Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
 

What I bought, read, watched, or otherwise consumed – May 2021

Behind Dimitrov, as part of the same sculptural unit, stood a series of massive black granite blocks — one on top of the other — meant to signify the modern industrial state that emerged from Dimitrov’s labors. But what these ungainly blocks actually revealed was utter and profane contempt, as if to say: “We can crush you, and there is nothing you can do about it.” (Robert Kaplan, from Balkan Ghosts)

COMICS

Home Sick Pilots volume 1: Teenage Haunts by Dan Watters (writer), Caspar Wijngaard (artist), and Aditya Bidikar (letterer). $9.99, 133 pgs, Image.

Watters and Wijngaard reunite to bring us this oddball story, which takes place in 1994 solely, I imagine, because Watters was probably a teen then and so he can write teenagers from that era but not teenagers from this one. There’s no real reason to set it in 1994 except, I suppose, because of the dearth of cell phones back then, but if Watters wants to set it in 1994, he’s more than welcome to do so. The story involves Ami, the lead singer of a punk band called the Home Sick Pilots, who goes into a haunted house basically on a dare to herself, where she … possesses the house? becomes possessed? enters into a strange symbiotic relationship with the house? Whatever happens, the house wants her to retrieve ghosts that it believes belong to it, so she goes around the area (the book takes place in southern California) finding said ghosts. Her band, meanwhile, is trying to find her, and they discover that the house isn’t as benevolent as Ami thinks it is. And, because why not, there’s a Shadowy Government Organization that’s trying to weaponize ghosts. Because of course there is!

It’s an unusual story, but not as weird as some things Watters writes. That’s okay, though – he creates some interesting characters and puts them in unusual situations, and that’s not bad. Ami has some trauma in her past (she’s a foster kid), and I assume we’ll find out more about that in the coming issues, and we get some nice moments with all the kids, as they all try to navigate teenage-dom. Wijngaard does his usual superb job – his imagination is terrific, as he creates some very weird spirits, including the one made out of videotape, and when the haunted house actually gets up and starts walking around, it doesn’t look as ridiculous as you might expect. Wijngaard gives us a couple of nice double-page spreads of a cut-away view of the house’s interior, showing people moving through it as they explore, and when the house turns malevolent at one point, he does a terrific job showing how those interiors twist and change. His colors, tinged with cool reds, blues, and purples, are great, too – it’s not a dark book, but the palette makes it eerie without being murky, and makes the few bright pinks and reds pop well.

This feels like it’s moving to a bit more conventional “superhero” narrative, with good guys and bad guys, but I have enough faith in Watters that he won’t fall into that trap, or he’ll at least make it interesting if he goes down that road. This is a very good beginning, so I hope the quality stays high as we move along!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Then just change the channel, for crying out loud!

Crossover volume 1: Kids Love Chains by Donny Cates (writer), Geoff Shaw (artist), Dee Cunniffe (colorist), John J. Hill (letterer), and Mark Waid (editor). $19.99, 131 pgs, Image.

This isn’t exactly a fun book, as bad things happen and there’s plenty of drama, but the fact that Cates is telling a story in which comic book characters get shoved into the “real world” and that he has enough friends and/or contacts that he can actually include real comic book characters (Madman is a big part of the book) makes it a lot more fun than your average “fictional characters in the real world” story (those characters he can’t get permission to use he implies, like the shadowy “Not-Batman-At-All” on one page). It’s an interesting story, as well – the comic book characters have been dropped down in Denver, where they fight an unending war underneath an impenetrable dome, but some real-worlders are stuck in there too and some comic-book characters are outside the dome, so the tension is pretty thick. People have turned against comics, naturally, so one character, Otto, owns one of the few comic book stores remaining. His employer, a permanent cosplayer named Ellipsis (a fairly portentous name, to use a word Travis Pelkie enjoys me using), wants to get inside the dome because her parents were trapped there and she wants to find out if they’re alive, and they find a comic-book girl who wants to get back inside for her own protection. Of course, the government is rounding up comic-book types to try to understand their powers and use them (the fact that we haven’t seen a Christopher Lloyd analog yet is kind of a missed opportunity, if you ask me), so they’re doing their usual evil thing. Cates tells this fairly standard plot with a lot of verve, using characters from his own past comics (The Paybacks, God Country) as well as a bunch of creator-owned characters (many of which I spotted without looking too hard, some of which I have missed and will have to go back and find), as well as commenting as a writer about what’s happening, to add some nice flavor. Shaw is a good artist, so the book looks terrific, and the inspiration to use Benday dots on the comic-book characters to distinguish them from the “real-world” people is amazing. It adds the right amount of odd levity to what could be a gloomy book, and it also indicts the audience a bit, as it’s goofy so we think they’re not real, but then horrible things are done to them (of course, even the “real-world” people aren’t real, so the book has a lot of layers, yo!), which is not fun. I assume it’s intentional, but if it’s not, it works out well. The characters are all recognizable, too, even though Shaw draws them in his style, not like the creators, so that’s nice.

Overall, this is a pretty clever idea done well. That makes for a good reading experience!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Who knew Cates had an enemies’ list?

Marvel Treasury Edition by a whole bunch of creators. $29.99, 183 pgs, Marvel.

