Friday, February 29, 2008

Gross

Today after work, I was hanging out with some boys at the bar, and I got one of the boys to buy me a shot of The Glenlivet, in celebration of a promotion I just got. We had The Glentlivet 12 year old and it was 7 dollars and 84 cents for the f*%&ing thing. So first we had a tequila shooter, which I don't do with lemon or lime or whatever bullsh*t people do with it. I take it like a man. Then we had the scotch (?) afterwards. Now, I took my tequila like a man. No faces, no grimaces, no shuddering, but that Glenlivet, I don't think I've ever made such a disgusted face. It was ridiculously gross. Disgusting. I was shuddering for like half an hour. But I was buzzed.

Now I'm going out with my friend's wife's friends (weird) because I'm an honourary member of Team Va-Jay-Jay (aka the girls). Sweet!

Oh yeah, these boys have something to say


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A brief pause, then randomness

So I haven't been posting for a myriad of personal reasons, but I think I'm ready to get back on the horse. Today, I'm just to post about a couple of random things, no biggie.

Item the First:
I finally purchased Futurama: Bender's Big Score and watched it. I'm a huge fan of Futurama, and I was totally bummed that it was canceled. I much preferred Futurama to Family Guy or even The Simpsons, even though I love all three shows. Futurama has the sci-fi aspect to it, which lets the show do all sorts of great stories, such as time travel, paradoxes, planets, crazy technology. All fun stuff. All those things I mentioned are present in Bender's Big Score. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Bender's Big Score is my favourite Futurama installment EVER. It's one billion times more awesome than the Family Guy movie. The Futurama movie has all my favourite elements: time travel, paradoxes, musical numbers, a huge space battle involving pimped-out Death Stars, and it's so immersed in continuity, from the smallest things (Fry's dog) to the biggest things (Fry being intentionally cryogenically frozen). One of the reasons why I love Futurama and Bender's Big Score is because the timeline is so rich. Anyway, for fans of Futurama, I recommend the movie. Strongly.

Item the Second:
I watch the unrated extended cut of American Gangster, and it sort of alleviated my concerns with the movie, but not to the extent that I wanted. I saw the movie in the theatre, and I really liked it, but I didn't love it. My problem was that Frank Lucas had very little backstory. I didn't understand how he went from being a driver to being a badass so quickly. Logically, I know that Bumpy taught him everything and that the opening scene (Lucas setting a man on fire) is supposed to be the moment that Lucas becomes a badass. But emotionally, I just didn't get inside Lucas' head. I understood that he had a moral compass and lived by a personal code, much like Richie Roberts as was skillfully drawn, but I didn't feel that Lucas was a three-dimensional character, as much as Roberts was. I wasn't concerned when I saw the movie in the theatre, though. My faith in Ridley Scott is pretty unwavering. I knew that we'd get an eventual extended cut and that the scenes I was missing would be there. Well yes, there was some elaboration on the Bumpy-Lucas relationship, and the ending is very different, but otherwise, the movie is the same. 18 minutes of footage was inserted and I was only able to detect the two new scenes (Lucas on the beach remembering, the ending conversation). This isn't the overhaul I was expecting, like it was with Kingdom of Heaven, which was good in its theatrical version, but f*$%ing awesome in director's cut version. Oh well. American Gangster is still a good movie.


Item The Third:
Picked up the Criterion Collection's release of Bertolucci's The Last Emperor which I was in love with when I was younger. I haven't seen it since Bravo used to play it every Sunday. It's probably been ten years since I have seen it (and I still remember the scene in which the child Pu Yi poops and the servants inspect it). I'm excited. I love Criterion!

Item the Fourth:
I found out that Dave Sim's new secret project is called Judenhass and it's about the Holocaust. I don't know what to think. I read the preview on the website and was impressed (as usual) with Sim's pencils, but considering Sim's political and religious viewpoints, I don't know what to expect thematically. At least he's not denying it.

Item the Fifth:
Kevin Church's blog pointed me out to the cover of Daft Punk's Digital Love by Mobius Band. I love Daft Punk, and the cover is pretty entertaining. It's an interesting take that does away with the 70's synth and replaces it with indie soothing calm guitar jangles, or as I like to call it, sooth-rock. Delicious.

Item the Sixth:
Justice's album Cross, or simply a cross, I'm not sure, was critically fawned over, and I finally got the chance to listen to it. Let me be brief. The first track is amazing, the rest is satisfactory. That's a shame, cause I really wanted to like it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bret Easton Ellis writes a screenplay? Wha' happened?

So I read today that Bret Easton Ellis, author of Less Than Zero and American Psycho is writing an adaptation of Michael Hornburg's Downers Grove. Now I'm sort of intrigued by this. I've never heard of this novel, so I can't give a pithy review or a breezy synopsis, so I'll do a little research (AKA cut and paste). Here's what the book is about according to the publisher:
Downers Grove is the haunting and tender story of Chrissie Swanson, a paranoid high school senior for whom graduating has become a matter of life or death. She''s an unusual girl in an ordinary town. Her mother''s sex life is overshadowing her own; her brother is aboard his own private Enterprise, slipping into one black hole after another; her best friend is hornier than a Prince song; leaving her eccentric grandmother as the only source of wisdom in a rapid downward spiral. As Chrissic tries to take control of the events that shape her life, she finds the events beginning to take control of her, until she is finally cornered by choices with everlasting consequences. Full of humor, wit, and the sacrilegious worldview of a savvy teenager, Downers Grove paints a searing portrait of the American dream in all its broken glory.

Okay. That could be interesting. But I'm reading this page on Amazon.com and all the user reviews are telling me this novel stinks, that it's boring, that it's a cliche. Huh. Okay. So what is Ellis going to do with this, then? The subject matter does seem to go with Ellis' earlier more superficial style, circa Less Than Zero. What we can hope for is that Ellis streamlines the plot, does away with the quirkiness, and makes it as flat and as superficial as possible. My reasoning is that perhaps instead of glamorizing the teen life, Ellis can satirized it and not in the "Not Another Teen Movie" kind of way. Even though N.A.T.M. is a terrific movie.

I know that Ellis has worked on screenplays and adaptations before, and he's a good enough writer to know that screenplays are a different animal than novels, so maybe this will be good. In the hands of the right director, say maybe Todd Fields, this could work. If Ellis tries the play it straight, it will end badly... like Ghostrider badly.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Michael Clayton


It's Oscar season, and every year, when the nominees are announced, I attempt to catch up on my viewing and try to see at least all of the Best Picture nominees. This year, the five nominees are
No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Juno, Atonement and Michael Clayton. Of these five films, I have seen three. I have yet to see There Will Be Blood and Atonement, however, even before the nominations I had wanted to see both. Paul Thomas Anderson is on my list of "will see no matter what the subject or critical opinion". But I didn't see that film yet.

Spoilers for the entire film of
Michael Clayton, so beware.

As the title of this blog post tells you, I saw
Michael Clayton. This film is written and directed by Tony Gilroy, screenwriter of the Bourne movies among other things (The Bourne movies being, in order of release: good, great(!), and AWESOME). Starring George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack, this movie is about Michael Clayton, a fixer for a huge lawfirm. Wilkinson plays an attorney, the head litigator for U-North, a huge multinational corporation that has knowingly done some bad environmental things and are being sued for billions by families of victims. Wilkinson's character, Arthur Edens, goes crazy, gets nude, and becomes a whistleblower against U-North. Somehow he's gotten his hands on some sensitive documents. It's up to Michael Clayton to clean this mess because everything is on the line.

