Saturday, May 31, 2008

Frugal Fridays!

Yes. Yes. Yes. I have done very well this week. California is coming up real fast, so I have to stay on budget as best as I can. And I did this week.

I made one purchase. Enigma by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo. And I haven't finished reading it yet. I'm about halfway and it's fairly entertaining, a good metafictional look at superheroes in a realistic world. It's like Grant Morrison but without the pop!


Other than that, I went to dinner a couple times, but the g/f is getting half of that, and I put gas in my car and I had some beers last night. Otherwise, I'm doing really good. I have to purchase Final Crisis 1, but that's not included in this week considering I've been working so much that I haven't had a chance to swing by the comic book shop. OH well. That's probably a good thing.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Final Crisis 1


It's here. The supposedly final Crisis, and this time it's written by Grant Morrison and drawn by J. G. Jones. So is it any good? Well, I'm not going to talk any spoilers in this blog post, which is uncommon for me, so if you wanna know what happens, go buy the issue.

As he said in interviews, Morrison opens the issue with Anthro the Cave Boy and ends with Kamandi the Last Boy, which is a neat little thing. He also has the death of a major DC character (happen off-page, no less) and the death of a former JLAer from Morrison's own JLA run. There's lots of quick Morrison style dialogue and the two villains, Libra and the Human Flame are fleshed out very slightly.

Other than Morrison's own fast pacing on the book, there is nothing really new to this issue. I haven't seen anything happen that I hadn't already seen in the past two years in DC. The gathering of the villains? Check. The death of a major DC character? Check. The appearance of a bunch of Monitors? Check. It's all been done, but at least this time it's being done by the one-two punch of Morrison and Jones.

Jones' art is terrific on this issue. There's only one panel (a face shot of Superman at a weird angle) that I didn't think was gorgeous and was simply mediocre. The rest of the art is worthy of a bucketful of superlatives.

I really liked this issue, just because it made me excited for the next issue. In comparison to
Secret Invasion, the sh*t doesn't really hit the fan, but that's not Morrison's style on event comics. Every piece of the puzzle has to be put into place, then he unleashes, like with Rock of Ages or World War III.

So if you wanna know what happens, go buy the issue. It's totally worth it. I look forward to next month's issue. Hopefully it ain't late.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My comic book wish list

So I have no money. Well at least no money to spend on comics. So I thought I'd make a huge list of what comics I want. There's some expensive things, and some cheap things, and some stupid things, too. Here we go.

The Basics:

First off, I need volumes 10, 11, and 12 of 100 Bullets. I currently have volumes 1 through 9, and I love this series. Neo-noir? Suspense? Thriller? Sociological examination of morality in the lower echelons? Who knows? This is a great series that's heading into the final stretch. I really want to keep up.

I really want volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4 of Image Comics' Godland. I've heard such cool things about this series, and what art I've seen makes me want it so bad. It's Kirby, the king of comics.

The last trade of Y The Last Man would be nice. I have the first 9 already.

And I love Fables, but I've never owned a single trade. None of the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 volumes.

I have the complete Starman that I absolutely love, and there's a spin-off mini-series called The Shade that's also written by James Robinson. It also has art from J. H. Williams III and Michael Zulli, who are f*%&ing awesome.

We all know I'm looking for the complete Garth Ennis in my collection. Missing from said collection are two major Ennis works: his run on Hellblazer, and his run on Hitman. The problem is that both runs are not collected completely. This is especially true of Hitman, which ran for 60 something issues and only 30 are collected. In terms of Hellblazer, there are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 trades, but of course, two are out of print. Super frustrating.

The Expensive:

I want all 1, 2, 3, 4 hardcovers of Jack Kirby's Fourth World series. It's not even up for debate. I want these so bad. I just don't understand why they're so expensive. It's just cheap newsprint. But I want them. Really badly.

Even though I have the 10 Sandman trades, I want the 1, 2, 3, 4 Absolute Editions. I didn't think I was going to love Sandman as much as I did and now that these gorgeously re-coloured editions are out, I want them bad.

It seems almost cliched to enjoy Frank Miller, but that doesn't mean I don't want the Absolute Edition of The Dark Knight (which I own in trade form already), 300 (which I've never read), and the 1, 2 Daredevil hardcovers (which collects stuff I have already)

Speaking of Daredevil, stupid Marvel is making an omnibus of Bendis and Maleev's run on Daredevil. This is frustrating because I specifically waited to not buy the hardcovers so I could that omnibus, but I was told it would probably never happen. So now I have the hardcovers.

I mean, there's a ton more, but at least I have a nice list going. So if you feel like buying me something, put it in the comments... wait - you don't want to buy me anything? Why not?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Frugal Fridays!

Yes, I missed last week's Frugal Friday! and I don't wanna talk about it. This week, I tried to keep within my budget and sort of succeeded. I only purchased four things, other than Subway on one day and dinner at Kelsey's another.

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
Blaze by Richard Bachman
Lisey's Story by Stephen King
Fantastic Four 557
tickets to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Unknown Soldier issues 1 through 4 by Garth Ennis

Uh yeah. So I'm finished for comics for this month, as there's nothing else coming out that I want, and neither for the first little bit of June when the final trade for Y The Last Man comes out. Also I'm saving for California.

So I got Blaze in hardcover because I hate the long paperback style for Stephen King books. Same reason why last week I got Lisey's Story (for cheap!). I like Stephen King and after reading Duma Key, I want to read more King.

I had heard that Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke was - like - the final word on Vietnam books and I had heard so many superlatives that I thought I would make it the last book I buy for a long time. If I buy another book, post something terrible in the comments. I'll let you know when I get around to reading it if it's as awesome as they say.

