New Years High Resolutions

January 25, 2009

New Year, new American President and the edge of a new decade.

Also, birthday greetings to my two favourite recent twenty-one year olds, even if only one of them reads this blog.

Recently Read:

The Boys: Volume 1 – The Name of the Game;

Written by Garth Ennis of Preacher fame, and illustrated by the artist of Transmetropolitan, The Boys endeavours to be just as thematically and visually offensive as those two combined, a Herculean task emminently fulfilled.

Essentially, we have the world-of-superheroes theme, and this is a situation with which not all are satisfied.

The eponymous Boys are the CIA’s group of hired thugs to keep the supes in line with a brand of justice that is entirely revenge. Is it justified? Well, of the group of five, the first volume reveals that one of the group’s boys had a love-of-his-life girlfriend inertially liquiefied when the supe ‘A-Train’ knocked an enemy into her at mach 3. Insult to injury, A-Train stretched briefly, regaling the horrified crowd with how he used the old ‘run-on-water’ trick to fox his enemy, before taking off at high speed with a cry of ‘Nobody Can Stop The A-Train!’

This is Wee Hugh who witnesses both the horrific, instantaneous destruction of his girlfriend and the cavalier attitude of the supes to the situation. Visually based on Simon Pegg (and this is in the days before Shaun of the Dead fame), Hugh is approached by Butcher, who is setting up his team again after a time of unspecified activity. Butcher’s reason?

Apparently Butcher’s wife, another of the love-of-your-life variety, was taken in a physical fashion against her will by an unnamed, but hinted-at, supe, she never told him about it, and he only read about it in her diary afterwards. The ‘afterwards’ being after the super-foetus tears its way out of her womb, kills her, burns a few scars into Butcher’s arm with its instinctive laser vision, and is beaten to death by Butcher with the nightstand lamp.

Thankfully, there is no flashback for this sequence.

The hinted at supe? No less than Homelander, the Superman exspy (a tv trope term for alternate world opposite number) of this universe’s Seven, a parody of the Justice League, from the ‘Big Three’ to the Other Four who are a little disgruntled about their smaller cut of the toy sales. The newest of the four is Starlight, the Christian corn-belt addition to the team after the shadowy, as-yet-undeveloped of Lamplighter ( The Green Lantern alternate, apparently). Hugh’s opposite number protaganist in this story, she has a very naive ideal of heroes such as the Seven, which is a graphically ended as Hugh’s was.

Of course, they meet, not knowing who the other is, when both are questioning their new allegiances, and, in giving each other fairly non-descript descriptions of their new jobs, encourage each to continue. But of course.

Much is set up in this volume, from the universe-direct (all superpowers are born from exposure to a drug called the V Compound, developed by Nazi scientists [surprise!], all other backstories are fictional, and all American superheroes seem to be funded by the super-corporation Voight-American), to the universe-implied ( an open shot of New York in this world’s 2006 shows the Twin Towers to be standing and the Brooklyn Bridge to be destroyed), in a a way rich with promise.

I will not say The Boys is not for the faint of heart. It isn’t, of course, but it isn’t for the stout of heart either. The writer and artist to shock your eyes with every splash shot. On a scale of one to horror, its a solid Elfen Lied. And, as my one reader hasn’t seen Elfen Lied, its the assault of Sally Jupiter in Watchmen, in graphic detail, every few pages. The two-parter is not called “The Cherry” for nothing. You can stand this stuff and still feel that Ennis is being perverse for the sake of being perverse and put it aside. This is entirely legitimate. Personally I feel he is not, but seriously, this is not a book to be read without that understanding.

As this extends to the characters: The Heroes aren’t the good guys. The Boys aren’t the good guys. Its a drag-down, bare-knuckle fight in a Saturday night alley in which no side is the plucky underdog facing the Empire. Hughie and Starlight, are the two you might sympathise with at this point, these fish-out-of-water being our eyes, but as Butcher says to the question of ‘maybe there are good supers’, ‘F**k ’em’.

Powers: Volume 1 – Who Killed Retro Girl;

Brian Michael Bendis writes Powers, another city-of-supers, with the additional Watchmen trope of it-all-begins-with-the-murder-of-superhero. This time however, it is actually the cops investigating the crime and catching the criminal. The story plays fairly interestingly with most tropes: the we-can’t-give-superman-CPR becomes we can’t autopsy Retrogirl. Coming the other way are typical cop tropes: imagine a hostage situation with a guy wearing a jet pack. On the other hand, this seemed almost allegorical – for instance, we eventually find out Retrogirl was killed with mortal means while under the influence of a homebuilt power-drainer (of which the cops many in their detention and interview cells), and yet nobody thought to put Retrogirl under one of these while she was under the knife. Similarly, the police seem to get on ok with the superheroes, and yet nobody called them in on the jet pack case.

