Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

Here is where you can purchase the above tome, in various formats

Illogical Volume: I hate trying to write a synopsis of anything (because: BORING!), so here’s the back cover blurb:

What do Batman, Doctor Who, quantum physics, Oscar Wilde, liberalism, the second law of thermodynamics, Harry Potter fanfic, postmodernism, and Superman have in common?
If your answer to that was “Nothing” then… well, you’re probably right. But in this book Andrew Hickey will try to convince you otherwise. In doing so he’ll take you through:

How to escape from a black hole and when you might not want to
The scientist who thinks he’s proved the existence of heaven and what that has to do with Batman
What to do if you discover you’re a comic-book character
Whether killing your own grandfather is really a bad idea
And how to escape from The Life Trap!

An examination of the comics of Grant Morrison, Alan Moore and Jack Kirby, Doctor Who spin-off media, and how we tell stories to each other, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! tells you to look around you and say:

“This is an imaginary universe… Aren’t they all?”

Botswana Beast: Andrew is our – not fake, real internet – friend, full disc etc. etc., he was actually the first person I interviewed in… well any capacity really, it was a real pleasure to me, I really like doing interviews, I guess I should do more. This isn’t really a review, call the TSA!

So, but I’ll get the complaints out of the way quickly – I don’t like the typseset and it particularly buggers the citation from Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?at the end with linebreaks, it’s a bit like reading poetry in speech balloons (so sorry, Etrigan the Demon) that bit and – I don’t know – linebreaks are bit fussy throughout, could’ve used some hyphens on the multisyllables, I imagine this is basically all a problem of publishing through Lulu. Secondly, it fails to entirely transcend the original format – but certainly does work better in collation, no question, in particular the ‘Are You Living in a Comicbook?’ chapter and it’s following – because some concepts, like Dave Sim, are improperly introduced, some of the mathematical concepts – Copenhagen, Many-Worlds – are discussed at length earlier and only given fuller grounding in the 3rd last chapter or so. The Harry Potter fanfic chapter could probably have been wholly excised, although it is interesting in terms of ‘canon’ and so forth. I do think to address the complaint about better-smoothing the book into a, you know, a book would have been a lot of work for little gain; an overhaul, essentially, and I’m not unsympathetic being deeply lazy, which Andrew is clearly not, the author I read here is a constant clear rejoinder to me with his ceaseless interest and desire to work at his fascinations, a rejoinder to my cynicism and Anti-Life force essentially.

Other than that, though, it really is pretty much an untrammelled  joy – I pretty much cannot face non-fiction without wanting to go into coma (seriously, a vast land of fetid prose, I’m sure all you NF readers can set me straight, look forward to that) and this was entirely digestible, pointed and exciting to read. Given it’s written, essentially, on hypertime, paracontinuities and the destruction of canon/Objectivist lore and I am, I’d have to say probably only the second or third most enthused person in the world at these concepts, it does feel rather made for me. So I read it in a night, which I think is an indicative of either how thrilled I am to see these concepts mined or – maybe, I’m not gonna tell you this is objective because read the last sentence - maybe it’s actually really chippily and digestibly written, maybe it has a whole bunch of interesting shit written about excitingly. Or both! I don’t know, you should read it if you like the above-mentioned stuff?

Illogical Volume: Double disclosure, not only is Andrew an internet friend, he was also daft enough to ask me to proofread this book and provide “helpful” suggestions.  He even swapped a couple of chapters around at my suggestion — THE FOOL!

Even as someone who had an “inside” view of the creation of this book, I still found the format a little frustrating at first. I think this is related to Botswana Beast’s complaint about the way that scientific concepts are introduced early but not fully explained until near the end. Obviously, since I didn’t suggest changing the order of these parts, these issues bothered me less than they bothered Mr Beast.  Indeed, as I pressed on, I found this to be part of the charm of Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! – it’s  a fractal story about fractal stories, and I’ve always been a big fan of art that expresses its themes in style as well as in content.

And hey, even when Andrew doesn’t get back round to a topic, I liked getting to do a little bit of extra dot joining myself – a good sign that I enjoyed the book, that!  So, for example: the realisation of the way the seemingly disconnected essay on the Melmoth chapter of Cerebus was actually an essential part of the ultrastructure was probably when I decided that this was A Proper Book, whatever the fuck that means. Melmoth is a tangle of interconnected fictions concerning the life and death of Oscar Wilde, and by writing about it early on Andrew underlines the complex relationship between the real and theoretical that runs through his book.