Marvel has been doing these Treasury Editions for some of their books, and dang, I love them. The art just pops off the page, and when you have good artists, that’s very cool to see. Marvel and Alex Ross managed to corral a ton of amazing artists to tell out-of-continuity stories, as Ross’s framing story concerns Nightmare trying to take over reality, so we get stories that theoretically are in the dreams of people, which Nightmare is using to power himself. It doesn’t matter, though, because it’s just an excuse for a bunch of creators to go nuts, and they do a superb job. Here’s the line-up: Frank Espinosa (!) and Sajan Saini do a Spider-Man story; Busiek and the Dude do an Avengers story; Dan Brereton does an X-Man story; Eric Powell does a Thing/Spider-Man story; Paolo Rivera does a Vision story; Alan Weiss does a Namor story; Bill Sienkiewicz does a Watcher story (sort of); Scott Gustafson does a Rocket Raccoon “story” (it’s two pages and it’s not really a story, but it’s fun); Ryan Heska does a Golden Age Black Widow story; Daniel Acuña does a alternate future story; Hilary Barta and Doug Rice do a Mighty Marvel Monsters story; Ross and Sal Abbinanti (!) do a Thing story; Gene Ha and Zander Cannon do a Wong story; Adam Hughes does a Nick Fury/Captain America story; Waid and Lucia Parrillo do a Wolverine/Hulk story; Greg Smallwood does a groovy Nick Fury story; and Lee Bermejo does a Silver Surfer story. Yes, women are sadly underrepresented both in the creators and the stories, but other than that, this is an amazing line-up and a bunch of weird and wild tales (although one creator, weirdly, is not listed on the contents page, and I don’t know why). And it looks wonderful in the giant format, which is priced at what you would have paid for all six issues in the regular, comic-sized single issues. So why not get this?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Arcade owning a casino in Macau needs to be canon NOW!!!!

Dreaming Eagles by Garth Ennis (writer), Simon Coleby (artist), John Kalisz (colorist), Rob Steen (letterer), and Mike Marts (editor). $16.99, 133 pgs, AfterShock.

The idea of Garth Ennis writing a story about the Red Tails and racism in America is potentially cringe-worthy, but it turns out to be a good fit, because Ennis can write a terrific war story, of course, and he takes pains to create characters instead of resorting to simple polemics, so his story is more nuanced than we occasionally get out of Ennis. I know, it’s crazy! The main story is a flashback, told by Reggie Atkinson to his son, Lee, in 1966, as his son is getting involved in the civil rights battle. Atkinson doesn’t want his son stirring things up, his son thinks he’s too compliant, so Atkinson tells him about his experiences in World War Two. It’s bizarre to think how quickly things changed from the 1940s to the 1960s for black people – in the 1940s, black people were not able to stand up for themselves in any way that would show up white people, but by the Sixties, those people’s children were fed up with that and were speaking out without deferring to whites. Ennis is able to show why this was while still making it clear that neither father nor son is completely right or completely wrong. Lee simply doesn’t understand the circumstances of the 1940s, and through his story, the father is able to make him understand. It’s fascinating, because one thing that always bugs me about any story is when one person is used as a representative of their entire group, whatever group that is. Atkinson thinks black people can achieve more without Martin Luther King stirring things up (his presence in town is what sparks the conversation about the war), while Lee thinks that’s exactly what needs to be done. In the long run, Lee is right, but that doesn’t mean that Reggie is completely wrong, as his experience in the war shows (Ennis uses some real-life characters, and it seems like the eventual respect the Red Tails got is real, even if Atkinson and his fellow pilots are not). Of course, part of why Reggie feels this way is because he’s still scared, as we see in the book, and Lee doesn’t want to live in fear like his father. It’s a complicated story that Ennis does well with, showing why Reggie fights for the United States when it’s so racist (there’s a terrific line about this country and Nazi Germany that is pure Ennis, who really loves his adopted country, it seems, despite its problems).

Coleby is a good, solid artist, and his dogfight scenes are wonderful, showing the majesty of flying and the horror of dying at 20,000 feet. In a book like this, he has to get the subtle racism of characters as well as the more obvious kind, and he does a nice job with that – there’s a Congressman who seems like an ally of the Red Tails, but really isn’t, and Coleby does a nice job with him. He doesn’t get a lot of double-page spreads and such to show the action, but the somewhat cramped layouts he needs seems to aide him, as he blocks out the action very well and even makes it feel a bit claustrophobic, which we don’t think of when we think of aerial combat. It’s a nice trick.

Ennis writes great war stories, of course, and this is a bit of a cut above because there’s a lot more going on than just combat. So that’s keen!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Take that, ya Ratzi!

Red Room #1 by Ed Piskor (writer/artist). $6.99, 62 pgs, Fantagraphics.

I mentioned this in our Previews post, but a friend of mine at the comics store told the retailer to set a copy aside for me, which was nice of him. I hadn’t seen him since then, but this week I asked why he did it, and he said it was flying off the shelf and he thought I might want a copy and wouldn’t get it because it would be sold out. Comics bros are pretty awesome, yo. I probably would have gotten the trade of this when it comes, but it seems like it’s going to be single-issue stories featuring recurring characters, so there’s nothing wrong with buying it in singles, I suppose.

