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The Full Lid
4th September 2020

Hi everyone! Welcome to The Full Lid!

Email! Friday! Fun times! Inbox? FULL LID! Which is what this intro would look like if it was part of the second half of Hot Fuzz.

HI! I'm Alasdair, this is my newsletter -- your Friday at 5 dose of pop culture enthusiasm, career notes, reviews and anything else that I've enjoyed this week. Think of it as email, but good!

Our interstitials this week are one part comic prologue to upcoming audio drama Circles, and one part complimentary horror movies.

But first, this!

Contents

Orfeia
21 Bridges
Time Lord Victorious
Signal Boost
Where You Can Find Me
Department of Received Esoteric Printed Goods
Signing Off / Playing Out

Orfeia

Fay has lost her daughter, Alice, and through her, the anchor that holds her to the world. Alone, drifting, going on long runs through London clutching what she still has of her daughter, Fay is travelling long before she realizes she's on a journey. A journey that will take her deep into the true heart of the world to rescue Alice, and to discover what love, identity and sacrifice all mean.

Set in the same world as Harris' Loki novels and the previous A Pocketful of Crows and The Blue Salt Road, Orfeia is a puzzle that you and Fay solve at the same time. Fay is a remarkable leading character: grief-stricken but determined, focused and yet desperately aware of what she's losing. She's fragile but never without agency, knowing exactly what makes her journey both dangerous and necessary. She never stops. Not once. Not even when the memories of what she needs to do have been taken from her. Fay is relentless, and the exploration of her grief is painfully honest.

Harris excels at exploring gaps between worlds and there's a heightened sense of reality to Orfeia from the start. Two child ballads are central to the story, with  King Orfeo proving especially vital in terms of structure, motif and plot. However, anyone worried about being lost shouldn't be. Harris folds the complex verse in without ever leaving you stranded. Both King Orfeo and The Elphin Knight are ancient ballads that are encoded with answers to modern problems, and they form one of Fay's few reliable compass points. The music is always there, somehow, even when she's dimensions deep inside the nested matryoshka dolls of London, looking for her dead daughter. From the opening encounter with a group of distinctly Shakespearean homeless to the final line, the world here is rich with imagery and meaning, feeling real the way all great fictional Londons feel real. That immersion is helped immensely by the sense of Fay exploring an environment peppered with the shards of her grief. Language and imagery exploded across the first half, as metaphor moves against Fay and her memories.

Had this been all Harris did here, the book would be impressive. What makes it essential is the way that the story of King Orfeo, the Shakespearean elements, Fay's grief and the heightened reality of the Londons beneath the London Above all collide. The sequences with King Alberon especially are rich with tension. Fay is a stranger in a world that knows her well, and has no idea why the feeling isn't mutual. The confusion and unease that tension creates is tangible, driving much of the book.

But what stays with me in Orfeia is the music. Not just the music Fay clings to as her memories are stolen, or the music of the other Londons she experiences, but the way that the novel is itself musical. Phrases and motifs carry through, some notes played again in different orders and reveal entirely new elements of the plot. Best of all, by the time it ends you not only have every answer, but you realize you had them from the very first page. The orchestra reaches their crescendo, the magician pulls the rabbit from the hat. Everyone applauds. Because everyone will. Especially when they reach the surprises the book has waiting for them.

Orfeia is a book as much conducted as composed. Characters' true agendas are revealed, flashes of the past and the devastating final act are all conjured on this principle. Fictional harmonies. Textual melody. An ancient, powerful song manifesting in a modern, powerful novella.

Orfeia, beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, is a complex, difficult story about the complex horrors of grief, what we sacrifice to heal and what happens when we don't. It's fast and lusciously written, viciously paced and stoically charming all the way to the end.

Pick up a copy, and check back next week for my interview with Joanne
Circles: Chapter Zero Page 1
Created by @brendonconnelly
Co-written by @jimwritesstuff and @JDMac177
Produced and directed by @realjackbowman

The Full Lid is proud to feature the comic prequel to Circles, an upcoming audio drama. You can find more about Circles at their Twitter account. Or check out the full motion comic.

Oh and if you're reading this on a mobile device, landscape mode will work best for the speech bubbles.

