Roald Dahl: Macabre Sensibilities, for Young and Old

Plenty of children’s stories tend to be thought of as light and fun. In truth, they are not all fun and games. There is normally some darkness that lurks within these stories, darkness that helps to make the light and its messages shine brighter. Even the stories collected by the Brothers Grimm, regarded as some of the original tellers of children’s stories, contain plenty of mentions of cruelty and violence. Now, some might feel that this could be too intense for children, that these should be scrubbed clean according to a certain set of standards. In truth, there is a certain value in not talking down to children about this. One such author who understood this was Roald Dahl. His stories for children, remembered for whimsical touches and adapted in plenty of media, also possess plenty of darker elements. Perhaps it might be worth looking at what inspires an author to not shy away from these darker elements.

Born on September 13th, 1916 in the town of Cardiff, Roald Dahl was the son of Norwegian parents. When his sister and father had both died when he was three, his mother had the choice to remain in Wales after their passing, even when she had the option to return to Norway. Dahl first began the life of a schoolboy at the Cathedral School in the district of Llandarff. It was that time that he and his friends had gotten into trouble for putting a dead mouse into a jar of gobstoppers (also known as jawbreakers) owned by Mrs. Pratchett, a local sweetshop owner who was mean to the boys. He would go on to be transferred to St. Peter’s boarding school, where he and other students endured a fierce faculty. However, the school which would be a pivotal place to Dahl was Repton School in Derbyshire. Beginning his time there at age 13, he endured cruel treatment at the hands of both students and teachers. From the brutal corporal punishment he suffered and witnessed dealt out by the teachers to the demeaning work of having to serve senior students, Dahl’s experiences there would develop a definite cynicism in him about humanity. His main joy in that time were the candies and chocolates that the chocolate company Cadbury would send to the school for students to test.

As Roald Dahl got older and World War II began to roll in, he would come to join in the Royal Air Force as a pilot. Among the many missions that he flew in, one flight would bring him to Libya. Having trouble finding the airstrip as night approached, He was forced to make a landing in the desert. The result was a crash, one that landed him in the hospital with a fractured skull and blindness. Eventually, he would regain his sight and continued to serve as a pilot, until he was grounded for suffering from a series of headaches serious enough to cause blackouts. After that, he was made an attache to serve in the British Embassy in Washington D.C. From there, he would come to serve in the intelligence division alongside such noted officers as David Ogilvy and Ian Fleming (best known as the creator of James Bond). During this time, Dahl would come to meet the famed novelist C. S. Forester. Forester had been approached by The Saturday Evening Post with writing a story, and he in turn wanted to write a story about Dahl’s experiences as a pilot. Dahl wrote and compiled a number of anecdotes from that time, then provided them to Forester to work from. Instead, Forester provided the story exactly as Dahl wrote it. Thus was born Roald Dahl’s first story, “A Piece of Cake”, which The Saturday Evening Post had published as “Shot Down Over Libya” in order to have a more exciting title. It was also the story that would go on to launch Roald Dahl’s writing career.

Before he became renowned as a writer of children’s stories, Roald Dahl first began as an author for adults. Most of his early work came in the form of short stories. Plenty of these stories concerned deadly gambles, acts of revenge, and bitter spouses. Most of all, they frequently came with endings that served as a macabre punch line to the proceedings. There is no doubt that Dahl’s more cynical view of humanity comes through in stories like “Lamb to the Slaughter”, about a wife who murders her husband with a frozen leg of lamb and tries to cover up the deed, or “Parson’s Pleasure”, about a deceitful antiques dealer who poses as a clergyman for his cheats. However, it is actually his children’s novels where Dahl really cranks up this cynical attitude. While a few stories concern monsters like witches or giants, nearly all of the villains in his children’s novels are rotten, vile adults.

Sometimes they may lord their wealth over others, sometimes they may be verbally abusive to those they see as weaker or lesser, and sometimes they may simply be sadistic with physical cruelty. In any case, these parents are the sort of commonplace evils of which even children are familiar. As dark and imposing as such cruelty may seem, Dahl balances things out with how he presents goodness. The children that serve as the heroes in his stories are not generally portrayed as extraordinary. In fact, they frequently are presented as rather average. Instead, they possess an innate goodness, recognizing the wickedness around them and rising above it. In that way, Dahl offers a way to challenge and overcome the commonplace evil in their own lives. He also delivers it in a more playful, slightly morbid manner than the squeaky-cleaned stories that some believe children should be given. The result is a more naturalistic approach to teaching children about the cruelty of the world and preparing them for it, treating them with respect and understanding they can grasp it without being directly moralized.

