Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My "Best Of 2013" Master-List

I've been posting about my favorite various forms of media these past number of days, and thought it would make sense now that I've finished to have a master-list of sorts that links to all those various articles. Even though some things were shoddy this year (as always) there really was some stellar stuff! I hope your 2013 was great and I wish you a happy New Year!

December 26th
"Saga"--The Best Comic-Book Series of 2013

December 27th
"X-Men Legacy #9"--The Best Single Issue of a comic in 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

"X-Men Legacy #9"--The Best Single Issue of a Comic in 2013

I've made it no secret how much I have enjoyed reading "X-Men Legacy" since it was relaunched with Si Spurrier as the writer and Tan Eng Huat as the often-times artist. While I have loved the run so far (and as it sadly comes ever closer to finishing), my favorite issue would have to be the 9th. When you open your issue with the main character and his romantic interest finally kissing, and then follow that with a joke riffing off of Watchmen you know things are going to get even wilder by the end.
Basically, our protagionist David Haller (don't call him "Legion") is on a date with Ruth Aldine on the moon (also known as "Blindfold") and tells her about how he's decided because the X-Men are always so reactive to threats, he has decided to be proactive and go stop the potential destroyers of mutant-kind before they get a chance to act. That is the general plot of this 2nd arc of the series where a bunch of seemingly unconnected events take place until David Haller learns how much of the newly brewing anti-mutant sentiment is due to some clever subterfuge by the Red Skull. This issue hasn't gotten us to that point though, but deals with a very real threat.

The one problem I have with the issue is that the threat kinds of strains credibility--its the golden-age era version of the character "The Vision" known as "Aarkus" whom despite other comics having established him as living on Earth, for this comic has been living on the Moon, popping over to Earth now and again to pick up some books to pass the time. There, he has apparently picked up the book of Ruth's deceased (well, sort-of deceased) brother and will be launching unforeseen attacks on mutant-kind due to reading about the alleged danger mutants pose that will wipe them out because really, who would expect the Golden-Age Vision (which is kind of why it makes some sense to have this random threat occur, but it still seems odd)?

The threat isn't so much the point of the story though, as it is the fact that Ruth finds the idea of David acting to stop Aarkus before he even does anything wrong...at which point he reveals he actually already took action before even brought her to the moon--which also riffs a bit on "Watchmen" with its famous, "I did it thirty-five minutes ago" line. We as readers feel both disturbed by David's actions, and also see the reasoning behind what he did. It firmly illustrates how David might have the right idea in trying to be proactive in dealing with threats to mutants, but in the process is going to do some things we as readers will be extremely uncomfortable with.

Tan Eng Huat is just as equal a factor at making this issue be one of my favorites, with his style of illustrating being both beautiful and grotesque in how he draws the human form and depictions of David's incredible powers.

Between the amazing story and terrific art this is without question my favorite single issue of a comic in 2013.

PC Gamer--My Favorite Magazine of 2013

I enjoy reading magazines. I've been reading less lately as they can be so expensive, but one I've always been fond of (especially with so many magazines going under) is "PC Gamer", which I've mentioned sometimes before.

In this era where you can get news and opinions on the internet, sometimes people will ask why you need a magazine, and to that I answer that it feels more often through newsprint you can get that high-quality long-form journalism that isn't just giving you bites of news, but deep and well-researched stories. For the same reason I feel sad to see many newspapers going out of business because while getting news on the web can be great, you sometimes need the resources of those bigger news entities to get the really big and juicy stories.

To see many magazines I've loved disappear is sad, so I'm glad to still have PC Gamer, which with its newsprint and web presence, seems to have found a good balance of internet and paper. Its mixture of news, reviews, humor, and insightful commentary makes it my favorite magazine of 2013.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Favorite iPhone App of 2013--Zite

Now, there is a big caveat here in that "Zite" didn't actually come out in 2013, it has been released for some time. However, in the year 2013 it was by far my favorite and most-used app.

