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What I bought – 11 August 2010

“Keep away, keep away,” Hungry Joe screamed. “I said keep away, keep away, you goddam stinking lousy son of a bitch.”

“At least we found out what he dreams about,” Dunbar observed wryly. “He dreams about goddam stinking lousy sons of bitches.” (Joseph Heller, from Catch-22)

Arrrgghhh!  Tentacle rape!!!!! Sweet Jeebus, these covers are extraordinary! The cover artist gets third billing! Will I piss off Brian Wood again???? Don't point, man, throw! I dig how the threads tell part of the story Warning!  This scene does NOT appear in this comic! So, so good! Yay!  More alternate history action!

BoosterGold35Booster Gold #35 (“Destiny! Destiny! No Escaping That for Me!”) by Keith Giffen (writer), J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Chris Batista (penciller), Pat Oliffe (artist), Rich Perrotta (inker), Sal Cipriano (letterer), and Hi-Fi (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Barda calls something “pusillanimous” in this issue, then later swears by “Darkseid’s draperies” (nice use of the correct term there; remember, kids, “drapes” is a verb, not a noun) and “Highfather’s hemorrhoids,” because she’s awesome. And there are Darkstars in this issue! And Ted knows that Booster is from the future, which makes his guesses about where the future Blue Beetle is all the more poignant. Oh, and everyone talks about their Barda fantasies. I mean, why wouldn’t you?

There’s a lot to like about the new Booster Gold, even though I’m still not totally sold on it yet. Giffen and DeMatteis aren’t trying to make us take these characters seriously by having them confront their deepest, darkest fears about bedwetting and then ripping someone’s spine out to prove that, indeed, they can sleep through the night without rubber sheets. Instead, Giffen and DeMatteis do what they always do – show us that these characters might be silly, but they’re also competent, and even though they’re the butt of jokes, they always get the job done. Back in the JLI days, Booster and Beetle failed a little bit more because the book was more about the characters, whereas so far in this book, it’s about Booster’s mission and the focus is more on the action, so they have to be a bit more competent. The point Giffen and DeMatteis are trying to make, however, is that these wacky characters trust each other implicitly, so even when Barda picks Ted up to throw him at a bad guy, the implication is not that he’s just a “projectile” as she puts it, but that he’ll know what to do when he hits the bad guy, as indeed he does.

The addition of Barda and Scott to this arc is inspired, mainly because we don’t see them enough anymore (please don’t tell me they’re dead) and because Giffen and DeMatteis understand something far too many writers have forgotten: it’s okay if heroes bicker because deep down, they really do like each other. So many group books these days feature characters who don’t seem to like each other (a point I’ve made before, but I’m making it again), so their bickering takes on a nasty edge. Even without Barda confirming it, we know that these characters really do like each other, so their antics become the antics of a family, one that does enjoy each other’s company even as they’re sharpening the verbal knives. It’s refreshing reading this arc not because it’s funny (although it is) but because we can enjoy the banter without feeling like the people loathe each other. And the fact that Giffen and DeMatteis do a nice job with the story itself, making Hieronymus the Underachiever so underachieving he actually poses a threat, is a nice bonus.

The reason I still don’t know if I’m sold on this comic is because so far, it’s been tied up with Booster’s attempts to prove Maxwell Lord’s existence. I don’t really care about that overall plot, and what will they do when it’s resolved? So I’ll keep reserving judgment for now. But this pseudo-JLI arc is pretty cool, so I’m looking forward to see how the gang saves the day next issue.

One totally Airwolf panel:

You know, when I had to make some money in college and performed in some 'adult movies,' my nickname was 'planet pounder' ... oh, wait, have I shared too much?

You know, when I had to make some money in college and performed in some 'adult movies,' my nickname was 'planet pounder' ... oh, wait, have I shared too much?

Daytripper9Daytripper #9 (of 10) (“Dream”) by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (writers/artists), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Sean Konot (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Man oh man, I love this series. I have NO idea what’s going to happen in issue #10, which is kind of thrilling. Usually you can at least figure out that the good guy will win, but there’s no good guy in this series, so I just can’t hazard a guess. In this issue, Moon and Bá break out of their usual pattern of this series to show us Brás having dreams, dreams from which he can’t wake up but seem to be trying to tell him something. I hate to keep bringing up Inception on this blog, but I’ll do it again. Inception didn’t feel like a dream because, as I understand it, the characters were “lucid dreaming,” but Moon and Bá show that Brás can be “lucid dreaming” but things still happen that are beyond his control or understanding. He susses out that he’s dreaming, but the world retains its ethereal and mutable quality, and that makes it far more interesting than Nolan’s solid dream world. And Bá and Moon have gotten so much better at writing that the portentous nature of the end of this issue doesn’t feel labored, it feels organic. This would actually be a perfect ending to the series, which is why I can’t imagine where they’re going next. But I’m really jazzed to see what happens!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Think of the water bill!

