Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Waydown #18.05.29

I haven't been reading much lately. For as much as I've been reading comics at all, it's mostly been bigger works or series, to put off finishing something that will only be added to the list of stuff to write about; I don't want more stuff on the list before I take some of it off (by writing about it). I want to get this stuff done but I need motivation to make it a priority, so making obstacles for myself and working to get the stuff out of my way is a good way to get myself to do it.  At the moment I've got a few more zines worth of stuff to write about, assuming I follow this format (and there's no reason I wouldn't), so I'm good for a while, though surely I'll start adding more to that list once I whittle it down.  (What I really need to do is get drunk one afternoon and pump out another zine in one sitting. That works a lot better than it should.)

But even besides having a reason to not read stuff I can finish, there hasn't been a lot of reading going on here.  I want reading to be on my daily schedule of living and doing things but it's also the easiest element to get pushed out. Whereas in most of my life I've made it a point to have some time in the day, usually just before I go to bed, to read, lately that time has been taken up by writing, e-mail, and creative projects, and I've been successful enough with those that I only want to keep going like that, and it's difficult to introduce reading among that when I could be producing more.  Even when I'm not working and can stay up late, it's not imperative to make time for reading.  The charge I get from writing and getting projects done is more than what I get from reading something that stands too great a chance at being forgettable.   Last summer I did well with it, when I read most of the stuff below and in the next zine or so, but I've been away from that schedule for a while.  (And I'm still reading, but it's usually magazines in the bathroom or listening to audiobooks, and you may argue that that holds no relation to actually reading.)  I could be in a phase of my life when I'd rather create something than consume what someone else has done.  And as the general assumption goes, most of that meant to be consumed is crap, and my time becomes increasingly more valuable than to give it to such.  Maybe I just can't get excited enough to do it unless I'm knocking books off the shelf or the books I'm on are extraordinary (and at least one of the current ones is).  I could come back around once I overcome the mental block I've made when I take care of some of this stuff.  But it doesn't matter for the moment since I'll have plenty of grist for these zines.  I'm good to keep writing even if it means less reading.  Once again I disagree with Stephen King.  But then, maybe noting it here means I can put a bow on this phase in my life and can get back on the horse to finally make reading a priority in life again.


But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman.  I read a lot of Klosterman’s magazines columns and articles, especially those in Spin (Google “klosterman chinese democracy spin” and “klosterman cobain”) and Esquire, the latter for which were out of place but filling their quota for quirkiness, so his books are an easy sell.  Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs was a nice enough read, though at this point forgettable, being entertainment more than something particularly substantial and I might not have bothered with another one if I didn’t have a reason.  But What If We Were Wrong came up in a selection of audiobooks and I needed to pick something or lose the credit, and the selection otherwise wasn’t great, so I dove in.  At least I could listen to it even with divided attention, which would be more than it needed.  It’s light pop-philosophy.  No one needs more wind-bag philosophy -- even the greats weren’t necessary anywhere even remotely outside of academia (and even then you could take a better class to fulfill a requirement) but Klosterman puts a spin on it by updating it with contemporary arguments and popular references.  After a while his name-dropping just feels like name-dropping, though he pulls from such a range that at least it can be lively.  But the basis of philosophy is that anyone could be wrong, and if no one’s view is any better than any other, and it might not be correct, then it’s just people babbling on and on.  So there’s not much reason to follow it, except for entertainment, and that’s where the pop- arena comes into play, but it can only carry it so far.  When Klosterman digs deeper into his argument he also pulls further away from anything resembling fun and it becomes drudgery (even when listening to it).  It’s enough to hold a lot of conversations together, hence binding them together in a book, but there’s also no reason to be talking about any of it, which is the greatest curse of philosophy as a study in the first place and this, whether intended as philosophy or not, lands as close to the middle of that as anything written in the modern day, whether it’s sugared up to go down easy or not.  Klosterman might be saying a lot, and he might have better ideas than most, but none of this is going to change the world. 
Sex, Drugs worked best as a collection of columns but But What If is bound together by a central theme (namely, what if how we perceive right or wrong is so flawed that what we think is right now is wrong later?), so breaking it up into different angles fragments the argument and it becomes a bleary mess as it trudges along. Then it finally ends but only when it seems like he ran out of breath, since he probably could have kept going, even if was just more babbling. Klosterman is smart, and he can be clever (though less as he gets deeper into drier intellectual territory), and he makes it as easy to understand as possible, but it doesn't add up to much, even when it's supposed to.

