25 February, 2015

This is How it Ends

A Review of Prometheus: Omega
Part Sixteen of "James Versus Fire and Stone"

I was going to say that “Fire and Stone has been a real shit show,” but then I realized that calling it such terms doesn't do it justice. The real value of Fire and Stone is that it's been a learning experience for me. This comes on the heels of me realizing some things about my “career” (which is a term that needs some bold quotation marks). Fire and Stone hasn't pointed me towards this exactly, but one thing I've learned, or at least one thing that has really codified a philosophy I've been developing for some time. Basically, I realized that as bad as something might be, it's not my job to fix it. And it's certainly not my job to fix it for free. As flawed as Prometheus might be as a comic and as just plain incompetent as Alien Versus Predator is, it's not my job to sit there and think of ways that I could make this better.

Because that's a sucker's game.

And that bums me out. I should be the target of internet vitriol. I should be the one with snarky blog posts aimed at me. I should be the one losing sleep to meet a deadline on a book that nobody will remember in two years time. I'm not saying that a “creator” is inherently better than a “critic” (they aren't, just tell me that Roger Ebert hasn't contributed more to art and civilization than Uwe Boll). I've just been struck by this general sense that I need to do more. Whatever that means.

Maybe I should thank each and every book in the Fire and Stone line-up. It wasn't the straw that broke the camel's back, but it has pushed me. In different ways, each one of these books has pushed me to be a better writer. Maybe.

Anyways, with all of that said, when I found out that Fire and Stone was seventeen parts and not sixteen, I know I groaned. I must have. There's no other sane response to finding out that I'm going to get suckered out of another four bucks on a self-imposed dare. All of that said, this last book came as something of a surprise. Because, Blimey. Prometheus: Omega is really, really good.

Omega is written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, she of Pretty Deadly and Bitch Planet (which shares the same pulpy/political DNA that made up the first three Alien movies). That should have told me that this was going to be an excellent book. Of course nobody told me this. It's nice to be pleasantly surprised, though. As much as Pretty Deadly is most certainly not my thing, she is a writer with a point of view and a set of skills that I like to see put to work. There's also this tinge of liberal guilt in the back of my head telling me that it's nice that women are writing more comics and that these comics are good (I'm currently reading a trade of the new Ms. Marvel run. It's so good, guys). There's no inherent value to that, I suppose, but it's nice. And it certainly can't be any worse than the men who worked on AvP.

Agustin Alessio deliver some solid work as the book's artist. Like the artist behind Prometheus, Alessio delivers a painterly quality that gives the work a level of class that you don't see in a lot of other books. Often when you see this style of work in a comic, it ends up being a series of good looking pictures that, when put together form a bad comic book (the companion to this phenomenon would be when a screenwriter or a novelist tries their hand at making a comic). Fortunately, that isn't the case.

Alessio's work isn't perfect, though. His work does lack some of the impact and the kinetics of Mooneyham had on Predator (a very different book, but one with a steady hand behind the art). Yet, conversely, therein lies its strength. His work isn't fantastical. It isn't showy. It's grounded and it gives the story the kind of weight that a horror (or adventure) story like this should have. The world of Prometheus: Omega looks less like a comic version of an alien planet than it does an alien planet. Tonally, it shares the most similarities with Patric Reynolds's work, which couldn't look more different stylistically.

I like it a lot is what I'm saying. I'm sorry I lack the vocabulary for writing about art. I should work on that.

MUTANT OF THE WEEK: Dare I say. . . It's Elden.

That's right. Elden: My Most Hated of Characters. Elden the Abomination. Elden the Plot Device That Just Won't Die. Elden the Least. He's kind of great in this. As listless and silly as he's been in the hands of other writers, DeConnick actually manages to put him into the right place at the right time and turn out a corker of a story.

As I say this, keep this in mind: There is a mutant mountain full of alien juice that the team has to escape from. Elden, for his achievements in this book, is cooler than a living piece of the planet- Cooler than an actual xenomorph as defined in the dictionary.

Then again, Elden's final scene is him becoming a Giger tapestry. How can anything in the world compete with that?

Nothing to do with the topic at hand.
I'm just excited for this movie.
After a long spell in the cold, it's a relief that I can give Prometheus: Omega FIVE OUT OF FIVE CHESTBURSTERS. It's nice to see something this well put together cap it off the only miniseries event that I've ever partaken in. I'm glad it's over, but I'm also glad for the few highlights cut inbetween the crap. Omega is a rare beam of light.

As a stand alone comic it also works. It's well written. It's funny. It's weird. It's good looking. Like Predator, it's everything a comic book should be and, even better, it's everything this particular comic should be.

If you have any affection at all towards Prometheus, Aliens, Predator, or any combination there of, this is a comic you should pick up. Or you should just pick it up because Kelly Sue DeConnick is a talented lady who deserves your adoration and dollars. If Fire and Stone only provided her (and the team on Aliens and on Predator) a forum for more people to see them, then perhaps it was worth it.

Perhaps. . . 

You can read all of "James Versus Fire and Stone" here! There! It's all there! Read it!
Alien Versus Predator #4
Predator #3
Aliens #4
Prometheus #4
Alien Versus Predator #3
Aliens #3
Predator #2
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislingbury is basically over it.

22 February, 2015


Predator #4 Review
Part Fifteen of James Versus Fire and Stone

I can't believe I've made it. I can't believe we made it. I can believe that I'm this late, though. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. In reality, this whole thing. . . Well, I guess I'll get a little more meditative when I review Prometheus: Omaga. . . Whenever it is that I get around to that one.

Back when iFanboy* had a website complete with writing one of the running gags, or complaints, really, was that it was hard to write things about good books week in and week out. There was Brubaker's run on Captain America. There's books like The Walking Dead (which they read in different formats, but still). Even now they still kind of go on about how it's hard to say new things about books that are continually good (Batman under the tutelage of Scott Snyder and Greg Capulo comes to mind)

I always saw that as a lack of creativity. Or will. Some kind of intellectual cowardice. Well, I'm here to say that I'm an asshole. It's hard to say more good things about Predator #4.It's just a solid book. It's fun. It's funny. It looks good. It feels good in a way that I cannot quite quantify. It's possible that it isn't the most intellectual stimulating book on the market, but I bet a lot of smarter books don't also have an alien big game hunter getting into a fist fight with a living god. If you like Predator, then go buy this book. Go read it at your local library. Just do something, will you?

It ends in a stronger way that any of the other books have. A solid portion of my good feelings towards the ending is down to this being an otherwise excellent book. So, if the ending is open-ended or incomplete in some way, oh well. The rest of it was fun as hell. In the end we get the journey and the destination. Good for Predator.

Also, shouldn't it be enough that something doesn't make people feel bad about things? That's an art, right?

If you want to imagine what this book is in my brain, it's Christopher Mooneyham and Joshua Williamson doing donuts in the school parking lot while everyone else from Fire and Stone looks on in frustration, trying to finish their assignments (not sure if Sebela and Olivietti can see it from the special education building down the way, but they can definitely hear those sweet, sweet donuts getting pulled). That's what it is. Imagine two bros pulling donuts in a parking lot forever. That's Predator: Fire and Stone.

