Now Reading: Providence

Providence is the latest (and possibly last, we’ll see) story from comic book guru Alan Moore. To put it simply, it’s a Cthulhu story that dives into the origins of the various mythologies of Cthulhu, The Necronomicon, and many other H.P. Lovecraft tales. Before getting into it further though, it’s probably important to point out that Moore’s Neonomicon should really be read first.

Neonomicon deals with somewhat the same subject matter, but it takes place in the present day and is a good deal more graphic and rapey than Providence (can’t have an Alan Moore comic without some rape, unfortunately). It introduces several key characters, that while not present for most of Providence, are still important to the end of the whole thing. There are also several locations and concepts introduced here that get re-visited and explained more thoroughly in Providence, so while I suppose you could technically read one without the other, I really wouldn’t advise it.

Anyway, Providence itself jumps back to the early 1900’s and digs deeply into the origins of the “Cthulu-verse”. Where Neonomicon was more overt in it’s horror, Providence moves at much slower, more atmospheric pace. Ex-reporter Robert Black finds himself travelling across America, searching for the secret places behind the curtains and finding much more than he bargains for. His quest begins to take him on a tour of the origins of a mysterious secret society who sprung from the teachings of a certain mysterious book, and he finds himself in some very strange situations, which he tries his hardest to be in complete denial about until it’s too late.

This approach of keeping the protagonist perpetually in the dark, while the audience clearly sees all the hidden evils lurking right behind them, doesn’t always work, but Moore pulls it off with his usual mastery of the art, turning each location that Black visits into an intricate tapestry of tension and terror. As usual with a Moore story, the design and detail of everything going on is staggering. Extremely meticulous amounts of research went into crafting this world and much thought and care was clearly put into each and every word spoken here. Everything is connected and filled with multiple meanings.

Even the title, Providence, is a clever little package of information. Providence is not only the name of Black’s ultimate destination, the town in which H.P. Lovecraft grew up and wrote his many stories, but it also literally means “the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power” and “timely preparation for future eventualities”, which are both highly relevant to what’s really going on in this story and also very interestingly used here, as for some reason, the word providence tends to be used in an inherently positive context, with an assumption that the being behind it has benevolent intentions, but nothing about the word or its definitions ever actually specify a moral stance.

So if you have any interest in Cthulhu/Lovecraftian horror, the patience for what is an extremely dense read for a comic book, and the stomach for some occasionally very disturbing content, check this out. I hope that it’s not really the last comic Alan Moore ever writes, as he has recently claimed, but at least if it is, he sure as hell went out on a high note. Now I guess I’ll be re-reading Alan Moore stuff again for the next month…

Now Reading: The Adventures of Gamepro

Anyone else remember these things? This was one of the reasons why Gamepro was favorite video game magazine back in the day. For the first several years they’d each include a short story of The Adventures of Gamepro, a crazy comic that was this weird mash-up of 80’s pop culture things. It was like they took Captain N, The Last Starfighter, Quantum Leap, and a bunch of concepts straight out of superhero comics, and threw them all into a blender with whatever video game rights they could get their hands on each issue.

The “video dimension” is under attack by evil shapeshifting aliens (that are totally not Skrulls), so the high council (the previous good guy rulers) decide to create their own video game on Earth as a test to find the video champion that will save them all. This guy Alex beats the game and so gets sucked into the video dimension to fight all their battles for them, which consists of him being warped into different game worlds completely at random, that he can’t leave until he solves whatever problem the Evil Darklings (that is literally their name) have caused on said world.

Most of the time he gets sucked into big, popular games like Castlevania or Ghouls n’ Ghosts, but other times they seem to just take whatever they can get, as Alex finds himself in weird, obscure places like Psycho Fox or California Games. 

At one point Alex even goes to Moonwalker and meets Michael Jackson. It’s worth noting that Michael Jackson in this was some kind of omniscient transdimensional entity that exists simultaneously in the real world and the video world for some reason. Very strange.

