Tagged: Science Fiction

Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice! by Jeff Lemire, Michael Walsh & Nate Piekos

Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice! by Jeff Lemire, Michael Walsh & Nate Piekos

In the life of every licensed superhero comic, there will come an especially blessed day: Baby’s First Crossover.

This, my dear hearts and gentle people, is that blessed event for the unnamed super-team of Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer comics. [1] (See here for the previous volume and here for the first volume, if you’re unfamiliar.) Oh, you may quibble that they have already met quite a lot of other superheroes and villains, fighting and teaming up and generating a lot of Licensable Content. But all of those previous encounters were from Lemire’s universe as well; those calls were all coming from inside the house.

For the first time here, someone else deigned to have a play-date with Black Hammer, to let their toys play with the Black Hammer toys, to touch the dolls’ faces together to make them kiss. Those heroes are the current Justice League, the someone is DC Comics, and it is a bit like Barbie and GI Joe in the hands of an hyperactive eight-year-old.

The story is Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice!, possibly the laziest possible title for this story. (The exclamation point might have taken a moment of thought; thus the “possibly.”) It’s written by Lemire with art by Michael Walsh and colors by Nate Piekos; I imagine someone on the DC side kibitzed editorially to keep the JL on-brand as well.

Amusingly to me, the Black Hammer gang are still their core ’80s incarnations while the JL is the current (I think) modern incarnations. Sure, separate universes don’t need to line up their timelines exactly, but wouldn’t it be more fun if Lemire had used the contemporaneous bwa-ha-ha era League? Or, possibly even better, the Detroit League? Ah, well.

In any case, the plot is the usual: a Mysterious Someone appears to both teams in their normal milieu (the BH gang grumping on the farm; the JL punching Starro) and swaps their places for making-mischief reasons. In a twist that is never explained, the JL immediately believe they’ve been on the farm for ten years, and mope about that, but the BH gang are aware of actual reality and spend most of their time squabbling with other Justice Leaguers.

The plot from there is…well, there’s that squabbling and moping, which takes up a lot of pages, then the inevitable Reveal of the Mysterious Someone, which is played up big but is one of the few obvious candidates and doesn’t really lead to anything, then, finally, as the play-date is ending, all of the dolls need to go back into their respective boxes separately, so they can stay in mint condition for the collector’s market. Lemire does throw out what may be a hook for another story, but it would need to be another DC Crossover, so let’s hope he gets good grades in school and does all his chores, so maybe there will be another play-date.

At the end of the book, we get what seems to be thirty pages of variant covers for the five issues of this miniseries, and I have nothing coherent to say about that.

I cannot take a single thing about Black Hammer seriously for a second, even while reading it. It is so deeply pastiche that there’s nothing substantial about it. If you are less cynical about superhero comics than I am, you may enjoy this on a more normal level. But it’s well-done – the characters talk like human beings and are drawn in a solid modern style – so it amusing on whatever level you can connect to it on. Black Hammer is not bad; it’s never been bad. It’s just deeply pointless and creepily incestuous.

[1] Black Hammer was a guy; he’s dead now. His daughter later becomes the new Black Hammer, and another woman who looks very much like her becomes another version a hundred years later. And I think there was one before the main guy, but Lemire hasn’t told any stories with the old dead one yet. This is superhero comics; names are just trademarks, and trademarks have to be used or they will be lost.

The team, on the other hand, has no trademark, no identity, since they’re drafting on the Black Hammer name and it’s far too late to create something new now, ten books in.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Bionic by Koren Shadmi

Bionic by Koren Shadmi

Victor is a geeky teenager, mildly bullied by the jockish types at his high school – but also smart and skilled enough to be rebuilding old game consoles to make a serious side income. He’s obsessed with Patricia (Patty), who is gorgeous and rich and blonde, in the way of a million boys before him, and has about as much chance as they do.

Maybe less of a chance, since I’d estimate nearly 5% of the panels of Koren Shadmi’s graphic novel Bionic  are of Victor looking at something, usually Patty, and if he’s not gaping open-mouthed and frozen every time, well, he’s close to it. This is very much a book from the point of view of a tentative young man who doesn’t know what to do, what to say, or even what he actually wants. It’s full of moments of Victor’s confusion and indecision and longing and desire: those moments are the core of the book.

