My Week [or so] in Music

Well, this is awkward. You’d think I’d slip up due to a dearth of content. Instead, three albums came out alongside my normal reading, and it comes with commentary on gaming, too, because why wouldn’t it?

First, the music:

Released [last] week were Hate Eternal’s Infernus, Ghost’s Meliora, and The Sword’s High Country. Either you’re into modern metal of some kind,¹ or I just spewed a bunch of gobbledygook. In the simplest of terms: we’ve got death metal, heavy metal (nice and specific to most people, in the sense that it isn’t at all), and stoner metal. I don’t know how three metal albums I was looking forward to all came out on the same day, but, it is what it is, right?

Anyway: Hate Eternal was, unsurprisingly, the least surprising in their approach. The death metal bands I still follow actively can mostly be described like this and tend to have mutual appreciation amongst them. Indeed, Hate’s Erik Rutan named the other two–Immolation and Suffocation–in an interview I read recently. There’s a kind of comfort in that. Which is essentially how one responds to a Hate Eternal album, even if it is somewhat confusing to non-death metal-ers: comforting. Hate Eternal is, was, and forever shall be, well, Hate Eternal. There will be tilts and shifts, but the fulcrum stands firm.

The Sword is similarly reliable, but still young enough (Hate Eternal’s hardly orders of magnitude older, but Rutan’s history in Morbid Angel works in there, I think) to continue to reform the barriers on their work. “Seriously Mysterious” is recognizably The Sword, from Cronise’s lyrical choices and voice, but it’s still pretty shocking, appearing in the middle of the album (and being, I must say, pretty awesome). Otherwise, it’s a solid set of grooves and riffs about which I have zero complaints and in which I find plenty of enjoyment.

Ghost (now allowed in the U.S. to be called that, too) I came at backward compared to the others: my first exposure was a friend mentioning being in the video for lead single “Cirice”:

I really dug the track and recently listened to the much more “musical” (I’ll explain) predecessor, Infestissumam while I waited for Meliora to be released. So: more “musical”. Well, the band’s clearly not interested (and have admitted as much) in hewing close to metal tropes in sound, and this album is no exception–well, neither album is, but Infestissumam even more so. There’s something perversely delightful in the choral recitations of “Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub
Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer…”

Meliora, though, scratches the itch that “Cirice” gave me openly a lot better, with a crunch of a swing that is more what I’d hoped for in the first place after being so drawn to “Cirice”–and the kind of band that would make a video that is deliberately modeled on 1980s horror and immediately made me think of the similarly retro-fied House of the Devil. If you must, they’re a band that deliberately eschews personal identities, being entirely characterized by a series of vocalists all named Papa (as in Pope) Emeritus (we’re on III) and then “The Unnamed Ghouls” who play (in matching masks) behind him.

I’ve been very happy with these albums, though I’ve also found myself sidling back regularly toward Fake Problems’s Real Ghosts Caught on Tape again, too…

¹Or know someone who is, but don’t necessarily like all or even any of the above. Still, the names are likely to have flitted about your ears and/or eyes.

My Week in Media

Hello!

I’ve been pretty significantly away, having moved across the country to take up a new job and finding a bit of a social life alongside it.

Normal concerns–cataloguing my collections and experiencing them in their given manner (reading, listening, watching, playing)–are also difficult to get around, but a revived digression from social media and the, ahem, milieu it represents has left me hankering to write about things.

Perhaps, too, it’s the largely-unexpected (but hoped for) printing of my letter (chopped down, understandably, from my rambling) in Darth Vader #8. Perhaps it’s the music I’ve been listening to. Most likely, though, I just want to talk about all of these things and don’t know of a better way right now.

For comics, this week was a bit rough: the first half was spent delving into The New Mutants–Claremont and Sal Buscema largely taking the first stabs, with Sienkiewicz appearing alongside Claremont at issue 18 to kick it into overdrive.

Continue reading

Blue Devil #5 (October, 1984)

So, Zatanna and Dan let Nebiros out of his demon dimension and he disappeared off to Mexico. That’s not great. From the Justice League station in orbit, we get our last glimpse of the now suspiciously legless Ralph Dibny (with also a pretty horror comic-looking shot of Ralph’s face–thanks Paris and Gary!)

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The cover wasn’t a lie, either (strange as its phrasing was), as the Mexican military does appear, with Thunderbolt Ross’s Mexican twin running it (which earns a nice look of complete incredulity from Dan). Nebiros’s approach to their air force is to use his mystic powers to disassemble their jets in mid-air (oh, great!), leading Dan and Zatanna to the conclusion (okay, technically they already arrived at it) that they’re the only hope for pushing back Nebiros.

Well, them and Norm, but more on that later.

We get a random interlude of the Monitor and Lyla (I have no idea who Lyla is) watching this battle take place, where the enraptured Lyla seems to really like the look of Dan.

