Archive for January, 2008

Flying hamsters

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Brenda has pointed out this amazing thing.  Fortunately for me, flash 7 won’t make it work and my flash 9 player isn’t stable enough for me to lose the many hours of time this could potentially suck up.  Enjoy.

Into the longbox (more catching up)

Friday, January 25th, 2008

I wanted to mention a few collections/graphic novels I’ve finished in the last couple months that didn’t get into one of the other longbox posts.

Girl Genius 4: Agatha Heterodyne and the Circus of Dreams, Girl Genius 5: Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess, and Girl Genius 6: Agatha Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite, Phil and Kaja Foglio. These are a great chance to see excellent creators at the top of their game. Phil’s been doing comics a long time and his writing/plotting chemistry with Kaja seems to make everything stronger. Girl Genius really shows off their personal blend of humor and drama. Better than that, their mad scientists are all geeks with the volume turned up to 11, and they get them exactly right. Highly recommended. You can read the whole thing online.

Skellington, The Retribution Index, Great Aches, and Heavy Metal Hearts + Flowers, John Allison. These are all Scary-Go-Round collections, and all of them but Heavy Metal Hearts + Flowers are online. Scary-Go-Round has long been a favorite here on the moon. Its clean expressive art and whip-smart dialog make every arc a great delight. Of course, Allison can get a little lost on his way to the big picture – a quirk that is becoming less common as he goes on – but the joys above more than compensate for the occasional wandering storyline or abandoned set-up. It’s good fun.

Legion of Super-Heroes: An Eye For An Eye, Levitz, Geffin, Lightle, Orlando. This reprints the first 6 issues of the 1984 prestige series, including the death of Karate Kid. Now, if that sounds super campy to you, you should skip right on to the next review. I’m a LSH fan, and something like this collection is hard to resist. I kind of wish I had. It’s great to see the old Lightle art, and to a lesser extent the Geffin art, but the story is a lot more disjointed than I remember it. It’s certainly difficult to juggle the Legion’s large cast, and Levitz was always good at communicating a lot of action with a few broad strokes of writing. It seems like this was accomplished by immersing the reader in the world month-by-month, and looking back from 20 years later, it doesn’t flow as well.

More importantly, Karate Kid’s death was really disappointing. (I suppose these are spoilers.) This was something that had happened off-panel for me, and the short explanation – sacrificed himself fighting Nemesis Kid when the LSV conquered Orando – always sounded like a way the Kid might go out. But the actual scene is just awful. The Kid ditches the rest of the Legion to fight Nemesis Kid hand to hand to “settle a personal score.” Val is simply not this dumb; Nemesis Kid can beat any single combatant by definition – you don’t fight him alone if there’s any other choice. As a result it looks like KK threw his life away by being pig headed, and that’s a lousy thing to know. Bleah.

Yeah, I know how dumb it sounds for a grown man to be ticked off that 20 years ago Karate Kid fought Nemesis Kid out of character and lost, but that’s the way it is.

Powers 11: Cosmic, Powers 12: Secret Identity, Bendis and Oeming. Mmmm Powers. I keep thinking that Bendis and Oeming’s gritty cop drama set in a world with superheroes has nowhere else to go, and they keep surprising me with new ideas and new character interactions. Really it’s Deena and Walker – the lead characters – who carry this all. They’re flawed people doing their best to eek out some sense of fairness and justice in a world with all the corruption and venality of ours, magnified by super powers. They’re flawed to the point that they’re as real as their world is a fantasy; I probably wouldn’t much like meeting them. Still, as long as they stay real, I’ll keep coming back.

Goodnight Irene: The Collected Stories of Irene Van de Kamp, Carol Lay. When I stroll through the comics store and see a collection of Carol Lay comics about a character I don’t know with an introduction by Mike Mothersbaugh of Devo, well, you’ve got my attention. Irene is one of the richest women on Earth, who happens to have been raised by the Ubangi people and has the radical body alterations common to that culture. And she lives in a world informed by 60’s romance comics. It’s both a lot of fun and certainly will keep the analysts busy. Even if you don’t want to think vary hard, these are winning stories with an interesting protagonist set in a fantastic world. They’re drawn by Carol Lay, so they’re gorgeous. If you do want to think there’s stuff to chew on.

MP3 Taser

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Not the perfect gift.  But close.

MYOF comes to an end

Thursday, January 24th, 2008


The wrap up article for Nathan Rabin’s spectacular My Year of Flops feature is up at the AV club. Even if you’ve foolishly ignored my repeated urgings to see the carnage, you should check out the year in review.

Educated Love

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

ekr is a force for good in computer security and the Internet in general as well as being a unique human.  In a good way.  What I didn’t know was that he’s willing to give advice on other matters on the record.

It’s like knowing a celebrity.  Kinda.  Without any of the, yknow, perks.

First Reviews of 2008

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Reviews of I Am America (And You Can Too), Born Standing Up, and The Physics of Superheroes are up on Bell, Book, and Candle.  Mmmmm, Christmas books.

Into the longbox

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

This is long overdue.

Badger Saves the World #1, Baron and Caron. I liked this much better than Badger: Bull in terms of presenting the Badger. There’s more space to breathe and a little more time to let readers ease into his world. The art still isn’t my cup of tea. It seems a little cramped and much less dynamic than I think the Badger needs.

While the pacing is better, things still seem a little uneven. There’s a Badger vs. demon battle that feels tacked on and rushed, as if to show that Badger’s not just crazy. Without room to change tone, it just feels confusing.