Fuck it: I give Predator #4 FIVE OUT OF FIVE CHESTBURSTERS. I love it. It excites me. There's something about taking a thing as silly as a Predator/Prometheus/Alien crossover and taking it just serious enough to crank out a fun book. Go read it. Contrary to my whining about the BOOK WHICH SHALL NOT BE NAMED, this is the type of thing you should support. It's not high art, but it doesn't need to be. It's a genre piece that works and, since we're all friends here, I'm not afraid to say this: Sometimes that is as good as you need to be.

You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Alien Versus Predator #4
Predator #3
Aliens #4
Prometheus #4
Alien Versus Predator #3
Aliens #3
Predator #2
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

*Gee, I sure mention iFanboy a lot. Probably because it's one of the few sources of comic opinions that I've listened to over the past eight years. And it's not like I'm going to link my friend Joe's opinion or a back issue of Wizard or something, appealing as that might be to everyone. . .

James Kislingbury is a writer, a podcaster, and a survivor. You can follow his show here. You can donate to his endeavors here. Or you can just hire the poor bastard. Have you seen how skinny he is? He can't be eating well.

15 February, 2015

As an Expert in Lesbian Pulp Novels. . .

As an antidote to the unfortunate macho postering of Nick Pizzolotta's Galveston I picked up Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt.

I don't know what you've heard, but this Patricia Highsmith character can write the hell out of a book. And I don't care who knows it! Even though it isn't a book about murder or sociopaths (I think there's only one possible sociopath in the book), it still managed to keep my attention. But that doesn't need to be said. The book claims to be a "masterwork" right on the cover. It also claims that Nabokov ripped it off for Lolita in the same sentence so, like a lot of my criticism, I don't see the need in taking on The Price of Salt from the front.

What I'm impressed most by is the importance of correspondence in the novel.

To a person who has sent, maybe, three personal letters in his his entire life, to see this many people send this many letters over this many miles is utterly foreign to me. Reading about mercenaries in Africa or Nazi hunters makes more sense to me, is more familiar to me, than to send a letter to somebody on vacation not knowing where exactly they are. I mean, who forwards letters? Who has the time for that?

And that's what most of the last third of the novel is about. As much as it's about bouncing around the USA in a car (something I am deeply familiar with), it's also about people's words bouncing back and forth to each other. Entire relationships are formed and dissolved based on what people write in letters. This also means that most of the "action" in the book is based around people stopping what they're doing, sitting down, and processing what other people are saying. It's an interesting way to tell a story and it speaks to Highsmith's skill that she manages to ring this much enjoyment out of an idea that sounds so tedious on paper.

I suppose that's the other thing I am impressed by. I am impressed by how much nothing happens in this book. And I mean nothing. Long stretches of it. Not that it's a bad thing. Highsmith has a wonderful grasp of the English language, and like my favorite authors, she has a beautiful handle on the inner workings of human beings. As much as I love procedural novels and books about people moving through the motions, I also love how this book seems to be about people going on about their day. Going to work. Going to a bar. Writing a letter. Then, POW, a gun and lesbians sleeping with each other are introduced within the span of ten pages. It's like it was making up for lost time.

I guess there's also a learning experience in the doomed relationship of Richard and Therese, but that's another entry for another day.

Also, what's that title actually supposed to mean? I haven't felt this confused about a book's title since The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. As a title Carol makes more sense and even then that title doesn't exactly tell me anything.

James Kislingbury is a writer, a podcast, and an aspiring set designer.

11 February, 2015

In Which I Finally Crack

Or “Well, that got out of hand quick”
A Review AvP #4
Part Fourteen of "James Versus Fire and Stone"

The nightmare is over. We have reached the end of the tunnel and there is light. Alien Versus Predator did not bury us, but sometimes I wish it had.

In many ways AvP #4 is worse than I could have imagined. The one-liners seem to have been written by a child. The art is lazy and muddy in new and stupid ways. The story. . . well, it actually makes sense, so there's that. Yet, despite all of this it's also the funniest released so far. AvP #4 is the issue in which is has passed through the vortex and emerged on the other side as “So Bad It's Good,” as opposed to “So Bad It Should Be Sealed Away in a Vault Forever and Ever.” Congrats, Sebela and Olivetti. You did it.

All that said, don't buy this run of Aliens Versus Predator. Don't read it. Don't even think about it. Speak not its name. Know not its horrors. With all of that said, I have this horrible feeling in the back of my head that tells me that my life is going to be ironically saved by this final issue somehow, and, honestly,, I don't know if death is better.

“Consumer” is an ugly word, isn't it? I'm no communist, but it is certainly revealing of what the people in charge of production think of us, doesn't it? What do you do? Do you enjoy? Do you ruminate? Do you meditate? Do you absorb? No. You consume. It's a reduction of a human being to a medium that moves money.

It's part of a trend, or at least a change in our perception of what art is. It's a devaluing of what it is. You see it all over and, unlike being a consumer, you actually see

I guess it's probably always been this way. I mean, how old is that "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" essay? Gotta be pushing a hundred, right? The modern twist is that we seem to have accepted just how crappy things can be. This is a crappiness not thrust upon us, but a crappiness we have taken into our hearts.

You see this with how we watch TV. We don't watch it any more, we "binge watch." It's depressing. Besides it taking its terminology from one of the more decadent mental dysfunctions we've drummed up as human beings-- is that it has helped eliminate the idea that we should pause and take any time to think about anything. Want to think about what this means for Walt and Skyler's relationship? Maybe? Fuck it, put the next one on. There's no breathing room. There is no time for (Japanese word for “breathing room”). There's just non-stop noise. A wall to wall assault on the senses

What'd you do with Breaking Bad? I consumed it. Great. I'm sure that's what Vince Gilligan and everybody wanted you to do with their art. Then again, maybe they did. I'm sure the paycheck doesn't look any different.

It is as though, at some point, we all watched They Live, smiled, nodded, and then put on another episode of Friends (now on Instant Watch!). Sometimes, some of us need a Trashcan of Reason to the head. I paw through AvP, desperately trying to make sense of it, and I think that Trashcan has finally arrived at my head.And if you're not a consumer, it's not like you get upgraded. Instead, what are you? You're a fan. Great!

“Fan” is an equally ugly little word. It comes from fanatic. I supposed being a fanatic of Transformers is a vertical move away from the type of cave dweller that flies planes into buildings, but the connotation is there. I mean, nobody likes fanatics, do they?

I look at Aliens Versus Predator, and the trend our media is stuck in in general and I think “God. Can't we do better than this?” We're science fiction nerds. We supported Star Trek and Richard Matheson and Harlan Ellison and Kurt Vonnegut. We watched Twilight Zone when it was more than just a marathon on Thanksgiving Day. We believe in ideas. We like weird shit. Now what do we foam at the mouth at? A Jurassic Park sequel? Another Disney movie based on a ride (based on a retro-future)? Is this the future we were building for ourselves? Do we somehow deserve this?

