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The Seven Most Important Panels at SDCC 2014

July 23rd, 2014 Posted by |

THURSDAY, 2:00, Room 23ABC: I IS FOR INFINITY, featuring Nick Dragotta, Rick Remender, Richard Starkings, Jason Latour, Stuart Moore, Ryan Burton, and a few special guests I can’t name yet! This is about the infinite genres comics can do.

THURSDAY, 7:00, Room 23ABC: Hip-Hop & Comics: Cultures Combining, featuring Murs, Mix Master Mike, Kenny Keil, and a few others. It’s about…it’s bout it bout it.

FRIDAY, 11:00, Room 23ABC: I IS FOR INCEPTION, featuring Fiona Staples, Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky, Kelly Sue DeConnick, John Layman, Steve Seagle, and a couple of special guests who do dope work. This one’s about collaboration, and there’s a cover reveal in here. Whose? SHOW UP.

SATURDAY, 1:00, Room 7AB: SAGA, featuring Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I’m not moderating this one, but I’ll probably be present or on A/V duty.

SATURDAY, 4:30, Room 6DE: I IS FOR IDEAS, featuring Scott Snyder, Josh Williamson, Kyle Higgins, Joe Kelly, Brian K Vaughan, and a few special guests. There’s a cool announcement at this one, so come through.

SATURDAY, 7:00, Room 23ABC: Best and Worst Manga of 2014, featuring Deb Aoki, Brigid Alverson, and Chris Butcher. I love this panel—I respect these folks so much. This is the one where I tell you your favorite manga sucks and my favorite manga rules.

SUNDAY, 2:00, Room 7AB: I IS FOR INNOVATION, featuring Amy Reeder, Chris Burnham, Tula Lotay, and some Expo guests who are particularly ferocious storytellers are on deck. This one’s about being an artist in comics, storytelling, and making some good comics.

When I’m not at these, I’ll be at booth 2729, putting out fires and busting heads.

For the Image panels—I brought some random #1s with me. Ask a question, get a free comic, probably of my choosing. I’ve got some Shaky Kanes in here, so stay woke. It’s a random selection of books, but you might get lucky. I’ll have digital codes for a free comic on imagecomics.com falling out my pockets, too. I’ll be the dressed up black dude. Come say hey.

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The 10 Most Awesomely Terrible Art Moments from WWE Superstars #6

July 21st, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , ,

The nice thing about being a blogger is that it’s like a tax write-off on buying terrible shit. It’s great when you read a great comic, see an awesome movie, or something like that, but if you pay for something lame, you can always twist it into an article. It’s really one of the best perks.

I can’t not read WWE comics and I’ve filled up big chunks of this site proving that. The latest attempt at a WWE series is WWE Superstars by Papercutz. It’s been written by wrestling legend Mick Foley and Shane Riches. I imagine Shane Riches wrote most of it. Anyway, the first four issues were just released in a trade under the name Money in the Bank. I reviewed it here. The arc was about reimagining WWE wrestlers as characters in an overly-casted crime noir story. A cool idea that wore out its welcome.

The art was mostly done by Alitha Martinez, who did an all right job. Most of the time, wrestlers looked like who they were supposed to and some pieces looked really nice. Other times, the pencils were rushed, as was the need to get through the story, meaning fight scenes all had an unnatural flow to them. Then in the fourth issue, Martinez was replaced for four pages by an artist named Puste and oh boy was it noticeable. Lifeless, awkward, incoherent and ripe with inconsistency, it was a complete trip.

For some reason, Papercutz decided to have Puste be the main artist on the current arc, which has the wrestlers actually being wrestlers. It’s a weird storyline called Haze of Glory that features Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Rey Mysterio and Hornswoggle with a wicked hangover due to some spiked punch. The backstage area is in ruins, everyone blames them and they don’t know what in the hell happened. All they know is that they’ve been set up.

And yes, CM Punk is still a main character despite having been gone from the company since January.

