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“Going for It”

Written by Jamie  Delano art by John Ridgway

Originally debut : March 1988

Location : Spitalfields, England (a Jack The Ripper haunt)

Time : June 11 ’87 – The issue is past event.  The current time line is late ’87 (from issues 1 and 2)

Characters introduced : Ray Monde

HB3

This issue has it’s ups and downs for me.  It’s a very political and business oriented issue and I’m not too knowledgeable  of Thatcher era England nor am I great with the financial world.  The issue takes place on election day June 11th and it revolves heavily on the commodities of souls during the election.  What the issue does establish is this :

John is familiar and has a history with daemons.  More importantly he has fucked them over in the past and they are knowledgeable of him.

Hell and it’s denizens are introduced in more formal fashion in this issue than in 1 or 2.

John, like Sherlock Holmes gets bored easily and searches for things that will peak his interest and in this case his friend Ray Monde (” an outrageous fag who runs a far-out clippings agency from a junk shop in Camden.  He’s got a feel for synchronicity and a penchant for the bizarre”)

this issue creates the idea of synchronicity which will be repeated throughout the series.

John may have tricked the demon in the previous story line but he truly cons the demon in this one.

John may be smart but he really puts himself in the middle of a lot a shit that he may not always be confidant he can get out of (which is fun).
A stand alone issue for the most part and some twisted nuggets here and there but not much I can really dote on.

I will make a note on the way John is dressed.  In previous swamp thing issues and the first several issues of Hellblazer, John is quite a dapper dresser.  Always in suit and his trench.  Yes he drinks like a fish and smokes likes a chimney.  But he is as clean outside as he is dirty inside.

I was in court.  I had an early morning arraignment in a Long Island Court house for a ticket I received for either driving w/o a license or insurance, I don’t really remember.  I heard it on the radio while roaming the parking lot for a space.  I heard the rest of it second-hand from the chit-chat from the populace filling the court-house.  The court-house sent everyone home an hour later or so.  I was home watching the news with my mother and grandmother growing more and more afraid as we couldn’t get in touch with my father who worked in the city.

After waiting for felt like eons we received news that my cousin, a NYC firefighter was among the fallen.  That’s where I was on 9/11.  What about you?

I was working.  Working a shitty job waiting tables in NYC with no access to the outside world beyond cell phones (which we were not allowed to have on our person while on the floor).  A customer told another employee and word got around the restaurant, but no one was really certain.  The crowds were yelling and cheering in Times Square an hour or so after the president made the announcement.  New York (and America) was delighted and overjoyed to hear that Bin Laden was killed by our troops.  That’s where I was, where were you?

Zero Dark Thirty (named for the military time in which the surgical attack took place : Thirty minutes after midnight (Zero Dark)) is the film  that tells the tale of the stalwart agent that for her entire time working the US government did nothing but search endlessly for Americas Most Wanted Man.

The film begins with what is extremely realistic 911 calls made on that fateful morning, against a black screen made for only our minds to harken back to the images that play relentlessly on every channel every Sept. 11.  Skip a few years to the belief that torture of the enemy combatants will lead us to viable information concerning future attacks.  Many people are (and will continue) to argue whether or not the director and screenwriter are advocating or protesting the effectiveness of torture.  I think they do both.  It is no secret that we as a government body (and it is assumed the films agents) received valuable information through torture.   However the film also shows, without any uncertainty that it didn’t always work.  The film is necessarily about whether it’s right or wrong, it’s more to the point that it happened and it was a part of the time line of what will be the climax of the film.  Bigelow does a great job of throwing us right into the (action, fire: they all sound so inappropriate) situation.  As a viewer you are instantly all three characters : you feel the power of the torturer, you feel the pain and humiliation of the victim (even though he is part of the killing of thousands of people) and you feel the disgust and confusion of the onlooker; here being Maya our hero agent.   These are things that Bigelow does best throughout the film, you are part of the investigations, you are part of the mystery and in the end you are part of mission.

The film, for me (and some others I have spoken with), falters in the second act.  Primarily due to the political and covert minutiae that takes place and is discussed at a rapid pace.  Names that many Americans are not used too (Hey let’s be honest, Arabic names are not easy to parse out if you don’t speak Arabic and even as Maya points out some of these bad guys have two names) I didn’t know who people were referring to or who we were going after; till after my second viewing of the film (and then I was still confused).

The third act, the mission itself was executed (again bad form but that’s what it was) wonderfully.  You just have to watch it unfold.  Then check out IMDB for a couple of factual inaccuracies that make for interesting reading, but none of it really effected the film in any way.