The depressing capper on all of this is a realization I had about Steven Spielberg. Twenty-some years ago he made Jurassic Park. If he was an up and coming film maker today, he would be relegated to a Jurassic Park reboot. Or a fucking monkey movie reboot sequel and you fucks think you're going to break me? And, yeah, most of those movies are fine, some better than fine, but, really, what would you rather have? Jurassic Park or another Jurassic Park sequel?

So Dark Horse pumps out bullshit like Aliens Versus Predator and it sells. And it has for decades. To quote a film executive in the early 90's, “I could piss on a wall for two hours and call it Alien 3 and it would make sixty million dollars.” Names sell. Divorced of even its source, we still lap it up and, why? Because we're consumers. We're fans. It's what they expect of us because it's the easy thing to do. And, fuck that. It's a marketing strategy that takes us for saps.

But there's hope. There are people doing right by us, people that aren't looking for another inch of flesh to fuck us in. In comics we have Jonathan Hickman, for one. Between East of West and Manhattan Projects, he's making some of the craziest, most interesting sci-fi out there (and that isn't to mention his work for Marvel, of which I have only read Agents of SHIELD, which was, well, a book of questionable quality and purpose). He's a man who is swings for the fences and connects most of the time. He's a writer who is worth spending some time with.

Then there's Matt Fraction, Fionna Staples, Grant Morrison, Ales Kot, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Brian K. Vaughn. John Arcudi, Guy Davis, and Mike Mignola are still doing their crazy apocalytic stuff with Hellboy and the BPRD with the same publisher that shoveled AvP out into the street. There's also Brandon Graham and his legion of artist and writer collaborators, who are playing DM with the Prophet license (proving that you can take a terrible license and make it into something wonderful). Hell, if we want to let Brian Wood back out of the cold, he's doing some solid work with The Massive. Then there's the legion of small publishers and indie artists doing their thing under the radar. It's not all gloom.

Now that I think about it, if you're into that sort of thing, even licensed comics seem to be pretty good nowadays. So, I don't know. There's hope. We just have to accept it. As consumers, as fans, as binge watchers, it's up to us to us to determine what the marketplace looks like. Or, god forbid, a gallery space. What's the Against Me lyric? "Be the bands you want to hear."

Overall, I look at the way we look at art and the way it's presented to us is done so in the most crass, disposable fashion. We aren't aficionados. We're consumers. Or we're fans. We don't appreciate thing. We binge on it. And we are expected to move on to the next thing. I don't think that's the way to look at good art and I don't think that it's the way we should be looking at art. Like I said, we're better than that.

Life is short and miserable enough without going out of your way to fill it with bad stuff. It's an exhausting way to live. That's the only lesson I think I can impart to you: Seek out the things you love and go love them. Try to make sure that the things you fill your life with and spend your money on aren't crass and disposable. You're better than that. Unless you just want to live in garbage, because the universe will always find a place for simple people with too much money in their hands.

What does AvP #4 get? ONE OUT OF FIVE CHESTBURSTERS. It's barely a book. It's barely a story. It's terrible. Read anything else, because the odds are good that even if it sucks, it'll be better than this piece of shit. The only pleasure I got from the book was when it was done. And even that was tinged with annoyance.

Ack. I need a musical break.

You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Predator #3
Aliens #4
Prometheus #4
Alien Versus Predator #3
Aliens #3
Predator #2
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislingbury is a writer and a podcaster and a big game hunter. If you like what you read, you can support his podcasting endeavors by going to his Patreon. Or don't. Whatever. Be that way.

02 February, 2015

A Good Old Child Murder Picture

I want this movie. Dracula accents and all. I want this bad.

I've been meaning to read Child 44 for years. It looks like a movie adaptation is going to have to do for the time being.

This also reminds me of a movie I watched in a high school class called Citizen X. Why I watched it in class, I haven't the foggiest (I can't even remember what class it was. Senior religion?). It is notable for two reasons: A) It has Max Von Sydow and that's always a good reason to show up, and B) It's pretty good. I guess the third reason should be "It has echoes of Child 44."Oh, and the fourth reason is look how smart I am for connecting things with other things! Give me some money!

The thing I remember most distinctly is that the film ends with a positive note: The Soviet Union breaking up, and, presumably, without the Communist Party running the show good men will actually be able to get things done. It's projected that this is going to be a time of optimism and that the worst is behind us. While, the breaking up of the USSR is a fantastic thing, it's kind of funny to think that, at some point, we thought everything was going to be okay with Russia once we got rid of that pesky politburo. Oh, the 90's. Your hope almost seems cute.

What was I saying? Oh, yeah. Child 44. Let's do this. Any excuse to listen to more Gary Oldman chewing scenery with a Russian accent is a good excuse.

James Kislingbury is a podcaster, a writer, and a friend of workers everywhere.

27 January, 2015

684 Words About Rashomon

I watched Rashomon for the first time since college last night, and I noticed somerthing about it that I never ntoiced before. Back then I probably wasn't looking for it. But seeing it now, wit h a college degree under my built and maybe a more open mind about movies and maybe even a more refined palette, I saw it differently. I mean, it's also a great film, which helps. It's a lot harder to muse about a feature when it's trash, you know?

You know, a date movie.
For me Kurosawa was my gateway into world cinema. After him came Herzog, Bergman, Godard, and Renoir and all of these other greats (and Godard). He also came along with me discovering indie directors like Jarmusch and Smith and Tarantino. They showed me that there was more to foreign films than anime and kung fu, and that there was more to movies than Schwarzenegger action flicks (though, those are pretty great too). But, it all started with Kurosawa.

Rashomon is probably one of the well criticized movies in history. It has the distinction of being the first big Japanese film to hit the west (winning a Golden Lion the Venice Film Festival, as well as an Academy Award), as well as being Kurosawa's breakout film outside of Japan. It's well trod ground and I won't waste too much of your time telling you why you should see one of the best films ever made from a man that is maybe the best director of all time.

Now, with that said. . .

Even his sweat is a better actor than everyone else!
There is one aspect of Rashomon that is close to my heart. Watching it again, the film's structure stands out to me the most. I don't mean the multi-layered narrative or the conflicting realities, what I noticed is something that nobody ever seems to bring up. What I noticed was this: It's 88 minutes long. Correction: Rashomon is only 88 minutes long.

The film doesn't feel like it. It feels, at once this incredibly fast paced film, yet it can also be dissected, broken apart, and endlessly gone over again and again. It is a movie full of a vast richness of ideas, that like any great work of art, can be looked from any angle to discover something new. It is also searingly paced. Even its flab is there with a distinct purpose. It's this dictomy that is indicative of Kurosawa's mastery of the camera.

In Rashomon, Kurosawa manages to tell four seperate stories, each with varying levels of truth and obfuscation built into them, and still manages to make the entire package entertaining and accessible. It isn't showy. It isn't pretentious. It doesn't revel in its modernism or its form. It's just a story. A really, really good story.

