Monday, July 06, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 7/4

This weekly post has the date of America's most jingoistic and self-centered holiday in it, so, in honor of that, I'm going to ignore it completely.

(This should continue the grand Antick Musings tradition of ignoring things and never ever doing anything that people care about.)

Instead, Reviewing the Mail will be what it has been every Monday for seven years or so: a random, haphazardly researched list of books that landed on my doorstep over the past seven days, sometimes presented as swell stuff to read and sometimes presented as things to be amused by. (I try to be fair, intermittently, but it doesn't always take.)

In keeping with that "biting the hand that feeds me" [1] theme, I'll lead off with the title most likely to damage my Google rankings: The War Against the Assholesby Sam Munson. It's more-or-less a Young Adult novel, and I believe it's fantasy -- the flap copy talks a lot about "magic," but leads off that by mentioning a book on card tricks. Anyway, our hero, Mike, is a big bull of a New Yorker who hasn't met any obstacle he can't go straight through. And he's set his sights on the "assholes" who control the magic world -- again, probably meaning supernatural stuff, though I find it more amusing to think he means the secret society of three-card monte dealers. Assholes is a hardcover from the new Saga imprint of S&S, and has been out in the world for about two weeks now.

Next up is My Neighbor Seki, Vol. 3, a manga from Takuma Morishig, published recently by Vertical. (The cover briefly made me thing the co-author was "Tonari no Seki-kun," but I now think that's the transliteration of the Japanese title, placed there to confuse me and weed out the non-serious manga readers.) It's yet another school story with what seems like a very restrictive premise: Rumi sits next to Seki at school, and Seki's various bizarre hobbies and distractions keep getting her in trouble, while no one ever notices Seki's transgressions.

Another Vertical manga: What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Vol. 9, the latest in Fumi Yoshinaga's slice-of-life story about a gay couple and the food they eat. I reviewed the first one and enjoyed the domesticity of it, though I haven't come back -- the food that's the focus of the strip is quite Japanese, which might be one reason I'm not as eager to revisit these guys' lives.

Damage Done is another YA novel, a psychological thriller complete with comparisons to Gillian Flynn, from first-time novelist Amanda Panitch. Our narrator was Julia, and had a twin brother. Now she's Lucy, the twin brother was involved in something unspeakable, and the remaining family lives far away under different names. And of course the book will be about the reader learning what happened back then -- which certainly will not be the same as we assume at the beginning of the book -- as new surprising and mysterious and threatening things happen to Julia/Lucy. It's from Random House's YA side, and will be out in hardcover on July 21.

I can't be absolutely sure that David Hofmeyer's debut YA novel Stone Rider is set in a horrible dystopian hell, but I'd wager at least a small sum of money in that direction. Our hero is a young man in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, in love with the town beauty [2] and oblivious to the flashing danger signs around "mysterious outsider Kane," [3] his rival for her heart. And the three set off on a grueling cross-country bike race, with the winner getting to move to the otherwise undescribed "Sky-Base." I expect there will be deaths, as the first sign of the perfidiousness of The Adult Establishment, and a social order that is so deeply rotten that only teens can notice it. I also expect Stone Rider to be a huge hit, both as a series of books and as movies, and both a movie deal (Working Title) and a sequel (Blood Rider) have already been announced. July 14th is the date you can jump on this particular bandwagon.

Dark Orbit is a new SF novel from Carolyn Ives Gilman, who I thought was primarily a fantasy writer. (I might be misremembering from her name, though, since both Greer Gilman and Laura Anne Gilman are fantasy writers. Dorothy Gilman, on the other hand, wrote cozy mysteries. As far as I know, none of them are related -- to each other or the "Gill-Man" from Creature from the Black Lagoon.) This is one of those "exploring a strange alien world" books, set in a multi-planet medium-future human polity, which sends a research team to the requisite Strange New Place. Said place is "laden with dark matter," which doesn't quite match what I know about dark matter, but I've been out of the loop. Strange things happen, and mysteries are unfolded, of course. Ursula K. Le Guin has given it a glowing quote, and it's a Tor hardcover coming July 14th.

And last for this week is Wesley Chu's SF novel Time Salvager, in which a semi-reformed criminal from the dying remnant of humanity is repeatedly sent back in time to retrieve resources that will keep humanity alive a little longer, though each jump is likely to lead to his death. (cough Twelve Monkeys cough) This is another Tor hardcover, available on July 7th -- why, that's tomorrow!

