Friday, December 19, 2014

(Not A) Film Friday: So Much for "The Interview"

A Bland Title, A Big Controversy
So, "The Interview", you may have heard about it. A comedy movie featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco, they play the head of (and producer for) a tabloid-styled news program. They learn the leader of North Korea--Kim Jong-un--is actually a fan of the show, and get invited to interview him. This leads to the CIA asking them to assassinate Kim, at which point I imagine various shenanigans and acts of mischief occur. I may never actually know, as Sony has basically given in to the demands of self-declared terrorists hackers and announced that "The Interview" will not be coming out on Christmas day, or possibly at all. That's right, there isn't even a plan to delay the movie or make it go straight to video-on-demand. It's just cancelled. Wow. How did we get here?

How We Got Here.
Another thing you may have heard about was that just recently Sony was hacked (yes, again, but this time it was even worse than in 2011). It now has been confirmed that North Korea-located hackers were behind it, and all sorts of things were leaked. Nothing illegal has come out about Sony, but private details and correspondence now is being gleefully reported by various media outlets. Putting aside the ethical question of if we really need to know about what was in the leaks (if Sony wasn't doing anything illegal do we have the right to pry into the privacy of employees who sent messages about actors they disliked or such? I mean, this isn't at all like with the NSA leak...) it has caused a headache for Sony. In addition, further threats that theaters showing "The Interview" could face attacks were made, and within this week "The Interview" has gone from being an upcoming Christmas release to basically dead in the water.

This cancellation of "The Interview" has upset basically everyone. In the delightful paradox of how we always want to see things we can't people now are saying that they had minimal interest in "The Interview" but now they have to see it. Mitt Romney said Sony should offer it for free online as a big middle-finger to North Korea,and Obama said Sony made a mistake choosing to not release it. That's right, Democrats and Republicans agree Sony should release the flick--and the rarity of politicians from both side of the aisle agreeing is equivalent to your odds of seeing a White Rhino.

So, Here We Are
We are basically now at the point where is Sony doesn't release "The Interview" they look like terrorist-capitulation-types who hate America, and if they do release it basically everyone is going to go see it, whether it is good or bad. This actually has had some folk mulling over if we are playing into a secret plan of Sony. I mean, Sony getting hacked clearly wasn't a trick, but seeing all the heat "The Interview" is causing and threats it is getting might have had some crafty Sony executives think, "Hey, this movie is getting so much press, what if say we aren't going to let folk see it?" and of course people will go ballastic because we as a society are more prone to the Streisand-effect than one could believe. I'm not sure how likely this conspiracy-theory is. I would totally believe it that Sony freaked out when threats were made that theaters could be attacked and due to their own choice or because the film industry was nervous at the idea of people avoiding cinemas on Christmas, any immediate release of "The Interview" was canned.

The exact reason behind why Sony chose not to release "The Interview" may be unclear, but now everybody wants to see it for reasons that range from having just been interested in the movie and its actors (as I had been), to feeling it is now a political act. I myself just really enjoy movies with Seth Rogen and James Franco, finding almost anything they team-up in to be good--except maybe "This is the End" which I found extremely underwhelming--so I was excited to see "The Interview" and now am sad that I may not be able to. We will probably see in the upcoming days something definitive occurring. Namely, Sony gives a new release date, puts "The Interview" online, or something of that sort. I would be a bit surprised if they really do just scrap it and try to have us all forget it existed. We will see. In the meantime I can always re-watch "Pineapple Express" to get some laughs.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Reviews of some BOOM! Studios Comics from the Last Three Weeks

The Fuse is Lit...

I enjoy reading comics from a variety of publishers, but there are some who have stuff I've followed from when they first started to where they are now. One example of a publisher this applies to is BOOM! Studios, or BOOM, as I will refer to them from this point on so as to make my spell-check freak out less about the grammatically-inconvenient exclamation mark. BOOM came into existence in 2005, around when I started reading comics again, and I recall the old and new material fondly.

I remember some of their early stuff, be it Cthulhu-themed comics or the book "Tag" about a curse that causes you to decompose and which the only way to stop is by passing it to someone else--i.e.--tagging them. Yes, there was some good stuff from BOOM. Over time they have grown from their smaller output however, now releasing many comics from a variety of creators, and even acquiring another publisher--Archaia--a little while back as an imprint now. Thankfully, despite getting larger in size and number of comics that hasn't stopped BOOM from putting out books I mostly like. With that in mind, let's examine some of their recent output and my enjoyment of it...

...BOOM!
Memetic #2
I absolutely loved the first issue of "Memetic" and while this one isn't quite as amazing (which is not its fault, as part of the appeal of the first issue was the suspense of wondering what the mysterious meme would do) it still is a really good time. Throughout this issue it begins to become more apparent how the meme may just look like an image, but in fact is a dangerous idea that's in a way viral--and constantly evolving.

In this issue we get a bit more character development between our two main protagonists, a young fellow who is unaffected by the meme due to being color-blind and a former military-man whose loss-of-sight spares him from the danger. I still love the concept as it is still terrifying of how it seems eerily possible for a potentially innocent Jpeg such as the comic's, "Good Times Sloth," to in fact be wielded as a weapon in our incredibly-technologically-connected society. Plus he just looks so cute:
Throughout this issue society continues to fall apart, our characters fight to survive, and the mystery of just who could have been behind the meme grows. All-in-all its a stellar issue and I am excited to see what happens in the upcoming conclusion!
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Escape from New York #1

I haven't seen the film "Escape From New York" in quite a long while, and while I can barely remember the details, this sequel-comic thankfully requires you only recall the ending of the flick (or check Wikipedia for a light plot description) in order to have an idea of what is going on. The reason for this is the comic is written quite well and fills-in-the-blanks of any questions that a reader who is mostly unaware of how the film took place may have. As I mentioned, this is in fact a sequel, starting up at the last moments of the film and proceeding from there. Basically our "hero", Snake Plissken, is on the run from the United States government due to his general refusal to play nice, and along the way encounters a variety of interesting characters.

The comic does a good job supplying the action-feel and dark humor of the original movie, making it clear that this isn't some straight-faced shoot'em-up comic, but one with a bit of a satirical bent, mocking a potential future (now past) in which society has become a laughable mess. Snake doesn't say too much in the comic, but he doesn't need to, what he does says more than any words. It is clear that Snake isn't a simple do-gooder willing to follow orders, but he also can't stand people who are evil and violent for no reason. This leads him to start heading down to Florida to confront a cult-ish militia which seems to have a strange view on the world and which has taken over the state.
This issue ends with Snake arriving in Florida and coming face-to-face with its twin rulers. It is abundantly clear that despite all the trouble we saw Snake go through things aren't going to get any easier, and that is perfectly alright as Snake has yet to meet a task he's unable to tackle.

