October 25, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Just jotting this down to have handy in the future. Feel free to ignore.
NBA 2013-14 predictions
Nets over Wizards
Pacers over Pistons
Heat over Cavs
Bulls over Knicks
Bulls over Nets
Heat over Pacers
Bulls over Heat
Clippers over Pelicans
Spurs over Wolves
Grizzlies over Warriors
Thunder over Rockets
Thunder over Clippers
Grizzlies over Spurs
Thunder over Grizzlies
Bulls over Thunder
MVP: Kevin Durant
DPOY: LeBron James
ROY: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
6th Man: Luis Scola
Coach: Doc Rivers
Executive: Daryl Morey
September 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I wrote this months ago when the book first came out, and never posted it for some reason. Just dug it up, and here it is:
God help me, I wanted to like Vol 1 of Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt more than I did. It has an appealing concept—psychic superspies rebelling against each other on the brink of an underground war. It has unique, attractive art: just pen and watercolors, leading to a dreamy, scrambled quality that fits the narrative perfectly. The book itself looks nice too! It’s a well made hardcover with good, heavy paper. For crying out loud, the whole comic is presented in a meta-textual framing device, where the panels are a visual representation of a field report from one of the psychic agents! And there’s a persistent commentary on the action within the marginalia that GETS INTERRUPTED BY A DIVERGENT COUNTER-NARRATIVE!! This is supposed to be everything in the world that I love and hold dear!!!
But, to my infinite despair, Mind MGMT vol 1 never quite pulls it off. Once the plot got moving, each new development left me thinking “Okay, and then what?” Or, more damningly, “So what?” By the time the full arc is finished, the status quo from the beginning of the first issue has been completely restored, leading the reader to wonder what the point of the whole thing was at all.
Then I realized that the guy who wrote the foreword was Damon Lindelof, and there’s an ongoing homage to Lost in Mind MGMT, and things started to come together. I shouldn’t talk too much shit; I’ve never actually watched an episode of Lost. But some of the criticisms I’ve heard of the show—an emphasis on mythology over story, less-than-enthralling characters, a pervasive feeling that the whole show is one swift tug of the curtains away from being revealed as a giant, self-serious load of crap—finds some common berth in Mind MGMT.
Perhaps I just feel let down from the promise of all the tasty elements that had me frothing at the mouth for this series—like I was promised a jigsaw puzzle and got a paint-by-numbers instead. I’ll probably stick with the series, but the expectations are pretty much shot.
May 18, 2013 § Leave a Comment
12:03—After a year of waiting, Eurovision is finally here. The cheesiest of pop songs and passive aggressive EU politics, what could be more fun? This will take the better part of a day, so let’s all hunker down.
12:06—Ok, the performers are gathering, with their flags, in front of a drooling crowd of thousands in Malmo, Sweden, over a rote uplifting choral lilt about harmony and blah blah blah. Give me the shitty disco already, kthx. “This is like the Olympics, only way weirder,” says Mariah. Couldn’t have summed it up any better myself.
12:10—Good evening, I am Pietra Mshfeoislskfdhfil, says our Swedish host in an outrageous pink dress. Look at all the gay men in the front row soaking it up. Do us proud.
12:14—For those unfamiliar with the format, Eurovision is split into two parts, twice. The first part of the first parts is the semifinals, which have already happened. Today is the finals, and we’ll hear the selected pop song and performance routine from 26 proud European countries, interspersed by a palette cleanse/tourism commercial for the host country (the country who won last year). Then, each country votes for their favorites, but they can’t vote for themselves. Got all that? Good, ’cause France just started the first song.
12:17—France’s song is actually really good… for horrendous pop music. Nice minor key modality and moody sort of enveloping of the song, and the singer is very, very French. Tons of energy. Good shit. Also, most countries sing in English, ’cause that’s what the voters will understand. France, of course, sticks to their guns. A couple years ago they even sent an opera singer singing Corsican.
12:19—Ok, Lithuania kicks off the format proper. Driving, poppy back beat, actually guitar heavy. handsome young man in a black leather jacket singing straight at the camera, alone, and WTFFFFF MOTION BLUR! While he points at the camera with both hands what what whyyyy??!
