The Sunday Magazine: Marvel’s The Vision Vol. 2

While I eagerly await my latest issues of the typical superhero comics I can still be impressed by something completely different. Over the past twenty years the two big comic book imprints, Marvel and DC, have become less risk-averse to allowing their comics to take some unconventional turns. The burgeoning independent comics publishers thrived at offering readers something different. What much of this has resulted in is the mainstream comics taking on new writers from different backgrounds to see what they can do with existing characters.

One thing many of these creators choose to do is to not want to write stories for Captain America or Superman. They are more interested in the characters who are less-known. A lot of the time it is because they have an affection for the character. More importantly for storytelling purposes the ancillary characters carry less baggage in the term of known history. One of the most important new writers for Marvel and DC has taken this path.

Tom King

Tom King only recently joined the comic book writing world. Before that he wrote a novel, “A Once Crowded Sky” which asks the question if superheroes give up their powers to save the world only to have the attacks continue; what then? It was clear what Mr. King’s influences were and there are times when reading the book I almost felt like it should have been a comic series. The novel suffered from some rough patches in the resolution but it gave insight into many of the things Mr. King would take with him to the actual writing of comic books.

After starting at DC in 2014 with a series focused on Robin from the Batman mythology a year later he would write for Marvel. I heard through the grapevine he was coming to Marvel and was playing a guessing game in my mind what character he would be writing for. My surprise was complete when I heard his series was going to follow the synthetic humanoid The Vision from The Avengers. I was curious but my anticipation for The Vision Vol. 2 was not high. It should have been.

There are many stories of robots/androids who want to be human. To apply the cold logic of their circuitry to figuring out the human condition. The Vision Vol. 2 goes in an entirely different direction as The Vision creates himself a family of creatures like him; wife, son, and daughter. They go to live in a middle-class community in Virginia but they aren’t trying to be human. Their neighbors comment on their artificiality with no attempt by the family to change that. Over all the societal commentary from that set-up Mr. King overlays a tragedy in progress complete with an omniscient narrator who points out the moments that will have far-reaching consequences. This has the effect of adding a sense of dread because what the narrator’s future vision tells us of are some pretty grim events.

Mr. King never lets the readers off the hook as he tells a complete story over twelve issues full of shocking twists and pyrrhic victories. It is near the pinnacle of what comic books can achieve. It also confirms Mr. King as one of the new voices in comics to keep an eye on. Especially as he takes over Batman for 2017.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue- Spring Morning Lily

In my yearly diatribe against rose as the be-all end-all spring floral fragrance I think of all the other possibilities. One which is high on my list is lily of the valley/ muguet. The European celebration of May Day is celebrated with sprigs of muguet. One of the reasons I think lily has not become more of a possibility is it can have a funeral home-like old lady vibe to it. Which is true in the hands of a mediocre perfumers. When the talented take a hold of it they turn it from a symbol of death into something which represents the rebirth of spring. Which is why I was so pleased to receive the new Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue.

In the fall of 2015 perfumer Daniela Andrier was the perfumer behind the debut for the brand, Miu Miu. For that fragrance I was excited to see the use of a new ingredient called akigalawood. Mme Andrier highlighted the new ingredient as part of a floral duet of muguet and rose with some of Mme Andrier’s signature green notes opening the fragrance. It was one of my favorite releases of 2015. I wasn’t sure what to think of this spring flanker to that very original fragrance. What Mme Andrier chooses to do here is to mostly strip out the rose while making the green opening waterier. It comes together as a very nice spring floral that is not rose.

Daniela Andrier

In Miu Miu the green has sharp edges. In Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue the green is there but she sprinkles dewy water droplets all over it which has the effect of softening some of the blunt verdancy. It sets the stage for the green quality of muguet to ascend over it. In Miu Miu the muguet was more an equal; in this new iteration it is like the dew something which gets burned off as the radiance of the central muguet begins to shine. There is a tiny amount of jasmine and rose as distant support but Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue is a lily through and through. As the akigalawood comes forward it has a peppery aspect which provides a nice contrast to the lily.

Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

It does take a creative perfumer like Mme Andrier to make a vital lily fragrance. With Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue she has delivered a dewy spring morning lily fragrance which stands out in the sea of roses on the counter next to it.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Sephora.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aerin Linen Rose- Hamptons Rose

It is difficult being the second act to a legend. When it comes to American beauty brands Estee Lauder is one of the great All-American success stories. From the foundation of the brand in the 1950’s into the business juggernaut it is currently she has defined beauty for over sixty years. One great aspect of that rise is fragrance was not relegated to being a bit player. It was a critical piece of the overall empire as it grew. There was a time when it looked like there was not going to be a next generation Lauder to carry on because she had two sons. Her younger son Ronald Lauder would provide the genetics when his oldest daughter Aerin would join the company where she is currently the Style and Image Director. In 2013 Aerin Lauder would follow her grandmother into the fragrance part of the business with her own brand called simply Aerin.

Aerin Lauder

The Aerin perfumes have been, by design, a collection of mostly light-hearted floral perfumes. There are a few exceptions but it is flowers which are the inspiration. Even then the flower most represented is rose. One of the first set of spring roses I received samples of for 2017 were the three new releases; Bamboo Rose, Garden Rose, and Linen Rose. If I have an overarching impression is these are nice high quality versions of simple floral constructs. Ms. Lauder has been working with Karyn Khoury as co-creative directors and they have worked well together with a coherent vision which has been consistent throughout the previous releases. What will always make a difference for me even in a fragrance which is not original is when it sets off a scent memory for me. When I got to Linen Rose it reminded me of the summers I spent on Shelter Island, NY which is why I enjoyed it so much. I came to find out when I got to the press materials Ms. Lauder was inspired by her rose garden in the Hamptons just a ferry ride away from Shelter Island.

Richard Herpin

I have come to like the rose perfumes which have a seaside theme of which Linen Rose is. If it is done well, as it is here, it captures the salt spray, the grass growing in the dunes, and the rose overriding it all. Working with perfumer Richard Herpin this is exactly what Linen Rose delivers.

Mr. Herpin opens on a citrus mixture of lemon leaves and orange all of which is inflated on a bubble of Hedione. One of the things which drew me to Linen Rose was Mr. Herpin dispenses with the typical suite of oceanic notes. He employs coconut water and vetiver to create the dunes and waves milieu. This is subtle and Mr. Herpin uses the Hedione as the expansive element along with those two notes. It works quite well as an alternative. The roses come in on this and they are there in all their typically powdery and spicy nature. It all heads down to a warm amber, vanilla, and benzoin finish.

Linen Rose has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Lauder is admirably creating her own version of the Estee Lauder legacy with this line of perfumes. I suspect that before too long there will be something special from this team. Linen Rose is maybe the first harbinger of that.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Aerin.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Montale The New Rose- Really, It Is New

Montale is a brand known for its oud-based fragrances. What is funny is of the Montales I own only one of them is an oud-based perfume. I find I gravitate to the house style of intensity above everything when it isn’t carrying some oud with it. One other thing about Montale it is one of the most prolific brands and it becomes difficult for me to keep up. I tend to ask those who carry the line whether there is anything new worth trying from Montale. After the Holidays Josie from Osswald NYC told me I should give the recent The New Rose a try. Inwardly I groaned as I was already looking at the first few new rose scents for spring arriving in the mail. I said send me a sample thinking I would dismiss it easily. Except it wasn’t so easily pushed aside.

When I saw the note list I was thinking The New Rose was going to be a typical fruity floral and, in many ways, it is. What makes it stand out is Montale tones down the bombast a smidge which allows The New Rose some breathing space not typical in a Montale fragrance. Into that space there are more subtle components than normal for a Montale as well. It adds up to a high-quality rose perfume.

