Monday, June 26, 2017

Rant-Reviews: #2-#6 Because I'm Reading a Mix (of Comics)!

Numbers Are Always Fun
It is no secret I like doing silly little number-tricks when I review comics, counting up numbers and such. This time I thought I would start with a second issue of a comic and go on up to the sixth issue of a book. Some of these books are just starting, others are in the middle, and one actually concludes with its latest issue.

Commence Counting!
Slasher #2
Charles Forsman is a highly-talented man who is starting to get a lot of recognition for his amazing indie-comics. His series, "The End of the Fucking World," was  fascinating look at two horribly damaged teenagers, his, "Revenger," series is a stellar take on 1970's and 1980's style exploitation movies, and now we have, "Slasher." I would describe, "Slasher," as being like a horror-movie that's produced by a small independent film studio. It isn't outrageously gory or scary, instead ratcheting up tension and unease while telling the tale of two horribly fucked-up people who are slowly letting their inner-psychopath out.

The main characters are  woman named Christine and a teenager named Joshua who  have met online and they both have an affinity for knife-play and violent fantasies. In this issue however Christina starts to act-out these fantasies and I wonder if Joshua is going to be into it or freak-out. To Forsman's credit he doesn't demonize these people or make it clear right away they have these dark secrets, instead almost garnering some sympathy for them as he shows these lives of quiet desperation they live--be it difficult parents, a harassment-prone supervisor, or a litany of other things that clearly have driven these seemingly normal people to start doing some terrible things to themselves and others. "Slasher," is a stellar book and thankfully despite being an indie-comic is getting a somewhat wider-release (e.g. you can find it in, "Previews,") so you have no excuse to skip-out on reading it.
5 out of 5 stars.

Plastic #3
If the aforementioned, "Slasher," is a serious study of flawed people doing terrible things, this comic from Image is more of a gross-out flick with a heavy dose of humor. This book has focused on a mysterious reformed serial-killer whom we only learn the name of in this issue as he continues his violent crusade to get back the kidnapped love of his life, Virginia. Oh, and Virginia is a sex-doll. Yes, this whole book is a bloody and pretty hilarious yarn with its psychotic man who honestly now would quit hurting people if he was just left alone, but instead he's gotta ramp-up the murder quotient in order to save his sweetheart--who again, is a sex-doll. "Plastic," is a strange and funny book that honestly surprised me with how good it is based on how the solicitations made it sound like it was trying almost too hard to be quirky and weird. It doesn't seem that way though, with all the zany elements and brutal ones actually mixing together quite perfectly to result in a book that I love. I believe this is a mini-series and only has two issues left, so I'll be sure and savor them!
5 out of 5 stars.

Amerikarate #4
"Amerikarate," has been a comic that is all about a mixture of love for and spoofing of classic 1980's movies and comes to us via Action Lab. Whether riffing on martial-arts flicks, "Roadhouse," "Dirty Dancing," or a multitude of other references, this comic is good over-the-top fun even if sometimes it seems more busy trying to be silly than actually telling much of a concrete story. This issue marks the conclusion of the first story-arc although another one is coming soon, as our karate-chopping heroes kill the dictator of an island nation all in the name of Justice. Again, it is a very silly book but I like it a pretty good deal.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Man-Thing #5
R.L. Stine wrote this, "Man-Thing," mini-series which concludes with this issue. Stine is an author who is of course known for his superb young-adult series, "Goosebumps," as well as, "Fear Street." I have read a great many of his titles when growing-up and found many of them enjoyably scary, funny, and great. I'm not sure if this is his first comic-work, but if it is he's turned in an admirable if flawed effort. When you hear about a man known for his horror-writing taking on a character who has the power to make people that fear him burn at his touch, you might expect a scary comic. This series weirdly wasn't that.

R.L. Stine's, "Man-Thing," was more of a silly little jaunt full of interdimensonal travel, and jokes about show-business as the character inexplicably gains the ability to think and talk, and then loses the ability to talk shortly after but maintains his full mental capabilities for the rest of the mini-series. There are lots of jokes and this frankly reads as more of a humor-based comic than it does something scary as you might expect from Stine. Every issue, including this one, have also had little short back-up stories by him as well which feature more of a scare-based vibe even if there is still some humor, but the main, "Man-Thing," book really has been straight-up jokes. This is okay though as many of the goofy bits land well, but it all reads as a very competent comic as opposed to something amazing. This was a good mini-series and this issue ends it decently, but that's it--good, not great. It was quite the, "Get," for Marvel to have Stine make a story about one of their characters and he does a fine job, but I honestly just expected a bit more.
3 out of 5 stars.

Uber: Invasion #6
Kieron Gillen continues to write the widest variety of comics of anyone currently making books in the industry that I can think of as he balances his time between projects like, "The Wicked and the Divine," as well as this WWII alternate history with super-powered Allies and Nazis. Published by Avatar Press--so you know it gets bloody--the #6 is a bit misleading as this book went for a good number of issues when titled simply, "Uber," before being relaunched. As I read the previous series it is hard to say just how new-reader friendly these latest entries have been, but regardless of how accessible the book is I still continue to enjoy its mixture of historical fact and fictional bloodshed. When people talk about Gillen a variety of his critical and commercial hits come-up, but far few people seem to discuss his, "Uber," books. I wish that would change as this always entertains.
4 out of 5 stars.

Count-Closing
This time I altered my counting just a bit, and as always had fun with this activity. Perhaps in the future I'll do even higher numbers, or perhaps multiples of a number if I feel extra wacky? We shall see!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

I Get Abnormally Mad at Stupid Advertisments

When I'm watching television that hasn't been DVR'd I of course have to sit-through the ads. This is a normal part of life and I have no issue with it. However, I seem to have a problem where I get abnormally mad at advertisements that strike me as being really stupid. Something about really dumb ads just enrages me. Now, I like ads that are silly or intentionally dumb and absurd, don't be confused. I'm talking about the supposedly professional and snazzy T.V. spots that are just moronic. Car promotions seem to be the worst.