So yeah, that's my Frugal Friday for this week and the last week. Catch you on the flipside.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


OH boy. It can't really be surprising that I'm jazzed for the newest Indiana Jones film. Not only am I a nerd, but I'm also a dork (according to my g/f). The first three films are perfect capsules of adventure, humour, heart and action, and the third one features one of the best car chase slash fight scenes ever. So, on May 22, 2008, I went to the theatre for the 7:15 showing of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

So was it as good as the first three?

Yes and no.

Spielberg, Lucas, Frank Marshall and screenwriter David Koepp certainly try to to recapture all of the magic of the original trilogy, by using callbacks (such as the Ark) and using the familiar screenplay structure to sell it. There's quite a lot of action, including one of the longest car chase slash fight sequences I've ever seen (easily the highlight of the film) and quite a lot of comedy.

However, it's kind of stale. For some reason it felt a not so good taste in my mouth.

Spoilers begin.

The whole "alien" angle is what really soured me. After the Biblical and magical aspects of the previous three films, I wasn't really ready to accept interdimensional aliens who have created a portal in the middle of South America and communicate via hive mind. It just seems too "out there".

Another thing I just wasn't feeling was the fact that it slavishly replicated the structure of the original trilogy, especially the third film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Before the reveal of the artifact, there's an especially long car chase in the jungle, just like the especially long car chase in the desert before arriving at the temple.

However, that f*%&ing car chase is easily the best part of the entire movie. The action scenes in Indiana Jones were certainly enjoyable, but the sheer amount of CGI in every scene kind of made it not as fun.

The whole idea behind Raiders of the Lost Ark is a throwback to the adventure serials of the thirties, sort of like Star Wars is a throwback to the sci-fi serials. So when you add in the ridiculous amount of CGi as in the fourth Indiana Jones, then you're kind of diminishing the awesomeness of it.

I don't really want to get into the characters or anything, suffice to say that Shia Lebeouf was as entertaining as I expected him to be, considering his enjoyableness in Transformers. Karen Allen returns as Marion Ravenwood for about the last third of the flick, and she's whatever. She doesn't have the same spark and she's also kind of fat.

Well... so is Harrison Ford, but he does a decent job.

All in all, the movie was entertaining and I had some fun. I will be doing a marathon of the first three because after we came out of the theatre, the g/f confessed she hadn't seen any other Indiana Jones. I was shocked and appalled.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm doing research

Man I am getting f*%&ing excited for this trip. Really excited. Thanks to Google Earth, I know where I am:


And here's where I'm going:


But before I get there, I'm going to:


This is going to be the best trip ever.

I mean, first of all, I'm going to California. But add to that I'm going with my g/f, whom I love a lot. She's just got back from Europe, so this is like the best summer ever for her.

I got my passport photo done yesterday and I did the online form the other day, so now I have to drop it off at the downtown offices and two weeks later, bam, I have a passport.

I was thinking that maybe, since we're in San Diego, we might drive the one day detour and go to Tijuana. Maybe. I don't know. We'll see what happens.

I don't think we'll be hitting up the Grand Canyon. It's too big and too much of a detour. Also, the g/f expressed little to no interest in it.

Fantastic Four 557


The last three issues of Fantastic Four have been good, but not f*%&ing great. The Millar-Hitch team is capable of so much more. So now we come to part four of the "World's Greatest" arc, the introduction arc to Millar and Hitch's 16 issue run. So far, this has been on time, but we're only four issues into the damn thing.

So in this issue, C.A.P. or whatever, is taking out every possible hero with no problem, and is taking out missiles and silos and what have yous. But Doctor Richards has an Anti-Galactus suit, which is really just a stupid looking mechsuit from a bad 80's-era anime show, and he takes out C.A.P. with just one punch but doesn't like to talk about it all that much. Then, Alyssa makes her move, gets rejected and the Richards enjoy a sweet anniversary dinner in the past while Johnny's supervillain affair heats up. A nanny gets introduced, and I guess her name is suppose to mean something. She's probably another Agatha Harkness pseudonym or something. Finally, Doctor Doom shows up at the Baxter Building and wishes to see Mister Fantastic.

Okay, before we go any further, read Bully The Little Stuffed Bull's comments on this issue.

This issue was mediocre. The big bad gets hit with one punch and is out. The setup for the next arc is sloppily done, and was done better in the previous issue. The art is sketchy and rough. Really?

Remember when I said that sometimes Millar is awesome when he just throws out ideas Grant Morrison-style? Yeah, not so much in this issue. Millar lobs some dumb ideas at me, and they make no sense.

The other thing I'm sort of pissed off about is that Millar and Hitch aren't doing this with any previous continuity. Nothing that Mark Waid did or any other writer is being taken into account. Johnny Storm had some character development before this. What happened to it?

And finally, I'm sort of pissed off about the laziness of introducing a bad 80's-era anime mechasuit that nobody has ever heard of and that Richards never bothered to mention before. That's just bad writing.

This was a mediocre end to a fairly average arc. Millar and Hitch - I gave you free passes on the first few issues, cause they were kind of entertaining. Now, I expect a lot. You better deliver.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

DC's August Solicits

Wow. A dearth of respectable releases from DC this coming summer month. August is stupidly the coffee break month for Final Crisis. Even though it's not crossing over into the regular titles, that doesn't mean there isn't one billion miniseries with the words "final" and "crisis" in the title. Only two of them are written by Grant Morrison...

