“For the enemy to be recognized and feared, he has to be in your home or on your doorstep. Hence the Jews. Divine providence has given them to us, and so, by God, let us use them, and pray there’s always some Jew to fear and to hate. We need an enemy to give the people hope. Someone said that patriotism is the last refuge of cowards; those without moral principles usually wrap a flag around themselves, and the bastards always talk about the purity of the race. National identity is the last bastion of the dispossessed. But the meaning of identity is now based on hatred, on hatred for those who are not the same. Hatred has to be cultivated as a civic passion. The enemy is the friend of the people. You always want someone to hate in order to feel justified in your own misery. Hatred is the true primordial passion. It is love that’s abnormal. That is why Christ was killed: he spoke against nature. You don’t love someone for your whole life – that impossible hope is the source of adultery, matricide, betrayal of friends … But you can hate someone for your whole life, provided he’s always there to keep your hatred alive. Hatred warms the heart.” (Umberto Eco, from The Prague Cemetery)
Limbo #2 (of 6) by Jim Campbell (letterer), Dan Watters (writer), and Caspar Wijngaard (artist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.
The idea of television being a stupefying force isn’t new, as Watters even kind of admits in this issue, as he has Max Headroom, of all “celebrities,” acting a bit as Virgil to Clay’s Dante as he navigates the strange world behind the television screen. The idea of recycling celebrities either for ironic effect or nostalgic effect – Max can work both ways in this issue – isn’t new either, but Watters isn’t trying to tread new ground here, just expose more of the ouroboros for what it is, which is never a bad idea. He gets a double effect, though, and that’s why the issue is clever. Clay is trapped in Limbo (hence the title of the comic), and he has no memory of his “life” before he arrived there, which seems par for the course in this book. However, he strives to know who he is, unlike, it seems, like most inhabitants of Limbo. That already makes him unique, and the fact that he’s a private detective – helping people unravel mysteries when he’s trying to unravel his own – is a good idea, too, as it explains why he gets himself into trouble in this and the first issue. But Watters takes that mystery – the idea that Clay is wandering in a wasteland – and ups the ante with his journey through the weird television landscape of the “teleshaman” (that gentleman on the cover). The double layer of Clay not knowing who he is and then being sucked into a place that attempts to destroy your own identity and make you into a mindless slave is fascinating, as Clay struggles with convivial and homicidal talk show hosts, a skull-faced chef, Betty Boop and crazed cartoons, and many other expressions of televised consumerism. The idea that we draw our identity from television is part of this, and because Clay doesn’t have an identity (or at least one he knows), it makes his trip even more fraught. Wijngaard adds static to the equation (not surprising, given the analog world that Limbo seems to be), and static is always a good metaphor for incomprehension and confusion. Watters is lucky to have a collaborator like Wijngaard, who is really good on this comic. He makes Limbo a weird, creepy place full of odd characters, from the pipe-smoking magnetic tape man to the teleshaman himself. Wijngaard doesn’t alter his style too much to show the different creatures Clay stumbles into as he moves through the television landscape, but he does a little on Betty Boop and the cartoons, which is neat, and the two pages on which Clay “jumps” channels is very nicely done. His art when Clay is in a video game is inspired, too.
I imagine that the rest of the series will be about the main plot of Clay trying to find out who he is. That’s fine and all, but Watters shows here that he’s not afraid to add deeper meaning to the comic, and I hope he doesn’t forget that moving forward.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Straitjacket #2 (of 4) by Malaka Studio (letterer), Guillermo Sanna (artist/colorist), El Torres (writer), and Jennifer van Gessel (editor). $3.99, 24 pgs, BWR, Amigo Comics.
Considering that Torres is the current best horror writer in comics (yeah, I said it), it’s kind of neat that he takes one of his older horror comics (The Veil) and puts it in the same universe as this one. I love shit like that. It’s clearly explained, too, so you really don’t have to have read The Veil (although you should; it’s tremendous) to get what’s what in this book. Torres knows that good horror occurs inside the mind, so while he gives us horrific, Morrisonian monsters (they have needles on their fingers, for instance), he keeps us in “reality” so that he can explore the idea that Alex, the protagonist, isn’t really seeing these things and is, in fact, hallucinating. The hardest thing in this kind of horror is to make us disbelieve the main character – the main character is the main character, after all, so we’re pre-disposed to think that whatever the main character says it happening is actually happening, and damn the doctors and their “logic”! So Torres spends some time explaining what could be wrong with Alex and how she could do some of the things she does, which doesn’t exactly make us disbelieve her, but at least makes it plausible that she’s truly insane.
