In historic events, the so-called great men are labels giving names to events, and like labels they have but the smallest connection with the event itself. (Leo Tolstoy, from War and Peace)
Watters and Wijngaard bring their epic ghost story to an end, and while there’s a good amount of fighting, we also get the secret origin of one of the ghosts and also why the house is haunted in its particular way and what can be done about it. Watters does a nice job with the plotting, as this series has been a pretty tight 15 issues, as he has become quite good at hitting all the right beats in a story, without anything feeling rushed or forgotten. He begins this volume with the continuing big fight between haunted robots, but there’s a method to the madness, and eventually he slows things down to give us some creepy horror that’s grounded in some depressing history (not that ghosts are real, of course, but the social situations that spawn the ghosts are, sadly, all too real). He does a nice job showing how far women have come and how much they still have to fight for, which is a bit surprising social commentary in a book about ghost robots, but it’s certainly welcome. He ends it cleverly, too – Watters has a penchant for unexpected but fitting endings, which is appreciated, as many writers don’t seem to stick the landings. Wijngaard is, of course, amazing. His monsters and ghosts are terrifyingly ghoulish, but when he introduces the final ghost in the equation, he makes it disturbingly beautiful, which fits with how Watters is writing the book. Wijngaard’s action scenes are excellent, and his scenes set in the past are superb, as he uses a scratchy line and muted colors to not only signify the past, but also to show how grubby the people involved in the action are (I don’t want to give too much away, but the people in the past are not terribly admirable). His designs for the ghosts remain excellent, and he gives us a few new ones, too, which is nice.
Both these creators are very good, and I hope they keep doing good comics, either together or separately. I’ll be there to read them!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
You know, Tom King gets all these accolades for his garbage run on Batman and his brilliant-but-badly-ended Mister Miracle and his brilliant-but-weirdly-ended Strange Adventures, and it seems like he’s getting accolades for Human Target right now (although I haven’t read it yet, so we’ll see), but why is there silence about this eight-issue story, which is far better than Batman and ends better than Mister Miracle? (I’m not quite sure if Strange Adventures is better than this – probably, but I’m not sure.) It’s quite bizarre.
Because this is a terrific series, one that’s completely self-contained (Kara even explains Comet, so you don’t really need to know the backstory going in!) and tells a gripping story. A young woman on a hardscrabble planet seeks revenge on the man who killed her father, and she’s willing to follow him across several galaxies if need be. The girl, whose name is Ruthye, takes the sword used to kill her father out of his body, thinking at some point she’ll kill the killer with it. She hires a bounty hunter to help her, but he’s kind of a dick, and before he can begin his hunt, Supergirl stops him. Why is Kara on this out-of-the-way planet? She’s celebrating her 21st birthday, and she came to a planet with a red sun so she can get drunk. Unfortunately, this also means the bounty hunter and Ruthye’s father’s killer can team up and hurt her, because she doesn’t have powers. She manages to fight them off, but Krem – the killer – escapes, not before he poisons Krypto. Supergirl decides to help Ruthye because Krem is the only one who can save her dog. And so the hunt is on!
That’s really all there is to the plot, although King keeps finding interesting ways to make sure Kara can’t get the dude until the very end. Krem uses magic at one point to transport her to a planet where her powers don’t work, so that sucks. He then hooks up with pirates who are the scourge of the galaxy, and Kara has to fight through them, and that sucks. King gives us side trips to planets where Supergirl has to intervene because she’s, you know, Supergirl. At times his prose – the narration is from the book Ruthye wrote years later – is a bit overheated, as he hammers some themes that we can figure out on our own, but that’s not too big a problem, especially, as I’ve often noted, you can never go wrong underestimating the reading comprehension of some people (if that makes me a snob, so be it). Of course, both Ruthye and Kara learn some things as they travel, and of course, the book doesn’t end the way Ruthye plans, but King does some clever things with the words and Evely does some clever things with the pictures that show us why comics are cool (I don’t want to give too much away, so you’ll just have to trust me!). The book is often very funny, which is nice, and it’s often very exciting, and it’s very keen to see how the friendship between Ruthye and Kara grows as they travel, which leads to the big confrontation in issues #7 and 8 between Supergirl and the pirates and Ruthye and her father’s killer. Even though we know Supergirl won’t be defeated and we’re pretty confident Ruthye won’t kill Krem, King does an excellent job building the tension so that we think, just maybe, both of those things could happen. It’s very well done.
I’ve been a fan of Evely since she started drawing American comics for Dynamite back in the day, and I’m glad that she’s been doing well for DC. This book is, I think, her masterpiece so far. Her art is staggeringly good, and King asks her to do a lot, and she nails it all. She makes alien landscapes look beautiful and alien creatures look familiar, simply by their body language and facial expressions, which are universal. The worlds Ruthye and Kara visit are fully realized, with unique and diverse civilizations, and Evely gives them and the spaceships on which the women travel a good, lived-in feeling, as if these are just normal places and not exotic, weird spots that would dazzle us mere Earthlings. Evely’s Kara is wonderful, a young woman full of doubt and pain who nevertheless tries to do the right thing even if it causes more pain. Because she’s a woman, it’s heavily implied (and occasionally stated outright), it’s harder for her to “act like Superman” because people don’t take her seriously, so there’s always a need to prove herself that she resists because she doesn’t want to stoop to their level, and Evely does a marvelous job showing how much this weighs on her. Her scenes with Ruthye as they discover some of the horrors of the universe are terrific, because Evely is able to show their fear about what exists but also their hope that they can make it better. When Ruthye confronts Krem, Evely shows how she’s still a girl, really, and not ready for the heavy responsibilities of adulthood. Evely’s action scenes are wonderful, as well, as she uses swirling lines and tremendous hatching to give a sense of violence and power, which Kara tries to overcome because she doesn’t want to unleash herself completely. This is a stunning book, and I hope people who don’t know Evely’s art get a chance to revel in it here.
