Archive for June, 2014

People Who Hate Fun


Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun! by Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham

If there’s one important thing to remember about being a kid, it’s that all the stuff that’s the most fun is the stuff that everyone is absolutely convinced is bad for you. Comic books? Bad. Video games? Bad. Dungeons & Dragons? Bad. Skateboarding? Bad. Rock music? Bad.

So here’s a book dedicated to talking about all the things that were so awful for us, and how they weren’t really bad for us at all.

Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham put this together. It’s not quite a comic book — there’s a lot of straight text here — but it’s all broken up with plentiful comic illustrations. And appropriately, it starts out talking about how everyone was convinced that comics were bad for us, mostly focusing on the fraudulent research of Dr. Fredric Wertham. But it doesn’t stop there.

Among the other panics we’ve seen over the years, this book also spotlights fairy tales, Harry Potter books, all kinds of games (including soccer, chess, pinball, and shuffleboard), texting, social media, beepers, playgrounds, skateboarding, and much more.

But the most terrifying and infuriating chapter of the book is the one focusing on education. While things would seem to be much improved from the days when most children spent their days working in factories instead of going to school, the situation is definitely declining now. Schools and education “experts” have decided that recess is bad for you, that vacations are bad for you, that art and music are bad for you, that free time is bad for you — you see, they all get in the way of studying to pass the standardized tests.

We also learn about censorship in schools, as administrators crack down on student reporters, usually for the crime of making administrators look bad. And we learn that research has shown that students who sleep later do better in school — yet schools still keep demanding that classes must start at crack-o’-dawn in the morning. We learn more about the ongoing ridiculousness of Zero Tolerance policies, which appear to be designed solely to assault children and send them to jail for laughably trivial reasons.

While the other chapters made adults look like misguided fools reflexively hating anything new that kids were doing, that last chapter makes our educators, school administrators, and police officials out to be actively malign influences on our children, working to make our kids less educated and less secure, and mostly interested in abusing their power to kick kids out of school and stick them in jail.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Most of the book is very entertaining and informative — you’ll learn plenty, and you’ll find plenty of things to laugh about, too. Yeah, there are people out there who seem to genuinely hate it when kids have fun — but ultimately, they lose, and they go to their graves mocked and derided.

But again, that last chapter is shocking and infuriating. I don’t have kids, but holy bananas, I’m amazed some of the tyrannical teachers and awful administrators depicted here have managed to survive to the present day. I’m even more surprised that the terrible policies governing our schools haven’t been overturned, just because the resulting educational disaster is just so screamingly obvious. If reading this chapter doesn’t absolutely infuriate you, there’s a very good chance you’re already a school principal or school board member.

Go pick it up, partly for the humor, partly for the rage, partly to remember that today’s kids are no more awful than you were when you were in school.

Comments off

A Mushroom with a View


Moon Knight #4

Marc Spector is asked by a sleep researcher to investigate the case of a bunch of people who have all inexplicably gone mad, dreaming the same bizarre dream, when they’ve gone to sleep in the same building. Moon Knight’s investigation takes the direct approach — he decides to go to sleep inside one specific room, despite the risk that he’ll go mad — after all, he’s fairly mad already. Will his fungus-based dreams solve the mystery or doom him to greater insanity?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nothing at all wrong with Ellis’ storytelling here, but the real draw is the lushly, magnificently beautiful artwork of Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. If you’re into beautiful art, you really have to pick this one up. If you want to see some jaw-dropping examples of the work of an outstanding colorist, pick this up. Jordie Bellaire does a brilliant job of the contrast between the spectacular technicolor of Spector’s dream to the common everyday colors of the rest of the world to the stark, screaming monochrome of Moon Knight himself. I’m serious — y’all go get it.


Loki: Agent of Asgard #5

Loki is uncomfortable with kidnapping Asgardians to have them locked up in prison — especially since those he’s been sent after, like Lorelei and Sigurd, haven’t committed any serious crimes against Asgard, and he doesn’t know why the All-Mother wants them held captive. So he decides it’s time for a heist movie so he can spring Sigurd out of prison. He enlists the aid of Lorelei, a fellow trickster, the Mighty Thor, and Verity Willis, a human who is able to see through any lie, no matter what form it takes. Will they be able to get into Asgard without being discovered? Who’s their secret inside man? And what’s this heist really about?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a wonderfully twisty story, full of last-second escapes and clever tricks and revealed secrets, just like you’d want from any good heist movie.


Black Widow #7

Natasha is in San Francisco, trying to track down the usual bunch of spies and nogoodniks for SHIELD. But she gets made and almost shot — and when she finally nabs the shooter, she’s ready to kill him if he wan’t tell her the info she needs. But San Francisco is now where Daredevil hangs his horns, and he’s not willing to let her commit murder in his town.

Verdict: This is one I just keep going back and forth on. It’s not that bad a story, overall, and the art is very nice — but it’s coming out at the same time as Brubaker and Epting’s “Velvet,” which does the superspy genre much, much better than this one.

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments off

Titans Together


Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse #1

Whoa, lookit that! Tiny Titans is back! It’s only for a miniseries, though, which kinda sucks. But any Tiny Titans we get is very good Tiny Titans.

The Tiny Titans Treehouse has mysteriously disappeared! Turns out Psimon and Brainiac-5 are trying to get their Brainiac merit badges, and the one thing Brainiacs love the most is shrinking things, so they’ve shrunk the treehouse — with Raven, Beast Boy, and Terra inside!