The idea of pain is central to this issue (and this comic), as the doctors are trying to lessen Alex’s pain even though that’s part of who she is, while Thomas lives with both physical pain (I would imagine, as he’s in a wheelchair) and emotional pain from the actions that put him in one. He committed a horrific act of violence, as did Alex, yet he’s a respected doctor while Alex is in an asylum. Torres hints at the pain he feels, as he’s obsessed with forcing Alex to internalize her own pain, much as he seems to have done. Alex ignores him because of what she has seen, but it’s an interesting dichotomy that Torres has set up – Alex acts out and is institutionalized, while Thomas suppresses and is awarded by society. If Alex is correct (which, again, we assume she is, as she’s the main character), her sacrifice of her brother was a meaningful one, while Thomas’s sacrifice of the girl he killed in his drunken stupor isn’t. Thomas’s murder was accidental, but his drinking wasn’t, while Alex’s deliberate murder was, as she sees it, for a far greater purpose. Thomas tries to kill Alex’s pain because he has tried to kill his own, but Alex knows that her pain keeps her vital. As with Limbo, this isn’t a new theme, but Torres does a nice job with it. What do we do when that which makes us alive is taken from us? That’s something worth exploring.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Trees #13 (“In the Trap”) by Warren Ellis (writer), Fonografiks (letterer), and Jason Howard (artist). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.
Ellis brings up a compelling point in this issue: Why the hell wouldn’t people move as far away from the trees as they could? It seems that might cost them in the long run.
This is an action-packed issue of Trees, as Ellis packs the first 8 pages with exposition and then says, “You know what? Fuck it, I’m tired. Hey, Jason Howard – draw a lot of shit blowing up.” So Howard does, and it’s really well done. His depiction of New York has always been nice, as it’s clear it’s still a large city but the raise in the sea levels has turned it post-apocalyptic, with buildings rising from the water and boats chugging through deep canals between skyscrapers. There’s a haze at sea level, which turns the buildings ghostly and adds to the sensation of decay and tragedy. The mayor sends drones and police in to clear out the smugglers, and they do it with extreme prejudice. Howard stages the fight really well, as he gives us a good sense of the buildings right around the ambush site so that when the smugglers run, it’s clear they have places to run to. What’s really nice is the way he draws the faces – the head smuggler figures out something is up a bit too late, and his face reflects that, while the mayor’s evil, shit-eating grin is terrifying as he contemplates the murders he has ordered. Ellis, as he tends to do, ends this issue very abruptly, but the title of the issue gives us an indication why – both police and smugglers are caught in a trap, which snaps shut on the final page and cuts us off from the rest of the story. Of course, the characters in the first part of the issue make the allusion more obvious, but that theme carries over, and as the police and criminals battle around the New York tree, they don’t realize they’re locked into traps as much as anyone else living near a tree. They just don’t see it. Oh, look at Ellis, commenting on people’s lives while writing a weird science-fiction comic!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Gotham Academy #12 by Cloonan, Fletcher, Kerschl, LaPointe, and Msassyk.* $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC. Hugo Strange created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.
* There are no credits in this comic. Those names are from the cover. I assume they’re the same as always, which means this is Becky, Brenden, Karl, Serge, and Michelle, but it might not be!!!!
This is the final “real” issue of Gotham Academy before the “Robin War” crossover (which I also bought this week, as my shop didn’t get this issue when it shipped, what, two weeks ago?), so I’ll talk about why I’m dropping this book. It’s tough to really figure out why, because it’s a clever conceit, the art is good, and I tend to like comics that are set in a superhero universe but don’t necessarily star superheroes. I don’t even think it’s the fact that I’m an old person and this is all youth-oriented and hip. I like a lot of other books that star characters much younger than I am, which is, at my age, basically all of them. So what’s going on with this?
