Monday, February 28, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Former punk rocker Hollis Henry has a problem. Well, that’s not exactly fair, Henry has many problems but right now putting together a little money would go a long way towards dealing with the most pressing of them. Enter marketing guru Hubertus Bigend. He has a knack for making money without even having to work for it. Bigend has a job that needs doing and he thinks Henry is just the woman to get it done.
The world of fashion is a cutthroat one, literally. Which shouldn’t be a surprise to when you consider that the greatest fashions of today are based on American military designs. Bigend wants to discover the identity of a nameless designer, who seems to be creating timeless clothes that transcend the destructive trend of seasons. He hopes that Henry’s music industry connections will help provide some new leads where his own efforts have stalled.
Bigend hopes to enter the insular world of fashion by designing and selling uniforms to the American military and he suspects he could benefit from having this mysterious designer work for him. Only he hadn’t counted on catching the attention of some retired military personnel who don’t take very kindly to sharing the wealth.
Now events are starting to spiral out of control and even Bigend seems powerless to prevent a catastrophic confrontation from occurring.
ZERO HISTORY is the final entry in author William Gibson’s Bigend trilogy.
Beginning with PATTERN RECOGNITION in 2003, and followed up by SPOOK COUNTRY in 2007, ZERO HISTORY carries on the Gibson tradition of mining the intersections of the far flung tendrils of popular culture for story material.
Which is really just a polite way of saying I read an entire book about the seedy underbelly of the fashion world…and I liked it.
Gibson is at his best when he inhabits that rarefied plane where future technologies overlap with the present world, it’s an exclusive genre that has spawned a host of imitators but few innovators. He has a way of combining theoretical or fictional technologies (at least I hope some of them are theoretical) with existing tech so seamlessly that it can be difficult to pinpoint what’s real and what’s not.
At its heart the Bigend Trilogy is all about the difficulty in asserting one’s identity against a backdrop of competing forces that seek to erase that same individuality.
Throughout the trilogy we are shown how technology can be used to reframe our personalities.
We are spied upon, tracked, catalogued, analyzed, edited, deleted and put in storage at the touch of a button. And the fingerprints we leave upon the world no longer belong to us, but rather are owned by an unstoppable, invisible and insatiable public consciousness that claims possession over everything it touches.
ZERO HISTORY centres around themes first put forward by Gibson in the pages of PATTERN RECOGNITION, how what we wear on our backs can define our place in the world and sublimate our own personalities.
While taking an extended look into the world of fashion might not appeal to everyone, I know I balked at tackling the subject at first, even the most disinterested reader has to acknowledge that fashion permeates every facet of our life and only the merest tip of it is related to clothing.
Fashion has a language all its own. The cars we drive, the gadgets we play with and the way we communicate are all designed, everything about them is constructed for a specific purpose which is communicate to others even when we ourselves are saying nothing. This language conveys status, wealth, knowledge and a host of other subtle social markers that the wearer\holder\buyer might not even be aware of.
That is why the nameless designer in ZH is so important. Gibson suggests that her designs are so pure and so simple that much of the static in their message is simply wiped away. They speak without subtext and thus their value is instantly recognizable.
(I started out writing a review and somehow ended up writing an essay.)
Reading a William Gibson novel is a bit like stumbling into the middle of a conversation where both sides are communicating in hand gestures. You’re never really sure that you understand exactly what is being said. The meaning of the conversation always seems to be elusive and untouchable. And while Gibson is great at stimulating the reader intellectually, his character work could use a little sharpening. He tries to create fully fleshed three dimensional characters, but in reality he crafts mobile info dumps that he can move around like chess pieces in order to get everyone in place for the book’s climax.
Its no coincidence that the only character to appear in all three of the books is Hubertus Bigend. Bigend plays the role of puppet master, his job is to appreciate and exploit the human psyche so he can find innovative ways to sell them material goods. In many ways the character of Bigend perfectly embodies free market capitalism. Everything can be bought and sold and people are just another commodity for him to manipulate. But if Bigend is the capitalist monster come to life he is still a benign one. He doesn’t seek power and money but rather knowledge and understanding. It is only when his desires goals are jeopardized will he be ruthless and unforgiving.
He never does the dirty work himself, instead he hires worthy individuals to do the work for him. Against the backdrop of Bigend’s machinations other characters try to walk the thin line between keeping true to themselves and performing the tasks they were hired for.
