Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why I Don't Blog About The Real World

"a lay of the land", if you've noticed, isn't really about politics, religion, disasters, the presidential election, education, literacy, psychology, or anything like that. This blog is primarily about pop culture, literature, comic books and stuff that happens to me.

When I started this blog, it was going to be a sort of "Dave's Longbox" kind of thing, where I just blogged about funny things, and moved on. But the more I write, the more my blog shifted into a hazy sort of "stuck in a cave with fingers in my ears, my eyes closed" sort of thing.

Apparently there's this crazy hurricane about to hit New Orleans and when my g/f was telling me about it, I had never heard of it. I also had never heard of it hitting Cuba and kicking Cuba in the nuts. Apparently, they evacuated New Orleans. Entirely. Wow. That's big news. Anytime something like this happens, it's big news. So why did I avoid it?

Well, whenever I end up watching the news, I just get frustrated. I get mad at the hypocrisy, the idiocy and the blatant misanthropy. For example, last night, the g/f and I were watching Fox News, an American media giant. On their local news, they did a story of an obese man who has to be moved to another hospital because the one in his city can't support his weight. He went to the hospital for mysterious stomach pains. He told his sister to tell the world of his story, and demand more respect for obese people, and that it's the health care industry's responsibility to support people of all weights and sizes.

Really? Mysterious stomach pains? Let Dr. Matthew diagnose this for you: you're obese and your poor organs are working triple overtime at regular pay just to keep you breathing.

Really? It's the hospital's responsibility to care for you when you've let yourself become 800 pounds? Where's
your personal responsibility for letting this situation get this bad? You live in a country where there's a gym every two blocks. You live in a country where there's big box chains of organic foods.

This is exactly why I don't read the news. I just get so frustrated and I don't really want to bore my (2) readers with my angry thoughts about the news or about politics.

If you want to know, I'm liberal with a strong stance on pro-choice, pro-welfare, pro-health care, and pro-human rights including gay marriage and gay adoption. I'm also a Republican because I hate hippies. I don't like anybody who thinks that anarchy is a solution or an end result. I hate middle-class kids who "choose" poverty when they're in university as it's insulting to people who are poor because of social or mental problems, and I hate anybody who wears a Che Guevera shirt. First of all, it's a cliche and secondly, what the f*%& are you saying? You support the overthrowing of the totalitarian government by guerrilla means? Whatever.

I'm also a Republican in the sense that I think everybody should get a job and if you don't have one, that's not my fault. I also think that capitalism is the only working system we've got (not the best, but the only working). But I'm also a liberal in that I hate big giant companies who gobble up all the world's resources. I'm also a Republican in that I don't really believe in gun control.

So my political beliefs are nebulous and slightly hypocritical. I couldn't stand up to a rigorous questioning of my politics from somebody who knows what area of belief I fall under - libertarian?

Nobody wants to read about my political opinions, so I stick to the unimportant topics such as Spider-Man and Thomas Pynchon.

Maybe in the future, I'll talk about the Real World, but for now, I'm sticking to the Immateria, to borrow a term from Alan Moore.

The Mighty Avengers 17

What's the point of this issue? What's the point of Secret Invasion's tie-ins? We get the idea. We understand the basics of it. So let's f*%&ing move on with our lives, okay? I think this might be the last Secret Invasion tie-in issue I read. I am officially dropping both this title and its sister until this godawful event comic is over. DC, you win.

It's a flashback issue (predictably) in which a Hank Pym Skrull goes crazy and then gets killed by a Skrull Dum-Dum Dugan. And then another Hank Pym Skrull is put into place, who isn't the second or the third. Yeah, that's it. That's the f*%&ing story. This couldn't have been a couple panels? This had to be an entire issue.

It doesn't help that Khoi Pham is trying his damnedest to duplicate the Howard Chaykin model of big eyes and big action, but without any depth, or any knowledge of how to frame a shot. Remember, Mr Pham, that the human eye sees, but the human brain must interpret and reorient the image to make sense of what gobbledygook you've drawn.

This is terrible storytelling. It's long and drawn out and the point has been hammered over and over again without any finesse and with terrible art by a rotating team of amateur pencillers.

F*%& you, Secret Invasion.

New Avengers 44

Secret Invasion rolls on (slowly)! Bendis answers the questions plaguing the minds (of no one)! The Skrulls are invading and nothing will be the same (until next year)!

New Avengers 44 tells us the incomparable story of how the Skrulls figure out how to be undetectable. Essentially they clone Reed Richards and trick him into inventing a way for them to be undetectable. No real Avengers appear in this issue of New Avengers. At all! Not even a cameo.

So the art is by Billy Tan and it sort of shows the Illuminati and -

Wait. Stop everything. Stop everything.

If the Skrulls can clone perfect copies of humans that can think like the smartest man on the planet, why do the Skrulls need to send themselves? Why can't they send disposable clones with mental timebombs to be set off when the Invasion begins? Why did the Skrull queen go as Spider-Woman when a perfectly acceptable clone could have gone?

Think about it. Just cogitate on that for a moment. If you were planning an invasion, who would you send? Your head of state? Or a disposable perfect clone?

This doesn't make sense. Secret Invasion just got stupid for me.

F*%& you, Secret Invasion.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kick-Ass 4

When was the last time I read this comic? God it seems like years, but it was really only in June, right here. Well, the fourth issue is out, so let's take a look at Millar and JRjr's Kick-Ass.

When we last left our "hero", he was getting his ass beaten but then saved by a katana-wielding loli. We continue right from that exact moment as the loli takes care of everybody and then jumps out the apartment building to her dad? partner? mentor? A big dude in a mask.

