Friday, March 31, 2017

Fake News/Ubik

Philip K. Dick wrote in 1969:

Still in gay pinstripe clown-style pajamas, Joe Chip hazily seated himself at his kitchen table, lit a cigarette and, after inserting a dime, twiddled the dial of his recently rented 'pape machine.  Having a hangover, he dialed off interplan news, hovered momentarily at domestic news and then selected gossip.

"Yes sir," the 'pape machine said heartily.  "Gossip.  Guess what Stanton Mick, the reclusive interplanetarily known speculator and financier, is up to at this very moment."  Its works whizzed and a scroll of printed matter crept from its slot; the ejected roll, a document in four colors, niftily incised with bold type, rolled across the surface of the neo-teakwood table and bounced to the floor.  His head aching, Chip retrieved it, spread it out flat before him.

(AP) London.  What could Stanton Mick, the reclusive, interplanitarily known speculator  and financier be up to? the business community asked itself as rumor leaked out of Whitehall that the dashing but peculiar industrial magnate, who once offered to build free of charge a fleet by which Israel could  colonize and make fertile otherwise desert areas of Mars, had asked for and may possibly receive a staggering and unprecedented loan of

"This isn't gossip," Joe Chip said to the 'pape machine.  "This is speculation about fiscal transactions.  Today I want to read about which TV star is sleeping with whose drug-addicted wife."  He had as usual not slept well, at least in terms of REM - rapid eye movement - sleep.  And he had resisted taking a soporific because, very unfortunately, his week's supply of stimulants, provided him by the autonomic pharmacy of his conapt building, had run out - due, admittedly, to his own oral greed, but nevertheless gone.  By law, he could not approach the pharmacy for more until next Tuesday.  Two days away, two long days.

The 'pape machine said, "Set the dial for low gossip."

He did so and on a second scroll, excreted by the 'pape machine without delay, emerged; he zommed in on an excellent caricature drawing of Lola Herzburg-Wright, licking his lips with satisfaction at the naughty exposure of her entire right ear, then feasted on the text.

Accosted by a cutpurse in a fancy N.Y. after hours mowl the other night, LOLA HERZBURG-WRIGHT bounced a swift right jab of the chops of the do-badder which sent him reeling onto the table where KING OGON GROAT OF SWEDEN and an unidentified miss with astonighingly large...

Mr. Robot

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Mr. Robot is my experiment.  See, I don't watch TV much, just pro wrestling (which I can ignore) and sports (which I can ignore).  I wanted to watch something I can't ignore.  That's why I started watching movies earlier this year.  That's why I started watching Mr. Robot.  About 20 minutes in, I found in dismay that I had 40 minutes left in the first episode.  About 30 minutes in, I started writing this.  A failure, right?  Not really.

I like the main character.  At one point in my life, I decided that I could either write about weird things, or I could do weird things; I decided on the latter.  As the 21st century drew on, I started to run out of weird things to do, and I decided to write more and more.  I don't really relate to the main character, but to the man who wrote him.  I think that maybe I can write a character like this.  Just like some pianists (Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck) inspire you to play more, some pianists convince you that playing the piano is a fruitless endeavor and that you'll never be as good as them (Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum).  Mr. Robot is like Bill Evans in that regard.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Old Man Logan #19


Old Man Logan, Issue #19 begins in  the Cellar, a maximum-security super prison.  Old Man Logan is breaking into the lower level - the Black Level - where the most dangerous prisoners are held.  We skip to nine days earlier, where he tries to get help from Illyana Rasputina, known as the X-Men, Magik.  Logan wants to go back to the Wastelands to help out Bruce Banner's grandson, with whom he was left in charge.  She won't help, so Logan goes after help with the one person who won't turn him down.

The art is done by Filipe Andrade, whose work I've enjoyed in the past, with colors by Jordan Boyd.  I'm used to the art of Andrea Sorrentino, but at least he does the cover.  The art is a little different, but not annoyingly so - it's not bad at all.  This has been and is a wonderful title, a good one to read in trade paperback form if you're not up with the comics.  I'm curious to see where this two-part arc goes.  Of course, the next arc is going to be in the Wastelands, but how will they get there?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spider-Gwen #18


Spider-Gwen, Issue #18 concludes the "Sitting in a Tree" arc, and most likely, my interest in the comic for now.  It takes place on Earth-65, where Peter Parker dies and Gwen Stacey is bitten by the radioactive spider, becoming Spider-Woman, known to us as Spider-Gwen.  The colors are different, the characters we know are different.  But hey, that's the multiverse for you.  We begin on Earth-8, where Gwen Stacey and Miles Morales, in the future, have been married for 20 years.  Their kids and Peter Porker/Spider-Ham are going to help save the multiverse.

