In Which I Stumble At Explaining Why I Dislike A Writer, But Recommend One of His Books

I know this blog is called “Read This Comic!” and I’m trying to be positive and everything, but I took some shots at Brian Michael Bendis, Jeph Loeb, and Mark Millar in my conversation with Forrest earlier this week. Basically, I was like “Warren Ellis is awesome and these guys suck. Farts!” And Forrest responded with the calm, cool, collectedness of a well-mannered Michiganian and said “Well, why don’t you like them?” I responded with more harsh insults, and may have besmirched Mr. Vin Diesel as well. For all of this I apologize. But then Forrest texted me about some comics he had bought, including Uncanny X-Men #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo. I responded with, “Bachalo’s art is amazing, but I hate Bendis’s dialogue.” Look below, the art IS amazing:
Screen Shot 2013-03-02 at 7.32.40 AMBut most of the comic book is filled with scenes like this:

Screen Shot 2013-03-02 at 7.31.33 AM Screen Shot 2013-03-02 at 7.32.04 AM

I’m not a fan.

I was.

But not so much anymore.

A lot of comic book readers go through cycles of not reading comics. This is generally because we’ve hit a wall with superhero comics. After one such period between high school and college (I thought I was going to get girls the instant I stopped reading comics. Excuse me while I point and laugh at teenage me. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha, you IDIOT!), I was starting to get back in. While at first I was reading books I was already reading before (X-Men, mainly), I quickly added a number of new titles to my reading pile, including Daredevil, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Alias. Those three were all written by one guy: Brian Michael Bendis. Or BENDIS! as he became known amongst my friends and I.

My beef with Bendis started when I read a few of his comics back to back. I don’t recall which ones at the time, but it became obvious that they all sounded the same. A blind lawyer with super powers, a geeky teenager with spider-powers, and a hard drinking female detective all sounded the same. As did their supporting casts.

On top of that, exposition moments seemed to happen a lot. Bendis tends to write a ton of scenes where characters ask a question, are answered, the answer is restated as a question (peppered with some disbelief), in order to introduce a character, concept or situation. It was entertaining at first, but after seeing it a number of times it lost it’s appeal for me.

These are all things that turned me off Bendis as a writer. I still like (most of) his comics that I read when I was younger. I think a number of his Ultimate Spider-Man stories hold up, and can serve as a great introduction to the character. I LOVE his collaboration on Alias with Michael Gaydos, and highly recommend it. It’s not digital yet, but you should still be able to get the trade paperbacks.

My main issue with Bendis, is that I don’t believe he’s really tried anything different in his comic book work. He brought in his style, which was new and interesting at first, but then kept doing it. You can argue that any number of popular writers does, this, but again, this is about me not liking his work. If I was a better writer, I’d probably do a better job illustrating why I don’t like him.

But read Alias. Seriously.

Alias?

Yeah, Alias. It’s good.

Alias. The Jennifer Garner show?

No. It has nothing to do with the television show. It’s a well done story about a broken woman trying to find herself. And she happens to have super powers and live in the Marvel Universe. It’s really good.

So it’s good?

Yes, it’s good.

So should I read this comic?

Yes.

Aaand that’s Paul’s terrible Bendis dialogue parody bit!!!!!! (Curtains drop)

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Folks Talkin’ Bout Comics: 3 Fast 3 Furious (Transmetropolitan Volumes 5 & 6)

