“In those days, the gods took sides.”
“They always have.” (Arturo Pérez-Reverte, from The Club Dumas)
Crossover volume 2: The Ten-Cent Plague by Donny Cates (writer), Chip Zdarsky (writer), Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Robert Kirkman (writer), Geoff Shaw (artist), Phil Hester (artist), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Ande Parks (inker), Klaus Janson (inker), Dee Cunniffe (colorist), Nick Filardi (colorist), John J. Hill (letterer), and Mark Waid (editor). $19.99, 137 pgs, Image.
The first volume of Crossover was pretty good, but the second one is better, which is a bit surprising considering it seems like a one-note joke, but Cates has expanded it nicely, as it becomes even more metatextual in this volume and begins to encompass more of the “real” world. Yes, comic book writers are still being killed, but if possible, it’s even cleverer in this volume, as in the prologue, Chip Zdarsky writes about how his own comic-book counterpart – he “became” a comic-book character in issue #14 of Sex Criminals – is stalking him, but it’s not what you think. Then, Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker show up, because they’re cops, you know, and we get an entire Bendisian conversation about how Ellie knows they’re from Powers but she doesn’t want to get into a “Powers-like conversation” with them, which of course they do. Zdarsky writes his part, Bendis and Oeming do the section where they are interviewed by Pilgrim and Walker, and Kirkman writes the part where Negan shows up at his place. Cates himself shows up as … the villain? Maybe? He’s definitely there, but what’s his role in this whole thing? Part of the fun of the book is finding out how much “influence” these writers have over their creations (yes, I know their influence is total, as we are talking about fictional characters here, but bear with me) and whether they can actually stop them, but a big part of the fun is just seeing the writers take themselves down a peg, as the bodies drop and Cates narrates that things have gotten out of his control. Shaw’s art remains terrific – he mimics but doesn’t slavishly ape the designs of the characters, so Pilgrim and Walker are his characters but they’re recognizable as Oeming’s characters, and when Oeming draws them, they’re obviously more themselves, so it adds to the weird unreality of the overall vibe. This is just a really fun book, with enough depth to make it thought-provoking, and the final page promises an even more intense third volume. I’m curious to see how it will be presented to us, because of what happens at the end of this volume, but I’m looking forward to it!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
This is a fun, very dark comedy/revenge book, and the only real problem with it is that I don’t know how they’re going to get an entire second volume out of it. It feels like it could easily wrap up in six issues or so, but we only get four here (they’re each 24 pages, so they’re a bit longer than your usual comic, but still), and I’m not sure how the next volume will get at least four more. But that’s a problem for another day! In this comic, Mitchell Moss is a regular schlub who owns some chicken fast-food restaurants, but his partner gets in business with mobsters to smuggle heroin in with the supplies for the restaurant. Mitchell tries to get out of town with his family, but on page 12 of the first issue, they’re blown the fuck up on a yacht he was going to flee on, and Mitchell has a bit of a breakdown. His partner had hidden the drugs, and Mitchell finds them, and he decides to use them to lure the gangsters out so he can kill them all. The comedy comes from the fact that he’s just not that good at it, but he keeps surviving. That, and, as the cover shows, he wears the restaurant’s mascot costume so nobody recognizes him (which spectacularly fails to work, as who else would it be?). The cops are onto him, but they can’t actually prove anything, and they’re not really trying that hard, because he keeps killing drug dealers. So it’s very violent, sure, and it’s sad because Mitchell is avenging his family, but at the same time, it’s a bit goofy, and it works quite well. Sherman’s terrific art helps in that regard, too – it’s weirdly off-kilter, with interesting page designs and panel layouts, Dutch angles and weird perspectives, all keeping us a bit off-balance, which is how Mitchell feels, so that’s a nice touch. His violence is Tarantino-esque, as it comes suddenly and shockingly, making us laugh nervously because it’s kind of goofy but still, you know, very bloody. This is, honestly, a typical revenge tale, but Buccellato and Sherman do a nice job making it their own unique creation, so while I’m a bit wary about them stretching it out a bit more, I am looking forward to volume 2!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
What’s the Furthest Place from Here? volume 1 by Tyler Boss and Matthew Rosenberg (“storytellers”), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer), Clare DeZutti (color assistant), and Shycheeks (color assistant). $19.99, 201 pgs, Image.
Rosenberg and Boss have done some good comics together, and here’s another one! In marketing’s desperate attempts to get people to buy something familiar, they claim this is “Lord of the Rings meets Lord of the Flies, or John Carpenter by way of John Hughes,” all of which sound clever because of the repetition but doesn’t make much sense (it’s not Lord of the Rings in any way, nor is it very much John Hughes) and ignores the fact that it’s very much Logan’s Run, as the kids in the story have to go away when they become adults and they don’t come back. Anyway, it’s a post-apocalyptic world, and gangs of kids are all that’s left, it seems. The only semi-normal gang (meaning: the only one that doesn’t have a fetishistic uniform/costume thing going on) gets a visitor one night – a returned older kid, which is taboo. Another member, Sid, is pregnant, and she’s happy that the other one came back, even it would cause problems. The returned dude is injured, and he dies soon after, and then Sid goes missing. So her gang goes on a quest to find her, coming across many of the other gangs, breaking every rule of this strange new world, and making a mess of everything. By the end of the volume, they’re no closer to finding Sid and their numbers have been whittled down considerably, but we get to know a little bit about where the older kids go and what happened to Sid, so there are plenty of ways for the book to go in the next volume.