I really can’t judge the wacky story on its own merits because the art is so distracting. Issue #6 alone has so many moments that make me shake my head that I’m able to make an actual top ten list out of it.

Let’s get started!

10) THE ATTEMPTED F5

Well. Lot of stuff going on here. Brock Lesnar is trying to F5 CM Punk and Goldust saves Punk with a kick to the nuts. Looks awkward, but okay.

Hornswoggle is bald here and that might make sense at first glance. After all, he recently lost a mask vs. hair match and for the past couple months he’s been bald in real life. Except in every single other panel he shows up in, he’s got a full head of hair. Remember, this comic is out of date enough that Jack Swagger calls Cesaro “Antonio” and CM Punk is there.

Puste seems to have a thing against drawing backgrounds most of the time, so for some reason the 4th of July is going off behind them. I don’t know.

9) CM PUNK CHOKES OUT MARK HENRY

A zombie CM Punk goes for Mark Henry’s brains and Henry seems almost happy about it.

He took out Cena too! You’ll… You’ll just have to take his word for it, okay? Punk certainly applies the sleeper an awful lot like the Anaconda Vise. Hm.

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This Week in Panels: Week 252

July 20th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Gavok: BTW, after Week 250, I’m taking a break from Week in Panels. I have a lot of real world responsibilities now and don’t have time for it.

Space Jawa: What would it take for someone to take over for you?

Gavok: Why, you want to?

Space Jawa: Yeah.

Gavok: Sure, have at it.

 

And that’s the abridged version of how I became the new host of This Week In Panels.

Oh, and then Gavok went out, bought a cigar, lit it, and then reached through the internet so he could put it out in my face. I think because he was trying to make a tradition out of it or something? I don’t know.

Jerk.

Anyway, joining me this week are Gaijin Dan, Matlock, TheAnarCHris, and Gavok himself. Gavok, Matlock, and I are all in agreement that the art on She-Hulk continues to be terrible, though I’m the only one who managed to get all the way through it. I’ll probably hold off on further issues until they get someone better, though. Because as it stands, I’m feeling inclined to think that I could do a better job.

Believe me when I say that I don’t make such statements lightly.

But let’s get to some panels, shall we?

 

Avengers World #9 (Matlock)

 

Avengers World #9 (Matlock’s Pick)

(Nick Spencer & Stefano Caselli)

 

avengers world 9 (Gavok)

 

Avengers World #9 (Gavok’s Pick)

(Nick Spencer & Stefano Caselli)

batman 66 mtgh 5 (Gavok)

Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet #5

(Kevin Smith, Ralph Garman, & Ty Templeton)

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Nu-This Week in Panels – NOW!: #1!!!

July 14th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , ,

(After some unintended delay…) THIS! Is Week in Panels!

Greetings, and welcome to a brand new edition of This Week in Panels, where brevity is the soul of comic reviews. And NOW(!), it’s time to kick things off with this brand NU reboot-that’s-totally-not-a-reboot edition.

As always, for those who are Nu-ly joining us, This Week in Panels works as following: The contributors take all the comics they’ve read for the week, and then pick out the one panel from each of those issues that best summarizes that comic. The two major rules being 1) No Splash Pages, and 2) Don’t pick a panel from the first or last page of the issue.

Other than that, it’s pretty much fair game!

Contributing this week as I take over from Gavok are “Marvelous” Matlock, “Dandy’” Gaijin Dan, “Grinnin’” Gavok himself, and myself, your new host, “Smilin’” Space Jawa.

And NOW!, let’s get to some panels!

Provided I can avoid making any (more) first-time mistakes…

aninvaders7

All-New Invaders #7

James Robinson & Mark Laming

Amazing Spider-Man #1-3

The Amazing Spider-Man #1.3

Dan Slott & Ramon Perez

angrybirds3

Angry Birds Comics #3

Jeff Parker & Paco Rodriquez

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Beyond Outrage

July 14th, 2014 Posted by |

Kanye West is a passionate dude.