I enjoyed this comic, but wasn't overly amazed by it. Snake is kind of a strange character, in that he's so amazing and talented it's tricky to give him a true challenge with some risk. If the next issue shows the apparently uber-powerful twins to be that, it will make for a good read. However, should the series just consist of Snake easily dispatching foes it'll get boring fast. As it is, we will have to wait until the 2nd issue and see what happens. For now though, I'm awarding this comic a very respectable...
3 out of 5 stars.

Thomas Alsop #7
This has been an interesting and very weird series. A surreal mixture of magic, media, and a main character who is as easy to despise as he is to love, the life of Thomas Alsop throughout this comic has been one of struggle. Whether that struggle is a personal one in trying to get along with his friends, or a professional one in facing constant backlash for his announcement of how he is going to perform an exorcism on Ground Zero in New York City, Alsop is always up against something, and that's how I like it!

This issue Alsop manages to break out of a police station and narrowly avoid being murdered by some other magic-users who would prefer he didn't exist. Chris Miskiewicz continues to expertly walk the fine-line of dealing with a recent tragedy such as 9/11, having other characters point out how to someone who isn't aware that Aslop means well, his proposal of a big exorcism event is quite offensive.
This is another solid issue of "Thomas Alsop" and with the final one coming up next I am intrigued to see what will happen. Depending on that conclusion I also wonder if we may see more of Alsop in future mini-series or an ongoing-series, but time will only tell about that.
4 out of 5 stars.

Deep State #2
"Deep State" started out in a way I found a bit interesting, with my hoping that we would learn more about our main characters--and the mysterious John Harrow in particular. Unfortunately, this issue is mostly just our main characters dealing with an alien threat from the moon, with us readers seeing the creature beginning to take over a town. It is perfectly alright, but has more of a horror-bent than the first issue with its mostly sci-fi feel, and lacks much of any character-development for our main duo.

The thing keeping this from being an utter disappointment is that the mysterious thing that is working its way through this town is fascinating in its foreign biology. Seeming to be a weird mesh of flesh and machine, the resulting creations it makes are familiar in some ways and entirely alien in others.
As it is, I would say this is perfectly average, but writer Justin Jordan has me hoping he will start to delve into our characters' psyches a bit more at the end of the issue, so this could in fact end up going somewhere pretty cool.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Eternal #1
A series about a future where people can make clones of themselves with all their memories--thereby making a person potentially immortal--this new comic was as interesting to read as it was confusing. The confusing aspect was that there is a lot of talk about "pures" and such, but the comic never exactly spells out what a "pure" is and why it is so important. I'm actually okay with a comic choosing not to hold the reader's hand and give them a big info-dump, instead leaving us to fend for ourselves and figure things out. As best as I can tell, in this future certain people haven't been cloned, and that makes them worth a lot genetically as their "code" is needed for everyone else to continue being cloned--at least, that is my guess.

Another thing that is a bit confusing is that it is not exactly made apparent who the main characters are. Could it be the officer fed-up with how "pures" are treated? Is it someone working to sabotage the genetic purity of others and save them from being harvested (or whatever happens to them)? I don't know, and that is perfectly alright as each individual we see a vignette with seems interesting enough to carry the book on their own. It does bother me that we meet so many characters though, giving each scene a somewhat annoyingly short feeling where as soon as we are getting the feel for things the focus changes.

While I don't mind the lack of having everything spelled-out for me, I do wish the comic explained a little bit more about the background of this cloning technology, and how it came about. I imagine how that occurred along with why exactly "pures" are needed will be touched upon, so I'm not overly worried. I am more perturbed by how the sheer avalanche of characters has made it a bit tricky to keep track of who is who, however. All of that said, this looks to be a promising series and I am interested in seeing how it proceeds.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

And There Was The Explosion
BOOM clearly puts out some good stuff and I didn't even review any titles from the all-ages KaBOOM imprint or now-imprint Archaia in this segment! While not everything is amazing, there still is a good deal to read, and that is why I thought I would spotlight BOOM in this segment. So, go out there and check out some BOOM! Studios comics.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Links, Yet Again!

What Do We Want? Links! When Do Want Them? Why Not Now?
If you ever read this blog by now you know the drill. I find things on the internet that I consider interesting, I share a link to them, you follow it if you want, and we all learn something new. At least, that's the idea, I think.

Them-Thar Links
Comics Alliance will on occasion do snazzy write-ups of various comic series or story arcs. This piece on when Moon Knight recently re-launched under then pen of Ellis, Shalvey, and Bellaire is another one of those solid reads.

Reading about the, "Odd History of the First Erotic Computer Game," provides you with a fascinating exploration of what was basically the first dirty computer game--although because it was text-only much of the raunchy-aspects were being imagined by the player typing commands. Oh, and the game's name was, "Softporn," like software and porn. Yeah, the 1970's and 80's were different.Note this link is potentially not-safe-for-work despite not having any actual nudity, just a hint of it.
Krem
Speaking of video-games, I haven't played the well-reviewed, "Dragon Age: Inquisition" yet, but have heard almost only positive things. One interesting thing I'd seen mention of is that "Inquisition" features a transgender man known as Krem as one of the members of your questing-party. This article about how much work went into making the character seem like a real person and not just a stereotype makes for a cool read.

Because I feel like sharing a lot about video-games today,lets discuss the importance of NPCs (non-player characters) in games and how it can be hard to make them feel, "real," in a sense.
I've liked all the newer James Bond movies with Daniel Craig (yes, I'm even one of those people who strongly defend "Quantum of Solace" as being a really good film), but agree they aren't perfect. This editorial about how misogyny has often been an issue in all Bond films past and present is interesting and presents a valid viewpoint on how as we continue having more films in the Bond franchise we have a chance to see even more strong female characters--not just the usual damsel in distress.

While we are discussing movies, it is always worthwhile to talk about how useless the PG-13 rating is. I mean, ratings in general from the MPAA have been shown to be a crock of phooey, but the PG-13 rating really waters things down, as is discussed here.
One topic covered by the info-graphic.
Just so you know your rights, USA Today has created a neat info-graphic about what you can and cannot do during a random police encounter on the street.

The CIA lied about engaging in torture, even though it was arguably unconstitutional to do so? Wow, color-me-not-surprised at all. I mean seriously, you had Bush and Dick Cheney saying how, "Enhanced interrogation," was important, but now some foreign countries have called for them to be tried for war crimes. What a world.

