Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Heaven's Wars: Guardians of Paradise - Book Review

Heaven's Wars: Guardians of Paradise
By Tim Wahl

At a comic convention a few years ago this guy was selling books at the booth across from me. I strolled over and picked one up. Then came the pitch: A new take on Milton's Paradise Lost but with heavy fantasy elements ala Lord of the Rings. Ah ok, I'm interested. The result, while it has some good ideas, is executed so ineptly it comes off like a first year creative writing project.

Our story begins before the creation of mankind. God creates the angels. He gives them all feathered wings. We know this because in the preface the author makes an effort to point this out, by stating "God gave each of his angels feathered wings." I'm assuming this becomes relevant later when Satan turns into a demon or something in the sequel and he gets bat wings. Just a guess.

Anyway, God (who is only ever called "God," not Yahweh, or "The Lord," or "The most high" or any other interesting metonym which could make the read less monotonous) creates a planet called "Aeirliel," which is supposed to be the "Eden" from the bible. The angels live on this paradise planet. The good lord also decides to create a whole bunch of dragons and griffons and other dangerous shit, and the angels have to fight them. We start the book in the middle of such a war, where each of the chief seven angels (lead by, you guessed it - Lucifer) get to kill a bunch of dragons and show how bad-ass they are. The fights are described sort of like a mix between Devil May Cry and DragonBall Z, with lots of teleporting around, magic attacks, and so on. Why the angels have to fight the dragons in the first place isn't clearly explained - you'd think that like, God wouldn't have just made a bunch of evil monsters and crap to mess up his paradise for no reason, and if for whatever reason he did he could just like wipe them away with a snap of a finger or something instead of sending angels to do it in a long, horrible, bloody war. But no, for whatever reason God likes it when people suffer and die in excruciating pain in this book. Kinda just like in the Bible, actually.

This particular book doesn't go with the "genderless" angels one finds in Christian religious dogma, featuring both male and female angels, but does take some time to explain that angels are not allowed to procreate with each other, or even kiss. Which of course leads us to the love/conflict between our main man angel Azazel (who is actually a demon in folklore, being the spirit involved in the ancient Hebrew "scapegoat" ritual, which makes him a strange choice to be a protagonist) and a female angel named "Amy." Amy is very young and stupid. The romance between them has all of the sexual tension of an awkward highschool hookup with a dash of inappropriate teacher-child molestation of the kind that makes clickbait sites like Buzzfeed wet their panties in anticipation of bad celebrity sex-scandal revenue.

Seriously, I'm not kidding. Amy is depicted as a very young, very innocent angel who knows nothing, and who doesn't even have her wings yet. Azazel is supposed to already be eons old at this point, a teacher of other angels, an authority figure she looks up to. Thus the central romantic dynamic is essentially a teacher-student romance trope, but the teacher in this case is not just old enough to be the girl's father, but is in fact hundreds of thousands of years older than her.  There's even a metaphorical "defloration" scene where Amy painfully and bloodily sprouts angel wings from her back. I get that it's supposed to have like that "forbidden love" type angle, but the whole is executed with all the finesse of a poorly shot porn-hub video, the symbolism mashed on with an egg beater and written like it was dictated by a junior high school D&D club.

Anyway God wants to create mankind, but instead of just using his vast cosmic powers to do it in the blink of an eye he sends Azazel to go the Earth and get some magic dirt or something, which is jealously guarded by "Mother Earth," because planets have like, souls and stuff, I guess. Of course this means the angels have to get in this big battle with dragons and faeries and griffons and shit. The battles are inane. Don't believe me? Here's a sample:

Meanwhile, Michael was throwing a dagger at a water elemental. It had no immediate effect. It barreled toward him. As it did, it slowly evaporated and the dagger fell uselessly at the angel's feet. Michael stood but was slammed to the ground by Lucifer. A line of fire scorched past the two. Both were quick to their feet. They telepathically spoke to each other and coordinated how to attack the dragon. Michael and Lucifer sprang up and flew in different directions. They wove in and around the dragon, landing strikes with their swords while avoiding attacks. 

I seriously had to not laugh while typing that out just now.

