Cold Cuppa: Migraine

Posted in Cold Cuppa, Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 17/09/2018 by Kevin Entrekin

Listen: “Time in a Tree” by Raleigh Ritchie.

Damned migraine. I went to sleep this morning with its fetus latching onto my brain. Despite taking my meds, I woke up with a throbbing cancer covering the entire front of my head. Vision speckled with light flares. A taunt tension at the base of my neck. Sluggish in all functions.

I should have called into work. It was almost like a sin if you called in sick at my previous job, which has stuck with me for whatever reason. It’s okay though. Saturday’s are relatively slow. And the Bogart/Bacall classic Dark Passage is on TCM. Very interesting, suspenseful noir so far. It’s a welcome distraction.

My brain is still a smoldering fire. Stomach on edge. Time to pop two more “cheap” pills. At least with those I get a little light-headed and floaty. Coffee later will balance everything out once the mellowness has died.

MIGRAINE by Woshibai. 2018. Published by Paradise Systems. $7. Forty-page autobiographical lianhuanhua.

I love Woshibai’s instagram.  I can’t remember how I came across it. Maybe during one of my rabbit hole searches for a new artist to inspire and entertain. But I quickly fell in love with his comic strips. His stories are simple, alien and humorous. Example below (click image to expand my crude edit).

So, when I discovered that he produced a book called Migraine, I felt a draw to purchase it. Migraine is a lianhuanhua, a Chinese book style described by publisher Paradise Systems as pocket-sized pulp comics.

Migraine is an autobiographical snap shot of Woshibai’s early life. It begins with the artist getting a migraine while trying to meet an art deadline. He turns down the lights and begins thinking about the past. He details random childhood memories of living with his grandparents for three years in Japan.

Though founded on real events, Woshibai’s preternatural story telling is still here. A few memories seem to drift in the ethos. At one point Woshibai remembers interacting with a neighborhood girl. They mutually exposed themselves to one another. But in the next page admits he can’t remember if she ever did. It’s a interesting journey to go through. Many memories are not only nostalgic for the writer, but for the reader as well.

The structure for the book, a single image per page with an accompanying strain of memory, is surprisingly simple and effective. It makes for a quick read, or something the reader can sit and meditate on. You’re given the option. And it’s a structure that Woshibai takes full advantage of to deliver his unique style of story telling.

I look forward to learning more about the rich history of lianhuanhua and the type of works that are coming from Paradise Systems. I can see where lianhuanhua’s could become a new medium for independent artist to publish their works here state side.

SCUMBURBIA Issue #1 by Sam Grinberg. Published by Sam Grinberg. $10. Forty-page Punk coming-of-age Drama. 

This book was a gift from Count Mecha from his trip to New York recently. He picked it up at Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn. They specialize in carrying independent publications and also publish their own illustrated magazine called Smoke Signals (which I also was graciously gifted two copies of). So if you are ever in Brooklyn, I urge to swing by the shop and support independent creators.

Scumburbia is two interlinked stories of adolescence in the ‘burbs. The first youths we meet are Claire and (to a lesser extent) her friend Zoey, who have to tread the choppy waters of the American Public high school system. The other half of this book follows Spike and Spunk, two spazzed-out punks whose only mission is to get to the local show tonight.

The world that Sam Grinberg crafts in this first issue of Scumburbia is deeply immersive from the start. Especially Claire’s story, for me. I personally connected with that character, a dissociated and isolated teen. Her monologue at the end of the book is prime teen angst about friendship and aging. And, as I approach the dark side of my twenties, is still a growing struggle.

The second story involving Spike and Spunk is also enjoyable, albeit in a lighter tone. While still a story of frustration, focusing mainly on the two boys pursuit of seeing their favorite band Acquiring Satellites, it has a more comical series of events. It’s a welcome reprieve from the heavier story of Claire.

Grinberg’s art is maybe my favorite aspect of this book. The exclusively used black and white colors give this story a timeless quality. Much like in Migraine, this story has a universal (well, at least western) nostalgic factor. Many people my age and younger can relate to these feelings and environments.

As of right now, there is only this first issue of Scumburbia. I’m not really sure what the future hold for new issues, but I pray there is more to come. I need more growth pains and hi-jinks with Spike and Spunk. I need to see more of the angst of Claire.

VAGUE TALES by Eric Haven. Published by Fantagraphics. $17. Sixty-four page slice of life acid trip.

Where do I start with this book? When liberating this book from the discount bin at Comics & Collectibles, I didn’t expect the name to be as precise as it was. It is a book of tales… that are exceptionally vague.