I like King for the most part, and I’m glad he’s getting praise for his “re-invention” books that he’s doing, but this seemed to slip under the radar. That’s too danged bad. It’s excellent! (I will also point out that each issue is 24 pages, and this costs only 20 bucks when I imagine the single issues were $4.99. Get the trades, people, you’ll save money!)
(I will say I hate the grawlix in this. I don’t care if Supergirl curses, but it’s just so distracting!)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Shakespeare is infinitely adaptable, which is why you can get Shakespeare literally everywhere, but I’m not sure there’s been an odder Shakespearean adaptation than this one, as Horror-Meister John Lees thinks to himself, “What if Macbeth, but in a 1980s semi-pro wrestling circuit?” I mean, why the hell not, right? Macbeth is about overreaching ambition, and that can be placed anywhere, so Lees gives us Chuck Frenzy, who dominates the minor Louisiana wrestling circuit he fights in but wants to be a national figure. He’s egged on in this by his wife, naturally, and when he meets the “champ,” Van Emerald, he thinks he’ll be able to make his dreams come true because Van says he wants to retire and Chuck is the kind of dude who could replace him. Of course, nothing goes as planned, and things get bloody quickly. Lees makes sure to have some weird sisters in the book, because it’s Louisiana and who the hell knows what kind of people live in the swamps, and there’s the dude who’s Frenzy’s best friend but who has to pay the price for Frenzy’s ambition, and there’s the cryptic prophecy that Frenzy thinks can’t possibly come true but, of course, it does. It’s a horror book through and through (much like Macbeth, which, along with Titus Andronicus, proves Shakespeare could be cranking out gory movies if he lived today), but Lees is good enough to dig into the human emotions roiling through the characters, so even though Frenzy and Sharlene, his wife, are doing horrible things, they’re not inhuman and we can understand why they’re doing it. Sharlene’s descent into madness, which – with Lady Macbeth, of course – is one of the more terrifying things in Shakespeare, is done very well, too. Even the minor characters aren’t just plot devices, because Lees is so good at creating characters so quickly, so when they suffer, we can feel it. Cormack is superb as usual, as he nails the seediness of a semi-pro wrestling circuit very well and creates some very eerie scenes in the bayou (with the help of his wife, whose coloring is phenomenal). Of course, the book gets really, really bloody, and Cormack is really (disturbingly?) good at making the violence very visceral. Lees and Cormack also have a new Sink comic out, which I write about briefly below, so you should check both of them out!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Nocterra volume 2: Pedal to the Metal by Scott Snyder (writer), Tony Daniel (artist), Denys Cowan (penciler), Kent Williams (inker), Sandu Florea (inker), Marcus Maiolo (colorist), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Andworld Design (letterer), Tyler Jennes (assistant editor), and Will Dennis (editor). $16.99, 124 pgs, Image.
Somebody (probably Tom) on Facebook claimed I don’t like Snyder, but that ain’t true, I just think he has some issues with endings, which is not unique among writers (and I always have to point out that I’m friends with him on Facebook, and he sent me the request!!!). Sure, his run on Batman was lousy, but that was a decade ago, for crying out loud, and so what? I mention this because Nocterra is still pretty cool, and it doesn’t seem to be ending soon, so we’re still getting Good Snyder, and maybe he’ll stay that way? Anyway, this is just a second chapter of the long story, as we’re past the set-up and now Val and her band of misfit rebels can get out on the road even more and try to bring back the daytime. There’s not too much to say about the plot, honestly – Snyder doesn’t try to trick us, although there are a few twists, he just tells a compelling story about outgunned people trying to change the world against forces that are far more malevolent than they think. As with anything, the plot doesn’t matter too much, it’s more about how the story is told, and Snyder knows how to keep the tension high and the readers on their toes – characters can die at any time, although some of them are developing plot armor as we go along. We get a nice “origin story” of Big Bad Bill (sorry, Blacktop Bill), the shadowy evil dude whom our heroes capture and reluctantly team up with in this volume, and it’s nicely drawn by Cowan and Williams, and we get a nice cliffhanger ending that isn’t too shocking, but is still neat. I just like the story – Snyder knows what he’s doing, and he’s doing it. Meanwhile, I’m fascinated by Daniel, as I usually am by the early Image guys as they get older. As x-treeeeeem as they were in the ’90s, a lot of them had chops, but they were young and silly and hadn’t developed those chops before they were thrown onto books because Image was desperate for product. Daniel’s art on The Tenth, which is where I first saw it, was not very good, but like a lot of those dudes, it bristled with crazy energy, and it’s hard to really hate it. Daniel, like Greg Capullo or Dan Panosian, has developed a style based on his earlier stuff, but with more thought and skill behind it – his characters have wider waists and smaller boobs, for instance, which makes them look more like people, and he has kept the crazy energy but learned more about storytelling. It still might not be your thing, and that’s fine, but it’s pretty good art, and it’s definitely interesting seeing his evolution. Thank you for coming to my TED talk!