Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kissing Chaos

by Arthur Dela Cruz

I don't know, I think I'm missing something here. To read the creator's back matter, this book was a relatively popular comic when it was originally published as an eight-issue series by Oni, and it warranted a sequel. I just don't see why.

Kissing Chaos is about a trio of teenagers who are on the run. Raevyn has hooked up with some guy for a one-night stand, and steals his laptop and cash. When she is attempting to steal a car, she gets carjacked herself by Damien and Angela, two more teens on the run. Damien has maybe just killed someone, and Angela seems pretty messed up. She's sorta the narrator for the book, but she doesn't speak to the other characters.

So, the three of them head out of town, where they drive around, argue, and keep running into the guy that Raevyn stole from, although no one thinks it weird that he keeps finding them. Even though they are running away. But the cops can't find them, even though they are plastering Damien's face on the news, and NO ONE recognizes him.

Angela is obsessed with Damien, and insanely jealous of any time he spends talking to Raevyn. Raevyn is portrayed as pretty over the top; she is like the worse character traits of Marvel's Jubilee, jacked up to eleven. She is always looking for a reason to argue. Damien doesn't seem to have a personality. So they drive around, and almost get caught.

The book is kind of boring, and is made harder to understand because of the muddy gray tones Dela Cruz uses throughout. I liked his art on Skinwalker, the De Filippis and Weir Native American horror book he did, but here, it's just too hard to follow. It's kind of like reading a manga book that got wet in a dark room.

I won't be getting the second volume.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Human Target #6 - 13

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Cliff Chiang and Javier Pulido

I was going to continue reading this book in trade after enjoying the first volume so much, when I came to the realization that it was never collected past the tenth issue, and have instead started to hunt down the single issues. I recently came across a small sequential pile of issues at a nice price, and jumped at the chance to dive back in to Peter Milligan's take on the classic character.

These eight issues contain four stories, varying in length from one-off to three-parters. The first story involves Christopher Chance protecting a priest with some secrets in his past. It's kind of a brutal story, but very well told.

The second story, 'Which Way the Wind Blows' has Chance get involved in the problems of some ex-60's terrorist Weathermen. One of the would-be revolutionaries killed a cop back in the day, and has been hiding his identity ever since. The task of impersonating a person that doesn't really even exist is fitting for Chance, since he increasingly is questioning his own existence.

The next issue finds Chance being contacted by an old friend who has busted out of prison to meet up with his wife, and who needs Chance to run interference for him, staying in the media's eye, and helping to restore his reputation. This story has a nice twist to it which I didn't see coming.

All of the previous issues were drawn by Cliff Chiang, who is a master comics artist. His work is wonderful throughout, and I would usually be quite sad to see him leave the book, except that his replacement for the last three issues in this pile is Javier Pulido, who is probably even better than Chiang.

Pulido's first issue, which serves as both prologue to the next story and as a mostly self-contained character piece, does not have any panel borders. One picture bleeds into the next, and between that style and the brightness of the colouring, looks a little like an issue of Hawaiian Dick. It's great.

For the rest of the arc, about Chance's girlfriend's activities with illegal immigration and Mexican child traffickers, is more traditionally laid out, but still fantastic to look at.

The stories here tend a little towards the brutal, with the sheer quantity of abused children that Milligan keeps trotting out. That however, is the only note that bothers me, the rest of the series is incredible. It's a shame that the producers of the television series didn't bother to really understand the rich psychological possibilities of this comic, opting instead for yet another mindless action show.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Krash Bastards

Written by Joe Casey
Art by Axel #13

Joe Casey is a pretty interesting writer. He can handle mainstream comics, but is best known for playing with genre conventions and trying new things in a manner that is respectful of what has gone before. The perfect example for this is Gødland, his post-modern Kirby on steroids series.

With Krash Bastards, Casey has created a post-modern English language manga comic. The Bastards are a group of celebrity superheroes (a recurring theme in his work - see Youngblood or Final Crisis Aftermath Dance, which is basically the same series) in some future world. They have been together for a while, and fit the usual archetypes for Japanese comics and films like this. There is the good looking leader, his girlfriend, some annoying kid character (his little brother), the mysterious spooky character (female in this case), and some older guy who takes on a mentor role.

They fight against a 'Giant Gekko God-Being', a bunch of S&M leather bad guys, some Minotaur-type, and eventually the main Bastard fights some Shogun Baron Karza figure named Kau Death. None of it makes much sense, but it does move quickly, which I think might have been the goal here from the beginning. Axel #13's art works in this setting, but is nothing too spectacular.

This is a fun read, but the story only takes up half the book, while the remainder consists of script pages and sketches. When one attempts to ape manga, one should at least create as meaty a reading experience...

Madlib Medicine Show #2 - Flight to Brazil

Mixed by Madlib

The second installment of the Madlib Medicine Show is not a remix project, but instead a Madlib mix cd, very similar to his excellent Speto Da Rua from last year.

This disk, at 80 minutes, takes us on a musical journey through the different regions of Brazil, as well as through different musical eras. Each track contains a message from our 'captain', as he gives us some indication of what part of the country the music is from.

None of the sources are credited or named, and so I have no idea who or what I'm listening to throughout the disk. Some pieces are familiar, but most are new to me. There is a steady mix of jazz, funk, psychedelic music, some rock, and I think even some indigenous music. As eclectic as this compilation is, it works very well here.

Can't wait for March's Beat Konducta in Africa installment....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Malinky Robot 1 & 2

by Sonny Liew

I first came across Sonny Liew's work in Liquid City, the Image anthology of Asian comics, and his Malinky Robot story was my favourite in the book. I found it quite charming, and resolved to track down the comics in the series that had been published (in 2002 and 2005). I got them both this week off Ebay, and I'm pleased with the purchase.

Malinky Robot is about two young kids living in a run-down Japanese city (I think). Atari is the scarred leader of the duo, always coming up with big plans or dreams. I don't know what Oliver is - he looks a little like a stuffed trunkless elephant. They hang out in the rough areas of town, don't go to school, and are watched over by Mr. Bon Bon, a friendly construction worker.

The first issue of the series, 'Stinky Fish Blues' is the exact same story published in Liquid City. The only difference is that this earlier publication is not coloured, and is harder to follow than the lushly coloured later printing. It's still a cute story, although I was hoping for a little more content. This issue was self-published with a Xeric grant.

The second comic was published by Slave Labor Graphics, and is at least partially coloured. It is smaller than a regular comic, being about the size of Jason Lute's Berlin or Chester Brown's Louis Riel comics. In this issue, the two kids 'borrow' a pair of bicycles to travel to a suburb or other town and visit their friend Misha who has recently moved there. The middle of the comic is filled with two other stories, ostensibly told and illustrated by Misha and Atari, about Mr. Bon Bon. Between them are a series of comic strips modeled on a Sunday comics section, by Oliver.

