Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Blue is Pat Grant's Australian comic about childhood, refugees, death, and urban degradation.  Christian is the main character.  We first see him as a 13-year-old surfer on the "wag" from school.  He and his friends, Muck and Verne, ditch school to go surfing.  On the way home to get their surfboards, a friend tells them that there's a dead body on the train tracks.  Also, blue-skinned aliens with multiple limbs have arrived.  Later, Christian is an adult in the same town, only it's almost wholly populated by "blues."

A lot of the story is similar to "The Body" by Stephen King, although Grant maintains that as a kid, he and a friend went to see the body of a boy who was hit by a train, and he's basing the story on this incident, and not that of "The Body."  Even if the story is a complete ripoff of King - which I maintain it isn't - the story is so universal that I'm surprised there aren't more examples of it.  What kid hasn't ridden her bike five miles to see something she shouldn't?

Although the blue-skinned refugees are something of a minor plot element, we hear the theme loudly and clearly.  Many people in Australia are saying, "no," to refugees and, "no," to immigrants.  Of course, we don't have any of that in America, right?  Grant is a very left-leaning comic artist, and I'm sure he means well, but his portrayal of the blue-skinned aliens might serve to inflame tensions between refugees and Australians.  Maybe I'm being overly negative.  I tend to think of comic-book readers as being very left-leaning because I'm a socialist, and I tend to imagine that people who like stuff I like are like me, or that merely being an artist makes one liberal.  It's silly, but the fight for immigrant rights has a long and rich history in comics.  On the radio show featuring him, Superman took on the Klu Klux Klan.

Ringside #5


Ringside, Issue #5 is a story of contrasts.  Danny Knossos, the former wrestler, is fighting for his former boyfriend, Teddy.  Teddy has gotten himself a habit he can't afford, and Danny's taking up his debt.  While Danny is fighting with the bad guys in the beginning of the comic, there are flashbacks to his mother taking him to his first wrestling event.

Ringside is a neat little comic, and the trade paperback is coming out in June.  If you're reading this, and you haven't been following the series, buy Ringside, Volume 1 for a little under $10 this summer.  From there, you can keep reading the trade paperbacks as they come out or spend a little extra money and get the series on floppy.  Like most comics, Ringside isn't meant to be read once or twice a year; you should be reading it every month.

This is an adult comic.  It deals with violence, drugs, homosexuality (although many wouldn't consider this so much of an "adult" topic), and crime.  Danny and others are brutally beaten through the course of this series; Danny's injuries go beyond rugged looks and into the "what's that thing growing out of Hasim Rahman's head" territory.  The creators love wrestling, and it shows.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

JLA Deluxe Edition, Vol. 6

JLA Deluxe Edition, Volume 6 covers the first half of the Joe Kelly run, the Joe Kelly years being really the last great run of JLA before the New 52 changed everything.  In fact, JLA Deluxe Edition, Volume 7 came out a year ago, and it looks like they won't be having a Volume 8, covering the much-maligned Chris Claremont years and beyond.  At first, I was disappointed that the Deluxe Edition wouldn't be covering the entire 125-issue JLA series, but from what I've read of the reviews of the "Tenth Circle" arc, I guess I'm not missing much.

So, how good are the Joe Kelly years?  Fantastic.  I initially bought the first JLA Deluxe Edition because Grant Morrison had written so much stuff I liked, but he only stayed on the title for so long.  The Mark Waid years were good, but he was just finding his own voice in the series when he was replaced by Joe Kelly.  In particular, Grant Morrison made Batman the center of the series, and Waid had to follow that idea for a little while.  In Joe Kelly's JLA, all of the characters get a chance to shine, even Aquaman, who isn't on the cover and is presumed dead.

I can't go into every story in this collection, but the highlights are the "Golden Perfect" arc and the standalone "Bouncing Baby Boy."  In "Golden Perfect," Wonder Woman's magic lasso is broken, leading to unthoughtof consequences throughout the world.  In "Bouncing Baby Boy," Plastic Man has a super-powered 10-year-old son who's running amok.  He turns to Batman for help.  I do like the interplay between Plastic Man and Batman.  If there already weren't 15 or 20 titles based on Batman, I'd suggest a regular pairing of the two.

The second half of the book features a number of minor players, which I always like.  The basic idea behind Joe Kelly's JLA is similar in one way to Grant Morrison's and Mark Waid's vision.  There are seven main characters with a number of allies.  The series focuses on the seven main characters, but in case of extreme emergency or a particular need, the other characters pop up now and again.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ringside #4

Ringside, Issue #4 starts with another flahsback, to when Teddy and Danny meet.  They're working security at a political event when Teddy lets in a friend.  Danny wants to report him, but Teddy talks him out of it, and they become friends.  Later, they become more. Then, in the present, Danny is planning things out with Terrence, the bounty hunter, on how they can find the people Teddy's in trouble with.  Danny gets a lead, a bar in Crockett (this is a reference to the old NWA promoter, Jim Crockett).

I like the covers, with Danny in his wrestling heyday and him now.  You can tell that the creators of this comic are major wrestling fans, and not just WWE.  You hear them reference AAW, PWG, and the other minor promotions in the "letters" section.  I used to go to PWG shows in Reseda, back when you could still get tickets without a blazing-fast computer and some quick timing.  I've tried to get PWG tickets in the past couple of years, only for them to sell out in a matter of seconds.  There's wrestling up in Oceanside I'd like to go to.  They have a few wrestlers I recognize.

I worked on a novel that was about two brothers, one a professional wrestler and one a mixed-martial-artist.  When I write, I never really know where I'm going to go, and although there was a lot of action in the book and a lot of humor, it basically ended up being a romance.  See, I like romance manga and comics, and I like pro wrestling and mixed-martial-arts.  Other people, though? They don't really go for those genres.  Ringside gives me hope, though.  A lot of the characters are gay, and there's an underlying theme of relationships.  Maybe I'll start writing that book again.

Hyperion #1

Hyperion, Issue #1 is a comic I bought simply because it's Marvel.  I've been reading more Marvel lately, and I thought I'd give this title a chance.  Doll is a carny mechanic on the run from her "family," and she thinks she knows that a particular truck driver is Hyperion, the refugee superhero from another universe.  He is taking time off from Squadron Supreme, a group of super-powered beings who either no longer have a world of their own or aren't welcome on their home worlds.  The truck driver's name is Marc, and he gives Doll a lift.

I'm reading a lot of comics, perhaps too many.  I'd planned on picking up Hyperion this week because outside of Cry Havoc, Issue #3 and Ringside, Issue #5, there wasn't much going on this Wednesday, when new comics came out.  Hyperion caught my eye because the main character is described as "a hero and a teacher."  He's against violence to the point that he throws Doll's gun out the window, but when it's time for violence, he's prepared.

There are, of course, many questions that remain unanswered.  Which world is this in?  Will Marcus really kill a bunch of people?  Is that okay?  The realization of this comic is top notch.  I particularly like how the artist, Nik Virella, gives an impression of movement, of speed as they're barreling down the highway in a semi, headed for a crazed strongman in a monster truck.  Did I mention this title is kinda' cool?  And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the colorist, Romulo Fajardo, Jr.  Doll has blue-green hair, but it's never the exact same blue-green; it's different depending on the light she's in.  The same goes for Hyperion's yellow cape.  The letters by VC's joe Caramagna are in a style I like.  I've written about his work in previous reviews.

The verdict?  This is a fun, easily-enjoyed comic.  It isn't bogged down with excessive dialogue or overly intricate drawings, not that either doesn't have its place now and again.  I hope Doll remains in the comic because she serves as a good damsel in distress and narrator.  I'll buy Issue #2.

Ringside #3

Ringside #3

Ringside, Issue #3 begins with a flashback of Danny and Teddy's breakup, how Danny Knossos walked out to wrestle in Florida and maybe get a real job in the wrestling business.  Of course, now it's Teddy with the real job and Danny chasing Teddy's demons.  Terrence, the bounty hunter from the previous issue, confronts him.  From there, we go to the boardroom of the CMW, where a sitcom writer with three weeks in the company named Ragan is pulling for Reynolds becoming a top star.  Reynolds is a friend of Teddy's; we saw him in Issue #1.