I will see advertisements for cars that just strike me as horrifically stupid. For example, there is an ad for the Honda Accord where the wife wants the husband to upgrade his old car to the new Honda Accord...and they even mention his old car is another Honda Accord! Therefore, the only big difference is a camera for when he backs-up, which somehow makes him so excited you think he's gonna jizz himself with delight. Or that car ad where it looks like the couple keeps humping in the car so they have to keep getting a bigger and bigger one? I'm serious, that is real and many agree it is weird:


I just can't stand dumb ads, and while car advertisements are often stupid, perfume and cologne ads are just indecipherable. We get the most random imagery that makes zero sense, usually have barely-clothed people in strange mythical-looking lands, and then get a logo for whatever new scent the companies want us to buy. Look, I get it can be hard to impart a sense of smell through a visual medium and you need to be creative, but being bizarrely enigmatic ain't gonna help you.

Now, there are plenty of other idiotic ads that on television, and I don't even have the energy to go into dumb internet pieces that play before Youtube videos or such. That said, car and perfume/cologne ads are the biggest offenders at making me irrationally pissed-off at the stupidity on display. It's silly, but that's my struggle.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Flashback Friday: Halcyon

I've read a lot of comics in my life, clearly. There are ones that I found amazing, books I found terrible, as well as comics  that I immediately forgot and others that stuck with me. One comic I found really enjoyable and which also stuck with me would be, "Halcyon." A mini-series that went five issues and was originally announced under the name, "Utopia," before a title-change, It seems to barely be remembered online, although I can find some other reviewers who liked it.

Written by Marc Guggenheim and Tara Butters, the general concept in the comic is one that I find extremely clever in that all the anger and violence in the world among humans has been decreasing over the year to the point where nobody wants to commit a violent crime, fight over religion, or go to war about resources. It is obvious that this isn't normal, but people figure it is okay, because what's so bad about World peace? The Batman-esque hero Sabre feels this is all horribly wrong though, and later in the comic discovers that the big-time super-villain, Oculus, actually created a device that has been beaming out a signal of sorts that makes everyone peaceful/non-violent. Basically, he figured the most evil thing he could arguably do to the heroes was make them unnecessary in a happy and wonderful world--basically doing something that makes him the hero.
Sabre confronts Oculus
However, once the truth is realized Sabre goes and tries to destroy the device, with everyone discovering the closer you get to the beam/transmitted the less it affects you. Hence, plenty of violence occurs and Sabre basically becomes the villain in his wanting to make the world a miserable place again because he claims people deserve free will...but maybe he just hates being made obsolete in a land of joy and peace.

Ryan Bodenheim provides artwork that is very clean, precise, and works wonderfully for this comic at showing these incredible powered beings coming to terms with the fact they are now obsolete. Bodenheim's artwork has a nice formal look but he can break-out some stellar imagery at times, such as in the fifth and final issue when Sabre releases an energy blast that rips a former colleague apart. After some relatively restrained artwork it is a shockingly graphic and grotesquely gorgeous image. Observe:

"Halcyon," was a book that really struck me when I first read it upon its being released back in late 2010 through early 2011 and when I was rooting through all my comics to identify ones to sell I made sure to put it aside and re-read it, having recalled that I found it quite well-written and full of great artwork. I would recommend people seek it out if they like super-heroic stories with a dash of philosophy that explores that question of just what happens when the heroes, "Win," by having violence end, but in order to truly win in this case they have to let themselves lose, in a sense. It's great stuff.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Start-of-the-Summer News and Links for June 2017

Summertime Is Here!
Summer has arrived!
As of yesterday is it officially Summer now. It's also hot as Hell in many parts of the Nation. Let's cool-off via enjoying my various links by a nice big air conditioner, shall we?

News and Opinions
Real or fake, your ads suck.
You know those incredibly annoying ads by Chevy that feature, "Real people," absolutely fawning over the cars? This article by the AV Club discusses how in a shocking twist these ads actually feature...real people? Huh, who would have thunk-it?

I enjoyed the first, "Mass Effect," and what I played of the sequel. Apparently the mess that the latest game, "Andromeda," turned out to be can be blamed on quite a tumultuous development cycle.

My article I wrote about the politics of Frank Miller some time ago garnered a solid share of agreement and ruffled a fair share of feathers as well. Reading this piece where a reviewer discusses a book about reconciling a love of Miller's past work with how he behaves today says a lot of what I tried to say even better than I could.

A whole bunch of previously unreleased pictures of Jimi Hendrix are now available for public consumption. The man was undeniably a genius and as, "Rolling Stone," magazine has said (and I agree with their conclusion), the greatest guitarist ever.

I am thankful that video-game companies don't appear to be pursuing the whole, "Shared-Universe," concept with all their very different franchises (outside of some in-jokes) that many film studios seem to think will somehow succeed and bring them immense wealth through sheer force of will against all logic because, "Hey, it worked for Marvel!". Yeah, I'm not a fan of unneeded shared-universe ideas done poorly.

Reactions to the announcement of more, "Watchmen," adaptations on the horizon are mixed at best, annoyed and peeved at worst.

I've seen it pointed out how for a group that always protests how gun-owners deserve respect the NRA has been silent on the murder of Philando Castile and his killer walking free, giving the impression that the NRA respects gun rights for only Americans who happen to be white. Castile did everything he should have, informing the officer of his legally registered firearm, and he still was shot-down like an animal while his murderer was able to hide behind their badge and get away with it, as all the cops who kill black men seem to do (and I'm not anti-police, I just want the police to be accountable for those on the force who are the bad apples and do this shit). It is depressing.

The company, "Juicero," sure sounds like a horrendous mess of a control-freak CEO and unrealistic optimism mixed with ludicrous amounts of investment money.

Earlier today I realized that we are now less than a month away from San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International. It is sure to be a big mess of announcements for film, movie, video-games, and maybe comics if they can get some attention in between all the other stuff. I'll of course be paying close attention to all the news to come out of the show and most likely have plenty of snarky opinions to share.

I remember this video-game you had to play in the sun! Called, "Boktai," it was for the Game Boy Advance and was pretty fun. Before, "Pokemon Go," became a big thing this was arguably the only video-game you needed to put on sunscreen (upon your body, not the device) to enjoy safely.

