A hot mess

My favorite comics blog calls the current age of comics the Platinum Age. Scipio is not wrong, not but I think it is clear that there is more going in the current age of comics than he has accounted for. It is fair to note that it has been four years since he wrote the linked piece and the landscape has changed significantly. Who wants to be fair really?. I’d rather 328936-118779-justice-league-of-am_superwrite about where the industry is today.

The New 52, Marvel Now, and The Avengers move have all come out since 2009, proving Scripo’s analysis of the superhero genre is on the nose.  Superhero comics are currently in something that would fairly be called “The Platinum Age.”

Something interesting is happening around the edges, though. Comic books have broadened themselves out again. The comics code authority’s rise in the mid 50s ended horror, noir crime and any sexually explicit comics. Starting in the 80s we saw some of these genres returning to publication, but to me, looking back, many of those works feel juvenile; like a 15-year-old trying so hard to prove they could be an adult. At their worst The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen feel like shock media, though never for long, and 250px-Youngblood_01_covernever in the same way The Youngbloods do.

I just interrupted my reading of Ed Bubaker and Sean Phillips moody Fatale to write this. We read and loved Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth Stumptown recently. Though neither Leland or I love Multiple Warheads or Saga as much as the zeitgeist seems to they are works of substance and value. Fantasy comics, which have always had a slow, reliable market seem to be bursting out of their corner with Mice Templar and Amethyst. Soft and hard sci-fi comics litter the shelves, from a surprisingly good Star Wars title to the delightfuly whimsical Lost Vegas. Valliant comics is insuring that the Dark Age is forgotten, publishing a grip of well reviewed anti-heroes.

Though Scripo’s analysis is shiny, it is important to include the revitalization of neglected and abandoned genres that is a part of today’s landscape. Today’s creators throwing together the gold, silver, bronze, iron, platinum, and the metals forgotten between the ages, churning them together, distilling their mistakes, their creative brilliance, and their pure joy to create something new. The current age of comics is pushing at the edges of what you expect, forcing us to consider what is possible, what it means to be a creator, a reader, a fan, or an admirer. It is an exciting time to be a part of the comic book industry, even only as a fan and commenter in the Age of Alloys.

VFCast Season 3 Episode 17: Saga: Star Wars for Perverts!

No part of me is ever ‘safe for work.’ I am an unsafe worker, bitches. I got fired by OSHA! This podcast is, however, less safe for work than our normal podcast.

2727403-the_will_saga_4_strength

Title: Saga Volume 1 
Author: Brian K. Vaugn
Artist: Fiona Staples   
Publisher: Image Comics    
Release Date: October 10, 2012

So for the next month or so we are gonna be catching up with the hip kids. Every time someone says to me “Wait you are not reading x” we are gonna buy that ‘x’ thing and read it. You can imagine how quickly our reading queue is filling up. We are starting with Saga.

What do you want me to say about Saga? You are surprised that we haven’t been reading 545_-_1024x768_amalgam_comics_batman_cape_claws_comic_darkclaw_fusion_marvel_comics_moon_rooftop_skin_tight_wallpaper_wolverineit? So are we. You want me to tell you how awesome it is? Listen to the podcast if you want to know what we think about it! You wanna it to be more Batman-y? Just read the parts with The Will and ignore everything else [Wait… since when is Batman an amoral bounty hunter? -L]. Same thing if you want it to be more Wolverine-y, actually. You could also read Dark Claw in that case. I think you might enjoy reading Saga more, though.

The music for this episode of Vestrymen from the Future! is used under a Creative Commons licence. This week, we feature Eaters – “Ginger Ninja”, and Long Hair – “Ye’ Vessel”. Intro music is “Action Figure” used by permission from Masai.

VFCast Season 3 Episode 16: Huge UnChanges to the Status Quo!

NAZI robots! Cap with Thor’s Hammer. That one dude from Broxton being awesome! The UnDeReCaptaining of Steve Rogers! All this and more!

