Jeff Provine – Blogcritics https://blogcritics.org The critical lens on today's culture & entertainment Tue, 17 Jul 2018 03:40:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 58763955 Board Game Review: ‘Crackers in Bed’ from Winning Moves Games https://blogcritics.org/board-game-review-crackers-in-bed-from-winning-moves-games/ https://blogcritics.org/board-game-review-crackers-in-bed-from-winning-moves-games/#respond Sun, 15 Jul 2018 01:20:23 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5489750 A family game that tests luck and memory

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Crackers in Bed from Winning Moves Games updates classic gameplay from decades ago to new adorable levels. Now a bear is hungry in bed, and players help make his nighttime snack by matching two halves of tasty crackers hidden in the blankets.

The rules of Crackers in Bed are straightforward: Each player receives four “cracker bottom” cards that correlate to tops tucked into the bed. Players take turns spinning the spinner to determine a color tab they may pull and then choose which tab to pull, revealing the “cracker top” attached. If the cracker top does not match any of the player’s cracker bottom cards, it goes back into the slot. If the cracker top matches, the player bundles up both halves and tosses them through the bear’s open mouth. The first player to match and feed all of his or her crackers to the bear wins.

A board game that’s in many ways a toy itself, Crackers in Bed offers dynamic design and clever action. The box becomes the board as you install the raised blanket board and the bear headboard with a small box tucked behind the bed to catch the matched crackers. As triumphant as making a match is, the action of tossing the cracker cards through the bear’s mouth makes the thrill all the sweeter.

In addition to its fun gameplay Crackers in Bed offers strong memory practice. Players will want to watch each other’s pulls and make mental notes of the cracker top in case it goes back. This is especially helpful when it would match a player’s cracker bottom cards, but even if not, they now know where not to pull on their own rounds. With 32 cracker top slots in eight designs, keeping track of which cracker went where is a good mental workout.

Crackers in Bed is a matching and memory game for two to four players aged four and up. It takes about a minute to set up, arranging the box and putting the cracker top halves in the lots, and games are quick, lasting only about 10 or 15 minutes. With no reading required, it’s perfect for the youngest gamers while offering a challenge suitable for older players to enjoy. Crackers in Bed is a great time whether as a staple of a kid’s gaming collection or a quick round of competitive fun for all at family game night.

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Card Game Review: ‘Banishment’ from Dark Mirror Games https://blogcritics.org/card-game-review-banishment-from-dark-mirror-games/ Wed, 13 Jun 2018 01:08:18 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5488259 Some player cooperate, while one works to destroy!

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Banishment from Dark Mirror Games uses straightforward mechanics as the foundation for an engaging game rich with aesthetics. The premise is eerie in its simplicity: one player serves as a Demon while the others act as Exorcists, and the stakes are left up to the imaginations of the players.

The asymmetrical nature of Banishment is perfect for gaming groups who have some players who want to journey on their own path and others who prefer to cooperate. For Banishment, the cooperating players all draw from the Exorcist deck, which offers items that hold special powers, such as Incense allowing players to peek ahead in the deck, Grimoire giving players a chance to pull from the discard pile, or Pentangle being a free draw. As the game begins, players draw out a series of Ritual cards, each of which require a combination of symbols matching the items from the Exorcist deck. The base mechanic is symbol-matching, but players will have to decide whether to rush to resolve a Ritual or use the powers of the cards instead.

The single Demon player in Banishment has a unique deck with particular powers that work against the Exorcists. After each of the players has moved, the Demon finishes the round with his or her own turn, dealing out direct blows to Exorcists like Bane that limits them to playing cards only to resolve Rituals and Corrupt to make a player miss a turn, or slowing their progress with cards like Defile to remove a component from unresolved Rituals. The Demon Dice acts as a ticking clock for the game, counting down ten rounds. The Exorcists must resolve all of the Ritual cards before then; otherwise, the Demon player wins.