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Paul Tobin knows how to write a story, so it’s not surprising his latest is good, although it does end a bit abruptly, so I wonder if a sequel is imminent. He has a nifty premise – a woman named Risa was working with her husband on a project dealing with dreams (of course, it’s about weaponizing them, and Risa seems to believe she wasn’t complicit, but it’s pretty clear she was), which of course goes wrong, opening up a portal for dream creatures to come through and start killing humans. Drugs help stop the dreams, but they’re not foolproof. Also, some people seem to be focal points for the dreams, and their trauma helps keep the portals open. Risa’s daughter is one of them, and the army and government believe that her trauma is seeing her father get ripped apart, and if Risa finds love again, her daughter – Machi – will be healed, and the portal will close. At least that’s the theory. So not only is Risa fighting monsters, with the help of a friend, a troll who enjoys eating the monsters, she’s also going on a lot of terrible dates, and the army is training people to romance her (both men and woman, because they’re not completely sure what she’d like). So yes, it’s a horror story, especially when that fellow on the cover comes through and he’s harder to kill than most monsters, and also when Risa discovers some things about the monsters that shake her up, but it’s also a bit of a comedy, as Risa meets many, many terrible men on dates, and Tobin plays that for laughs. Tobin also undermines the army’s plan, because they’re honestly not sure if their plan will work, and Machi seems to be doing things that might, without government oversight. It’s an interesting comic, naturally, because Tobin generally writes interesting comics, and it’s always nice to see MacDonald’s work, because he’s a good artist who doesn’t do enough work, and he gets to cut loose a bit here with the horror and violence. The sight gag of Hethri the troll eating monsters is always pretty funny, and MacDonald has a good time with Risa’s dates, too. As I noted, a sequel feels imminent, and I will be there to read it!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Almost American is … almost good (sorry), but because it’s based on a real story and the subject was involved in its creation, it lacks the tension that good fiction has. It’s about two Russians (a husband and wife) who defect to the U.S., which sounds very good, but they don’t really get chased, so it becomes more about their adjustment to life in the States, which is fine but not something that can sustain the story. It’s an interesting premise, but that’s it. I like anniversary issues, so I picked up Amazing Spider-Man #900 (technically, #6, but you know Marvel!), and it’s not bad. Spidey fights against an amalgam of the Sinister Six, but he needs the originals to do it, so he does. Nice art by Ed McGuinness, naturally. A new volume of Athena Voltaire is always good to see, so I enjoyed this one. Athena fights a weird monster on the Orient Express, plus some other random stories. Steve Bryant is a super-nice dude, and his comics are always very fun to read, so I hope he keeps making them! Gail Simone’s final story on Birds of Prey is collected, along with the first Bedard stories, and they’re pretty good. The Secret Six guest-star in Simone’s story, so of course it’s good! On the back of Bolero, someone at Comic Book Resources is quoted as saying it “gives Saga a run for its money,” which is not, in my opinion, a good thing. Luana Vecchio’s art on this comic is terrific, and the story has potential – a woman gets 53 chances to live a new life because her old one sucks – but it never quite coheres as well as it could, mainly because the main character is a pain in the ass and she never really becomes all that interesting. It’s frustrating, because the book is pretty good even with that. In The Fourth Man, Deodato really goes nuts with the “casting actors as comic book characters” thing, and it’s a bit distracting, but more distracting is that the book ends so suddenly. It’s a decent murder mystery, however, told twistily so we keep circling back on the characters, which is neat. It’s just weird seeing Regina King and Harvey Keitel as cop partners trying to solve Paul Giamatti’s murder. Ghost Cage is almost literally a video game, as the main character needs to keep moving to different levels to solve a problem, and while it’s a bit heavy-handed about the environmental problems the world faces (which, let’s be honest, we need to be heavy-handed about), Nick Dragotta’s art is terrific, so there’s that. The Heathens is a weird book about historical rogues/criminals being plucked from … the afterlife? by Stalin? to find and kill Jack the Ripper, who’s terrorizing modern-day Los Angeles. It’s a bit more thoughtful than you might think, but it’s still a bit strange. Nice art by Sami Kivelä, though. After the body horror of the last Hulk run, Donny Cates decides to simply have our hero punch a lot of shit, and it’s a bit dull, frankly. He puts a bit of a spin on it, which isn’t bad, and Ryan Ottley’s art is excellent, but it’s basically Hulk beating things up. It’s been done. Maw is a strange comic about two sisters who go to a “feminist retreat,” where it turns out sinister a-doin’s are transpiring. It feels like it could have been better, because writer Jude Ellison S. Doyle seems to assume everyone will be on the side of the women, even when it’s clear they’re up to something probably not good, and Doyle doesn’t do the necessary work to make sure we are on their side, so when things go bad, we’re kind of expecting it. It’s frustrating. Still, it’s a pretty nasty horror book, and A.L. Kaplan’s art reminds me a bit of P. Craig Russell’s, which is not a bad thing. Nobody’s Child imagines a world in which white rhinos can be used to cure all sorts of diseases, and there’s only one left, and a dude is protecting it and trying to smuggle it out of Africa. Violence ensues. This is another book that tries to tackle an important issue (colonialism and its legacy) and does it so unsubtly that it’s kind of annoying. It’s pretty good and not as obvious as it first seems, but it’s also a bit heavy-handed. John Lees and Alex Cormack have another “Sink” story with Dig, which is about the man in the fox mask who wandered around the series doing horrible things, but, as it turned out, only to those who deserved horrible things done to them. Sink is a really good series, and this issue is very good, and I hope we get more of it! Skybound X #25 introduces some new series, and the one I’m looking forward to the most is Joshua Williamson’s and Andrei Bressan’s follow-up to Birthright, Dark Ride, which is set in a very unsettling amusement park. Weed Magic, sadly, is hot garbage, a story about marijuana giving people superpowers which sounds like one of my favorite ideas – the ones you get at 2 in the morning when you’re drunk/stoned out of your mind and you think it’s great but it’s really trash but you move forward with it anyway. This comic is dumb and not funny, so avoid it if possible. The next Wrong Earth one-shot is about the sidekick of Dragonflyman/Dragonfly and what he means to the hero, and it’s pretty good, as all of these comics have been. Finally, Milligan and Allred reboot X-Statix (sort of) with a team of sort-of evil mutants making life miserable for the fame-seeking originals, and it’s all very goofy in the best Milligan/Allred kind of way. It ends inconclusively, however, so be aware, especially if it doesn’t get continued as promised at the end of issue #5. We shall see!