The film is a good film, it didn’t blow me away (impossible to avoid it now) but I was moved more the second time around.

You know the end of the movie, it’s not really a secret.  There was a sense of pride, national pride when it occurred in the film, yet the film makes you see and realize the cost at which it came.  The death and the reality of those who had to become collateral damage.  Innocents will bear the scars of that mission for years (you’ll know to whom I speaking of when you watch the scene).  The film captures the necessary deeds of our brave soldiers and the sometimes cold responses that they need to have to deal with their actions.

And how about Jessica Chastain?  She’s up for an Oscar.  She does a fine job.  My good friend L. feels that she is getting the nod more for the role itself and not for the portrayal.  I would have to agree.  The evolution (or devolution) of her characters view of the need of torture, as she herself begins the interrogations or as she watches our new president dismantle the use of it is well done, she changes as her character does.  A fine performance.

It’s the end that truly makes this a film that deserves to watched (two times).  It makes you think.  It makes you think instead of cheer.  It makes you think instead of jumping up from your couch (or movie seat) and begin chanting “USA, USA”.

********************possible points that could be construed as Spoilers*************************

 

It’s the quiet smiles and handshakes and the lack of whooping and hollering that the soldiers have afterwards.  It’s all back to business, it’s not over; they have to sort out all the intel they have confiscated.  They didn’t celebrate the way we did in Times Square.  They had to deal with the fact they essentially murdered half a dozen people and almost got killed themselves to do it.

It is in the quietest moment, where Chastians character takes a step outside and realizes her mission, her life’s work, has not only come to fruition but is now … over, that this moment shines for me.

*********************end of that whole thing *********************

 

So where do we go?  Where were you at those two points in our nations history?  Where did you want to go from there?  Where do you want to go from here?

A great question posed, how do you answer?  That is the best part of this film.

A dear friend is now hosting his very own dinner parties. I’m re-posting so more and more people get to see a wonderful culinary mind bloom. Good luck Cameron.

NYDP - A Self-guided Culinary Education!

That’s number 1 for those who don’t speak-o the Spanish-o.

After a few days of mulling over delicious recipes and food items I have a final menu for my first dinner party. So without further adieu here it is.

Appetizer:

Taking a cue from my new friend and queso lover Lily (see Cheese Tasting at Brooklyn Larder), I will be doing a cheese plate with a few sliced meats and Medjool dates. The cheeses will be my  three favorites from The Brooklyn Larder, The English Spenwood, the Adelegger from Bavaria, and the Italian Blu del Moncenisio. The meats will be the Fenocchiona and the Brasala, but not the Calabrese (it was far too spicy for this appetizer platter).

I will be pairing these cheeses with a nice light white wine, which has yet to be determined. I am looking forward to that wine tasting trip!

Entrée:

Now here is…

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The sessions stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt (who is up for best supporting actress in the ’12 Oscar race), and is quite a touching film about acceptance.  Acceptance from others, acceptance from God and most important of all acceptance of oneself.

John Hawkes stars as real life poet Mark O’Brien who lived most of his life in an Iron Lung due to early onset of Polio.  After being hired to write a journal piece on sex and the disabled, Mark is intrigued enough to  set off on his own journey of sexual awakening by hiring a sex therapist/surrogate, Cheryl  Cohen-Greene (played by Hunt).  Mark is accompanied  on his sojourn by his priest, confident and true friend Father Brendan, played by William H. Macy.

This film is so wonderful in it’s simplicity.  The script delicately covers all bases without ever becoming heavy handed or preachy.  In many other films I would have wanted a more narrow focus on either the religious implications or the therapist – patient relationship or the therapist and her own life and how it was being effected.  Yet the script and direction allow all of these issues to be covered so as not to leave any stone unturned but also let the weight of the story, that of man who wants to be loved (by others and himself), and that story be carried by the depth of the actors / actresses performances.

William H. Macy’s priest is the kind of priest that I think I would even get along with.  He understands the plight of the man he calls friend.  His character shows a hesitation as he gives his “permission/blessing” for Mark to seek out his sexual experiences, but calls upon the God of love and understanding that we always hear about, saying “In my heart, I think he’ll give you a pass on this one”.  He knows that the God he believes made Mark and allowed tragedy to befall him understands the desire and want of love that Mark seeks.  Father Brendan also is given to moments of silent pondering and humorous jealousy as he hears of Marks sexual adventures that he himself is denied.  None of this is in words, simply in Macy’s face.

