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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:05 am 
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I'll second the report that Kindles are limited; the OB&C has one, and while she's gotten used to its limitations, it doesn't let her do everything she expected.

I'd also possibly be interested in that tablet if Shoe passes on it.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2014 3:38 pm 
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Chris Knight wrote:
The kindles are a bit restrictive. You're better off with a samsung tab, an acer iconia, or asus transformer.


No argument about the restrictions. It was the price that convinced me, it was an impulse buy at $70. Otherwise it was a no-name tablet for roughly the same price, more storage, but a worse display.

Of course all it takes is a neutered device to make you want a better one.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2014 7:50 am 
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Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 1: Legacy
by Dan Abnett (Author), Andy Lanning, Paul Pelletier


The book that inspired the team we see in the movie, Abnett's Guardians picks right up where Annihilation: Conquest (viewtopic.php?p=67172#p67172) left off.

Star-Lord! Gamora! Drax! Groot! Rocket! plus Mantis! Quasar! Adam Warlock! Cosmo the dog!

First: The characters are actually more interesting and better fleshed out in the movie than they are here.

Second: This book is lots of fun regardless. Peter Quill brings together a team to help fix the universe, which is busted up thanks to two straight Annihilation events. It's an uneasy band of misfits. They face cosmic religious nuts and Skrulls and people unstuck in time.

So yeah, wild and wooly cosmic stuff.

This volume does NOT contain a complete story, and it has an inexplicable crossover with Secret Invasion that is clearly nothing more than a cash grab -- the Secret Invasion was happening literally on the other side of the universe! -- but when you do get is fun. The storytelling jumps back and forth in time, a gimmick that is tricky to get right but which they nail. Solid humor, good (and mostly coherent) action, and several plots churning at once.

Really looking forward to more. If you enjoyed the movie as much as I did, read this.

And no, you don't need to start with Annihilation: Conquest (though the Star-Lord mini was really good).

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2014 6:37 am 
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Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2: War Of Kings Book 1
Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 3: War Of Kings Book 2


What a terrific little series this is turning out to be ... "little" being a bit misleading, of course, since it spans multiple universes and timelines, and involves a Guardians team that is far larger than the one depicted in the film.

Picking up where Legacy left off, the Guardians are still trying to repair tears in the fabric of space-time, but they have a few problems. One, the team has fallen apart and is now split into several factions. And two, the Shi'Ar have gone to war with the Kree and the Inhumans, and thanks to Star-Lord's interference, the Guardians are caught in the middle.

War of Kings is technically a big crossover spanning several other titles and a miniseries, but I skipped all that other shit and stuck to just GOTG. Works fine that way, too. Whatever events happen in other books aren't missed.

These two volumes move fast. Hell, the whole SERIES moves fast. Abnett & Co. always seem to have at least three or four subplots working at once, subplots that often end up crashing into one another during a time of crisis. The overall plot takes sharp left turns that never feel like gimmicks, with major shakeups happening to several characters. The writing is largely excellent; even high octane action scenes are infused with tons of characterization and narrative momentum.

The humor just gets better and better, too. Some of the running gags really tickle me. For example, a C-list character from Captain America called Jack Flag ends up joining the team. He tells Star-Lord right off the bat that he "hates cosmic stuff." His hatred of cosmic stuff becomes a running gag as he, naturally, finds himself encountering all SORTS of cosmic stuff. There are some howlingly funny moments with Groot, too, and Peter Quill / Star-Lord has some excellent moments as well.

The team is huge and diverse, so if you don't like a few characters there are sure to be others you WILL like. In addition to the movie's Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, Gamora, and Drax, other members of the team includes Quasar (the new female version), Adam Warlock, Bug, Cosmo the space dog, Mantis, Major Victory (from the original Guardians), Jack Flag, and Moondragon.

Best of all, the story just has a great sense of forward momentum. It's all been tied together with one over-arching focus while also managing to divert into this story and that story. You've got time travel, Celestials, cosmic cults, giant monsters, epic space battles and giant star cruisers, and racoons with machine guns.

What's not to love?

Some of the best cosmic Marvel stuff I've read, and easily the best modern Marvel stuff I've read since I began to revisit it a few months back.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2014 5:26 pm 
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With the onset of the fall season I decided it was high time to seek out some horror comics that were genuinely scary. It's a hard thing to find to be honest. Horror comics don't have the luxury of sound effects, music, etc. to help and it's really hard to pull off an effective jump scare in a two page spread. The good news is I was recommended some titles that have so far turned out to be plenty scary or at the very least disgustingly, brutally gruesome. I'll start with the one I initially liked the least and am now fascinated by.

Crossed

I've said before that I'm a Garth Ennis fan but sometimes his stories fall flat for me. When I first started reading Crossed my thought was "Ennis just tried to create a more extreme version of The Walking Dead".

