Anthony Mehlhaff photo column—Daikaiju

Daikaiju amidst their infamous fire ritual moments before being doused with a bicarbonate and phosphate combo and then 86’ed from The 1720 in Los Angeles, California 2018.

Black Swan Rising By Lisa Brackmann, 421 pgs.

Think about the next big mass shooting. Think about the next time someone brings an AR-15 into a place where we could imagine ourselves—or our children—and opens fire, killing dozens of people who shouldn’t die that day. We all know it’s going to happen in the next year. Think about what you’re going to say when it happens. Because this is important: you already know. You have already reacted to this event. Your opinion is already formed. All of our opinions are. We have our tweets ready. The NRA has drafted their next speech. Political teams on both sides of the aisle have their press releases ready. Bumper stickers have been printed. But let’s say, hypothetically, that we want to live in a world where men don’t mow down dozens of strangers with assault rifles. How do we have a real conversation about change?

This is the challenge that Lisa Brackmann embraces in her latest thriller, Black Swan Rising. The novel begins with a woman being harassed before she’s even named. Sarah Price works social media for a congressional campaign. She also has a secret past. They, whoever they are, have found her. The harassment has restarted. She wonders if her past could derail her boss’s reelection campaign. Meanwhile, across town, local TV reporter Casey Cheng is covering a mass shooting when she gets shot. As part of her recovery, she sets out to investigate the aftermath of mass shootings. Her investigation reveals that her shooter aligned himself with a misogynist, neo-Nazi movement. There’s every reason to believe that more shootings are on the way, and both Sarah and Casey are targets.

All of this is established in the opening pages of the novel. Brackmann sets up a difficult tightrope. Sarah and Casey could easily become mouthpieces for the author; the book could easily become preachy and dull. It could feel like one more voice shouting at us from an entrenched position. Brackmann is too skilled for that. First, she makes Sarah and Casey feel real. They’re both flawed, confused, and trying to move through incredibly difficult circumstances. Sarah is not sure she has the courage to do what she needs to do. Casey may have too much courage. They both may end up dead. More to the point, you care about them staying alive. Second, even though the novel is built around a political campaign, the presumable Democrat (parties are never mentioned) is sweet and caring, but has violence issues and carries a gun. The Republican banks on racism but has a big heart. Both are at times likeable and despicable. The campaign takes a backseat to Sarah and Casey’s intersecting stories. Complicated issues are raised and moral decision must be made. And there are so many guns. And always too many shootings. Through it all, the plot moves like a roller coaster. You get pinned to your seat and flung at increasing speed down a track that feels like it could throw you at any second. It’s exciting. You find yourself at the end way too quickly.

The ending itself is a surprise and a risk, but, for me, totally satisfying. It leaves me realizing that I lost myself in the book, but once I was done, I couldn’t help meditating on this culture of toxic masculinity we’re living in. I feel like I learned something about what a woman has to navigate, about where she finds support and where there is none, and about the institutions that protect and nurture bad behavior by men. I feel a little more ready to have a conversation that’s deeper than two sides shouting at each other across a battlefield. –Sean Carswell (Midnight Ink)

Night Moves

Jessica Hopper’s Night Moves operates in the dimension of impression: these microbursts of pithy sentiment, culled from Hopper’s 2004-2008ish journals, include dates, but don’t need to. Her book is more about an epoch than specifics, a time when Hopper (who wrote a column for the dearly departed Punk Planet and authored the anthology The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic a few years back) was putting out her excellent, hilarious fanzine Hit It Or Quit It, playing in bands, doing PR, and being the only sober person in a room full of drunk, stoned scene types who put plastic over their windows to keep the cold air from seeping into the kitchen of another janky Chicago punk house. By dint of your reading this review in this zine, it’s likely that you live, or have lived, in such a place.

More, though, than just the identification with the general scenario, Hopper’s vignettes weave in specific details. It’s easy to remember times of yore through her recollections, even if the reader’s details are a little different. Like the party I attended right after Dear You came out where the sounds of Led Zeppelin filled the crowded kitchen, and I first thought “Zeppelin rules,” then “wait, they’re not punk,” then “wait, I’m in a Jawbreaker song.” These vignettes are specific in ways that Razorcake readers will find familiar, if not comforting.

All told, the pieces of Night Moves gesture towards a time that eludes straight narrative. There’s no way to construct a linear description of the day you get married, say, because it’s so intense, a collection of luminous moments to be remembered in snippets rather than chronology. The best times and the worst times are like this. Rather than bogging readers down with the mundanity of the everyday, Hopper cuts right to the good stuff again and again, like a Lungfish record. Unlike Higgs and company, though, there’s no repetition here, just a collection of lovely moments depicting a time in a place with a tight group of friends. Real names be proof, you dig? –Michael T. Fournier (University of Texas Press, utexas.press.com)

VÄRLDEN BRINNER: Slöseri av Tid: LP

Another day, another grand musical discovery from Sweden in the form of Världen Brinner, an outfit with a penchant for well-crafted songs delivered in an energetic manner. Regardless of how sharp the songs sound, it’s Malin Sandberg’s vocals that provide the icing on the cake, with her ability to lead the quintet on its musical journey. Musically, it’s a blend of punk and rock which allows the band to combine either equally or lean more towards one than the other. This keeps things fresh and results in a damn good record. –Rich Cocksedge (Luftslott, info@luftslottrecords.com, luftslottrecords.com)

Razorcake Podcast #531 with Thirsty Thursdays Presented By The Dollar Boys

Flibbiddydibbiddydob.

Webcomic Wednesdays #250, “Punks in Japan!” Part 1 by Ollie Mikse

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Webcomic Wednesdays #248 by Elly Dallas

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Webcomic Wednesdays #247 by James Kittle-Kamp

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Webcomic Wednesdays #245 by Elly Dallas

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Webcomic Wednesdays #243 “Kurthulhu” Part 9 (the finale), by Jeff Kahn and Morgan Hale

Read more to see full sizes of each page and find links to all of the comic, Parts 1-8.