Think of the water bill!

MorningGlories1Morning Glories #1 by Nick Spencer (writer), Joe Eisma (artist), Alex Sollazzo (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $3.99, 44 pgs, FC, Image/Shadowline.

So I wasn’t too impressed by Spencer’s other new comic, Shuddertown, which has reached its fourth issue, but I’m certainly willing to check out his other work, and so Morning Glories arrives at the shops to give me that chance! The set-up is simple: Morning Glory Academy is a prestigious prep school, and the main characters are six new students. But (wait for it) there’s a secret to uncover about the school!!!!!! We see at the beginning that the staff and students have an … odd relationship, and during orientation for the new students, we see other strange things. Then the smart one – the blonde on the cover – discovers that everyone shares the same birthday (the very day they arrive) and that, well, things are a bit more dangerous at the academy than they thought (we, of course, already knew that, because of those first few pages). It’s a clever set-up with an oddly revealing ending (it seems like this is a revelation better left for later in the series, but I assume Spencer has a plan!), and at double the length of your usual Big Two comic (for the same price!), it’s a good chunk of comics. The kids are somewhat stereotypical, but that’s okay, and Spencer even plays with the “meet-cute” idea, which is kind of neat.

Eisma has been kicking around for a bit, but I’ve never seen his work on a longer project, and he acquits himself well. We can easily tell everyone apart, and the creepy beginning is done well. There’s a pretty cool big splash page in the middle of the book where one kid (Jade, “the emo one”) slowly realizes that something just ain’t right about the sitch, and Eisma and Sollazzo do a really cool job showing her growing fear. It’s a cool moment.

I’d definitely recommend checking Morning Glories out. It’s good value and it’s an interesting premise. Now we’ll see if Spencer can keep it up!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Wow - I just said this to my daughter the other day!

Wow - I just said this to my daughter the other day!

Northlanders31Northlanders #31 (“Metal Part Two: The Greening”) by Brian Wood (writer), Riccardo Burchielli (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Wood puts an interesting speech about Christians into Ulf’s mouth in this issue. Erik, of course, went a bit berserker on the Christians last issue, and now he’s living out in the woods with the ex-nun Ingrid. Ulf comes to see him and explain to him why he’s an idiot for killing so many of them (being a good Viking, he debates Erik with an axe). Erik doesn’t take kindly to this, and violence ensues. And then Erik starts hallucinating about his goddess again. That can’t be good.

But Ulf is far more perceptive than Erik is. He tells Erik how stupid it was to antagonize the Christians (even though, as we saw last issue, they treat Ulf as little more than a hick, which in 8th-century Europe, he kind of is), and Erik responds by calling them a joke. He asks why is Ulf so afraid of them, and Ulf responds:

They believe, Erik, that’s why. They believe with fervor that we’ve never had. When men believe like that, they’ll stop at nothing. They will kill us all … our entrails strung from tree to tree. They’ve left us, Erik. The gods have left us.

