Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Favourite Graphic Novels of 2014, part 1

Part 1 is striking fear into your hearts, isn't it?

I've been thinking for ages that I should do a few Best of 2014 lists. The problem being that the way I listen to music makes it kind of hard for me to judge albums. I kind of throw them on my iPod, hit shuffle and away I go. It can be weeks, or months, before I hear all the songs. If I had to pick some favourites, in no particular order:
- First Aid Kit: Stay Gold
- Amelia Curan: They Promised You Mercy
- You + Me: Rose Ave.
- Gary Clark Jr: Live
- Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams
- Begin Again OST
- Lykke Li:  I Never Learn

And a few others. My favourite movies were simple. Top 3 - Snowpiercer, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Now my favourite graphic novels....that'll take a bit longer.

I went through my shelves. I have 16 series/books I would recommend. Which would make this an epic blog post. So instead I'll break it down into a few posts.

First, the honourable mentions:

1. Letter 44: Escape Velocity

Science fiction and government conspiracies are hardly new grounds to plough. But through in presidential politics and you have something interesting. It makes the honourable list because writer Charles Soule is dropping lots of tantalizing hints of things to come. It doesn't make the Top 10 because Alberto Alburquerque's art leaves me unmoved. Volume 2 comes out in a few months. We'll see how it develops.

2a. Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick
2b. Velvet: Before the Living End

Under most circumstances these would be in my Top 10. However, Image (the publisher) does this marvelous little thing. They offer up the first volume of most of their series for $9.99. Which is ridiculously cheap. But if you wait long enough, and the series is popular enough, they do these very pretty hardcovers. The Sex Criminals hardcover is coming out in March. Velvet isn't announced, but I'm pretty sure it's getting one. So expect to see them on the Best of 2015 list.

For the curious, Sex Criminals is Matt Fraction/Chip Zdarsky's loving story of two people who discover they can stop time when they orgasm so naturally they rob banks until the Sex Police catch on and try to arrest them. It's very funny and sweet, actually.

Velvet's high concept pitch (which Hollywood seem to completely miss the point of when they came knocking) is that the most dangerous person in the British Secret Service isn't all the make agents; it's the secretary sitting by the door of their boss. Imagine Moneypenny circa. 1974 going around and having all the fun. Steve Epting's artwork adds to the fun.

3. Seconds. There was no way that Brian Lee O'Malley was going to catch the lightening in the bottle he had with Scott Pilgrim. However, in almost every way this is a better book. Funnier, less smug, better art, more confident storytelling and a more likeable lead (the problem with Scott Pilgrim is that six books is a long time wanting to punch the lead character in the face). Katie is a hot chef who makes a mistake and wishes she could fix it. And she can, with some magic mushrooms. But then she starts eating more to fix other mistakes. Things go pretty much as you might expect...

4.  The Spectre: Crime and Judgements, The Wrath of God
It's a reprint of the 90s series of John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. With few exceptions the 90s was a terrible time for comics. This series, even with it's flaws like fridging a female character (a term used for killing women to give male characters something angst over/avenge) in the first book, is still a hidden gem. Not many mainstream 90s super hero comics dealt with AIDS, Wall Street corruption, the genocide in the Balkins, and pollution/climate change.

The title character is literally the Angel of Vengeance, bound to a human host, to comprehend and confront evil. Being bound to an angry dead cop means the instructions get a little messed up. It's also surprisingly spiritual. Throw in Mandrake moody and terrifying art (the only flaw is the frequent fill-ins because he couldn't complete the book monthly for any lengthy stretch) and it really is a nice series. I'm glad DC is digging into the archives and reprinting it, 20 years later.

5. Red Sonja: The Art of Blood and Fire
Yeah. Seriously. The redhead in the chainmail bikini who used to have a terrible, terrible origin (very rapey). Mercifully Gail Simone saw something in there worth saving. The first volume was ok, but I think Simone had to spend a lot of time fixing the character, which made the story drag a bit. This volume is where she cuts loose. Sonja is set up a quest by a mad, dying king to find some of the greatest artists in the world, such as a swordsman, cook, dancer, etc in 30 days. If she does this, he will free thousands of slaves. Of course, nothing is that easy.

But it's not just the action adventure, which is great, but the genuinely twisted humour. The biggest running gag is that perhaps someone who spends all her time in the wild, and killing people, might not smell the best. Plus, no one wants to sleep with her, despite her best efforts. Full of heart and humour, and solid artwork by Walter Geovani, it's one of the most surprising books of 2015.

Next post, books 10-8.

Last Five
1. American Man - Jenn Grant*
2. Boxer - The Gaslight Anthem
3. Murder me Rachel (live) - The National
4. Blue Jay way - The Beatles
5. Daily routine - Animal Collective

Monday, January 26, 2015


So it was, in a word, fucking cold in Iqaluit today. It's January in the Arctic so it's not like this is an unsual event. However, it was impressively cold today, which caps off an impressively cold month. It sank to -43C today. With windchill it actually went to -67C at one point during the early morning hours.

Despite all that, it wasn't record breaking cold, as this Nunatsiaq News story says. We've had colder, but by less than two degrees. Which is kind of disappointing, really. If you're going to be that cold, you might as well get the record-setting kind. But alas...

It's the coldest I've experienced in Nunavut. I think the previous lowest was in 2006, when I got -63C with windchill. That was delightful. As I recall, it froze the transmission of our wee little Hyundai Accent. That was a $3,000 cold snap.

Let's put it this way - this morning I let the car run for 15 minutes to warm-up and it was still sluggish. Normally I get to work, park, plug the car in, and then walk over to get a coffee, then walk back to the office. That walking takes about a minute. Today, I parked in front of the QuickStop, then drove the car to my parking spot, plugged it in and sprinted to the door. And even that 15 seconds outside hurt. I think it took less than two minutes for exposed skin to freeze today.