Fear-Itself-1

Say what you will about Fear Itself, and Leland and I have tons to say in this podcast, but we both left the book with more smiles to be counted to our lives than when we came. As I am writing this a second round of explosions is going off in and/or near Boston. I am actually really happy that we read this book this week. It feels like emotional armor against the onslaught of tragedy and pain. Fraction’s message of optimism, hope, brave leadership, and a dedicated populace is helping to shape how I view the current tragedies. I go to sleep tonight, just about midnight on 4/18/2013 thinking of my friends in Boston and praying they are all safe. I hope that our leaders and first responders are efficient, effective and safe. Somewhere out there I hope that a first responder, or someone from Boston has the same response to this book as I do. I hope it helps…

The music for this episode of Vestrymen from the Future! is used under a Creative Commons licence. This week, we feature Gillicuddy – “Thinking of You”, and Karsten Pflum – “Coil Up Swedish Pony Riding”. Intro music is “Action Figure” used by permission from Masai Andrews.

VFCast Season 3 Episode 15: Albuquerque Has Comic’s Creepiest Dentist

It’s and eat or be eaten, whether you’re homo neanderthalensis or homo sapiens superior. Don’t blink, food your mogwai after midnight, and don’t forget that the enemy is in your own mind as we extoll the virtues of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men!

1821451-cassandra_nova

Title: New X-Men Vol. 1
Author: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely  
Publisher: Marvel Comics   
Release Date: May 28, 2008

I fucking love Xorn. Xorn is awesome, and I will fight you if you disagree. Yes terrible, strange, and confusing things happened to Xorn following the end of Morrison’s run on New X-Men but I want to forget about that and just remember how fucking likable and awesome Xorn the healer is. Morrison writes likeable outcasts better than almost anyone writing comics today. I suppose that is why Xorn works, both at the beginning and end of this arc. I love Xorn, so his betrayals, his compassion, and all his choices really hit home. We really liked this book! You should buy it! [Xorn has maybe 6 lines of dialogue in this entire book. -L]

The music for this episode of Vestrymen from the Future! is used under a Creative Commons licence. This week, we feature Albuquerque locals A Hawk and a Hacksaw– “Hora Pa Bataie”, and Candlegravity – “Wanting Some”. Intro music is “Action Figure” used by permission from Masai Andrews.

“I didn’t know rap was for that!”

A friend of mine is having a absolutely heartbreaking family health crisis. To help her cope I sent her Tnmmd of Almost Home by Masai. In the midst of her parents both being simultaneously hospitalized, for different reasons, a song from a genre she is fairly unfamiliar with made her cry cathartic, soul cleaning tears. The next time I talked to her she said to me “I didn’t know rap was for that!”

We are using Masai’s music on our podcast these days because we like it, of course. There is another reason too though. His music shares one of our favorite traits; it transcends it’s perceived genre limitations.  Rap doesn’t help you deal with grief, comic books are for kids, and classical music is boring and hard to understand.

Like so much of how we interact with each other, perceive one another, and how we engage the world, our beliefs about what a specific kind of art should and can be are shaped by cultural biases. Even the creators who are aware of the prejudice and who attempt to live free from it are aware of the assumptions that drive mainstream understanding of whatever part of the world is being lensed by social norms. Some would say that the weight of these assumptions is even heavier on them.

The Vestrymen tend to love art that works to transcend its genre e expectations. The Sentry reminded us that superhero comics can deal with addiction, loss, pain, and alienation in staggeringly honest and difficult metaphors. Blankets reminds us that faith, sexuality, and intimacy can be addressed through panels and speech. Almost Home lets us know that race, grief, and humor are not the anthemia of spoken word set to beat.  The Absorbascon’s and The Astroboys humor and warmth reminds us that not all comic book bloggers and podcasters can be a positive way to talk about and promote the medium that we all love.

As artists transcend the expectations they force us to transcend ourselves. The surprise and pleasant elation that we feel when we are confronted with something better than expected mirrors the surprise that Huck Finn feels as Jim constantly upends his racial expectations.

