Monday, May 14, 2018

Adam Parfrey is FUCKIN' DEAD: A Heartfelt Memorial

An irreverent tribute to an irreverent man.

By: Jimbo X

"I prefer people with imagination: dictators, serial killers, schizophrenics, assassins, skinheads, drug lords, violent bikers, devil worshipers. To me, these are the interesting people. To get its edge back, I think what America really needs is more evil. Intense, unalloyed, concentrated evil."

- George Carlin (2004)

"I want to get dangerous information out into the world. I think it's necessary for people to make up their own minds other than some publishing house saying what's right and what's not."

- Adam Parfrey (1988)

"Δ S = S [final] - S [initial]"
- Formula for measuring  change in entropy

In my lifetime, I've had maybe 10 or 12 people I can safely say I've idolized.

Obviously, the three biggest inspirations on my writing style are Joe Bob Briggs, Jim Goad and Matt Caracappa. My sense of humor (and in many ways, my philosophical outlook on the world) was shaped by George Carlin and Richard Pryor. And that plucky, "fuck everybody else, I'm doing this shit MY WAY" indie sensibility o' mine was quite clearly forged by visionary assholes like Al Davis, Paul Heyman, Lloyd Kaufman and Ian MacKaye.

And on May 10, one of the very, very few individuals out there I can genuinely call one of my heroes bought the big one. 

Read it and weep, children — Adam Parfrey, 61, is dead. As in, pushing up daisies, turning into worm-food and having all of his mail delivered via groundhog.

And no, CNN and The New York Times did not momentarily suspend their coverage of super-important, newsworthy items like hipster retards sewing magnets into their skins for the LULZ and unfuckable 50-year-old skaggs bemoaning "dat's RAYCISS" promposals to afford Parfrey's death just a smidgen of attention.

In fact, the only "news" outlets that even reported Parfrey's death were such stewards of journalistic excellence as Vice, Reason and ... sigh ... L.A. Weekly. And even then, the accounts weren't as much memorials to the underground publisher as they were shameless, shameless partisans using Parfrey's death as a platform for yet another tired "fuck Trump and all his bigoted supporters AmeriKKKa" diatribe.

The man deserves better, people, and if nobody else is going to give this guy the glowing public eulogy he deserves, looks like I'm gonna' have to step up to the plate and do the media's work for 'em ... again

Long story short, Parfrey was the Charles Mackay of our generation. This is a guy who had his finger on the pulse of modern absurdity better than anybody who has lived on planet earth in the last 50 years. This is a guy who saw the unseen horrors lurking beneath the hoi polloi's banal behaviors, and conversely, a man insightful enough to capture the small glimmers of absolute truth contained in the rantings and ravings of bona fide maniacs.

Nietzsche once warned the masses to avoid looking into "the abyss." Meanwhile, Parfrey didn't just invite it to a staring contest, he practically snorkeled in it while wearing Mickey Mouse flip flops.

Apocalypse Culture II absolutely blew my mind in college. Here was a compendium of essays, articles and prose on the most disturbing and nihilistic shit you could think of — necrophiliacs and child rapists and cannibals — but it was a look at the dark side of existence through a truly anthropological lens. This wasn't just the usual Faces of Death and juvenalia, this was downright beautiful philosophizing on the insanity of contemporary society. After reading all the letters from psycho stalkers and interviews with aspiring mass shooters and the surprisingly eloquent lamentations of professional porno reviewers, it's almost like I walked away with an opaque realization of a universal truth I had never acknowledged before. It took me years and years to figure out what that was, but in hindsight, I recognize what Parfrey was: the world's first dedicated beat reporter for the subject of social entropy.

That's the recurring theme of the Feral House bibliography; as great as things may be going on in modern existence, we're STILL bound for terminal ruin — and if you look very closely at the world around you, you can pick up the subtle, subtle cues that cultural collapse is all around us.

Parfrey is a man who recognized the heat death of humanity in bubblegum pop music. The big crunch of civility through allegations of rigged NFL games. The cold, icy implosion of social life as we know it through things as seemingly insignificant as Ed Wood movies, black metal, Internet websites about poop and standardized student testing — this, in addition to the stuff hidden in plain sight (radical Islam, high-powered pharmaceuticals, the expansion of the surveillance state, etc.) that for some bizarre reason, we've somehow managed to convince ourselves really aren't that big of a deal

No, Parfrey wasn't just a publisher who made a bushel recycling the profundities of John Zerzan, Smedley Butler, Anton LeVay and the Unabomber. This was a man who literally dedicated his life to exploring, analyzing and assessing the slow deterioration of the species, chronicling the sundry ways Western Civilization is killing itself through rock and roll, heroin, breakfast cereal and post-post-modern art.

Not a whole lot of people ever picked that up about Parfrey. They just thought he was a weird dude that published stuff about pedophiles and corpse-fuckers and Japanese serial killers because he liked to shock people. No, Parfrey's intentions were much, much deeper than that. His writings — either the ones he himself personally wrote or the ones he published on behalf of others — give us key insight into the end of all that is and all that ever will be. Those ghastly little glimmers of horror and inhumanity, he reminds us, don't exist in a vacuum; indeed, books like Apocalypse Culture paint a vivid portrait of how "normal society" breeds, creates and ultimately encourages such disgusting and disturbing things.

That's the secret brilliance — and terror — of Parfrey's work. He's letting us know that all the wacko conspiracy theorists and drug-addicted sex maniacs and remorseless ax murderers of the world are cut from the very same social fabric as you and I, and maybe such regrettable individuals aren't mere abnormalities, but a vision of what will one day be the new normal

All civilizations collapse eventually. And considering all the social carcinogens within American culture right now — all of those grisly and kooky things Parfrey spent his entire life writing about — it's probably a lot closer to happening than any of us would care to realize.

Shit, just take a look at the names of Parfrey's books. Rants and Incendiary Tracts, Cult Rapture: Revelations of the Apocalyptic Mind, The End is Near! Visions of Apocalypse, Millennium and Utopia. This is a man who knew that the laws of thermodynamic equilibrium applied just as much to social states as it did molecular systems, and his writings clearly showed us the proverbial writing on the walls was all around us

Matter and energy remains constant, or else it dies. That's a General Systems truth that governs literally everything we know about the universe, but for some reason, humanity has convinced itself our majestic societies are somehow immune to that.

Well, after reading Parfrey's works, it's impossible to go back to thinking things are just hunky-dory in these United States. We might feel that we're civil and progressive and that we're hurtling towards utopia any day now, but each step forward is ultimately but one stop closer to our own cultural death. Forward movement can only go on for so long; eventually, the cultural apex has to be reached, and from there? It's all downhill, folks ... real downhill.

I admired and envied Parfrey because he was covering EXACTLY the same material I would be covering if I had my own imprint. Parfrey's milieu was destruction and decay and degradation and degeneration and decadence, but it was still objective. His stuff was the most deliberate and level-headed look at absolute madness I've ever read in my life (eat shit, Foucault) and even now I stand in awe of his impressive oeuvre.

Strangely enough, just a day before his death on May 10 I was thinking about whether or not he would release an Apocalypse Culture 3 while walking my dog. That should show you the indelible impact and import of Parfrey's work on my life — here I was, enjoying a beautiful summer day and getting a ton of fresh air with my puppy, yet in the back of my head ... way, WAY in the back ... I was still sub-subconsciously chewing on the subject of social decomposition, that even though everything seems just peachy, EVERYTHING around us is slowly-but-surely dying.

It's still my biggest dream as a writer to one day launch my own social entropy-themed publication, some sort of magazine or website or imprint wholeheartedly dedicated to all things adharmic about the current cultural order. And that's precisely because of Parfrey's work — something that has influenced me not only as a writer, but as a human being in general.

It's a shame Parfrey will probably only be remembered for hanging out with Satanists and that one concept album he made after the Rodney King riots (which, to be fair, actually is pretty fucking awesome.) Indeed, Parfrey should be remembered as our greatest custodian of modern popular delusions, the paramount historian of our contemporary social psychoses and the premier chronicler of the late 20th century and early 21st century's paranoia and hysteria-fueled mass media

Half publisher and half prophet, Parfrey shone a light on the other side of the human experience, that part of our nature we prefer to think we've outgrown cerebrally and out-evolved socially. He wasn't afraid to hold up that mirror and reflect our own ugliness and vileness back on us (which, proving his point, become maligned as neo-aestheticism by the supposed enlightened ones and decried as pornography by the alleged moral majority.) 