Lastly, because I like to end with news that sounds absurd, it seems in June DC comics may do a mini re-launch. Yes, the same company that did the whole Universe-reboot in 2011 might have a smaller re-launch of sorts. Really? I mean really?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Television Tuesday: Don't Judge a Show Based on Its First Couple of Episodes AKA "Rick and Morty" Season 1

Can't Judge A Book/TV, Show by its Cover/Pilot
Often in Television Tuesday posts I talk about shows that I enjoy--because why would I want to watch a season of something I hated, after all? That said, it can interesting how I discover I am a fan of a show. I may come into it later in the first season, or even many seasons in, find the episodes I see interesting, and seek out the earlier stuff. Also, maybe I'll see a brand-new show and find it intriguing enough to keep following. That said, I've often found one interesting trend in a variety of shows I have enjoyed. Namely, I never can judge them accurately based on the first couple of episodes.

Numerous times I have seen the premiere of a show and thought it looked like something that was either not for me, or just, "Meh." Then I'll see later episodes and think, "Wow, this really found its footing, I need to watch it from the start!" This can make being able to buy/rent/stream the entirety of a show's season really helpful. I didn't like the first episode of, "Bob's Burgers," but enjoyed ones shortly after it. I thought, "True Blood," was quite boring until (spoiler alert for a show that actually ended a year ago so I don't know why I'm issuing a spoiler alert) the Grandma died a few episodes in.
There are other shows that follow this trend for me too. For example, "The L Word" doesn't hit its stride in the premiere season until around the 3rd episode, feeling a bit wobbly and unsure of itself at first. Key and Peele wasn't too great in the debut episode, but I did like the 2nd one and its grown into quite the popular program in later seasons. Clearly, you can't judge a show by its pilot/beginning and sometimes not even the 2nd episode. Hell, despite people claiming that "Lost" was gripping from its action-packed pilot on, I didn't find myself that impressed by it until the fourth episode!

There are a lot of shows I have greatly enjoyed or at least appreciated (I never really got into "Lost" as much as some folk), which I would maybe have not given a chance if I didn't see later episodes and suffer through questionable starts, or just put-up with difficult beginnings figuring it would all get better. This brings me to a discussion of my latest favorite program, and one which if I had happened to only view the pilot and the 2nd episode would have not appreciated as much as I do. That show is, of course, "Rick and Morty".

"Rick and Morty" is an Incredible Delight
Originally starting out as a raunchy parody of "Back to the Future" characters, "Rick and Morty" are a grandpa (Rick) and his grandson (Morty). The show is about them going on absurd sci-fi adventures, with Morty's parents (Jerry and Beth) and sister (Summer) often having their own story-lines intersect with and diverge from the going-ons of Rick and Morty in interesting ways. Created by Dan Harmon (of "Community" fame) and Justin Roiland, I caught what is basically the seventh episode one night on Adult Swim (the "Rasising Gazorpazorp) and was immediately intrigued.

I picked-up the DVD of the show and proceeded to get excited! Then I watched what is officially the first episode/pilot. I was not impressed. There were some good jokes, but mostly I found it all pretty subpar.
Next, I watched the next episode, "Lawnmower Dog." It was a bit better with its jokes about "Inception" but it seemed to drag in its humor and even riffing on, "A Nightmare of Elm Street," for a gag couldn't save it from feeling a bit dull.

I was concerned after these two episodes. Had the one I'd caught on T.V. before been a fluke? Was this in fact a relatively mediocre show that just happened to have that one good episode? These were worries floating through my mind, but thankfully when I started watching the third episode ("Anatomy Park") I found myself very amused. After that it was basically all gold, with every episode being at least quite fun, and some being just amazing ("Rixty Minutes" for example is my jam with its mixture of humor, heartfelt moments, and general silliness--also, "Meeseeks and Destroy" is hilarious).
Once you watch the show you will find this meme to be the bomb-diggity.
It is hard to describe "Rick and Morty" as each episode is its own beast, often relatively free of any continuity from other episodes outside of the occasional mention here-or-there. As I said, it just is a really funny show that takes the lighthearted fun of adventures, but inserts a lot of twisted and dark humor into the proceedings, while just occasionally being sweet enough to make you care about the characters instead of flat-out hating them. You can in fact watch the episodes on Adult Swim's website easily (although a cable provider log-in is needed for the official site, other methods exist such as buying the episodes online or finding shoddy YouTube streams if you are a real cheapskate/unable to afford paying) so I would recommend doing so--although maybe start with "Anatomy Park" instead of the first two.

Give Things a Chance
Were I to have just watched the first two episodes of "Rick and Morty" I would have missed out on a show I now adore.I have found out yet again that you just can't judge a program based on its initial episodes. Sometimes a show needs a couple to get situated, feel comfortable, and really start putting out good stuff. There can be occasions where it takes a long time (I hear "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't finally get good until toward the end of the 1st season but has been enjoyable since), and sometimes something can even start strong and quickly go downhill ("Homeland" apparently had a stellar first season but has been a wreck since), but usually you should give a show a chance to expand beyond its initial growing pains as a caterpillar and turn into the beautiful flower it can be (I'm mixing my metaphors, but you follow what I'm saying).

You shouldn't judge a show based on simply its starting episodes, if the multiple programs I have viewed in the past have taught me. As a show such as "Rick and Morty" illustrates, if you give something a chance it may become your new favorite thing to watch. You just need to be patient sometimes. Unless of course it is in fact the show "Lost", then you end up mad about how it had a shoddy ending after all the energy and emotion you invested in it (I'm glad I never really cared much).

Anyways, watch "Rick and Morty" if you have the kind of sense of humor I do (which if you enjoy the blog I assume you would), you should find it extremely pleasurable too!
5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Interview Time (Special Audio-Visual Edition): Jim Balent and Holly Golightly

Having discussed, "Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose" on various occasions, I told Jim Balent and Holly Golightly about my recent review. I also inquired if they were interested in doing an interview, and they were! We conducted it today via Skype and I have it embedded below as a Youtube video with images to accompany the audio after some helpful links. View it, share it, and go support the Kickstarter we discussed!

To visit their Kickstarter go here.

To visit the main site click here.

If you want to see the School Bites website check this link out.

Now, the interview:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Film Friday: Space Station 76

This is a Weird One (in a Good Way)

I've seen some odd movies, but this one is really bizarre, and that's why I like it so much. Taking place in the future--but as it would have been imagined around during the 1970's, "Space Station 76" is a comedy, but a really dark one. Like, pitch-black in its humor. Despite being made on a really small budget it has some quality talent (Hello, Liv Tyler and Patrick Wilson, fancy seeing you guys here!) and if anything else really nails the art-deco style and look of the 1970's expertly.

