The Exorcist III (Shout Factory Blu-Ray)

exorcistiiice

(I pitched this review to Slant Magazine, but never got a response—with the disc having been out for nearly two months at this point, I have my doubts that Slant will be picking it up, so I figure I’ll get it some air by posting it here.)

Beneath the shocking effects of the original Exorcist, there rests a simple story about the power of faith in our lives, and the means through which we confront evil. When William Peter Blatty—writer of the novel and screenplay upon which William Friedkin’s film is based—decided to take a crack at adapting his follow-up novel, Legion, for the screen, it was this aspect of the story that he chose to highlight. The novel is an examination of what Blatty calls “the problem of evil”—why it exists, what purpose it serves, how an ostensibly good and righteous God can allow it—wrapped up in the trappings of a supernatural murder mystery. It is quiet and contemplative where The Exorcist is abrasive and visceral.

kinderman-1

The film version, written and directed by Blatty and ultimately titled The Exorcist III, is, until its climax, similarly constructed. The Exorcist III is a film of ideas and dialogue, of men of various levels of faith wrestling with the often ugly realities of the world they inhabit. Lt. Bill Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb in the original film; George C. Scott here) is a Washington, D.C., police detective investigating a series of gruesome murders that bear a striking resemblance to killings committed fifteen years earlier by the since-executed Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif). Details indicate that the current spate of killings is not the work of a copycat. Kinderman’s investigation—and the trail of murders—leads him to a hospital where, in the mental ward, he discovers a patient who may very well be Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller, reprising his role from the original)—a patient who forces him to confront long-buried demons and reassess his own beliefs.

sunlight-1

Blatty handles this material with the confidence and sure hand of a seasoned director, despite having directed only one previous film (the Golden Globe–winning The Ninth Configuration in 1980). The Exorcist III is heavy on atmosphere and masterfully conveys a sense of dread—particularly during a justly famous scare scene that is shot almost entirely from one camera set-up in a hospital corridor. The performances are roundly excellent—especially those of Scott and Dourif, who bring life to exposition-heavy dialogue scenes that might have dragged in the hands of lesser actors. Also of note is Ed Flanders in the role of Father Dyer, whose friendship with Kinderman offers both a welcome source of levity in a film preoccupied with such serious concerns and an opportunity for Blatty to indulge in the sort of humorous writing that was his bread and butter early in his career (before The Exorcist cast him as a serious horror writer, Blatty wrote comic novels, and co-wrote A Shot in the Dark with Blake Edwards).

kinderman-and-dyer

Production company Morgan Creek was less enamored of Blatty’s quirky, quiet vision, and puzzled that a film entitled The Exorcist III (against Blatty’s wishes) did not contain an exorcism scene. Either Blatty was forced to shoot one himself, or one was shot without him (stories differ), but as a result, the climax is a special effects extravaganza that sits uncomfortably next to the remainder of the film. Nicol Williamson is hastily shoe-horned into the proceedings as Father Mourning, who heroically confronts the evil (as well as snakes, an exploding Bible, and some flesh-ripping) until Kinderman can arrive for an explosive, rain-drenched denouement.

Studio tinkering turned The Exorcist III into something it was never meant to be, but in spite of this, what remains—however flawed—is a thoughtful and creepy film that has achieved cult status and garnered its share of critical appreciation by relying on suspense, ideas, and creative direction.

IMAGE/SOUND:
Shout Factory’s Blu-ray is an upgrade from the previous Warner Bros edition of the film, but not a significant one. Flesh tones are warmer, and the contrast is stronger, but the transfer is darker, particularly in indoor scenes. On the audio end, Shout Factory offers both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 mixes, both of which provide great fidelity, though the surround track seems strangely focused on the front and center, only periodically dipping into the side and rear channels, which is disappointing for a film with such great and often hair-raising sound design.

EXTRAS:
Disc 1 of this Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of The Exorcist III includes a new 2K scan of the inter-positive of the theatrical edition, as well as a vintage featurette and interviews, TV spots, theatrical trailers, and deleted and alternate scenes. But the biggest news here is the long-awaited release of a Director’s Cut, included on Disc 2. According to Shout Factory:

We conducted an exhaustive search through a pallet of film assets from the original shoot to re-create William Peter Blatty’s intended vision. Unfortunately, that footage has been lost to time. To that end, we turned to VHS tapes of the film’s dailies to assemble the director’s cut. However, even some of that footage was incomplete, so scenes from the theatrical re-shoot were used to fill in the gaps. This director’s cut is a composite of varying footage quality from the best available sources.