Some might call him a fringe fetishist or a pop cultural pariah or a conspiracy wonk, and some might even call him glib, superficial or — dare I say it? — a "proto-hipster." As is with everything in life, there's probably a kernel of truth to those accusations (after all, this is a man that started selling fucking coloring books in what we would now call the empennage of his life and career.)

Still, it's hard to not appreciate and admire a man who wasn't afraid to tackle topics not only considered unspeakable, but through a hard social science approach that — intentionally or unintentionally — revealed the greater philosophical truths of our own impending demises.

That's who and what Adam Parfrey was — the bastard love child of Emile Durkheim and Larry Flynt. The mutant offspring of Talcott Parsons and Al Goldstein. Zizek and the Zodiac Killer rolled into one person.

And if you haven't hit up his finest works, you don't know what you've been missing, folks.

All I can say is hanks for the memories, pal — we're all going to miss you, especially in today's world.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Winnipeg vs. Vegas — The Western Conference Finals Match-Up We Never Knew We Wanted

Why the unlikeliest Western Conference Finals in NHL history also has the potential to be one of its best.

By: Jimbo X
Imagine you're a hardcore hockey fan in the year 2008.

Then all of a sudden, a time traveler from 2018 shows up.

Because you're a hardcore hockey fan, you don't ask him any stupid questions about who the president is or whether or not World War III has broken out. Instead, you ask him what *any* level-headed person would: "hey bud, which teams make the Western Conference Finals in the '18 Stanley Cup playoffs?"

I can almost smell the 2008 dude's head exploding when the time traveler speaks.

"A first-year expansion team out of Las Vegas and the Atlanta Thrashers ... who, by the way, are now the second incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets."

There's no doubting it: the Golden Knights/Jets 2.0 WCF match-up HAS to be the most unlikely in NHL history. For that matter, it might just be the unlikeliest conference finals in anything EVER.

Yup, weirder than the Minnesota Wild/Mighty Ducks of Anaheim WCF back in '03. More bizarre than the 2012 WCF coming down to Los Angeles and Phoenix. And certainly more randomly-generated sounding than the time the Eastern Conference Finals came down to Carolina and Toronto ... or Carolina and Buffalo ... or hell, pretty much ANY time it boiled down to the Hurricanes against anybody else.

How do you describe just how weird this is to non-hockey fans? Imagine if next season, Roger Goodell announced the Lions were relocating to London and not only did they have a stellar season, they made it all the way to the NFC Championship ... where they took on a suddenly annexed Toronto Argonauts team from the Canadian Football League.

Or if the National League Championship Series boiled down to the Milwaukee Brewers and the Montreal Expos, who just kind of showed up without explanation halfway through the season.

Or next year's NBA Finals somehow involving both the Washington Bullets AND the Vancouver Grizzlies.

THAT is how weird the actual reality before us is in this NHL season.

The runaway success of the Vegas Golden Knights has to be unparalleled in the world of pro sports. Expansion teams are supposed to be historically terrible, the kinds of squads that finish with single-digit win columns and get blown out 6-1 by teams that don't even qualify for the playoffs.

But here we are, with a FIRST YEAR EXPANSION TEAM just four wins away from participating in the Stanley Cup Finals.

A team like the Knights isn't supposed to be in playoff contention. But they very well could win their league's championship their VERY FIRST season. A team that literally had to cobble itself together with the leftovers none of the other 30 teams in the League wanted has already steamrolled two playoff-caliber teams that have had DECADES to build themselves offensively and defensively.

Sure, you could credit their success to Marc-Andre Fleury's outstanding goaltending, or the impressive depth of their defensive lines. You could even credit their success to all of the other teams getting distracted by all of the gambling, boozing and whoring going on before road games (which, if nothing else, gets me REAL excited to be a Raiders fan a couple years down the road.)

But seemingly no logical explanation suffices. Which, naturally, would put them on a crash course with the only other team in the League's whose sudden success is even half as inexplicable — the Winnipeg Jets.

As in, "these guys USED to be the Atlanta Thrashers seven seasons ago" Winnipeg Jets. The "our province's SECOND largest city only has 46,000 people in it" Winnipeg Jets. The "I seriously forget sometimes they're NOT a team that went defunct in 1996" Winnipeg Jets.

Over in the NBA conference finals, it's Star Wars — James Harden vs. Steph Curry in the West and Lebron vs., uh, whoever's on the Celtics, in the East. You're definitely getting big-name value in pro basketball, but in pro hockey? We're getting a duel between Mark Scheifele and Jonathan Marchessault. Forget "brand names," they're not even attempting to give us names we can PRONOUNCE this go at-it.

And I, for one, am ecstatic.

I hope this thing goes a full seven games and at least half of them go to overtime, with maybe one or two double or triple O.T. affairs just for the hell of it. You've got the Golden Knights, rocking their jerseys that look suspiciously similar to the flag of Germany and/or the 1993 Vancouver Canucks uniform, representing the hedonistic, hyper-capitalist, economic-development-uber-alles excess of Degenerate Disneyland going skate-to-skate and knuckle-to-knuckle with a team that's literally cosplaying as a WHA squad from the 1970s, which — through some great cosmological fluke that defies any an all forms of empirical reason — now represents the greatest hope for Canada to take home Lord Stanley in a quarter-century.

As literally the ONLY Atlanta Thrashers fan in history, this thing is triply, if not quadruply, mind-blowing. Not only is it like seeing your ex-girlfriend get gender reassignment surgery, it's like watching her become a legit contender in the UFC's male heavyweight division after getting her cooch snipped and reshaped into a monster-sized wing-wong.

It just ... man, I can't even wrap my head around it, and that's after staring at a computer screen for the lost two hours cogitating on it.

Forget Leicester City winning the Premier League or Virginia getting beat by a 16th seed in the NCAA tourney or even that time Evander Holyfield hit Hasim Rahman so hard he literally turned into the Elephant Man on live television. This upcoming WCF is far and away the STRANGEST thing I've ever seen in my 32 years of watching, imbibing and ingesting sports products.

And you'd have to be a damned fool to miss even a MICROSECOND of the series.

Enjoy it while it lasts, folks. Surely, our old friend sanity has to take the wheel again at some point, doesn't he?

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Revisiting PRIDE FC 2 from 1998!

Think you're a real MMA fan? Well, you ain't shit until you've seen Renzo Gracie smell another man's balls for 50 minutes straight ...

By: Jimbo X

Our whirlwind journey through the ENTIRE Pride FC fightography continues with a look back at the company's second-ever show — ingeniously titled "Pride FC 2" — which took place at the Yokohama Arena on March 15, 1998.

In terms of financial performance and in-ring quality, I think it's safe to say the inaugural Pride FC event was a rousing success, perhaps even one that was vastly larger than most people anticipated. After drawing damn near 50,000 people to the Tokyo Dome, it was pretty much a given that Nobuhiko Takada and Nobuyuki Sakakibara would attempt to recapture that same magic much sooner than later. And so, five months later, they decided to host the second Pride event in Yokohama, a considerably smaller venue, with a decisively shittier line-up of fights. And trust me — as bad as these fights sound on paper, I assure you they are ten times worse in motion.

But hey, don't take my word for it ... instead, take about 2,000 of them as I recount, reflect and (regrettably) reminisce on Pride's less than spectacular sophomore outing.