There’s more to Bionic than that, of course, as the title and cover imply. Victor and Patty have an almost-relationship: they sit together for at least one class (this isn’t clear) and he adopts a pet from the shop where she works. That’s probably where it would have stayed, with Victor whining to his friend Gus about his crush and Patty getting deeper into her relationship with probably-not-as-much-of-an-asshole-as-he-seems Brian.

But then something happens.

Patty’s father is CEO of a tech company, and…you see that cover? That’s Patty, after the something that happens. Hence the title. She’s suddenly not as popular as she was: Brian isn’t interested in a half-robot girl, and her former BFF is now a queen bee angling for him and being casually cruel to Patty. But, then: these are all teenagers. They are casually cruel in any case, all of them, almost all of the time. Maybe they will outgrow it eventually, some of them.

There are other layers, but that’s the core: cruel teenagers, body transformation, sexual desire, with a bit of technological and capitalist paranoia lurking around the edges. Victor and Patty are both difficult people to like: Victor is horribly passive and whiny; Patty is oblivious before her change and horribly moody afterward. This could have been the story of how two imperfect people helped each other, but that’s not the story Shadmi wants to tell here: it’s much more conventional than that, with Patty as the figure of lust (in spite of her bionics? or, for Victor, even more so because of her bionics?) and Victor as the perpetually yearning horny teen boy.

There are a lot of conventional elements here, I have to admit. I haven’t even mentioned Patty’s relationship with her father, which checks off a couple of clichés by itself. The SF elements are equally as shopworn as the teen-crush plot, though both are handled subtly and well. But if you think you’ve seen this story before, you probably have – it’s that kind of story.

Shadmi has a soft art style, mostly mid-range colors (maybe with colored pencils?) over mostly thin, not overly dark lines. His people are a bit cartoony: the boys, especially the geeky boys, more so than the girls. Or maybe I mean the attractive people are less cartoony.

I don’t think Bionic is as new or different or interesting as perhaps it wanted to be, or thought it is. But it’s a solid story, set in the intersection of teen-drama and SF, that uses its familiar elements solidly and has a lot to admire.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Rain Like Hammers by Brandon Graham

Rain Like Hammers by Brandon Graham

Genre fiction in comics tends to be straightforward: it explains the world and the stakes up front, then sends a generally pretty obvious Protagonist off to Do the Thing, which far too often is Saving the World.

Brandon Graham, in his afterword to Rain Like Hammers , describes that as being like a Japanese game show where the goal is to get someone to eat a hot dog as soon as possible after waking up. And he’s not into speed-eating hot dogs.

Graham’s stories tend to start in a more leisurely fashion. His camera-eye is focused, but not insistent. Hey, look over here, it says. Something is going on; I wonder what it is?

Rain Like Hammers collects a five-issue comics story – the issues were published in the first five months of 2021, and this collection came out in August. They’re long issues, too – the book is unpaged, but I think they’re 48 pages each. So my first question is: how serialized was this? Clearly, Graham created it in five chapters, but I really doubt he did that during those five months. But those afterwords – there’s one for each issue

buy flagyl online uk>

, two pages each of sketchbook-style comics – do show the process of making the book; he seems to have made it in order, finishing each page in turn and not going back to rework based on better ideas later.

At one point he mentions his initial plan was to have five loosely-connected single issue stories – maybe, I think, ones that all came together in the final issue? – and that’s clear in the transition between the first two issues, which are entirely different, about entirely different people in entirely different places. But, in the end, this is mostly one story, seen from a couple of angles, with a second story as a way in and a bit of parallax later.

We start out in a mobile city, on some alien planet in some future. Eugene is new in Elephant City: he finished his schooling recently, and came here on purpose, to do some keeping-the-city-running job that Graham doesn’t explain in detail. Eugene is a bit lonely, finding his footing in a new place and new to adulthood. But he seems like a sensible, devoted person: we think will be OK, we want to trust him, he hope he will do well. His story for the first issue is mostly low-key, but something from outside this world is causing trouble for many of the animal-named crawling cities, and we see a little of that here.

