After Tonight, I Just Can’t Be Alone

While I consistently read the new stuff that comes out when it comes out (with occasional delays for other plans in that Wednesday/Thursday time-frame), I’m pretty haphazard in my reading of the enormous set of back issues I’ve picked up in the last few months. I set out plans for the beginning of the week (visible here) and…sort of stuck to them.

I got another Moon Knight under my belt–Moench and Sienkiewicz, but before Sienkiewicz abandoned his Neal Adams style, and almost polished off Scarlet Spider (still that Minimum Carnage issue, but it fetches a pretty penny, which, owning and reading the rest of that story tells me isn’t worth a pretty penny). I backed off on End of Days simply because I’m not sure if I can get away with it with my severely choked Daredevil reading. JL(I/A/E) was also stalled, after discovering the existence of the Justice League Quarterly that the Giffen/DeMatteis (with shifting co-writing and backups) team was actually involved in. Curses. Spectacular ended up waiting mostly as a result of some unexpected arrivals on Wednesday.

What I did read was The Atlantis Chronicles and Time and Tide, as well as the less-planned first four issues of Green Arrow and the beginnings of the reprinted Miracleman series (the aforementioned unexpected arrivals).

The Atlantis Chronicles

The Atlantis Chronicles (pictured in either meta or narrative sense to the left!) are Peter David’s renderings of the histories of (D.C.’s) Atlantis as recovered by “Professor R.K. Simpson”. It was a 7-issue miniseries published in 1990, a fair number of years before PAD got his hands on an ongoing Aquaman series (apparently as a direct result of the events of this miniseries, in fact).

Each issue (well, almost) is narrated by a different chronicler from Atlantis’s history, first by Albart, under the rule of Orin and when Atlantis was still a surface kingdom, then by Albart’s nephew Britton (after Atlantis sank), Britton’s sister Illya, Illya’s son Regin, and, much later, the less-clearly-descended Atlanna–eventual mother to Aquaman.

While the series serves to set up various elements of Aquaman’s own power, history, reputation, and character via the characterization of ancestors, reason for Atlantean aquatic nature, origin of oceanic telepathy, and so on, David doesn’t make the mistake of grounding the series too emphatically in the future (well, our “present”) and leaving everyone as nothing but foreshadowing for what we “really” want. Orin, Narmea, Shalako, Dardanus, Kordax, Haumond, Kraken, Fiona, Trevis, Bazil, Cora, and, indeed, the chroniclers themselves, are all portrayed as whole characters. The nature of historical writing–especially, my Classically-oriented father would probably agree, the kind being imitated here–is embraced fully, biases intact, such as Albart’s disdain for Orin (and love of Shalako), or Illya’s youthful interest in more the personal than the political.

Atlantis’s history becomes rich and clear, filled with the holes you’d expect from historical documents–Simpson explains in faux articles that many volumes have not been found–but still leading toward the future without aiming itself for it. There are no twists or turns that function as intentional violations of expectation, without leaving itself mired in predictability. Albart’s bias could (it did for me) leave you rather enamoured of Orin to spite him, especially as his writings contrast so much with the character, and thus bias you against his object of worship, Shalako. But neither character, in the “subtext” of “actual” events comes out as clean or darkened as either Chroniclers or spiteful contrarian views of the same would lead you to believe.

Dardanus does not and cannot come out as anything other than a truly vile, self-absorbed pile of shit, but there’s not much to be done there–his actions speak of an self-serving sense of justice and injustice, and a remorseless understanding of his own crimes.

Esteban Maroto brings the best kind of pencils and inks for the job, with interesting and recognizable character designs for characters we’ve not really seen before in many or most cases (or, if you’re me, all cases). There’s drama and detail and grace in all the right places, and the feeling of the creakiness of ancient stories–the differing focus on representation of ancient art, if you will–without losing the comic book pacing and movement that we’ve added to earlier types of sequential art. Eric Kachelhofer enhances this feeling with his colours, which are nice and bright and clear, with just the right kind of dull to keep them from distracting or overtaking, and even further enhancing the art’s role in the story’s nature as “historical chronicles”.

Sadly, this story has not ever been collected, but it was at least released digitally via (at least) Comixology. This is a perfect example of why I don’t just go out and buy trades (though there are plenty more in my longboxes, of course).


Aquaman: Time and Tide

Though delayed by a few years (replaced in the interim by a 13-issue attempt at an ongoing by Shaun McLaughlin from 91-93), Time and Tide is effectively Peter David’s direct sequel to The Atlantis Chronicles, or at least a direct continuation. Arthur Curry–Aquaman–is given the Chronicles and decides to continue them himself, relaying his own life and origin to establish it firmly in the post-Crisis continuity, as well as explaining the prophesied elements of his life that Atlan told Atlanna of when Arthur was conceived.

In a fashion befitting the somewhat more diary-like nature of Arthur’s approach to the Chronicles, it’s a bit episodic in nature. Arthur relates the first interactions with humans who think of him as “hero”, which includes a kindly Barry Allen attempting to introduce him gently to the surface world, with somewhat King Kong-like results, his rescue and adoption by the dolphin Porm, and one of his more positive interactions with humans in remote North America, and finally an exploration of Ocean Master and his history with Arthur.

More building blocks for an ongoing (which would follow much more quickly than this did The Atlantis Chronicles) than a fully independent story, Peter does good work with this four issue miniseries (often considered a bit of a “Year One”), but is hampered slightly by the peculiar pencils of Kirk Jarvinen, who often does good, clear work, but sometimes dips far, far too deeply into “Disney Eye Syndrome”, which looks exceptionally weird in the context of both these stories–and his own other renderings. Consdering the alternate is often the kind of eyes seen above (squint-lines), it’s not encouraging, and can get really distracting. Still, the stories work quite well, and allow Peter to exhibit more of his wit (I’m more in love with the Trickster gag than I should admit).

While I have The Longbow Hunters and the first four issues under my belt, I’m going to hold off on discussing Green Arrow further for the moment, as well as Moore’s Miracleman, which I will likely “catch up” when the next reprinted issue arrives.

This title: “Please, Head North”. I try to avoid repeating artists, just for variety’s sake, but Transit’s been on quite a bit for me lately, so here they are again. This track appears three time in their discography: in one version on their split with Man Overboard, again on their second full-length, Keep This to Yourself, and finally in an acoustic form on their first “alternate stuff” (mostly acoustic renderings of existing songs) collection, Something Left Behind.

