Archive for May 31, 2011

Music Time: Wild Beasts – “End Come Too Soon”

May 31, 2011

Wild Beasts – “End Come Too Soon”

The lyrics to this song really couldn’t be simpler. With haiku-like precision, Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto sketches a succession of rapturous nights with a lover, all of which head inexorably to the same conclusion: the end, come too soon. That premature end — the ends of things we wish would never end are always premature — ends up overshadowing all that came before, so that where Thorpe started by singing of “blessed” and “divine” nights, he ends by saying “your skin looked waxen in the fading light.” Loss, whether through death or separation, colors everything in the same dreary gray. Once that point is reached, the music’s gently pulsing beat and cooing backing vocals take a break, as do the high plucked guitar notes and endlessly cycling piano, giving way to ambiguous electronic tones. It’s as if the band collectively pauses, draws a breath, and then lets it all out in an enormous wave of grief embodied by Thorpe’s wordless, repetitive cry, the highest and loudest notes he hits in the whole song, sung over and over again. He ends by repeating the title phrase over and over and over as well, eventually just shortening it to “too soon, too soon, too soon,” like it’s all he can think to say. As the finale of the band’s astonishingly cerebral, subtle, sensual, and controlled new album Smother, it’s an overwhelming moment of anti-catharsis, and it gets my vote for song of the year so far.

DC thoughts

May 31, 2011

I almost titled this something silly like “DC Thawtz,” because it turns out I don’t have many that aren’t obvious to everyone, most likely.

So to restate the news, DC is relaunching its entire superhero line with 52 brand new #1 issues in September. From those issues forward, its comics will be released digitally the same day they hit shops. DC’s superhero continuity will be rebooted, with some characters receiving minor tweaks, some getting major overhauls, and some getting erased entirely.

Cons: This risks alienating DC’s existing fanbase, arguably the most continuity-devoted in all of comics; it risks alienating DC’s retail partners, who I believe have historically viewed DC as the friendlier of the Big Two and who now have to simultaneously weather 52 unknown quantities coming at them at once and the advent of line-wide day-and-date digital all within the same month, all from the publisher they used to count on as being solidly in their corner; it will likely tax DC’s creative talent, who apart from Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison have a mixed record at best when it comes to translating their ideas into sales; it risks violating the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” maxim on DC’s sales successes like Green Lantern and Batman Incorporated, which not coincidentally are written by Johns and Morrison respectively; some of the move’s proclaimed creative tentpoles, such as tying the stories more tightly to real-world concerns and the debut of new costumes designed by Jim Lee, an artist famous for many things none of which are costume design, are less than promising.

Pros: On the other hand, it could mean an infusion of new blood and new approaches, if the DC’s talent recruiters are up to the task and if the publisher takes advantage of the vast number of series it will be publishing to experiment a bit; it marks a bold break from Direct Market retailers, the eggshells on which publishers have historically walked when exploring digital publishing avenues regardless of those avenues’ merits; it undoubtedly will give DC brass a short-term “We’re Number One!” boost of the sort their higher-ups will be happy to see; if any of it sticks at all, it could give DC the trendsetter mojo so necessary to maintain fannish attention in an era where all stories must be seen to “matter.”

Personally I think the day-and-date element is undervalued, not in terms of it being a bigger deal than the overall relaunch effort, but simply in terms of what it might mean for sales and revenue. The off-the-record anecdotes I’ve heard from the Big Two suggest that making comics available in this way is like backing up the money truck to the lobby doors and dumping away, with minimal expenditure on the publishers’ end. Moreover, if the lack of coverage of vast swathes of America with no conveniently located comics shop is a problem you think is important, well, problem solved.

The most important question to me is “Will this yield more good comics?”, and on that and many other issues, you pretty much have to reserve judgment until the 52 creative teams (!) are revealed. In 2010, DC’s top 26 bestselling books were all written by either Johns or Morrison, and despite (say) critical plaudits for Paul Cornell on Action Comics or Scott Snyder’s steady sales increases on Detective Comics or David Finch’s huge-selling but seemingly abortive writer-artist run on Batman: The Dark Knight, none of their creators have made significant inroads toward reaching that level. We’ll see who DC brings aboard, who they reshuffle, and how many of the marquee titles have Grant and Geoff behind them. Only then will we get a sense of how successful this bold move will be.

The Most Wanted Man

May 31, 2011

Page ten of “Destructor and the Lady” has been posted.

Carnival of souls: DC relaunches, Hobbit release dates, various bits of good writing, more

May 31, 2011

* The rumors (which weren’t so much rumors as they were lots of people knowing exactly what was going to happen and talking about it privately but not being able to say so publicly just yet) are true: DC is scrapping, re-numbering, and relaunching its entire superhero line, launching fully 50 different #1 issues in September. What’s more, the entire line will go day-and-date digital, with digital versions of the books going on sale the same day as their print counterparts. Much more on this anon.

* The two Hobbit movies, subtitled An Unexpected Journey and There and Back Again, will be released in December 14, 2012 and December 13, 2013 respectively. See you there opening night.

* Ed Brubaker on superheroes, violence, and closure — one of the most interesting things I’ve read about superhero comics in a long time, from Tom Spurgeon’s very interesting interview with the writer.

* Bruce Baugh on John Carpenter’s The Thing:

Third, there’s a useful lesson in plotting in this story. You absolutely don’t have to nail down everything for it to feel like a tight, connected whole if you give the audience—or players—enough solid points for them to stand on while speculating about the rest. In the case of the Thing’s subversion of the various station members, we can tell with great confidence when some happened, and even get to see some right on screen. Others we can only wonder about. And that’s fine. Players often like to chew over the unresolved questions, if it doesn’t all just feel like an exercise in futility.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this sort of thing, about questions left unanswered by various genre fictions, and how sometimes those un-answers remain a huge part of the work’s appeal years later while other times they’re the reason we rarely return to it, all in the context of how Twin Peaks seems to be a case of the former while it’s still unknown what side Lost will eventually fall on. I think it has to do with…I guess I’d call it a matter of “full absences” versus “empty absences”? You want a given absence of information to feel like it’s full of information that for whatever reason you can’t see, rather than just a gaping hole where information should be, but I’m not sure if I can nail down what the difference would be other than “I know it when I (don’t) see it.” I need to hash that out some more.

