January 12th, 2010
It’s a slow one for us, so we have joined forces like Voltron, whatever Voltron is (I know what Voltron is because I bought a very cheap Voltron DVD the other week. It was a ripoff – Voltron is a load of old shit). This could get more like one of those old Sugarhill Gang tracks that goes on for ever actually, on eof those ones where they’re just talking about their socks, what they had for dinner, and, most rivetingly, about how their neighbourhood has got, like, a really cool bridge or some shit like that…
Hellboy – The Bride of Hell
by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben, Dark Horse
Is this really the first Hellboy comic that’s been called The Bride of Hell? Doesn’t that seem a bit odd? Anyway, it’s the first ‘Mignolaverse’ (ouch) book I’ve picked up I a loooong time. I gather I’ve been ‘missing out’, which, while regrettable on some level, is a state today’s comics fan, living in a glutton’s paradise, a market more saturated than a deep fried butter bomb with hot-choc sauce, should just get used to. Too much of that funnybook shit will give you a heart attack, especially if your lard-laden arse tries to chase down every last scrap of elusive four colour protein.
I’m not sure why this deceptively unhefty though slick little package found its way into my hands (actually I do – they placed it near the counter, and the fact that you know about these crude, unabashed selling techniques does little in my experience to defuse their potency). I’m glad it did, though not because the issue was uch of a revelation. Its swerves and rhythms were exactly those that I remember, and remember loving, when I first got my Hellboy taste on five or six years ago. The lack of innovation on display didn’t disappoint – rather it fixed Hellboy, even more than two movies, a library full of graphic novels and a hundred spin-offs have, as something of a permanent fixture, in my mind, in the ether, on my shelves, and out there in the misty regions of this funny business we call comic. Hellboy is just always there, like Superman. The bit where he whacks the demon with his stupid big fist is as familiar, as real and embedded in the cultural stuff-o-verse as meek Clark Kent, spinning around the revolving door to emerge as something like a god.
So The Devil’s Handshandy, or whatever this one is called, is exactly like a Hellboy comic, and that’s no bad thing. Hellboy, as it all came back to me, is basically about storytelling, about the sheer overwhelming profusion of myth and legend that clever, baldy little monkey called man has plastered all over the landscape of his fine, faltering planet. Mignola’s wholly democratic plundering, and reworking, of the world’s store of cool and creepy ghost stories (so that’s what religions were for! How many of us, I wonder, are then devotees of the church of MR James?) results in another unique and modern gem, mashing the legend of Saint Hagan, airport novel Templar legend and the story of Solomon’s taming of Asmodeus*, with a nod to the mystery of the rock-cutting worm. Hellboy, as usual, sits and listens like a good attentive little antichrist before going out and punching a demon’s head in. As a snapshot of what this comic is about, of what it does, of what it’s for, it’s more or less perfect.
[*Asmodueus is one of those ancient ‘forgotten’ demons who seems to get a cameo in a comic or somewhere almost every week. His appearance here seems to be in deliberate dialogue with the issue of Promethea that he popped- up in. The lesson there was, approach a demon like a gentleman and he will appear to you as such. Hellboy, whose mission is to normalise the abnormal and humanise the abhuman, approaches Asmodeus like a decent if wayward aristocrat, and gets a novel, deceptively careful story about the impossibility of being evil, and the sacrifices a society will make to sustain itself across the millennia. And then he kicks his fucking head in.]
Art paragraph: The transitions between a few of the panels are a little awkward and all over the place, something that I remember Mignola’s pencils would do a lot too – except, the sheer manic energy of them would make the choppy, twisting ride seem completely smooth and natural, a trait which Corben’s stiffer, zombieface stipple effects do not quite manage to replicate. His unique personal evocation of pulchritude, medieval violence and high weirdness existing side-by-side otherwise fits the comic very well indeed.
Overall, I give this comic book four brains out of five.
What did you read this week Zom ol’ pal?
Siege 1 (of 4)
by Bendy Bendis and Olivier Copiel, Marvel
A lot’s been written about it by now, of course. It’s the latest big thing from Marvel, blah, blah, blah, Bendis, Coipel, blah. It’s the latest installment in the mega epic that Bendis has been telling for last five years or whatever, all part of the plan, etc… I don’t believe that at all. I don’t think Marvel should or would even consider planning their stories that far in advance and I think they’re probably smart enough to know that. What is true is that Bendis does a very good job of making it look like it all fits together, and what’s even more true is that for wide screen superhero comicbook action you can’t do much better than this.
Art paragraph: Coipel and the rest of the art team do an excellent job rendering both epic scale and close up action and Bendis supplies just enough believable and compelling plotting and dialogue to hang the whole absurd evil Avengers lay siege to Asgard over the American plains high-concept on.
There isn’t really much more to say about a comic like this. It doesn’t have anything to say, it doesn’t give you anything to think about (no, really, you at the back, it actually doesn’t), like 99% of superhero comics it’s hard to understand why you would even want to read a review of it, let alone write one, so it’s a good thing this isn’t one then. If you’ve seen the hype and you’ve read Marvel in the last few years you know what this is and you know whether you’d want to read it.
How many brains? I’d say it was a no-brainer. Hyuk.
