shield3

Of course, neither myself nor anyone writing inside the walls of this blog are going to have a problem with nonsense, be it outright nonsense, stupid nonsense, or nonsense for nonsense’s sake. It’s a Marvel comic, nonsense is what it does best, and it is the best there is at what it does. But what about nonsense mad enough to think it’s Important? Or nonsense sane and brittle enough to knows it’s nonsense but try to pass itself off as Important? Are both of those things not high art crimes?

Shield #3 by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver (Marvel)

This book has its fans, who will love this because it renders unto these Fans a vivid and energetic Service. A ‘Fan Service’, if you will (if those fans are fans not only of the the mighty Marvel manner but also of cheap readings of Renaissance and Enlightenment history). These mysterious Fans of the Dan Brown/superhero genre-hopping funnybook (because no-one demanded it!) are in extreme danger of Missing The Point, especially in regard to the Da Idiot Code stuff – the reason these alter-history bestsellers work is because they offer unusual insights into the function of the historical consensus. Destabilising the grown-up world’s memory of itself, exposing its partiality and reminding the powerless that history is a nightmare that can be woken from, is fun because of the way its stories change the backdrop of our everyday reality.

Changing the backdrop of the Marvel Universe isn’t fun in the same way, not because there aren’t people out there who don’t interact with it as seriously as they do with the real world out here – there are probably some who love Pete Parker’s crazy old aunt even more than their own – but even they would hopefully recognise that the history of the Marvel U is already totally mutable, prone to constant revision and insertion. Changes in the way we view history take even longer to change than history itself. Changes in the way we view Marvel’s history have never taken any longer than the width of a single panel of comic page.

Therefore, to place these universes side by side for easy comparison, that Newton was an alchemist is intriguing because it provides a new perspective on the evolution of science, and how two apparently differing worldviews can exist side by side. That Newton was a supervillain isn’t very intriguing, because that Newton exists in a place where everyone is either a supervillain or a superhero, and the fact that the former was chosen probably says more than it should about the way certain debates surrounding science and theology are currently being framed in the USA than anything about how a real live historical man who single-handedly overhauled our species’ knowledge of the universe should have his name thrown around by a modern fighting comic.

With these issues solidly unresolved and leaving a great big dialectical gap in its conceptual undercarriage we just get a printpresspunk superhero comic whose scenes never quite connect with each other, with the real world, with its own fictional context, with anything at all really. Further hindered by overly fussy art that emphasises the book’s unappealing habit of making portentous and pious melodrama out of silly spectacle, Shield needs to smoke a cigar and connect with its inner Fury pretty damn quick.

orange1

Age of Heroes #4 by Elliott Kalan and Brendan McCarthy (Marvel)

(There are actually two strips in this comic – one of which is a nice, coffee-shoppy two-pager by Joe Casey and Nathan Fox which makes a pleasing and timely call for the repositioning of the concept of the supervillain, something which has been somewhat overlooked in the past ten years of ever-greater inspection and valorisation of their more heroic counterparts.)

The other one, well, I don’t know about this one, so I’m going to have to ask… Is it a bit racist? I don’t know enough about how Native American peoples are currently faring in the USA’s social discourse. I presume there’s plenty of talk if you look for it about the way NA cultures interact with whitey’s, and hopefully this story makes its contribution, feeding into those debates without pissing on anyone’s moccasins too cruelly.

I’m just trying to frame this story’s last panel in a way that makes a bit more sense to me personally. I haven’t got much material to go on, but imagine that Aucaneck is an old Kerryman, who has substituted his household shrine’s picture of the Madonna with one of Billy Orange (hence the pic of the plank above, an easy one for Paul Cornell’s much-anticipated 100 British supervillains, by the way), or Olly Cromwell (‘forget the famines and military attacks on the civilian populace, he was a great parliamentarian and that’s good enough for me’), or Captain Britain even… Yeah, it would be kind of offensive, wouldn’t it?

Captain America isn’t Uncle Sam, after all. He doesn’t represent America as such, he represents American militarism, a very specific (and enormously unappealing) subset of the nation-state’s overall character. Maybe the reading needs to be taken a bit further though – look at Auckaneck’s asshole Christian son. Maybe he’s supposed to be Auck’s punishment for severing his family’s presumably ancient connection to their traditional icons in favour of an Aryan marine in an icecube, like a bored British housewife in 1943, happy to drop and swap her old knickers for a new pair of nylons and some gum.

Despite the apparently cosy and affirmative ending, maybe this strip is deceptively pert: Can Auck’s adoption of the supersoldier-as-deity be seen as a comment on today’s disproportionately high rates of military service among young Native Americans? (Which is predicated, I guess, please note again the massive levels of ignorance I am bringing to this issue, on high poverty rates among NA communities, and the employment and education benefits currently offered to those willing to risk being shot at or blown up to protect the Afghan poppy crop.)

I have no idea where to come down on this strip. I’m enjoying thinking about it though, which suggests that maybe, after my recent plea, in Neil Kalan, the Mac is finally being teamed with a worthy writer. Good.

(Nice art too, unsurprisingly. Tempers this recent Marvel style of his with some nods towards a naive, ‘tribal’ kind of look, plus a restrained, muted palette that tones the emotional surface of the story just right.)

hb2701

Hellblazer #270 by Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini (Vertigo)

Ah right, yes I get it, it was very obvious actually: With Shade in the comic, Hellblazer becomes like a Shade comic. Overt fealty to the book’s horror roots is given just the most cursory nod in this latest, splendid little issue, before we prance into a tightly paced, soapy depiction and discussion of some (not-too) complex relationship/personal identity issues. I can’t imagine anyone picking this comic up and not enjoying it for that. I give this comic five of those dot-in-circle madness bubbles. I’ll be glad to get back to the shocks and scares next issue, because Milligan is great at them, even though he’s clearly not all that comfortable in the genre, and even more happy when Shade returns with the lovely Epiphany in a few issues time. If DC–proper is going to somewhat ungraciously demand the return of all the properties it handed over to Vertigo back when we were children, then this little crossover and its soon-to-be sequel is an excellent way of letting Shade, on the one hand, be a Mature madman one last time and, on the other, repositioning him as a thoroughly modern mainstream Phantom Stranger for the twenty-first century.