(It’s moments like this that I watch Eurovision for at all)
12:22—That (Lithuania) was the worst song ever. If they get any points at all, I’m going to be pissed. Need I remind her that this song made it to Eurovision in 2008? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dNB4g0AcH8
12:24—So, after sending Zdob si Zdub in 2011, Moldova has quickly become one of my favorite countries in the world. Here we’ve got a ridiculously skinny girl with this weird ass judy Jetson pompadour haircut and a dress that is eating the rest of the stage. The dancers are the leotarded fabulousness I expect from eurovision.
12:25—Ok, here’s the swell to the song….. Lightning effects across the stage, fire, and she’s….growing? Seriously, she’s getting taller and taller, like a pyramid under that gigantic dress. Just…wow. Finland next. Their tourism commercial tells me it is very cold so party and christmas lights???
12:27—I have no idea what’s going on here. Dancers in domino masks, wedding dress, backup singers in aprons. Ah-ah, ah-ah a-ding-dong. This is the Eurovision brain worms we’re supposed to get for the next like 4 goddamn hours. The dancers in masks, actually, are incredible. “I’m your slave and you’re my master”: actual lyrics.
Oh, wtf, robot brakdown now. And a giant wedding veil from nowhere. This is I don’t even know.
12:30—OH SHIT! The big reveal: the song “Marry Me” by Finland ended with her kissing a lady. This was wholly unexpected from their music video preview. Which yes, I watched. Well played, Finland.
12:31—Spain’s song starts with bagpipes, of course. Because when I think Spain, I think bagpipes.
12:33—Fun fact about Eurovision… the performers don’t have to play their instruments on stage, but they do have to at least represent every instrument in the song, as per the rules. So you get cute boy-tie spanish boy basically playing air guitar with a real guitar around his neck. But even weird floating jewel lantern things can’t save Spain from the letdown of having to follow Finland’s bubblegum overload.
12:35—Belgiums video, Mariah says, “Oh my god, what’s with the eye contact? He’s like that creepy guy at the bar who thinks his intense eye contact will make you fall in love with him.” apparently, his serial killer gaze worked on his doting backup dancers.
12:36—Mariah: “Is it too soon to start drinking?”
12:37—The best Eurovision drinking game, of course, is during the voting. Countries can’t vote for themselves, so you take a drink every time a country gives their highest vote (douze points) to their direct geographic neighbor. Drink a small amount, though, or you’ll get fuuuuuuuucked up.
12:38—Belgium’s song was redeemed by some fantastic dancing, and creepy Belgian death stare dude cried a bit into his hands at the end, so Mariah considers him redeemed.
12:39—Mariah: “Why is Estonia’s song in black and white?” Me: “So they can switch to color later and it’ll be fuuuucking crazy.
12:40—Yup, I called it. Except for the “fuuuucking crazy” part. Estonia, how did you make the finals? Snoozefest.
12:42—Belarus, I am now expecting a monkey, don’t disappoint.
12:43—The singer emerged from a giant disco ball wearing ANOTHER DISCO BALL as a dress. This is a perfect eurovision song.
12:44—Slight balkan inflection to this pop song but really this is just dudes in white dancing with disco ball girl shaking her groove thang. Backflip, whoa!
12:45—OHHH SHIT! The bottom of the drums on stage is ANOTHER DISCO BALL!
12:50—Sorry, I missed Malta with a phone call. I didn’t miss much.
12:51—Now Russia has the unenviable task of fielding any song that isn’t Party for Everybody.
12:52—Russia’s song is a power ballad about your usual political unity. Moon globes, nobody dancing. C’mon, wtf. “Bury our guns?” Eurovision is supposed to be about European politcal squabbles!
12:53—Just remembered that the music video preview for Russia’s song featured the audience to be spontaneously moved to tears. Uhm, sure. Next: Germany.
12:55—Compared to Belarus’s disco ball, Germany gets….stairs. Wow, guys.. Not even your American Idol throwback song with its generic electropop beat and nondescript lyrics can save you. “Please fall down”—Mariah.
