Friday, November 21, 2014

Home Sweet Home

To be fair, if I was left home alone for a week, that is what my sink would look like too.

That's it for "Weird NJ".  Next week we have a handful of hilarity to tide us over until the next story starts and then, December first is the big day.  A new storyline and a first for this strip.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

New Comic Review: The Almighties #0

We are going to take a slight detour from the Guardians of the Galaxy this week and look at a new comic from Actuality Press that may ring a few bells.  Next week we'll get back to our retro review of the space-travelling heroes.

                A while back, Sam Johnson, creator of The Almighties, asked me to review The Almighties#1 as well as Geek-Girl and Mr. Mash-Up #0.  He recently contacted me as The Almighties are back with a Zero Issue!  While I was not super impressed with issue #1, let’s see how issue zero shakes out.  But first, the official stuff from Sam himself:

The Almighties #0 is out now - along with a chance for newcomers to catch up on the team's debut adventure in The Almighties #1 new Limited Variant Edition – both available at www.actualitypress.com

Cover:
                Artistically, the cover is better than that of issue 1 in my opinion.  While it is still a team shot, the overall drawing is much better this time around.  Though the “team” concept seems a bit fractured as no one looks happy or very trusting of one another.  Regardless, Juan Ramirez does a decent job of drawing each character, and the inking and coloring just add to the quality of the illustration.  I really enjoy the clarity of the Almighties logo as well.  It is instantly iconic and something that should remain relatively unchanged, regardless of the media that the Almighties may inhabit in the future.

8/10

Writing:
                Despite the fact that this is a zero issue, the events actually take place after those of issue one.  The first thing we get is an abbreviated origin of Maxi-Tron (I’m sorry Sam, I can’t read that name without thinking of Maxi-Pad).  I’m not really sure where that fits in the grand scheme of things, but I am always down for a good origin story.  Johnson does a good job of managing a multitude of artists by giving each one of them a specific story to tell.  Some are more successful than others, but the fact that he splits the art duties up in this way helps to ensure that there isn’t a strange and abrupt transition between pages, it all feels more natural.  Johnson also does a good job with the issue as a whole.  By utilizing the tried and true “tell me about your teammates” way of storytelling, we are able to learn the origins of the various members of the team in a more natural manner.  While this way of doing this is far from revelatory, the fact that Johnson doesn’t take the easy way out of just telling the origins shows that he has thought about the book and how he wants it to flow. 

                Unfortunately, most of the meat and potatoes of the stories themselves aren’t great.  Nite Fang’s story (written by Mike Gagnon) doesn’t really do much besides tell us that he was a jerk that was bitten by a werewolf.  There is very little backstory contained in those two pages that would make us really care about the character.  The Ms. F story, while not really an origin, is just…odd.  The dialogue is a bit unbelievable.  It’s almost like he’s trying to make it conversational, like how real people talk, but it comes out a bit forced.  The origin of Mason is two panels and a bunch of dialogue, again, not really making me care too much about the character.  That’s the problem.  In an issue that is supposed to be a re-introduction of the characters, we don’t really wind up caring too much about any of them.

                This takes us to the new character, Wayne Winston.  The fact that his origin story takes up so much space is a blessing and a curse.  While it causes me to start to care about him as a character, it shows what Johnson could have done with the other characters.  The final story revolves around Stefanos.  After an odd introduction to his character (something tells me getting a blowjob behind the counter of your restaurant violates all sorts of health codes), President Obama comes in to offer an opportunity to Stefanos.  In issue one, Agent Coleslaw is killed in the big fight at the conclusion of the book.  Obama wants Stefanos to go back in time, using a cosmic cube with a reset button (seriously?) on it and prevent this from happening.  Stefanos accepts the mission, goes back in time, and fails miserably at his assignment. 

                At first, I thought it was silly to even have him go back in time if he was going to fail, then I thought, you know what, showing that the superhero doesn’t always save the day isn’t a terrible thing.  Then, when I saw how Johnson ended the story, I not only understood why he wrote it the way he did, but I disliked it even more.  By going back in time, Stefanos upset the timestream enough to get George W. Bush elected to a third term.  Hardy har har…  That’s some low hanging fruit you’re picking with that one.  It’s neither original or funny, unfortunately.  IN all honesty, instead of going for the easy joke, he could have spent those extra pages filling out the origin stories of the Almighties.

5/10 – While the way the story is told is good, the content, be it the actual stories themselves or the way they are written (sometimes I don’t know if Johnson is trying to write a specific dialect or if he just forgot to proofread) is not up to par.

Art:
                The only thing I can say, is that if Juan Ramirez had drawn the whole book, it may have pulled everything together and made up for some of the glaring weaknesses in the script.  Unfortunately, while the art is not terrible, it is not inspiring at all.  While I do like the cartoonier art of Graham Pearce’s contribution, that is unfortunately the highlight of a lengthy book.  Pearce does a decent job in his storytelling as well.  In fact, most of the storytelling is good throughout the book, it’s just the general artwork itself that doesn’t hold a lot of appeal for me.  Could it be a matter of taste?  Sure.  I will say though, the lettering is dicey throughout.  There are many times I had to read things multiple times as they were unclear the first time around (something you never want to have to do). 

                I will say this though, the drawing of Bush at the end of the issue is pretty spot on.

5/10 – No one is winning any awards here, but they put a lot of work into the book and it shows.  They should be commended for their efforts even if the results weren’t perfect.


