Michael Avolio's sci-fi war story romance webcomic
Michael Avolio

Flesh Machine has just hit page 200!

I've posted new pages of Flesh Machine, the comic I write and draw each week, over at All 200 pages are there for your enjoyment (and your occasional horror as well). New readers should start from the beginning. It'll be 300 pages when it's done...

If you like what I'm doing with Flesh Machine, you can share it with your friends, and you can also join my Patreon patrons in supporting my comics work.

Thanks for reading Flesh Machine so far, and extra thanks to my Patreon patrons. I'm excited to have made it this far...

Here's to the next hundred pages!


Bob Dylan, our greatest living songwriter and my favorite artist in any art form, turned 76 the other week. He's been a passionate traditionalist, a revolutionary iconoclast, and an inspiration to countless other artists. No one person since William Shakespeare has done so much to shape an entire medium, and no other artist has made such a deep and profound impact on me.

He recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature, despite being a writer of songs rather than of books, short stories, or regular poetry. You can listen to his beautiful, rambling, 27 minute Nobel acceptance speech, in which he talks about some of his influences and connections to literature, here.


The other day, I came across some old reviews I wrote on Netflix (I don't know if the streaming service features customer reviews anymore, but the DVD/Blu-ray-by-mail service does). I thought these might interest some of you, so below is a selection of my short reviews for films I liked.

Reading them all at once, it's possible you'll notice I have some terms and phrases I return to over and over, I dunno. You might also note that there's a lot of film noir and gangster pictures here... You can expect some of my future comics projects to include some of the same qualities.

Never Let Me Go
An intimate character study and a lo-fi tech-free science fiction story. Beautifully written and gorgeously shot, with honest acting and hauntingly lovely music. A sad and beautiful masterpiece.

Colors splashed wildly across the canvas. Overly long, remorselessly convoluted. Dream-logical. Unexpected from Anthony Hopkins - more like David Lynch's Mullholland Drive or Inland Empire. Mainstream audiences won't enjoy this, but I did. A fun, arty mess.

Mr. Arkadin: The Comprehensive Version
A subversive, bizarre noir with a fragmented, spiral-shaped structure. Never has Welles' cynicism been so harshly funny or sharply satisfying. The lead actor isn't strong, but the cast is filled out by one pitch-perfect cameo performance after another, Michael Redgrave chief among them. Bravura cinematography and editing - it's a Welles film, after all. As with much of Welles' later independent work, there is some dialogue dubbing that's a little distracting, and some of the picture quality is less than pristine, since the footage used for this version is drawn from multiple sources. But this is the best of the three versions of this film I've seen, and well worth watching.

Smart, understated, and human. A simple old-fashioned SF story with rich layers of meaning. Clean, concise writing. Confident direction. Gorgeous photography. Naturalistic acting. A sublime film.

Autumn Sonata
A mother and daughter deal with long-buried pain in Ingmar Bergman's intimate and raw Autumn Sonata. Flawlessly naturalistic acting from Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann. Beautiful in its simplicity, painfully honest in its execution.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
Classic '70s crime drama, in the same vein as Bullitt and The French Connection. Gritty streets. No-nonsense photography. Sparse storytelling. A tense pace. Minimalist characters defined by their actions. Crunchy often hilarious NYC dialogue. "Is he dead?" "Wouldn't you be, lieutenant?"

Scarface (1932)
Seedy and dark. The American dream done up in sleazy style. Punctuated by eruptions of machine gun fire. Combine the bravura showmanship of Hawks' filmmaking, the jagged teeth of Hecht's screenplay, and the cast's harshly contrasting ensemble work, and you've got a nasty little gangster film.

The Hidden Blade
Quiet, mature, and sweetly funny, with muted colors, understated acting, and a contemplative examination of human nature.

Crime Wave
Crime Wave hits like a '70s film shot in the '50s. Procedural realism, offhand violence, and no-nonsense acting led by Sterling Hayden's seen-it-all detective are complimented by long takes of crisp b&w photography and a clipped street-level crime story. A fresh, original voice given to age-old scenarios.

A Single Man
One of the finest films of 2009, A Single Man is a quiet, intimate masterpiece. A melancholy, poetic invitation to what makes life worth living. Immersion in a private life through deftly-handled narrative devices, naturalistic acting, haunting music, and (remarkably) color saturation. Thought-provoking. Subtle. Like a tender secret shared by a dear friend.

Force of Evil
Street poetry dialogue, intense performances, subversive politics, deep sadness. Gutter opera film noir.

Science fiction in a lived-in future. Solid story, gorgeous sets and lighting design. If High Noon was set in space, had a suspense/mystery lead-in, and wasn't sluggish and boring, it'd be Outland.

The Big Heat
Still shocking fifty-odd years on, with at least three gasp-inducing moments. Unflinching. Riveting storytelling. Chiaroscuro lighting. Heightened emotions. Performances alternating between vulnerable and intense. Noticeably strong female roles. Deeply cynical about society and human nature, but surprisingly optimistic for a film noir.

Ward No. 6
Ward No. 6 uses convincingly realistic filmmaking to unfold a Chekhov story about philosophies of life driving a sane man mad. Cinéma vérité style, naturalistic writing and performances, intellectual content, and interesting character relationships.

The Roaring Twenties
Solid storytelling, a gripping, twisting, turning narrative, and a rich performance from Cagney surrounded by a fully-committed ensemble (it's a treat to see Bogart so vicious and dirty). Tragedy, social criticism, and engaging drama.

Harry Brown
Moody, unflinching, serious, tense. Caine puts in a solid performance as a retired Marine turned vigilante in this gritty, slow-burning crime drama.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle
A quintessential 70's crime film. Mitchum brings his strength and world-weariness to a character trying to maneuver as the walls close in on him. Yates, the director of Bullitt, confidently brings a sense of realism and gritty detail to a deliberately-paced, solid story.

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
"Pat Garrett, sold out. How's it feel?" "Feels like times've changed." "Times maybe. But not me." There's a profound sadness hovering over this film. It's in the way old friends relate, in the way a sheriff dies with quiet dignity, in the way a boat drifts down the river. It's a slow, nuanced work that dwells on men whose glory days have passed them by. There are a lot of beautiful shots, and a whole gang of wonderful actors, all working in a loose but controlled framework. This is Peckinpah's best film, for my money, and my favorite western.


Thanks for reading...

Michael Avolio

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Flesh Machine:
Best Sci-Fi Romance Webcomic, 2016
- SFR Galaxy Awards

"The art in Flesh Machine is deceptively simple, with a hint of Mike Mignola influence, but this comic is one cool science fiction story for older readers. Once you start reading Flesh Machine, it is easy to get warped right into this mysterious and provocative universe."

- Farel Dalrymple
(Pop Gun War, NY Times bestseller The Wrenchies)

Copyright © 2017 Michael Avolio, All rights reserved.

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