I’m seriously considering a trip to Portland in April. This looks like an amazing event!
In case anyone is wondering where the comic reviews have been. It took me about 2 months to get exhausted reading comics. Its exhausting to sift through so much coal, and find that you’re trying to make diamonds yourself, trying so hard to find the good in all of them. I’d read about 5 comics at a time, maybe finish a trade paper back, and i’d find myself struggling to not be thoroughly MEH on everything. Like i’ve found a basket of oranges, but they are so old, they’ve dried out, and are hard as rock. The surface that is facing me is a bright orange, but you turn one over and find a forest of fuzzy mold in their shadow.
It’s pretty exhausting to get recommendation after recommendation, only to find that people have become so used to, so invested into believing that their cherished medium is so valuable, that the only reason its still floating is on the hot air of praise of an entire comics structure that is incapable of self-reflection.
The comics journalists, they need to maintain good relations with the comics publishers. The comics artists need to keep good relations with each other. The comics editors need to justify their existence. The comics writers need to assert their ability. Its not that the Emperor has no clothes, its Adam and Eve, ignorant of their own nakedness. Meanwhile, the shelves are lined with colored paper, no more worth while than colored paper.
What’s their to review? I’m not sure if i’m gonna stop 100%, or if i’ll stop at all. But I remember times, where i had a girlfriend, and of course, you want to share your interests. They’d make an honest effort, pick up a few comics, read them fairly regularly. All the while, i could see, that they were mostly just doing it for me. I’ve never made much of an effort to read comics regularly, but now i feel like i have more of a reason not to read comics regularly. Pretending i was a new reader of comics, only ended the illusion that i actually am a fan of comics. I like comics, i love comics – specific comics, particular comics. But saying i love comics, all comics, is like saying i love chinese food when all i ever order is General Tso’s. American Comics are the takeout equivalent of chinese cuisine. I pick up a book made by anyone outside of america, and i might not like it, but the things i don’t like about it don’t start at the bottom of the barrel.
I review comics like i’m working on the railroad, and i’m hammering all the live long day. But i’m not hammering hard nails into hard wood, sturdy and strong, ready to carry some Story Trains to gold paradise. I’m insane, i’m a crazy motherfucker punching a muddy floor. There’s no nails, no wood, no steel. Just slop and shit and dying things, and i want to believe that i can build something out of that slop. It can’t be built. I can dry those shit cakes in the sun, and make a shit castle, but the majority of what i have read, was like seeing a piece of glass in a pile of garbage and pretending i found diamonds.
Mediocrity is rewarded in comics. No, not rewarded. Mediocrity is incredibly sustained. Whether its writer’s getting exclusive contracts, to make any kinda shit they want. Or its editors who provide no insight, no comments, nothing but their name on the book and a paycheck from your work. Or its artists who get no credit, shit pay, and no time. Its a system that isn’t doomed to fail, and i wish it would, but it’s better described as Homer’s bobbing bird:
Do nothing, add nothing, take no chances, keep the wheels turning, keep the bird bobbing. I can’t read book after book, that has no inspiration. Where every fucking convention announcement is treated like Moses coming down from Mt.Sinai. These aren’t the stone tablets, we ain’t got no Moses. What we do have, is the golden fucking calf.
All our comics, we’ve built up into an empty idol, and i go and read other reviews. After i review a comic, i go and see what other dudes and dudettes are saying, just so i can get some kind of context for what i’ve just experienced. I don’t really care to see if someone liked or didn’t like what i liked or didn’t like. Cause honestly, a lot of this is subjective taste. The reason i read other reviews, is because critical thinking should operate from a certain standpoint. We all gotta be speaking the same language, understanding how a story works, characterization, that kinda shit. And when i go and read other reviews, it quickly becomes clear that IT JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN. There are no ten commandments. There’s no one talking about story, why Batman is doing something Batman-ish. Just because we all understand the archetype doesn’t mean you get to get away with brooding for 172 pages cause THATS JUST HOW HE IS. Do you know how many superhero comics have basically just skipped any kind of character development? How many comics have basically abandoned any kind of narrative structure and called it ‘serialization’ and ‘decompression?’