12:58—Next is Armenia: improbably, like Israel, a contestant in EUROvision. The singer looks like somebody from Deep Purple decided to make the transition to a pop star. Sorry dude, the wind effect through your scarf is not helping you. Neither is the denim overdose. Neither is your John Goodman-lookalike keyboardist.
1:00—Seriously, this is like one of those cheesy dad-rock theme bands in the Blues Brothers movies that the Blues Brothers just destroy.
1:02—The worst thing you can say about Armenia’s song: it wasn’t even bad enough to hate.
1:06—I love that we acknowledge who the Eurovision fans are. Host (with a wink and a nod): “You just haven’t met the right girl yet.” Holland’s tourism commercial is shot in the rain. Great job, guys.
1:09—Ignoring the Netherlands’s awful entry to pour one out for Montenegro, who made the best music video in the history of anything and didn’t even make the finals.
1:11—But now we have Romania, starring the amazing contra-tenor, Cezar!
1:12—The dancers are naked and the singer is dracula sans testicles. And now, glitch beats. This may be the best worst song of the year.
1:14—This year’s plastic surgery disaster from the UK is Bonnie Tyler. I guess that means something to some people.
1:19—Sweden last year won by disputing the fact that they are only the whitest of white people. Now, playing to the home crowd, their costumes are made of bleach.
1:21—Ok, I needed an explosion of sparks and UFO spotlights sooner or later. Was getting worried.
1:23—Mariah: “Hungary’s entry I think is basically dubstep for eurovision. What’s the weird dude’s name? Skittles, or whatever?”
1:24—Except how it’s basically opposite. I didn’t know they had hipsters in Budapest. Way to remember things, MARIAH!
1:25—Next is Denmark, the odds-on favorite for those who bet on Eurovision (and they do!)
1:27—My problem with Denmark, with expectations of a favorite, isn’t the cute “I just woke up from bed and clawed my way out of a jungle simultaneously” singer, nor the snare drums and recorder breakdown. It’s that we only have like 2 crazy swelling hooks. On the plus side, there’s sparks flying and pyrotechnic insanity every single second of the song.
1:30—Iceland’s song is Eg a Lif, performed by an extra from the new Thor movie who wandered into a Sigur Ros concert.
1:33—Check that. Wandered into a Raffi concert.
1:35—Azerbaijan does it right. Dancer in a glass case, is UPSIDE DOWN, mirroring the singer.
1:36—Seriously, this is the best thing ever.
1:37—So the dude trapped his shadow in a glass box and now he’s destroying it because he fell in love with a girl in a 50 yard dress? Incredible.
1:38—”Too bad it’s a shit song” says Didi, via text message. We don’t care about these things. It’s Eurovision.
1:39—Cute old greek men! And ska! Douze points for Greece!!!!!!
1:40—Alcohol, alcohol, alcohol is free!
1:41—Glow in the dark guitars!
1:42—Old greek singer man wipes off his mustache triumphantly. What a boss.
1:43—Ukraine singer carried to the stage by a giant, and now there’s a snowy theme and shadow people. Is this Game of Thrones?
1:46—Still waiting for someone, anyone, to top
1:47—Does Italy not understand that this is a pop music competition? Really abusing your free pass to the finals, there.
1:50—Warren Ellis tweets: “Get this whining Italian dolt in the suit that doesn’t fit OFF the stage, BRING BACK EUROHULK”
1:51—Yes, here we go, Norway.
1:53—Or not. Ok, Georgia, keep up the region’s run of excellence. Looks like they’re just following the formula from the last 2 winners. Male and female, individually spotlit apart, coming together.
1:56—Points for creative use of a smoke machine. And by creative, I mean excessive.
1:58—Ireland, advertising that they like meat. Mariah: “He kind of looks like he belongs on Jersey Shore”
1:59—Speaking of meat, did you see those drummers?
2:00—Ireland wins “most likely to unexpectedly show up in a nightclub and you’ll have no idea why you know the song”
2:02—Well, that’s all of our songs. Jean Paul Gaultier is here, which really means something to this audience.
2:03—Voting time. This is the point of the night where Mariah begins to look for passports she might steal so she can cast 20 votes as citizen of Liechtenstein.
