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Hello and happy Friday everyone! I am going to admit, I skipped watching Groundhog Day this past February 2 for the first time in over a decade, and I feel like my entire week has been off-kilter since then. Hot dang, I love that movie. But sometimes purposefully avoiding one's routine and rituals is necessary in order to get a new perspective. So that's where I'm at right now, a little on the back foot but hopefully more appreciative of the things around me. And I've definitely encountered some pop culture offerings that have been worthy of appreciation this past week or so. Let's get...

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Greetings, all! I know last week was a little heavy and I was looking forward to turning things around a little with this week’s column. And then I read a book that hit me in a very deep, personal place. So I’m going to write a little about that book, and do a little more self-disclosure than I am generally comfortable with in these columns, but that’s how much I liked the book. The column gets lighter towards the end, so don’t fret too much; this isn’t going to become “Devin-Talks-About-His-Feelings-And-Maybe-A-Comic-Boo-If-He-Feels-Like-It Weekly” or anything. This week, though, I’m going to start off with a little Canadian content from the man who invented the term “Generation X.”

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Sometimes, I read a book and I feel like it’s written just for me. Something about the themes, or the writing style, or the sense of humour, or something a little more ineffable, just resonates, hitting me right in the gut. It’s as though the author were speaking directly to me, cutting through the time and space and speaking right to the heart. It’s happened to me a quite a few times in my reading life, when a book goes from “great” to “transcendent” simply because I read it at just the right time. Life After God is just that kind of book. And the beautiful thing is, it did it twice.

Happy David Bowie’s Birthday everybody! Yes, today The Thin White Duke turns 69 years old and also releases a new album, which means that later today I have an album purchase to make. But that’s for the future. What about the present?

I’m coming off an illness that wiped me out for the past few days, so I thought I’d ease into the second full week of 2016 with a brief review of some of the best things that I discovered or rediscovered over the past three weeks.

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Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits TPB cover by

Cover to Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits

Over the break I’ve delved even further into my Hellblazer trade paperbacks and have read nearly all of the Garth Ennis run on the series, and let me just say: it’s still good. One of the things that I love about John Constantine is the malleability of the character, the way he can become what the writer needs him to be by shifting slightly without losing the continuity of being. Ennis was the first writer to do that for an extended run, taking the reigns of the series after the brilliant Jamie Delano’s departure, and he cranks up John’s cynicism and rage without losing any of the character’s humour or heart. Whether he’s introducing Constantine to the King of the Vampires, celebrating his 40th birthday, having him cut a deal with the Devil, or having him fall in love with a beautiful Irish girl, Ennis handles the character with bite and charm. And as this is Hellblazer after all, when things start looking good for our boy John, the table gets flipped and everything crashes down around him. Ennis’ run is probably one of the most accessible jumping-on points for Hellblazer, whether the stories are being illustrated by the underrated Will Simpson or long-time Ellis collaborator Steve Dillon, so starting a 300-issue series from the beginning seems daunting this is a fairly good place to dip one’s toe into.

I'm back! And better than ever! Well, maybe that second part is hyperbole. But I am back, which means that I have a few pop cultural artifacts all shined up and ready for your approval! Movies, music, podcasts, and comics. It's a bag of treats with a little something for everyone. Especially if "everyone" includes people who like horror comics, melodramas, and experimental electronic music. * * * * * Hellblazer is a comic with a hell of a pedigree (no pun intended). For 300 issues — plus annuals, specials, and miniseries — John Constantine as a character was fertile storytelling ground for a...

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And then suddenly, it was the end of November. I swear it just started last week, but the state of my apartment and the state of my mind testify to the fact that that is not the case. I have actually had an embarrassment of pop culture riches this week, as for the first time in a long time I had significantly more things that I wanted to write about than I had brainspace for. So here are the highlights: two long-overdue revisits and an injection of musical adrenaline. * * * * * [caption id="attachment_14766" align="aligncenter" width="312"] Cover to Daredevil Vol. 2:...

