myself up.] I've since read those comics, and I can see where he's coming from, though there is some merit to them, albeit in a "probably needed another draft before it was perfect" sense.) Also, the One Must Imagine Scott Free Happy Kickstarter is still ongoing. So, you know.

Exterminating the Lovely Angels
A Dirty Pair Affair
By Sean Dillon

Art by Katie Mitroff
This started out as me thinking about what I’d do with a Dirty Pair movie. It was one of those thoughts you come up with when you are trying to distract yourself from doing the work you’re supposed to do. It was completely different from the form it is in now (for starters, the exterminating aspect was referring to Daleks as well as the Buñuel film, but mostly about the Daleks), but enough is in there to require mention (for the record, I thought of Quentin Tarantino directing it mainly because my sense of humor includes “Directors with Nausicaän sensibilities making a Dirty Pair movie” [Hello, future me here. Since writing the pitch, my view on whether or not Tarantino’s a Nausicaän director has shifted to being capable of being in the Nausicaän mode as well as the Keiyurian mode, even within the same film. Were I to write a pitch like this today, I’d probably include other directors like Rachel Talalay {who is very Keiyurian}, Boots Riely {also Keiyurian}, and Guillermo del Toro {because this list needs at least one purely Nausicaän director, albeit in the sense that Tarantino's purely Keiyurian}. Also, I don't bring it up in the pitch, but the reason for the subtitle is to both refer to my favorite Dirty Pair OVA, Affair of Nolandia {though, as the Black Suit shows, I've cooled on it} and for the rhyme]). Admittedly, this is still in the rough stages of the process (I don’t think I give Yuri a lot to do and the textual villain is still vague).

Thematically, the story is about the nature of doing a Dirty Pair in an era filled to the brim with 80’s nostalgia pieces from JJ Abrams’ Star Trek to the upcoming Ghostbusters movie, among several others. In addition, it would also look at the growing force of militarism, patriarchy, and all that jazz. But at its core, the tale would be about two women constrained by the folk memories of who they were in the 80s breaking the chains that bind them from admitting their feelings towards one another. As with the best of Dirty Pair, it’s a love story. (Before you point out how Red Eyes Are a Sign of Hell is my favorite Dirty Pair story, I will concede that story being defined as a love story would be a bit of a stretch. But on average, the best Dirty Pair stories are love stories.)

The frame story opens with a woman with a red pixie hair cut drinking at a dingy bar that looks like it came straight out of a pulp detective novel, with only the smallest amount of sci fi trappings. She is not in a good mood. Her bartender, a woman with a black ponytail, pours the woman another glass, her 8th, she thinks. In the background, an instrumental version of Bob Dylan’s When the Deal Goes Down plays, providing both a melancholic as well as a nautical tone to the scene. Eventually, the bartender asks her patron what her name is. Kei, she replies. They talk about a variety of things, ease tensions and infer mutual attraction. Soon, the bartender asks Kei why she’s at the bar.

Kei: Oh, um… my, ah, my partner died.

Smash cut to opening titles, probably a slightly less upbeat but still poppy version of Russian Roulette; more Somebody That I Used to Know than Dance Apocalyptic.

At this time, I don’t have much of a main plot, probably just some sort of mad scientist making an army for Lucifer or something that would require the 3WA to work with a military outfit. Mughi is more in line with his look from the original short stories, save for the detail that he’s pink (because the modern day equivalent of Mughi is Lion from Steven Universe, a show that you probably should watch at some point as at least two characters are blatantly Lovely Avatars and it’s your best case for modern children’s fiction being utopian, with its older sister show Adventure Time making a relatively good case against it. (Remember that Adventure Time post I made a month back? At the time I wrote this, the person at the heat of that article was still a major influence on my views of the show. Depending on when I wrote it, I might have just unfollowed them.) How it does this is actually very interesting, the advertisements for the show portray the series as about to go grim dark with the gems turning out to be evil or Steven cutting himself off from his friends and loved ones because “he has to be responsible” before the show flat out states “no this is Steven Universe, of course we aren’t going to go grim dark, that would be rubbish. Here’s a musical number about how awesome Love is as well as a good scolding about keeping secrets from those closest to you to ‘protect them’”). Yuri has blue hair in this adaptation and tends to make a lot of snark at the military’s expense. Kei narrates, though her words don’t always match with what’s happening and is in practically every scene.

