One year ago today Cara Reads Books premiered on Facebook with The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt! Now with the next Teddy Roosevelt related review …

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The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard

An exciting account of the jolly journey of Teddy Roosevelt and friends going down a tributary of the Amazon called the River of Doubt. You will be shocked when things go wrong for the under prepared party on the unexplored river.

Spoiler Alert: The river was actually less doubty and more deathy.

I give this 4 out of 5 Teddy Roosevelts Cheating Death

 

Sam is joined by JP for an amazing chat with Punisher: War Zone and Green Street Hooligans director Lexi Alexander!

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Joshua Williamson returns to talk about all things Ghosted! There will be spoilers for the entirety of the book so beware and be warned!

 

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Before we begin: Okay, I know I’ve been a bit light on articles lately. All I can say is I’m working on a few things right now that will keep me preoccupied through the month of June. There are still podcasts lined up, but op-eds and most in-depth articles, at least from me, are off the table until July. So, to fill the great hole that has no doubt formed in your hearts, I figured some quick Mad-Max-Fury-Road-Imperator-Furiosa-Fulland easy lists were doable.

Cool? Cool.

Anyway, with the recent release of Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron’s amazing Imperator Furiosa has sparked a fantastic following of artists, cosplayers, and just fans in general who see a kindred spirit in the rebellious driver of the war rig with her shorn head, dieselpunk prosthetic arm, and desire for redemption. Aside from the brilliant action and over-the-top insanity of the movie, many a blogger and critic see the importance of having a character like Furiosa stand out and attract so much positive attention. Hollywood is still struggling with all kinds of representation issues and yet here we have a movie where, arguably, the main character isn’t the guy in the title but the physically disabled female lead. And she kicks all kinds of ass! Seriously, even without her prosthetic, Furiosa still manages to best Max with her stump arm and at no point in the movie is she questioned as a leader, driver, fighter, or as a woman. She just is, no justification necessary. Again, this is extremely important as far as representation in media goes. So, in honor of the newest addition to the pantheon of badass women in sci-fi, I thought I’d put together a little list of other badass characters who just happen to be missing an arm or a leg. Or Both.

 

Hiccup – How to Train Your Dragon 1&2

 

Gobber should also count, but I’m trying not to cheat on this one. How to Train Your Dragon is one of those films that was How-to-Train-Your-Dragon-how-to-train-your-dragon-19498379-900-506utterly charming, emotional, and did something I can’t recall any other children’s film in Western animation doing: it maimed its main character. For all of the Disney films I’ve seen where the hero and heroine get their happy ending, HTTYD made sure that Hiccup was changed on all levels philosophical and physical. The scene where Hiccup wakes and discovers he’s lost his leg is so well done I get emotional just typing this. Everything from the silence to the expressions to Toothless providing strength and support is so well done. Best of all, the culture of Berk is one that doesn’t look down on those who’ve lost their limbs. Though Hiccup’s new leg is meant to parallel Toothless’ lost tail fin, he’s never thought of as handicapped by the injury. This extends into the sequel where 20-year-old Hiccup thrives as a young adult but his prosthetic is never used as a means of limiting him as a rider or a leader.

 

Misty Knight – Marvel Comics

 

One of those characters you wish Pam Grier could play now in a live action tv show or movie! NYPD officer Mercedes “Misty” Knight lost her right arm during an explosion but didn’t let a little thing like having one arm stop her from helping people. WitMisty_Knight_Heroes_For_Hire_-7-560x281h the help of Tony Stark and a bionic arm, she became part of the roster of Marvel heroes. Misty was created during the 70s when blaxploitation films and the kung-fu craze were at their peak so it’s fitting that she’d end up associating primarily with the Hell’s Kitchen cadre of Heroes for Hire that also produced Luke Cage and Misty’s on-again-off-again love interest, Iron Fist. The bionic arm may have endowed her with some super strength, but Misty is a capable fighter all on her own, which makes her the ideal hero to have on speed dial if you’re in a pinch.

