The 3 Bawbags of Xmas-yet-to-come present: Tue Massacre: Beyond the New 52! (featuring Mister Attack)
December 14th, 2011
Illogical Volume: Okay, so the idea here is that we’re going to do another one of these shit-talky back and forths, this time on DC’s New 52 (I hate the whole Nu52 thing, smells like team Durst), with various diversions into non-DC comics for added flavour. I don’t know, I guess I’ve just read a veritable CUMPKINLOAD OF COMICS in the last three-and-a-half months and I feel the need to share my thoughts on them with both you and the rest of the world. Do you feel like enabling me big man?
Botswana Beast: Yeah, the nomenclature is – it’s external, it is entirely New Metal (the first music I loved, forefathers: Faith No More, whose cassette album ‘Angel Dust’ was the first by a single band I owned, in fucking Christmas 1991/2, I did have Now 17 before that.) It should have an ümlaut ideally, because comics are nothing if not racist and utterly without taste.
But anyway, yes, I think I have some feelings about comics, still, in my one remaining nerve, the world passes me by in numb shock, but these – well, one can express oneself. Isn’t it wonderful now everyone can express themselves via this technological medium? Wunderbar.
Illogical Volume: FEELINGS ABOUT COMICS ARE THE ONLY TRUE FEELINGS! So long as we can keep that in mind, we should do just fine here…
2000AD Progs 1750 – 1763
If I was writing about 2000AD like The Beast Must Die
is was doing for a while there (note to The Beast Must Die: please write about 2000AD again soon!) I’d have the slight problem of wanting to repeat myself every week – there are two strips in here that are regularly worthwhile, you know what they are (Indigo Prime and Judge Dredd) and I can’t think of much to say about the other strips. Which is just another reason why TBMD >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> me, obviously.
I’d feel like a total dilettante trying to say anything clever about Judge Dredd, so I’ll focus on Indigo Prime right now, which… well, thanks for “making” me buy the Indigo Prime trade at Kapow!, Botswana Beast, because this is so exactly WHAT I WANT that I can’t believe I hadn’t read it all before.
The last strip in Indigo Prime’s previous incarnation, Killing Time, also happened to be the best one. It’s both From Hell as written by a skin-sick sensualist and (thanks to the bulgy brilliance of Chris Weston’s art) a warped precursor to The Filth, which is to say that it’s pretty close to comic book perfection. This freshly relaunched series doesn’t quite have the same queasy feel to, but that’s okay. If Killing Time was the blue meat you’d pick up from a bad butcher, these two new stories have had a sort of processed meat feel to them, more like something you’d buy from the local Spar on yr lunch break and instantly regret. Only, you know, good.
Regardless of the exact flavour of meat involved, it (the old and new incarnations of Indigo Prime) is (are) one (two) of my favourites. Yes.
Plus, also, Al Ewing and Brendan McCarthy are going to be working together on a new strip called Zaucer of Zilk for 2K, so you can consider me officially THERE for the New McCarthysim, as always…
Action Comics #1-4, by Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, and Gene Ha
The platonic ideal of this comic is pretty much, “What if Laurie Penny could kick fuck out of a tank?”, and believe me, I would love to read that comic! Unfortunately, Action Comics hasn’t lived up to this bulletproof ideal so far. I mean, there wasn’t much more to the first issue than a fancy re-framing of the whole “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” conceit, and maybe that would have been enough if it’d been drawn by JG Jones circa Marvel Boy/Chris Burnham circa Batman Incorporated #7, but with Rag Morales on art I just didn’t feel the beats like I know I was supposed to.
Issue #2 was well weapob, as Tucker Stone has already discussed in his usual reserved style, while issues #3 and #4 were… almost well weapob, I guess? Rags Morales’ art is still rubb(ery)ish, and there didn’t always seem to be much of a rhythm to the panel transitions, but on the other hand, DESTINATION: Gene Ha, yussssss!!
Cover images stolen from Deep Space Transmission, whose annotations for all four issues of Action Comics you should definitely read, if you give a fuck about the comic in the first place.
How are you feeling on it right now Beastie?
Botswana Beast: I sort of want to handle these together, because my feeling is – while I still like superheroes, I think the idea of living brands is interesting, I think Morrison’s ambition of detourning the two biggest into, you know, something decent, is admirable and largely well-judged, I also kind of feel (told yall) that they’re at an evolutionary dead-end? Which is why DC have made the decision to jumpstart the patient again, reckon. Or are they (probably not)?
Action Comics is basically everything I thought a Superman comic should be, something that teaches children (who are not reading it probably) good, simple morals like: yes the law should apply to everyone equally and no torture is definitely wrong, but somehow I’m finding it very unfulfilling so far. And it’s not – Morales is okay, I’d rather have Jerry Ordway, who has a finer line, do the sort of Tom Joad thing with the art, but he’s suitable enough for the task.
There’s a good bit when a policeman explains realpolitik which is a German word, as used in policy by Richard Nixon. Nixon doesn’t seems so bad, nowadays, Jimmy Carter seems like heaven.
It’s too accessible, I would like it to be more arcane, but that’s not the commercial aim – all these DC books I looked at, ten or twelve of them, well, Hawkman was shit, they were mostly I thought not dramatically awful, some were dull but worthy; they basically achieved – I think – a viablish rejuvenation. Not rejuvenation, maybe polish.
So but I had the revelation that I kind of wish Morrison was doing the comics Smith is; which is – they’re humbler, in some cases, Cradlegrave is a sort of – guh, is it not quite hypostasis, is it ‘magic realism’? Council Estate Magic Realism? It’s very British, it’s very familiar to I think any British reader who has been in a deprived area, regardless the city (it is set in Preston but I think is not unfamiliar to any UK sub/urbanite) and I think we should sort of endorse that. And then on the flip, you do have Indigo Prime which Bagwell is exciting on, these environments, what would you call them… Outer Mind, just the unbridled play of ideas, many delivered with Smith’s customary venereal sensory overload; it does feel very like The Filth – I read a very good article about why you shouldn’t rank things maybe (but metacritic if you write about proper media will extract one anyway, so…) I think Smith is not probably technically as good as Morrison, I finished New Statesmen, which I found a bit turgid, a bit of a slog, but he was twenty or something when he wrote it? He looks about 17 in the authorial photo. Ennis wrote Dredd at like 19 or 20 too. Anyway, I find the Future Shocks collection – which contains Smith, Gaiman, Milligan and Morrison… Morrison is far-and-away the best of them, there, the stories are better constructed, twists sharper and better executed – I haven’t read the Moore one to compare, I expect his are the best, but more hippyish.