The passion is what makes his art work. People connected to him because they can feel that passion. It’s visible through his work, whether it’s a banging beat or some deft observation about life. He has a habit of doing scheduled interludes at his concerts, where he talks about whatever’s on his mind. It’s the most direct way to view his passion, I think, because it feels relatively unfiltered—it isn’t, we know that, but it feels more raw than a song—and it’s not hidden behind layers of cleverness.

He’s talked about his struggle to gain traction in the fashion industry, despite his success with Nike. He’s talked about what he wants to be to society, who he respects, what he hates, and what he loves. It’s wide-ranging, but that makes sense, because West is self-admittedly a guy who is interested in a lot of things, from Margiela to Akira.

These interludes are almost always called “rants” by music journalists. Despite being planned, despite being a regular feature, they are “rants” because…Kanye West is a passionate dude, and sometimes he gets emotional when talking about things. You can see it when he goes in on Sway on Shade45 or when he got at George W Bush over Katrina.

By calling these interludes “rants,” the media is painting West with a very specific brush. The word rant implies that the thoughts are off-the-cuff, overly emotional, and therefore invalid. It’s “Look what this kooky guy said now!” instead of engaging with any of his points.

It happens to all of us, of course. We all have triggers that make us get weepy or excited in conversation, I know I have a lot of dumb ones, but that doesn’t make them invalid or malformed. It just means you care, right? And that your level of care exceeds your calm nature for a moment. The opinions you’re expressing aren’t invalid because you stumble over your words or have to pause to collect yourself.

Passion isn’t perfect. I think that’s pretty obvious. West isn’t 100% right about everything, but he has been 100% right about specific things. The presence of passion doesn’t mean that you have to believe everything someone says. It’s just a factor that will, or should, help you judge what they’re saying and where they’re coming from. By recognizing West’s passion, I can tell that he genuinely cares about the stuff he’s talking about, and that helps me evaluate how I feel about what he said and where he’s coming from.

But he’s not ranting. He’s speaking his mind.


Comics has an outrage problem.

I don’t mean people getting up in arms over things, either. That’s an issue unto itself, and like anything else, it could be better than it currently is in several different ways, but that’s not today’s conversation.

What I’m talking about is how we—the comics community—describe, talk about, and address the concerns of people who are upset about one thing or another. The way we talk about outrage fatigue, outrage-of-the-week, faux outrage, outrage-o-matic, misplaced outrage, another outrage, this outrage, that outrage, and why it’s gross and short-sighted. How we use “tumblr” as a pejorative but ignore the poison in our own forums and followers.

The way we use the word outrage suggests that the outrage in question is fake and irrational, on account of being poorly thought-out and overly emotional. It happens every time someone brings up a point to do with equality, sexism, racism, or justice. It’s the same tactic the music media uses to devalue Kanye’s rants. They’re invalid, an inconvenience, annoying, or fake because you can see the emotions driving it, and emotional reactions aren’t valid.

We use the presence of passion to first diminish and then dismiss arguments. The offended must play by the rules of the unoffended, or even worse, the offenders, in order to be heard. You have to tamp down that pain if you want to get help or fix it. You can see it when people say things like “Thank you for being civil” when arguing something heated with someone they disagree with. Civility is great, sure, but we’re forcing people who feel like they’re under attack to meet us on our own terms. In reality, passion shouldn’t be dismissed. Passion has a purpose.

The way we treat passionate reactions is unbalanced, too. We eat up gleeful reviews or tweets like they’re pudding and retweet them by the dozen. There are sites out there that have used the word “masterpiece” over ten thousand times. We promote fawning interviews and king-making, but never once question passionate praise the way we do passionate criticism.

