Media Relations / February 6, 2011 / Red
So I finally got around to watching Red, the Bruce Willis movie theoretically made from the comic book by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer. And I will tell you right now that the only surviving part of the comic is the "retired agent yanked out of retirement because people are trying to kill him" part of the story; the rest of it is pretty much an original story. Oh, and the mayhem. Not so much the specifics, just the general quantity. Oh, and the CIA building caper, sort of.

NOTE: FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, HERE BE SPOILERS. I don't think you can reasonably spoil a film that's been out for four months, and out on DVD for one, but consider yourself warned. Any road, there's nothing major revealed...

Read the rest of this entry at Media Relations.
iainpj: (Default)
( Apr. 5th, 2010 11:10 pm)
So the 2010 Hugo Award nominations (for works issued in 2009) were announced. And some of them were great, and some of them were just ... odd. I mean ... odd.

Just to sample a few:

Best Novel
(699 Ballots)
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor)
The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam Spectra)
Wake, Robert J. Sawyer (Ace; Penguin; Gollancz; Analog)
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)

In one of those remarkable moments, I've actually read three of the nominees. Of those, I'm pulling for Palimpsest; the idea of civilization as a literal disease is an utterly awesome concept, and I thought it was executed brilliantly.

I have somehow managed to read hardly any short fiction this year. Not sure how that happened, quite, but I think I've read one of the short stories and one of the novelettes. So I have no opinion on those.

Then there's this:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
(282 Ballots)
- Doctor Who: "The Next Doctor" Written by Russell T Davies; Directed by Andy Goddard (BBC Wales)
- Doctor Who: "Planet of the Dead" Written by Russell T Davies & Gareth Roberts; Directed by James Strong (BBC Wales)
- Doctor Who: "The Waters of Mars" Written by Russell T Davies & Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)
- Dollhouse: "Epitaph 1″ Story by Joss Whedon; Written by Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon; Directed by David Solomon (Mutant Enemy)
- FlashForward: "No More Good Days" Written by Brannon Braga & David S. Goyer; Directed by David S. Goyer; based on the novel by Robert J. Sawyer (ABC)

OK, no. Just ... No. People, Doctor Who had a good mini-season, with those four movies, but it wasn't that good. Meself, I'd have zapped "The Next Doctor" and probably "Planet of the Dead" off that list, and added ... maybe Torchwood: Children of Earth -- as a body of work, though, not single episodes. (Which, if I understand Hugo eligibility rules, would have shifted it into the Long Form category, but let's just pretend that it could work this way.) I'd have nominated "Children of Earth" for the first three episodes -- I think the storytelling fell off sharply in the final two, and the death of Ianto and Jack's grandchild were pretty much a steaming pile of hooey, plotwise, but the first three episodes were very good, strong episodes.

I'm undecided about including the FlashForward episode. The pilot "No More Good Days" was actually a really good execution of concept; it's not the pilot's fault that they pretty much spent the next several episodes screwing up the execution and showing just how badly Fiennes was miscast -- though, to be fair, I think the role was also badly written and misdirected throughout the early episodes, so the fault was spread around. (And I'm resigned to the fact that Eureka will never get any love from any awards, because it's a generally frothy show, so when they de-froth for an episode or two and do it well, nobody notices. But I digress.)

I don't know what to put in for the other entry, though. So I suppose one of the Doctor Who episodes might as well stay.

Best Graphic Story

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
Written by Neil Gaiman; Pencilled by Andy Kubert; Inked by Scott Williams (DC Comics)

Captain Britain And MI13. Volume 3: Vampire State
Written by Paul Cornell; Pencilled by Leonard Kirk with Mike Collins, Adrian Alphona and Ardian Syaf (Marvel Comics)

Fables Vol 12: The Dark Ages
Written by Bill Willingham; Pencilled by Mark Buckingham; Art by Peter Gross & Andrew Pepoy, Michael Allred, David Hahn; Colour by Lee Loughridge & Laura Allred; Letters by Todd Klein (Vertigo Comics)

Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm
Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)

Schlock Mercenary: The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse
Written and Illustrated by Howard Tayler

...Yeah ... OK, that's just an odd category, that is.

