Read “Terminal Synchronicity” – My Latest Short Story

Terminal Synchronicity: A Short Story by [Foley, Scott William]

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In this brief tale, Eli and Molly collide in a terminal. They are ecstatic to see one another again, yet both state that such a meeting is impossible. Their love has seemingly conquered time and space, but how? And for how long? (Science fiction/Fantasy/Love)

Mister Miracle #1 (2017) by Tom King and Mitch Gerads – A (Comic) Book Review

I fell in love with Mister Miracle (Scott Free), his wife Big Barda, and his partner Oberon in 1987 when they first appeared in Justice League and then also when Steve Rude drew his one-shot special.  He appealed to all of my sensibilities as a ten-year-old.  I mean, he was a super hero, so that was most important.  But he was also a super escape artist!  Awesome!  Married?  That’s cool!  From another planet?  What!?  Traded as part of a peace treaty to Apokolips and raised in torture even though he’s the son of the Highfather, which is pretty much the equivalent to a supreme god?  The stuff was amazing.  Of course, back then, I didn’t realize this was all the brainchild of Jack Kirby.  Had I known that, my astonishment would not have been so unexpected.

Tom King has been on fire lately with Batman, which has not gone unnoticed by me.  I’ve read those available collected editions, and while they are very good, I didn’t really understand why people were so ecstatic about his writing.  Furthermore, if we’re being totally honest, I’ve never head of Mitch Gerads, the artist.

However, I’ll buy anything with Scott Free in it, especially when he’s starring in his own title.  That, plus the positive word of mouth, compounded by Gerads’ delightful Twitter persona, convinced me to run to the comic book store and pick up this first issue.  (I had to wait until after an emergency root canal, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

Plainly stated — this may very well be the best first issue I’ve ever read (keep in mind I’ve been reading comics for thirty-seven years).

Mitch Gerads won me over utterly and completely with the very first page.  This first page simply shows Scott Free’s face, but his expression is so real, so, well, expressive, that it haunted me.  I also noticed right away the dot matrix coloring, something totally unnecessary but absolutely charming.  When you consider that Gerads drew, inked, and colored the art in this book … that’s quite a feat, especially because he did all three exquisitely.

Almost all of the pages in this issue are nine-panel grids.  That is a rarity in today’s comic book, yet it’s so brilliantly effective.  It keeps the eyes moving, it keeps the pace going, it conveys both more story and action, and it’s just more fun.  I love that the creative team took a chance on doing something considered passe and making it fresh.

By the way, that expression on the first page?  That’s nothing compared to what Gerads does later in the book.  This is the most real Scott Free has ever felt.  At times I could swear I saw a soul behind his eyes.

Let’s talk about Tom King.  By the second page, King displays his fearlessness by depicting Scott Free in need of a greater miracle than ever before.  King presents a very serious conflict from the onset, one that he treats both respectfully and effectively.  However, as you might expect, things are not necessarily what they seem.  King offers just enough clues to lay the foundation of quite a mystery, one that makes both Scott Free and the reader question everything unfolding throughout the book.

I love the constraint King displays in this first issue.  By utilizing the nine-panel grid, he is able to convey a lot of story without hardly any words at all.  As a result, he can keep the dialogue to a minimum.  These characters actually talk like real people in short bursts.  King does not fall into the trap of making his characters double as narrators explaining the events surrounding them.  They subscribe to the philosophy that, if given enough space to work, Gerads can draw everything we need to know.

I rarely buy single issues because, frankly, they don’t feel worth the cover price.  Often times they strike me as far too brief, disjointed, and obviously part of a much larger whole.   Mister Miracle #1 is obviously part of a larger story, yet due to the sheer amount of artwork, events, and story within, it proved totally satisfying.  Like I said, I consider it the best first issue I’ve read in a quite a while, maybe ever!  Well done to all involved!

