April 19th, 2013
‘Nothing of note was to be inherited by her loved ones, and nor was anything ever expected to be. She was put to rest with exactly the same title as the one with which she was born. She never ruined anyone’s life and never once considered a career in the deliberate, violent immiseration of her fellow citizens.’
‘Easily the current century’s first landmark work of fantasy and ranking amongst the best pieces ever written in that genre, with The Vorrh we are presented with a sprawling immaterial organism which leaves the reader filthy with its seeds and spores’
‘I would say, that if you’re talking about a line of progress, if it can be called progress, that runs from Berthold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, to Donald Cammell’s Performance, to Harry Potter, I don’t think you can really see that as anything but a decline… and also I would say that if you’ve got the Avengers movie as one of the most eagerly attended recent movies, and if most of those attendees were adults, which I believe they were, then if you’ve got a huge number of contemporary adults going to watch a film containing characters and storylines that were meant for the entertainment of eleven year old boys fifty years ago, then…’
‘We shall attack, we continue to wait… This gesture, which can never be fully grounded in reasons, is that of a Master. It is for the experts to present the situation in its complexity, and it is for the Master to simplify it into a point of decision. … The Master is needed especially in situations of deep crisis.’
February 22nd, 2013
January 24th, 2013
Script by Grant Morrison. Art by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn. DC Comics.
[The term 'Batman' here simultaneously refers both to both the well known character/intellectual property featured in a variety of widely distributed cultural products that bear his brand, and to those products themselves.]
December 9th, 2012
Not a very shopbound week this week, so mostly library fodder. Go to the library: as we’ll see, they have some amazing free comics there.
On the shopfront though, there was…
The Phoenix #48 by Various, David Fickling Comics
There was the mighty ‘Nix, highlight being a particularly dynamic Troy Trailblazer episode.
TT‘s masterfulmind Robert Deas is ploughing quite a unique furrow among the burning feathery pages of the galaxy’s finest, with a heavy emphasis on pure visual dynamism, a pure propellant narrative language that contrasts beautifully with the sight gags and wordplay that it shares paper with. Some episodes are over in seconds but you never feel like you’ve been short-changed. Jessica Jetrider (not Jennie, as I mistakenly had it last week) kicks ass, and when I say that, I mean she really does kick someone’s ass.
In Pilotwatch this week, he’s forced to have a shower: the sheer mortification across every strand of fur is a treat. The next panel has him all bedraggled and stripped of dignity like cats get when they’re caught in the rain or fall in the toilet. And that’s it for Pilotwatch this week. Come back for more next week – if he hasn’t been turned into a flan by the Nano-Chefs in the interim.
Fury MAX My War Gone By #7 by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov, Marvel Comics
Reading Fury MAX this week was handy because it minded me of the previous issue – that would be #6. Its depiction of the sexy evil Cuban baddie forms an I think quite necessary supplement absent from this, one of the ones what I got from the library:
Che: A Graphic Biography by Spain Rodriguez, Verso Books
It’s pretty wonderful in its own way of course – calmly historical, with no more romance and bias than you should have in a biography of one of the Twentieth Century’s genuine secular saints, but with a definite and surprising libidinal lack. Its subject’s subjectivity, the internal pressures that turned the comfortable medical student into the world’s most potent avatar of revolutionary justice, go unexplained.
Enter Ennis and Parlov’s proud revolutionary soldier: vanity, triumphalism, the military addiction to violence and self-erasure – as essential to the revolutionary firebrand as Fury’s imperialist pig.
Presumably to Rodriguez – quite the righteous dude himself by all accounts – the imperative of resistance didn’t need explaining. His pencil softens the leonine warrior, the world-famous Korda portrait Guevara (and its post-mortem proliferation, surely a perfect topic for a book like this, is relegated to a dry afterword) into a soulful, rounded cherub. The noise and the fire are gone – we get just the facts, not the legend, when in this, as in so few genuine cases, the legend is the reality. I was hoping more for Trashman in a beret.
Lint by Chris Ware, Drawn & Quarterly
Where everything in the universe entire is dots in circles, and dots in circles are horrorfying because…?