FINAL CRISIS: SUPERMAN BEYOND #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy
Covers by Doug Mahnke and J.H. Williams III
To save the woman he loves, the greatest hero of all time becomes the pawn of ultra-dimensional forces when a wounded emissary from a world of doomed super gods comes to Earth on the eve of the Final Crisis. His mission: To recruit Superman’s help against an epic, reality-spanning menace that originated in the Crisis on Infinite Earths!
Join the Man of Steel and his alternate-earth counterparts for a mind-blowing voyage to the edge of the DC Universe — and beyond! Can these super champions overcome their differences to beat the clock, find the ultimate treasure and save all existence from extinction?
Writer Grant Morrison and artist Doug Mahnke take you on an unforgettable, hyperdelic journey from the streets of Metropolis, through the 52 worlds of the multiverse, to the haunted court of the King of Limbo, in part one of this 2-issue Superman adventure!
With a unique 3-D section, eye-popping visuals and mind-boggling glimpses into the mysteries behind FINAL CRISIS, SUPERMAN BEYOND takes the Man of Tomorrow to new dimensions of action and excitement! This issue comes with a pair of 3-D glasses!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers (one by Doug Mahnke and one by J.H. Williams III) that will ship in a ratio of approximately 50/50. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale August 27 • 1 of 2 • 40 pg, FC, $4.50 US

That seems awesome. I want the J.H. Williams cover though, cause he's way better than Mahnke. I'm not really a fan of Mahnke, but this seems like the coolest Superman story ever. Other than...

ALL STAR SUPERMAN #12
WRITTEN by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely & Jamie Grant
Cover by Frank Quitely
The Man of Steel has faced twelve super-challenges. Now, as Lex Luthor’s brilliant, criminal machinations come together, what fate awaits the doomed Superman? This is the final, dramatic chapter of the incredible, award-winning 12-issue run of ALL STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant – don’t miss it!
On sale August 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

I mean wow. Check out the cover. That's amazing.


And here we have another Authority mini-series, hopefully better than the last one.

THE AUTHORITY: WORLD’S END #1
Written by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Christos Gage
Art by Simon Coleby and Trevor Hairsine
Cover by Simon Coleby
The Authority has survived the cataclysmic events following NUMBER OF THE BEAST — but just barely! Do they have a hope of rebuilding their “finer world,” or is that hope dead and gone? Don’t miss the beginning of an astounding new direction for the series! Plus: Part 2 of the John Lynch backup story that began in WILDCATS: WORLD’S END #1, written by Christos Gage and illustrated by Trevor Hairsine (X-Men: Deadly Genesis)!
On sale August 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

So that seems like everything I would want in that month. Whatever.

Marvel's August Solicits

Wow. It seems only a week ago that I complained about the lack of cool stuff being released in the month of July. Now Marvel reveals their August books, and I'm going to highlight a couple cool ones.

FANTASTIC FOUR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 2 TPB
Written by WALTER SIMONSON & DANNY FINGEROTH
Penciled by WALTER SIMONSON & REX VALVE
Cover by WALTER SIMONSON
It's the past, it's the future, it's an alternate Earth – when it's down to fighting cyborg dictators and displaced dinosaurs, who has time to figure out where they are?! It's another Simonson odyssey for the Fantastic Four and company, plus personal crises for the Human Torch and Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura)! Guest-starring Spider-Man and Rusty Collins of X-Factor/New Mutants fame! Collecting FANTASTIC FOUR #342-346.
120 PGS./All Ages …$14.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3130-4

Yes. I have definitely complained about this before, and after what seems like five years, they put out the next trade in the Simonson Fantastic Four run. I already own the back issues of this, because I assumed this would never come, but I will be picking this up, if only because it's digitally re-coloured. Or at least it better be.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN VOL. 20: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS TPB
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
Penciled by STUART IMMONEN
Cover by STUART IMMONEN
Things are changing in the young life of Peter Parker: Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four is now his buddy – and the hot–headed super hero has taken a liking to Peter’s classmate, Liz Allen! But something is horribly wrong with Liz – something that will soon affect the life of every student at Midtown High – including Peter’s ex-girlfriend, Kitty Pryde!
Collecting ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #118-122.
120 PGS./Rated A …$12.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2961-5

Yay! Another trade in Ultimate Spider-Man. This is something I definitely read in trade format. There's no need to read back issues on this one. It's been frigging months since "Death of A Goblin" rocked my world. Immonen's pencils have been terrific on this title, and I look forward to reading more. I've complained about Bendis a lot, but it's cause I love him, and I know he's capable of excellence, such as on this title.

CLANDESTINE: BLOOD RELATIVE PREMIERE HC
Written by ALAN DAVIS
Penciled by ALAN DAVIS
Cover by ALAN DAVIS
Alan Davis’ freaky family returns! They’ve existed, hidden among mankind for centuries, a mysterious bloodline of superhumans, eternal and apart. And all they’ve desired is to be left alone, to pursue their individual interests in peace. But now, the existence of their hidden clan is threatened with exposure by the activities of one of their youngest siblings, Rory Destine, who aspires to be the costumed crimefighter called the Crimson Crusader! And now that the cat’s been let out of the bag, who or what is going to come calling at the Destine family’s Ravenscroft doorway? Collecting CLANDESTINE #1-5.
120 PGS./Rated T+ …$19.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2740-6

I've talked about Clandestine before, and I loved it, so I'm super jazzed to read the next adventure in the strangest family of all. Of course, Alan Davis is awesome, so there's no question I'd be picking this up in hardcover version.

The next issue of Fantastic Four by Millar and Hitch comes out as well, which features a nifty cover with Galactus in the background. Yes. That's all I have to say. Yes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

California Dreamin'

So my g/f has come back from Europe, which means that her next trip, and my next trip, is coming up fast. It's time to start planning. So I thought I'd play around with Google Maps for a little bit and plan out my route.

Which begs the question, since the purpose of my route is to get back to the basics, is it counter to the plan that I'm planning anything? I mean, in a perfect world, I would just start driving and go where ever I feel like going.

Unfortunately, there's things such as responsibility that prevents me from doing such. I would love to simply quit my job and go for months, but the reality is, I need a steady income to pay off debts. Such as my car.

And it's my car that's going to get me to California.