I know artists struggle with the belief that in order to be successful they must make the art that is expected of them. I don’t think that Almost Home or The Sentry will ever sell as well as Detective Comics #18 or Who Let the Dogs Out. I can only hope that making the world a slightly better place is enough of a consolation prize for Masai and Paul Jenkins.

VFCast Season 3 Episode 14: Why would you would you want to be Van Halen when you could be Stan Lee?

The Umbrella Academy movie is in development hell. This is a sad thing. Fortunately there is another volume out that we have not read yet. Still Brad Silberling would kick the ass of this movie so hard, and I’m sure its soundtrack would explode my ears with joy, so hard.  I guess we get another Superman move instead.

572440-umbrella_academy_wallpaper_by_mcrmysmurf_super

Title: The Umbrella Academy Vol. 1
Author: Gerard Way
Artist: Gabriel Ba 
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics  
Release Date: June 24, 2008

I love the games Gerard Way plays with names in this book. The protagonists are superheroes whose real names are just numbers and have code names are straight out of the Legion of Superheroes naming conventions. You want alienation? Take Dean and Sam from Supernatural, but have John Winchester think of them so much as solders that he refuses to give them names besides “Soldier 1” and “Soldier 2.” You want to talk about chosen family? Have your protagonists choose their own names, and make those names be their only names. Sure code names tell us a lot about a character, but if there is no Bruce Wayne behind the mask, if Batman is his only identity, his only name, then the choice of the name takes on even more significance. Kraken chooses  a terrifying name because he wants to be terrifying. Kraken doesn’t put on a mask and pretend to be terrifying, his only personality is the personality he chooses. Also he is good with knives.

Vestrymen Grade: I’d say “pull” but nothing is currently being published, so go and buy the trade.

You can download this fuckin’ podcast right here: Vestrymen Season 3 Episode 14

The music for this episode of Vestrymen from the Future! is used under a Creative Commons licence. This week, we feature Kazoo Funk– “Baby, You’ve No Eyes”, and Ancient Laser – The Last Americans. Intro music is “Action Figure” used by permission from Masai Andrews.

Reviews from the Future: Mice Templar Volume IV: Legend #1

You want world-building of in simpler, more elegant prose than Brian Michael Bendis is capable of on his best day? You want stories painted with a broader brush told in a more epic tone than Neil Gaiman’s worst day? You want to listen to an interview with Bryan JL Glass? For the first two things pick up The Mice Templar Volume IV: Legend #1; For the last thing go check out our bddies The Astroboys’ Mice Templar podcast!

prv15895_pg4

 

Title: Mice Templar Volume IV: Legend #1
Author: Bryan JL Glass
Artist: Victor Santos 
Publisher: Image Comics  
Release Date: 3/27/2013

Are you still here after that bombastic intro? Well then I guess you deserve a proper review. Mice Templar Volume IV: Legend #1: The Long Title left me wanting more and honestly what else could you want from a 30 page comic book?

Mice Templar is a story of war, the cost of betrayal,  fluffy ears, and revenge. Glass is, as noted above, painting with broad strokes. Things move right along, even when the first half of the book is dedicated to ex positional storytelling. Every character choice has an immediate, direct, and meaningful impact on the world around them. Nothing is left on the table and nothing is held back. The immediacy and directness of story had me gritting my teeth and anxiously anticipating the next panel and page.

Victor Santos’ art somehow manages to simultaneously humanize and otherize Glass’ woodland protagonists, letting us empathize with their struggles and the bitterness that is at the core of the story while still reminding us that mouse culture is as alien to a modern American Klingon culture.

At its worst this book is trying just a little too hard. The language can get a little florid at times and the close-ups of a mice with a single tear flowing across their face fur can feel gratuitous after a third or fourth time.

An enjoyable read, a must have for fans of the series, and a decent jumping point if you are for some reason allergic to buying trade paperbacks or starting from the beginning.

Vestrymen Grade: For Fans