There's not much story to hold onto in this comic. Nothing really happens, but it continues to be pretty cute and charming.

Crate Digging: The Cold Vein

by Cannibal Ox

I totally missed the boat on this album when it first dropped back in 2001. I finally got it a few years later, but have felt like I never really 'got it'. I always heard about how groundbreaking this album was, but by the time I listened to it, there had been enough imitators and people inspired by it, that it sounded a little common in places.

Listening to it again today, and trying hard to see it as predating artists like Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, Cage, the Reavers, and others, I can definitely see the appeal of some of this album, although I think it's a little too long, or a little monotonous in places.

Vast Aire has always been a rapper I have a hard time dealing with. I love his flow when he appears on someone else's track, but when he is the star of the show, I find I get sick of him after three or four songs. He and Vordul Megallah (who is called Shamar here - what's up with that?) find a good balance between their different styles, but Vordul is pretty weak on the first half of this album.

It's hard to imagine listening to El-P's rock-inflected production and having never heard that type of hip-hop before. He definitely knows what he's doing on here, but a few too many tracks sound like the others. I feel like he more anticipates than delivers on this, for a good chunk of the album.

This is a good album, but I find it difficult to place it up on the pedestal that so many other heads do. It feels a little more dated than classic these days I fear, although there are a few tracks (such as 'Painkillers', 'Pigeon', 'Raspberry Fields', and 'The F-Word') that I really feel.

Legion of Super-Heroes: The More Things Change

Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Steve Lightle, Ernie Col
ón, Keith Giffen, Larry Mahlstedt, Mike DeCarlo, Karl Kesel, and Mike Machlan

Even though I'm pretty sure I have all the original issues somewhere, when I saw this on sale at a store, I couldn't resist picking it up. It was the Legion that first got me reading DC comics way back in the day (the 50th issue of this particular Legion series), and I've always had a soft spot for this team (and really, the last ten years, one was needed to put up with a lot of what was done to them).

The recent news that Paul Levitz is returning to the title has been most welcome, and I figured reading this would be a good way of reminding myself what his take on the Legion is like. This volume collects the seventh through the eleventh issues of the 'Baxter' series which came out in 1985.

Levitz's Legion was always about volume of characters. Continually through this book, the characters complain about the drastic under-staffing the Legion is going through, with only 19 active members. That's 19 powered individuals, not counting the Legion Academy, which is featured quite frequently here. Levitz is good at juggling all of these different characters, finding time for some nice character building for Element Lad, the founding three Legionnaires, and Timber Wolf. All the other Legionnaires get some screen time as well, and one is left with the feeling that Levitz had long character arcs planned for each of them.

Levitz's Legion is steeped in team tradition, and values. He demonstrates respect for what has gone before, and is concerned with building the team. Okay, so the villains in this whole thing are goofy and dull, but the conflicts and super-heroing were often secondary in his plans.

Steve Lightle's art is gorgeous throughout the book, and the Keith Giffen drawn short story is classic Giffen. Ernie Colón's pages are not anywhere near as good, but are manageable.

Scalped #36

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Davide Furnò

One of the things that I have enjoyed the most about Scalped over t last three years is the way that Aaron is always taking the book in unexpected directions. This issue is the start of a two-parter focusing on Shunko, Red Crow's right-hand man and enforcer, and we learn something about him I never would have expected.

Red Crow sends Shunko out to the Potawatomi Reservation in Eastern Michigan, to speak to a fellow tribal leader and casino manager about the difficulty Red Crow has in booking A-level acts (which, let's face it, at a casino really means C-level acts). Before meeting with the man, Shunko is forced to demonstrate some of his particular talents. This impresses the other Chief enough to recruit him to help with a problem he is having, namely his predecessor in his role.

As it turns out, the previous Chief has become a bit of an embarrassment since coming out of the closet, and the tribal council is planning on doing something about it. It is here that we learn something about Shunko I wouldn't have expected.

Aaron has become a master at writing these types of character study issues. Shunko is obviously a very conflicted man, but also a rather inarticulate one, and so we must read into his thoughts through studying his actions. Also of interest was the small lesson included here on Native American attitudes and beliefs towards homosexuality, a topic I know nothing about, save a small curiosity in the concept of two-spiritedness, which I don't understand.

Guest artist Davide Furnò once again provides some nice art.

Northlanders #26

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Leandro Fernandez

Things continue to get worse for Hilda and Karin. Gunborg moves to consolidate his control of the settlement, which means removing a number of potential and perceived threats. We also get to find out just what exactly Gunborg did on his mission to the closest town. Hilda gives comfort and aid to Boris, which of course draws the attention of Gunborg and his men, especially Jens, who still has a thing for Hilda.

What makes this long arc so interesting is the way in which Wood is studying the way people react to tragedy and isolation. In many ways, this arc is similar to some of the stufff Wood has done in DMZ; a community has cut itself off from the outside world, and has to make due with the resources at hand to survive. The difference is that, because of the time period this is set in, it is much more difficult to survive in this world.

Fernandez has been doing some amazing work on this story. There are a few splash-pages throughout this issue, and they are stunning.

Shuddertown #1

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Adam Geen

I pre-ordered this series based on the strength of Spencer's other current title, Forgetless, which I have been enjoying quite a bit. The two series have nothing in common beyond the author's name, but I am quite glad I picked up this comic. It's really quite good.

The first issue doesn't give us much. We figure out that the main character, police Lieutenant Isaac Harrison, who has recently been shot on the job, is in a bad place. He's got a group of murders that he doesn't know how to solve - in each case, the DNA on the scene identifies the killer as being someone already known to be dead. His closest cop friend is not willing to help him transfer into vice. There's some unexplained stuff with some pills. So basically, things do look pretty bad.

This on its own is enough of a premise for a pretty decent cop comic, but Spencer really draws me in through the running narrative we get from Harrison. It's basically an essay on lying, and how to be an effectual one. It makes me question if anything we are seeing is accurate or true, and calls out for repeated readings.

The art, by Green, works here. It's got an Alex Maleev/Michael Gaydos kind of thing going on, which I like. I'm excited about this title, and looking forward to more.

Air #19

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by MK Perker

With the start of this new arc, Blythe has begun her pilot's test. Her first task is to recover the lost luggage of Jules Verne, which is apparently in Russia, not that she knew that's where she was flying to. The reaction of the Russian authorities to the unpredictability of Hyperprax travel is a nice touch; I always like it when fantasy elements are treated to the scrutiny of public regulations.