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The Monitor, however, is praising the following actions–another one of Paris’s trademark follow-the-acrobatics panels:

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A lot of the point here seems to be some establishing of future Blue Devil stuff: Dan gets his trident back (Zatanna insists this is the tool that is making Nebiros most unstoppable), and we get a quick glimpse of something rather weird happening as a result, which is definitely not any kind of foreshadowing, even if Norm randomly explicitly reminds us of it later on in this issue. Clearly, some kind of one-off oddity that will never come up again.

Dig those eyebrows, though.

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Dan’s continued reluctance to be anything but a stuntman is met with a palpable eyeroll from Zatanna, who clearly thinks he should be a hero, and also probably a few other things she could think of, which gives us this great nod back to Lyla’s comment, as well as an inventive use of Dan’s horns:
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But all of this is secondary. Sure, we’ve got further developments with Jock Verner, as Marla both sticks it to him at his office (though still not face-to-face, probably just to preserve the Jock Verner Mystery™) and reveals to nephew Gopher (hey, it’s Gopher! But where’s Wayne?!) that her real name is Marlene Bloomberg and she’s from Syracuse. Well, okay then!

Still: secondary, at best.

The real star of this issue is first mistaken for the Mexican Air Force, when the plane carrying said hero drops them onto the battlefield:

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Yes! It’s Norm! Norm the fearless battle action hero!–Over his shock at Marla’s request that he return to the island, he’s here to kick ass and take names.

Hell, Dan is feeling a bit rough from the battle with Nebiros, enough to worry Zatanna just a bit about his state, but Norm doesn’t care. Norm, instead, poses for a cover action shot like a badass.

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Where’s the Norm Paxton spin-off?

Also, seriously, I almost included three or four more panels of Norm double-fisting camera and gun and caring nothing for the demons and superheroes warring around him in the interest of Marla’s wacky b-roll footage.

If I’m not mistaken, the next issue is the last with Paris Cullins (alas!), so we’ll have to see what happens after that. Unlike the blog that inspired me, I’ve not actually read these before. I thought about reading ahead, but fell asleep instead, so I guess I’ll just stick with things like this!

Blue Devil #4 (September, 1984)

Well, I can’t lie. That cover’s a bit of a surprise–I didn’t expect to see Nebiros again, at least not so soon. This is also one of my first real reads of Zatanna, considering I saw her briefly whilst reading <i>Hellblazer</i> if memory serves (it would have been a Mike Carey issue, most likely), and that’s all¹. Certainly, I’ve never seen anything pre-Crisis–though that’s a fair assessment of the great majority of my D.C. reading, after my intended “Green Lantern from the beginning” reading project hit something like #2 and I realized I’d probably be forced to lobotomize myself to continue to successfully.

Anyway!

Dan’s gone off with Superman, who has alleged that he has someone who might be able to help with the occult-ish bonding of his costume (I guess the cover spoiled that one for us. Thanks, cover.) First, he introduces him to Ralph Dibny, though–because who else would you want to meet from the Justice League but The Elongated Man? (Please, don’t answer) Ralph does not wiggle his nose (I don’t know, was that a Giffen/DeMatteis-exclusive? Write in and tell!), but we also, interestingly, never see his legs. Apparently he just stretches his torso until his arms and head are where he wants to be and never moves them at all. C’mon, Ralph. Your legs are going to atrophy!

Dan, though, wants to first test his power in-costume, so he challenges Superman to arm-wrestling with…predictable results.

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After making a fool of himself, in walks Zatanna (in a pose that is undeniably intended to show off her physique–naughty, naughty, Paris! Even if it was successful!) so that he can make a fool of himself all over again. And, honestly, a bit of a creep. I’m not prone to explicitly making that judgment, but dear lord…the look on his face as he’s looking down at her–while they both perhaps get their entire field of vision covered in red and black Dibny-body.

Of course, Dan’s witty compliment (though he’s not wrong, and I have no idea why she has a millipede hugging her head) turns to Zatanna actually looking kind of badass, and Dan looking the fool as she attempts to un-bond his suit from him without success (sweet Dr. Strange hand signs, Paris!²)blue devil 04-07

The solution? Go and see Nebiros, and ask him politely to undo what he did. Yes, Zatanna, you definitely sound like an expert at dealing with demons. I’d say you’re better off asking the not-quite-existent Constantine, but you’d probably just end up stuck with Nebiros on similarly bad advice. It just would have been knowingly bad.

They learn this from a book that is clearly still writing itself (slash being written by…Them. So that’s what Van Morrison was doing between Inarticulate Speech of the Heart and A Sense of Wonder.) I’ve got to call out inker Gary Martins and colorist Michele Wolfman here–this book looks really great. Martins darkens and strengthens those outers and Wolfman lightens the palette to match so we end up with a neat-looking book of Shrinky Dinks.

