When he woke up he thought he’d dreamed about a movie he’d seen the other day. But everything was different. The characters were black, so the movie in the dream was like a negative of the real movie. And different things happened, too. The plot was the same, what happened was the same, but the ending was different or at some moment things took an unexpected turn and became something completely different. Most terrible of all, though, was that as he was dreaming he knew it didn’t necessarily have to be that way, he noticed the resemblance to the movie, he thought he understood that both were based on the same premise, and that if the movie he’d see was the real movie, then the other one, the one he had dreamed, might be a reasoned response, a reasoned critique, and not necessarily a nightmare. All criticism is ultimately a nightmare, he thought as he washed his face in the apartment where his mother’s body no longer was.
- Roberto Bolaño, ’The part about Fate’, p.234, 2666
This was originally notionally a piece called ‘Justify yr pull-list’, but I can’t seem to think of a more absurd enterprise than that, on reflection.
So, I bought six comics this week for the sum total of £19.50 and was provided with around thirty minutes – and let’s be clear on this, it was that – enjoyment out of them. As I said to the chaps on the Mindless Ünternet, those are whore’s rates.
It wasn’t as good as an illicit nut-busting… I should think. I’m married, I have a child. And yet, I can’t break the habit. I can’t grow the fuck up. Comics… comics are like a prison sometimes, where you can’t outgrow the bars. They make me feel like a veal. Or illegal drugs, which I used to take, and still miss terribly on occasion and are the easiest analogy; in short, comics are like prostitutes, drugs and the jail. Expensive, addictive and entrapping.
Hooray, hooray! More, at some indistinct point in the future, feel-bad hits of the Summer[/other season, probably] on this Mindless jukebox – the point is, look, I absolutely don’t fucking want to be an arbiter of taste, and I certainly don’t care to justify or provoke other people memetically to do likewise, as was the original intent, the lurid trash – my particular brand of neonate garbage, commercial art, hits – consumed. The least important, least compelling bit of criticism is where the critic, phallically swollen with import, tells you whether this was worth your time or otherwise, I tend to find? “This my sh…”, as Gwen Stefani had it, in her best song, and this is how it felt.
(Be kind, I’m writing under high-duress because I’ve not had my blood pressure medication for three days, due to an unfortunate confluence of events. O! if only we had exclusively private medicare, then I could’ve had it and not been queasy, sweaty and irritable (hold on… that’s my default state-of-being) because I could’ve walked into a pharmacist and demanded “parmacist! my lisinopril, etc.” and paid, well, I suspect somewhat more than the £3.17 a month I do for an annual subscription of four medications. But then I’d not have afforded comics! Economical! Ouroborotic! Topical! Who says this ain’t the Mindless Age of comic reviewin’?!?!)
An idea to perhaps actually do some reviewing then – I basically buy only superhero, or perhaps more correctly big two comics, because they’re essentially all my shop stocks. Every Thursday, and I’ve been stricken, recently, on reflection, by what a ridiculous habit this is. Don’cha think? No, I suppose you wouldn’t, having gone to the trouble to read a comics blog. It is! Twenty quid!!
Anyway, the Ultimate comics line restarted last week after some [REDACTED, no-one should care] – it has noted crime comics guy Brian Michael Bendis writing Spider-Man and former 2000AD alum Mark Millar writing the Avengers. Sounds radical! A game-changer, could be. I haven’t read an Ultimate comic since, well, I read those Wolverine & Hulk ones by the Lost guy – two years is a long time to wait to see your sthenolagnic urges realised, in the form of Ultimate She-Hulk, but well worth it in the final analysis. Nothing quite so thrilling occurs herein, Tony Stark’s chess game with leather babes aside, but Mark Millar continues to demonstrate his aptitude for a thing I like to call ‘the Badness’ – a streak, a traít as the French say, of cruelty. Some of my friends have ‘the Badness’, some don’t, but I tend to find the ones with more entertaining if not, actually, you know, better people. In fact, by definition, possessing the Badness makes you a worse person. I have it, I’m fairly sure, and perhaps seek the company of similarly-afflicted perverts. A lot of comics fans don’t have it, are wretched bores and say things like “Classy.” as a sentence in regard to something which they disapprove of in a comic, or in the world of (weekly, mainstream, superhero) comics – having surveyed the content of these kind of comics for several years, it does take one not terribly well-blessed with a sense of one’s own ludicrousness to issue that kind of… I suppose it’s a put-down? The