This issue puts Blythe well on her way to self-confidence and self-actualization, as shown by both the way she handles the Russians (bringing in a character I never thought we'd see again), and the way she tells Quetz the winged serpent to take a hike. When the series began, I often found Blythe to be an annoying character, and so it's nice to see that Wilson always had this plan for her, and took her time in achieving it. It helps add a layer of realism to the book.

As always, the art is great, and the story compelling. More people should be reading this.

Orc Stain #2

by James Stokoe

Orc Stain is well on the way to becoming one of my favourite regular series. Stokoe's new comic is an amazing showcase for his particular brand of comics weirdness. In this issue, our hero One-Eye is betrayed by his partner, and almost gets his gronch cut off when he can't pay a proper tribute to the local Orc leader. What follows is a flurry of violence, and the lopping off of a gronch or two.

If you aren't sure what a gronch is, it's pretty much exactly what you would expect. Apparently, they are currency in the Orc world.

Stokoe is imbuing each page of this book with a high degree of visual creativity. His Orcs are incredibly detailed, as are their surroundings. He is inventing some very interesting things, such as Dillo leather armchair disguises and living pop cans, while also constructing Orc culture and traditions. I've always liked Stokoe's art, but it looks better than ever in the lush colours he is using here.

He's really taking his time to establish some of these characters and their surroundings, before he flings One-Eye into the main plot, which involves a territorially aggressive Orc who is hunting for the one-eyed Orc to help him gain great riches.

This is fantastic stuff.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Supergod #3

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Garrie Gastonny

Only Warren Ellis can write a book like this. The third issue of Supergod continues to tell the story of mankind's experiments with artificially created super-humans, who are given god-like attributes and qualities.

We've already established that the Indian's Krishna has unleashed nuclear Armageddon on the sub-continent, and now the other countries are rushing to respond. Conflict is inevitable, but the British are the ones who think to save themselves by having their Celtic space-mushroom trinity god go work out some form of accord. Like I said, only from Ellis.

Included in this issue is Dajjal, the American-backed Iraqi contribution to the proceedings, Dajjal, named after the Islamic version of the anti-Christ, and able to make use of 'tactical perception', an ability that allowed him to see into all timelines.

There's a lot of crazy big ideas floating through this comic, and many of them shouldn't be mistaken for an actual plot, which seems to be kind of missing, but when the concepts are this cool, who really cares about plot?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gulf War Journal

by Don Lomax

I entered into this with no preconceived notions or expectations. I like a good war story, and this looked like one, so I figured I'd give it a try. I have heard of Lomax's earlier Vietnam War Journal, but don't know much about it. Anyway, this is a pretty good comic, mixing both a fictional story of a journalist trying to cover the early days of the Gulf War with a pretty detailed breakdown of events in the war, including some first person narratives of soldiers.

The protagonist, Scott Neithammer, is a retired journalist who had written some amazing stories during the Vietnam War. He is pulled out of retirement to travel to Saudi Arabia and cover Bush I's conflict with Saddam Hussein over the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. At first he doesn't want to go, but then uses the opportunity to visit his semi-estranged daughter in Tel Aviv. Once in Saudi Arabia, Journal (as he is called) makes a pest of himself within the highly micro-managed press pools, and eventually sets out on his own (with his Sinhalese assistant/translator) to enter Kuwait.

The book constantly switches from Journal to reporting the war itself, and I like the context that this method provides. I was in high school during the Gulf War, and there is a lot of stuff included here that I never knew about. Lomax's art is quite serviceable, and he is able to draw the detailed military equipment very well. His tanks look like tanks, which is sometimes not that common.

Now I guess I'm going to be hunting down the Vietnam books too....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Miles Away

by The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble

The first thing that needs to be mentioned in discussing this new, ten-track, hour-long jazz album from Madlib (yes, it really is the year of Madlib) is the incredible work the design department at Stone's Throw has done in packaging this cd.

The disk comes in an over-sized piece of folded cardboard, designed to resemble the classic lp's of yore. the cover feature a couple of paintings that conjure up the classic jazz age, although are somewhat modernized. The actual disk comes in a paper sleeve, that on one side advertises other Madlib/Yesterday's New Quintet jazz releases (some of which I don't think exist), while the other side has advertisements for such things as 'Giant Breasts!', the 'Grow Master Pump', and Spanish Fly.

As to the music itself, it's pretty much exactly what you would expect from another Electro-Acoustic (and so on) album, sounding very much like the Summer and Fall Suites which were released last year, or like some of the earlier Yesterday's New Quintet releases. It's basically what it's advertised to be: Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion.

I don't have the foreknowledge or training to speak with any authority on jazz (or hip-hop, if I'm being honest). I assume from the track titles ('One for the Monica Lingas Band', 'Waltz for Woody', 'Tones for Larry Young', etc.) that Madlib is paying homage to his favorites in the field. Based on the liner notes, Madlib did write most of these pieces, although a few give credit to the person named in the song title (ie., 'Mystic Voyage (for Roy Ayers)').

Regardless of the provenance of each piece, this is a lovely album of serious jazz.

Friday, March 19, 2010

In Search of Stoney Jackson

by Strong Arm Steady

I've never had much interest in Strong Arm Steady, thinking of them as the type of group that show up on mixtapes with artists I like and I can't tell why, and generally as trying to ride Talib Kweli's coattails since he signed them to Blacksmith a few years ago. Sure, they can sound good when featured on a song or two, but they weren't the type of artists I thought could pull off a whole album. Then I saw that their album was going to exclusively feature Madlib production, so of course I bought it...

And I was more or less right - the actual group (Krondon, Phil da Agony, and according to Wikipedia someone named Mitchy Slick) are not particularly interesting when they are rapping on their own. Their subject matter never strays far from weed it seems, although they do manage to sound consistent and let provide a decent enough use of Madlib's very cool beats.

What saves this album (beyond some great Madlib production of course) are guest appearances by Phonte (it's not a good sign when you have a guest on your first track), Talib Kweli, Evidence, Oh No, Fashawn, Guilty Simpson, and enough appearance by Planet Asia he must wonder if he really did leave the group. There are other guests too; in fact, it looks like there are only four tracks where SAS is on their own, which doesn't seem like a sign of confidence in an artist.

This is a decent album, don't get me wrong. It's just not very memorable...

Astronauts in Trouble: One Shot One Beer

Written by Larry Young
Art by Charlie Adlard

I'm never entirely sure of what I think of Larry Young's 'Astronaut' stories. First of all, they feature art from Charlie Adlard, so I'm immediately inclined to like them. My problem is, they seem to assume a level of gravity (no pun intended) and importance in themselves that they don't really have.