So what we're doing, is we're leaving Winnipeg on June 22nd, and driving to Fargo. From there, we turn west and through Montana, including Billingsly. Whatever that place is. After Bozeman, we turn south and go through Idaho, good old potato country.After Idaho, we enter Utah and Salt Lake City. I'm not really interested in Utah thanks to the LDS and their wacky polygamy. But the corner of Utah gets us right into Nevada, which lets us get right in Las Vegas. Now my plan, tentatively, is to stay a day in Las Vegas, if only cause it's f*%&ing Vegas, baby.

From Vegas, I haven't decided. Our original plan was to go straight from Vegas to San Diego and spend three days there (two days for the zoo, the secondary purpose of the trip) but I wouldn't mind seeing the Grand Canyon, which is a day's drive from Vegas. That's quite a detour, though.

In the first draft of the plan, we head straight to San Diego (this route would take us into San Berdoo) and spend some time in the zoo. From there, we would drive up the coast, going through San Berdoo, LA, San Fran, Santa Rosa, and go all the way up to the Redwood National Park, where some of the tallest and oldest trees are in the world. I saw a documentary about this at the Imax and ever since I've wanted to visit this.

The park is at the very top of California, and if we wanted to get home the long route, we could drive up the coast to Vancouver, and from there, take the number 1 all the way back to Winnipeg. I think that's how we're going to do it because I love B.C. and the rest of Canada. That's a good way to wind down the trip - going through my native Canada.

Now there's no cruise control in my car, which means I have to do it old-school the entire way. That's a lot of kilometres or miles. According to Google maps, from my house to the San Diego zoo is 3,525 kilometres. It would be even longer on the way back considering it's not a direct route. That's two and half days of driving there, and three and a half on the way back. All without cruise control? My knees are going to be destroyed.

Ah, but it will all be worth it. If only to see the beautiful Pacific ocean, which I've never seen in my life. In fact, I've never seen a single ocean. The biggest body of water I've ever seen was Lake Winnipeg, which isn't close to being the biggest lake in Canada.

This is going to be the best trip of my life. Better than going to Quebec ten years ago. Better than going to Mall Of America five years ago. This is going to be awesome.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"a lay of the land" finally endorses a candidate



HE'S TOUGH ON WRAITHS. TOUGHER ON CRIME.

VOTE ROM.

Meet the family

Instead of reviewing a Garth Ennis comic or talking about whatever crap movie I saw this week, I'm going to do a bit of an autobiographical post. You can't talk about pop culture all the time, can you?

So we know I'm male. We know I'm Canadian. We know I like Garth Ennis and The Authority. But what else do I like?

Dogs and cats.

So today we're going to meet my family and all, the creatures great and small. First off, we have Vandy, named after Martha and the Vandellas, a successful Motown group of the Sixties. Even though she's called Vandy, we also call her The Peanut, because she's small for her breed. She's a white German Shepard, which is not an albino dog. Here's a picture of her.


She's very playful, but selfish. Doesn't know how to share with other dogs. She's rude and pushes her way through anybody. She loves to snuggle in the morning and in the evening, when everybody has gone to work. She has her specific spot on my bed, and when I wake up, she's always there, even though she sleeps elsewhere during the night. She's nine years old, so about middle age, and she's very healthy. She can run like the lightning and loves to chase after balls or whatever. She's my Peanut.

We also have a new(er) addition to the household, and her name is Sadie. She's about a year and a half old, thereabouts; we're not sure because we adopted her. She's some sort of a mixed breed, so who knows what she is. I'm sure if I knew anything about cats, I could tell you what parts of her are indicative of which breed, but I know nothing.


In this photo of Sadie, on the right, there's also Stinkee, on the left, who is the official office cat at my dad's work. Stinkee (which is a terrible name) lives there and here on the long weekends or on vacations, so somebody can watch her. Stinkee used to be my favourite cat, but that position has been taken up by Sadie.

Sadie has some trust issues, from her old family, so we have to be mighty patient with her. Slowly but surely, Sadie has come to realize that I'm not going to maul her or pull on her tail, so she has been tentatively coming to me when I sit still. She runs away in fear sometimes, but that's been happening less and less. In fact, last night, she and I had a nice nap while watching "Deserts" . Which is awesome.

Sadie loves her pink ribbon. All you have to do is pull it around her and she becomes this little kitten, batting at it and biting it. You can get her to do caterobics, if she's in a playful enough mood. She's very small in comparison to Stinkee, who's fat.

Stinkee loves to climb up on my shoulder, which is in direct contrast to Sadie, who ignores me when she can. Stinkee needs attentions, but isn't sucky or pathetic - she lives to be the centre of the universe. She also is excellent at killing mice. Lots of them: as you can tell by the photo.

There's also Missie, another white German Shepard. We put her to sleep just last summer, so she hasn't been gone long. She was my Princess, my favourite dog in the whole world, even though she was evil as they come and didn't much care for anybody in the last couple years of her life. When she was a puppy, I picked her out based on her ability to sleep through anything, and when she grew older, she slept even more. However, she was still playful and loved her people. If she had opposable thumbs she would have dominated the planet, or at least tried, Pinky and the Brain style. I miss her terribly.


So that's my pets. My girls. They're definitely bad pets at times, but otherwise, I love 'em to death. Everybody should live with pets. They make your troubles in life seem inconsequential. I couldn't have gotten through the bad times in my life without them or my parents.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

One of the most beautiful things I've read

Sorry about the lack of posting, but stuff has been happening with work and whatnot. So instead of posting actual content, which is what people read, I'm going to show you a picture of a webcomic that took my breath away. Here goes.


I will post actual content in the next couple days, once the heat dies down. Also I've been drinking and hanging out for a bit.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Books I haven't read

I have a lot of books. A lot. I have probably 25,000 dollars worth of books, not including the first editions, and the rare books I have, including a rare James Joyce chapbook I got for Christmas one year. This post is going to highlight the books I plan to read, of the ones I own...

