Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Eating Cronus: Journey Into Mystery 645 (SPOILERS)

Kid Loki ain't kidding around, bird.

Alas, the Journey Into Mystery run of comics uberscribe Kieron Gillen is over. JIM #645 came out today, and I'd suggest you grab it soon if you haven't already. There were only a handful left at the shop when I went on my lunch break. With beautiful art by Stephanie Hans and a hell of an ending, this was quite the finale to Gillen's story about longtime villain Loki reincarnated as a teenager. So 'bout that ending...

10/25 Edit: Never mind, after re-reading and looking at other reviews, I think I was way too optimistic in my interpretation of the ending. :( 

When I started reading Journey Into Mystery and first saw magpie Ikol, the spirit of Loki's evil, former self, I thought, "Loki's gonna have to symbolically kill that bird sometime." But I thought it would be more, uh, Miss Julie-ish. A quick neck snapping/decapitation or whatever. Maybe followed up by tossing the dead bird off the World Tree. Instead we got a full-on bloody, feathery, live self-cannibalization. Obviously this is more visceral and has added shock value, but I think it was a solid, legitimate choice. Loki has simultaneously rejected, subsumed, and consumed his former self. Perhaps self-destructive Loki's most (or second most) literally self-destructive act was also his most self-constructive. The act seemed more like a reversal of Cronus devouring his young than the Ouroboros...hopefully. 

Journey Into Mystery 645

So what's next? Well, we don't have to worry about Loki dying from bird flu. As we know from Marvel NOW! Point One, Loki ends up in New York doing some head-hunting for SHIELD to get the Young Avengers up and running again (that series starts in January 2013). I think it'll be a good move to get Loki out of stagnant Asgard and have him interact with other characters. We already got to see his chemistry with badass America Chavez (AKA Miss America), and I'm looking forward to seeing him work with fellow magic-boy-with-kinda-weird-Scarlet-Witch-connections Billy Kaplan (AKA Wiccan). How Loki ends up in New York is still not answered. I'm kind of hoping Thor decided to take Loki there to raise him and is now the hottest single parent at the Park Slope grocery co-op. Can't you just see him hefting five 50-pound bags of organic fair-trade flour on each shoulder? 

And hopefully the new environment will offer Loki a bit more support and guidance as well. Loki needs mentors who can enforce boundaries with him and in whom he can confide. Sometimes you need a trusted adult you can tell things to like "I have a crush on this girl but she's the embodiment of my maybe-daughter's severed hand" or "today I almost had to destroy myself to save the universe but instead I literally devoured part of my being." Yes, he has Thor, who loves him more than anyone and always will, but Thor is, in Loki's words, "the biggest, sweetest idiot in the whole nine realms." Loki needs Thor's unconditional (to the point of being ridiculous) love, but he also needs someone who is not going to be dazzled by his bullshit. Nick Fury, Tony Stark...really anyone who will say, "Where are you going, young man? What? No, you cannot blow up Stonehenge. Where the fuck did you get that idea?"

Does OSHA not have jurisdiction over SHIELD?

Random notes:

-Glad they cleared up that whole incest question...not that Loki and Leah really seemed to mind? For a while there I thought Daimon Hellstrom was going to be a way age-inappropriate Han Solo, but nope, Loki & Leah duncurr. 

-Leah best be coming back at some point. The people demand more Leah, Marvel! And please don't let Greg Land near her.

-Thor and Loki have another DRAMATIC HUG. I mean, sure, "promise me if I turn evil again you'll kill me" sort of calls for DRAMATIC HUG, but can they ever just have a casual bro hug? 

-Hela has the best wedding outfit ever, even if we only see a little of it. Tyr's mustache remains stupid. 

-Will Fandral ever tell Volstagg the secret of condoms?

-Tom Hiddleston (AKA Marvel movie Loki) wrote a letter for the "Journey Into Stationery" section! :'D

Crikey, indeed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Will the Internet ever run out of cats? Answer: no. As in the oeuvre of unfairly slighted Nobel Prize in Literature nominee Haruki Murakami, cats are a constant. Centuries from now, when all life on Earth is gone except for AI, generations of computer-generated beings will rifle through ancient files of cat videos and gifs in virtual history museums, bemused by mankind's obsession with these small mammals and yet finding themselves inexplicably drawn in themselves. So here are some more kitties that have rocketed to online fame! 

CATS ON THE INTERNET 1: Maru, Meme, Winston, and Luna the Fashion Kitty
CATS ON THE INTERNET 2:  Lil' Bub, Henri, the cats of Big Cat Rescue, and Pusheen

Tardar Sauce is unimpressed.