Shout Factory has done a commendable job in its creation of this version of the film, and it is certainly a must-watch for fans, but the variable nature of the image quality has the unfortunate effect of hurting the atmosphere that is one of the film’s primary strengths. As a result, the Director’s Cut is more of an interesting curio than a revelation, though it is instructive to see how Blatty originally structured the film, particularly for those familiar with the novel, Legion; besides the alternate climax, some scenes are rearranged, and much of Brad Dourif’s performance (which was reshot for the theatrical version) has here been replaced with takes from the dailies. Also, in both versions, the final shot leaves the film somewhat open-ended, though in the Director’s Cut, the implications are much different.

A far-reaching interview with Blatty that touches on the production, his relationships with several of the actors, his thoughts on filmmaking and writing, and his faith can be played as a commentary over the Director’s Cut.

Additionally, Disc 2 includes a recent interview with Dourif in which he discusses the intricacies of his performance during the original shoot and his lingering discontent with the released version of the film (he essentially had to recreate his entire performance in a different location on very short notice), as well as his relationship with Blatty and his opinions on the various controversies surrounding the production.

A featurette about the reshoot relies on interviews with production manager Ronald Colby (who was brought into oversee the filming of the new climax) and editor Todd Ramsay, neither of whom was particularly impressed with Blatty’s original version of the film and whose commentary offers an interesting counterpoint to the mostly pro-Blatty slant of the other features (though much of their criticism of Blatty as a director indicates that neither is aware that he had previously directed a film).

Also of note is a featurette devoted to composer Barry DeVorzon’s chilling score.

OVERALL:
William Blatty’s The Exorcist III is a smart, scary, and atmospheric thriller that, despite its flaws, manages to step out of the long shadow of the original classic. The release of the Director’s Cut sheds long-awaited light on Blatty’s original intentions and highlights his oft-overlooked strength as a filmmaker.

Lady Haley

Some ghosts don’t haunt you; instead, they walk at your side, and they live a simultaneous existence, one that you never see clearly, one that you gather in snippets, in small messages, sometimes glimpsed between lines of text that seem banal until their full weight hits you in the middle of the night; it’s a weight that rouses you from a fitful sleep and sends you to your porch to sit under the street lights, and despite the discomfiting feelings that come with having been awoken by whispers that are not really whispers, you pull that weight around you, and it’s warm, and it shields you from the cool night air.

I know such a ghost. Her silhouette is long and narrow and draped in garments that highlight her otherworldly nature, and she steps along the dusty ground of the desert with what seems like conviction and purpose. Her smile is warm but inscrutable, and her eyes, though they sparkle, are deep black pools that betray nothing. And yet, there is a tentativeness that accompanies her movements, because her purpose is not a purpose, but a search, and one that may never end.

At night she lives with me; while I sleep, I can feel her breathe, but when I’m awake her breath is distant, and she is words on a page, or photos on a screen. All of this seems like it should be so simple, and yet somehow it isn’t.

Joan Didion once wrote: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” I am not usually one for quotes, particularly ones so calcified as that one, but in writing this, it struck me.

A Word on “Creative Nonfiction”

“Creative Nonfiction” is a bullshit phrase invented by MFA professors to sell gullible students on unnecessary writing courses. There is already a term for what “Creative Nonfiction” accomplishes: Fiction. For centuries, writers have taken true-to-life occurrences and exaggerated them and mixed them with flights of fancy to create a narrative—this is called fiction.

And there’s nothing wrong with it! Fiction is wonderful, and should be celebrated, and its practitioners should be proud. “Creative Nonfiction” is a phrase borne of an inferiority complex—the realm of people cowed by the idea that fiction is somehow less-than; it is the refuge of people who wish to call themselves journalists, but who are too lazy to do research. It is a phrase that should be shot into the sun.

Write fiction, my friends; enjoy the process! It is one of our great gifts as a species. But please, do not try to convince me that it is something else.

Nova Express by Andre Perkowski

I have been absolutely, positively obsessed by these fragments lately, and I yearn to see the full version, should it ever show somewhere again. Mr. Perkowski, if you’re out there, watching, listening, reading, please tell me how I can see this all of a piece.