I’m just glad 2000AD is not shit, presently, because thanks to Disney and even although Marvel UK (MUK) was shit [EXCEPT TRANSFORMERS AND ZOIDS, OBVS] but it needn’t always have been, it is basically the entire UK comics industry and holding up its end not bad at all. I always find its production values, and this has been the case for almost two decades, astonishingly higher – like, d’you remember when you used to get TV footage from the States and it always looked really granular – this is again going back to the early-mid 1990s? I think they had worse dpi cameras or sets? Not now, obviously with the 50 inch HD 1080 3Ds and that! I always felt an odd pride at that, “look, the USAs effing love telly and their picture is shit”; I feel similarly about Two Thou, today (even though there’s loads more b&w, who wants that.)
Illogical Volume: No, you’re right, we’ve discussed this before and it seems like the Scottish Mindless spent a lot of time as yoofs “Watching America” in the least Razorlight way imaginable, and I definitely remember the grainy footage that seemed to define the country’s televisual output. You can see it reflected in the bits of Chris Morris’ 90s work that mimic American TV – those inserts always bordered on a crass sort of pointillism - but I digress!
I definitely share yr pride in our home team, but I’m working on posts on both Cradlegrave and Indigo Prime right now so I don’t want to spunk all my thoughts up the wall here. To atone for my lack of commitment to this part of the post, I have decided to reuse this cobbled together image of Judge Dredd leering at a Storm Trooper’s bottom, because I think it has a lot to teach us about the meaning of Christmas:
Thank you. Anyway, speaking of varying levels of quality, I might have giggled at Morrison being all enthusiastic about how well Morales’ Clark Kent acts in the backmatter. Just a little bit.
Probably shouldn’t have read the new We3 hardcover before I read the first issue of Action Comics either, to be honest. There are only a few action comics that stand up well next to We3, and Action Comics is none of them.
Botswana Beast: yeah, We3 is great (although I never thought those 10 extra pages added much, and I wish it had more dialogue. Bobsy wrote a great magickal interpretation, because he is a Khaos Lordde, on Barbelith, that I can’t find or remember, but that made me like it much better.)
Illogical Volume: When I was a kid my favourite Chaos God was Khorne, because I was young and awkward and had a copy of Moorcock’s Stormbringer stuck up my arse, and the whole “blood for the blood god” thing was enough to sway me, even though I was never sure about how the Bloodthirster’s brass armour compared to the demonic aura of other comparable baddies. These days Bobsy’s the only Khaos Lordde I can be bothered to keep up with.
(Well, no, I’m still keeping up with Morrison, but I just hope his good writerly instincts can win out over the sense that the real magic here is the magic of marketing.)
Akira volumes 1-3, by Katsuhiro Otomo
Hey, while we’re talking about action comics, I’ve been beasting my way through Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira recently too. It’s quite something, lots of fights, lots of tunnel - apparently there was a movie version, maybe youse goize have heard of it?
Botswana Beast: I think Akira is my favourite film, I would rank it number one in the films I have saw. I’ve never read it – I actually kind of wish it was readily available in the coloured version, Steve Olliff was it? I just find colour draws my lazy eye easier. They should colour Cerebus and all. Like on that Spawn cover.
Illogical Volume: Everything should be like every Spawn cover: FACT!
One of the first conversations I had with my fellow Mindless when I joined last year was “what are the best sci-fi movies ever” or something equally silly. I remember claiming that Akira was the best because it was both Blade Runner and 2001 at the same time. I still don’t think I’m wrong.
All Star Western #1, by Jimmy Palmioti and Justin Grey
Illogical Volume: Not being much of a one for Westerns, I decided to call up my favourite four colour cowboy, The Boy Fae the Heed, aka Mister Attack, aka He Who Shall Not Be Blamed, and asked for his opinion on this Jonah Hex vehicle.
Here’s what he had to say about it:
Mister Attack: I realise that as a someone inured to many forms of comic book shitery with regards to names, I should be able to get over this thing, but, I cannae shake the feeling that it’s gonny be something along the lines of Seven Brides For Seven Bawbags. The name just conjures up some technicolour nightmare with jaunty musical numbers, mingin’ costumes and warbling, awful sound transfers.
I love that rebranding the nu-52 means repositioning dead genres that the post Super Space Wars Generation doesn’t gie a fuck about. Guess someone thought they could get that Hollywood theory of twos thing going and ride the blockbuster express to funny genre mashups! All aboard for the Wild, Wild West. Remember how no-one gave a fuck about Pirates, and then Disney totally turned that shit into a cash cow? Yeah, let’s bank on a guy with a shite face and Megan Fox turning that around. That giant robot thing was totally going to bomb without her ‘input’.
Seriously, of all the titles of the Canoe-Fifty-Too, this was never going to get my interest. My category for comics go like this:
1: Robots (
2: Superheros (that aren’t written by people who spent too much time inkblotting to Rorschach)
3: Lovecraft (Hellboy counts, right?)
4: Ninjas (esp Turtles)
That said, Sunset Riders was a fucking awesome video game.
Illogical Volume: Indeed it was.
It should be noted that the estimable Mister Attack has read almost none of the comics discussed in this post. As such, he seemed like the most reliable guide imaginable to these newly relaunched DC books. More from him later.
Animal Man #1-4, by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman
Illogical Volume: Animal Man was the early favourite for me, and while I’ve seen a few people complaining that the second and third issues were a little slow/boring/reminiscent of a rubbish Jamie Delano story, I’ve never been too put out by its direction.
