Tag Archives: comic books

REVIEW: Polarity by Max Bemis and Jorge Coelho

Polarity

As much as I enjoy Say Anything (the band fronted by writer Max Bemis), I was hesitant to pick up this comic because, well, the premise sounds exactly like the pseudo-autobiographical premise of their first album “…Is A Real Boy,” which kindofsortamaybe chronicled Bemis’s descent into super-powered bi-polar disorder — except that, while recording said album, Max Bemis was actually diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and locked himself up for a while. But, the book was on sale for $4 on ComiXology, so I figured hey, why not.

While I tend to be the kind of person who connects with comic books more the writing than the art (although I do love a good collaboration), I’d first look to say that the artwork on this book is PHENOMENAL. It’s slightly cartoonish, but not a childish way, and accurately portrays hyperviolence, superhero action, internal mindscape struggles, and hipster culture. As for the story itself, it didn’t shy away from the fact that it was a slight variation on the story that Bemis has told several times already. The basic premise is that Tim is an artist and self-loathing hipster who suffers from bi-polar disorder, and after he’s institutionalized and begins taking pills, he can’t create his art. So he goes off his medication, and soon discovers that his untreated condition literally gives him superpowers. But maybe he’s too dangerous, and maybe there’s a Shadowy Government Organization trying to create an army of Bi-Polar Super Soldiers? Meanwhile, his art is getting better, and he meets a girl.

Overall, it’s a pretty enjoyable story, and while applying science fictional concepts to mental illness is nothing new, I actually think that Bemis does it in a pretty fresh way — by essentially saying that yes, mental illness IS a superpower, but the same way that traditional superheroes suffer from their extra-human abilities, maybe it’s still better if you take your pills and try to function like a normal person. That being said, I’m not sure how this book would read to someone who was unfamiliar with “hipster” culture. The main character spends a lot of the book criticizing everyone around him for being hypocrites and poseurs, and ultimately realizes that he’s just the same as the rest of them. If you’re familiar with Say Anything’s music, Tim’s rants are all basically pulled straight out of the song “Admit it!” As far as cultural critique is concerned, it is an interesting analysis of hipsterdom that I mostly agree with, even if it is a bit misanthropic (which works well in a loud rock song, but feels different as internal monologue).

That being said, I wonder how someone who was outside of or unfamiliar with “hipster culture” would feel about this book. It’s very insular, and some might even say that hipsters criticizing hipsters for being hipsters is THE most hipster thing possible, and while the story does acknowledge that irony (while also criticizing irony as the cheapest form of hipster self-defense), it never quite transcends it. I suspect that if you weren’t already aware of and/or immersed in that post-art-school-Williamsburg-landscape, you’d think, “Okay, so these are a bunch of Urban Outfitters asshole who are too cool for Urban Outfitters and this main character is kind of an unlikeable dick who judges everyone around him for being fake judgmental assholes — why should I care?” And if that’s you, I might suggest that you’re better served by listening to “Woe” and “Admit it!” by Say Anything, which pretty much sum up the book.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

In Which I Talk A Lot About Nerdy Things And Everybody Listens

I’ve had a busy few weeks of pontificating on geeky pop culture things — I mean, professionally, as opposed to the normal all-of-my-free-time that I spend doing precisely that — and so I’ve got a few new articles / essays / thinkpieces / posts / whatever-you-wanna-call-’ems up on Tor.com:

So check ’em out, leave your comments, and then eagerly await the next installment of “Thom Talks Nerdy.”

Now On Sale – “In A Single Bound: Superheroes For Greater Boston…And Beyond!”

Covers-12-150-small(wow I can’t believe I totally forgot to post about this back in April) (yes I realize I’ve been neglecting this site) (I could have sworn I posted about this when it happened…)

I recently published another comic book story, this one with Boston Comics Roundtable / Ninth Art Press and featuring artwork by my friend Jim Gallagher. Our story is part of an anthology series about Boston-centric superheroes, and what’s even cooler is that our superhero “Louie the Lone Dervish” (inspired by Louie With The Tricycle, a popular homeless guy around these parts) is featured right there on the cover on the anthology as well. Not bad for a story about a crazy superhobo on a refurbished three-wheeler!