Beats me. I know that I’m just not connecting to the characters. Maps is probably my favorite, but even she doesn’t really have the best personality. Olive remains fairly dull, and her protestations about being Maps’s friend just don’t feel real to me, because she doesn’t really act like it. It’s weird that after 12 issues, I don’t really have much sense of who the characters are – I mean, I know some external things about them, like Olive’s mother issues, but I don’t know why Olive was ever attracted to Kyle, for instance, and Pomeline remains a cipher. Cloonan and Fletcher just seem to shuffling them from adventure to adventure, but even the adventures don’t seem to have much weight to them. It’s really hard to explain, because of the fact that this book just isn’t connecting with me, so whenever I think about explaining why, I just lose interest in even doing that.
I also don’t like the fact that Fletcher and Cloonan are using established Batman villains as faculty of the school. I mean, Hugo Strange is one of the absolute oldest Batman bad guys, so the fact that he’s, you know, a bad guy in this issue when they’ve been trying to show that he’s not all that bad isn’t really that surprising. I mean, he’s Hugo Strange! So even the adventures and the bad guys aren’t that interesting. It’s just frustrating.
Obviously, there are always comics that people just don’t connect with, and no amount of critical acclaim or peer pressure will change that. I’ve failed to connect with comics in the past, and I will in the future. Unlike some other comics I stopped getting, there’s nothing I can really say about Gotham Academy that points to why I don’t like it. It’s just not doing it for me. And that’s okay.
One totally Airwolf panel: A picture of Claudia Cardinale, because why the hell not.
Codename Baboushka #3 (“The Conclave of Death Part Three”) by Simon Bowland (letterer), Shari Chankhamma (artist), and Antony Johnston (writer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.
Speaking of comics that aren’t thrilling me, we get to Codename Baboushka, which bothers me more than not digging Gotham Academy, because it’s written by a writer I tend to like and it’s creator-owned, so I want it to be better. First of all, Chankhamma’s art isn’t wowing me. It’s definitely not bad, but when I’m reading this comic, I’m too aware of things that don’t work. Her choreography is okay, but occasionally she tries to cram too much into a panel and it throws the perspective off, as is the case when Annika gets bonked on the head – it’s too cramped, so it doesn’t have the impact it should. When the pirate smacks Tanaka across the face, the panel is too small, so the sweep of his arm and his weapon look out of perspective and the smack doesn’t look as devastating as it should (the fact that the book is surprisingly bloodless – the panel below notwithstanding – is strange, too, given how violent it is). Chankhamma’s background work isn’t great, either. I know that the action is taking place on a cruise ship and therefore might be as bland as she draws it, but there’s very little sense of the spaces in which the action occurs. Felton’s room, which has been trashed, is oddly blank, and right before Annika gets bonked on the head, she’s walking down a hall that Chankhamma chooses to color with a dull green, destroying any interesting parts of that setting. She does this a lot – the characters are colored well so they stand out, but the rest of the book seemingly takes place against dully colored screens. It makes the book a bit enervating. When she does use more colorful backgrounds – Annika and Seamus end up in what looks like a jungle at one point – she simply “paints” in green leaves with very few holding lines, which is a different kind of strange, as it’s contrasted with the heavier lines she uses on the figures, and therefore still seems to place them in a different place than the backgrounds, as if the backgrounds were green-screened in later. It’s a frustrating read, because it’s clear that Chankhamma is a decent artist, but the shortcuts (I assume these are shortcuts) she takes makes the book less immersive.
I shouldn’t exempt Johnston, either, because his story could be better. I like Johnston’s writing and I like Johnston personally, but something is off with this. The way this book unfolds is simply too predictable, and it’s something I’ve often thought about, as I do write occasionally (not as much as I’d like, but occasionally). I wonder about predictability, because a writer has to be careful about being too predictable but also not being too crazy that plot points appear out of nowhere. It’s a very fine line, and I know that writers have places to be and things to do, so predictability sometimes becomes a necessity. Johnston was never too predictable when he wrote Wasteland, and the late, lamented Umbral didn’t slide too much into predictability, either, and his current work on The Fuse, despite seeming to be built for predictability (it’s a police procedural, for crying out loud!), avoids it for the most part. Johnston likes spy stories, however, but he hasn’t quite figured them out yet, it seems. The Coldest City was a bit too by-the-numbers for my taste, and so far, so is Baboushka. Like Chankhamma’s art, it’s not like the story is bad, it’s just predictable. Anyone who couldn’t see the ending of this issue just isn’t paying attention, and even though I’m never looking for surprises, this one was easy to spot even for a doofus like me. It gets back to predictability – Johnston obviously wanted to end this issue with Annika in peril, and that’s fine, but I wonder if he stopped to think that the way she got there was too predictable. I’m certainly not a great writer, but when I write, I’m constantly thinking of the way the plot would play out if it were a popular television show or middle-of-the-road movie. If I find myself going in that direction, I tend to stop and rethink what I’m doing. Johnston has created an interesting character with Annika, but he’s put her into a standard plot, and it’s almost like he can’t escape it. He’s beholden to no one on this book, so I wonder why he would go along this route. I’m a terrible plotter – I like creating characters, and usually my plots come second and if you ever read my work, you can certainly tell – so I don’t know what the temptation would be in this kind of situation. I just know it’s frustrating reading this, because like a lot of comics I want to like, I can see the goodness lurking in it, but it just doesn’t make the leap to good. I’m definitely going to read the entire arc (I don’t know if next issue or the following one is the final issue of the story) and assess it, but right now, it’s just bugging me because I read it with a weird mixture of anticipation and trepidation, and who likes that?
