Tolkien, Marvel, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, repeat

Well, I think it’s finally happening to me: Franchise burnout. I am really not that impressed with HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon,” and Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” prequel series “The Rings of Power” isn’t blowing me away either. And I’m not eagerly anticipating the new Star Wars series “Andor” (Disney+). I feel like I should want to watch all the new offerings from these popular sci-fi and fantasy franchises but honestly, I kind of just don’t care.

I doubt I would have even bothered with the Targaryens or the saga of Tolkien’s elves if it had not been for my husband convincing me to watch with him. Is it just me? Maybe I’m just tired in general. It’s a balmy 110 degrees where I live and it’s draining my will to do much of anything lately, much less care about Westeros or Middle-earth.

I’m happy to see there’s more diversity than I expected from these two series but both shows are still leaning white and blond, especially (most of) the lead characters. I guess they get points for including actors of different ethnicities, even if they are mostly peripheral characters? (I have read that some people are having a problem with any people of color in these shows, which I find confusing and sad.)

There is more diversity than I expected from these series but there’s still a lot of blond going on. Above, Galadriel from “The Rings of Power”; left, Rhaenyra from “House of the Dragon.”

Another issue I have with these series is that the events took place years before the original series. We already know how “Game of Thrones” ended – who cares what happened 200 years before that? (And let’s face it – the end of “Game of Thrones” sucked, which doesn’t help.)

We also already know what happened in “Lord of the Rings.” Do we really need to know what happened thousands of years before Frodo and Sam went to Mordor?

It seems a bit crazy to me that Amazon paid $250 million(!) for the rights to these stories, and they’re based mostly on appendices!

I realize they are banking on the name to draw viewers, but I would have been more interested in seeing something new. I think the post-apocalyptic Koli trilogy by M. R. Carey would be a fantastic miniseries, if they had the right writers and actors attached.

I would also love to see Charlie Jane Anders’ novel “All the Birds in the Sky” adapted to a movie or series. Her YA novel “Victories Greater Than Death” was picked up by Amazon Prime last year and is being developed by Michael B. Jordan’s production company Outlier Society. Hopefully they’ll do a good job with that so we’ll see more of her stories on the big and small screen.

Don’t get me wrong – “Dragon” and “Rings” aren’t really bad, just sort of boring. I guess it isn’t fair to judge them already since they’ve only released a couple episodes; maybe they are just getting warmed up. After all, “The Expanse” was confusing and boring at first, but it turned out to be awesome. So we’ll see.

“Andor” isn’t out yet. It was supposed to premiere on Aug. 31 but I assume its new release date, Sept. 21, is due to Disney+ not wanting it to compete against “Dragon” and “Rings.”

I hate to say this as a Star Wars fan, but why should we care about a prequel to “Rogue One,” which itself was a (boring) prequel? Having said that, I will probably still watch it. It’s Star Wars! (See, that’s how they get you.) Speaking of Disney, there’s another new Marvel series that just started: “She-Hulk,” which looked incredibly ridiculous in the trailer and actually is sort of ridiculous but is also kind of funny, and not as awful as I expected.

I like that it breaks the “fourth wall” and is sort of tongue-in-cheek, and of course Tatiana Maslany is super talented and adorable, which almost makes up for the silliness and the bad CGI.

That’s all for now. Tune in next time when I hopefully will have changed all my opinions on the aforementioned series because they dramatically improved halfway through!

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Don’t miss Image Comics’ ‘Saga’ and ‘Rat Queens’

I confess I was late to the “Saga” party. When this epic comic came out three years ago, I made a mental note to check it out. “Saga,” written by Brian K. Vaughan, who wrote the clever post-apocalyptic comic “Y: The Last Man,” and illustrated by the very talented Fiona Staples, won several Eisner awards, and when the first volume was published, it won a Hugo award. 
 