This is a movie about people pushed into the corner, and the things they will do when put there. Clayton isn't a badass walking around fixing problems like the Wolf. He's got a mountain of debt, a kid from a ruined marriage, gambling problems, and he's been working at the firm for 17 years going nowhere. He's in a bad situation, and this Edens problem is just too much for him. It doesn't help that U-North has got Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) into the mess, and it's not like U-North puts human lives at the top of a pedestal or anything.

Clayton keeps getting pushed and pushed by various factors, some brought on by his own weaknesses, and he gets more and more desperate. He makes a deal with Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack), partner at the firm, to cover his outrageous debt and stay with the firm for 3 more years. He's essentially selling himself out and Edens at the same time. The damning documents get buried for the moment.

There's a lot going on in Michael Clayton. He sees the weakness around him, as symbolized by a ranting raving rich guy who fled the scene of a hit-and-run, as symbolized by his alcoholic thieving brother, by his own failed restaurant. Clayton is in a deep rut and can't seem to get out. By taking the deal with Bach, he's doomed himself to more of the same. He sees himself as a janitor, a janitor for a firm that helps keep afloat an evil company that knowingly spread cancer-causing chemicals. He begins to think that Edens, who has a history of mental problems and is clearly not well, might be right about the whole thing. Not just about the rank stench of U-North, but about themselves as well. Clayton begins to see that he ain't a good guy.

He makes his decision to keep going when his brother tries to talk to him. Clayton avoids his brother and gets into the car with Clayton's son, Henry. He tells Henry not to worry, that Henry is strong and he certainly didn't get it from Clayton.

There's a theme of redemption near the end. While Clayton's more practical problems haven't been solved, he's saved at least a bit of his soul. He uses the documents from U-North and some incriminating confession from Crowder to put them away and do what's "right". Clayton knows that it doesn't make up for all that he's done, but maybe it's a start.

I really liked this movie. Gilroy has a great ear for interesting yet believable dialogue. It's not nearly as poetic as Mamet, but it's not bland and dreary like a mid-Nineties legal thriller starring John Travolta or Tom Cruise (no I don't mean
For A Few Good Men). The cast is superb as one would expect. Clooney is nominated for Best Actor, and it might be deserved. I love how Clooney balances the weariness and the angst on Clayton's face while still making him not po-faced. As usual, Pollack reminds that it's almost criminal that he's not in front of the camera as much as he should be. Swinton is a miracle, taking what could be a one-note character (archetypal business-bitch) and making her more rounded and believable. There's a great scene in which Crowder practices for a tv interview and tries her speeches over and over again. Swinton sells the scene so well.

Now, since it's a Best Picture nominee, I have the sort-of-kind-of-not-really distasteful task of comparing it to the other nominees that I have seen. First of all, this movie is way more complex and thematically richer than
Juno. That's not to say it's more entertaining, because really, Juno gets the prize there. It's much more emotionally satisfying than Michael Clayton. But this is all moot considering that they're up against the behemoth of perfection, No Country For Old Men. As an unabashed fan of both the Coens and McCarthy, I might be a little biased. But that film is a true return to form for the Coens after the kinda disappointing Ladykillers, terrific gospel notwithstanding. So far, no film from 2007 has supplanted No Country For Old Men as my favourite film of the year, and I have seen a lot of great movies, and Michael Clayton numbers among them.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy Keeping it Riel Day!

Today is Louis Riel Day here in Manitoba, and it's the first time ever that we're celebrating this holiday. This calendar day has nothing to do with Louis Riel, really. It's a mid-February holiday that both Alberta and Saskatchewan observe, so Manitoba followed suit. Except we named ours after a controversial figure in history, albeit a true Canadian hero. This new holiday falls right in the middle of the gorgeous Festival du Voyageur. Yeah, in Canada, we have strange holidays. Oh well. Have fun!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My summer vacation

So in the past two months, I've had a lot of personal problems. A lot. And it's been really hard to deal with, and it doesn't help that we're in the dead of winter, and the lack of sunlight is probably getting to me. Sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy.

I thought, let's look instead to the future, rather than wallow in self-pity and feelings of no self worth. So I'm going to plan out some events for my summer days, events that I've always wanted to do and have never done. I will put these events into three categories: things I will do, things I will probably do (but I promise nothing), and things I want to do but will probably not.

Let's start with things I will do. This year, I want to go to the Ex, or the Red River Exhibition, which is really just a bunch of carnival rides and fireworks. It's a staple of Winnipeg. I haven't been to the Ex since I was in second year of high school, so we're talking about 8 years. I never had anybody to go with before, and I might not have anybody to go with this year, but that's a stupid excuse.

Also, I would like to go ride some horses. I sort of fell in love with horses when I read Cormac McCarthy's All The Pretty Horses, and The Crossing which are terrific books about cowboys. McCarthy's sensual and biblical prose makes the horses seem so epic. It makes me want to ride some horses.

In the second category, of things that I will probably do, I want to go on a vision quest. Now before you start laughing or anything, let me explain. For years, I thought I knew exactly what I was doing in my life, and I thought I knew my path in life completely. But in the past two months, everything I knew and everything I had changed. My life seems different, and I'm not sure where to go. A vision quest is exactly the solution to this. It sounds very crazy and very dangerous, but I really want to do this. The idea is that a combination of sensory deprivation, solitude, dehydration and spirituality is supposed to make your path in life clear to you, and what you need to do becomes apparent. A vision quest is a part of many cultures on the planet, not just Native Americans. A vision quest is a way to strip away all the noise, all the hurt, all the baggage, all the crap that makes us civilization and take us down to the meat of who we are. The vision is apparently provided by totemic spirits, but those are just metaphors for clarity of mind and peace of mind. So my plan is to go into the woods for a couple of days with only some water and some clothes and let my vision come to me.

Lastly, things that I really want to do but probably won't for some reason, this list includes sky-diving. I meant to do this years ago. I'm not really frightened of heights or anything, and I've always dreamed of flying or falling and wanted to experience it. I would love to do this. I probably won't because of financial reasons. It's expensive to do that. I'd also like to go scuba diving or snorkel diving, but since I don't live near the ocean, that probably won't happen.

I also plan to wake up every morning and go for a run, and I really mean to, but that probably won't happen because I have a lack of self-discipline. Maybe running would build self-discipline...? Oh well.

So come July and August, I will revisit this post and see how well I did.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Seriously, what the f*%$, Stallone?

So I saw Rambo, Sylvester Stallone's 2008 masterpiece of political and ethical hand-wringing. No just kidding, it's a gross pumped up Stallone running around the jungle killing guys with no names, and some of the most terrible dialogue I've ever heard.

The idea is very simple. Rambo takes some Christian missionaries into the Burmese civil war. The missionaries are kidnapped and tortured. Rambo accompanies some mercenaries hired to save the missionaries. Rambo saves everybody's asses.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this. It's a very simple and stupid movie. Which means I'm torn. On one hand, as a critic of film, as a movie-goer with a modicum of taste, I am appalled and annoyed by the poorly conceived and undercooked characters, the dialogue that tumbles and clanks like an overwound wristwatch, and the lack of any cinematography that makes Burma look like anything other than my backyard. It's a terrible terrible movie. One of the worst movies I've ever seen.

But, but, but, but what why I was so f*$%ing entertained then? Why was I laughing and almost applauding at this movie? What did I expect going into see a movie called Rambo starring Sylvester Stallone?