Banishment offers flexibility with its two roles for players to fill and wide assortment of possible actions through the cards drawn, and it goes even further with a whole new game through the Cult War expansion. In Cult War, two teams race one another to Summon the Dark One through a special ritual to be done after completing their own array of Rituals, something like two games of Banishment happening at once. Each team is three players: two Exorcists and a Demon. The Exorcists rush to resolve their Rituals, while the Demons torment the Exorcists of the other team to slow them down. A special Sigil deck raises the stakes even more by adding new requirements to Ritual cards. With so much randomization, no two games of Banishment “Cult War” will likely ever be the same.

Banishment is a card game for two to five players with a sixth player available through the expansion. Although the subject matter may be sensitive for some, the gameplay itself is clear enough for younger players to join in as well. Games of Banishment are quick, lasting only about fifteen minutes, depending on how quickly players make their decisions. Games with the Cult War expansion go much longer, almost an hour, while the teams battle one another. As players become accustomed to the options behind the cards, play will become very fast, making it perfect for repeated games while maintaining a low learning curve for new players.

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Board Game Review: Maybe Capital https://blogcritics.org/board-game-review-maybe-capital/ Fri, 27 Apr 2018 01:03:49 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5486130 Make pitches and win investors to be the ultimate VC

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Maybe Capital is the ultimate parody game for the fast-paced and back-patting world of investment. It as rich with name-dropping as any Silicon Valley dinner party, making it a blast for anyone familiar with the social world of business or looking for a game where only the cunning, or unbelievably lucky, will win.

Maybe Capital begins with each player receiving a set of money for themselves and investments to hand out, placing their game pieces onto the board at the grail of Steve Jobs’s face. The goal is simple: win by getting to the highest level of investment or collecting 50 million dollars first. Getting to that goal, however, will take a wild and unpredictable path.

Each round of Maybe Capital, players draw Networking cards and read them aloud. They could be positive, like gaining money because “Someecards starts converting your tweets,” or it could be negative, like losing a company because “you got pushed out by a millennial,” or it could initiate a Pitch Round. The cards determine how players move around the board, although the mechanic of movement has a fair bit of free will as players aim for different destinations. After pitching on Twitter, players may choose to get free money in Marin County, double bonuses or losses from the Flattery, rake in investors from Google, or end up in Bali, picking up investors and manipulating the board from afar. Numerous other spaces give players a wide variety of options for grabbing money, losing investors, or challenging other players.

The real meat of Maybe Capital comes with the Pitch Rounds. Players make pitches by drawing two cards from the Company deck such as “pan handlers” and “files and file folders” and then dreaming up how this company combining the two is going to be great. Everyone pitches their companies, and then players invest in one another, using whatever subjective criteria they want: most hilarious, most inspirational, most thought-provoking, most whatever. The player who collects the most investments wins, keeping the company as further money at the end of the game.

While most social games have the same sort of speaking rounds each time, Maybe Capital shakes up play with a wide variety of how the pitches go. If players start a Pitch Round by landing on particular blue spots of the board, the session will be very different. The pitch might have to come in the form of a listicle, feature questions from the investors, or be a maximum of five words.

Players in Maybe Capital will have to be charming to win pitches and cunning to navigate the board correctly. Yet, even if a player wins, that player may still not be the winner. If a player gets to the highest level of investment by winning pitches, their portfolio is examined, and if 50% of the investment came from an opponent, that money is given back, potentially along with the win. Just like the real world of investing, there are always clever tricks players can pull to squeeze a little more value out of what they hold, such as merging companies to make them worth even more.

Maybe Capital is a social game for three to seven players. Games last about forty-five minutes, depending on how quickly players make their decisions and pitches, not to mention laughter-breaks.

