Happy Holidays, Merry Mass of Christ and Improbable Heights

‘When you strip everything away from Batman, you are left with someone who doesn’t want to see anyone die.’ — KINGDOM COME by Alex Ross and Mark Waid

When I think of humanity in general, and the holiday season in particular it strikes me that that should be our goal. The pursuit of a world, where nobody dies in vain.

But the reality, particularly in America, this time of year is that with the eyes of the media diverted; government sponsored mass-murders actually ramp up, bombings ramp up (now of the drone and unmanned variety, machines murdering men.. what an unholy road we walk), the terrorism of the rich… ramps up.

I’ll not forget the media celebrating the death of Bin Laden. Death and Murder and Torture are never things to celebrate, no matter the justification.

While I am savage enough to know that killing may be a necessary evil, I am human and moral enough to know it is never a joy, never a victory, never a cause for celebration.

Be the murdered Bin Laden, or Hitler or insert bogieman here, bringing murder to murderers is never anything less than a soiling, and a failure, necessary though it may be, it is a failure of reason. And as such is a solemn time, not a glorious one.

Because to do otherwise, to take joy from death, and celebration from degradation and horror… is to devoid you of moral high-ground, is to make you (in ways stark and true) worse than those you would revile, worse than your Hitlers and Bin-Ladens. It makes you a lynchmob, a coward, and an opportunist of carnage.

We must strive to be better than that, otherwise your protestations of Christianity, and Holy Nights, and piety are just lies, are hypocrisy and mendacity most foul, that you use to conceal your roman desire to see people bleed and suffer and die.

You become that lowest form of life, a gibbering coward among cowards, you become nothing more than a grasping claw, a rolling eye, and a screeching mouth… in the creature we call lynchmob. And there is no lower, and ultimately, more inhuman form of life.

Our goal therefore must be to reject that, to reject the easy lies and the easy hates, and work toward this wildly improbable world where no one dies in vain.

But humanity’s very existence is an improbability, so we can bend that already fanciful existence to either improbable heights of good, or improbable depths of evil. We just have to pick a direction.

‘We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. ‘ — John Fitzgerald Kennedy when imploring men into space

Here, on this holiday season, more fiction than fact, ‘goodwill to all’; look into yourself and find what is hypocrisy, what is lies, and find it in yourself to make truths, and truly believe and act on this idea…. of a time of peace.

Here endeth the lesson.

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Artist of the Day: Alex Ross!!

The only reason I started rereading comics or graphic novels or slims, is because of Alex Ross. I had turned my back on the medium, just tired of the juvenile art, the storytelling style, everything. Then Alex Ross exploded onto the scene with the one-two punch of the graphic novels MARVELS then KINGDOM COME.

Self contained, stand alone, complete stories, told with jaw droppingly astonishing painted art. People immediately began calling him the Norman Rockwell of comics, and that term is not quite undeserved.

Like Norman Rockwell, Alex Ross is able to imbue his scenes with a sense of homey Americana, that calls back a yearning to better, simpler days now passed… or perhaps never existed.

But he does more than imbue scenes with nostalgia, he does something Rockwell never did, perhaps never dreamt of doing, Alex Ross imbues his scenes with a sense of awe, of scale, of grandeur.

Of myth.

It has become habit these days for people without a fraction of Ross’ talent or vision to take his work for granted. To call his effort: extremism, and to call his meticulous paints: stiff, over rendering… I see nothing stiff or over-rendered in the work of Alex Ross but people are allowed their opinion, though the criticism always struck me as uninformed opinion.

It always struck me as the voices of jealous ants trying to deride an elephant. People disparaging Alex Ross, simply because he was that good.

Alex Ross is a meticulous perfectionist, who paints worlds that never were, but should be, and populates them with the stuff of faith…rewarded. Long before Hollywood made a habit of making our marvels real, Ross reached out to the lightning, and called down the thunder, and put it on paper, and gave us all a vision… to aspire to.

Many a painter has come on the sequential art scene since Ross’ mainstream debut, and they all bring something wonderful to the mix. But it’s a testament to Alex Ross’ skill, his understanding and his love for the heroic… that none of the numerous painters now in the medium, quite grasp that sense of grandeur that Ross brings to even the least of his creations.

All his creations look out at you with eyes that have seen the worst, yet still seem to say… “endure, be better.”

And end of the day, I figure… that’s not such a bad message for an artist and his art to leave us with. So for all these reasons Alex Ross is our Artist of the Day.

Check out all his work at the links below:

Site for Alex Ross Art and Info!

Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross

Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross

The Dynamite Art of Alex Ross HC

The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes

Absolute Justice

Absolute Kingdom Come

Uncle Sam: Deluxe Edition

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: THOSE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS by John Ridley

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: THOSE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS by John Ridley, Read by Patricia R. Floyd

This is the first book in John Ridley’s SOLEDAD series. Set in an alternate world where superheroes aren’t just real, but have fallen from grace like pop stars or athletes, and are now considered terrorists and are hunted and killed if found in America.

Our protagonist, Soledad, is a member of the special LA unit that hunts and kills super powered beings. It’s capably read by Patricia R. Floyd, who gives the characters distinct voices. The issue isn’t the reading.

The problem is trying to do a super-hero pastiche/deconstruction is a bit of an uphill battle in any format, just because it has been done so well, by so many in comic-book/graphic novel form. From WATCHMEN to KINGDOM COME to MARVELS it’s this huge history of mankind dealing with beings they do not trust. And it has been done, exceptionally well, in the medium that is tailor-made for these types of stories… comics.

Now John Ridley brings this tale of a mutant hating cop into novel form, and it’s not badly told, even exciting in places, it’s just from scene one it feels dreadfully familiar and by the numbers. Bigoted cop and this tale of redemption, either because she sees the good some ‘mutants’ can do, or perhaps learns she’s part mutant. And if there’s no redemption, that’s even worse. That’s spending time with an unlikeable character that stays unlikeable, ie a David Ayer movie (Not a fan, hated his TRAINING DAY, didn’t like his HARSH TIMES any better).

I don’t know, point is by the third cassette, I just don’t care. I’m just not interested. It just feels like a chore to slog through. Cop shoots Angel, and tries to justify it. Yada, Yada, Yada. It’s just hundreds of words in and I don’t feel any fresh ideas.

Possibly someone who brings no superhero experience to the novel will get more out of it, though I find it hard to believe if you have no interest in previous superhero items you’ll for some reason find this of interest. And those who do bring a history with the concept, will just find it, like myself, marking time till it gets out of first gear.

I couldn’t tell you, because I just could not be bothered to go any further. Only the excellent reading by Patricia Floyd kept me going this far, reading the paperback I would have become severely disinterested quite a bit before.

My recommendation… stick to John Ridley’s earlier pure mystery/pulp fiction novels. He’s a good writer I just don’t think he brought enough engaging or captivating to this story. FINAL GRADE: Rent something else.