Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Review : “Throwaways” #1

Posted: July 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

Another new review from yours truly for Graphic Policy website.

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I was a big fan of the late, lamented Vertigo series Coffin Hill, so when I heard that its talented scribe, Caitlin Kittredge, would be plying her trade over at Image Comics in a new ongoing (whatever that phrase even means anymore) series that was going to be well outside her usual supernatural/horror wheelhouse, I was both intrigued and excited. The artist attached to the project, Steven Sanders, was a new name to me, but the subject matter sounded right up my alley — two twenty-somethings thrust into a web of mystery well beyond their understanding but presumably tied in with the CIA’s notorious MK-ULTRA program.

At this point, I suppose, a little bit of explanation is in order for those for whom this term is unfamiliar — in short, MK-ULTRA is real-life mind control, funded by your tax dollars. “The Company” assures us that it’s long…

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Right off the bat, I have to say — this is a little more like it. As someone who can in no way, shape, or form be accused of being a “fan” of last week’s DC Universe : Rebirth 80-page introductory salvo, I’m more than pleased to see the continuity-drenched, backstory-heavy, and new-reader-alienating premise of that truly atrocious comic ditched (more or less) in favor of the simpler, scaled-back, one-shot stories that constitute the first wave of Rebirth specials. The approach on display here is, frankly, the one DC should have taken all along, in my view — and basically it’s one of “the characters you love have been here all along, we just haven’t been doing them proper justice. From now on, we will.”

Which isn’t to say that the four Rebirth  comics we got this week were necessarily all that good — truth be told, most of them…

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This wasn’t supposed to happen, was it?

Less than five years ago, when DC re-launched their entire line with their obviously-hastily-assembled “New 52” initiative, we were promised that “this was the big one,” that the changes it introduced were “permanent,” and that the then-new version of the corporate universe it presented was “here to stay.” At first, of course, sales were strong, but it didn’t take long for one thing to become very clear : people just weren’t crazy about this purportedly “darker,” more “mature,” and more “realistic” world their favorite characters were inhabiting. DC’s “brain” trust tried some tinkering around the edges here and there, and even went the “soft relaunch” route just last summer when they re-branded everything “DC You” and tried to impose a “lighter” tone on just about everything by means of editorial edict, but the writing was on the wall — as sales on pretty…

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Another new review I did for Graphic Policy website.

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So, here it is — several years (necessitated by several twists and turns in the development stages) after it was initially announced, Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette‘s Wonder Woman : Earth One hardcover graphic novel is finally in our hands (or mine, at any rate — and maybe yours, too, but frankly I have no idea about that), and I guess the question on everyone’s minds is a pretty simple one : was it worth the wait?

Having just read the book yesterday you’d think I’d be able to provide a definitive answer to that, but the truth is I can’t (hey! What sort of a critic am I, anyway?) simply because, well — I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it yet, apart from harboring a vague sense that it marks something of a wasted opportunity .

Uncertainty isn’t an entirely atypical reaction for any Morrison-scripted…

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We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life —

He certainly did more than “get through,” though, didn’t he? Equal parts icon and iconoclast, superstar and outsider, there was always a sense that Prince was something other than, or at the very least apart from, the rest of humanity. Mind-bogglingly talented on a level most of us can scarcely conceive of, watching him perform a guitar solo live is the closest thing many folks will ever have to a truly cosmic experience. Surely this virtuoso energy, creativity, and freeform mastery that was flowing through him came from some otherwordly, perhaps even extradimensional, source. I mean — how else to even explain it, right?

Unless you’re from here. His home town. Minneapolis. In which case, he’s not only the most impossibly gifted musician of his generation (as well as any number of those that preceded and followed it), he’s one of us. And that’s doubly true for an Uptown kid.

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Everybody’s going Uptown — that’s where I wanna be — Uptown — set your mind free.

