Hardware cover Hardware: The Man in the Machine (Dwayne McDuffie/Denys Cowan; Milestone/DC; Hardware 1-8 originally published 1993, collected edition published 2010)


No, really, SPOILERS AHOY.

OK, you wuz warnd.

Hardware has always been one of the cornerstone villains of McDuffie's Milestone Dakotaverse. I've only ever seen him through the eyes of the undoubted heroes, Static and Icon, usually wreaking havoc in combination with the Shadow Cabinet, other undoubted villains. Here, we get an inner view of Hardware -- what he thinks of himself and how he justifies what he does to himself. After all, most villains don't start out planning to be such. Most don't necessarily even think of themselves that way ... well, OK, in superhero comix, most do, because 96% of them are stark staring insane. The ones that aren't insane -- very few -- don't necessarily think of themselves as the bad guy, even when they're in stark opposition to the unambiguously good guys.

Curtis Metcalf, brilliant scientist extraordinaire, gets pulled up from poverty by Alva, big businessman, when Curtis is a young child. Alva educates Curtis, gives him a role in Alva's business ... and then things go terribly wrong for Curtis. Sort of.

And I will confess, when you find out precisely why Hardware has gone to the extremes he has -- there have been quite an astounding number of corpses left in his wake, albeit mostly fairly specific ones, and a really impressive amount of spectacular and mostly targeted property damage -- then you too will have the same reaction as his sort of almost girlfriend, when she says, "How can you be brilliant enough to build this, and too stupid to know what to do with it?" In all seriousness, it's impossible not to think, THAT'S why he did all this? How stupid can a person that bright BE? The reason is personally important, to be sure, but it's also amazingly petty compared to the spectacular amount of destruction and death he leaves behind. That said, this story is mostly about Hardware figuring out that this really isn't quite what he wants to be doing, or how he wants to be doing it.

One thing that McDuffie does very well is showing the physical costs of superheroics -- or supervillainy, if you prefer -- for people who aren't bang babies or otherwise metahuman. Curtis is banged up, beaten up, battered all the time. He's always exhausted, always trying to hide his condition from friends and coworkers. Periodically he winds up sleeping through work shifts by accident, and having to call in sick late, because he just can't make it in. It's great to see that aspect of super feats addressed; most comics just ignore what it would be like for an ordinary person to do what they do. (Just think: Bruce Wayne really could not function as the head of Wayne Enterprises, because he would sleep through most of the day when his staff would be working. A reputation as an international playboy would only get you through just so much slacking off. But I digress.)

Within the Hardware story is another, quite astonishing story: the story of Deathwish, another of the Milestone universe's villains that aren't quite what they seem. Deathwish's origin story is both horrific and astounding, both for its time and even for now. Deathwish had been a criminal, a guy named Wilt, but had retired from his criminal activity. Settled down, gotten married, had a child. Then, apparently, one of his old enemies found him and his family. The old enemy tied him up, then forced Wilt to watch as he raped and murdered his wife, then raped and murdered his son. Then -- in frame, more or less -- he rapes Wilt, followed by shooting him and leaving him for dead. Wilt recovers, then becomes Deathwish, who pursues and forces sex offenders to murder themselves through nothing more than the power of his mind -- apparently what happened to him awakened a sort of latent ability.

But consider: we get something never before or since seen in mainstream superhero comix. A man is raped on camera, so to speak. It's utterly and completely unambiguous. No, of course you don't see the actual penetration, but it's very clear what's going on. Moreover, Wilt specifically tells us what happened to him. It's not about either of them being gay. It's not even a prison rape. It's one of those things that happnes because a bad guy has the power, and because that's how he wants to humiliate Wilt and let him know just how powerless he is to protect either his family or himself. Pretty much every other male who gets raped in comics is either a molested child, or they get drugged and used by women as big warm inseminators -- which would be wildly unlikely. (And, before anyone even thinks about mentioning the name Apollo, read this entry. He got savagely beat down, yes, but until and unless it is specifically and unambiguously stated, it cannot reasonably be said that he was raped because we just plain don't know. Moving on...)

Deathwish gets, oddly enough, exactly the sort of origin story that female superheroes frequently get, and which irritates the snot out of people -- being raped drives a woman to, usually, becoming some sort of hero. Here, perhaps because it drives Wilt to becoming a villain, it sort of does work. It may also be that it works because Deathwish is a man, and superhero comix have always been thought of as male wish fulfillment; I'm sure that a lot of men who have been raped would do what Deathwish does to his rapist and other sex offenders, given the opportunity and the ability to get away with it.

That said, Deathwish's origin story only half-works. It turns out that his ordeal also gave Wilt a really spectacular case of dissociative disorder -- multiple personalities that don't know of or acknowledge each other -- and the second personality and its actions, while also villainous, profoundly do not work. I understand, for story purposes, why McDuffie made the choices he did but I think he really needed to pick one direction and stick with it. Either one would have been sufficient, and the revenge-minded one works better for the story. It may well be that suffering through what he has would make a real-life version of Wilt do both of the things that he does -- I can't know and I really don't want to -- but as pure story, it's just too much.

Deathwish does, eventually, get apprehended. And then at some point, Deathwish actually got a miniseries of his own. Frankly, the mind boggles. I mean ... he killed a lot of people. Granted, all of them under the influence of one or the other personalities, but still, you'd think they'd stick him in an insane asylum and leave him there for the rest of his natural days. I hope they do reprint his miniseries, because I'd like to see how that was even possible.

After Deathwish, Curtis continues to struggle with what he means Hardware to be, to become. Oprah even makes an appearance in the story! And ...then the volume ends without anything like resolution. Given the distance between the end of this volume and the second issue of Milestone Forever, I can but hope that there's another archive volume of Hardware waiting to be published. I can't imagine how on earth Curtis could have gotten from here to there. (And one of the things that he does in Milestone Forever is deliberately and surpassingly nasty. He does, to give him credit, eventually figure that out.)

Even with the caveat about Deathwish: Excellent; Highly Recommended. Really, go out and find this and read it. And then get the other Milestone books, Static and Icon. (I've seen another volume of Icon solicited, thank goodness, so at least we'll probably find out what happened with Raquel and her situation.)
iainpj: (Default)
( Mar. 6th, 2009 12:45 pm)
Beacon press seeks artist for graphic novel of Octavia Butler's Kindred | Nalo Hopkinson

Interesting. I would have thought that to be something that was incredibly difficult to adapt. I know that I've read it once, listened to a very good audio dramatization featuring Alfre Woodard once, and then never gone near it again. It's a very good story, but very hard to get through -- especially a re-reading/experiencing where you know what happens in the end.

I also wonder if, after the artistic and critical success of Nat Turner, they tried approaching Kyle Baker. That would seem an almost perfect match of artist and material. (Though, that said, given that Beacon is nonprofit and small, they might not have been able to afford him.)

(Purely a side note: the small corner of me that remains from my webmaster days just wants to have a small headdesk moment regarding Beacon's website. Not the design, per se -- though part of me would like to have a very firm word with them regarding the blue text on blue squares with a blue background for the side and top links. No, the issue is that they don't have their own complete press releases on their own website. They have some things on their Beacon Broadside weblog -- and again, if I were a designer god, we would be having some very firm words about the utility of making the only discernable link to your weblog look like exactly the sort of ad people have been long trained to ignore. On the other hand, they have resisted the urge to Flash; THAT said, I have a sneaky suspicion that the Javascript menus at the top do not degrade gracefully if you have Javascript turned of. [Which, granted, almost nobody does these days -- but that said, if you've got a chunk of your press devoted to Disability Studies, as they seem to, wouldn't you want your site to reflect a commitment to that?] Nonethless, all the preceeding aside, Beacon also doesn't have complete press releases on their weblog. They sent the complete press release out -- it's up at Racialicious, to which I declined to link because the pop-up survey ad thingie they've got going now annoys the snot out of me, and a few other places. But still, most people who are truly interested will want to come back to the Beacon site, since it should be authoritative, and you want to make sure the other places didn't leave out anything important. Seriously, they're a small press already. Why handicap their website from doing what it's supposed to be doing, which is publicising and selling their stuff?)
Final Crisis 6 of 7, "How to murder the Earth" (Morrison and a plethora of artists; DC):
Or, to give the issue the title it should have had, "Batman RIP, penultimate issue." I have certain very definite opinions about that, but I'll leave them aside today.

As far as the story itself goes, it's ... odd. Interesting and good, but odd. The rogue monitor came back to himself last issue, and looked like he was about to do something big; we see him again near the end of the issue and see, more or less, how he fits in. We also find out what happened to Superman when he got taken out of time back in Lois' hospital room, as well as getting a most startlingly literal deus ex machina. We see the continuing battle of Mary Marvel (whom Supergirl does not quite call a slut, after Mary specifically calls her one) versus Supergirl and Captain Marvel Jr and Black Adam and maybe a few other people. We get Black Canary and the Ray and Mr Richards the Tattooed Man on the JLA satellite versus the possessed Green Arrow, Black Lightning and more of Darkseid's minions. We get Renee, Ray Palmer and Ryan Choi in Checkmate's last bunker and Checkmate's endgame. We get Luthor, and we get the Flashes about to run to save the universe (again). We also get Batman vs Darkseid, in what may be the simplest and most direct scenes in the entire series to date. Of course, this also brings up the issue of when Final Crisis takes place, relative to RIP, but there's still really no way to tell at this point.

The artwork in this issue is, understandably given the raft of pencillers and inkers and colorists, all over the board; that said, it mostly works pretty well, even though the stylistic differences are pretty glaringly obvious.

As a whole, FC 6 is a spectular, profoundly irritating, kind of glorious mess, all of that concentrated in the final image of the issue. I'll certainly read the last issue, of course, but I can tell already that it's going to be a very irksome experience. I just hope it's worth the ride.

Wonder Woman 27, "Rise of the Olympian, part 2: A sense of loss" (Simone/Lopresti; DC)

...Yes. Well.