Klosterman reads the introduction in the audiobook and even admits that he got a British lady to read the rest because she sounds smarter.  Which was wise, since Klosterman, all respect intended, sounds like a big nerd, lisp and all.  He’s an intelligent guy but on voice alone he doesn’t do much to discount any stereotypes.  The lady does, indeed, punch it up but it’s too easy to not buy that she has any idea what any of what she's saying really means.  Listening to it makes it go down a lot easier -- I would have been pissed to have given this a year if I’d read it -- but it still drags, though that might be for the length as much as any philosophy text will feel like it’s taking forever.
Empowered (Dark Horse).  Satire can be difficult to swallow sometimes.  Especially in mainstream comics, where so much recycling and inbreeding seems like it’s its own self-satirization.  Heck, I thought The Authority was a legit superhero book back when it was fresh.  But Adam Warren’s Empowered is nothing but satire.  Maybe it’s a spank book too, but it’s also satirizing that as well.  Just a casual flip through the pages doesn’t show off much depth -- the point of the book is how the heroine gets more powerful when she becomes more scantily clad -- but actually reading it, if you can get that far, it gets some sly bits and sometimes even funny.  If shallowness wasn’t a big part of its concept, it might even be ground-breaking at some points.  But it’s also Warren turning in pages and a victory to get art from him.  Luckily, he knows where his bread is buttered, but it’s also even farther into the point that it’s so much about half-naked babes that anything but is a real drag, so it can be noise when it's not about the heroine.  The art, in black & white, is also proudly digitally unpolished, looking like it came straight from a bushel of burned-down pencils, which is refreshing when most comics these days look so dull and sterile.  (Compare new issues to stuff just 10 years ago.  It might as well be 40 years ago, and a shame that so often we’ve lost any spontaneous, rough approaches.)  Warren doing the art is the central selling point, since the volumes with another artist become pointless (unless he’s going to get Adam Hughes to draw interiors).  Warren makes his point before even getting past the cover, but since you can get the same thing out of a spank book or a satire of a spank book, it works equally well on whatever level.  It’s a fun read, quick enough that it doesn’t grind, and shallow enough that you don’t have to give too much to it (unless you need some extra time in the bathroom with it).
Spider-Man: Reign (Marvel).  Kaare Andrews seemed to quietly come out of nowhere to turn in some great art for Marvel, but enough to make a splash and to cause some anticipation over what he could with a project solely on his own, with writing & interior art. He turned in some great covers, but he could show off what he could really do by tackling Spider-Man, perhaps the greatest mainstream character.  But it could also show how far he could fall from those expectations if it wasn't astounding. And Reign doesn't even rate as good. It's his own spin on Spider-Man, and while there's been worse, there's very little Andrews brings to the character and his immediate world.  He wrenches the hero and mythos into a Dark Knight Returns world, so brazenly an attempt that he even names a news-caster Miller.  It's almost a fantasy of how Frank Miller would have done Spider-Man during the Dark Knight era, assuming that Miller would never have challenged himself to do something more innovative after already conquering that realm (even the sequel(s) was a completely different thing, so the innovation that that DC project had is lost, this being yet another bad copy, a generation or two of influences after that Batman story was its own thing.  It can be fun to imagine how it would work (or could have 25 years ago) but there's no reason to put it into practice.  It's not a good Spider-Man story or anywhere near a good comic.  Andrews' style is interesting but when he can't fit it into a good story, he might as well keep doing covers.  I picked this up (at the library, for free) after hearing how great his Iron Fist was, and maybe that would have been the place to start.  I liked his stuff -- or at least the idea of his stuff -- enough that I picked up some Renato Jones, issues, so there's hope that he's turned in a better project, without any limits of a mainstream publisher.  But it wouldn't be a surprise if his work turns out to be all flash, something that could reach a fuller potential if he surrendered himself to be paired with a collaborator, especially a writer who could match his stuff with a story worth reading and not a dirty copy of something else.
They're Not Like Us, Vol 1: Black Holes for the Young (Image).  There are worse crimes than ripping off the original New Mutants.  It wasn't a fresh concept when Claremont did it, and in the time since it's been done enough to make anyone think that it's always been a trope.  A team of superhuman kids who learn about growing up as they learn about their powers -- it's an evergreen idea that anyone could do a lot with.  It's a bland foundation but it can be built again.  And so it comes back again with They're Not Like Us, which has a mission statement right in the title.  There aren't many surprises, but it sets up enough for more, and begins to push its boundaries more than Marvel comics were allowed to do, enough that this could be an assuring start.  It doesn't state much of a direction but that could also refer to how long they intend to keep it going and that they'll get somewhere eventually.  The star of the show is Simon Gane, an artist in a vein toward Paul Pope, and who can illustrate kids having a conversation with as much rough grace as super-powered activity.  It would be interesting to see the guy apply his talents to anything, but that he's put stuff out that avoids rote super-heroics is commendable.  He may not last as long as they intend the series to go, but it could be interesting to see where he moves to, after seeing where he takes this story.
Sgt. Rock: Hell and Hard Place (DC/Vertigo).  It's a little-known fact that I have a secret history with war comics.  It was my uncle who got me into comics when I was a little, little kid, and I gravitated toward his superhero comics, of which he only had a few, since he had a lot more war comics (and he's only four years older than me, not a grizzled vet or anything), but they were enough to get me going, for the love for comics if not for superheroes.  His collection was a lot of random stuff, whatever was out, nothing that established a sustained story if it was more than one issue, but enough action and explosions.  So I probably paged through a few of those, though they never held my interest for more than a page, but there were many drawn by Joe Kubert -- not that my uncle was necessarily a fan, but Kubert just happened to get a lot of work there (and drew what were easily the best ones) -- so I had a basis for his art, maybe before any other artist I became familiar with later.  Between then and becoming an adult reader, I never went to war comics, even to rekindle some familiarity, and when I did it was purely out of nostalgia, but unless it had a really magnetic story or art, I drifted away without memory of it.  However, it wouldn't be hard to get me to pick up anything written by Brian Azzarello, and he's a strong enough writer that he'll work a rough magic in whatever genre he chooses.  So a complete, self-contained graphic novel is not a hard sell, with the assumption it will accompanied by an able artist, so it's almost a bonus that he did a book drawn by Kubert, though I'm sure he'd tell you it's Kubert first and then him.  It's Kubert's swan song, one of his last projects before passing, but he does it with the same vitality and flair as anything he's done, if not with more technical prowess than in most of the rest of his career, while still having the same grit and intensity.  It's almost impressionistic, with smooth lines that don't crowd or rush on a page.  It's odd to say a war comic could be graceful but if anyone could do it, it's him.  If Kubert plied his skills as a teacher later in his years (since, being an icon, he was still known as being an artist), the book is its own master class in how to draw a comic, with nuance and intensity and dirty elegance and a rugged beauty.  The story is serviceable -- not to disparage it, though Azzarello has done more piercing work in longer stories -- but his story is just to give Kubert stuff to draw.  Even better, it's Kubert working with Sgt. Rock -- the original -- so it's not like some random situation in a war comic, but reuniting Kubert with his best creation for one last ride.  Azzarello would be the odd man out, a new jack among some stuff that's been around a while, but he fits in with a fitting tale to bring it all together.  The thing reads like an anthology, with some short stories that meld together out of necessity, but it's just as well since it's a bunch of great stories as good as just one, in the deluxe format of a stately graphic novel, which it deserves.  Azzarello has done stuff since, just like Kubert had done plenty of work, often thrilling and ground-breaking and as artful as anything, so it's a combination of generations of brilliant comics creators.  But even if it's a shame that they couldn't ever do another project together, it was a good way for Kubert to go out, if he had to.  Any legend would be so fortunate to have such a fitting send-off with an ability that never began to go downhill.
