Bone (Written and Illustrated by Jeff Smith, Kindle eBook)
Do you remember that Felix the Cat movie where he got transported to a fantasy world with realistically proportioned humans? And have you ever wondered what it would be like if it wasn't shit?
Bone is a fish-out-of-water fantasy epic about three cartoon men lost in a mysterious valley full of fantasy creatures, initially content to make friends with talking animals and the locals, and get into hijinks at the village festival. But then a war erupts among humans, monster rats, dragons, and giant pumas, people start dying and getting eaten by holes in space and time, and at the center of it all is a long-entombed evil that's breaking out out of its prison. It's an exemplar of worldbuilding and artwork, though I'm kinda wishing I'd gotten the color version. Okay, it's slightly weird to see three little white Play-Doh men with cartoon biology running around an anatomically realistic world, but maybe I'm thinking too much about how they stand out in a world with talking lightning bugs and dragons with human hands.
Three things didn't gel with me, though. First, I didn't get the Bone cousins' obsession with getting back to Boneville. You know, the town they were kicked out of when one of Phoney Bone's get-rich-quick schemes imploded? I guess I can see Phoney Bone thinking he can buy his way back in with loot from the valley, but you'd think Fone and Smiley would accept they no longer have a place there and move on. Second, I though Thorn was rather bland, but maybe I just have a thing about female protagonists who don't do anything but be sweet and brave and perfect all the time (see also Nausicaa). Finally and my biggest gripe is the big bad is defeated by a macguffin a disembodied voice tells the heroes about late in the story. But this is all dust on a gem that probably only bugs me and nobody else anyway.
A Flight of Dragons (Amazon Streaming)
This is partially based on an art book of the same name, and partially on the Gordon R. Dickson novel The Dragon and the George which I have actually read. I don't remember too much about it besides the very beginning, very ending, and a scene where Jim uses echolocation to navigate a rainy forest, but I don't recall it being a loop of the heroes getting into a problem, then either a new character coming out of nowhere to save them, or them pulling out an item they were handed at the start of their adventure and immediately solving it.
This movie would have passed through my memory like a bowl of oatmeal if not for two things. One, the mindfuck of hearing Harry Morgan's voice coming out of a cartoon wizard and two, the mind-meltingly batshit bonkers ending, which unlike Wizards I managed to go into unspoiled. It's not even the same as in The Dragon and the George.
Here we have a game that's all symbolism, all metaphor, all the time. Metaphor and symbolism may be key parts of storytelling, but without subtlety you're not engaging with your audience or giving their intelligence any credit, you're wanking off into their face about how much smarter you are than them. Gee, the main character is sad, and every so often she's assaulted by a black goo monster trying to consume her, oh Gris you are a master of subtext. For a story about coping with death, Murder Falcon from last month was far more effective and memorable.
Why yes, I did just call this game less subtle than a comic where a girl on a rocket-propelled drum set summons a sea serpent to bite a tit monster in half, didn't I.
As for the actual game? It's fine, but really only remarkable for the pretty visuals. It's a very linear Metroidvania about a girl coping with the death of her mother by plodding through platforming levels that are supposed to represent the stages of grief, unlocking abilities as she goes on. And in the final level you unlock the ability to sing to open flowers and have to listen to the girl hum a few bars every fucking time you use it, but at least the game is almost over by then.