Monday, January 30, 2017

I'm Going To Try Having A Newsletter; How About You Subscribe?

You may notice I now have a page on my website for a newsletter because, yes, I am going to try having one. A number of other writers I like are doing such a thing, and I feel like it could be a good way to engage fans of the blog.. Think of this as a peek behind the metaphorical curtain of The Newest Rant, as I discuss what kind of media I've been consuming, what I'm up to in everyday life, and what blog ideas I'm batting around in my noggin. If you love The Newest Rant you'll probably enjoy this. If you hate The Newest Rant, why are you even on my site right now? For now I"m planning to send a letter out every Friday, so as to give you something to starting your weekend off right/wrong. You can visit the aforementioned page dedicated to my newsletter to subscribe, or simply do so below if you like. The first-ever one will go out this Friday and I look forward to/dread hearing the feedback.




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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Rant-Reviews: Monsters and Magic

Scary Spells and Mighty Monsters!
Putting aside the current monster in the White House who is oh-too-real, we as human beings often get excited reading about scary beasts, aliens, and the like. A good yarn about magic-spells can be a fun time too. I've read a number of comics that involve magic or horrific monsters and thought I would discuss them in a review-post. Shall we?

Comics with Creatures (and Magic)
Monsters Unleashed #1
This issue was gorgeously illustrated by the talented Steve McNiven and has some solid writing from Cullen Bunn, but it was annoying in that despite being bigger than a normal comic and costing $4.99 I feel less happened than in most cheaper books. It legitimately feels like they took what could have been less than half of a regular comic plot-wise and stretched it out to pad everything. Page after page features monsters falling to Earth on what look like shooting-stars and then getting into fights with heroes located in various places. This repeats over a bunch of gorgeous full-page spreads repeatedly. Seriously, again and again we witness some heroes saying they are going to fight a big monster, see this big monster get fought, rinse and repeat.

I'm not even too upset that so little happens, because McNiven is an incredible artist. The thing is though, he ain't illustrating this whole mini-series (that now will apparently then be followed-up on with an ongoing book). Next issue we get Greg Land's hack-work, and then some better folk come in differing issues. Therefore, this issue looks great, but besides monsters falling to Earth almost nothing else happens other than it being hinted a young boy drawing monsters is somehow, "Summoning," them. That's it though, a kid drawing and monsters falling to Earth, for $4.99. If this book didn't look great I would have felt incredibly ripped-off. As it is now, I just feel underwhelmed and will probably wait to read any other issues until they are collected in trade.
2 out of 5 stars.

Curse Words #1
Charles Soule has written great stuff and Ryan Browne is a talented artist, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that this first issue of, "Curse Words," is some delightful stuff. As a first issue this lays the groundwork for our world, making it clear an evil wizard came to this dimension with orders to destroy it, discovered he actually kind of liked it here, and chose to portray himself as a magical hero. We see these moments in flashbacks as well as the Wizard beginning to face struggles in the modern day as it becomes clear his evil past is coming back to haunt him. This makes things sound very dramatic, and the book has some harsh moments, but actually is loaded with humor as well. I mean, it opens with a rapper who literally wants to be platinum as opposed to just having his records go platinum--that is a good example of the zany nature of this book. I can't wait for the next issue!
5 out of 5 stars.

Die Kitty, Die! #4
The temporary conclusion of Kitty's story occurs in this issue, before another mini-series launches in a few months featuring her. This book, featuring writing and artwork by Dan Parent, has been highly enjoyable. Parent of course created Kevin Keller and has written a number of, "Archie," comics, but this book is all his own and features a somewhat more, "Mature," take on the concept of comic characters (more swearing and implied sex for sure than in the all-ages Archie stuff Parent has done). You see, Kitty is a real-life witch who also has a company that makes comics about her. They decide to try and kill her for real so they can sell a bunch of comic-book issues. This results in a book that is both meta in its examples of faux-historic stories, commentary on the nature of the comic-book industry, and features a number of great jokes. Sometimes the book can get a little too wrapped-up in itself, getting so busy telling in-jokes and winking at the reader it puts the actual story on a back-burner, but for the most part I really liked reading about Kitty and the evil comic-company out to put an end to her.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Dollface #1
Dan Mendoza created the cult-comic, "Zombie Tramp," which isn't hugely popular, but has a highly-active base of fans who adore it and continue to buy issues as they come out. In an effort to make more money/further please fans he now brings us the somewhat-related, "Dollface," which features the Zombie Tramp as a supporting character but also has a cast all its own. This big introductory issue starts explaining where Dollface came from (she basically was going to be a realistic sex-doll), but leaves a lot of unanswered questions about how she acquired a soul, became equipped with a ton of weaponry, and why she has a desire to hunt witches.

If you like Zombie Tramp comics you know what you're going to get here too--exciting fighting scenes and a lot of T&A from large-breasted characters such as the Zombie Tramp and Dollface. It's nothing too thought-inducing but it is some good-natured fun. As someone who doesn't mind a good guilty-pleasure comic I can see the appeal of this comic and the, "Zombie Tramp," book it draws from.
4 out of 5 stars.