For those who have never read any of Roald Dahl’s stories, there are two avenue I might offer, depending on if you wish to try his adult work or his children’s stories. For those who wish to explore his more adult-oriented work, Tales of the Unexpected is an anthology that collects some of his yarns of the macabre. With such stories as “Lamb to the Slaughter”, “The Man Down South”, and “Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat”, this collection will help to show how Dahl’s writing career was launched thanks to his clever writing. As for his work for children, the best example I would guide new readers to would be Matilda. Centered around an intelligent and kind-hearted girl named Matilda and her challenges overcoming her obnoxious parents and a cruel headmistress named Agatha Trunchbull, this novel stands to me as a great example of the kind of whimsical yet morbid stories that he crafted for children.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: A Flaw in a Fun Future

The most frustrating kind of artistic failure, at least to me, is not the sort that is a complete wash-out. For me, the most frustrating sort is when a work can be good and touches the edge of good, but one key flaw hobbles it from fully reaching that greatness. For instance, a novel might have a good kernel of an idea but the writing and presentation of it can turn a reader off. A song might have a beat and rhythm that cuts to the core, but its lyrics might be troubling and problematic when actually understood. One such example of this kind of failure is present in filmmaker Luc Besson’s newest movie, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Written and directed by Besson and based upon the Valerian and Laureline series of French comic books, the film was rife with potential as his big return to sci-fi since The Fifth Element. Indeed, it has all sorts of visual splendor in its futuristic setting, along with an interesting cast of side characters. However, there is a central flaw that knocks down the film from fully becoming the fun, old-school pulp adventure it was meant to be. Namely, it suffers in the writing and its leads.

In the twenty-eighth century, Valerian and Laureline are a pair of special agents who work for the United Human Federation. Valerian is a more libertine rogue while Laureline serves as a more conservative counterpoint, but both work together well in tackling all sorts of dangerous missions. After a risky mission to retrieve a creature known as a Converter from the clutches of an alien criminal, the pair are given a new mission. They are to serve as bodyguards for Commander Filitt during an important meeting on Alpha, a massive space station home to so many species from across the universe that it is regarded as “the city of a thousand planets”. The purpose of this meeting is to reveal a threat laying within the depths of Alpha: a toxic infection from an unknown source, and one that is spreading. Unfortunately, the meeting is cut short when a group of aliens burst in and kidnap the Commander. Valerian and Laureline set out to get the commander back, but find themselves challenged not only by malevolent aliens but also suspicious gaps in Federation records. As time ticks down, they find that there might be more at work here than what they have been told.

Before getting into the faults, it is worth discussing the positive points for this film. For instance, the world of this film is a visual feast. There is a striking variety of locations on display along with tons of alien species, with distinct appearances for all of them. From a desert world home to a multi-dimensional marketplace to a beautiful seaside-inspired planet to a pulp adventure-style ancient temple, the locales and characters work will in conveying the variety within this film’s universe. These locales also serve as home to inventive action sequences, such as a multi-dimensional shoot-out and chase that unfold at the aforementioned marketplace. The side characters also fit in with the fun variety of this film, offering nice slices into the other parts of this world. For instance, there are the Shingouz, a trio of gargoyle-like aliens who serve as information brokers and offer a solid slice of comic relief. Another interesting side character is Bubble, a shapeshifting performer who dreams of being a great actress but is reduced to burlesque performances under the thumb of a controlling pimp. However, even as there are all of these interesting components, their standing is unfortunately knocked down due to the film’s biggest fault: the leads.