I enjoy reading various articles about topics that interest me, Zite asks you what you find intriguing, and after you tell it, various articles are displayed in a main-section and various sub-areas. Then things get magical. You see, while viewing articles via Zite you can tell the application you like an article or don't like it, and from there it will try to find more/less of what you just read. Therefore, the more you read the better Zite gets at predicting what articles you might like--its ingenious!

There are other apps that do things like what Zite does, but I find Zite has such a good user-interface that it beats any other programs that are similar to it. Also, you can have an account that is synced across (for example) your iPhone and iPad so that you don't have to worry about repeating the process of telling Zite what you like and dislike reading about.

I used many helpful apps in 2013, and played a variety of interesting games but Zite easily was the best thing on my iPhone besides you standard stuff like mapping, and of course placing calls.

Turkey Burgers--My Favorite Food-Item of 2013

A random picture of a turkey burger. Tasty!
I have a beef allergy, it's no secret. The thing that sucks the most about it is that I didn't develop the allergy until much later in life (my later high-school years) so I know just how tasty a burger with cheese can be. I've tried various substitutes from Boca/veggie burgers (often gross) to buffalo burgers (not bad), but this year I started to eat a lot more and really enjoy turkey burgers, of all things. Whether it was ones that my girlfriend made for dinner, or out at a restaurant that served them, some Turkey burgers with fries or tater tots and some vegetables on the side was quite easily my favorite food item of 2013 regardless of if it came from a restaurant or my girlfriend's tasty home-cooking.

Besides the delicious taste, one of the best things about turkey burgers is arguably that they are also good for you. As a leaner meat with less fat a turkey burger is loaded with protein and all sorts of quality nutrients. When you can eat something that not only tastes good, but also benefits your health, you know you have a winning food-item on your hands. Therefore, for the year of 2013 turkey burgers are my food-item of the year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Best Movies From 2013 I Still Need To See

Wait, Why List The Best Movies I Haven't Seen?
Talking about my favorite movies of 2013 is a bit tricky because there are a number of flicks I have heard are amazing and that I will love, but which I have not yet had the chance to see. I've just honestly been really bad about seeing as many films as I should have. Whether it has been because movie tickets are so expensive, or the people I am catching a movie with with would rather see a different movie than some of the ones I've been interested in viewing, there are a ton of flicks I have not yet seen. I'm trying to catch up via Redbox and Netflix (for the ones released for home-viewing), but i can only do so much, for I am but one man.

Therefore, next year I could finally get a chance to watch something like, "Gravity" and it could be one of my favorite movies ever (from what I've heard it is superb). I just don't feel comfortable naming my favorite movies of 2013 as I feel I needed to see more. With that in mind, I'm going to present a list of what movies from 2013 I HAVEN'T seen but feel could be anywhere on an enjoyment scale from "good" to "best movie ever". Hopefully, at some point I'll be able to see some or all of these and have a clearer picture of just what kind of year 2013 was for movies besides the relatively small number of films I saw.

In Alphabetical Order:
12 Years a Slave
This film is apparently violent, tough to watch, and extremely good. Gracing many a list as the top film of 2013, "12 Years a Slave" is a film that sounds as fascinating as it is apparently brutal. I definitely want to see this.
2 Guns
I'm a big fan of Mark Wahlberg when he is used well in a filml. I also greatly enjoy Denzel Washington. Plus, this is a movie based on a comic book which puts it a little closer to my heart. Therefore, I want to see this.

All is Lost
Robert Redford is a good actor, he also is probably the actor my mother has the biggest crush on besides Brad Pitt. I know she probably has seen this movie with Redford as a sailor lost at sea struggling to survive, so upon hearing her (probably) recommend this to me I will at some point seek it out.

Behind the Candelabra
Liberace was a complicated man, and seeing his story through the eyes of his "friend"/"chauffeur"/secret lover sounds like an interesting experience. Plus the movie has the equally great Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in it.
Anytime lately I tell someone I want to visit SeaWorld someday they inform me I ought to see this new movie, "Blackfish," that exposes just how horrendous life apparently can be for animals that live and work there. I've read all sorts of things from different viewpoints arguing everything from that the movie is a biased piece of junk to people saying this is proof why SeaWorld needs to be shut down forever. Honestly, I just want to see the movie regardless of other matters as it sounds pretty fascinating.