[1] Not that this amateur blog has ever fed anybody: maybe "eyeballs that look at me" is more accurate?

[2] I would kill for a book for teenagers in which the hero is in love with someone for a reason other than "the prettiest thing that ever was." Seriously. Sure, teens are shallow, but not that purely shallow.

[3] I don't think we should expect subtlety from the remainder of Stone Rider. Just a feeling I have.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Back Half of Scary Go Round by John Allison

John Allison has spent most of the past twenty years chronicling an ever-proliferating series of strange events in and around the small British town of Tackleford, somewhere in darkest Yorkshire. More impressively, he's done all of this in public, on the Internet, most days of the week, for free. And he's done it in comics form.

First up was Bobbins, which I haven't made a serious study of yet, but was in the traditional newspaper strip-comic format and focused on the staff of Tackleford's City Lights magazine, with perhaps some supernatural eruptions. After Allison closed that down around the turn of the millennium, he launched a new series with a somewhat overlapping cast of characters called Scary Go Round, which itself ended in 2009. SGR was formatted like a comics page, which made it easier to collect in book form and (possibly) allowed Allison to write more complex stories and include more of his quirky humor and details in each update. It also was clearly fantasy: characters visited Hell, were turned into zombies, and battled giant monsters to save the world. (Though Allison's offhand tone and character-based plotting turned all of those elements into something very different from what you'd expect.) That strip was entirely collected into eight volumes, though -- in the way of the webcomic -- it's also still all available online, as are Allison's other strips.

For the next round of stories, Allison switched format again, to a double-tier newspaper style, which gave him a similar number of panels per page to SGR but with a more compact feel. That strip was called Bad Machinery, and it followed up the end of SGR to focus on two "teams" of tweens at the local school, who solve mysteries in competition with each other. Allison still includes supernatural elements, but they tend to be more subdued in Machinery than they were in SGR, making his stories better controlled and more focused on characters. He also clearly designed Machinery for eventual book publication, with long story arcs that each fit cleanly into a single book. (See my reviews of the three Machinery books to date: one, two, and three.)

Allison has also made a number of related print comics in various formats over the years -- including Expecting to Fly, which appeared online first -- and there's a 2013-2015 run of Bobbins, just to confuse things even more. Since Machinery in its turn ended last year, he produced a transitional story called "Space Is the Place" (with part of the Machinery cast going to a space camp in Wales). And he's also been writing a monthly comic called Giant Days -- confusingly, this is also the title of a major SGR storyline, plus an earlier sidebar print project -- for a different art team, which may or may not have a Tackleford connection. (I haven't seen it yet, since it's only in floppy form so far.)

So Tackleford is a place that Allison knows well, and has been telling stories about in a variety of ways for a long time. It's his Yoknapatawpha County or Castle Rock -- the core of a world that extends out to many places. With that said, though, Machinery feels more focused on Tackleford than SGR did -- maybe because the main characters of Machinery were kids, and limited in their ability to go other places and do other things.

I've been a fan of Machinery for a while, but only recently started diving back into Allison's archives. The first four SGR collections are currently unavailable to most readers in book form -- I believe ebooks are still obtainable in the UK, but not elsewhere due to a stupid recent tax law in that backwards country -- but books five through eight are still out there, most easily obtainable in the US from Topatco. And so that's how I got those books -- Great Aches, Ahoy Hoy!, Peloton, and Recklessly Yours -- and finally read a big wodge of SGR for myself.

What strikes me most about this slightly-less-formed version of Allison's world is how consistent he's been in his concerns: his stories have focused on smart, sarcastic women with a goal in mind -- Shelley Winters as the exemplar for SGR, Charlotte Grote for Machinery, with plenty of others including Amy Chilton and Dark Esther -- in a world of slightly slower, bemused men who end up along for the ride.

Unlike the Machinery books, each SGR volume collects a number of stories, adding up to about eleven months for each book. (More or less, to allow for full stories in each one.) Allison also includes notes on each storyline and some sketches and similar material at the end of each book, in the old way to entice freebie online readers to actually pay money for something.

These books, covering the strips from early 2006 through the end in late 2009, show serious growth in Allison's art style, from a cleaner version of the look he began SGR with in 2002, drawn on a computer, through a hand-drawn middle period and a brief "hand-drawn, but much bigger originals" period before settling back onto the computer. (Where I think he's stayed ever since.) The first story of Great Aches is in that early, flat-computer-color style, but everything else has a energetic hand-drawn look which well suites Allison's frenetic characters and zigzag pacing.