bulletproof-coffin-comic-3

The Bulletproof Coffin # 3 by David Hine & Shaky Kane (Image)

This comic is – not like drugs because that’s such a perfectly, pathetically blah thing to say about something, nothing, or anything even – but certainly somehow psychoactivating. Something in those oceanic colours and thick blank lines pokes you right in the brain like a much-loved sibling in the mood to annoy. All the very best comics do this (and let’s get this straight: Bulletproof Coffin is the very best comic), leaking inky rainbows straight into your eyes where for its 32 page duration you and she (the very best comics are always girls) merge in some – less than beautiful and often borderline abusive but still crazy hot for all that – symbiosis of page & person. Like plugging your brain into a computer that won’t be made for a hundred years, this sexy synergy creates a brand new nervous system for this imaginificent Third Beast, heightening cognitive acuity, speeding autonomic response intervals and enabling you to hear the hidden language of lizards, as well as giving you abs of steel ripped enough to scar your lover’s paperthin body. Careful not to tear the corner there.

Once successful bonding has been completed, the new org/an/ism enters a new and unexplod state of existence, a scorched desert of the unreal, strewn with the infinite treasures of a million irradiated plastic nick-nacks and priceless free giveaways, a strange environment traversable only in impossible machines from the dreams of a heavy metal Heath Robinson. Its hostile physics can only be endured by the native tank girls and paradaxical swifty boys through protective suits of primary colour and animal insignia.

All in all in all just a dream, Bulletproof Coffin offers a laser-focussed commentary on the relationship between the Comic and its loyal, helpless, debased Fanman, betraying a depth of psychological insight that betrays the impeccable outward gaudiness, that makes you wince in sympathy for Hine’s psychiatrist, priest or local barman as they learn: All children are war-crazed zombies, and All wives look better in leopard print, just as All comics are better with a bit of that early-90s newsagenty madcap flavour.

Bulletproof Coffin is an upstart restart switch for the human soul. When you read it, you will never be the same again, so read it, because there’s a better brighter you inside this book, and they’re begging for a right good seeing to.

67 Responses to “Early? That’s new- it’s the Tuesday Review”

  1. Botswana Beast Says:

    I know none of the other Mindless Ones play computer games but SHIELD is incredibly incredibly like Assassin’s Creed, a franchise you probably will be experiencing soon via Cameron Stewart and Karl Kerschl.

    I dunno – Hickman – I’m so up-and-down on these newwave of Marvel guys, him, Fraction, Remender, maybe not so much Aaron, more a general up there, but I think it’s partly the nature of the beast is they’ve all been hooked to these properties and sometimes it does work and feel newish, wow, and then other times it’s like: WTF are you saying about the X-Men or Punisher or whatever, what is it possible to say about these things outwith the confines of the things themselves, the things I’m still pitifully childishly attached to? I really, really liked Hickman’s first three issues of Fantastic Four and now it feels like diminishing returns every time I go back, to that, or to SHIELD here.

    Killer closing line, anyway, ace review of BPC.

  2. Zom Says:

    Ace review of BPF.

    Completely agree re SHIELD. I think almost every writer that I really like is capable of bringing the outside to comics and (more rarely) comics to the outside. SHIELD doesn’t manage either and just ends up embarrassing itself.

  3. Mark Kardwell Says:

    So, let’s see, inserting Newton into the Marvel Universe as a supervillain is wrong, because it debases his position as a cornerstone of viewing the world in a rational, scientific, way. It panders, deliberately or accidentally, to supporters of daft notions like creationism and “intelligent design”. Okay, I can get with that, but then you state inserting William Of Orange as a supervillain into the DC Universe would be a good thing, even though that would be to suggest the world would have been better off with the ridiculously sentimental worldview of the Jacobites, and to write off the advancements in democracy worldwide that 1688′s “Glorious Revolution” brought in, and return Europe to the happy days of Absolutism and feudalism, all in the name of religious sectarianism? Now, I get annoyed by the twats in sashes and bowler hats marching past my house a few times every summer, too, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. And let’s recognise a bonkers double standard when we see one.

  4. Papers Says:

    I was completely disappointed with Shade’s appearances in HELLBLAZER, aside from the amazement at where Lenny is these days. I would love it if they resurrected his title with her and Epiphany and Planet Meta all in tow, all weirded up and warped from last time–as long as we could guarantee that Milligan was back on his game.

    Maybe it’s just because it feels sort of random. John has a problem! So he summons Shade, but doesn’t really do anything about it in the end, so Shade goes off with his girlfriend to solve her face issue.

    I feel like I wish it was feeding off of Kathy’s brief cameo a while back– “I saw Kathy in hell quite recently, with Grenzer.” I’m not even asking that it be all about Shade, it just felt like it was lip service.

    Maybe the next one will be better. I can dream that Bisley will be involved in art again, can’t I?

  5. drazer90 Says:

    I agree with quite a bit of the SHIELD criticisms, but I don’t know why you guys insist on viewing SHIELD through a heavy “superhero” lens. Is it supposed to take place within 616 Marvel continuity? I…guess. But does that really matter? There’s hardly anything super-heroic going on. Science-fiction with the conceit of secret science fact, yeah, but not superheroics. It’s NOT a “modern fighting comic”. The traditional “fighting” of superhero comics is absent from SHIELD, and what little big blasty action there’s been is either: 1) beside the point to the larger ideological issues (imperfectly laid out by Hickman, granted) or 2) standard fare for anything sci-fi, not so much the signature of the “super-hero” “fighting comic”.

