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RL sucks

My not-really-fast internet is borked, and my ISP won't send a technician until Friday to "solve" the same issue I've had every other month for the last, dunno, year.

Meanwhile, Warren Ellis is publishing a comic about multiple deep black groups with ultrahigh tech fighting a secret war to control the world, and the lone genius who came up with yet more ultrahigh tech and it's going to throw everything out of balance (The Wild Storm #1, recommended if you're into Ellis and/or Hickman).

First-worldish problems, I know. And in a news channel I keep as background a D.A. is talking about an horrifying thing I'd rather not spoil your day by telling you about, so I'll try and keep perspective.

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Being reasonable sucks

Just went through fourteen out of seventy-four old issues of Gotham Knights, and in a Bruce-like display of nearly superhuman strength of will, I'm going to pace myself and read the rest during the week instead of staying awake and reading all of them. Which I could totally do, except that it'd throw off my schedule.

I have to keep reminding myself of that, because, if you never read them, Gotham Knights is gold. There's a lot batfam character and relationships studies — an understatement — but if I have to be honest with you, the main draw is often the Dick-and-Tim sideshow of absolutely ridiculous, sometimes wordless banter.

...

I was going to say that although Tim during the whole "Bruce's not dead" Red Robin era (not the more recent insanity) is perhaps the archetypal expression of what I think he can be, I keep this Tim in my heart, because he's an earnest dork with a goofy sense of humor and I miss that.

But. While writing a bit more about Tim's search for Bruce (spoiler alert: Bruce wasn't dead), I suddenly realized something. Remember that awesome/awful birthday gift from Bruce in the form of a fake message from the future that made Tim question the sanity and morals of everybody he loved as a first step in the next stage of his training in detection? Tim's Bruce's not dead realization was very much close to that: a fragment of information out of time (in this case, paintings from the past) that he observed and deduced from in a way very few other people would've, regardless of their smarts, partly because Tim's a natural at this, and partly because Bruce helped him train in that way.

I don't know what I find more pleasing, the fact that what was arguably Tim's second legendary feat of detection (the first being of course figuring out Batman's identity) was so similar to that first lesson, or the irony that what he figured out was that the guy who had mocked him during for having bought the idea of time travel was indeed lost in time.

I don't think it was meant as a deliberate reference, but if it was, kudos.

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It's a deconstruction... no, it's a deliberately ironical shattering of Karnak. First Ellis builds him up as this cool hyper-competent philosophical badass, and then he finds the flaw in him, kicks it very, very hard, and lets us see the cracks.

It's a peek at the what's behind the curtain of cool-looking ultraviolence and nihilism. From a psychological, emotional point of view, Karnak isn't well. That's a rather ballsy move to make after you rebuilt a C-list character into a niche favorite; it's done to Bruce Wayne in about one issue out of five (to an extreme, interesting, but probably inconsistent degree in I am Suicide), but then, Batman is Batman, with his huge cultural standing and long-accepted spectrum of psychological descriptions from Batman:TAS "good, mostly sane man coping with lingering trauma and depression in a weird way" to the late Miller's clinical psychopath.

A last, short, but spoilery paragraph.Collapse )
My main takeaways are that Jae Lee and Ben Oliver totally kick the art out of the park during the first issues, and I wish I could read more of the older (Earth-2?) world. I know they eventually got Darkseid' to pieces (and then there was a very long and silly migration and whatnot I only sort of followed), but I think TPTB made that happen because Batman and Superman had sort of won.

But mostly, the art was gorgeous; moody, strange, dramatic. As an example, here's Bruce Wayne (in disguise) sitting in a park bench:



It's all like that. The perfect style for that pair of over-dramatic prima donnas (in all fairness, everybody and everything looks over-dramatic drawn that style).

The Black Monday Murders #1

It's a very Hickman book: intricate world building, magic-as-machinery-as-magic, historical retconning, and his rather unique aesthetic. The overall premise of this one is that high finance is, literally although secretly, black magic. Cue occult systems, vague Tim Powers-ish pragmatics, and plenty of Ayn-Rand-meets-Aleister-Crowley characters.

A rec if you already know you like Hickman's books, an anti-rec if you know you dislike them, and a maybe, why not? if you don't know. A small asterisk in the above is that he's usually a much tighter world builder than his sprawling Marvel work would suggest. The style and philosophy are the same, but there he had to deal with a metric ton of history, all of which he attempted to make use of as a prelude of throwing his own stuff into it. Hence Secret Wars. The universes he creates from scratch are very rich, but much more consistent.

