Saturday, October 18, 2008

Warren Ellis

So it's been a shade over 3 months since I stepped away from this blog. I wasn't sure if I'd come back. I haven't exactly missed it. I've been hiking a lot, hitting the gym, and just trying to keep busy. Life isn't that much different for me. I mean, it's only been three months. It's not like I went to the moon or anything.

Why am I back? What's so important that I am ready to sit back down behind the keyboard and torture all the people who stumble upon this blog by accident with my disjointed thoughts and borderline unreadable sentence structure? Well, the title of this post should provide a hint. Go ahead, take a second to move your eyes a few inches higher and look. I'll wait.

Done? Good. Now, I still read a lot of comics. It's a sickness. I try to cut back, but then I feel understimulated. My brain craves the whole sensory experience of reading a comic. It's not just about the art and the story. It's also about the feel of the book in my hand and the anticipation that comes with the turn of every page. I also love the variety of stories that are out there. The best thing I ever did regarding comics was to branch out beyond superheroes.

I don't reread my individual issues too much. Occasionally, I reread a story arc once I've collected it all. It's just a pain to dig them out of my long boxes. What I do reread, and often, are my graphic novels and trade paperbacks. I bring one to work with me every day to read during my lunch break. As such, and considering that I love the diversity of the art from and also don't want to read the same ten stories over and over again, my collection is growing REALLY fast.

I don't tend to follow creators like a lot of fans seem to do. My reading habits are actually quite simple, almost insultingly so. I just look for a story that might be interesting. That's all. If I read a bad story... Oh well, that's life. I forget about it and move on to the good ones. There's enough in life to be angry or cynical about, without dragging my leisure activities into the mud. Enough of that though, it's time to get to the point.

Now, I have been aware of Warren Ellis for most of the time since I returned to the comic-reading population a few years ago. I have expressed my love of Nextwave:Agents of H.A.T.E. a number of times in the past. I'm even working on the coloring book variant of #5. (Still. That is yet another project that has been temporarily shelved.) I loved Thunderbolts and Crecy. I wasn't a fan of these books because of Ellis though. I just liked the stories. Then I read Planetary.

Planetary, for those who are still reading and don't know what I'm talking about, is a series of stories about a group of superpowered archeologists who investigate unusual occurances and individuals, many of which bear striking resemblances to stories and characters from popular fiction. Don't let my bland desciption throw you off. Planetary is as good as it gets. Every story stands on it's own, and yet contributes to a much larger one. I hate to use this comparison, even though I loved the show, but think of how The X-Files was structured and you'll understand.

I won't go into a whole synopsis of the book and its cast, but the imagination and scope on display just blew my mind. The John Cassaday art was dazzling, but it was Ellis' story that hooked me. I started reading more sci-fi comics, but my itch wasn't being scratched. It was Ellis. It had to be.

The next Ellis book I picked up was Ocean. This is a science fiction story that deals with the discovery of life on the moon Europa, which circles the planet Jupiter. The thought is that there is an ocean of liquid water underneath the icy crust of Europa, possibly heated by hydrothermal vents or by its proximity to Jupiter itself. In the story, which is set about 100 years in the future, a large number of coffins and a cache of weapons are discovered in this ocean and U.N. weapons inspector Nathan Kane is sent to investigate.

The story isn't as heady as Planetary, but it doesn't fail to astonish. Once more, without going into great detail, the ideas on display just slay me. The reason behind the caskets being there is so logical and well thought-out that you can't help but wonder if Ellis knows something we don't.

My only problem was the ending. It just ends. Just like that. Out of nowhere. Poof! It was like watching an episode of Star Trek:The Next Generation. You know what I mean. They spend the whole episode dealing with whatever threat has befallen them. Then, in the last ten minutes of the show, someone is like "Oh yeah. Let's send a tachyon pulse through the reflector dish." And that's it. They shake it off and head to Rigel 5. The end. It may sound like a criticism, but I don't see it that way. I wanted MORE story, at least another issue's worth. So I looked for more Ellis.

Next up was Ministry of Space. An alternate history story that ponders what would happen if Great Britain was the first country to make it into space, Ministry was another fantastic tale. I was seeing a pattern develop: Ellis+science fiction= gold. I do have to say though, this story has the same "problem" that Ocean had, namely a very abrupt ending. What's up with that? I needed to read more.