The stories are a bit sillier and more anarchic than Machinery, and Allison's notes make it clear that he spent this period making it up as he went along, diving into long stories without necessarily having a clear idea of how he'd get to the end. But even if the stories are somewhat shaggier and less formed, they're still Allison stories, with unlikely turns of plot and deflation always waiting in the wings. And his dialogue was whip-smart from well before this period, full of witty asides and great cross-talk that always feels plausible enough while still not conforming to the way real people ever did or would talk. (That is a good thing: people talk badly almost all of the time. Fiction is to make things better and more interesting.)

So, in conclusion: John Allison is awesome. Buy his books, read his comics, enrich him with your dollars and pounds and more exotic currencies. Start here, start with Bad Machinery, go crazy and drop all the way back to the beginning of Bobbins in 1998 to get the full John Allison experience from the beginning. It's all good. 

Note: I'm not including the usual Amazon links this time, because that's a very bad way to read and/or buy Allison's older work. You can get the Bad Machinery books there if you want, but the others are available other places more easily. And, honestly, for a webcomic you should just read a bunch of it online first -- surely we understand that by now?

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

I don't know when Wolf in White Van: takes place. I don't know how old the main character is. I don't know how much time has passed since the shattering events that changed his life. And I'm not sure if Darnielle knows those things either, or cares: he's always been an instinctual writer, driven by images and quick phrases. (Though that's obviously more germane when writing songs than novels; Darnielle is the force behind the band The Mountain Goats and for long periods of time the only member.)

Sean is a man, perhaps still young and perhaps middle aged. Something horrible happened to him -- to his face in particular -- when he was seventeen, and he's been a hermit on disability payments since then, however long that was. (My best guess is that his accident happened around twenty years before, and that this novel takes place in the first decade of the 21st century -- the Internet exists and has affected Sean, but it still feels somewhat new. That would make Sean about Darnielle's age, and about mine.) Sean now runs play-by-mail role-playing games, all of which he created himself, to supplement his disability income. His major game is a post-apocalyptic survival story called Trace Italian, in which the individual players try to reach the one safe place in future America, the legendary fortress of the title -- but, of course, the nature of a game like this is that there's never any end.

Darnielle tells Sean's story in slow spirals, circling around both a recent tragic event that led to Sean being sued and Sean's own teenage tragedy, telling us a little more about each of those events each time they come back around. This is a short novel, but a deep one: Darnielle isn't interested in external action and driving a plot, but in the deep exploration of Sean's mind and the ways that he interacts with other people, or avoids doing so. It's also really a novel, and not an overgrown song idea, and Darniell's prose is clear and crisp and precise, rolling out inevitably as he gradually lets us see all the things Sean has done and all the things that were done to Sean. He's much more of a natural novelist than most songwriters: his feel for character and situation scales up beautifully to this larger canvas and makes Wolf in White Van something like a huge, impressive Mountain Goats song.

Friday, July 03, 2015

A Perfect Day to Die

History doesn't exactly repeat, but it does rhyme. And that's even more true for the history of music, which is supposed to rhyme a lot of the time anyway.

Which is to say: I've recently found a newish band that sounds like they could have come right out of some mid-80s club, a lost Goth powerhouse that could have shared a bill in some grimy venue with Bauhaus or the early Cure or Sisters of Mercy.

(And I mean that all as a good thing -- strong keyboard lines, ominous atmosphere, a singer with a great declamatory tone, a tendency to long and intricate songs, mysterious spoken-word quotes setting the tone -- and as a signpost to identify folks like me who might not have realized they would be happy discovering a new band in that idiom.)

These guys are Knifight, and while it looks like they've been around for a few years, I discovered them with their new album V.

And it looks like I can stick a widget in here that will let you listen to that whole record, so how about less of me talking about music, and more experiencing music? If this is the kind of thing you like, you'll know pretty quickly, and then you can pay for it in whatever method you prefer these days.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Read in June

I'm writing and posting this late, but you'll only realize that if you're me or if you're paying way too much attention to my blog. (Seriously: get a life, buddy!)

