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American Flagg (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 30 October 2016 00:00

OGANG: 7:32

For those who have never read American Flagg, you simply have missed one of the more interesting comics ever produced (listen to me speak like an authority - I gave up on comics when Cerebus started to drag). But still, American Flagg. It was the first comic I'd ever read that captured the idea of media overflow (and this, in the 80s before the internet). Every panel was awash with infographics, trade marks, click throughs and raunchy videos attempting to get you to "stick your card into the slot (bum ba bum) and you're going to see something that's really HOT HOT HOT!" Images unimaginable flooded our eyes back then, those of scantily-clad women, of leather-jacketed Plexus Rangers, of holographs of "Bob Violence", of the City of Chicago decades after the meltdown of 1996.

GOGANG: 5:58

Into this shithole, where the offworld Plex keeps a beachhead through Plexmalls (a combination of shopping, living space, and fortifications) comes Reuben Flagg, a canceled Martian videostar (with something very much like CGI, his show continued; he got canceled) who is now a Plexus Ranger (think of a marshal in the old west). But in this case, he's more a deputy, finding himself under the corrupt "Hammerhead" Krieger, the mall's top ranger.

GOGANG: 4:14

But things are beyond nuts. There are weekly rampages of the local motorcycle political clubs, the downtown area is a literal war zone (where the Plex films "Firefight Saturday Night", a combination of armed insanity and ratings runaway. And into this the perpetually disillusioned, exhausted and frustrated Flagg finds himself mired in, just trying to made a difference, just trying to act in accordance to his sputtering idealism.

GOGANG: 3:05

And what can I say? There is sex, sex and more sex. There are domestic terrorists. There are foreign nationals who desire to cut shady deals. There is the Plex, its motive sinister and unknown. There are guns, dames, sex, sex, and yes, as I said, more sex. There are even recipes for Reuben Flagg's Spaghetti Frittata. And sex.

GOGANG: 1:23

I'm going to tell you, unlike the driftier Transmetropolitan, American Flagg kicked ass and took names. All through my unhappy existence of a game designer in a failing online company, every month I'd look forward to the latest issue. Sadly, a dozen or so stunning, flashy, Flaggy issues, the founding artist Howard Chaykin left the series. After that, it looked like something out of Archie & Veronica. The artwork was uninspired, simply crummy pencil drawings with the occasional echoes of the multimedia effort that made it work. I collected them, of course, but have never had the urge to re-read them past Chaykin's departure. Sad day.

GOGANG: 0:46

If you are looking to peek into this series some three decades after it was released, you can actually find it through Amazon - the "Definitive Collection". I bought the first volume which covers all of Chaykin's work. Anything after that is too painful.

GOGANG: 0:21

So, yes, if you want some artwork that will remind you of the worlds of Bladerunner, of all these old scifi classics where the world was going to hell and only one man could hold it together, check out American Flagg.

GOGANG: 0:05

And what's with this GOGANG stuff? Check out the comic for the answer, right after the attack!

GOGANG NOW! GOGANG NOW! GOGANG NOW! GOGANG NOW!

>>>I WAS DOWN MEMORY LANE WITH THIS ONE. IF YOU DON'T LIKE COMICS, CHECK OUT MY OWN BOOKS - THEY HAVE WORDS IN THEM AND YOU MAKE YOUR OWN PICTURES. FOR SALE, CHEAP. PUT YOUR CARD IN THIS SLOT...<<<

Last Updated on Sunday, 30 October 2016 09:15
 
Transmetropolitan (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 23 October 2016 00:00

omics. Love 'em. And Transmetropolitan is why I love them. Yeah, some of them are superhero yarns, the same as they were for eighty years. But sometime they push the boundaries forward.

Transmetropolitan is one of these. In ways, it reminded me a lot of American Flagg (review to follow next week - yeah, Transmet got me to read all those old back issues). Across ten collected compilations (I was missing #2, but that's a minor blip), we see a dark story unfold, one that watches a corruptly evil man (yet with a seemingly good heart deep down) make an impact in a city he hates, for the good of all.