When the show Total Divas came out, Matt Hardy famously tweeted that his three favorite people on the show were Daniel Bryan, John Cena, and Mark Carrano.  Sure, he was saying that the divas' boyfriends and husbands are more interesting than the divas themselves, but Mark Carrano is the guy in charge of talent relations.  He tells the girls they have to dye their hair, move back to NXT, not get a tattoo, or whatever else.  Most people who watch the show hate him because he's the boss, but even Matt Hardy, who's an insider (although not with WWE), likes the behind-the-scenes look at the wrestling business.

The scene with the sitcom writer trying to make it in the wrestling business is definitely my favorite, not just because it offers a true inside look at the world of wrestling but because Reynolds is a neat character, and I'd like to see where he's going.  See, if this becomes a comic purely about one character and his search for justice, truth, and the American way or whatever, it wouldn't go very far, but now that the creators are investing pagespace to the minor characters, the series can really grow.

Cry Havoc #3

Cry Havoc, Issue #3 starts out a little confusing, but then I noticed that Louise is in the Red Place, a captive of the shape-shifter she came to Afghanistan to kill.  In Afghanistan (and I don't know if the Red Place is in Afghanistan or not), the soldiers come across three Taliban who are harassing a family of opium farmers.

I loved the red of the opium poppies.  Years ago, I had a friend who was in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan before 9/11, and he explained the situation to me.  Regular farmers in Afghanistan would make $100 a year, but opium farmers would make $400 a year.  The "trickle down" effect doesn't really work anywhere, I guess. Opium farmers are still dirt poor, but with the extra money, they can afford to get their children educated.  Normal farmers can't.  According to Cry Havoc #3, the Taliban hate heroin more than just about anyone, and I'd like to explain the situation.

Heroin has been a cash crop for Afghanistan for as long as there's been heroin, and before that, the cash crop was opium.  It is true that just before the American invasion of Afghanistan, opium production had been cut to less than 5% or 10% of its previous levels, which were lower than the current levels.  The reason they did this was not because they hate opium and heroin but to jack up the price of heroin by cutting down the supply, allowing the Taliban's opium production to be worth more.  Some have speculated that the reason why America invaded Afghanistan was to resupply the world with opium and heroin, particularly Iran, Pakistan, and Russia, which border Afghanistan.  Remember, the Taliban offered to give Osama Bin Laden up to a neutral government after the 9/11 attacks and before the invasion of Afghanistan.

Cry Havoc is only three issues old, but it's one of the titles I look forward to reading the most.  I've collected the variant covers, with the big number on the front.  This month's variant is drawn by Si Gane, and I love the designs every month.  I just hope that they don't end up being too expensive for me to collect.  I like how they use three different colorists in the three different places.  It has a unique effect: the artwork by Ryan Kelly is consistent, but the colors range from dusty and gray in Afghanistan to blue and red, respectively, in London and the Red Place.  The letters by Simon Bowland are clear and consistent, easy on the eyes.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spritz, Part 3

Spritzing, as I've mentioned in my two previous blogs on the subject, is using a special program to speed read.  A 10-hour audiobook is equivalent to a 6-hour read or a 2-to-2.5-hour Spritz at a comfortable speed of 550 w/m.  I've Spritzed books at 600 or 700+ w/m and still understood them, but I enjoy them more and remember more at 550 w/m.  Here's what I've Spritzed in the week since my last Spritz entry:

  • Post Office by Charles Bukowski
  • The Giver by Lowis Lowry
  • Gathering Blue by Lowis Lowry
  • The Messenger by Lowis Lowry
  • The People of Sparks by Jean DuPrau
  • Snow Angels by James Thompson
I also read most of Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson on audiobook, and I've Spritzed some of the stories from Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut and a small chunk of Lucifer's Tears by James Thompson.   

The highlights of the week are Snow Angels, Hell Is Empty, and The Giver.  Post Office was good, and the rest were rather mediocre.  In particular, the sequels to The Giver had nothing of the original's wit, imagination, and sci-fi sensibilities.  The People of Sparks is only marginally better, and not because the original story was better.  Sequels are only better in rare instances outside of the world of video games.

The Craig Johnson and James Thompson books I would call series rather than sequels, and they're both great.  I was a little sad to see Lucifer's Tears give up the Arctic setting of Snow Angels for Helsinki, but a big mistake the Wallander series has made is making all these weird murders take place in a small town in Sweden.  Maybe there's corruption of some sort in the water authority, like in Flint, Michigan.  I will get back to Henning Mankell's series, perhaps this week.  But series are different than sequels.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a book in a series.  Bride of Frankenstein, however superior it might be to the original, is a sequel.  There is no fine line between the two, and I may be elitist for saying that there is even a differentiation between the two. Mark Twain famously wanted to make money off the Tom Sawyer franchise, and he wrote a sequel to it which turned out to be one of the greatest books in the English language, Huckleberry Finn.  

And like before, Spritzing is tiring.  I Spritzed for three hours yesterday, read a single-issue comic, and listened to audiobooks for almost two hours; I took a three-hour nap today.  It's well into the afternoon, and all I've read today is an issue or so of JLA.  My Wednesday comic books lie on the bed, untouched.  Strangely enough, I've found Spritzing less stressful than reading comic books, less energy consuming.  Part of that is that I've reviewed every comic book I've read for the past two or two-and-a-half years, while I read novels purely for pleasure. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ringside #2

Ringside, Issue #2 starts off in Amy's safe room, where she keeps all her weapons.  Danny is ready to go to war, but Amy talks him out of it.  As I read through those pages, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed, but don't worry; this title gets off the ground.  Danny is an unemployed professional wrestler, not a trained soldier anymore.  Amy reminds him that he hasn't kept up with any form of fight training, and that he simply wasn't ready to take on a gang of thugs.  Danny's friend, Davis, is the one in trouble, and his employers at CMW don't want the two fraternizing.

Ringside uses a "less is more" approach to storytelling.  There's plenty going on in this issue, but it still leaves a lot unsaid, like what the troubles between Danny and CMW are and what the troubles between Davis and the thugs are.  Sure, the point is to keep the reader guessing, keep the reader buying more issues, and Danny himself doesn't know what Davis's problems are.  I love the advice on how to find Eduard that Danny gets from the bounty hunter.

I've written about what I like in this comic in my review of Issue #1, so you can go back and read more of the specifics on this title.  I did catch up with this title, buying Issue #2 through Issue #5, the fifth issue coming out today, as I write this.  So far, the two issues have ended with cliffhangers; the series has good flow, and if I had bought Issue #1 when it came out, as I planned, I would have eagerly anticipated the following issue in both of the two weeks it came out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Punisher by Greg Rucka, Vol. 1

Punisher by Greg Rucka, Vol. 1 is on sale on ComiXology for $3.99, and did I mention it's Greg Rucka?  Greg Rucka has been killing it for decades, and I'd like to start out by simply writing about him.  I've been reading comics seriously for about three years, and Rucka is one of the reasons why.  The Whiteout series is what really got me started on Rucka; it's a murder/mystery that takes place in Antarctica.  I'm also a big fan of Gotham Central, along with his work on Detective Comics, Lazarus, and Black Magick.  This is only a short list.

Frank Castle, a former Marine, comes home to see his wife and kids killed in random violence.  He becomes the Punisher.  Detectives Walter Bolt and Oscar Clemons are assigned to investigate a brutal mass murder at a wedding.  The catch?  The wedding wasn't the target, or so Detective Clemons thinks.  The perpetrators are celebrating at a bar when one man rushes in and kills all of them but one.  You have to have a witness.

Why the fuck has no one recommended me this comic yet?  It's fucking awesome, and I'm only a few issues into it.  The pacing brought about by Rucka and Checchetto, with limited dialogue, is off the charts.  In particular, the setting (New York) is very strong, as is the subtle connection between the Punisher and Detective Bolt.  The artist is Marco Checchetto, with colors by Matt Hollingsworth.  I know of Hollingsworth from his work with Rucka, but I hadn't seen Checchetto's work before, that I remember.  Either way, the effect is great.  Checchetto uses very clear lines and again, wonderful pacing.  Not many artist teams can get away with so little dialogue.  The letters by VC's Joe Caramagna are smooth, even, and easily readable.  Overall, it's a great comic, and I look forward to reading more.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Devolution #3

Devolution #3Devolution, Issue #3 sees Raja and the remaining Marines escaping from Gil's compound on a Blackhawk helicopter, but they are not away from danger.  They land in the web of a spider bigger than the helicopter, itself, and have to dodge pterosaurs and other ancient creatures and giant bugs.  Not only that, but Gil and his troops are hot on their tail.

