Monday, November 21, 2022


MEAD is a lot like HAL 9000, but cuter and with a conscience. That is a strange thing to say about a character who originated in underground comix, but Kitchen Sink Press actually published a lot interesting titles (including Xenozoic Tales and Will Eisner’s The Spirit). Regardless, his reluctance to kill people is what forces him to turn renegade in J. Allen Williams’ MEAD, which releases tomorrow on DVD/BluRay.

At this point, it is just MEAD and Friz, his human operator/companion, at-large in the universe. They had his creator Tam in common, but when they had to make a break for it, the evil Admiral Gillette killed her during their escape attempt. After that, Friz became a pirate, navigating the toy-looking starship MEAD is paired to. However, they really need to find some dark matter to properly power-up. Instead, they rescue Phoebe from the bounty hunters that came looking for them.

AIs like MEAD have the extraordinarily dangerous ability to create illusions in the minds of the crews pursuing them. Inconveniently, Gillette has the prototype helmet that counteracts MEAD’s illusions. However, his leadership skills under combat conditions are rather lacking. Bellowing threats at people is not very effective when they see a gigantic version of the beloved robot toy Timmy the Wonderbot lumbering towards them, like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

MEAD had been released in its current version thirty years ago, it would have been hailed as a game-changing integration of live-action with CGI animation. Today, it is just sort of interesting looking. The story is just okay too, even though it was adapted by Jan Strnad from his original story, “To Meet the Faces You Meet,” which was published in the Kitchen Sink anthology Fever Dreams.

We have seen so many of these “too-dangerous-for-the-military” stories over the years (seriously, can’t we ever give the military a break?). This is basically just another. However, there is a bit of a disconnect between the whimsical look of MEAD and the ship he is symbiotically connected to (designed by the late Richard Corben, the artist for the
Fever Dreams story) and the dark and somewhat neurotic tone that weirdly sets MEAD apart. Clearly, everyone’s creative focus fell squarely on MEAD’S assorted illusions, which lend themselves to some eccentric flights of animated fancy.

Star Trek: Voyager
’s Robert Picardo is suitably hammy as Gillette. The rest of the cast largely get lost in the computer-generated animation. Still, the dark look of the space opera world is definitely cool. It nicely represents Corben’s artistic legacy, even though the narrative feels familiar. Hardcore animated sf fans will get something out of the trip, when MEAD releases tomorrow (11/22) on DVD/BluRay.