Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Hiatus in Review

Okay, looking at that last post before the extended hiatus I should report a few things. I didn't read Labyrinths of Reason or Wasteland. Much like Swamp Thing I'm a bit shocked I haven't read Wasteland yet. I'll likely pick it up when I pick up Fallout 3 for the ol' X-box 360 some day. It's a series that I was really excited for when it was announced but I couldn't get a copy in Ottawa and well, it just sort of stayed that way until the trades started coming out and I was just lazy about picking it up. Huh, funny how that always happens. I guess it means I get to savor its post-apocalyptic goodness with a fine electronic parallel. And I'm still on the waiting list for the Hellblazer trades at the library, which seems really weird to me. I had no idea that many people wanted to read John Constantine comics from the Ottawa library.

I guess we should start with the comics first hey?

Wanted. Read it before the movie and I think the changes they made were completely necessary. The comic only works as a comic and well, I don't need to be told I'm a worthless prick for not being a completely selfish asshole. Otherwise, it's a rollicking villainous adventure. Liked the movie a bit more to be honest.

Sleeper and Criminal. Reading these made me kind of depressed knowing I would never write anything this good. I read a lot of Ed Brubaker and I really thought these were fantastic crime stories. Sleeper is the comic villain equivalent of something like Good Fellas, Donnie Brasko or The Departed in that you have a hero, Holden Carver, you become a bit unsure of and you start to understand the circumstances of the bad guys. I always appreciate the skill going into making killers seem sympathetic, something the Animated Batman series did amazingly well or Pulp Fiction did to a mass audience. Yeah they're the bad guys but you feel bad for them, you can relate to them on a basic level to a point where you're reacting to them much like Holden Carver is. Criminal, is a living breathing world where crime is the one thing tying everyone's story together. It's like the shared superhero universes only with a continuity that reveals itself rather than feel forced to make sense of things that weren't meant to be tied together. And with capers and characters that rival any in this genre, there was no doubt this would be a winner with me.

Scott Pilgim Gets it Together. It took me a long time to finally get this book. I did. I read it. I was slightly less charmed by it this time. I don't really know why because it's still great comics but I almost feel a bit too out of touch with the youth ethos in it as I get less lost in my own life.

Cpt. America – Red Menace and Winter Soldier. I can't remember the last time I ever read a Captain America comic book. These were the same solid procedurals in a superhero dressing that Brubaker presented in his other work. The more realistic based artwork really worked in these stories as it tried to humanize a symbol and bring him back to the real world. Yes, grown men in silly costumes do a lot of damage to each other and the world around them, but having things look almost real made the stories seem a bit more real as well. And that's the goal of comics isn't it, to have the art reflect the words – it works well here.

Watchmen. Just as good as the first time I read it. Actually, slightly better because you catch more of the things you missed the first time. I tried to explain it to my wife after we saw the movie preview and while it was a kooky rambling effort on my part she did consider reading it for about ten minutes after our chat. Never really understood the pirate comics until I read a few more interviews with the creators – makes sense that a world with superheroes wouldn't have superhero comics. Seeing a few more examples of how deep the metaphors run, especially visually, was a real treat. From the recurrence of clockwork mechanisms, to the marquee showing the band Crystalnache playing just before the tragedy brought onto the city's population by some self-proclaimed superior human.

Books (without pictures)

Catch-22. Great metaphor, great message, but really, I got it long before the book ended. How can you be sane in an insane situation when you have no sane option or sane action. I do understand why it's considered a great work of fiction but I also understand why people don't like it either. It can be tough to sit and read such a looping text once you understand that the characters are living their lives in the same way the text is written – reliving events over and over and feeling trapped by them only to relive them all over again when something similar happens. Perhaps the point is to get you to give up on the whole mess?

The Chrysalids. Man I love John Wyndham's writing and how his stories are considered sci-fi without any real noticeable sci-fi elements or stand-bys. I think he helped lay the foundation for the genre expectations so reading this book felt completely new to me. It's about the human condition more than anything with a few fantastical ideas thrown in there. The kids struggle for freedom only to find it in a society that is just as intolerant only in line with their abilities. Is this a reflection on the role religion plays in human society? Most likely showing how the exclusionary message of anything is not something that helps anyone except those preaching and conforming. Like the atheists say, be good for goodness sake. I'll be making a stronger effort to read more Wyndham, and really, I'd like a lot of superhero comic writers to do the same to see how you can get a message attached to a story with fantastic elements.

Blood Sucking Fiends and You Suck. These were fun and the perfect read just around Halloween. I mean having a group of late night grocery store employees called The Animals who become vampire hunters is in and of itself enough of a fun idea but throw it in with the rest of the loveable characters, and you've got a great series. Although I enjoyed the first book more.

And finally, skated into work today in a bit of a snowstorm. The canal looked like a frozen ocean with the mini-snowdrifts across the ice. Hitting them sort of slowed me down so it felt a bit more dangerous than it was. There was less than an inch of snow down but there was a solid sheet of ice down under the snow. Was listening to Gorillaz - Demon Days which was the perfect mix of creepy and fun.

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