Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Weaponized Nostalgia" and Songs Like "California" by Colonel Loud and Friends

The Ingenuity Behind a Seemingly Normal Song
There is an enjoyable song by Maze (featuring Frankie Beverly) titled, "We Are One." A song came out not too long ago titled, "California," by Colonel Loud and featuring an assortment of his friends--T.I., Young Dolph, Ricco Barrino--which uses pieces of, "We Are One," to great effect. I've got the music video for you here, it features the usual rap-video assortment of women dancing around along with some admittedly gorgeous shots of--where else?--California. Observe:
Now then, I have written before about the power of nostalgia, as well as the question of when you're going beyond, "Sampling," a song and maybe making something else altogether. This new song right here though, this is something that sounds like it was purposely created to activate that center of the brain that likes old stuff and enjoys hearing it; this is something that is new but hits-upon that love-of-the-old intentionally. This, my friends, is a prime example of weaponized nostalgia.

Weaponized Nostalgia?
What is weaponized nostalgia, you may ask? Well, it is a term I first saw back in November of 2015 when the then-upcoming, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," was being discussed. Basically, the idea is that something new is created, but formatted and designed in just the right way so as to prey upon our love of things from the past--e.g. our nostalgia. It's taking the new but designing it to invoke the old. Through this taking of nostalgia and turning it almost into a mind-bomb of sorts, you can then release it onto the internet/radio airwaves/etc. Next it seeps into your consciousness, playing upon your love of things from your youth and making you feel the same way about something new.

What Colonel Loud and his chums are able to do here is take an already catchy song that would appeal to the young folk, and inject it full of weaponized nostalgia so that those of us who would maybe just shrug it off as another rap song about partying and drugs suddenly find our interest piqued as we nod our heads along. We like the song that much more because it has the stealth-weapon of taking that older Maze song and having our fondness for that, "Turn on," in our brains even though this is something separate. The nostalgia seed has been planted, bloomed, and now we like this new thing as much as the old due to its cleverly causing our mind to associate the duo almost as one--again, weaponized nostalgia.

Is This Bad? Good?
Kodak has created a new Super 8 camera.
That's some serious nostalgia!

I am not here to try and claim this weaponization of nostalgia is by any means a bad thing. Ever since there has been culture there have been people saying the older-form of something was better. I just find it fascinating how media entities such as Disney with, "Star Wars," or Colonel Loud with, "California," have found a way to essentially capture nostalgia and use it as a tool to gain popularity. There has always been weaponized nostalgia (look at the immense popularity of "Happy Days" and how it captured the nation's desire for a past that never actually existed), but it just seems especially potent lately. Perhaps as we move further into the future there will be found an even greater hunger for the past-made-new.

At the end of day nostalgia isn't something you need to fear, even when it is so finely-tuned and perfected as to be a little scary. There will always be new stuff, and there will always be things that occur just a little while after the new stuff that use it for fuel, inspiration, and yes, as a weapon of sorts to inspire you to listen, learn, and spend money. Because at the end of the day, if nostalgia is good for one thing, that is turning a profit.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Online Auction to benefit Larime Taylor and Sylv Is Happening Now!

Sylv
Readers of the blog may recall that I made a post about Larime Taylor and how his wife Sylv is in need of funds to afford chemo (GoFundMe here). Well, my chums over at Comics Heating Up are big fans of Mr. Taylor too and have set-up a series of eBay auctions featuring sketches by an assortment of talent with 100% of the profits going towards assisting Mr. Taylor and his wife.

Original skecthes from Terry Moore, Darwyn Cooke, Jimmie Robinson, Howard Chaykin, and a variety of other talents (as well a pieces by Mr. Taylor) are all currently available for bidders eager to get some stellar artwork and support a great cause.
Larime preparing sketches for the auction!
You can find the auctions here on the Comics Heating Up Website, just click the items that interest you to go over to eBay in order bid, and should the bidding get too high for you, any amount of money helps if you would rather just donate to their GoFundMe.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I Played, "The Division," Beta And Have Thoughts--So Read Them!

Tried it Out
As my title states, I gave the beta for, "The Division," a go this weekend on the PlayStation 4. My main thought would be that it's alright. Should that be all you wanted to know of my thoughts feel free to resume talking to the rest of the dinner-party you're ignoring to look at your phone, but if you want to know why I felt it was alright, read on...