And that thought is not wrong, but it does polish over some genuinely disturbing things that Crossed brings to the table. The premise is that a disease has spread that turns it's victims into depraved, maniacs. They're easy to spot thanks to a cross shaped rash that spreads on their faces. These are not your usual "movie" depraved maniacs. They are smart, fast, devious and they don't give up easily. Also, we're talking cannibalism, torture, rape, incest... you name it, it's going on and the people who have so far escaped infection are few and far between.

The first series reminded me quite a bit of The Walking Dead and it almost put me off the whole title. Basically, you've got your ragtag group dodging "Crossed" (as the infected are called) and trying to make their way north to Alaska where they figure the cold and lack of people in general should work in their favor.

The thing that kept me reading had to do with seriously disturbing decisions that the survivors had to make. For instance, what happens when you find out one of the survivors in your group isn't the nice little old man you thought he was? Or when you come across a group of children who have survived by killing adults and taking their food?

Overall, I felt that first series was a couple of issues too long but when things finally started playing out toward the finale, there were at least a couple of major characters whose deaths hurt to read. Still, at this point, I was ready to toss in the towel but decided I'd check out the next series anyway.

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Crossed - Family Values

And here's where it goes gloriously right. Family Values begins on the same night as the first issue of Volume 1 but this time our setting is a family of Mormon horse farmers in Utah. What happens when your family is already dysfunctional and incestuous? Well, sometimes the lesser of two evils turns out to be worse than you could ever have thought. This one is where I feel the whole series should have started. If you just forget that first run and start here, you'll be fine... at least as fine as reading a comic about depraved cannibalistic torturing rapists can be.


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Crossed - Psychopath

And it keeps getting better. Picking up with a brand new group of survivors making their way across the country, this arc begins when the group discovers an uninfected man with a broken leg at the bottom of a pit. Their decision to save him sets up a series where you are inside the mind of a psychopath. Not a "crossed" psychopath, but a conniving "normal" one who slowly pulls the group along for a seriously twisted and deadly ride. The artwork in this one was pretty great also showing images from the psycho's imagination completely contradicting the words coming out of his mouth.

I can't recommend these to everyone. Hell, I wouldn't recommend them to almost anyone but I will say that if you like your end of civilization horror books to be truly extreme and graphic... if you don't mind feeling kind of dirty because of what you just read... and if you don't mind the occasional image of a man masturbating while sucking on a Ziploc bag containing the nipple of an infected severed breast... well then this may be the horror comic for you.

A little later, I'll continue with the Crossed - Badlands and Crossed - Wish You Were Here comics but I have a few others to write about first.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:40 am 
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Alan Moore – Neonomicon

I’d bet that if you took a good look at all of the horror comics written since the 1970’s, H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos has been touched on every bit as much as the usual subjects (vampires, zombies, etc.). The medium lends itself to exploring those grand, cosmic ideas that Lovecraft writes about and Alan Moore has been influenced by Lovecraft for ages. I was really looking forward to finally reading this.

Neonomicon is a short four issue book that follows a couple of detectives on the trail of a weird cult based around Salem, MA. The cult members seem to speak a language no one can identify and there are clues everywhere (from people’s names to song lyrics) that some Lovecraftian element is involved.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed overall.

It was a fun read on some levels but there was almost no character development beyond letting you know the female agent had some issues with sex addiction earlier. The result was that I didn’t really care too much about any of the characters. The only thing that kept me reading was the mystery itself.

Also, when you’re dealing with Lovecraft there is ample opportunity for building atmosphere and there is ZERO of that here. I will say that there’s a different take on how a sleeping Cthulu awakes but that’s about it.

I've since found out that this was a sequel to The Courtyard which I've never read. Maybe reading that will make me appreciate it more. It's not that this is a bad comic. As I said above, it's fun on some levels but it definitely didn't deliver on the 'creeping horror' factor at all.

Worth reading if you are a fan of Moore or Lovecraft but not essential.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 5:46 am 
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As one of the few Moore's I haven't read, I'll read it, though the lack of atmosphere in a Lovecraftisn story is a bad sign.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 4:44 pm 
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Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 4: Realm Of Kings

Collects issues 20-25, which wraps up the series.

And a great series it was! The final stretch of 10 issues is marred by switches back and forth in the art team -- the inconsistency is jarring -- and I'm a little miffed that most of the series is tied into a series of cosmic crossovers , so you sometimes feel as if there are story aspects you're missing elsewhere. Hell, the final issue of this series leads into yet another miniseries! Fuck you for that, Marvel.

But though they sound like big gripes, those are actually minor complaints. This was a hellaciously fun ride. The issues with Brad Walker on art look fantastic. The adventure is fun and funny and serious and thrilling. Huge cosmic events, time travel, twists and turns. I want to keep going with the other cosmic books just to see where things are going, provided they're written by the same team.

A-frickin'-plus as far as mainstream books go and highly recommended, especially if you like the cosmic stuff.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 4:50 pm 
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Ferals
Goddamn it am I torn on this one. I was first exposed to Ferals on a visit to a printing plant in Canada where someone handed me a copy fresh off the press. It was somewhere in the middle of the run and I was lost as far as the narrative was concerned. I ultimately decided that someday I may revisit it but it was nothing urgent.