The violence at the end of the movie is so over the top and so bloody and so gory. I don't think I've ever seen a mainstream Hollywood movie with as much gore. In fact, I don't think I've seen a movie ever with that many exploding body parts. The death toll is in the hundreds and you see like everybody's death. It's awesome.

Rambo is kind of like Thor, but without the jiveass Shakespearean verbal destruction. Rambo is big and burly and when he's
on, he is on like f*$&ing King Kong. Or like Michelle Kwan.

Frugal Fridays!

Today we have a very small Frugal Friday, as I have no money. At all. Probably never again. Anyway, today the object of our Frugal Friday is... the hardcover edition of Ultimates 2.
Now, I have all 13 issues in floppies that I purchased for 20 bucks, plus the annuals. But since I already have the first volume of the Ultimates in hardcover, I had to get the second volume to complete the set. I've already spoken at length on my love of the Millar-Hitch team, so I won't really waste your time with my heaps of praise.

In fact there's not much to really say about Ultimates 2 that hasn't been said before by most of the Internets. Hitch's pencils are amazing in this volume, maybe even better than in the first. Millar's Tony Stark is less of a caricature in this volume, especially without that annoying Shannon Elizabeth cameo like in the first volume.

In terms of story, Ultimates 2 does follow a bit of a pattern set by the previous volume. In fact, at the same juncture, there's a superhero battle between themselves, ie the Hulk, and then Thor. Both of those battles are spectacular. Following the fight, there's set-up for the big bad of the season, ie the Skrulls, and then the Liberators/Loki. The problem with the second volume is that most of the last two thirds of the story is taken up with the "wolf in the fold" idea that eats up a bit of time before the s**t hits the fan. It just seems almost like filler. But that's me. The Chitauri setup in the first volume is so epic and so dangerous. You feel as if the stakes are really really really high. That sense of danger isn't as high in the second volume, even if the United States is being crippled.

But oh well. The widescreen summer blockbuster style of comics isn't for everybody. Sometimes I like my art to be pop.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

World's greatest? Or World's Greatest?


Yes, my friends, today is the day. Fantastic Four 554 has a special place in my longbox, and I'm going to review it for you. I'm sure other comics came out this week, but who cares? No big deal. It's Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary on the premiere Marvel title.

So what happens? Millar chooses to start FF 554 with a time-traveling vacation for the family, minus Johnny. They're somewhere in the Old West, being chased by Native Americans, on a time-sled made of a locomotive. When they arrive at the Baxter Building in present time, the Thing falls off and flies through a building, which is gloriously detailed in classic Hitch style. Resplendent, one might say. We find out that Johnny is forming a rock band in order to form a reality show and that he's given up on his idea of selling ladies' underwear online. After Johnny leaves, Ben and Reed go to Ben's old school to give a lecture, but Reed manages to monopolize the attention with lectures on his "anti-Galactus suit" and other things. In order to break the students' boredom, Ben offers the kids a chance to play on the Fantasticar. During the playtime, Ben manages to hilariously "charm" a teacher and ask her out on a date. Meanwhile, Sue is meeting with other superheroines to form a new supergroup to aid victims of superhero "incidents", giving us some great cameos of She-Hulk and the Wasp. There's a great bit about Reed fitting Doombots with H.E.R.B.I.E.'s solar panels while watching television. One of Reed's exes appears and asks to borrow the doctor for 24 hours and Ben admits that the ex, Alyssa Moy, is ten times hotter than he remembers. We follow Reed and Alyssa as they arrive on Nu-World, "where we're going when the Earth dies." And end of issue.

So the good? Well, readers of a lay of the land know that I am a huge fan of Hitch's pencils, and as usual, they're terrific. Hitch's level of detail is stunning and his drawings and inanimate objects is of Gerhard quality. In terms of story, this is a decent "first issue". We're introduced to the characters, they each have a moment to shine and be drawn as characters. Millar adds his own style to the character-moments with his idea-infused dialogue. Just like the dialogue written by the God of Comics, people don't talk in hyper-realistic ways, but merely throw concepts and ideas at each other like tennis balls. Which is fine. I don't expect ping-pong Bendis-speak. I'm interested in the Nu-World idea and am intrigued.

The not so good? Yes, even a Millar-Hitch comic can have its missteps. Firstly, Hitch's pencils aren't perfect. Often, my complaint is that Hitch's women have the same face, and often pose constantly. This issue does not alleviate that problem. Another problem is the medium sized panels often appear rushed, as if Hitch spent 80 percent of the time on the larger panels and splash pages than on the small to medium panels. On page 10, panel 3, there's a shot of the blonde teacher saying "This is gonna be the best fun they ever had..." and her eyes are just plain wacky. Just plain wacky. This happens frequently enough to be distracting. That concerns me. If Hitch plans to do 16 issues on schedule, with no delays, then what's going to happen near the end? Will we see a drop-off in quality? Or a filler artist like his run on JLA? Who knows?

My problems with the story is that the Nu-World thing is interesting, but it's not really a conflict or even dramatic. It's just interesting. To compare, in Millar's first issue on Spider-Man, he threw everything at Peter in 22 pages, including a ridiculous fight with the Green Goblin and someone figuring out his identity. It's madcap and sets up 12 issues of pure balls-to-the-wall action. FF 554, however, simply introduces the most famous family in comics, all of whom we're intimately familiar with. Not enough Johnny as well, but that's me.

All in all, I like. I certainly don't hate it, but I don't love it. I recommend it to comic fans, as well as to outsiders and new comic readers. It's a great introduction to the characters.

Join us tomorrow for an especially small Frugal Friday.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bring Me Your Love


Today, Dallas Green's solo project City and Colour released its second album, called Bring Me Your Love, and I'm going to do a track by track review of the album. Before we start, and I am going to admit that City and Colour's first album, Sometimes, remains one of my favourite albums ever released, for many reasons, including Dallas Green's unbelievably amazing voice and his tendency to find the most emotional combination of words and chords. I wouldn't call this "emo" but a lot of people would. I listen to "Sometimes" so much that I had to buy another CD because the first one was too scratched! So will his second album match up to my ridiculously high expectations? Or will it crash and burn like Avenged Sevenfold's 2007 album called Avenged Sevenfold?

Track 1, Forgive Me, 2.08
This is a short little intro song that replicates the structure of the first album. It feels like just Green on guitar and he sings rather plaintively of forgiveness. Sometimes love is just not enough, he says, and when I sing this song, I hope you will forgive me. It's a breakup song about dissolution of love, rather than heartbreak. So far, not so good. I like the simple lyrics, but the music isn't capturing me.

Track 2, Confessions, 3.46
This is a song I've heard before - in concert, and on the live album he released. The album version, however, benefits from full instruments, giving the song a sort of "chain gang song" feel. It's a haunting song about some vague crime that Green feels he committed, possibly infidelity. The chorus is very catchy and emotive. The most striking thing about the song is the end when Green harmonizes with himself and cries out "Cause I don't want to be alone tonight". It's very beautiful, the desperation.

Track 3, The Death of Me, 3.10
This song is a little bit more upbeat and faster than the two previous songs. It's also much wordier than any of the other songs. Drinking can be very healing, the song is about. Drinking helps him forget and helps him sleep at night. But the weight of the world is very heavy and he's always going to feel this way, even with the drink. It's an upbeat song with a great catchy chorus, but it suffers from too many lyrics and too many words. That's not to say that it isn't a good song. It's just not terrific.

