And now, a special guest rant by Chew

My buddy Chew is no fan of Newsarama Best Shots reviewer Steve Ekstrom’s prose, in particular his review of Criminal #6:

Sometimes these Newsarama reviewers piss me off.  Mostly because they either
misspell everything, or they misuse words with reckless abandon.  A
vocabulary only counts if you know what the words mean.  This is a
disturbing example.  It’s a crime against literacy that this was ever
allowed to be read by the public.  I’m actually kind of angry.

Examples from the most recent “best shots” review of “Criminal”:

“Tracy Lawless is the kind of antithesis that would make weaker men crumble
with the rasp of his voice before their cold bodies hit the ground.”
— Yes, he’s truly an antithetical, ANTITHETICAL man.

“Lawless would have already silently dispatched them, two or three ways to
Sunday even, and done so in such a fortuitous manner that people wouldn’t
notice that they were gone—like thinking you heard a whisper but then second
guessing yourself.”
— I guess he’s lucky to be dead.

“What makes Criminal that much more of a dazzling beast of a ‘crime book’ is
its combination of the economically savvy Brubaker with the sumptuous grime
of Sean Phillips’ artwork.”
— First off, let’s ignore the idiocy of the term ‘dazzling beast’ (as if
the comic was a Yeti in a sequin tutu), it’s still true: Brubaker spends
very little on his writing materials and has been playing the stock market
for years, which is why he can afford to write comics.  This review is so
metamorphically awesome, I’d like to shove some ‘sumptuous grime’ in the
writers mouth so he can taste it on his malapropistic palate.

“Rich colors by the talented Val Staples shifts the tone of the book from
being a trope in the background to a full fledged elephant in the room.”
— Oh!  Oh yes, yes, but of course!  I should have noticed earlier how the

“Is this book saying more about us as humans—beyond its exposition into the
criminal underworld and the mind of any skulking, scuttling bastard?”
— Ah yes.  Maybe the comic will expound or explain into it later.  Or,
maybe if we’re lucky, explore unto it.

“Having enjoyed this series as much as I have thus far—I’m starting to not
only question Ed Brubaker’s categorical imperative but my own as well.”
— He has no idea what either “categorical” or “imperative” mean.  He
should be questioning his education.

Steve Ekstrom is a tool.

I would just like to point out that the comic in question is an excellent one, well worth your time and your hard-earned money, and that Steve Ekstrom is probably a very, very nice person. 

But when it comes to his purple prose, he is, indeed a tool.



Filed under chew, soap box

6 responses to “And now, a special guest rant by Chew

  1. What can I say? If your friend ‘Chew’ doesn’t like the reviews–he doesn’t have to read them. He can always go read Hannibal Tatu’s “Buy Pile”–I mean if that’s more his speed.

    My prose maybe flowery–but that’s only because I want people to read them and not be bored by a regurgitation of an issue’s premise like it’s a fucking book report.

    So, I’m going to defend myself now, if you don’t mind–because I would think that educated chaps like you and your boy, Chew, would appreciate a response to your blogging.

    1. I used the term ‘antithesis’ loosely because this guy isn’t a ‘hero’ in any way, shape, or form. He’s obviously the protagonist of this story–and he’s obviously not as ‘criminal’ as his targets are–but in any other book, Lawless, this ruthless killing machine, would be a villain. So in a way–he’s an antithesis without someone to be juxtaposed against. I probably should have elaborated more…I’ll give you that.

    2. Your second ‘snippet’ of my review–refers to the perfect moment that occurs when Lawless kills that poor drunken idiot at the beginning of the story. Lawless talks about seeing the garbage truck and how everything came together at that moment–fortuitous, isn’t it? The rest was blatant hyperbole to remark on the stark efficiency Lawless possesses in an amusing manner.

    ‘Fortuitous’ doesn’t just mean ‘lucky’–it can also mean “produced by chance”. I won’t concede to this little semantic argument–it’s weak.

    3. The term “economically savvy” refers to the use of ‘economy’ in terms of ‘minimalism’–because the story is sparse yet has a certain gravitas that cannot be ignored.