21 Bridges

 

Editor's note: spoilers


Chadwick Boseman's heartbreaking loss last week is a tragedy. By all accounts a profoundly good man, to say nothing of phenomenal talent, Boseman's work is a legacy that feels unassailable precisely because it burns so brightly over what we now know to be a short period of time. There is not a bad performance in the man's repertoire, not a movie he doesn't elevate with his presence. But that legacy isn't a shadow cast over the industry that his work helped make better. It's a door through which filmmakers can, and should, run.

21 Bridges proves that point.

Directed by Brian Kirk from a screenplay by Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan, 21 Bridges stars Boseman as NYPD detective Andre Davis. Andre is the man you send for when a cop has been killed. The son of an officer who died in the line of duty, his life is exactly two things wide: his work and caring for his aged, increasingly infirm mother.

Andre's ledger is soaked in red. When we meet him he's defending himself in an Internal Affairs review, cop movie code for 'Good Guy'. His reputation always proceeds him. Andre isn't just the man you send for when a cop has been killed. Andre is the man you send for when you want that cop's killer executed and he's very good at what he does. But he's not comfortable with it. 

This is the genius of Boseman's work here. Andre's eyes never quite stop moving. He's a living embodiment of threat assessment, an NYPD officer who is also a black man, steeped in the reputation he carries and the space between it and the truth. The tiniest of moments have significance. In the closing fight when he realizes he's beaten his opponent and how little like winning that is. In an earlier scene where he feeds another cop an obvious line, weaponizing their exhaustion and adrenaline dump to find the truth. Andre Davis has a purpose behind everything he does, and it's that purpose he hides behind his badge, not the corruption his peers choose. He's a deeply principled man, acutely aware of his skills, what they do for him and what they cost. Whether he's a good man or not is entirely dependent on where you're standing, in 2020 more than ever.

The genius of the movie is that it never puts you where you expect to be. Which brings us to these two.
The worst thing that ever happened to Taylor Kitsch's career was doing John Carter, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Battleship back to back. One of them was a slam dunk that the marketing department managed to completely fail to understand, another commits the cardinal sin of murdering its most interesting character (Hi Wade!) in Act 1 and the third is Battleship.

Yes that is a real movie! YES the alien weapons are shaped exactly like pegs from the game! YES they win by HANDBRAKE TURNING THE USS MONTANA! YES I DO WANT TO WATCH IT AGAIN!


Editor's note: *sigh* Hey John. Your physics recovered yet?


The best thing to happen to Kitsch's career since then is his sprinting headlong at the weirdest, oddest, gnarliest roles possible. He's done such fantastic work in them. Here, as veteran-turned-criminal Ray Jackson he plays a man who is smart enough to realize he's broken and brave enough to realize his best friend doesn't have to be. I'd honestly love to see Kitsch do some out-and-out noir as he has the exact sort of 'down on his luck, just enough education to know he can't win' chops to pull it off.

Stephan James, next to him, should play Captain America. His Canadian nationality notwithstanding, James radiates fundamental decency the way Denzel Washington or Chris Evans does. His star-making turn in Homecoming is predicated on that deep-seated goodness of character as blank canvas for the psychological blood spatter of what's done to him. Given he's played Jesse Owens and John Lewis, it's clear that casting directors see the same thing. But I argue it's here that decency is put to career-best use to date.

Michael Trujillo is Ray Jackson's best friend, the younger brother of a fallen soldier and a man entirely out of his depth. He has the training and knowledge that Ray does but adds to them self-awareness and growth. Ray dies knowing he's damned, but also knowing he got Michael out. Michael is executed an inch from redemption. His line:
 
"You're the only cop tonight who speaks first and shoots second."

is the flashlight illuminating the core of the movie, laid bare in a single exchange:

"Not all eight were clean."
"Who cares?"
"You do."

 
It's the exact moment Andre realizes not only far apart his reputation and his reality are, but how far that reputation has been used to weaponize and control him. He realizes where he is at the exact time you realize where you are; working the right way for the wrong reasons and faced with someone not only acutely aware of their actions but desperate to atone for them. Andre thinks his reputation is built on moral certainty. He realizes it's built on quicksand.
Andre, partnered with another outsider in Sienna Miller's excellent Frankie Burns, realizes that the purpose he's dedicated himself to has been corrupted. In a world which fetishizes the 'thin blue line', Andre is that line stretched to breaking point: a black officer with unshakable principles, willing to do the hard work but crucially never doing it with his eyes closed. In this way, the movie tries to upend every bullshit 'cop on the edge' trope. Andre doesn't have a partner and doesn't work inside the system because no one wants him. The system keeps him at length until it needs him. This cop on the edge is only there because other cops have put him there.