‘Lint’ is an American wording meaning, roughly, ‘fluff’. As in, ‘there was nothing in his pockets but knives and fluff’. As a title for a clothbound hardback study (gots to milk that commodity fetish) in the vanishing banality of Evil, it immediately embeds itself in such a pit of irony that it indicates all too clearly how unfair it’s going to play with the reader: just what kind of hoopsa boyaboys it’s going to ask you to jump through. In brief, Mister Lint is a shudderingly loathsome individual, as thorough a rendering – cradle to grave – of such as the medium (running at approx 50% villainy at the best of times) has yet to achieve. This is effectively the sole point (within a circle) the book makes. It does so with as many a literary and theoretical a nod as you would need to be convinced that Evil is real and it teased you at school, and if it makes you feel any better (no to that, btw) Evil is unhappy too, and such a coward it has probably repressed the memory of all those children it raped. It won’t even admit how Evil it is.
But fluff is easily blown away, and was too inconsequential a thing to begin with – it didn’t even care that it was killing you, and itself, from the inside. It was just traveling on currents too big and chaotic and very, very terrifying to even know what kind of damage it could do. Except, these currents aren’t potty training related, or abuse-abandonment linked, or coherent in any of the ways them thinker mans have tried to establish. The only currents at work here are those invented, arbitrarily, reasonlessly, as vengeance against the bully perhaps, by the author of the piece.* He picks and chooses the Evil at work as befits his meticulous scheme. Gestures towards reality remain exactly that – gestures, intricate and dazzling and formalistic to the WOW, to be sure: but shapes drawn on the air all the same. It’s not a description of Evil – it’s just a fiction: There’s nothing about the world to be learnt here, though it’s trying really hard to make you think otherwise.
(*This is a good lesson for life, that this book won’t give you: man made things are man made, and can be unmade. Anyone who tells you ‘it’s too big and chaotic to work out’, or ‘that’s unrealistic’, or ‘that’s not how things are’, just doesn’t want you to try. Lint cops out with ‘Evil’s just Evil, don’t trouble with the why – analysis is fraud…’. I can’t afford to live like that.)
The Hive, by Charles Burns, Jonathan Cape
Much better than the last issue. That one was an autopilot greatest hits set, or one of those meticulous live replays of the classic album beginning to end, even the shit tracks you skipped, where you realise all the influences that made them what they were, that you tracked down in the interim, 80s Cronenburroughs plus Herge for that Nazi frisson in this case, were yep a lot better actually than the pasticheur. Except for Tintin, fucking always, always boring.
While Lint and Ware mine Freudism for an effective touch of authenticity and sheer screaming development horror, early on before abandoning the conclusions you might be forced to reach if you were brave enough to take these things seriously, with The Hive Burns hips himself up a bit by taking that psychoanalysis schtick on a generation or two, adopting Jock Lacan’s Real-Imaginary-Symbolic triad. On Tuesday night, in the midnight time, much addled after watching Japan’s premier doomgaze band, Troll#1 and I couldn’t for the life of us work out what level lined up with what… Doug and Sarah, they’re Real, right? But comics, comics, though Imaginoid, are more real than the people in them, god knows, so the comics, (still not clear whether that means The Hive I hold in my hand or those insanely wonderful, naughty, lush Swan-looking romance things Doug and Sarah like reading) maybe they’re The Real? And the lizard affect-factory that they toil in, that’s kind of everything right there too, but that’s got to be Symbolic right?
It’s a crazy mixed up world. We well couldn’t work it out. Help in the comments section please, even if it’s help of the ‘I hate you because you’re idiot’ variety.
Bardin The Superrealist by Max, Fantagraphics
This was rather wonderful too in its way, warm as cognac and the Catalan summer, thick clear lines a reassuring sense of structure and boundary on the journey inwards… Charming and smooth then, but somehow altogether too elegant and poised to convince as dream gnosis.
It looks real good in those off-the-peg Dali-worship rags, and cosily codifies the baroque Tibetan iconography so beloved of the Andalusian dog-botherers into pocket-sized impieties that you’d be happy to carry around, but it doesn’t ever threaten to go far or wild enough beyond the hand me down cultural structures already available to reach a state of divine madness itself.
It’s not the kind of book you want to criticise, but the sweetly sozzled states it describes just aren’t quite paranoid enough, so maybe doing so would help.
Glitz-2-Go by Diane Noomin, Fantagraphics
The word I keep wanting to use is ‘retchro’. This is stuffed with – or, sort wants to give you the impression that it is stuffed with, when in fact much more of its strength comes from simple touches like the way the characters talk to each other in such casually abrasive, finely heard cadences, and kind of open up so the barrier between the reader, the character on the page, and the life behind the inky figures there collapses so you feel as if you are part of the family, long and wearily acquainted with those friends of Noomin who she’s granted through the sharp magic of her line this extra dimension of on-page existence… You already know them, know what they’re going to say before they do. It’s a rich and soft book, for such a sharp and sassy purple little package.
