Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #38

First, a guarantease: after we discuss a few new comics I bought this week, we're going to have us a look-see at Alan Moore's first prose novel, Voice of the Fire, which I found to be just flat-out awesome.  What's it got to do with Stephen King?  Jack shit, buddy, but take a look at the blog's banner; this week, I'm putting that "...mostly" addendum to use.

One more brief bit of business before we get to the reviews: nominees for the 2013 Harvey Awards -- which is like the comics equivalent of the Oscars, or maybe the Golden Globes or something -- were recently announced, and several Bryant Has Issues favorites picked up nominations.  The category Best Writer has, among others, Joe Hill for Locke & Key, Scott Snyder for Batman, and Brian K. Vaughan for SagaBatman and Saga also appear under Best Artist (for Greg Capullo and Fiona Staples, respectively); no nod for Locke & Key's Gabriel Rodriguez seems like a crime to me, but what do I know?

Saga is also in there for Best New Series -- although it's been going for over a year at this point, so I'm not sure how it counts as "new" -- and Locke & Key got a Best Single Issue or Story nom for the "Grindhouse" issue. Saga #1 (!) is also on that list, as is Batman #12.

I'm guessing that the awards must cover a somewhat irregular period of time; the fact that The Private Eye is absent from both the Best Colorist and Best Online Comics Work categories is only thus explicable.  Muntsa Vicente's colors on that comic are perhaps the best colors I've ever seen on ANY comic, so it not being eligible until the 2014 awards had better be the reason she didn't get recognized here.

Anyways, that's the industry scoop.  Let's move on to the reviews, beginning with the final issue of IDW's adaptation of Joe Hill's short story "Thumbprint."  There will be massive spoilers for both the comic and the short story, because I just can't avoid them.  So if you want to remain virginal in that regard, skip to the next comic, which will be the American Vampire Anthology.

Joe Hill's "Thumbprint" -- the short story, that is, not this comic adaptation -- is an odd case.  It's a compelling, well-written story in which a female war vet is stalked and, finally, confronted by a former associate, who wants her to confess that she is part of a vast conspiracy of spies who are looking in on every second of his life.  He seems prepared to torture her to get the info he needs, and prepared to kill her if necessary.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Horrors of '79

Are beavers actually busy?  I've never been too clear on that, but if the saying is true and they are, then I've been busy like one lately.  Except writing blog posts, instead of building dams or whatever it is busy beavers allegedly do all the time.  Yes, I had a productive week in the blogosphere.  I might even go so far as to say I had a hella productive week: four semi-lengthy posts about the miniseries adaptation of The Stand (here, here, here, and here), plus a review of its soundtrack CD; an invective-filled review of this week's subpar episode of Under the Dome; and, on one of my other blogs, an in-depth look at one of my favorite James Bond movies, The Living Daylights.

Whoo!  That's a mess o' bloggin'!  See what I can do with five days off in a row?

Well, I'm back at work now, but I wanted to get another post out there.  This won't be a lengthy one: it's just a brief review of "The Horrors of '79," a Year's-Best-Movies essay by Stephen King that appeared in the December 27, 1979 / January 10, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone.  I've got a massive list of King ephemera like that which I would love to eventually track down and buy, and I try to cross one off the list occasionally.  I figure I'll start trying to pump out mini-reviews of those items when they get acquired, so consider this a down-payment on that intention.

Rolling Stone back then was a fairly large magazine, and so unfortunately, my scanner is too small for me to scan the cover.  Here's the best image of it I could find via Google Images:

Yeah, it's not much of a cover; we're not missing out on anything there.  I was able to scan the accompanying illustration by Elwood H. Smith, though.  Here 'tis:

1979, of course, was the year Alien was released, so the illustration is riffing on it, and King speaks about it in his essay, too.
Alien, as well as being scary and fun, is the first movie to make a real cinematic success of the ideas and themes worked out by H.P. Lovecraft.