So, So Long, So Long, to the Silver Days

Light week (busy otherwise, hence Saturday!). Three titles, plus the arrival of the long-awaited Armor Hunters #3. I did get in my back issues (heh) of the reprints of Miracleman written by Alan Moore (who is credited as “The Original Writer” because he re-routed his royalties to Mick Anglo’s estate) with some back-up features that also originally appeared in Warrior, and occasionally some of Mick Anglo’s original Marvelman strips. Very much as good as I remembered, so far.

I also began picking up Magneto, which I had not been doing, but could only get two issues in before hitting a gap my shop will hopefully be filling for me.

The list:

  • Armor Hunters #3 (Finally! Hooray!)
  • Rai #4
  • Silver Surfer #5
  • X-O Manowar #28

Silver Surfer #5

Dan Slott’s approach to this latest volume of Silver Surfer has been weird and quirky, to put it mildly. He hasn’t ignored the cosmic elements of Norrin Radd, but he’s grounded him so emphatically with the use of his companion Dawn (apparently, Slott has openly compared it to Doctor Who, so my choice of words was more on point than I realized) that it ends up in territory that I’m not sure would look right with an art team that wasn’t the Allreds.

The setting is kind of confusing, in a way: it might be the deliberately anachronistic stylings of Allred, or it may be deliberate, but there’s sometimes the feeling that this is hiding way earlier in Marvel-616 continuity than its current publishing would indicate. Other than the fact that the Surfer is a former herald and the Defenders are established, there aren’t heavy indicators in the story as to when this takes place. Which is fine, to be fair: this is a symptom of cosmic characters. Usually a cosmic character, even when interacting with someone decidedly not, is so removed from the normal concerns of other comic characters that continuity doesn’t come into play. Their acts are so far above, beyond (or maybe just sideways) from the rest that it just doesn’t matter. That’s true here–Nightmare (who I know best from his interactions with early 90s Morbius, and an occasional dalliance with Doctor Strange, who also appears) is clearly involved in a plot that has the Surfer returning to Dawn after last issue’s discovery that he seems trapped under the same invisible sphere that Galactus once left him under, unable to leave the Earth. Strange and the Hulk (wait, did the cover give that way?) appear at the Bed and Breakfast/Inn that Dawn’s family owns and runs, and are forced to fight the Nightmare forces that are causing a number of peculiar events while the Surfer leads Dawn toward a solution to it all.

The first few issues (and the digital introduction, or whatever it was, Silver Surfer Infinite) have served to establish the oddity of the Surfer’s interactions with Dawn, as well as how they came to be (rather bafflingly) entangled in the first place, but now we’re seeing the two of them gel (as much as they can, anyway) into a stance that will doubtless serve the book going forward. The Allreds remain the real joy of the book, while Slott keeps dialogue and plotting enjoyable enough that it doesn’t feel like hollow enjoyment of pretty pictures (and his playing with one of the Surfer’s most famous lines–“To me, my board!”–has been quite good in its various incarnations) and like a very solid book in general.

Armor Hunters #3

Long delayed (for me, anyway…), the story of the hunters who approached earth in the wake of the crashing introduction of the half-armoured Malgam manages to only gain in stakes, with the major events that have been suggested in Armor Hunters: BloodshotArmor Hunters: Harbinger, and Unity now laid out fully. I’ve mentioned this in discussing those very books, but it’s neat the way Valiant went about this: Venditti and Braithwaite use this book to tell the overarching story of this rather forceful incursion, leaving the emotional details, side effects, and spillover to be covered in the relevant books. This does create the interesting scenario wherein the core story revolves around Aric of Dacia, possessor of Earth’s X-O Manowar armour, which I’ll address in his own title below.

Earth is suffering under the might of the Armor Hunters and their fanatical devotion to their cause–GIN-GR has leveled Mexico City, and the hounds managed to do some damage before Gilad and Ninjak took them down, Lilt infiltrated the M.E.R.O. base (though this left him faced with Bloodshot, as we saw in Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #2), and their tracking of the armour’s presence led them to raze Aric’s small colony of ever-transplanted Visigoths–but the refusal of Colonel Capshaw to surrender in the face of even these acts means strategies are being formulated. Gilad and Ninjak are working the ground, while a plan to deal with the demands of the small group means the X-O armour is sent up to GIN-GR in surrender.

The side issues–which I’ve already read–gave me a rough idea of what occurred in this issue, but that managed to do nothing against the world-shaking events that occur all the same. Aric’s failure to protect his people and the way it weighs on him is written strongly, but emphasized even more by Braithwaite, who does not let the emotion of this escape Aric’s face throughout. The actions that we see Livewire examine in Unity #10 are explained here, and the tension is kept at a level where we can see a chance for Earth to defend itself, without being certain it would succeed, or, if it did, at what cost. This is the ideal level of drama for this series, and I hope they give us some breathing space before the next major event, because it was enough of a leap for many of the players after Harbinger Wars, or even the early moments of Unity’s coalescence.

X-O Manowar #28

While Robert Venditti is handling the core writing of the universe-wide events in Armor Hunters, he’s also still writing the X-O book, which creates an interesting predicament: Aric of Dacia’s role can’t be downplayed or thinned out for the event book in the same way that Unity or Bloodshot’s can, because it’s the very reason the hunters are there. If, then, the event book is about their descent upon earth, and thus Aric’s dealing–what can the book that bears the title do?

Well, we have the rather easy cheat of acknowledging that, well, “X-O Manowar” is the armour, not Aric. And so the tie-in issues for the title instead explore what led this team of Armour Hunters to Earth, where and how Malgam came to herald them, and why they are so fanatical in their devotion to seeing the X-O armours eradicated from existence.

Malgam and Reebo are the core of the team–having been recruited to the cause in prior issues by other hunters who heard their (otherwise laughed at) tails of an invincible and inhumanly (ahem) powerful warrior, and we see them engage in their first rounds of hunts, their team’s other members an endlessly shifting parade as death after death plagues them through each hunt. Slowly they realize that many of their fellow hunters are no longer checking in, that Central itself is becoming quieter–and their team is no longer being replenished with new bodies.

Old friends that they are, Malgam and Reebo follow each other into this, but this issue sees their friendship and trust strained, questioned, and desperate–as the cover implies, we’re to find just how Malgam found himself bonded with a set of the armour…

Rai #4

Matt Kindt’s Rai has been a curious book–set so far in the future (4001, A.D.) that we have no clear connection to the rest of the Valiant universe, beyond the surprise appearance of Unity villain Dr. Silk (though one wonders if/how he survived this long). Clayton Crain’s beautiful painted art takes the fore, with its endless gloss and sheen, Kindt allowing him to build a world around a story that is taking shape slowly, as we come to understand New Japan and how it works. Kindt has told us that murder does not occur, for the law enforcement machine that is Rai so thoroughly affirms the laws set up by the unseen Father, that its discouragement is nearly absolute.