Our Nation's Moron-in-Chief, Donald Trump, today tweeted that he never made any tapes of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey despite previously claiming he did. This means Trump is either a liar, an idiot, or both. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, "Both."

Lastly, I just want to point-out that the superb comic, "Buzzkill," is getting a re-release in trade via Image comics. This is one of the first works by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw to ever come-out and illustrated how great they already were. It is a prime example of why I'm not surprised they are having so much respective success now with a hit like, "God Country."

Enjoy the Season!

Get on out there (when it isn't too hot) and enjoy a dip in the pool, walk in the park, or something else fun. Oh, and for my readers South of the Equator, perhaps enjoy a ski-trip or something?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Is DC's Latest Event-Teasing Comic Any Good? A Review of, "Dark Days: The Forge #1"

I love doing my rant-reviews/capsule reviews but sometimes you just wanna do a deeper-dive into a single comic because there is a variety to discuss. This book was interesting because it was strange, and while I wasn't amazed, I did overall at least like this comic. First off, the artwork is solid throughout as various talents pop-up to provide their talents (Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, and John Romita Jr.), but Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV really have maybe a bit too much going on within the span of this single comic for much to make any sense.

"The Forge," leads into the upcoming DC event, "Metal," which seems to be about how a mystical metal provides many famous artifacts in the DC Universe with power. This isn't just about that though, it involves other worlds, past Universes such as the New 52 one, and the denizens of that universe such as Plastic Man, plus we have one of the, "Three Jokers," a version of, "The Outsiders," so-called, "Immortal Men," the possibility of a dystopia ruled by Batman, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl play a role too. Also, Green Lantern is involved too because something is up with his ring that relates to all this. Yes, there is a lot going on here and it can be a bit much.
Oh, I didn't even mention the dimensional tuning-fork
To the credit of all these competing stories, enough stuff is interesting that I'm considering giving, "Metal," some attention. While I could take-or-leave the idea of various powerful items in the DC Universe all sharing some mystical metal, I'm a fan of stories that involve alternate universes as well as tales where those dimensions meet-up. This book isn't exactly friendly to casual readers of the DC Universe however (like myself) who just dip our toes into various books. No, this is the kind of thing that rewards folk with extensive knowledge of DC and I had to look-up a lot of reviews and break-downs to make sense of some things.

"Dark Days: The Forge," is a comic so loaded with teasers for a variety of story-elements that it hampers the overall flow of the plot a bit with an unclear focus. Is this a tale of magical metals, alternate universes, dark futures ruled over by Batman, or a multitude of other things? Thankfully a variety of these ideas are compelling and--as I said--the book looks quite good, so I overall liked this comic and am curious what comes next--which was arguably its whole intent, to get us intrigued in future stories.
3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Saint Louis Comic-Con 2017 In Review--Overall Thoughts

I enjoyed this years Saint Louis Comic-Con immensely. I didn't go Sunday as I enjoyed my first Father's Day with a son at home, but I was there extensively Saturday. It was great to come to a comic convention where there is big focus on comics and comic-related merchandise. I am perfectly okay with other interesting vendors at comic-shows, but it is nice when there is more than just a handful of comic-sellers (I even overheard many people stating how they were pleased to see actual comics at a comic-convention). This year's Saint Louis Comic-Con had all kinds of folk selling a variety of cool comics, people with Funkos, minifigure-merchants, folk selling clothing or decorative weaponry, and all other kinds of neat stuff. There were some snazzy guests too such as Chris Claremont who was very nice and gave a great talk Saturday as well.

I viewed some cosplay contests while at the show and they were all fun, but the cutest was by far the children's-cosplay event where little kids walked-up on the stage (or had parents carry them up) and looked adorable. You already know I'm hatching plans for what Clarkson can dress-up as if he comes to a con with me sometime in the future.

The Saint Louis Comic-Con was much larger in terms of floor-space and the expanded event-space was for sure a good thing to have as this show was busy! When the doors first opened in the morning there wasn't too long a line to get in, but when I stepped-out of the main show-floor at 11:30AM to use the restroom the trickle of folk arriving had turned into a metaphorical downpour. The line winded around and everyone was eager to get into the show, with lots of excitement and good spirits being evident among all the attendees. I think a mixture of positive word-of-mouth about last year's show, the fair pricing, and free parking all helped to make this show appealing to the fans!

This year was a great one for Saint Louis Comic-Con. It had a fantastic debut last year and this second show continued the stellar momentum of fun and fans. I want to thank Geek Inc. Comics/Mighty Con for putting on such a great show and remembering that when it comes to comic conventions, people want fair prices and good fun!

Saint-Louis Comic-Con 2017 In Review--Items I Got

Items = Fun!
I met cool people at the show of course, but when we go to comic conventions don't just make precious memories, but it's also fun to get stuff too. With that in mind, I want to present the things I got at this year's Saint Louis Comic-Con!


Stuff I Got (in Alphabetical-ish Order)
Alien VS Predator Playset
I of course love many of the, "Alien," movies and adore a number of the, "Predator," flicks. While I may not be the biggest fan of the movies where characters from the franchises actually met, this playset a vendor had out caught my eye and after I found myself repeatedly walking past it and staring at the darn thing during the show I knew I just needed to buy it.

Avatar Press Trade Paperbacks
I'm a big fan of comics new and old from Avatar Press, so when I saw these two trade paperbacks on sale for just five dollars each I grabbed them. I already have a hardcover copy of, "Black Summer," but don't have it in paperback and this collection of some Alan Moore-works looked fun, so it was a good purchase.

Colored-in Wonder Woman Comic
I previously picked-up this black-and-white variant Wonder Woman comic which I got signed by its writer, Merdith Finch at another comic convention. I wasn't a huge fan of the story-arc this became but love the art by David Finch on the cover. Jeff Balke was kind enough to let me commission him to give it some color and really make it pop! It now looks even better displayed on my bookshelf thanks to the awesome color.

Doc Brown Funko Pop
As my wife and I were married on what is known as, "Back to the Future Day," we enjoy collecting various items related to the series. Therefore, when I was able to grab this Funko Pop of Doc Brown you know I jumped on the opportunity to have it!

Moon Knight Figurines
I got two awesome Moon-Knight minifigures, one in a snazzy case for display and another one by itself for enjoying with my Lego playsets!

