Month: April 2012

Who needs humor? Or characters?

Doesn’t it totally blow your mind to see something not John Cusack re-acting a famous John Cusack moment?

About a year ago I went to a small, local comic book show and picked up several trade paperbacks relatively cheap.  I’ve finally gotten around to reading a couple of them. One of those was the first volume of The Li’l Depressed Boy, and boy, does it ever suck!

I didn’t like Scott Pilgrim. After years of hearing about how brilliant it was I finally gave in and read the first volume, only to suffer through a book of thoroughly unlikable characters (either because they were complete pricks, like the title character, or they seemed to be so “calculated” to be kewl as to be unrelatable) and humor that consisted almost entirely of pop-culture references from the 80’s and 90’s.  Although, in hindsight, much of it wasn’t even humor; it was just that the characters didn’t seem to be capable of communicating in ways that didn’t consist entirely of references and quotes.  Imagine a work of fiction where every character was the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin. It was like those parody movies (Epic Movie, Date Movie, etc.) from the aughts, but in comic form (okay, I’ll give Scott Pilgrim credit that it wasn’t as bad as those movies.)

But The Li’l Depressed Boy?  It’s like whoever made this series saw Scott Pilgrim and decided to parody that.  We have characters with no semblance of character; some aspire to be cliche.  At the end of this volume I have no real understanding of any of them.  Let me summarize what happened in this first volume.  I’m going to make it sound much better than it really was:

  1. Li’l Depressed Boy (LDB) is depressed.  It’s never stated why.  There’s some indication later on that he might suffer from some kind of social anxiety disorder, but whatever.
  2. LDB goes out with one of his friends (maybe his only friend?)
  3. On a  chance encounter he meets a manic pixie dreamgirl (MPDG) who introduces herself by spouting references to early 90’s video games.  We know she’s awesome because she has tattooes and piercings! 
  4. LDB meets MPDG at a laundromat.  She continues to be awesome because she makes more pop-culture references and does weird things like sniff LDB’s laundry sheet!
  5. LDB and MPDG talk about bands! Cuz’ all the kewl kids talk about bands! They go to a concert.
  6. Oh noes! Like a sitcom, LDB realizes he’s been out with this girl and doesn’t know her name! I sense hilarity coming.
  7. Oh, no, not hilarity.  Just more zaniness from MPDG and pop-culture references! They get kicked out of a bowling alley because LDB acted like he was in a video game! HOW WACKY!!
  8. MPDG throws a party for no reason! She’s so unpredictable and AWESOME!
  9. At the party LDB meets MPDG’s roommate, who talks about how he doesn’t like hipsters.  That proves to us that this isn’t a hipster comic, because they wouldn’t slam hipsters in it if it was!  This work isn’t derivative at all.  Uh-oh, the cops have busted up the party for being too loud and AWESOME, because that’s what always happens in movies.
  10. LDB and MPDG go on another date.  She mentions how her roommate is actually her boyfriend.  CLIFFHANGER! Time to buy the next volume to see how this mind-blowing turn of events plays out!

Unlike Scott Pilgrim I went into this was no expectations put onto me as I hadn’t seen any discussion about this series online.  Based on the cover, I was  expecting something a little more … depressed.   The stylistic choice of having the title character represented by this kind of voodoo doll caricature while others were drawn more realistically made me think it would use his cartoony look to really express his detachment from the world around him.  Instead it just seemed like a weird stylistic choice as the story was just a bog-standard romantic “comedy” that never made use of the unique representation for the main character.  Shit, I didn’t think the character would actually be named “Li’l Depressed Boy” (as in that’s how everyone addresses him.) I suppose one could argue that  the writer did this to show how, in the main character’s mind, this is how people view him … but based on the rest of the writing on display here I can’t imagine the writer could have done that unless it was a writing technique displayed in a SNES game

Apparently I stand alone in my dislike for this book, too.  After having such a negative reaction to the work I went online to see if it was well-reviewed (maybe I could have been warned against wasting money on this book.)  As it turned out I couldn’t find any negative commentary on this series.  People seem to consider it rather good.  I honestly can’t see why.  I guess, like Scott Pilgrim, it’s just not meant for me.

