Archive for the ‘Comic book reviews’ Category

These are the books I’d call the classics. The Comic Books that if people haven’t read, I don’t really think they’ve read comic books. These are the comics I’d call Cannon.

1. The Watchmen – This book is so good I just call it a book. I’ve bought four or five copies of the book, because when I loan it out, I don’t really care if I get it back. I want to share it. The story is so perfect it denies duplication. It’s influence is unquestionable, but not particularly recognizable. It’s like the story didn’t just influence who stories were written, but what they were. This comic book changes lives the way a novel does. Characters are presented to you in such a real, but detached way, that you don’t necessarily connect to them, so much as you remember them like a character from your childhood people told you about to teach you a lesson. It holds up now a lifetime later. It’s great art.

2. Kingdom Come – Is the comic book that first made me confident comic books were important. It’s the first one I held in my hands and Knew I was holding something no one could dismiss or not understand. It’s a great big story that’s sad and complicated and incredibly poignant. It’s also visually stunning. It’s the most beautiful artwork I’ve seen in comic books to this day. Characters die, it’s self contained, it’s stunning; this comic has so many things going for it and literally nothing I don’t love. The fact that it smuggled Rorschach into a scene is mindblowing.

3. The Dark Knight Returns – There is a reason this book is everybody’s favorite. The art’s jarring and the outlook’s grim. It’s a really fun illustration of what comics can do. Reagan being a villain, the fight with Superman, the pudgy underwhelming over-performing Joker is all amazing. The Frank Miller art is distinctive and works with this story. It is unlikable, and so surface level flawed that it redefines how you look at the pictures. It seals the images in your eye and stays with you. It’s great work.

4. Squadron Supreme – An open analogue to the Justice League, this comic explores the real world implications of superpowers in one of the most interesting things I’ve ever read. It feels dated, but allows for an intimate link to the silver age comics it mimics. It’s original characters are terribly charming, and take root in your memories and rememberings of early comics.

5. Hellboy: The Chained Coffin & Others – The third trade in the Hellboy saga, This comic book follows a shift in comics from flashy to inspired. This collection (perhaps even more vol.2) creates a world that does not insult the readers intelligence, but neither does it try to explain away the magic of a comic book world. It’s art style shifts away from the ripped super sleek heroes of mainstream books to the blocky and imperfect beauty of a big hard world. Hellboy’s use of established folklore and traditions reasserts the authors position as “creator of a universe,” instead of “servant to the masses,” that occurs with writers using more established characters in more established books.

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My last couple of posts have been more serious than I’m comfortable with. So I’m going to write about something fun. Comic books. I only read comics in trade paperback form (they’re usually complete stories, and WAY easier to transport and maintain.) Also, I read a lot of them. These are my five favorite from this Century. In no order:

1) Hellboy: The Crooked Man and Others – Hellboy’s my favorite comics, and if I were to be true to myself, this list would probably just be Hellboy stories, but that would be no fun. Hellboy is a wonderful mood piece that invites you into a world that is terrible and beautiful at the same time. I find it as engrossing as any novel I’ve ever read. Hellboy stories tend to fall into two camps; overarching end-of-the-world stories, and one shot meet-the-monster-and-stop-it stories. They are both terrific, but this one leans towards the later. In this trade he fights a witch, maybe the devil, cancer, and I’m pretty sure depression. It’s fantastic. Maybe not as great as some of the late 1990’s stories, but still better than almost everything else.

2) Y The Last Man #10 – It’s kind of cheating to put the conclusion of this giant story down as one trade, but with Y, more than any of the Brian K Vaughn books (which are all good,) the ending is spectacular. If I had to select a different trade it would be the first one, which is almost equally lazy. I felt Y dipped in the middle. The characters became unlikable, and the story became illogical at times, but it wrapped up so nicely, I’ll forgive it. This truly refreshing end of the world story is vastly different, and yet strangely similar to other dystopian future stories. It blends practicality with idealism, and it’s great. Few books make you think the way Y does, and its conclusion is just perfect.

