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Comic Review: Batman: Annual #2t
Batman Annual #2Batman Annual #2 by Tom King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am not a big fan of Annuals. They’re high priced for a story that most likely does not advance that story. Still, a couple of reasons I picked this up. 1- This got a lot of hype for being amazing and 2- I have really enjoyed King ‘s run on Batman. The truth is that this is a very good one. It focuses on Batman and Catwoman’s relationship which ties in perfectly with King’s current arc, and takes this plotline to a logical end. Art was very good and is split between Cullen and Weeks. The dialogue was snappy and it read like a movie, which I usually consider a compliment, and in this case, I am saying that in the best ways. I probably didn’t rate the ending as high as everyone else, and the hype of this book worked against for me. These are minor details as this is a strong story and perfect for the Annual format. Truth is I probably enjoyed Batman #36 more (dat Supes tho), but this is a necessary purchase for any Batman fan, and looks to be considered a high point in King’s run on the character, and am sure it will be remembered fondly.

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On the Shelf 192: Martin Rev
While the world justifiably mourns Alan Vega and celebrates his final disc, Martin Rev releases his first new music in seven years with Demolition 9.

Demolition 9 is an interesting album collecting 34 pieces of music- some fully realized at 3 minutes, others snippets at 30 seconds. There's songs that are neoclasical, others could be classified as industrial noise, and there's everything else in between, with funk, no wave, even nods back to 50s rock. Mostly all instrumental, though some vocal is on it.

For some that may be frustrating, but for me, it makes for an interesting concept. I am not usually a fan of instrumental work for straight listening, but it's too good to ignore. To me, it's music that really captures my ear much like what JG Thirlwell has been doing (If I expand my thinking, there's probably a few more bands that come to mind over the years like Chrome, but this is a very specific crowd).

Anyway, I really kind of dig this clash of styles, and again, I would probably say ignore it if it wasn't so dang good.

Comic Review: Batman: Creature of the Night
Batman: Creature of the Night (2017-) #1Batman: Creature of the Night (2017-) #1 by Kurt Busiek

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of Busiek's Astro City work and heard good reviews on this so picking it up was a no brainer. This follows a similar Superman story he did which I must have missed.

I have picked up every Astro City from the beginning and needless to say I am a big fan. Although every writer who stick to a genre inevitably have the same pattern, the great ones still make it work, and I still very much enjoy Astro City.

I have not caught much of his non-Astro City work. There's not a whole lot but there are a few things I missed. I read Marvels but that has been over 20 years now and I read some of his Conan work, but I wasn't crazy about it (and that may not entirely be his fault).

This book has out of the world reviews, but to be honest, it is pretty special. Not to give too much away, it is about Bruce Wainwright, a kid with a Batman obsession, and his uncle Al Fredrick (Alfred, get it?). I will leave it there, but obvious there are going to be parallels.

One reviewer compared it to the old Elseworlds titles, and that is very right on. It is hard to say what role Batman will play in this, though my inkling is that he will figure in (I will leave it at that).

The art fits the story which is suitably grim and gritty. I saw a review call it Batman via Serpico. That's probably not too far off. I like the art in that it captures a certain vibe for the comic that was appropriate.

This has a heavy Astro City vibe, which is likely inevitable, but in a positive way. It doesn't feel out of place or inferior because of that. As the story draws on, it's hard to escape that comparison (especially as it told from multiple points of view and is looking backwards in time).

My only real complaint and it is minor is that this is a big book set out in four points, and towards the end it feels a bit stretched for a couple of pages just so that the book ends with a big finale. probably no way around that except to make the book shorter (and no one would want that), so it's a very minor quibble.

Well recommended for Busiek fans. I think everyone will like this one. It does sound a bit cheesy in description (Bruce Wain...wright), but it completely works.

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Comic Review: Rasputin : Voice of the Dragon
Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon #1Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon #1 by Mike Mignola

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I said previously, I was giving my comic book shop owner (and longer time friend) that he does not seem to ever stock Dark Horse, or at least Mignolaverse titles. So having done that, i was pretty much obligated to buy this when it came in.

I read Hellboy for years, probably up until around 2012. To be fair, he was just too prolific for me, and my comic shop at that time wasn't carrying them. The early titles were so good, that it also feels like Mignola has done it all.

