Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ignore The Jetsons, Dream Impossible Things

Let's get this out of the way: I doubt anyone reading this at the moment of writing will live to see jetpacks, the way our parents' imagination designed them. Aside from the whole jetpacks shoot flame that will char and destroy your legs bit, the vision of the future is largely understood to be the Jetsons. It doesn't matter that the Jetsons was always highly improbable, it imprinted on the (white) cultural imagination. I must pass over afrofuturism for this whole thing to work.


You have seen this on Facebook. "MAN WHERE'S MY FLYING CAR" and so on into infinity.

But as of October 28, 2014, it doesn't really feel like the future. Unless things get worse, my generation's Selma happened this year, Ebola is back, Russia is posturing on the world stage again and Christ only knows what else will come down the pike with the year 2014 appended to it.

Except, of course, for all the things that watch us from the sky, from the cell phones recording our major moves in our pockets and our social networks recording our minor foibles presumably to be hurled at us when we are cornered or weak. Women get bomb threats for having opinions about videogames.

The future, of course, is always gunning for us. It feels that way in my head.

Except for the margins.

I write this on a laptop computer with 500 gigs of memory, not all of it filled by pornography. I write this listening to a mashup of Aphex Twin and Taylor Swift. It's the mashup that feels like the future. Not in either of the parts, but what that last sentence means.

That last sentence is actually crazy, if given time to unpack it.

1) One no longer needs the imprimatur and recording budget of a big label to make music.
2) Recording technology (and what we define as possibilities for music) has advanced to the point where physical instruments are not always required.
3) The availability of music has gone from requiring a physical copy of the release to a free for all, with almost anything instantly available the day of release, if not before.
4) The ability to manipulate audio that already exists is so unremarkable that it comes standard on a Mac, and similar technology can be found for a steal or a lark on the internet.
5) The ability to record music is so pervasive that it comes standard on a Mac and free versions that do mostly the same thing can be found for a steal or a lark on the internet.
6) The ability to isolate and acquire vocals from a particular recording is available to us.
7) One can distribute what they create for a nominal fee or free, via the internet.
8) The end result is inside a genre that already exists and has a name that fits in our cultural imaginary.

Fifteen years ago, if you wanted to hear music from anywhere else, you had to import a copy of a physical release, which assumes, of course, anywhere else could afford to press it and promote it Today? Troll Soundcloud or Bandcamp for twenty minutes. No promises it'll be any good, but you can hear it.

It may be a shitty punk band you'll be listening to (and I say shitty punk band with solidarity and a smile here) but the option is now available. Something incredible will come. The universe will provide it. Which really means some person will have an obsession and get excited and the technology to create it will exist within their grasp, and the ability to distribute it easily will also exist within their grasp.

As for the content of the music, it's whatever. I never listened to Aphex Twin before, but I thought it was supposed to be weirder and more abrasive than what backs Ms. Swift here. Admittedly, I'm charmed by Ms. Swift's lyrics, even if I hurriedly maintain a jaundiced distance.

It doesn't matter what this mashup is comprised of, what matters is that it can be created, distributed and absorbed.

The takeaway: Music in my lifetime has gone from a thing that I must hunt to find and then purchase to a thing that I can find in a minute and a half if it's particularly obscure and be listening to in 45 seconds after that. Understand that and then multiply it for every other physical medium that yet exists on the planet.

Ten years ago, text messages were becoming interesting. Today? Your phone can record video. Ferguson is Selma, on some levels, but we're different people and we do not require a television channel to broadcast what we see. Now you, dear reader, can find a live feed that's more useful and accurate than CNN. How will that change the way we absorb and weigh information in the future?

Shit, Eleven Names founder Zach plays D&D over the internet with porn actresses. Regularly!

For imperial statements about the future, look to New Scientist or the New England Journal Of Medicine or any military weapons publication. Continuing down this path is a terrible idea, and I did that for an hour until I wisely deleted it.

(The thrust of it: I only have maybe twice my years left again if I'm lucky and the rate of technology currently means that what will be available to consumers the year I die will have existed in a nascent form used by military or random science place for 10 years. Or, put dramatically, the future will end for me in my 60s and it'll take until my 70s for it to reach me.)

