Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson

If you grew up in the 80's, and love good pop music, you probably have a mixed thoughts about Michael Jackson. On one hand, he was responsible for some of the most amazing and inventive music of our generation. On the other hand, he was widely suspected of committing some of the worst crimes you can think of.

Let's deal with the first one first. I don't know how you explain it to people who weren't around when he exploded onto the national consciousness with his performance of Billie Jean on the Motown 25 special back in 1983. Off The Wall had already been released and was a huge hit, but Thriller, and that performance in particular, turned him into the type of superstar that hadn't been seen since The Beatles, and has not been seen since (and most likely probably never will). Everyone was a Michael Jackson fan, when the Thriller music video was release on VHS (when I was nine), they actually took all of us out of class so we could all watch it at school. How did that happen? I have no idea, I just know I was caught along with it. I wanted a sparkly glove, just like Michael! So did everyone I know, and probably everyone you know that was conscious during that time.

But once that superstardom faded away, we were left with the music. Two perfect albums (and one that was pretty damn great), I still have my battered vinyl copies of all three of those (though only one is the original one that my Brother bought at Musicland at Orland Mall) and I'll be honest, I've really wanted to upgrade and get some nice CD's of all of them. And that's where the second part of Michael Jackson's legacy comes in. He was one weird motherfucker, and there was no denying it, really there wasn't a damn thing you couldn't accuse him of that you couldn't see being true, so when the pedophile allegations came out, no one had trouble believing it, and that's why I just couldn't drop any cash that could find its way into his pockets, much like the difficulties I have with other troubled pop genius/bat-shit crazy mofo Phil Spector.

So what am I trying to say here? Hell if I know, but it sucks that Michael Jackson didn't make more great music, and it sucks that his own ego/fucked up up-bringing/crazy-asssedness got in the way of that. But we still have the great music did make, and maybe his death will allow us to appreciate that a little bit more.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day Comics: Top Ten #4

Well, it's late on Father's Day 2009, and I just got struck with a great comic to talk about on this most "Dad" of days, and rather than let it marinate (and probably get forgotten about) for another year, I figured I'd just throw it out there before it's all over.

Top Ten is one of my favorite series of the last ten to fifteen years, part of Alan Moore's America's Best Comics line, it's the story of the police officers of Precinct 10, cops in a city populated solely by super-heroes. It's just an amazing series, and almost more that Moore's excellent writing, it is brought alive by the art of Gene Ha* and Zander Cannon. The sheer amount of detail thrown into the images is just amazing and it pays to go back over the art again and again for "easter egg" images. If you've been reading comics for any significant length of time, you owe it to yourself to check it out, as it takes the piss out of much from the genre.

Anyway, the Father's Day aspect of the book, during the course of an investigation, the detectives of the 10th pick up Ernesto Gograh who's father just happens to be the neighborhood Godzilla analogue:

Who happens to be not only a giant monster, but a drunk as well. Needless to say, things do not go well, as the drunk as a skunk monster-redneck throws up all over the neighborhood. Anyway, long story short, thanks to their staff size-changer, they manage to bust the big guy down to size:

So what does this have to do with Father's Day? Jack shit, but for some reason it just struck me as appropriate. So obviously, I have no idea what is and is not appropriate. Regardless, get the book, read the book, love the book..and then send me money.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pre-Review: Underground #1

I've long made no secret of the fact that Jeff Parker is probably one of my favorite writers working in comics today, though most of his work that I've read of his has been his work for Marvel, specifically his excellent work on Marvel Adventures: Avengers and his own creation of Agents of Atlas. I've always intended to pick up his independently published graphic novel, The Interman, but have yet to. Anyway, when I heard that he was going to be working on a series with Steve Lieber, artist on one of my favorite series of the last ten years, Whiteout* I was excited to see what they were going to come up.

Fortunately, they posted the entire first issue on-line, so I took a looksie at it and it's pretty great so far. Very reminiscent of Whiteout, and not just because of Lieber's excellent artwork, though it certainly helps. The series is set in Marion, KY in the Appalachian Mountains, which has little going for it other than a set of spectacular caves which they are itching to turn into a tourist destination, however, it's up to the government whether they are allowed to turn a national landmark into a tourist trap. Though most of the residents of the depressed region are all for it, Park Ranger Wesley Fisher would like nothing better than to not see another human being step foot into the caves to preserve their unique ecosystem. Of course it's this clash of ideas that cause things to go wrong. Though the first issue is largely set up, it flows very well and gives you a great feeling for the characters. As I said above, Lieber's art is great and looks fantastic in black and white in the preview, it'll be interesting to see it in full color.

Anyway, the book so far is pretty great and I heartily recommend hiking on down to your local comics retailer and putting in an order for the first issue, hitting stands in September. Check out the web site they've created for the book to learn more!

*I hope to have a Favorite Things post up on Whiteout soon.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Always Remember....