God Country #1
I've loved other works by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw such as, "Buzzkill," and found, "The Paybacks," was quirky fun as well. Therefore, I was excited to read their first book being done with Image comics which has already gotten a lot of buzz and--thanks to selling-out due to all the buzz--is currently fetching a pretty-penny on eBay and other sites. Therefore, I had high-hopes for this comic and found that Geoff Shaw's artwork was amazing (as I presumed it would be) and Donny Cates sets-up some interesting story-beats, but as this is a first issue a whole lot scene-setting has to occur before things get interesting. When things do get interesting toward the end of the issue however I found my interest quite piqued. An old man gets a magic sword that used to belong to a God, fights a demon, and what at first seems like a quiet tale of a family struggling with an aged Father with Alzheimer's becomes an epic fantasy-yarn. It's strange, and I like it a lot. It just takes it a bit to get going, so I'm hopeful the 2nd issue keeps the momentum up!
4 out of 5 stars.

Moon Knight #10
I of course made it clear I've been loving, "Moon Knight," in my posts discussing the best stuff of 2016. This issue unfortunately dragged a bit for me, delving further into a concept that Marc Spector always suffered from some kind of identity disorder from childhood-on as opposed to past comics that gave more of an impression that these other identities were aliases Spector created in his fight against crime that grew into their own personalities. I mean, depending on who is writing the books it always has been a question of if Spector is in fact, "Pretending," to be other people, literally somehow, "Becoming," someone else, or if he is simply suffering from a personality disorder. With this issue focusing a good deal on Spector's childhood, giving us a story-line that Spector may quite possibly have a mental illness both provides opportunities for the book--e.g. exploring ideas of mental illness without stigmatizing it or simply writing it off as, "Being crazy,"--and can be a potential liability--e.g. it closes off other story-possibilities or can be offensive if done poorly.

Throughout the book so far it has felt more like an epic story is being told as opposed to individual story-arcs. I've loved it and hope this discussion of Spector's childhood ends-up helping the story instead of harming it. So far every issue has helped add to the Moon Knight mythos and this is the first to make me worry something might be subtracted, if that makes sense. For now I'll just need to wait and see where the book continues to go and hope it works out as superbly as everything else has so far.
3 out of 5 stars.

Closing the (Spell)book For Now
That was an interesting assortment of comics about monstrous and magical beings. I hope you found reading my thoughts about them interesting and that maybe I inspired you to check-out some books.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

I'm Embarrassed For My Country Right Now AKA Trump Is a Horrible Person

re-done image by Phil Noto where he took his previous cover with Ms. Marvel.
In the span of a single week, our new, "President," has managed to try and limit women's rights to their bodies, signaled he thinks it is perfectly okay to torture people, continued to claim the, "Wrong," people (Undocumented workers, etc.) cost him the popular vote, and now has signed draconian executive actions that prevent people in bad circumstances from coming to our Nation. I guess we need to scratch-out all those words on the Statue of Liberty because clearly those in need are not welcome to this Nation anymore.

When people said to, "Give him a chance," I knew I wasn't even going to need a week. It is astonishing to think it took more than 200 years to build-up this Nation and at this rate it may all fall apart within a year. We will no longer be a beacon much of the World looks up to and relies on. We will instead be an angry little isolationist trash-heap chanting the historically xenophobic and antisemitic, "America first!" as our ship sinks into the metaphorical waters of economic and political ruin. I only hope some stays on his latest evil orders show his efforts are unconstitutional.

It astonishes me how many people are surprised he is doing the terrible things he said he wanted to do. Did you really think he was secretly a Liberal who cared about others and would be progressive and good? He's an atrocious scumbag and I can't believe we have to call him our President. I disagreed with previous Presidents of both parties, I often hated a great deal of what George W. Bush did (his support of torture, to name one thing), but I never thought he was a truly bad human being. I honestly believe Trump is a miserable excuse for a person and I'm embarrassed for my Country right now.

This is America currently, in 2017, of all times. May God have mercy on our souls.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I Tried to Think About the Continuity of the X-Men Movies and My Brain Almost Exploded

Not Actually An Easy Question
My wife doesn't really enjoy the, "X-Men films," because she  (reasonably) feels they are often over-stuffed with characters, can drag a bit, and otherwise are just not as fun or interesting as the other Marvel movies (e.g. the Avengers-featuring ones). She does like the Wolverine-focused movies somewhat though, finding, "The Wolverine," to be pretty good (and she loved, "Deadpool," too as much as I did). Therefore, my wife expressed interest in seeing, "Logan," upon viewing some previews of it and learning it comes-out in early March. Then she asked me a question that seems so simple, but actually is disgustingly complex. She said, "So when does it take place with the other movies?" This led me down a rabbit-hole that left me exhausted and with a headache.

Making Sense of the Nonsensical
This doesn't even include the latest movies.
The X-Men movies are a mess in terms of logistics, there is no other way to put it. How do you explain that while the early movies kind-of happened that a later sequel-prequel altered the past enough that certain things did not? Where does, "Wolverine: Origins," stand considering it has another Wade Wilson/Deadpool who most people like to forget? Even ignoring the quandary of, "Origins," and how, "Days of Future Past," kinda hand-waved it away, the whole mess arguably starts with the otherwise stellar, "First Class."

