My timeline for David Lapham's Young Liars has been updated to include the fourteenth issue, which came ou. Warning: the spreadsheet contains spoilers. Don't forget to visit the original post for some analysis and a response from David Lapham himself.
Even more spoilers in the analysis after the jump...
I'm stealing this idea from John Seavey, who wrote an excellent post about Flash #50 and his persistent love for an issue that he first read in 1991. My affection for "Superboy For A Day," an eight page short story from Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #8, isn't nearly as old. I first read the story last August, when I spent a weekend laid up with an unseasonal chest cold. I read over 500 pages of Jimmy Olsen stories to get through that illness, but this story's quiet sadness stuck with me: in a title memorable mainly for its unrestrained wackiness, "Superboy For a Day" and its elegiac tone really stand out.
Written by Otto Binder and penciled by Curt Swan, "Superboy For a Day" isn’t my favorite Superman story – it wouldn’t even make my top ten – nor is it my favorite Jimmy Olsen story – that honor would either go to the loony “Jimmy Olsen, the Bearded Boy,” or the loonier “The Amazing Mirages,” in which Superman builds a pterodactyl out of road-kill and disguises himself as a cactus in order to frighten three young Uranium prospectors. But “Superboy For A Day” is easily my favorite story about Smallville, the town in which Superman and Clark Kent grew up.
What's a Comics Cotillion? Click Here to Find Out.
March hasn’t even passed, but I’m already comfortable in predicting that the seventh installment of air, “The Picture of Zayn Al Harrani” will make many year-end lists as one of the best single issues of 2009. G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker have delivered a fantastical, lyrical story that answers a lot of questions about Blythe’s mysterious love interest, Zayn.
story picks up from last issue’s cliffhanger: Blythe has somehow been
transported through time and space into the body of a young boy, the
10-year-old Zayn; meanwhile her compatriots aboard the mysterious
flying machine are in danger of crashing into the ocean without
Blythe’s hyperpract powers to fuel the engine. “The Picture of Zayn Al
Harrani” spins out both these threads in an elegant fashion, weaving a
tale that is equal parts moving and suspenseful.
Spoilers, as always, after the jump:
After someone on David Lapham's forum pointed out that issue #13 of Young Liars was set in the near future, I finally decided to undertake a project that I'd been considering for a long time: a complete chronological catalogue of the events in Young Liars, using the dates provided in the narration boxes.
You can gaze upon the spreadsheet here. There are, of course, spoilers.
More spoiler-filled commentary after the jump.
Writer, Artist, and Cover: David Lapham; Colors: Lee Loughridge; Letters: Jared K Fletcher
What’s a comics cotillion? Look here for the answer.
Danny Noonan might be the unluckiest protagonist of any comic book currently on the stands. Since Young Liars began, he’s set himself on fire, been castrated by a midget, and beheaded by the girl of his dreams. Or, at least that’s what he’s telling us. The problem with Danny, of course, is that he’s a liar, and he’s certainly not above changing a detail of his past to evoke pity or horror from us, or to cast himself as the hero or the villain of his story.
Spoilers, as always, after the jump:
"A Pit With Spikes," Eggs, Teenbeat 96 Exploder
I have probably spent more hours arguing about this song than any other. My love for Eggs’ Teenbeat 96 Exploder and particularly my lifelong obsession with “A Pit With Spikes” has struck many a friend as 'a little weird' at best and at worst 'a perversion.' I once played Exploder for a woman whom I was desperate to impress, only to have her make me turn it off before the second song had finished. My fondness for the music of Yoko Ono upset fewer roommates than Eggs.
I wish I could explain why this is the case. I understand the looks of skepticism when I break out my copy of Yoko’s Plastic Ono Band, but I’ve never figured out why a lo-fi pop band like Eggs raised so many a roomie’s hackles. And so, when I decided I wanted to write about an Eggs’ song for a Postcard, I decided upon the track that was at the center of so many a debate. Consider this piece one last attempt to change the minds of everyone who ever lived with me in college. Ryan, Bryan, Steve, and Eric: this postcard’s addressed to you. If you still disagree, that’s cool. This time, I probably won’t cover the floor of your room with mulch and plant a garden, but you’d have to admit – it would be an even better prank now that we live hours from each other.*
If you wish, you can listen along on Rhapsody while you read.
This is not a manifesto, but rather an attempt to write the kind of comics criticism that I want to read. I’m modeling these posts on the AVClub’s television reviews, specifically on Noel Murray’s writing about LOST, which approaches the show from the perspective that everyone reading the review has seen the episode in question, and that no one is going to base their decision to watch that particular episode on the critic’s opinion. It’s a style of criticism that fits comics well, because most readers have pull lists or subscriptions and are going to buy the new issue of their favorite series regardless of whether a reviewer liked it or not.
So, I’ll host comics cotillions for a few of my favorite titles. I’m going to start small, with just two titles: House of Mystery and Young Liars. If it goes well – i.e. if I like what I have to say – I’ll add Air and Northlanders. Oh, and you know how the AVClub’s television commentary goes live almost immediately after the show airs? I will never post a Comics Cotillion on Wednesday. Probably.
And there will be spoilers. Onward to House of Mystery #11!
“Goodnight Irene,” Pere Ubu, Worlds in Collision
On “Goodnight Irene,” David Thomas’ voice is equal parts wistful and threatening. He sings from the outside, looking in on worlds he cannot reach but would do anything to touch and hold. In this song, he demonstrates that he understands nostalgia is no different from neuralgia: a condition that inflicts pain upon the sufferer. When Thomas howls in the song’s bridge, ‘Goodnight Irene / I’ll see you in my dreams’, he infuses the borrowed lyric with a sinister sense of longing. You can feel his frustration, the quiet desperation to cling to something that’s already fading away.
Musically, the song resembles Frankenstein’s monster, strange and different styles sewn together into a whole that somehow works and lives. “Goodnight Irene” opens with a riff out of an espionage thriller’s theme song, before settling into a driving rhythm over which Thomas whisper-sings verses about the various self-destructive personas he’s held: a carnival rain king, a king bee, the king of Mars. With the chorus comes yet another stylistic shift, as Thomas plays the arena rock star, wailing a confession; he owns his complicity in his own destruction: ‘It’s my calling / and I’m falling / driven by the will of the wind / I know it / and I know it.’
Thus far I’ve been treating “Goodnight Irene” as if it’s a narrative, but here again the song resembles nothing so much as a patchwork monster: the parts are easily recognized but the whole is something altogether alien. Snatches of older songs – Irene has wandered in from an old Leadbelly number and the King Bee is presumably the same insect that buzzes about Slim Harpo’s catalogue – rub shoulders with references that seem familiar but escape precise identification – does the carnival rain king come from Bellow’s novel; does the king of Mars stand in for Ziggy Stardust?
“Goodnight Irene” is a snapshot of everything I love about the second Ubu, the avant-pop band who played from 1987 to 1993: despite the unexpected juxtaposition of styles, the song sounds like the logical conclusion of the all the popular music that came before it; and despite the lyrics strong claim that the song stands in a long pop tradition, “Goodnight Irene” still sounds like an pop music artifact from another planet, simultaneously very familiar and utterly out of this world.