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Hellboy Volumes 8-10

Hellboy Volumes 8-10

By David Bird in Blog on August 29, 2011

This project was originally conceived as a Hellboy/BPRD discussion thread, where each volume was discussed in publication order. Then it was pretty much just me, continuing in the same order. Now I am going to cut a few corners and hopefully finish it all up. I am going to do all the Hellboy titles together, then do the special stand alones (Abe, Lobster, and Witchfinder), the 40s Bureau stories, then the current Bureau stories. There are three Hellboy volumes. Volumes eight and nine, Darkness Calls and The Wild Hunt, launch the story that only just ended with The Fury, and volume ten is a collection of short stories. It may be more correct to say that Darkness and the Hunt represent the culmination of everything that’s happened to the Big Red One. They also represent the triumph of the mythic and folkloric elements of his story over its pulp fiction origins. There has been a bifurcation, with the former setting the tone for stories set in the present and the latter setting the tone for the nostalgic short stories--represented in Crooked Man and other short story compilations. Darkness and the Hunt are dominated by women: Hecate, Baba Yaga, Nimue, Alice Monaghan, Vasilisa, Morgan Le Fay, and witches. Lots and lots of witches. Events are set in motion when Igor Bromhead, a weaselly little confidence man we’ve met before, manages to trap Hecate, the Queen of the Witches, and attempts to usurp her throne. That doesn’t work out too well for him, but the witches are still left without a leader. They choose Hellboy. He says no. Enter another weaselly little character we’ve seen before, Gruagach. We first met Gruagach as the little goblin changling that was put in place of the baby Alice Monaghan. He fought Hellboy and ended up trapped in the body of a pig. Since then his hatred for Hellboy has turned into a bloody-minded call for revenge and destruction. So much so that he works to see an old pretender to the throne made Queen of the Witches, Nimue. Nimue is best known for sealing up Merlin alive a stone tomb, but in the Mignola-verse she is a character so dark that all of the other witches came to fear her. They killed her, chopped her up, put her in a box, and put the box in a deep well under the guard of a giant. With Hecate gone and Hellboy refusing the throne, the witches accede to Gruagach and free her. Back before facing Gruagach’s revenge Hellboy must face the anger of one of the most famous witches, Baba Yaga. Still upset over the loss of her eye she manages to call him into a mystical version of Mother Russia and sets her forces against him. Much to her consternation, she is not the only “god” in the “thrice-tenth kingdom” and other mythological figures are pleased to see her aims frustrated. His chief aid comes in the form of a little, Vasilisa, a Cinderella-like character who actually does appear in the stories of Baba Yaga. Vasilisa is instrumental in saving Hellboy and returning him to the real world. The Russian witch learns that she cannot take revenge on Hellboy. If she will get what she wants--in eye for an eye--she must wait until he is ready to give it to her. Events in The Wild Hunt begin with an olde English giant hunting club--seriously--and go on to reveal a lot about Hellboy’s past and future. Not long after the hunt, Hellboy travels to Ireland to see Alice Monaghan. Alice was swapped for Gruagach in 1959. That would put the girl well into middle age by now, but she’s still a beautiful, freckled redhead. Events quickly take them to Queen Mab and then to Morgan Le Fay. We learn a lot of stories in these two volumes, including Gruagach’s, and Hecate’s, but the most impressive is the story of Hellboy’s maternal ancestry. Le Fay was the mother of Mordred, who had a daughter, and that daughter had a daughter, and that daughter had a daughter... All the way down to Hellboy’s mother, Sarah Hughes. By the demon Azzael, Sarah had a son: Hellboy. The true heir to Arthur. I don’t know how that’s supposed to work. British monarchies, at least until Victoria, were not matrilineal, but let’s just go with it for now. Armed with his ancestor’s sword, Excalibur, Hellboy boy can save the world from Nimue’s blood lust. But there’s a catch. There is always a catch. If he does take up the sword he sets himself off down the path to fulfilling his destiny as Anung Un Rama. Considering how much more I’ve written about Hellboy volumes that aren’t nearly as important as these two, it feels a little odd to stop here, but, really, I could go on and go. Someday I might. In a comics market saturated with Big Events things happening here are truly seminal. Before I stop, however, I have to point out the work of artist Duncan Fegredo. A British artist, best known over here for doing a Jay and Silent Bob mini, he has done a fantastic job in both volumes. He’ll be stepping aside now, because Mignola is coming back to draw Hellboy again, but I am not alone in thinking Fegredo could be Hellboy what Guy Davis was to B.P.R.D. He’s that good. Volume 10, The Crooked Man and Others, is a collection of four short stories. The title story is a three issue mini drawn by Richard Corben. It was inspired by Appalachian folk tales and the the pulp stories of Manly Wade Wellman. I have to admit I had never heard of Wellman before opening this comic, his character Silver John, or John the Balladeer was a major influence on Mignola at the time he created Hellboy. I don’t recall any mention of him in the Hellboy Companion, however. “The Crooked Man” takes place in 1958. Hellboy has been on assignment in the South and decided he would “wander” his way back home, hiking through the Appalachian Mountains. There he comes upon a tale of witchcraft and deals made with the Crooked Man--a local incarnation of the devil. Or perhaps just a devil. For the purposes of this story it really doesn’t matter. Hellboy is no sooner on the scene than Tom Ferrell, a prodigal son and Mignola’s take on Wellman’s John, also arrives home after many years travelling. Together they face down the evil and set things right. Its a strong story, and all the stronger for Corben’s art. In his introduction Mignola says that he couldn’t have pulled it off without Corben, but in reading it my mind went a step further and wondered if it were written for Corben. It really seems to play to all his strengths. The other three stories are much shorter. “They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships” was put together as a free comic insert for a Hellboy video game. “In the Chapel of Moloch” was published as a one shot. And “The Mole” was a Free Comic Book Day giveaway. They’re all solid stories, but none of them are exceptional. That’s wraps up Hellboy to date. There are more volumes coming very soon, but I am far enough behind in this and don’t want to wait. Next up are three volumes each starring a different character: Lobster Johnston, Abe Sapien, and Edward Grey.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Summer Hiatus

