Saturday, September 05, 2009

Vertigo Crime

In the past several years the crime genre has been prominent in mainstream comics, offering some of the most enjoyable and satisfying stories. This includes Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Criminal series, and Scalped by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guéra.

My expectations for the Vertigo Crime sub-imprint were high. The first two graphic novels released would be by Brian Azzarello, the writer of the successful crime comic 100 Bullets, and Ian Rankin, the well-known author of the Rebus novels.

But after publishing these first two comics, Vertigo Crime must only seem like a disappointment. Compared to the best crime comic of the year, Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of Richard Stark's The Hunter, the Vertigo Crime books fall well short in presentation, and more importantly, in story and art.

Filthy Rich by Azzarello and illustrated by Victor Santos is a confusing, clichéd-ridden, padded crime story. The plot could have been lifted from any poorly written Mickey Spillane-wannabe-novel; Azzarello is a writer capable of better, crisper work. I can only think that that convoluted story was the result of being told to have the story come in at 200 pages when 100 would have worked more effectively.

Ian Rankin's first foray into comics is strong but certainly not of a quality that would make readers forget that he is primarily a crime novelist. The problem I had with Dark Entries, which features the serviceable art of Werther Dell'Edera, is that it's a John Constantine or Hellblazer story presented as a crime comic. If Dark Entries had been written as a crime story, I wouldn't note this issue but what readers get is a story set literally in Hell. I'd like to see Rankin write an original crime comic; he has potential in comics but his first attempt is ordinary and forgettable.

Next from Vertigo Crime will be stories by Jason Starr, Peter Milligan and Christos N. Gage. If those comics are poor, I don't expect the sub-imprint to have a long shelf-life.


The Unstoppable Bolaño

I'm bad with books. I buy one and sometimes I read it immediately and other times I put on my shelf to be read later (a day, a week, a month, years later).

It's these other times that have left me with shelves of books, stacked high, to be read. It's unfair that I can't read as fast as I can add a book to the shelf.

I need to be in the mood, which is sounds dumb to write but it's true. Earlier this summer (assuming we still consider it's still the summer), I was in the mood for non-fiction. I read two or three. Then a couple of weeks ago I saw two short Roberto Bolaño novels on my shelf. I write as if they just appeared but I remember buying them. I had read Bolaño before, a few short stories from the New Yorker but none of his books.

I thought I could start by getting through a couple of quick, small ones; the towering behemoths - The Savage Detectives and 2666 - where also on my shelf but I didn't feel like starting one of those.

I began Distant Star and I had trouble stopping. Or I didn't stop. Next I was going to read Amulet but the back cover said it was a sequel or a companion to The Savage Detectives, a thick book I previously had not wished to begin. How things change. I felt it was only fair to Bolaño that I begin with the big one.

I ripped through The Savage Detectives at the same time I felt I was taking my time, savouring it, enjoying it. Sometimes I read too quickly. I read just right this time. I finished Amulet the day after I finished The Savage Detectives. And now I'm on to the last giant of Bolaño's I have on my shelf.

I didn't plan to read four Bolaños over the last few weeks but the author made me do it.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

New York Times Subscription

With today's copy of the Sunday Times, the circulation department informed me that as of next month, subscription rates for the New York Times will increase in Canada.

First, while I don't think I need defend myself for subscribing to the Times and not a single Canadian paper, all I would need to do is conduct an objective compare-and-contrast between a typical copy of the Times and a typical copy of one of the Toronto dailies. I could do that, it wouldn't be pretty, but I won't do that because my time will be better spent doing something productive today.

Second, the rate increase is close to $30 each month. That's a lot, especially when I consider my salary, my other expenses (thank you GO Transit), and that the entirety of the New York Times is available free, online, everyday.

Up to today, I had resisted switching to reading the Times online. Sure I'm part of that age where I shouldn't be averse to anything available on the Internet. I watch TV on the Internet. I get/pay for my music online. But when it comes to reading newspapers, I still prefer the printed version.

Unless it comes with a $30 increase to read.

Paying that doesn't make sense. I understand the plight of newspapers. And I hate to take away the money I was giving the Times for its product but I was happy to continue paying the rate I paid last month. I'm not willing to pay the rate the paper wants me to next month.

Online it is. I won't have to worry about my crap delivery guy. I hope my subscription cancellation doesn't mean more lost jobs. But charging your current subscribers more hardly seems like the revolutionary idea that will save the newspaper industry.

