Notes from the Kraken: May

In All, Notes by David

Welcome again to We Have Always Live the Kraken, a pop culture blog transmitted directly to you from the belly of the beast. Here in the Notes we’ll show you this month’s posting schedule, but first here are some thoughts.

So now that the accursed time known as April is past us and we mostly crawled out of the hole known as Persona 5 we can finally get back to business with our podcast blog. This return is just in time to yell at Marvel some more. This is not for the many head scratching decisions that went into making Iron Fist or how inexplicable it is that Scott Buck is being given another Marvel show (or quite frankly, any show at all) with Inhumans, or anything to do with Marvel’s cinematic universe. No, we are going to the comics with this one, as Marvel continues to run full steam ahead with their terrible Secret Empire storyline. There is a lot to be annoyed with here. Retconning Captain America’s entire backstory is problematic, and no matter what Marvel or writer Nick Spencer say, even if Hydra aren’t technically Nazis, that is still some splitting hairs bullshit. But this storyline bothers me for more reasons than simply that it is just in bad taste in a lot of ways.

I know we are all annoyed right now, but maybe burning books that have things we don’t like in them is not the best option. Just saying…

One is that I just don’t trust Marvel to follow through on this properly. They have just failed too often to pull off big events, especially so badly messing up Civil War II by the end. There is a part of me that is definitely like, if Marvel is going to do this, then the company better be prepared to go all in. That means no softening Captain America in the end. If he is going to be a villain, they better fully commit to this instead of the whole goddamn event being about everyone being convinced they can bring Captain America back. This option still leaves me feeling uneasy about torching all of Captain America’s heroic history, but at the same time, it would allow Marvel to make a statement about how Captain America the symbol is more important than the man. Plus they could use this event to finally fully go forward with their recent efforts to pass the mantles of all Marvel’s famous super heroes to others, and not get so caught up with the same people being in stories for decades. Instead, Marvel will probably hedge, or worse, just let Captain America go back to normal and be a super hero once again with few real consequences. This lack of trust makes it hard to invest in all that is happening, even if Marvel does insist this will be the last big event for quite some time.

Still, my bigger problem has just been the handling of this whole event by Marvel and writer Nick Spencer. Marvel tried to get stores to become Hydra hubs for Free Comic Book Day to publicize this event, and while it wasn’t forced on anyone, it feels like a completely tone deaf suggestion. Most comic readers want nothing to do with this event or this idea, which the constant complaints about everything involving Captain America in the past year have made clear. This is where Nick Spencer comes in, as he has not been the best person to respond to these complaints, and every time I hear him give an interview about all that is happening, I kind of just want to punch him in his goddamn face (don’t actually do this, anyone). Marvel seems to think that once this event is over, everything will be explained and readers will be okay with everything that has happened, but this is a dangerous and foolish game. Even if the ending is something great, that doesn’t change the year-plus of decisions that have been criticized and fan pleas that have been ignored.

Ultimately, though, this event just reflects how much big events have broken mainstream comics. Marvel had been doing quite a few good things in their comics whenever big events weren’t forcing the writers to follow different storylines. Secret Empire just seems like the biggest misstep yet, and Marvel seems ready to go down with this storyline until the very end. Who knows? Maybe this will all work out. Lord knows I have wanted Marvel or DC to do an event that would really, fundamentally change how their comics work, and well, making Captain America the world’s greatest villain is one way to do that. That still won’t change how horribly this storyline has been handled, but it would certainly help. I guess we will see.

David Robertson

From the depths of the Kraken, here is what we are bringing you this month.

The Life in the Kraken Podcast classic edition is back! In these sweet summer months before Game of Thrones takes us, enjoy the old team of host David, Sam, and Kyu talking movies, TV, anime, board games–all that great stuff you love.

  • In Episode 026, the gang discuss Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, M. Night Shyamalan’s Split, and The Lego Batman Movie. Finally, fan-favorite segment “Nothing But Trash” returns. Extreme spoilers and trigger warnings: suicide, rape, sexual assault apply.
  • In Episode 027, the gang discuss the Fox approach to Marvel with the hit film Logan and FX’s Legion.