Part of the problem with Valerian and Laureline, the movie’s two lead characters, is that they are miscast. With Laureline, Cara Delevingne’s performance comes across as a tad wooden. Despite that, at least she somewhat seems to fit as Laureline. Dane DeHaan, meanwhile, does not fit in the role of Valerian. With Valerian, the character is supposed to be this libertine, playful rogue. What would come across as charming in another actor instead reads as somewhat whiny in DeHaan’s delivery. Of course, even if one were to have replaced these actors, there is a greater weakness to these characters: the writing. The writing does no favors to these two leads, giving them generic dialogue and inconsistent personalities. The result is that, in a world that features so many interesting parts, the audience is left following the two dullest characters in the whole movie. That is what is so irritating about it. If they had cast better-suited actors and did a stronger job on writing the two leads, the film would have firmly been good and served as a fun slice of old-school, pulp sci-fi adventure. Instead, it is brought down at the knees because such an important part of the movie is one of its weakest aspects.

One of the worst forms of artistic failure is when everything falls apart, but instead one big flaw takes down a work that would have otherwise been good. Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets is an example of such failure, as its two poorly-written and miscast lead characters drag down a film with wonderful visuals and interesting side characters.

The Marvellous Miss Take: Charming Stand-Out in Staying Silent

In the realm of video games, plenty tend to be based around the thrill of a fierce battle. However, there is one subset of games that thrives on the opposite. These sorts of games are the stealth-based games, which are all about evading the enemy and pulling off your objective unseen. Though there had been a few early examples of stealth-based games, such as Metal Gear (the first game in the Metal Gear franchise, released in 1987), the stealth-based game would truly be born in 1998. That year, there were a trio of games released that would lay a lot of the core foundations of the genre. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins was the first of the trio to demonstrate the power of stealth-based gameplay, Thief: the Dark Project showcased the importance of stealth over blunt force in this sort of gameplay, and Metal Gear Solid codified the tropes together with a gripping story crafted by Hideo Kojima. Now, plenty of games have been turning up with a focus on stealth and working unseen. Among these games is an indie title known as The Marvellous Miss Take. Within its colorful, cartoonish aesthetic is a game that showcases a strong example of what stealth-based gameplay can deliver.

When her great aunt had passed away, Sophia Take was supposed to be left with her incredible collection of art. However, that did not happen. A crooked millionaire by the name of Ralph Blackstock instead swindled his way into possession of the collection. Not only that, he has broken the collection up and sent all of the pieces to different art museums around London. However, this will not stop Sophia. She still plans to open a private gallery that will have all of the pieces on display. However, if the ways of the law will not help her in reclaiming the art, then she will take the one route left available: she will steal them back. With her own keen intelligence and variety of gadgets, she sets out to reclaim the collection. However, she finds that she is not alone. Two other thieves join her in her quest: Harry Carver, a former painter turned gentleman thief, and Daisy Hobbs, a teenage pickpocket hailing from Bristol. Together, these three thieves set out to accomplish more than just reclaiming this stolen art. Indeed, they set out to strike a blow at Ralph Blackstock himself.

As an example of the stealth-based game, The Marvellous Miss Take is a fun title that showcases what the genre can bring. Each level (aside from the introductory stage) has three different variations, one for each of the main thieves. While all three variations are divided into two portions and are all about avoiding getting caught by the security guards while reclaiming the goods, each variation has its differences. Sophia can move at an average speed and is able to use a variety of gadgets (which are generally provided at the stage of a stage, if they are available). However, her heists play out during the day, meaning that museum guests could get in the way of her path. Harry, meanwhile, moves the slowest of all of the characters due to his need for a cane for movement. However, this is counterbalanced by him always starting with a noise-generating gadget, useful for distracting a guard. Daisy moves the quickest of the three, but her stages are the most different from Sophia and Harry. She has to pickpocket the guards to get a key, then use that key to unlock a safe and steal an art deed. No matter which of three variations you play, the central goal remains to be unseen. Of course, that gets harder as the game goes along, introducing threats like security cameras and guard dogs. Another bit to this challenge that goes along with the stealth gameplay: you cannot fight back.

In plenty of games, fighting and open combat are par for the course. In fact, there are even a fair number of stealth games that offer the ability to lunge in and start swinging. However, that is not what makes a stealth-based game so appealing. Stealth-based games, with their emphasis on evasion, are intrinsically about using one’s intelligence and resourcefulness to overcome the obstacles. They understand the appeal in outsmarting your opponent, whether using stealth and surprise to take down enemies before they can get you or simply slipping by and achieving your goal unnoticed. True, plenty of stealth games do offer methods of combat, but sometimes there might be a temptation to brute force a solution to the problem instead of being smart in how you handle it. By taking away the ability to fight back, this game forces you to be clever and figure out the ways around all of the security measures. Sometimes, it can get frustrating and a player would want to strike back. However, that moment when a player figures out the best approach to outwitting their foe can feel so satisfying. It is that moment of clarity, that moment of realizing the smart move and executing it, that makes stealth games so appealing to play.