Up first, it's Royler Gracie taking on Yuhi (Naoki) Sano. Our commentators are Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros, a.k.a. the best MMA play-by-play duo in fuckin' history. Royler is giving up about 50 pounds in this fight to the former UWFi grappler. And it SHOWS. Goddamn does Royler look anorexic. Rutten says Sano's fighting to prove pro wrestling ain't no joke. Royler has double hooks in and he's pulling Sano into the butterfly guard. Sano holding his own quite well up to this point. And on cue, Royler lands a sweep and hops into the full mount. Whoops. Sano is holding onto Royler for dear life. He tries to shuck Gracie off but Royler isn't giving up much ground. He keeps jumping from side to side. Sano is still flattened out on the mat. And Sano finaly manages to push Royler off. Gracie goes for a triangle and Sano ALMOST powerbombs his ass. Now both men are standing again. Royler clinches and he's trying to goad Sano into the butterfly guard again. Bas Rutten says Royler is built like a rock climber, which is actually a pretty apt little description. Also Quadros loses a lot of cred when he refers to Takada as "the Hulk Hogan of Japan." Royler looking for another triangle. Sano stands up and he falls back into the guard for no real comprehensible reason whatsoever. By the way, we're about five minutes into this and nobody's landed a single strike. Sano defends a single leg takedown and Royler ties him up again. Royler with another beautiful sweep. He's in side control. Quadros reminds us that this fight isn't being scored using points, so yeah, none of this shit technically counts, I suppose. Royler still trying to get into the full mount. The audience is dead silent for all of this shit and Rutten starts singing Simon and Garfunkel, because let's face it, there isn't a whole hell of a lot else to do right about now. Royler has Sano's neck cradled. He's in the full mount — we're talking the straight up missionary position at this point. "Nobody wants to see this," Rutten comments before singing "The Sound of Silence" again. Quadros is wondering why Royler isn't trying to smother his opponent so he can set up a cheap submission attempt. Hoo boy, this is a glorified BJJ grappling session right here. Rutten can't fathom how quiet the fans are, stating he doesn't want to have to watch this shit for another half hour. Royler is back in the full mount. Quadros bets Rutten "a million dollars" this fight won't make it a full 30 minutes. Royler FINALLY lands a punch. Sano tries to sweep and Royler starts working from side control again. Royler peppers Sano with the pussiest punches you have ever seen in your life. He is literally love tapping that motherfucker. LOL at comparing Royler's strategy to that of Alexis Arguello, of all fuckin' people. I mean, for real, nigga? "It's almost like two insects fighting," Quadros says. Cue Rutten's impressive Tony Montana impersonation. Shit, that alone makes this god awful fight worth it. Royler back in the full mount ... again. Well, it only took 20 minutes, but Sano is FINALLY trying to punch back. "I don't think fights like this are going to set the general public on fire," Quadros said. "People don't just want to see technique and strategy, they want drama." Truer words have never been spoken, Holmes. Quadros says this is the equivalent of a slow blues band taking the stage of a "thrash punk" festival. "This is not a fight, this is just two people laying on each other," Rutten said. Royler with more pansy-ass pillow-fists. Royler back in the full mount. Shit, this is one of the most boring things I've ever seen in my life. "They're probably applauding the fight is almost over," Quadros says. Rutten goes on a spiel about not being able to get a beer during the fight after waiting 30 minutes for something to happen. Now Sano is trying to hop in the full mount and Royler is rocking his face hard. It looks like Sano is trying to make Royler submit by smelling his cock. Now Royler is throwing some upkicks. Looks like Royler was playing possum with his punches after all. Royler throwing for the fences with his back on the mat. Sano looks beyond gassed at this point. Sano still trying to get in the full mount. Royler with several upkicks and Sano is bleeding profusely. Royler with a fucking roundhouse kick WHILE ON HIS BACK. No, for real. Sano is back in the full guard and Royler is punching the shit out of him. Quadros makes a reference to Kids in the Hall, of all fucking things. Royler still cracking Sano like bubble wrap. Royler with another upkick and Rutten asks Gracie to kick Sano in the balls. The refs stop the "action" so they can tape up Royler's glove. Royler shoots for a takedown and he gets it. He's working from the full mount and he's got an armbar locked in. Sano taps, and mercifully, this one is FINALLY over.

The official time is 33:14, if you were wondering. Quadros celebrates Royler's performance as strategically brilliant, comparing his technique to that of a slow cooker.

Ka-Sushi Sock-A-Rob-You? Eh, he'll never be anything more than a mid-carder, at best ...

Now we get Akira Shoji (who had that surprisingly awesome fight against Renzo Gracie back at Pride FC 1) taking on Juan Mott. Gotta' dig Shoji's CLASSY attempt at a ninth-grader's mustache and goatee combo. Both men feigning early. Mott with a decent low kick. Shoji keeps checking the bottom of his feet for something. He sweeps Mott like yesterday's garbage and he's already in the full mount. Not a lot of action happening. Oh fuck, Shoji has Juan's back and he's got a choke. Juan is flattened out with his legs straight up in the air. He taps.

The submission came at 3:47 in round 1. Pretty much a one-sided drubbing, with one competitor CLEARLY the superior fighter in every category.

Next on the menu, it's Dutch fighter William Roosmalen going toe-to-toe with American striker Ralph White. White — who, ironically enough, is black — looks like an anorexic version of Quinton Jackson. And if White looks familiar, it's because he was the guy that got turned into The Elephant Man by Branko C. at the very first Pride FC show a few months earlier. Thankfully, the swelling on White's forehead has gone down substantially, and right out the gate we've got a low-kicking clinic. The Dutch white dude is some kind of kickboxing motherfucker, which apparently, is a trait of all peoples from The Netherlands. White whiffs on a haymaker. Oh shit, NOW they tell us this fight is being contested under kickboxing rules, not MMA rules. Well, I guess that explains why both men are wearing those giant pitcher's mitts on their hands, I suppose. Roos scoring some solid low kicks and White keeps headhunting. White lands a head kick, but Roos keeps plowing forward. Roos gets warned for, uh, clinching, I think? And that's the end of round one. Koji Kitao — the sumo wrestler who "shot" on Earthquake that one time — is in the crowd, rocking a half blond/half brunette skunk cut. White's striking is looking a little better this right. White tries to clinch and throws a couple of knees before the rep breaks 'em up. Roos with a nice behind-the-ankle kick. White ALMOST connects on a head kick. Roos with a kick to the stomach. Quadros can't figure out what the tattoo on Roos' stomach is supposed to be. White with a kick to the abdomen, and Roos counters with a solid jab and a knee to the appendix. That's the end of the round. LOL at Quadros saying "that's not a ghetto strut," White's leg really is that fucked up. They show some dude with a mustache in the audience and Rutten says "look, it's a samurai!" and I almost spit Starbucks all over my monitor. Roos is working some fantastic inner thigh knee shots. White lands a few punches in the clinch. Roos lands a couple of more knees to the solar plexus. Looks like the end is near for White. Roos breaks through with a solid jab. White whiffs on a would-be haymaker. We've got another clinch, and Roos is landing them in spades. White goes for an uppercut, but he can't land it. Roos with leg kicks and a knee to the stomach. End of the round. Roos with more brutal leg kicks. Punches in the clinch. White eats a knee to the liver and White goes down like a stack of cards during an aerobics class at Weight Watchers. Nope, he can't answer the ten count, and Roos is our winner by K.O.

The official time? Just 38 seconds into round four.

Our next bout pits Vernon "Tiger" White against some random Japanese guy named Kazushi Sakuraba. Huh. I wonder if we'll ever see him in the ring again? Shit, even then Saku was rocking the Creamsicle-colored panties. Believe it or not, this was only Saku's THIRD professional MMA bout. And props to Quadros for giving a great explanation on why Saku had to fight "Conan" Silveiro TWICE at UFC Ultimate Japan back in Dec. 1997. White almost drops Saku with a HARD right and Saku shoots for a takedown. He floats over to the half guard. Also, LOL at Quadros acting like Pancrase was a "real" MMA organization. Saku keeps looking for a, uh, heel hook, I guess, but Vernon is holding his own pretty well. Saku flattens White out once more. He's almost in the full guard. Nope, he's back to the half guard. Now he has White in the full mount. Vernon rolls, lands one hammer fist and now he's totally vertical. He lets Saku get back up. Saku goes for a heel pick. Vernon doing a good job of protecting his knee. Saku spins out to the side mount. Saku switches over the other side and he's got a straight armbar locked in. Vernon fighting like hell to not give it up. White is trying to ragdoll Saku to escape. And he does. Now Vernon has Saku's back. He's going for a choke. Saku slips out and he's momentarily in the north-south position. Saku going for a toehold. Saku switches over to side control and lands a knee to the ribs. The refs enter the ring and scoot both competitors to the middle of the mat. Vernon kicks Saku's knee with his back flat on the canvas. Saku easily passes the guard and he appears to be shooting for another knee bar ... which he rolls into a straight armbar. But Vernon escapes and now HE has Saku's back! White literally lands one punch to the head, stands up, and Saku takes him down again. Saku is in side control. White is doing a good job protecting his arm. Man, is it great watching Takada on the outside silently eating his own shit realizing just how much better of a fighter Saku is than he is. Saku hops back in the full mount and yep, that's the end of the round.

