Rogue Element #114: Grab a Tissue

By Avril Brown

“Crying doesn’t indicate you’re weak. Since birth, it has been a sign that you’re alive.”

I am a somewhat emotional individual. While I am not overly effusive in the demonstration of my emotions I do feel them, all of them, rather intensely. I suspect this is the reason I am so quick to cry. Sadness, anger, frustration and overwhelming gratitude all bring forth the waterworks, and the longer I’ve gone since the last time I cried, the worse the deluge.

To help avoid embarrassment should I find myself in a confrontational situation, and also simply to provide an outlet for my constant abundance of sentiment, I occasionally make myself cry. When the urge strikes I secure a box of tissues, a bottle of wine and a tried and true method for calling forth the keening kraken.

Book – “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes”
This is the first book that ever made me cry, and with good reason. Based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who developed leukemia nine years after the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, this children’s book tells the tale of her brave and heartfelt struggle to fulfill a legend. The story says that if a sick person can fold one thousand paper cranes, their wish for health will be granted. Though young Sadako died after folding only six hundred and forty-four cranes, her classmates and other well wishers folded the remaining three hundred and fifty-six which were buried with her. Now a statue stands in her memory and the memory of the other innocent children lost to war, and sixty years later visitors continue to leave paper cranes in her honor and for her ultimate wish: Peace.

Movie – “Donnie Darko”
Anyone who knows me is also aware of my penchant for ‘happy ending’ movies. Typically if someone’s not riding off into the sunset or the world isn’t saved, I’ll pass. “Donnie Darko,” however, is a movie so filled with love, loss and some serious mind-fucks I couldn’t help but be drawn in, despite its (mostly) tragic conclusion. If you’re not familiar with the film it can be hard to summarize in only a few lines, but it is a young love story with a unique science fiction twist. Donnie is a brilliant but troubled teenager (his imaginary friend is a guy in a freakishly scary rabbit costume) who falls for the new girl in school. He ends up sacrificing himself to save his girlfriend’s life, but due to the nature of how he pulled it off (time travel wormhole is the best way to describe it) he dies knowing he saved a life, but his totally kick-ass family is left mourning his loss on their front yard. His father is wracked with sobs, clutching his youngest daughter, as the other daughter cries quietly nearby. His mother stands with silent tears, smoking a cigarette and sharing a moment with the young woman who, unbeknownst to her, is only alive because Donnie chose to die. For me, seeing a family grieving the loss of a loved one is carte blanche for unrestrained bawling.

Television – “Angel”
Who better to bring on the pain than Joss ‘I hate happy couples’ Whedon? There are actually several Whedon-inspired weepers I could choose from, but one has been removed from the docket due to hitting too close to home. ‘The Body’ is one of the more famous episodes in “Buffy” history; Buffy comes home to find her mother dead on the couch from an aneurysm. The episode is painfully well done and was shot in long takes with no musical embellishment, complete with stunning performances from the cast depicting very realistic reactions to an unexpected loss, and is more than enough to bring a tear to even the driest eye. However, my mother has an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) which is an abnormal connection of blood vessels on the brain. It is responsible for a few scares in recent years, so that particular episode, while very easy to cry to, gets me right where I live, and is avoided like the plague.

Therefore I turn to the ridiculously overdone “Angel” series. I still haven’t seen half of the series, but I have seen the fifth and final season quite a few times, particularly the episodes where Fred, the adorably bubbly girl genius, dies and her body taken over by an eons-old god. What kills about this two-part episode is not just that Fred is the only universally likeable character, but that she and paramour Wesley had finally gotten together and didn’t even have a whole episode of happiness (I think that was a new low for Whedon). Also, she was the think tank of the crew who had previously spent years in a hell dimension and who, by her own angry admission, “…would not be cut down by some monster flu; I am BETTER than that!” Seriously, all flights of fantasy aside, watching this strong woman slowly dying even as she struggles against the inevitable and tries to have faith in her champions, is guaranteed cry-material. As the infectious ancient entity Illyria ravages her body, Fred fights to experience every single second of life. Determined to the last to stay brave, she still can’t help but wonder at her final moment, “Wesley, why can’t I stay?” Gets me every time.

