29 July 2006
Here are the latest cullings from my arch-nemesis Pepito's Pile of Poo:
Spectre #4 "Dead Again" by Will Pfeifer and Cliff Chiang
OK, well, this isn't really poo. It's good stuff, in its plodding way (and despite the fact that even the all-powerful Spectre looks GAY in a goatee)(and except for the fact that comic book writers shouldn't be allowed to toss off references to the Bible... the Spectre tells his human host that all attemts to punish sinners collectively instead of one at a time haven't worked, giving as one of his examples Sodom and Gomorrah, except that this is the main example of when it DID work, since we're explicitly told that the entire place is corrupt except for Lot and his family). So here's a tip of the sombrero to Pepito for sticking with the title long enough for it to get good.
Blue Beetle #5 "Secrets" by Keith Giffen, John Rodgers and guest artist Duncan Rouleau
OK, well, this isn't poo either - this title is in fact growing on me, despite my oft-repeated objection to this stupid, racist tactic DC employs, bumping off a third-string character and then stuffing a minority into the character's britches (the Hispanic Wildcat, yeesh, or the Black Firestorm, or, gawd help us, the Chinese Atom ... or, come to think of it, the Black Spectre) - it's patronizing and belittling not only to the minorities involved (and in case one of you Smartie Arties out there points out that my above reference to 'sombrero' in connection with Pepito could be considered belittling, I say this: shaddup. What are mere words when two people are as close as Pepito and I?).
And this is a perfect case - if HALF this amount of creativity had been poured into a book about Ted Kord, if Keith Giffen and the hugely talented Duncan Rouleau (www.manofaction.tv/rouleau/index.html) had PITCHED a Ted Kord/Blue Beetle book, SOMEBODY would have said 'Boy! What a GEM we had, without even knowing it!'
Even so, this comic is good, especially the teasing presence of one of my favorite DC characters, the Phantom Stranger, here played wonderfully for humor...
Captain America #20 "21st Century Kibbutz" by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting
OK, this isn't entirely poo either - but geez, what happened to Steve Epting? This is some of the most plodding, leaden layout work in the history of plodding, leaden layout work, horribly murky stuff only slightly offset by Brubaker's sparkling characterization of Spitfire (and Cap's relationship with her, strongly, strongly arguing for a new Invaders book set in the 1940s)
Daredevil #87 - Pure Pepito Poo
JSA Classified # 14 - Pepito Poo
Civil War Frontline #4 "Embedded" - not poo, not exactly, but not exactly a barn-burner either.
Birds of Prey #96 "Headhunt" by Gail Simone and Paulo Sequeira
Just wonderful, as usual. This is one of the best comics being published.
New Avengers #22 "Disassembled" by Brian Michael Bendis and Leinial Yu
The cover shows Marvel's quintessential go-to Angry Black Man, Luke Cage, and sure enough, the issue hardly gets started before he's comparing the compulsive Registration Act with slavery, talking about the whole subject in a vital and entirely individual way that comics desperately need. He decides to sit at home and do nothing while sending his wife and baby to Canada - not entirely heroic (OK, not in any way heroic), but it opens permutations that need exploring.
My only gripe? Luke Cage is a wimp. According to my beloved, much-thumbed Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Power-man can only lift (press) a maximum of 2 tons. That means Spider-man can clip him like a toenail. That means DAREDEVIL could go ten rounds with him before (maybe) losing.
So I make a humble suggestion: let's hear sometime soon that the original experiment that created Power-man has a cascading effect, that it GROWS over time. Let's have some big-name writer tell us all that Luke Cage can now lift (press), say, 70 tons. That way, we're not getting all this great issue-commentary from the neighborhood papergirl. Just a thought.
Last night I read Margaret George's new novel "Helen of Troy" and was deeply disappointed - at myself, for ever hoping it wouldn't stink. George has achieved a particular style of prose that's breathless and dull at the same time, but a part of me was hoping that even she couldn't make the story of the Trojan War boring. Hoo boy, was I wrong! And I should have known better, since her last book managed to make the New Testament boring.
This is an especially touchy point for me since, as many of you know, I myself have written a novel of the Trojan War. It's called "Troy War," and no matter what else might be said about it, it sure as hell isn't boring. George owes Homer an apology.
(Any of you interested in reading "Troy War" need only drop me a line saying so - I can email you the first chapter to see if you like it)(And of course if any of you intent young things is an agent or publisher, you should know that I've never been the object of an international bidding war, and I kinda think I'd like to be)
Tonight I'll be reading Randall Woods' new biography of Lyndon Johnson, called "LBJ - Architect of American Ambition" ... which is ominous enough as it is, since a) I have a vague idea that American ambition existed before Johnson, thereby disqualifying him as its 'architect' and b) only asses resort to assonance. But we shall see. I'll report on it tomorrow.
A sad day overall, since I found out this morning that Iditarod champion Susan Butcher is dead. I'll leave it to others to express their sympathy for her friends and family - I'm feeling the keenest stab here for her beloved dogs, none of whom can ever be made to understand that she's not coming back. Grieving for dogs is a really hard thing to bear. Grieving dogs is even worse.
Fortunately, I have living friends too, and they can cheer me up even without trying. Much later in the day, I went to supper with my friend Sebastian - an utterly delicious meal at the Atlantic Fish Company (www.atlanticfish-restaurant.com). I ate a mountain of fried seafood, and I slipped out of my personal darkness by listening to Sebastian talk about his many woes, including the little velcro brace on his knee from the wrench he gave it last weekend skiing at Breckinridge. Fourteen doctors have told him it's just a mild sprain, but that didn't deter him at all from speculating over pan-seared scallops that it might be a) broken b) gangrenous and c) leprous.
There's nothing ailing about his conversational abilities, however, and one of the many interesting things he said involved this very blog. He was talking about writing nonfiction, and he mentioned that it can be difficult finding the right 'voice' for doing it. This got me thinking about how much artifice there is in all of this. Sebastian hinted that the reason I could pop an eyebrow and be dismissive of the subject is because I long ago inextricably meshed the way I talk with the 'voice' in which I write. Hinted that people who haven't been doing it as long need to make conscious choices about how they sound, about the PERSONA that comes through the written words.
I don't know. In preparation for launching this blog, I've been reading a great many blogs of other people, from the most famous to the deservedly obscure, and I don't detect a whole lot of voice-crafting. At one point in our talk, when we were discussing subject-matter on the blog,Sebastian said, "After all, isn't the main point of it all YOU?" To which I replied that I'd have to be a raving egomaniac to agree with that. To which he replied (in his best Wildean dinner salon way) "It's spelled 'blogger'" ...
I don't know. I don't want to be That Guy, endlessly navel-gazing for an audience composed of nobody. I'm intending to bring up subjects that will actually interest other people, and I'm trying to talk about them exactly the way I would if you all were buying me a meal somewhere. But Sebastian is usually right about things like this, so it's got me thinking ...
In any case, more tomorrow.