Track 4, Body In a Box, 4.12
Possibly my favourite track on the album, this is a faster song more folk sounding than anything else. It's starts out with a beautiful harmonica accompaniment to the guitar, both instruments played by Green on this track. The lyrics are utterly fascinating. It's about the relationship between the deceased and the grieving. The funeral is the best party a man can get, and it "only happens when he dies". The interesting part of this song is the second verse, when Green says "don't you bury me six feet underground, just burn my body in a box and let my ashes blow with the wind - out into the night sky". Gorgeous line, and gorgeous delivery. He manages to make the words "night sky" sound like heaven.

Track 5, Sleeping Sickness, 4.08
This is a duet with Gord Downie from the Tragically Hip, I guess reinforcing the Canadiana aspect. Sleeping Sickness is a terrific song with such a strong acoustic guitar sound. The song is about the power of dreams and how they can eventually control us. Green can't sleep because of what haunts him. The chorus is extremely singalong, "someone come someone come and save my life" is the first line. Downie takes the second verse, singing much more wildly than what is expected. Kind of hard to recognize him, really. But his lower voice matches very sweetly with Dallas' higher voice. A great song.

Track 6, What Makes a Man, 3.26
An unbelievably excellent folk song about Green escaping something, his life, his family, his responsibilities, whatever. The lyrics strike a balance between the strong desire to leave, and the cowardice involved in such an escape. A haunting violin punctuates the chorus, and Green's multilayered vocals stretch back, creating an echo. Very haunting.

Track 7, Waiting, 4.54
The single, and possibly the single-est song of the album. There's a great beat to the acoustic guitar, making you want to clap along. This is a complex song, lyrically. The song is about a breakup, but a breakup that may have been necessary. It's also about the futility of love. What's the point? Why do we do the things we do for love? "There's no need to rush, we're just waiting, waiting to die". This song is what I was talking about before - the combination of carefully chosen lyrics and carefully chosen chords to create that emotional punch. This song also features the best line on the whole album - "It's the little things you miss, like waking up all alone". It says so much.

Track 8, Constant Knot, 4.03
The singalong song, as it were. This track features a ba-ba-ba kind of chorus that ends in group vocals (or gang vocals or oozenahs). A song about worry and panic, it is in stark contrast to the previous song. This is a song about the comfort of love, and sleeping next to the one you love and who gives you strength. Another great line in this song: "a haunted man who can't outrun his ghosts, they're in my skin and my bones". The worries we have, they are a part of us.

Track 9, Against The Grain, 3.46
My least favourite song. This is a simple quiet song with only acoustic guitar and harmonica, sort of in the seventies' sing-songwriter vein. It's very slow and doesn't really do it for me. However, it does have some nice lyrics. No matter what happens and what people say and what you think you need, you must always follow your heart. It's not my favourite song, but it's not terrible.

Track 10, The Girl, 6.00
My second favourite song. This is the same lyrics repeated three times, but in three different arrangements. The first is the classic "emo" style, the second is a fast paced singalong, and the third is a more plaintive and just piano, like a funeral song. Green's thank you in the form of a song to the girl that stood by him through absolutely everything. Since the girl doesn't ask for fancy things, he wrote the song for her. It's a beautiful song and the second part is just such a great mood lifter.

Track 11, Sensible Heart, 3.21
A quiet song about following your heart again. We do many stupid things and we say many stupid things, but we've got to learn to trust that which is "burning bright, oh burning bright, my sensible heart". I love this song. Green's voice is so strong and emotive.

Track 12, As Much As I Ever Could, 5.25
The last track and one of the best. The beginning of the song is just oohs and ahhs as a chorus of Greens sing. Then the song begins slowly, with a long intro. Once the lyrics start, it stays quiet and slow, as Green sings of coming back to his lover, across great distance and a metaphorical storm. The chorus is like relief from the sadness of the verses. He pleads, "Bring me your love tonight. So shine a light and guide me back home". The oohs and ahhs return like Chekov's gun, this time in the background, creating an multilayered effect that's so beautiful. And then the oohs and ahhs end the song, and end the album.

Okay, so what do we say? Well... yes, this album is terrific. Dallas Green's power of emotion and songwriting continues to wow me. I thought that he would never top Sometimes. He doesn't overtake Sometimes, but Bring Me Your Love is certainly the equal. At times, heartbreaking, at other times, a moment of glory for love. It's such a tight collection of love songs.

Highly recommended.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Jeez. That's too bad.

Mark Evanier is sad to say that legendary creator Steve Gerber died. That's such a shame. Evanier is taking over Gerber's blog. Words kind of fail me.

A nice surprise movie-wise (a rhyming title!)

Did you know that there is a film being made of The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis? Well I sure didn't. I found out via Wikipedia, greatest source of information this side of Google.

It turns out that the film has finished filming, and is in post-production, but has yet to have an official release date announced. I'm not 100 percent sure if even the film has a studio to distribute. Either way, this is good news. Anything new to do with Bret Easton Ellis is a good thing.

Pretty much
The Informers is a depressing collection of sort-of-not-really interconnected short stories that Ellis wrote around 1985 before being published with Less Than Zero. The stories are sparse and minimalist, and you can definitely feel Ellis' journalism training at work. On the other hand, there's also a definite amateurish feel to the stories, in particular, the one about the pseudo-vampire is unappealing and uninteresting. Ellis' epistolary story is also terribly dry and boring. There are, however, a couple gems that hit the right chords emotionally and, in terms of fiction, technically. The story about the dudes remembering their dead friend is especially good, very complex in dialogue and in theme. I would say about half the stories are worth reading. The other half... well not so much.

So a film based on this "novel" would be one of those movies in the "hyper-link" style, that is to say, an ensemble cast that interconnects in a variety of ways. This "hyper-link" cinema is a new term that describes the Altman style of plot: wide and disparate. I don't much care for the term "hyper-link" as it makes me think of navigation. Rather, these films should be called multilinear films. Or just simply "Altman-esque" as it used to be called when P. T. Anderson was making flicks.

The cast of
The Informers seems kind of cool: Billy Bob Thornton, Christina Ricci, Rhys Ifans, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke, Brandon Routh. There's also Chris Isaak, whom I'm always pleasantly surprised by when acting.

Here's the poster. I don't much care for it but I understand what it's going for. It's too robotic rather than mannequin-ish.
So I guess we shall see sometime in the future. I will probably post something about Ellis' film adaptations closer to when this movie comes out. Ellis and film have an interesting relationship....

Dave Sim and "Latter Days"


Spoilers for
Cerebus up to the middle of the "Latter Days" phonebook.

Okay, so I'm finally working on finishing this massive story since I dropped off during the "Form and Void" phonebook. I finished that the other night and started working on "Latter Days". If you can't remember what that means, let me bring you up to speed.

Cerebus has driven Jaka off and he started looking for a pub to kill himself in. He works as a sheep-herder for a couple years, getting fat, while peeping on the landlady. Eventually he's driven out after the landlady's husband realizes Cerebus is peeping. Then Cerebus finds himself playing Five Bar Gate, Sim's wholly confusing hockey parallel. To show the passage of time, decades, Sim has Cerebus go up against Paul "Coffee" Annan, the unbeatable champ (notice the joke name?). Every year Cerebus loses by shut-out and every year Cerebus goes back.

Then Cerebus takes his not-so-small fortune and buys himself a "titty bar" but he runs out of money. He's calling himself "Fred" at this point for a number of reasons. One, the Cirinists will probably kill him, and two, Cerebus is his dead father's name.

