Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bryant Has Issues #54

Just a trio of titles to look at this week, but they're solid ones, beginning with:
Don't stare at that cover for too long; it might freak you out.
One thing the above image is missing is a price.  Now, I may as well level with you, kids: that image came from a torrent.  Yes, I torrented Saga #23.  Guess what?  It was only so I didn't have to scan the entire issue.  Scanning an entire issue of a comic takes way longer than it seems like it should, and I have only so much patience for things of that nature.  So, yeah, sometimes I take the easy way out.
However, know ye one and all that I do purchase my comics at a store (Sho'Nuff Comics, to be specific).  To prove it, I decided to scan the cover of my issue and post it in unedited format:
See?  I couldn't even be bothered to rotate the image.  I can never remember which way to place things to not have them initially be upside down.  Oh, well.
Anyways, me being quasi-defensive about torrenting when defensiveness is probably unnecessary isn't the point.  The point is this: take a look at that (admittedly upside-down) cover price: $2.99.
Children, in a world in which Saga -- which is routinely the best new comic I read in any given month -- costs a mere $2.99 per issue, there is no reason on Earth why I ought to be charged $3.99 for anything.  And yet, most of the titles I cover in Bryant Has Issues are priced at just that.  Occasionally, DC will even get their prick up and decide to go to $4.99, and if anybody from DC happens to have noticed that I haven't talked about the last issue or two of Batman here . . . well, guys, you finally did it one time too many and I dropped the title.  Which means that instead of $2.99 per month, you get $0.00 per month from me.
And in case you were wondering, no, I don't torrent it; I kind of lost interest in that title altogether.
But we're not here to talk yang about DC.  Let's instead sing the praises of Saga, which are voluminous.
There's Ginny, wearing an oversized t-shirt in the middle of the night.  Who do you suppose she's greeting?  If you answered "Marko" (whom she knows as Barr), then you'd be correct.
Over the past few issues, we've been conditioned to expect that an affair is going to break out between these two.  I mean, look at Ginny!  She's cute, purple, and prone to wear what appears to be a punk-rock t-shirt with nothing else.  A man can only resist so much temptation, after all.
So, is this the moment when it finally happens? 
It's not looking good, is it?  Unless you're championing seeing Marko and Ginny get together, in which case it is looking excellent at this point.  However...

We're at risk of turning into a soap-opera review column here, but a little melodrama never hurt anybody, provided it was in moderation.  I'm certainly not averse to getting embroiled in a bit of will-they-won't-they; chrissakes, I own all of Moonlighting on DVD!  
However, I part ways with certain aspects of fandom in these regards.  For instance, there is a thing called "shipping."  That's short(ish) for "relationship," and while I'm okay with the idea of engaging with a story in that way, I don't really see a need to put a name on the practice.  Nor do I engage in the odious practice of creating via portmanteau a single name to serve as a designation for a two-character relationship.  I feel a bit as though people who do that should be rendered sterile and should have the internet taken away from them; and not necessarily in that order.
Is that harsh?  Probably.
In any case, it is my hope that the average Saga reader is perhaps above that sort of thing, and yet I strongly suspect that somewhere out there is a fan page dedicated to Marko and Ginny, probably with some "clever" name for the two of them.  This is NOT an invitation for you to seek such a page out and then tell me about it, by the way.  I don't need to know about "Garko," or whatever-the-fuck.
So, to ease us out of that area, let me say three things:
Thing the first: I like the way this scene walks right up to that line and then refuses to cross it.  Will we see more of Ginny?  I suspect so, but it's just as possible that she has been a mere diversion of some sort.  
Thing the second: thanks to a most excellent recent post at Dog Star Omnibus, I've had the Laura Branigan song "Self Control" stuck in my head all weekend.  Fine by me; I love that song.  Looking back at this scene between Marko and Ginny, I couldn't help but give it a soundtrack, and "Self Control" was elected in a landslide.
Thing the third: Ginny is wearing a tour shirt for the nonexistent band The Mistook, and it charms me greatly that they went on a multi-planet prison tour.  Does one of those tour stops appear to resemble "Folsom"?  Sure does.  Well done, Brian K. Vaughan and/or Fiona Staples; well done.
It's not all warm genitals and nonexistent punk bands this month, though.  Elsewhere, things are looking pretty bad for Yuma, who is at the mercy of Dengo the rebel janitor:

Yuma is not necessarily one of my favorite characters.  Which is a polite way for me to say that she is one of my least favorite characters in the series.  Fiona Staples' character designs are marvelous, and I get that she was going for something truly out-there in portraying a sentient shrubbery or whatever the heck Yuma is; but for me, the result is visually uninteresting.  The cover for this issue is by far the most compelling use of Yuma thus far, in fact.
Dengo, on the other hand, captivates me.  I love the robots in general.  What a fucking wacky idea, man.  That television Dengo has for a head looks damned similar to the one on which I used to play Atari in the '80s.  How or why anyone ever thought such a contraption would make for a good cranium on a comic-book character is beyond me, as is the specific of how it ended up working.  But it does!  Go figure.
There's more going on elsewhere:
Staples is especially good at depicting Hazel, who is winningly annoying in the way only wonderful little children can be.  Actually, hungry cats are not entirely dissimilar.
Speaking of pets, seeing the walrus up there puts me in mind of the recent Kevin Smith movie Tusk, which may well have ruined walruses forever.  Thanks a lot, Kev.  (That movie is either genius or a complete piece of shit, and I'm not entirely sure which.  This probably means that it is a bit of both.  I'd say see it for yourself to make up your own mind, but I don't want you to resent me afterward, so if you do, do so under your own volition and leave me out of it.)
The rest of the issue involves . . . well, even though I'm newly agreeable to spoilers around here, I don't want to give away what the rest of the issue involves.  It's got major implications for the direction of the series, though, that's for sure.
Remember earlier, when I said that Saga is routinely the best new comic I read during any given month?  It's occasionally knocked off its perch by another Vaughan series, The Private Eye, which does not necessarily appear on a monthly basis.  The eighth issue came out recently, however, and as good as Saga #23 is, The Private Eye #8 is even better.
As I've mentioned before, the comic is published only online, and is offered on a pay-as-you-wish basis by Panel Syndicate.  I typically chip in $2.99, although I've given a bit more a couple of times.  I think I might have paid a mere $1.99 for the first issue, but felt as if I'd underpaid and so chipped in another dollar on a later issue.
If you want to, though, you can pay as little as $0.00, so there's really no financial reason for you not to be reading The Private Eye.  I'd encourage you to pay at least a bit for it, though; this is outstanding work which deserves remuneration.
To attempt to coerce you into becoming a fan, I'm going to post the entirety of the most recent issue.  Give it a read, and if you enjoy it (you will), go sling a few bucks at Panel Syndicate.
I continue to be charmed by the idea of a typical 2014-ish tatted-up punker as a grumpy old grandfather.

Hey, give the lady some credit: if it bleeds, it leads, right?  And this sucker most definitely bleeds:

That is some fucked-up, repugnant shit.

I'm hearing the chief as Ossie Davis.  Can't help it.

I would guess that the "Greenwald" reference is intended to make one think of Glenn Greenwald, who was involved in the Edward Snowden leaks.  (Yes, I had to Google that to find out who "Greenwald" might be.  My cultural literacy only goes so far, alas.)

As you may or may not know, one of the conceits of The Private Eye is that it takes place in a future in which journalists and police are one and the same.  So, of course, the federal police would be "C.N.N."  I'll take Citizen National News over the Federal Organization of Xenophobia, for sure.

Ladies: if you are ever in the position of asking yourself, "is this tank-top/short-jean-shorts/striped-socks combo a good look?", the answer is YES.

Poor, battered Melanie seems doomed.  I'm going to be bummed if she gets killed.

The vehicle designs on this series are great.  One part retro, one part futuristic, one part future-retro, one part retro-futuristic.  Which is probably exactly what cars will actually look like in the future.  It's probably what everything will look like in the future.  And to me, the future of The Private Eye seems -- visually-speaking, at least (and possibly at more than least) -- about as likely as any other I can think of.

If you're just joining us, those are not aliens; they are masks worn for privacy.  Now, as for the Angry Birds reference, can I confess that I've never played that game?  I'm sure it's fun, but I got no time for such trifles.

That's a convincing blueprint.  I wonder if it's real?

The art by Marcos Martin and the colors by Muntsa Vicente on this series is almost always exceptional, and I especially love that last panel.  So simple, so effective.

Same goes for the second panel on this page.

I hadn't thought of this before, but the French assassins' masks sort of look like Star Lord's mask in Guardians of the Galaxy, don't they?  Well, it's a great design, and we can theoretically say that these Frenchmen are big Marvel fans.

Good for you, Federal reporter.

One thing Martin is especially good at is scale; he does well when showing tiny people to indicate a large space.  Easy to take a thing like for a granted as a reader; considerably less easy to achieve as an artist, I assume.

Unless I misremember, this is our first inkling of what lies beyond the wall.  As soon as I saw it, a voice inside my head said "of course!"  As an idea, this is simultaneously awe-inspiring and horrifying, and I wonder if I might live to actually see such a thing come to be.  I just might, unfortunately.

Interestingly, this scene takes the villain of the series and gives him sympathies that are probably not too far away from being those of the average Private Eye reader.  Or at least, that's my knee-jerk reaction; further contemplation might make me reconsider.

I've omitted the letters page which appears at the end, and it raises the spectre of the recent celebrity cell-phone hacks.  When that happened, one of the first things I thought of was The Private Eye, in which a puncturing of "the cloud" led, in the story's past, to massive societal changes.
Needless to say, The Private Eye is doing what a lot of great science fiction does: walking the fine line between exploring the now and predicting the actual future.  It's doing so marvelously, and between this and Saga, Brian K. Vaughan is on fire these days.  And to think, this is the guy who developed Under the Dome for television.  I can't see him in that series at all, so much so that I tend to assume he either did very little actual work for CBS, or was massively interfered with by the network or something of that nature.
Because the guy who writes Saga and The Private Eye is so much better than the tv version of Under the Dome that it is barely even chartable.
One comic left, and we stay in the same genre:
Juan Ortiz's covers for this miniseries have been outstanding.