Understand: I think all the stuff on this list is mostly well written and good work. But ... well, to take the objections in order:
- I must be the only person in the western world that thinks that Whatever happened to the caped crusader does not remotely deserve all the acclaim it's been getting. I read it more than once, and my reaction almost every time was "What the !@#$ is this hot mess, anyway?" The only way I was able to think of the work was as Bruce Wayne thinking himself out of the life trap, because otherwise, the weirdness doesn't even begin to work as a story.
- Captain Britain gets a pass, because I don't read Marvel, so I'll assume that the people who put it there know something that I don't.
- I love Schlock Mercenary. Really really do. But when you compare it to Girl Genius or Fables, it's just not as strong a work.

I am slightly surprised that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen didn't make the list. Understand: again, I think it's a good work, but I don't think it deserved to make the shortlist; I'm just surprised that it didn't.

If'n I'd been the Hugo graphic works guru, I think I might have come up with a list slightly different than the above. Something more like ... hmm ... well, let's try this:

- Captain Britain and MI13 (because I haven't read it, so I'm not going to knock it)
- Empowered, volume 5 (Adam Warren, artist and writer; Dark Horse) - because it was awesome like an awesome thing of aweseomeness, and the end of that volume was one of the most heartbreaking things I saw last year. It was well written, well drawn, and overall really well done. But despite the fact that it's moving into much darker territory, people keep thinking of it as this fluffy neo-not-quite-porn thing, so it's probably never going to get nominated.
- Fables, vol. 12
- Freakangels, vols 2 and 3 (Warren Ellis, writer; Paul Duffield, artist; webcomic released in print volumes by Avatar): a postapocalyptic tale of the people who accidentally caused said apocalypse, and how they're coping with the world they created.
- Girl Genius, vol. 9

(If it were a longer original list, I'd possibly have included Detective Comics, but let's keep the list the same length, for the sake of argument.)
The Best of 2008

2008 proved to be an interesting year. Fewer zombies, thank the deity of your choosing—or at least, I read fewer of them, so they didn't make it onto this list. A few more superheroes, depending on how you define things (and no, I didn't read Marvel's Secret Invasion or Dark Reign, and since DC's Final Crisis periodically made me want to bludgeon the DC brain trust vigorously about the head and shoulders with its own output, that won't be here either). Perhaps not as much space opera as I would have liked, but that's somehow a surprisingly difficult genre to find a lot of in comics. And it turns out that the world ends with a bang, a whimper, and just about every unpleasantness in between that you could imagine. A few themes did emerge in this year's reading:

1. Apocalypse yesterday

2. The War of the Worlds redux (see also: apocalypse yesterday)

3. Warren Ellis (what can I say? Man was busy this past year. See also: apocalypse yesterday.)

4. Everything old is new again (see also: War of the Worlds redux, apocalypse yesterday)

A very few items did carry over from last year's list—though for most of those, the noteworthy thing isn't so much the quality as the fact that at some point during the year, some of them just seemed to trail off mid-story, with their creators having to push them to the back burner due to other commitments, the stresses of life, etc. In any event, there were far fewer carry-over titles than I'd initially expected, which indicates that this year was pretty good for new speculative titles.

And as for the stuff that's new to the list, some of them may actually not be comics. Given the last two columns, that's probably not a surprise.

And so: alphabetically by title, forward into the fray! [...]
Because, for some reason, there have been a boatload of new series/miniseries started in the last two weeks.

Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead, episode 1 of 4, "Read Me First" (Warren Ellis/Steve Pugh; Radical)
Alice Hotwire is a detective exorcist for a metropolitan police department that discourages the use of the word "ghost" in favor of "blue-light"; said blue-lights stopped going to wherever they used to go about fifty years ago, thus forcing the world to deal with them. The metro police department is also undergoing upheaval because two of its own have been pulled from duty thanks to beating up teenagers during a protest, triggering city-wide riots. Hotwire is suspected of being the person who took and released the video showing the police brutality, and is scrupulous in noting to almost everyone who asks that the rules do not allow them to ask if she was the whistle blower, thus making everyone think that she is. In the meantime, the blue-lights have been getting more frequent and stronger, and Hotwire is trying to find out why.