Cerebus is in the bar drinking when one of the Three Wise Fellows comes along, aka Curly from the Three Stooges. Apparently this is all foretold in the Book of Rick, a physical book of prophecy and eschatology. So the Three Wise Fellows (a reference to three Wise Men and three Stooges) kidnap Cerebus and hope to extract the word of truth from him. But everything Cerebus says is discounted, as being demon-talk.

Cerebus finally figures out what to say in order for Mosher, Losher and Kosher (the Three Wise Fellows' name) to release him. It's essentially a battle strategy to have hunting lodges execute the Cirinists. So Dave Sim, who has already gone public with his beliefs on the inequality of the sexes, has Cerebus manipulate the men into murdered thousands of Cirinist women. Thousands.

Cerebus meets Todd "Far Lane" McSpawn who is his arch-rival who is controlling the easily manipulated crowd. In order to win them over completely, Cerebus invents a demon, and gets himself in costume. The result? Cerebus dressed like Todd McFarlane's Spawn and calling himself Spore.

Here's where I have my problems. Well, I've had lots of problems with
Cerebus, but here's where I actually was shocked and appalled.

Spore tells the men to gather all the non-Cirinist women (aka the normal women) and then vote on each and every one to see if they are Angels (or normal women), or scorpion/viper/snake. If the woman is voted as being something other than Angel, she is executed. I am not joking. Cerebus tells the men, mostly idiots, to execute the women if they don't like them. So the first woman to go is a bitch obviously. Another one to go is an emasculating harpy. But the pretty sexy ones get to stay!

I flipped to the back of the phonebook in which Sim relays his copious notes on the making-of. He says that he's not seriously advocating this nonsense, and that it's satire, like Jonathan Swift and "A Modest Proposal". It's all for jokes and to show how amoral Cerebus really is.

Ooookay. But in the notes, Sim admits that the shrieking harpy has no place and should be out the door. Seriously?

It's one thing to say that women are not equal to men and they shouldn't be. It's another thing to say that bitches and harpies have no place in society. I will allow Sim his opinion. I respect Sim's talents as writer, artists, letterer, self-publisher, etc, but this is ridiculous. I knew going into Cerebus that Sim was off the wall, but I didn't realize he was that off the wall.

Even allowing for the execution of the women to be satire, it's still disconcerting considering more than once that Sim has said that Cerebus "stands" for Sim himself. In fact, he says so in the same set of notes as the ones aforementioned.

I loved Cerebus up to the "Melmoth" phonebook. It was complex, it was engaging, it was beautifully drawn. But after "Melmoth" the story stopped interesting me. I wasn't really into Cerebus' war against Cirinists. However, "Going Home" and "Form and Void" were very good for the Jaka-Cerebus relationship, how both of them aren't really meant for each other, how both of them are immature disrespectful children. That was the interesting part, not the "let's just kill the women" idea that Sim is not actually putting forth but kind of is.

I will finish Cerebus. I will do it. I like Sim's artistry enough to continue and conclude.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fandom, etc.

I came across this piece by Ken Lowery the other day, and it struck me as being rather... hysterical. If you don't want to read the piece, I will sum it up for you. Lowery doesn't like the obsessive super-fan that feels a sense of entitlement and ownership with their favourite intellectual properties that do not belong to them. Here is Lowery's pointed criteria:
They likely have a fandom-related nickname. A pet named after a character. More than three t-shirts related to their fandom. They’ve been to conventions. Met some of the creators, actors, or what have you. Because they seek out their kind – partly to discuss their fandom in relative safety, and there’s nothing wrong with that – they often find themselves in like-minded echo chambers with no checks or balances to tell them when they’re getting a little, you know, weird. Your average Wookiee Appreciation forum is just one tentative post away from becoming a furry enclave.
Which means that I fit Lowery's definition of a super-fan (other than the pet thing - my pet has a particularly historical reference for a name). This is where it gets a little hysterical though. Notice that Lowery is concerned with super-fans discussing and appreciating and dissecting the property in the safety of the anonymous internet, where there is no reality stopping us from discussing the minutiae. We would argue infinitely.

Lowery's major point is that the super-fans are very possessive and feel a sense of ownership. When a creator or writer mishandles the character or situation, and by mishandle, I suppose it means have the character act differently than before, or what have you, then the super-fan spews vitriol on messageboards, boycotting it or personally insulting the creator. Example? Sure, why not? Okay a good example is calling Dan Didio a "didiot". Or something about Joe Quesada in relation to the events from "One More Day" - which I probably won't waste your time on.

Lowery says that when the property is handled in a way that doesn't jive with the fans, they become defensive and often threaten the creator. Really? Is that what he's saying? Quote, please:
The threat is clear: We’re the kind of people with the blind devotion that can turn a thoroughly mediocre movie like Serenity into a cult classic, but if you cross us, we’ll take it all away again. That the fans never follow through with those threats is beside the point. It’s all about caustic rhetoric and the illusion of wielding the power in the relationship.
Okay. But threats are still threats, Mr Lowery. So super-fans are dangerous is what you're saying.

Lowery spends some time showing us that the creators are in a lose-lose situation. If the creator chooses to play ball, then the fans will be outraged with the mistreatment or whatever. If the creator doesn't interact with the fans, such as in Lowery's example of the producer of the new Doctor Who series, then there's a backlash and the threats come again.

Lowery sums it up by advising creators to simply not engage with the fans. At all. "You cannot win with a super-fan," he says.

I may be incorrect for pointing this out, but there's a reason why the super-fans feel a sense of entitlement. I'm not justifying it or anything, but here's the reason. Because we are the consumers and through the almighty dollar, we purchase and consume the goods presented to us by the creators. The producer of the goods has a responsibility to the consumer that the goods are not pure crap.

However! However, there's a fine line to be seen. Sure, the consumers deserve the product they were promised. Sure, the producers have a responsibility to the consumer. But the consumers do not own the goods as the goods we're talking about are intellectual. So the super-fans deserve to demand the best product that they're paying for, but on the other hand, the threats and sense of horror when something is slightly different is out of order.

I understand what Lowery is saying. The obsessive super-fans are far too obsessive and forget that they don't own the publishing rights to Spider-Man or what have you, and since they don't own the rights, the real owners of the rights can do whatever the f*&$ they want.

Here's my beef with Lowery, though. The obsessive super-fans are not the entire market of the intellectual properties that we're talking about. They represent only a piece of the overall market, only one demographic. The obsessive super-fans are just that - obsessive.

A comment on the page put it much better than I could. This comes from C. A. Bridges and he replies

So may I suggest that the problem isn’t with fans as a group at all, even superfans, but with obsessive people? Every group, EVERY group has a class of people in it who go too far, who think they have more power than they do (or should). Sports fans who post threats at coaches, or riot in the streets when their team wins. Church members who run everything and begin to ostracize those who don’t recognize their status. People in the workplace with exaggerated notions of their own power, usually because they haven’t got any.

Sure there are fans who go too far, who demand too much. But it’s possible to condemn them without mocking the fans who don’t. I suppose it’s a lot easier to laugh at someone in a costume at a con, but it’s a damn lazy argument.

Very well put, Mr Bridges.

There has to be a spectrum of fandom, then. I am a super-fan who obsessively nitpicks over details of things. I am a super-fan who has gone to cons and has met creators, etc. I have written messageboard posts and blogposts which contained pure vitriol for something utterly frivolous (such as my complete loathing of Ultimates 3). But I do not make threats or boycotts. I do have a healthy sense of reality. In fact, I would say that most of Internetdom has a healthy sense of reality. It's the minority that gives fandom a bad name.

