Dissolving My Sweet Tooth

*But that's just an urban legend!


The Fate of the Artist (coming soon to a shelf near you - the new Eddie Campbell, and it's one you'll want to buy)

The Winter Men #4 (of 6), The Punisher MAX #32

Golgo 13 Vol. 2 (of 13): Hydra

Planetary #25 (of 27)

Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Vol. 2 (of 18)

Don't believe the lies! Your choppers are sturdy!

*Candy Dept: If there’s anything I know for sure about myself in this crazy world, it’s that I will trip over my feet, dash in front of busses, push the elderly and the handicapped into the gutter (possibly at once), and otherwise bear the rusted husk of my soul for all the world to see, all in order to sample the latest novelty candies and soft drinks. Good sweet god am I a sucker for this bullshit. I can’t even tell you how many limited edition variants of the Hershey bar I’ve tasted over the years (the recent one with cookie crumbs is divine), and needless to say I always jump at the new experiments that popular soft drink manufacturers cook up. It all dates back to my childhood trauma of having never tasted Crystal Pepsi.

Drinks are a little different than candy for me, though - I’m actually quite picky when it comes to colas and the like, and I can only drink a few brands for extended periods of time. Thus, my experiences with limited edition drinks tend to be singular ones, as even the stuff I like I can’t really picture coming back to all that often. Not that many of them climb that high on my ladder of quality - I can still vividly recall my rendezvous with Holiday Spice Pepsi, which tasted like something that might have dripped off the hairy hindquarters of the Krampus following a hard night of thrashing Eastern European children for glancing at their parents incorrectly.

Anyway, you might have heard of the spanking new Coca-Cola Blāk - it just debuted a few days ago, and comes in a dandy glass bottle so you’ll know Coke is being serious. In case you’re wondering what exactly Coca-Cola Blāk is, well, the bottle itself won’t give you many hints without careful investigation; the most immediately pertinent bit of labeling brands it as a “Carbonated Fusion Beverage,” which depending on what kind of day it is either raises for me the image of a sun exploding into being in my stomach or an NPR station being located inside the bottle. After all - it’s totally covered with label art. It could be anything! It could actually be green! Or teal! But no, looking at the ingredients it soon becomes obvious that it’s just Diet Coke with coffee extract dumped in.

That’s right - it’s Coke’s answer to the obscure mid-‘90s Pepsi/coffee concoction, Pepsi Kona, and only a decade late! I just had to dive in. And wouldn’t you know - they’ve actually managed to make Diet Coke taste somewhat less vile. I can’t imagine a wider gap in regular-to-diet quality than that found between Coca-Cola Classic and Diet Coke, but Coca-Cola Blāk manages to fill some of that empty space with tolerably sweet flavor that masks some of that ferocious Diet Coke aftertaste. The coffee presence is pronounced, though not as bitter as one might suspect, and the formula as a whole goes down pretty smooth. Once you’ve had more than a few gulps in a row, it does begin to shine through that it’s fundamentally just Diet Coke with coffee in it, as the powerful Diet Coke taste is primed to overcome any sweetening given half a chance, but sipping can be fairly pleasant. Unless you have reactions to aspartame, which is very much present in the mix.

I realize “It’s a triumph of mitigation!!” isn’t the most resounding praise to give a 99 cent drink (and that’s only a special introductory price at my local Hess station), but it’s still a nice thing to try once, which is what I generally do. I don’t really see anything unseating Coca-Cola Classic any time soon, unless they come out with a Coca-Cola Original and stop treating the coca leaves used in production. But hey, that’s just me - a man who just devoted 649 words to soda.

*Other words follow.


The Comics Journal #275: Featuring a big feature interview with David B., one of my very favorite current artists. Also, plenty of review as to the Best of 2005, which will in all likelihood feature mention of David B.'s Epileptic, among other worthy choices. Sure to be a hopping issue.

The Tourist: From Image, it’s a new original graphic novel by writer Brian Wood, with art by Toby Cypress. Concerning the affairs of a drug-smuggling American ex-soldier, and the troubles he brings to a quiet costal town in Northern Scotland. This 11-page preview positions it to fall a bit more into the building suspense zone of action, and the potential political charge might loan it a feel similar to Wood’s current DMZ at Vertigo. Low price, $9.99 for 104 pages.

