September 27, 2012


This review originally ran on Comics Bulletin.
Sometimes the most universal truths can be found in the smallest slices of life. That’s what makes independent documentaries so powerful, engaging, and entertaining. Not only do they show you little worlds to which you’ve never had access, but they oftentimes also tell the larger story of what it means to be human. Armed with this intellectual conceit, a bag of Funyuns, and a couple of Miller beers, Daniel Elkin curls up in front of the TV and delves deep into the bowels of Netflix Streaming Documentaries to find out a little bit more about all of us.
Today he and his friend Jason Sacks found 2011's Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians directed by Bryan Storkel.
Elkin: Gambling is the Devil's playground, right? The path to hell is paved with playing cards, and Satan is always raising the stakes. A true Christian would never succumb to the vice of gambling and the depravity of the casino.
Or would he or she?
Can you make your livelihood playing blackjack and still be a Christian?
Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians is a documentary that explores this very question in an immersive, engaging and thought-provoking manner that raises questions of faith, fortune and fidelity. The film follows a group of young Evangelical Christians, pastors, congregants and believers, who banded together as part of a blackjack team that crisscrossed America using the mathematical advantage that card-counting provides to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars from casinos. In a three-year period, the film examines how they are able to reconcile their livelihood with their faith, as well as explore the dynamics of the fraternity this business venture engendered and relied upon for its success.

September 21, 2012


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Creepy Scarlett Volume 1
(Graeme Buchan/Felipe Sanuea Marambio/Ozzy Longoria/J.C. Grantd/Jessica Jimerson)
Last Sunset
The solicitation for Creepy Scarlett Volume 1 points to an "ancient struggle" between an "eternal evil" called the Red Sun and Creepy Scarlett (along with her Teddy Bear, Mr. Ted) as they vie for possession of "a series of artifacts and the control of an untold power they combine to create." While certainly not a blaze across the sky idea or a ground breaking foundation for a narrative, in the right hands the book could be all kinds of crazy gonzo fun.
Unfortunately, these were not the right hands. 

September 17, 2012


This review originally ran on Comics Bulletin

According to writer Darryl Holliday’s introduction to The Illustrated Press: Chicago, “Comics journalism has the potential to incite new ways of thinking about what non-fiction storytelling can be.” That’s what this 59 page collection of vignettes purports to be: Comics Journalism. In the book, Holliday and Nelson present illustrated urban stories that ordinarily aren’t covered by major news outlets. Here you’ll find stories of prison marriages, public chess tables, nuns picketing immigration detention centers, recent graduates understanding of the student debt crisis, and more. Holliday calls it “a cross section of city-life via conversations and stories.”

And that’s really what this is: quick objective flashes of reporting from all over Chicago accompanied by some pleasant illustrations which help flesh out the moments. Each little slice is documenting and, taken as a whole, it is a form of reportage. But there lacks a cohesive theme to the collection (other than everything happens in Chicago) and the artwork, while nice, is illustrative only. It does little in the way of enhancing the narrative other than providing a snapshot of the experience.

September 16, 2012


This Review Originally Ran On Comics Bulletin

The Infernal Man-Thing mini-series is a posthumous work by the great Steve Gerber. It is a sequel to Gerber's fantastic “Song Cry of the Living Dead Man!” from The Man-Thing #12 (December, 1974). You may want to check out Jason and Daniel's reviews of Gerber's run on Man-Thing (Part 1 and Part 2) and before reading this review.
Daniel Elkin: Okay, Sacks, how weird was it reading Gerber from beyond the grave?
Jason Sacks: Depressing and weird and kind of exciting all at the same time
Daniel: My sentiments exactly. It was like, BOOM, there we were, right back into it, but it all seemed to be thick with a foreboding foretelling of the future for Gerber.
Jason: Gerber was clearly a really depressed, unhappy man based on this story, Which is so sad for me. For all his greatness, Steve never reached his full happiness and never achieved the success he hoped to achieve. At least that's a takeaway that I get from this story.

