I Don’t Need Pride of Place, But in Your Good Books I Think I Might Rate a Page

Is it frivolous to comment on things when I should theoretically be commenting tomorrow, in the passionate throes of New Books Are Out Wednesday¹?

Well, of course, the answer is: who cares?

So, onward and upward!

Most important news is, I’m afraid, music-related, and not comic book related: after comments, photos, and statements insisting that they were working on new material, we finally have evidence: Doomtree has dropped a new track.

The credits are much like those on No Kings, with Cecil, Beak, and Paper sharing authorship on the beat, and everyone who does so contributing verses (Stef, Sims, Cecil, Mike, with Dessa mostly just joining on the last recitation of the chorus).

The beat is odd: somewhat retro in its usage of synthesized noises, but very subdued and laidback. Unsurprisingly: the track is awesome.

Anyway.

It’s been a bad week, so I spun around the area (using the term “the area” loosely here) and filled a bunch of gaps. More (Flash Thompson, of course) Venom, more classic Valiant, classic Moon Knight, some newer Valiant to fill gaps there,  Justice League America and Europe (apparently, the latter is difficult to find, but often cheap as hell when you can), and most of the usual suspects. I finally have all of Friends of the Maxx, which pleases me greatly. And perhaps nicest of all, I plugged the single-issue holes in Uncanny X-Force (the second volume, the almost-all-female-except-one-troll-in-all-senses version) and Secret Avengers. Whew! I think I get why the latter issue was hard to find (it adds Venom to the team as Agent Venom), but I have no idea why UXF #10 was such a pain.

I’ve been starting to cut through the modern Valiant stuff with the first 10 or so issues of Archer and Armstrong–it’s almost like the satire Ennis likes to do, without having to pound into your face how much he likes having absurdly violent and/or sexual (and “and” can of course mean the two are combined!) scenes inserted, either for his own amusement, or for shock value.² It doesn’t linger (GERBER.³) and uses it to set up the character of Obadiah Archer in his entirety–as well as contrast him with Aram the Strong (guess which titular character that is!). There’s more character to
the villains, while the shadowy group of them maintains the vacuous simulacrum of “Obvious Satirical Metaphor™” all the while, not forcing the plot to revolve around the satire.

Quite pleased overall and, though I know it’s pissing some people off, I like that they are associating the universe with itself openly, as Bloodshot and Harada have been mentioned, while another character has appeared for relatively obvious reasons (I still haven’t read my classic stuff, so this was a surprise to me, and a nice one, so I’ll leave that to you to read, if you want–I figure if you want to know, you will, and if you aren’t interested in reading, why would you care anyway?).

Anyway, that’s all for the even…night. It’s definitely night here.

 

¹This title is still in focus groups.

²I suppose this might be to “further” the satire, but that’s up there with Ebert’s nonsense about suggesting you have to be a friggin’ genius to realize the Three Stooges gags in Evil Dead 2 are comedic. Pretentious dim-wittery, that.

³I actually found a “G” copy of an original Howard the Duck comic for about $.90 today (I got cut a lot of deals over the volume of shit I was buying, so any prices would be estimated). I think I will like it, despite my distaste for his work on Sensational She-Hulk.

Oh No, Can It Be? We’re Heading for a Heatwave

My listening has been really passive and boring–oddly, close to the listening I did years ago, which I’ve been wanting to get back to. A shuffle of 5 or so albums in the car (a burnt copy of No Coast which includes my digital copies of the Forgetters 2×7″ and J.
Robbins’s Abandoned Mansions acoustic EPThe Wombats Present…This Modern GlitchWhile a Nation Sleeps, etc) and at home just the set-it-and-forget-it approach to my digital collection (a few hours of chronological Fall, Cure, Smiths thanks to an issue of Secret Avengers (pictured right!).