As usual, this is a list of books I read this past month. And my methodology is pretty much what's it's been for a while: I list everything here, link to any posts I've already written, and then start writing about the books that haven't gotten posts yet. If that writing gets to the vague "substantial enough" standard, I pull it out and set it to post separately. If I get too tired or distracted, I might post this before I've managed to write something about every book. But, eventually, there will be at least a sentence or three about every one of these books, so, if you're reading this sufficiently far in the future, you will have an opinion you can argue with. (Because what else are opinions for?)

This was the first full month of the new job, so there's a lot of train reading -- though my new line into NYC is more crowded and hectic than the Hoboken train was, because everything must become worse over time. I've been trying to read batches of things and then write about them that way, but I've also been tired and unmotivated (a 2-hour commute each way can do that to you), so there's another large stack of books staring at me at the end of this month.

Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Tyler Crook, B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth, Vol. 8: Lake of Fire (6/1)

Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and James Harren, B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth, Vol. 9: The Reign of the Black Flame (6/2)

Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Laurence Campbell, Joe Querio, and Tyler Crook, B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth, Vol. 10: The Devil's Wings (6/3)

Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Sebastian Fiumara, Tonci Zonjic, Kevin Nowlan, Joe Querio, and Wilfredo Torres, Lobster Johnson, Vol. 3: Satan Smells a Rat (6/4)

Richard Ford, A Piece of My Heart (6/4)

Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Tonci Zonjic, Lobster Johnson, Vol. 4: Get the Lobster! (6/5)

Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, Bandette, Vol. 2: Stealers, Keepers! (6/8)

The BD-influenced Parisian thief is back with another lovely souffle of an adventure, following Bandette Presto! This one threatens to become more serious, with a deadly hitman called the Strangler stalking our sunny heroine, but the tone stays light-hearted and there's no sign that anything in the world could ever harm or even more than mildly deter either Bandette or her great friend/rival in thievery, Monsieur. This is a deeply artificial world, in which victims meekly wait for the Strangler to kill them one at a time even though they are supposedly tough gangsters with guns and in which a rough-hewn police detective endlessly and fruitlessly pursues Bandette, but all of its artificialities work well together: it's a particular kind of fictional world that doesn't pretend to be real, and is all the more lovely and enchanting for that.

Andi Watson, Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula (6/9)

This one is a graphic novel for younger readers -- the world Watson has been working in for close to a decade, probably because that audience is interested in stories about wider topics than which long-underweared steroid case is punching which psychotic murderer this week -- but it's longer and somewhat deeper than his last few books for the pre-adult set. As the cover suggests, there is a hint of romance between the harried Princess Decomposia and her new chef, Count Spatula, though it's all entirely above-board and very chaste. Decomposia is the heir to a great kingdom in the underworld, supposedly run by her hypochondriac father, King Wulfrun, who clearly has not done any real work in years and whose capricious dietary requirements have just driven off yet another chef on the day of a major banquet. She hires Spatula, who also teachers her how to relax and enjoy life, as the loved one in a romantic comedy always does. Wulfrun objects to what he thinks is a romance -- though it isn't actually anywhere within country miles of a romance at that point -- overreacts, causes huge problems, and ends up sparking that aforementioned very genteel romance at the very end. Watson has done deeper and more thoughtful books than this, but his panels are full of expressive close-ups and great quirky character designs and his dialogue is joyful and real as ever. Huge Watson fans might be slightly disappointed, but I hope this will help solidify him in the minds of a million younger comics-readers -- and I still think he could have a Raina Telegemeier-level great book for that audience in him.

John Darnielle, Wolf in White Van  (6/9)

G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, and Adrian Alphona, Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why (6/10)

The second major plot arc continues the tone and style of the first, in good and bad ways. (See my review of the first book for some unpacking of that.) The attempts at relevance can be a bit cringe-inducing -- the evil mastermind of the moment, The Inventor, is brainwashing local teens to power his machines Matrix-style with their brains by telling them he's going to fix global warming and the evil grownups aren't -- and the required Marvel Universe Synergy Moments slow down the story and steal focus from Kamala. (Especially when we learn that she's an Inhuman, because that's the hobbyhorse Marvel is riding this decade.) But Kamala is a great character, even if she is basically a distaff Peter Parker with a few details changed up. (Or maybe more a female Richard Rider, since Kamala is reasonably smart but not the Braniac nerd Peter is.) And the art team continues to present her stories in a style that can function in the Marvel Universe but looks distinctive, as if it doesn't quite belong with all of those shiny men in skintight spandex.

