The next generation of storytellers are being born in the Matrix.

On May 15, what the ad campaign calls the Year of the Matrix begins with the simultaneous release of the Matrix Reloaded and the Enter The Matrix video game. Almost three weeks later on June 3, The Animatrix hits DVD, before Matrix Revolutions comes through in November to finish it all off.

Many are speculating that upon the trilogy’s ultimate conclusion, the realm of modern special effects, the science fiction genre, and possibly even the face of modern cinema itself will be forever changed.

In the soon-to-be immortal words of Trinity… believe it.

I stumbled into the first film blind, something that’s damn near impossible now, as I’ve become conditioned to search the web for the latest in movie trailers almost immediately after checking my e-mail. If I even make it until the 15th without severely spoiling large portions of the new movie, I’ll consider it a personal victory. Making matters worse is the fact that I have the nerve to spend my weeks in a bookstore with Newsweek, Premiere, Wired, and Entertainment Weekly devoting both cover space and extensive features to the approaching phenomenon. These people want to ruin this whole thing for me, so you’ll understand if I must remain focused.

But it wasn’t always this way. Back in ’99 I entered The Matrix cold and naked, completely unaware of what would occur. By the close of the opening scene, shortly after an Agent plows a semi truck into a phone booth, only a split second after Trinity escapes into the ether, only one word came to mind…


Then came the slight tinge of rightful envy as I wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that,” only to be clearly overshadowed by the sensation of pride and excitement I receive from stuff like this. Despite the obvious, that I’m playing witness to something truly new and exciting, is the confirmation that there are others out there waking up in the morning with brains full of dialogue and mad ideas, and if one works hard enough…their vision can be delivered to the masses.

It’s always good to see the storytellers win.

From this point forward, The Matrix had me, streaming unbelievable sequence after another, delivering a visual and aural assault that the average flick can’t even reference. Those that label the event as just anoher dosage of pop culture nonsense, something flimsy to hang a catch phrase upon or jack a special effect from, just don’t get it. The concept of “bullet-time” wasn’t the only thing the Wachowski Bros. contributed to the landscape. This movie changed the game, much in the same way that a little thing called Star Wars did, and like that timeless trilogy, what happens to some of the audience during the two hours they’re watching will trigger something to mutate them into a group of visual storytellers existing only to continue the chain.

Where others’ attempts at cutting and pasting aspects from other genres resulted in mass confusion, The Matrix blended comic books, anime, philosophy, and Hong Kong cinema with big budget flash and effects to create one of the most memorable environments in recent history. And it was no accident either. A cursory glance at the massive Art of the Matrix book which contains conceptual art, including all of Steve Skroce’s original storyboards, and the entire shooting script for the movie, offers proof that it was all a
set-up from the very beginning. This thing has been crawling through the head of its originators for a very long time, and we’re just now receiving the transmission.

And it will only get better.

In addition to the two sequels, both seeing release within the year, the saga of a humanity rebelling against an invisible cage has proven so large that it will spill over into other media. The Animatrix unleashes a collection of visionary anime directors within the concept to offer their own interpretations, under close direction from the Wachowskis, while bringing a distinct and unique set of voices to the table. The impending video game (Enter The Matrix) is a massive undertaking that will see release on all next generation consoles, deliver an original story from the creators that parallels and expands on events in Reloaded, and contain an hour of original footage shot just for the game. Jada Pinkett- Smith had to memorize more lines of dialogue for her starring role in the video game than she did for the upcoming movies. What does all this tell you?

This Matrix thing is not bullshit…it’s coming for you, and I don’t know what it’ll do.

Further evidence can be gleaned from Now enjoy the New Hotness while I download the latest trailer one more time…

The New Hotness

Automatic Kafka #8
(Joe Casey/Ashley Wood)

The only real SUPERHERO comic in the world continues to distinguish the work being performed at Wildstorm recently. In a more linear installment of Kafka, an archenemy has decided to end his life, leaving a cryptic letter behind for the “hero” who once made his life miserable. Through the narrative, a $trange past is illuminated, and the future is made uncertain as Kafka suddenly finds himself without the tool of enlightenment meant to reveal his sought-after humanity. If that isn’t bad enough, the Constitution of the United States is starring in a “gang-bang” and The Warning is having ideas again. If this all sounds very strange to you, then you’ve discovered Casey’s true mission, and if I’m reading the short blurb for the next issue correctly…that mission may be over. Perhaps the $trange Comics Cult of the Uncomfortable will one day return, but it was fun while it lasted.

411 #1
(Chuck Austen/Dr. Arun Gandhi/Bill Jemas/David Mack/Mark Millar/Frank Quitely/David Rees/Tony Salmons/Phil Winslade)

One of the most important comics that will probably see release this year. The message is peaceful resolution to violent conflict, and with the world playing host to Desert Storm II, or whatever they’ve decided to call it, the resonance is particularly strong. With a beautiful painting by Mack adorning the back cover, and an introduction by the grandson of Gandhi forming an entryway, the creators proceed to tell entertaining, thought-provoking stories without preaching to the audience, and in the end that will make all the difference. No one likes a lecture, despite the point of said lecture, and the themes and situations are handled in a mature fashion that doesn’t insult the audience, yet maintains a definite and undeniable point. Impressive showing from all involved, and confidently whets the appetite for future installments.

Runaways #1
(Brian K. Vaughan/Adrian Alphona/David Newbold)

The first wave Tsunami title I was most looking forward to delivers the goods. The premise is relatively simple, take six teenagers, connected by their parental figures, and provide them with a revelation that will gather them and in the darkness bind them. In this case, the big reveal involves the teens learning that their parents are in fact super-villains, and examining just what this means for a group of kids that are already a developmental mess of raw hormones. As is usual with Vaughan’s work, the tight premise is supported by expert characterization that makes each character unique, and insures that the future interactions within the group will prove very interesting. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the sharp work of newcomer Adrian Alphona whose clean style fits this book perfectly, and will make for easy reading down the road. Vaughan is making a pleasant habit of this, people are going to start talking…

Next: A look behind the curtain of Dark Horse’s upcoming Galactic series, and a message regarding the future of Ambidextrous…

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