OK, I would like to make one thing perfectly clear: I am not a continuity wonk. I absolutely am not. As long as you give me good character and good story and enough to enjoy that particular tale, I could give a rat's ass. But this issue is so problematic on those grounds that I couldn't help but notice.

The story itself is simple enough. Nemesis, Etta Candy, Cassie and Donna all team up to rescue Diana from the situation in which Genocide left her. Genocide took Diana's lasso of truth, which in fact has more powers than that -- and for anyone who was paying attention, way back in the Captain Nazi story arc, this won't be a surprise. In the meantime, Athena seems to be dying or fading away, and Zeus takes the opportunity unleash his master plan ... and therein lies the continuity weirdness.

The roots of this weirdness go back to Amazons Attack and Countdown, with incidental involvement from DC Universe 0. At the end of Amazons Attack, the Amazons are dispersed through the world, and their memories removed by Circe. Except ... it turned out that "Circe" was really Granny Goodness, operating an apparently quite long range plan to get rid of Amazonian opposition prior to Final Crisis. As far as we can tell from Amazons Attack and Countdown, the Olympian gods had already been taken prisoner by the New gods before the Amazons were dispersed. The Olympian gods were gone for a very long time, even in DC universe time, before they got rescued by Mary Marvel as she started steppin' to the bad side. They shouldn't know what happened to the Amazons. By all rights, all they will know is that the Amazons have disappeared. (Yes, Zeus says "They will not remember. They have been altered, as have we," just before he recalls the Amazons. But how does he know any of that? Why would he? And how have they been "altered", anyway?) Yet the Olympians have been prepositioned, ready to take the place of the Amazons, way back in DC Universe 0, before we knew that the Olympian gods hadn't yet ocme back from ... wherever it was that they were. So Zeus has clearly had a very long term plan, based largely on information that he couldn't have had, gathered during a time when he was, as far as can be told, possibly not in this universe at all. How does that work?

Recommended, on the whole, but very confusing. The issue taken on its own is really pretty good, as long as you can ignore the really intrusive continuity questions. And I assume that the end of this arc will also go some way to explaining why the Olympian gods didn't do anything with Final Crisis; however intervention-phobic they may be -- and they rather clearly aren't -- having so many humans taken over by antilife is the sort of thing you'd expect to bring them out. Plus, a chance to do battle against the New Gods that imprisoned them; you'd think they'd have to be held back from that.

Anna Mercury 5 of 5 (Warren Ellis/Facundo Percio; Avatar): Anna vs. a giant cannon. Anna versus a giant cannon. Oh, and incidentally, the entire military of New Ataraxia. Seriously, people, as your big fight comix big fight goes, there's pretty much nothing about this that isn't utterly awesome. Highly recommended.

Manhunter 38, "Some Years later: Family business" (Andreyko/Gaydos, Calero; DC): In which Kate goes up against the Sweeney Todd-possessed Bones and Mrs Lovett during her son's graduation party, of all places. And in which Kate handles the issue of Ramsay wanting to be a superhero in pretty much exactly the way you think she will. The issue ends with a blurb on the DC Nation page that notes that the character will be back in 2009, so I'd imagine she'll be shifted to other DCU titles as desired. A nice way to go out. Recommended.

Detective Comics 852, "Last Rites: Faces of Evil: Hush: Reconstruction" (Dini/Nguyen; DC): In which we see what happened to Hush after "The Heart of Hush". Basically, he roams the world, reaping the benefits both of having Bruce Wayne's face, and of Bruce having disappeared after "RIP" (about which, of course, he knows nothing useful). It's a nice little setup for the next issue of Batman, in which we get to see what happens when Hush and Catwoman meet. Given what he did to Selina Kyle during the "Heart of Hush" it ought to be very interesting indeed. (I assume that Catwoman's issue is also going to be a "Faces of Evil" issue.)

Runaways: Dead End Kids (Joss Whedon/Michael Ryan; Marvel, trade paperback edition):

So it only took, what, two years and change for these six issues to meander out?

Anyway, the story picks up more or less at the end of the Brian K. Vaughn run. The Runaways are off in New York, looking to do a sort of contract job for the Kingpin, of all possible people, stealing a device for him. (And establishing near-perfect paradox in the process.) Needless to say, they have misgivings, and needless to say, things really don't go at all well -- although little Molly does manage to take out the Punisher. It turns out that Kingpin is having them steal a time device; moreover, it fits into the Leapfrog console as though it were made for it. The Runaways wind up travelling back in time to 1907 New York, meeting the mutants of that day, as well as a few other interesting people.

The trade this time is a full-sized book, rather than the digest format normally used for the title. In some ways, it's a bit annoying, since the set isn't likely to be shelved together. That said, printing the larger format allows the art to breathe, so to speak; and Ryan's art is simply glorious. Appropriate to the story and style, beautifully saturated, exquisitely drawn.

Highly recommended.

SuperTeenTopia: Invisible Touch (Kushin/Martinez/Abella):
The story takes place in a world where people have superpowers. Kevin, geek nerd extraordinare, keeps trying to get his best friend Cameron to join him on a super team. Cameron, being rather more sensible and risk averse than his friend, elected to try to keep to the sidelines. That somehow doesn't quite work, and he winds up getting drawn into Kevin's various rescues. This happens even more once he meets Diva, a young Hispanic woman with powers, who may or may not be infatuated wiwh Cameron. Along the way, they also meet Paige, a young woman from a deeply religious, fundamentalist family that seems to regard powers somewhat dimly. We watch the team as they slowly begin to build and become more familiar with each other, and as they go about living their daily lives.

Super Teen Topia effectively covers the same sort of ground as early Runaways, about trying to get to know each other and build a team, albeit entirely without the trauma of discovering that their parents are essentially the embodiment of alien-directed evil. Unfortunately, Runaways covers the team-building ground more compellingly, as does Freshman. It's not at all a bad story; it's just not anywhere near as interesting, comparatively speaking. Martinez' artwork is very clean and neat, and very traditional looking, which works for the story.

Overall, it's OK. Just OK.
The War at Ellsmere (Faith Erin Hicks; SLG)
Jun arrives at The Ellsmere School, having won a coveted scholarship to the acclaimed private middle/high school. She's given up her family and friends in the clear-eyed recognition that without the sort of boost that Ellsmere can give her, especially academically, the chances of getting into the sort of college she wants later on are slim. Her father died when she was young, and her mother is a struggling hairdresser, so this is going to be her best shot. Her roommate Cassie is a somewhat flighty but very sweet person. However, Jun almost immediately joins battle with Emily, queen of the mean girls. Part of it is pure academic rivalry -- they've both been the best in school until now. Part of it is, frankly, that Emily is in fact very mean, and Jun tends to start things sometimes without thinking them through. Eventually, things escalate to a breaking point.

Hicks draws the situation very realistically. Almost anyone who was in junior high or high school can remember having some sort of situation with others, some sort of competition, some sort of rivalry, people who instinctively disliked each other, sometimes for no good reason. Hicks' artwork makes it easy to distinguish even minor characters, and the expressions easily convey the emotions the characters feel. The school itself almost feels like a character, a heavy gothic presence around the girls. The mystical element introduced at the end is a bit ... odd; frankly, it feels like the sort of thing that might be setting up future stories at the school. It's properly set up by the story -- unlike, say, the Minx story Clubbing, it doesn't come winging in completely without warning -- but it feels a bit out of place. That said, I'm not sure how the situation could have been resolved without it.

Highly recommended, for anyone above the age of 12.

Batman 682: "Last Rites: The Butler Did it" (Morrison/Garbett/Scott; DC): The first of DC's major titles to acknowledge that Final Crisis exists, it's a more or less direct connection. It makes absolutely no concessions to anyone who hasn't read Final Crisis, so if you haven't read that title, you're probably going to be largely lost through this one. Mind, I think even if you have read it, you're going to be lost until the end; it's just that the end will make slightly more sense. Up until near the end, it's a fragmented tour through Batman/Bruce Wayne's past, sort of guided by Alfred. It's very confusing -- although, as a side effect, the identity of the Club of Villains' Dr Hurt is revealed, and Batwoman is apparently momentarily unretconned out of lesbianage. I think. As I said, it's all very confusing. (I think somewhere in DC continuity, the current Batwoman is supposed to be related to, but not the same as, the previous Batwoman. I think.) It's going to be very interesting to see where it goes from here. Also terribly surreal.

Gear School (Adam Gallardo/Nuvia Peris/Sergio Sandoval; Dark Horse): Teresa Gottlieb, 13 years old, is one of the students enrolled at Gear School, a military academy where students learn to use Gear -- basically, flying mecha/giant robots -- to fight in the endless war with the unknown alien race that's attacking the planet. Like other girls of her age, she's just getting interested in boys. She's got the odd rival or two. And unfortunately, she's not actually the best at running the Gear simulations, tending to crash things here and there. Teresa needs to pull it all together in a hurry, because the battle is going to come sooner than anyone expects. (One does wonder why anyone thinks it would be a good idea to combine angstful teens and appallingly powerful war machines, but whatever.) Gallardo manages to invoke the horror and chaos of war, yet manages to do it without quite getting anyone killed. Peris' artwork is both appropriate and evocative, manga-inflected -- big eyes, big head -- without reaching quite that degree of exaggeration. Strongly Recommended for ages 12 and up.
OK, so I am going to try (note the word "try") to review an average (note the word "average") of one title per day through the end of the year, for reasons that will become obvious around, say, February. So, to begin!

Batman 681, "RIP Conclusion, Hearts in Darkness" (Morrison/Daniel; DC):
...Huh. So Morrison did have a good reason for naming her "Jezebel Jet", after all. But, given context, he still probably shouldn't have.

That aside, Morrison does indeed seem to deliver on the premise of the arc's title, one way and another. It's not definitive -- and I would think that Warner Brothers would have had a massive snit fit if it had been -- but you really can't say that he didn't deliver. And it becomes even more apparent this issue that Morrison really meant it when he said that he viewed everything through RIP as one big book unto itself, with callbacks to everything that's come so far in this one arc. The Club of Heroes even makes an appearance, in a way that may be indicative of the way forward after "The Battle for the Cowl". Batman even gets "help" of a sort -- if that's at all the right word -- from the Joker, of all people. And Batman winds up going much much farther in his pursuit of ... well, in his pursuit than he's ever gone before. I will say that the revelation of the identity of the Black Glove himself, while tying in to the entirety of Morrison's Batman to date, does leave you sitting there scratching your head and thinking, "Huh? What?" And there's no real reason for him to have undertaken this horribly complex plot, other than "he's barking mad."