things are not there for you to demonstrate your taste and elan, really. They’re bad-taste, pop-culture artifacts and Mark Millar, in his Michael Bay-cum-Frankie Boyle (bonus Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose – classy – referent at the end of hat clip btw) way is king of the trash-heap, King Nothing. Nick Fury (“I disappear for ten minutes and the whole place goes to hell.”) at the beginning of the issue stands for Millar stands for T.I. – King Back. Carlos Pacheco was better when Jesus Merino inked his shit, though. The art has to be a value-add at this (have I mentioned price-points, aye?) stage and Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1 falls down a little there, where it was precisely that department that persuaded me to part with my (not terribly) hard-earned shekels for it’s twin Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1. David Lafuente is clearly, in the vernacular, ‘a find’ – it’s something you maybe don’t want to rattle on too much about with these artists in the company game, before they get ideas to redefine graphic storytelling instead of drawing Batman and Daredevil like a good art-bot, or more commonly, start prima-donna’ing out under six comics a year (you don’t owe me anything, Frank Quitely, I just wish I could see more of your art, you know?) It looks, and reads, like a perfect Spider-Man comic for teenagers – I know Mark Bagley has all his art on the pencil-cases and sweetie packets, and this comic therefore has always been near that particular zeitgeist, well-balanced between domestic and extraordinary, but I could see Lafuente Spidey adorning futuristic sweetie packets containing silicate information and education chips (also government tracking devices) in about 2017. I don’t know that that’s a hell or purgatorio I’d particularly wish on the guy, but he could be the new star.
On the subject of art as the artifact, my shop was shorted of the title I like to call, Germanically, Mittwoch Comics because, while the first word does actually mean Wednesday, it literally means ‘midweek’; those crazy Germans! What will they think of next?! So, yeah, I’m prepared to call Thursday (and Tuesday, for all it matters – not a jot) ‘midweek’, take it up with me in the comments. It was a pretty interesting and enjoyable experiment to read the two concurrently, strip-by-strip; it’s a pretty interesting and enjoyable experiment, the comic, opening up bandwidths that have lain closed in the weekly comics game for a very long time in the case of, I think, up to half the strips. Winsor McCay, Hal Foster, obviously. But even the (correctly) universally-loathed Teen Titans strip looks like a contemporary kids comic, to mine eyes; I’m sure what little I saw of The DFC or Dandy Xtreme had semblant bits? I’m never terribly inclined to go back to Wednesday Comics, having once read it, because as well as being unwieldy, it’s fairly antithetical to the way I have read the things for the most part, as collected editions, as graphic novels, as accruals of ongoing, substantial stories and continuities - the title’s perhaps more appropriate than I initially realised, a truly transient object. Hey! Remember last week’s Wednesday Comics?! That we’re reviewing the day before some of you get this week’s? That’s the Mindless midweek, like ash on the wind.
SEGUE: And, so, finally – while we speak of the costly, ephemeral weekly-comics experience, two Event titles which, as is the now dominant status of the Event comic, are all-parcel, no-present. Chinese dollies.
Those are Blackest Night #2 and Uncanny X-Men #514; the former is it’s own crossover title, the latter part 4 of 6 in an Uncanny X-Men/Dark Avengers set-to, ‘Utopia’, possibly leading to the launch of another ongoing X-Men title, Dark X-Men, no-one’s quite sure about that yet. Bob’n'I will be hopefully presenting our twofer on the former some time next week, and I’m particularly interested in his take as someone who maybe isn’t quite as up as I am (I wish I wasn’t) on contemporary DC Universe minutiae – even I, for my sins, know shit-all about Aquaman and this issue is like 70% Atlantis guff; Dolphin died? Oh man, I have two comics featuring her, I quite liked the character, will I ever get over this? Who the hell is Tula – oh right, Aquagirl; it’s a shame, unlike the cover in that wikilink that Black Zombie Aquaman does not utter the timeless line “It’s all my fault! Aqualad and Aqua-girl have gone berserk!” But they do, oh yes they do. Blackest Night promises to redefine death, which is high ambition. Uncanny X-Men seems to offer about five or so promising plot leads toward new status quos, none particularly utopian; the event has been very oddly paced hitherto, with very little plot escaping the fence of its teeth, but this ish, and Blackest Night too, I guess, they’re all plot, all promises. I don’t even know what they’re promises of, what one fulfilled would feel like, or if I necessarily want a ‘status quo’; but that’s the weekly comics, a ceaseless flux, shifting books of sand.