September 9, 2012

Convenient Truths -- THE TWO ESCOBARS

This column originally ran on Comics Bulletin

Sometimes the most universal truths can be found in the smallest slices of life. That’s what makes independent documentaries so powerful, engaging, and entertaining. Not only do they show you little worlds to which you’ve never had access, but they oftentimes also tell the larger story of what it means to be human. Armed with this intellectual conceit, a bag of Funyuns, and a couple of Miller beers, Daniel Elkin curls up in front of the TV and delves deep into the bowels of Netflix Streaming Documentaries to find out a little bit more about all of us.
Today he and his friend Jason Sacks found 2010's The Two Escobars by directors Jeff and Michael Zimbalist
Elkin: Part of ESPN's 30 for 30 programing, thirty documentaries that explored what sports has meant to American and World culture in the last thirty years, The Two Escobars is a film that focuses on the relationship in the early 1990's between the Colombian drug cartels and the Colombian national soccer team. Specifically it uses the conceit of paralleling the lives of “the two Escobars” – Pablo Escobar, the infamous cocaine kingpin, and Andres Escobar, the god-fearing, clean-living captain of the Colombian national soccer team – to tell the complicated story of the influence of drug money and mafia politics on the Colombian national identity.
As I watched this documentary, I became more and more convinced that during the course of making this film, the Zimbalist brothers came face to face with such an overwhelming moral gray area that they began to lose the focus of the film, and, by the time they made it to the editing room, they were awash in uncertainty as to what story they were actually trying to tell. Because it seemed that for Columbia, especially Colombian soccer, times were pretty good as the narco-cash was flowing freely and the government was firmly in the pockets of the cartels. It was only when the government started to crack down on the influence of the drug lords that things started to get ugly. And when I say ugly, I mean seriously bug-nutty violent.
In the 1980's and early 1990's, America loved its cocaine. We loved it so much that we spent millions upon millions of dollars snorting it up our noses. Because of this, Pablo Escobar found himself awash in millions upon millions of our dollars. Say what you will about Pablo Escobar, but nobody can deny that he used large amounts of this cash to help the poor and under-served in Columbia. He brought soccer fields and new housing. He brought order and a chain of command. He brought jobs and a sense of prosperity. And, most notably in this film, he brought success to Colombian national soccer.

September 7, 2012

Goat Cheese Mustache

a story...

A man takes off his hat
As a gesture
Showing himself to be a polite
Upstanding gentleman
In this moment of solemn
And as he does
He reveals
A slightly smaller hat.

Embarrassed, the man quickly
Snatches this hat
His head
But there
As Before
Sits one slightly smaller

The widow begins to titter so
As the man continues his struggle
With the hats
All these hats
So many hats

Finally, exhausted, the man
With a tiny
Almost imperceptible 
Perched precariously on top
Of his sweating head

At this point the widow is laughing
Screaming really with laughter
While the rest of the party
Stares with concern

"I'm terribly sorry about my problem with hats
on such a solemn occasion." says the man

"Oh, it's not the hats," shrieks the widow between gales of full throated laughter.
"It's that goat cheese mustache you wear with such pride."

It was then that something broke in the room and the whole funeral party
doubled over with laughter.

The man with the hats took this opportunity
To dance his little jig
All the time
Brushing his goat cheese mustache.

September 6, 2012



Tyranny of the Muse Issue 1 is the first in the series adapting Eddie Wright's novella Broken Bulbs. The premise of the story is that there's this washed up writer who meets his muse and is able to write again. The twist on this trope in Tyranny of the Muse, though, is that the writer's muse inspires him by “injecting seeds of inspiration directly into his brain through a festering wound”.

It's all kinds of nasty.

There is a filth to this book, reminiscent of a William S. Burroughs story or a David Cronenberg film (or a David Cronenberg film of a WilliamS. Burroughs story), and the narrative is fractured and plaintive. There is so much to push a reader away in these fifty some pages, yet I found myself propelled through, unable to put the book down.

September 2, 2012


This review originally ran on Comics Bulletin.
Jason SacksIt goes without saying that Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest Americans to have ever lived. Every American learned in school about the life of the great man who freed the slaves, wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address, led the country through its worst period and was assassinated for his trouble. 

Some of us know a bit more about Lincoln than we did in Elementary School, facts that help us to appreciate the great man even more. It's well known -- though not especially well-taught - that Abraham fought a deep and debilitating depression throughout his life, a depression that Lincoln would refer to as "The Hypo." His beloved wife, Mary, suffered from even more debilitating depressions than Abraham experienced. It's an act of great personal triumph that a man who lived with so many literal demons -- depression was often thought of as a sort of demonic possession in the 19th century -- grew up to be so great. Many a high school history essay has been written on this very topic.
It takes a skilled and insightful writer to show us Abraham Lincoln in a different light, to give readers a unique view of one of the most-discussed figures in history. Noah Van Sciver takes on that challenge with his new graphic novel The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln, and he succeeds in showing me a Lincoln that I seldom have thought about before.
The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln
Danny DjeljosevicI imagine most people perceive Lincoln not as a person, but as a series of signifiers: a stovepipe hat, a beard, a giant gaping hole in the back of his head as he's surrounded by the remains of dead vampires or beaming aboard the USS Enterprise. In the 147 years since his death, Abraham Lincoln has become a cultural icon, an image we emblazon on our money or render in marble.
So yeah, a figure we put that much emphasis on could use a re-injection of humanity, and it appears that Van Sciver is just the man for the job.
Daniel Elkin: Wait... Lincoln? Is he the guy on the five dollar bill or the guy on the penny?
Danny DHe's the guy they named all those cars after.

September 1, 2012

Dream Music -- Part 2

Created by: Marc Donahue & Sean Michael Williams 
 Filmed on location in 2 states over the course of 6 months 
using a new production technique called 'lyric-lapsing'
 Starring and Produced by Beau Brigham 
Produced by Gus Winkelman 
 Songs by: Joelistics: Days, Rabbits Running: Making Castles, dredg: Brushstroke-Reprise/Matroshka/The Ornament