We’d last left Rai discovering something of his history from Silk, that he had a human mother, a fact Spylock did not wish him to learn, though Lula remains convinced that the fabled protector is more capable than his predecessors of coping. Rai is isolated from everyone in everything, but that we have Lula fawning over him as legend means he may just have one avenue for understanding himself and others. Kindt reveals more about the unknown and questionable elements of Father’s almost-murder-free paradise, as well as where the body seen being dumped came from in the first issue. We’re left as uncertain as Rai, but hear from the Raddies and Father both as to what is happening.

Kindt’s story kicks into gear in this issue, and then we’re told the next issue is in December. December. BOO.

Title comes from Boston’s Transit, and the track “So Long, So Long” from last year’s Young New England. Didn’t expect to go for a band like this, but took a chance on that album and rapidly acquired all the rest of their stuff.

 

I Never Strayed from You My Dear, but You Suspect I’m Somewhere Else

Just for fun, my planned reads for the week, outside new issues:

I’m already almost done with it, but Peter David’s The Atlantis Chronicles is definitely on the bill, to be shortly followed by Aquaman: Time and Tide, like, you know, it’s supposed to be. Then, of course, Peter David’s Aquaman “proper”.

I just read Scarlet Spider #3, as it came in the mail today, putting me one issue away from completing the series (and also tying a bow on Venom, as it’s an issue from the admittedly “meh” Minimum Carnage storyline–but, hey, at least it isn’t Maximum Carnage.)

I finished Justice League International (as in, the one that came out of Justice League and precedes Justice League America) and am thus in a place to begin both Justice League Europe and Justice League America (note: no “of”).

I just got in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #110, too, which means I can work on re-reading most of that run (a few gaps, to be fair, but with all the other reading…shouldn’t be a problem to halt as needed).

Daredevil: End of Days I may need to look into (insofar as, well, “How much does this tie into Bendis/Maleev’s run on the core book…?”), but otherwise, it’s the remaining complete Daredevil work I’ve got hanging around.

And lastly, I should get back to the original run of Moon Knight, as I’ve got large chunks of ever subsequent series queued up behind it.

This is sort of off-the-cuff and all–moods shift, and I currently don’t have a reason to emphatically organize my reading around anything other than my whims, so that’s how it’s going to end up right now.

This title is from Sugar’s lovely single “If I Can’t Change Your Mind”, which was found on their full-length debut Copper Blue. More classic stuff, folks. I actually like the chime-d-y nature of the other song with “change” on the title from the same album (“Changes”) more, but what are ya gonna do.

The Happy-Ever-After, It’s at the End of the Rainbow

Sometimes we–or at least, I–like to imagine a much more cosmic cause and effect than realistically exists. It’s silly, but when there’s no control present otherwise, it gives the illusion, so long as the imagined connection holds. Of course, human minds are more than capable of editing memory, expectation, and the nature of these connections to maintain that link.

I had planned, today, to wander out and pick up some more ingredients for the simplistic quesadillas I’ve been downing (also: burning regularly) lately, and struck upon the idea of hitting the grocery store near a Walgreens a few miles out. Why is a landmark likely irrelevant to you or any of this remotely important? Well, it was rumoured and then confirmed that Walgreens was going to be home to an exclusive Marvel Infinite figure, a character that was produced previously for the Select line as an exclusive for the Disney Store¹: the symbiote-laden Eugene “Flash” Thompson, aka “Agent” Venom.

What I decided was that I would read the issues of his series (as written by Rick Remender and then Cullen Bunn) that I’d finally built up² and that would magically be the move that placed his figure into one of my local Walgreens, and specifically the one I was going to visit. I plowed through 2-14 (I’d read 15 to the end, #42, a few weeks ago) and made my way out, but, alas, no dice.

The other thought I was left with, though, was to address a topic close to me after running into someone’s recommendations for Marvel comics to read from throughout the company’s history. The suggestion was the Michelinie/McFarlane run of Amazing Spider-Man, mostly because it contains the first appearance of Venom.

Michelinie’s run, though it contains both my favourite Amazing artist (Bagley) and many stories from my youth (again, with Bagley, rather than McFarlane) is not as impressive on revisiting it. Having read every core Spider-Man title up to around the beginning or middle of the Clone Saga, I discovered rapidly the weak points in any of the titles (Amazing, [Peter Parker the] Spectacular Spider-Man, [Peter Parker: ]Spider-Man, and Web of Spider-Man) and Michelinie’s suffered next to Conway and Buscema’s Spectacular, though admittedly not as much as Web, which spent its life bouncing between insufferably boring and random points of good-to-great.

It wasn’t bad, but none of that really addresses the real issue–which also isn’t my feeling that McFarlane’s art is hideously over-rated–but that Venom is a stupid character. This has been written many times–I forget who encapsulated it best, but it’s easily related to the sheer lack of creativity behind him. Now, we have the idea of the abandoned symbiote latching onto a new host, which is an interesting idea, but revolves around the symbiote, which existed long before Venom. But that host is nothing–Michelinie makes the foolish mistake of trying to tie Eddie Brock into one of the best Spider-Man stories (and my personal favourite): Peter David’s “The Death of Jean DeWolff” from Spectacular #107-110, and does so clumsily and stupidly, by taking the false confessions of Emil Gregg and shoehorning in unseen events with him. Why does Gregg come in to the Daily Bugle seeking JJJ (in the original issues), if he has a reporter for The Daily Globe listening to him (as Michelinie suggests)? Why does Eddie reveal his identity after Gregg is taken in by the police and revealed to be a copycat? Why is Eddie such a baffling sociopathic narcissist that he not only hides a spree murderer from the police for the sake of circulation, he then blames they guy who actually stopped the murders for revealing the murderer

Setting all that aside, the entire concept of Venom is both simple and stupid: “What if Spider-Man had to fight Spider-Man, only he was stronger and was invulnerable to Spider-Man’s powers???” It’s a lazy way of creating a challenge–unlike the interesting moral examinations of the Sin-Eater, the moral and personal dilemmas of the Green Goblins (who have far more subtle and disturbing “immunities”), the already-more-powerful-since ASM#3 Doc Ock (who completely kicked Spidey’s butt), or any variety of villains that came with personalities and tactics and powers that were not just “Spider-Man Plus”.

