We Have Come For Your Comics

We Have Come For Your Comics

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Big !@#$ downtime


Sorry it's taken me so !@#$ing long to write anything after Black Friday. The Christmas season was hectic and other things have necessitated a drop-out. Security concerns. That kind of !@#$

Rest assured I will be back to tell you what to !@#$ing read and buy soon. Until then, please support your local comics store.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

11/24/14 - Big !@#$ Black Friday Book Bonanza 2014

Well, it's that !@#$ing time of year again, son. Time to round up the relatives, set the !@#$ table, place your bets on who's going to start a fight over the !@#$ing Lions game, and make so much !@#$ food that you got enough to feed everyone leftovers until the middle of !@#$ing December.

Thanksgiving, we like to call it. A uniquely American holiday, unless you're from Canada, in which case !@#$ you, ours is better. Because I said so. And poutine doesn't go well with turkey, anyway.

Anyway, it's kind of a subdued Thanksgiving for us, here at Casa del SPYGOD, due to being under !@#$ing house arrest and all. Just me, my man, my cat, and those two stupid !@#$ers outside who insist on checking everything that goes in and out.

As a result. I can't guarantee the turkey we whistled up from the !@#$ing Chinese butcher down in on 4th is going to be in great shape when it comes through the door. But as soon as they realize it's still alive, mutated, frothing at the mouth rabid, and armed to the !@#$ teeth, they might not be in such great shape, either.

(We chase the !@#$ turkey around the kitchen with cleavers, hack it to !@#$ing pieces, and then sew it back together, stuff it with wild herb and mushroom stuffing, and baste it with !@#$ing whiskey. Don't quibble until you try some, son. It's just how we do things here.)

Others have more prosaic traditions.
But we'll be having a !@#$ good time, here. There will be food and fun and laughter and joy and a whole lot of !@#$ing dishes to wash. We'll enjoy my psychotic grandmother's garlic and lemon green beans, my lover's special thai creamy mashed potatoes with green curry gravy, and a pumpkin pie that even Joe Stalin could use to !@#$ing bribe his way out of Hell.

(Meanwhile, the cat will be contributing kitchen mayhem, followed by demon hairballs, sad looks during the long cooking process, and the ability to !@#$ing scarf everything down in less than a !@#$ minute if we turn our backs for that long. !@#$ing beast.)

And don't despair about that silly trial, coming up. We might be spending Thanksgiving here, but I have no !@#$ing intention of being here for Christmas. And that's all I'll !@#$ing say about that. For now...

But once Thanksgiving is over, there's the next day to consider. I'm sure you know what I'm !@#$ing talking about, too. Black Friday, in which your friends and neighbors suddenly decide that all those years of borrowing one another's !@#$ing lawn mower is not as !@#$ing important as getting their hands on the Cabbage Patch doll before you do.

"Give us to your children. Your precious, little children. We will show them things you can't explain. For Satan."
Now, it !@#$ing occurred to me that, since you're going to be out !@#$ing shopping, you might want to think about getting people some !@#$ing excellent comics. And while this is the season for them to be putting out all kinds of huge hardcovers, special packages, and other such things, there's also a lot of really good !@#$ that won't cost you a god!@#$ arm and leg.

So rather that spend time talking about one thing you might want to get the comic reader in your family, I'm going to tell you about a whole bunch of them. I can't do an in-depth review of !@#$ing everything that comes out, after all. And there's some really !@#$ good stuff that I just flat out missed, this year.

In some !@#$ing semblance of non-order, then...

Hey, wasn't it just the other week that I was !@#$ing going on about how !@#$ing good 100 Bullets was? Well, just our luck, Azzarello and Risso were kind enough to jump back into the !@#$ saddle for eight issues of more inspired mayhem, murder, and morality, starring our favorite villain.

 100 Bullets: Brother Lono (DC Vertigo) picks up the story some time after the climax of that series, and finds our "hero" lurking south of the border, in a town where the most horrific !@#$ imaginable goes on. But amazingly enough, he's not a part of it. After narrowly escaping death, he's on the straight and narrow, now, and helping out at a church of all places. But when the !@#$ starts coming down, how long can he hold back before the monster he's been starts coming to the surface again?

And what will !@#$ing happen when it does...?

This limited series brought it all !@#$ing home for me, and acts as a perfect epilogue of sorts for the whole series. The writing's top notch, as always, the art is as amazing as ever, and there's stuff in here that will make your heart stop beating. A fitting tribute for the man we all loved to !@#$ing hate.

So, have you been !@#$ing loving Superior Spider Man as much as I do? Hating it? Not !@#$ing sure? Well, regardless of how you felt about Peter Parker being a !@#$ ghost in his own body while Doctor Octopus called the shots, you will want to get your !@#$ing hands on the new series, in which Peter is back and better than ever!

Unfortunately, Pete's got some big !@#$ 'splaining to do. You see, while Doc Oc was in control, his being overwhelmed by Parker's memories made him want to try and be a !@#$ing superhero. He just had a really !@#$ing... unique way of going about it. So Peter's got to explain the dead criminals, the army of mercenaries, Spider Island, and all the lies he told all the people he loved and cared about. Including people Doc Oc was in love with, but Peter has no idea about. 

And wait until Black Cat gets back on her feet, as the Superior Spider Man put a beatdown on her she's not going to !@#$ing forget or forgive anytime soon...

The new series starts with Amazing Spider Man: The Parker Luck (Marvel), and it's a great continuation of the amazing !@#$ing work Dan Slott's been doing on this title for the past few years.

Another gem that came out this year was a magnificent collection of Warren Ellis' run on The Authority (DC): a superhero story that took the genre-expanding stuff Ellis had been doing on Stormwatch, kicked it up and down a !@#$ing wall, and then left it somewhat debased but happy for the experience.

Here's the deal, son. Stormwatch is in ruins, having fallen victim to the hubris of the Weatherman, as well as the carnage of what may be the worst !@#$ing crossover ever. So it's up to Jenny Sparks and a number of other heroes she's collected before and after the whole !@#$ing thing came down to stand up and save the world. But if they're going to save it, it !@#$ well better be worth saving, which means they're going to be a little more proactive than some would like.

Ellis takes the action cinematic, and Bryan Hitch's art is top notch, but what really stands out is how this comic !@#$ing takes no prisoners, and pulls no punches. Future writers tried to carry on the legacy from these 12 issues, including tackling the "save the world from itself" idea Sparks threatened, but never got it as good as these were, either in spirit or execution. You could be forgiven for pretending that the series just ended here, except that Mark !@#$ing Millar and Frank god!@#$ Quitely got involved after that, and... well, you can make up your own !@#$ mind about that.

But this, here? It belongs on your shelf, along with Watchmen, Maus, and Sandman: stories that took the medium as we understood it and did something !@#$ing different with them. Buy it, savor it, and then understand why some of us snort and laugh when a bunch of heroes try to change the !@$# world.

Because Warren Ellis already !@#$ing went there, and did it perfectly. So there.

Who's Blacksad? Oh, son. Sometimes I despair. Truly. *sigh*

Okay, try this on for size. Imagine someone was going to !@#$ing tell a no-punches-pulled story of a 1950's semi-hardboiled private eye. But imagine that they were going to do this anthropomorphic style, with a grimy, gumshoe world full of animals. And imagine it was going to have the feel of good, early 80's Heavy Metal, only a lot more hopeful and soulful than most of the stories you read there?

Well, that's Blacksad -- John Blacksad to you. And in this third collection (Blacksad: Amarillo {Dark Horse}) he's trying to !@#$ing to get his head back on straight after some really bad !@#$ went down. On a whim, he takes a "case" of driving some rich guy's car back to Texas, but things get really !@#$ complicated real !@#$ing quick when some beat writer on the run steals the car. And when the writer does something bad using it, well... all kinds of trouble comes John's way.

As !@#$ing usual.

I'm not !@#$ing telling you any more than that. All I will say is that these comics are utterly charming, in a hardboiled noir kind of way, with characters you'll love and love to hate, a moral center that shines through (however grimy) and some really !@#$ good art. Any time one of these gets translated and sent over to this side of the pond, I !@#$ing cheer. Get someone Amarillo and read through it first, and you'll see why. You'll even get one for yourself.