As I mentioned previously, the Lovely Angels have to team up with a military outfit, which led by one Admiral Carson D Carson, the main antagonist and most unsympathetic character of the film (how unsympathetic? His theme song is a cover of Summertimedone by Linkin Park [them specifically because of the invocation of the live action Transformers movies and their connection to Michael Bay’s fixation with the military] [That's not really a good signifier for his metatextual villainy and is kind of mean to Linkin Park fans]). While he is not revealed to be working with Lucifer, he is nonetheless the antagonist of the film by dint of his goals. You see, much like Michael Keaton in Jackie Brown, Carson thinks of himself as the protagonist of the story (think Chris Pratt in Jurassic World). Or rather, that he should be the protagonist of this thrilling military Science fiction story instead of these two women. He is tactically aware that this is a Dirty Pair and wants to thrust control away from the angels and make Kei his love interest, because she’s the less womanly of the two and it’s up to him to tame her. That he is not immediately beaten down by the Lovely Angels in the first ten minutes is solely due to him being the only other character returning from a previous Dirty Pair story wherein he actually succeeds in becoming a deuteragonist. So as a man of Science fiction who has tasted power, he wants more. (In narration, Kei will try to mention him as little as possible, not even saying his name, while Yuri will, in private, speak of him with word combinations that would make James Rolfe blush)

Collectively, most people see Kei and Yuri as horrifying and bloodthirsty, due to their status as sci fi action movie heroines. They are, of course, highly indignant of this viewpoint and would much rather explore strange new worlds and help people than blow shit up, though admittedly it is fun. Individually, they’re seen as a Tom Boy and Girly Girl. While they don’t express their feelings about this directly, it is clear from body language and some of their word choices that they don’t feel this is who they truly are.

It all comes to a head when Kei and Yuri are about to enact a plan to stop the plot of Lucifer that could actually work and with relatively little property damage. In fact it would have worked, were Carson not to see that it would have worked, thereby depriving him of his role as the protagonist and relegating him to merely a love interest (such a role is too unmanly), and thus “accidentally” goes in guns blazing, making the situation even worse. It doesn’t stop the problem the Lovely Angels were sent to solve, just make what they were trying to do not work. At some point, Kei and Yuri get slightly separated (as in Yuri is a few feet away from Kei) when Carson drags Kei out of the fight. Ostensibly it’s to “save” her from a loosing battle, but the reality of it is Carson sees Yuri as the sole thing keeping him from being the protagonist of the story and straightening Kei out. So he abandons her, dragging the screaming Kei forced to watch as row upon row of Lucifer members descends upon Yuri. She fights to escape from his grasp, but he knocks her out, and she’ll awaken in time for the giant finale to help show how amazing he is at being a Military Science fiction Man.

And then I nick a trick from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (or, rather, my redemptive read of the film) and cut back to the bar.

Kei: We won, in the end. The goodies beat the baddies and everyone lived happily ever after. They even gave us some medals.

The bartender considers pouring Kei another drink, but decides against it.

Bartender: You miss her, don’tcha?

Kei looks down at her empty glass, her teary eyes reflected in the little pools of alcohol left.

Kei: Yeah, I guess I do.

The Bartender smiles knowingly.

Bartender: More than that, you loved her, didn’t ya?

Kei looks at the bartender. Perhaps she’s always known who she was talking to. Perhaps it was only in this moment, in this cue, that she allowed herself to know. Perhaps she never knew before, but now does. Perhaps she lied. Perhaps she left something out. Perhaps there was never a Carson D Carson to drag Kei away from Yuri. And even if there was, he never had any real power to begin with. It was always Kei telling the story to us. She was never in any danger of losing control of the narrative. Perhaps Kei and the woman with black hair she’s been talking with have been telling us a story so that we could accept what’s about to be said. Or perhaps I’m just Pollyanna, and I still believe in miracles. (I was really trying to force that reference, wasn't I?)

Kei: Yeah, I guess I do love her.

The bartender lets down her long black hair.

Yuri: I love you to.

Kei has a giant smile on her face: the smile of knowing love for the first time.

Kei: Ha! You do dye it.

And so they walk out together with a Janelle Monáe cover of Summertime to start the credits.

(Happy Holidays and I'll see you on January 2nd with the start of One Must Imagine Scott Free Happy!)