I told my wife she wasn’t allowed to read this book, because she would freak out over the food we’re eating (I got a bit freaked out, but she would get even more so!). Pollan is a bit of a foodie, and in this book, he takes a look at our culture of eating and creating food, and the results aren’t terribly pretty. He examines regular farming (“industrial farming,” as he rightly calls it), a more “organic” form of farming (which the farmer objects to, because the government has rendered the word “organic” in terms of farming almost meaningless), and then he does some hunting and gathering to create a meal. It’s a fascinating book, one that might make you consider your own eating habits, which is never a bad thing. He begins with the worst, the industrial farming, and he checks out why it sucks so bad, and it’s all fucking corn’s fault. Corn is incredibly adaptable and easy and cheap to grow, so it crowded out everything else, and industries needed to figure out what to do with the huge corn surplus they soon found themselves with. So they started feeding it to cows, which don’t eat corn, and they started breaking it down and creating all sorts of new things with it and putting it in every-fucking-thing. For the cows, this is a problem because it caused them to get sick, which is why there are so many antibiotics in beef, but it also changed the composition of their stomachs, so their neutral stomachs, which easily harbor bacteria – that died when it hit humans’ more acidic stomachs because they weren’t ready for it – gradually became more acidic, so bacteria adapted and, hey, no longer died when humans consumed it, so we get diseases jumping species! Yay, industry! He also gives us a good look into the way the animals are housed and slaughtered, which is not pleasant at all, but that’s the point. Americans like cheap shit, so we don’t think too hard about how this kind of food preparation happens, and Pollan makes the point that the “hidden” costs are huge, from the impact on the environment to the massive use of fossil fuels in this industry, but of course Americans don’t care about hidden costs as long as their chicken breasts are cheap at the supermarket.
In the second section, Pollan looks at the vague definition of “organic” and the marginal difference between most organic farms and industrial farms. Yes, organic is better, but not by much. The most heartening section of the book is when he heads to Virginia and Polyface Farm, where the farmer is a very back-to-basics dude (he comes across as a hippie conservative Christian anti-government environmentalist, which is hard to do!) who uses all his resources, never has to use antibiotics because his animals don’t root around in their own shit so they don’t get sick, and makes sure he’s entirely sustainable. Pollan spends a week on the farm, helping out, learning how the dude does things, and even slaughtering some chickens. Back in 2006, the dude didn’t ship his food, presumably because of freshness, but I guess shipping technology has improved because he does it on a limited basis now, and I’m very keen to give it a try.
Finally, Pollan decides to go old-school and become a hunter-gatherer, which is a lot harder than it sounds. He kills a feral pig, grows some vegetables, tries to collect salt from salt flats near San Francisco (he gets salt, but it tastes terrible, he says, so he doesn’t use it), and goes mushroom hunting. He wants to make a meal that costs him no money and which uses only things he can find in nature. It’s an interesting way to do things, and the mushroom portion, especially, is fascinating, because humans know so little about mushrooms, and they’re pretty freaking weird. Pollan’s point in doing this is to show how humans can eat and why it’s a “dilemma” – most animals are hard-wired to eat only a few things, so they don’t worry about choices, but humans can eat anything, and they never know when something is going to be poisonous. That leads to farming specific things that we know won’t kill us, and that leads, eventually, to industrial, super-specialized (“monoculture,” which is not a good word) farming. Pollan points out that Americans, especially, have eating problems, and while industrial farming has a lot to do with that, he believes it’s a cultural problem, as well. As Americans are such a diverse group, we don’t have an “eating culture” in which people come together to prepare foods and make it a communal event, which leads to isolated eating, overeating, and poor eating. He has a point – I think he overstates it a bit, but he has a point – but he doesn’t go far enough, it feels, to indict our entire culture of consumerism and capitalism. It would be great to make some of the meals he talks about, but who has the time? Cheap eating isn’t necessarily about price – sure, that’s a factor – but about convenience. Most people don’t have the time to eat like he thinks is good, and that gets into a whole bigger thing about why we’re spending 75% of our lives are shitty jobs. But that’s a whole bigger conversation.
Anyway, this is a fascinating book. It might make you rethink your eating habits, which can’t be a bad thing for most of us, and it also might give you some interesting insights into crops, animals, and fungi. We can all use that, right?