Negan Minifigure
My Mother-in-Law is a huge fan of, "The Walking Dead," and her favorite actor by far is Jeffery Dean Morgan. Therefore, when he became Negan for the television show she was basically in heaven. I knew she would appreciate a cute little miniature version of someone who on the show is not at all sweet and adorable.

"Predator 2," Comic--With Dark Horse Trading Cards!
As discussed earlier in this post, I love the Predator movies. There have been a variety of Predator-related comics but this one looked cool as it was the first issue of the official comic-book adaptation of the 2nd movie. Also, the Dark Horse trading cards that were advertised as coming with it still were in the comic, which I took as a sign I ought to snatch it up.

"Tyrants," Comics
I mentioned meeting the guys from Hollow Harbor press in my post earlier today, and this was the comic-series they were at the con promoting. It is about a family dealing with power, magic, and sounded exciting. I look forward to reading and reviewing it!

Hooray for Things!
I tried to be responsible with my budget this year and only get stuff I really wanted--and not buy too many comics as I've been selling many of my books already, after all. I think I did a good job with that goal, as I didn't purchase too much, but what I did buy (or was given for the purposes of review) I am really pleased about.

Saint Louis Comic-Con 2017 In Review--Some Cool People I Met

Chit-and-Chat!
There were a bunch of cool folk I met and talked with at the Saint Louis Comic-Con this year! How about we discuss them in alphabetical-ish order?

The People I Met
Amy Hale
I met author Amy Hale who had a variety of cool books for sale and has an intense thriller titled, "The Things we Cannot See," coming out this Fall which I am for sure interested in as a fan of thriller-stories. I subscribed to her e-mail newsletter so I can be in-the-loop about when its released!

Archon
I chatted with a representative from the Sci-Fi Convention, Archon. Considered by many to be the Midwest's Premier Sci-Fi Con, it sounded like a really cool time and I should for sure try and get to it assuming my schedule cooperates!

Excuse my medicore photo-taking skills
Chris Claremont
The line was usually long to get to meet him, but it was worth the wait as Chris Claremont was very engaging and fun to speak with. Known for a variety of comic-works and arguably the writer who helped take Wolverine from a dull character to a fan-favorite, Mr. Claremont was a delight to see.

DMen Designs
One of the coolest things I saw at the show were tables, end-tables, and other decorations made out of actual comic-book art. It was super-impressive and gorgeous stuff at reasonable prices and I would encourage you to check-out their page.


Hollow Harbor
I chatted with some really cool gentlemen from the publisher Hollow Harbor who have a comic titled, "Tyrants," which I picked-up and look forward to reading and reviewing!

Jane Bush and Arleana Holtzmann
Sharing a booth which showed-off their stellar artwork were Jane Bush and Arleana Holtzmann. Both had some fantastic-looking pieces I encourage you to check out Ms. Bush's work here and Ms. Holtzmann's artwork on her website.

Jeff Balke
Jeff Balke is a fantastic colorist and I always enjoy running into him at various conventions. This time he actually colored something for me which I'll discuss in my post later about the stuff I got at the show.

Meraki House Comics
I made the acquaintance of J.W. Cury who is the CEO and Art Director of Meraki House Comics. He told me they were a local publisher dedicated to helping new creators get their work published. You can find them online here!

STL Brick Fanatics
I purchased some cool minifigures from STL Brick Fanatics. They had an assortment of cool stuff and said they would reach-out to me when they got some Luke Cage figures in stock, as they didn't have any on-hand at the show but wanted to be sure and get one to me when I inquired. That's some great customer service!

Cool People Everywhere!
There were a variety of cool people at the Saint Louis Comic-Con this year, and as usual I'm sure I forget to mention many due to forgetting to grab a business card/being my flighty self.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Saint Louis Comic-Con 2017 Posts Tomorrow!

This Year's Saint Louis Comic-Con has wrapped as of today. I had a fantastic time and will be putting-up some posts tomorrow discussing the people I met, stuff I got, and my overall thoughts on the show. Expect posts as soon as very early in the morning!

Happy Father's Day!

I am so honored that as of this Father's Day I am not only a daddy to fur-babies, but also my son Clarkson. From his early arrival, to when he came home, to today he has been a wonderful joy to have in the life of Samii and myself. I want to wish all the other fathers out there a wonderful day too and thank everyone who has reached-out to me to share their warm thoughts as well.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

My Thoughts on the, "Black Panther," Trailer



When it comes to movie trailers it seems normally you've got to post your thoughts as soon as possible or people will move on to the next thing in a short span of time. I was so busy formulating my thoughts about the, "Black Panther," trailer however it has now been a number of days since its debut and I still haven't shared an opinion. I shall rectify this...

To summarize the trailer in one sentence:
Oh Hell yes!

Seriously though, we see how this ties into the main Marvel Cinematic Universe with a villain from, "Age of Ultron," and Martin Freeman from, "Captain America: Civil War," popping-up at the start, but even if this takes place among the Marvel movies it clearly is its own unique and gorgeous thing. The outfits, action set-pieces, and just how awesome Chadwick Boseman looks and acts as the Black Panther all grab a viewer's attention and demand your awe. Plus, this is a mostly-black cast in a field of movies (super-hero flicks) that besides some exceptions like, "Blade," or Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, tends to be pretty white.

I wasn't really worried about if this was going to seem promising however, as director Ryan Coogler has created great stuff before ("Fruitvale Station," "Creed," to name his previous work), and seems to be bringing his film-making talent into, "Black Panther," with full-force (and of course his oft-collaborator Michael B. Jordan is here too, making him the second person to play the Human Torch in a, "Fantastic Four," movie and then get to make-up for it as a different character).

Oh, and because Marvel the Publisher can't quit messing-up even when Marvel the Movie Studio is doing well, a newer comic that ties-in with Black Panther which was just about to have the first trade come out has been cancelled. That first trade is now the only trade, so there won't be a bunch of newer comics to tell people interested in the character about when his movie releases, just the main, "Black Panther," series in trade and one edition of this, which I'm sure most non-readers of comics who might want to try trades will love. I'm so sarcastic sometimes it hurts.

