||Comics Talk Week #11: Paying for It
Posted on: June 2, 2011 by joshuagreen.
Greetings True Believers!!!
Paying for It by Chester Brown
Ok, so the cover of the book should tell readers everything they need to know about it. But let me go into a little more detail...
Chester Brown is an experienced (formerly underground) Canadian cartoonist who grow up around Montreal. Along with Seth and Joe Matt (two of his friends), Brownis part of the sort of holy trinity of important adult comic writers in Canada.
Often autobiographical, and always entertaining, much of Browns work follows his life and interactions within his group of close friends (including Joe Matt and Seth - the three usually feature each other in their stories). Other than great autobiographical stuff like The Playboy (an early story by Brown which paints a picture of his young teenage life growing up in Quebec and his first experiences with pornography), Browns most famous and acclaimed work has been his hefty comic book biography of Louis Riel, an excellent (and well-researched) read.
But in his latest book, Paying For It, Brown opens up about an age-old taboo that has been a part of his life for the last 15 years: prostitution.
As the books subtitle suggests, this autobiographical work (just released today) is a first-hand account of Browns long-time involvement in prostitution as a john (customer). In the book he relates his last breakup (with well-known former VJ and CBC radio hostess, Sook-yin Lee), followed by his decision to start paying for sex. Throughout the book Brown puts forth simple but strong arguments in support of his pro-prostitution position, often in the form of arguments and conversations he had with his friends (and former girlfriend) over his choice to start seeing prostitutes.
And although the author seems like an almost emotionless weirdo at times, through his careful explanation and (sort of) gentle-seeming demeanor, readers may come to at least understand (if not accept) why the author has sworn off romantic love forever in favour of prostitution.
So, one of the main things I like to get right to on this site is: is this book entertaining. Yes, it definitely is. It is hard to stop reading even if you recognize yourself being pulled in by the seediness and taboo interest generated by an insiders view of the sex trade. This extremely human and simple voyeuristic look into the the most private parts of the authors life and into a very private industry are difficult to turn away from. So, I would highly recommend it on those grounds alone. Few comics manage to be as simultaneously interesting, entertaining, shocking, enlightening, and controversial as this one.
Whether or not Browns obviously pro-prostitution stance ends up changing your own opinion of either johns or working girls by the end of the book (or whether or not you start out agreeing or disagreeing his lifestyle from the get-go), one thing is for sure: this book is likely to get you thinking, talking, and maybe even arguing with your own friends about morality, law, and the sex trade.
Personally, I had some pretty serious and fun discussions with FBCs own movie reviewer and my wife about some of the issues addressed by Brown in Paying For It long before I was even able to read the book. For instance, Greg (the movie man) and I had an extended discussion about the morality of even buying Browns book in the first place. I was of the opinion that if you are entirely morally opposed to the whole idea of any type of prostitution, that it wouldnt be justifiable to buy Paying For It at all as some of the money you used WILL almost certainly be used to further the sex trade (i.e. because Brown gets your money and then he will give it to prostitutes almost inevitably). However, this is a hard-liner decision for sure.
Personally, I think even folks who are entirely opposed to prostitution on either moral, legal, or religious grounds owe it to themselves to check out Browns book (take it out from a library if you like!) to see what this first-hand account of a secretive and taboo industry is like so that they might make a better-informed decision about how they feel about it.
Personally, I found that no matter where you sit on the pro- or anti-prostitution spectrum, you can find evidence in Paying For It to support either position. The bottom line is that Browns book provides insight and info and sheds light on an otherwise obscured business.
Anyway, I hope this sparked your interest enough to check out this book. If I didnt convince you, maybe CBC can - Jian Ghomeshi did an interesting interview with Chester Brown on April 29th on his show Q - check it out!
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||New Avengers Vol. 7 Review
Posted on: February 17, 2011 by admin.
The New Avengers Volume 7: The Trust
Graphic Novel (Hardcover)
By Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Leinil Yu (Artist)
Reprinting New Avengers #32-37 and New Avengers Annual#2
Writing - 9/10, Art - 8/10
Who can you trust? Picking up after the events of “Civil War” and “The Death of Captain America”, the Mighty Avengers have just returned from a mission in Japan where they defeated the Hand and killed its leader, Electra. The problem? It turns out the person they killed wasn’t who they thought, and was a Skrull impersonator instead. What we find in The Trust are the beginnings of Secret Invasion, where the Skrulls try once again to take over the world.
