Comic Review: Y: The Last Man Book 4

Safeword is an appropriate title for this book in Y: The Last Man, because I felt like I needed to yell “cantaloupe!” while reading it (that’s the fictitious safeword I created if I were in the same situation as Yorick, which I don’t think I ever will be).

Agent 355 leaves Yorick with an old friend, and things get really weird. As in I felt dirty reading this book at the park with little kids around me and felt the continuous need to shield it from everyone. Did I leave the park to read this provocative comic book? Hell no. I’m a grown ass man and I can read weird comics where I damn well please.

Through said weirdness, we get a historical perspective of what Yorick went through after he realized every other man on Earth had died from this weird plague that strictly attacked Y chromosomes. Something Vaughan does well is pacing the story, while also giving a true sense of urgency around every corner. Here’s a portion of the story. Oh, by the way, there’s still several groups trying to find Yorick, and they’re hot on his tail.

That leads us to yet another group of man-hating women, the Sons of Arizona, who do everything in their power to keep a main interstate blocked, meaning Yorick, Agent 355 and Dr. Mann need to find a way to get through or around to make their way to California. You can imagine what sort of hijinks that leads the group on as they fight for their right to party! I mean, make it to the Golden State. Oh… Now I get why they’re called the Golden State Warriors. Thanks Google!

And here’s your regular Tardy’s Collector’s Corner plug, because they hooked me up once again with Books 5 and 6, which I am making my way through now. On to the next one.

People who hated Luke’s ending in The Last Jedi don’t understand astral projection

It’s about the most badass way a Jedi can go out

First, I want to make one thing clear:

I cried my fucking eyes out during The Last Jedi. Bawled like a baby. I think Carrie Fisher’s recent death made me particularly sensitive, because I knew this would be her last film, and that she wouldn’t get to finish her legacy. But also because I thought that what the film is doing — tearing down the old, ripping off the band-aids and plowing ahead into the unknown — is critically important. And because dear baby Jesus Leia fucking FINALLY got to use the Force (now, with no bikinis!).

What I’m saying is: I’m a Star Wars fangirl. I am. I feel passionately, just as many fanboys do, because it’s personal for me. 

And if you’re passionate about Star Wars, it must mean a lot to you, too. 

So, with that in mind: even though TLJ haters and I may disagree on a lot, I want to set all that aside and have an honest conversation about one particular nuance. Fan to fans.

Because I think there’s something in particular about Luke’s ending that a lot of people are really missing, which I think is pretty damn important.

The argument: Luke wasn’t even there!

So, as I understand it (as a nerd who participates in plenty of nerd forums and also runs a nerd magazine), there’s a lot of disgruntlement over how Luke Skywalker’s character was written in The Last Jedi — particularly in how his final battle scene with Kylo Ren went down.

And also Luke’s overall message of asserting the Jedi order should be torn down, and his hiding away on an island in the first place, which I really don’t want to go into, mostly because to me it all seems completely consistent with what we know of Luke, and the nature of the Jedi, from canon. Go back and watch the prequels, and pay attention to what the Jedi are doing, and tell me they’re had a net positive effect on the galaxy. 

Or don’t — that’s not why we’re here.

That final battle scene in particular has gotten a lot of shade, in supposed defense of Luke’s character, and that’s what I want to talk about.

Spoiler alert (duh) — in the final (and visually stunning) epic battle between Luke Skywalker, Kylo first levels his entire massive army’s firepower where Luke is standing, carving a small crater, but it leaves Luke standing unscathed. 

Then, after Kylo comes and battles him face to face, Luke allows Kylo to get a killing shot in, and Kylo then realizes he is fighting a projection of Luke, not his physical form. We immediately cut to a shot of Luke meditating intensely, hovering above the ground, on his remote Jedi island. 

Luke’s astral form before Kylo Ren disappears, then Luke himself evaporates into the wind leaving his robes in a pile, in the same style as Qui Gon Gin and Obi Wan before him.