 

Cherry – Grindhouse: Planet Terror

 

Laugh all you want but at least when you go into a movie directed by Robert Rodriguez in the style of a Grindhouse movie you know you’re going to be entertained. Planet Terror is a ridiculously entertaining film and at the center of it is Rose McGowan’s395dfd151dd2d232b82acd8717028cd1 Cherry, a former go-go dancer who finds herself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Grindhouse movies are all about sex appeal, horror, and gore and Planet Terror definitely delivers on all fronts. But for all of the exploitation going on the heart of the story is Cherry’s rise as a badass leader. Amidst the chaos of civilization literally crumbling before her eyes she loses her leg but gains a ton of confidence. And a machine gun for a leg. Surprising how something like that can be a real self-esteem booster. Again, you can laugh at the ridiculousness, but when you saw Cherry shooting all those zombies with her machine gun leg you were ON. BOARD.

 

Ash Williams – Evil Dead 2 & Army of Darkness

 

Few actors can carry a film on charm and wit alone, but Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams showed us exactly what the future Titan of B-movies was capable of. An expressive and physically gifted comedic actor, Campbell had to sell audiences on a lot of the insanity of Evil Dead and Evil Dead II with the limited budget he, director Sam Raimi, and producer Rob Tapert were working ash-williamswith. The result? When Ash’s hand gets possessed in Evil Dead II, we believe that the hand is in control and kicking Ash’s ass! So when Ash has to CUT OFF HIS OWN HAND we’re not only rooting for him, but we’re also cringing as blood splashes in his pain-filled face. The silver lining, though, is the extremely awesome montage of Ash gearing up to fight the remaining demons and our boy leveling up. Before Cherry got her machine gun leg, Ash had his chainsaw arm! This extends into Army of Darkness where Ash is still pretty capable using his stump but once he realizes his chainsaw isn’t going to do him much good in Medieval Times he fashions himself a new, more metallic hand for everyday heroics.

 

Edward “Ed” Elric – Full Metal Alchemist

 

The only double amputee on the list, Ed lost his arm and leg (and his brother’s body) when the two youngsters attempted to resurrect their mother with alchemy. The Law of Equivalent Exchange, however, demanded much of the brothers but the Elric’s don’t go down easy. After a year’s recovery in which Ed received automail prosthesis for his limbs and Alphonse got his soul attached to an armored body, the two managed to become state alchemists with Ed receiving the call sign of the “Full Metal” tumblr_m73sj4nkLm1qazawzo2_1280alchemist. Throughout both versions of the anime, the writers always found time to focus on the price Ed and Alphonse paid for their hubris. Primarily, Ed’s automail drives a great deal of discussion about the amount of pain he suffers from physically and mentally but it’s very rare that any of the other state alchemists or his enemies believe the automail is a hindrance. Sure, it gets broken quite a bit, but Ed treats the damage like an annoyance and when his automail mechanic Winry steps in to repair the physical damage, she doesn’t treat him with kid gloves. They act like regular teenagers around each other, for the most part. If anything, he gets more digs for being short, which you really do not want to bring up around him. Trust me.

Cara Reads Books returns after a short … Holy crap, has it been 4 months!? Um, yeah … anyway …

Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943 by Antony BeevorStalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943

A riveting account of the battle of Stalingrad from 1942-1943, which will leave you wondering that between logistical issues, lack of common sense, lack of supplies, poor military tactics, and the crippling Russian winter, how the Germans and the Russians even managed to fight each other.

Spoiler Alert: The Soviets won! USA! USA!

I give this 4 out of 5 Russian Winters

Next review, one of the million books Cara read in the last 4 months instead of writing reviews.

 

Sam chats with artist Sara Talmadge and the two bond over their mutual love of Tangled and their mutual not-as-much-love for Frozen.

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Sara’s website: http://charapoo.storenvy.com/

Follow Sara @Charapoo

 

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There’s still time to contribute to a Feminist Deck!

Intro: “Nothing to Prove” by the Doubleclicks

Outro: “Potions Yesterday” by Draco and the Malfoys

I don’t know about all of you, but I’m a sucker for ambitious storytelling. Sure, I love my paint-by-numbers comics, but when you can clearly see a team of artists aspiring for something more it makes the downtime between monthly installments all the sweeter. With each issue we get another building block, another piece of the puzzle and half of thepisces02_cover fun is the challenge presented in the work to the reader. Yes, you can read a comic in under fifteen minutes, but it’s the well-crafted and impassioned books that draw you in and invite you to take a closer look. Pisces, with only two issues, is proving itself to be such a book.