This volume is a quick read about a group of guys hanging out in a bar on the moon (the only bar on the moon, we are led to believe). As often happens, they start talking and telling stories, and it comes to pass that some of them had some involvement in the events depicted in the first of the AiT series, later subtitled 'Live From the Moon'. This might be more interesting if I remembered more of what happened in that comic, but it has been a few years since I read it, and it wasn't all that memorable I guess.

This book does have some nice moments to it, and some quick character work, but it is, when all is said and done, not that memorable.

Showcase Presents: The Unknown Soldier Vol. 1

Written by Joe Kubert, Bob Haney, Robert Kanigher, Archie Goodwin, Frank Robbins, and David Michelinie
Art by Joe Kubert, Irv Novick, Doug Wildey, Dan Spiegle, Jack Sparling, and Gerry Talaoc

It's taken me a few months to work my through this mammoth volume of stories taken from thirty-eight issues of Star Spangled Stories originally printed between 1970 and 1975, the hey-day of DC war comics.

As much as I enjoyed the individual stories, written and drawn by some of the legends of DC Comics, including some incredible work by Joe Kubert, I found that I could never read more than two in one sitting, as the stories were so remarkably similar. For almost every issue, there would be a great Kubert cover structured around some kind of gag - the Unknown Soldier would declare a town clear of enemies, but there'd be a Nazi hiding in a window; the Unknown Soldier would call soldiers into a cave for cover, but there'd be a Japanese soldier coming out of a tunnel, and so on.

Within each story, the Soldier would take on the identity of someone - usually an enemy officer of low rank, and with the help of partisans or resistance fighters, would foil some Nazi scheme or Japanese offensive. The stories were always enjoyable, but the effect of reading too many in succession was mind-numbing.

It was interesting to see how, as the series developed, the authors (especially Michelinie) would occasionally toss in a two-part story. It was also interesting to see how the stories jumped back and fort in time throughout the war, inserting the Soldier into a variety of big-name battles as well as smaller, lesser known (or invented) conflicts.

The original comics predated me, and I'd never read any of them as a kid. I enjoyed reading this book, but couldn't help but look at it as a historical artifact in many instances. I much prefer the current Unknown Soldier being published by Vertigo...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

American Vampire #1

Written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King
Art by Rafael Albuquerque

I came into this book with mid-level expectations. Aside from a few New Yorker pieces, I haven't read any Stephen King since I was a teenager, and I don't know who Scott Snyder is. The big draw for me was Rafael Albuquerque's art, more on which in a moment.

This is a pretty good comic. The first issue (I haven't read any of the interviews or internet puff-pieces about this, so I don't know if this is going to continue) is split between two stories, set forty-five years apart from each other.

The first story (written by Snyder) focuses on Pearl, a wannabe-starlet trying to break into the silent movie industry in 1920s Hollywood. She's holding down three jobs, and maybe finally gets her big break when she is invited to the producer's house for a party (avoiding the warnings of a strange drifter-type who hangs out near her apartment complex's swimming pool).

The second story (by King) is set in 1880s Colorado, where a group of Pinkertons are transporting the leader of a bank-robbing gang to jail by rail. They are attacked by his crew, who are attempting a daring rescue. As it turns out though, the mine owner who hired the Pinkertons is not what he seems.... There is one character who appears in both stories.

The art in this book is awesome. Albuquerque's stuff looked good when he was drawing the much-missed Blue Beetle series, but this is a step above that. The first story has a classic Vertigo look to it, while he changes his style a little in the second story, giving it a more burnished feel.

While there is nothing particularly ground-breaking about this comic, (it is classic Vertigo), and the world is not really crying out for another vampire franchise, there is more than enough going on here to grab my interests, and I'll definitely be sticking around for at least the first arc.

Fade to Black #1

Written by Jeff Mariotte
Art by Daniele Serra

I usually like Jeff Mariotte's work - specifically Desperadoes and Graveslinger, so I thought I'd give his new Shadowline mini-series a try, although I am afraid I'm a little disappointed in it.

The premise is a good one - a group of actors leave their film crew to hike through a remote desert, blocking scenes for tomorrow's shoot, and when they return, find the crew slaughtered and their vehicles damaged. Nice horror movie set-up right there. Then, we find out that they were killed by the Children of the Radiant Night, a cannibalistic cult, looking for 'the one', who is apparently among the group of surviving actors. Should be fantastic, right?

The problem is that the pacing feels a little off, and the art is quite muddy. I had to read over the first few pages a second time to realize that the characters weren't really being chased in the desert, and I felt like I was playing catch-up from the very beginning. Furthermore, there's very little in the way of character development (or even differentiation in their appearance), making it hard to care much about any of them.

I think that this could have worked a lot better with a cleaner artist and a little more editing.

Joe the Barbarian #3

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Sean Murphy

Morrison's latest Vertigo title continues to be an entertaining ride, as it takes on more of the classic features of a hero's quest, now saddling Joe and Jack with the company of Smoot, a giant dwarf (which means he's Joe's size) from a kingdom of submarine pirates that (I think) live in the pipes of Joe's house.

The story continues to cut between Joe's adventures in some fantasy land with his attempts to get himself to the kitchen for some soda (he's hypoglycemic remember) in interesting and visually arresting ways. There is a little more background information provided this time around, as we learn a little more about the 'Dying Boy', a prophesied hero that everyone assumes is Joe.

The big draw of this book continues to be the art, as Murphy is doing some amazing stuff here. I found it interesting that, considering the book's content, that Morrison would have a character use the phrase 'the stuff of legend'. Intentional shout-out?

Battlefields #4

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Carlos Ezquerra

With this latest arc of Battlefields, "The Firefly and His Majesty", Ennis returns to the character of Sergeant Stiles, last seen in the arc 'The Tankies'. Time has passed, and Stiles and the other tank units have taken the war into Germany. They are pushing their way closer and closer to Berlin, although as usual, Stiles's team is way behind their main force and perhaps a little lost.

Stiles and crew meet up with a group of American Shermans which have been attacked by a King Tiger - the German super tank. What follows is some soldierly conversation, a good story about how the newest crew member was needed in the tank, and generally, set up for the fight between Stiles's Firefly tank (American tank, British gun) and this Tiger that we keep hearing about.

As usual with an Ennis war comic, this is some pretty good stuff. When he works with Ezquerra, he always find a nice balance between the comic and the gritty.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fables #93

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by David Lapham

So what began as a fun baseball story has become an examination of Flycatcher's approach to justice in his kingdom of Haven, as Brump, the goblin accused of murdering a squirrel goes on trial. The stakes are high for Fly - if he is seen as being too soft in this case, he will have a hard time upholding his other laws, but if he is seen as being anti-goblin, racial tensions could rip his kingdom apart. Also, he has to avoid the perception of acting out of spite since Brump was the goblin responsible for defeating his baseball team.