It’s an interesting book, because Rosenberg and Boss do a nice job creating the world. The gangs are bizarre and some are downright creepy, but they also feel like something kids without any supervision would come up with. There’s an old folks’ home populated by children, for instance, who have learned a thing or two about old folks but aren’t, you know, old. There’s a very creepy supermarket where the gang has adopted supermarket homogeneous culture. There are weird guardians called “strangers” whom everyone fears, but it’s unclear what their function is. We get a nice creation of this world, and Boss and Rosenberg do a good job giving the characters odd and interesting personalities. It’s not all doom-‘n’-gloom, either – there’s a good deal of humor in the book, not only from the visual weirdness, but because they’re kids, and they don’t always react appropriately to situations. So while this world doesn’t seem like a cheery place, it’s a place where people can live and try to have a “normal” life, and that includes lighter-hearted moments. Boss is a pretty good artist, as he creates a bunch of interesting characters and weird places for them to move through, and the book looks like a place kids would build, as it’s ramshackle and occasionally devoted to ridiculous things. It’s an odd world, but Boss makes it one that’s interesting to explore.
I don’t know how long Rosenberg and Boss are planning for this, but it’s a good start. We’ll see if they can keep it up in the next volume!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Lees continues his horror anthology that revolves around the motor inn on Route 66, and it’s still pretty darned good, unsurprisingly. The stories aren’t quite self-contained, as he brings up stuff that happened in volume 1, but those are mostly sidebars, and the main stories do stand on their own. Lees is unsentimental about his writing, which makes him a good horror writer – you simply never know if “good” people are going to live or “bad” people are going to die, and it keeps you on your toes. He does create a bigger … I hate to write “mythology,” because I’m sick of that word, but it fits here, unfortunately, around the hotel, as he sets up more stories (obviously, this can go as long as Lees wants, because it’s an anthology) but also gives us some hints about what might happen with the recurring characters. I don’t want to give too much away about the specific stories, but Lees does a nice job giving us flawed characters who have to make hard decisions, ones which could easily lead to tragedy. Some of the characters are pretty evil, but in general, these are just people who have something wrong in their lives and they’re not sure how to work through it. Unfortunately for them, the motel seems to accentuate the bad things, so things tend to spiral once people reach it. Lees does a very good job of twisting everyday problems into something horrific, and that’s why his horror stories are so effective. Talajić’s sturdy art helps with that, as he has a solid, strong line that keeps the stories grounded, which makes the horrific stuff feel more a part of the world and not an intrusion into it. It’s a good way to keep Lees’s stories bound to the earth, which helps them dig into our brains a bit more.
I hope there are more of these stories coming. That would be nice. We shall see!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Spider-Woman volume 4: Devil’s Reign by Karla Pacheco (writer), Pere Pérez (artist), Frank D’Armata (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $15.99, 100 pgs, Marvel.
Spider-Woman has been canceled, which is too bad, because this run has been a blast. It gets sidetracked slightly by whatever the hell “Devil’s Reign” was (don’t tell me, I know the basics and don’t wish to know anything else), but the first issue, in which Jessica fights against Irish ninjas (sure, why not?) on the set of a Western, is great, and the final two issues are brilliant, as well. Issue #20 shows Jessica hanging out with Lindsay, her stuntwoman buddy, while all the villains who’ve ever fought against her team up. Villains keep trying to fight her (as an audition for the group) and failing, and it’s very funny. Finally, they get the team together and attack Jessica in issue #21, and it’s an all-out battle, beautifully drawn by Pérez, who really stepped up his game on this title (he’s been good for years, but on this book, he was excellent). The “Devil’s Reign” issues aren’t bad, but they feel a bit out of place, which always happens with these annoying crossovers. Anyway, the book must not have sold too well, as the villain team-up feels like it should have gone on a bit longer but Pacheco had to wrap it up quickly, so it doesn’t feel like Pacheco was just done with the character. Oh well. This was a very fun comic, and it’s too bad it didn’t last a little while longer.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