(The) Bling Ring
I remember when the events of "The Bling Ring" were actually happening in real life and how crazy the whole thing seemed. Emma Watson apparently is great in this and the plot is so crazy it makes one marvel at how this all really happened.

Blue is the Warmest Color
I remember the controversy the film faced in France for winning the "Palme d'Or" which is apparently France's equivalent of a "Best Picture" Oscar because the movie is based on a graphic novel. I also have seen the controversy the film has had in America because of the apparently highly explicit sex scenes between two women. Whatever the case, I think it would be interesting to read the comic and see the movie, comparing and contrasting them along the way. I hope to get around to doing so at some point.

Captain Phillips
Tom Hanks is awesome, so why not see this?

Dallas Buyers Club
I remember when Matthew McConaughey was more of a joke to people than anything else. Then the man started doing little projects that showed, holy Hell, this guy can actually act! "Dallas Buyers Club" is based on the true story of a straight Texan man in the 1980s who discovers he has HIV/AIDS and how it leads him to go from being a homophobic bigot to fighting for the rights of those he used to hate. I really want to see this despite some backlash against it asking if it is "The Help" for gay people.

All I know is this is a Pixar film and involves a Snowman or something. It looks like a cute way to pass some time.

Fruitvale Station
This is another movie that deals with race-issues straight-on and without trying to pretty things up. Based on the true story of a young black man who was killed by police officers for what appears to be little more than racial reasons, this is apparently quite the gut-wrenching flick. Some may complain  that it is 2013 and people are too whiny about racism, but in a world where just being black and dressing as Santa Claus can get you shot by a pellet gun, or a man can shoot an unarmed black teenager and get away with it scot-free, I think movies like this are more needed than ever.

This is another movie I've seen topping many "best of" lists. I've heard this is the most tense 80-something minutes you'll ever see in a movie, and how between the stellar acting of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney mixed with the incredible special effects, this is an incredible flick. I eagerly anticipate its release to home video.

Machete Kills
Yeah, I know this isn't going to be winning any awards this holiday season, but I liked the original "Machete" movie, so sue me if you think my tastes are out of whack putting this movie on a somewhat even plane as "Gravity" as a movie I'm eager to see. I know "Machete Kills" probably is the hokiest and lamest movie of all these listed, but damn it, sometimes you just want to have some good mindless fun and this looks like it can provide that.

Another movie that illustrates how McConaughey can act, I know only a little about this but it sounds pretty interesting with its plot of a convict on the run colliding into a coming-of-age-style tale.

Only God Forgives
This got slammed by many critics, but I wonder how much of that was them actually not liking this movie, and how much it was them having second thoughts about their glowing review of the director Refn's  movie before this, "Drive". Well, I really liked "Drive" and Ryan Gosling is a pretty good actor, so I want to see this.

(The) Place Beyond the Pines
Another movie with Gosling in it, but only as one of the protagonists--Bradley Cooper is apparently very good in this too. I first heard about this when I read a music artist I really like, Mike Patton, was involved with the soundtrack. He makes really weird music, but from what I've read this is a pretty weird movie. I like weird, so I think I might like this movie.

I know three things about this movie. One: Ron Howard directed it. Two: It has Chris Hemsworth AKA Thor in it. Three: It involves incredibly fast Formula One race cars and you know at least one is gonna blow up in an amazing fashion. Even only two of any of those three three factors would have been enough to get me excited to see this.

Warm Bodies
Zombies and a love story. It sounds really weird, but looks quite sweet also. Plus, this is probably the only movie with zombies in recent memory that my girlfriend told me she would like to see, so that's cool too.

(The) Wolf of Wall Street
This just came out, but I already know I may not have the time to see it in theaters, so it therefore is on my list. Watching DiCaprio go from the annoying guy in "Titanic" to the amazing actor he is now is quite the evolution, and Scorsese is such a talented filmmaker that this is bound to be a great film about the excesses of the 1980's.