There’s a line in Ang Lee’s generally-reviled Taking Woodstock that’s always stuck with me, melodramatic as it might be — when Liev Schreiber’s transgender character tells the film’s young protagonist, played by Demetri Martin, to go down to the concert and “see what the center of the universe feels like.” Been there, done that, thanks to Prince. I was about 12 years old at the height of his Purple Reign, and Minneapolis was ground zero for a new sound, new style, and new sensibility that was sweeping the nation. And ground double-zero was Uptown, well known as the burgeoning mega-star’s favorite neighborhood. It’s also where I grew up. And where waiting around for a chance to see our local royalty was not just a thing to do, but a bona fide way of life for a good couple of years there. Whether you were loitering at one of the tables they used to have in front of the McDonald’s on Lagoon and Hennepin, or standing in line for tickets for that evening’s midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which played every Friday and Saturday at the Uptown Theater to packed houses for at least a decade), one way or another you were on a Prince-sighting mission — and more often than not your efforts weren’t in vain, as he’d cruise by on his purple motorcycle, no entourage in tow, just taking in the sights and sounds of his city. Yeah, we all know he put First Avenue on the map — but when he wasn’t performing or practicing or writing or producing or acting he was Uptown. It’s where he wanted to be, after all. Was it really the center of the universe? Of course not, but it sure felt that way when you were an impressionable little kid and the star of the biggest movie in the country at the time who had a string of number one hit singles to his name hung out five minutes from your house almost every weekend.

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I guess I should’ve known, by the way you parked your car sideways, that it wouldn’t last.

Here’s the thing, though — it did. Prince didn’t just have a moment, he was the moment. Even when he was tanking his career on purpose to get out of his contract with Warner Brothers, or changing his name to a symbol, or directing movies when he had no business trying to, or going bankrupt — he never totally faded from view, and still commanded the attention of any and every room he entered. At his career’s lowest ebb, there was never any sense that he needed a “comeback” so much as that he was biding his time waiting for another breakthrough — for the world to catch up to wherever he was at. From time to time it did and he’d be back at the top of the charts with a surprise multi-platinum single or album, and once Musicology cemented his place as the modern king of funk/dance/R and B/rock and roll all over again, he went from legend to “guy for whom legend is too small a word” and stayed there, on his self-made throne, arrived at in his own time via his own singular methodology, until today. He exists — and I suppose always will — as a genre unto himself. Someone whose name will immediately be linked with a sound that’s entirely his for as long as people have ears to listen with — and feet that can tap along to the beat. Go out and find me somebody who doesn’t like at least one Prince song. I dare you.

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Sometimes it snows in April.

It didn’t today, but the sentiment from that song, which Prince wrote for a dead friend, certainly applies, especially here in the Twin Cities. Hard-core fans are understandably in mourning, more casual fans are in disbelief, and even folks who hardly followed his career seem a little off. Minneapolis has a palpable sense of loss hanging over it that you can feel, and complete strangers are striking up conversation with each other about something they have in common — an event they can relate to — in a way I haven’t seen since the Twins first won the World Series back in 1987. Back then it was random high-fives and “yes!!!!!!!”s — today it’s a shared sense of sorrow that our greatest living vessel of civic pride is gone, and that maybe we didn’t even realize all he’d done for us until it was too late. Yes, his untimely passing at only 57 years of age (just a handful of weeks after the death of his former protege, Vanity) is front-page news the world over, but it takes on added weight and significance here. I met some of the most passionate Prince fans you’ll ever find anywhere when I saw him in concert in Melbourne, Australia in 2003, and I have no doubt that he’s got zealous adherents all over the globe who are devastated by today’s events, but we’re still, in many ways, a provincial backwater (“fly-over country,” as a former football coach who went on to greener pastures once said of us), and nobody let the world know we were here the way he did. And while we’ll still be here tomorrow, our favorite son won’t — and that’s the most quietly seismic happening this community has arguably ever felt.