I'm not sure how the DVO-8 bomb works, but the devolution of their world seems to have brought forth total monsters instead of creatures that actually lived.  In our world, before spiders evolved, there were giant insects, yes, but as soon as the spiders hit land, they ate them out of existence.  The inclusion of both giant spiders and giant insects is done merely to be cool, therefore, and there's nothing wrong with that.

As to why the DVO-8 bomb would be set off, I can offer the following explanation: one view of an "evolved" society is one without God or gods.  Humankind naturally evolved from a polytheist society to a henotheist society to a monotheist society; we've been losing gods for thousands of years.  All except a billion Hindus, of course.  The question is why Hinduism has survived for so many millennia.  The answer is twofold: literature and slavery.  While Hindus have been evolving past slavery and predestination for decades, if not a century, the vast literature available to Hindus is both rich and engaging.   Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God should be required reading for anyone who wants to create literature, be it short stories, novels, or humble reviews of comic books.

I spent almost two months in India in my youth, mostly in the state of Orissa, where my then-girlfriend was studying the local dance traditions.  I did get out to see most of the temples and other buildings, but I have to admit that after living out of a backpack for the good part of a year, I mostly wanted to sit on the sofa all day and watch TV.  I suffered from tremendous depression when I was in India, and my attempts at self-medication only made things more complicated.  Of course, this was in 1995 and 1996, and I haven't even had a cup of beer in almost eight years.

I've gone through the first three issues of Devolution this week.  My respect for Rick Remender is such that I bought the first two issues just because the covers were cool and without much thought.  Two days later, Issue #3 came out, and I bought it before I'd even read Issue #2.  I could have bought the trade paperback in a few months, but I just like comics.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

3 Devils #1

3 Devils, Issue #1 is an Old West comic set in Utah.  A Gypsy family is set upon by the pale-faced man and his two soldiers.  They kill the father.  They kill the son.  They kill the mother... eventually.  They take everything possibly of value from the wagon except the daughter, who hides beneath the floorboards with the family's treasure box.  A black man, a former slave, comes across the massacre once the pale-faced man and his men are gone.  He takes care of the girl until more trouble comes, with supernatural consequences.

3 Devils got on my shopping list because I love Old West stories.  This IDW publication is on quality stock, I must say.  It's 32 pages, including the cover and no real "bonus" material at all.  It just feels like a heavy comic.  I hadn't heard of Bo Hampton, who writes, letters and illustrates this comic, or Jeremy Mohler, the colorist, but I'm always impressed by creators who can write and illustrate at a high level.  Even his letters are more than competent.  The coloring is just as detailed as the art.  In particular, I liked the purple curtain in the front of the wagon.

I noticed a couple of things about this comic I'd like to touch upon.  The Antonescu family is gypsy, but the last name is Romanian.  I spent a week or two in Romania.  In particular, I stayed in one Romanian town where I befriended a long-haired drug addict and his girlfriend.  He was the son of a famous TV star, to the point where he was on TV.  Romanian kids would point at him, like, "there he is!"  And then they'd point at me, like, "there's another one!"  They seemed like nice people, but one time, when I gave my leftover French fries to a couple of Gypsy kids, he chided me, saying, "we have a gypsy problem in Romania."  This was over 20 years ago, but we're seeing the same verbiage in regards to illegal immigration and Muslims.  "We have an illegal immigration problem in America," the Presidential candidate says, "we have a Muslim problem in America."  How either of these groups is a "problem" is beyond me.

I'll continue reading this title.  I like the old black man and the young Gypsy girl.  The supernatural nature of the comic I didn't see coming, but I'll take it.  The next issue promises zuvembies and bar-room brawls.  There is also a teaser of Taralyn dressed to the nines with a pair of throwing knives.  Cool.

Devolution #2

Devolution, Issue #2 begins with Raja, the main character, at Gil's compound, pleading her case.  She says that there's a cure for Devolution in San Francisco, developed by her father.  Gil is a real peach, with a swastika tattooed on each side of his head, and he has other plans for her.  He also has plans for Scott, the doctor who tried to sneak off with one of Gil's wives for an afternoon, which left the wife dead.  Now Raja must escape the compound before Gil forces her to marry him.

The first issue was rather dark, but this issue takes it to a whole other level.  The few that were immune to devolution, the ones who according to Raja were inoculated, have devolved in another way.  They may not be neanderthal or homo erectus, but in particular, Gil has become a monster.  There are people like Gil in the world, and not just in the jungles of Africa.  The Torries in Britain who voted to cut £30 from disabled people's pensions to pay for tax breaks for their billionaire buddies are pretty low in my book, and I haven't gotten into Donald Trump volunteers wearing the same white supremacist tattoos that Gil does.

People like Gil pop up when civilization breaks down, and we're seeing the crumbling of civilization in America and Britain.  I don't think Devolution is necessarily trying to suggest this, but I am.  Not since the Gilded Age, with its excesses and speculation leading to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s, have we seen such a gap between the rich and the poor.  Voting for Hilary Clinton, who seems destined to win in 2016, won't fix that.

I'm ranting, of course.  The idea behind Devolution is that civilization has been wiped out but that a few people can help rebuild it.  The artwork by Jonathan Wayshak and colorist Jordan Boyd is richly detailed.  Rus Wooton is the letterer, and he's one of my favorites.  Of course, they don't put letterers' names on the cover of comic books, but if they put Wooton's name on the cover of a comic book, I might buy it.  I did a little lettering in my engineering-student days, and it is fucking hard.  Not that everything else is exactly easy...

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The 13th Artifact

The 13th Artifact is a one-shot publication about an astronaut who along with her dead husband lands on a highly developed world poisoned by pollution and enslaved by demons.  She is captured and brought before their leader, who attempts to read her mind and find out where she is from, but not before she learns of the destruction of their world through reliance on fossil fuels and a pact with an unholy monk.  The human-like race now lives in slavery.  

This is a clever little story, the product of the 2015 Top Cow Talent Hunt winners, Amit Chauhan and Eli Powell, published on Image Comics.  Chauhan is the writer, and Powell is the illustrator.  The dark cityscapes of the ruined metropolis are deeply detailed, and when the astronaut sees the poor beings ruled by demons, she thinks, "have I landed in hell?"  The color schemes by colorist, Andrew Elder, range from split triadic to just plain dark.  This is a noir space drama.  Troy Peteri is the letterer, and the highlight of his work is the lettering of the demonspeak.

I don't buy too many one-shots, and Image Comics doesn't print many of them, the latter being part of what makes this title so special.  Image Comics has had years of seriously quality comics for adults.  I'm not kidding; their quality is off the charts, and damn near everything they put out is good or great.  When I buy comics on Wednesdays, I may read Marvel Comics first, but I read Image Comics the most.

Huck #5

Huck, Issue #5 sees Huck and his mother, Anna, being held captive in Science City 33, a secret metropolis in the former Soviet Union.  This is indeed a dark turn of events for the formerly lighthearted series.  The dialogue in this issue is sparse, but the magic is still there.  Huck is absolutely one of my favorite characters in comics today.  It would be easy to compare him to other Image Comics characters, but really, he could be on the level of an Iron Man or a Spider-Man.  I just hope that in 20 years, Huck is still around.  He has the potential to be something extraordinary.

Rafael Albuquerque continues to impress with this series as the illustrator.  The characters' faces are extremely expressive, and the interplay between the characters works.  XV and XVI, the two androids are a little less emotive, but they're human in their own way.  The highlight as far as the artwork for me is the view of Science City 33.  It is a two-page spread on page 2 and page 3 with a lot of snow and a lot of green-gray but a little orange that totally sets everything off.   Dave McCaig's coordinated colors, particularly the oranges and green-grays, present a unified color scheme throughout the issue.

This is really a title that gains a lot on a second reading, which I don't usually do.  Blambot's Nate Piekos, the letterer, has a style that I like, with horizontal lines turned a little bit upward and emphasized words in both bold and italic.  I bought the variant cover this month; I have all five, I think.  The theme for this month is Ghostbusters, and well, you can see the cover for yourself, above.