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Rebels #9 (“Stone Hoof”) by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Jared K. Fletcher (letterer), Andrea Mutti (artist), Brian Wood (writer), Spencer Cushing (editor), and Dave Marshall (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.
What makes revolutions so upsetting to the regular folk (not the actual rebels, who are keen on it, nor the rulers, who could conceivably lose their lives) is the fact that people tend not to like change, even positive change. Nostalgia is not a positive force, no matter how much I claim that Manimal is the greatest work of art ever conceived by man, and when nostalgia is yoked to the upheaval of revolution, is becomes something even more insidious. “Stone Hoof” isn’t exactly a story of the American Revolution, as Rebels purports to be about, as it takes place during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), but it’s still about this fracturing and what it does to people. Wood tells of Stone Hoof, a young Shawnee who helped build a fort in the Ohio Valley before the war and befriended Will Henderson, a British settler. When the war begins, Stone Hoof visits the fort after an interim of several years and tries to warn Henderson about the Indians rising up, but a few years after that, the Shawnee are part of the alliance with the French and attack the fort, leading to a final confrontation between Stone Hoof and Henderson. Henderson wants things to return to an antebellum idyll that was able to accommodate Stone Hoof, but people grow up and situations change. Wood wisely doesn’t belabor the point, but he still makes it – Henderson doesn’t want the Indians to grow up, so to speak, and when Stone Hoof does, he doesn’t know how to handle the fact that the boy who helped him has his own ideas about life. Wood slides in the paternalistic attitude many whites had toward those people they considered “inferior” – Stone Hoof is never a slave, and Henderson seems far more enlightened about the natives than more settlers, but he still yearns for a time when Stone Hoof was a boy and did what he was told. Time is the great destroyer, true, but war also severs us from our past and makes anything from before the violent times seem better. It was certainly better for Henderson, but probably not for Stone Hoof. Henderson, naturally can’t really see that. Even though Stone Hoof isn’t particularly happy with his French allies (who see the Indians in much the same way as the British), he’s making his own decisions now, and that bothers Henderson. It’s an interesting idea to bring up in the middle of a story about warriors fighting each other, and it’s well done by Wood.
I won’t say anything much about Mutti except to note that he’s still doing amazing work on this series. I don’t know how long this series will run, but I hope Mutti is always available for the random single issue or short arc. That would be nice.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Gotham Academy #13 (“Robins vs. Zombies”) by Adam Archer (penciller), Brenden Fletcher (writer), Sandra Hope (inker), Serge LaPointe (colorist), Steve Wands (letterer), and Rebecca Taylor (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.
Like the issue prior to this one (issue #12, see above), I have very little to say about this one. I don’t plan on buying “Robin War,” so I’m a bit lost – why are Robins illegal, for instance? – but I figured the one-two punch of this and issue #12 would allow me to get a better handle on whether I wanted to drop the book. Even though this isn’t part of the “regular” run, it still features the characters from the book, so I figured reading two issues of them together might help with the fact that I find them bland. Um, nope. Fletcher tries to create false drama when Maps is pissed that the new girl is staying in Olive’s room for one night, as Maps thinks that means Riko is now Olive’s BFF and they both suck, but at least the drama only lasts a page because it’s really stupid. The Court of Owls thing was just weird – I don’t mind that they show up out of nowhere, because, again, it’s a crossover and experienced readers roll with it, but were they zombies? If so, wha-huh? I always like it when people figure out ways to deal with strange things that don’t involve punching them, so Olive’s talk with the main zombie was neat, but as usual with Gotham Academy, so much of this just felt … dull. Again, I guess it gets back to the fact that I haven’t really connected with the characters in GA, so anything they do isn’t all that interesting, but I thought maybe reading two issues in a row might make me care a bit more about them. It didn’t, but that’s okay. Everyone doesn’t have to like everything, after all.