* This is exactly why I keep Corey Blake in my RSS reader: Here he’s collected links to all of my Robot 6 colleague Chris Mautner’s “Comics College” columns, which offer advice to newcomers on where to begin with the work of the great cartoonists.

* I wish there were an apostrophe after the author’s last name–that would make the title of Michael Kupperman’s next book even funnier.

* Ta-Nehisi Coates was in fine form today. First he coined the phrase “the fiscally fantastic” to describe fiction about the extravagantly carefree wealthy. My wife and I were talking about this just this past weekend, in reference to how Frasier, despite being more consistent over the course of its however-many seasons than its predecessor Cheers and the similarly ubiquitous-in-syndication sitcom Roseanne, really doesn’t hold a candle to either one. In the end, stories about Roseanne‘s nuclear family of working poor and Cheers‘ adopted family of three-time losers feel more inherently…I dunno, worth telling than the travails of the Brothers Crane as they try to balance failed romances with getting time on the squash court, drinking aged scotch and fine wines, and snagging season tickets for Seattle’s most expensive cultural attractions. I know I’ve also gotten kind of tired of movies about billionaire vigilantes and rich young beautiful urban professionals who learn something about life and laughs and love.

* Then there’s this piece on why male readers should read women writers. Basically, Rooney Ruling yourself to account for gender opens you up to the output of over half of the human population, which can only redound to your benefit compared to sticking just to the Y-chromosome set:

This is not a favor to feminists. This is not about how to pick up chicks. This is about hunger, greed and acquisition. Do not read books by women to murder your inner sexist pig. Do it because Edith Wharton can fucking write. It’s that simple.

I think it’s worth murdering your inner sexist pig, but yes. One thing that the “eat your vegetables” metaphor for doing less-than-immediately-easy things undervalues is that when you eat your vegetables it’s not that the only benefit is that you’ve satisfied your mom and dad, you’re also getting vital nutrients necessary to stay alive. Plus, broccoli is delicious. You know?

* It’s been great to see Brian Hibbs, Graeme McMillan, and Jeff Lester — the Big Three of the fractured Justice League that is The Savage Critic(s) — return to regular capsule-review writing. You should go and browse through the past several weeks of entries, but for now let me direct you to Jeff’s most recent contribution, which contains this beautiful bit of writing on Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy:

By [the ’50s], it feels like every character has turned grotesque, and every object requires an arrowed caption to label it, a paranoid’s world where nothing can be dismissed.

Ooftah, that last bit is good.

* Though I think Nitsuh Abebe is being too hard on Lady Gaga, who’s a better pop star than we deserve, and that he ultimately stops short of where he could have gone with his argument that provocation and “being yourself” are value-neutral concepts — that’s as may be, but surely we could look at the actual form these things have taken with, say, Odd Future and Lady Gaga and evaluate their respective value, no? — the rest of his column on the message of Born This Way is so stuffed with great ideas, expertly delivered, that I hardly know where to begin excerpting it. But here’s a start: “Aren’t ‘be yourself’ and ‘be what you want to be’ totally different instructions?” That’s an underexplored aspect of Gaga’s persona. “Born This Way” — what if you weren’t? Her embrace of artifice is so complete that it’s odd to think of how she’s simultaneously arguing for the primacy of personal authenticity.

* Some sweet, He-Man-cartoon-reffing fanart for Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit by Marc Palm.

* This looks like sketches for a new Uno Moralez comic.

* Always good to see a new Ben Katchor strip.

Game of Thrones thoughts: Season One, Episode Seven – NON-SPOILERY EDITION

May 30, 2011

SPOILERS FOR THE SHOW, NO SPOILERS FOR THE BOOKS – If you haven’t read the books, you can still read this. Crossposted from the spoilery edition at All Leather Must Be Boiled.

* Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister brings a certain steely intensity to the role, which granted isn’t super-tough when you’re introduced as you butcher a stag. (I’d bust the show’s chops for laying the symbolism on a little thick, but as a Law & Order judge might have said to George R.R. Martin when he kicked things off with a stag and direwolf killing each other, “You opened the door, counselor.”) As far as new scenes go it was a fine one in that it allowed Tywin to advance an alternate system of morality to the one espoused by Ned: Since your house is all that will last, it’s all that matters. It also enabled Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to make Jaime look like a frightened, wide-eyed little boy around dear old dad, which did more to convey the man’s menace than skinning a dead animal did.

* It’s a shame that the “sexposition” technique the show uses to convey backstory while someone gets their tits out has worn out its welcome by now, because Littlefinger’s turn with this technique was its best and most appropriate use so far. If anyone is in a position to coach people on how to lie for a living, it’s Littlefinger. And even if you strip away the extra layers of meaning, his little walk-through of the thought process by which johns delude themselves into think they’re the one who finally showed this whore the time of her life was simply a well-done bit of writing on the subject.

* Moreover, the filmmakers cleverly set up some echoes of American Psycho’s similarly staged threesome (“Play with her arse” is the new “don’t just look at it, eat it”) to convey the idea that Littlefinger is concealing something vicious under his mask of smarm. Littlefinger unnerves me more and more the more I think about him, so the flat beady-eyed way he said he wanted “Oh, everything” got under my skin.

* And on a practical level, I feel like his monologue sold me on the apparent age difference forced by the casting of TV-Petyr and TV-Catelyn-and-Lysa versus how those women were portrayed in the books. I buy Littlefinger as a just-into-puberty kid when he first fell for Catelyn, who by then was an older teen.

* You know, I’m a bit surprised that Robert’s fatal run-in with the boar was kept off screen. I thought they might show it, because I could think of some fun and dramatic ways to stage it. Perhaps it was best to keep it off screen, though, since that’s how most of our major players experienced it.

* Wow, Ser Barristan’s life is really not working out the way he thought it would, is it?

* It occurred to me in thinking about the Dothraki in light of the many complaints about their portrayal here that they and all the other “foreign” (i.e. non-Westerosi) cultures in the series have the disadvantage of archaiac and idiomatically different speech patterns above and beyond any other problems they have. It’s hard to think of anyone from across the Narrow Sea as a normal person when they talk funny, you know? So Khal Drogo’s little “let’s braid each other’s hair and talk about invading Westeros” chat with Daenerys went a long way toward humanizing him. He wasn’t quite speaking regular conversational English (via subtitles), but he was given the opportunity to banter and smile and be warm and even correct his wife’s linguistic muff-up. It reminded me a bit of the scene several episodes ago when Dany’s handmaiden and bodyguard sat around jawing with Jorah. It made them feel like people rather than props.