3) The Ultimates: Vol 1 – Avengers Assemble! This reboot comic book will make you believe in reboots. The classic Captain America thaw out/origin story done in a post 9-11 world. This story is comic writing at it’s finest. This comic book isn’t just good, it’s challenging. It touches on the awful pro-war bullshit that took place all through the Bush 2 years, it creates fresh versions of old characters that are in no way just recycles, but also don’t abuse beloved heroes. It’s clever, it’s funny, it’s action packed. The second Volume is also terrific, but this first one is just so much fun, and such a great dose of classic heroes in believable stories that I have to put it first. The Ultimates has the sweet advantage of not existing a world that’s “too big” which often detracts from Marvel and DC stories. These heroes can shine under “the city’s going to be destroyed” circumstances, without the need to out do previous catastrophes. It also presents situations with real world tragedies and turmoil in ways you can believe, without feeling lectured to. I recommend it to anyone just getting into comics. It’s accessible, but still true to the spirit of the Marvel Universe.

4) Criminal: Coward – Ed Brubaker’s “real life” stuff is so much more extraordinary than so many outer space, alien, superhero horseshit stories it’s embarrassing. The world he creates is gritty and honest and impossible to put down. You don’t just like these characters, when you read them, you become them. It makes you want to buy a trenchcoat and start loosing teeth. The world isn’t beautiful, it’s ugly and you want out of it, but you can’t get out. It’s part of you now. It’s an amazing creation that you can’t exactly explain. It would make a boring movie, but is the edgiest comic I can think of. No character is assured to survive, and they shouldn’t be. You’re not even sure you want them to… but you love them. It’s an introspective piece and a glimpse into parts of us too easy to ignore. I believe any Criminal trade could be on this list, but this first one was also the first one I read, so I love it best.

5) The Umbrella Academy: Vol 1 – So much fun! Almost dark, almost satire, almost camp, The Umbrella Academy is one of the most interesting super hero worlds I’ve encountered. The heroes are brand new takes on powers and behaviors. It’s a story about family but also about aliens and monsters. It doesn’t feel compelled to answer every question, instead it explores the nuances of an impossibly fascinating world. The main hero’s a survivor of some impossible tragedy that’s never addressed, and somehow, isn’t important. The comic has that intangible ability to make you feel like a little kid first discovering comics, stepping into a big fanciful world you want to explore every inch of. It gives you just enough to let you know you want to be there, but not too much to ever let you lose your fascination. The second volume’s great. The first one’s better.

Honorable Mention:

DC’s “52” Volume 3 – a great take on the DC Universe and just super fun stories. All of 52 should be read, but 3 I think has the most Ambush Bug… so it’s the best.

The Sentry – a brand new take on comics for me. What a fun, weird, sad story. I hate it that they pushed it into mainstream continuity. It was better as an idea than application.

Saga Volume 1 – Terrific, but Y was already on this list and it hasn’t finished yet, so I’m still a little wary.

The Walking Dead: Vol 7 – I forget how much I liked this comic book before I got tired with it. It’s not its fault it’s incredible, and turned into a phenomenon. The Walking Dead’s great, I just got over-saturated. This story, right before the shit hits the fan, is so tense and good I can remember why I used to love it. Perhaps I’ll got back and finish up once it’s done.

Locke & Key: Vol 2 – I love this book. It’s legitimately scary. The Monster in it is as infuriating as any villain I can think of. You want it to die more than you want The Joker, or Ultron, or even Prof. Umbridge to die. The story possibly gets a little too big at the end, but as far as great horror comics, check out Locke & Key.

The X-Men are A-Holes

Posted: May 16, 2014 in Comic book reviews

The X-Men are a group of misunderstood heroes defending a world that fears and hates them, or that’s their byline anyway. But I’ll argue they’re not misunderstood, they’re idiots who deserve what they get. The X-Men haven’t used their powers for good, and they haven’t made the world a better place. They don’t apply their powers in meaningful ways, and the world, and their lives, are worse for it. For a team with so many geniuses on it, the X-Men sure are dumb.

First off, they all live together in a tiny community, and let me ask “why are there so many 30 year olds at a school for gifted youngsters?” It’s creepy. By excluding themselves from society, they create a little enclave that behaves like a prep school.

