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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Immortality
Posted: May 9, 2021 at 11:24 am
Giannis Antetokounmpos soon-to-release sneaker, the Nike Giannis Immortality, has surfaced in a brand new colorway a standard essential for nearly all of the Swooshs performance-driven product. Black, Volt, and White is a timeless blend that weve seen on nearly ever Nike sneaker in history, and theres a reason behind its longevity its just a clean colorway. On the Giannis Immortality, the colorway sticks closer to a two-toned look, with the upper dominated by black with white contrast on the lateral Swoosh taping and medial knit. The vibrant volt is used rather sparingly, seen only through the transparent logo by way of a perforated sub-layer.
While a release date for the Giannis Immortality has yet to be confirmed, these are expected during the Fall calendar months of July, August, or September, likely at an MSRP under the signature shoe line. Speaking of which, the Zoom Freak 3 is likely to debut in July as well, so theres lots to look forward to if youre a fan of the Greek Freak. See the official photos ahead and stay tuned.
Where to Buy
Make sure to follow @kicksfinder for live tweets during the release date.
Mens: N/AStyle Code: CZ4099-010
Posted: at 11:24 am
For better or worse, Michael Schenkers reputation precedes him. Born in West Germany in 1955, the wunderkind guitarist joined elder brother Rudolf for the Scorpions 1972 debut Lonesome Crow, then split for UFO and a run of de-facto solo projects.
As he rightly points out, his influence is towering: without Schenkers melodic pyrotechnics on classics like Another Piece Of Meat and Love To Love, heavy-mob acolytes such as Dave Mustaine and Kirk Hammett might never have become the players they are.
Among the rock press, meanwhile, Schenker is infamous for semi-coherent rambles that leave them with not a lot to write about. Todays conversation begins inauspiciously, with a shaggy-dog story about his move to Brighton threatening to swallow our entire allotted time. But, with a hard nudge, we finally get him on point.
How pleased are you with the Michael Schenker Groups new album, Immortal?
Oh, Im absolutely blessed. It feels like a gift from heaven. Yknow, like: Michael, this is what we give you for staying true to yourself for fifty years and being Michael Schenker.
Whats the significance of the albums title?
Its from Mark Steiger, the head of Nuclear Blast in Germany [Schenkers label]. He said to me once: Michael, if you wouldnt have been, Nuclear Blast would have never been, and all the other thrash metal categories would have never existed. Ive been doing all these Australian interviews, and they told me the same thing: if I wouldnt have been, then thrash metal would have never been.
Dave Mustaine told me that what he heard on [UFOs third album] Phenomenon, hed never heard anything like that before. Kirk Hammett said the same thing. And the reason is because Im going to the inner spring of infinite creativity, being Michael Schenker
[Hopelessly tries to interject]
I am not chasing fame. In the eighties, lead guitarists copied what I did, and later, apparently, it led to the new school. Every generation, I have given something that was fresh. If everybody takes from the trend, it will eventually burn out, it will be dead. Most people are after fame, money, success, instant gratification. It was never important for me. What was important was the now, the moment, and to be happy as an artist.
I couldnt have done that with Ozzy Osbourne. I had to decline Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and Phil Lynott, Ian Hunter, Motrhead. So many asked me to join them as their number-one choice. I was tempted. But I always have to remember: Michael, you left the Scorpions and UFO because you had your own vision.
Whats on your mind at the moment?
I must say, 2020 is a cluster of problems in my life. Not just the virus, but my partners mother dying of cancer. So many complications. I was getting ready for the biggest Japanese tour ever. We would have sold out the Budokan. We had to cancel.
Id prepared for that for a whole year. It was a slap in the face. It puts an empty spot into your life. Making an album, going on tour, thats the way its been, all of these years. All of a sudden, its: stop. And that is difficult.
You and your brother Rudolf have fought for years. Has the pandemic brought you closer?
The thing about Rudolf is simply this. In 2015 I found out about the Lovedrive story lies and I was so disappointed [Schenker argues that the reissue and sleeve notes of the Scorpions 1979 Lovedrive downplayed his contribution]. It opened a can of worms.
All of a sudden I found out all of these strange things that happened in the period of time since I left the Scorpions. I couldnt do the touring with them because Id finished with UFO, and I had my own vision. Im a kid in a sand box. I play and discover. I dont compete. I dont chase anything. I dont chase money. I never have. Im an artist and
But, given whats happening, isnt it time to forgive?
It has nothing to do with forgiving. Let me just finish. I love Rudolf as a brother. But social distance is needed, so I dont get tricked into any further inconvenient situations.
At sixty-six are you worried about catching the coronavirus?
I have a mask on, every time I go shopping. Sometimes I tell people off: Oi! Two metres! I dont want your bloody virus! And I dont want to give it to you! I have gloves on, mask on, my spray with me. To answer your question, of course Im worried. I dont want to end up in hospital and, yknow, bye bye Michael!
Have you ever watched the notorious video of you performing drunk?
I dont watch anything. I dont want to know anything. Especially if I did something stupid or bad. Which one are you talking about?
A solo you played at the 2007 Rock & Blues Custom Show.
Well, of course, I had transition times, and I had ups and downs like every teenager had when they were sixteen, discovering what they couldnt do it at home and getting screwed up. Everybody gets screwed up. As a baby, we start making mistakes, right? You start trying to stand up, you fall over, you dont know better. Then you become a toddler and you start pulling on tablecloths and everything collapses. Thats what life is, you go through crises.
During lockdown have you ever come close to falling back into bad habits?
I was so busy over the whole period. But I have to say that mentally it is definitely a strain. But I want to make sure that I stay the way I developed from 2008. I dont want to lose that stability. So I do whatever I can.
Thanks then, Michael
[shouts] Take care and keep on rocking!
Immortal is out now via Nuclear Blast.
See the rest here:
Posted: at 11:24 am
A scene from the movie "About Endlessness." (Magnolia Pictures)
Fragments of existence build the absurdist tableaux of esteemed Swedish director Roy Andersson. Each stand-alone vignette in his features over the last two decades evolved from impressions that kindled an emotion within him. Their origin varies. Some reconceptualize scenarios hes witnessed, while others take cues from fine art.
Via their incisive slant, Andersson winks at the tragedy of mankind, the cruel and preposterous causes for our anguish, the fleeting moments of joy, the evil we do unto others, the relationships we procure, and our inescapable mortality. Inside his impeccably composed static frames our humanity is irreverently scrutinized.
Anderssons 2014 film A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, which won the Golden Lion (top prize) from the Venice Film Festival, completed his critically revered trilogy on living that included 2000s Songs From the Second Floor and 2007s You, the Living.
Painstakingly crafted under absolute artistic liberty at Studio 24, the cinematic kingdom he erected as a temple to his creativity, they comprise a prodigiously unconventional body of work. Equally as idiosyncratic and existentialist as its predecessors, About Endlessness, quite possibly his final film, just opened theatrically in the U.S. from Magnolia Pictures.
