Heart To Heartless : Vickie Smalls’ “Queen Of Knives”

It’s not too terribly often that I come across a comic that I don’t necessarily feel all that qualified to opine on, but I may have found one here — or, rather, one my have found me, given that cartoonist Vickie Smalls submitted the new nightmarish (a term I use with precision) horror mini Queen Of Knives, released under the auspices of his own Nowhere Comix imprint, himself, probably knowing full well that it falls well outside my usual stylistic wheelhouse. Points, then, for bravery on Smalls’ part on the one hand, and for giving this critic a good, solid nudge outside the old comfort zone on the other. They do say, don’t they, that steps outside the nest are good for a person from time to time? With that in mind, then, let’s get down to brass tacks as I attempt to define what’s different about this book —

If forced to put my finger on it, I’d say it all boils down to methodology : I’m a bit of a relic, stuck in the old pencil/brush/pen way of doing things, while Smalls is very much an artist of the here and the now, utilizing things like computerized lettering fonts and digitally-inserted background patterning that, if I’m being honest, tend to take me out of a comic to one degree or another. Which doesn’t mean this is a poorly-done example of the type of comic it is by any means, only that the type of comic it is really doesn’t conform to my individual sensibilities as a reader. Not that it’s obligated to, mind you — it’s not art’s job to meet you on your level, but to sufficiently light a fire under your ass so that you feel compelled to meet it on its level. And in that respect, this is a work that makes some of the necessary moves in that direction.

Transcribed both narratively and visually from one of Smalls’ recurring nightmares, which sees him assume the role of a little girl stuck in a haunted castle whose heart is about to be eaten by a Cruella De Ville-esque wicked queen (of knives), the requisite otherworldly quality necessary to pull something such as this off is certainly present and accounted for — events proceed in vaguely linear fashion, and are “easy” (if that’s the term we want to use) enough to follow, but nothing on offer is at all logical, despite the fact that it makes plenty of internally-coherent “sense.” It seems to me that this is a pretty fair approximation of how dreams — both good and bad — operate, and certainly no one would argue that this is a “dull” comic. Hell, it’s downright interesting in the way that being exposed to the flotsam and jetsam of another person’s subconscious frequently is : far-out place to visit, wouldn’t want to stay and all that. Throw in a pleasing middle-finger-to-conformity vibe that runs throughout, and all in all I can’t you you won’t have a pleasant enough time being exposed to all this unrepentant unpleasantness.

But it does look and feel more than a bit inorganic, mechanical, and for me that’s just a hump I have a tough time getting over/beyond/past/whatever. Again, this really isn’t a reflection on the work itself, which for all I know could be a top-notch representation of this particular type of comics creation — it’s just a matter of personal preference and, since this is my blog, a point of personal privilege. What I do feel confident enough to say is that if this kind of “new school” approach is to your liking, then this is a comic that you’ll probably like quite a bit.

And the story, in case I’m not being clear enough about this, grabbed me just fine. The bones I have to pick (maybe not the best choice of words when it comes to a comic that flirts with cannibalistic themes and imagery?) here are purely aesthetic and, of course, entirely subjective. The art samples included with this review should be more than enough to let you form an opinion as to whether or not this looks like your kind of thing, and if it is, then I really can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t buy it. A fair amount of heart went into making it, that much is obvious, even if our erstwhile heroine is without one by the time all is said and done.

Anyway, what the hell do I know? I guess the answer to that depends on who you ask. I’m glad Smalls asked me for my opinion — I just wish that I had a firmer grasp on what that opinion was after I finished reading this comic.


Queen Of Knives is available for $5.00 from the Nowhere Comix Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/Nowherecomix?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=1192067017

Also, this review is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative indeed if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Lisa Marie’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions For March

Now that the awards for last year’s films have been given out and everyone has already started to forget who won, we can start to concentrate on the next batch of Oscar contenders….

Oh, stop yelling.  It’s not that early!

Well, actually, it is way too early.  I mean, we’re still not really sure what is even going to be released this year.  Due to all the COVID delays, we went into 2021 knowing which films we could look forward to, mostly because all of those films were originally supposed to be released in 2020.  Compared to 2021, we’re going into 2022 blind.  The majority of the films that we do know about don’t really sound like Oscar contenders, either.

