tmp_amazing_spider-man_2_one_sheet_poster-1438492544Yes, we know, it’s been a couple of weeks since our last podcast, but we have a good excuse: we were drunk we were busy catching up on the latest in pop culture and comics after a weekend pretending we were still young reintroducing ourselves to classic video games!

So we are tan, rested and ready to talk about the biggest comics and geek events of the past week! Including:

  • A discussion of a weekend spent playing video games at the American Classic Arcade Museum at the Funspot Arcade in Laconia, NH
  • A talk about the highs (Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man) and lows (Jamie Foxx as Electro) of The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  • A dissection of the upcoming death of Wolverine, why it feels empty and corporate, why most recent comic book death stories feel the same, and a few comic book death stories that break that mold (and why)
  • A review of Jason Aaron’s and Jason Latour’s Southern Bastards, how it feels like a modern High Noon, and how it plays into (and stymies) views of the South from a couple of inveterate yankees
  • Quick discussion of DC’s Futures End Free Comic Book Day release, and Batman: Eternal #4

And, as usual, here are the disclaimers:

  • This episode was recorded live to tape, which means that there may be more dead air, ill-advised language, and “ummmms” than you are used to in your standard comics / pop culture podcast
  • This show uses explicit and profane language, and is not safe for work. If you have the choice between listening to this show on speakers and being reprimanded for faking a disability for wearing an earplug to listen to this show? Take the write-up. Sure, your hearing-impaired co-workers will give you the stinkeye tomorrow, but at least you’ll still be employed to see it.
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Enjoy the show, suckers!

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walking_dead_125_cover_2014Editor’s Note: Some kind of instinct. Memory of stories they used to ruin. This was an important spoiler in their lives.

Let me start be reiterating the spoiler warning in the first line of this review. I recognize that I try to get cute with my spoiler warnings, and therefore they might be missed by some people who want to cut to the chase and get pissed off by reading spoilers on a free Web site written by a drunkard who’s spent almost two years complaining about the antagonist in The Walking Dead. I intend to spoil the living shit out of this issue. Starting now.

Thank fucking God that, after about 23 straight months of the rotten, one-note son of a bitch, someone has finally put the shiv to Negan. Granted, it happens at the very end of the issue, and since this is only part 11 of 12 of the All Out War storyline, he still has 22 pages to magically get someone to seal the gaping wound in his neck to still be a pain in someone else’s, but I have waited since July of 2012, when Negan killed Glenn (which gets namechecked in this issue) to see someone actually hurt that wretched bastard.

I have been vocal about how slowly-paced things have seemed since Negan came on the scene to curse and threaten his way through The Walking Dead, so seeing him take a blade to the throat would have given this issue a thumbs up even if the other 21 pages were wordless Charlie Adlard ink washes of Rick trying futilely to crank himself off with his wrist stump. But that’s not the case.

Instead, we have a rich issue filled with the aftermath of Negan’s earlier biological warfare, some scenes of some serious jockeying in conventional warfare, and a whole bunch of sweet, sweet psychological warfare. Meaning that not only does this story meet the definition of All Out War, but it is the first really, really good issue of The Walking Dead in quite a long time.

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image_comics_logoComicsPRO, a meeting of comic book direct market retailers (you know, like the owner of my local comic store, where they know me by name and ask me to understand that they know better than to attend ComicsPRO and thus leave the store undefended against my feeble burglary attempts) is occurring right now in Atlanta. And yesterday, Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson gave a speech to the attendees.

This speech is the kind of thing that keynote speakers give to make the owners feel proud, strong, and less likely to be plowed under by ComiXology the way your local record store, where they knew you were irritating and asked you to understand that vinyl sounds warmer than digital or get the fuck out, was decimated by iTunes. And it certainly did that, with references to how graphic novels are the one type of paper-printed book that is apparently in a growth mode, and how in a world seemingly enamored by comics, it is still the local comic store that is the best place to obtain a wide variety of books.

This is a good message. I like this message. I think I’ve established over the years that I don’t like trying to navigate comics even on a tablet, and that I like my paper comics, and that about the best part of my week is on Wednesday nights at the store, shooting the shit with the other regulars and the owner, who knows me by name and asks me not to threaten to fire feces in front of the paying clientele. We picked the location of the Crisis On Infinite Midlives Home Office in no small part based on its proximity to the comic book store. That and its proximity to dive bars that accept questionable behavior, but that’s not the point.

The point is that Stephenson also used his speech to shit on Star Wars, Transformers and G.I.-Joe comics. Which has a lot of fans whipped into a screeching hate frenzy.