2:07—Truth is, it doesn’t matter how good or bad your whole song was. All anyone is going to remember is these 15 second recap snippets.
2:11—Here we have last year’s winner. Eurovision just loves tradition. And spiky wing shoulder pads? Dancers are in fighter pilot jumpsuits, and she sings “we have the power”. Hate to break it to you, Sweden, but you don’t.
2:14—….ninjas dancing Psy?
2:15—Give the people what they want. Nobody gives a shit about your new album. Just want the hook from last year’s winning song. Euphooooriiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
2:27—Steve the Swede says this tribute is incredible. Dads, stay at home, even though you don’t have titties.
2:28—Biggest cheer of the night goes to a celebration of Swedish gay marriage. Then, dancers in meatball costumes.
2:32—Diva! oh, and abba, and Celine Dion. They insist on reminding me that Eurovision is actually terrible for the world.
2:40—San Marino goes first, since it wasn’t much of a task to count all 15 of their residents.
2:41—Douze points for Greece! San Marino knows what’s up.
2:42—Sweden gives the big prize to Norway. Drink up!
2:43—”My compliments for the energetic way you are hosting this contest.” From a Dutchman, that’s actually an insult.
2:44—Netherlands give 12 to Belgium. Drink again.
2:45—The big news is that Greece is leading, even though they’re the thorn in the thorn in the side of EU fiscal policy. Alcohol is free!
2:46—Ukraine for Belarus. Keep drinkin’
2:49—Romania for Moldova. Can you still stand?
2:52—Moldova for Ukraine. Can you still read?
2:54—Norway for Sweden. I’m sorry you’re dead.
2:56—Denmark is running away with it. With Malta’s ascendance, this is like the triumph of hipsterdom. Also, Finland for Norway. At least alcohol will preserve your body.
2:59—Belarus for Ukraine. At this point, you should probably just install a whiskey swimming pool.
3:00—Latvia for Russia. Did you think I was kidding?
3:02—The only reason I’m not telling you to drink more right now is because “I want to be popular” dude from 2 years ago is “hyping the crowd”. At least we got to see Eurohulk again.
3:03—And we lost Bulgaria. Oh, she’s back. Just needed 4 more drinks and 15 more coats of makeup.
3:05—Seriously, this Bulgarian lady must be playing our drinking game too.
3:06—Drink again. Belgium for the Netherlands.
3:07—Russia for Azerbaijan. I am getting concerned you actually can’t fit this much in your stomach at once. The fact that it’s alcohol is almost secondary.
3:08—What is this German lady doing with a British accent? And she messed up. She’s crying. Amazing.
3:10—Estonia guy is trying to make nice by speaking in Swedish, hoping nobody notices they only gave Sweden 1 point. Estonia is the first one to cop to voting for their neighbors, Russia.
3:14—Ireland gave no points to Alcohol is Free. I am so confused.
3:19—Georgia for Azerbaijan. Don’t worry, you hadn’t had a drink in 9 whole minutes, but that ends now.
3:22—Denmark is the winner. Cool effect on her dress. Cyprus for Greece. Just a couple countries left.
3:24—Switzerland for Italy. One more drink, one more country.
3:25—Voting is over. That’s 16 drinks in 45 minutes. Thank you for playing this year’s game of watch Eurovision and drink until you die. Danish Hunger Games lady sends us out with the winning anthem. See you next year.
May 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
When the people who decide these sorts of things get around to splitting up the ridiculously-named “Modern Age” of superhero comics, Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja will certainly land squarely in the middle of the canon for whatever time period now ends up being.
The current historical moment of the superhero genre is a fascinating beast. In the 80′s, as we all know, Alan Moore and others began to thoroughly deconstruct the genre. Then the 90′s introduced superhero cartoons and movies largely aimed at children, inculcating the superhero myth into a new audience au naturale. Simultaneously, fiction writers like Michael Chabon and China Mieville have worked to reclaim and rehabilitate genre fiction, massaging the essential tropes of sci-fi, fantasy, and others to coexist with literary modernism. My twitter buddy Ben likes to call this genre puree Fantastical Materialism.