That's a Lot of Movies
I may very well have forgotten some movies or not know about others I need to see. Should you have a favorite I failed to mention please do tell me and I'll inform you if I did in fact see it, or need to add it to this list.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The 5 Best Video-Games of 2013 (That I Had A Chance to Play)

There were some amazing video-games that came out this year, but which aren't going to be considered "The Best" for me. "Bioshock Infinite" was an amazing game, and I truly enjoyed it immensely, but this year it wasn't my favorite due to so many strong contenders. Also, it should be pointed out there are games I have heard are amazing such as "The Stanley Parable" or "Gone Home", but I have not had a chance to play them, so take my top 5 games with a grain of salt. Also, please note all the games except choice #4 were played on a PlayStation 3 for those who are curious (Choice #4 is a computer game).

My Top 5
5. Saints Row IV
With all the hype surrounding that other open-world crime-simulator game, you could be forgiven for forgetting about "Saints Row IV" You could be, but you wouldn't because this game is just plain awesome. Somehow it keeps the continuity of the previous games going while amping the ridiculousness up even more to a point where the game is spoofing the Modern Warfare games and your character is the President of the United States. Oh, and then after that first hour the aliens attack and you gain superpowers within a simulation of the city of Steelport. Yeah, how can you not find this game utterly and completely insane-yet-good? Plus, it is hilarious, which in this era of more serious games is sometimes needed.

4. Starbound
I debated whether I should include this in my list or not for two reasons. The first is that the game was just released December 4th so its a late entry and the second is that the game is still in very early beta. I decided to include "Starbound" however because even if it has only been out a short while and still is full of bugs (and is missing a multitude of features), I have enjoyed and played it so much that clearly something is very right with the game--and even in this early state it is one of my favorite titles this year. I think to be fair though, I will disqualify it from being considered for a best game of 2014 (if I do that for my blog) when the "full" release will happen as that would not be fair to other titles--as if "Starbound" is this good now it will be incredible before long.

3. Lego Marvel Super Heroes
The series of Lego games may have little technical flaws that are annoying beyond belief, but each game continuously gets better and better to a point where the release of "Lego Marvel Super Heroes" resulted in a game that was just as fun as the stellar "Lego Batman 2", but had my favorite Marvel characters and fixed what was arguably the biggest flaw in the Batman game, horrible flying controls. While these games may at times run jokes into the ground, or have those aforementioned flaws, they are just so fun to play by yourself or with a friend that you can excuse any faults thanks to the great time you have.

2. The Last of Us
This game is one of the most brutal, violent, and depressing stories you'll ever play. It also is touching, human, and thoughtful. The relationship between Joel and Ellie is so well portrayed and "real" in its feeling that you grow to care about these characters as if they were your closet friends. By the time you reach the end of the game and the credits roll you will sit there is disbelief at the quality of storytelling and game-play you just experienced. This would be my game of the year easily were it not for...

1. Grand Theft Auto V
What's that you say? I made the "commercial" choice? I picked the game that has some serious issues with sexism? I should have said something less a favorite of "mainstream" gamers that for some reason so-called "hardcore" gamers loathe? Is that what you're saying? I ask because I can't hear you over all the fun I'm having while you bitch and moan about how GTA V isn't that great, when you know full well it is.

Yes, the game has flaws in its storytelling due to the fact you don't really like the main characters, and perhaps sometimes things feel a bit bloated with all the activities (and only some of them being fun), but my God this game is a masterpiece in so many ways that those concerns fall to wayside easily. This game is a living, breathing world full of characters who all seem to have their own lives and stories. This is a world that is so detailed that if you drive at night without your headlights on other cars will flash their brights at you.
Something so small as that was paid attention to along with something as big as how glorious an explosion is when you detonate some sticky bombs and cars crumble into a mess of fire and billowing smoke.

You could play GTA V and barely bother with the main story, instead wandering around making your own adventures. The online component may be a flawed mess right now, but it was advertised as basically being like its own game, so you can't really judge it in the context of GTA V so much as its own entity (which is good as GTA Online is pretty toxic).