The second issue begins what then seems to be the main story, and we may wonder what happened to Eugene, for many pages. (We will find out.) A supercriminal, Brik Blok, is heading to Sky Cradle, a space habitat of some kind that is the seat for the rulers of this part of human space: a group of self-selecting immortal families. We think he is dangerous, we think he is exciting, and we are not entirely sure if we are on his side.

What Brik Blok is coming to do on Sky Cradle is something we learn quickly, but we learn more and more details over time: we learn it iterated, first the headlines and then the depths, eventually getting to things Brik Blok didn’t know himself. Brik Blok’s initial plans, whatever they were, fail before he even reaches Sky Cradle: he’s in a different body, in an society he doesn’t know well, with a new uncertain ally or friend.

Brik Blok is coming to save El. Or maybe retrieve her, or maybe support her. She is young and smart and, we believe, on the side of right. She’s part of a program of “candidates” for immortality: they are tested and twisted and transformed to become more of the ruling class. We start to think we don’t like this ruling class, and start to feel more positively towards those who resist. We quickly learn she did not choose to join this program…though we learn more details later.

Rain Like Hammers is mostly the story of Brik Blok and El. Two people fighting against the power structure, or trying to – both with incomplete information at this point in their lives. (This is the kind of SF where people can live a very long time – maybe even if they’re not officially one of the “immortals” – and who they once were and what they once did could be forgotten or lost or mislaid.)

They do not foment a revolution. They are not even trying to topple the immortals: their aims are smaller, more specific than that. As I said at the beginning, this is not that kind of comic: they are not going to Do the Thing, not going to Save the World.

But they, and Eugene, may be able to save themselves, and get away.

Graham tells this story from the inside, with pages full of quiet moments and strange details of this far-future world. His SF is always deeply distinctive, with things he never explains, a big lived-in universe full of odd creatures and people, all living their own lives and wandering across his pages. He tones down the wordplay these days, especially in more serious, grounded stories like this one, but there’s still some of that joy in the complications of language.

SF that requires the reader to think about it and make up his own mind about it is rare in comics – it’s not all that common in prose, frankly. That’s what Graham does; that’s what this is. Any reader who likes that kind of SF should check it out

, or anyone who likes stories with a bit of gnarl to them.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Monsters by Barry Windsor-Smith

Monsters by Barry Windsor-Smith

I cannot prove that this book originated as a story pitch for The Incredible Hulk, sometime in the dim misty past. But I fervently believe it, and that’s what matters in the world today, right?

Monsters  is a massive graphic novel written and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith; he apparently has been working on it, off and on, for thirty-five years. (I didn’t hear a word about it until it was published; I’m not clear if he worked on it quietly the whole time or if he had mentioned it and I just never heard.) It aims to be a serious book

Buy Lamisil Without Prescription

, but it has an inherent pulpiness that drags it back down over and over again, and a loose-limbed structure that introduces its own issues.

For most potential readers, the big point is that it contains over three hundred and sixty pages of BWS art, some of those among the best in his career. It’s all also entirely in his mature style; there’s no visual indication in this book that it took four decades to make. So this is a visually stunning book: BWS has been a great craftsman of comics pages for about fifty years now (counting from his game-changing stint on Conan), and this is a major, major milestone in any appreciation or evaluation of his career.

The story though, does feel like a lightly warmed-over Hulk story. There’s a monster: gigantic, almost indestructible, mentally tormented, uncommunicative. There are evil scientists (some of them, inevitably, Nazis) and almost-as-evil military types. There’s abuse from a father in the past. There’s an escape, under gunfire, from a military base, the monster hiding out with a helper in an isolated house with military choppers angrily buzzing overhead, and a shoved-in “power of public opinion” moment that nearly gets lost.

There’s also a major thread about supernatural powers, which are not terribly well defined and seem to be able to do whatever the story needs them to do. (Not to save their owners from death, admittedly, but being dead doesn’t slow possessors of “the shine” anyway.)