So when superheroes arrived again, such as in the 2001 Spider-Man movie, the very deconstruction that created genre-defying works like Watchmen and Miracleman now reinforced the genre entirely. What would you do if you, like Peter Parker, were by chance bitten by a radioactive spider, giving you unique and incredible powers? Why, you’d become a masked hero, fighting villains and saving lives, of course! Why? Because this superhero myth has become so ingrained in our cultural psyche that that reaction has become a default expectation to the situation.
Now, when we see a superhero, we don’t ask “what kind of self-aggrandizing pervert puts on tights to beat up strangers?”—we simply say, “okay.” This is especially true in the Marvel universe (616 to fans), with superpowered beings seemingly on every New York streetcorner. In Joss Whedon’s 2004 Astonishing X-Men #1, Cyclops discusses the X-Men’s image problem and the need to emerge from Grant Morrison’s black leather to new costumes of brightly colored spandex. He states, “We need to present ourselves as a [superhero] team like any other. Avengers, Fantastic Four—they don’t get chased through the streets with torches.” For Whedon’s X-Men, gaining the acceptance of the public, both in their world and in ours, means fulfilling the expectations of the superhero genre. This acknowledgement of the construct of a superhero, and the tropes it entails, such as costumes, is an intrinsic part of the contemporary superhero story.
Hawkeye (2012) applies this context to the titular Clint Barton, a hero who previously was so vanilla that even Joss Whedon couldn’t come up with anything interesting for him to say in the Avengers movie. In four hyper-compressed short stories, stretching the first 5 issues of the comic, Fraction recasts Hawkeye as a superhero everyman. Without powers or technology, Hawkeye is your average Joe Superhero; he fights crime, has regrettable sex, and spends a lot of time in the hospital. His main villain thus far is a new invention—the “tracksuit mafia,” a cartel of Russian immigrants who profit from gentrification and should win Fraction the Pulitzer prize this and every year for “best comedic use of the word ‘bro.’” But make no mistake: Hawkeye is a superhero. Though he bumbles, and lacks superpowers or a flashy costume, something essential about the superhero DNA remains in his story—the “of course” part. In fact, absent those other elements, his heroism shines even brighter.
For example, Fraction even rehabilitates the genre kitsch of Hawkeye’s “trick arrows”—specialty arrows outfitted with ridiculous gimmicks like an acid-filled tip or a boomerang effect—in a frenetic car chase with the tracksuit mafia. These arrows are a staple of the Hawkeye character since his introduction in the 1960′s, yet have been increasingly toned down in recent years since the superhero deconstruction and the subsequent push to make superhero stories more plausible to the real world. Dealing with the trick arrows, Fraction begins with a deconstruction—Hawkeye decides to “finally” organize his trick arrows, much like your or I might rearrange our sock drawer. Of course, this earns him a merciless mocking from his more contemporary counterpart, Kate Bishop, Hawkeye of the Young Avengers. Yet by the end of the issue, even the stupidest arrows have proven unexpectedly useful. Yes, this deft deconstruction and reconstruction, a fully realized story, a fantastic chase scene, and an emotionally revealing sex scene, all happen within the space of a single issue—a compression of scale rare in contemporary comics.
Of course, Hawkeye’s super-compressed adventures wouldn’t be possible without the masterful work of David Aja and Javier Pulido—though most especially Aja. I spent several minutes on more than a few pages, reading and rereading, trying to figure out how Aja was able to convey so much on a single page, until I realized maybe I just enjoyed looking at it.
With the Avengers movies bringing millions of new eyeballs to the franchise, it’s nice to see their companion comics excelling at the same time—and Hawkeye absolutely fucking kills it. Read it for both a great story and a fantastic look at where and what superheroes are today.
April 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Take Whale Wars and get rid of the reality show, the whaling industry, the whales, and most of industrial civilization, and I think you’d end up with something very close to The Massive. Writer Brian Wood (DMZ, Northlanders, X-Men) teases the series as an exploration of what it means to be an environmentalist once said environment is completely and irrevocably fucked. But while the first volume features beautiful art and sets a strong tone, nobody ever really gets around to any environmentalism.