I’ve always been a fan of Piskor’s art (although I will say that if you ever picked on Tim Vigil’s hyper-detailed, violent art, you better not love Piskor’s!), but not always a fan of his writing, but it’s pretty good here. The art, with the uncanny valley effect of extreme detailed line work creating just slightly cartoonish characters, is wonderful – there’s a lot of violence in this comic, and Piskor lovingly renders it all, from eyes being gouged out to nails being pounded into flesh. But Piskor also does a marvelous job with the characters, from the bizarre people in the violent underground to the innocent teenager who doesn’t know enough about her rather fat father, the central figure of the book. That guy, Davis Fairfield, is a court clerk whose wife and daughter have just died in a car accident, and he doesn’t know how he’s going to go on with his other daughter, who’s about to go off to college. The “red room” of the title is a website where people can watch outlandishly-garbed people murder actual humans on camera, and that story and Davis’s intersect in a somewhat unexpected way. It’s a good story that revels a bit too much in the perversion of it all, but I suppose Piskor has to go that route in order to make it as “shocking” as it is. It’s a good contrast to Brianna, Davis’s daughter, who represents the better side of human nature … although I wouldn’t be surprised if Piskor tore that down at some point in the future.

Anyway, it’s a nice start, it’s a nice thick issue for not a ton of money, and the art is staggering. If you don’t like strangely-clad people carving up victims, you might want to stay away. But it’s a compelling look at the darkness of humans, and if you like that but are tired of Batman experiencing it, check this out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

One of the tamer panels!

Caligula’s Safe is a one-dollar sampler from Bad Idea Comics, which live up to their name perfectly and I hope they go nowhere, because their business model sucks out loud. Robert Venditti and David Lapham give us a story about a private detective named Hank Howard, who works for Caligula’s Pizza. The idea of a pizza franchise’s PI working cases is great, and Lapham is the guy to draw it, so good for them! The second story is by Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello, and it’s about a superhero who can rewind time, but at some point, he stops doing it because the world gets wrecked. How it happened is the hook, I guess. Both of these very short stories are fine, but Bad Idea is such a terribly bad idea that I can’t even deal with it. So I’ll move on. Fred van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey are back with the Comic Book History of Animation, and while nothing they’ve ever done is as good as Action Philosophers!, their first book together, this is still a fine entry into their bibliography. It’s a bit too focused on the States and Japan, but other than that, it’s a fun history lesson. Concrete Jungle takes place in an alternate reality Miami in 1986 (because the Eighties are so cool, ya know), and it’s about a wildly corrupt cop getting partnered – sort of, as she tries to avoid her partner a lot – with a telepath to track another telepath who’s hijacking bodies and leaving them dead. It’s a pretty good book, and Karl Mostert has to be deliberately channeling Frank Quitely in the art, I think. It’s also one of these books where cursing is free and easy but God forbid we see a female nipple!!!! Eden is about three-quarters of a great story – it’s about a tattoo artist who’s grieving the loss of his wife and child and the young woman, named Eden, who comes into his place to get a tattoo. She keeps coming back, and the ones he’s given her have mysteriously disappeared. He wants to know why, and things go pear-shaped pretty quickly from there. It’s a cool set-up, but Cullen Bunn doesn’t quite stick the landing, although Dalibor Talijic’s art is wonderful, as usual. In Fear Case, Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins give us a story about a possibly mythical box the FBI is looking for. They assign new agents to find it, and they have one year on the case before they’re taken off, because it messes with their minds. The current team are, of course, close to finding it, and they discover that there’s kind of a curse that comes with it. It’s a pretty creepy story, and Kindt is good at this kind of thing, although it’s not his best work. I don’t know why the covers are so terrible, but they are. Money Shot volume 2 isn’t quite as good as volume 1, mainly because Tim Seeley introduces a Donald Trump analog, and it’s far too easy to make fun of Trump, so it’s not as clever as Seeley thinks. It’s still a pretty good comic, as Seeley gets into the emotional impact of these people having so much sex with each other, and Rebekah Isaacs’s art is, as usual, wonderful. Penultiman is the best of these “second-tier” comics from this month, as Tom Peyer continues to do really nice superhero work for Ahoy. A guy from far in the future is sent to our time because the people in the future are so evolved they consider him defective, while here he’s Superman, basically … but a Superman with a massive inferiority complex. The android he built, Antepenultiman, thinks it can help … with disastrous, occasionally hilarious, and upsetting results. It’s an interesting superhero take, with nice art by Alan Robinson. I bought Truth and Justice #4 without buying the first three because Rob Guillory drew it, and while he’s not that suited for standard superhero work, his Joker is terrific and he’s good at the kind of oddball vision quest that Jason Todd goes on in this issue. Jeff Trammell’s story isn’t anything new or exciting, but it’s not bad, and Guillory’s work is fun to see, as usual. Unearth volume 2 is a pretty good conclusion to Cullen Bunn and Kyle Strahm’s weird elder god story, as the god has emerged from the ground and is spreading, while the humans are trying to either fight back or give in. It’s not a perfect book, but it does get into some interesting ideas about belief and faith and individuality. Finally, Villainous is a fairly standard superhero story, in which a teen girl begins training to be a superhero sidekick until she finds out the superheroes and supervillains don’t necessarily fall into those easy categories. Stonie Williams, the writer, has been reading too many Mark Millar comics, but this isn’t a bad story, just a well-worn one.

BOOKS

Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Michael B. Oren. 446 pgs, Oxford University Press, 2002.

It’s a coincidence that this book came up now, when the Middle East is once again the news – I just happened to be on the “O”s in the alphabet, and I began reading it before the situation in Gaza flared up. I’m not terribly grumpy about people rushing to defend the Palestinians, because it’s clear that the Israelis need to come up with a better solution to their issue with the people in Gaza and the West Bank, but I’m generally on the side of Israel for a couple of reasons. In 1947 the UN came up with a two-state solution that the pre-Israel Jews accepted and which the Arabs in the region rejected, basically telling the Jews and the UN to pound sand because they were so confident that they would win the inevitable war. That the Israelis then proceeded to beat the shit out of them makes me less sympathetic to them, especially now when they beg for a two-state solution. The second reason is that many Muslim-majority states STILL don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist, and many (most?) Palestinians don’t, either. If they’re not going to accept that a large Jewish contingent has as much right or possibly more of a right to Palestine (Jerusalem was a Jewish holy city for centuries before it was a Muslim one, after all), then fuck ’em. I agree that Israel is very much complicit in many horrific acts, but I find it hard to feel sympathy for people who, if they were in charge, would try to eradicate the Jews in Israel as much as Israel is trying to eradicate them.

