Thursday, August 8, 2013

Under the Dome (and other Brian K. Vaughan stuff)

I've been watching Under the Dome, the new CBS science fiction show based on a Stephen King novel, about a small town becoming enclosed in a mysterious invisible dome. It started out promising, with a high-budget pilot that showed off such thrilling scenes as a cow being bisected and a semi exploding on impact with an invisible wall. The thrills-per-episode count has steeply declined since that premiere, however, as it seems this is going to be a longer series than originally anticipated, and they're going to pad the length of it drawing out the yokel characters' uniformly vile personal stories. I've never read any of Stephen King's writing, but I've seen a few other television productions based on his horror works, and Under the Dome seems to be following the same formula. Bad things are going to happen to bad people, and the meaningless explanation for it all is going to be some creepy devil or alien.

I was interested in this show primarily because I heard that the adaptation was developed by Brian K. Vaughan, creator of my two favorite comic book series. Oh, what I'd give for a television adaptation of Runaways or Y: The Last Man instead of this crap. Every once in a while, there will be rumblings of film adaptations, but both those series seem to me tailor-made for TV. Runaways, if the new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show takes off, would be a great choice to lead a potential "Phase Two"  to the television side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—a story that would feel very much of a piece with the films, but one whose characters would have good reason to avoid crossing paths with the movie heroes. Y: The Last Man, meanwhile, with its provocative ideas and nearly all-female cast, would be sure to turn heads on cable.

Speaking of Y: The Last Man, I was recently waiting for a flight at the airport, when I noticed a young lady, also waiting at the gate, who was reading the final volume of the paperback collected editions. I wanted to compliment her on her good taste, but, peering over at her page, I recognized that she was just about to come upon the story's most affecting moment, and I wasn't going to be a jackass and intrude on that. But it did seem an extraordinary opportunity to observe someone else's in-the-moment reaction to a scene that had once struck me so powerfully. Would she perhaps gasp at the next turn of the page, grimace or maybe even have to put the book down before checking it again to verify and fully absorb the truth of what she had just seen? I'd witnessed strong reactions in public before just to text messages that turned out to be utterly foolish ("No! My fantasy football season is ruined!"), so a gasp here was not out of the question.

Alas, the page turned, the moment came, and then the page turned again without any notable delay, and I could not read any change in the woman's manner. She had seemed mildly anxious the entire time I'd been discreetly observing her, but that's common among people waiting at airports. She was there alone, probably guardedly looking to distract herself from having to acknowledge the crowd of people around her, hence why she was reading a comic book, while waiting for her flight. She did, about a minute later, walk off without finishing the rest of the book, and I did not see her again before our plane arrived, so perhaps she had gone to the restroom to weep. But, no, although I had been anticipating a strong reaction to a strong moment, her poker face was probably as much as I should have expected, and it didn't mean she was some hollow inhuman monster. She was, after all, a grown adult, who must have learned how to master her emotional reflexes while in public and surrounded by strangers. I may very well have looked the same when I came to that moment. I wasn't observing myself, so I wouldn't know. I only remember that, on the inside, my heart was broken. It must have been the same for her. And, come to think of it, I don't even know that it was her first time reading it, so maybe she had already braced herself in anticipation.

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