Dave then gets nervous about being framed for the murders of all these people and decides to hang up the Kick-Ass mask once and for all. Some other stuff happens, like Dave's pretending to be gay, and mobsters getting angry and trying to formulate a plan to take out the loli and her dad.

That's really it. This might be the thinnest issue of Kick-Ass yet. Other than introduce the two scary costumed vigilantes, nothing happens in this issue that I hadn't already seen.

This is a slow moving series. I said last time, that I would probably prefer this to be collected, and read in one sitting, as opposed to this interminable wait between issues.

I like Kick-Ass, because of the art and Millar's excellent dialogue, but on the other hand, it's slow and decompressed and would work better as a "graphic novel" than as a serial story. Oh well.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 1, and an editorial on Event Comics

I talked about this comic here, in which I discussed the August solicitations for DC. Also supposed to be in this month?
All Star Superman 12. Nope I didn't buy that. Damn you DC for delaying it. Anyway, Superman Beyond is supposed to be the amazing 3-D adventure written by Morrison, another piece in his last hurrah at DC. So let's take a look.

Superman waits at Lois' hospital bed, when a mysterious female Monitor asks him to save all of existence by coming with her, and in return she will heal Lois. She stops time, and Superman acquiesces to the deal. Off they go into 4 dimensional viewing (ie, put on your 3-D glasses that come with the comic) and we're off on a grande opaque adventure with Ultraman, a Nazi Superman, a Captain Marvel, and a guy that's modeled on Doctor Manhattan - there's an example of hyperreality for you: the copy (Dr. Manhattan) is now more real than the original (Charlton Comics' Captain Atom).

Just like any other Grant Morrison comic, this is densely packed with information and a lot happens between panels. There's rarely any fluidity between panels as Morrison hurls ideas and plot at you faster than Bendis can type (poorly).

It's also a sort of "goodbye" story for Morrison, as he engages the metafictional gun and aims it as the multiverse. It turns out that the origin of the multiverse can be attributed to simple stories, or something like that. I find I have to read a Morrison comic about three times before I comprehend it entirely.

It's all very action-packed and exciting and Mahnke's pencils are detailed and enjoyable. It's very entertaining and an excellent example of Morrison's style.

Okay, so that's the review of the comic itself. What of the 3D stuff?

It's okay, I guess. It gave me a headache and the actual 3D effects are only sometimes efficient. Most of the time, it's simply the word balloons appear to float, or debris. Very rarely did it wow me, but then again, I saw
Beowulf on IMax 3D, so there. It was okay....

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond got me thinking about the style of event comics in our current modern age. It's almost like hyperlink cinema, in that the main title of the event, in this case, Final Crisis, gives us a breakdown, or the broad strokes of the events, while the individual spin-off mini-series give us the meat and potatoes of those specific events. So, for example, in Final Crisis 3, Superman is given that opportunity to save existence, and on the next page, we jump to another event. In hyperlink terms, that's a link that we choose to follow to another website, for example, Final Crisis: Superman Beyond.

It's sort of the same story going on with the other event running at Marvel. The main title,
Secret Invasion, gives us the broad strokes, while the spin-off titles, New Avengers and Mighty Avengers and the billion Secret Invasion: Character X fill in the copious blanks.

I'm not sure if this is a bad thing or a good thing. First of all, hyperlink fiction is a still a new form of fiction and has yet to be really popularized or made awesome (like Moore did with deconstruction in comics). Secondly, this mode of storytelling is one primarily inspired by capital gains, as the more issues one person buys, the more money the company makes. Again, this isn't a bad thing or a good thing. It simply is a thing.

Once you have the whole story published, say with the case of Infinite Crisis, you can read the main title, and at your leisure, follow the "hyperlinks" to stories such as Rann/Thanagar War or Day of Vengeance. You can appreciate the larger scale tapestry of different stories, different writers, different artists. This hyperlink form of storytelling might actually complement the collaborative nature of the medium of comic books. Considering that each link on Wikipedia follows to another article written by a different person, if you want to accept that analogy.

What does hinder this hyperlink storytelling is scheduling issues, or massive continuity problems, ie bad editorial. Superman is flying around all 52 Earths while last week I read about him in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes. What gives?

Also, bad planning can make this frustrating. For example, the end of
Countdown (as I'm told) does not jive with the beginning of Final Crisis, a story that (I'm told) was planned out year ago by Morrison.

So there's some pros and some cons to the hyperlink paradigm that the Big Two have opted to use to tell their stories and sell their comics. I'm not sure why this review turned into an editorial, but there you go. It's my blog - I'll do what I want.

Anyway, pick up this issue of
Final Crisis: Superman Beyond because it's entertaining and it's Grant Morrison and it's awesome.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review: Baby Mama

I love Tina Fey and I have a crush on Amy Poehler. The two of them have such great chemistry, and teaming up for a feature length film would be awesome. So what went wrong?

Baby Mama is the story of Kate, a successful single 37 year old female who does not have a good chance at conceiving her own child, so she hires Angie, a middle class schemer to be the surrogate for her baby. The hilarity ensues from their clashing personalities. I guess.

This is a movie chock full of terrific little performances, but very few good long lasting jokes. Will Forte, Fred Armisen, Greg Kinnear, Romany Malco and Sigourney Weaver (my spell check hates all these names) all give great little performances. Each of them has a chance to shine.

But those little performances and little jokes do not add up to a funny movie. The weight of the film is carried by the shrill performances of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey who are not developed as characters in any meaningful way until the very end, in which a ludicrously unbelievable ending is tacked on, forcing Angie and Kate to "grow" as characters.