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Graphic Novel Review: ‘Brazen’ by Penelope Bagieu https://blogcritics.org/graphic-novel-review-brazen-by-penelope-bagieu/ Thu, 26 Apr 2018 20:19:03 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5486125 'Brazen' by Penelope Bagieu - Get inspired by dozens of tales of amazing women through history!

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Brazen: Rebel Ladies who Rocked the World from First Second Books, by Penelope Bagieu, shows the sadly too seldom told stories of women who truly made an impact. It is a masterful collection that brings to light tales of a wide variety of greatness. Many of the names are recognizable, and there are numerous others who will be new to readers from all over the world and from eras dating back centuries to today.

One of the most stunning facets of Brazen is the wide variety of women studied. People might judge that the biggest impacts come from cunning political leaders like Queen Nzinga in the seventeenth century and Wu Zetian, who ruled China 1,300 years ago. That may be so, but there is also great work by scientists like Agnodice who is said to have founded gynecology in ancient Athens, explorer and primatologist Delia Akeley, and modern volcanologist Katia Krafft.

No one would argue about the impressive cultural contributions from actresses like Margaret Hamilton whose Wicked Witch of the West is still terrifying today, or cartoonist Tove Jansson, or musician and performer Betty Davis. The list of women in Brazen goes on and on with revolutionaries like criminologist Frances Glessner Lee, journalist Nellie Bly, actress and athlete Annette Kellerman, plus so many more.

Each woman’s story is told condensed into a few pages of panels, making it palatable for quick reads, although it is hard to stop with just one. The stories give ample background to each woman, showing who she was, which is often no one in particular. As the women live their lives, however, their great efforts and resolve are shown to change the world, even if it may seem small at first.

Conservationist Giorgina Reid was an artist living on Long Island, already retired when she was told that eventually she would have to move due to erosion. She refused to give in, however, and adapted gardening techniques to halt the loss of her yard. Then she went on to use these techniques to save the famous Montauk Lighthouse, not to mention contributing her methods to conservationists all over the Earth. This is just one story of dozens of women who made up their minds what to do.

Brazen was created Penelope Bagieu, whose “about the author” section is done in the same manner as each of the brazen ladies from before. While some may consider sharing such a spotlight with oneself presumptuous, this is precisely the spirit of self-encouragement that Brazen is working to build.

Bagieu has an impressive body of work stemming from illustration, which led to comics and, ultimately, Brazen as a collection of her weekly strip of stories each about “a woman who did exactly what she wanted with her life.” Bagieu shows that there is something spectacular in all of us yearning to impact the world.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies who Rocked the World is a must-read for lovers of history, supporters of women, those who want to be inspired to do something great, those looking for a fun anthology of stories, or, really, everyone.

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Graphic Novel Review: “Hermes: Tales of the Trickster” by George O’Connor https://blogcritics.org/graphic-novel-review-hermes-tales-of-the-trickster-by-george-oconnor/ Mon, 23 Apr 2018 17:06:19 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5486037 'Hermes' by George O'Connor is the latest addition to the Olympians series to be released and is also the funniest.

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Hermes: Tales of the Trickster is the latest addition to George O’Connor’s Olympians series from First Second Books. This is the tenth collection of Greek myth, yet Hermes is a fresh take with its own method of storytelling. While Apollo has its tales told by the Muses with elegant prose and poetry, Hermes has its own portrayal by a weary traveler spinning tales while sipping drink with the hundred-eyed watchman Argos. It is a solid frame for the story that allows the reader to jump into the many facets of the life of Hermes while still following a single plot with a surprising turn.

Like Hermes himself, Hermes the book is packed with jokes bordering on crass. It is a new voice for the Olympians series, which typically tackles stories as epics or songs. There are a few jokes in the others, of course, and many of them by Hermes himself appearing as a supporting character. Now the jokester is in the forefront, and it is clear from the beginning with gags like the traveler calling Argos “an eyeful.” They continue one after the other through the whole book, whether on a large scale of myth to explain the world around us, such as why dogs sniff each other’s rears, or on a small one like Hermes glancing at his wrist muttering, “Someone has got to invent a timepiece.”