I am glad I read this crossover event, and I did enjoy it.  Spider-Gwen and Earth-65 are great and all, but it's too much for me right now.  I know I'm looking to cull titles right now, but Spider-Man is absolutely not on the table.  It's great.  So's Spider-Gwen, and if I were in a different place, I'd continue reading it.

Batwoman #1

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Batwoman, Issue #1 is a new story.  I'm not reading enough, as I mentioned a few blog posts ago, so I don't know if I'm going to continue this series.  I've read a lot of Batwoman, including Hydrology and the first three or four trade paperbacks in the New 52.  Like many readers, I kind of petered out on the title after J.H. Williams III stopped writing it.  Now, Batwoman is working under the guidance of Batman, with Julia Pennyworth playing the backup role.  Kate Kane's father, I assume from reading Detective Comics, is still in Bat-prison.

This new series is written by Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV, who have both written for Detective Comics, with art by the legendary Steve Epting, who is also currently working on one of my faves, Velvet.  Basically, it's the team of writers and artists creating this title that will persuade me to continue reading the series more than the depth of the Batwoman character or how good the title is.  I know these creators can do something special, and I'll probably stick around to wait to see if it happens.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Reich #3

Reich, Issue #3 begins with the death of Wilhelm Reich's brother, Robert.  Then Sigmund Freud gives an offhand comment about the length Reich's paper on human sexuality, "that thick?"  This enrages Reich, who opines about his childhood on his father's farm.  He gets into sexual misadventures with the servants, he looks at the peasants' genitalia, he sexually stimulates the mares.  I mean, there are always stories of farm children buggering around with the sheep and whatnot, but Reich actually did it.

Wilhelm Reich was an extraordinary man, and that comes across very well in this third issue.  Of course, Elijah J. Brubaker, the author and artist, draws heavily from Reich's autobiography, Passion of Youth.  Whether or not Reich actually lost his virginity at age 11-and-a-half is only known to Reich and perhaps the cook with whom he allegedly lost it to.  I love the angular features of the characters in this issue, reminiscent of cubism, an art form popular at the time of Reich's life.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Punisher #10


The Punisher, Issue #10 begins with the head of Condor and Olaf standing in front of a container ship in Condor Headquarters in Newfoundland, Canada.  They have produced enough EMC to fuel an entire army.  "If you thought that EMC caused chaos on the streets," the head says, "wait until it hits the battlefields!"  Even Olaf is a little nonplussed, saying, "I'm a soldier, not some two-bit drug dealer."  Face is near death, whacked out of his gourd on EMC, but Agent Ortiz of the D.E.A. is struggling to get enough information out of him so that she can stop them.  The Punisher, of course, has other plans.

The Punisher is the type of art that's why I read comics.  It's laughingly brutal, disgustingly violent.  I know the whole flying-bear-trap-on-a-chain is so 1970s Shaw Brothers, but you actually get to see the heads torn in half, the arms ripped off, the facial skin bubbling as it's being held to the hot carburetor.  It's disturbingly not for kids, especially this issue.

Detective Comics #952

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Batman: Detective Comics, Issue #952 is the first comic I've read in almost a week.  It opens up in Paris, where Ra's Al Ghul, the leader of the League of Assassins, is confronting Shiva, the leader of the League of Shadows.  Cut to Adam's Square, Gotham City.  Batman's unnamed army is battling an unnamed group of plainclothes ninjas with titanium-piercing swords.  They're under the command of Shiva, who's after Orphan, one of Batman's crew.  And they're all kicking the Bat-gang's ass.

I'm not totally up on all the Bat-politics.  I haven't seen Shiva before, but her destroying the League of Assassins and the still-unnamed Bat-army is only the beginning of her being made out to be a supreme badass.  Batwoman's father, whose name I can't remember off the top of my head, has a story about meeting her in Pakistan.  One thing I would like to see is more of a support staff in this Bat-army.  Even in the Vietnam War, only 19% of soldiers saw any sort of action on the front lines, yet there's no one coordinating the efforts, bringing supplies, or building new weapons.  Just my thought.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Reading Too Much/Not Reading Enough

So, this is my problem.  We all run into dry spells when it comes to reading comics.  Last summer, when my hands started shaking, I got a little out of sorts and didn't read all the titles I was buying.  I've also gotten too busy with work/school/parenting to really read all the titles I'm buying.  This is different, though.  I've been consistently buying eight to 10 titles per week, and they're adding up now that I've hit a lull in my reading.  What's worse is that I still start new comics.  In just my short period of not reading everything I buy, I've bought Batwoman and American Gods: Shadows.  I haven't actually read them, of course.