Saga, vol. 1 (Image).  I'd like to think I eventually get to the better stuff available to experience (or vice-versa).  The best movies aren't usually kept a secret, good books go big, and there can be some value in trends.  So I'd like to think that I would have eventually discovered Saga, rolling with the fact that it's been so popular, and has had reason to be, and not just throwing it in with the rest of all these books that Image has been putting out (which are probably a lot of fine works, but, as is my usual problem with indie books, there are far too many to go through to find the best stuff). That I had to have it recommended to me at the comics shop shouldn't speak against how I can't find the stuff on my own or because I need to have someone tell me point-blank that it was the best book out at the time. (And I don't even remember the story about how I came upon it. I wouldn't normally ask for a recommendation for a book since I already have enough to read and I don't always trust anyone else's opinion, especially about comics.  So maybe it was just a magical coalescence of something that was meant to be.  (Though I remember who recommended it to me: Thanks, Amy!))  But I felt confident enough about a recommendation, or wanted to get as much of the complete story as I could to really give it a go, that I bought the first volume collecting a big chunk of the issues in one hardcover, a good move, since getting done with one issue would lead to an heart-rending or infuriating wait for the next part, so it's good to have as many ready to go as possible.  It turns out it's as good as anyone says it is, maybe even better since it's too easy to not expect much from our comics these days.  It's a blast from the first page, with a wellspring of imagination, audacious situations, true language, precarious situations, genuine tension, urgent intensity, unbridled fun, and more character than comics have seen in a while, and more than they deserve.  Brian Vaughan's name should have been enough to get anyone in the door, from Y: The Last Man alone (which on its own would have already been his masterpiece), though this beats that.  I personally haven't yet read a Vaughan book that wasn't one of the best things I've read in a while.  As good as the art is -- enough to stand on its own -- it's the uncommon comic where the writing shines even brighter than good art, but it's the synthesis of the two that make it something singular and special. That there is art that can personify these amazing figments and make it flow, along with conducted a character-driven story, is a feat, even better that it works so well. There's not a bad page or a false word balloon.  Even Y dragged every once in a while, but when that happens with this one, there's more than enough to fill the space to forget that it ever could.  They don't waste space or time and it's a thrilling read.  If I wrote that list of top 10 books (and I plan to soon), this would be on there -- not just comics and graphic novels, but my favorite stuff I've read.  We rarely get this much compressed imagination, even in comics, which, by their popular definition, should have a lot more than they usually do, and this puts everything else in the dark.  It even goes over the top of the usual sci-fi, which necessitates being chock-full of imagination (and falters most when it isn't), though they might have shot themselves in the foot by making something that actually isn't filmable -- going against the general plan of comics-creators these days, from Millar on down -- and increasing their brand, and financing for more issues, with a movie or TV show (even an animated thing, if they wanted to bunt) or something with wider recognition.  Even better, by the time I got done with this one, there was the second big volume available, and there keep being new issues, so there will be yet another before long.  Maybe the creators can't stay as consistent with it, though it will be fun to see them try, and with something that is clearly planned far ahead (as if anyone outside of Kirkman does an applied series anymore (and Invincible just ended)), maybe they're saving even greater stuff for later on.  Or maybe they'll give a grand gift to the universe and just never end it.
Supercrooks (Marvel/Icon).  Mark Millar writes movie pitches that are occasionally decent stories.   It's hard to say that his intention is ever to make a good comic because the ideas could just so happen to work so much better as movies.   The artist might be treating it like it's comics but you know they have an eye toward making it pay off with a movie-option pay-day -- they'd be a fool not to, especially after most of them have done time in the trenches of the big companies.   Though there's nothing actually wrong with any of this: a lot of the stuff coming out from Image seems like they're pitching movies anyway, even at its best (save for the sainted Saga).  And they have a chance to be a good comic just as well as a story made with only the consideration of becoming a movie.  Even if Millar was (more) shamelessly making a play at turning these into movies but not worrying if they're bad comics, it would be the same as anyone else who happened to be making bad comics.  They're often built on good concepts (of course very easy to boil down into a pitch-able sentence) and he gets a lot of the better popular artists working, and they turn often in work as good as for anywhere else.  Millar did better at Marvel and DC when he had limits to work against but you can't fault the guy for trying to create his own empire and make it pay.  Not a lot of other creators are doing the same, with or without shame, and maybe the industry could benefit from more initiative.  Supercrooks is another property that works better as a concept than as a piece of work but it’s one of Millar's properties that they could do the most with, even a director could -- or should -- take it far away from the weak execution of the comic.  Millar goes over a lot of the same ground as Wanted -- a one-sentence pitch for both would nearly be identical -- which is even more astounding since that other one even already got a movie.  And it worked better there but he gives it another shot, if just to work to Leinil Francis Yu's strengths, namely being on a group of characters and some action that doesn’t need to be wide-screen.  But the characters and concepts aren’t even up to Wanted standards, and Yu, producing like he approached the gig like any other where he needed to keep up with a page a day, isn’t J.G. Jones.  The book feels like Millar left more space than Yu could fill, and they didn’t need to go into depth since they already stated the concept to pitch the movie and the comic could be the after-thought.  It’s a shame since it could have been something decent, if not as cool as it wants to be, if both creators could have put in just a little more time and treated it like its own end-product instead of a step to something bigger.  Millar might not have created the villain-as-protagonist trope but he rode it long and hard, and this could have been the satisfying end of that ride, if he didn’t keep modifying the formula only slightly enough to pitch the same thing yet again.  Apparently there’s no reason to not keep on with a simple concept if there are still options to be had for a minimal effort.
Quick Bites: 
* All-New All-Different Point One #1 (Marvel). (According to the indicia, that's the actual title.) Marvel did these issues for a while, anthology books with a few pages to introduce a new series, usually tied into some event.  Even if they were too connected to something else to be self-contained, it was a sampler that could lead to a new book to check out or a team to keep an eye on.  A creative team should be able to be judged on a few pages before committing to much more. Of course, the book itself doesn't mean much if there's no promise to read the stuff it's spinning into. They even try to wrap it an umbrella story around it, in this case framing it with the story of the new Squadron Supreme, which is enough to get me there.  But if those new series don't take off right away then most of them will disappear, making this to exist more as a promotional tool than a part of a story, much less its own, rendering it fairly useless.  There's nothing wrong with some promotion but there's not much need to pick these up, which fans quickly figured out, which is probably why Marvel stopped doing them. You can usually find your way to a new series if it's deserving, and having to dig this up because it might be necessary to very minimally complete another story would be more trouble than it's worth.  It's hard to say what else they could do with this idea, as they've already used the issues for the first appearance of a new character or event, and they're still not quite stories or an advance peek or reprint, but there have to be just better avenues of advertisement (like just making the comics good and letting word spread organically).  This one clearly didn't help the retooled Squadron Supreme.
* Secret Avengers #29 (Marvel).  Every once in a while there's a series with a pattern of issues that are self-contained in themselves and don't have to continue to get a whole story.  It shouldn't be a big deal that a comic doesn't spill into another comic, but at least it happens, if rarely.  I go to the comics shop once a week, and unless I'm at the one where I can get away with it, I need to buy at least one item, obliged to not be a page-flipping free-loader. I'd rather not pay $20 for a thin trade paperback to add to the ones on my endless bookshelves so I try to keep it at picking up a single issue, but I want to get the whole piece and not have to buy other stuff just to get a complete story for my money.  Maybe the indies do well with done-in-ones but you'd be frustrated, like me, by how rarely Marvel or DC put out a complete story for under $5.  To do so these days seems like experimental story-telling, as if it's been proven that a whole comics story can't be told in one issue.  It used to be the case when every comic that came out was its own story, before bleeding continuity was the rambling standard instead of a rare, novel meeting, but there's more money in stringing it out and keeping the readers coming back to get the next part (the industry has been relying on feeding addicts in regular installments for longer than we've been alive).  On top of that, anthologies don't sell and kids comics are usually for attention spans too short, at the other extreme.  Even fewer are the self-contained issues that are actually worth getting but maybe every once in a while one of the big publishers throw something bite-sized but substantial out there, even it's just an experiment that shouldn't have to be an experiment.  Warren Ellis wrote six issues of Secret Avengers -- usually a book mired in drawn-out stories since that's what such plot-driven books need, apparently -- and, being self-contained, exactly filled a need to purchase.  It would have been a big deal, and a tempting purchase, even if he did the usual multi-part story.  He did a superhero thing, yet another trip for someone who says they don't want to go there, and got a range of artists for the issues.  Even if it didn't work, it was still a refreshing thing, and something I might have bought every month if they actually did that regularly (and if the comics shop didn't sell out of them).  Of course they collected the issues into a trade, which defeats the purpose (at least for me), but maybe I'll buy that some other time when I need to pick up something and don't mind the hit on my wallet.  As it is, since I'm still at the shop once a week, and frequently away from home, I continue my search for something for a few bucks that I can feasibly read in one sitting then go about the rest of my day that won't include seeking out the next part.