How many reviews are unwritten right now? Already preformed, just looking for the right moment to burst forth. You don’t have to wait, i can write them for you. “TREES by ELLIS IS A SCIENCE FICTION TOUR DE FORCE,” You see, I’m not even saying that Trees will be a bad book, or a good book, or a great book, or any kind of book. But i can guaran-damn-tee it, that it doesn’t matter, there won’t be any reviewer, journalist, comics blog, podcast, that doesn’t hedge their bets, that doesn’t watch their tone, that doesn’t say flat out “Yeah, this doesn’t work” Every word in comics journalism has to pay for itself, and every comics professional only talks to the comics journalists that will help them pay their bills. The interests of the two parties are so inextricably linked, the persons involved so codependent, that we should just give up the facade and just make a central comics news node, we can call it “PRESS RELEASE DROPBOX”
So i’m just tired. I’ve read a lot of times, “Don’t be so negative. Its better to spend your energy on your own work,” In a way, they are right. But it’s not that it takes energy to be negative. That shit is automatic. A negative feeling is an automatic reaction to trying your best, to find the best in a medium you’re supposed to love. It takes energy to TRY to love something. It takes energy to pretend that you like comics like everyone else does. It takes energy to explain that you’re not just trolling, you’re not just hating. I went and saw that movie Robocop. The Remake. Yes, that one. I saw a lot of hubbub about how “It shouldn’t even have been made!” And it takes energy to pretend that this movie, this by-the-numbers action flick, isn’t just as good as that Rocket Girl comic. I’m not knocking that Rocket Girl comic. It’s one of the last comics i read in the last month. But let’s not sit on our high horses, and believe that some B-movie remake into another B-movie is somehow at a lower level than our B-comics. Cool Special Fx – Check. Some moments of good dialogue – Check. Light Social Commentary – Check. Which story am i talking about? You decide!
It takes energy to be disappointed.
I’m not gonna make comics better by bathing in mud. Comics aren’t gonna get better. I don’t want to read any work of my peers, i only read to learn and i ain’t got nothing to learn from them. Bunch of 30 year olds who had better ideas when they were 12. 50 year old who act like they are 25. 60 year olds who aint got shit to offer. 20 year olds with dreams ready to be crushed. Infinite Blandness.
A desert of corn flakes. A dessert of corn flakes.
I leave you with some words taken from Tupac,
Dying inside, but outside you’re looking fearless
While tears, is rollin down your cheeks
Ya steady hopin things don’t all down this week
Cause if it did, you couldn’t take it, and don’t blame me
I was given this world I didn’t make it
Technically, i read all these comics at once, like a week and a half ago, but hey, let me try my best to remember what was what. While it’s still fresh in my mind, let us get straight to it.
Velvet #2- Brubaker & Epting – Ok
Sometimes i wonder how successful writers/artists pitch work to publishers. Do they step in an office, greet their contacts warmly, and say “Hey i wanna do the same thing i’ve always done, again, will you publish it?” Do the publishers then respond “I dunno buddy, i’m not sure anyone will buy it..” and then they both laugh hysterically, “I’m just fucking with you. Sure, lets publish it. Nah, i don’t even need to see a script. I’m sure you can handle this. You’ve been doing it as long as I am,” There’s nothing wrong with Velvet. There really isn’t. Any critiques i’d have, would be pretty nitpicky (like the lettering of ZZZZZZZZ over a sleeping man’s body, in multiple panels), but overall, it was just a matter of boredom. What need is there for another generic, cat-suited super spy against generic FBI?CIA?WTF?LOL? goons? What need is there for gruff men with secrets, and sexy ladies who are gruff too, and gruff men who live on boats; by this point, i’ve seen it done by Angelina Jolie like at least seven times, and Velvet isn’t adding anything new.