On the one hand, issues #2 and #3 had approximately one note: “WHY DOES MY DAUGHTER LOVE HORRIBLE THINGS?!”
On the other hand, “WHY DOES MY DAUGHTER LOVE HORRIBLE THINGS?!!!!!!”
On the other other hand TRAVEL FOREMAN LOVES HORRIBLE THINGS!!!!!!!!!
I mean seriously, what the fuck is wrong with that guy?!
The first three post-relaunch DC comics I read (Action Comics #1, Animal Man #1 and Swamp Thing #1) were all EARNEST YOUNG GUY comics, which I actually quite liked because it felt quite timely in an awkward, slightly cut-off, very male and geeky way. Those three comics are all about youngish men trying to work out HOW TO MAKE A BETTER WORLD (warning: this post contains ALLCAPS!), which doesn’t seem like too bad a foundation for a range of 2011 superhero comics to me.
Unfortunately this tone hasn’t really been maintained outside of Action Comics, and even there it’s arguably been overpowered by the demands of Superman’s back story, so here’s a wee joke in the style of the ever-terrifying Gary Lactus:
Q: How does Animal Man’s wife call him in for tea?
A: She doesn’t have to because Animal Man accidentally borrows the powers of his neighbours’ roast and burns to death in front of his startled children.
Botswana Beast: I liked Animal Man enough to swatch through the Tom Veitch ones, illustrated by some of I think Steve Dillon’s best ever work; this is much better than that, Travel Foreman, who just used to piss me off on Iron Fist, is brilliant – I haven’t read the Delano ones, I find him more than a little onerous.
Animal Man’s wife of course only really calls him – willingly – to tea with the promise “no food with faces” awaits, but the truth is of course often less exciting than comic routines.
Illogical Volume: The best thing about this routine is that I have cunningly inserted the words “his neighbours’ roast” in there to (A) subvert the formula and (B) ensure that hilarity and narrative consistency can operate together in perfect harmony. I am a comedic genius – congratulate me.
Swamp Thing #1-4, by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette
This comic looks gorgeous, Yanick Paquette is doing career best work in it, honestly, but sometimes Scott Snyder’s dedication to death by exposition means that I am not sure I can say that I’ve “read” it in any meaningful way. Life is short and there are only so many anecdotes about my dad I can be bothered to annoy strangers with, so I try not to absorb too many paternal memories that don’t pertain to my own father.
One good thing about the overbearing textyness of this particular comic is that it inspired two entries of ‘Tessa Paraphrases Swamp Thing’ on Death-Ray Ozone. Go read them, they’re funny – volume one, volume two.
Speaking of funny, here’s another wee joke in the style of the mighty Gary Lactus, this time with an exciting CHOOSE YOUR OWN PUNCHLINE twist…
Q: How does Swamp Thing’s mum call him in for tea?
Answer 1: By promising that he won’t have to eat his greens this time.
Answer 2: Something something plant food something…
Answer 3: Swamp Thing’s true mother is nature herself, and all time is dinner time in the slow cooker of the world.
Botswana Beast: this is definitely alright and pretty beaut’ horror in places, most of the third issue, but it’s – with the greatest will in the world, it will never eclipse the Alan Moore stuff. Not that Paquette seems to mind. Tessa’s reviews say it all so much better than I ever could, you should read.
Justice Leage Dark Nowhere #1-3, by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin
Red Lanterns #1-4, by Peter Milligan and Ed Benes
Illogical Volume: Do you know when I knew that I was going to enjoy Justice League Dark aka Justice League Nowhere? When I stepped away from a William Burroughs novel (The Ticket That Exploded, in case you were wondering) and read the preview only to see the words “In a neighbouring town, a shower of books in dead languages kill six people” winking at me from an unbothered monitor.
Botswana Beast: this is great, I don’t even really want to talk about it, I just want there to be a big crossover and Animal Man and Swamp Thing to join: “Uncrisis” or that.
“The Black Parade”.
“Rise of the Fifth Sun”.
DC magic characters are the best DC characters – I think he mentioned he had plans for a new Doctor Occult, the transgender hero/ine? He wrote a transperson in Elektra in the 1990s which is probably the main reason Frank Miller objects to her being alive, as his Elektra would never make friends with a transperson.
Red Lanterns is better though. It is the best comic drawn by a Brazillian we have discussed today as well. Kind of want a Red Lanterns crossover as well, I would like things to get back to being as baroque and unwelcoming of the mythical new reader as possible, A$AP.
Illogical Volume: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY CAT?”
What indeed, Ed Beanz, what indeed!
I’m enjoying both of these books more than I expected to, it’s not quite the second (or maybe third?) coming of Peter Milligan that I often dream of when I’m alone at night, that would require this most herotic of writers to start blazing out work like Enigma and X-Force again, and maybe even coming round to my house for scones and cider etc, if we’re properly indulging my fantasies. BUT! These books are very entertaining, I look forward to reading them every month, they both have plenty of weird flavours to offer me and I look forward to receiving them via my mouth, by which I mean my eyes.
What I would say though is that I sometimes struggle to work out how engaged with the world outside of the (ugh!) Nu52 these two comics are. I’d agree with the kid Jog that Red Lanterns seems like an attempt to burlesque the excesses of Geoff Jeans era DC comics, and also that this project is doomed to failure due to the gleefully oblivious indulgences of the comics in question. Milligan has provided handy feeling receptacles in the form of a couple of characters who’re living a slightly OTT Eastenders plot, but this Real World Story of Tragedy and Rewenge (in which an old cunt grumbles about being in a war that was possibly the cod war and gets hospitalised, his grandsons disagree about whether to respond with fists and fire, violence and intense debate ensue) is so schematic that it’s hard to take as anything other than a brief distraction.
I do realise that what I am essentially saying here is that I am disappointed that Boaky the Blood Cat hasn’t taught me much about life yet, but I’m just reporting what my brain is telling me to. I am every bit as much a victim here as you are.