And, at least outside of HEY WE CAN CURE [DISEASE HERE] NOW it's hardly ever the technology that is the future, it's what we do with it. The future means women can document the men that harass them using technology available in their pockets. The future means I will still die in fifty years, but I can know and process much more information in those fifty years than my parents and their grandparents were able to.

The future means science fiction is being made obsolete faster than it can be written. The future means everything gets more crowded. Everything gets messier, or we're now aware of how messy everything always was. We are granted more options (if from a fire hose) and more ways of seeing the world. Our ability to make a living on weird or non-traditional jobs has increased exponentially, even if the value of "make a living" is still fairly small. You can express yourself in wild, savage colors.

Hmmm. That sounds cliche. Let me rough that up a little. The future means trans persons may be publicly recognized by my country's administrators while I am alive.

We won't get to the Jetsons within my lifetime, I think. But I don't really want the Jetsons now. Do you? How small of a future the Jetsons would be now! How limiting! If all we did was go to the same jobs, but the buildings were taller and the cars smaller!










As I was finishing the major strokes of this at 3 am, I typed in the tags Taylor Swift and it already exists here. I hope and imagine it was Emily or Katrina, from 2010-2011 or a lifetime ago, before the massive needle drop of Phonogram into my life. I don't listen to Taylor Swift or Aphex Twin, but this mashup makes me want to start.
This feels a little too hopeful for me, or I imagine a rebuttal of the terrible things I listed at the top of the article are all still true. It is hard to put a cost on inspiration. It can be done, I am sure, but not by me and not now. I'll say two things. ONE: Access was a major factor in what kept the powerful comfortable and that no longer is true. TWO: Empathy changes lives. What grants more empathy is many different firsthand experiences and failing that, art. I'm a better person for having read Phonogram, but I had to pick my jaw up off the floor after I completed a reading of the Nikopol Trilogy. Borges made me kinder. And if we are not the generation to grapple successfully with the military industry complex, then that makes us like every other generation. But we might gain an inch on it, if we push.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Joe Casey And Nathan Fox And Captain Victory And The Galactic Rangers And So Much More

"Nathan Fox's art on a Joe Casey story is like getting a million dollars and then finding out you won't have to pay taxes on it." -Bleeding Cool forum user alekesam.

I haven't gushed about Joe Casey or Nathan Fox on this website, and the Captain Victory relaunch is the excuse I'm going to use to do so.

The first order of business is that the colorist on the Captain Victory relaunch, Brad Simpson, is inevitably going to get a short shrift, so that's why he's getting mentioned first. For the Nathan Fox pages, everything looks bright and trippy and wonderful. For the flashbacks done by other artists, or for Off Brand MODOK the colors get muted like they're supposed to. During the main storyline, Simpson's color work is heightens the tension and keeps the mood dialed up at 11, if not 12. Look at the whites and blues in the first panel below.



Casey's a comics writer who'se bibliography and volume means he comes up with something great fairly reliably. Trouble is, he might have to get through two or three bad ideas first. Before Captain Victory, his most recent work I liked, Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker seemed to be Joe Casey saying "fuck it, I'm gonna die on this weirdo comics hill, but just after I plant my flag, let me take potshots at Mike Huddleston, who draws this thing." His next two comics, Sex and The Bounce, (Batman after he gives up the cowl and Spider-Man as a person in 2013, respectively) were unremarkable or straight up bad.

That said, he's been in comics long before that, so he was the other X-Men writer while Morrison was on New X-Men, he did the glorious pacifist Superman arc in Action Comics and also was joined by Ashley Wood on Automatic Kafka. For things Kieron Gillen fans care about, he did Vengeance, which introduced America Chavez as Ms. America and The Ultimate Nullifier, both of whom would go on to be in Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson/Norton's Young Avengers.

He's a lifer and a genuine weirdo in an industry where weirdoes with opinions run the joint. He goes for a kind of vulgar existensialism (see Vengeance or Butcher Baker), and his subversive take on superheroes is, when it's good, a couple degrees to the left of what I expect. I repeat: Pacifist Superman. His dialogue, though, in an attempt to be cool, can be painfully corny in hindsight.