Comics as a community tends to react to every new outrage with disbelief and scorn, lumping them in with “the crazy ones” or “tumblr” instead of looking at what they’re actually saying and figuring out what it means. Every once and a while we’ll band together like “Yeah! That IS bad!” when something is particularly egregious and “safe” to comment on, but a month later? We’re back to blindly propping up garbage men and ignoring people’s pain. The arc of the argument is the same, whether we’re talking sexual harassment or creators’ rights.

No matter how you feel about whichever issue is at hand, whether you agree or disagree or loathe both sides, you should think real hard before responding to anything. Think about what the person is saying and where they’re coming from. Think about why they’re saying it. Think about your position in society, our culture, or our dumb little hobby and think about the position of the person you’re about to put on blast. Think about what you’re about to bring to the conversation. Think about how your words will be received, even if—especially if—the originator didn’t.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow, the idea that you should take your lumps and do the work you think somebody else didn’t do. But life sucks, y’all, and if I have to choose between someone who doesn’t like somebody else’s tone or someone who doesn’t really know how to argue but has fascinating points about our culture, I’m going for the latter, even when I’m the one under the gun. One of those people has a lot to lose. The other is inconvenienced.

That power differential is important to keep in mind. Despite the petitions, despite the so-called outrage, fans have very little real control over the comics industry. As professionals, as journalists or creators or promoters or whoever we are, our voice generally has a much, much broader reach than the offended. The weight of our reactions when criticized often goes much, much farther. We have less to lose by virtue of being in a position of power by default, and that makes it exceedingly important to check yourself and your reactions.


A lot of people don’t feel welcome in the greater comics community. We created and create this environment with our words and actions. If it’s not people hassling you over taste or creeping on you at cons or making “funny” jokes about things you care about, it’s seeing how people respond to outrage. When you see a community consistently dis and dismiss people expressing their pain, you’re less likely to share your own pain when the time comes, because odds are good you’re gonna feel a lot worse when the usual suspects get ahold of your words and the blowback starts coming in.

The way we talk about outrage-in-the-abstract has a way of building further outrage in addition to diminishing other types. Where some people will shy away out of self-preservation, others will go even harder because they know you won’t listen. They know their words will be skimmed and stripped of context before being ignored and insulted. To have a point you care deeply about and then to be told that point is irrelevant and invalid—that warrants anger, doesn’t it?

I have friends who simply don’t talk about things or hold back because they know their words will fall on deaf ears or worse. My friends have been screwed with on a level that’s incredibly frustrating and continually disappointing. In watching how they’re treated and talking to them about it, in watching what happens to the men and women who would rather send out tough guy threats and harassment, I’ve learned that a lot of things don’t get said because the offended doesn’t have any real power but their words, and others with more power will eagerly leverage their power to crush the dissent in the name of “keeping the peace.”

But we talk and we share and we know who is receptive to our stories, who will pretend like they are to gain brownie points or satisfy their ego, and who’ll smile and nod and move along at their earliest convenience because they just don’t care. We pay attention to the reaction to the outrage because the odds are good we’ll be in those shoes one day, should we decide our stories are worth the cost of the telling.

We’re in a complex place right now, in terms of our culture and people who speak on it. Suddenly a lot of people who were limited by the hateful whims of our culture in the past—non-whites, women, trans persons, gay people, and more—are able to sign up for a platform to express their views and speak their truth in a way that the mainstream has largely never seen before and often doesn’t know how to react to.

As a result, we’re realizing the way we enable -isms and hate by simply going about our daily lives the way we always have. We’re seeing the anger and sadness and passion that has been tamped down and ignored for years bubble up, and the conversations are often fraught with tension thanks to both sides and every participant coming from different places and contexts. There are more moving parts in these conversations than in two Space Shuttles.

Case in point: I realized I had to put subtle disclaimers in this piece just so someone wouldn’t get at me on some “Well, I don’t think all outrage is valid like you do, and here’s why you’re dumb for thinking that.” I know for a fact that’ll happen if I don’t try to beat it, even though other adults are clearly capable of understanding that talking about a thing isn’t necessarily complete unquestioning support of that thing.

