You know the drill - theoretically quick (though occasionally rambling) responses to things I've read or watched.
Blue Beetle Vol. 1: Shellshocked - Okay, wow, I really should have been reading this all along. I'll definitely be following along in the trades from now on, though. This and All New Atom are probably the best "in continuity" books DC is publishing right now; certainly the most fun to read, anyway. It's the epitome of fun teenage superhero action, probably the best successor to that early Spider-Man feeling since those first few years of Static. Why did I overlook this? I must be slipping in my old age. And I was admittedly probably too hung up over Ted Kord getting punked to give this a fair shake. But I'm along for the ride now. And the best part is, I already have the next trade - I picked up a copy at a local shop for half-price because the corner was dented. Score.
I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks - I always find it to be strangely gratifying when a book really is as completely insane as advertised. As I mumbled on Comic Geek Speak, whatever substance motivated Hanks to write this stuff, it couldn't have been completely legal. I can see why most of this stuff was lost to obscurity - the writing is pretty offbeat, and heroes who cannot be defeated by any means whatsoever don't lend themselves to dramatic tension very well - but the sheer lunacy of a lingerie-wearing zombie jungle queen or an 8 foot tall super wizard with a penchant for throwing dudes into space and enough specialized "rays" to make Space Ghost jealous certainly makes for compelling reading all the same. Plus, the man invented the lumberjack comic; imagine what could have happened had that genre taken off. As evidenced by the story of Fletcher Hanks, Jr., in the rear of the book, Fletcher Sr. was a giant raging rectum of a man, but if we can all enjoy listening to "White Christmas" every December while knowing that Bing Crosby beat the living hell out of his kids, I guess we can learn to separate the man from the work in this case, too. It's not easy to do, but you really do need to see this stuff to believe it.
Essex County: Tales from the Farm Vol. 1 - You know, I kind of hate reading universally praised books, because I usually seem to end up not liking them and then feeling like I missed something that everyone else got. And while Tales from the Farm is certainly a well-produced book, and certainly an interesting read, I just didn't see what all the fuss was about. The ennui, the retreat into fantasy, the coping with different levels of loss, the awkwardness of interaction... I get all that, but in the end, I come away just thinking, "And... ?" There's a review quote from Kevin on the back comparing the book to Faulkner. I definitely see the comparison, and maybe that's part of the problem - I absolutely loathe Faulkner. I didn't loathe this, and in fact thought it was actually kinda alright, and may even give the eventually Volumes 2 and 3 a read, but it didn't set my world on fire. In the end, it was something I read, and that's that.
Doctor Who: Human Nature and The Family of Blood - Back when it was airing on the Beeb, I read a description of Season 3 that said that it starts of strong, goes through a short lull, and then comes back and kicks your ass. Yup, definitely getting my ass kicked now. This two parter was definitely this year's "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" or "The Girl in the Fireplace;" that story which is not just the midpoint of the season, but the highlight, and not just the sort of story that you wish every episode of this series would live up to, but every episode of every TV show ever as well. Paul Cornell adapted his original novel beautifully, and if anything, he may have even surpassed himself (and though I had my doubts, Martha subbed for Benny wonderfully). Brilliant performances from David Tennant, Freema Agyeman, and the kid from Love Actually, but the real show stealers were the Baines kid once he went all evil and Jessica Hynes from Spaced*, who was just fantastic and heartbreaking at the same time. And the Doctor's final solutions to the problem of the Family? Damn, Jethro, but that's some cold shit. I have some thoughts on that, but that's an exceptionally nerdy post for another day. Anyway, long story short, not just brilliant Who, but brilliant TV period. I think I still like "The Girl in the Fireplace" a bit better, but still, just amazing stuff here.
*And while we're on the subject, who do I have to kill to get Region 1 Spaced DVDs produced already?