I was able to acquire a Beta key on eBay for a bit over a dollar and put in a good four or five hours Saturday, so I basically paid a quarter-an-hour and feel satisfied in terms of getting my money's worth. However, the big question becomes if people who spend 60 bucks on the full game are going to feel that way. It is of course hard to judge a beta as it is just a slice of the metaphorical pie that will make-up the main game, but even when you just taste a slice of pie you still get a pretty good idea of the overall flavor, ya know?
Yeah, it ain't this good-looking.
So, how is the taste of, "The Division," pie I bit into and what parts were bitter or sweet? I would start off by saying the game's graphics are pretty good, but of course not as snazzy as it looked when the title was first announced (but seriously, who expects a game from Ubisoft to look as good as its reveal trailer anymore these days after what they have pulled with all their games from, "Assassin's Creed," to, "Watch Dogs?"). The gameplay is a bit like Destiny-meets-Borderlands where you can team-up with other players to fight computer-controlled bad-guys in various little side-missions or main missions. The game goes stat-heavy with RPG elements for all your gear and weapons so it is kind of odd to face enemies in this, "realistic," world who can take 5 hits from your shotgun in order to go down because they are a higher level, but you get used to it.

The thing that I found most off-putting about the normal game-world is that if you aren't teamed-up with other players it is just you and the NPCs. Therefore, things don't get really interesting until you go into the feature of the game that I spent the majority of my time in as soon as I was allowed to enter it, the Dark Zone. The Dark Zone is pretty cool (as others agree) and is a place where you face tougher NPCs and other players who will be wandering around. It is a bit of a free-for-all because you can easily shoot another player and steal their gear. This will temporarily get you marked as, "Rogue," and allow other folk to attack you without consequence, but a lack of rogue status on someone doesn't mean you should ever let your guard down. A character who seems perfectly friendly can shoot you in the back as soon as you turn around, and the Dark Zone gives everything a greater air of danger that the areas of the game outside of it so sorely lack.
Without the Dark Zone this would be a somewhat uninspiring RPG-style shooter, but thanks to the Dark Zone there is enough intrigue to make me think the game could have something interesting going for it. Oh, and as for all the base-development stuff and character perks, most of that was locked-off during the beta so I can't share much in the way of thoughts on that. Still, as far as things go right now I'm cautious about, "The Division," but feel if it can really capitalize on the enjoyment found in the Dark Zone is might turn out alright, as I said at the start.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Confession: I Don't Really Like "Sex Criminals" That Much

I Have A Dirty Secret To Confess....
There is a comic that should be right-up my alley. It is funny, but has serious moments, contains a wacky concept, and discusses sexuality, like, a lot--plus it's an Image book, which means I can feel happy that the creators aren't getting screwed-over by the publisher on IP rights. Yet, having read some of, "Sex Criminals," I find I just don't really like it. There is no good reason for this besides how I maybe am a monster who pisses a mixture of coffee and rage, ruining all the things you like in my desire to be iconoclastic. I don't think I purposely want to be a contrarian asshole though because I love plenty of stuff that that is popular and well-liked by everyone (I love me some, "Saga," as does everyone else). Why then, don't I like, "Sex Criminals?"

I seriously don't know what my problem is. I am generally a fan of Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky is a stellar artist (and not a bad writer either), the concept sounds so amazing--people who stop time when they orgasm rob banks and then other madness ensues--and the silly 4th-printing cover for the comic where the creators pose whilst holding the first-printing has to be the most adorable thing ever:
How come I'm not head-over-heels in love with this series? I read the 1st trade and just felt this overwhelming sense of indifference. It has occurred to me that perhaps I should read the 2nd collection but if I don't enjoy that it will only confirm what I suspect--that, "Sex Criminals" just ain't for me. This is a hard thing to admit because when I state that to people who know the weird kind of comics I like their eyes go wide and they say, "What? Isn't that exactly your kind of comic?" which I believe means they think I am a weirdo, but I understand where they are coming from. The answer is that when described aloud, "Sex Criminals," does seem to sound like what I'd love, but after the pen has been put to paper and I've read some issues...yeah, just not feeling it.