Inspired by Scheherazade and the fairy tales in The Thousand and One Nights, Anderssons most recent, darkly humorous, segmented meditation bets on lifes undeletable sources of pitfalls and glories. Like the king who couldnt kill the Persian princess before hearing the conclusion of her well-spun yarn, the master filmmaker treads on ever-relevant topics to intrigue.
Thats why I called my movie About Endlessness. I wanted to make a movie like this collection of stories and situations that never end, he said from Stockholm via video call.
Filmmaker Roy Andersson, director of the movie "About Endlessness." (Studio 24)
Though a bit strenuous for him, and despite having an interpreter on hand to assist, Andersson prefers to communicate his thoughts, as best he can, directly in English. On rare instances, when a statement turns too difficult to articulate, he surrenders momentarily for translation to step in. Theres an implicit value to saying what he means on his own.
Underscoring the painterly scenes in About Endlessness theres a female voice that describes what we see without judgment. And though it might seem easy to point to it as the voice of an ever-present God looking down on our messy ordinariness or as Scheherazade herself narrating, for Andersson theres no clear significance.
If anything, his narrative decisions, such as dedicating multiple chapters to a priest haunted by his loss of faith, point to a renouncement of organized doctrines. Andersson grew up in a Lutheran household and through this character he sketches an unflattering portrait of a spiritual leader.
I must confess that Im an atheist. Im not religious at all. But I grew up with religious traditions. But myself Im not religious at least I dont think so. But when I say that people tell me, No, you are actually religious, he explains mid-chuckle before tacitly admitting to leaning more agnostic.
Nowadays its sad to see that so many religions cannot collaborate. Separatism is so violent and meaningless in my opinion. I think there is only one God and all these religions they also say there is only one God but they want to see themselves as the only one. Its so stupid, he added.
The everlasting life weve been promised in dogma is to him the permanence of his art. If he enshrines our unalienable truths and relatable miseries then he cannot die. Andersson shoots for immortality by making movies in service of the human experience. If we dont trust humanism we are lost, he said. Art is the defense of humanism, and thats why I make movies in my style because they represent that.
Technology seldom appears in his elaborate creations outside of the occasional cellphone. The cadaver blues and grays that conform his color palette similarly perpetuate the ageless aesthetic hes after.
What I want to reach is timelessness and to not be geographically specific. My movies are timeless in many senses. They are like cartoons, they can be anywhere and in any time and I like that very much, because if you are too close to reality from our time you lose the weight of the scenes very soon. For example, one of my favorite books Waiting for Godot by Beckett has very banal situations but they are eternal. You can still see them even in our time and they are also important and impressive to see.
In hindsight, Andersson has realized that he always departs from the same basic notions though each project is later imbued with distinct influences. Therefore all his movies, post 2000, are comparable in scope and intention.
They can sometimes be comedies, but on the whole my movies are tragic. But its also very nice to see that art is a tool to resist hopelessness. With the help of art you can see how nice and beautiful life can be. And thats enough, even if its for a short time.
To explain his fragmented process, the director recalls a famous author the specific name escapes Andersson who would start a novel from a single sentence to which he then added more threads until a cluster of fictional situations became a completed piece. Thats how he sees his own modus operandi.
In spite of the satirical fatalism that dominates, the first situation he envisioned for About Endlessness was a scene focused on love, about a young man experiencing romantic attraction for the first time. He sees a young woman watering the plants outside her place of employment, and is awestruck.
For me thats an example of a scene thats enough on its own, you dont have to put it in a story. Im not a storyteller. Im more an expresser. I often come back to art history. Art history is not storytelling. Art is moments, details, signs of how mankind can be. Thats enough. In my opinion its not necessary to have a linear story, he argued.
Given his aversion for plot, Andersson is not fond of episodic television since it requires the viewer to follow a story for a long time. I dont like TV series because they just push commercialism and you rarely see independent stand-alone works on TV, he said.
On A Pigeon, Andersson drew its central themes from Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder's The Hunters in the Snow. For About Endlessness, the brushstrokes that communicated with him were those of Russian artist Marc Chagall. The films most prominent image, featured in the poster, is that of two lovers flying above a city. Andersson believes this particular visual demonstrates his subtle muse diversification.
A scene from the movie "About Endlessness." (Magnolia Pictures)
I saw reproductions of Chagalls paintings for the first time when I was a teenager but I didnt like them at that time, I was more fascinated by realism. Chagall is more super realism. The flying couple is a scene that very clearly shows how I have changed my sources of inspiration or attitude to realism. Im very grateful that I came up with the idea to have this scene in the film, Andersson explained.
Before opting for cinema as his preferred medium, Andersson wished to be a literary author. The written word seemed more adept to his fascination with philosophical discourse and art history. Still, once he got behind a camera, his first inclination was to follow neorealism with more traditional visual storytelling grounded in the world as it is.
I started my career inspired by the Italian neorealism. When I was a young filmmaker I wanted to make something similar and better than that. But after many years of work I found that neorealism, and realism at all, is not so interesting. I wanted to find something more condensed. Thats why I found the style of German painter Otto Dix, for example, more interesting than pure realism, because its simply more.
Even if that first foray into moviemaking, A Swedish Love Story, differs extremely from his last four, each of which takes him five to seven years to handcraft, in the final throes of that debut one can already discern his unique, farcical voice. He attributes that to an inner transition he underwent in the process of it.
A scene from the movie "About Endlessness." (Magnolia Pictures)
Released in 1970 to great response, both financial and critical, A Swedish Love Story follows a teenage couple basking in the perils of first love, as the adults in the periphery struggle with relationships in crisis.
Im not the same person in the beginning of production than at the end. Thats what happened there. In that case, the end of A Swedish Love Story is more similar to what Im doing now. I can see more clearly that I changed my style and attitude step by step during the process of that feature. When I made my second movie, its so far from that time and style. I changed my style completely, and I wanted to be closer to Otto Dix than to Milos Forman, even if I like his films very much, I wanted to go a step further.
Such detachment from conventions has led him to the subconscious, where our unedited desires and fears lie. An idea taken from your dreams is cleaner and more concise than the reality behind the dream, he said. In About Endlessness the priest, the would-be protagonist, has a nightmare in which he carries a massive cross as people whip and humiliate him. Its an expression of his guilt for dwelling in doubt of the divine.
For example, cartoons show the essence of an idea, and thats also what I want with my movies, to present the essence of my worldview, Andersson added. To achieve that, he often serves as his early production designer drawing sketches of his envisioned sets and camera angles to help his collaborators develop them to his specifications.
The remnants of armed conflicts and colonialism also percolate his vision. Born in 1943, Andersson was a young child during World War II. His father was part of the Swedish army and guarded the border with Nazi-occupied Norway. From him, a young Andersson would hear tales of the German soldiers kindness.
Later, aware of the atrocities German committed during what he calls the age of madness, he felt ashamed for Europe and human beings in general for developing such brutal mentalities. Taking advantage of the directors disregard for timeliness, Adolf Hitler and his officers, portrayed as pathetic losers at the end of their rope, make a cameo in About Endlessness.
With that in mind, to him the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was a reminder of how fragile our institutions and our individual support systems can be.
