Month: November 2009

Link Sausage: 11/30/2009

Posted by – November 30, 2009

• There’s a mini-documentary by W magazine up about Ingmar Bergman’s island home of Fårö, which showed up in his films as much as any of his recurring cast members. It’s really haunting to think about the manic notes he wrote down on his bedside table, and it turned my stomach a bit to think that it might be sold to become someone’s summer home. There’s a chance it may be preserved as an artists’ colony, though, which would be a fitting tribute to its place in cinema.

• Whoever this mystery client is who thinks they can get away with using Superman’s emblem to promote their products free of charge, I hope they have lawyers on retainer.

• Please, do not get me anything for Christmas off of this list posted by Chris Ward.

Christopher Allen interviewed Sean T. Collins about comics criticism and blogging. Among other things, he discusses old times at Wizard and snarky “no-holds-barred criticism.”

• Did you know that Kim Jong-Il‘s “official biography claims that his birth was foretold by a swallow and led to the appearance of a double rainbow along with the emergence of a new star in space.” The Mirror knows.

• I’m only eating Chocolate Marshmallow Cosmos next time I go to San Diego Comic-Con and saving a few bucks, thanks to Rickey Purdin.

100 Days, 100 Comics #49: ‘Heavy Liquid’

Posted by – November 29, 2009

Heavy LiquidThe spine of the Heavy Liquid hardcover has been staring at me since I first gave it a rushed read about a year ago. Paul Pope’s multifaceted approach to comics-making can demand more than a drive-by read to appreciated, as was the case with Batman: Year 100 for me.

Just to sketch out this graphic narrative’s anatomy for the uninformed, Heavy Liquid is the story of a cyberpunk urban drug addict whose life revolves around a massive substance resembling white mercurial lava that both grants superpowers and can be formed into exquisite works of art. Thus, you have a direct representation of Pope’s own stylistic staples, the use of white negative space, and role of comics as an escapist medium for incarnating super-beings. There’s also a passage where the heavy liquid is shown to become “black milk” when heated, which demonstrates that metaphorically black ink is another manifestation of the narcotic. Thus, Pope introduces a yin-yang-ish synthesis of opposing concepts, directing the broad focus of the book back on his own artform, labor, and — via a hero who looks just like him — his role as an artist.

The central tension in Heavy Liquid comes from the title meta-plot-device’s nature as both an illegal substance whose origins may be alien or governmental. It’s introduced in the context of the AIDS virus, which has long been the subject of conspiracy theories citing it as a bio-weapon against poor people. Thus comes the liquid’s mystique and inherent dichotomy as a danger, as well as an inspiration and medium for brilliant creations. The investigation over the course of Pope’s tale parallels the artist’s own quest to confront the morality and calling of his vocation in a world where pop art and culture are birthed from the womb almost immediately as commodified tools of unseen hidden powers atop capitalist systems. The hero (named “S”) embarks on a quest resembling Pynchonian noir Bond that involves assassins from a secret syndicate and a delivery mission for a Post-Modern art collector.

Pope clothes his hero humorously in a scaly shirt that looks like an Aquaman costume, which supports a interpretation of the artist completely submerged in a world requiring superhuman abilities of its inhabitants. Without spoiling the origins and revelations that come along the way to Heavy Liquid‘s ending, I’d point out that this graphic novel doesn’t come to an ultimate conclusion about the conflicts and mysteries it navigates as much as it frames a slice-of-life account of its hero in his daily struggles. The focus of the book rather seems to be to generate a fleshed-out world as a work of art and use it to reflect Pope’s assertions about his subject matter. In that, he succeeds while rendering characters and landscapes that are unmistakably his own. Ultimately, those elements become a story about the power beneath commercial artwork and the creators and transactions that determine how it is delivered, becoming a tale as much about how humanity is lost within commercial artwork as it is about where the human condition exists amid art and culture economies.

100 Days, 100 Comics #48: ‘B.P.R.D.: 1947’ #5

Posted by – November 24, 2009

B.P.R.D.: 1947 #5With everything else that happened during the first four issues of this miniseries, specifically the fall of Konig and the vampires, there was plenty of reason to believe this was going to be a lame-duck final issue. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, as there were a few historical moments tucked into the final pages and some potentially interesting continuity seeds that were planted. B.P.R.D.: 1947 #5 was not a climactic ending, however, by any definition, and it lacked a lot of the luster from Moon and Bá that the previous issues packed.

The central event of this issue is the exorcism of Agent Anders, which plays out in a sort of ethereal plane fashion that is a little boring. In fact, I almost had the same “This is it?” reaction that Agent Stegner did when the final conflict subsided.

The highlight of issue #5 really comes in the final pages in the ominous discussion between the Professor and the priest about Hellboy’s adoption — which in and of itself isn’t any real game changer. I don’t want to spoil anything unnecessarily here, but if you didn’t read the last four issues, pass on this, and do read the trade when it’s out, but on its own this one probably isn’t worth the $2.99.