There’s also the problem of almost every fucking floppy, is just this constant in-media res story telling. I understand the economic necessities of making a floppy, but these are writers who have been writing for years, and every year, i find less and less books that actually function as single issues. People wait for the trade, but what you end up with, are a bunch of single issues that didn’t work alone, but have so much padding, that the whole shitty story could’ve been told in a single issue. I guess that’s what job security in comics is, pull as many pages out of an idea as possible, and you can’t jump the shark, because careers don’t get canceled in comics, they just get promoted.
Should you read Velvet? I dunno. Did you watch that movie Salt? No? Well, i’d say don’t worry about it. The Conversation with Gene Hackman, much better espionage-ish type film. I’m so meh on Velvet i don’t even wanna curse. And that makes me sad.
Pretty Deadly #2 – DeConnick & Rios & Bellaire & Cowles – Art – Great, Words – Good/Ok
I ragged on DeConnick for Captain Marvel before, in November, and a book like Pretty Deadly is the far opposite of that Marvel series. I wouldn’t really know where a writer’s passions are, but something about Pretty Deadly, even though i didn’t really understand what was happening, felt like she REALLY REALLY cared about this book. You have some ideas, when you’re an artist/writer, that just sit in your heart like children that haven’t been born. You can see their features, hear how they’ll laugh, and even see how they’ll die. Then you get a chance to make those stories, and you don’t care what people say or if they like it or don’t, its yours and thats all that matters.
I really enjoyed it, and the art, the sequential story telling, the ladies that be lookin’ fierce, was really excellent. Sometimes i watch Beyonce videos, and all i can think is how she’s really gotten down every one of her moves and the whole look. Its just on point. Emma Rios, is on point. This is a book that i’d see young cats try to emulate and fail at. There’s panel layouts going on in this book that stretch your muscles til they might pop. Personally, i’m fairly conservative with my panel layouts, so seeing something like this makes me think about what i can do with my own game.
The story is kind of dreamy, and at times, i had trouble figuring out who was talking to who, and what the hell they were talking about. But rather than feeling frustrated with it, it really just made me want to keep reading more, so i could figure it out. If you can make me care, even though i feel disoriented, i’d say you’ve just pulled off a nice hat trick. High five, there’s passion in this book, and this is new. So i think this might be the first book from my reviews, where i’ll actually go and buy #3 (and #1)
Viking’s End – Rich Tommaso - Great
This is my favorite of the week. Have y’all ever listened to Hardcore History? That podcast right there, its the real deal. You guys need to put down your lame ass comics, for a second, and learn something real, something substantial, or something like Viking’s End. History was really fucked up. People spend a lot of time thinking about today’s every day cruelties. In the last day alone, i saw Paul Walker’s crushed face and burnt body, i’ve seen a black kid bleeding out on a San Francisco street, I’ve read about Scott Lobdell getting his dick all hard like a 5th grade poindexter and not knowing how to deal.
A bit of a tangent here, but i think about sex pretty god damn often, like shit, human procreation is really fucking mind-bending, but i ain’t once ever been on a panel and looked at a person next to me and thought ‘Time to get some. Yes. right now. This will work. Lets do this.” Come on man. Every time i read about harassment in comics, I think this, in this order: 1. AGAIN!? REALLY!? AGAIN!? WHAT ARE YOU, TWELVE??! 2. You should get punched in the face 3. These motherfuckers ain’t got no fucking game. Here’s a bit of advice, for anyone who’s trying to get laid. Treat the person you wanna see naked with respect. At best, you get laid and at worst, you’ve treated a human humanely. You don’t ever have to worry about being a creep, if you respect people’s boundaries, respect their work, and respect when they aren’t interested.