While we are on the topic of emoting via the face and nothing else, I must turn to Hawkes wonderful portrayal of Mark O’Brien.  The entire movie Hawkes is lying prone on either a gurney or a bed.  His head is almost always turned slightly to the right; and that is it.  He give Mark the shallow wheezing voice of one whose chest is always fighting the weight of gravity and rasp of a man who needs an iron lung to live.  But it is in Hawkes sincerity that we love Mark and his journey.  We rally behind him with his humor and the levity in which Hawkes delivers it.  In his performance we see how pain is transformed into beauty and love of life with every thought and sensation he discovers.

And the sensations he discovers under the deft, silky touch of Helen Hunt.  Some may find her nomination undeserved, as they might see the Oscar nod given primarily due to her nakedness  and say that being nude isn’t brave.  And while nudity in and of itself isn’t a “brave” role and in and of itself is not Oscar worthy.  However it is in the bravery and confidence that Helen holds herself and her character that deserves the nod (if not the win).  Hunt has been naked before (1992’s Waterdance) but her performance here is strikingly poised and honest (I’m not comparing the roles, I’ve not seen Waterdance).  Hunt’s character in the Sessions is not about sexy (however she is quite sexy).  It is about how a woman can make a man take pride in his body when his body is not his own to command?  Cheryl shows a 38 year old man who cannot raise his own hand how to touch a women, how to caress, and what it is like to be caressed.  Helen portrays a women who has sex with men not to get them off but to be confident in them selves that they carry that over into their next relationship; “The difference between a surrogate and prostitute is that a prostitute wants your return business, I don’t”.  Helen plays this honestly and openly with no shame but also with a humanity that brought tears to my eyes.

The film overall may not be a sweeping epic of desire and love but in it’s scope to show one man’s heartache and desire to be touched by the world around him; it is a wonderful success.

Title A Feast of Friends originally published Feb ’88

Written by Jamie  Delano art by John Ridgway

Location : New York

Time : November ’87

This is the issue that we really see what kind of man Constantine can be; a true and right bastard.  However we are made to feel for him because he’s doing the only thing he can do in the situation.

A hunger demon Imageis loose about NYC making people become consumed by their own hungers and desire.  There is a neat panel where A man chokes himself on classic comic books (in the panel are the issues Action Comics and Watchmen, which was about a year to two years old at this point and a nod to Constantine creator Alan Moore).  The only thing Constantine can do is entice the demon to re-enter John’s friend who released it in the first place.  We see John lying to Lester’s face but we also see how John hates this reality.

(in talking about Gary Lester’s mother) John says “She never did like me.  Bad influence, she said.  People should listen to their mothers.”  John knows what he is doing is shite but it’s the only thing he can do.

This is apparently not the first time John has had do the unthinkable, and Gary Lester is not the first of his friends that have gotten dealt the short end of the stick.  This is evidenced by the visitation of several of John old mates in their ghostly form.  We again see Emma, we are also introduced to Sister Anne-Marie, Frank & Benjamin.  All killed by the Invunche.  John makes comments that they all new “high stakes” they were dealing with.  He gets angry with the hauntings as the only way of dealing with it, however as he tries to go to sleep, he thinks about how empty his bed is and how he missed Emma; G’night John she whispers.  “Her soft voice, next to my ear, is the last straw.  I suffocate my sudden sobs in the pillow and wait for dawn.”  John is a bastard, he knows it and hates himself for it.

No wonder I love this character.  He is a bad-ass magician who is a wise ass to demons to their face but he is so damaged and can do nothing but keep kicking.  He drinks himself into a stupor continuously as Gary screams till he is utterly consumed by the demon trapped inside him.

John is headed back to London as he needs an “Ocean to separate himself from Midnite, Gary” and the thought of a city that doesn’t even know how much it owes to him.

HB1Hellblazer has been my favorite comic book for some time now.  I can’t seem to remember how exactly I got into it but I have every issue.  The series is Vertigo’s (DC mature line of comics) longest running title and much to my despair is ending this February (2013).  I have decided to go back and read an issue a day (or there so about) and review them, trying to really capture and excogitate on what makes John Constantine so wonderful a character to me.  Up until recently DC had published inconsistent trade-paperbacks of the series, missing many issues right in the middle of the run.  Currently DC has re-issued a new set of volumes reprinting the full series in order (previous trades would have maybe issues 16-19, 22, & 24 for example, never printing issues 20, 21 & 23).  The most current volume (4) brings us only to issue 33.  I hope they publish the following volumes on a regular basis so I don’t have to delve into my comic boxes for each issue (all that UN-bagging and re-bagging is such a hassle :).  I hoping that this review series will last just about a year completing the full 300 issues series plus Annuals, one-shots, mini-series and the popular guest appearances Constantine has had in comics such as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Alan Moore (Constantine’s creator) Swamp Thing.  Furthermore there have been several websites devoted to Hellblazer that have been and will be indispensable to me in answering questions or providing insight that I may have missed and I feel obligated to post a nod to them and I suggest checking them out : http://www.insanerantings.com/hell/index1.html

http://www.qusoor.com/hellblazer/introduction.htm
& most recently discovered : http://hellblazer.wikia.com/wiki/Hellblazer_Wiki