The second volume of Angela Della Morte expands the weird world of the first one, in which corporations were trying to eradicate souls and others were helping souls enter into different bodies – it’s weird, okay? – as in this volume, the not-very-subtly named Angela leads a team to where the bad guys have collected viscous evil and are trying to harness it, and they try to stop it. The art is quite nice, and the story is interesting, but not great. I’m curious to see where it goes. Liam Sharp is doing his weird multi-media, quasi-painted art instead of his strong line art, which makes Reptilian not as nice as it might be, simply because it’s far too murky (when Sharp goes that way, his coloring tends to get very dark). Ennis gives us an origin of Killer Croc that will be immediately ignored (to be fair, it is kind of stupid), but this is a entertaining, dumb Batman story, and who doesn’t love an entertaining, dumb Batman story every now and then? Cross to Bear wonders what would happen if Jack the Ripper escaped to the American Southwest and what would happen if an ancient order derived from – sigh – the Templars pursued him, and it’s … not bad. Nice art, and a decent, twisty story. I’m not sure if it can sustain a second volume, but it ends on a psuedo-cliffhanger, so look out for volume 2! I enjoyed Crush & Lobo quite a bit – Amancay Nahuelpan is a very good artist, and Mariko Tamaki’s story is pretty good – but it’s like they really wanted to make sure we knew Crush was gay, and ultimately, her relationship felt like filler. This is eight issues, and it could have easily been six, but they wanted to put her romance into it, but the romance is inconsequential, except that it’s with a woman. As if the representation was more important than whether it added anything to the story. If you want to write a story about Crush’s romantic problems, that’s fine. Don’t shoehorn it into this space adventure with her dad. It’s still entertaining, though. Dark Blood is about a black guy in 1950s Alabama getting superpowers. It goes about as well as you’d expect. It’s pretty good, but completely unsurprising at every turn. Snow Angels concludes in volume 2, and it’s a pretty good conclusion – a bit unexpected, and fairly exciting. Jock’s art is excellent, as usual. Unborn is Alien, basically – explorers land on a planet in search of material to help save the Earth, a hostile alien life form gets on board, chaos ensues. It’s fine if you like that sort of thing. The second volume of We Only Find Them When They’re Dead takes place decades after the first one, and while it’s a decent enough story, it’s hard to care about the characters because they’re introduced so quickly, so anything that happens to them doesn’t have much of an impact. I get why Ewing did it that way, and it’s not bad, but it’s just hard to be invested. There’s going to be a third volume, but it looks like there’s going to be another big time leap, so I’m not sure if I want to get it. We shall see.
Let’s move on!
This book begins with a lie, as the title itself is a lie. Teddy Roosevelt died in January 1919, so he wasn’t even close to alive in 1920, but Pietrusza makes the point that he would have almost certainly been the Republican nominee in 1920, so that’s how he gets around that. (Although, of course, had he been the nominee, no one would have ever heard of Harding, which makes his title, once again, a lie.) He just wants to write a book about the 1920 election, a fairly crucial one in American history (they all are, of course, but some are more crucial than others), as Wilson wanted the States to join the League of Nations, while Republicans had gradually turned away from it, so Wilson wanted to run for a third term to ram it through, but his health declined so badly that his party didn’t nominate him. (Ironically, Wilson outlived Harding, but perhaps he wouldn’t have had he been re-elected.) So Pietrusza has Wilson, who turned out to be a lame duck in 1920, Roosevelt, who was dead, and Hoover, who was a very dark-horse candidate in the convention. FDR is on the cover because he was the vice-presidential nominee for the Democrats, so that’s that. It’s still an interesting book, because of the crucial nature of the year – not only was Wilson pushing for the League while Harding promised a return to “normalcy” – which meant, of course, a return to isolation from European affairs that probably helped Hitler gain power, so thanks for that, Warren – but it was the first year of Prohibition (the amendment had been ratified in 1919 but the law went into effect in January 1920) and it was the first election in which women could vote. So, momentous. Pietrusza doesn’t really get into the campaign too much – once Wilson had his stroke and wasn’t nominated, the Democrats were pretty much dead in the water and Harding won extremely easily – but he does get into the conventions quite a bit and how Harding was nominated. He was the ultimate compromise candidate, but he didn’t do or say anything too stupid before and after his nomination, which is all he didn’t need to do in 1920 to get elected. The Democratic convention was also contentious, as they picked James Cox to run, with Roosevelt as his running mate. Pietrusza gets into the ancillary causes of the day – suffrage, Prohibition, the League, the new Klan, Marcus Garvey and his organization – and also gives us a bit of what passed for dirty pool back in the day, as one professor at a university in Ohio, who was a slight power in the Democratic party, really tried to prove that Harding was a black man (the claim was one of his ancestors was black, and of course that was enough back in those days!). Weirdly enough for the time period, not many people seemed to care if it was true or not. Pietrusza also mentions Eugene Debs, the Socialist candidate, and some of the candidates from smaller, boutique political parties. There’s a lot going on, in other words, and Pietrusza does a good job juggling everything. If the book loses some momentum after the conventions, that’s because of the pre-determined outcome, and even Pietrusza can’t make the biggest election victory since Monroe ran unopposed in 1820 interesting. The convention wrangling, though, is fascinating, as is Pietrusza’s examination of Wilson’s decline and his wife’s seizure of the reins for a