It’s all told in more-or-less straightforward comics, but it’s not particularly well-structured for the length. All of these pages, all of these moments, could have formed a stronger story if corralled somewhat more tightly, reorganized a bit, and if BWS or an editor had imposed a stronger structure on the story. (This, though, would have meant redrawing or reworking some number of pages – probably including some from thirty years before. That may have not been plausible.)

Instead, the story meanders, telling us one thing and then another, adding layers and depths as it goes – but in a fashion that leads this reader to suspect it happened as BWS worked on the pages, and that he didn’t go back to integrate his new ideas into old pages. One particularly egregious example: one character barges in

http://ateamresource.de/.well-known/pharmacy/index.html%3Fp=81.html

, declaring that he’s the Governor of this state, and is accepted as such….but he admits, a hundred pages later, that he was just pretending. Now, in this world, the Governor of a state is a public figure, and everyone knows who that guy is. So this is just not a ruse that can actually work.

The Nazi, who is basically the main villain, is unavailable for the big ending, so he gets understudied by a military guy – who, humorously to me, is actually named Ross, as if that was the only word remaining from the Hulk pitch.

It’s all set in the late ’40s (mostly 1949) and 1964-65, but only the furniture (cars, hairstyles, WWII uniforms) makes it feel like a period story. I suspect there are multiple expressions used in dialog that are anachronistic; this feels like a contemporary story told in a different time to make the Nazi/WWII connection make sense.

All in all, this has pretty much exactly the strengths and weaknesses of a book that a respected but idiosyncratic creator worked on quietly and alone for decades: it looks great, it has a lot of good ideas and moments, the characterization is excellent. But it’s also lumpy, with a structure that feels like a sequence of pages in the order that the creator thought of them rather than the order that would best serve the story, and later revelations that are not adequately set up. It’s good, but you can see the better book that it should have been.

Purchase viagra UK>

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Patience by Daniel Clowes

Patience by Daniel Clowes

It’s never a good thing to realize, halfway through, that you’ve read a book before. Especially when you’ve just bought a shiny new copy, and the realization includes the fact that another copy – just as shiny, also bought new – is probably on a shelf upstairs in your house. (I haven’t looked yet; maybe it isn’t. Maybe I read it from a library the first time?)

You see, if you read a book again on purpose, that’s fine: it means you remember it, and want to experience it again. And reading a new book is obviously normal. But thinking it’s new to you when it isn’t – that’s not a good experience.

So I re-read Patience  yesterday (as I write this). It was the 2016 graphic novel from Daniel Clowes, and is still his most recent book. I read it for the first time in 2017, and let me take a second to re-read what I wrote about it then.

OK, I agree with all of that. Clearly I didn’t remember it deeply, and I trusted my Books Wanted list more than I should have, but it’s a solid Clowes story

, I find I don’t really engage emotionally with them: they are very emotional people who Clowes often seems to be examining like a scientist with a bug.

That may be one reason why I don’t remember Clowes stories viscerally: they’re all distanced to begin with. The Clowes affect subliminally says “these people are damaged and wrong in various ways; pay attention to them but don’t care about them.” I doubt Clowes intends this affect for Patience, but it’s so ingrained into how I read his work, so tied to his art style and method of viewing characters, that he’d need to change a lot to break that habit. And I suspect I’m not alone in this.

Anyway, Patience is a good Clowes book that didn’t impress itself strongly in my memory. Everything I said in my old post is still how I’d characterize it as a story. I have no new insights to impart. Come back tomorrow; with luck, I’ll have a read a book for the first time and have something interesting to say about it.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

avvxsejrg40ct4bjvhyfoatq4miox5l681midubjgm1vx-i5ph6jxmllufxvduyh85tkus9kmskkwbtvnvgkrreruegfe9strane8in56nxjfofo_2smv6acp5rm_cy5vqqxn6s6c1wp_am6vhp4kkdgzxqgnrlb_qop96meky7akherkuhketitygs320-6845433

Skyscrapers of the Midwest by Joshua W. Cotter

The memory of a book is not the same as an initial assessment

, or a re-read. Looking back, when starting to write about Joshua W. Cotter’s excellent graphic novel Skyscrapers of the Midwest , I see that I read it at almost the same time as Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole. At the time, I said Skyscrapers was my favorite, but I’ve thought about Swallow much more often in the past decade, and returned to Powell’s work in a way I haven’t for Cotter.