Now, while I did say that we'd be trying to go !@#$ing easy on your wallet, here, there's an important !@#$ exception, here. DC Vertigo has been kind enough to put the entirety of Grant Morrison's epic, genre-breaking run on Doom Patrol into omnibus format. And while you might want to scream abuse at the big !@#$ price tag ($150 American) I can guarantee you that, just like the Invisibles one they did a couple years ago, this is money well spent.

Why? Well !@#$, son, where have you been? This is where Grant showed us that he could take the deconstruction he did on Animal Man a step further, turning a seminal but strangely unpopular team of hard luck heroes into a monthly event. Surrealism and superheroes reached an apex in this well-done series, and also showed us the meaning of "deceptively funny," where you laugh one minute and they cry like a little kid the next. And rightly so.

Often imitated, never duplicated, and something everyone should read. That's Morrison's run on Doom Patrol. Gamble one and a half franklins and then tell me I'm wrong. 

Speaking of superhero teams you never heard much about, remember the backwards, evil "heroes" from Earth Whateverthe!@#$? You know, Ultraman, Superwoman, Power Ring, Johnny Quick... those cackling twerps whose attempts to take us over always !@#$ing failed because they just couldn't overcome our world's natural laws, any more than we could take over theirs?

(According to Grant Morrison, anyway, but I'll !@#$ing buy that for a dollar.)

Well, if you wondered why the !@#$ Geoff Johns set up certain things the way he did, when DC did the New 52 reboot, and why certain seemingly-stupid-as-!@#$ storylines went on as long as they did, if at all, it's so they could drop Forever Evil on us. An epic story of transplanar invasions, evil heroes, and villains doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, this is going to go down as one of the shining moments of the new era in DC comics, and its fallout has yet to really reach the end. Chock !@#$ing full of surprises, thrills, and scares, along with some really heartrending moments, this is a modern classic you need to pick up.

Remember the Illuminati? Those powerful stalwarts of the Marvel universe who decided they were going to get together, in secret, to solve the really big !@#$ problems of the world? And remember how, when they first got together, Black Panther not only declined their invitation, but also told them they were going to regret this? And remember how he was !@#$ing right?

Well, I sure as !@#$ do. And that's why it's super-ironic that, when he literally stumbles across a truly terrifying threat to the entire !@#$ing multiverse -- one exploding Earth at a time -- T'Challa does the one thing he said not to do, and assembles what's left of the Illuminati to gather in Wakanda and deal with this matter.

The series is New Avengers. The first collection is Everything Dies. And this is one of the best Marvel series going, right now, as it really puts our movers and shakers into a !@#$ing bad situation. For in order to save our Earth, the other Earth must be destroyed. And not all of them are uninhabited...

Brutal, cosmic, and mindblowing. That's what Hickman brings to the table. Steve Epting's art is top notch, here, too. And, with the news that we're getting a Black Panther movie, this would be perfect to give someone to explain why this is a !@#$ good thing, as it shows T'Challa in all his strengths and complexities. Especially when he has to deal with that !@#$er Namor.

Yes, this series has been going on for a while. You should already be !@#$ing getting it every !@#$ month, for !@#$'s sake, and I shouldn't have to tell you !@#$ing why.

(Space opera done right, son. A perfect synthesis of story and art. Great characters and a universe that just keeps getting more interesting. A man and a woman from opposing sides in a long !@#$ war, their child, and the strange family they've accumulated. A spaceship made from a !@#$ing tree. I mean, come on...)

But I have some good news, just in time for holiday shopping. Thanks to Image, you can get the first 18 issues in Saga Book One, which would be a great way to get someone the big !@#$ gift that this series truly is in their hands. It would also look handsome on your big !@#$ comics shelf, and give your issues and TPBs a real break.

So please look for this and put it in someone's hands. With a big red bow. And the understanding that once they read it, you won't see them for a few days, and then they'll want to go to the comic store and put this on their !@#$ing pull, like now. 

You're welcome.  

And you thought your superpower was !@#$ weird? Well, here's a new one for you: post-coital time stoppage.

Yes, you read that right. When our main character has sex, the world literally stands still for her. Normally, she just considers this a !@#$ing nuisance, but one could get up to all kinds of hi-jinx if one was so disposed.

And when comes the day she meets another person who has the same power. Which is cool in a lot of ways, except that he's been doing things with his extra time. And when an economic crunch happens, and some money needs to be made, well... wouldn't you go be naughty?

Maybe. But there are others just like them. Somehow they know who they are and what they're up to. And they've been doing this dirty !@#$ a lot longer than our heroes, and know more tricks...

It's Sex Criminals: Vol 1: One Weird Trick (Image). It's a great, human story from Matt Fraction, excellent art from Chip Zdarsky, and an excellent tale of sexual awakening, power and responsibility, and just plain getting off that I've read in a long while, if !@#$ing ever.

Speaking of anthropomorphics, here's one of the best.

Usagi is a rabbit ronin in feudal Japan, trying to make his way through a dangerous world, avenge his fallen master, and regain his honor. It's an amazing saga, full of hope and heart, and while the art may be cute, it is not a kid's story. In fact, it can get really !@#$ing dark, which is why the art acts as such a counterpoint to the goings-on.

Sold yet? Well, you !@#$ing well should be. Stan Sakai is a national treasure, and should be feted and applauded at all turns for having put this great work out for all those years. Do us all a favor and put Usagi Yojimbo Saga 1 (Dark Horse) in someone's hands this season. You will not be sorry. 

* * *

And I would also be remiss in my duties if I didn't remind you that Marvel has been kind enough to reprint Miracleman by Alan "The Original Writer" Moore and diverse !@#$ing art hands. So if you spent all those years wondering when Todd McFarlane, Neil Gaiman, and !@#$ knows who else were going to end their massive tug-of-war over the properties and actually let us get this comic back out there? Well, now it is. And you can get A Dream of Flying and The Red King Syndrome in hardcover, along with a bunch of other cool !@#$ Moore did alongside those works.

Why is this a big deal? Well, other than it's been OOP since Eclipse went !@#$ing belly-up all those years ago, it's the first time Alan Moore really went ape!@#$ on the hero genre, with amazing results. Squint your eyes and you can see the DNA of Dr. Manhattan, Swamp Thing, and a number of other characters and works Moore did later. Or just !@#$ing enjoy this epic rumination on what it really means to be a god in a world of men, and how such a being should act when push comes to !@#$ing shove.

Other than that? Have a good and safe Thanksgiving, and we'll see you back here next week.

And whatever you do? Don't forget to get these comics at your local comic store. They would really appreciate your business, this season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

11/18/14 - 100 Bullets Book One (DC/Vertigo)

I've been playing this big !@#$ spy game for a long !@#$ing time, now, son. I've seen things you wouldn't !@#$ing believe, been places you've never even thought of, met people you never !@#$ing heard of, and done some things you really don't want to !@#$ing know about.

And that's just before breakfast, most days. 

So if there's one thing I can say with some degree of truth (other than trust no one, don't bring a knife to a !@#$ing gunfight, never trust your handler any further than you could spit his !@#$ing corpse, and do not eat the house special if you can't speak the language) it's that while it's true that the one thing more dangerous than a foreign agent is a turned agent, it's also true that a rogue agent is ten times as !@#$ing dangerous than the two of them put together.

Why? Well, consider this.

Your average foreign agent? He's either a fixture in the embassy, pretending to be a !@#$ secretary's secretary, or else hiding in a !@#$ing rented office, somewhere, pretending to be part of some new foreign business getting set up a stones' throw from some government building. In either case, they spend their day getting the morons they promised money, a new life, and a !@#$ lap dance with someone from !@#$ing Baywatch to do what they want, but otherwise they're as useless as !@#$s on a horse, unless you're into that sort of thing.