First off, I'm going to read Donna Tartt's second novel, The Little Friend, which I purchased from McNally Robinson for 7.99, in the bargain books section. I've started this book as of last night, when I got home from work. So far, in the first thirty pages, I've been blown away by the quality of prose. It's a Southern Gothic murder mystery children's adventure sociological treatise on the South. This doesn't even scratch the surface apparently of the themes and complexity working in this novel.

Next, I want to read Irvine Welsh's newest work, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs, which again, I purchased from McNally Robinson for 7.99. This time, however, it's the UK hardcover. It's nice looking. I work in kitchens, and I have a thing for movies and books set in kitchens, so I'm jazzed to read this. The last Welsh novel I read, Porno, came out forever ago, and I sort of enjoyed it. Glue remains my favourite Welsh novel, though.

The design on the hardcover is what made me buy Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games. I really like India, for some bizarre reason. It might be because I grew up with Indians, and because of John Irving's A Son of the Circus, a novel I have in paperback and first edition hardcover. The difference between Chandra's novel and Irving's, is that Chandra's is legitimately Indian and filled with so much Hindi and Gujarati slang that it has a lexicon at the back. It's also 900 pages long, which seems daunting.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics is a book I bought with Christmas giftcards and I still haven't touched it. I had heard that it was a terrific debut novel and was optioned for a film adaptation. This was a word-of-mouth purchase, really, and I haven't been driven to read it yet.

Sadly, I have been reading Thomas Pynchon's Against The Day since it came out in hardcover, and I still haven't finished it. Not only is it really hard to read because there's no main character or main thrust of a plot, but it bogs down horribly in the last quarter with a tedious spy pastiche. I'm two hundred pages from the end, and I just can't summon the energy to finish it. I will eventually.

Clive Barker's newest "novel", Mister B. Gone, has a really neat synopsis, a really neat design to the book, and is another Christmas purchase that I haven't touched. I absolutely love Clive Barker, but I've grown up a lot since I last read his work, and he sort of leaves me cold now. The last novel I read of his was Coldheart Canyon, an amazing ghost story that I read twice since it's come out, but whenever I try and read another Barker, I'm just unmoved. I don't know what it is.

There's a ton of other books I haven't read that I plan to, but for now, I'm working on Donna Tartt, so I'll let you know when I finish it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Duma Key


Even though I bought it some time ago, I finally finished Stephen King's newest novel,
Duma Key. Now, I'm a fan of King going back as far as I can remember. The first novel of his I read was It, which remains one of my favourites. But in recent years, King hasn't been up to par. It wasn't until Bag of Bones that he realized his potential, but he's never quite gotten back there since then. It's not ironic that his newest work is unconsciously the same novel as Bag of Bones but with painting.

Edgar Freemantle loses his arm in a construction accident, gets a divorce, and changes scenery to the beautiful Duma Key in Florida, where he begins painting. He meets Jerome Wireman, a lawyer looking after the ancient and Alzheimer's-ridden Elizabeth Eastlake. What happens on Duma Key is the power of creation and destruction all in the paintings that Edgar creates when his missing arm itches the most.

Just like
Bag Of Bones, the main character is beset with tragedy and overcomes it with creation. In Mike Noonan's case, he writes novels. In Edgar's case, he paints. In both cases, the art they create isn't their owns; they're merely the conduits for the dead or for the evil. While Duma Key is more interested in the power of recreation of truth via art, Bag of Bones is about more literary pursuits such as storytelling.

Stephen King is more of a storyteller than an "author" or "novelist" or "horror novelist". He tells stories like around a campfire. It's his major gift, that seemingly effortless ability to spin yarns. So that's why
Bag of Bones is more successful as a treatise on art, because it speaks closer to King's own history.

That's not to say that
Duma Key isn't an enjoyable read. I read it within a week. It was gripping and interesting and scary at times and heartbreaking all at once. King knows how to twist the knife in your heart and make you care about the characters. But the novel has this been-there-done-that feeling.

King's prose and characters are still at the same level you're used to. He still employs his trademark coining of phrases as shorthand for the scariest of elements. He still employs the dark historical secret of the location of the haunting. And he still uses the ghosts in the story as metaphors for memories, in addition to evil entities. It's a good horror novel but....

I think that if I hadn't read
Bag of Bones, I would have loved Duma Key rather than just liked it. I still recommend the novel for fans of King, but not really for the non-fan.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Heartland


Garth Ennis (yes, I know) and Steve Dillon are one of my favourite combos ever. When I found out that there's a Vertigo one-shot called
Heartland done by them, I had to snatch it up. And now I'm going to review it.

Heartland is the story of an adult family living in Belfast, a slice-of-life story, really. It's also the story of how the troubles affect the person on the street (literal and figurative). It's also the story of the average Irish family being torn apart by the drink.

While every story isn't about guns and masculinity, Ennis shows that he can write something very personal and very heartbreaking. I knew that he could write something emotional (I've always felt my heartstrings pulled at the final four pages of
Preacher), but nothing this... immediate.

For 64 pages, there's a bunch of things happening: a family drama, a political drama, a religious drama, and a sociological comment on Belfast itself. But Ennis juggles it all deftly, moving from one aspect to the next with that same confidence and humour that characterizes his entire oeuvre.

It's incredible how tightly written the thing is. We get this snippets of flashbacks to the main characters' childhood and finally, at the climax, all is revealed, showing how everything we've seen previously has been put into place because of this moment in time.

Of course, Steve Dillon's pencils are immaculate as usual. There's not much to say about the artwork because I knew I was going to like it.

I think I might have to stop reviewing Garth Ennis stuff because this blog isn't about Garth Ennis. I mean, I read
Pride and Joy as well, but I don't think I'll review that (short review: covers the same thematic ground as Preacher, but without the religious aspects, or the great artwork). Also, I'm becoming biased. I can't review Ennis without fawning over him. I've become a fanboy. Yikes. I can still keep my critical faculties, though, can't I?