It’s been awhile, but it’s time for another round of Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan discussion with my good pal, Forrest! As always, there are spoilers, but at this point we’re really just calling out our favorite moments from the book while going off on tangents…whiiich, I think we’ve already been doing, but you should read this comic so you’ll know what we’re talking about when we ARE on topic. We started this chat with me waiting for Forrest to finish watching The Fast and the Furious 6 trailer.
Forrest: Hola!
Paul:  Hey compadre.
Forrest: How’s it going?
Paul: I’m surprised you could tear your eyes away from Vin Diesel’s Facebook page.
Forrest: Well…
Paul: It’s open in another window, isn’t it?
Forrest: …yes
The Rock clotheslining a guy off of Vin Diesel's shoulders...OK, this does look pretty cool.
Fast & Furious 6: The Rock clotheslining a guy off of Vin Diesel’s shoulders…OK, this does look pretty cool.
Paul: We go MONTHS without talking about Transmet because you were waiting to hear Fast 6 news, and you can’t break away from it for 5 minutes… jeez.
Forrest: Haha.
(We then went off on a tangent about honeymoons and Disney World. You don’t need to read that, and that’s about as much context as I’m going to give you for this segue!)
Paul: So, speaking of drunk Disney…Comic Books!!!
Forrest: Yes! So what’s with this image you sent me? Is it more work by Darick Robertson?
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Paul: No, it’s by David Aja. An artist who in that spread, was paired with Warren Ellis on a series called Secret Avengers.
Forrest: Ah, I’ve heard good things about that. I like the sci-fi Escher vibe.
Paul: Yes, he did six issues, each one standalone, each paired with a different artist. And even on a series that he probably didn’t invest much in, he told a great story, filled with action, snark, and basic human decency.
Forrest: Somehow I’m guessing he didn’t also find a way to fit in an evil politician ejaculating into an American Flag…
Paul: No, Basically, I just wanted to share another way in which Ellis is awesome…and how he helps elevate the form of comics storytelling rather than just aping popular elements from other mediums like Millar, Loeb, or Bendis.
I started positive and moved to mini rant…
Forrest: Sounds like you have some beef!
Paul: I do…oh, I do. In general, I’m tired of people who settle for what IS versus those who will strive for what can be. And Ellis is a creator who strives, even when on superhero work that he’s deemed ‘beneath him.’
Forrest: I do love Ellis for all he is, but I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to say his influences don’t bleed through. Spider probably couldn’t exist without Hunter S. Thompson, for one. And I’ve been reading a bit of 2000 AD ever since watching the excellent, underrated Dredd last year, and the whole culture of Transmetropolitan seems indebted to Mega City One.
Paul: Yes, that’s fair. I guess I’m saying that in spite of that, he still has his own distinct style, which works, where as the others I cited tend to have styles that are more formulaic. The thing that always shines through for me with Ellis is characters who are gruff and curmudgeonly, but have a wonderful decency that can’t help but shine through.
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I need a thesaurus or less beer…
Forrest: Or more beer! Always more beer.
Paul: You’re right. So anyway, drive by snipes at other creators aside, I did prepare notes for our chat about Transmet!
Forrest: I’m torn, because I’ve read and enjoyed things by all of those guys, but I also don’t disagree with you. Something you said dovetails with a feeling I had while reading these latest issues, but we can come back to it later if you’d like
Paul: Well, let’s keep going with it. I do enjoy specific works by each of those creators…Millar’s Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men, Bendis’s Daredevil and Alias…and I can barely take Loeb’s Long Halloween, but any enjoyment I take from his work is generally attributed to his artists. So what was your reaction to these issues that dovetails with my thoughts?
Forrest: Basically, to play devil’s advocate (I trust my love for Transmetropolitan doesn’t need to be defended at this point!), there were times in these volumes where Spider does things that are so casually cruel, that it almost breaks the delicate balance of his gruff side with his hidden, heartwarming side. They’re almost always played for laughs, and I can write them off just as funny sight gags or naughty asides, but it does tend to remind me that I’m reading a comic. I guess I lose some of my investment in him as a character when he’s just a dick.
Paul: He does almost go over the edge sometimes, but he is operating in a heightened world, full of even more terrible people than our real one. Or rather, more overtly terrible people than our reality. Though with every passing day, Ellis must get more and more tweets that say “Transmet is coming true!”
Forrest: That’s true. Oh god, I’m going to be one of those shocked old people who clucks his tongue at those rude kids someday, aren’t I?
Paul: …Forrest…you already are! Dun Dun DUUUUN.
I had a moment today where I wished I was Spider Jerusalem.
Forrest: Oh yeah, what happened?
Paul: There was a guy on the train speaking aloud to everyone about how he was a member of the NSA, and if there were any fellow agents on the train, they shouldn’t be afraid to talk to him…whatever people had said about him wasn’t true.
Forrest: Oh boy
Paul: And I thought to myself, rather than using the shields of an iPod and Kindle, Spider would engage this guy, listen to his story. Not worry about the guy eating his face. That’s what’s wonderful for me about Spider and many of Ellis’s protagonists is that he’s better than me and worse then me in complimentary manners. He cares more about people, he’s more selfless, but he’s also more full of himself, more careless about those close to him, and drinks a shit-ton more.
Forrest: That’s what gives him his power – both in the book, and in our minds as we read the comic. He goes to that extreme that we all wish we could in our best/worst moments. He goes places we wish someone would. Really, that’s what all “heroes” do, in any form of storytelling. Give us a glimpse of what we wish we could be, good or bad.
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I think what we’re getting at is we both have man-crushes on Spider Jerusalem, and wish he was our comically abusive uncle.
Paul: Haha..yes.
Forrest: Can I mention how strong the opening of volume 5 is?
Paul: It’s very strong, and I’m realizing for the first time that Volume 5 begins and ends in the rain. It’s a cleansing, wonderful rain in the beginning, and then in the end, it’s just Spider getting peed on by the world.
Forrest: It’s also the perfect way to jump back in after a long hiatus (sorry, fans!). I was worried I would be lost, but everything you need to know about recent events and their impact on Spider’s mental state is right there. The long monologue with Spider talking about the first time he thought about death is brilliantly written of course, but the facial expressions in particular really sell it.