So the main character is Spider Jerusalem, a hairy fellow who'd make his claim to fame with a book five years in the past. Now atop his mountain, surrounded by security systems (including the skulls of editors) he has it made. That is, until one editor calls him on two books he owes. And thus Spider finds himself having to descend into the city, the cesspool he loathes, to crank out two books and (hopefully) return to his nirvana. But as he begins to cover the various factions of the city (seemingly some sprawl of New York and other metropolitan areas) he finds himself getting involved with politics. And that leads him down a dark path to sinister motives; assassinations, mass killings, the black place were corrupted absolute power dwells.

It takes a while to settle into the story (as it does for the various plotlines to gel). At first I wasn't sure if this was a tribute to Hunter Thompson or just an exercise in random obscenity (Spider has a two-faced cat that is simply grotesque) or whatever. Once or twice I nearly put it down. But gradually something resembling a story began to firm up, something that seemed to draw it all together.

As mentioned, it reminded me a lot of American Flagg (to be reviewed next week), with the over-mediaed atmosphere, a society swimming in pornography, guns and violence, where life is cheap and dystrophia is a day-to-day thing. But where Flagg came right out of the box establishing characters and relationships (which it would later alter cleverly), Transmetropolitan groped about a while. And one thing that really bugged me - of course there is a university where the cops show up, there is an altercation, and the ranks open fire. Fine. But I was a little taken aback by their taking the famous Kent State picture and re-drawing it to their needs. That seemed like a quick grab at using an existing cultural meme to carry the horror of the moment - I thought it was lazy. You've got your own world. Make it work yourself.

But overall, it was fun and quirky and a little sad at the end. So, yes, if you don't mind reading something that will throw muck into your eyeballs and challenge any ethics you have, check out this strip. I actually really liked it. But I'm an old guy - gotta say I prefer it's daddy piece, Flagg, just a little bit more.

But yeah, check it out.

>>>HARD TO COMPARE A TIME TRAVEL STORY LIKE EARLY RETYREMENT TO SOMETHING THIS GRITTY. IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR MORE OPEN-ENDED ADVENTURES, CHECK OUT MY OWN BOOK, RIGHT DOWN THIS LINK!<<<

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2016 21:38
 
The Siege of Dome (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 16 October 2016 00:00

his is the second part of Empyrion, which started with The Search for Fierra. I'd finished the first monster part, and after wandering through a number of other books, came back to see where Orion Treet and his heroes had gotten to. As we left them, there was blood in the sand - Treet hiding in the evil colony of Dome, his girlfriend and another fellow traveler remaining with the elf-loving Fierrians, and former pilot Crocker (having been brainwashed) having pulled a Manchurian Candidate by tearing out the throat of their cute guide and going, literally, jungle, so yes, lots to pick up here.

Overall, it's like this. The hero and three other people are sent by a corporation to find out what happened to an illegal colony placed on the other end of a wormhole. Turns out the hole isn't really understood and they pop out, not a year after the founding, but some three millennium downstream. So now the folks on the planet Empyrion have split into two distinct collections of humans, the Dome (scheming bastards running a nasty enclosure of groveling peasants and nasty celebrations) and Fierra (a utopia in every sense of the word, where they don't have money and everyone does whatever they want to their heart's content).

Okay, a word about this - I had a hard time buying into it. I don't care if two groups of humans split after a revolt and evolve in total isolation (well, outside of an evil-establishing nuking of the elves by the trolls); it's hard to imagine that human civilizations end up so different. Yes, I could easily see things degrading to Dome, but I have a hard time understanding how they could elevate to Fierra. The same clay thrown in two different rooms will probably not produce a mud pot and a Ming vase - it just doesn't feel right. Without any idea of how the Fierra came about, it's hard to imagine it. Without Well's comet gas or the high reaches of Shangri-La, it just rings false. I had a hard time passing that off as possible.