EDIT on 05/31/08: Apparently this is a spin-off from a storyline in Ennis' Hellblazer. Huh. News to me.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mini-Reviews!

Uh-oh. Time for another Garth Ennis themed Mini-Reviews! There is just something about this writer that has me all jazzed. With each title I've read by the man, I'm stunned by the level of complexity in his work, the characters that seem so real, the humour that makes me laugh out loud. I love it. So let's begin.

True Faith


His second published work,
True Faith is drawn by Warren Pleece, and is a more personal work, according to Ennis' introduction than his first work. It's about men, religion, free will and machine guns. Nigel is a bored teen with nothing to do. Terry is a recent widow who begged God to let his wife live. Together, they enter a crazy quest to kill God as revenge. The nature of faith and free will becomes a matter of life and death for both characters as their lives spin out of control. There's definitely some heavy stuff going on here, the mark of a young writer trying to do the biggest thing possible on his second day out, with none of the marked confidence of the careful plotter that he became. I was entertained by this, and really enjoyed the religious/faith aspects of the story. Enthralled may have been a better word.

Bloody Mary


The Helix imprint from DC was supposed to highlight science fiction stuff that wouldn't normally fit into the regular continuity of the universe. It was swiftly canceled and the only survivor was Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson's
Transmetropolitan. But before the line was killed, Ennis and collaborator Carlos Ezquerra created Bloody Mary, a dystopian war story about a killing machine in a nun's outfit. This is the pulp Garth Ennis rather than the heavy themes Ennis as aforementioned. Using the stock war archetypes but putting sci-fi elements in their hands, the story is simplistic yet entertaining. The trade paperback collects both mini-series, and they're both pretty good. Not great, but good. I've been reading a lot of Ennis, so I can say with confidence, this ain't his best work, but it's not terrible. It's fun.

Fury: Peacemaker


I reviewed the first Fury mini-series a while ago, and found it pretty entertaining. This one is an origin tale, still drawn by Darick Robertson, set during the second World War. Fury (with both eyes) and a bunch of SAS are ordered to sneak into Germany and kill a high-ranking Field-Marshall of the SS, with much explosions and blood. So with this one... I don't know. I'm on the fence. The war stories Ennis isn't my favourite, so I'm a little biased against it. It felt a lot like The Punisher: Born, but not quite as polished. It's kind of hard to follow 'cause everybody looks the exact same and Nick Fury is written pretty much as Frank Castle. Thank god there was some Nazi-killing, and some nice foreshadowing to Fury's future. It was okay.

Also, I just wanted to say that I would absolutely pay a lot of money for the original art for that Steve Dillon cover. I bought the trade, but that one cover for issue 5 is stunning. The amount of emotion that Dillon conveys through the facial expression is astonishing. He looks so tired, weary, but unwilling to give it up. I love that cover.

And another Garth Ennis Mini-Reviews! comes to an end. Hope you enjoyed my unsolicited opinions.

I'm a terrible kid.


I'm a terrible kid.

No it's true. It is. I'm a terrible child to my mother. I have an attitude, I don't listen, I talk back, I roll my eyes, I complain and I don't listen. I'm selfish and inconsiderate most of the time (which is one reason why I don't procreate) so when Mother's Day rolls around, this is supposed to be my time to make up for it.

So what did I do? What did I do on Mother's Day? Well, my original plan was to go to my friend's cabin, but my job needed my presence more than a cabin did. So instead of a three day mini-vacation, I worked. This would have been a great time to get my mom a card or something. But did I?

Yeah, I got her a card. But I forgot it at work. So when I got home on Mother's Day from my ten hour day, what did I have to show for my appreciation?

Nothing.

I told you. I'm a terrible kid.

So I wanted to make up for it with this. My blog. My mother isn't a saint or heavenly. She doesn't bake me cookies while I'm at school. She doesn't pay my bills or drive me around. She doesn't have the same tastes as me in practically anything (other than making fun of specific people).

But you know what? When I was going through the lowest point in my life earlier this year, when I was at the absolute bottom - you know who was there for me? Who talked me down from a breakdown over the phone while she was at work?

My mother.

She stood by me and will always stand by me.

Thank you, Mom. I love you.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Squee!


Yes. August 27th, 2008. This is a big deal.

The Mighty Avengers 13



Oh lord.
Secret Invasion marches on. In the last issue of The Mighty Avengers, we took a look at where Nick Fury has been and what he's been up to. I concluded that it was the best issue of The Mighty Avengers, and was satisfied. But, just like normal, Bendis screws it up.

The thirteenth issue shows Daisy Johnson going to all these super-powered people and signing them up for the new Howling Commandos. That's it. Nick Fury makes a three page appearance and for two pages of that, he's disguised as Ultimate Nick Fury.

"You have superpowers. Wanna join?"
"Sure."

This is repeated, like, five times. 22 pages of it. I've never been more annoyed by a single issue. This is decompression at its worst, people. This is Bendis writing for the trade. No longer do we write single issues of things - we write trades and then break it up into chapters. This entire issue could have been done in two pages, in a nice double page splash.

The positive side? Alex Maleev's pencils could NOT be any more awesome. His photorealistic style is getting better and better, and still retaining a style that is his own. I absolutely loved the art in this issue. It was better than any issue of Daredevil he was on.

As much as Secret Invasion tickled my fancy before this, I'm getting bogged down in blah issues and blah main story. There's too much and the quality is too low. Bendis, you have improved from your House of M, but you still have a way to go before you can write a classic gigantic Event comic.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Frugal Fridays!

So, last time I had a Frugal Fridays! I promised that I would be much more frugal, closer in line with the title of the series. Well, this week, I followed my budget a little closer, and managed not to spend a bazillion dollars at the comic book store. So what did I end up purchasing?