Paul: Yes. Robertson’s ‘acting’ for Spider is always tremendous. He never feels stiff and always jumps off the page.
Forrest: That’s funny, I was going to describe it as ‘acting’ as well. I’m not sure if there’s a better word for it!
Paul: I’ve seen other comics bloggers use it, so let’s run with it! Vol 5 really is an emotional roller coaster as movie poster critics would say.
Forrest: We watch Spider go through a pivotal transition over these two volumes. He begins somewhat listless, almost de-fanged after the assassination and The Smiler’s triumph in the election. So he tries to cause a bit of mischief in typical Spider fashion, and it’s funny ’cause my first thought when he chases down the hate crime story is that this is Spider almost licking his wounds, going after small potatoes when he should be frying big fish.
(sorry bout the food metaphors, I’m hungry)
Paul: hahaha
Well…I like the…delicious steak of hilarity when Spider goes after the Senator involved in a pornography scandal…”Show us your penis, Senator!” Then there’s the brutality of the hate crime, followed again by the intro of volume 6 which features a number of artists turning Spider into the public’s ‘cartoon character.’ Followed by some hilariously brutal beat downs of everyone who can help take down Callahan.
Forrest: Gah, let me be a fanboy for a minute…that cartoon bit was SOOO GOOOOD. Seriously.
Paul: It’s probably one of the best “jam comics” ever. The pornographic parodification (Parodification copyright Paul DeKams 2013) of nearly everything is yet another thing that Ellis predicted. I’m just going to get “Warren Ellis was/is right” tattooed on me. More than anything, that’s a mantra I can get behind.
Forrest: Geez, that is true. Look, as much as I love Ellis, if he turns out to be God or something, I want my money back. Or at the very least, I want my own filthy assistants.
Paul: I’d be okay with it. Just in case, I’m gonna make sure I’m buried with a carton of his favorite cigarettes. The filthy assistants get to shine in Volume 6.
Forrest: They even get their own issue! It’s fun to see what they get up to when Spider’s not around, even if it is mostly just talking about Spider. (I don’t think Transmetropolitan passes the Bechdel test.)
Paul: I love the coda of him being revealed after they walk away “They love my ass.” Even if it doesn’t adhere to the Bechdel test, there’s genuine affection between these characters that everyone should recognize and love.
Or I will fight them.
Forrest: Haha! Speaking of fighting, there’s more glorious violence here. One panel actually made me squirm in my seat.
Paul: Was it the facepalming of the interviewer? Or the bell smashing of the hotel pimp?
Forrest: Page 115 of vol 6 – Spider stomps someone’s nose in…The hotel pimp. Grisly. The interviewer is pretty rough too.
Paul: Oh yes, most definitely. On both counts. (FYI, a more grisly/brutal pairing is Garth Ennis and Robertson on “The Boys”)
Forrest: And poor old Charlie Brown. That is supposed to be a reference, right? I was scratching my head over that one.
Paul: Yeah, he’s definitely Charlie Brown. I don’t know how much significance it’s supposed to have. Hell, in the Transmet world, there could be a whole GANG of Charlie Browns that gets hired out as muscle.
Forrest: There are a few other references to other properties sprinkled throughout these books, but that one seemed more overt than the others. Maybe there’s no significance other than it’s funny. Or, yeah, I like the idea of bodyguards genetically cloned to look like cartoon characters! That sounds like a thing.
Paul: Let’s go with it! There’s probably Hagar the Horrible thugs working in the next town over.
Forrest: Marmaduke attack dogs…
Paul: So, under the header of “Hard Sci-Fi for Hard Sci-Guys” I’d like to talk about Spider’s use of “telefactoring,” with his consciousness being transmitted, or exerting control over a clone created across the country in order to covertly interview Callahan’s wife. For me, this solves a huge existential problem I have with the realities of (theoretical) teleporting, in that a person is essentially being copied, destroyed and transmitted.
Forrest: Yeah, that was a pretty slick invention. It skirts the line of just being a bit too convenient for plot’s sake, but you can believe it exists in this world. And it’s a neat idea. What’s probably more realistic is some sort of virtually-controlled humanoid “drone.” At least, based on current technology. (Which I don’t understand at all.)
Paul: Yeah, it seems plausible…at the very least, you could control a robot with your face on the screen at this point.
Forrest: Another bit of future-tech: the ability to give everyone in a room Martian STDs.
Paul: I believe that if that tech was real, Warren Ellis would use it.
Forrest: Hell, there are days I would use it…given the right room, of course.
Paul: SPEAKING OF FUTURE…six ends with shit getting real, and Spider going on the run in the face of the President cracking down on the media…this leads into the endgame for both, with Spider engaging new and free technology to subvert the existing mass media establishment
Forrest: It’s a great cliffhanger! And, like all things Transmet, weirdly prescient.
Paul: Yes, especially with the mass media outlets reporting on Spider’s reporting…it’s exactly like when news shows cite Tweets.
Forrest: Why isn’t there a Spider Jerusalem twitter account? I guess it’s just Ellis’ twitter. Which is excellent.
Paul: There apparently are a number of Spider Twitter accounts, but I suspect that they are all terrible.
Hmm…they seem to either be in French, or aping Spider/Ellis/HST’s style while commenting on current events…so, yes. Terrible.
Forrest: https://twitter.com/warrenellis/status/289803319591960576 You can’t beat the original.
Paul: Nope. He is glorious. Speaking of which, his new novel was a quick, fun read. Very familiar, but still wonderful.
Forrest: Oh yeah? I hadn’t heard of it. I will have to Kindle it.
Paul: It’s called Gun Machine
Forrest: Ohhh yes he keeps tweeting about it but I thought it was a comic.
Paul: NYC detective finds apartment FILLED with guns, all of which are linked to famous homicides.
Forrest: Oh shit. I need to finish the Dredd comic I’m reading, but that’s next up. Sounds awesome.
Paul: nice, I have never read any Dredd, but loved the new movie.
Forrest: I’m reading some pretty early stuff…it’s hit or miss, but there is some brilliance to it. I hear the later stuff gets very good. And I believe Ellis wrote some of it, so I will have to seek that out. Well, I think I’m out of clever observations, is there anything else you wanted to toss around about Transmet?
Paul: No, I’m good on Transmet…wanna do the final four books for the next one? I feel like they move pretty quickly
Forrest: Sounds right up my alley. Sure, maybe in two weeks time?
So we’ll see you all in roughly two weeks time, dear readers! (Unless of course another trailer is released for The Fast and the Furious 6…then it might be awhile….)