Lowery pays lip-service to a fan-spectrum at the beginning of his post, making it seem like he's one of the boys, but sane. I don't think his idea of moderate fandom is nuanced enough. There's much more than the obsessive and the apathetic moderate that he claims to be.

Such as myself, and such as most of the people on the Internet.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sigh Redux

It's minus 50 again tonight. Sigh.

I met this girl a couple weeks ago from Thompson, Manitoba. And, as kids, they went to school when it was minus 60 with the windchill. That's in Celsius for you. You want it in Fahrenheit? That's minus 76F!!! Outrageous!

What the f*&$, Teletoon?


So Teletoon Retro... what the f*&%? What's happening here? I found out about this channel back before Christmas and I wanted it so bad. The old cartoons are so good - but not really good enough to be purchasing on the digital video discs - or DVDs as the young'uns call 'em.

Shows on Teletoon Retro run from awesome to predictable to "why?". The awesome? Rocket Robin Hood, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show, The Racoons. The predictable? The Jetsons and Flintstones - both shows aren't that great. The "why?" section is filled with great "retro" shows as Barney, Arthur, Blue's Clues, and The Tom and Jerry Show, which is easily one of the worst animated duos in the history of animation. They're terrible, boring and tedious.

But wait. Yes, you don't have to rub your eyes, you saw right. I said Barney and Friends and I said Blue's Clues.

When I say "Teletoon Retro" what does that make you think? Older cartoons, the classic cartoons from the sixties and seventies that are no longer omnipresent on television. So in what universe does Barney and Blue's Clues fit that aforementioned criteria? First of all, they're not really retro. They're kind of old cause they're from the nineties but retro? I think not. And secondly, and possibly more important, they're not CARTOONS.

BUT, I will say this... they do have The Animaniacs coming later in February. So yay.

Here's some shows I would like to see on Teletoon Retro:
The Mighty Hercules, Freakazoid, Jem, G. I. Joe, Transformers, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, The Real Ghostbusters (the one with Slimer), The Ghostbusters (the one with the ape), Ren and Stimpy, etc.

Here's something I would also like to see more of: Silly Symphonies from Disney. Why aren't those on tv? Why isn't the Magical World of Disney on anymore on Sundays? I remember when they used to play those Goofy "how-to's", like "How To Drive" and the Goofy character was guilty of road rage. But this is a tangent.

So, Teletoon Retro, listen up. I don't care HOW expensive it is to buy the tv rights to these shows, go out and buy them so I can watch The Mighty Hercules on tv rather than on YouTube!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Frugal Fridays!

In a new continuing spot, "a lay of the land" is going to be looking at the crap I buy when it's Friday, and I get my tips from work. The tips usually come in an envelope with my delicious name and my delicious cash. So I went to my local comic book shops and bought some stuff I didn't need.
  1. Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 19: Death of a Goblin
  2. Thor Visionaries: Walt Simonson Volume 5
  3. Wildcats Version 3.0 - issues 1 through 20
  4. Crecy
  5. Elektra: Assassin - issues 1 through 8.
  6. FREE BONUS: A poster of the first issue of Fantastic Four 554, Millar and Hitch's first issue on the title. Squee!
  7. BONUS: A look at Dave Sim's new glamourpuss the preview edition that I couldn't let leave the shop owner's sight.
So let's take a look, shall we?

First up, Bendis and Immonen's first full arc together on Ultimate Spider-Man. This is a title that I only read in trade, and I own all the trades - all 19! I am a huge fan of Bendis and his work on USM has been nothing short of tremendous. Nobody is writing Spider-Man better right now. I've never been a huge Bagley fan, as I find his people too skinny or too fat, but his expressive faces definitely sell Bendis' angst. So I'm almost over-joyed to read Immonen, a terrific artist (Nextwave, Final Night - an underrated DC event), on this title. There's one panel where Kitty watches Pete swing away and her facial expression gives me more info than five panels of dialogue. So how about the story on this one? Well, it's kind of a re-tread of the Ultimate Six story and the original Goblin story, but the absence of Samuel L Jackson Nick Fury makes the situation more complex for little ol' Pete. We also get further development of Aunt May's romance with Snidely Whiplash Miles Warren, who at the moment of crisis, leaves in a very obvious bit of foreshadowing. Regardless, Bendis has both Osborns make an appearance and still manages to make both three dimensional. And this is saying a lot considering how frigging crazy Norman Osborn is. So there you have it. Death of a Goblin? Yes, recommended for fans of USM and slash or Bendis.

Next up is Thor Visionaries: Walt Simonson Volume 5. I will get to this in a later post, but I will say this. This volume carries the issue in which Thor takes on the world-serpent and it's 22 pages of splash pages. This is the comic that blew my face off Arseface-style.

Joe Casey's run on Wildcats is about branding and about consumerism, and I'd always heard good things about it, so I picked up a set for 25 bones. First off, I love the covers and I think they were designed by Rian Hughes, which is terrific. I haven't read any Wildcats since they were an X-Men ripoff. In fact, if I remember correctly, the last issue I read was Alan Moore's crossover between Spawn and Wildcats. That series was the worst pile of garbage ever produced by Moore. Ever. No hyperbole. It's not even good as an interesting failure. But anyway, Version 3.0 puts the Wildcats in less "superhero" antics and in more "political" and "social" contexts. I haven't finished it yet, but so far so good.

Warren Ellis' Crecy is probably my favourite single comic of 2007. I read a lot of comics, including the awesome Sinestro Corps War crossover and World War Hulk and the Perry Bible Fellowship, but Crecy tops them all. It's such a weird little comic. It features a main character and really the only one, and he speaks directly to the audience with knowledge of the future. So let me put it into other words - imagine if Warren Ellis time traveled to 1346 and dictated to a group of comic book readers ignorant of history. And it's really funny and interesting and a great read. Highly recommended.

Bill Sienkiewicz is a phenomenon. His work on Frank Miller's Elektra: Assassin is unparalleled except for maybe Dave McKean's covers on Sandman or David Mack's Kabuki. But back in the day, nobody was doing what he was doing. I used to be a huge Frank Miller fan until I grew up, so I mostly bought this for Sienkiewicz's art more so than Miller's bizarre fascination with ninjas. I haven't finished, but so far, it's very modernist and postmodernist at the same time. Very multimedia, but with a heavy slant on stream of consciousness a la Henry James. Yeah that's right, I just compared the writer of Booze, Broads and Bullets with the Master. I don't think I would recommend this to anybody other than a fan of Miller or Sienkiewicz.

glamourpuss is interesting. It's very beautiful to look at. Dave Sim can draw the shit out of anything I think. As a comic book? I don't know, I didn't really get a chance to read it. There's no real story or anything. It's just a bunch of meandering thoughts about random things from Sim, including pontifications on the realist style in comic books. It's all very interesting, and I will buy it, but it's no Cerebus yet.

Oh and a final note. Squee for Millar and Hitch on Fantastic Four. At first, in 2008, I was more excited for Grant Morrison and J. G. Jones on Final Crisis, but screw that! We've got Millar and we've got Hitch on the premiere Marvel title. Sign me up. My local comic shop was kind enough to give me a poster of the cover of issue 554 with the new magazine-style trade dress that the issues will carry. I feel fifty-fifty on the magazine style thing. On one hand, I enjoy the simple design - on the other hand, I don't like that its embarrassed to be a comic book rather than a magazine. But I guess we'll see.