* Batman: Black & White #4 (DC).  DC does some self-contained stories worth getting too, though wildly inconsistent in an anthology.  Presenting short Batman stories by various creators in black & white boarders on genius, and they did well with this series, where it appeared, even worth buying a whole issue when it appeared as a back-up. It was better as a treat, as short stories collected in bigger volumes later on, rather than a meal, but considering they probably got a stack of these very quickly, they might as well use a series as a clearing house.  And it's been a while, with a new generation of creators -- surely they've got a new crop they could put out.  As with any anthology it's a mixed bag, but, seeing the creators they get, usually above the line overall, and, at worst a Batman story. Iffy quality aside, this is exactly the kind of comic I'd like to buy most weeks.  If only they did it more often than whenever they felt like it.  (And you know I supported the Vertigo anthologies, of which there were a lot more, and more regularly, but it's been a while for those, for as many ways as they tried to get them out.)
* All-New Guardians of the Galaxy: Free Comic Book Day (Marvel).  I've usually passed on Free Comic Book Day since it's not always convenient to go into the shop on Free Comic Book Day -- especially since it's a Saturday and that means there will be people there -- but I like the idea of free comics.  It's a great idea, until you realize that someone has to pay for those comics, and if it's not the publishers then it's the comics stores, and they're getting squeezed out as it is.  And it's largely expected by their customers that they'll do it so they're stuck.  Hopefully it actually does lead to getting more people into comics and snags new customers, but, assuming you can't always count on non-comics fans dropping by, for those who actually know about it, it's probably more about the usual customers getting something for free.  My shop solves the problem by getting some but not a lot -- first come, first serve -- then when they run out they can at least say they had them at one point, then don't have to worry about it.  As it was, I specifically asked for them to put aside this issue for me, maybe because I was trying to get the voice of Drax down when I was playing a GotG RPG, and when I thought I was going to get back into reading comics regularly again, and I loved the idea of getting to some single issues that weren't so important to a bigger story-line and all that, just reading to read.  This was probably a good enough issue to jump on to something but ultimately disregard as a part of the next big story line and/or included in a collection (contributing to the trade's cover price just as much as any other page in it).  And it also helped to not remember since that game went away shortly after that.  I'm not sure if I ever got Drax down.
* Inhumans Prime (Marvel).  Whether Marvel were trying to grow a new X-Men to make up for the brand they couldn't exploit in the movies, there's no reason they couldn't put the Inhumans corner of the universe to work to see where it goes.  They made a strong push, maybe too hard, seeing how many books came out very quickly and how many of those series didn't last.  It could have been wiser to start out easier, to see how it flies first before attempting a full-court press, as keeping up with that much material might have killed the enthusiasm from the few fans they had in the first place.  At least they usually establish a hit before they flog it to death.  It was also ridiculous to think they could top Jenkins & Lee's mini-series from the '90s, but even though they already had the Inhumans story that made any other unnecessary, there was no reason to not try to put them into action.  Though if the comics were meant as a set-up for the TV show, it was a promise that was not kept with such a deplorable waste of time, effort, and space.  It also might not have been wise to venture so far from the core characters that make up the group, eventually getting to a place where the intro page didn't have one recognizable character.  They're good characters, while never being Lee & Kirby's best, but good as second-stringer characters, and there's no reason to think there wasn't any potential.  They're the supporting characters from Coen bros. movies: probably good enough to carry their own projects until they try and inevitably buckle (though the Coens are wise enough to avoid doing so, while Marvel hasn't found an easy dollar they didn't like).  These kinds of B-list heroes are best in smaller doses, and maybe they could have made something special by keeping it modest.  As it was, there was this single issue that might have been a peak at what they were doing, except that it was just a role-call of the characters, as if showing them all off together could be a second-wind to keep the franchise going.  The art was good enough for me to try it out, at least, even though I don't remember anything about it other than a double-page spread in the middle that showed a lot of characters that I didn't know and didn't ever feel compelled to figure out.  There might be further, worthwhile Inhumans stories out there, but Marvel needs to let those come to them rather than pushing some out as making up for a mistake or some pissy revenge.
* Mockingbird #1 (Marvel).  Such a great character, whether they were trying to capitalize on her exposure in their TV show (AoS) or because they throw every character at the wall every once in a while just to see what sticks.  Though they couldn't get much out of her on the show or in the comic, since she disappeared not long after starting both, to show that maybe all she was good for was the potential of a new brand, easy enough to move from when she didn't catch on.  But the character is cool enough that there could ever be hope she could support her own comic, though there wasn't much to latch on to with this.  The cover is so good and captures her so well that it's crushing when the inside is nowhere close to it, and they wrench the character into such a different path that it's too easily divorced from what she was already and what had been so cool about her before this attempt.  They tried spinning her into something with Spider-Man, too (an awkward romantic situation), and that didn't seem to work either.  She seemed too easily to be dead for a while.  Maybe she's better on a team if she has to go anywhere, instead of actually trying to make her work.  Hopefully they'll give her another shot later on (both in comics or the TV or movies, just to give any reason for Adrianne Palicki to come around again).
* Hero Comics 2014 (IDW). The best thing about variant covers is that you can sometimes get out of buying something by J. Scott Campbell. I'm a sucker for anthology books, and this one is even for charity (even if I usually put my support behind the CBLDF). A review about an anthology is tricky since it's always a scatter-shot thing by nature but they're often interesting things since the creators can do what they want when it's not attached to anything, and someone is indebted to them just to get their work and name so they usually have free reign. What stuck in my memory was a quirky Dracula story by Mark Millar.
* Guardians Team-Up #9 (Marvel). This would have been a great self-contained, stand-alone issue to pick up on a week's visit to the shop but it came in a pack of random Marvel comics I got for cheap on Groupon and for some reason I don't recall, this one stood out. If I had paged through all the issues (which I didn't do since I knew a lot of them were stinkers) this one might have stood out even if I wasn't familiar with the Javier Pulido work, but it could have been his name being why I rescued it. He got to write the issue as well as drawing it, and it's a simple, straight-forward meeting of Star-Lord and Spider-Man. Nothing complicated, nothing fancy, just like the guy's confident, impeccable art. A wonderful issue (which I should give to the kid to whom I gave the rest of those issues).
* Avengers #0 (Marvel). See above about All-New All-Different Point One #1, trying to get into one of these once again. This one just had a peek at new Avengers books, which didn't last too long until they restarted them yet again.
* Local comic(s). I don't actually review every single thing I read.  There are a number of comics I leave out, never because of quality but usually because it's by someone I know (the biggest amount of stuff I buy at conventions anymore) and I don't want my comments to be tainted by a relationship, or appear to be. Conflict of interest or something. And there are also comics I've gotten because the author is in front of me and I don't want to be a jerk by passing on buying their book when they're about to sign it for me. Sure, that's a manipulative move on their part, and they don't want me to have it enough that they'll give it to me for free (for which they would be paying for it themselves), but I also want to show support and it's usually just one issue. Sometimes I don't even know the person but even better to not start off knowing them by looking like a jerk. And if I don't know the book before I get it from them, maybe it's good. Though, in the cases of indie stuff without a bigger label than themselves (read: not good enough to get someone else to publish it), it's usually crap. Including one I got recently -- you could tell what it was from the cover -- but its significance is giving me a prompt to explain how I don't include local stuff by people I might know locally. And that book was bad enough to let disappear without mention. Anyone should be encouraged to create a comic if that's their dream, but you need to make something that anyone would want to spend money on, much less read, rather than appease your vanity. It's not even much of a story, but see me in person and I might tell you (in exchange for a free copy of your book) (and even though he actually put out more issues in his series, it would need someone to recognize it just to call it non-existent).
(The "Quick Bites" is a new feature for some of the single issues I get to. The original intention really was to have them be super-short reviews.)