This only got worse when Michelinie created Carnage (whose original story was slightly before my time, by a few issues): Cletus Kasady is a non-entity, a face and name attached to a serial killer who kills “because”. In reality, this kind of thing is horrifying, because it’s a real person, who was living next to people and seemed normal and all of those things that remind us that we’re never completely sure what drives that kind of person, and how we missed it. Here, it’s a barely half-dimensional “character”–I won’t go so far as to accuse either Venom or Carnage of being creative-ethics bankruptcy (ie, cashing in on simplistic appeal), but that they’re just really badly written and created characters. And most of this, of course, centers on the fact that the two hosts–Brock and Kasady–are boring as all hell. We get a silly, lame explanation for Brock’s homicidal urges, but someone who would hide a murderer and hate someone who stops murderers, for some reason has a conscience about killing “innocents” (?!) which was eventually milked to the ends of the earth in a series of increasingly confusing moves toward violent anti-hero, which is, admittedly, exactly what a lot of us “tweens” and teens wanted then (see also: Punisher, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, almost all of early Image Comics…). Yeah, Michelinie later expanded a bit on what motivated Eddie to place so much stock in his failed exposé, but it just all rings out as silly. Even as a kid, I thought, “Really? How is that Spider-Man’s fault? How can he even think that?”

The point, in the end, is this: Remender’s (Agent) Venom proves that the symbiote-infused character isn’t a bad idea, and even builds on the history with Brock to create proper and meaningful conflict (easier when you have written stories to build from, and thus can gloss over the stupid origin). Having Flash, a character we already know, take on the symbiote brings something interesting, and allows us–much like Spider-Man originally–to see the contrast of before and after, the effects and the way the interactions occur. Interestingly, we even get to see Eddie Brock more interesting–side effects, I guess, of whenever he was turned into Anti-Venom. His motivations and character make more sense, because it’s reflection and reaction coming from the actions we’ve witnessed.

Perhaps it’s best compared to Hobgoblin–Roger Stern made a really emphatic mystery out of Hobgoblin’s identity, much as the original Green Goblin’s was teased (he appears in ASM #14, 17, 18 (if you count a single panel), 23 & 25 (more cameos, but as the unnamed Norman Osborn), 26, 27, 37, and 38. Stern’s original identity for Hobgoblin was Roderick Kingsley, but he left the book without resolving the mystery, and so between DeFalco’s denial of Kingsley and Stern’s exit, Peter David (him again!) decided it was one of the red herrings–Ned Leeds, husband of Betty Brant, and wrote ASM #289 to reflect this. In both cases, we didn’t have the, frankly, bullshit lead-in of a single out-of-panel appearance two years before the villain (or his civilian identity!) was revealed. Now, Michelinie wasn’t aiming for the identity of Venom to be a mystery we were led along for, but he still introduces a villain and his human-self in one issue, which would be fine–except it’s personal. It’s a bunch of retconned in nonsense that we have to pretend occurred somewhere in the original story (and avoid having us re-read it, because it’s going to make this story look really, really bad).

It’s all a fascinating web: one of Green Goblin’s old compatriots/competitors was the Crime-Master who, interestingly, appears in Remender’s Venom (and it gets even more convoluted-ly ‘incestuous’, but this story being way, way more recent, I’ll leave that spoiler alone).

Anyway, the point is that Venom was a character who grew on the backs of what he was–badly written, badly thought out, but directly driven into the veins of tastes at the time. Eventually it became accepted that Venom was a sweet-ass, totally rad character, because, well, we were all told it. And I don’t begrudge anyone who loves the character–but I’m so enthused about what Remender did with the symbiote that, for once, I appreciate a character named Venom. Because now we have a real, established person under the alien, holding that name. Flash had already changed much over the years–unlike those Goblins, he was established for himself, rather than as a new supporting character intended to be revealed as the secret identity that we’d had hinted to us, being loaded in prior to the reveal only so that the reveal meant something. There we are though: loaded in beforehand so the reveal meant something. We had at least some idea of Kingsley and Norman before they were revealed to be Goblins. Venom and Brock appear simultaneously in any meaningful sense.

We’ll see if it’s actually 2 out of 3 when I get around to Thunderbolts and the eventual presence of Mac Gargan’s version…

Title comes from Gang of Four’s “Ether” off the 1979 classic Entertainment! Buy it today, if you don’t already have a copy. Which you should. It’s a classic, remember?

 

¹I’ve mentioned this offline many a time, but that was a truly asshole maneouvre. Disney stores are not exactly a dime a dozen, or even a hundred. I’d probably need to drive at least an hour to see one. I’ve got three Walgreens within about five or six miles, and more beyond that. Weird choice, but not so ‘elitist’ about availability.

²I just got a water-damaged copy of the third printing of #1 that’s still perfectly readable and a nice clean 13.2, both of which are obnoxiously expensive, though the #1 was discounted to a perfectly reasonable $2.50 for its condition.

³Any of this can be addressed with “Eddie is a fucking moron, a shitty journalist, and mentally ill,” but no one ever addresses the probable mental illness, which is probably asking too much–except that we have people like DeMatteis and David on Spidey books in the same days, making far more ground in fascinating villains (this story is on the heels of not only the Return of the Sin-Eater, but less than ten issues after “Fearful Symmetry”, aka “Kraven’s Last Hunt”)

A Dozen Roses in the Car, and I Don’t Know Where You Are

Its been a busy couple of days, so these were all delayed a bit. Still, it is or was a new week, so…!

Before I begin: I’ve just discovered that my favourite new book, New Warriors, is being canceled after issue 12. I told you all to go out and read it. Where have you been? Fix this. Now. This is sad and not-good news.

Sigh.

Onward–

The list:

  • All-New Ghost Rider #6
  • All-New X-Factor #12
  • Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #2
  • Armor Hunters: Harbinger #2
  • Daredevil #7
  • Delinquents #1
  • Translucid #5 (of 6)

Armor Hunters #3 has still been denied to my shop, but is in shipping manifests for next week, at least. I’m still iffy on starting All-New X-Factor now, with so much of the previous title in boxes (but not complete). Anyone who stumbles across this and wants to assert whether I should or shouldn’t start reading the title in ignorance of the prior volume is welcome to do so!

 

First off, let’s cover the book that I recommend in person all the time, but haven’t addressed here at all. Translucid is the latest from Claudio Sanchez and his wife Chondra Echert who’ve previously co-written KillAudio and The Key of Zboth for Claudio’s own Evil Ink Comics. An interview I randomly stumbled into had Claudio suggesting that Chondra is most directly and heavily involved in the writing–whether this means a “plotter + scripter” breakdown or something less easily divisible, I don’t know. But there’s plenty of credit to go around here. Translucid is an intentional breakdown of the Batman/Joker-type dynamic, without leaning much at all on those characters or their story.