    I call ‘Criminal’ a “dazzling beast” because it is a mixture of brutally well-written noir and rough, realistic artwork.

    The second half of your criticism–addressing tone of the book being an “elephant in the room”. I made this comment based on the fact that the writer, the artist, and even the person coloring the book are all working so well in unison that one of the elements of the book–an element that gets overlooked a lot in modern comic books because elements like “characterization” trample over everything in stereo.

    4. Your next point–I’m kind of lost on. I was making a comment about the human fascination with villainy and our post-modern fascination with “the bad guy”.

    I think you and “Chew” could agree that modern literature–like Joyce’s Ulysses focuses more on the “chinks in the armor” of a protagonist hero whereas a post-modern comic book featuring Dr. Doom might barrage a reader with tons of sympathetic insights into the character–creating an eclectic villain that’s not so much “evil” as he is misguided or misunderstood or just damaged with the potential of being fixable.

    5. The idea of a “categorical imperative” is the summation of an ultimate command of reason that is the basis for a perfect sense of morality–right?

    ‘Criminal’ is a very AMORAL book/concept.

    Again, I was making a joke about the dark nature of Brubaker’s writing style.

    The usage of Kantian philosophy may have been a little haphazard. I was writing this review at 6AM on Sunday morning after about 10 or 12 pints of Paulaner.

    I’m going to continue about my day–perhaps being ‘a tool’ by your standards. I’m going to read and review more comics this weekend–I’m probably going to review comics for many many weekends to come for Best Shots on Newsarama. You and ‘Chew’ may read them–you may not–I’m probably not going to lose any sleep over it if you choose the latter. I mean just think:

    Over 2 million people visit Newsarama every month. How many people read your blog? Fifty? One Hundred? I hope the “blogging” picks up for you…I’ll stick with my paying job at Newsarama.

    You know–I wanted to check out your blog because I like reading comic-savvy blogs–I thought it was completely awesome that you and your boy were willing to take as much as you did to talk about ME–because it means that I garner attention–whether it is positive or negative. This kind of attention is better than being not getting any attention at all–it means you read my work!

    I’m sure the two of you will take the time to play more “literary grab ass” with this response–that’s cool. It just means you have nothing better to do with your time.

    That being said–I just wanted to return the favor to two “wanker cunts” (I’ll talk in terminology that you two won’t misunderstand) who want to anonymously pass judgment on a really unoriginal, uninspiring blog on the internet.

    Steve Ekstrom
    Contributor @ Newsarama

  2. Steve, I’ll just lay it on the line. I’m sorry I ripped into your writing with so much vitriol (admittedly, I got on a roll). At the end of the day, it was an e-mail that was impulsively posted on ceebeegeebee, mostly because we really didn’t think anyone visited. =]

    I will, however, say that I still think the grammar was questionable and the language took a dozen too many Paulaner-inspired liberties. Everyone appreciates an interesting review and you had many insights, but here’s the thing — you used a lot of bad grammar.

    Here are my responses (and I mean this with diplomacy and it’s not meant to incite anymore mean-spirited back-and-forth that plauges so much of our online comicbook-loving community):

    1. By ‘antithesis’, you meant ‘anti-hero’. ‘Antithesis’ should be used in conjuction with another concept and not as a floating stand-alone adjective, as you used it.

    2. Had you included that context (i.e., the garbage truck) it would have made much more sense.

    3. I knew what you meant, but the term ‘economically savvy’ didn’t say what you intended. It in fact means “wise with money”. You easily could have said “savvy with his economy of words”.

    “Dazzling beast” just wasn’t my cup of tea. I worded it strongly, but I just didn’t think it was good poetry. Sorry it was personal; it was solely my opinion.

    I understood your comment about the colouring and I actually agree with it. I was referring to your misuse of the word “trope”. A “trope” is a literary device. It’s rhetoric, not a “thing” that can then be compared to an elephant, nor is it in any way applicable to colouring. I’m sorry, but that’s just factual.