This is Henry’s core dilemma throughout the book. She knows that Bigend is not inherently bad or evil. But rather he exists as a disinterested demi-god, interacting with humanity when it suits his needs, but otherwise marching to the beat of his own drum.
Unfortunately readers new to Gibson’s writerly quirks may find the structure of the book a bit off-putting. Three quarters of the ZERO HISTORY reads like an extended conversation between interchangeable and emotionless robots. It’s a lot like hearing a speech by a really good social studies prof. And its all interesting stuff if you’re into that. But if you’re looking for more cause and effect and traditional narrative in your sci-fi readage…them maybe you should keep moving on.
Its really only in the book’s final chapters that Gibson remembers he needs to do more than educate the readers, he needs to entertain them as well. So he engineers a dramatic trade off between Bigend’s unit and a private military contractor protecting his turf.
Even then its hardly a running gun battle, the entire scene is told through the POV of a handful of people watching events transpire on CCTV monitors, (which is in keeping with the book’s theme of the alienating power of technology.) So it’s a climax by proxy, any action experienced by our lead characters takes place off the page and is only talked about. No one ever gets their hands dirty.
In ZERO HISTORY, the characters are always clean, sterile and removed from the action, the danger always purely theoretical.
William Gibson is not for everyone. He definitely operates on a rarefied plane that won’t appeal to all comers. But you can’t deny the man has a talent for generating new and interesting ideas. Once you crack Gibson’s writing style the reward for your labour will more than outweigh some of the duller stretches of his prose.
ZERO HISTORY is more than just an examination of the world of fashion, the story has loftier ambitions than that. Rather the book tries to create correlations between fashion and communication and technology. And while the book may have its flaws pushing boundaries and trying new things isn’t one of them. I recommend it.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Oh man. If anyone deserves to have had his series picked up it is Michael J. Sullivan. One of the kindest, down-to-earth and talented writers in the fantasy genre, who was still kinda indie. That didn't stop the buzz from jumping his sales in the last few months. The fantasy world has been onto (VIA blogs and GoodReads and Amazon reviews) his series for a little while now and I am no stranger to being a gigantic fan. I tell everyone I know to read it. It's about time a big publisher took notice and saw what a talent this guy is.
Anyways, I am so pleased that Michael has been picked up by a big publisher as it will only widen his readership and perhaps get more people to read a story that I am privileged to have been able to read. He was even gracious enough to autograph my copies of both THE EMERALD STORM and WINTERTIDE. Reviews for all five of the books that have been released are HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE respectively.
Congrats Michael. You deserve it wholeheartedly sir!
Monday, February 21, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Writer: Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado
The Aquawar continues. Aquaman, Mera, Aquagirl and Aquaboy (Aqua, Aqua, Aqua!) fight off Black Manta and the rebellious soldiers from the kingdom of Xebel, who are intent on conquering the surface world. The Aqua Squad manages to reimprison the Xebelian soldiers back inside the Bermuda triangle before White Lantern Deadman shows up to kill Aquaman.
Only in comic books does that last sentence make sense.
I’m still not 100% sure where Johns and co are going with this thing. Clearly the White Lantern energy functions as a bit of a deus ex machina allowing the writers to kill, torture and maim characters with little or no lasting repercussions. A little wave of the magic wishing ring and the characters can be resurrected in any incarnation that DC wants to use. Its an interesting premise but it also cheapens the story since all of the major character changes (breaking the
Hawk curse, Aquaman losing his hand...again) can arbitrarily be undone at any time.
Still enjoying the series and I think its one of the stronger titles DC is putting out these days. Its a shame that it’s wrapping up so soon.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Green Lantern and the original renegade Guardian, Krona, face off. Even with the help of the rest of the Rainbow Corps the Lanterns are easily overpowered and Krona makes his escape. Hal wakes up surrounded by the Justice League who try to convince him to accept their help in catching Krona. Only Hal ditches the Leaguers and decides to go after Krona with the rest of Team Lite Brite instead.
Looks like this is the last issue before the next John-sian Green Lantern event, War of the Green Lanterns. It seems like Johns is starting to tread on KNIGHTSFALL territory here. With each escalating conflict Hal is slowly being pushed to the limits of his endurance, mentally and physically. And of course we all know what happened the LAST time Hal went down this path.
All together now, “Parallaxxxxxxx”.