Apologizing for some person ‘not getting your humor’ is such bullshit. Sometimes, i wonder how male cartoonists would feel, if i kept implying that they got nice dick-sucking lips during a panel. Then i’d say “BRO, I’m JUST JOKING!” I’m not gonna pretend to be some noble post-masculine feminist, cause i’m as much of a meathead chauvinist as any other dude from Jersey (i’m working on it), but any time i’ve done some fucked up shit, i didn’t wait til i read about it on xojane.com to respond. The time for apologies, isn’t years later. Straight dudes live in a bubble of knowing they can get away with anything, but there’s a god damn reckoning coming. Scott Lobdell apologized with the quickness, cause the internet hate machine does not have patience for your sluggish reply. I recently replied to a post about this, asking “why don’t people just name names” and got a schooling from Laura Hudson. I got my own bubble of being an aggressive straight dude, where honestly, i’m not gonna come up against many situations where i can’t solve with more aggression. In some ways, i can’t see beyond my own bubble. But i can see, that if you’re gonna be a creep in comics, you’ve just about used up all your get-out-of-jail free cards. Its been hard out there for a lot of people, and now, straight white dudes, you can join the rest of us in the gravel pit.
Okay okay…speaking of white dudes, let’s get back to that Viking comic. I’m sorry Rich Tommaso, cause your comic was both historically enlightening and also wonderfully drawn. It’s got a bit of a chris ware feel? I’m not sure, but you know, little square boxes and geometric humans, that kind of stuff. And the story is about some little brat, who goes straight gangsta, and kills a man’s daughter, after getting her drunk. No victim blaming here, but i know better than to hang out with murderous barbarians who’s family has been at war with my family. It’s actually kind of hilarious, even though its just a cruel trick to get the father to join the battle. It works, the Father is pissed and smarter than the little shit, and the the little shit gets 86′d. Justice was swift on the battlefield, and i’m always aghast at how much blood we used to shed on the regular. I’ve cried thinking about 9/11, but human history would place that event in a thimble, compared to the buckets of guts that other massacres have been. The ending was a sweet surprise, so i won’t spoil it, but everything in this book is delightful. Sorry about the tangent again.
In Pace Requiescat – Sean T. Collins & Julia Gfrorer – Art – Good , Words – ???
Who wants to read a comic about glory holes? Who likes Edgar Allen Poe? This comic is for you. Good Art, but the rest? Personally, and this i’m admitting is a bit more biased, more just my tastes, i felt this was just an artsy indie idea that didnt amount to much to me. Like any time you’ve gone to an art gallery, and you’re with friends, and they are watching a video of a dead fox slowly decomposing, and you don’t wanna be the first dude to be like ‘i don’t get it’ or leave, so you watch the whole thing too. But then you watch it like 3 times, and realize your friend has been waiting for you to leave, but neither of you know when this thing properly ends, so you are just kinda waiting for some kind of interruption. Then a complete stranger gets up and leaves, so you leave too. Man, that shit is so awkward.
Keep Fresh – Zejian Shen – Art – Ok, Words – ???
Real creepy, and if you want to read this in english, good luck, because all the english text is crammed in the bottom of each page haphazardly. In a way, it kinda adds to the creepy effect, but by the end of the comic, i missed something and didn’t know what, so i could not figure out the conclusion. Sometimes, i just feel straight up stupid. I think “Is it me? Do i just not have the reading comprehension necessary for this comic?” My high self esteem quickly discards that question, and replaces it with “WHY CAN’T I READ THIS SHIT!?” But nah, this isn’t shit. I actually enjoyed it, because i like reading sorta-horror comic about motorcycle dude smashing the brains out of a pervert with a hammer.
I wonder why that image would appeal to me? I wonder….
There was some not so good comics in this, but some very good comics too. And it was mostly very good. Most of the time i read anthologies, and i just think “great, inaccessible toilet paper” But this was a quick read of enjoyable short comics. Notable stand outs -
Spirit Hand by Gfrorer – Real creepy and unsettling
Tuesday by Aidan – pitch perfect description of depression in six panels
This Magic Ring & Crab story by JFish – would love to read more adventures of these characters, and probably has the most possibility for expansion.
That’s it y’all. Mostly a good week. Besides some boring comic and some inscrutable comics, everything else was really enjoyable. Cheers to you!
“The interaction with machines made our daily life easier, faster and more efficient. Despite the rapid growth of technology, machines could not yet replace a simple smile, but now we have Face-o-mat.
(above image by Faesthetic #13 contributor Karn Piana)