Starting at #1 though it was pretty obvious to me immediately that this was a GREAT werewolf story. No lie, this is exactly the kind of thing I’ve been looking for. If you’re a fan of The Howling (the first, not the shitty sequels), it can almost read like a perfect side story happening further north. There are definitely some changes and twists to the lore and all fresh in my opinion.

HOWEVER…

My praise can only go as far as about Issue #13 or 14. That’s unfortunate because those first 14 issues do exactly what you want them to do. It starts as so many other werewolf books do with your hero surviving an attack by a strange beast and not understanding what is happening to him. However, Ferals (as the wolves in their human form are called) are not werewolves in the typical sense but I won’t say more than that. Ultimately, the draw for me was the exploration of how these packs work, how the female/male power balance is structured, what are the taboos in the society, and how do humans become Ferals in the first place?

All of this is great stuff and it works so well because the action is kept to a few small towns. The series lost me when it started expanding the setting. My problem wasn’t with the expansion itself, but rather because it was crammed into four issues. By the cliffhanger in Issue #18 (setting up the next series Ferals-Unleashed), the writing had gotten lazy.

Let me ask you this. When a man disembowels a raging werewolf that was threatening to kill a group of seven year olds who just saw most of their friends and teachers slaughtered, do you think afterwards he’ll have a casual conversation with them or would they be crying and blubbering over the impossibly gory thing they’ve just witnessed?

That’s what I mean by lazy. The exchange was literally, “Thanks mister. You saved us real good.”

LITERALLY… THAT’S WHAT WAS WRITTEN!!

And so it’s with much regret that I have to say I can’t recommend Ferals, however if you’re as big a fan of werewolves as I am then you owe it to yourself to read those first fourteen issues and dream of what could have been.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 4:53 pm 
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Shoe wrote:
This was a hellaciously fun ride. The issues with Brad Walker on art look fantastic. The adventure is fun and funny and serious and thrilling.


I'm going to have to check these out. I read about ten issues of the latest Guardians run back in May just to get an idea of the characters and those were a lot of fun. Like you, I loved the film so I want to go back and explore some more.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 5:04 pm 
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caryc wrote:
That’s what I mean by lazy. The exchange was literally, “Thanks mister. You saved us real good.”

LITERALLY… THAT’S WHAT WAS WRITTEN!!

I sure hope it's not Lapham on writing chores. If so, I'll be highly disappointed, because Lapham was once brilliant. His ongoing series circa the late 1990s, Stray Bullets, was a terrific and raw look at the seedier side of American life (and is overall among my top comics ever), and his graphic novel Murder Me Dead is a must-read noir / murder mystery that would make for a great film.

So if he's writing lines like that ... ugh.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 7:23 pm 
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It's Lapham. I'm probably still going to check out Ferals - Unleashed because this started out so strong. I have to hope that it'll regain that but if it's not firing on all cylinders in a few issues then I'm going to put it down.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2014 9:02 am 
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Verotika

This will be short. There's nothing redeeming about Glenn Danzig's comic imprints save for some Franzetta artwork here and there. Most of them revolve around one topic. Sex. I wouldn't mind that if it were done well but most of the time it's just horribly written crap. I've read better in untranslated hentai mangas while living Iwakuni.

The Verotika title is no different. Basically it was meant to be the horror anthology book of his comic line and it fails horribly on most counts. Every story is about either serial killers or demons fucking women "in heat" or zombie hookers. That's pretty much it.

I knew this going in. Still, I decided to read the entire 15 issue series because I hate myself.

BUT...

If you are a horror fan, there are two stories that not only rise above everything else in the series (a relatively easy thing to do), but they rise to the level of really great horror.

Issue #1 - The Braille Encyclopedia

This story is SO Clive Barker it's hard to believe it's not him. It's about a blind woman who seeks out knowledge that's forbidden. I won't say more except that if you can find it and like Barker, then read it.

Issue #4 - A Taste of Cherry

And then there's this one that just defies comparison. One of the most transgressive and horror-filled stories I've read. It will pack more punch if you're a parent. I'm sure that I will occasionally think about this story until the day I die.

One final thing about Verotika. There is an issue where Edward Lee brings his one of a kind touch to the writing. If you've never read Edward Lee, just know that you need to have the stomach for it. I've read a number of his books and he usually just goes for the full on gross-out, however occasionally he brings something stronger to the table.

His book Header gets the comic treatment in Verotika but honestly, don't be tempted. The premise works much better if you just read it. Here's the link to Amazon.

Warning though, if you don't have a strong stomach, you'll hate me forever for reading that.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:49 am 
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Bunch of stuff to catch up posting about, most more mainstream stuff -- still on my Marvel kick -- but also:

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Bottomless Belly Button
by Dash Shaw


All 700+ pages of it.