That’s what I mean about the reaction to outrage being enlightening. I know the countermoves, the derailing moves, and I have to spin my wheels trying to head off the “Why don’t you get mad about real things?” or “You’re just angry all the time” or “Oh great, more faux outrage” goons on an essay that is fundamentally about how everyone should think more, jeer less, and process things a little bit longer before they react.

It sucks right now. I get that, and I empathize, whether you’re talking about the hate for the social justice conversation or the deluge of complaints that you can’t control and wish would stop. But it’s not gonna get better by going out of your way to talk about outrage and the outraged as if they were basic children, full of fury and lacking in thought. It’s not gonna get better when we have more editorials decrying “outrage” in general than we do editorials actively discussing and dissecting the outrage itself.

It’s not gonna get better if we choose ego instead of empathy every single time we’re up at bat. It’s not gonna get better if we aren’t willing to at least appear to listen. It’s not gonna get better if we paint every passionate criticism as “outrage” and stick our tongues out at it. It won’t get better if we pre-reject what people have to say.

If we paint every outrage with scare quotes and pithy jokes about the internet churning up outrage for no good reason, regardless of the outrage in question, we’re blocking progress. We’re telling some people not to share their thoughts, and we’re telling others that we don’t deserve their respect and honesty. Both are embarrassing, frankly, and abhorrent.

We need to be more kind, and this brand of kindness takes conscious effort.

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Genius: Renegades, Never Slaves

July 11th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , ,



Way back in the bad old days of 2008, I read a comic called Genius. It was part of Top Cow’s Pilot Season program, an initiative meant to bring new blood into the industry and to the company, and it was created by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, and Afua Richardson. Now, it’s 2014, I work at Image Comics, and Genius is on the way back this August as a weekly miniseries.

The concept of Genius struck me first. There have been several incredible military leaders throughout the years, and the latest is Destiny Ajaye, a young woman from South Central. Rather than becoming a kingpin or joining the military, she takes another route: armed insurrection. She unites the gangs and goes to war against the LAPD.

I’m an ’80s baby whose life was changed by Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and has spent a lot of time writing about the intersection of black culture and comics. The concept alone spoke to me, it reminded me of conversations and boasts that felt familiar and real. Bernardin and Freeman’s dialogue was on point and natural, authentically “black” without tipping over into parody or offensiveness. Richardson’s art was the bomb, inventive and kinetic and off-beat in all the right ways.

Genius hit me in my heart. There aren’t a lot of comics coming out of mainstream houses aimed at people like me, much less specifically me, but this one? It’s a comic that’s tailor-made for me, it feels like. The concept, the art, the focus on a majority-black and brown cast…there is something about Genius that other mainstream comics are lacking. It’s something different, something outside of the usual Direct Market experience.

It’s a familiar story, a Hero versus the enemy with an army at her back, but the twist is in the character work and the artwork. The characters feel familiar and honest, and Richardson’s artwork ranges from staging natural moments in a surreal manner to perfectly-emotive conversations. The creative team clicks for me.

A side effect of my job at Image is that I got issues 1-4 early as part of the production process. It’s work, but I read them while I was on vacation instead of waiting until I got back. I read them because I believe in Genius and Bernardin and Richardson and Freeman and I’m excited for this comic.

Final Order Cut-off for the comic is Monday. It’s shipping weekly in August, with two issues hitting on the last Wednesday of the month. If you shop at comic shops, tell them you want it. The Diamond Code for #1 is JUN140478, if you need it. Pre-ordering helps comics a lot, and for a book like this that’s sitting left-of-center with what’s prevalent, you’re going to need a little extra legwork to get what you need. You don’t have to pre-order it, it’ll presumably be available in a digital edition, but if you’re the pre-ordering type and you trust my taste, please call your shop and hook it up. I’m a fan, and I hope you will be, too.