Later, he says to Erik: “You think Christianity’s a religion of old women and weakling men, but they have armies, fleets, even, holding our port cities. Whatever the reason, the old gods have fled this land.” Ulf doesn’t completely understand the Christians – he claims they have what it takes to live in Norway long-term, but this little speech is why Northlanders continues to be such a great comic. I took Wood to task a bit last issue for being anti-Christian in this book, but he also gets to the heart of religion quite well. As Northlanders is as much about modern society as it is about medieval society, this is a fascinating way to consider the conflict between fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims, who are often closer to each other than to moderate members of their own religions. In AD 700, Islam was just sweeping over the Byzantine Empire and Muslims were about to conquer Spain. Many Christians at the time thought that Muslims were winning because they believed more fervently in their religion than the Christians did in theirs, and this led to a wave of Catholic fundamentalism, usually manifested in monasteries. In the north, of course, Islam hadn’t penetrated, so the Christians in this story represent the fresher faith, while the Norse are the older, more stolid culture, worshipping a pantheon that has become so entrenched that it no longer feels real. The Christians believe, which is a powerful motivator. Ulf no longer believes, and so he is doomed in a world where people do believe. Erik also believes, but he ignores the fact that the Christians are not only fervent in their beliefs, but they are far more organized than the Norse. Christianity, with its monotheism and sexism, was perfectly suited to step in when the Romans lost their empire because it already had a strong hierarchical system. So when the political entities caught up a bit with the religious entities, Christians were able to dominate the far less hierarchical societies they found on the edges of Europe – in Ireland, in Scandanavia, in the Baltic. Ulf senses this, even if he believes their fervor will cool and they will leave the northern lands. Whether Wood means to or not, he makes this modern because right now, in the U. S., there is a conflict between fundamentalist Christians and, really, everyone else. There are people who believe we are engaged in a holy war with Islam itself, not just tiny splinter groups of crazy Muslims. They would look upon the Christians of the Middle Ages and envy them for their faith, if not their dogma (fundamentalist Christians dislike Catholics as much as they dislike Muslims, it seems). Are they going to “win” because they are more faithful, while more moderate Christians are doomed to lose? Wood doesn’t give us easy answers, because what makes this a fascinating comic book is that Erik, despite being “noble” and wanting to repulse the Christians, may be only so fervent in his beliefs because of the hallucinogenic drugs coursing through his body. Is that true faith? What is it, if not true faith?

I never mean to go on about Northlanders as much as I occasionally do, but it’s such a thoughtful comic even as two men are bashing each other, so I get caught up in it. Ulf’s analysis of the Christians is interesting because it’s so insightful and wrong-headed at the same time. Isn’t that too often the case?

One totally Airwolf panel:

This is what happens when Vikings queue up at the grocery store!

This is what happens when Vikings queue up at the grocery store!

ThortheMightyAvenger3Thor: The Mighty Avenger #3 (“Here Be Giants”) by Roger Langridge (writer), Chris Samnee (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Marvel.

It’s kind of a shame that Hank Pym is so well known for hitting his wife, Janet van Dyne, because in a charming comic like this, where Hank and Janet are portrayed as nothing but heroes and good people, I still think Langridge is foreshadowing dark things ahead or at least referencing the “real” Marvel Universe (as this obviously doesn’t take place there) when Janet forlornly hopes that Hank doesn’t “lose control.” She’s not even talking about him giving into rage as much as wanting vengeance instead of justice, but it still makes me think that Hank will never escape the wife-beating thing, even in another universe. Oh well.

Hank is looking for the murderer of his old mentor, who was killed last issue, so he follows an energy signal from the professor’s house and tracks it, eventually finding Thor instead of Mr. Hyde (I assume he got the wrong bio-energy, although Langridge does a nice job being coy about it). Thor, meanwhile, is hallucinating because of something Loki did, and this leads to a good ol’-fashioned hero v. hero fight (see below)! All’s well that ends well, of course, and everyone goes on their merry way.

The real joy of this issue is watching Samnee have fun with Thor and Jane (now there’s a sitcom!), as she takes him shopping and then tries to get through to him when he’s under the influence (and Thor hits her, which is disturbing symmetry and I wish wasn’t in this comic, as it feels out of place) and then flirts outrageously with him once his mind has been restored. It’s a ton of fun to look at the way Samnee draws Jane, who is having a ball hanging out with a superhero (and a god, to boot), and Thor, who’s totally clueless that she’s flirting with him. Even Jane’s reaction when she’s suspended from her job (which Janet quickly rectifies) is charming. And of course, when Thor saves the day, we get a wonderful panel of everyone cheering.

This continues to be a very fun superhero book. That it’s coming out from one of the Big Two (granted, the slightly less rapey-stabby-disembowely one) is a wonder. Yay, Langridge and Samnee and Wilson and Wooton!

One totally Airwolf panel:

This is what happens when you spike Thor's mead

This is what happens when you spike Thor's mead

Unwritten16The Unwritten #16 (“Dead Man’s Knock: Conversations”) by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (writer and artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I’m pretty sure this is the last issue of The Unwritten that I’m going to buy. I was waiting until the end of the latest arc to make a decision, and I’m not sure if next issue is part of this arc, because this kind of feels final. It’s not that I hate the book, it’s just not doing much for me. Carey gets around to a master plan in this issue, and while it’s all very important, I don’t know if Tom as Messiah is really that interesting. There’s a nice bait-and-switch about Wilson Taylor’s book, and quite a bit happens in this issue (which makes me wonder if the book is long for the world), but the most interesting stuff is the fate of Lizzie Hexam (which is why I might buy the next issue, as she’s apparently the focus) and that’s also a reason why I’m not that keen on the book. Lizzie’s weird fate inside a book is what drew me to the title in the first place – I hate to be a snob, but I thought the idea of Tom interacting with works of literature was really cool, and the best parts of this comic are exactly that. The grand scheme is, frankly, dull. There’s not enough weird literary crap in this comic and too much “evil organization wants to rule the world” stuff. Oh well.