I'm not reading for several reasons.  My son's on vacation, so I don't have as much time, but that's only minor.  In the past few weeks, I've built a new computer and gotten a new car.  Crashed an old car, sold an older car.  Trying to sell a piano.  My solution is to start cutting out comics.  Here are some on the chopping block:

Star Wars: Poe Dameron
Star Wars: Darth Maul
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra
Curse Words

And maybe Monstress.  The art is beautiful, but the latest arc hasn't tickled my fancy.  I have two unread issues, and I can always get back to it after I get around to reading them.  I also won't be buying any more of Wayward.  I loved the third arc, but the fourth arc came around last summer, when I simply wasn't reading enough, and I have four issues - nearly a trade paperback - lying unread in a pile.  I have two unread issues of East of West, and the title suffers from the twin issues of too many characters and me crying when Jonathan Hickman kills off the characters I love, very Game of Thrones.

Also, several titles that I read are coming to conclusions.  The Unworthy Thor has just one issue left.  It hasn't been bad, so I'll buy it when it comes out and hopefully read it.  I won't be reading Spider-Gwen after the "Sitting in a Tree" tie-in with Spider-Man ends.  It's a clever title, and I love Jason Latour's work creating Earth-65, but I'm swamped.  I'm trying to catch up with Ms. Marvel, but I've got two issues of that in my cupboard.  \

I haven't slowed down my audiobook reading.  If anything, I've been driving more than ever.  I'm close to finishing Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe's latest novel, and I have a couple more set up: The 39 Steps by John Buchan and Zero K by Don Delillo.  I was reading lighter stuff, like Chuck Wendig and well, more Chuck Wendig.  Perhaps delving into deeper and more difficult novels has affected my comic book reading.

It was really refreshing not to have any comics to buy today.  I used to really look forward to Wednesdays because the new comics would come out, but it had become a burden.  I spent the money on a David Bowie record instead.  All this being said, I still love comics.  I just have to make sure that I'm not pressuring myself into reading more than I want to.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Green Lanterns #19

Green Lanterns, Issue #19 begins the "Polarity" arc.  It begins with a total quack preaching to an audience of one that magnetism cures cancer and all ills, reminiscent of David Wolfe claiming that gravity is at toxin and that cancer doesn't afflict animals that spend a lot of time hanging upside-down, such as bats (which suffer heavily from arthritis from hanging upside down) and opossums (which suffer heavily from arthritis from hanging upside down).  Enter Doctor Polaris, the quack magnetism guy who - you guessed it - has magnetic powers.

My comics have been piling up the past few weeks.  Right now, I'm at the point of only reading comics right before the next issue comes out.  That means that bimonthly comics like U.S.AvengersGreen Lanterns, and Detective Stories get priority.  Green Lanterns has been a comic I usually read first anyway, for reasons I've gone over in the last 19 reviews I've done on this series.  Doctor Polaris is a pretty formidable foe, and a novel one.  I haven't read the Justice League vs. Suicide Squad series yet (I'm waiting for it to come out on trade paperback), but the changes in the DC Universe are easy enough to catch up with.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Spider-Man #14


Spider-Man, Issue #14, like the previous three "Sitting in a Tree" issues that take place in the Spider-Man comic (two others, with one to come take place in the Spider-Gwen comic) is narrated from after the events happen by Miles Morales to Ganke and Fabio, his roommates at the exclusive boarding school he goes to because he won a lottery.  He tells them about how he kisses Spider-Gwen and travels through dimensions, including one where he and Gwen are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary, it seems.