Adventures in the Rifle Brigade issues 1 through 3
Adventures in the Rifle Brigade: Operation Bullock issues 1 through 3
The Boys: The Name of The Game tpb
Secret Invasion issue 2
World War Hulk tpb


You'll notice that - yes - I purchased more Garth Ennis stuff. I picked up the two Vertigo mini-series for 6 bucks a pop, so that was pretty cheap. I read them very quickly and laughed out loud quite a few times. It's very broad and low humour about the British Rifle Brigade and their misadventures in the second World War. This isn't a character study or anything like that; it's just a bunch of caricatures running around killing Nazis. Very enjoyable.


I got the first trade of
The Boys at the US price, so that was good. Apparently this series is supposed to out-Preacher Preacher, which I find unlikely. The Boys is about a secret government wing of mercenaries who keep the outlandish superheroes in their place. Of course, there's all the requisite Ennis jokes and ultraviolence (and hoo boy is it violent!) but so far it misses all of the heart of Preacher. Then again, it's only been running for 19 issues.


The big release in trades this week was the
World War Hulk trade. Lovingly written by Greg Pak and stunningly drawn by John Romita Jr, this 5 issue mini-series was the big Event comic done right. I cared about the outcome, I cared about the characters, and it was engaging and a big deal. I missed my opportunity to pick up the individual issues and their variants (holy crap do the variants go for big prices now) so I have the trade in my hot little hands. It's very enjoyable.

So this week, in comics, I spent 50 dollars or thereabouts. In my budget, I have 150 dollars for miscellaneous. It's only May 10th, however, and I've used up one third of my budget. This means that the next week's Frugal Friday (and the next) will be tiny. Okay, so that wraps up this Frugal Friday! See you laters.

Criterion Collection releases Trafic


Yes! This is exciting. Longtime readers of "a lay of the land" will know that I'm a huge fan of the French filmmaker Jacques Tati. His 1973 film, the last to star Monsieur Hulot, Trafic is being released in a two disc set by the esteemed Criterion Collection. Here's the details of the release:

* - SPECIAL EDITION DOUBLE-DISC SET FEATURES:
* - New, restored high-definition digital transfer
* - In the Footsteps of Monsieur Hulot (1989), a two-hour documentary tracing the evolution of Jacques Tati's beloved alter ego
* - Interview from 1971 with the cast of Trafic, from the French television program Le journal de cinéma
* - "The Comedy of Jacques Tati," a 1973 episode from the French television program Morceaux de bravoure
* - Theatrical trailer
* - New and improved English subtitle translation
* - PLUS: A new essay by film critic Jonathan Romney

This is very exciting. Apparently the DVD comes out in July, so look for my review of it in a couple months!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Abstinence Teacher


I picked up
Little Children in the bargain books section, and I had heard that it was being made into a movie starring my soulmate, so I read it and I was blown away. The combination of eloquent prose, deeply drawn characters, satire and heart was a perfect cocktail for me. I think I read it in about two days. So when Tom Perrotta's follow-up was released, The Abstinence Teacher, I had to read it.

Ruth Ramsey is a forty-something divorced teacher of Sex Education at a local high school in a suburb town. When she makes a gaffe of saying that some people actually enjoy oral sex, the religious right of the town comes down and forces the school to institute a curriculum of abstinence, going against Ruth's personal beliefs and teaching style. At the same time, Ruth's daughter's soccer coach, Tim Mason is a born again Christian from a lifetime of sex drugs and rock n roll who made the gaffe of getting the soccer team to pray after a meeting. Both characters deal with the different fallouts of their mistakes in different ways, and slowly come to a realization about their own lives.

This sort of follows the same kind of pattern as
Little Children, in that we're examining the social and sexual lives of suburbia in a more harsh light, by examining two major characters up close, who ultimately circle around each other and end up having an encounter of some type. Unlike the previous novel, The Abstinence Teacher is more interested in the crossroads between sexuality and religion, where they intersect and diverge.

But Perrotta doesn't make an easy conclusions. He takes his time slowly building and developing Ruth and Tim until their decisions and actions become organic and ultimately predetermined by their personality and history. It's not fate that drives Tim and Ruth to what they end up doing, but they're own selves. It's a big credit to Perrotta as a character-builder that this happens. Not all writers can manage that.

Some of the big themes that are examined in this novel include the religious right and their morality in proselytizing the masses. Perrotta examines the rightness from both sides of the argument and - it seems to me - ends up agreeing with Ruth, that it's unacceptable. I think that Perrotta concludes that the fundamentalist movement is filled with self-denial and delusion. The major church that populates the novel ends up being an empty stage-y circus, rather than the holy building of God.

Both major characters, Ruth and Tim, are forced by circumstances to repeat and teach things they don't believe in. With Ruth, she teaches abstinence; with Tim, it's the word of God that he can't quite get behind. While the title of the novel refers to Ruth, it's really Tim that the novel is about and his crisis of faith. He can't find a way to fit into the church, but he's invested so much that he can't extricate himself.

I really enjoyed this novel almost as much as reading
Little Children. This was heartbreaking, funny, interesting, satirical and witty. It's deft at handling the different tones and the different moral arguments that make up the core character conflict. While not the final say on religion in suburbia, nor a final say in anything, this is a terrifically entertaining novel by a great writer. Highly recommended.

Secret Invasion 2


Here we go with another issue of Secret Invasion by Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu. The first issue wasn't a disappointment so hopefully the second issue won't be. Let's take a look.

All of the Avengers, secret or not, have gone to the Savage Land to find a ship that's crash landed. The passengers of the ship are a bunch of 70's era super heroes. In this issue, they fight for about fifteen pages, and we slowly realize that most of them are Skrulls. Tony Stark gets into a secret lab underneath the Savage Land and begins building a new suit of armor. The "real" Clint Barton sees that there's a Mockingbird amongst the Skrulls and he asks her to prove who she is using a special date that only the both of them know. Satisfied that she's not a Skrull, Clint lets her into the Avengers. Wolverine and Luke Cage are mighty pissed about that. We cut to Manhattan, where the Young Avengers are looking up at the Baxter Building where a huge portal(?) is opening. A ship comes out, and a bunch of Super Skrulls with hero-specific powers emerge, ready to take over. The invasion ain't so secret anymore. Here's the shot, which looks pretty cool.