"Grand Theft Auto V" is a technical marvel with some great game-play and a quality (if indeed flawed) story and yes, "GTA V" may be a commercial choice, it might be too "Hollywood" for some with its billion-plus in money made, and it might be trying too hard to seem like its making a statement with its story when it really isn't, but this game is just amazing despite any issues. That's why "Grand Theft Auto V" is my top game of 2013.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Saga"--The Best Comic-Book Series of 2013

"Saga" is an amazing comic. Yeah, I know, I'm not rocking any boats making that statement. Seriously, who would argue "Saga" isn't the bomb-diggity? Issue #9 was the first issue of "Saga" to come out in 2013 and then after the 12th issue we had another painful break-period (which it seems will be happening after every arc so as to allow each issue within said arcs to come out on time) before the series resumed again and continued being superb.

Also, issue #12 has what must be the cutest alien ever.
"Saga" is many things. It is a space-opera, a love story, a tale full of humor yet also heartbreak, and most importantly it is a damn good comic book. Brian K. Vaughn is one of the best writers around, and his getting relatively-newer talent Fiona Staples to illustrate this book takes an already great comic to an unfathomable levels of awesomeness. Between Vaughn's alien worlds and Staples incredible depictions of otherworldly creatures and traditions, "Saga" is just as much about fascinating characters as it is an incredible world.

When Vaughn has worked within the constraints of familiar universes he has made delightful works but has also been somewhat limited. Yeah, "Runaways" was awesome, but because it took place in the Marvel Universe he only had so much freedom, and when he finished the book other writers took on the characters in their own comics to varying degrees of success and failure. With his works that are solely controlled by him and the rest of the creative team such as "Ex Machnia" (which I've also adored) however, you get unparalleled creativity. Aliens with televisions for heads, space-ships that are also trees, magic spells powered by secrets, these are just a few examples of the amazing ideas we witness within "Saga" with incredible art to match the tale.
"This haunted skull is eating my brain" has to be one of my favorite lines ever.
At the end of 2012 "Saga" found itself on plenty "Best-of" lists, having started so strongly. I feel it is a testament to the quality of the book that it continues to be brimming with quality and impressing readers with its world and characters. Many books start strong but then peter out, but "Saga" has been continuously marvelous. Honestly, this book is so good in the process of writing this article I have had to look up synonyms for saying something was splendid so that I wouldn't just keep saying, "This book is awesome," a hundred times. The fact I needed to look up more words to express the quality of this book should be enough proof that Saga is worth reading. It isn't even too far along, you can pick up the first two trades, a number of single-issues and you will be all caught up with this majestic series.

The enjoyment and wonder I feel when reading every issue of Saga makes this easily my favorite series of 2013, and one you should read too. I just want to thank Brian K. Vaughn, Fiona Staples, and Image comics for putting out such a resplendent work. And yes, I did find the word "resplendent" when I was searching for synonyms.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I want to wish all of you who celebrate it a Merry Christmas! I haven't been posting as much lately as this time of year can just be so hectic. I've got some things in the pipeline to post up though so I hope for January to be a productive month of posts to entertain and educate you...or at least provide a momentary distraction from the cold.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Super Graphic Is The Best Book Combining Superheroes and Graphs Ever

I enjoy reading interesting-looking charts and graphs full of information. I also am of course a big fan of comics. Therefore, a book like "Super Graphic" seems almost as if it happened to made just for me.

Within the pages of this book Tim Leong breaks down not just comics with super-heroes, but also discusses topics as varied as the alliteration in the names of Archie comics characters or the lifespans of characters in "The Walking Dead" comic. Don't get me wrong though, plenty/most time is spent discussing superheroes and illustrating fun facts about them in all kinds of ways. A lot of people on the internet may know the venn diagram showing some key similarities between heroes, to give on example of a stellar piece of art/data:
That is just one example of many great pieces and it is hard to describe the book as so much of it is visual and it would be wrong to just post a bunch of graphs and ruin the surprise and joy you feel when seeing something as snazzy as a chart breaking down the assumed politics of super-heroes and villains...
...or other awesome things. Basically, the best thing I can do is to tell you that getting this book is a great idea, as if you enjoy comics (or even if you don't but like cool and funny facts) this is just a stellar read. Seriously, I don't know if its because I like random information or what, but I love this book, and you probably will too!
5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kill Your Idols AKA Let's Be Real About The Comic-Book Industry For A Minute