The building blocks in a civilized society, and civilized behavior, is not to be taken for granted, you must take care of them, that I think we have learned, he said. The pandemic has reminded us that we are, and the world around us is, vulnerable, if we have the knowledge and insight that we are vulnerable thats hopeful.
A true original, Andersson knows that his career was made possible by his decision decades ago to found his own production company, Studio 24. Despite losing his longtime home in a recent divorce, Andersson still owns the filmmaking facilities. However, he is not certain about the prospects of directing another film.
Im old now. I wonder if I will have enough strength to make more movies. Im not sure. But slowly something in me tells me, Yeah, maybe one more. Let me think it over for a while, he noted.
Last year, a feature documentary about the making of About Endlessness, Being a Human Person by Fred Scott, expounded on both the artists meticulousness and a challenging period in the directors personal life that is now in the past. I like [the documentary] a lot. It was a time when I sometimes had a bit too much alcohol but now I have that under better control. He marches on without a determined direction.
Now, Im at the end of my career, so I dont know what will happen in the future. But if I only have 10 more years, I hope that I can make something that even more clearly describes and declares what Im saying now, he said. Art is one tool that can help us to move further with hope and without hopelessness. For me art has given me power to survive and stand out. Art is very optimistic, thats my trust.
The endlessness in the title of his latest treasure-trove of wisdom speaks more to the countless possibilities and experiences in this plane, as living humans, rather than an afterlife. In a sense, this movie is still about living, like the previous trilogy. Existence is so rich and so full of surprising things, sad things and good things, he added.
Because of the thought-provoking reflection he poses on the screen, people tend to seek answers to perennial questions, about the hereafter or the purpose of our suffering, in his oeuvre. Although Andersson never fully gives in to cynicism, he doesnt romanticize the afterlife either. In fact, he doesnt much care for it.
Im very pragmatic and not religious at all. I think theres no mystery about that. Theres only the fact that if you die, you die. Sometimes people ask me, What do you think is the meaning of life? And I say, Its to live. Its only to live.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
The rest is here:
Posted: April 29, 2021 at 12:49 pm
Shadow and Bone
The Heart Is an Arrow
Season 1 Episode 6
Editors Rating 4 stars ****
As discussed previously, one of Netflixs biggest updates to Shadow and Bone concerns Alina Starkovs race. Once described as scrawny and sickly and implicitly white the series protagonist is now simply half-Shu, a move that transforms the feelings of alienation and loneliness Alina experiences in the books, justifying them more explicitly while enriching the Grishaverses sociopolitical landscape. Author Leigh Bardugo has gone on record confirming that this is by design, a direct request she made of Eric Heisserer, the screenwriter who adapted the series, to correct for what she describes as her own limitations as an early-career writer. Until recently, that renovation has been all gain, no pain. But the revelation in the last episode, that Kirigan is the Black Heretic, created a small but consequential mystery: how the hell is this dude that old?
In the books, the Darklings immortality was no great enigma. Canonically, Grisha believe their power derives from a deep and unique connection to the forces of nature that have created the universe the making at the heart of the world, they call it and thus Grisha literally have a closer bond with life itself. This is one of the many reasons for Grisha-otkazatsya tension: Grisha powers come with freakishly good health, but only when they exercise their abilities. (All that talk about being better than ordinary people probably doesnt help.) Its a use it or lose it scenario: If a Grisha suppresses her gifts, their halo effect on the body atrophies, as well, and her health takes a nosedive.
Resistance to illness isnt the same thing as immortality, of course, but in the Grishaverse, where people havent even figured out the mechanics of flight yet, it definitely means better chances for survival. Its also directly proportional to an individuals power: The stronger a Grisha, the longer theyll live. Alinas former identity as Fragile Thin White Girl and her subsequent transformation into Fit Thin White Girl meant that by the time the Darklings true nature was revealed, shed already learned about her biology from her more educated Grisha peers. In the books, we automatically know the Darkling is old because hes an extremely powerful Grisha. (Youd think it would also be because hes using merzost, but merzost takes from Grisha what the Small Science gives, so ironically, using it has shortened his lifespan.)
By contrast, it seems like this relationship might not be codified knowledge in the screen version. (Weird, given The Making at the Heart of the World is the title of the third episode.) Alina has certainly spent enough time at the Little Palace to have learned it by now, but in this episode, she has to piece together the explanation for Kirigans eternity on her own, when Mal (very smoothly) compliments her on how healthy she looks. Now, does this matter? Possibly not. (Ive said it before, and Ill say it again: Immortality is a monumentally dumb trope, so if you dont care about the lore, I dont blame you.) Sometimes its just nice to know!
Anyway, speaking of Mal, this guy just continues to rehabilitate his own reputation by saying all the right things. Where before it took a lot of insecurity and jealous bickering for him to realize that their communications had been sabotaged, now Mal has simply chosen to act like a rational human being, one who wants to give his best little friend the benefit of the doubt, even as he believes shes outgrown him. Theyve also each admitted to themselves that this relationship is more than it was, even if the messages were never delivered, which underpins this far more realistic debriefing with the good faith theyve always deserved from each other. (Buddy. Buddy. You wrote her every? Day? Poor Mikhael and Dubrov!) So when Alina admits she didnt want to know if she had powers if it meant being separated from him, what can a sweet boy do but try not to smile and move onto his own arraignment?
Even though hes completely overwhelmed by Alinas new identity, he clearly harbors no resentment or fear of her, and hes hurt that shed think he would. He doesnt assign himself the role of her bodyguard because of some toxic macho bullshit anymore, either now he figures its the least he can do for all the times she did the same for him when they were children. (Although he is still clearly fighting other toxic macho bullshit, like ignoring his myriad of wounds, but thats more self-destructive than anything.) And best of all, he hardly flinches when Alina accidentally reveals her involvement with Kirigan by using his first name. Hey, look, you dont owe me an explanation, he says immediately, before she has a chance to grovel. I just want to keep you safe. Put aside how quickly he appeared in the woods when she fell into a ditch fleeing the Crows and soldiers (he is an uncannily good tracker, after all), and put aside the fact that this relationship has a long way to go before it can even begin to be considered healthy (at this point, it seems like even they realize this), and everything else about their reunion is perfect. Except, of course, that they dont kiss. (This one is all on the books. Damn you and your tension, Bardugo.)
Also not kissing: Nina and Matthias, despite having gotten, ahem, a lot closer in this episode. I wont lie, this ship is just gonna be romance tropes all the way down. But theres a reason theyre tropes to begin with: They just work. This story is no exception. First up, its Two enemies must work together to survive, when the ship is capsized, leaving the two of them nearly drowned. Lucky for the witch hunter, the witch can keep him alive, and lucky for the Ravkan spy, the Fjerdan supersoldier is a fairly tremendous meathead, making him ideal transportation to shore. Next up, its Bigot gains respect for his enemy when he learns they have something in common, when Nina reveals she speaks perfect Fjerdan. Then, the best of all: Huddling together naked in the wilderness for body heat!