Morrison's been quite clear that RIP predates Final Crisis. Wonder what that means for the whole RIP idea, or, more precisely, what exactly he meant by it? The epilogue takes place well after the body of the issue, so it's clearly post-Final Crisis, and probably post-"Battle for the Cowl", for that matter.

Wonder Woman 26, "Rise of the Olympian 1 - Plague and Pestilence" (Simone/Lopresti): In which the Secret Society looses Genocide upon the world, the Olympian gods return to a nearly-destroyed Olympus, Director Steel goes more than slightly mad and has Traynor/Nemesis arrested, and there is the fight to end all fights between Wonder Woman and Genocide. But honestly, I kept getting distracted by the timing question. If I understand what I'm seeing -- and I freely admit that I might not -- then the Olympians are just returning home after Countdown. So how long has it been? Where have they been all this time? Why did it take so long? After all, they were rescued by Mary Marvel, and she's been back wreaking havoc for ages already. The fact that Athena is only just discovering that Wonder Woman is no longer her champion does argue for this being post-Countdown and not post-Final Crisis. That aside, I have to admit, I really liked the story as a whole, but especially the Traynor subplot, and the fact that his fellow soldiers were abusing him mightily and he just took it, but when they tried to take away the pendant Diana gave him, that got him going. Lopresti's artwork is, as usual, very very good. Recommended, but mildly confusing.

Flash Gordon 3, "The Mercy Wars, chapter 3: Arena" (Dineen/Green): I have to admit, I'm enjoying this series far more than I thought I would. It's mildly surprising that a comic book series was greenlit so soon after the television series, but I'm glad that it was. One thing that you get from this that you didn't really get from the TV series is that sense of high adventure fun. I mean, talking bipedal lions, landsharks -- well, technically, "shark men", but landsharks -- sword and sorcery and technology-a-go-go, Ming looks ... um, Mingly and not surfer-dudely (I know he was created as a sort of racist stereotype, originally, but somehow, in my head, he always looks like Klaus Kinski in the movie, and that's kind of what this ming looks like -- though everyone else looks distinctly different). Dale is exactly as competent, physically and otherwise, as you'd expect a federal special ops agent to be. Green's artwork is highly stylized and appropriate to the story -- also, very orange, for some reason. Highly recommended. Fun for most ages!

Galaxy Quest, "Global Warning issue 4" (Lobdell/Kyriazis): In which we get treated to a tour of Jason's recent past that winds up being slightly off kilter, for reasons that become obvious as we go on. Again, a series that's a lot of fun, if quite sincerely late to the table -- seriously, ten years ago, people. Anyway, it's overall the best issue of the series so far, but I do begin to wonder about the pacing of this series. The film, once the action got started, went charging forward without a let-up; this tends to have distinct rises and falls. There's only been one strong action beat so far, in issue 3; the rest have been largely character development. Which isn't bad, but it does take patience. There's also the fact tha tif you weren't a fan of the movie, you're not really going to enjoy the comic. But anyway, since I was a fan, it's been fun so far. Recommended for fans, no recommendation if you're not.

B.P.M. (Paul Sizer; Cafe Digital)
$15.99, 94p.
50 page preview online at paulsizer.com

Roxy wants to be a DJ. In fact, she is a DJ, but she wants to be a great one, not just a good one. She starts investing more of herself in finding out just how to do this, spending more time with her friend Atsuko, who is a very good DJ, with her friend Dominic who is both a DJ and a recording engineer. This causes conflict in her romantic relationship with her girlfriend Hannah, who wants Roxy to spend more time with her. At the same time, Roxy gets some unsolicited but very good advice from this guy whom she's never met before. After doing a little research, she discovers that he's Philippe Robicheau, a one-time luminary on the club DJ scene who self-destructed in a haze of drugs and sex, among other things. She starts working with him, absorbing his knowledge to make herself a better DJ. In the meantime, her relationship with Hannah pretty much implodes, and Roxy's forced to make hard decisions about her life. How much does she want to give to her work? How much to a relationship? Where does she want her priorities to lie? Just how much does she want this, anyway?

Sizer does a very good job of depicting how it feels to be a young adult, just beginning to take your work seriously, deciding just how driven you are and how successful you want to be, and what sorts of sacrifices it takes to get where you want to be. Roxy gets portrayed a bit inconsistently -- in most of her life, she's forthright and assertive, but when it comes to the breakup of her relationship with Hannah, she just takes the hits without pointing out that Hannah's doing the same thing that she's doing, prioritizing her career over the relationship. That really is the one character quibble I do have about the story. Sizer's New York is also very inclusive -- it takes place in a New York with all sorts of people, as opposed to the "Friends" New York, for example. The colors are strong and vibrant throughout, with a playlist running along the bottom of the book for evocative music. The one place where the artwork has a few -- a very few -- problems comes in his depiction of faces; there's something about a few of the faces where he's drawing them full-face or close to it where they look clunky and squished; a perspective issue of some sort. Again, that's in a very few places; otherwise, the faces are very expressive and distinct.

BPM is a very enjoyable read. Older teens and adults who like stories about music and the people who work in that world might like it very much. Highly recommended.
Originally published 15 July 1999 in a slightly different version; content has been edited to remove dated references and links

Bread and Wine: an erotic tale of New York
story by Samuel Delany; art by Mia Wolff
Juno Books (March 1, 1999)
80 p.
$14.99, if you can find it.

I've just been reading the most remarkable book.

Comic book, actually.

Samuel Delany is an author of many acclaimed works, in several genres, including science fiction, biography and essays, among others. He also happens to be gay and black.

Bread and Wine: an erotic tale of New York constitutes the most recently published chapter of Samuel Delany's autobiography, published as a full graphic biography, rather than as a prose book. Of course biographies frequently have photos, pictures, other things, but these are always either publicity photos, or other things that are somehow public moments, family photos or school photographs and the like. Oh, maybe your mother delights in showing that picture of you running naked down the street when you were two, or maybe you're having a bad hair day in that picture, or you've got teminal red-eye, but still and all, those photographs, even the very personal ones, are still somehow of public moments. Sometime when others were looking at you.

The drawings in this book are frequently of much more intimate moments.

page from Bread and Wine

The general synopsis of it would be: college professor meets and befriends homeless man and they eventually become lovers. But the synopsis would leave out just about everything important: the feel of the book, how well the emotions come through.

Delany notes that his publisher didn't quite understand why he wanted to make it into a comic book. I confess, in some ways, it does seem like an odd choice. However, there are moments illustrated in this book--moments where, one assumes, no photographs exist or would exist--that somehow gain power from being forced to see them in exactly the way that the author sees them. (Or rather, the artist's rendering of the author's memories, but still, I think it works out the same way.) Some of the drawings are thoroughly surreal, as in Dennis' (the homeless man) view of Central Park. Some of them are fairly straightforward. There's also the plain fact that a straight-ahead prose retelling of just the time when he met and fell in love with Dennis would be, frankly, terribly short.

What startled me, what seems to be the most powerful, were the moments showing him and Dennis when they first go to a hotel, when they first make love. I mean, in a more conventional autobiography might have used the same words he used to describe it, but your concept of what Dennis looked like, what the bath was like -- Dennis, having been homeless and on the street for a while, was staggeringly filthy -- it would all have been more of a hybrid of what you brought to it and what he gave you. Doing it this way forces what he gives you and your impressions into consonance in a way that simply might not happen.

The book is, as noted, billed as an erotic tale, and there's certainly sex in it, but it's not simply erotic as in "boy, that gets my engine running!" It's erotic as in, it's a love story with sex in it.

Another odd bit is the interview at the end, where the artist, Delany, Dennis, and Delany's now-adult daughter talk about the book, and what some of the events were like, how their memories differ. That's when you realize that his daughter has actually read this, that she's seen those drawings of her father and his lover together. It's a very strange moment for the reader; I can't imagine how strange it would have been for his daughter.

For those of you who might have read Delany's The Mad Man, reading this will bring one of those great moments of enlightenment, when you realize where at least some of it came from. (I don't know if all of it came from this relationship, and I don't want to know, thank you very much. I don't know how much his life informed his writing in that case.)

I suppose, if I were talking about this to someone (as I guess I may be, right?) I'd say: I recommend it, but know that you may not actually like it. It's fascinating and it's interesting, and if you like Delany and his work, it's certainly illuminating.

At the recent 2008 Reeling Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival, I saw a screening of The Polymath, or the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman (I'll note that the Frameline site has a better description; "highly sexually active", inDEED!). A short clip from the documentary is available at the filmmaker's website (NOT WORKSAFE! NOT EVEN VAGUELY WORK SAFE AUDIO! ... unless your workplace is entirely comfortable with hearing a gentleman talk about the perigrinations of his sex life, in which case, go right ahead!) As far as I could tell, the relationship in Bread and Wine is never explicitly referenced, though there may be some more oblique mentions.
A (very) few reviews, to get my hand back in. But first, a cheesy science fiction television mention.

So apparently Stargate: Universe will effectively be recycling the Starlost or Star Trek: Voyager concepts. (And for those of you -- i.e., everyone -- who is thinking "Starlost? What the heck is that?", try this. and also maybe the videos here. I swear, for a long time, I used to wonder if I'd imagined the Starlost; nobody I knew had ever seen or remembered it. And then I saw this announcement.)

Max Headroom is now available on AOL's In2TV. Huzzah! And also, people who were in Chicago at the right time will remember watching our very own TV channels get zapped, maybe a week or two after the Max Headroom episode on the very same topic.