I’d like to talk about music, but continue to feel as if I’m just continuously attempting to catch myself up on comics. I had to stop where I was reading (while listening to XTC straight through, incidentally–still in the White Music and Go 2 era stuff right now) and comment on Yost’s New Warriors. I never found any interest in the original–it wasn’t the eye-rolling 90’s glut of dark ‘n’ gritty, but it definitely carried (I thought¹) the feeling of forced new heroes with questionable depth (Hey! Another mutant! Who has fire powers! Because we haven’t done that…repeatedly…). It wasn’t fair (and it still isn’t!) but I never read the book as a result. I accepted the characters readily but I felt most of them weren’t going to last (in many cases, I was right).

This leaves the new book in an awkward place. I picked it up because it continues the Scarlet Spider², whose solo book Yost also wrote, and maybe someone else will pick it up for Sam, the new Nova, or what have you. But commentary and reviews are not encouraging–we have angered old-New Warriors fans³, and lame reviews (lookin’ at you, CBR).

After finishing issue 5, I was so amused by the dynamics and the approach to the book–it’s fun, but with post-Penance Robbie and Kaine here, there’s no shortage of undercurrents–that I had to say something. I was hoping others would find the book’s quality, as I got that feeling of dread–the suspicion that the book may not last. The comments around are NOT encouraging.

So, if anyone stumbles into this post: read the new New Warriors book! Give it a chance! Please!

It’s modern story-telling, so it’s not chock full of exposition to explain everything⁴, but Yost does the best thing that can be done with this style: characters are serendipitously engaged with each other, but not unreasonably so, and immediately begin grating or gelling, and developing interplay and dynamics. We get some emotional shorthand for all that lost exposition to explain why every character is who they are, and nudges to tell us there’s more going on if it’s going to be an ongoing mystery or development. I know modern Kaine pretty well, having read most of his solo book, and I read Civil War so I know something of what’s in Speedball’s history, but almost everyone else is a complete mystery to me–at best, I knew some of them existed. But I’m already getting a good feel for them, and that includes a nicely realized idea of who they are, with no prior knowledge.

The humour, the darkness, they’re contrasted appropriately–not a meted balance, but a properly paced one. It’s a fun book that doesn’t ignore the stained history of the New Warriors name (in-universe), but doesn’t linger on it, either. Stakes are high at start, giving everyone reason to gather (largely unintentionally), and reason to join together, though it remains tentative at best for now.

Give it a go–drop preconceptions and just run with it.

¹I’m continually surprised to find out how old the character of Richard Rider (Nova) is. And Speedball was no real-world spring chicken, either.

²To clarify, if you’re out of the loop, this is the Kaine Scarlet Spider, not the Ben Reilly one. Kaine, of course, used to look like this and murder people, like Doc Ock (made for a fun Superior Spider-Man story…). His power set is slightly shifted (no Spider-Sense, more strength, “stingers” in his wrists, that kind of thing) and his attitude is shittier. Cold, acerbic, self-loathing. Good times!

³Has any Marvel team ever been truly stable? Even the fucking Fantastic Four haven’t been able to retain all four members, having traded Ben for She-Hulk in the 80s, to start with. The Avengers–good lord, just TRY to find a definitive core team. Ain’t happening. And now, like the X-Men, they’ve split into 37 splinter versions, so don’t even. In other words: get over it, New Warriors fans.

⁴This irritates me to no end. Yes, you can do it badly, and you can do it not-as-badly, but the point is to allow people to jump in and not be confused out of their minds. There’s a lot of history to pretty much any given Marvel character. This would be easier to follow for people who were given some notes as they read. We don’t even get many editor’s notes anymore 😐

I’ve Been a Straight-Up Ghost, Since You Wrote Me Off

WP_20140711_001lblSo, the packages I was awaiting arrived! With numerous additional items that also happened to arrive! Sort of.

I knew that three of them were coming (Aquaman, GJBR order, and Mile High order) while the Forgetters EP was a total mystery (I received no communication from the seller after paying) and Tar Man was pretty much an unknown (though I am 99% sure I know who’s responsible).