I laughed a bunch of times, but I chuckled more. I checked my watch more than the laughter or the chuckles. I was simply bored. This is 2008 and one of the big jokes was a woman with a speech impediment like the clergyman from
The Princess Bride. Really?

What's interesting is that the previous week, I had seen
Forgetting Sarah Marshall with my g/f, and it was an incredibly funny and emotional and honest and fun comedy movie with new and interesting things to say about relationships and people. There's even a Dracula puppet musical.

What does
Baby Mama have other than Steve Martin in a ponytail?

Not much.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Random Thoughts

I got to hear "Radiodread" the all-reggae cover album of Radiohead's seminal OK Computer and I really really like it. Even though it's simply putting a dub or reggae groove underneath most of the songs, they're still entertaining and awesome as reggae songs. Something I thought I'd lost was "Dub Side of The Moon" the all-reggae cover album of Pink Floyd's seminal Dark Side Of The Moon. It's f*%&ing awesome.

AC3 makes it impossible for me to enjoy half the things I spent hours downloading. I hate you Archos for not including that in the actual product, forcing me to purchase the audio plug-in from the website, but since I no longer have a credit car, I am screwed.

Leaving half-empty cans of pineapple juice and Full Throttle in my room is a recipe for fruit flies and ants. What was I thinking?

Apparently the next Superman film will be "darker" and "complex", as opposed to the fun bright upbeat tone of
Superman Returns, I guess. I'm in the minority that I really loved the most recent Superman film. I really enjoyed the Jesus symbolism, the father-son stuff. It's all good to me. Also, the action scenes are breathtaking. In a perfect world, I'd see a Darkseid-Superman beatdown, or a Brainiac-Superman showdown. But instead, we get "darker" and "complex" which is utterly backwards. Superman's positivity and ability to stay upbeat is what separates him from the rest of the gloomy Guses. If you want a dark Superman movie, but still complex and engaging, perhaps having Superman contrasted against Darkseid is the best move, but it sounds a little too similar to Batman-Joker from the last Batman film.

Alan Moore's
Supreme arc is one of the greatest pieces of metafiction I've ever read in a comic book. It helps that the 12 issues are the tightest twelve issues ever. What happens in the first six are important to the next six, and so on and so forth. I love Alan Moore.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

32 Reasons Why I Love Promethea

1. Alan Moore who is easily one of the best comic book writers ever and is maybe one of the best writers of the 20th century, of any medium
2. J. H. Williams III, a terrific artist with a penchant form complex panel layouts, amazing fluid movement between panels and amazing experimentation
3. Mick Gray, the inker that frequently collaborates with JHW3 and gives the pencils their oohpmh
4. Todd Klein, the outstanding and prolific letterer. Everybody has their own style in this comic book, and Klein matches their personality to their speech bubbles
5. Moore's ability to craft believable dialogue, considering the fantastic story
6. JHW3's panel layouts, which highlight the symbolism and possibly even the emotions of the events and characters
7. The faux-lesbian jokes between Sophie and Stacia
8. Sophie's mom is a slut
9. The moebius strip that Barbara and Sophie walk on in issue 15
10. 5 Swell Guys
11. The Painted Doll is badass
12. The mayor's multi-personality
13. The widescreen issue that's like a horror movie
14. The caduceus named Mike and Mack, and in microcosm and macrocosm

15. Crowley telling a long joke over 22 pages
16. The 22 anagrams for Promethea spelled out in tiles
17. Each level and world Promethea visits has its own colour palette and artistic style
18. The covers are brilliant homages, considering that Promethea is the inspiration for art and the ultimate muse, it would make sense that each cover evokes someone who was inspired by the ultimate muse
19. The issue in which Promethea has sex with the old magician. Possibly one of the most beautiful sex scenes ever drawn in a comic

20. Issue 13, the lunar realm, which makes the reader's eyes follow the panels down, as into the land of the dead
21. Weeping Gorilla comix
22. The red and black palette of issue 18 when Promethea and Barbara visit Mars, or the place of stern judgement
23. Issue 23, in which Promethea fuses with God and hears all of the prayers ever said to God
24. Nobody is called a superhero, it's science-hero
25. The hilarious trial of issue 25
26. The fact that the series is about the 32 paths to higher awareness, and there's 32 issues. It's a longform serial novel with an intended beginning, middle, and end. Moore loves structure

27. It's the most entertaining lesson on magic and religion I've ever read.
28. I like how each trade paperback even follows an artistic pattern on the cover and backcover
29. Tom Strong's appearance near the end
30. Stacia as Promethea and the fight between her and Sophie
31. The end of the world plays out differently than you'd expect
32. The last issue which I own three versions of, the trade version, and two floppies, one of which is taken apart.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

This Song is Cool

I heard this song, "Can't Keep No Good Boy Down" by The Parlor Mob, on Freq 107 earlier this week and now I'm obsessed with it. It sounds like The White Stripes imitating Led Zeppelin III, but much more fun. Click here to go to their MySpace page to have a listen. Their other songs are good, but not as good. They're playing a show in Winnipeg in like four days, which is convenient. Too bad I have no money to spend.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds 1

I've never read a
Legion of Super-Heroes story before. The closest I've come was seeing that Justice League Unlimited episode in which they go to the future and meet the Legion. So I am a new reader to these characters. I've never heard of 95 percent of any of the famous characters, excluding Brainiac 5. That being said, I picked up the first issue of Geoff Johns and George Perez' Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds and now I'm going to review it.