* I’d imagine that for some people, Drogo’s big declaration of war came off a bit too much like a locker room pep talk, but I bought it. It looked and felt like a guy fanning the flames of his own perfectly understandable anger about someone picking on his special lady in order to psych himself into doing something extravagantly dangerous, dangerous enough to feel commensurate with the underlying anger. (Loved the gratitude on Dany’s face, too.)

* Some funky shooting here and there in this episode, no? I didn’t think that POV shot of Cersei approaching Ned and looking down at him with the sun behind her worked. I was a bit more favorably disposed toward the tight close-ups during the wine merchant scene.

* As everyone I’ve read about this episode has said, the Wall scenes trod familiar territory: Jon is simultaneously arrogant and self-pitying until someone points out how good he really has it. Honestly, Jon simply has less to do during the first book than any of the other main characters, so the filmmakers are up against it if they want to keep showing him to us. That said, man, the Wall is well cast. Thorne, Sam, the Old Bear, and Maester Aemon look and act pretty much exactly how they ought to.

* I said this last week, and if anything it was even truer this week: Seeing Sean Bean hobble around with a cane and stooped shoulders and a pained look on his face amid more vital characters ranging from Renly to Joffrey shouts “This dude’s in serious trouble” a lot louder than simple prose could.

* I wonder: If Ned had gone along with Littlefinger’s suggestion to back Joffrey with an eye toward installing Renly eventually, would Littlefinger still have betrayed him?

* It was nice to see the Hound in action in full regalia, however briefly. Without his menacing origin-story speech to Sansa to go on (in the show it was delivered by Littlefinger instead), I’m not sure that viewers will get the message that the Hound’s the scariest motherfucker in King’s Landing.

* Ned’s long walk toward the Iron Throne, his forces arrayed against Cersei’s, was wonderfully done — it looked for all the world like the making of a stand-off, and then surprise! It’s a massacre.

Comics Time: SF #1

May 30, 2011

SF #1
Ryan Cecil Smith, writer/artist
Closed Caption Comics, May 2011
36 pages
Buy it from Ryan Cecil Smith

I know, I know, “Physician, heal thyself,” but I was skeptical of the need for another altcomix take on space opera. Closed Caption Comics member Ryan Cecil Smith is at his best when he’s riding his preoccupations into uncharted territory, be it his high-camp horror-manga riff Two Eyes of the Beautiful or his wild “bicycling action as you like it!” adventure “Koshien: Impossible.” But anthorpomorphic alien races, laser guns, intergalactic law enforcement agencies, worldbuilding, and knowingly arch dialogue are a commonplace even in revisionist circles. Would Smith bring enough new ingredients to the table to get me to eat it? I needn’t have worried. Taking advantage of a larger trim size and pretty high quality printing for a minicomic, SF gives Smith an expansive canvas on which to deploy a take on sci-fi swashbuckling that’s…quietly silly, if that’s even possible. His line feels light and frothy here, a fluid thing that flows along with the propulsive action sequences (a shootout in a hospital is particularly bombastically staged) and the charming character designs (aliens variously evoke the creature-people of Lewis Trondheim, James Kochalka, and Chris Wright, while our hero Ace of the Space Fleet Scientific Foundation Special Forces has a giant mountain of hair that wouldn’t look out of place in Dragonball-Z, a demeanor akin to one of Naoki Urasawa’s indefatigable ultra-awesome do-gooder detectives, and a laser gun that would give that dude from Berserk and his sword a run for their collective money on any Freudian analyst’s couch.) Zipatone-style shading gives the art dimension while obviating the need for Smith to vary his lineweight overmuch and thus lose some of its elegance. And as simplistic as it is, the story even manages to be engaging, with its tale of a boy orphaned by terrorist space pirates and taken under the wing of the galaxy’s greatest gang of good guys — if I didn’t have this exact fantasy while in grade school, I had one so similar that it hardly makes a difference. Surely the mark of a successful exercise in genre is that whatever pleasure the reader derives from seeing generic tropes exploited or subverted places second behind simply wanting to see what happens next. That’s where I’m at with this one.

Carnival of souls: Special “enjoy your weekend with some links I’m posting at 11pm on a Friday night” edition

May 27, 2011

* Is Green Lantern the psychedelic superhero movie we’ve been waiting for?

* Dave McKean’s new sex comic Celluloid looks lovely,

* I thought this was kind of neat: There are so many Marvel writers located in Portland that for the company’s latest creative summit, the New York-based editorial staff flew there instead of the other way around.

* Here’s an excellent critique of Chester Brown’s Paying For It by Douglas Wolk that echoes many of the thoughts and complaints I had about it. Douglas is harder than I am on Brown’s cartooning here, though, which is as beautiful as ever.

* Buy some Zach Hazard Vaupen originals and prints and comics and help him pay his rent!

* TJ Dietsch on Grant Morrison’s JLA and its lessons for superhero team books:

Morrison didn’t put the team together by having our heroes looking at pictures and weighing their options or all meeting up by happenstance and deciding to join forces, THEY WERE JUST THERE! I’d like those potential super hero team writers to take note of this too. We don’t need to see how the team is put together. It’s boring. Just put them together and if questions arise (or better yet, if mysteries abound) answer them as you go. I don’t want to see how next season’s Steelers come together, I want to see them play football!

* Trent Reznor and Karen O. covering Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”? Oh, indeed. Actually, who cares about Karen O., it’s Trent Reznor covering Led Zeppelin, a prospect that would thrill me equally at any time between now and about 1992.

* Missed it somehow, but Dan Nadel catches that Fantagraphics is publishing some Guy Peellaert graphic novels. Peellaert is best known (to me anyway) as the guy who painted the cover for David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs.

* Ben Morse and Kiel Phegley dig into the series finale of Smallville. I watched the last 20 minutes or so, making that the first 20 minutes of Smallville I ever watched; Darkseid possessed John Glover and was killed by a montage, and the part of 10 years of audience expectations vis a vis Tom Welling in a Superman suit was played by a tiny CGI man in the sky.

* Real Life Horror: Jared Loughner, the man who killed six and injured 12 during an attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was found legally insane. I wanted to point that out since the day it happened I jumped to the conclusion that the shooting was politically motivated, and I was wrong.