I wouldn’t nitpick so, nor does it take me out of the story, but these are noticeably constructed situations for plot progress and theme development. Whether it is a worthy mystery drama yet is indeterminate.

The art style nearly turned me off early on also. Essentially, it looks about the same quality at first glance as the comics that accompanied Heroes online – not bad by any means, but not as developed as many of its contemporaries. A seeming explanation comes out of the mouth babes when a young girl, Calista, notes that the backgrounds in cartoons are well drawn, but not the background characters – these are flat. It comes home when you see the first hero arrayed in shadow and light rather beautifully, while detective is illustrated like he’s the guy who is almost, but not quite, looks like Wally in Where’s Wally. These aren’t the heroes – nor the other guys ( the Mystery Men, if you will) –  these are the other other guys; the police, whose job it was all along.

As a book, Powers stands a little thick; the comics, the script for the first issue, the character gallery, the character sketch gallery, etc. I’m all in favour for extra features, but it seems a little heavy. The second story, an at-the-end mini-issue seems to draw a line between two points that this is going to be the ‘law and order’ criminal intent kind of show – mostly psych/story backed up backgrounded evidence, with the twist and turns until the villain, in the presence of their lawyer and against his advice confesses to the crime, in detail, with flow charts. I’m not pimping CSI here as the villains of CSI do the same thing, just with forwarded evidence and several backgrounded stories. I’m not-not pimping these shows either, nor am I not pimping Powers, as much as it may seem like that – I love them all, these cops, but these are cop shows with certain conceits of resources, time, coincidence and monologuing.

I am coming down a little on Powers, true. It has the Prophetic Waif-child, the police chief who is Getting Pressure from above, the backstory-through-headlines motif, the New Partner and the Grumpy Old Partner who has hardbitten issues. Particularly, it has the implication of an immortal hero inexplicably losing his powers, who can’t remember anything from the turn of the century. When they did this in act 3 of Hancock, it dropped a brick on my foot for that show and I hope that is not the case for Powers. The superhero with gaps in his memory isn’t the worst trope afterall: Frost in Planetary, or V from V for Vendetta make good use of this – but it can go horribly wrong.

All in all, worth a read at least, but I’ve yet to see if its a sustained by.

On Horizon:

Five more graphic novels on order ( substantial book vouchers received)

Wishlist:

Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is not, alas, not on the list of the above read or horizon books. Can’t get it here, and it sounds awesome. Must pursue.


Dance, Revenant, Dance

October 31, 2008

 Shocking Space Revelation for Revenant : (Dr Who Spoilers)

David Tennant is to stand down as Doctor Who, after becoming one of the most popular Time Lords in the history of the BBC science fiction show.

Tennant stepped into the Tardis in 2005, and will leave the role after four special episodes are broadcast next year.

 

Ce n’est pas le Medicin?!?

He made the announcement after winning the outstanding drama performance prize at the National Television Awards.

“When Doctor Who returns in 2010 it won’t be with me,” he said.

Cry, Pansy, Cry

“Now don’t make me cry,” he added. “I love this part, and I love this show so much that if I don’t take a deep breath and move on now I never will, and you’ll be wheeling me out of the Tardis in my bath chair.”

‘I’ll miss it’

 I won’t miss you. With the rifle.

Just kidding. Hope the new doctor to be just as cool. Up to eleven, eh? They better give him a good send off. Nothing less than the resurrected Master in a Christmas special.Whoever could be next? Younger still? Toddler Doctor? Baby Einstein Doctor? Zygote Doctor? Doctor-the-glint-in-the-milkman’s-eye?

Feeling so blue....

Feeling so blue....

Yes, I know I’m not even supposed to be here today.

Find the full article at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7698539.stm


The Silly Marillion (spoilers)

October 25, 2008
FLCL: Seen

6 episodes – if EVA had been that short, it might have been more bearable. Ta-kun definitely was more so than Shinji. A Gainax production of a kid in a robot fighting aliens under the watch of a strange agency while indecisive in relations between three different girls, yes I can make that comparison.

The soundtrack is awesome. The sound of The Pillows is as iconic as that of Cowboy Bebop. It is not a disservice to say that the show is built around the themes rather than other way round. I like Crazy Sunshine and Little Busters.