    4. Again, I was taking issue with your grammar and, specifically, use of the word “exposition”. You can’t “exposition into” something. It’s a noun, not a verb. You probably meant “exploration”. I think the point you were trying to make is well-taken, and “Criminal” is a fascinating look into the anti-heroic genre in much the same way “Hellblazer” originally was. No arguments there. I was simply irked by your misuse of words.

    5. “Categorical imperative” would be an “unconditional command or statment” and has no intrinsic reference to morality one way or the other. Consequently, your sentence had no real intent other than to say that you question Brubaker’s unconditional statements, as well as your own. You could have qualified that phrase by saying “categorical moral imperative” — which I would have agreed with.

    This blog is run by a well-read and intelligent individual, who loves comics as much, if not more, than the rest of us. It isn’t meant to be a bully pulpit and I promise there won’t be anymore overtly personal rants. But when all is said and done, we, as writers, have a responsibility to write properly. Over 2 million people cruise through Newsarama and I will continue to be one of them. Typos happen, but with the world’s waning interest in literature and their growing reliance on websites for reading material, it means we owe it to them to set the standard for what is rapidly becoming (if it isn’t already) the world’s most influential source for the written word.

    Steve, I think your insights were well-intentioned, and no doubt you are an intelligent person, but I work as a writer and editor for a financial firm, and my job is to and meet the minimum requirements and, occasionally, raise the bar for our well-read, highly intelligent, and thorough clientele.

    I’m sorry it was personal and I’m sorry I called you a tool (the ‘wanker cunts’ comment notwithstanding as an acceptable retort), but as great as your ideas are, I frankly took exception to your grammar.

    Don’t let this stop you from visiting ceebeegeebee (just as won’t stop visiting Newsarama), because Spencer has a lot of great things to say.

    And I hope the next time we meet on a comment board, it’s less catty and juvenile.

    Lawrence Chew

    PS: The grammatical structure of the last sentence of your post lacked a proper modifier. You, in effect, actually called Newsarama “a really unoriginal, uninspiring blog on the internet.”

    PPS: I’ll take whatever ass-grabing I can get. =]

  3. The difference between “creative writing” and “technical writing” is that–yes, there are standards to grammar–but do I have to follow them?

    No–actually I don’t. If I were forced to write in a format–such as APA–then I would worry about my syntax.

    The rules of the column, which are posted at the top of the each and every column, dictate that grammatical nitpicking is generally looked down upon because:

    We’re writing these reviews for free.

    I tend to write like I speak–and someone of your experience with the English language should already know that the ABSOLUTISM of grammarians has little or no bearing on spoken English. People will say things like “Where are you at?” because slang is a perfectly acceptable mode of communication.

    I’m in the process of “breaking in” as a writer in the comic book industry–I really don’t want to be a comics journalist but it’s one of those “tried and true” methods of success. I’m also a recipient of an Academy of American Poets Award–for my pursuits or whatever.

    I may or may not come back to this blog–I guess the point I’m trying to make is that you and I are different–you are a “bean counter” of words and I am more like a “painter” of words. The only time an accountant and an artist seem to be in agreement are when they both are making money off of something mutually.

    I’m not “angry”–this was entertaining. I will say this: even though you tried to smooth things over–you were still passive/aggressively pursuing your course at the end of your response–as you pointed out where I lacked a proper–whatever…

    The point is: you knew what I meant and I assumed you were smart enough to know that. I didn’t need the grammar lesson.

    Have a good weekend.

  4. I’m okay with agreeing to disagree on this. I know the internet isn’t the safest place to voice opinions, because things like this always get blown out of proportion and I really am sorry for the personal nature of the post. It obviously could have used some re-tooling before being made available for public consumption, but it was a rather hasty decision.

    Also, I’m by no means an accountant, I suppose I just treat the fundamentals of language as my canvas. If that’s ‘bean counting’, then sure. We’re both writers and writing is always going to be about style, so there comes a point where you just have to let it go. =]

    I apologize for the grammar lesson and best of luck with your career in writing comics.

    You have a good weekend, too.

  5. ленивая рука покоилась на пустом желудке.. )

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