The script was apparently developed through a variety of improv sessions with actors in the film with the director, Jack Plotnick, and the awkward quirkiness of the characters and their interactions carries some of that, "Off-the-cuff," feeling of improve sessions that are going well--except in this movie it seems everything is going wrong, at least for our characters. The captain of the ship (played as wonderfully angry-yet-sympathetic by Wilson) is incredibly sexist and prone to heavy-drinking, with these actions taking place either to hide how he is deep in the closet, or to deal with the emotional ramifications of having to deny a big part of who he is. Liv Tyler's character is sweet and well-meaning but has issues of her own.
Wilson and Tyler are two favorite actors in the flick.
Besides those two basically everyone else on the ship is a walking mess--from the "cook" (Marisa Coughlan) who spends her time downing Valium when not clicking buttons to order the day's food, to the horribly immature character played by Jerry O'Connell who has a child with a loving wife but doesn't let it stop him from rampantly cheating on her. Basically any person in this movie is a wreck except for the sole young child on the spaceship--named Sunshine (played by Kylie Rogers), who seems old enough to realize the adults around her are disasters, but young enough to have the naivete that things will work-out.

With such miserable characters you would be forgiven for thinking the movie was a depressing slog, but the film actually uses this sadness quite well, to bring us a variety of humorous situations that might cause you to cry if you weren't laughing (the captain's repeated failures at attempting suicide are sold wonderfully through the discouraged look on Wilson's face every time the ship counteracts his efforts through its safety measures). Also, the movie will occasionally inject just enough optimism into the proceedings to keep you from feeling as down-in-the-dumps as everyone else on the ship, with the genuine bond between Liv Tyler and Matt Bomer's characters (a repairman on the ship who is married to Coughlan and the struggling-father of Sunshine) giving us some much-needed joy when they laugh and smile together for what feels like the first time in a long while for the people they play.

A review of the movie on Rogerebert.com says that the reviewer has, "...no idea who the audience for this film is, beyond the people who made it, and that's what makes it special." I agree with that thought, but would argue that I someone in the audience for this film--a person who likes dark comedies with plenty of pathos but also pieces of soul.

Yes, a person who wants to really feel for the characters when they're down and smile when they are allowed some joy would enjoy this. I'm one of the members of the prime audience for this film--someone who likes strange and unique movies. Should you be someone who does also I recommend you check this out via your video rental store/Redbox/On-Demand/whatever, or you could even buy it. Folk still buy movies in this version of the future we live in now, right? If you do, and fit the demographic for this movie I described, perhaps buy it, you most likely won't regret it.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Two Great Independent Comics, and Another that is Always Enjoyably Weird

Smaller to Larger
"Look honey, an article on those 'independent comics' our friends are always going on about."
In the field of independent comics there is a wide range. You have the really small-press (some call it "micro-press" but I find such a term a bit dismissive), to the kind of publishers who have some titles that in appear in "Previews" but are still pretty small, all the way to the much bigger-yet-still independent publishers who put out good stuff such as your BOOM!, IDW, or Image. Today I wanted to discuss three independent comics, growing in "size" with each publisher. First is a publisher whom is small-press (Nix Comics with their seventh issue of the  "Nix Comics Quarterly"), followed by the larger (in that some of their stuff appears in "Previews") publisher, Northwest Press, with the 2nd issue of the so far quite enjoyable "Dash". Lastly, I'm going to cover the ever-reliable Jim Balent and Holly Golightly, the married couple with the long-running little comic that could, "Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose" through their own publishing brand, "Broadsword Comics." Why "Tarot", you may ask? Because despite arguably being a bunch of T&A with aspects of Wicca sprinkled in it tends to always be enjoyable in its weirdness.

Nix Comics Quarterly #7
Nix Comics is a small-press publisher, founded by Ken Eppstein back around the year 2010 (with the first-ever issue from the publisher releasing in January of 2011). While it all started with the quarterly that focuses on being a rock and roll-type horror anthology, Nix Comics has branched out into some other genres such as your Western comics or youth-focused stuff. Seeing as how it began with "Nix Comics Quarterly" however I thought it would make sense to review the newest issue that came out a couple months ago in September of this year. True to its stated goal of being equal parts "rock" and "horror", this anthology has many tales involving music and is perhaps not scary enough to give you nightmares, but definitely contains some stories that were a bit spooky. There is a good deal of humor too--not unlike the old EC Comics back in the day the series draws inspiration from, and that helps carry many stories along nicely.

The humor I just mentioned actually plays an integral part in my two favorite stories within this issue of the anthology--"MP3s of Madness" and "Do This For Chuck". "MP3s of Madness" is the first yarn in this comic and kicks things off nicely. Written by Christian Hoffer and illustrated by Derek Stewart it is a post-apocalypse-meets-Cthulu story. Basically, it turns out that low-quality MP3s along with small-sized media players actually opened up another dimension which invaded ours with these squid monsters, and it infected almost everyone except your "purists" who stuck to vinyl, and I assume even CDs. It sounds like a bit of a snobby idea for a horror story--"Oh, those dullards with their crappy sound-quality!"--but has enough of its tongue firmly in-cheek to get away with the concept. 
Anyways, an unnamed main character who owned a record store roams the city in search of supplies and upon encountering a survivor has an intense (but funny for us) discussion about the man's music tastes and if he might in fact be carrying the evil trans-dimensonal monsters inside of him. It turns out his affinity for U2 and their love of releasing music digitally has sealed his fate and things get violent. It's dark, but also a bit silly, and that makes it a tie for the other story I liked. 

The other piece is written by Nix-owner Ken Eppstein and illustrated by Jess L' Heureux. At first it makes little-to-no sense with these rocker-girls talking about honoring the last wishes of someone named, "Chuck." Well, after debating for a bit and then  grabbing some shovels and beer they go out to the graveyard and dig up a body holding a gun, at which point they remove the gun and replace it with a beer with the punchline finally becoming apparent with the name on the tombstone--"Heston". Yes, they went there and made a gag out of Charlton Heston's famous NRA quote about how people could take his rifle from his, "Cold dead hands." It's an incredibly stupid and tasteless joke, and that is probably why I loved it. The incongruity of these teenage girls even knowing who Heston was and digging up his corpse has just the right mix of being a horrifying concept and a hilarious one that for some reason it really work for me.
As for the other stories in the anthology, they are all perfectly fine with Eppstein writing some and other folk doing others with good artists all-around. The only stories that didn't really "do" anything for me were two bits about a man named Ned who bothers people waiting at a bus station with him. His stories come off as a bit more sad than funny. Otherwise, it is all good stuff. Should you be interested in getting this issue from Nix Comics or any of their other wares, you can do that here as they are a smaller publisher and not found in "Previews". So yeah, good stuff!
4 out of 5 stars.