Lobot was a stone cold motherfucker who
would kill you just as soon as look at you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Captain America #600

So here it is, Captain America #600, the book that's been talked/bitched about for the last few weeks. Since my shop was kind enough to request the Monday delivery of the book I figured that I'd pick it up, and much like every issue of Ed Brubaker's run on the series so far, it's pretty darn good. Now mind you, it's an anniversary issue, celebrating 600 issues of Captain America in the real world, and a year since Cap was shot & killed in the Marvel Universe. Mostly it's a series of vignettes featuring the main characters in the book showing how they were going to mark the anniversary, along with some remembrances from some of his former supporting characters.

But that's about it, except for one plot point revealed in the very beginning, the big event that we all thought was going to happen, doesn't happen here. It's all a big "To Be Continued In Reborn" which doesn't really bug me, but if anyone actually picked up this book based on the mainstream media coverage, man, are they gonna be pissed since it doesn't happen here, just the ball starts rolling, but it all feels like a giant bait & switch. I love what Ed Brubaker's done with Captain America, making it one of the best superhero comics of the last 10 years, but Marvel's continuing jackassery about how they're marketing it is a giant thorn in my side.

Overall, if you've been enjoying this book, your enjoyment will continue. If you haven't been, well, start at the beginning.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, I got lucky enough to lay eyes on some of Don Kramer's original, inked art for this new mini-series and it was nothing short of stunning. I've been a big fan of Kramer's work for a little while, but this was some of the best work I've ever seen from him.

I'd actually been looking for this series for a while, mostly because of the writer, Eric Trautman, who hasn't written much, but served as Greg Rucka's co-writer on the far too underrated Checkmate!. In that series, they managed to take Kobra, what could have easily been DC's Hydra knock-off and turned it into a credible, currently-relevant threat to the DC Universe. Up until now, most of the "terrorist" organizations existing in the big two comics have been rather lacking in terror, but they've really managed to rachet things up very well.

So anyway, if you find yourself at the shop on Wednesday with an extra $2.99 burning a hole in your pocket, you could do a lot worse than to pick this one up.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Daredevil: Lady Bullseye

I'd been holding off on picking up the latest volume of Daredevil, partly because, though I've been enjoying Ed Brubaker's run on the title, my enthusiasm as waned a bit with each ensuing volume, and partly because most reviews I've seen have been rather lukewarm about it*. Anyway, so after a crappy day at work, I decided to give it a swing anyway and while it was certainly not bad, even very good in parts, I'm still not fully sold on it.

Part of the reason I've been cooling on the series as a while is that, frankly, I'm getting tired of Matt Murdock. I know, he's supposed to be the "hard-luck, self-destructive superhero", but now he's just turning into an asshole. After his wife was driven insane, he's now (guiltily) making time with private investigator, Dakota North. Even as he fights his wife's parents in a custody battle. I realize that if it wasn't for bad luck, DD wouldn't have no luck at all, but this is just getting to be too much. I half expect for Brubaker to have Matt adopt a cute puppy, only for him to cheat on it and then have Mr. Fear boil it for good measure.

The main thrust of the story itself is that with the ninja clan, The Hand in chaos after the events of Secret Invasion, they have designs on Daredevil, and some of his friends (including personal favorite, Iron Fist). Leading up this effort is the titular Lady Bullseye, who as a whole isn't a bad villain (no pun intended), but, as her name suggests, she lacks originality. As Lori** recently discussed, Marvel has seemed to have given up on creating new female characters and just is issuing female version of current male ones (or in the new She-Hulks case, new versions of female versions of make characters). While I really can't fault Brubaker's writing of this character, I just have a hard time buying into Lady Bullseye, because, at the end of the day, she's just a copy. Of a villain that, due to his recent ubiquity in the Marvel Universe, we're all pretty sick of.

But that's not to say that I didn't like it. It did have some really good parts to it. One of my favorite Daredevil tropes is his teaming up with other ninja-types and this book delivers on that, along with the aforementioned Iron Fist, we get the newly re-formed Black Tarantula, and Master Izo, who was apparently Stick's teacher. From there we get some good battles where the good guys lose some ad the bad guys lose some more, ending with an offer to Daredevil that I saw coming a mile away. And to be honest, I'm kind of sad DD made the decision he did (spoilers ahead).

As I had guessed early on, The Hand were sizing all of the heroes up to see if they thought any of them were ready to take over leadership of The Hand. While I have been enjoying the adventures of Daredevil: Hard Luck New York Lawyer!, I'd really like to see them shake up the premise a bit. It's been a decade since Daredevil was brought back to prominence and really, other than the unmasking, they haven't done too much to shake him up. It would be nice to get him out of New York and let him do something new. That said, the premise of "crusading hero takes over international criminal organization and tries to set them straight from the inside" is already being done, and done well in Agents of Atlas, so maybe they'll need a different tack to shake things up here.

Anyway, Brubaker's*** only got one more volume before he moves on from the title, so hopefully he'll toss in a curveball in the next little bit. Regardless, as a while, I've loved his run on the titles, more than anyone else's, short of Miller's run.