Among some friends and I, Dash Show is something of a whipping boy. He represents the worst of self-indulgent indie comix, made even worse because he gets lavish praise (and sizable grants and such!) for comics that appear pedestrain in every way.

But we hadn't actually read any of his stuff. We had only seen samples and knew him by reputation. Part of that rep was his 700+ page graphic novel about a whitebread middle class family having whitebread middle class problem, i.e. the very definition of paint-by-numbers, let's-pretend-it's-relevant Comics That Are Important Because We Say So.

So I decided to give this an objective, open-minded reading. I wanted to take the work on its own terms and see if maybe, just maybe, the emperor is actually wearing a decent pair of jeans or something.

So let’s cut right to the bottom line: is this the absolute trash we thought it was?

Not exactly.

But it’s also not very good. What it is is just by-the-numbers, run of the mill White Bread Family Has White Bread Trouble That Really Aren’t All That Troubling suburban drama, with absurdly shitty art and on-page depictions of ejaculation. It doesn’t really have much to SAY when it comes to peeling back the layers of the American family, it’s just one in a long series of pedestrian “this is my troubled middle class life” stories.

In short, it’s a great big yawn. Not the absurd, incoherent trash a few excerpts make it appear to be, but also not something that warrants the ridiculous praise it has gotten.

Bottomless Belly Button concerns the Loony family. The adult children of the older Loonys have all gathered at their seaside home for a week to deal with the announcement that after 40 years, their parents are getting a divorce. Over the course of 700+ pages we follow the eldest son having a mental breakdown over it, the youngest son having a summer fling with a quirky beach chick, the daughter and daughter-in-law reflecting on their lives as suburban wives, and the granddaughter acting like just another a teenage girl.

The opening 40 pages or so of this had me rolling my eyes and thinking, “Oh dear lord, what have I gotten myself into?” You get an endless sequence in which Dash Shaw tells us about different types of sand, such as wet sand and beach sand. Really. Also an endless sequence in which he tells us about all the different Loonys out there, i.e. “sometimes the family is happy and sometimes it’s not.” These passages are obnoxious and pointless. I’m all for artful tangents in comics like this when they contribute to the atmosphere or our understanding of the characters, or even if they just showcase a mastery of the comic form – showing off is sometimes fine if you do impressive work – but these sequences are pure filler disguised as "innovation."

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Mercifully, they go fast. They’re largely made up of single, sparse images and a few fleeting words per page, usually the size of a single panel set in the middle of blank white space.

Incidentally, this is a big reason why this is 700 pages. There are multiple chunks like this throughout the book.

Then we have the family sitting around the dinner table. This is almost a good sequence that effectively captures the chaos of a family gathering. Panel after panel is crammed tight with the “AHHHHHHHHH!” of a baby wailing in the background, family members are talking over one another, no one is able to get out a coherent thought because everyone is concerned with what THEY have to say rather than what someone ELSE has to say. Were it not for the sloppy art and flat writing, this would almost be excellent work.

The dad drops the bomb. They’re getting a divorce. BOOM, halfway through a nine-panel page layout (or was it 12?) the sequence just ends. There are no longer any panels, just white space. The guy had just pulled everyone’s world out from under them.

Got to admit, this was a very effective technique.

But Shaw’s self-indulgence mars much of what is to follow. You can get past the juvenile skill level when it comes to the art – despite vague similarities in style, there is nary a trace of the control of, say, a Craig Thompson or Daniel Clowes – but it’s hard to get past pointlessly long sequences that add little to the (thin) narrative or (almost as thin) characters. The elder brother goes for a jog and it extends over countless wordless pages, just panel after panel of awkwardly drawn dude jogging, then coming home, then showering and drying off his balls, then getting dressed. Are we supposed to get a sense for this guy’s isolation, since he’s the only one in the family who appears distraught over the divorce? Perhaps.

And perhaps we didn’t need 15 pages to get that message.

There is also a series of a pages that are just 3D floor plans of the house and room layouts. Seriously, that’s all they are. Floor plans. Shaw said in an interview that he likes to have a strong sense of the geography of his locations. That’s nice and all, but what is this supposed to do for the READER?

Much of the book is focused on the younger brother, who is drawn to look like a frog and who I suspect is Dash Shaw’s avatar in the book.

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He has an awkward fling with a girl he meets on the beach. We get to see him fumble his way through meeting her, fumble his way through an awkward sort-of-a-date, then get to watch him get a hand job and ejaculate on her bed. Later, he tries to go to the bathroom with an erection, but as we all know it’s hard to pee with an erection so he ends up peeing all over her bathroom by accident. We see this from his point of view, camera pointed down at his erect penis and the toilet bowl as he urinates over the course of two agonizing pages.

Not joking.

And it’s not the only pissing scene in the book.