My Biggest References For Superhero Comics* (roughly in chronological order):
1. The back-up story in Captain America #221.
2. Avengers Annual #10.
3. Crisis on Infinite Earths.
4. The original Secret Wars.
5. Byrne’s Man of Steel (especially #3).
6. Squadron Supreme (mini-series) (especially #12).
7. Legends.
8. Gruenwald's Captain America (especially pre-#350).
9. Ostrander’s Suicide Squad.
10. Giffen & DeMatteis’ Justice League (up to the Hughes issues).
11. Byrne’s West Coast Avengers.
(* There are other comics I may hold in greater esteem (Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, “Kraven’s Last Hunt”, Preacher, Sandman) but this is just for pure superhero-ness)

Top Albums Of 2017 (In This Order):
10. Rainbow- Kesha.
9. Harry Styles- Harry Styles.
8. Whiteout Conditions- the New Pornographers.
7. 4:44- Jay-Z.
6. Slowdive- Slowdive.
5. Hot Thoughts- Spoon.
4. After Laughter- Paramore.
3. Out In The Storm- Waxahatchee.
2. Melodrama- Lorde.
1. Damn- Kendrick Lamar.

My Top Electric Six Songs Of All Time (In This Order):
20. "Watching Evil Empires Fall Apart"
19. "Hello! I See You"
18. "Roulette"
17. "Clusterfuck"
16. "Adam Levine"
15. "Escape From Ohio"
14. "Formula 409"
13. "Nuclear War (On The Dance Floor)"
12. "Devil Nights"
11. "I Invented The Night"
10. "Improper Dancing"
9. "Rock N' Roll Evacuation"
8. "I Buy The Drugs"
7. "Body Shot"
6. "Down At McDonnelzzz"
5. "Naked Pictures (Of Your Mother)"
4. "Dance Pattern"
3. "Dance Commander"*
2. "Danger! High Voltage"*
1. "Dance Epidemic"*
(* Played at my wedding.)


Eating more modestly. I hate eating. Actually, I hate having to stop what I'm doing and take the time to make something and sit down and eat it (though I try to multitask another task with it, like reading or going through e-mail or editing). I've been snacking more, when I can eat while working (though that precludes having popcorn, which necessitates more active eating). I've realized recently that I usually eat the biggest meal possible so I can avoid stopping to eat again for as long as I can, as well as the hard-wired habit of three meals a day, but eating smaller portions takes less time and is sometimes less preparation, and eating less is healthier and helps avoid a lunch-coma. Lately for lunches I've been cutting leftovers in half and doing a lot of sandwiches, salads (which look like a lot but it goes quickly and doesn't linger), and a grilled-chicken/rice/beans/vegetables mix that does well with sriracha. It feels like a comfortable compromise, and probably something I should have done a long time ago. Dinners usually function the same as they usually are, though, and on weekends all bets are off, but every little bit can help. Update: Then intermittent fasting, which I'll mention later if it works.

My purse. No, not really a purse. A few years ago, a neighbor in my building was having a yard sale and he sold me a box full of airplane first-class amenities for ten bucks or so. It was two dozen or so pouches with travel-sized toothbrushes, toothpaste, sleep-masks, earplugs, comfy wool socks, and the like. It was just fun to go through all the stuff but every once in a while I'll pull out a few things that could work. The pouches in particular are useful. They might even be worth more than I paid on their own -- I've been looking for a dopp kit for under $25 for years now and may give in to getting a ladies' one if I give up keeping my toiletries in a reusable cloth sack meant to carry lunches. When I go places, local, not traveling, I carry my loose phone charger cord, which can be easy to forget (when I remember it in the first place). Then sometimes I need my phone battery and pens are harder to come by than they used to be. So I throw everything, along with some post-its, a Sharpie, and a deck of cards -- you know, the essentials -- in a pouch so everything is in one place and it's easy to carry. I keep mine in my car, since that's how I get around to places where I might need it. I've often envied ladies who get to carry around more stuff, so that their stuff is always there (I have an irrational fear of being caught unprepared (which you probably already know)), and for a while I was trying to get into the habit of always carrying around a backpack, but I found that I didn't really need to keep that much stuff with me in the first place. But keeping just a few of the essentials handy and in the same place is a good idea.

Trivia HQ. As if I wouldn't be on there. Every day as 6pm California time, and noon during the week. When you get on it, use the code marmarmarmarmar (that's five "mar"s).

That's okay for now. More next time, hopefully soon (maybe enough to get a couple in by the end of the year? I'm noting it just in case that might motivate me to actually do it).

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Waydown #17.09.14

Well, six months isn't too bad.

Note: It wasn't done on purpose to prove what I said two zines ago about "write drunk, edit sober" but most of this was written while fairly drunk then edited while sober.


Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (audiobook). In college, I was assigned Moby-Dick, probably more than once (and probably in high school too). And every time I faked my way out of reading it. Yeah, it’s something that any English major is required to read and appreciate, but there was too much other stuff, and I figured out who to get by without it at the time. But it seemed like an obligation and I knew I would return to it one day. (What does it say about me that I seek to experience this book in my own free time outside of school: curious adult or grown nerd?) I discovered audiobooks, but when I ran out of stuff that I had in print that I wanted to get through, I had to go further afield than my usual comforts. EMusic has a good selection so I had my pick, and if I was going to read anything, I might as well start at the top. Reading anything but a classic would seem too casual, like I wasn’t using the time and effort for something substantial, if I was going to make the effort and could get the same out of it from listening. And there’s not much that could top Moby-Dick, the granddaddy of them all. There are plenty of abridged versions but if I was going to do it, I was going to do it. I even followed along with cliff notes (or an equivalent, of what I found online) to make sure I got out of it as much as I could. And I feel like I got it down as much as in any other form (without having to study it for writing a paper or discussing it in class), maybe even better since I wasn’t reluctantly trudging through it, but listening to it so I could actually make it through (as apparently I’m a better aural learner than visual). It’s certainly a classic, and it deserves that designation. This isn’t a modern evaluation of it that treats it more as a document than a story -- it really is that good. This is the novel to which any other novel could be compared.

There’s nothing I’m going to say about the book that will add to its study. There are entire classes devoted it (they’re called American Lit 101). There was more than enough written about it before my parents were born. At a used bookstore recently I came across a biography about Melville that was even longer than Moby-Dick itself. There’s no way anyone could be expected to bring much new to its study, but we can always enjoy it. A classic novel that heavy can’t much be expected to be enjoyed as entertainment, unless it's a nerd study, which is commendable but rare outside of school. Me personally, if I’m going to read a book for study (and come on, you should know by now that every book I read is up for study -- it’s why I’m here and maybe why you’re here) I might as well go to the meatiest of them all. Surely anything must be lighter than this (save maybe The Holy Bible). Yeah, there are as many metaphors that run through it as you could pick. There are metaphors upon metaphors, metaphors for metaphors, metaphors because metaphors. The book wouldn’t be taught in school if it wasn’t so rich. It’s a bit of a textbook (literally, since it's usually assigned as such) for picking out meaning because it’s anywhere and everywhere through every fiber of it. Make up a metaphor for what is about what and you could be right (as well as that someone probably coming up with it well before you). No one is going to tell you you’re wrong unless your grade depends on it, and even then you could probably wiggle your way out of it. (That’s why it’s so easy to get a good grade in college English classes.  Whatever you come up with doesn’t necessarily have to make any sense as long as you do the work. My trick was always to write so much that teachers wouldn’t want to read the whole thing, and to write slightly less than legibly on in-class exams.  But I also didn’t go to a great college.) It’s not much of a book to read for fun (unless you're just trying to get the Simpsons references) but it’s something to search for meaning. It earns its rightful name as the Great American Novel, to this day, and it’s likely its reign will be undisputed well beyond the rest of our lives.