The story is immediatly involving and engrossing; you want to know what's happening and why it's happening. And I love the way it just takes for granted the existence of an afterlife without discussing the nature of what it actually was. After all, the ghosts can't know somewhere that they've never been, right? And it's fascinating to see how a highly technological and scientific world has adapted to dealing with metaphysical events in a very physical way. Steve Pugh adapted the script from a story by Warren Ellis, and has done very well with that; in addition, he did all the artwork, which is weirdly spectacular. It's not quite hyperrealistic, but it's close, while at the same time looking possibly painted as well as very designed in a high-tech way in spots where appropriate. Highly recommended.

Jersey Gods (Glen Brunswick/Dan McDaid; Image): Zoe is thrilled to have a boyfriend for a major holiday for possibly the first time ever. They usually dump her just before the holidays, for one reason or another. But Emerson will be different! He'll be there! Right? ... Well, of course not. Meanwhile, out in Deep Space, the science heroes Barock and Helius are clearing out an area of some stray asteroids, and planning their after-heroics drink on a planet that Barock hates, but is going along with because Helius loves. In the meantime, back in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Minog -- think cross between Ben Grimm and Thor, more or less -- appears in what rapidly become the ruins of a mall. He's been dispatched to cause havoc on earth to draw Barock and Helius, who patrol that sector, because ... well, actually, we don't know why yet. And, of course, Zoe is in the middle of the chaos. The story is intriguing, mostly in that "what the hell is going on here" sort of way. Oddly enough, at the moment, the story doesn't match the solicitation copy, although you can see more or less how it might get there. The art is pretty much a full on Kirby tribute, and it's a good match for the story -- then again, Kirby pretty much defined the look of the whole "gods come down to earth and wreak havoc" genre, so maybe it would have looked odd if it wren't that style. In any event, it's fun and intriguing enough that it's worth coming back, if only to see just how they wind up getting to the house in the suburbs. Recommended.

Bad Dog #1 (Joe Kelly/Diego Greco; Image): ...Oh, my, that was fun. Bad Dog is the story of bounty hunters Lou and Wendell. As in the bounty-hunter genre from time immemorial (or whenever it was created), they're not exactly poor, a bit down on their luck, a bit hard edged. Oh, and Lou's a werewolf, who can control his changes enough that he stays a wolf all the time. Apparently, he doesn't think all that much of humans and likes the wolves better -- unfortunately, the wolves aren't terribly fond of him. Lou also has a head in a bag in his refrigerator, for some reason. It basically takes every cliche you can think of and sends them thundering down the pike. Greco's artwork is very good; for something that's both fairly brown and fairly dark, the colors come out surprisingly saturated and lush in places. Again, I'm looking forward to see where it goes. Highly Recommended.

Soul Kiss #1 of 5 (Steven T. Seagle/Marco Cinello; Image): Lili (don't call her Lilian) is headed to an interview for a spot at a university, which might get her away from the hell of a personal assistant's job in Hollywood, when her car breaks down in a desert. After an unfortunate encounter, she finds herself possessed of an even more unfortunate ability. What that ability is does not exactly get explained by the end of the first issue (though, again, the solicitation copy tells you more than the issue. Unfortunately, this one doesn't quite work for me, at least not enough to keep up with the pamphlets. It's not that it's at all bad -- the writing's fine, and I like the artwork. It's just not really engaging. Lili's not particularly likeable, but then, given what she's going to have to do, it really would be asking a lot for us to like her. But in that case, you need to grab the reader with the situation, with the action, and it's all been too oblique at this point for that to work. Drop, possibly to trade.

The Mighty #1 (Peter Tomasi and Keith Champagne/Peter Snejbjerg; DC):
DC tries, once again, to launch a title on the DC imprint that's not part of the DC Universe, instead of putting it on Wildstorm where you'd expect it to be. It's an understandable effort; there are smaller stores that, especially these days, won't take something that's not mainline Marvel or DC. Unfortunately, DC has terrible luck launching non-DCU titles on that label (or any other, these days, for that matter), and I'm not sure that this will end that streak. The Mighty is the story of a superhero -- apparently the only one on the planet -- and his team. A sailor gets washed overboard during an atomic bomb test at Enewetok, and the radioactive water gives him superpowers. He becomes the superhero Alpha One, then forms a support team, of which Captain Shaw is the leader and Gabriel Cole is a member. We see how being a member of this team affects Cole's life -- as you might expect, it interferes at awkward times -- and we see that he has some sort of as yet not quite explained history with Alpha One. We also get hints of the cost of being a member of Omega Team for other and past members. And then the event happens near the end that effectively kicks off the series.