Takashi Shimura upon hearing Tarantino's next film
will be 187 minutes long.
As much as we need the David Leans and the Paul Thomas Andersons of the world, cinema also needs its Clint Eastwoods and its John Hustons. It needs people that can tell concise stories with skill as much as it needs guys who know how to use an elephant in a scene (Peter Jackson used to be both of these people, now he's some kind of a dwarf-fixated sexual deviant). Bigger doesn't always mean better, though, in Kurosawa's case, sometimes it does. I mean, Rashomon is a masterpiece at 88 minutes and Seven Samurai is one at 207. So, I don't know, maybe even that isn't so cut and dry.

I'm a Kurosawa fan. While others have their Hitchcocks or their Truffauts or their Scorceses, I have my Kurosawa. As much as I associate him with a certain rose colored part of my history, it's films like Rashomon that remind me why that is. He sticks with me because he's a great artist and he's a great artist in so many different ways. As skilled as he was with the three-hour spectacular, he was also capable of paring down his films into these perfect, 90 minute packages. It's like finding out that your favorite painter was as good at panoramas as he was at portraiture. Rashomon being 90 minutes long also dovetails nicely into my belief that 90 minutes tends to be the perfect length of a film, but let's just ignore that for the time being, shall we?

James Kislingbury writes, podcasts, and does not live by the sword, but might just die by it. You can also partially fund his creative endeavors by going to his Patreon.

20 January, 2015

The Predliest Game

A Review of Predator #3
Part Thirteen of "James Versus Fire and Stone"

There isn't much more to say about this book that I haven't said already. It's like a good AC/DC album. Do you like what AC/DC does? Well, issue #3 is another AC/DC album. Go buy it because you like good things. Instead, this week, I want to talk about the Predator movies.

As a kid Predator sits alongside The Terminator, Aliens, MIA, and First Blood: Part II. It was part of the canon that I gradually built up over the years watching action movies on a Saturday afternoon. As such, it digs deep into my cache of nostalgia. As such, it's one of these great action movies of a certain era. But, then, I turned eleven. And then twelve and then, at some point, I was poisoned by film studies and here I am, three hundred dollars deep in Bunuel films. And I don't know that Predator is as great of a film as I remember it.

In the cold light of day Predator lacks a certain something that other action movies of the era have. Die Hard has more high moments and it actually manages to be about something. The Terminator is a movie that has a lot going on with it thematically. Even First Blood: Part II (and MIA 2) is about something that is in the public consciousness. Predator, though? It's The Deadliest Game with a monster and muscles instead of characters. It's a lot of violence and special effects concealing the fact that it isn't a movie about anything more than violence and special effects (and that awesome score).

But it still stands out there on it's own as a film of some importance. I mean, it still has comics and sequels and over priced statues coming out with its name over twenty years later. Why? Why any of it? Why these sequels? Why these movies? What is it about this aesthetic that survives? Why does Enemy Mine and Outland  and even Blade Runner languish, yet Predator keeps on chugging along?

Well, it's kind of obvious: It's Arnold Schwarzenegger. Between the years 1985 and 1998, he was the coolest man in the world. And, at the time, perhaps the coolest man of all time. I re-watched Terminator 2 fairly recently and remembering just how important Arnold was to pop culture in the early 90's is staggering. He's a titan in a way that movie stars just are not any more. He isn't an actor, he's a movie star.

And he fucking sells the shit out of Predator. I talked about this when I reviewed Lone Survivor, but commandos in movies don't look like how commandos look in real life. But Schwarzenegger looks like our idea of a commando. He looks like the type of guy who could hike a hundred miles through a jungle to kill a narco-state dictator and then hike another hundred miles out. And that type of guy is a greased up, Austrian adonis. Him, along with the bulging, oiled up hulks that make up the rest of his cast, the movie somehow manages to work. At least, it works far better than it should.

Now, Predator 2, there's a movie I don't remember much of. I know that it's tinged with racist imagery. I also know that it was the first time my friend and I paused a movie to see a woman's vagina (or, more likely, a merkin). It also has a few set pieces that are really pretty solid. Outside of that, I don't know. Danny Glover? Really? Also, it is fun to watch a movie about what a gang infested hell hole that LA was. A certain part of me is sad that that image of Los Angeles has been lost to time. I mean, even the LA River is kind of nice now. How the hell is a Predator supposed to operate in an atmosphere like that? There's probably a fucking artisinal handbag store where Predator scored his first kill in this movie.

The AvP movies are garbage without value. They are the gutters beneath the gutters beneath an asylum paved over by good, upstanding public works officials. They are films in that, at some point, light passed through a lens to make an image. The first one was tolerable and the second one, as I have repeatedly stated, is one of the worst movies that I have ever seen. And I've seen Lemora and the first Hobbit movie.

Now, Predators. . . There's a real bummer of a movie. Predator works for a lot of reasons that I have stated above, but one reason it survives to this day and why it had such a good second life on TV was because there wasn't anything else like it. The movie looked great, it had a cool design, an enemy that we had never seen before, Jessie Ventura, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It doesn't all work, but it's a unique movie. That isn't true of 2011's Predators.

We've survived two crossovers, a sequel nobody liked, a heap of bad video games, comics, tie-in novels, and more references to it than I could count. By this time the Predator is not the unique artifact that it once was. It's a going concern. That's the problem with Predators, by the time it came out, it was just another installment in a flagging franchise. It isn't original and it isn't very good. It's just a pile of semi-flavored mush with a name you recognize.

Based on an semi-abandoned Robert Rodriguez script, Predators tells the tale of a collection of GI Joe villains dropped into a jungle, who are then forced to team up and fight, who else? The Predators. Also, some slightly larger Predators, who I guess are bad guys? Like, worse guys?

But, whatever. The movie completely misses the point. Predator was never about the Predator! It was about Arnold! Without him, you don't have a film anyone cares about. You just have special effects (which do not impress like they did in the early 90's) and a bunch of actors and some updated gore effects. That isn't a movie worth watching.

Schwarzenegger, for years, survived just off of being Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, as a corollary, all of his films are elevated simply for him being in it. Is Commando enjoyable without him in it? Would you have ever watched Junior or Kindegarten Cop without Mr. Universe in it? Predator is the same way. It's a cut-rate, straight-to-video film that just happens to star the world's biggest movie star and that one fact makes all the difference (though it does have some pretty killer one-liners, I'll give it that).

Predators has more actors, more special effects, and more names behind the production, yet, it's this featureless, entirely missable film. Why? No Arnold.

Fortunately Shane Black is supposed to be working on Predator 4 (Jesus, is that all? It seems like so many more). As fed-up as I am with re-hashes of busted, old properties, at least this one has a potential to be good. He's a talented filmmaker who also has history with the series. So, best of luck to him and everyone else. At the very least it might help hose out some of the stink the AvP movies have left lying around.