Home from the war in Vietnam, former fighter pilot Dillon Carpenter finds adjusting to civilian life to be as much of a battle as the one he left behind. Carrying the burden of what he did during the war to survive, Dillon is continually haunted by his demons both real and imagined. A chance meeting with a fellow veteran, however, gives him the opportunity to find a modicum of peace, but a momentary reprieve isn’t enough to keep the past and the present from colliding.

The description may be fairly straightforward but within the issue proper writer Kurtis Wiebe, artist Johnnie Christmas, and colorist Tamra Bonvillain tweak it just enough to keep us questioning reality right along with Dillon. It’s all lined up for us: veteran of a horrific war experiencing post-traumatic stress that manifests as equally horrific hallucinations. Pretty much every Vietnam movie covers this. Except there’s a sinister PiscesBeachquality to Dillon’s visions. His demons arrive in the form of a viscous liquid with melting phantasms attempting to pull him under, to drown him in a watery starscape. The continued use of water holds up less as a method of narrative transition and more as a manifestation of his psyche.

Pisces #2 really highlights how the script and the art hold equal weight in telling the story. So far, Wiebe has been light on exposition. He’s letting the characters drive the plot and since we’re dealing with a questionable reality, nothing appears to make sense. Memories, visions, nightmares all blend together but without context we as the reader are hung out to dry about the actual meaning. Dillon is even less forthcoming with an explanation because he isn’t sure himself and he really isn’t the type to wax poetic about his feelings. Without our own solid foundation from the words, we turn to the art for help. It’s worth noting that Christmas’ art continues to be stunning throughout the issue. He manages to make distortion and elongation of panels and appendages look amazing but he can just as easily nail an expression that tells you everything about a character with one glance. And Bonvillain’s colors bring as much vibrancy to a quiet conversation in the moonlight as they do to a whirling black hole of starry nightmares. The art, however, is just as unreliable as it quickly turns, taking any solid foundation of reality and morphing into hellish dreams. Like the mind, Dillon’s world is fluid and subject to change without warning. Add in the nonlinear narrative and our ability to gauge the situation is nonexistent. It’s PiscesWaterexciting but it also holds just enough tension and anxiety with each turn of the page, which is exactly where you want to be in the horror/thriller genre.

The best pieces of horror are less about gore and more about anxiety and fear – fear of the unknown, of the people around us, of our own bodies, etc. Our senses are heightened, the heart beats faster, and we’re just waiting to let out a scream to relieve our minds of the stress induced by sustained suspense. Pisces is only in the first stages, setting the tone where the quiet moments linger with uncertainty. Every corner has the potential to sink into oblivion, every person a possible figment of an addled mind. As Dillon falls, we fall with him and there’s nothing to hold on to.

Isn’t that just a little bit frightening? But isn’t it also just a little bit fun?

Before we start, I’m telling you now that there will be spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road. You’ve been warned. Proceed.

Like a massive amount of people this weekend, I saw Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller’s return to the Mad Max franchise thirty years after the last installment, Beyond Thunderdome (1985). How was it? So good, guys. So very good. You should all go see it so we can all incessantly talk about how perfect of an action movie it is and how George vhs-mad-max-fury-road1Miller should be given back the reigns to the scrapped Justice League movie from 2007. Tom Hardy does an admirable job taking over the role of Max from Mel Gibson, but what everyone’s been really talking about isn’t the titular character but the real hero of the movie, Furiosa, played fantastically by Charlize Theron. Though Max finds himself in the middle of a long drive down an endless, unforgiving road the movie is really about Furiosa and her search for redemption as she tries to smuggle the brides of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) back to the idyllic home from which she was stolen as a child. It would be very easy to launch into a review of the movie, but I think the phrase “GO SEE IT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IT’S SO GOOD!!” is sufficient enough. Instead, I wanted to talk about Furiosa and her namesakes, the Furies – primordial deities of Ancient Greece who punished people for insolence, oath-breaking, unjustified murder, and anything else that might be construed as destruction of the natural order.

Descriptions of the Furies, or the Erinyes, often relegate them to a triptych of goddesses with interchangeable features like snakes for hair (not to be confused with the Gorgons), dog’s heads, bat’s wings, bloodshot eyes, and coal black bodies. It’s really more up to the author in question. Even the tri-goddess motif is subject to authorial whim since the Ancient Greeks didn’t exactly have a set number of cthonic revenge deities. We mostly have Virgil and Dante to thank for the three named Furies, Alecto (“unceasing”), Megaera (“grudging”), and Tisiphone (“vengeful destruction”). The triptych also works on a thematic level with other triple goddess groups such as the Fates, the erinyesCharities or Graces, and the Muses; there were originally only three Muses, but more were added. Still, nine muses fits with the “Power of Three” theme that’s carried over into modern day Pagan and Wicca practices and their pop culture equivalents like The Craft (1996) and Charmed (1998-2006). Fun fact: Charmed had an episode where the sisters were turned into the Furies (“Hell Hath No Fury”). But then again, they were turned into just about everything, so make of that what you will.