Willingham sets up a nice little courtroom drama, complete with an eloquent and novel defense brought in by Trusty John, that paints the case as a part of the endless nature vs. nurture debate.

This has been an enjoyable little arc, and it's been good to see Lapham's art again (still missing Young Liars here), but I am looking forward to finding out what's been happening on the Farm.

Larry Marder's Beanworld Volume 3: Remember Here When You Are There!

by Larry Marder

I've written before about the pleasure I get from reading Marder's Beanworld comics, and I won't go into that again, except to say that it is a pleasure heightened, not diminished, by the recent easy availability of Beanworld stories thanks to Dark Horse republishing the original comics, and now, with this volume, ALL NEW material!

This volume (somewhere between thin and chunky in length) concludes what Marder is referring to as the 'springtime cycle' of the Beanworld, a strange and inventive land.

A lot happens in this volume. The Pod'l'pool Cuties are getting older, and getting more involved in the day-to-day life of the Beanworld. Mr. Spook is still mourning the loss of his trusty fork, while Proffy is still trying to figure out the float factor, and now has the new mystery of float force to deal with. Heyoka is still stuck with the Goofy Service Jerks, and the Boom'rs are still booming. The Elusive Notworm is now pitching in to help raise the Cuties. I know that none of that makes sense if you haven't been reading this title for a while, but trust me, it's all good stuff.

If there is an emotional centre to this volume, it is Beanish, and his quest to understand his relationship with Dreamishness, his secret friend in the sky. She asks him to sing her a love song, and this causes him no end of grief. Beans in the Beanworld each have a particular job or function to perform, and Beanish is increasingly feeling like he's having to step outside of his usual place in society. He's keeping secrets from his friends, and is even neglecting the Look-See Show, his contribution to Bean society.

Marder's books are infinitely charming and readable, even though there is a steep learning curve to starting out with this series. It's such a treat to be reading new material, and I hope that the books are finding a whole new audience. This is a completely unique project in comics, and it deserves much more recognition.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dodgem Logic #1

Alan Moore's new zine is a bit of a strange beast. The famously recalcitrant comics writer has started, with a large cast of other players, this magazine that is more or less about life in Northampton, but is also about community activism, music history, recipes, and comics (a little bit).

Design-wise, the book reminds me of early issues of Wired or Mondo 2000, where you couldn't always read the text for the fractally-psychedelic backgrounds, and that gives this a slightly dated feel (looking over that sentence, it looks like I said this book is illegible, it isn't, but I kept expecting it to be).

To get a sense of the diversity of the articles in here, let me give you a list of just the things I enjoyed most while reading it:
- Moore's history of underground publishing
- a comic about guerrilla gardening
- the 'Daily Mustard', a two-page parody of news magazines
- an article about a couple who tried to spend no money, and dumpster-dove for food
- Kevin O'Neill's weird-ass picture of alien sex (I think that's what it is)
- Josie Long's comic about love
- 'Notes from Noho', a supplemental section that featured fiction (I think) and reporting about Northampton, including Moore's piece 'The Destructor' about the lack of services in the area that became the catalyst for the whole magazine
- two columns on the NHS, the British National Health Service
- Melinda Gibbie's (Alan Moore's wife) column on feminism

Not bad for a thin magazine. I had no interest in the articles about music, although there were a couple of good tracks on the cd that was included with the magazine (who are P-Hex? worth looking for...). The comics were too much like the gross-out 60's underground books that I think we should have moved past by now. The recipes (yes, there are seriously recipes in this) and craft project (turn old ties into button-holes?) were odd inclusions.

In all, this is an interesting project, and I wish them the best of luck with it. I imagine it will be difficult to get subsequent issues in Canada, but I'm interested enough to grab whatever I can find.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Badly Broken Code

by Dessa

Dessa starts her first full-length solo album with a poetic spoken-word piece about her family over a lovely beat by MK Larada. From there, she goes into a simple poem sung over layered vocals. This is definitely not a standard hip-hop album, but is instead a showcase for the various talents of this artist.

A Badly Broken Code holds within it a wide range of emotions, moods, and levels of aggression, as Dessa demonstrates (yet again) why the Doomtree crew deserves much more attention than it gets.

'Dixon's Girl' is an interesting song, recounting her meeting with a fellow musician who was struggling within her relationship. The later song 'Alibi' usese the same storytelling skills.

Dessa returns to ground covered on her False Hopes disk with 'Mine Shaft II', where she once again displays her lyrical skill, and shifts from rapping to singing and back again over a lush Cecil Otter beat.

Perhaps the loveliest song on the album is 'The Chaconne', a song featuring vocals by Matthew Santos, that appears to be about a love she felt for an older musician, who had no time for her or his own family. Similar to this are songs like 'Go Home' and 'Momento Mori'.

'Seamstress' and 'Dutch' are softer versions of the type of songs I've gotten used to hearing her appear on with the rest of the Doomtree crew. They are somewhat gentler than her group work, although still proof she can spit with the best of them. 'The Bullpen' has her addressing the rarity of women in hip-hop, and speaking openly about what it's like to be the only woman in her crew, but on 'Crew', she declares her love for the guys. The album ends similarly to the second track, with a sung poem that is simply lovely.

The production, by Doomtree stalwarts Larada, Lazerbeak, Otter, Paper Tiger and joined by Big Jess and Ronin on one track each, is as varied as Dessa's subject matter and choice of style. This is a lush, well-made album by a very talented artist.

Strangers on the Mountain

by Ben McGrath

You would never think that people could be living in rural poverty and yet able to see the spires of Manhattan from their property, but that is the subject of McGrath's excellent article on the Ramapo Indians, or the 'Jackson Whites' of upstate New Jersey, along the NJ/NY border.

These people, living in areas like Stag Hill and Ringwood, come from a mix of Aboriginal, African, and European heritage. The area was home to many escaped slaves, who married into the local aboriginal population, and then, apocryphally, later added to their community a number of white prostitutes who fled Revolutionary New York (although this story is largely debunked now by historians, it is still accepted truth on the mountains).

The current inhabitants of the area are private folk, distrustful of outsiders and 'new people'. That did not stop them from having a couple of run-ins with state representatives - park rangers and state police, in 2006, one of which ended with the death of one of the Ramapo. McGrath follows the trial of the officer involved, and attempts to reach an understanding of this poverty-stricken community living just out of the shadow of one of the richest cities on the continent.