Stealth-based games are a genre that has come to stand out thanks to an emphasis on evasion and clever tactics instead of just brute combat. The Marvellous Miss Take is a good example of the appeal in such gameplay, thanks to a lack of combat that pushes the player to think about how to move or use their gadgets.

Spider-Man – Homecoming: The Boy is Back in Town

Of all of Marvel Comics’s many superheroes, none have had quite the media presence as Spider-Man. Tons of adaptations have been done of the iconic web-swinging, wall-crawling hero. With numerous video games, cartoon shows, and even a Broadway musical, there is no shortage of stories in different media about Peter Parker. In fact, one of the biggest spots where he has held the spotlight is in movies. First, there was director Sam Raimi’s trilogy of Spider-Man films, which helped to show the great potential in good superhero films before suffering with a weak third entry. Following that were the Amazing Spider-Man films, whose first film was alright before being sunk down with a dreadful sequel. Well, the third time has arrived, and it does so with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before getting his own film again, Spider-Man first appeared in Captain America: Civil War, played by Tom Holland with a masterful capture of the nerdiness of Peter Parker and the wisecracking charm of Spider-Man. Now, Tom Holland turns up again to star in his own film, with Spider-Man: Homecoming. This newest film iteration of Spider-Man is one of the strongest done, delivering a good story that captures the core spirit and appeal of the character.

Ever since his part in the battle of Avengers during the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker has been riding high on the idea of being mentored by Tony Stark. Covering up his activities with excuses about being in “the Stark internship”, Peter Parker has been fighting low-level crime and helping out those in need as Spider-Man. In fact, his continuing battle against crime has given some challenges to his own life, as he tries to balance it with his teenage life at the Midtown School of Science and Technology. However, his world gets shaken up when he discovers criminals armed with high-end weaponry. These criminals even turn out to be linked to a bigger threat: Adrian Toomes, whose flight suit and hi-tech wings evoke the image of a vulture. Peter Parker sees this as his big chance to earn a place among the Avengers, but Stark wants him to stand down and leave the threat of the Vulture to the big guys. Tired of being treated like a kid by Stark and his assistant Harold “Happy” Hogan, Peter sets out to stop the Vulture, but he might just end up in over his head.

As the latest film centered around Spider-Man, this particular film proves to be one of the strongest entries about the iconic hero. Firstly, Tom Holland once again delivers a great performance as Peter Parker, but it is more than just his performance that works. The world around Peter Parker is a far richer one that previous films have presented. For instance, Peter’s high school life does not feel chalked up to the classic high school stereotypes. Character have a more believable sense to them, whether in their actions or how they are presented (such as reimagining “Flash” Thompson, a classic jock bully in the comics, into a rich and preppy jerk for this film). In truth, the presentation of teenage life in this film feels akin to a John Hughes movie. Also, Michael Keaton shines as the Vulture, who comes across as one of the best villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though his evil is on a lower-scale compared to some of the other threats in the MCU, his motivations are understandable. In short, Adrian Toomes simply seeks to make money to support his family, now turning to stealing and selling advanced tech after being driven out of legitimate business. With the combination of this relatable motivation along with the menace that Keaton brings to the role, it takes one of the more lesser-known Spider-Man villains and truly makes something out of them. Among these and other strong elements, however, is the key point to it all. Namely, that it captures the overall core of Spider-Man.