This exhaustive book about the Six-Day War brings some of that to the fore. After Israel’s stunning victory, the utterly defeated Egyptians and Syrians STILL refused to accept Israel, claiming that they would still defeat them and “drive them into the sea” even after Israel wiped the floor with their armed forces. That two nations so utterly defeated could still be so arrogant points to the behavior of most Arab states today (excepting Egypt and Jordan, which actually recognize Israel), and it’s a reason they got into the war in the first place. Oren goes over the build-up to the war in excruciating detail (the book is compelling, but really, really researched) – the war officially begins on page 170 – so while Israel “started” the war, it’s clear why they felt they needed to strike first. We get a decent backdrop about the Suez crisis, and then the two months or so in 1967 before the war, when the Jordanians and Israelis clashed along the border and the Egyptians felt the need to close the Straits of Tiran, which blocked Israel’s only access to the Red Sea. He gets into the machinations of the Americans and Russians, neither of whom wanted a war and neither of whom wanted to tell their clients – nominally Israel for the States, Egypt and Syria for the Russians – to knock it the hell off, so the politicians of those two countries come off looking fairly wishy-washy. Oren doesn’t really take sides, either – it feels like he’s on Israel’s side more simply because to deny Israel’s right to exist feels petty – as he quotes extensively from memoirs and minutes of meetings from many different countries – Nasser and Hussein come alive as much as Dayan and Begin. It’s a fairly evenhanded approach, and it works well.

It’s also clear that Israel is superior, militarily, to Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, and Oren gets into why those countries went to war, showing the need for a free press and democratic government in the process. The populace in the Arab countries was kept in the dark about the state of their states, fed instead a diet of hatred for Israel that whipped them up to hide the cracks in their foundations. The Israelis were better at dealing honestly with their population, and so were better prepared. Even the Americans’ dithering isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the country was deep in Vietnam at the time, and President Johnson didn’t have the political cachet he wanted to give Israel unrestricted help, and Congress helped rein him in. Moments like this remind us of why authoritarianism, as attractive as it might be because dictators get shit done, fails as a viable system. Nasser was a hero of the Arab world as long as things didn’t go slightly badly for him. The moment things started to go poorly, his own propaganda of eternal glory days turned against him.

Unfortunately, one of the lessons learned from this war is that if the Palestinians wanted to drive Israel into the sea, they would have to use unconventional means, hence the “decade of terrorism” that followed. The Israelis learned the wrong lesson, too, which is that they could easily defeat the Arab countries in wars, and their arrogance and the PLO’s insistence on terrorism (which never seems to involve the rich men running things) have led to this intractable position today. Writing in 2002, Oren is slightly more optimistic, although he does note the infitada, for instance, and the troubles still afflicting the region. This is a timely book at any time, unfortunately, because the problem still has not been solved, and learning about the history of the region should help both sides find a way forward … but it appears neither side is interested in that.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People by Steven Ozment. 400 pgs, HarperCollins, 2004.

Ozment writes about how difficult it is to write about Germany without viewing it through the lens of the Third Reich, and then he … does that? Not too badly, but he still falls into the trap a bit, as most writers try to find evidence of a love of totalitarianism in German history even when it’s not there, while Ozment occasionally bends over backward to show that it’s NOT evidence of a love of totalitarianism. But that’s fine – Hitler is such a big presence in German history that even if you’re writing about Frederick the Great, you almost need to keep the Austrian painter in the back of your mind – and Ozment does do a good job with a general overview of the Germans. He doesn’t focus on Prussia as much as some writers would, because much like Hitler, Prussia is a huge part of German history, so it tends to dominate, but Ozment resists that, as well. He spends much more time on modern history – from the Reformation forward – than he does on older history, which isn’t too surprising, and he digs into German culture more than a political history would, which is appreciated. There’s an undercurrent in German history that tries to find a balance between freedom and security, and when that tips too far to the “security” side, we get Nazism, but Ozment makes it clear that’s not necessarily the German impulse, as there were plenty of times during their history when the balance worked well. He also makes a point that very few people want to make, because it sounds like they’re excusing Hitler – Germany has always been surrounded by hostile countries, with France and Russia rarely taking a benign stance toward them and in many cases working against a unification of Germany because they feared the strength of a united Germany (they might justify this by pointing out what happened in 1939 when Germany was unified). The machinations of other states against Germany breeds this idea of security and the desire for a strong leader, and that can turn ugly, but it’s not like it’s not a real paranoia, as France and Russia showed for years how perfectly willing they were to interfere in German affairs. The cultural memory of the Thirty Years’ War (perhaps the nastiest war in history) and Napoleon’s invasions (which were extremely traumatic) also preyed on the German mind. Ozment does a good job examining the way these events affected the Germans and why they might gravitate toward a strong, reactionary leader. It’s not an extremely deep book, but it is an interesting one, and it opens up some nice avenues about German history that I haven’t seen explored before. Which is kind of neat.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

