2014. február 20., csütörtök

Ensign of freedom - The Red Star

Spirituality and the history of the modern Russia are an odd combination. In retrospective, the event that really shook the globe in the 20th century was bolshevist coup or the Great October Socialist Revolution by its flashier name. Whatever we call it, this new order renounced the old faith, it banished gods and started to build its own heaven on Earth at any cost. On the ruins of its feudal and denied predecessor a man-eating empire emerged. One thing didn’t change, the Party carefully guarded the beliefs of its subjects. The new ruling class preserved the siege-mentality, which had come into being after many foreign invasions in the previous centuries. The historical fiction universe of The Red Star starts the liberation.


What is behind an empire?

The Red Star comics cast magic and spirituality, advanced technology, the grandiosity of the now deceased communist empire into an unique blend. It’s not some weird Post-Soviet romanticism, which is still hungry for the glory of the past. The storyline is full of historical symbols. The Red Star revisits the essence of Russian history; the relation of people and the power through a magic-enchanted mirror. It does this through incredibly powerful poetic and real pictures.


Warfare in the fourth dimension


Just like its real world counterpart, The Red Star’s empire broke in a long and desperate war on a land, where the inhabitants - driven by different and incomprehensible beliefs - just didn’t know the meaning of giving up. This battlefield expands into the spiritual world: the soul energies of the deceased fuel warfare, the ghosts tempered into weapons engage the still living and each other as well. The legacy of the  sorcerer dictator Imbohl - a burning-hearted revolutionarist once - still holds the fate of the people in iron hands. The less the people knew about the ways of others life the less they questioned the methods of their masters and their own place in the „worker’s paradise”. Because corrupt power stands on the little man and his ignorance.

Skyfurnace Konstantinov


The unbreakable resistance of these muslim mortals and their guardians in the spirit world shattered the confidence of the armed pioneers of their universal truth, and some of the surviving warriors under the red banner starts to doubt the doctrines they were raised into. They rebel and start a voyage to find the real enemy and the final truth about the regime that still sticks to the control of the homeland; their people in life and even after their death. This is another historical reference: rebellious warships carry the message of freedom for the oppressed.

Another important historical reference The Red Star touches how power corrupts the champions of the people, and how even the most powerful and ancient guardians of Mother Russia can be deceived. Power and control are complex to understand and master. They change people, but the source of this power is shockingly simple and it is deniable. The crew of the skyfurnace Konstantinov passes previously unknown barriers to liberate the past and the present. They fight cold steel-hearted agents of the power those insist on upkeeping the facade for the sake of glory and imperial greatness.
 On the dark side, the often changing fonts and their sizes make The Red Star comics are a bit hard to read and follow. The story flows slowly through the volumes, and the monotonous patriotic sentiments can get tiresome after a time. On the other hand, the pictures are just beautiful, you can decorate your room with copies of them. The main characters are ingenious enough, and they offer quite a variety. The main antagonist looks just like a cybernetized Nazgul from the Lord of the Rings. Now isn't that cool?

But the main values of these comics are the historical sensitivity and the flawlessly molded alloy of distant generas like historical fiction, magic and science-fiction. Another fascinating aspect of The Red Star comics is how they rehabilitate the historically loaded symbol of the Red Star itself. The Red Star is a real gem. And guess what, it could make it to livescreen in our lifetime!

All pictures are the respective details of The Red Star Comics Volume 1-2

2014. február 1., szombat

Ersatz Firefly - Defiance

More then ten years passed since the unrivalled Firefly had started its march into the Valhalla of science-fiction classics. The cancellation of the show left a big hole in the life of the fans or the browncoats as they call themselves. The marriage of the post-Civil War America and the space was a stroke of genius. The stars became the new prairies. The message of the struggling nobodies doesn’t feel less relevant in our times: Deny the authority of the central power, get out of its reach, be on your own way, go always forward, make a home and keep your family together. If that means you have to live under the rules of the jungle where life is cheap, then so be it. This review is about the science-fiction TV-show and franchise Defiance.

You cannot take the Arch from me

After a decade of withdrawal, a new star is knocking the same doors. The spots are shifted this time (minor SPOILERS). Defiance is a real science-fiction show if I may use this oxymoron. Although it’s unusual for one; the plot is confined to Earth. There is no space travel, at least not anymore. First contact with aliens had been made, but the results were disastrous on every level, and cataclysmic events reshaped the face of our home planet in a very short time. What we have here is a junk-civilisation based on human and extraterrestrial technology alike, and the long healing process  has just started after this apocalypse

Valleys are symbols of fresh starts and asylums. The small town of Defiance.

The viewers are dropped into this fresh start; the independent town of Defiance, where humans and several sentient alien species try to overcome not only the hate and ignorance of the past but to avoid the grasps of the reemerging central power, which strives to control and plays the power play on the old corrupt ways. 

Another valley where a man's fate took a turn; the Battle of Serenity Valley.

Where do sins end and where does forgiveness start?

If Firefly was about being your own master and taking care of those who matters for you, then Defiance is about second chances. In my opinion, this show was made for a mature audience with honed sensitivity and learned openness. The main protagonists are past of their biological prime. They have plenty of regrets, dark secrets those are judged easily by people with a stricter moral code. Still, they live, they strife, they hope that something different than before awaits them.

Second chances are metaphors for Defiance in many ways. For example: the first look at it doesn’t tell the tale. After I had seen the pilot, I was sitting on it for two weeks, and I didn’t feel much incentive to go on with. For one thing, I didn’t like the reheated concept of the make-up aliens. But I gave the show a second chance, and now I’m hooked. As the episodes run you get to like Defiance. Like in real life, some people don’t look much at first. But the more you know about them the more intrigued and forgiving you are, the more you care. The characters defy fast understanding, another trait of Firefly. The most important thing is that the fictional world of the show feels living.

The new America in Defiance. The frontier is back.

Now, before the browncoats stone me

Defiance is not Firefly but the closest thing to it  I met on TV
in the past ten years. Defiance is not the most original, but it’s cleverly put together, and you can feel the enthusiasm behind it. Even the make-up aliens are starting to be interesting. The episodes can stand as their own, and as they flow they show some pretty decent special effects. Maybe the makers counted on the aforementioned sci-fi nostalgia because you can hear familiar tunes from Firefly and the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica (no wonder, it's the same composer) time and again.

The male protagonist Nolan with his adopted alien daughter (left) and the major of Defiance; Amanda (right)

To sum it up, the first season of Defiance (twelve episodes with the pilot) is promising, and the show holds great potential. I didn’t feel like rewatching the episodes since Firefly and Rome. It has an impressive background story and timeline to present the show on these very pages. The alien races are colourful (literally) and plenty. One of them feels like a medieval Shakespearean society from the old continent, another reminds me of North American indians, a third looks like they just arrived from Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and so on. Grant Bowler plays his seen-a-lot character with boyish charm, Julie Benz is gorgeous and charismatic in dignity as ever. Defiance-fans, you are not alone! I totally ship Joshua Nolan and Amanda Rosewater (Nolanda?)! Let’s hope for the best and wait for the second season of Defiance starting in Juny.