February 22nd, 2013
Playing catchup on all this really – various recent pickings, some shop, some library.
Prophet 33 by Brandon Graham, Giannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy. Image Comics.
The lizard girl does a shit on the floor. It’s a …française moment generally appropriate to the book’s stylistic outlook and oft-mentioned influences, but in its chucklesome chocolate curves - glinting there like a nugget of purest corn – lurks a deeper clue to the reason Prophet continues to feel like the best proper comic you can currently get. Where the shit goes and where the food that grows the shit grows is the key question facing the species. A gemlike feminist imperium ponders this question huddling in the ruins of Apollonian classicism. If you spend your days pondering much else – or if you think the highest form of art requires bourgeois emotional drama for validation, to touch you in the special- you’re avoiding the issue, running scared, wanking about, reading comic blogs.
Keep at it, coward, there’s comics galore to come and the answers are too big for you, baby boy.
The Wild Kingdom by Kevin Huizenga. Drawn and Quarterly.
I am with you, Kevin Huizenga,
As you scratch in your sub
Urban garden wasted
Seeking a new communion
Away from your squeamish
Country brothers & their
Worship of gold &
I am with you, Kevin Huizenga,
Amid the hawthorne
& the better angels of
Hunting solace &
With schematic abandon &
Truer in its asking than
False promises found
In the plastic cast arms
Of the christ beast
Bleeding diamond tears at
Travesties in his name
[OK stop there for a sec. I don't really expect anyone to believe this but I promise it's true: I pissed that out after reading just ten pages of this book, because the American Visionary silver chain is Huizenga's appeal nutshelled, and it's an easy way to fill some review space. But then, about another thirty or so pages in, Whitman actually turns up as a 'character' in the book! Which either makes my initial impression like, well deep or, perhaps, well not. Let's carry on.]
[Not for too long though, don't worry:]
I am with you, Kevin Huizenga
Tween the gutters of your frame game
Where sites find sound and
Where non meets sense
In lines of lyrical mystery
And a silver chain of the sublime absurd
That links your stay-at-home
With James Moir & Robert Mortimer
In the holy celestial hipster pantheon
Of poet-fools &
Digging truth from a heart of mirth
Kid Loki: The Terrorism Myth by Kieron Gillen, Mitch & Bettie Breitweiser, Richard Elson, Jessica Kholinne and Ifansyah Noor. Marvel Comics.
Really wanted to say something nice about this but no, sadly it’s really not much cop at all. There’s just too many words, waffling simple and even potentially engaging ideas away into the clouds. There’s not enough snap in the confrontations, and every few pages you have those catch yourself moments when you realise, yep, you’re reading about Marvel sub-basement shitters like Damian Hellstrom rescuing dreamy teens from their not-scary dreams, and why would you be doing that? And this comic doesn’t come up with a good reason.
Or not enough good reasons anyway – I Like theKid though, glad he’s sticking around for…
Young Avengers #1 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie Mckelvie, Michael Norton and Matthew Wilson. Marvel Comics.
Da da da! Young Avengers! Who doesn’t like Young Avengers? A lot of photons have been blasted out of a lot of screens since this came out, explaining why it’s so good. None that I’ve read have got close to the simple truth of it. (It’s not about Mckelvie’s attention to human details or adroit framing of the action scenes, making them interesting and exciting even though the narrative can barely wait to get them over with.)
Quick history lesson: the Marvel Comics universe is a product of a nation in crisis: a superpower discovering and trying to make amends, briefly, for the massive social divisions scarring its psyche, while also trying to cobble together some sort of stop gap explanation for why it is desperately developing atomic technologies that might kill the whole world. The crisis was made perpetual in the nineteen seventies, when Marvel was less than a decade old, as an act of deliberate political economy. The Marvel Universe was a uniquely resonant response to these conditions. The Marvel Universe only makes sense if the world doesn’t. Marvel Comics only work when their creators are brave or wise or smart enough to acknowledge the crisis.