while in 1919-20 (which wasn’t as dynamic as some people want to make it – Edith Wilson was not the “effective president,” as some people like to claim, she was just the gatekeeper to Wilson, which was still a powerful position). Harding comes off pretty well in the book – Pietrusza doesn’t get into his presidency too much, but he does mention the scandals, even though it’s clear that Harding was a dude who just wanted everyone to like him and chill out, which the country did. Coolidge comes off pretty well, too, which is interesting because Coolidge has always seemed kind of colorless to me. Hoover, whom I contend would have gone down as one of the greatest Americans ever if he hadn’t been president, isn’t in the book too much, but Pietrusza does get into why people would want him as president. There’s a lot in the book, and it’s a pretty darned good read, if American history is your thing.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
This is a strange book, one I think Greg Hatcher would have liked – it’s a pulpy, ERB/REH/HRH kind of book, set during World War I and featuring an expedition into deepest, darkest Africa and what happened there. A ghost writer (really a ghost writer of a ghost writer of a ghost writer – don’t fret about it) of crazy adventure stories set in Africa is hired by a solicitor to write a story about his client, who is in jail, accused of the murders of two sons of an English lord. The man, Marcus Garvey, is not white, but he’s not black, either – the writer, Tommy Thomson, never finds out his origins, but he’s definitely from the lower strata of society. Thomson meets with Garvey and Garvey tells him his story – he ended up on the expedition into the Congo, where the two Englishmen wanted to find gold, and they did … but they found a lot more as well. I don’t want to give too much away, but this becomes a very weird adventure story, with lost cities and weird people doing horrific things, and Thomson keeps writing even though it becomes more and more incredible. Thomson gets drafted, too, so there’s a side trip to the Western Front, where he gets gassed less than a week into his tour, so he gets to go home. It’s very strange, and we as readers have many questions, not the least of which is how Thomson writing essentially a novel will help get Garvey out of jail. So there are a bunch of interesting layers to the book, and we’re never quite sure if we can trust anyone, even Thomson. It’s written very well, and Piñol delves into the class structure of Edwardian England, the racism inherent in the system, the greed of white people, the justice system and how rigged it is, and the hypocrisy of sexual mores of the day, and it’s a bizarre stew of ideas. It’s a thrilling book, but part of why it’s a good book is the stuff that nags at you about what’s going on. Piñol does this deliberately, so that he can explain things as the book winds down, and it’s not a bad way to have a book presented to you. It’s certainly weird, but it’s also entertaining!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Stargirl season 2 (CW/HBO). Yep, I finally got around to watching the second season of Stargirl … just in time, almost, for the third season (which is scheduled for the fall, not the summer, but whatever)! This wasn’t quite as good as the first season, because it was far too disjointed, but there were some really nice sequences, and the cast did its usual good work. Eclipso was the villain this time around, which meant in the middle of the season, after he had escaped from the black diamond but before he was ready for his big push at the end, we got some creepy horror episodes in which a little kid (nothing creepier than little kids!) who’s really Eclipso (used, presumably, because as cool as he looks in the comics, a real-life Eclipso looks a bit goofy) plays mean head games with our heroes, causing Yolanda to quit, Rick to beat his uncle senseless, and Beth to doubt her parents’ love for her. It’s pretty well done. Brec Bassinger continues to do a good job as Stargirl, and the younger cast is good, with Meg DeLacy as Cindy Burman a highlight (she’s sidelined for much of the middle of the season, because Eclipso gets rid of her after he uses her to escape the diamond, but she comes back strong in the final few episodes), but the adults, as usual, are excellent: Luke Wilson and Amy Smart are great, and Jonathan Cake as the Shade is superb, having a blast doing his affected Victorian thing. There’s so much going on, but thanks to COVID restrictions, a lot of the season focuses on very small groups – Rick is off doing stuff with Solomon Grundy, Beth is off doing stuff with her parents – that there’s a weird feeling running through the show. The town feels deserted (due to the lack of extras) and while they explain the winter weather as an effect of Eclipso, it’s still bizarre. The effects aren’t great, especially Grundy, who looks far too much like Edward Hyde in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the movie, the effects in which are notoriously terrible), but at the end, when they need a bit more oomph, we get it. The show did what it could with the restrictions, and we did get some pretty cool stuff, but I hope they can get back on track with a more fully-realized universe in Season 3. The addition of Mr. Bones and the return of some fun villains from Season 1, as well as the continuing presence of the Shade and Starman (Joel McHale may or may not be a full-time cast member next season), should make the next season feel more … “lived in,” I guess? Still, this is an entertaining show. There’s nothing wrong with that!