Cleopatra 2525 and Jack of All Trades -- one of Bruce Campbell's few attempts as a regular on series television before Burn Notice, I believe -- are now available at Hulu. This makes me very happy. (It seems that the entire audience for Cleopatra 2525 consisted of gay men. No, I do not know why. All I can think is that possibly watching Gina Torres kick ass in skimpy clothing made us all really happy. Plus, it was also one of those shows where the men were frequently in skimpy clothing, which helped. But still. Weird audience composition.)

OK, then! On to the reviews!

On the next page! )
100 Girls (Adam Gallardo, Todd Demong; Simon and Schuster/Simon Pulse)
Sylvia seems to be your average teenaged girl, having your average teenaged girl problems. Her adoptive parents don't seem to understand her, she's having problems with the popular girl at school thinking she's poaching her boyfriend, she's having bad dreams about dozens of girls in these big incubation chambers -- you know, the usual. Only it turns out that she's got freaky super strength, so she accidentally flings the popular girl across the hall and then breaks her arm with her bare hands when she attacks Sylvia again. And it turns out that she was one of the girls in the incubation chambers, and was cloned from the tissue of various scientists involved. Because the government -- or someone -- is demanding results of the project, the people who created her suddenly want her back. She was stolen from the project by scientists who disagreed with what the project was for, which was to turn teenaged girls into weapons with superhero/villain-type powers through the use of Mad Science. (They'd already tried with boys, and with a very few exceptions, it doesn't seem to have worked.) Sylvia doesn't want to go back, and lets the bad guys know this with Extreme Violence. She then seeks out the other few girls who were taken out of the project, trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

I call them bad guys, but the fact is, the mad scientists are drawn up as surprisingly complete characters. They have feelings for each other as well as the girls they've created, and that some of them have taken away from the project. You don't really understand why they're doing this -- even a moment's thought should have told them why this would be a terrible idea, adolescent rebellion to the extreme not withstanding, and Sylvia's extra little ability (you'll know it when you see it) is both understandable from a battlefield viewpoint, and terribly terribly misguided -- but that aside, both the girls and the scientists are very well developed. There are also people of various visible ethnic backgrounds who are involved in the project, as well as in trying to rescue some of the girls, which is a nice touch. (And mildly confusing at first; it's not until they explain that Sylvia seems to have been adopted as a teenager that it makes even vague sense that her adoptive parents are black.)

It's a very good, entertaining book, with interesting characters and artwork that's just cartoony enough to keep the violence from being too offputting. And make no mistake: when I say there's Extreme Violence, I mean there's a good bit of barehanded killing, killing through explosions, some interesting dismemberments, a bit of torture that we thankfully don't get to see ... really, it's pretty much all there. Depending on how you define things -- and allowing that every single thing she does, until the very end, is clearly in self defense -- Sylvia might be considered one of the biggest mass murderers in the country's history. All that violence does bring up the question of who, precisely, the audience of this book is. Mind, the question only comes up because of a certain cultural sexism. You've got a book meant primarily for boys in which a teenaged boy kills and maims and dismembers in a slightly cartoony way, no problem. But allegedly, boys don't read books with girls as the principal characters, which means that this would be aimed at girls, and people's biases change in interesting ways regarding girls and violence.

According to an interview I read elsewhere, Gallardo and Demong hope to continue the title, which was originally published through Arcana. I hope they get the chance. Any road, it's a very interesting story. Recommended.

Rapunzel's Revenge (Shannon and Dean Hale/Nathan Hale; Bloomsbury)
Once upon a time, there was a girl. Her parents wound up selling her to the wicked witch after they stole some lettuce from the witch's garden. The girl was brought up in ignorance of that fact, until she found out about the realities of her world. And then she decided to do something about that.

The Hales recast Rapunzel as a fairy tale of the old west. Evil witch Gothel has some sort of magic that makes things grow very fast, but it also sucks the life out of other areas, which means that much of the kingdom she reigns over is dead and sere. Rapunzel is raised inside the castle, and knows nothing of this. One day she gets very curious about what's outside the castle, and eventually gets around her mother's proscriptions, and takes a look, only to discover an enslaved, blighted world beyond the walls. She also accidentally finds the mother who gave birth to her, a slave in Gothel's mines. Needless to say, her view of things is changed dramatically. Furious that Rapunzel has disobeyed her, Gothel takes her to the forest and shuts her up, not in a tower, but in a very tall tree, with a hollow space near the top. Gothel uses the forest as defense of sorts, and causes things in it to grow very fast, including as it turns out, Rapunzel's hair and nails. Rapunzel refuses to give in to Gothel's demands to apologize and go back, so eventually Gothel abandons her, and causes the tree-prison to start growing closed. Rapunzel uses her now-lengthy hair and the rope tricks taught to her by one of the guards when she was a child, and escapes from the tree, and then has a raft of adventures in her attempt to free her real mother. Along the way, she runs into the prince who has come to rescue the maiden from her high prison -- only not so much, really. And then she meets Jack, of beanstalk and giantkiller and other fame; he's clearly meant as a sort of Jack portmanteau-trickster archetype, much as Jack of Fables.

Characterization in this story works in really pretty typical fairytale ways, setting aside. Rapunzel is a spunky young woman who rescues herself through most of the story, and rescues Jack a few times. The villains of the story are very very villainous, including Gothel, who seems to regard Rapunzel more as a possession to be subdued, rather than a daughter to be cared for. Nathan Hale's art is very expressive and fun to look at.

Very technically, Rapunzel's Revenge is sort of an all-ages book. More practically, it's the sort of thing you give to kids who are just old enough to read comfortably on their own. I don't think teenaged girls would like it -- or would admit to liking it -- which is a bit of a pity, since it really does show a teenaged girl being both very thoughtrul and very competent physically in ways that aren't often depicted. Recommended.

Air #1, "Letters from Lost Countries, part 1" (G. Willow Wilson/M.K. Perker; DC/Vertigo):
We meet Blythe, a flight attendant for a Dutch airline, as she and some guy are falling through the air out of a plane crashing into the ocean. We then jump back in time to when Blythe first meets this guy, having what appears to be a charmingly racist moment of terrorist neurosis about him -- he's from somewhere Mediterranean or Middle Eastern or somewhere (it's very very confusing) -- and then running into a charmingly racist/nationalist group that wants to take advantage of her feelings. Then, in a wildly improbable way, she gets talked into taking a travel bag for one of those guys. She gets talked into looking into the bag by That Guy -- he's now apparently a Spaniard, so he says -- and discovers some Very Bad Things inside. Then lots and lots of very bad things happen.

I really don't know about this one. I think I need to give it another issue -- although, that said, it's probably going to get dropped to trade, just because this is the sort of story that's probably going to read better in chunks. Judgement reserved, for now.

Anna Mercury #3 (Warren Ellis/Facundo Percio): In which Anna's current mission to New Ataraxia is completed, we see the real woman behind Anna, and we even discover that there's a reason for that magnificent and highly distinctive mane of red hair and those interesting boots (which are slightly less sensible than they first appear). We see boomerang commit -- and so does she, from an angle that would be positively insanity inducing if she weren't already apparently insane anyway. It's essentially an issue-long action sequence, and a whole hell of a lot of fun. I have to admit, I'm hoping that next issue we get to see Anna during her downtime, so we can see more what she's really like. Highly recommended, of course.

The Brave and the Bold 16, "Superman and Catwoman: Tempted", (Mark Waid/Scott Collins; DC): I don't normally read this title, but that particular teamup is so wildly unlikely that I had to give it a shot. It was really a lot of fun, a lighthearted done-in-one romp in which Superman is forced to team up with Catwoman to try to break up a criminal auction for something very dangerous. Highly recommended. (I do wonder what's going to happen with this title when DC Animated starts a cartoon with the same title, but very different content, next year. I'm guessing that it's either going to be discontinued, or shifted over to Jonny DC and the content changed; otherwise, it's going to be very confusing.)
Wish I'd saved Genius for this update. Oh, well. Who knew? Included this time: Anna Mercury 2, Tales of the Starlight Drive In, Robin 174, Robin/Spoiler Special 1, Devi 20, Checkmate volume 3, Rogue Angel 4.

Also, I use the word "awesome" a lot. It's that kind of set of reviews.

Cut here because, WOW, is this thing LONG. )
Burnout (Rebecca Donner/Inaki Miranda; DC/Minx):
Danni and her mother have moved in with her mother's alcoholic and borderline abusive boyfriend after the disappearance of Danni's father -- apparently, he just deserted them. Danni winds up falling in love with Haskell, her sort-of stepbrother, and getting involved in his brand of radical ecological activism. Becoming involved with Haskell means that Danni winds up having to make a lot of tough decisions about her actions and bearing the consequences of them.

Honestly, I think this is the first Minx title where I can say that the issue is that I'm absolutely not the target audience, even though I've liked other Minx books, sometimes quite a lot. Donner's writing isn't at all bad, and Miranda's artwork works well with the story. But it took me three times to get through it, despite its brevity. Part of the issue is that because of the different things she's been going through, and the terribly awkward living situation, Danni's personality comes across as very muted, despite being the first-person narrator. For that matter, for all that he's a radical ecoterrorist of sorts, Haskell comes across as surly and quiet, and not actually there all that much. Danni's mother, aside from making one bad decision after another, is barely there. To be sure, much of this is the result of Hank's verbal and near-physical abuse of Danni's mother and of Haskell; one of the things you learn about being around an abusive person is to be as quiet and withdrawn as possible, because you never know what will set them off. But that means that everyone in the story, aside from Danni's best friend, feels terribly buttoned-down a lot of the time.

I don't know ... I think overall, this story just wasn't to my taste, so I can't really rate it.

