четвер, 8 лютого 2018 р.

MFT: That awkward moment out of context

This is a page from "Alice Grove" web-comic by Jeph Jacques. It occurs near the very end of a story as a transition to a definite conclusion. On this page you can see a woman dressed in white skin-tight suit standing in a nondescript place. Over the course six panels she breaks down in hysterical laughter. Background fades to white while she is laughing. By the end of the page she is out of breath exhausted, standing on her knees trying to catch a break in the middle of nowhere. 

I won't give any context for this page because it works perfectly fine without it. This page is very different from everything else in this web-comic. It is completely independent thing-in-itself. It makes a story of its own. The story of a particular moment when the levee breaks and the gut just snaps and it all rushes over. There is no narrative in this story - it merely takes out one particular moment. 

Lack of beginning and end makes this page a fine example of Camus existentialist schtick performed in impressionist manner. As middle without proper start or finish - it is rather thought-provoking piece. You don't need the background to get its point. We all had moments like these: when we just break for a moment. And this abrupt moment of rushing into clarity is often cathartic.

пʼятниця, 2 лютого 2018 р.

My Favorite Things: Hawkman vol.3 #27 cover

This is a cover for issue 27 of third volume of Hawkman comic. It contains everything you need to know about the character. Which - there are multiple versions of the character and it is extremely complicated. It should be noted that i was looking for the cover of #27 for a longer period of time than i was writing this post.

четвер, 1 лютого 2018 р.

The Best Thing about DC Zero Hour: Crisis in Time

Superhero comics are extremely incoherent. That is the fact. There are no two ways about it. You either live with that or ignore it or try to convince yourself it can be somehow fixed. 

There is a reason for incoherence - let's call it elaborately unfortunate "too many cooks" and "anywhere the wind blows". All these magnificent continuity mistakes, laps of logic, aesthetic inconsistencies, downright narrative contrivances and astounding bouts of cognitive dissonance on every turn - it is pointless to try to make any straightforward sense of it. Traditional rules of narrative are not applied to superhero comics. They can work in the genre but it will make things less interesting - it will leave out one vital element of the genre. 

Superhero comics are not just the stories, they are also documents of certain moments in time when certain decisions were made. Those decisions bleed into the stories. Every stupid thing has a history - someone thought it was a good idea that was beneficial for the business. In the long run it might have been proven otherwise but it is still there - ready to be reassessed. 

Since i've skipped fanboy phase of appreciating comics - i never really perceived continuity clusterfuck as a tragedy. That's why Piskor's "Grand Design" did nothing to me. Even more - after years of reading those increasingly incomprehensible stories - its inconsistency and incoherence had grown on me and soon became its favourite part. I'm leaning towards Grant Morrison's idea that everything is canon no matter what. 

It seems logical - those things were published thus they happened. It might be just bad or simply ridiculous - but it is just a work of fiction and you can turn in whatever direction you want. You can ignore it or you can acknowledge - you can do whatever you want. Nothing really matters in superhero comics except for what is next. 

That is why I never really understood the need to directly address issues with continuity and attempts to fix it inside the narrative. I think reasons behind it are more monetary than aesthetic. Sure, elaborate continuity clean-up provides intriguing narrative opportunities. But it is also extremely lucrative from a business standpoint. 

The following pages are from DC Comics crossover event "Zero Hour: Crisis in Time". It is sad sadness story about how great hero Green Lantern Hal Jordan had gone mad because of a tragedy caused by Superman Terminator Imposter (it's complicated) - his hometown and its citizens were obliterated. Out of sorrow he tried to fix things with his ring. But that is violation of Green Lantern's code of conduct - one can't use the ring for personal gains no matter what. After intense conversation with the higher-ups Jordan snapped and methodically destroyed entire Green Lantern Corps in order to gain enough power to fix things. It didn't worked out. So he united with Green Lantern Corps arch-nemesis and long-time battery Parallax and decided to erase entire universe and start over again. A lot of jumping, punching, screaming ensues. Fallen hero was defeated and gone for good until DC found a way to exploit Alan Moore's legacy even more than they already exploited. 

"Zero Hour" is appaling. It is awful. It is stupid. It doesn't make much sense. There are seeds of good story inside - but it was botched on every turn. There was never an intention to tell a story. It was always about fixing continuity issues with an elaborate swipe. 