I have to say: I was absolutely shocked to hear this scene get criticized as being a “pussy move”.

In the movie theater, my husband and I immediately turned to each other in shock.

“OH MY FUCKING GOD HE WAS ASTRAL PROJECTING!” I whisper screamed.

“I KNOW, SHUT UP, THAT’S FUCKING AWESOME,” he replied.

Because astral projecting is an actual thing, that's actually quite well documented. And as a Jedi, Luke’s demonstrating such mastery over such an intensely psychic power, I immediately read as the most powerful, badass Jedi move that’s ever been made. 

Let me explain.

Astral Projection 101: Dr. Strange is real

See: we’ve been studying astral projection over the last year or so. Not just the nuts on YouTube (love you, YouTube nuts!) — I’m talking about the modern godfather of the scientific and mystic study of astral projection, Robert Monroe. 

A radio executive in the 1950’s, Monroe was a very matter of fact, rational, particularly unspiritual fellow who fell out of his body one night quite by accident, and began to document the journeys his astral form would take, through this dimension, and many others. In partnership with scientists, psychiatrists, biologists, electrical engineers and physicians, he studied the beneficial effects frequencies can have on the human body to induce sleep, and altered states of consciousness.

Monroe’s body of work was seminal to much of the clinical research done on altered states of consciousness in the 60’s and 70’s using LSD and DMT. And beyond that, it’s some trippy shit to boot.

It’s really fascinating, to listen to this dry old man drone on about inhabiting the body of his self in an alternate dimension with the tone of a man reading this month’s revenue projections.

And he is, if you think about it, the perfect vessel for this kind of information to be objectively received. He was completely straight-laced and matter-of-fact, and would never believe any of these woo-woo sounding shenanigans if he hadn’t experienced it with his own senses. 

The best way to describe Monroe’s experiences is to point to Marvel’s Dr. Strange. He travels into all kinds of dimensions along the astral plane, and the MCU’s first Dr. Strange movie showcased astral projection quite a bit, both in Dr. Strange’s initial interaction with his teacher, and in the astral fight in the hospital later, in which he and his teacher shared their last moment — in astral form.

I know it’s science fiction, but the mechanism of Dr. Strange’s interactions with the astral plane are actually pretty close to being a stone cold rip from Robert Monroe’s documented travels. 

Hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of people all over the world are trying to astral project, and according to the accounts of many, some are succeeding. It’s a practice which requires a lot of understanding of how your chakras and energy flow work, a lot of practice in meditation, and — as evidenced by Monroe’s own bumbling encounter — seemingly a bit of luck from the Universe.

I’d offer you sourcelinks, but you’re kind of not supposed to talk about it. I’m kind of breaking the rules of Fight Club RIGHT NOW.

But we’re burning it all down anyway — right, Yoda?

Astral projection is Jedi AF

So, back in the “fantasy” world of Star Wars (the intense realism of the universal, Jungian and Campbellian archetypes Lucas drew from notwithstanding), let’s look at how astral projection fits in to the Jedi practice.

Star Wars’ most quotable moments from intensely spiritual recommendations.

Search your feelings.
Never underestimate the power of the Dark Side.
Let go of your anger.

And probably my favorite, from a character no Star Wars fan could hate (our beloved Chirrut):

I am one with the Force, and the Force is one with me.

There’s clearly a lot of physical training involved in becoming a Jedi, but it really seems to wane in comparison to the emotional, mental, and spiritual training that are so central to being a Jedi. Luke’s running through the jungle with Yoda riding him like a backpack, egging him on, feels much more like an exercise in testing Luke’s will than it does in getting in a good cardiovascular workout. 

And, as we all know, a Jedi’s power is not in his light saber or physical might, and violence is to be used only as a last resort to protect the innocent. This is why wisdom, discernment, and discretion are so vital.

Control. Concentration. Balance. Sensing the Force — the light, the darkness.

This is what a Jedi practices. This is the root of it all.