The plot of this book is like an acid trip scored by stoner doom. It’s something that could be found in an old copy of Heavy Metal, that’s probably sitting on one of Glenn Danzig’s shelves. And I don’t want to get too much into what happens in the story, but it’s bloody difficult not to due to the way it’s structured. Fluidly, we drift between each loosely connected tale until they all conjoin at the climax.

The first tale involves Psylicon: A geometric, crystalline humanoid. He wanders around thinking of basic functions, like “mutter” and “cogitate”. From here we meet Ruin, An emaciated lich who pilots a eyeball-powered plane. He flies around sucking the souls out of unsuspecting victims.

Pulsar, a man who looks like he crawled out of a kids toy chest in the 80’s, in our next player. Wearing only a face mask and briefs, this burly boy fights mythical creatures with his mythical sword. Our final tale leads to the introduction of Sorceress, a scantily clad lady who enters a layer with Psylicon’s head on a pedestal.

From here, things only get weirder.

There is a final player in the cosmic rock ballad. He has no name, but we’ll call him Brock due to his resemblance to the character from Venture Bros. Brock is a beefy fellow who drinks alone in his apartment when Psylicon’s head visits him and shoots a laser into his brain.

Brock is probably our most important player, because I personally think these adventures take place inside his head. Does Psylicon actually visit Brock, or is it all in his head? Are these tales products of some sort of mental disease he has? Maybe…

That the beautiful thing about Eric Haven’s absurdist story: It’s completely up to the reader to interpret what the hell is going on here.

It is an enigma, this book. One that’s worth flipping through a few times. It is an engaging, layered blend of genres that naturally draws you in. This is my first time reading a Eric Haven work, and I’m intrigued to read the rest of his body of work.

***

I’m home now. Tired. Not a sleep tired. Something more. Something more than slumber will solve. I’ll blame the migraine, which has reduced to an annoying hangover. I need to eat before I attempt to sleep. The morning commuters are busily rushing towards their jobs outside my window.

I’m so tired.

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Cold Cuppa: Twelve Gems

Posted in Cold Cuppa, Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/06/2018 by Kevin Entrekin

Listen: Ghost- “Helvetesfönster”

Hey crew. Sorry it has been awhile since we’ve boarded the ship. Been docked for a bit while some life changes have been rapidly evolving. We are now financed by a new shipping company. We also have set up shop in a new base camp. It’s nice to be on my own, but fellow space pirates Count Mecha and Rython being next door is very nice. Everything is sailing smooth, aside from the information sharing systems not working right yet. (In short: Started a new job in the heart of Memphis, got an apartment next to my friends, and trying to get the capitalist bloodsuckers at Xfinity to do their job has been a nightmare. Three months of paying them money, still have no Wi-Fi).

TWELVE GEMS by Lane Milburn. 2014. Published by Fantagraphics, $19.99. Adult Sci-Fi novel.

I’ve been wanting to read Twelve Gems for a long time now. The first time I saw the cover, it spoke to my soul. Thankfully, the story behind the cover also lived up to my hopes.

Twelve Gems is the space-opera story of three space heroes searching for the fabled Twelve Gems of Power. The heroes: A deadly warrior named Venus; The brawling, fugitive alien Furz; and the brilliant technician canine Dogstar are recruited by Dr. Z to find the stones. Danger and adventure awaits around every corner for the three adventurers as they begin to learn more about the stones and Dr. Z’s fascination with them.

Twelve Gems is panel-to-panel packed with 80’s B-reel action (hint: read this blaring some metal and rock music). This book feels like something a friend in high school works on in science class instead of conforming to the educational system. And it turns out that friend is crafting an amazing sci-fi adventure and you’re in on this secret, fantastical thing. The black-and-white sketch style Milburn uses in this book feels like it could easily be a cheap Bic drawn on college-ruled paper, and it’s just gorgeous.

As I already said, the action is nearly non-stop, but it still has a solid plot with equally strong characters. One that flows seamlessly with the action elements. The way Milburn lays out his panels, and uses entire one and two page spreads to progress the story, is perfect. He packs so much imagery and dialogue into each page.

I’m now annoyed that there isn’t more love for this book in general. I personally feel it needs to be talked about among the comic community. And Lane Milburn needs to be funded to make some kind of sequel or spiritual successor to Twelve Gems.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #20 by Jason Aaron (Wr) & Jason Latour (A). 2018. Published by Image Comics, $3.99. Adult Southern Crime.

I have written about my love of this series here in the past. I ended up deleting the article because it was a boring and generally poor write-up. But my love for this southern tale is unchanged. It’s probably the title I’m most excited to see in my pull list. 1) Because it’s so good, and 2) you get a new issue about every three months (if you’re lucky).