Big Sky season 2 (ABC/Hulu). The second season of this dumb show is probably dumber than the first, but it’s stupidly entertaining, so we watched the entire thing. If it comes back for a third season, we might watch it again – there’s something cathartic about watching characters do such dumb things, and the show does look great (production moved from Canada to New Mexico – God forbid they film in Montana, where the show is set! – and it just looks nice). Last season, they killed off John Carroll Lynch in the middle of it, before realizing that he was pretty good, so they brought him back as the first character’s twin, and he’s a different kind of monster, which is nice. Jesse James Keitel, who is inexplicably not a series regular, is still very good, as she switches from victim in the first season to detective in this one. Janina Gavankar is excellent as the drug dealer who wants to set up shop in Montana but her brother and father (who runs the larger operation) don’t think she can do it because she’s a woman. She hires Jamie-Lynn Sigler (good ol’ Meadow Soprano!), who’s also very good as a waitress who takes to crime like a frickin’ fish to water. Gavankar’s tough guy, Donno (Ryan O’Nan), is another very fun character. In fact, my wife and I were rooting for the bad guys pretty consistently, because the good guys are so stupid. Katheryn Winnick wants her old job back with the sheriff, but then she immediately starts banging an undercover cop who’s worked his way into the drug operation. Then she decides to go after the drug operation, basically ruining his own (although he’s not the best cop, either, so it’s all right). He works for the State Police, and I can’t believe they wouldn’t tell the sheriff’s department to back the hell off, and Winnick would have been fired many times over for ignoring that and banging their undercover guy. Meanwhile, Brian Geraghty, the creepy killer from Season 1, is still on the loose, and that story takes up a good amount of the season. Kylie Bunbury is sort of pursuing that, but she’s not very smart about it either. Neither are her father, who isn’t in the show too much but still manages to do some dumb things, and Omar Metwally, playing a U.S. Marshal who also would have been fired many times over. Plus, in the first part of the season, a bunch of teenagers find drugs and money that belong to Gavankar’s operation, and they act wildly stupidly throughout their arc, although teens are dumb in general, so we can’t be that mad. Basically, this is just a mindlessly entertaining show, with some very good performances and some wildly idiotic plotting. I can’t recommend it, but it’s kind of fun to watch.
George Carlin’s American Dream (HBO). I’ve never been a big fan of Carlin’s – pointing out oxymoronic phrases like “military intelligence” and ranting how everything sucks aren’t particularly funny, sorry – but this is an excellent documentary, as directors Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio really get into Carlin’s life, thanks to the participation of his second wife (his first wife died) and his daughter, who presumably gave them access to a lot of personal recordings of Carlin that he made throughout his life. It makes this very fascinating, because we see and hear more of his home life than we usually get, and not always through the eyes of someone who lived it with the subject, like his daughter (who is very interesting, to be sure, but of course, we’re getting her perspective). The stuff from Carlin’s 1960s work is amazing, because he’s almost unrecognizable as a clean-cut, suit-wearing “normal” comedian. It is very much worth a look just for the stuff from the ’60s. We get the fall from grace in the late 1970s/early 1980s and the Renaissance of the ’90s, and Carlin, his first wife (she was interviewed occasionally), and his daughter are all frank about his and his wife’s drug use, and we get many, many testimonials from people such as Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, W. Kamau Bell, Alex Winter, Kevin Smith, Bill Burr, Patton Oswalt, and many others. This is where I had a revelation – Carlin is revered today because he came along at the perfect time, not because he was such a revolutionary comic. Think about it: from what I’ve seen of Lenny Bruce, he was much funnier and cleverer than Carlin. Someone like Ernie Kovacs was funnier, but in a completely surreal way. Neither of those dudes (plus the many others from that time) were around at the right time. Bruce constantly got arrested for using foul language, and a decade later, Carlin could use it without fearing arrest because Bruce had paved the way. Carlin became a “cool” comedian around 1970 … when a lot of the people interviewed in the documentary were being born, so their formative years coincided with Carlin’s transformation. In the 1990s, “stand-up comic culture” exploded, and a lot of these young comedians got television shows or HBO specials … and they talked about the people who influenced them, with Carlin being the big one. So Carlin’s importance became outsized, because all of these new comedians cited him as an influence, because he came along at the right time. Had they been a decade older, Lenny Bruce would be a much bigger name than he is today. It’s not that Carlin wasn’t a good performer – far from it. I just wonder if he’s lauded so much because so many iconic comedians of the generation after his grew up watching him, and as we know, there’s nothing better than the pop culture you consume when you’re younger than about 15. Go on and @ me, but that’s my take. Anyway, this is a very good documentary, and it’s less than four hours long, so watch the whole thing in a night!