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Once they’ve returned to the island (Île du Diable, of course!) and entered the portal to Nebiros’s realm, Paris gets to flex some unexpected Jim Starlin-mindscape imagery–though it’s a little bit different in its weirdness–as Dan this time goes to Nebiros’s territory.

Naturally, this all turns out wonderfully, as Dan politely says, “Mr. Nebiros, sir, Dark Lord of All That Is, would you kindly return me to my human self?” Kind of a short issue, honestly.

No, I’m lying, of course. Dan does make an attempt, but his anger over Nebiros’s use of his Trident (despite the cover of #2, he actually hasn’t had or used it since #1) causes him to lose his cool and brilliantly start a fight with an incredibly powerful demon, who also now has a demonically-powered version of his trident. Nebiros, thankfully, is pretty dense, and takes a very long time to realize that his “little brother” is not on his side at all. He finally takes off amidst this to attack actual populations by flying off with his Trident of Evil.

Great job, Blue Devil and Zatanna!

Meanwhile, Sharon is angry at Marla for giving Dan that C&D over wearing the costume in public, but she finds out he flew off with Superman only after she gives Norm some awesome news:

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Lucky Norm (who’s flown to the island by Asyetunnamed Pilot, Esq.) not only manages to reach the island that of course won’t still have demons rampaging across it (because who would let the demons back out like a moron?!) but misses a ride out of there when Dan and Zatanna appear and teleport away to stop Nebiros before Norm and Pilot are even seen. Poor Norm.

In other news: where the hell is Wayne?!

¹Okay, I also read Identity Crisis, but, around here, we like to pretend that garbage doesn’t exist.

²I don’t actually know if Strange did it first, or someone else entirely. I’m not attempting to assign credit anyway, I just don’t think I saw–in my brief little experience–Zatanna use hand signs for spells before, and forever associate them with Strange.

Blue Devil #3 (August, 1984)

 

So, when last we left Dan, he’d just been through events that led him to dealings with new villain Shockwave and also the questionably-vehicled S.T.A.R. Labs, who were creating a super-kryptonite they’d really rather that Super-guy not find out about.

But Shockwave was assigned to steal the stuff, and now we know who by: Metallo! The Man with the Kryptonite Heart! I think we can guess what he wants to do with it.

But first, Dan is being analyzed, as promised by Klyburn, by the equipment at S.T.A.R. and it clarifies something of what happened: he was bonded to the suit, but it wasn’t exactly made plain ol’ devilflesh (can that ever be “plain ol'”?). X-rays (or similarly penetrative visuals) show that there’s still circuitry underlying the whole thing.blue devil 03-01

But that’s of little concern to Metallo, whose frustration with Shockwave seems mildly misplaced in light of his henchmen, who have missed their classes on basic firearm safety, and possibly the line where folks were passed functional brains. Still, all of this does indicate that sending others to do your work etc etc, and he decides to break in himself. blue devil 03-06blue devil 03-08

 

 

 

But Metallo and Shockwave aren’t the only folks we get to check in on!

Norm and Sharon (after only a silent, single-frame appearance last issue) moved onward, story-wise. Sharon reveals that Dan told her how the suit’s bonding was most upsetting as a result of his crush on her, and so she feels she needs to go and support him, at least in return for the fact that he, y’know, saved her life. Least she can do is try and make sure he knows that she doesn’t hate him as a human being (or…a whatever).

Norm, aka Doze-Master¹, is Dan’s biggest cheerleader, and sees things pretty straightforwardly (Dan must be cool, because he beat the pants off a demon and a supervillain, right?).blue devil 03-07

Meanwhile, Marla’s conscience, already teetering last issue over the legal concerns Jock Verner showed, decides to flex her artistic muscle and threaten Verner (gosh, I wonder if we should read anything into the fact that he’s always drawn in shadow???) if he doesn’t get up off Danny’s blue junk.

Speaking of Danny’s blue junk…

Paris goes to the trouble to illustrate a lot of interesting bits with how the Devil’s being analyzed at S.T.A.R., where he first appears in just his Devil-Briefs™, which seemed weird to me considering he basically wears a vest attached (I thought!) to them. No, it turns out he wears a vest with split ends (maybe that’s not a vest, then? I don’t know what that does make it) that he tucks into his Devil-Briefs (oh, of course.)

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Because Dan foolishly agreed to be analyzed at the place Shockwave had tried to rob, he’s really in for it, and gets promptly trounced with a blast from Metallo. However, we learn something new about Blue Devil and how he responds to something like a shot to the chest:

blue devil 03-15(Dig that last shot where Dan seems to be wiggling his fingers menacingly to threaten the Metallo henchmen, who are helpfully labeled with an “M” to clarify their allegiance)

Dan’s revival allows him to gain the upper hand (there’s a terrible pun here somewhere, as he destroys Metallo’s “mighty hand”), while also using appropriate sound effects to force more henchmen to acquiesce to his desire for them to…cease.