So the first "Frugal Fridays" segment has ended! Join us next week for another installment, when I review the aforementioned reunion of Millar and Hitch. Squee.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

When the movies have better posters

I came across this on the net today and I had to share it. Remember when I was posting about the new James Bond film, its title, and its weird poster that I changed. Maybe somebody out there heard my rant cause they just released a teaser poster. Well maybe. I'm not 100 percent sure it's real, but if so, I like. Here's where you can find the info on it. And here's the poster.
(Click to embiggen)
Now that's frigging design.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Back and Forth: Stretch's Story


Hey. Let's gab. You and I. Let's have a chinwag about the single best issue of Fantastic Four. I'm talking about issue number 352, written and drawn by Walt Simonson. Now, to be fair, I haven't read every single issue of Fantastic Four, but I have read a lot, including the entire Kirby/Lee run and the entire Byrne run, and of course, the entire Simonson run.

Walt Simonson's run on Fantastic Four was relatively short, spanning only from issue 334 to 354 (not even twenty issues because there's two filler issues). The overall story is about time and time travel. Spinning out of events from Simonson's short Avengers run, we follow the Fantastic Four plus a humanized Ben Grimm (and special guests Iron Man and Thor) as they travel to a time bubble where Galactus is going to eat the entire universe or something like that. Just like other Simonson stories, this is epic rock n roll stuff just barreling along like a stern-faced freight train with pointy feet

Near the end of the run, Sharon Ventura, the "she-thing" has gone to Doctor Doom to try and have him reverse the horrible mutation she's gone through. Doom is successful only because he merges science with sorcery (a bad combo like ketchup and rice). The remaining Four attack Doom's castle in Latveria, but Doom is ready for them, and takes them each out. The important one is that Reed gets trapped in a room with no openings that gets progressively smaller.

But somehow he escapes very mysteriously, and he confronts Doom who challenges him to a final duel, using time-sequencers that allow them to slip between the seconds. And that ends issue 350 and the next issue is a craptacular filler issue, and then we come to 352.

You've never read a comic book like this. Ever. Simonson does something so interesting that it's hard to describe. The first three pages of the story set up the duel. Doom explains what is going to happen and then demonstrates by moving forward in time and displacing himself, so in a split second he's behind Reed, but Reed ain't no dummy and adapts to the new method of battle quickly.
So that's how it works. Reed and Doom begin fighting through time, through the space of about 40 minutes. The page is split in two for the remaining book. On the left is regular time, in colour, of the Fantastic Four waking up from their traps and wondering what the heck is going on. The other half of the page is displaced time, in sketchy black and white, of Doom and Reed duking it out. Here's what it looks like. But that's not all. Notice on the page that there are two different time stamps. The left side of the page runs in linear time, so the next page is 1:33 am, but only on the left side. On the next page, the displaced time might be 1:08 am. The trick here is to NOT read the comic book from beginning to end as normal. You read the left side first, then go back to the beginning of the book and read the right side starting normal, but when Reed and Doom fight at 1:33 am and then jump to 1:08 am, you have to flip back to the page where on the left side, it says 1:08 am. Get it? Reed and Doom's fight does not take them in a linear fashion through the comic. If you try to read it like a normal book, you will be confused.

This book is so awesome, that the cover is even part of the fight. At 1:34 am, Doom blasts Reed with a "full power thermo-blast", but Reed deflects the energy to 12:33 am, which is the instance in which Reed is freed from his ever-shrinking room and is in a whole other comic book - issue 350!
Oh. My. God. That's frigging genius. Remember that I said it was a mystery how he escaped? Yeah, a blast of energy from the future freed him, which is the scene on the cover. So think about that for a second. Reed is trapped in this tiny room about to die, then a strange energy blast saves him. Normally Reed would be thinking, "Why did that happen? Why did Doom allow me to escape?" and then he goes to confront Doom. Reed is so frigging smart that he chooses not to ask Doom why he escaped, or tell Doom at all how he escaped. So Reed had to have planned it exactly that he would have to send the blast back in time. It's a self-contained causality loop that makes my brains leak out of my ears. Awesome.

Doom is defeated eventually and it turns out to be not Doom, but Kristoff who is blasted by the Time Variance Authority, an eternal and infinite office that keeps an eye on time's delicate state. It seems that the Fantastic Four are guilty of f*&$ing with the timestream and are to be placed on trial. They're whisked off to the offices for the trial and that's the end of the issue.

This sh*t is off the hook. Only Simonson could have drawn this crazed back and forth non-linear epic battle between Earth-616's greatest minds. Can you imagine Mister Terrific and Reed Richards getting together? Not even Doom would be able to keep up. Anyway...
So that's the story of issue 352 of the "world's most confusing comic magazine"

Here's Bully The Little Stuffed Bull's post on Friday Night Fights and here's a Time magazine article on 352 and here's Dave Campbell's post on issue 350.

Enjoy!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

An authoritative team: part 2

In a previous exciting installment of "a lay of the land" I articulated why it is that The Authority kicks so much frigging ass, the book and the team. I briefly mentioned that The Authority rises above common measurements of awesomeness. A graph or two may have been produced.

I kind of skipped over Mark Millar and Frank Quitely's run on The Authority. I didn't really get into any specifics rather than the Goliath guy got his legs cut off and his head blowed up real good (and then I made a great pun - c'est la vie). I skipped over this run because it was published in a pretty wacky way and was censored and had fill-in artists. Never a good sign. Unless it's Sal Buscema filling in for Walt Simonson.

After Millar and Quitely was a good run by Robbie Morrison and Dwayne Turner. Good writing and good pencils. But it's not Ellis and Hitch. Everybody after Ellis and Millar seemed to forget that The Authority wasn't a comic book you took seriously. This was a comic book in which Jack Hawksmoor says that he hasn't punched anybody in the brains in awhile (yes!).

At the end of Morrison's run came the company-wide crossover called Coup D'Etat, in which The Authority stage a coup and take over the U.S. government. First, a little background. What had been subtly developed by all the aforementioned writers was the Authority's exhaustion with cleaning up after mad governments and ignorant dictators. They had been sieged by a replacement Authority and a psycho hillbilly with a million powers, some that didn't have any name, and they were all put into place by governments to rid the world of the danger that The Authority posed. And it's a serious f*$&ing danger (remember that the Midnighter took out an island using the Carrier). So The Authority got tired of the sh*t being thrown at them. So they took over.

The Coup D'Etat miniseries took each major Wildstorm title and looked the Authority (the team) from that specific title's point of view. So there was an issue that had Stormwatch: Team Achilles dealing with the threat of The Authority seating themselves in the White House, and another issue with Wildcats looking at The Authority. It's a neat little miniseries, but it doesn't have the epic awesomeness that I was looking for. Nobody had yet fulfilled the promise of Ellis and Hitch.

Until Brubaker came along. The third volume of the Authority is actually a twelve issue miniseries called "The Authority: Revolution". Its themes are a-plenty, and its violence is a-awesome. The idea is that as leaders of government, their throne isn't set in stone. Other superheroes, seeing The Authority as villains, attempt to create revolution. While on the flipside, there's the spirit of Henry Bendix, the architect of Stormwatch (the team that The Authority grew out of) and primo supervillain. I don't want to spoil the crazy twists and turns that the story takes, but this "Revolution" maxiseries is balls to the wall with plot and action. It's not as grand as the first 12 issues of the series, and the stakes don't seem as high, but it's balls to the wall, and that's the most that you can ask for.

Now after this "Revolution" there was a bit of a quiet period in the lives of The Authority. Then, the God of All Comics, Grant Morrison, was announced as writing fourth volume of The Authority. Oh - my - god. That was the best news I had ever heard. Imagine Morrison's JLA (which has tear-inducing levels of face-kicking awesomeness) and multiply that by seventeen and three quarters. Yeah, that's right.