The art is beautiful. As with many such 6-12 episode series ( that even extends to the dr who series ) the production value is high in the sense that every still frame appears to have been drawn, nay painted, by either Hayo Miyazaki, Tony Taka or Alex Ross.

The story – it expresses the ideas of anxiety around growing up very well. A guy has a horn growing out of head he can’t control – thats acne, right?

Right?

Anyway, its the kind of randomness that’ll make you leap upon the raft of causality when the narrative mentions a tenuous conspiracy plot, sandwiched between scenes of the obscenely strange and the perfectly observed mundane.

Ta-kun, the son of a bizarre publisher-baker and grandson of a pornagraphic retired baker, brother of a burgeoning baseball star in America, friend to the girlfriend (ex) of that brother, friend to the daughter of disgraced local politician, living in the town Mabuse, whose skyline dominated by the iron-shaped Medical Mechanica building. The preceding sentence makes little sense, and so does Ta-kun’s life when he gets hit on the head with a drawstring guitar by the moped loving alien hunter, who proceeds to dominate his life and make weird robots emerge from his head.

Its excellent and I need to get a dose of opening and closing themes regularly.

Haibane Renmei: Seen

Its like the exact opposite of Elfen Lied, with a polarity shift in the time devoted to darkness, but when it goes dark its very dark.

Like Genshiken, it shifts from who you think the lead is going to be to somebody else’s story. It starts with Rakka, who awakens in a small town, walled upon all sides, with wings and (eventually) a halo. She is called, and lives with other beings like herself as haibane. The individual haibane only live in the town (which has a regular human population) for a few years. Then their Day of Flight comes, personal to each and known to each, and they disappear. Those who do not take their day of flight . . . do they become crows? Become the mysterious cloaked Toga who are the only ones to walk beyond the town bounds? Die?

The threat lies in Reki, whose Day of Flight seems to approach. As this proceeds, we get the feeling that the haibane are, though never explicited stated, the dead that have time yet to serve, problems yet to resolve, and that if they do not resolve it on a basic emotional level, the circle of sin for some, then thats it forever. Reki, more than any other character, reflects Rakka’s stages of development, and foeshadows her future.

Essentially, its the most beautifully drawn, happy-sad anime I’ve seen. Definitely a first showing to the right type of audience.

Ah Kyu.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Seen

Ah, there is a much better review of this on the internet. Its on the blog marked ‘revenant’ to side there. However, something appears to be eating its data alive, so until thats resolved, let this poor example be its understudy stand-in.

 A little explanation. A friend of mine began using some very strange language on bebo, such as “Don’t believe in the me who believes in you, believes in the you who believes in himself.” Also, there were strange icons of a green-tinted sunglasses wearing fellow.

As such, I decided to investigate, and, well, I caught the meme. And this show does have a meme. Spiral beings are every set-busting, rule-breaking, magic-shattering, mind-smashing, sons of monkeys that bust up the formal status quo.

The shows boundaries are therefore burned through every few shows, doing in a season what it would take several to do, if at all. Simon the Digger, Kamina and Yoko go beyond that original set up very quickly, and so well written that every step made sense, felt right, and fit in with the series theme.

Simon and Kamina, in busting out of their underground village, discover the topside to be dominated by Gurrens (mecha) driven by various beastmen. This is the perfect set up for a seasonal gurren-of-the-week, which is rejected out of hand. It instead moves on, and on, and on, and on, and on, spiralling through to the universe to the infinity of the other side.

The characters I adore without comment.

The story shouldn’t work – it should jump the shark every other episode, but doesn’t.

The soundtrack is quite awesome, with its strange mix of classical themes and ‘Fight the Power’ rhythm.

Beautiful ending, you know. Don’t why a kid was trying to drill a coconut, but it was beautiful all the same. Don’t know if the mole-pig runt Boota had power of its own, or its exposure brought it out. Even that shouldn’t have worked, but did. Not a big point, but seeing as he was in human form at the start of the first episode (with its ambiguity in time), I wasn’t sure if he was a descendant of an early spiral knight being who deevolved into pig moles, or if that little flash was of late-Simon era Boota.

I really liked Rossiu. Crazy religious guy who converts and thus becomes more terrible than original adherents is rarely done so well.

Very rewatchable. Very first time friendly.

Ah, Kamina. And Kittan. And Nia. The Yoko kiss of death.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya: Seen

This little recommendation was another little life long love.