But there are four pages that are perfect. They come near the end of the story. Jordan manages to pull his thing off and everything is seemingly gone. It is all blinding white now. There is nothing. It is obvious borrowing to John Byrne's "Alpha Flight" white issue but here it also serves as a glimpse at something that never happened. Jordan disappears in whiteness and after a while some abstract shapes turn up. That is something superhero comics never really tried. Sure there were some development in the 60's and 70's - Doctor Strange and Kirby's stuff comes to mind first but they never really went full-on abstract. But these four pages of a terrible forgettable comic actually go there for a moment. 

And then things return to terrible. But for a moment it is really beautiful.

понеділок, 29 січня 2018 р.

Bil Sabab Power Hour: Duran Duran - Violence of Summer

"Violence of Summer" is a song by british pop group Duran Duran. It was released in 1990 on their sixth album titled "Liberty". It is a bit of a dark horse in Duran Duran catalogue. The song got lost in the shuffle because it turned up in the wrong time and yet it is one of the most affecting songs in the bands body of work. There is this careless "whatever" feel that drives the song. It just doesn't care about anyone's opinion and rolls and rolls and rolls.

Sonically it is rather sophisticated heady mix. You can hear a lot of diverse influences mashed together seamlessly. First and foremost it is 60's bubblegum pop. The song starts off with stupefying piano intro before kicking into the main part which adds healthy dose of 80's New Romantic New Wave groove. The best way to describe it is snappy. High-pitched organ breaks are timeless - they stick in your head for a long time after listening to the song. Vocal melody is surprisingly distinct and memorable - to the point it doesn't matter what the words are doing there.

Which is interesting because lyrically "Violence of Summer" is beyond comprehension. Simon Le Bon is the master of delivering exquisite word salad that sounds just right in the song but evaporates upon further inspection outside of it. That's a skill you want to master. It is not that lyrics actually don't make any sense. They make, sort of - it is a song about a girl, whose edgy and cool and hangs out with bad boys and a pretty boy whose all nice and clean and just hangs around. They seem incompatible but a chance meeting at the party turns everything upside down inside out and backwards. And then they run away because "love's taking over".

It is typical teenage pop song. But somehow it just jumps out of it into something more subversive and abstract.

"Violence of Summer" was a lead single from an album that nothing to offer. "Liberty" was advertised as a throwback to classic sound after a couple of albums that experimented with new sounds and genres. Unfortunately it wasn't up the snuff for the most part. But "Violence of Summer" was top-notch. It is fair to say that it is the best song off the album. The problem is that there is not much competition. But it holds up pretty well compared to the hits.

середа, 24 січня 2018 р.

End Pages - the best thing about Ed Piskor's "X-Men: Grand Design"

I've been reading issues of Ed Piskor's "X-Men: Grand Design" recently. It is a nice project with noble aspirations - it tries to condense and make sense of five decades of X-Men history. Think about that - years of stories redesigned into one big thing with a throughline. Sounds intriguing, right? Marvel counts on that. They know people like and buy something that is actually readable - although, judging from their recent output, they tend to ignore that. Anyway - the concept is great. But that is about it.

The best thing about Ed Piskor's "X-Men: Grand Design" are the end pages where author lists all the sources he used in order to construct the story. That is really interesting part of the project. Because the story Piskor had contructed and the way it is told is rather ordinary and at times feels really contrived and forced. Essentially it is nothing more than a glorified rethread, a little bit more elaborate and inventive recap. It is middle of the road, nothing special, just barely good narrative that tries to make the least conflicted, universally accepted version of the story. Because of that it feels like a wasted opportunity.  

In some way "Grand Design" reminds me of John Byrne's Star Trek Photonovels - but unlike Piskor - Byrne is not doing rethreads, he forges new stories from the old parts.

The list is different thing. Because is not the thing - it is merely an inciting device, a catalyst for something else. It works on a different level.

Unlike the comic itself - the list of sources makes the case for imaginary collage. Something like "make your own story" "for imagination only". And that is something worth exploring. Because it is better than the book itself. It gives space to think and overthink and get bored - unconstrained by someone else's point of view. That is where the weirdness may come and thrive.  

Bullshit: Bullfight in 75 photos