Read This Comic For Charity: Hawkeye #7

“Paul, you’re always talking about Hawkeye! What’s so great about it?”

Well, anonymous reader that found this site while searching for porn, I believe I’ve written about it extensively. I’ve mostly said things like: “It’s awesome.” “Hawkeye is awesome. Both the character AND the book.” “I have a writer crush on Matt Fraction.” “David Aja is ridiculously talented in his inventive panel layout and storytelling.” “Matt Hollingsworth purples all over the place in a spectacular manner.” And then repeated them with each issue that has come out.

Screen Shot 2012-10-18 at 8.43.57 PMThis panel is from issue #3. The car chase issue. It’s full of action and sexy times.

Screen Shot 2012-10-18 at 8.42.21 PMAnyway, I got you in here with promises of charity (or porn, if you googled “porn” and this came up as a result of me typing “porn” earlier.). Hawkeye #7, which comes out on Wednesday, January 30th, is about Clint Barton and Kate Bishop (both heroes with the codename ‘Hawkeye’) and how they deal with a fictional version of Hurricane Sandy (I do not give any fucks if it’s actually superstorm Sandy or whatever. It does not matter. Shut up, Al Roker). Writer Matt Fraction is donating his royalties to charity, so in buying this comic, you’re not only validating my opinion by listening to my recommendation, but you’re also doing a good thing for people.

You can also get issues #1-6 of Hawkeye at a slight discount, thanks to a sale on Comixology. For those who are lazy or don’t know how to use the internet, here is a link for you: http://www.comixology.com/Hawkeye/comics-series/8445

So to recap, Issues #1-6: Awesome, great comic. Issue #7, haven’t read it yet, but it will likely be pretty damn good, and some of the money goes to charity so you can feel good and stuff.

 

 

All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues: The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire

Identity. That seems to be my theme of the week (Sing it now, THEME OF THE WEEEEEEK!), as I have recently read and enjoyed a multitude of comic books dealing with that theme. Phonogram was one such comic, in which characters defined themselves through art and popular culture, specifically music. The comic I’m writing about today, Underwater Welder, features a character defined both by his father, and his own transformation into a father.

Jack Joseph is the titular Underwater Welder.

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He’s got a baby on the way. He welds things underwater. Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 9.36.14 PM

He lives and works in the sleepy town he grew up in. Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 9.36.02 PM

 

His life seems to be walking through life half awake, moving almost at a snail-like pace, like he’s trying to extend every second that still exists in the period before he becomes a Father. I capitalize “Father” not because Jack is about to become a man of the cloth, but because that word haunts him. His own father made his living underwater too. And drowned. On Halloween. When he was supposed to be trick or treating with Jack. And in the present day, it looks like Jack is going to become a father right around the time that he lost his own. It messes with his head. Big time. Lemire explores this in what can only be described as a Twilight Zone-y style, with Jack becoming lost in his own past as well as a ghost-town version of his home town.

So you’ve been plot summaried, while I’ve sprinkled in some panels of Lemire’s beautiful artwork. Based on my own artistic knowledge, I can only assume that he’s working in brush and ink, and he’s doing so wonderfully. It’s such a loose, yet committed style. I don’t know if he drafted anything in pencil, I’m sure he must have, but it looks like he just went for it, and nailed it.

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Pacing. Look at that pacing. It’s fantastic. It slows you down as a reader, forcing you to read at the art’s pace. With the slow drip of blood hitting water or a blade creeping along a face. Whenever it seems that business might pick up a bit, like a big revelation is coming, we’re forced to cool our jets via some close up inserts that slow that action down.

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 9.35.39 PMIt was my instinct to move faster. That’s how I read. But Lemire’s art kept me in check. It.

Slowed.

Me.

Down.

To.

a crawl.

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 9.39.52 PMWhilst all of Twitter was…well…atwitter about the Golden Globes and best films of the year, Comic Book Reporter and man about town Tom Spurgeon tweeted something to the effect that he had read a bunch of comics that were way better than any of the films nominated for best something or another. Yay vague references to things I saw on the internet! I hope I’m half-heartedly quoted one day as I am quoting Mr. Spurgeon right now! Anyway, this is a thing that is true of Underwater Welder. It is one of the best creations of narrative art produced in the year of 2012. Not just a great comic, or a great story, but beautifully executed storytelling.

This is something that I’m going to hand to people or buy and say “This is why you should read comic books.” It’s special. It’s smart. It’s true. And it’s done in a way that is different than a film or a prose novel. It’s the pacing.  I keep going back to that, but it’s true. Lemire had total control over me while I was reading this. I was drawn to move forward, but not without taking in every beautiful detail rendered in each individual panel, or spread out across the massive splash pages and two page spreads.

Thanks to Ben and Rebecca for recommending this to me. It’s a fantastic comic, and y’all (being everyone but Ben and Rebecca, and I suppose, Mr. Lemire) should read it.

 

 

Stop Listening to the Same Music You Listened To At 23: Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jaimie McKelvie

On the “About” page of this site, you’ll find a note where it says I will not, and SHOULD NOT recommend any music to you. This should have probably been hammered home by my repeated “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” references, but as a reminder, I went to a Best Buy in 2003 and purchased this album on the day is was released:

MachoManRandySavageWait, please don’t go. Don’t take that to mean I have NO credibility.