We start off with some hooded character making some sort of angry diatribe against the Legion, and then he plucks a time-lost Superboy-Prime (yes, SuperBOY) and throws him at the 30th century. Superboy-Prime ends up going to a Superman museum in Smallville (which ain't too small no more) and a holographic Jimmy Olsen takes us and Superboy through a guided tour slash Wikipedia page of the Legion's sort of history, but more of Superman's history.

Then we shift to the current status of the Legion, which is falling apart thanks to xenophobia and a lack of direction. We're introduced to a buttload of characters, with helpful captions explaining who they are. It's too bad the caption is microscopic and I had to bring the comic to my face to make it out - who thought putting red text on a yellow background was a good idea?

Some stuff happens, revelations that mean nothing to me, and some character bits that don't do anything for me happen. I don't know who any of these people are. Near the end of the issue, Superman of the 20th century is brought to the future (thank heavens - somebody I recognize) and he's briefed on the insanity of Superboy-Prime. He says to bring the other two Legions from alternate worlds to help and kick butt.

What other Legions? When did Superman ever deal with 3 different Legions? If each Legion is a different continuity, then shouldn't the past also be a different continuity - specifically, how does the same Superman know of 3 different Legions?

I don't understand at all.

For a new reader of the Legion, this was a decent introduction.... Sort of. This issue has the same problems that DC Universe 0 does: it's not a primer, it's a love letter to continuity. I'm sure there's a billion easter eggs in this issue for the hardcore Legion reader, but this reader? This reader don't know nothing.

On the technical side, Johns keeps the story moving and sort of flowing. He has a lot to set up in little time, so I'm forgiving the obvious signs of decompression and slow pace. I trust Johns, sort of. The big stuff he hasn't disappointed (
Green Lantern: Rebirth, Sinestro Corps War), but the little stuff he has (post-Sinestro Corps War ie the Secret Origins arc). On the art side, Perez' pencils are exquisite. He manages to toss in all this detail without it cluttering the page. Also, his obsession with wide eyes is let loose in the pages of this comic. Every single page has a bunch of close-ups on eyes. Still, that's not enough to detract from Perez' pencils. Very enjoyable.

I guess
Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds was good. I don't really know what's going on, but I'm excited to see one hundred characters fight Superboy-Prime at the same time. A lot of people are tired of Superboy-Prime as a character, but I enjoy him. He's different than the rest, more human, ironically. He's just a child who needs a Ma and Pa Kent.

I'd recommend this comic, if only cause the rest of the series should be pretty bad-ass with Perez' pencils and Johns' skills at rebuilding broken characters and properties.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Burj Dubai nears completion.

This is the building I want to see before I die, in the city I want to see before I die. Dubai is the greatest city in the world. This picture is 100% real. Click here for more pictures and here too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Marvel's November Solicits

Again, there's a dearth of respectable titles worth picking up on a monthly basis, rather than waiting for the trade. Here's the only thing I need to get (to complete my set):
The Avengers are trapped in the Savage Land, battling friend and foe. And Spider-Man heads to the one person in the entire place he knows he can trust: Ka-Zar! But is it really him? This important chapter rewinds the events of the very first New Avengers story and shows how it connects to the Invasion. Plus: the break up of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage; a major development in the life of Echo; and the story of how the Skrull empire was able to infiltrate the Marvel Universe, and who instigated the invasion and why. Collecting NEW AVENGERS #38-42.
120 PGS./Rated A …$19.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2946-2

Yeah, and I'm not even picking it up in hardcover, I'll be waiting the six months for the trade! Also, this is only five fricking issues. Could trades get any smaller please?

In the monthly format, I'm picking up this:
Written by MARK MILLAR
Pencils & Cover by BRYAN HITCH
Mister and Mrs. Thing! And a threat from the world of 1985! Plus: Who are the Masters of Doom?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99

Which we all know. This storyline picks up from the beginning arc, too, so that's good. I'm glad the entire Millar-Hitch run is going to be one big story. The pencils may not be, but at the least the plot's tight.

There's also this, but I have the individual issues already:
Written by MARK MILLAR
Penciled by BRYAN HITCH
MARK MILLAR! BRYAN HITCH! Need we say more? All right, we will! Who is Mrs. Fantastic? And how will her return into Reed’s life rock comicdom’s First Family? Also, get ready to meet the Invisible Woman’s brand-NEW super-team! These stories will make FANTASTIC FOUR “The World’s ULTIMATEST Comic Magazine!” Promise! Collecting FANTASTIC FOUR #554-561.
192 PGS./Rated T+ …$24.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3225-7

Yeah... not necessary. Also, "ultimatest"? What the hell? Who writes this garbage? What does that even mean?

Also, in November,
Ultimatum begins, but my dislike for Jeph Loeb is so strong I will end up avoiding it - which is a shame considering how much I like the Ultimate Universe. Well, that's not true. Only The Ultimates 1 and 2 and Spider-Man. That's it.

So for Marvel in November, I'm buying one monthly issue. That's it.

DC's November Solicits

There's some things I want... some things I could happily ignore. There's also a boatload of Alex Ross covers - some good, some bad. Mostly okay though. Let's take a look at the single f*%&ing thing that I would want to pick up:
Written by Grant Morrison
Art and covers by J.G. Jones and Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino
As the entire world turns against them, the last of Earth's Super Heroes must face the unstoppable power of the Gods of Apokolips for the final time. Supergirl vs. Mary Marvel! Superman vs. Darkseid! The fate of the Flash! And the incredible return of the New Gods! The End of Days has come and the ultimate war between good and evil will at last be decided on the battlefield of a broken world!
And as the skies bleed, as the walls between universes crumble and fall, the ultimate threat to life makes its presence felt as an evil beyond imagining arrives to claim its prize. Mandrakk the Dark Monitor is coming and the DC Multiverse will never be the same again!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers by J.G. Jones and Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino that will ship in approximately 50/50 ratio. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale November 26 • 6 of 7 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

That's pretty cool sounding and the cover's awesome too. It's a shame that Jones can't keep up and his artwork is slowly getting worse. The dip in quality from 2 to 3 is stunning. Let's hope the artwork is seamless, rather than annoying like Ordway helping out Jimenez on
Infinite Crisis.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Secret Invasion 5

EDIT on 08/18/08:
Caleb over at Every Day Is Like Wednesday has a terrific post about the huge amount of swears in this issue of Secret Invasion, and how silly the swears are. Click here for one of the funniest takes on Secret Invasion ever.