TELEVISION

My Grandparents’ War (PBS). Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Carey Mulligan are the actors whose grandparents were involved in World War II, and they go in search of their ancestors’ contributions, which make for pretty interesting television. Carter’s paternal grandmother was an aristocrat in London who volunteered to run air raid preparation, while her maternal grandfather helped hundreds of Jews get visas out of France, despite the Spanish government not actually wanting him to. Rylance’s grandfather spent years in a prison camp after his capture during the Japanese take-over of Hong Kong. Thomas’s grandfather was a naval officer who helped relieve Dunkirk and get supplies to Russia during Hitler’s invasion. Mulligan’s grandfather was on a ship that survived a kamikaze attack, and he spent time in Japan after the atomic bombs had been dropped. None of the actors knew much about the contributions of their grandparents, and it’s interesting to follow them as they learn about them. Rylance and Mulligan, especially, try to understand the war from the Japanese point of view, as well, which is interesting. Everyone gets a bit emotional, but they’re actors, so we can forgive them for that. It’s a neat series that brings home the trauma of war quite nicely, and it’s only four episodes, so it won’t take up too much of your time!

Superstore season 6 (NBC). Somehow, Superstore managed to survive six seasons, and while it was never the funniest show on television, it was very good, especially as it was one of the few shows to deal with real-world issues, and this season was all about COVID. Early in the season, America Ferrera left the show, but it didn’t hurt the show as much as it might have, because they had spent years building up the other characters so well. Sure, they still spent time with Jonah (Ben Feldman) getting over Amy, but not as much as they could have. They were dealing with the pandemic and then the new corporate masters of Cloud 9, the big box store of the show, shutting down the stores, and the economic anxiety of the last year was the best part of the season. Meanwhile, Mateo (Nico Santos) was still in limbo because of his immigration status, which was another way the show reflected the real world. The best characters, as usual, were Cheyenne (Nichole Sakura), Dina (Lauren Ash), Glenn (Mark McKinney), and Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi), who are hilarious in such unique ways, but the entire cast continued to be strong. It was a bittersweet season not only because of the show ending (which was known early on in the season, if I recall correctly) but because the real world was such a shitty place in the past year or so, and despite crazy things happening at Cloud 9, the show never let us forget that these were people living on the economic margins. It’s a good show. I’ll miss it!

The Gloaming (Starz). This was a disappointing show, because it’s so well shot and beautiful, but it can’t make up for the muddled story. It’s set in Hobart, Tasmania, which is located in a stunning natural setting, and Tasmania itself is gorgeous, so the show looks amazing. The cast isn’t bad, but they’re stuck in a gloomy rut, so there’s very little they can do with the material. It’s mostly the story that meanders too much, never really giving us answers for the many mysteries it brings up. The story begins with a girl and a boy finding her old home deep in the woods, where someone kills her and leaves him alive. Fast-forward twenty years, and police detective Molly McGee catches a weird murder case, an anonymous woman on whom is found the dead girl’s school ID card. Alex O’Connell, the boy who was with the girl, is a cop in Melbourne, but he’s sent to Hobart to work the case. Of course he used to date Molly, because of course! And of course he’s an old friend of the businessman who’s doing some shady deals with the city council to develop some land! And of course the weird old lady who runs Molly’s daughter’s dance class is somehow involved! And of course there’s weird pagan religion involved, because everyone loves weird pagan religions! What’s disappointing is that as we learn the connections between all the events, the actual plot becomes murkier. We find out who killed the victims, but we don’t always find out why. We find out what the businessman’s connection is to the weird old lady, but not what he is doing with the development plot and how it connects to the weird old lady. Some high-up people are involved in the weird pagan religion, but we’re never exactly sure why the pagans want people in that position. It’s very frustrating. It’s not great that the writers indulge in several cop clichés – thank goodness Alex and Molly don’t hook up, because that would have been one too many, but we get the rogue cop whose evidence would be inadmissible, the cop with a kid who seems to have no interest in being a parent but gets all grumpy when the other parent points this out, the main cops doing very little to solve the case while their unglamorous underlings do all the real work, and the cops going places with no back-up and getting themselves in trouble. As I noted, it’s frustrating because the cast is pretty good. Emma Booth brings a good quiet desperation to Molly, while Ewen Leslie, who plays Alex, is constantly haunted by his failure to protect the dead girl. Martin Henderson is sufficiently smarmy as the businessman, and Aaron Pedersen plays Molly’s boss as a good man trapped in a bad circumstance. The two competent underlings, Max Brown and Zenia Starr, are terrific. Rena Owens absolutely obliterates everyone in her path as the matriarch of the pagans, a woman who completely and utterly believes she’s doing the right thing both for her family and for everyone who believes in her faith. So it’s a riveting show to actually watch, but the minute you stop to think about it, it falls apart completely. I mean, even the geography is weird – some things take place quite far away from Hobart, and Tasmania isn’t that small an island, so it’s impossible to believe the characters would move that quickly between locales (they could have just made some places up, but they actually use real places that you can find on a map). So this is disappointing, even though it’s interesting to watch and gorgeous to look at.