One of my college professors who assigned the book to us also gave us a cheat-sheet that permitted us to skip the chapters only about whaling (even half-chapters, the sheet was so considered). Those sections might not be necessary to the overall narrative, but they’re still important, and perhaps more than Melville showing off what he knew or the research he did. If no one else has already said it, I would venture to state that those chapters are more for pacing, to slow down the story to simulate the time at sea, which was a hard, long, and lonely period. Especially in those days without ready stimulation at one’s elbow, the days stretched on almost into infinity. A proper story would skim that period of time, making minor mention at best but mostly getting on with the action, so we know it happened but we don’t have to live it. Melville forced us through the tedium, slowing down the story nearly to a crawl to immerse us in what it was like, showing not telling, with as many details as he could cram in. He’s not so concerned about the story itself but perhaps more about the experience, and the story that comes from living through it. It’s a clever trick, and one that's caused confounded, bored students to put the book aside before really getting the meat out of it. There’s still a story in there, whether you want to give yourself over to it or not. It’s a good story, written with a crackle whether you dig into the metaphors or not. It’s dense so it takes some time to settle (though that may not be a problem when you’re listening to it and can plow through it to get the bigger picture instead of dwelling on certain passages, which may be leading you down a dead tunnel because they’re about whaling and don’t have as much of a greater meaning to the whole (except to make you feel like you’re really out to sea, whether you want to be or not)). You’re going to decide your own way to read it, if you’re committing to getting through the entire tome. To spend that much time with such a thing, you have to come up with your own system. But it’s worth it. Once the climax begins -- and you’ll know when it happens (at long last) -- you’ll feel it’s worth it. All that time at sea (or muddling through endless chapters about the nuances of whaling) will pay off with the most explosive ending that you probably have ever gotten to and through. Most books have crap endings, but this one actually pays off, and it’s something any author can learn from. If you can get there, you’ve earned it… if you’re one to survive the voyage.

There are more than a few versions of it, abridged or otherwise. The one I read actually had a voice-actor doing the reading, and he switched up voices between characters, which added texture to it, especially since there aren't that many characters but a few of them melt into each other after a while.  It's also staggering to think that someone read that entire tome for an audiobook but I commend the team who did it, and glad they did (since they made it easier to hear than to read).

Jack Cross (DC). Warren Ellis was doing the Millarworld thing before Millar did, even if Millar was able to sweep in and get the flashier artists later on.  Ellis put out a clutch of creator-owned books, of which DC was able to grab a number, even if they went nowhere, an inverse of what Millar was able to do across every publisher available (besides DC), as if by design. Not that a good, motivated creator should have limits on who publishes their stuff, but the fact that Ellis’s stuff didn’t go far with DC only showed that DC didn’t feel the need to put their resources into pushing it, or that he didn’t have flashy-enough artists. But credit DC for repackaging the single issues of series like Jack Cross in a single “80-Page Giant” issue a la one of the original floppies, even if they were bunting their way out of collecting it as a proper trade paperback (since even Ellis’s name couldn’t get it a hardcover). Maybe it was a contract thing and they were holding on to publishing rights by collecting it, even though it wasn’t worth going through too much trouble. The main draw is art by Gary Erskine, a collaborator with Ellis who did a few projects, among the other notable British writers, but seemingly never enough to get him the prominent or regular work that he deserved. Erskine’s work grabbed me the first time in fill-in issues of The Chain Gang War (a series forgotten right after it ended but worth digging up, if only for the art), even over the original series’ artist Dave Johnson (only showing that he did interior work and not just covers at one time), then on to Robinson’s Firearm a little later. His art was solidly structured and the lack of flash appealed to me at a time when all the Image look-at-me stuff was pushing me to the end. I’ve followed his stuff in the time since, what little of it there is, but just his inking stuff, while getting work where he can, didn’t draw me to a project any more than I might have already been (even if Morrison wrote it). But going back a bit to when Erskine was still doing full art, and something written by Ellis, I at least picked it up, even if I passed it by the first time (and still only read it because it looked like it would be an easy cruise through). This book is boilerplate Ellis: conspiracy theories, main characters that know more than they need to, sudden explosions, a sampling of a life that might have been more interesting in the past they allude to or later on. Not bad on its own but it wouldn’t sell if Ellis wasn’t already known. The Erskine art is as much as it needs to be, but an artist who isn’t known for his flash also can’t be expected to bring more electricity to a story than there already is, which is precious little in this case. There’s a section of Ellis work that isn’t sci-fi and/or stuff that Avatar publishes easily or superhero, but he’s on shakier ground when he gets into the dark corners of American government. It’s probably due to his own fascination with the country’s inner workings (especially if the English counterpart is as deadly dull as anyone would think it is) but the story he’s mining has already been done enough, by anyone else or by himself. The Jack Cross character himself might even be interesting if he hadn’t already created him as Jack Hawksmoor in The Authority (and count it against Erskine that he couldn’t come up with a character design that at least would make an effort to differentiate the two characters. It’s bad enough that Ellis couldn’t even come up with different first names). This, like Millarworld, was an easy play at properties that could more easily be sold into TV or movies by beginning as comics, after Ellis got a taste for it with the almost-Global Frequency adaptation, which probably shouldn't have happened in the first place, especially if it led Ellis to putting out material less than his talents should be able to command; he could be commended for foreseeing comics becoming a breeding ground for options, but just because he got in early doesn’t mean he could actually sell some of this stuff. Assuming there’s not a brilliant, easy high concept (vampires where it’s night all day!), the source material needs to be good enough to be adapted. This isn’t it. Ellis could have been better served with extending Transmetropolitan and waiting for a producer to finally pick it up for what it’s worth.
We3 (DC). Like most comics fans, I’ll read just about anything Grant Morrison writes, and I’d heard for years that We3 was one of his great works. I was hesitant, only because the superhero work where he had limits to push was usually more compelling than the creator-owned stuff where he could do whatever he wanted and would too often skitter into a head-scratching abyss, to say nothing of editors who would crumble under his capacity. We3 fell into the latter category, though it helped having art by Frank Quitely (an unknown when the series came out, so I could wait a while). As it turns out, I was right: this is another Morrison work that gets by on his name and his artist. Not to say it’s bad: it’s probably his most accessible work, and that can be enough, to carry a story or win over new readers (even those new to comics). But most of the story, such as it is, is given over to the artist to do as he sees fit; it wouldn’t be a surprise if it was written in the Marvel style (though that's not even a negative function). Luckily, that artist is Quitely, showing a glimpse of what he would clobber the industry with a short time later. This doesn’t feel like the ultimate statement by this team but rather a dry run of what they would accomplish to a much greater degree with All-Star Superman (an effort great enough to even win me over) and doing whatever they wanted so they could gel and get their symbiosis together. The limits to which Quitely pushed himself visually are hesitant here, only a glance at what he would come into later in, pretty much, anything after this (and only pushing more these days (when he can be bothered to finish anything)). It’s still solid work, years beyond what could be expected from a newcomer, so maybe it’s better they started with their own thing rather than having to fit the art style into a more familiar property, and Morrison’s name could float someone who wasn’t a giant in the industry quite yet. As its own work, it’s a slight effort, one of the lighter Morrison reads, as the words get out the of the way of the art, but not giving it much more weight than a read quicker than pretty much anything he's done. Morrison books usually have more meat, but that shows how much he let the artist take over. As a Morrison book, it's less a shock for him to write cute animals than that he couldn't do more with it. Yes, there’s that heart-wrenching moment at the end but it’s telegraphed, especially if you’ve ever read any story or seen a movie with pets as characters (we’ll say it’s easier for them to meet their fates than a human character). This story could work much better as its obvious endgame, a feature-length, animated movie, which might not be able to match the brand of visuals (though it might be great to see them try) but at least they could flesh out the story and with 100 minutes could be more fun to watch than read. As a book, it’s a middling story, more an effort by Quietly than Morrison, and to see how animals as main characters, even as bad-ass cyborgs, would work in a comic (which is to say, no more or less than they ever would). This is for Quitely fans who want to see where his greater work began.