Kyon, our narrator, who dreamily wished that the strange was real as a child, then cast that aside, comes into a world where is the only normal human. This little world consists of three beautifully written characters – Yuki, the interface-purpose human data module, Mikuru-chan, the time-travelling jailbait and Itzumi, the transfer-student esper. All of these centre around the one, the only, believer in all, super utility talent mystery girl, Haruhi Suzimiya.

Ah, to explain her. Impossible. To describe her. Improbable. To defy her. Undoable. Sufficed to say, the first episode doesn’t feature her until the last few seconds, but by the time its over you have an exact grasp of her character. You probably know someone like her. From a distance.

I’ve overused this line to much in these reviews, but its a common theme in the shows I like best that they observe unidentified, universal gestures, experiences and situations. The way Yuki raises the book cover slightly when she is asked what she is reading, to the way they have her talk by simply sitting reading a text. The way they have Itzumi pause to discuss his emotions in the scene of a poor student movie, to his offhand comments about the state of existence. Mikuru’s high pitched whining to her kerfuffles in time travel. All nailed so perfectly that they slip so easily into the mind.

I liked Kyon. A good little narrator. Witty. Last episode narration just beautiful. He does it with panache were so many other males do it with contempt or shame. I’m actually interested in the manga for this one, and I’ll have to find out if its My Thing. Hopefully it is.

Ah, Asakura. Before she turned out be a sociopathic murdering robot, I might have felt sorry for her data disintegration.

Good bye World.

Trigun: Seen

If you want a Fireflyesque show about a guy who can shoot people better any human, nay any carbon-based non-chlorroflyll beings and chooses not to ever, ever take a life, and backs that up at his own expense. Its off the wall, hilarious, painful, tragic, wise enough to be quiet, brave enough to be foolish and thoughtful enough to end.

Vash the Stampede, most feared man on the planet Gunsmoke, is an individual of plant parallel evolution whose speed, strength and reaction times leave humans in the dust. These abilities are shared by his brother Knives, who nobody knows about, and thus no-one fears as much as they should. Vash, on the other hand, has an unlimited knowledge of gunplay and would never take any form of life. And he backs it up, and that is such a rare theme in any narrative form, that I feel the need to repeat. Its hard, it’d be easier in so many ways, he could save so many more good folk, and his friends, and he never relents.

Its like that Dr Who episode where he gets to say “Nobody dies!”

It was like Green Arrow, but could confront the issue of a realistic non-anachronistic killing weapon being used for a non-fatal use.

It was Back to the Future III where he takes a bullet in the oven plate.

It was Shepherd Book and the Operative, (I just read ‘Those Left Behind’ – awesome!). It was  Bilbo sparing Gollum, it was Light-dono sparing Mihael, etc.

It was Batman.

I’m probably letting the eye of nostalgia overselling it, but I’m interested in a show that either denies death or makes it happen only to those defined as non-people. The death of the man with cross filled with heavy mercy was one of a choice not to survive on the bones of others. It is not proud, does the impossible, and thus makes it mighty.

Here endeth the lesson

Also, I finished Death Note. I can see why there would be a much preferable ending. I think of it an elseworlds tale whose examination of a Light whose psychosis only exacerbated upon unplanned revelation to the point of total mental breakdown. I’d like to read this manga ending.

Read:

Ex Machina – First Hundred Days:

He is a superhero, quits, becomes a mayor of New York, (before Heroes). The order in which this is presented are flash backs that seem to be composited quite carefully. A lot of implieds dropped in the first issue. This has been out of the corner of my for a while, and it totally fufilled. Good stuff. More later.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.

Like American Gods, unlike it, Gaiman claimed he wrote it after people he though Pratchett did the comedy in Good Omens. Silly puppets. Hilarious observational stuff. Lets put this way: There are two fairly impossible scenes about an entirely unanticipated cheap flight to Saint Andrews and the resulting taxi cab to hotel that only differ from what happened to Gaiman in two respects: One, for Gaiman the Island was Barbados, not Saint Andrews, and two, for Gaiman, when the driver pulled the car in a one-eighty hand brake turn, it was to pluck a nutmeg from a tree, not a lime.

A mythology anthology all his own.

Anime Bar

The Chili Peppers had a song called Animal Bar. Quite recommendable.

The Anime Bar has a similarly random theme. In the Anime Bar, Kamina and Kittan are constantly fighting joint hosts and Nia head cook whose food nobody can eat.

In the Anime Bar, Maes Hughes shows pictures of his child to anyone, and dandles the Tucker girl on his knee while she feeds Alexander under the table.