I do think it might have been better as a storytelling device if maybe they'd started at the end of the issue -- or even the end of the event -- and then looped back to the beginning. As it stands, the story is a bit uninvolving. Moderately intriguing, yes, but it doesn't quite grab you. To be fair, it looks like this first arc is constructed as a straight-up mystery -- we don't as yet have a villain running around saying, "Ha HA! Look what I did!", so it's likely that Omega Team is going to have to do a full investigation to figure out where to aim Alpha One. That's a bit unusual in superhero comics, and mysteries do usually start a bit slow. Snejbjerg's artwork is good. I guess I'll wait and see the state of the budget and my level of interest next month before I decide whether or not to go for issue 2. No recommendation.

Eureka #1 (Andrew Cosby and Brendan Hay/Diego Barreto; Boom!): Based on the SciFi network television series. If you haven't watched the series, the comic will be utterly baffling, since it doesn't bother to explain the characters or their relationships very well; if you have watched the series, it'll be a nice flashback to a time before this season, when Nathan was still alive. The story comes from Deputy Jo Lupo's past: a man has taken Carter's daughter Zoe hostage, and Jo is in the position of being the SWAT sharpshooter to take the man out. However, she recognizes him from her tour in Afghanistan, and is so shocked that she can't take the shot, so Carter winds up having to do it himself. This being Eureka, there's something special about the man, and everyone has to scramble to find out exactly what's going on. Barreto's artwork takes an interesting tack, vaguely invoking the actors without being too strongly character referenced. It's a fun read. Recommended if you watch the series; No Recommendation if you don't. (That said, I'm dropping to trade, because that's what I do with everything I'm interested in ehough to buy from Boom. Given that Boom only seems to publish miniseries, rather than continuing series, I've never understood why they persist in doing miniseries that much have seriously diminishing returns as they go on. But I digress.)
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! )
Warren Ellis » The Patchwork Years:
The years 2001-2007, approximately, on the web were the crazy years. The patchwork years. The years the web was massively and chaotically pumped full of Stuff....

[...] One of the few sane responses to this explosion of production was to assume the role of curator. (Other sane responses include moving to the woods and considering a completion of the work Ted Kaczynski started.) The two most famous examples of same are Jorn Barger’s Robot Wisdom (est. 1997) — Barger is said to have coined the term "weblog" — and Mark Frauenfelder’s Boing Boing (est. 2000 as a weblog, previously a print magazine est. 1988), co-produced for much of its life by Cory Doctorow, David Pescovitz, and Xeni Jardin. The latter, in particular, has spawned countless imitators, all deeply involved in doing the web-work of 2001-2007 — sorting out all the weird crap that’s out there and re-presenting it in some kind of ordered and aesthetically or politically filtered manner for our consideration....

[...] And, frankly, no-one’s going to do a better job of being the internet’s copy/paste editors than the BB crew anyway. They have the time, they have the money, they have the setup, they have the audience and they have the momentum of nearly a decade in the job. Nobody needs another linkblog like that. There are already thousands of them. The job of curation is being taken care of. Look ahead.



OK, look: a links weblog is not in any reasonable sense of the term "curation". Curation implies not only selection -- and sometimes comprehensive selection, depending on the subject and the people/organization doing the work -- but also preservation. Links weblogs preserve nothing, almost by design; they're meant to be topical. They not only have a hard time preserving themselves, if they want to -- I lost nearly four years of Grim Amusements archives when something hit the database and I didn't realize it until I moved the site to another host and couldn't regenerate it -- weblogs also can't preserve what they link to, which means that if/when the content at the other end goes away, the links themselves lose both context and actual information. That is, or was, a very big problem with political and news-type weblogs, because newspaper and editorial sites tend to keep information online the shortest amount of time. It's one of the reasons that when Grim Amusements was a much more active joint, I stared putting so much quoted text into entries; so that at a later date when the link staled, anyone who ran across the thing would know what the hell I was talking about. Curation also implies giving people enough context to understand the information presented. I don't do it here with the webcomics link entries, because I really can't; I'd have to copy the strip, get permission to post it, deal with uploading the file, deal with the sharp difference in traffic that the graphics would bring and ... no. Just ... no. I am not the Comics Curmudgeon. (...No, I said I'm not THE Comics Curmudgeon, not that I'm not A comics curmudgeon.) So those webcomics entries in this here weblog are likely to provoke serious confusion, even in me, at a later date. "Yes. Yes it IS." Yes it is what? Yes what is what? I have no freakin' idea what I was talking about! is curation; is commentary and sometimes analysis.