That's why the final act works so brilliantly. Andre learns what's really going on by doing the last thing anyone wants him to. He listens. Andre gains the upper hand precisely because of what everyone else thinks he is, a weapon, a tool of the state rather than its representative. All of which leads to an electric conversation between Andre and the always brilliant JK Simmons as Captain McKenna. This could so easily have been at night in the rain in the sort of industrial complex that gives movies like this permits. Instead, it's in McKenna's house. His suburban, noticeably too large house.

Mckenna's argument is straightforward: the drugs will always be there. By controlling their distribution, his officers not only keep a lid on crime but also keep their lives. The drugs are a lesser evil, a needed resource to support the thin blue line. A means of ensuring the lives that matter get what they're due. It's plausible, likable even when delivered by Simmons. He never mentions the users.

Andre's awareness comes through again and he finds himself forced, yet again, to do violence. This time to the very officers he'd spent the night working with. The final ironies of the movie are wrapped around one another; what saves Andre is what others think he is. Who Andre saves is the other outsider on the force.

21 Bridges is the cop movie countless others think they are. It bakes issues of race and class (Michael and Ray are veterans who had no choice but to go into the service, Frankie is a single mom) into a story about what violence looks like when you shift your perspective and the price of being a good man when, it seems, no one else is. It's urgent, powerful and in Boseman's Andre Davis, has a lead whose eyes are up and whose mind is his most dangerous weapon. As I said at the top, this is a door for other movies to run through, a door held open by Chadwick Boseman's epochal work here as star and producer. The industry owes it to him to go through that door. If you're missing his work, his presence, you owe it to yourself to see it.

21 Bridges is available to buy and stream now.
Circles: Chapter Zero Page 2
Created by @brendonconnelly
Co-written by @jimwritesstuff and @JDMac177
Produced and directed by @realjackbowman
 
Circles launches soon. Don't worry, we'll let you know when it does.

New reader? Looking for a back issue?
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Time Lord Victorious

 

Editor's note: spoilers


Given the show's fondness for story arcs about the curdling and reprogramming of reality, I'm deeply amused to find I was writing about Time Lord Victorious before it was formally announced. Turns out A Dalek Awakens, the Escape Room I played in the Before Times, was the opening salvo in this massive transmedia story.

Audio dramas, comics, books, models, escape room(s) are all telling fragments of the same story while hopefully being coherent in their own right. It's the crossover dream: 3D storytelling, experience and perception that changes depending on where you stand. I just finished drafting a LOT of stuff about that for a different Doctor Who project which I'll be talking about later. But now, we've got the first issue of Time Lord Victorious and the splendidly titled first part of 'Defender of the Daleks.'

Picking up immediately after the recent, excellent 13th/10th crossover story, the issue opens with 10 waking up in his TARDIS. The good news is everything's intact if a bit... on... fire. The bad news is that neither he or the TARDIS have any idea where they are. The worst news? Well... the clue's in the title.

This is, essentially, an entire issue of exposition. But it doesn't feel like it, down to story work by James Goss and a script by Jody Houser. Both have essential back catalogs filled with a note perfect sense of the show's voice.

The first half of the issue is essentially a 10th Doctor one man show. It's crammed with the exact sort of frantic mile-a-minute braining, quips and Darkness eyebrows everyone expects from the TARDIS' second cheeriest resident. The latter half, which gives 10 a chance to bounce off the Daleks is even more fun, especially when they introduce the Dalek Strategist. A veteran Dalek in an old school, battered casing, the Strategist is crotchety rather than the Daleks' usual martial bitchiness. The pair make an instantly likable double act.