I don’t want to get too much into the story here, at the risk of spoiling anything. I don’t normally care about “spoilers”, but this is a special and dense web that should be experienced with virgin knowledge. The basic story revolves around a revered high school football coach in Craw County, Alabama who is in a world of trouble. Both on the field and with his criminal businesses. How will Coach Boss get out of this jackpot?

Unfortunately, this is the first issue in the series that leaves a bitter taste. There’s nothing wrong with Latour’s art or Aaron’s writing. But, this issue felt like the climax of things that had been building since the first issue. Chickens should be coming home to roost. But then they don’t. What had been boiling under the surface simple subsides. The southern biblical justice that has been coming down throughout the series now shows mercy. Why?

This series could perfectly end here, and it sadly should. What a perfect moment to wrap up this saga in Craw County. But what we get instead is a forced attempt to extend the longevity of the series. I vehemently despise media that extends it natural story progression past expiration. Maybe it will be worth it in the long run? That is uncertain now. What is for certain is that for a series that felt very definite and dangerous, things are now feeling relatively safe and bloated.

DOMINO #1 by Gail Simone (Wr) & David Baldeon (A). 2018. Published by Marvel. $3.99. Parental Advisory, but very mild. Personal opinion: Suitable for Teens.

This book comes with a parental advisory warning on the cover. Which, while reading this book, kept me from enjoying it. Because I don’t particularly see why that warning is necessary. Because within the second page, our girl Domino lets loose a few expletives. Or, more notably, a bunch of %#@&ing maledicta symbols. Why? You’re hall pass is right on the cover. You can let you let loose a few naughty words. Maybe some blood and guts. But the most risqué thing in this issue is our hero in her undies.

Corporate obviously is where the Comics Code shenanigans come from, I wager. In fact, there were many times while going through this issue I could feel some executive drone with White-out making his own edits. The potential for entertainment is here, but Marvel stands in the way.

There is something of a heartbeat here. After this book had been scrubbed with Marvel bleach, Writer Gail Simone is able to breathe some life into the panels. Especially during the latter half of this issue, which is a party for Domino’s birthday. There are some genuinely nice emotions and even Wade Wilson stops by (Coincidence this book came out around the time of Deadpool 2? Nah).

The first half is forgettable. It’s the set up for the series, but it is nothing of substance. It’s an action set piece to familiarize the reader to the world and abilities of Domino. We’re also introduced to a mutant named Adelbert, who is maybe important to upcoming issues.

I’ll continue into issue two with a slice of optimism. I wasn’t initially won over at the beginning, but those few heartbeats in the final pages has me curious enough to check out more.

***

That’s it for now, crew. I got some interesting things lined up I think. Recently picked up an interesting haul of discount bin gems that I look forward to reading and sharing with you. Until then…

Also, here is a photo of the Ghost concert I got the privilege to see last week. This was my second time seeing them and it was a hell of a show.

Cold Cuppa: Doomsday Clock #1

Posted in Cold Cuppa, Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , on 03/01/2018 by Kevin Entrekin

This is the inaugural Cold Cuppa, a relaxed look at something newish I’ve read this week.

Listen: Men I Trust- “You Deserve This”

***

Watchmen is a holy tome in the comic community. Everyone has a copy and its (nearly) universally loved. Personally, I feel it is a great work, if only slightly over-praised. But, I also haven’t read it in many years, so my memory may be skewed. I’m interested to reread it now. Mainly, to see if I’d appreciate it more now that I’ve matured in comic knowledge.

The fact that DC decided to fold this universe into their Rebirth line is eye-rolling. And a bit surprising, considering the moderate flop of Before Watchmen in 2012. But, time and time again, the Big Two never cease to squeeze blood from stones that should be left alone.

For the most part, I found Doomsday Clock #1 to be boring. Yet there is something that nags at me. A something that has a hint of potential within its corporate architecture. Enough to at least see where the next few issues lead.

The opening pages are well put together in a 9-panel grid, much like the bulk of the original series. It opens to the world of November 1992. Adrian Veidt (Ozymadias) is exposed as the man behind the NYC massacre. The President is playing golf (Sounds familiar) while the world is at war. Images of protest and rioting are scored by a manifesto journal entry by Rorschach. The world is in chaos.

Walter Kovacs, for a refresher, gets blown to bits in the original series by Dr. Blue Dangle. So from the first panel, as enjoyable as his monologue is, I’m already taken out of it. The fact that writer Geoff Johns brought in an almost exact replica of Rorschach isn’t a confidence builder. Johns begins his monumentally difficult task of following up a beloved work by leaning on a fan service crutch.

