Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Heavy Metal # 292

Just got this issue in a bookstore on the last day of 2018.  That made five issues in the year, based on when I actually bought them.  Same for the year before.  Falling short of the stated six issues per year, and the internet presence hanging by a thread, concerns me about the health of the operation.

But the mag itself is still pretty good.  I got the Cover A, "Elefanka" by Ron English.

Pretty cool, I like it so I'll give it an 8, and especially the background elephant images reminded me of the Roger Dean Osibisa album cover art.

Yeah, not quite the same, but still kinda neat.  The mag is labeled the "Psychedelic Special", and there is some attempted mind-bending going on, so the Special name has some actual meaning this time.

The Contents page illustration is by Adrian Cox, "Spectral Witness with Gathering Storm", which looks like just that, and Mr Cox has a Gallery entry in this issue.

The staff listing has some changes, no more Jett Lucas (and no sign of that weed "edutainment" magazine he was said to be working on almost two years ago), and there's a Paul Reder noted as COO/CFO, with Brian Witten going to Creative Advisor.  Jeff Krelitz is still listed as President.  I certainly don't know what's really going on, but I'll guess that an executive-level reorganization indicates a change in operational structure, which I will hope is to stabilize the organization to ensure its continued existence.

Mr Morrison is still around too, and his editorial for this issue is written as a story of illicit drug trials that produced "HM292" and its psychoactive effects on those subjected to it.  Rather clever and it fits the theme.  I'll give Mr Morrison credit for continuing to produce these editorials in such an entertainingly loquacious fashion.

"She Comes at Midnight" by Rob Sheridan - 8 - Musings of desire for late night tv images.  Evocative and cool to look at.  This very much makes me think of the time long ago, before cable, where a subscription for early pay-tv for sports and adult content, involved using a set-top box to unscramble the subscription channel signal.  And it was rumored that if you didn't have a subscription box, but fiddled with the antenna enough, you could just make out a boob or something.  Never worked for me, but this makes me think Mr Sheridan may have been a young teen boy in the mid 70s too.

"The Smile of the Absent Cat" Chapter Three by Grant Morrison and Gerhard - 6 - Noted as "the never condition".  A cat lunatic asylum resident, tormented by the Great War, trying to get his life back in order, is approached by another resident, and pulled into some devious plan.  Some nice storytelling going on, but even with the three chapters being mostly separate stories, the year and a half since the last chapter made it hard for me to get excited about it.  I wonder when the next chapter might appear, or even if there's a whole story to even get through.

Gallery with Miles Johnston - 7 - with an interview by (surprise!) Rantz Hoseley.  The artist tells us a great deal about himself with Mr Hoseley's help, and I thought what I learned helped my appreciation of his work.  There's a lot to like, though I have to get over being picky about proportion in what looks like it should be photorealistic.  Because it's not, it's supposed to evoke things like infinite regression and emptiness inside, not look exactly like them, because it won't. 

"The Door" Chapter 4 by Michael Moreci, Esau Escorza, & Adam Wollet - 7 - The story continues for our young protagonist and her misadventures in worlds she does not know.  Reappearing in a city scene familiar from the beginning, but where the residents have pig heads, she and her companion "Monster" are rescued from the crowd by a pig with manners, introducing himself with a "these swine know little when it comes to civil society" as Francois Bacon.  Monsieur Bacon not only deduces that her paper crown indicates the Garbage King sent her for a reason, but expounds on the nature of the worlds they are in, helping us understand what's going on.  Similar to the Matrix, they are in a series of software constructs of realities, the product of humanity retreating into their inner digital worlds, and her ability to step between them makes her unique, but also able to escape.  He directs her down a darkened staircase, and this chapter ends with "to be concluded."  The art continues to be enjoyably lovely, and the story exposition takes some shots at some of humanity's more selfish aspects, including the current aberrant administration and abdication of individuals' parts in society.  I'm looking forward to how this concludes.

"The Oneiroverse" by R.G. Llarena, Garrie Gastonny, Omar Estévez, Jame - 8 - An aspiring writer pays for a dream journey into the Oneiroverse to search for the IDEA to write his first book.  It starts with a joke (I've not read Hitchhiker's Guide, but even I know "why forty-two") and sends him to dozens of worlds with fairy princesses, mystical warriors, and bitchin' babe bands.  He returns dissatisfied, still not realizing where the IDEA needs to come from.  Nicely done art and I again enjoyed Mr Llarena's storytelling abilities, and I was impressed by how well the translation worked.

"The Rise and Fall of Empires" by Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes - 5 - A somewhat interesting execution of representing change with an area graph.  Here it's apparently it's about distribution and reach of presumably societal factions shown with different colors and geometric patterns.  It's pretty abstract and without context on the factions, so it doesn't really tell me a lot.