Comic – Garth Ennis, “Battlefields: The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova”
The X-Men have a phrase about death as it relates to their teammates: ‘That trick never works!’ In superhero comics, death can be somewhat of a revolving door; those who head out could just as easily be on their way back in. There have been a few passings in the world of spandex that are irreversible and have tugged hard on my heartstrings, but no comic has made me utterly dissolve like Garth Ennis’s “Battlefields.” Ennis is a war history buff and his “Battlefields” series tells the story of many real life superheroes from various conflicts, and he does it right. In WWII Russia had a squadron of women pilots whom were dubbed the ‘Night Witches’ by the Nazis they hunted. They would glide their planes into enemy territory in the dead of night, drop their bombs and hightail it out of there before the Nazis even knew they were being attacked. Garth told their story in his own unique way, with his own unique character: Anna. One of the successful ‘Night Witches,’ Anna was a naturally gifted pilot. She suffered the loss of her love before the wars end and fought her way out of a POW camp. In her subsequent story arcs, she’s injured in combat and nursed back to health by a Jewish doctor, learning a level of compassion she never previously understood along the way. Back in the motherland she is ultimately supported by a fellow Witch who has gained some status in the Russian government, and is granted a stay of execution, but her rebellious nature leads her to piss off the wrong people, and she and her friend are thrown into a work camp. Supportive of Anna to the last and her desire/right to fly the skies like she was born, and once encouraged by her country, to do, Mouse dies in the camp, leaving Anna alone with a pathetic excuse of a ‘leader’ who goes out of his way to make her life miserable. Yet Anna never loses her fighting spirit, and screws him over in the most amazing and heartbreaking manner possible. She steals a visiting MiG, the ultimate in Soviet air warfare technology, for one final flight. Anna pushes the plane to the limits and is eventually confronted by a fellow pilot, an American. When asked of her intentions, Anna weighs her options. She could return to Russia, and to her execution. She could continue along to an American base, defect and live out the rest of her days in which would undoubtedly be a rather cozy manner given the fact she would be gifting them an invaluable plane, but instead she chooses the only avenue she feels is right for her unique position as a born pilot and a loyal Russian, by taking her beautiful plane and “throwing her at the sun.” It took me an hour to pull myself together after finishing that book.

Needing a good cry isn’t a ‘girl’ thing necessarily; my mother is one of the least lamenting people I know. Crying is not the only external passageway for my passions, but it is an effective one, and every single individual has to have a release of some kind, whatever form it may take. Be not ashamed of your tears, be grateful that you are feeling enough to shed them. Grab a tissue and a cucumber for those morning-after eye baggies, and just let it out.


CHEW #39
Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics

By Avril Brown

One of the many, many things I love about CHEW is Layman and Guillory’s ability to create some really kick-ass women. At the end of last issue a depressed Tony Chu was about to be fed the mysterious Gallsaberry fruit by his girlfriend Amelia and his daughter Olive. In this issue, we see how this unique repast came to be.

With Tony stuck in a zombie-like state over losing one of the most important women in his life, again, the other two women dearest to him team up to bring their boy back from the living dead. This wouldn’t have been possible, however, without a little direction from the actual dead, Toni Chu, who left yet another useful tidbit behind before her untimely demise. The recipe Toni bequeathed to the Chu clan required a FDA controlled substance and with Tony out of the game it was up to Amelia and Olive to break a few federal laws.

Naturally there are a couple bumps in the road to collecting this rather interesting ingredient, but all turns out well as Olive is allowed to stretch her increasingly awesome legs, metaphorically speaking. Her training with Savoy pays off in spades as the two femme fatale foodies bring home the bacon and cook Tony a dish he’ll undoubtedly never forget, nor cease to appreciate.

The visuals in this issue are especially striking as we get some glimpses into what appears to be a different world. Guillory really makes this new scenery stand out, and the colors are psychedelic. As always the background jokes are worth seeking out, with not so subtle hints that FDA agents like punching people, and the ‘Enjoy your diabetes’ sign on the front of a vending machine was a nice touch. I for one cannot wait for the conclusion to the ‘Family Recipes’ story arc, by far one of the most emotional and action-packed CHEW arcs yet.


Rogue Element #113: Balancing Act

By Avril Brown

Balance is a bitch. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate balance and recognize it as a vital element in many aspects of our lives from checking accounts to yoga postures, but achieving an even, healthy balance can be a right pain in the ass.

We all have things that we have to do, things we want to do and things we dream of doing. In order to accomplish any or all of these projects, there must be a distribution of time and effort. How, though? How in the name of Odin’s beard is one supposed to find enough hours for the essential daily tasks in addition to the activities we not only want to participate in, but actually need in order to keep us sane?

Personally, I find the first step in solving a problem is writing it out. By laying the dilemma out in front of you, the better your eyes and mind will map out the solution. That being said, the time is nigh to explore Avril’s current life list of ongoing interests:

Work – There are a fortunate few who absolutely love their jobs and therefore never work a day in their life, as the phrase goes, but for the rest of us the daily grind is, and forever will be (‘forever’ translating to retirement age, if we’re lucky), an occasionally painful reality. While most of us do not universally loathe our jobs, ‘work’ is still typically that, and it needs to be done five to seven days a week, with precious few breaks. Unless your job consists of nothing but puppy snuggling, beer tasting and exploring the perks in every five star hotel the world has to offer, odds are when you wake up in the morning, you’d rather stay in bed. Nonetheless, work is a must and tends to be a lot more enjoyable when there is at least one thing to look forward to at your job. Like money.