Dash #2
Northwest Press is a publisher that describes itself as focusing on comic-books that can appeal to an LGBTQ audience, but which makes titles for everyone. Therefore, while many of their comics may deal with LGBTQ themes, a cisgender heterosexual male can still enjoy their output, as a good story is a good story regardless of who within it is gay or straight, just as a bad story is a bad story. Therefore, I am happy to say that the newest issue of "Dash" continues expertly from the strong start of the first issue, which I liked a great deal, and even improves upon it!

I wanted to see a bit more of Dash's background when I read the first issue and learn how he came to be the private eye he is in 1940's Los Angles. That's why I was pleased to see that desire met in this issue which explains why some of the general populace seem to not know he is a gay man, but all the police appear to know. It turns out Dash Malone was a hero cop before it "came out" he was actually a gay man, and as that could actually be prosecuted as a crime back then, he was stripped of all his awards and medals. Not one to be deterred, Dash started-up as a private investigator, but due to the shocking conclusion of the last issue where his on-again, off-again boyfriend "Plink" was murdered Dash now is in an understandably dour mood.
This issue opens with a detective grilling Dash about his whereabouts when Plink was killed, and we immediately gain a strong dislike for the detective that makes it quite cathartic when Dash beats him up a tad later in the issue--although as he himself points out the only reason he gets away with it is because everyone hates this particular detective, were he to lay a finger on anyone else he'd be in some trouble. The rest of the issue involves Dash investigating Plink's death, and how a woman named Zita is his prime suspect. In an interesting twist things seem to take a turn for the supernatural at the end of the issue, with me wondering if Dash is seeing things or if we're shifting gears from a noir-type tale to an almost sci-fi and horror story. I'm a bit concerned to see the supernatural elements kind of suddenly popping-up without warning, but the character development for Dash has been strong enough that he is the kind of character I like to a good enough degree I'll read about whatever happens to him.

I clearly quite liked the story this issue, but how about the art? I think it was stellar. It continued to capture the mood of the 1940's in its coloring and attention to the details of the era, and it also wonderfully conveyed action. Sometimes in comics it can be tricky to illustrate a fight scene well, but within this issue when Dash and the jerk-detective get to brawling, it only takes about a page-and-a-half of wordless imagery to convey the flowing movement of how Dash is clearly someone not to be trifled with. That is just one bit in the comic, but stands as a good example to how this comic doesn't just tell a good story, but looks good while doing it.
This second issue of "Dash" is stellar and even more enjoyable than the first. The only thing worrying me is the sudden introduction of potentially otherworldly elements at the end. For all I know this could be a fake-out or result in the story actually being even cooler, but for now it has me a bit hesitant. Other than that one concern this is a great read and a series you definitely ought to check out. As Northwest Press is a big enough publisher to be in "Previews" your comic store can most likely order an issue for you if they don't have a copy for sale. If you lack a comic shop or want to order it yourself however you can always go here too. I recommend you do!
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #89
The first issue of Tarot came out back in 2000. Jim Balent had been doing work for years for other publishers such as a run on "Catwoman," but wanted to break out on his own. He founded his own publisher called "Broadsword Comics" with his then-girlfriend and now wife, Holly Golightly, and they proceeded to make a comic together. This comic would go on to become equal parts famous and infamous for its strange mixture of feminism, Wicca, and a lot of nudity with just-tame-enough-to-not-be-pornographic sex. That comic's name? Well, in case my header didn't tip you off, "Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose". Yeah, this is the, "enjoyably weird," comic I mentioned.

Compared to other issues of "Tarot" this one is a bit more tame, with only some hints of nudity and raunchy-talk. Instead, this edition of "Tarot" focuses on the titular character and her sister, Raven Hex, attempting to stop a group of Krampus (Krampuses?) from terrorizing the children of the town. A Krampus is a sort of Christmas-Devil who punishes children that aren't nice with beatings or kidnapping them to be taken to his lair and beat-up some more. Anyways, this issue features a bunch of Krampus on their way to a town and how the sisters want to stop them. It's an issue that has almost no "speech bubbles" instead presenting the story with a bunch of text and pictures to break it up--kind of like a strange story-book almost.
Instead of warming spells to keep your from freezing you could wear more clothes,
that would ruin one aspect of the comic that makes it popular, though.
It is a relatively basic story, with Tarot and Raven trying to fight against the Krampus, facing some difficultly, but basically coming out on top in the end--even if in a way they didn't anticipate (apparently Raven's spells are so terrifying to the townspeople they now fear her more than any Krampus). Quibbles with the story aside, Jim Balent has always shown a masterful skill as an artist, with his page-design and break-downs showing a deep understanding of the comic-page works. He just chooses to use this immense skill to draw stories featuring busty witches with his wife, Golightly, providing the color-work and lettering (and sometimes her own art in a manga-like style). There have been some other titles from "Broadsword Comics" but "Tarot" is arguably the bread-and-butter of the line, with a comic by Golightly called "School Bites" probably bringing in some income too (interestingly enough the next issue kicks-off a cross-over between "Tarot" and "School Bites").

Balent found something he enjoys doing with the love of his life, and they make a solid living creating this comic full of raunchy imagery and Wicca that lets them have their cheesecake-art and eat it too. As for this issue itself and its overall quality, the lack of speech bubbles made things a bit harder to follow, and unlike the more zany issues of "Tarot" that pack-in a bunch of absurd ideas, this one was relatively straightforward. Still, it was a pleasant enough read and a comic I recommend if you're into the weirder sort of comics or enjoy discussions of Wicca.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Concluding Thoughts
Today I looked at some various independent comics, from the small-press (Nix Comics), to the slightly larger (Northwest Press), to the small-but-also-weirdly-popular (Tarot). Clearly there is a variety of publisher-sizes in the indie world and the most wonderful thing about independent comics is that there can be such a wide spectrum of genres and topics discussed. My suggestion would be to check these publishers out, see if they have something you like, and if they do buy it to support them!

Monday, December 1, 2014

These Two Upcoming Comic-Events Actually Seem Appealing to Me, But Should What is Old be New Again?