We were lucky today (knock on wood). The heat stayed on. The car is running fine (it probably helps that I replaced the battery last month) and none of the pipes froze. It's the kind of cold that punishes the unprepared and unlucky. More than one car today didn't start today. Of course, I found out that at least a few of them were due to people unplugging the cars in the middle of the night. Which meant the block heater and battery blankets stopped working.

In case you wondered if there's a freezing point for assholes, it's apparently colder than that. Imagine being out in -67C windchill and thinking that unplugging cars is a good idea.

Schools closed and the City of Iqaluit pulled their water and sewage trucks. I have no problems with that. Little kids often don't know better in that cold and big kids are often deeply stupid about that level of cold. And I would feel terrible if someone got frostbite delivering water to me.

So yes, damn cold. January has seen more -50C windchill days in Iqaluit then I think we saw all of last winter. Bitter, bitter stuff. Of course, people in the Kivalliq region were mocking people in Iqaluit complaining about the cold. It's always colder somewhere. And honestly, I would rather face this kind of cold than whatever snow related apocalypse that's getting ready to smash into the Northeast United States and then wander into Atlantic Canada

Anyway, it's supposed to go to -18C on Wednesday. I should go and look for swimsuit...

Last Five
1. Stop the world - The Clash
2. Dreaming - Goldfrapp
3. The laws have changed - The New Pornographers*
4. Lady Madonna (live) - Paul McCartney
5. Erie Canal (live) - Bruce Springsteen

Saturday, January 17, 2015


It's January 17, 2015. It's currently -54. It actually hit -59C last night with windchill. It's not the coldest I've experience in Iqaluit. That would have been in 2006 when it hit -63C and the transmission in our car froze solid. But it's cold enough to do damage if you're not careful. Skin freezes in minutes. Car batteries get sucked dry in no time if they're not plugged in. Water pipes freeze and explode.

I turned 45 today. I find it amusing in a way I can't really explain that the temperature is colder than my age, but I do.

I was kind of all right with being 44. It was a year of mercifully minimal drama. Forty-three had highs like going to Sri Lanka with a bunch of my friends for a wedding. Which was awesome. I'll remember that for the rest of my life.

But then you have a low like being told by your employer that they've decided to eliminate a few positions because they're restructuring and, hey, you're one of them. Thaaaaat sucked.

But no, 44 offered calm. On the positive side I got to go to Hawaii and Las Vegas. My new job became a permanent new job, which relieves a little of the pressure of, you know, paying mortgages and stuff. About the most drama I faced during the year was when I got a new job offer and had to decide whether to stay where I was or take the new job.

I decided to stay put. My bosses were, thankfully, amused when I said I sooner the devil I know.

Forty-five years old....still having problems with that brain-to-mouth filter.

The only downside is that some of the weight I worked so hard to lose when I was 42 came back. I put on about 25 pounds in the last year. Which is infuriating. But vacations, a few nagging injuries and a loss of focus did the trick. I think I'm back on track now. I'll probably never be back to where I was a couple of years ago. And to be honest, Cathy is ok with that. I was 183 pounds at one point and was freaking out a few people.

(I can only imagine how I must have looked when I was 155 back when I wasn't eating right during my time in South Korea).

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Ed Hollett and asked if I would be interested in writing a piece of his blog. It turns 10 this year. And because my brain works in a certain way, it occurs to me that I had a lot of things going on in the past on occasions when there was a 5 in my age. So let us take a look back...

35. On the upside I was engage to Cathy and would be married in seven months. On the downside I was living with my dad (who is a lovely man, but you don't want to be living with your dad at 35 even if you are trying to save a few dollars), Cathy had just gone back to Rankin Inlet to teach (saving money for our wedding) so I was missing her pretty badly and I was beginning to realize how desperately I hated working with The Express and needed to leave. Oh, and later in the year we moved to Iqaluit.

So yeah, ok, but not great.

25. I was in journalism school in Halifax. So I still have that optimism about doing great things in the world as a journalist. However, I was single, lonely and a few days away from a fairly spectacular soccer related injury that wrecked my life for about six weeks (stitches, followed by almost getting emergency dental surgery, followed by strep throat, followed by the flu) and caused no end of academic chaos. Plus, the rest of the year was trying, mostly unsuccessfully, at finding a job post-journalism school.

15. I was mostly harmless, but deeply clueless at 15. That makes me a pretty typical 15 year old. I just had worse luck with girls than you're average 15 year old. I also transitioned from junior high, where I had friends, to high school, where I had none because all my friends went to a different school than me. So I was fairly angsty and miserable. Typical 15.

5. Was awesome. Can't remember much, but I'm sure it was pretty cool. Things are generally pretty awesome when you're 5. There was colouring, playing, and Lego.

Which brings me back to 45. When there is again Lego as Cathy bought me a set for my birthday. Funny how things come full circle.

Honestly, things are pretty good as I hit 45. I'm content. I'm hoping to shake off at least 20 of the pounds I've put back on. I'd like to continue to make progress about staying out of the "spin cycle" I get into sometimes during high stress moments (where you're so busy being mad about a situation you're in, rather than trying to focus on solving the problem). We're going to Europe this summer for three weeks to celebrate our 10th anniversary and in October I'm hoping to get back to the New York Comic Con.

As for the rest, healthy and happy will do. And maybe to be a little less sucky at updating this blog. But one miracle at a time...

Last Five
1. Complete control (live) - The Clash
2. Strangers - Amelia Curran
3. High & Wild - Angel Olsen
4. Up on cripple creek - The Band*
5. Southern Pacifica - Josh Ritter