The closest museum/library analog I can think of is that links weblogs are selectors. For example, I used to pick out government statistical information and publications for the library, back when the government actually published such pesky information. But ... I did not preserve any of it. Once the next year's information or new edition came out, the old version frequently got discarded. We didn't have the space or the need for old publications of those sorts. That's pretty much the way links weblogs work: Hey, here's something bright, shiny and interesting for today! ...OK, we're done with it now. On to the next bright, shiny, interesting thing!

Weird thing is, I mostly kinda sorta agree with him on the rest of the stuff he talks about in that entry. (Kind of. Sort of. A little. Maybe.) We don't necessarily need another boing-boing. (We certainly don't need the comment threads.) The stuff he's doing for himself is a type of curation. (Very very highly selective, and depending on where he puts that stuff and how accessible it is for others later on, later generations may be really happy with him.) But that section there got right up my nose, for some reason.

Yes, I am a librarian; why do you ask?

...Well, yes, I have worked with museums and special collections departments extensively. What's that got to do with anything?

...Yes, I have been known to be just a touch pedantic at times. Your point being ...?

...What? What?

(And in a moment of pure huh?, the only form of the word available in the online Cambridge dictionary is "Curator". No "curate" (v. trans.: "To act as curator of (a museum, exhibits, etc.); to look after and preserve." OED.), no "curating", no "curation", not even "curatorship". Just "Curator". Curious, that.)
Thanks to being spectacularly unwell the week before this went up, followed by a week out of town, I completely forgot to mention that it was there.

Indie Boy Strikes? Again!
Part 2: Slipping into the future

So, as we've seen, in tales of the future near and far, frequently it all falls apart. War, famine, pestilence, and death can all cause society to collapse in strange and interesting ways. But what happens when it doesn't all fall apart, when society manages to cobble something together, and people and places continue into the future in new and different ways?

Writers seem to like extrapolating current trends into the future, assuming that it's going to get darker and meaner because even as things get better for some, life really does get comparatively darker and meaner for many more. The future does not by default make anything better, except technologically—and even that depends on what you consider to be "better." In pretty much any futuristic comic you look at, with the possible exception of space opera (a genre which will not be examined at this time), things seem to get worse for at least a significant number of people. Of course, part of that is that perfection makes for boring fiction. It's much more interesting to put a shiny high-tech outside in contrast to the rotten, damaged insides of the real society in question....

The title is a tribute to something noncomics related, yet curiously appropriate, and no, I'm not telling you what, because you'd have to be older'n dirt to get it, any way.

I wish I'd had the time to send it through another draft or two. (The one that's up is the third or fourth draft. I forget which.) It took a lot of rewriting before I finally figured out what I wanted the thing to do.

Any road, just for you, dear reader, what follows is something that got excised early on. Fun to write, but tragically inappropriate for the article itself. It's sorta kinda a pastiche on Spider Jerusalem. Not a terrible one, I think, but again, wildly inappropriate for the column itself. I may have quite wide lattitude to write about whatever I want, but somehow, I'm thinking that a long ad hominem(ish) screed isn't quite what they would expect. The section in italics appeared in the article; the rest I cut before submitting.

Oh, and if you should wonder: "Shrub", (c) Molly Ivins; "Fearless Leader" (c) Jay Ward and company; "Our Fearless Shrub" (c) me, thank you very much.