The New Rose opens with the nucleus of Bulgarian rose there from the first moments. Precision is not a word I often use with Montale fragrances but the Bulgarian is placed firmly in the center of everything to come. It is a good choice because it has both spicy and powdery aspects which can be used to interact with the other ingredients. The New Rose becomes a study in how to play nice with rose. First up is lemon in its most luminous form which nestles into the spicy part of the rose. Peach comes along and falls into the powdery part. Lily of the valley provides contrasting green floralcy. These are all commonly used fruity notes with rose except in The New Rose, used in higher concentrations, it makes it different. The base is a solid Oriental version of sandalwood, vanilla, and ylang-ylang to give this a creamy smooth finish.

The New Rose has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.

This is the wrong time of year to give me a new rose perfume unless it is different. The New Rose is satisfyingly unique enough to fit that.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Osswald NYC.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Prince Matchabelli Aviance- Superwoman of the 1970’s

There are perfumes which make it in to the Dead Letter Office because the times have just passed them by. During the early 1970’s the way perfume was marketed and bought was undergoing a significant change. I have heard Michael Edwards mention many times that prior to the mid-1970’s most perfume was purchased by men as a gift for the women in their life. As women entered the workforce earning their own income that would change as women took as much control of the fragrances they wore as they were doing with the rest of their life. During this time there was also a concerted effort to market fragrance to this new female worker. One of the mantras at this time was women who could “have it all”. What that meant was work all day take care of the home all night. It reflected the changing society that women were exhausting themselves trying to live up to this. Unsurprisingly there was a perfume which was being marketed for these superwomen of the 1970’s: Prince Matchabelli Aviance.

One thing that Prince Matchabelli knew how to do was to market their perfumes. They also were one of the earliest brands to use television extensively. If you are a Baby Boomer know the jingle to many of the Prince Matchabelli fragrances. Wind Song not only stayed on your mind but it was an earworm before that term existed. The ad campaign for Aviance also has a memorable tune. In the commercial a woman sings the lyrics “I’ve been sweet and I’ve been good/ I’ve had a full day of motherhood/ But I’m going to have an Aviance night!” As she sings she changes out of her house cleaning jeans, kerchief, and untucked shirt into something more appealing looking. As she finishes the line above a man in a suit and tie responds “Oh yeah, we’re going to have an Aviance night.”

Perfumer Betty Busse working off this idea of a perfume for the woman trying to have it all decides to make a floral aldehyde variant. It kind of mirrors that concept of streamlined green for the office, traditional florals for the housewife, and musk for the evening to come.

Ms. Busse opens Aviance up on a very green aldehydic top accord which carries a bit of muguet along with it. These early moments are reminiscent of many current green muguet scents of the present. It does try to be that safer office style of fragrance. The heart is that traditional bouquet of jasmine and rose with little surprise. The base accord is surprising because Ms. Busse really goes for a musky green effect. Vetiver and moss provide the green tint to the animalic. A smart use of tonka picks up and amplifies the sweeter facets of the musk really adding to its sensuality.

Aviance has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.

In the 1970’s there were three “working woman perfumes” only Revlon Charlie still exists today. The other two Revlon Enjoli and Aviance were sent to the Dead Letter Office because women became more savvy about everything in their lives including perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Cartier Baiser Fou- Spin the Bottle

I had my first kiss at nine at a birthday party playing the kissing game, spin the bottle. I was very nervous as I spun the bottle and it landed on one of my classmates. In theory I sort of understood what I was supposed to do but as I leaned in to perform I wasn’t sure. I was focused on the shiny lip gloss on her lips and the faint smell of strawberry. When our lips met it was nice. As I pulled away and licked my lips the taste of strawberry lip gloss was there to let me know I had indeed kissed a girl and I liked it. Funny thing that grew out of that was I always enjoyed kissing girls who wore fruit scented lipstick. I hadn’t given that much thought until I tried the new Cartier Baiser Fou.