Like I said, I’ll see about next issue. I’ll probably flip through it, but I very much doubt that I’ll get it. There’s too many other comics out there that wow me. This isn’t one of them, unfortunately.

One totally Airwolf panel:

My murder weapon of choice?  My rapier-like wit!

My murder weapon of choice? My rapier-like wit!

WelcometoTranquility2Welcome to Tranquility: One Foot in the Grave #2 (of 6) (“Homecoming Part Two: Of Cabbages and Kings”) by Gail Simone (writer), Horacio Domingues (artist), Jonny Rench (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

Well, Tommy isn’t dead, although I very much doubt anyone really thought she was. Things keep happening, as Fury fights the dude who abducted him (and whose identity comes as no surprise, not unlike Agent “!”) and the events from last issue continue to affect the party at the diner. (And no, I’m not going into it any further than that.) Simone, naturally, does a fine job juggling a bunch of different characters, although this is definitely not the place to start reading about these characters (even though we do get quite a bit of information about them). When she’s on, Simone can write this kind of book in her sleep, as she gives us a bunch of characters with interesting and fairly unique voices, a few weird mysteries, and some humor. When she’s not on … well, let’s not worry about that. Welcome to Tranquility is a fine superhero book. That’s all we need to say.

Oh, and Mr. Domingues? A rat tail? On a grown-up? In 2010? Really? Sigh.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Damn it!  That's the best part of the evening!

Damn it! That's the best part of the evening!

20th Century Boys vol. 10 by Naoki Urasawa. $12.99, 212 pgs, BW, Viz Signature.

I should probably read volume 9. I’ll get around to it eventually!

Ooku: The Inner Chamber vol. 4 by Fumi Yoshinaga. $12.99, 207 pgs, BW, Viz Signature.

Yay! More fun in feudal Japan!

It’s onward to The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “Baba O’Riley” – The Who (1971) “I don’t need to be forgiven”
2. “Under Cover of Darkness” – Living Colour (1990) “I like to touch your skin even if it is a sin”
3. “Now” – Prince (1995) “The ride up front is better when you’ve been in the back”
4. “Tiki 4″ – Fish (2001) “One eye is all that is needed to be kind of all he surveys”
5. “Your Time is Gonna Come” – Led Zeppelin (1969) “One of these days, and it won’t be long you’ll look for me, but, baby, I’ll be gone”
6. “If I Was Your Girlfriend” – Prince (1987) “We don’t have to make love to have an orgasm”
7. “Quartz” – Marillion (2001) “And it’s so easy for me to break down”
8. “Rock of Ages” – Def Leppard (1983) “No serenade, no fire brigade, just pyromania”
9. “Bad Seamstress Blues/Fallin’ Apart at the Seams” – Cinderella (1988) “Old friends seem much closer now, they stand the test of time somehow”
10. “Father’s Advice” – Hamell on Trial (2006) “Your grandpa and grandma drank and drank and drank; now that I’m a parent, I know why”

And you know you love the totally random lyrics!!!!!

“High in the air between here and there
Somewhere anywhere (anywhere but here)
I feel that I’m always home and never alone
(Never in love with fun)”

Here’s a hint: This song was used in a movie that starred Anthony Hopkins! Chew on that for a while, folk!

So anyway, next week I’m flying to Pennsylvania for a pseudo-reunion a friend of mine has every year. I’m leaving on Thursday, so I won’t have much time to post reviews. I have a fun idea about what to do, though. It will probably be posted a bit later than usual (Saturday, most likely), but definitely look for it.

One more thing: This Wednesday was the first day of school, as I wrote last week. Norah started kindergarten, which was neat. Would you think she’d be upset about being left alone with strangers by her loving father? Hell no! Here she is after summarily dismissing me:

She’s only five, and already she doesn’t want to be seen with me. Oh, the shame!!!!!