From here, the relatively banal meat of the story structure takes place at a prison in the midst of a riot. Cosplay Rorschach is searching for a masks couple, code-named Marionette and Mime. Both are escorted by Rorschach to Nite Owl’s (MIA at this point) underground base. Awaiting them is the most wanted man in the world, Veidt. Somehow Marionette is meant to locate Dr. Manhattan.

The final act/epilogue of this issue is an aside of Clark Kent having a nightmare about his parents. A few people I’ve seen have expressed how exciting these panels were. The potential of Dr Manhattan meeting Supes is practically shorts-creaming fodder for comic shop debate.

I found it dull, honestly. Maybe because I don’t really care how Clark fits into this story. Or Bruce. Or, I’m sad to say, Diane.

Personally, what DC could have done to make this bold and interesting is for the Watchmen to meet their Charleston Comics counterparts. Alan Moore originally wanted to use characters from the company after DC acquired them for the series. Characters like Steve Ditko’s The Question (Rorschach), Blue Beetle (Nite Owl), and Captain Atom (Dr. Manhattan). I think it would be the most entertaining way to do this story. The struggle between each character grappling with their alternates similarities and differences. But I doubt that happens going forward. Why focus on the scrubs when there are supers available, right corporate?

The art is solid enough here. It has qualities of Dave Gibbons (art) and John Higgins (color) work from the original series, while remaining distinct and modern. Gary Frank makes effective use of the 9-grid panel most of the issue, breaking down the opening pages with a nice consistent flow. The art itself is also a pleasant mix of modern yet familiar for this universe. It has hints of some of Garth Ennis’ work to me, especially in the faces. (click on above image for better view).

Again, I’m conflicted on this series. This particular issue is mostly bland. It has the potential of being something special, but snags itself on stereotypes of most modern first issues. Maybe I’m just curious if there is a way to expand the universe that Moore built.

Transmissions from the Deep: 001/Holy Reagan’s Raiders

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , on 16/03/2017 by Kevin Entrekin

Read: Bill Watterson (A Cartoonist Advice) by Gavin Aung Than.

It is absurd, as I sit here with a fresh cup of cheap coffee and heavy eye lids, to think how many times I’ve regurgitated the paragraphs you are about to read over the history of this website (and maybe more broadly my life). Paragraphs filled with “site updates” and intent of jumping into some unknown abyss of new, to only be ambitions that fade as quick as they came.

How many times have I started one of these articles and stopped after this sentence, for one of my new creations to sit sediment in a draft box before I eventually assisting in their suicide?

This won’t be that.

I’m not going to go over how sorry I am for not posting more frequently or go into depth about this new idea. I am sorry, for you (if you once visited here frequently) and me. I’m working on it.

The thing is, without sounding grandiose or pompous, I believe I am on the verge of where I want to move forward in life. Probably not in a Alan Watts way, but still on the right path. Maybe I’ve realized the folly in thinking that I could gamble away time, thinking that it would somehow guarantee success in chasing “the dreams”. X amount of years at a job will somehow satisfy the American capitalist gods and I’ll be privileged to attempt a dream as an old man. I’m already getting old.

The other humbling realization is that the success of chasing my ambitions is not based on time or money, but pressure and gumption. Maybe with a dash of talent. So it then becomes clear that waiting to fulfill those goals is foolish. Meditating on money and misguided attempts to manage time is distracting from things of real importance. Such as, spending time with friends. And working towards being an independent entity, in life and work. Being generally happy.

In brief, Transmissions from the Deep will (hopefully) become an ongoing series here. It’s a look at the oddities I’ve found while searching through the dusty gems of Comic & Collectibles’ 50c bins. I’ve gone through my long box of long-forgotten issues and picked these three to write about.

***

The Optic Nerve series is a collection of short “slice-of-life” comics. This isn’t my first time reading a book in this series. I was introduced to Adrian Tomine’s work on a whim when I picked up issue 14 because of it’s unusual cover, and enjoyed it very much. So it was nice to come across a handful of the early books in a long box one day.

Issue three starts out with its strongest story, “Dylan & Donovan”. The narrative of the story is told through the inner monologue of Dylan. It details her weekend at a comic con with her troubled twin sister, Donovan, and earnest divorcee dad. It such a personal, teen-angst filled story that you can feel in your soul. You sympathize with most of Dylan’s feelings because you unquestionably had those same feelings and frustrations (or still do). And you feel a little daft when you turn up your nose to some of her whiny complaints, because it is a reminder of when you were the same way.

The other stories in this issue are also enjoyable, but maybe with less impact. “Supermarket” follows a blind man’s shopping excursion and his attempt to befriend a worker there. It’s a story that takes an odd turn in the end, and leave a bitter taste in your mouth. It warrants a second read to pick up subtle details that were possibly missed.