So which of the two is “better”? 2008 Andy thought it was Skyscrapers. The default Andy of about 2010-2020 would probably say Swallow if asked to choose between the two. And today, after I’ve just re-read Skyscrapers?

Today I think I’m going to say picking between two books by completely different people is a silly game, that books are not in competition with each other in any sense other than for attention in the moment. The world is wide; there’s room for everything. There’s especially lots of room for strong books.

But today I have just re-read Skyscrapers. And I seem to be avoiding writing about it directly – maybe because what I wrote in 2008 is still entirely applicable and I don’t really have anything to add to that. This is the story of a boy who probably is a semi-fictionalized version of Cotter himself

, at the age of 10 in 1987. I wrote about a lot of the impressive elements of the story a decade ago, and I only have a few things to add to that.

There’s a subplot here about a young man – eighteen or twenty, I guess – who looks a lot like the young protagonist and is in a bad relationship (almost entirely because of him) with a woman of the same age. Reading Skyscrapers this time, I wondered if that was supposed to be a flashforward, the same boy a little older. I don’t think so: the rest of the book is set in 1987, and there’s no transitional elements to imply that shift in time. More importantly, he interacts with the main plot once, so he must be a different person – maybe similar, maybe a warning of what the protagonist could become.

There’s also some fake-nonfiction elements as part of the package – the letter column is answered by a cowboy named “Skinny Kenny,” as the biggest example, but there are also some fake ads and similar stuff. This is loosely incorporated into the overall story, since “Skinny Kenny” replies to letters that, at least in one case, is clearly by a character in the story and is about the story.

But those are the only major pieces I didn’t mention in my old post: otherwise, I agree with what 2008 Andy said. This is impressive, and it still struck me in 2021 as a lot like a more humanist, less formalist version of a Chris Ware story: similar elements about a similar childhood, with the story heading in a different direction and with a very different art style. In Ware, the story is about how a boy is irreparably broken – whether because of comics, or just adjacent to comics isn’t really important. For Cotter, the hermeticism of a boy’s imagination is both positive and negative, like so many things in life, and his characters need to have other connections, especially to family, to get through those tricky years.

We do sense that this boy will get through; he won’t be broken like a Ware character. And I’m reminded that I’ve lost track of what Cotter has been doing for the past decade, so I really should see if he’s done anything else this strong.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Sex Criminals, Vol. 6: Six Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

So I’m a year late here: I was going to point out that this series took longer to complete than I expected, and so I was not as invested in this book as I could have been. But one whole year of the delay is on me, so mentioning that a comic that started in September 2013 and only ran thirty-one issues probably shouldn’t have taken seven years might not come across well.

Or maybe I’ll passive-aggressively say I’m not going to do that. Pointless passive-aggression is pretty on-brand for a discussion of Sex Criminals, right?

Anyway, Six Criminals  is the sixth and last collection of the comic: it includes the final story arc (well

buy zithromax>

, the five issues in which the story ends; it was all one “arc,” basically) and the fantabulous extra issue #69, in which two minor characters have a destination wedding a few years later and all of the surviving characters show up to celebrate and bounce off each other one last time in a vastly lower-stakes way. Like the rest of the series, it was written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Chip Zdarsky. (See my post for volume five

, or drop back to the first one if you have no idea about the series.)

(Consumer Note: references to this book say it contains issues #26-69, which is technically true but deeply misleading. They mean issues #26-30 and #69. There is nothing in between.)

My reaction to it was pretty muted, and I’m trying to figure out why. Maybe I waited too long, and the previous volumes had gotten fuzzy in memory. Maybe I was secretly hoping for the Big Ending to go a different way – though I think it works just fine, is constructed well, entirely fits the characters as we know them, and is satisfying. Maybe it’s just me.