Like most high school bullshit, the biggest issue is sex. Gambit (the new kid with the accent) smokes, so clearly, he’s very cool, but he seems not to be getting laid. It might be because he’s always wearing a trench coat and kind of looks like a school shooter, but I blame it on his stupidity. Gambit’s blue-balled (a phrase Beast hates) over Rogue, a southern belle who can fly, is super strong, and doesn’t seem to put out. You might blame it on a Southern Christian upbringing, but it’s really because if she touches anybody, she absorbs their powers, memories, and… I don’t know… life force. That’s a shame, but shouldn’t be a problem. I can think of 5 characters off of the top of my head who have power dampening/nullifying abilities. Didn’t your former teammate Forge make a ray-gun for that? Why the fuck don’t you let that little weirdo Leech hang out and watch you two bang? You’ve done weirder stuff; Rogue, your mom’s a shapeshifter, and Gambit, you grew up in Louisiana. You’re both probably freaks. If you’re scared of losing your powers or whatever, fine, safe sex is important, but there are still like seven bad guys who have made inhibitor collars or power negating whatevers. Beast could whip those things into some sexy choker chain, or a creepy ball-gag if that’s your thing? Jesus, people, I went to greater lengths than this to get laid in high school. Am I more driven than an X-Man? Or just Way smarter?

Still, it’s probably for the best that those two don’t get laid. If they were able to have sex and have kids (I have to assume they’re too dumb to use protection,) their poor kids would be at a loss when learning English. Between their dad’s over the top Cajun French droolings, and Rogue’s unpredictable Hillbillyisms, the child couldn’t make it through one word balloon without realizing the need to kill itself.

But sex is just sex, and how or if somebody’s having it is not a good reason to hate anybody, but what about the stuff that does hurt people? Or at least, doesn’t help.

Storm can control the weather. Her natural step in evolution is CONTROLLING THE WEATHER, and she still hasn’t fixed anything. I’m in Los Angeles, and today it’s so hot my deodorant melted on the shelf. So yeah, I can see you getting a few bricks through your window when it’s hot out and you don’t do anything about it. How about a breeze or some cloud cover? Don’t tell me it’d fuck with the ecosystem. I’ve seen you freeze a man inside of an apartment building and make it rain on your houseplants. You’re just being a jerk Storm. What about natural disasters, that seems obvious. Where were you for Hurricane Katrina? You couldn’t give those guys some sunshine? It was a dick move, Storm. I’m just going to come right out and say it, “Ororo Munroe doesn’t care about black people.”

It’s no shock the students behave so badly, their leader Professor X is the worst: every Amber Alert, those missing girls in Nigeria, even that Malaysian airplane, is on his head. If he can find any person on the planet, pinpoint any mind you’re looking for, why doesn’t he get proactive. How’s some scrawny kid from Harvard looking to get laid done more for world communication than a man who can literally tap into every mind on the planet? You’re dogging it Charles. You can’t just find people, you can also know what they know. Put that to use. I’m sure there are innocent people in prison who could benefit from a 30 second talk to you. If nothing else you should at least shut up the “Truthers.”

So yeah, we hate and fear the X-Men. Because they’re jerks. I don’t think we should firebomb their houses or deny them voting rights, but I’m certainly done saying The Friends of Humanity don’t have a point.

the best show on Television

Posted: October 12, 2010 in Comic book reviews

I’m not very good at praising things. It doesn’t come naturally to me. When I talk about liking something it sounds forced and insincere.

I don’t think that just because I like something it’s necessarily good.

For instance, I love pro-wrestling. And pro-wrestling is garbage. I know that, and I’d never try to push it on anybody.

When I’m on the road in a hotel, I watch CSI. I don’t know why. I am never surprised; the killer is always the smoking teenager.

So me liking something doesn’t make it good. And I know that. That being said, the best show on Television is The Venture Bros.

And it’s also my favorite.

This show is amazing. My last post, (the too long one I wrote about snobbery,) started as this piece. Praise for a cartoon. But I want everyone to understand; this show isn’t just good. It isn’t just funny. This show is the best.

The show is smart, and artfully crafted. And it’s the best kind of smart; unapologetic. It might seem lofty to identify a cartoon such as this as arty, but I certainly believe it appropriate. It’s the kind of show that defies genre.

It’s the funniest show currently on, but it doesn’t smack you over the head with a million jokes a minute. What it does is create a world that is a constant joke.

The world is an amalgam of several comic and fantasy worlds blended with the “real worlds” of glam-rock and gonzo-journalism.