I've never thought about a Joe Casey event comic because what I read of his work tends to have the scale one finds in those things anyway.

But when I like Joe Casey most often is when he's playing off in a corner somewhere and gets to make something weird, and that leads me to Dark Reign: Zodiac, which in turn, leads me to Dark Reign: Zodiac's penciller, Nathan Fox. Nathan Fox's style I'd describe as obviously influenced by Paul Pope, but with a delirious messiness to it that obscures or takes credit over an insane amount of detail. It reads quickly, but if you slow down, you see the hundreds of tiny flourishes.


DR: Zodiac was a blink and you miss it 3 issue mini during the Dark Reign era where Norman Osborn was in charge of just about everything, and the heroes went underground. Osborn's big moment was saying to the other major villains on his level "just don't kill puppies on television and you can do whatever you want."

Joe Casey apparently looked at that and said, "well, not every villain is magically going to be Neutral Evil, so can I get three issues to write Chaotic Evil dudes committed to mayhem?"

And Marvel said yes.

Penciled by Nathan Fox, the series was unabashedly mean-spirited. It included a hospital bombing, the savage beating of Johnny Storm and the on panel dumping of skulls out of a burlap sack (below). The opening scene is the investigation of the severed torsos of 100 H.A.M.M.E.R. agents in a warehouse. Nathan Fox's pencils made the experience messy, ugly and stunning. Yes, the heroes, when they weren't beaten to a pulp looked unblemished, but everyone else looked lived in.


Maybe the best moment was a faked Galactus attack.

The Casey/Fox team would reunite on Haunt for about 10 issues, or as long as it took Todd McFarlane to step away from it and then step back to it, to kill the momentum the new team built up. Before Casey/Fox, it was an Image project involving a future fascistic religion, a priest with the ghost of his brother who was a SWAT team member that had an off-brand Venom symbiote attached to him. Dreamed up by Mr. McFarlane, Robert Kirkman and Greg Capullo, the series was a laborious mess.


Casey/Fox looked at that and said "what if we lean more heavily into the b-movie aspect of the whole thing," and made it Awesome. It got wilder, under the Casey/Fox pencils, and apparently, further away from the vision that Todd McFarlane had for the character. McFarlane would take his toys back later, but those 10 issues were gleeful genre work. To go back to my point about Mr. Fox's delirious messiness and detail, just look at the electronics falling out of the helmets in the third panel.

But that was a long couple years ago and now Casey and Fox are reunited to work on a Jack Kirby revival for Dynamite, Captain Victory And The Galactic Rangers.

It's great. Kirby's influence in superhero comics is massive, where any single issue he wrote or drew could have 10 ideas. This being comics, only three of them were worth following up on. Kirby's writing style was bombastic, and while there were tiny details (the man is called The King by the industry today) there were few tiny statements. Kirby's work that reflected Kirby was grand and sweeping.


And here's the thing: Joe Casey knows bombast. Joe Casey knows glorious comics idea that works on the page, but not out loud. It's a fine line between monkey punches robot and Nextwave punches Fin Fang Foom, but Joe Casey has been on the right side of that before, and with Nathan Fox, he's on the right side of it now.

(I pause here to mention Joe Casey's other Kirby comic, Godland, ended last year. Godland's penciller, Thomas Scioli is a dead ringer for Kirby. Godland is the first 100+ issues of the Fantastic Four with the serial numbers filed off, updated for this century, gone wild.)

Assisting Nathan Fox is a murderer's row of alt comix talent, the first issue includes Jim Rugg and Ulises Farinas, the second involves Michel Fiffe and the promotional material says Benjamin Marra, Jim Mahfood and Farel Dalrymple are forthcoming. Nathan Fox draws most of the pages in each issue, while the guests contribute whatever flashback sequences or a scene to add up to a total of 22 pages a month. I think that's what makes Captain Victory so exciting to me personally, is that the pencillers are working outside of their wheelhouse. Yes, they have done superhero jobs before, but their work generally is usually much smaller in scale.