And some of you clearly !@#$ing are.
Tradecraft? Some, obviously. But he doesn't do hardcore superspy James Bond !@#$ because he knows he'll get !@#$ing caught, unless he's obscenely lucky. The most cloak and dagger he'll do is set up clandestine talks with his Harolds, arrange a dead-drop, and be ready to burn the whole site and arrange to have his stooges capped by some really scary gorilla of a cleaner if the situation goes nose down and butt up, right into a sea of !@#$.

And your average turned agent? Well, yeah, they're dangerous because they have all the !@#$ing toys, know where the bodies are buried, and can fix !@#$ to happen the way their new paymasters want things to go. But in the end, they're playing a really !@#$ dangerous game, serving two masters they can't let know about each other. This hamstrings their effectiveness quite a bit, as you might !@#$ing imagine.
Once voted "most likely to get !@#$ing caught"
But let's consider the rogue agent, for a bit.

Supposing someone decides, for whatever !@#$ reason, that they're going to take all the knowledge, know-how, and resources at their disposal to go do things they want to do, for reasons of their own? Supposing they do missions their way, and get results, but don't tell their bosses all the !@#$ that really went down because they have their own agenda? Supposing they don't have to share that agenda with a foreign power that's got its own agenda, unless getting into bed with them was the idea all along?

And supposing this self-serving !@#$ goes on for years, maybe even decades, before they drop the mother of all !@#$ing mikes behind them as they slink out the back door, never to be seen again?

Oddly enough, he looks nothing like Sam Neill
Someone like that is massively dangerous, son. At least a foreign agent can be uncovered, depantsed, and either sent back home or vanished. At least a turned agent can be uncovered when the stories get a little too !@#$ing thin on one or both sides, and dealt with accordingly. But if you've got someone who knows how the system works, and makes it work for them so !@#$ing skillfully that no one has any !@#$ idea that they're crooked?

Well, you could be in for a lot of bad !@#$ in your face when the fan finally starts to go around. And that's all I'm going to say about that, at least not without a big !@#$ing drink in my hand.

But while I do have such a drink within reach, let me tell you one more thing. And that's that the only thing more dangerous than a rogue agent is a rogue agent that everyone thinks is !@#$ing dead.

"That sounds like my cue to come into this review..."
And on that note, let me introduce you to Agent Graves, and then tell you why 100 Bullets was one of the best graphic novels about a rogue agent that I've ever !@#$ing read.

He's !@#$ old, he's well-dressed, and he has steel in his !@#$ing eyes. He reminds you of an old pair of shoes that still work, in spite of all the years, but that you're sort of afraid to wear. And he has a commanding presence, a keen turn of phrase, and the best come-on line you may ever hear: "How would you like to kill someone and get away with it?"

Now, that might not mean a whole !@#$ of a lot to you. But supposing you're someone who had a life, and lost it? Supposing you're someone who has a massive !@#$ing injustice perpetrated upon you, and can't get back up to where you were because what's stacked against you is too tall to climb, and too connected to touch? What if you got screwed by unseen forces, and had to deal with the bad hand you got !@#$ing handed?

And then suppose you are given a briefcase, containing incontrovertible evidence of how you got done wrong, and who did it to you? Supposing also that this briefcase contained a gun, and 100 bullets? And supposing that no matter what you did with those bullets, no police or federal agency could contain or control you for more than a day or so, and they'd just let you go, all charges dropped?

"What do you do? What do you do?"
That's how this all starts. But as you read through the stories in this first, reprinted volume of the series, it soon becomes clear there is lot more going on that some urban Santa Claus handing out revenge instead of toy cars, this Christmas.

A metric !@#$-ton of a lot more.

Because, as we meet the same characters from story arc to story arc, and we find out more and more about this secret, ultra-powerful world that has been existing right behind ours, all this time, it becomes clear that all this !@#$ is connected.

Graves isn't just handing out justice to people who got !@#$ed over. He's got a grand design in mind, and if ordinary people get used to make it happen, well... !@#$ it, and !@#$ them.

"No need to ask / He's a smooth operator."
That, in a nutshell, is 100 Bullets, and, at last, DC/Vertigo is re-releasing it, the same way they're doing with Swamp Thing, Lucifer, and Preacher -- putting out larger trade paperbacks that combine at least two (or one and a half) of the old format TPs. Which means everyone who missed out on this modern crime/conspiracy/intrigue classic can pick up 100 Bullets Book One, and finally see what all the !@#$ fuss is about. And those who sold their comics for beer money when they were young, stupid, and didn't know any !@#$ing better can finally redeem themselves.

So what can you look forward to? Well, I could tell you about the compelling characters, the heroes that aren't good and the villains that you love to hate, and the politico-criminal empire at the center of it all, but that would be !@#$ing telling.

But let me break it down for you, SPYGOD style:

1) The Storytelling.

Yes, son, I normally say "the writing." But Brian Azzarello has put this story together so !@#$ well I'm going to !@#$ing call it by its rightful name.

You see, any schmuck with a looming deadline can throw together a !@#$ing issue and then go on to the next one, the next one, and the next one after that. But there are a few people who can actually make a big !@#$ plan, some time in advance, and have it play out, month after month, so that all the pieces fit when you look back at it. And !@#$ing seamlessly at that.

What you get from all that work is a series that, while one got the feeling it went on a chapter or two too long, never ceased to amaze or puzzle. We stayed !@#$ing riveted as the plot thicked, and the pieces of Graves' invisible plan came together, flew apart, and remade themselves on the go. We were happy to see the bit players become major players, grow from their experiences, and grow on us readers. And while it seemed to take !@#$ing forever for the long-awaited final showdown to happen, it went down the only way it could, and rightly so.

And as for the villains, well, it's got plenty, and sometimes you don't know whether to cheer them on, weep for them, hope they got their clocks shot out, or all three at !@#$ing once.

And he ain't being !@#$ing metaphorical, son.
2) The Art

Eduardo Risso is a !@#$ing genius, son, and that's pretty much all there is to it. He brilliantly captured what this whole !@#$ing story was about for all those years, consistently getting better as he went along.

His layouts were well constructed, so that one frame seamlessly slid into another. His characterization was !@#$ing flawless, so that you only needed to take one look at the way he drew someone to know what they were all about. And he made every panel a !@#$ing crime noir party.

Not convinced, yet? Well, this is all that needs to be said:

You wouldn't argue with a high-rolling, smooth-talking mega-mobster with a gun, would you?

3) The Worldbuilding

Does this fall under storytelling? Maybe, maybe not. But the more you read this work, the more you come to be !@#$ing amazed at how much time Azzarello put into it.

It's like he figured out ahead of time what to tell us at every step of the way. We were informed in little pieces, but still kept aware that there was just so much we didn't know. And that kept us at the edge of our !@#$ing seats for each new revelation as Graves' twisted plan swept up, or aside, all these pieces of human wreckage that we came to love or hate, sometimes both.

Put it this way, son: as the story started to drag, several chapters down the way, I still had to !@#$ing know who someone was to whom, what was going on between them, and what that might mean in the larger picture, much less the final !@#$ing act. And I kept coming back, month after month, needing to know more.

Can you say anything better about a story? I !@#$ing think not.

SPYGOD's Verdict: Three mother!@#$ing thumbs up for the stunning, first act of a compelling, well-structured crime/conspiracy story that takes all the old noir conventions and turns either turns them on their ear or jacks their volume up to "earthshaking." The art is nothing less than amazing, the characters run deeper than you know, and the invisible connections between them all will have you re-reading this to see what you missed the first, second, and third times around. Truly excellent work.

100 Bullets Book One -- get the trade paperback at your local comic store!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

11/04/14 - The Walking Dead - Vol. 22: A New Beginning (Image)

Now, you've heard me !@#$ing talk about war, son. The War, Korea, Vietnam... !@#$, wars you never even !@#$ing heard of because they were secret, transdimensional, or got lost in some !@#$ing timeshift. 

Some are big !@#$ affairs, some are pretty !@#$ small. Some are smart, and some are !@#$ing stupid. Some take years, and some take days. And some even take just !@#$ing minutes, especially these days when so much warfare is !@#$ing computerized. 

(What, you think those Heptagon computers just hacked themselves?)