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Goof of War

I beat Sony’s God of War 3 this weekend.  I never really played the previous games; I think I’d made it halfway through the first game and then got bored with it. There was this one jump that I just didn’t seem to be able to pull off. Something about the flow of that and this game never really clicked with me; I didn’t like the jarring stutter-stop pacing of “here’s some fighting” and then “here’s some puzzle solving.”  It’s also what pissed me off so much about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, where every time I started to get a hang of the combat and might have actually gotten to enjoy it I was immediately thrust into another puzzle-solving sequence.

It’s weird, these God of War clones are basically the modern equivalent of the beat-em-ups of way back when such as Double Dragon, Final Fight, and Streets of Rage.  Those games were often criticized for being too one-note; you fought and fought and that was it.  But, you know, that’s why you got those games.  In sports games you played a sport and continued playing a sport and that was all there was to it, too.  I frankly don’t like this habit of games to come off as poorly jumbled-together combinations of multiple genres.  “It’s a brawler AND a puzzle game!”

I just wanna’ beat shit up. Why is that too much to ask?

And while we’re at it; what the hell was God of War about?  I’ve put in 9 hours to this game and, frankly, I’m unclear as to whether Kratos is the villain or not.  Frankly, the narrative makes the most sense if the Zeus and the other gods–ostensibly the villains–were actually trying their damnedest to protect the world from Kratos. The whole narrative became especially ridiculous at the end where everything hinged on Kratos taking a trip to self-help world and learning to “forgive himself” for the death of his wife and daughter.  You know, I have no sympathy for the death of his family; the bastard flooded a whole city near the start of his game and didn’t bat an eye.  Did he forgive himself for that?  Would he deserve any forgiveness?  And in this murderous blood lust he never once indicated that he had even the slightest inkling of noble intent.  Even a half hearted “well, this city has been laid to waste but it will be worth it for mankind to be free from the yoke of the gods.” 

I just wasted an hour watching a documentary called DMT: The Spirit Molecule on Netflix. 

In short: hippies drugged out of their minds insisting that because they can go on weird trips that they’ve been exposed to the knowledge of the universe and have experienced the next stage of human evolution. 

These people are no different than people who believe in bigfoot.  They claim to have tons of knowledge and yet for all that have no proof of practical gains.  At one point someone claims he experienced a thousand years of knowledge in a ten-minute period.  Another person claims that through the use of these drugs we’ll discover sciences for things we can’t even imagine yet. 

And at the same time this documentary talks about how ancient civilizations have exploited these drugs for ages.  So why haven’t we discovered those sciences yet?  Why didn’t the guy who experienced the next 1,000 years provide us with some idea as to what these undiscovered technologies will be?  Why haven’t these people, for all their research, been able to produce anything practical, verifiable, or repeatable?

Right, because they’re just a bunch of dumb-ass drug addicts trying to convince themselves they haven’t wasted their lives.

Unemployed

I am unemployed.  This has become a common state of being for me. Unlike the last two times I was at least not caught unaware by the situation.  I quit my job this time.  And yet I still feel a degree of whiplash from the event.  I suddenly find myself with much more time than I used to have.  I’ve heard people talk about being afraid of having so much spare time because they wouldn’t want to be bored.  How can one be bored?  I have a backlog of video games to play that, books to read, movies & anime to watch, I’ve been exercising, and I’ve taken up playing the alto saxophone again.
Bored isn’t an option.  This is all the crap you’d have wanted to do if you weren’t stuck at work.  Well, it’s what I wanted to do.  That’s probably very sad to most people who would rather do something more, I don’t know, social or productive if they had the time.  But hey, to each his or her own, right?
I can’t shake the feeling that my life (and especially my career) has been kicked in the balls hard enough to piss blood for a year and I’ve accepted that the more I delay looking for a job the more screwed up my prospects will become.  However I also acknowledge that I’m no longer sure what I want those prospects to be.  I’ve had several jobs in my chosen career and they all made me very miserable.
More on that in a minute.