Chicken Fat: This should be fun. A softcover, 96-page collection of random gags, sketches, illustrations, and general bits of nonsense from legendary Mad/Panic/Humbug/Playboy cartoonist Will Elder, a longtime collaborator with Harvey Kurtzman, and a man whose work can make me laugh in just about any context.

Shaolin Cowboy #5: What more needs be said about this, writer/artist Geof Darrow's blissful rampage of a book? Can't I just invoke the name, and presume that all will know that gorgeous visuals and snappily eccentric dialogue will follow? On the random months when this shows up, it's always welcome... this issue, flying rocks!

Desolation Jones #6: Coming up off a bit of a break, we finally see the end of the opening storyline of this Warren Ellis/J.H. Williams III-created project, with Jose Villarrubia doubtlessly adding vital color work to the visual mix. This is the best thing Warren Ellis is writing at the moment, a compelling fantastical detective fiction yarn set up as essentially a series of conversations between damaged people, wild violence providing occasional punctuation. But it’s the way in which the art and the script melt into one another, carefully color-coded pages enhancing the reader’s point-of-view apart from what’s begin said that really bumps this one up to the next level. Good to have it back.

Warren Ellis' Blackgas #2 (of 3): Gory zombie-like horror from Warren Ellis, largely subsuming his familiar writerly tics into a straightforward rendition of some classic gore flick standards. Your interest in this will vary with your taste for the 'source' material, but for a fan like me it's pretty successful thus far.

Escape of the Living Dead #5 (of 5): Gosh, it's like Avatar's decided to have a two-week long horror celebration, with the New Line licenses going first and the zombie books to follow. Now complete, this zombie book will probably make for an interesting comparison with the Ellis book above, as both are heavily influenced by differing zombie traditions - Ellis seems strongly keyed to the Italian school, with the mystic, natural undertones and the dank, wild environments, which this one very much an American-style flesh-chomper, with bits of social comment (very light here) and notions of class floating around. Not too surprising, as it's based on work by John Russo, one of the writers of Night of the Living Dead.

Batman: Year One Hundred #3 (of 4): Moving along nicely, we get the next chapter of the exploits of writer/artist Paul Pope’s privacy-interested caped crusader; whether Batman solves the mystery or not is secondary to what we learn about the world Pope is building, and it’s a tantalizing place so far.

BPRD: The Universal Machine #1 (of 5): Writers Mike Mignola & John Arcudi and artist Guy Davis return for what’s really the latest storyline in the BPRD ongoing series - they just keep calling them miniseries so the breaks don’t look as glaring as they otherwise might. Good luck jumping onboard this issue if you’re new, since the events herein will focus on deaths, origins, and rebuilding, all of it tightly based in earlier issues. Still, some initial characterization burps aside, this has developed into a worthy enough parallel series to Hellboy, and Guy Davis has long ago put as unique a visual stamp on this as Mignola has on the main title. Preview here, though there’s some big spoilers if you haven’t been keeping up.

Hellboy: Strange Places: And for those who really haven’t been keeping up, here’s the latest of the main trades, collecting the 2002 miniseries Hellboy: The Third Wish and the 2005 miniseries Hellboy: The Island, creator Mike Mignola’s final extended works as writer/artist. With a brand-new epilogue and a bunch of unused pages tossed in for extra value. Any Hellboy fans out there who didn’t get this stuff in pamphlet form, you’ll want this book - The Island in particular features some stunning, feverish visual storytelling.

Fantastic Four: First Family #2 (of 6): I enjoyed the first issue of this Joe Casey-written peek between the panels of the early days of the Fantastic Four - while not as intent on building up fresh effects from pieces of the past as Casey’s Iron Man: The Inevitable or especially Gødland, it was nonetheless interesting and often creepy, especially thanks to the standout art of Chris Weston and Gary Erskine of The Filth, fixated on the glowing and flowing textures of flesh, post cosmic radiation. I’m not sure how long they can keep my attention with that, but they’ve certainly got me coming back for a second round.

Albion #4 (of 6): Yow! After a rather long gap (I believe the laptop with one of the scripts on it was literally stolen, if I’m remembering correctly), this Alan Moore-plotted, Leah Moore/John Reppion-written, Shane Oakley/George Freeman-drawn book returns for its second half. The first three issues were pretty interesting material, though I don’t recognize any of the British super-characters being revived - interested to see where it goes.