Anyway, it’s some really goofy stuff, but it manages to be a pretty unique little story, despite the general concept being so derivative. I still go back and read it again every few years. I used to own all the collected editions of these, but they were lost along with the rest of my childhood comic and magazine collection. Nowadays you can’t find them to buy anywhere, even on eBay. Gamepro magazine doesn’t even exist anymore. They did apparently start giving out digital copies of this whole series for free before they went under, but the site that hosted them is dead and gone too. The only way anyone is ever going to read these at this point is through homemade scans (not done by me), which I’ve provided links to below. They’re far from HD quality, but they’re readable. Issue 1 has a repeated/missing page, which I’ve tried to find a replacement for, but came up empty-handed. You can read these in CDisplay (best for desktop viewing), Comix (best for Windows touchscreen tablets), or…whatever the Mac equivalent is (I don’t know, but I know they exist), all of which are free. Enjoy.

Download Issue #1

Download Issue #2

Download Issue #3

Now Reading: Junji Ito stuff

I don’t have much knowledge or experience in the realm of manga, but I do know that Junji Ito is fucking awesome and I wish there was more stuff like this out there. His stories are extremely strange and very graphic, and his art style matches that tone perfectly. He is basically like if David Cronenberg and John Carpenter moved to Silent Hill and somehow had a baby together.

Gyo means fish and this is indeed a story about fish, sort of. It starts out with some fish crawling out of the water on mysterious new legs, with a bunch of tubes jammed in their gills. They seem to be acting strangely and emitting a terrible smelling gas. More and more sea creatures start appearing on these mystery legs until it becomes a worldwide plague, and it only gets weirder from there on. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s an extremely bizarre tale that features some truly grotesque (in a good way!) imagery.

Uzumaki, or spiral, is not as graphic as Gyo, but it is much weirder. Most of it is made up of a bunch of short stories following the people in this town that’s become “infected by spirals”. At first, people just seem to be getting mysteriously obsessed with spiral shapes, but then come the strange spiral-related occurrences and deaths, and it just keeps getting weirder and weirder as the whole town seems to be caught up in this mysterious curse. Most of the stories follow this main girl, Kyrie, who you would really think would get the fuck out of there after being directly involved in about a dozen blatantly supernatural and horrible deaths, but no, she and everyone else stick around until it’s too late and no one can leave anymore. At this point the story turns into a continuous series of tales about the final stages of the town’s curse and how the survivors try to stay alive and figure out just what the hell is going on.

Tomie seems to be his most famous work, having spawned 7 or 8 movie spin-offs, but it’s also one of his earliest and arguably the weakest of these 3. Tomie is really just a collection of short stories about Tomie, a mysterious undead girl who seems to be some kind of mash-up of a succubus and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Occasionally one or two stories in here are connected to each other, but for the most part they’re all standalone tales, and there isn’t really an ending to any of it. It’s still some pretty interesting stuff though. Tomie worms her way into random people’s lives, makes them obsessed with her and destroys their personal lives, and usually ends up being horribly murdered as a result, which just leads to her multiplying and mutating into even worse things. Again, very strange stuff.

Anyone else read this stuff and have any similar recommendations? I could really use more of this in my life. I’ve read Gantz and I’m going to get around to Berserk one of these days, but if you know of any other crazy horror or seinen stuff, I’d be glad to hear it (I think I actually already made a list somewhere of recommendations that I’ve been meaning to check out, but still, I could always use more)!

Now Reading: The Astounding Wolf-Man

This was a fun, but short-lived sort-of-spinoff to Kirkman’s Invincible. I guess it doesn’t really start out as one, technically, but after a while it turns out to be in the same universe and ends up being pretty directly connected to other characters from Invincible. I really liked the idea of a werewolf as a superhero. Of course there have been characters like Werewolf by Night who have been around for decades already, but despite living in a superhero universe, they’ve never actually been a superhero role, fighting crime and supervillains and such. Wolf-Man looks and feels much like a supernatural version of Invincible, with a lot of drama and colorful villains and the same kind of very graphic, yet simultaneously cartoonish violence. It’s not exactly what I’d call an essential read, but it’s pretty fun if you’re into this kind of thing. I would have gladly kept reading it if it had lasted longer than 25 issues. Oh welllllllll.