Outlander season 6 (Starz). My wife has read many of these novels, but I never have, but the show is pretty good. Caitríona Balfe and Sam Heughan remain very good, and their chemistry is as strong as ever (I could do without the scenes of them banging so much – we get it, they dig each other), and the show is leading up to the American Revolution nicely. Heughan is doing well as the guy who knows what’s coming but can’t commit to the American side just yet because he’s still a British subject, and it’s interesting watching him walk a fine line. Balfe, as usual, does what she can with some weaker material, including the decision to have her start using ether to escape the memory of her abduction last season, when she was raped more than once. I get it, but it feels far too tacked on, as if it’s there simply so she can be asleep during a crucial moment in the season. The presence of a girl who claims she’s carrying Heughan’s child is dumb, too, as his son-in-law caught the girl in church about to get it on with some other dude but never tells her father (who would, to be clear, beat the girl), so when she claims that Jamie Fraser is the father, it’s too late to say that she’s kind of a slut. Dumb stuff like that annoys me, and I do wish shows would not be dumb, but such is life. Another character drinks too much, but even though Balfe was alive in the 1950s and 1960s and is a doctor and would presumably know that alcoholism is a disease and not a moral failing (I don’t know when doctors started realizing that, but I mean, they had to know a little about it in the 1950s and ’60s, right?), she never says anything about it. It’s frustrating. It’s still pretty good, and the actors do a nice job, and I hope we get to the Revolution next season so we can put aside some of the stupid stuff!
Outer Range season 1 (Amazon Prime). Josh Brolin stars in this “weird Western” as the patriarch of a ranching family (his character’s name is Royal, for crying out loud) who finds a big hole on his land. Like, a really big hole. One that appears bottomless. See? Weird. Anyway, his family is in some trouble. One son’s wife disappeared nine months earlier, his other son is failing to make it as a rodeo rider, and Will Patton, his neighbor, is causing trouble over a century-old property dispute. Lili Taylor plays Brolin’s wife, who’s slowly losing faith in God. Meanwhile, Imogen Poots, playing some hippie hiker, shows up and asks if she can camp on Brolin’s land for a while, and he lets her, but it soon becomes clear she knows things that she probably shouldn’t, and he gets increasingly peeved with her, which, you know, you let her camp on your land, ya butt. It’s fine, I guess – the scenery is beautiful, the cinematography is cool, and the actors do a good job – but it’s another one of those shows where characters really ought to talk to each other and things might work out better. Brolin doesn’t really have to keep the hole a secret, but he does anyway, and it causes some grief. It’s not a bad show, just a bit dumber than it should be. And, as usual, I’m convinced that 90% of the problems on television (and in life?) are caused because families live too damned close together. Brolin’s daughter-in-law wouldn’t have disappeared, it’s implied, if her husband had just moved away from Wyoming with her when she wanted to. Move away from your families, people!!!!
Gentleman Jack season 2 (HBO). This show is about Anne Lister, the first “modern lesbian,” an English landowner who carried on numerous affairs with women in the early 1800s and was “married” to Ann Walker in York, in a church now celebrated as the birthplace of lesbian marriage in Britain. This show is about Lister’s romance with Walker, but also about her trying to be a businesswoman in a hostile, male-dominated landscape. This season takes place in 1834-35, as Lord Melbourne has just become prime minister, and Lister is trying to create a coal empire on her property and make her union with Walker more legal, which means putting each other in each other’s wills. Walker’s sister, with whom she shares a large estate, is married to a dude who’s suspicious of Walker’s motives, and his refusal to divide the estate legally (which is perfectly within Walker’s rights, but of course the man doesn’t think she knows what she’s doing) drives the plot of the season. Meanwhile, the political life of England is in a turmoil, as Lister, being a landowner, is very much a Tory (she’s a “good” Tory, though, as she cares deeply about all her tenants even though she is condescending to them generally) and she can’t believe the Whigs might actually be the ascendant party in the country. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on, and while the romantic aspects are the least interesting parts, at least they don’t dominate. Suranne Jones is terrific as Lister, powering through the show like a hurricane, dominating everyone she meets, but Sophie Rundle has done a nice job this season coming into her own after spending a lot of season one as a frightened lamb. The show is beautiful, as so much of where Lister lived is still standing, so the authenticity of the surroundings is unmatched, and the costuming is superb, as well. I just saw that HBO canceled the show, which sucks, as the pandemic delayed this season (the first aired in 2019) and probably killed any momentum it had. The entire run is 16 episodes, though, and while this season doesn’t end with a definitive series ending (Lister died in 1840, so it’s not like the show could last too long!), it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, like so many shows that get canceled, so it’s a fairly satisfying way to wrap things up. So that’s nice.
Not a lot of “classic” reprints this month, but here they are!
There’s a PS Artbooks book, with some Matt Baker and Steve Ditko work, and the second of Marvel’s “Let’s publish our entire catalog for the month an iconic character debuted,” which is an inspired idea. This time it’s Spider-Man, of course, but what cracks me up is that other iconic characters debuted in this month, and they’re included, but you’d never know June 1962 was also Thor’s first appearance and Ant-Man’s first appearance (but not Hank Pym’s?) by the packaging of this omnibus. Fuck Thor and Ant-Man, am I right? Anyway, this is another very cool entry into this thing that Marvel is doing. Can April 1975 be far behind?????
Let’s take a look at the money for the month!
1 June: $222.09
8 June: $102.35
15 June: $138.76
22 June: $169.95
29 June: $206.42
Money spent in June: $839.57 (Last year: $598.36)
YTD: $5518.10 (Last year at this time: $3769.89)
Dang, I’m on track for well over $10,000 this year. That ain’t right.
