Saturday, August 31, 2013

Heavy Metal #264

So this time was easier, I found the new Heavy Metal a week before I even thought it was coming out.  Hope it's so easy the next time.

Cover by Sperlonga - 4 - This may be my least favorite cover ever.  The cheesiest pose, the lamest outfit, the poorest execution, it was embarrassing to bring it to the checkout counter.  The crotch-wide pose and the goofy straps-and-bullets getup with a cattle skull belt buckle is bad enough, but she's wearing a wristwatch fer cryin' out loud.  I can't imagine how that fits in a Western themed cover.  Sperlonga is such a good artist it's depressing that I've disliked so many of his covers.  The logo has an interesting treatment, with a larger faded shadow behind the fiery orange letters, and the tagline now reads The World's Foremost Adult Illustrated Magazine, a couple interesting differences this time.

Inside the front cover is a public service ad "Reckless Driving is a Road to Nowhere" which has art that's better than some I've seen in HM.  Fortunately, this issue has much higher quality inside than the beginning might suggest.

Animal'z, by Bilal - 9 - It says this is Part 4, hinting that the last three we saw are actually in sequence.  Again the blue-gray and black sketch art entices me.  The storytelling is still opaque but links to previous installments.  Characters interact in mysterious ways but start coming into clearer focus.  It ends with "continued in Issue # 266".  Having a continuing story from one of the titans of Heavy Metal's history is a delight.

Milk Run, by Burnham and Englert - 4 - The art isn't too bad, and there's lots of death and dismemberment (that's ok, they're just Steezers).  The story is about space pirates who attack a drug-running freighter and kill all the Steezer crew, and find the source of the drug is - women!  Naked women hanging from weird contraptions sucking their bodily fluids.  Naturally they convince the women to reward their rescuers with sex, so they never get any clothes on.  Cripes, what dreck.  I thought this kind of juvenile and vacuous objectification went out of style in the 80s.  It reminds me of the HM 2000 movie, and some of the reasons that it stunk as well.

Gallery, by Sperlonga - 6 - Here Sperlonga's ability shows through.  The pinup poses with fantastical outfits are not so interesting to me, but his technique and skill are clear to see.  The Odalisque is the most lovely to look at.

Trial and Punishment of Nathan Bort, by Xalabarder - 7 - Xalabarder uses his ability and imagination to tell a story of sexual abuse and retribution.  I'm not sure how to view this, I need to rethink my perception of his work.  The bad guys get their punishment, but using the images and themes of sexuality and domination in this story of abuse makes me wonder what I really like about Xalabarder.  A full page with an insect-woman hybrid sucking the soul from an evildoer in engrossing but disturbing.  Kind of like some H.R. Giger I've seen.  The ending panel with notable World War I themes indicates, something?  Plenty of evil and inhumanity then too, that's for sure.  Some characters may recur from previous installments, but I still think we are seeing a fraction of this story.

Agent 88, by Millgate and Millgate - 6 - Perhaps a promo of Mr Mesch's creation, a film apparently.  I've seen some f-book chatter about it.  Adequate art with a mindless story.  Hope the film is better.

Iron First, by Cardoselli - 7 - A bit better than last time.  The furious mayhem is a little less pointless and is enhanced by the addition of a couple interesting portraits of the Queen and another pretty woman, and it ends with a fantastical destruction of the world.  I like Cardoselli's art and I hope he continues exploring emotions in his stories.

The Age, by Ozkan - 6 - Another mail-order robot wife story, ending with a cave man looking at a cave woman's butt.  If it was that easy everyone would be doing it.

Tales of Dead Earth:  Helvete, by Christian Krank - 7 - Well whaddya know, another Cthulhu reference in HM.  And zombies!  It's kind of neat, and it's hard to beat a line like "oily black semen wandered through colon".  Maybe it's a series we won't see again, again.

Titan Grave, by Sharam and Woodhead - 7 - I like the CG graphics, but it's hard to see the detail this medium provides when it's so dark.   The story rescues a princess, and wonders who is using whom.  It says Fragment A, makes me want to think there's more, that I don't think we'll see in HM.  It'd be great to be wrong here.

Battlefield X, by Forte - 5 - Lots of guys getting blown up, and an attempt at a statement about the futility of war.