Perkowski seems an interesting cat—the king of repurposed footage. The stuff that he’s shot by himself leaves me cold, for the most part, but work like this, and his Silent Shadow of the Bat series, is absolutely brilliant.

Mlle Lefebvre

dirty-martini-3

I went on a date last night, an early one, to happy hour at this place called The Falls in Downtown Los Angeles. I hate downtown; until recently, I’ve enjoyed Los Angeles primarily because of the sense of indifference it seems to have had toward the insults of other cities—New York and San Francisco in particular breed a certain kind of person, the kind who looks at Los Angeles and sneers because it’s “not a real city” or some such nonsense. I’ve always liked that about Los Angeles. What is a real city? Does it have to have a specific center? Must it be well-defined? Los Angeles always felt avant-garde to me because of its lack of a center. Incoherence has never been to me any kind of wall—more like a peephole. And so I’ve spent the last 15 years enjoying Los Angeles.

But Downtown puts the lie to LA’s attitude. Downtown Los Angeles, since its revitalization, has become desperate and sad. “Please love me, New York and San Francisco,” it cries. And it’s a bunch of bullshit. A similar sort of thing is happening to Hollywood now. There’s a plan to turn the building where Amoeba Music is into a giant glass high-rise, because apparently the future of Los Angeles and Hollywood is a series of anonymous glass high-rises. This is necessary because of the influx of NY and SF ex-pats. “If you don’t like what it’s becoming, then leave!” they say. But why should I have to leave? I liked LA as it was. If you don’t like LA the way it was, why come here? It’s maddening, and it reduces the town to a bullshit status symbol.

I’m more cynical than this, usually, and more resigned, but it bothers me. But downtown, despite its faults, is convenient. And that’s why I met my date down there, because it was between us. Maybe the city does need a center. Maybe I’m a dinosaur.

My date was this beautiful Belgian girl whom I’ve been out with several times at this point. What is our relationship? Who knows? But she is beautiful, and funny, and has a crooked smile and long, messy, brown hair. I’m not sure that we have much to discuss. We’ve got past the point at which we’ve shared personal stories and have moved into the “here and now” portion of dating, but neither of us seems to have a ton going on—that lends itself to fascinating stories, at least. She drinks, but I do not, so usually what happens is that she gets two classes of chardonnay in while I stay sober, and she reveals a lot of herself and then stops and yells at me about not revealing enough, despite me having revealed quite a bit, I think. But I am naturally more reserved, and without drink more inhibited, so maybe she’s right.

What I’ve learned is that she is rather bitchy, and pretentious, or so she says. I can see why she’d say it, but I like her anyway, so maybe she’s right and I’m just willing to overlook it. Does this have any sort of future? I have no idea, and I don’t really worry about it. Mostly I just like to watch her, because she is a fascinating creature. I don’t even care what she’s talking about a lot of the time, just that she’s talking and her teeth are beautifully imperfect, and her hair is a mess, and sometimes there’s a pencil holding it in place and sometimes not.

Last night I promised her a knock-knock joke, and I almost didn’t deliver. She hated my first attempt, and mocked me for being unable to follow it up, but I came up with a solid one later on and got a pass, which I was more happy about than I am now comfortable admitting. Christ, am I a people pleaser? This date was different from previous ones because she stood more fully revealed, in all her bitchy, pretentious glory. Before, there was a pleasant veneer, and I thought she was a nicer person, and so this time it took me a little time to catch up to the atmosphere. Once I was there, though, we traded insults for a long while, and snide comments, and shared some laughs before I walked her to a sushi restaurant, where she was meeting a friend in town from Mexico, named Ivan. Ivan looks like some ridiculous hippie type with a rope necklace and long wavy hair. I don’t know if he’s her friend or her friend, but I’m not particularly concerned. He seems nice enough, in a Eurotrashy sort of way.

I don’t know when I’m going to see her again. Part of me wants to take her bowling; she expressed an interest once, and I want to watch her body while she bowls. I really don’t know who she is or what she’s after. But dating I think is more fun when it’s about meeting interesting people instead of interviewing for the job of “boyfriend” or “husband.” I may never see her again, and that’s okay. But Lord knows I could use more Belgian disasters in my life.

Anise

Oh, Anise,
Would you be so kind
As to listen
As I unburden myself?

As this dance, which lingers—
Malformed—
In my mind
Takes from me that lasting dignity:
What remains of the rhythm
That animates my spirit?

