Copy

The Full Lid 21st June 2019

Hi folks! 

I'm Alasdair Stuart, professionally enthusiastic pop culture analyst, podcaster and 2019 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist. This is The Full Lid, my weekly pop culture newsletter. Every week I'll talk about the stories that have caught my attention and why I think they're worth your attention too.  Two quick things then we'll jump right into it. The archive and sign up page is here. If you like what you read, tell a friend. Also, spoilers will be total from here on out so be aware. All good? Great! Shall we?

Contents

Starfish
Lab Raider Issue 1
Adr1ft
So Where Can We Find You?
Hub Life
Signal Boosting
Signing Off/Playing Out
Read More

Starfish

Aubrey returns home for her best friend Grace's funeral. She's numb, angry, closed off and running from something awful.  Aubrey nests inside Grace's life, sleeping at her old apartment and refusing to accept the truth. The next morning she's alone, the town is covered with snow and horrific creatures are prowling the streets. But Aubrey can save the world. Because Grace knew this was coming and Grace made her the last mixtape humanity will ever need...

Starfish, AT White's debut refutes the idea that cinema, or genre fiction, is simplistic with every frame. It combines a meditation on grief with an exploration of small town life, the end of the world and a star-making turn from Virginia Gardner, best known for her work in Runaways. White sets up a complex structure, a quest and a secret and then proceeds to hand us the pieces and invite us to assemble it ourselves and even decide which pieces fit together. Lesser filmmakers would fail. White succeeds completely.

A massive part of that is Gardner, who throws everything into her turn as Aubrey. She's depressed, reclusive, quiet and most of all deeply recognizable. Grief wears this over-sized jumper and as Gardner trudges across town every element of the movie focuses back on Aubrey's mind-set. The snow, the bad weather, the quiet. At one point, in a Socratic dialect with either herself or a ghost, Aubrey talks about how she can't feel her fingers. 'Disassociation' is the answer and that word is the magnetic North the movie always steers towards.
If this was just arthouse grief with a light seasoning of genre then it wouldn't work. But the genius of what White does here lies in how the narrative builds your perspective into it and then plays with your expectations. Early on I was convinced the entire movie was a hallucination and Aubrey was being talked out of it. By the time, in the movie's best scene, she briefly visits the scene of the movie and watches Gardner playing her, I was less sure. The moment the ending came around I was convinced again. The moment someone presses a button on a tape deck after the ending? Changed my mind once more. This is a movie where certainty is as mercurial as the world is concrete. Where the cacophony of possibility howls against the snowed shut windows of grief. It's incredibly audacious, all the more so for just how well it works.

Starfish is categorically genre fiction, but it's genre fiction that's adaptable and protean in a manner that embraces the viewer even as it challenges you. Moments of breath-taking visual choices, especially an animated sequence, sparkle all the more for the bleak scenes that bookend them. Aubrey's strange, quiet world is beautiful as well being dangerous, a home as well as a prison. She spends the movie making choices about what it really is and we're with her every step of the way. Trudging out across a blank page of snow. Writing our name into a world we're still adapting to. Changing our story even as change ourselves. Watching the end shift and evolve, somewhere far in the distance. Grief, science fiction, horror, joy and the pains of small town life. All in under 100 minutes.

Starfish is complex, emotionally charged essential viewing and it's available to stream and buy now.
I LOVE this cover. If you've not been following the Thirteenth Doctor series from Titan, please do. It's great. Find your local comic shop here (mine here) and Comixology over here.

Lab Raider


Matt Miner is the uncrowned king of modern comics noir. Best known for his riotously funny GWAR and Toe Tag Riot titles, Matt has quietly been building a name for himself as an editor, anthologist and all around comics scripting polymath. But his heart lies under a mask. A sledgehammer is the tool that best fits his fiction's hands. He was always going to come back to this world and I'm so glad he did.

Lab Raider forms the third part of a trilogy that also includes Liberator and Critical Hit. Liberator, where I first encountered his work is the home of Damon Guerrero, legend in his own lifetime and hot-headed direct action specialist. Critical Hit put two supporting characters in Damon's life, Jeanette and Sarah, in the spotlight and through Hell. Their conviction to protect life pushed to the edge and over by very human evil, the two women made choices that helped them survive but that have stayed with them. The work continues, so do they, but they're both very different people. And now, so is the work...