Fiendy, by Becks - 7 - It's such a thin and contrived story, but the telling is so much fun.  Cam-roaches coming soon to a foodstand near you.  It's nice to see this again, wouldn't mind seeing more again and again.

Artist's Studio, by White - 6 - It's just a pile of fantasy pinups, but they're done well enough to be nice to look at.

The Vapor Cloud, by Terry - 6 - Zombies, but this time, they're space zombies.  Perhaps not an imaginative premise, but there's a lot of effort in the story.  It's worth seeing.

Orcland, by Calle - 7 - A monster fantasy cooking show, but no zombies.  Energetic storytelling and stylish art make this an enjoyable read.

An enjoyable issue with more inside than the cover indicates.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Walking with Cthulhu

In HM #262, Richard Caldwell's The Lottery Party mentions this book, "Walking with Cthulhu - H.P. Lovecraft as Psychogeographer" by David Haden.  I sought it out and found the author offered it for free in a secured .pdf on his website.  I got it and read through it and thought I'd mention it here.

The book discusses H.P. Lovecraft's time in New York City.  I only know Lovecraft from HM references, such as the H.P. Lovecraft themed issue October 1979, and a couple other stories like "Rats in the Walls" by Corben in March 1999, (and the deified monster Uhluhtc in Den).  I was aware of his reputation as a writer, but I don't know his work well.

The book is written for those with a much deeper interest in Lovecraft and his history.  It makes plain its focus on his time in New York and speculation on how the environment affected his work.  It presumes a depth of interest and knowledge of Lovecraft in the reader that I don't have, and I was often lost in the references to other work and other studies of his life and letters, and the footnotes upon footnotes, sometimes taking more of the page than the text itself.  I admit it's a bit amusing to me the level of devotion demonstrated by the author and other Lovecraftian scholars, but my interest in the even more obscure and trivial Heavy Metal is certainly no more noteworthy.

David Haden has produced several other works, including others about Lovecraft.  I did admire his effort and diligence in seeking his resources and researching his subject.  There are many interesting connections he attempts with the field of "psychogeography", apparently the study of effects of location on the psyche, as well as other work and movements.  Frank Boas, surrealism, the Situationalists, the occult, and comic books, are all wound in.

What interested me most was descriptions of New York in Lovecraft's time.  NYC only became more interesting to me when someone I know moved there.  I've visited a few times since.  Having grown up in a big city I'm less than excited about the crowded dirty smelly aspects, but I know that a big city has a lot to offer.  It's so active and kinetic that it's easy to forget it hasn't always been so modern.  Knowing that NYC has been big and getting bigger for a couple hundred years, and the frankly amazing way millions of people have existed in such a small area, learning a bit about its history was interesting to me.  The transportation was transitioning away from horses, and the car had not taken over.  The subways are often nasty but fantastically effective at moving many people at all hours.  Learning they were only more crowded and dark and disturbing adds to my perceptions.

Also interesting were description of his night walks, the basis for the discussion of psychogeography.  Apparently Lovecraft and some groupies would wander the city and gather impressions of mystery and fear.  Some of these impressions are believed to have been digested into some of his work.  The thought of wandering the streets of NYC at all hours may seen ridiculous, but even in Lovecraft's time, as now, there are parts of the city that are active and bustling at any hour.

So I enjoyed reading through this and learned a few interesting things.  The piles of footnotes and references to other research were excess scholarship to me, but I'm sure there are many who would find this valuable and insightful.  People with interest in Lovecraft and some of the back alleys of history of  New York may find it enjoyable as well.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


I finally got #263 about a week ago.  I was looking for almost a month.  First I misinterpreted the release schedule so I was looking before it was released July 10.  Then it was in none of the four bookstores and five comic shops I got to in the next couple weeks.  The best they had was still #262 on the shelf.  Then it just disappeared from, though they still have #264 and now #265 advertised.  I was getting worried I'd need to order it from somewhere, or worse it sold out before I could get one.  At last, I stopped at one of the B&N again and there it was.  Now in a couple weeks I get to start looking again for #264.  I don't really want to subscribe or order online, but I hope it won't be this difficult next time.