Also, I’d like to give an obligatory shout out to Doug Mahnke. The man knows how to draw. His wonderfully detailed and expressive work is always a treat to look at. Colourist Randy Mayor also deserves credit. With Green Lantern being a comic based primarily on bright and shiny colour based powers a skilled colourist is key to bringing the whole look of the book together. And with this issue Mayor does a great job of seamlessly blending the entire gamut of the rainbow during the larger fight scenes.
Green Lantern Corps #57
Writer: Tony Bedard
Penciller: Tyler Kirkham
The conclusion to the Weaponer storyline. The Sinestro Corps and the Qwardian Thunderers throw down in the anti-matter universe. Amongst the fighting a small band of Green Lanterns work to rescue the Lantern Soranik Natu from the hands of the vengeful Weaponer. Unfortunately, Natu just happens to be Sinestro’s daughter and he wants her back.
There were some good things in this issue. The art was solid, the story well written and there was an interesting character turn with the main villain that I didn’t see coming. One strange thing, all the Qwardian Thunderers are written like the chorus in an ancient Greek tragedy. It was a bit off. I kept expecting to see someone get ritually disembowelled or sleep with his mother (oh Oedipus Rex).
This also marks my last issue of GL:Corps. The series has fallen off a bit since Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason helmed the title. Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham are perfectly serviceable, but regrettably neither one of them has been able to hold my flagging interest in this series. I only have so many Green Lantern dollars to throw and this is the title that was sacrificed.
Wonder Woman #607
Writer: Phil Hester
Penciller: Don Kramer
Wonder Woman is harried by the forces of Morrigan, looking to recruit her as a third aspect of the God of War. The Morrigan sends mythological Grecian beings and brainwashed Amazons after Diana in order to wear down her defences in the hopes of corrupting her.
I have to say, I started reading this series only to sneak a peek at Wonder Woman’s new costume and narrative direction. Eight issues later I find myself enjoying this title a lot more than I thought I would. Shallow or not I was always a little put off by Wonder Woman’s crime fighting attire. Her propensity to slug it out in a star spangled bathing suit always struck me as being at odds with her character as a warrior and ambassador to man’s world. And Phil Hester as a writer? I’m diggin it. I’ve always counted the man among some of my favourite artists so its nice to see he’s got some writing chops as well.
Sadly, its fairly obvious that this new direction won’t last very long. Her Amazonian support crew is already being permanently dispatched with clockwork regularity and there’s a lot of narrative foreshadowing (or flashbacks, depending on how you look at it) to her previous incarnation. It seems a shame that DC is unwilling to try playing with this new status quo a little longer. If we can muck around with the fundamentals of Batman, a character who’s popularity seems to buoy the entire company, then why can’t we take a risk and see what can be done with this new look Wonder Woman?
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Genre: Steampunk/Western/Alt History
Page Count: 321 Pages
Author: Mike Resnick
Where I got it: Review copy sent from the fine folks at PYR.
Monday, February 14, 2011
My long promised review of AMANDA PALMER GOES DOWN UNDER.
A singer\songwriter and pianist by trade I often liken Palmer to Tori Amos when asked to describe her style. Both musicians create piano-centric, deeply personal and emotionally steeped work. But whereas Amos’s inspiration seems to be rooted in the struggle between her musical creativity and her disagreements with organized religion, Palmer’s muse seems to be more chaotic in nature.
She reminds me of the perpetual theatre student, always pushing boundaries and trying new and experimental forms in order to convey her art. Take a look at her stage shows, they’re equal parts rock concert and fringe theatre piece. Performance and chaotic creativity seems to be in her blood.
Palmer has followed a very non-traditional path when fleshing out her music career. Before breaking into the music biz she worked as a living statue, busking in Harvard Square.
In 2000 she co-founded the Dresden Dolls, along with drummer Brian Viglione, a sort of punk cabaret drums and piano duo. And, in 2008, Palmer split amicably from the Dolls to strike out on a solo career.
Growth is a hallmark of Amanda Palmer. While I’m sure she could craft a laudable career writing songs in the same emotional vein her entire life she doesn’t seem content to rest upon those laurels.
She’s always becoming something else.
It’s always a double edged sword when artists stray to far from the sound that gained them infamy. While fans will respect the musician’s desire to keep learning, they may become less enthusiastic if the artist's sound changes too much in the process. Us fans types generally like growth, we just get squirrelly if we think its at expense of whatever it was that turned us on to the artist in the first place.
Strangely enough, pushing the boundaries of her sound doesn’t seem to trip Palmer up in the slightest. She’s equally at home putting out an album of ukulele covers of Radiohead songs as she is pounding on a piano until it bleeds.
And goddamn, if it doesn’t work.
Given all that, for the casual listener or accidental Dresden Dolls\Amanda Palmer fan there may be a lot of things about AMANDA PALMER GOES DOWN UNDER you find off-putting.
The album is strangely unwelcoming to new listeners. A curious combination of studio work, live recordings, cover material and new work; the album’s cultural specificity may throw up unintended barriers that prevent it from being universally enjoyed by fans across the world.
Of course, that’s a lot of b.s., good music is good music whether its talking about an Australian sandwich spread or crafting a tongue in cheek new Kiwi anthem. Being Australian might help the album resonate a little stronger with the listener but it shouldn’t stop the rest of us from enjoying the work of a talented songstress.
After all, hailing from Oz didn’t stop people from enjoying Men at Work in the 80’s (though it should).
But its all here, her punk cabaret roots, her piano driven intensity, the theatre showmanship and the ukulele undertones. She effortlessly wraps up these diverse creative elements and creates a strong album that capitalizes on the energy of the live audience.
I have a very peculiar way of breaking in a new album. I’ll listen to the whole thing a couple times before I start hitting repeat on the songs that hit me the hardest, in this case it was Bad Wine and Lemon Cake a dark\mournful duet about the difficulties of a quiet life. Using that tune as a gateway drug I’ll start branching out slowly into other songs tasting them one at a time, sampling their flavour.
And, there’s something for everyone on this album. While it may sport a dearth of catchy radio friendly single’s, that shouldn’t stop you from listening to upbeat and catchy tunage like Map of Tasmania and New Zealand if that happens to be your thing. Traditional Palmerites will want to check out In My Mind and Doctor Oz to get a taste of the soulful chanteuse that is always lurking just beneath the surface of Palmer’s cheerful exterior.
Despite my declarations that good music is universal I’d still consider AMANDA PALMER GOES DOWN UNDER to be more for serious fans than I would for someone looking for an easy jumping on point for her work.
Search out the Dresden Dolls and Palmer's early solo material, before coming back to this album. It’s a beautiful companion piece for a skilled and complex artist.
Friday, February 11, 2011
-Beast looks 100% better than the crappy Kelsey Grammar/Brett Ratner-fied Beast from the 3rd X-flick. He looks badass!
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
For nearly 30,000 years humanity has lived among the stars, tailoring their genes in order to live more comfortably on the precious few unterraformed planets that can support life.
And although the inhabitants of each world have mucked about considerably with their genetic makeup they are, ostensibly, still human beings, thanks in part to the moderating influence of the Catholic Church.
Using the ability to mate and breed as a measuring stick for what constitutes a human being, civilization, led by the powerful space bureaucracy STARS and the Church, have been conditioned to fear individuals whose genetic background has been altered too drastically. And from time to time human beings, who have pushed this gene manipulation to the limit, emerge.
Calling these post-human beings Cuckoos, STARS will go to any length to eradicate these genetic misfits, including destroying planets and wiping out innocent populations.
When a Cuckoo infestation is rumoured to have been uncovered on the titular Pock’s World, STARS forms a Commission, made up from a diverse cross section of leading social, religious and political figures.
The Commission travels to the strange and unfamiliar Pock’s World in pursuit of the truth where they discover Monody, the living incarnation of a planetary goddess, the remnants of a long abandoned alien civilization and a planet that is practically inhospitable to human civilization.
Of course, all of this is quickly forgotten as the Commission quickly discovers that their worst fears may already have come to pass.
While the group struggles to come to terms with their findings they learn that STARS has already made their decision for them. Pock’s World, and all who live there, is scheduled for planetary annihilation, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it.
I have a tendency to pigeonhole Dave Duncan as a Young Adult author, which is as untrue as it is unfair. I suspect that the reason for this self imposed literary label is due to the fact that I discovered Duncan as a kid and summarily formed my opinion of him as a kid’s author.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In POCK’S WORLD Duncan writes about genocide, institutionalized torture, sexual blackmail, human sacrifice and murder. If these aren’t adult themes then clearly I’ve been reading the wrong sort of books.