It’s up to Robin, Superboy, Supergirl, and their super-pets to save them — but their investigations only lead them to Swamp Thing, Solomon Grundy, and Metamorpho. Can everyone get rescued in time? Can the treehouse be recovered?

Verdict: Thumbs up. About my only objection is that so few of the classic Tiny Titans characters actually appear in this issue. No Star, no Cyborg, no Donna or Barb, no Bee or Plasmus or Crock or Kid Flash or Damian or the Bat-Cow or Lunch Lady Darkseid. It’s a miniseries — I don’t want them to show up for cameos in later issues — I want to see as many of them as I can in every issue.

But having said that, it’s still great fun and still worth reading, both for kids and for their parents. There’s still the wonderful cartooning, funny situations, great characterization, and unexpected guest stars we’ve come to expect from all of Baltazar and Franco’s work.

It’s just a miniseries, but you still need this in your life — it may be the only good thing DC is publishing right now.

Comments off

Marvelous Heroics


Ms. Marvel #4

Kamala Khan got shot in the stomach by a mostly fake robber with an entirely real gun — but luckily, her new shapeshifting powers let her heal herself up. But she can’t shapeshift again while she’s still healing, so she can’t look like Captain Marvel again — so she and her pal Bruno hide her identity with… a sleep mask. Well, the cops buy it, ’cause I guess Jersey cops see a lot of weird stuff. But Bruno’s brother may be in trouble — in fact, he’s the fake robber who shot her — and Kamala has to rig up her first real superhero costume to try to rescue him.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Y’all know I love the heck out of this comic, right? The writing is still cool, the art is still very cool. The characters are grand fun — even the low-grade teenaged thugs at the end are fun to read. And I love how glorious Kamala’s relationship with her mother is — a little prickly on the surface, but there are hidden depths there. Also, by the way, it’s great to see Kamala in her real costume at last.


Mighty Avengers #10

This is an “Original Sin” crossover book, so basically, someone has killed the Watcher, and everyone’s upset. The Blue Marvel was apparently friends with Uatu and pledges to find his killer. He also meets Uatu’s and Ulana’s baby. Meanwhile, the rest of the team battles a Mindless One while Spectrum rants amusingly about events from Nextwave, and Blade fights a bunch of fire-breathing were-roosters, which is why I love comics.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yeah, it’s a durn crossover tie-in, but we get to spend most of it visiting the forgotten corners of the Blue Marvel’s life. Plus there’s a whole page devoted to the awesomeness of Nextwave. And, one more time, fire-breathing were-roosters. Fire. Breathing. Were-roosters.

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments off

Judas Tree


Trees #1

A new science fiction series from Warren Ellis is always worth checking out. Our premise here is that a decade ago, the aliens showed up on Earth. They drove thousands of implausibly gigantic metal towers into the planet, reaching who knows how deep or how high — and they’ve never bothered to say a word to us. They’ve completely ignored every attempt to communicate. So now, humanity has to live with the gigantic Trees that have scarred entire cities. In Rio de Janeiro, they release some sort of waste product that kills thousands of people; in New York, the city has been wrecked and divided between haves and have-nots; in China, a whole city has sprung up around one of the Trees; and in the Arctic, the Trees have started producing their own life. What does it all mean?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Most of this issue is about establishing our premise and our setting — and they’re very, very interesting. The art by Jason Howard does a lot for establishing how grand and how brain-breaking the Trees are and for creating this world that’s impossibly strange and perfectly familiar. Let’s all enjoy this one, folks.


Clive Barker’s Nightbreed #1

Do you know how much I loved “Nightbreed” when I saw it — gee whiz, all the way back in 1990? I loved that movie so blasted much. Yeah, it was flawed in some really important ways, but I still loved it, loved the monsters, loved the setting, loved the characters, loved the bits I read about in Fangoria that never made it into the actual film, loved the Clive Barker story it was based on. Oh, they’re making a new comic about it? Yes, I’ll be down with that.

Our first issue follows the Nightbreed through the past. We watch a couple escaped slaves trying to flee through the Louisiana swamps — until one of them is bitten by the tentacle-haired Peloquin and turned into a new Nightbreed. And in Boston in 1945, a clean-living senator pays a secret visit to a house of ill repute — and the beautiful but prickly Shuna Sassi.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a nice start to the series — and Nightbreed-in-History format looks like it’ll be a nice way to avoid trying to make a not-a-sequel sequel. It might be a little disappointing not to get to roam around Midian itself, this approach seems like it’ll be promising, too.


Southern Bastards #2

Earl Tubb is really looking forward to getting out of Craw County, Alabama. He wasn’t able to chop down the tree growing out of his daddy’s grave, but he’s got the old homestead packed up and ready to leave in the morning. All he needs to do is find something to keep him occupied on one Friday night. So he goes to the local high school football game. He’d played for the Rebs years ago, but things are different now. Coach Boss runs the team, Coach Boss runs the town, Coach Boss runs everything. And when Earl’s old friend Dusty winds up on the field beat to death by Coach Boss’s goons, and the local law won’t do anything because they don’t want to make Coach Boss mad, Earl is still planning on letting it go and getting the hell out of town — until a storm and a bolt of lightning help change his mind.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Such grimy, rotten, chicken-fried noir — it’s pert-near perfect. It feels hot and humid and bloody and chaw-stained, like it’s all baked right into the pages. Southern noir doesn’t get done often enough for my tastes, and it’s nice to see it done so wonderfully here.

Comments off