Those pencillers are all talented enough that when they get out of their comfort zones, their work will still be good, and it's in service of a series who's ethos is bombast and crazy ideas, so it'll congeal. It feels new not because it is, but because it's unexpected coming from the people making it.

I did not expect a Jim Rugg Kirby crackle, but those crackles looked real hype when he did draw them. I know Michel Fiffe does COPRA, but that doesn't prepare me for him doing crazy sci-fi.

Captain Victory is the stage and direction I didn't know I wanted to see Casey and Fox tackle. It's hard to imagine a higher compliment.

All images are pencilled by Nathan Fox. Colors: Jose Villarubia (Zodiac), Brad Simpson (Captain Victory) and Ivan Plascencia (Haunt).




Joe Casey might like this one. These Mad Dogs Of Glory by Modern Life Is War. Title says it all, don't you think?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Harassment and Hashtags

I'm not sure what's repeating myself, what's transcendently obvious and what's bandwagon jumping on something that every point I could make has been written about better by people directly affected and deeper in the community than I am. The first 17 minutes of this podcast are instructive.

Here goes: #Gamergate started off as a new edition of an old saw (games journalism is too dependent on personal friendships, inside sources, "exclusives," etc etc), if in fact, it was ever anything more than a way for Zoe Quinn's vindictive ex to get back at her. If I was a teenager now, maybe, if my life zigged and not zagged, I could see getting up in arms about "integrity" but as it stands, I'm not a teenager, so I don't have a lot of patience for the people that keep the hashtag going despite the persons from 4chan and random people interested in mayhem joining the hashtag.

As I did journalism in high school, I'm aware of the limitations of an enthusiast press, especially in a time when people don't want to pay for actual journalism by professionals.

I'm at a loss as to what to say about the persons who terrorize Ms. Quinn. They are the true and willful authors of her degradation, they are doing a thing they likely believe to be directly harmful to a human being. In this respect, they're bad people. I cannot see myself or any of my friends, no matter how warped by circumstance, terrorizing her.

The worst part is of course, the harassment and threats that Ms. Quinn faces hourly, if not minute to minute. The saddest part is that the people who terrorize her, if given distance and I imagine, a couple years to grow up, might be fans of her work. They're terrorizing a game developer, chosen because she's a woman with an opinion they don't like and can be brought via slander into the conversation.

Pause. The second saddest part is that the people who terrorize Ms. Quinn value the mealy and unappetizing present over the possibilities of the future.

Pause again. Were the world two degrees to the left, they're terrorizing a person who might have been their friend.

(Reminder: Terrorizing people is bad. You shouldn't terrorize anybody.)

Harassment of women with opinions will continue to be more visible on the internet, which allows us to recognize it publicly as abhorrent. Before this, the harassment of female developers wasn't so obvious. Given a timeline beyond my lifespan, the sexism will be corrected, slowly. While we live, we push the stone as far along as we can.

The rest is washing up: Ms. Quinn will live with this the rest of her life, regardless of whether she remains in the games industry. Her terrorizers will forget all about this next year. We hope that Ms. Quinn will continue to make games, we understand if she doesn't.

I suspect I'll write this next year and the year after that. I believe the year that I won't be compelled to write this is coming. I do not believe I will live to see it.






"Get the fuck out/here there's no interest in what you're about.../we're here together/we're here to stay" Three's A Party. Kid Dynamite. Short. Fast Loud. Hit play already. This post was edited at 7:30ish pm the same day it was published. It was edited again a couple hours later.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Shadowrun And The Glory

Shadowrun Returns is an cRPG videogame based on the tabletop gaming system of the same name. Shadowrun: Dragonfall is that videogame's expansion. Like most videogames, Dragonfall is the better game, since much of the trouble in making the first game is making sure that the gears and wheels under the hood work, but also, discovering what that game is. But there's one mission of Returns that is more memorable, for the right reasons, than everything from the expansion.