"First Class," already begins to throw a wrench into the movies, especially the question of when Xavier started needing a wheelchair as he also shown walking during some events of the third X-Men movie (and again, let's ignore the confusion of, "Origins," to make things a little less twisty)...and yet, when Wolverine meets-up with Professor Xavier and Magneto at the end of, "The Wolverine," it is made abundantly clearly throughout the earlier parts of that movie the 3rd flick happened (his hallucinations of Jean), but then, "Days of Future Past," picks-up from the end of, "First Class," while also being set the furthest in the future, followed by Wolverine completely changing things and undoing all of the movies basically except for the initial, "First Class," and then, "Apocalypse," which I'll admit I haven't even seen yet and most likely just makes all this worse; in the words of the great Austin Powers when he was trying to make sense of time-travel, "Oh no, I've gone cross-eyed."
So, when the Hell does, "Logan," actually happen? Hugh Jackman apparently added fuel to this tire fire by casually mentioning, "Logan," was set in a slightly different universe. Now, as of today the film's director, James Mangold, tried to clarify things and say the movie is set 2029, set five years after the last (in a chronological sense) X-Men film. Okay, so this takes place five years after, "Days of Future Past," then....but wasn't the whole point of, "Days of Future Past," that Wolverine fixed that future and made everyone safe and happy despite, "Logan," making it look like everything is awful? Oh no I've gone cross-eyed again.

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off


That video just above this text is the best attempt at explaining everything I've been able to find, and even our presenter at the end gets angry and gives-up when discussing all the problems! I guess in some ways these movies with the X-Men and other mutant-related characters are the truest reflection of comic-books and the biggest struggle comics face--namely, dealing with an absurdly confusing continuity. I occasionally see rumors that before too long the X-Men movies will engage in a big reboot, wiping the slate clean and just starting fresh, much like the comic-books have attempted to do at times (and the God-Awful latest, "Fantastic Four," movie basically attempted).

Whenever, "Logan," is supposed to take place, and in what cinematic universe is a query best left to not be overly-pondered, because comic-book continuity has always been a bit of a house of cards. The longer these comic-book movies are happening the more they reflect this. As a fan of comics who knows continuity can be both fun and a hassle, I think the easiest answer to the question of, "When does this movie take place," is to simply say, "It hopefully doesn't matter too much, let's just have a good time watching it."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Warren Ellis Summarized How to Deal With the Alt-Right/Neo-Nazis in His Newsletter

In his newsletter which I love reading and would encourage you to subscribe to, Warren Ellis addressed all this talk about how a leader of the Alt-Right AKA a Neo-Nazi was punched on live television and how people are debating if it was, "Right," or, "Wrong," for him to be punched. I love freedom of speech, and Warren Ellis does too, but I can't stand people trying to draw false equivalences between a Neo-Nazi and peaceful protesters who march to argue for Women's Rights. People say, "It's a slippery slope to demonize this guy because what about other freedom of speech," and etc. You know what though? Warren Ellis summarized things perfectly:

I understand there's been some confusion online as to whether it's ever right to punch a Nazi in the face.  There is a compelling argument that all speech is equal and we should trust to the discourse to reveal these ideas for what they are and confidently expect them to be denounced and crushed out by the mechanisms of democracy and freedom.
All I can tell you is, from my perspective as an old English socialist and cultural liberal who is probably way to the woolly left from most of you and actually has a medal for services to free speech -- yes, it is always correct to punch Nazis. They lost the right to not be punched in the face when they started spouting genocidal ideologies that in living memory killed millions upon millions of people. And anyone who stands up and respectfully applauds their perfect right to say these things should probably also be punched, because they are clearly surplus to human requirements. Nazis do not need a hug. Nazis do not need to be indulged. Their world doesn't get better until you've been removed from it. Your false equivalences mean nothing. Their agenda is always, always, extermination. Nazis need a punch in the face.
(And the argument that such assaults allow Nazis to get more attention doesn't work so well when they were already going live on a national television network, because this is where we are now. This is how normalised their presence in our culture is.) 

In summary, punch the damn Nazi. Don't make false comparisons between the Nazi's views and other views that exist. Don't ask, "If we try to silence him what about when others try to silence us?" and thereby ignore that you're arguing for equality and he's arguing for genocide. He has freedom of speech, and I have the freedom to punch him in his dirty Nazi mouth in honor of my relatives who died in the Holocaust because of his horrific ideology (and if some hadn't escaped my family line would have ended as countless others did). I feel very strongly about this, and would not hesitate to punch a Nazi myself despite 99% of the time being a peaceful, loving person who respects differences of opinion, and such. Literal Nazis do not deserve a public forum, because the last time they got one their disgusting views became normalized, accepted, and we all know what happened. In conclusion, I say it again: Punch the damn Nazi.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Musings on the Enjoyable Pop-Enthusiasm of Bruno Mars' Biggest Hits

So Much Energy!
Not all of Bruno Mars' songs are loud, fast, and exciting pop-hits--just listen the dour, "When I Was Your Man," or, "Grenade," if you want some depressing songs about broken-hearts. That said, while Mars may sometimes ply his trade romantic sorrow, his biggest and most popular jams seem to be those with a neigh-relentless enthusiasm for dancing, partying, and other things people like.