It’s meditation, in a nutshell, really. And if we take these tools, and this technique, under this Jedi mentality, to its most extreme, most powerful manifestation possible, what we have is astral battle.

Luke’s final battle scene wasn’t a cop out. Quite the opposite: it was the ultimate demonstration of mastery of the Jedi arts. The true arts — which not about laser swords or lifting rocks, but something infinitely more powerful: our Oneness with the Force.

What’s more, I would go so far as to say that his final battle move was also a powerful vindication of his “hiding away” on a deserted island. Once we see Luke revealed in his full raw power, we understand that he wasn’t just twiddling his thumbs and pouting out there on that island. He was practicing, and training (albeit psychically) and conserving energy, for the moment when he could redeem himself, and come to his sister’s aid when it mattered most — one last time.

You get what you need

I don’t think you have to be a guru or astral nut to appreciate what an incredible manifestation of power Luke’s astral battle is. I think that with a little pondering over the most known words of wisdom from the Star Wars Universe’s most beloved teachers confirms it pretty well.

But — you know what? I get it. Maybe that doesn’t change how you feel. Maybe all that makes sense, and may be in line with the Jedi order, but at the end of the day, it still wasn’t the ending a lot of fans wanted. They wanted more Luke — more heroic Luke, like the kind they looked up to as children. They wanted a Luke they could feel and touch, and who…you know…showed up, basically.

And I get that. But sometimes what you want isn’t what’ best — or even what’s real.

Sometimes you get what you need. And I think Luke’s last astral battle was exactly what we needed.

 


 

Joining The Court of Nerds is like being in middle school again — in a good way

Reliving my childhood as a grown-ass woman — NOW: with friends!

When I was in middle school, I didn’t fit in anywhere. Not really. Not —  except with the nerds.

I was too chubby and introverted to be one of the pretty popular girls, and I was way too uncoordinated to play sports. I wasn’t quite broken enough to belong with the bandos (although I wasfirst chair flute), and hanging out with the cutters was emotionally exhausting. 

But I was, shockingly, good at math — perhaps simply because the four boys who were in the advanced math class treated me like I was one of them (all my math skills have since left me — I can barely do long division now). They were nice to me, they didn’t make comments about my body, and they generally treated me like a human. 

And they talked about things I liked. Like science fiction movies, and video games, and books, and history.

So, while my peers were doing sports or gossipping or smoking behind the school during free hour, I was in the computer lab playing Tribes with Trenton and Nathan and Justin and John. We went to weekend math competitions, and made up inside jokes about the answer to everything being “6”.

It was great. But the truth is that even there, I didn’t fully fit in, because I couldn’t exactly go to their houses and game with them and discuss comic books late into the night — the parents would never allow it. There was always that participation barrier, which felt kind of like a metaphor for the larger gender barriers that often existed in the nerd community in the 80s and 90s — e.g. the near void of female action hero toys (which didn’t stop me from cherishing my Ninja Turtles figures and muscle men). Outside our math club, nerd communities seemed to require complex systems of “proving” one’s worthiness to participate based on route memorization of canon, while I was more interested in the implications of the stories, and the metaphors they represented. It was just too much work — unnecessary, arbitrary work, to have to fight to maintain status, I thought. So, in college, I went about my own nerdly pursuits into Tolkien and Celtic mythology on my own, and, aside from impressing dates (ok who’m I fooling — it was just the one) with my knowledge of who was in Groucho Marx’s stateroom in Night At The Opera, I didn’t try much to participate in nerd culture.

Not until a few years ago, when I met Charlie Carden, who runs Facebook nerd forum Secret Friends Unite!with his platonic life partner Todd Oxtra. Their love and enthusiasm, and their focus on celebration of nerd culture, were intoxicatingly fun, and warm, and welcoming. More importantly, it reminded me — through insanely in-depth, nuanced threads about the hypothetical racism of the Star Wars’ Empire against droids, or the miswriting of Star Trek Voyager’s first female captain Janeway — that the stuff of nerd culture is a beautiful lens through which we can hash out issues that are important here in the real world.