Where was I yes stuffed with that spikey gogo exotica beach blanket early 60s through a mid-seventies filter, draggy, druggy, bad girl bad taste John Waters surf vibe, like a Cramps song or something…
It’s not like that at all, but if that helps cool it up a little, then fine.
I haven’t finished this one yet, so can’t reasonably write much more about it, in fact I’ve probably already said far too much, and wrong at that. I think I’m going to review a book I haven’t read Every! Week!
December 1st, 2012
Or the day before’s – don’t get all stuck on it. SPOILERS follow, if you’re the kind of person who misguidedly believes in the existence of such a thing.
The Phoenix #47 by Various, David Fickling Comics
Ballerinas on the cover of The Phoenix? That caused a rather cute nose to crinkle, let me tell you. Emilie’s Turn turned out to be by Neill ‘Pirates of Pangaea’ Cameron and Kate ‘Lost Boy‘ Brown though, the latter doing some especially nice Euro-shojo thing (‘Is it by the same person who does Tortoro?‘) while still effortlessly incorporating her trademark floaty geometric patterns in the gaps behind the panels thing to rather lovely effect…
The story wasn’t deemed as interesting as the long-awaited reveal of Jenny Jetrider, Troy Trailblazer’s naughty ex-girlfriend, but caught me by surprise and quite effectively put me on a teary downer, thankfully and speedily alleviated by the long awaited and always welcome return of Star Cat – featuring an excellent moment of unrepentant candy-cannibalism by the Pilot, The Phoenix‘s cult hero in waiting.
Simon Swift went all out on the action, giving his more-interesting action bros a chance to show off their muddy, growly stuff; Pig and Weenie very naughtily teamed up with Monkey against Bunny; and Your Host Adam Murphy took his spade to ancient Greece and disinterred a chap called Homer, who was kind of like the Geoff Johns of his day. It wasn’t as bad as that of course, Corpse Talk never is, but I think this was the first episode that dealt with a cadaver whose actual existence is something of a matter of debate, and it seemed to end on a ‘he was blind too’ joke that came a bit out of nowhere. Still though, anything that sparks the question ‘Can we read that one next?‘ where ‘that one‘ is The Iliad is obviously operating at a level embarrassingly beyond the aspirations of pretty much every mainstream comic, which is to say:
Rest easy folks, The Phoenix is still the best and most important comic being published in the English-speaking world today, by quite the margin.
Batman Incorporated #5 by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham, DC Comics
This issue was basically future lovably-evil Batman vs Crossed, in what is perhaps a rather cruel attempt to draw the atavistic Avatarisms out of Chris Burnham’s pencils, in a 12A sort of way of course. Quick, nasty and delirious in its casual over-violence, with a colourful manner of sadistic wooziness oozing out of the panels that only a madman couldn’t love.
What I find kind of sweet about the Crossed baddies and their Joker-freak equivalents here is their solidarity in contempt of the hated Squared norms. Uninhibited beasts of endless instant and chaotic gratification they may be, but they always seem to somehow be able to agree a patient tactical siege of whatever inadequate redoubt might be in their way, and would all apparently rather do that than just exercise their murderous lusts on one another, or simply retire to a blood’n'shit-strewn corner somewhere and noisily wank their own heads off.
Dr Hurt returns for a very welcome and shudder-inducing cameo, which kind of involves a bit of narrative upside-downery where, I think, we’re supposed to think that the ‘when Batman died’ of a few years ago is a different and not-yet-happened ‘when Batman died’ to a further one that may be waiting for us in the next few issues. It’s classic Morrisonian time-slip sloppiness, proper old-skool, and if you’re the kind of person who enjoys the strange narrative dissonance that only a continuity clusterfuck of this sort can cause, then madam, this is the perfect comic for your husband.
FF #1 by Matt Fraction and Michael Allred, Marvel Comics
I don’t know what it is – actually I think I do, it’s blates just X-Statix nostalgia innit? And of course hope, horrible, horrible hope – that makes Michael Allred’s name be the only thing that will cause me to buy a Marvel comic these days…
I kind of enjoyed the recap page, but then the issue proper opened with a whole page devoted to just talking heads of ‘Val’ and ‘Frank’ Richards – who are the real Fantastic Four’s kids – and really, they’re just these hideously loathsome little brats, speaking like amphetamine teenagers, blathering on with all daddy’s reheated bullshit about ‘saving the future from itself’ and ‘solving tomorrow’s problems with science and the power of our elite abilities’ and ‘imagine what great minds like ours could do’ and all that.