You can't go to a wedding, birthday party, or bar mitzvah that features a dance-floor and be surprised when, "Treasure," or, "24K Magic," comes-on, along with other hits. I single-out that duo of jams however because they seem to be the most popular, with their surreal mixture of modernity whilst also sounding like they were dipped into and coated with a healthy dose of 1970's and 1980's nostalgisa--the video for, "Treasure," looks like it was made decades ago in a clear-cut example of weaponized nostalgia (see my posts on weaponized nostalgia for more talk of that).
The thing about his peppy and energetic songs however is that even if they're horrifically commercial and vapid in their talking about little more than beautiful women and partying, these songs of pop-enthusiasm are just so darn fun you don't really mind. Just put on some, "24K Magic," with a group of folk and try not to smile (and then dance). I think the secret to these songs being so great is that Bruno Mars' knows to not be like your friend who gets annoying because they are always happy--he can be sad and depressed too, but balances it out perfectly with heaping doses of good times, joy, and funky beats.

This energy and sensation of fun is contagious, and the fact that almost any party-situation calls for some Bruno Mars exemplifies this fact. I ain't gonna begrudge him  for that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Television Tuesday: The Mick

I just recently did a brief, "Television Tuesday," post about the then-imminent return of, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," a show which shares a lot of linkages with, "The Mick." From some of the same creative team to the most obvious unifying feature--Kaitlin Olson as a main character--"The Mick," isn't quite as mean-spirited as, "Sunny," but has enough of an edge to it that I'm already endeared to the darn series a scant four episodes in.

The overall concept is deceptively simple--Aunt Mickey is forced to take care of her rich sister's children after she and her husband flee the country on a tax-evasion charge. Mickey makes friends with the housekeeper Alba, her kinda-boyfriend Jimmy moves in, the kids have mixed feelings about her, hi-jinks ensue. The thing that makes this work so well however is just how utterly insane the show has already been, brandishing some surprisingly limit-pushing humor. From raunchy sex-jokes, to Mickey's fondness for drugging people, to a Grandma that slapped the Hell out of mouthy teen, to a child accidentally swallowing what might be a heroin balloon, all of these people are sometimes pretty abhorrent, and the show (unlike other sitcoms) isn't afraid to let them behave badly yet not be, "Bad," guys or gals.
This brings us to the thing about, "The Mick," that is most different from, "Sunny," which is that you don't hate all the characters. The reason for this is because at their heart many of them are good people--whereas with, "Sunny," everyone is basically rotten to their core (or in Charlie's case, a dangerously demented savant). That hint of sweetness in, "The Mick," is probably what will help make it palatable for a general audience as this baby is on network television--Fox. Plus, Kaitlin Olson is fantastic as Mickey and unlike the perpetually trying-too-hard Dee on, "Sunny," Mickey doesn't give a shit about almost anything and that lackadaisical nature makes for many guffaws.

Then again, the surprisingly brutal humor that does appear with bits of, "Oh my God, how did they get away with that in prime-time?" moments may make this dish just a bit too harsh for mainstream viewers (and if you think I'm being hard on most prime-time network viewers considering my guilty pleasure of reality-television on cable, shut-up, I'm a hypocrite and I love it). Oh, plus the fact that the show keeps getting shuffled around so much I would miss it without a handy DVR doesn't help matters--you gotta let a show sit in its time-slot and garner a following instead of constantly moving it around. Seriously, the first episode premiered on a Sunday, followed by its regular episode the following Tuesday. Then a week later there was an episode (so last Tuesday) and then we had the fourth serving this most recent Sunday. What the Hell, Fox?
"The Mick," is as ingenious in its construction as its kinda-sorta sibling, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." However, "The Mick," is clearly a different beast in that we don't despise the cast, we actually kind of root for them. This allows, "The Mick," to already be a show I love as much as, "Sunny," yet also ca consider wonderfully unique. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that if you can figure out when the damn show is on, you should watch, "The Mick," for sure, because its awesome, and as I said, it's on network television so you don't even need cable to check it out. Viewit, love it, and then thank me (if you want).
5 out of 5 stars (for the overall four episodes so far).

Friday, January 13, 2017

Mid-Month Links for January 2017

Middle of the Month!
I've done links at the end of months and start of months, so why not have some near the middle of the month?

Links:
I love both Big Boi and Andre 3000 of OutKast, and value the occasional brief appearance of Andre on tracks. This article's discussion of him as, "The most ominous instrument in Hip-Hop," is a great read.

Here's an interesting discussion about how when someone believes something contrary to all evidence, that being shown something that proves them wrong can cause them to just double-down on their beliefs-e.g. this is why people believe those so-called news stories that are dumb clickbait and really are exploding more and more lately online.

The Klan may have been in decline for some time, but this domestic terrorist group continues to pose a danger and with the rise of the alt-right AKA neo-Nazis, seeming to be more and more prevalent one can easily worry that hate will only keep growing.

They're up to five of these now? Wow.
January seems to often be a dumping-ground for, "Movie that suck," but this article argues it doesn't have to be. In related news (as the article discusses the franchise too), here is an interesting little history of the, "Underworld," movies that aren't especially popular but keep on coming out. Fun fact: the first, "Underworld," was the first R-rated movie I ever saw by myself. It was at a small local theater and my family always went with me to R-rated films so the theater folk didn't blink an eye when I went by myself even though I wasn't old enough (and I thought it was PG-13 for some reason). For that reason alone, "Underworld," holds a little spot in my heart.

HP Lovecraft of course created some amazing horror and had some superb ideas that continue to inspire people. He also was a horrific racist during an awfully racist time. Reading about how writers of color both take inspiration from Lovecraft while also critiquing and criticizing him is fascinating.