So, having established that Red Lanterns isn’t Cradlegrave, it’s also probably fair to say that by issue #4 it’s achieved a glorious sort of ridiculousness that’s all its own (well, it’s maybe a little big bit like Milligan’s Bad Company as performed by Geoff Johns’ repertory company, but still!). With all these bizarre, flowery soliloquies about RAGE and ANGER clashing with Ed Benes’ awkwardly posed artwork, it’s almost like Milligan has set out to create a glorious parody of human emotion. That he’s done so while throwing in sly digs at his own recent career (“The fire is weaker. I’m not the… same. It’s as though I’m simply going through the motions. A fading actor repeating empty lines.”) just makes me laugh that little bit harder.
I still wish Simon Bisley was drawing it though, because then both sides of the creative team would be shooting for the same target. (The fact that Benes occasionally hits this target while aiming for another one has been noted, but good art is always preferable to bad.)
Justice League Nowhere is a little easier to comprehend, emotionally, while still being a deeply fucking strange little comic wherein all yr favourite Vertigo style characters and moments find a new lease of life in a 2011 superhero comic. I worry slightly that I find it easier to put myself into than Red Lanterns (narcissism being one of the many sins of the modern geek), because, well, this might lead you (me?) to believe that I am in the habit of using my special vest to create elaborate pocket vaginas to fuck/snuggle/discuss the finer points of romantic poetry with:
Hmm. So, in the end, it’s another baroque superhero story in which human emotions are twisted into strange shapes that may or may not correlate to the ones in your head. It might not be quite so, uh, penetrating as Milligan’s best work, but then, few things are.
ART PARAGRAPH: Mikel Janin’s polished, if slightly awkward, artwork is not entirely to my tastetaiartaiartaiartaiarartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartai artaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtairtartirtirtirtirtirtirtirtirtirtirtirti , but it is aisartaisartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaiartaar
…sorry, I’m not sure what happened there, but as soon as I started writing that mildly critical paragraph about Mikel Janin’s art my keyboard stopped obeying my commands and started streaming gibberish. I can only assume that Mikel Janin is a wizard, and that he does not take kindly to criticism (there is no other possible explanation for the events I have just witnessed, which have shaken my formerly skeptical soul to the very core). In an attempt to break Janin’s magical spell, I have decided to critique his art by cutting up and rearranging my previous thoughts from this section, Wild Bill Burroughs style:
Justice League Nowhere is a new lease of life in Ed Benes. Simon Bisley was drawing it little easier to comprehend. It’s as though I’m simply going through the motions. Harder. A glorious sort of ridiculousness. Fire is weaker. I’m enjoying both of these books. I often dream. I am every bit as much of a victim here as empty lines. As hard to take as anything just makes me laugh harder. Burlesque the excesses. Again.
Batwoman #1-3, by JH Williams III and Haden Blackman
Illogical Volume: I got a little bit confused while I was trying to work out how I felt about this comic – for some reason, I found myself dipping deep into my disguise kit before going out for a night on the town – so I called The Boy Fae the Heed aka Mister Attack aka Ravioli Nipples to try and clarify my FEELINGS on J.H. Williams’ work on Batwoman thus far. What follows is a transcript of our phone conversation on the night of 9th November 2011:
Illogical Volume: Awright, The Boy Fae the Heed, howsit guan?
Mister Attack: Aye, no bad. How’s you?
IV: Ah’m no bad, no bad, it’s just… I’ve just finished reading the third issue of the new Batwoman comic, and I’m not sure how to feel about it.
MA: Whit’s up? They’ve no put her back in the awful fucking bondage queen ballet-boots, huv they? Or is it just that they still cannae figure out how to take the character and find an actual story that works (because that Religion of Crime and it’s carnival of crap villains hangs around like the smell aff a deed jakey)?
IV: Yeah, no, it’s more the latter than the former. I mean, it’s a fucking gorgeous book, and JH WIlliams’ always puts so much more information into his work than he needs to, but it still feels like the quality of the information was better when he was working with baldy and beardy, you know? It’s good, but I just want it to be a little better.
MA: So it’s a Batwoman comic then?
IV: Aye, pretty much.
Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker #you want issues, I got plenty! – by Joe Casey and Mike Huddlestone
Illogical Volume: Okay so I really want to write some gloriously effusive beat poetry about this book because I love it when Joe Casey tries to write about duty and responsibility while going pig-fucking crazy on the narrative front, and because the essays at the back have been so ridiculously entertaining in their search for artful meaning in pop culture detritus, and because Mike Huddlestone is doing all sorts of wonderful things on the art, dropping in Electra Assassin riffs like it ain’t no thang, but… despite all of this, I can’t escape the feeling that Butcher Baker is still just fundamentally not very good.
I mean I’m still grateful for it because if comics are for anything they’re for awkward post 9/11 superhero comics that communicate primarily through the medium of Smokey and the Bandit, but I still can’t really say that I’ve been enjoying it very much so far.
Real deep criticsms here, I know, but do try to remember that this is FEELINGS ABOUT COMICS time. We’re sharing and caring and touching each other – mostly touching each other, tbh – through the medium of comics. The nature of art and the universe can wait until we’re all finished disclosing our secret origins to each other, you know?
So for now it’ll suffice to say that Butcher Baker feels like the work of a couple of talented guys who’re trying out different poses to see what looks best. The poses they’re trying out are less boring than most of the poses you’ll find comic book guys pulling, but they’ll have to do a bit letter than that to get me to join up for their gym in order to love-stalk them forever…
Botswana Beast: I read the first issue of this, for free, on my phone (never read comics on your phone again, I cried, flensing out the evil later). I don’t want to seem ungrateful, it looks great, Joe Casey comics are always conceptually interesting – I’d still (still! even though that silly old cunt Frank Miller has soiled himself publicly) rather just read Elektra: Assassin.