Anyway, I'm the last person to shit on someone's parade. I applaud the author of this opus for getting the book done, and getting it on Amazon, where it appears at least twelve people have read it, all of whom have rated it an average of four stars. I wish I knew what book those people were reading though, because it ain't this one. This one is poorly thought out fan fiction executed with the ham-fisted subtlety of a drunken hippopotamus crashing blindly through an antique store.

There's a sequel. Review coming soon, depending on how bad I'm feeling about myself.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Guillermo Del Toro's "At Home With Monsters"

This past November I was lucky enough to catch the Guillermo Del Tormo exhibit  at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA.) Apparently all of these items are taken from his personal collection. I was fortunate enough to see it the weekend before the exhibit closed.

What I found impressive was the mix of movie props, design artwork, strange specimens, and artwork from antiquity. You'd see a marquee from Pacific Rim, next to comic book pages from the early 80's, concept art from a Disney film from the 1940's, then a painting from the late 19th century.

The Death Angel, from Hellboy

Illustrated manuscript, from Pan's Labyrinth

The Faun, from Pan's Labyrinth

From Hell, Chapter 8, page 28

From Hell, Epilogue, Page 10

John Atkinson Grimshaw, The Rookery, 1885

Arthur Rackham, The Sleep of Brunhilde, 1980 

Charles Altmont Doyle, A Ghost Story, 1860

Charles Altamont Doyle, O: I am So Glad to Meet You, 1888

Models inspired by The Time Machine, 1960

Brian Poor, Phoenix, 2008

Thomas Kuebler, Feejee Mermaid, 2009

Richard Corben, Portrait of Cousin Eerie, 1974

 Richard Corben, Portrait of Uncle Creepy, 1981

Basil Gogos, Hellboy, 2004

Insect Effigy, 1200 - 1520. Mexico, Central Mexico, Aztec

Spectral Motion, Kaiju Parasite, 2013. From Pacific Rim

Jamie Beswarick, Xenodefugio Subtiltus, 2009

Christopher Marley, Lanternflies, 2010

Zdzislaw Beksinski Untitled (Apocalypse) 1975

Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Etching from the series Le Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons), 1761

Pieter van der Heyden After Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Christ's Descent into Limbo, 1561

Big Fish Eat Little Fish, 1557

Francisco Goya y Lucientes
Etchings from the portfolio
Los Caprichos, 1799

Julio Ruelas
El Reposo del Trovador (The Troubador's Rest) 1906

Laurent Gapaillard, Waterfall, 2016

Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Etching from the series Le Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons), 1761

John Lounsbery
Concept art for Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, 1951

Eyvind Earle, 
Concept art for Walk Disney's Sleeping Beauty, 1959

Eyvind Earle, 
Concept art for Walk Disney's Sleeping Beauty, 1959

Mary Blair
Concept art for Walt Disney's The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, 1949

Gustaf Tenggren
Concept art for Walt Disney's Pinocchio, 1940

From Pacific Rim

 Concept art from Pan's Labyrinth

The Pale Man, from Pan's Labyrinth

Raul Monge,
Concept art for Pan's Labyrinth

Mike Mignola 
Concept art for Blade II

Elko Ishioka, Mask, from Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992

James Ensor, Death chasing the flock of mortals, 1896

Julio Ruelas, Hangman, 1901

Chet Zar, The Evil Eye, 2010

H.R. Giger, The Tourist

Wayne Barlowe, Concept art for Hellboy 2002 and HellboyII: The Golden Army, 2002

Guillermo del Toro, De Ogros, 1989

Christopher Ulrich, Dystopia! "Feed by beast with your blood," 2011

Slattern and Gypsy Danger from Pacific Rim

Ricardo Linares Garcia, Alebrije, 2015

Ryan Matthew Cohn, Beauchene Skull, 2013

Kristen Phillips, Birdipede II, 2015

Bernie Wrightson, Frankenstien

Joel Daavid, Bound by Nature, 2008

Guillermo del Toro, Santi, 2001
Concept art for the Devil's Backbone

Wayne Barlowe, Sargatanas

Moebius, The Great Ancestors, 2006

James Cameron, Concept art for Aliens, 1986

Kay Nielsen, Concept art for Walt Disney's Fantasia, 1940

Felipe Ehrenberg, Alchemist's Diary, 1993

Marc Davis, Medusa, 1969
From Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

Winsor McCay, Gertie the Dinosaur, 1921

Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Etching from the series Le Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons), 1761

Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Etching from the series Le Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons), 1761