“Hostage Situation” is a three-page account of adolescent punks harassing commuters on a bus. It’s a situation everyone can relate to, and as I’m thinking about it, Maybe from both sides. We’ve all been in an inescapable situation that makes you grind your teeth and an overwhelming burning in your brain. But maybe some can sympathize with the teens. Hollow voices yelling into the abyss, hoping someone hears them. Interesting. I should reread it from that perspective.

The final story is a simpler story called “Unfaded”. It’s simply of a man reminiscing about a time he discovered a secret about his recently deceased grandfather. It’s a story that gives a sensation of familiar. I think it’s feels that way because when someone passes, eventually you’ll think back on that most intimate moment you had with that person.

What interesting, now that some time has passed since reading this book, is how much more interesting the stories are now. Initially, I thought of “Dylan & Donovan” as a stand-out, and everything else as sub-par. But now I feel the need to reread it. I feel like I missed some of the subtle details that Tomine is so good at including in his stories.

Long ago, in the distant time of pubic awakening known as middle school, I found a book at the school library called The Cross & The Switchblade.  I only remembered this fact while frantically thumbing through the latest batch of bargain books at Comics & Collectibles.

I don’t remember much about the novel version. It takes place in New York City and it reminded me of West Side story (minus the love plot and music). But it’s all a true story about David Wilkerson’s crusade to convert youth gangs to Christ. Apparently there was a movie too.

This comic doesn’t offer much in the way of substance. The story is crafted out of a certain section of the novel, but this is where things get odd: It still feels like a lot of details were edited to fit the confines of a single issue, yet at the same time feels like plot elements had to be stretched to meet the required pages of a single issue.

The art itself is strange as well. The scenery of 70’s NYC is meant to evoke the grittiness of life on the streets, yet it comes off as a Disney version of that. Especially when it comes to the characters. Where pastor Wilkerson looks likes a pristine Richie Cunningham clone, A Latina and black child in separate gangs look like a disproportionate and bloated version of the Fat Albert gang.

Is this a cash-grab? I don’t think so. Well, maybe. It comes off as a preview to buy the novel. Or it could just be an evangelical tool. The problem is that it feels rushed and uninspired. This is a stand-alone issue that, if given the time, could have been a polished mini-series for the publisher.

Ever wonder what a comic book produced by Cannon Films would look like? Solson Comics’ Samurai Santa is pretty close. The cover is simple, with bold red-letters proclaiming SAMURAI SANTA. A singular image of a red/green samurai in santa garb against a black background. And the bold proclamation to have a merry Christmas… OR ELSE! All these things were indicators to me that this will be a ridiculous B-tale extravaganza. But like many titles in Cannon’s history, the cover was more exciting than the product.

In fact there isn’t anything remarkable about Samurai Santa, other than the fact it is the first comic Jim Lee worked on (which is something that I doubt he ever willingly brings up). Well, there is one other thing of interest in this rag: the adverts. Among these are other b-grade quality books, like Amazing Wahzoo and Codename: Ninja. And my personal favorite, Reagan’s Raiders (which I have scanned and included for you to admire).

The story is a fatty, ham-fisted sucker punch about the lost meaning of X-Mas. A department store Santa gets too sauced before his shift and can’t do his dehumanizing job. Running low on options, Generic boss man decides to ask Sam to take up the role, aka “that new guy running the Jap robot counter…”. Sam happily agrees to allow child after child to demand a Cabbage Patch Kids and a “Rambo M-15” from the jolly fellow.

After his shift, while walking home in his Santa garb, Sam witnesses a purse snatching and decides to intervene with the same intensity of a Steven Seagal action scene. Sam becomes a newspaper celebrity for his actions and his greedy employer exploits this.

For a book that is 32-pages long, There is maybe 4-pages total of anything remotely resembling action. Two of those pages are at the climax of the book, where a terrorist Santa appears and the Scooby-Doo twist is evil St. Nick is the boss of the store.

The cover gives the allure of a B-grade blood bath! Where’s the gore? Where’s the gratuitous death? Where’s the rewarding explosion? Nowhere. Nothing happens and the main character disappears into nothing after a lame fight.

***

To wrap this up, I guess I was a little disappointed with this first round of transmissions. Optic Nerve was the stand out. If you’ve never looked into Tomine’s work, you really should.

And admittedly, I didn’t expect much of The Cross & The Switchblade. It’s a messy adaptation that was hectic and unorganized. The passion behind the product was lacking.

But what the actual hell Samurai Ninja? I think the biggest letdown is not meeting the expectation of a 80’s action extravaganza. The simple cover conveyed that. But what you get is a moral story that makes you feel like you’re being scalded by a salty geriatric for simply being young.