Please, God, please, do not have it be true that DC is thinking doing more of those gimmicky, "3-D," covers that impressed almost zero folk and were a hot collector's item for about a month before they ended-up in dollar bins collecting dust.

Memmmmories, light the corner of my miiiiind.
Of all things, cassette tapes are making a comeback (genuinely and not just in a hipster-way), and I would agree that's kind of cool in some aspects and simply weird in others.

On the subject of musical throwbacks, during the earlier 2000's I listened constantly to Kool Keith, specifically his first Dr. Octagon album that came out in 1996 but which I didn't discover till a bit later. Therefore,when my friend Natalie Jane tweeted out a link to when  Keith performed a favorite track of mine from the album--"Blue Flowers"--on a late-night show back in 2016 I was ecstatic! Watching it really took me back. Here's the link to him doing the song.

Lastly, in yet another example of, "Everything you know and believe could be wrong," it seems our appendix may very well serve an important biologic function and reduces our risk of various infections.

Enjoy the rest of the month!
Try to stay warm the rest of this January!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Reviews of 2 Short Michael DeForge Books--"Big Kids," and, "First Year Healthy"

A Master of the Comic Art-Form
Michael DeForge has been argued by many (including me) to be one of the most talented comic-makers around today. His odd art-style and surreal stories almost always impress with their mixture of psychedelics, melancholy, and skill. His work will appear in everything from anthologies, to his own comics, to big or small books. I read two short-ish books that feature some really wild stories but at their heart are about things we all relate to--DeForge has a way of making even the simplest concept seem wild, you see.



Big Kids

A story about growing-up and our nostalgia for the past/our childhood is a story that has been told many times, but not quite like this. The whole thing is arguably a metaphor, with our main character (who I don't think is ever named) seeing life in a normal way before suddenly growing into a, "Tree." At this point the entire world becomes different. Everything tastes unique, feels weird, and how he used to view the world he can remember, but is unable to return to. Other people have turned into trees too, but plenty of grown-ups are still stuck as, "Twigs," as the trees see them, and some of the trees yearn for when the world looked and felt the way they remember--including our main character's Mother.

DeForge's artwork is as always impressive, but once our protagonist turns into a , "Tree," things get even more interesting with all the abstract shapes that represent everyday objects but which now are incredible and different. At the heart of all this strange stuff is something we all relate to-- how growing-up is hard. DeForge takes this concept everyone can understand and morphs it into something delightfully off-kilter, resulting in a great little book.
4.5 out of 5 stars.


First Year Healthy
I didn't enjoy, "First Year Healthy," as much as I loved, "Big Kids," but it was still a solid read. Again we have a main character who is never actually named, but through the occasional reveal of her history it is made apparent she had some kind of outburst/mental break and spent a good deal of time recovering in a hospital of sorts before returning to town. We see bits and pieces of this first year she's back in town, "Healthy," as she struggles to acclimate to regular life again despite sensing the people of the town are wary about her, and that only a man she starts dating and living with--"The Turk," seems to care about her much. Things proceed to get weird with organized crime, our protagonist caring for the Turk's child with another woman, and a mythical cat-creature. Throughout all of this our main character narrates her life in a plain and eerily calm manner, be it simple things she discusses or outlandish and unreal events.

"First Year Healthy," is interesting, with it not always being apparent what is real and what could be the fanciful creation of our main character. The whole story is from her point-of-view, so that influences many things. I found myself wanting more from the story however, as right when it seems to really get going and become utterly bizarre it suddenly ends. Give me more weirdness, DeForge! Qualms with the story aside however, the artwork is just as amazing as anything else DeForge creates and makes the story extra-engaging as it gets increasingly out-there.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

An Explosion of Creativity
A moment from, "Big Kids."
Almost anytime you read a comic by Michael DeForge you are guaranteed one thing, that the comic will contain an explosion of creativity. "Big Kids," and, "First Year Healthy," deliver this without a doubt. I preferred one story over the other, but as with all of DeForge's works, I'm glad I read them and got to enmesh myself in his fantastical worlds.

Monday, January 9, 2017

More Manga I've Read

Even More Manga!
I made a post somewhat recently about manga I've read in an effort to further broaden my horizons in regards to the kind of stuff I read. Besides getting used to reading the books somewhat, "Backwards," I've been mostly pleased by my ability to locate some decent yarns thanks to various recommendations from people I know personally or have read the words of/listened to on podcasts. Here are some more books I checked-out recently.

Review-Time
Gantz Volume 3
I was entertained without having to think too much by the first two volumes of, "Gantz," and their absurdly gory violence mixed with T&A definitely was zany. In this third volume I was kind of disappointed. I understand that after all the action of the 2nd volume this one is a bit of a cool-down, and a bit of quiet is fine...it's just that time of quiet is used to throw in some weirdly homophobic and sexist bits. A scene occurs with discussion about some bullies who have a gay crew-member who likes to rape male gang-victims, and the mentioning of this bully being gay and apparently sexually-assaulting other men serves no purpose to the story other than to foster the usual gay-panic concept in some stories of, "Oh no, the hero will be sexually violated and less of a man if he doesn't fight back!" Also, the only main female character basically continues to act hapless and asks another character if she can live with him, but as a, "Pet," which is a weird added element to how she's just crashing at this guy's house but wants to be thought-of as his, "Pet." Again, this doesn't really serve any purpose to the story or is used to make a statement, it's just odd.

