It’s the beginning of June: the unofficial start of summer. Before long, vacation time and backyard parties will hopefully be replacing long nights at the office. So what should you fill some of your vacation time with? Well, good news! Rogues Portal Staff Picks are back with a fresh set of suggestions.
Part of my haul at Toronto Comic Arts Festival this year was the first two volumes of Kill Shakespeare, written by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery (Conor was the charming salesman at the booth and also signed my copies) with art by Andy Belanger. I’m a sucker for mash-ups, especially in a world I’m as familiar with as Shakespeare. The premise is this: Hamlet is in exile, and he meets Richard III, who tells him that he is the Shadow King. It was foretold that the Shadow King is the only person who can kill the evil wizard, Will Shakespeare. Of course, not everyone agrees with that interpretation of the prophesy; Othello and Juliet believe that Will is their saviour and that the Shadow King is meant to help them find him so they can defeat Richard and Macbeth. The comic is just as much fun as it sounds, and I’ll definitely be picking up the third volume to finish off the story!
Now that my schedule has cleared up a bit, I can finally dig into my backlog of television, and this masterful art piece from Donald Glover is hands down one of the best shows I have ever watched. I binged the first 10-episode season of Atlanta over the course of a week, spreading it out as much as I could, but it was incredibly hard to do so. I think the biggest strength of the show is that episodes are only a half hour long instead of a full hour. This means that every shot is filled with purpose, and the script has to be incredibly tight.
While Donald Glover won an Emmy (rightfully so) for a mid-season episode titled B.A.N., most of the directing work is handled by Hiro Murai, who also directed Glover in his Childish Gambino music video “This is America.” His eye for camera work is great, and I found myself at least twice an episode muttering under my breath, “What a great shot.” Everything in the show has a purpose. The humor is spot on, the subject matter is serious. I’m in awe at how well Glover and Co. can keep their amazing art going for 10 episodes without a drop in quality.
Hwæt, I picked it up because I felt an obligation to fill in some gaps in my education, but I kept reading because I got hooked. Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf does a phenomenal job maintaining Old English gravitas and grandeur– kennings and all– but, more importantly, it’s a fresh and accessible work for a new generation of readers. Beowulf has everything: drunken feasts in a mead-hall, epic battles on land and sea, a dragon, a funeral pyre, and multiple intense battle scenes. The modern hero’s journey owes a debt to Beowulf, and I strongly recommend it to any fantasy fans.
If you are despairing at the state of modern pop music, why not try something a little more traditional? The Mediæval Bæbes perform new arrangements of medieval poems and songs with lovely polyphonic harmonies and instruments like the harpsichord, recorder, and bagpipes. Their songs run the gamut from frolicking hard (“Love Me Broughte”) to somber spoken word (“So Spricht Das Leben”), and from a cappella (“How Death Comes”) to driving percussion (“Ecci Mundi Gaudium,”), but every track on Worldes Blysse is at once epic and fresh. The Mediæval Bæbes are definitely off-beat but intensely sincere in their oddness, and that’s a lot of fun even for a non-medievalist. Bonus: it’s an excellent soundtrack for reading Beowulf!
The original Planet of the Apes came out a little over a decade before I was born. I never bothered seeing it in my youth because it has one of the most famous endings. I figured I had seen everything I needed to know (Hey, I was ignorant in my adolescence, okay?!). Over the years, the desire to see it never grew. I think the first one I saw was Tim Burton’s version with Marky Mark. I liked it okay…sorry! I had nothing to compare it to. Then the recent Matt Reeves’ trilogy came out. I love those movies. Still, I had no desire to see the original. At this point, it seemed it would be too silly, what with its 60’s sensibilities and technical abilities. I mean, I grew up watching groundbreaking special effects in movies like Jurassic Park. It seemed I would never watch it, at least with the right mindset anyways.
That all changed when I came across Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes, a comic book prequel to the original movie from one of my favorite creative teams: married couple Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman. Seriously, check their stuff out. They are wonderful together. This book takes place twenty years before the original movie. The dynamics involving the apes’ class systems, legal systems and society, in general, provide for a thought-provoking story. Suffice it to say, I read this book at a blistering pace and then found the original movie streaming on Hulu. Guys, I loved it! The technical capabilities from costumes, to special effects, to set design were amazing for 1968. Charlton Heston toes the line between a cheesy, campy performance and a nuanced, dramatic one. I can’t wait to watch it again. The comic and this movie have made me a lifelong fan of everything Planet of the Apes.