And finally, of course, there's Transmetropolitan, the life and times of Spider Jerusalem, an anti-hero cum involuntary pied piper with a driving urge to make people change their lives, hopefully for the better, whether they want to or not. He investigates, he writes, he exhorts people to change their condition. Sometimes, as when he convinces people to vote out The Beast and vote in The Smiler as president, he makes terrible mistakes that then need to be corrected. The society in Transmetropolitan is anesthetized by media—although Ellis makes the assumption that some part of the media is not only trying to inform the public, but also succeeding; after all, even though having Spider publish is good business—he's controversial, his public persona is bizarrely entertaining, and he writes real good—it's also true that employing him causes several problems for his employer. For the most part, the futuristic setting only serves as a layer of distance—although, even then, in a moment of peculiar prescience, the Smiler presides over the destruction of a major North American city, partially destroyed by a storm and by a combination of malfeasance and deliberate neglect. (The issues of Transmetropolitan collected in "Dirge" were originally published in 2001, four years before Katrina—peculiar prescience indeed.) Oddly enough, despite the character design, given the lead time necessary for art and whatnot, the Smiler as a character actually predates the appearance in our national consciousness of the Fearless Shrub himself, from before George W.'s campaign was even a mote in his brother Jeb's eye. When the Smiler was created, our Fearless Shrub was back in Texas, laughing it up about executing a woman. (It's only because executions of women are so rare, even now, that it was at all noteworthy. I'm sure he laughed himself sick about some of the 151 execution warrants he signed for men, but the sheer number meant that nobody noticed. I suppose one could call him the Laugher, but really, Fearless Shrub has a certain something...)

And, you know, it's not as though we can't say that we didn't get a certain amount of warning right off the bat. After all, when his first public position is effectively, stop counting votes because we don't want every vote to count ... well, we should have known what we were getting, shouldn't we?

Subsequent events gave our Fearless Shrub all the excuse he needed to clamp down on those pesky and inconvenient things known as "rights and privileges". One must admit, he was able to handle things with a bit more subtletly, if that's quite the right word, than the Smiler was. He has not yet had to resort to assassination -- that we know of. (The Smiler was notably ineffective at that, anyway.) By contrast, we have had quite a remarkable number of the Disappeared, albeit not quite at Argentine levels; the Smiler doesn't seem to have resorted to such things. The Smiler also seems not to have had to really deal much with Congress. Then again, neither has our Fearless Shrub; Congress seems to think that we elected them to office to be our national doormats. And as doormats, they've done an exemplary job. (Though I will note that their recent lack of doormattitude has been both unexpected and refreshing. The FISA bill keeps stalling, and the Shrub keeps threatening to veto it if they don't insulate the telecoms for their previous unwarranted -- literally -- violations of our rights. Which means that as of this moment, no warrants of the type can be authorized, because they lack statutory support. A situation most salutary. Not that he'll pay the least attention to that, of course. It's clear that he regards the Constitution as very old toilet paper, and uncomfortable toilet paper at that. Still, you have to take the miniscule victories and the odd appearance of something like a spine where you find them.)

An interesting thing to see about both the Smiler and our Fearless Shrub: they both want to be president because they want to be president. It's the big dog, the one everyone has to pay attention to. They got the Biggest Dick of All, and it's right there in your face, so to speak. The Smiler gets so excited at just being president that he masturbates with the American flag next to the desk in the Oval Office. To be sure, I can't imagine our Fearless Shrub mastubating on the flag. Or, you know, at all.

Neither the Smiler nor the Shrub wants to use the position to better the country, or to make anything work for most people living in it. Neither of them really believes in anything. Corporatist though he was, Clinton still clearly believed in this country and its principles and in using the power of the presidency to try to help people. (He also, unfortunately, believed in the power of his dick and his personality to get him out of problems that his dick caused. But I digress.) The Beast, the Smiler's prececessor, believed that if 51% of people in the country got up and made it through a day that didn't suck, he'd done a good job. The Smiler didn't believe even that, and sure as hell our Fearless Shrub doesn't believe that. Far as I can tell the only thing he really and truly believe in is dancing with them what brung him. That is, making sure the rich people get richer, and that all public policy works to make that happen. Thus, the rich/poor divide in this country is the worst it's been in ages. Tax policy is terribly skewed. The Environmental Protection Agency seems terribly puzzled at the very idea that it's supposed to protect, you know, the environment, and not the people trying to exploit it with as few safeguards as possible. And so on, and so on, lather rinse repeat.