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game on 2 March 1962 remains one of the unbreakable sports records, even though it’s certainly conceivable someone could break it if they chucked up enough shots. Chamberlain’s game is cloaked in mystery, as the National Basketball Association in 1962 was not the juggernaut it is today (it’s good to remind people that as late as 1979, the Finals were shown on tape delay), as it was a poor substitute for the college game, and the game was not televised and no New York beat writers attended it (the Philadelphia Warriors played the Knicks, but New York papers didn’t care much about the Knicks back then). The game itself took place in Hershey, Pennsylvania, because back then a lot of NBA games were played at “neutral” sites because the league was trying to attract attention and grow the game, so they went out of the cities that hosted the teams quite a bit. Pomerantz examines not only the minute-by-minute action of the game, but also the racism that Chamberlain and other black players had to deal with, the way the NBA and professional basketball had grown over the years, and the reactions to the game, which for many years were fairly negative. Chamberlain, probably the best basketball player who ever lived, was a prickly superstar, not wanting to get involved in racial/social issues like his counterpart, Bill Russell (who just died a few days ago), getting a bit grumpy about the fact that Russell won 11 NBA titles to his 2 (of course, Russell played with several Hall of Famers in his career, while Chamberlain didn’t), and never marrying, which made him seem more aloof than others. Pomerantz goes over it all, and he also writes extensively about the players on both teams at the time and how they came to be in Hershey on 2 March 1962. He even writes a bit about Milton Hershey and the town he founded, which is interesting. Of course, his main focus is on the game, and how remarkable it was. Not that Chamberlain scored so much – people had even made comments about his potential to score 100 points, and during the 1961-62 season, he averaged 50 points a game – but how so many factors converged to allow him to do so. The Warriors were always comfortably ahead from early on, so his teammates could feed him instead of worrying about scoring themselves because they needed to win the game. One of the Knicks’ best defenders missed the game due to illness, and even if he still couldn’t have stopped Chamberlain, it’s possible he could have slowed him down just enough to keep him from the magic number. Even the rims in the Hershey arena helped, as they were old and pliable, so balls wouldn’t bounce off of them quite so dramatically as they do with more rigid rims. Chamberlain’s night is astonishing, though. He set a record in the third quarter by throwing in 28 points (he tied his own record, actually) … and then broke it in the fourth quarter with 31 points. He grabbed 25 rebounds for good measure. He made 36 shots and attempted 63 (a good 57%) and attempted 32 free throws and made a record (since tied) 28 (87.5%, far above his pedestrian career average and probably partly due to the forgiving rims). No played has come close to tying his output – Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game is currently the second-best point total in an NBA game, and Bryant had the benefit of the 3-point shot, remember. Sadly, many people thought Chamberlain’s game was freakish, especially because his teammates were actively trying to get him the ball. Of course, nobody pointed out that Chamberlain was basically playing 1-on-5, as the Knicks threw everyone at him to stop him and he scored anyway. And, of course, there was racism even here, as white players thought guys like Chamberlain (and Russell, and Elgin Baylor) were ruining the game because they were so tall, so of course they could dominate! (Bob Cousy, the great Boston point guard, was one of those dudes – I don’t know if Cousy was racist, but some of his quotes in this book certainly do not sound terribly enlightened.) Pomerantz does a nice job keeping the tension about the game high, despite the fact that we know what’s going to happen, and he offers a good glimpse at the times. I dig sports history books, and this is a good one.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Only Murders in the Building season 1 (Hulu). This is a fun series, with Steve Martin and Martin Short having fun as washed-up show business types living in a swanky Manhattan apartment building who team up with Selena Gomez to solve a murder. They’re all fans of a true-crime podcast, which is how they meet, and one of the tenants dies mysteriously, they’re convinced it’s murder. Gomez, it turns out, knew the victim, and she was in the building trying to solve a different mystery about something that happened a decade or so ago, which might be tied in with his current murder. Martin and Short are having a blast, and Gomez isn’t quite on their level, acting-wise, but she’s pretty good, nevertheless. The show gets into the sadness both Short and Martin experience now that they’re long past their prime, as Short, especially, can’t seem to understand the world has passed him by. Amy Ryan is quite good as Martin’s love interest, a bassoonist in the orchestra who likes the serenade the building’s courtyard from her window, and Nathan Lane as the businessman who decides to front the trio’s podcast (which of course they start) is always good to see. Tina Fey drops in as the podcaster who brings them all together, and she’s always interesting. There are plenty of red herrings, naturally, and the show does get into some deeper ideas about ageism and class, but it’s more fun than anything. The season begins where it ends, so I wonder if they always knew they were going to get a second season, because that would have been a difficult cliffhanger to get over, but it did get a second season (and now a third), so it’s a good time to hop on board, if you’re interested!
