The last time we saw Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder), in 1993’s “Jason Goes to Hell,” he is dead and buried at the end of a story centered on the notion of killing him for good, using the requisite magical dagger. So when he’s alive and in government custody in the 2008 of “Jason X” (2002), one might assume an explanation is forthcoming. It isn’t, and that will understandably take many people out of this movie from the get-go.
The Fall TV season gets off to both an early and an inauspicious start with “Raised by Wolves” (HBO Max), which at first blush has the traits director Ridley Scott also brought to his recent films such as “Prometheus” and “The Martian” – more polished than his early work, but still with verve. But the first episode doesn’t build in intrigue or surprises; it stays pat, offering little to admire beyond how it looks. There’s not enough story or character here from the pen of Aaron Guzikowski, who is also the series’ creator. “Raised by Wolves” did not hook me at all.
Our Friends from Frolix 8” (written in 1969, published in 1970) kicks off Philip K. Dick’s thematic police state/drug war trilogy, and although “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said” and “A Scanner Darkly” won more awards, this one is nearly as great. PKD satirizes and/or paints the likely progression of an all-seeing state, but for the first time the author finds an answer to why the masses don’t openly rebel.
The story of “The Martian’s” publication is as good as the book itself, maybe even better. Computer programmer and amateur author Andy Weir published it on his website as a serial novel starting in 2009, then as an e-book in 2011, and then – when a traditional publisher saw its success – as a printed novel in 2014. The Ridley Scott-directed film (more on that below) came out one year later.
After leaning into the Western side of sci-fi/Western in his first two “Firefly” novels, James Lovegrove uses sci-fi to good effect in “The Ghost Machine” (March). His first effort, “Big Damn Hero,” includes cargo that could blow up if handled improperly, but “Ghost Machine” features a more thematically interesting crate: the titular Blue Sun sonic weapon that makes people passive. The way it does so is by sending them into dreamland; first, their dreams are pleasant, but then they turn dark.
As comic companies are wont to do, Boom! Studios has accompanied its regular “Firefly” series with a handful of one-shots throughout the early part of the run, focusing on specific characters and their backstories. Here’s a look at three such books, from 2019-20:
Ireally liked “A Maze of Death” (written in 1968, published in 1970) on my first read. I enjoyed it when religions were made fun of, so I found it amusing that Philip K. Dick invents a reality wherein prayer is demonstrably real. Prayers give measurable results, and those doing the praying devise distinct strategies of how to pray and which gods to pray to. On this reread, I found that aspect of the novel to be minor. My general impression is that “A Maze of Death” is a shadow of the 1982 group-paranoia movie “The Thing,” albeit with a few neat Dickian ideas on top of that structure.
When talking about the first arc of Boom! Studios’ “Firefly” comics, we have to address the elephant in the room: Despite being titled “The Unification War,” the arc comprising Issues 1-12 (2018-19) is not about the Unification War, the conflict six years before the events of the TV show that pitted the Alliance against the Independents on the Rim worlds. Thrown off by the title, some online guides place this story at the start of the timeline. But rather, it’s set amid the heart of the TV series’ events, with Unificators tracking down “war criminals” – a.k.a. Browncoat leaders.
Firefly: The Sting” (November 2019) is an ambitious hardcover graphic novel centered on Saffron, from writer Delilah S. Dawson and a team of artists. But it’s a step down in characterization from the double-length one-shot “Bad Company” from earlier in the year, and it arguably contradicts Saffron’s moral growth. The more generous interpretation is that “The Sting” shows her manipulative side, the one we know from “Our Mrs. Reynolds” (1.6) and “Trash” (1.11).
Aline of “Firefly” novels was advertised in the back of the “Serenity” novelization in 2005, but it wasn’t until 13 years later that we saw the first entry in the series. Written by James Lovegrove based on a story idea by “Buffy” tie-in veteran Nancy Holder, “Big Damn Hero” (November 2018) combines a couple of concepts — sometimes effectively, sometimes awkwardly. The Serenity crew (and Mal himself) must figure out who kidnapped Mal and why. Also, violent anti-Browncoat sentiment has sprung up on Persephone.