But there's one thing I can almost !@#$ing guarantee in any war, son, other than people are going to !@#$ing die. And that's that at some point, when things start !@#$ing your battle plans in the ear and asking for a god!@#$ reach-around, some !@#$hole with more smarts than sense is going to ask why they don't just reanimate the dead and send them off to fight, too.

Now, me, I shut that bull!@#$ up real !@#$ing quick. With a big !@#$ gun that says "For Use If Some !@#$hole Wants to Unleash a !@#$ing Zombie Apocalypse."

Also !@#$ useful for hailing a !@#$ cab in !@#$ing New Jersey at 3 in the AM.
So why don't I want a big !@#$ mess of patriotic zombies staggering after America's enemies? It's not like they're doing anything else, other than turning cold in a makeshift morgue next to the !@#$ing airport, now is it?

Well, apart from the fact that it !@#$ing destroys morale faster than announcing there's no !@#$ coffee in the mess this morning, and the god!@#$ smell, and the hazards of trying to !@#$ing keep them under control before you use them, and massively bad potential for blowback when they start !@#$ing munching on civilians, or your own living soldiers...?

!@#$, son, I can't think of a single !@#$ reason. Can you?

(And yes, son, that was some big !@#$ patented SPYGOD SARCASM at work, there.)

But no, son. If biological warfare is a !@#$ bad thing. Necrobiological warfare is a big !@#$ !@#$ing bad thing that must be avoided at all god!@#$ costs. Kill it with fire before it !@#$ing catches any General's attention, and kill the !@#$ General if he starts to think it's a good idea.

Let's put it this way. Even the !@#$ing Nazis had the good sense not to resort to that tactic, even when Berlin was !@#$ing surrounded and the Third Reich was about to go down like a three-dollar Thai hooker on bad speed.

This did not happen. Ignore all evidence to the contrary.
(And as for who has resorted to that tactic, well... that's another !@#$ing story for another !@#$ing day.)

But I tell you that to clear the air on where I stand on using so-called "resuscitated casualties" in wartime. !@#$ that noise from on high with the biggest !@#$ gun you can !@#$ing find, son. In the ear. For America. 

However, in the time-honored tradition of escapism, as much as I !@#$ing hate zombies, I sure love reading about them. And that's why I've really been !@#$ing enjoying The Walking Dead, which, while it has to win the prize for "worst back page description of the book's true contents ever," has been a fairly solid title for the last few years. 

By this time, you know what's going to happen when you crack the !@#$ cover. Rick will make bad decisions that seemed smart at the time. Others will grumble and go along with it, only to lose faith in him when things turn to !@#$ and people die. When he realizes they were !@#$ing right all along, he'll make amends and change his mind, things will get better. And then the next !@#$ crisis will come along, and the cycle will !@#$ing repeat itself.

(And, yes, Carl will !@#$ing sneak off and do something !@#$ stupid. Because that's how he rolls.)

"Hmmm... how can I ruin things for everyone today...?"
But here's a good !@#$ question, son: how the !@#$ do you top the All Out War storyline, which had Rick and his alliance narrowly winning out over the loathsomely charismatic Nagan, after several strategic fumbles by Rick, and possibly achieving some kind of peaceful, permanent settlement at last?

The answer is something I didn't !@#$ing see coming. You bring the story forward quite a few years, and reveal that Rick's small band of people have come out of that war stronger. In spite of all they've suffered, or maybe because of it, they've developed a static community. 

They have soldiers and scouts, bakers and blacksmiths, and everyone seems to have a garden going, somewhere. They've figured out a way to actually herd the dead, too, which keeps them away from their front gates.  

Of course, the herding isn't without its hazards. It just so happens they drive the !@#$ing ocean of rotten meat into a small band of survivors, whom they take under their wing and back to the community. And while everyone seems happy to see them (though certain suspicions are hard to shake) the newcomers seem quite convinced that this all seems too perfect, and that there must be a catch, somewhere...

"Hey, didn't the Library of Alexandria burn down?" "Holy !@#$, we're doomed."

Now, does that sound !@#$ing familiar or what? 

There's more I could say, but I'm not going to. It's enough to say that if you've been a longtime fan of this series, A New Beginning will prove a !@#$ enjoyable read, filled with the same kind of thrills, chills, drama, and sense of impending doom you've come to expect from The Walking Dead, plus some genuine shocks and surprises.

But let me break it down for you, SPYGOD Style: 

1) The Writing: 

Like I said above, you know what you're going to get, by now. The people you love and care about will come under fire, and possibly die. The people you want to smarten up won't, the people you wish would get a clue only do after someone's had their !@#$ing face eaten off. And as soon as you think everything's settled and stable, someone, somewhere, is going to find a way to !@#$ it up.

A New Beginning turns this dread up a notch by asking three massive questions: "Will this keep working?" "What the !@#$ happened?" and, most importantly, "How will this go !@#$ing wrong?"

To its credit, it does not answer all these questions at once. They carefully string you along, slowly revealing one character after another, and showing a little of what the intervening years has done. Some are better off, some are worse, some are about the same, and some are !@#$ing altogether absent, which is pretty !@#$ ominous in certain cases.

And as for the last question, remember that Nagan is still alive, down in that basement cell where Rick told him he'd be spending the rest of his days...

2) The Art:

Sometimes black and white art does not work with a story. The lack of color leaves the art washed out and thin, or else blocky. And when you have bad art in a graphic novel, well, that's just !@#$ing off-putting, son. It makes a great script seem less, and a mediocre script totally !@#$ty.

(Look at the treatment on Max Brooks' sadly so-so Harlem Hellfighters for an object lesson in the latter. Or, closer to home in this case, the first artist on this series, whose work seems almost cartoony in comparison.)

But sometimes it works amazingly well, and actually makes the story work better. Even in a situation where there's blood and guts flying everywhere, the black and white somehow add to the horror, rather than detract from it. In fact, it's a !@#$ing amazing testament to Charlie Adlard's skills that he can somehow make the grue even more compelling without color, as well as give us a feel of a world run down, where dirty people wade through !@#$ and gore to get through just another !@#$ day.

It's like having Albrecht Durer drop by every !@#$ month and do a triptych, son.
And that all adds up to...

3) The Dread: 

Yes, this is like the second or third !@#$ing time I've mentioned this, son. But I'm going to keep coming back to this !@#$ing point, because it's something that not a lot of horror comics can say.

You see, real horror is like real comedy: it's !@#$ing hard to pull off in any medium, much less a comic book. Anyone can horrify you with shocks, sicken you with gore, or succeed in making you so terrified that you're almost too !@#$ing scared to turn the !@#$ page. But is takes a special kind of writing prowess to make you !@#$ing care enough about the characters that you dread their possible demise, and must wade through the intervening awfulness to find out what happens next.

And that's the reason why, when I hear there's a new The Walking Dead TPB on the shelf, I drop whatever the !@#$ I'm doing and read it first. Because I have to know what happens. Because I am literally scared !@#$less for the characters.

Even the horse, son. Especially the horse.
 And even if I joke about Carl's favorite pastime of "do something really !@#$ stupid," I still want the poor, one-eyed son of a !@#$ to live through the experience.

So yes, son. The Walking Dead succeeds as a horror comic because it compels us to keep reading, in spite of our fears. The only other horror title I dropped everything for was the first Crossed series, back before the franchise was ruined by people who don't have a !@#$ing tenth of Garth Ennis' twisted talent.

I feel the same way about this series, and, coming from me, that's a high complement that you can frame on the !@#$ing wall.

SPYGOD's Verdict: Three thumbs up for a new trick from a reliable, old dog of a title that may not have many issues left, but is going to drag its fans along for every last foot of it with its superior writing and amazing art. A New Beginning shakes up the status quo and makes just that much more scared to read it, but unable to look away.

The Walking Dead  Vol 22: A New Beginning - get the trade paperback at your local comic store!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

10/29/14 - All About THAT Marvel Thing, This Morning...

Well hold me the !@#$ down, bend me over, bang me like I asked !@#$ing nicely and don't stop til 2019. 

