Saturday, December 11, 2021

New Zeal and Ardor!


I was debating on even posting this, as I won't be watching/listening to anything else from the upcoming eponymous sophomore album from Zeal and Ardor, out February 11th (pre-order HERE). In the end, this is one of my favorite current bands, so there's no way I can't post it here for posterity's sake. Can't wait for this record!!!


I'm really finding myself backlogged with stuff to read these past few months. A lot of this is due to a surge in great comics. And a lot of that is my being pulled kicking and screaming (at first) back into Marvel's X-Books. I'm not reading that many of them, but here's what I'm reading and what I think about them.

I guess I'm going to talk this one to death, but that's kinda what I do with comics/movies/books/music I love. This collection of Jonathan Hickman's TOTAL conversion of the X-Books into something so "All-New, All-Different" took me by complete surprise. In my worldview, there's Claremont, there's Morrison, and now there's Hickman. The House of X/Powers of X revamp eschews zero previous continuity but finds the most bafflingly fantastic ways to give all that tired old stuff an exciting new spin. Characters I've always hated like Xavier and Magneto I'm suddenly fascinated by, and the overall schematic at work here is unlike anything you've ever seen in an X title before. 

No, seriously.

If the cover of that collection I've posted above looks extremely Sci-Fi, that's because the X-Books left the superhero genre behind on this revamp, and have moved into full-blown, epic Science Fiction, with elements of Game of Thrones, Space Opera and pretty much anything else you can think of thrown into the mix. There are very few fisticuffs here - the storylines feel heightened and intriguing because they're all about different characters and their agendas. Plotting, treachery, secret plans and manipulations - seemingly from everybody. All those annoying X-Men altruisms? Pretty much gone.

I'm not going to go into all the plot details here, but if you follow THIS there's a ten-point list that will give you the idea. The list is in descending order, from ten to one. I recommend just scrolling down to number two and starting there. It gives you what you need to know.

Also in these books, there's this running idea of Mutant Technology - not technology as we think of it, but one that consists of multiple mutants using their powers in tandem to form 'Circuits' and garner results not possible as individuals. This is the kind of thing I always complained about in crossovers - the dire straights until the eleventh hour and then, "Quick, use your power with mine and PRESTO - the apocalypse is thwarted every time. Hickman is clearly aware of this trope - who isn't - and addresses it in the same manner he addresses the constant recapitulation of the dead (see number 3 on that list linked above). 

At some point, Wolvie and Colossus' famous Fastball Special is mentioned as the earliest example of this 'technology.'

The Grant Morrison-created Stepford Cuckoos being the first advancement of this in recent years, where five mutants harmonize as one. Five is apparently an important number in this technology, and I'm curious to see how many more examples of this develop in the issues to come.

S.W.O.R.D. is all about the space opera side of this new X-landscape, and although I'm not one for that particular subgenre in prose, in a comic like this, the flavor really hits the spot. As you'll see with all these books, this one is also centered around agendas and machinations, so much so that every issue so far has had pages of classified dossiers included, as we begin to see what an altruistic (maybe) viper Abigail Brand really is. If you don't know who that is, don't worry - I didn't either when I started this book. They catch you up quick.

Also, look at the cast here - there was no way I wasn't going to dig this book, as we have a couple forgotten characters from my favorite era of X-Books included, namely Gateway and Whiz Kid, or Takashi as I last knew him when he was running around with Artie and Leech in the original Inferno.

Spinning out of Hickman's sandbox comes Gerry Duggan's helming the 'Super Hero' genre book "X-Men" that launched at the end of this past summer. The idea is, while the event books deal with the agendas of what's going on with these characters, Mutantdom handpicks a classic "rescue and response" team to help safeguard the planet - you know, since most of the mutants' concerns have gone cosmic. This small team is given a headquarters in NYC from which they can respond to the kind of standard threats we're used to seeing populate all superhero books. Except, even here the book doesn't squander the premise of the larger picture with regular ol' super villains. And besides - all the mutants now coexist on Krakoa, they're no longer fighting one another. So, if Apocalypse, Magneto, Mr. Sinister, et al are all in the family now, who does this new team of X-Men fight? 

So far? A lot of monsters. 

The books have been great, giving us a pretty gnarly planetary threat in the first couple of issues, bringing in one of my favs, the High Evolutionary in another, and setting up someone called Dr. Stasis who is being slowly introduced in a very Chris Claremont plant-the-seeds-slowly-and-make-the-readers-wonder way. 

I started buying this book just for the #1, and five issues later I'm re-reading the issues multiple times. That's true of all these titles - there's so much woven into and between them, it takes a lot of attention to piece it all together. 

When I first saw these ads for the Inferno event, I hadn't read House of X/Powers of X yet. In fact, it was reading the first issue of Inferno 2021 that prompted me to go back and read Hickman's opening salvo. So looking at these ads initially, I was irritated - they used the title of my favorite X-Event from the 80s, and then even made the propaganda modeled after those old Inferno 88 ads. 

Well, I don't know that there's any thematic connection between the two series, but I have to say, my favorite X-Event will still always be Madeline, S'ym and N'astirh's attempts to sacrifice 12 babies and open the gates of Limbo for full-blown Hell-on-Earth, this new Inferno is quickly climbing up to sit at number two on that list. Admittedly, I don't even think there would be five entries on it, as most of the crossover events afterward are lackluster at best. Still, Inferno 2021 is fantastic because it's all about more and more revelations as to just what dirty little fuckers Charles and Magneto are. 

Now, sadly, the one weak link of what I've read in these books is the current "Trial of Magneto" series. Not nearly the same caliber, and hopefully an exception and not an indicator of what is to come once Hickman makes his exit after Inferno #4.


Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
Fleetwood Mac - Tango in the Night
Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun
Odonis Odonis - Spectrums
Boy Harsher - Careful
Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars

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