I feel better having confessed this, and hope you don't judge me too harshly. After all, I bet you too have a comic that folk tell you is perfect for your tastes, yet upon reading it you found it unimpressive. Even if I can't place what exactly the problem is with, "Sex Criminals," that results in me feeling horribly uninterested in the book, I know that is how I feel, and being honest and open about it has really helped just now. Plus, if I want to read a book that discusses sex a lot I always have the amazingly weird, "Sex," by Joe Casey and Piotr Kowlalsi to turn to.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rant-Reviews: Six Debut Comics From An Assortment of Publishers

More New Stuff!
There are always new comics--and especially new first issues. There are countless books that never get close to even achieving double-digits, but all books have to start with that first issue--even if a publisher does something coy like call it a, "Zero issue,' or list it with a higher number and have the issues count-down. With this in mind how so often new comics start, I thought it might be fun to review six new comics from six different publishers.

Half-A-Dozen Books
Strayer
The newest comic from recently-launched publisher AfterShock (the folk who have published that, "InSeXts," comic I like a lot), this is best described as an action-comedy set in fantasy world (or is it the world after ours was destroyed? It is kind of left open to interpretation). Written by Justin Jordan (of, "Luther Strode," fame) and illusrtated by Juan Gedeon, "Strayer," at first blush seems like another book about an evil fantasy-government ruling everyone with an iron fist, but that is just the flavor-text which helps set-up a much more personal tale.

Essentially our hero, the man known as Strayer, can help fight horrible monsters, and within this issue does so, impressing a witch. That sounds bland but thanks to the quite humorous way Jordon writes Strayer the book takes on quite a funny tone, with everyone acting so deadpan and concerned about everything whilst Strayer just kind of does-how-he-does. Gedeon's art is a bit plain, but the writing of Jordon helps elevate the so-so apperance into a book that is quite enjoyable. Should you be a fan of Jordan or tired of your traditional fantasy worlds where everyone is so deadly serious about everything, this is worth a read.
4 out of 5 stars.

Faith
Valiant has a difficult task here for a variety of reasons but handles it well. The first challenge is that this is a 1st issue that wants to appeal to new readers who have been drawn-in by Valiant's promotion of the book and its unique aspect of having a plus-size female super-hero as the main character, but the character has been around and been in other event-comics and team books, so making a book that is new-reader friendly but also respects the past is important. Thankfully, Valiant turns in a story that references what has occurred before in the life of Faith, but is still understandable if you've never read a Valiant book or just have read some of them(I am a bit familiar with Valiant, so it was fun seeing Archer from, "Archer and Armstrong," pop-up in the book). By moving the main character to a city that is new to her (Los Angles) Valiant can have a bunch of things be new, but have a good excuse for it.

The other challenge Valiant faced was as I mentioned how this is arguably one of the first comics to have a plus-size female as the main character. There have been plenty of comics with plus-size females playing a role (the pre-Nu52 Amanda Waller) but as the title heroine? That's basically unheard of. Thankfully, we get a good story from the writing of Jody Houser who doesn't even bother to do something so crass as go, "Look, we have a bigger woman as the main character, let's comment about it!" Instead the story just proceeds with introducing us to Faith, showing us her cares and desires, and otherwise making our titular super-hero someone easy to like and care about. This results in a book that is great for those who are brand-new to the character of Faith or the publisher, Valiant, and a comic that is also wonderful if you've been following the company's comics already. A great read.
4 out of 5 stars.

Prophet: Earth War #1
It seems like forever since we last read an issue of Brandon Graham's comic, "Prophet," but the man has been busy with his duties such as putting out the consistently intriguing anthology, "Island," as well as all his other works. Thankfully the saga that he began back in 2012 with his riffing-on old 1990's Image comics but in a whole new, futuristic way, has started its final arc (at least that is how its been advertised). So, I'll admit that this is really more of the next chapter in a story than it is a debut, but it still is the first entry in quite awhile within this saga, so I'm counting it as a fresh comic and if you don't like it you can quit reading my blog (please don't quit reading my blog, I crave your approval). How is this comic after such a long wait though? Still pretty damn good.