One totally Airwolf panel: Since I’m in a Pink Panther mood (see above), here’s Fran Jeffries, because why the hell not?
Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #10 (“Enough Rope”) by David Lapham (writer/artist) and Maria Lapham (editor). $3.50, 28 pgs, BW, Image.
Up above, I mentioned how Shari Chankhamma sets Codename Baboushka in a place that doesn’t have many distinguishing features, and that’s too bad, because a good misc-en-scene can really help a comic be more memorable. It’s not the only reason or even the most important reason that Stray Bullets is so good (and I don’t mean to compare a veteran like Lapham with a relative newcomer like Chankhamma, but there it is), but the fact that Lapham always puts his characters in places that look real (and probably are, at least they were in Baltimore in 1981) is pretty cool. As Beth freaks out and drives all over the place buying suspicious contraband, we get a sense of how far and wide she travels in just a few panels. Lapham uses nice big shadows to show how dark Beth’s and Orson’s lives are becoming as they scheme, using them particularly well in the panel where Beth looks around at the wreckage of the room and realizes how insane their plan is (even though we know they’re still going through with it). She talks to Kretchmeyer at a miniature golf course, and Lapham does a nice job both with the wide-open space of the place (to make sure the two aren’t overheard) and the weird, childlike nature of the game itself, as Beth and Orson are almost children playing with the adults, and they really don’t know what they’re getting into. Rose’s crappy apartment lends her pathetic life even more sadness, and Beth’s journey from her apartment to Nina’s is a fascinating voyage both from squalor to luxury but also safety to danger. Lapham always makes sure that the action in his books takes place in recognizable and authentic places, even the Amy Racecar fantasies, and it’s part of what separates Stray Bullets from other comics. I mean, it’s not fair to compare one of the best comics out there right now with a new book with a newer artist, but it’s still something that struck me as I read the books this week.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Harrow County #8 by Cullen Bunn (writer), Tyler Crook (artist; writer, “Tales of Harrow County”), Simon Roy (artist, “Tales of Harrow County”), Ian Tucker (assistant editor), and Daniel Chabon (editor). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.
I love reading television recaps. I’m sorry, I just do. The ones at The A.V. Club are really good, and the superhero shows Comics Alliance does are pretty good, too (especially when Jesse L. Martin breaks out his Business Beanie, which he really hasn’t done enough this season). On one site (I can’t remember which, sorry), they speak of the rapidity with which The Flash goes through plot, as it really does seem to zip quickly from one plot point to another. The speed of the plot means we can’t dwell on the ridiculousness of some of the plot points, unlike on, say, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where lingering on plot points highlights how stupid they are. This idea came to my mind as I read Harrow County, which is eight issues in but has just finished its second arc, and Bunn seems to be “churning through plot” quite a lot. I expected a bit more out of Kammi, to be frank, but who knows if she’s gone for good. I still like Harrow County, but I do worry about the pace. Bunn wants to write a horror story, it seems, but the pace of the book makes it feel more of an action comic, as the instant we get anything weird and creepy, we speed to the end of an arc and we get a fight to determine the future direction of the book. It makes me wonder why Bunn is doing it this way, and I hope it’s not because of the publisher. Dark Horse has moved, it seems, toward four-issue trades, and so far, Harrow County has conformed to that, with two four-issue arcs. So the question is: Did Bunn do this because Dark Horse suggested he do it, which would be kind of annoying. Bunn could have wanted to zip through plot, certainly, but it seems weird for a book like Harrow County, where mood feels more important and it needs time to ferment. Emmy has already come to terms with her past and met her “twin sister,” and we’re only on issue #8, which seems fast. If Dark Horse suggested he tighten things up, that would suck, because why would they want something that they know needs a slow burn and then ignore that? If Bunn shifted it to fit Dark Horse’s “four-issue trade” format, that sucks too, because as much as it would be his choice, it would still be something different from the story he wants to tell. I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes with this comic, but I smell something fishy.