And I am kind of one of them

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tmp_adventures_of_apocalypse_al_1_cover_2014740171087Hey, didja know that one of J. Michael Straczynski’s first professional writing gigs was on the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters? Sure, it might seem odd that the guy who came up with Babylon 5, Crusade and the first draft of the World War Z movie cut his teeth on irony-based horror comedy, but it’s true: one of JMS’s earliest gigs was putting words in the mouth of Peter Venkman. That puts him in the rarefied company of Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, and every slashfic author who ever wanted to see Bill Murray take a PKE Meter in the Ghost Trap from Patrick Swayze, if you get my drift.

Without that knowledge, it would seem really counterintuitive for the guy who wrote Changeling to write a horror comedy with an oracle who can foretell the futures price of cucumbers, a lawyer with a sense for the dramatic who happens to represent the Prince of Darkness, and a private detective protagonist who specializes in stopping the end of the world despite her crippling fear of sensible shoes. It might sound silly for the guy who wrote The Shadow War to write a book where someone warns the hero that the end of the world is preferable to undercooked bacon, but again: Straczynski made his bones writing for the animated avatar of Bill Fucking Murray.

Which means that Straczynski is actually a pretty damn good person to write a book like this. Which is why it’s actually a lot of fun.

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tmp_EGOs_1_cover_2014-1226806400I’ve been having a hell of a time trying to figure out how to start a review of EGOs, the new creator-owned comic by Stuart Moore and Gus Storms, because it’s hard to figure out how to even describe the thing.

It has a lot of science fiction elements, with the intimation that a lot of world building of a galaxy with years of history, including wars, colonization, disasters and technology all considered… but that’s not quite it. It also has superheroes, including an old superhero team, a new one, and a few fringe players who might wind up being heroes, villains, spoilers, or even disinterested observers… but it isn’t really a superhero story. There are signs of a future dystopian kinda tale, with intimations of friction between different parts of the galaxy, spoiled worlds and a main government that might just not give a damn about any of its subjects… but that doesn’t really make the nut, either.

So clearly there’s a hell of a lot going on in EGOs #1, and it might sound like a book that’s trying hard to figure out an identity in a short 24 pages, running the risk of being a mish-mash. Like when Grant Morrison gets some of the good mescaline, or when Alan Moore tries to carry on a conversation longer than three minutes that doesn’t reference his own genius. But that’s really not the case. Instead, it’s a story about a few deeply flawed characters with questionable motivations and backstories in a universe that is filled in enough to give the whole thing a feeling of being a part of a long-running epic sci-fi space opera.

This isn’t the simplest, most forgiving read of the week, but it’s pretty damn intriguing.

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tmp_the_saviors_1_cover_2013903724880Jack Finney’s 1955 novel The Body Snatchers has, in my lifetime, been adapted about every ten years, whether we need a new version or not.

Putting aside the original novel and the 1956 movie Invasion of The Body Snatchers, we had the Donal Sutherland shrieking version in 1978, the one with Gabrielle Anwar in the early 90s, and then the Nicole Kidman version (which was inspired casting. After all, if Nicole Kidman was taken over by an unfeeling alien spore, who could tell?) in 2007.

And on one level, why not? The idea that the people that you love aren’t who you think they are, combined with the concept that your own individuality is not only an ephemeral thing, but something that, if wiped away, other people might not even notice it was gone, is powerful. But it’s a powerful concept with diminishing returns; the novel, first and second movies are rightly considered genre classics, while the 90s version is pretty much just a decent sci-fi flick, and the latest being kinda useless, since by then it was an old story told better, and besides: Kidman shows off her whole magilla in Eyes Wide Shut.

All of which brings us to The Saviors #1, a new comic by Starman writer James Robinson and cartoonist J. Bone, which gives us what so far seems to be yet another version of Invasion of The Body Snatchers, wrapped in the unlimited special effects budget that only a comic can bring, but saddled with some real storytelling difficulties and forced characterizations that simultaneously amp the excitement visually while bogging the whole thing down in writerly bits of business and force-fed pacing.

This one’s got some problems, guys.

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tmp_walking_dead_116_cover_2013-1782529905I have not been particularly quiet about my opinion that The Walking Dead has been spinning its wheels for a while now – you get Negan making threats, Rick and company come up with some kind of plan to turn things around, Negan sees said plan coming and turns it around with effortless ease and an erudite and witty comeback such as, “In case you haven’t noticed, you’re fucking fucked, you stupid fucker,” – and yes, that was an actual quote from Negan from one of the last few issues – and you repeat and repeat and repeat until you start considering dropping the title and waiting for the trade for the first time since the seventh issue.