Round two commences. White lands a straight jab. Then Saku whiffs on a high kick. Saku shoots for a takedown. Vernon tries to pull him into his guard, but Saku is more than content just hanging out from he half guard for a while. Saku is in the full mount again. Saku pops White right in his big, black face. Saku goes for another armbar. Vernon is holding on to Saku's shin for dear life. White escapes and now he has Saku's back. He lands a HARD shot to the left side of Saku's head. Vernon is going for a choke, without any hooks in. Saku ripostes with a fireman's carry (for real) and he's right back into the full guard. White's holding on to Saku's arm. Saku is folded up like an accordion while White sprawls. White has Saku's back. He's gearing up for a German suplex and Saku counters it into a rolling straight armbar. That shit was fucking beautiful. White is back to his feet again. Saku rolls again on the follow-through and tries desperately to get that armbar. White has Saku's back one more time. He's going for a rear naked choke, but Saku spins out. Well, that, or Vernon just gave it up. Saku hops right back into the half guard and he's looking for Mr. Armbar yet again. There are three minutes left in the round. Vernon still has Saku's back. Saku is pushing Vernon forward, and White has double hooks in. For some dumb reason, Vernon gives it up. He lands a HARD knee to Saku's body. Both men standing, and Saku is trying for a kimura. White escapes. Saku shoots for a takedown and Saku is in the full guard. This is a grappling clinic right here. Saku lands a right from the top. White has a bodylock with his legs. He has Saku's back. He's going for a choke. And that's the bell for round two. 

Round three. Saku with a takedown and he floats over to side control. Saku with a few punches raining down from the top. Vernon throws his legs up into the air, for no real reason whatsoever. Saku with another armbar attempt, but White rolls out of it like it ain't no thang. Now White has Saku's back. Saku rolls again and he's going for an armbar. No dice. White has his back AGAIN. You kinda' have to wonder why he isn't throwing any strikes, though. Five minutes left in the fight. White has Saku's back, and he's going for a neck crank ... I think. Saku does a great job defending and now he's almost in the half guard again. Saku's looking for his umpteenth armbar of the fight. Vernon rolls around, but uh-oh, Saku manages to parlay that into a fuckin' straight armbar OUT OF NOWHERE and Vernon taps!

The official time of the submission is 6:53 of round three. That was definitely one of the best grappling showcases from the early days of Pride. And, it being Saku's big coming out party and all, it's certainly a historically important bout, to boot. I wouldn't advise going WAY out of your way to watch it, but if you fancy yourself a *true* MMA fan, this is definitely a late '90s technical showcase you NEED to experience at some point in your spectating career. A really, really good match right here (and pretty much the only positive thing I can say about the show as a whole, really.)

All I can say is "hit fast forward and don't let go of the button until your fuckin' finger falls asleep."

Now it's time for Renzo Gracie vs. Sanae Kikuta. Heads up — this motherfucker takes SIX ROUNDS to decide, so you might want to break out the Mountain Dew Code Red before heading into this sumbitch. Anyway, Sanae is LITERALLY Ryu from Street Fighter II and Renzo is, uh, Royce Gracie, except a little bit bigger and with bushier eyebrows. We're clinching against the turnbuckles early. Gracie gets a takedown and Renzo lands a few shots from the top. Sanae holding on for dear life. He finally escapes and gets to his feet, but Renzo immediately ties him up against the pads again. Renzo landing some body shots to the solar plexus in the clinch. Sanae with a hip toss and he falls into the full mount. Then the NOT AT ALL BIASED JAPANESE REFS push them towards the middle of the ring so Sanae doesn't have to break the hold. Renzo doing a good job protecting himself from the bottom, as all Sanae can do is pretty much whiff his opponent's testicles. Nope, not a whole lot of action happening here, as Sanae tries hopelessly to lock in an armbar. The ref drags them back to the center of the ring again. Yawn. "Whenever a Japanese fighter fights a Gracie, they don't do anything," Rutten declares. Believe it or not, Sanae is STILL in the full mount, and it's been like, five fucking minutes uninterrupted. One minute left in the round. LOL at Renzo punching Sanae with pillow-soft punches to the head over and over again until the round ends.

Round two. Sanae throwing some loopy right hands. Quadros makes a passive aggressive comment about boxing not being Sanae's strong suit. Renzo ALMOST lands a knockout jab on the follow-through, but he misses by a few inches. So he just bullies Sanae into the turnbuckle pad again. Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? More hugging ensues, and Renzo shows no signs of giving up the bodylock. He goes for a leg trip, but Sanae maintains his balance. Renzo with some good knees in the clinch. They finally seperate, and Renzo comes out strong with knee strikes. Renzo swings Sanae into the ropes and, right on cue, we're back to the turnbuckle pad. Sanae has double underhooks in. And he loses them. Both men look gassed as fuck, and as soon as I type it, Sanae powers forward and takes Renzo down on a botched hip toss attempt. Sanae looking pretty comfortable in the full mount. It's been a few minutes, and he's still just hanging out there. We get a clean break and now Sanae is dodging upkicks from Renzo. Now Sanae is back in the full mount. The announcers have absolutely nothing to talk about. One minute left in the round. "They're hugging each other intensely," Rutten comments. Renzo with a bunch of shitty punches to the ribs, and that's the end of round numero dos.

Round three. Sanae gets a takedown almost the second the bell sounds, and sure as sugar, he lands right on top of Renzo. Oh hell, here we go again. Fuck, why DID people think Renzo was ever that good back in the day, anyway? Sanae is still in the full mount. He lands several knees in the full guard, but he misses on both attempts and winds up striking the canvas with his patella. Sanae keeping Renzo at bay with a a side headlock. Sanae is balling Renzo up like a wadded sock. Now he's working his magic from side control. Sanae is back to his feet and Renzo is throwing upkicks en masse. Sanae immediately hops right back into the full guard, because apparently, he ain't that bright a bulb. Sanae is back in side control. Sanae's in the full mount. Fuck, I can't believe I just spent a full half hour watching this shit. Sanae still stuck in the missionary position, where he's trying to force a submission via penis on penis friction. Quadros has so litle to work with that he starts talking about how effective  just holding a motherfucker is in a street fight. Rutten does him one better by stating, in a roundabout way, that this fight is so boring there may never be another PRIDE show again. And that's the end of round three. "I don't hear anybody applauding," Quadros comments.

Round four. Shit almighty, Quadros just said this fight is "unlimited rounds" until somebody submits or gets knocked out. To quote Mr. T, "I pity the fool" that ever paid people money to watch this trash. Anyhoo, Renzo does what Renzo does and just squeezes his opponent up against the turnbuckle pad. Sanae gets a takedown, he's in the full mount and Renzo continues to pop him in the ribs from the bottom. Quadros talks about the need for things like "time limits" and "scoring" as the refs push the two men back into the center of the ring again. Man, I can't believe I wasted a whole Sunday afternoon watching this hot mess. Sanae continues to just kind of lay on top of Renzo. This is the least productive round by far, and that's saying something. Quadros asks Rutten what the longest fight in history is and he cites his mental battle against his ex-wife. You KNOW a fight is fucking garbage when the commentators spend half the fight advocating for the usage of time limits. One minute left in the round. The ref makes them stand for no discernible reason whatsoever. Sanae with a low kick, Renzo with a counter jab. And that's the end of it.

Round five. Yep, it's STILL going on. Rutten literally PRAYS for this fight to end. What do you know, Renzo starts off the round by pushing Sanae into the turnbuckle pad and applies a bodylock. Renzo locks in a guillotine choke and lands several knees to the head. PLEASE LET THIS FIGHT END, IN THE NAME OF JESUS. Renzo with more knees to the stomach. Renzo goes for a neck crank, but Sanae escapes. Now he's in the full mount. A shocker, I know. Now Rutten is giving us a primer on how breathing patterns are used in MMA. We are well beyond the 40-minute mark at this point. Yep, Sanae is STILL in the full guard, and he still ain't doing doo-doo. Renzo looks like he might be trying for a triangle. But he ain't getting it. Renzo's popping Sanae in the head from the bottom. Sanae looks like he's been dead for at least three hours. And mercifully, that's the end of that one. "There is no point if nothing happens," Rutten bluntly declares. "Fighting means going for something. This is not fighting. This is like anti-fighting."

Round six. Yes, this shit show had made it FIFTY FUCKIN' MINUTES. The ref stops the fight so they can fix Sanae's glove. Renzo lands a few punches and he has Sanae trapped in a guillotine. It's deep. AND SANAE TAPS! "Thank God!" both commentators declare at the same time. "I think the people in the audience probably fell asleep," Quadros comments on the silent reaction from the crowd.