The hilarity of the book carries its own merit, but Hermes is also rich in scholarly research to give a palatable and exact telling of Greek mythology. Readers follow the quick pace of Hermes as he is born as yet another illicit child of Zeus (but one Hera just cannot stay mad at) and immediately sets off to make mischief by stealing his half-brother Apollo’s cows. Apollo gets them back after much grief, which is all forgiven when baby Hermes shows his merits to the other Olympians by inventing the lute for Apollo. Hermes soon finds himself with plenty of work as messenger and guide to the dead, chores said to be given to him to keep him out of too much trouble.

Much of Hermes’s adventures come so fast they fit in a single panel, such as listing his many children and patronages. Others are given more time to develop, like the birth of Hermes’s most famous son, Pan. More serious is the tale of Typhon, another of Earth’s powerful offspring meant to dethrone Zeus. He is a monster with one hundred heads, and along with his snaky wife Echidna, spawned more monsters like the Sphinx, three-headed Cerberus, the Chimera, and more. Other gods are forced to flee despite their power, but Zeus is able to stand against Typhon thanks to Hermes’s speed and Pan’s distractions.

Among the fast-paced Hermes, O’Connor weaves in more of Greeks’ perspective of the outside world. We see references to dog-headed Cynocephali and one-legged Skiapods, races of men Greeks believed lived in far-off Asia. O’Connor also shows the Greek understanding of foreign gods being takes on their own, with the gods of Egypt being animal-headed forms of the Olympians as they hide from Typhon’s wrath. With its wealth of information and eagerness for fun, Hermes: Tales of the Trickster is perhaps the best-told of the series so far.

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Card Game Review: ‘Anatomy Fluxx’ from Looney Labs https://blogcritics.org/card-game-review-anatomy-fluxx-from-looney-labs/ Fri, 13 Apr 2018 01:10:06 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5485744 The latest card game of ever-changing rules goes on an incredible journey!

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Anatomy Fluxx from Looney Labs is the most educational Fluxx yet! Fluxx, the card game with ever-changing rules, turned to educational topics with previous editions like Chemistry Fluxx and Math Fluxx. Both offered great new themes for decks as assembling elements together into compounds or tinkering with numbers fit the game’s mechanic of matching cards perfect. Anatomy Fluxx takes a similar route of putting pieces together, but it goes in much bolder direction to show how serious the systems of the human body can be.

As with all Fluxx games, the initial rules are simple: players are dealt a hand of cards and then take turns drawing a card and then playing a card. Players collect Keepers that ultimately match to meet a Goal card to win the game. Since it is Anatomy Fluxx, the Keepers are all in the theme of body parts, ranging from the Brain to the Appendix to the Pituitary Gland to the Ovaries. Goals require assembling these to make the proper pair, such as Appetite with the Brain and Stomach, Respiratory System with Lungs and Blood Vessels, or Filters needing two out of the Liver, Kidneys or Spleen. Anatomy Fluxx maintains a mature approach to the human body, including reproductive organs that are important to learning physical health.

Play through the game evolves quickly as new Rule cards change the numbers of cards drawn or played, limit hands, or give bonuses for special conditions. Anatomy Fluxx features special bonuses for players quick to learn: the Knowledge Bonus gives an extra card to any player who can recite the factoids on the Keepers as they are played and Name that Organ! where the player reads the factoid with a reward for those who can name the organ correctly. Other cards are more for fun, such as bonuses for maintaining the rhythm of a beating heart and plenty of devious Action cards that can disrupt in a player’s favor by stealing cards or reshuffling Keepers on that table.