He also masturbates and spooges onto some baby clothes his mother was knitting (also depicted in panel). So that’s nice. And he gets a blow job in the rain. Plus, just about everyone showers at some point, so there are plenty of hairy vaginas and drooping testicles. And the scene in which a drunk woman looses her tampon in her vagina while out at the bar, and, legs splayed open while standing over a toilet, tries to fish it out, only to be left with bloody fingers.

That sure was a nice one.

I’d say all these scenes are depicted in graphic detail, but “detail” is not a word you’d associate with Shaw’s art. But they are shown in all their glory.

Those enamored with the emperor’s clothes might tell you that scenes like this are an unflinching portrayal of the realities of suburban life, that they’re bold and realistic and strip these characters down to the real human beings they are. That we can better relate to them because the awkwardness of seeing these intimate moments is something we can all understand.

Me, I’d argue that they’re lazy. That they’re a crutch rather than an effective shorthand. That they allow Shaw to feign depth that really isn’t there.

But what do I know?

There ARE a some nice touches throughout the book, though, that indicate Shaw has the ability to use the medium effectively when he wants to.

Early on, the youngest son meets his summer fling at night and they swim in the ocean. The panels switch back and forth between them floating contentedly in the water and to a growing mass of jellyfish just beneath their feet. It seems to suggest that the quiet, blissful situation this guy has found himself in has something much stickier and messier bubbling just below the surface; that all is not as it seems and that this comfortable moment is just a hair’s breadth away from going from contentment to pain.

Later, the guy is telling his summer girlfriend about how his family thinks he’s weird and awkward, and they think he looks like a frog. For one fleeting panel, as she tells him she doesn’t see him that way, Shaw’s depiction of him switches from having a frog face to being a normal guy. In the next panel, he’s back to being a frog. This was an inspired choice and was tremendously effective in getting across the guy’s insecurity and alienation.

There are several times when Shaw makes really strong storytelling choices, too.

In one stretch of the book, we jump back and forth between three different scenes. Six panel grid, two per row, each row a different scene, with each scene contrasting the others. A later scene has a similar structure, but the scenes take up full pages, so it’s scene A, scene B, scene C, repeat over the course of 15 or 20 pages. These work really well in showcasing the complexity of the family dynamic.

In another, the youngest son watches as his summer fling strips in front of him. Shaw presents this in several pages packed dense with panels, each one depicting only the slightest movement forward in time from the last. The effect is that we’re in the young guy’s head as time seems to slow down to a crawl, him staring on in disbelief that this young woman is disrobing in front of him.

Very effective, and displaying that sometimes Shaw really does have good control of the comic form.

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Another strong sequence is one in which old man Loony goes out for a walk at night and collapses. The elder son follows and sees this happen. When the sequence begins, it’s just one panel per page, a tiny panel set in the middle of the page surrounded by tons of white space. Initially this seems like a complete waste, and it goes on for page after endless page (another reason this tome is 700+ pages long). Seems pretty damn self-indulgent!

Then the old man collapses, and the son picks him up in a panic and rushes him back to the house. From the moment the son picks the dad up, the panels begin to get incrementally larger. Still just one panel per page, but they keep getting bigger and bigger until, when he finally bursts into the house and the family is gathered around him, it has turned into a full-page splash.

The end result is a journey that begins by underscoring the solitude and isolation of this old man quietly walking along the waves in the middle of the night, and the growing panic and frenzy of thinking the old dude just died. (He didn’t.) It is perhaps Shaw’s most effective use of the medium in the whole book, and I can’t deny that it is VERY effective. In a better book overall, it would be a standout sequence.

The problem, of course, is that Bottomless Belly Button is NOT a better book.

It has very little to say beyond the kind of trite, head-smackingly obvious observations about suburban white families and awkward young “misunderstood” types we’ve read countless times before.

We get no special insights and experience no new understanding of family dynamics.

We understand these characters no better on page 700 than we did on page 100.

It’s just another slice-of-life story in an absolute sea of slice-of-life stories, only this one happens to be 700 pages and has really poor art.

The teenage girl has some typical teenage girl experiences (“Am I ugly?”). The middle-aged women have some typical middle-aged women experiences (“Am I still desirable? Am I happy being a middle-aged mom and wife?”) Older brother goes jogging again. Yawn, yawn. There just isn't a lot of life to much of the writing. These characters don't have an internal life; they exist as caricatures of complexity, a sort of Insert Tab A into Slot B way of assembling a 3D person.

In addition, the expressive art I’ve seen some reviewers mention must have been left out of my copy, because here Shaw shows close to zero ability to get across nuance and emotion with his facial expressions or body language. It’s all quite crude, and not in a way that contributes to the work in a positive way.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the obnoxious “write out sound effects and motion rather than depict them” affectation Shaw uses throughout. It doesn’t come across as clever or rule-bending, it comes across as someone trying their damndest to sweep their artistic shortcomings under the table.

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And, much like this review, the narrative just kind of meanders around for hundreds of pages before coming to a semi-abrupt close.