All that said Joshua Williamson and Chris Mooneyham have turned out the best thing in the Predator series since perhaps. . . Uh, well, Predator. I said it before, I'll say it again: It's fun, go read it.

And speaking of Enemy Mine, I would watch a crossover of Enemy Mine and Predator. Now there's a crossover that would work. Somebody get Joshua Williamson on the phone. Wait. . . I'm pretty sure I can do that. Alright. Hold that thought. I'll be right back. . .


Predator #4 of Fire and Stone receives FOUR FACEHUGGERS OUT OF FIVE for its continued competence, it's sense of fun, and it's wonderful art. As much as I am looking forward to the conclusion of this story (it's going to have a Predator/Engineer fight!), I really hope Williamson and Mooneyham carry on with this book. A thousand more years to these gosh-darn sons of onions!

You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Aliens #4
Prometheus #4
Alien Versus Predator #3
Aliens #3
Predator #2
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

08 January, 2015

What's the opposite of a "Resurrection?"

A review of Aliens #4
Part twelve of "James Versus Fire and Stone."

You hurt me, Aliens. You hurt me deep. From the time of this writing, there are only two issues left to come out in this mess of a crossover event thing. The sooner this is all behind me, the better off we'll all be. It'll allow me to clean out the gunk from 2014 early. Well, let's quit faffing about and jump into it.

Aliens #4 is a variation on the non-ending of Prometheus #4. All of the world building, all of the tension, all of the artistry and writing and everything else lands in issue #4 like a paper bag full of rotten oranges. And considering how poorly Prometheus ended-- That is to say how it did not end-- I'm not willing to grant Alien: Fire and Stone the "open-ended" conclusion that it was probably aiming for. I'm too spiteful of a man to allow for that sort of a thing.

As much as I hate to hammer home a point that isn't based on any hard facts, I feel that there is far too much of everyone else's story tied into Aliens. Indeed every book in the "event" suffers from relying on the other books to do some of the heavy lifting. No single storyline is allowed to stand out on its own. What's more is that it is asking way too much of the reader to have to buy four series in order for one of them to make sense. That's a Marvel or a DC move, not a Dark Horse move and I expect better from them. It's not having dumb crossover events like this that made them my favorite comic book company from high school right up until 2013 when Image decided that it was done fucking around and was going to put out every good book in the world.

Put simply, the stories are not good enough. The weak endings are a symptom of an overall failure to craft 

And think about all of the endings of the Alien movies. Are there any of those movies that left you hanging? It might be that I think that because I am such a big Alien fan, but I can't imagine that I am that blind. But I think I might actually be right about this one.

Alien has its final showdown in the escape pod (along with Sigourney Weaver's low cut 1970's undies). Aliens has the power loader fight with the queen (in addition to the whole hive sequence). Alien 3, for all of its sins, has Ripley jumping into the fire and that's an image that survives beyond that film's poisonous reputation (plus, I think the end of that film might come with a certain sense of relief). Resurrection is the weakest of the bunch, but that has the craziest use of a depressurized cabin that I have ever seen and it then has the setting for the first four acts of the movie crash into Earth. Those are memorable images.

As much as Aliens #4 does not hold together as a story or conclude its larger story, it does have a few wonderful images scattered throughout its 22 pages. There's a full page of Russell's crazy Robinson Crusoe cave scribbled with his madman scribblings (as well as an obligatory reference to the scourge of this entire mini-series: Elden). There's also a few pages of the graveyard of Hadley's Hope's survivors that are rather poignant. I mean, at least until the plot crashes back into the pages.

Beyond these few points of interest the actual story that contains these images fails to connect. It's an issue that consists entirely of a mad man having a monologue (and a monologue that reads like somebody needed  to tell the audience something) and then kills that character off for the sake of wrapping up the entire story. Or does it kill him? Do I care? Am I really asking rhetorical questions like in my AvP reviews?

I don't want to dwell to much longer on what is wrong with Aliens. Part of that is because I'm going to unload with both barrels on AvP #4 and also because going on and on about how something isn't good is a real bummer. Patric Reynolds and Chris Roberson has also turned out a fairly decent comic book, as well. They don't deserve to get shit on like I do the hacks that are churning out AvP. It isn't worth the calories. In the end there are a lot of things I like about that and I am going to take those away with me as a fan and as a writer. In that way Aliens and even Prometheus are not failures.

It has to be Hypothetical Super Mutant Doctor. The way the issue ends, Russell (I just now finally broke down and looked up his name) is attacked by aliens at the edge of a big puddle of the black goo. The panel then cuts away to another shot, leaving us to wonder whether the doc is really dead or if he's been turned like so many Cale's and Fiefield's before him. But, of course, he's really just dead. Because of course he is. And besides, the story hasn't earned a tease like that. But a man can dream, can't he? Plus he'd be way better than Dr. Hulk in AvP.

For all of its faults, for all of my winging, I give Aliens #4 FOUR OUT OF FIVE CHESTBURSTERS, mostly because I don't believe in giving half-stars. So, with that said, this is really a 3.5 star book. Overall, I think Aliens: Fire and Stone is a fairly good book, with some great art and a solid handle on the Aliens mythology, but because of its inability to either take off or stick its landing, it fails to become anythng more than an above average licensed comic. It's a real shame.

You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Prometheus #4
Alien Versus Predator #3
Aliens #3
Predator #2
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislingbury is a writer and a podcaster. He knows he'll keep buying AvP comics no matter what and he would murder the world to see it stop.

04 January, 2015

Shove These Downtown Abbey Season 5 Scoops Down Your Gullet!

Here we are again. Another January another season of Downton Abbey. With that comes a whole heap of piping hot preview news from America's favorite polemic for class divides! As a man with his finger on the pulse of America, I'm treating you to the hottest details of this brand new season! Can't handle the heat? Then stay in the kitchen, because that's where you belong, you North country runt and you should be glad for the opportunity! I should sick the hounds on you! The hounds!

Spoilers ahoy!
Episode 1 ends with Edith's room being consumed with fire, but fortunately everything is safe and, besides, Lord Grantham let's us all know that Edith's room is "Where we keep the cheap stuff."

Ugh. Common people.
Episode 2 shakes up things even more when Landis, a distant relative of Cousin Rose turns up at the steps of the abbey looking for a few days of rest in the country. Played by Cheeky the Walrus (Lark Rise to Candleford, Bleak House), Landis wastes no time ingratiating himself with the family-- To everyone's dismay!Can the household handle the boisterous antics of their new, rough and tumble Welsh compatriot? Can Mrs. Patmore keep up with Landis' demand for raw clams? Will Mosely recover from his goring? Will Lady Edith's charms finally work on this two ton tub of blubber?

Lightning strikes again when another Turkish diplomat dies under the care of the Granthams. This time ol' Lord Grantham's antique blunderbuss misfires turning Yolga's entire midsection into a pile of human jelly! Will the Granthams be able to pull another fast one under the noses of the Turks? Will Isis let go of the ambassador's femur? Will Edith find love in the pile of human compote that is the former bureaucrat?