So, I take it you !@#$ing heard the same news I did, today?

In a word or two, !@#$ing very amazingly happy to see this lineup. This shows that Marvel has not been !@#$ing slacking. It also shows that, after DC threw down the !@#$ing gauntlet, the other week, Marvel was happy to throw down their own, and make it the !@#$ing Infinity Gauntlet at that.

So what am I happy about? Well, the news that we're getting a Black Panther movie has sent me over the !@#$ Moon. I'm also !@#$ing thrilled that we are going to get a Captain Marvel movie, and that it's going to be Carol !@#$ing Danvers, rather than poor old Mahr-Vell.

And getting the Inhumans in there, given the speculation that they'll be using the I-word to explain powers in the MCU since they can't !@#$ing use the M-word? Brilliant. Especially since I have a major fan-crush on Black Bolt.

From "Illuminati." The next panel had me laughing for hours.
 (I'm also happy to see we'll be getting GotG2 a couple months early. Because !@#$ yeah.)

And I am also really, super-!@#$ing happy to see that, starting in 2017, we will be getting three MCU movies a year. Hold up your hands and sing halle-!@#$ing-luiah, boys and girls. 

What am I not happy about? Well, !@#$ it, I want there to be a Black Widow movie. I am !@#$ing sick and tired of excuses. Scarlet J has shown us that she can !@#$ing carry a movie, and it's time we got to see Natasha on her own, kicking !@#$.

I'm also a little !@#$ed about the casting on Black Panther. I was hoping for someone like Chiwetel Ejiofor or Djimon Hounsou. Then again, I'm willing to give their casting a chance. So far they've made good !@#$ing choices.

So, based on what we know, let's play SPYGOD PREDICTS!

"Future movies such as these will affect you in the theater."
And here's the story I'm seeing happen, here:

Avengers 2: Age of Ultron: Bad !@#$ goes down. The team gets split over what happens.

Ant Man: light hearted caper !@#$ that will probably lead to our hero joining one side or the other.

Captain America: Civil War: Cap tries to find Bucky, but the conflict that happened in Age of Ultron leads to Tony and Cap butting heads over who to serve in the meantime.

Doctor Strange: Trans-cosmic magic stuff that may or may not have a !@#$ thing to do with what we've seen so far, but will probably feature at least one Infinity Gem.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2: More space craziness, with a possibility of them running straight into Thanos, and having to get the Collector along for the ride to get to those stones before purple-face does.

Thor: Ragnarok: Well, we know the !@#$ing Infinity Gauntlet's in the treasure chamber along with all that other crazy !@#$. And Loki's on the throne pretending to be Odin. And Asgard isn't doing too well after Thor II. So how much do you want to bet Thanos shows up, stomps the place flat, and takes a stone and the gauntlet?

Black Panther: Well, Cap's shield is busted, and he needs vibranium to fix it. Will T'Challa be happy about that? Will he join a side in the Civil War? Or will he be the one who helps !@#$ing end it?

Avengers III.1 - Infinity War: The !@#$ hits the fan. Thanos comes to Earth to take a final Infinity Stone from wherever the !@#$ it is (Doctor Strange? Loki's Staff? Something else?) and it's all we can do to keep him from leveling the place. Clearly we need help, which may come from the Guardians of the Galaxy at some point.

Captain Marvel: We get some more help, courtesy of Carol Danvers, who either gets some Kree powers by way of the same !@#$ that's going around Marvel's Agents of Shield, or some other way. We get some cosmic !@#$, either way.

The Inhumans: More help, I'm sure. Are they the result of Kree experimentation on humans? Or something different? I'm suspecting they'll have come out and taken a bow before then, but hopefully we'll get the full !@#$ing monty, here, as they join forces with our heroes to help deal with Thanos.

Avengers III.2 - Infinity War: All hands combine, Thanos gets taken down, people die and !@#$ goes boom, and then... ????

Past that, I need more !@#$ing beer, and a look at Phase 4.

But this has been an amazing !@#$ing day, folks. Keep watching. I think MCU is poised to knock DC off its pedestal, again.

What all do you think, Agents? Are you salivating or reserving judgment? Any movies you could do without, or want to see in there? Are you down with the casting choices and sequence of films?

And do you not agree with me that we need to start making "Katee Sackhoff is Captain Marvel or we RIOT" shirts?

I mean, Jesus !@#$ing Christ. Separated at Birth or what?

10/28/14 - Moon Knight - From the Dead (Marvel)

What do I think about vigilantes, son? Well, how about we say I hate vigilantism but love a vigilante, to twist a !@#$ing phrase?

What, that's not !@#$ing good enough? Jesus, son. Make me get all !@#$ing technical, here.

Well, how about this, then: I'm !@#$ing conflicted. Vigilantes are as American as apple pie, and a !@#$ vital part of our culture. But, as the person who's got to !@#$ing oversee our nation's superheroes (and, yes, take them out on occasion), they're a big !@#$ !@#$ing pain in my !@#$.

You see, people say they love superheroes, and most of the time they do. Especially when they !@#$ing save your town, your house, your !@#$, or just get your kitty cat out of a !@#$ing tree.

But when they have to trash your town in order to !@#$ing put down a bank robber who can pick up vaults with his pinky finger? People get a little less appreciative.

Yeah, next time? Just call 911. We'll all be better off. Really.
No !@#$, son. On good days I joke that half the !@#$ing job is phone calls, the other half is logistics, and another half is public relations. But on bad days, when I got every !@#$stick politico looking for an issue, muckraking reporter in search of an expose, and maybe even the !@#$ President himself calling me to complain that Captain Wizz-Bang flattened !@#$ing Arch in St. Louis while punching it up with Dr. Fisticuffs?

Well, let's just say I don't !@#$ing feel like making jokes, son. I feel like shooting things at people. Especially Captain !@#$ing Wizz-Bang and his tendency to punch first and look where he's aiming people second. (!@#$hole.)

So if that's the kind of nightmare I have with people I can visit at 2 in the !@#$ing AM, and take to god!@#$ task for demolishing national monuments, or half of !@#$ing Denver, imagine what it's like to take the heat for people I can't.
"Badges? I don't need no stinkin' badges!"
Now, some !@#$hole wants to run around long island in his long-johns with a mask on his face and smack muggers with a a god!@#$ baseball bat? I can live with that. But when he's packing guns even the !@#$ cops can't carry? Bringing sophisticated combat machinery and technohoziwhatzits into an urban environment? Leaving crooks and human trash broken and bleeding all over the streets?

Well, theoretically I'm supposed to go visit that son of a !@#$, lock him the !@#$ down, and drag him in for a laundry list of crimes perpetrated in the pursuit of whatever they might call "justice." I'm also theoretically supposed to be having my own heroes !@#$ing watching for such people, so they can bust their !@#$es before it gets to that point. 


But then I remember that one of the best, most decent heroes I ever worked with, The Owl, was a vigilante, too, technically. So were his friends and allies, some of whom were real stars in their day. And I also have to remember that the Black Card (Gods rest his soul), while he was a !@#$ing maniac butcher, was the best weapon I had against the East Coast mafia for decades.

And I have to remember that, while we're all !@#$ing wrapped up with rules, and officials, and PR, and the !@#$ing President calling to complain about having to apologize to the mayor of St. Louis, again, that sometimes we forget that it's all about taking direct action to fix a problem before it gets any worse than it already !@#$ing is.

And I have to remember that even a vigilante has a place in our orderly world. 
And I ain't !@#$ing arguing with this !@#$ sexy hunk of man.
So yeah. I get wind someone new's on the scene? I have one of my capes go pay him or her a visit, see if they're !@#$ing cracked in the head (or more cracked than usual). Tell them to mind how they !@#$ing go. Check in with them, every once in a while. Give them a number to call, be a friend, and give them a good !@#$ing example to follow.

They want to go pro? They can !@#$ing call me. But otherwise, they don't want to see me. Because that means bad !@#$ing news for everyone involved.