On a final note, and this is perhaps the greatest compliment I can offer, I will definitely be in my local comic shop for issue #2.  If such quality continues, I plan to buy all twelve issues of this series.  As someone who has primarily bought only collected editions during the past fifteen years, I can bestow no greater honor.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Mother Panic: A Work In Progress by Jody Houser, Tommy Lee Edwards, and Shawn Crystal – A Book Review

The Young Animal imprint intrigued me, so when each of the various first issues debuted, I had to check them out.  If we’re being honest with each other, Mother Panic #1 did not resonate.  I did not much care for Violet Paige, the woman behind Mother Panic’s mask.  I did not understand her motivation, her means, nor her technology.  She struck me as whiny and selfish.  Furthermore, I felt placing her in Gotham City and using Batman appearances as nothing more than a sales tactic.  (Even on this trade cover, the eye is drawn to him well before it is to her.)

However, an opportunity arose to procure a copy of A Work In Progress free of charge through Amazon Vine, and so I took advantage.

I’m so glad I did.

What I like about the Young Animal titles is that they are operating with a big picture mindset.  All of them seem to be going places, and these places cannot quickly be reached.  The disadvantage of such storytelling, however, is the possibility that a title could lose a reader early on if not initially dynamic enough.  Well, I’m here to tell you, if you gave up on Mother Panic after the first issue, it is certainly worth a revisit.

As A Work In Progress, well, progresses, we begin to understand Violet Paige’s past traumas that resulted in her maladjustment.  This is a deeply flawed protagonist.  She has an agenda, and she does not want to be distracted from it.  But, deep within her heart, she allows herself such distractions, especially when saving lives is involved.

Jody Houser, the writer, succeeds in providing a terribly complex character who, with each new issue, reveals more and more of herself.  Paige’s supporting cast grows with each subsequent installment, and they are equally interesting.  (In fact, there is one former bat-villain that specifically delighted me.)  Houser’s plot is multilayered, and we quickly realize that this is not a simple revenge story.  Happily, Houser is careful to keep some things a secret.  I think this is a brilliant move to keep readers coming back.  For example, Mother Panic has powers, but it’s not made completely evident what those powers are.  She also has some very impressive technology, but we have no idea from where that technology derives.  Those two mysteries alone are enough to keep me coming back.

Tommy Lee Edwards depicts the first arc’s artwork, and it suits the tone of the book perfectly.  It is gloomy, rough, and dark, yet the action is clearly conveyed and the figures are rendered well.  Shawn Crystal handles the art duties for the second arc of the book, and though his art is a bit more cartoonish, it still fits both the character and the story very well.  Each artist depicts Mother Panic as a primal, almost monstrous, force of nature, not just a woman wearing a costume.

I think it should be noted that, at no point in the book is the character actually referred to as “Mother Panic.”  It’s a very cool pair of words, though I’m not sure it’s the stuff of a vigilante alias.  I mean, it sounds awesome, but I have trouble picturing the media or criminals choosing it as a moniker.  Does that mean Violet Paige herself assigns the designation?  I guess we’ll wait and see.  Great title for a book, though.

Finally, Mother Panic has a very “Vertigo” vibe to it.  I feel like it would fit in well next to The Sandman, American Vampire, and Fables.  That’s why every time Batman and Batwoman made an appearance, it sort of jarred me.  On the one hand, I liked seeing the Bats interact with a violent costumed vigilante dropping f-bombs.  Felt more accurate to the Gotham environment.  On the other hand, I didn’t feel as though they quite fit in correctly, which made me think they are there just to help sell books.  After reading A Work In Progress, Mother Panic stands just fine on her own.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

The Dark Tower – A Movie Review

I very much love The Dark Tower series.  I believe when it is all said and done, these books will be remembered as Stephen King’s masterpiece–his magnum opus.  We have long wished for Roland of Gilead to grace the big screen, but time after time we were burdened with disappointment as it simply never seemed to work out.