Lady Edith realizing even Lady Rose is better liked than she is.
A colorless portal opens up in the back-up pantry. Carson locks it up ater voice from beyond the void begin moaning “Bring us the boy heir. Bring him to us.” Seeing an opportunity, Alfred charges a tuppence a gander. In an unrelated side plot, Edith will find love with a chimney sweep stuck between the second and third floor.

After Mr. Bates' favorite topiary is the victim of a racially motivated crime, the valet finally snaps, taking it upon himself to “cleanse” the county. After arming himself with an array of homemade weapons including a fire poker tied to another fire poker, he will descend upon the township with a vengeful fervor that might be charitably described as "holy."Most of his bloody hand of vengeance will, like so many fraudulent flower contests, take place off screen, though fans will rejoice in the twenty minutes of every episode dedicated to Bates muttering “No justice, punishment.” Edith will temporarily take up a fascination with a particularly handsome ficus.

Episode five finds Lady Mary in a pickle as she tries to corner the selvedge denim market from under the noses of a Japanese firm led by a hyper-intelligent construct made out of a bunch of electric kettles taped together. Penned by visionary novelists and stuff enthusiast William Gibson!

Episode 7 in the immediate aftermath of dealing with the
"Pig Man problem."
A war orphan from the “Irish What-Have-You” will arrive in the form of Elmer the Sheep Dog. But as Elmer becomes the center of the household's affection, what of Isis, Lord Grantham's most loyal companion? She may or may not align herself with Thomas in order to make this shaggy dog into a shaggy dog story! But, Lady Edith might have bigger plans. Can you say "Lady Sheep Dog?"

One episode of the season is just a re-dubbed episode of the original Upstairs, Downstairs. See if you can notice which one!

And, of course, no season of Downton Abbey would be complete without a big to-do at the end! But times are a changing (try telling the Dowager Countess that!). Instead of a fair or a cricket game or even the start of WWI, the ladies of the house jump onto the latest trend sweeping through the inbred remains of the British aristocracy: Hunting men for sport! Mary, Rose, Lady Grantham, and even Tom, that hideous Fennian trot, all get in on the fun shooting, stabbing, and running over all kinds of peasants! First one to a thousand points gets Mrs. Patmore's prize kippers and gravy! And also Edith will elope with Three Toe Joe, the town's least stable toilet wine aficionado.

Other details to look forward to:
* A 47% increase of the use of the phrase “Cor blimey, guv!”
* After four seasons, a character finally gets to drop the c-word. You'll be surprised gets the honor!
*In an effort to cut down costs, most of season five is shot in Toronto, including most of the interior shots. Wonder why Downton Abbey suddenly resembles large sections of the Argonaut's home stadium? Wonder no longer! And keep an eye out for everyone's favorite CFL receiver Derrick "Mookie" Mitchell!
*A co-marketing deal has seen to it that Thomas' signature cigarettes are replaced with an e-cigarette, making him even worse than he already was.
*Every scene will end with someone shouting “Bah! Poppycock!”
*Lady Grantham will be visited by a Martian that only she can see.
*Lady Grantham will develop severe and acute blood pudding-induced schizophrenia.
* I don't know. Crumpets?

Well, that's all the hot gossip (or “sip” as those in the know call it) that I have for Downton Abbey season 5. Stay tuned for next hot scoop of sip when I tackle season 4 of Sherlock (in its new format change, it will primarily revolve around Sherlock's struggle to keep his dad's business afloat, while at the same time struggling to find time to be a single father. Also Watson is Sherlock's neighbor and stops in from time to time to deliver some well needed, if off kilter advice).

James Kislingbury is a writer and a podcaster. Sometimes he wonders what O'Brien would look like underneath a thresher.

02 January, 2015

One of Them Poetic Endings

A Review of Prometheus #4.
Part Eleven of "James Versus Fire and Stone."

As with the passing of the clock so are the days of Fire and Stone. We arrive at Prometheus #4 and with it comes the conclusion of the first arc of the miniseries. Or, it ends, anyways. Let's get into it, shall we?

What did we learn?

Well, I sure didn't learn what "Fire and Stone" is supposed to mean.

As far as the actual title goes there's almost no fire to speak of and I'm hard pressed to think of any stone metaphorical or otherwise. It's almost as if this entire endeavor wasn't entirely thought out. There's no fire, there's no stone, there's just a title that sounds like it would be better attached to a piece of Dragon Age DLC than anything involving the Alien universe.
It's more about blood than anything else. Blood in the form of bloodshed. Blood as a signifier of identity. White android blood, acid alien blood, green predator blood, the black goo, and good, old fashioned, red-blooded American. . . Red blood.  I'm not sure what Engineers bleed, but I'm sure we're finally going to see some in Predator #4. I'm going to guess that they're going to bleed something that we haven't seen before. I'm guessing indigo, the underdog of the ROY G BIV family of mnemonics. Or maybe rainbow? Or how about the favorite color of 3rd Rock from the Sun, clear?

Now what actually happens?

Everything and nothing. Prometheus #4suffers from a unique problem among the Fire and Stone series, which is that way too much happens in the last act. As a result, it's a jumble of events that don't tie together. It's the plot equivalent of one of those party poppers with all of the confetti. Everything explodes and all you're left with is a bit of a mess.

What are the bullet points here?
*Galgo hijacks a ship, murders some folk, and fucks off (which we already knew).
*The new Engineer's ship is actually a storage facility for black goo mutants. That's fun.
*The Engineer shows up with a plasma cannon and cleans house on at least two separate plot threads.
*Everything is fucked.
*Our Space Captain hero is ditched on the jungle planet, leaving me to have to buy Predator #4 (lucky for them it's a fantastic book).

With that said, there is one good sequence in this book. It comes towards the end as Captain Lady and her crew of nameless survivors run from the aliens in a pitch black corridor. She tells her ship mates to hurry up. We all know what's coming, but it's still cool to see Captain Lady turn around to find that the arm she's holding is the only thing left of her co-worker. It's a well-executed, well-thought out sequence that demonstrates that there is some really good talent behind this otherwise underwhelming book.

Part of how Prometheus wraps up reminds me of the pilot of Hand of God. It's a wonderful show (I mean, as wonderful as a show about a rape, a suicide, and a man whose sanity is unraveling as God speaks to him). And I was almost took against it because of how it ended. There was this massive build up to a conclusion, then, right at the very end, it through a brick through your front window and leaves you with questions that completely colors the show you were just watching!

How cool is this layout? See? I'm not all negative!
I wanted more answers! How dare it not give me more answers! Then I realized that it wasn't a flaw in the structure of the story, that was the intention. It was a tease. It's relying on other people to fill in the blanks. That's a problem that I've had with these books from the get go and it's mildly depressing to see it muddle the ending as much as it muddled the beginnings.

Prometheus #4 isn't that kind of story telling. It concludes in a similar fashion, yet instead of piquing your interest or annoying you, it just fumbles it. You're then left mildly confused at the story and irritated that you're fifteen bucks the poorer.