Or would you sigh,
Anise,
And stroke your eyebrows
As my thoughts—
Vaporous—
Dissolved before you?

As my throat constricted,
Would you fall into reverie,
Content with your own dance—
Graceful—
And delicate—
And elusive—?

Walt Disney of the Amphetamine Age

I had reached a point in my fame at which party attendance was no longer mandatory to sustain my mystique. It was a strange position. After years of cocktails and small, empty talk with would-be artists about the maddening circular logic of the world, all that was left for me was to sit in the dusty corners of my studio, dreaming of projects that would never be.

Once, I picked up a newspaper, and I read that there would be a party at the Statue of Liberty. Intrigued, I began to dress, but midway through my preparations, I received word from the gossip sites that I was already there. My presence already confirmed, there was nothing to do but get back to work, and so my evening jacket slid from my shoulders and before it hit the ground I was sitting in front of a canvas that would remain blank for the rest of my days.

Sometime later, I was alerted to an exhibition of my work at one of the small, hip galleries that had begun to dot the downtown landscape: sad, white spaces filled with cardboard boxes painted lavender and repurposed sewer grates and rain gutters sprayed chrome silver that glinted in harsh fluorescent light. It seemed odd that my simple paintings would be of interest to the half-mad proprietors of these over-hyped storage spaces, but what was even more perplexing was that the work on display was advertised as brand new, when, in fact, every last bit of it had been completed and shown a decade before. As I stood before the open door and scratched my head at the “ooh”s and “aah”s of the growing crowd, someone tapped my shoulder. I turned and faced an art critic who’d interviewed me a number of times over the years.

“Isn’t it wonderful,” he asked, “that this work would debut here? That after all his success, he’s still willing to work with small galleries? The man is a treasure.”

I smiled and nodded, and as the critic pushed his way into the tiny space, I looked over my right shoulder at a sandwich board next to the door, which prominently featured my face.

I returned to my studio, to find a message left for me — a note thanking me for my contribution to a charity auction, and declaring that surely a new piece by someone of my stature would bring in a great deal of money for the foundation. Enclosed with the note was a photograph of the man who’d sent it, standing next to the first piece I’d ever sold, a piece that I’d long thought lost, hung as it had been on the walls of an old Tudor destroyed in a terrible storm. I called the number at the top of the letterhead, confused, and I asked to speak to the gentleman.

When I identified myself, I was told that it was quite impossible for me to be me, as I was already there, in the office, speaking to the man I wished to speak to. The voice at the other end of the line wished me a good day and hung up.

Quite impossible though it may have been, I made my way down to the foundation to confront myself. The foundation in my sights, I squared my shoulders and marched to the door. As I entered, I glanced, casually, at one of the television screens in the lobby, which was turned to a cable news station. Breaking News was announced in large, red letters. It seems I had died, the victim of a sudden cardiac event. I felt sweat along my brow; I couldn’t remember the last time I’d experienced that sensation, and my knees felt weak, and suddenly the light through the glass panes that lined the office was very bright. I sat in one of the lobby chairs, sank into the cushion, and wiped my brow.

A man in shirtsleeves and a red vest noticed me from his position behind the information desk, and came to check on me.

“Are you all right, sir?”

I looked at the television screen, and then I looked at him and said, “To tell you the truth, I’m not certain.”

He looked at the television screen, too, and then returned his attention to me. “Yes, it’s a shame when a man like that dies. It’s difficult to process that even someone so influential is ultimately just a person.”

A recently photo of me flashed across the screen. The man in the vest asked, “Did you know him? Or were you a fan?”

“A little of both,” I said.

I undid the top button of my shirt. “I’m feeling a bit peckish. Can you bring me a glass of water?”

“I already have, sir,” he replied. “It’s on the table next to you.”

I looked at the table. The glass was there, but it was nearly empty. I lifted my fingers to my lips. They were moist, though I didn’t recall licking them. The news announced a memorial service in my honor.

La ballata di Hank McCain

hank mccain

About a decade back, a friend of mine handed me a CD on the occasion of my birthday. “I burned it specifically for you,” he said, as he pressed it into my hand. Then he wrapped the crook of his elbow around the back of my neck, pulled me in for a quick, strong hug, and jumped into his car. I never saw him again.

On the face of the CD, in his inimitable scrawl, he’d written “Manny Birthday Mix.” But it wasn’t a mix at all. It was, in fact, the complete Ennio Morricone soundtrack to the film Machine Gun McCain, starring the great John Cassavetes as the titular Hank McCain.

