Stuff in November & December 2020

2020. Holy shit.

The people in my life are generally healthy. I have a job. I have a beautiful, wonderful girlfriend. My living situation is above adequate. I have enough income for necessities and a few luxuries. I realize my situation is miles better compared to too many…AND YET, I can’t deny my disdain for Twenty-twenty. I don’t truly believe you can grade and compare entire individual years (I mean in some aspects the last few have been extremely fulfilling, yet full of periods of disgust and dismay), but yeah, this was a crap one.

Still, social isolation and the mass canceling of just about every in-person event led to mounds of media and entertainment consumption. I guess it’s not too gangster to brag on how much TV I sat through since March, but hey, that’s my game and I’m gonna ball out.

Last couple months have been hectic, however I had some fun too. Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Comics

Although I finished it nearly two months ago Three Jokers (Johns; Fabok), DC’s Black Label Joker reconfiguration comic keeps rattling around my psyche. I was a little skeptical about even picking it up; it seemed interesting way back when Geoff Johns laid down the tracks years ago in Justice League, and after seeing it get dragged on Twitter it lost some shine.

Joker is rote. DC is not shy about parading the clown show just about twice a year. Every writer seems to have a Joker story, and this is Johns’ big one, and you know what? For the most part, it lands. Sometimes gracefully, other times with a THUD worthy of 60’s Batman television.

Jason Fabok’s art keeps the comic from fraying too much as the plot tries to balance three (six?) main leads and still hit action and mystery beats, however, some of the concepts get lost along the path of twists and reveals.

Was a sequel to The Killing Joke an itch the fans needed scratching? Hell no. But I think when you take away the more imitative and derivative elements there are funky, cool and authentically fresh elements to the new Joke status quo, that is if anyone decides to really pick up what was left just sitting there.

In the same realm, I did get around Batman: The Adventures Continue (Burnett; Dini; Templeton). The *erhm* continuation of the iconic Batman toon of the 90s is a delight, more than I expected, but I highlight this reason: It’s rare to read a book with established, yet uncomplicated, continuity. That’s the undying challenge of the superhero market: how to utilize grand mythology without the clusterfuck. I think there’s a blueprint there — a small set of stories understood to be the basis for future lore.

Suicide Squad #11 deserve a nod for capping on a great (digestible) series by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo. The team’s savvy approach to this run took into account the habits of the market and the publisher, opting for a short run featuring a team stocked mostly with new characters. Suicide Squad is not an easy property to write for nowadays because it was sort of conceived as the anti-property: stories about characters thrown away and forgotten. Taylor and Redondo sand against that grain, while still fulfilling the wild and violent hallmarks of the Squad brand.

While I dug the first volume, The Goddamned: The Virgin Brides (Aaron; r.m.GuĂ©ra) operates on a different plane, taking all the visceral strangeness and fright of the post-Eden world making it even stranger and more frightening. It’s one of the most inventive new worlds in current comics.

I took a steamy bath and read Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #47 the other day, the capstone of The Lapham’s huge-ass gap story about the adventures of Beth, Orton and Nina. The hip, meandering journey at times felt like David Lapham refusing to let these characters go, dropping in ancillary characters all over the place and allowing established ones to escape death and injury with regularity. Don’t fret though, Stray Bullets is still operating at a very high level.

Movies

I’m sure I watch plenty of decent movies this month but you know what’s on my mind? WW84!

Director Patty Jenkins’ second go at Wonder Woman wasn’t as narratively tight as the first movie, but the action and mythology drops picked up a lot of the slack. I have numerous questions about the film’s plot, many of which I screamed at my TV in the middle of the night, I’m not going to be too salty about this pretty solid hero flick. It’s a welcomed new piece of pop culture. The worst part was having to watch at home, TBH.

I celebrated X-mas with a late-night viewing of L.A. Confidential, which qualifies as a Christmas movie because there’s like one scene with a decorated tree in it. The detective epic hasn’t aged super well (the only female role is the ol’ “hooker with a heart of gold” — which won Basinger an Oscar) but damn does that plot crackle.

Board Games

The primary focus of my free time has been gaming and Pandemic Legacy (Z-Man Games) ranks at the top in games played. I read nothing but rave reviews about it and rarely in my life has anything delivered so grand. I’m a big fan of the classic version and love how the gameplay transforms as you go. The RPG-like character and upgrading system is a blast.

A friend gifted me Watergate (Capstone Games; Frosted Games) for my birthday and I’ve enjoyed the few rounds I’ve played so far. It’s a two-player game that pits President Nixon against journos and the game uses a clever tug of war mechanism to challenge players to incrementally counter their opponent. The card play aspect has great balance, both decks are powerful yet work a little differently, and the historical aspects give it just enough flair to make it special.

That’s a wrap on this shitshow of a year. In 2021 I’m hoping humanity can stave off the apocalypse so I can at least see The Suicide Squad in theaters.