40 Comments

Interesting stuff, Greg. Some comments:

1. “Christianity, with its monotheism and sexism….”: Despite what various Neo-Pagans would have you believe, Greg, there is little evidence that the Latin Christians were more sexist than the pagans. All of the pagan cultures in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East were sexist.

2. “…was perfectly suited to step in when the Romans lost their Empire because it already had a strong hierarchical system”: Greg, by the time the “Romans lost their Empire” (I’m assuming that you are discounting the continuing existence of the Eastern Empire, centered on Constantinople), they were a Christian empire, the last pagan emperor, Julian the Apostate, having died in 363. By the time the Western Empire fell (itself a a fraught topic), Christianity and Rome were co-terminous.

3. “Christians were able to dominate the less hierarchical societies they found on the edges of Europe-in Ireland, in Scandinavia, in the Baltic.”: The Latin Christians certainly were better organized than their pagan opponents, but the pagans were also quite hierarchical. Pagan Scandinavia, for example, was divided into three separate classes: nobles, yeomen framers, and thralls.

4. “not just splinter groups of crazy Muslims”: I fail to see how one can define fundamentalist Muslims as “crazy.” One is free to disagree with their beliefs, but they are clearly not mad.

5. “fundamentalist Christians dislike Catholics”: I would have written this passage as “Protestant fundamentalist Christians” (Yes, I am aware that, technically speaking, Christian fundamentalism is a Protestant phenomenon).Greg, you should bear in mind that one of the more significant events in the history of American Christianity is the rapprochement between Protestant fundamentalists and Roman Catholics.

You were right. They do start school early there. Around here the first day wasn’t until Thursday.

I like the look of that Daytripper panel, it reminds me a bit of both Daniel Torres and Paul Pope. I’ll be looking for a collected edition of that.

Michigan schools can’t start until after Labor Day, it’s the law.

trajan: Point 1: Okay. Point 2: That’s my point. The dissolution of a large-scale political entity in the fifth century (and yes, I am discounting the Byzantines, because I was specifically speaking of Western Europe) would have been more traumatic if there hadn’t been a similar religious organization that could fill its place. The Roman Empire was Christian, and part of the reason why Christianity fit into its society was because of its structure. That also allowed the Church to keep society relatively ordered during the Germanic invasions and eventually assimilate those non-Roman tribes. Point 3: Okay, not as organized. A good distinction. Point 4: Perhaps I was facile. I consider all fundamentalists crazy, whether they fit the technical definition or not. Point 5: Hm. Based on puerly anecdotal evidence, I don’t see much friendliness between fundamentalists (yes, I should have specified Protestant) and Catholics. I could be wrong.

Ed: That’s weird. Why would they have a law like that?

Two review posts in one day! You spoil us. Your children have forgotten what you look like.

If we weren’t mortal enemies, I’d buy you a beer when were PA. A fine, Pennsylvanian beer, like real men drink.

I love that the Airwolf Thor panel is the reverse shot of the cover.

You have to buy the next Unwritten– it’s the choose-your-own-adventure issue!

(Surely “drapes” is short for “draperies”; that’s how future slang works.)

Bill: I’ll be drinking Yuengling Black and Tan. Because it’s awesome.

I like how Samnee did that – it’s more fun from the art!

I had forgotten about the choose-your-own-adventure issue. Yeah, I may have to check that out.

How dare you desecrate the language, sir!!!!!!

Damn right you’ll be drinking Yuengling Black & Tan.

I was going to mention the choose-your-own-adventure issue, but Bill beat me to it. Issue 18 also looks to be an epilogue/conclusion to this arc.

Tom Fitzpatrick

August 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm

If a family member made his/her living by reviewing comics and writting blogs on them, I probably wouldn’t want to be seen with them, either! ;-)

I miss choose your own adventure-gonna have to look for some on e-bay

“I don’t see much friendliness between fundamentalists (yes, I should have specified Protestant) and Catholics. I could be wrong.”

Recently there have been signs that many hardcore Protestants and Catholics are uniting against the common enemy that is humanist, secular, decadent, hedonism. Speaking as a humanist, secular, decadent, hedonist person, I find that development very troubling. I much prefer if they bicker with each other like a crazy married couple and leave me alone.