The Shadowrun setting is basically Red Harvest or $106,000 Blood Money dramatized by Lord Of The Rings characters. Death is cheap, people willing to do bad things abound, people willing to do good things usually aren't. Corporations run the world, and everyone employs mercenaries (Shadowrunners) for missions, which usually involve repossessing a rival corp's technology or board member. Often killing and hacking (called decking) are involved.
(A long aside on names. Shadowrun Returns is the base game, but Shadowrun: Dragonfall is the expansion. There's no semicolon in Shadowrun Returns. Ugh. Therefore, I'm referring to the base game as Returns and the expansion as Dragonfall because it makes my life and your reading experience easier.)

I'm going to be spoiling the coolest part of the Returns game, so if you actually intend to play it, turn back now.

...

Seriously.

It's one of my favorite moments.



I am currently right at the last mission in Dragonfall, so while I have not beat it yet, I feel comfortable talking about Dragonfall as a full experience. Perhaps the story will implode just before the finish line, but so far, the story is a defter thing than its predecessor. There are actual headscratchers in terms of "okay, what am I contracted to do versus what can I do versus what is the right thing to do versus what is the decision the genre demands?" and three or four of those headscratchers in Dragonfall.

But. There's a sequence in Returns that is better than anything in Dragonfall thus far and one that I have never seen on a game table or in a videogame.

The setup is this: You're on a run (what the missions are called) and the run is grab some things from a corp's office, fight through a big headquarters tower to get there. (It's a dungeon, inverted.)

Traditionally, in Shadowrun, these things end in only a couple ways: The party escapes or the party dies. You have variations on the theme (they barely escape with their lives, they escape, but one of them's a traitor, they leave a lot of dead, but a couple get out, they get out with not quite the information they were paid to get, it was a trap) but that's how those things tend to roll.

You die or you leave.

On this run, the group doesn't quite get what they need. That won't help out the customer, but they're so close and they can't wait till the next evening. So what do they do? They have the main character stay in the tower to complete the mission when everyone else shows up tomorrow morning for work.

What you do not do in videogames or Shadowrun, or at least the ones where you're an adventuring group, is stick around. (Unless you're Viscera Cleanup Detail, which, is a game precisely about what you suspect it is but cannot bring yourself to believe, a videogame about cleaning up the corpses left behind by the successful execution of a FPS level.)

The game is get in however you have to, get out however you have to. Returns compels you to stay.

Maybe I'm hyping this up a bit much. There's a save point, so it's technically a success state of one part of the mission and moving on to the next one, but I've never heard of a run continuing into the morning. Ever. 10:30 am in the Shadowrun universe might as well be genuinely unknown territory. Every run happens at night, at least all the ones I'm aware of. You're dead or you leave. You're alive and you're still there is new territory.

Remaining there into the morning completely changes how I feel about the space. That's new! As for the contents of the mission, I won't spoil that, except that it's good genre fun and you get to see the results of your work.



Taken as a whole, Dragonfall is surer. Dragonfall is more dexterous. Dragonfall is better in genre. Dragonfall's challenges are harder and its combat arenas better designed. Dragonfall's NPCs are more textured and one of those NPCs has a genuinely surprising backstory that actually lives up to the talking around it in the first two thirds of the game.

But Dragonfall, at least just before the final boss mission (or what appears to be the final mission) had nothing so daring as a corp building at 10:30 am. Dragonfall is a better videogame. Despite that, in five years, I suspect that I will sooner remember that moment from Returns than I will anything from Dragonfall.

A stand alone directors cut edition of Dragonfall is released September 18 for $15. I think and hope you'll like it.







This song is called Hunting For Witches and it is by Bloc Party. Go.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Stray Bullets: All My Friends Were Right

I bought Stray Bullets: The Uber Alles Edition (a one time only $60 collection of the first 41 issues) because three different people told me to do it, each of them coming from a different part of my life.

I'm about 16 issues through and I can say that this is one of the most powerful things I've read in the last five years. Elmore Leonard gives me a vocabulary to speak about these things, but I intuit a very powerful sentimentality in the early portions of the Lapham crime series.



The characters, alone! I'll spoil one story. Amy Racecar is a femme fatale in blue jeans, or a "bad girl" except reading her doesn't make me roll my eyes. She loves a man and does not trust him. The rest is inevitable and impossible to guard against. Of course it ends the way it does. I imagine a further influence of Westlake's (nee Stark) Slayground, though it could just be that the shootout happens in an amusement park.

Virginia Applejack won't take anyone's shit and learns quickly what that means. There are innocent boys given bad educations. There are bad men, in the grand sense, and in the sense of women speaking over drinks.



The characters are children pretending to be adults and adults misbehaving. They are eroded by liquor or sex or cocaine. Handguns make appearances, like movie stars on television. The violence feels real. By which I mean, the violence is never pretty. It is messy, wet and it changes the survivors. There is blood, but it isn't bloody. It is graphic, but not like a Geoff Johns splash page.

Stray Bullets makes me want to re-read Scalped, to see what influence must be there.

There is one major drawback. The binding on my copy of the Uber Alles Edition is abysmal. I described it to one of my friends as being done by an Image Comics intern with a glue gun. I'm aware the price was deliberately kept low, but the pages came unglued within the first thirty minutes of me opening the volume. I wouldn't buy the Uber Alles Edition if I were you, but if you see Stray Bullets on a comixology sale, then blow your money. All of it.

It was Adam writing about Stray Bullets that convinced me to buy the series, at bottom, and if you want convincing, then clicking this link may convince you.

You can read the first four issues for free here.







Patrick Kindlon was one of those three people that recommended I buy Stray Bullets, so a Self Defense Family song about the cops knocking Patrick's house down seems appropriate. "I choked out one word, and that word was 'bastards.'"

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Be Objective

Rebecca and I got together to talk about Ferguson on Sunday afternoon. It felt like things were getting less rugged out there and we had a full week's worth of news to digest. She said that she didn't know how to talk about it, and I suggested a timeline. Suggested is light. I said timeline and then went and yelled about what happened at what particular times for six minutes uninterrupted.

And that's good training from journalism and philosophy. (Yelling at a coffee bar notwithstanding...) Check your work, take individual pieces one at a time and not in big gulps, make connections from one piece to another, always. Back up what you say with facts. All well and good. Little pieces give you a thing to start on and build from. You build long enough like that and you'll have something that'll hold.

It sounded good and felt good on Sunday afternoon. Then, of course came Sunday evening, and it whatever good feeling I had from the conversation disintegrated. A hate group with a long history of murder that I won't link to announced they're going to show up to protect white businesses, whomever the police are this time around (normal St. Louis police? Ferguson police? Those MO state police that actually talked with people?) brought back their military weaponry and the same grisly play happened again.

As I write this, more anarchist collectives from out of town are coming in looking for a fight, against the wishes of the Ferguson community and just no. Please. no. Allegedly, Anonymous said they had something that would "blow up" Ferguson and I can't handle how terrible that statement is. Things down there are pretty blown up enough already. I don't think Ferguson, or the story of the murder of Mike Brown needs more blowing up. It's at that point that "something that'll hold" doesn't feel like enough.

How fucking objective do I need to be when I know that police are pointing guns at innocent people because they can't or won't do the work to walk into the crowd without pointing a gun or brandishing a weapon and distinguish peaceful protesters from looters and opportunists?

Some Luther Arkwright panels say it better than I can.



We've been objective. We know what this is. This is a convergence of:
1) a community knowing that X number of dollars worth of cigars is worth more than a black man's life (paraphrased from something El-P retweeted, IIRC)
2) that same community asking, peacefully, for a meager measure of justice and getting none (paraphrased from something Greg Rucka retweeted, IIRC)
3) the police escalating at almost every single opportunity
4) the police using that escalation as an excuse to crack down with their shiny new anti-terrorism toys
5) the mayor and the governor giving public statements that were either not enough or downright insulting
6) the police choosing to employ anonymity in an attempt to insulate themselves from accountability

Be objective feels like a sick, cruel joke at the expense of the person it is directed at. I don't know who said it was okay, but I just want it to stop, and be objective, it seems, does not get it to stop.

And I know that the careful collection of facts and their dissemination is what gets the bastards. Whomever they are. I want the people who said it was okay for the police to deploy with tear gas and rubber bullets to face a real inquiry. I want the people who gave the order to use those things to face a real inquiry. I want the officers who didn't interview any witnesses to face a real inquiry. I want the officers that used LRADs on those protestors to face a real inquiry. I want the people who decided for these police actions, the officers would go out without their badges or numbers on to face a real inquiry. (And so many more...)

And be objective will help get us there, but right now, God help me, it doesn't feel like enough.













"it's not too late! our kingdom is the earth and sky!" We make the road by walking. Aluminum Union by Strike Anywhere.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Wicked & The Divine, Alone

I think I'm scared to admit I have reservations about The Wicked & The Divine.

It's superficially about gods, but it's really about myth and the stories we tell ourselves to feel more confident.

To dispense with the obvious, the Phonogram team kills it. Everyone's on point, The Wicked & The Divine is a logical extension of the Sandman meets Plan B magazine aesthetic that the team's been aiming at since Siege: Loki. If there is a knock on this comic in my mind, it is not in the panel to panel storytelling.

Gillen/McKelvie-isms are there in abundance.

Head tilted away from a wine glass and a coy comment? Check.
Pop music? Check.
Divinity? Check.

There's a couple things I don't cotton to in issue number one, the first being the reaching out by the pop star and bestowing divinity ("she's really looking at me" v. "these are three chords, now form a band") , the second being Luci.

Luci is the most excellent Gillen/McKelvie-ism so far. Short for Lucifer, she slinks around the first issue, getting /almost/ all of the good lines. In that respect, I imagine her as the team's Spider Jerusalem. Luci is attacked by Christian terrorists and repels them. That said, I am not sure what I would do if the true and willful author of our ultimate degradation (I have finished A Theory Of Justice, yes...) made their appearance known in this world that I live in.

Luci, of course, is also Eleanor Rigby.

Issue two carries with it its own troubles. Lucifer is in prison. Her fingers are bound. Now, we pause. Gods can kill people with snaps of their fingers but apparently fingercuffs are enough to keep them in check? This seems telling. Again, maybe they're setting something up here, but it doesn't follow for me. Maybe I'm supposed to say "There's something off."

And we also find out that before Luci was let us say, anointed, she was a latchkey kid and it makes it harder to dislike this person. Especially when she does not appear to be  Shoot.

Luci isn't my real gripe, though, and what follows is:

The Wicked & The Divine, thus far, recycles something from Gillen and McKelvie's Young Avengers run in each issue. The first time, Luci stood in for Marvel Boy, turning her head back from a blasted open window to deliver a quip.



The second time, Luci straight up uses a Hawkeye line from the very first double page spread of Young Avengers issue one.





Which, okay. Artistic choice. But Christ. The Wicked & The Divine team is good enough that they don't have to do this. Am I missing something?

It feels lazy. It gives off (to me) the vibe of the early Image material. The history of that company which fans politely ignore whenever Image is brought up these days. The beginning, where reskins of better liked superheroes was literally the company line. Using the Young Avengers tricks again reminds me of that shortcut.

Maybe The Wicked & The Divine team is going somewhere with it. I don't know where, but again, I ought to keep that open as a possibility. Maybe it's no more than stealing shots, saying "I could do this better" or a rapper going over whatever the big beat of the month is with their own hot sixteen.

I like The Wicked & The Divine, though. Now that I don't know where the comic is going, I enjoy it.  But I focus on the grains of sand in the lotion because I feel I owe it to myself and my audience (pause for laughter) to acknowledge the things publicly that I talk about with Adam Witt, but also because I hold the Phonogram crew to a high standard. When I talk with Adam, I talk about all the things in Wic/Div that don't work for me. When I talk on the internet, I talk about all the things that do.

At bottom, I want the next thing from Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson. When The Wicked & The Divine clicks, it feels like the next thing. It feels exciting and the comic of this moment of 2014. But when it doesn't? I look for Miss America to punch a guy.






 A little Cursive. "Play it off as stigmata for crossover fans/Some red-handed slight of hand..." That sounds harsher than I intend it to. The song slays, though.

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