Gemini 2 of 5 (Faerber/Sommariva/Plascencia; Image): ...Yeah. I'm guessing, given the events that occur in issue 2, that perhaps issue 3 is where they explain the concept, and why anyone would do such a damnfool thing as these people are doing, because at the moment, this makes less than no sense. Why in the name of sanity would you want to run a superhero like a machine, and wipe his memory of his civilian life when he's in costume, and vice versa when he's not? Yes, it would have the benefit of not allowing them to betray any knowledge of each other, but the way this story has been put together, Dan seems not to have chosen to be a superhero. The science nerds who are running the show picked him, so he's putting his life in danger entirely without his knowledge or consent. Moreover, Dan's control circuits were in his contact lenses, without any backup, so when, say, one's head gets blown off, and one's regenerative powers cause it to grow back (...yeah, that's another handwave moment there), and he no longer has contacts, you have to find another way to control him. There's no redundancy in the system that's actually connected to Dan, for some reason. So then you send in another one of your controlled superheroes, whom no other superhero in the city knows, and, well, Very Bad Things happen. And then it turns out that Dan's former control agent, who was fired because she started having issues of various sorts with what they were doing, is out and running around with full knowledge of everything in her head. She wasn't killed, doesn't seem to have been mindwiped, and has the ability to throw a wrench in the works. Seriously, at this point, there is no level on which this series makes sense, which is a pity, becausse it's kind of ... weirdly cool throughout much of it. With the exception of those (many) moments where the concept intrudes forcefully into the storytelling in awkward ways, it's an interesting superhero/mad science story. The fairly stylized artwork is really a perfect match. But the concept, so far, it sucks the bilge water. (I'm guessing that when the concept is explained, when they have to tell the newbie why they're doing what they're doing, it's going to shake out basically as "Because we could." I can't conceive of any sensible reason why even vaguely ethical people would do what they're doing, but I hope Faerber can.)

Pilot Season: Genius (Bernardin/Freeman/Afua Richardson; Top Cow):
Imagine a balkanized and divided Los Angeles, in which the people don't really trust the police, and vice versa. (Or don't; that's pretty much the situation in the city today.) Imagine that gang warfare suddenly seems to be becoming ... oddly organized. Against the police. That's the setup for Genius, from the writers of last year's Monster Attack Network and Highwaymen. Destiny, a young black woman, has organized the gangs in and around her Compton neighborhood into a very good, appallingly strong paramilitary force. Something specific -- we don't quite know what just yet -- happened to make her decide that their neighborhood would be better with them maintaining control than with the apparently corrupt police. So she and her people kill off a few police and send one back to give headquarters the message.

In the meantime, inside HQ, Detective Reginald Grey has been putting together the clues and realizing that there's a "Suspect Zero", someone controlling all the action, someone setting up the LAPD to take a fall. Of course, nobody at HQ quite believes him -- after all, nothing like that's happened before now, so why should they believe that things have changed so drastically? Except then the cop that Destiny didn't kill gets back to HQ and lets them know that, in fact, the map has changed dramatically.

Bernardin and Freeman convey the situation and characers very well in the limited space they've got. Richardson's art at first seemed a bit stylized for the story but ... it really does work. All the characters are easy to distinguish, and it keeps the story from looking quite like the grim trip that it's likely to be. Tonally, the closest things to it I can think of are Walking Dead and Rex; the former because of the way it deals with people driven to doing difficult things that they otherwise would never consider, the latter because of the gritty and dark way it deals with the police and official corruption and people taking the law into their hands after they've been pushed Just That One Step too far.

I really hope this title is one that survives Pilot Season to become a continuing title. I'd really like to see more of this one. The one thing that I think might give it problems in the voting is that it is in no way, shape, or form, a superhero story, and I wonder if maybe that's all that people are expecting from Pilot Season. I hope they're expecting more than just that. Highly Recommended.

Pilot Season: Twilight Guardian (Hickman/Reza; Top Cow): Twilight Guardian, I suspect, is going to have a much tougher time than Genius in the voting. The story follows a young woman who, because of various difficult events in her past that we really only see the edges of, decides to become the superhero the world clearly needs. Only ... she's just a regular person, as far as we can tell. No particular powers or special abilities, just a decided lack of certain aspects of sanity. It's somewhat like Millar's Kick-Ass, only the Guardian herself comes off as somehow more reasonable and sane that Kick-Ass (and considerably less pummeled by the end of the first issue). It's not really that nothing happens in the issue -- although it is more about introducing the character than anything else -- but it's not jam packed and full of action, and I think that might hurt it against titles that are more conventionally busy, like Genius or Lady Pendragon (the other Pilot Season titles published to date this year). Reza's artwork is perfectly serviceable, helping tell the story without drawing attention to itself per se. Recommended.
Yes, I'm beating a dead horse.

No, it's not the dead horse you think it is. Or not just that particular dead horse, anyway.

And it's entirely not my fault! Really! You'll see!

Today's reviews include: Batman, All-Star Superman, Boy Meets Hero, Corridor and others, including the one which inspired today's title.

By the by, being told that you have by far the most esoteric pull list in the store is quite the experience. Consider that a warning...

Batman 677 (Morrison/Daniel; DC): In which the Black Glove unleashes its attack on Bruce, and Jezebel Jet tries to get Bruce to see what she thinks is reason. Honestly, the story as a whole baffles me a bit, in part because there are gaps in my Batman knowledge. For example, when did Gordon come back to be Commissioner again? The last I heard, he'd retired, went off somewhere, divers villains killed his new wife and he moved back to Gotham, but that other guy was still commissioner during the Gotham Central days ... and even in DC time, he's getting quite long in the tooth to be commissioner again/still. The Black Glove also clearly knows that Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same person. They set out to destroy not only Bruce Wayne, but Thomas Wayne and Alfred, of all people, knowing that if they strike at Bruce's identity and the one anchor in his world, they might be able to break him psychologically. In the meantime, Jezebel Jet begins to realize just who it is that she's fallen in love with, and all that it means. Of course, the structural problem with this story remains: we still don't have any reason to care about Jezebel Jet, and no reason to care what she thinks. We know both that she's quite right -- Bruce is obviously a few bats short of a full belfry -- and that it doesn't matter. After all, he couldn't function if he were sane, now could he? In any event, it builds to a compelling and interestingly gory end. The art's OK, although there's a moment of problematic artwork, when Alfred expresses concern over a wound he couldn't possibly have seen -- at this point, as weird as the second half of the issue wound up being, I wonder if maybe that was also A Clew, or if it was just bad art. Anyway, just OK; I'll still hang around to see what happens next.

All Star Superman 11 (Morrison/Quitely/Grant; DC): The first page is maybe the most awesome Superman page I've ever seen, even if you absolutely know that it's not going to stick. The second page is also terrifyingly awesome. And then you hit the middle of the story, in which the clearly unwell Superman sums up his life for himself and his robot, and in which Luthor makes his plans. And then superman battles Solaris, knowing full well that he's one of Luthor's allies. There's the rather peculiar moment when one of the Superman robots insists he must atone for a mistake, and the rather peculiar moment when Solaris starts speaking binary--I thought it was supposed to be alive. And then, of course, that final, awesome, peculiarly iconic final image. Honestly, the middle of the story is perfectly serviceable, if maybe that's all it is; the problem is that it comes after those very very good first two pages, and you can't live up to a beginning like that. The story does tie together what had seemed to be random strands from the earlier issues, such as Superman's new powers that have been referenced but never really seen, and the robots, and Luthor in prison. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens in the last issue, which I assume will be out ... someday. (Seriously, when DC rethinks the All-Star line, which they are allegedly doing, the one thing they need to focus on, aside from getting interesting stories, is timely delivery.)

Aletheia 1 (Bob LeFevre; Image): The story starts with the origin of the Greek gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, collectively known as Aletheia (the truth). Them we zip to Olympia, Washington, where we see a young black woman with purple-wrapped dreds working on her motorcycle. Judging from the license plate, her name is Thea. She gets a call from her boyfriend and decides to head to his place -- at which point all Hades breaks loose. And also all Zeus and Poseidon, as well. The Greek gods manifest on this plane of existence, after a very long time away, and immediately they notice Thea, who is apparently the "Formerly departed." The formerly departed whom, they do not say. Thea evades the attacks of the gods and reaches her boyfriend's apartment (or her biggest fan's apartment, as she describes him, which opens the question of why she'd have fans), only to discover that he's been attacked, and he dies in her arms. Then the gods and their agent, whoever the brown thing is, attack her again, and then ... something happens. I'm not trying to be coy -- although, given that it's the ending of the issue, I should -- but I simply have not the slightest idea what she does. On the one hand ... I do like the story well enough to see what happens next. On the other, the story is perhaps not well served by its highly stylized art -- as I say, I really don't have a clue what happens in the last four pages. I hope LeFevre gets rid of most of that clearly deliberately ponderous narration for the next issues. It sets the mood and is well used in the beginning, but during the chase and in the boyfriend's apartment building, it just gets in the way and annoys. Having set up the big emotional moment, you need to trust the reader to know when it arrives. All that said, I'm curious enough to stick around for at least the next issue; I'd really like to know who she is and why the gods are so afraid of her when she quite clearly has no idea. Recommended.

Dan Dare 6 of 7 (Ennis/Erskine; Virgin): I have to admit, Ennis kind of astounds me from time to time. His bread and butter is stuff like Punisher or The Boys or Chronicles of Wormwood, titles clearly meant for adults, dealing with sex and violence and being exuberantly foul-mouthed. And then he comes out with something like Dan Dare, which I wouldn't hesitate to give to give to, say, a kid maybe 10, 12 years old, real boys-own adventure stuff, fun (if somewhat violent but surprisingly lacking in grue) space opera. Anyway, in this penultimate adventure, Dare gets rescued (of course), with everything going more or less as planned. The Mekon expresses his displeasure with his people in ways that ensure that one of the planets develops, at least temporarily, a thoroughly gruesome ring. And then the final confrontation commences. These are all -- well, except for that second thing -- thoroughly obvious beats that had to be hit in this story. It would not, after all, do to have Dare expire before the last issue of his own title, and there is also a last issue to come. (I think at some point this series might have expanded a bit; I'd have sworn that it was solicited as a six-issue mini, and now not only is it seven issues, but the last is to be double-sized.) To be sure, after the rescue, this issue is mostly, but not entirely, marking time; the "not entirely" bits are thoroughly entertaining. Really, the whole thing is just an amazing amount of fun. Buy all the issues, then find a kid and give something to read. And, really, who'd think you'd say something like that about recent Ennis work?