* Bruce Baugh on Victor Frankenstein and genius youth.

Comics Time: Mister Wonderful

May 27, 2011

Mister Wonderful
Daniel Clowes, writer/artist
Pantheon, April 2011
80 pages, hardcover
Buy it from

Oddly enough for a book that numbers among his most accessible — brief, funny, light, with an ending that doesn’t make you want to throw yourself out a window — Mister Wonderful really works best if you’ve read enough Daniel Clowes to realize just how different it is. When you’ve met Andy the Death-Ray and Wilson, our main character Marshall seems like a pussycat even at his most judgmental or self-lacerating. When you’ve experienced the bleak, paranoid claustrophobia of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron or David Boring, or for that matter the misanthropic rant-based humor of “Sports” or “Art School Confidential,” a rom-com/comedy of discomfort mash-up feels all the more sunny and breezy even at its blackest. When you’ve read comics assembled from individual strips drawn in a multiplicity of styles like Ice Haven or The Death-Ray or Wilson, both Mister Wonderful‘s original “Tune in next week, same Clowes-time, same Clowes-channel!” incarnation as a serialized strip in The New York Times Magazine and its re-cut, re-edited, expanded, much less punchline and cliffhanger dependent reincarnation here come across like a study in stylistic and storytelling economy. When you’ve seen how much mileage Clowes gets out of the cramped feel of his pages and the studied ugliness of their contents — even at their prettiest his comics have the uncomfortable, slightly awkward feeling of wearing a suit that’s a size or two too small — watching him blow out images to sprawl across both pages of a loooooong horizontal spread is a glorious thing indeed, infusing the images so selected with emotional power, whatever emotion it happens to be at the time. And when you’ve seen Ghost World‘s seemingly optimistic yet decidedly ambiguous ending, Mister Wonderful‘s denouement becomes all the more notable, both for its similarities (a bench figures prominently in both) and its differences (Ghost World‘s bench is empty, Mister Wonderful occupied and shared). It’s the differences that make all the difference.

Click here for an interview I conducted with Clowes about the book.

Music Time: Friendly Fires – “Hawaiian Air”

May 26, 2011

Friendly Fires
“Hawaiian Air”
from Pala
XL, May 2011
Download it from

I’m not a lyrics person, not up front anyway — my initial experiences with a song are almost always going to be solely music-based, perhaps with an assist from the song title. So when I arrived at this standout track off the second album from the shiny-sounding English dance/rock group Friendly Fires, saw the title, heard the galloping beat and the soaring synth wash during the chorus and that little birdlike noise that keeps repeating, I figured “Okay, cool, it’s a song about being in Hawaii and being awed and amazed by the beauty of it all.” Everyone loves a good “transformed by the beauty of my vacation destination” song (what’s up, “Tahitian Moon”?) especially one with as openly hedonistic a beat as this one, so hey, no problems here. Then I finally listened to the record enough to pay attention to those lyrics, and lo and behold, singer Ed McFarlane never gets off the plane. He’s not singing about the water and the volcanos and the trees and the hula and such, he’s singing about feeling someone’s knees in his back and getting stuck in his seat due to turbulence and “watching a film with at talking dog.” The “Hawaiian Air” of the title isn’t the oxygen, it’s the airline. The realization made me chuckle, but beyond the lulz, what a warm, humble, relatable thing to write a big, soaring, epic-sounding dance track about. McFarlane’s voice already manages to pull off the trick of being simultaneously ultra-(R/r)omantic and also really intimate and friendly-sounding; this song doubles down on his preexisting appeal. A real treat.

Comics Time: Closed Caption Comics #9

May 25, 2011

Closed Caption Comics #9
Pete Razon, Lane Milburn, Conor Stechschulte, Mr. Noel Freibert, Ryan Cecil Smith, Chris Day, Erin Womack, Andrew Neyer, Mollie Goldstrom, Molly O’Connell, Zach Hazard Vaupen, writers/artists
Closed Caption Comics, December 2010
192 pages
Buy it and see preview pages from every contributor at Closed Caption Comics

My favorite thing about the men and women of Closed Caption Comics is how much about their ways of drawing I just don’t get. I don’t get how Lane Milburn builds these beefy sci-fi-fantasy-horror creatures and warriors out of crosshatching and cleverly chosen angles and a line thick enough to look like it was drawn with a Crayola marker held in a fist. I don’t get how Conor Stechschulte creates his black images and blacker stories with lines piled upon wispy lines. I don’t get the thought process behind Mr. Freibert’s scraggly uniform-line-weight EC pastiches, with their abstract-lettering (???) interludes and endings that aren’t so much the usual O. Henry-by-way-of-the-Cryptkeeper twists but just the most ludicrously dark way the story could go. I don’t get Chris Day’s blend of chopped-up images, geometric shapes, block printing, and murky visual noise, and how it somehow fits so well with an elliptical tone poem about how The ’60s as a cultural force (from Marilyn to Manson) were a Satanic plot. I don’t get Andrew Neyer’s lightly penciled cross between a children’s storybook and a lo-fi Yuichi Yokoyama comic, its gutterless panel grids producing cross-image tangents that can be read as pure imagemaking in a way that belies his childlike character designs. I don’t get Molly O’Connell’s crazily ornate yet somehow messy figurework, her people who look like they were built out of tiny feathers. I don’t get how Zach Hazard Vaupen’s stuff doesn’t so much spot blacks as pour and smear them all over everything, reducing legibility but somehow increasing communicative power. Even the things I do think I can understand, like Ryan Cecil Smith’s cartoony parable, Mollie Goldstrom’s staggeringly detailed exploration of snowfall, Stechschulte’s painstakingly photorealistic drawings of a forest, Erin Womack’s elegantly iconographic tale of mystical violence, or Pete Razon’s knockout cover (which couldn’t speak more directly to me if it could literally talk), feel as though they emerged from a thoughtspace I could never quite access on my own, even if I recognize their results. That’s why I keep coming back to what they put out every time I see their table at a show, snapping up minicomics and eyeing their more expensive objects enviously. I don’t know where they’ll take me, but I know I’ll want to go there.