In the Anime Bar, Kyu sups at a lemonade while sketching a flight device on a bar napkin. Reki is painting a painting in tomato ketchup. Maybe its a smiling train, maybe its a sun coming out after rain, who knows.

In the Anime Bar Kaji and Kaoru munch on melon from the brunch menu. Misato Katsuragi chugs away regardless, but she’ll need help getting home as always.

In the Anime Bar the man with the cross full of mercy gives a sermon between drinks.

In the Anime Bar, Spike is watching the TV for another bounty. Theres a girl there called Julia, like the Beatles song.

ITAB Mr. Hibiya discusses economics with the original Yumi.

ITAB Light-dono is reading a notebook with great interest. There are many police officers around him. There are no shinigami here but Rem and Jealous.

ITAB, I’m not going to lie to you, there are a lot of the Elfen Lied cast. Pretty much all of them. There is a shortage of chairs. There is a little girl with a dog getting along alot better now.

ITAB, which crosses genres quite easily, there is a man with dinosaur toys making shadow puppets on the wall while a Shepherd observes the good Reverend with great interest and some humour.

And why this diversion? Because that is 2,000+ words and I’m taking next week off.

Remember: Love and Peace!


Prisoner of Azerbaijan: Dog’s Body

September 7, 2008

Having never typed ‘dog lover’ into the search bar of a Google Image Search with the parental controls removed, I don’t know what I would see, merely that I’d regret it. However, apart from the bestial of beastiality, dog lover has connotations of late that are quite disturbing.

As previous posts have mentioned, I am a holder of many dogs, and I accept all their inbred dramas and instincts. I have much reason to wish they did differently than they do sometimes, but I bear with it, just as I hope I would bear with it if had an actual bear, in using it for good, not evil.

There are some dog lovers who are somewhat different. Take the Rhodesian Ridgeback. This breed is defined by its ridge; if it doesn’t have it, it isn’t a purebred, despite its stock and health.Apparently, one in twenty puppies of this breed are born without the ridge, and if they are born in the kennel of a top dog Crufts dog breeder, its likely that they’ll be put down. The vast majority of vets will not do this, so these dogs, for nothing more than a lack of a trait, will be taken to an ‘old’ vet to be put down.

The most reproachable part of this whole operation is the fact that the ‘ridge’ of the Ridgeback has been recognised as actually being a form of canine spine abifida for the past twenty years.

One breeder who did this claimed that it better than the dog ‘falling into the hands of the dog fighting people’.

Another term, ‘pug ugly’, is a fairly recent creation. The second part is obvious; the breed has a flatter face than a short-sighted car-chasing cat. But pictures from the 1700s reveal it originally to be a sleek, healthy creature. The modern pug is not only sufering a radical change in exterior, but it has been bred to look so. And, as a result, the breed at large is riddled with respitory, bone and organ problems. Individual dogs with these problems, many with neural pain, are not only allowed to breed, but encouraged to do so.

Dog breeders aren’t alone in this. As we all know from ‘Over the Hedge’, there are breeds of cats that can barely breathe, never mind smell.

One particular cat ‘breeder’ has managed to breed cats with incredibly weak forelegs, so they need to rest on their back legs making them look, according to the breeder, ‘like squirrels’.

The problem I have with things is partially people designing things to look good rather than work well. The other part is the concept of ‘good breeding’, a scale which I would no doubt rate owly, what with not looking good but having a robust constitution and power to move you.

Dog gonnit!

Webcomic Update:

The Big Difference Between Men and Women of Barkin’ Madde Studios & Mr. Mephisto Inc is going on a one-year (at least) hiatus, to be replaced by Sketchbook Autopsy.

A happy return is heralded to Conor Lynch’s Comics with the creation of The Chuffer and its current title comic, ‘Brian and his Bra (34 C, if you must know)’. Next issue: Brian and his bra On Safari.


Northern Brights

August 17, 2008

The Princess Bride; a strange book, but extremely witty and comedic.

The story is told as if written by an S. Morgenstern of an equally fictional land, which Goldman has ‘edited’ for the good parts. Those who’ve seen the film will be familiar with the premise – a father reading to bedbound son (editing for excitement) a tale of excitement and miracles.

Goldman works over a lot of thinking amid his hilarity. The concepts of happy endings, narrative imperative, exaggeration, love, skill and time. If its fairytale preachy, it does it with style, and ultimately comes out like Voltaire’s Candide: the concept that the fast must get old, good looks fade, arguments must arise among lovers and we all must, in time, tend our own gardens.