    So I didn’t feel any affront from the depiction of Newton, even though I certainly understand and value the real person’s contributions to humanity. You think he’s a “super-villain” here? You might as well consider John Constantine a “super-hero”, then, although I certainly never thought of Constantine as such even when he existed under the pen of Alan Moore, which was technically in the DCU proper. Was Abby Cable a “super-hero” then as well? Was the old business man in Swamp Thing #21 a “super-villain”? The point is, when you’re dealing with stories that are so far divorced from anything with spandex-y, it’s really your own problem if you’re still seeing the baggage of “super”.

    In SHIELD, there are figures with various views of the world and of how SHIELD should wield their influence. Newton is an antagonist (but hardly a “super-villain”) because his methods don’t gel with those of Da Vinci, a/k/a the protagonist’s special friend. It’s far more interesting to consider the clash of viewpoints and what they (might) say about scientific elites and humanity than it is to call foul as if Hickman (whom I’m not a BIG fan of) turned Issac Newton into a mustache-twisting caricature in purple and green spandex with an “N” on his chest.

    And as far as Newton having something to do with contemporary America, theology, Luddites and whatever else: You guys are reading too much into it and bringing your own hobby horses to bear. Why don’t you complain about some combination of climate change, carbon taxes, the war in Afghanistan, Islamophobia, homophobia, Sarah Palin’s voice, teenage pregnancy and Brett Favre while you’re at it. There’s nothing particularly “American” about what Hickman’s doing.

    You do bring a lot of good criticisms to SHIELD–those related to how Hickman’s poor structure, pretentiousness, and awkward doling out of information–but unfortunately you also bring a lot of your own scarcely-related petty grievances and misconceptions.

  6. bobsy Says:

    Oh bollocks, come on Mark: Morris Men, Orange Men, Pearly Kings – all nutters in stupid scary costumes, and hence perfect targets for the gentle ridicule of appearing as supervillains in a new Brit-set DC comic, no question. Shit, I knew I was being ridiculous fretting about Newton’s good name a million years after the fact, but for you to be worrying about the fairness of misrepresenting the Orange Orders… Well, I think we’re both being pretty silly really, aren’t we?

    Fair enough on calling out the double standard…sort of… except I didn’t mention William the individual being a baddie, or in a comic – just used him as a figure it wouldn’t be unusual for a Republican to have a problem with, in a hypothetical comic I was making-up in my mind to help throw a little light on the situation in the Age of Heroes Captain America strip. I should have just stuck with Captain Britain as the example there, that I’ll accept. Perhaps all this helps resolve my thoughts on that in fact – for me to be upset about Newton and you to be upset about Orange shows how easy it is for people to get upset when the real world gets mixed up with their comics. So to have an elderly Native American adopt Captain America as his god, well, that’s just sure to offend someone… Perhaps the next lesson here is to remind myself I have no right to not be offended, by anything other than crap comic books, anyway. Speaking of which…

    ‘turned Issac Newton into a mustache-twisting caricature in purple and green spandex with an “N” on his chest.’

    Ah, drazer90, if only. Are you sure Newton’s depiction in Shield 3 really was all that far removed from what you’ve just described?

    Again, I’m going to have to concede that there’s a lot of wisdom and fairness in your points there, especially concerning myself and the vinegary portion of chips perched there on my shoulder. A fari slice of nonsense too though: The Swamp Thing example goes nowhere, I’m afraid: despite the creators’ impressive sleight of hand in convincing everyone otherwise, John Constantine behaves almost exactly like a supporting superhero (albeit of the cynical, anti-hero sort, as had been the fashion for some years prior) throughout Moore’s run and after – it wasn’t until quite far into the Vertigo years with cancellation an ever more apparent inevitability that ST’s narrative structures began to diverge from a pretty standard superhero comic template, if even then.

    Similar with Shield – it’s trying to convince you otherwise, and succeeding apparently, but it is just a superhero book. The trappings are a little unfamiliar (although not really – note the preponderance of daft costumes, stuff from the established Marvel universe, and people speaking about to no-one in particular their motivations), but it’s just a new backdrop for the same old story. The talk-fight-wow-talk-end structure of your standard superhero book is hugely apparent here. All you need to know is on the cover – I know of only one genre (and it is my favourite) that has giant purple mangods getting zapped by huge laser cannons in it with any regularity.

  7. Botswana Beast Says:

    A fair riposte.

    I can dream that Bisley will be involved in art again, can’t I?

    It’s no dream, Papes: while DC solicitations are generally about as reliable as Liam Fox’ stance on gunnery, Bisley is listed as sharing art doo-tees w/ Cammo (I’m still not the massivest fan, I must say) on #272 & #273.

  8. Carey Says:

    I disagree with your review of SHIELD, but as ever enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    “…it’s just a new backdrop for the same old story. The talk-fight-wow-talk-end structure of your standard superhero book is hugely apparent here. ”

    And odd assertion to make considering that’s been the standard structure of action films and thrillers since at least North by Northwest.

    The best template to view SHIELD through is Hickman’s own current (and inferior) Fantastic Four run, and it’s ideas of age and fear holding back youth and invention. Newton is a villain within the context of the story because he is intellectually selfish: he is interested in letting the wider world stagnate and keeping knowledge for himself, whereas his adversaries seem to believe more in the sharing of ideas and helping the world. In many ways this reflects the times and mindset of the real Newton, and the ideas of the Intelligentsia being ‘above’ the common man.

    And remember, for all his services to science, the real Newton was not only an MP, but served as head of the Royal Mint and therefore could be said to be one of the architects for modern capitalism. That surely makes him a prime candidate for villainy!-)

  9. amypoodle Says:

    i’m off to read shield now. i’ll be back to slag it off after babysitting.

  10. bobsy Says:

    Lee, does your work ever get published in the UK newstand Scooby Doo mags? If so I think I may have read it. Always impressed by the quality of those strips.

    Hickman is channeling Planetary pretty well eh?

    I dunno, the Newton thing of mine is utterly ridiculous in retrospect, but it’s not the first time I’ve been guilty of such and survived. Newton was an elitist, sure, but he lived in a place where literacy was very low indeed – his work just simply was above that of the common man. And has been of enormous benefit to the species regardless. I don’t think it’s important though, and both apologise for and regret mentioning it in the first place.