Drapes wouldn’t be the first verb to become a noun. In fact, my Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary lists drapes as both verb and noun, and most other dictionaries probably do the same and have for a hundred years. As for desecrating the language, we all use hundreds of words that either didn’t exist 500 years ago or had a different meaning then. Shakespeare, as Bill Bryson points out in The Mother Tongue, used nouns as verbs, adverbs and adjectives, and even used an adverb as an adjective on at least one occasion (“that bastardly rogue” in Henry IV). Did Shakespeare desecrate our language?

Michigan’s no school before Labor Day law came about two or three years ago. That’s the way it was when I started school in the early 70s, but by the early 80s they were all starting the week before, but on a Tuesday, and apparently parents thought starting school with two four day weeks in a row was asinine, I guess. You know I’m not really sure…

Ed: You know I was joking about desecrating the language, right? ;) I’m a stickler for stuff, but mostly when it comes to punctuation, spelling, and grammar. But usually only in my own writing and speaking. Feel free to go nuts with your own! What bugs me about something like “drapes” as opposed to “draperies” is that there’s a perfectly good word to use, and I suspect a great deal of “language desecration” is because of sheer laziness, not being creative with the language as Shakespeare was. I was just having fun, though!

Amen, Rene.

Greg, yeah I realize Bill is your nemesis and you have to give him the business, especially when he goads you into it. It was your original admonition against using drapes as a noun, when it’s long been an accepted usage that got me going. Had it been against a true neologism I may have shared your feelings, depending upon the utility and/or elegance of the hypothetical neologism.

By the way, love the Catch-22 quote. It’s one of my favorites, and I think Heller may have coined more than the title phrase in that book.

I don’t want to live in a world without Big Barda in it.

Wow, Greg, I don’t think we’ve ever disagreed *quite* so completely before, re: The Unwritten. For me this issue was exactly what I’ve been waiting for, for the last however-many-issues; I’m more excited about it than ever before; I thought the double climax with the book revelation and the murder in the cave was comics at its best, and I thought the twist with the Day of Judgment book was amazing. I can’t wait to see where they go next. But to each his own.

My other favorite comic at the moment is Hickman’s Fantastic Four, and I think you may’ve dropped that too.

I just read Catch-22 for the first time a few months ago and it may very well be the most overrated book in the history of mankind. The “humor” was on par with a really bad Catskills comedy act that went on four hours too long. It really is an awful book, although I did find the parts with Nately’s whore trying to stop Yosarian to be funny.

Also, I’m with you on hoping they don’t go for the obvious in the Thor book and do the typical “Hank Pym Dark Side” story.

I completely agree about Booster Gold. As it’s the only DC book I’m getting (oh, I forgot about Madame X) I could care less about the whole Max Lord stuff (especially since it appears that Booster is playing a very incedental role here anyhow). However I’m really enjoying the actual stories we’re getting so I’m torn. I think that so long as the Max stuff is just background I’ll keep reading but once it becomes the main focus I think I’ll drop the book.

I’m not at all surprised that you didn’t like Catch-22, T. Nor am I surprised at your hyperbole in proclaiming it the most overrated book in history.

T.: “Most overrated” is a vague designation, but that’s fine. I like Catch-22 a lot and don’t find the humor on par with a bad Catskills comedy act, but I will say it’s unfortunate that this book has overshadowed Heller’s career. Picture This is a superior book, and God Knows is probably better, although not funnier. And when Heller returned to the characters in Closing Time, it was a mess. If you didn’t like Catch-22, you’ll HATE Closing Time, as it seems more like your description than Catch-22 is. To each his own, though.

Stefan: Yeah, I dropped Hickman’s FF. I don’t mind a slow burn, but man, that was a slow-moving book. And maybe I’ll change my mind about The Unwritten after the next issue (and possibly the next, if that’s the end of the arc). We’ll see!

Greg:

When I read Catch-22 finally, I was so bewildered as to how the reputation of the book could be so far removed from the reality of the content that I did some research on the book. It turned out that it hardly set the world on fire critically or saleswise when first released and only really took off once the anti-Vietnam movement became hip.

I think Catch-22 benefits more from the context of the era than the actual content of the book. Many of the jokes are repetitive and drag on and are a little too self-satisfied. When it first came out it wasn’t well-received critically and didn’t sell all that well, but later on when Vietnam War protest was in vogue, the counterculture latched onto it because it was a book that was built on one joke and one joke alone, but a joke that that generation desperately love: mockery of the American military, bureaucracy and war in general. I have no problem with mocking those themes, everything is fair game, but I just don’t think Heller mocked them all that well, or at least not well enough to justify the droning length and repetitive nature of the book. I think the counterculture of the era just exaggerated the quality and impact of the book because it was telling them what they wanted to hear. Once they latched onto it, the Boomers gave the Emperor new clothes. Then future generations, because they were educated by adult Boomers, were force-fed the idea that the novel was great by said Boomers and just uncritically accepted it as fact.