I usually don't read too much of the back material in comics - I scan the letters and sometimes read the bonus comics - but the editorial announcing the Chrononaut sequel caught my eye.  I bought the trade paperback version of Chrononaut when it came out, and I've been awaiting a new issue ever since.  Also new by Mark Millar is Empress, Issue #1, which comes out in three weeks.  On top of that is more Jupiter's Circle.  I still have to read that one.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Monstress #4

Monstress, Issue #4 is almost too beautiful to be a monthly comic.  I've lived in Japan; I've lived in Turkey.  The architecture and art is reminiscent of both, but let's get on to the story.  Maika Halfwolf is an Arcanic, one of the hybrid humans that hold a magic substance called lilium.  In a previous issue, she went on a rampage in Zamora, a Cumaea stronghold, killing many and freeing several Arcanics that were going to be harvested for their lilium by the Cumaea.  She is on the run now with her two constant companions, the Arcanics Kippa and Master Ren.  Kippa is a fox-girl, and Master Ren is a talking cat with two tails.

In this issue, we get to see an Arcanic palace and the Monstrum within Maika.  The Monstrum is the ultimate weapon, but it feeds on souls, and not just human souls.  Maika can control the Monstrum for now, keeping it from eating Kippa.  The Monstrum appeared after Maika touched the fragment of the mask an issue or two ago.  What we don't learn in this issue is how the Dusk Court of the Arcanics is going to react to Maika.  Are they friends or foes?  So far, just about every human in this world has been out to get Maika, but the Arcanics aren't all peppermint and cumin.  What kind of metaphor is that?  Peppermint and cumin?  Bleah.  Those would go terrible together.

Monstress is what I look for in comics.  Everything about it is simply amazing.  I could gush over the artwork, the coloring, the lettering (Rus Wooton is one of my favorites), but the way they casually have matriarchal societies on both sides of the fence is something we need to see more of in comics.  I love strong women in both real life and in fiction.  I know many of my readers might hate Hilary Clinton, but she's the type of empowered woman that this world needs.  I don't agree with all of her policies, and I'll probably vote for Jill Stein again, but both of them are great.

Ringside #1

Ringside, Issue #1 combines two of my favorite forms of entertainment, pro wrestling and comics.  Danny Knossos is an aged wrestler who worked under a mask as Minotaur.  The only problem is that he's known as the Minotaur, but his former employer owns the rights to the Minotaur costume and brand.  Teddy, his former lover, works for CMW, the big wrestling corporation that owns Knossos's brand, and Teddy's in trouble.  Thing is, Danny Knossos is a former Marine, and after he gets jumped by the guys that Teddy is in trouble with, he gets ready to go full Rambo on their asses.

I almost bought this title a month ago but didn't have the money in my pocket to spend an extra $3 or $4.  I sneezed, and four issues were out, but I decided to start this series, anyway.  Just about every pro wrestling comic has a fake superhero turning into a real-life superhero.  And there was a time when a lot of wrestlers were formerly in the Armed Forces.  The manager, Percival Pringle III, known in WWE as Paul Bearer, served during Vietnam, Brian Armstrong/the Road Dogg served during the 1991 Gulf War, and most famously, Dutch Mantell/Zeb Coulter fought in Vietnam because he was drafted.  The examples from the 1970s through 1990s alone are endless, and fact mixes with fiction, as always.  A turn-of-the-century wrestler whose name escapes me claimed to be a Civil War veteran, although it later came out that he was born in 1872, almost a decade after the Civil War ended.

One thing that makes this series different is guns.  Danny Knossos, it seems from the first issue, is going to kill a bunch of people.  Another is homosexuality.  It's no secret that the occasional guy who likes to wear feathered boas and roll around with guys on the ground might be gay.  When I was in college, I had a roommate who told me which wrestlers were gay and which had A.I.D.S. (according to him, almost all of them).  He also told me that George Takei is gay, but I guess a broken clock and all that...

The facial artwork is somewhat minimalist, with heavy lines on the characters' faces.  Nick Barber manages to make his characters look mad, upset, or curious with just a few inkstrokes.  Simon Gough is the colorist, and he excels at creating color schemes for each page.  The overall artistic effect is to have a cartoonish/iconic look to the title while making the subject matter hyper-realistic.  It creates contrast and drama.  I really liked the lettering by Ariana Maher, with straight vertical lines and slanted horizontal lines.  It is reminiscent of a number of other letterers I've mentioned with similar styles but with a unique realization, almost like an Arial font.  I'll have to catch up with this title!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spritz, Part 2

It's been a week since I first started Spritzing, and I've read four books using it:

  • Typee by Herman Melville
  • The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Captain Is Out to Lunch, and the Sailors Have Taken Over His Ship by Charles Bukowski
Jeffrey Dahmer, Infamous Serial Killer and Cannibal
I also read Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut on audiobook, plus parts of Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig on audiobook.  And, of course, there are are the comics I've detailed in this blog.  I bought five comics on Monday and six on Wednesday.  These are comics I just don't get behind on, but I feel like Jeffrey Dahmer, with too many dead bodies in the refrigerator and not enough time to eat them.

You're probably wondering what my retention is on Spritz.  How much of the books do I actually remember?  The Captain Is Out to Lunch is still fresh in my head - I read it this morning - so I want to compare God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater with Breakfast of Champions, which are by the same author.  I tend to laugh a little bit more using Spritz (I used the app ReadMe on my iPhone and an ePub I downloaded from one of the three library systems of which I am a member).
Kurt Vonnegut

Breakfast of Champions took me six hours and 27 minutes to read on audiobook.  God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater took me one hour and 39 minutes to read, a morning's "work."  Of course the only way to compare the two media objectively would be to take a comprehension test at the end of each one or a day after finishing each one.  Both books feature a lot of the same characters, although I didn't really get into Breakfast of Champions until I was 1/3 into it.  I did like the book, but I think I got more out of Spritzing God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; however, I did read an hour or two of Breakfast of Champions while walking through the San Diego Zoo, which was lovely.

Most of my reading is at 550 w/m, compared with 130 w/m for your average audiobook.  I read The Gambler at 735 w/m and was still able to retain most of it, but I was tired afterward, and I didn't enjoy it as much.  I read The Gambler and Typee on the same day, took a two-hour nap, and slept 11 hours that night.  Even 550 w/m is very fast compared to normal reading speed, and it's downright brutal compared with an audiobook.

I do worry about not taking care of my daily activities and work because I'm too wrapped up with reading.  It's 11:00 A.M., and although I have gone to the store and bought toilet paper, as I had planned (but not before going to the store, buying paper towels, getting to the car, realizing my mistake, and going to a different store, so I wouldn't look like an idiot), but I haven't started any of my work for class tonight.

I haven't really gone on Facebook or Twitter today, which is a nice surprise.  I have been spending an hour or two on them a day for years, not accomplishing much of anything.  I do promote this blog on Twitter, and hardly anyone would read it if I didn't.  I didn't post a link to my review of International Iron Man #1, and it has only gotten two views since last night, compared with 15 to 30 for most of my other reviews.

Anyway, check out Spritz's website, and check out ReadMe in your local app store.  If my stepmother can figure it out, you can, too.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

International Iron Man #1

International Iron Man, Issue #1 takes us 20 years in the past to Cambridge, where a young Tony Stark meets a woman of mystery, Cassandra Gillespie, the daughter of one of the rivals of Tony's father.  Don't worry; they eventually start trying to kill each other, and all that good stuff.  Most of the story is, "rich, independent boy meets cloistered, wealthy girl."  The fact that 20 years later, they will be facing off in a pitched battle isn't lost on the story.

The question is how long this story can be maintained.  Brian Michael Bendis always seems to be going somewhere, but while I happily read comic-book and manga romances, I don't know how many Iron Man fans will enjoy this title as much as I have.  I think it's great the way that Bendis and Maleev have really shown their range with this title.  Maleev in particular has really put in a lot of work on Cassandra Gillespie.  She's positively radiant, even in the darkness of the tavern and dimly-lit streets.

The way Maleev, along with colorist Paul Mounts, uses light in this dark title is so noir.  It reminds me a lot of Sean Phillips's work with Ed Brubaker, but the color scheme is totally different.  Most of this comic is Tony and Cassandra talking in various places, and their faces are lit to different extents, from full lit to totally black.  VC's Clayton Cowles is the letterer.  He uses low horizontal lines on the As and the Hs, and he uses a bit of an upswing on his Ds.  I like it.

So, you're probably wondering why you should buy this title if there isn't as much action in it.  You should buy it because it's good; you should buy it because it's Iron Man, and because it's Bendis.  And don't worry, they'll eventually have a run-in with H.Y.D.R.A. and all that good stuff.  Just be patient for now.  This title is going to be epic.