In other lit interest, after listening to the podiobook Ancestor by Scott Sigler I’ve been listening to some of his other works. I have listened to Earthcore, am listening to Rookie, will listen to Infected and am eagerly awaiting Earthcore 2 : Mt. Fitzroy.

Much like J C Hutchins, he has a talent for seizing on the known, the unknown, the barely conceivable and entirely inconceivable. Also, there is a lot of death, blood, bloody death, deathy blood, all of which coming from the blindspot. Kicking it Stephen King style, the violence is debilitatingly detialed and unpredictable, which is where the real horror comes from.

I’m liking Rookie so far. Its different to Earthcore and Ancestor ( which were monster killers chasing widowers who worked for corporations ) and, quite scarily, nobody has died in 12 episodes. Given that Sigler usually gets in a slaughter or explosion in by chapter 2, this is unsettling. There can only be a massacre on the horizon.

Its still quite violent of course. Its Sigler. And it is about football.

Its the American kind, but on other worlds, played by their inhabitants. I know that sounds terrible, but Sigler seems to be making it not only work, but bloom. Think Remember the Titans meets Star Trek. Usually trying to follow football terms makes me want to gnaw of my own arm, and thats when I can see them on screen. Sigler, however, has succeeded thus far at making come alive as a sport, rather than the usual thing of necessity, happy incident, a montage of the team winning, a bad incident, a montage of the team losing, a near victory, then a hooray.

As with all podcasters, he uses tech to spread the word – blogs, second life, podsafe bands, bonus shows, cross promotion, facebook, etc. The print transition continues, the books becoming available as Sigler has seized a highly loyal fanbase. Much like Mur Lafferty’s impending publicated Playing for Keeps and Matthew Wayne Selznick’s Brave Men Run, a podcasted work doesn’t seem to compromise the print work, but rather creates a fanbase waiting for it such as when Sigler’s print Ancestor came out on April 1st and reached 7th on Amazon’s top bought on that day, by co-ordinated fan power. As with all podcasters, fans become street team promoters, creators of original/complimentary content in the visual and tech arenas. The tight fan community is mirrored in the creator community with seemingly every podcaster reading ‘previously on rookie’, interviewing sigler, doing promos and playing a first chapter or two in their shows.

. . . .

Go Ionath Krakens!


The Subtle Life

July 26, 2008

THIS WEEK: The Wishlist AND What I actually ordered

“These in part taught me what graphic novels could be, along with Kingdom Come, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and Moore’s own League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. But more on those respective stories later.”

As Dougal’s Rabbit graph once displayed on Father Ted, dreams and reality are far far apart., and one must live the subtle life between them *ANGST WARNING*

The Wishlist:

1. Superman Red Son – Mark Millar

> An Elseworlds tarradiddle of the DC Universe.

To explain: I am very anal retentive about my reading; I like my stories to have a beginning, middle and an end. Oh, by no means does a character or plot arch have to be confined to one text without sequel, but I do like any one issue/episode/book/film to have some sort of ending in an of itself, even if if it is predicated upon its conclusion in a sequel.

As such, I’ve never really been au fait with reading the mainstream comics, with thousands of issues, hundreds of the different writers and artists, and many, many reboots of continuity. Brief archs are ok, but overall it somewhat goes over my head.

Therefore, I like characters (when reading illustrated texts) that are one shots; that have that unity of action where they can be killed, or maimed, or crazed, or finished, without seeing it changed back next week. I want that capacity of the development of a multi-million dollar property like Superman, Batman, etc., and the security of a one-shot’s conclusion.

Also, I find its much, much cheaper.

DC’s Elseworlds is therefore my dream come true: Steampunk Batman, Green Lantern Batman, Vampire Batman, Superman but raised as Batman, Supergirl as Superman . . . even a series based on the films of 1920’s German Expressionist Cinema.

Red Son is one such series – Baby Superman lands in Stalin’s Russia rather than Kennedy’s America. Tipping those international scales, the impact is interesting as it is shocking. I’d read about, heard it recommended, and it seems like a good way to start an Elseworlds adventure.

*Successfully Ordered!

2. Hellboy Vol 1: Seed of Destruction – Mike Mignola

This essentially is the first Hellboy film’s basis in the comic. With the Golden Army imminent, and the awesome of the first movie, I thought I’d read up on it. The first film was by no means a strict adaptation, but apparently Mignola approves del Toro’s work so I think I can give it a try.

