Monthly Archives: February 2012

Marvel 1602

51vtf1JzwOLYou know what I hadn’t done in an exceptionally long time? Read a comic authored by Neil Gaiman! Luckily, Marvel 1602 exists to fill that precise gap, and now I’ve done so again. (But I am not convinced any other new ones exist, so that may have just been the end of that. Alas!, if so.) Imagine, if you will, the waning days of the reign of Elizabeth I of England. Only, over the past 50 or so years, important people are being born, people you would expect to be born almost half a millennium later, if you were familiar with the “Marvel Age of Comics”. So there you are in 1602, reading about the Queen’s personal physician and naturalist, one Doctor Stephen Strange, and her spymaster, Sir Nicholas Fury, and a school for certain gifted young people run by a Carlos Javier, and, well, really a lot of other names you’d recognize from the 1960s, if you had been reading these comics then, like me.[1] In fact, what few names there are missing would be spoilers to reveal by their very absence.

Into that unexpected cauldron, we need only add mysterious weather harbinging the end of the world, and Virginia Dare, the first English immigrant born on American soil, lost in our history along with the rest of the Roanoke colony but somehow alive in this apparently altered timeline; and voila, instant Gaiman mythology, complete with meditations on predestination and sacrifice. It was interesting to learn that Virginia Dare is a highly mythologized character in her own right; I remember in the vaguest way learning about her existence in school, but not that she had drawn much focus in American folklore since. I wish to learn more, and particularly welcome any recommendations; my only source of book recommendations right now is to poke through the Wikipedia article.

Other than to approve of and recommend 1602, though, there’s not much else I want to say. There are lots of good twists, and not knowing about them in advance was a lot of my fun. But I will say that Gaiman’s use of spiders in and around Peter Parquagh constituted one of the largest literary teases it has ever been my pleasure to witness. There are a handful of sequels, none by Gaiman of course, and I own / will read one of them soon. I hope they are at least pretty okay, because I do want to know what happens next, yo. I just also want what happens next to be non-lame.

[1] Okay, but’s it’s a close approximation of true!

Chew: Taster’s Choice

Aside from Unwritten, the other new first-graphic-novel-in-a-series that I have been loaned is Chew, about a police detective afflicted with cibopathy. In the extremely likely event that this term means nothing to you, I’ll tell you something similar to what the second page of the first issue tells you: apparently, there are people who place food (or whatever) in their mouths, and the act of ingesting gives them psychic information from whatever it was they ate. Like, if it’s an apple, they’ll know things about the harvest grove and the local pesticides, or if it’s a burger, they’ll know things about the cow’s life and probably its violent demise, or, well, if it’s a person… you could learn all kinds of things, couldn’t you?

Against this potentially cannibalistic premise[1], we have the life of poor, sad Tony Chu, who to add insult to injury can only eat beets if he wants to avoid getting psychic backwash. He is a cop, tasked with enforcing the federal edict outlawing chicken. And trust me, the drug war metaphors are so thinly veiled that I spent the first couple of issues feeling insulted that someone would choose so facile a soapbox to preach from. But then things got more and more bizarre, and while I can, as of the end of the first book (Taster’s Choice), accept that there’s actually something going on behind the whole bird flu / outlawed chickens thing[2], I also can’t make up my mind if I care. It looks like everything that has happened is important, but almost none of it seemed connected, each piece to another, in this particular book. And when my main character hates his life this much and the plot is this disjointed, it’s hard to find something to grasp onto to bring me back for a second book.

We’ll see, I guess?

[1] Spoiler alert: yep.
[2] Not to mention some justification for it, instead of just “not drugs, lol, chickens” like I really believed was going on at first.


You ever see Akira? I haven’t, but I went to see Chronicle on the strength of it completely reminding me of the version of Akira that’s in my head. That worked out pretty well for me. See, there’s this disaffected teen with a camera, and he wanders around filming everything, like disaffected teens with cameras in movies do. (Well, okay, also like skeptical husbands and best friends and film students and, okay, pretty much anyone in the last 15 years who has ever had a camera in a movie.) And he even meets a blogger chick with her own camera at a party, but before you have time to realize how tragically underused she’s going to be, even before he gets a chance to consider being into her, she starts flirting with his cousin instead.