The set up in the first issue is good, and trust comes to play a key theme throughout the five issues reprinted here. After they realize that ANYONE could be a Skrull, the team becomes divided, and working together is almost impossible. Coupled with their own doubts (which are further exacerbated when team-mate Spider-woman disappears with the Skrull body), the New Avengers must also contend with The Hood, a mysterious new player who’s assembling a legion of super-villains to work for him, and the Mighty Avengers, former team-mates who have chosen to register with the government and who are now tasked with bringing in their former friends.
The results of this? Lots of action and lots of character development. Excluding the fights, which were awesome (The Hood’s army breaks into the sanctum sanitarium, ‘nuff said), we get to see how a lot of the heroes deal with the revelation that people they’ve known for years might be their enemies. I especially enjoyed Luke Cage’s extreme paranoia, to the point where he couldn’t even trust the mother of his child, Jessica Jones. Cage is played well in this run, and it’s cool to see how he starts off mistrusting everyone to the point of ridiculousness, only to slowly come around after numerous attempts to convince him otherwise.
Not to be out-done, Spiderman also has some good scenes. Sure, they dumbed him down a bit for his role in the Avengers (He’s been a super-hero for how many years and is still acting like the rookie of the team? Hard to believe), but the point at which he convinces himself that he is a Skrull is so funny that I’ll over-look the bad character writing just this once.
However, even though it is a fairly interesting, entertaining story, one thing that I didn’t like were the cross-over’s with other titles. Ever since Secret Wars II, Marvel has been infamous for cross-title storylines, and sadly it’s no different here. We do get a nice, coherent narrative throughout, but there are some things that are only glanced over and require extra reading if you want to get the full story. Case in point? The Venom Bomb storyline from the Mighty Avengers plays a role in one issue, and unless you’ve read that, you’re literally thrown into what’s happening with no back-story and little explanation. While it is nice to see these events through the eyes of a different team, there could’ve been better pacing or even foreshadowing before throwing the reader into a splash page of Symbiote Avengers (a definite WTF moment). It is a small thing, though, and doesn’t take away from the themes and plot of the overall story.
Overall, New Avengers: Trust is an excellent read, and very new-reader friendly. The characters were thoroughly interesting, and except for a few inconsistencies for the sake of plot, were a total joy to read about. If you’re a fan of the Avengers, or even super-heroes in general then this is a good read for you. Also, if you’re interested in reading Secret Invasion I think that I might be a must to get you invested in the characters. The Trust is definitely one that I would recommend getting.
The Secret Invasion
- Skrulls have invaded Earth. Can Earth's super-heroes stop them?This is the event that Volume 7 helps to kick off!
(Vol.1 )- Specifically issue 2 where a regular hood finds out one a super-heroes identity. Very similar themes to Trust.
(Vol. 2) - Good for a full explaination of why Symbiotes were attacking New York, who was responsible, and how they were stopped.
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||Whatever Happened to the Man Of Tomorrow? Review
Posted on: February 3, 2011 by admin.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW?
Graphic Novel - 9/10
By Alan Moore (Writer)
Reviewed by Stephen
During 1986, in an attempt to clean up over 50 years of continuity, DC comics released a storyline known as Crisis on Infinite Earth. The purpose was to rewrite the history of the DC universe and take it from a mish-mash of multiple universes/continuities, down to only one. As a result of this, characters who existed before the crisis (called pre-crisis) were being retconned and given modern retellings of their origins. Some post-crisis characters had the honor of getting one last story, and in 1986 DC commissioned a young Alan Moore to write Superman’s final tale, “What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” This story, as well as two others of Alan Moore’s creation, has been incorporated into a trade paperback of the same name.
The first half of the TPB is dedicated to the Man of Tomorrow storyline. It’s set in the future, on the anniversary of Superman’s disappearance, as a reporter comes to visit Lois Lane (now Lois Lane-Elliot) to find out how/why Superman disappeared so many years ago.