    Despite its spirited defenders, I’m afraid Shield is still an arse comic.

  11. Zom Says:

    Is truth

  12. Carey Says:

    I have problems with SHIELD, but I’d far prefer to see Marvel actually try something different than publish its fifteenth Deadpool spin off, and feel I should support them accordingly. Of course, if this were back in the halcyon days of Milligan and Morrison riding roughshod over the Marvel Universe,Id probably agree with you.

    My problems with are mainly down to Hickman’s inability to characterise people, but I do like some of his ideas. He reminds me of what I imagine Morrison would be like if he lacked wit and an ability to sum up a character in line or two of dialogue.

    Many thanks for the kind words about my work– yep, I’m responsible for covers, activities and the little three panel newspaper strips in the UK Scooby Doo, as well as drawing Tom and Jerry and filling in for Nigel Dobson occasionally on Spider-man and Friends. Glad you like it.

  13. Botswana Beast Says:

    Problem with the Native American reading is and I think it’s a distinction worth making, it’s Inuits, the history & culture is a little different than yr standard Cheyenne or them, I’m not even sure if they’re Alaskan, although you would kind of think they have to be For Symbolism, the nation’s most dislocated sons finding the… I tend toward a more generous reading of Captain America than you, b, but you’re broadly right, the continuity has jimmied enough for the Steve Rogers version to be a disavowal of Vietnam, Korea, etc. And obviously the shield never kills anyone, fanmen get very upset if Steve Rogers is even near a corpse, cf: the squeamishness of war reportage.

  14. amypoodle Says:

    yeah, while i echo your sentiments about trying new things, shield really is a bit poo.

    ‘a book alien and devout…’

    RUBBISH!

    seriously, so far it relies far too heavily on its audience being wowed by guest stars from the mighty MU and history, the dialogue is preposterous and the psuedo-science magicky stuff is unconvincing. some of the ideas are nice – the night machine with his dove sidekick, egyptian superteams, etc. – but sadly i’m not sure if this extends beyond being visually appealing and a sort of conceptual fizziness.

    i suppose i’d like to visit an MU that looked like shield-verse, but that’s about as far as it goes.

  15. Zom Says:

    Hickman is like Morrison without the ability to tell good stories, or do good character, or do genuinely thrilling ideas. So not much like Morrison then.

  16. bobsy Says:

    ‘I’m responsible for covers, activities and the little three panel newspaper strips in the UK Scooby Doo’

    Fucking right, you’re probably my most-read artist of the past year or so then! The three-panellers are especially great, always get a good laugh out of my daughter. Except for the last one, which I think had a mummy? She doesn’t like mummies, much more a ghosts and zombies girl.

    It’s gone unremarked by the grownups, unsurprisingly, but the newsagents is a great place for UK kids to get plenty of original homegrown work these days, much better for the past three years or so than it ever was for the previous ten or fifteen.

  17. Zom Says:

    Except that every comic comes with some ridiculous, piece of shit toy, hence we’ve stopped buying them for the boy.

  18. Zom Says:

    I got plenty of remarks

  19. Matthew Craig Says:

    You know who I like?

    Mark Steel.

    Here is a page from the Mark Steel website:

    http://www.marksteelinfo.com/audiovideo/default.asp

    //\Oo/\\

  20. Papers Says:

    It’s no dream, Papes: while DC solicitations are generally about as reliable as Liam Fox’ stance on gunnery, Bisley is listed as sharing art doo-tees w/ Cammo (I’m still not the massivest fan, I must say) on #272 & #273.

    That makes it feel a better for me, even if I’m skeptical at this point that Milligan’s going to make me actually care about this team-up. Lenny was great, but after she left things became listless. It’s too middle-aged blokes wandering around trying to reclaim their glory days but not really having anything to do.

  21. Botswana Beast Says:

    I felt as though it was speaking to me of my life

  22. Alphonse Says:

    In SHIELD, J Hickman seems to be going for a cross between Earth X (‘everything you thought you knew is wrong!’) and Matt Fraction’s Casanova (which I found unreadable), with elements of ‘Planetary’ and ‘New Gods/The Celestials’ thrown in. It isn’t terrible, exactly, it’s sort of okay, but for a comic that’s set its stall out as the source of all kinds of earth-shattering cosmic revelations, it’s surprisingly unengaging, given the freedom the guy’s been allowed.

    Are Marvel’s next gen writers (Fraction, Aaron, Rememder, Cornell etc,) too in awe of the Nineties Vertigo/Ultimate crowd to cut loose with work that’s genuinely their own? Discuss, I suppose.

    That said, compared to that last Shade/Hellblazer team-up, this one, while an issue longer, felt shorter somehow, and a bit phoned-in.

    For a start off, wasn’t Shade in his ‘madman’ phase during the first crossover? So what’s to be made of John’s references to the ‘Romantic poet’ Shade, except that Milligan, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to go back and re-read his own work?

    And secondly, wasn’t the point of the denouement of Shade’s series that he had, if not come to terms with, then at least accepted that Kathy was a gonner? So why wheel him in, without explanation, as a sort of doomed extra from a late Seventies Bowie lyric, to listen to a series of platitudes about grieving and loss that wouldn’t be out of place on a Hallmark card with a picture of a dog on the front of it?

    I sound like a crazy person who talks to the television, I realise, and in many ways I am, but still … I fear that Pete has grown cynical.

  23. the Beast Must Die Says:

    I maintain that a ‘Marvel 2-in-1′ title with John and Shade would fucking rock.

    The Biz on the Hellblazer strip, Bachalo or Allred on the Shade.

    Add in a Doom Patrol one page funny by Michael Kupperberg or Tony Millionaire and I’m there baby! DC! Make it happen!