So, I picked up Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon. Horror is hard, and I think Rasputin is actually a good fit in the Mignolaverse. He fits that mold of Alistair Crolwey occult meets Temple of Doom action. While this book is pre-Hellboy and pre-BPRD, it is a logical step to see Rasputin plotting with the Nazis (spoiler alert: and being all Rasputin-y about it).

There is more to this comic than that, and this has a great World War 2 era- England angle. It reads true to me, or at least as anything Garth Ennis writes via Max Hastings histories.

So there is a lot to like about this book. It does seem Mignola has done it all in almost 25 years of these characters, but he has expanded his Universe enough to mostly keep it fresh and add as many new angles as he can. This is another example of that.

I thought the art was really good, or at least appropriate to the title (drawn by Christopher Mitten). It really is Dave Stewart's colors that bring it to life; and that cover is striking and sticks with you.

This book has me excited for Mignola once again after my hiatus. I don't know if I am up for buying 8 to 12 miniseries or whatever he puts out in a year, but I am in, and i hope my comic book shop guy is too.

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Comic Review: Metal: Jenny Finn
Jenny Finn #1Jenny Finn #1 by Mike Mignola

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I gave my comic shop owner (and even longer time friend) grief over never ordering Dark Horse stuff when the latest lineup was announced. So I pretty much had to buy this.

(It's not new though. This was confusingly hard to find on the internet, but this is the same book that has seen the light of the day before. Most recently, it was a four issue series released by Boom (not Dark Horse) in 2011 as a black and white run. But it still looked vaguely familiar and I was not sure, and so it sounds like this was released in Oni back in 1999. I do believe I already have read this and probably have it stuffed away somewhere. Oh well)

I stopped picking up Mignola right around 2012. He was becoming a bit too prolific for me to keep up with. Although he was no longer at 100%, I don't necessarily feel his quality had dropped. As I said up top, I should probably get my comic book guy to keep ordering the titles. He is a great guy in all aspects, but he also is smart enough not to stock titles he can't sell.

Issue one is pretty great to me- separate from the Hellboyverse. It's a gothic horror with heavy doses of Lovecraft and Jack the Ripper tropes. The kind of book only Mignola could do, or surely pretty close (I can't think of anyone besides Alan Moore who regularly travels down the road).

It has the best things about Mignola- there's paranoia, terror, grotesque, ribaldry, and all delivered in a minimal style, because overexplaining wouldn't make it work.

Troy Nixey's art adds those essential elements. It has now been colored by Dave Stewart so it fits well with Mignola's other work.

Re-reading past reviews on this are brutal. Readers (Mignola fans and not) absolutely hate it. There are a few positive reviews from people like myself who really like that it is what it is, but others hate the lack of depth. It has also been close to two decades since (and if) I read it the first time, and I can't remember how the story plays out. Four issues are not much to work with.

Anyway, maybe everyone missed it in those days of over the top - post Grindhouse, post Saw, post Peter Jackson and Japanese and Korean horror. I like the Victorian kind of eerie steampunkish Ripper horror with nods to classic Stoker/Shelly books and a bit of the sea shanty element. I will have to dig this one back out or keep buying.

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Comic Review: Metal: Batman Lost
Batman: Lost #1Batman: Lost #1 by Scott Snyder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This appears to be the right book, though the Goodreads credits are slightly skewed (GR doesn't like you reviewing single issue comics anyway) Bengal does the awesome cover, Snyder is surely point person. but there is a team of creators.

I picked this up because it really caught my eye. I have been picking up the Metal miniseries. I am a Marvel guy, but I can't disagree with the popular sentiment that DC is kicking the House of M's a-- right now.

This is a oneshot tie in with a great set of collaborating writers (Snyder, Tynion IV, Williamson). I loved the idea. Bruce Wayne is telling his granddaughter various old Batman stories (these of course are tie-ins to the storyline).

But he half-remembers and his granddaughter figures out that all these stories literally cannot be true. It's a fantastic setup. There's misses in logic and in personality and in timeline.