Many people can communicate through shared love of music. In Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, there are people called Phonomancers that can utilize music for magic. The way I have pitched it to some friends in person so far has been “It’s like if talking like Patrick Bateman gave you musical power.” It’s a pretty glib way to summarize the series, though it is a somewhat accurate description of how the first volume’s protagonist, David Kohl, starts out.

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David’s identity and magical power is rooted in the genre of Britpop and in the goddess Britannia. There are those who would resurrect and pervert the genre for their own gain, and David is faced with the dilemma of who he is being rewritten by these people, or redefining himself on his own terms.

It’s a scary proposition. I can’t say that I know a lot about the music referenced in Phonogram, but the themes and emotion ring true. I’ve been kind of working to redefine myself through comic books in the past year. A big part of that was getting rid of most of my collection. I thought that would be a bigger deal to me, but it wasn’t. It didn’t bring me down that much, and honestly, it wasn’t me anymore.

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That’s where David winds up. He figures out who he is right now and doesn’t continue to draw power from who he was. That’s the first volume, Rue Britannia. I liked it a bunch. But then I read volume 2, The Singles Club…and I fucking loved it. David pops up again, but it’s mainly 7 intersecting stories about 7 different Phonomancers and how they make magic through music. They’re all at different stages of their lives, but each realizes something important about themselves within the course of an issue. In jumping around to the different characters, and with the injection of color, Gillen and McKelvie’s comic book feels even more alive. Rue Britannia tells you about music, but The Singles Club IS music. If I can, I’ll try and work a little of this magic by trying to reiterate what this comic made me feel, and what comic books make me feel while we tour through some of these beautiful panels.

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When I write about a comic, when I tell you about a comic…I’m trying to tell you about me. I’m not trying to prove that I’m smart. I’m not trying to impress you. I’m doing it for me and I’m trying to say a few things.

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I love comic books. I think they’re as important as books and films and music and comedy. They’re a way to tell a story, to share, to communicate.

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I try not to just blanketly recommend things. Yeah, I write this blog, but I try to frame things with “If you like this, then read BLAH!” I’m trying to say I know you (if I know you personally and have recommended something) or if you’re an anonymous reader of this site, well, then I’m trying to relate to someone like myself that would enjoy the work about which I’m writing.

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Phonogram worked this kind of magic on me. It spoke to me even though I didn’t fully grasp the references. I connected with Gillen and McKelvie’s work emotionally. It made me feel like this. I felt this page leaping off of my tablet screen, saying “Yes. This is true.”

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 10.18.40 PMTwo people connect through art. Through music. Through dance. You don’t have to understand. There’s nothing to get. There’s just some things that we connect with each other on. We define ourselves and each other through these connections, and it’s magic.

 

1/11/13: Buy This Right Now, Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena and others

Sorry for the “and others” other talented artists that have brought Uncanny X-Force to life, but time is of the essence (Quick time-essence break, the colors on this book? RIDICULOUSLY GOOD, courtesy of Dean White. This comic is like a dark and scary and awesome dream because of that guy)!

Ok, folks. The first 31 issues of Uncanny X-Force are on sale for 99 cents each at Comixology. Don’t tip your toes in, drop the $31 and get it all. It’s worth it. LINK HERE IN FULL UGLY URLNESS: http://www.comixology.com/Uncanny-X-Force-1/digital-comic/AUG100524

Screen Shot 2012-09-17 at 10.24.08 PMUncanny X-Force is about X-Force (I know, dumb name, but dumb names are the name of the game in superhero comics, so get past it mr or ms fancy cool pants), the secret black-ops team of X-Men. They kill threats to mutant kind  before those threats can make their latest attempt to kill mutants. This team of killers sometimes has problems with this (moral dilemmas!). There’s action and Sci-Fi (Not Hard  Sci-Fi, sorry Forrest), there’s dimension hopping and evil cyborg time travel duplicates. There are villains attempting to kill our heroes with their butts:

Screen Shot 2012-09-17 at 10.24.44 PMFor reals.

It’s also a great  companion book for anyone who enjoyed Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, as it expands on several characters and concepts from that run. Remender also revisits the Age of Apocalypse universe, making it even darker than those of us who grew up in the 90s remember it (and better, too. 90s X-Men comics DO NOT hold up).

I’d love to write about this book more, but you only have til 11pm to get past your indecisiveness to buy all these awesome comics!!! Seriously, it’s a steal. It also doesn’t depend upon years of continuity for enjoyment, nor does it lose any momentum by getting caught up in company crossovers. Everything you need to read is in these 31 issues (and in 6 more that are still at full price, but we can all wait for a price drop on those). Read this comic, and then we’ll come back here in a few days time to go a little bit more in detail about how awesome it is, and how amazing Dean White’s colors are.

(Disclaimer: I don’t see a dime for telling you to buy anything off Comixology. It’s how I read my comics, I think their 99 cent sales are fantastic, and as a result I’ve probably given them most of my dimes).

 

 

Buy Things With Your Moneys: Digital Comic Books

This post is entirely for digital or digital curious readers. I’ve been reading comic books digitally for about a year now. I’ve read a couple of print things here and there, but I love reading panel by panel. As far as my (fast) style of reading goes, it helps me linger and study each panel more, whereas I used to tear through comic books quickly, sometimes missing important moments because I was in some sort of rush (for what, I don’t know? Life and comic books are too short). I’ve primarily been reading via Comixology on my Kindle Fire, though I have bought a few books through Amazon directly (though I don’t like their comic reader) and Dark Horse Comics. Both Comixology and Dark Horse are having some cool sales this weekend, so let’s talk about what you should buy (or maybe even gift–tis the season!).