  24. plok Says:

    Wow, the SHIELD thing sounds amazingly dull to me, and not at all close to potentially exploring any clash of viewpoints about science, humanity, politics, or whatever that actually have to do with Newton, Da Vinci, or any other real historical person. Not dumping on anyone, just saying I can’t believe it because I can’t see how it could do this — the recasting of some contemporary discussion of these things, yeah: that wouldn’t be much of a stretch at all, it’s certainly been done before, and I find the suggestion quite plausible if not quite palatable. But to get at the topic of what Newton means to us in a comic where he fights Galactus, I’m just not too sure about that, I think it’d actually be a hell of an accomplishment! Apologies for weighing in without having read the thing, but I think about what Newton means to us contemporary people kind of a lot, and it’s nothing like what you’d expect to see in a superhero comic. I love superhero comics, but that’s just not where you’d see that stuff. So it must be either something else, or nothing.

    Is this pretty much like 1602 except without the “obviously some other universe where things are different for some reason, therefore a comment on the regular stuff” thing? Can’t help thinking that if it was a spin-off from an actual issue of FF there would be no reason to ask (i.e. no particular reason to care enough to ask!) if it was in-continuity or not…

    The Inuit thing, it’s hard for me to get a fix on it from the description but it could well be dicey. The Inuit populate the whole North, not just Alaska, but…well, the Alaska business, it’s a bit complicated, but at a guess: these are descendents of the same folk who found Cappy’s old icecube coffin? So, Eastern Arctic, then.

    And that Hellblazer/Shade cover’s amazing. Count me in on the MTIO!

  25. Zom Says:

    It feels looser editorially than 1602, and it’s certainly much less about spotting easter eggs that refer back in a straightforward type-type way to the modern MU. There’s very little (perhaps none) of that, “Oh look it’s a guy with one eye and a red eye patch… and his name’s Simon Clops” stuff that typified 1602 and Old Man Logan.

  26. bobsy Says:

    Hehh, just noticed: on the actual Shade cover, the one that went to print and not that early promo version, they have actually tippexed out JC’s now-severed thumb. That book’s obviously got a good editor, or at least one who has got time to properly read all of the comics he’s working on, unlike the batbook guys.

  27. plok Says:

    Damn, obviously I meant “the recasting of some contemporary discussion as these things”…meaning creationist crap, etc.

    But they have that “Brother Stark, this is Monsignor Richards” stuff, I’m told? That must get old in a hurry…

  28. David Uzumeri Says:

    SHIELD’s one of my favorite Big Two comics, but I also recognize it’s flawed. I enjoy it (and Hickman’s other work) more than anything else not written by Grant Morrison, but I’ll be the first to admit that it engages me more on an intellectual than emotional level. Considering my affinity for Hickman’s creator-owned work, I sincerely doubt that the book’s Marvel Universe connections are the main draw in my eyes and that I’m just a sucker for fanservice, although I’ll fully admit that I enjoy them.

    First off, I really think that turning Newton into a supervillain being a triumph of the American theological viewpoint is total, well, bullshit. The whole book’s about man striving to become god himself, and that’s what the HEROES are doing. I can’t imagine a theme much further from the Southern Baptists Convention.

    Secondly, it suffers a lot from its ambition. By trying to bring in so much history, it runs the risk of messing it up, which it does all too often (see: Newton using Liebniz’s notation, the fall of the Umayyads leading to the Dark Ages, white Imhotep, etc.). While I admire the book and still think it’s a lot of fun, I fully admit that the fact that it screws up so much of what it tries to reference is a fairly major flaw.

  29. bobsy Says:

    Alright, alright, I already apologised…

    Changing the subject entirely, but then changing it back again: Shield is still rubbish.

  30. Zom Says:

    But is it clever, Dave? Is it really? I don’t think it is. It doesn’t strike me as clever at all. A bit (just a bit) learned maybe, but not actually clever. The ideas on display aren’t new, quite the opposite, they’re hackneyed and obvious (Leonardo Da Vinci as sci-fi hero is a case in point – I’d have dropped that idea the second I thought of it, which would have been straight away). GM has been running with the idea of superheroes as gods since Zenith (where they become gods), and he’s normally done it with one eye on something more interesting. I don’t know, I’m prepared to give Hickman some time with this, it’s early days yet, and I am keen to see someone try something a little bit different, a bit proper cosmic with the MU, but Hickman’s writing has thus far failed to impress me on any level.

  31. the Beast Must Die Says:

    I don’t think the SHIELD overall idea is particularly rubbish, just the execution which I have found to be fairly unengaging and ponderous, and occasionally simply confusing.

    That said i dearly loved the image of Galileo preparing to blast Galactus with a large lens-cannon in issue 1.

  32. Zom Says:

    Plok, the brother Stark stuff isn’t like the Cyclops/Simon Clops example given above in that the Stark in question isn’t supposed to be entirely identical in all but cosmetic detail to Tony. It is, however, fucking awful in that it sparochializes the MU (everyone knows each other/every is related to each other) and actually works against Hickman’s cosmic vibe. It’s the Vader made C3PO problem all over again.

  33. Zom Says:

    I liked that too, Beast. Maybe I’m being a little too hard on it. I’d diagnose the problems as primarily ones of execution too.

  34. The Satrap Says:

    I tend toward a more generous reading of Captain America than you, b, but you’re broadly right, the continuity has jimmied enough for the Steve Rogers version to be a disavowal of Vietnam, Korea, etc. And obviously the shield never kills anyone, fanmen get very upset if Steve Rogers is even near a corpse, cf: the squeamishness of war reportage.

    Bots my dear friend, if that were all there is to it. I think the only treatment of a patriotic “hero” like the captains, US, UK et cetera, from the last thirty years or so that is worth a damn –i.e. that is not fundamentally arse-backwards– is still Moore’s run on Captain Britain.

    It’s all spelled out in in Zom’s Heroic Hype devoted to the badly-groomed Captain, but since mindless repetition is my contribution to Mindlessonesdotcom, I’ll restate it this way: the strength of Moore’s treatment of the character resides in the fact that Braddock’s condition as a national champion is not something eminent and exalted, but an indication of his frail humanity, a marker of his “blokeness” in the face of events that go well over his head.

    (Serious Readers may wish to avert their eyes now.)