The Truth, A Hard Pill To Swallow
Lately I feel I've been too nice, whether that is because I've mainly reviewed things I liked, haven't had the time to read shoddy comics, or have cut said crappy comics from my pull-lists to save money. That said, I have had some thoughts swirling around in the my head that seem to be primarily negative and I should just be honest and get them out there, as that has always been my goal. Even if it means "Killing my idols" AKA bringing even those in comic's I love the work of down a peg, I shall now get real about comics. Now then, let's begin giving folk some of the reality they need!

I figured we would lead off with someone who really needs a dose of reality and that would be DC. The company seems to have a gift for pulling off stupid stunts at a such a rate that the website, "hasdcdonesomethingstupidtoday.com" is an actual thing, with the counter being reset at an alarming rate. Whether it is creator mistreatment and interference (See: All the people who have quit books), ill-thought out press campaigns (Example: "Draw Harley Quinn trying to kill herself, and have her be naked too for good measure!"), or just general stupidity (Too many things to make a link to), DC has often been behaving in a way best described as insane.

Their business strategy seems to be them asking, "Will this make us money/garner press attention/get more readers right away?" and if the answer is, "No," them then trying to drastically change things even if a little patience could help bring in more money/readers/press (at least press that isn't horribly negative). DC is doing well economically right now, but it seems to almost be more despite their actions in running their business than because of them.

Compared to DC, Marvel is a happy haven for creators who want a little more artistic and creative freedom. The company is far from perfect though, as I am not the only one getting sick of all these re-launches of comics that make zero sense. "Wolverine and the X-Men" is being re-launched despite little changes to the comic, the main "Wolverine" comic is barely nearing double-digits and will be "coming back" with a new first issue despite having the same writer, following basically the same plot he already had going.

Those are just the X-Men related books, as all the Avenger's comics are a huge mess of random titles too. Oh, and is it just me or does all this, "Inhumanity" business really remind folk of "Earth X" with a strikingly similar plot of the population turning into "Inhumans" with some of the only big differences being not everyone is transforming and this is taking place in the modern day?

Image Comics
You guys are actually in a new golden age of success, basically. You are seeming to be pumping out a lot of new comics in the hopes that one becomes the next "Walking Dead" however. Maybe slow down on that.

Independent Comics
I love the smaller publishers, they put out some amazing things. That makes it all the more sad that you have some entities dying due to poor business, or others such as a relatively-bigger publisher like Fantagraphics turning to Kickstarter in order to assure survival in this rocky market. It is just unfair that the big companies can put out the umpteenth "Justice League" or "Avengers" book and make a ton of money while some people who are putting out stuff that is just as good (or better) in quality face an uphill battle to stay in existence.

Alan Moore
Alan, I love your comics, buddy, and I agree you get screwed-over way too often ("Before Watchmen", anyone?), but if you are going to come off like a really cranky old man in all your interviews you're going to find people are less-then-sympathetic to you. Maybe just shut up and let your work speak for you, as it is some amazingly good work.

Frank Miller
Again, I love your comics (or most of them) too, but you come off as a crazy-person with the Islamophobia and such. You seem to have a been a bit better about keeping your mouth shut lately though, so I'll give you credit for that.

All The "Forgotten" Creators
I'm not mad at you guys, I'm mad at the companies who let you make such amazing works for them and then promptly forgot you once you are in need. Too many men and women have died in poverty despite creating comic characters that bring in absurd amounts of money because they didn't get any intellectual ownership over their creations and the big companies such as DC and Marvel could care less when their health takes a turn for a worse or they need help due to the general issues of getting older. It is disgusting that people who did so much get so little as thanks.