Devolution #1

Devolution, Issue #1 takes place in post-apocalyptic Nevada, after scientists created the DVO-8 bomb, which neutralizes the part of the brain that believes in God, shrinking it away to nothing.  The bomb is apparently dropped on the Middle East, but the DVO-8 causes devolution around the world because it transfers to other species and is carried back to America by the birds.  Some humans are more devolved than others; Raja, the main character, goes year without seeing another "sapien."  Finally, she comes across a walled human colony, little more than a settlement, but they might be just as dangerous as the devolved humans.

This title is written by Rick Remender, with art by Jonathan Wayshak and colors by Jordan Boyd.  Joseph Rybandt is the editor.  I was noticing how there are many different styles of lettering in this title when I noticed that the great Rus Wooton was responsible for it.  He does the lettering on a number of titles I like, including Monstress, the fourth issue of which comes out today.  The coloring, in particular the pages where the it is explained that humans were devolving before the DVO-8 bomb was dropped, is striking.  There are five long cells on each of the two pages with pictures of war, human waste, human excess, religion, and the like.  The artwork is stunning and detailed.

I'm interested to see where this title goes.  The opening line is, "Raja was cursing God..." indicating that although she doesn't really think God is real, she still has a concept of Him; she still has the word, "God," in her brain.  I do some work with the homeless, with addicts, and it's interesting to see how they react to God.  I have heard that "We Agnostics" meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous are mostly people cursing God.  I simply don't see how an atheist would "curse" God.  Sure, anyone might shout, "Jesus Christ," at something bad happening as a curse word.  Doing so is part of the zeitgeist.

There are really two directions this title can take: the natural and the supernatural, although I suspect that it will be the former.  Very few titles can use God as a character.  Preacher is one; His Dark Materials is another.  No, I'm pretty sure that this will be a swashbuckling science-fiction title with undertones of philosophy and religion.  Actually, it sounds great to me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Woods #17 to #20


The Woods, "Volume 5" is what I'm calling this arc, for short.  Volume 4 won't come out for a couple of months, and although Issue #17 through Issue #20 are out, they won't be collected in book form for some time after that.  And it would be tedious to write four reviews for an arc that I'm reading in succession.  I bought Issue #17 through Issue #19 on ComiXology, and I bought Issue #20 in floppy form, on which I will continue reading it.  I know, this is exciting stuff.

Issue #17 starts with Isaac having a vision of creatures like his rabbit-like pet, Mister Robot, attacking and consuming Isaac's classmates.  Issue #16 ended with Isaac floating around with the ghost of the deceased character, Adrian, the one with the power, perhaps the power to get them home, the one Karen killed.  Was it all in his head?  Is the battle going on in Issue #17 merely allegorical?  Meanwhile, Casey has won the election and aligned the students with the Horde.

I do notice the lettering in the various comics I read, and I like the style Ed Dukeshire uses, with straight vertical lines and horizontal lines tilted upward.  The artwork by Michael Dialynas is very detailed, and the colors by Josan Gonzalez are so photo-fluorescent, like they'd shine under an ultraviolet light, implying that the star of their solar system is much different than the Sun.

I think what can be lost while reading this comic is how fun it is.  At times, I got quite wrapped up in the story, the creatures, and the characters to enjoy it as much as I could have.  It's a title you have to take seriously, but you can't take it too seriously.  I'm glad I picked it up again, and I'm looking forward to Issue #21.

Spider-Man (2016) #2

Spider-Man, Issue #2 continues the story of Miles Morales.  And Peter Parker.  And the Avengers.  At first I was a little non-plussed by the idea of a "Spider-Man" comic being about Miles Morales.  Not "Ultimate Spider-Man," not, "Spider-Man in An Alternate Universe," but "Spider-Man."  I went along with it because Brian Michael Bendis is one of my favorite writers, but there still is an argument to be made that as good a character as Miles Morales is, he isn't ready for the big time.  Further, the question still remains if he's in the "Ultimate" universe or in Spider-Man's home universe, PRIME EARTH/Earth-616.  This question is brought up in the letters, and we are told to keep reading if we want to find out where this Spider-Man/these Spider-Men reside.

Miles Morales has a black father and a Latino mother, so he's pretty dark skinned.  This is revealed to the world when his suit gets torn in his battle with Blackheart, and an excited young woman uploads the footage on YouTube.  The woman doesn't know if he's black, Latino, Indian, or whatever, but her excitement that there is a new superhero of color echoes the interest Ms. Marvel, the female Thor, Old Man Logan, and other titles have brought to people of divergent backgrounds.  I think I would now defend Marvel's use of the title Spider-Man instead of Ultimate Spider-Man as a well-thought-out marketing platform.  When Thor became a woman, the comic wasn't Female Thor or All-New Thor.  It was Thor.  Like it or not, this is Spider-Man now, and I hope the comic does well.

I guess the main difference between Miles Morales and the Zan and Jaynas of the world (yes, I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s) is that Zan and Jayna always played a supporting role, while Miles Morales is the main star of this comic.  Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America get their butts handed to them by Blackheart, and Miles's venom zap takes Blackheart down with ease.  I really look forward to what this comic has to offer.  In particular, I like the lettering of VC's Cory Petit, which uses the same style as Shawn Lee from A Spoon Too Short, which I reviewed a couple of days ago.  Sara Pichelli is a fantastic artist, and Justin Ponsor is a good color artist.  I like the different shades of black he uses with Spider-Man's outfit.  No wonder Peter Parker says it's a cooler outfit than his.

To the left is an Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man.  In Ultimate Earth,  Peter Parker dies just before Miles Morales becomes Spider-Man.  Is this that Earth?  Read on to find out!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mockingbird #1

Mockingbird, Issue #1 is about Mockingbird/Agent 19/Barbara "Bobbi" Morse, an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who has been given the Super Soldier serum and the Infinity Formula.  This first issue is the story of her healthcare.  She gets a checkup - including a colonoscopy - every week.  She's growing more paranoid as she grows more powerful.  Her chardonnay intake increases, and eventually, she responds to tests of her psychic powers by throwing a heavy chair into the mirror through which she is being watched.

I like this comic a lot.  Mockingbird still works as a superhero, but there are only flashes of this existence.  We see her as the patient, and if I could adopt some of Agent 19's paranoia, we see her as the subject.  Nick Fury gave her the Super Soldier serum and the Infinity Formula to save her life, she thinks.  We don't know if this is true, and because I haven't read any of the backstory about her, I'm in no position to judge this.

In addition to the brilliant writing by Chelsea Cain, this is a well-rounded comic.  Artist Kate Niemczyk shows Barbara in a variety of situations, as superhero, astronaut, vixen, spy, and patient.  I also found the colors by Rachelle Rosenberg refreshingly good.  I always look at the hair of the various characters to see if the color artist uses one color for every situation.  Rosenberg doesn't.  Of course, the nurse, Pat, has the same hair color, as do many of the other characters, but that's because we only see her in one setting.  The letters by VC's Joe Caramagna are solid and almost casual.  Very good first effort.

The Violent 3

The Violent: Blood Like Tar, Issue #3 starts with Mason's arm bandaged.  At first, I thought his arm was tied up so he could shoot up, but I remembered Issue #2.  The fight with Joel.  Joel ending up dead.  Dylan witnessing it.  Becky missing.  Becky turns up in this episode, having overdosed on heroin a few days earlier and having been brought into the hospital under a pseudonym.  Kaitlyn is with Becky's mother, and the three of them are reunited.

A common mistake an addict makes when getting back on the stuff is using as much as she used when they stopped.  Her system isn't ready for it, and her body goes into overdose.  Her blood pressure drops.  Her body forgets to breathe.  Ironically, if she had just continued to use heroin for those years instead of becoming clean for three or four years, Becky would not have overdosed.  Most ODs come when someone gets off skag and gets back on it, although there are plenty of ways to die from heroin besides overdosing.

This is a violent comic, as I mentioned in my previous reviews, and Adam Gorham's realistic artwork only makes it more disturbing.  A corpse chewed by a hungry dog will always elicit a strong response.  I was at a men's AA meeting when someone said that violence is as addictive as alcohol.  Men's AA meetings are for men only, of course, and the men talk about what they shouldn't talk about in front of women.  I don't go to AA meetings anymore, but I cherish my sobriety, and The Violent reminds me why.