Over at
The Weekly Crisis, Kirk Warren posted his weekly previews for the comics, and made this hilarious prediction about the fifth issue of
Secret Invasion:
After last month's promising Thor and Cap ending tease, they had better whoop some Skrull ass this issue or I'm going to be pissed.

Oh, who am I kidding? We all know Bendis is probably just going to flash to the Savage Land and have some random 'who do you trust?' circular dialogue with all the heroes and 70's Skrulls.
And you wanna know what happened?

He was 100% right. Thor and Captain America make absolutely no appearance in this issue, even though they were the cliffhanger of the previous issue. The important things that happened with this issue are that Agent Brand of SWORD got Reed Richards back in the game and he invented a thing that exposes Skrulls for who they are, and we know for certain that Spider-Man, Wolverine, Black Widow, Ka-Zar, Luke Cage and Iron Man are not Skrulls. Okay. I'm with you, still, Bendis.

The other thing that happened is that Clint Barton's wife turned out to be a Skrull and Barton went nutso and shot a whole bunch o' Skrulls, like as if he was the
Ultimates 3 version, AKA Neo from the Matrix.

Bendis, Bendis, Bendis. Really?

I'm sure this reads better in trade form, but as a monthly serial, it's lacking. The story progresses so slowly. It took five issues for the Savage Land subplot to finish up. Five issues. In the hands of Grant Morrison or a Silver Age writer, that subplot would be half an issue at most.

Now that Richards and Tony are back together, now they get formulate a plan to beat the Skrulls and all the necessary story beats will be hit, such as somebody stopping nutso Barton from murdering somebody in cold blood, and somebody making a long-winded speech on the differences between how humans fight and how Skrulls fight. The status quo will be "forever" altered and then we move on to the next event, which will hopefully be awesome.

At the fifth issue of
Secret Invasion, I'm entertained but at the bare minimum. Yu's pencils are adequate and Bendis' dialogue is adequate. Every month I'm hoping for an upswing, and it just never happens. It's just a steady languid pace of mediocrity. Oh well.

New Avengers 44
promises to explain why the invasion happened in the first place and I'm sure it won't help the main event.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Attack of the Link-Blogging: Part Two

Read today's Wondermark by David Malki here. It's especially true of myself. I hate when people say "irregardless". God, even Firefox recognizes it as an actual word!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Read this.

John, who helps out little Bully, has written a very important and serious blog post about the San Diego Comic Con. Please click here to read it. To sum up, there is a serious lack of respect and common sense going on at the Con, specifically related to harassment of the female Con attendees. The fact that somebody would willfully sexually harass a fellow Con attendee "just to see her reaction" is possibly the most vile thing I've heard in a long time.

What's also frustrating is that many people have been reporting on the increase of female attendees with every year, which helps gets comics to a larger audience, which helps comics make more money and therefore we're all happy. If we want to reach a larger audience, including females, the best way to go about it is to stop f*%&ing harassing them.

All of the comic blogs of note, including Chris Sims and Kevin Church are talking about this and urging us to talk about it on our blogs. The more we talk about it, the more something can be done, considering that the Con has no official policy on harassment. That's right, no official policy.

Something needs to be done.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fantastic Four 559

Sooooo... this is going to be a short review. Millar's story gets interesting and plays with all the plots dangling and throws a curve ball at us at the very end. It's decent. I liked this issue for the story and for the enjoyable action sequence at the end. However... the art:

Yikes. How did this get past the editors?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Attack of the Link-Blogging!

Read Kevin's hilarious and very true thoughts on comic book readers and comic book retailers: click here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

State of Play

In 2009, there's going to be an American version of the BBC series State of Play, but it's going to be a feature length film starring Russel Crowe and Ben Affleck. I didn't know this until I was trying to find a picture for this blog post. That's awesome. But this post is about the BBC series State of Play and whether or not it's any good.

The six-part series begins with the murder of a young black man, apparently drug related, and the suicide of a young researcher working for an important (and relatively young) MP. The deaths are seemingly unrelated, but Cal McCaffery, a journalist and former campaign manager for the MP, thinks otherwise. Cal and his team of journalists begin to unravel to conspiracy around the deaths and the MP by the name of Stephen Collins, and the lies and deceptions begin to pile around them.

I'm not sure if that synopsis can really do the series justice. Not only is the mystery extremely complicated, but it's also not really a whodunit, more of a whydunit. Unlike traditional whodunits, the mystery isn't entirely set up in the first act, but rather developed and refined throughout the entire thing, making revelations possible before the end and the big explanation, while all the time, expanding on the characters and the themes.

Not only is it a terrific mystery and a tight gripping character piece, but it's also impressive for its themes of the relationship between the media and the government. The myriad of ways the two and interact is explored and developed. The relationship between Cal and Stephen, the two main characters, is amiable and antagonistic at various times, depending on their motives and who benefits from what,
qui bono, I guess. But this relationship at the ground level is microcosmic, and it expands and becomes more complex the higher the ladder goes.