    It is a truism that the Westphalian system of sovereign states is in deep crisis. And yet, the truism has hardly begun to dent the conciousness of people in any practical manner. The system of international politics will be stuck in adolescence for the foreseeable future. The American empire, together with its joke NATO allies, will continue to fart about farcically during its autumnal years, amid general apathy. Its rising (sometime-) rivals will be equally ineffectual the second they overstretch. The voting citizenship’s response to the ravages of global wage arbitrage will continue to be sullen, inarticulate nationalistic nostalgia. Those ravages will abate on their own, if and when a sufficiently large middle class develops in the “emerging” economies, and not a moment earlier.

    Against this backdrop, a character that is supposed to embody a fluffy notion of redemptive, inclusive democratic patriotism is somewhat useless. “Like coke in green glass bottles, they don’t make it anymore.”

    The Captains are prone to dying. Apart from Brubaker’s drawn out storyline, Rogers (and Braddock) must have kicked the bucket five or six times or so in the dark and prismatic ages. It’s a cliché, like Peter Parker hanging up the mask or the “first family” of the Fantastic Four splitting up. None of these are random. Parker for example is supposed to be an everyman, so it’s not surprising that he’s always tempted to turn his back on his “responsibility” schtick, in an age of baby boomers and representatives of generation X, Y or whatever.

    The stolid Braddock depicted by Moore is like you and me, a bit silly and wrong, but that’s mankind’s default status so it’s OK. Brubaker’s Rogers, after reams of issues, a rebirth and a putative change of status, is still the same creepy dude whom you can picture calling grown-ups “son”.

  35. The Satrap Says:

    -Digression, silly and wrong as you like it… NOT!

    Speaking of “global growth”, one of the many things I loved about “Superman Beyond 3D” is that it depicts a major emergency that also happens to occur away from the main action of “Final Crisis”. It must be undoubtedly attributed to this reader’s feverish imaginings, but I found that this resonated nicely with the notion that the developments that might lead to a more rational future are occurring in the background. Once the warm fuzzy feeling of ecumenic redemption is foregrounded in the central storyline, the thing falls apart, in my very humble. I found the final issue of “Final Crisis” distinctly anti-climactic. The music of the spheres? Kitsch. The shout-out to that most barefaced of audience flatterers, the Gaiman, in the “hearken ye kids, at the fireplace” moment? Kitsch. The shout-out to Obama’s nothingburger presidency? Kitschy McKitsch. The re-emergence of Mandrakk? Unnecessary. The Morrison avatar’s “no one fuck with the judge of all evil” moment? It’s all been diminishing returns since “Animal Man”, really. The reference to how the discovery of parallel Earths will “change everything”? Let’s not put lipstick on this pig, it’s attached to its sty like it knows nothing else (it doesn’t).

    I will shut up now. You guys keep talking about that Hickman chap. It’s fascinating, in particular because I think I haven’t read anything by him.

  36. Matthew Craig Says:

    I would add Jack Staff to that list of well-constructed patriot heroes, although I would also posit that really – really – neither he nor Moore/Davis/Delano’s CapBrit are all that representative of the British Identity (well, Jack has the advantage of being a working-class builder, whereas MDD CB is, hell, he’s a half-Merlin aristo living in a mansion/lighthouse with little or no real connection to the country he represents. “He is A Gentleman. He sleeps in the nip.” I’ll never forget that, even as I paraphrase it for comic effect.)

    Which is why that one story that we are all thinking of right now as you read and I type these words (dinnae deny!) is the one with Meggan and the cup of tea. CapBrit as fish out of water in his own country. A typical trap for the patriot hero, indeed. No slaps in the face and Bothamesque bogling for OUR Sutton Coldfield Superman. Tea and Rich Tea and Little & Large on the telly. And possibly something quite quite wrong with dating the metamorphic goblin girl behind the sopha.

    (alliteration trumps accuracy, there)

    (flashes of Matt Smith as the gangly postgraduate Herb Trimpe iteration of the character. What the Deuce?!)

    (of course, as I’m sure you’re all shouting into the screen, he looks rather more like Jack Staff with those pipecleaners – oh, shit: Karen Gillan as Becky Burdock. STOP YOU.)

    It is my stated ambition to write the Great British Superhero Novel. I can do this because, er, I found a feather in a packet of crisps? No. I don’t know. It seems like a thing I can do. I quite like Britain. I think it’s good. I don’t like the thought of Scotland breaking up with England. A dysfunctional family is still a family, and if On The Buses has taught us nothing, then its that.

    I had a crush on Linda (“Captain UK”) McQuillan, you know. I was only, uh, ~seven? at the time, but something about those Deidre Barlow specs and white jodphurs really…ahem.

    “He’s called The Fury. He ruins mothers.” Heh. I felt so bad about that.

    (Marshall Lancaster as The Steel Claw – NO.)

    //\Oo/\\

  37. Zom Says:

    I really like that Captain Britain post… it goes on too long but I make some good points, even if I do say so myself

    http://mindlessones.com/2009/06/18/heroic-hype-captain-britain/

  38. The Satrap Says:

    The Captain Britain Hype is deffo part of the Mindless top ten.

    Matthew: Terribly, terribly remiss on my part to forget my man Grist. Jack Staff is good.

    The fact that neither he nor Braddock embody that elusive mythical Questing Beast, national identity, is kind of the point, no? John Smith the builder is an everyman, the specific kind of everyman that still likes to wear the national colours on T-shirts, but he’s surrounded by other everymen and -women who don’t, and extraordinary folk who have other things on their mind than the flag. His allies do not treat him deferentially, and his foes regard his status as national hero less as anathema than as irrelevant or quaint. The first four issues of the comic, the B&W indy ones, were a fairly explicit “sod you” to the traditional patriotic hero as represented by “Sgt. States”.

    “Jack Staff” is a very British comic because its characters are instantly recognisable by British readers, but the flag-wearing hero is quite deliberately not the centre of the comic’s world (heck, he’s more like a member of the supporting cast in many of the stories), not a unifying factor of the motley crew.