This aspect of Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! reminds me of old argument between Marc Singer and Jim Roeg, about various forms of multiplicity. Half a decade on, I agree with Singer when he highlights the danger of taking the “gestural multiplicity” of, say, DC comic books as any sort of basis for an actual “politics of multiplicity”, and this is a relevant concern here.  Thankfully Andrew is more convincing in his arguments than Jim Roeg was, and he works hard to blur the boundaries between the gestural and the real in almost every chapter.

I know I’ve laid the praise on pretty thick so far, but I do have some issues with the book.  Like Botswana Beast  says, the citations are often a bit sloppy, with odd blocks of white space sitting between text and images. More troublingly, given that Liberal philosophy is essential to the story Andrew’s telling, I hit a bit of a speedbump when I read the chapter on Liberalism and Cybernetics. When Andrew writes about the Liberal Democrat party…

…we support things like greater democratic representation and accountability, mutualism, devolution of power to local levels, civil liberties, and so on.

…I find myself wincing a little.  Not out of any knee-jerk hatred or dislike for the Lib Dems (I know there are a lot of good people in the party, and I probably loathe them less than either Labour or the fucking Tories), but because I can’t help but see these same words put to other uses by the Liberal Democrats’ current coalition partners, the aforementioned Tory bastards.

A perfect example of the dangers of conflating the real and the abstract, you might think, butin the end.  I think it’s more nuanced than that. Indeed, Andrew is very clear that he doesn’t think that these beliefs need to lead to some sort of free-market paradise, and it’s likely that I’m bringing a lot of my own issues to the book here.  Still, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! is Andrew’s story, not mine, and by collecting all of these blog posts here, Andrew provides them with a sense of cohesion, of old fashioned authority even. Which is kind of ironic, given the book’s focus on pluralism, but it works in the book’s favour in the end. Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! makes a passionate, committed case for a worldview based on liberalism and multiplicity.  And really,  given the hateful rhetoric that dominates so much of current public life, what could be more energising than that right now?

There’s a lot of Doctor Who in there though, so… it’s still a very niche book, but if it’s your niche then I suspect you might just love it.

Illogical Volume introview

December 5th, 2010

This is his face

illogicalvolume

Terrifying… but also sexy

Since Illogical Volume a/k/a his govt. name, David Allison, joined the Mindless Ones the comics interent has never been the same again (although, thinking on it, wouldn’t it be odd for things to be the same, the exact same again? I don’t know what date I’d go back to, but I’d defo be younger, maybe some time 1998, or 2002, or 2004?) Anyway, ya boy has been droppin’ bombs from such a height as to make said comicsinternet look like Dresden, c.mid-February 1945, and we would have got round to doing this when he’d his own blog Vibrational Match, and you want it. Yeah, you want it, you sluts.

Here it fucking is, then. Eh? EHHH?!?!

Pree-zentin’ what will probably be the most comprehensive interview you read with Patrick Meaney, the director of

…this week, anyway.

 

Nobody sees the show, not till my heart says so/That special something, that you are hunting = under the cut

Criminology

June 11th, 2010

bm_700a-2-copy

 

It’s probably an unbelievably bad idea to take DC marketing dept. at their word, but anyway. They have a difficult job, I guess.

Und so! Vorwaerts! The initial idea for this was a liveblog, but that would have involved promotion and shit, I am quite the most fundamentally lazy – physically, critically, intellectually – person I know, and also been a pretty fucking tortuous read, dying to turn the page, but having to bash out a satisfactory update before I could do so. So that didn’t happen; what we will have is the 7 pages in a polka-dotted reporter’s pad (I thought that shit was red, I was gonna give you a photo and shit, call this the Red Casebook but nah; I obviously did not buy this pad), my CASENOTES interspersed with some proper blogination. You can of course choose to believe these casenotes are an after-the-fact “ret-con”, as much a fait accompli as most Grant Morrison superhero scripts, even although Mindless Ones is the very definition of elegant verité and bold realism, and that’ll be a mystery too. Do what you like, I won’t stop you.