No, sorry, I can’t do that just to prove a point. Unlike Shaw, I have to offer some closure, so here it is: Dash Shaw’s Bottomless Belly Button isn’t the incoherent mess my friends and I suspected. It really does have some moments that made me say, “Okay, that’s good comics.” The problem is that those moments are buried amidst a huge brick of mediocrity.

Mediocrity is, in fact, the great flaw of Belly Button, and the thing that has me wondering what the critics read. It’s not that it’s an awful book – it actually isn’t – it’s that it’s a totally unremarkable book that differentiates itself from the dozens of other works just like it only by its sheer bulk. It’s not that it’s any better than Generic Indie Comic About First World Problems #42, it’s that it’s about 10 times as long.

The emperor is not completely naked, yet he’s only wearing a T-shirt and socks, his dong is hanging out, and he hasn’t wiped his ass in days.

Meh.

As far as I'm concerned, Dash Shaw can remain the poster child for shitty indie that gets praised because everyone else is praising is, too, because I really didn't read anything that gives me ammo enough to be a contrary voice. He's just as good, and just as bad, as dozens of other anonymous indie hacks, so in a way he's the perfect representation of that whole scene.

Again, I say meh.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:51 am 
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Now for some mainstream stuff:

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Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 4: Realm Of Kings

Collects issues 20-25, which wraps up the series.

And a great series it was! The final stretch of 10 issues is marred by switches back and forth in the art team -- the inconsistency is jarring -- and I'm a little miffed that most of the series is tied into a series of cosmic crossovers , so you sometimes feel as if there are story aspects you're missing elsewhere. Hell, the final issue of this series leads into yet another miniseries! Fuck you for that, Marvel.

But though they sound like big gripes, those are actually minor complaints. This was a hellaciously fun ride. The issues with Brad Walker on art look fantastic. The adventure is fun and funny and serious and thrilling. Huge cosmic events, time travel, twists and turns. I want to keep going with the other cosmic books just to see where things are going, provided they're written by the same team.

A frickin' plus and highly recommended, especially if you like the cosmic stuff.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:55 am 
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Thanos Quest
Jim Starlin & Ron Lim

Thanos Quest was a two-part, Prestige format story that served as a lead-in of sorts to the Infinity Gauntlet saga. Why it hasn't been collected in a single edition, I don't know, because it deserves it.

In this 100-page story, Thanos goes about gathering the six Infinity Gems so he can win the love of Death. The story is purely focused on him. No heroes. No epic battles with dozens of characters. Just six smart, clever confrontations.

I'm generally pretty lukewarm on Lim's art, but it looks great here thanks to coloring that appears painted on rather than done by computer. That, and the storytelling is creative and dynamic. I suspect Starlin did a full script, because a lot of the layouts and techniques hearken to his '70s work with Adam Warlock. These pages are fantastic.

Speaking of Starlin, his writing is good. He gets into Thanos' head in a great way. This is a well fleshed-out character. Better than most, really. Great ending, too.

None of this is nostalgia speaking. This is my first reading.

Terrific stuff. Highly recommended for anyone who likes Starlin, Thanos, and/or Marvel's cosmic stuff.

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The Infinity Gauntlet
by Jim Starlin, Ron Lim, George Pérez


Thanos has the power of God. He snuffs out half the life in the universe. Adam Warlock gathers up some heroes and cosmic beings to stop him. Cosmic light show ensues.

It's all right. Starlin is a fine writer, Lim and Perez are fine artists, but the subject matter is just too big for the standard superhero comic approach. To have beings that are beyond the scope of human understanding -- Eternity and the like -- slugging it out in seemingly ordinary ways undercuts the idea of Thanos effectively being God.

Lots of pages that are nothing more than cosmic star light sort of stuff. Thanos has limitless power, but slugs it out like a normal dude. Starlin tries to write in a reason for this, but it doesn't ring true to me.

The disasters that strike Earth as a result of Thanos doing bad shit are neat, but Starlin touches on them in fleeting pages and then abandons them. Presumably those strands are dealt with in the crossovers, but screw that noise.

The first half of this story is EXCELLENT. Thanos trying (and failing) to woo Death is wonderfully handled. Thanos contemplating his power, using it for the sake of ego and getting struck down. I really loved that stuff.

Where it goes downhill is in the latter half, when it becomes a universe-spanning superhero team up slugfest. At that point it descends into the same old same old. Fun, but falling short of the lofty concepts it begins with.

There are some damn fine concepts here, but either Starlin or Marvel (or both) weren't willing enough to break the mainstream comics mold to explore them. The result is an enjoyable cosmic crossover, but nothing truly special.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2014 6:25 pm 
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Stray Bullets Vol. 1
by David Lapham


Davis Lapham is -- or was -- a genius. Launched in 1995, Stray Bullets was way ahead of its time. This impeccably illustrated black and white comic explores the way the lives of a small group of people are shattered by crime and violence.

Vol. 1 collects the first four issues. (Each issue is 30+ pages, and each page is usually 8 panels, so there is plenty of story here despite it being only four issues.) It opens with a shockingly grim tale of murder -- two low lifes are trying to dispose of a body for their boss -- that wraps up with with a neat, tidy, and bloody ending. Each of the three stories that follow do the same. Lapham does an amazing job of having each story serve as a standalone cautionary tale featuring richly realized characters and dark, disturbing scenarios, while ALSO having each story become part of a larger narrative that unfolds over the course of the series.

In a way, it's like a crime anthology by one guy, with loose connections between stories, or like an HBO anthology series that never was.

The art is tremendous. It manages to be both sparse and detailed at the same time. His storytelling is precise and controlled. Every character is easily recognizable and lives and breaths in a believable way. He has a real talent for facial expressions and body language. Couple that with his sense for composition, his bold use of blacks (which gives this whole thing a heavy noir vibe), and the simplicity of his page layouts and you find that every tale has some powerful story beats with major impact.

This guy was GOOD.

So good that it broke my heart when he made a break for the big leagues. I understand why he did it, a man's got to eat and all that, but I had NO interest in seeing this guy doing Batman stories.

I'm actually a little giddy to find out that he returned to it, finished up the original story (I own 1-32 in collected editions, he brought it up to #41), and that he launched a NEW Stray Bullets series.

Yay!

This has long been a favorite series. It had been too long since I read it, though. Sure am glad I paid it another visit. If anything, it's even better than I remember. It's difficult to believe this is nearly 20 years old. It's as vital, thrilling, emotionally trying, and captivating as it was way back in 1995.

5 out of frickin' 5 by any measuring stick imaginable.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 6:32 pm 
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Stray Bullets, Vol. 2
by David Lapham


Four more stories, which pick up a few years after the stories set in 1979 from the first volume. Two follow a dorky young man who gets pulled into Harry's world of crime - and there is no way it can end well. Though these stories are only a few issues apart (#5 and #8), Lapham makes the bold choice of jumping forward a year and leaving the reader to figure out what major events took place off screen during that time (and they ARE major).

Another story follows the endearing Ginny, the young gal with the scar from Vol. 1. This one is a real heartbreaker.

And finally, it introduced Amy Racecar, easily my least favorite of the Stray Bullets character/arcs. These stories are fiction within fiction, and serve as a kind of satire or parody of Stray Bullets itself. They're sort of tied into the main stories, insomuch as they are the creation of a character within Stray Bullets, but they're really just big, outlandish tales of ultra violence by a super criminal girl. Not my cuppa, and always stories I wanted to skip.

Still, 3 out of 4 ain't bad.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 7:51 am 
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Shoe - I have a nightmarish trip next week where I fly across the country to Montreal for a one day meeting and back again. I finally grabbed Stray Bullets 1 - 3 (the collected volumes) and that is my planned reading on the plane. I mean, I could study the notes for my meeting but seriously... fuck that.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:36 am 
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I have a hard time envisioning any reaction other than you loving them. Enjoy!

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 7:24 am 
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Cary, don't know how familiar you are with Montreal, but if you haven't been there already get over to Fairmount Bagels (http://www.fairmountbagel.com/) - the only place outside of New York that anyone should get a bagel.

I also just downloaded the first issue of Stray Bullets, solely on Shoe's recommendation. :thumbs:


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 12:18 pm 
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i8piglet wrote:
Cary, don't know how familiar you are with Montreal, but if you haven't been there already get over to Fairmount Bagels (http://www.fairmountbagel.com/) - the only place outside of New York that anyone should get a bagel.

I also just downloaded the first issue of Stray Bullets, solely on Shoe's recommendation. :thumbs:


Fairmount bagels are great, but I'd argue that St Viateur is better. Both are Montreal style, a distinctly different beast than New York style bagels. Also try to get some smoked meat as well.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2014 1:57 pm 
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Stray Bullets Vol. 3
by David Lapham


Another strong volume that again works to the strengths of this series. These are four vignettes that do a fine job of being standalone stories while also weaving themselves in a larger tapestry.

In the first we meet Nick, a big lunkhead who fancies himself something of a ladies man but who in reality is an oaf. He lives a lonely life, doted on by mom and surrounded by porn posters. Again all odds, Nick is put into circumstances that force him into being a hero.

Then we have another Amy Racecar story. I've mentioned these aren't my favorites, but this one is a pretty good one. Plus, if you read between the lines you realize that Ginny, the young girl with a scar, is now arriving in the town of Seaside, where most of the other cast members are.

Then we have one of the best stories of the series, in which Beth and her strung out friend go swimming. It's a simple tale, really, just two women trying to escape for a few hours. But things go a little sour thanks to the resentment felt by Beth's friend. One of the most gut-wrenching finishes in the series ... not due to death or violence, but due to the masterful way in which Lapham handles difficult emotions. That drive home ... wow.