DC: Rebirth (DC). DC reset their universe, yet again. The New 52 didn’t work out -- as many said it wouldn’t -- so they just scrap it and start over again. It’s now such a semi-regular thing that barely even gets an eye-roll anymore. Possibly the only reason why the New 52 was a big deal at all was that they didn’t bother to explain it in continuity -- a show of either being above messing with it or laziness. Now they try to work within the continuity -- not a bad idea but it seems too easy for them to just start over anymore. Not that they ever needed to stay with such a poor concept as the New 52 (if there was even a concept behind it beyond turning everything into another Ultimate universe -- which Marvel only recently showed was a concept that wouldn’t go forever, too) but for giving up on so many times, they could at least follow it with something worthy of ditching whatever anyone -- creator or fan -- had invested into what had come before, or something that attempts to go beyond what was there before. “Rebirth” just seems to reset to pre-New 52, which is wise, but Didio has some balls to stick around with that hanging around his neck. The DC Universe becomes something recognizable again, and with this new initiative they’ve had another stage of filtering out poor talent (since those bold, new ideas for projects don’t go far without a majority of able creators, which the New 52 seemed to have overlooked). They might have even kept the new fans they made such a big deal out of pursuing with the New 52, but any goosing their numbers got with another big event, no matter how fundamentally changing it is to the continuity, should show that these things get more sales from readers thinking they might miss something and from the promise of what will follow (whether that promise is fulfilled or not), not because it’s a great idea. The level of the creators is not always clearly signaled, but usually their names have some indication.  With the New 52, DC was driven by editors and it didn’t work, but now that they’ve loosened up (or gotten some creators good enough to do the work and/or to stand up to their bosses), there seems to be some decent stuff coming out. I’ve actually bought a few issues recently, which I haven’t done since before the New 52 (and I don't even count the new Kamandi among that). Even if it’s another stunt, maybe “Rebirth” is turning things around. There’s always the hope that this reboot will be the one that actually sticks, but they’ve shown they’re spineless enough to scrap what they have and start over yet again when they get the whim. Even if there was a reason to change the continuity with Crisis on Infinite Earths, there really wasn’t any after that. What should have been was what should have been. Didio should try to make his name on something else -- as it is now, it’s probably just this side of infamy. If “Rebirth” is worthy of an icon status for him, more power to him. But he’s also going to have to outlive Before Watchmen.

As for the issue itself, there’s probably only so much they could do with such a loose concept and of course without trying to too-blatantly redo Crisis (which is what any of these ever is anyway, even Marvel’s recent “Secret Wars” (a concept even more muddied but with less work to do)). They might as well do a story and try to work something out with it. They didn’t bother with making a story out of the genesis of the New 52 but here they could milk their audience with another comic. They still don’t really explain it -- maybe there’s something that has to do with “Flashpoint” -- but they at least introduce the characters and concepts that they’ll build on for the foreseeable future. And they get to boisterously say that they're actually going to try having a plan for it (and put Goeff Johns at the head of it, which they apparently think is a grand statement). Crisis is still a landmark because even if you have no interest in seeing how the continuity was changed or you’re far enough from it that it doesn’t matter (which it didn’t before but doesn’t now even more), it’s still a story (and one frequently coherent). You can still experience it as its own work, and not just for the pinnacle of George Perez’s career.  “Rebirth” hatched the egg but it's doubtful there will be reason to go back to it (except for the hidden clues and references spurted in there, another annoyance). The biggest deal is that the Watchmen will eventually be brought into main DC continuity, a move as unshocking as it was inevitable (they've already milked it post-Alan Moore, you knew they'd keep going). There’s no need for it but it’s no surprise when they need an event to turn up more money. It’s just more characters blended into a shake that gets more bland, but hopefully they’ll do better with the Wildstorm characters (which just got pulled back out of the main continuity.  Sigh -- it just keeps going). The story is just an Easter egg scene in a Marvel movie (but better than one in a DC movie), alluding to something coming up but not standing on its own. Of course DC thought it was a big enough deal to assign it to some considerable talent, and they got Gary Frank from wherever he's been (hopefully those original graphic novels have made up for his name disappearing), and that would be worth the price of admission if he’d had a more engrossing story to draw. But all in all, at least DC is trying to atone for a huge error (even if they'd rather pave over it with more merchandise rather than admit what they did). Admitting it wouldn’t do much but at least they can start to atone by just making good comics, which should have been, and should always be, the starting point, before the continuity, not the other way around.

Heroes of Power: Women of Marvel (Marvel). A treasure-sized edition featuring first or early stories of their biggest female heroes. It’s a shot at getting those characters in front of a new audience, and it’s a noble effort. They’re good characters, most of them very recent, that deserve the recognition. As if Marvel would pass up a way to work any character they have, and at least a few of these were designed expressly as part of the new guard of heroes to show that they could have some range, which is to say generally non-white and non-male. It’s a noble effort, and some of these have paid off. This volume is reaching out to a few more, even if they’re not the best showcases for the characters (in particular the Gwenpool story is sillier than it needs to be, and the Wasp story is so slight, even as an introduction, that it’s hard to believe that Waid wrote it). Its format is its most confounding feature. The larger size will mean (self-)serious fans can’t fit it into their comics boxes, though they probably have these stories already (if those white, middle-aged males have an interest in non-white, young, female heroes in the first place). It would stay off the racks of the regular books in the first place, not even on the graphics novels and trade paperbacks shelves, instead shuffled into the section of the shop where the special editions go, wherever that is.  While younger (read: pre-teen) readers might be drawn to the larger pictures, there’s some stuff in it that’s just a little racy for that age. In particular, the Gwenpool story has some cursing and if her short-shorts aren’t an alarm, the fact that she’s on the cover with her butt up in the air would be.  Some of the material could be great for kids and girls, as if it wasn't designed specifically for them, but for something like this need to figure out exactly what age-range they're aiming for, and present the material appropriately (which could be this size, but not for the outrageous price). So this is a failed attempt, but the Ms. Marvel comics on their own can be enough to hook smart girls and good readers, and they probably won’t have a problem with the size of a collection of stories.