While Mark Waid covered something of this via inversion in Irredeemable and Incorruptible, his focus was far more on the inversion itself, and the Plutonian, by necessity, resembles Superman in many ways.¹

Certainly, the Navigator is more of a Batman, normal guy with gadgets type hero, but he’s leaning more toward science fantasy in his powers than heavy training and having the money to bankroll batarangs and other “understandable” gadgets. The Horse, however, is nothing of the Joker, beyond being a villain. The Horse is a schemer, a plotter–maybe it’s his snappy dress and cane, but I’d think more like Kingpin, if anyone.

In any case, this is all about the Navigator, and how he lost his luster and his drive while the Horse was in prison, and how the Horse is attempting to understand these changes, while we, too, see where the Navigator came from. By this issue, we’ve got a lot of his origin, a lot of what has built him up, designs and ideas and emotions, but in the current day we have the Horse in complete control, but still confusingly (but not at all unbelievably) devoted to prying apart the gears and motivations of the Navigator.

Daniel Bayliss and Adam Metcalfe make for a formidable art team as always.  Keeping the normal normal and the fantastic fantastic, Felipe Smith’s cover [EDIT: Smith’s cover is a variant, not the one I have, which is the one pictured. His cover is here] again references the hallucinogenic images the Horse is leaving the Navigator trapped in–images that can bleed or shift suddenly in the book, shocking and fluid as they appear or take over. Reality warps under their hands with wild but controlled lines and colours that shift from the interestingly limited but very “real” palette into neons and other blinding colours that emphasize this strangeness.

The book is and should be six issues–at least, it looks that way here at the penultimate issue–though it will still be sad to see it go.

Yes! It’s a “ValiantCraft” cover! My shop only got these variants, though only for this book. I’d originally thought I wanted to get all of them, but, I suppose, it would be a bit weird to have Armor Hunters books with that style. Maybe. If nothing else, this is definitely the title least strange to find with it.

Continuing the story of Quantum and Woody after their title ended, by merging it with the still-running Archer & Armstrong, Asmus (Q&W) and Van Lente (A&A) have started the convergence nice and clean. Asmus was left with the final scripting–understandable, as Van Lente still has a book and he doesn’t–and Archer might be a teensy bit off in tone (Archer’s a peculiar character though, with his upbringing, his rejection of it, and the weirdness left in the wake of that), but everyone else is spot on for certain. The issue is nicely balanced between the two teams, while clearly setting up–via the sure-to-be-infamous treasure map from Armstrong’s “hobo days”–the way in which the four will run into each other.

While the standard cover has been used for most advertising, it pulls a pretty standard trick by implying that we’re going to open the book with Woody and Armstrong joyously sharing in their hedonism to the embarrassment and sighs of Quantum and Archer, they’ve not really run into each other yet, so we’re yet to know if that’s accurate (even if it is pretty reasonable). Valiant books remain serious about their long-term story-telling, without leaving individual issues unsatisfying, relying on the action and dialogue to maintain their entertainment value.

Diamond has continued to make things awkward for my shop’s orders, so Armor Hunters #3 still hasn’t made it in, but I’m now 3/4 issues through the tie-ins, so I have a rough idea of what happened in it. But, as I’ve mentioned previously, modern Valiant tie-ins function as their title character’s point-of-view on those events, not as the means to deal with those events–this is Armor Hunters for Bloodshot, not Armor Hunters, and Oh, by the Way, Bloodshot.

We last left our nanite-infused killing machine with (no time for) questions about his identity and origin attempting to protect the mangled, X-O-covered fugitive Malgam, prisoner of M.E.R.O., from the sudden intrusion of Armor Hunter Lilt. Colonel Capshaw is his only distinctive contact with M.E.R.O. (no surprise: she already deals with Aric of Dacia, and Bloodshot’s personality, even if not his skill set, is that of a puppy next to Aric) and she will not brook the intrusion of Lilt or the failure of their latest defensive system (by which I mean Bloodshot). The Armor Hunters are stupendously formidable, as they would have to be to deal regularly with Manowar armour, which has been explicitly shown to be something which no one we’d previously seen could readily contend with–even Malgam was best controlled by, well, Aric.

Unlike Unity or Harbinger, this is the most isolated of Armor Hunters tie-ins, with Bloodshot in a contained facility as he is. Admittedly, I was a bit confused at the outset, having forgotten where things were (I should’ve skimmed the inside cover’s summary to remind myself, so, my bad) but this is very much an action-oriented story right now. There’s no time for anything but dealing with the Armor Hunters and the retention of Malgam.

Armor Hunters: Harbinger has made the interesting choice of following not Harada, not Peter or even the remaining Renegades, but Generation Zero (with, admittedly, some Renegades along for the ride, but only two). Maybe it’s a result of Harbinger: Omegas, or something else, but it allows us our first consistent focus on Cronus, Animalia, Cloud, Titan, Telic and the Zygos Twins. Even the presence of Zephyr and Torque is left more to help address external perceptions of GZ. We’ve seen the hounds, the destructive power of GIN-GR, the lethality of singular operatives like Lilt, but Generation Zero has discovered that what destroyed Mexico City is something else again. Cronus takes a team to explore what was left in the wake of that destruction, and it is not just wreckage–the Hunters left something behind that is unlike the kind of power they’ve previously expressed.

The Zygos twins continue to be fascinating in their sociopathic view of everything–they’re fascinated by the destructive power of the Hunters and the possibilities of their technology, even as Cronus and the rest are attempting to save survivors of the attack–though not without stopping to take some anti-authority digs at the choices of our two Renegades, re-affirming Cronus’s revulsion at anything representing such power after the treatment his team received themselves.

Mark Waid has turned Daredevil’s origin, not on its ear, but certainly on its elbow or something with the previous issue, telling us something about Battlin’ Jack Murdock we never would’ve expected by revealing–thanks to Original Sin–something of Matt’s life with his mother still around.

Maggie the nun has clearly been his mother since Miller introduced her 30 years ago, but we’ve never known what led her to the convent, or away from Matt. And now we do. Matt does as well, but he has no time to deal with this when Maggie is secretly arrested and extradited by the new ruler of Wakanda, T’Challa’s sister (who is not so benevolent as leader of an extremely advanced country).

Matt’s methodology in dealing with this is clever and at least somewhat unexpected, satisfyingly character appropriate all the same–and it gives Waid a chance to pull another rug out from under us. I won’t lie, I actually exclaimed my profanities when this happened, not out of anger, but sheer surprise at the clever move and way it deals with the previous issue. That it was means to address an issue not often touched on (most likely never, or at least rarely, in the Big Two, though I’m not foolish enough to profess to absolute knowledge). A pretty sparkling issue, and probably my pick of the week’s releases.