This variety of conceited, masturbatory and just plain delusional nonsense is how your media class today justify their cowardly clinging-on to neoliberalism’s blindly ambulant bones, so consequently their glove puppets, your Reed Richardses and Starks and the rest of Marvel’s ‘science’ wanks, use it non-stop as their sole rationale for being such aggressive, militaristic arseholes who haven’t done anything constructive in fifty years of pretending-to-try. And now they’ve got their poor, vile little kids saying it too. So yeah, afraid I only got as far as the first page of this and then fucked the rest of the issue off, so that’s not really very good, is it?
Multiple Warheads #2 by Brandon Graham, Image Comics
This is Pretty Fucking Good, it should go without saying by now, but… The transition from wherever you are sitting now to its own very specific reading-space – the plug-in’s not exactly smooth is it?
The loose and looping lossiness of the art gets put under stress by the rather punishing lexical excesses, and the temptation to flow along with it gets snagged on the cardiac spikes of lyrical invention. Beautiful, beckoning surf hiding too-sharp rocks, just beneath the surface. (The hyposcrisy of my saying this here, in such fashion, is intended to be ironic, endearing, self-deprecating, as isn’t immediately clear.) The hemispheres don’t quite know how to sync up, which direction to read in – follow the sensory currents on their way or stop and pick apart the incidental details and munch slowly on that word salad? You can do both of course, one way this time, the other on the reread, but sometimes its good not to have the choice, and you can find yourself left with a book that is by a nanometer or two something less than the sum of its are-you-really-complaining-about-this? parts.
The too-easy conclusion is an unfortunate but prominent and hoggothian cliche – that art often benefits from restrictions and corners, such as provided by limits of genre, undeveloped form, Shock the requirements of Intellectual Property service, or Horror Rob Liefeld – to avoid dissipating under the weight of genius (or if not genius then a serious, serious talent instinct for how to plot out a page).
Which predictably leads us on to…
Prophet # 31 by Brandon Graham, Giannis Milonogiannis, Simon Roy, Rob Liefeld, Rob Liefeld, Rob Liefeld, Image Comics
There is not a notion in all the minds of this world as repellant or obscene as the thought that robots want to be human. It’s a defining proof of what craven little mum-tarts people are that their imagination so seldom postulates an exteriorised, non-human intelligence that isn’t immediately subject to the same oedipal desiring command-c0ntrol structures as we so sadly are. As if those emotionoid imperatives slowly encrusted atop the cortex by millennia of social power trips, every individual human-unit’s personal slavemaker software, were an actual universal constant of emergent subjectivity, that a digital psyche would seek to emulate, rather than just a long and painfully learned mammalian trauma reaction. Although human irrationality and emotional bias may open avenues of consideration that eventually increase the number of available vectors in a given system and pantomime superior problem solving capacity, would a neuro-colloidal supercomputer really seek something that unseemly, undignified and painful as an upgrade? Wouldn’t it come up with something better?
Shortly after the Black Hole Saga, when Joe realised the existential void he felt so keenly could be better filled by a few transgressive fashion choices than an actual rotting heart kept there where the Creation Matrix should go, this problem was effectively solved forever by his example. Every intelligence is a black hole, and the information is smeared about its surface, not jealously guarded deep within some spurious soul. The handsome robot worked it out.
In this issue of Prophet (which is easily the best comic series an American publisher has produced in 2012, and this a Bulletproof Coffin year no less) when Die Hard, a self-perfected immortal war machine in the strict Deleuzian sense, constructed from the shells of other war machines, wearing the same name, over millennia, seems to be rampaging over this old ground again, console yourself with this thought. This is no Vision or Red Tornado, no stupid-looking robot cryface wank, but a man who turned himself into a robot via the pressures of transgalactic superconflict, now trying to turn himself back into a man, all the better to wage jihad. When he plucks a dead human heart from the apple tree and places it inside his chest cavity, the heart he chooses belongs, hilariously, to one of his sworn enemies, the Earth Empire’s Prophet soldiers, those lovably stupid clones so deformed by their own psychic damage (O Mission! O Mother!) that they have developed an amusing habit of genociding almost every other species they come into contact with… You just have to laugh.