Better still, Goss and Houser offer us a glimpse at how deeply weirded out 10 is by all of this. No Time War anywhere but his memory, an impossible foe, an impossible...ier ally. This is only just beginning and it's already full of the sort of chewy puzzles and problems this Doctor especially loves.
That strength of tone and eye for character is the book's backbone. Roberta Ingranata's 10 is brilliant, twitchy, nervy, fast with his hands and utterly disgusted when he isn't the center of attention. Look at him! Look at his little face!

Look too at the colors. The flatting and prep work done by Shari Chankhamma means the inks are all clean and bright without being hard or obvious. The colors by Enrica Eren Angiolini are warm and deep, absolutely in keeping with the locations and style of the show. This is a book redolent in atmosphere as well as screaming murder pepperpots and Richard Starkings of Comicraft's work is what really brings it home. The unique cadence of both 10 and the Daleks is presented with surprising naturalism, making the deeply weird events that unfold hit even harder.

Time Lord Victorious is off to a very strong start, and this instalment stands just as well on its own two feet. Character driven, expertly crafted and FUN in a deeply welcome way, it's available now. It also features a handy check list of everything still to come.

Available now via your local comic shop. Mine is here. You can find yours here. Comixology is here.
Other Circles: Scooby Doo

Circles is a fascinating combination of modern horror and kids-on-bikes fiction which isn't afraid to explore the associated tropes and their costs. It's very much in the same vein as Scooby Doo, although as we'll hear, vein may be rather too accurate a word...

Scooby's creator, Joe Ruby passed away recently and this collection of opening titles from the show is just a small part of his epochal career. Thank you, sir.

Signal Boost

 

Art

Books

  • My favorite indie publisher Fox Spirit have released the latest novella from the always brilliant Shona Kinsella. The Flame and the Flood is set in a world where magic users are an industrial resource and explores what happens when two 'free wielders' take in a runaway.

Comics

Movies

Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards Humanity

That's this week's Signal Boost, folks. If you have a project you'd like to see here get in touch.

Want More?

Where You Can Find Me

 

Special Guest

  • Earlier in the year I had a ton of fun writing a piece about the 70th anniversary of Dan Dare for SciFi Now. It's now online for free.
Podcast Land
 

PseudoPod 719: Cordona’s Skull

Escape Pod 747: Flash from the Vault

Department of Received Esoteric Printed Goods


A dying scavenger. A super weapon. A lot of BIG choices. I've been looking forward to Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne for AGES and I can't WAIT to get stuck in.
Other Circles: Keep Staring

The 'kids-on-bikes' sub genre of horror is one of Circles' starting points. The same sub-genre is key -- albeit via a very different approach -- to the latest project by Larime Taylor, Keep Staring

Larime describes it as 'a 'kids-on-bikes' story like IT and STRANGER THINGS, if the kids were all disabled and several are POC and LGBT.'
 
The book sounds fantastic, recently completed funding on Kickstarter, and being pitched to publishers as an ongoing. Check out more details here.

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Signing Off / Playing Out


That was a week that was all the time everything so much, it sometimes seemed. However! It's at an end. The weekend beckons, we made it! Thanks for reading, folks. Pleasure travelling with you.

TFL will be back next week with amongst other things, a look at the extraordinarily good Sorry to Bother You. In the mean time, the Team KennerStuart Instagram continues to be your one stop shop for shots of the weekly quote, noir-ish headphones lying on the floor and food. Meanwhile the Twitters is the best place to catch us daily.

Over on Twitch we're hopefully at the end of the two weeks of technical hitches which have held us off on Wednesday nights. Thanks for your patience, folks. We're doing our best to return Wednesday nights at 10pm BST with further bre'adventures in A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking.

On Sundays between 10am and 12pm BST we're playing Windbound, which is equal parts gentle exploration and 'STAB THE AMBULATORY BURGER IN THE BUTT AND RUN!' It's a GOOD TIME. Come check it out

This work is produced for free. If you like what you read please consider dropping something in the tip jar. Thank you :).

Playing us out this week are The Interrupters with their cover of Billy Eilish's Bad Guy, used to such glorious effect in season 2 of The Umbrella Academy. This? Is how you do covers.

Know what else it is?
 a Full Lid.
Copyright Alasdair Stuart © 2020 -- All rights reserved

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Agathon Towers · Cheapside Road · Reading, Berkshire RG1 7AG · United Kingdom

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