I don’t know what the next Transmission will cover. I’ve put together a few “themes” that I think will be interesting, Including an indie trade set, A obscure supers set, 90’s Mix set… A lot of sorting to go through. Also want to start a series where I catch up on the current series I’ve been reading (because I am far behind on everything).

Anyways, thanks for reading, crew. Is that something I want to call you, the reader? Crew? Hmm, Let me know and I’ll work on it.

 

 

 

Uncharted Territory: The Walmart Comic Rack

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 11/12/2016 by Kevin Entrekin

* Tuesday’s Gone- Metallica “My baby’s gone with the wind” RIP Sophie, my Baby Girl.

***

I hate going to Wal-Mart. There is a suffocating air as soon as you walk in the place. An air that reeks of artificial attitudes and a tension that feels like a brawl could break out for no reason at any moment. Unfortunately, the store is only a two-minute drive from home, so I have to brave the sanctified aisles of the mega cathedral of consumerism to acquire necessities.

While I hurriedly was trying to find the shortest check out line to purchase my sriracha and boxed quinoa, I saw something familiar, yet out-of-place: Comics. Not individual issues mind you, but packs of three relatively recent issues from Marvel and DC. They were inconspicuously stuffed between Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon cards and had a nice round price of a fiver on them. (Edit: this is a more recent photo of the display, where it is now directly marketed as Marvel/DC packs and the Marvel issues are now $10).

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Maybe this isn’t anything new and I’ve just missed it. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, really. It’s a logical business stepping point for the Big Two to start selling books at… well, practically anywhere they can. Like when Piggly Wiggly had a random rack of comics next to a Pog vending machine when I was a kid (90’s kid trigger warning).

These comic packs are water-testers. I wager it won’t be long before people can go to their local mega store for Wednesday pick-ups. Yet another threat the local comic shops will have to weather.

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Let’s dissect the bag I bought: I picked up the more mysterious packaging of the two, the Marvel pack (Which isn’t advertised as a marvel set as you can see from the scan above). It promised the possibilities of “randomly inserted Bronze, Silver, & Modern Age Keys”. A promise I suspected to be hollow and fruitless before ripping the package open.

I was surprised though when I did actually open it up, because I was expecting some stuff from a fifty-cent bin. Instead they were all three relatively recent Marvel issues: Star Wars: Shattered Empire #02, Radioactive Spider-Gwen #01, and Hercules #02. The oldest issues (SW and Gwen) date back to only December 2015 and Hercules is as recent as March 2016.

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  • Radioactive Spider-Gwen #01

I guess this was the “key” (gotta sneak in that insider comic lingo like “keys” to draw in the kiddos) first issue the promotion bubble was talking about.

I love Spider-Gwen. Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez’s creation is one of the best things Marvel (had) came out with in a long time. But, this is the second number one Gwennie received in 2015. The first five issues were disrupted by the marketing series Secret Wars, and after a few months Spider-Gwen “continued” with a new name and first issue.

And even though this is a continuation, a lot of the uniqueness and fun of the original initial issues have been lost. Rodriguez’s art hasn’t changed and Latour’s writing isn’t much different. But the fun is gone, and I think I know who is responsible: Marvel.

Marvel is its own worst enemy when it comes to good series like this, Howard the Duck, and Spider-Woman. Secret Wars was forced into Gwen’s world and had to “start over”. Then only a few issues into Radioactive, Gwen was sidetracked once again with the Spider-Women arch (combining forces with Silk and Spider-Woman). That series was quite fun actually, but still off course. Then they saw that the cream was sweet and made a Gwenpool series, thus trying to milk a cow before it can produce..

hercules-1-spoilers-and-review-10.jpg

  • Hercules #02

Hercules was the mystery issue in the pack. For starters, I had not heard of it. For a series that came out this year, it went unnoticed on the shelves at my local shop and I had not heard any praise for it. But this was issue two, and a second printing at that apparently. Maybe there was some thing more beyond the Liefeld-esque cover.

There wasn’t, sadly. I secretly wanted this to work and I can see what they were going for: The tarnished hero that must seek redemption. But it doesn’t really work when all I keep coming back to is thinking of Thor. That doesn’t usually matter to me, but the plot itself is predictable and the art forgettable, making the hero himself forgettable.

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  • Star Wars: Shattered Empire #02

Shatter Empire was the most interesting issue, and the far superior read in comparison to Hercules (in comparison to issues I hadn’t read, as I already had read Spider-Gwen).