Here are my monthly purchases, broken down by publisher and format!
Ablaze: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Abrams Comicsarts: 1 (1 graphic novel)
AfterShock: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Ahoy Comics: 2 (2 single issues)
Archie Comics: 1 (1 single issue)
AWA Studios: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Black Mask: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Boom! Studios: 4 (2 single issues, 2 trade paperbacks)
Cartoon Books: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Clover Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Dark Horse: 4 (1 graphic novel, 2 single issues, 1 trade paperback)
DC: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Fairsquare Comics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Fantagraphics: 4 (3 graphic novels, 1 single issue)
Humanoids: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Image: 9 (4 graphic novels, 3 single issues, 2 trade paperbacks)
Magnetic Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Marvel: 3 (1 “classic” reprint, 1 single issue, 1 trade paperback)
NBM: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Oni Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
PM Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
PS Artbooks: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Red 5 Comics: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Source Point Press: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Tuttle Publishing: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Viz: 1 (1 manga volume)
West Margin Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
So we have:
2 “classic” reprints (31)
20 graphic novels (81)
1 manga volume (4)
11 single issues (68)
16 trade paperbacks (117)
So far this year, here are the publishers’ totals:
Abrams Comicarts: 2
Action Lab: 1
Ahoy Comics: 5
Amulet Books/Abrams: 1
Antarctic Press: 1
Archie Comics: 1
AWA Studios: 6
Black Mask Studios: 1
Black Panel Press: 1
Boom! Studios: 11
Cartoon Books: 1
Clover Press: 3
Conundrum Press: 1
Darby Pop: 1
Dark Horse: 35
Dead Reckoning: 2
Drawn & Quarterly: 2
Epicenter Comics: 1
Fairsquare Comics: 1
Fanfare/Ponent Mon: 1
Floating World Comics: 1
Gallery 13: 1
Graphic Mundi: 4
Holiday House: 1
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 1
Insight Comics: 1
Invader 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: 5
Red 5 Comics: 3
Scout Comics: 6
Second Sight Publishing: 1
Silver Sprocket: 1
Soaring Penguin Press: 1
Source Point Press: 3
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
This is a little later than I would have liked, but COVID finally hit us last week, and things were a bit sickly around these parts. I’m a bit annoyed, actually, because we’ve been very careful about it, and I suspect it was a lack of care by my daughter’s therapists or camp leaders that allowed it into our house. On Wednesday the 29th my daughter went to swim therapy, and the next day her therapist texted that she had tested positive. My daughter seemed fine, though, so we just kept an eye on her but didn’t do anything else. Last Tuesday, the 5th, my wife started feeling crappy. She tested positive, but I tested negative. My older daughter was “inconclusive,” because it’s hard to get a swab from her because she is wildly uncooperative. My younger daughter, being a surly teen, hangs out in her room all the time, so we thought she’d be okay, and she wasn’t symptomatic at all, so we told her to just stay away from us and we’d worry about her in a few days. She was planning on going to Seattle on Saturday (yesterday) with her cousin, who was flying into Phoenix on Thursday, so we wanted her to be COVID-free, obviously, because we didn’t want to cancel her trip. Then on Wednesday afternoon I started feeling crappy. I didn’t take my older daughter to camp, and by 5 o’clock or so I was feeling very nauseated … but I never vomited. I thought I would, but I didn’t. I went to bed really early and slept poorly, and woke up feeling really shitty, but no longer nauseated, so that was a plus. I tested positive that morning, as did my older daughter, which wasn’t ideal as my niece was flying in that evening. My younger daughter was still negative, though, so that was good. By 10 o’clock that night (when my niece’s flight came in), I was feeling a tiny bit better, so we picked her up, all wearing masks, and sitting as far away from each other in my minivan as humanly possible. My younger daughter was negative again on Friday, and they stayed far away from us, so we put them on their plane yesterday morning and they escaped the plague house! I feel better, although I’m still too stuffy for my liking, while my wife, who got hit pretty hard (she has immune system issues, so everything hits her harder), also feels better but is still gripped by horrific fits of coughing. My older daughter, who can’t tell us how she feels, seems to have barely felt it at all. She was a bit snotty for a day last week, but other than that, she didn’t get a fever and she hasn’t been coughing very much at all. We’re very much hoping that she and I test negative tomorrow so she can go back to camp – she very much likes camp, and it would be a shame if she missed this final week, especially the final day, when they do a talent show. So, to sum up, here’s my Yelp review: I give COVID zero stars, would not recommend.
I’m annoyed by the therapist and the camp because I’m fairly certain they don’t require the clients to be vaccinated. With the camp, it’s run by the City of Mesa, and our wise and esteemed Supreme Court has declared that public health is government overreach, so they can’t require the kids to be vaccinated, and in Arizona, which has a large percentage of anti-government, MAGA-idiots, I’m sure a lot of the kids aren’t. But her therapist runs a private business, and I suspect she hasn’t told her clients they need to be vaccinated, even though she deals exclusively with a medically sensitive population and could probably get away with it if she chose. I don’t know she hasn’t done this, but I suspect it. So she might have been cavorting with some kid who got COVID because his dad or mom thinks Biden is trying to microchip them and force them marry a gay person, and she passed that on to my daughter and our family. People fucking suck, in other words.