Prodigal Son season 2 (Fox). This is another “police-procedural-with-a-quirk” that networks like to chuck out there these days, as they see the ratings power of CBS’s police procedurals (Blue Bloods has been on the air for ELEVEN SEASONS!!!) but they want to allow creators to do interesting things, and I tend to like these kinds of shows, so I check them out. Prodigal Son‘s second season is probably its last, although the creators are holding out hope for a different platform on which to continue. It’s not a bad show – it’s actually pretty good – but it has some things working against it. It’s the story of a profiler – Tom Payne – whose father happens to be a serial killer. That’s not a bad hook. Payne, unfortunately, lacks the charisma of, say, Tom Mison in Sleepy Hollow or Tom Ellis in Lucifer. Payne is part of a major crimes unit of the NYPD, and his boss is Lou Diamond Phillips, whose always interesting, but the other two members of the team – Aurora Perrineau and Frank Harts – haven’t really been developed as characters, and Payne doesn’t have a ton of chemistry with Perrineau, unlike, say, Mison and Nicole Beharie on Sleepy Hollow. Perhaps the biggest problem is that Payne’s father is played by Michael Sheen, who gleefully gulps the scenery and flattens everyone he acts with. It’s not his fault – he’s a terrific actor and his part is supposed to be the insane one, but when you’re technically the villain and you’re stuck in a mental institution, it’s hard to make the other characters and even the cases all that interesting. Payne seeks out his father’s help, which is where the twist is, but while Payne tries his best, he just can’t do much against the force of nature that is Sheen. Phillips doesn’t share many scenes with Sheen, but his calmness helps break Sheen’s wave a bit, while Bellamy Young as Sheen’s ex-wife comes close to matching him with her scornful chill, but Sheen is too incandescent for the show. It’s a fun time, and the writers try to come up with weirdo cases for Payne to profile, and they got Dermot Mulroney is season 1 as a recurring guest star and Catherine Zeta-Jones in season 2 (Zeta-Jones is not quite two years older than I am, but she looks older, sadly), but it wasn’t enough. It was an enjoyable enough show, but I doubt if we’ll see it again (despite ending on a cliffhanger – I HATE when showrunners do that with a show they’re not sure will be renewed!!!!).

Debris (NBC). Speaking of similar things, here’s another show where something weird is happening in the world and people are investigating it! It’s already been canceled, so I don’t really have much to say about it. Jonathan Tucker, who’s probably been in something you’ve seen, and Riann Steele, who’s probably been in things you haven’t seen, do their level best, but I guess the mystery – the debris from a spaceship is landing on earth, and it has weird properties that affect humans in weird ways – just wasn’t enough to spark with viewers. They even tried to bring in super-duper guest star John Noble in the final episode, but even he wasn’t enough! It did feature the amazingly-named and -bearded Scroobius Pip as the “villain” (or maybe he wasn’t …?), and that just gives me an excuse to post this terrific song/video, which features the sisters of the rappers lip-syncing the lyrics. It’s pretty ginchy:

The show was decent enough, but the only really great episode was the two-parter where a kid could change reality, and he kept rebooting it because his sister was only alive in some realities and he was trying to get back to one of those. Tucker and Steele get caught up in it, and it’s a pretty clever story. The others were fine, but nothing special. And of course it ended on a cliffhanger, because why the fuck not? Sheesh.

City on a Hill season 2 (Showtime). The Kevin Bacon/Aldis Hodge showcase show is a pretty crime drama. It’s set in the early 1990s (this season they referenced the Rodney King riots, so that pegs it to 1992), with Bacon playing Jackie Rohr, a wildly corrupt FBI agent, and Hodge playing DeCourcy Ward, a Boston assistant DA. In this season, they dealt with some of the fall-out from the first season, but there was more to do with the racial tension in the city, as a woman who runs a community outreach program and does wonderful things for the neighborhood where she lives fails to see her sons getting involved in gangs. There’s a nice complete picture of both poor whites, poor blacks, middle-class whites, and middle-class blacks, and how they can function in this society, but the addition an IRA sub-plot feels a bit stuffed in and to give Jill Hennessy, playing Bacon’s wife, something to do (she and the other actors involved do a decent job with it, it just feels like too much). Bacon is superb, while Hodge matches him in intensity, but Lauren Banks, playing Ward’s wife, Amanda Clayton, playing a woman falling into drug dealing to feed her family, and Pernell Walker as the community organizer all do excellent work (especially Clayton, who’s not sympathetic at all but still makes us feel sympathy for her). It’s very gritty, there aren’t a ton of characters to root for, and it’s super-bleak (to its detriment in some places, unfortunately), but it’s still worth a look. It seems like there will be a third season, although things got wrapped up pretty well, so we’ll see how they untie the knot!

Let’s check out the Golden Age of Reprints!

EC Archives: Tales from the Crypt. Dark Horse does a nice job with these, although I don’t love the slick pages on this collection, because the colors don’t lend themselves well to the paper. Come on, Dark Horse, use rougher paper! It’s okay!

Ka-Zar the Savage Omnibus. The Jones/Anderson issues, plus a bunch of other stuff. Groovy!

The Complete Kirby War & Romance. As usual with these old Marvel collections, the color restoration isn’t great (José Villarrubia has been doing wonderful posts of Facebook about this), but if this is the only way to get them, I’ll take it. I got the “romance” cover, because of course I did!

Kull the Savage: The Original Marvel Years Omnibus. More fun Seventies comics!

Marvel Masterworks volume 305: Brother Voodoo. Yet more fun Seventies comics!

Here’s my spending for May!

5 May: $329.69 (!!!)
12 May: $91.91
19 May: $360.13 (!!!)
26 May: $98.90

Sheesh, those two weeks were bad. On 19 May, the Ka-Zar book, the Kull book, and the Brother Voodoo book all came out, but those were supposed to come out on 5 May, so imagine what my spending for that week would have looked like if they had! Good times!

Total for May: $880.63
YTD: $3171.53

Let’s break down the publishers!

