Heroes & Villains: Snyder and Soule’s Undiscovered Country, Sienkiewicz, R.E.M.’s Monster

Remember, remember the Sixth of November…because it’s new comic book day! Since I write these a day in advance the Guy Fawkes things that no one can remember anything other than the first line or two is stuck in my head. There are currently no elections in my district that I can participate in so I’ll be doing my civic duty by delivering yet another hot and fresh Heroes & Villains column. 

Halloween has come and gone and it feels like it was a million years ago even though it was less than a week. There were a lot of great Halloween books this year, probably the best spoooooky October for comic books that I’ve seen in a while. Beyond the column, I feel like I didn’t fully engage in the Halloween season beyond a couple of token activities. There were some Halloween viewing mainstays in my library that I completely passed over this year (Trick ‘r Treat and the Halloween episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete come to mind) and I feel a bit guilty for not watching them.

Comics will fix this feeling. Comics fix everything.

undiscovered-country-1_7918cd8e48Undiscovered Country #1
Scott Snyder & Charles Soule (W)
Giuseppe Camuncoli & Daniele Orlandini (A)
Image Comics

There’s always something thrilling when a couple of comic’s best writers who are at the top of their respective games combine their powers, Wonder Twins-style and produce a great creator-owned book. Such is the case with Undiscovered Country, on stands today.

Picture, if you will, the near-future where America has BUILT THE WALL (among other things) and cut itself off from the world for decades. What happens when America starts making noise again? What’s been going on in there for the last thirty years? Well, no spoilers, but nothing good. I will say, however, once the protagonists of the book encounter what’s behind the barrier I thought to myself, “Yeah…that seems about right.” I mean, things have always turned out well for countries that have adopted an isolationist stance? Shout out to Pyongyang. 

The issue is a great read and it’s really a reminder of how great well-executed creator-owned projects can be. A lot of thought went into the concept of this book, the world feels fully-formed and I’m pretty sure anyone could shoot a question or two at Snyder and Soule and expect a lengthy and satisfying answer in return. The storytelling potential for this book is as vast as America itself.

Undiscovered Country is going to be one of those marquee Image books to keep your eye on. It was recently optioned for a film franchise so it’s safe to say there’s a lot of heat behind it. I, for one, am waiting for the internet message boards (do people still use those? God I’m out of touch,,,) or Reddit or whatever to start dismissing this book as “PC GLOBALIST PROPAGANDA.” Soule and Snyder are capable of a lot of things, but working in secret on behalf of the one world shadow government isn’t one of them…. OR IS IT?

bsr01h-bill-sienkiewicz-revolution-hc.jpgBill Sienkiewicz Revolution Volume 1
Sal  Abbinanti and Chul R. Kim (Editors)
Six Foot Press

There are few artists out there more worthy of a multi-volume art book series than Bill Sienkiewicz. So, naturally, I jumped at a chance to get a peek at the first volume of some of his collected works. 

I can’t clearly recall the first time I encountered Sienkiewicz’s artwork but it was most certainly on the spinner rack at my neighbourhood’s corner store when I was a kid. Without a doubt, it was cover for New Mutants and my thoughts were probably somewhere along the lines of “I’m not ready for this yet” as it was like anything I had seen before. There was a chaotic energy to what I was seeing that just shut my brain down…in a good way!

In more recent years, I’ve seen a lot of his work on the “because you’ve interacted with tweets about COMICS” tab on Twitter where he’s simultaneously dispensing great bits of knowledge and churning out amazing portraits. It’s absolutely staggering to think about how long he’s been in the game and how he’s managed to maintain or even exceed the level of quality in his art.

As far as Revolution Volume 1 goes, it’s safe to say that it’s a must-buy if you’re a die-hard fan or even if you’ve had a passing interest in his work. The book also includes a great introduction by Neil Gaiman, an essay on his work, and even an interview with the man himself.   

Since every TV commercial has been reminding me for the last several days, the holidays are right around the corner. With that in mind, this book would be a great gift for the art fan in your life (or, you know, yourself if you’ve been good).


R.E.M. Monster 25th Anniversary Expanded Edition

What’s this? This ain’t no comic book! 

I am well aware that I’ve gone off the map into “here there be monsters” territory by writing about music…but this is my column so I’m going to do what I want with the space I have..and what I want to do right now is write a little bit about R.E.M.’s Monster.

This record was a positively seismic event for me when I was in high school. I’m not about to try and impress upon you how cool I was by stating how young I was when I started listening to R.E.M., by the grace of the cosmos I had some cool older cousins and friends with older siblings so their music entered my orbit much sooner than it normally would have.

While other kids were talking about Guns ’n’ Roses or C+C Music Factory, I was busy wearing out my cassette of Document. Truly, I was not meant to be in public school, I should have been deposited at the nearest coffee house adjacent to a major university where I would lie about the books I’ve read while pursuing a worthless liberal arts degree (which is what I ended up doing eventually, anyway).

For most of high school, I endured merciless taunting over my taste in music. Believe me, it was blood in the water when I wore an Everybody Hurts t-shirt to school…a mistake I didn’t make twice. The general reception of the band was mandolins, filthy liberal politics and a lead singer who had the audacity to be something other than straight. In brief, kids are cruel…tale as old as time.

When Monster came along my mind was blown along with the speakers on my RCA CD boombox. The record was layered with distortion, muffled lyrics, energy, and anger…a lot of which spoke to me as a teen. I feel validated that a band I loved had the capacity to rock as hard as they did at that moment. Foolishly, I tried to convert some friends to my cause and convince them that the Shiny, Happy People band truly did rock. A conversation which pretty much ended with a solid “Naw, brah.” on their part.

On the monster Monster tour, R.E.M. came though my corner of Michigan at least three times and seeing them became my reason to exist. Sadly, I was shot down each time by my parents because my grades were shit and I had to hear about how amazing the show was during my English class the following day. I ended up not seeing the band until they toured in support of Up (the record, not the Pixar balloon movie) and after Bill Berry had left the band.

The 25th anniversary of Monster is available in multiple formats, I opted for the double LP remaster/remix version and the album sounds as good as it ever did. The remixed album is probably only something of interest to the hardcore fans out there, in my opinion. A lot of those tracks sound like demo versions or live recordings and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about them. 

Since this is the record that made me decide that popular rock music obtained perfection in 1994, I think it holds up…but this is from a guy who just devoted a sizable chunk of his comic book column to his favourite record, so your mileage may vary. 

Monster Vinyl.jpg

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