I don’t remember this 4-part series when it first came out among the slew of almost 20+ Star Wars titles Marvel released to promote The Force Awakens. Before reading I did a little research and learned it was about Poe Dameron’s parents essentially, which put me on edge that it was just a flaming fandom rubbish pile.

But the plot is handled by storied writer Greg Rucka, and it’s a strong plot. Although I had not read the first issue, it was easy to catch up and get involved in the story. It mainly focuses on Poe’s mother Shara Bey, who is an ace rebel pilot assigned to escort Princess Leia on a mission to Naboo, where things go awry.

I think what surprised me more than the good story was the art. The art by Marco Checchetto, Emilio Laiso, and Angel Unzueta is solid and beautifully colored. Especially the fight sequence at the beginning of the issue between AT-ATs and rebel squadrons.

While there are some weak/unnecessary plot like Princess Leia writing condolence letters, this isn’t just a random story thrown together to be a promo for The Force Awakens. Assuming the rest of the series is as strong as this issue, I am intrigued enough to pick up a trade and read the whole series.

***

So, let’s break down what you get with this mix bag of comics: You get three comics from Marvel. Considering they are all fairly recent releases, for five dollars (or now it seems ten) you get twelve dollars worth of comics (each book individually cost $3.99). That is a bargain from a technical standpoint. But you have to consider what you’re getting: A mystery pack of issues that aren’t fresh. Yeah, I got a nice surprise with the Shattered Empire issue but still, that issue is for a series that ended a year ago. These are overstock issues comic shops have in discount bins so they can make space.

I see these packs, again, only as market testers. Something chain stores use as a litmus test to see if selling comics is profitable for them. I also see them as underwhelming gifts a family member gets you because “you’re into comics and I saw this while checking out”. Instead, do yourself a favor and venture into a comic shop. Yeah, you’ll have to pay regular price like the rest of the nerds, but at least you get something you want to read. And you’ll also maybe find a whole new community to be apart of.

 

Renaming the Site: Nostromo Coffee

Posted in Nerdism, Uncategorized on 24/04/2016 by Kevin Entrekin

I don’t like the name The Stacks Only Grow. It was meant to reference the fact that the media I’ll write about (film, comics, video games, books, etc) always seems to stack up and grow, never deplete. It represents the maddening feeling of materials just piling up.

But its a boring phrase. An offhanded comment that doesn’t have the weight to be a site name. It’s too long and sterile. And as one of my closest friends so accurately pointed out, “it sounds more like a tagline, ya know?” And she’s right. It doesn’t represent what I want to do here, and more especially the atmosphere I want to make this. That’s why this site will now be Nostromo Coffee.

nostromoellenI fell in love with the USCSS Nostromo the first time I watched Ridley’s Scott’s Alien. Its unique in the way that the ship feels lived in and functioning, unlike a lot of science fiction interiors that feel sterilized and has glowing white lights everywhere. Deckard’s apartment in Blade Runner (another Ridley Scott masterpiece) also has that same type of atmosphere and vibe. That’s what I want this site to feel like I guess. Comfortable and familiar, as much as a digital entity like a website can feel that way.

And coffee… because I love coffee. And the crew drinks quite a bit in the film. Just fits, really.

So nothing really changes on the site other than the name. I’m still having a slow go at getting articles published but working on it. And my thoughts and ideas about what I want from this site are still the same, but always evolving. So all I’ll really say is sit back and enjoy a cup of Nostromo Coffee with some chillwave in the background.

Well, one final thing: Alien day is on 4/26, coincidentally. So far it just seems like a couple of businesses trying to get some money out of people by offering “exclusives” (Like the Aliens soundtrack with green liquid-filled vinyl selling for an outrageous $225 from Mondo). But bollocks to all that. I encourage to instead watch Alien if you have never seen it. Or rewatching it if you have. It’s an important film to me, especially the heroine Ellen Ripley. And I think any fan of Sci-Fi or Horror should see this film at some point.

Visiting the island: Island #6

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , on 12/02/2016 by Kevin Entrekin

(listen: “Comfort Eagle” by Cake)

“… anybody with a terminally jangled lifestyle needs at least one psychic anchor every twenty-four hours…” St. Hunter S. Thompson said that. For him it was the solitude of a gluttonous breakfast chased by Bloody Marys and six fat lines of cocaine.

I think about him a lot lately, especially with America in the midst of election season. Wonder what he would think of this kingdom of fear known as the civilized world. Wonder what he would think of corrosive politics being intravenously injected into ever damn facet of normal life. What would he say about an open modern Nazi bastard and an open socialist running for president? A plethora, I imagine. But we’ve deviated off course a bit.