The Fever Breaks?
I've discussed in the past how I came down with a severe case of eventitis which I seem to suffer from to this day. Basically, it means I'm tired of the major comic-book publishers (especially the "Big Two" of Marvel and DC) doing supposedly important mega-events where it is bragged about how, "Nothing will ever be the same," and that of course only holds true in that nothing is ever the same, at least until the following huge mini-series a mere month later. This eventitis has resulted in me sitting-out such Marvel events as "Original Sin" and not reading anything that deals with "Axis" unless it occurs in a title I already pick-up. I also have been avoiding the multiple DC weekly titles (which I thought were absurd to begin with) and reading less and less of the publisher in general--excluding the occasional great mini-series or such.

My being exhausted with events makes it all the more surprising that there seem to be two that actually looking kind of promising on the horizon--one from DC and one from Marvel. Also, the most interesting this about these events may be they are in a way both preying upon nostalgia for each respective publisher's past output, which kind of says something about how we view today's comics, possibly, doesn't it? Before discussing that let's address what these events actually are about though, shall we?

Secret Wars/Remember That Event from the 1980's With the Same Name You Loved?

Marvel's new "Secret Wars" so far sounds a bit like an alternate-reality story mixed with a big callback to the original highly-popular "Secret Wars" event of the mid 1980's. This will apparently be growing-out of what is happening in the Jonathan Hickman-penned "Avengers" comics where various earths from different realities have come into contact with one another, and if one isn't destroyed within a brief window of time both go kablooey. While relatively little is known about what "Secret Wars" will entail, a map of the, "Battleworld," that it will take place in has been released  illustrating the various realities coming into conflict. Also, it has been revealed all those random teaser-images for events Marvel was releasing do in fact directly relate to this "Secret Wars" business.

With there being so little known about "Secret Wars" it is possibly a bit foolish to have any optimism about it, and yet here I am thinking that maybe Jonathan Hickman will write a great event full of alternate worlds interacting in cool ways. This whole thing could end up just being one big mess, but I have some hopes for it and may actually at least check-out the first issue, which is saying a lot compared to the utter lack of attention I've given any other recent Marvel event.

Convergence/All Your Old Favorites Brought-Back For a Couple Months Just so We Can Tease You

DC's offices are making a big move out to California from NYC this Spring, and in order to still have an output of work over those two-or-so months that will be spent relocating everyone who wants to move, hiring new folk to replace those who wanted to stay put, and getting set-up, DC is having a having an event of sorts called "Convergence". This event is basically one nine-week-long mini-series (a rare occasion when an "event" weekly actually kind of makes sense for DC) with 40 other series that will last two issues each. That results in an admittedly HUGE event--clocking in at basically 89 issues total--but the wonderful thing about it is that you don't necessarily have to read every comic to enjoy "Convergence", it would appear.

Basically, creative teams from the past who worked on comics from the 1980's and 1990's that everyone loved are coming back to do the two-issue mini-series with each comic possibly set in its own universe (or "bottle-Earth" if some rumors are to be believed). Therefore we will get to enjoy a Renee Montoya-as-the-Question comic written by the man who made Montoya the popular character she has been, Greg Rucka. To give another example, there will be a Len Wein-penned "Swamp Thing", to the joy of his fans, and so forth with all the minis.
A "Hawkman" comic written by Jeff Parker? Neat!
Yes, "Convergence" is the kind of event that actually sounds extremely appealing to me. It requires minimal-to-no knowledge of previous DC continuity but is extra fun for those who know their history, has an assortment of writers and artists who are skilled at writing/illustrating the characters, and most importantly of all actually looks like it might be fun as opposed to some of the more dour-themed events we seem to get lately. The odd thing about this "Convergence" event and the previously-discussed "Secret Wars" though is that they are new events, but drawing from old concepts--and is it worrying that it takes that to get me and others excited?

Should What is Old be New Again?
"Remember when 'Fantastic Four' wasn't cancelled?"
"Yeah, those were some crazy times!"
I have seen many comments on the internet in forums where people are saying DC's "Convergence" is going to get them to pick up a DC title for the first time in a long while. Because "Name" creator is back doing "Name" title, they now are finally interested in DC again. I've also seen some people remark that they hope this whole "Secret Wars" Marvel is doing will reset some of the more awkward story-decisions that have happened in the Marvel-Universe since whatever year they feel things went off track--e.g. some people say to undo anything after "House of M" others say to simply eliminate "One More Day" and some folk just want to have a "Fantastic Four" comic to read. These comments are interesting and a bit worrisome.

Think about this: many people who have been lambasting Marvel and DC for years are now happy that old concepts from the past are essentially being recycled and given to us with a newer-sheen but possibly less creativity. I admit I'm finally excited for a an event from the companies now, but how does that reflect on us, the fans? We constantly complain we want the, "Big Two," to come up with new ideas, heroes, or concepts--but when given the chance to have our urge for nostalgia stroked--even if just for two months by DC or merely having the idea teased by Marvel--we get all excited and say how pleased we are the companies are going back to, "Giving the fans what they want."

Well, what in the dickens do, "The fans," actually want? Do we want new stories that make us irritated in how they change the heroes we love, or do we want tales more similar to what we remember liking, "Way back when," to satisfy us? We can't have both, and I myself am a victim of being contradictory. After all, I've complained DC wasn't creative enough in its "New 52" re-launch and should have taken more risks, yet I applaud them planning to release a bunch of comics that remind me of how things were pre-"New 52".

I don't know what my point is in this article, I suppose. I can say how these new events look appealing, but then find as a counter to that the argument how I'm just overjoyed about more-of-the-same. I know I like new and creative comics, that's why I'm enjoying so much more smaller-press titles now. Then again, seeing heroes from stories I greatly enjoyed, "Coming back for more," also appeals to me, so perhaps like many human beings I am a mixture of desiring for stuff to be new whilst also longing for the return of older things I also treasured. Hopefully these upcoming comic events can fulfill both desires, giving readers something new and different, but also scratching that nostalgic itch. I suppose come Springtime we will see what happens.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks to "Mimi's Dollhouse" for this free image,
The have a variety of neat stuff.
Regardless of the questionable history when it comes to Thanksgiving (Was there even actually a dinner or such?) and how afterwards the Native Americans were basically wiped-out by the very people they had at first helped, I do enjoy this holiday. Putting aside all the political and moral issues with this event, it is nice to spend time with family, relax, and otherwise be thankful. So yes, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and stay safe on Black Friday if you're going shopping--e.g. don't get trampled!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Examining "The Multiversity" and Its Four Issues so Far--A Mini-Run Review

A Long Time Coming (With Plenty of Waiting Beforehand)
Grant Morrison's "The Multiversity" was a project a long-time coming. First discussed back as early as 2009 when it was just called "Multiversity", it sounded like quite the concept, taking ideas and exercises he had did in other comics and putting it together to form a majestic creation.