Until that disappointment ended.  The news finally arrived that Idris Elba would play Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey the Man in Black, Walter, or whatever else you’d like to call him.  These are, under optimal circumstances, exquisite actors.

Furthermore, powerhouses such as Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Akiva Goldsman, and Stephen King himself served as producers!  These are names that have created some of our most revered entertainment.

Tonight, during a hellacious thunderstorm (which I personally considered the perfect backdrop), I finally got my wish–I saw The Dark Tower on a movie screen.

Did it bother me that, other than my friends and me, there were only five other people in the theater on it’s opening night?  Did the bad reviews give me pause?  Did I consider losing faith?

No, I have not forgotten the face of my father.

Here’s what we have to remember–a large portion of the viewing audience has never read The Dark Tower series.  In fact, the guys I saw it with haven’t read the books!  The industry could not make a movie that worked as a page for page adaptation of The Gunslinger.  They just couldn’t.  I know die-hard fans wanted that, but I think that’s being a little unfair.  We all know the rules by which Hollywood plays.  Big summer action movies are not exactly subtle, complex, or plot driven.

But here’s the thing–The Dark Tower isn’t actually that much of an action movie.  In fact, I think you saw most of the action several months ago in the first trailer.  It spent far more time than I expected developing young Jake and Roland’s bond, a bond that, over time, will become one of the greatest and most heartbreaking relationships in all of literature.  Jake is an extremely likable character in the books, and so I commend them for spending the time necessary to allow the audience to get to know him, to sympathize with him, and to like him.  It also offered glimpses into Roland’s past which resulted in his current, surly demeanor.  Finally, it took its time establishing Roland and Walter’s rivalry, one of the most dynamic I’ve ever read.  They provided far more story than I anticipated, and this pleased me to no end.  There’s action–make no mistake.  But there is also a lot of plot with ample room to grow.  More on that later …

Also, with a run time of just one hour and thirty-five minutes, The Dark Tower had to convey a great deal of story, motivation, and character as quickly as possible.  Simply put, it didn’t have the luxury of the books to slowly unfold the intricacies we readers adore.  In my mind, they successfully did this.  The established the Dark Tower’s purpose, Roland’s duty, Walter’s reason for wanting to destroy it, and Jake’s role relating to all three.

Were there some serious changes made?  Yes, there were some pretty significant departures from The Gunslinger.  We just have to accept that they needed to make this movie as digestible as possible for the casual viewer.  In my mind, they did this.  I mean, really, what do you want most from the first film?  I want to get to know Roland, I want to explore Jake and Roland’s relationship, I want to experience Walter and Roland’s ongoing conflict.  The casual audience needs to know the significance of the Dark Tower, and they need to see someone try to destroy it and someone try to save it.  I think the filmmakers did an admirable job walking this very fine line.

Honestly, they need to hook as broad an audience as possible with this first film.  If they do that, and if the rumors of television spin-offs combined with future films are true, they will then have the collateral necessary to dive deep into this multiverse.  Right now we need to get people on board with a big, easy to understand film, and then we can all go down the rabbit hole together as this thing adheres more strictly to the other books.

Oh, and there are plenty of rabbit holes for us to explore.  Though the movie didn’t specifically address any of these things, sharp-eyed viewers will notice graffiti praising the Crimson King, as well as ample rose symbols everywhere.  There are references to other King books, which play a HUGE role in The Dark Tower series.  In fact, you’ll literally hear the words “the shining” and see the name “Pennywise” if you look closely enough.

My hope, my sincere hope, is that with It releasing soon, we are going to get a King universe where they reboot all of his most famous works to interconnect with The Dark Tower.  The Shining, Pet Cemetery, The Stand, ‘Salem’s Lot, Cujo, and many, many others directly relate or are referenced in The Dark Tower series.   Can you imagine if King pulled a cinematic move like Marvel/Disney?  Why not?  He’s been entwining these books for decades!

