Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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All Hail the Glow Cloud

Good evening, readers. I am all caught up with Welcome to Night Vale, the most popular podcast in America, which has been described as "[insert your favorite public radio show] meets [insert your favorite horror author]," and you must listen to it IT IS WONDERFUL. Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, it's a community news broadcast from the weirdest town in America, where weirdness is normal so whatever. In each episode, Cecil Baldwin narrates a horrifying news story with journalistic objectivity, be it a terrifying glow cloud raining down all manner of animal or the nutritional benefits and/or dangers of wheat and wheat by-products. Interspersed between plot segments are shorter updates, including words from sponsors, community calendars, and science facts for children. This may sound boring until you realize that the community calendar features informative news like "Saturday, the public library will be unknowable. Citizens will forget the existence of the library from 6am Saturday morning until 11pm that night. The library will be under a sort of renovation. It is not important what kind of renovation." As the podcast continues, various subplots develop and recurring characters, well, recur—although one gets an unexpected story arc!

Welcome to Night Vale is delightfully odd. It plays with words and subverts your expectations; after a while, some of the jokes become a little predictable, but it's okay because they're so right. It's a comfortable offbeatness. But sometimes it's wonderfully uncomfortable. Despite the fact that it's fucking hilarious, it's not funny to Cecil, so some segments are genuinely unnerving. It's horror-comedy that succeeds at being both horror and comedy.

Back in May, I began yet another comic book journey inspired by my pusher, Angelo, who bought me background information for one of his favorite recent comics, Kieron Gillen's Journey into Mystery (full Goodreads reviews: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Exiled, Vol. 4, Everything Burns). It was a Loki-centric tale, and Gillen began laying the groundwork for the story in Siege: Thor (full Goodreads review) and Thor: Siege Aftermath (full Goodreads review), which were...okay, I suppose. I think maybe I don't care about Thor the way I don't care about Superman. They're both ubernoble superdudes who don't seem to have much to them beyond their duty to protect or whatever. Although they're also both pretty clever, which I appreciate. I didn't really know what was going on regarding Thor and the Asgardians, but I did appreciate Loki's antics and Mephisto.

With Journey into Mystery: Fear Itself, however, Kieron Gillen's storytelling feels so much more assured than in the Siege-related Thor books. From the opening narration, it's clear he's found his voice, a milieu where he can shine. And a brilliant character to write: Kid Loki is my favorite character since Damian Wayne. He's as devious and manipulative as his adult counterpart, but he's also wonderfully conflicted about how he wants to act as opposed to how he should act. What is his true nature? Should he do mischief for mischief's sake, or could he possibly do it for a greater purpose? All of Loki's dealings in Hell begin to pay off, as he uses the conflict between Mephisto and Hela—which he engineered—to his own advantage. What is he really up to, though? It's definitely related to whatever's going on in Fear Itself, by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen (full Goodreads review), which I read concurrently (and is basically a lot of people punching each other and occasionally dying). The Serpent is trying to take over the world! But is Loki trying to help him or defeat him? Is there anyone in this book he won't trick somehow?

Astonishingly, Gillen is able to launch an amazing fucking story from behind the scenes of a massive crossover event (and two later story arcs are also crossovers, which, unfortunately, do diminish the power of the storytelling a bit). It's Loki's story, even though the rest of the world may not know it. As his tale continued, I knew I was in the hands of a gifted storyteller. Every page, every panel, I felt happy and privileged to be reading it. At one point the narration made me burst out laughing so hard I had to put the book down; at another point it destroyed all my emotions. Here are some choice phrases from my Goodreads reviews: "fucking fantastic," "goddamn brilliant," "lyrical, witty," "clever and lyrical," "epic and fantastical and hugely fucking fun," "fiendishly brilliant," and "truly magnificent." Kid Loki is now one of my very favorite characters, a villain struggling against his very nature in an effort to do good despite the fact that everyone—save his brother, Thor—hates him forever. One reviewer described Journey into Mystery as a Vertigo story in the Marvel Universe twenty years too late. It's an apt description, given the clear Sandman influences. Gillen delivered an ambitious, clever, emotional, thought-provoking story with an incredibly fascinating, conflicted, endearing protagonist.
Tags: books, comics, pimpings, podcasts, real life friends
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