Thank you to all those who worked on these websites and made my enjoyment of Hellblazer even more complete.

These entries are not going to necessarily synopses of the issue, but of course plot lines and events will be discussed (for detailed stuff like that and more check out the sites mentioned above) but more so my experience reading them and a critique on the characters growth throughout the series and the writers take on him.  However they  will most likely have spoilers, but as they say it’s not the destination but the journey.  So spoilers or not read on and enjoy my travels with the trench-coat wearing con-artist bastard that I’ve loved for many many years.  This will also be the longest of the entries (I’m pretty sure anyway) due to much-needed introductions and initial ruminations.

Trade Title : Original Sins issues 1-9 originally published  1/88 – 9/88 & Swamp Thing issues 76 & 77  originally published 9/88 – 10/88

Issue # 1 Hunger written by Jamie Delano art by John Ridgway

November (based on issue #3 that takes place back in June of ’87,  this issue is seems to be  taking place more than likely in November’87)

Locale – Greenwich Village, NY; England: Sundan, Back to New York

This is not the first appearance of John Constantine. Much like Batman & Superman (and any number of superheroes now that I think about it) John first showed up in Swamp Thing #37 (June ’85) and several times thereafter, getting his own book several years later.  There are plenty of references to events that have taken prior to this issue, some are reveled later in the series while others are only understood fully by reading Swamp Thing.  In this first issue we are introduced to a well dressed (dapper blue suit, nice trench-coat) blonde haired Englishmen who has just come back from being “here and there” for “months and months”, including Patagonia.  A little reading up on Swamp Thing establishes that John has been living in America with his gf Emma, whose death is discussed in this issue.  I wonder, as I re-read this issue what I thought about the mention of Emma and her death at the hands of the Invunce not having read any Swamp Thing and not knowing what this was in reference too.  Did I just expect that it would be explained in later issues and then by the time I read those later issues I had forgotten about Emma?  I was introduced to this series when I was much younger and most likely did not read and comprehend as much as I do now.  (New comment)  I’ll have a post with the dates and brief activities of John in Swamp Thing in a day or two, it’s not going to be very nice to look at or in depth but it’ll give quick notes to what John had been up too prior to the launch of his own series.  It will also give the backround needed to understand the “Newcastle Crew ghosts”)

Another old acquaintance of Johns is waiting upstairs in his apartment much to the despair of Johns landlady Mrs. M.  John finds his friend and apartment covered in insects.  Gary Lester is drug fiend mixed up in magic who has recently been on an excursion to the Sundanese where he performed an exorcism on a boy and is now being driven mad by demon by the name of Mnemoth.  Mnemoth is now being slowly released into New York after Gary sent the demon (who he trapped in a bottle) in a package to America care of the recently deceased Emma.  In these first few pages we get a lot of knowledge about the character John Constantine.  We know he has a sordid history and seems to be used to dealing with these types of issues, but even more so due to the fact that Gary keeps saying “John will know what to do” we understand fully that Constantine is good (if not the best) at dealing with them. We follow John to the Sudanese where John goes through a mystical question and answer session to find out the history of Mnemoth, again the idea that he is adapt at this stuff being reinforced “Why does primitive magic always hurt?”

This interaction with the shaman uncovers something wonderful about the book; it quietly discusses political and social issues within the framework of an anti-hero/supernatural comic book.  While in Sudan we discover that the demon Mnemoth is a demon of hunger, feeding on the need, the ravaging need to consume.  In the Sudan the need to eat is paramount and their starvation gives way for the demon to terrorize the people.

The Shaman then takes a young starving child and binds the demon to him, etching magical tattoos into his face in hopes that the demon with devour both the child and when unable to escape itself be destroyed.  The shaman regrets not staying and watching to the end, where if he had kidnappers would not have taken the child (with the demon inside him) and sold him for tobacco, where Gary finds him and wants to exorcise the demon (again the desire and urge to do what they tried to do in NewCastle becoming more and more unbearable to fight).