A.K.A. Tard, Grumpy, Grumpy Cat. With her dismayed yet resigned frown, Tardar was destined to become an Internet sensation. A picture on reddit, and that destiny was reached. Like Lil' Bub, Tardar and her brother Pokey were born with deformities. But while Bub's misshapen face makes her look laid-back and optimistic about everything, Tardar's makes her look perpetually pissed. Hey, you'd be mad too if you looked like this. And, in actuality, Tardar's owner says she is quite happy, playful, and healthy despite her disabilities. Regardless, Tardar has already become a meme and a meeting and eventual odd-couple romance between her and Bub have been predicted.

Colonel Meow wants his scotch.

Continuing in the vein of scowling kitties, here we have angry-faced giant wolf-creature Colonel Meow. Impossibly fluffy and disgruntled-appearing, Colonel Meow demonstrates how myths of monsters and other bizarre cryptids get started. I mean, if you got a quick glimpse of him at night, what would you think you saw? A were-wolverine worthy of taking on the chupacabra? Fortunately, when he was found by the side of the road, the Himalayan and Persian Society was called instead of the tabloids. Nonetheless, he still ended up on Anderson Cooper's show.

Snuggle buddies Shorty and Kodi!

Dramatic Shorty and playful Kodi are two fairly normal kitties (no grumpy faces, no Maru-like special skills, no Luna the Fashion Kitty wardrobe), but they are blessed with a skilled filmographer/editor as an owner. With humor, snark, and sweetness, the pair's silly games and tender moments are captured on video. Kodi was introduced to the family recently, and while at first he and Shorty were not so pleased with each other, an epic love/abusive relationship/BDSM partnership soon flourished.

Chase contemplates where to sit next.

Chase No Face was in a terrible car accident when she was just a little stray kitten. Thanks to good Samaritans and great veterinary care, Chase survived despite losing much of her face. Her eyes will always need round-the-clock care, but looking at her blog and Facebook profile show that Chase is a normal kitty; like all cats, she loves sitting wherever she wants, taking up all the space on the bed, investigating the annual Christmas tree, and riding in her Batmobile. She also (with the help of her owner) reminds people to be kind and not judge a book by its cover.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Murakami Party or Winning the Nobel Prize Is So Mainstream

You said it, Green Apple Books.

So, despite having great odds, Haruki Murakami did not win the Nobel Prize in Literature today. Nor did it go to Alice Munro. Instead, that prize went to Mo Yan, who, to be fair, sounds pretty interesting. But whatever, right? Awards are always subjective and of dubious long-term merit anyways (here are all Nobel Prize in Literature winners). Now Murakami fans don't have to worry about complaints that our favorite author is over-hyped, and we can say "finally" and be eye-rollingly smug and disaffected like adults when and if he does take the prize in the future. So let's have a little Murakami party! Time to make some spaghetti, pump up the Janacek, face some unsavory history surrounding the Asia-Pacific Wars, pet a cat, and be surprised by our periods. And maybe play some bingo.

My introduction to Murakami came in college, when I was taking a class on the short story. In this class, the Murakami story we read was "A Shinagawa Monkey," photocopied by the professor from the New Yorker (readable here or in the collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman). What so gripped me about Murakami? His knack for writing women like they're - you know - people, his cool nonchalance with stepping into the bizarre, and the utter modernity of the story with its car dealership and costume-jewelry-wearing therapist. Part of me felt how some contemporary viewers of Impressionist and Impressionist-era paintings of absinthe drinkers and train stations must have felt: that this was the world, or at least some part of it, as it really was at that moment. Quite a feat for a story featuring an anthropomorphic name-stealing monkey.

I immediately wanted to read more. I started with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and was captivated by the epic of a missing cat and a missing wife, a psychic prostitute and a terrifying politician, and the repressed horrors of Japan's wars in China. From there on, I tore through Murakami's oeuvre. I'm not sure I can name a favorite, but The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World are all included. I also have a soft spot for After Dark, and I know Kafka on the Shore and Sputnik Sweetheart are all-time favorites of many.

Murakami has had this effect on quite a mass of readers. In early October 2008, I visited a friend who was living in New York. It happened to be the weekend of the New Yorker Festival, and Murakami was there. We went to see if there were tickets left for his talk, but they were long sold out. However, he was doing a signing that day. And it just so happened that I had brought After Dark with me on the plane. We got to the venue early and were still nowhere near the front of the line. But we were in before the line was cut off. Desperate, teary Murakami fans begged those who had gotten in to bring their books in to be signed. When my friend and I made it to the front and I presented my book for signing, Haruki Murakami asked me how I was. Naturally this turned me into the creepy valleygirl I always turn into when meeting writers and artists I admire (sorry, Kim Addonizio), though hopefully my high-pitched "Good thank you how are you I love your work" sounded fairly sane.

He asked me how I was, guys.

Some years later, when 1Q84 was first released in the US, Green Apple Books here in my hometown of San Francisco had a midnight release. I wasn't sure what the turnout would be (it was a weeknight, after all, and not Harry Potter), but the store was packed. Sure, one could argue it was a hipster nightmare (think skinny jeans and plaid instead of wizard costumes), but it was exciting to see so many people excited for a book. That excitement is as much a part of the culture of literature as the artist toiling in obscurity. 