He treats his subjects with sensitivity, taking the time to meet them in their homes, and to share meals with them in an effort to understand their culture. They are nowhere near as backwards as they are portrayed in the local media and by local townsfolk, yet they do come across as distrustful of wider society. That many of them are living alongside industrial sludge from the sixties, or are finding that their property is getting swallowed into sinkholes, helps make their reticence understandable.

This is an interesting portrait of the type of community most people wouldn't know exists.

Promethea Volume 5

Written by Alan Moore
Art by J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray

It's hard to be critical of a comic this beautiful, but Alan Moore's intent in Promethea was not so much to tell a gripping story as to expound on his own knowledge and beliefs in the tarot, and other arcane things.

This volume starts quite conventionally for this series, with Promethea in hiding in Millennium, the home town of Tom Strong and his compatriots, who get asked by the FBI to help find her. Because she is discovered (in her Sophie form), she now has to end the world (for reasons that are not clear, nor memorable from the last volume).

From there, the book moves into the kind of random, although very scholarly mumbo-jumbo of the last two volumes, and the world ends, and then somehow continues, just in a different, nicer form. After that is the epilogue to the series, more about which in a moment.

As always with Promethea, the draw is Williams's art. As with the other volumes, he employs a number of different techniques and styles throughout the book, relying heavily on photo-referenced work for the scenes where the world is ending, and all fictional realities become real. The pièce de résistance of the book is the final issue of the series, which was originally printed as a huge fold-out double-sided poster, showing two images of Promethea in the background, while the character narrates another essay on magic. It's visually quite stunning when read as individual pages, and a small fold-out page is included in the back of the book to give you a scaled-down representation of the original work.

In the final analysis, I think reading Promethea was too much like going to wizard school to be totally enjoyable, but the series did have a number of very enjoyable moments (I would buy an issue of the Weeping Gorilla if I could) and was visually so inventive as to be worthy of an honored space on any shelf.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Destroyer #1-5

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Cory Walker

Robert Kirkman has a unique way of writing super-hero comics, that doesn't seem to translate well when he gets his hands on established, continuity-rich characters, but works amazingly well when he either creates his own world, or takes over a mostly-obscure one.

In Destroyer, he grabs ahold of the old Marvel/Timely Golden Age character, and gives us a story set in present day that supposes that the character has been working as a super-hero (and perhaps the world's only one) since the war. In this series, Keen Marlow (the Destroyer) is approaching his hundredth birthday, and suffering from a heart condition. He's still indestructible, and can be shot, bombed, or dropped from great heights with no ill effects, but his next heart attack is expected to be his last.

With the knowledge of his impending demise weighing heavily on him, he sets out to kill off any of his old nemeses that are still around, and to find the evil Scar, who had ripped off his wife's arm years before. At the heart of this book is Keen's relationship with his family. His wife wants him to retire, as does his daughter, who is married to his former sidekick (although she doesn't know this).

The creative team of Kirkman and Walker gives this book a feel very much like the earlier issues of Invincible, yet without Mark Grayson's youth and energy. The villains that are created (or updated?) for the Destroyer are as wacky and bizarre as the ones that regularly appear in Invincible, and the action plays out much like that series. Really, there's no reason why Kirkman couldn't have just made this a creator-owned series with a few simple cosmetic changes.

This is good stuff. It's nice to see a Kirkman story that has a clear ending, and his work on developing these characters and their relationships is very strong. It's also just nice to see some solid Jason Pearson covers.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Unwritten #11

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross and Jimmy Broxton

This issue finishes off the Josef Goebbels story, and has a lot of information revealed about Tom, and what he really is, not that Tom knows any of this yet.

In this story, he meets with the story of Jud Süss, the Jewish novel that was re-worked by Nazi propagandists to be an anti-Jew movie. The story has become a canker, a story so conflicted and at odds with itself that it is in great pain.

As the story of Unwritten progresses, it's becoming more and more interesting to see how Carey is playing around with the meaning of fiction in our lives.

DMZ #51

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli

After all the cool things in the DMZ on display last issue, this month feels extra drab, as Matty hides out from the political, emotional, and nuclear fall-out of his actions in issue 49 in the Washington Heights area, a veritable no-mans' land, sparsely inhabited by other loners.

The nuclear explosion that happened at Indian Point has been portrayed by Liberty News as a terrorist act by the Delgado Nation, and now everyone seems to be in hiding. Matty's feeling more than a little sorry for himself, and his mood is not lifted when he watches a confrontation in the street outside the building where he has been squatting.

Instead of viewing New York as a resilient, living entity, he is now seeing it as a corpse in its death-throes. This is a pretty morose issue of DMZ, but it is, as always, well-written and well-drawn. I've given up on trying to predict where this title is going, and am just enjoying following along. I don't much like Matty when he gets into these moods, but I think it is definitely time for him to enter into some serious self-reflection.

As usual, John Paul Leon's cover is stunning too.

Daytripper #4

by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

My but I love this comic. I would have thought that the concept, that each issue represent a day or two in the life of Brás de Oliva Domingos at different ages, with a similar ending each issue, would have become a little too precious by the half-way point, but instead, I find myself utterly drawn in and fascinated by this series.

Moon and Bá keep returning to the same themes - filial relationships in this one - and building on the foundations of earlier issues, negating the common ending of each previous issue. This month's installment came as a surprise, as it is set when Brás is 41, and awaiting the birth of his first child. While taking his wife to the hospital, Brás misses the call from his mother informing him that his own father had died.

What follows is the funeral and birth, with Brás having to juggle his conflicting (and conflicted) emotions. He meets his half-sister after the funeral, and later has a conversation with her in the hospital. Brás is shown as having always fought for his father's attention and affection, and his emotions are handled subtly and with care.

The art in this issue is as impressive as usual, and there are a couple of pages that are truly stunning. One is the double-page spread showing the internment, although my favorite panel would be the one that show's Brás's father's study, a modernist room that looks comfortable, productive, and exactly like the type of room I would imagine a writer of his renown working in.

American audiences were first exposed to the twins' work through books like Casanova, and so have come to expect of them a certain frenetic madness. Instead, they are showing that they are capable of telling small, sensitive stories with great beauty, and I'm thankful that Vertigo is giving them this chance.

Ghost Projekt #1

Written by Joe Harris
Art by Steve Rolston

When I saw this project solicited, I was quick to add it to my pull-list on the strength of Steve Rolston's involvement. I like his art, and like to support local artists. I had no idea who Joe Harris is, but I have a lot of trust in Oni Press's ability to put out interesting and enjoyable comics.

As it turns out, I got just what I expected, a compelling new comic. The book opens with two thieves poking around a decommissioned Soviet-era research station, creepily filled with baby cribs and a fetus in a jar. They steal some hidden canisters, but only after opening one by error, and setting off an alarm.