Of course, I still like the book. It’s neat, and Crook’s art is really good. But you know me – I wonder about these things. Of course, I also wonder where the final arc of The Sixth Gun is. COME ON!!!!!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection volume 2 by Jim Owsley (writer) and a bunch of artists. $34.99, FC, Marvel.
I still find the fact that Marvel splits these “complete collections” into more than one volume hilarious, but that’s okay. This looks fun. And hey, is that BP mackin’ on Storm? That’s just crazy!
Flinch volume 1 by lots of writers and lots of artists. $16.99, FC, DC/Vertigo.
Nice of DC to collect this, right?
Planetes Omnibus volume 1 by Makoto Yukimura (writer/artist). $19.99, 523 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.
Man, I really have to catch up on my manga reading. It’s piling up!
Quest for the Time Bird volume 1: Ramor’s Conch by Serge Le Tendre (writer), Régis Loisel (artist), Ivanka Hahnenberger (translator), and Lizzie Kaye (collection editor). $39.99, 230 pgs, FC, Titan Comics.
Who doesn’t love French adventure fantasy from the 1970s? Commies, that’s who. Although, considering that most of France was Commie in the 1970s, maybe they do like 1970s French adventure fantasy!
Underworld by Ed Brisson (letterer), GMB Chomichuk (artist), Lovern Kindzierski (writer), and Alexander Finbow (editor). $24.99, BW, Renegade Arts Entertainment.
On the back of this book, Kindzierski and Chomichuk are described as “two of Winnipeg’s most successful creative minds.” I know I shouldn’t find that humorous, but I really, really do.
The Complete Voodoo volume 1 by Craig Yoe (editor). $29.99, FC, IDW/Yoe Books.
There’s not a lot of Matt Baker art in this collection (most of it is from the Iger shop), but there’s some Matt Baker art, and any Matt Baker art is worth a look!
We Can Never Go Home volume 1 by Tyler Boss (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer), Josh Hood (artist), David C. Hopkins (letterer), Patrick Kindlon (writer), Brian Level (artist), Matthew Rosenberg (writer), and Amanda Scurti (colorist). $9.99, FC, Black Mask Comics.
If this isn’t any good, I’ll just blame Travis. I find that works for most things.
Hey, let’s take a look at the scheduling of the comics and if they came out on time! That’s always fun!
Black Panther: 9 December. Right on time!
Codename Baboushka: 9 December. Right on time!
Flinch: 9 December. This is 15 years old or so, so it’s not surprising it’s on time.
Gotham Academy: Issue #12 came out on the 11th of November, but it got screwed up in the shipping to my store. Issue #13 is right on time, though!
Harrow County: 9 December. Right on time!
Limbo: 9 December. Right on time!
Planetes: 9 December. Right on time!
Quest for the Time Bird: 16 September. Three months late. Better late than never!
Rebels: 9 December. Right on time!
Straitjacket: 28 October. This may have come out on time, but my store didn’t get it and needed to re-order it.
Stray Bullets: 18 November. Three weeks late. Yet worth the wait!
Trees: 16 September. Three months late. Oh dear.
Underworld: 9 December. Right on time!
The Complete Voodoo: 28 October. Six weeks late. Why? No man can say!
We Can Never Go Home: 25 November. Two weeks late. So sad!