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This is why we don't have nice things

[community profile] scans_daily is currently posting bits from the old "Doom's Master" FF story, which included both one of the worst moments of Doom characterization I can conceive, much less know of — lets just begin with Victor Von Doom calling somebody, anybody, anything, "Master" — and one of Doom's crowing moments of awesome, when he was thoroughly trashed (I'm being hilariously understated here) and thrown back into the Pliocene to be eaten by giant sharks. That's not the awesome part, of course (except in that it implies you're the kind of person who rates the sort of enemies who can do that) – the awesome part is what he did then. So I've always been ambiguous about that.

Except that now they are also posting bits of Dark Avengers #176, showing how the Thunderbolts, in the far past for irrelevant reasons, happen to rescue Doom. The Thunderbolts. Rescue. Doom. And he of course betrays them for their time machine, and that's how Doom survived that thing.

No. Nope. Nooooooope. No-no. No chance. Nah. I refuse to acknowledge that Marvel just retconned one of Doom's Peak Doom moments into little more than outrageously good luck. It's worse than the time DC retconned Hal Jordan's completely understandable grief (together with maybe completely understandable plans) and subsequent one-man blitzkrieg against the Crops and grim semi-godhood into "possession by weird cosmic entity," rendering meaningless what had been a psychologically and narratively *interesting* event. Mostly because I'm a gazillon times more interested in Doom than in Hal and, to borrow a 2016 vernacular we'll never use again, the eons-long Big Bang-sized dumpster fire that is everything the Guardian have tried to do, ever.
I'm reading Alan Moore's Providence (a twelve-issues mini of which I think nine have been published so far). Some random observations:


  • You could say it's something like "Planetary meets Lovecraft and the Gang."

  • You have to assume trigger warnings for graphical depictions of pretty much everything you could imagine.

  • The way it plays with time, dreams, and symbols is fascinating, and leverages the medium very well. It's Alan Moore, of course; that's kind of what he does.

  • The humor... I don't know if humor is the right word, YMMV, but another way of describing this would be Mr. Magoo Goes to Hell. This is bleakly funny sometimes, and other times almost intolerable. Every issue ends with a few pages of the protagonist's Commonplace Book (more of a journal, actually), which you definitely shouldn't skip over.

  • The story is its own meta, unashamedly and deliberately so.

My reaction to Rebirth #1 is my icon

Probably the worst part of being a Flash is that you're drafted into the early stages of every damn single end-of-everything multiversal conflict, and they keep happening more and more frequently.

We're rushing towards some sort of singularity where we'll just have #1 issues of everything every week: Pages 1-7 say it's a new universe and make an impressionistic description of it, pages 8-10 have the titular hero defeat a foe but with an unsettling hint of something cosmic going on, in pages 11-18 a cosmic entity we've never heard of before will gather the hero and about forty-five others to fight some sort of multiversal threat that's an overpowered variation of the one three weeks ago, in page 19 everybody sacrifices themselves, page 20 is all white with a box saying something about death, page 21 shows a new world and something about life or hope or rebirth or whatever.

Under no circumstance will you get to page 12 without encountering the word "crisis."

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Well, that was enjoyable

I like slice-of-life superhero comics, so the fact that Mockingbird #1 begins with her weekly checkup at one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secret-but-very-civilian-looking health clinics was reason enough to read it.

It has a very "Hawkguy" feel, although of course Bobbi's life is a bit less of a mess, within the very relative parameters that apply to people who work or have worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. It's also a tiny bit horror story, and well done at that. Recommended so far.

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Comics! (Violent Bastards Edition)

James Bond #6: This is a very physiological version of Bond (nothing sexual implied whatsoever). The villain is one Ellis has written many times, but there are touches of brutality in Bond that feel both interesting and in-character.

East of West #25: One of the superficially quiet issues. Hickman is very good at telling an incredibly dense and eventful story in a way that feels leisurely while being in fact quite fast. I don't think he has ever quite pulled it off with his Marvel work; as much as I love what he does with Doom and the FF, the problem is that the Marvel Universe just doesn't make a lot of sense, and the more cosmic you go, the less sense it makes (same for DC, and then some). But East of West is a world he designed instead of being forced to make sense of like Doom had to, it's just an easier one to work with.

Karnak #3: The usual Ellis mixture of curious facts, cynical musings, and conceptually and/or visually inventive violence; I could've said the same about the Bond one above, or his Moon Knight. I'm not complaining; it's a combination I enjoy.

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