Sunday, July 15, 2018

Comfort is the enemy

I have lived a life of comfort. I rarely have experienced hunger I couldn't immediately satisfy. I have spent most of that life with climate controlled living.I have slept in a cushy bed under warm blankets. I have faced challenges, but there were not typically the type that caused me to exert myself regularly or to my limits. All of this has made me fat, soft, and complacent... like a Hindu cow.
Clearly, that cannot continue.
This type of living, the type I have chosen up to this point, will not make me the man I want to be. Over the past few years, I have noticed a change in my thinking. My mind is ravenous for challenge and conflict. It wants to overcome.  
Physically, I have found my challenge. Every chance I get I am training hiking up a steep trail at House Mountain. The trail is a 5.8 mile loop and climbs 2100 feet. It kicks my tail every time I go, but I love the hurt of it. I love that I breathe hard. I love the sweat. I love the pain during and thes soreness afterward. It is outside my comfort level. It also feels like I am training for something bigger. 
The motorcycle is also a challenge. I ride in the heat. I ride in the cold. I ride rain or shine (within reason of not dripping with water at work). That is a change from my carefully heated or air conditioned car. It is also a challenge being safe in traffic. I think my way through situations as much ahead of time if I can. I plan my routes smarter. I move through traffic to distance myself to a bubble of relative safety. Sometimes that is slowing down. Sometimes is speeding up. I love leaning deep into those curves and being more agile than most everything else on the road. It pushes me to improve my physical life so I can be faster, more balanced, and lighter on my feet... and tires. 
Mentally, I am a lot more cutthroat and savage than I have ever been before. Oddly enough, this isn't a change to my rather kind and honest nature. I am just a lot more assertive about what I want and what I want nothing at all to do with. I am no more abrasive than I ever was. I am just a lot less compromising. I don't make the sacrifice quietly inside myself. I push for what I want. I have found, all too often, it makes it a lot easier to get what I want. 
Sexually... well, this isn't that type of blog, is it?

My view of a successful life has really changed. A younger David always saw the future as financial comfort to the place of being able to only pursue the things I want. Now I see the friction of life as the motivation to get leaner, stronger, and to keep moving. I want to be a little uncomfortable to keep the fire burning in my belly. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

David's Comic Book Pull List

I have been reading comic books regularly most of my life. There was a bit of a break for me in my twenties, but I got back into them when I turned thirty and have never regretted the decision.  As I have mentioned, I used to co-host a comic book podcast.