And that's the story, son. Technically, I !@#$ing hate it when someone takes the law into their own !@#$ hands, but yet I love the people who do.  Especially when they're so !@#$ing messed up that beating the !@#$ out of skels and crooks is the only way they can make sense of their personal situation. And while that's a major !@#$ing red flag for my line of work, it makes for some !@#$ interesting reading, to say the least.

And that's why I love people like Marc Spector, better known as Moon Knight.

Moon Knight is one of those !@#$ characters that rarely seems to get a fair !@#$ing shake. And part of that's because he's a big !@#$ bag of weird (he started out as a foil for Werewolf by Night, for !@#$'s sake). And part of it's because, given that he is a big !@#$ bag of weird, no one seems to really know what the !@#$ to do with him except (1) ignore the last series and (2) start all over again.

True, some characters and situations keep coming around, as you might !@#$ing expect. But it seems like every new creative team gets told "don't make us cancel him," so they go an entirely different direction to avoid it. Which is all well and good, at least until they stumble the !@#$ all over themselves trying to do that big !@#$ new thing, lose readers like fingers at a leper disco, and then get the book !@#$ing shut down, anyway.

Which leaves me !@#$ happy to see a new series, very hopeful this team's got the moxie to stick around for more than a couple years, and then crying big !@#$ tears every time I get the sense it's about to come crashing the !@#$ down, again.

So what do you do when you have a weird-!@#$ but interesting character that no one knows what the !@#$ to do with? You hand it over to someone who's handled him before, and has a knack for taking Marvel characters on a short, sharp, science-fictiony ride somewhere really !@#$ weird and interesting.

"Shut up and review the !@#$ing book, already, SPYGOD."
And that would be Warren Ellis, who you may remember as being the man whose 12-issue run on Thunderbolts, just after the end of Marvel's Civil War, helped define the aftermath whole !@#$ing storyline like you would not believe. Also the same man who took Secret Avengers for a spin none of us will ever !@#$ing forget, and had us !@#$ing cheering on Monica Rambeau and Aaron Stack for the first time in decades in Nextwave.

(And don't even get me started on Doom 2099, son. Just... don't. Please.)

During his run on Secret Avengers, Ellis had Moon Knight on the ticket. At times he seemed to be the resident loony (and the butt of some of Beast's techno-jokes) but he proved himself a !@#$ good member of the team. However, you kind of got the sense that Ellis wanted to do more with him? Well, here's his chance.

So this is the deal: after hanging out on the !@#$ing West Coast, supposedly with a number of other heroes in tow, but in reality just !@#$ing talking to himself, again, Marc Spector is back in the Big Apple, kicking !@#$ and taking names in a white suit. He's even got a decent working relationship with the cops, which is not something to !@#$ing sneeze at in this day and age.

But now he knows something he didn't know before, courtesy of a shrink he hired in a rare moment of lucidity. It turns out that he doesn't have dissociative identity disorder after all, and can't really be called crazy, as we understand it, which is supposedly "good news." But what it does mean is that, when he died in Egypt, all those years ago, some "otherterrestrial" entity !@#$ed with his head and gave him !@#$ing brain damage.

"Smile" the shrink tells him. Well !@#$ you, too, lady.
Needless to say, this is not good news. But it does explain a few things -- most notably, any number of people and allies he's !@#$ing hallucinated in the past. And so, armed with (possibly) accurate information, our weird and interesting hero wanders into the dark of New York City, and takes on some really !@#$ing weird and !@#$ interesting cases.

If you think I'm going to tell you exactly what he gets up to in these six issues, you are out of your !@#$ing mind. All I can say is that, if you love Warren Ellis, Moon Knight, stories of cracked urban vigilantes, or comics that are fun and creepy at the same time, you need to pick up From The Dead as soon as possible.

Why? Well, let me break it down for you, SPYGOD Style

1) Warren !@#$ing Ellis

Normally we call this "The Writing," but, as anyone knows by now, Ellis is one of those writers whose work you should snatch up on general !@#$ing principle. See his name on the cover? Pick it the !@#$ up. I can't give a higher bit of praise than that.

That said? Ellis is not perfect. He has !@#$ great ideas, but sometimes they're so great that he doesn't mind !@#$ing repeating them a few times, only with different people saying the same things. When he's on form, you don't mind so much, and when he's not, well, you feel like it's deja vu all over again.

From the Dead is very much on form, son. 

So, yes, what you will read will sound (and, yes, look) a little !@#$ familiar in places. But what he does with that familiar ground will be astounding, because these six, stand-alone stories have been honed to razor-sharp perfection.

About this sharp, in case you were !@#$ing wondering.

There's clever misdirection, here. There's little details that you miss the first !@#$ time around and then realize why they look familiar later. There's the brilliant notion of having the whole thing set up in the three panels on the title page, and only knowing what they meant when you get to the last page. And there's some really !@#$ing amazing nods to things gone by, like the resurrection of the old, Bill Sienkiewicz-era SHIELD logo for a logical use, as well as old characters from the previous series, used sparingly and well, and a villain that, unlike Moon Knight, you won't see coming from out of the dark.

In other words, this is Warren Ellis taking a fun character and having fun, and you're invited. But such a party would be incomplete without...

2) The Art

... And what a great artist combo we have here! Thanks to Declan (Deadpool) Shalvey's excellent drafting, and the well-considered color wheel of Jordie (Pretty Deadly) Bellaire, Moon Knight looks truly amazing. The work's well-grounded in a plain, noir realism that makes the deviations from the every day really stand out.

And what deviations we have, here.

Today, Moon Knight punches ghosts. Film at 11.
Some of the !@#$ they threw up at me was so stunning that I felt like I'd accidentally dosed myself with something from the bag Hunter S Thompson left behind, the last time he !@#$ing visited. And the bastard still has my !@#$ing guns, and now that he'd dead I can't shoot him for it. (!@#$hole)

But! Take that as challenge to be amazed. And while you're being amazed by the !@#$ Moon Knight gets up to, you should also take this !@#$ing opportunity to appreciate... 

3) Moon Knight, !@#$ it. 

You couldn't pay someone a million !@#$ing dollars and get a better synopsis of a character that has apparently baffled too many creative teams to name. Even Brian Michael Bendis couldn't do more with him than have him be a !@#$ing hero comedy with occasional bits of pathos thrown in. 

But this? This is Moon Knight the way he should be written. 

He's weird, but how much of it is an act is questionable. He's commanding, but that may also be part of the act. He's strong, but he's also all too human. He's smart, but makes some dumb-!@#$ mistakes now and again. He's cunning, but that can also backfire at times.  

And !@#$ but does he have some neat !@#$ing toys.  

And he does what he does because he has to do it, and can't get around it. A vigilante in the purest sense of the word, though his big !@#$ crusade is more about making up for all the !@#$ing red in his ledger, rather than avenging the day they killed his wife, his child, and his !@#$ yappy dog all in one go. That, coupled with the fact that an "otherterrestrial" stuck its !@#$ in his brain and took him for a big !@#$ joyride, makes Moon Knight who and what he is. 

And Ellis takes what he's given and makes it sing -- on key and really !@#$ing loud. His faceted (not fractured) personality allows him to do one issue where he uses weird !@#$ to beat down on weird !@#$, but then another one where he fights his way though less weird !@#$ in a brutal, highly-methodical fashion, and still another one where he handles some weird !@#$ in a weird but ruthless fashion, and...

"You want ruthless and brutal? I'll give you ruthless and brutal!"
Well, I'm telling too much. But yes, there are big !@#$ personality shifts at work, here. But because he's Moon Knight, they work. And because it's Warren Ellis, he makes it work.

The bad news is that, as per Ellis' tendency with Marvel, he only did these six issues, and then handed it on to another team to continue. The good news is that they're building off of what he did, and seem to be off to a good !@#$ start so far.

But even if that crashes and burns like an out of control drone shaped like a !@#$ing crescent moon, we've got this to chew on. Savor it, son. This is about as good as it !@#$ing gets.

The Verdict: Three happy thumbs up for what is, hands down, probably the best tackling of a complex character who's been sadly under-realized throughout most of his life. From the Dead's clever, brutal, and playfully dark script is coupled with masterful art, and the combination makes for a perfect (re)starting point for this vigilante. If anyone tries to spoil it - kill them with fire.