The Furies have actually made a fair number of appearances, and honorable mentions, in television, movies, and literature. As a trio, Xena: Warrior Princess used them in a handful of episodes, mainly as combatant figures sent by other gods to mete out punishment; they were also the main antagonists in the video game God of War: Ascension. As far as inspiration goes the Female Furies of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World were the ruthless bodyguards of the god-like despot Darkseid – and formerly led by one of my favorite heroines, Big Barda; and Barbara Stanwyck starred in the gripping Western, The Furies (1950), about a woman who cunningly gets hold of her family’s ranch after her father disowns her. The commonality of women in the position of protagonist and antagonist, sometimes Female_Furies_001concurrently, could be interpreted as harkening back to the idea that the Furies themselves were not necessarily malicious deities. Depending on your perspective they were either dispensing justice or executing unfair punishment. Or it’s just a happy accident.

The use of the word “fury” has had a long tradition of use in popular culture as well. Mad Max: Fury Road notwithstanding, we’ve also seen the rise, fall, and rise again of the Fast and the Furious franchise with the latest installment, Furious 7, giving the biggest finger to the laws of physics for the sake of pure entertainment that ever was given. If we go back a little further, William Faulkner’s 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury has been a staple of American literature classes for decades, the novel’s title coming from a soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth wherein “the sound and the fury” is our need for significance in a meaningless existence. Indeed, the use of “furious” and “fury” in a modern day setting has been more closely associated with anger whereas the Furies depicted in the plays of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, and the poetry of Virgil and Dante were more concerned with “fury” as an extension of justice.

In Mad Max: Fury Road we get an amalgamation of these varied depictions. For starters, the second half of the title reveals not just where most of the action takes place, but it also indicates that Max isn’t the singular hero of the film. If anything, Max is just the means to an end for us so we can meet Theron’s Furiosa. It can’t just be coincidence that the leading woman is named Furiosa and she’s driving a war rig across Fury Road. If Miller and co-writers Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris had wanted to be subtle (they didn’t), then there were better ways to go about it. FURY ROADFuriosa fits the duel role of protagonist and antagonist, a badass driver looking for redemption by saving a group of women and a foil for Max, in the beginning, who will do anything to survive. More to the point, Furiosa is the one to enact punishment and get revenge on Immortan Joe. As the supposed main character, Max has little to do with Joe’s demise. If he did, it wouldn’t make sense. After the brides, Furiosa has the most dramatic and narratively satisfying resolution in killing him and bringing down his tyrannical regime. If Max were the one to do so, then it wouldn’t ring true.

The culmination of Furiosa’s efforts to get the brides to her childhood home, however, unwittingly results in the creation of another form of the triple goddess motif, the maiden-mother-crone. Reunited with the remaining members of her people, all of whom are women, Furiosa becomes the “Mother” figure, the woman of middle age to the “Maiden” brides and the older “Crones” of her former home. Again, this may not have been the intention, but it sits there and whether you realize it or not you’re watching three generations of women fighting back in order to survive. Yes, Max is there and helps facilitate the plan to take on Joe and his army, but the heavy lifting is done as much, if not more so, by Furiosa, the brides, and the clans-women. Oh, and Nux (Nicholas Hoult) is there too.

There is so much to love about Mad Max: Fury Road. Charlize Theron’s Furiosa kicks all kinds of ass, even with one arm, and Tom Hardy looks like he’ll have no problems picking up the reins of the franchise. George Miller is so on point with a frenetic, fast paced, and gorgeously realized dystopian world gone mad but he also succeeds in giving us a cast of characters capable of meeting and exceeding that madness. It’s beneath the surface, however, that we see Fury Road‘s place in the long tradition of women looking for justice and my God is it glorious. Well done, Mad Max. Well done.

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Sam and James Rowe (Roman on the Rocks) enjoy a nice long and geeky conversation about The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Spoilers!

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