Volume 1 of The Massive is instead a series of character sketches, as we are introduced to the crew of the cheekily named Kapital and the new, post-apocalyptic world they inhabit. We meet Captain Callum Israel, an ex-mercenary who grew a conscience; his mysterious yet incredibly capable girlfriend Mary; first mate Mag, a no-fucks-given soldier of fortune and passion who has suffered the effects of globalization first-hand; obligatory tech dude Georg; and my early favorite, Ryan—a sweet Minnesotan punk forced to confront her privilege. It’s an intriguing enough enesemble, and they’re given plenty of opportunities to display excellence as they scour the far-flung corners of the Pacific Ocean gathering supplies, fighting off profiteers, and searching for their lost sister ship, the titular Massive.
The Massive unfolds at a pace reminiscent of the ocean; at times placid and meditative, then unexpectedly turbulent. Dave Stewart’s moody color palette matches the story perfectly, creating a fatastically moist, restless tone—dark without the implied overwrought grit. However, the main attraction in The Massive is the exploration of its uniquely built world.
The post-apocalypse of The Massive is important to me in the way it denigrates the apocalypse itself as just another thing that happened. When civilization collapses (or as the primitivists are fond of saying, “when the lights go out”), there will still be people with needs beyond finding food and killing zombies. There will even still be an environment to be studied, protected, hopefully even enjoyed.
Sure, the world of The Massive is a good bit more grim than the one I live in now, but it doesn’t trip over itself in the way that Mad Max, Waterworld, or any number of zombie stories might. When Hong Kong is flooded, its residents build a brand new city out of garbage and shipping containers, floating on top of the old one. Volume 1 of The Massive feels like it has accomplished in its exposition all that most post-apocalyptic stories ever attempt–securing supplies and ensuring short-term survival—to allow its broader mission of post-ecological environmentalism to unfold in the coming chapters.
Or, at least, I hope so. Despite the sweet and slowly churned worldbuilding going on, it seems like the best days for The Massive, and possibly the world it inhabits, are ahead of it.
April 20, 2013 § Leave a Comment
It’s been a great month or so for comics: A handful of interesting collections and series have all come out or finished within a few weeks of each other. So, I decided to review all of them. Here’s the first one: I review both Punk Rock Jesus and As You Were. I promise they won’t all be this long.
Punk Rock Jesus and As You Were
I was near the end of Punk Rock Jesus, (DC/Vertigo) when I realized the third act I was waiting for was never coming. That there’d be no adulthood, no moral synthesis or catharsis following the conversion of the protagonist, the reality-show clone of Jesus Christ, from his bible school childhood to his vitriolic atheist adolescence—Richard Dawkins with a dash of Johnny Rotten.
Then I picked up issue 1 of As You Were (Silver Sprocket), a punk comix anthology written by and about these same real-life adult punk rockers, and part of me wished that these lives—my life—shared even a shred of Punk Rock Jesus’s idealism. Whereas Punk Rock Jesus is naive and bombastic, As You Were is mostly introspective and quotidian. Each accomplish what they set out to do and do so enjoyably, but have the unfortunate effect of making each other look bad. Reading them back to back, As You Were felt like that missing third act from Punk Rock Jesus: had Jesus not died (come on, that is so totally not a spoiler), his adulthood would have been full of alienating house shows and drunken, belligerent bro punks. It would have not-quite-been-redeemed by some fleeting moments of great music, in-jokes, and a warm, familiar community. Which one of these things is more punk? Hard to say.
Punk Rock Jesus, written and illustrated by Sean Murphy, is built on a fascinating and sickeningly believable concept: what if Jesus Christ was cloned in the present day—a la Jurassic Park—to star in a reality TV show? Unfortunately, resurrected baby Jesus, named Chris, isn’t even the star of the comic: he doesn’t even appear as a character until a third of the way through the book. Instead, his ex-IRA bodyguard, Thomas McKael, gets the first and last scenes of the novel, as well as the fullest character arc. Thomas is a Catholic who fights to keep his faith in the face of betrayal, lies, and buckets of gore. While he sometimes falls a bit close to trope of the gruff and gratuitously violent comics anti-hero with a secret heart of gold, his character is authentic and unique, and definitely worth reading.