I’d like to end this review commenting on the acting.  Matthew McConaughey could have really gone over the top with Walter.  He pulls it back just enough.  His Walter is creepy, unsettling, and obviously evil, but we never get any nefarious monologues or maniacal chortling.  He chooses to often speak softly rather than to bellow, and this made all the difference to me.

Finally, Idris Elba was not the obvious choice in my mind for Roland Deschain.  Let’s face it–most of us always pictured Roland as white.  King himself is on record as saying he modeled him off of Clint Eastwood.  However, Elba nailed this character.  Nailed it.  Elba captured Roland’s penchant for violence, his silent wisdom, his stoic torment, and–most importantly–his ability to accept Jake into his heart.  He delivered the most important aspects of this character so many of us hold dear thus rendering simple skin tone irrelevant.  Idris Elba is Roland Deschain–plain and simple.

I believe if you’re a casual viewer you will really be able to follow and enjoy this film.  For the avid Dark Tower fans, I think the film offers you the most important qualities that you crave with a great deal of potential to deliver the more nuanced adaptation you desire from subsequent films.  Of course, those won’t happen if we don’t get out there and support this first conventional installment.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Doctor Aphra: Volume 1 by Kieron Gillen and Kev Walker – A Book Review

First appearing in Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra quickly became a personal favorite of mine.  In fact, along with Rey and Ahsoka Tano, I’d say she’s one of the most significant Star Wars characters to appear within the last ten years.

Consequently, because she regularly stole the spotlight in Darth Vader and even Star Wars, Marvel gave the good doctor her own series.

If you’re unfamiliar with Doctor Aphra, she is amoral, brilliant, and snarky as can be.  An archaeologist by trade, Aphra is not bound by such things as decency and preserving life.  She does what it takes, usually with a smile on her face.  Make no mistake, though — she is not insane.  She’s perhaps a sociopath, but of the really charming sort.

The beginning of this volume, titled Aphra, gets us off to the perfect start.  The first several pages succinctly establish Aphra’s character.  We immediately meet her hilarious supporting cast: the murderous astromech droid designated BT-1, the protocol droid specializing in torture named Triple 0, and the seriously disgruntled Wookie called Black Krrsantan.  Why does such a delinquent crew tolerate one another?  You’ll have to read the book to find out.

However, soon enough, Aphra became less enjoyable for me.  I hesitated to write this review for a few weeks because I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and then, last night, it hit me.

Doctor Aphra had a really tragic father figure in Darth Vader.  Their bond, though completely toxic, also had an element of fun in that you could tell, somewhere deep within their crooked souls, they actually cared for one another in a strange familial aspect.  Since we know Darth Vader one day will actually live up to his role as a father, it proved ironically endearing to watch him with Aphra.

I feel that Aprha takes a serious misstep when it introduces her actual birth father.  After such a long story arc with Vader, it struck me as far too soon to put Aphra back in this role.  Yes, she is clearly her father’s better and often puts him in his place, which was an interesting juxtaposition with what we’ve seen previously, but by the book’s end you realize she does care for her father, just as you realize Vader cared for her.  In my mind, this plot would have worked far better further down the road after we got to see more of Doctor Aphra as character devoid of any paternal influence.

In fact, I think Doctor Aphra shines best in Star Wars: Rebel Jail.  In that volume, Aprha is mostly interacting with Princess Leia and Sana Starros (who also has great potential).  These three women are all about the same age and have differing perspectives on life, priorities, and laws.  It was an absolute blast to read their story when forced to work together.

I’d hoped that we’d get more of that sort of thing with Doctor Aphra’s first solo outing.  I really wanted to see her fully in charge of her adventure without, frankly, any sort of patriarchal influence.  I will, of course, continue to read Doctor Aphra, by no means is this volume a deal-breaker.  She’s an incredibly charismatic character who can fit into virtually any spot of the Star Wars universe, and I can’t wait to see her further cement her place in the vast mythology.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)