I dont know if I believe Calahan Skogmans Matthias is that uncomfortable taking off his clothes, much less paralyzed by the toxic, hateful, gender essentialist bullshit that has been his entire life. (Come to think of it, Ivan the Heartrender does this much more convincingly.) Hes in denial, yes We are very happy people!! he all but screams but a true believer? The internal conflict is not quite there, which becomes extremely obvious when Nina falls down that ice chasm later. Despite the fact that he technically hesitates, you dont get the sense hes even considering letting her fall, nor that he was ever savage enough to do it. I know this show is great at duplicity generally; weve seen it play out extremely well with other characters, particularly Arken and Kirigan. So thats mildly disappointing.
Nina has some issues, too. Let me preface this by saying that, as a fellow thicc wiseass, I adore Nina Zenik something fierce. But its likely that many people watching this show, both fans and newcomers, hate Nina by now. And, grudgingly, I get it. Ninas teasing has always verged on cringey, missing almost as often as it hits. (This is due to and I say this reverently Bardugos extreme theater-kid energy as a writer.) But it does hit. In many ways, Nina and Jesper are class clowns of a feather, developing their banter and charm first as a defense mechanism, then as a profession. Both roles require an innate kinship with that sort of humor. Kit Young nails Jespers energy to a T, which leads me to suspect hes been an endearing fuckup in his own life at some point. But with Danielle Galligan whose more serious side of Nina I otherwise buy Ninas shtick feels like shes reading someone elses jokes, like shes only ever taken the piss onstage. She never quite gets to full deadpan. Shes funny, but maybe not in the way that Nina is funny. (Again, I say all this with extreme prejudice; if she were American and not Irish, Gilligan and I might have played at least a few of the same parts in school musicals. Like calls to like, baby.)
That all said, I forgot about these issues the moment Nina sneaks a peek while Matthias is stripping down and goes completely slack-jawed at the view. The power of Gilligan and Skogmans chemistry really cant be overstated. The way he grabs her arm when shes speeding up his heart? The stupid look on his face as she pretends to beguile him, right before the ice breaks underfoot and he has to save her? What they may lack individually, they make up tenfold by nailing the couples overall vibe.
The absolute worst part of this episode, and certainly one of the worst parts of this entire series thus far, is an indulgent bit of fan service nobody asked for: a face-off between Kirigan and Kaz. In the premiere recap, I suggested that mashing the two book series together was risky and a little cynical that forcing underdog antiheroes to participate in someone elses chosen-one narrative was kind of insulting, even if it delivers beloved characters sooner and this scene perfectly exemplifies the problem. Kirigan opens with his spooky-villain Where is she shit, Kaz retorts with his defiant-Barrel-rat IDGAF, also she hates you shit, Kirigan throws the Cut but Kaz is ready with a flash bomb and escapes in the blast.
First of all, Kaz is not the Wraith. The guy is a con artist, but he has a disability, and while he can mask it, as he does in the Palace, he cant transcend it entirely and disappear, just to make a sexy little point about Kirigan underestimating the Crows. Second of all, can we please ease up on humiliating Kaz Brekker and give him some of the fear his reputation is supposed to inspire? Is he the Bastard of the Barrel or not? By this point, weve seen this supposedly notorious criminal terrorized by Kirigan, embarrassed by his feelings for Inej, and laid low by Pekka. Kirigans mere presence offset Dirtyhandss intimidation factor as an anti-hero from the start, but forcing them into a showdown is frivolous headcanon nonsense that doesnt serve either character, and kicks Kaz, in particular, while hes down. The Crows were set up to fail here this season, but their brilliant and once-terrifying leader is bearing the brunt of that choice. For once, I agree with Kirigan when he says, You should have stayed in Ketterdam, Mr. Brekker.
The only Crow who is prospering, perhaps predictably, is our beloved, sharpshooting, degenerate gambler. Jesper Fahey has always thrived in chaos. In Six of Crows, he describes himself as having always felt better when people were shooting at him if he was worrying about staying alive, he couldnt be thinking about anything else. So it makes sense that hes having a blast right now: Hes the only character whos gotten laid thus far, for starters, and his little dance with Ivan in the laundry is nothing short of delightful. Its a crossover that actually does serve the narrative: the compulsive joker versus the humorless cop. The Joyful Anarchist versus the Very Serious Institution. The chaotic underdog tale versus the lawful heros journey. (And not that its relevant, but theyre both queer.) Im not going to spoil how Jesper manages to best a Heartrender by pinging bullets into the same spot on his bulletproof kefta with three increasingly elaborate shots, because he pistol-whips the last guy who tried. Lets just say I cant wait till the secrets out.
Good-bye, Arken Visser. If Mals making all the right choices, the Conductor makes all the wrong ones: lying to the Black Heretic in the presence of his best Heartrender; throwing the Crows under the bus; throwing Zlatan under the bus; changing his story yet again about who, exactly, he smuggles; bragging about cutting Alinas throat to the immortal shadow-summoning general obsessed with her; then offering to get revenge on his behalf? Im not saying he deserved to die, but the man made zero friends and did not read the room.
Speaking of dummies You robbed me of my brother, now Ill rob you of your life? Who would have guessed that both Inferni twins were going to be that terrible at smack talk? Also, she has a knife in your chest and is offering to let you live! Why are you antagonizing her?!
After refusing to kill for so long, Inej has now killed two people in 24 hours.
No subtle Grisha SFX this episode, but its been supplanted by a genius amount of wordless, expositional subtext. Kaz wanting to help Inej but shrinking from her open wound, Jesper decking Ivan before he can spill the beans about [REDACTED], all that wistful mouth-looking
New canon: Zoya and Kirigan were once hookup buddies. As much as I hate girl-on-girl crime, it explains a lot. Zoya really deserves a break she doesnt even get to take her frustration out on a Crow!
Oh, Genya, how could you? Giving Alina a ring that My Chemical David can use like GPS on Kirigans behalf? Take your own advice! Stop trusting powerful men!
Apparently Kirigan is so rich he can have his car stolen and simply write it off as an acceptable loss and continue on foot? At the very least, Im glad the Crows got a nice ride out of this mess.
Keep up with all the drama of your favorite shows!
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Posted: at 12:49 pm
Despite his unfortunate error concerning the churchs present stance on Galileos tradition-shattering observations on heliocentricity (see the 1992 statement from John Paul II, and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences) Trey Casimirs comments about transcendence in the April 27 Daily Item were, as usual, spot on. But they didnt go far enough
If I learned one overriding lesson from the 18-plus years of research behind my recent book still unpublished due to its length Spirituality and the Afterlife: Materialism meets Immortality, it was that the transcendent was not wholly other but upon rare occasions, would enter into and be perceived by our human consciousness. Often, those intrusions would leave observable traces, little tidbits of evidence, sometimes laboratory-based, that would leave little doubt for the intellectually-honest observer that the transcendent was, after all, truly real.