These weird and off-putting elements in the volume don't ruin things, however, as there are still some interesting parts to the story--such as discussion of if the characters who thought they were saved at the last minute by the Gantz (weird orb-thing) are actually just soulless constructs/copies that think they are human, and the further intrigue about just why the mysterious Gantz is having people kill aliens continues as well. Still, compared to the general enjoyment I got from the first two volumes this one was pretty underwhelming.
2 out of 5 stars.


Inuyashiki Volume 1
Somewhat moving on from our discussion of, "Gantz," here is the latest series coming out from its creator Hiroya Oku, who is now doing this series. It is a bit less violent and sexual (the company releasing it has rated it as recommended for 16-and-above as opposed to, "Gantz," which has a strong, "Mature Readers Only," tag). That doesn't mean it is any less odd or over-the-top than you would expect from someone behind a book as strange as, "Gantz," and in a clever bit of being meta the first volume even has two characters arguing over whether the series is cool or lame. Basically a man who is 58 but looks older, is hated by his family, and all-around has a miserable life suddenly is hit by an alien object, rebuilt, and now has a ton of powers.

He uses these powers in this first book to save the life of a homeless man from some violent teenagers and that's basically it other than a glimpse of another person who may have gained powers (and maybe is not going to do good things with them). It is way too early in this series to have a clear picture of the tale, but based on just this book alone I was relatively pleased. A decent story so far and some great art makes me want to seek out at least the next number of books that are available in English (the story is still coming out and of course is released in Japanese volumes first). I would rate this a solid all-around...
3 out of 5 stars.
The page for the campaign has this edited image that isn't as blurred on the actual book
Vanilla Essence 
All joking aside about manga sometimes being mistakenly thought of as nothing-but-porn-comics by U.S. citizens who don't know how many varieties of manga exist, this book is without a doubt extremely erotic. I became familiar with this book because I am often on Kickstarter looking at campaigns for all the wide-variety of stuff on there, but usually comics as some cool stuff at times occurs on the site. That is how I one day came across a Kickstarter campaign for, "Vanilla Essence (note this link isn't exactly the most safe-for-work)." I was surprised as Kickstarter can be pretty strict about erotic-stuff on their site, and this book by the writer/artist named Yamatogawa looked quite sexual. Kickstarter will allow things that are overall judged to be sex-positive and aren't porn so much as erotica thanks to, "A positive message and artistic value." So yeah, this book by Yamatogawa was judged to be okay under the rules of Kickstarter and got funded handily.

I didn't back the Kickstarter as even though I was curious what allowed this book to be classified more as, "Erotica/Borderline H," than, "Straight-up porn/Hentai," I lacked the funds at the time. However, I was able to sell some stuff on eBay later on and ordered me a copy of the exact same book that would have been sent to Kickstarter-backers so that I could see just all the fuss was about regarding this publication. Having given it a read I can conclude it is extremely explicit and full of illustrated-in-a-hardcore-manner sex, but also that yeah, it is pretty sweet and pleasantly sex-positive. The stories often have a fun or clever motif and they all portray sex as something fun and enjoyable with a humorous-bent that compliments the proceedings well. Whether a young woman who enjoys secretly video-taping others having sex meets her match, or a cyclist engages in a whole different kind of exercise with a new partner, "Vanilla Essence," maintains a chipper and fun attitude that reminds readers how despite all the hang-ups and taboos regarding sex, at the end of the day when everyone is consenting and eager it can be a really fun and wonderful thing. Plus, Yamatogawa's notes about his writing and drawing of the stories at the end of some of the yarns gives everything a nice personal touch as well. I know a lot of Borderline H/Hentai manga can be extremely sex-negative and exploitative, but this was a great read which was as charming as it was erotic!
5 out of 5 stars.


Goodnight Punpun Volume 2
The first volume of this book was one of the weirdest stories I've read in some time. The second volume is weird as well, but a Hell of a lot darker and shifts a lot of its focus to Punpun's Uncle and why he's so miserable. Inio Asano continues to follow the unique art-style of having everyone and everything be drawn super-detailed except for Punpun and his family, which always creates a weird clash between what we see on the page, yet it weirdly works quite well too. This volume overall just shows life offering a hint of things getting better for Punpun and his loved ones, before towards the end it becomes apparent that yeah, things are actually going to just get even worse. It's fascinatingly sad stuff and even though I felt awful after finishing this volume I now just want to seek out the 3rd even more. Amazing stuff.
5 out of 5 stars.


Citrus Volume 1
I heard about this manga written and illustrated by Saburouta when I saw it mentioned briefly by J. Caleb Mozzocco on his blog in an almost embarrassed manner as it is a, "Yuri," title. He always seems to post good reviews of manga and if he's, "Suddenly really into," something I figure it must likely be good. I looked into it and this slice-of-life manga sounded interesting and raunchy enough to be fun. For those who don't know, "Yuri," basically translates into, "Girl-love," and centers of stories about two women who love each other--not always in a lesbian manner, but often with that as an element. Yuri is generally a lot less popular than, "Yaoi," which means ,"Boy-love," and involves stories about men in love (and are hugely popular in Japan). These stories are generally not pornographic in nature (e.g. the aforementioned Hentai/Borderline-H), but instead could be thought of as a genre umbrella. Just as how in the United States we have LGBTQ-focused stories that can be everything from slice-of-life to science-fiction, to fantasy, Japan has that too. I'm not opposed to reading Yaoi or Yuri in my effort to read more manga (I love plenty of American stories with a LGBTQ-focus after all) and seeing positive things about this made me want to try it out. I was pretty pleased.