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Metallo, it seems, talks too much, though (or maybe Dan read the cover?) and he finds out the appropriate way to stop him quite readily:

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Some guy in blue and red shows up (too late to do anything important!), and Devil hopes that Supes is gonna give him some useful info on how he might find out how to get out of the suit. Probably because magical research is not really the smartest plan for Clark, he mentions that occult power isn’t his area, but he might know someone who can help.

He also asks why on earth S.T.A.R. was devising super-kryptonite at all, and Klyburn convincingly explains that it’s totally not about Superman or anything:

 

 

 

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Being pre-Crisis, I can only assume this is the manifestation of one of Clark’s heretofore unmentioned superpowers: super-gullibility.

Wayne-Watch: Where is Wayne? We want Wayne! Why, we were without Wayne for a while now!

 

¹In our hearts, if not in any actual fact.

Blue Devil #2 (July, 1984)

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Note: Whoops. I’ve been kinda busy. This tends to happen, I guess, though it’s super lame for it to happen a whopping two entries in. My apologies.

In his (then) most recent adventure, Dan Cassidy was still a real boy in a robot suit, until the very end. While being trapped into a fancy suit made to look like a movie monster might because for endless pathos (or villainy, if you are, say, Aleksei Mikhailovich Sytsevich¹), Dan’s not exactly happy with his lot, but he isn’t bemoaning the old–er, Cassidy–luck and sulking.²

Let’s not beat around the bush–Dan’slooking for a way out of the suit, and dealing with some poor luck (that only gets worse), but he does find some enjoyment in his now internalized powers, and even uses them to make normal life easier here and there:blue devil 02-07
But he’s not really given a chance to whinge or exult in his invention’s newly organic nature, as a trip outside in Metropolis results in unwanted and unsolicited attention from passersby and the media, which he simply tears away from. Absent-mindedly, almost, he stops a mugging in process (and is mistaken by some out-of-towners for Superman, in a pretty good gag).

Dan’s casual heroics are left be as he returns to the Brownstone he invested in (and has yet to rent out) to find his phone ringing, giving him a chance to use his powers for the most mundane of reasons (which is a great touch):

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(Though he follows this up by accidentally ripping his door off its hinges, so, I guess it’s a wash)

Turns out, all that attention from the media got him in hot water with the shadowy film producer (no, not Marla, she’s not shadowy! Also, she’s the director/producer, not the Money Person, whose name is Jock Verner) of the not-yet-released Blue Devil movie he made the suit for in the first place.

In the meantime, Shockwave (a brand new villain!) is in the midst of robbing S.T.A.R. Labs, and trouncing the questionable security of an ostensibly tech-wonder location to acquire what he’s after, and causing wanton destruction as he does so, making his way to a pick-up spot.

What relevance has this to our hero? Not much. He’s not a hero, after all. He’s a poor schmuck who got stuck. But Shockwave’s casual negligence in his destructive rampage destroys the Brownstone Dan has recently purchased and failed to rent out as yet (ouch!), thus earning Shockwave his ire. Dan’s not outclassed, but he is a bit out of his depth in dealing with Thunder Thumps, as the two try to find their way around each other, gaining momentarily only to lose shortly thereafter, even when trying a few clever tricks.blue devil 02-23

Dr. Jenet Klyburn from S.T.A.R. appears, though, and informs Dan that the stolen object is an advanced “super Kryptonite”, so it’s imperative that he regain it (partly, she notes to herself, so that Supes doesn’t find out…), which causes him to go ahead and redouble his efforts (and letting Paris Cullins do another super-great Devil-in-Motion panel!³)

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The Devil doesn’t successfully wrangle Shockwave, but he does prevent the loss of the super Kryptonite, and rides off with Klyburn in…okay, maybe S.T.A.R. has had some budget woes. A Chevy Astro? That’s what they sent the Doc in to regain an item of the utmost importance? Yikes.

But, of course, we can’t leave out this great bit when Marla has gritted her teeth and sent the lawyers with a C&D after Dan to stop appearing in public. Showing one of the better acknowledgments of proportion and perspective from Paris Cullins, with dialogue to match (a lot of the book shows that Dan is now pretty ridiculously tall compared to normal people, and Cohn and Mishkin even acknowledge this in the dialogue):

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As intended, the book is a fun book, despite coming out a time where it contains ads for Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing (which was rarely fun, despite its excellence), just as the authors and editor intended.

¹With apologies, for those who demand it, for a Marvel reference in a D.C.-based project.

²Ha! I stopped myself before doing it again, though!

³By now, I guess my appreciation of those things is readily apparent.