I might have a bit of a passion for comic books. I admit fully that my collection is nothing compared to what it once was.I focus a lot less on collecting and more on enjoying art and story. That isn’t to say that I don’t really appreciate my copy of New Mutants #98. I just don’t put a lot of effort into having the coolest and most valuable comics on my shelf.
Instead, I spend my energy on being well read… in my own very exclusive way. The truth is, I like the stuff I like. I don’t just love any old comic book. This page is going to focus on that. I am going to talk about the books I love and why I love them.
Full disclosure, I make mine (primarily) Marvel. I want to love DC, but of the big three, I lean heavily toward Marvel and then Image.  I constantly check Previews and talk to DC fans for the latest greatest thing coming on the horizon. Normally, I just don’t get down to the DC groove as much as I do Marvel. Sorry, not sorry.
Some of you that have found this page may not know what a pull list is. Some (the best) comic book shops offer a service to their customers. You provide the shop with a list of what you want to read. In exchange for your commitment to pick those books up regularly, they will order and hold those comics for you. This ensures that you never (read very rarely) miss an issue. This service is invaluable to those of us that take their comic book reading seriously.
The following is a list of books I am reading and a few brief thoughts on each book. Check back here regularly. I plan to update this page frequently.
I absolutely love Harrow County. I am a horror fan in general and a Lovecraft fan specifically. Cullen Bunn really spins a dark weave that any horror fan can respect. The art marries so well to the story that I drink every page greedily. For occult folk tale fans, this book is a must-read.
I had been subscribing to Black Hammer, but I am sad to say that it lost my interest. The series is also occult, but of a more Super Hero bend. I put it down hesitantly. I mention it in the books I am currently reading because Jeff Lemire has really carved a unique niche in the capes and tights books. That alone makes it easy to recommend.
Batman in Rebirth (in my humble view) stepped way back from the glory days of Scott Snyder’s New 52 run. Initially, I loathed Tom King’s writing. It is a credit to the man that he was able to win me over to genuinely enjoy the series. If you haven’t been reading Batman (Why would you not be?) and are going to jump into the series now is a great time.
I was a massive fan of the Batman Beyond animated series. I have seen every episode multiple times.  As soon as Terry McGuiness made his jump to actual comic book continuity I was on board. I do feel that the current run is stronger than the New 52 version of the book. The fact that DC includes a digital code for all of my Batman Beyond issues is just icing on an already tasty cake.
Batman: White Knight is one of the best reads of the last year. I actually have enjoyed this mini-series so much that, after reading issue #3, I stopped reading altogether. I plan to wait until the final issue drops next month and do a full series read. This will likely be THE Batman Mini-Series for years to come. Sean Murphy has earned my adoration. Please, sir, can I have some more.
As a reader, I would follow Scott Snyder to Hell and back. When Metal was announced I was excited. Now that the series is out I will say I don’t regret reading it. I think it suffers from the same thing that most DC event books suffer from. They frequently over promise and under deliver. I didn’t hate Metal, but it wasn’t what I wanted out of the book. Read it if for no other reason than it is a “reboot” of the DCU. Sneakily done, DC.
As a Batman fan, I feel that reading Detective Comics is something of a requirement. The Rebirth run on Detective sustained me when I wasn’t in love with any other Bat-title. The tension building in the current run is so…beyond anything I could have expected. Best of all, as a Biweekly book, I am continuously getting my fix.
I cannot say that Watchmen is my favorite comic. I am enjoying Doomsday Clock rather well. It has me taking a new look at Watchmen to get a greater grasp and understanding of the story. I really recommend the book because it is dark and moody. I suspect, like Metal, it will have long-lasting implications on the DCU.
Bettie Page has been a fantastic read. The art is top notch. The writing is pithy and fun. I am a long time fan of the real Bettie Page. This comic book does right by her life and memory. I just hope it continues for some time to come. Oh, the cover art isn’t bad either.
Mata Hari is another real-life figure turned comic character. The book has a slightly dark tone, but Mata Hari’s story isn’t exactly a fairy tale. If you like strong female characters, history, or intrigue this is a great read.
I am so massively behind on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I have loved the series. Until I catch up, I cannot fairly critique this one. I am something like 26 or 27 issues behind. I will get there, someday.
If I only could read the work produced by one company, Image would be it. I am going to have to fight hard to not sound like the Bard talking about the Best Thing about Hero Quest.
Analog just dropped its first issue. The premise of the book is great. The internet has been hacked to the point of no return. Privacy is impossible. Now, to transfer information privately people and companies hire tough and nails carriers to physically deliver their sensitive information. I was hooked from the first panel. I could classify this book as techno-noir. It also is subtly delivering a thought-provoking message about the future of our information security without coming across as preachy.
Curse Words began as this quirky, off-beat title that snuck its way into my list. Honestly, the cover art for issue one sold me.
That is clearly a wizard on a motorcycle running from a fire-breathing dragon. In spite of the very hipster haircut and clothes, Wizord (yes the Wizard’s name is Wizord. Stick with me here.) is pretty fun. The star of the book through is Margaret. This book keeps me laughing and engaged. It is lighthearted fun.
I might not have picked Deadly Class up on my own. This is why it is very important to make friends with the people who own or work in your local comic shop. When they are doing their job, they are the best resource for what you should be reading (other than me, this blog, and my upcoming podcast of course).  Most of the comic panels I post on Facebook and Instagram comes from Deadly Class. 
Rick Remender doesn’t miss. Deadly Class is one of my favorite books. It centers on a high school that trains assassins. The story is set in the late 80s. It is full of period pop culture and music references. I am about 8 to 10 years too young to fully appreciate that side of the book (my teen years were the mid to late 90s) but it doesn’t feel wrong. The characters absolutely come alive on the page but don’t get too crazy attached. This is very Harry Potter meets Game of Thrones. If I were trying to make a top 10 cut, Deadly Class would be there.