This "Multiversity" would have two book-ending issues with a series of loosely-related one-shots taking place between them (not unlike his "Seven Soldiers of Victory" comic with its barely-relating minis). It would be about a Universe-threatening evil force that only the power of good could defeat (a topic he later touched-on with "Final Crisis", a series "The Multiversity" makes some allusions to). It would discuss concepts of meta-fiction and break the fourth-wall, what with the stories in one issue being actual comics in another issue, with various worlds all linking in strange ways(just as Morrison did with "Animal Man"), and it would be quite the mind-bender, not unlike my favorite comic of all time, "The Filth". Yes, this long-gestating and even longer-delayed series sounded like a magnum opus, possibly Morrison's biggest and wildest thing yet.

And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited some more to the point we would forget this whole "Multiversity" comic was even a thing except for when the occasional piece of concept art would leak out.
A piece of concept art that was revealed.
But then, suddenly "The Multiversity" was a solicited title, and it became apparent that yes, Morrison's crazy comic-event would finally become a thing just as promised, with its book-end issues and series of one-shots all written in a different style with very different artists for each issue.

So now, "The Multiveristy" has been coming out, with its first book-end issue and three subsequent one-shots allowing us to start to draw a clear picture of where exactly Morrison may be going with all this. Each issue has had websites thoroughly dissecting them--not unlike Nix Uotan in the debut issue with his own copy of a Multiversity comic.
A map of the Multiverse, as it relates to this event
This all leads to what may be the most important question of all though: Is "The Multiveristy" any good? To that I can say, "Yes, oh yes," with no hesitation, and tell you that even a weaker-issue is still of a high quality, and the best issues so far are mind-blowingly stellar. To make that task a little simpler though let's discuss each of these four issues so far, in varying detail.

"The Multiversity #1: House of Heroes" 
AKA 
"That's One Hell of a Start"
The debut issue of "The Multiversity" lays it all out there for the reader, explaining things quite clearly in a way that requires no background knowledge of Grant Morrison's other comics or the DC Universe, but rewarding those who have read some of his other works with nods to past comics (Nix Utoan was the last living "Monitor" at the end of "Final Crisis" but kind-of shouldn't exist as it isn't clear whether "Final Crisis" occurred due to the New 52 re-launch and oh dear I've gone cross-eyed).

Besides Nix Utoan and the President Superman (who also appeared in "Final Crisis" and an issue of when Grant Morrison was writing "Action Comics") there are all kinds of Easter eggs, but as I said, you don't have to know much of anything other than a love of comics to greatly enjoy "The Multiversity" as it starts-up with this first issue.
The Gentry are the evil force threatening basically everything.
Basically an evil force known as "The Gentry" is threatening the entire Multiverse and only a rag-tag assortment of heroes can save it. This is done through bringing in characters from various Universes in order to assemble a team that could possibly face, "The Gentry" with the interesting twist that all of these folk exist as comic-book characters in each other's Universes.

I'm greatly simplifying things as if there is one thing Morrison is good at it's making complex stories, but basically this issue features our introduction to Nix, glimpses of a ruined world, a switch in focus to President Superman, discussion of the threat facing all known realities, and a jaunt to an Earth suspiciously like Marvel's comic-Universe where the comic ends on a cliff-hanger that it is slightly annoying to think may not be revisited until some months from now when the final issue and other book-end of "The Multiversity" comes out. 
Regardless of the extended wait for a conclusion, it's a good issue and Ivan Reis is an artist whom is incredibly capable of illustrating the various earths we visit, be they ruined husks of a planet or Marvel-in-all-but-name. A fabulous taste of what "The Mulltiveristy" is going to be like, but the real test of course comes in examining the quality of the following one-shots that make up the bulk of this mini-event, and now I'll continue my overview/review discussing those in the order they have come out.

"The Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes #1" 
AKA 
Delightful Pulp-Comic Adventures
The "Society of Super-Heroes" entry in "The Multiversity" has the unenviable task of being the first one-shot in the series, and therefore carries some weight on its shoulders as it is in essence the "true" start of what "The Multiversity" is all about--namely, Grant Morrison giving us fascinating extended-glimpses of other Universes while telling a loose over-arching story. You wouldn't think "Society of Super-Heroes" knows this burden though, as it flows quite effortlessly, whether through the narration of the Immortal Man with its self-assured style, or how penciller Chris Sprouse supplies art that is both pleasing as a piece of modern comic-art but expresses an old-school sensibility that makes the early-to-mid 20th century setting of the comic work wonderfully.

This issue touches upon the macro-scale story of comic--Universe's invading one another--and discusses the threat of The Gentry, but as these one-shots are supposed to do, it stands alone quite well in its telling a story of a group known as the Society of Superheroes (S.O.S.) coming together to fight some evil-folk from a parallel planet who mean them severe harm.
References to the over-arching plot of "The Multiversity" occur.
This issue also makes it clear that much of these stories involve Morrison taking various ideas and characters he likes and in essence re-mixing them in a sense to create something new. We have an Immortal Man, Doctor Fate (or in this case "Doc Fate") and a Green Lantern, but they are quite unlike what you may have witnessed before in other comics, and this is all the better for it.

"The Multiversity: The Just #1" 
AKA 
Super-Heroes as Celebrities in the Twitter/Facebook/Etc. Age
Plenty of writers have written about the idea of super-heroes in a more modern-age with our concepts of technology and celebrity having an immense impact on the idea of what a "Hero" is. Hell, Joe Casey has done it in slightly different forms multiple times (his run on "Uncanny X-Men" "Wildcats 3.0" and so on). There also have been writers who have taken the idea of what it would be like for the children of super-heroes to inherit a world in which their parents had basically made them redundant because of making stuff too perfect (Mark Millar seems to be doing this in his super-delayed "Jupiter's Legacy", to give one example, with art on that interestingly enough being done by one of Morrison's collaborators on the next comic I'll be discussing). That said, I haven't seen too many comics take both ideas and run with them at once, so having Morrison do that here results in something that while feeling a bit familiar also has enough "fresh" within it to not feel like a retread of old and worn concepts.

Here we of course yet again discuss comics from alternate worlds invading this one, this time with the idea they are carrying a thought-virus of sorts, one that is making this world be on the precipice of mass destruction--a climax we only see a hint of in the last issue, almost making the whole issue feel like a bit of a tease, what with it's leading up to immense catastrophe but only giving us a glimpse on the last page. 