Casanova: Avaritia #1-2, by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá
lllogical Volume: Time to bust out compressed comic book criticism for a compressed comic: ok so Avaritia #1 was fun, Fraction quickly established a mood to match the wooziness of the colour scheme (convincing here in a way it wasn’t in the reprints, to these eyes at least), and Gabriel Bá was brilliant as ever, but… is the subtext here that working for Marvel is like committing genocide on a daily basis? “Just joking/We are joking/Just joking/We’re not joking” etc.
Avaritia #2… was.
Or was it?
I’m really not sure, because while it’s as stylish and funny a comic as you’ll find stashed away in you local Geek Hut, it still felt way too inward looking to me, too much of a piece with the various Korporate Komicks we’ve been discussing so far in this post. I was pissing about when I mentioned the writing Comics as daily genocide subtext both earlier in this post and on the twitter (where all thoughts must be previewed for the rest of the world), but the second issue made me wonder if that really WAS all that was going on.
MORE TO COME IN A WEE BIT DOT DOT DOT
Or, actually, maybe not. I was going to talk about how issue #2 of Avaritia, with its exasperated trip to the comics convention and wanky dialogue balloons that drew attention to the shallowness of their construction, might actually be as blank as Fear Itself but with “cooler” reference points. Smart people have written smart things about this comic, but I think Bobsy has already won at writing the best sniffy review of this comic so I’ll just point you to his work instead of trying to better it:
Botswana Beast: I can’t really be arsed to talk about Matt Fraction… I really liked the cover, and the bit with the panda - I read the backmatter and he talks about nearly dying, I kind of – no, totally – empathised, I think I rolled a quadbike once, though my friends just think it fell sideways off a verge, which possibly it did. He talks about his family a bit, it is okay, he is a nice guy, I kind of envy him many of his jumpers. Like a Punisher jumper? Sort of. [“I can’t really be arsed to talk about Matt Fraction...” talks about Matt Fraction] Best of luck to him.
Catwoman #1, by Judd Winick and Guillem March
Illogical Volume: After reading Abhay Khosla’s ‘7 Questions about Images On The Internet of the Final Pages of Catwoman #1’, I found myself with some strange and unsettling feelings about the nature of Cat on Bat lovemaking, feelings that led me straight into the telephonic arms of my friend and confidant Mister Attack aka Doctor Facehit McHammerstein aka S_Mackattack.
Here’s how that conversation played out:
Mister Attack: Mister Volume!
Illogical Volume: Mister Attack! Howsit going big man?
MA: Aye, same ol’, same ol’. To whit do I owe the honour?
IV: Ach, it’s awkward, you know? I’m just back up from Leeds.
MA: You beast! You taunt me with tales from foreign shores. How was?
IV: Yeah, it was good, it was good, I’ll probably write a post about it to save me the bother of basic human communication. It’s just… there was this Catwoman cosplayer there –
MA: Aw, that’s almost always never a good sign. Or an actual flattering look. Was it a lassie with a load of randy nerds in tow, or one of those guys that DC used to take restraining orders out on back in the day?
IV: Nah, she was alright man, even though… I mean, I feel like a bit of a perv for saying so, but she looked pretty good. Anyway, the point was that I saw her hanging out with one of the Batman cosplayers and all I could think was – “I wonder if they’d want to indulge in mutual ear-play, if they got together.”
MA: Welcome to the 21st Century. We no longer need Kevin Smith monologues about superhero sex lives, and we don’t need to bother with porno parodies. You can just buy the fucking comic the character stars in.
IV: Aye, see, that’s the thing. I just ended up feeling like, “What’s wrong with me? Why am I so haunted by a duff sex scene in a book I’ve not even read? Is this what comics do to you? Should I be mad at my folks for letting me read them when I was a kid?”
MA: Because normally you’ve got those Hernandez books for that sort of thing? Haw! Nah, ahm just pullin’ yer cock. It’s no usually the reason ye turn to superhero fare.
IV: Ah wouldnae joke about those Gilbert Hernandez comics by ra way. Birdland might have given KC a bit of a complex all by its self!
MA: Waaaaaaaaaaaay back in the day, anime hit these shores, right? And there was this weird sensation of being thirteen and wan ae yer mates introduces ye to something like Urotsukidoji, right? The added taboo of cartoon plus the sex makes it something mair exciting for a bit because CARTOON CHARACTER SHOULDNAE DAE THAT! So, seein’ the bat n’ cat gaun at it seems like something best left to odd fucko’s selling weird bootlegs. This is a guy yer kid can huv on his bedsheets. Wid you want yer kids huvin’ that knownin that The Brave & The Bold’s got a throbber gaun oan under his utility belt?
IV: See, I’m a pervert, so I could get behind that nae bother, it’s just… I kind of resent DC comics, and superhero comics in general, for managing to create a version of sexuality that makes Star Trek: The Next Generation’s awkward pyjama parties look grown up and appealing, you know? I was down with what amypoodle said about how the first couple of issues of Batman Incorporated tried to sexualise both parties equally, but one glance at this was enough to knock all that right out of my head and make me want to ask creepy questions to perfectly nice cosplayers. I don’t know whether to be more angry at myself, DC comics or Abhay Khosla here, so, you know – YOU DECIDE!
MA: Sorry? What was that? I was too busy using Google to look up Hawk Heroines. Back in a few…
Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #4, by Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker
Illogical Volume: There’s this thing with most (good) Brubaker comics where I don’t realise how much I’ve enjoyed them until they’re done, and that definitely kicked in with the last issue of The Last of The Innocents. Even at its best though, it still never made me feel like the whole world was closing in on me like the best Brubaker/Phillips collaborations do – honestly, by the time Sleeper ended I half expected those tiny little boxes to bunch up around my head and crush the hope out of me every time I went out to buy some milk.