For years, I’d play that soundtrack on my birthday; speakers turned to the maximum volume, I’d listen to “The Ballad of Hank McCain” as I made my morning eggs, bacon, and toast, before I’d even decided how I wanted to spend my special day. It became my own little tradition, one of those tiny bits of good cheer that many people don’t take the time to find.

It’s difficult sometimes to put into words the way a piece of music makes you feel, but “wistful” comes immediately to mind when I think of Morricone’s music for this sadly underrated film. I think the Italian film industry—in its ’60s, ’70s, and’80s form, anyway, choked as it was with innumerable rips from and riffs on popular American genre films—gets a bad rap, but there is a beauty in many of those films that lives on even after their American forebears slip into sad, concrete Iconography. Faces in the classic American crime pictures are etched into memory, the actors’ names carved into metal plaques that hang forever in the halls of the popular consciousness. But the faces in Italian genre pictures, even the American faces, the ones we recognize, slip into our headspaces and elicit surprise, and then slip away just as quickly, so that we’re left with vague recollections, the soft and hazy memories of a fugue state. Italian genre films are jazz pieces. The standard beats are there; nothing else can really be measured.

mccainfalk

It’s interesting to watch a film like Cassavetes’s Husbands and to follow it up with something like McCain, which also features Cassavetes and Falk. While you don’t think of McCain while watching Husbands, the reverse is not true. While McCain was released a year before Husbands, it manages to absorb the cultural capital of Cassavetes’s own film on subsequent viewings. More than simple period curios, these Italian genre films act like sponges floating in a stoppered basin, the years surrounding them engorging them with a level of pathos they might not have achieved on their own. They are anti-auteur in the extreme; instead of being the product of a unifying vision, they are inclusive and collaborative to the point of drawing from other films and associations, eternally unsatisfied with what’s in their own frames, reaching into your head for more. They are ambiguous and opaque and haunting even though you can practically set your watch to their plots.

My birthday was this past Friday. I woke up, I put on the soundtrack, I had breakfast. I felt reasonably content with my life. I watched Machine Gun McCain, and I realized how much I yearned for something to be missing.

 

 

What’s in the Box?

sspwasshh

Not even the great Kevin Hopgood could resist giant-ass guns in the ’90s.

The preponderance of superhero movies nowadays had touched even my sense of nostalgia, and so I cannot help but look back with fondness on my own comic-reading childhood, back in the early ’90s. I was always an Iron Man fan; Iron Man is hyper-popular now, but when I was reading, the big money was in the X-Men and Spider-Man; the other kids always looked at me, confused, when I brought up Iron Man. There were no Iron Man t-shirts, and there was only one Iron Man doll, which I could never find—at least until 1994’s short-lived Iron Man cartoon that lasted for two brief seasons, one absolutely terrible and the other pretty good (and with a Tony Stark with long, gorgeous locks and a rock-ass theme song). But Iron Man #250, from 1989, had been my first comic, and when—in the fourth grade—I was given the opportunity to actually subscribe to a comic book or magazine (I don’t recall, exactly, what the circumstances were, but as part of some…school program? Perhaps?…the whole class received a little booklet with a checklists of titles to subscribe to), I chose Iron Man without hesitation. Without much else in the way of outside influence, my fandom boiled down to me and the comics themselves, which, of course, has given me a smug sense of my own purity. If I were still reading today, I would certainly be an insufferable Iron Man hipster.

My first sustained exposure to the character came during the Len Kaminski run. Kaminski’s run has been lauded for its touches of “cyberpunk”; I’m not familiar enough with cyberpunk to really know if this is overstated, but I do know that Kaminski included scenes like this…

imcoding

…wherein Tony Stark codes his own nervous system (at the time, his own natural nervous system had been the victim of a techno-organic virus, the result of some particularly nasty corporate espionage…stuff like that was why I dug Iron Man).

Kaminski and artists Kevin Hopgood and later Tom Morgan (whom I actually preferred), brought Iron Man into the nascent tech realm. Those scenes in the movies where you get Robert Downey Jr’s face and the displays from inside his helmet? Likely influenced by Hopgood’s layouts during this run of issues. The Kaminski run also introduced War Machine.

I mention all of this as a preamble, mostly, because if there’s one thing I love almost as much as good art, it’s bad, bad, terrible art.