I wouldn’t categorize myself as terminally jangled, I guess. Moderately jangled sounds about right. But, my “psychic anchor” is slightly less extravagant than Hunter. I like to end my day bunked in bed during the early hours reading a few comics from a stack that never seems to diminish, only grow (hence, the name change from The Morning Thunder Buffalo). This time spent slipping between panels is comforting, like a film. Inspires creation, while allowing the chaos of the brain hemispheres to take a cease fire.

This comic is just one of the things I’ve been reading. In the future, I’m planning on talking more about a wide variety of things I’m reading, watching, and listening to. Fresh stuff off the shelf. Dusty gems from the fifty-cent bin. Newly released movies. Forgotten fried gold films.

This will probably also be a slow process and have growing pains. But, I’m excited to see where this goes. Its hard letting go of the buffalo. He helped me through some rough patches in life. But I had to let him go, which has been a personal lesson for over a year now. Letting things go for growth. Letting go of someone I loved. Letting go of the comforts of a dead-end job. Letting go of apathy.

(listen: “Separations” by Diarrhea Planet)

island_06-1.jpg

 

Island #6

Published by Image Comics. $7.99 print/digital. Stories & art by F Choo (intro art), Onta (Badge of Pride), Gael Bertrand (A land Called Tarot), Katie Skelly, Sarah Horrocks (Essay on Kyoko Okazaki). Curated by Brandon Graham and Emma Ríos.

Comic mags are making a quite comeback. In a few months Grant Morrison is taking over as editor of Heavy Metal, sparking new interest in the beloved schlock rag. And around the same time of that announcement back in summer, Brandon Graham and Image Comics published the first issue of Island.

For context, Graham is one of my favorite artist. When I was first starting to get back into comics, my friend Cody introduced me to his work in Multiple Warheads and it was an instant attraction. The fluid movement of his art and his pun-laddened writing is a lucid-dream experience. It’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket as you’re lightly led through a bizarre, unsafe, fun Soviet carnival.

Island features very little of Graham’s work or writing, outside of his new installments of Multiple Warheads. But, his presence is looming over the project. He gathers artist and writers who are similar to him, outsiders of the norm in terms of the two big publishers. People like Amy Clare are fresh on the scene, with her first work being published in the third issue. People like Farel Dalrymple are legends in comix, and he has contributed two new editions of Pop Gun War in previous mags.

This issue will be the most polarizing for readers, I think, as far as content. Half of the issue is dedicated to furries. Even the cover features the characters from the story, Badge of Pride by Onta. For those outside the know, Furries are a fandom subculture dedicated to fictional tales of anthropomorphic animals with human characteristics, varying in degrees of eroticism usually.

Badge of Pride is about a gay couple, one open and the other closeted, going to a pride parade. Not to be blunt, but that the general gist.

Now, I have a core theology about literature and film: a) All stories must be approached with an open mind, rarely without regard to subject matter. Adam Sandler, for example though, is met with prejudice (among similar toxic things).  b) The story has to be good. With that practice in mind…

I enjoyed Badge of Pride. It accomplished the latter while I kept in mind the former. Though it doesn’t feel like a complete story, so much as something to peak your interest. Further reading is available on Onta’s webpage (nsfw, by the way). There are also themes of acceptance and being proud of who you are in the story.

I think the point of this installment was a better understanding of the furry culture. Which it has done to the extent it needed. Will I, or the public as a whole, fully understand the appeal? Probably not. But things like this help bridge the gap to understanding and common ground. And maybe someone who is shy about furryism will get a great sense of inclusion from this.

The other half of this issue is the second installment of A land called Tarot by Gael Bertrand, a wordless fantasy adventure that I absolutely loved from the first story in issue four. And this second installment is just as great. The art is simply gorgeous, the colors rich and saturated. The characters have an instant charisma and attraction to them.

tarot

The wordless narrative is effective. It leaves a lot of imagination for the reader, which ultimately is the point of a fantasy story. Though, it is a little more loose here and may require a second read, but its such a fun ride to go on.

There’s also an essay by Sarah Horrocks on the use of death and corpses in Kyoko Okazaki’s mangas, which is an engaging read for those familiar with Okazaki’s work. And a few works of fashion art from katie Skelly, which are nice and really left me wanting more.

This issue is a bit smaller in size. It’s the second that has saddle-stitch staple binding (unlike previous issues that were perfect bound), and is approximately thirty-pages shorter than previous issues. Is this an omen of some sort? Hopefully not. But it is worrying that the next issue comes out in May.

Spending $8 on a comic magazine may seem like an extravagance, but you genuinely get your rubles worth from Island. More so than shelling out $4 for a marvel book that’s half-filled with adverts for Agents of Shield.

*Bought at Comics & Collectibles, the best shop in Memphis.