From history to developmental biology: like the separate universes Marvel comics occur and are sold in, eighteen year old humans are always in crisis. They carry a core of transitional instability within them, a potential for glory or disaster that actually just works as a vehicle for exploring current tensions in this-is-what-we-call-reality. This is the first Marvel comic – fucking finally, what have these journeyman media exec pricks been up to? – that acknowledges the changes to have occurred in the West inside the last five years. Universes align and collide. 21st Century comics, thirteen years late, but a lot better than never.
Aside: This comic’s secret title is West Coast Young Avengers. Because a) the Vision/Wonder Man/Scarlet Witch triangle is the TV movie original form of this ‘lingering-looks’ school of comics b) the baddie has weird Master Pandemonium Arms and blanky eyes. And c) Noh Varr has white hair, like Mockingbird.
I thought one of the the gay ones burst into tears a bit quickly. Or was it both?
I Love Led Zeppelin by Ellen Forney. Fantagraphics.
Turn of the millennium stuff, charming to look and and effortless to read – the best bits like these alt-dot (remember that?) lifestyle pieces and lucid, ziney how-to guides that kind of remind you why you wanted to go to America in the first place. And then bits about guns and survivalism that make you realise, nah Cornwall’s fine thanks.
As a period piece, and an oblique snapshot of that Pacific Northwest better world thing, it’s kind of lovely in the way it exhibits a purity of natural, unassuming idealism – and maybe even the incorporation of murder weaponry into that milieu actually bespeaks a commendable, earthy pragmatism, although the USian violence fetish is a more likely and simple explanation – but overall there’s an odd souring from viewing that cultural moment at this distance. Being stoned and kooky and listening to mum’s fave old tunes all day feels less like a viable alternative mode of living, and more like a tourist exhibition. A consumer choice – an expensive one – passing itself off as radicalism.
Can you afford to buy in to this, today? Probably not, just going on the figures.
Black Lung by Chris Wright. Fantagraphics.
Strong grot. A useful comparison to the Huizenga, situated in an identical tradition of American literature – one that only the cartoonists appear to be demented enough to pursue in the here and now, the novelist having become far too respectable and middlebrow in their careerist obsession – but on an opposite, complementary plane. Whereas Wild Kingdom takes a humane, whimsical eye to uncover an awesome and implacable but fundamentally benign mystery at the heart of nature and being, Black Lung is a monster story that uses a blunt knife to scrape away the skin and flesh and bone of reality and finds a huge mess of death and pain underneath. It’s quaint that the Empire’s talents still spend their time thinking about ‘hey God, what’s up?’ when there’s no such beard, it’s a retreat in its own way of course, but arguably in scampering from the important problem facing them and their families (‘where are we going to put all the shit’, remember), they turn to face an old but ornery existential challenge that is possibly just as scary.
It’s rare to read a comic so straightforward and relentless in its drive to do its thing, and for that thing to be so shamelessly big and black. It takes a tough, bellowing belly to demand such questions and hurl such accusations at the empty sky. To engage with this book properly takes a certain amount of time and balls, and a willed suspension of the usual distancing reflexes. Toughen up, take a proper look. Chris Wright’s found some bloody treasure for you there: the Whale. The end.
ADAMAO by Stathis Tsemberlidis. Decadence Productions.
One more, there’s a nice symmetry to this review bit actually if you look, bookended with American something-seekers and Moebioid sci-fy-chedelia. You’re welcome.
ADAMAO is, well I don’t want to slag off people for having fun, but it irks a bit with their coffee table-friendly aesthetics, valorization of design over cartoon principles, and studied tryhard naivety that outfits like NoBrow and Blank Slate have caught a ghost of respectability and Decadence’s Lando and Tsemberlidis, the coolest – as in, as fuck – UK comicsmongers – remain relatively unknown. Their comics should be available in every comic shop in the cuntry, and they’re not, which is wrong.
ADAMAO is maddeningly rendered druggy hi-concept ultraviolent New Wave mindfuck SF. Comics as orbiting lasers, full spectrum cultural dominance over these last human societies. A scrappy pamphlet you can shove in your back pocket: post-atomic commodity fetish. Literally the best £2.50 I have spent all year by a millennium of light. I’m not even taking the price sticker off.