A few  main character points are revealed here and throughout.  Constantine considers himself a bastard (and others refer to him as such) and the realization that he is  will land quite the punch to the readers over the next few issues and lay the ground work for the entire series, there are wonderful clues to the ending of this story-line that I noticed on this second (or is it hundredth) reading of this issue.  Second, he is an awesome wise ass.  Lastly this is the first time he is referred to as the “Laughing Magician” which is a term a future writer will take and run with wonderfully.

We are then introduced to two more very popular, important and recurring characters; Chas (at this moment in time cab driver, and seemingly lackey to Constantine who “owes him one”)  and Papa Midnite a voodoo high priest who is a high-class, high rolling, club owning, Zombie employing, fight club entertaining Voodoo priest with a sister trapped in hell/skull in NY.

The writing in this first issue is just beautiful.  I don’t know if I ever noticed how much so before.  The comic is gorgeous prose set to pictures.  The artwork is saturated and the horror like quality of the story bleeds through the color of the book.  There is so much going on in the passages and within Johns thought bubbles that I have to take my time with each page/issue more so than when I read say Batman.

Right now, we don’t know too much about John.  There are little hints to his character and behavior and history. One of my favorites is a scene in which John visits the apartment of his dead ex gf Emma and is emotionally winded after seeing a painting detailing her death by the current resident.  When he is visited by the ghost of Emma he tries to compose himself and doesn’t treat her all that well, almost shielding himself.  She says to him; “Yeah, We’re all here.  All your old buddies”.  He asks, “Where’s here?”  to which she responds, “work it out John, Where d’you think?”.  That’s a character I want to follow.  Why are ‘all’ his old friends dead and in (apparently) hell?  And why, should he know that?

I’m looking very much forward to tracing how he changes with each author and artist.

… New…

Magic stuff : Ancient binding spells and The Pentecost Effect (the ability to understand other languages not your own) both used by the Shaman.  Zombie employees.

Thor, God of Thunder #1.  This was a great issue.  Superb art (IMHO), great story and a great one to jump into anew.  We are given a wonderfully set up with three different era Thors.  One of the past (in relation to the current story that weaves it’s way through all three eras) where he is young and gallantly regaling tales of  heroism whilst getting drunk.  The fellow townspeople that are is company find a dead God’s head with eyes filled w/ terror.  Who or what can kill a God?  Thor wants to find out.  Current era Thor answers the prayer of a young alien girl to end the drought on her planet.  Thors finds out that this planet doesn’t have any God’s and heads out to find the wayward beings, only to be reminded of the God killer of yore.  Finally we see a Thor from Eons hence, old angry and bitter.  Yet willing to fight, who are what is he fighting?  We will see in the next few issues and I for one, can’t wait.

Captain America #1.  I yearn for Captain America of the past.  I don’t remember how many reboots ago I fell in love w/ Capt. but it was with the Winter Soldier story arc.  The action and plot went hand in hand and I was on the edge of my seat each and every story line.  then he died, which was cool.  Then he was brought back, which sucked.  Then there were the Capt. team up issues, which were okay.  This, well … I guess only time will tell.  Capt. finds himself on a NYC subway train of death only to be captured by a old villain (who they give a nice twist too I will say).  I didn’t have an issue w/ the plot overall, what I did have issue w/ is jumps in logic that for some will say “hey, it’s a comic; chill”, but I say I expect more from the comics I respect.  Why did Rogers get on this train with no intel to begin w/, where was his shield and how and why and why again???  When I have to ask this many questions the writers did not do a good enough job (this goes for me with anything film, books or comics).  and the art .. eh.  Sorry Capt. you are gonna have to work hard and getting me on board this train.

Indestructible Hulk #1.  Sweet book.  I used to love the Hulk and then they rewrote Spartacus with the Hulk (World War Hulk) and for me it went downhill and I was never able to get back into him.  I couldn’t really stand the Red Hulk stuff and Banner trying to teach Skaar was trying to hard to be funny and cute and violent at the same time and it never worked for me.  Sorry.  Here though, we have another well written story that, at least so far, doesn’t require much prior knowledge of Hulk pedigree.  Banner is tired of being a genius that won’t be remembered for much beyond what his alter ego has destroyed.  He meets up with S.H.I.E.L.D. and offers up both his genius and brawn equally.  It’s a hit and I can’t wait for more.  Story, character and art are so good that this may be my favorite of Marvel Now so far (w/ Thor a real close second).