It lifts characters like Johnny Quest directly from our nerd mythos, and places him next to Hunter S. Thompson, who in this world, serves as the head for a Black Ops organization.

It is simultaneously a parody and an homage.

It doesn’t try and take the comics and cartoons of our childhood and put them in the “real world.” Instead it explores all the aspects of the fantasy world that would be commonplace; The waves of grunts and goons that the heroes kill are in a union, a giant three headed hell hound is terrifying, and licks its crotch vigorously.

While it doesn’t shy away from gross out humor, it does its best to treat it as a grown up world would. It doesn’t rely on shock to win you over, it counts on it’s characters dealing with the shock to do illustrate the humor. When a character undergoes a sex change operation, his protege tries to be supportive, but he’s also got to sneak a peak at his junk because he’s curious.

What also separates this show from anything else on television is the way it stays honest with it’s universe. The show has a more rigid and thorough continuity than any comic book universe I’ve encountered that has this many ridiculously powered beings in it.

When people die, or don’t, it matters.

People age and have real side story problems that are both hilarious and meaningful and carry consequences.

While I love The Simpsons, Bart’s my age. How many times has his school year ended?

This show is a story that is moving forward. It demands new ideas, because new things are happening. It also demands you pay attention if you want to keep up. It has sharp and witty dialogue that will not slow down for anybody. The characters are engaged in what they’re doing, and they don’t care about you.

While the shows humor is very much spoof oriented, it doesn’t just hack out a reference like Family Guy or recent Southpark, no it places it in positions that actually make sense.

It doesn’t have to give away the gag, it expects you to make the connection. You grew up with the same nerd cannon the writers did. It expects you to understand why something’s funny, and goes further than making a simple joke.

It wouldn’t just be funny if it hurt for the Human Torch to “Flame On.” It would also be tragic. So when the Professor responsible for the accident keeps him sedated for 3 seasons of episodes, it keeps getting funnier.

It also doesn’t point out every joke it makes. In one of this season’s episodes a main character’s mind is erased, but he wants to leave himself a message.

He says to his future self “Get your ass to Mars… Nah, I’m just messing with you.”

That’s a line from Total Recall, but it doesn’t just say, Hey, remember Total Recall! Wasn’t that awesome! It uses the line correctly, the way a person really would.

The characters behave normally in an anything but normal world. And it makes the world one giant organic joke.

In addition to the uproarious humor of the show, the show also has some of the best point-blank action in current animation.

Some if it’s silly, but so is all cartoon violence. Some of it is just plain and simple bad-ass.

In a season 2 episode Brock Sampson pulls a Zen-ninja move off where he falls into a moving car that would be a stand out spot in any Hollywood blockbuster.

In a recent episode this season there’s a scrap between abducted minions that is every bit as exciting as the best battles I grew up with on Saturday Mornings. I suppose that’s what makes me love this show. It is irreverent and clever in that smart-ass nerd way, but is still reverential to the source material.

The writers are writing something THEY Love. And expect you to love it too.

Well I sure do.
I hope you’ll love it as much as I do, but if you do. Don’t tell everybody. Okay?

For those of you already on board with the show; here are my favorite moments from this season:

The Diving Bell and the Butter Glider: The Henchmen having a meeting and bitching about Sgt. Hatred not having the aversion to firearms Brock had is great. As is the line: So that’s what happened to the 7s. But my favorite part was 23’s ghost messing with 21.

Pomp And Circuitry: When the boys are writing down their dream jobs and they both want to be different types of gladiators, I laughed my ass off. But the line. “and what have I got to show for it? A metal plate in my chest. Karate Vatican Monkey Blood on my hands.” Is priceless.

Any Which Way but Zeus: The conversation in the jet about strippers needing a mandatory retirement age was the best dialogue I’ve seen on TV in a long time. Seriously. Too funny. Even better than Shore Leave, the openly gay Shipwreck parody calling out White as a sissy.

Everybody Goes to Hank’s: Get your ass to Mars! Not just a funny reference, a hilarious notion. Hank HAS to tell himself what happened, but that’s enough.

Summer of Dean: The Spider-man character that secretes webbing from his lower half cracked me up. What was even better, they never mentioned it! Brilliant. As was the minor aside where Dr. Impossible identified Fat Chance as a former assistant later in the episode.