Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Silent Hill Downpour -- Anne's Story (2014)

Author: Tom Waltz | Artist: Tristan Jones | Page Count: 80

"I'm just sayin', if you don't change the record you gonna hear the same damn songs over and over again... change takes guts, though."

In Silent Hill Downpour, fans were presented with an NPC who was seemingly up to bat in the town at the exact same time as the game’s playable protagonist, Murphy Pendleton. While all of the games have had notable and plot-relevant ancillary characters none of them appeared to have experienced things in exactly the same manner as those directly under your control. They showed up where they needed to but it didn't feel like they were on a continuous journey of truth and discovery, akin to your own.

Anne Cunningham, however, very much was. In a perfect world, she would have gotten her own complete scenario in the game itself. In this one, she gets a four-issue mini-series penned by one of its original writers, Tom Waltz. Things could be much worse, and I am pleased with the outcome.

Admittedly, revelatory isn't a word that can be used to describe this endeavor. There’s literally nothing here about Anne that a thoughtful player hasn't already inferred from what’s presented in the game proper. Further, the artwork is inconsistent when it comes to her appearance. In some “panels,” it’s spot on. In others, it’s too soft and vague to resemble her in-game model. I suppose one could argue it’s done to mirror internal turmoil, and I do appreciate the way other characters’ faces are purposefully changed in certain situations. There’s also a few series references casually peppered into the art for attentive readers to find.

In a vacuum, it would be strange (and damning) to say that the things revealed about and said by the side-characters are the most interesting nuggets found herein. In context, however, it’s the highest praise I can give because they are the means by which we’re shown how this exact version of the town exists for Murphy AND Anne.

On top of that, this taught me something I wouldn't have known otherwise and officially canonized my preferred ending. If you’re only a casual fan of the series or haven’t played the game, please, save your time and money. There are (appropriately) recreated scenes, but Murphy’s narrative is not rehashed in anything close to full. I can only truly recommend this to those who explicitly mention Downpour when reciting their series favorites.

3 Weeping Bats Living in Reseda out of 5

Nutted by NEG (last seen re-entering the hardware store).

Note: You can find spoiler-free, mini-reviews of some of the Silent Hill games, including Downpour, at our sister site, Nut Load.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Tempest (c.1610–11)

Author: William Shakespeare  |  Page Count: 128

"Hell is empty, and all the devils are here."

Reading Shakespeare for pleasure, outside of an academic environment, takes considerable pressure off a reader. You won't be asked to give an opinion or answer difficult questions. Maybe you don't need to know what every little nuance represents, or care nothing about sociopolitical context and postcolonial concerns. Sometimes all you ask is a good story be told in a language praised for its beauty, and there's nothing wrong with wanting that.

The Tempest isn't a play that gets chosen often by people who just want to dip a toe, but it's one that I return to time and again. Many of the themes within its pages he's used before, but in a different way. A shipwreck gets the players to where they need to be, as in Twelfth Night (c.1601–02). Someone who's been wronged seeks revenge (too many too mention). The fantastical is there, but it's less comical than his other famous work that makes use of it, A Midsummer Night's Dream (c.1590–96). There's still a lot of laughs to be had, however, because it does after all have elements of tragicomedy, but there's a lot of weight to it, too. It's also a romance, proving that one thing can be many if the author intends it.

It's been suggested that the valedictory epilogue from the play's most memorable character, Prospero the magician, also the father figure, is in essence the author's own farewell to his audience and to the stage at large. It's believed that Shakespeare retired to Stratford some time afterwards, around 1613. No one will ever know for sure, but there's no doubt that it's one of the most well-written scenes in the entire play, suggesting it was of utmost importance to the bard.

3½ strange bedfellows out of 5

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Sandman Presents: The Furies (2002)

Author: Mike Carey  |  Illustrator: John Bolton  |  Page Count: 96

"...the immortality resides in the role, not in the being that enacts it."

Events in The Furies take place a few years after the end of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman saga (1989-96).  It continues the story of one of the secondary characters, Lyta Hall, so if you've not read all 75 issues (collected as ten volumes) then you’ll be missing a huge chunk of backstory.  In truth, it would be best to not read The Furies if you lack that Sandman knowledge, because it’s largely reliant on it.

Carey’s words build an atmosphere that’s thick and oppressive.  Bolton’s painted art compliments it.  He’s a superb artist, so it’s hard to say for sure but there may be some actual photography blended into the backgrounds.  Either way, it manages to be more emotionally affecting than the text; it’s as if there’s actual pain and a unique kind of anguish captured in the brush strokes.

The text is structured similar to a Greek myth but within that there’s a recurring theme of attempting to understand what’s required to play a role.  We’re asked to wonder if the proper surroundings would make it any more real.  Imagine being witness to a Shakespeare play performed in the actual Globe Theatre.  There’s no doubt that the historical setting would add an extra element to your appreciation and a special kind of resonance to the happenings.

Carey’s best works manage to provide both a satisfying ending to the story and somehow leave a reader with deep thoughts rolling round in their head, thoughts that inspire further, relevant readings; he achieves that with The Furies.

3½ pomegranate seeds out of 5