The Staircase (HBO). It’s interesting to watch American entertainment (I don’t know about other countries) because so much of it carries an implicit desire or curse about wealth and either that we should all be seeking it or we should all be rejecting it. It leads to a lot of problems, but it’s hard to believe the creators are really condemning it too much, so there’s a lot of tension about it. For instance, this show. It’s about an actual death, in 2001, of Kathleen Peterson (played very well by Toni Collette), who may or may not have been killed by her husband, Michael (a pretty good Colin Firth). Peterson has always claimed his innocence, but he did finally enter a plea of guilty a few years ago without admitting guilt (an Alford plea), and it’s clear the only person who will ever know what really happened is Michael, but he ain’t saying. Of course, there was a documentary made about the case back in 2004, and that becomes part of the narrative, as Michael ended up having a romance with the editor of the documentary (played a bit dully by Juliette Binoche), and that adds another interesting layer to the story, and Peterson is outed as bisexual during the investigation, which he claims his wife knew about but which there’s no evidence she did (or didn’t, mind you). There’s a lot going on, in other words, and it’s pretty well done. However, it seems like a lot of the problems the Petersons have come from money, and the creators of this show wisely keep that in the background. Kathleen Peterson was an executive at Nortel, and she did pretty well for herself. Peterson was a somewhat successful writer who tried to go into politics, but he seemed to spend more money than they had. They lived in a nice house in North Carolina, and they had several kids from their previous relationships, and in the show, at least, their two adult sons are screw-ups who constantly need money to stay out of trouble, and the Petersons keep giving it to them (the boys are not Kathleen’s kids, so that forms a bone of contention between her and Michael). The pressure to keep up the appearance of wealth, the show is implying, is what makes it plausible that Michael could have killed Kathleen. They didn’t need to over-extend themselves, it seems, except that’s what we do in America, and look at what it leads to. It’s an interesting subtext of the story that sometimes becomes the text, and it’s prevalent in a lot of popular culture, and I wonder how much it seeps into people’s heads and makes them do dumb things. American culture sucks, is what I’m saying. Anyway, good performances from the two leads, Dane DeHaan is in this for some reason (how does that dude get work?), and Parker Posey shows up, because yay, Parker Posey!!!!
Ms. Marvel season 1 (Disney+). Despite Mik’s grumpiness about the use of the ClanDestine as something not really the ClanDestine in Ms. Marvel, this is a terrific show, and I’m glad they got the vibe of the comic book as well as they did. Iman Vellani (in her first role) is very good as Kamala, and the rest of the cast is pretty great, too. Like the comic, they tend to avoid the annoying romantic crap that so many stories fall into, as it seems they’re going to send Bruno (Matt Lintz) off to California and not pine away for Kamala, while her crush on Kamran (Rish Shah) is put aside pretty quickly. Yes, the djinn aren’t really as big a threat as they should have been, and yes, it’s unclear what Damage Control is really doing, but I appreciate that they don’t actually end with a big fight between Kamala and a bad guy, as it’s more about standing up for your community against meddling outsiders. It’s also nice to see a fully-formed community in a Marvel series that isn’t A) white; and B) just superheroes. The show, as far as I’ve heard, really nails the Muslim/Pakistani thing it’s going for, which is cool. And hey, there’s even a few good mother/daughter relationships in it! Whoo-hoo!
Dark Winds season 1 (AMC). This is based on Tony Hillerman’s books, and it’s not bad. Some things make no sense, but overall, the story is pretty good and the acting is strong. Zahn McClarnon, who’s been around forever, it seems, and always shows up in shows as kind of the token Indian, gets to play the lead, and he does a wonderful job as the Navajo (Dineh) cop patrolling the largest Native reservation in the country with, it seems, three people, in 1971. The other two people are Jim Chee, played decently by Kiowa Gordon, and Bernadette Manuelito, played quite well by Jessica Matten. They’re trying to solve a murder, while the FBI, embodied by Noah Emmerich at his smarmiest, are tracking bank robbers whom they believe disappeared on the reservation. Of course the two cases converge, and it’s interesting to see how. As I noted, some things make no sense – how the bank robbers are laundering the money is ridiculous – and I would hope that in the second season, the early-Seventies Native activism becomes even more to the fore (it’s definitely here, but not as prevalent as it could be), but it’s pretty good. There are only six episodes, so you can zip right through it!
The Old Man (FX). Very early on in this show, we think it might be about Jeff Bridges getting old and dealing with health problems like Alzheimer’s and it’s going to be a sad, meditative drama about aging. Then a man breaks into his house and his dogs attack the dude and Bridges kills him, and it turns into something else. As it happens, Bridges used to work for the CIA, and he was in Afghanistan in the 1980s helping a dude fight against the Soviets, and he stole the dude’s wife and now the dude wants revenge. The Afghan dude has a lot of pull with the U.S. government, so they’re doing the dirty work, but Bridges eludes them and goes on the run, taking Amy Brenneman along with him (she’s the woman who owns the house he rents when he first goes on the run, but she quickly sees too much!!!!!). John Lithgow, meanwhile, is Bridges’s old handler, and he comes on to try to figure out why this is all blowing up right now and if he can help Bridges or if he’ll have to kill him. Both Bridges and Lithgow are great, naturally, but so is Alia Shawkat as Lithgow’s right-hand woman, who has secrets of her own and Pej Vahdat as the young version of the Afghan dude, who starts out noble and gradually becomes a monster. It is meditative, as it turns out, but more about America’s role in world affairs, what America owes people, how the past is never dead, and what you do to protect those you love. It’s a bit frustrating, too, because it’s seven episodes long and it doesn’t finish the story, and even though it’s been renewed for a second season, it’s unclear how they’re going to get another full season (six or seven episodes) out of what’s next. They couldn’t do ten episodes and just tell a good story? Sigh. Anyway, I hope they get the second season done soon, because Bridges and Lithgow aren’t getting any younger! (That’s an “old man” joke, in case you didn’t know.)
