Death to Technology

As I stated a week or so ago, my computer was trying to kill itself. It succeeded. I am having a friend do surgery on it and it is even resisting that! So, no post 'til I get it back in a week or so. Sorry, talk to you all soon.


The General @ Gabriels. Fri. 9.10.04. 9 PM

posted by jax

See the Music, Feel the Sounds

the ultimate in cosmic sounds and dragracing rhythms, Six Star General performs this Friday at Gabriels in Warren, RI. See the flyer above, designed, executed and posted by me. More tomorrow on fiction.

"What I'm doing isn't vengeance. It's punishment." -- Frank Castle, The Punisher


Monday's Thought Balloons (Comics Reviews) on Tuesday

Here is the first of the new weekly review installment. Enjoy. Find comics, read them, scan them, love them.

Rating Scale (based on the thought processes of Ash from The Evil Dead Trilogy):

1 out of 5 Boomsticks = total misfire - you suck, asshead.
2 out of 5 Boomsticks = dud - lotsa ammo, no boom
3 out of 5 Boomsticks = bang - Shop smart. Shop S-Mart!
4 out of 5 Boomsticks = deadshot - Hail to the King, Baby!
5 out of 5 Boomsticks = superfine - Filled with atoms and molecules, and things you primitive screwheads wouldn*t understand!

Avengers #500 and 501 - Marvel Comics
writes: Brian Michael Bendis
pencils: David Finch
inks: Danny Miki

The first two chapters of the "Disassembled" storyline that will see the end of the long running Marvel title. The opening of the story "Chaos" finds the Avengers relaxing in their headquarters when a supposedly dead teammate shows up at the front door. When that zombie-like ally explodes, killing another Avenger, Ant-man, Chaos ensues. Brutally attacked on multiple fronts, the Avengers quickly find themselves outnumbered, outgunned and outclassed. With more deaths promised and the resurrection of the team advertised with mostly new members in the November-shipping New Avengers, this story promises to have lasting effects on the entire Marvel universe.

Having only just started reading The Avengers during Geoff Johns' run on the title, I am not as emotionally attached to these characters as long-time fans. Bendis has received a lot of slack in the fan press and online for the quick and apparently uncalled for abuse to the team and the resulting deaths. Looked at by many as a quick gimmick storyline, designed to attract people with shock value only, the book reads differently to me. Not knowing a lot of the history of the team during its latest incarnation (this is the third series of the team, the original having been launched in 1963 under the reins of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) I find that Bendis' story is gritty, intense, and pulse pounding. Normally a writer who depends on talking heads and slow moving character development, this is a departure for Bendis and shows his creative depth. Portraying classic heroes like Iron Man and Captain America as indecisive and confused is not a slight by the writer to those characters, but rather a more realistic take on how any person would react under such horrific conditions. When She-Hulk loses her cool and "hulks out" it is regressing the character and that's exactly the point. This is a calm and reasoning lawyer who all of sudden turns into a raging monster on par with her cousin David (the Incredible Hulk) Banner at his worst. And no one in their reviews seems to be pointing out the obvious -- if Tony (Iron Man) Stark can be made to appear drunk at the UN when the recovering alcoholic hasn't had a drink in years, don't you think that whoever is ultimately responsible for this vicious attack on the Avengers could have also drugged She-Hulk in the same manner, to cause her breakdown?

On the art side of the equation things are a little less clear. While I think that Finch is an above average artist and very good at big action scenes, he doesn't quite have the chops to pull off the emotional elements that are key to this story. Bendis would be better complemented by a more well rounded artist for such a big story. Marvel is really touting this as their big "event" story of 2004 and as such should have had a higher profile artist on the gig -- my pick would have been Bryan Hitch (regardless of his slow turn around time.) That being said, however, I have to commend Finch on the above-mentioned She-Hulk scenes (started in #500 and ended with aplomb by Captain America in #501) -- he pulled it off in spades. It's blurry with rage and chaotic beyond the call of duty.

All in all, I am really looking forward to the remainder of this story. Sure, everybody is sick of the death of characters just to sell books. But Bendis has never been about that kind of storytelling and I am confident that all of the destruction and mayhem are serving a bigger purpose. Bendis is a long term, big picture type of writer and for those readers who stick in for the long haul, the pay off is always worth the blood, sweat and tears that you put in.

4 out of 5 Boomsticks! (I reserve the right to downgrade this, if the last two parts of the story totally blow!)

Batman #631 - DC Comics
writes: Bill Willingham
pencils: Kinsun
inks: Aaron Sowd

Part of the massive, 3-month long "War Games" storyline, this is the pinnacle issue of Act 1. For those unfamiliar with the Batman books (including Detective Comics, Nightwing, Legends of the Dark Knight, Robin, Birds of Prey, and Catwoman) these "event" stories happen pretty much on a bi-yearly basis now * something so big going on that it carries over into all of the books and effects the lives of all the characters in the Batman Family. Last time around, Batman's alter-ego, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, was accused of murder and then became a fugitive of the law (check out the trade paperbacks Bruce Wayne: Murderer and Batman: Fugitive).

This year's macro-series finds the Batman operating mostly alone in Gotham, having alienated some of his most trusted allies and his partner, Robin, having given up his heroic mantle because of a promise to his father. When the devious Penguin unleashes a genetically altered Scarecrow on some of the other crime families in Gotham City, the ensuing power vacuum leaves the city open to a massive gang war. It's Russian mob vs. Asian street gangs vs. meta-freak. A bloodbath results and Batman has to do everything he can to hold the pieces together -- including trusting new allies that he normally wouldn't deign to speak to.