Music Time: Yes – “Long Distance Runaround”/”The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)”

May 24, 2011

Prog rock is lambasted for its bombast and excess, but at its best restraint is its true hallmark, along with an ability to lock into a groove and do it to death as much as any of the funk bands that were the monsters of prog’s contemporaries during their mutual heyday. One of my all-time favorite classic-rock radio jams — it counts as one, since like “Sgt. Pepper’s (Reprise)/A Day in the Life” or “Time/Breathe (Reprise)” or what have you its two halves segue together and are never played separately — the combo better known simply as “Long Distance Runaround” puts both qualities on ample display. The first half is all about holding back: After faking us out with a squiggly guitar filigree and rhythm-section churn, the song settles down into a main section characterized by a softly jaunty keyboard part, complemented by the broken-up phrases and clipped delivery of Jon Anderson’s vocals and a joint guitar/bass line from Steve Howe and Chris Squire that drops in a few notes every so often and then cuts off almost as soon as it begins. It’s a restrained approach well suited to Anderson’s lyrics, which sing of the frustration of opportunities squandered and expectations never met, and it creates a refreshing amount of space around each instrument, if that makes sense — you feel present in a room with various musicians contributing every so often, then holding back, content to let things linger in the air. Lyrically, the second half of the song may consist only of nonsense — the taxonomic name of a fish chanted as though it contained the secrets of the universe — but the instrumentation seems to house all the angst lurking beneath the pinched and placid surface of the first half. Essentially a drum and bass duet with Squire overdubbing a rather extraordinary range of approaches to his instrument and future King Crimson behemoth Bill Bruford providing a tight percussion backdrop, it seizes a 7/4 rhythm and exploits it, introducing new and increasingly menacing bass elements every few turns of the screw. It’s difficult for me to hear it and not nod my head along, leaning into the music as it barrels forward.

I’ve probably listened to this song more often after catching it by chance while flipping around my car radio presets than on my iPod, and in that context it shines even brighter, I’d say. Music on the radio often comes through as a wall of noise, filling every available sonic space, sounding emitted rather than performed and recorded. “Long Distance Runaround”‘s dynamics give my ears empty spaces to dart into, and I can “see” the rest of the music from that vantage point as it plays, instead of merely sitting there and letting it blast over me.

Carnival of souls: Jack Kirby, Renee French, Kevin Huizenga, more

May 23, 2011

* Saving this for when I can really sink my teeth into it: Ken Parille compares the creation stories of Jack Kirby and Chris Ware, the two best cartoonists, for the Comics Journal.

* Speaking of the King and the Journal, has posted the infamous Gary Groth/Jack Kirby interview in which Kirby claims sole credit for most of the great Marvel comics; as I say over at Robot 6, the claims are dubious, the emotion behind them understandable.

* Also at Robot 6, a few brief thoughts on the importance of Kramers Ergot.

* Winter Is Coming rounds up the latest batch of Game of Thrones reviews and recaps. This feature is great one-stop shopping for GoT crit, if you’re looking for such.

* Curt Purcell returns to the topic of religion’s role in Battlestar Galactica. He’s harder on the show than I am, certainly, but he wields his criticism with far more precision than “OMG NO JEEBUS IN MY SF!!!”, which was as far as many reviewers got.

* Great Renee French drawing, or greatest Renee French drawing?

* Hans Rickheit gets his Mutter Museum on and draws medical deformities.

* Is this a new Kevin Huizenga strip, or is it an old one I missed someplace? Either way it expresses a sentiment I’m sure anyone who’s ever freelanced has felt.

* The Rapture reunites with DFA? Sure, I’ll eat it.

* A 33 1/3 book about prog? Sure, I’ll eat that too.

* I was really sad to hear of the death of Macho Man Randy Savage. The man was like an entertainment elemental: Everything about how he looked, sounded, and acted was a delight. Ben Morse reflects on his unique gifts as a pro wrestler, a gig in which he combined mic skills, stage presence, and technical prowess in a way few have before or since.

Game of Thrones thoughts: Season One, Episode Six – NON-SPOILERY EDITION

May 23, 2011

SPOILERS FOR THE SHOW, NO SPOILERS FOR THE BOOKS — If you haven’t read the books, you can still read this. Crossposted from the spoilery edition at All Leather Must Be Boiled.

*The entire Tyrion trial sequence, from jail cell to exit, was really well done. It was also perhaps the single most faithful-to-the-book sequence in the series so far. The backs and forths, the mind games, Tyrion’s desperate scramble to stay one mental step ahead of his captors while not looking desperate — that’s all straight from the book. The sequence has a forward momentum all its own, one step after another, one maneuver leading to the next, leading eventually to mortal combat and a man’s death. The filmmakers really let that momentum carry the scene, so that you barely notice the moment when wordplay and medieval legal wrangling slip into the kind of situation where a man gets stabbed through the collarbone and tossed out a trapdoor to oblivion. Now that I think of it, that’s sort of the magic trick of the whole series: Beneath words and codes, blood.

* I think what’s undoing the Dothraki material is scale more than anything else. Their Savage Other-ness would seem a lot less shabby and boilerplate if they weren’t just a couple dozen random half-naked brown people in some tents, but the vast horde of the books, in their city of art and architecture pillaged from a hundred cultures they smashed, with their dozens of old widowed queens presiding over a ritual conducted at the intersection of a mountain and a lake instead of in someone’s barbecue pit. Even the shittiest, most venal or brutal Westerosi — and we’ve met several contenders — takes on a certain grandeur by virtue of living in these massive, beautifully designed castles and keeps, surrounded by disciplined-looking troops by the score. The Dothraki just look like a bunch of topless dolts by comparison, every bit the primitive savages Viserys constantly mocks them as. Intellectually we can see that eating a horse’s heart really isn’t any more savage than the notion of trial by combat, but the visuals are constantly telling us otherwise.

* That said, the material in Vaes Dothrak still worked for me here, on the strength of the performances, especially Harry Lloyd as Viserys. He has arguably the least sympathetic character in the show on his hands — well, him and Joffrey — but in a handful of lines with Ser Jorah Mormont in Dany’s tent, he makes us realize why he’s so awful. He was crushed by the weight of great expectations before he even began to live. At this point he’s realized just as Dany did a couple weeks ago that he’ll never be a true king, but acting as though he will be is all he knows. Worse, it’s all he has.

* That same exchange gives Mormont a line that sums him up pretty neatly. “And yet here you stand,” Viserys spits at him as the knight blocks his king despite professing that loyalty means everything to him. “And yet here I stand,” Mormont replies, throwing the words back in Viserys’s face, revealing that this is a man who feels the pull of honor intensely, but other things even more so. That’s how he gets into trouble.