Over now to our man who can, it’s the Bots’wana Beast…
Sweet Tooth #5
by Jeff Lemire, Vertigo
Yeah, the team cut. Coming in on the back, a man can’t help but have mixed feelings on the Kanyeezy rôle: it’s like, always welcome on a Jay record (“and I’m beasting off the Riesling/plus my n***** just made it out the precinct” is, primarily for the dessert wine boasting, clearly couplet of 2009) but my own shit ain’t so hot right now, with the vocoders. Daft Punk/Akira fixation, just slightly off-point.
Comics fans! Do you know, in addition to being named after Mark Waid’s (fairly turgid, I thought, but likeable enough in its ‘daft old cunt’ sort of way) Kingdom Come, the title-track on this – underrated, if you ask me, the pushback starts here – recent Jay-Z album is in fact entirely about your favourite superheroes? America! Your pop culture has become gratingly, achingly familiar as it colloids with every aspect of the present Now. I don’t listen to anyone except Jay anymore, because I want to know what the Illuminati’s thinking.
The post-catastrophe wasteland, for which I blame troubled Antisemites Eliot and Pound, case in point, is rehoving into focus on the popculture viewscreen; it never really went away, but there’s no-one left bar the creatively-panted to do any damage in the old sense. The expensively-panted, however…
Well, we’ll see. The best wasteland story ever was, is or will be is the MAX: Punisher – The End comic; that was as lacquer-black – Blacquer? I am going to try and make this happen as the post-noir term. You know that black liquid they sometimes have in expensively shot hip-hop videos? That’s all I’m into right now, lurid pulp, runny ink. Crossed is pretty that, too. I mean, basically a story of – they’re both like stories which seem to decide other end-of-the-world tales are, still, a bit soft-headed, a bit nice, let’s-not-fuck-around. Garth Ennis: a synonym for hard, like a boot in the puss from a granite-faced Aberdonian. They just seemed more realistic, man, to me.
Sweet Tooth‘s first arc ended this last week with #5 and is basically relevant to my present interests, I believe the saying goes. I refuse to capitalise it. Capitalising is annoying. My comics grading is, as follows: great/good/okay/annoying/shit, you’ll need to know. These are equivalent to today’s rating system of brains, from five-to-one.
It’s pretty alright, this; I maybe wasn’t so hot initially, it’s very expansive, rustic and it – I think it’s reasonably-priced, actually, the trade will probably be quite cheap, I am about to recommend it to you. Consider Mindless Ones the Which? magazine, the independent consumer-choice web-publisher, of the comics blogosphere. “…a competitive hobbyist, Mindless Ones recommends the following items…” We should get paid for this.
So, it’s slow, but I find it evocative, pastoral and occasionally quite violent and inventive. It has quite the most pathetic, winsome protagonist I can think of… in popular fiction? Scooby-Doo was a coward, certainly. #5, and I haven’t checked the prior issues before this short review, does a job emplacing the reader quite firmly into its first person - hold up -
ART PARAGRAPH: through various frameworks, essentially narrative choices made by cartoonist Jeff Lemire; simplistic enough, anyone with a small vocabulary in comics reading will be familiar with them – the panel chronology drifting into disparate timeframes, most effectively, signifying unconsciousness during whirlwind action, an actual dream sequence something rarely utilised in all the comics I presently read. Astral plane all the time, obvs. I don’t read many comics by cartoonists, you know; it’s hard to separate pictures-from-narrative here, which is almost as though it’s how comics always should be. That said, I don’t tend to buy into auteur theory, because I like team sports and Socialism best, and therefore when I say “factory comic” it isn’t with a disparaging sneer for the workers. Necessarily. What I particularly like about Lemire’s cartooning is how it’s-sort-of-obviously-good-without-being-kind-of-a-dick-or-a-prima-donna-about-it, yeah? It’s slightly ugly, in the way that Paul Pope’s for example, isn’t. Paul Pope is the LCD Soundsystem of cartooning, Jeff Lemire is… ah, fuck. Mountain Goats? I don’t know about the modern music that much. Yeah, that’s an okay analogy. ART PARAGRAPH ENDS.
Half the fun of apocalypses is finding out how they started, and I’m certainly going to continue trying to find that out – it definitely seems to me, at this juncture, like this will be a better hinterland than Y: the Last Man, which was quite popular.
Good and four brains out of five (the fourth is behind the 4-grounded one, do you understand space, no you do not:)
Oh! Also a worried face, because what happens to Gus “Sweet Tooth”, at the end is quite worrying and they have a preview of the next arc, and it all seems quite concerning to me, the reader, and perhaps you also if you find out about this comic. The preview is an excellent idea, who says you can’t learn anything from Geoff Johns, by the way, I only got it today but Blackest Night #6 was totally brilliant, or root 26-out-of-five branes. I don’t think it matters if he knows he’s writing high-camp, who after all can divine the intent of the author, “if you knew everything about me, you’d be me” saith Miles Davis, I just totally loved it and would like to see it on stage performed by either retired Florida couples or really weird kids, such as the one in 16 Candles who looks exactly like me when I was 15, half a lifetime ago.
I haven’t decided that yet. But it is tee-riffic