Without giving too much away, in his last days, some of Superman’s most powerful enemies have mysteriously decided to attack him around the same time. Fearing for himself and his friends, Superman and company retreat to the Fortress of Solitude for safety. After a visit from the Legion of Super-heroes, his boyhood friends, he finds that soon something is going to happen that will spell the end of Superman forever. As if on cue, a final confrontation takes place where some die and others live. At the conclusion of the story we find out who was behind all the attacks, and just what Superman’s ultimate fate was.
Following that, the next story is “The Man Who Had Everything”, originally from Superman Annual 11. Wonder woman, Batman, and Robin visit the Fortress of Solitude for Superman’s birthday only to discover that he’s been taken over by the Black Mercy, a plant that comatoses its victim to feed but at the same time puts them into a dream-like coma where their greatest dreams can come true.
Finally, the last story is from DC Presents and features Swamp Thing. Superman, going crazy from the effects of a Kryptonian plant, ends up in the Florida Everglades, Swampy’s home. What follows is a battle for not only Superman’s sanity, but also his life.
So what I can say about these stories? They’re done by Alan Moore in his prime, so of course they’re going to be good. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow was naturally the best and a really heartfelt send off for Superman. It tied up a lot of loose ends, and gives us some decent closure at the end. It especially nice to see all the homage’s back to Superman’s silver age past (Jimmy as Elastic Lad, the Legion appearing, Superman’s trophy room, etc…).
Also good was “For the Man Who had Everything.” Most of you might recognize the plot from an old JLU episode, which was in fact based on this story. Again, it’s really well done both in the struggle for the heroes to find a way to rescue Superman, and in Superman’s own gradual realization that the world he’s ‘living in’ isn’t real. These two stories are definitely the high-points of the book.
Last but not least we get issue 85 of DC Presents where Superman and Swamp Thing of team up. This was probably my least favorite story of the three, and aside from Superman thrashing around at trees for 20 pages, nothing happens in it. Admittedly, I’ m not a Swamp Thing fan to begin with, so this forced the end of the book to lag for me.
Overall, Whatever Happen to the Man of Tomorrow is an excellent book to add to any comic fan’s collection. The insights that Moore gives into the character are great, and the emotional intensity of what Superman has to deal with is amazing. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t read Superman because you think nothing interesting ever happens to him, then this one is a must read for you.
If you enjoyed this novel, then I also recommend the following
The Killing Joke (Alan Moore, Brian Bolland) - Moore's attempt to the give the Joker an origin story.
Identity Crisis(Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales) - A superhero whodunnit. A hero's wife has been murdered and it's all to everyone to try and find the killer before other hero's friends and family meet the same fate.
Kingdom Come (Mark Waid, Alex Ross) - An Elseworld story set in the near future where supers have become more vigilante than heroes. Both dark and masterfully written, KC is another of the must have's for any comic collector.
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||The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye
Posted on: January 27, 2011 by admin.
The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye
Graphic Novel - 10/10
By Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore
Reviewed by Stephen
Imagine waking up in a world where Zombies have taken over the Earth. You don't know what's happened, where you are, or what's happened to your family. What would you do?
Created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, the Walking Dead takes a story that's been a thousand times before and humanizes it. The story focuses on local sheriff, Rick Grimes, who was shot in the line of duty and goes into a coma. Some time later, he wakes up to discover that the world has been over-run with the undead, and that humanity as he knows it has been destroyed. Picking up the first 6 issues, Volume 1 introduces Rick as he escapes from the hospital he woke up in, makes his way to Atlanta (the only safe place), and discovers a small camp of survivors, among who his wife and child are taking shelter.
The genius of the book surprisingly lays in the LACK of zombies we see. Yes, they are there, but mostly as background; the real focus of the comic lays in the day-to-day struggles of Rick and his small group as they try to survive. The interactions between this odd assortment of characters is also what makes it worthwhile; they're written beautifully, and in them I think we can all recognize someone we might all know. This will, of course, make it all the more tragic when one of them is killed or becomes a zombie...and believe me, it happens a lot.
No review of the Walking Dead would be complete without talking about the art. I said before that you really empathize with the cast, and one of the main reasons for that is how well the scenes are drawn, they're very organic and well, human. Take a look at this panel from Issue #2...
you'll see a lot of examples of this in the comics too; barely any dialogue, with the pictures doing all the explaination for you. I've got to give full props to Tony Moore, the guy is an excellent artist!