These evidential traces are available for all to see if they choose to look. Unfortunately, the prevailing forces at both ends of the spectrum, the church at one end, the secular movement at the other, are generally averse (the secularists more so) to considering evidence that is detrimental to their own position. Until that changes (and it probably never will) misinformation will prevail, to the detriment of us all.
Donald C. Porteous Jr.,
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Posted: at 12:49 pm
Riot Games continues to evolve Teamfight Tactics with the new Set Five Reckoning mechanic, Shadow items, providing unique power increases at a cost.
Releasing around the globe by April 28, good and evil will collide across the convergence in TFT. The black mist has corrupted half of everything, introducing nine new Shadow components. Slightly similar to their original counterparts, these Shadow components can combine with a normal or Shadow component to create 36 new Shadow items.
Each Shadow item has its own power, stats, and penalty cost for using it. Blue Buff, for example, resets a champions mana at 20 after they cast their spell. Very Dark Blue Buff, the Shadow version, resets a champions mana to 15 after casting their spell. But if the wearer has less than 60 percent health, the mana reset is increased to 50.
From Archdemons staff and Chalice of Malice to Caustic Deathblade and Guardian Fallen Angel, here are the 36 TFT Set Five Reckoning Shadow items, not including dark spatula items.
Deathblade is one of many glass cannon Shadow items, according to Riot game designerStephen Mortdog Mortimer.
Zekes Bleak Herald drains attack speed from champions on either side in order to gain attack speed for themselves.
Good on frontline units and tanks, Guardian Fallen Angel returns a champion with 80 percent of their health while shredding all negative effects. The catch is that the wearers attack speed is reduced by 50 percent. A normal Guardian Angel returns a champion with 400 HP.
Hextech Gunblade of Immortality heals the nearest ally as opposed to the wearer. This TFT Set Five Shadow item works well on temporary and secondary carriers. It also only heals for missing health.
Evil Giantslayer is similar to Giant Slayer in that it targets high health units. Unlike the normal item, Evil Giantslayer deals 50 percent bonus damage without restrictions. Once the target drops below 1100 maximum health, the wearers abilities and attacks only do 15 percent decreased damage instead.
Sacrificial Infinity Edge offers more power at the cost of health. To effectively use the dark Infinity Edge, it should get paired with a healing item like Bloodthirster, or put on a champion who benefits from healing. In conjunction with Hand of Justice, its a powerful item on Nocturne.
Similar to Sacrificial Infinity Edge, the Shadow Bloodthirster is about pure aggression, according to Mortdog. The wearer gains 40 percent attack speed for three seconds once they heal to 90 percent health. But the item deals 25 percent true damage to the wearer at the beginning of combat.
Sacrificial Bloodthirster is a BIS item for Draven within the Forgotten/Legionnaires comp, utilizing the Legionnaires trait for healing and hitting 90 percent health for the additional attack speed.
This Shadow item is meant for champions whose spell doesnt rely upon damage, according to Mortdog, Spectral Spear of Shojin restores an additional 14 mana on-hit with each basic attack. The downside is that the holder deals 20 percent less damage. A normal Spear of Shojin restores five mana on-hit.
Ideal champions to use the Spectra Spear of Shojin on, according to Mortdog, are Lux and Tarric.
Rabadons Caustic Deathcap is another glass cannon Shadow item.
Zapping enemies and allies, Ionic Dark-Spark provides the wearer with additional ability power from each zap. The Shadow item is ideal on an Assassin, according to Mortdog.
Ideally paired with an item or champion that can replace health, Gunsoos Sacrificial Rageblade provides exponential growth at a sacrifice of health.
Archdemons Staff of Immortality is similar to Gargoyle Stoneplate, according to Mortdog, and is a self-healing item.
Locket of the Silver Lunari provides increase armor and magic resist at the cost of five less mana per attack. Its an ideal item that can get placed on a high health front line unit like Tarric.
Mor-evil-lonimicon kills off everyone, but slowly. Its a Unique item that is strong in the early game. Champions that utilize Mor-evil-lonimicon well are Volibear and Kennen.
Gaining power at the cost of health, Sacrificial Gauntlet increases critical strike chance and damage. The Shadow item works well on Velkoz and Vayne.
The holders magic and true damage from their ability can critically strike. The holder gains 40 percent critical strike damage and 20 percent critical strike chance. After the holder casts their ability, they lose 15 percent of their maximum health.
Similar to Dragon Claw, according to Mortdotg, Refracted Bramble Vest doesnt have a drawback but does function differently. It grants 200 bonus magic resist, which includes the components.
Eclipse Cape is a Unique Shadow item that does not apply Grevious Wounds, according to Mortdog.
Able to gain health from every unit targeting the wearer, the Gargoyle Stoneplate of Immortality Shadow item in TFT Set Five is a super tanky item.
Titans Revenge is another ideal tank item that can also deal damage.
Dark Shroud of Stillness has an increase in power but hits both sides of the battlefield as its drawback. Its also a Unique Shadow item.
Slow down enemies with Frozen Dark Heart, but beware, it can also slow down your own team. An ideal champion to carry Frozen Dark Heart is Diana, due to her Assassin trait.
Warmogs Sacrificial Armor pairs well with a champion or trait that gains health, according to Mortdog.
Turbulent Zephyr is a Unique item that increases the time an enemy is trapped in its whirlwind but at a cost of providing that enemy unit bonus stats once the whirlwind wears off. Turbulent Zephyr should not target carriers like Kayle.
Unstable ZzRot Portal is an ideal item to use when wanting to break through a strong front-line defense. Summoned Units, such as Abominations Monstrosity, will not spawn an Unstable Voidspawn
Vengeful Trap Claw combos well with Unstable ZzRot Portal, according to Mortdog, and is ideal on champions like Jax or Riven.
A Unique item, Sacrificial Redemption heals the entire board but does not heal the wearer. Its an ideal item on a champion like Hecarim that wont take damage because the self-damage cant kill it, according to Mortdog.
Similar to Bramble Vest, Refracted Dragons claw negates bonus damage from incoming critical hits while also reducing the incoming magic damage by 15 percent.
Runaans Untamed Hurricane doesnt proc on-hit effects, according to Mortdog. The TFT Shadow Set Five item is a solid choice on champions like Draven, Riven, Alphelios, and Jax.
Caustic Quicksilver is a Unique item that provides immunity to CC indefinitely at a cost of 20 percent less the maximum health of the wearer.
Chalice of Malice penalizes its wearer while benefiting units one Hex to either side of the item holder.
Providing more attack speed when no enemies are nearby, Rapid Deathcannon is ideal on Draven.
Final Whisper is a Unique Shadow item that is a solid counter to Redeemed, according to Mortdog.
Hand of Vengeance provides its wearer with both benefits while turning off and then back on with every takedown, according to Mortdog.
Statikk Stiletto is a more powerful Stattik Shiv that works well on Varus, according to Mortdog.
Very Dark Blue Buff is a Unique Shadow Set Five item that can produce interesting results when the wearers health drops below 60 percent.
Tricksters Gloves is a big brain item, according to Mortdog. It creates two full Shadow Set Five Reckoning items, that can either benefit or destroy the champion Tricksters Gloves is equipped to.