Was it worth it?  For me it was.  I want to keep getting the printed magazine, for as long as it exists.  If HM ever goes electronic-only it'll lose me.  Flipping though pages and perusing the details on the printed pages is one of the things I really enjoy about reading HM.  I need glasses to do it now, but it's what I like.  The experience of reading on a screen does not compare.  I'm behind the times, and I can't argue with the power of electronic media, and I do miss the free .pdf samples, but the paper mag is what I like.

I will say I like the ad for t-shirts on the website, "the most incredible T-shirts in this galaxy".  It's reprised from the magazine ad in the 70s, which also used to say the HM logo was "flocked as thick as your little finger."  On this version they replaced the logos on the photo with a newer chrome version and did it pretty nicely.

With that, to the review:

Cover - 7 - This looks better on paper in my hands than it did on the screen.  A somewhat classical composition, angelically gazing skyward, flowing robes, drawing a sword.  And a toned and ample abdomen.  Michael C. Hayes also has a gallery in this issue and he seems to like this part of a woman, and I don't mind it a bit.

Inside the front cover is an ad for a Star Trek action figure that "Features Interchangeable Parts!" (it's Spock).  Funny that there's no indication of price or even how to get one but for a small website address at the bottom.  I guess if you have to ask you can't afford it.  Contrasting is the opposite ad on the next page for HM subscriptions with numbers and dollar signs all over, and even a cut-out order slip.  Does anyone actually still do that?  How many of these could HM receive in a year?  (Though people did.  It happens that the bulk of the mags in my collection are from a nearly complete set I came upon soon after I started collecting them.  Every so often one of them is missing an order slip.  Usually the other side of the cutout missing isn't a big deal, unless it's Rock Opera or something.  Argh.)

Animal'z - 8 - After over a year, another installment of this Bilal creation.  It may even be continuous with the first two we saw in HM.  This story seems to have been released in a book in French.  I like the sketchpad art even more than before.  The storytelling is even more obtuse.  People on boats, half zebra horses, a flipper for a foot.  It says continued next issue again.  Be still my heart, I can hardly wait. 

Project Sefiroth - 5 - A couple geared-up people in a post-civilization wasteland fighting inhuman creatures, with the text as some poetic lament.  It's incomprehensible enough for me to like it, but I don't care for the art.

Gallery - 7 - Michael C. Hayes shares some more of his work and a nice autobio.  Excellent technique, a bit static sometimes, but I do like the warrior angel women.  But the arrow is usually on the other side of the bow.

Beginning and Ending - 7 - Parts One and Two.  Pretty nicely shaded black and white line art, and a story of power and supernatural intrigue.  A setting resembling feudal Japan, a monk and lost child and warrior, a confrontation with dark forces.  It says to be continued.  These guys don't know about having the arrow on the other side of the bow either, but they seem to be pretty good shots anyway.

The Nature of Things - 6 - In a future civilization, a candidate Drwn from the citizenry meets the ruling elders, for a chance to join them.  In a surprising way, Drwn "evolves" into a ruler.  The art is just ok.  The story is just better.

The Eternity is Only an Instant - 7 - In this story a guy is killed in an accident, then searches eternity for God to find out why.  He does but he doesn't.  But he gets to wait for his beloved for eternity, but it's only an instant.  This manages to cover a lot of ground in just a few pages.  The art is ok, some of it is nice.

Megarobot - 5 - Giant Killer Robot and not much else.

The Axe - 6 - Told pretty well, the art is mostly ok.  But it's such an absurd perspective for a protagonist (and not in a good way).  Like she's really gonna wanna just do ya right after you revive her from death?  Again?

Artist's Studio - 6 - Rafael Rivera displays his abilities with some of his work.  I like some of the absurd and surreal stuff.  The caricatures look well done but are less interesting to me.

The Asencion - 7 - The art looks good.  The story tells of humanity's majority selling their lives, to alien enslavement, by degrees.  Might be some social commentary in there too.  I thought Asencion in the Contents was a typo again until I saw it was spelled that way in the story.

The Nephthys Chronicles - Star Light, Star Bright - 6 - Interesting but thin, but pretty.  Might be more of them, don't know that we'll see any though.

Not too bad, hope it's easier getting the next one.