In the previous films that had been made about Spider-Man, they tended to capture certain aspects well while dropping the ball in other areas. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, for instance, were able to capture (with Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker) the sort of picked-on nerd for whom life uses as a punching bag. However, the version of Spider-Man from those films lacked the quips and sense of fun that come with the web-slinger, who is almost Parker’s pressure valve for all the frustrations in his life. In addition, those films definitely captured elements of the classic Spider-Man comics which, while there is still a definite charm in them, do not feel as natural in today’s world. On the other end of the spectrum, the Amazing Spider-Man films delivered more of that wit to Spider-Man and also made a good attempt at displaying the intelligence of Peter Parker. That said, the actual presentation of Parker himself comes off as too cool, along with complicating his origin in a way where it has to be him getting the powers, instead of it being truly a simple accident. Part of what makes Spider-Man: Homecoming so good, then, is that it hits the mark in capturing both sides well. As Peter Parker, he is this smart nerd living in Queens who finds himself put-upon by life. As Spider-Man, he is a thrilling hero ready with quips and an eager sense of excitement. Though the lives of both sides may conflict with each other, both are united in one simple ideal: that with great power, comes great responsibility.

Spider-Man has been the subject of all sorts of media over the years. In terms of movies, Spider-Man: Homecoming has done the best job of capturing the character along with delivering a more relatable world and interesting villain.

Baby Driver: Rhythm and Rev

Music is a powerful medium. Its rhythm and pace, from the plucking of a gentle melody to the grand sweeping of a symphony, has a way of stirring the heart and capturing the imagination. A moment in time can be captured with just the right tune. It is ever so evident when music is used in the other media. For instance, the throngs of theatrical fans can prove the power of the musical, which captures the emotional heart in its music and pairs it with words to better articulate it. A video game can use its music to set the right pulse for whichever moment a player finds themselves journeying. Of course, there is no place quite like the movies to showcase the power of music. Plenty of scores and songs have cemented their place in the pop cultural consciousness, their notes and words conjuring images from the silver screen. One person who knows this power is director Edgar Wright, whose latest entry showcases the sort of punch that music can deliver. His new film Baby Driver is a stylish entry that showcases a masterful use of music, even if the core story and characters may seem a little thin.

Baby is a man with plenty of problems in his life. For one, he has been suffering from a constant ringing in his ears, ever since a terrible car crash that claimed the lives of his parents. At least for that, he has a multitude of iPods filled with music to help drown out the tone. The far bigger problem is that of Doc, a local criminal kingpin who has Baby under his thumb. Ever since a mistake that landed Baby in debt to Doc, he has been serving him as an extraordinary getaway driver for his heists. Whether it is for criminals like the daring couple Buddy and Darling or the insane Bats, Baby’s intense focus thanks to his music allows him to keep his eyes to the road and pull off some insane escapes. However, he has his eye on the exit. He seeks to break free from Doc, a desire that is stoked further when he begins a romance with a diner waitress named Debora. That plan to escape is challenged, though, by one last job that just might be more dangerous than Baby has expected.

As Edgar Wright’s latest film, Baby Driver does offer plenty of fun. I will say, though, that it does not quite land as well as some of his other films. The main weakness is in terms of the plot and the characters. When it comes to the plot, it hews more on the simpler side. Not just that, but this sort of story has been seen plenty of times before. Likewise, the characters are also simpler, filling out more as archetypes for their roles in the story. The result is a story that feels shallower than some of Edgar Wright’s other works, such as Shaun of the Dead and its use of a romantic comedy core within a zombie movie. That said, even given the simple and familiar nature of the story, this variation on the criminal trying to leave the business is still a sharper-written version than most which try to copy this basic story type. It also helps that the material is delivered with some good performances, from such actors as Kevin Spacey and Lily James. However, there is a particular component where the film truly shines. That component is music and how the film uses that music.

Music permeates all throughout this movie, and not just in the background. Action is frequently synced up to the songs that play. Every gun shot, every rev of the engine, it all plays in beat to the rhythm. A dangerous shootout plays its explosive flair to The Button Down Brass’s cover of ‘Tequila”. A thrilling getaway zooms to the beat of John Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms”. Even a simple walk to get some coffee plays out to Bob and Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle”, complete with images and moments that sync to the lyrics. In addition, the music also works to capture the emotional heart in a moment. A bond over the thrill of a fast drive is showcased with Queen’s “Brighton Rock”, while a tense moment to protect Debora is underscored with Marvin Gaye’s “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up”. The effect gives the film a feeling of being a jukebox musical, without having to actually be a musical. This particular spin on this story, combined with Edgar Wright’s skillful direction and writing, helps to make it stand out above the rest. In a way, it is reminiscent of a movie called Streets of Fire: the story and characters may be a bit thin, but the mood and atmosphere it presents is top notch.