The official time is 43 seconds into round six. Needless to say, this is one of the all-time masterpieces of shitty MMA fights — sitting through this 51 minute snoozer no doubt makes you a TRUE MMA enthusiast, I tell you goddamn what.

Alright, now we've got another kickboxing fight, this 'un between Tasis Petridis of Australia and George Randolph of the good old United States of AmeriKKKa. Holy shit, George is massive — that honky nigga' looks like he's damn near seven feet tall. Tasis, regardless, is a full foot shorter than his opponent. Weirdly, it looks like Randolph has a huge bruise under his eye already. Tasis with a low kick and George is head hunting early. He lands a trip but George is right back up. George with more low kicks and Tasis clinches. Yeah, people forget that Quadros himself was a legit kickboxer, don't they? George almost drops his foe with a knee to the noggin. The ref breaks up a clinch, and George falls on his ass on an aborted roundhouse kick attempt. George with knees in bunches. Tasis has to clinch just to save his own ass. George with more knees. Pretty much all he has to do is lightly lift his leg and he's tagging his opponent with patella shots. And that's the end of round one. There are five rounds, BTW, each three minutes in length. "The bigger man may get tired," Quadros comments. Right on cue, George starts slowing down considerably. George whiffs on a Hulk Hogan big boot and Tasis low kicks that motherfucker. Clinch. The ref separates them. Tasis with more low kicks. George whiffs on a straight kick to the belly. George lands a knee. Tasis slips, but he's right back up. Tasis lands a hard right hand, but George just eats it like a bony Snickers bar. Round two ends. Tasis with a right low kick. That seems to be working pretty well for him. Tasis slips, and he's right back up. Tasis with a decent one-two combo. They clinch in the corner. George with a knee, and Tasis makes him eat a flurry of punches. Tasis with a MEAN leg kick, followed by a jumping Superman punch ... kinda. Rutten says he doesn't believe in jabs, and if you've ever seen him fight, you'd know he's telling God's honest truth. George misses on a left hook. And that's the conclusion of round ... what is it, four, now? No, wait, that's the end of round three. My bad. George chases Tasis down and he punches him on the ear. Tasis with a GREAT right hand. George clinches. The ref separates 'em. Tasis spams the right hand again. And then he lands a good low kick. And another one. Tasis misses by a mile with the high kick. Tasis lands a left to the body and George rattles off a knee strike. George throws a molasses slow kick, and then Tasis lands a right high kick and a TON of punches. But George soldiers on. "I won't Tong Po," Quadros quips at round's end. Alright, the fifth and final round is upon us. Tasis with more low kicks. George is running on one busted wheel at this point. George almost punches Tasis out of the ring. George lands a takedown ... too bad takedowns aren't allowed in kickboxing, though. Tasis still looking for that high kick finish. Tasis with a spinning kick to the spleen. That was awesome. Then he lands another left hook. There's roughly a minute left. Tasis with a TON of punches to the back of George's head. Apparently Tasis got hit in the testicles. After a brief timeout we resume the action. Tasis goes for a high kick and George wrestles him to the ground. And that's all she wrote, kids.

Let's go to the judges. Shocker — Tasis won on points.

Time for our co-main event, Marco Ruas vs. Gary Goodridge.Yep, that's Marco Ruas, the champeen of UFC 7. Fun fact: "Ruas" literally means "streets" in Portugese (citation: Steve Quadros.) LOL at Quadros saying neither of these guys are capable of having a shitty fight, because God knows they need a barnburner after all the turds on this card thus far. Ruas goes for a spinning kick early and Gary chases him down. Ruas with a low kick and Gary staggers him with a hard right. Goodridge clearly has the weight advantage here. Gary with a flurry of hard punches and Ruas lands a takedown ... only for Gary to land on top of him. Now Goodridge is in the side mount. Uh-oh. Ruas is bleeding already from a punch in the half guard. Goodridge lands several HARD punches from the full mount. Oh shit, Ruas is about to get fucked up bad. More bombs from Goodridge as Gary plays Marco's head like a goddamn gong. Gary going for a neck crank. Ruas escapes. Goodridge remains comfortably in the full mount. Ruas ties his foe's hands up. Ruas tries for a guillotine, but Goodridge is just too damned strong. Gary is in the side mount. Gary with more bombs from the top. Goodridge is vertical. And so is Ruas. Marco has bad swelling under his right eye. Goodridge slips and Ruas capitalizes. Ruas goes for a heel hook and GARY TAPS! Talk about an out-of-nowhere finish!

The official time is 9:09 of round one.

And we come to our main event, Branko Citivic vs. Mark Kerr, which according to The Secret Files of Pride FC, was originally going to be Mark Kerr vs. ROYCE Gracie, but eh, the best laid plans of both mice and men and all that shit. And yes, I do realize that Branko's name has been spelled about 56 different ways, so just fuck it. Say what you will about Mark Kerr, that motherfucker was RIPPED. Dude easily could have been a star in the WWF, had he went that route instead. Lots of circling early. Branko kind of reminds me of Ken Shamrock a little. I mean, visually, in the face and stuff. Kerr shoots for a takedown and Branko holds onto the ropes with one hand and elbows the fuck out of the back of Kerr's head until the ref calls a timeout. Surprisingly, he didn't get carded for that shit. Kerr goes for another takedown and he grabs the ropes again and throws MORE elbows to the back of the head. A whole bunch of referees swarm the ring and we find Branko face down on the mat. Apparently, Kerr gave him a good curb stomping during the melee. And the officials call it a DQ around the 2:14 of round uno. Kerr wins it by disqualification, and because Pride was fucking Pride, they STILL let Branko come back and fight for them a year later. But aye — we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

... and that's why you NEVER trust a goddamn Croat, kids.

Good lord, was that a brutal show to sit through. Outside of the Saku/Vernon White bout, pretty much everything on the show was a.) an overlong exercise in tedium or b.) completely pointless horse shit. I mean, I guess the kickboxing bouts were decent for what they were, and it was fun watching Ruas pull a submission out of fucking nowhere, but hot Christ, do I never want to see a Renzo Gracie match ever again in my life.

This show was so bad it came *yay* close to ending Pride right then and there. Thankfully, they decided to retool their format just a smidge for the next show, and they finally got back to the winning formula of Pride 1 with their first anniversary show at the Dome in six months' time. Of course, we're only four shows into our chronological Pride fightography, but shit, this HAS to be a candidate for worst Pride event ever. And if there ARE any shows up ahead worse than this one, Jesus Christ, somebody give me a heads up so I'll be nice and loaded on Dirty Sprite before pressing forward.

Granted, since this show does mark the Pride debut of Saku, it certainly has some historic merit as an MMA relic, but beyond that, Pride 2 has nothing to offer. I mean, a 33 minute Royler/Sano fight and a fuckin' 51 minute Renzo/Sanae bout on the same goddamn card? No thanks, I'd rather slap my testicles up and down in a rhythmic fashion for an hour and a half instead.

Do yourself a favor and catch Saku vs. White a'la carte. Literally EVERYTHING else on this show you can easily do without ... trust me.

Monday, April 30, 2018

"The Middle" by Maren Morris is Secretly About Domestic Violence

Conclusive proof the pop hit of the year is actually a paean to intimate partner abuse and alcoholism ...

By: Jimbo X

Unless you've been held against your will at a top secret black ops site since January, you've probably heard "The Middle," as an approximate count, 456,437 times over the last five months. 

The song is a top 40 pop staple, still getting regular rotation on most of America's pop stations. And, of course, it's also used as the soundtrack for those omnipresent Target commercials ... indeed, the same way 2012 was the year that gave us Sandy Hook and "Call Me Maybe," it's pretty much a given that we'll ultimately recall 2018 as "the one with the Florida high school shooting and that 'meet me in the middle' song."

It's no doubt a catchy little jingle. The byproduct of ex-country crooner Maren Morris (obviously trying to become the next Tay-Tay, even though she obviously doesn't have the chops/aesthetic appeal to aspire for such lofty heights) Zedd and Grey (I still don't know what those last two do, or even if they're singular or plural artists), I initially thought the track was just another, harmless, radio-friendly ode to how much a woman wants to fuck some dude's brains out (which, by the way, is about 90 percent of the stuff you hear on the radio nowadays ... what's that about the objectifying male gaze again?) Alas, after enough listens of the song, I've discovered two fairly shocking things about "The Middle." 

No. 1 — the song has the EXACT same "ticking clock" sound from "Stay"; and ...

