Over the Garden Wall (Cartoon Network) Written & Storyboarded by Steve Wolfhard, Natasha Allegri, Zac Gorman, Bert Youn, Aaron Renier, Jim Campbell, Laura Park, Pendleton Ward, Steve McLeod, Nick Edwards, Tom Herpich, Mark Bodnar, Cole Sanchez, and Vi Nguyen Directed by Patrick McHale
When I was a little kid, I remember Thanksgiving Day and the next day being an exciting time for cartoons. The morning programming of some of our local channels was planned around the idea that kids were home from school. There were strange & rare cartoons shown; I distinctly recall Rankin-Bass’s The Hobbit and The Last Unicorn. These were odd movies in both animation style and the mystical worlds they created. They exist like so many things from my childhood as fragmented memories in a fever dream now. I don’t necessarily want to revisit these cartoons because I like how they are in this piecemeal state in my mind. Over the Garden Wall, while a coherent narrative simultaneously feels like that show you watched as a kid, laying on the couch curled up under a blanket, so cozy, you begin to drift off.
Little Woods (2018) Written & Directed by Nia DaCosta
Some people live on the fringes, always one lay off, or one missed payment away from complete devastation. They can live anywhere, big cities, or barren rural landscapes, a forgotten class perpetually kept in poverty because the system demands someone to populate the very bottom. For these people, affordable health care and full stomachs are about as real as the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. Those luxuries are something other people have, the forgotten bottom sit in waiting rooms for eight-plus hours only to be handed a bottle of opioids and told to move on.
Flowers Season 2 (Netflix) Written & Directed by Will Sharpe
Flowers is such a difficult show to explain if you haven’t seen it. While watching the second season, I thought it’s like The Addams Family but grounded and about mental health. The tone and characters are realistically macabre, a tormented family of creative types whose communication has broken down so badly they just simply can’t communicate with each other any longer. Creator Will Sharpe has given us a second beautiful season that goes even more in-depth with the Flowers’ history and works to heal the damage.
Homecoming Season One (Amazon Prime) Written by Eli Horowitz & Micah Bloomberg, David Wiener, Cami Delavigne, Shannon Houston, and Eric Simonson Directed by Sam Esmail
Ever since I finished watching the British television show Utopia, I have been searching for another show that hit many of the same buttons as that one. While it is not an exact 1:1 match, Homecoming is the closest I’ve come to find a show that creates that same pleasant paranoid and heightened atmosphere. There are some supremely intelligent presentation decisions made with the music and cinematography that give the show an eerie feeling. Homecoming presents an urgently relevant story with the feel of a type of cinema from decades in our past.
Wonder Woman by George Perez Omnibus Volume 3 (2018) Reprints Wonder Woman #46-62, 168-169, 600, and War of the Gods #1-4 Written by George Perez Art by George Perez, Jill Thompson, Romeo Tanghal, Mindy Newell, and Cynthia Martin
I reviewed volume 1 of the Wonder Woman by George Perez collection three years ago this month, and instead of waiting for the standard sized books to finish coming out I would pick up the already published omnibus and bring the reviews to a finale. Perez started rebuilding the Wonder Woman mythos in 1987, restarting her history from scratch. Because DC Comics didn’t do a full line-wide reboot in the wake of the continuity shuffling Crisis on Infinite Earths, there were lots of unresolved questions lingering. One of these was who is Wonder Girl if Wonder Woman just debuted to the public? Wonder Girl, aka Donna Troy, was a prominent member of the New Teen Titans whose origins were wholly tied to the older heroine. Perez finally has the former sidekick meet Wonder Woman, but don’t wait for any answers because there are none, just hints at a mystery surrounding them.
Robocop (1987, directed by Paul Verhoeven) As a kid, I thought movies like Robocop and Total Recall were cool for the special effects. As an adult, I’ve learned how subversive the pictures were on so many levels. There’s the over plot about OCP and its take over of the Detroit PD turning them into a private army. But there are some more nuanced points being presented in the film. Robocop represents the changes in industrialization. Once you have humans doing jobs like building cars in factories. Now robots do them more efficiently and at a faster pace. Robocop’s existence is a threat to the human police. However, he is also prophetic in his representation of the police’s militarization, and his counterpart ED-209 shows how this goes even more extreme. The world of Verhoeven’s future Detroit is chock full of commercials that represent different ideas that were present in 1980s America. There’s an advertisement for Nukem, a family board game where everyone engages in playing a nuclear war scenario and has a blast. The energy of these spots is so manic that it reflects the anxiety that comes with mass consumerism and a society moving inhumanely fast.
Deadly Class Volume 7: Love Like Blood (2018) Reprints Deadly Class #32-35
Deadly Class Volume 8: Never Go Back (2019) Reprints Deadly Class #36-39, FCBD 2019 Deadly Class Killer Set
Written by Rick Remender Art by Wes Craig & Jordan Boyd
In the same way, Book 2 started with all-out action and violence, so too does Volume 7. The new kids are in Mexico, having met up with Marcus and Maria. Saya’s brother has sent in his Yakuza. Viktor and the other kids from school have shown up to claim the trophy of killing Marcus. Things explode, and the book never seems to let up. Readers have been waiting for a rematch between Marcus and Viktor since Book 2’s first act, and Remender goes out of his way to subvert our expectations. I can honestly say I didn’t expect that moment to happen like it did, but it was very satisfying, and I think it will lead to more complex stories down the road.
Deadly Class Book Two: The Funeral Party (2018) Reprints Deadly Class #17-31 Written by Rick Remender Art by Wes Craig and Jordan Boyd
Deadly Class: The Funeral Party feels like a much-needed upgrade from the previous entry as we finally get beyond just Marcus’s specific perspective. The action kicks off right away with the freshman class forced into a brutal massacre to determine who moves on to a sophomore year. This is a moment where we really get to know some of the previously marginal players in the story. Shabnam rises to the occasion as a major villain in the series though still having to engage in a tug of war with Viktor and other cliques.
The Wicked + The Divine Book Three (2018) Reprints The Wicked + The Divine #23 – 33 Written by Kieron Gillen Art by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson
This penultimate volume in The Wicked + The Divine series is my favorite of the series. It jumps into a completely new realm with the death that capped off the last book. To shake things, the first issue in this collection is a mock-up of fake magazine articles about each member of the Pantheon, giving some much-needed depth and background to these characters. I always love when a creator plays with the format of their comic, like Grant Morrison’s Batman run and Jonathan Hickman’s current X-work. Things get back to the standard form with the next issue, but the status quo is shaken up.
The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) Written & Directed by Sara Colangelo
In the middle of The Kindergarten Teacher, the titular educator, Lisa is sitting in the office of her poetry teacher Simon. She’s going to night school to workshop her poems, and he’s interested in some pieces she’s brought in. When Simon learns she teaches the littlest of students, he remarks, “That’s so fragile. You give them something that they carry with them forever.” You see Lisa contemplating this statement and realizes he’s correct, weighing how much influence she truly has over these tiny people charged to her care. Lisa’s entire arc in this film is about her own fragility and regret, which is what drives her to take some shocking actions.