Felipe Smith–yeah, the guy who did the cover for Translucid up there [EDIT: again, not the one pictured above, but this variant]–has lost Tradd Moore (whose work graces the cover and no more) and instead gained Damian Scott, who, my quick research when this was announced, is known for a very hip-hop/graffiti art stylism. This was good news–Tradd Moore’s rather crazy art was very stylized, too. I’ll miss his wind-blown flames and sharp lines on crazy figures, but Scott more than steps up to the plate to keep Smith’s characters and story where they should be.

And that brings me to the most fascinating thing here: this isn’t Zarathos, nor a replacement for Johnny, Dan, or anyone else. Indeed, so far as we know to this point, this is literallyGhost Rider for the first time. Eli claims to be just that, and speaks openly to Robbie Reyes about his desires–not far, particularly, from Dan’s co-inhabitant in seeking primarily to punish the wicked, and certainly reveling in violence the way Zarathos left Johnny, but Robbie has other ideas.

And that has made the last five issues, the pacing of the book, the seemingly peculiar choices, begin to stack up into an image that makes sense. It’s not that we weren’te shown what Reyes is doing, it’s that it didn’t quite click. When Eli reminds Robbie that he has responsibility now that he has power, Reyes interrupts him. And it’s not to tell him he doesn’t care about responsibility, or that he’s a selfish git who’s responsible to no one, or anything. It was a surprise that makes sense for Reyes, the book, and everything else. Which means, on most levels, it isn’t a surprise at all. It’s exactly what you would expect from him. He uses newfound power to do good in his actual life, rather than attempt a new one–good, ill, or anything. It’s now a much more interesting story, because it’s doing something unusual–for now, as I imagine Smith will force Reyes to recognize the interactions with the rest of the world in some way, or increase the influence of Eli–without making a big fuss about it. It’s just who Robbie is.

And that’s where we are for the week. Or, at least, where I am.

Title this week is from Braid’s “A Dozen Roses”, from their 1998 classic exeunt, Frame and Canvas. They’ve since reformed and recorded and released a few singles, but mostly the fantastic No Coast.

Aha, I discovered this in my lazy writing-avoidance meanderings, and I guess All-New X-Factor is on the table now. Cool.

¹The story is, after all, essentially, a hero goes so far off the deep end of evil that he is, of course, Irredeemable. It would take a lot more set-up for a Batman-type analogue to do this–or most anyone who isn’t absurdly powerful. All the heroes in the world teaming up could take down most heroes. Just not Superman. And while a rampaging Hulk would be neither surprising nor even original, brute force as compared to brute force and laser eyes is something else–plus any other random powers. So, point is: this isn’t a knock against Waid.

Who Is This America Dem Speak of Today?

Yes! It’s Thursday!

This week:

  • Archer & Armstrong #24
  • Armor Hunters #3 [Didn’t arrive at my shop. Expected next week. Bummer.]
  • Captain Marvel (v8) #6
  • Nightcrawler (vIDunno)#5
  • Spider-Man 2099 (v2) #2
  • Unity #10
  • #16

First, the one that, for story reasons, I was most looking forward to (and thus clearing a publisher in one shot!): X #16.

I blasted through 1-15 once I had them all in my possession, and found I really liked Duane Swierczynski’s take on rebooting one of the cornerstone “Dark Horse Heroes”. It was hideously violent at the outset, with X throwing himself so unshakingly into his attempt to clean up the city of Arcadia that he ignored assaults and injuries to enter a safe room and get to the man he was after.

X is a blazing psychopath in most senses, but a driven one. He’s simultaneously an embodiment of all kinds of “badass” and “justice” fantasies that spur on love of The Punisher or Batman (obviously leaning more toward the former), but with no punches pulled on his fragility as a human. He’s a tactician, and a plotter, but he’s not invulnerable or perfect. When the story began to cycle somewhat back on itself, Swierczynski really threw a monkey wrench into it recently with what began to happen to X’s largely unwanted “sidekick” Leigh and X himself. We’ve continued to receive only hints of X’s past, but even those waters are muddied with probable deception–half-truths, untruths, or unpleasant whole truths, we still don’t know.

But even with the savage beating and loss X took at the hands of Deathwish, Gamble, and Carmine Tango, the first appearance of The Archon showed us something entirely different was going on. Hints that perhaps X is “something more than human” are put to the test with Archon, to results I’ve seen a few reviewers find questionable in intent–but I think the object here was to introduce elements, clarify their relation to each other (such as Archon and X), clear up something of what those hints meant, and what X (the book, I mean) is all about. It’s an interesting take on this kind of conflict in terms of how X himself reacts to it, as he pulls out a few tricks in the process–and it’s somewhat reinforced that what he suffered before at the hands of Tango wasn’t in defiance of his character and abilities.

Having Nguyen getting stable on the book again is also a boon–his art is by far the best fit we’ve seen for Swierczynski’s writing, stylistically conveying the grit and unpleasantness, without it becoming so overbearing as to be wearying, much as the plots are not consistently positive or negative in outcome.

Next up, we have the latest issue of Archer & Armstrong, which concludes the “American Wasteland” story started in issue #20.

Sadly, I realized that the amusing album cover parodies for this storyline were not all in my possession–I had no idea where the cover from #21 was from, with good reason: I had the “normal” variant, not the one that parodies Are You Experienced? I do at least have 23’s London Calling and 20’s Hotel California (the most relevant of all, at least!). Apparently some other variants exist, like a second album for #20 (Welcome to My Nightmare) and #22 (Face to Face). The alternate for #23 is this month’s theme like the previous “8-bit” covers: Minecraft. But these are too appropriate to the story not to go with, so those covers looked fun, but this was the right one.

In the continuing adventures of okay-we-can’t-really-jam-Armor-Hunters-in-here-and-that’s-actually-okay, we’ve seen The Lizard King’s strange plot, the presence of endless deceased stars–a tiny bit befuddling after my recent readings of Sensational She-Hulk which has its own star-powered afterlife confusion¹–and gotten some clarity on the Wheel of Aten. However, as we’ve gotten details on what they’ve discovered, we’ve not gotten a clear indicator of what A&A can do about this, especially with the sudden re-appearance of Mary-Maria–but Van Lente does exact a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the whole arc, and once again manages to tease the future in just the right way for a comic book–satisfied, but eager for what is to come.