This book does fulfill the promises of the previous collection, where all of the sex-powered people we’d met join forces and start talking about taking down the big bad, a probably borderline-sociopathic business magnate who, we learn in this book, has been stealing all of Our Heroes’ precious bodily fluids (well

http://nordilinga.de/bin/ohne/behandeling/erectiestoornis/index.html

, energy) in order to power what he hopes is a time machine. Yes, that’s very weird: Sex Criminals has kept digging new levels of weird from the initial some-people-freeze-time-when-they-come premise, as it finds new possibilities for sex-based superpowers.

(Sidebar: Say, do you think Sex Criminals was originally pitched as “Chew , but about fucking”? If not, why not?)

There is a reasonably happy ending for the world in general, if not for Suze and Jon’s relationship, which has looked intermittently doomed the entire length of the series. (Jon in particular has never been the most stable of people.) In the end, it’s still basically Suze’s story, as it started out, though focus wanders around among the rest of the cast, as it must when you have that many people. That part is very realistic, and I appreciated it: so many stories, in comics and out of it, slam the two main characters together at the end even if that’s an inherently bad idea.

I bet this all reads better if you run through it all relatively quickly; I read the first volume back in 2014 and have never re-read older issues before hitting new ones. It’s all good stuff, and adult in both the under-the-counter (it’s about sex! you see nudity and sexual stuff on the page!) and the grown-up (people have relationships that grow and change! those relationships are often weird or nonstandard!) ways. It’s definitely worth reading, if you are old enough to do so legally in your jurisdiction.

Kauf von Erythromycin

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Starport by George R.R. Martin and Raya Golden

Stories are inherently molded by their format. A novelization is different from a movie: it typically will include scenes and lots of interior monologues absent in its model. The same happens in any adaption – the original format has certain strength and structures, the new one does things differently.

Starport  is a TV pilot: it declares that in every second the reader experiences it. I also found it to be a somewhat quaint TV pilot, in the ’80s/90s vein, because George R.R. Martin wrote it as a script in 1993 and it’s been mostly sitting in a drawer ever since. (It was published, as a script, in the GRRM collection Quartet nearly two decades ago.) But it was available, and, for whatever reason, it was dusted off and artist Raya Golden took that TV script (of what seems to be long enough for a three-hour TV movie, planned to launch a series, and that length may be a clue why it never happened), adapted it into a comics script (of about 260 pages, if I counted correctly). Golden keeps the TV beats and structure: Starport in its graphic novel form is divided into twelve chapters, each one just the right length to fit between commercial breaks.

In this universe, the inevitable Harmony of Worlds contacted Earth the day after tomorrow (Super Bowl Day, to be exact), and invited us to join the previous 314 species in intergalactic peace and prosperity. Starports were built in Singapore, Amsterdam, and (last and most troubled) Chicago. [1] That last one is the focus of the story, and smart people will realize all of that allows the production to use normal US exteriors and sets, with just a few skiffy specifics and a lot of rubber facial prosthetics and a few carefully-husbanded FX shots to sell the aliens.

It’s a post-ST: TNG SF pilot, with no hint of X-Files, to place it in time — DS9 and B5 were in development when Martin wrote the script, and he may have been able to see finished episodes before he turned the Starport script into Fox. Possibly more importantly, it’s post-Hill Street Blues, and I would not be surprised if one of the pitches was “What if ST: TNG aliens were in HSB Chicago?”

This is a cop show, with a large cast. We have the new detective getting promoted and joining the precinct responsible for the Starport; we have his new partner, the Buntz character; we have two duos of uniformed cops; we have the tough-as-nails female sergeant and her tired-and-ready-for-retirement captain; we have the honor-obsessed alien cop whose anatomy is compatible enough to be fucking a human main character secretly; we have the womanizing, super-successful undercover cop; we have a harried and potentially corrupt alien starport overseer; we have a bar where all the human cops go to drink together and make sure the reader can keep them and the plot straight. I may be presenting them all as stereotypes; in my defense, they are stereotypes. The point of this script was to establish exactly which stereotypes each of them were, to slot them into a dependable American TV framework and allow the actual actors to start expanding those roles if and when it went to series.

It did not go to series; it was never produced at all. And twenty-five-plus years later, it’s so much an artifact of its time that I doubt it ever could be. So this is the only version I expect we will ever get, with Golden’s slightly cartoony art well-suiting the era and aliens but falling a little short on the moments of high drama.