* As for Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys, Alan Sepinwall gave me a real “in” to her performance when he noted that the heart-eating ritual revealed not just the Dothraki’s love for Dany, but Dany’s love for the Dothraki. That’s when I recognized Dany’s assimilation into the khalasar as being of a piece with any teenager’s induction into a group of weirdoes that allow her to be stronger and freer than her constricting family. Viserys might as well be watching in horror as Dany performs as Janet during “Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me” at a midnight performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

* The metallic clank of Viserys’s head hitting the floor gets my vote for best foley art of the show so far.

* Tonks laid it on a little thick in her debut as the wildling woman Osha, but Stephen Don as the wildlings’ ringleader sold that scene by doing the opposite. His menace was in how matter-of-fact he was about it. He didn’t seem like some bwa-ha-ha villain, but just a desperate guy willing to do what it takes to survive. His icy blue eyes didn’t hurt either.

* Robert punching Cersei–woof, that was nasty, and it really toyed with the audience’s sympathies. After all, we all hate her, we all wanted her to shut her lying mouth too. So they gave us what we wanted, only for us to discover we didn’t want it at all. Moreover it conveyed just how dissolute Robert has become. When a man like that is the best hope for keeping the kingdom together…yikes.

* This episode surprised me with just how much impact on the story the physicality of a performance can have even when you’re already familiar with that story’s basic contours via a medium where performance isn’t a factor. Mark Addy’s watery-eyed, burst-blood-vessel ruddiness and penchant for raising his voice in anger over the least inconvenience or slight, for example, does more to sell King Robert’s physical and moral downfall than prose can, while seeing Sansa sneer at Septa Mordane anchors that character in the kinds of sullen, spoiled teenagers we all know and love in a way that simply reading about her petulance and delusions can’t equal. (In fact, contra Todd Van Der Werff, I find Sansa a lot more palatable here than in the books. Here she’s the kind of kid I understand; there her short-sighted idiocy is so overpowering that it’s difficult to recognize.) And most importantly, the results of Ned’s wounding at the hands of Jaime and his men — the sheen of sweat he exudes on his sickbed, his limp, the way Sean Bean plays him with every move and step an evident labor — demonstrate the way King’s Landing has already beaten and broken him down. In the books, without seeing him, it’s difficult to separate his post-injury weakness from the vital man of the North we’d spent all our time with. Here, the break is obvious, and meaningful.

* Renly’s “Jesus Christ, enough is enough” freakout at Robert over the Good Old Days was another fine addition by the writers, fleshing him out as an alternative to Robert’s sordid macho bluster, to the Lannisters’ cold cunning, and to the Targaryen’s high madness. In his interview with, actor Gethin Anthony said that the key word for his creation of Renly’s character was “enlightened”; in scenes like this it’s easy to see how important that is to Renly’s self-conception.

* This isn’t to sell her short at all, I think she’s been doing good work, but I haven’t seen Maisie Williams as Arya in the revelatory light that many viewers seem to see her — but she played her mounting irritation with Syrio as he whacked her and taunted her until she could take no more beautifully. Chills from “There is only one God — and his name is Death,” too.

Comics Time: Gaylord Phoenix

May 23, 2011

Gaylord Phoenix
Edie Fake, writer/artist
Secret Acres, 2010
256 pages
Buy it from Secret Acres
Buy it from

Well now, here’s a pleasure: a book that gets steadily better as it goes on, so much so that by the time you finish it it’s as though you’re reading a second, later, better book by the same author. In some sense that’s literally true: Cartoonist Edie Fake serialized the story in the minicomic series of the same name over the course of years, so you’re seeing the work of an older, more experienced artist by book’s end. But his artistic growth isn’t just a “well hey, good for him” situation, it’s a happy complement to the growth of the wandering, questing title character. Watching Fake’s art tighten up — his placement of the characters on the page become more self-assured, his pacing become more controlled, his blank white pages fill up with elaborate psychedelic vistas and bold dot or grid textures and lovely two-tone color — does as much to show us his hero’s maturation as anything the character himself does or says or sees.

Like Kolbeinn Karlsson’s The Troll King, Gaylord Phoenix talks about homosexuality using the narrative language of myths and monsters with a pronounced art-comics accent. We first meet the Gaylord Phoenix (who’s a dome-headed, tube-nosed naked dude and not a phoenix at all) as he is about to be attacked by a crystalline monster; he survives the attack, but the wound he sustains carries within it an infection of aggression that eventually drives him to kill his lover. When the slain man is revived at the behest of a subterranean crocodile emperor, the phoenix returns to claim him, but the lover uses the magic now present inside him to cast the phoenix away. What follows is a journey consisting of encounters with various creatures and beings seeking to use the phoenix for their own ends, leading to sex, violence, enlightenment, and sometimes all three.

Fake is a lateral thinker when it comes to devising ways to depict all these things: The result, whether it’s a crocodile tail inserted through the anus and protruding out the mouth, penises that look like giant macaroni and thus can both penetrate and be penetrated, or a multiplicity of cocks that cover a crotch like the tentacles of a sea anemone, is racy, unexpected, a bit weird, and sometimes even a bit scary, which is pretty much how sex ought to be. But aggression is just as central to the story, a fact that’s unfortunate for the characters but a breath of fresh air in how it reclaims the province of traditional masculinity for homosexuality even while preserving queerness’ outsider identity. The climax (no pun intended) further emphasizes the importance of this synthesis, as the Gaylord Phoenix discovers that everyone he’s met on his journey is now literally a part of him, unleashed in what can only be described as the world’s first solo orgy. “It is all with me now,” he proclaims. “At last I hold my own…and partake of who I am.”

The problem with the book, I suppose, is right there: It’s a bit too neatly allegorical to ever truly soar, and its didactic conclusion left me feeling a little too much like I’d just heard the phrase “And the moral of the story is….” I wish the narrative had the crazy courage of the image-making — Fake’s beautiful block-print lettering, say, or the dark navy-blue-colored series of double splashes that conclude the book, or the way he can fill a page with tiny accumulated circles and waves that buffet and subsume, or the lovely tangerine halftone and clean rounded lines that comprise the phoenix’s final mystical encounter. But the key here all along has been to let the artistic growth on display speak for itself, to do the heavy lifting of the story itself. Actions speak louder than words.