Abrams Comicarts: 1 (1 graphic novel)
AfterShock: 2 (1 single issue, 1 trade paperback)
Ahoy: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Archaia: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Bad Idea: 1 (1 single issue)
Black Panel Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Boom! Studios: 1 (1 single issue)
Dark Horse: 8 (1 “classic” reprint, 1 graphic novel, 6 single issues)
DC: 1 (1 single issue)
Fantagraphics: 1 (1 single issue)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Humanoids: 1 (1 graphic novel)
IDW: 1 (1 single issue)
Image: 7 (2 graphic novels, 2 single issues, 3 trade paperbacks)
Last Gasp: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Lev Gleason: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Mad Cave: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Magnetic: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Marvel: 5 (4 “classic” reprints, 1 trade paperback)
Scout: 2 (1 graphic novel, 1 trade paperback)
Source Point Press: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Vault: 2 (1 graphic novel, 1 trade paperback)
Viz Media: 1 (1 manga)
A Wave Blue World: 1 (1 graphic novel)

That’s:

5 “classic” reprints (33)
14 OGNs (36)
1 manga (2)
14 single issues (44)
10 TPBs (64)

(The numbers in parentheses are my totals so far for the year)

So far this year, we have:

Dark Horse: 28
Image: 21
Marvel: 17
DC: 14
Boom! Studios: 9
IDW: 8
Scout: 7
AfterShock: 6
AWA/Upshot: 5
Titan: 5
Vault: 5
Behemoth: 3
Fantagraphics: 3
Rebellion/2000AD: 3
Abrams ComicArts: 2
Archaia: 2
Black Mask: 2
Humanoids: 2
Mad Cave Publishing: 2
Magnetic Press: 2
21 Pulp: 2
Viz Media: 2
Archie Comics: 1
ComicMix: 1
Floating World Comics: 1
Gallery 13: 1
Hermes Press: 1
Hyperion: 1
Iron Circus Comics: 1
Keylight Books: 1
Legendary: 1
Papercutz: 1
Plough Publishing: 1
Red 5 Comics: 1
A Wave Blue World: 1

**********

It’s June, so it’s getting hot here in the desert, but such is life. We’re happy because things are slowly getting back to normal … not that they were ever really abnormal, as I’ve noted over the past year – only the kids being out of school for some months was unusual, as my wife has worked from home for years and my place of business never closed. But now school is over, and my younger daughter, who had a very hard time with it, is much happier. We’re hoping that she gets back in the groove next year, when things ought to be mostly normal. We shall see. She’s going to get her second vaccination next week, so we’ll all be vaccinated, and we’re hoping to travel to Pennsylvania in October, but we shall see. I’m still wearing my mask when I go to buy comics or at the grocery store, but I don’t have to at work anymore, which is nice. I hope everyone who can is getting vaccinated, but I fear there will be many who don’t. One of my Facebook friends, who’s fairly conservative, claims that she will never get vaccinated and it’s her body, so she can make that choice. I wonder what she thinks about abortion …

In case you missed it, the hero of the Eagle’s Super Bowl win a few years ago, Nick Foles, was featured in Marauders this week, as part of the “Hellfire Gala” story. We have only Foles’s word that it’s him, because he’s not identified, just drawn into the panel. I found out about it here, where you can see the panel. I mostly put this is for our buddy Carlos the Dwarf, who’s a Philly guy, and Bill Reed, if he happens to stop by, but it’s still kind of cool.

Nothing much going on here otherwise. We went out to dinner this past Saturday with friends we hadn’t seen in a year and a half, so that was neat. We’re trying to go out to dinner a bit more often, because the kids are older and we don’t get out much, so we’re going to make a concerted effort to do so. On the other hand, I started Weight Watchers about six weeks ago and have lost 13 pounds, so going out to dinner ain’t going to help that. I’ll make it work!

I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe. It will be nice when everything is operating at 100 per cent again, even if some mouth-breathers think that Bill Gates is putting nanobots into your bloodstream! Have a great day and a nice weekend, and remember, if you use the link below for anything, not just what it takes you to, we get a tiny piece of it!

18 Comments

  1. tomfitz1

    Mr. B: (I got to stop calling you “Mr.” as I’m older than you by a few years, How abo Bro?) lol

    I saw The Gloaming and Debris. Too bad about the latter, I liked them both.

    I read Dreaming Eagles and Crossover. I liked them both. Garth Ennis did another war graphic novel which I haven’t read yet. The Stringbags.

    I liked the sign “America is the best country in the nation” – I agree now that Trump is out as president.

  2. “One of my Facebook friends, who’s fairly conservative, claims that she will never get vaccinated and it’s her body, so she can make that choice. I wonder what she thinks about abortion”
    The woman’s body is just an aquarium to a lot of right-to-lifers. All the rights belong to the precious fish inside it.
    Here’s a great takedown of people who claim the vaccine is the Mark of the Beast (https://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2021/06/01/the-mark-of-the-beast-some-questions/) pointing out how that doesn’t at all fit with an inerrant Bible view of the End Times.
    I watched Debris but I can’t say I cared that we’ll never learn why Jones was in that block of ice (or whatever) at the end.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Fraser: I’m not entirely sure what her issue is – I haven’t seen her in 20 years, and she was very young back then, so I doubt her political views were well-formed. She seems to be simply a “you can’t tell me what to do!” conservative, perhaps without giving it any more thought than that.

      I do like that link. Some people believe some weird things.