Now Reading: Deadpool (1999-present)

This will probably be considered blasphemy to most Deadpool fans, but I really don’t like Joe Kelly‘s famous Deadpool run. Ironically, I always found his Deadpool to be too juvenile. This may sound like a weird complaint to have about a character known for his juvenile humor, but there are different degrees of immaturity. I don’t know, I just find Kelly‘s humor too grade school playground level to enjoy, which is even weirder because I really like his serious works like his run on JLA and Amazing Spider-Man. Aaaaanyway…

Deadpool doesn’t really start as far as I’m concerned until after Kelly, and even then it’s a big of a mixed bag at first. Priest‘s run is decent, but it’s far from his best work. Palmiotti‘s run was readable, but not particularly memorable. Tieri has one pretty good arc, followed by one pretty bad arc. Simone’s run is easily the best of the bunch, but even that has a rough patch when it gets interrupted by multiple guest writers in the middle. This era of Deadpool isn’t the greatest, but the good parts are quite good and there’s some semi-important history to be found here, if you’re interested.

Deadpool & Cable was a much more solid series by the often underrated Fabian Nicieza. While there’s plenty of oddball comedy going on, there’s also a lot of serious and surprisingly complex stuff going on here too. Nicieza really did an amazing job maintaining the consistency of this series too, considering the many interruptions by events and writers of other X-books. He even had to deal with Marvel deciding to give Rob Liefeld an X-Force mini-series during the first year of this series, where good old Rob actually ended up killing Cable in the end, because I guess no one bothered to tell him that he was starring in an ongoing book at the time. Nicieza recovered like a true professional and worked around this, even working the mess he had been left into the story, in a way that felt so natural that it felt like it had been planned all along. Unfortunately, the book continued to be interrupted by events and Cable getting put in an X-Men team by another writer, and eventually Cable was suddenly removed from the book entirely for use in a big X-Men event where he ended up being taken out of play, so the long-running story that Nicieza had been building on for years was suddenly flushed down the toilet with no resolution. Oh well. It was still a good series anyway.

Next came Daniel Way‘s run. Way seems to be a pretty divisive writer (where has he disappeared to these days anyway?), but I’ve enjoyed most of his work, and while his Deadpool ends up being a little more uneven than some of his other works, I still find it mostly enjoyable. It was strange how this volume shifted from slapstick comedy to a long, ongoing series of suicide attempts, but it was certainly different.

Victor Gischler‘s run on the short-lived spinoff title Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth was pretty enjoyable. Good humor, a lot of action, and a visit to the Marvel Zombies universe made it a pretty memorable story. Too bad the same can’t be said for the follow-up, that godawful Deadpool Corps business with Liefeld. Best to not even speak of that.

Cullen Bunn‘s (and occasionally someone else’s) various Deadpool mini-series’ (starting with Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe) are pretty unusual. There’s a lot of shenanigans in alternate dimensions where various alternate Deadpools kill the Marvel universe, kill famous literary characters, team up with dozens of strange alternate Deadpools to fight more strange Deadpools in a multiversal civil war, fight zombies, become a zombie, inject himself into the original Secret Wars, and so on. Sometimes they’re oddly bleak and everyone dies horribly and sometimes they’re just wacky comedic adventures that take nothing seriously, but for the most part they’re some excellent little stories. The tradition is still continuing today with the latest mini, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again. 

And that brings us to the present day with the still-ongoing run of Gerry Duggan (and also formerly Brian Posehn). The first volume of the Duggan/Posehn era has a bit of a rocky start with a nicely drawn, but overly long arc about fighting zombie presidents, but it really takes off after that and has been continuing to run strongly ever since. Duggan‘s been on the book for close to 100 issues now, making his the longest run, and in my opinion, it’s also the best run Deadpool has ever had. While Deadpool is still a wacky jokester at heart, Duggan has brought a great new depth to the character and dropped him in many very interesting new situations of both the comedic and deadly serious kinds. His writing continues to surprise me after almost 5 years and I would even go so far as to say that his run is one of the best books Marvel has going today (and I know that the competition for that status isn’t what it used to be, but I still think it’s true).

In a few months from now Deadpool is scheduled to be relaunched yet again as The Despicable Deadpool, but luckily Duggan is still on board, so I can’t wait to see where he takes things next.

The best of classic What If?