"Citrus," involves a high-school student (Yaoi and Yuri often will have barely-of-age characters, but as the stories aren't pornographic people generally don't mind) named  Yuzu whose mother has married someone new, resulting in her having to move into a new house and enroll in an all-girls school. On the first day of school she quite irritates the Student Council President, Mei, with her outspoken nature and flagrant disregard for the dress code. Then she comes home and meets her new step-sister, and yep, it's Mei. Things get more interesting though as Mei strangely alternates between flirting with and being mean to her step-sister. Yes, I did not realize this but, "Citrus," is both a Yuri story and a step-sibling romance story. The whole thing sounds really racy but is presented in a matter-of-fact manner as opposed to being taboo that the story never feels, "Dirty," it just is kind of edgy. Plus, Saburouta's artwork is cutesy enough things don't feel too, "Wrong." I mean yes, there are some saucy moments of kissing but this book is labeled as, "Ages 16+," and does't push the envelope too far in that regard. It's an odd story with all these strange elements but the characterization of Yuzu and Mei is fascinating enough I think I would like to check-out the other books from my local library where I got this one.
4 out of 5 stars.

Interesting Reads
As I said, reading the books in a, "Backwards," style of somewhat right-to-left is still a bit jarring for me considering I've spent 99.9% of my life reading left-to-right, but that aside these have been some great reads. The stories in these books sometimes feel a little strange, ("Citrus," and its step-sibling romance) but that may be more of a cultural difference than anything else. In my effort to read more manga I think I'm coming along pretty well, and clearly there are a wide-range of books and stories out there for sure.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Valiant Comics Cat-Cover Reviews

An Incredible Promotion
My cats loved the comics too and wanted to check them out!
I enjoy looking at photos of cool cosplay and enjoy looking at photos of cats. Therefore, when Valiant first told us about their intention to release variant covers for a number of their comics featuring cats cosplaying as their characters I declared without hesitation how they had won the internet that day. Through their teaming-up with the blog, "Cat Cosplay of the Feline Variety," they have now made and released a number of awesome cat-themed covers--with much props going to them for donating a chunk of the proceeds from these variants to the animal-adoption agency, BARC.

I'm on Valiant's press-mailing list so I reached out to them as a member of the press and proud cat-daddy of two adopted kitties to inquire if I could review the cat-themed covers. Now, I told Valiant the same thing I am about to tell you, my dear readers: I am not going to review the actual comics. Yes, you read that right, for the first time ever I am not going to be reading and reviewing the inside of these comics, I am actually just going to review the covers! I am going to rate these comics based on two attributes with my usual 0-to-5 star system: Cutness and, cat-attitude, or, "Catittude." I told the good folk at Valiant this plan and they were down with it and more than happy to mail me the comics so that I could examine and review each cover with a physical copy I closely examined to determine the exact degree of adorableness and my aforementioned, "Catittude." I now present the comics in alphabetical order!

The Covers
The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #10
The first comic-cover I'll be discussing is also the only one to feature both of the cat models found on the comic-covers so it already is superb for its double-catness. The outfits on each cat fit snugly and look great, and they have a happy and relaxed look as if they are getting ready to go on a fun adventure! They are very chill however so despite the immense cuteness there isn't a ton of catittude.
Cuteness: 5 out of 5 stars.
Catittude: 3 out of 5 stars.

Blood Shot U.S.A. #3
Our model looks absolutely fierce on this cover, with his eyes squinted as if he's getting ready to cause just as much violent trouble as the titular character Bloodshot has been known for doing. The outfit is pretty minimalist just as with the real Bloodshot, and it isn't cute so much as extremely intimidating. The catitude is off-the-charts with this one!
Cuteness: 3 out of 5 stars.
Catittude: 5 out of 5 stars (and then some)!

Britannia #4
Not only does out cat-model look absolutely incredible in his Roman garb, he also is utterly adorable. He's giving off an aura of strength, but also love and kindness. This was one of my wife's favorite covers when she looked through the books and I can see why it appealed to her so much, it's just stellar!
Cuteness: 5 out of 5 stars.
Catittude: 5 out of 5 stars.

Divinity III: Stalinverse #1
Oh my God, is that a cosmonaut kitty? Is he looking incredible in that outfit but also giving off an intense look in his eyes too? The answer to all of those questions is yes, and I think we may have found my favorite cover!
Cuteness: 5 out of 5 stars.
Catittude: 5 out of 5 stars.

Eternal Warrior #14
Our model in this picture has a mysterious look going, with some of his face hidden in a cloak. I would be hesitant to get too close however because that battle-axe looks freshly sharpened! Between the axe and cloak-placement this picture is dripping with cattitude, but the cloak hides way too much of that cute face!
Cuteness: 3 out of 5 stars.
Catittude: 5 out of 5 stars.