There's a terrific scene just past the halfway point, in which Cal's editor Cameron Foster (played the excellent Bill Nighy) has a meeting with his superior. The boss asks Foster to finish things up and not upset the government, as the company is looking for radio licenses later in the year and won't get them if the government is stinging from accusations leveled by the paper. This perfectly highlights the uneasy balance that the media has in reporting what needs to be said and still looking after their own interests, as they are their own company and have bills to pay.

More than once, this theme of uneasy balance is explored by various characters in various ways. One of Cal's colleagues, Della, has a very shaky balance with DCI Bell, the chief inspector on the police side of the murders. It's an alliance of
quid pro quo, but the most important part, trust, is sorely lacking.

The writing is so top notch on this series. I was blown away by the complexities of the plot, of the themes, and of the characters. Each person has their chance to develop, has their own voice, their own motives and fears. Even the stenographer for the journalists gets a moment in the spotlight.

The cast is spectacular, from the two leads to the supporting cast, including James McAvoy and the aforementioned Bill Nighy. Every actor is cast and the dialogue sounds natural and organic coming from their mouths.

State of Play was five and a half hours of riveting, engaging and thought-provoking television. This is exactly why I love British television so much. There's so much effort put into the craft rather than the marketing and the personalities and the hype. It's all about the quality of the product rather than the quantity.

Speaking of which, I'm not sure how in the world they're going to fit all of this into two hours of an American film, which will pull their punches when it comes to the series' defiance of the traditional three-act structure and traditional payoff. I look forward to the film considering its screenwriters (Billy Ray, Matthew Carnahan, etc), but I can't see it beating the British version. Americans rarely do, but they try admirably.

I highly recommend this series if you can get it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Final Crisis 3

From the DC Comics' blurb about the issue:

"Batman missing in action! Superman immobilized! Green Lantern on trial for his life!

A shadow is falling across Earth's super heroes — and now it's Wonder Woman's turn to face the Evil Gods!

What bizarre warning from beyond awaits Frankenstein, The Question and the agents of S.H.A.D.E. in the shadows of the Dark Side Club? What grim fate lies in store for The Human Flame? What happens when the Anti-Life Equation hits the internet? Can the Fastest Men Alive outrun The Black Racer — Death himself? And who are the Justifiers?

The answers are all here as the unstoppable rise of evil continues in FINAL CRISIS #3 by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones."

Who writes these? Most of the time, they're terrible. They try to entice, but leave you confused. All of the blurbs for Final Crisis are immaculate pieces of advertising and they're so different than the others. Does Morrison write these himself?

I can't summarize Final Crisis 3 better than the aforementioned blurb, but I can certainly review the crap out of it.

Now that Morrison and Jones have set up the conspiracy and the grand epic scale of this conflict, the pieces begin to move across the board. The Anti-Life Equation is unleashed upon the world and the connection between Libra and the New Gods becomes slightly clearer.

Since they've taken Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern off the board, the New Gods are in a pretty good position, but Shilo Norman and The Question have different plans. What of the strange humanized Monitor? What of Barry Allen?

There's very few answers to be found in this issue. All I can tell you is that this is the most accessible issue of Final Crisis yet, but unfortunately, the least exciting until the very end. The madcap pace and shorthand that worked oh so well for the first two issues is not quite as breathless with issue 3. That's not to say that this isn't a great comic; it's just my tastes have been refined by issues 1 and 2.

I loved this comic, and it stands head and shoulders above the rest of DC's output currently. Thank the Bearded Stone that Morrison is put in charge of the multiverse for at least a small amount of time. I love forward with heavy anticipation to the next issue. I am very excited to read what happens next.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Futurama: Bender's Game

Futurama: Bender's Game is set to be released on the fourth of November of this year. I can hardly wait! Here's the artwork!The last Futurama movie was good, but not as good as the first one. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but wasn't blown away. I'm thinking the third one will be the same, just another long episode, while the fourth one will wrap everything up, and be a feature, rather than an episode. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

TIME Magazine's 100 Best Novels: Part Three of Three

Click here for Part One, and click here for Part Two. Onwards, soldier!

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
Never heard of it.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Again, I'm embarrassed I've never read this.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Oooh, oooh ooh! I love this book so much. The combination of Stephenson's great prose, linguistics, cyberpunk and asskicking made it a terrific book for me. Loved it!

The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth
I just picked up a cheap copy for 3 dollars the other day. I'll read it eventually.

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Yes, I agree. This should definitely be on this list. The ability to recreate the mind's working is one of Faulkner's best attributes. He has a gift for displaying the inner thoughts with such believability. I think Faulkner isn't highly regarded enough. This novel is on the same level as Woolf and Joyce and Nabokov, for sure.

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
I loved this book. It was terrific. Highly recommended.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carre
Always wanted to, never read it.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
From what little Hemingway I've read, I don't care for him. No thanks.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Never read it.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Never heard of it.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Read it in high school and liked it enough. The movie with Gregory Peck was better, though.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
I dreaded reading this for university, but when I did, I fell head over heels for Woolf. This is my favourite by her.

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
I've been itching to read this since it was referenced on Seinfeld.

Ubik by Philip K. Dick
Read it and thought it was okay.

Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
Never read it.

Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
Never read it.

Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Hmmm... I don't know how I feel about this being on here. Of course I've read it. Who hasn't? But is it a novel the same sense as the novels on this list? Comic books are a different medium than prose novels, and all of the novels I recognize on this list are prose novels. If comic books can be put onto this list, than so can drama, and if drama is on here, so should Mamet. But anyway, this is the greatest comic book ever blah blah blah.