I think that’s the main reason why none of his follow up books were never as good as the legendary Catch-22. Because Catch 22 itself was never as good as the legendary Catch 22. His later novels were just as bad as Catch 22 and maybe even better, but they never became as popular because people read them without a Vietnam War agenda to delude themselves as to the quality.

Ed:

I know you think I’m just being contrarian, but I’m hardly alone in thinking Catch-22 is extremely overrated. In fact, google “overrated novels” and start clicking links. Catch-22 not only routinely appears on most of the lists, it is frequently the #1 choice.

A great link that sums up my viewpoint:

http://lesterhhunt.blogspot.com/2007/05/most-overrated-novel-of-twentieth.html

T.: Yeah, that’s not a bad point. I still like the book. But I think you’re right about the reputation of the book, because if you do read something like Picture This, he pares down the prose into much sharper focus and is able to be a bit more insightful about politics and war than he is in Catch-22 (which is at its best when it’s NOT about the absurdity of war – Milo’s wonderfully weird capitalistic ventures are brilliant until the point where they intersect with the anti-war stuff, and the bombadier sections, which I love, aren’t really about the absurdity of war as much as they’re about the horror of war), but because Picture This is a bit more abstract and less upfront about its intentions, I think it gets ignored. I took a lot more from Picture This emotionally than I did from Catch-22 because Heller is far more subtle about what he’s trying to say, and therefore the emotions are more subtle and more honest.

It’s fascinating to me how works of art are viewed over the years. As you note, some books are ignored when they first come out and then are picked up (for whatever reason) by subsequent generations. Are the people who dismissed the work just squares who don’t appreciate great art? Or are the people who find it and love just looking for something to piss off their parents? Oh, the head spins!!!!!

“Once they latched onto it, the Boomers gave the Emperor new clothes. Then future generations, because they were educated by adult Boomers, were force-fed the idea that the novel was great by said Boomers and just uncritically accepted it as fact.”

Oh come on, T, do you really believe that? So what you like, you like because it has merit, but what we like is only because we were indoctrinated to like it? If I said you’re only a conservative because you were force-fed conservative ideology, you’d throw an apoplectic fit.

Ed: Yeah, I forgot to mention that I read it when I was a teenager and again when I was in my 20s, but I never studied it in school or was told it was great. I had heard of it, of course, but it was only after I read it the first time that I started hearing about how great it was. So maybe I was force-fed the idea of it being good, but I didn’t suspect it because it was so underhanded. Of course, everyone tells me how great Shakespeare is, but is he? Is he really?!?!?

But I do still wonder about T.’s point about a later generation picking up on something that wasn’t huge to begin with. Is great art simply a product of the times, or is it above society’s changing standards?

Oh, and we all know anyone can find someone on the internet who agrees with them on any point imaginable, no matter how few people actually do agree.

Art, and the appreciation of any given piece of art, is subjective.

(which is at its best when it’s NOT about the absurdity of war – Milo’s wonderfully weird capitalistic ventures are brilliant until the point where they intersect with the anti-war stuff, and the bombadier sections, which I love, aren’t really about the absurdity of war as much as they’re about the horror of war)

Now THIS I agree with. Things like Milo’s weird ventures and the antics of Nately’s whore trying to kill Yossarian showed hints of brilliance that I think were much more fun and clever than the antiwar stuff, which I think Heller was a bit too self-satisfied about and went overboard with. I wish he devoted more to the non-War related things.

I feel your pain, T.

I am a liberal, but I think feel things in life are as depressing and tedious as artsy Vietnam Era life-is-absurd kind of novels.

Even if I agree with the point they’re trying to make.

Oh, and we all know anyone can find someone on the internet who agrees with them on any point imaginable, no matter how few people actually do agree.

Of COURSE anyone can find someone on the internet who agrees with them, no matter how few people agree. I never claimed otherwise. Now what on earth does that have to do with whether or not the person I found has valid arguments supporting his viewpoints or not? I don’t understand your point with that response.

You totally sidestepped any substantive counterarguments to my points or to the points in my link to instead focus on the fact that I found someone who agrees with me, as if that fact alone automatically invalidates my argument.