    As for nationhood not being able to transcend class in Braddock’s case, again that’s the point. National identity as a factor of social cohesion is a fib, either a conservative one to make ongoing inequality palatable (one that, if enacted with particular zeal, leads ultimately to fascism), or a left-wing one to sell redistributive measures to unwilling voters (this one stopped working many long decades ago).

  39. the Beast Must Die Says:

    Jack Staff is more British in it’s formal construction than in any actual depiction of Modern Britain. It is a love letter to the ‘Whizzer and Chips’ mode of storytelling dressed up as a superhero comic.

    It’s Albionic (yes!) vision of British superheroing is as quaint and parochial as an Oliver Postgate cartoon – and all the more loveable for it.

    Zenith is best british superhero comic of all time, and the one that got closest to nailing a palpable sense of a Britain in the tail end of a Thatcherite nightmare.

  40. Zom Says:

    Good points, Danice

  41. The Satrap Says:

    The quaint and parochial vibe must be grist (bad pun intended, obvs.) for the post-patriotic mill, I s’pose. Enlighten me.

    -Digression:

    Astute readers must have noticed the use of the term “global wage arbitrage” above, rather than the more vague “globalisation”. Well, I suck on many levels but nobody can argue that my links aren’t the shiznit.

    This diamond in the rough of a comic (don’t understand why they have to call it a cartoon) does an excellent job of cutting through the obfuscation about the causes of our current economic malaise, and touching on the central issue of global class warfare. Also, its many flaws and omissions are proof, if any was needed, that for the foreseeable future we are indeed fucked.

    Click, suckas, click! It’s good.

    Done? OK, on to the flaws an the omissions: it becomes oddly fluffy when it tries to explain how global wage arbitrage leads to monstrous financial bubbles. It’s not that complicated. GWA turns some countries into exporting powerhouses with large trade and current account surpluses while their counterparts rack up corresponding deficits. The mediation between the two empowers the financial sector. Or, in other words, cheap Chinese goodies and the Chinese purchase of Treasuries (to keep the dollar high) allow low interest rates in Western countries, which in turn allows the financial sector to run riot. Conveniently, this allows to extend credit to hard-pressed consumers. Anyway, this part of the story has been heard millions of times elsewhere so I guess the fluffiness is tolerable.

    More worryingly, the comic finishes with an endearing, but somewhat pathetic revolutionary call to arms. Good luck mobilising large sections of the middle class, beleaguered though it is, to leave the fleshpots and do anything other than vote for Geer Wilders, Jobbik or Miss Alaska.

    And it cannot even begin to imagine that since the nation state has been radically undermined in its redistributive capacity in the last decades (and since “there’s no going back” is a fairly good rule of thumb in human history), social cohesion will have to be a domain where countries pool their efforts in some fashion in the future.

    But since the notions of labour relations as a topic of binding international arrangements, or –gasp– that of sizeable transnational wealth transfers are still utterly unthinkable in these most uninspired of times, there is only more exploitation, the comedy of errors of failing imperial nationhood and inchoate, sullen muddle and angst on the horizon. At least until things kind of get better on their own, when global wage arbitrage stops being smashin’ business, after decades of serial national failure.

    Our times provide a conducive environment for Serious People, in short.

  42. The Satrap Says:

    “Geert”, Geert Wilders.

  43. Smitty Says:

    “…in an age of baby boomers and representatives of generation X, Y or whatever.”

    First, that’s beautiful.

    Second, I enjoyed the recent Union Jack as written by Christos Gage. What’s the consensus there?

  44. Zom Says:

    I liked that too. Didn’t love it, Gage is too trashy for that, but a good time nonetheless

  45. Matthew Craig Says:

    I had a teddy bear called Karl Marx, as a child. I won him at a Marxist Tombola. Really! Nobody knows what happened to him, although, frankly, my money’s on Naked Paddington, the bast.

    Yeah, as soon as I hit “Submit, Comment!” I thought, “well, why would it need to be a patriot hero? Why would he need the flag?” And it doesn’t need to be.

    I think CapBrit transcends his class by dint of being a really confused creation. I dropped the word “polytechnic” from my original post precisely because of the contextually-sensitive class implications. Wasn’t it the perception (rather than the case) that posh boys didn’t go to polytechnics in the 1970s?

    Zenith. Yeah. That was my second thought on the staircase. Itttttttt…ttt…maybe. It’s as of its time as, oh, say, V For Vendetta *raises eyebrow*, and every bit as Brrrritish. Zenith is a yuppie hangover waking up to a breakfast of disco biscuits (but with the prophetic knowledge that, despite the Fall of Thatch, old school blue-blood small-c conservatism is rrrright there, man. Right there, at the heart of it. Of course, four! Prime Ministers on from Mrs. Thatch, that has proven to be not the case at all.

    I dunno. There’s capturing the national mood of the moment, there’s going for a less focussed, more timeless reflection of the national character, which opens up all sorts of picture postcard ruby-lensed nostalgic pitfalls, and there’s comics with trajectory. Like, Catherine Cookson’s Chris Claremont megagenerational epic of who we are, where we are and what are we going to be?. (my first attempt at a patriot hero, whose entire name is a breach of at least two major companies’ copyright, but fuck them, took place in a republican British future with a humbled American hero sidekick and a nationless humanist hero turned into a radioactive monster by the blah blah zzz)

    …that was a good video, is what I’m saying.

    //\Oo/\\

  46. The Satrap Says:

    a nationless humanist hero turned into a radioactive monster…

    Sounds like an ironic re-tooling of the Flag Smasher, an internationalist foe of Captain A.

    Internationalist terrorists, like the more popular but equally non-existent eco-terrorists and their ultimate real-life ancestors, the dirty hippies, show that the most reprehensible form of terrorism is to annoy upstanding bien-pensant citizens.

    In the Flag Smasher’s favour, it must be said that he fought with a mace against the shield-wielding Rogers, which was bizarre in a good way.