But you know how it is – life gets in the way and I forgot about it. Now that I’ve had a little more time to read, I finally picked up Volume 1 and was blown away. I checked out volumes 2, 3 and 4 from the library, and read them one after another. Oh comic books, how I’ve missed you! And this comic book – where do I begin? 
 
Volume 5, the collection of comic books 25 through 30, picks up after a disgruntled android kidnaps toddler Hazel, and her mother and grandmother. Hazel’s father is in hot pursuit, along with a robot prince, whose robot infant has also been taken hostage. And Gwendolyn, Sophie, and The Brand are on the hunt for a cure for The Brand’s comatose brother. But let’s back up. 
 
At the heart of “Saga” are Alana and Marko, star-crossed lovers from warring worlds. Alana’s home planet is Landfall, and she has wings. Marko is from Landfall’s moon Wreath, where the natives have horns or antlers. Alana was a prison guard when she fell in love with Marko, who was a prisoner of war on the planet Cleave. 
 
The narrator of this crazy story is their little girl Hazel, presumably now an adult. Hazel’s babysitter, ghost girl Izabel, floats among the panels, with entrails hanging out from the hem of her t-shirt. (Sounds disgusting, but she grows on you.)
 
Fugitives, the young family is pursued across the galaxy by a host of bizarre alien characters including but not limited to an assassin called The Will and his huge, hairless, lie-detecting feline (a fan favorite, Lying Cat can only speak one word – “LYING!” – which comes in handy when you need to interrogate someone, but occasionally backfires as Lying Cat also calls out his master’s fibs); Prince Robot IV, who has a TV set in place of a head (the robots outsource their military to Landfall’s army); and Marko’s ex-fiancee, who is literally out for blood. 
 
Comparing their story to Star Wars or Romeo and Juliet or Game of Thrones or whatever doesn’t do this comic justice. It’s original, unique and unpredictable. Just when you think you know someone, they surprise you.
“Saga” is original, fun and addictive. It’s also violent and creepy, so take note that this is a comic for adults only. 
rat-queens
 
Another award-winning fantasy from Image, “Rat Queens,” is my other new favorite comic. It has been described by the author as “Lord of the Rings” meets “Bridesmaids,” a pretty accurate description. Imagine if the fellowship of Tolkien’s ring were made up of women. Now imagine their adventures being raunchier and way more fun, and you have “Rat Queens.” 
 
The queens, a foursome of female mercenaries, are dwarf Violet, human Dee, elf Hannah, and “smidgen” (halfling) Betty. The funny and irreverent warriors fight, drink, curse, and then fight some more. (Tasked with bringing rations on a quest, Betty packs a bag of candy and magic mushrooms. They all complain, but dig in anyway.) 
 
Like Saga, “Queens” has little inside jokes: One of the other mercenary groups is called Brother Ponies (a nod to the My Little Pony fans known as Bronies). 
 
What I love about the Queens is that they are strong women without becoming stereotypes of strong women. They’re badasses, but they are vulnerable. They still want love; they still get their feelings hurt when they are rejected. They all have different personalities. They aren’t cookie cutter characters.
 
One thing that I love about both of these comics is that they are entertaining while at the same time addressing serious issues like war and drug addiction. One “Saga” subplot centers around a young girl who was sold into sex slavery, and one of the Queens has reservations about the religion she abandoned. It gets deep, but not too heavy. Vaughan and Wiebe both strike the perfect balance in their writing. But don’t take my word for it; visit your local comic book shop or library and check out these awesome grown-up fairy tales for yourself. 
 
“Saga, Volume 5” (graphic novel) was released Sept. 15, and the 12th issue of “Rat Queens” is out today.
 

Saga, Volume 5
By Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Image Comics, Rated Mature

Saga_26-1
 
Rat Queens
By Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tess Fowler
(Previously drawn by
Roc Upchurch and Stjepan Sejic)
Image Comics, Rated Mature
RatQueens_12-1