While reading this it feels like Graham never took a break, still firing on all cylinders as he takes a hokey bunch of characters from the 90's and morphs them into elaborate sci-fi concepts whilst still acknowledging the past. This issue is a lot of set-up, telling us of the coming war and showing what forces the original Prophet will have as he tries to take on the evil Earth Empire. It's a quiet issue, but you can really feel how it is the mellow moments before an enormous storm, and it gets me excited for the long-overdue and sure-to-be-epic conclusion.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Amazing Forest #1
Another science-fiction type comic like the just reviewed, "Propher: Earth War," but put out by IDW. This book is more of an anthology...but from two writers on every story who get different artists for their tales...so its' like a show-case? Look, I'm not sure of the best way to describe what this, "Is," other than to say that is is generally good. With stories that run the gamut from aliens to werewolves, robots, and strange owls with human faces, each yarn is quite different, but they seem to have a unified theme in that most are pretty depressing. Three of the stories have the main characters yearning for something, but discovering it can never be theirs. The only story with a somewhat happy ending is the werewolf one, which has a bloody twist I honestly did not see coming and is dark, but in a weirdly-joyful way. Writers Erick Freitas and Ulises Farinas provide us with some impressively melancholy and morbid tales, but I found myself wishing for many of the stories to be more fleshed-out. Were we to only get two stories that were longer I would have been perfectly okay with that too, as some of these entries feel a bit rushed in getting to their conclusion. Still, an interesting title, and I'm curious what stories the second issue may hold.
3 out of 5 stars.

Devolution #1
Well, that's a clever hook. Basically the idea of this comic is that humanity got so stupid and full of hubris it dropped a bomb that made people and animals devolve into their most primal forms, and within about a year life as we know it basically ended save for a few key people who were immune. This leads to us following the main character named Raja as she treks across the country in what we learn is the hope to reverse everything. In the meantime however we witness her stumbling upon a camp of humans populated by a lot of people barely putting up with each other in the name of survival (a very cranky Neo-Nazi finds himself working in the camp with a variety of other races, much to his chagrin). It is a great concept, but I feel like the plot itself is lacking. Still, perhaps after doing a bunch of work for Marvel this creator-owned project by Rick Remender just needs some time to find its legs. I mean, the artwork by Jon Wayshack is suitably hideous, with the devolved people and animals looking equally dumb and dangerous, so I tip my hat to the publisher, Dynamite, for finding a writer who works this well with their artist.

A lot of time is spent giving us background-info which is appreciated, but maybe if the comic slowly showed us everything instead of just telling the reader what happened that might be a bit more fun than the massive exposition-dump at the start of the book. The really clever idea and artwork help keep things interesting however, as well as a hint of a grander conspiracy taking place that makes me think this book may be one to watch. For now though, it is just kind of average.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Man Plus #1
Published by Titan and created by writer/artist Andre Lima Araujo, "Man Plus," has apparently been in the works for some time. The effort shows because this comic is flat-out gorgeous. Between the futuristic building and vehicles, Robots and androids fighting, and just generally looking awesome, this is a feast for the eyes. The story has caught my attention too, with a special law-enforcement agency dealing with a potentially rogue android that has a mysterious group of highly-armed individuals after it in addition to the police who are attempting to understand just what exactly is going on. This first issue really caught my attention and I look forward to seeing what comes next.
5 out of 5 stars.

We're Finished!
That was six new books from six different publishers. Time will tell which ones last and reach a natural conclusion and which are suddenly canceled. I of course which all the books the best.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"Convergence" is a Fascinating Mess

Very Odd. Very, Very Odd
I read the DC event, "Convergence," in a big ol' hardcover thanks to my local library. Perhaps if I read some of the tie-ins things will make a bit more sense, but as far as I can tell, "Convergence," is just one big mess, yet a fascinating one too. Basically an excuse for fans to get to see characters they liked from various eras or alternate worlds, it sounds like something pretty straightforward, so of course DC has to go and muck it up.

This comic-event of course occurred to fill the gap for when DC moved their offices and at first looked like it would be a fun little thing for the fans but then it was decided it had to be some kind of mega-event and got hella bloated. We've got characters from the, "Earth 2," comics that apparently petered out before tying into this, there's the Nu52 folk, individuals from Zero Hour, Flashpoint, the DC stuff that existed after the first crisis up until the Nu52, and for good measure hints of other realities and comics too.

The plot of this comic involves a planet that is a desert full of little bottled cities being forced to fight each other, but that plot kind of goes away and turns into an epic battle against a villain named Telos...who then becomes good and helps everyone fight Brainiac, before everyone gets to go home and the world is wiped out...or something. But wait, it's okay because the planet turns into a new home for the, "Earth 2," folk and everyone is happy! Okay, everyone but the readers who are left scratching their head trying to figure out what the dickens just happened with all these shifting alliances, unmentioned realities suddenly popping-up, and general chaos.