I wrote about Afua Richardson for Black History Month 2011 and about Genius for ComicsAlliance in 2010.

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This Week in Panels: Week 250

July 6th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s time for This Week in Panels! The weekly segment where my wonderful contributors and I all take the comics we’ve read over the course of this week and cut them down into one panel. One representative panel that tries to explain the issue. We’ve only been doing this for… oh shit, 250?! Christ.

Yes, it’s Week 250. For nearly five years I’ve been doing this series. I started this back when Old Man Logan and Blackest Night were still going on. I originally got the idea during the short time I was writing at Pop Culture Shock. I did a bunch of one-paragraph comic reviews every week and I hated it. How many times can you write the same review of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America?

A few years before that, one comic site I can’t remember (probably Newsarama) had a preview of an upcoming issue of Civil War. Rather than show several pages, it just showed a handful of panels without context. I found the whole thing more intriguing than if we got the regular style of preview and I guess that just stayed with me. Another thing that stuck with me was when people would talk about the first Agents of Atlas series. One thing I’ve read once or twice was that it didn’t matter what you had to say about the comic in terms of opinion. Just show the panel of a 1950′s robot running down a hallway carrying a talking gorilla while said gorilla shoots four guns via both hand and both feet. That says everything.

I figured that I read a bunch of comics on a weekly basis, but nobody really had any interest in my opinions. Why would they? I’m just some guy on the internet. Worse than that, I’m a guy whose favorite character is an alien-wearing journalist-turned-hobo with delusions of grandeur recognized for being one of the poster boys of everything wrong with the 90′s. My opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. Why talk about what I read when I could just show you in its purest form and let you decide for yourself? I suggested the This Week in Panels idea to David and he put a cigar out on my face. I took that to mean, “Yes, go ahead.”

ThWiP has been very good to me and I was happy to see that it got enough regular readers and regular contributors. Gaijin Dan and Space Jawa especially, who never missed a beat when it came to sending me their stuff. I’m glad to see my idea was vindicated and it kept enough people interested.

With a heavy heart, I’m announcing that after 250 wonderful weeks, I’m stepping down from This Week in Panels. It sucks, but I need to move on. One of the things about starting ThWiP was that I wanted to do a weekly series for the sake of proving to myself that I could hit a regular deadline. And I did. Unless there was a hurricane or some kind of power-destroying storm, I hit the update every Sunday. Then I got my position at Den of Geek US, which has responsibilities beyond just writing articles. Plus my main job has been keeping me busier and busier. ThWiP updates went from regularly happening over the course of Sunday night to late Monday night or even early Tuesday morning. Simply put, I actually have real deal deadlines to deal with now.

Hell, I haven’t written a non-ThWiP update for 4thletter! since WrestleMania happened. I kind of need to rectify that and I have only so many hours in the day.

ThWiP isn’t done-done, at least. Space Jawa, otherwise known as Michael Stangeland (or as I keep accidentally typing, “Strangeland”) will be taking up the mantle. Personally, I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of.

Anyway, I still have this 250th update to do. We got me, Gaijin Dan, Matlock, Space Jawa, Was Taters, AnarChris and Dickeye. Let’s go down the road one more time.

Action Comics #33
Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Rift, Pt 2
Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet #4
Kevin Smith, Ralph Garman and Ty Templeton

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Fort of Apocalypse: violence comix

July 2nd, 2014 Posted by |

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 03

Fort of Apocalypse, written by Yuu Kuraishi and drawn by Kazu Inabe, isn’t that great. It’s serialized on Crunchyroll, and the hook is that it’s a horror manga with a zombie twist, mostly set in and around a Japanese juvenile detention center. It stars a group of boys who have to fight to survive in the school before being forced to fight for their lives as the world goes to hell. The problem is that it jettisons the most interesting aspects of that concept in favor of…bland twists, basically. It opens with a Nietzsche quote about gazing into the abyss, a painfully obvious move, and most characters are either borderline psychopathic, deranged, or totally cool with people doing deranged things on a regular basis. “You must be new here,” Fort of Apocalypse says. “Let’s start from the beginning.”