100 Days, 100 Comics #47: ‘Hellblazer’ #261

Posted by – November 23, 2009

Hellblazer #261I’ve floated in and out of the Hellblazer series for about as long as I can remember reading comics, but dang it if this Simon Bisley cover and Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini’s interiors weren’t enough to pull me back in again. I may have a terrible eye, but I picked this up at the shop without looking at the credits, and my first reaction was that I was looking at an Eduardo Risso production. What I got instead was a fine “John Constantine goes abroad” story, whose title “White Man’s Burden” was enough to get a chuckle out of me and earn Hellblazer #261 a place in my pile.

There are a couple of parallel narratives at work here about a British Colonel in Victorian times and a Bollywood sleezeball. It’s the first part of the arc, so there are more questions that answers on the table by the time the issue wraps, but it’s an extremely accessible opening act that manages to use Indian myth and setting in a way Virgin Comics never seemed to be able to do to get me to connect with things as an ignorant reader.

There’s also this brilliant bottom half of a page where a guru is calmly selling dollar-store spiritual advice to his followers and Constantine walks in. It’s a moment of eye contact that ignites the next few pages.

It was a bit odd that there weren’t any years marked in the introductory pages of the book. I understand that the historical sequence takes place at some point in the Victorian era, and Constantine’s time is modern day in Mumbai, but a wee nod to clarify things would have been nice.

This one’s worth picking up, though, if you’re casually into the Constantine-verse and could use an easy point of re-entry.

100 Days, 100 Comics #46: ‘Immortal Weapons’ #4

Posted by – November 23, 2009

Immortal Weapons #4When I start looking back over my pull lists for 2009, this miniseries will be among the first in line for my top five picks. In a beautiful standalone issue, Duane Swierczynski tackles an origin story for Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter that resembles a Neil Gaiman Sandman tale more than it does an Iron Fist spin-off.

Overall, Immortal Weapons #4 does a number of things right that just punch the 10-coin boxes all over the place. In addition to being a fascinating coming of age explanation for a minor character that breathes life into her entire world and context of existence, it gets the job done in 20 pages and leaves its lead heroine more interesting that it found her. You really can’t ask much more of any issue, save for stylistically sound and complimentary artwork, which Khari Evans provides handily.

It’s a little bit 300, a little bit Wonder Woman, and shade Mortal Kombat, but in the end it’s true to what Marvel’s been building with the Iron Fist wing of its universe, and it’s one of the only pamphlet comics in recent memory I immediately read a second time when I was through.

I do have a complaint similar to my gripe with Green Lantern Corps #42, which is that a couple of scenes could have benefit from a more maturely rated bar for blood depiction. The illustration works, as does just overlaying a panel with translucent red, but when a battlefield of warriors is supposed to be ruthlessly defeated, it softens the impact when they all just look like they’re out sunbathing. It’s odd because there are some blood gushes on adjacent pages, but I feel like it’s a compliment if that’s the worst problem I had.

Link Sausage: 11/22/2009

Posted by – November 22, 2009

• I had so many sentimental “Ohhhhh” moments reading Tom Spurgeon’s “83 Best Superhero Projects Of The Decade We’re Leaving” list just now, I very well may have to crack a longbox or two open before going to bed tonight. Though I still need to read Brian Azzarello and Richard Corben’s Cage, as well as Street Angel and one or two others, a bunch of these titles watermarked various major events and moments in my life since New X-Men ended my half-decade comics hiatus shortly before college. Also, reading this list may have aged me mentally by 2 years.

• The official Star Trek Online launch is getting so close I can taste it, and if you’ve talked to me about it you know how firmly I believe that the Pakled should be a playable race. Well, someone made this amazing YouTube video about what a Star Trek spin-off series might look like starring the Pakled, and it’s pretty on the mark:

• There’s now a video for “Spacious Thoughts,” the Tom Waits/Kool Keith track off of the N.A.S.A. record last year. It’s pretty, but I wish it would have connected with the lyrics more than it did:

T.J. Dietsch shares my fondness for Remote Control and the late Ken Ober.

• Seriously, I saw the new cover to The Economist last week, and my head about insta-fragged. Someone there really likes rocket flatulence metaphors.

100 Days, 100 Comics #45: ‘My Every Single Thought’

Posted by – November 22, 2009

My Every Single ThoughtAutobio indie comics automatically have an uphill battle to fight with me, as I’m sure they do with most readers. It’s an overpopulated junkpile of a genre most often, and though a few rare comics slip through every year with something new to offer or a new way to say something, I’ve read more bad minicomics and graphic novels about “this happened to me” minutiae than any other other subject — which is why it was unusual that I picked this up off the shelf at Chicago Comics a couple of weeks ago.