So, really, the only solution to how to predict the Oscar nominees when you know nothing is to guess.  The films and actors listed below are not there because I have any inside information.  Instead, they are there as a result of some wishful thinking and some educated guesses.  Killers of the Flower Moon was directed by Martin Scorsese, so of course it’s there.  The Fabelmans is there because a lot of people feel that the Academy didn’t show Spielberg and West Side Story enough love this year and I think the fact that the film is autobiographical will make it irresistible to same voters who nominated BelfastNapoleon is there because there might be some lingering guilt over how both Ridley Scott and The Last Duel were utterly ignored this year.  Rustin is there because it’s an Obama production and Hollywood loves the Obamas.  Chris Rock is listed as a supporting actor nominee because it would be the perfect conclusion to the saga of the Oscar Slap.  David Lynch is listed because …. well, I like David Lynch.  Personally, it’s doubtful that Tom Hanks will be able to pull off two nominations in one year but if anyone could do it, it’s Tom!

In other words, don’t take any of these predictions too seriously.  As of now, there are no definite contenders.  These are just some guesses.

Be sure to check out my even more random predictions for February as well!

Best Picture


The Fabelmans

Killers of the Flower Moon



She Said


Thirteen Lives


The Woman King

Best Director

Damien Chazelle for Babylon

Chinonye Chukwu for Till

Martin Scorsese for Killers of the Flower Moon

Ridley Scott for Napoleon

Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans

Best Actor

Colman Domingo in Rustin

Brendan Fraser in The Whale

Tom Hanks in A Man Called Otto

Joaquin Phoenix in The Whale

Brad Pitt in Babylon

Best Actress

Naomi Ackie for I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Cate Blanchett in TAR

Viola Davis in The Woman King

Danielle Deadwyler in Till

Michelle Williams in The Fabelmans

Best Supporting Actor

John Boyega in The Woman King

Leonardo DiCaprio in Killers of the Flower Moon

Tom Hanks in Elvis

David Lynch in The Fabelmans

Chris Rock in Rustin

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern in The Son

Sally Field in Spoiler Alert

Greta Gerwig in White Noise

Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon

Li Jun Li in Babylon

TV Review: The Walking Dead 11.14 “The Rotten Core” (dir by Marcus Stokes)

I’ve always wondered how little Herschel would react when he eventually met Negan and learned that Negan was responsible for killing Glenn.

I mean, we all knew that it would happen eventually because, let’s face it …. Maggie and Negan are totally in love!  It’s going to take them a while to admit it, of course.  Maggie’s busy ruling Hilltop like a dictator and Negan’s got a new wife.  Plus, there’s the whole thing where Negan savagely murdered Glenn and then spent a few seasons gloating about it.  I mean, it’s going to take a while to move on from all of that.  Taking all of that into consideration, Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan still have more legitimate chemistry than anyone else on this show and Maggie and Negan are definitely in love.  Plus, they’re scheduled to get their own spin-off, where they both move to the most romantic city in America, New York!  Not only does that mean that Hilltop is probably screwed (because why else would Maggie leave) but it also means that Maggie and Negan are destined to fall in love while listening to Dean Martin sing That’s Amore.

And the question has always been, how would Herschel react?  Well, this week, we got our answer.  After discovering that bratty little Herschel had snuck into the Apartment Complex, Negan agreed to keep an eye on him while Maggie and the other Hilltoppers continued to fight off a combination of walkers and Commonwealth soldiers.  It didn’t take long for Herschel to figure out that Negan was the man who killed his father.  Herschel pointed a gun at Negan but was eventually talked out of shooting him, proving that Herschel is ready to forgive and it’s time to let the healing begin!

Just as Herschel was discovering that Negan killed Glenn, Darryl was discovering that the Commonwealth isn’t as much of a paradise as he perhaps originally thought.  He and Rosita was ordered by Sebastian to enter his old house and retrieve his cash.  The only problem was that the house was full of walkers!  In not very subtle terms, Sebastian threatened Darryl’s children.  Inside the house, Darryl and Rosita discovered that they were not the first people to be ordered into the House of Death.  There was also April, whose children were also threatened by Sebastian.  Apparently, threatening people’s children is Sebastian’s thing.  Fortunately, Carol and Mercer showed up to help.  Unfortunately, they still had to give the money to Sebastian because he’s Governor Milton’s son and, as a result, doesn’t have to face the consequences of his actions.

This was an okay episode, though it was hard not to feel that the whole thing with the Apartment Complex was a bit overextended.  The Complex invasion could have been wrapped up in one episode instead of stretching it out over two weeks.  That felt like a throwback to the days when almost every episode was Rick talking about something that he was going to do in a future episode as opposed to just going ahead and doing whatever needed to be done.  The Walking Dead has often had a bad habit of stretching things out a bit too far.  As far as the other subplot was concerned, we already know that Commonwealth is a bad place so devoting an entire episode to Darryl finally figuring it out felt a bit superfluous.