That said: Mile High fucked up, but, as the image suggests, I won’t go into detail. Suffice it to say, they have some issues with listing for two admittedly confusing volumes of a book. And, of course: I pre-ordered a Maxx (with hat and coat!) that was to come with a Mr. Gone. I’ve not received The Maxx yet (awkward; Mr. Gone was a nice bonus, but the figure is iffy enough that this isn’t at all ideal), nor any notice, and I didn’t get a response to the one e-mail I sent them, either.

Oh well.

#12 there was not damaged, but that board is never gonna be flat. Well. Maybe it will. I switched it out for another book to keep my bag/board size consistent for Aquaman, and then stacked it in with some others. Maybe the weight will do the trick. Maybe not.

I labeled the Firestorm books for fun. I’ve yet to bag, board, or even read any of them. At this point, I’m effectively waiting for a more complete run, since I’m pretty darned close. And I buy bags and boards by the 100 anyway, so…

Alongside this, I ended up going out and picking up more “curiosity” books: some of the “Agent” run of Venom (mostly the latter half), some of the post-Thor (Sif-oriented) Journey into Mystery (all of it, actually, except #646 and #647 that started the run), and, somewhat curiously, FF 1-15 (minus 12).

Michael Allred’s work was intriguing with Madman, though I’ve never read it–but put me off X-Statix (nevermind the title…). I don’t know what it was about FF (maybe the characters involved?) but it caught my eye and I accumulated most of its 16 issue run yesterday pretty easily. That said, I’ve sped through the first six or seven issues and I have aFF1Allred feeling of dread. I really don’t want this book to end. I like everything about it–Fraction’s humour is on-point without being overbearing or making it a pure comedy book, and his pathos and angst and drama are all fun. His skewering of expected nuclear families doesn’t come off as preachy, so much as the kind of accepting that such things should be. And Allred’s work is just perfect for this tone–it’s weird and pop-art-y, but it doesn’t distract or detract, as it works for the humour and for the darkness of Scott Lang’s story (and dear lord help me, Scott Lang is a really cool character). It’s straightforward but complex, plot-y, but also character-y, funny, but serious–all the right kinds of contradictions, basically.

It’s a miserable shame it only lasts 16 issues. I guess maybe it’s the “right” length, I don’t know–Avengers Arena was 18, and I finished it yesterday quite satisfied.

But, you should definitely pick up FF if you get the chance. It’s pretty unmistakable, after all. And fuck those Amazon reviews.

You Run for Cover in the Heat, Why Don’t They…

Today is a record day for sure, until it’s a Godzilla day. The more specific elements of my record collection’s sorting are currently on my plate, which means lots of listening (yay!). So far it was hitting up my introductory Whigs album (In the Dark), which I had not yet listened to my copy on vinyl of, which I purchased in Atlanta. Bit of a teensy skip (no dice on cleaning, alas!) but nothing serious. Still a pretty damn rockin’ album, which I sure as hell bought for good reason.

It was while listening to the first one that I naturally began to flip through everything and be reminded of what I have, and so much good and interesting and exciting stuff I haven’t gotten to. But I decided to go slightly familiar after that, with The Fixx’s Reach the Beach, in part thanks to House of the Devil (strongly recommended, and review by me here), in another part thanks to Kyle and his newfound love of 80s synthpop (my “told ya so”s echo into eternity), and of course because he was pointed to them by the same movie, which hinges an excellent scene on that big, big hit, “One Thing Leads to Another”.

I’ll try to sneak in Graham Parker’s The Mona Lisa’s Sister before I head out for dinner and Godzilla, but no gurantees. Ah, well. Still a good time!

I’ll Never Let You Down

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I’ve been organizing my music the past few days, and listening to records (finally!) with a focus on the ones I haven’t listened to yet (of course!), and yesterday I put on Al Kooper’s You Never Really Know Who Your Friends Are, which I bought in Atlanta last year in October (if that sounds bad, don’t even ask about my DVD collection). I’ve heard bits and pieces via a compilation (Rare and Well Done), but even that I didn’t catch much of, except for a track from his lone album with Blood, Sweat and Tears, the track being “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” (no surprise, coming from me, I think).