I really like the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man, and this crossover with Spider-Gwen showcases what's so good about him.  He's a young superhero, and I think Spider-Man is at his best when he's young, not to disparage the older Spider-Man.  I first really fell in love with Spider-Man comics reading the original Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley.  We're starting to see Miles Morales grow up in this crossover, start his first relationship.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ms. Marvel #14


Ms. Marvel, Issue #14 begins the four-part "Damage Per Second" arc.  In it, we begin with a focus on Kamala Khan's gaming life.  She's a nerd, a gamer and a comic-book fan.  That's why she appeals to so many comic-book readers; they're gamers and comic-book fans.  Imagine her surprise when one of her guildmates mentions the street she lives on.  That would freak any of us out, moreso if any of us is a superhero with a secret identity (shoots imaginary cuffs).  Anyway, someone isn't just after Kamala Khan, someone's after Ms. Marvel.

I'm really glad I finally caught up with Ms. Marvel, or at least, I'm catching up.  Issue #16 comes out in three days, so I'll probably be all caught up pretty soon.  I've been a fan of the series ever since the first trade paperback came out, and I bought the first five trade paperbacks.  Ms. Marvel's a great character for the reasons I mentioned earlier.  Here, she's facing a hacker, which isn't exactly in her wheelhouse.  People assume that if you're good at one aspect of computers, you're "good at computers," and can fix any problem, but it isn't as simple as that.

Ms. Marvel #13


Ms. Marvel, Issue #13 is the first comic I've read in almost a week.  I built a new computer with a fancy gaming card and fancy... well, everything.  Needless to say, I've been playing a bunch of video games and generally goofing off on it.  In Issue #13, Ms. Marvel finds out that the city has been redistricted.  She goes to talk to the mayor, but he blows her off before handing her a note that simply says, "help!"  And he has good reason to ask for help.  The districts have been gerrymandered to help his opponent in the upcoming election win, and his opponent is an agent of H.Y.D.R.A.

Okay, so gerrymandering isn't a typical topic for superhero comics.  It's no secret that after winning the House of Representatives in 2010, the Republicans gerrymandered the nation to hell.  On a national level, districts are drawn after every census, so 2000, 2010, 2020...  The comic moves on to Ms. Marvel going house-to-house, campaigning for a fringe candidate.  Somehow it works, and the fringe candidate wins.  I've campaigned house-to-house, and it sucks (Clinton, 2016), but it was nice to see it work for a change.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Green Lanterns #18

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Green Lanterns, Issue #18 is the story of Volthoom, the First Lantern.  10 billion years earlier, he is born on an alternate Earth.  When that Earth faces extinction, he is given the Travel Lantern by his mother; he escapes.  Traveling from Earth to Earth, from world to world, he teaches people how to use the emotional spectrum.  Some regrow dead plants, some make music with it.  Finally. on Earth-0, the planet Maltus, he meets the Maltusians, who are brilliant scientists.  They become the Guardians of the Universe under Volthoom's guidance.

The story of Volthoom is pretty neat.  Of course, we know now that Rami creates the Phantom Ring and tries for billions of years to destroy it.  We also know that Volthoom destroys Rami and takes his place as holder of the Phantom Ring and guide to Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, the two Green Lanterns of Earth.  I've always liked the Green Lantern stories because they're so grandiose, about the universe being in trouble rather than the Earth or even just a city being in trouble.  This is a classic Green Lantern story in that vein.

Hawkeye #4


Hawkeye, Issue #4 begins with Kate Bishop, having been captured, teasing her captor.  She gets loose, of course.  The bad guy, Aggregate, is amplifying people's hate and feeding off their emotional turmoil.  Once Kate and her companion are free, they are still surrounded by a gang of mindless zombies.  I won't spoil exactly how the arc ends, but it does end pretty cleverly.  The next arc does begin a little bit in this issue, where Kate Bishop is looking for clues about her father.

I haven't looked at sales figures for this title, but now that it's evident that Clint Barton/the other Hawkeye isn't going to play even a minor role in this comic, I won't be surprised if a few people jump ship.  I've had a busy week, and I'm falling behind on my comics.  If this continues, it won't be long before I start culling my purchases, although I'll probably start with comics that I'm just starting, including the three or four comics that I've begun in the past month or two.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Reich #1 & #2

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Reich, Issue #1 and Issue #2 are the beginning of a biography of the controversial psychiatrist, Wilhelm Reich, written and drawn by Elijah J. Brubaker.  In Issue #1, Reich has returned from World War I to study at Vienna University.  He initially studies law but turns instead to medicine.  A fellow student of his begins technical seminars of topics not covered by the professors.  Reich soon takes over the meetings and devotes them almost entirely to the study of sex, arguing that our social interactions are based almost entirely on sex.  He consults the top psychiatrists of Vienna, including Freud and Adler, borrowing books from them for the seminars.