White Noise by Don DeLillo
Never read it, but what little DeLillo I have read, it seems okay.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Never read it, not interested.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
I almost read this for school, but opted out of it. I like Pride and Prejudice, though.

So that's the list. Now where do I stand with how many I've read? Am I a genius, or am I pathetic?

Oy. Only 31 novels have I read on this list. For those of you in the audience bad with math, that's thirty one percent. Over 60 percent of the novels on the list have been untouched by me.

Is that sad? I think not. It's not like I haven't read a lot of books in my lifetime. And this list only touches up to 1923, leaving behind 5,000 years of literature. This list is also only concerned with English-language novels, leaving behind over six billion other languages. This list is a small sampling of English-language literature, let alone of history or the world. I don't feel ashamed that I haven't read it all. Mayhap I will. I can imagine that this list is a starting point for me, to fill in the gaps. But there's problems.

The other thing that bugs me about this list is the heavy focus on the Western world. Australia and Africa are barely represented on this list. In fact, I count only two Australian books. Where's Peter Carey? Canada is also very minimally represented - I count one. I can't believe that Robertson Davies' Fifth Business isn't on here.

Also, where's John Dos Passos? Where's Alfred Bester? Where's Bret Easton Ellis? Where's John Irving? Where's Tom Wolfe?

This list is very safe - there's not a lot of daring choices on here, such as Ellis or Bester. The problem with counting only 100 novels is that you have to stick with the safe choices.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

TIME Magazine's 100 Best Novels: Part Two of Three

Click here for the previous entry. Well, let's get to it with the next set.

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
Never read it.

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers
Never heard of it.

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
Only ever read one Greene novel and this sure wasn't it.

Herzog by Saul Bellow
Never read it. Hmmm... I'm not doing too good.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Never read it.

A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
Never read it.

I, Claudius by Robert Graves
I've read this and it was good. Not as good as Graves' retelling of the myths, however.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
I have the 10 dollar anniversary edition and I plan to read it, but I have yet to get there.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Never read it.

Light in August by William Faulkner
Never read it, but I love Faulkner.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I can't tell you how many times I've read this. It's so enjoyable. But would I leave off D. H. Lawrence entirely to put on Lewis' Christian allegory? No, I think not.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
In my opinion, the second greatest novel in the English language, coming a distant second to James Joyce's
Ulysses. Nabokov is one of the greatest prose stylists in the history of the English language and it's not even his native language. Nabokov is the type of writer that makes me embarrassed to write, considering I will never reach his level of quality.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Very enjoyable when I was in high school. Frustrating that kids in high school didn't understand it, as if it was overly complex.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Yawn. I've read it and I will never read it again. I'm not a fantasy guy by any stretch and to have to read the originator of the terrible fantasy paradigm that we can never escape is like being attacked by Shelob. I hated
Lord of the Rings, but I absolutely adore the movies.

Loving by Henry Green
Never read it.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Never read it, but always wanted to.

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
Never heard of it.

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Never read it, not interested.

Money by Martin Amis
I read this a long time ago, so my memory is a little hazy. I remember liking it at the time, but I don't remember thinking it was worthy of being in the pantheon.

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
Never heard of it.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Yes, now here is a novel that deserves a place in the literary canon. This is an extraordinary work of art. I love modernism and all that it tried to accomplish. I prefer
To The Lighthouse over this novel, but this is just as good.

Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
Ugh. I read this when I was in the hospital for a hole in my lung, and I can't say this book helped me in the slightest. I only finished it because I had nothing else to do in the hospital (funny though, the book I read after this was Chabon's
Kavalier and Clay, a much more entertaining work). Naked Lunch is possibly the most overrated novel on this list.

Native Son by Richard Wright
Always wanted to, never did.

Neuromancer by William Gibson
Here's a novel I've tried to read, but never hooks me. It's not like I dislike cyberpunk; I love it, but this leaves me cold.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Oooh, I want to read this.

1984 by George Orwell
Read it in high school and didn't care for it. No thanks.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
I had to read this for university and I hated it. Hated it. I found the characters to be so pathetic and selfish that I couldn't get into the myth of the novel. Maybe it's the mythic status that made me hate it.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Excellent novel. Loved it and loved the movie. Read it before seeing the movie, believe it or not. I thought they were both equally good but for different reasons. Chief's narration for the book, and the acting for the movie.

The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski
Never heard of it.

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Always wanted to read this, and I even own a copy, but I've just never gotten around to it.

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
Huh - I thought this book was older than 1923. Still haven't read it.

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
Never read it.

Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
The only Roth novel I ever read and I didn't much care for it. It was too much an artifact of the seventies and Woody Allen and psychoanalysis and silly sexuality. I didn't like it.

Possession by A.S. Byatt
Wanted to read it, purchased it, never read it.

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
Never read it.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Never heard of it.

Rabbit, Run by John Updike
As of today, I'm 100 pages into it. So far so good.

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
Never read it, not interested.

The Recognitions by William Gaddis
One of my favourite novels of all time. I love this book so much. I could go on.

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
Never read it. Hammett always left me cold.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Well, we know I read this.

Stay tuned for Part Three!

Monday, August 4, 2008

TIME Magazine's 100 Best Novels: Part One of Three

If you click here, you can read TIME Magazine's list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 onwards. There are plenty of merits to this list, in that it doesn't countdown, like the Modern Library's list. There are also plenty of questionable entires on both lists, however. So let's take a look at half of the list and see which I've read and which I want to read and what I think about the list.

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
Never read it.

All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
Never read it and always wanted to. I think I have a cheap paperback of it from a used bookstore somewhere.

American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Eh. Not interested it. I've read the other Roth novel on this list.