Speaking of virtual multiverses, What If? was an ongoing series that featured a different alternate reality every issue, usually with the theme being that everything in a given famous storyline went horribly wrong, and usually in an unexpectedly dark manner. There were a surprisingly large number of great issues of this back in its prime, especially when you consider how they had to keep coming up with a whole new one of these every month. So in chronological order, here are some of the best issues before the dreaded mid-90’s came along and ran the series into the ground like it did everything else.


image01.png

What if the alien costume succeeded in taking control of Spider-Man instead of being cast off to later become Venom? Well, naturally it would lead to a crazy, evil Spider-Man who gets wrapped up in some wacky shenanigans that ultimately lead to a horrible death and the symbiote jumping ship and taking over Hulk, and later Thor, before finally being stopped. It’s not the most well-written of the bunch, but you can’t help but be excited by the idea of Venom-Hulk and Venom-Thor (well, at least I can’t)!


This is where there series really started getting grim. The X-Men lose Inferno, which results in them all dying horribly except for Wolverine, who wins the bonus prize of becoming the new possessed champion of the demon invasion. He then proceeds to slaughter the shit out of the rest of the Marvel universe, only taking an occasional break to eat some babies. That’s not a joke, he literally eats a baby. COMICS, KIDS!


Next we have another Spider-Man issue (there were quite a few Spider-Man issues, as you’ll see). This time featuring the famous Kraven’s Last Hunt story, but this time instead of drugging Spider-Man and killing himself at the end, Kraven just kills Spider-Man and goes on a crazy rampage, ending with his insanity becoming so great that he actually starts eating Spider-Man‘s corpse, thinking it will give him spider-power. Also, from the look of that cover, he probably teabagged the corpse as well.


Here we have another tale of Wolverine becoming a monstrous mass murderer, this time by becoming the new Dracula. He does this by getting bit by Dracula and then overpowering him, which you would think by comic book vampire logic would cure him, but no, he just kills the shit out of everyone again. Wolverine gleefully turns all the other mutants into vampires and they pretty much take over the planet until Punisher, who has now become the new sort-of-apprentice of Dr. Strange because there’s no one better left alive, has to fight his way through all of them by himself and snatch the Darkhold to make everything better through the power of magical genocide. Yep, the ultimate spell destroys all vampires, so now all the heroes and mutants are dead. Another cheerful ending for everyone!


Atlantis Attacks was all about some underwater jerks trying to bring the elder god Set back to life so he could eat everyone that hadn’t already been turned into a snakeman. Once again we see most of the major heroes die almost immediately, with the only hope left resting in the hands of an oddball group of random heroes and villains. The survivors are forced to fight and kill all their other surviving old buddies who have become snakemen. Then Set himself drops by and says “FUCK YOU GUYS, I’M HANGRY!” and things don’t go too well for anyone. Set ends up being banished in the end by a convenient plot device, but not before he left behind a bunch of Set babies, who end up eating everyone else anyway, making the vampire world from the previous issue look like they had it good.


This one had two stories about Reed Richards’ daughter surviving, one where she’s good, and one where she’s a horrible H.R. Giger-looking monster that sucks the lifeforce out of all her friends and family until her brother Franklin is forced to team up with Dr. Doom to stop her. This time the good guys save the day and there’s a happy ending for everyone! Just kidding, they all die again.


Another Spider-Man one. This one was actually pretty positive, surprisingly. Yes, he gains godlike power, does weird things to his enemies, gives Aunt May a heart attack, and alienates the hell out of his wife and friends, but amazingly he actually doesn’t go on a murderous rampage and even survives in the end.


COME ON! WHO DOESN’T LIKE VENOM-PUNISHER? Oh. Was it just me? Oh well. What can I say, I was crazy for Venom back in the day, so I got excited by anything remotely like this. The story still holds up pretty well today though.


Here we see what Dr. Doom would have been like if he was Sorcerer Supreme instead of Dr. Strange. Naturally, he’s still a complete asshole, but it made for a pretty interesting story, watching him crush his enemies by combining science and sorcery in such devious ways.


And finally there’s this one. Death’s Head II was one of the grimmest, most XTREEEEEME things around back in the early 90’s. He was kind of like what would happen if Venom and the T-1000 had a baby that was also British. Again, his comics still hold up pretty well even now. That brief 90’s wave of Marvel UK books was really good in general actually. Point being, this issue had Death’s Head, Death’s Head II, and a crazy story where almost everyone dies again. Noticing a pattern yet?