Yes anyone can find someone who agrees with them on the internet. But not everyone can find someone who agrees with them making a persuasive, engaging and convincing argument. So you’re response would make more sense if you took my link apart to show how what I linked to is not a persuasive, engaging or convincing argument but is in fact poorly argued.

Art, and the appreciation of any given piece of art, is subjective.

Of course it is. What’s your point? That because of that we shouldn’t express opinions on it? Does that mean you in your personal life avoid either sharing opinions or reading the opinions of others about art? Somehow I suspect you don’t, as you frequent blogs that share opinions on art like this one. I think you probably only trot out the “all art is subjective” argument when someone argues against a work you personally like but you’re feeling too lazy to actually formulate a substantive response.

Agreed, Rene. And I actually don’t dislike the book because I disagree with the politics. I disagree with all the politics in All in the Family for example but I still think it’s a hell of a brilliant comedy show, wonderfully executed and worth its reputation. I just hate when a substandard or average work gets elevated to high art simply due to its political message.

Oh come on, T, do you really believe that? So what you like, you like because it has merit, but what we like is only because we were indoctrinated to like it? If I said you’re only a conservative because you were force-fed conservative ideology, you’d throw an apoplectic fit.

If you had a valid reason for saying so, I’d entertain the argument. I gave my reasons for saying what I did. Everything I’ve read about the release of the book indicates that critically and commercially the book was well on its way to being an unremarkable and forgettable novel until the anti-Vietnam War crowd got a hold of it and started championing it. Now anyone who has been in a liberal arts program at universities today can’t deny that the faculty and curriculum is overwhelmingly set by aging boomers and hippies, so what they liked tends to dominate the discourse. A majority of my professors in my English program were hippies and ex-activists for example.

Now you can say I’m wrong, and I may very well be. I totally acknowledge that possibility; I don’t consider myself infallible. Feel free to argue why you think I’m wrong. But don’t act like I just said it because I have no reasoning behind it and it’s just a blanket statement I make about every popular book that has a liberal slant. My problem with your responses isn’t that they disagree with me but that they avoid my arguments altogether and just go for ad homs.

T, my point is this:

You look for external validation of a subjective personal opinion, and then act like it’s an objective fact. We don’t need to reach a consensus on art, it isn’t like reaching a consensus on whether drapes is a verb or a noun.

You may have noticed that I am not trying to prove it’s a good book, and I don’t care if I’m the only person on earth who thinks it is. I like it, and that’s good enough for me. I don’t need anyone else to validate my opinion, and I don’t need your approval.

I don’t care how well reasoned Prof. Hunt’s critique is, it will not convince me I don’t like Catch-22.

When did I state you have no reasoning behind your argument? Where is my ad hominem attack? I made a statement about me: I’m not surprised you don’t like it. I’m also not surprised you’re trying to objectively prove you’re right about something that has no right or wrong.

You might as well try to prove the existence of god.

Well, does “do the curtains match the drapes” or “do the curtains match the draperies?” work better as a pickup line?

And my girlfriend gave me a copy of Catch 22 to read a while ago. I don’t think she’d read it yet, but it’s been sitting in my room for awhile. Eventually I’ll get to it.

Well, Travis, if you use either of those as a pickup line, be prepared for the young lady to ask if you realize curtains and drapes are the same thing.

Yeah, but I like ‘em dum.

Shit, what is the line then? “carpet matches the drapes”, that’s it.

And Greg, planet pounder? Were they BBW? (Is that the term? Obviously I’m dum.)

Yeah, you got the right term that time. I never thought of that, that’s hilarious. Well, Greg?

Of course, what, Greg? carpet match the drapes, carpet match the draperies, or BBW?

Planet pounder. I think that was a large phallic ray that the Red Skull tried to use one time, right?

Or wasn’t Shade the Changing Man that in that first Vertigo issue of his series?

And btw, no wonder your daughter dismissed you. That’s a sweet book with colors in it!

Actually, here in NYS, they don’t start school til after Labor Day. They don’t get out til mid-June either, though.

I wonder, do comics readers with kids ever have them color in their B&W books? “but, but, Maggie and Hopey aren’t PURPLE!”

The BBW, of course!

When I went to school in Pennsylvania, we didn’t start until after Labor Day and didn’t get out until mid-June, either. I was just surprised that it’s actually against the law in Michigan!

I’ve never thought of letting her color in a comic book. Maybe I should, one of these days. That might be fun.

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