So far this storyline has been so-so to me. Admittedly, I have not read all of the 8 parts that made up the first act, I only read the main titles (Batman, Detective, Robin, and Nightwing.) But, in all fairness to the writers, I didn't need to read all the parts to follow the story fully - which is great when you consider the price of buying all the books. The flip side of that, however, is a proof to my "so-so" analysis - not enough important stuff is going on to justify the length of the story. Decompressed stories are great when the creators are exploring characters and their motivations, but this story is all about sweeping change to the criminal landscape in Gotham and Batman's role in that arena. So action is the key to the story, and Batman works best in those stories as a super-hero, not a detective. Another problem is the so-called "mystery" of this entire storyline -- the question of who started this gang war. If I'm right about who it is, I figured it out in the very first chapter (Batman: the 12-cent Adventure) and it didn't take a Batman-caliber computer to put it together. Hopefully, I'll be surprised at the end and the obvious deduction that I made is just a red herring.

The three things in the story so far that stand out as the better parts of the story are so buried beneath the machinations of the gangs and Batman's operatives, that they are almost overlooked. First, Batman's relationship with police Commissioner Jim Gordon has always been a classic comic element. But since Gordon's retirement from the force, Batman has been at best on a no harm, no foul-type of truce with the Gotham City Police Department and the new Commissioner Akins. This storyline is finally bringing the strain of that relationship to light. Second, the recent retirement of Robin and the much bally-hooed (bally-"booed" on a lot of the message boards) replacement by a female Robin also seems to be coming to an end, with the return of Tim Drake to the Robin outfit and some resolution to the strained relationship between Bruce and Tim.

Finally, the last element of this storyline that seems to be a goal of the writers is the outing of Batman. I don't mean that he's gay (although he seems to have more kids staying in that stately Wayne Manor, that Michael Jackson has at Neverland . . . ) but rather televised proof that Batman indeed exists. Where the caped crusader has always relied on the myth of his existence to scare criminals (a superstitious and cowardly lot), this new public revelation of him, in broad daylight no less, is bound to have dire consequences for his crime-fighting future. That's if the writers follow through with it. We'll see.

With 16 more issues to come in this gigantic story, I am not sure how much more the writers can stretch the gang war theme. They better have something big up their sleeves if they expect readers to stay tuned and commit the cash to follow the rest of the story. I didn't mention the art, because, while its not bad, it's just about competent and not much more -- basically, it doesn't rate mentioning one way or the other -- eh.

3 out of 5 Boomsticks.

So that's the first. Let me know what you think and more to come next week - and I promise, those'll be shorter!


The Weekly 5 Ver.1.2

Quick hits this week, a day late and a dollar short. Check it:

Scan it: Mythology by Alex Ross and Chip Kidd with photography by Geoff Spear. This is an retrospective coffee table book of painter Alex Ross's career, focusing exclusively on his work done for DC Comics. Unbelieveable. By it now. Try www.midtowncomics.com

Read it: This week I am recommending a classic, since I am in the middle of two books and don't want to recommend them until I am done. So, on weeks like this, I'll pick one of my favorites. This week: Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. Nothing more to say.

Listen to it: I am really digging this song that's getting a ton of airplay by the band Coheed and Cambria - the song is pretty good (not great) but the background on the band rocks - all of their songs and records are about fictional siblings from outer space and their misadventures through the universe. Sci-fi Rock!

View it: Two picks here. First, go see Hero right now. Drop whatever you're not doing and see it. Beautiful and kick-ass at the same time. Second, just picked up the DVD Special Edition of The Manchurian Candidate (the original with Sinatra.) Forgot how much I love Frankenheimer.

Bookmark it: Already mentioned above, but I have to rec www.midtowncomics.com - the best full service comic shop in the world. I haven't lived in NYC for nearly 5 years, but I still get the majority of my books there. Great website, better store. Go see 'em and let them feed your need for pop culture!

That's it, Captain - I'm givin' her all she's got!


Wanted to add one thing here . . . this is the cover to the October-shipping DC Comics title, "Toe Tags" drawn by Bernie Wrightson and written by zombie-miestro, George "Dawn of the Dead" Romero! Rock on my Zombie Friend!

posted by jax

Labor Pains

So the end of summer is upon us and the weekend is loaded with parties - should be coolio. Monday will be the first of a weekly comic review section (in addition to Sunday's Weekly 5) - they'll be quick two or three paragraphs, probably of two or three books that came out the previous week, plus a trade paperback review. I need to be writing more and since I read about a billion comics, I figure it's a good way to get the writing in on something I'm already reviewing in my head anyway.

So, stay tuned . . . stop by the corral on Monday for the Roundup Review. I'm probably going to come up with a better title than that . . . that's weak.


Death by Computer

I seriously believe that my computer is trying to kill itself. I have run every virus protocol and protective scan on the thing imaginable. It runs fine and fast for weeks on end and then, out of the blue, disaster strikes and the thing wigs out!

Anyway, because of said proclivity towards self-destruction, I have to be brief tonight. So, two quick things: Comic of the week: Y the Last Man - the story of the last man on Earth, this book continually rocks it out. This week's issue focuses on the last man's sister, Hero. Gripping. Seriously, check it out. The first two storylines (from about 2 1/2 years ago) are collected in very affordable trade paperbacks. From DC.

Second, my brother's and friend's band, the newly dubbed Six Star General, are playing at Gabriel's in Warren, RI on Friday night, September 10th. Get your groove on at www.sixstargeneral.com -- tell 'em the roadie sent you.

More tomorrow.