I still enjoyed the mix of Archie-vision and “reality” that topped this whole thing off, even if it was probably a bit “obvious” and even if, as in Incognito with its conceit that characters from superhero comics can be put in witness protection in Harvey Pekar stories, Brubaker seems to be straining for metatextual resonances that aren’t necessarily his “thing”…
Botswana Beast: it was alright, yeah. I can’t really be arsed to talk about Matt Fraction… Ed Brubaker… I really like Ed Brubaker’s comics, he’s a concrete pro, he’s unobtrusive as an authorial voice, can be formally inventive – or adept, perhaps – if he so chooses, his plotting plays fair, moves a long at a decent clip. The tiny boxes thing he has Phillips do, I’m a sucker for. I like it every time when.
Daredevil #1-6, by Mark Waid, Paulo Rivera and Marcos Martin
Illogical Volume: This is my favourite non-Batminge superhero book of 2011, so the fact that it seems to come out every five minutes is just perfect! It’s properly dense, too, in a way that only issues #3-#6 of Batman Incorporated can really compete with this year – just a perfectly balanced superhero comic about a superhero doing superhero stuff with panache. I know you think that the stakes have been a bit low in here so far, Beastie, but I think they’ve been perfectly calibrated. It’s nice to read a superhero book that thinks it’s enough for its hero to save some random wee blind guy from getting minced, you know? Plus, as Brother Bobsy has noted, you also get the feeling that the whole direction of comic is what’s really at stake here. Can Matt Murdoch escape the crack-lipped drudgery of yet more Frank Miller reruns? Can he make good on his Born Again style escape back out into the world of superhero comics? I’m not sure, but I’m definitely willing to pay to find out!
Also, just look at this and tell me we’re not dealing with two creators working beautifully together:
It’s all about the details here. This book provides you with just the right amount of information on how shit gets done to keep things fresh without ever drowning you with SCIENCE OF THE X-MEN (BORING LEGAL DRAMA EDITION) bullshit.
I’m also still hoping that Daredevil and Captain America meet up and “wrestle” at least one more time in this book, if only so I can read Bobsy’s commentary on it again (“Oh no, it just slipped in!” etc).
Botswana Beast: hmm.
***The scene shifts to a classy lounge, where a a man in a smoking jacket sits in a victorian chair by a roaring fire, sipping from a cocktail glass.***
Mister Attack: Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. I was just relaxing with a nice martini. Let me drop all pretense of my internet angry bastard for the moment to stress a point. Daredevil. You really should be fucking reading it if you have any pretense of enjoying the superhero genre. Mark Waid really does this shit with a skill that penetrates to the places that Kurt Busiek fails to reach. If the two gentlemen above haven’t stressed it enough to convince you, then you deserve all the Geoff Johns mutipart crossovers you get. Thank you, good night.
DARKSEID’S DAINTY SPARTAN SKIRT: AN UPDATE!
Illogical Volume: PREPARING REACTIONS TO THIS JACK KIRBY TRIBUTE DOT DOT DOT
DARKSEID IS… Scowling through the Blade Runner murk/A Black Mirror monstrosity/A rain-flecked apparition in your rear-view mirror.
DARKSEID IS… Maybe a bit too goth for my tastes/A natural inhabitant of a “post-collapse US city, everything cored out”/Begging for a cameo spot in Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s Fell.
DARKSEID IS… Still potent here/Still a character/Maybe not quite as defined as he was in Kirby’s Fourth World comics, but free again/Ready for another shift on the factory floor.
DARKSEID IS…Not exactly flaunting the skirt, but he doesn’t look like the type to hide it here either…
Fear Itself, by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen, issues #whatever the fuck! #who gives a shit?! and #not me that’s who!
Illogical Volume: Fuck, I am so done trying to write about this comic. If anyone wants me to elaborate on anything I’ve said about it before then that’s fine, but consider yourself warned that I don’t know how to express my feelings on the book without resorting to odd noises and random strings of punctuation.
Botswana Beast: d’you know, Ed Brubaker took 15 seconds out his day to hand-sell me on the new Winter Soldier series on twitter, the main point being it is not £3.25, and I have read – and really liked for the most part, he is a writer who works cumulatively – his whole Bucky story basically, so I went back and got FI 7.1 or 7.2, whatever #, and it said, “ignore that event comic”, implicitly. Not just to me, but with the plot and that. I’d feel churlish not getting his new comic after that.
Finder, by Carla Speed McNeil
Illogical Volume: I think I’ve already written enough about Finder recently to excuse myself from going into too much detail here, but there’s definitely plenty more to say about it. 2011 has been a good year for Finder, what with two library volumes collecting all existing volumes together alongside the freshly collected Voice story, and with Torch running in pencil form on Carla Speed McNeil’s website. It’s… well, it’s my comic of the year, no question.
It occurred to be the other day, while we were talking about the phrase “it pulled me out of the story” and its many irritating applications, that I am never wholly either in or out of the various stories I’m reading and writing, i.e. that I am equally aware of the fact that I am a giant man staring down at tiny paper people when I read a comic and that I am plagued by thought bubbles full of cartoon people when I’m bumbling about in the dark trying to reset the lights.
Finder is the comic that makes the best use of this multi-channelled state of mind: it’s a deeply immersive bit of anthropological (or even aboriginal!) science fiction, but the way that this world building is often either rather obliquely presented or expanded only in the endnotes both expands on this sense of completeness while simultaneously destroying it. If I can ever work out how McNeil does this, I might even be dangerous…
The Flash #1, by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Aquaman #1, by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
Hey Barry Allen!
You are the fastest man in the world,
Maybe the boringest too?
And hey but so also!
I still ain’t rooting for no cop!
Regardless of the merits of the comic itself (it seemed a mildly enjoyable thing, from the first issue – a sci-fi police procedural with decent art) , I think we can all agree that this is a very poor excuse for poetry.
Botswana Beast: it’s not great.
these comics were both okay
i did not read the
(after e.e. cummings)
Illogical Volume: Yer maw is literary, also.
Frankenstein #1-3, by Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli
I thought the second and third issues of Frankenstein were a big improvement on the first, which seemed more concerned with setting up fun concepts than with actually being fun. Lemire and co can’t quite match the pulp ecstasy of the Mank’n'Moz dream team, but when the art and script got scratchier here I started to dig it like Batman digs a sunny day. S’not amazing (sunny days do happen quite often, even in Glasgow) but I’m still kind’ve into it.