  3. Der

    I just heard in the news that USA will donate one million vaccines to Mexico, so yeah, you tell them that if they don’t vaccinate the browns will get them instead. At least now it has some truth to it.

    In here they just started vaccinating people that are in the 40-49 age range. I’m 38, but there is hope that I MIGHT get vaccinated before 2021 ends, so yay!. Also, It’s great that you still had school, our kid(she’s five now) hasn’t been to school since March 2020, so yeah, she just WANTS to return to school. They say that she will be attending in person again in like 15 days, fingers crosssed.

    I’ve been living in Mexico city for like 3-4 years in a row now(I lived here for two years, then moved again, then again, then back again) and it’s….interesting to adapt to summers here. I was born in a place where summer meant lots and lots of heat but here….rain. Wich is nice, but It took me a while to get used to it. I really really don’t miss those 40-44(105 to 111 in farenheit) degree summers!

    1. Greg Burgas

      Der: Ha! As I mentioned above, she seems more like a “you can’t tell me what to do!” kind of conservative, so maybe she doesn’t have any problem with the “browns” getting vaccinated. I could be wrong!

      Sheesh, I hope you can get vaccinated soon. I still wear my mask most places, but it’s just a nice relief to not worry too much anymore.

      Isn’t Mexico City at a fairly high altitude? I would imagine it wouldn’t be quite so hot, but I didn’t realize it rained that much in the summer!

      1. Der

        yeah, we are at a high altitude. I was born in Monterrey, altitude of 540(1,770 feets, aprox) meters and Mexico City is at 2,250 meters(7,380 feet aprox) all of this according to google, obviously. So it was a shock to me. At first I could barely walk a flight of stairs and now I think I’m used to it.

        I didn’t knew that there would be so much rain. There is an urban legend about it: They found a big ass statue of Tlaloc, mexica god of rain and after that, it started to rain more than before. It’s obviously just an urban legend, but I find it very cool. The statue is soo cool by the way, If you decide to take a vacation to Mexico City, you should go to the anthropology museum to see it, and all of the others things inside, it’s a very cool museum. That and the Castle of Chapultepec, those two are to me a must see in here

        1. Greg Burgas

          My wife is very interested in Mayan, Olmec, and Aztec culture, so eventually we’ll get to Mexico City. She’s been to Tulum and loved it, so I imagine she’d want to go to Mexico City one of these days!

  4. The guy behind Nick Fury and Modok in Arcade’s casino: that’s Jim Steranko, isn’t it? And is it me, or Fury seems to be drawn a lot like a young Steranko, albeit with the usual Reed Richards-style hair greying at the side?
    I follow Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg’s Cartoonist Kayfabe YouTube channel. Great interviews with creators; features on comics old and new, all sorts of subjects; very prolific – so much so that you wonder where they get time to produce any comics!

  5. Bright-Raven

    I don’t know where you find the money or the time to consume all this stuff, Greg. Damn. I’ve only spent about $1,200 for the YTD, and I’ve still got books from last year I haven’t gotten around to reading yet!

    Anyway, from the stuff you mentioned, I only read three items:

    HOME SICK PILOTS – I burned out and dropped the book after the first arc.

    RED ROOM #1 – Ed Piskor does very nice work on it, and I wanted to check it out, but I have to admit the story content really isn’t for me. One issue was enough. But it was certainly worth looking at.

    VILLAINOUS – The story was fine, and IMO far better than what Mark Millar would have done. (Millar would have turned Tilly into a snarky assed vengeful bitch while deconstructing the notion of having role models and how everybody always lets you down in real life, so fuck everybody. Williams didn’t take it anywhere near that far, nor should he have.) Is the story ‘worn’? Perhaps. But it was still a slightly above average comic amongst the common offerings in the market currently.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Louis: Well, I don’t have much of a job, so that helps!

      We’ll have to agree to disagree about Villainous, although I certainly didn’t hate it. And I agree that Millar would have done it worse, but that’s too low of a bar to jump! πŸ™‚

  6. Terrible-D

    Like Mr. Woodhouse, I subscribe to Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg’s youtube channel, Cartoonists Kayfabe. It’s great when I’m working in the kitchen.
    I’m not much into variant covers, but through sheer chance I happened to get the “secret” variant for issue 1 of Crossover. Haven’t checked to see if it’s worth anything.
    I saw P.O.S. in concert back in ’07, and have two of his albums, so thanks for sharing the music video featuring him/his sister.

  7. Eric van Schaik

    I entered too soon πŸ™

    It also gave me time to read some stuff you suggested. A few weeks ago the 4 The Wildstorm trades arrived and I finished it yesterday. Those were great to read. Thanks again Greg! Before that was Thunderbolts, which was nice to but a shame for the last few issues with a new artist. JLA will be next. In march I got the 4th HC so I can read everything in the same size. πŸ™‚

    Just 4 weeks to go before getting married again.

    In 13 days I’ll get my second vaccination with Pfizer. Life is getting normal in tiny steps, but it will still take some time before we get back to the “old normal”.
    Bands start getting back on the road and december will be a nice time with 5 concerts within 12 days. I’m really looking forward to it. We already have something nice for our first anniversary with a Rammstein concert 7/5/’22 in Nijmegen.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Eric: I’m glad you liked the recommendations. I really do worry about it when anyone tells me they bought something based on what I wrote, because I don’t like to steer anyone wrong.

      That’s great about your wedding. Don’t forget to comment, preferably in the middle of the ceremony, because you know what’s important!!!

      I don’t go to many concerts anymore, but man, you already have plans a year in advance? Dang …

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.