Anyway, I hope you’ve learned a thing or two from all of this, like don’t let Wolverine babysit your children,  don’t pick up and wear any strange alien costumes, and definitely don’t summon snakey elder gods to this plane of existence no matter how fun it sounds.

Now Reading: Chew

51A+ZRKzJ9L

Chew is the story of Tony Chu, a special agent who can get psychic readings off of anything he eats. He lives in a world where chicken is outlawed, food-related psychic powers are popping up all over the place, and the FDA and USDA have taken over as the primary law-enforcement agencies. It’s actually even weirder than it sounds.

Tony has a crazy family with powers of their own, a bisexual cyborg partner, a boss that hates him, and a food-crazy Serbian vampire for an arch-enemy. He works on cases involving an alien fruit that tastes like chicken and grants visions, genetically engineered hallucinogenic frog/chicken hybrids, and anti-chicken death cults, and it’s still even weirder than it sounds.

For the most part all the insanity plays out in a light-hearted, almost cartoonish tone, but there’s a surprisingly complex plot tying it all together that suddenly gets pretty dark and serious at times. It’s an absolutely insane and unique saga that I think has been one of the best Image titles of the last several years, and it’s nice to read it all in one shot now that the story is finally over (and all the hardcovers are out).

Now Reading: Guardians of the Galaxy (of the 90s)

Guardians of the Galaxy by Jim Valentino Omnibus came out recently and I couldn’t help myself. This was one of the last great superhero comics of the early 90’s before the godawful dark age of the mid-90’s erupted in a shower of shit, like a toilet that was overflowing because someone tried to flush too many pouches and shoulder pads down it. The original Valentino run still holds up well enough for what it is, an interesting, but slightly goofy look at a possible future of the Marvel universe.

Unfortunately, Valentino ran away to Image and left just about every plot thread dangling. A new creative team was brought in, who wrapped up all of Valentino’s plots as best they could, but it was never quite the same. The series also got canceled with a number of unresolved newer plots hanging in the air, so ultimately there is no satisfying conclusion to be found whether you stick with just the Valentino run or go all in. Oh well. At least now I have the first appearance of Taserface again (yes, he was a real character)…

Now Reading: Crossed +100

Crossed +100 is the story of what the world is like 100 years after the original outbreak of the crossed, who if you’re not familiar with, are basically really rapey 28 Days Later-style-rage-non-zombies. Most Crossed comics since the original series by Garth Ennis have been little more than extreme gore porn, but occasionally some good stuff comes out of it and this is one of them.

Started by Alan Moore and picked up by Simon Spurrier, this story deals with how the remnants of humanity are surviving in a post-apocalyptic world and how the crossed have also been secretly evolving through some complex long-term secret plots. The broken future-English takes some getting used to, though its existence is understandable considering that this is 100 years after the collapse of civilization and modern education systems and such are all long gone.

It’s a pretty interesting look at what humanity could turn into with all their modern conveniences removed and how the crossed manage to work around their complete lack of impulse control in order to avoid extinction. The only downside is that it ends a bit suddenly. There was clearly going to be more to this story, but it was canceled before it could all play out. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them revisiting it and maybe finishing it up with a mini-series or new ongoing someday, as Avatar has been known to do that every now and then, but for now, these 3 story arcs are all there is. While it isn’t quite as good as Spurrier’s earlier Crossed – Wish You Were Here, it’s still one of the best stories in the Crossed world.

Now Reading: Phonogram

Kieron Gillen and McKelvie’s interesting tales of a group of music-based magicians and the music-related shenanigans they get into. Very interesting and energetic stuff that feels kind of like a prototype for their currently running title The Wicked & The Divine. I kind of wish there was more of it, as it’s such an interesting concept that could be explored so much more. Despite the fact that the music they all reference (a lot of 90s pop/punk stuff mostly) isn’t really my kind of stuff, half of it I’ve never even heard of, the metaphors are all clear and the social constructs of one music scene are apparently close enough to that of an entirely different one that all the good old cliches of elitist sub-genre cliques and such are all too familiar. Definitely a worthwhile read for anyone who likes Gillen and/or unusual Brit-magic stories.