Mathilde Laurent

Perfumer Mathilde Laurent has been the in-house nose for Cartier for almost ten years. She has added a spirit of adventurousness to Cartier fragrance that was present previous to her tenure but is now much more assured. It is also a brand which shows that same ability for unique even in the mainstream releases. Last year’s L’Envol de Cartier or even the previous entry in the “Baiser” line Baiser Vole are good examples of Mme Laurent’s idea of what she envisions department store perfume can aspire to. Both of those fragrances I mentioned are like nothing else on those counters. Baiser Fou is another although it has some more familiar touchstones perhaps.

The press material says Baiser Fou, which translates to crazy kiss, is inspired by lipstick kisses. Most perfumes inspired by that go for that Coty lipstick iris/rose on beeswax accord. Mme Laurent’s lipstick kisses, like my early ones, are fruitier. There is a real sense of playfulness in this crazy kiss that is also quite appealing.

The opening of Baiser Fou is that subtle but distinct fruity accord. I believe there are at least a couple of different fruits as I seem to detect strawberry, cherry, and melon which seemed to me different every time I tested. What I like here is these fruits which could be obstreperous are applied with the feathered effect of a stolen kiss. It is this lightness which sets this fruity opening apart from thousands of others. Mme Laurent uses an orchid accord to provide the powdery lipstick itself. As the fruity notes settle on top of the orchid it is again held together like a gossamer wing. This fragility is a significant reason why I like this part of the development. The final piece of this is dusty cacao which is identified as “white chocolate” but it feels more like a rich cocoa powder to me. It is in keeping with the tone of what came before a delicately gourmand-y way to finish Baiser Fou.

Baiser Fou has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Mme Laurent is one of the most creative perfumers we currently have working. Everything about Baiser Fou is appealing as she continues working on these very delicate constructs as she did with L’Envol de Cartier last year. Baiser Fou is another like that. There might be the tendency for some to want to ask for more. I am happy with just a light but crazy kiss from someone as creative as Mme Laurent.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Cartier.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Prada Luna Rossa Carbon- A Different Tack

Prada has become one of the more reliable designer perfume offerings in the mainstream sector. I can even go further and say the overall collection is the most coherent and best at the department store. I would chalk that up to the fact that Daniela Andrier has translated the same style and creativity that she uses on the more expensive creations for the brand to the general audience releases. I have unhesitatingly steered people to the brand because it has something good to great for everyone. Even the flankers are well-thought out. Except the latest release, Luna Rossa Carbon, is less a flanker than something which stands all on its own.

Luna Rossa Catamaran from America's Cup 2013 (Photo:Carlo Borlenghi via Luna Rossa website)

I have always felt an attachment to the Luna Rossa series because it is inspired by the Italian effort in the America’s Cup sailing competition. The boats have competed since 1997 and Prada has always been the team sponsor with their name prominently featured on the boats. The team has always been one of the innovators in design which is a significant piece of the America’s Cup. The team which marries superior engineering and sailing usually takes home the trophy. Luna Rossa has a desire to show off Italian design in every way. Prada finally took this partnership and used it in 2012 to release Luna Rossa. Mme Andrier served up a fougere anchored by clary sage. Through three subsequent flankers she would refine this idea of a fresh fougere which are all well done. Which was why when I received my sample of Luna Rossa Carbon I expected more of the same, only to be surprised that Mme Andrier took a different tack this time.

Daniela Andrier

The previous Luna Rossa incarnations were Mme Andrier finding ways to capture that sense of being propelled through the ocean by the wind. She found clever ways to introduce fresh without relying on the typical aldehydes, ozonic notes, and Calone. For Luna Rossa Carbon the lavender is still present to create the fougere but the overall effect is more industrial and obviously synthetic. Carbon fiber is the construction material for these racing boats and I wonder if that was what she was trying for. I enjoy fragrances which unabashedly embrace the synthetic which seems to be the case here.