He goes on to describe it as being "perhaps the most suspenseful American film since Wait Until Dark," and ranks it #4 on his Top 10 list for the year.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Music Review: "The Stand" (W.G. "Snuffy" Walden, 1994), plus Nettle and I Was Totally Destroying It

Just when you think The Truth Inside The Lie is done with The Stand, here I come right back atcha with a review of the soundtrack CD.  Reviewing music is a weird thing; I always struggle with finding anything to say other than "this is great" or "this kinda sucks."  But I'll give it the old college try (whatever that means), and where feasible, I'm going to embed YouTube videos people have made from the tracks.

The CD itself, sadly, is long out of print.  You can find used copies, but they'll run you anywhere from $25-50.  I leave it to you to determine whether it's worth it.

Let's go!

Alright, so here's what we'll do: I'm going to pop the CD in the player -- by which I mean, open the folder containing the rip of the CD -- and listen to it track-by-track, and I'll just type whatever comes to mind.

Sound good?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Under the Dome 1.10: "Let the Games Begin"

One of the plotlines in tonight's episode of Under the Dome involved Linda and Julia trying to find clues about the reason for all the propane.  In an amazingly coincidental and timely bit of intuition, Linda has found the key to a safety-deposit box inside Duke's cowboy hat.  Because since he never didn't wear it, it had to be hiding something, right?

So they go to the bank.

The episode shifts focus to a different plotline for a while, but it eventually returns to the bank.  Linda has located the box that corresponds to the key.  "Here it is," she says; "Duke's safety-deposit box."

Now, I want you to imagine that you are one of the two people in that scenario.  Nah, scratch that; let's use a different scenario.  Let's say you and a friend go to the grocery store.  You've been sent to find a single item: a twelve-pack of Coca-Cola.  For whatever reason, you're having trouble locating it.  You walk up and down every aisle.  You see bread.  You see bananas.  You see cream-of-chicken soup.  You see one of those jars of salsa that has Paul Newman on it; he's wearing a sombrero and has a vaguely Hispanic mustache.  You see cat litter.  You see birthday cards.  You see sour cream, you see laundry detergent, and finally, you see soda.

So you walk up to a twelve-pack of Coke, and what do you do then?  You turn to your friend, and you say, "Here it is; a twelve-pack of Coke."

And your friend looks back at you and says, "No fucking shit?!?  What do I look like, a moron?"

If Julia had done that to Linda, I'd have been so happy I wouldn't even know what to do.  Sadly, she just continued playing the script the way it had been written, and the way it was being directed: as though the people watching the episode are dumber than all hell.

Talk Stephen King recently had a good post about how this series treats its audience like idiots.  I wish I could agree with David that America isn't that stupid.  I think America is that stupid on a good day; and on a bad one I think it wishes it was smart enough to be that stupid.  Vast swathes of this nation cannot flush a public toilet, or return a shopping cart to the designated area, or walk through the in door rather than the out door.  Huge numbers of my fellow citizens say "nukeyalar" instead of "nuclear."  This nation got very close to electing Sarah Palin to be its vice president.  This nation adores Chris Brown, who is scarcely one step above being a Neanderthal.  And don't even get me started on Duck Dynasty.  

We might fairly be said to be a nation of fools.

And evidently, CBS has decided to aim Under the Dome squarely at this nation's Lowest Common Denominator.  How else can a scene like the one mentioned above be explained?  This is a series whose network and/or producers are behaving as though its audience cannot remember from one scene to the next why Linda and Julia were in that bank.  They only went there for one reason, but by God, make sure that you remind people what that reason is!

Buckle up, y'all; I'm 'bout to start bitchin'.

Speaking of bitching, I continue to loathe Maxine.  (Get it?  I said "bitching," and then mentioned Maxine, who is a bitch.  See, the reason why that's funny is because it's like I was talking about two things at once.  It's really funny.  You just have to be able to follow me.  Laugh!)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Movie Review: "The Stand, Part 4: The Stand" (1994)

Well, we've reached the beginning of the end of our revisiting of The Stand in its miniseries incarnation.  I've enjoyed doing this, and in some ways it has brought back a bit of the love I once had for it.  I've unearthed a lot of things that I perceive to be problems, too, of course; but in the main, I think I'd have to say that the miniseries held up better than I expected it to do.