Anyways, I'm excited for this movie, and from the looks of things, many other folk are too. Of course, some haters have to come out of the woodwork as always and complain about random and stupid stuff, but I think most of us are pumped for this film.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I've Been Continuing To Read Manga And Have Reviews

Yet Even More!
I previously discussed how I was dipping my toe into the, "Manga," pool more, and then I talked about when I continued to read some more books. I've been reading yet even more Manga-books lately thanks to my local libraries and good deals at book-stores, so I thought  I would discuss what I've picked-up!

My Latest Manga Reads
Goodnight Punpun Volume 3
Punpun grows older with every volume, and seems to be less and less a precocious little kid than a bit of a self-obsessed jerk. I don't know if Inio Asano has intended for Punpun to seem that way, but he kind of does. As seemingly sweet characters reveal their metaphorical fangs, folk get hurt, relationships get cheated on, and throughout it all there is still some bits of great humor that help keep things from feeling too dark--plus as always Punpun and his family are weirdly illustrated as minimalist blobs while everything else on the page is hyper-detailed in its drawing or incorporation of photography. The first volume of this series has a melancholic vibe but also was fun and absurdist. There still is some of that in these later books, but even the quirkiest characters have been revealed to have a decent amount of depth, with mean characters shown to maybe not be all bad, and seemingly perfect folk making it apparent they have a number of flaws all their own. This is one of the stranger and best comics I've read, and as with my reviews of the previous books I encourage you to check this out.
5 out of 5 stars.
Citrus Volumes 2-5
I quite liked the first volume of Citrus, a weird little slice-of-life Yuri-themed tale about two step-sisters with an extremely complicated and somewhat taboo relationship. Written and illustrated by Saburouta, my library had the other five volumes that have come in out English so I requested they be put on hold. I gave them all a read and now here we are! As for volumes #2-#5, I enjoyed them a great deal too but started to notice the plot will at times advance certain aspects at quite the glacial pace.

The whole point of this manga is centered on the relationship between two step-sisters and their will-they-or-won't-they relationship (as presented to younger-adult readers), but it finally takes to the end of the 4th volume/start of the 5th volume for the characters to agree they are actually dating and for the plot to show some glimmers of life outside of pages and pages of repressed longing and, "I don't know how to handle these feelings,"-type chapters. It results in books #3 and #4 feeling like they drag a bit, with the attempt to spice things up by introducing new characters in each who complicate things coming off more as filler than exciting plot developments. As I mentioned though, the fifth volume finally seems to have some momentum as an interesting development occurs with a student-government election and actual stakes (the risk of being expelled) as opposed to just the earlier books never-ending, "I like you--no I don't--yes I do--no I don't." I'm thinking when the sixth book comes out it will keep the invigorated pace of the latest volume, at least I hope it does.
Volume 2: 4 out of 5 stars.
Volumes 3 and 4: 3 out of 5 stars.
Volume 5: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

High School of the Dead Vol. 1 & 2
I read this, but honestly have trouble recalling much about it. I recently read the writer passed away, which is sad, but that's about all I remember off the top of my head. I mean, I didn't hate it, but clearly not much stuck with me. Essentially a zombie outbreak occurs and the first volume follows some high school students in Japan as they struggle to deal with it. Volume 2 gets a bit more interesting as we see how other folk are handling the outbreak, because frankly the high schoolers themselves are a little dull and some bathing-related nudity in the 2nd volume makes it clear the book realizes readers need something to keep their attention. The art is passable and at times shows a nice flourish during scenes of zombie-fighting action, but little stood-out to me--as I said, I'm having trouble recalling much of note in this manga. I don't regret reading it, but if I had paid for the books (as I did with some of the manga I've reviewed) as opposed to getting them from my local library I might be a little perturbed. I'd rate these a boring-yet-not-terrible...
2 out of 5 stars (for both volumes).


Safe-for-work smileys!
Aqua Bless and Peachy Triangle
I read and quite enjoyed the sexually charged, "Vanilla Essence," which was basically illustrated pornography/"boderline h/hentai", but really sex-positive and peppy pornography. I reached out to the publisher behind the book, Project H (please note that website is not safe for work at all), who were happy to provide some other titles for review I thought looked interesting--specifically, "Aqua Bless," and, "Peachy Triangle." "Aqua Bless," is from the creator of, "Vanilla Essence," Yamatogawa, and has some fun and sexy tales, with the first one being especially striking in how it tells the story of a young woman who has psychic abilities she can't control that involve her feeling the sexual pleasure of everyone around her--despite physically being a virgin herself. If I may spoil the twist at the end of the story, it seems her gift may actually be shared with others through the act of having sex, almost like some kind of sexually-transmitted-psychic-power--it is good and silly fun. Another humorous yarn is where a twin poses as her sister to get a young man to admit his feelings for her--but as always seem to happen in situations where twins pose as one another things go pretty awry. It's a really funny (and sexy) book for sure.

"Peachy Triangle," is--as the title hints--about a love triangle. Written and illustrated by Renya Sabashi, it centers on a young man named Kazuki who is interested in a classmate named Ako, but she's more into another girl named Chikage. They enter in a poly-relationship of sorts but a variety of factors come-up that result in some dramatic (and raunchy) situations. There are some other shorter stories besides the main one but they were a little less remarkable. "Peachy Triangle," was overall a fine book and interesting, but it lacked as much of the humor that, "Aqua Bless," had that made it so enjoyable. Both books were great though and if you like your manga highly sexually-charged, Project H doesn't disappoint.
Aqua Bless: 5 out of 5 stars.
Peachy Triangle: 4 out of 5 stars.

Inuyashiki Volumes 2-5
The first book wasn't too bad, but also lacked much, "Wow," factor. I was able to get my hands on books 2-5 thanks to the City Library however, and read through all the volumes I got in an epic multiple-hour reading session one weekend. Having read more of the story I would say it definitely gets more interesting, and whereas I found, "Gantz," starting to lose me with its 3rd book after five of these I'm still quite intrigued by this title. Writer and artist Hiroya Oku has been giving us an interesting take on super-hero styled stories, but without the usual capes and such. This instead is more grounded, focusing on a world where our hero (Inuyashiki Ichiro) has his body destroyed and rebuilt by aliens, and in an effort to still feel human goes around helping others. What is interesting, is that in the second book we focus on a young schoolboy named Shishigami  Hiro who also was affected by that alien crash, but he goes in the opposite direction. Hiro starts murdering people with his powers for little reason other than it makes him feel alive, and then when asked by a friend agrees to try helping people instead, but at this point it is too late and everyone wants to hunt him down--including Ichiro.