A week later, there is a confrontation between two of the scientists that worked on Project Dosvidanya, as the program was known.

A week after that, two American inspectors are in the same research station, and have a run-in with some Russian police, who have discovered that many of the people originally involved in the project have been murdered, with strange welts on their foreheads being the only clue to the cause of their death. While all of this is happening, animals and children in the area are beginning to see something strange in the sky.

It's a good set up. The notion of arcane or sadistic Soviet experiments is nothing new, but it's always interesting. Harris does a good job of establishing the characters, and Rolston's art looks as good as always. Oni does stories like this very well.

Crate Digging: Rip the Jacker

by Canibus

Rip the Jacker, is for me, a seminal album. Listening to it today for the first time in years, it puts me right back to 2003, when I saw it as an example of some of the best hip-hop I knew at the time.

Now is the part in most reviews or write-ups where it becomes necessary to talk about how inconsistent an artist Canibus is, or to talk about his history of very public beefs with other, more established people in the industry. I'm not going to bother with that, preferring to talk about just this album, as if it were the only thing the man ever released (which means I can stay positive throughout).

Canibus is a gifted lyricist, which is clear at just about any point on this album. He name-drops from a wide variety of circles, and mentions people like Stephen Jay Gould and Thomas Kincaid, both of whom have probably never been mentioned on any other hip-hop song. He shows knowledge of history, politics, science, and literature in ways that don't usually exist in hip-hop, and he delivers it all in quick, grammatically complex lines.

The true star of this album though is Jedi Mind Trick's Stoupe (The Enemy of Mankind) whose production sounds as fresh today as it did seven years ago. He provides Canibus with a rich sonic background, even switching up beats as needed on the incredible 11 minute 'Poet Laureate II'.

This is a great album, and remains one of my all-time favourites.
- 2-3 - biblical stuff; self-involved
- 5 - story telling; bouncy beat
7 - awesome beat

Resurrection #9

Written by Marc Guggenheim and Ross Campbell
Art by Justin Greenwood and Ross Campbell

Guggenheim is finally giving us some (however cryptic) information about the Bugs, and why they invaded Earth in this issue. We also see the end result of infection by the techno-organic virus last seen in the first volume of the series, as one of the main characters gets infected (or chosen, depending on your point of view) on the bug ship (or temple, same reason).

A lot of what Guggenheim is doing in this series has been done before - there are elements of Y: The Last Man, V, The Walking Dead, The Stand, and a touch of Battlestar Galactica - but the way in which he is combining them makes for a consistently interesting read. Bill Clinton's inclusion is increasingly seeming less like a gimmick and more like an important story element.

The back-up this time around is by Ross Campbell, and it's vastly different from anything I've seen him do before (ie., no round-bottomed teenage girls experimenting with their sexuality) both in terms of story and art. This has a much thicker look than his usual style, and boldly coloured to add dramatic effect. The lack of dialogue or narration works quite well here. I hope this is a two-parter, because the ending was unsatisfying and abrupt.

Madlib Medicine Show #1 - Before the Verdict

by Madlib, with Guilty Simpson

Each month this year, Madlib is going to be releasing a new cd (and/or vinyl, if that's your thing) under the aegis of the Madlib Medicine Show. This is in addition to his other releases, which seem quite prolific this year (I think I've already bought two other Madlib projects in 2010).

This release is mostly a remix project featuring Guilty Simpson. Most of the vocals are taken off of Simpson's 2008 album 'Ode to the Ghetto', although there are a few new tracks tossed in (perhaps previews of the upcoming OJ Simpson album, which is a Madlib/Simpson collaboration project). 'Ode' was a decent enough album, although a little monotonous, mostly notable for the strength of the producers it assembled - Oh No, Mr. Porter, Black Milk, Dilla, and Madlib himself.

The largest problem I have with any Guilty Simpson project is that he's kind of a boring rapper. I like him best when he only shows up on a song for 8 or 16 bars, but the effect of listening to him for an extended period of time is a little deadening. Madlib's beats are quite nice on this - he's taking a very stripped down, raw approach to hip-hop here, but the vocals never elevate the material to the level they should. You know you're in trouble when a guest appearance by MED becomes notable.

I do like the remix of the Dilla-produced 'I Must Love You', which wisely removes the sung chorus of the original, and showcases some of Simpson's best rapping.

Criminal: The Sinners #5

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

There are a few things that happened in the conclusion to this latest Criminal series that I didn't see coming. I think that's what I always like best about Brubaker's writing on this book; it's quite unpredictable.

Sure, some of the main story beats were predetermined, like Hyde discovering that Tracey was sleeping with his wife, but the way things played out with the Triad, and between Tracey and his military pursuer were not what I was expecting.

The character of Father Mike and his motivations finally get some explanation, and I like the comparison drawn between him and the way in which 'holy men' in the Middle East draw young men into their violent worlds through appealing to their religious sensibilities. It's interesting that no one else has developed this notion from a Western point of view (at least in anything else I've read).

I was surprised to read in the back that the next series from the Brubaker/Phillips team would be a new Incognito series. I felt like that had been a single-arc story, but as always, I'll buy anything from this creative team.

Elephantmen #24

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Moritat, Chris Burnham, and a small army of assistants

It's been a while since the last issue of Elephantmen appeared, and it's very nice to see the book back on the stands.

In this issue, Starkings wraps up his '7 Days of Smog' arc with a big fight between Ebony Hide and Hip Flask, Hip being under the influence of an 'imperiumite', a device used to amp up the aggression of Mappo soldiers during the war. There's also some interesting stuff with Sahara and Obadiah Horn, and the secrets they keep from each other.

It's nice to see Moritat back on this book, even if he apparently needed a lot of last-minute assistance from the book's usual stable of artists. They manage to maintain a level of consistency throughout the book so it's not too noticeable. Chris Burnham provides a short back-up about the strange reporter who manipulated Vanity over the last few issues.

This felt like a largely transitional issue of Elephantmen, as Starkings sets up the book for his next big arc, 'Questionable Things'.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ex Machina #48

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Tony Harris

What really makes this comic work for me is that, with all the hell that is breaking loose in Hundred's life, Vaughan still finds some time to squeeze some politics into the story. Suzanne Padilla continues in her plans to wreck havoc in New York, and Mitchell discovers that she has killed someone close to him. At the same time, he gets into an argument with Wylie about their political ambitions.

This comics strength has always been in its balance of superheroics with municipal politics, and as Vaughan moves ever closer to his big finish, it's nice to see that he is not going to be ignoring that aspect of the story.