On Muni in the early hours of the morning with my brand-new book.

That's what I love about Murakami. The excitement is genuine, not just about celebrity. There is excitement in being pulled into his richly imagined worlds. An excitement that is tempered with reflection on the quirkiness and sameness that make us human, with pausing to look up a musical or literary reference. Maybe Murakami will win another year; maybe he won't. But whether he does or not, we've got quite the library to read and re-read.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Elementary & Sherlock

Like A.V. Club's Myles McNutt, I was hoping to go into CBS's Elementary without comparing it to BBC's Sherlock, which I recently started watching. But, as McNutt admits, as hard as one can try to not compare them, it's almost impossible not to. They're both modern-day adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, with Elementary conveniently appearing well after Sherlock had established itself as a darling of fans and critics alike. The inevitable rivalry was heightened when Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC's Sherlock's Sherlock) implied Jonny Lee Miller (CBS's Elementary's Sherlock) took the job only to sustain his LA mansion & trophy wife lifestyle, which was either cutting bitchery or a misquote. Basically, the two are going to be compared, and that might not be favorable to Elementary.

Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock is an arrogant dick. And his Sherlock should be an arrogant dick, because Sherlock is kind of an arrogant dick. But while Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock's dickery comes from a place of arrogance, it also derives from his honest confusion regarding social norms and is tempered by his breathless enthusiasm and poignant vulnerability - which is why although he belittles and irritates the people in his life (Watson, Mycroft, Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, etc.), these same people humor and protect him rather than punch him in the face (although Molly should seriously punch him in the face). And, with the help of threat-happy manic pixie dream villain Jim Moriarty, he's learning, gradually, just how much those people mean to him in return. Nothing like "Imma kill all your friends and also dance" to bring things into perspective.

They mean nothing! Now leave me to my pouting couch.

Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock is more of just an asshole addict. Which is totally fair, considering that in Doyle's stories, Sherlock had quite the taste for you know what. But Miller's Sherlock's assholishness is laced with aggression, as seen in the pilot when he screams at a female assault victim (which, to be fair, gives Lucy Liu's Watson a great opening to shut that shit down). In last night's episode, "While You Were Sleeping," when Sherlock breaks into an apartment without a warrant in front of the police and the resident, there's a clear "fuck you, I do what I want" vibe. In Sherlock, when Sherlock technically breaks the law - for example, by withholding evidence in "A Study in Pink" - it's more of a "I am trying to solve the case and I need that to solve the case so why would I have given it to you kthxbai" vibe. Miller's Sherlock is not as immediately endearing as Cumberbatch's, but this does give the character ways to develop that are very different and still affecting. I did like how in last night's episode we saw more of how Sherlock views his addiction: he's still in denial and a bit ashamed. He's hiding his rehab stay from others, disdainful towards his group sessions, but also gently urges a drugged-up lawyer to get help while simultaneously bullying him for client information.

I think A.V. Club user Nate the Great (yes, getting into those peer-reviewed sources now) states the gist of the differences between the two series well in his/her comment on the the A.V. Club's review of last night's episode: "Elementary is a police procedural using the character names for people who haven't read [Arthur Conan Doyle]. Sherlock is written by fans of [Doyle] for fans of [Doyle], and it's a clear loving tribute." This feel absolutely true. Elementary is a procedural and could be any procedural. Joan Watson and Sherlock Holmes could be Melody Lee and Brian Smith and it would be another unconventional detective/long-suffering sidekick series, albeit with less character than Monk or Psych. Despite last night's violin shout-out, there's not much Holmsian about it. Sherlock revels in its Doyle roots in a clever way, while making something new and much fresher than Elementary despite more closely sticking to the Victorian source material.

Plaid is British, right?

That said, I adore, adore, adore Lucy Liu's Watson. Emotionally wounded yet a tough cookie, Liu subtly gives Watson strength and reservedness. Still getting over a tragedy that ended her career as a surgeon, she's a work in progress like recovering addict Holmes. And it's clear Holmes recognizes and appreciates her crime-solving talents, even if she's still doubtful of herself.

So I'm not ready to give up on Elementary yet. I think TV could use some more male/female platonic friendships, and there are parts I'm finding engaging. Will they do more with Watson's male Mary (Ty) Morstan? I'm also interested in learning more about "what happened" in London, which Watson has deduced concerned a woman. Was it Jersey girl adventuress/opera singer Irene Adler? They are near New Jersey, and Watson knows from Sherlock's father that Sherlock once loved opera, which Sherlock now vehemently denies. Or could the woman be a fem Professor Moriarty? BTW my dream fem Professor Moriarty is totally boho-frumpy and surrounded by books and drafts of Ph.D. candidates' theses while plotting crimes. I want Selma Blair in ankle-length skirts and lumpy sweaters. Just saying, Elementary crew.