If there are any people still reading who know Ellis' work, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I should read Transmetropolitan. That's the book that I guess put him on the map. Well, I did read volume one a little more than a year ago. It didn't do much for me. It's an edgy book and I'm not always in the mood for edgy. I prefer the more deliberate Ellis stories to the frantic ones. Still, I'm sure I'll go back to it one day. In the meantime, I needed to find more books.

Since I wasn't really looking for superhero stuff, the books were getting harder to come by. I eventually got Black Summer. It's a superhero book, but not Marvel or DC. This was another edgy book, very dark and violent. It wasn't a bad story, but I was craving more science fiction and a deconstruction of superheroes wasn't cutting it. I will say that this story's ending wasn't as jarring. It felt right.

I started getting frustrated looking for more and turned to I try not to do a lot of online shopping as it is just too convenient and easy to get carried away, but I needed more. I got two more gems: Global Frequency and Orbiter. I'll tale them in order.

Global Frequency is about a semi-secret civilian organization comprised of 1001 members, each of whom has a different specialty. They might be an athlete or a soldier or a scientist. Led by Miranda Zero, they take care of problems that government or the police either can't or won't deal with. This story is responsible for introducing me to the totally insane idea of kinetic harpoons. Check the link. Think about how crazy that sounds and then think that somewhere, someone is actually trying to make these fucking things. That's some serious mad scientist kind of shit.

That leaves us with Orbiter. Aaaaah, Orbiter. In this story, manned space flight ends when a space shuttle disappears without a trace. Ten years later it returns, covered in skin and with only one member of the crew remaining, alive and seemingly insane. A group of experts is assembled to piece together what happened and the story just gets deeper and deeper. This is my favorite of all of the Ellis books I read.

It hits all of the right notes. It's a space story with a solid, but not totally far-fetched scientific base. The characters all fit and there's a sense of wonder around the story. I got it just five days ago and have already read it three times over. The ending is a little sudden, but when the body of the story is this involving that almost seems like nitpicking.

I know Mr. Ellis has a number of ongoing books on the stands, mostly for Avatar. I'm trade waiting those. I'm also waiting for him to get moving with Newuniversal. It's been forever since the last issue!! I'm always looking for more and would love suggestions from anyone who is still reading this. So?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is This The End?

Wow.It's been a little shy of a month now since my last post.Honestly, I find that I have little ambition to write.Even when I have something to write about I opt not to.I don't have time anymore.When I do have some free time, I don't want to spend it at a computer.

I can't say that I won't post again, but it's not something I'm thinking about doing.So...goodbye for now.I'm going out with a sputter and a pop.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Great Animation

I found this video somewhat by accident.I can't describe it.It's, well, it's creative.Creative in a good way.I would tell you to watch the whole thing.I think you'll find though that once you start watching, making it to the end won't be a problem.This kind of off-the-wall stuff is always cool.

Enjoy.(Video posts are fun because they're easy.Trust me though.This shit is cool.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nice Day

One thing I like to do in my spare time is cook.I like to think that I'm pretty good at it, but the only other person who eats my cooking is my fiancee.So, I'm never really sure if I'm really doing a good job or just making things that we both happen to like.

Recently, a friend of mine at work planted in my head the idea to make lemon meringue pie.I decided to give it a go and made one.This time, I brought one of my slices to work to give the friend.She loved it and has actually been talking it up.I decided to make one for a bake sale today.Well, I really made two, but one was bought outright.

Long story short, I brought it in to rave reviews.

"Delicious.Not too sweet."

"You really have talent."

" die for."

It may be a bit shallow, and fuck it all if it is, but it really gave me great pleasure knowing people were digging it.I worked hard and made those suckers completely from scratch.The smiles felt nice.The " die for" comment made my day.

I really do like to cook, especialy baking, because food is something everybody can appreciate.Of all of the three billion things I attempt to do and of all of the one hundred hobbies that I attempt to maintain(all at the same time) and rarely master, cooking gives me the most personal satisfaction.I don't even get pissed at the mistakes I make because I know it's something I won't do again.Hell, a few weeks ago I lost about $8 in white chocolate because I didn't know not to add water to melted chocolate.(It "seizes", which means it develops the consistency of thick, cold cake frosting and it can't be rescued without fucking up the taste of it.)

Before the lemon meringue, I made marshmallows.Fucking homemade marshmallows!!I made a batch of dark chocolate mint, one of chocolate covered Oreo cookie, and one of lemon and white chocolate.I don't know which was more fun.That's what it's about.I put on some tunes and I get to work.If the recipe is complicated, all the better.If it takes three hours to make, no problem.