This is (I think) the second issue where Harris is inking his own art, and it continues to look quite different from his previous work, in a very good way. I don't know if that is contributing to the length of time between issues, but with so little left in the series, I'm okay with it coming out in dribs and drabs, as I'm going to miss this book when it's gone.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


by Paul Pope

I can't believe I waited until now to read Pope's fantastic science-fiction series 100%. This is an amazing graphic novel. It doesn't have much in the way of a central plot, being similar to movies like Magnolia in its rambling way of giving us a window into the lives of a few interconnected characters, albeit in a futuristic New York City.

Strel is a single mother and the dance manager at the Catshack. She hooks up her roommate (who purchases a gun to reduce her fear of living in the city) with her cousin Eloy, an installation artist who is working on a project involving 100 tea kettles tuned to the note 'C'. Meanwhile, John, the busboy at the Catshack, hooks up with Daisy, a new dancer at the club who has an inability to stay in one place for long. Haitous, a boxer, is working to get his family back. All of these characters interconnect and collide frequently through the course of the book.

Pope has set this book, which is basically a romance comic, in a strange new future. The dancers that work for Strel dance in a Gastro-tube; a suite of imaging technology that displays their inner workings in the form of a large hologram overhead. It takes stripping to a new level when the audience can see the acid bubbling in the dancer's stomach. Strangely, the same technology is applied to Haitous's fights, which in my mind, makes a comment about the erotic nature of sports such as boxing and wrestling, and the voyeurs who watch them.

Of course, one reads a Paul Pope comic for his incredible art more than his accomplished writing. His work in this book looks incredible, with its thick lines and free use of ink. The best sequence (and there are more than a few really good ones) is when John and Daisy have their first date in a four-dee booth, which appears to be a room like a holosuite or Danger Room. Suddenly the two characters are having drinks on top of a satellite in space, and then on a desert plain surrounded by stampeding ostrich-like creatures. It's a stunning few pages.

Definitely time to read Heavy Liquid....

Monday, March 8, 2010

30 Days of Night: Dead Space #1-3

Written by Steve Niles and Dan Wickline
Art by Milx

I've dabbled a couple of times now into the 30 Days of Night pool, and in each case I've come back with mixed feelings, except for David Lapham's awesome contribution to the line. They consistently seem to fall short of their potential, which I find frustrating.

This series is no different. The concept hooked me right away - a space shuttle mission with a vampire on board. It's a little like Aliens, except the creature can be a real character. What happens though, is that the entire crew of the shuttle is dispatched with off-camera, and the next two issues of the comic are all about the 'rescue mission' coming up to see what was going on, before they too get attacked.

It's a quickly-paced story that depends on a couple of things happening that are rather ridiculous. I'm willing to accept that vampires can survive in outer space, since I assume they don't breathe. What I can't handle is that vampires that burn up if they are exposed to sunlight on Earth would be able to happily float in orbit around the planet for a month, and never once catch a glimpse of the sun. This is never discussed in the story, and I found it made it impossible for me to suspend my disbelief (being fully aware that I'm reading a comic about vampires in space).

The characterizations in this book are handled very quickly and with little development. The one person that the authors take the time to flesh out is the astronaut that becomes a vampire, but I'm not clear how he became infected.

The art is different - it looks like it's all watercolours - but it works quite well for this type of story. I get the feeling like it might be time to abandon hope for this line, but I did pick up Templesmith's Red Snow at the same Comic-con, so I guess it gets one more chance.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Death of a Handsome Bride

by F. Stokes and Lazerbeak

It is no secret that I am a big fan of Doomtree, and noticed this little project tucked into the bottom corner of their web store one day. Lazerbeak makes some impressive beats, so I figured it was worth the rather small financial risk to give this a try.

F. Stokes is an interesting rapper. He doesn't really fit into the Doomtree aesthetic, reminding me of underground rappers like Buff1 or Finale; cats who put out some nice stuff, but aren't exactly instantly recognizable when a song comes on.

The album starts off with 'Too', a spoken word piece about being too black, too pretty, etc., that does set the tone for this short album. From there, Lazerbeak comes on the scene, and provides him with some pretty standard, if nice, beats. Stand-out songs include 'Blessings', 'Soul Clap', and the prerequisite relationship song 'Pretty Shit'.

The high point of this album is 'So Into You', F. Stokes anthem of optimism, which basically is about his mother's belief in him, and where their shared dreams will lead. The album closes with 'Tickle Me Mars', a club anthem with a very uplifting beat. Usually I hate songs like this, but I found the chorus pretty infectious, and its become one of those songs that creeps into my head at odd times.

I can't really see what the future will bring for Mr. Stokes. He's a talented artist, but doesn't seem to be enough of an individual, based on this sampling, for him to really stand out in an over-crowded music industry. I wish him all the best though...

William Burns

by Roberto Bolaño

Roberto Bolaño has become my new favourite writer I think. This issue of the New Yorker (I know I'm way behind) has a four-page story which I believe is excerpted from his recently released (in English anyway) novel 'Monsieur Pain'.

Regardless of where it comes from, the story here is classic Bolaño. It follows a very Borgesian set-up. The story is being narrated by someone who was told the story by its central character, William Burns. Burns moved into a house in some summer mountain resort town, which was being shared by two women of vastly different ages, both of whom he was engaged in a relationship with. The house was strangely built, with oddly-spaced windows (another Borgesian touch).

The women wanted Burns there because they were afraid of another man, who they called 'The Killer', and with whom they had both been in a relationship at some point in the past.

Bolaño's writing is clear and concise, and he does not dwell on the confusion and disconnectedness his protagonist feels. He lets events play out, and while we feel that they had more repercussions for Burns than he shows, they are left for another time (perhaps in the novel?).

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Crate Digging: Dillagence

by Busta Rhymes and J Dilla

I realized the other day that, on this year's anniversary of Dilla's death, I didn't go through the catalogue of his work like I normally do, electing instead to simply bump Donuts in the car on the way to and from work. As the years since his death have grown, the output of posthumous recordings has slowed (and rightfully so, if you're reading this Tupac). This 2008 mixtape was one of the last places one can go to find previously unreleased Dilla gems, although there's a lot of rapping over older, known beats as well.

This project is a labor of love for Busta Rhymes. I've never been a big Busta fan, but his personality wins me over on this disk. When he speaks of Dilla, you can tell that it is with genuine affection for the man, as well as for his music. The songs on here are, while well-intentioned, a little pedestrian, as Busta brings in people like Cassidy, Papoose, Rah Digga, and MOP. The track with Raekwon is a surprise, and the two joints with Kweli had been released before.

I'm thankful for Busta providing this little window onto Dilla's life and legacy, and it's definitely a mixtape that deserves to get dusted off and listened to from time to time.