Beyond (Deepak Chopra/Ron Marz/Edison George): We start with a man pushing through a crowd going the other way. Behind him, the dome of the Taj Mahal has been blown up. He walks past television where we see something in Karachi and Tel Aviv and somewhere in Palestine have also gone kaboom. Then we leap back three months in time to Benares, India, where Michael, his wife Anna and his son Ty are on vacation, a gift from Michael's mother-in-law. It's a working vacation for Michael, and he's an entrepreneur of sorts, which means that he doesn't really see much point in vacations and is constantly working. Suddenly, Anna disappears, and moreover, Ty discovers that he's been slipped a magic comic book called "The Rishi" (published by Virgin. Arf arf, even) in which the story of their trip is being told ... right up to the point they're actually at, after which the pages are blank. There are magic doors, and signs and symbols and ... honestly, it's interesting enough, and I do like the art, but since it's a four issue mini, I'd just as soon wait for the trade. It's not quite that gripping.

Corridor (Sarnath Banerjee; Penguin, 2004); An interesting mostly black-and-white graphic novel, telling the story of a group of friends and their various obsessions, centered around Jehangir Rangoonwalla and his bookstore and his tea. Brighu has a thing about Ibn Batuta and obsessively collects various things, none of which he can allow himself to use or enjoy, because doing so would ruin them. Digital Dutta -- with the longest full color segment in the volume -- is obsessed with the pursuit of an H-1B visa; why, we never really learn. He also gets periodically obsessed with Karl Marx and/or Chris Evert. Newly married Shintu, whose story has a few full-color pages, is obsessed with sex and aphrodisiacs. Strangely enough, he actually finds one that works, more or less. (The advice he gets from the guy who gives him the aphrodisiacs is hysterically funny. For example, did you know that frequent nocturnal emissions are a sure sign of impending impotency? And impotence can be prevented by frequent kegeling -- which, if not quite true, is certainly useful -- and eating curried goat's testicles -- which isn't particularly true or useful.) I really like Corridor; the artwork is stylized without being so much so that it overwhelms the writing. There's no overarching story being told; we're just learning about this group of men and certain aspects of their lives. Periodically very funny, periodically touching, and always interesting. Highly recommended, if you can find it (and it may be difficult, given its age). Sarai currently hosts a 24-page preview.

Boy Meets Hero (Chayne Avery and Russel Garcia; Bruno Gmunder):
A hardback compilation of the former webcomic, Boy Meets Hero tells the story of Derek -- secretly Blue Comet, superhero -- and Justin -- secretly in love with Derek. The latter secret constitutes one of the major difficulties for our guys; Justin wants to be out and proud, while Derek fears losing his job -- in their world, being a superhero is a paid position, just as in the Luna Brothers' Ultra -- and his reputation. To keep the public off guard, Derek is participating in a phony romance, orchestrated by the public relations department, with his superhero partner Sunstar, who also happens to be Justin's sister Jillian. The villains are, of course, conspiring to bring Blue Comet and Sunstar down in revenge for having been beaten in the past.

The artwork is comparatively simple, but mostly works for the story. There is a certain amount of comic-book nudity -- no full frontal (not even in the panel where Justin is told that his junk is hanging out), a bit of buttock here and there -- and romantic sex of the sort you'd see in any mainstream superhero book. The main characters kiss, and we see them on the way to sex, but nothing explicit. And we actually see black gay guys in this story! who get put into peril, but live through it! Granted, they're purely incidental characters, but still.

Those incidental characters bring up one of the few things that annoy me a bit. The story does lean a bit on stereotype here and there. Not a lot, but when it happens, it's somewhat jarring. For example, deeply closeted Derek says at work at one point, "You go, girlfriend!" To his theoretical girlfriend, for that matter, in front of pretty much everyone he works with. It's just hard to believe that someone that deeply closeted would make that sort of mistake in that situation; moreover, he doesn't say anything like that through the rest of the story.

The other issue with the story as a whole is that the guys kind of ... talk too much. The two of them are just spritzing angst everywhere over Derek and his closet and talking about it to each other, to Jillian, a lot. Almost the only frames with the guys that don't contain great whacking chunks of dialogue or narration are those in which they're making love, and it's not as though there are more than a couple of those frames scattered in the story. The villains also have to acquaint us with their unfortunate past with a great heaping hunk of dialogue -- and the curious thing there is that in one case, we actually get thrown into a more effective flashback, with a bit less dialogue. Granted, you don't want to be flashing backward and forward all that much in a 120 page book, but it points out that the authors are entirely capable of showing and not telling quite so much.

Anyway, those flaws aside, it was still a very entertaining and worthwhile read. Recommended.

Jimmy Zhingchak, Agent of D.I.S.C.O. (Saurav Mohapatra/Anupam Sinha; Virgin/UTV-Spotboy Motion Pictures)

And at last we reach the titular ... er, title. Surely you understand now why, especially after the previous poster entries, the title for this review entry had to be what it is. Honestly, although I'd bought the issue before the posters, I hadn't looked at it all that closely. Then, after the posters, I finally got around to reading the stuff I hadn't gotten through yet, and well ... there it was.

The back cover bills it as "the world's first Bollywood comic" and ... I kind of can't argue that point. Although I will note that there is a profound lack of entire cities suddenly bursting into song and mindnumbingly spectacular production numbers.

The story? Oh, yes, the story. We start in Mumbai in 1984, with later occasional excursions back in time and elsewhere in India. One of DISCO's operations has just been compromised by the Naada Ninjas -- who wear white and bright colors, for some reason. We jump to Jimmy Grover's residence, where he's yelling at his mother for spending his hard earned cash on that "foul Desi moonshine". Said "foul Desi moonshine" pretty much immediately puts her in the hospital. The doctor tells Jimmy that his mother's liver has failed, and she needs expensive drugs and an operation. He offers to drop the price if Jimmy will, shall we say, put out. Jimmy responds by slapping the doctor and declaring, "You should be ashamed of yourself trying to exploit a lachaar mazboor najuwan like me!" (According to the funny yet seriously incomplete glossary at the end, this means "helpless strapping young lad headed straight for Oprah".) To make money quickly, Jimmy heads for the DISCO Fights (no, really, that's what they're called) to take on all the DISCO champions (no, REALLY) at once. Suddenly, just as he's clearly about to get clobbered, a mysterious man's head appears in a cloud and tells him to use the zhingchak(TM). What, you might be wondering, is the zhingchak(TM)? And well might you wonder! In any event, Jimmy pummels the champions of DISCO, wins the money, pays for his mother's transplant, and is thereupon recruited immediately into DISCO, which turns out to be the Department of Internal Security and Covert Operations. (For reasons external to the story, I had a small hysterical fit when the chief said, "Jimmy, your country needs you.") Moreover, Jimmy's father was in fact one of DISCO's best agents, until he was killed by the dreaded FIRANG. Jimmy of course agrees to work with DISCO, and is thereupon given his father's DISCO Battle Suit ("100% polyester, machine washable"), keyed to his family DNA. There are, of course, all sorts of absurd twists, turns, gadgets and villains -- I suspect people may be particularly fond of Britney Hypnotits, as well as the Fabled Mithunkwalk (the pelvic thrust that really will drive you insane).

Essentially, the story aims for a sort of Indian Austin Powers vibe, Bollywood does Our Man Flint (much cooler and more mod than James Bond). Mostly, it gets there. Mostly. I suspect if you're Indian, it may get there much better than if you're American. There are chunks of ... um, language to deal with. Not a lot, and I don't think any of it's at all important -- but that's just it; I don't know that the ... er, language isn't important. (Seriously, Hindi? Bengali? Something else? No clue here.) Linguistic weirdnesses aside, it's funny and entertaining, and the artwork is highly stylized and insanely detailed. It's definitely a worthwile, fun read. Just, you know, periodically linguistically aggravating.

Given the Virgin/UTV coproduction, I expect that it will be a Bollywood movie for real any day now. Wonder if it'll make it here?
iainpj: (Default)
( Apr. 8th, 2008 03:38 pm)
Oh, so THIS is what the "Whatever" GN is: KARL STEVENS - The Phoenix

And regarding what I said in that review about Dave Stewart's Zombie Broadway aspiring to be a B-movie? Make that a B-Movie Musical.
Holmes (Omaha Perez; AIT/Planet Lar graphic novel): A story of Sherlock Holmes, narrated by John Watson. Perfectly normal, right? Exactly what you expect a Holmes story to be ... only not quite. In this case, we discover that HOlmes is seriously into drugs and may or may not be a touch unbalanced, and Watson is a man of mighty mighty appetites, who manages to clean up the stories considerably to present the both of them in a much better light before committing the stories to print. In this case, the skull of composer Joseph Haydn is stolen from a graveyard (a true event), and somehow winds up in London. Holmes immediately fixates on Moriarty as a possible suspect in the theft. Along the way to the solution, we make stops in the British Museum (it gets broken -- again), a bar with Holmes in very very bad drag, an opium den, a brothel (Watson is not only a man of mighty appetites, he also has -- to be a bit Victorian about it -- a mighty truncheon and he likes to use it), and of course back on Baker Street, where we discover that Mrs Hudson is a very longsuffering landlady indeed. The highly stylized art works well to convey the inner insanity of the story, and it's a fun read from beginning to end. A Very Good story.

Dan Dare #5 "The lights of a perverted science" (Garth Ennis/Gary Erskine; Virgin): In which Dan Dare is just as noble as you think he is, Sub-Commander Christian begins to have a teensy bit more confidence in herself and the very good decisions she's made lately, and we see that teleporting into an unknown space can be a truly awful idea (in a scene that somehow manages to be horrifying and a little funny, all at once). Ennis does this sort of old-style space opera really well, updating it ina way that manages to let you know what the appeal was at the time and still making it work today. Excellent.