To broaden it much further out, if it's all Batman, then how do you explain the difference between Gotham Adventures Batman and Dark Knight Returns Batman, or for that matter Adam West Batman and Christian Bale Batman. They are all the same one story right? That to me makes for an interesting road to go down. (Imagine Spiderman with as many times as that story has been re-written).

So like Metal, very Morrisonesque but in all of the best ways.

I also have to say a word about the art which is also incredible. I usually don't mention art, unless it is something out of the ordinary like Frank Quietly or if it's bad. The art in this book is incredible. It is hard to explain- it's just DC art, but big thumbs up to Mahnke, Mendoza, Jiminez, and Paquette. I know a couple of those names and they are good, but I was a big fan of the art.

As it being what it is, this is a tie-in to Metal, one of several, and thus has to stand alone. It works pretty well, though by its very definition is nonessential. I did enjoy it quite a bit.

Lastly, I am not a real big fan of the idea of that there is a long line of Batmen, there will always be a Batman, etc. I realize that is central to the Metal run, and it doesn't stop my enjoyment. I am just not really a fan. I don't think the character needs it. I think the origin is enough in explaining, and I think saying Bruce Wayne's Batman is predestined is a contradiction of that. I don't have a problem with other books that do that. For Bendis's Powers, it makes sense (that monkey issue aside). I am sure someone will school me on why it's better that way, and it surely opens up a realm of possibilities. It's just not my favorite thing.

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Book Review: Shakespeare: The World as Stage
Shakespeare: The World as StageShakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am not necessarily a big fan of the Bard, but I am a big fan of Bryson, so I thought it might be worth checking out.

I like the idea of the Eminent Lives series. The idea is that you already have some idea of the person so you don't need a lot of general details you already know; but you also aren't interested in investing time in a 500plus page biography.

This was pretty fascinating to me. Essentially, we know next to nothing about Shakespeare. The pictures we have of him are unreliable. The same goes for the Globe Theater. Based on recollections years later. It is weird to think about this in a Instagram/Twitter age where we know literally everything about our stars. Still, no one thought to interview Shakespeare's children or any other matter of things to capture him for posterity.

It is a miracle we have what we have. The collections of his works weren't always reliable (not unlike today, where every funny song on YouTube is credited to Weird Al). The references we do have are when Will shows up in legal documents of the day. Instead of making things clearer, what we do have just increases the mystery.

So many of the phrases and quotes we take for granted came from Shakespeare. The book ends with some of the theories have had about The Bard not being The Bard throughout the years. While we know next to nothing about the real Bill Shakespeare, it is still quite clear he existed. It wasn't ghost written by a famous writer of the day. it wasn't a collective. It wasn't Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, or any of the suspected men or women over the years.

He clearly did exist. He just wasn't always the Greatest Writer Ever. As one suspects, even Bill had critics.

This made for some interesting reading and I really enjoyed this angle of telling the Bard's story. This made me realize what he contributed to our language, and what a genius he was. It was also an interesting reading of the time in which it was much harder to document things, and how much has likely been due to natural disasters, time and as with Shakespeare, sometimes good intentions.

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On the Shelf 191: Buckingham and McVie
I own up to my guilty pleasures and one of those is Fleetwood Mac.

Now, everyone loves Rumours right- and some times is it nostalgia and sometimes it's irony, but I get it. I am not sure if I can even give it an honest opinion just because a good half of it is etched into mine and everyone's conscience, as to not really know what the true impact is. Good songs, though.

It is with little doubt that Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham by themselves have elements of cool. Stevie's always cool and Lindsay has always skirted a line that puts him on the right side of hip.

It's Christine McVie that is not so hip. "You Make Loving Fun" and "Dont Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" tend to be closer to the types of songs that make you want to rebel and start a punk band.

Of course, it has nothing to do with hipness, it's just style, and McVie's style is standard pop. I will never prefer her to Stevie or Lindsay, but she's been the lead on some great pop songs- "Everywhere", "Little Lies" and the lesser known "Isn't it Midnight?" all off of Tango in the Night are fantastic songs (as is the similarly time framed "As Long as You Follow")

Tango in the Night is a bit of an anomaly. No worries. It did very well. It gets lost in 1987. Rap is on the ascent (Yo Bum Rush the Show, Bigger and Deffer, Criminal Minded, Paid in Full, Rhyme Pays). Metal is about to explode(Appetite for Destruction, Girls Girls Girls, Among the Living, The 5.98 EP). College Rock is about to break through (In My Tribe, Document, The Lion and the Cobra, Diesel and Dust) and its weirder kid brother Indie Rock is at creative peaks (Pleased to Meet Me, You're Living All Over Me, Sister, Locust Abortion Technician, Come On Pilgrim, Warehouse:Songs and Stories, Songs about F*cking) It's British cousin Modern Rock is at an apex as well (Music for the Masses, Strangeways here We Come, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, Floodland, George Best, The Perfect Prescription) and the esoteric post punkers are making unheard masterpieces (Children of God, Cleanse Fold and Manipulate, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun).

Even pop music is stretching boundaries is modern, beyond Faith and Whitney and Bad, there's The Joshua Tree, Hysteria, Introducing the Hardline..., Kick, and Lonesome Jubilee, and even the old guard has adapted (Permanent Vacation, Crazy Nights, Momentary Lapse of Reason).

So no doubt Tango gets lost, but what a great album. The Mac made two albums in the 90s without Lindsey Buckingham. For the band that maybe had the longest strangest trip over the years, probably the most resilient is the Mac. it is at least on the short list of bands who have made dramatic changes more than once (Jefferson Airplane, Chicago, The Doobie Brothers, Pink Floyd to name a few), it is hard to imagine Fleetwood Mac without Buckingham fronting it. Similarly, with due respect to all parties involved, Buckingham seems to need Mac too. His solo work is interesting, his string of singles is wonderful, but he is best when he is backed by Fleetwood and McVie, not to mention the depth brought by Nicks and McVie.

This was followed in short order by a rediscovery of sorts that brought them back to the fore. The classic five got their honors in1997 and groups as seemingly disparate as the Dixie Chicks and Hole were claiming Mac as heroes. Mac had been labelled 70s pop nostalgia, and they finally were getting their due.

It all could have ended there, and most bands would be happy with that and going out and playing the hits every four years. Fleetwood Mac released new music in 2003. This time for the first time in a long time without Christine McVie. I like Say You Will alot. To me, it really captures what Lindsay has been trying to accomplish in recent years. The rhythm section is always fantastic. I love Stevie singing.

At 18 songs, it's probably too much, but I don't want to complain about value for the money. Critics tend to point out the absence of McVie as a negative. As I said I usually give her short shrift, I am a Lindsay and Stevie guy, but it's a fair statement. The criticism that it sounds like two solo albums mashed together isn't entirely untrue. Anyway, if you want to know where I am coming from, I do like that album.

The Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie 2017 disc is the flip. It is essentially the five expected Macs minus Stevie (or as has been joked "It's a duet album with the worlds best hired rhythm section).

You know my prejudices, but what McVie does really well is sing pop music. Even more than singing, "knowing" pop music- writing and delivering.

The album is a really good pop record. If you like the harmony style of pop rock, it's hard to say anybody does it better. it can't all be grunge and thrash, right?

Again, critics have pointed out it's not a true duet album with Lindsey and Christine taking turns at vocals. It is pretty close thematically though. i doubt many would even notice without the critical ear.

Anyway, I really like it. There are moments when it goes a bit too sweet for me, and Buckingham still has his tics (why does he like the Big Love "ohs" and "ahs" so much? They show up in the otherwise perfect "In My World"). In any case, it shows that the band still makes interesting and relevant music.

Like back in 1987, I don't know where radio stations would play this. It's not for the Pitchfork crowd, though if this were anyone else, it might be indistinguishable. It's not country, though pop country owes more to Mac and the Eagles and Jimmy Buffet, than it does Hank Sr or Willie. It is certainly an odd fit in today's pop environment, and it's too soft (despite Lindsey's guitar heroics) to remotely fit in the rock world.

And after all these words, you probably won't like it if you don't like Fleetoowd Mac anyway, but I do.

All from a pair of 70 year olds who have nothing to prove and probably don't need it. How punk is that!

On the Shelf : Flogging Molly
Speaking of the Pogues and Gogol Bordello (one time labelmates on Side One Dummy Records), in my mind of all the second-generation Pogues influenced celt-punk bands, the one with the best songs (and the worst name) is Flogging Molly.

They are one of my favorite bands of the new century. However, as I pointed out in the last review, it's hard to sustain momentum. Barring some serious left turn like Reflektor, Kid A or Achtung Baby, how do you keep the formula fresh.

Which is where I land with Life is good. It is a fine listen, but like so many of the 80s punk bands that I grew up with, there's a time when you are not doing anything new. You can look at any number of punk bands, especially the 90s Epitaph roster. Even some of the finest bands like The Ramones, DOA, Bad Brains and Motorhead had duds of albums. You can name a whole list of California and British bands that have slugged out for three decades or more- The Business, Sham 69, Cockney Rejects, UK Subs, Youth Brigade, the Dickies, 7 Seconds, and many more.

So Life is Good is fine. it has some really good moments. It probably slaughters live in concert. It just isn't Swagger or Drunken Lullabies. It is probably a great listen to anyone who has never heard the band. But dang! It's hard to stay innovative.

In reading up on the new album, I discovered David King, the band's lead singer has an unusual past. He started in the 80s with a band called Fastway, that included Fast Eddie Clarke (yes from Motorhead)and a drummer from Humble Pie.

I don't remember them, though I suspect my 80s rock connoisseur friend would. It's a great generic rock band name like Head East. from there, he went to Katmandu.

I do remember Katmandu. Likely from the pages of RIP magazine, which I devoured each month. Anyway, Katmandu is a name that isn't easy to forget, and I remember a lot of hype. I don't know that I remember the actual music, though a quick listen conjures up all that was 1991. Think second tier bands like Bang Tango, Love/Hate, Dangerous Toys and Blue Murder. They certainly were better than some hair metal bands but wow, this didn't age well at all.

It's hard to imagine it's the same guy, though King's strong vocals are one thing that help set Molly apart.

Anyway Life is Good is fine, but likely just for the diehards.

On the Shelf 189 : Gogol Bordello
Gogol Bordello is one of my favorite bands, and I always go back to the Pogues for comparisons. Although I wasn't there (and they weren't released in the States), the first two Pogues albums are masterpieces. They created a style of music that hadn't been hard before, and stands up to anything released since.

The Gogols did likewise (and I was an early fan), except combining Eastern European elements to punk rock. The Pogues followed up their largely unheard first discs with two albums that captured the band maturing and not changing the sound, but finding a mainstream niche for it.

Gogol did the same. "Gypsy Punks Underworld Strike" is that moment. As masterful and majestic as "If I Should Fall From Grace with God". Starting with album 5 (although I try as much as I can to like "Hells Ditch") things get dicey. There's some great songs (Tuesday Morning, of course, "Living Ina World Without Her" and their version of Dylan's "When the Ship Comes In"), but there isn't anything I rate in the latter day Pogues or Shane's post-Pogues records.

None of the Gogols albums have been bad, but they couldn't keep the momentum up. But lets's take the obvious comparison, and look at any band. Even the greatest bands rarely make it over that four album hump. It's why we rate bands like the Clash, the Smiths, the New York Dolls, Nirvana, the Pixies, the Stooges and the Velvet Underground so high. We rip on rock juggernauts like The Rolling Stones, the Who and U2, but even bands with as much talent as the Jam, the Cars, the English Beat or some of the ones I mentioned, or bands interfered by fate like the Doors and Joy Division would have likely made a clunky album number eight.

So, I hesitate to make comment on Seekers and Finders, the seventh studio album (not to mention EPs and remix albums,etc). It's not for lack of trying. Eugene Hutz and company try to keep the spice level up. It generally works, and the only thing that works against it is the heights of the band's other records.

The guitar (a band highlight) is high in the mix which works well to drive the songs. There is a rabblerousing duet with Regina Spektor that offers something slightly new to the formula. Still, they straddle that line that can be summed up by "Saboteur's Blues" which has everything that makes the band great, but ultimately fights with the feeling you have heard the song before. It's a great listen, but a year from now, will i still reach for it?

It's the same problem Joe Strummer had when he was trying to make a similar World punk music. Sometimes he succeeded, sometimes he failed, though even in his failure, he was still the most interesting man in the room.


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