I even thought for a time that I would pay off my credit card bills and use the money saved to go to culinary school.Then I realized that I hate high pressure work environments and I would end up resenting a job I thought I would love to do.So I'm keeping it a hobby, only now I'll feel more comfortable sharing it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Fables Vol10:The Good Prince

Fables is one of my favorite comics.I love the concept and the reinventions of the characters.I started reading it last year, starting with the first TPB.I only read it in trade paperback form, just because I think it works well in that format.This past Wednesday, the tenth trade was released.It's the story of Flycatcher, also known as Ambrose, and his adventure getting back to the Homelands to reclaim his kingdom and take on the Adversary.

In waiting for this volume to come out, I would glance at reviews.I saw a lot of mediocre ones.No one hated the story, but no one seemed to love it either.Too long, not up to past standards.After reading the whole thing last night I would have to say that those people are nuts.Though it is possible it is the "I just read it" factor at work, but this was one of my favorite arcs so far.It might even be my favorite of all.

I haven't done a list in a while.I think I'm going to rattle off what I liked about this story.

1)I know it's more in vogue to like the anti-hero or darker characters, but I am truly a sucker for the heroic, purely good characters.Ambrose defeats wave after wave of the Adversary's armies without spilling one drop of blood.He shows kindness, compassion, and respect to friends, as well as enemies, and his armies swell in number as a result.I found that inspiring.Even when Boy Blue shows up and offers a stockpile of modern weapons, Ambrose holds to his non-violent revolution and refuses them.

2)It was good to see Bluebeard again.He, along with Jack, provided a certain amount of inner tension to the Fable community that provided for some good stories.I was always totally shocked when he was killed off...and didn't come back.Maybe he was a distraction to where the creators wanted to take the story.I missed him.He shows his true, scheming colors again here.For a short time I though he was going to abandon his treacherous ways and stand beside Ambrose.Instead, he aligned himself with Shere Khan and got himself killed again.Cool death though.

3)I still think that Snow and Bigby's cubs are cute.I think the difference here is the number of them.One precocious kid could get annoying, but give him/her five(or six) more to play off of and the dynamic changes.It was good to see Ghost introduced to them.That character has been something of a sad one so far.Hopefully, with his brothers and sisters with him, that can change.

4)The ghost army is fucking awesome.That was the best sequence in the whole series.Mark Buckingham deserves a raise after that.

5) So was the scene with Grinder emerging from the waterfall.Absolutely a "holy shit" moment.

6)Fabletown is on the ball.The Adversary and his minions don't seem nearly so intimidating now.I'm not sure if this will hurt the story though as Fabletown doesn't seem quite the underdog anymore.The Adversary needs to strike a harsh blow to the Fables to build the threat back up.They haven't had a threatening moment since the wooden soldier invasion.

7)This book FINALLY places Jack Of Fables and some of the stories from 1001 Nights Of Snowfall in the timeline.I always wondered where they fit and how they would be worked in.I'm normally not a continuity fan.I don't find it works very well, at least not for the big two, simply because there are too many titles with too many stories to try to fit together.There are always gaps and inconsistencies for overzealous fanboys and fangirls to irritatingly pick at.For a singular title though, it works just fine.

Fables never disappoints me.This was their epic story and it totally changes the status quo.I can't wait for the next trade to see where they take this.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What Do You Get When You Mix Cats And Your Long Boxes?

Here are the culprits:

They look so peaceful, don't they?How could those sweet napping kitties ever be anything other than perfect little angels?Well...we introduce cardboard into the equation.My cats love cardboard.

This damage was on both of the exposed long boxes.It only took a matter of months to get like this.

Do you see all of those little scraps of cardboard in the box without the cover?I'm still finding those things 3 months later.

They actually clawed their way all the way through the box.

To stop this from going on I had to duct tape the tops of my long boxes.

I did that to both of the exposed ones.For some reason the cats won't sit on the duct tape.To be honest, I don't really care why.All I know is that my boxes aren't being ripped to shreds anymore.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I Changed My Mind

I was writing this long post about negativity on the internet and where I think it comes from when, after over an hour of typing, I realized that I wasn't into it anymore.So I deleted the whole thing rather than post a long, rambling essay that said nothing I haven't already said a dozen times before here.

There would probably be fewer pointless flame wars on the internet if people would just think before typing and read before posting as opposed to just running off at the mouth and sending it out for the whole world to read.