Summer Hiatus

By David Bird in Blog on July 5, 2011

I've decided to take a couple of months off blogging. See you in the fall!Originally Pubished at: David Bird

June's Comics

June's Comics

By David Bird in Blog on July 1, 2011

50 Girls 50 #1: I picked this up because I am a sucker for retro SF comics, but I don’t expect it to end up on my pull list any time soon. It’s written by Doug Murray and Frank Cho, but drawn by newcomer Axel Medellin. The premise is that Y chromosomes are somehow “incompatible with wormhole travel” and so we get a fleet of ten ships staffed by all woman crews, seeking resources Earth desperately needs. This story focuses on two members of the ESS Savannah, who crash land on a planet whose atmosphere contains chemicals that rapidly corrode plastics. And wouldn’t you know it! Their clothes are pretty much all plastic. Nobody’s aiming very high here.B.P.R.D.: The Dead Remembered #3: I’ve been skeptical about this one since it was announced, and I will admit that it’s proven better than I expected it to be, but it’s still just okay. I can’t really say that it has added much to the series as a whole.Batgirl #22: The good news: another fun issue, with Steph traveling to London and teaming up with Squire. The bad news: this is a two parter and the second part will be in Batman Incorporated #9. That’s not even released until August 10, the same week as the last issue of Steph’s run.Dark Horse Presents #2: On the whole this issue keeps pace with issue one. There are no interviews or prose stories, however, and only three of the ten stories weren’t continued from issue one—and two of those three launch stories that will be continued in issue three. I like the episodic stories, but I think the series would be stronger if there were consistent number of stand alone stories too. Mix up the formats as well as the genres!Hellboy: The Fury #1: As soon as I put this down I realized I’d made a mistake reading it first. Nothing else this month was going to measure up (and nothing did). Hellboy takes on Nimue and the all the good men of England stand behind their rightful King. The Big Two have spent the last five or six years selling epic events, but there’s more awesome in this one issue than in any ten of the recent events.Who Is Jake Ellis #4: The penultimate issue sees Jake lead Jon through a building that could hold all the answers, or send him back to square one. It’s a tense, straight ahead thriller that sets up the answer to the titular question. Very good.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