Technically, Starport is a complete story: it sets up a conflict and resolves it. Several major characters have arcs as well. Realistically, it was designed to set up larger conflicts and concerns that Martin hoped would run for several years in a prominent hour-long prime-time spot nationwide, and give him a lucrative showrunning job for the mid-90s. That did not happen; after Starport, Martin felt burned out on Hollywood and focused his attention on what he planned as a fantasy trilogy, starting with the novel A Game of Thrones three years later. (You may have heard of it.)

So this is a road not taken, and, frankly, I think any Martin fan reading it will be happy about that. This could have been a decent TV series, maybe better than that. It could even have broken out and been a massive sensation, as X-Files was about to do at the same network Martin pitched Starport. But Martin’s prose fiction is better than this, and we’ve gotten two-plus decades of that fiction since then in large part because Starport failed.

And now we also got something like the pilot of Starport that never happened

, so I think we’ve gotten the maximum we could reasonably expect.

[1] That the backstory of Starport includes a Super Bowl in Chicago is the least likely thing about it.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Slaughterhouse-Five: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Ryan North and Albert Monteys from Kurt Vonnegut

So this is how it goes: two years ago I had the urge to re-read Slaughterhouse-Five, possibly Kurt Vonnegut’s best novel [1]. And I did . It was still a great novel; it was still deeply sad about humanity. 

About a year later, a graphic novel adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five came out. It was adapted by Ryan North, creator of Dinosaur Comics and longtime writer of the current, popular version of Squirrel Girl. It was illustrated by Albert Monteys, a Spanish cartoonist who has worked mostly in satire. And now I’ve read that version, too.

So, this time, I need to talk about the pictures, and the transformation of Vonnegut’s words on a page into a visual format. I’ve already said what I had to say about the story itself, about poor Billy Pilgrim’s fate – many of the things I wrote here two years ago I thought again while reading this version; I still agree with all of that. My favorite line is still “Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.”

I have the sense that North has fiddled a bit with the structure and timeline, but that’s a dangerous assumption to make: Vonnegut told the story sideways to begin with. Remember: Billy is unstuck in time. Slaughterhouse-Five, in any version, follows him that way, skipping from moment to moment across decades. It may well be that this is exactly the same structure as Vonnegut’s original. But I don’t think so.

I think North has tweaked things a bit to make better visual transitions: to turn Slaughterhouse-Five into something more purely comics, and not just prose poured into a new form and illustrated. He has to do that just to make Kurt Vonnegut a character in this version. Well, Vonnegut was a character in the novel: his voice was omnipresent, his viewpoint was consistent, his actions were mentioned more than once. But he was the omniscient authorial voice, without a name, mostly not taking human form. North isn’t pretending to be Vonnegut to tell this story – that’s another choice he could have made, or Vonnegut might have made if he’d adapted it himself  – but he wants to tell the same story, and include the Vonnegut bits. So we see Kurt on a plan flying back to German years later with an old buddy. We see him in the distance at the POW camp, at least twice. We see the famous scene where he admits all of the soldiers were babies and agrees to the subtitle of “The Children’s Crusade.” He’s there throughout.

He’s just not our point of view, the way he is in the novel. The graphic novel is less personal to Vonnegut, and maybe more for us: we are the ones watching Bill Pilgrim, directly. We’re not watching Vonnegut put him through his paces. He’s front and center, blinking, confused, trapped in amber. Unstuck.

Monteys has a lightly caricatured style: Pilgrim is probably the least “realistic” looking character, with a very long face and a gigantic nose. It’s an open face, one for showing details of emotion: it was a good choice. It works well. Monteys also varies his panel layouts a lot, dropping into a grid only rarely and breaking out splash pages and huge expanses of white multiple times. He and North have thoroughly turned Slaughterhouse-Five into a visual representation; this is not some Classic Comics template with all of the words shoehorned in.