Fight Club 2 (Dark Horse). A sequel to Fight Club must have seemed like a good idea at the time. It would be easy enough to cash in on it in any format and, as a comic, it wouldn't have the same harsh criticism that a movie would. And Palahniuk, who stepped up to write it fully as well as giving his permission to do it (though he would be the one getting a lot of that cash), at least gave it an effort. As it is, his first comics work might not have been best served by carrying on his biggest creation, and while a movie sequel doesn’t affect that world’s continuity, this new comic is now canon. It’s a lot of ideas, the chaos of which made the first one, book and movie, so much fun, but trying to fit those into a comic shows only how they don’t all work, and certainly don’t fit together, and definitely not with these new versions. Palahniuk doesn’t know enough of the limits to know how to defy them effectively (you have to know the rules before you can break them), and seeing him try is a bit embarrassing. It’s possible that the original story might not have flown in a comic format (both the book and movie turning the limitations of their mediums into strengths for the story), but this one isn’t helped by a story that is barely more than the good parts of what’s already been done strung together by assumptions that anyone will follow its attempts to break any kind of new ground. The characters didn’t need to be resurrected, as doing so nullifies the great, tragic ending of the movie that any viewer could have read into, and it needlessly reveals details we didn't want or need (like a name for the narrator). The new story also fails to build upon what came before, instead Palahniuk tries to make a statement about the dullness of domestic life, then lamely exploding it, as if that hasn’t been done before and better, and cements a fate for these characters that was more fun when it was in our imaginations (if they even survived the first one, which worked best when they didn’t). His ambition is commendable but his execution is almost an embarrassment. It's already not working by the time he writes himself into the story. However, just giving it a shot alludes to a possible future, better if he can come up with a property that can be fashioned as exclusive to comics. It’s not a promise, and lightning rarely strikes twice, but he’s a good writer, even in the bad parts, and anything else he could come up with would be better than this. It’s only helped by art from Cameron Stewart, a solid artist who is a good fit for the story, as he would be for most anything that isn’t superheroes, and actually pulls off some of innovative storytelling tricks that Palahniuk can only attempt in the story. Stewart at least has a grasp of how comics storytelling works, and he accomplishes the herculean task of wrenching the words into something that can be followed (if only just so). It’s a crime that Stewart’s work hasn’t gotten out more, though this might have been the payday he deserved and he can continue doing the off-the-radar works he wants to do. Some good covers by David Mack that might even be more fitting (which might have been even more fitting as interior art, though probably taking it in a different direction, and something even farther beyond Palahniuk). This series got some promotion at first -- Dark Horse landing the coup of getting the sequel to Fight Club! (with Palahniuk involved and maybe being actually something that people might want to read) -- but after it became their Free Comics Day offering for that year, it seemed like it fell off their radar. Maybe they assumed that anyone who would find out about it had and they would carry it along without being reminded, but it could also be that they knew it hadn’t turned out like they thought and they would just as well sweep it under the rug. That could have been an editor not wanting to stand up to a name like Pahlniuk, or blind trust that he was going to pull it off by the end. But it didn’t, and as it will likely go down in history, a footnote to the Fight Club saga that does not need to be pursed, explored, or considered.  So then again, no, a terrible idea. (But also the first Dark Horse book I've picked up in ages.)

Daredevil: Dark Nights (Marvel). A companion Daredevil series, presumably to cash in on popularity brought by the Netflix series, but it’s not like Marvel has ever backed down from milking a property that is suddenly hot (except for, confoundingly, the current Star Wars stuff). This was wise enough to get out of the way of Waid’s monumental run on the character, but apparently there were other stories to tell. Marvel could give DD over to creators for short stories out of continuity, creating an anthology series, which never do well but maybe they thought that the character was hot enough at the time that it could be an exception. It was not. It wasn’t helped that these stories were harshly driven into the shadows of the main series, even if they were done by often-solid creators. DD seems to do best in longer story arcs where he and his world can breathe, rather than short spurts that rely on the reader picking up on whatever he does in a quick amount of time. This is evidenced in the Miller and Bendis/Gaydos and even Smith/Quesada runs, which is what anyone remembers before forgetting about anything that came in between, such were the heights of those landmark runs and the lows of most anything else. This series falls into that gutter of stories that would be fill-ins if they had to be shorter, and won’t be recollected anywhere but here. The first one is by Lee Weeks, a fine artist and storyteller when he’s paired with a good writer, but here shows little by writing on his own. His story aspires to a struggle in the hero’s mind while what’s outside of him struggles with him, and a lot of it doesn’t connect, in a way that tries to achieve a higher level but instead comes out as lazy craft. The art is good enough, and at least he pushes himself enough to come up with a few things to look at. But even in his past DD work, though early in his career and with a writer who fell even further from his aspirations, was a better use of his talents than this. The second story is a lot lighter, but easier to disregard. It’s basically a DD team-up story, with a third-tier character that’s good elsewhere but doesn’t need to work here. It’s all the DD surface details that say nothing about and do nothing with the character, as shallow a comic story as they’re stereotyped. Then a third story that I even forgot, though it deserves such by being a poor vehicle for time that Dave Lapham could have spent better elsewhere (even if he was selling to Marvel and DC as much as he could during this period). The whole book is a quick read, maybe two sittings if you want to take a break, but giving a substantial amount of time to these throw-away stories might turn feelings negative toward the good ones (outside of this series), which would be better served re-read than trying to get through this. With anthology series there’s always a chance a good story could come up at some other point -- later, maybe at the end -- but there’s always the chance that this is already the best that it got. Maybe that’s another reason why anthology books don’t work, and why Daredevil, who does better the longer the story goes, is a poor choice for something like this, and why it came out as lackluster as it did.

My Top Beatles Songs Of All Time (In This Order):
20. "The Fool on the Hill"
19. "Cry Baby Cry"
18. "Hello Goodbye"
17 ."Nowhere Man"
16. "Penny Lane"
15. "All You Need Is Love"
14. "Happiness Is A Warm Gun"
13. "Eleanor Rigby"
12. "Help!"
11. "I Am The Walrus"
10. "Taxman"
9. "Old Brown Shoe"
8. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
7. "The Ballad of John & Oko"
6. "Get Back"
5. "Revolution" (single version)
4."A Day in the Life"
3. "Helter Skelter"
2. "I'm So Tired"
1. "Drive My Car"


Grapes. I've been eating a lot of grapes lately.  Over the summer I was staying up  until about 4 each night and I needed a snack but it's not a good idea to eat anything heavy, especially processed carbs or anything real salty, which I gravitate toward.  But grapes are filling, you can eat them while doing something else on the computer, they taste great, and they're $2.50/lb. for decent quality at Smart N' Final (a little more at TJ's). See also: Cherries (when in season and cheap).

Shorts and flip-flops. My entire summer (save for work, the one day for the San Diego con, and my shoes when I went to work out).

Clif bars. I'm actually not a big snacker but sometimes I also go far too long without eating, as I'm busy with other stuff. These might be closer to candy bars than any real protein, but they're tasty, cheap, easy to eat (especially while doing something else), available at the Sleven, and they're better than not eating. Beware ones that have caffeine.

Update on a Rave from last issue: Steel-cut oatmeal is much better, making me even rethink oatmeal in the first place, but it's more work (and also worth it).

Next? Maybe December?