Meanwhile, David will continue his attempts to get caught up with the The Anticipated, Who is to say which film will appear? It is sure to be as much of a surprise to David as it is for our readers.

Guest author Matt Morris returns with another Hidden Levels: this time it’s surprisingly entertaining classic advergame, Cool Spot.

David went to SXSW in the before April times and saw a metric fuckton of movies (this is slightly more than your Imperial fuckton). He will finally share his thoughts on all he saw.

Catch of the Week:

Each and every week the residents here in the Kraken will offer one recommendation for the week that we think you all would enjoy. It might be a movie. It might be a book. Who knows? This is your… Catch of the Week Month.

Special note: we’re exploring new ways that you can support the Kraken. If any of this week’s recommendations interest you, feel free to click on our Amazon affiliate links below. We get a small kickback on anything you buy at no extra cost to you, and that money goes toward sustaining and improving the site. Thanks!

David: Into the Badlands‘ first season was a fun show with lots of action (and also lots of boring talking), but Season 2 so far has proven to be far more entertaining (even if the show’s fascination with Quinn is a major problem). The actions is still great, but the non-fighting has gotten much sharper and better. The show made the smart decision to split up much of its cast, and allow each of them to have their own storylines that have made the show work much more smoothly. If nothing else, this show is a great place to watch great fight scenes, and get a kung fu show on TV, but this season has proven that the show could be heading towards being a truly rewarding dramatic experience as well.


Keskel: I recommend this article now that all of my diligent readers have watched Kemono Friends.

Kyu: This month I’m recommending the novel The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. Ostensibly a serial killer thriller, it’s really a brutally tragic feminist anthem that only grows sadder and more harrowing as it goes along.

The story concerns Harper Curtis, a sociopathic drifter in 1930s Chicago who flees the riverside Hoovertown into a strange house whose front door opens back out on that same Chicago street, only years or even decades hence. Across time Harper finds what he calls his “shining girls,” women from many different eras and walks of life who all share a connection: they must be killed, because in a sense, he’s already killed them. Against this asshole enforcer of destiny is set intrepid would-be reporter Kirby, the one girl who cheated death by surviving his attack.

This would be a good, fun book even if that were all there was too it, thanks to Beukes’ casually efficient prose and eye for colorful historical detail. But what elevates the novel are the character sketches of Harper’s victims, and the way Kirby’s story rebukes the genre by putting her in the hero’s seat. As the book goes on, jumping around through time from one vignette to the next, you start to empathize deeply with the victims of this killer. Each one is fully realized in the span of just a few pages before being brutally and ingloriously murdered. Each one has dreams and troubles and relationships and a job and a family, and each must deal with the ‘cisms that plague society, from the only black worker at a WWII-era munitions factory to an architect struggling to advance in a hostile environment of sexism and McCarthyism, from a stripper whose popular act is literally killing her to a trans girl who spends her whole life looking for love. Each of these women has value, has potential, as characters and as people; when Harper visits them as children, each of them shines with possibility. It’s that shining that the hardships of life and sexism and other regressive social attitudes work to dull, and it’s that same shining that Harper returns in each instance to snuff out.

Set against this heartbreaking anthology of inevitable despair and loss is Kirby’s story. She survives her attack, but not without scars both apparent and deep, and the rest of her life is a constant struggle between her need for catharsis and her desire not to let her victimhood define her. It’s a smart reconstruction of the classic thriller hero’s arc in a feminist mode, and Kirby’s determination to keep fighting even as all the men in her life try to use or dissuade her is a powerful statement about the obstacles women have to face in order to fulfill their potential and truly shine.

Overall, The Shining Girls is a beautiful, exciting, sad story, well worth reading.

That’s it for this month, enjoy the blessed light of May, and rejoice that we have all escaped the whims of April for another year!