Have we talked about Superman? (Read that in a tone of your parents approaching you with the sex talk in the most awkward way possible). So, son or daughter, what do you know about the last son of Krypton?

If the answer is nothing, or “Superman’s lame and we thought you created this blog to tell us all about more varieties of comic books than super hero,” then you should check out Comixology’s Superman sale. You can’t go wrong with Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman. My dad likes this comic. And he’s pretty much hated any other comic book I’ve put in front of him. It is also one of the most beautifully illustrated comic books I have ever read.

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It’s a comic that is both fantastical and serious, or adult, or whatever qualifier I have to use to get those of you that only read “serious” fiction to read this amazing book. It is pretty much the only Superman book you’ll ever need to read. It’s a character defining work, taking the best core concepts of the character, and telling a story of a dying Superman’s last days on Earth expertly and accessibly. Frank Quitely draws a Clark Kent that isn’t simply Superman with glasses, or just a bumbling awkward guy. His Superman as Clark is PHYSICALLY DIFFERENT.

Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 7.56.46 AMClark Kent is always slightly crouched. He doesn’t fit into his suit well. He looks like a stocky farm boy and not a well toned alien super hero (And he also apparently works with Jake “The Snake” Roberts? Look at that dude in the center of the panel). Anyway, at 99 cents an issue, you’re getting a great story that will look beautiful on your tablet or your computer if you haven’t tableted up yet. People pop movies like The Dark Knight or Jaws, or Wall-E to show off their latest HD television or projector to show off how baller it is. This is what you pop up on your iPad or other tablet-y device to show how baller THAT is.

“What does it mean to be an environmentalist after the world’s already ended?” This is the question posed in The Massive by Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson.

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A series of environmental catastrophes have crippled the globe. We see this from the point of view of the crew of The Kapital, an environmentalist ship in search of it’s (titular) fleet-mate The Massive. Wood and Donaldson present things so starkly, so matter of factly that there’s no much opportunity for the reader to get lost in the “Whys” of the world’s end. No, the important hooks of the story become “How is the crew of The Kapital going to survive?” and “What happened to The Massive?” It’s a great first issue, and it’s taking all of my willpower to not buy the next issue and spend money that I shouldn’t.

 

The Massive, along with a number of other Dark Horse 2012 launches are on sale this weekend for a mere 99 cents.I’ve heard great things about Mind MGMT and Ghost as well. There’s also a number of Star Wars, Buffy, and Hellboy-related series that are worth checking out. I’m sorry I’m not more helpful in Dark Horse recommendations, but I’ve only recently gotten the app on my Kindle Fire, and I had to do so by hacking it. Having to hack an app onto my device sucks, and the reader isn’t as polished as Comixology’s, but as publishers go, Dark Horse is probably only second to Image Comics this year in terms of launching interesting new series by great creators.

Onto Marvel and back to Comixology. Marvel’s sale focuses on their “latest and greatest.” Click through here to check it out. My personal picks begin with Captain America, which was reinvigorated by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting as a spy/noir series, as well as Brubaker and Butch Guice’s spinoff series: Winter Soldier. Both series start with a character from the 40s who has been brought forward to modern times, but while Captain America was frozen in ice, The Winter Solider, aka Cap’s former sidekick Bucky, was brainwashed and running black ops missions for the Soviet Union. Both men are dealing with demons from their respective pasts while trying to do good in the modern world.

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Ed Brubaker is a writer who mostly manages to avoid crossovers, and makes Captain America’s rich history work for him rather than being a slave to continuity. The books dark color palate is a stark contrast to the “golly gee” red white and blue that most would expect of the “first Avenger.” If you’ve seen and enjoyed the Captain America film, this is a darker and meatier version of that.

The first issues of Jonthan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run are also on sale, and in these early issues he’s paired with artist Dale Eaglesham who has a pretty Kirby-esque style, especially in his characters’ faces, AND when drawing giant space god monsters (If you haven’t clicked over and bought this based on the words “giant space god monsters,” we have a problem). This is a pretty amazing Fantastic Four run, and a great story for both new and longtime readers. Hickman balances the story of a family with epic cosmic adventures. As I’ve mentioned before, they might save the world, but they’re not superheroes, and these issues are done by creators who get that.

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There’s also two great series by Matt Fraction (Shut up with the Fraction, already Paul!). Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca is a great buy for anyone who’s loved the big screen version of Tony Stark. Fraction writes broken characters well, and Tony Stark, a recovering alcoholic war profiteer trying to atone for his past is probably one of his brokenest. Yes, I just created the word “brokenest,” bro. Deal with it. Larroca’s art is gorgeous, though there’s some distracting moments where his characters are clearly modeled on actors like Josh Holloway or Bill Paxton. But again, other than that, his art is beautiful.

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I’ve also written about The Defenders before.

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This is a FUN series (though again, about some broken people) written by Fraction, with art by Terry Dodson, Michael Lark, Mitch Breitweiser, and Victor Ibanez. Probably not for beginners, but for people who might have stepped away from comics, it’s a good “Oh, comics are GOOD again? Shiiiiit, that’s all you had to say.”