It’s endlessly derivative—or, being generous and disingenuous, “reminiscent”—of other, better, more popular works. Deadman Wonderland and The Walking Dead are the two most obvious touchstones for me, but there’s a bit of Highschool of the Dead and Lord of the Flies peeking in around the edges, too. Fort of Apocalypse lacks the ultra-fetishized hyper-sexuality of HotD, which has a weirdo carnival appeal/anti-appeal of its own, and instead goes for broke in another direction.

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 04

The art’s weird. It’s similar to a less stylish and stylized Dogs: Bullets & Carnage. It’s usually passable—not great, but good enough for a good panel here and there, and some good monster monster design and composition overall. Paired with the tone of the writing, Fort of Apocalypse feels seedy-but-familiar, a feel-bad comic that doesn’t actually make you feel bad at all but makes a big production out of going through the motions.

It’s not great, but it is lurid. One short scene:

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 06

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 07

Immediately before this moment in time, a different man in an irrelevant location sits up on his autopsy table, his back arched and general body language definitively inhuman. It’s an old trick—show the thing, then cut away to build tension or emphasize the spread of a sickness. The apocalypse is not coming. It is here.

These characters are blanks, almost. Generic Husband and Generic Wife, unnamed and un-missed. They’re there to die, and while that isn’t remarkable (even the shot of the room to suggest unseen horrible violence is old and busted this time around), the next spread was:

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 08

I was expecting a bunch of cuts away from the action to show the apocalypse rising, but I wasn’t being mean enough. A spread of the husband eating his probably-dismembered wife is bad enough, but what killed and grabbed me was the way the scene ends with a close-up of a family photo drawn by their kid, complete with an “I love you daddy!” inscription.

It’s one of those hilariously manipulative moves people pull sometimes, stacking up sad concepts like cordwood without putting in any work to make you believe in those concepts enough to feel bad about it. In better hands, this scene would be the ultimate betrayal. But Kuraishi and Inabe lean edgy, not poignant. I was struck by the meanness of that choice, the way it puts the idea in your head and then immediately moves on to the next one after your imagination fills in what happens next.

While the comic isn’t great, it’s got a mean edge that I enjoy. It’s sorta like the first season of The Following, the Kevin Bacon/James Purefoy serial killer cult thriller on FOX. That show is frequently trashy and incredibly poorly written. But it has a habit of going there that makes for good tv. Spearguns in diners, stabbings on subways, Edgar Allen Poe fetishists, and a conclave of serial killing English majors. A little “Can you believe this?” goes a long way. (Not that long, actually—season two doubled down on sad boring stubble dudes and I raced for the door before it was half-over.) It got me through a dozen volumes of Gantz, maybe even more. This isn’t Gantz on account of being nowhere near misanthropic and evil as that series, but it gets by.

Fort of Apocalypse is lurid, but doesn’t feel cruel, even when a zombie grabs a teen’s upper and lower jaws and yanks them in opposite directions. Mitsuhisa Kuji’s Wolfsmund is real. She wants you to feel it, and it feels cruel. Fort of Apocalypse isn’t that. They want to show you outrageous things so you can go “yo, gross!” and then turn the page for more, and it turns out the best way to do that is to fill your comic with damaged and broken people who adjust to the end of the world by losing their minds.

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 05

I’m not sure how long I’ll last with Fort of Apocalypse, but it seems like once a volume, something outrageous enough to keep me interested happens. It goes there.

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This Week in Panels: Week 249

June 30th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Once again we find ourselves looking at the stuff we’ve read over the past week, reduced to one representative image. It’s This Week in Panels. “We” includes myself, Matlock, Space Jawa, Gaijin Dan and AnarChris. We’re like the Planeteers, only we’re all heart.