Overall:  5/10 – Even if I saw this book on the shelf in a comic shop and picked it up, I probably wouldn’t have bought it based on the art.  After reading it, there are some good things here, there’s the seed of competent storytelling and a couple funny moments.  But it was mightily inconsistent.  I am looking forward to the further adventures of Geek-Girl though, as I enjoyed that book.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Album Review: AC/DC – Flick of the Switch (1983)

Overview: 
Flick of the Switch definitely follows in the pattern of the last two albums that featured Brian Johnson at the helm.  There is nothing wrong with this as it is still a competent album full of instantly recognizable AC/DC songs.  This album was not met with much acclaim as people at the time were getting tired of the fact that AC/DC’s discography felt like one big album.  I tend to like this album though as I feel it has more hidden gems on it than the other albums from this era that had massive radio airplay.

Tracks you may know: 
Nervous Shakedown – There were not too many songs from this album that the public gravitated to, but this was one of them.  It is more of the same, a traditional AC/DC track.

Tracks you should know:
Landlside – It opens with a very Ted Nugent-ish guitar part and then just barrels full speed ahead through the rest of the song.  Not a terrific song by any means by the speed at which it is played harkens back to songs like “Rocker” from the Bon Scott days.

Bedlam in Belgium – Yet again, another AC/DC song that sounds like the rest of the AC/DC songs.  This is a good one though, I love the guitar riff on this and Brian Johnson’s voice is absolutely one of a kind.

My personal favorite:
Badlands – Does it kind of sound like “Bedlam in Belgium”? Sure.  Is it still a good track?  Absolutely.  

Album rating: 
I can see why fans and critics alike were growing tired of the AC/DC sound.  I, however, enjoyed the fact that this album received so little fanfare that many of the tracks were ones I had never heard before. 


6/10

Monday, November 17, 2014

What's in a Name

After seeing Greystone firsthand, I can't imagine it was just the name that provided the gloom.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Little Different

The things you had to do to be committed to a mental hospital back in Greystone's heyday were ridiculous.  Things that are celebrated nowadays, like being homosexual, would get you a one way ticket to Greystone or a similar institution.  

The picture above does very little to really illustrate the majesty and architectural beauty of Greystone as a whole.  Unfortunately, Greystone as we know it has been torn down and a more modern facility was erected on the grounds.  The building in the picture above was the last major building standing and the last building in use before 
it too was abandoned.  

Seriously, if you want to see beautiful architecture and what the ravages of time can do to that architecture, 
just Google Greystone.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Not so New Comic Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (1991) #54

                Everything we have learned to this point about the War of the Worlds has involved a huge hole where the fate of Spiderman is concerned.  Even the definitive War of the Worlds story, the three-parter that took place between issue fifty, Galactic Guardians number one and the fourth annual was vague as to what definitively happened to Spider-Man as his body was apparently taken back to Mars.  The cover of this issue shows Spider-Man’s costume.  Does this mean Spidey himself is alive and well on Mars?  I doubt it, it’s been 1000 years, but they sure as shit will let us believe anything in order to buy the book. 

                The good news here is that Scott Eaton is back as guest penciller.  While Kevin West was good at what he did, having a fresh “voice” for the artwork has been a nice change of pace.  We open on Mars, where the Guardians are about to enter the airspace of a planet that has been quarantined since the attack on Earth.  In order to enforce that Quarantine, Sentinels (the old X-Men villains) have been dispatched to watch over the planet and prevent any interference.  They are an old, outdated technology though and are easily dispatched by the Guardians.  Gallagher tries to build up tension, and drags out the fight, but once you hear Vance say to the crew that Sentinel technology is “outdated” you know the outcome. 

                Vance and Talon get into yet another fight, one that Nikki breaks up, leading to one of the weirdest looking panels I have seen in this comic, then we get another account of the War of the Worlds (hooray!)  After that we head down to Mars where Ripjak has seen all of this unfold, even though the Guardians had their ship cloaked the whole time.  The Guardians teleport down to the surface of Mars and immediately see a museum of sorts and begin to look around.  It is a museum of the war, complete with  the costumes and armor of Earth’s fallen heroes.  Vance sees Captain America’s mask and gets all fanboyish.  He opens the container housing the mask in order to take it and it disintegrates.   Let’s get this straight, Vance is on the search for an interplanetary serial killer, someone that has not just killed people, but committed mass genocide, and Vance Astro is more concerned with antiquing.  God damn I hate this character. 

                We see the Guardians going through more of the museum, complete with videos of the attack, until they stumble upon Spider-Man’s costume.  They are also greeted by a sarcophagus emblazoned with Spider-Man’s face.  Apparently the Martians were so taken aback by Spidey fighting them till the bitter end that they had his body enshrined after his death.  They then removed his body from the sarcophagus because the scientists were attempting to create antibodies from his blood to counteract a plague sweeping through their planet. 

                As you ruminate on that nugget of history, we are transported to deep space, where Starhawk begins his quest to learn who is true parents are. 

                Back on Mars, Talon and Vance get into another argument (enough Gallagher, we get it, they don’t like each other) and Talon, Aleta and Yondu split from the rest of the group to go and find Ripjak.  We end the issue with Ripjak welcoming their arrival, and their death.


Next Issue: Hopefully someone dies, or at least Talon and Vance stop acting like little bitches, and can we please hear about the War of the Worlds again!?