NOTE: This isn't the relaunch of the blog. Not yet. I planned to do something this weekend and get things started on this refresh project but I was pulled in other directions, to use corporate-speak excuse of I'm f---ing busy. I haven't forgot my plans. It's coming down. Sit tight.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Let's Make a Change

Faced with two options - continue or stop - I've decided to choose the former in regards to the existence of this blog. 

The last couple of months have been slow for me hear. I've been more occupied with Twitter, probably because it's more immediate and takes much less effort to comment on something. That's all good, but sometime happened this weekend - the details of this I won't bore you with - that made me re-assess things. One of those things was this blog, and the opportunity it affords me.

So to go a bit further: I plan to recall this blog to life over the next couple of months. (I hope this post is not read in the next couple of months as pure bullshit.) What that means? Posts, for starters. And these will be posts where I actually spend some time thinking, then writing. Twitter is for immediate comment. This blog will be for something different. I hope that makes sense and I hope I keep up my end.

No time like the present is the cliché; I hope I can live up to it.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Rematch

Last Prediction for the 2009 Playoffs

I didn't predict a Stanley Cup final rematch, and I don't think many did. But we have one, as rare as it is, and my hope is that Detroit does not repeat.

Looking, however, at these two teams brings me to a different prediction. I see weakness in goal for Pittsburgh, and I believe it's this hole that will allow Detroit to win the Cup in 6 games.

Hope I'm wrong.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Loose Comics

Changing a Habit

Back in April my local comic shop burned down.

OK, not quite.

There was a fire in the shop's plaza, and the store suffered some damage. The damage was severe enough for the owners of the strip to decide to tear down a part of the mall, which included my comic shop. Because of the fire, the comic shop's account with Diamond, the comics distributor, was put on hold, effectively putting my monthly comic reading on hold too.

Last week I learned my comic shop had resolved its insurance claim and had signed off on a new location, which will not open until July. (All of this, I know, is extremely interesting to you.) But because the store's account with Diamond is on hold, it's unlikely I'll see any of the single issues that shipped between April and the new store's opening date.

At first I thought I'd need to search and get those comics I missed. I did and calculated the cost, realizing: a) it would be expensive (my paycheque is hardly thick) and b) there are few comics I have missed to justify that cost. What does this mean? Have I grown out of comics?

To answer the second question: no. 

The answer to the first: I feel I've fallen into that problem of habitual purchases, like what Warren Ellis described in his final "Come in Alone" column back in 2000. If all I'm doing is blindly reading the comic, what's the point? That's not to say all comics I read on a monthly basis are just habitual purchases that never entertain me. But my comic shop burning down gave me the chance to take a break from monthlies and realize there are some I followed for no reason. Not to mention, but I will, that I prefer comics in book format more than their original loose version.

There are some comics that need to be read immediately but the majority can wait. I know because I have a good few by my side that I haven't got to and they're hardly calling out to be read right now. No point buying something only for it to collect dust. 

The end. (That's how you end a blog post, right? It's been a while.)


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Playoff Predictions

NHL Playoffs, Conference Finals

My record is still even at 6 correct predictions and 6 not-so-correct predictions. All of this suggests what I've always insisted: I don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

Conference final predictions follow.

Easter Conference

Pittsburgh vs. Carolina: Will Paul Maurice go from coaching the Leafs last season to coaching the Eastern Conference champion? Will Cam Ward continue his playoff dominance in goal? Will Sidney Crosby continue to play like a Conn Smythe winner? And will Pittsburgh return to the finals a second year in a row? Um, what's my point? I pick Carolina.

Western Conference

Detroit vs. Chicago: I just can't see Chicago beating Detroit. But I didn't see them beating Calgary or Vancouver either. Have I learned my lesson? No, I pick Detroit.

So based on my (likely incorrect) predictions, it'll be a Detroit-Carolina Cup final.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Book Blurb

Darling Jim by Christian Moerk

Christian Moerk's Darling Jim was published in 2007, but only this year made the voyage to North America. Set in Ireland, the novel tells the story of three sisters, their aunt and storyteller/confidence man, Jim, and how his actions lead to several murders.

It's hard to classify Darling Jim. It's part gothic, part horror, part mystery, and perhaps, part romance. Moerk uses third-person and first-person narration; the latter coming in the form of two diaries. My only problem with the novel are the diaries, which based on the circumstances they are written, make them less believable than the rest of the story.

What's enjoyable about Darling Jim is a plot that expands on a small idea. In his acknowledgements at the end, Moerk describes the story that served as the idea for the novel. From that real-life news story that probably came in around 200 words, Moerk has created a 285-page to be read one weekend when you're having trouble deciding on the type of book you'd like to get lost in. Moerk's story is a good one, and it's good to finally have been published here.