Valiant has not, in everything I’ve read of the reboot–which is everything except Shadowman–ever made a mis-step with artist match-ups. It can be disappointing when a regular artist swaps away, or is filled-in-for a couple of times, but it never feels at odds with the writing. And Pere Perez is definitely one of the excellent choices for a book like Archer & Armstrong –just cartoony enough to fit the mildly zany (is that possible? If it is, it’s right here) sense of humour, without losing track of the actual drama and characters underlying it.

Unity #10 is a tie-in for Armor Hunters #3, which means that, like previous ones, it gives the broadstrokes of what occurs in the primary story while allowing those events to be expanded by the character(s) the book title references. This is a minor sadness–I now know something of AH#3 before getting to read it, but that’s a shipping error, not a goof on Valiant’s part, based on the reviews already skipping around–I guess, anyway. Maybe those are advance copies.

Anyway, as the cover strongly implies, this is about Livewire’s interaction with GIN-GR, where Livewire’s ability to communicate with technology allows her to experience the entire life–yep–of the Armor Hunters’ ship/robot/companion/thingamajig. It’s far from the happiest time, and, while we’ve seen a lot of where the Hunters are coming from in their pursuit of X-O armours, there’s a surprising twist on the involvement of the armour in GIN-GR’s life. We follow up this unusual and alien history with Ninjak and Gilad taking down another of the Hunters’ hounds–a nice, solid action sequence to follow a rather sad story. Valiant’s writers and artists continue to make tie-in issues that stand alone but feel like they are exactly what a tie-in to a massive event should be: the peripheral stories of our book’s characters experiencing events too major to be constrained by any of the individual books, but keeping the major beats so that you don’t have to read the primary story to understand what’s going on. Though I guess you do still need to read the rest of the recent arc in-book (or at least the catch-up on the inside cover).

And now–Marvel. This is going to be a bit peculiar, I think. I seem to be very against the grain in a lot of what I’m getting from a lot of Marvel books, unexpectedly positive, unexpectedly negative, which is not a strange thing for me, I guess, but it does seem to happen more often without the perspective of past judgment and history of others built up to inform opinions.

First up, Captain Marvel #6. Kelly Sue DeConnick has been writing Carol Danvers for a good while now–all of her solo books since she became the good Captain (rather than Ms.) and a fair number of other appearances in things like A+X and Avengers Assemble. I quite liked the last volume (7, if we count by title, rather than unique character), which ran for 17 issues and culminated in an event I heard her speak about at a panel two months ago, where she talked about how killing Captain Marvel would be an asinine thing to do, especially as she was, at the time, sitting next to Jim Starlin², and so a different kind of stakes had to be put in place.

The second volume started almost immediately after, and…sort of continued the story. I talk a lot with other comic book people these days, particularly the employees of the shops I frequent, and at least one other reader of this book shared my confusion that we seemed to be following the previous volume, but that this one seems to have managed to gloss over and then completely forget the ultimate event of the prior volume–not pretend it didn’t happen, but resolve it somewhere off-panel, without admitting clearly that it happened, or that it had been resolved. It was very odd, and almost immediately this series took to the stars for what a recent reviewer understandably termed an egregiously forced interaction with the modern Guardians of the Galaxy (Bendis-style, not Valentino for sure, but also not Abnett and Lanning, either). My last conversation had both of us feeling that Cap was about to get really, really interesting in this issue, after a dogged pace for a few books, some steam seemed to have built up.

Now, I write pretty much as I go–which is a flawed approach, but I’m lazy–which means it was hardly planned that I referenced built up steam, but it allows me to mention that unfortunately that steam was, well, a bunch of hot air. Things just kind of deflate in this issue–the pacing and focus feel completely wrong for the stakes and the overarching plot. Things are tied simply and neatly, and so the story ends. Well, okay.

To my confusion, this series remains one of the best reviewed ones Marvel is currently releasing (to my annoyance, this is in contrast to the relatively middling ones New Warriors is getting…) and I honestly have no idea why. My fellow, “Well, okay,” reviewers seem to hit on the same feelings that I had–this seems like a plot just kind of plopped in, with no particular investment in it one way or another. DeConnick definitely builds up some relationships between Carol and the folks she meets on Torfa, but it’s so transient, and yet treated as if it’s a lifelong thing (perhaps that on-ship, memento-type photo of them together at the end was Lopez’s idea, but it didn’t feel very “realistic”, wherever it came from–like a ham-fisted attempt to remind us that, “Yeah! Carol made real friends and relationships here!”). David Lopez’s art is nice in its consistency (versus the randomness and occasionally incongruous images of the previous volume), and I like seeing Carol’s helmeted costume (with the crazy mohawk it propagates, seen on the cover, that seems to echo Kree style), but this is the first book part of me just wants to drop, as I’ve been waiting to see it realize potential and some form from the blocks being placed, but it just isn’t happening.

I’ve always shrugged at the fact that my favourite X-Men have remained painfully obvious for someone who grew up in the 90s–Nightcrawler, Gambit, and Wolverine. It is what it is. It would be amusing to be a rebel who just loves Maggott or something, or who’s just sideways of expectations a little and prefers Storm or Colossus (these would be eminently more understandable than Maggott…). But, nope. Nightcrawler has always been my absolute favourite, so this was actually one of the first new books I started picking up. I wasn’t intending to collect or anything, but when I was looking for variants of the Thanos annual, I saw this series had started and snapped them up: Claremont doing Nightcrawler?! How could I not?

And I’ve honestly not been disappointed. It’s Claremont the way I like to imagine everyone likes him–though, if I’m honest, I actually liked his return to the core books 10 or whatever years ago, though almost no one else seems to–and limited to a single character, which means he can’t do everyone’s least favourite thing and develop something like the Neo again (I never minded them, myself). Kurt is dealing with a world he was taken away from and returned to–his faith, rather than being shaken, is simply informed by this. Dealing with the loss that occurred in previous issues, Kurt is a man who does not let this drag him down to morose grieving, but struggles to be what he can in the life he has (again). Here he’s coming to grips with the idea of being a teacher at the Jean Grey school Wolverine has started, mostly embracing the relationship he has with Rachel “Phoenix” Summers, with whom he once shared membership in Excalibur.

Todd Nauck continues to churn out wonderful art that doesn’t lean too heavily on style, while also being one of the most readily complimented by the modern style of printing and colouring (which Rachelle Rosenberg has done wonderfully with for this series–deep, full hues, that are a complete contrast to the sketchy, light tones she uses on Superior Foes).

I want to call this something like a workhorse book–but that feels inappropriately denigrating. I think, most accurately, Claremont and Nauck are creating a book that doesn’t try to stretch boundaries unnecessarily, that doesn’t hew toward old conventions or new, that just does what it does and does it all right. It’s a character book and an adventure book, and it does both of those things too beautifully to be as dismissed as it seems to be.