This seemingly endless cycle has been going on for at least 17 months, or since Negan killed Glenn… but with issue 116, we finally we have an issue of The Walking Dead where not only does something go wrong for that baseball bat-fellating son of a bitch, but where there’s an actual live zombie attack. It’s a Goddamned Christmas Miracle!

Well… Negan still says irritating cocky shit and gets a hostage out of the deal. So maybe it’s more of a Thanksgiving Miracle. You know, the kind where you still have to put up with drunken racist Uncle Pete, but you avoid jail time for choking him out because for once, you get to witness him slipping on some gravy and falls on his ass.

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tmp_sex_criminals_1_cover_2013-13026953There are times when I resign myself to the idea that digital comics are the future. Sure, I love my weekly visit to my local comic store, where they know me by name and ask me if I’m interested in any IDW Artist’s Editions or DC Absolute hardcovers because the kids need braces and they can’t show up at the orthodontist’s office in an American car like a common wino, but only a fool would think that, on an infinite timeline, comics can resist digital delivery where music, movies and print books couldn’t.

But every time I think that relying on digital comic companies wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, something happens to remind me that a dude in an actual place who knows his customers is still the way to go for me in a way that some mindless Web server will never be.

Most recent case in point? Apple has just informed Image Comics and Matt Fraction that they’ve rejected the second issue of Sex Criminals from the Apple version of the Comixology app due to “content that many audiences would find objectionable.”

Which is in start contrast to the policies at my local comic store, where they would not only sell me tentacle hentai if I could give him a Diamond code for it, but would sell me an octopus if the money was right.

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tmp_velvet_1_cover_2013-1460258355When reading the first issue of Velvet, the new spy comic written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Steve Epting, you can almost hear the creators saying, “You know what would be fucking awesome? If Miss Moneypenny was actually the baddest motherfucker who ever walked in or out of M’s office. Now pass that thing over here before it goes out, willya?”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Velvet is a spy comic set back in 1973, when the Cold War was running full blast, men were men, women were secretaries, and spies were dapper motherfuckers with laser wristwatches and cars that turned into submarines.

Which is, of course, utter bullshit. Everybody knows that there’s no such thing as James Bond – hell, even James Bond knows it, based on the relatively gadgetless Daniel Craig version we’ve had for the past few years. At this point, we can be pretty confident that real spies are either faceless geeks sucking up Internet traffic (Hi, NSA!) or large-jugged Russians with crappy Facebook cover identities. And besides: real spies work for real governments, which means hierarchy, bureaucracy and internal politics… and they know that you never fuck around with sharks with frikkin’ lasers when you can just blow your enemy’s head off with a shotgun.

So James Bond sure is fun, but he doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense in the real world if you stop to think about it longer that a minute or two. And Ed Brubaker clearly has stopped to think about it, because Velvet takes the world of James Bond, plugs it somewhat realistically into the real world of 1973, and turns things on their head by making Moneypenny the one that you really need to be concerned about.

And it gives us a meaty mystery: who killed X-14… and just who the hell is Velvet Templeton?

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tmp_walking_dead_115_cover_2013971730894This review is going to be colored by the fact that I am sick to fucking death of Negan and am more than ready for The Walking Dead to move on to something new.

We have been dancing with this character for fifteen months and his crew of douchebags for even longer than that, and for the entire time it has felt like the guy has one note, and writer Robert Kirkman has been playing it over… and over… and over, in an unending loop that should offend the mind of any self-respecting software developer:

while (bool negan.getIsAlive())
{
    negan.sexualizeBaseballBat();
    negan.leaves().
    List ricksPlanToBeatNegan = new List ( { “Take The Fight to Negan!” } );

    ricksPlanToBeatNegan.getIndex(n).execute();
    ricksPlanToBeatNegan.getIndex(n).setSuccess(false);
    negan.threatenMassViolence();
    n = n + 1;
}

See what months and months of reading about Negan has done to me? I develop software for my day job, and I just spent ten minutes trying to come up with a valid Java-ish method rather than contemplate 12 more issues with this fucking character.

But 12 issues should be the long and short of Negan, because The Walking Dead #115 signals the start of the major story arc All Out War, which should give us the final showdown between Rick’s and Negan’s people. And if the check that the title’s floating is any good at all, this showdown will be a straight-out fight, rather than these little insurrections and half-measures and bouts of oneupsmanship that have made reading The Walking Dead since July of (Jesus) 2012 feeling like walking through thick mud: you take forever and a ton of effort to take every step, and yet go nowhere fast.

So things should start speeding up… eventually. Because part one of All Out War is really more of the same.

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