  47. Matthew Craig Says:

    Nah. I’m entirely immune to the postmodern malaise, me.

    Oh, hey: so I was just over at FunnyBook Babylon. Boy, that Isaac Newton, eh? “If I have seen a little further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants and had uncomfortable sex with green lizard ladies.”

    I haven’t read the comic, so everything after this clause should be ignored, obviously, but everything I have read – previews, excerpts, reviews good and bad (only here) – has led me to believe that this comic is a wrong.

    //\Oo/\\

  48. plok Says:

    Oh, fine, I’ll go there too.

    Hmmm…

    No, it doesn’t do it for me, and I’ll tell you why. Because to me it’s the same kind of thing as this short-lived Family Of Vampires show on TV last year (I think), wherein it was revealed that the French Revolution was all secretly just about vampire politics, and of course history doesn’t say that but that’s just because the humans don’t know

    And for me, that’s taking the game too far.

  49. The Satrap Says:

    OK, so the Internet has just thrown Hellblazer #269 and #270 on my lap. On a first leaf-through, I have to agree with Papers’ complaints about the thing’s randomness, not just with regard to Shade’s cameo. It turns out that Constantine is not the absolute woman-beating scumbag we thought he is, after all, for we was under the influence of a most mighty curse and such. Problem is, the maledictor has been conveniently introduced in this storyline. A gun that is placed on the table to be shot immediately afterwards fails to pack the requisite wallop. The soap operatics feel excessively random, inderdaad.

    Epiphany surely is lovely, though.

    Also, the package includes the latest issue of Dodgem Logic. Definite improvement over the previous thin gruel. In a long-buried comments thread Bobsy said that the Moore essay on sci-fi was good, and on a first skim-through I’d say it is. Were you under the influence of the booming voice behind the beard when you made the -by now infamous- “science and theology in the US” remark, Bobs?

    At any rate, it is a booming, tenebrious voice indeed, but since it fulminates against other more noxious forms of seriousness we’ll let it pass.

  50. bobsy Says:

    Quite possibly Trappers, old cucumber. You know how easily led I am. Ever a happy sucker for the hirsute, me.

    I’d forgotten about him doing the Deviant woman. That’s the best bit. King Mob and Edith a decade or so degraded, Johnsian in the perfection of its excess. Is there an a priori link between obsessive continuity-scouring and fantasies of non-human sexual interaction? Belying something erotic propelling the need to make these strange, convoluted connections between previously separate concerns? Renaissance into Marvel goes as neatly as Male Member into Alien Woman (Hot Zombie Superhero on the DC side), perhaps.

  51. grant Says:

    Which is predicated, I guess, please note again the massive levels of ignorance I am bringing to this issue, on high poverty rates among NA communities, and the employment and education benefits currently offered to those willing to risk being shot at or blown up to protect the Afghan poppy crop.

    Wellll, I haven’t read the comic in question, but I *have* been to public events down at the Seminole reservation near where I live.

    #1. The Seminole tribe kind of pioneered Indian gambling. They’ve got a Hard Rock Cafe in the Seminole Casino now. The reservation is nicer than the gated communities sprawling west of town. So: not poor, not necessarily. This may also be true in Alaska, where I believe some tribes have always had legal access to mineral rights (which was the problem with the Lakotas and the Pine Ridge incident that inspired Thunderheart). I may be wrong, but I think some things happened differently up there than in the lower 48.

    #2. The idea of being a “warrior” is pretty damn strong. The Pow Wows and other events start out with a salute to veterans, and there are color guards and other folks in uniform around fairly constantly. It’s not just about education or employment opportunities. It’s about a tradition of taking up arms. This may be tied up with education and opportunity in some ways, but it’s really, really not as simple as “Oh, I figured I might as well sign up because, well, what else was I gonna do?” At least as far as I can tell. Cf, last pgh here: http://www.suite101.com/content/warrior-spirit-honored-on-veterans-day-a168126

  52. bobsy Says:

    Thanks grant, tiny dip there in the old ignorance levels.

  53. Mark Kardwell Says:

    Oh shit yeah, the Orange Order are totally fair game and totally worthy of ridicule. Just want it acknowledged now and again that the man they claim to represent (but actually misrepresent) is a progressive figure in the socio-political history of humanity when viewed through anything other than the distorted, broken, lens that is Ireland.

  54. plok Says:

    I kind of get a shiver whenever anyone tries to use the Northern peoples for their stories especially, and I’m really starting to think the odds are pretty long against that this was cool…absent the strong history of a warrior culture among the Inuit (although from what I’ve heard Alaska is significantly more ethnically complex, but even so you really have to wonder at this — and besides, like I said, if these are the descendents of the folks who found Steve Rogers in a popsicle, or met the Sub-Mariner even, they’d be from the Eastern Arctic anyway, which is Canada, and if they weren’t why would they care in the first place), I can’t think why Captain America would ever be turned into an icon, and it all sounds a bit Paul Jenkins-y to me to be honest. Of course I could be maligning with no justification, here, it’s not like I’ve read the comic. So I shouldn’t be too quick to judge.

    But, seriously: I live at the 49th, and I keep my grubby little writer-mitts off the Inuit. So yeah, this gives me pause.

  55. grant Says:

    bobsy (& whoever): If interested in Inuit culture/stories of conflict in general, good source is Atanarjuat: Fast Runner.

    Some spoilers at Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atanarjuat

    Or just watch the thing:
    http://www.isuma.tv/fastrunnertrilogy

    Only seen the first – slow start, but incredibly memorable images.

  56. plok Says:

    OH MY GOD IT’S FREE ONLINE?!?

  57. plok Says:

    AWESOME!

  58. grant Says:

    \m/

  59. Funnybook Babylon · Archives · Avenging the Week pt. 10 – The One Before the New York Comic Con Says:

    [...] this is coming extremely late, but… I had to write this somewhere. In a recent review, Bobsy entertainingly eviscerated Jonathan Hickman’s latest issue of S.H.I.E.L.D., describing it as “nonsense made enough to think it’s Important”. It’s a [...]

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