*Oh yeah, and also because it's over-priced...$17 for 5 issues Marvel? You really are a bunch of dicks, aren't you?

**Manager of my local comics shop, who has recently started her own blog, check it out!

***And along with him, excellent artist Michael Lark. It's a shame I didn't mention him earlier, but it's kind of hard to critique his art, since it's consistently perfect.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What I Got - 6.3.09

Fuck it, I'm bored, let's talk comics.

Batman and Robin #1

So begins Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely's rebirth of Batman, etal. I have to admit, I wanted to like this book, no, I wanted to love this book and rarely does that lead to good things, but, as of right now, I gotta say I love it. While it's probably an understatement to say that Morrison often over-complicates his plots, this is a straightforward, very quickly* told story. He gives us an introduction to the new status quo and introduces the new threat to Gotham City in a very elegant way.

I must say, though I liked the idea of [SPOILER] Dick taking over as Batman, I wasn't exactly sold on Damien. He's always been a little shit and just couldn't see how they could make him into a likable character. But here, he seems to have turned a corner, though still arrogant, he's lost some of the asshole-ish edge that he had to him. It is an interesting dynamic (no pun indended) to switch up the personalities involved with the duo. You have Batman, who doesn't really want to be Batman, and a Robin who would only be too glad to take over.

Morrison's work on Batman has shown flashes of brilliance (the Club of Heroes story), but has also been a bit of a mess, but now you get the feeling that this was the story he signed on to tell. I look forward to see where this is going.

A note about the art, I realize that Quitely's art is not to everyone's taste, but he does some pretty great work here. There's one page that I just fell in love with:

I've always loved those cut-away shots that they did to show off the heroes' or villains' lairs and this one is no different. Plus, Wayne Tower even has bat-ears!

Agents of Atlas #6

This book has been another one that I've wanted to love so bad, but up till now, it just hasn't fired on all cylinders. I absolutely loved the original mini-series, but the on-going just has missed that certain verve the original had. Up till now at least, though I'm hesitant to say that it's made the leap back to where it was, it's building up. Part of it could be that this is the first issue of the series that's not dividing the narrative between the past and the present, allowing Jeff Parker to tell a more coherent story. Plus removing the team from the Mora's of the current Dark Reign crossoverclusterfuck makes it that much more enjoyable for the rest of us not following along.

I do like that they're following up on the Namorra/Namor romance brought up in Hercules recently, complete with an exhaustive explanation that their relationship is not incest**. It's also nice to see the return of former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Derek Kahnata, who figured in tot he original series greatly.

Also, special mention has to go to artist Gabriel Hardman, his work is very reminiscent to Michael Lark and Sean Phillips stuff and it's really grown on me. Hopefully they can keep him on this book for a while because I look forward to where it is going.

OK, looks like I only got two reviews in me for the night, but that's what I really loved this week.

*Very quickly, if there's one big criticism of this book is that it reads way too fast.

**"Ken Hale's, "I guess they even got hillbillys under the sea." is definitely the line of the week.


Just a friendly Wednesday evening reminder that if you're not reading The Incredible Hercules (comics' #2* purveyor of the finest violence-based onomatopoeia around), boy, are you missing out. What are you waiting for?

*#1 being, now and always, Walt Simonson's Thor.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Movie Review: UP

Pixar's tenth movie has just been released and I think UP is the most daring of the lot so far. Yes, even more daring than the one about the rat that was a chef. I'll get it out of the way up front, I loved the movie and thought it was excellent, but it (at least as of right now) isn't my favorite of their movies.

UP begins with the story of Carl and Ellie, who meet during childhood, joined by their love of adventure. We see, in a beautiful sequence, them fall in love, get married, and watch their dreams of adventuring together slowly fade away as life intervenes and finally Carl is left alone in their house awaiting the loss of his own freedom (as he is being put into assisted living). As a last ditch effort, to live his & Ellie's dream, Carl floats his house away on thousands of balloons towards South America, joined by Russell, an unwitting passenger, who is a Wilderness Explorer seeking to get his Elderly Assistance merit badge.

This is a beautiful film, but also a very melancholy one. From Carl's loss of his wife, to Russell's absent Father, hell, even the talking dog is sad most of the time. I think the key is that almost all of the characters feel that they've failed and are in some way useless. While it may seem odd subject to broach in what is ostensibly children's movie, it's actually pretty apt. Watching my eldest (age 6) push his way through Kindergarten this year, dealing with failure is probably one of the earliest lessons kids learn and rarely do we actually attempt to teach them anything about it. He's wanted to read so badly but it's very hard, especially when you have the patience of..well, a six year-old.

The one thing that surprised me about the movie is that is very emotional, while the inital Carl/Ellie courtship scene is sure to bring the tears, there are several other occasions that got things a little dusty in the movie theater.

Overall, this is a pretty fantastic movie, though there are valid criticims to be made, especially with regards to the sometimes slow pacing, I was still won over by it.