Luna Rossa Carbon opens with lavender and bergamot. I believe Mme Andrier chooses the more austere lavandin with its higher percentage of camphor. In the past that camphor has been used as the foundation for Mme Andrier to splice the other choices for fresh notes on top of. In Luna Rossa Carbon she uses the camphor to set off the green rose quality of geraniol in the heart. It has a deepening effect which Mme Andrier modulates a bit by using heliotropin which grounds it with a bit of the vanilla cherry nature it is known for. This doesn’t get gourmand-like it comes off more like the sweet smell of freshly extruded plastic; in a good way. A suite of woody aromachemicals provide part of the base accord which are combined with patchouli creating a solidly darker base than ever before in a Luna Rossa fragrance.

Luna Rossa Carbon has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

There is a moment in every sailing race when a captain and the tactical team must make a strategic decision to chart a different course. It is done based on the knowledge of the waters being sailed in and the conditions learned over sailing them for weeks and weeks. At the moment of making the decision to take a different tack you are hoping for the wind to fill the sails as you expected. Mme Andrier is performing a perfume version of this maneuver. For those who have enjoyed the past Luna Rossa releases this one is enough of a departure that you should try it before expecting a continuation. For those who want to try something delightfully different in the department store I suggest setting course for the bottle of Luna Rossa Carbon.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Prada.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Riverdale

One of the fun things about geek culture is when someone re-imagines that which has been known for years into something entirely different and contemporary. When I was at 2013 New York Comic-Con I was standing in line for something on the show floor and next to where I was there was a booth for Archie Comics and prominently displayed was something called “Afterlife With Archie”. Behind the table was the man who wrote the comic, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. We chatted a bit and I bought a copy because Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa’s enthusiasm sold me. One of the things which drew me in was this was a writer who also was inspired by the old classic horror comics. We talked about our favorites which was what really made me buy a copy. Those influences are evident as Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa takes the cast of Archie Comics and drops them into a zombie apocalypse. Mr. Sacasa- Aguirre loves these characters and enjoys giving them a different set of challenges to deal with. Flesh-eating fiends versus plucky teens with dark pasts. It worked so very well. It worked so well that Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa was asked to move from the comic page to the video screen. After a few fits and starts what was once going to be a movie is now a new television series on The CW network called Riverdale.

Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa is not imagining the Archie gang as being chased by zombies for Riverdale. Instead he is doing a mash-up of Archie Comics plus Twin Peaks plus One Tree Hill. If you have any doubts about the middle influence confirmation comes when you see the “Welcome to Riverdale” sign at the beginning of the first episode. It is a replica of the “Welcome to Twin Peaks” sign. The overarching plot of Riverdale is also a parallel to Twin Peaks as the central question at least early on is “Who killed Jason Blossom?” Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa has once again deftly woven disparate inspirations into a story all its own.

Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica (Camila Mendes)

While the mystery exposes a dark side to our well-known characters it also allows them to live up to their original design. As much as Archie is the name on the logo for Riverdale it is the dynamic between Betty and Veronica which has kept me most interested through the early episodes. Betty, portrayed by actress Lili Reinhart, is still perfect and still pining for Archie except there is also something less wholesome bubbling beneath the perfection. Ms. Reinhart does a nice job at showing that in the first episode when she is in the midst of being insulted and she clenches her fist so hard that she draws blood. I suspect her character has some unseen, less perfect, layers yet to be seen. Veronica, portrayed by actress Camila Mendes, is the rich girl brought low by something criminal her father has done causing her mother to return to Riverdale from NYC. Veronica is the mean girl looking for a fresh start as she joins the middle-class. Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa gives them a lot to do which is good because, so far, they are the primary reason to tune in.

Based on everything Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa has done with these characters in the past I expect the remaining episodes to be full of surprises. I am going to be there all the way.

Mark Behnke

Perfume for Uncertain Times

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I am not sure if there are ever “Certain Times” but I am surely acquainted with “Uncertain Times”. One of the things that happens to everyone is that in those moments of uncertainty we look to create certainty in the things which give us pleasure. For me the last few months have had a high amount of variability. Many of the relationships in my life are changing; for better for worse it is too early to know. All that I know is that there are more question marks then there have been for a while.