Listen: I can’t tell you this is just as good as the original. I don’t know how to compare art works across formats like that. The original is a towering masterpiece of 20th century literature. It’s one of the great anti-war novels of all time. That’s a lot to live up to. But this version of Slaughterhouse-Five is beautiful and heartbreaking and sad and true and wonderful and magnificent and engrossing. There is no part of it that I can imagine changing to be better. It’s worth reading if you know the original. It’s maybe even more worth reading if you don’t. That’s what I can tell you.

[1] I haven’t re-read them in decades; my opinion is outdated. I want to read him again; maybe I will.

And I say I had the urge. Maybe I didn’t. Maybe I always was going to re-read it in 2019, and just got to that moment in my own personal mountain-range. Who can say?

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye (2 vols.) by Jon Rivera, Gerard Way, and Michael Avon Oeming

I’m sure the creators will all insist that this is totally not a superhero book, that it’s much cooler and obscure and indy and retro and hand-crafted than that. But it’s a big DC Comics book with Superman in it, whose hero is a guy with a mysterious, technologically-advanced eyeball with unexpected and plot-convenient powers, who leads a team of people in jumpsuits and drives a weird vehicle with a silly name.

So, yeah, it’s absolutely a superhero book.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye was a twelve-issue series — I’m not sure, at this late date, if it was meant to be mini- or maxi- or ongoing, and frankly I don’t care — from 2016-2017, about the very minor DC character of the title, who had previously appeared in some forgettable ’60s stories and a few random crossovers. It was part of the “Young Animal” line, which was an attempt to recapture the sales magic of Vertigo without the benefits of time, a deep bench of British writing talent, a healthier market, and (most importantly) Karen Berger. And, as I understand it, the Animals Which Are Young was modestly successful, but has not been a long-term sustainable thing — not that very much in guys-in-tights-punching-each-other comics is “a long-term sustainable thing” this decade to begin with.

That twelve-issue series was collected in two volumes: Going Underground  (ha ha ha) and Every Me, Every You .

Cave’s adventures were written by Jon Rivera and Young Animal guru Gerard Way, and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming (whose work I haven’t seen regularly since Powers, but who is still quirky and organic, even if I think his psychedelic extravaganza fight scenes are hard to follow and not his best work). The twelve issues all make up one long story, in which Our Hero (renowned spelunker Cave Carson) and his spunky teenage daughter Chloe steal the original version of his tunneling machine, the Mighty Mole, to chase the evil spelunking team led by the eeeevil heads of the company Cave used to work for, because they are pursuing the eeeeeevil plan of an extradimensional EEEEEEEEVIL monster that intends to eat the multiverse, more or less.

Cave’s dead wife — every superhero has a dead wife or three in the fridge; it’s standard issue — turns out to have been the princess of a secret advanced subterranean race, because of course she was, and so Chloe is the heiress to Vast Powers and Responsibilities, including the only possible way to stop the aforementioned monster from snacking down on all of the worlds with Cave Carsons in them.

It gets weirder and more bizarre from there, in best Young Animal fashion, and there’s a large cast of characters mostly so Rivera and Way can kill off lots of them in ways that make readers struggle to remember who they were and why we should care. (Was that jump-suited person still on Team Evil, someone who defected once Team Evil’s evilness was clear, or an OG do-gooder? Does anyone care? Does anyone besides me find that several of them look distractingly like Ron from Kim Possible?) The large cast tunnels through the ground of Earth-DC (or maybe Earth-Young Animal?) and then through the contiguous grounds of several other alternate Earths, meeting a Cave Carson Jr. and eventually his father. Doc Magnus appears, and is even more of a dick than usual, while still not being particularly interesting as a character.

In the end, the multiverse is indeed saved from being eaten, as we all knew it would be. DC would not stop publishing umpty-zillion comics just because Cave fucking Carson couldn’t save its bread and butter, now would it?

This is a loud, flashy, silly, overstuffed comic with some good moments and a whole lot of confusing action. It is somewhat more serious than the standard punch-fest, or at least aspires to be. I did not take it seriously for one second, but I did enjoy pieces of it, and was engaged enough to request the second volume from the library when I hit the end of the first one. And I have enjoyed dunking on it here. So it is not without its pleasures, even if those are highly particular and goofy. Caveat emptor.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.