The Airborne Toxic Event is one of my favorite current bands, so I was bummed when they released the less-than-stellar Dope Machines in 2015 (which isn’t terrible, just not as good as their first three albums) and then took 5 years to release another one, during which time lead singer/songwriter Mikel Jollett seemed to spend a lot of time bitching about Donald Trump on Twitter (which isn’t the worst pursuit, but come on!). Hollywood Park is a strong return to form, with Jollett deciding to go autobiographical, singing about his life, although who knows how much is true. The title track begins the album, and after the New-Wave 1980s vibe of Dope Machines, it’s nice to hear the band thundering through a song again, with feedback leading into a pounding beat, perfect for a song about a racetrack. Jollett is good at nostalgia, and he leans into it here, bemoaning the fact that the racetrack doesn’t exist anymore – where are they to bet all their money?!?!? It’s a good start, and the next three songs build on it: “Brother, How Was the War?” is a brilliant ode to a lost sibling, who vanished into Vietnam (he might still be alive as the singer sings, but it’s unclear) and whose brother is still trying to put his own life together. It’s a wonderful song with powerful music, especially as we transition from piano to guitar with a nice drum break two minutes in. “Carry Me” is a plea from a drug addict for someone to rescue him, and it’s excellent. It’s the most typical Airborne Toxic Event song on the album, as it starts quiet, with a bit of a jangly guitar, and slowly builds to a powerful cry of the hopeless. Finally, “Come On Out” is about as funky as the band gets, with a lively bass line driving the song and Jollett keeps his pitch low, which makes the few lines he screams all the more effective. The other excellent song on the album is “The Common Touch,” which has a nice guitar line that builds nicely, and Jollett working out his feelings for his father (so it seems) and with the person that he loves and his relationship with alcohol, and it’s really superb. The other songs on the album are very good, too, and it’s nice that the band still has its mojo after they lost one member and took five years off after releasing a weaker album. And hey, they’re named after something from a Don DeLillo book, so they can’t be that bad!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I bought some “classic” reprints this month, and I’ll show them to you!
The Asterix book is always fun, and Papercutz does a nice job with these. Dark Horse gives us The Creep, which is shot from Dale Eaglesham’s pencils and has a nice, raw look to it. Humanoids has the Juan Gimenez book, reprinting some of his work from the 1970s, and it’s absolutely beautiful. Jerry Siegel’s Spider gets a second collection from Rebellion/2000AD, and it looks pretty keen.
I’m most excited about the other books, though. Trina Robbins collects a bunch of Gladys Parker’s work beginning in the 1920s, and it’s really cool stuff. The two PS Artbooks are keen, but the Señorita Rio book is extremely cool, as it features early work from Nick Cardy and glorious stuff by Lily Renée (who is, as far as I know, still alive, so that’s nice). I couldn’t fit the Terry and the Pirates Master Collection on my scanner, because it’s huge, and it looks amazing. Clover Press did a really good job with the reprints, and it came with a “volume 13” (the plan is for 12 volumes), which is a collection of essays about Caniff and his work. It’s really keen.
Let’s move on to the money I spent this month!
6 July: $117.08
13 July: $180.46
20 July: $169.02
27 July: $274.14
Money spent in July: $740.07 (July 2021: $699.79)
YTD: $6258.80 (As of July 2021: $4469.68)
Let’s check out the publishers!
Action Lab: 1 (1 trade paperback)
AfterShock: 5 (2 single issues, 3 trade paperbacks)
Ahoy Comics: 1 (1 single issue)
AWA/Upshot: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Behemoth: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Bliss on Tap: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Blue Fox Comics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Boom! Studios: 2 (1 single issue, 1 trade paperback)
Clover Press: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
ComixTribe: 1 (1 single issue)
Dark Horse: 5 (5 single issues)
DC: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Del Rey: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Dynamite: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Fantagraphics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Floating World Comics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Hermes Press: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Humanoids: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Image: 8 (1 “classic” reprint, 3 single issues, 4 trade paperbacks)
Legendary Comics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Marvel: 3 (2 single issues, 1 trade paperback)
Papercutz: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
PS Artbooks: 2 (2 “classic” reprints)
Rebellion/2000AD: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Source Point Press: 1 (1 trade paperback)
8 “classic” reprints (39)
6 graphic novels (87)
15 single issues (83)
17 trade paperbacks (134)
And the totals for publishers so far!