Where Liberator was a tight-focus Pelecanos-esque modern noir and Critical Hit had the deep-seated Mametian joy of getting to go wild in the country, Lab Raider is fiercely disciplined and focused. It's the Person of Interest of the trilogy to date, balancing Matt's trademark moments of total emotional self awareness with some light humor and some beats of startling beauty. Creees Lee, the artist on the series, is exceptional but never better than in the quiet moments the script sometimes blows up to vast size. There's a sense of scale I've only seen in America here, with the tiniest noises echoing off into what you hope is deserted countryside.
Matt Krotzer's lettering shines here too, honestly has CHNK ever sounded louder? Also look at Josh Jensen's colors, the way the purples and yellows tell us what time it is and where the leads are. It's fiercely atmospheric stuff, and as accomplished as Jeanette and Sarah tell themselves they are.

What's waiting for them, which there are hints of throughout, turn all that on their head. They've simultaneously hit the mother lode and discovered their worst nightmare. This not only puts them on their heels but turns the series, tonally, again. If Liberator was noir and Critical Hit was action then this is science fiction horror, red in tooth and claw and coming straight at them. And you.

This is intense, clever, vastly self assured comics from a team at the top of their game. I've loved seeing this series and these characters grow and I'm deeply excited to see them land in my personal fictional backyard. 

You can find Matt on twitter here, and Creees here. More details of Liberator and Critical Hit can be found here and you can find your local comic shop (And mine) here.
99% Invisible defies description. The history of design, the design of history, the questions that bother us all, the secet history of squirrels, it's all here. Brilliantly, this week's episode is a celebration of another show, John Green's Anthropocene Reviewed, complete with an interview with Green and two full episodes of AR. Listen, be inspired and amazed and then listen to this, which may be the best episode they've ever done.

Adr1ft

I’ve spent a good chunk of this week slowly dying in space. it’s been fun! Adr1ft, by Three One Zero and published by 505 Games is a pared down, minimalist game that demands attention and cheerily punishes you for not giving it. I found a lot to enjoy in there, not the least of which is the killer opening. You wake up in a damaged space suit, in a decaying orbit, surrounded by the shattered remains of a vast space station that has very recently exploded. Player and character enter the game in identicla states of confusion and the plot unfolds at the same pace you follow the debris trail around the shattered station. You are Commander Alex Oshima, head of the HAN-IV project. You are the lone survivor of a catastrophic accident. The accident was your fault.
 
Now what?

The game perfectly embodies the brutal math of orbital survival without ever getting over-excited about how unforgiving it is. Your suit is damaged and you have to use oxygen as propellant and...well..oxygen. Every move matters and while there’s more oxygen refills scattered around than you’ll ever need, there’s still no margin for error. Because most of those refills are free falling bottles which means you have to line up with them and if you miss? Burn oxygen you probably don’’t have to get to them. I died. A lot. I learned, slowly, to coast on those last few breaths. I also learnt that the game cleverly uses the deceptively slow pace of travel to trip you up. Space, as someone once said, is big. Really, really big. You need to pay attention to where you’re going or you’ll miss and, again, die.
If Adr1ft was just Terror Sob Yourself To Death In Orbit Simulator it would be worth playing but there’s a lot more here. As you pick your way through the wreckage, you discover the truth about what happened and, more importantly, your fellow astronauts. One struggles with addiction and yearns to be home. Another has already taken a life time’s dose of radiation but opted to return to space. Another still is filled with abject joy at the amazing place she gets to live. Another, your partner, is torn between her love for you and fear for the pressure you’re under and the choices it forces you to make. None of them are cardboard cutouts, but rather a heroically untidy collection of normal people. You come to know and like them even as you come to understand how you killed them and the game never shies away from the emotional cost of events. Your crew are all out there, their spacesuited bodies blinking red. You’ll find them all before you’re allowed to go home. You'll know who they were before you can get become who you are next.