A large number of Shadow items still dont have a best-in-slot due to the meta being so new, and multiple adjustments taking place during the PBE testing stage. This article will get updated with each TFT Set Five Reckoning patch to include balance changes and BIS items per champion.
Posted: April 23, 2021 at 1:01 pm
They keep you on the hook the whole way through, theyre your best friend and then you get a standardised Dear applicants email, she says. Wed been texting each other sparkle hearts all through the process.
Reality TV is the contemporary Colosseum, she says. Its where we go to watch people suffer, with no level of social consequence.
That show was at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in 2020, exploring the arduous audition process and exposing as much of it as she could legally get away with.
A scene from Remains to be Seen.Credit:Georgia Banks / David Meagher
After that, Banks was thinking about what drives people including herself to seek immortality on reality TV, on social media or, indeed, in art.
And somebody said to me, I guess your funeral is the reality TV show, she says.
Banks says her work has been about finding the edges of the possibility of the lived experience. To go hard, in other words.
So she has created an elaborate framework where her own real-life funeral is the prize. Anyone can enter, through the website remainstobeseen.info, and will go through an audition process that parallels and parodies the TV versions: invasive, personal questions that would usually be about life and loves but will now be about death and dying.
A scene from Remains to be Seen.Credit:Georgia Banks / David Meagher
They include, for example, how they think they will feel when one of their exes dies.
Applications are open from now and, says Banks, the winner will be announced on the day that I die, and they will get absolute, total, 100 per cent control over everything to do with the disposal of my body and my funeral.
Absolutely everything. The budget is Banks estate.
I could be liquefied or cremated or turned into a diamond or shot into outer space, says Banks. They might only want to invite millionaires, or the directors of all the national [art] galleries.
It will be up to them. Banks doesnt even want to know, and wont ask.
But she gets something in return: the right to their answers to the application questions. And the funeral and its byproducts are a work of art that must carry Banks name.
Ive decided to take my own death and turn it into a way to never die, she says. The goal is immortality, right? Isnt that what we all want, to not be forgotten?
And the all-important question, how will she pick the winner?
Naturally, the same way reality TV does.
Whoever I think will cause the most drama, she laughs. Whoevers not here to make friends.
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Posted: at 1:01 pm
Satyricon just finally put their first two albums back out on vinyl (grab exclusive variants of each in our shop), but today Joe takes a look back at their third, which turns a quarter of a century old this week.
Black metal existed before the Norwegian scene began, and it certainly has flourished internationally since the heyday of infamy in Norway in ways that many never expected. Yet, what can never be denied is the deep impact the Norwegian scene had on black metal and occasionally still does through its old guard and younger inheritors. As has been documented in countless places, Mayhems mastermind Euronymous, real name ystein Aarseth, helped nurture the Norwegian black metal scene, being sometimes highly open to creative experimentation and at others close-fisted in control. After his death in the late summer of 1993, it was an open question as to how the scene locally, and in part globally, would proceed. Would the next few years see the bands energized by his vision and influence drift away, or would the genre continue on to reach heights Euronymous could have only dreamed ofor even feared?
The two decades and more since that time has proven the latter, in hindsight, as Norwegian black metal (and the global scene as well) only exploded into larger and more dynamic approaches. One band that played a pivotal part was Satyricon, forged by the combined talents of songwriter/frontman Sigurd "Satyr" Wongraven and lauded drummer Kjetil-Vidar "Frost" Haraldstad. Neither were original members of the band, but they soon found themselves the only ones left after multiple departures. Subsequently, they would form the core duo propelling the band to this daynot too different than fellow countrymen Darkthrone, save for having a far more gusto approach to live performances than the latter. 1994 saw Satyricon deliver a pair of medieval (in atmosphere) Norwegian folk music-influenced black metal albums, with Dark Medieval Times and The Shadowthrone. These two records made waves right alongside, if perhaps a bit out of focus, the many legendary albums released from the scene that year from the likes of Mayhem, Emperor, and Enslaved. Two years later, and just yesterday celebrating its 25th anniversary, Satyricon released their third album Nemesis Divina, a nearly instant classic that threw the band into the lead pack of the scene. It was also an album that would serve as an era-ending marker, as the band would in no short time further expand its horizons and self limitations.
Before diving into the music of Nemesis Divina, it would be remiss to not mention how bold and forward-thinking the album's artwork proved to be. At that point, most prototypical black metal album covers, especially in the Norwegian scene, were rough DIY black and white photographs, similarly stark sketch drawings, or shadowed images with dark toned color: something exemplified not only broadly across the genre but clearly enough in Satyricons own first two albums. Nemesis Divinas cover, designed by Halvor Bodin and Stein Lken, is a well-lit wooden shadow box with a pinned bird of prey atop an inverted and rusted crucifix. Outward from the center image are trinkets like bones, keys, and other pieces partially engulfed in flames billowing out from the wood with the same golden flames illuminating the bands logo.
In an interview, Frost recalled the artists behind the cover design creating an art installation based on themes Satyr conveyed from the album which they then set on fire and photographed. "I think it was a brilliant solution of (sic) the task, which was to create an idiosyncratic piece of artwork with references to the album and with very particular aesthetic qualities," said Frost in the interview. "It truly gave the album a visual identity." This quality can be seen in the aesthetics of later black metal, whether consciously or not, with yellow/orange hues like Dawns Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy) or Mayhems own image of avian sacrifice on Grand Declaration of War.
Upon listening to the album, one would certainly agree with Frosts assessment of a successful visualization, as Satyricons previously established identity is blown up into higher-fidelity recording and a real streak of fiery aggression burning throughout the instrumentation. The previous albums lone acoustic guitar passages are abandoned, while the keyboards are arranged very much in accompaniment to the guitar riffs rather than taking sole focus. A Norwegian folk music influence can still be felt, a trait that regardless of other changes has been a constant throughout the bands career. In particular, it's used as thematic breaks from the aggressive fury. This can be heard most prominently on the two main riffs in the second half of "Forhekset" and the keyboard passage playing over the hypnotic tremolo riff at the end of "Du som hater Gud." The aforementioned higher definition in recording allows the instruments to all be heard in exquisite clarity rather than cacophony, permitting listeners to readily appreciate the talents behind the compositions. This particularly benefits Frost: drumming isnt always intuitively appreciated in black metal, but here the listener can follow every blast, crash, and kick he delivers at varied paces in wonderful detail.
The album's aggression is present right at the beginning in what might be one of the most powerful black metal album openers: "The Dawn of a New Age." After a brief clanging of chords and a spooky keyboard passage, Satyr shouts from the depth of hell, "This is Armageddon!" Seriously, how much more metal can you get? Well, the song steamrolls forward as Satyr lyrically reinterprets passages from the Book of Revelations detailing the arrival of the final horseman of the apocalypse, Death. The pace keeps up until a mid-tempo riff seemingly slows down time, leading into a break for a clean electric guitar passage that rings out like the still air after a battle; it's then violated by a new assault of infernal forces accompanied by spectral narration thanks to the guest work of former bandmate Samoth's ex-wife Nebelhex (Andrea Meyer Haugen). Yeah, pretty damn metal.