These 99 cent digital sales are like (insert addictive substance that you best relate to) for me. I have dropped so much cash on comic books this year, mainly through these sales. And more often than not, I’ve wound up with books that I’ve not only enjoyed, but LOVED. If you’ve been on the fence about reading any of my recommendations, or about trying digital, NOW is your time to check it out. Now being December 22nd, and I think you have until the 23rd to get the Dark Horse books, while Marvel and DC’s sales are running until December 30th.

 

It’s Christmas Time in Hollis, Queens

John McClane: “How about some Christmas music?”

Argyle: “MAN, this IS Christmas music!”

– John McTiernan’s Die Hard, 1988

There are few Christmas songs that are better than Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis.” There are few songs, period, that are better. Go ahead, play this track down as you read through this post (OR, play down my awesome Xmas playlist on Spotify: Keep Christmas in Die hard).

Christmas comics! So, it’s the holiday season (Note: I will used “Christmas” and “Holiday” interchangeably because I don’t give a shit about being all-inclusive OR about “keeping Christmas” in things. The exception being of course, Die Hard, as all Die Hard films should take place at Christmas), and while some of us like to contemplate realities in which we’ve never been born or look back in the ways that we’ve fallen short in helping our fellow man, some of us just want to relax and enjoy some Yuletide specials in the form of television, movies, or…COMICS!

So I scanned through the comic books that I own. And, it turns out I don’t have a lot of holiday/Xmas comic books anymore (I miss you so much, Howard the Duck Holiday Special!). And on top of that, most of them follow a couple of basic formulas:

1) Hero fights villain or criminal. They stop fighting in recognition of the season, and drink eggnog, or rebuild the orphanage they’ve just wrecked with their super powered fight.

2) Earthbound hero explains holiday customs to alien hero. Alien hero doesn’t get it. BUT THEN THEY DO. “Hark, the herald angels siiiing…”

3) Badass heroes that can’t take part in holiday mushiness are ultimately moved by it and then partake. (Wolverine says “Aw, shucks bub,” and drinks eggnog.)

Sometimes, when done well, these scenarios can work out (Both in Batman: The Animated Series and in the Justice League animated series. Both great, but not comics, so we shan’t be discussing them now!) But most of the time they beat your head in with a hammer with holiday “cheer” like an ABC Family original movie starring Jenny McCarthy.

Exhibit 1: The DC Comics 2009 Holiday Special. There are ten…TEN stories in this comic. Nine of them are the mediocre stuff I’ve described. Some decent artwork that elevates it a bit, but mainly the hammering in the head thing with the messaging and Zuzu’s flowers and such. The one in the bunch that’s good? The one with NO FUCKING WORDS.

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Batman pursues a criminal dressed as Santa Claus in this short by Jay Faerber and Peter Nguyen. He chases the criminal into a warehouse full of Santas, who are not the criminal’s buddies, but a pack of innocent Santas that invite Batman to share milk and cookies with them after he’s successfully stopped the robber.

The rest of the comic involves Snow Golems, the Flash not buying a present for his wife (and wackiness ensues!), and some other garbage that’s not worth your time or mine. I’m really going contrary to my own purposes in starting this blog in being so dismissive of this comic, but I feel I need the context of the bad in order to make y’all appreciate the good.

The Last Christmas by Gerry Duggan, Brian Poeshn and Rick Remender is a post-apocalyptic romp, that puts Santa Claus and his crew into a blend of und comedy mixed with a redemption/revenge tale. Marauders attack The North Pole and kill Mrs. Claus. Santa can’t die though, because one kid still believes in him. What starts as an attempt to KILL said child quickly turns into a heartwarming tale in which everyone learns the true meaning of Christmas and to love again. Well, not really, but Santa, his elves, and a bunch of survivors mess some dudes up. And a kid gets a bike.

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The Last Christmas contains plenty of one-liner jokes and references to classic Christmas specials and tales, but these are ornaments to a tree built on a hilarious and fucked up concept of a gun toting Santa Claus in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. This comic is doing it’s own thing, and it does it well.

And then there’s Hawkeye #6. It’s been two weeks, right? So it’s about time for me to shower praise yet again on my favorite comic book for delivering a solid holiday jam. There’s a Spotify playlist created by David Aja, the artist of this fine comic book, to go along with it as you read: Hawkeye #6. But anyway, Aja, Matt Fraction, and the rest of the gang (Sorry Chris Eliopoulos and Matt Hollingsworth, carpal tunnel…shit, I typed their names anyway…dammit!).

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Anyway, the whole Hawkeye team puts together a great book that not only builds on the issues that have come before it, but presents a solid standalone tale of a man who feels the need to cut loose from his various entanglements, both for his sake and for the sake of others.

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It seems easier for him to leave. But he stays. And watches a Christmas special with some neighbor kids.

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It’s kind of the “It’s a Wonderful Life” scenario. A good man talked out of a bad decision by realizing what it is he has, and that he’s not alone, and he should fight for it. But it’s not presented as an homage to that. There’s no point where Clint Barton wishes he had never been born. He’s just a crime fighter who happens to find a sense of responsibility and community during the holidays (after being severely beaten by a gang of trashy gangsters). This is why people refer to films like Die Hard, or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as their favorite holiday movies. The creators here are just trying to tell a good story that just happens to take place during the holidays. They’re not forcing goodwill or nostalgia for holiday specials past down the reader’s throat.

But anyway, so that’s 2.1 Christmas comics that I like a lot! You can buy Hawkeye or the DC Holiday Special (but don’t read the DC Holiday Special) on Comixology, or at your local comic shop. The Last Christmas seems to only be in print at the moment, so pick that up at your shop or on Amazon.