Money spent this week: $215.22. YTD: $6990.77
As you might have noticed, the blog turned 11 a few days ago, and I’ve been writing for it for about 10¾ years of its existence. I’m not sure how I became aware of the existence of the blog, as I had just started my own blog in September 2004, but I’m sure I was led there by some comics blogger who was smarter than I was. I poked around on the old archives and found my first comment, on 20 December 2004 about a post that Brian put up on the 19th, so very soon after the blog started – he asked for our favorite X-Men issues, and boy howdy was I going to answer that! So I’m definitely an OG on the blog, although I noticed that Dan Apodaca commented on the very first “real” post – the first two were introductory – on 11 December, so he’s even more OG than I am. Dan’s the only one of the very early commenters that still occasionally comment here (unless some people have changed their screen names), but I still miss him because he doesn’t comment as often as he used to (hi, Dan!). Anyway, I think it’s very cool that CSBG is still trucking along, as it’s a rare leftover from that period of blogging, what I would call the “pioneer” phase of comics blogging (and blogging in general). That period began, what, around the turn of the millennium or maybe a year or two later (Neilalien started in 2000, if I recall correctly) and lasted until the “Wild West” phase, around 2007-2010, when the scene really exploded and things were just crazy. Now we’re into the “civilized” period, when everything has settled, many early blogs have fallen away as people got respectable jobs, and the sense of insanity is gone, even though there’s a some very good quality out there. I love writing for this blog, even if I have some issues with the format (I really hate the ads at the bottom of each post, but that’s just something we have to live with, I guess). I think it’s a great blog, and I’m kind of bummed that many of our contributors don’t contribute any longer. I love reading The Dread Lord and Master’s weird posts, and Other Greg’s reminiscences, and Chad’s occasional drop-ins (I haven’t commented on his Dreadstar posts, but I read every single one of them), but I miss the others. I know Kelly is too busy conquering comics to write for us anymore, and I’m pretty sure I know why Sonia has taken a break, but I don’t want to comment further about that, and I miss the other writers, too, who have come and gone. Still, it’s a lot of fun writing here, even as my time gets crunched even more and I can’t spend as much time with it as I’d like. So Happy Birthday, Comics Should Be Good, and as always, I have to thank Brian for offering me the gig. It’s been very cool.
I don’t have much else to say this week. I guess there’s some sort of science-fiction movie coming out this week that people seemed jazzed about, so maybe I’ll write more about that next week. I expect I’ll see it, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to it. We’ll see.
I did want to do a Top Ten List, and today I’ll list my favorite post-1988 Marillion songs. I’ve already listed my pre-1988 favorites, but their original lead singer, Fish, left the band after their 1987 album, and their new lead singer, Steve Hogarth, brought a different vibe to the band. I know some people gave up on the band after that, but I think Marillion is still terrific with Hogarth, and I’ve been a big fan of their work even post-Fish. I was inspired to do this by the announcement of their new album, which I hope will be out in 2016 (Marillion was an early pioneer of crowdsourcing, as every one of their albums since 2000 has been financed that way, including this new one), and their new tour dates, which will bring them to Philadelphia on 6 November 2016. I’ve already seen them twice, but I’m going to try to be in Philly for that concert. Who’s with me?!?!? Anyway, this was a hard list to make, because they’re my favorite band, but I think this is a good list. As always, the songs that just didn’t quite make the cut, like “House” and “Interior Lulu” from 1999 and “Cathedral Wall” and “These Chains” from 1998, are as close to the list as the tenth and ninth songs on this list, but I just like those a bit more!
10. “Between You And Me” (2001). This is the first track off Anoraknophobia, and it kicks the album into high gear nicely, with a pulsing guitar part and joyous lyrics and singing by Hogarth. It drives us forward well and sets a good tone for the album, which is a bit happier than the previous two albums. It’s also from the last really good-to-great Marillion album (the four since have ranged from their worst album to just decent), and this song is a good table-setter for that, too. The lyrics are here.
9. “You’re Gone” (2004). Marbles is one of those just decent albums, but this song is tremendous. The music is spooky, as Steve Rothery’s guitar comes in with eerie tones, but it also has a great beat, with very cool drumming by Ian Mosley. Hogarth’s plaintive lyrics about lost love and the brief moments where two souls can be together (this is a musical version of Ladyhawke, essentially) are really nice, and this was before his voice started to go, so he sings it really powerfully. Here are the lyrics!
8. “Afraid Of Sunrise”/“Afraid Of Sunlight” (1995). These are two different songs, but they’re linked, and it’s really too difficult for me to separate them, so I’m not going to! The first song is a bit more languid, while the second one starts quietly but builds to a painful conclusion, as the songs are about self-destructive streaks in people and how it drives them to greatness and death. Hogarth’s lyrics, which are never going to be as poetical as Fish’s, are still excellent, as he cuts more to the core of things: “I’m already dead, it’s a matter of time.” These are the lyrics to the first song, and these are the lyrics to the second one!