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
I certainly own a copy and have never read it and have always wanted to.

Animal Farm by George Orwell
Read it in high school, didn't much care for it or for Orwell.

Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara
Never heard of it.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Never read it, but I've certainly used the title in numerous jokes.

The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
Never heard of it.

At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien
Never read it but it sounds interesting, and I like metafiction.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
Saw the movie, own the book, never read it, will read it.

Beloved by Toni Morrison
Always wanted to, never read it.

The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
Never read it.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
I've certainly read this more than once, and Chandler is one of the authors I would do my graduate work on if I had the chance. It's nice to see Chandler being recognized at the same level as these other powerhouses.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Never read it.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
I don't think I would have put this novel on here; instead I would have chosen All The Pretty Horses, but I know that this novel is far more appreciated by the critical community. This is still an amazing read full of the same violence and mystical prose as usual. Highly recommended.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Never read it - always wanted to.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
Never read it.

Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
Never read it.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Never read it - always wanted to.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Yes, I read it in high school and loved it back then. Now? It's still a good novel, but it creaks in places.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
I read this in high school and I liked it. Sort of. The linguistics were interesting, but the characters were flat.

The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
Never read it.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Now here's where it gets interesting. I really love this novel, but one of the greatest - since 1923? There's no way I would have put this on the list and left out Lady Chatterly's Lover.

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Well we all know I haven't read it.

A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
This is sort of cheating, considering it's a sequence of twelve novels. I haven't read it but it's on my list to read. I got the "First Movement" in one volume and I'm excited to start.

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
Read it and loved it.

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Never heard of it.

A Death in the Family by James Agee
Never read it.

The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
Never read it.

Deliverance by James Dickey
Saw the movie, hated it and never desired reading the book.

Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone
Never read it.

Falconer by John Cheever
Never read it, but I have read some short stories by Cheever and I like him okay.

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
Now this is a damn good novel. I read this in two days, waiting in the hospital and I loved practically every page. Fowles has such an elegant and lilting style and the intricacies of the metafiction and the characters and the plot was so perfect. No other Fowles novel has come close to entertaining me and wowing me like this one did.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Never read it - always wanted to.

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Never read it.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Really? This is on here? I've never read it and have no desire to. The movie was good, but mostly as an artifact of Golden-era Hollywood, rather than as a narrative.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Here's a novel that I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read.

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
I put in an effort to read it but to no avail.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I didn't read this until my fourth year of university and until then, I had very little desire to read Fitzgerald. After reading this novel, I still have no desire to read his other works. I just can't get behind it. I appreciate the artistry, but am not entertained by him. I would still put this on the list, however.

Okay, so that's the first three groupings, so there's two more parts to this posting. Before I stop, I would just like to point out that Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is conspicuously absent from the list, and that's a heartbreak. Neither are there any D. H. Lawrence novels on the entire list. That's just wacky.


With this last Mini-Reviews! it was an indie themed one, and I promised that there would be a second part to it, in which I reviewed three more indie works, so let's take a look.

True Story Swear To God by Tom Beland

This is Image Comics' archival version collecting all 16 of the indie issues. The story is autobiographical, as Tom Beland meets and falls in love with a Puerto Rican woman and moves to San Juan to be with her, leaving behind all his family in Napa Valley. It's a sweet love story made dramatic by all the obstacles that they face in day to day life. Beland's cartoony style is rough but effective, and his narration is constant and full of "telling" rather than "showing". Most of this comic book series is Tom's narration and it strikes me as almost amateurish in comparison to Craig Thompson's narration from Blankets, who used the narration effectively to "show". I can't say I didn't like True Story Swear To God, but after reading all this fine indie stuff before, I was a little underwhelmed.

Too Cool To Be Forgotten by Alex Robinson

This is a shorter work from Robinson, author of Tricked, but nonetheless incredible at displaying Robinson's gifts at dialogue, panel layout and pushing the medium like usual. Andy Wicks, fortysomething, goes under hypnosis to quit smoking but is accidentally sent backwards in time to high school, forced to relive a week with the same knowledge as a fortysomething. A lot of this comic is Andy commenting on being a teenager and the social subtleties. Robinson is an amazing writer, able to craft realistic dialogue and realistic interactions and realistic characters. He draws people as people, rather than smooth perfect beauties a la Jaime Hernandez or Pia Guerra, which fits into his genre of realism. Too Cool To Be Forgotten also features one of the most heartbreaking climaxes I've ever read in a comic book, and one that I won't ever forget. This is highly recommended.

Zot! The Black And White Collection by Scott McCloud

I had no idea Scott McCloud did anything other than webcomics and his famous comic book theory tomes. Apparently, he wrote and drew an entire comic book series that's mostly collected in this huge almost 600 pages doorstopper. Zot! is the story of Zot, a superhero from an idealized future alternate Earth who visits our Earth and courts Jenny, a fifteen year old girl. The black and white issues are in two parts: the superhero stuff and then the Earth based stories about ordinary people. Published in the eighties, Zot! is McCloud's synthesis of American alternative comics and the huge manga style. For me, this was a fairly routine superhero story at first, with interesting panel layouts and different views on what superhero comics can do. Then, the story radically shifts to more personal stories and that's where it flies. I was absolutely riveted by the final eight issues and was heartbroken by at least two. McCloud's extensive and illuminating commentary are just as entertaining as the comics themselves. For anybody interested in the history of alternative comics or American manga, this is a good place to start. Highly recommended.

That's it for now. In keeping with the indie theme, the next big thing I'm reading is Jaime Hernandez' Locas, a hardcover collecting most of his stories from Love and Rockets. Watch for the review.