Then I started this publication last fall, then, early this spring, I was invited to play a Dungeons and Dragons podcast with a group of the guys from nerd publishing hub The Court of Nerds. The Dungeon Master’s daughter and my daughter were besties in PreK, and one comment leads to another, then suddenly I’m playing a druidic elf over Skype with three dudes, trying desperately to figure out how to roll for damage.

That’s kind of how my life tends to go, generally. 

I’ve been a fan of The Court of Nerds for a while; I met some of them last year, when they were doing panel work for Grand Rapids Comic Con, and they struck me as a really friendly, sincere bunch. With irrepressible boyishness simmering just below the surface.

When The Last Jedicame out, Court Nerd Jon Calvaruso was quick to post a video in defense of the film, which for me, frankly, has become a bit of a metric regarding what kind of nerd communities are fun to hang out in vs those that are angry trollfests. I don’t like blanket generalizations, and I hate drawing lines across communities, but after watching misogynist trolls spam RottenTomatoes ratings on The Last Jedi then try to do the same thing to Black Panther, I’ve really lost my patience with the small but vicious minority of nerds who are running Daisey Ridley, Leslie Jones, and now Kelly Marie Tran off social media.

It just feels like a bit of a litmus test, you know? Not that you love TLJ, necessarily, but that you can at least have empathy for why a Star Wars fan could legitimately love it, without getting into some kind of bizarre ideological turf war. And, in the midst of the hurtful and absurd revenge of the angry fanboys, seeing Jon’s video out there just…it felt really good to me. It felt like bridge being extended.

So, yeah: these are goodnerds. Even if they are quite…let’s say boyish (Stacey excluding, of course. Stacey is fucking adorable.).

I mean, Grant (our Dungeon Master) and Kevin (halfling Ffrip Shallows) make a LOT of cum and dick jokes. Like, a LOT. Gregg (fairy-fucked-dragon Grundelbreaker Hoofenbrocker) is a little more civilized, but Grant I’m pretty sure is a 14 year old boy trapped in the body of a thirtysomething man. 

And you know what? That’s actually perfect. Because, as I said in my debut on the Court’s maincastit feels just like I’m back in middle school, and for the first time in my life, I mean that in a good way.

Their mission is to open the conversation up to newbies, and to longtime fans, which, again — in a community that’s becoming increasingly territorial — is refreshing.

Cuz they’re good. And collaboration with good people is a balm to the soul.

So when the Court invited me to join a few weeks back, it was an easy decision. I see COSGRRRL and The Court of Nerds as two complimentary publications serving overlapping but different niches, and creation always > competition. The Court of Nerds is like the meat and vegetables grocery store of nerdery, sitting across from COSGRRRL’s gluten-free, vegan themed cupcake cafe. They talk about games, tech, comics, and TV/movies, while COSGRRRL waxes existential about whatever mythology — pop culture or sometimes otherwise — comes within range.

I imagine that COSGRRRL readers go over to visit The Court for staples like comic book reviews and tech news, while their folks come over to COSGRRRL for the occasional Afrofuturist story, or elucidation of where the Bell Curve meets DnD stats.

And yes: part of why they invited me to join is because I’m a woman, and women are currently very underrepresented on the Court (wave to Stacey, the Court’s other woman). And also because I’m a good writer, and because I occasionally take the wild shape of a dire wolf (which has been dubbed “Wolvana”), and because I’m a generally fun and lively person — or I like to think so, anyway.

And all that’s ok with me. Some of my earlier experiences with nerd culture were of being excluded from clubs for being a girl. Being includedspecifically for being a girl (among other things) — well, that…feels like balance being restored.

Like a coming full circle, in a way. Or, better yet: like gathering the XP I need to ascend to the next level and finally open that magical portal I tried to open years ago, and having the guardian smile and greet me by name.