That said, there's no getting around what has to come next: my complaints about the ending.  These are complaints that mostly deal with the novel itself, and so of course they mostly got ported over into the miniseries, which makes it doubly problematic.  The bottom line is that I am unsatisfied by the act from which the novel draws its title: the "stand" that Larry, Glen, and Ralph make once they are in Las Vegas seems insubstantial, somehow.  I understand its thematic relevance: the three of them (four, counting Stu) are asked by God's representative to undertake a journey of faith.  They are promised nothing in return, and are told that one of them will fall by the wayside.  Stu is that one, and the leg injury he sustains at first seems to be a cruel one, but is eventually revealed to be an act of mercy, not merely toward him but also toward Frannie and her unborn child.

The rewards for the remaining trio are less bountiful: Glen is shot and killed; Larry and Ralph are spared from death by dismemberment, but the means by which they are saved is obliteration in an atomic blast.  Not exactly the same as being scooped up and carried to safety by Superman, is it?

My complaint is that I simply don't see the point of it.  What does God mean to accomplish here?  By which I really mean, what does Stephen King wish for us to think that God meant to accomplish?  The theme that comes through loud and clear is that evil will eventually collapse in upon itself -- like a star whose mass has become too dense, and collapses in on itself, creating a black hole -- and commit a sort of suicide.  Flagg has built his Las Vegan society by turning to people like Trashcan Man; and having made that bed, he has no choice but to lie in it.

Movie Review: "The Stand, Part 3: The Betrayal" (1994)

Part 3 of The Stand was initially broadcast on Wednesday, May 11, 1994.

I did not see that broadcast.  I had to work that night (more on which momentarily), so I had to resort to setting my VCR to record it.

For reasons that are unknown to me to this day, the VCR failed to record the program.

Here's how it went down: in 1994, I was in college at the University of Alabama, and I worked in the athletic program's Sports Information Department.  That office was, essentially, the office that served as the liason points between the athletic teams and the media.  We served other functions, but that was the primary one.

Among those other functions: staffing certain technical and administrative positions at the athletic events.  For example: one of the things I did at football games was drive a shuttle van back and forth between the stadium and the parking lot where the media reps parked.  At basketball games, I was in charge of icing down the cooler of sodas provided for the media.

At baseball games, I somehow got put in charge of playing the music and other sound effects through the loudspeaker.  This was a miserable task, for any number of reasons.  Reason the first: I loathe baseball.  In baseball, there is a constant threat that a game could take three hours to complete, or four, or five.  It didn't usually happen that way; but it always could happen, and sometimes did.  Especially if rain delays struck.

Reason the second: the University had somehow failed to invest in a sound system that actually worked.  I'd play a song, and it was hit-or-miss in terms of what bits of the music would actually come through.  You might get drums and guitar, but no vocals; or you might get bass and vocals, but no keyboards.  Occasionally, you'd even get the entirety of the song!  One of those rare occasions -- discovered through an extensive process of elimination, conducted over the course of several seasons -- was "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles (more on which momentarily).  "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" by Bruce Springsteen got a regular workout, as did "Center Field" by John Fogerty, and least that one was appropriate.

Reason the third: Alabama's baseball team at that time was awful.  Just awful.  Mediocre, actually; they were just good enough that a small core of fans still cared about them, but not vaguely good enough to actually be a danger to win anything.  Consequently, there were very few people who ever came to the games.  One day, for reasons that I no longer remember, I decided it would be a good idea to replace "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" as the seventh-inning-stretch song with -- you guessed it -- "Yellow Submarine."  I did this every game for nearly an entire season.  Old men who actually cared about such things would scream at me from the stands; people would flip me off; and all the while, I was leaning out of the pressbox, singing along like a fool.  To this day, it amazes me that someone -- anyone -- didn't come up to me and tell me to not do that anymore.  (The head coach's wife actually tried once, but I just told her no, and she ended up doing nothing about it; that's how little anyone in charge cared.)

Reason the fourth: I was madly in love -- or thought I was -- with one of my coworkers, and had by this time figured out that that was never going to do me any good.  So I was kind of like Harold Lauder in some capacities; but instead of putting dynamite in shoeboxes, I defiantly played "Yellow Submarine" for an entire season.  Sky of blue; sea of green.  (Strange intersection: the guy she dug instead of me was also a massive Stephen King fan.  The next year, the three of us went to see Dolores Claiborne together, an ill-advised trip that ended in him complaining about how it wasn't like the book, me complaining that he was a moron, and her probably wishing I would drive off a cliff on a motorcycle, shattering bones and left with only enough energy to blow my head off.)