I’m so backed up on reading comics.  I used to collect a lot, but then I became broke and I started to download them digitally (shhh don’t tell anyone).  I just lost every comic I’ve downloaded on my external harddrive – I guess it served me right huh?  Anyway I’ve started my thievery again and to my luck Marvel has begun a re-numbering scheme (but NOT a reboot, as they insist).  So I’m giving each book a try and here are my thoughts.

Deadpool #1.  I’ve never been much of a Deadpool fan, not that I dislike the character but I’ve just never gotten into the storylines.  Here we have Deadpool (apparently another victim of Weapon X ala Wolverine, I thought they made that up for that horrific movie) a freelance killing machine whose body is ravaged by sores but has a healing factor that enables him to survive everything [I guess he’s immortal].  This time around the witty smart-mouth (you thought Spiderman had a quip every word bubble, he’s got nothing on the Merc w/ a mouth) is battling dead presidents come to life as harbingers of death and governmental upheaval.  It’s a cute book, made even “cuter” by the soft art, everything is round, puffy and kinda goofy looking which is such a juxtaposition to the violent nature of the book.  The story wasn’t intriguing in anyway, just a bunch of running around shooting and dismemberment with a wise ass decrepit looking character, this introduction to this character isn’t doing anything for me yet.

All New X-men #1.  I said it before, I was so backed up on my comic reading that I was excited that I could jump onto a new number one for the X-men franchise ’cause I missed a lot.  Problem being this, again, Is NOT a reboot; therefore everything is still an extension of what came before and I’m a completest, which in the end sucks for me.  We have a new X-men number 1 that is dealing with the after effects of X-men vs. Avengers storyline.  The book gives a quick recap on the first page to get us going, but it still doesn’t help if you’re as backed up as I was; when did Iceman go all Vertigo Jack Frost?  When did Beast come back?  Didn’t he go away after X-tinction or what ever they called that arc?  The last thing I started reading was Schism and Magneto was listing to orders from Scott Summers? Wow, I’m behind and again a new number one is only basically giving me a short summary and a new story arc.  Here the crux is that Summers has become a darker version of the first volume of X-Factor which had the original students of Prof. X going around a saving/recruiting new mutants, it was a great book and had an amazing run.  This time it seems that while Cyclops is doing the same thing w/ a slice of the X-men group he’s become a radical in doing so and is being ‘hunted’ by the rest of the X-men team.  What I don’t get is why the rest of the team feels that what he’s doing is wrong, I didn’t see him kill any humans, it seemed that he was a bit more aggressive but the impression I got was that the government was, yet again, anti-mutant so … maybe I missed something.  The end of the issue was interesting, so I’ll keep w/ it and the artwork was really nice too, so that always helps.

Fantastic Four #1.  Sue Storm says it right in this book “My circus”.  When did the Fantastic Four become the Fantastic How many are in this house?  Shouldn’t Franklin (Reed’s and Sue’s kid) be like a teen by now?  :).  Anyway I really like this book as a starting point more than the other two so far, The team gets back from an adventure where they almost get eaten by a dinosaur and Reed finds out his molecular structure is in a bad way so he decides that he and the fam are going on year space journey.  Looks like the Fantastic Four is trying to reinvent the Swiss Family Robbinson and Lost in Space and I’m in.  While they are gone they are going to choose four heroes to stand in for them; hence the new arc for FF (which was Future Foundation .. I don’t know what that was, I never got to it).  And best of all Herbie the robot is back!  (This may not be new but it is to me; I loved Herbie)

Iron Man #1.  What a smartly written book.  This is the kind of comic I truly enjoy; great art, well written prose and a steady pace of both action and story.  This new number one does exactly what a new number one should do; it gave a quick intro, within the story, of both the hero and the villain; in this case Extremis.  I didn’t need any prior knowledge.  I’ll be excited to continue reading this one.

aperçu pt. 2 : Some Brief Reviews

These reviews will be briefer than usual being that it has been ages since I’ve read the novels themselves.  So the reviews will be more or less a quick reminiscence of whether I liked the book or not and why.

Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

This book is a crime novel that takes place in my fair city of New York circa 1840’s when the NYC Police dept. was in its earliest incarnation known as the “copper stars”.  The book follows Timothy Wilde a scarred good guy squeezed into the stars by a politico older brother.  Timothy, a reticent copper, becomes the hero of a waif who runs into him covered in blood.  The novel is wonderful.  Faye has an incredible ear for early NY landscape, history and verbiage.  Furthermore, the novel, much like what I loved about Tana French’s first novel In The Woods is not a typical cop chases psycho killer fare, it’s so much more human.  Great book, highly recommend.  And a cool piece of early NY fact : “The spread of flash talk (slang) to the general population would prove to be a permanent shift in the English language.  When you say “so long” to your “pal” in parting, you are participating in a subversive cultural phenomenon dating back to 1530 and the Derbyshire scoundrels who first developed a secret language all their own.  Soo cool.