Also, I seem to recall a classic Superman story where his rocket lands in the North Pole rather than Smallville. Someone please tell me if this exists, as my googling cannot find proof at the moment. If it does exist, it’s pretty enjoyable. If it doesn’t exist…well, then someone get me a job writing DC’s next Holiday Special! Hypocrisy!

 

Things I Loved About Comics This Year Part 3: The Dead Walk!

Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

When is a zombie story not a zombie story? Well, Riddler, when it’s a Rural Noir! (I seriously did not notice that it said “A rural noir” above the title of every issue until the latest one. But in all fairness, this issue is the pulpiest).

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 7.20.35 AMSexy lady? Check. Dead guy? Check. Thing is though, in the rural town in this rural noir, dead guys don’t stay dead. But not in a way you’d normally expect. They’re not eating the flesh of the living (yet). They’re not seducing young virgins and drinking their blood (yet). They’re not even a jumble of body parts sewn together and re-animated by electricity (yet?). No, these are simply people who have died, come back to life, and are having a little bit of trouble with the concept.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 7.23.53 AMThe normal, rural folks in this small, rural town are also uncomfortable with the situation. They’ve all been quarantined by the CDC, and when no one new can come or go into a small down where the dead have come back to life, well, people are going to be a little on edge and might start hurling feces.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 7.26.46 AMRevival has been a pleasant surprise for me. I hadn’t really read anything by either of the creators before. I just heard “Have you read Revival yet?” so many times that I had to pick up the first issue. And then the second. Then the third. And so on. Seeley and Norton are crafting a tense, scary, and rural tale (at this point you have to have caught on that I’m overusing rural, but if you haven’t, well, here’s this explanatory sentence!). They’re building a mystery where I need answers, but it’s not a “crackhead LOST fan need to come up with a dozen theories and if I’m wrong I’ll hurl feces at the creators” kind of need for answers. The characters they’ve created are just as compelling as the mystery.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 7.33.11 AMMYSTERIOUS CAMERA PHONE IMAGE THAT YOU’LL NEED TO BUY THE SERIES TO DETERMINE WHAT IT IS! (just kidding, they haven’t told us what that IS yet, but it’s been creeping around the edge of the series, just waiting to jump in and open up a whole new bag of questions).

So, anyway. I’ve really enjoyed reading Revival this year, and I enjoyed even more the fact that I discovered this rural noir through word of mouth and not through some bland cheerleader review on a comic book ‘news’ site.

LEVAR BURTON MOMENT: You can buy Revival on Comixology, on Amazon, at your local comic book store, or check it out at your local library (maybe? I’ve never checked out a graphic novel/trade paperback at a library before, but have heard tales of some who have. So…do so at your own risk…muahahahahahahahah!)

 

 

 

 

Things I Loved About Comics This Year Part Two: The Secret of The Ooze

 

Favorite comic books of the year post, PART 2! (I almost typed Part @ cause I held down the shift key. And you would have been yelling “Part AT what, Paul? Part at WHAAAAAT? So you’re welcome for me saving you from that agita). As is common in this Western culture of ours, we must sum up the things we enjoyed during the period of the fiscal year in order to…well…seem smart to all our friends. I wrote part one yesterday, go read it if you haven’t. I’ll be waiting.

Today, I’ll be focusing on one book: Casanova: Avaritia by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba.

I wrote about the mini series preceding Avaritia, Gula, a little while back. That is one of the few things I’ve written that I’ve liked recently. But enough about me. I’m talkin’ bout Casanova. The interdimensional super spy that can’t help but hurt everyone he loves and hates himself for it. I read both Gula and Avaritia this year. As I mentioned, Gula floored me. Avaritia…it ALMOST floored me, but was still pretty damned amazing.
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Fraction’s second issue involves dimension hopping as well as airing his anxieties as a writer, AND some anxieties about the medium as well as genre that he’s chosen to tell this story in. Not in a “comics are bullshit and I want to be a novelist” way, but really in an honest, “step back and wonder what it is you’ve done and how much your audience is reading into things (answer: A LOT. See this post – Roy)” kind of way. It’s also done in a hilariously entertaining manner via Gabriel Ba’s kinetic artwork and Fraction’s self-mocking dialogue.

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But oh yeah, there’s also a story in this thing. This tale of a super spy living in the wrong dimension with no friends, no family, only a mission. His mission (which he didn’t choose to accept), is to kill every single version of his arch enemy Newman Xeno, sometimes destroying entire universes to do so. It takes a toll on the guy.
Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 7.14.46 AMBut after killing so many versions of Newman Xeno before he can become a totally evil guy, something funny happens.

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Casanova has a conversation with the guy and sees he’s not so bad. He sees the potential to undo a wrong (turns out all this dimension murdering and time travel CREATES his archenemy) by making sure that one of the Xenos (real name: Luther Desmond Diamond) can live a normal life and be a good guy. He also manages to fall for him in the process. EMOTIONS? You just got taken on a ROLLER COASTER.

You can buy this series in all the places I tell you to buy things, but you really should start with the first book, Casanova: Luxuria. If you’ve already read that, as well as Gula, then you’re set! Go ahead and read Casanova: Avaritia, worry free (except for the worry that you might cry, cause there’s a good chance you will). This is one of THE BEST comics I read this year, and honestly one of the ones that restored my enthusiasm in the medium.