Overall, I’d still send people to the back issue bin to see the Badge at his best. Boy I’d love to see a set of Badger reprints like Grimjack and Jon Sable have been getting.

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #3-4, Palmiotti, Gray, and Arlem. This one’s still in guilty pleasure land. I do continue to like the art, though it isn’t always simple to follow. It is stylish and matches the tenor and pace of the story, which are considerable plusses.

The writing is more troubling. Every issue seems to add a subplot to the mix without resolving any of the existing danglers, which is a little alarming for a half-over 8-issue mini. I do like the consistent nods to the complexities of the real world, but that isn’t really enough characterization. I guess I’d prefer less going on and more characterization – or even more spectacular punch-ups – to rushed characterization and new subplots. It’s still a fun read, though.

Gravel #0, Ellis, Wolfer & Caceres. Beginning of a new series featuring Warren Ellis’s combat magician. Bought more or less on a lark. So far there’s plenty of Grim’n’grtitty dialogue, but not much beyond that. Gravel’s had a run of mini-series and hasn’t died out, so I’ll stick around a while to see what’s here, but this issue was not anything very special.

Black Summer #4, Ellis & Ryp. Very clearly a pacer issue. Several pieces of the chess game move to new positions, but very little happens in terms other than plot. A bunch of ordinance and people are destroyed by the Guns, John Horus shows he’s a bad ass, and Frank Blacksmith is moving new Guns into position. All well and good, but no one will ever say this is their favorite issue of Black Summer.

Captain America #33, Brubaker, Epting, Guice, and D’armata. Like Black Summer above, this is mostly pacing and plot. Bucky mixes it up with Iron Man and a surprise twist that’s only minimally surprising is revealed. I know why Brubaker needs to incorporate the twist, but the real test will be if this book remains readable after it’s added.

Grendel: Behold the Devil #2-3 (of 8), Wagner. Matt’s getting readers into Hunter’s world at a reasonable pace, though it’s starting to take a toll on his characters. As they start to see what goes on in Grendel’s operatic world, it’s difficult to ccntinue to see it as a game. Unless you’re Hunter, of course. For me it’s interesting to see these characters again, but I wonder how new readers are seeing this whole thing unfold.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #12, Cooke, Bone & Stewart. Looks like we’re not done with Cooke and Co., and I couldn’t be happier. Another updating of an Eisner character where the team does an excellent job keeping the emotional resonances intact while updating the action for the modern reader. That story is so strong, and the updating done with such care, that this remains classic stuff.

Doktor Sleepless #4, Eisner & Rodriguez. Now, this is the way to keep the pot bubbling. We learn some more about the Nurse, there’s an interlude with the Doktor complaining about the state of music today, and then some strange rumblings of badness to come. Each segment is spooky, oblique and raises more questions than it answer.

Looking at the big stack of comics I’m reviewing I was struck by how clean Rodriguez’s art is and how well he tells the story. There are plenty of subtleties to the art, repeating visual motifs, hints in the backs of panels, and such, but his art never looks cramped or busy. It’s art that so well done that it’s easy to miss.

And what can you say about a series that features disemboweling as a repeating motif? Good stuff.

Fell #9, Ellis & Templesmith. While one of the joys and goals of Fell is that each issue tells a complete story, that doesn’t mean that its world is static. This is another great issue in itself, with a tense plot and unusual crime to unravel, but the real tension comes from seeing the long term effects on Richard Fell. It’s becoming clear from both the issue itself and the backmatter that things will be changing more for detective Fell in the coming issues, and it also seems clear that this will not be a pleasant experience. For anyone.

Except, of course, those of us reading about it. Grab the trade paperback and then join in.

Bobby Fischer

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

Bobby Fischer passed away this week.

When I was in High School, I played chess seriously enough to learn the language and develop an appreciation for the esoteric, mathematical beauty of the game. It’s really remarkable how expressive a few pieces of plastic and a shared understanding of the world that they imply can be. I’ve seen players joke, threaten, rage, panic and nearly everything else within the confines of 64 squares. Even without outside commentary, you can see players talk to one another in the moves they make.  Between humans, it’s a framework for interaction and understanding that goes beyond the constrained aspects of play.

Once you’ve learned to converse a little in that dialect, Fischer’s name comes up a lot, and not just for the popularization and politicization of the game that he catalyzed. He was a genuine chess genius. He blazed new trails of play and revitalized lines of thought that were believed to be dead ends with his passion and brilliance. People make analogies between his ability and Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan, but if anything, his presence in chess is larger. Even if he’d never been on the wider world stage, the chess world would remember him as a revolutionary, and rightly so.

Unfortunately, on virtually every other axis he seems to have been unbalanced. Of course, I’ve never met him, so I can only say what I’ve seen reported, but it seems undeniable that he was a dedicated anti-semite and generally a whack-O outside the world of chess.

It’s heartbreaking when someone is clearly superhumanly talented in one area, but so prosaic in others. Outside the game, Fischer was just a guy, and not a guy I had much respect for. That’s just being human, I suppose, but it’s a sad reminder of how many different aspects that game has.

Everyone speaks Elton John

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

The amazing Rod Van Meter points out this piece of American entertainment history. Words fail me.

If that weren’t enough, a link from the video on that page led me to ShatnerVision. It’s been some time since the Internet scared me (outside of the Warren Ellis context), but I think ShatnerVision has done it.

He’s no Pat Robertson

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I know he’s a big name and all, but I’d be tempted to turn down an endorsement with the stink of loss about it.  Who’s Mondale behind this year?

Heh. That question was intended to be rhetorical, but I guess it’s not. Apparently we have a horse race after all.