Reading – I love to read, and my taste, while not exactly ‘varied’ is still expansive. I’m currently reading at least eight ongoing comic books so there is always something new to pick up at my comic shop. Though individual issues are no Tolstoy novel I tend to read last month’s issue before the current book which doubles my comic reading time. Other modes of fantasy are usually on the docket as well, both in novel and fan fiction format. I’m currently in the middle of a three-part series with the goal of starting the six-part ‘Vampire Academy’ series before the first movie comes out mid-February. The recently released ‘Veronica Mars’ movie trailer had me putting on blinders and racing to the nearest VM fan fiction stories where Veronica and Logan live happily ever after.

Writing – I’ve been slacking on this front lately, and my spirit has suffered for it. Though I become anxious over proper wording and cadence, I do feel better when I write, something I constantly need to remind myself of when I’m actively avoiding the commitment. I want to once again write regular columns, but I also want to dedicate time to completing my sci-fi story and start new projects. Not to mention I also journal to keep track of the good times, and write through the bad. Despite my steel vault memory for movie quotes, I do not always remember the truly important moments and feelings which make life worth living. From simple gestures to grand parties and the little tidbits in between, if it made me laugh, cry, crinkle my nose in confusion or furrow my brow in consternation, I want to remember that sliver of time as accurately as possible.

Gym – Once I was sucked into the world of pumping iron and sweating on purpose, I knew there was no going back. Though my willingness to work out tends to fluctuate quite frequently, healthy living is a long term commitment and as I’ve stated in the past, I do enjoy being strong. Sour attitude or no, I conjure up the image of me with badass guns, strutting confidently across convention floors in barely-there clothing, and I haul my ass on over to the gym.

Movies/Television – Have you seen the movie roster for this year? ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past!’ ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier!’ ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2!’ ‘Jack Ryan,’ ‘Veronica Mars,’ ‘300!’ While I’m not expecting stellar quality across the board, most of these films just have to be seen on the big screen, so it looks like I’ll be taking out a loan in the next few months. There are only a few television shows I follow in syndication but they’re still an hour a pop, and there are oodles of shows I want to catch up on, such as ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Sherlock.’ Thanks to Netflix it is far too easy to let an entire week disappear due to “marathoning.”

Wedding Planning – Whenever someone asks me how the wedding planning is going, I tend to blink owlishly at them and reply, “Someone’s getting married?” He asked, I said yes; easy part’s over. Now comes the grueling work of planning one hell of an expensive (thanks Mom and Dad!) and expansive party. Guest list, invitations, seating arrangement, photographer, DJ, food, drink, dress, color scheme and so on. Want a partridge in a pear tree? No problem, that’ll be two grand for importing the tropical tree, one grand for the rare albino bird who can whistle the Imperial March while the bride walks down the aisle, and five hundred (not including tip) for the poor schmuck who is on cleaning-up-bird-shit duty. The waiting list is fifteen months, by the way. Thankfully, my tastes lean away from fowl perched in plants, and I’ve got family to hold my hand through this crisis-I mean, process.

Sleep – Sleep is a god whom everyone must worship. Personally, my faith requires a good solid seven to eight hours of honoring this deity in order to function properly. Lack of sleep can cause crankiness, a short attention span and, shockingly, fatigue. Though my subconscious can be quite cruel and often tortures me with ‘I haven’t gone to class all semester and I missed the final’ dreams, or ‘there’s an axe-murderer chasing me and my legs have turned to molasses’ dreams, those evenings of calm, peacefully slumber are a drug which keeps me coming back for more.

Relationships – I am in the happy position of having multiple satisfying relationships in my life, but all relationships take work. Jesse and I live together and though we have different schedules, we always end up in bed together for loving goodnights and snuggles. We also make time for the occasional date night as we both need a relaxing evening out on the town once in awhile. Friends only remain so if you take the time to see them, and maintaining a friendship can be challenging, long distance or no. With a family as awesome as mine there is no excuse not to make time to see them, particularly when they are an easy El ride away.

In addition to this lengthy list, I am unable to let go of one of my guilty pleasures: revisiting my favorite moments in fantasy. I’ve read X-Men #81, the first comic I ever bought, more times than I can count. I’ll never tire of watching Captain America rescue Bucky from Hydra’s clutches, or seeing the Avengers stand tall against the Chitauri. Every once in awhile the craving for a Buffy and Spike claiming fic will strike and it’s back to my selection of epic Spuffy stories.

The truth is there is never enough time for everything; one of the reasons I enjoy the thought of immortality. There will always be day to day duties which need to be accomplished, and there will always be a desire to avoid them for something far more fulfilling. Knowing me I will forever find time for relaxation and mindless entertainment, but I cannot let it interfere with the aspects of my life that truly matter, and that includes my own growth. I will continue to work and learn new things, I will continue to cultivate my relationships, I will continue to write and express myself. The balance between these factions of my existence will constantly be in flux, but as long as they all exist in some degree or another life shall be merry, and well rounded.