Anna Mercury #1 (Warren Ellis/Facundo Percio):

Anna Mercury is an agent for Launchpad, whatever that is, in New Ataraxia. She wears a suit that provides an induction field that she is under strict instructions not to use on people, so of course, she does it all the time. Sheol City seems to have secceded from New Ataraxia, which has taken that very badly, testfiring "the gun" on the bridge to Sheol. Anna has to figure out a way to prevent the gun from being lifted to Pendragon Moon, or to disable it, so that it can't be used against all of Sheol City. In the meantime, it turns out... well. I can't tell you that part, or it gives away the whole game. Let's just say that the last page realigns everything that you think you've seen.

The artwork and production design are seriously gorgeous. It's sort of Twenties, Art-Deco inflected. Anna Mercury herself has the most amazing masses of red hair. Anna Mercury herself is ... she reminds me of someone, the way she acts, but I can't quite figure out who it is. She's quite assured and self-confident, very take-no-prisoners attitude, and doesn't tolerate any sort of dissension from people on her own side.

Ellis and Percio have created a very interesting and dynamic world. It's going to be interesting to see where they're going to take it. (And, honestly, I'm looking forward to the issue 2 explanation that's certain to follow, given that last page.) Excellent; highly recommended.

Project: Superpowers #2 (but really #3) (Alex Ross, Jim Krueger/Carlos Paul; Dynamite):
In which the story moves along briskly. The Black Terror joins the fight on the rooftop against Dynamic Forces, and other heroes start appearing around the world. It's a lot of fun, and gorgeous to look at. That said, the cover is seriously misleading; the Death-Defying Devil and the Flame are the latest heroes to appear, but they're not the focus of the story, with maybe five or six total pages of the whole devoted to them. Very Good; Recommended.

However, herewith a small note: This title desperately needs a new logo. A logo that actually said "Project Superpowers" might be nice. (It gets shelved under S in the store I go to, which threw me at first; shouldn't it be under P? But no, because of that near-invisible S in the middle of the cover.) A larger, more distinctive logo that doesn't get lost when you've got a background of similar colors, as with this issue, would be good. A logo that's at least as prominent as the subsidiary character logos that have been appearing on each issue would be good. For that matter, if they're going to put characters and their logo on the cover, it would be a good idea if they actually appeared in more than a quarter of the story.

Kick-Ass #2 (Mark Millar/John Romita; Marvel Icon): In which Dave spends most of the issue recovering from the titanic beatdown he got last issue -- including being stabbed, being hit by a car, and a broken spine, resulting in a very long hospital stay, a very long rehabilitation at home, and terribly spectacular hospital bills -- and then, having recovered, he goes out and does it all again, and gets beat up again. Honestly, the character is kind of incomprehensible at this point. He spends most of the issue upset about what he's put his father through, deciding that he's never going to be that stupid again, and then he goes out and does it all over again, because he can't stop. Apparently, being a very non-super hero is an addiction. Who knew? All that said, the story is weirdly compelling -- kind of like a train wreck. You kind of want to understand why he does what he does, but at the same time, it's hard to care, because he's being such an IDIOT. I honest have no idea whether or not I'm going to pick up issue 3 at this point. It's hard to care about a human of very little brain, you know?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #13 "Wolves at the Gate, part 2" (Drew Goddard/Georges Jeanty; Dark Horse): Honestly, this is the first issue where I thought that the plot went CLANK, as though they were moving pieces because they needed people to be in a particular place at a particular time, and they sort of had to get them there through brute force. I mean, we discover that after Anya's death, Xander needed some "man time", so he went to stay with Dracula for a while. Right. He went to stay with a person whose defining characteristic in their relationship was that he controlled Xander's mind. And apparently, the thing between Robin Wood and Faith must have ended almost immediately, since he wasn't around to help with the whole "man time" issue. Elsewhere, Willow grills Buffy's booty call about what Buffy was like in the sack which ... no. Just ... no. All this seems to be in aid of getting the slayer army to Tokyo and out of the castle, to set up ... whatever it's setting up. Jeanty's artwork is perfectly good, but the writing doesn't serve it well. Really not a great issue.

Dave Stewart's Zombie Broadway (David Harris, Christine Schenley/Devaki Neogi; Virgin):

A 56-page one-shot that's very ... well, it's ... it tries to ... look, it's a hot mess, ok? But it's a fun hot mess!

Somehow, some way, New York -- and apparently only New York -- has been attacked by a zombie plague disease. People catch it through physical contact with the zombies -- usually through the odd chomp. (Strangely, these zombies seem a bit less BRAAAAIN-centric than most of their type.) New York is down to two thousand people, and the president is about to order a nuclear strike on the city to get rid of all the zombies -- and somewhat incidentally, the surviving humans -- when it's discovered that music does, indeed, soothe the savage breast. That is, zombies seem to respond to music. And the director convinces the president to let him try to save the city by putting on a musical! ... no, really, that's what happens. Think "Andy Hardy" on a really big scale, only instead of a gung-ho farm boy, Andy is a sort of jaded soldier, and Judy Garland's ingenue is ... well, an ingenue, only with less actual singing. The conservative military and other people want to just go ahead and nuke the liberal sons-of-bitches off the earth anyway, but the president thinks they should give it a chance. We have a couple of romances (sort of), the damaged military veteran who may be looking for a reason to live or a way to die, the plucky ingenue, the jaded star, the slightly corrupt director in lust with the jaded star and possibly others ... really, all the stock characters are there.

You know those B-movies that SciFi televises? Those movies that are so desperately tacky that they sometimes give the very concept of "B-movies" a bad name? This aims kind of south of that. Maybe a D-movie. (But given the co-production agreement between Virgin Comics and SciFi, I wouldn't be terribly astonshed to see this become one of their movies.) The artwork fits the story, and it's a breezy fun read. Just, you know, not a story to think too much about. OK, but fun.
HOLMES by Omaha Perez (preview pages): So that's what the graphic novel being released this week is.

...yeah, I'm pretty much going to have to get that.
Welcome to Tranquility 10-11 (Gail Simone/Neil Googe; Wildstorm Universe):
...OK, I will admit that the end to issue 10 took me completely by surprise; I would not for even a second have expected them to go there. Issue 11, I'm sort of "meh" on. Partly, I just wish this goddamn zombie plot would be DONE. I hate zombies. I am one with the hate of zombiekind. But I can deal with the plague of zombies in this title, because I love it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. On the other hand, not entirely loving Thomasina's characterization in issue 11; it really does seem like her reaction to discovering what became of her grandfather was ... off, a bit. Granted, I understand her feeling that the information was sort of irrelevant, and that she just wants to know what she needs to defeat the zombie plague. Still, given that the information about what happened to him wasn't coming directly from him, but from someone else she trusts, it really does seem like she should have given it at least a little more credence.

Something of a sidenote --I ran across the following at Occasional Superheroine's weblog:
Anti-Semitic Comment In "Countdown" #32?...right off that bat, if you want to make comparisons between different characters in your comic and you put the Old & New Testaments in there, you're already sort of in the danger zone in terms of offending someone. If the symbolism was indeed there in this "Countdown" story that evil Eclipso = Old Testament and Good Spectre = New Testament, then you've got some problems. [...] It's verrrrry complicated. We tended not to use overt religious stuff in our books at DC. This is why.

Tranquility has now gotten rather explicitly religious, probably as part of the lead in to Armageddon/Revelations.

DC's Countdown is headed to Final Crisis by way of a miniseries called "Salvation Run".

The entire Wildstorm superhero universe is headed to its own final crisis via the paired, title-abolishing miniseres "Armageddon" and "Revelations".

I think DC may have decided that they really don't care about offending people's religious principles any more. I'm not saying that's bad, necessarily; it's certainly unexpected.

As far as can be told from solicitation copy, Welcome to Tranquility may have been stealth-cancelled, without official notice in Previews; on the other hand, they may be delaying it to figure out what to do with it once Simone takes over Wonder Woman. One can hope anyway. I do think the title has been rather spectacularly mishandled ... but more about that elsewhere, elsewhen, belike.

Umbrella Academy Apocalypse Suite 1-2 of 6 (Gerard Way/Gabriel Ba; Dark Horse)
I had what turned out to be an odd advantage coming to this title. I'd never heard of Gerard Way, never really paid attention to My Chemical Romance, so I didn't come to it with any particular preconceptions about whether or not he could write, as others seem to. And that turned out to be a good thing, because this is definitely a fun read.

On the same day, dozens of mutant children are born in an instant to women around the world, many of whom hadn't actually been pregnant until that moment. Professor Hargreaves adopts as many of these infants as he can find, eventually winding up with seven children to raise. It becomes fairly clear that Hargreaves is a rather dreadful father; mostly he wants to use them to demostrate his scientific principles regarding their superpowers. Then we jump 10 years into the future, where the kids are fighting the renegade Eiffel Tower. (No, really. Renegade Eiffel Tower, rampaging through Paris.) Then we jump forward another 20 years, where the group is gathering to find out if it's true that their father is dead. Issue 2 takes up from where issue 1 leaves off, with everyone gathering for the funeral. It's clear that there was some sort of dramatic break between the children and with their father; they can scarcely stand the sight of one another. Their mother, or rather, Professor Hargreaves' wife -- she at least seems to have been married to him -- she's very ... well. She's quite unusual, let's put it that way. And, of course, it turns out that she'd been estranged from the professor as well. And the seventh child, Vanya, whom the professor thought untalented turns out to have a very subtle power; she was so profoundly alienated, however, that she didn't even return for the funeral.

Ba's art is absolutely perfect for this series. I honestly can't imagine that anyone else would do better or be more appropriate for a story that's simultaneously this loopy and this serious. It wouldn't work with a more realistic style -- the characters would look utterly absurd drawn in a more realistic way. His art brings out the humor in the characters without making them ridiculous.

It's really a lot of fun. Highly recommended.

Atomic Robo #1 (Brian Clevinger/Scott Wegener; Red 5 Comics)
Big Robot with odd sense of humor going up against Nazis. What's not to like? Seriously, it's just good pulpy fun. The art is dynamic and colorful and matches the story well. Recommended for people who like fight comix fun (and you do have to like the fight comix, since it's basically an issue length fight).