That said, the important thing is that this episode reminded us all that Negan and Maggie are totally in love, even if they won’t admit it.  Good for them.  The world may end but love never dies.

TV Review: The Dropout 1.7 “Heroes” (dir by Erica Watson)

This week’s episode of The Dropout was the most emotionally satisfying yet.

Seriously, after six episodes of Elizabeth and Sunny walking over their employees, lying to their investors, and basically getting away with all of it, it was deeply satisfying to watch everything start to unravel in episode 7.  Not only did Elizabeth and Sunny fail to kill the Wall Street Journal story about their fraud but, for once, their heavy-handed attempts at suppression made the situation worse for them.  Tyler Schultz refused to sign the new NDA.  Even if George Schultz is still too stubborn to admit that he was wrong about Elizabeth, he at least seems to suspect that he’s been played.  Even David Boies seems to be at the end of his limit as far as defending Theranos is concerned.  Perhaps that explains why he didn’t seem to be too upset when one of his associates made a very basic mistake that gave John Carreyou (well-played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach) the information he needed to keep his WSJ story alive.  Perhaps most satisfying of all was the scene where Phyllis Gardner finally got a chance to tell Elizabeth off to her face.  It was a stand up and cheer moment in a miniseries that, up until this point, has portrayed the world as being a very dark place.

This week’s episode also deserves a lot of credit for the perfect use of David Bowie’ “Heroes” over the opening montage.  Even when the proverbial walls closing on her and Sunny, Elizabeth still convinced a lot of people that she was a hero, a college dropout who has somehow managed to revolutionize the way that blood is tested.  To be honest, it was always too good to be true but, for many years, Elizabeth Holmes pulled it off.  Not only did she present herself as being a hero but she allowed her investors to feel that they were also heroes for supporting her.  As the song says, “We can be heroes …. if just for one day.”

This episode of features several clip of Elizabeth Holmes being fawned over by the members of the political and media establishment.  Cleverly, the show digitally inserted Amanda Seyfried into actual footage of Holmes being interviewed and praised by old men like Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and Charlie Rose.  As the miniseries has made clear, Elizabeth Holmes’s biggest boosters were all older men.  Women easily saw through her but men like George Schultz, Ian Gibbons, and others took on an almost fatherly role with her.  When Tyler asked George if he secretly wished that Elizabeth was related to him instead of Tyler, George didn’t answer.  He didn’t have to.

On one final note, I do hope that this episode will be viewed by the people responsible for Inventing Anna because this episode’s portrayal of journalism and a working newsroom feels exciting authentic in a way that Inventing Anna doesn’t.  Unlike the neurotic and needy characters at the center of Inventing Anna, John Carreyou gets the story through his own hard work and he fights for the story because he knows that it’s true.  LisaGay Hamilton’s performance as Carreyou’s editor was one of the highlights of the episode and her scenes with both Moss-Bachrach and Kurtwood Smith were fun to watch.  They left the viewer wanting to know more about the character.  Indeed, one of the things that The Dropout does so well is that it creates the impression that everyone on the show is worthy of their own miniseries.  I would happily watch a show about Carreyou and his editor.

The Dropout finishes up next week as Elizabeth and Sunny finally face the consequences of their own bad actions.  I can’t wait!

Music Video of the Day: Young Blood by Bruce Willis (1987, directed by ????)

I’m still taking in the news that Bruce Willis has retired from acting for health reasons.  When I was growing up, Bruce was the closest thing we had to an old fashioned movie star.  No one can beat the bad guys like Bruce Willis.  No one could deliver a stone cold perfect one liner like Bruce Willis.  No one could liven up a movie like Bruce Willis.  No one could surprise you with an unexpectedly sensitive and good performance like Bruce Willis.  As far as I’m concerned, he is still the epitome of cool..  Moonlighting, Die Hard, Pulp Fiction, 12 Monkeys, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Sin City, Looper, and more, Bruce Willis had quite a career and I think that his reputation as an actor will only grow as his performance are rediscovered and reevaluated.

Bruce Willis was not only an actor but he also a singer.  In 1987, at the height of his Moonlighting fame, he released The Return of Bruno, an album the featured Bruce Willis covering several classic R&B tunes.  To support the album, he toured in the the character of veteran singer, Bruno.  Today’s music video of the day was originally a part of an HBO special that was designed to promote the album.  Bruno remembers performing at Woodstock and covers Young Blood, which was originally recorded by The Coasters in 1957.