Finally, different elements of our cast finally collide during a big fair. This story is a fast-paced one that swings all over the map, and ends with a turn of events that changes the course of the series.

Once again, highly recommended.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2014 8:30 pm 
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Kimfair wrote:
i8piglet wrote:
Cary, don't know how familiar you are with Montreal, but if you haven't been there already get over to Fairmount Bagels (http://www.fairmountbagel.com/) - the only place outside of New York that anyone should get a bagel.

I also just downloaded the first issue of Stray Bullets, solely on Shoe's recommendation. :thumbs:


Fairmount bagels are great, but I'd argue that St Viateur is better. Both are Montreal style, a distinctly different beast than New York style bagels. Also try to get some smoked meat as well.


Thanks gents, but I literally had no time for anything but sleeping and meetings. To illustrate how short this visit was, eight hours after I arrived at the airport, I checked in for my return flight. It was brutal.

Next time, I plan on adding a day and I'll definitely seek one or both of those places out. I'm also going to try to plan a layover in Newark again if at all possible.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2014 8:32 pm 
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Shoe - I read the entire 41 issue run of Stray Bullets on my trip. I liked it a lot but really loved the final story arc which you'll get to in your reviews eventually. Thanks for the recommendation!

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2014 8:45 pm 
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caryc wrote:
Shoe - I read the entire 41 issue run of Stray Bullets on my trip.

Wow! Frickin' marathon man over here!

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 7:22 am 
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Got a Kindle Fire HD 7 for Christmas. First thing I did was get the Comicat app and starting reading from my big ol' collection of CBRs and CBZs.

It's great. Held landscape, everything reads perfect. Nav is good. Etc. The only downside is storage space. It kind of sucks on this model. Only just over 4GB available to me, which is not room for many comics at all and which leaves me next to no room for apps and such. Will have to rotate comics on and off as I want to read them.'

But that's a first world problem if every there was one, innit?

Happy to finally be reading digital comics without a laptop.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:52 am 
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Just finished reading quite a large run of The Fantastic Four from the late 1990's through the Civil War event. I had never bothered to read F4 but knew all the characters etc. I was genuinely surprised at how much fun they were. I especially loved the storyline where they trap Victor Von Doom in the negative zone and establish Latveria as an independent country, thus incurring the wrath of every world government.

Now, I'm on to Captain America. I've just read about two years worth of issues leading up the The Winter Soldier arc. I've never read that and am looking forward to it. Still haven't seen the movie but it's in the queue for this week.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 10:51 am 
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caryc wrote:
Now, I'm on to Captain America. I've just read about two years worth of issues leading up the The Winter Soldier arc. I've never read that and am looking forward to it. Still haven't seen the movie but it's in the queue for this week.

All the Brubaker Cap stuff is great. Don't stop with Winter Soldier. Read until at least issue #25.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 1:08 pm 
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As I've said before, I blame you guys for the fact that I'm reading the occasional comic (digital only) after a 20-year lapse.

That said, anybody else reading Fables? It's ending in the next couple months at issue 150. There've been places in the run where it's seemed a bit unfocused when moving from story arc to arc, as if not everything was quite planned out, but I've enjoyed the whole thing and I'm sorry to see it end.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 2:30 pm 
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I dropped out on Fables at around issue #60 or so. I did like what I read quite a lot, but I think I meandered away from it in part because of your on-target criticism: it sometimes meanders a bit too much for my liking.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 7:15 pm 
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Well, there's an end-point if you want to go back to it. The meandering thing IS true, but periodically. It's like it occasionally flails around for a story to tell, then finds one and tells it well. Then more flailing.

That said, the roots of the last one go back a good 50 issues, and while I'm not sure it was always meant to be the end, I think it's been building to this for about that long (though other, sometimes lesser, stories have been mixed in that stretch as well). I'm looking forward to some resolution.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 9:08 pm 
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I've only read about the first 30 issues or so. I liked it well enough but agree about it meandering at times. I dropped off mostly because I saw no end in sight. I may go back and read the whole series now that I know it's ending.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 7:22 pm 
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Shoe wrote:
Got a Kindle Fire HD 7 for Christmas. First thing I did was get the Comicat app and starting reading from my big ol' collection of CBRs and CBZs.

It's great. Held landscape, everything reads perfect. Nav is good. Etc. The only downside is storage space. It kind of sucks on this model. Only just over 4GB available to me, which is not room for many comics at all and which leaves me next to no room for apps and such. Will have to rotate comics on and off as I want to read them.'

But that's a first world problem if every there was one, innit?

Happy to finally be reading digital comics without a laptop.


You can SORT of get it working with Dropbox or Box online storage so you can download them via WIFI on the fly. It's not a perfect fix, but works decent enough if you're lounging around the house and have a solid WIFI connection.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2015 8:24 am 
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I had considered doing something like that with Google Drive. Just fill up a shitload that I'll eventually want to read so I can access them that way rather than having to wire up the PC and external storage each time. Not really sure it's any less hassle, though.

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