Which doesn’t really leave a lot of conflict, just 80 minutes of emo misery, right? Well, no, but only because he and his cousin and his cousin’s class president friend find a hole in the ground that leads to a glowing macguffin that gives them all, y’know, powers. And then they start figuring out how to use their powers, and how to use their powers to change their lives. And then, you know, other things happen. Good psychology, good superheroing, good primary cast, mediocre supporting cast (with one infuriating exception), really good use of multiple cameras (considering the context), plus also it’s set in Seattle, if that has any relevance.

It’s not a great movie, but it’s a pretty good one, and considering this is February? It’s close to great after all.


I had been given appropriately low expectations of the final book of the Hunger Games trilogy. Expectations such as that I would really despise the Mockingjay herself, narrator Katniss Everdeen, and that the focus shift from dystopic public combat to rebellion also marked a loss of focus for the story as a whole. And you know… those things certainly have some truth to them.

Katniss isn’t a combatant in the Hunger Games anymore; instead, she’s the public face of the rebellion, which has caught fire just as predicted, which would be more okay if only one of her two possible boyfriends wasn’t the public face of the government against which they are rebelling. And things just get worse for her from there. It’s still an interesting world, and I still cared about what happened to it, but Katniss is never so compelling as when she’s in the arena fighting for her life against all the other tributes, and sure enough, those days are over. Plus, a year and a half has gone by, and the fact that she not only still hasn’t come to any kind of conclusion about the third of the story that is her love life, but actually keeps escalating the frequency of her lashings out against each of them and in fact everyone else in her world instead? It makes it really hard to believe she’d keep inspiring love from some people and loyalty from so many others.

Still, there’s a book here either way, because not learning a conclusion to the rebellion is untenable, and because people don’t have to like their Mockingjay personally to see her utility as a symbol. And her fate in that regard was inevitable, if only because the people watching her on TV can’t read her thoughts. To answer the obvious question,  the conclusion was satisfying; it’s just hard to read a book with a narrator that has grown mostly unlikable, especially if she isn’t locked in mortal combat often enough to mask what I didn’t like about her.

Unrelated prediction: the movie will succeed or fail on the strength of their Haymitch actor alone. That guy? He’s compelling.

Duke Nukem Forever

I have not and almost certainly will not sample the multiplayer, but without further delay, here are the things that are good about the Duke Nukem game that only came out 12 years later, and in so doing has done more than anything to support the idea that we will in fact mostly all be dead in 11 months:

1) The graphics are really pretty okay. Sure, some of them add to the discomfort of c) below, but by and large, they are entirely modern. And since they had special bonuses of footage from previous versions when they thought they’d be releasing by 2000 at the latest, I can assure you that’s a relief.
2) There were occasional in-jokes at other shooters, not quite to the level of parody most of the time, but I still appreciated them. The moreso, I expect, because of how little I appreciated any of the other humor.
3) The gameplay is pretty much what you’d expect it to be, which, cool, that’s all I was looking for anyway. The days of FPS innovations are mostly over.

Here is what was wrong with Duke Nukem Forever:

a) Load times between levels are 60-90 seconds. Load times between levels at all is pretty egregious in this enlightened age of seamless travel, but that much delay? Horrible and a half. Plus also, it takes just as long to load to the spawn point after you die, which is twice as bad. I know that they know time passed since 1999, because I’ve seen the graphics updates. So, man, what the fuck?
b) You can only carry two weapons at a time. I guess, okay, that everyone does that now, or at least limits you in some way, but this game hearkens back to the “choose your weapon from 0-9” school of thought, and if they’re going to stay so “traditional” in other ways, why screw me here?
c) The misogyny. I thought I knew. I thought, okay, there will be some uncomfortable interactions with strippers that would get a real person kicked out of an actual strip club, and there will be more girls in alien cocoons asking to get killed and you kind of have to because if not aliens burst out of them and they die anyway, but now there are aliens to fight, and I didn’t love that in Duke Nukem 3D, but still, it was a callback to Aliens, and it was uncomfortable there, so, okay. The reality, though… so, there are still cocoon girls, but they aren’t world-weary and in pain, begging to be spared what is to come. They’re bemoaning how much jäger they had last night and how they feel funny as a result. Plus also, I think he kind of ruined the idea of getting a blowjob while playing video games for me. It never seemed so one-sidedly ooky in my head. Perhaps it’s because in my head there aren’t twins, and even if there are, I’d have the capacity to call them something other than “Babes”, especially when addressing them.

Stopping alien invasions at the Hoover Dam is fun, it is. But, I reckon probably not worth it, y’all.