All Nighters #1

All Nighters #1

By David Bird in Blog on June 15, 2011

Writer: David Hanh, Artist: David HahnPublished by Image Comics 2011Image Comics has become home to another orphaned title. Last year it rescued Brandon Graham’s King City from Tokyopop’s discontinued OEL line—only half of which saw print before cancellation—this year it’s rescued David Hahn’s All Nighter.All Nighter was originally done for DC’s MINX imprint. MINX was a young adult line aimed at teenaged girls and headed by the much vaunted Karen Berger. The whole line was cancelled in just under a year and a half, leaving Hanh with a nearly completed OGN and no publisher. At the time he was quoted as promising to see it in print. It’s taken him a couple of years, but here it is.All Nighter is the story of Kit Bradley, an art student needing to make some changes in her life. At the top of her list is dumping Dwayne, her long time boyfriend and partner in crime. I don’t mean that figuratively. The two make ends meet with the occasional B & E. The book gets its title from the local hang out, a 24 hour diner catering to twenty-somethings. We meet her family, her two roommates, one of whom works at the diner, and we meet two more characters, Martha, who, if solicits are to be believed, will prove very important, and Jim, who stirs up some tensions among the roommates. On paper Kit is not a very sympathetic person. She steals and lies and, she claims, has killed her mother, but she doesn’t come across that way at all. She comes across as a real person, frustrated at not being able to put her adolescence behind her—a sign that Hahn’s skills as a writer are a match for his skills as an artist and that his new mini is off to a strong start. But you don’t have to believe me. Hahn has put the entire first issue online. He sent me the link last month and I owe him an apology for not getting this up sooner. My offline life has been crowding out my online life a little too much lately. But check out the link. Read it, enjoy it, and pick up all five issues!Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Make Me One With Everything

Make Me One With Everything

By David Bird in Blog on June 15, 2011

I don't know who Karl is, but I'm impressed! If I were to ever meet the Dalai Lama, I'd like to think I'd try something like this.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Captain Canuck

Captain Canuck

By David Bird in Blog on June 13, 2011

Support for the Vancouver Canucks is everywhere in the city. If you go down to the Victoria Harbour promenade, you'll find that even Captain Cook has joined in and is now sporting a team jersey. Local Boston Pizza franshises have been re-named Vancouver Pizza for the duration of the playoffs.Right now Vancouver is leading 3-2 and needs only one more win to take the series. Game six is tonight and I hope they finish it, because my schedule won't let me watch game seven and there'll be no point in trying to watch it later. If they win, you'll hear the celebrations all through the city. So, here's hoping they win tonight.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Spider-Nam

Spider-Nam

By David Bird in Blog on June 8, 2011

James Stokoe, author of the fantastic Won Ton Soup and (the not really my thing) Orc Stain, has put his spin on the Amazing Spider-Man. It's just four pages on his blog, but Marvel would be crazy not to incorporate this into their next volume of Strange Tales.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

If You Believe In Yourself, You Will Know How To Ride A Bike!

If You Believe In Yourself, You Will Know How To Ride A Bike!

By David Bird in Blog on June 4, 2011

Originally Pubished at: David Bird

World At Large: Rapture Ready?

World At Large: Rapture Ready?

By David Bird in Blog on June 1, 2011

Still here? Me too. As everyone knows, the end of the world came and went on the 21st of May. Harold Camping, a television minister who preaches a numerological based form of end time prophesy, had predicted that at 6 p.m., in each consecutive time zone, God’s judgment would begin with earthquakes and the righteous being “raptured” to meet the Lord. In the thirty years since I’ve become a Christian I’ve run into these ideas before, though never one that generated as much media interest, and never one that has generated as much contempt—not just within the groups that you’d expect, but within the Christian community as well.But for all the attention Camping drew to the idea the God was going to ‘rapture’ His people away, there was little discussion of what exactly is meant by the concept. There was even less discussion of how it is actually a new teaching—one unheard of before the mid-nineteenth century, when it was promoted by an Irish clergyman named John Nelson Darby. Darby’s teaching, collectively called Dispensationalism, would later form the basis of the Schofield Study Bible (1909), which would promote it throughout the US and UK. A distinctive feature of Dispensationalist eschatology, the study of the end times, is the idea that the Church will ascend to meet Jesus in the air before His actual return to set up an earthly kingdom. A lot of terrible things will precede Christ’s return, but Darby taught that the Church would not have to suffer through them. Christ would take His people safely out first. In spite of efforts by its advocates to prove otherwise, no one taught this doctrine before the rise of Dispensationalism.Eschatology has always been an important part of Christianity. Arguably Christianity itself grew out of Jewish eschatology and the expectation that the Messiah was coming and that he would bring justice for his people and peace on earth. When the Messiah did come (hey, I am a Christian after all), things didn’t quite meet their expectations. He came, sure, but instead of setting up an earthly kingdom He set up a spiritual one. He was crucified, buried, resurrected, and ascended into Heaven, promising to come again and bring about the sort of triumphant new world the Jews had been expecting in the first place. The first generation of Christians fully expected to see this happen in their lifetime. When some of them died without seeing it, others began to worry. Paul wrote to believers in Thessalonica:But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.1 Thessalonians 4:13-17And in the next chapter he wrote:Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:1-11While they often cite of verses as well, these two passages are the hooks on which the Dispensational idea of a separate “rapture” of the Church hang. Verse seventeen of chapter four, highlighted in the first quote, describes the Church rising to meet Jesus on His return. But what Paul is writing about is not the escape of the Church. He is addressing a concern that members of the Thessalonian church had regarding those who had died waiting for the Second Coming. Paul assures them that all of Jesus’ followers will rise to meet Him, not just those still living when it happens, and that’s how it was understood for almost the entirety of Christian history.Verse nine of chapter five, highlighted in the second quote, is quoted to prove that the Church will not have to suffer the wrath God will pour out on the Earth before He returns, but the point Paul is making here is that the Church is meant to walk uprightly and that we should do exactly that. We were not meant for Hell, the “wrath,” but for Heaven. And, again, that’s how it was understood through most of Christian history. When I say these interpretations were held for most of Christian history, I mean universally held. They are still held by the majority of Churches. One of the interesting things about Dispensationalism and being ‘rapture ready’ is their dominance over Christian media, particularly in the US. It’s a dominance that tends to overshadow other positions. Historically, most Americans followed the Calvinist teaching of the Puritan forefathers and were Postmillenialists, believing that the coming of the Lord would be ushered in by the evangelical work of the Church, which would create a universally Christian world and only then would Jesus come.Being a Pentecostal, pre-tribulation Dispensationalism was one of the first things I was taught. Almost immediately I saw that the idea of the Church escaping the Great Tribulation, as its called, was inconsistent with many scriptures and I adopted what is called the “post-trib” position. This accepts the historic—and, yes, scriptural—teaching regarding the Church and the tribulation, but retains the Dispensationalist understanding of the Bible and the Church. Over time, however, due to the inconsistencies of Dispensationalism, I studied the matter out and rejected it altogether. (This was one of the first things I blogged about.) Ultimately I decided that what was more important than any of the ‘isms’ was that I be ready. That I walk as a Christian each day, living the values I profess, so that I will be ready whenever He comes. Whenever that happens.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

A New Look?

A New Look?

By David Bird in Blog on May 30, 2011

Yes, I've been messing around with the look of the blog. No, it isn't final.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

B.P.R.D. Volume 7: Garden of Souls (January 2008)

B.P.R.D. Volume 7: Garden of Souls (January 2008)

By David Bird in Blog on May 29, 2011

I did one entry into this project last month and, obviously, I’ll only be making one this month too. Of course the April entry was at the beginning of the month and this one is at the end of the month, so its really been about two months between entries. I do intend to finish this project. My summer posting may not be better--though I hope it is--but after the summer I hope to put up about one a week. Fingers crossed. As it is I am about half way through the trades. This is the fourteenth of the twenty seven released, and 10,772 words, but there will be more out soon. A new B.P.R.D. trade in August. A new Hellboy in October. Still, I will catch up. Promise.Garden of Souls brings Abe’s history back to our attention. We start back at the mountain fortress. Roger’s last wish is being fulfilled and he’s being given a proper funeral. To keep the curious away he’s being buried as Archie Stanton. Presumably no one watches Westerns anymore.The burial seems to put an end to everyone’s mourning as life draws everyone back to their own priorities. Ben is continuing his traditional medical treatments and has an horrific vision, recalling the attack in the jungle. Johann’s continued study of the sub-basement’s records also reveals a new factor in Ben’s story: his grandmother was the Axis agent Crimson Lotus. He shows this to the others, but no one seems to think its important. Readers will immediately recognize the link between her, the doll faced monkey, and Ben, but maybe the others are right. To date this revelation has had no bearing on Ben’s character development or anything else.Liz meanwhile is visited by another vision of her Mandarin spirit guide. She isn’t happy to see him. As far as she’s concerned they’re through, it’s over. But she’s wrong. Its not over. To make this point he gives her a vision of what it will look like when things are over. The frogs have won. Giant monsters, like the one destroyed in the Black Flame, do the landscape. He calls them ‘sentinels.’ I wonder what they are supposed to be watching? This vision is actually the second time we meet her guide in this book, but we’re not supposed to know that yet.Abe’s story starts with the arrival of a package: a pocket cigar case belonging to his former self, Langdon Everett Caul. In it are three cigars and a map of Indonesia with the city of Balikpapan circled. Not sure what to make of it, he takes Ben with him to South East Asia where they end up sitting on the docks with no idea what their next step should be. Eventually he is contacted by a mentally challenged child who is acting under the control of another. Following her, Abe leaves Ben in the middle of the night, writing an address on the wall in red. Ben hurries to the police and threatens them with the US embassy if they don’t drop everything and jump to his assistance. There are two things wrong with this. First, what is the message written in? Blood? Lipstick? The latter is more conventional in scenes like this, but I don’t see Abe carrying a stick. Second, Ben is supposed to be a man of the world, but his behaviour with the police is that of a bumpkin. Your friends been gone for one hour? Maybe you should go back to the embassy and get out of our hair? Still this is a comic, so they jump.Abe meanwhile takes a boat out to a remote island and discovers a secret colony of chimeras created care for by three robots and a blond giant. The robots aren’t robots. They’re the surviving members of the Oannes Society, an occult group whose members once included Caul. The bodies of the ‘robots’ are preservation chambers, which are made mobile with mechanical arms and legs. Inside are the men, now decrepit well past 150. The blond is a member whose soul/mind was transferred from his chamber into a new body especially created for the completion of the Society’s great mission. Their mission? To save the world by destroying it. Of course. Actually, they are only going to destroy the Asian-Pacific coast and they expect the souls of the dead to be drawn to them and into their new bodies. Why are they doing this? Why do they expect their plan to work? I don’t know. The whole story line is effectively derailed by another story, that of Panya.Panya was an Egyptian woman mummified thousands of years ago and unwrapped in London in 1859. Astonishingly the moment her face was uncovered she opened her eyes. Caul was in the audience. She was taken in by the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, who guarded her and indulged her, but in time she felt like their prisoner. She was rescued by a splinter group, the Oannes Society, and taken to her current location in Indonesia, but soon realized that she’d traded one prison for another. She was the one controlling the girl. Caul was a member of the Society, but it isn’t clear whether she was ‘rescued’ before or after his transformation. They call her Naunet, the Egyptian goddess of the sea, but she resents it. Panya, meaning mouse, was an actual Egyptian girl’s name.The day is saved but we’re really no closer to knowing anything important about what happened to Caul. How did he become Abe? Why? The story ends with Abe telling Ben, “I’ve met some men here, Captain, and they all knew Langdon Caul. Knew his very well, as it turns out. But they didn’t know me.” Well… maybe not, but maybe the problem is that Abe doesn’t want to know. There’s been an attempt to write a parallel story, between Abe and Hellboy. Both are on journeys of discovery, and both seem intent on rejecting the destinies laid out for them. The difference is that Hellboy knows what he is rejecting. He is turning his back on a terrible, Hell born future. Abe on the other hand seems afraid to face up to what really happened to make him what he is today. He’s running from himself. In the end its not surprising that he threw away this chance to learn about himself. It was the last place he wanted to be.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

May Comics

May Comics

By David Bird in Blog on May 26, 2011

B.P.R.D.: The Dead Remembered #2: I am still not a hundred percent convinced of the need to go over this ground again, but this issue does do a great job of retelling the story of the death of Liz’s family. The second plot line, the witch and the haunted wood, hasn’t grabbed me yet, but there is one more issue to go.Batgirl #21: A villain is vanquished and two new ones are introduced. A friend departs and another turns against her. It’s an important issue, but it felt busy, rather than momentous.Hellboy: Being Human: This is such a great idea; I can’t believe they haven’t done it before. Everyone loves Roger, but he’s dead. Ben Parker dead. He’s not coming back. So why not tell a new story that took place before he died? The story is one of witchcraft, haunting, and revenge. Roger and Hellboy are only there to watch it unfold and put a heavy handed end to it, but it’s a great story nevertheless. Another fantastic Mignola-Corben collaboration.Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #2: The story of three mice at sea is okay. The art is fantastic. My only complaint is that the lettering Petersen uses in the captions is often hard to read.Strange Adventures #1: Another anthology. Last month it was Dark Horse Presents. This month it’s Vertigo’s Strange Adventures. While listed as issue #1, it seems to be a one shot. At least there is no word of a second issue so far, and that’s too bad. It’s a strong collection. The two horror stories, “Refuse” and “Post-Modern Prometheus,” could have been tweaked a bit, but the story quality is generally strong. The big draw is a preview of Azzarello and Risso’s upcoming series Spaceman. From what I see here it could go either way. It looks interesting, but the dialogue and tough streets looks a bit too much like there work in 100 Bullets. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just too soon to tell.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Showcase Presents

Showcase Presents

By David Bird in Blog on May 12, 2011

I’ve spent most of the last six weeks’ comics reading time going through six volumes of DC’s Showcase Presents trades. I was very excited about the series when it was announced and picked up the first five releases--Green Lantern, Superman, Metamorpho, Jonah Hex, and The Justice League of America--even though I really didn’t have the time to get into them. Once I did I was disappointed to realize that Silver Age storytelling was not for me. To each his own. I stopped buying them. Some months later I did pick up The Challengers of the Unknown, but quickly put it down. Now five years later I picked them all up again and read through the lot. The immersion experience did help somewhat. Here are my thoughts on what I’ve read.Green Lantern: Easily the best of the lot. We get to see the development of the Lantern Corp mythos--did you know the Oath was originally something Hal Jordan just made up because he thought it sounded cool?-- and we are always rewarded with Gil Kane’s fantastic art.Superman: These stories are often terrible, but mostly just okay. Our hero comes across as a sad little space orphan who is always lying to his friends. The most interesting thing in it is the develop of Supergirl. There were various versions of the female Superman scattered through the adventures, always as a gimmick, before those various elements were put together to create the actual character.Metamorpho: The sad thing about this book is how truly great it could have been. A hybrid of the superhero comic and Mad Magazine, it could have been one for the ages if only DC had let it embrace its ‘Mad’-ness completely. In fact, the worst stories were the ones to include other DC heroes. The best thing about it? Ramona Fradon‘s fantastic art. Two fun facts: 1) The elements Metamorpho could morph into were limited to those occurring in the human body. 2) His favourite element? Manganese. Seriously. He turns into it in practically every story.Jonah Hex: This was the most modern of the lot--no surprise there, given when it was made--but it was entirely too formulaic. Even when they lengthened the stories and added an arch-enemy, the stories were too much alike. I think it my appreciation have improved if I were reading it on a monthly basis, instead of all at once.Justice League of America: Very much a ‘gee whiz,’ boy’s own adventure feel to this one. This one did benefit from reading it all together, because it helped me to get into the spirit of the title. A curious thing I noticed right away was how often Batman, the one with no powers, and Superman, the one with too much power, were marginalized or cut out entirely. (Of course, they later made Green Arrow a regular member and he was little more than a B-man clone at this point.)Challengers of the Unknown: Last… and least. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Challengers. I first read them in the 90s mini Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! by Loeb and Sale (their first collaboration), then Chaykin’s and Cooke’s. When this volume was released I decided to reverse my earlier decision and try it out. It’s bad. Really bad. It reads like it was not only written for children, but plotted by a young child as well. The drawing card for this book is the art by Kirby. Unfortunately, before he was the Kirby who recreated the genre with Lee, he really wasn’t the Kirby who recreated the genre with Lee. There are moments, panels, that look great, but not enough of them. Not by a long shot.I don’t know if I’ll make any future exceptions, but from now on its one volume at a time.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

World At Large: A New Legacy?

World At Large: A New Legacy?

By David Bird in Blog on May 3, 2011

It looks like today’s election will be a game changer. Maybe. Stephen Harper finally got his majority government. He’s been Prime Minister for five years now, having won two minority governments. Harper is sort of a reverse Trudeau. When he was first elected in 1968 Trudeau was the beneficiary of a deep seated need within Canadians for something a little more glamorous than what they were used to. A little bit of the Kennedy magic up north. Harper, an economist with the personality to match, has suffered from the left’s need for a George W to demonize. But Harper and his majority isn’t the big news. Its not the game changer. No, that’s the NDP’s new status as the official opposition and the end of Mackenzie King’s nearly ninety year legacy.William Lyon Mackenzie King was prime minister of Canada from 1921 to 1930 and 1935 to 1948. He was our war time leader and our longest serving prime minister. As the leader of the Liberal Party he succeeded where the Liberal leaders in the UK failed. There Labour outflanked the Liberals to the left, replacing them to create a simple left-right choice for the voters. King, on the other hand, stripped the Liberal Party of Canada of its ideological underpinnings and created what was essentially a party of middle class professionals. It was a winning strategy and one of King’s greatest legacies. They leaned left under King and continued to until the eighties, when, beginning with Trudeau’s last government, they began to lean right. These shifts weren’t driven by ideas, but by reading public and international opinion. Trudeau’s shift wasn’t quick enough to save them from defeat, but once they returned to power party leader Jean Chrétien gave the nation its most conservative government to date. (It’s interesting to point that out to people condemning Harper. They never dispute it, but they still dismiss it. Facts often get in the way of haranguing Harper.) Under Chrétien Liberal pundits used to argue, why would you vote for the Conservatives when you’re already getting solid conservative policies from us? Perhaps that, as much as the uninspiring leadership from Dion and Ignatieff, is what helped the NDP supplant them. Why vote for a conservative party when you can have actual The Conservative Party?So now Jack Layton is the Opposition Leader and the New Democratic Party the Official Opposition. Will he be able to keep it this way? The NDP managed to create a left-right dichotomy here in BC decades ago, but they pushed passed the Liberals to form the government of Ontario in the 90s only to see the Liberals retake the province. Which way will it go for Layton? Personally, I’ve never seen him as a future prime minister--but then I’ve never seen him as the Opposition Leader either. Too often he’s come across as a university leftist. Someone who’s spoken his piece without any real consideration of getting elected. That’s not a bad thing, of course, but I doubt that’ll continue now. He’s also got a lot of new, completely inexperienced parliamentarians. A great many from Quebec. In recent years the French left has been hampered by the leadership of the Bloc Quebecois, which has focussed on advancing the province and not on national issues and needs. And most of these are not just new to parliament, but to the party itself. Interestingly, one caucus member he’ll be able to turn to for support is his wife Olivia Chow, herself a NDP Member of Parliament for the last five years.So now we have our first majority government since the 2004 election. We’ll see a lot less dealing making, because the government doesn’t need to make any deals, but we’ll see also get to see what could be a historic starting point for Canadian politics. Will we become a two party state? The answer to that question really lies with Mr. Layton. His leadership will see either a new legacy, replacing King’s, or a lost opportunity. Either way, the next four or five years promise to be interesting.Originally Pubished at: David Bird

Countdown To Withdrawal

Countdown To Withdrawal

By David Bird in Blog on May 2, 2011

Bin Laden is dead. Ten years ago his terrorist network, Al Qaeda, murdered three thousand people by destroying New York's World Trade Center. He had been given a safe haven by the Taliban government of Afghanistan, so, under American leadership, NATO invaded the country and sent both the Taliban and Al Qaeda fleeing for the hills. Unfortunately, Afghanistan is 98 percent hills. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have remained at large, active from secret bases in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. Many, including military leaders, have admitted its a lost cause. Not enough troops. The Afghan leadership unpopular and corrupt. The reasons are many, but with Bin Laden at large there was no chance of withdrawal. Without the NATO presence the Taliban would retake control and Al Qaeda would be free to train and plan future attacks. For all the talk of nation building that's why were still there. At the heart of the mission has always been 9/11 and Bin Laden. And now he's dead. How long until we withdraw?Originally Pubished at: David Bird

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