However, when it comes to punk rock and Jesus, Punk Rock Jesus falls flat. Just as Chris was cloned from DNA from the Shroud of Turin, the punk scene in Punk Rock Jesus seems to be resurrected from the very first bloodstain at CBGB’s. And while the novel’s villain, a violent fundamentalist group, portrays how Christianity has changed in the last 2000 years, the spirit of ’77 has somehow remained mummified in punk. With Sex Pistols block letter typography and spikes and suspenders fashion, the Punk in Punk Rock Jesus clearly refers to the Punk everyone always refers to: The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and nobody else. Sure, they name drop Stiff Little Fingers, The Misfits, Dead Kennedys, but… come on. There’s not a single punk band from the last 20 years in here, and as a result, none of the punks in the book look like they could have existed today either.
Punk in ’77 was a response to the mainstream swallowing the previous counterculture and the backlash to that backlash, and the demons it spawned in Thatcher, Reagan, and Jerry Brown of California Uber Alles fame (who knows a thing or two about being horrifically resurrected into today’s world). Likewise, the present day villains are very well mapped out in Punk Rock Jesus: religious fundamentalists, corporate greed, reality television, and a public that loves all of these things and wants a never-ending supply of more. However, when Punk Rock Jesus poses the punk scene of 35 years ago as a moral counterforce to battle these present day villains, the conflict is stunted and disjointed. Chris’s and his “punk army” never do anything besides preach and yell, while Thomas does the actual gruesome fighting by himself.
The villains in As You Were, on the other hand, are almost entirely rooted within the punk scene itself. Several comics address douchy hetero-patriarchal assholes (“We’re Fabulous, Don’t Fuck With Us”, “How I Wish it Would Go Down”), and the anti-social, cliquish house show scene (“Rose-Colored Glasses”, “The Best House Show Ever in St. Cloud”, “Haunted House Show”, “Your Bike’s Locked up to Mine”). On the other hand, the cops only break up “Once Upon a Time in the Suburbs” and “People Men’s Last Show”. The tone of the whole anthology is introspective to the point of myopia, with only one comic featuring actual characters from outside the punk scene—the whimsical and hilarious “It Came from the Basement”.
This kind of self reflection certainly has its place. I’ve been, it feels like, to every single one of these shows, both awesome and awful, and it felt validating to see these experiences in comic form. Compared against Punk Rock Jesus, though, I found myself wishing at times for some acknowledgement of the world outside, instead of endlessly validating and critiquing our own subculture.
My favorite thing about As You Were was the tremendous variety of beautiful art. Editor Mitch Clem did a phenomenal job getting submissions from artists with styles ranging from punk-rock black sharpie minimalism to chibi manga, Jhonen Vasquez-esque itchiness, gorgeous watercolors, R. Crumby comix, and the wonderfulness that is Andy Warner. Even in black and white, the art in As You Were was engaging and fun. By contrast, the art of Punk Rock Jesus, though brilliant and expressive, felt at times too cramped and detailed to survive without color.
In the end, I strongly recommend As You Were to anyone who’s ever been at a house show, though its microscope on the punk scene might limit its audience from including anyone else. Punk Rock Jesus, though, gets a more conditional recommendation. It would be a fantastic recommendation to anyone undergoing their own process of questioning their own Christian upbringing, except Craig Thompson’s Blankets has already done that story, and better. I’d instead ignore the Punk Rock Jesus part and recommend Punk Rock Jesus to anyone who is already a fan of comics and has at least a passing interest in the IRA.
One final note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out some real Islamophobia in Punk Rock Jesus. Christian fundamentalists may be portrayed as violent, fat, and ignorant, but at least they get a spokeswoman and signs displaying some mockery of their views. The Muslim fundamentalists who invade Chris’s show in Jerusalem, on the other hand, are faceless, numberless, and have Stormtrooper-like aim. They’re only in 4 pages of a 200 page graphic novel, but it’s still pretty fucked.
Ok, cool, that’s my review of two very interesting comics. Next review: The Massive, vol 1.