In Issue #2, Reich argues in his thesis that neuroses are caused by patients not being able to be "orgastically potent," and when fellow psychiatrists claim that many of their patients are able to have orgasms yet still suffer from neuroses, Reich simply redefines the term.  And while Reich does present a thesis, he has preciously little medical or psychiatric training.  I only know of Wilhelm Reich from this comic, but he seems to be one hell of a quack.  At least in our day, when we practice psychiatry on an amateur level, we do it the right way, by creating a good profile on PlentyofFish or SingleParentMeet and let the "patients" come running.

Image result for reich 2 brubakerReich may come across as a hack in this comic, but he also comes across as charismatic, intelligent, and in his own way, intellectual.  On top of that, he appears narcissistic and perhaps even bipolar.  He cares little for other people, and he's fully convinced of his own greatness.

In these two issues, I particularly like the way Elijah J. Brubaker uses shadow and shade; he uses thin, parallel lines to create hints of grays rather than by using gray-scale.  Each issue comes with copious notes in the vein of Chester Brown's Paying for It and Louis Reil.  In fact, Brubaker mentions Louis Reil as an inspiration for the comic and the notes.  It goes to show that the medium of comics has a number of different stories to tell.  Brubaker is coming out with a comedy comic about the life of the Bible's Jezebel, which will be published by Study Group Comics in 2017.  I'll definitely buy it.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sherlock: A Study in Pink

Image result for a study in pink jay mangaSherlock: A Study in Pink is the manga adaptation of the first episode of BBC's Sherlock.  I don't know about the few people who read this blog, but I'm a huge fan of Sherlock, and while I've never read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original work, I've seen each episode, most more than once.  It should come as no surprise that I love this adaptation by the manga artist, Jay.  "A Study in Pink" is the first Sherlock episode, where he meets Dr. Watson in the 21st century, they become roommates, and they solve a "serial suicide" case.

I do read a fair amount of manga, although I'm far from an expert.  I don't draw anymore, and I never drew faces, although I studied a touch of art in college.  What impresses me about this comic is the way Jay creates such expressive faces and the way he creates action.  The dialogue is taken pretty much directly from Steven Moffat's and Mark Gatiss's scripts.  Nothing silly has been done like translating into Japanese and back into English again.  That certainly wouldn't do.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Paper Girls, Vol. 1

Paper Girls, Vol. 1 TP

Paper Girls, Volume 1 has been out for some time.  I bought the digital versions of the first five issues a year ago, when they were on sale for $1 each on  My son's birthday is tomorrow, and I was setting up his Kindle Fire HD10 (great for comics, by the way), and I thought I'd finally give it a go.  The basic story is that four papergirls find themselves in deep shit.  Demons, aliens, time travelers, all that sort of jazz.  It's 1988, and they have no idea what's going on.  Maybe the rapture?

I wasn't that big a fan of We Stand on Guard, which came out just before Paper Girls, and that's part of the reason I didn't get into this title.  Of course, I've read all of Saga and Y: The Last Man, plus a few other titles.  Like most comic book fans, I buy more than I read, so I have a few more Brian K. Vaughan titles I might get into.  Paper Girls is solid and strange; it's nostalgic and funny.  I have Volume 2 coming in the mail tomorrow, and I'll probably pick up Issue #11 and Issue #12 when the latter comes out.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Infamous Iron Man #5

Infamous Iron Man (2016-) #5

Infamous Iron Man, Issue #5 begins with Ben Grimm in a S.H.I.E.L.D. hospital, recovering from the injuries he sustained in his fight with Victor Von Doom's mother.  She might have killed him if her son hadn't intervened.  Victor Von Doom is Iron Man now, and Ben Grimm is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Grimm talks with Director Hill about the situation; Doctor Doom saved Grimm's life before entering into battle with Infamous Iron Man/Victor Von Doom.  Then we return to the Dr. Perera arc; she first appeared in Invincible Iron Man (2015-2016).

This comic is well done.  We see the confrontation between Von Doom and his mother through the eyes of the Thing (Grimm).  Then we see things from Dr. Perera's perspective, kind of a yin-and-yang thing.  Finally, Von Doom tells what happened between him and his mother to Dr. Perera.  The final twist was... unexpected.  I won't give it away, but it's... strange.  I don't know what to think of it.  The story does take place in Earth-616, but everything's... different regarding the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom.