Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: The Intimates #4

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's The Intimates. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Ah, the school dance. After grade eight, I don't think I attended a single dance. Oh, I remember agonising over asking a girl to go with me to a few of them, but I never worked up the nerve and certainly never attended. Not even prom. Don't really regret any of that since the dances I attended in elementary school weren't that great (although I did get a few of those awkward slow dances in). But, let's be honest, those dances happened in the middle of the day and everyone went, so they're much closer to the dance we get in this issue.

The dance itself comes about when Destra goes to the administration and demands one--and she gets it because her daddy is some big muck-a-muck and drawn all shadowy on the other end of the speaker phone. Maybe something to do with that Devonshire company that makes the crappy cafeteria food? Hmm???

What's interesting is how there's a conflict here--this is a high school for superheroes and yet the idea of a dance raises eyebrows. An argument has to be made that these are teenagers and should have some of the normal activities of their non-powered peers. For all the progressive talk about evolution and advancement common sense gets temporarily misplaced. Also, this reads as a subtle jab at something like Grant Morrison's New X-Men where such an emphasis is placed on the mutatation/superpower, that somehow that one little change negates all sense of identity as a human (species politics aside, being raised as a human makes you human, especially emotionally)--that one part of who you are suddenly dominates your entire identity. This idea will come up again and again throughout the series.

This issue pairs up Empty Vee and Sykes in an odd way, because it's there, but it's not. Casey doesn't seem exactly sure what he's doing with it--and never seems sure. In the halls, Duke and Punchy are acting like idiots and the panels highlight Sykes with the last one showing Vee becoming visible behind him. Later in the issue, it seems that Sykes and Vee are dancing since Sykes is dancing alone, making others think Vee is invisible when, really, she's off making out with the bass player from the Weirdness, the band playing the dance. When I first read the issue, I thought that maybe Sykes was using his powers to control the bassist, but later issues invalidate that (maybe). Although, Sykes's null field takes the shape of Vee's head in those panels and his body language is similar to what we see of the bassist while making out with Vee... There's an obvious "invisible" connection between the two, but was Casey shooting for more?

Casey also furthers the pairing of Duke and Destra as she asks him to dance. Later, she'll go to him for a "team-up" over the summer... does this explain her hash reaction to him coming over to her on behalf of Punchy last issue?

Some of my favourite infoscroll items:







Next issue: a very special after-school special issue.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bookstore Sale 2: Ultimate Spider-Man Vols. 1-3 (Hardcover)

[My former university's bookstore has a giant selection of Marvel trades on sale, so when I buy some, I'll review them here.]

Apologies for the week without posts (except for the Splash Page link), but I had some personal stuff come up last Monday. Actually you're lucky you got the post that day since it was only half written when said personal stuff came up (surprisingly, the Iron Man stuff was already written--surprising, because you'd think the stuff I wrote that day would have been the angry ranty stuff), but I figured I should at least get it done. Regular posting resumes as of now. So...

Ultimate Spider-Man Vols. 1-3 (hardcover)

I read the first dozen or so issues of the series years ago on Marvel's website (remember those pop-up panels?) and wasn't that impressed. The book wasn't bad by any means, it just wasn't that great either. It was solid and aimed at someone far different from I... which is odd considering that I was a geeky 18/19-year-old guy. Wait, wasn't I part of the target audience for the Ultimate line of books? Probably not since I was at the end of the teen age spectrum and a lifelong comic book reader. The book was, at best, quasi-targetted for me... But seeing how I was more into Warren Ellis books with swearing and politics and KICKSPLODE!, you can see why I didn't have much patience for Amazing Fantasty #15 stretched out over half a year...

I also have little patience for origin stories, especially when they're origin stories that I've seen/read dozens of times before. Sure, it's altered slightly here, but it's still the same Spider-Man origin we all know and love/loathe. I went to Catholic school for my entire pre-post-secondary education, so it's like, if I have to hear the Nativity story ever again, I will shoot someone. Same deal. But, as I said, I wasn't the target audience (supposedly).

Then there was the lack of swearing and sex in the book. Honestly, it didn't ring true to me. I was in high school and this was the same sanitised, Saved by the Bell, after-school special sort of high school. There were jock bullies, there were geeks, there were popular girls, there were freaky outsiders, and... *yawn* Big deal. I think I'm weird in that I went to a high school where that shit didn't happen. There were the odd jerks, sure, but, mostly, I wasn't singled out for being smart except in positive ways. People had their own groups of friends, but there wasn't the popular kids and the freaks... there were just different groups of people that had lots of people cross over and really... that was it. But, my school was probably unique in that way... though that doesn't mean that Ultimate Spider-Man didn't fall into those same annoying trappings.

The lack of insane amounts of swearing and naked breats bothered me--from a marketing perspective. Marvel claimed this was a line of books aimed at teens, but didn't examine what teens like: swearing and tits. Look at American Pie, it's full of swearing and tits, and teens loved that movie. Loved it. Not producing comics on a similar level seemed like proof that Marvel didn't really know what it was doing. And, being a teenager myself, why was I going to waste my time on a book supposedly aimed at me that didn't include swearing and tits? Didn't they know that's what I really wanted?

I also wasn't that into the modernised superhero line concept. What books I saw (Ultimate Spider-Man online, and Ultimate X-Men through my dad--him being part of the actual audience of the Ultimate line) didn't impress me much. The updates were pretty... unintelligent, in my opinion. I still cringe at Bendis's Ultimate Dazzler... really, a punk rock artist calling herself Dazzler? Really?

But, over the years, I've slowly read more and more Ultimate books. I got the two Ultimates hardcovers, read Warren Ellis's first Ultimate Fantastic Four storyarc along with his Ultimate Galactus books and Ultimate Human. So, I've mellowed a bit in my old age of 25 and figured I'd give Ultimate Spider-Man a chance to impress me with the insanely cheap priced hardcovers on sale at the bookstore.

In short, I enjoyed what I read (the first 39 issues are collected in these hardcovers) and hope to get the other six hardcovers and keep on reading the book that way, eventually. However, my younger self wasn't necessarily wrong in his opinions, either.

The updating of Spider-Man's origin isn't revolutionary in any way. It's pretty standard stuff in its cliches. The expansion of Peter's home life is interesting as we see him grow and change in the story in relation to Aunt May and Uncle Ben. He does become a little drama queen in the middle of the story, which is just ugly to watch in his cringe-worthy little temper tantrums.

One thing I didn't like was the alteration to the "Peter lets a thief get past him and the thief then kills Uncle Ben" scene. In the original, the thief runs past him, making his passive stance more understandable, but here, he's in the thief's way and still allows him to pass. It does make him more active and justify his guilt in a larger way, but it also pushes him beyond sympathy in many ways. It also wasn't believable, for me. I believed the old version where he watches a thief runs past and does nothing--I can't buy him stepping aside for a thief. It's a fine line between not caring about others and actively assisting in a crime. An intriguing choice and I'd like to know why it was made (maybe it's in the backmatter of the hardcover, which I totally skipped over).

Otherwise, the first arc was perfectly enjoyable and... I want to use the word "safe." It was safe, it was nice, it was like a cozy blanket of Peter-Parker-in-high-school goodness. Actually, that's this series. It's totally a cozy blanket of Peter-Parker-in-high-school goodness! It's a nice hug for us fanboys who are so familar with the character that this slightly changed spin is just what we need. I didn't engage with the material in the same way I usually do... this is like mindless TV in comic book form! It's nice and safe and warm and... feels nice. And I'm saying that's a good thing. There's nothing wrong with that--it's very enjoyable. There's an art to creating something like that and Bendis does it well here.

I found watching Bendis grow as a writer fun. The first few issues are a little choppy and montage-y. It's alright, but Bendis gets much better at transitions and storytelling as the series gets into its second arc. However, I'm not a big fan of these constant long arcs that don't always have a clear beginning/end. In these three hardcovers, there were two issues you could call self-contained, and it seems like a lack of breathing space hinders the book. And by "breathing space," I mean a slight break from the ongoing personal problems of Peter Parker, too. I understand why the book is structured this was as it's meant to keep piling up on Peter, culinating in his desperate pleas to Nick Fury to take away his powers somehow. These first three years of stories are about things going to hell for Peter, but... only one self-contained issue? (I'm on the fence about issue 13 with Mary Jane...)

I don't have much to say about a lot of the updates of characters. I did enjoy the Kraven stuff. That Spider-Man was involved in the deaths of two of his friends' parents so close together was a little contrived and made the death of Captain Stacey less meaningful--that it was a fake Spider-Man doesn't necessarily make it better.

I do really like that the characters in this book are more intelligent than their Marvel Universe counterparts and seem to figure how that Peter is Spider-Man pretty easily... or, when he's unmasked, have no idea who this random teenager is. It's a bit of logic injected into the book.

Still not a big fan of Mark Bagley's art. But, it works well here and serves the story.

I plan to keep buying the hardcovers for this series. I doubt it will ever be my favourite book, but it's a nice little read. Like I said, it's a warm blanket of familiarity and comfort. It doesn't have the problems of reading comics from the 1960s, but it isn't too far off either. I'm not sure how well it works when read by teenagers not exposed to comics before, but I still don't think that was ever the target audience. I mean, my teenage self would have laughed and made fun of this comic... and I was Peter Parker in high school.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Spash Page 32: All-Star!

In this week's Splash Page, Tim and I discuss DC's two "All-Star" titles and I blow everyone's mind by preferring All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder to All-Star Superman. Because I do. I apologise for nothing. Really, it should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog regularly, but to those who don't... Man, they must be shitting themselves wondering what kind of idiotic moron I am. See, Tim doesn't wonder that, because he knows me and he knows I have my reasons--he may not see things the same way, but there's respect there. Just as I respect his views. But those strangers? They are some harsh judges and I'm a little worried. Well, not really, because who really cares... Wow, good way to promote the column, eh?

Anyway, if you like seeing Tim and I disagree over comics, then you'll love... THE SPLASH PAGE!!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bookstore Sale 1: Four Warren Ellis Books

[The bookstore at my former university is selling a lot (and I mean a lot) of Marvel collections for cheap. So, I figure I may stop by on Sunday from time to time and pick up a book or seven... and then blog about them on Monday. This week, I bought four Warren Ellis trades I've been meaning to get for a long time.]

Iron Man: Extremis

I wish Marvel would talk Ellis into staying for at least one additional story after redefining a character. First, the bastard did it with Thor (but that was also back when he was just Warren Ellis, WARREN FUCKING ELLIS!) and the post-Ellis stuff lasted less than a year (although William Messner-Loebs did a pretty good job). Here, he transforms Tony Stark from "a guy in a suit" to "a cyborg who was already smarter than everyone else" and all I've seen since is "a guy in a suit." The final part of this story is the blueprint for a man who can change the world far beyond the little shit we've seen since. Really, Ellis turned Tony Stark into the Engineer... and, fuck, fuck, fuck, what's the goddamn point of having a guy like Ellis revamp a character in an intelligent manner when the follow-up is more of the same old same old? Okay, writers have tried... Fraction seems to be trying a little, but not really... the way Stark's armour interacts with his brain--how is this guy even written as a human being anymore? He can call telephones with his brain and see through satellites without trying--he's a goddamn machine god or something. He's as far beyond "a man in armour" as said man in armour is beyond a regular guy.

But, how does someone write a character like that? How do you consistently portray someone so advanced, continually come up with new challenges and also make him sympathetic and relatable? How oh how do you do that?

That would be Marvel's problem, I would think. Why allow Ellis to push the character into such unchartered territory without a plan to follow-up on it? Now, it could be that they did follow-up, but I haven't seen it. There's also some nice shots of him multitasking inside of his armour and some pretty standard uplinks to satellites displayed on his screens, but... really, he's beyond that. He doesn't see displays of sattelites, he sees through satellites. He doesn't talk on phones, he thinks on them... Ellis didn't define a lot of Stark's abilities, but he sure implied them.

But... I'm listening to Daft Punk as I write about this book and... shouldn't an Iron Man comic almost be like Daft Punk music? Why is his comic often written like so many others? Sure, the external trappings are different with politics and some corporate intrigue, but it's still just the same superhero shit dressed up... I'm not saying it should mimic Daft Punk or other techno music, but... shouldn't there be a correlation? Shouldn't the storytelling for a book about a guy whose body is fused with a computer be different than that of a regular human?

At this point, I will say that it's very easy for me to be a giant douchebag like this, because I'm not writing an Iron Man comic book. I don't have to deal with these concerns and it is so very easy to stand on the sidelines and point out where others are going wrong in your eyes. That said... isn't that what comic book blogs are for sometimes? (That's a joke... partly.)

And I should actually address the book itself, shouldn't I?

The Tony Stark here isn't that much different from the one we're used to. He's a little more focused, a little more questioning, but it's not that far... his connection to fringe science is more here and makes sense... He kills. That's something to remember. Adi Granov's art shifts between plastic/CGI/obvious fake and gritty with the colours reminding me a bit of the work Jose Villarrubia in places. An odd mix sometimes. Flashes of brilliance combined with sterility. The pacing is a bit off, a bit too decompressed, but there are some wonderful scenes... I'd love to read a team-up book of Warren Ellis's Tony Stark and Grant Morrison's Reed Richards. Christ, those are two guys who would change the world and barely give a Skrull invasion a second thought.

Ultimate Nightmare

I would discuss these three books together as one story, but each book has its own feel. This is black ops gritty... There is a problem with this book and the other ones: the whole Gah Lak Tus thing is supposed to be so harsh, so big, so traumatising, but it doesn't come across as that here. I don't blame Ellis or the artists as they do their best... it's just that we've see this stuff before--hell, Ellis has done this stuff much better in the past. The constraints of a Marvel comic prevent it from being truly horrifying when it should be. That said, what goes on in the Russian bunker is pretty fucked up. I'm actually surprised they let Ellis get away with giving Captain USSR a shield constructed out of human flesh.

I like the way Ellis handles the Ultimate universe. His cynicism works well as does his humour. Considering that much of the Ultimate universe is influenced heavily by his work, that makes sense. His portrayal of Captain America is great in all of these books--of course, I don't like Ultimate Captain America, but he's military and that's to be expected since I'm a pussy pseudo-intellectual. Our kinds rarely mix.

The X-Men stuff was funny, particularly Logan rant at the end... Charlie is too busy playing Mutant Love Messiah to check the fucking news... heheheheheheh...

Ultimate Secret

The second act is shorter than the first and the third... Granted, Ellis was initially only to do the first part, so this is quick thinking. Some cool science bits and I think Ellis's depiction of the Fantastic Four is damn funny at times. A lighter book with some more serious implications.

And, wow, humans are pretty big assholes to aliens, eh? I do enjoy how every alien race Ellis seems to write is very, very racist... but then again, his humans are, too (to said aliens), so it evens out I suppose.

Ultimate Extinction

The conclusion. Some bits didn't work, but a lot of it did. I don't want to say for sure, but I wonder if any of the bits in this series (the cult stuff in particular) was cribbed from that big event Ellis was tasked to do for Marvel in the late '90s that never happened... I remember the first issue's script was on his website at one point and I only have vague ideas of what happened in it with it being so many years ago... This seems a little familiar, though... If this is the case, good on him finally getting a chance to use some of those old ideas...

I am a little bothered that SHIELD would give the technology to create that ultimate weapon out so freely to alien races. Seems like that could result in some big problems later.

I dunno, I don't have much to say about these books. They're solid and entertaining. Ultimate Nightmare was my favourite, but the other two had some great moments, too.

Sorry about my Iron Man rant.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: The Intimates #3

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's The Intimates. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Punchy has been receiving messages on his PDA from a secret admirer. Now, he thinks it is Destra... But it's Empty Vee. This issue revolves around this little secret and ends in crushing heartbreak. Didn't see that coming, did you.

While not every issue uses the first page as effectively as this one, it begins with our standard shot of the Seminary and a voice (that we'll learn belongs to Mr. Hyde, who is teaching Secret Identity 101 as per the first issue) saying, "SECRETS. / THEY CAN BE A POWERFUL WEAPON IN YOUR ARSENAL. A WELL KEPT SECRET CAN SERVE AS THE ULTIMATE PROTECTION. / HOWVER... THEY CAN ALSO BE VERY DANGEROUS. THERE'S AN EXPLOSIVE QUALITY TO A SECRET OF ANY IMPORTANCE. / IF MAINTAINING ANY KIND OF SECRECY IS A VITAL COMPONENT OF YOUR LIFESTYLE, THERE'S ALWAYS THE POSSIBILITY OF THAT VERY SAME SECRET BEING USED AGAINST YOU..." Now, Mr. Hyde is discussing secret identities, but it relates to this issue as Empty Vee secretly messages Punchy.

Why does she do it in secret? Because she's afraid of rejection. So, the longer she maintains the secret, the more exciting it is and the longer she can put off any chance of rejection. Who does she share this secret with? Destra, who decided to set Empty Vee up by sending Punchy a message from Vee's handheld offering a meeting--so when Vee reads his response, it seems like he wants to meet her.

What follows is a brutal scene where Punchy pours his heart out and shares some of his secrets... until Vee reveals herself and he rejects her in as cold a manner as you will ever see. This is what people imagine when they imagine "worst case scenarios" with regards to rejection. Some choice snippets: "...THIS IS A STONE COLD JOKE, RIGHT?" "LOOK HERE, HONEY... I JUST DON'T RIDE IN BUSINESS CLASS." "...IN THE MEANTIME, GET ON THE YOGURT AND KEEP ON THE WHOLE TRANSPARENT TRIP! THE LESS YOU'RE SEEN -- THE BETTER!" Yeah, Punchy is a fucking asshole.

The lead-up to this emotional beat-down is rather typical in its cliches, but still entertaining. There's the scene in the cafeteria where Punchy sends Duke over to Destra to see if she's the one who's been sending messages. Duke responds much the way most of us would--he does it, but bitches about it. I do love his mumbling rant to himself: "...FREAKIN' GRADE SCHOOL CRAP... FIND OUT IF SHE LIKES HIM... / ...YOU MEAN 'LIKE HIM, LIKE HIM...?' / >>SIGH<<" Destra's response is typical of her: she sends him away and then sets off an explosion with a piece of a fingernail (to illustrate Casey's skill, note that Destra's superpower is explosive fingernails, she's the one who blows Vee's secret, and the use of the word "explosive" in the first page monologue...).

Destra's behaviour is very typical in its "bitchy teenage girl" manner: she encourages Vee, tells her that Punchy should be grateful to have her, and sends her off to be crushed... and you can tell she knows Vee will be crushed. There's also a contrast between the guys and the girls. While the guys openly mock Punchy about his secret admirer and make fun of him until he writes back, they're ultimately supportive of him (as Duke's actions demonstrate); Destra, on the other hand, is supportive on the surface and mocks Vee secretly, tricking her into an emotionally destructive situation. Casey paid attention in high school, clearly.

We also learn that Kefong's superpower is a chronal bubble, which he uses on Sgt. Stomp when Stomp spars with him to determine his skill level--and then uses the humiliating defeat to blackmail Stomp into acting as his personal slave.

This issue's info-scroll is free-ranging and not focused on any special topic. A few of my favourite bits:






Next issue: school dance!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Book of the Week 4: Loveless Volume Three: Blackwater Falls

[Another week, another "book of the week." I choose a book that I got this week and I think is interesting and worth talking about. It may be a good book, it may not be--quality is not an issue. New posts on Fridays of weeks where I've gotten books and something is worth talking about.]

I honestly can't tell you why I got this book. I bought the first two trades when they each came out and after each, I thought, "Gee, this book isn't that great..." In fact, I said as much last year on this very blog. Now, the book has ended and this trade collects the final twelve issues, and I'm mad because I want more.

I had the good sense before reading this trade to reread the first two and, yeah, it's a good book. I think it will take another rereading or two before I begin to fully appreciate what Azzarello was doing, but I thoroughly enjoyed the 24 issues that I read yesterday. I can certainly think of worse ways to spend my Thursday afternoon.

It occurred to me that this is probably the first Brian Azzarello creator-owned work I've read completely. Everything else I own by the man is company-owned: Hellblazer, Batman, Superman, Deathblow, Doctor 13... I've yet to start in on 100 Bullets (although now that it's almost finished, I may start buying the trades finally). So, yeah, this is my one experience with Azzarello's creator-owned work. Not sure why that's important, but it occurred to me.

Loveless is about a Missouri town post-Civil War... and it's slow, it's subtle, it's layered, it's funny, it's sad, it's brutal, and it's pretty damn good. Like everything else I've read by Azzarello, it works best as a whole read in one (or close to one) sitting. Distilling the plot doesn't really help in discussing the book... so much of the appeal lies in Azzarello's skill with dialogue, his structuring, and the art of Marcelo Frusin (who only provides covers after issue ten), Danijel Zezelj and Werther Dell'Edera.

What interests me is how the series ends with one of the main plots left hanging (Ruth Cutter continuing to avenge her rape by Union soldiers) and the final three issues taking place anywhere from 36 to 64 years after the first 21 issues... each exploring the effects of the story we've been following on history, and exploring some of the same ideas and themes, but still... what a way to end a series, you know?

Now, Azzarello previously stated that the book would end in the 20th century, but that was when it was planned to last around 40 issues, whereas cut short by 16 issues, the final trio seem... not mean or offensive, but odd choices... Instead of going for closure of some kind as most writers would, Azzarello clearly continues on with his plans--or at least hints at them prematurely. I can't say for sure as it wouldn't surprise me if these simply were issues 22-24 and the impending cancellation of the book didn't cause Azzarello to change a thing. If the book is going to be cut-off mid-story, why not have it be cut-off mid-story?

I'd be interested in an extensive study of how pre-maturely cancelled books end. I imagine most try to wrap things up in their own way. Looking at the various Joe Casey books I've been reading/discussing, most of them have been cancelled, or Casey's been taken off the book (rarely does it seem all that voluntary, except for maybe Adventures of Superman). In his case, he tends to wrap things up... even if it's a little rushed or the ending comes out of nowhere (although is one that could be used at any time really--Deathlok was a good example of this where Truman hunts down Young and trades bodies with him--it sort of came out of nowhere, but made sense and could have been used by Casey at any time to end the book). Cable seems to be the one book where he didn't really wrap anything up, but that's because the book was still part of the giant Apocalypse storyline that he had begun (although there is some sense of closure with the Stacey stuff). Other books like Sleeper, The Monarchy, X-Man... they all concluded things in their own way.

The only books that don't seem to always provide real closure are ones with an ongoing continuity where a new writer will take over next month or the character will continue to appear in other titles. It's rare (altough not unprecedented) for a self-contained narrative to leave a major plot wide open and then end with three only tangentally-related stories. It does provide hope that Loveless will return in some form as obviously Azzarello isn't done with the book.

I do hope we get more as it was pretty damn good sometimes. If you haven't try giving the three trades a shot. The book is nothing if not interesting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: The Intimates #2

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's The Intimates. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

This issue begins with a school assembly where they have a guest speaker: Desmond from Casey's Mr. Majestic book. During this scene, Casey also references the continuity of that series, placing Majestic's ascension to godhood as the reality of this world, going against depictions of the characters since the end of that series. Like, for instance, the one by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, which began in a crossover with Superman and would continue in an ongoing series to begin a month after this issue came out... Hmm... Casey wouldn't purposefully attack Wildstorm and other creators, would he?

Not much happens in this issue. Not much happens in any issue. Punchy doesn't think much of Desmond, which pisses off Duke, who is having some problems with constipation. Most of the issue focuses on those two with small bits given to Destra and Empty Vee. We also get to meet Kefong, but he skirts around the edges of the story only showing up a few times. First, for the comedic punchline when Duke rushes into the bathroom and then to find Duke and Punchy after their planned attempt to escape the Seminary and visit Majestic's Rushmore Sanctuary using a secret teleporter.

Really, this is an issue about poop and trying to break curfew with a special guest speaker who says some thematically meaningful things thrown in. It's an episode of Saved by the Bell or Boy Meets World or Family Ties or... you get the idea.

Honestly, I'm having a hard time discussing the book because it is so superficial in many ways. Nothing happens, not ever character development! Everyone is what they appear to be with a few hints that there's something more beneath the surface, but not much.

The budding friendship between Duke and Punchy is interesting as they don't actually like one another. That's one of the best things about this book: Casey recognises that friendships in high school mostly come about because there's no one else to hang out with. In Punchy and Duke's case, there's Sykes (who doesn't interact with anyone) and Kefong (the new kid, and therefore to be shunned a little), and... that's it. So, they get to be best buds despite having nothing in common and not really liking one another.

Their friendship is juxtaposed with that of Destra and Empty Vee who seem, on the surface, much friendlier towards one another--but, underneath, you get the impression that Destra hangs out with Vee because she can push her around and toy with her. It's much more insidious.

During his speech, Desmond talks about how the kids should ignore the adults and do their own thing, which Punchy makes fun of... and, of course, says later only to have Duke remind him that that's what Desmond said.

During next issue's discussion, I will ask "DO YOU LIKE ME? YES__ NO__ MAYBE___"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Bought Comics: Third Week of September 2008

[Were my life a novel, this post would be a chapter titled "In Which Chad Discusses Comics in a Rambling and Disjointed Manner with No Attempts made at Coherance... for about the Seven-Hundredth Time..." Even I wouldn't buy that book, because it sounds pretty lame.]

All-Star Superman #12

"Every party needs a pooper and that's why we invited you... PARTY-POOPER!" I think that should be put on my tombstone when I die. Never a fan of this series. I could admire it in a cold, intellectual manner, appreciate what Morrison was doing, but not actually care... because I don't care. And that's one of the obvious goals of this series: to make you care. It failed with me. But, my conception of Superman was altered forever by Joe Casey... and I don't get a thrill out of seeing him punch out Lex Luthor. I don't get a thrill out of Lex Luthor running around in purple-and-green clothes like a goddamn moron either. Silver Age ideas filtered through modern sensibilities... with a hint of nostalgia thrown in... I find the characters vapid and superficial in their unyielding optimism and positivity... No doubt a few will think me wrong to praise some of the books I got this week while critiquing this one, but that's the way it goes. On a technical level, this is impressive comic, but when it so obviously wants to connect emotionally with the reader and doesn't, then it's also a failure of a comic. Because, for all of his inspiring ideals, Superman is still just a guy who punches guys out and that seems so... mundane to me. Really, he can't transcend physical violence?

Captain Britain and MI:13 #5

This continues to be an entertaining book as we get a breather issue between Skrulls and Evil Magical Beings. Blade joins the team and has one hell of a final page. The stuff with Faiza's parents was goofy and funny. Really a light issue that doesn't feel that light. After the previous four issues, this is a nice break. I'm sure Cornell will have some fun playing around with Captain Britain's new powers. I will miss John the Skrull, though.

Ghost Rider #27

A weaker issue of Jason Aaron's run. Mostly plot positioning and not much else. Zadkiel looks as absurd as you'd expect. The entire story is pretty absurd, but does work most of the time. Last issue was glorious in its absurdity, but this one was just kind of there. Nothing particularly bad about it, just another particularly great either.

Gravel #5

With Oscar Jiminez on art, this book is coming out on a nice regular basis, thankfully. The last page made me laugh quite a bit, because of how simple Gravel is taken down. He overcomes so much and basically falls for an electrified gate (electrified with magic!). I'm a little disappointed that we won't get to see these other magicians much, but Colgrave is a bit cliched... in that way that works. The aristocrat who looks down on Gravel as working-class--and then comes after him in a hunt. Very appropriate and kind of funny, particularly when Gravel calls in his horse. I think the first arc is meant to be eight issues (and then the first of three arcs that make up the larger story Ellis has planned) and now that it's back on track schedule-wise, I'm happy. Not a comic that will blow your mind, but some good action stuff with the odd bit of wit.

Holy War #5

Some interesting ideas like using Comet to stop the beginning of a war by pretending to be god... or a competing religion trying to stop a Second Coming... A strange world where other religions are recognised as factually valid, but are still heretical! I was hoping for the anti-god ray, though. The relationship of Synnar and the Nameless One is explained, too. If it didn't have to try so hard to fit into the DCU and these characters specifically, Starlin could be having a lot more fun, I think.

Mighty Avengers #18

One of those rare tie-in issues that is actually worth the price! That, and since I'm looking for to the new Howlin' Commandos Secret Warriors book co-written with Jonathan Hickman, I am digging any issue devoted to this ragtag bunch. Nick Fury is doing his "goddammit, we've got a war coming, so you do what I say how I say it when I say or so help me god I will rape everyone you ever cared about starting with your sweet ass!" routine. Here, he tells his Howlin' Commandos Secret Warriors to kidnap Maria Hill because she's a Skrull. And we get a few flashbacks to his training of the group (none of which are all that original, but at least Bendis has the sense to keep them in flashbacks rather than devoting an entire issue to training). The mission goes pretty well and then the invasion breaks out. A solid issue and one of the better tie-ins... particularly because it doesn't just spend 22 pages showing when and where someone got replaced by a Skrull (really, an entire comic for those?). Oh and I will continue to call them "Howlin' Commandos Secret Warriors," because I'm a stupid little fanboy sometimes.

Scalped #21

On page seven, RM Guera signs the bottom of the page with Jason Aaron's name, too. That's cool. Another new story with no Dashett Bad Horse to be seen. The juxtaposition between Red Crow at the beginning of the issue and the end is very interesting. Continues to be a fantastic comic. I have little else to say.

Secret Invasion: Thor #2

...a baby is born during a "tornedo" (aka Skrulls invading Asgard) and she's named Faith! See, that isn't just cliche in its usual way, because the Asgardians are gods! And the new Skrulls are "godkillers"! And... wow... could the b-story be anymore cliche? I did like the guys from town wanting to help the Asgardians with what they thought was a fire, though. And the look on Bill's face when he sees what they did to his hammer... Still, not that great. I imagine the third issue will end with Thor flying off to New York.

I also got Glamourpuss #3 and a couple of trades (latest Andy Diggle Hellblazer and the final Loveless one), so I might discuss them all on Friday... or just one... or none. We'll see.

A Few Words on The Boys

Over at his blog, Jog discussed The Boys a little earlier this week. I don't think he's far off the mark much of the time here. I really enjoy the book, but it is weak satire most of the time; it's a book better enjoyed as a regular drama with bits of humour peppered through. I think that any book of this sort is doomed to failed elements of satire, though. How can one examine superheroes in this manner without using obvious stand-in for well-known characters? How can one not take cheap potshots at Marvel and DC? It's not the purpose of The Boys, but I think Garth Ennis doesn't have much chance of avoiding it either.

While not the purpose, satire and mockery probably is a point of the book. Ennis has a history of mocking the superhero genre, particularly the self-righteousness of the main characters. It's a cynical attitude, that people aren't this noble, this moral, and those that claim to be are usually the worst sort of bastards underneath it all. As well, it's an obvious attempt at realism based on observing the behaviour of celebrities and others in power. If they act a certain way, wouldn't people with superpowers act in a similar fashion?

Beyond superheroes themselves, Ennis also targets superhero comics. In this world, they're cover stories for superheroes (not a new idea), and he uses that role to make fun of the writing of a lot of superhero comics (and, as well, himself). In one issue, he makes fun of the use of randomly bolded words in superhero comics (ostensibly meant to convey speech patterns and the stressing of certain words), but that's also a technique he uses, so it's not too serious a critique. Just a little insider humour.

Or, as Jog points out, in the third story of the series, "Get Some," part of the plot revolves around a superhero's comic and public image being linked to homosexual causes and issues much like a Judd Winick comic. Then, there's The Legend, a Stan Lee-like figure who used to run Victory Comics and now uses his vast knowledge to help the Boys take on the superheroes.

In one issue, Ennis even takes a shot at Vertigo where three guys at a comic shop debate which is the best: "Noncemancer," "Reverend Swear" or "Busydick: The Only Man." Again, cheap little bits of humour, but also not really the point of the book.

I think the manner in which Ennis structured the book hasn't helped it as it began with lots of this cheap little humour and only recently shifted gears for more serious hints at the overarching story (The Boys versus the Seven/Vought America). The first ten issues are mostly cheap jokes with some nice character stuff and the odd serious bit. It's easy to see how some readers could be turned off (especially when "Batman" begins having sex with random objects in "Get Some"). Then again, maybe Ennis needed to get it out of his system early. After all, the three stories since then have been more focused (still funny, but in Ennis's usual manner) and, definitely, stronger. The most recent story, "I Tell You No Lie, G.I." provides a very clear picture as to the point of the book and what it's really about--which is not just taking the piss out of superheroes.

The world Ennis writes here isn't meant to imitate that of other superhero comics either. These superheroes are rarely people given powers through chance or dedicating themselves to making the world a better place. The Seven (aka the Justice League of America) were bred by a corporation to suit said corporation's needs. While the Homelander may be based on Superman in his powers and public image, the reality is as far removed from Superman as you can imagine. He wasn't raised by decent midwest farmers, he was raised in silo with an H-bomb strapped to him in case he went rogue.

Ultimately, this is a book about the influence of power, the role of corporations in power structures, and the effect of said powers and corporations on the world. Not exactly what you'd imagine given the premise of the book (or Ennis's past work--although the role of power has always been one of Ennis's pet themes). Of course, it's given a human face and human reasons. No one on either side fights for what they think is right: on the Boys's side, it's all about revenge; on the supes's side, it's all about money, power and business as usual.

Those initial stories serve the purpose of the Boys making their influence known once again and introducing us to the world, shocking us at how things are. The leader of the Boys, Butcher, does this purposefully to new recruit Hughie to get him up to speed and make sure he's aware of what will be expected of him. Hughie nearly quits a few times, but sticks it out and is rewarded as he learns more and more about the reality of world--just as a reader who gets past the mediocre satire and mockery is rewarded with a more serious, well-crafted story.

Thankfully, up to that point, Ennis uses Hughie as a point-of-view character very effectively (and continues to do so). Hell, I'll admit that the main draw of this book, for me, at this point, is Hughie. Without him, I'm not sure I would have stuck around during those first few stories where it was a lot of the same jokes I'd heard before or thought up in high school.

Not sure where I'm going with this, but Jog's post got me thinking (and rereading the series--which I'd planned to do after the end of "I Tell You No Lie, G.I."). The Boys is one of my favourite comics and made my top ten of 2007 (and made my top ten halfway through 2008 list as well). If you stopped reading after the first ten issues, give it another shot--particularly the latest story.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: The Intimates #1

[Beginning my issue-by-issue look at Joe Casey's The Intimates. For more of my examinations of the work of Joe Casey, there's a link in the column to your right. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Finally. Sorry for the delay. Let's do this. But, first, I'm going to direct you to this edition of "The Basement Tapes" by Joe Casey and Matt Fraction where they discuss The Intimates before it launched.

In restrospect, it's difficult to view The Intimates as a "commercial" book since it was cancelled after twelve issues of low sales and lukewarm critical response. Out of Casey's Wildstorm books, it's probably the one everyone forgot about by the time issue three hit the stands. I'm not going to convince you that this is somehow better than Automatic Kafka, Wildcats or Mr. Majestic, because I don't think it is... but, then again, those were some really, really great books. The Intimates is a fun book that has many moments of brilliance--beginning with the initial concept:

A school for teenagers who happen to have superpowers.

I've never been a big fan of teenage superhero books, because they rarely rang true for me. Casey means to avoid that by making this book primarily about teenagers and "superheroes" a secondary concern--a superficial element, almost. The first issue is just the first day of school where the reader is along for the ride and gets to meet everyone and see a few of the classes... nothing else really happens. Most of the issues are the same as Casey purposefully takes the teenage experience and just throws a costume on it. To put it simply: The Intimates is more Saved by the Bell than Teen Titans--and thank god for that, I have to say (never thought I'd be thankful something was similar to Saved by the Bell, but here we are...).

While The Intimates explicitly lacks some of the tropes of modern teenage life (swearing and casual sex--there is some of both, but probably not as much as should be), it captures what it's like being a teenager and going to school better than any other comic I've read on the subject. That alone makes it worth looking at, in my opinion.

The series is also unique in its storytelling. Casey uses an information-heavy style with compressed scenes, lots of dialogue, and, of course, the info-scroll at the bottom of most of the pages. Actually, look at the cover to the first issue and you'll see how information-heavy the book is, because the cover is an excellent indication.

Ther structure of the issue attempts to capture the feeling of the first day of school. It begins with a long scene with the homeroom teacher, Miss Klanbaid (whose superpowers and past are subject to numerous rumours). This scene takes up ten pages (with flashbacks included here and there), almost half of the issue, while the rest of the issue is a whirlwind of short scenes, often only lasting a few panels. This seems an accurate reflection of the first day of school where that initial class with the requisite speech seems to last forever and stands out in your memory, while the rest of the day just kind of flies by in a barrage of new people, new classes, new experiences... It's almost too much to take in. The pacing picks up as the issue progresses and while we get an extensive look at homeroom, towards the end, we get three one-panel shots of other classes along with quick profiles of the teachers. If you're curious, some of the classes taught at the Seminary are: Secret ID 101 (taught by Mr. Hyde, the former Commander Presence, a Superman stand-in), Morality 101 (taught by Miss M, the former Morning Glory, a manga-esque anti-hero), and Nuphysics (taught by Professor Bentley, the former Radical Bill, a science hero ala the Atom). We get a quick idea of Connectivity 101, which is taught by Mr. Green, but the class has been cancelled because his wife has run off with a radioactive supervillains (recalling a similar instance in The Rules of Attraction--attraction, connectivity... get it?).

Gym class gets a little more focus as it is taught by Sgt. Stomp and they do yoga... until Punchy ends the class by bringing up Sgt. Stomp's boots, which triggers an odd reaction where Stomp has a Vietnam-type flashback to the day that he lost the boots (to be clear, we don't see said flashback, he just begins rambling on about it).

There's an interesting dualism to this issue as indicated by the cover: both Destra and Punchy have mirroring scenes and actions in this issue. While Punchy effectively ends gym class with knowledge, Destra ends homeroom by blowing up a chunk of it thanks to her explosive fingernails. Both are very anti-authoritarian, have meetings with Mr. Dash, the guidance counsellor (a former speedster), both see themselves are much cooler than everyone around them... and, as the series goes on, they continue to parallel one another.

Since I've mentioned some of the students, I should get into more details there.

There Punchy, a "whigger" with an obvious '90s influence in his style and costume. He has a punchy doll on his left hand that's dressed like a nun and allows him to punch with incredible force and range. He's a bit of an energetic spazz. He's also a returning student that barely scrapes by.

Destra is rich, rebellious, has explosive fingernails, used to date an alien and is a total bitch.

Duke wears a costume resembling a football uniform and has the typical advanced strength, speed, endurance and invulnerability. His dad is a total redneck hick and he seems unsure of himself. His hero is Mr. Majestic.

Empty Vee is invisible most of the time, is overweight and a bit of an obvious symbol in that regard. She doesn't appear much in this issue (pun intended).

Sykes exists in a null field, and doesn't interact with the others. His null field often changes shape, though. We'll learn a whole lot more about him in issue six.

Kefong only appears at the end of the issue and is the "new kid." Matt Fraction wanted to use him in Casanova, but because these are all Wildstorm-owned characters, he couldn't and we got Kaito.

Immediately, the book sets itself up in opposition to "widescreen" comics, which reached its zenith in the Ultimates line, I'd argue. Miss Klanbaid makes a speech about the students not having to be like the Authority, working with the idea of Ultimates/Intimates that Casey discussed in the above column. This also works with the info-dump style where each issue is dense. Most of the information we get in this comic actually comes in quick one-panel flashbacks or the info-scrolls.

The use of the info-scrolls varies in some issues, but, for the most part, they're used to reference specific characters on a given page. Like, we're given a few facts about Sgt. Stomp on the pages he appears. Or, there's stuff like "R.I.P. WILDCATS VERSION 3.0" or various "teen tips" like "HAVE SEX EARLY SO YOU CAN GET BETTER AT IT SOONER." The voice of the info-scroll is close to that of Joe Casey, I think. I wouldn't say that it is Casey's voice entirely, but it's close. The information given ranges from serious to tongue-in-cheek. In some issues, a theme develops over the issue or a specific narrative is given in the info-scroll. The info-scroll in the final issue is particularly illuminating.

I haven't spoken about the art yet (not surprising). Jim Lee provides the covers and also draws the "Agent Boss Tempo" panels. Agent Boss Tempo is a spy in a comic book that Punchy reads and acts as a guide for his behaviour. While Punchy is in training to be a superhero, his actions are often closer to that of a spy. Giuseppe Camuncoli does the art for the series proper and it's a cartoony style that works quite well. He is able to cram a lot into each page and plays around with layouts a bit and panel shapes. He works very hard to fit everything in and do so in an interesting manner--and succeeds. As well, the lettering is unique with the use of rectangular word balloons and making the info-scrolls work (which take up a portion of the page normally devoted to the art, adding to Camuncoli's problems).

And that's the first issue. On Thursday, issue two, where Punchy and Duke try to sneak out and break curfew. Oh, those wacky kids!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Raymond Chandler's Twelve Notes on the Mystery Story: The Fate of the Artist

[Continuing my application of Raymond Chandler's "Twelve Notes on the Mystery Story" to comic book mysteries. I reprint Chandler's notes in full because he says what he means better than I can. Some of his notes aren't completely relevant, but I'm not going to pick and choose, because I think the whole thing is worth reading. New posts on random Sundays.]

Sorry for the break from this series. It happened because of this post, actually. A few weeks ago, after my post on Watchmen, I decided to do my next one on Eddie Campbell's The Fate of the Artist, which I hadn't read since I first bought it in the fall of 2006. I vaguely remembered that it was a mystery story, of sorts, with the artist (Eddie Campbell) missing and a detective hired by his family to find him. Sounds simple enough and perfect for this series, right? Well, have you read The Fate of the Artist? It's much, much, much more than what I just described. Yes, that plot is a superficial element of the book, but it goes beyond that to examine various types of art, its role, its effect, and does so through a variety of means including biography, traditional comic book storytelling, comic strips, prose, and a bunch of other things I'm forgetting. To focus upon the mystery element seemed to be missing the point.

But, then I thought, "Ah, what the hell? Who cares?" Why not focus on the mystery element and read the entire book as told from the perspective of the detective. Anything that isn't his prose is either his imagining of the event or documents he turned up in his research. It's not necessarily the best way to read the book, but I think it's a valid reading. At the very least, maybe one of you will pick the book up as a result.

Twelve Notes on the Mystery Story (Revised April 18, 1948)

1. It must be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the denouement; it must consist of the plausible actions of plausible people in plausible circumstances, it being remembered that plausibility is largely a matter of style. This requirement rules out most trick endings and a great many "closed circle" stories in which the least likely character is forcibly made over into the criminal, without convincing anybody. It also rules out such elaborate mises-en-scene as Christie's Murder in a Calais Coach, where the whole setup for the crime requires such a fluky set of happenings that it could never seem real.

Michael Evans killed the artist because Campbell he was always stealing Evans's ideas, wanted to (and did) do the typefacing of this book himself, and was always basing characters who met horrible ends on Evans. Evans put th artist in two bags and filed them at the local library under 741.5, the number for graphic novels in the Dewet decimal system. Of course, the artist isn't really dead since he's writing and drawing the book--so is Eddie Campbell really the murderer of Eddie Campbell with the credit going to Evans because it makes for a good joke? I certainly find this denouement funny. Is any of it plausible? No.

2. It must be technically sound as to the methods of murder and detection. No fantastic poisons or improper effects from poison such as death from nonfatal doses, etc. No use of silencers on revolvers (they won't work) or snakes climbing bellropes ("The Speckled Band"). Such things at once destroy the foundation of the story. If the detective is a trained policeman, he must act like one, and have the mental and physical equipment that go with the job. If he is a private investigator or amateur, he must at least know enough about police methods not to make an ass of himself. When a policeman is made out to be a fool, as he always was on the Sherlock Holmes stories, this not only depreciates the accomplishment of the detective but it makes the reader doubt the author's knowledge of his own field. Conan Doyle and Poe were primitives in this art and stand in relation to the best modern writers as Giotto does to da Vinci. They did things which are no longer permissible and exposed ignorances that are no longer tolerated. Also, police art, itself, was rudimentary in their time. "The Purloined Letter" would not fool a modern cop for four minutes. Conan Doyle showed no knowledge whatever of the organization of Scotland Yard's men. Christie commits the same stupidities in our time, but that doesn't make them right. Contrast Austin Freeman, who wrote a story about a forged fingerprint ten years before police method realized such things could be done.

The private detective's methods are sound. Since there's no evidence that the artist has been murdered, just that he's disappeared, he interviews family, friends and experts regarding the artist's obsessions, as well as goes through the artist's files thoroughly. It's this knowledge that allows him to discover Evans as the murderer when the body is found. He says to Evans, "You have the motive, Evans: revenge. And you're the only one in the picture who knows the Dewey system."

3. It must be honest with the reader. This is always said, but the implications are not realized. Important facts not only must not be concealed, they must not be distorted by false emphasis. Unimportant facts must not be projected in such a way as to make them portentous. (This creation of red herrings and false menace out of trick camera work and mood shots if the typical Hollywood mystery picture cheat.) Inferences from the facts are the detective's stock in trade; but he should disclose enough to keep the reader's mind working. It is arguable, although not certain, that inferences arising from special knowledge (e.g., Dr. Thorndyke) are a bit of a cheat, because the basic theory of all good mystery writing is that at some stage not too late in the story the reader did have the materials to solve the problem. If specal scientific knowledge was necessary to interpret the facts, the reader did not have the solution unless he had the special knowledge. It may have been Austin Freeman's feeling about this that led him to the invention of the inverted detective story, in which the reader knows the solution from the beginning and takes his pleasure from watching the detective trace it out a step at a time.

Is Evans mentioned before the revelation that he's the killer? We get all sorts of other pieces of information regarding the artist's life, but is Evans mentioned? Not in the text proper, but on that page near the beginning with the copyrights and such [Edit: This is the indicia, a word that totally escaped me at the time of writing]. There's a thanks to "Michael Evans Designs." Is that enough? Ah, probably not. But then again, up until the page where the body is discovered, we operate under the suspicion that the artist has just fucked off somewhere. [Edit: As the artist himself points out in the comments, I completely missed an explicit reference to Evans in the text and a few implicit ones. The explicit one is a stupid oversight on my part as, in the denouement, Evans references the artist using him as the basis for a character that we see earlier in the book--and, in that section, there's explicit mention of Evans playing said character. How I missed it, I don't know. The implied references make sense for me since I'm not always the most visually inclined (making me the ideal person to discuss comics, of course), but, still, I should have got. So, there are references to Evans previously in the text and having Evans play a character who eats poisonous mushrooms and dies does add to his motive for killing the artist.]

4. It must be realistic as to character, setting, and atmosphere. It must be about real people in the real world. Very few mystery writers have any talent for character work, but that doesn't mean it is not necessary. It makes the difference between the story you reread and remember and the one you skim through and almost instantly forget. Those like Valentine Williams who say the problem overrides everything are merely trying to cover up their own inability to create character.

Well... it's about the real world sometimes... with actors playing the parts of real people... and past historical figures. The scenes with the detective explicitly are realistic, but everything else... Well, it's about an artist--why expect realism? The characters are somewhat realistic. The artist is a little over-the-top, but still believable, if only because we've all read stories about artists being eccentric like this. Is the real Eddie Campbell really like this? I dunno, I've never met the man.

5. It must have a sound story value apart from the mystery element; i.e., the investigation itself must be an adventure worth reading.

Yeah, I would say this is the one piece of Chandler's criteria that Campbell nails without question.

6. To achieve this it must have some form of suspense, even if only intellectual. This does not mean menace and especially it does not mean that the detective must be menaced by grave personal danger. This last is a trend and like all trends will exhaust itself by overimitation. Nor need the reader be kept hanging on the edge of his chair. The overplotted story can be dull too; too much shock may result in numbness to shock. But there must be conflict, physical, ethical or emotional, and there must be some element of danger in the broadest sense of the word.

I don't believe there is suspense. The family of the artist don't seem to even care THAT much that the artist is gone. They obviously want him back, but most of what they tell the detective is how fucking crazy the guy was with his weird obsessions. There's little suspense here.

7. It must have color, lift, and a reasonable amount of dash. It takes an awful lot of technical adroitness to compensate for a dull style, although it has been done, especially in England.

Okay, Campbell does this very well, too.

8. It must have enough essential simplicity to be explained easily when the time comes. (This is possibly the most often violated of all the rules). The ideal denouement is one in which everything is revealed in a flash of action. This is rare because ideas that good are always rare. The explanation need not be very short (except on the screen), and often it cannot be short; but it must be interesting in itself, it must be something the reader is anxious to hear, and not a new story with a new set of characters, dragged in to justify an overcomplicated plot. Above all the explanation must not be merely a long-winded assembling of minute circumstances which no ordinary reader could possibly be expected to remember. To make the solution dependent on this is a kind of unfairness, since here again the reader did not have the solution within his grasp, in any practical sense. To expect him to remember a thousand trivialities and from them to select that three that are decisive is as unfair as to expect him to have a profound knowledge of chemistry, metallurgy, or the mating habits of the Patagonian anteater.

The body is found, the detective goes to Evans, all is revealed... ta da! It's very simple--to the point of absurdity, but still simple nonetheless.

9. It must baffle a reasonably intelligent reader. This opens up a very difficult question. Some of the best detective stories ever written (those of Austin Freeman, for example) seldom baffle an intelligent reader to the end. But the reader does not guess the complete solution and could not himself have made a logical demonstration of it. Since readers are of many minds, some will guess a cleverly hidden murder and some will be fooled by the most transparent plot. (Could the "Red-Headed League" ever really fool a modern reader?) It is not necessary or even possible to fool to the hilt the real aficionado of mystery fiction. A mystery story that consistently did that and was honest would be unintelligible to the average fan; he simply would not know what the story was all about. But there must be some important elements of the story that elude the most penetrating reader.

I didn't see Evans coming, but who would? Well, the detective did... But, anyone else who got to that point in the book and said, "Oh, Evans did it!"... you're a genius and should be solving crimes for a living.

10. The solution must seem inevitable once revealed. This is the least often emphasized element of a good mystery, but it is one of the important elements of all fiction. It is not enough merely to fool or elude or sidestep the reader; you must make him feel that he ought not to have been fooled and that the fooling was honorable.

I don't think it seem inevitable, but I can't think of a better reason someone might have for killing the artist. Within the context of this world, it makes sense and does fit with what we've read to that point.

11. It must not try to do everything at once. If it is a puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure or a passionate romance. An atmosphere of terror destroys logical thinking; if the story is about the intricate psychological pressures that lead apparently ordinary people to commit murder, it cannot then switch to the cool analysis of the police investigator. The detective cannot be hero and menace at the same time; the murderer cannot be a tormented victim of circumstance and also a heavy.

It tries to do everything, but that's the point: to do everything. And it does it well.

12. It must punish the criminal in one way or another, not necessarily by operation of the law. Contrary to popular (and Johnston Office) belief, this requirement has nothing much to do with morality. It is a part of the logic of detection. If the detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime, the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation behind it.



1. The perfect detective story cannot be written. The type of mind which can evolve the perfect problem is not the type of mind that can produce the artistic job of writing. It would be nice to have Dashiell Hammett and Austin Freeman in the same book, but it just isn't possible. Hammett couldn't have the plodding patience and Freeman couldn't have the verve for narrative. They don't go together. Even a fair compromise such as Dorothy Sayers is less satisfying than the two types taken separately.

This barely tries to be a detective story and, as such, succeeds at what it tries to do, which is barely be a detective story.

2. The most effective way to conceal a simple mystery is behind another mystery. This is litrary legerdemain. You do not fool the reader by hiding clues or faking character [ala] Christie but by making him solve the wrong problem.

I think the mystery in finding out why the artist acts like he does is the primary mystery as it begins as an effort to solve the initial one--but then overtakes it quickly as the detective (and reader) tries to solve the mystery of the artist, forgetting about the mystery of the artist's whereabouts.

3. It has been said that "nobody cares about the corpse." This is bunk. It is throwing away a valuable element. It is like saying the murder of your aunt means no more to you than the murder of an unknown man in an unknown part of a city you never visited.

We care about the artist. He's an interesting and engaging character. His eccentricities draw us in. Is there an emotional attachment? I'm not too sure about that. It's more of an intellectual attachment. We care about the artist as a character study, of someone to observe and figure out. Which makes his murder a blow, but also not that bad. We still have his work and the anecdotes of those who knew him--which has been our primary means of learning about the artist. Of course, all of this is provided for us by the artist, so...

4. Flip dialogue is not wit.

There's lot of wit here--and often it's mocked as lame and flip.

5. A mystery serial does not make a good mystery novel. The "curtains" depend for their effect on your not having the next chapter to read at once. In book form these curtains give the effect of a false suspense and tend to be merely irritating. The magazines have begun to find that out.

This is not a serial story.

6. Love interest nearly always weakens a mystery story because it creates a type of suspense that is antagonistic and not complementary to the detective's struggle to solve the problem. The kind of love interest that works is the one that complicates the problem by adding to the detective's troubles but which at the same time you instinctively feel will not survive the story. A really good detective never gets married. He would lose his detachment, and this detachment is part of his charm.

The detective has no love interest and barely a personality.

7. The fact that love interest is played up in the big magazines and on the screen doesn't make it artistic. Women are supposed to be the target of magazine fiction and movies. The magazines are not interested in mystery writing as an art. They are not interested in any kind of writing as an art.


8. The hero of the mystery story is the detective. Everything hangs on his personality. If he hasn't one, you have very little. And you have very few really good mystery stories. Naturally.

The focus of this story is the artist, not the detective, which is why it's not much of a mystery, but is still a great read. It's barely a mystery story (as I've said), partly because of the lack of emphasis on the detective. He's more of a guide through the world of the artist than anything else.

9. The criminal cannot be the detective. This is an old rule and has once in a while been violated successfully, but it is sound as it ever was. For this reason: the detective by tradition and definition is the seeker of truth. He can't be that if he already knows the truth. There is an implied guarantee to the reader that the detective is on the level.

The criminal is the former typesetter.

10. The same remark applies to the story where the first-person narrator is the criminal. I should personally have to qualify this by saying that for me the first-person narration can always be accused of subtle dishonesty because of its appearance of candor and its ability to suppress the detective's ratiocination while giving a clear account of his words and acts. Which opens up the much larger question of what honesty really is in this context; is it not a matter of degree rather an absolute? I think it is and always will be. Regardless of the candor of the first-person narrative there comes a time when the detective has made up his mind and yet does not communicate this to the reader. He holds some of his thinking for the denouement or explanation. He tells the facts but not the reaction in his mind to those facts. Is this a permissible convention of deceit? It must be; otherwise the detective telling his own story could not have solved the problem in advance of the technical denouement. Once in a lifetime a story such as The Big Sleep holds almost nothing back; the denouement is an action which the reader meets as soon as the detective. The theorizing from that action follows immediately. There is only a momentary concealment of the fact that Marlowe loaded the gun with blanks when he gave it to Carmen down by the oil sump. But even this is tipped off to the reader when he says, "If she missed the can, which she was certain to do, she would probably hit the wheel. That would stop a small slug completely. However she wasn't going to hit even that." He doesn't say why, but the action follows so quickly that you don't feel any real concealment.

The narrator here is the detective--as well as various other people when telling stories about the artist. Does it all add up to the artist as the narrator since he wrote the book? I don't know. The first-person narration we get is very basic and dialogue heavy. More often than not, narration focuses on the artist and describing his actions. The detective holds a lot back, but that's because we don't get much insight into his thought process. Whenever he shows up, he's interviewing someone for the case--we never get him contemplating the case.

11. The murderer must not be a loony. The murderer is not a murderer unless he commits murder in the legal sense.

Evans's reason for killing the artist is kind of insane, but is he insane? Is the artist insane?

12. There is, as has been said, no real possibility of absolute perfection [in writing a mystery story]. Why? For two main reasons, of which has been stated aboved in Addenda Note 1. The second is the attitude of the reader himself. Readers are of too many kinds and too many levels of culture. The puzzle addict, for instance, regards the story as a contest of wits between himself and the writer; if he guesses the solution, he has won, even though he could not document his guess or justify it by solid reasoning. There is something of this competitive spirit in all readers, but the reader in whom it predominates sees no value beyond the game of guessing the solution. There is the reader, again, whose whole interest is in sensation, sadism, cruelty, blood, and the element of death. Again there is some in all of us, but the reader in whom it predominates will care nothing for the so-called deductive story, however meticulous. A third class of reader is the worrier-about-the-characters; this reader doesn't care so much about the solution; what really gets her upset is the chance that the silly little heroine will get her neck twisted on the spiral staircase. Fourth, and most important, there is the intellectual literate reader who reads mysteries because they are almost the only kind of fiction that does not get too big for its boots. This reader savors style, characterization, plot twists, all the virtuosities of the writing much more than he bothers about the solution. You cannot satisfy all these readers completely. To do so involves contradictory elements. I, in the role of reader, almost never try to guess the solution to a mystery. I simply don't regard the contest between the writer and myself as important. To be frank I regard it as the amusement of an inferior type of mind.

This book is all for the fourth type of reader. The other types aren't even a consideration, really. It's all about style and the way in which the story is constructed, as well as the odd little tangents (including the wonderful comic strips provided). It's not much of a coherant narrative, but does work as a whole in its own odd way.

13. As has been suggested above, all fiction depends on some form of suspense. But the study of the mechanics of that extreme type called menace reveals the curious psychological duality of the mind of a reader or audience which makes it possible on the one hand to be terrified about what is hiding behind the door and at the same time to know that the heroine or leading lady is not going to be murdered once she is established as the heroine or leading lady. If the character played by Claudette Colbert is in awful danger, we also know absolutely that Miss Colbert is not going to be hurt for the simple reason that she is Miss Colbert. How does the audience's mind get upset by menace in view of this clear knowledge? Of the many possible reasons I suggest two. The reaction to visual images and sounds, or their evocation in descriptive writing, is independent of reasonableness. The primitive element of fear is never far from the surface of our thoughts; anything that calls to it can defeat reason for the time being. Hence menace makes its appeal to a very ancient and very irrational emotion. Few men are beyond its influence. The other reason I suggest is that in any intense kind of literary or other projection the part is greater than the whole. The scene before the eyes dominates the thought of the audience; the normal individual makes no attempt to reconcile it with the pattern of the story. He is swayed by what is in the actual scene. When you have finished the book, it may, not necessarily will, fall into focus as a whole and be remembered by its merit so considered; but for the time of reading, the chapter is the dominating factor. The vision of the emotional imagination is very short but also very intense.

Not really a consideration, except that the technique here relies on the reader focuses on the information provided at the moments, allowing it to accumulate and then seeing how it all fits together. It's a very mish-mash, choppy, cut-up book and does rely on the reader heavily. But, at the same time, the pieces are all entertaining and offer something for the reader in and of themselves. I'm not sure how to accurately describe what Campbell does here, actually.

I'll be back with another mystery story next week, maybe.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Splash Page 31: Is Cancellaton Good?

In this week's Splash Page, Tim and I discuss cancellation. I play the role of the wide-eyed optimist while Tim is the hard-nosed cynic... I know, I know, it's weird! Normally, Tim is Mr. "Everything With Comics is Fantastic!" and I'm Mr. "Fuck the World, because it All Sucks Ass!", but not this week. Oh no, dear reader, not this week. Now you have to read the column, because you obviously don't believe what I just told you. But it's the truth. Have I ever lied to you before?

Plus, we discuss even tell you a few books you should buy monthly to avoid cancellation, or else face the wratch of... THE SPLASH PAGE!!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Book of the Week 3: All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder Volume One

[Another in my ongoing series of discussing the most interesting comic I get in a particular week. It may not be a good comic, just something I feel like discussing in greater depth than my usual "reviews." New posts every Friday where I feel a book deserves a look.]

I'm probably the last guy with a comic blog to discuss this book, but it finally arrived today and I read it straight through. I've been looking forward to reading "The Goddamn Batman and Brat, the Boy Wonder" volume one for a long time. I've read various accounts as to its absurdity, its insanity and its awfulness--all of which made me want to read this book more. See, I love crazy old Frank Miller. When 95% of the comic-reading world was trashing The Dark Knight Strikes Again, I was loving it... and it seems that the other members of the remaining 5% hate this book, too. So, yeah, who doesn't want to read a comic like that?

And, you know what? I really enjoyed this book. Hell, I liked it.

Of course, I can't say for sure if that's me being genuine or that weird contrarian attitude of mine taking over. "Everyone else hates it? Then, I guess I'll like it just for fun..." Sometimes I do that, but I don't think I'm doing that here, because, well, I can back up my enjoyment with logic.

The key to this series is viewing it as part of a larger story, I think. You need to look at it as part of Frank Miller's larger Dark Knight story. A lot of people do that and still aren't fans, which is understandable, because this isn't the best comic in the world. If I were buying it in singles, I'd probably hate it, too, because Miller is using a lot of decompression here... in these nine issues, about three or four issues' worth of plot happens... but who cares? I sure as hell don't.

The Batman we see here makes more sense as a character than most versions I've seen, particularly of the character early in his career. Of course he would go overboard after a year or so. He's young, he's stupid, he's having a lot of fun beating the shit out of criminals... who wouldn't? This Batman is reckless and half-insane, and that makes a lot of sense. There's a method to his madness, but not much. If you compare this Batman to the one in Year One, it mirrors the progression of the character in The Dark Knight Returns, kind of. As he grows more confident, he becomes less human, less Bruce Wayne and more the Bat--before he goes too far and then transitions back to a more balanced version of himself. Note that Bruce Wayne appears twice in these nine issues: at the very beginning and the very end (aside from flashbacks to the character as a child). In the beginning, he's still scouting Dick Grayson with plans to approach the young man in a few years--but the murder of Grayson's parents pushes him a bit over the edge, reminds him of his own parents' death, and allows for him to move into a more reckless manner of behaviour--one that he was probably in already, but we don't see it. Bruce Wayne only appears again when Batman's reckless behaviour is mirrored by the new Robin almost killing Hal Jordan. There's no reason for Batman to remove his cowl in that scene other than to reassert his humanity, to recognise that he's gone too far and it brought his young protege with him. I could be proven wrong in coming issues, but it suggests that a balance between Bruce Wayne and Batman is forthcoming, that "The Goddamn Batman" will fade away a little.

Miller's approach here is interesting as, usually, Dick Grayson mellows Bruce Wayne through his youthful innocence, but, here, it's youthful enthusiasm and recklessness that forces Wayne to look at his own actions.

But, Miller's twisting of the early relationship between Batman and Robin is at the core of this book--and it's such a twisted version of what most comic book fans know that it's not surprising so many can't stomach it. Batman views himself as a soldier in a war, not just another costumed crimefighter (does that surprise anyone who's read Miller's work? Really?) and if Grayson is to join him, he's got to be prepared quickly and harshly. He eventually sees that he was too harsh and pushed too hard, but these methods do make a certain amount of sense. It's not just about training to fight but to survive--to do anything to keep on living and fighting the war. In addition, this plants the seeds for the Dick Grayson we see in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the insane, twisted Grayson who is completely devoted to Batman, is in love with Batman, but also betrayed so much.

Nearly every character protrayal here sets up Miller's "Dark Knight" stuff. Batman's view of the Justice League plays a big role in those other works, especially the relationship of Superman and Batman. What I'm particularly interested in is the relationship of Batman and Hal Jordan, because, if you remember, the two are friends in The Dark Knight Strikes Again. In this book, Batman seems to consider Jordan the worst of the bunch (although Superman may have that honour)... and seems to have nothing but contempt for the man. He calls Jordan an idiot using pretty much every synonym I can think of and taunts him with his biggest weakness, yellow. But, this seems like the first step in Batman reforming much of the Justice League in his image, in his manner of thinking--except for Superman and Wonder Woman. Jordan, along with Plastic Man, isn't entirely against Batman here, either.

One of the scenes here that particularly jumped out at me involves Jim Gordon... did this scene cause much of a stir when the issue hit (issue 6)? I think I remember the Black Canary/Batman sex stuff causing some talk, but the Gordon scene is brutal and demonstrates just how fucked up Gotham City is. This is the one honest cop and he's talking to a woman he's having an affair with right out in the open while his wife lurches into the room to fill her glass with more booze and then slink away. Gordon's fidelity has been a part of Miller's Batman stuff since the beginning, but to have it this out in the open is very uncomfortable, and is part of portraying Gotham as the worst city in America, basically. It's one thing for Gordon to cheat on his wife, that happens, but to almost flaunt it? This is what it takes for him to be the good cop? Even the best man in the city is a jackass.

Miller's portrayal of women is what it's always been: they're sex objects, but capable sex objects. Is that better somehow? I'm not a big fan of this sort of portrayal, but it could be worse. At least any woman victimised fights back, rises above the role of victim. (Although, what is up with "love chunks"? Has anyone else ever heard that before?)

Normally, I'm not a fan of Jim Lee's art, but I found myself hating it less here. In more than a few places, he's obviously channeling Miller, which makes it work a lot better than Lee's art, usually.

This is a cynical book. It reads as such and is still rooted strongly in the gritty '80s Miller helped bring about in comics, which is one of the reasons it doesn't read as well to most. It seems almost antiquated, but with odd modern twinges in the dialogue. Personally, I could see a young Batman calling a kid "retarded," but that's me... and Frank Miller, I guess.

As I said, this version of Batman rings true for me more than most. In denying his humanity, in sublimating it to his mission, he's more human than most. He's on the edge of sanity here and pushing himself far beyond his means. Of course he thinks the other heroes are morons! Of course he treats a pre-teen like shit! Of course he takes pleasure in hurting criminals! Of course he takes pleasure in hurting the police! He's young and stupid still... he's only been doing this for a year or so--it's still new and shiny and he feels immortal. He hasn't learned any humility yet, he hasn't failed really yet. Look at how quickly he reverted to this sort of behaviour in The Dark Knight Returns. He came out of retirement and was soon as reckless as this--it's a failing of youth.

I'm very interested to see how this story plays out over the next, what, 15 or 16 issues? I have a strange amount of faith in Miller, because I see a general arc forming here, of a progression of the character as Miller sets up The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Obviously All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder isn't a success in and of itself, because it relies on those other books to justify the characters, but since I have read those books, I can read this one with them in mind. Reading it that way, I'm really enjoying what Miller and Lee do here and look forward to volume two.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Bought Comics: Second Week of September 2008

[Random musings, thoughts, rants, whatever comes up... not reviews, not really, not at all, not at all... New posts when I buy comics.]

After a week off, I am back with two weeks' worth of books, so let's get to it...

Adam Strange Special

Um... yeah... er... not as strong as the Hawkman special, which everyone hated except for me because what the fuck do I care about Hawkman's past? This one as Adam Strange bopping through time for reasons not revealed and we get glimpses of the past and the future, including the destruction of Rann... I guess how we know how Holy War will end, eh? Otherwise, it's forgettable and only exists to add Strange as another of the "Aberrant Six," which even I can't get too enthused about. I love me some Jim Starlin work, but... Also, this special is weaker because Starlin doesn't provide the art (the cover lies, my friends). Rick Leonardi does a... mediocre job here; he flat-out gets some facial expressions wrong in some panels. Not a good comic at all, mostly because it's not a necessary comic. At least the Hawkman one served a purpose... this doesn't.

The Boys #22

...oh fuck me things are gonna go to shit for Hughie aren't they...

Criminal #5

The best part of this comic is Steven Grant's text piece at the very end on crime novelist Eugene Izzi's life and death. The comic is typically good.

Invincible Iron Man #5

"In which the issue ends with the obvious misleading cliffhanger that will be explained away in one month's time..." The fight between Stane and Stark is decent, but I tire of "you killed my daddy" stories as motivation for villains. I wound up watching Spider-Man 2 on Labour Day and found Harry's obsession to be stupid-as-hell... especially when he finds out Spider-Man is his best friend... it's like "Dude, your dad was a douchebag crazy and your best friend stopped him from killing people... THAT'S A GOOD THING, SO GROW THE FUCK UP!" At least Stane and Stark aren't best friends here. Otherwise, it's still rather pathetic--purposefully so, but... meh. And, what the fuck is up with Stane's girlfriend on the cover? We'll see how next issue turns out, because the second half of this arc has left me almost completely cold.

Pax Romana #3

"It's what you don't know that matters most."-—Bret Easton Ellis, Glamorama

Hickman picks and chooses his moments... he outlines the plan and that only gives scenes that show its failure... or maybe reasons why it may fail... success is not interesting! Watching it all go according to plan is boring! Creating a bigger, better world is hard work and people suck at hard work... love the bits on religion... kind of sad that Hickman didn't think beyond the modern conceptions of government, but that is also a limitation of the characters... the end of the issue is a really good cliffhanger... Hickman's art reminds me of Jeremy Haun's art sometimes... I think I should reread Paradigm... god, what a great book that was... and, yeah, I love my "FIGHT FOR THE SITCOM." t-shirt that I bought from Haun in Chicago some years back... still wear it a lot... because I also like sitcoms.

Secret Invasion #6

"I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'... I will get over calling Noh-Varr 'Marvel Boy'..."

Good issue.

Sub-Mariner: The Depths #1

Two words: Peter Milligan. An interesting take, but not at all original. Maybe Milligan will put a better spin on it as the series progresses. As it is, very mundane.

Young Liars #7


I dare you to predict what will happen next in this book. I fucking dare you. David Lapham is insane and what the fuck, it's still awesome. The first six issue story is over and now we get... another take on the same story? The way Sadie sees the world? The way she wants to see the world? Wow... I cannot remember another comic that has shifted gears so completely... Anyone not reading this series is missing out on one of the most exciting and insane books around. This has shades of earlier Vertigo series, but is still quite original. This is quickly becoming my favourite book.

Tomorrow, I will discuss one of these books more as my "book of the week." If you want one of these discussed more, just say so and I'll take it under advisement.