Carnival of souls: Kramers Ergot 8, A Dance with Dragons, tUnE-yArDs, more

May 20, 2011

* Stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen: Kramers Ergot 8! Now from PictureBox, the latest issue of Sammy Harkham’s seminal artcomix anthology will be a tighter, smaller affair, with comics of 16-24 pages each by about a dozen creators: Gary Panter, Gabrielle Bell, C.F., Kevin Huizenga, Ben Jones, Jason T. Miles, Sammy Harkham, Leon Sadler, Johnny Ryan, Frank Santoro & Dash Shaw, Anya Davidson, Ron Rege Jr., Ron Embleton & Frederic Mullally. Watch the video for more.

Kramers Ergot #8: The Trailer from Dan Nadel on Vimeo.

* Speaking of Harkham, he recently sounded off on Chester Brown’s Paying For It in a fashion that was equal parts colorful and insightful. I agree with him about the ending.

* So this is kinda neat: Over at The Cool Kids Table, my friend Megan Morse and I will be talking about Game of Thrones every week — her from the perspective of a newcomer to the material via the show, me from the perspective of a grizzled veteran with a tedious obsession. This week’s opening installment may betray its roots as an informal email exchange, but now that we know what we’re doing, I think it’ll be a real pip.

* Speaking of GoT, George R.R. Martin talks about the development and completion of A Dance with Dragons in fascinating and exhaustive detail. He gives you ample warning if you wanna bail out halfway through the post, just so you know, but he does reveal three of the viewpoint characters and all but reveals a fourth. Very much worth a read if you’d like some behind-the-scenes information about the making of the most infamously delayed SFF book since The Last Dangerous Visions.

* Nick Gazin talks to Dan Nadel about Yuichi Yokoyama and Garden. Nick’s questions get Nadel to flesh out Yokoyama’s personal history and personality a bit, which is welcome.

* Geoff Grogan serves up a process post on his excellent comic Fandancer.

* Michael DeForge joins the crew at What Things Do with a new strip.

* True American Dog is a treasure.

* Matthew Perpetua is right: This footage of Tune-Yards performing “Powa” in April 2010 is absolutely remarkable and riveting. The album this song was on wouldn’t come out for another year, and Tune-Yards was an opening act at a show whose audience had largely never even heard of them…yet watch Merrill Garbus perform with such confidence that you can slowly feel her pinning down the audience, where by the end they’re screaming their approval. Now I understand what all the critical fuss was about last year.

Would you like to see what a Destructor script is like?

May 20, 2011

You may do so here.

Comics Time: Two Eyes of the Beautiful Part II

May 20, 2011

Two Eyes of the Beautiful Part II
Ryan Cecil Smith, writer/artist
self-published, 2010
48 pages
Buy it from Ryan Cecil Smith

Like the previous chapter, this installment in Closed Caption Comics member Ryan Cecil Smith’s adaptation of Kazuo Umezu’s horror manga Blood Baptism achieves something damn close to horror camp. It’s a celebration of the over-the-top nastiness and spectacle of horror manga: Not content to show the killer, a demented ex-actress out to repair her disfigurement by any means necessary, strangle a dog to death, Smith depicts the woman’s hapless daughter stumbling into a room full of dismembered animal corpses and getting buried in a pile of severed cat heads. Even the villain’s hair is larger than life, an enormous bun taller than Marge Simpson’s beehive. This is all the funnier for being drawn in an altcomix-meets-kids’-manga style; it could just as easily be an uglied-up Sailor Moon tribute comic some kid from CCS did. But it’s precisely this idiosyncracy — a member of one of the States’ premiere underground comics collectives doing a respectfully ridiculous cover version of a horror manga about a crazy woman preparing to rip her own daughter’s brain out to achieve eternal youth — that elevates it from cheap irony or schlock. From the expert zipatone shading to an immaculately inked centerfold spread of that room full of dead dogs (it’s all painstakingly delineated grains in the hardwood floor and shiny black puddles of blood), Smith is pouring a very serious amount of effort and craft into what could easily have been just a goof, because to him, it clearly isn’t. Most impressive to me is the way he depicts his little-girl protagonist’s reaction to her discovery of her mother’s true nature. As she panics and tries to escape, Smith crops her word balloons so they cut off the text of her speech so that only half the letters (top, bottom, left, right, whatever) are visible, the rest of each alphabetical character disappearing under the edge of the balloon or panel. Panel borders and balloon edges, the very containers from which comics are comprised, are inadequate to contain the overwhelming horror she feels. That’s a lot of smarts to bring to an arch horror-comedy experiment. It kicks the shit out of Black Swan, that’s for sure.

Music Time: Lady Gaga – “Judas”

May 19, 2011

Let me pick up where I left off with Jeremih and Adele the other day. This is why I find myself reaching for the pop radio stations even more frequently than my iPod when I’m in the car these days: It’s a cavalcade of “Holy shit, did you hear this?” moments. There are absolutely any number of awful boring songs on there, from Bruno Mars’s novelty turd about sleeping late to the mercenary house tracks delivered by Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez. But in between you have these oddball amusement-park rides/sideshow attractions, like Katy Perry and Kanye West dueting about alien anal probes as a metaphor for strange love; or Britney Spears mounting back-to-back comeback hits with choruses that are a gag from Monty Python’s “Hungarian Phrasebook” sketch and simply the word “oh” repeated respectively; or pop’s slattern-in-chief Ke$ha having the sheer cajones to call a song “Blow,” packing not one not two but three entendres into a single syllable. Yes, I even enjoy Ke$ha now, at least as far as the material from her follow-up EP Cannibal goes: When one of her songs comes on I can listen till the end and know that for better or worse I will never get bored, which is a lot more than I can say for Usher.

If you’re detecting a degree of cultural condescension here…well, you’re probably right. I do not listen to this music exclusively, nor in chunks larger than a single at a time more often than not, and as such I’m going to react to this stuff differently than would someone for whom it’s their entire musical environment. When I get tired of the bombast and spectacle I can retreat to the new Wild Beasts record. Radio pop is certainly not a genre I turn to for subtletly: After all, Lady Gaga’s “Judas” is straightforward enough to be passed off as an outtake from Jesus Christ Superstar, yet compared “Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor)” it’s goddamn Finnegan’s Wake.