I bought this (as well as New York City (You’re a Woman)) because I decided, somewhat ridiculously (but not without good reason) to begin a collection of “session man solo albums”, after having been treated quite well by them a number of times. I’d already begun amassing Chris Spedding, and my love for known-successful solo acts like Leon Russell or Dr. John (who were both in the Wrecking Crew), and I should probably pick up some of Nicky Hopkins’s excruciatingly rare albums, too (I guess they aren’t that difficult to find, but certainly not easy).

Anyway, this was a pretty awesome record, I suddenly discovered: a strange mix of the peculiarities of the Zombies, Harry Nilsson, and the Band, tinged with soul. “Anna Lee (What Can I Do)” has an absurdly grooving rhythm section behind a vocal that has shadows of Richard Manuel’s performance of “I Shall Be Released”, but that rhythm section and a few turns of Al’s vocal give it a much funkier force.

The title track’s skittering rim taps and wood blocks and honky-tonk intro recall a variety of tracks from earlier in the decade, both well-regarded (as if it could have been found on Odessy & Oracle) or just pop-y (think Herman’s Hermits). It fills out and gets the production feel of something from the decade after its release.

“I’ll Never Let You Down” should complete my attempt to illustrate the sprawling variety here: it’s a string-sweetened ballad that wouldn’t be out of place as a focal track in a movie from the time period, except that the bass is too forceful, and the mix of it fills too much, as does the vocal track, which has the quaver of an imperfect singer, rather than a straight session singer lead vocal, even if it is backed by a whole chorus of voices.

And I’d be remiss if I did not mention the semi-surreal moment of hearing “The Great American Marriage/Nothing”, which was very audibly sampled to open “Reality Check” from Binary Star, which is a great opening track itself, with that taut, tense-to-the-point-of-discomfort string arrangement screeching in–a good choice on their part, and a clever piece on Kooper’s.

Seriously, this record is the kind of reason I developed this idea: this is not an album that’s a neat trick because “Hey it’s that guy who played on all of those records!” it’s because this is a damn fine album all on its own, but it’s that much easier to find because of who made it.

It’s too late to turn back, here we go

I just finished Color Me Impressed: A Film about the Replacements and I don’t know what to think.

A lot of people are angry that it includes absolutely nothing of their music whatsoever (it really doesn’t) and that Paul, Tommy, Chris, Slim (I think this was filmed long enough ago?), even Peter Jesepersen does not appear at all. Not really even in photos or archival footage.

It works better than Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns (perhaps the worst music documentary I’ve ever seen), but that isn’t saying much. It’s Colin Meloy and Legs McNeil and Robert Christgau waxing poetic on the band, which isn’t unwelcome, but occasionally crosses into the most grating parts of Gigantic-style music film-making: pointless, pretentious pontificating. We’ve got the advantage of random fans in some cases, and the disadvantage of the same in others. Letting someone ramble about how the members of the band were their imaginary friends as a kid is a bit odd and focused more on that person than the band.

We also get the eye-rollingly-expected “Everything after Let It Be is garbage” opinion from a bunch of people (cf. “When Bob left…”), which is baffling to me as a very discerning person recommended to me Tim before any others, and, fuck it, I like all of them (I do probably like Don’t Tell a Soul the least, to be honest, but not to the level of venom that is usually heaped upon it). It’s not useful, really. And I honestly don’t get the issues with production, except on Don’t, which is poured over with reverb unnecessarily (even where appropriate, it’s overdone). We do get the explanation for this, which is nice, but overall…

Talking about how the band was one of the greatest ever and dismissing half of their output¹ seems…disingenuous. Unhelpful. The opinions are balanced out, of course, even a “Fuck the production, that’s not what matters” opinion (whew).

Can’t recommend the movie in good faith, regardless, but I found a copy of Hot Snakes’ Suicide Invoice on vinyl today, so I can’t actually complain much.

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¹Yeah, I suppose if you think Bob leaving the band was the end of the band, it’s dismissing “that other band”, but I’ve discussed my bafflement at disregarding Paul’s solo albums before. It’s horseshit.