Overall, this is a great comic volume to own. If you're a fan of the zombie genre, then I highly recommend it because it does breathe life into something becoming stagnant. Even if you're not a fan, I'd still recommend it for all the human drama. Walking Dead: Days Gone By is an entertaining, at times moving, and wonderful read. For anyone looking for something new to get into, then you should definitely pick this one up!
If you enjoyed the Walking Dead you might like...
Y: The Last Man
- Brian K. Vaughan's story of Yorrick Brown, and his trials and tribulations surviving in a world where he's the only man left.
- Also by Kirkman (zombies are kind of his thing) This is a fun what-if story imagining what would happen if the Marvel Universe got infected by Zombies. Highly Recommended!
Strangers in Paradise
- For more of that human drama, check out Terry Moore's series about a group of three dysfunctional friends and the weird love triangle that they get caught up in.
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||Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Solider and The Vampire
Posted on: January 20, 2011 by admin.
Book Review – 8/10
Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Solider and the Vampire
by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola
Reviewed by Onigaijan
Are you a fan of Gothic horror? Then Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Solider and the Vampire, might be for you. Set just after World War I, a mysterious red plague has begun to spread across Europe. Unconnected to that (seemingly), we find Lord Henry Baltimore, a former soldier during the war, has summoned three of his former companions to meet him in a bar one dreary night. Upon arrival, the companions find that Baltimore hasn’t arrived yet, and so pass the time telling stories of Baltimore and themselves. What follows is something worthy of Lovecraft.
Written by Christopher Golden, and illustrated by Matt Mignola, Baltimore is an enjoyable novel with enough twists to keep the reader interested throughout it’s 300 pages. Of particularly note-worthy praise was how the novel presented four stories within in the main narrative. It was done very well so that we get not only a vampire story (the main arc), but also tales of monsters in South America, a ghost puppet in Italy, and werewolves during the war. Honestly, in my opinion the vampire story was the least interesting of the four. Maybe it’s because the titular character, Baltimore, doesn’t arrive until the last 40 or so pages, but I connected more with the stories told by 3 men waiting at the bar. In fact, because Baltimore is introduced so late, he feels almost like an urban legend, due in no small part to the reverence he’s given by each of the storytellers. Indeed, he’s been built up so much through the course of the story, that when he’s finally introduced, I was let down. Then again, maybe that’s the point? And honestly, the real “meat and potatoes” of the book comes from the three tales told by Aischros the sailor, Dr. Rose a war-time surgeon, and Thomas Childress, a childhood friend to Baltimore. While at first they seem like an unlikely group, as the story progresses we find out that they have more in common than they might have believed.
As I mentioned earlier, Baltimore is illustrated by Mike Mignola, who some of you will know as the creator of Hellboy. Sadly, his talents go largely to waste here. Make no mistake; THIS IS NOT A COMIC BOOK, and Mignola’s job, it seems was to draw one small panel for each page; though these panels aren’t the best representations of his work. Don’t be fooled by the beautiful art on the front either; inside you won’t find that. To Mignola’s credit, though, he was given a very small panel for each page, so his creativity was probably stifled there, and there are a few full piece pages that are amazing.
Overall, Baltimore is an enjoyable read. Yes, there are times where the story lags and the descriptions can sometimes border on the Tolkien-esque, but it’s still a solid story and the central mystery is intriguing enough to keep you reading. If you’re a fan of Gothic horror then I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you.
(Bram Stoker)- Given that this novel was one of the inspirations for Baltimore, it's definately a must-read for anyone who's enjoyed this book.
The Dunwich Horror And Others
(H.P. Lovecraft) - Highlighting some of Lovecraft's best short stories and novella's, the way that ordinary people are suddenly thrust into a supernatural world gives it a very similar theme to Baltimore.
The Raven and Other Favorite Poems
(Edgar Allan Poe) - One of the founding fathers of the Gothic horror, The Raven, probably Poe's most known poem, is a perfect atmosphere piece to compliment Baltimore. Read it before you start the novel and it will surely set the tone.
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