The upshot of all this was that for about 2-3 days I was useless. I could concentrate for only short periods at a time, and looking at a screen for longer than that was no fun. I watched a lot of television, sadly, because that’s all I could do. And this post is later than usual. I apologize!
Speaking of our wise and esteemed Supreme Court, the big news in the country is the Court deciding that the Taliban has the right idea about how to run a country, so we’ve had abortion access severely restricted, Miranda rights curtailed, environmental regulations neutered, and school prayer encouraged. Clarence Thomas, who never met a woman he couldn’t creep out with inappropriate sex talk, thinks going after gay marriage and contraception is just dandy. I desperately want either a super-racist person or a snotty liberal group to challenge inter-racial marriage, which seems to fit in the same boat as these other things, because Thomas was “surprisingly” mum on that front. I also want a Muslim to start leading his or her class in prayer and laugh when people tell him or her to stop. That would be excellent. This is an awful moment in American history, and as I noted in the comments of my latest Question of the Week, I wonder if it’s going to go as well as the troglodytes think it will. This seems to have really energized the liberal voters of the country, and the Republicans, who believed they were going to retake the House and the Senate in November, might find things a bit more difficult thanks to their religious zealot buddies on the Court. I’m not saying it will happen, but I hope it does, because people are really pissed about this. The Democrats can be blamed for a lot – they never made abortion rights into federal law, even though they’ve had plenty of opportunities – but they’re still the country’s best chance to avoid a “Christian” dictatorship, which the Republicans seem perfectly comfortable with (it’s in quotes because it’s associated with Jesus in only the most tenuous of ways). It’s going to be an annoying and traumatic few months in this country, unfortunately. Sigh.
Moving on to less horrible things, I saw a web site that published a bunch of unusual charts, and I ganked a few to show to you, my good readers! Okay, the first is pretty horrible, but the others are less so. The first show the comparison between college costs in 1980 and today. It’s gruesome:
This is why we hate conservative politicians and fucking Boomers who say shit like, “Just work harder!” Fuck you, you fucking fucks.
Moving on, here’s the evolution of the alphabet:
Here’s the elevation of the United States, which is pretty dramatic:
Here’s what lights up in our body when we feel emotions. I’m not sure why “shame” looks like Spider-Man, but I bet it has nothing to do with him spraying a sticky white substance all over the place whenever he gets excited:
Do you know how to Google? If you don’t, here’s a guide!
Are your passwords safe? Based on this chart, mine generally are, but not as ultra-safe as they could be:
Do you know your plaids? If you don’t, here’s a guide!
Would you survive a plunge over a waterfall? Maybe you would, but you’ll have a better chance if you follow these instructions!
You’re welcome, everyone!
In the world of local media, here’s a weatherman absolutely dunking on the Dallas Cowboys, which is never a bad thing:
In case you missed it, it was ten years ago on 15 June that Gravity Falls debuted on the Disney Channel, and Gravity Falls is awesome, so you should watch it. For the anniversary, series creator Alex Hirsch posted about the odd fights he got in with Disney censors:
One last treat. Ever curious about the fights I had with the censors on Gravity Falls? I probably shouldn't share this buttttt here are some REAL NOTES from DISNEY S&P and my REAL REPLIES. You are not prepared #10YearsOfGravityFalls pic.twitter.com/EioKU8gIJJ
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) June 16, 2022
In June 1992, I was finishing up my time in Melbourne – winter had arrived, school was wrapping up, and we were saying goodbye to all the friends we’d made in the previous few months. Early in the month, I got stoned in my room with a few friends, and a few girls we knew came over, which was fine, but we warned them not to tell anyone, because it was illegal, and we didn’t want to make a lot of noise, and we were just trying to have a quiet good time. They swore up and down that they wouldn’t call anyone, and then I turned away for a moment, and one of the girls was on the phone telling a friend what we were doing. I told her to put the phone down and then I proceeded to “yell” at her – it was more like a sad, disappointed father talking to a child, because I was stoned, so I wasn’t able to muster up anger, just whining, like, “How could you do this, after I trusted yooooouuuuuu …” Someone took my picture, and it is quite possibly my favorite picture of me:
Later that month, I went on a brief journey to Sydney and Brisbane, just to see them, and took some pictures. Sydney:
After that, I spent a few weeks at my girlfriend’s farm, but we didn’t go anywhere too spectacular, so I don’t have cool pictures from that time. She lived in northern Victoria, near Shepparton and Yarrawonga, and it was nice to just hang out with her and her family for a while. In July I went to New Zealand, but those pictures will have to wait!
Again, I apologize for this being later than usual. Life gets in the way sometimes, people! I hope everyone is having a nice summer!