Anatomy Fluxx stands out from the other educational Fluxx games by its bold use of negative cards. Creepers, cards that automatically play in front of a player and blocks them from winning, have long been a part of Fluxx, but Creepers here go a step further to attach to a Keeper. With fitting names like Virus, Mutation, and Bacteria, the Creepers are linked to the victim Keeper until a special rule separates them or they are both discarded. Further, several Ungoal cards may come into play that will cause the game to end and everyone to lose when their conditions are met. These cards not only crank up the tension of the game but also help to teach how fragile human health can be.

Anatomy Fluxx is a card game for two to six players aged twelve and up. It is a quick card game, usually lasting twenty to thirty minutes, although the erratic nature of Fluxx could bring it to an early end or keep going depending on how players use their cards. Whether for its eager mechanics with quick changes to the rules that always keep players on its toes or for its great educational value, Anatomy Fluxx is a must-play for everybody.

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Card Game Review: ‘Get the MacGuffin’ from Looney Labs https://blogcritics.org/card-game-review-get-the-macguffin-from-looney-labs/ Fri, 06 Apr 2018 14:15:06 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5485342 Fast-paced play in a lightning-quick game as players try not to be eliminated.

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Get the MacGuffin from Looney Labs is one of the fastest games on or off the tabletop. Looney Labs, famous for its Fluxx card games, is well versed in quick-paced games where players must constantly re-evaluate their strategies to win. Get the MacGuffin is the quickest yet, with just 23 cards that can serve nearly a dozen players with a complete game in under 10 minutes.

Even though Get the MacGuffin is so quick, its theme comes through with immersive surreality. A “macguffin” is the term for a plot device that drives the story, something every character is after, perhaps best featured as the titular statue in the Maltese Falcon. The game cards follow the pulp style, with the MacGuffin being a briefcase with light pouring out (a delightful Tarantino reference). Other cards include Money, Backup, the Switcheroo, the Thief, the Interrogator, and the classic twist I’m Not Dead Yet, filling the game with classic tropes.

The object of Get the MacGuffin is straightforward: to be the last player holding cards. Each player is dealt a hand at the beginning of the game, and players take turns doing their best not to spend their cards too quickly. On a turn, players have the options of playing an Action card, laying an Object card on the table, using an Object card, or discarding an Object card. Objects are valuable cards as they can be tapped or given a second chance as a discard, while the Action cards give opponents a chance to steal cards, switch hands, or just burn one turn by completing a simple action like waving or shrugging.

Get the MacGuffin has a deep mix of luck and strategy. Luck sets the foundation as players are dealt their hands once, and crafty players will have to keep an eye on their own cards as well as those of their opponents to see which card is best played when. The MacGuffin itself is the most powerful card, of course, with the owner being able to replay the card, basically passing on the turn while everyone else frantically loses their cards. Played too early, however, the MacGuffin could be stolen, and that player will be left empty-handed and eliminated from the game.

Get the MacGuffin is a card game for two to eleven players aged eight and up. Playtime is minimal, just five to ten minutes, largely depending on how fast players make their decisions on what to play. Since it is a small deck and such quick play, Get the MacGuffin includes special rules for playing even without a table. Players could go through a game, or two or three, while standing in line or sitting in a waiting room. With the game’s uncanny speed and diverse range of actions, players will want to deal out again and again to see whose strategy is best to capture the MacGuffin.

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Graphic Novel Review: ‘Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter’ by Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor, From First Second https://blogcritics.org/graphic-novel-review-scarlett-hart-monster-hunter-by-marcus-sedgwick-and-thomas-taylor-from-first-second/ Tue, 03 Apr 2018 02:51:29 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5485236 'Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter' from the team of Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor is a graphic novel where monster-hunting adventure is as fun for kids as it is adults!