Music is a powerful medium, and movies have been using it as a way to add some real punch to their stories for ages. Baby Driver is one such example of that punch, presenting a near-continuous stream of music synced with action for a thrilling musical feel.

GLOW: Grappling with the Glass Ceiling

Back in the 1980s, wrestling dominated on the airwaves with the excitement from the WWF (these days known as WWE). Fans watched as big personalities like Hulk Hogan, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, and “Macho Man” Randy Savage would take to the ring and battle it out. However, there was one outlet that promised something different. This was a group known as GLOW, or Glorious Ladies of Wrestling. Created by David B. McLane, GLOW ran from 1986 through 1990. It featured plenty of high-flying wrestling matches, along with some comedy sketches for a bit of added fun and an off-color attitude to stand apart from the Reagan-Era wholesomeness. The bigger feature, however, were the wrestlers. All of them were women, made up of actresses and stuntwomen who were looking for their big break in a field that barely gave them any. For them, this was their chance in the spotlight, a big thing considering how women’s wrestling was for the longest time viewed as nothing more than a sideshow. It is this outlet which had caught the attention Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, creators of the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Seeing the potential in crafting a tale about a fictionalized version of the wrestling group, their new Netflix series GLOW serves as an effective look inside the world of wrestling and of women struggling to break out of the restrictive mold.

In the city of Los Angeles in 1985, Ruth Wilder is desperate for her break. She spends day after day going to auditions for minor bit roles, then goes to a scene study workshop where even the other students are bored. For all of her work, she is stuck in a dinky little apartment with barely any cash in her bank account. Then, she gets her opportunity when she is informed about an audition for “offbeat women”. This audition, it turns out, is for the Glorious Ladies of Wrestling, led by skeezy B-movie director Sam Sylvia and rich manchild Sebastian Howard. Amid the tensions over just how to present this new wrestling show, Ruth and the other women (such as the serious-minded stuntwoman Cherry Bang and kind-hearted Carmen Wade) see this as their opportunity to make something of their own. However, there is an additional wrench in the works. Brought in to be the show’s star face is Debbie Eagen, a former best friend of Ruth who now hates Ruth for sleeping with her husband. Now, they must deal with their tension as they fight to make something of this shot, that tension being fodder to Sam as the makings of a great in-ring rivalry.

As their follow-up creation to Orange is the New Black, Flahive and Mensch have a wonderful to series on their hands. The show expertly weaves its way through comedy and drama, relishing in the fun of developing its big spectacle world of wrestling while looking at the grit in the lives of its performers and creators. The series is well-acted, with a cast that is ready to deliver. Alison Brie, for instance, works well in capturing the well-rounded nature of Ruth Wilder. She displays her desperation, playing her with an exhaustion in her form but a spark in her eyes that lights up at the merest performing opprtunity. Marc Maron also works well as Sam Sylvia, delivering all the rough edges of a filmmaker who justifies his vulgar and sleazy B-movies with artistic pretensions and wears his sexism on his sleeve. Even as he has his moments when he recognizes his own dickish behavior and tries to act better than that, he serves as a sort of reminder of the hurdles that these women find themselves facing.

For a lot of the women in this series, the struggle to have something of their own is all too real. For instance, Ruth’s attempts in auditions have her purposefully misreading a man’s part in a desperate play to be notice, only to find it already given to someone else. For Debbie, she finds herself trapped in her marriage, as her husband tries to mend things but from a viewpoint concerning himself and finding herself without a home if she tries to go for a divorce. Even a chance with GLOW has hurdles of its own, with Howard and Sylvia’s guiding practice of stereotypes for their wrestlers. This is particularly a problem for women like Arthie Premkumar and Jenny Chey, whose respective wrestling personas as Beirut the Mad Bomber and Fortune Cookie are all wrapped up in negative racial stereotypes. Still, even as this chance possesses shades of exploitation, this is their shot. As these women practice their moves and develop their wrestling personas, there is a satisfaction in watching them be able to create for once. Whether or not this chance in wrestling is truly empowering or merely exploitative, this is still a chance where these women stand in the spotlight. They are the ones who get to lead, and not merely play bit roles. For them, when they step into the ring, they get to be the headliners.