The ending of "The Just" leaves you wanting more of a conclusion than is delivered.
Then again, this issue is perhaps more about the journey towards the mass destruction than it is end-of-everything itself. We have Damian Wayne in his 20's or so and hiding his girlfriend, Alexis Luthor (the daughter of Lex Luthor, who likes to claim she isn't evil like her father), and his best friend Chris Kent  showing up to request his help in investigating what led a fellow super-hero to commit suicide. Meanwhile some other young heroes plan a party--because what else are you going to do when the world is basically perfect thanks to the original Superman making robots so powerful they can quash any threat, even another Universe invading?

Then again, that Universe-invasion failing in this comic unlike in "Society of Superheroes" may be why the other method of the comic infecting people's minds happens. Hm, maybe I've stumbled upon something in regards to how The Gentry operate? I can't say for sure, but if it turns out their destroying of world's follows a certiain blueprint of plans I'm going to claim credit for being the one who, "Called it."
Anyways, trouble is brewing in how Alexis seems to be scheming and it becomes evident everything going to Hell at the end of the issue is her fault (albeit with her under-the-influence of the evil comics). It's a somewhat predictable direction to take that the daughter of the evil villain turns out to herself also be evil, but Morrison just pulls it off by basically being able to say to the reader, "Come on, she's Alexis Luthor, couldn't anyone have guessed she'd be bad?"

This issue is by no means sub-par, but I found it a tad more lacking than the two preceding issues and the next one I'm going to discuss. Perhaps this was because it seemed to meander a bit before finally getting to the point of how the comics are "infecting" the mind of people and ending on its explosive finale. Still, I just wish it felt like "more" had happened. Perhaps the sensation of dullness was done in an effort to replicate the boredom the young heroes feel--I wouldn't put such an idea past Morrison. Whatever the case, "The Just" is a solid comic even if not my favorite so far, but the next one might be (my favorite, that is).

"The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1" 
AKA
 Morrison and Quitely Kinda-Sorta Present Their "Watchmen"

It's no secret I and many others thought "Before Watchmen" (Also known as, "Fuck you, Alan Moore" was a tasteless cash-grab expanding on a story that didn't really need anything else written--especially if it was against the wishes of the original writer (the aforementioned Moore) and given an exhausted, "Okay, whatever," by the artist (Dave Gibbons). What DC could have done was a new idea, or even if they really wanted something like "Watchmen" take the idea of how it was originally going to use the Charlton-imprint heroes DC had acquired and done a comic like that but different enough to also feel at least a little "new". Well, Morrison was smart enough to stay far away from "Before Watchmen" but takes that idea of using the original Charlton characters in a story that kind of riffs on Watchmen, but also is an interesting take on the concept of heroism in general.

This has probably been the most anticipated of the "The Multiversity" one-shots as it reunites Morrison with his friend and often-collaborator, Frank Quitely. They've put out some amazing stuff before, the kind of material that you only get when a writer and artist work perfectly in-sync or of course in those rarer cases these days where the writer is the artist, too (See Side Note 1 for more thoughts on that). Therefore, it is a good thing "Pax Americana" doesn't just deliver, "the goods," it exceeds expectations.

Anyhoo, "Pax Americana" is basically Morrison and Quitely firing on all cylinders to make a comic that is equal parts a comment on Watchmen, another piece of the puzzle that is "The Multiversity", and its own unique artifact. While all the comics could stand relatively alone, this one especially could be considered to do so, with the whole business of comics-from-alternate-Universes being touched upon, but not nearly as important as in something like "The Just" where they formed the crux of the story (what with the comics warping minds). 

Here, the story is more driven by the characters themselves,  the comics just happen to pop-up so Captain Atom (here behaving not unlike "Watchmen's" Doctor Manhattan as opposed to his usual DC-self) can deliver some strange meta-comments about the ways two-dimensional papers function in a unique way before basically addressing us, the reader, with the question of how we might think our three-dimensional world might look to him (there's some of that classic Morrison 4th-wall shattering).
The story really is fascinating, jumping around enough in time and with clever page-designs that while reading this for the first time it occurred to me I hadn't been this overstimulated by a Morrison comic since "The Filth", and that over-stimulation with the incredible pencils (and inks and colors), complex story, and otherwise awesomeness is indeed a wonderful thing. Too often a comic can seem dull, but when you're reading something and upon finishing it you feel like you need to read it again forwards, then backwards, and upside-down even, something incredible has been made beyond a mere piece of entertainment, no, what you're holding is a piece of art.

"Pax Americana" is just an incredible thing to behold, and even if the rest of "The Multiversity" for some reason turns out to be a bust, the fact that we got this comic out of it would make the entire event still incredibly worthwhile. I imagine other entries in "The Multiversity" are going to be at least great and at best also amazing too though, so that probably isn't a worry one needs to have.

Some Good Stuff Is Done, But There's Even More Coming!
We are basically now half-way through "The Multiversity". There are three more one-shots set on various Earths left and the other book-end issue (plus a guidebook comic, but see Side Note 2 for some thoughts on that matter). It still is too early to say how great "The Multiversity" will be when all is said and done. It also probably won't be entirely clear what points Morrison is trying to make until the series ends either--if even then (folk still debate a lot of "The Filth" to this day, for example). Still, I would wager the rest of  "The Multiversity" is going to be just as good as the earlier issues (although I don't know if anything could be any better than "Pax Americana") and end satisfyingly, or at least as satisfyingly as Morrison can choose to end it. I for one am excited to see what comes next!

Reviews of the Individual issues:

The Multiversity #1: 5 out of 5 stars.
Society of Superheroes #1: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Earth Me #1: 4 out of 5 stars.
Pax Americana #1 : 5 out of 5 stars--Possibly the best comic this year.

Side-Notes
He is real!
Side Note 1: Funnily enough, there have been rumors that Frank Quitely uses a pen name because it is actually Grant Morrison posing as someone else. It's a fun rumor but one made hard to prove true considering there is actually a guy actually named Vincent Deighan who has been seen in the same room as Morrison doing his unique-drawings. Then again, Bruce Wayne has always had doppelgangers to keep people fooled, so go ahead and keep theorizing!

Side Note 2: There will be a guidebook comic that elaborates on the various Universes, but some folk are counting that as an official part of this event and others are not, hence some referring to this as an eight-issue mini-series with an additional guide and others simply calling it a nine-issue mini-series--I have no strong opinion either way and probably won't form one until I actually have a chance to read the guidebook and see how integral it is to the "The Multiversity" experience.