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Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter from Macmillan’s First Second imprint is a wild ride through monster-filled England, as one would presume from the team-up of two of YA’s most notables. Writer Marcus Sedgwick, whose Midwinterblood won the 2013 Printz Award, presents a tale that fits well with the arcane style of Thomas Taylor, perhaps best known for his cover on the UK’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The world-building in Scarlett Hart is as rich as it is daring. The setting is England at the turn of the twentieth century, the perfect time of blending folklore and science. This world is heavily on the folklore side as it is constantly besieged by monsters, ranging from sea monsters at the docks to the famous giant demon hound Shuck to mummies at the Theatre Royal.

Monster hunters keep the world safe, resolving the beasts in return for bounties from the Royal Academy. As with any society with money and adventure on the line, there will always be rivalries among those who stand out.

None stand out further than Scarlett Hart, the daughter of two of the world’s most famous hunters. Although trained practically from before birth, she now struggles, orphaned, now supported by her parents’ servants, the Whites. Scarlett is too young to officially hunt, yet the family needs the bounty money to keep up the imposing Hart house with its museum of creatures caught by Scarlett’s parents.

If facing monsters incognito were not hard enough, Scarlett is plagued by her parents’ rival, the Count Stankovic, who continues to make life miserable by swooping in to steal bounties and threaten to turn Scarlett in to the Academy for illicitly hunting. Scarlett finds no shortage of monsters; if anything, it seems more are popping up faster than ever before.

The immersive plot of Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter is filled with shocks and twists. Throughout its journey, monster hunting is illuminated by gadgets from monster-seeking rockets to goggles able to peer into the invisible realm of spirits. Hunters could not get around without a sleek vehicle, and Napoleon White’s beloved Machen Roadster, one of only eleven ever made, serves the team with power and style. Readers will come back to the story time and again, pulling something new from the densely packed art of the pages each time.

Dealing with the spooky material of monsters, Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter certainly pulls no punches: a swarthy sailor is eaten right on the first page. The violence is not graphic, however, making the comic suitable for younger readers while being so exciting adults will also want to sit down to see how young Scarlett can outwit and outdo monsters twice, thrice, or a hundred times her size. She is a strong protagonist, always ready for the next adventure with the determination to see it through.

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Graphic Novel Review: ‘Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman’ by Box Brown from First Second https://blogcritics.org/graphic-novel-review-guy-real-unbelievable-andy-kaufman-box-brown-first-second/ Wed, 07 Feb 2018 02:04:49 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5482467 A peek into the mystery of one of comedy's most complex performers

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Is This Guy for Real?: The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman published by First Second Books is Box Brown’s latest foray into biographical comics that show a deeper perspective into some of the most famous, yet mysterious, figures of the last few decades. After Andre the Giant, Brown is tackling Kaufman, whom many might only know as a stand-up comedian or the “foreign” guy from the ‘70s sitcom Taxi. As Brown shows, there is much more to Kaufman, perhaps more than anyone actually knows.

In Is This Guy for Real?, Brown follows Kaufman’s life through its purest anchor: television. Kaufman grew up on it, from Mighty Mouse cartoons to Elvis music shows and, especially, professional wrestling. But Kaufman does not just watch television, he lives it. Brown expertly juxtaposes panels with similar postures showing young Kaufman emulate his newfound heroes. Rather than picking the heroes of the wrestling ring, however, Kaufman is fascinated with the villains as they trash-talk, strut, and make arrogant claims, particularly famed bad-guy Buddy Rogers. As Brown summarizes, “The wrestling fans hated Buddy Rogers. Absolutely abhorred him. But as much as they hated him, he was by far the biggest star in wrestling.”

The inspirations for Kaufman’s later performances are thoroughly portrayed in Is This Guy for Real?, as one can expect from a graphic novel with a five-page bibliography, in addition to electronic sources and personal interviews with those who knew Kaufman. The book contains details that might surprise readers, such as Kaufman turning away from alcohol and drugs early in his career to focus on meditation or his pseudo-monogamous relationships the ladies at Nevada’s Mustang Ranch, which he calls “more real to me than dating… no games. No acting.”