No. 2 — it's not a randy hymn about the female libido whatsoever ... in fact, it's secretly a song about intimate partner violence.

You scoff? Well, popular music (hence, the term "pop music," in case you've ever wondered) has a LONG track record of befuddling people with sugar-coated but subversive messages. For example, people thought "Born in the U.S.A." was a loving homage to America, even though it was actually a song about how poorly Vietnam veterans were treated during the Reagan administration. Same thing with "The Freshman" and "Brick" — at the time, we all though they were heartfelt songs about breakups, when abstractly (and even more shockingly, withing the contextual confines of the lyrics themselves) they were actually about abortions.

The same way some insightful souls deduced "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne was actually about date rape, I've decided to go public with my revelations about the not-so-veiled deeper subtext of "The Middle." Let's cut away the happy, upbeat tempo and dissect the lyrics all by their lonesome, why don't we?

Take a seat
Right over there, sat on the stairs
Stay or leave
The cabinets are bare, and I'm unaware
Of just how we got into this mess, got so aggressive 
I know we meant all good intentions

So right off the bat we know what's really going on here. Obviously, we've got one domestic partner offering an ultimatum to the other one. When Maren says "the cabinets are bare," that allows us to deduce a focal point to their relationship woes. Her man works all day, and it's her job to take care of the house, which apparently, she's been neglecting to the point where she stopped buying groceries for the family. But that also offers a secondary meaning: that the cabinets are bare because they engaged in mutual combat and one of them got slung into the china cabinet, where ceramic plates and perhaps even a box of chocolate Lucky Charms were used as weaponry. The singer literally has no clue how such a minor squabble turned into an act of family violence, hence, the line about "good intentions." But as we will soon see, it's not like the singer is the most reliable of narrators here ... 

So pull me closer
Why don't you pull me close?
Why don't you come on over?
I can't just let you go
Oh baby, why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
I'm losing my mind just a little 
So why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
In the middle 
Baby, why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
I'm losing my mind just a little 
So why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
In the middle 

Now, the first time I heard this song, my thought was the same as yours. "Well, duh, it's another broad singing about how much she wants to fuck somebody." But the more I've listened to the song, I realize the singer isn't trying to seduce somebody, she's trying to bait him into a fucking fist fight. When she says "pull me close" and "meet me in the middle," she's not talking about making up or working out a compromise, she means she wants to throw elbows with some motherfucker. The singer even admits this want of domestic violence is irrational, hence the line "I'm losing my mind just a little." But that leaves a burning question: just why is Miss Morris so psychopathically enraged? Well, let's examine the lyrics a little deeper.

Ohh, take a step
Back for a minute, into the kitchen
Floors are wet
And taps are still running, dishes are broken
How did we get into this mess? Got so aggressive 
I know we meant all good intentions

So, why is the floor wet? Note, she never explicitly states what the floor is wet with, either. Now, we could attribute those broken dishes to the physical altercation from earlier, but why are the water taps still running? Well, it's a bit of a stretch, but here's my hypothesis: the floor is wet from the hard liquor the narrator spilled, who was attempting to clean out the evidence of her furtive alcoholism when her boyfriend/husband showed up and caught her in the act. This is something that's actually strongly implied in the next stanza:

Looking at you, I can't lie
Just pouring out admission
Regardless of my objection, oh, oh
And it's not about my pride
I need you on my skin 
Just come over, pull me in, just 

"Pouring out admission?" "It's not about my pride?" I mean, goddamn, she pretty much makes it textual right there. The singer is an alcoholic bitch whose addiction is ruining the family, and now she wants to engage in drunken fisticuffs with her significant other instead of come to terms with the fact she's a stinkin' drunk, deadbeat mom and piss poor spouse/girlfriend. Which, of course, leads back into one more go-through of the main chorus, which insinuates this kind of violent behavior is cyclical. By the end of the track , there is no resolution, just the recognition that the couple is stuck, perpetually, in the ... ahem ... Middle ... of a violent, alcohol-ravaged co-dependent situation.

Forget it, boys — this is about as far down the rabbit hole we can go with product placement.

Yeah, it's kind of hard to go back to bopping your head and tapping your toes to the rhythm after learning the song is really about an alcoholic domestic abuser, no? What's really amazing to me, though, is how seemingly nobody else has picked up on this, despite the lyrics themselves pretty much making it clear as day.

Which I suppose is just more proof that you can say anything in a song, and just as long as the chorus is catchy and the beat is groovy, nobody will even give a fuck what you're really singing about. I mean, shit, Jethro Tull wrote a song that was explicitly about a pedo creeping on young children at the park, and classic rock stations still play it a good 30 times a day. 

So yeah, I guess if nobody gives a damn about a Stone Temple Pilots song encouraging date rape a good 25 years down the road, I reckon no one will bat an eyelash about 2018's defining pop anthem being a ditty about spouse abuse and alcoholism. 

What a time to be alive — when the most popular track of the year makes both its superficial and contextual meaning about substance abuse and intimate partner violence apparent to anybody with a working hippocampus, but they have to subliminally sneak in a furtive department store ad at the ass-end of the official video.

And to think; there are some people out there who actually argue that ours isn't the greatest epoch in human history ...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Comic Review: 'The Infinity Gauntlet' (1991)

Just in time for the much ballyhooed Avengers movie, The Internet Is In America reflects on one of the most important crossover events in comic book history

By: Jimbo X

In just a few days Infinity War is going to be released, and odds are it'll shatter all-time Hollywood box office records. Indeed, the over/under right now is actually plus a good $100-$200 million that it will break the all-time record for highest-grossing film in Hollywood history. Indeed, if the movie doesn't hit at least $2 billion in global ticket sales it would be considered a huge surprise.

You don't need me to add any more fuel to the conflagration of hype. By now, we all know the story of how the suits at Disney brilliantly turned their standalone movies into one gigantic, interconnected uber-franchise the likes of which filmdom has never seen before, and for better or for worse, Infinity War represents the endpoint of what started ten years ago with Iron Man. This is the carefully laid out culmination of ten years' worth of behind-the-scenes planning and you better believe Disney is throwing out everything they've got on this one. They've probably spent a billion dollars making and marketing this motherfucker, and they fully expect to recoup their investments and then some. Everything Justice League wasn't, this sumbitch is going to be — needless to say, it's going to be a long time before we see a Hollywood production with THIS much hullabaloo heading into its release.

Now, while the movie is called Infinity War, from what I've gathered the flick isn't really based upon the comic of the same name, but its predecessor from 1991, The Infinity Gauntlet, which even now remains one of the most revered and celebrated crossover spectacles in comic book history.

Now THAT is how you make a
crossover feel like a truly special
And for good reason. While Marvel characters had teamed up many teams before in earlier comics (The Secret Wars being perhaps the most noteworthy example), The Infinity Gauntlet upped the ante by increasing the scale to cosmological levels. This wasn't just Spider-Man and Thor teaming up to fight Dr. Doom, this was goddamn everybody in the Marvel Universe coming together to take on a dude who had godlike powers and was on a suicide mission to literally kill every living thing in the universe. Not only did you have heavies like Dr. Strange, The Hulk and Galactus getting in on the action, you even had the rarely seen Celestial characters like Eternity and The Living Tribunal entering the fray to mix shit up. Nobody had really tried doing a crossover event that big before, and to be frank, I don't think anybody has done it as well ever since.

Written by Jim Starlin (the guy who pretty much single-handedly created the "space opera" side of the Marvel universe through his work on Silver Silver and Captain Marvel) and drawn by George (The New motherfuckin' Teen Titans, ya'll) Perez — with utterly fantastic inking from Josef Rubinstein and Tom Christopher — there's no denying Infinity Gauntlet is a worthwhile read, if just for the trippy-as-fuck, hyper-colorful artwork.

But in case you haven't read the thing before heading into the big Avengers movie ... and for some stupid ass-reason you can't find the fucker online ... old Jimbo is here for you to fill in the blanks. Grab yourselves a nice, cold cola and prop up your legs, folks — here's the Internet Is In America-approved CliffsNotes version of the epic mini-series.

Alright, issue one. Mephisto (that's Marvel's pseudo-family-safe way of saying "Satan") is sucking up to Thanos. To pay tribute to his divine powers, Mephisto makes a giant space rock statue saying "God" — which Thanos immediately crumbles into dust using his Infinity Gauntlet powers.

