Friday, April 16, 2004

Big day here at The Hurting. Just found out I got a music reviewer position for Popmatters that I sent in a resume for a while back. I'm stoked about that. Then I see that Rick over at the Poopsheet has posted my review of John Beltran's "In Full Color" album, so I'm happy about that too.

But the coolest of the cool - my wife finally has her own website up! Yes, you can go here and listen to a bunch of Anne's music (maybe not right now, she's still uploading some stuff, but soon). If you like The Hurting, just go over there and check it out, will ya?

Finally, "Travels With Larry" continues apace and I'm gratified by the response the feature has received. Now, whoever said that Mr. Larry Young was anything less than a gentleman and a scholar needs to get their head straight, because the man is definitely a class act. Seriously, how many people go out of their way to thank you for a negative review?

I've said it before and I'll say it again, feel free to contact me about reviewing your stuff if you're a publisher or creator. Look at all the free press AiT/Planet Lar got! Seriously dude, do you want to be left out when Hollywood comes-a-calling and all the people who sent books to The Hurting are rolling around in platinum-rimmed Escalades with Nelly and lighting their cigars with hundred-dollar bills?

Travels With Larry Part VI

Giant Robot Warriors

Ah, this book is alright. Neither great nor horrible, it floats comfortably in the middle realms.

“Giant Robot Warriors” posits a world wherein the titular robots have evolved into an alternative weapon of mass destruction alongside conventional weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, biological and chemical. The robots are called in to do battle in place of or in a complimentary position to conventional forces.

It’s a neat concept, but it helps not to squint too closely. For instance, the technicians have to be within a few hundred yards of their robots to control the battle. Additionally, there’s a “gentlemen’s agreement” among all robot combatants not to target the opponents pilots. First, I have a hard time believing they couldn’t use satellite communications to do just about anything these days. Second, I have an even harder time believing that every warring nation would abide by the agreement to not target the technicians behind the bot. Even if there was a Geneva Convention for GRWs, well . . . you see how many real-life nations play by the Geneva Accords.

Jumbles like this are part and parcel of the rat’s nest involved in writing convincing pseudo-military hard sci-fi. Maddeningly, some of the technical details seem very well conceived – such as the robots’ inability to function in desert conditions because of exposed joints. There’s a also a brief gag about this joint problem having been kept out of the press following a disastrous Gulf War mission, but just one panel later Agent McManus makes an offhand comment that leads the reader to infer that the Gulf War mission had been televised. There are enough of these tiny inconsistencies to keep the book from total success.

But, if you can buy the notion, it’s an enjoyable book. The pace is brisk and the main characters well delineated. I would say that Stuart Moore’s dialogue is probably one of the weaker points. It snaps in places, yes, but it also has something of a superreal swagger to it. The characters are all verbally dexterous to an improbable degree. Perhaps it’s my naturalistic prejudices showing, but improbable dialogue doesn’t sit well with my suspension of disbelief. (To be fair, this is a singular prejudice on my part, and it’s not wholly consistent. And admittedly, convincingly “real” dialogue is not perfect for every project, and any writer will tell you it’s a difficult craft to master.)

Ryan Kelly’s art is very good. This is another project, however, that could have benefited from the addition of color. The pages are simply too busy. As I’ve said many times before, drawing for black & white is an entirely different proposition from drawing for color, and you have to be able to flex your compositions accordingly. Because of the admirable complexity of much of the technical drawing in this book, it’s often hard to tell where your eye needs to flow. He’s good with spotting his blacks, but instead of utilizing empty space to allow his compositions room to breathe, every square inch seems cluttered with detail. Without color, it’s sometimes a chore to navigate through the narrative.

Additionally, Kelly occasionally flubs the consistency of his faces. The first panel wherein Agent McManus appears makes her look distinctly African-American, but throughout the rest of the book she’s clearly white.

It’s a fun book. More than anything else, both Moore and Kelly acquit themselves well. I don’t know if I would go so far as Booklist’s review, which boasted that GRW is “a graphic-novel sibling . . . of Dr. Strangelove,” if for no other reason than that the satire is probably a bit too broad for my tastes. (I won’t give away the major revelation, but I will say it’s no big surprise for those of us firmly on the Left of our dear President). “Giant Robot Warriors” is a good book that should be enthusiastically embraced by the giant robot fans in our audience – you know who you are - and it’s an agreeably entertaining read for anyone with a Jones for sci-fi shenanigans.

Not a home run, but a solid double. In any event, a lot better than Robot Jox.

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