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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Okay, so speaking of trade paperbacks that are coming out…  If you went to some place that happens to sell comic books today, you probably saw the hardcover for Mark Millar’s much-ballyhooed Kick-Ass prominently displayed on the shelves.  The book, which in full disclosure I have never read a single frame of, has become something of a phenomenon.  Millar’s work has always been on the flashier side.  His work in Marvel’s Civil War, Wanted, Ultimate X-Men, and Old Man Logan were all pretty much “event” series that demanded the attention of even casual fans, so perhaps it was only a natural that this latest series practically left fans foaming at the mouth.  In fact, the book even spawned a film adaptation before the first volume was even finished from underrated director Matthew Vaughn (who you might have noticed previously adapted Neil Gaiman’s Stardust).

The series, which features art from John Romita Jr, is supposedly a Millar book through-and-through, as it combines hyper-violent action pieces with more everyday characters and some wickedly profane humor.  If you somehow, like me, haven’t read it yet… well, it’s basically almost mandatory that you go out and do so.  The book is now available in hardcover volume one form everywhere.  If you would like to find out a little more beyond what I’ve told you, the best places for such investigation are Mark Millar’s official website, or the official website for the book’s publisher Icon, which is a division of Marvel.  Oh yeah, and in case you haven’t seen it yet (and don’t mind some minor spoilers), below is the trailer for the upcoming Kick-Ass film.  Enjoy both.

UPDATE: Perhaps after I’ve read the trade I bought today, I’ll post some thoughts in the comments section.

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Garth Ennis has made an entire career out of pushing the envelope when it comes to his story-choices.  Hell, Preacher alone was both awesome and risque enough all in itself to list Ennis as an all time great comic writer. Ennis own twisted and particularly take on the zombie-genre, Crossed, has been around for a while now, but it has been steadily good since the very first issue.  His sheer willingness to push the perverse violence to the very edge of reason (perhaps even beyond) may turn off some more narrow-minded critics, but has also served to great a more terrifying and disturbing read than anything that I have ever seen printed.

You may be asking yourself why I’m choosing to highlight this now, considering that the series is about to roll into the eighth issue later this month.  Good question, two answers.  Answer one, another oversight on my part.  I kept meaning to throw something up, but just would continue to forgot or be way too lazy.  Answer two, the trade paperback for volume one is coming out soon, the cover art for which you can find by going to the books’ publisher’s website at Avatar Press.  Perhaps what has me most excited about all of this is despite the fact that I’m pretty positive that I read numerous times that Crossed was going to be an eight issue limited run, the trade is being called Volume 1, which would lead me to believe there will be more issues on the way.

If you haven’t checked Crossed out yet, the trade due out sometime in April is a wonderful time to do so.  Should you find it’s your cup of tea, and somehow you haven’t read Garth Ennis work before, than you might want to track down titles like Preacher, Battlefields, and The Boys while you’re at it.  There’s also an “official” website kicking around, though it doesn’t look like it has been updated since November of 2007.  Just in case, here’s that for your viewing pleasure as well.

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Eggers Hits the Newsstands

Step right up Dave Eggers!  You’re next in the line of people attempting to revitalize the newspaper industry!  Okay, so maybe the line isn’t quite that long, and Eggers ambitions may not be quite that grandiose, but in a perfect world, revitalizing the industry may just be what he ends up helping to do.  As this little piece in the Los Angeles Times explains, Eggers is taking his McSweeney’s-type publications to the streets of San Francisco, and eventually beyond (maybe):

“In addition to books and a monthly magazine, McSweeney’s publishes a literary journal, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, the new issue of which is set to appear here today in a form that confounds every trend in publishing: a 300-plus-page Sunday-style broadsheet newspaper called the San Francisco Panorama, with which Eggers and company mean to celebrate the glory of the form. Featuring news and sports as well as stand-alone food and arts sections, a magazine and a 96-page pullout Book Review, the Panorama is both homage and conversation starter.”

I have to say that it’s an interesting gambit.  I think something that people have lost sight of as newspapers scramble to make their issues cheaper, electronic, gossipy, and more immediately topical (thanks for that one cable-news), is the idea that something of quality can actually help to drive up its popularity.  Or at least that’s what Eggers is banking on.  The publication will be big and in color, it will feature a glossy pull-out book review, the idea is that it will be a rewarding read for people who pay attention to the details.