My particular attractions here are: Overtones of Lovecraft, John Constantine, Rasputin, alternate history and evil fish frog people in the british aristocracy. I’ve seen the artwork before, and it does indeed seem to be artwork, so hopefully it fufils on the whole, as the showgirl said to the vicar.

*Successfully Ordered!

And here is where it all goes wrong . . .

3. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen : The Black Dossier – Alan Moore

As my glomping on this series in earlier rants should indicate, I do love a little Alan Moore in general and The L of EG in specific.  The Black Dossier isn’t necessarily a strict succession to the first two volumes, but also a way to showcase the Black Dossier of the title, which recounts various league adventures of the past to the present day, with that usual omnivorous mix of fact, fiction and myth that Moore has so mae his own in this series. A Tijuana Bible, a Wodehouse style adventure with the Elder Gods, Woolf’s Orlando recounting his/her 3,000 year history . . . . ‘ Tis the stuff of book nerd dreams. There was 12 pages of this type of stuff at the end of Vol. 2, and it just made my mouth water for more.

Alas, however, its not available for retail here.

You see, the first 2 volumes heavily referenced works by authors whose copyright had expired – H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, etc. However, the Black Dossier uses much more recent and copyright relevant authors like George Orewell, Virginia Woolf, H.P. Lovecraft and so on. As such, while available in America, its not available here in Europe.

*NOT Successfully Ordered!

4. Eagle: The Making of an Asian American Presidency.

A fascinating, short manga series about an Asian American senator’s fictional run for the American Presidency against what appears to be Bill Clinton. Apparently its a smart, political take on this concept, with West Wing style views of the next President’s campaign and reign.

Not that I wouldn’t want Bill Clinton to win an American Presidency again, or Hillary to win the next one: I’d prefer either Clintons to either of the George Bushes. I say this as someone who has no residency or vote in America nor much care for its affairs except for the Big Red Button. In this capacity Ifear the Bushes: People who believe God tells them what to do, believe they are right with God, act in his name and fear none but him, these are the people that can willfully bring about Armageddeon. No, I want the man whose screwing around and wants to put off Judgement Day as long as possible, or the woman sufficiently patient to stick by her husband in the face of national scandal to stay with her own political aims.

All props to Obama of course. Only one American personality of sufficient weight could decide between an African American President and a female president, and Oprah did make her choice wisely.

Alas, it too is not available here.

This however is just the slow process of manga filtering in to the Irish market. Perhaps, one day, I will fulfil my dream of humming Turning Japanese while reading an American-Political drama.

*NOT Successfully Ordered!

5. Emma – Kaoru Mori

Emma is a manga set in Victorian England. Not Steampunk England, not Victorian style Future-England, not dancing robot-pretend Victorian England. Why therefore is it a manga? Thats right – Emma is a maid. In love with the son of a rising trade family, hopelessly so due to there ambitions for his marital opportunities, Mori has crafted a heartwarming plot in a setting of intricate detail to the period.

As those of you who picked on my Jane Austen comments may guess, I likes my Victorian England marriage plots and to see one presented so unusually in format is so very interesting to me. That, and I like maids. Not in a weird, whips and leashes type way, but more maids with guns, nurses with knives, catgirlswith three-inch steel claws and bunnygirls with so much articulated kick in that bent back leg to separate ribs. I like juxtaposition of formats and themes, characters and situations, and the sound of a Victorian manga maid makes me feel theres a social revolution I’m missing somewhere.

Alas, it is of indeterminate status. Published by CMX manga here, unlike Eagle its far more likely to be avaialable, but seems to exist on an eerie orderable but not necessarily receivable netherworld on my retailer’s order list.

*NOT Successfully Ordered?

Next Week: The Dark Knight review you all deserve. Briefly: AWESOME! More on that story later.


Not So Grossman

June 8, 2008
A child with the name Austin Grossman will have a lot of problems in the schoolyard.

Children are never forgiving of Texan placename names.

However, Grossman appears to have overcome this namesakery stunting by by pulling off a genre master work in his superhero opus “Soon I Will Be Invincible!”. Grossman wisely avoids concentrating on any one plot-device doomsday-machine or last-minute save-the-day-strategy. Rather, “Soon I Will be Invincible” takes on the genre of superheroics, of the gold, silver, bronze ages, and takes in several other genres like Tom Swift’s American whiz-kids, Wellsian Victorian adventurers, etc.