To quote Roger Ebert (forgive me if you've heard this one before): “A good movie should leave searching for answers, not asking questions.” Hand of God is the former, Prometheus is the latter.

I'm reading all of these books. I don't want to, but I am. And I feel like I'm not getting the right amount of story out of these books. With on exception, these books are depending too much on each other to craft a coherent story. Even if you ignore the links between the books in the crossover, you're mostly left

Prometheus #4 can't be enjoyed as an installment in a larger story and it can't be enjoyed by somebody who just wants to read a book set in the Prometheus universe. Maybe I'm saying the same thing twice. I don't know. I just wish that it was better, I guess. I'm struggling to put that into an exact argument.

Dark Horse, you can do better. I know you all can. And hopefully you will next time, because I know my dumb ass will be there the first Wednesday it comes out, picking it up.

I guess it has to collectively go to the chamber of horrors inside of the Croissant. They don't get a lot of face time in the comic book, but boy do I love things suspended in tanks. It's a great shorthand to show how messed up and weird something is. I mean, you ever been anywhere and seen an animal suspended in fluid and thought "This looks like a good place as any?"

I guess it's the alien monkey things. Because that's a really stupid thing to have to look at and write into dialogue, and as bereft of clever monsters as this book is, I am sure as shit not giving to to motherfucking Elden, because motherfuck Elden.

We get an Engineer Croissant that is stocked to the gills with failed black goo sub-species. It's a creepy bit of imagery and it's the kind of wild, unrestrained weirdness that I wanted out of this book. It is something that the book could have used two issues ago (and could have used more than the fucking xenomorphs).

I'm also a sucker for glass tubes full of monsters. Maybe it's just my affection of Alien Resurrection rubbing off into my normal life.

I give the final installment of Fire and Stone's Prometheus THREE FACEHUGGERS OUT OF FIVE. Prometheus' tour of competence finally comes to a close and it doesn't close very hard. At every turn this comic had an opportunity to do something and then it just doesn't. It's not bad. It just is. And that's the ending. Not with a whimper, not with a bang, but with a real loud cough.

Of course, even Ridley Scott can't seem to pump out movies worth a damn any more. Who am I to judge? To quote a chaos theorist, “You were so busy asking if you could, you didn't ask if you should.” Ideally Dark Horse would have waited until the right story presented itself.


23 December, 2014

The Invisible Enemy

A Review Aliens Versus Predator #3
Part Ten of "James Versus Fire and Stone"

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. So let us reach shoulder deep into the barrel of medical waste that is AvP and see what we find. I brought this upon myself.

Another awesome cover form EM Gist

AvP #3 is a return to form of the inaugural issue. While #2 saw a slight uptick with its drunken arabesque of a story, #3 makes me ask the age old questions of “Huh?” and “Why, God, why?” and “What the fuck are they doing over there?” Questions, like all of the great questions, that we'll never have an answer to.

Alien Versus Predator #3 from Christopher Sebela and Ariel Olivetti is bilge. It should only be read by the very strong of will so that it does not taint your moral, ethical, or psychological constitution. If you must read it, keep a sitter near by to watch over you, as you might break down and end up doing something like swollowing your own tongue.

Let's get the happening of the issue out of the way:

Well, bullshit happens. Structurally, this entire comic reads like the third act of an action movie. There is no set up, there is no rising action, there is only climax. Having a story consist only of climax is no easy feat. Even James Cameron, in all of his indulgent glory, is an artist that understands the importance of narrative structure.

With that said, there is no real plot progression. The characters backslide from developments in previous issues, characteristics and plot points are dropped and picked up at the drop of the hat, and it generally makes about as much sense as fecal scrawlings on a Turkish asylum's walls. The most grevious of all of these developments is that the doctor decides that getting blood from Elden the Android and shooting it up is still a viable option. Because, you know, something has to happen in this comic.

Now that I think about it, did the doctor intentionally mutate Elden? Was this just a slight side effect to his main plan? Is he an actual mad scientist? Do I care?

So, in a poorly choreographed sequence of panels, he manages to incapacitate Elden with an Elmer Fudd-level contraption and manages to take a sample of his blood (which, apparently isn't covering the entire stupid space ship at this point) and then, like some refugee from the best Brett Easton Ellis novel ever, takes a shelter in a broom closet and shoots himself full of mutated android blood.

All the while, Elden is stuck outside like a fat kid at a party, begging the doctor not to do it for some reason? He's spent the past three issues (not including three issues of Prometheus) trying to kill the good doctor and now he wants to "save" his creator. Then the sole surviving predator (who doesn't even have a cool scar or anything so I can give him a funny nickname) attacks Elden. . . Because he can. Despite the issue's dialogue actively arguing against this development. I don't know. I'm at a loss.
 The issue then ends on the line "What's happening!?" My thoughts exactly.

Next on "James Versus Fire and Stone. . . "
This story is so sloppy, so undercooked, it's incredible. It fails to address the most basic needs of its characters and their desires. If their motivations are present, they change on a dime. Or they just do stuff simply because the plot requires them to. It fails to establish anything. When there is action or a moment where the plot twists, it becomes meaningless because Christopher Sebela has failed to establish FUCK ALL ANYTHING. Some of that might have been tempered if Ariel Olivetti had bothered to show up, but I've been hammering that point home for two reviews now.

It feels like an issue of Axecop that got shelved for lack of ambition.

I'm so annoyed I can't even be bothered to pull the peel back on this onion. It's a stupid book. But beneath the stupidity there's nothing else. Alien is marked by themes about what makes up a human and what they are afraid of. Predator is dumb, but it has a cool invisible guy in it and there's some mildly interesting allegory going on. Prometheus is ostensibly about discovery the origins of humantiy and, indeed, the origins of our purpose and wraps that in a lost island adventure story. AvP is about raking in piles of stinking, sweat soaked nerd dollar and making a kind of come-hardened igloo of incompetence and rancor.

And I want to believe that there's a way to make this all work. Somehow. It wasn't always this terrible. At least I don't think it was. I love dumb stuff, too. There's a place for pulp. It just has to be done well and I don't know what that means for a comic as undercooked as this one. Maybe Joshua Williamson has got a few ideas.

At least I'm not reading Robocop Versus Terminator.

I just like these toys, that's all.
MUTANT OF THE WEEK: It's still the Frankenpredator. He's still hulking and stupid. But he's a Frankenpredator and he has two crabs wearing surgical gloves taped to his mouth. His hands have also sprouted extra fingers, making the prospect of giving the middle finger that much more frightening and complicated, as well as an Elden-esque shoulder arm that I assume he uses to hold very small cans of coke.

Also the doctor becomes a hulk. I'm going to name him “Dr. Hulk.”

But motherfuck Dr. Hulk right in his eyes. This entire story is his fault. The blind damn fool. I hate him so. I hate them all and I want this flaming honey wagon full of dog shit to finally crash and burn like the abomination that it is.