Faith #6
I know I said I wouldn't comment about the comics themselves, but, "Faith," really is a good comic, and I'm happy it has a cover this cool to compliment it. Cats wearing wigs is always a fun sight, and our cat-model absolutely rocks that blonde hair. The kitty looks like it is staring off into the distance as if to say, "Look out World, I'm gonna mess you up, and I've got great hair too!" A great cover fur sure (that isn't a spelling error, I wanted to make that pun)!
Cuteness: 5 out of 5 stars.
Catittude: 4 out of 5 stars.

Generation Zero #5
This was my wife's other favorite color because she said, "I really like the lighting on the cat." I agree with her wholeheartedly, as our kitty here has its gorgeous fur looking bright and complimenting its blue and red outfit perfectly. The cat doesn't look too full of catittude, but it sure looks perfect for a snuggle!
Cuteness: 5 out of 5 stars.
Catittue: 3 out of 5 stars.

Harbinger Renegade #2
This cover is a favorite of mine (along with the, "Divinity," one) as our model just looks so purrfect with its snazzy glasses and delightfully grey-and-blue outfit. The glasses give off an intense and smart vibe that make me feel like this kitty would be just as comfortable getting a tummy rub as it would be delivering a big science-lecture. Just plain great!
Cuteness: 5 out of 5 stars.
Catittude: 5 out of 5 stars.

Ninjak #22
As with the, "Bloodshot," cover or, "Eternal Warrior," cover this just oozes catittude, with our model dressed in appropriately-stealthy gear that looks as silent as it does comfy. Just as with the, "Eternal Warrior," cover however too much of our model's adorable face is obscured! I want to be able to enjoy the cosplay and ooh and ahh over the kissable kittens, after all. 
Cuteness: 3 out of 5 stars.
Catittude: 5 out of 5 stars.

Savage #2
Our last cover is a great one as well, with equal doses of cuteness and cattitude for readers to enjoy. The model seems both relaxed and ready to pounce, with the feathers in the head-fur complimenting everything quite well too--after all, plenty a cat would love to keep a trophy of his or her hunts!
Cuteness: 5 out of 5 stars.
Catittude: 4 out of 5 stars.

Beautiful Stuff
"These comics are as snazzy as my hat!"
This post was a bit less snarky than some of my stuff, probably because cats have the ability to melt my cold and cynical heart, resulting in me wanting to make cute cat-based puns as opposed to bemoaning the latest stupid event-delay in comics or the fact that the United States appears to be on the road to political ruin--but I digress because my stress-levels won't rise as much as long as I have these superb cat-covers to enjoy. I hope you all enjoyed this post and thanks again to Valiant for being willing to provide these comics--I can just picture them confusedly asking, "Wait, he just wants to review the covers with the cats?" upon receiving my email and delighting me by saying, "Sure!" I just hope that more cat-themed variant covers come soon from Valiant, and considering how fantastic these are I wouldn't be surprised if we see other comic-publishers following Valiant's lead and doing animal-cosplay covers of their own!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Book Collecting the Oral History of the Wildstorm Universe is On Kickstarter and I'm Intrigured

As my headline/title states, there is currently a Kickstarter going on to fund the initial print-run for a book that collects an oral history of the Wildstorm Universe. Titled, "Wild Times: An Oral History of Wildstorm Studios," it had been in the making for some time, with author Joseph Hedges having conducted numerous interviews so as to create a fascinating picture of the complicated little sub-company of Image, that then did work for Marvel, before then becoming an imprint of DC until it was shut-down/died and the characters were folded into the normal DC-Universe (kinda sorta, there is this new series being worked on by Warren Ellis that isolates stuff again).

The Kickstarter page and video explain how an, "Oral History," works and I'm pleased that Mr. Hedges says the manuscript and everything else is done, he just needs funds to get an initial print-run completed and out to interested readers/backers. As someone who has read both older and newer Wildstorm titles when the books were still coming out and via my hobby of digging in back-issue bins I have a fondness for the departed company/studio and would be interested for sure in an thorough examination of its twisty-turny history.
You can learn more about the book at its official website, or by visiting the Kickstarter page. I know if I can get some funds together I'll be backing it for sure!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Television Tuesday: "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" Returns!

This is just a a Public Service Announcement for everyone that one of the most darkly-hilarious shows of all time, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," will have its 12th season premiere tomorrow, January 4th, 2017, on the FXX channel at 10:00 PM Eastern-Time (so at 9:00 PM for me).

In the meantime, it is also worth knowing that as of today, January 3rd, the most recent (11th) season of the show can be streamed on Netflix!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 In Review Master-List/Happy New Year!

The Year That Was...Well, It Was  Year for Sure
2016 has completed and I hope everyone has a great 2017. I of course had my many, "2016 in Review," posts go up in the days between Christmas and the New Year and in my effort to be helpful to you (my dear reader/s), I now present the master-list of all the post--with some general sorting into categories.

Master-List
Comic-Related Posts
Anthologies of the Year
Best Cancelled Comics
Best, "Cheesecake," Comics
Best Colorist
Best Comic-Artists
Best Comic-Book Writers
Best Ongoing Series
Best Mini or Maxi-Series
Best New(er) Comics
Best New Imprint
Best Single Issues
Creators/Creative Teams I was Happiest to See Return
Relaunch That Surprisingly Didn't Suck
Weirdest Comic

Other Entertainment-Related Posts
Album of the Year
Best Television Show
(Potentially) Best Movies I Didn't See
Video Game of the Year

Random Posts
Biggest Embarassment This Year
Food of the Year
Pregnancy of the Year