But tragedy befalls the story. Only two issues come out. Sigh. Morrison's schedule is too busy, as he's trying to make the DC universe into a living organism, or whatever nonsense he's doing.

Now we have "The Authority: Prime" which I haven't read because the covers are so ugly and I am going to wait until it's collected in a trade.

Sometime in the future, I will take a closer look at Millar and Quitely's run, and inspect it for the minutiae of awesome, but that will have to wait. Tomorrow I am going to take a look at one single issue in Walt Simonson's Fantastic Four run. One issue that rivals entire comic book series and the whole bibliography of Hemingway and Kafka combined. So just wait.

Dear Marvel

So, in my last post about the Authority, I attempted to measure the awesomeness of The Authority versus things such as Kill Bill, DC's Countdown and Walt Simonson's run on Thor, which is also awesome. Simonson's run on Thor is the second-best thing I've ever laid eyes on (Authority being top dog)

I own most of it in back issues and most of it in nice recoloured fancy dan trade paperbacks that I had to beg borrow and steal to find. Out of the four that are available, only two are in print, and the fifth one is due in stores in February.

Here are the Amazon links:
Marvel, heed my words. You need to fix this. First of all, the first volume needs to reprinted and re-coloured at the same level of quality as the other volumes. It's printed on cheaper paper and looks like the original comics. Secondly, you need to put the second and third volume back in print so that people who buy the first can continue the story.

In order to get the third volume, I had to drive 8 hours to Regina to a comic book store and pay 30 bucks for it. Well, that's not true. I happened to be Regina and went into the store on a whim, and there it was. But that's besides the point. It's crazy!

So Marvel, get your heads out of the sand and put these into print. There are far too many trades that have slipped out of the realm of possibility.

Here's another thing. You have Simonson's run on the Fantastic Four as volume one of the Visionaries line. Okay so where the hell is the next volume? It's been almost a year since you printed that. And the run doesn't get better until the second half.

Okay? Okay? Well get on it.

EDIT: So I went to the local comic shop to check out the new releases and there, on the shelf, is Volume 5, fifteen whole days before it's supposed to be in shops. I didn't ask why, I picked it up. God I love re-colourings!

Friday, February 1, 2008

An authoritative team: part 1


The Authority was created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. And it's awesome. It's more awesome than anything has ever been. The Authority's awesomeness cannot be matched nor will be. You can click on the image for the pure scientific proof that The Authority has what it takes. It even beats Simonson's run on Thor... if you can believe it....

The series spins out of Warren Ellis' run on Stormwatch... which I don't like. It's too all over the place and incoherent. It lacks the simplicity and the power of The Authority. Even though it was only twelve issues long, Ellis and Hitch on The Authority have proven to be more powerful than Greyskull and Fortress Maximus combined. Yes, another graph may have to be created....

Essentially there's Jenny Sparks, the spirit of the 20th century and a bitch. There's Jack Hawksmoor who is the god of cities. There's the Doctor, a shaman that has all the knowledge of all the previous Doctors in the world's history. The Doctor is a Dutch heroin addict, as well. The science-y spot is filled (deliciously) by the Engineer, who replaced her blood with million of nanites that act as liquid metal over her (naked) skin. She has mental control over the nanites and uses it to form machinery or turbines for flight or a spacesuit. Rounding out the team is Apollo and Midnighter, the Superman-Batman analogues.

The team flew around on this larger than possible spaceship called The Carrier which was able to slip between dimensions into that which ties the dimensions together, The Bleed. The Carrier's teleportation system allowed the Authority to be anywhere at anytime.

The Authority is a combination of next-level plots of superheroes, political commentary, and pure ass-kicking.
This is how real superheroes would act is what Ellis and Hitch are saying.

My two favourite characters are Hawksmoor and the Midnighter. For evidence of Hawksmoor's awesomeness, click the image above for grandiose Hitch-pencilled punching. The Midnighter is Wildstorm's Batman character: he's dark, he's not born with powers, and he's hardcore to the max. He has all these implants that have been installed in him that give him enhanced mental abilities. The most famous of all is his "fight simulator". Once an opponent has made a move, Midnighter can calculate a million ways to beat his opponent.

Look at him standing over that guy's broken body. He's badass. He's more badass than Batman. In the first story arc of The Authority, this crazed Asian warlord has built a non-stop army of superpowered clones. He is carving the family symbol into the Earth by attacking certain cities. His island is impenetrable because of a forceshield. So, Midnighter gets an idea. He thinks, "it's like my father once said. Hit the soft parts with your hand - hit the hard parts with a utensil." So in order to take down the Asian warlord's cloning factory tower, Midnighter teleports the entire Carrier into the forcefield. Yeah. That's right. That's sort of similar to Batman using the JLA satellite to hit something. Sort of. Except imagine if the JLA satellite was the size of Texas. That's f*$&ing hardcore.

(Click the image to magnify the Carrier versus tower fight.)

Also, the Midnighter and Apollo are a married couple. Yeah. I guess it was done as a shock or something, but I was actually cheering for them when they kissed for the first time and when they adopted a baby. While it was begun as a cheap trick, it ended up being something altogether sweeter.

Each arc in the Ellis/Hitch run is four issues long. There's not a lot of plot happening. Bad guy is introduced, the Authority is momentarily beaten, then the sh*t hits the fan and The Authority sprays blood and gore all over the streets. Literally. But each arc builds on the next. The first arc is the Asian guy and his clones. The second arc is a British-alien invasion from an alternate timeline. It's has some pretty great Jenny Sparks action. The third arc is my favourite and the most high stakes. The owner and creator of Earth has come home. It's this crazy pyramid that dwarfs the sun and it's come home to take back possession.

(Click to create big the image of God)

So The Authority, they take the Carrier and travel into the thing and head to the "brain" or "central nervous system" of the thing. This is my favourite arc because the stakes are the highest they could possibly be, and it also finally finishes the Jenny Sparks story that had been building for the two previous arcs.


Above is the best panel from the last arc, which kind of spoils the ending, but is awesome for its Ellis-ian dialogue and is the perfect reason why the awesomeness of The Authority can't be matched.

The Ellis and Hitch run was ended with those twelve issues. But the story of The Authority isn't done. Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, both collaborators of the God of Comics (or Grant Morrison as he's more commonly called), came together for a huge f*&% you to everything. Instead of playing it subtle or quiet, Millar and Quitely threw everything at The Authority, including an Avengers parallel. But The Authority took them down a peg. Check out this poor Giant-Man analogue:


Yeahhhh.... they took him down a peg - heh heh. That's why The Authority are awesome.

Millar took the team in more political directions, taking potshots at the current American government and their president. Millar also made it much more violent and profane than before, and outed both Apollo and Midnighter, which had only been danced around before.

After Millar and Quitely's censored and delayed run, there was a couple of filler arcs, scattered between issues. They're satisfactory. The major filler arc details the dissolution of the goverment-sponsored replacement Authority. They don't last long. Also, Midnighter kicks their asses. A lot.

Then, volume 2 of the Authority started with Robbie Morrison and Dwayne Turner helming it. They had an enjoyable run. They take on a multi-dimensional corporation and they take on a superhuman with the ability to create utter devotion from all humans, who had installed himself as messiah.

But then the Authority has had enough with madmen and mad governments. And they decide to take power - with explosive and bloody results, and the beginning of Ed Brubaker's great run. I will continue with the sheer awesomeness of Authority tomorrow.