So it's really a fifteen page fight scene that's moderately hard to follow. I say moderately because it's not the art, it's the fact that it's hero versus doppelganger. The art is surprisingly crisp. Again, it's like Leinil Yu realized his problem of over-rendering, and has cut down on that. Bendis on the other hand, has spun his wheels on the second issue already. This entire issue is decompression - writing for the trade. Nothing of note happens other than putting Tony Stark in a lab, putting Mockingbird in a precarious position, and having the Skrulls invade Manhattan. All three of these things could have been done in less pages, allowing for more plot. I'm thinking eight issues for this mini-series isn't really going to be as fast-paced. They should have gone with 5 like
World War Hulk. But that remains to be seen. We're only at the second issue here with Secret Invasion.

To sum up, I liked the art (amazingly enough) and wasn't really impressed with the story other than the final double page spread. I guess we'll see what Bendis has up his sleeve. I'm sure there's more revelations to be had.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Iron Man


I don't really want to spend a whole lot of time on this, because you can get real reviews from real reviewers at other sites. So to be quick, I saw
Iron Man last night and I was entertained. A lot. This review will be spoiler-free.

Robert Downey Jr's the best fit for the role. He brings that same charm and charisma that makes Downey so cool. He lives and breathes Stark. The rest of the cast is pretty top-notch, too, including Terence Howard as Rhodey.

I really was impressed with how the plot and the origin were tied together, as opposed to
Batman Begins, where the third act has little to do with the origin. The screenplay was fairly terrific, balancing the humour of Downey Jr and the scary moral murk that Stark wades into and out of. Every actor in the film gets some decent lines; not all of them are Stark's.

The direction from Jon Favreau was extremely competent. I noticed that Favreau went for shaky cam style for most of the action scenes, kind of echoing a Michael Mann/Peter Berg style. This makes the actions scenes a bit more organic.

All of the special effects were fun and not glaringly CGI. I wasn't pulled from the movie all the time by the integration of computer and real; it was all good.

Finally, I loved the post credits sequence. It is literally only this scene that makes me want to see the new Hulk movie.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Goddess


Garth Ennis' works are notable for extreme violence, vulgarity, profanity, the Irish, sexual perversion and true heart. One of his first major works for a major publisher, Goddess, has all the hallmarks of a Garth Ennis story, and I'm going to review it.

Rosie Nolan wakes up one day and has this incredible power to cause earthquakes and other random things. It manifests itself as a great green glow. When the CIA and the American military find out about this, they send their best man, Hooks, after her, and her friends Mudhawk, a huge hulking bastard, his ex, Sam a pilot, and caught up in this is the narrator, Jeff, a cowardly everyman. On top of this is Constable Dixon and the Butcher Bruvvers, an Ennis-archetypal duo of stupid giants with a love of death.

From the UK to Rio De Janeiro to New York to the North Pole, the chase is on. Of course, at the end, we find out the origin of Rosie's mysterious godlike powers, and what everybody is after.

This was funny and thrilling and mysterious and hilarious and entertaining and heartfelt and true. This is the exact reason why I love Garth Ennis so much. All the main characters are breathing real people with realistic actions, and all the villains are hilarious and get their just Ennis-style comeuppance. All the elements are there: the profanity, the sexual perversion, the extreme violence and the heart. The love story blossoming between Jeff and Rosie isn't your typical love story, but Ennis style: full of mistakes and Freudian slips and knees to the crotch.

Of course, Phil Winslade's art helps the whole process. It's realistic and anatomically on the ball, but with a very high level of detail, kind of like Steve McNiven or Phil Jimenez, but in a widescreen style like Bryan Hitch. Almost early Howard Chaykin, really. Winslade's able to capture the subtle facial expressions required to sell a lot of Ennis' jokes quite well.

I can't say this is my favourite Ennis work, but it's still terrific. I didn't go into this expecting a masterpiece considering it's an early work, but it threw me for a loop and greatly entertained me. Highly recommended for Ennis fans and recommended to non-Ennis fans, as well. It's a perfect introduction to the man and his work.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Killraven


Honestly I only read this because of Alan Davis. Nothing more to it. and we all know I have a thing for certain creators.... I hadn't been really interested in the character of Killraven and I've never read anything about him other than this mini-series. So what did I think about it? Well....

Killraven is the Marvel Comics version of H. G. Wells' War Of The Worlds, except with Doc Savage/Conan running around killing Martians. It's a pastiche of numerous pulp elements that was famous for having the first comic book interracial kiss. Fast forward some years and Alan Davis, with help from longtime collaborator Mark Farmer, are doing a reinvention of Killraven, taking away any of the less manly tropes of Killraven and replacing them with ultimate killing machine tropes.

In six issues, Killraven, M'Shulla, Carmilla, Hawk, and Old Skull go from New York to Washington just to find some peace and more importantly, some freedom from the Martians, their human allies, and the slavery ring that gave Killraven his skills. Along the way, they pick up the half-human, half-vegetable Mint Julep and the pyrotechnic Volcana.

It's fairly action-packed and features some of the well known aspects of an Alan Davis work: the diagonal panels, the constant dialogue (there's not a single silent panel) and the overly technical jargon that permeates the plot. This isn't a criticism really. It's just that Alan Davis is no Alan Moore. Davis is more interested in a Michael Bay-style action extravaganza and it's very enjoyable.

I wasn't really blown away by this, not like I was by JLA: The Nail or Fantastic Four: The End. Those were ridiculous awesome, while Killraven is pretty average. I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend this to anybody unless they were Killraven fans, or Alan Davis fans. Otherwise, it's middle of the road.