I have come to be wary of doubting Eggers, as he has proven to be (arguably) successful on various literary levels from a quality standpoint and also (inarguably) from a financial one.  If there is anybody who could pull off some sort of rabid devotion from what is increasingly become a niche market, it’s probably him.  The thing about that is, if this latest venture can become popular enough amongst those intellectual newspaper reading types, who’s to say that it won’t also break through to more casual readers?  If Eggers were able to do either of these things, major publications would certainly have to take notice.

The LA Times piece (and Eggers) sums up the argument for why this whole thing might just work almost perfectly:

“That’s an optimistic assessment, but it’s one Eggers shares. “All of the interns pay for magazines,” he says. “They’ll read the New Yorker, or they’ll read Mother Jones. They’ll pay for that, but a lot of them weren’t paying for the newspaper anymore. So we started thinking, what if you offered the same sort of depth, analysis, literary value that you get in a magazine? When people sit down, they want to have an experience, and if you surprise them on every page, curate it in such a way that it’s constantly surprising and constantly delighting, I think you could keep them.”

I’ll certainly be rooting for Eggers.  If you hunger for more info, then you should certainly click your way via the link over to the times (or even to McSweeney’s Internet Tendancy) for further details.  For those of you lucky enough to live in the Los Angeles area (like me!), you’ll be able to get your hands on a copy of the “newspaper” in both BookSoup and Skylight books on Wednesday next week.  The rest of you across America will have to settle for supporting the venture by ordering it online, which you may do right here. Good luck and Godspeed.

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The question: Is there any better writer in the comic universe than Ed Brubaker right now?  The answer: No.  I’ve made no qualms about the fact that HItV has been something of an Brubaker unabashed cheerleader in 2009.  But in all fairness, it has been completely observed.  The latest source of my adulation?  His flagship work for Marvel’s 70th anniversary celebration, The Marvels Project.

The story takes place around the time of World War II and centers on the creation of the Original Human Torch and his interactions with a motley crew of familiar faces (including Namor, Captain America, Two Gun Kid, Nick Fury, etc.) as they all try to make their way in late 1940’s America.  Now, it may have been Brian Michael Bendis who was put in the driver’s seat of the Marvel universe, but it has been Brubaker that has been making the most noise.  From his fabulous work with Daredevil, to everything Captain America, and onto this great series, the man has been in some kind of zone.  Most impressive is how Brubaker was able to take some of his darker and grittier tendencies and mix them so seamlessly with the lighter and more serialized spirit of the Marvel universe of sixty years ago.  It hasn’t just been a piece of storytelling that stands comfortably side-by-side with the best of todays books, but it fights right into a lineup of work from yesteryear as well.

I haven’t had the opportunity to dig into this weeks fourth issue yet, but (without giving anything away) if you’re going to judge a book by its cover, than I am in for quite a treat.  If this post has wet your appetite at all, and you crave some more information, head on over to Marvel’s official website or, even better yet, Ed Brubaker’s official site for more details.

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Over at New York Magazine, they have unveiled a feature that I have to say is just incredibly cool.  The piece is their Political Fictions Project where they invited seven different writers to pen short stories based on seven prominent political figures.  From President Obama to Mitt Romney, nobody is safe from the imaginations of their group of merry scribes.

There’s something that I always have enjoyed about novels and films centered around the private and clandestine lives of powerful politicians.  The sexiness of the power and intrigue, and the humanity of the men and woman when all of the status is stripped away, is just very alluring to the eye.  This being the case, I often can’t help but get a perverse pleasure when that fictional lens is turned onto the lives of actual, living, politicians.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love the stuff unconditionally, when it’s bad, it often plays like crappy fan-fiction.  However, when it is good, it’s some of the most fun guilty-pleasure reading that you can find (I think this might be why I love James Ellroy’s “underworld trilogy” as much as I do) — and the NYM stuff is pretty damn good.

