Comics

Evocative Rather Than Repetitive: Exclusive Preview of "JLI: Breakdown"

Despite the almost near-iconic status of Old JLI, the book presented DC with a severe problem for continuity. To some degree, New 52 JLI is the rescue of those original themes…

For five years Justice League International (two years in, splitting into Justice League America and Justice League Europe) ran as an experiment that could not fail. Each month humor, pathos and hyperbole reached readers in an exact formula that enthralled and would continue to enthrall for a generation on. But the magic couldn't last, and the original "Break/Downs" threw both the American and European Leagues up against the political forces they could no longer hold back. In the broader context of the New 52, Justice League International: Breakdown evokes that same narrative arc without repeating events directly.

EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW

Original JLI followed a course not at all dissimilar to Seinfeld. Just as Seinfeld and co. only found their groove and their audience by their third season, JLI in the early issues still misunderstood its focus as multiculturalism. By issue nine (issue 10?) the focus of the book still seemed very much to be on the JLI as a geopolitical player with the team's Rocket Red revealed to be a plant by the sinister Manhunters.

But even by the end of that issue, even as Captain Atom contained an oil refinery fire and prevent an international incident, and even as a new Rocket Red was inducted to the team, the formula already seemed too much. The next issue would not only see Superman lead a team to hunt down the Manhunters' abandoned homeworld, but would also see a return to the formula established in the first issue -- where hyperbolic humor and frenetic action collide.

And while that original formulation of the JLI succeeded wildly and quickly, easily became a fan-favorite, it happened very much to the detriment of the League itself. Reintegrating the characters outside of the crazy, cartoony JLI bubble-reality proved difficult -- the classic case being the Elongated Man miniseries which presented the JLI's Ralph Dibny, minus the League. Some five years on, DC attempted a wholesale reboot of the franchise by reintroducing the DCU's heaviest of heavy hitters and tapping Grant Morrison to write "JLA". And about a decade after that, a second wave of reintegration would see former JLI boss Maxwell Lord (then boss of Checkmate) reimagined as James Bond-style villain, and longtime JLI member Blue Beetle as his first victim.

Outside of the highly-recognizable style however, the JLI books did make an important contribution to a post-Reagan world. In a very real sense, these books were DC's first skirmish with superheroes' actions having geopolitical implications. These books were also the introduction of a new breed of supervillain (masterminds all, having more in common with 007's Ernst Blofeld) and the dismantling of second-tier villains from the Silver Age.

In a neat, compact compendium comprising just two volumes the New 52 JLI retraces that same territory superhero activity having geopolitical ramifications. And perhaps unintentionally shows how the original JLI was a worthy precursor to Mark Waid and Alex Ross' grand drama, Kingdom Come.

Please enjoy our exclusive preview of Justice League International: Breakdown.

EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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