Speaking of collaborators and guests, during the recording and subsequent touring for Nemesis Divina none other than Ted "Nocturno Culto" Skjellum of the mighty Darkthrone joined on rhythm guitar, under the (uniquely devised for the group) pseudonym of Kveldulv. In Decibel Magazines Hall of Fame feature for Nemesis Divina Skjellum himself describes a perfect set of temporary circumstances where visiting his girlfriend at the time in Oslo became a good excuse to work with Satyricon. In his words, "I missed playing guitar and having the band feeling," which makes sense given Darkthrone had recently given up on playing live around then, and further: Fenriz had taken all the guitar duties on the previous two Darkthrone albums at that point. Fenriz also collaborated on Satyricons developing masterpiece, lending his lyrical penship to the track "Du som hater Gud."
At one point, Ihsahn of Emperor contributed some keyboard playing for the early rehearsals of Nemesis Divina, though Emperor reforming called his attention away and eventually the keyboard role fell on the shoulders of Geir Bratland, a member of EBMelectric body musicgroup Apoptygma Berzerk who has subsequently played in groups like Dimmu Borgir, The Kovenant, God Seed, and even live for Emperor in 2018. In an interview for Metal Hammer/Louder Frost noted the collaboration in the black metal scene back then made sense, saying, "It was a pretty small environment that we existed in back then. We all felt like competitors, but in other ways like colleagues and friends people with a common interest in something that was very marginal and particular."
Regardless of the collaboration or the many highlights of composition found throughout the album, the near indisputable crown jewel is "Mother North," a track that has lived on to perhaps be the most recognizable song in Satyricons entire career. A mini-epic of a track at six-and-a-half minutes with varied paces, brooding atmospheres, and infectious melodies that would prove to elicit crowd chanting at live venues across the world. Its interesting to note that in many outlets both Satyr and Frost have commented that the latters desire to pummel his kit had to be toned down to allow breathing room for the rest of the pieces of the composition. This annoyed Frost at the time, but hes since admitted it was the right move for the song. It can be seen as a positive for Satyricon's career that Satyr stuck to his vision for the song, as its become one of the earliest cases of a black metal "hit single": its been a highlight for most Satyricon concerts, where during one of the most melodic and slow to mid paced riffs of the song the crowd often begins chanting along. Even if one has never had the pleasure to participate in that moment live themselves, scenes like Satyricon playing live at Wacken or having a full choir accompanying them during the Live at the Opera recording instantly raise goosebumps in those moments. In the aforementioned piece published by Metal Hammer, Satyr comments, "[W]e play 'Mother North' as much as any other song, but although I dont always enjoy rehearsing it, when we play live I feel like I can perceive it through the eyes and the ears of members of the crowd and it makes me think of things and feelings that I would never otherwise be able to access. Not every band has a song that defines an era, but 'Mother North' certainly does that."
One thing that helped "Mother North" become such a hit was its music video, perhaps one of the first, or at least certainly earliest, examples of a black metal music video. It's more of an atmospheric dream than a linear story, but it does a fine job of not only exhibiting the themes Satyr had in mind for the song, mainly a romanticism for Norway itself, but a full in-the-flesh exhibit of many key elements of the whole Norwegian black metal scene. A swung axe crashing down on a cross coincides with the opening of the song followed by images of the band in full corpse paint, studs and spikes, fire breathing, rituals performed in a flamed circle, thick fog, a full moon, deep forests, overflowing blood often in vampiric scenes, and model Monica Brtens (at times fully nude) trance like stare straight into the camera. In an interview, Frost recounted the making of the video that, "I remember that many of the scenes were incredibly hard to do, as they were shot outdoors in the winter, and that bringing all the gear and doing takes over and over again until they were right meant that we would be out in the cold for an entire night. I also did a fire breathing scene in the beginning of the session, and as it was windy, I got totally soaked in gasoline before I was done doing that countless number of takes. Eventually I became so cold that I vomited on the way back from the location. I didnt care much about that, thoughmy only concern was whether we would manage to make the video visually striking enough."
Satyricon would change rather quickly after the Nemesis Divina era. Feeling that others were starting to copy what theyd already accomplished, they released 1999s Rebel Extravaganza which abandoned a great deal of their previous imagery and tone for more industrial and urban atmospheres. They then followed in 2002 with Volcano, an album that helped form the foundation for a great deal of the black n' roll subgenre, which theyve in various ways continued and expanded upon since then. Throughout their career, the legacy and success of Nemesis Divina has continued to help propel them forward: in 2016 the band, often seen as hesitant to feel nostalgic about their past, toured the whole album front to back, a lovely tribute to newer fans who werent there two decades prior and the old ones who stuck with them through their evolution. Five years since then, the album is now a quarter-century old and it continues to be regarded as a well-aged classic album still delighting fans the world over. In the words of its highlight song: 'Mother North -- united we stand, together we walk."
Nemesis Divina released April 22nd, 1996 via Moonfog Productions.
You can pick up exclusive variants of The Shadowthrone and Dark Medieval Times in our webshop.
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Posted: at 1:01 pm
The year: probably somewhere around 560 BCE. The place: Mount Etna. The star of this story: Empedocles, Greek philosopher and self-proclaimed god.
Now, just for a little background on the god situation, this kind of claim was not new for Empedocles. He was a guy fond of your normal, everyday proclamations of immortality. He is quoted as having said, on at least one occasion:
Hail to ye,
I, an immortal God, no longer mortal,
Now live among you
He must have been a lot of fun at parties.
Interestingly, he apparently had a collection of followers who believed in his godliness.
Most of this admiration stemmed from his successes as a physician and the allegation that he had brought a woman back from the dead during his lifetime.
On the fateful day on which our story begins, Empedocles decided that just claiming he was immortal was no longer enough. He had to prove it. And, of course, the only logical thing to do in this circumstance was to organize a group meeting atop the local volcano and let his followers witness his ascension via some extreme cliff diving. In an act illustrating the ultimate god complex, he jumped straight into the crater of an active volcano, leaving nothing behind but a single shoe like some kind of Cinderella story gone wildly wrong.
Unfortunately for Empedocles, he was not, in fact a god, nor was he immortal (he was also not Cinderella, but that is somewhat irrelevant to the point). In light of this, jumping into a volcano was probably not the best idea. But what can you do when you have a god complex more powerful than even that kid with the power of god and anime on his side?
And this story is 100 percent trueaccording to Heraclides, that is. According to modern scholars, not so much. A number of alternative, less fantastical stories of Empedocles demise exist. The most likely seems to be that he died far from home in the Peloponnese, which unfortunately lacks the dramatic flair of Heraclides take on the situation. It is unlikely we will ever know for sure what happened to this enigmatic figure, but the wild speculation present in the stories that remain is nothing if not entertaining.
