I dug this. It's an effective use of a fun trend in recent comics—the series of short stories done in pastiches of various styles, that all turn out t...moreI dug this. It's an effective use of a fun trend in recent comics—the series of short stories done in pastiches of various styles, that all turn out to interconnect and form one larger story. (Dan Clowes' recent stuff (Ice Haven and Death Ray) is probably the best example of this.) Interesting to see that approach applied to a different kind of story. It manages to encompass a number of different takes on the spy theme, from espionage as workaday drudgery to a Mata Hari riff to a parodic take on a Bond-like "super-spy" (the title character, actually a pretty minor player)—and weaves them all together in a satisfying way.
Kindt's cartooning is effective enough, though it's sometimes overwhelmed by its rough-around-the-edges quality—it wasn't always easy to recognize characters when they reappeared after any kind of absence, for example (and in a book where characters turn out to be other characters in disguise, that's a problem, though admittedly it only happened a couple times). That said, the textures he lays over the line work (colors and ink washes, etc) are very well done, so much so that the completed pages are really attractive, despite the otherwise somewhat underwhelming linework. (That sounds a bit harsh, but I actually mean it as a compliment.) (less)
I posted some thoughts about Astro City generally with the first book, but this one deserves special mention for being my favorite of the bunch. Steel...moreI posted some thoughts about Astro City generally with the first book, but this one deserves special mention for being my favorite of the bunch. Steeljack is just a fantastic noir character.(less)
I'm in the process of rereading the Astro City books, and I'm actually liking them much more upon rereading than I did the first time through (and I l...moreI'm in the process of rereading the Astro City books, and I'm actually liking them much more upon rereading than I did the first time through (and I liked them fine then). On first reading, I had trouble getting past the fan-wank interpretation, recognizing which characters represent which established superheroes—Samaritan is Superman, the First Family are the Fantastic Four, etc—but reading them again, it's clear these are more than just fan fiction. The characters are obviously building on archetypes, but the stories tend to hinge on the unique aspects of each character—despite initial appearances, Confession isn't really a Batman and Robin story at all, for example. And Busiek and Anderson are really doing more than just dissecting the corpse of superhero comics—they're using a genre they clearly have a lot of love for to its full allegorical potential, and creating some great characters in the process. So, if you're nerdy enough (as I am) to recognize it, the Jack-in-the-Box story in Family Album was clearly inspired by certain plotlines in the Spider-Man comics of the mid-ninties, but that's really nothing more than a jumping off point for a story about fatherhood and responsibility.
It's interesting to note that many of the best superhero comics of the past decade (to my eye) have been those with the freedom to build universes around themselves, so that the powers and origins of the characters are allowed to carry a big portion of the metaphorical weight—this, Brubaker and Phillips' Sleeper, Alan Moore's various ABC books, Ellis and Cassady's Planetary, etc... (less)
Picked this up on a whim when I needed something to read on the train home last week—apparently Joss Whedon liked it enough to ginch artist Georges Je...morePicked this up on a whim when I needed something to read on the train home last week—apparently Joss Whedon liked it enough to ginch artist Georges Jeanty for his new Buffy comic, so I figured it must have something going for it, right? Turns out it did—this is actually very well done. Sure, the allegory is painted in pretty broad strokes, but flying people in tights aren't exactly known for subtlety, right? Fits nicely in with some of the better superhero comics of recent years—Astro City, Planetary, Supreme, etc—in the way it takes established archetypes and tweaks them. (less)
A light and fun read by the writer of the upcoming flick Juno. Really interesting, nonjudgmental descriptions of her time as a stripper. It sometimes...moreA light and fun read by the writer of the upcoming flick Juno. Really interesting, nonjudgmental descriptions of her time as a stripper. It sometimes seems a bit like a collection of anecdotes rather than one coherent story, but it's clever (in a good way) and funny enough to keep you entertained and intrigued throughout.
Finally worth reading primarily so that you can feel like the coolest kid on the block when Diablo Cody becomes crazy rock-star famous once Juno comes out this winter. I got to see a sneak peak screening a few weeks ago (which is why I bought this book), and I guarantee that movie is going to be the next Napolean Dynamite, only with incredibly likeable characters, a super-smart script, and actually funny jokes. So, nothing at all like Napolean Dynamite, actually. My point is, see it early before all your friends have ruined it for you by obsessively quoting all the best lines.
Okay, so I totally just turned this "review" into a plug for a movie rather than a book. Am I going to be kicked off Goodreads now? (less)
Not as good as the follow-up (Songs of Innocence, which I accidentally read first), but the degree to which this is a pretty standard (if well-execute...moreNot as good as the follow-up (Songs of Innocence, which I accidentally read first), but the degree to which this is a pretty standard (if well-executed) detective story only makes the turn taken in the second book that much more noteworthy.