I think another reason behind the mistaken mislabelling of Duncan as a YA author stems from that fact he eschews so much of the writerly verbosity that often accompanies this kind of material. He writes with a simple, straightforward and stripped down voice, eschewing unnecessarily flowery descriptions and condescending expositional backstory. And rather than have his characters spend page after page on stupefying and self serving inner narrative Duncan prefers to just get on with things.
He’s like a literary shark, if he doesn’t keep driving the story forward he’ll die. Take a look at how he uses dialogue, while a lesser sci-fi writer might find a transparent plot device to explain a complicated technical term to a reader, Duncan simply delivers the dialogue as is and lets the reader pick up the pieces.
You might find that aggravating, I find it refreshing. There’s usually enough information parcelled out in one of his conversations to get at the gist of what’s going on and honestly, I’d rather be challenged then patronized. You don’t need to understand the scientific underpinnings behind the Laws of Planetary Motion or quantum entanglement to enjoy a book and when an author decided to break up the flow of their story to start teaching me about these things, it just pisses me off.
But what about the story itself?
It’s another quintessential Dave Duncan story. (Which is to say I very much enjoyed it.)
There are so many possible interpretations of this book. This story could be viewed as an examination on society’s thoughts and attitudes on immigration and race. Or you could stretch it further and make the argument that it explores the role of organized religion in a modern social construct. Hell, I could get real pretentious and look at it through a horror lens and talk about humanity’s fear of ‘the other’. In truth, this book looks at all of these subjects.
But in the end I think its true thrust is deeper (and simpler) than that.
At its heart POCK’S WORLD is all about our fear of change and our natural distrust of the unknown.
The story constantly asks the question ‘what does it mean to be human’ and the answers Duncan comes up with may not always be satisfying to the reader. Is being human defined by the ability to interbreed? The short answer is ‘of course not’. But once you unshackle yourself from this bias and start playing around with your genetic code, you enter into a grey area with no easy answers.
Because even the smallest child knows that humanity and being human has little to do with our physical appearance. It’s tied to our intangible makeup, our social, emotional and intellectual interactions. And, as Duncan’s Cuckoos tell us, humanity does not lock itself down and confine itself to a singular form. It grows, and learns and changes.
Duncan makes a compelling, if at times unsettling, case for this argument.
This book isn’t perfect of course. Once Duncan decides to move into the book’s final act his writing loses a bit of its subtlety. Certain character motivations and goals are conveniently unlocked at just the right time, reframing key characters objectives, just as the book is struggling to find a new villain to thrust into the light.
As well, the story lacks a satisfying final conflict. In a way POCK’S WORLD is a political thriller of sorts, covering the Commission’s attempt to ferret out the truth about the mysterious Cuckoo’s before STARS slams an asteroid into their planet. While the story’s physical threat is successfully resolved the messier political plot line is abruptly curtailed. It’s not an ambiguous or even an opened ended finish to the sub plot, but rather an anti-climatic off screen resolution that I ultimately found unsatisfying.
While technically a one off there’s, enough meat on the bones of this book to easily pull off another sequel. Duncan has left readers with so many unanswered questions it’s almost like he’s daring us to ask for another book (which I hope we get). But if this is all there is I don’t think many people will be complaining.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
The rushing produced a two-pronged effect. One, I got the gist of the whole book even though I might have missed some subtle (and some not so subtle) nuances of the books. Two, it makes for a prime choice to re-read as the next book comes out so you can pick up the stuff you miss. I have always professed to friends or acquaintances who are about to embark on the series that one of it's most incredible features is repeat read enjoyment. I truly don't think there is another series that I can honestly say reveals little bits and pieces and stuff I missed upon 3rd or even 4th re-reads. The read just gets richer and deeper every time.
THE CRIPPLED GOD, tenth and final novel in the main Malazan series, is due to drop end of February, and with that little taste we got from TOR the other day I got to jonesing for the new book. What better way to jones? With my first re-read of the ninth volume DUST OF DREAMS.
This blog started long after I read DoD so I plan to actually throw up a review once I finish. This should also serve as a note to the reviews over the next few days, cause these books are over a thousand pages a piece, so you won't see a new review till early next week from me. After that I have Joe Abercrombie's THE HEROES on deck and a few other publisher-sent review copies to get to.
For all the Malazan fans: Are you doing a re-read in preparation too?
Also, how awesome is it that the Malazan series is going to be the FIRST completed Epic fantasy series that clocks in at ten books. Erikson wins!
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
ULTIMATE THOR #4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciller: Carlos Pacheco
The story of Ultimate Thor finally catches up to where THE ULTIMATES kicked off nearly ten year ago. While Thor is finally coming to terms with his new mortal status quo his misguided brother Loki is quietly escaping from the room Odin imprisoned in for betraying Asgard. This issue primarily deals with how Thor transitioned from a fallen Norse God, to a crusading environmentalist and then finally a reluctant superhero.
Filling in perceived holes in a character’s backstory is a time honoured tradition in comic bookery. These ‘untold tales’, when done right, can help shine a new light on a character or reframe their actions in a different perspective. But unfortunately, all too often, these fill-ins are unnecessary, contradict previously established events and confuse rather than enlighten. Most continuity add ons feel like they’re forcibly grafted onto the established narrative, with no consideration given to how the new material works given the overall makeup of the character.
With this issue Jonathan Hickman has elevated this overused plot device to an art form. It’s just so fucking elegant. Hickman’s tale adds depth and nuance to Thor’s history rather than simply riding the coattails of what has been written before. He respects the aims and intentions of the writers like Mark Millar who have worked on the material before him, but doesn’t paint himself into a corner by worshipping it. There’s not a lot of continuity with U-Thor so its not as if Hickman has to worry about stepping on anybody’s toes. But Thor’s backstory was a key plot point in THE ULTIMATES 2 and a lot of what Hickman is doing here is helping to set up that story while at the same time crafting a self contained tale that is interesting and compelling in its own right.
You know, I think if I read some more of Hickman’s work I could be persuaded to check out what’s happening at Marvel. I’m impressed with the quality and care that goes into his writing. Rather than simply trying to slap a Geoff Johnsian continuity patch on an established story Hickman has gone and found a natural way to expand and expound on a relatively two dimensional character. This isn’t penciller Carlos Pacheco’s greatest work, some of the pencils seem a little rushed. There’s a splash page at the end where Thor looks downright lumpy. But I’m willing to concede that might be because of the three different inkers who had a hand in putting out this book. If you were ever a fan of the early Ultimate Universe I’d highly recommend picking up this series. You won’t be sorry you did.
Script and Pencils: Neal Adams
You’ve heard the term batshit insane before right? Well, they were talking about this comic when that term was invented.
Batman and a Deadman possessed Joker search Arkham Asylum for clues behind the mysterious string of events that have terrorized Gotham City.
And that’s about as much as you’ll ever really figure out about what’s going on in this series. While the continuity and structure of the art has improved in this issue the overall look feels much more rushed and messier than in previous entries. The writing is better, but only marginally so. Dialogue balloons still threaten to crowd out the art. In some scenes there are several characters talking simultaneously and it becomes difficult to follow the thread of any conversation. It’s annoying and adds nothing to the reading experience. Unless the goal was to keep taking me out of the story, then mission accomplished.
But what really drives me nuts in this book is Adams preoccupation with writing dialogue as realistically as possible. This means that characters are frequently reduced to speaking in nonsensical sentence fragments, will lurch into unnecessary asides and have an ugly tendency to narrate the scenes for readers. Just because people talk that way in real life doesn’t mean it should be transferred wholesale to comic books. Its an impediment to readers, who are forced to spend a lot of their time working out just what’s happening onscreen.
I think the best thing for this title would be a firmer presence by editorial, cutting out all the author’s entitled words and better honing the story he seems to be trying to tell.
Writers: Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi
Pencillers: Ivan Reiss and Joe Prado
The time in this issue is split between the Deadman and Aquaman’s story lines. After seemingly murdering Hawkman and Hawkwoman last issue, under the control of the white power ring, Deadman demands answers for what has happened. The ring explains that the Hawks had completed the mission for which they had been resurrected in BLACKEST NIGHT and that their pure energy was needed in order to combat a dark avatar that was due to arise and threaten the world. Meanwhile Aquaman and Aqualad are en route to the Bermuda Triangle in order to stop an offshoot of the ancient Atlantean race from attacking the surface world. Which is just about when the Atlanteans decide to meet them halfway and fight it out on their terms instead.
You know, I’ve always looked at BLACKEST NIGHT and BRIGHTEST DAY as another Geoff Johns attempt to impose his ideal version of DC’s legacy characters onto the DCU. Kendra Saunders as Hawkgirl not working the way you want? Time to kill her off and resurrect Shiera Carter instead. Aquaman’s bloated continuity and constant character reboots getting a little much? Then bring back the good ol’ reliable Silver Age edition and we can try to forget 30 years of publishing history.
But honestly, after the last two issues of BRIGHTEST DAY, I can say that I don’t have the foggiest idea where they’re going with this. After wiping away the Hawks last issue and then giving a nod to one of Aquaman’s handier moments in this one I have to admit I’m a little curious to see what they’ve got in store. I thought that BLACKEST NIGHT established the version of Aquaman that Johns wanted to use and now I’m not so sure. Granted with resurrection white power ring sitting in their back pockets Johns and Tomasi can pull a dues ex machina, at any moment, to undo any character changes they’ve made in this series. But I believe that these writers are cannier than that and would give us something new before they fell back on the same old tricks.
One beef, first we had the Sinestro Corps Wars, then the War of the Supermen, now we’ve got Aquawar and soon we’re going to see the War of the Green Lanterns. It’s time for a new mini event term. Please and thank you.
P.S. The art was great in this issue, Ivan Reiss in particular had some beautiful splash pages.
NEW ULTIMATES #5
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Frank Cho
This was (surprisingly) a really good read.
The New Ultimates struggle to take down Thor after the God of Thunder is goaded into a murderous rage by Loki’s behind the scenes machinations.
I’ll admit. I don’t have a lot of love for Jeph Loeb lately. After seeing his work on THE ULTIMATES 3 and ULTIMATIUM it was clear that he wasn’t able to grasp the basic premise behind the Ultimate Universe.
The UU is about reducing Marvel 616 characters to their core qualities and cutting them free of the shackles of continuity. It isn’t about throwing whatever ’What If...’ crap against the wall and hoping something sticks. Nor is it about twisting characters beyond the reader’s ability to recognize them.
But the Ultimate Universe is also a trap. When the line was first launched fans enjoyed seeing Ultimized\Elseworlds versions of their favourite characters. It was only natural that creators would pick up on this desire and give the fans what they want. Which is more recognizable characters, and increasingly storylines, told in a stripped down reader friendly fashion.
Unfortunately that means that writers are always attempting way to reinterpret old characters and rethink classic storylines. The end result is that the Ultimate Universe tends to fall flat on its face when it attempts to stand on its own legs, put the constant reinvention process and tell its own stories. Witness the stagnation of the ongoing ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR and ULTIMATE X-MEN titles. Fans got tired of the Ultimized character of the month and neither series was able to transition into a successful ongoing without it. (ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN being an obvious exception to this rule)
In a way the Ultimate Universe is a perpetual event comic book. Because if it can’t successfully tell fresh, new ongoing stories or continually Ultimize old characters than the only way to keep reader interest is to keep constantly reupping the dramatic stakes. Which is what led Loeb down the road to ULTIMATUM the first time.
In this series his goals are much more straightforward. Tell a simple story, raise the dramatic tension, don’t fuck with everything too much and explore the depths of these still (relatively) untapped characters. Loeb treading water and gently poking around is much more interesting, and less dangerous, then when he’s trying to put his personal creative stamp on things. While he might lack Millar’s ability to hone in on the inherent uniqueness of the Ultimate Universe he can still tell a perfectly good story when he reigns in the crazy a little. Of course, it’s not hard to hit something out of the park when you’ve got Frank Cho rocking the pencils.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
...Excuse me a second here...
Tor.com in what is (I am sure) an act of seeing if they can crash their servers with overload...have posted a 10 page excerpt from the forthcoming closing volume of Steven Erikson's EPIC, rabid-fandom-followed TALES OF THE MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN series.
It is ...glorious...wait is that too strong a word?
Nope. Glorious. I'd rather not spoil any of the content, so head over there right now and have a look. You have to be registered to read it (don't worry, take five seconds to register), but you won't be sorry.
If you haven't yet read any of Erikson's series (heathens!) then please do yourself a favour. It is not only worth your time but might just stand as one of the greatest (Canadian) created epic fantasy series of all time.
The book shows up in book stores this Spring.
Do it....DO it now!
...ahem...that is all...