Manhunter: Origins (Andreyko/Pina/Blanco; DC)
I would like to make a suggestion to the big companies. Whenever you have one of those mondo-crossover events, and you decide to compile an individual title's issues, if the character has been off doing something in another title, please insert two or three pages summarizing what they were doing, maybe with a frame or two from the other titles. "Manhunter: Origins" is sharply discontinuous in one section; they don't even put in a note saying, "To see what Kate was doing, you need to read 52 or Crise du Jour" or whatever title it was she was doing ... whatever she was doing. In any event, apart from that, it's an interesting read.

This volume takes its title from its bookend stories. The first concerns the origins of the Manhunter uniform and weapons; the last the origins of Kate herself. The latter story is, understandably, much more interesting.

It's very strange to have one of the DC universe's heroes who really has very few qualms about killing off the villains. Moreover, the other DC universe superheroes she comes in contact with don't necessarily seem to mind all that much. You do wonder, though, why it is that she seems to be able to do this almost without personal consequence. Most people would find it more difficult to kill than she seems to, even knowing what those people have done. Another oddness; almost everyone on the planet seems to know that Kate Spencer is Manhunter,including the odd villain, yet nobody seems to be telling. And even so, her loved ones wind up in harms way with surprising frequency.

Her supporting cast is great. Chase and Dylan have their ... whatever it is they're doing, in which Dylan is mostly amused and grateful, and Chase is terribly confused. Damon and Todd continue their relationship, and to the best of my knowledge, nobody's dead or creatively mangled as yet. And it's fun to watch Kate squirm when she gets forced to defend one of those villains in court. All in all, highly recommended. Someday, volume 4 will come out. And, in theory, someday there will be more issues of Mahnunter, which DC says is being stockpiled so that it can have a more continuous printing schedule. (One wonders why they don't do that with their other titles.)

Ah, well. We can dream, can't we?
Herewith an attempt to catch up on the past several weeks.

Scalped, vol 1: Indian country (Jason Aaron and RM Guerra)
Scalped contains a very dark view of life on the Prairie Rose reservation of the Lakota Sioux. Dashiell Red Horse was a hellion who ran away when he was very young, somehow got himself in order, became an FBI agent, who was then sent back to Prairie Rose to do an undercover investigation of ... something he's not sure of, because his control agent hasn't really told him what he's doing there. The story wends its way through all sorts of corruption, official and otherwise, prostitution, drunkenness, drug use and so on and so on and so on...

The story is problematic at any number of levels. At a purely emotional level ... well, they're all very unpleasant people. Even Dashiell Red Horse, our nominal viewpoint character, isn't that great, and honestly, for the (very nominally) viewpoint character, we don't really know much about him. And then there's the Prairie Rose reservation itself. However bad life on a reservation can be -- and I'm sure it can be bad -- it just can't be this relentlessly grim, and everyone on a reservation can't be this hopeless or evil. I'm certainly not saying that everyone living on a reservation is wondrous and virtuous; that said, I have a hard time believing that corruption is quite that endemic. I get that it's a crime story, but at the same time, most crime stories do a bit better at giving you someone to care about. Compare the first arc of Scalped with the first arc of Brubaker's Criminal; in the first issue, we get not only an introduction to the main character, but also reasons to care what happens to him and his. In the first issue of Scalped, we get introduced to almost everyone, but not enough to feel any sort of connection to or strong interest in any of them.

Additionally, enjoying the story requires you not to know a lot (granted, some of it is fairly oddball stuff). For example, Dashiell Red Horse appears far too young to be an FBI agent, since he'd be required to go to college and have some work experience or additional specialized coursework of a type he clearly lacks (people with those degrees don't get sent undercover by themselves into the field); his supervisor the corrupt FBI agent, at one stage, describes changing his testimony to get someone convicted in a way that would cause problems, because at that point, he'd already testified in two other trials on the same matter, and no sentence could be sustained under those circumstances. It's also very unclear -- by design -- when events take place relative to one another. Slightly beyond the frame of this review, but relevant: a murder takes place at the end of "Indian Country", issue 5 of Scalped. However, as of issue 9, nobody seems to know it yet; very little time has passed. It's hard to be patient with a story where something this major continues not only to be undiscovered, but completely unknown when this much time has gone by in our world, if not theirs. It's hard not to think that a large amount of time should have passed in their world, and why haven't they figured this out yet? It's also, I have a feeling, reasonably obvious who the murderer was and why, but of course, I could be entirely wrong about that. It is, however, incredibly difficult to care, both because the event is so drawn out and because everyone but the murder victim is fairly dislikeable. There's also the small matter that as of issue 9, Dashiell Red Horse himself still doesn't quite know why he's there or what he's supposed to be looking for, and we the readers are very little more informed; as far as we can tell, he's only there to be a cat amongst the pigeons, but it's hard for him to do that without knowing what the pigeons are doing and how to stir them up, so to speak.

To be sure, Scalped somehow manages to be interesting and oddly engrossing, and Guerra's art works well with the story. But I really can't quite recommend the story itself.

Elk's Run (Joshua Hale Fialkov, Noel Tuazon & Scott A. Keating; Villard)

Elk's Run is a title that's been through the mill, one way and another. Self-published in single issues initially, it got picked up by Speakeasy, and promptly caught up in Speakeasy's spectacular self-destruction. It eventually landed at Villard for the graphic novel edition.

Elk's Run is the story of the town of Elk's Ridge, as seen by John Jr, his father John Sr, and his mother Sarah. It's an apparently idyllic,very small and extremely isolated (by design) town in the middle of nowhere. The town has a secret -- in fact, a few of them. Everything starts going dramatically wrong when the teenagers desire to leave town and see what else there is in the great wide world collides dramatically with their parents' desire to stay in town and keep their secrets. The storytelling is very simple, almost linear, and very dark, but the story is very well told. You understand the characters, and why they do what they do; you understand the intense isolation and the claustrophobia that causes. It's not that there aren't any villains -- but you can see where the villains feel that they're doing what they need to do for the greater good, misguided though they may be about what the greater good actually is. The artwork is simple and dark, well suited to the story. Highly recommended.

Freshmen II: Fundamentals of Fear (Seth Green, Hugh Sterbakov, Will Conrad, Jorge Correa; Top Cow)
In which the gang returns from winter break for new adventures. Consequences from the explosion of the Ax-Cell-erator continue to grow, as we discover that there are more superpowered kids resulting from the accident. We watch the everyone coping with those discoveries, as well as with the normal stresses and strains of the second semester of freshman year. Old friends discover that maybe they have less in common than they once did; people come to grips with uncomfortable information about themselves; others start new romances. And the Intoxicator continues to throw up on everyone in his own inimitable way. Villains abound, and some come from the most unlikely places. I have to admit, I'm impressed that the creators don't worry about sidelining or killing characters; normally, this early in a book's tenure (if that's the right word), that type of carnage is a bit more limited. (That said, they did not entirely manage to avoid a Woman in Refrigerators (WiR) moment, although it was done about as well as those things can be done.) The artwork is striking and impressive, and conveys the characters and situation well. A very enjoyable book, and well worth the read, even with the WiR.

Now, herewith, a brief plea:

Dear Messrs. Green and Sterbakov,

Regarding Green Thumb: please don't kill him.

Granted, given the developments in the story, that may not be the easiest thing to do -- although I can think of one or two ways right off the bat, depending on the extent of his powers. But that's beside the point. The point is, all things being equal, it would be really really really nice if he didn't wind up all, you know, dead and stuff. ("Stuff" including more creative mangling.) It would be even nicer if he could, as Intoxicator says, "rock out with his [BLEEP] out," but honestly, these days ... yeah, I'd settle for the whole "please don't kill him" thing. He's a character that you've just begun to flesh out and make really interesting, and death would probably interfere with that. He is, for the moment, distinctive and nearly unique in comics. So, really, please don't kill him.

Also, you're to be commended for getting through an entire volume without a single "beaver" joke of any sort. Really, I don't think I could have been that restrained.

Yrs most sincerely, etc.

Madame Mirage #2 (Dini/Rocafort; Top Cow): ...Well, at least now we know that Mirage isn't a member of the nipple-free brigade. It seems that wandering around in a strapless gown in certain environments can be a bit chilly. Who knew? Snark aside, it really was a very interesting issue. It's apparent that either Mirage is a metahuman of some sort herself, or she has access to the very criminal technology that she's trying to destroy or confiscate. (...Which makes perfectly good sense, doesn't it? I mean, if she's stolen it from the bad guys, then it's available for her to use. But I digress.) In issue 2, she takes the fight to the bad guys' homes. When her plan starts rolling, the highlight is a kind of a cool not-exactly-a-fight sequence. Again, sorta recommended, with reservations.
(purely a side note to begin: the category plus the subhead up there just make for an odd combination, don't they?)


Karin Slaughter Launches Graphic Novel Imprint at Oni - 7/24/2007 - Publishers Weekly:
International bestselling thriller writer Karin Slaughter is launching a new graphic novel imprint at Oni Press, starting with her own The Recidivists, slated to appear in spring 2009. The Slaughterhouse line will feature original comic books and graphic novels written by established prose writers.

Slaughter, who has more than five million books in print worldwide, is a longtime comics fan, said Oni publisher Joe Nozemack. During discussions with Oni about publishing her own graphic novel, it became apparent that she had access to other prose fiction writers who would be interested in creating original works for the graphic novel format, and Slaughterhouse was born. Oni previously had success introducing mystery writer Greg Rucka's comics work, including the thriller Whiteout and the spy series Queen and Country.

Beyond Reach is out this month from Delacorte, and continues Slaughter’s bestselling Grant County series, known for its disturbing violence and flawed characters. The Recidivists is a dark speculative fiction that takes place in a grim future, in three overlapping narratives. In a statement, Slaughter said, "Graphic novels let you take risks that just wouldn't fly in the conventional book form. Visual storytelling is at once immediate and subversive." [...]

So in essence -- allowing for the less gendered approach -- we're talking something like DC's Minx, but explicitly for grownups.


Possibly more about this later; here, if not elsewhere.


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