ONE OF OUT FIVE CHESTBURSTERS for this piss-poor issues and a BURKE YUPPIE VEST OF SHAME. Wear it well, AvP, because the only thing you've done well so far is take money from me. Like your yuppie forefather, Paul Reiser, you have fleeced me. You took money from my pocket knowing full well that your product was utterly without value.

Or, God, I hope you were fleecing me. What if somebody at the Dark Horse Aliens office actually thinks this shit is good?

You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Aliens #3
Predator #2
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislingbury is a writer, a podcaster, and is looking for a solid lead on an MIP King Alien. Send him a line if you got one.

17 December, 2014

Staring into the Abyss

A review of Aliens #3
Part Nine of "James Versus Fire and Stone."

Here we are. Another week another issue of the Fire and Stone mini-series event. Last time it was Predator #2. We're approaching the end here and I still don't know how or why Fire and Stone is happening or why I'm keeping up with it, but here we are. The sun is out, birds are singing, and I hve a new comic book to whinge about. Come along.

Reading all of these comics has sent my brain into a lot of weird directions. Usually reminiscing over pop culture will do that anyways, but there's something about Fire and Stone that has put my brain into a mild disassociate state. This weekend, as I was cranking this out, I began to think about Mass Effect. Specifically, I began to think about it's expanded universe and how I, in no way, shape, or form want to read anything associated with it.

That's strange because I love Mass Effect. The second installment in the series is easily one of the best games of the last generation and is destined to become one of the best games of all time (alongside Skyrim and the first Modern Warfare).It's a galaxy where anything is possible, from asexual gunslinger priestesses to floating jellyfish gunmen. But I don't want any of it. Send it back. No thank you. But why?

Because it doesn't "matter." Because it didn't effect the source material and was only tangentially reflective of it, I don't want to read it.

I guess the first sense of this was sometime in high school, when the Star Wars prequels were coming out. Specifically, I remember hearing about how Boba Fett's origins were going to be explained (see Exhibit A as to why that is a bad idea in the first place), and I remember talking to one of my teachers, another Star Wars nerd about the movies. To me I didn't need to know Fett's origins, I already knew them. His name was Jaster Mereel. He was a disgraced police officer. He made a point of not raping Leia. He can sleep with his eyes open. Don't you people know this? Doesn't it matter?

No, it doesn't matter! Of course it doesn't matter! And it doesn't matter way more than most other fiction "doesn't matter." The Prequel Trilogy is probably a bad example for this kind of a thing as it was lousy with its own legion of problems (link Red Letter Media here), but my point stays. If you stand around and invest energy into a property, there's a very real chance that that property (and its owners) will turn around and nullify the very ideas that you've become attached to. That your love of these things is somehow irrelevant. Or maybe it's just your awareness of how little your purchasing power matters to an economic engine. The worst of it, though, is you suddenly know that most of these stories are pointless, little more than fan fiction.

This must have been how the Gnostics felt.

In the wider world of comics, it's one of the big reasons I don't mess with main stream super hero comics. At some point an editor or a zealous writer or a marketing department is going to come by, wave a magic wand and all of the sudden Hawkman is an alien. Or an Egyptian god. Or both. And then you realize that you've been reading Hawkman this whole time and the joke was on you.

Despite all of this, I give Aliens a pass. Not all of it. Not the bad stuff. Not the stuff in that reads like a car crash of a bus full of fan fic writers and a Toys R' Us truck full of Kenner toys.  None of it will ever get back to the main series. We'll never see the Alien Queen Mother in an Aliens movie. Ridley Scott is even actively hostile towards the AvP "movies." The only screenwriter who pays enough attention to the wider world of Aliens is me and I count only on a technicality.

(God. I would kill for a Prometheus series. Or a Blade Runner series. Hell, I'd watch a Legend series. Just do something with TV, would you, Sir Scott?)

"Here's our Story Bible. Study up, kid."
It's funny, though, as Dark Horse already had revise its fiction when Alien 3 came out. They actively scrambled to make up for the fact that their fiction is, and always will, be completely disposable. In 1989 Dark Horse released several comic books detailing the further adventures of Newt and Hicks. Obviously, come 1992 this was a problem. The release of Alien 3 came with the fact that these characters were dead. In future printings (and SD Perry adaptations), the characters were renamed so that it didn't contradict the movie's timeline. How ridiculous is that? The stories are further obscured by the release of Alien: Resurrection and Prometheus.

These thoughts always come hand in hand with a solution I've been hearing for years: "Make your own continuity." I first heard the idea from iFanboy, and it's brilliant. On a functional level, it allows you to reconcile the things that "matter" with the things that "don't," as well as with the things that do matter, but are just dumb (I think this is how Bryan Singer approached Days of Future Past). On a deeper level, though, that hits on a kind of Campbellian mythological idea. Even now, two thousand years on there isn't a singular vision of Jesus Christ. What chance does Batman stand?
So. There's that.

Aliens: Fire and Stone is a good comic. I think it's solid beyond my fanboy blinders. It might not be as substantial as I remember Rogue or Berserker being, but the story that remains is still really pretty cool. It has space truckers. They die. It has some other weird shit that we have only begun to get into (including possible time travel, of all things). And then, in the end, we're left with a cliffhanger. Everyone is dead but one character, which finally completes out desert island narrative, moving it from Lost to Robinson Crusoe (but with Aliens and no racism).

Plus, besides the story itself being interesting, I honestly want to see if Patric Reynolds and Patric Roberson can pull this thing off. So far it's been a fairly solid book, but considering how Prometheus ended (I'm cheating, I know), I have some serious doubts about the direction of this book-- and of all of the books, really. But, I'm hopeful. And if there's a string that holds all of this rambling together, it's a hope for a better comic books.

MUTANT OF THE WEEK: It's the Alien/Man Blob. We ended last issue with the cliffhanger of the Alien/Man Blob arriving on the scene, emerging from the water like a cat that just wouldn't drown, as if stating to the reader "Look at me, I just wouldn't drown." And I was excited. So excited. This thing was weird and gross and it finally showed the consequences of Prometheus leaking into the Alien universe. And, so in my excitement, I named him. I named him Robert. Because he looks like a Robert, you know?

Anyways, in this issue, Robert finally shows up to fuck everybody's shit up and that lasts for. . . Like a minute and a half and then he gets taken out by some drunk trucker with a spear. And he dies like a buster. Why even show up if you're going to do that? Why tease us? Why titillate me and you know that's exactly what you were doing with this comic book, you bastards. Poor Robert, we hardly knew ye.

We also get another Prometheus Fiefield zombie, which at this point is pretty boring. That shit is done.

I give thee FOUR OUT OF FIVE CHESTBURSTERS! While I cannot gather the same kind of glee that I get out of Predator, Aliens is a fine book. Solid. It's built a world that fits within its four issues. I applaud it and its effort to write a compelling story that has every reason in the world to suck. Thank you for giving me a story that matters. Whatever the hell that means.
You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Predator #2
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislingbury is a boxed wine connoisseur, a writer, and a podcaster. You can support his show A Quality Interruption here.