(In the unitentionally thematic reading department, this book does serve as an interesting, more fatalistic counterpoint to the much funnier take on the world of strip clubs presented in Candy Girl, which I also just finished.)(less)
Meh. This is what I was worried these 33 1/3 books would be: bland, overthought, masterbatory rock criticism. Is there some sort of all-adjective thes...moreMeh. This is what I was worried these 33 1/3 books would be: bland, overthought, masterbatory rock criticism. Is there some sort of all-adjective thesaurus they give out in the Village Voice music department? Honestly, I couldn't even make it through the whole book.
Enjoyed the Double Nickels book so much I immediately picked up a few more. This is a very different animal, as it's written by one of the singers on...moreEnjoyed the Double Nickels book so much I immediately picked up a few more. This is a very different animal, as it's written by one of the singers on the album, L.D. Beightol. For all Stephin Merritt's "boy genius" "one man show" reputation, this book paints a great portrait of an album created by a community of friends, who all seem to be as brilliant and ascerbic and funny and sweet as the album itself. Skip past the overlong and not-quite-as-clever-as-it-wants-to-be "lexicon" (which is inexplicably front-loaded), and get to the meat of the thing, memories and reflections and stories from the people involved with the making of the album. Highly recommended.
(Also: reading this back to back with the Minutemen book really makes we want to make myself a semiotics mixtape, starting with "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure" and "Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth?") (less)
Been eyeing this series for a while, finally decided to grab one at the Brooklyn Book Fair last weekend. Finished it the next day—perfect back pocket-...moreBeen eyeing this series for a while, finally decided to grab one at the Brooklyn Book Fair last weekend. Finished it the next day—perfect back pocket-sized subway reading. It occasionally gets a little over-reverent and hero-worshipy, which doesn't quite suit a down-to-earth, DIY band like the Minutemen, but it's full of fun facts and trivia—for example, having only ever experienced Double Nickels on CD, I never knew that the four sides of the original double LP were organized by individual band member's choices ("Side Boon," "Side Watt," "Side Hurley," and whatever was left over on "Side Chaff"). Plus, I'll admit I'd never noticed all the references to Ulysses in Watt's songs (this despite the track titled "June 16th"). Between this and We Jam Econo (the awesome—if somewhat poorly mastered in the concert footage—documentary about the Minutemen that just came out on DVD), I'm just about ready to start up a[nother] Minutemen cover band... (less)
I'll admit I didn't always "get" Kirby—the early Marvel stuff was cool, but I always prefered Lee/Ditko to Lee/Kirby (sacrilege, I know!)—so I was alw...moreI'll admit I didn't always "get" Kirby—the early Marvel stuff was cool, but I always prefered Lee/Ditko to Lee/Kirby (sacrilege, I know!)—so I was always just a little skeptical of the whole cult of Kirby. But I have to say, these Fourth World stories have totally turned me around.
On one level they're totally unhinged, balls-out craziness. Pure pop art—Kirby's style by this point has gone completely off the deep end into abstraction, and it's amazing to look at. (Has anybody built a Kirbytech/Mother Box skin for the iPhone yet, by the way? I would totally use that.)
But it's also really fun to look at the real-world parallels: New Genesis and Apokolips as the US and Russia, playing out their cold war with Earth as a sort of cosmic Vietnam; Mister Miracle the conscientious objector; Jimmy Olsen and the Newsbody Legion as the noncombatant civilians drawn unavoidably into the war, etc, etc, etc... Not that it's ever polemical at all, but the layers underlying the stories are very interesting.
A lot of people complain about the dialogue, and it admittedly takes some getting used to, but I've actually grown quite fond of it's kooky poetic stylings. Plus, I think Kirby doesn't get enough credit for those times he's intentionally ludicrously over-the-top: possibly my favorite line so far is when Doctor Bedlam first appears, shrouded in mystery, viewed only from behind, very dramatic. He villan-monologues for a but, plotting Scott Free's doom. Then, in the last panel of the page, he picks up a telephone and announces "Nothing can be hidden from one such as I, Scott Free! Your telephone number is known to me!" Pure comedy gold!
There are certainly some chapters that are better than others (the Don Rickles bit is best left unmentioned), and oh my god those redrawn Superman and Jimmy Olsen heads are horribly jarring, but overall these books are just hard to put down. I was worried I'd get a little bored with the Fourth World as I read more of it, (as I have been with a lot of superhero-type comics reprint projects), but I find myself getting more and more drawn in. I'm already steeling myself for the frustration when I get to the end, since Kirby never got to finish these as he intended. (That said, I'm very curious to read The Hunger Dogs, the much-maligned after-the-fact wrap-up story.)