John Allison, Great Aches (6/15)

John Allison, Ahoy Hoy! (6/16)

The Art of Doug Sneyd (6/17)

Sneyd is a gag cartoonist, whose work is usually in gorgeous watercolors. He's probably worked for other outlets -- who hasn't? -- but this book focuses entirely on his work for Playboy, where's he's had a full-page color piece nearly every issue since 1965. He's the one of the sleek women with big toothy grins, and then rat-faced men always on the prowl. Given Sneyd's style and the source -- all Playboy, all the time -- one would expect there to be a certain similarity of gags here, and one would be entirely correct. (One gets a cookie. Good one!) But Sneyd and his gag writers ring a lot of interesting changes on the standard setup, and Sneyd, in line with the Playboy philosophy, generally has his women as interested in and happy about sex as the men, which makes them funny gags rather than mean ones. It's also amusing as a series of time capsules about the manias and fads of the last forty years, since Sneyd wasn't shy about using the newest hot idea as the hooks for his gags. (And there's an index detailing where each cartoon originally appeared for those who want to pinpoint each fad, or work through Sneyd's career in chronological order.) Interestingly, this book also has an introduction from Lynn (For Better or For Worse) Johnston, who is about the last cartoonist I'd expect to have been influenced by Sneyd -- but I think she knows him from their mutual Canadian-ness, and wrote the intro out of fellow-feeling for a brother toiler in the realms of frozen tundra and Bristol board.

John Allison, Peloton (6/18)

John Allison, Recklessly Yours (6/19)

Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, John Arcudi, Sebastian Fiumara, and Max Fiumara, Abe Sapien, Vol. 3: Dark and Terrible & The New Race of Man (6/22)

Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, Sebastian Fiumara, and Max Fiumara, Abe Sapien, Vol. 4: The Shape of Things to Come (6/23)

Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, Sebastian Fiumara, and Max Fiumara, Abe Sapien, Vol. 5: Sacred Places (6/24)

Daniel Handler, We Are Pirates (6/24)

Mike Mignola & Richard Corben, Hellboy: House of The Living Dead (6/25)

Hellboy goes to Mexico in the '50s, in a short but stuffed story that seems to exist mostly so Corben can drawn masked wrestlers, vampires, werewolves, and Frankenstein monsters in their requisite busy laboratories filled with mysterious machinery. (Or, more specifically, because Mignola wants to see Corben draw all of those things -- Mignola's stories have always been driven by the things he wants to draw as much as anything else.) I've warmed up to Corben's art over the years -- seeing it with Dave Stewart's coloring helps a lot, unlike the jaundiced look his work had in Heavy Metal thirty-some years ago -- and he is definitely a good artist for a Hellboy story. I could wish this one was more substantial, or connected to other pieces of the larger saga, but this is fine for what it is, and I'd honestly be happy with a series of mostly one-shot stories about a young Hellboy wandering around and punching monsters, drawn by Mignola or Corben or whoever.

Mike Mignola, Gabriel Ba, and Fabio Moon, B.P.R.D.: Vampire (6/26)

Ted McKeever, Eddy Current, Vol. 1 (6/29)
Ted McKeever, Eddy Current, Vol. 2 (6/30)

And after that comes July, in which there will be more books. It's a good world that has so many books in it.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/27

Yep, it's the same ol' thing once again: books in the mail, I write about 'em here, yadda yadda yadda. And so I'll dive directly into the probably vaguely accurate description of things I will take my first serious look at in about five seconds:

The Philosopher Kings get to go first because it's the new Jo Walton novel, and she's an interesting and quirky writer who does different things each time out and has written a number of excellent novels (e.g.: Among Others, Half a Crown and the rest of that loose trilogy) in recent years. This one is the sequel to last year's The Just City, in which the goddess Athena set up a city in the distant past as a utopia to educate intelligent youngsters from all of history, with a faculty of robots and philosophers. Things apparently did not go entirely to plan in that first book -- if things did got to plan all of the time, our novels would be very boring -- and so now the situation is much more complex and dangerous back in that supposedly perfect city. And there's at least one book to go -- I read Walton's blog, where she's been talking about writing the third book -- so this will not be the end of the story. I've still got The Just City on my shelf to read, but I would recommend not waiting as long as me. Philosopher Kings is a Tor hardcover coming June 30th, and I hope I don't have to try to spell "philosopher" again for ten years.