Edge of Spider-Verse

The Amazing Spider-Man: Edge of Spider-Verse is a collection of five issues about "Spiders" in different universes.  "Spider-Man Noir" takes place in 1939, with somewhat limited technology.  "Gwen Stacy: Spider Woman" takes place in the current year, only where Peter Parker has died and Gwen Stacy has taken over the "Spider" mantle.  "Aaron Aikman: The Spider-Man" is a more tech-heavy Spider-Man where the DNA of the scientist, Aaron Aikman, was re-sequenced with that of a spider.   "I Walked With a Spider" is the story of Patton Parnel, who looks just like Peter Parker, but he's a total sociopath.  "SP//dr" has young Peni Parker being allowed in the same room with a spider that will bite her and change her into SP//dr.  Of course, there are multiple universes, so does that mean there are multiple Penis?  Sorry, I couldn't resist.

I bought the Spider-Verse collection in digital format and was pleasantly surprised to see Edge of Spider-Verse in my Comics Bento last month (see for more details).  Of course, the five comics have a continual story of the Spider-people coming together because someone is going through each universe and hunting them.  I'm more hyped for this story than I was before I read Edge of Spider-Verse because I got to see the characters, themselves.  Spider-Man Noir's best attribute so far is his setting, although he'll probably end up in the Peter Parker Spider-Man universe, but I just don't know.  Spider-Gwen appears to be the breakout star of the bunch, and I'm a huge fan of Jason Latour, who wrote the issue.  I loved the technology of both Aaron Aikman and SP//dr, and Patton Parnel is downright evil.

Overall, this is a great way to introduce new writers and artists to the Marvel universe.  Like most comic book fans, I protest any crossover event while buying issue after issue, book after book, omnibus after omnibus.  The reason this collection works is that it gives the impression that the writers and other contributors were given more artistic freedom in creating these five interrelated comics.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Violent #2

The Violent: Blood Like Tar, Issue #2 starts with Kaitlyn (the daughter) in the custody of the Ministry of Children, Mason (the father) being questioned by the police, and Becky (the mother) missing after being pushed toward using again by her former dealer, Joel.  Mason goes to Dylan's house for help.  Dylan is a friend and coworker, and Mason quickly drags him into the world of drugs and violence.

The violence has really started in this series, especially in the conclusion.  There was a hint of violence in Issue #1, but it's full on in this issue.  I do know a little bit about the scene in the Pacific Northwest.  As the name of the comic implies, the heroin in the area is of the poorest quality, black tar, the type that'll kill you if you take too much.  It's the way it is because it has 6-monoaceytlymorphine and 3-monoaceytylmorphine in it, and it ranges from a black-to-brown tar to a brown powder.  The heroin Joel gives Becky in Issue #1 is a brown powder.

This is a dark ride, dark like the heroin Mason and Becky are struggling not to take.  I have Issue #3, which I'll be reviewing soon.  Issue #1 shows them struggling to make rent and struggling to put food on the table.  Issue #2 sees them struggling to survive, struggling to stay out of jail, struggling to find each other, struggling to get their daughter back.  Or not.  We don't know what Becky's doing.

Dirk Gently #2

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: A Spoon Too Short, Issue #2 sees Douglas Adams's eponymous detective investigating the muteness virus in its source in Africa, among the N'Kawa tribe.  There, he and his companion meet a doctor fighting rhino poaching.  The doctor's explanation of why rhino poaching exists in the 21st century is shockingly accurate, reminiscent of the great Douglas Adams's Last Chance to See, in particular the scene about rhino poaching.

I absolutely loved the scenes in the African bush, which were absolutely gorgeous, although a rhinoceros does get poached for his horn in one of the scenes, so sensitive readers might want to... I don't know... read something else?  Suck it up?  The scene reminded me of a similar scene in Hermann's Africa.  The artwork throughout the volume is surprisingly similar, and I mean that in only the most loving of terms.

A Spoon Too Short, Issue #1 was good, and I loved it, but Issue #2 is on a whole other level in terms of the writing, the humor, and the artwork.  It's more interconnected, more grandiose.  Arvind Ethan David is a 10th-degree black belt in Douglas Adams, and the artwork by Ilias Kyriazis and Charlie Kirchoff is amazing.  Shawn Lee's letters use a style I like, with vertical lines and slanted horizontal lines.  I don't know the name of this style of lettering, but I've seen it in the past week or so; I can't remember where.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hunter X Hunter 23

Hunter X Hunter, Volume 23 has the heroes entering East Gorteau to attack the Chimera Ant King.  The Chimera Ants absorb the attributes of creatures they've eaten.  First, they eat pirates at Neo Green Life, becoming intelligent, disorganized, and evil.  Then, they eat humans with powerful auras, becoming unstoppable.  Killua is in pitched battle with an octopus creature that wants to be a squid creature, who he befriends.  Hunter X Hunter is so weird, so convoluted, so complex, and so awesome that it's hard to put down.  There is a strange consistency to it, with its nen, its ren, and its aura.  What will Killua do when his opponents have the ultimate nen ability, a game of darts?

The "Chimera Ant" arc stretches from Volume 18 to Volume 30, a total of 13 volumes, of which Volume 23 is the sixth.  What makes Hunter X Hunter unique is how it mixes the playful with the serious.  There are a lot of games in this series, from chess and go to Greed Island and Gungi, Gungi being a made-up game for this arc which the Chimera Ant King plays with a blind girl.  It's a three-dimensional chess/checkers game that even the King cannot master.

Hunter X Hunter is inventive and engrossing.  Gungi seems like so much nonsense at first, but what makes it so intriguing is how the Chimera Ant King is obsessed by it after easily mastering difficult games like chess and go, defeating East Gorteau's champions in those respective games after playing for a few hours.  The King comes off as the super-genius he is, but when a blind savant goes after him in Gungi, he's mystified.

Descender #11

Descender, Issue #11 finishes the "Machine Moon" arc.  Tim-21, Tim-22, Captain Tesla and Professor Quon have landed on the Machine Moon, the secret home of the Robot Resistance.  All robots were ordered destroyed following the attack of the Harvesters, a race of planet-sized androids who disappeared as quickly as they appeared.  Meanwhile, on the planet Sampson, Andy, his wife, and Blugger are hot on the trail of Tim-21.  Their goal is to destroy him.

Always gorgeous, sometimes funny, and planet sized in scope, Descender remains one of my favorite comics.  Dustin Nguyen (again, for those of you over 40, the artist, not the 21 Jump Street star) manages to paint beautiful watercolors every month.  This comic is as much of a treasure to our world as Tim-21 is a treasure to the Machine Moon.  The differences between Tim-21 and Tim-22 have really been showing in the past few issues, coming to a head in the end of Issue #11.

I'd like to talk a little bit about the lettering by Steve Wands.  Using different "robot" letterings for all the androids except Tim-21 and Tim-22 is an interesting choice, as they are androids, themselves.  Of course, both of them were raised among humans; Tim-21 was raised in a loving environment by Andy, and Tim-22 was used mostly as a servant by his more reserved owner.  They represent the best and worst of what it means to be human even though they are androids.

Nisekoi 14

Nisekoi, Volume 14: Big Sister introduces Yui, a girl two years older than Raku.  She's the head of the Char Sui Chinese Mafia and everyone's favorite homeroom teacher.  She's two years older than Raku, and she played with Raku, Kosaki, Chitoge, Marika, and even Seishiro as kids.  And guess what?  She also has a key to Raku's lock, and she's in love with Raku, too.  The only difference is that she remembers what happened when all of them were kids, but she pretends to forget for now.

Nisekoi is funny because there's this goofy looking guy who's really nice, and everybody loves him.  In the beginning of the book, he gets appendicitis and has to go to the hospital.  His father's gangster underlings love him so much that they cause a ruckus visiting him in the hospital, leading to visitors being banned.  Most of all, I'm glad that the story is finally progressing again.  This is a good volume of Nisekoi, and one much needed after months of inconsequential stories.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Spritz Speed Reading

For a long time, I thought speed reading was a joke.  That was before this morning, when I read Herman Melville's Typee in three-and-a-half hours, including breaks.  Here's what the app looks like at 250 words per minute (w/m):

It works in your browser.  You simply drag a bar onto your browser, find a website you want to read, and click on the bar. Here it is at 350 w/m:

And 500 w/m:

You can read any website at 450 w/m without logging in.  After an hour reading at 450 w/m, I logged in using Facebook in just a few seconds, relaxed a little, and read the rest of Typee at 630 w/m.  Go to to check it out.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Spider-Man #1

Spider-Man, Issue #1 begins with the story of what happened to Miles Morales in the eight months between the "Secret Wars" arc and him being a full member of the Avengers.  I haven't read every "Miles Morales" story out there, so bear with me.  In this universe, Peter Parker as Spider-Man is/was dead, and Miles Morales gets bitten by a spider in grade seven or so.  He's a bit older in this comic, in high school, but he's still a kid, and that's what I like about this comic.