I say all that as a means of illustrating just how little I wanted to be to watching the Crimson Tide play baseball on the night Part 3 of The Stand -- an adaptation of what was probably my then-favorite novel by my then- (and now-) favorite author -- was airing.

So imagine how angry I was when I got home from working that event, only to find that my VCR had failed to record it.  Ever heard the phrase "pitched a fit"?

Well, brother, I pitched a fuckin' fit.

I don't remember how long it was before I got to finally see that third part.  Did ABC rerun the miniseries at some point?  Did it re-air on some other network?  Did I have to wait for the home-video release?  (I bought the miniseries first on VHS, then on the magical format that was laserdisc.)  I cannot remember.

What I remember is pitchin' a damn fit.

Now, with that sordid bit of my past out of the way, let's talk about Part 3.  We're going to do it in the form of bulletpoints, too, as I don't seem to have any major points that I want to talk about.  So let's talk about some minor ones instead.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Movie Review: "The Stand, Part 2: The Dreams" (1994)

I am not Ann Landers.  Despite that, we are going to open today's post with a piece of advice:

Ladies -- and gentlemen, too, for that matter -- should consider their actions.  For example, when they find themselves to have survived an apocalyptic plague -- or a zombie outbreak, or a planet-leveling meteor strike, or an alien invasion, or any similar scenario -- they should understand that their actions may have consequences.  When and if they discover that a slimebag who has spent that last several years feverishly yearning to hump them, only to (correctly) be met with rejection at every turn, has also survived, it is imperative that you not give him/her mixed signals.  This mandate holds true even if you suspect that the two of you could literally be the only two people left on Earth.  In fact, in this scenario it holds doubly true...assuming, that is, that you wish to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings later on in the miniseires life.

Do not hug this person; do not gently touch this person's arm; and do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES rest your head upon this person's knee.

These are what we advice-giving professionals refer to as "major mixed signals," and they will almost certainly lead to confusion, an intensified renewal of their perverted desire, and retributive action (up to and including homemade explosives) when and if you meet a more appropriate mate later in your apocalyptic scenario.

You also risk looking like a worthless waste of a character in the (admittedly unlikely) case of your entire existence actually being a movie people in another dimension are watching for entertainment value.

This brings us to the strange case of Frances Goldsmith and Harold Emery Lauder:

The thing about this opening scene is that it actually makes Harold seem a little bit less insane, and his wrathful actions later on seem a little bit more justified.  Not that I'm saying political assassination is an appropriate reaction to being sent mixed signals by the object of one's affections; I'm not.  What I am saying is that Harold is right to be pissed off.  He's a weirdo, and a misfit, and a dupe; but he's also a hormonal young man who's -- in the novel, at least -- never had much encouragement except that of his own making.  He's found himself in a cataclysmically stressful situation, one that seems as if it might well have supernatural ramifications, and now the woman he's been crushing on for most of his semi-adult life is putting her head on his knee, treating him as if he is her only solace in this horrifying new world.

This, friends, is a recipe for disaster.  Harold turns into a bad person later on, but at this precise moment in the story, he's not bad at all; he's being misled, and he's just not quite canny enough to see it.  He'll be misled again later, and by that point in time it'll be for bigger stakes.

Movie Review: "The Stand, Part 1: The Plague" (1994)

I love you people.  I didn't die for your sins or like that, but I love ya just the same.  To prove it, I've got a review of the miniseries adaptation of The Stand to fling at you today, and here's the depth of my love: I watched the whole thing through twice (plus listened to the commentary track once) in order to properly prepare myself for the task.

So don't say I never did anything for you, okay?