But one day, tomorrow, peoples will be reading Batman #700 on their infoSlates, their powerTablets, and it’ll be my polka-on-grey casebook anno’s there first; that’s my dream, and it is definitely good to have dreams. FUTURECOMICSSS.

We begin; welcome to MindlessOnes.com for all your Grant Morrison Batman needs. Choose MindlessOnes.com

Happy Blogiversary to NeilAlieN

February 26th, 2010

We at the Mindless Ones have a particular mythospheric kinship of course to the Methuselah of comicsbloggery, the legendarious NeilAlieN, and would like to celebrate his 10th year in front of the game with a very special party picture (a magnificent piece by Enrique Alcatena, that I had to produce a thinly-veiled reason to post) ganked from the far better tribute the Comics Reporter paid yesterday and the salutary advice a brood might offer their parent.

mindlessones

The Mindless Ones meeting Neil on their way for an astral-swally at Lokkh’s Taverna

The promised advice, from marriage.com, which also informs that a 10th Anniversary is a time to celebrate “ideas and symbols”:

The tenth year of marriage celebration is the first of the major milestone anniversaries. As you celebrate this special 10th wedding anniversary, think about the durability of your commitment to one another for a full decade.

In the dying light of the comic week…

starman81Starman #81 by James Robinson, Fernando Dagnino, Bill Sienkewicz & Matt Hollingsworth

First up, art sentence: the art looks fucking doss, because it’s drawn – inked, but whatever (no-one survives a Sink-ink, except John Paul Leon) – by Bill Sienkewicz and therefore looks like Bill Sienkewicz, which is fucking doss, and also Matt Hollingsworth colours it and he is the best colourist, especially at the murkier end of the palette.

(Seriously, if you want to say a Bill Sink comic, any one of them – if you want to say “hhm, not sure about the art” or, I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, fact is: if you want to say something like that you are making a dick of yourself.)

Right! Comic-reviewing credentials, I think you’ll agree, well established this is a pretty interesting one; I pre-reviewed it as “James Robinson pisses his final chips, probably”. The chips being his credibility as a once-capable, fan-favourite writer. The chips being a casino metaphor. The chips being how I – in my opinion which is valueless (beyond or beneath, you the reader may interact and decide, it’s the new format) – how I feel about James Robinson. As a human being. What his worth. To me.

Is?

And actually, to my surprise, James Robinson did not piss his final chips but instead turned in a thoroughly decent comic for probably the first time since he last wrote an issue of Starman, eight-and-a-half years ago. I say probably, I’ve not read all of them – six or so, it felt like infinity, of the most time-dilatingly dull Superman comics of all time, which considering the average standard of dullness in Superman comic [fucking dull, broseph] is likely an achievement of some moment and an eight-issue run on Batman as a lead-in to Morrison taking over the title, something I hyped myself into believing was half-decent due to overexcitement, and then I quite reasonably stopped reading them, the James Robinson comics, but man o! Some people read them for me. Others showed me pictures. And I don’t want to, look – I’ll be out the door before we turn into scans_daily or you can put me in the crosshair, aim-for-the-heart - I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to take things out of context and rudely and roundly condemn, but I’m pretty certain nothing else in the latter Justice League issue could conceivably make up for murky-depthy chats with Zombie Doctor Rapelight. It would take a bit of doing, over several comics, to redress that little soulquake.

So, but this is okay, this comic? It’s pretty okay, I would give it three to three-and-a-half brains; yeah, call it a 3.5er for the art. It is, it transpires, a welcome return to Opal City, it got me to reread Starman #80 for research (Research! You must always do research if you wish to be a critic on the comics blogosphere) and that was… I totally loved doing that. That hit just about every right note that a DC superhero comic should or could upon closing, it has a touching tribute to Archie Goodwin in the back, it’s really quite an emotional experience, I got quite Mist-y. This ain’t colour-of-nostalgia speaking; I was quite bloody miserable in 2001, and understandably concerned the years might have taken a sheen off somewhat, but not excessively, treasured memories of Starman, the original series, sections of which had already proven trialsome to go back and reread. Batman/Hellboy/Starman – you’d be right to expect that to rule, how could it conceivably not, but it’s bollocks.