Gallery with Ron English - 8 - Titled The Art of POPaganda, with a short text introduction of Mr English (Not by Mr Hoseley!?) and a series of images that rather assertively demand your scrutiny.  Some really wacky stuff going on there, not to say I don't enjoy it.  Mr English did the first cover of the Morrison Era:

and the skully Mr Smiley is seen again here, as well as other recognizable and perhaps not-so familiar characters.  I enjoyed looking at the images and imagining what it would look like generating this stuff, and considering the filthy mess of society I inferred from the compositions.  And good thing I liked it, since there's more of Mr English later this issue.

"Influencer" by Michael Kupperman - 7 - In three pages and nine panels, a story of ergot-induced madness, prophecy, and immortality.  The art is perhaps not refined, but so effectively plays its part in the storytelling, which I found fantastic, literally, including the unbelievability of the ending.  And of course, it's on topic with the Psychedelic theme.

Another ad for the Dark Matter Heavy Metal coffee, which seems to exist only in the pages of the magazine.  I've never seen it actually for sale.

"Hydroglyphs to Mania" by Miranda Smart - 7.5 - Heavens, a trip through the caverns of your brain doesn't have to be so scary, but it can be.  A wordless depiction of a peer-pressured hallucinogen ingestion, looking every bit like it's describing a personal experience.  And the story's success in telling me with the art alone is what impresses me.  A similar trippy art style was more common in the mag's early days.

Gallery with Amélie Barnathan - 6 - Mr Hoseley makes up for lost time with a long-ish interview.  Ms Barnathan shows a number of works with some thought-provoking images, and talks about her training, and a new Tarot she worked on, apparently Instant Archetypes, "an analog toolkit" for our digital age.  I guess Tarot is a thing.

"Citied" by Rantz Hoseley & Andrew Brandou - 7 - Cute little art student critters dress up for the funnest Halloween party ever.  Chemical assistance was applied.  It was worth the challenge to discern the text and details in the colorful jumbled miasma of the art.

"The Color of Air" Part Nine:  The Conclusion by Enki Bilal, translation by Jessica Berger - 8 - Still beautiful, even moreso with more color at this ending and epilogue of the old story, pointing to the beginning of the next.  The Planet finishes its Bloody Coup and the inhabitants are re-invigorated and re-associated.  Like life I suppose, it's only supposed to make as much sense as you can make of it.  Thanks for everything Mr Bilal.

"Beatle" by Diego Agrimbau & Gabriel Ippóliti - 6 - Ringo impersonators are turning up dead in the city.  A Beatles-loving cop goes undercover at a well-known impersonator agency, and uncovers the Beatles' final secret. 

"Combrats" by Ron English - 9 - Mr English brings us to the Combrat Zone, where "feral clown kid soldiers" patrol the no man's land between Delusionville and hell.  An inhabitant of Delusionville, a Rabbbit, wants to visit hell, but is detained by Combrats.  It's just as wacky as it sounds, and it looks even more.  The Combrats are like clown faced dolls with tie-dyed clown suit uniforms and helmets, and guns, and the rabbbits have three ears and three eyes (as also seen in some of the previous Gallery).  There's a lot of 3D modeled background with fantastic imagery, some so clearly rendered as to make me wish he had constructed it all with modeling clay and popsicle sticks, some of hideously mutated creatures so Bosch-ian that I thought of the Bruce Bickford animation in Baby Snakes.  Much of it had me thinking of the beloved (by me) Rock Opera by Rod Kierkegaard Jr from Heavy Metal in the later 80s.  So much to see, so much weird as hell and so much creepy as shit.  There's even some "regular" comic drawing and a "painted" image or two.  The story gets right into the nature of belief and reality (Delusionville and hell) and God and Satan, and I enjoyed some of the banter, though I admit I didn't follow it all the way it was going, and there were parts in quotes I didn't know, so I missed out on some of it.  But I got much of it, and I caught a joke or two in there, and the whole story was bunches of Heavy Metal magazine fun, so thanks for that.

Gallery with Adrian Cox - 7 - With more great interview work by Rantz Hoseley, and Jeff Krelitz is credited as being in the interview, at a gallery opening of Mr Cox's work at the Corey Helford Gallery in LA, but I guess he didn't make the edit (though he got in a couple photos).  The work shows fantastical images of humanoids made of flowers, or iridescent energy, or ... something, and apparently it tells a story.  The text was informative, and I was able to get a feeling of the story from the descriptions and images here.  Cool.

"Cultscape" by Hector Lima, Patricio Delpeche, Martin Túníca - 6 - A couple makes their escape from a White Light cult based on a space station.  It makes the most of the facets of insight and brilliance that shine through a rather opaque story and its serviceable art, as it tries to convey the mind control pressure inherent in a cult environment.

"Murky World" Part 5 by Richard Corben - 7.5 - A small chapter in the story, Tugat and Moja are to die in the arena, but the ferocious killer beast won't cooperate.  Simply lovely to see, enticing and mind-boggling, and I'm having too much fun to be bored by the story's meandering.  What can possibly happen next?