The text alternates from the point of view of an old school supervillain and a new-school superheroine. The disappearance of the famed superhero CoreFire, the past of the supervillain Doctor Impossible and the efforts of the New Champions to hunt him down . . . this is a superhero story, but one with a panolpy of invented and referential ‘verse that dominates the text. There is drama, but not of any variety that usually presents in a vigilante vigil. The apex of the novel comes long before the day is saved and the villain defeated, (if he is at all – duh-duh-dum!), and the most interesting character examinations escape ‘villain’ and ‘hero’ terms; Not individually psychologically in depth as those in Watchmen – rather Grossman focuses, if that is the word, on the overall. It is the beautiful imagery, nerd factor 10, of the text shines through every moment, such as:

Baron Ether is old. He lost an eye fighting Paragon and replaced with a mechanical device of his own construction. Whatever gave him his original superpowers has mostly faded, except the elongated shape of his skull and a coal-like glow behind his remaining eye. He’s an old man – no one knows really how old – and he’s been a villain a long, long time. He started out robbing railroads. He fought Victorian adventurers and American whiz-kids, wore a mustache and carried a trick cane whose jewelled head bulged with concealed gadgetry.

In the late 1940s, he came to America and founded the first League of Evil. He fought the Super Squadron long before I did, even cruised the timestream and fought the SS three thousand centuries from now . One time, he threw in with his own alternate-dimensional self to steal a fortune in gold, only to cheat his double out of the proceeds. Classic.

In the fifties, he blazed a trail of infamy. He did it all, robbed the Freedom Force of their memory, swapped bodies with them, cloned himself. Lost one set of powers and gained another, was set adrift in time and spent six years in the Cretaceous befre building his own time machine. He came back from that one twenty years younger, a side effect of the chronon particles.

In the sixties, he reinvented himself again as a Mephistophelian master of illusion, and stayed out of prison for a while. As recently 1978, they thought they’d seen the last of him, when a stolen space shuttle disappeared into the void, outbound from the plane of the eliptic at a perilous angle. But a year later he returned, only to be defeated again in the waning days of the Carter presidency. But he never lost his panache – by the end, he was using hardware with gears and bras fittings against mutants with fusion-powered hardware.”

Recently released in paperback, its an affordable beauty of its genre, and worth a read if thats what you’re into.

 

I make this point due to two reasons:

1 – This was the first book I read in one sitting for a while. Partially, that is because it is the first time in a long time that I have time to. But, also, it caused instant geekulation, as Mur Lafftery might define it.

2 – This is the product of recent events.

By ‘Recent events’, I mean the recent glut of superhero movies. Leading from Spiderman’s success, we’ve had DC and Marvel’s finest struting the screen. Related medias have seen similar influences – television, graphic novels and so forth. Novels are indeed Grossman’s work, but he is not the only one. There have been a lot of superhero novels, from published works like ‘Superheroes’, printed webcomics, like DJ Coffman’s ‘Hero By Night’, to podcast published ‘Playing For Keeps’ by Mur Lafftery and ‘Brave Men Run’ by Matthew Wayne Selznick.

All fine works in themselves, but there are two particular elements that cause interest:

1 – These are works that wouldn’t have gotten off agent’s shelves and slush piles without the superhero burst.

2 – This interest in some authors would have been formed in roughly the past five fiscal years.

That is, when I picked up one such recent text, the cover blurb detailed some college students, who received their superhero powers off of a case of bad beer, are about to go through a true test of their friendship and learn how “fragile they really are”. So the superhero genre has so flooded the market, its quite become a background setting rather than the crux of the plot, like being set in a hospital, or a police station or a tv show set.

I should probably be bemoaning the denigration of the genre, but fiscally I’m interested in whether:

(a) this will make a superheroic integration to modern culture,

or

(b) get superheroics rejected in five to eight years like a bad kidney.

Like any market oversaturation, particularly of increasingly low-quality or diluted nature, it might end up blowing the vigilante genre out of pop culture more effectively than the comic book code authority ever did.

That said, the reverse is true. New examinations of the genre, in everything from the tv show heroes to books like “Soon I Will Be Invincible”, rejuvenate as much so as works like Watchmen and Batman by Alan Moore and Frank Miller respectively did for the genre in the eighties, then-inventing many of the acrhetypes surfacing in Nolan’s Batman or Wachowski’s V for Vendetta.

So this could be the genre’s much needed archetypal enema, or the overdose that puts it in the ground for as while.

But, just like superheroes and supervillains, whatever the outcome, it will rise again. As the man said:“When your laboratory explodes, lacing your body with a super-charged elixir, what do you do? You don’t just lie there. You crawl out of the rubble, hideously scarred, and swear vengeance on the world. You keep going. You keep trying to take over the world.”