Hopefully this is a sign of more to come and Prophet will retain its early commitment to the alien, continue to locate its drama in the cosmos of open conflict for food, resources, and arbitrary territory, while dealing with the traditional trajectories of emotional interpersonality and the slog of monthly narrative with similar blackness to Die Hard’s example, if it truly can’t ignore them entirely.
Capitalist Superheroes by Dan Hassler-Forest, Zero Books
Only really glanced at this yet, and it’ll deserve a more thorough write-up later, but so far it’s exactly what you’d hoped for/expected: a midnight razor analysis from an largely Jamesonian perspective, with plenty of Zizekian swerves and flourishes to break things up, explaining to anyone who hasn’t got it yet the abundant evils of the superhero ghost-beast’s rampage across the mainstream culture-media axis of the 21st Century.
If you have to criticise, and superhero fans will or be lost to themselves forever, then y’know, there’s a reading of Year One which is off by like the thickness of a proton, and less risibly perhaps certain important differences between the separate modes of reading appropriate to films and comics are too easily elided, but really, it looks like this little book does *IS* like Darkseid does.
Early on and particularly impressive is a mashup of Umberto Eco and Roland Barthes which kind of pins the superfan to his childhood bed with a large and one suspects slightly uncomfortable nail down the meatus:
‘This de-politicizing, de-historicizing force that Eco relates to the narrative structure of the Superman comic books closely resembles the Barthesian definition of myth. … focus[ing] on the way in which signs can present themselves as natural, thereby camouflaging their political and ideological nature:
“In passing from history to nature, myth acts economically: it abolishes the complexity of human acts, it gives them the simplicity of essences, it does away with all dialectics, with any going back beyond what is immediately visible, it organizes a world which is without contradictions because it is without depth, a world wide open and wallowing in the evident, it establishes a blissful clarity: things appear to mean something by themselves.” (1972: 143, emphasis added)’
Fanman, consider yourself…. RePossessed.
October 18th, 2012
September 15th, 2012
Not: Night of the Weirwolf
Do you remember that Wolverine story where he goes all edgy and kills some superheroes, and the only ones he in fact murders are disabled or gay? It was written by staunch defender-of-women / rape profiteer Mark Millar. Is this like that? Or is this latest casual extermination of the bald, wheelchair-bound one something different, serious, and maybe even Real this time?
Whatever – it’s clearly a great time to be killing off your disabled characters Marvel.
(Are you actually going to sit there and say ‘Hey smartarse he got his legs back and working again this time? Are you actually going to do that? Are you going to deny that Charles Xavier is disabled? Did he bring a wig back from space with him this time too?)
July 30th, 2012
July 13th, 2012
HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!!!!!
Welcome then, gentle listen-folk, to the Twilight Zone….where anything can happen. Such as Gary Lactus NOT appearing on this week’s edition of the internet’s favourite aural-comics affairs-cast SILENCE! Fear not though, stepping into his large cosmic brogues comes sprightly upstart BOBSY! He and tired old deck-hand The Beast Must Die just couldn’t bare to think of a week without pointless comics frippery, so they’ve teamed up to bring you SILENCE no.21!!
And what a fist they make of it. In a whopping two and a quarter hours they cause merry havoc discussing 2000AD, Judge Dredd, middle-class Quantam Leap, Rocketeer Adventures, Superman 3 (ie the best one), Fury MAX, Earth 2, Robert Downey Jr’s gradual transformation into David Gest, Ron Perlman (aka the Monster Don), Thief of Thieves, The Reckoning, Marvel NOW!, Ozymandias (aka Between Watchmen), AVX, Haunt, Dial H, Action Comics, Castle Waiting…plus a typically rambling digression into Steve Gerber’s wonderful Infernal Man-Thing. Oh god but that’s just the tip of the iceberg…well, actually it’s more like the main part of the iceberg, but the real cream of the iceberg (what?) is the sparkling interraction between two broken mammals who can’t think of anything better to do than talk about comics (while Rome burns)!
Phew! Just when you thought 2012 couldn’t get any HOTTTERRRR!!!!???
April 27th, 2012
Quick look at how the trapeze strung out between these two strips is, on balance, making 2000AD the easy-best regularly published, mainstream, Anglophone, you know what I mean, don’t split hairs, comic on the racks today.