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Thursday, July 14, 2005

I live again. 

So.

1) If I never hear another fucking word about that stupid teenager getting herself lost in Aruba, it won't be too fucking soon. I just can't care, and the nation's reaction deeply disgusted me. I'm sorry, how many women are kidnapped and/or killed in Ciudad Juárez every fucking year? Damn near 400 women (and young girls) have gone missing and (in most cases) wound up dead since 1993 -- and yet people fly into Aruba in droves to search, on foot, for some blandly pretty blonde from an upper-middle class white area in Birmingham, Alabama.

(Re: Mountain Brook area, I know of whence I speak; my sister lives five minutes from there.)

I could say this is just another sign pointing to our unwillingness to tackle any actually TOUGH problems, and preference for "easy" moral situations that require no more thought from the average individual than generic, nonspecific outcry... but that would be nothing new, would it?

2) King Kong: one huge gorilla, one big clumsy metaphor. Can't care. Just can't.

3) This, on the other hand...

4) Been reading a lot of comics in my silence. A lot of comics. No, really: A Fucking Lot of Comics. Let's take a random sampling.

My Faith in Frankie: I don't know why this kind of comic is not simply released in this format from the beginning, in spindle racks on the counter of Hot Topic or Borders Books & Music. $7 for a funny, strange, interesting, and utterly unique story you will not find in any other medium. I'm not one to advocate the complete and total eradication of the monthly, but there is not one fucking reason in the world this couldn't have been released right up front as a complete story. People want to read stuff like this. Why are we making it hard on them?

Strangers in Paradise: Pocket Book One: I don't get it. I understand that this is the first volume of work, so maybe it's going to be a little rough, and the tone isn't quite set yet but -- is the whole series really this... earnest and adolescent? When Katchoo (holy fuck, what is with that overly-cute nickname) commits aggravated assault, I'm not feeling The Wacky, as I'm so obviously meant to; it just comes off as psychotic and reprehensible. Perhaps years of reading webcomics have spoiled me. You know how it is with casts of webcomic strips: you have the dumb one, the "normal" one, the household appliance/anthropomorphized inanimate object... and always, fucking ALWAYS, you have the "crazy girl," whose wacky antics of excess violence are meant to charm and endear the audience.

(I'm looking at you, Queen of Wands.)

Maybe all webcomic writers are just imitating SIP. Anyway... I'm not seeing the charm. Everyone having a too-cute face that I desperately want to smack doesn't help, either.

Skeleton Key: Beyond the Threshold: This, on the other hand, is something special. I like comics that have the spine to show you something new, and the art is so vividly perfect it transcends the low production value. I'm still not sold on a small town in the frozen Canadian north celebrating the Day of the Dead, but I'll let it slide because, hey, Tamsin's skeleton outfit is riveting to look at. It's not just the costuming, though; dig those settings. Dig that mysterious thrift store. Dig Tamsin's bedroom. Dig the masks, the buildings, the sky.

(Listen to that "dig" stuff. I've been reading too much James Ellroy lately.)

The next volume is definitely on my to-buy list.

The Amazing Joy Buzzards: Here's another one that has no reason not to be in front of every 15-30 year old with a disposable income. It's a blast, and I couldn't exactly tell you why. Is it the pitch-perfect dialogue? Is it the insanity of ideas bursting on every fucking page? Is it the serious but oddly pitch-perfect side story of shady Dalton Warner, band manager and haunted CIA spook?

Nah, I'll tell you what it is: the blessed, blessed restraint of pop-culture references.

Pop-culture references are the devil. They are weak humor. So many of the new breed of "wacky" comics relies way too much on talking-gorilla gags and the reader's knowledge of Transformers. This is a crutch, a cheap laugh, a cop out. AJB mercifully keeps away from this, mostly, and instead just tells us a wild, weird, funny fucking story that works entirely within its own universe.

It is, in short, completely accessible and does not rely on external gimmickry. Just bring the right mood, and the book does the rest.

Audi 5000.

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