I think that’s the problem it’s faced on the charts, more than Gaga fatigue or faux-controversy backlash or annoyance with that herky-jerky beat or the feeling we’ve been here before but better with “Bad Romance”: It’s not 100% clear, in completely idiot-proof fashion, what she’s singing about. Most songs on pop radio today are about wanting to dance or wanting to fuck, and they come right out and say it. “C’mon get me on the floor, DJ what’cha waitin’ for?” “Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it.” The booming subgenre of affirmation pop is just as blunt: we are who we are, the show goes on, I’m on the right track, etc. To the extent that pop has employed metaphor at all over the past several years, it’s usually done so with all the complexity of a Madlib: people are fireworks or extraterrestrials, they wear halos, their love is an umbrella. Gaga’s not really doing much more than that in “Judas”‘s love triangle — she’s just using proper nouns instead of regular nouns. But because she casts Jesus, Judas, and Mary Magdalene in the leading roles, suddenly it seems like you’ve got some kind of Da Vinci Code to crack. Does she mean the real Judas? Hand to God, I heard a DJ ponder this aloud. And thus she breaks radio pop’s current custom: In a dance song, you sing about dancing. In a love song, you sing about love. In a sexy song, you sing about sex. In an empowering song, you sing about empowerment. In a break-up song, you sing about breaking up. This leaves very little room for kings with no crowns or “in the conjugal sense, I am beyond repentance.”


May 19, 2011

Real-world concerns have hampered the ability of Matt Wiegle and myself to post new Destructor pages quite as often as we’d like, so we’re trying to make it up to you with supplemental material. Matt has just put up another process post, one that talks a bit about how he lays out each page to better surmount the challenges presented by the script, while I’ve been answering reader questions. If you’ve got any questions yourself, let us know!

Comics Time: Lose #3

May 18, 2011

Lose #3
Michael DeForge, writer/artist
Koyama Press, May 2011
Buy it from Michael DeForge

It’s one thing to take a Chris Ware/Daniel Clowes middle-aged sad-sack comedy of discomfort and plop it into a slime-encrusted anthropomorphized-mutant-animal-inhabited post-apocalyptic hellscape that looks like Jon Vermilyea staging a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles revival in the middle of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It’s quite another thing to do this well. And it’s still another thing to do it so well that while the whole is indeed more than the sum of its parts, the parts work all on their own, too. That’s the achievement of Lose #3, the latest installment in Michael DeForge’s old-school one-man alternative comic series.

In past issues, as well as in his minis and anthology contributions, DeForge has proven adept at crafting razor-sharp embodiments/lampoons of what have been termed “first world problems” and placing them in the mouths of fantastical, outlandishly designed and drawn creatures and monsters and superheroes and giant mecha and what have you. (“I feel like things have been weird between us lately,” reads the image of the shaggy faceless beast rolling around on the ground — that sort of thing.) And he does that here, too, to cringingly devastating effect: The text for the opening one-pager is a letter from a fresh-faced intern high on his first trip to NYC to his mother back home (“I asked if there were any paid positions opening at the magazine in the fall. They said things were still up in the air for now. Fingers crossed, I suppose!”), juxtaposed against the images of a naked man riding a spotted deer through a debris-strewn wasteland in order to pour the coffee he purchases at a still-standing chain coffee house into the maw of the creature that lives in his cave. Toward the end of the collection, ants wax pessimistic about life in these weird, dark times (“But, like — why do we live this way? It’s — it’s nuts that this is the ‘norm’ for us,” says an ant about the potential for human beings to burn them with magnifying glasses) and debate whether or not to move the dead body of a friend when its pheromones start attracting a crowd (“Just leave it. It’s a party”) Even in the main story, there’s a bit where the two teenage sons of our divorced protagonist talk about The Wire that nails the clichés of that particular conversation so accurately even without mentioning it by name (“The show introduces a new part of the city at the beginning of each season, so it’s always, like, BOOM! Bigger picture! BOOM! Bigger picture! You know?”) that I wanted to delete my old blog entries about the show.

The innovation of “Dog 2070,” Lose #3’s centerpiece story, is, well, that it’s a story, a look at a very shitty month in the life of a middle-aged flying-dog-man-thing. He concern-trolls his ex-wife over her current husband, his attempts to connect with his teenage and twentysomething kids are rebuffed with casual cruelty, he fixates on his own problems to the pint where he can’t empathize with cancer patients, his neurosis leaves him equally unable to spend his time at the computer productively writing or unproductively masturbating, he drunkenly confronts his middle-school son’s ex-girlfriend after a cyberbullying website the kid made about her nearly gets him expelled from school, he ends up in the hospital after a freak gliding accident. It’s easy to focus on the yuks here, which are abundant in the same way they are in Wilson or Lint — the sudden reveal of our hero Stephen’s inebriation when talking to his kid’s ex is impeccably timed to elicit an “Oh, Jesus” guffaw, and DeForge nearly always chooses dead-on details to illustrate the guy’s creepy self-absorption, from giving his ex-in-laws gifts on Thanksgiving just to stay in their lives to interrupting a conversation about a co-workers chemo to announce he’s begun therapy as research for his screenplay. (The flying scene, in which a soaring Stephen sums it all up by saying “Sometimes it’s as if I forget we’re able to glide!,” then crashes into a bird, is a bit on the nose, though.) But DeForge reveals the true emotional stakes in a pair of dream sequences as recounted by Stephen to his therapist. In the first, we watch the flesh slowly slough off his daughter, who recently attempted suicide, before she fades away from view; in the second, he and his former family, reduced to four-legged animalistic versions of their anthropomorphized selves, fight over a scrap of meat. “I just feel so ashamed I don’t know why. I’m watching it and I just feel awful.” This, of all the notes he hits, is the one he chooses to leave us with, a nightmare representation of a failing man’s worst fears and shames, to which he has no adequate response and to which no adequate response is provided. That’s when you realize that these emotional stakes have been present all along, hiding in plain sight: In the omnipresent beads of sweat oozing down Stephen’s fleshy body, in the debris-strewn streets and burned-out buildings that form a backdrop for the story, in the walls that seem to sweat and drip and bleed themselves. Something is wrong, the art says, even as the narrative chronicles the banal travails of a relatively normal guy. DeForge doesn’t need to come right out and say it himself. Lose #3 isn’t the bolt-from-the-blue paradigm-shifter I’ve seen some people describe it as, but it’s a confident enough comic that it doesn’t need to be, pushing its author out of his comfort zone only to discover he’s perfectly comfortable here, too.