Abrams Comicarts: 2
Action Lab: 2
Ahoy Comics: 6
Amulet Books/Abrams: 1
Antarctic Press: 1
Archie Comics: 1
AWA Studios: 8
Black Mask Studios: 1
Black Panel Press: 1
Bliss on Tap: 1
Boom! Studios: 13
Cartoon Books: 1
Clover Press: 4
Conundrum Press: 1
Darby Pop: 1
Dark Horse: 40
Dead Reckoning: 2
Del Rey: 1
Drawn & Quarterly: 2
Epicenter Comics: 1
Fairsquare Comics: 1
Fanfare/Ponent Mon: 1
Floating World Comics: 2
Gallery 13: 1
Graphic Mundi: 4
Hermes Press: 1
Holiday House: 1
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 1
Insight Comics: 1
Invader Comics: 1
Legendary Comics: 1
Little, Brown and Company: 1
Magnetic Press: 1
NoBrow Press: 1
One Piece Books: 1
Oni Press: 1
Outland Entertainment: 1
PM Press: 1
PS Artbooks: 7
Red 5 Comics: 3
Scout Comics: 6
Second Sight Publishing: 1
Silver Sprocket: 1
Soaring Penguin Press: 1
Source Point Press: 4
Titan Comics: 5
Top Shelf: 1
Tuttle Publishing: 1
Udon Entertainment: 1
Vault Comics: 3
Viz Media: 3
A Wave Blue World: 1
West Margin Press: 1
Z2 Comics: 1
School has started, which is nice, because the kids were getting a bit bored. My younger daughter, who had such problems last year, is in a new school, which my wife has dubbed “the island of misfit toys,” because it’s a charter school with a lot of kids who look very much like my daughter – weirdos, in other words (I say that with a lot of love, being a weirdo myself). The school has an artistic bent, and she’s taking a fashion class, and so far, she seems to enjoy it. They figured out a way for her to graduate in the spring, which she was a bit worried about, but she has a lot of work to do. So far her attitude is good, and I think she’s just a bit scared that she’s not going to graduate on time (if she does, it will be a month before her 18th birthday, so we honestly don’t care if she does at that time, because she’s still young). We shall see.
We’re gearing up for our trip to Italy in October, so that’s fun. My daughter and I had to get new passports because my wife inexplicably lost ours (she still has hers, suspiciously), and we went a few weeks ago to get them, not without some anxiety. I knew it took a few months to get them, but I thought if I went at the end of July, we’d be fine. Yeah, no. We had to get them expedited, and that should take 5-7 weeks, so we should be okay, but even worse was the fact that I couldn’t get an appointment anywhere. The last time we got passports, in 2017 or ’18 (we went out of the country in the summer of 2018, so we probably got them in 2017, but I can’t remember exactly when), we just went to our city hall and stood in line for 45 minutes or so, and that’s what I was going to do again. Whoops. Apparently, now you need an appointment, and our city hall was booked out for two weeks. My wife started looking around, and everywhere was booked solid. We thought we might have to drive to Tucson (about 110 miles) or Yuma (about 180 miles), which would not have been ideal. I was cursing my own stupidity (I do that a lot), but then she found an appointment at the Maricopa County Clerk’s office in downtown Phoenix for later that morning, and we jumped on it. We went down, submitted our paperwork, and $486 later ($208 for each passport, $70 to the Clerk for, I guess, making about ten copies and dropping our applications in the mail?), we were done! Our anxiety hasn’t abated completely – we still need to get them into our hot little hands – but it’s lessened. I know I should have done it months ago, but I’m just that lazy. I keep making jokes that my wife lost our passports on purpose so she could go off to Italy by herself and meet a dashing rich Italian gentleman to take her away, and I’m not convinced I’m wrong.
Ugh, politics. I’d like to say nothing, but Arizona had its primary last week, and three far-right crazies won the nominations for governor, senator, and secretary of state, with the first and third obviously having a big say in elections in the state. The hope is, of course, that moderate Republicans won’t vote for these nuts, but who the hell knows? The governor candidate is Kari Lake, who used to be a newscaster but quit her job – at the Fox affiliate, mind you – because it wasn’t conservative enough. Meanwhile, the senatorial candidate puts up signs like this:
As I wrote on Facebook, I wonder if Masters thought to himself: “Can I put up a campaign sign that says I’m a douchebag without coming right out and saying it while also saying absolutely nothing about what I would actually do in the Senate?” I think he nailed it. Sigh. This is America, people. This is what it’s come to.
Olivia Newton-John died today, which is vaguely sad but, as usual, I’m not too sad because I didn’t know her. Here’s a photo I found on-line of her, Helen Reddy, Minnie Riperton, and Linda Ronstadt in 1976:
Ronstadt is the only one left alive now. Here’s Newton-John singing “Magic,” because you know you love it!!!!
Moving on to photos from 30 years ago, in July 1992 I left Australia and spent a week wandering around the North Island of New Zealand before returning to the States. The first two photos are when I went black water rafting in a nifty cave. It was very cool, and when we got out of the cave, we ate carrot soup and thick bread, and it was fucking amazing. We were so hungry and cold, and that simple meal hit the motherfucking spot. The third picture is of us in a pool in winter, in the middle of the night, because it was heated by a hot spring, and it was very toasty. The final two are of me bungie jumping. I was the only one of our group to do it, and it was pretty danged cool. I went a few times in Oregon, but this was the only time I was tied by my ankles (in Oregon they put a harness on your torso) and the only time I was over a body of water (in Oregon it was over one of those giant rubber things filled with air). It was pretty cool, and I wouldn’t mind doing it again. I don’t know if the Kiwis still let you fall by your ankles!
To finish up, here are some fun videos. First up is French singer Alizée dancing, because I’m not above pandering to the male readers!
Next up is Maan de Steenwinkel, also dancing. I don’t know anything about her (I found these videos when I went down a Reddit rabbit hole), but maybe resident Dutch commenter Eric von Schaik can tell us more. Are you out there, Eric?
Finally, here’s Texas A & M hurdler Kennedy Smith, knowing exactly where the camera is:
And our post wouldn’t be complete without old-school cuties, so here’s Dawn Wells doing … well, something:
I apologize for not having a Question of the Week up last week or this week, but I’ve just been occupied with stuff. So I’ll ask a Question: How are you all doing? I hope everyone is doing well! And remember – if you use the link below, even if it’s to buy something different, we get a tiny piece of that, and that’s pretty cool. Have a nice day!