Everyday by David Levithan

This was another wonderful book I read awhile ago.  “A” is a … soul?  “A” wakes up the body of another 16year old each and every day.  It could be a girl, could be a boy; could be from a loving home, or a drugged out depressed suicidal loner.  “A” has to navigate these people’s lives for 24 hours each day something new.  “A”‘s been doing it for as long as “A” can remember, sometimes it’s easy others. … not so much.  But what happens when “A” falls in love?  How can “A” hope to express love to someone who will never see the same “A”?  Can it be done, if so how and how much will the two teens be effected?  Such a wonderfully written novel, filled with heart I distinctly remember crying several times.

Breed by Chase Novak

This one was weird.  Breed starts off, again in NYC, with a yuppie couple very much in love.  Novak wants you to like this couple, and you do; they clearly are good people (overall) and do in fact love one another.  They also desperately want a child.  They have had no luck, to the point where going out through central park gets them upset seeing all the happy couples with their charges.  Novak makes wonderful satirical and foreshadowing points of how warped out love of children and parenthood can be; such as the cannibalistic phrase “I could just eat him/her up”; how in the world did this become a positive notion?  and he’s right. lol.   Well this couple can stand it no more and spend an inordinate amount of money to go to a specialist who injects them with something .. animalistic.    Time jump ten years, twins; who think … no … know that their parents want to eat them.  I’ll leave you with that.  It’s twisted and there are some missteps along the way.  Overall though, there is a reason Novak is a pen name and why Novak is an award-winning writer.

Argo by Antonio Mendez

By now you should have heard about the new flick Argo directed by Ben Affleck.  Well this is the book that that movie is based.  I can’t wait to see the movie, it has gotten rave reviews.  The book, it was okay.  Historically the book is fascinating, how it all went down what went into the rescue, but even more interesting was the back story of our history with Iran and how we’ve gotten to where we are today.  The problem really for me came down to lack of excitement.  SPOILER : everything went off w/o a hitch, no problems what so ever.  Even the hostages, between bouts of being scared, they were drinking and having a blast.  END OF SPOILER

It’s understood, factually that they were scared for their lives and were facing certain death every hour  but I never got the sense of this.  All in all I think that the book would be a phenomenal tie in to the movie.  See the movie for the excitement of a great director directing a great cast for a great story, read the book for the facts.

Broken Harbor Tana French  next time, I’m tired.

So long pals

you professor

A Brief warning before I begin, there will be slight spoilers in this review.  BUT I will alert you prior to said spoilers.  The only other thing I will say is that I hope what I don’t believe to be spoilery you won’t either.

Do you like alternate history stories?  Do you dig sci-fi?  No?  How about expertly told tales of personal journeys of understanding of life’s complexities and the search for love, albeit long winded ones?
All three are wrapped up in King’s time-traveling adventure to stop the assassination of JFK.

Jake Epping is a high school English teacher who is ever so slightly bored with the day to day reading and correcting of emotionally devoid papers.  The opening chapter has us reading with Jake the first emotionally charged paper Jake has read in a while.  The paper and the story itself and how King presents it is more a hook than the plot itself.  Kings voice in telling the bitter tale of this grown man’s childhood and the reaction of Jake as he reads it, is telling the reader what to expect and what to want out of the characters and the novel itself.  What is important?  To you as the reader, to you as a person living a life you think is boring and dull.  What would you give up to change something, what wouldn’t you?

Jake is called upon by a local burger joint owner who has a “rabbit-hole” in a closet in his diner that leads to Maine in 1958.  But Professor, you interject, the novel is 11/22/1963, you must be mistaken about 1958; that’s 5 years prior.  Why yes it is.  That!  is what makes King so good at what he does.  Jake is shown this “rabbit -hole” by Al’s diner eponymous owner and convinced to live 5 years in the past so he can effectively stop JFK’s assassination.  He can only do this once, because every time you go back through, everything resets.  Save someones life in ’59 come back to 2011 (only 2 minutes pass in this reality) and decide to go back to ’58; reset!  So begins Jake’s experimentation in changing history.  Everything he does once, he has to do a second time (first time round is only practice).