7. “Brave” (1994). This is the title track of Marillion’s “comeback” album (after an attempt at commercial success with Holidays In Eden in 1991, which did not go well), and it’s terrific. It begins with bagpipe-sounding keyboards (I assume they’re Mark Kelly’s keyboards and not an actual bagpipe), and throughout the song, we get nice, eerie reverb backing up Hogarth’s terrific vocals. The lengthy instrumental section in the middle makes the song more insistent and scary, as the lyrics about a missing girl turn into a strange search through unfamiliar worlds, with Kelly doing some stellar work that feels both immediate and reminiscent of Fish-era Marillion (this album is probably the most Fish-era-esque of Hogarth’s albums, so that’s not surprising). Check out the haunting lyrics here!
6. “Waiting To Happen” (1991). Speaking of Holidays In Eden, while it’s probably Marillion’s second-worst album (which doesn’t mean it’s bad, as Somewhere Else is so much worse than any album they’ve ever released, but something has to be second-worst!), mainly because of their blatant attempt to grab commercial success, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good songs on it, and this excellent love song is the best one. The music is very nice, Hogarth’s lyrics are sweet – my favorites are “We took ourselves apart / We talked about our faces / You said you didn’t like yours / I said I disagree” – and he sings with great conviction. It’s just a wonderful song. Read the rest of the lyrics here!
5. “Genie” (2004). Hogarth began to have trouble with falsetto on Marillion’s next album, but he still manages to do a nice job with it here, which helps make the song work. This is a terrific song about being scared of change but trying to embrace it, and Hogarth sells it well, while Rothery’s soaring guitar solo makes it a more triumphant song than we might expect. This is my favorite Marillion song of the past 15 years – it’s a perfect mix of yearning, trepidation, fear, and hope, and the band does amazing work with it. Take a look at the lyrics here!
4. “Man Of A Thousand Faces” (1997). This Strange Engine isn’t a great album (it’s pretty good, though), but it starts off with this amazing song, with superb lyrics by John Helmer about history and the way humanity has changed over the centuries. Hogarth sings the lyrics beautifully, and Rothery’s acoustic guitar provides a nice backdrop until Kelly’s piano solo comes in. The song ends with a lengthy quasi-instrumental section that becomes spacey and hectic, as the musicians swirl the song into a tornado of sound, with strong bass by Pete Trewavas and pounding drumming by Mosley. Here are the lyrics!
3. “Easter” (1989). Marillion’s first post-Fish album, Seasons End, was the first CD I ever bought, and it includes this great song about the Easter Rebellion of 1916. Hogarth’s voice is wonderful, as he sings the heartfelt lyrics really well, but the song also features a nifty short keyboard solo by Kelly and a brilliant guitar solo by Rothery (it does sound very much like a Fish-era solo, but that’s probably to be expected). It’s just a great song. The lyrics are here!
2. “King” (1995). Afraid Of Sunlight is a superb album, and it ends with this great song, which is about the price of celebrity and even the strangeness of celebrity itself. It builds slowly throughout its 7-minute run time, until it bursts open with a rage of crashing drums and haunting guitars and painfully sad vocals, as Hogarth ends with “I hope for your sake you’ve got what it takes to be spoilt to death” before Rothery crunches in and Mosley’s drums and Kelly’s keyboards build to a thunderous and disquieting crescendo. It’s really a wonderful song. See the lyrics!
1. “Go!” (1999). This song begins with a pulsing guitar and a spooky keyboard before Hogarth comes in with his ethereal lyrics about changing your life for the positive. The lyrics (which you can read here) are short and not as metaphorical as some of Hogarth’s, but he sings them with beautiful conviction, and the music behind him is tremendous. The song builds to a great moment where Hogarth sings “Wide awake on the edge of the world,” and it always gives me chills, especially with Mosley providing such nice clashing cymbals behind it. marillion.com is a wonderful album (it’s not the best post-Fish album because it has a couple of lousy songs mixed in with so many great ones), and this song is emblematic of its power.
I don’t have much else to write about today, and it’s already Sunday afternoon, so let’s do some Totally Random Lyrics. No one guessed last week’s, which were from “You Were The Generation That Bought More Shoes” by Johnny Boy:
Here’s some for this week!
“I’m not the only soul who’s accused of hit and run
Tire tracks all across your back
I can, I can see you had your fun
But, darlin’ can’t you see my signals turn from green to red
And with you I can see a traffic jam straight up ahead”
That’s probably too easy, but such is life!
Have a great day, everyone!
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