I like Paul Shipper's variant covers a lot, also; although this one suffers a wee bit due to the fact that I kind of don't care about Beckwith as a character at all.
This issue begins with the love affair of Kirk and Keeler in full bloom:

Did I say something earlier about soap operas earlier?  Well, we're in serious Hollywood-cliche-romance territory here, and we're talking the romance of black-and-white movies, where things simple happen without any development.  Bear in mind that Harlan Ellison wrote "The City on the Edge of Forever" for a 1960s television show; that medium at that time was still very much in old-Hollywood-romance mode.  Dramatically, this is a bit of cheat, but old Hollywood knew something that it seems new Hollywood sometimes forgets: that if you have the right actors in the roles, and the chemistry between them is good, "a bit of a cheat" is no impediment whatsoever.
Personally, I'd say that the chemistry between William Shatner and Joan Collins in the as-produced episode is quite strong; you can believe in them as a romantic couple, even if your brain insists that they just met.  If you've seen the episode, you can probably -- especially with artist J.K. Woodward helping you out -- carry that chemistry over to this comic-book version.  So for me, this stuff works.  For somebody who isn't familiar with the episode, or with the tropes of the era, it might be heavy lifting.
The highlight of the issue comes next:

Woodward's grasp on Leonard Nimoy's features slips a bit at a couple of points there, but the starkness and simplicity of the presentation here really helps this scene stand out.  It is, of course, a pivotal moment in Star Trek, and Kirk's dilemma here is the reason why a lot of people will still tell you that "The City on the Edge of Forever" is the best episode of the entire franchise.  I wouldn't give it that designation; but it would be on the short-list for contention, if nothing else.
As the issue progresses, Beckwith finally makes his expected appearance, which promises to make the fifth and final issue a powerful one.  It's been a while since I read Ellison's screenplay, so while I remember generally what happens, I can't recall the specifics.
Something to look forward to for next month, then!


  1. Ellison's dialogue is interesting from a hindsight perspective, especially since the J.J. Abrams Trek reboot.

    What I mean is the basic backstory Kirk tells here, and how it clashes fundamentally with the Abrams version. Also interesting is the pre-Next-Gen sexual politics on display. In fact, that phrase "I'm not a neuter" from Spock is somewhat eyebrow raising. Perhaps in an alternate version of Trek there's a Vulcan version of Hef's Black Book?

    Okay, head out of gutter, one thing I think I recall was hearing that one of the drafts of "City" featured some segment involving the characters riding on a gigantic carousel carved into a mountain, or something like that?

    Don't go by me, I'm just trying to recall from memory here.


    1. Yep, that stuff from Spock about him not being a neuter was most definitely an attention-grabber. Important to remember that (A) this was written by Ellison way before Trek became what we know it now to be and (B) stuff like that is a big part of the reason why Roddenberry rewrote the screenplay so extensively. Hard to blame either party, really.

      I'm not sure whether the screenplay ever included a carousel like the one you mention. Maybe the fifth issue will clarify that!

  2. Absolutely sold on The Private Eye / Panel Syndicate, there. I'm stopping at my local on the way home (luckily I walk past it) and telling them to put that aside for me.

    I cracked up looking over that Saga stuff with "Self-Control" in mind. The world would be a better place if that was the soundtrack to more things.

    "I kind of don't care about Beckwith as a character at all."

    That's a big problem for me with Harlan's script in general. For one thing, I hate reading the name "Beckwith" over and over again. It just aggravates me. Personal reaction, sure, and I apologize to all the real-world Beckwiths out there. But making the character McCoy just makes so much better sense. I recall Harlan decrying this angrily, as it made "Bones seem like an incompetent jerk." For getting the hypo when the ship jerked from the time ripple? What? Anyway - the investment the reader was/is meant to have in Beckwith isn't there for me.

    The back and forth here between Spock is good. It's a lot of space for a comic, though. I don't know how to condense it, and I give them props for making it visually interesting enough.

    I don't recall a carousel carved out of the mountain from the script.

    1. Oops -- I forgot to mention that "The Private Eye" is available ONLY digitally. There is no print edition, and Vaughan has said there never will be. Which is kind of annoying, and will probably not last, if I had to guess.

      I agree with you 100% about McCoy/Beckwith (up to and including that I simply don't like the name "Beckwith"). I like Ellison as a writer, but there is virtually nothing in his screenplay which Gene Roddenberry didn't improve. In my opinion.

      Still, I am glad these comics were made, and I still say I'd love to see one of the prominent fan productions make an episode out of the screenplay.

    2. 100% agreed on that last bit.

      Ah, glad you caught me before I went to the shop! Well then I'll just get myself a digital subscription. That stuff you posted is fantastic.