The main bad guy is, "Blackheart, son of Mephisto, Prince of the Underworlds."  That's a slightly ambiguous appositional phrase, as we don't know if "Prince of the Underworlds" refers to "Mephisto" or "Blackheart."  I would guess that Mephisto is the King of the Underworlds, and Blackheart is the Prince of the Underworlds.  Anyway, Blackheart has wiped through the Avengers, and it's up to Miles Morales Spider-Man to stop him, but Miles has other problems.  He's flunking out of school, he can't get a date, and his mother is angry at him.  She thinks he's on drugs, but she doesn't know the truth about him being Spider-Man.  Only his father and his friend, Genki, do.

Brian Michael Bendis writes this series.  As I've mentioned, I only started reading comic books as an adult less than three years ago, but I've done so with gusto.  I read a lot of Image, manga, European and South American comics.  I don't read that much Marvel, but I've become a Spider-Man fan, mostly because of the writing of Brian Michael Bendis.  Sara Pichelli is the artist, and she's able to capture Miles Morales from different angles with different facial expressions, and still make him recognizably Miles Morales.  This is accented by the colors of Justin Ponsor, whose best attribute is his ability to capture light on the characters' faces.  The two of them have made this a very realistic title so far.  The letters by VC's Cory Petit are clear and classical, consistent and strong.  I'll buy Issue #2 next Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Spider-Man/Deadpool #3

Spider-Man/Deadpool, Issue #3 came out today, and of the eight comic books I bought today, it was the first I read.  That doesn't mean that it's better than the other eight; it isn't.  In fact, I usually have a higher opinion of the last couple of comic books I read after a Wednesday, when new comics come out.  I read Spider-Man/Deadpool first because it's the easiest and most readable comic I bought.  The characters are familiar - I'm not a Marvel expert, but I've read thousands of pages of Spider-Man comics and spent hundreds of hours watching Spider-Man TV and movies.  I'm new to Deadpool, but he has quickly become a familiar face in my comic-reading time.

This is a fun story.  Deadpool is hired to kill Peter Parker, but he doesn't know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.  Hobbie Brown poses as Spider-Man so that when Deadpool finally meets up with Parker, he has no reason to suspect Spider-Man's secret identity.  This comic sees the two Avengers going to Bolivia to help a small village fight an insurmountable horde featuring two super-villains.  The catch?  The village farms and produces drugs, most likely cocaine.  Then, Deadpool introduces Spider-Man to the daughter Deadpool didn't know he had until recently.

Joe Kelly knows how to write for Spider-Man, and he knows how to write for Deadpool.  The pencils are by Ed McGuinness, and the inks are by Mark Morales.  The pair capture both Spider-Man's awkward movement and fighting style and Deadpool's propensity to get wounded repeatedly.  As I mentioned in my review for Spider-Man/Deadpool, Issue #2, the ability for the two masked characters to portray emotions is reminiscent of Lucha Libre.  What I liked the best about the coloring by Jason Keith is how similar Spider-Man and Deadpool look from the waist up.  Damn, that sounds like the set-up for a crotch joke from Deadpool, but the reds of Spider-Man really come out from that angle, and the blues come out when the two are in action, differentiating the two.  The letters by VC's Joe Sabino are clear and classical, with a few italics and bolds to emphasize certain words.

But most of all, Spider-Man/Deadpool is funny.  Repeating the jokes and visual gags from the comic would be a little cheap, and it's not the jokes themselves that make the humor work.  What's great is that the title takes the reader on a roller coaster through humor, action, sappiness, and intrigue, diving and turning every which way without a hint of what's going to come next.  This is really good stuff.

The Woods, Vol. 4

The Woods, Volume 4: Movie Night doesn't come out until June 7, but I stocked up on The Woods back when it went on sale about a month ago.  One year has passed since Volume 3.  The school has become a community, and the students inside it have changed, become accustomed to their new surroundings.  They are building two things: a democratic society and a stage for movie night, but are they safe from the Horde?  Casey Macready, Calder Macready's older brother, has found a drug, gazer root, that helps people "remember," but everyone's getting strung out on it.  He's using the drug as political capital, giving it to people in exchange for votes.  Karen has become a hunter, and she goes deep into the forest.  

As for the illustrations, I in particular like the faces.  A lot of the characters look somewhat the same, with dark hair and olive skin from living in the light of their solar system, but I could still tell them apart.  What really helps is how in Issue #13, each character is named, with how she or he is feeling about the situation.  Michael Dialynas, the illustrator, also has created a number of different creatures that live on the moon.  In particular, I liked how Mister Robot, the rabbit-like creature the teens keep as a pet, has grown over a year.  The colors by Josan Gonzalez are another highlight.  He uses vivid greens and fuchsias with just a touch of orange to complete the triadic color scheme.   The letters by Ed Dukeshire are interestingly clear.  They horizontal lines lean backward a little bit, while the vertical lines remain vertical.

I think I've read too much Nietzsche, too much Hermann Hesse, because I see the Apollonian and the Dionysian in everything.  New London and the school are hunter/gatherer communities (Apollonian), and the Horde must be farmers (Dionysian), ready to attack with greater numbers.  The conflict, according to The Birth of Tragedy, creates great art.  I don't know if James Tynion IV intends this or if I'm just chasing literary ghosts.  Either way, it's a fascinating story.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Batgirl Vol. 4

Batgirl, Volume 4: Wanted came out over a year ago, but I wanted to review something for International Women's Day, 2016, and I also wanted to take advantage of the ComiXology sale.  I bought the following issues, which make up Batgirl, Vol. 4.  The Batgirl issues are $0.99 each, and Batman: The Dark Knight issue is $1.99, bringing the total to $8.92:

  • Batgirl, Issue #20
  • Batgirl, Issue #21
  • Batgirl, Issue #22
  • Batgirl, Issue #23
  • Batgirl, Issue #24
  • Batgirl, Issue #25
  • Batgirl, Issue #26
  • Batman: The Dark Knight, Issue #23.1
I haven't read much DC in the past year, but Gail Simone's writing had me hooked from the first issue.  A drunk Barbara Gordon stumbles into her psychiatrist's office without an appointment and going through a crisis.  She narrates the "Ventriloquist" story, where a super-villain kidnaps one of the judges of Gotham's Top of the Charts, a play on various talent shows.  She can't tell the psychiatrist that she's Batgirl, which adds an extra layer to the narration.  

I absolutely love the covers by Alex Garner.  He puts a lot of effort into the realism of the artwork; it's above and beyond what I've been seeing in comic-book art.  Fernando Pasarin's pencils are fantastic, although he does make Babs look a little fat in Issue #22.  I think this is by design, though, as she is overeating and lazing about when her car thief date comes calling.  I do think Barbara's transgender roommate looks a little more masculine now that she's out of the closet.  The letters by Dezi Sienti are clear and readable, and the colors by Blond are vivid yet dark.  Jonathan Glapion is the inker.  

But what makes Batgirl such a great comic is what Gail Simone has done with Batgirl, herself.  Batgirl is haunted by the apparent death of her brother, from a Batarang from her own hand to the eye socket of her only sibling.  I love how in Issue #20, her drunken state isn't elaborated upon.  It's out of character, but done so by design to show how much she is in extremis.  

I think I'll be reading more of this title.  I was reading Catwoman, Batman, Detective Comics, Nightwing, and Batgirl when the "Death of the Family" arc occurred, and I only went forward with Detective Comics and Nightwing before petering out on The New 52 altogether a year or two ago.  I started reading manga, Image Comics, and a few European and South American comics instead, plus a little Marvel and some older DC comics.  Batgirl is simply on the same level as those comics, and I'm very excited about my renewed interest in this title.  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Tithe, Vol. 1

The Tithe, Volume 1 is a story on three fronts.  The first front is the fraudulent mega-churches, run by pastors who hoard money.  The second front is two F.B.I. agents, one of which is a Christian, and one of which is an atheist.  They were investigating fraud among churches when the third front, a hacker group called Samaritan, began targeting these mega-churches.  At first, the hackers would only attack electronically, putting videos up on the mega-church 'trons.  Now they have moved into armed robbery, taking two million dollars in cash from a mega-church in Irvine.