It is fascinating and terrifying how Hiro is essentially a sociopath who can as easily murder people as heal them with nary a second thought. After all, if these two people were given powers and did such drastically different things, just imagine what could happen if more people were given this, "Gift." The books follow Ichiro as he helps people and Hiro as he does the opposite, with a big final-battle not yet occurring in any of these books, but clearly on its way to taking place in the near future. Some solidly entertaining reading for sure.
4 out of 5 stars.

Akira Volume 1
Ah, we might as well close this review segment on an OG of manga (and anime). Until recently (as these reviews have discussed) I wasn't especially into manga, and the only anime-properties I enjoyed were, "Gundam Wing," and without a doubt, "Akira." A fascinating piece of entertainment that some consider the most important animation property of all time, before the movie sent shock-waves through the world there was of course the manga. As for rating the manga? I mean, its got great artwork, an exciting story, and is otherwise a really great time. I don't think at this point when something is this ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist that it would matter what I'd rate it in terms of stars, but I can easily say it is...
5 out of 5 stars.

A Variety of Interesting Books
Some of what I read was really good, other books were admittedly a bit lacking. I continue to greatly enjoy manga and its variety of genres, however. Should any of my readers have a manga they would recommend please feel free to comment on this post or email me. I am so lacking in knowledge when it comes to manga as compared to Western-comics so I always appreciate tips on what to check-out next.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Television Tuesday: Why I Quit Watching Fallon and Now Religiously Watch Colbert

I was a fan of, "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," when it first came out. It was fun, lighthearted, and silly--a good way to close out the workday. Then our nation went utterly insane and Donald Trump gained political ground before being elected President against all logic. Due to his softball questioning of Trump at the time and otherwise acting all chummy with a monster, Fallon now has basically no respect and is suffering a lot in the T.V. ratings. There has been some sympathy for Jimmy Fallon with people saying he's a, "Nice guy," and that makes him somehow a sympathetic character. The thing is, as this piece at Nylon argues, the, "Nice guy," sometimes is his own kind of dangerous narcissist.

Personally, I got sick of how Fallon seemed more interested in telling fluffy jokes and being friends with all his guests than asking pressing questions of his guests or at least having a monologue with some bite. It didn't bug me too much at first, but then, well, Trump. I used to be at a point where I would sometimes watch Fallon and occasionally Colbert, but over the past number of months I've found myself never watching Fallon and viewing Colbert intently and without fail. I'm not alone in this either as while Fallon's rating are sinking, Colbert's are soaring.

Stephen Colbert is not afraid to, "Go there," even if it has caused controversy when he uses especially shocking language (which gets bleeped, but we know what he is saying). I appreciate he is willing to do so, call-out our joke of a President, and otherwise be funny while making important points. Fallon can keep trying to be a, "Nice guy," but I will be tuning-in to Colbert.

Monday, June 12, 2017

What is the Xbox One X and Who is it For? Is Anyone Excited?

Forgive me for my ignorance as I am getting older and increasingly out of touch with, "The kids," today as I've discussed before in relation to the Nintendo Switch and popular music, but that said, can someone explain to me what exactly the Xbox One X is (or who it is for)? It was announced at E3 this year and it confuses me horribly. Are we looking at something similar to the Playstation 4 Pro that will play all upcoming games but make them just a bit better-looking or is this a brand-new console that the Xbox One won't be able to play the games of? Okay, I checked and this is more like a PS4 Pro. It will have those 4k graphics I keep hearing about and will be able to play really old Xbox games too, it seems, but again, who is this for? Even the website IGN, which fawns over everything video-game companies do, seems unsure who will want this.

Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the price, which is a hefty charge of $499 before tax, or as Polygon says, "Be prepared to pay for that power," with, "The power," referring to how this thing has a ton of computing ability, making it the, "Most powerful--and expensive--console in the world," as The Guardian puts it, which when compared to top-of-the-line gaming computers still makes it relatively weak, if we are being honest.
This is a monstrosity for sure...
Also, while we are being honest, does anyone actually want this? Yes, there are the people out there who always want to be on the cutting-edge and have the, "Best," console with the prettiest graphics and fastest speed, but is this geared more towards folk who want to upgrade their old Xbox Ones or people who don't have an Xbox One yet? Oh, and if someone doesn't have an Xbox One yet what are the odds they want one enough to shell out half a grand as opposed to just getting the weaker and cheaper version? Is this for folk who were dying to play their original Xbox games on a newer console because for some reason the original Xbox doesn't suit them anymore? As I keep asking, who is this for?

This isn't a new console in the sense it is a generational step forward that you have to buy to play the games, it is a weird half-step that seems to muddy the waters of console generations just as the PS4 Pro did. In case you can't tell, I 'm lacking much interest in this thing.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Everyone's Pissed at Howard Chaykin and Image for, "Divided States of America," But Should They Be?

Howard Chaykin recently had the first issue of his, "Divided States of Hysteria," released from Image Comics. I quite liked it but it seems to have pissed many people off, with it being declared transphobic, racist, or otherwise horrific. As I have shown many times on my blog and in everyday life I am someone who is extremely politically conscious, against hate, and otherwise a fighter for respect and rights. so when it comes to people mad at this comic...I just don't get it. There is a scene in this comic with transphobic characters, yes, but does that make the comic transphobic? There are also scenes with racism, hatred, and all of that, but I am 99% sure Chaykin is not having this reflect his own views, it is for his story. He says in the essay in the back of the book itself, this is a twisted view of an America torn apart by hateful people doing terrible things. It is a fun-house mirror reflection of what our nation is becoming and meant to be taken as hyperbolic and absurd.