Elsewhere, I wrote this big piece on the history of Mortal Kombat comics. Years ago, I went over the Malibu series in detail here, but in this article, I go more in-depth on the many comics that acted as official preludes to the games. I was also asked by my editor to write a quick thing about John Cena being on the cover of WWE 2K15, and so I did.

Now, then. It’s paneling time! Seriously, it’s a big one this week.

All-New Ghost Rider #4 (Gavin’s pick)
Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore

All-New Ghost Rider #4 (Matlock’s pick)
Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore

All-New Ultimates #4
Michel Fiffe and Amilcar Pinna

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Sample Sunday: Silly, wasn’t I?

June 29th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , ,

Murs put out this song “Silly Girl,” featuring Joe Scudda, on his Murray’s Revenge album with 9th Wonder. It’s about relationships, specifically stupid dudes chasing silly girls. It’s funny, I think, especially when Murs goes “Wait, that’s not the point.” Murs is good at walking this line of dead-serious earnestness and goofy self-consciousness, and even the hook of this song is on that level. Breakup songs are always interesting to me, because they’re a long-form insult, almost. They can be funny or rugged, relatable or fake, or even about murder. Norah Jones’s “Miriam” is a stand-out break-up song. This one’s good.

C-Rayz Walz’s “86″ is a song I’ve liked for ages. He’s one of the few musicians I’ve seen live, on Aesop Rock’s Bazooka Tooth tour, and he tore it down. “86″ is from his Ravipops album, which is just straight spitting for 17 tracks. “The Lineup” is the posse cut, and it’s got Wordsworth, J-Treds, Thirstin Howl, Vast Aire, Breeze Brewin, and MF Doom, if you’re wondering where this sits in rap history. “86″ is dope, it’s another “rap is dope, it’s forever in my heart” joints, like Tupac’s “Old School.” It’s also about how rap is soft now, like “your rap was critical, or the crowd got rid of you.” This one sounds smoother than a lot of those throwback tracks, though. It’s less standoffish and more cool. You could vibe to this. It sounds like summertime music.

I found myself listening to old Madlib Medicine Show records the other day and tripped over this one from Madlib Medicine Show # 1: Before The Verdict. It’s “I Must Love You (OJ Simpson Remix)” and that’s Guilty Simpson on the feature. The Medicine Show albums are Madlib chopping up and reinterpreting older songs, forcing vocals and beats and melodies into new shapes. I’m into it, it’s pretty definitively My Thing, and this one’s off the first one, Before the Verdict. It’s got Guilty kicking break-up raps, and Madlib flipping the beat makes it sound like a perfect—lyrically, thematically—guest spot for “Silly Girl.” I like the contrast between the original J Dilla beat and the Madlib one. The Dilla beat is church-y, hymnal with a rap twist.

All three songs have Valerie Simpson’s “Silly, Wasn’t I” at their foundation. It’s about getting cheated on and leaving your man, which actually makes it a pretty great counterpoint to the Murs and Madlib/Guilty joints. “86″ moves away from the original meaning of “Silly, Wasn’t I,” instead just using a hot melody to make a hot track, but I always dig when songs with a sample actually play off the original.

Hearing “Silly, Wasn’t I” spin up makes me immediately flash to C-Rayz chanting “eighty-six, eighty-six.” I’ve probably heard that version more than any of the others, ’cause I got heavy into Ravipops when that came out.

I like the laugh on Simpson’s version the best. I like how it’s this rueful thing, a pointedly fake laugh to show that she’s so over him and can’t really believe she was ever into him. It’s remorseful, pinning blame to his chest and hers. It’s good writing, is what it is. She’s so personable that you’re totally on her side in the song, while Murs, Joe Scudda, and Guilty Simpson could kinda go either way, even when you laugh at their jokes.

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