Like all good things, Kaminski’s great Iron Man run came to an end because of thoughtlessness and stupidity (and marketing, which in 90% of cases is a synonym). Marvel finally started paying some attention to Iron Man and the Avengers and decided that sales were low and stagnant and so, instead of actually putting some advertising muscle behind the quality work that was already there (at least in Iron Man’s case), the people in charge decided that a shake-up was needed. This didn’t start off…too badly. Kaminski remained on the main title, but in true ’90s fashion, Iron Man was saddled with a new, X-Treme team that was spun off into its own book, born of the “smoking ashes” of the west coast branch of the Avengers. The team was called “Force Works,” because the future of team names in the ’90s was short, imperative sentences.

Force Works started out okay. The concept wasn’t bad; essentially, Iron Man built a computer that could predict calamities and chaotic situations around the world, allowing the heroes time to arrive and exacerbate the problem, but he needed the Scarlet Witch’s ill-defined, plot-device-friendly powers as a catalyst, so he recruited her and made her the leader and then argued with her a lot. Some of this was in character (Stark was always stubborn and a bit arrogant) and some of it existed to promote the kind of soap operatic drama that helped the X-Books sell so well.

The biggest problem with Force Works was the art, which was uniformly terrible in a specifically ’90s sort of way:

fwusagent

There was a lot of grimacing. And also hunching:

You can’t even see Iron Man’s face in that last shot, but you just know that he’s clenching the shit out of his teeth. All of these guys look like they’re trying to push their skulls through their faces, and there’s not even anything stressful happening in the story. These are all shots of them talking, without the presence of threats of any kind. In the center panel, Wonder Man (…) is joining the team after a stint as a heartthrob movie star, yet he looks like Clint Eastwood circa 2016.

Force Works meandered along for a while, but after a year or so, Marvel decided that the whole Avengers line of titles needed an even bigger shake up, which gave the world this:

 

crossing

Remember Thor’s halter top days? Tony sure does.

Kaminski escaped before this whole mess happened, because one of the aims of The Crossing—besides making sure that The Avengers as a whole were Never the Same AGAIN—was to replace Tony Stark as Iron Man in the stupidest way possible, and Kaminski is a smart man with a fully developed sense of pride. Apparently, the idea of a company-owning hero with his feet planted firmly in the tech world, who’s brilliant but has some control issues, didn’t actually have legs, so Marvel decided that, to spice things up, they’d bring in a new, teenage Iron Man… who was actually a teen Tony Stark from an alternate timeline! To accomplish this, adult Tony Stark was revealed to have been either a sleeper agent for Kang the Conqueror or a bad guy all along (it’s never really clear, because issue by issue this seemed to change). The Avengers went back in time to get a Tony Stark from before he was “corrupted,” bringing the Teen Tony in to fight the Adult Tony. Because the Avengers are idiots, they don’t consider the fact that Teen Tony has no experience with any of Adult Tony’s weapons or armor, and so Teen Tony gets his ass handed to him and is nearly killed, but then Adult Tony is able to break free from his mind-control/decides he doesn’t want to be a badguy anymore and sacrifices himself to save everyone.

The Crossing is a giant, incoherent mess that would be mercifully written out of existence over the course of the following years. Its scope is enormous, but at no point was I ever sure why anyone was doing any of the things they were doing. Kang’s big plan is never adequately explained, and, again, it’s never really clear how much control Stark is under. Everyone’s motivations are mysterious, partially (probably) to build anticipation for future storylines, but also because—I’m guessing, based on the haphazard construction of this entire affair—none of the writers involved in this mess had any idea what those storylines would be.

Also, it’s filled with art like this, in which the sleek and practical modular armor design of the Kaminski/Hopgood/Morgan era gives way to Evil Face Rivets and the Onesie of Doom:

imcrossing

And this:

crossing3

And whatever the hell is going on here:

Now, that Crossing cover further up? Pretty good art on it, yes? But that art was drawn in 2011-12 for the Omnibus edition of this thing, a handsomely mounted, strongly bound hardcover that collects the entire Crossing in one convenient book, which is like receiving a beautiful, bejeweled, 24-carat-gold box and then you open it and it’s filled with cockroaches. This is the end game of ’90s nostalgia.

I leave you with this:

imhopgood

This is from 1993. The Crossing was 1995. It’s amazing how quickly things degrade.