As I said this is when that which gives me pleasure is meant to be balm for the turbulence. That has seemingly changed too. In the past, I’ve managed to use my love of games, literature, or music to pick me up. This time those aren’t working as well as they have previously. What has been doing the trick has been perfume.

I’ve never really relied on perfume for this kind of comfort before. Yes, there are snuggly comfort scents which are similar to a fuzzy blanket but that is just feeling warm not necessarily less stressed. What allowed me to let perfume to soothe my soul was a classic aromatherapy formula for relaxation, lavender.

I had been having trouble sleeping waking up after three or four hours and staying awake until dawn. As part of a project I was spending an evening with Guerlain Jicky. When I say spending an evening I mean anointed with many sprays looking for nuance by overdosing myself with it. Like the idea of virtual reality I was inside an invisible orb of scent. Poking around with my senses as fascinated with the template of one of the earliest modern perfumes as I would be with a video game. Then covered in Jicky I went to sleep and slept for eight solid hours for the first time in weeks. I awoke refreshed with the remnants of the perfume the first thing I smelled in the morning.

Since that evening, I have been spending more intimate, contemplative time with my favorite perfumes. I have realized that the comfort I am looking for comes from the great perfumes. I’ve spent more time trying to understand the subtler construction techniques that my favorite perfumers use. What I’ve also learned is that everything eventually falls apart. The question is can it be used to build something new? I’m not sure I have that particular answer yet. What I do know is the art of perfumery is providing a place for me to elevate my psyche and calm my furrowed brow. That is as a good a prescription for the present as I can ask for.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Shay & Blue Dandelion Fig- Dandelion Break!

Among the things which symbolize summer to me is a field of grass dotted with the puffy white pop-poms of dandelions. There was a hill near where I grew up which I would roll down coming up at the bottom with dandelion fuzz in my clothes and hair. Those were the lazy serene days of summer with the smells of grass and dandelions the scent of that. It was shown in a more amusing way by the comic strip Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed. The strip below shows how a dandelion break can be just the antidote needed in times of stress.

When it comes to perfume, dandelion is not something found very often as an ingredient. A bare handful of fragrances list it as a part of the formula. It was why I was very interested to try the latest release from Shay & Blue, Dandelion Fig.

Julie Masse and Dominic de Vetta

Established in 2012, by Dominic de Vetta, Shay & Blue is one of those well-kept secrets within niche perfume. Mr. de Vetta worked at Jo Malone prior to moving to his own brand. One of the things I always think about is a Shay & Blue fragrance is an adventurous take on the same kind of perfume architecture of his previous employer. Focusing on a couple of ingredients whose names are on the bottle but with a different kind of verve to it. For all the releases to date perfumer Julie Masse has been the nose. Together Mr. de Vetta and Mme Masse have created a very coherent collection of which Dandelion Fig is among the best of them.

Dandelion Fig is a soft paean to a midsummer’s day. Despite the use of the sharp green facets of dandelion leaves Mme Masse uses lemongrass and grass accords to soften those spiky moments. The early moments of Dandelion Fig are fresh because of the lemongrass while the cut grass accord and the dandelion leaves provide a pillowy verdancy. It is then made even more softly green by the addition of tomato leaf. Mme Masse uses it to change the green from grass to garden. To add to that juniper berry is along for the ride. It adds a refreshing zing to things adding to the energy from the lemongrass. The fig shows up in the base as a healthy shot of what I think is stemone which is shaded towards its greener incarnation by the other ingredients which preceded it. Once this all flows together it is a beautiful marriage of particularly complementary notes.

Dandelion Fig has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I really urge you to reach out and try all of the Shay & Blue releases to date. It is a line worth the effort. If you need a place to start Dandelion Fig is a great choice. I have admired the brand since it was founded but with Dandelion Fig it has come of age while allowing me to have a dandelion break, even in the middle of winter.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke