Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn," Graphic Novel Review

I previously read a short yarn about the titular Mean Girls Club from creator Ryan Heshka and published by Nobrow. I loved it and am pleased to see it was just a taste of the over-the-top goodness found in this full-length original graphic novel, "Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn." Whereas the short comic about the club just showed a general night of the ladies causing mayhem, this book chronicles the attempts of a corrupt and evil mayor (along with complicit judicial and religious figures) to take-down the Mean Girls Club.

A young female mechanic named Roxy who gets entangled in a plot to destroy the club is the protagonist for most of the book, with it occasionally focusing on the club, but generally we get an outsider-view through Roxy of these mean girls who like to smoke, drink, take drugs, eat sugar-filled candy, and raise Hell. The Mean Girls are not good guys per se, but perhaps by being true to themselves as rabble-rousers, they end up being heroes as they take on a city full of crooked politicians and hypocritical religious leaders. It's a fun story made all the more entertaining thanks to Heska's stellar art-style.
Heshka's art for the comic looks like someone took 1950's nostalgia and made it twisted and absurd. The supposedly wholesome-looking dames of the era are morphed into rough-and-tumble women who defy stereotypes, creating a fantastic visual paradox of the kind of cars, radio, and clothes found in, "The good old days," but with a very modern-take on how things weren't that, "Good," and instead kept women disenfranchised and made second-class citizens. The colors are black, white, and pink, giving everything an extra feminine touch cleverly countered by the swearing, violence, and ample drug use of the Mean Girls Club. It's just gorgeous to look at and makes it so that the solid concept of the Mean Girls Club has incredible visuals to match.

"Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn," is a great book full of excellent artwork and clever storytelling that results in a clever take on how we often may view the past through rose-tinted (or in this case, pink-tinted) glasses, but whether its the past or the present, there are people who won't stand for a corrupt status quo , and even if they have their own problems you sure as Hell want them fighting for you as opposed to against you. I can only hope we get to witness more misadventures by The Mean Girls Club in the future, because I adored this book and rate it...5 out of 5 stars.

You can buy a copy for your enjoyment at Nobrow's website or all finer comic shops.

Please Note: A copy of this book was provided by NoBrow in one of their usual occasional press mailings sent out to the media for the purposes of review, as they recalled I loved the first small comic about the Mean Girls Club.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

April 2018 News and Links to Accompany the Insane Weather

Cold, Hot, Rainy, Snowy, Etc.
If only April could be so serene.
They say April showers bring May flowers, but based on the absurd weather out here in Saint Louis I have to ask what April flurries bring? Seriously, I feel like we've had more snow, ice, and hail in this month than any other of what was our past Winter, and then after night where its freezing cold suddenly we flirt with an 80-degree day! The rest of America is dealing with sporadic bouts of heat, cold, and storms as well, oh and the rest of Earth continues to have the climate warm in dangerous ways too, short-term weather aside. Let's try to forget about all that for at least a short bit however and enjoy some quality news and links, shall we?

Interesting Stuff To Examine
Let's start with some wonderful news: Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize for his musical talent. He's the first non-classical or jazz artist to do so. My many posts about the man show I feel he is a genius, so it is always nice to see that recognized by others as well!

Check-out this guide about the best way to introduce your kid to horror movies if they're into scary stuff. I myself enjoy fright-flicks but my wife mostly hates them. Time will tell how Clarkson feels!

This huge piece by Vulture about, 'The 100 Pages That Shaped Comics," is fascinating. It's of course subjective and countless people will go, "What about such-and-such a page?" but it still is interesting in that it takes a single page from various comic-works and elaborates on the importance or impact of those comics.
The first, "Iron Man," continues to be a modern classic.
Rewatching the original MCU flicks sounds like it could be fun just to see where it all started. Heidi McDonald has been doing so, finding she quite enjoyed, "Iron Man," remembered just how forgettable, "Incredible Hulk," was and loved, "Captain America."

The, "Far Cry," series needs to let things break again, in more ways than one, as this article argues.

"Cathy," as a comic-strip was something I would skim as a kid between reading the other strips in the newspaper I liked more. I think I, "Got," it even as a kid--"Oh, she really like chocolate and is stressed?"--but just was never that impressed by the strip. I didn't hate it however as many seemed to, and now decades after it began and 8 years after its end The Comics Journal has an interesting essay, "On Hating Cathy."
"Alias," was a favorite comic of mine and its years-later follow-up, "Jessica Jones," was solid too. The character's creator, Brian Michael Bendis, is leaving Marvel for DC and Michael Gayados has  almost always illustrated the character's best stories (by Bendis) and even if Gayados sticks around for the inevitable re-launch it won't be the same. This piece about the conclusion of Bendis' time with the character is a solid read.

So many video-games involve killing stuff, which can get old. What is this though? An open-world game where your protagonist paints instead of killing countless stuff? Sounds interesting and like something I'll keep an eye on for its release in the hopefully-near future!

The stellar CW show, "Black Lightning," just wrapped its first season. I am extremely pleased it is getting a second and only expect more good things!

Someone who hates Tom Brady and despises meal kits as well tried the Tom Brady meal kit to hilarious results. I personally think meal kits are cool but also hate Tom Brady for many of the reasons the article discusses (he's a cheater, he's entitled, he just is a jerk) so I enjoyed reading it,

So-called reporter and known moron Sean Hannity had relentlessly been defending Donald Trump and Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, without revealing he actually had Cohen as his lawyer too. This is the kind of conflict of interest you see at a level I couldn't imagine, but its a reporter at Fox News so who expects any ethics from the people there (besides Shepard Smith, the one decent human being on the Fox News payroll)?

To conclude, this article has a clever headline ("I Blame Chris Brown,") and is a great exploration of the complexities of race, music, and the audiences of that music via a lame song titled, "Freaky Friday," that has a rapper I've generally found mediocre--Lil' Dickey, and a singer with quite a lot of baggage--Chris Brown--engaging in a body-swap to supposedly hilarious results. The punchline to the song is Kendall Jenner talking about her vagina, so yeah.

Stay Dry
I'm never this happy to get rained on
No matter what kind of precipitation you are dealing with where you live, I hope you can stay dry and comfortable.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Album Review: "Golden Hour," by Kacey Musgraves

I have very wide-ranging tastes in music, loving everything from 1990's rap to weird undergroud rock, electronica, independent artists to big-names, etc. That said, I don't normally like new country-styled music much at all. I don't say that to try and sound like some kind of snob, I just find if I hear some old folk or country I am can get into it but a lot of today's supposedly, "Great," country music sounds warmed-over, watered-down, etc. Johnny Cash was a genius, Big & Rich ain't.

Then I saw a singer on two different occasions (once on, "The Today Show," and a few days later on, "Late Night with Stephen Colbert) who had these amazing, folk-and-country-styled songs that just sounded superb. As I don't know much about the genre I was unaware she'd been around for awhile, but upon hearing Kacey Musgraves singing, I'm a fan.
I'm not alone in greatly enjoying Musgraves new album, "Golden Hour," with plenty of people already labeling it as a classic or possibly already being album of the year. Whether its the quiet romance of album-opener, "Slow Burn," the sweet sensation of, "Butterflies,", optimistic observations of, "Love is a Wild Thing," the humorous mixed emotions of, "Happy and Sad," or the catchy-yet-longing, "Lonely Weekend," Musgraves can turn joy or depression into introspective and melody-packed tunes. I especially loved the aforementioned, "Slow Burn," as well as the song that matches the album's title, "Golden Hour," for how they make it feel like Musgraves is sitting there singing the songs just for you.

It's not all perfect, with, "Space Cowboy," feeling like its drags a bit even at only 3-and-a-half minutes and while, "High Horse," may be getting some play on the radio I actually personally think its the weakest and most, "Hey, I'm being commercial!"-type jam on the album. Still, there is plenty more good than bad, and even on the least-enjoyable pieces Musgrave's stellar voice and lyricism shine through.
I didn't know that Musgraves has openly talked about decriminalizing cannabis and is a big proponent of LGBTQ rights, but the fact she's a nice and chill person in general just makes me like her all the more. "Golden Hour," is a majestic album and one of the best LPs I have heard so far this year from an individual artist (the awesome "Black Panther," album has Kendrick Lamar involved for much of it but is arguably a mixture of various musicians on the assorted soundtrack). It is thoughtful, inspired, and just plain listenable. Give it a spin/stream, you'll most likely love it too!
5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Rant-Reviews: An Assortment of the Latest First Issues From this Week

New Week, New #1's
An assortment of first issues came out this week of some comic-books. I read  variety and have thoughts to offer, because you shouldn't always judge a comic series by its first issue, but you can judge the first issue itself, right?

Debut Titles
Exiles #1
I previously made a post about how I was at least somewhat excited for this comic to come-out, holding fond memories of the older, "Exiles," comic-books. This first issue basically just introduces the concept (a team from various Marvel Universes tries to save the Multiverse) and has us meet a chunk of the team, with my assuming the remaining members will be picked-up in issue #2. I'd be annoyed at how decompressed things feel--if assembling the team takes more than another issue I'll be quite perturbed--but the comic is written well enough with a good mixture of humor to compliment the, "Everything is in danger," drama that I was entertained. My concerns with the slow pacing aside, this was quite good!
4 out of 5 stars.

The Dead Hand #1
Image has been releasing a lot of first issues lately, with a good deal of them being smash-hits. I'm not sure if, "The Dead Hand," written by Kyle Higgins and with smashing art by Stephen Mooney will become one of those super-popular books, but if the first issue is any indication, it has more than enough quality to be a series people talk about. Higgins introduces us at the beginning to Carter Carlson, a Cold War operative who did a lot of terrible things but now lives a quiet and happy life in small and dull Middle-America town where everything seems great but also just a little off. The reason for that becomes clear with a killer reveal at the end of the issue that has me practically chomping at the bit for issue #2 to come out. It also helps that Stephen Mooney's artwork is amazing, with some splash-pages throughout the book just looking gorgeous in their intricacy. I am pumped to read more, without a doubt!
5 out of 5 stars.

A Fractured Mind #1
The latest release from Red 5 Comics, I've enjoyed an assortment of their works over the years and found, "A Fractured Mind," at first a little dull before a neat twist at the end of the issue piqued my interest. I was bored at first because the concept sounded a bit boilerplate. A serial killer has murdered a bunch of girls, one named Christie has escaped, and now two detectives with their own emotional baggage need her help to find the killer. I would be snarky and say, "Yawn," but if I may spoil things, at the end we witness that Christie might have something very wrong with her now and she's possibly not so helpless a victim as things first appeared. That hook at the end helped keep this interesting enough that I want to seek out the next issue and see where things are going, so mission accomplished in that regard.
3 out of 5 stars.

Xerxes #1
Frank Miller's long-promised comic-book sequel to, "300," (no, the movie-sequel doesn't count) finally has had its first issue come-out, and it is...fine, I guess? Written and drawn by Miller, the plot is basically a blending of history and made-up stuff mixed with his art-style that over the years has gone from impressively detailed-yet-rough-looking to now just being kind of sketchy-styled and rough-looking-but-not-in-a-good-way. Diehard fans of Miller should hopefully be somewhat satisfied and I guess it sates whatever small urge I had for minimalistically-drawn takes on the past through Miller's weird sociopolitical lens--which, as I've previously discussed, seems to have become a bit warped in his later years. This wasn't absolute garbage like, "Holy Terror," but is far removed from Miller's previous masterpieces. It's completely average, which when compared to the kind of things Frank Miller made in the past is actually quite depressing to say.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Immortal Men #1
This latest of new DC books would be promising if it weren't so muddled between a confusing story and rapidly-shifting artists for no in-story reason that ruins any semblance of cohesiveness. A whole lot of people are introduced/re-introduced from other books and the general idea is there that these special people are being wiped out, but I found myself scratching my head at the general motivations behind what the villains were doing, what makes our protagonist (a young man) at all interesting, and just generally found myself underwhelmed compared to other new DC comics that I have been enjoying such as, "Damage," and, "The Terrifics." While I'm still picking-up copies of those I won't be reading issue #2 of this unless someone tells me it suddenly stops being such a mess of art and story.
2 out of 5 stars.

It Was a Hodge-Podge of Quality
The books that came out this week clearly were of mixed quality. Some quite impressed and others just left me feeling underwhelmed, confused, or both. The great thing about comic-books however is that there is always the next week of releases to look forward to regardless of how good or bad the stuff was from the previous seven days. That's part of what I love about this art-form, how there is always more coming!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Tales From The Dollar Bin: Secret Empire #1

There are comics which are worth incredible sums of money, but so many of the most interesting, tragic, or just downright weird can be found for a simple dollar or less in a  store's "dollar bin". There, comics that never gained much popularity can be found alongside those that sold so much as for a copy to be worthless. "Tales From the Dollar Bin" aims to explore these comics, be they a single issue or an entire run of a series. From the great to the miserable, some of the best treasures and worst nightmares can be found in those infamous boxes. Let's have a "tale" now...

Secret Empire #1 AKA One Huge Disaster of an Event
Oh God, this was even more of a mess than I had heard and imagined. You see, I didn't read, "Secret Empire," because when it was revealed that Captain America was somehow a Nazi/member of Hyrda all along thanks to some fiddling with the Cosmic Cube I thought that was absurd. Then, when I heard he was going to somehow be taking over America and putting it under Hydra's reign that just sounded stupid for something supposedly in the normal Marvel Continuity. Maybe as an alternate-world tale, but a fascist dictator taking over our nation via apparently tricking all the other heroes, then rounding-up anyone else with powers, and shutting-down any dissent in the Marvel Universe which is supposed to be like the world out our window? That's just idiotic--and don't make jokes about how its like Trump being in power, he's a terrible President but as far as I know he isn't a Nazi. Also, he surely isn't able to keep us under a strict and violent rule, he can't even keep news about him boinking porn stars out of the media.

I didn't read any of the lead-up so I was extra confused as, "Secret Empire #1," reads like the second or third chapter of a story, with Hydra-Cap in power and being all cliche and evil. I suppose part of the reason for that is there apparently was a #0 issue and other lead-in stories. God help me though, I can't imagine reading anything else related to this steaming pile of crap. I mean, even if the whole concept is wretched if writer Nick Spencer had at least told the story in an interesting way I could muddle through this. Instead its just a bland mish-mash of, "Some heroes are rebelling, Captain America is doing evil stuff, here are some quick references to other characters getting their own tie-in comics!"
Captain America is sad he has to kill his friend he betrayed.
Poor guy?
The most notable thing in this issue besides the general idiocy of a Nazi Captain America running our nation is that Las Vegas is apparently destroyed at the end by Hydra-Cap because the city has been known for aiding some of the rebels...so because a few hundreds of residents help rebels he kills millions mainly so the comic can make it clear--"This Captain America is so bad y'all!" Also, he murders longtime sidekick and friend Rick Jones but looks sad about it so we should apparently pity him even though he's become a Nazi/Hydra evil dictator--as if the comic can't fully commit to making Captain America completely laughable evil and tries to act like he still has a bit of humanity. He revealed he was a Nazi and has taken over America by force, I'm not going to go, "Awww, he's all sullen and wonders if maybe he's doing the wrong thing, poor Cap!"

I mean, it really just says something that such a recent event was in a dollar bin along with all the other issues that I passed on picking-up as I knew reading the first issue would be more than enough for me. The first issue of an event like, "Civil War," sells for above cover-price, and even if that Millar-scribed series had flaws, at least it was entertaining. This is just atrocious and I feel bad for anyone who picked, "Secret Empire," for full price as at a dollar I still feel like I threw away my money. It is such a waste of time I wish I could get the 15 minutes it took me to read it refunded so I can spend those moments on a better comic.
Fluoride and Chemtrails are seriously discussed as plots to keep people mind-controlled.
Also, note the quick mention of mutants as if it's saying, "Read their book for this event too!"
Marvel has since moved on from this and appear eager to bury any memory of, "Secret Empire," with the big news now being popular writer Ta-Nehisi Coates is going to be taking over writing a non-brainwashed Captain America  from Mark Waid (who had the thankless job of trying to rehab the character a bit after Nick Spencer ruined Cap) for what will most likely be a very-promoted run. That is something I would actually like to read, unlike this miserable...tale from the dollar bin!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I'm Worried For Stan Lee

Stan Lee in happier days.
I'm worried for Stan Lee. He's 95, his wife died less than a year ago, and it seems everyone wants to take advantage of him now. Anyone he used to have looking out for his interests has been let-go by increasingly questionable characters and a daughter who seems more concerned with wealth than her father's well-being. There was an article in The Daily Beast. Then talk of questionable marketing gimmicks like Lee having his actual blood stolen to be used in ink-stamps, his seeming poor health at a recent convention, and now The Hollywood Reporter has a piece making things look even more grim, declaring that Stan Lee needs a hero like the ones he used to write to rescue him now.

Whether you feel Stan Lee deserves all the credit or none of the credit for the success of Marvel and its characters (people still argue the degree of work he did and his actual impact), he for sure is an important person in Marvel's history and a human being who deserves dignity in his old age, as opposed to being treated like a cash-cow to suck dry (literally, as the blood incident shows) and on the receiving end of what clearly sounds like horrific elder abuse. Stan Lee may not be long for this world and due to those who helped protect him from the vultures either passing away or being fired by those without his best interests at heart its turned into a fiasco of so-called friends with long rapsheets or a daughter who sounds physically abusive and obsessed with getting as much moolah out of the ailing Lee as possible before he passes. It's incredibly sad, and a tragic way for Lee to have his last time on Earth spent. Hopefully us fans can do something to try to stop this before it gets more tragic, like popular director and known comic-lover Kevin Smith who has seen all this news and has offered to help how he can.

The Danger of Overlapping Comic-Cons AKA Three Cons Happen at the Same Time in 2019

All happen at the same time in 2019
As this article from The Beat/Comics Beat discusses, in 2019 we will have WonderCon, C2E2, and Planet ComiCon all happening at the same time in 2019--March 29th-31st. This is both sad and dangerous. It is sad because I'm sure there are people out there who would like to be able to attend at least two of these and will find that extremely difficult. Now they might have to prioritize based on factors like cost, the guests in attendance etc. This is dangerous for somewhat the same reason--it divides fans, creators, vendors, etc. between shows they might otherwise attend two or all three of.

I get that as more and more comic-cons happen it makes it harder not to have overlap. I often see think-pieces asking if, "We have too many comic-cons?" or such, but disagree with any argument there are too many cons. There is such a wide range of interests, fandoms, etc. that I feel plenty of cons in existence is a good thing to have. The problem is when cons of similar focus, not too far from each other geographically, comparable in popularity, or a mixture of those factors find themselves happening at the same time. It just makes things harder for everyone and as I said, is dangerous for the continued success of the cons as it makes people choose sides/favorites.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Zedd is a Terrible Excuse for Electronica

Anton Zaslavski AKA Zedd.
Makes terrible Electronic music.
Zedd is just awful. Now, I am not some kind of annoying eletronica/techno fan who hates anything popular just because other people enjoy it. I've never hid that I'm a fan of Paul Van Dyk, for instance, and some folk decry him as one of the most commercial electronic music-makers there are. That said, I have to say Zedd makes some of the most bland, blatantly syrupy pop-techno I've ever heard.

Perhaps if you're in a club when, "Clarity," comes on it is good to dance to. However, besides a solid beat all its has are utterly nonsensical lyrics sung by a moderately talented lady and a predictable fast-and-loud-followed-by-quiet-and-slow rhythm. The latest big song from Zedd is actually so commercial you've probably heard it in literal commercials for Target. It is, "The Middle," and again features a solid beat but otherwise is...nonsensical lyrics sung by a moderately talented lady accompanied by alternately speedy or slow melodies.
Paul Van Dyk.
Also makes popular electronica but his stuff is good.
The kind of music Zedd creates makes me feel like someone wanted to cynically produce the most obnoxiously pop-styled techno possible. It's just supposedly-catchy melodies with a nice voice spitting out word-vomit. There is so much more electronic music out there--commercial as well as less-known stuff--that is a great deal better, and yet Zedd's music gets played on the radio or pops-up in ads for Target (seriously Target, I love your stores but then you gotta support such a crappy artist), its disheartening. Do yourself a favor and seek-out something better if you're looking for quality electronica/techno/etc.

Friday, April 6, 2018

I Tried and Quite Enjoyed the Battle Royale mode of, "Fortnite," Recently!

People love battle royale games--e.g. where folk land on an island full of players and have to survive while the map shrinks and be the last individual/team standing. It started coming to popularity with, "Player Unknown's Battlegrounds," and then a game that launched with a different focus known as, "Fortnite," introduced its own Battle Royale mode mainly as a fun lark and it blew-up in so much popularity people now barely play the game it initially launched as and everyone enjoys the Battle Royale. I've heard so much about it that I did what you are usually told not to do--I did an activity because the internet said it was fun. Unlike eating tide pods however playing, "Fornite," on my Playstation 4  didn't make me sick, but instead was actually a great time!

How does a match of Battle Royale work in, "Fortnite?" Well, you jump out of a flying bus that goes over the island, deploy your glider to land safely, and proceed to gather weapons, shields, health kits, and resources so you can build walls and stairs to keep yourself extra protected. In the meantime the other 99 players in the match do this too and slowly the map shrinks as more folk are wiped out by everyone else (or in some cases accidentally running of a cliff and falling to their death). It is a simple idea that works wonderfully in execution, as everyone either tries to gun each other down, hide as long as possible and let the other players whittle each other down, or some mixture of strategies. Plus, there is a mode where you can have a small team and that can result in some wacky matches also.
As readers of this blog no doubt know, I have an infant son named Clarkson. Having a baby makes it hard to be able to dedicate a big block of time to a video-game. "Fortnite," and its Battle Royale matches tend to be nice and quick, however, so that's perfect for me. Another thing that is wonderful would be how the game is utterly free. I don't even have Playstation Plus but I can still enjoy fighting against other players and the only thing that costs money would be cosmetic upgrades to make my character look different in wild outfits--people can never pay-to-win and all the matches start with everybody having nothing besides their pickaxe for harvesting resources and scavenging for everything else.

"Fortnite," and its Battle Royale mode is fun, fast, and free--three things I seek-out nowadays when it comes to my video-games. Having played it I can now easily see why the game has become such a phenomenon--it's a rollicking good time, after all! I'd encourage anyone who enjoys fun games to try it out as all you need is a device capable of playing it (PS4, Xbox One, PC, or even mobile phones now) and an internet connection. Give it a shot and you'll most likely love it!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

STL Comics Has Another Pop-Up Shop This Saturday!

The good folk over at STL Comics are doing another pop-up shop this Saturday. I always enjoy running into STL Comics at various toy and comic shows, cons, and other assorted events. Whenever they do their own pop-up shop it always is fun as they bring a ton of stuff and always are eager to sell!

I hope to have the time to get over to this latest pop-up shop this upcoming Saturday, April 7th, from 10AM-2PM at the Holiday Inn located at 3400 Rider Trl S, Earth City, Missouri 63045. If anyone in the area is able to go there too I'll see you there!