My Every Single Thought is a scattershot minicomic by Corinne Mucha that comes with the simple premise of presenting a comic diary of themed meditations on being single, what the meaning of being single is, what the opposite of being single is, and how it defines someone’s identity. Given that there’s both a clearly defined passage of time and an introductory note on the back that says “this comic chronicles the author’s attempt to get over an old relationship, and come to terms with a saucy new label — SINGLE,” it ultimately puts too much pressure on itself to be a story of progress, cause, and effect, as there’s not a coherent build or notion of progress at work from beginning to end.

There is an ultimate moment of resolution in the epiphany that tries to pull the comic’s conflict together, but the individual pages, which rage from micro-narratives to humorous lists and diagrams, work much better separately than they do as a whole. In a way it reminds me of the first time I watched Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, a film made up short variations on a theme that lays a lot of eggs but does manage hard boil a few into revisitable winners. Without dwelling on the egg metaphor any longer than necessary, several moments in My Every Single Thought did provoke guffaws, such as her moment wishing that her coffee shop manager would open up a manual on how to deal with having a crush on a customer or the chart of standard responses to “Why are you single?”

The art style is somewhere between King-Cat and Linda Barry, which is appropriate for the subject matter. The narrator’s antenna-like cowlicky ponytail works for defining her visually with a sense of awkwardness and perky alertness, and the sequences move smoothly.

There’s an underlying emo quality to the comic that’s inherent to a lot of autobio comics, for better or worse. It’s not pervasive throughout these pages, but nine times out of ten it’s Dashboard Confessionalling the unresolved tension into the ground. If you tend to steer clear of those sorts of comics, you’ll probably pass this one up too, but the few bucks it’ll cost you will be good for a few laughs and a read worth having over a beer if you’re recently or chronically single.

100 Days, 100 Comics #44: ‘Green Lantern Corps’ #42

Posted by – November 21, 2009

Green Lantern Corps #42This was easily the most I’ve enjoyed an Indigo Tribe issue yet. The variety of pages layouts, the Guy Gardner moments, the advancement of plot, and the big ending all bolstered this read.

**SPOILER ALERT** There are always weird little things that nag at me about Green Lantern books, and as effective as the final sequence in this issue was, I feel compelled to ask what exactly that explosion did at the end that was able to neutralize all of the Black Lanterns, kill Kyle Rayner, tear up his uniform, and knock off his mask, but yet didn’t seem to scratch or bruise him one bit. I mean, am I missing something here? Am I supposed to assume that the Alpha Lantern Battery detonated will an outpouring of pure will that was sort of like a giant Care Bear stare that neutralized all the death and over-saturated Kyle will positivity to the point it killed him? Seriously, I loved this issue, but that final page totally puzzled the heck out of me.

Pretty much every other page was grand, though. Kilowog would be in every issue and tie-in if I had my way, and watching him confronted with the deceased Lanterns has been one of the more effective consequences of the Black Lanterns’ rise. In fact, the Black Lanterns’ rise overall has been way more interesting in the way it’s impacted characters emotionally than it has been on any material level, which up until now has been totally ambiguous as far as what they are and how they work.

100 Days, 100 Comics #43: ‘Doctor Who Classics Series 2’ #11

Posted by – November 20, 2009

Doctor Who Classics Series 2 #11I managed to watch the new Doctor Who special “The Waters of Mars” this week after it aired in the U.K., and without spoiling anything, it brought up a reference or two to the old Ice Warriors from Mars’ history, so this cover caught me in a moment of weakness.

These stories were originally published in the U.K. but have been re-colored for this IDW compilation. The illustration is actually quite a bit better than what you normally get out of the average given media property book these days (though artist Mick Austin’s predilection for large heads unbalances the tone at times). Steve Parkhouse’s story, meanwhile, is very basic. The main villain wants to destroy the Tardis with a doomsday weapon, and he tries to kill the Fifth Doctor.

It wasn’t nearly as compelling a tale as the average TV episode, and what story that was there was good enough, but I am experiencing a little buyer’s remorse over dropping $3.99 on this book.

100 Days, 100 Comics #42: ‘Snake Oil’ #3

Posted by – November 20, 2009

Snake Oil #3As a follow-up to Snake Oil #2, I was anxious to see where this series was going to go. It’s obviously the work of someone with an eye for the basic Understanding Comics mechanics of sequential narrative, which has a made each of Chuck Forsman’s books I’ve picked up so far an engaging read.

Three issues into the title now, the name seems to be gathering some semantic moss, which in turn has affected the contextual evolution of Forsman’s symbols and characters. If Snake Oil references back to old-time faux medicines and placebos whose power comes from their salesman’s showmanship and presentation, you really get a sense that Forsman’s referring to the comics reading experience that goes on between the panels — something that isn’t really there but is imagined and gains its power through the act of communication and inspiration alone.

From that perspective, the recycled elements such as the hairy igloo monster, psycho skinny Zangief (Street Fighter II reference there) fellow and minotaurs all have histories now, and now populate a small David Lynchish community of recurring threads. The beauty at work is really how well Forsman pares each scene down to a raw action or minimalist sequence of moments. In fact, as is the case with the minotaurs in the woods, what you don’t see if often more powerful that what you don’t see.