Spider talks about the new scum versus the old scum, but in our Fearless Shrub's limited view, that's the wrong way to put it. The issue is the rich scum versus the poor scum -- and I think that even the Shrubbery would agree, in his innermost self where he dreams of setting the newspapers of the country aflame, that many, many of them what brung him are utter and absolute scum. Mind, I'm not sure he wouldn't agree that he's scum, as well -- viewed through a narrow and moneyed filter, of course -- but since he's rich scum, he's better than you and me. Since we're poor scum, the only things we've ever been able to offer him are the votes to keep him in there, and the votes to encourage Congress in its doormancy. And, for reasons beyond imagining, those votes we've given him.

Yes, the Smiler and our Fearless Shrub really do have a startling number of things in common. But perhaps the most notable are their attitudes about the law of this country. Despite being the highest elected constitutional officers, despite swearing to uphold it, their concept of "uphold" seems to be remarkably ... flexible. And, ultimately, hostile, to the Constitution and to us.

There ought to be limits to freedom.
* George W. Bush news conference (May 21, 1999); also quoted in "Satirical Web Site Poses Political Test", Washington Post (November 29, 1999)

Like I said, an OK pastiche, not a great one, and savagely out of place, and so it went.

And on that note, one can but say: have a nice day!

Hopefully better spoilered this time.

Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle 3 (Grant Morrison/Freddie E. Williams II)

...Jesus freakin' CHRIST!

Let's deconstruct the ending behind this cut tag, shall we? Let's shall... )

Planetary 24: Guide/Systems (Ellis/Cassaday)

I'm glad that this title is back on track, now that it's trundling slowly through its final four (counting this one and the after-ending special issue that Ellis has talked about). I hope it can hold to a vaguely regular publication schedule, after this last somewhat long (admittedly not huge) gap between issues.

Strange thing about this issue: with the exception of the occasional question asked by a couple of characters, it's essentially a monologue. And an action-free monologue, at that, until near the end. And yet, it manages to push us further along to the "Oh, THAT'S what's going on," point.

(Also, I love Cassaday's art in this. In almost anything, really -- although I have seen one or two occasional things where his startlingly realistic style doesn't entirely work, it's always been a perfect match for Planetary.)

All-Star Superman 2 (Morrison/Quitely)

And yet another title in which, on the whole

Read more... )

The artwork actually seems to me a bit better this time. True, Lois' cheekbones seem to have gone walkabout, but on the other hand, Superman's face isn't as broad and squished as it was in the first issue. (He also seems to be cheekbone-free much of the time. I wonder what Quitely has against them?)

The Maze Agency 2: A Beautiful Prime (Mike Barr/Ariel Padilla)

The idea being that the title contains "fair-play mysteries", that the reader should be able to solve them if they've been paying attention. Like the old Ellery Queen mysteries on television. In any event, the story moves along, and it was more interesting and entertaining than the last one. I could have done without

Major plot spoiler lurks behind the cut )

It's a weird title. On the one hand, IDW titles are expensive enough that this one is hard to justify as an issue purchase; it would in some ways make more sense to wait until a compilation was done.

On the other hand, it was a quick, fun read. Eh. YMMV; I think that this may be the last issue I buy. Unless I'm in the mood for light and fun the next time it comes out. We'll see.

Testament 2 (Douglas Rushkoff/Liam Sharp)

Very ... intriguing. And further discussion will be held until the "Anyone for blasphemy?" entry, which will be coming soon.

Girls 9 (Luna Brothers)


Not actually a very busy issue, but some interesting interaction between the characters. And, of course, as with the past few issues, the very last panel contains one of those, "Oh. Didn't see that one coming," moments. I wonder who done the deed....

...What? You expected more? Seriously, it's not a busy issue, but it is important to see how the characters see the relationships with each other.

(Heh. Not a spoiler in sight on that one, even.)

BPRD: The Black Flame 6 of 6

...that was an ending? I mean, yes, OK, kind of, But not really quite understanding what happened, either. I think that'll take another read.

Revelations 6 of 6 (Jenkins/Ramos)

And we come to the end. Very strongly written, very reasonable ending, makes perfectly good sense, and anyone paying enough attention probably saw it coming.