I wrote a post once that covered -- among a lot of other topics -- the means by which The Stand served as my entry-point into Stephen King fandom, way back in the summer of 1990.  No need to rehash it here; suffice it to say that when I read that novel, I fell into it the way you only fall into a novel that is rewriting your mental makeup to some degree.  It won't happen often, and my guess is that it mostly only happens when you're in your formative years.  (I had a bit of it happen recently, though, while reading Alan Moore's novel Voice of the Fire, so it certainly isn't impossible at a later age.)  It certainly had a massive impact on me in 1990, though, and there is no question in my mind that if events hadn't lined up that way, I'd be a different person today.

Needless to say, when it was announced that ABC was going to be producing a four-night miniseries based on my then-favorite novel, I flipped out.  There was an issue of Cinefantastique that came out that had a lot of coverage of the miniseries; I must have read that a dozen time.  I was probably as stoked for that miniseries as I have ever been for anything that came on television (with the possible exception of The Wizard of Oz, which I used to watch once every year when it aired with a sort of ritualistic fervor that is what I imagine religious awe to be like).

And it did not let me down.  I loved every second of the miniseries.

I may as well dash some water on the proceedings now by noting that a great deal of that love has evaporated over the years.  My tastes as a film-lover are vastly different now than they were when I was 19.  And in many ways, I no longer enjoy the miniseries.  Heck, in some ways, I no longer find myself falling into the novel the way I once did; I've got problems with the climax, most notably.  Despite that, I think the novel is awesome in most respects.  The miniseries?  Not so much.  Too cheesy, with some genuinely awful performances from several key actors; and also much too truncated a take on the novel for my tastes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Under the Dome 1.09: "The Fourth Hand"

I've enjoyed Under the Dome more frequently than not, but even during its best episodes I've occasionally found myself secretly shaking my head a bit, wondering why it isn't better.  It seems like every week, there is at least one scene that just makes me want to slap myself in the face.

And to be honest, that's the way I felt about a great deal of this episode.  I liked parts of it, but on the whole, it's my least-favorite episode since "The Fire" way back in the show's second week.

To help explain why that is, I've lined up a special guest interview with none other than yours truly, Bryant Burnette.  Let's see what the two of us had to talk about!

Q:  You didn't like this episode, did you, Bryant?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #37

Last week on Bryant Has Issues we eviscerated reviewed "So Fell Lord Perth," the final issue of Marvel's Dark Tower series.  Which means...

Holy smoke, Indy my friend...!

There are no Stephen King comics being published currently!  That's the first time that has been the case since February of 2007.  Quite a long stretch, that.

It brings up a question: should I continue these columns?  Personally, I think the answer is a yes; King's son Joe Hill is obviously going to continue to publish comics for the foreseeable future, and notable King collaborators like Scott Snyder and Brian K. Vaughan work in the medium on a monthly basis.  Plus, I'm sure some publisher is going to go sailing on Lake King again one of these days.  I'd still love to see King do an original series for the medium; maybe with Hill collaborating, even.  But an adaptation of some other King novel is just as likely.  I vote for It.

So, I guess that's settled.  Bryant Has Issues stays alive!  If you've got a dissenting opinion, feel free to fling it at me.

First title up this week is Saga, which returns after a months-long hiatus.  So far, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are kinda publishing each arc of the series almost on a season-by-season basis; and frankly, I think this is a terrific way of going about things.  It gives Staples a chance to keep up with the art, gives more readers time to climb onboard the series via the collected editions, and creates a bit of cliffhangery tension every six or seven months.  I approve.

I also just approve of Saga in general.  There is nothing about this series that I don't like.  Mostly, I love it, even.  I don't use that word lightly.  I mean sure, I don't love it the way I love my cats, or Coca-Cola, or women with tattoos from The Dark Tower.  Let's not get crazy here.  But Saga rates not too terribly far behind those things.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Under the Dome 1.08: "Thicker Than Water"

Man things in life are unfair.  Let's not even begin a list; it'll only bum us all out.  Instead, let's mention a single specific unfairness: tonight's episode of Under the Dome was really rather good.  Not flawless; laws, no.  But good.  Solid.  Entertaining.

And yet, all I really want to talk about is last night's season premiere of Breaking Bad, which was not merely good, solid, or entertaining (though it was all of those things), but revelatory, inspiring, heartbreaking.  I'm tempted to say that television doesn't get any better, although I've seen episodes of Breaking Bad (among other shows) that were even better than this one.

It's unfair to hold Under the Dome to the same standard.  Fuck,'s unfair to hold any television show to the same standard, with a few extremely notable exceptions.  (Let's not list them, either; let's not risk sidetracking a sidetrack.)

But while I watched Dean Norris make his way through an hour of television for the second consecutive night, I simply could not help but remember moments from the hour that aired on Sunday, and find the hour that aired on Monday lacking in comparison.  To the extent it's possible, I try to find a place of objectivity to write these reviews -- all my reviews, in fact -- from, and one of the obstacles that constantly appear in my path are comparisons between one work of art and another.  As I say, I do my best to keep the corn and the mashed potatoes separated.  But let's face it: we live in a world where things don't always have clear lines of delineation, and sometimes one thing butts up against another, and there's no keeping them separate.

Tonight was one of those nights for me.  So if I sound slightly down on this episode, bear in mind that it may be the aftereffects of a massive Breaking Bad hangover.  Fair?  Probably not.

It's what we've got, though.

Let's be clear, though: I did like the episode.  I have some problems with it, though, and we may as well address a few of them first, since in already in a minor-mode negativity spiral.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #36

I've taken the past couple of weeks off as far as these comics roundups go, so we's got us some catchin' up to do.

We begin with the final issue of Marvel's Dark Tower series.  It's called "So Fell Lord Perth," and it looks like this:

Here's the thing: my dark side is crying out for me to rip this issue to shreds.  I did not like it much, so what I want to do, reflexively, is to just spill my guts on the many reasons why that is the case.

And that's exactly what I'm going to do, so read on.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Under the Dome 1.07: "Imperfect Circles"

After tonight's episode, two things are the case: (1) the first season of Under the Dome is now more than halfway over, and (2) I've managed so far to actually keep up with getting these reviews out in a timely fashion.  I was worried that that might not be the case, but hey, whattaya know, I can stay on task at times!

I have probably just jinxed it, but let's stay optimistic.

Speaking of staying optimistic, that's where I am regarding Under the Dome.  I liked tonight's episode with very few reservations; it was probably the best episode yet, thanks not only to some major developments regarding the mystery of the dome, but also to a number of very solid character moments.  It seems to me as if the series has been improving nearly every week, so yes, I'm feeling very optimistic about the potential for the rest of this season, and beyond.

Let's start, I suppose, with the couple depicted above.  For now, the series seems to have gone all-in on the idea that Joe and Norrie will be the characters through which we explore the mystery that is the dome.  Up until this episode, there had not been a huge amount of development in that regard, just an occasional half-step forward.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Good God, Let's Eat: A Review of "Cain Rose Up"

Way back in February, I launched an ongoing examination of King's short stories with an extensive -- and pedantic -- look at his first professionally-published story, "The Glass Floor."

Hopefully, I'm going to be able to produce these at a rate of more than once every six months; otherwise, we're all going to be cyborgs by the time this series of reviews is finished.  Ah, well; so it goes.

In any case, the next story on the agenda is "Cain Rose Up."  A bit of background info and housekeeping first:

"Cain Rose Up" was published during King's sophomore year of college, in the spring 1968 issue of Ubris, the University of Maine literary journal.  King actually published two stories in that issue; "Here There Be Tygers" was the second (or the first, depending on how the coin-flip turns out).  Copies of these college-era publications are not exactly easy to come by, so I do not have them.  Instead, we will be looking at the version of the story as it appeared in the 1985 collection Skeleton Crew.  It is likely that King revised the story for its inclusion in that collection, but since that's the version 99.9999999999999999999% of all King readers will have read, we're going to not worry about it too much.

I mention it mainly to point out that while I'll make certain assumptions about how King's style had progressed from 1967 to 1968, it's possible that some of what I'm referring to is actually based on a hypothetical revision that occurred as late as 1985.  Since I've got no means of being sure about that, we're all going to have to just pretend that it's not an issue.  Let's speak of it no further, eh?

Here's an image of that issue of Ubris:


I'd love to think that someday, my King collection will have one of those in it; it's something to hope for, at least.

And now, on to the review.