This is where the long-windedness of this novel comes into play.  When Jake ends up living a full 5 years in the past he must make money.  He does this by placing bets on various sporting events thanks to copious notes by Al.  Al has a notebook chock full of important details on this and of course the life and times of both JFK and the infamous Lee Oswald.  King waxes on and on, and on, and on, on how Jake makes his money and every punch in every fight and every cheer for every horse-race and how betting works.  It’s exhausting, to be honest.  This and Jake’s life as a teacher in ’58; putting on plays and living and eating and falling in love…. !  Ah that’s the point, folks.  Live with this character enough to where you are seeing his day to day activities and you almost forget that he is there to stop an assassination that the world is still feeling to this day.  But so does he, and then you can begin to see the formation of what may become more important to a man than his original mission.  And it is this, that makes King a champion at character development and as an ace at the writing game.

King loves to create worlds within our own existing world.  According to the afterward in the novel a good 90 some percent is historically accurate when it comes to the cast involved in JFK’s assassination.  Oswald, his wife and children; their lives and compatriots; Jack Ruby, the known FBI agents and more.  King acknowledges what he changed or added.  He deals with the conspiracies expertly and doesn’t necessarily answer any questions but he leans a certain way and it all works wonderfully.

Now here’s the funny thing; if you are a King reader or just know enough about King you know that many of his novels all interweave with each other.  They do this either simply by being in the same area of Maine, or having characters know each other etc.  In 11/22/63 King does a couple of things like this even to a humorous extent; if you know Christine and It, you’ll get the clues immediately.  This stuff happens no more than in his Dark Tower novels (which just get better every time I read them).  In The DT novels we visit various characters and locals in many of Kings previous works.  There is even Stephen King, who gets in a horrific car accident (King himself was in such an accident)  King writes what he knows, he’s a writer who has used a pen – name so he wrote the Dark Half.  He was a teacher, so Jake Epping is the teacher that King either was or wanted to be; and more.  In Duma Key Kings main character is who has also been in a terrible car accident.  It is not a surprise that this has been a corner stone to Kings immediate life story and he has used many times over.  And 11/22/63 is no different.  This point leads to a spoiler……

***********************Spoilers************Spoilers*********it shouldn’t matter but Spoilers Ahead************

Towards the end of the novel two things happen that I must write about, spoiler or not.  Jake (at this point George Amberson) gets the shit beat out of him by a bookie.  The damage his body sustains and his road to recovery is once again eerily similar to Kings own situation.  So I can only say that King (who had the idea for this novel back in the early ’70’s) wants Jake to be his own Avatar and slay the dragon that was Oswald.

A second thing that is worth mentioning and it’s too bad that is blanketed by a spoiler is how King deals with the future sans the assassination of JFK.  If you are reading this and know about my recent Facebook quandary about Dan Simmon’s Flashback; than you’ll understand what I’m about to write.  If not, in a nutshell; I want to read Dan Simmon’s Flashback because I loved his novel Drood (I mean really freakin’ loved it) and really enjoyed The Terror.  Flashback has an awesome plot but I’m dismayed to find that this novel is a very lightly barely even veiled attempt at what some critics have called a Tea-party manifesto, and that every thing that goes wrong in Simmon’s future is due to something Obama did wrong.  I don’t know if I want to read something that is not so much an alternate history/future but a finger pointing political ranting and raving.  Anyway; King handles an alternate present day with finesse by doing research!  Most of all in the afterward he acknowledges the aid of JFK historians when he asked them “the worst case scenario’s had JFK lived” and what some of his political choices may have been and where they may have lead us.  So the world Jake “George” Epping comes back to in 2011 after saving JFK are all highly educated “worst case scenario’s.  I really like that, Research!  It means something to me.

End of Spoilers ********** End of Spoilers***********end of spoilers ************************************

It was all a dream!!!  No I’m kidding!  All in all 11/22/63 was a really wonderfully written novel that you should take the time and read. King does some wonderful handling of time travel, how the past will try and fix things that you may put wrong and how it may even try and stop you.  He really put “the Butterfly Effect” into high gear.  Think about it, what you try and change about the past; and what if you fell into something that changed your life and someone else’s while you were trying to change that first thing?  What becomes more important and more importantly than that, why?  While you ponder, read 11/22/63; continue to follow your dear ole professor and remember; Dancing is Life (so says the King, the writer not the rock star).
update

A friend pointed out to me a mistake in my review.  In Duma Key, Kings’ main character was a home builder not an author, the correction has been updated in the above review.  Thank you very much for you attention to detail and bringing it to my attention; Jay Palmer.  Now please go read the rest of my reviews and correct them to your hearts content. 🙂