Posted: at 1:01 pm
Nightcrawler looks upon the garden of Eden, and sees only weeds among its flowers.Image: Bob Quinn and Java Tartaglia/Marvel Comics
Mutantkind has changed. No longer societal outcasts but a global, independent power of their own, the Dawn of X at Marvel Comics has seen the X-Men and other mutants rise as a new kind of societybut one among them is starting to wonder what the spiritual cost of their collective rebirth really is: Nightcrawler.
The bold re-alignment of mutantkinds place in the Marvel Comics oeuvre underneath the guidance of Jonathan Hickman since House of X and Powers of X has dramatically flipped the lid on what it means to be a mutant. Since the arrival of Krakoa as a sovereign nation, the mutant peoples of Earth have come together in a form of unity unseen in eons. Its more than just a new home, a new government, a new approach to the outside world both amicable yet isolationist in equal measure. Krakoa has brought with it the seeming antidote to decades of persecution and decimation that has driven X-books for years: Mutants have defeated death itself, and through the powers of Krakoan resurrection, they are ascendant.
In the years since HoXPoX, there have been series across the X-catalog that touch on the fact that the X-Men and their fellow mutants ability to just cheat death is pushing their new society down dark, disturbing paths. But this week, the first issue of Way of Xby Si Spurrier, Bob Quinn, Java Tartaglia, Clayton Cowles, and X-Team designer Tom Mulleris the first time one of these books of this hopeful new era has really taken a step back and to question if there is something deeply rotten in the state of Krakoa.
Deep down, it comes to a singular question: what is faith when you live in Edens garden?
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Way of X centers this question on perhaps the most spiritual of the X-Men, Kurt Wagner, the Nightcrawler. On Krakoa, Kurt has been an important figurenot just an operative on the X-Team but one of its leading council. Hes the one who helped establish Krakoan societys core tenants, forged the founding of it as a nation with one simple rule: Make More Mutants. But he is also naturally the perfect lens to frame the concept of mutant spirituality through; a former man of the cloth and a devout Catholic, faith has been at the core of who Kurt is as a person for much of his Marvel comics lifea life that has seen him face cosmic gods, confront his hellish upbringing, and face death and rebirth even before Krakoa made that a mundanity of a new, blessed kind of life. His faith has never left him, a choice to believe in a life of the unbelievable.
But Krakoa has begun to test it.
Way of X sees Kurt more isolated from his fellow mutants than seemingly ever, as questions claw at his consciousness, questions whose voices grow only louder when he begins to see cracks in his society that we as readers have been speculating about ever since the early days of House and Powers. Even having experienced it himself, Kurt has become fascinated and haunted by mutants new approach to resurrectionand what the belief that death is just a momentary status, an annoyance rather than the ultimate arbiter of a persons being, has done to every single mutant who calls Krakoa home.
Surrounded by young people who see death not as something to be feared, but to be chased and experiencedtheir lives thrown away with a casualness that, to them, reads as confidence but to Kurt reads as something chillingthe X-Mens usually chipper teleporting trapeze artist finds himself in a crisis of faith hes not seen in years. Krakoan Resurrection, Kurt believes, has already fundamentally changed mutants as we know it, and not entirely for the better. Death by death, rebirth by rebirth, the very soul of Mutantkind is being chipped away to leave something much darker in its stead.
Whether its watching fellow teammate Pixie gleefully embrace a shotgun-blast to the face from an anti-mutant terrorist to the cheers and glee of her allies, or even pondering the role his own faitha human faithhas in a distinctly mutant society, Kurt finds himself seeing a coolness behind his companions seeming joy at making death an impossibility. Without death as a factor, he sees a society that is more than just alien from a biological standpoint, but almost alien from a spiritual, moralistic standpoint. What does it mean to sacrifice, if you know it is only for a moment? What does judgment mean when taking a life is not the ultimate act, but a crucible for rebirth? Can mutants be, as people say of Kurt throughout Way of X #1, the kindly ones, when immortality has slowly begun to rob them of a moral core?
These questions dont just plague Kurt on a personal level as he contrasts his faith with his new life on Krakoa, they also allow Way of X to begin answering another question readers have been dying to see answered since House and Powers of X founded this nation in the first place. Watching nation-making happening is fascinating, sure enough, but whats its actually like to live in the nation you have made for yourself?
Part of life in any society is some kind of belief system. Connecting an entirely new society of the size of Krakoa bleeds into theoretical concepts like Dunbars numberthe belief that after a certain limit, the number of cognitive connections an individual can make with other people can only increase on abstract rather than personal levels, through ideas like law, faith, and mythologies. Its a concept namechecked in the issue itself, when an angst-ridden Kurt crosses paths with kooky mutant scientist/occasional megalomaniac Doctor Nemesis (whos taken to growing Krakoan fungi out of his own head as an experiment).
As it turns out, Krakoa isnt exactly lacking in those ideas, even as were repeatedly reminded in this issue by those around him that Kurt has been trying, and mostly failing, to create some kind of new mutant-based faith system. While Kurt has not managed to do so yet, certain kinds of rituals and mythologies have already begun to crop up in paradise... and theyre not exactly quite so comforting as whatever system he had hoped to conceive.
When Kurt first crosses paths with Nemesis, for example, hes watching over a campfire gathering of young children, being told tales of the Great Pretender, a boogeyman-like term adopted for Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, after her decimation of Mutantkind in House of M. The children in turn counter with another dark myth of their own, a thread interwoven throughout the background of Way of X: the Patchwork Man, a shadowy figure that apparently stalks Krakoa psychically suggesting dark acts or mutilating people. Then theres the ritual Kurt seemingly hates most of all in paradise: the Crucible, a trial-by-combat that allows Mutants depowered by Wandas chaos magic to be reborn with their abilities restored.
We get to see a particularly horrifying example of it in action, in fact. A mutant wed seen earlier begging Kurt for help, as one of those aforementioned kindly ones (he brushed them off thinking they simply needed directions) ends up facing the Crucibles most ardent defender, Magneto. The mutant, named only as Lost, was instead begging for Kurt to be her Crucible opponent, it turns out. It also turns out opponent is not exactly the right word. Crucible participants are choosing an executioner, as crowds whoop and wail that their brutal death at a fellow mutants hands is actually joyous, the indicator that one of their kind once taken from them is about to return to the fold.
Kurt is horrified, as likewise we are intended to be, but it all comes back to that central question: what do faith and morality look like in a world of abundance, what are ethics in a world where death is no longer one of lifes constants? They look like this: cold, cruel, calculated, and distant. They look wrong. And maybe it is, as an unseen narrator opens the issue (one heavily suggested to be Kurt, writing the beginning of what could become his Krakoan faith), an anxiety arisen from outdated modes of thought rooted in the outside world. We are, after all, aliens looking into the window of this new society and what it is meant to bebut the factthat Kurt feels as we as an audience are meant to shows just where cracks are starting to appear in Krakoas bountiful paradise.
Nightcrawler doesnt have all the answers just yet but hes trying to find some semblance of them. With the Dawn of X having laid the foundations of this new mutant world, watching one of their own wrestle with the heady idea of how to live in its imperfect perfection is already proving to be one of the most fascinating X-series on shelves.
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