Moon Knight: From the Dead - get the Trade Paperback at your local comic store!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

10/14/14 - The Best American Comics 2014 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Alright, son. Let's have a !@#$ing moment of silence, here, as one of the high points of the year has finally !@#$ing arrived. 

What, my shipment of Martian cocaine finally !@#$ing arrived? Son, that's every !@#$ week. This is a much more important event, heralding two things. 

The first being that, once again, we're !@#$ing acknowledging that American comics are reaching the point where they're being considered worthy of critical notice, as opposed to !@#$ you read on the !@#$er, or that your mom tosses in the trash the moment you !@#$ing go to college, provided you don't spend those years living in her !@#$ basement eating pizza, playing Warcrack, and not !@#$ing getting any. 

(And when she finally kicks your fat !@#$ out, they get tossed, anyway, so get a !@#$ing storage space, son. You'll thank me, later.)

I'm just the !@#$ing messenger, son. Don't hate me.
And the second? Seeing what's really !@#$ing good about a particular year's worth of American comics, broken down by actual experts in the !@#$ field. And that would be actual !@#$ing writers and artists {or writer/artists} rather than high-handed academic types who are probably all !@#$ing commies, trying to get you to read Marxist !@#$ that'll make your brains leak out your !@#$ ears. 

So what's this big !@#$ event that's got me so !@#$ing excited, son? The Best American Comics, that's what! All those great and worthy strips, stories, web comics, and installments, proudly standing alongside such things as mystery stories, American essays, travel writing, and (my guilty-as-!@#$ pleasure) Nonrequired Reading

(There's short stories and sports writing too, but who gives a !@#$. Wake me up when William S Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson come back from the dead, steal a car, eat mescaline-soaked cockroaches off a clown's raging !@#$, and tag-team a second person narrative about !@#$ing covering the !@#$ Superbowl for USA Today, or something. I'm not too !@#$ picky.)

Together, they fight crime. And sobriety. 
Now, for 2014, we got ourselves a real !@#$ing humdinger, son. For one thing, they have a new series editor: Bill Karatopoulos, who's got the !@#$ing chops and the attitude to prove that he's the one for this job -- go check out his website if you don't !@#$ing believe me. No offense to anyone who's had the pleasure of heading this !@#$ing insane juggling act before, but this is the sort of person we need on this title.

And this year he's joined by the one and only Scott McCloud, who some of us actually !@#$ing remember from Zot! but most of you probably know from such important things as Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics -- three works that should be on the !@#$ing shelves of every serious comics fan, and are god!@#$ essential to understanding sequential art as a proper, bonefide art form, as opposed to something you read on the !@#$ !@#$er and... well, we !@#$ing talked about that already.

How do I love these works? Well, let's do things a little !@#$ing backwards, today, son -- SPYGOD Style. 

1) It Shows Me Things I am !@#$ing Glad to See

It's always good to !@#$ing pick one of these up, look through the !@#$ table of contents, and see that this year's guest editor agreed with me on some very !@#$ing important things. McCloud makes a joke about how if Chris Ware, Charles Burns, or Daniel Clowes puts something out in any given year, you can bet your !@#$ it'll turn up in the appropriate Best American Comics, and this time they got !@#$ing two out of three.

"Next time, Inspector Gadget... next time... Muhhahahah"
But aside from (two of) those three gentle, totally !@#$ed-up giants of American comics, there's lots of other things that got printed in that same timeframe (Sept 1st, 2012 to August 31st, 2013) that, having !@#$ing read them, I deeply dug, and hoped to see honored. And this is my reward to myself for having had such excellent !@#$ing taste -- seeing that the likes of Scott McCloud agreed with me. 

(Yes, it's somewhat masturbatory, son, but !@#$ you. I take this !@#$ seriously.)

2) It Shows Me Things I !@#$ing Missed

SPYGOD reads a lot of !@#$ing comics. And SPYGOD knows all. But even SPYGOD does not have the !@#$ing time to read, or be exposed, to every single !@#$ing piece of comic art that tumbles out of America in any given year. The massive explosion of web comics alone makes that !@#$ing impossible, even for someone like me.

(And then there's the issue of whether I !@#$ing understand that what I'm seeing is a !@#$ing comic, and not just some weird thing I ran across online. We'll get into that when we talk about the Kuiper Belt.)

So reading something like Best American Comics is an eye-opener in more ways than one. It constantly exposes me to amazing new !@#$ that I wouldn't have !@#$ing known about unless I saw it there. In that sense, it operates like a lot of modern art magazines: you don't know for sure if that giant !@#$ing toilet you saw walking down the street the other week was a hallucination, a new supervillain, some performance piece gone awry unless you know the right people, or just an out-of-season Halloween costume. But if you don't know the right !@#$ people, and don't happen to go to certain !@#$ galleries, the only !@#$ way you're going to learn about that artist's lonely cry against the widespread enslavement and degradation of our porcelain brothers and sisters is if you !@#$ing read something about it.

"Today, 5th Avenue. Tomorrow, MOMA. Suck it, !@#$es!"
And that's what Best American Comics does for me, every !@#$ing year.

3) It !@#$ing Exists, Period

Just that, son. But let me quote Kartalopoulos at length:

"Comics are fortunate to have been included in the Best American series for a number of reasons. For one thing, Comics' ongoing inclusion in a larger project that also recognizes outstanding short fiction, essays, and more reaffirms comics' important and coequal status among culturally significant literary forms. Additionally, while networked technology has wonderfully democratized expressions of opinions, taste, and critical analysis ... the Best American Comics, by virtue of its careful process, lush presentation, and visibility, articulates a particularly forceful notion of critical distinction that, at its best, can elevate the field."

Which is a fancy way of saying "You made it. This is proof. Now go make more art."

* * *

Now, as for the overall presentation? This year was especially !@#$ing excellent. I loved having Jaime Hernandez on the cover, and I was thrilled as whipped otter !@#$ to have Raina Telgemeier do the endpapers as, essentially, a perfect two-panel story that's both emblematic of her work and the series as a whole. (When you read it, you'll see what I !@#$ing mean.)

I also really liked how McCloud divided the !@#$ book up. Rather than have one, primary introduction, followed by the selections, which is how just about everyone does it*, he broke the selections down into logical subsections, and then put a separate introduction for each section. So we get a short introduction, followed by smaller pieces for such things as Great Comics are Not a Genre, Memory Boxes, Family Tree, Strange Adventures, and (my favorite name for my least-favorite kind of work) The Kuiper Belt.

And then we have the entries, themselves. Keep in mind that, as you may have !@#$ing noticed by now, I have my own strong opinions on this !@#$. So what they liked, I might not like, and if I don't mention one of your favorite !@#$ing things, well, don't cry. It's in there, after all. 

(And what the !@#$ do I know, anyway?)

Don't shoot, Rob. Someday I'll like your new stuff. Really.
What I am Glad to See:

The Hive, Charles Burns: 

Jesus !@#$ing Christ, son. What else is there to !@#$ing say about this, especially now that Burns has completed this trilogy with the publication of Sugar Skull? The selection they chose for this book really highlights the jumbled-up nature of the narrative -- showcasing the pervasive, thick-as-!@#$ sense of dread that this whole series had leaking from its pores like surreal !@#$ing pus. You probably !@#$ing knew it was going to make it in here, but this portion helps show why. 

Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples:

At last, an honor worthy of this superior title! If you've been digging Saga all along, I'm sure you'll agree that this portion -- a darkly humorous take on the age-old ritual of meeting the parents -- is as good a piece as any to showcase the writing and art on this work. And if you haven't been reading it, this excerpt from issue 7 will hopefully sell you on the concept. Go grab the first trade paperback and tell 'em SPYGOD !@#$ing sent you. 