The comic was originally set to have its debut at Boston Comic-Con back in April, but, well, that kind of got postponed because, you know, all kinds of craziness. So it’s now available online following the re-scheduled Boston Comic-Con from last weekend. You can pick up a copy of “In A Single Bound” #2 over at the Ninth Art Press website, a scant $6 for 36 glorious black-and-white pages done entirely by Boston-based writers & artists.

UPDATE: this blog post managed to make the rounds today, thanks to the magical powers of the Internet, and I was interviewed by Boston Magazine about it. You know, ’cause I’m awesome n’shizz. Check out the interview over on their website!

Good News, True Believers!

I’ve got two new exciting bits to share with you about your favorite nerdy theatre experience. First, The Hive Theatre in New York will be presenting a staged reading of True Believers on Monday, March 18 at 7pm at the Lee Strasberg Film & Theatre Institute on East 15th Street near Union Square. The reading is being presented under an Equity showcase contract, which technically means that they’re all professional actors who probably aren’t being paid, but that’s okay, because hey, cool, professional NY actors! I’ve met with the company once so far, and they’re incredibly excited and supportive about the show. I by no means feel that the script is perfect, but when I asked them about a few of the concerns I had about it, they all pretty much answered, “Nope, it’s great, don’t worry about it,” so, ya know, that’s nice. If you’re in New York, or have any friends in New York, please tell them to come (especially if they’re important agents/editors/producers/superheroes/billionaire philanthropists/the real-life inspiration for Avenger because oh God I want to see his face).

The other great news I received this same weekend (which also pertains to True Believers) is that I’ve been invited to participate in the Last Frontier Theatre Conference at Prince Williams Sound Community College in Valdez, Alaska, which is apparently a 6 hour drive from Anchorage. It’s a week long conference full of panels and workshops all focusing on new works for American theatre, and another staged reading of True Believers will be presented under my adept direction. But mostly, it’ll be cool to go to Alaska in May when it’s not a frozen tundra and there’s only like 3 hours of darkness and then suddenly I’m Al Pacino and I’m going crazy trying to catch a killer and hey that could be plot of my next play (he says, already working on 2 more simultaneously instead of focusing on finishing one UGH).

So in conclusion: The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee was right.

Who Is That Masked Man Anyway?

I have a new superhero identity.

I’m not really sure what my powers are, or if they’d be any use in a fight, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve now experienced the quintessential Spider-Man-esque (RIP) traumatic formative moment, and there is no turning back.

Today on Five By Five Hundred, I reveal my deep secret, the true origin story of my new superheroic identity: Regular Wednesday Comic Book Buyer Guy. A true hero for the modern age.

Read ahead, if you can handle it.

“Origin Story” on FiveByFiveHundred.com

EPIC THEMES (and…some other stuff over there)

Jonathan Hickman is a comic book writer who has mostly taken over the two main AVENGERS books, and has also published a number of highly acclaimed creator-owned books that took remarkably innovative approaches to graphic narratives. But as much as I’ve enjoyed most of his work (especially his Secret Warriors which is one of my favorite Marvel series in recent years), I’ve noticed something…off…about his story telling (Red Mass For Mars and The Red Wing in particular both start off really cool and then…don’t really go anywhere).

Over at Tor.com, I’ve provided a detailed analysis of this strange narrative voice, but what it comes down to is that Hickman likes to explicitly tell his readers about his huge, epic, sweeping themes using marvelous spectacle and narrative devices. Then he finds a plot that works as an excuse for him to tell you about these themes and use these spectacles, and fills the plot in with characters, ’cause I guess you need those, too. And the theatre professional in me realized that this flies right in the face of Aristotle’s POETICS, which have long formed the basis for our understanding of Western dramatic storytelling.

I’ll let the rest of the article speak for itself:

“The Strange Poetics of Jonathan Hickman” on Tor Dot Com