Now, I am a cisgender, heterosexual, white man, so as much as I strive to be cognizant of the challenges and hatred faced by people who are minority individuals, gay, trans, or anything besides the so-called, "Majority," I can't truly understand what it is like to be someone who is within that demographic. Perhaps if I were transgender I would have immensely different feelings about this comic. That said, this whole book is full of bombastic excess and shocking imagery, because that is the point. This isn't Chaykin pulling a Frank Miller and giving us an earnest-yet-terrible, "Holy Terror," he is fully aware how terrible and cliché many of the people in this book are because, as I said, this is an exaggerated, "What-if," as opposed to reality.

The craziest thing about all this is that it will probably increase interest in the book and make any copies still on shelves relatively scarce as many folk are going to want to pick this up and, "See what all the fuss is about," so thanks to this controversy Image will potentially have yet another hit on their hands. Funny how that works, ain't it?

Thoughts on the Passing of Adam West

Adam West just recently passed away this week and while many folk have already shared their thoughts I took some time to mull-over what I wanted to say. You see, Adam West was liked by pretty much everyone but the role he is arguably most famous for playing--the 1960's-era Batman--was extremely polarizing. It is funny to think a man many loved took part in a role that to this day a large number of people hate for how it made Batman, "Campy."

I myself feel the campy Batman can coexist in the public consciousness with the grim-and-gritty Batman and hold no ill will toward the role, and as I said, Adam West was a great guy too from what I've heard and the brief time I was able to speak to him at a comic convention some years ago (he was very nice).
Whether he was Batman, the mayor of Quahog on, "Family Guy," or in a variety of other roles (I remember hearing his voice when playing the video-game, "XIII," and recognizing it) West was always enjoyable to watch (or listen-to for his voice-over work). He will be missed.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Reminder: Saint Louis Comic-Con is Next Week!

I just wanted to remind everyone that the Saint Louis Comic-Con is next week and I am very excited for it. Last year I had a fantastic time and this year looks to be even bigger and packed with more excitement and guests! It is especially cool that Chris Claremont will be there, as much credit is owed to him for his extensive time writing the, "X-Men," and giving us a ton of great stories. Plenty of other awesome guests and vendors will be present as well, parking is free, and tickets are extremely fairly priced. You can purchase tickets here and I look forward to seeing everyone at the show!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rant-Reviews: Comics I Recently Enjoyed

Shall We Begin?
I have no particular theme this time other than these are all comics I read recently and enjoyed. Sometimes my doing a simple concept is the best one, I feel.

Review-Time!
Saga #43
After the heartbreaking conclusion of issue #42 where a world ends and the remaining pages of the comic are literally just pure black nothingness, we arrive at the start of a new arc featuring an issue that can be purchased for just a 25 cents. That's right, a single quarter can get you this amazing book that has continuously brought me immense joy and sorrow. I imagine that quarter-price is also meant to encourage new readers as we get a significant chunk of reviewing what's happened previously within the series during this issue, but plenty of immense interest to us current readers happens too, so I'm still very pleased.

Essentially everyone has gotten themselves into yet another mess, with a devastating miscarriage resulting in a surprising amount of humor (laughter in tragedy, as they say) as the members of two warring races who fell in love--Alana and Marko--have to figure out what to do considering the unborn 2nd-child they were going to have would raise a lot of questions if either of them went to their home-planets. Also, there are monsters made out of literal shit, so yeah, "Saga," continues to be one of the best books on the stands and at a price this good to start reading it, you don't really have an excuse for missing-out on this series.
5 out of 5 stars.

Infamous Iron Man #8
Brian Michael Bendis, you can be as enjoyable a writer as an infuriating one. Whether turning in amazing work on books such as, "Daredevil," and, "Alias," or the recent kinda-continuation of Alias, "Jessica Jones," you can tell some great solo-character tales (and mess-up sometimes too), but you honestly struggle at times with team books, either turning-in decent stuff like, "New Avengers," or absolute garbage such as...your other Avengers stuff. Also, you can't write events. In other words, you can be amazing or really suck, and, "Infamous Iron Man," has actually been...really good?

I picked-up this book as I still hold fond memories of when Bendis and illustrator Alex Maleev worked on the aforementioned, "Daredevil," so seeing he was doing the artwork made me pick-up this book that spins-out of the atrocious, "Civil War II," where Tony Stark apparently was beaten into a coma by Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel for...reasons? Anyways, it follows Dr. Doom who has a repaired face thanks to, "Secret Wars," and now wants to be a hero. The book has been enjoyable in its studying of both good guys and bad guys who just can't believe that of all people Victor Von Doom is trying to be heroic. It seems like he might actually be trying though, and its been a fun read (with awesome art) as he tries. So, of course we need to muddy things further with an evil version of Reed Richards from the now-dead Ultimate Universe. That aside, this issue was more good stuff of Dr. Doom (and an appearance by fellow Ironman-suit-utilizer Riri Williams). Now we just have to hope this book continues to be good and doesn't fall apart or get sucked into some event (I have really been hating the Marvel events lately).
4 out of 5 stars.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #104
I continue to read and enjoy, "Tarot," thanks to its delightful writing, and artwork brought to us by the talented Jim Balent and Holly Golightly. Ever since the big wedding issue a variety of challenges have come Tarot's way, as well as her sister, Raven Hex. That makes this issue where everyone goes to a big Pagan High-Ritual known as, "Beltane," more of a relaxed pause in the series as opposed to some of the more action-packed or plot-filled issues. It still is good fun however, and develops some ongoing stories, such as how the happy-go-lucky character of Jon/Skeleton Man may have actually kept a lot of darkness from his past hidden.

Balent continues to illustrate mystical creatures, scenes of fighting, and the female form beautifully, and colorist and letterer Holly Golightly expertly ties everything together as per usual. I can't brag and say I've read, "Tarot," from the start, but I have been reading it for a good deal of time now and always find it to be a highly enjoyable time. Over the years these characters have really grown on me and I look forward to hopefully many more years with them.
5 out of 5 stars.

'Namwolf #2
When I first saw the solicit for this series, I was basically sold on the idea of a Werewolf in Vietnam. I figured as long as this comic gave me that I would be happy. The first issue supplied that and then in this issue we get to watch our werewolf fight a weird green bat-monster too, so yes, I'm pleased! Fabian Rangel Jr. (who also was a part of the, "Tarantula," graphic novel I loved and recently reviewed) writes and Logan Faerber masterfully illustrates this tale of a young man going to Vietnam and discovering a monster lives inside him, eager to get out.

The whole concept (a werewolf in Vietnam) is itself silly, so the book thankfully doesn't play things completely serious, but it also manages to avoid seeming utterly silly. It is like those old 1980's action flicks with a dash of horror that were just self-aware enough to avoid seeming dumb (which the creators have said is in fact the intention). I wish we would get a little more characterization of everyone besides the titular 'Namwolf as outside of learning their names in the previous issue the rest of the platoon has been pretty undefined and just kind of, there. That slight aside, the second issue of "'Namwolf," is a fun read and one I look forward to reading the next issue of!
4 out of 5 stars.

The Divided States of Hysteria #1
Howard Chaykin is an interesting person in the field of comics. He's been making them for decades and almost everyone loves his, "Early," stuff but the material he puts out now later in his career gets him regarded as either a genius or utterly insane. I personally feel he maybe is a bit of both. As he says in an essay in the back of this first issue, when this comic was first announced and being made he and everyone else thought Hillary Clinton would be President and this book imaging a world full of terrorism, racism, homophobia, and people acting violent towards each other would be more of a tale saying, "Here's the worst-case scenario that could have happened," as opposed to being more of a reflection of current events with just a little bit of hyperbole (in ""The Divided States of Hysteria," there have already been more terror attacks on the nation and our President was assassinated in a failed coup of sorts, so thing aren't yet quite this awful).

Chaykin is both the writer and illustrator here, giving us some bloody violence and sex while presenting a narrative of a nation creeping close a tipping-point of utter chaos now that the myths everyone believed of American exceptionalism have clearly been destroyed and everyone seems to hate each other...God, it really is like a fun-house mirror of today, ain't it? At the issues' conclusion it is clear yet another terrorist attack has begun on America and things will only get worse. It is a brutally bleak comic considering how right now terrorist attacks are actively happening in other parts of the world and our whole country is holding its breath in hopes we aren't attacked and our horrifically incompetent President (seriously, fuck Trump) has to try and be effective. It is depressing to think a comic that was supposed to seem over-the-top now reads as uncomfortably plausible, but I would say no matter how horrific, "The Divided States of Hysteria," seems, it is a wholly necessary hard look in the mirror of the path our nation is on and desperately needs to get off of. Yeah, Chaykin is definitely both a bit of a genius and crazy.
5 out of 5 stars.

All Quality Reads
I like when I can just kick-back on the couch (or a smaller-but-comfy chair, whatever works), relax, and read a good comic. I'm happy these books helped me achieve that goal.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

I Just Noticed One Big Homoerotic Element in, "Predator," AKA Are Mac and Blain Gay?

I've talked before about how despite it seemingly like nearly everyone hates it, I adore, "Predator 2," and think it is even better than the first movie, having watched it repeatedly and more often than the alien's debut-flick. That said, "Predator," is still a damn good movie and I thought I might as well revisit it as I hadn't seen it in so long that I could barely remember anything outside of some catchphrases and the awesome fight between Arnold Schwarzenegger (known in the movie as, "Dutch,") and the Predator at the conclusion. Therefore, imagine my surprise this weekend upon viewing it when I noticed one really obvious homoerotic element in the movie that I don't think is me reading too much into the film so much as my previously not reading into it enough.

Now then, plenty of people have constructed elaborate theories about how, "Predator," is a big metaphor for being gay, etc. etc. but I'd argue that really requires you to do a lot of mental gymnastics and search for symbolism where none is possibly meant. No, the homoerotic element that I feel is completely apparent and barely hidden is Mac and Blain. Mac is played by Bill Duke and Blain is of course portrayed by former wrestler and past-Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura. Throughout the movie they seem to have a very close relationship and enjoy talking and hanging-out with one another, but nothing seems overly romantic or sexual. However, when Blain is killed by the Predator Mac clearly is struck by this, screaming and crying. The biggest hint in my opinion that there is more to them however is when Dutch/Arnold says how Blain was a good soldier and Mac says how, "He was...uh...my friend."
Is that moment Mac struggling to almost admit he and Blain were more than just friends, or is it Mac simply having difficulty even stating how that as tough-guy soldiers that having friends seems silly to some? Is it a sentence hinting at a gay love or simply a comment on masculinity in general (maybe both)? Perhaps Mac just was very close with Blain in a non-sexual manner that history has often recorded occurs between soldiers who essentially live and work together for months (even years) at a time. That said, Mac's emotions seem just a little bit more strong, a little more struck, than someone who was simply, "A friend," with another man.

One of the biggest ironies in this would be that I believe Blain's first lines involve a homophobic slur. When everyone else on the helicopter refuses his offer of chewing tobacco at start of the movie he declares how they are all, "Slack-jawed faggots," because the stuff he's got makes him into a, "Sexual Tyrannosaur," which has the nearby Mac just grin almost knowingly. Is Blain truly being casually homophobic or is he making-up for something else? Is he the person protesting loudly about, "The gays," who actually is a same gender loving man himself?
Again, I could be reading too much into this, but I keep coming back to that line, "He was...uh...my friend," and how much is said in those two moments of silence. Other people out there on the internet have wondered about this too, with the general conclusion being an unsure, "Maybe?" Regardless of if they are or aren't lovers, "Predator," is still a damn good movie loaded with lots of action, suspense, and maybe, just maybe, some unexpected subtextual romance I can't believe I previously didn't pick up on.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

I Got Published in, "The Moon Zine!"

I enjoy writing (as this blog obviously illustrates) and have at times written for various internet or published entities. There is a local Zine here in Saint Louis known as, "The Moon Zine," that I discovered some months ago and have enjoyed reading. They always welcome contributions so when I saw they had a music-themed issue, I submitted a yarn I wanted to share. It was a brief essay and I am pleased to report they liked my autobiographical story enough they included it!

There are only so many issues that get released but they always have a digital version of every issue and the one that I'm in can be found at this link. I encourage you to check the issue out and enjoy my piece, and then perhaps give other issues a look via here.