Crime Raiders International Mobsters and Executioners, Jaime Hernandez:

You didn't know Love and Rockets was back? Well !@#$, son, where the !@#$ have you been hiding? This story from #5 has all the hallmarks of this brother Hernandez: winsome but !@#$ed-up ladies and gentlemen in search of a better !@#$ situation, who often make bad choices for good reasons (and vice !@#$ing versa), starring in storylines that intersect at weird !@#$ angles and lead to states of emotional, social, and legal confusion. Jaime says he does his best to avoid letting things turn into genre pieces? Read this and you'll see a master of !@#$ing unclassifiable masterpieces at work.

This is me getting you to read Love and Rockets. Don't make me get the gun.

Drama, Raina Telgemeier:

How do you follow up on something as astoundingly good as Smile? You tell a story about a high school drama club, with all its interpersonal ups and downs, romantic entanglements, moments of sexual confusion and discovery, and tiny victories over life, circumstance, and the fact that The Show Is All. There's sweet and saccharine in this graphic novel, which, while it's aimed at young adults, is one of those works that cuts across age lines and reminds us all of what a !@#$ing sweet nightmare our teenage years could be. Just !@#$ing read it, and grab Sisters while you're at it. 

March, Book One, Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell:

It's one thing to know that Rep. John Lewis is the last of the American Civil Rights Movement's "Big Six" left alive. It's another to know that, out of everyone who spoke in the 1963 March on Washington -- where Rev. Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech -- he's the only one still walking the Earth. But when I read this piece of his ongoing biographic work (Part 2 comes out January 2015), and saw his first meeting with MLK, as a young man wanting to help desegregate a college? Goosebumps, son -- all the way up and down my @#$ back. That and sadness as I read further, and saw that, when he got home, his parents just didn't dare help him with that part of the journey, for fear of what might happen to their home, their work, and their lives if word got around that their son was causing so much trouble.

It was reading a comic book that got him here, believe it or not.
Some people like to !@#$ing forget that, within a human lifetime, this kind of !@#$ was a concern. Some people want us to forget, because they really don't want to talk about its lasting consequences. And some people think that racism doesn't still impact lives all over the nation. !@#$ them. Read March.

Depression Part 2,  Hyperbole and a Half:

What? You haven't been reading this webcomic? Shame on you, son. In addition to being funny as !@#$, it's also filled with the kind of naked honesty you usually only get to hear after someone's had one !@#$ drink too many, and is about to !@#$ all over the bar, shoot the ceiling lamps out, and confess to having shot Abraham Lincoln with time-bullets. And no one needs to deal with that kind of !@#$ just to hear a raw, human confession of being broken, and trying to figure it the !@#$ out.

I've known a whole lot of people with depression in my time. This is, bar none, the best !@#$ explanation I've ever heard. I wish I'd read it ages ago. You'll be !@#$ing glad you've read it now, and gladder still that this amazing writer is getting her due in this series.,

Cul de Sac, Richard Thompson:
Yes, it's a re-run of his previous stuff that just happened to fall within those dates. But you know what? As McCloud readily admits, this teensy little movement of the goalposts is worthy, given that Thompson's excellent work has been so cruelly smacked down by !@#$ing Parkinsons. And his work is truly amazing, heart-affirming stuff. For this collection, they chose the final week's worth of strips, along with a final Sunday that brilliantly encapsulates both comics and the strip, itself. Go buy his !@#$ book and see why we are poorer people for not having this strip in the paper every !@#$ day.

I'd also like to mention, in passing, that McCloud did give some love for one of the big two comic companies by recommending Hawkeye, which is done by Matt Fraction and normally drawn by David Aja. Marvel apparently wouldn't allow Best American to feature a snippet in this year's edition, due to legal !@#$ not worthy of mention here**. But I'm sure you can !@#$ing find a copy and read it.

Speaking of finding copies and reading it, we're on to...

What I Want to See More Of:

 ... where I admit I got !@#$ing blindsided by some awesome !@#$ that, having had a little taste, I now must read in its entirety.

Multiple Warheads, Brandon Graham:

Holy sweet Jesus riding a snowflake into Hell with a machine gun! This is, bar none, some of the trippiest, most creative, head-over-heels weird narratives I've seen in some time -- easily an equal to works like Finder, only maybe more screwy. What could just be a long and deadly trip across a surreal and dangerous future landscape becomes an exercise in massive creativity, wordplay, and worldbuilding. There isn't anything in here that wasn't clearly thought out, and crafted to make me !@#$ing want to know more. Excellent !@#$, son. Truly.

I think I got "gold," son.

Translated, from the Japanese, Adrian Tomine:

I've loved Tomine's work since I read Shortcomings on a lark, and went back to find out where this adept chronicler of racial, sexual, and social hangups in an urban setting had !@#$ing come from. This short little piece of storytelling from the diary of a young mother, taking her mixed-race son to America to meet the father, is something new from him, but his eye for people's strange fixations and reasonable concerns that turn toxic over time is here to see. I think I need to get this issue of Optic Nerve. 

"Mom" from Viewotron, Sam Sharpe:

Goofy anthropomorphisms aside, this one really got to me. The story of a man trying to reconnect with his clearly-unwell mother, and how she starts sliding down the crazy stairs in front of him, is sad and haunting. It's one of those pieces where you read it and then really want to know what the !@#$ happened next, but at the same time are kind of !@#$ing afraid to open up that door. You know it's not going to shut well. Not at all.

August 1977, Nina Bunjevac:

This is yet another one where the piece was so !@#$ing amazing that it's still haunting me. Somehow a story about a would-be bomber's last letter to his family (prior to being blown the !@#$ up) is transformed into a crazy-as-!@#$ hallucinogenic critique on a certain, Eastern European country's socio-religious issues, complete with some very strange visuals. And on top of all that, the art is !@#$ing fantastic.

You don't normally get giant doom-hooters at hate rallies.

Hip Hop Family Tree, Ed Piskor

This one's a queer kettle of fish, son. Speaking as someone who was around when the art form came together, this take on it doesn't quite pass the !@#$ sniff test. But then, it isn't really !@#$ing supposed to, either. It's like Rock & Roll Comics meets Love and Rockets, tossing enough true stories and odd anecdotes into the mix while casting the creators and soldiers of Hip Hop as urban heroes trying to keep it real, pay their bills, and not get shanked by their fans. It's a trip, son, and if you're a music fan you need to be on it.

"Canadian Royalty" from Lose, Michael Deforge

McCloud put this in his Even Stranger Adventures section, and that's putting it !@#$ing mildly, son. A brilliantly brutal and surreal exploration of a Canada you didn't know existed, complete with a fully-realized (and totally OTT) royal family, this selection from Lose is like being given a travelogue of an alien world that exists just north of !@#$ing Montana, and apparently has better TV than we do. Deforge clearly needs to pass me what he's using, because this !@#$ is brilliant.

And you think Prince Charles had it bad?
Hyperspeed to Nowhere, Lale Westvind

At last, we find something in McCloud's !@#$ing Kuiper Belt (as in, really far out there in space) that I actually kind of dug. Usually, I can't get excited by really "out there" !@#$ that melts the standards of the art form, rather than allowing the weird to exist within it (or at least play around with it). But this colorful, hyperkinetic work tickled my inner Jack Kirby enough that I was willing to roll with it, and demand more. I'm sure you will, too.

And by now, I think I've !@#$ing talked this thing up enough. I've got some comics to !@#$ing track down, son. And you have a new book you should check out as soon as possible.

Like now.

SPYGOD's Verdict: Three thumbs up for yet another intriguing showcasing of work from old stalwarts, new talent, and faces we don't see nearly enough of. The new series editor is promising, and McCloud's editorial choices are excellent and well-considered. Like any collection, there will be some things that will astound you, others that bore you, and some that simply defy description, but all of them have something to show why they were judged to be The Best.

The Best American Comics 2014 -- Get it at your local comic store!

* That said, they still have yet to beat Lynda Barry's illustrated introduction for the 2008 edition, which was, as with most things she does, sheer !@#$ing genius. And I'm still !@#$ing mad that DC Comics wouldn't let her put Paul Pope's Batman Year 100 in there, because of stupid legal !@#$. !@#$ you, DC -- in the !@#$ nose.

** And !@#$ you too, Marvel. In the other !@#$ nose.