Sexual Harassment in Comics
This one has got me especially mad. At first people seemed to at least be talking about sexual harassment in the comic-book industry after some unsavory facts started to come out about creators such as Brian Wood. It seems people already are starting to forget/not care about how rampant sexism and harassment can be in comic-books and the issue is just going away. It basically makes the new joke-article on the The Comic's Journal by the ever-awesome Tucker Stone and Abhay Khosla seem far too true in its, "How to break into comics and still be a huge creep" theme.

I guess we as a comic-reading population really are going to just quietly push this issue under the rug as if it were some dust we'd rather not have to sweep up and try to clean the industry of. It makes me really sad, and even more mad that just as with almost any other controversy in comics this is going to slowly go away, as the fans would rather be able to keep reading their fun stories and pretend that a lot of unsavory stuff isn't going on than face the uncomfortable truth that things are messed up.

The Comic-Book Industry Overall Is a Dysfunctional Mess
It seems for every amazing comic or great idea we have 3 times more stuff that is boring, derivative, or otherwise not worth reading--but that is nothing new. The mainstream companies are behaving in a matter more erratic than a drug-addict coming down, the more independent labels continue to be ignored by much of the population, and sexual harassment occurs in comics and we turn a blind-eye. Some of the best creators have now been reduced to cranky old men by an industry that screwed them over, or are dying penniless because creators of characters who generate millions of dollars can barely scrape-by due to being ignored by the companies they helped make so successful with their stories. If this doesn't describe an industry that is a dysfunctional mess then I don't know what does.

You know what though? Despite all these problems I still love comics, because there are those amazing stories that just leave you bewildered and amazed. Some companies are treating creators right, sexual harassment at least was talked about and maybe, just maybe some impact will be had in stopping it. I may be striking some of the idols down right now, but I don't want them to be having problems. I want the big companies to get their act together, the small ones to thrive, creators to be happy and not abused sexually or financially. I want all this and truly hope for positive things. I just also know that in reality a lot of stuff is seriously messed up, and won't be getting much better anytime soon. How's that for a bummer of a closing thought?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Comic Review: "The End of the F****ing World"

While I edited the title slightly in the subject-line for those with delicate sensibilities, this book is in fact called, "The End of the Fucking World" or "TEOTFW" for short. Originally released as a series of micro-comics through writer/artist Charles Forsman's "Oily Comix" mini-publishing line, I picked up the book which collects all the segments and was recently published by Fantagraphics. This is best described as a twisted, "coming of age tale," that focuses primarily on a young boy who is a borderline (if not complete) sociopath named James, and his girlfriend who desperately wants to understand him, Alyssa. Two youth mad at the world going around America, what could go wrong?

 This is an interesting story with 16 parts, half of which are from James point of view, and another half are narrated by Alyssa. "TEOTFW" shows James and Alyssa going on a road-trip of sorts in an effort to both help James get away from his horrendous father and to help Alyssa potentially find her estranged one. Along the way various people are met, some surprisingly nice but most out to hurt or take advantage of our young couple.
 James clearly is very disturbed in his descriptions of how from a young age he started killing animals, and almost had the urge to kill Alyssa but instead, "Tried to let her in," showing that  at least maybe he isn't all bad. Alyssa is an interesting person too but doesn't seem to get as fleshed out during the story, instead being relegated more to a supporting-character role despite having half the book take place from her point of view. Things start to get more dangerous and violent when James and Alyssa by chance encounter a married couple who are in fact full-blown sociopaths. In my desire to not spoil too much I will merely say that from there things escalate quickly and don't necessarily end well for everyone.

Despite the story being quite dark, the art often has a nice light and clean feel. Forsman draws in a minimalist style where every line and dab of ink seem purposeful and never overstated. The often carefully-constructed geometric panels that make up the pages cause the comic to often feel like one of those daily strips you could find in the newspaper--albeit a very tragic one. Despite almost sometimes seeming a little too cute, in the end it works wonderfully for the story.
"TEOTFW" is a comic that is equal parts interesting and sad. As a portrait of disaffected youth and what it might be like to be (or fall in love with) a sociopath it is superb, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in a dark and engrossing story with intriguing art.
4 out of 5 stars.