We cut to Doctor Strange, who detects someone is trying to break into his mansion. As it turns out, it's a half-dead Silver Surfer who just crashed through his roof, warning him of Thanos' plans to take over Earth. Surfer gives us the backstory on Thanos; the living embodiment of Death was a little miffed that there were more people alive than who had ever died on the planet, so she decided to resurrect Thanos from the dead and give him godlike powers to "balance out the equation."

Then we cut to a trio of hoods (Jake Miller, Ralph Bunker and Bambi Long) knocking off a liquor store, killing the clerk and accidentally driving their car off a cliff and killing themselves. Huh. That seems like a really, really random thing to include. Surely, we won't be revisiting this seeming aside a little later in the series, will we?

Surfer continues to recount his ass kicking from Thanos to Strange. He says he and Drax the Destroyer LITERALLY had their souls stolen by Thanos and banished to "the metaphysical world of the soul gem." Apparently, Adam Warlock is the President of Soul-World and returned Surfer and the Destroyer to their corporeal existences. Surfer also implies that Mephisto TOLD him that Thanos was coming, which I guess makes him a turncoat. Anyhoo, Thanos goes to Death-World and asks Lady Death if she's forgiven him for stealing the Infinity Gems and she just walks off and he looks all forlorn and Mephisto says he doesn't deserve to be treated any such a way.

OK, back to some guy smoking a cigar talking about the car crash from earlier. Well, SOME kind of celestial intervention resurrected the trio from the dead, and that Jake guy apparently has the ability to control matter now. That Ralph guy is all mutated and burned up like that one dude in Robocop, while that one chick is literally turning green.

Meanwhile, Mephisto keeps sucking up to Thanos and it seems like he's cooking up some plan to cajole him out of his powers at some point. Meanwhile, Thanos is still severely pussy-whipped over Death, who doesn't love him back even though he's the supreme being of the universe. As one of Death's servants so eloquently puts it: "you love is bondage," to which Thanos retorts "my love is worship!" So Thanos builds this giant crystal space temple and asks Death to be his co-pilot in dealing destruction throughout the cosmos, but she still rejects him. Then Mephisto gets in his ear and tells him if he REALLY wants to impress her, he's got to REALLY up the body count. And, of course, he is MORE than willing to oblige. But first, he tries to impress her by showing the zombified remains of his granddaughter, Nebula, whom Thanos describes as a "tribute to the blasphemy of life and the glorious promise of death." That STILL doesn't impress Death, though, so Thanos gets pissed and causes one of her servants to explode. Then Thanos remembers "hey, wait a minute, the whole reason she brought me back was to kill half the universe, so I better get to killing half the universe then." To which Mephisto replies: "He's really going to do it" with a GREAT "oh shit" look on his face.

Hmm ... two black people, being rescued while one of Trump's hotels gets decimated in a tidal wave. I wonder if Starlin and Perez knew what kind of connotation the future political landscape in America would give this one in hindsight?

Thanos snaps his fingers and we cut to Spider-Man looking down on Times Square. All of a sudden, half the people on the city streets vanish, just like the biblical Rapture, and everybody starts freaking out. Then Spider-Man starts freaking out thinking about Mary Jane, and that's our cue to take a tour of the expanded Marvel Universe, and we get to see frenzied reaction shots from Captain America, Nick Fury (back when he was still white) and The Incredible Hulk, among others. We also learn that half the animal life on the planet has disappeared, too, which I guess would wreak havoc on the going rate for prime rib. But I digress, and wildly.

Then we cut to the Titans (and no, not the ones from Tennessee, either), who fittingly enough, live on Saturn's moon, Titan. For those not in the know, they're kind of like an Outer Space Thanos-monitoring service. And, uh, they're watching ALF, for whatever reason. We learn that mysterious disappearances are happening on alien worlds too, and then that one fat dude who got killed in a car wreck and resurrected walks into his partner's hotel room and now he's in a giant beehive. Uh ... the fuck. Naturally, that's our cliffhanger transition to issue two.

Thor, She-Hulk and the Vision are trying to keep planes from falling out of the sky and Quasar is ... umm, doing whatever Quasar is supposed to do, I guess. Meanwhile, the Skrulls think the Krees are responsible for the disappearances, so they're both gearing up for a huge outer space war. Meanwhile, Adam Warlock tries to take over Doctor Strange's soul, and Dr. Doom is all shades of pissed that somebody is actually outdoing him in the whole giga-death thing.

Then Thanos abducts his brother Eros and makes his mouth disappear, just because he can. 

Captain America gives us an update on the disappearing heroes, and the list includes such five-star F-listers as Makkari, Marvel Boy, Night Thrasher and Windshear. Meanwhile, Thor kvetches about the rest of the group finding out he's not the "real" Thor, but I have no idea what the fuck he's talking about there. Meanwhile, Odin calls a council of "the Sky Fathers" — including Osiris, Zeus and Nuada — and they all decide to join forces to resist Thanos' invasion.
Fuck, man, can't we get Perez to draw
everything Marvel related from now on?

Quasar is still flying around the cosmos looking for something, and we learn that short, fat cigar-smoking dude from earlier is actually Pip the Troll and, what do you know, he's watching ALF, too. Goodness gracious, what was it with Jim Starlin and ALF, anyway?

Dr. Doom breaks into Strange's house and subdues the owner before blasting the Surfer. Then ADAM WARLOCK shows up and that gets everybody's attention and then we cut back to Thanos in his outer space death ship. Eros thinks aloud that maybe all of that limitless power has driven Thanos insane, thus earning him the "No Shit, Sherlock" award of all-time ever in history.

Adam Warlock proposes he, Doom, Strange and the Surfer form an alliance as "the forces of reason" and Thanos gets so pissed Death won't smile at him that he makes a fucking red giant explode. Which kind of pisses off Galactus because he was about to eat it, but even *he* knows not to fuck with Thanos when he's this powerful. 

We cut to Cloak bemoaning how lost he is without Dagger by his side (by the way, I strongly encourage you to listen to while reading this ... the mood it establishes is almost too perfect.) Elsewhere, Wolverine saves a woman from being crushed by a falling building and Iron Man watches the ENTIRE West Coast of the U.S. crumble into the ocean.

Then Namorita saves a young black couple in Atlantic City from a mile high tsunami, and of course, one of Trump's hotels gets swept away in the tidal wave. And Thor flies over what remains of Japan ... which is fucking nothing whatsoever. The "Fantastic Four" of Strange, Doom, Surfer and Warlock step outside and the entire neighborhood is destroyed. Pip says something must have really tee'd off the gods and Warlock responds by saying something to the effect of "exactly." 

Issue three begins. Thanos STILL isn't getting no Death pussy and a scientist tells Fury that the Earth has been knocked off its orbit and is slowly drifting away from the sun. Then Warlock and company teleport into Avengers' headquarters and starts assembling a superhero mega-team to go toe-to-toe with Thanos. We've got 'em all joining the fray: Wolverine, Drax the Destroyer (who, instead of being autistic like he is in the movies, is just canonically stupid), Firelord, Spider-Man and ... Nova. One of these, clearly, is not like the other.

If you don't want this is a four-foot-wide poster in your bedroom, you are the definition of soy.

We cut to Moon Night, of all fucking people, watching the Brooklyn Bridge burning to the ground. Then Surfer and Warlock head out into the vastness of the cosmos to assemble the rest of their team, which includes the Watcher, the Stranger, the physical embodiment of Love and Hate, Galactus and even The Living Tribunal himself, who is canonically the most powerful being in the Marvel universe, to the point he pretty much could be considered the "God" of Marvel-dom. Alas, the Tribunal, Eternity and the Watcher all tell Warlock they're not going to participate in the big battle, and Galactus tries to zap Warlock but he no-sells it.

Meanwhile Iron Man almost gets into it with Dr. Doom but Captain America breaks up the scuffle, then the Watcher just hoovers over Thanos' compound staring at him in what WOULD'VE been one of the greatest scenes in movie history had the MCU taken a more direct approach to its cinematic source material. 

Warlock tells Hulk and Wolverine to "sanction" Thanos because all of the other superheroes are too pussy to try to kill him, then Thanos summons Terraxia the Terrible to make out with him in front of Death to make her jealous, but she doesn't even bat an eye and that makes Thanos even more furious than ever.

Then the siege on Thanos' compound begins and Warlock tells Surfer he KNOWS they're all going to die but he led them into their demises on purpose so it would buy him a distraction. 