Still, there is something almost Zen about a plot that takes six paragraphs to even summarize on Wikipedia and still makes little-to-no sense. A reader doesn't have to worry about why the things that occur are happening, they just kind of do and that's that. DC needed to kill some time so they threw all their toys in a fictional sandbox (literally, it is a desert world) and tried to come-up with some excuse for everyone to occupy the same page. In terms of actually being an interesting or coherent story, it is well below average, something like...
2 out of 5 stars.
However, when it comes to being passable entertainment that one can at least admire for its tenacity and commitment to being batshit crazy and insiting it makes sense when it doesn't, well, that makes this the kind of comic I feel I can give...
3 out of 5 stars.

So, check out, "Convergence," not if you want something well-crafted or clever, but if you get a kick out of alternate-reality comics and seeing a mish-mash of ideas splattered on the page with little regard for logic. I mean, at least after this DC has settled down and won't be doing anything else dramatic for...wait, what's this about a, "Rebirth?" Oh motherfu...

Monday, January 25, 2016

B.o.B. Thinks the Earth is Flat AKA Just When I Think People Couldn't Be Any More Ignorant...

Seriously, I mean Seriously?

I really am sad people can be so ignorant. I understand why some conspiracy theories appeal to folk, I honestly do. It is easier to think the Government/New World Order/Etc. is behind a mass-shooting and staged the whole thing than to face the terrible fact that sometimes people are pointlessly horrible. Pretending that, "They," hired crisis actors and nobody actually got hurt is less scary than how a deranged individual can randomly go shoot-up a school, government building, etc. That said, some conspiracy theories are so absurd and so foolish, who could believe them? I guess B.o.B. does.

You may know B.o.B. from hits songs he appeared on such as, "Paper Planes," and...yeah, "Paper Planes." Well, B.o.B. is a believer in the idea that the Earth is flat, you know, like people centuries ago thought before we used knowledge to prove the planet is round. Plenty of folk have tried to correct how B.o.B. is horribly wrong, with Neil deGrasse Tyson even chiming in on Twitter, but I doubt B.o.B. will be easily swayed at this point--I mean the man also denies we landed on the Moon and thinks people steal and clone celebrities, because why not?
Hoo boy, where do we start with this one?
I guess this all boils down to how people want to be able to think they know something nobody else does, and that makes them special--that or the desire to think the world has some secret order to it. It is easier to throw away logic and sense for the comfort of a grand delusion.. As Alan Moore put it so well some years ago, "The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy or the grey aliens or the 12 foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control. The truth is more frightening, nobody is in control. The world is rudderless." I would argue that is more terrifying than any conspiracy theory.

Who knows, maybe B.o.B isn't actually this dumb, and it is all part of some weird viral-marketing stunt for a new album he'll give a name like, "Conspiracy Theories." I would like to hope that's the case, but at this point I honestly am just sad.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

"Fallout 4" is Pretty Fun

Finally Had the Chance to Play It!
I've talked about how I hadn't played it yet, and was waiting. However, I broke down, got, "Fallout 4," when there was a good deal on it and have played it more than I probably should have off-and-on over the last few weeks. Yup, I'm obsessed with another game and my wife has long since grown tired of hearing all the never-ending gunfire that occurs when Preston Garvey isn't harassing me to help a settlement.

After a good chunk of time invested I've done some of the earlier main quests, a chunk of assorted side quests, and built some settlements. I still haven't discovered the faction known as, "The Railroad," but have done a decent amount of exploring, leveling-up, and modifying my weapons. Before I discuss all that I like let's address the less-positive things, however.

Negatives
First off, I agree with everyone that Preston's relentless harassment about settlements needing help is a huge pain, even if re-taking, "The Castle," felt good. Next, I'll join the chorus of people who declare that while this is indeed a great game, it isn't necessarily a superb, "Fallout," game. It in fact is more of a big action game with some light RPG elements in the world of, "Fallout." It isn't the series fans fell in love with, but I will say that is actually okay, because even if this continues the march away from the deeper elements of the first game and sequel (with, "Fallout 3," of course being the first that was first-person and really switched gears), it's still a great time. Another thing that can be a pain is how even if combat is better with this entry it still has some concerns that makes gunplay improved over some of the previous entries, but that not great. This can be disconcerting because as I just mentioned, this game has a lot more of a focus on shooting than some previous entries have. Earlier games allowed you to solve many a quest without violence, instead permitting charisma, intelligence,or the like to help you get out of a tight spot. This game? I was able to talk my way out of one fight, but anywhere else I went was just an intriguing-looking place full of people eager to kill me.

You can be someone in this game who shoots their guns a lot, or runs up and smacks people whilst occasionally switching to guns for the enemies too high-up to hit, that's about it. Then of course there are the bugs, the delightful bugs. Some make the game suddenly crash on you (it has happened to me enough I am saving even more obsessively than usual) and others just make everything look extra funny. They are an annoyance, but with any, "Fallout," or, "Skyrim," game from Bethesda bugs are to  be expected and hopefully eventually patched. Still, despite all this there is some fun stuff too! That brings us to...

Positives
The Commonwealth is a fascinating place. I've always enjoyed exploration in any of the, "Fallout," games and this 4th entry in the series continues that. Whether I'm stumbling upon strange little towns hiding dark secrets, abandoned vaults, a ramshackle city built in Fenway park, or simply climbing up a tall tower, "Fallout 4," is a beautifully desolate place full of scenery I adore, however melancholy it is. Plus, one big thing that this 4th game brings in is building-up settlements. Even if it bugs me for Preston to keep demanding I help places, there is a thrill to taking an empty patch of land, building some shacks, food, water, and then hooking up a radio beacon calling-out for citizens to come call this once-barren plot home.

I also enjoy my companions, with the assortment I've met proving to generally be good company, and more useful than annoying--something previous games would sometimes lack. I don't want to spoil the story too much as it has some interesting twists and turns, but I will say it cleverly makes you engage in some tough decisions later on in the game that carry actual consequences and, "Lock-off," other quests from certain factions, as it were. Another element I quite adore is how I can modify my weapons, clothes, and suits of Power Armor. Speaking of that famous getup, in previous games the Power Armor was just that--some extra armor--in this game it is like a walking vehicle you hop in and power with fusion cores you find scattered across the land. You can tweak the features as well as give it a spiffy paint job (if you find magazines with directions to do so) and it comes in handy during the more difficult fights you may face. The huge amount of customization options within the game really help give it more of a personal touch, with everyone able to make their own snazzy settlement, weapon, or suit of Power Armor.

Not Too Shabby

Even though the game isn't as full of depth as past titles in the series, it still is some good fun and has stolen a great deal of hours from me. I continue to be a big fan of the, "Fallout," games and even if this 4th one is more of an action-type game than previous ones, I still adore it. Plus, whenever I want to do my stat-heavy gaming like in the old-school, "Fallout," games, I always have, "Wasteland 2." Now I'm eager to continue exploring, and seeing what future downloadable content might hold!

Friday, January 22, 2016

What Bugs Me the Most About Ted Cruz

It Isn't Just How Awful He Is As a Human Being...
Besides the never-ending hot-air-spewing machine that is Donald Trump (now endorsed by fellow idiot, Sarah Palin!) the Republican party doesn't really have a candidate that they consider reanonable to nominate  besides Ted Cruz. I mean, Ted Cruz still has plenty of people who hate him, but maybe hate him just a little bit less than Trump--although plenty Republicans would rather be rid of both. The thing is one aspect about Cruz really, really bugs me. It isn't his horribly outdated views on marriage equality, his claims he wants to repeal the ACA, or all that. I mean, those do bug me, but all the Republican candidates scream that nonesense. No, what bugs me is the startling hypocripsy on display within the party considering that a man born in Canada is being touted as a possible candidate for President after all the, "Birther," nonesense we put with regarding Obama.

Picture this, a man born in Hawaii to a mother who was a U.S. citizen (born and raised) and a father born in Kenya becomes President. A bunch of crazies claim he was actually not born on U.S. soil and therefore can't be President, despite countless evidence that he was born in the state of surf, sun, and volcanoes. To make this really clear, someone who could prove they were born in the United States, to a parent who was an American had a bunch of people claiming he somehow was the President illegally. This man is of course our current President Barack Obama.
"Oh, so now you all wouldn't have cared even if I were born in another country?"
Now, here's another picture for you. A man is born in Canada to a mother who was a United States citizen (born and raised), and a Father born in Cuba. This man who has never denied actually being born in Canada comes to the United States, works in politics, and then attempts to run for President. Suddenly, all the people who proclaimed the first man--actually born in the U.S.--couldn't be President shut-up for the most part, with only a few going, "Wait, isn't this new guy Canadian?"

Two men, both with American mothers and foreign fathers, one born on U.S. soil and one not. Wouldn't this mean that if the one who was born in Canada can be President than even if the one born in Hawaii was birthed in another country he still would eligible for the Presidency (or they both would be ineligible)? I mean, this is perfectly logical, right?

Well, maybe the fact that this is logical is why suddenly all the Republicans who decried Obama as some kind of, "Evil foreigner," are suddenly perfectly okay with a man who didn't renounce his Canadian dual-citizenship until 2014 becoming President, because Conservatives tend to eschew logic for Creationism and rallies dedicated to taking away a woman's right to choose. I guess depending on if you have a, "D," for Democrat after your name or, "R," for Republican that is a bigger factor in determining if you qualify for the Presidency in the eyes of conservatives as opposed to where you were actually, you know, born.

The hypocrisy of all this is mind-blowing. Besides people he poses a direct political threat to such as Donald Trump speaking-up about the Canadian-birth issue (and Trump of course led the rallying cry against Obama being a citizen, but this time has a leg to stand on), it suddenly seems the Republican party is perfectly okay with someone who was born in another country--but to an American parent--running for the Presidency. It really irritates me that the Republican party can't even be Xenophobic in a coherent way, and that is what bugs me the most about Ted Cruz.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rant-Reviews: A Grab-Bag of Comics

An Utterly Random Assortment
Hey, you know how sometimes I have my rant-reviews/capsule reviews which follow a theme of sorts? Yeah, I don't have that today, just a smattering of comics to discuss.

The Grab-Bag
Power Rangers #0
This puppy from BOOM! has suddenly become a hot commodity, with both my friends at Comics Heating Up commenting on the new title as well as Bleeding Cool observing it is flipping for a solid chunk of change on the interweb auction sites. As for the comic itself? It's quite good. It manages to both tickle my nostalgia-nerve while not coming off as campy as the show did back in the day (I loved watching the original Power Rangers, and watched some of the later versions but lost interest around the time they were in space, or something). This, "Zero," issue interestingly drops us into a story where Tommy (already the green ranger) is with the Power Ranger team, but it is discussed how he hasn't been a teammate for too long, and it is made clear he is actually under the influence of their foe, Rita.

The intriguing aspect of this is how we aren't forced to read a bunch of issues setting all this up, we are just thrown into this status quo and trusted to figure out what has happened recently through our own careful reading of the comic. It is almost surprising to think a comic about something that gets mocked for being silly trusts its readers to be intelligent and deductive more than a lot of other supposedly, "Respectable," titles out there. There is also a back-up about Bulk and Skull, the comedic relief that have almost always existed in some form throughout the series, and another back-up that drags a little--unlike the initial story and the hi-jinks of Bulk and Skull. Still, this comic manages to be both a throw-back and modern, is fun but doesn't insult the reader, and otherwise is a snazzy read. Should you have ever played, "Power Rangers," on the playground as a young child (I'll admit I did) I would recommend checking this out for sure.
4 out of 5 stars.

Vision #3
My runner-up for weirdest comic of 2015 continues to just get stranger. Between the Visions clearly becoming more and more of a threat to those around them, some weird business with a magic flower that has to be ingested in a super-gross way, and confirmation that the Vision and his fellow robotic-wife have humanoid genitals of some sort, this is still a mighty weird read, and I love it for that. The strange quiet melancholy that finds itself punctuated with bursts of violence and rage results in a title that really is as much horror as it is sci-fi or, "super-hero," related. Superb stuff, and I loathe to think there could be some point it has to tie-in with an event or finds itself cancelled before the violent climax it is clearly building to is achieved. Read this and love it.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Burnt Comix #1
Originally a small-press title written and drawn by Jayro Lantigua, the publisher Creature Entertainment picked this title up and put out a new edition of his strange work. I was interested in this comic because I'd heard that Lantigua's stuff was a bit reminiscent of Johnny Ryan--and I'd argue Ryan's work has a strange charm to it that made hearing a comparison sound appealing. As for the comic itself, it is some solid work but only seems to really strike a nerve in a few spots.

The majority of the comic concerns itself with a dog that is miserable and wants to kill himself, but finds the pound won't do it because he's too, "Self aware," and feels most ways to die are too ordinary. He eventually succeeds but finds floating around in the nothingness of the after-life boring, so when a dark force offers to bring him back, he accepts. He is restorted to life but also needs to devour other beings as a result--but its okay because he eats someone trying to rob his friends. It is silly stuff, and perfectly fine, but the opening and closing of the comic are the only times I felt Lantigua was really injecting some of his own pain and anger into the comic, expressing rage and sadness much in the same way as his fictional dog.

 You see, the comic opens with a young alligator (or is he a crocodile?) showing his father some comics he made and being told they are good, but he'll never make it as a comic artist. The comic then closes with a grown-up gator/croc coming to his father with money made from comics in hopes of impressing his Dad, but being told again he should have done something better with his time. It's harsh, and you really feel like these could have been conversations Lantigua had with his dad. Their pangs of raw emotion give the strips more gravitas than some of the other strips, because while an orgy of dogs can be hilariously disgusting, the gut-punch of a young man being shut-down by his father even after success is a really affecting moment. Overall this is a solid...
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Injection #6
It is funny how with the 5th issue of the last arc things finally started making some sense, so of course Warren Ellis makes this sixth issue and start of a new arc mostly unrelated to the previous issues and puts us right back square at the point of being utterly confused as to what in the dickens is going on. Still, this issue is full of dark humor, action, and gorgeous art by Declan Shalvey, even if I'm feeling befuddled again at least this is an enjoyable comic. As Image (the publisher) doesn't seem to set a strict rule on how long a series can be I wonder just what exactly the future holds for this title, or how many overall issues are planned for this potential future.
3 out of 5 stars.

InSeXts #2
New publisher Aftershock Comics has a variety of interesting releases, but this comic with its surreal insect-women and utterly bizarre mixture of imagery (done amazingly by Ariela Kristantina) that varies between grotesque and arousing is quite a fascinating read. There still is far too much that has not been answered by the title as to how exactly our protagonists have come across their powers, and new questions keep being introduced such as what a strange monster is doing popping-up toward the end of the book. I worry that if writer Marguerite Bennet has too many mysteries arise with not enough answers we will end up in a situation like the television show, "Lost," where we kept getting queries, but no conclusions.

That said, this is a highly enjoyable read going from seductive and sexual one moment with the reader enjoying the sensual drawings of our main characters, to a comic full of body-horror the next as the characters that were just looking appealing change in ways not appealing at all. It is a bit of a fun twist on the concept of the male gaze, as if the comic wants to say, "Here's what you want, naked women going at it, but now we're going to disturb you with those same women turning into hideous insects/inSeXts." In a strange way a comic that at first glance looks like pure cheesecake turns out to be a clever feministic commentary on the sexualization of women, both playing-up male desires and fears. Yes, I quite like this comic.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Squadron Supreme #3
I'm really not reading much Marvel, but this is one of the small number of books from the publisher I'm picking up besides a few other odd titles (like the above-reviewed, "Vision,") and this one has had me purchasing it because the writer of one of my favorite mini-series in 2015 is behind it (James Robinson), and it features the Nighthawk of the Supreme Power Universe that helped herald-in Marvel's, "MAX," brand before the series was basically left to wither and die between re-launches, spin-offs, and tie-ins with other series--still, those early issues were dynamite stuff.

That makes me feel a bit disappointed that after a shocking first issue where the team killed Namor (I would say, "Spoilers," but Marvel actually spoiled it themselves before the comic came out to build interest)  the comic has basically just sort of sat around, with these fascinating characters who are the last living inhabitants of destroyed Universes (all of which have appeared to some degree in previous Marvel titles) just kind of milling about while a threat of some sort that Nighthawk is investigating builds-up. The thing is, this issue we don't learn much about what exactly Nighthawk is looking into because this whole issue is essentially a long fight-scene between the Squadron Supreme and one of the ten-or-so Avenger's teams running about these days--this is the one with old Steve Rogers and Deadpool.

Seriously, Nighthawk and Steve argue for a minute, a fight happens, and the issue ends with the team being saved from capture by Thundra of all people and being whisked away to a land called, "Weirdworld." I looked into it and this Weirdworld is a hold-over from Marvel's, "Secret Wars," comic that actually finally wrapped-up. Why the team has been transported there remains to be seen, but hopefully things will get more interesting, as right now we've had a good first issue, and two dull issues after it.
2 out of 5 stars.

...And We're Done
Well, the grab-bag is all, "Empty," now, so-to-speak, meaning this edition of my rant-reviews has concluded. I hope you enjoyed this random smattering of comics.