Hated hated hated HATED that ending. Understand: it's not a bad ending, technically speaking. I just ... HATED it. I hated the ending so much that I started reading Warren Ellis Blackgas -- a new horror title, for heaven's sake, and I hate horror most of the time -- to get a bit of distance from it.

But still. HATED that ending.

And again, in-depth discussion deferred until "Anyone for blasphemy?"

Blackgas (Ellis/Max Fiumara)

Picked this one up just for the hell of it; there's almost no chance at all that I'm going to stick with it. Not because of anything intrinsically wrong with it, just ... dude.

very brief spoiler for something that it turns out is not in the actual issue )

That said, I like the writing so far -- gentler than Ellis' usual style -- and I like Fiumara's art. (Most of the Avatar stuff I've seen is done by this person -- I don't remember the name right now -- who uses this unspeakably ornate black and white line art. Amazingly rich and detailed, but I really don't like it at all. It's hard to see anything in it. In any event, Fiumara's work is very clean and textured, and Andrew Dalhouse's colors are really lovely stuff. (Be warned that there are a couple pages of nekkidness inside. Plus, of course, the requisite icky stuff, with the blood and the guts and the gore and all that fun, because what would a horror title be without them?) And for all that I've already said that I know that I'm not sticking with it, I do wonder where on earth that last panel is headed. Nowhere good, I would assume.

In any event, I think from what Ellis has said on the Signal that this is a mini-series or a maxi-series (but not a full one), but I'm not sure how long.

Fallen Angel 2 (Peter David/JK Woodward)

Peter David's said on his website that the series has already been picked up for a run longer than the initial three-issue arc planned, which makes me very very happy. We now know why he took the 20-year great leap forward (although there is a slight problem in that the characters don't look much older -- although, that said, given who they are and what Bete Noire seems to be, there may be reasons for that as well), and a very interesting reason it is. Woodward's watercolors are seriously gorgeous; the series looks entirely different than it did under DC's guidance.

Interestingly, according to things I've seen on David's site and other bulletin boards, it seems that the original plan for Lee may have been to have her be a less-powerful, for some reason, Linda Lee Danvers, which would explain why Fallen Angel started out as a DC title rather than as a Vertigo title, where it more properly belonged. That said, if that was the original plan, I can't imagine that DC would under any circumstances have allowed Peter David to buy the title and characters away.

And, yet again, any more in-depth discussion deferred until "Anyone for blasphemy?" (I'll get to it someday, I promise!)

Super-Bad James Dynomite (written by Kenan Ivory, Shawn and Marlon Wayons, Xavier Cook, Mitchell Marchand; art by Robert Reed and Darren Huang)

Um ... yeah.

It's like ... Ugly Son of Blaxploitation, really. Except that the artwork is really kind of stunning (if periodically gross). Seriously uninvolving, not particularly funny story, though. And, needless to say, for adults only. How adult do I mean?

Well. Take the very very first panel. (Please. Far Far away ... no, FARTHER away than that.) First, you notice the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Then you notice that she's ... grinning? Um ... OK. Then you notice that the Statue does not believe in shaving her armpits -- in fact, she's got what would appear to be 10-20 foot long braids sticking straight out of there. OK ... and then you notice that the Statue has shapely gams. I mean, who knew? And then you notice that the Statue ... does not shave or groom or otherwise tame things Down There, shall we say. In fact, you notice that the Statue actually has a "Down There". (The boat ride into the harbor for new immigrants, way back when, must have been a seriously startling experience.)

People, I did not need, in this lifetime, to think about the Coochie of Liberty. Not once. Not ever. Even less did I need to see the Coochie of Liberty. And you know, once you have seen the Coochie of Liberty, you can never un-see it. It will be branded into your brain forever.


In any event, the issue ends on a cliffhanger, so I assume that it will continue, although I don't know how often this is planned to come out. And honestly, I'm not sure that I care.

Small Gods 12 (Jason Rand/Juan E. Ferreyra, Kristen Simon)

And with this issue, the regular series of Small Gods ends. Dammit. Although there will allegedly be a full color two issue mini later in the year or early next year.

In any event, it's kind of a good ending to the series. (I say "kind of" only because it's kind of sad for one of the characters, who doesn't get what she wants.) I hope that maybe they can keep doing little miniseries, since it's really very enjoyable.


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