In real life, GLOW stood apart from the pack thanks to its particular focus on presenting women wrestlers as major talents. In this new series, GLOW looks outside of the ring at the impact of these women getting their chance to make something of their own and shine at a time when they were still being kept aside.

The Vision: Ultron Made Him, and Therefore Let Him Pass as a Man

In the realm of fiction, the subject of artificial intelligence is one that has a mixed history of interpretations. For instance, there are plenty of stories where robots are a regular part of the world, serving and helping out people. Just as often, however, there are stories of robots becoming violent, turning against their creators and seeking to exterminate mankind. This split of approaches is also something that turns up in the world of Marvel Comics, though there is an interesting line in this conflict. When scientist Hank Pym took a try at creating a robot, the result became Ultron, a classic foe of the Avengers who seeks to destroy all mankind and take over the world. However, when Ultron attempted to create his own robot to kill the Avengers, the resulting creation broke away from him and became the hero known as the Vision. This recurring theme, of robots breaking away from their intended purpose for good or ill, is a fascinating idea to examine. In fact, it serves as an influence on Marvel’s recent comic series The Vision, which explores the idea as part of a sharply-written psychological drama.

Though the Vision has certainly proved his humanity in saving the Earth time and again, there is a part of him that still yearns to feel human. Well, what is more human than family? Returning to the lab where he was once created, the Vision sets upon his plan. First, he creates a wife for himself that he names Virginia. Then, he creates mixed brain patterns from the two of them to use as the templates for their children, a boy named Vin and a girl named Viv. With his family now made, the Vision sets up their new life in Washington D.C. as a liaison between the Avengers and the President. Vin and Viv spend their days like normal teenagers going to school, while Virginia remains at home to fill the role of wife for which she was built. However, there is something the reader learns early on: everything is going to go wrong. Something will happen that will bring ruin upon the family. Now, as they deal with the fears and prejudices of neighbors afraid of their robotic nature and tensions rise in the roles of their family, the Vision does what he can to make this family work…by any means.

This series makes for a gripping read. Tom King’s writing is top-notch as he unfolds his tale of failed intentions. He takes his time to weave his story, building from small moments that add towards the major incident. Small key details are crafted not only for world-building, but to pay off along the way. The atmosphere is tense, not only through the narration which warns of the eventual fate, but also through the growing prejudice and concern aimed squarely at Vision and his family. This mood is complimented by Michael Walsh’s artwork, which offers a clean and clear approach. The clean sketchwork and more natural colors offer a visual that would fit normally for a suburban location like that in this series. However, the approach also lends the series a certain coldness, fitting with its robotic main characters and lending the more horrific moments more punch in their execution. In fact, those horrific moments burst with a pulse of emotion that make them stand out in that clinical art style. It goes along with a central theme that seems to present itself throughout the story: the conflict of being machine and being human.

For the Vision, he sees that what makes humanity human is the “illogical pursuit of the unobtainable”, the drive to bring meaning to a meaningless existence. For instance, his current pursuit of fighting crime as a superhero is something that might be perceived as illogical. After all, crime will still happen and arise time and again. However, that does not stop him from trying to improve the world by battling evil. Likewise, the Vision’s pursuit of becoming human by having this family falls into this illogical pursuit. He believes that having this family, of following the societal idea of what a family is, will help him to be more human. In truth, creating this family will not instantly make him feel more human. For one, they must contend with the hatred from their neighbors that stem from fears about these robots next door. More than that, however, is that the members of the Vision’s family have their own feelings and concerns in all of this. Virginia is stifled in her role as housewife, while Vin and Viv’s schooldays bring them face to face with the prejudices that others have. These factors, along with Vision’s own attempts to maintain this perfect image of family, threaten to bring the series’s ticking time bomb to a frightening reality. Of course, in trying to create this perfect family and coming face to face with its result, the Vision might just be more human than he thinks. After all, the idea of a perfect family is a lovely, but it is just as unobtainable as a world without crime. Still, a good family, if not necessarily a perfect one, might be worth fighting for.

Throughout fiction, robots have had a way of working free from their creators, for good or for ill. In the case of The Vision, the titular hero’s encounter with this as he pursues the idea of family helps to show that he is more human than he thinks.