Botswana Beast: I think this has been pretty decent actually, after an opening that I wasn’t very taken with, sure it’s got the Creature Commandoes, so fuck, sure it makes cursory efforts to make the reader give a fuck for them which I don’t and won’t, it is unpossible, but ultimately it is very violent, in an innovative fashion, and that’s the correct formula.
Ganges #4, by Kevin Huizenga
Illogical Volume: Despite several journeys to the various Geek Huts of Glasgow, I have not yet been able to get my hands on issue #4 of this comic, which is a shame, because I’m sure it’s comic of the year material, or at least that it’s probably better than The New Adventures of Hawkgirl #1…
Hark, a Vagrant, by Kate Beaton
In which Kate Beaton wins the Kate Beaton award for best Kate Beaton! Look, *SPOILERS* for the end of this post, it turns out Duncan and I both enjoy the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman comic, but Kate Beaton’s Wonder Woman strip is still my favourite of the year. What can I say, I will take a good joke over many other valuable things in life!
Hawk & Dove #1, by Rob Liefeld and Sterling Gates
Mister Attack: The ascended master returns. Poised, toned. He strikes with the grace of a Picasso in flight. I am simply moved to know his presence is among us, tilling the fields of mediocrity and catapulting us to the sublime. He cuts with the ease of a thousand muscles pulling in unison. Capturing all the raw emotion of being cornholed by the handle of an anti-gravity tennis racket.<
Hellblazer #? – #?, by Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Simon Bisley
Illogical Volume: The latest Petey Milligan Hellblazer story arc seems like an effort to pre-empt our writing about John’s trenchcoat as a potent artifact, in that series on important comic book THINGS we’ve often talked about doing…
Botswana Beast: I’m not sure if I’ve missed an issue of the trenchcoat story, or… I can’t find the second-last one. Or the first Indigo Prime 2000AD; I keep putting stuff down and forgetting it. The annual was good and sort of understated, very unBisley word – yeah, it was just a sort of classic… it was better than Gaiman’s ‘Hold Me’, which folk used to rattle on about, I think.
Illogical Volume: I’ve not read the annual yet, but I’m looking forward to it – I always enjoy this book more when Bisley’s involved. Otherwise, yeah, I often find myself losing track of this comic too. It’s (un)pleasant enough, but I can’t really pretend that it ever has my full attention.
Justice Jeans of America #1, by Jim Lee and Geoff Jeans
Mister Attack: The call came in. “For God and Country – Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo”. The boogyman of the 21st Century, the spectre at the feast of Dubuya. Men of valour took the dead monster’s corpse and disposed of it in the sea. Where the mental projections would be unable to transmit from beneath the deep. That which is not dead, the words go, may eternal lie. I wouldn’t be long now, for the reboot. He’d soon be back in his glowing blue power armour, a shadow of his former self. His backstory would now take into account hitherto unrealised connections that only the derangement of the letters pages of the 1980’s could suspect. He’d smooth over that Black Saddam Hussein connection and make it fit better. A little space and time travel and it’d fly. Jeans, you magnificent bastard, you’ve done it again.
Mark Twain’s Autobiography 1910-2010, by Michael Kupperman’s
Illogical Volume: I’m still working my way through Kupperman’s weird prose-comic hybrid biography, but it’s been a good laugh so far. There are only a pamphlet’s woth of actual comics in there, but the text pieces and illustrations are still every bit as daft as you’d hope – really, alongside the aforementioned Kate Beaton, Kupperman’s my favourite comic book comedian right now – and the whole thing works well as a pisstake of how we perceive historical figures and eras.
Omac #1, by Keith Giffen and Dan Didio
I wish I’d stuck with my original plan and not bought this, but it looked so gorgeous in the shop! Giffen manages a glorious Kirby-pastiche, but the script made it even more obvious than ever how idiosyncratic Kirby’s writing was, how he pushed the obvious and the generic into wonderful absurdity at every step, etc
After reading the first issue of this comic, I found myself facing down another four colour crisis so I decided to give The Boy Fae the Heed a call to see if he could lift my spirits a little:
Illogical Volume: Mister Attack!
Mister Attack: S’up, muckeller?
IV: S’no so good, man.
IV: I’ve just finished reading Omac by Keith Giffen and Dan Did–
MA: OH FOR FUCK SAKE! [LINE GOES DEAD]
I guess Mister Attack still isn’t over Didio’s input on Beast Machines.
Prison Pit #3, by Johnny Ryan
When this series is finished and I sit down to read the whole thing in one go, it’s either going to be the best or the most disappointing comics experience ever. So many good killings, so much bastardry – it’s tempting just to take an image of the nemesis guy bursting out of that other creatures cock, write WHAT A BASTARD! under it and add it to our Great Moment in Bastardry series – but I think it works well as a once-a-year indulgence, so I’ll be curious to see how it reads once there’s enough of it to hide behind.
This Johnny Ryan interview is actually kinda something. Here’s comment from Mr Ryan’s good lady, excerpted:
There is nothing he will not joke about and sometimes this is his only way of coping. When our baby was stillborn last October and I was lying in the hospital bed, he said he hoped our next baby wouldn’t be such a fucking wimp. It sounds horrible but at the time I needed to hear something like that a lot more than I needed the greeting cards people kept sending that said our baby was a fucking angel looking down on us. I think he has trouble getting close to people because of this kind of thing, but I’m a bit like that too so I found it reassuring. Of course he did cry too but only for a bit.
Jesus, what a woman! What a man! What a family!
Botswana Beast: I’ve told lots of people that story. I’ve only read Prison Pit one, but it is like the best thing a bored schoolboy could ever, ever do, I almost wish it was printed on a jotter.
Illogical Volume: Maybe they can do that for the Absolute Edition, eh?
Uncanny X-Men #1-2, by Kieron Gillen and Carlos Pacheco
Illogical Volume: Truth be told, I’m running out of energy right about now, both as a reader of comics, and as someone who has spent far too long footering around with the formatting in this post.