Also, in a closed society like Dome, when the final battle came and the rebels rise, Dome throws battalions of "Invisibles" (their secret shock troops) into battle. In a meek, closed society (literally under a dome) it's hard to imagine anyway of maintaining thousands and thousands of troops in battle-ready status. And as the battle rages, the Invisibles die enmass and I'm left thinking, Where are all these guys coming from? Still, the end of the book was enjoyable and it didn't quite go where I thought it was so there was that. Yes, just old eighties scifi with a little utopic moralizing, and fun action, and a lot of mind-bending mental games. A good enough read which will likely go back into the book box shortly, there to stay until I turn 90 and forget it all a third time.

>>>EARLY RETYRMENT I STILL REMEMBERER LIKE I WROTE IT ONLY YESTERDAY. BUT FIRE AND BRONZE, I'VE FORGOTTEN BIG PARTS. I MIGHTNEED TO READ IT AGAIN. IF YOU'D LIKE TO, FOLLOW THIS LINK TO THE GIFT SHOP!<<<

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2016 14:39
 
The Story of the Treasure Seekers (Audio Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 09 October 2016 00:00

nother audio book to while away the excel auditing hours, this time from a story written by Edith Nesbit. She wrote The Railway Children, a story of children with pluck which I enjoyed (but alas, which I read long before I’d gotten into the review-blog business). And this one is also of pluckish children but written before, well back in 1899.

So we’ve a largely offscreen father whose children (Dora, Oswald, Dicky, Alice, Noel, and H.O. (Horace Octavius)) (who seem a little overkeen on adventure books) attempt to win back the family fortunes of the Bastables (which, I need to say, is an excellent name for heroes, but perhaps not for plucky children. Where did Edith come up with this?). They are clearly poor; their father struggling with a failing business and their mother passed on. Food is scarce, money moreso. They no longer can afford to go to school. So home they stay, with imaginations burning. Their wish is to elevate themselves out of poverty (not as a blunt mission statement, no. Rather, they wish to seek treasure).

And that’s largely the story – each chapter delineating their quests. For each is a misunderstanding of the real world. Yet around them are kindly people, ones who don’t just give dirty orphans a handout but rather ones who treat them as little adults, playing along with their games and further fueling their fantasies. There is one fellow (known as Mr. Burglar), apprehended in the middle of a supposed break in. This fellow gives them his word of honor he will not attempt to escape, and regales the children with stories of his past efforts in crime (including, fantastically, the captain of a pirate ship). But then a real burglar attempts to break in that the story takes a charming turn.

And that’s this book. The children with their hijinks, making a go at every method of wealth and getting nowhere. And the adults around them (I dearly loved Albert’s Uncle next door over), operating gamely in their make-believe worlds. And on it goes, misunderstanding and calamity, with people being assaulted by youthful highwaymen on the heath, with attempts to start newspapers and produce medicines, all wrapped up in the childlike innocence that lends an air of magic to depressing poverty. Of course, in the end, yet another misinterpretation of the facts permit the children to shine on just the right fellow at exactly just the right time, bringing about comfort and rising fortune and a happy ending all around. Silly, yes, but I liked it.

I was a little reluctant to begin this one. The text was read by one Karen Savage from Waco, Texas – what sort of rootin’-tootin’ cowgirl would this be? But Ms. Savage was a prim and proper English accent, one that lent itself perfectly to the effort. It helped to bring the air of the tale across in perfect fashion. For, mom and dads, you might want to pull down these audio files and let your kiddies get their storytimes from your tablet for the next week or so.

And for the rest of you, by all means, listen to this book. It’s pure delight.

You can get it HERE.

>>>SOMEDAY EARLY RETIREMENT MIGHT BECOME AN AUDIO BOOK. I WONDER WHO WOULD DO THE VOICE OF MASON TRELLIS. MY PERSONAL PICK – MICHAEL J. FOX. AN AUTHOR CAN DREAM, CAN’T HE?<<<

P.S. Interesting closing note - I thought one of the childrens' names had sounded familiar. Of course, Oswald Bastable was the hero of Michael Moorcock's Warlord of the Air trilogy. Interestingly, he picked the name because Ms. Nesbit was also a founding member of a society with aims to bring socialism non-violently into the mainstream. As his book was about neo-colonialism run amok, he did so as a tip of the hat to her. But seriously, I think it was just becuase it was one bitchin' name!

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2016 13:31
 
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