Lastly, we have the second entry in Peter David’s return to Miguel O’Hara. I’ve now read the issues of Superior Spider-Man where Miguel was brought into the Earth-616 timeline, which just does a minor bit of gap-filling to explain his presence in modern-day Alchemax and his familiarity with Liz Allan³, though in my ever-neurotic paranoia, I went back to confirm this and found he’s been bouncing around more of later Superior Spider-Man, which means finding those, I guess. Drat.

Anyway, the first issue re-centers the story on Miguel, who has been a supporting character–naturally–in a book that was not named for him in his appearances since his original series was canceled. This one continues to develop the world around him in terms of how a character from 80 years in the future exists in the modern world. His Michael O’Mara (yowza–it’s amusingly close to his real name, which means he should be able to respond to it readily, but it seems like a headache for PAD or anyone writing about the book to get right) identity at Alchemax with Liz is not exactly built on careful planning, in that he comes from a time that doesn’t exist yet, and the appearance of Spider-Man (2099, that is) in a locked down Alchemax has put the employees under scrutiny–and his background (or lack thereof) is not helpful to this.

The defensively abrasive Tempest, who is the superintendent of Miguel’s adopted home building re-appears and continues her amusingly confusing interactions with Miguel, who is still not quite sure how to deal with her moment to moment, but does learns from each failure to adapt to her approach to him. While I’ve talked about the pacing in Captain Marvel and the pacing in Ghost Rider in its current form (let’s be honest: I probably forgive its ludicrous decompression because of Tradd Moore’s beautiful art), PAD, eldest of writers in that group, knows what he’s doing. Some want more to happen, it seems, but he crams dialogue, character, and intrigue (and, last time, time-traveling assassins who totally could’ve been Death’s Head) into pages that don’t have “much” happening. We’re building up the cast and settings of Miguel’s “new” (heh) world and letting Sliney get a feel for how everyone looks and interacts around David’s plotting and scripting. It’s still establishing stuff, but no less interesting for that fact, and should not be taken as too slight a story. I’m very pleased with this one, too.

Today’s title: the title track (well, it’s full title, but the actual name of the track) from Antibalas’s Who Is This America? Delightfully meandering Afrobeat/jazz.

 

¹The best part is the presence of both Bucky and Norman Osborn. Oops!

²Who, of course, wrote Marvel’s first ever original graphic novel, The Death of Captain Marvel, widely regarded in nothing but positive terms.

³Man, how many of us thought it was “Allen”? I’ve read 1,000 and whatever Spider-Man comics and I was sure it was Allen until the past month or so.

Some Girl to Thrill Me, and Then Go Away

Normally a footnote, the oddity of this choice–and, let’s be honest, its relevance being tangential at best, as I’m soon to explain–means I should get that out of the way. It is, of course, one of the lines John (then Johnny) Mellencamp (then Cougar) uses to close the chorus of “I Need a Lover”, his first big single (if memory serves, bigger in the U.K.–oops, it was Australia, apparently–than his homelands here) from his early U.K. album, A Biography (released on the next year’s John Cougar in the U.S.). It appears here because it was the song covered for A.V. Undercover today, and that’s the really flimsy connection: the A.V. Club.¹

Anyway, current unemployment leads to strange ways to deal with free time, and the most common one (short of reading or organizing comic books, of course) is playing solitaire while watching things on Netflix. I’ve seen some great horror documentaries, and some interesting television serieses and what have you, but lately I ended up pursuing two of the anger-inducing-cancellations of past decades, these being the earlier works of Judd Apatow–Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared.

I actually caught episodes of both shows when they were initially airing, but not much more. The former intrigued me,² the latter drew me in with previews and then couldn’t hold my interest.

Revisiting these shows, both held in very high esteem, has been an interesting process. Freaks and Geeks fascinated me with its actors and scripts that made it pretty easy to forget either of those things was involved. Most issues were treated pretty reasonably–the scattered chaos of reality, minimal preaching or firm decisions about moralities and the like. With one exception–“Choking and Toking”, which I felt stumbled (pretty hard) on both of its issues. The most persistent bullies acted in vengeance (the whole arc of this, in-episode, is just silly, down to its closing line which never should have been spoken aloud, but conveyed silently), and Pot Is Definitively Bad.

Not a pothead. Never was. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I ever would be. But the hammering away–in contrast to the way it’s dealt with otherwise–is weird and forced. Coincidences appear to serve the plot, or, more accurately (and damningly), the message. It’s certainly a more reasonable and balanced treatment than usual, but that’s really not saying very much, considering the normal levels of absurd hysteria associated.

But that was the only real major hindrance–Undeclared is a whole other set of something. Nine episodes in and it has been passable at best, but I’ve gone off searching on at least two episodes now thinking they must be regarded as the absolute dregs of the series, only to find they are just as warmly received. The characters are what seem to be most appealing to people, and that’s certainly in keeping with sitcom mentalities, but they’re poorly developed and most of them are not great. Somehow the womanizer comes off far better than our “I’m not going to be a nerd anymore!” protagonist, who’s really kind of a creep.

The “God Visits” episode was beyond ridiculous, with a single philosophy class spinning someone into devout existential nihilism (with an emphasis of the latter half) and someone else into Born-Again Christianity. Neither of which makes sense for the characters, and just serves as a really stupid gag to drive the plot (and some continued not-all-that-funny jokes).

Maybe it’s personal. One of the first things Steven does is wait until Lizzie’s away to answer her phone when her boyfriend Eric calls. We know Eric is an insanely controlling ass because we heard his part of their last conversation. Steven doesn’t. But he answers her phone and decides to undo their relationship of his own accord (Lizzie forgives this immediately, and even Steven decides by the next episode that breaking them up is wrong–none of which makes sense). While not being the demanding-of-phone-sex-now type of person ever, I’ve had done to we what was done by Steven. It’s not funny. It’s not a harmless joke, either. It’s creepy and disturbing and all kinds of wrong. I suppose not being on the other end of that kind of call doesn’t make that clear, though.

I’ll probably continue plowing through the series, but so far I’m pretty baffled as to what is theoretically so great about this one. It’s supposed to be the characters, but they’re incredibly inconsistent, so I don’t know how that can be.

Ah, well. So it goes.

¹Reality: the lyrics that title these are often pleasingly relevant (to me, at least) but that tends to be more coincidence than anything else. It’s largely whatever words are in my head at the time of writing. C’est la vie!

²Jeff playing “I’m Eighteen” is the reason it was one of the first songs I tried to learn on guitar. True story.