So while it’s not like I have anything bad to say about the freshly relaunched Uncanny X-Men, with its Authority-esque extinction team (I’m enjoying the swagger Gillen is bringing to the book, Pacheco’s art conjurs up all manner of descriptions like “solid” and “enjoyable” and “solidly enjoyable”, and the notion of having Mister Sinister operate as a perfect model of the British class system is entertaining), I also can’t pretend that I have much interesting to say about it right now either.
I dunno, why don’t you all take four minutes and thirty three seconds out from this post – just do your own little mini-performance of that famous John Cage number on whatever instruments (don’t) come to hand, and we’ll pick this back up when you’re done…
Voodoo #1, by Ron Marz and Samsi Basri
Mister Attack: I can never resit watching it when it’s on. I know as a Scotsman I’m meant to despise Moore and yay Connery and aw rat, but it’s just no that simple, know? Anyhoo, it’s aw about the villains. It’s a fucking beast to watch in this day of CGI crapfests. Trust me, you watch yon bit where he out-drives awe they henchman wi’ that double decker bus and fucking tell me you aren’t just loving that shit. The baddies are fuckin’ excellent. The big fucker wi’ that brilliant laugh! Yaphett fucking Kotto. Then again, the guy wi’ the robot arm’s a bit shit. Just when you think there’s fuck all left to be said except to air guitar bits of the music, you remember that Jane Seymour’s in it.
Fuck, wait, was I supposed to be talking about William Gibson’s Count Zero?
Wolverine: Debt of Death, by David Lapham and David Aja
Secret Avengers, by Warren Ellis, Jamie McKelvie, David Aja, Kev Walker (?) and co
Botswana Beast: the Aja stuff is really great, really – I think it bears comparison to Steranko, at least; he’s supposed to be getting back to us about an interview, but now I don’t know if he expected more questions first and… I am not a professional. Both comics well-written too; the other Secret Avengers stuff – I really liked the McKelvie issue, not so much the Kev Walker(? the one that mentioned “yankee Steve Jobs tricknology” which is sort of not my favourite Ellis dialoguing, to an empty room, it came out around the time Black Mirror archon Steve Jobs died). The Lark one was good, although he didn’t do finished art; they all end really abruptly, which I think is quite good.
Illogical Volume: I’ve not read Secret Avengers, will probably pick it up for the art at some point, but Wolverine: Debt of Death (A) looks fucking amazing and (B) reads as though David Lapham subm,itted a script that just said “TOUGH GUY TOUGH GUY TOUGH GUY” over and over, which is to say that he passed my Basic Wolverine Scripting Challenge.
I doubt I’ll remember much about it in a year’s time, but who gives a fuck, I enjoyed it!
Spaceman #1-2, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
Botswana Beast: this is great, Risso and Travel ‘Animal Man’ Foreman are probably doing the most interesting and engaging page layouts in – um, US comics I guess? It’s you know, it’s Azzarello (I was astonished to read him say he speaks his dialogue out loud because) it’s got his gift for permeable blank verse, recondite balloons – you can read the dialogue, but you won’t know exactly what it all means, how to read the emphases, till the end; it’s a good hook, the future-speak is Milleresque, it’s really quite dystopian in a way I’ve not seen since… reading New Statesmen the other night, or Skreemer. Proper Vertigo comic.
Illogical Volume: Total Agreemence (well, mebbe except for the bit about who’s doingthe best panel layouts because yer Chris Wares and Kevin Huizengas deserve a shout out for that, surely). The dialogue didn’t bother me like it bothered Abhay, it’s more about creating a noice chewy flavour than anything else. I agree with Tessa Strain about the redundancy of the “future-whores-as-an-example-of-futuristic-alienation” trope though. S’fucking tired.
Wonder Woman: The Quest For Big Troosers #1-3, by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
All of the DC books I’ve read since the relaunch have been either action comics, horror comics, or action-horror comics. If you put them all in a line with Action Comics and OMAC at one end and Swamp Thing and Animal Man at the other, Wonder Woman would sit right in the middle of the two extremes.
I go up and down on Brian Azzarello’s work, but he and Cliff Chiang manage to both suggest that their protagonist is a proper hardcore action hero (it’s all about clean bold lines hitting at just the right angles) and that she exists in a world that is properly ‘orrible enough to pose a threat to her. I dunno, if you try to explain the plot it ends up sounding bit like an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, so I guess it’s all in the execution.
Botswana Beast: yeah, I sort of wonder listlessly, without bothering at all to find out if it’s maybe a bit like these Rick Riordan Percy Jackson books? Which are very popular, I don’t know how the film went, because like sane people I give no fucks about box office figures; I know this because I work in a children’s library – it’s sort of interesting to compare comics against, like, the telly or Young Adult fiction? It’s definitely better than Cleopatra 2020. I like it a lot – it’s kind of subversive, with all the allusions to lesbianism, which would make it subversive if twelve-year-olds read it…? Oh man, I sound like a sex offender.
I read a preçis of – the blurb off the back of an Anne Fine book the other day, it sounded quite wholesome and interesting, better than a lot of comics and I did not like that author when I was 12.
The main feeling the comic has thus far synaesthetically provided is dustiness, but not in a – in a good way. Like a refurbished museum, it and Action Comics.
Illogical Volume: I’m glad Wonder Woman is as good as it is, because it gives us a decent note to finish on. Comics can take over your life like shame or Lego can – they all start out small, but you just keep adding to what you’ve already got and before you know it you’ve built a structure so unweildy it stops you from getting out of your room.
The main question I’ve had with most of the comics I’ve read in the past few month has been – “Is there any point to you, or are you just making it harder for me to get out the door?” No doubt there’s a lot of shite out there, shite produced in large part by companies that only come into contact with good art or good ethics occasionally, by accident. But – as people in work keep reminding me when I say that I’m not really interested in having children, or at least, not right now – accidents do happen.
Thank fuck for that, eh?