Changing gears entirely, how about a graphic novel for kids? Judd Winick, who would probably prefer if people like me didn't point out that he began his media-figure career as a contestant on the show that spawned the entire hideous "reality" genre, and so is partially responsible for the horrible state of the world today, is back with Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. The title character is a Zot-ish blond-haired innocent with some manner of superpowers, but a few years younger and vastly more innocent than Scott McCloud's '80s hero. He arrives on Earth, meets the obligatory completely normal kid, and wacky hijinks ensue. There will clearly be more of these -- the numeral "1" in the title is the big clue there -- but this first one is coming from Random House's Young Readers operation in hardcover on the first of September.

Chris Willich is back with the third novel about the poet Persimmon Gaunt and the thief Imago Bone -- and, from the cover, the Viking-looking guys with big axes that want to kill them -- in The Chart of Tomorrows. The previous books in the series were The Scroll of Years and The Silk Map, our married heroes are still trying to keep their baby son from being the locus of all evil on their particular secondary world -- as you do -- and this book promises to have war-balloons in it. How can you turn aside a book with war-balloons, I ask you? This one is a Pyr trade paperback, available July 7th.

Who says steampunk is just for adults? Certainly not Alan Gratz, who is back with the second novel in his "League of Seven" series (after the eponymous first book), The Dragon Lantern, which comes complete with extensive illustrations by Brett Helquist (whom some of us remember fondly from Lemony Snicket's "Series of Unfortunate Events" and others probably remember fondly from other stuff). This series is set in an alternate 1875 powered by steam and where Native Americans seem to be at least nominally in charge of the United Nations of America, and whose world is periodically threatened by the evil Mangleborn and then in turn saved by the resurgent of a League of Seven, who always follow exactly the same template, because this is a book for middle-school kids, and they love specific rules and details. This is from the Tor Starscape imprint, and should be already available from your favorite retailer. (If not, why are they your favorite, exactly? It came out on June 9th.)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What the Hell?

From this post by Zara Sternberg at the Melville House Blog, interviewing Prof Daniel Donoghue of Harvard:
Donoghue: If you are ever reading out loud, there is a time lag – your reading is about 2 words behind the uttering of the word, and as long as there is a time lag, you have a moment of silent reading. Do you hear a little voice in your head when you read silently?
Sternberg: Yes.
Donoghue: Most people do. They also often move their lips as well, especially when trying to absorb difficult material.

Let me pull out the essential part of that: "Do you hear a little voice in your head when you read silently?" "Yes." "Most people do."

What the everlasting fuck? I've never heard a voice in my head while reading, and never even considered that anyone might. Is this actually a real thing? Am I some sort of weird outlier because I actually read instead of listen to things?

You know what -- this calls for a poll. Folks, let me know if I'm crazy or not:

Do you hear a little voice in your head when you read?

Yes -- all the time, my own voice
Yes -- all the time, another voice
Yes, sometimes, but not always
No, and I agree with you that this is utterly insane.
Poll Maker

If you have any trouble using the poll as an embed, this link should take you to cast your vote, and this one should link to the results.

Edit: I thought this poll would show results within the widget, but the "Results" button opens a new window on the host's site. I guess that's what happens when you use free web content without investigating too closely. Anyway, if you're having trouble seeing results, check your pop-up blocker.

Posing for Vengeance

So this here new Avengers cover hit the intertubes this week, revealing the new team that apparently is exactly the same one everyone assumed it would be. (I don't pay close attention to long-underwear comics these days.)

I'm not here to berate or praise the racial/gender mix of the team -- there are plenty of other places filled with people who have scarily strong opinions on the subject -- but I do have a question.

Where are they?

They seem to be standing in a cloudbank, and I'm pretty sure several of those characters don't fly -- Spidey and Ms. Marvel, in particular. I don't know if the current Thor can hover, either, though I wouldn't be surprised if Vision, Nova, and ol' Shellhead can do so. They're also strangely crowded around the camera, though at very different levels -- are they on cloud risers?

Also, while I'm at it, what the heck is Captain America doing? Is he supposed to be coming in for a landing on his cloud riser, or just showing off his muscles?

Yes, I know it looks cool: they're all glowering menacingly at the assumed reader, and Cap gives it some movement. But what does it have to do with anything, and why should we care that they're giving us the stink-eye?