The flagship piece, of course, is centered around Barack Obama.  The story, written by Adam Haslett, is accompanied by a cool little “fictional photograph” of the President, sitting on a bench outside the white house, exhaling smoke from the cigarette dangling between his fingers.  The noir’ish photo is a small touch, but it really helps to set the tone of the story.  The story takes place as the President has a surprise encounter while grappling with a difficult decision.  Yet what impressed me about it was Haslett’s ability to mine material from the little details, without losing his sense of mystery or mysticism.  Here is one of my favorite bits, focused on the cigarette that is in the picture:

“A cigarette suspended all that. And for a moment, even here amid the splendor and consequence, it joined him back to the counterlives: the kid who didn’t care about his grades; the freshman listening to the young leftists quote Nietzsche and Foucault; the short-story writer alone in his room after a day miming faith in progress (kneel and you shall pray), believing for a few evening hours that a well-wrought sentence might set people free. Before the organizing principle of Michelle. Before the sorting power of a more concrete ambition. Taking him briefly back to the comforts of the slacker and the cynic. That dark, scattered home promising its own kind of safety.”

The link also features a contest that the magazine is holding, enter your own political fiction and you can win some cool prizes.  Worth a shot.  Even if you don’t win, though, spending some time with some of the most powerful men and women on the planet is reward enough all on its own.

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Ok, so not really.  But still, this is pretty cool, or at least novel.  As a warning before I get to the point of this post, if you are here because you thought that I was being sincere in my title, I can confidently assure you that this blog is not the kind of place that you’ll enjoy spending time.  Unless, of course, you like to get upset.  Then welcome.   Annnyyway…

Over at Slate they’re having their first official (okay, probably their only) “Can you write like Sarah Palin?” contest.  I knew that I probably was going to enjoy what Slate was suggesting when the blurb started with a couple suggestions at what might be the worst line in Sarah’s new book, Going Rogue.  (Even though the choices both came from other publications, I have to say that the selections are every bit as overwritten and self-conscious as the title is obnoxious)  The contest, which everybody should undoubtedly enter, is limited to 150 words, and ends on Wednesday.  Your prize?  A lifetime of shame and self-loathing as well as seeing your words printed in Slate.  You have about 36 hours, time to get cracking!

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Picture 1

The image above comes from the front page of Matt Drudge’s Drudge Report this morning.  You may wonder, why do I choose to put this up instead of just discussing Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue” directly?  Because it perfectly illustrates the two things that most infuriate me most about this latest turn in the wild ride that is the Sarah Palin phenomenon.  The first is that she just won’t go away!  I mean, let’s face it, the last year has not exactly been a series of political successes’ for her.  She ran for Vice President and her ticket lost in a drubbing, then she resigned (!) from her position as the Governor of Alaska, which leads me to my second irritation; no matter how insignificant she has become, or how many times she drops the ball, there are still some devout conservatives who kneel at her alter to worship their idol.  I’m looking at you Drudge.

At the risk of creating a straw-man argument, the rationale that I most often hear for supporting Palin these days is that she’s been one of the few conservatives willing to stand up to Obama.   There are a couple of problems with this statement, the most glaring, though, is that she isn’t even a politician anymore.  In what sense do people think that she’s standing up to anybody?  Second, as the “death panels” controversy so eloquently displayed, half the time she’s not even basing her claims and arguments up with any kind of facts, just malicious lies.

Enter Matt Drudge into my rant.  Matt Drudge, for all intents and purposes, is smart enough to realize that this woman is nothing more than a hollow representation of what angry and frightened conservatives hoped the Republican party would become.  The man has created a very successful news site and has made more money than most of us can even imagine, clearly he’s not an idiot.  Yet somehow we get headline’s like “Her Turn!” for this piece of redundant, and most likely inaccurate, piece of conservative pandering.  So if he’s smart enough to realize that Palin’s schtick is bad for politics (hell, it’s even bad for the Republican party), what are we left with?  The only answer is that his intents are calculatingly spiteful, and he’s knowingly deceitful to his readers with his “endorsements.”  And that, my friends, I cannot abide by.  If Matt Drudge were playing antichrist somewhere in a bubble where he wasn’t influencing people who were easily duped, that would be one thing, but millions of people get their news from his Drudge Report, and when he puts slants on the news that he links to, he should be held accountable for the way in which he does so.

Matt Drudge isn’t necessarily as bad for America as Sarah Palin, he’s much, much, worse.  She spreads lies and hate because she’s a puppet of conservative influences and she just doesn’t know any better.  He does the same even though he knows better and because he chooses to.  That’s a scary thought.

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