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Hello readers! We’re coming up to the end of a very busy November, and I am only at 16000 words for my National Novel Writing Month effort, which means I’m extremely behind but also par for the course if my past noveling efforts are anything to go by. When I haven’t been writing – which has been quite often, apparently – I’ve been feeding my brain with art and story, and I’ve been very lucky this week to have supported myself with art that celebrated adventure, creativity, and humour. * * * * * [caption id="attachment_14752" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Cover to Catwoman Vol....

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I wish I could say that this Friday The 13th installment of the column was full of spooks, chills, and thrills, but that would mean that I was planning ahead, and I definitely didn’t do that. No, this week’s column is just another amalgamation of the weird and fantastic things that I managed to fill my brain with this week, including one of the strangest and most creative comic books I’ve ever read.

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Cover for The Maxx Maxximized Volume 2 by Sam Keith and Ronda Pattison.

Cover for The Maxx: Maxximized Volume 2 by Sam Keith and Ronda Pattison.

Sam Keith’s cult classic The Maxx was first published from 1993 to 1998, and though it didn’t revolutionize the comic book industry or lead to a host of copycats, it had a reputation of being a visually stunning and imaginative book. I’d read exactly one issue of The Maxx before this week, and while I appreciated the art style, I found it difficult to understand, mostly because the book is based on an original mythology that I wasn’t able to fully grasp when dropped in midway through. This week I was afforded the opportunity to get digital versions of the new IDW reprints of The Maxx: Maxximized, which reprints the original series with updated colours by Ronda Pattison. After reading the first two collections, I have to say that even though I understand the mythology a little bit better, I’m almost more confused than I was before.

Hey everyone! It's the first week of November! I can tell that not simply because I have learned how to read a calendar but because I am exhausted. Between National Novel Writing Month and the ExtraLife video game fundraiser, I'm getting spread a little thin. I still wanted to talk about some of my favourite things from the past week, though, so here are a few pellet-sized reviews highlighting the best of the best. * * * * * COMICS: Yes, Karnak #1 came out two weeks ago but I've read it three times since then and I'm excited by it every time. It's one of those "Warren Ellis comes...

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For the longest time I was a huge proponent of plot being the most important thing in my pop culture narratives. I became plot-blind, worrying only if the story made sense or was original or compelling. But there’s more to most movies, television, books, and comics than the plot. And while the plots in the two books I loved this week were simplistic at best, the art elevates both to great heights.

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Two columns in one week? Yes, it’s true. Thanks, technical hiccups! Enough preamble. I’m excited and raring to go, so let’s just get into it.


Cover to StormWatch Volume 3: Change or Die.

I’m re-reading a lot of my old comic books as part of my de-cluttering project at my apartment. (Kudos to Danica for being a good influence on me; it only took five years to figure this stuff out.) Sometimes I read stories that I have no idea why I kept after reading them the first time; sometimes I read books that I really enjoy a second time through but realize that they’d be better off in someone else’s collection. Shockingly often I read a book that I like so much that I know I’m going to re-read it at least two more times, and back it goes on the shelf. The best ones, though are the ones that I find I still like, but the re-read unearths aspects of the work that I’d never noticed before.

The most recent example of that is Warren Ellis’ run on StormWatch from 1996 to 1998. In 25 issues, Ellis took an Image superhero property, gutted it, revamped it, gutted it again, and turned it into fertilizer for some of his most interesting and influential comic book works. It’s hard to talk about StormWatch without talking about how it set the stage for The Authority and Planetary, two series that get a lot of acclaim and changed the superhero comic book landscape forever, sometimes for the better, sometimes not (I’m looking at you, Ultimates). In these discussions, StormWatch is often looked at as a footnote, which is unfair. It’s not as groundbreaking as its progeny, but it’s where Ellis developed and refined his ideas about the inherent contradictions in the average comic book reader’s impressions of superheroes, and the difficulty in trying to make a finer world while being above it.