And that’s the point, in the end. This is a game concerned with not just the human cost of space travel but of the ecology in which that cost grows. Years before the Columbia disaster, NASA administrators openly talked about the likelihood of a second shuttle being lost. Crews went up anyway, and the 'hard charging all go no quit' astronaut myth morphed, over time, into something closer to the corporate ideal. That’s what the back story explores here, and the game cleverly lets you decide whether Alex makes the right choices for the wrong reasons or the wrong choices for the right ones. Her crew are still dead, but HAN-IV’s role into the expansion into the solar system could, from one angle, be viewed as a small price to pay. That angle is never from inside your cracked, leaking suit as you make your way through the ruins of the home you destroyed.

Adr1ft is ambitious, quiet, painfully honest and ethically complex in a way you will not expect. It’s also, as this interview with creator Adam Orth shows, deeply personal and I applaud both his honesty and the way he processed this event. The end result is a happier Adam and a game that hides deceptively weighty issues inside it's bulky suit. Profoundly beaurtiful, odd and poignant stuff.

Adr1ft is out now for PS4 and Windows. You can find the excellent tie in comic here for free.
While the 'My pregnant wife will wait patiently for me to save them' bit does not thrill me, everything else about this does. Anthony Mackie being a reluctant badass! Frank Grillo cementing his status as County Fair Punisher! CAR! WASH! FIGHT!

So Where Can We Find You?

At the blog!
  • ALL sorts of new content up there, including a look at every X-Men movie prior to Dark Phoenix in Counting to X.
  • A look at new 'Superman BUT EVIL' movie Brightburn which is...interesting. Sometimes in good ways.
  • A different run at Lab Raider Issue 1
At Escape Pod! At PseudoPod!
  •  Spurs, by Tod Robbins (A name which will make some of you already sit up a little I suspect) was last week's piece and it's a tough one, Published in 1923 but punches like it was published this year, it's narrated by the amazing J.S. Arquin, hosted by some guy and audio produced by the amazing Marty Perrett
At Cast of Wonders!
  • I'm hosting the first of two Encores for Cast of Wonders this year with what may honestly be my favorite story out of everything EAPN has ever run. Kulturkampf is by Anatoly Belilovsky and narrated by Hans Fenstermacher was originally audio produced, I believe, by Barry Northern and Jeremy Carter works his magic on this version. And yes I have just figured out I was ONE SHOW away from being everywhere this week. Curses! NEXT TIME GADGET, etc.

At SciFi Bulletin!
  • Click here for my reviews of the rest of my reviews of the excellent fourth season of Supergirl as well as the kick off for season 5 of Fear The Walking Dead.

And of course, here's my Ko-Fi.

Hub Life

In 2007, Lee Harris, Phil Lunt, myself and several others began publishing Hub. It was initially a print magazine, then went to PDF. We ran a story every issue, a couple of reviews and a non-fiction piece. We lasted 149 issues and, recently, Lee found basically all of them and put them on line.

Mind.

BLOWN.

This is amazing, like opening up a room you forgot you had. I'm loving going through these, not just because of the career archaeology they represent (Been a long road, getting from there to here) but because of the murderer's row of talent we published. There are some BIG names here and a vast amount of future friends. The past may be a different country, but I'm delighted to discover I have a Visa for it in this case. Go, dive in, pick an issue at random and tell past me you say hi.

149 issues...Hmmm...

Signal Boosting

Signing Off/Playing Out

Well that was a Week. Possibly even a WEEK. Congratulations, it's Friday! And you know who's very good at Fridays?

Escape Artists podcasts!

Check out any of the shows, they're all free and all great. Oh and if you follow the Team KennerStuart instagram you'll have seen photos of last week's posh London dinner, homemade Nachos and all sorts of other stuff.

I had a lot of fun doing this one, and I hope you enjoying reading it. If you did, why not support me both financially and cognitively by buying me a coffee? Thank you!

This week's special musical guest is Taylor Swift. I know right?! Observe the perfect Ryan Reynolds as Norman Rockwell cameo, gaze in awe at the weirdly metatextual elements, nod approvingly at Swift putting her shoulder to the political wheel and try and find a better lyric than 'shade never made anybody less gay' this week. Do all of these things and know that once you do, this?
Is a Full Lid.
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Agathon Towers · Cheapside Road · Reading, Berkshire RG1 7AG · United Kingdom

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