This issue (whose contents I am going to discuss not at all, except to say for a more authentic feel there should have been a lot more misplaced boldface stresses) proved that, to some degree, James Dale Robinson can still write a comic. So why isn’t he? I think he – and bear in mind, if it need be said, that this is wholly supposition, I know not how a sausage is made nor the sausagemakers - like Brian Azzarello writing Doctor Thirteen, was not really a fan of – not in love with – superhero comics, but rather of the past and of antiquities, and like Azz utilising obscure, pointless bands that he loved anyway to write obscure, pointless superheroes that someone presumably feels likewise about… basically that was what that was about, Starman. That was an actual asset, not to be in love. The past, its ochre, its eternally dissipating hue, and it worked for the most part; it was was informed by this, there was its foundation. With the other DC books, it’s like – there’s no ‘there’ there, as they say, nothing underlies them, and they read like editorial-driven shitfests, they really did. As if script-notes have come back saying “make more odious“/”not enough tedium“/”I didn’t feel ruined as a person by this experience, can you juice up the miasm of despair a bit?“, etc. It’s a confluence of knowing popular American comics are writer-driven at the top-end and a desperate drive to continually rebrand the subsidiary’s sole assets that’s led to this end; it isn’t working in this case, just as it never does with Peter Milligan, who can at least turn in a half-decent, no more, no less, Batman comic. James Robinson wrote Leave it to Chance. James Robinson wrote London’s Dark. I can only imagine he is doing a lot better out of comics these days, and this issue just about earned it for the first time in a long time. (BB)

asm618Amazing Spider-Man #618 by Dan Slott, Marcos Martin & Javier Rodriguez

When does a comic stop dealing in long standing conventions and veer headlong into a brickwall made of pastiche? That’s the question I found myself pondering after reading Amazing Spider-Man #618.

I’ve enjoyed much of what I’ve read of the new Spider-line, but I have to question whether it’s appeal is particularly healthy. The focus on new new villains and new old villains, the bubbly soap-operatics, the densely packed panels and incident filled issues. The spider-quips, love triangles, the Daily Bugle and Aunt May in peril. That right there is Spider-Man, and I’m absolutely certain that that’s what the line’s heavily editorially controlled creators want me to think.

In #618 we get a slew of baddies, multiple-returns from the dead including the return of two classic villains, evil Aunt May, yep that ever trusty love triangle (that includes the Black Cat), and more angst tha you could shake a stick at. Not only that but the art team treat us to Ditko-esque layouts, panel constructions, and line work, topped off with a sombre pastel colour scheme not entirely unreminiscent of the late sixties colour palette.

It’s true to say that none of this amounts to full-blown pastiche. A heavily diluted modern sensibility informs the book and provides much of the humour, but it does so at the expense of the verisimilitude. The book as a whole is just too knowing, too aware of the conventions on which it is built to be truly entertaining. There’s a fun of a sort to be had in recognising how the traditions of the spider-comic are being deployed and toyed with here, but it’s, if anything, a guilty kind of fun.

But despite these gripes they’re is something undeniably refreshing about this comic. Some of the cliched storytelling techniques on display couldn’t be more at odds with Marvel’s current focus on pseudo-realist psychology and emphasis on plot over incident. Soap opera and melodrama aren’t without their faults but they’re not without their pleasures either, and the sheer imaginative brio embodied by the line’s spider-foes is commendable in and of itself.

So while this line of books and the hoary cliches on which it is built could teach other Marvel titles a thing or two about entertainment ultimately its role certainly isn’t pedagogical, and it’s hard to imagine reading something this beholden to its past on a regular basis. (Z)

Paying dues: Tuesday reviews

January 6th, 2010

What’s that, crow-like Carnevale mask? There’re going to follow a plural of what?

detectivereading

Stolen from here, btw, in the interests of credit due. Creepy fucking buddy. Fifteen apparitions have I seen/The worst a coat on a coat-hanger

We du Tu. re-vu fa yu

November 25th, 2009

winter_men_tpb

I hope - for your sakes, my friend - you are buy this little, red star. More on that at later date, but is out now, in this week, do not be missing. Jog spoils the conclude, many months ago.
Now wait for last week