Developer Obsidian Entertainment was born of former PC RPG giant Black Isle Studios’ closure, and with the name Chris Avellone affixed as lead designer and writer there was an expectation that we’d be seeing something transcending the low standard of video games — even if, or in spite of, their use of the Star Wars license to do so, a license that was at the time stuck on a loop of self-created cliches and stilted creativity, and would continue to be stuck in a loop until the 2016 release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Game Write is a recurring series dedicated to the fiction of game industry veterans. From the best-selling titles of Drew Karpyshyn and Austin Grossman, to the obscure classics of Jane Jensen and Sheldon Pacotti, this series hopes to unearth both the gems and the trash we tend to leave buried in the credits. In this entry, we review Jane Jensen’s Kingdom Come, a thrilling murder mystery set in and by a rural Amish community.
a maxiseries of 75 issues
art by Steve Dillon
The more I read of this series, the more I found hard to enjoy. Ennis’ writing style carries a lot of frustration with it, and a lot of it is born of the series’ time. It ain’t as timeless as the classics of similar length (e.g., the Sandman), and part of why is Ennis spent too much of the ’90s channeling the voice of a million other snarky 20-somethings channeling the voice of Bill Hicks. The series repeatedly pays homage to Bill Hicks, and literally ends with a quote meant to convey the topics the series never had time to explore.
This final Fables volume ended much more nicely than its sister series, Fairest, did. Like most of the Fables-verse, however, it’s still a mixed bag.
Half of this volume — an extra-long 150th issue numbering over 150 pages — is devoted to resolving the looming battle between sisters Snow and Rose, and the latter half is made up of short stories (1-5 pgs. each) giving farewells to as many of the cast as they could squeeze in.
series supervised by Bill Willingham
Bill Willingham’s Fables universe is incredibly addictive, yet only seems to make me grumpier and grumpier with every page.
The final Fairest arc follows in the footsteps of the two prior collections: The Return of the Maharaja (2013) and Cinderella: Of Men and Mice (2014), meaning it’s barely relevant to the universe set-up by Fables and even less relevant to the advertised purpose of the Fairest spin-off — i.e., “The women of Fables in a series all their own!”.
series supervised by Bill Willingham
This story arc in the Fables-verse illustrates too many of the issues inherent in the Willingham’s universe. To start, Fairest is a series meant to give character to the oft-underdeveloped women of Fables, and the advertising gives the suggestion they’re going for an outdated “Girl Power!” approach.
I feel obligated to like the Difference Engine a whole lot less than I did. People really dislike it, and the usual round of complaints makes a long, valid list. It’s a dense 450 pages — most of it spends time on world-building chit-chat and important ideas rather than a coherent plot.
While the reader questions if the story’s going anywhere, the world itself is fascinating, so complete in its details and sense of accuracy that it’s difficult to leave the polluted, industrial-analytical world. The Difference Engine is cut into three sections following the lives of Gerard, Mallory, and Oliphant on the trail of Gibson’s usual macguffin — a collection of programming punch cards: The explanation and importance of which is buried so deeply that many readers never understand why they’re important. All three heroes only spend a fraction of their pages worrying about punch cards and social turmoil — mostly we follow paleontologist Edward Mallory in his day-to-day business as he bumbles into characters and conspiracies that are vaguely associated with the plot.
a limited series of six issues
It took nearly 20 years for Morpheus to return with a proper follow-up to his final farewell. Overture‘s is a six-issue tale bridging the gap between issue one’s ambitious, faulty start and the present-day doings of Daniel. Just as well, Overture thematically follows in familiar footsteps to long-time readers, delivering a strong sense of closure for the mythos while answering many lingering questions (like, why exactly does Morpheus don that dorky helmet as battle-gear?).
The Dream Hunters (1999) provided a stunningly-beautiful fairy tale that just happened to feature Morpheus, and Endless Nights (2003) gave us a collection of mostly-cute short stories complementing the Endless’ original run rather than building upon it. Overture is more successful in connecting the loose threads that have hung over the series ever since we first spent those 72 years locked in an occultist’s basement. It’s both fitting as a conclusion, and a posthumous introduction for Morpheus’ maxiseries.
Why hadn’t I heard of Yuri Kageyama before? She’s been quietly publishing poetry, essays, and short stories for over 30 years. Her style ranges between transgressive and journalistic, channeling similar frustrations as writers like Kathy Acker, but with a style devoid of flourish or absurdity. She’s published in journals and magazines, and had her one and only poetry collection, Peeling, published by her close friend and fellow author, Ishmael Reed, in 1988. The New and Selected Yuri, published in 2011, contains 41 short works of poetry and prose dating from 1978 to 2011. It contains short stories, essays, anecdotes, conversations, cultural explanations, and a wealth of poems.
Like Gaiman’s other short story collections, Endless Nights has its share of ups and downs. Each of its seven stories are quick snapshots into the Endless’ everyday, and each one sticks around just long enough to give some insight into individual personalities. Some are connected, most aren’t. Some aren’t even stories, but descriptions, ideas, atmospheres. It’s a nice idea, but certain members of the Endless aren’t exactly known for their character, and some of these stories subsequently don’t do much to change that.