East of West is amazing. It takes alternate history to the next level. Jonathan Hickman knocks this out of the park. My biggest complaint is that it feels that long stretches of time go by without me seeing an issue of East of West. I don’t expect anything, but I might flip my lid if this hit every month. I would almost take The Walking Dead route with this one and read it in trade paperback …almost.
I had to go with a panel for Kill or Be Killed rather than posting cover art. It isn’t so much that the cover art isn’t definitive. On the contrary, it is always really definitive. The reason I had to go with an internal panel is 1) how iconic is that art? and 2) I identify with the narrative voice Dylan has going on here.
Much like Deadly Class, Ed Brubaker slides in a lot of philosophy and world weary wisdom with each issue. I think that many people fantasize about taking up arms to stand against the garbage of the world. There is, after all, a reason that Dexter was a highly rated show. I have often described this book as Dexter with a (possible) supernatural twist.
Kill or be Killed shines a light on that visceral need in all of us while examining the blurred lines between perception and reality. It also leaves you on the edge of your seat guessing if Dylan is crazy or if he really is being ordered to kill by a Demon. I can easily place this book in my top 3 favorites.
East of West is an alternate history that begins in the American Civil War. Manifest Destiny is an alternate history of the Lewis and Clark expedition. I fell so hard in love with this book. It is Supernatural on the American frontier. If you like spooky occult comics this is another great read.
There are two issues of Oblivion Song out thus far. I really liked the art for this book. Robert Kirkman is a name worth following (it just occurred to me that some of you may not know that he created The Walking Dead). Thus far I am very excited for each upcoming issue. That is a good sign.
Redlands looked as if it would be occult horror from the cover art. When I read in Previews that it was southern occult horror I bought right in. The book is really strange, but in a good way.
This one deserves a little disclaimer. It goes sexually dark exploring sex trafficking, prostitution, and rape. Those are normally topics I have trouble taking any joy in reading, but from the narrative behind the book they are contextually appropriate.
When the first arc of Redlands completed, I had a moment when I contemplated dropping the book entirely. Darkness needs to be carefully monitored in our lives. This one might be over the tipping point for me. (There are quite a few books, Jessica Jones as an example, that I avoid.) I will see where we begin next arc and decide how I really feel about Redlands.
Donny Cates made me a forever fan with God Country (seriously, if you haven’t read God Country stop and do so). I love what he is doing across the comic book industry. He is the reason I am reading Doctor Strange: Damnation. I didn’t hesitate a single second to pick up Redneck.
This was a good decision. Redneck is fun. It has all of the wit and ferocity I have come to expect from Mr. Cates. It also could easily be described as a “damned good yarn.” I am hooked on the little mythology that has been created here. This is certainly not just another vampire story.
There is something really familiar about Rose. I am a big fan of fantasy comics. The art for this book is done very right. It also isn’t a crazily sexualized as all too many female protagonist based fantasy comics are. (I am looking at you Red Sonja.) I was not terribly caught up in the first few issues. The story felt a bit predictable. Still, I find myself enjoying the style and form of Rose. 
Romeo and Juliet in space does not begin to describe the wonder that is Saga. The book is vaguely pornographic. It is smart. It is funny. It is beautifully rendered. Read this comic.
If Rose is high fantasy then Seven to Eternity is high fantasy done right. This book creates a world on every panel. I want to role play in this world. I want to visit this world through a wormhole portal into Rick Remender’s imagination. My complaint of Seven to Eternityis similar to East of West. I don’t get new issues nearly often enough.
I ranted and raved about how much I LOVE Sex Criminals on the Printed Panel Podcast. It came up nearly every issue. The premise of this book is beautiful and simple. When Suzy has an orgasm time stops for everyone but her… or so she thought. The story centers around Suzy finding out that other people share her ability or have similar abilities.
Lately, I feel Sex Criminals has come to a bit of a loose end. I still love the book, but it doesn’t have the same direction it had before. This may be genius on the part of Fraction and Zdarsky though as it mirrors the mood of the characters inside.
Still, the loss of momentum has bumped this from my top 3 spot. I doubt I will ever drop Sex Criminals from my pull list, but it is no longer the exquisite guilty pleasure it once was. Now, I keep waiting for the return of the glory days.
I think everyone is familiar with The Walking Dead. I actually did drop this book around issue #110. I missed it though and started collecting again. Now I need to get caught up, but I just can’t quite find the time for the reread. I will get there eventually. Until then, the unread box grows.
Marvel is going to divide up a little differently than the other sections. I am going to give you groupings instead of commenting on each individual title.
The X Books
The new direction of the X-Men is amazing. We are back into the 1990’s idea of there being tons of X teams and therefore tons of X books. I suspect that Domino & Exiles will join this section soon.
There is a funny aside to be told here. Each week when I pick up my comics I alphabetize them and sort them into whatever comics are not read from the week before. I alphabetize by company and then issue.  This normally means I am up to date on DC, Dynamite, and Image. I get through a lot of my Marvel, but (being at the end of the alphabet) the X-men are perpetually a few issues behind.
I absolutely love the Sorcerer Supreme. Doctor Strange is a solid read. I like the mystical underbelly of the Marvel U. I was not in love with the destruction of magic at the beginning of the run, but I have to say the character development is much stronger by downgrading Strange’s powers. I look forward to ever single issue.
The Old Man books both revisit and build upon the Wolverine story arc of Old Man Logan. I love that Old Man Logan takes the title character and plops him firmly in the thick of the main Marvel continuity. The book looks a lot like the Old Man Logan run, but it reads like a retelling of Wolverine’s greatest solo adventures and team ups from the late 80s and early 90s.
Old Man Hawkeye takes us back into the badlands and builds upon the original Old Man Logan arc. I think we all wanted more stories to be told there. Old Man Logan visits in flashbacks, but that doesn’t quite scratch the itch.
This panel series actual comes from Vader Down. It is breathtaking. That is everything I want from Darth Vader in one short series.
Darth Vader builds on exactly this intensity. I don’t pick up most Star Wars comics, but flipping through Darth Vader quickly made it a must read. I certainly recommend this one.

December 2nd Comic Books on a Budget