A couple of summers ago, I reviewed some books, as I am wont to do. One of them was An Augmented Fourth by friend of the Ladies and local celebrity Tony McMillen. Since then, Tony’s written and drawn a comic, Lumen. Since the first four issue arc has just drawn to a close, it felt like a good time to tell you all about it – you can get in on the ground floor of what I hope will be an ongoing series, while still getting a complete story.
The story of Lumen begins with a young man, Esteban Vela, who stumbles upon a suit of armor and a lantern one day after following a falling star. It sounds romantic, except for two things – one, the armor still holds its previous occupant. Two, Esteban lives in the Nocterra, a world enshrouded entirely in darkness. There are no stars, not even falling ones, and being too romantic in a world like this is will get a boy killed. Still, inspired by tales of “the legendary Vaquero Rubus Bramble…the hero who was supposed to lasso the sun,” Esteban decides not only to take the armor, but promptly finds himself embarking on an epic quest.
You see, while the sun is gone, devoured by “the Beast that fell to earth,” there is one source of life and light in the Nocterra – lumen, a glowing substance that allows plants to grow. It also provides energy; it’s the power source for Esteban’s armor as well as the various weapons and mechs designed by his nearest neighbor, Detta the science witch. It’s Detta who sends him on his quest, to obtain the lumen horde in the southern castle. All that stands in his way are giant fungus monsters, the Fun Guys, who thrive in the darkness of the Nocterra. No problem for a hero, right?
The story has many of the best elements of a fairy tale – a magical destiny, a witch, a quest, even an animal companion and a pretty girl – while still managing to feel entirely new and unique. McMillen has clearly spent a lot of time on world-building, thinking through the rules of his night universe and how it operates, and he deploys it brilliantly, through the illustrations and actions of the plot rather than through tiresome exposition. Likewise, the characters all have distinct voices and personalities – I could hear Esteban’s cocky bravado (and its undercurrent of doubt and fear) in my head perfectly.
McMillen’s art is likewise wholly unique, loose and smudgy, yet sharp and distinct when it needs to be. The use of color is amazing in a book about a world cast in darkness, and book three has a multi-page sequence that manages to be clever without being gimmicky. And the Fun Guys – well, no one draws a monster like Tony. Each are named after actual mushrooms – there’s a great single page shot of different types in issue that looks cool AND had me reaching for google to see what a “Gristly Domecap” looks like here on our Earth.
All told, Lumen is an impressive debut comic from a writer I know is only getting better, and I can’t wait for the next arc.
If you want to read Lumen, the first copies are sold out in print but available online at McMillen’s Etsy shop, and the later issues are available either online or here in Boston at Comicazi and Hub Comics. Even more exciting, the first issue is up for FREE over at Tony’s website. So get on over there and check it out!
Lois Lane is one of the greatest lady characters in comics. Despite not having any super powers (most of the time, anyway), Lois has been giving Superman a run for his money since his debut in Action Comics #1. Even back in 1938, she was tough, career-minded reporter, who caught on to Clark Kent’s little secret a lot sooner than we tend to give her credit for. She had her own title that ran for nearly 20 years and 137 issues; even if it was called “Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane,” and mostly dealt with her romance with Superman, that’s a pretty good long run and a testimony to her popularity. She’s also appeared in every medium that Superman has – besides comics and animation that includes movies, tv shows, radio shows, newspaper strips and a Broadway musical!
What’s it about: When eccentric and introverted billionaire James Halliday dies, he leaves an “Easter egg” hidden in his online game OASIS that grants the finder his fortune. Egg hunters (gunters) devote their lives to seeking out his egg using clues left by Halliday. As Halliday was a child of the 80’s, the best way to work through this scavenger hunt is to become completely engrossed in 80’s pop culture, gaming, and music. For five years, no one finds anything and only the most hardcore gunters continue to look. Then the narrator, Wade Watt (yes, the alliteration is a shout out to comic book heroes names) finds the first key and the hunt fervor starts up again. Continue reading
In some ways, my timing for this review could not have been worse. After the recent storm of press Mathew Klickstein has received after his nauseating and infuriating interview in which he manages to show the world that he is both racist, sexist, and does not understand the basics of forming and communicating an argument, I was loathe to give him more coverage. In fact, I was pretty close to just returning the book to Amazon and calling it a day. Then two things happened. One, I realized that in all the hullabaloo, there was very little talk about the quality of the book itself. And two, Cartoon Sara and I got invited on a radio show to talk about Klickstein, his book, and Nickelodeon in general. At that point, the cat was out of the bag about my planned review and there will be no going back.
And so, for the approval of the Midnight Society, er um, I mean the dear folks who take the time to read my rambling blog posts, I am going to take the time to try my hardest to ignore Klickstein as a person and address him as an author. The purpose of this review is to focus on the book as presented and determine just how well it can stand on its own.
Slimed! is an oral history. This fact is both the book’s blessing and its curse. Presented as a series of loosely organized quotes, Slimed! is extremely difficult to get through. Rather than presenting the reader with an organized narrative of the events that led up to the heyday of Nickelodeon, the author chose to be completely absent from the book. This decision might have been made in order to let those interviewed speak for themselves, but instead it simply muddies the reading experience. Each chapter is named with a very general theme and what follows are snippets back and forth from the 100+ people Klickstein interviewed. As I read it, all I could imagine was Klickstein cutting up the transcripts of his interviews and haphazardly gluing them together as best he could. This results in an uneven if not jarring reading experience as you try to stay on top of what exactly each interviewee is talking about. You basically have to hope that you are able to figure out when they have switched from talking about one show to another. Also, if you are not already familiar with the names of the actors and creators of most of Nickelodeon’s shows, you are going to find yourself spending just as much time looking up who everyone is as you will actually reading the oral history itself. It’s a slog, and if you are like me, you just might hit a point where you just don’t care anymore and just do your best to push on.
The frustrating thing about this is that the solution to the problem could have been simple. In fact, there could have been quite a few solutions that could have made reading Slimed! a much more enjoyable experience– a chapter written by Klickstein introducing his credentials, link to Nickelodeon and interview process, chapter intros reintroducing the main players in each section, or maybe Klickstein himself could have been just have been a little more focused and selective about who he interviewed. Yes, all those people being involved in this book is a very cool thing, but with a cast of thousands it can be very hard to get a clear picture of any individual experiences at all.
That isn’t to say that this book is completely without charm. In fact, there are several entertaining anecdotes to be found: from the origins of the iconic green slime to why those kids on Nick Arcade always looked so stressed and confused in the final Virtual Reality round of the game show (hint: everything they saw was backwards from the way it was on screen). If you are a die-hard fan who is willing to work for it, you can certainly find something in this book to enjoy.
So the question that remains is if this book is worth your time. Unfortunately, that is a hard question to answer. I think that this book best serves those who are more than casual fans. Knowing the names of a few big players before you start reading goes a long way. As for me, I think this book and I are pretty much done with each other. It was a nice enough fling, but the lack of organization and context is not really something I want to deal with again. So while Slimed! is not the Nickelodeon book I was hoping for, I am hopeful that the press Klickstein has received does show that there is an audience for the subject matter, and a bright and intelligent audience at that. If Slimed! opens the door for more 90s nostalgia and pop culture analysis (especially about Nickelodeon) then that is certainly a good thing. Let’s just hope that the next book is written by someone with a more organized and caring hand.
If you haven’t read Slimed! and want to decide for yourself if it’s any good, please comment below by December 3rd. I will be giving my copy of Slimed! away (complete with a few bonus goodies) to one of our readers.
Now reprise the theme song and roll the credits…