A world without Prince is really going to suck. But it’s going to suck even more for us former Uptown kids.

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I was excited. You were excited. Heck, we were all excited when we learned that Marvel Comics had landed one of America’s leading public intellectuals, the esteemed (and rightly so) Ta-Nehisi Coates, to write a new 12-part Black Panther series. And we were doubly excited when we found out that the legendary Brian Stelfreeze was going to draw it. Finally! After too long — way too long, in fact — King T’Challa and his fictitious nation of Wakanda were going to be portrayed with something akin to authenticity. If anyone “gets” this character, it’s gotta be Coates, right? And if anyone out there was born to draw him, it’s Stelfreeze. What could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out, the answer to that question — and I say this with a deep and profound sense of regret — is “a lot.”

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Neither Coates nor Stelfeeze is responsible for…

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Writer/artist/colorist/letterer Jimmie Robinson is a one-man wrecking crew with talent to spare, but in the past your humble critic here has felt like a number of his projects start off well enough, but seem to get sidetracked along the way and fizzle out a bit before — or, perhaps more accurately, instead of— reaching their full potential. With his new Shadowline series Power Lines (published by Image Comics — and full disclosure compels me to inform you that I purchased a copy even though I was also furnished with a digital “freebie,” so hey, the book must be pretty good, right?), my earnest hope is that he’ll buck this trend and give us a series — however long it may last — that exploits its solid-as-hell premise to its fullest and wraps things up in a satisfactory manner when the time comes.

Ya know what, though? I’m in no…

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Another new one for Graphic Policy website.

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So-called “taboo” (generally a euphemism employed by folks with hang-ups in place of the word “interesting”) sexual practices have been a long-standing obsession/concern of Peter Milligan‘s for years now, and he’s dealt with them with a reasonable amount of what we can loosely call “success” in series like The Extremist and Enigma, but it’s been quite a while since he well and truly took us for a walk on the wild side. Oh, sure, The Names played around with stepmom-and-stepson themes, but never really took it beyond the level of cheap titillation, and New Romancer has hinted at some of the more scandalous aspects of Lord Byron’s well-renowned sexual — uhhhmmm — adventurism, but he hasn’t guided us inside the minds of the perverse/frustrated/unfulfilled/bored to show us what drives them into the purportedly “darker” corners of the realm of eros for what feels like ages now. A lot…

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Another new review for Graphic Policy website.

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The name Neal Adams is still a legendary one in comic book circles, and I suppose it always will be, but who are we kidding? In recent years — check that, recent decades — it’s become synonymous with “batshit crazy” every bit as much as it has with, say, “revolutionary illustrator.” Neal’s been milking the fame he justly earned for his late-’60s/early-’70s work on titles such as BatmanGreen Lantern/Green ArrowDeadmanandThe Uncanny X-Men for all it’s worth, and if I were in his shoes I’d probably do the exact same thing, but it took the release of his Batman : Odyssey series a few years back to remind folks that this is the guy who gave us SkatemanMs. Mystic, and Armor, as well. Truth be told, comics fans are such a forgiving bunch (at least toward some creators) that those 1980s…

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Review : “Snowfall” #1

Posted: February 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

Another new review for Graphic Policy website —

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In my experience, taking a “flier” on a new book you’ve attached no pre-conceived expectations to going in can pay off nicely. Right now, in fact, my pull list is populated with a number of series that I’m absolutely loving — from American Monster  to Hip-Hop Family Tree to Last Sons Of America to The Violent — that are the work of creators who I was either “down on” at one point and decided to give another chance to, or whose prior work (assuming there even was any) I was completely unfamiliar with.  I like the new. I like the unexpected. If I want the familiar, well — there’s always “The Big Two” for that.

Writer Joe Harris and artist Martin Morazzo are not, of course, new names — at least not for those of us who read their Image Comics series Great Pacific — nor are they…

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