Cue issue four (which features a great cover of Thanos standing in the middle of the emptiness of space, saying "Come and Get Me!" like he has the biggest damn dick in the universe.)

BTW, Ron Lim is doing some pencils on this one. 
I honestly have no clue what's
supposed to be going on, but man,
does it look awesome.

"What good is godhood if you have no audience to flaunt it before," Eros describes Thanos' mentality. Then Mephisto gets in Thanos' ear and tells him to use his godlike abilities to allow the heroes a .05 percent chance of victory to make himself look braver in Death's eyes. So basically, he's still all-powerful, but he doesn't know his enemies' next attack for the big battle.

Hulk and Drax double team Thanos and send him reeling with a sneak attack (this part HAS to be in the movie.)

Thanos kills Namor and She-Hulk with some sort of outer space fungus cocoon. Then Thanos liquifies Wolverine's bones with a bear hug. Scarlet Witch gets vaporized. He suffocates Cyclops by making a giant glass box materialize over his head and he yanks the circuitry right out of The Vision's chest. And Thor reverts back to human form and suffocates in the cold, blackness of the universe. Oh, by the way, the heroes have 60 minutes to finish off Thanos or else they'll lose their ability to breathe in space. So, the clock, it doth continue to tick.

Cloak sucks Thanos into the nightmare dimension in his chest, but he quickly explodes his way out. Meanwile, Terraxia yanks Iron Man's head off. Thanos sends Firelord and Drax back to the prehistoric ages through a time portal and Thor finally gets his hammer back, thus resurrecting him. Alas, before he can land the death blow, Thanos turns him into glass, Spider-Man calls Terraxia a bimbo and Nova gets turned into a pile of Lego (no, for real.) Then Thanos shatters Thor and makes Quasar's hands explode. That leaves Captain America as the sole survivor against Thanos. Right before Thanos delivers the death strike, Silver Surfer and Warlock rush in to make the save.

Unfortunately, the Surfer misses yanking off Thanos' gauntlet by >>>this much<<< and Thanos drops Cap dead with one mighty bitch slap. And that's when Warlock calls in the infantry — a whole fucking cadre of Celestials, including Eternity and Galactus!

Time for issue five. Ron Lim has taken over full penciling details from George Perez, by the way.

Personally, I always liked Drax the Destroyer when he looked like the Green Goblin on HGH instead of Kratos' autistic nephew.

So Doctor Strange is playing armchair general in some far away galaxy while Annihilus invades an iced over Earth. Meanwhile, Death saves Eros from getting sucked into a black hole and the Surfer and Warlock have to outrun the universe literally collapsing. Chronos tries to bury Thanos UNDER time, but since one of his gems gives him mastery of time itself, the narrator (The Watcher?) says "it be like striving to drown an ocean."

Then Lord Order and Master Chaos try to rip Thanos in two. Then Mistress Love and Sire Hate tag team him, and Mephisto FINALLY takes the initiative and tries to steal the Gauntlet from Thanos, but he's saved by Mistress Death at the last second. Then Thanos and Eternity get into it and when they start scrapping a fucking white light takes over half the universe. Warlock and Surfer teleport back to Strange's stronghold, and The Watcher waxes philosophical on tyrants: "The nature of energy is to disperse. The nature of despots is to contain. Conflicting tendencies."

Then Thanos BEATS Eternity in battle and traps all the other Celestials in a giant outer space snow globe. Per The Watcher, Thanos is now "the center of all reality in this sphere."

And then, out of nowhere, fucking Nebula yanks off Thanos' gauntlet and makes Terraxia explode. She quickly reverts back into non-zombie form and tells Thanos the one thing she wants more than anything in this universe — REVENGE on his big purple ass.

So Warlock teleports Thanos into Strange's living room and Surfer immediately goes in for the kill so Strange has to call in Hulk, Thor, Dr. Doom, Drax and Firelord to break up the scuffle.

Then Warlock tells Thanos he will help him defeat Nebula, and he has no choice because he was inside the Soul Gem while Thanos wore it and he knows everything that lurks inside his heart, and he KNOWS that Thanos feels himself unworthy and allowed himself to lose the Cosmic Cube to Captain Marvel and that he even subconsciously allowed Nebula to steal one of the Gauntlets, so he agrees to team with Warlock to retrieve the other one.
One of about 20 or so panels in the series that
should be laminated and hung in the
National Archives one day.

Anyway, Nebula traps Doom and company in this weird kind of crystal trap. Then the unlikely trifecta of Thanos, Surfer and Warlock show up, and it's time for the FINAL CONFRONTATION, motherfuckers.

Issue six. Nebula users her gauntlet powers to bring everyone back to life and she keeps Thanos trapped inside a crystal barricade. Then right when Nebula is going in for the kill shot, the cosmic beings return and literally fracture her out of reality. 

Warlock and Surfer wake up in Soul World. Galactus and the rest of the Celestials pretty much gang bang Nebula with all of their power concentrated at once. Then Warlock takes command of the universe itself and freaks Nebula out so she drops the gauntlet, then everybody makes a mad scramble for the Gauntlets, with EVERYBODY trying to make sure Thanos doesn't slip it back on. Adam Warlock winds up possessing it, and he promises to wield it responsibly and everybody just kind of looks at him like "you know, I think I'll trust this motherfucker for some reason."

To thwart being defeated, Thanos detonates a nuclear bomb timer on his belt and Thor grand slams that motherfucker halfway across the galaxy like he was Marth in that one baseball event in Super Smash Bros. Melee. So Surfer and pals question Warlock's intentions, and he says something about why are they more terrified of an orderly universe than the celestial chaos they've been living under, and then he blinks himself, Gamora and Pip the Elf off to some faraway planet, where Thanos now lives on a small farm with his old costume set up as a scarecrow in front of a field. Pip asks Warlock why he doesn't just destroy Thanos right then and there and he says something to the effect of the universal mosaic requires every piece, and as much as thy may hate it, Thanos certainly serves an important part in the grand order.

And the whole shindig concludes with Thanos lamenting his newfound status as a dirt farmer in the asshole end of the universe, reflecting on the irony that the dude who wanted NO power whatsoever ended up with the most powerful weapon in the universe. And he concludes the saga with the absolutely PERFECT set-up for a sequel  —it's a single panel shot of Thanos smirking, saying he KNOWS he got the better end of the deal than Warlock did.

Yep. At one point, comic book writers actually knew how to do subtle sequel hooks.

Which allows us to circle back to Infinity War, the movie, for a moment. You know, for a character who has been built up as fucking death incarnate for ten years, the MCU really hasn't done a lot to explain who or what Thanos is. We'll just have to wait and see how the movies present him and lay out his modus operandi, but in this particular comic, they give him one of the most ingenious origin stories of any villain I've seen.

Thanos isn't some power-hungry space Pol Pot; instead, he's a dude who is literally out to kill the whole universe because he can't get out of the friend zone. To me, that makes way more sense than some guy trying to take over the universe to satiate his ego, or bring some sort of purity to the natural order. He's just a dude who loved this one bitch so much that he was willing to become the most powerful being in the universe to impress her, but even that couldn't win her heart. So what the fuck else do you expect a heartbroken dude with no hope and godlike powers to eventually end up doing? Shit, I am convinced that's the exact same thing that happened to Hitler and Stalin. One day, they realized some broad would never love them as much as they loved her, and so, all of that emotional hurt manifest itself in an outward need to wreak as much havoc as (in)humanly possible. That's such a better M.O. than just saying the asshole is pure-D evil and wants to control everything because of a God complex; we'll see if the MCU goes that route for the big movie (probably, with Hela as a substitute for Miss Grim Reaper), but personally, I'm doubting it.

Whether or not Infinity War winds up a colossal disappointment (although it's almost certainly going to be a financial dynamo), at least we've got this outstanding six-part epic to give us what we truly want as crossover-craving comic book fans. It's long enough to give the characters plenty of pathos and room to develop, but it's not lengthy enough to drag on too long and introduce too many plot twists and deus ex machina components just to keep the thing chugging along. People tend to sleep on just how solid early 1990s Marvel was, and if you haven't caught this one before, definitely do your damnedest to give it a glance before you check out the new movie; not only will it give you a pretty good taste of what to expect in the de facto live-action adaptation, Jim Starlin's zeitgeist-defying, decidedly un-cucked approach to the space opera formula will probably be about 50 times better than whatever form the movie ultimately resembles.

And if for that reason alone, you NEED to read this motherfucker, at some point in your comic book-ing sojourns.