My own connection to the church is spotty at best.  I am a secular humanist, a socialist, a sometimes-Methodist.  I have worked with faith-based organizations, and a lot of them are decent.  The ones that aren't are what drove me from Methodism in my preteen years.  Matt Hawkins, the author and co-creator of The Tithe, describes himself as an atheist.  He disabused himself of the notion of Southern Baptism by reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail in his late 20s, a book that I have read and found some issues with.  It is the basis for the mega-book The Da Vinchi Code.

Rahsan Ekedal is the co-creator and artist of The Tithe, and I'd like to write a little bit about the art of this series.  It isn't hyper-detailed like Oldboy, but the depictions of churches and mega-churches are very good.  The cars parked in a circle in the parking lot remind me of birth-control pills more than cars, and I think that's by design.  The coloring is done by Bill Farmer and Mike Spicer, and their best work is on the 'trons and TVs, giving celluloid life to those media.  The letterer is Troy Peteri, who uses a unique, bold style that I like.  I guess on Wednesday, when I buy comics, I'll look for this title.  Recommended.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Violent #1

The Violent: Blood Like Tar, Issue #1 is the story of two former junkies, Becky and Mason, who are trying to make it good, trying to make it clean, but it's hard.  They've got a three-year-old daughter named Kaitlyn, and Mason just spent a year in prison for breaking and entering.  They've got shitty jobs, shitty friends, and a former drug dealer who's trying to get them back in the game.

I'm an alcoholic, trying to make it by, writing grants for charities, hoping one will eventually pay me, but I've got a skill, writing.  Becky and Mason don't have that; they aren't educated.  They lift boxes.  They clean windows.  They have just a few months clean, while I have seven or eight years without a drink.  I never got hooked on the hard stuff, so I don't have drug dealers throwing junk at me, begging me to try it again.  I've got family.  What makes this comic so tough is that the only family Mason and Becky have is their daughter, Kaitlyn.  My son was three when I got sober, and he turned 11 two days ago.

I'm hooked on this comic, to use an unfortunate turn of phrase.  Next Wednesday, when I buy my comics for the week, I'll pick up issue #2 and issue #3.  What makes The Violent so interesting is how real it is.  The more realistic the tale, the more detailed the art has to be.  It takes place in a gentrified neighborhood in Vancouver, and everyone's having trouble paying the rent.  Heck, with the Obama economy bleeding into Canada, landlords are making a killing.

Just look at the detail of the wood on the cover page; you see that type of detail throughout the comic.  The line art is by Adam Gorham, who co-created the series with writer, Ed Brisson, who doubles as the letterer.  The lettering is clean and even, quite professional.  Michael Garland does the coloring, and I love the job he does contrasting the black of the dead of night with the fluorescent lights of the bathroom, where Becky sits with the brown powder her former dealer gave her.  I can't wait until I can read more of this comic.

March of the Crabs 1

March of the Crabs, Volume 1: The Crabby Condition is the story of the marbled crabs, cancer simplicimus vulgaris, who live their lives only being able to move in one direction.  They rarely meet one another, so they don't have names.  They do talk to the other species on the beach and sing songs, though.  Two crabs meet on perpendicular courses and discover that they can move anywhere on the beach by crawling on top of each other!  They celebrate by giving each other names, Sunny and Boater, but Boater feels that their destiny lies in moving in one direction and decides not to join Boater in his revolution.

This is a very good comic.  It is written and illustrated by Arthur De Pins, with translation by Edwared Gauvin and letters (in English) by Deron Bennet.  The crabs' inability to move other than in one direction is paralleled by the ferryman only moving in one direction and his wife being taken in by a dashing sailor from Greenpeace.  This is more than a simple story, though.  It's funny and cute, witty and engaging.  I really liked it.  I assume the colors are done by Arthur De Pins, and he captures the life on the French Riviera admirably while presenting a consistent color scheme throughout the book.  This volume came out in March of 2015, the first of a trilogy, so Volume 2 should probably be forthcoming this year.  It's published in hardback on Archaia, a division of Boom! Studios.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Discipline #1

The Discipline, Issue #1 is about Melissa, a bespeckled and spectacled housewife who hasn't had sex in four years.  Her husband is obscenely rich, her family equally poor.  She goes to the museum every week to stare at Goya's Venus and the Satyr.  One week, Orlando shows up and tells her to meet him in two days.  She does.  He takes her to (**TRIGGER WARNING**) a slaughterhouse where upon seeing a dead bull hanging from a chain, she sees a vision of herself, dead and hanging from a chain.  She passes out.

The Discipline isn't for everyone, but I like it.  The artist is Leonardo Fernandez.  I appreciated the facial expressions of the main character, Melissa.  He's also good at detailing wealth.  Sure, books like 50 Shades of Grey get written off - and rightly so - but when a writer can faithfully describe true wealth, he or she really has something.  The colors are by Cris Peter, who I noticed for using different colors for Melissa's hair, depending upon the light and the time of day.  A lazier colorist would have used the same orange throughout the issue.  The letters are by Simon Bowland, one of my favorites in the genre.

What makes The Discipline such a strong title is how it leaves a lot open to interpretation.  Does Melissa become a monster?  What is the Discipline?  How do they get their money?  I found myself basically reading this title twice just to soak in the atmosphere and try to understand more about what's going on.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Old Man Logan #3

Old Man Logan #3 continues Jeff Lemire's version of the story of Wolverine as an old man.  He starts by telling Kate Bishop the story of what happened so far: the Hulk, David Banner, went bad and went to stud, becoming the progenitor of generations of Hulks that rule the Earth.  Wolverine retires from being a superhero until his family is killed by bad guys.  Somehow, he finds his way into the present with a hit list.  He's about to take care of business when he finally realizes what's been hinted at in previous volumes: he's in another universe, one with a New Hulk and a female Thor.

I love how each issue ends with, "Next: Old Man Logan vs. _________," setting up the following issue.  I know I harp on about this every day or so, but you really need to read comics like this issue-by-issue.  I've even gotten into the habit of buying comics on Wednesday, when the new comics come out.  Golly, I'm a nerd.

When it comes to the art by Andrea Sorrentino, I like the rough lines on Old Man Logan's face, and of course his sideburns.  Kate Bishop's face is contrastingly free of lines; she is young.  The interplay between them is great.  But perhaps the highlight of each issue has been the flashbacks.  I love the light coloring of the flashback in this issue by Marcelo Maiolo, with the giant, dead Iron Man in the background, and of course the "monsters" underwater.  I bought Cover A, as some of the variant covers cost as much as $50.

Amulet 7

Amulet Book Seven: Firelight has the main character, Emily, traveling to Argos Island with Trellis and Virgo, where they hope to regain forgotten memories from Trellis's childhood.  These memories may unlock the secret behind the Elf King and to an extent, the stones, themselves, but a dream Emily has of her father forebodes danger.  Meanwhile, Navin (Emily's brother) and their mother come into contact with Elven astronauts.

Amulet is a seriously good series for fans of fantasy and young-adult fiction.  One major theme over the course of the past few books has been whether or not Emily can trust the voice behind the stone she keeps around her neck.  Firelight, in moving into space, has brought a whole new dimension to the Amulet series.  I don't know how much of the series Kazu Kibuishi had mapped out when he began Amulet, but Firelight introducing aliens brings a whole new meaning to some of the earlier books.

Of course, everything that made the first six books of Amulet great is on display in Firelight.  The attention to detail is fantastic.  Amulet hasn't had many fight scenes, but the ones it has had have been realistic and engaging.  The move toward more science-fiction elements has been well done, as well, with spaceships, space shuttles, and submarines.  But what really makes Amulet so great is how easily the reader becomes emotionally invested in it.  Kibuishi has a rare talent for that.  The colors and backgrounds by Jason Caffoe are vivid and imaginary.

The only thing I don't love about this series is that it comes out so rarely compared with other manga and even American comic books.  The last few books have come out every year and a half or two years.  Kibuishi confirmed on Twitter that there will only be nine volumes in the series, but at the rate he's going, we'll have to wait until 2019 or 2020 for the series to be completed.