While revealing those details, Is This Guy for Real? can only shed so much light into Kaufman’s own perspective. He strikes many as a mousy individual with quirky acts, such as his famous pantomiming of the Mighty Mouse theme in his character of a newly arrived immigrant or doing terrible impersonations leading up to an impeccable Elvis Presley imitation. Perhaps even more famous is his mean lounge singer character Tony Clifton, often played by Kaufman’s cohort Bob Zmuda to keep up the charade that it wasn’t Kaufman. Each act has layers upon layers that fascinate and rile the audience to the point of absurdity. Much of the book explores Kaufman’s venture into pro-wrestling with his villainous performances continuing outside the ring. David Letterman asked Kaufman, “Are you two really enemies or is this a scam?” just before a seemingly legitimate on-air fight gave soaring ratings and headline publicity.

The complex story of Andy Kaufman’s life is made approachable through Brown’s clean, cartoon style. Everyone is a perpetual audience, and Kaufman plays them just as a crooning wrestler. Yet there is something pure inside it. Kaufman’s brother, Michael, tells the story of a boardwalk with a poor guy whose high striker game is ignored by everyone. Kaufman makes a big show about how powerful he is, utterly fails in his attempts to ring the bell, and walks away from the crowd of people he built with his performance, all now lining up to play the game themselves.

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Graphic Novel Review: ‘Red Winter’ by Anneli Furmark from D+Q https://blogcritics.org/graphic-novel-review-red-winter-anneli-furmark-dq/ Tue, 16 Jan 2018 02:14:35 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5481546 Showing the humanness as lives collide in Sweden

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Red Winter by Anneli Furmark, published by Drawn & Quarterly, shows the complexities of human relationships as fluidly as they happen in our own lives. The backdrop is an industrial town in northern Sweden during the 1970s, a time when the waves of communism and capitalism crashed against one another. The struggle of class warfare and questions in the role of workers is the landscape, but the real story comes from its characters.

The art in Red Winter comes heavy with crosshatching to create shadow among the watercolor paint strokes. With an overall palate in dark colors, especially blues, there are stark golds and reds that give a few hints of warmth. This gives the reader the sensation of winter, spiked with what feels like reading by firelight.

Red Winter rolls through its narrative in sections, each from the viewpoint of a different character. The initial “chapter” is told from the perspective of Siv, wife of a millworker and mother of three. She has fallen in love with Ulrik, a communist little more than half her age who has been dispatched to the town to serve in the spreading of the Svergies Kommunistiska Party, which is not to be confused with the Arbetarpartiet Kommunisterna, Unga Ornar youth labor, or any of the other myriad of political parties. Her story is riveting enough that one might expect the whole graphic novel to be about her, yet it changes abruptly to Ulrik and a whole new set of issues.

The change is stark in theme, moving from worrying about tradition to that of success, as Ulrik struggles to sell as many newspapers as his comrades and is looked down upon by snootier communists because of his bourgeois upbringing. Siv’s children Peter and Marita have their own chapters, on the fringe of the storyline of their mother’s infidelity with it striking them as they deal with finding their own places. Even Siv’s husband Borje, practically nonexistent for much of the early work as little more than a reference to the emotional quandary Siv is in, suddenly gains his own perspective, showing yet another life with its own priorities.

Furmark’s weaving of the different perspectives is flawless in the events and fallout of the characters’ lives. Each person faces such different realities with different goals and fears, yet they are all muddled together in the complex tapestry of society.

The great summary of Red Winter comes as Marita is playing with her friend in the flooded schoolyard. They find that they can make the water bubble out around the tops of their boots, but going too far makes the water tumble over the lining and soak their feet. We all do dumb things because they are neat, whether in childlike innocence of play or the supposed seriousness of adulthood with its social mores and political struggle. These choices come together to make up our human life.

The post Graphic Novel Review: ‘Red Winter’ by Anneli Furmark from D+Q appeared first on Blogcritics.

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