Also worth noting: the packaging here is a huge part of the appeal. The fantastic, newsprint-y paper these are printed on has to be the absolute best reprinting of old-style four-color color comic books I've ever seen. And if you don't think that's important, then obviously you haven't tried to read through any of those garishly colored "Archive" editions—some of them are almost unreadable! Anyway, kudos to the DC production department! (less)
I enjoyed this enough that I'm now reading Aleas' previous book, Little Girl Lost (which I discovered too late t...moreNow that there is some fucked up shit.
I enjoyed this enough that I'm now reading Aleas' previous book, Little Girl Lost (which I discovered too late that this was a sequel to, so I'm reading them out of order; oops). Where the previous book plays as a pretty straight detective story (at least so far; I'm only about halfway through), this book really piles on the pathos. Instead of the well-worn tough-guy one-liners and femme fatales, (which definitely have their place, don't get me wrong), you get a real sense of the personal tragedies of these characters, and the tolls taken on them by the horrible things they've been through. Very well-realized characters and a nicely executed portrait of the seedy underbelly of New York.(less)
Fun, light reading, as expected. A 3 1/2, really, but this particular edition is bumped up to four stars because of the neat Heads of State cover desi...moreFun, light reading, as expected. A 3 1/2, really, but this particular edition is bumped up to four stars because of the neat Heads of State cover design.(less)
Posted here for lack of a better place, but really about the whole series:
Recently re-read this after reading an excerpt from Douglas Wolk's Reading C...morePosted here for lack of a better place, but really about the whole series:
Recently re-read this after reading an excerpt from Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics about it. (http://www.newsarama.com/ReadingComic... , if you're curious.) Wolk said this, which is a pretty appropriate way to start a "recommendation" type review:
"It is, in a lot of ways, my favorite comic book ever, and I have never been able to recommend it to anyone else with a clear conscience, partly because it's such a ridiculous mess in so many ways, and partly because it struck me so much as being exactly the kind of story I like to read--so much so that it's hard for me to imagine other people being as passionate about it as I am."
While The Invisibles is hardly my favorite book, I do like it a lot, almost precisely because of what an enormous clusterfuck it is. It teeters between genius and complete nonsense, but every time you think you've pinned it down enough to have scorn for it, it slips away and becomes something else entirely. The anti-establisment stuff starting to seem a little naive? Well, which side to root for (or if there are sides at all) is called into question plenty by the time Mister Six announces that "We lied. / We are not at war. There is no enemy. / This is a rescue operation." Getting a little burnt out on the quasi-mystical mumbo jumbo? You'll love Elfayed's "engineering problem" for Dale. The casual ultra-violence getting to be a bit much? It only heightens the impact of moments like King Mob's realization: "I killed all those people because they didn't agree with me." Ancient gods not your thing? Well, they're really aliens. Unless they're demons from hell. Unless they're time travellers. Unless they're "Barbelith." (Whatever the hell a "Barbelith" is...)
For all it's out-there kookiness, the first series (meaning those issues collected in Say You Want a Revolution, Apocalipstick, and Entropy in the U.K.) actually follows the established Vertigo template (a la Sandman) pretty closely: magic performed by British men in trenchcoats, a central narrative to start us off followed by individual issues scattered throughout exploring secondary and tertiary characters, and artists mostly from that early Vertigo stable: Steve Yowell, Jill Thompson, etc—styles grounded a little more in the mundane than the kind of pop-art craziness that Morrison evokes in later collaborators.
Once the action moves to America in series 2 (Bloody Hell in America, Counting to None, and Kissing Mister Quimper), artists like Phil Jimenez and Chris Weston take over, and the dominant idioms switch from magic and suave spies and the French Revolution to Big Explosions, alien invaders, military conspiracies—you know, American stuff.
And by series 3 (The Invisible Kingdom), Morrison has definitely developed his current supercompressed style, where all the dialogue is "newspaper headlines written by poets" (a quote that I always thought was Morrison but a quick Google search reveals was actually Denny O'Neil, bizarrely). The art finally (and admittedly, intentionally) goes off the rails toward the end, but you can't complain too much about a book featuring Morrison's two most able collaborators (Philip Bond and Frank Quitely). Series 3 accomplishes the impressive task of roping together disparate elements of what had to be some kind of automatic writing to give the appearance of a master plan all along. It still doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but even so—no mean feat.
Anyway. Like I say, it's all one giant glorious mess, and it doesn't even quite come together at the end, but all in all, one of the more fun ways to make your brain hurt.(less)