Flashback to… Deadpool?

November 25th, 2015

As previously established, middling superhero comics are so much better when you read them for free from the library, but what about mediocre comics you valued at an earlier age?

What about ones that feature characters whose longevity seems baffling?  Characters who you had assumed would have died with your dreams of a better life but who will soon be starring in their own movie at a cinema near you?  What about bloody Deadpool?

Deadpool, #2-11, by Ed McGuinnes, Joe Kelly and various

I have teenage X-Men damage and I enjoyed these stories a lot the first time round, but this material is as dated now as a ’60s Marvel comic and with a lot less dynamic force behind it…

Sleeping Dogs – Cabal Press 2015 – written by Fraser Campbell, drawn by Lautaro Capristo, coloured by David B. Cooper and lettered by Colin Bell.

“One reads so few comics that are truly juvenile, knowingly juvenile and proud of it” - is that true? If not, why did it hit me with the force of a thousand failed understandings when my pal Plok said it, in relation to Millar/Hitch’s work on The Ultimates?

If it’s not true, why does it feel that way? Is it because I’m disconnected from my more juvenile instincts now that I’m a high-faluting comics critic on the internet, or is it just that I don’t encounter comics that play to my own juvenile tastes that often these days? Having read Sleeping Dogs, I’m starting to think that the latter might be the case.

It knows that it’s a bit crude, Sleeping Dogs, which isn’t to say that it’s particularly gross or shlocky in comparison to fairly mainstream things like, say, Takeshi Miike movies or Mark Millar’s creator owned comics and their Hollywood adaptations. You don’t get the feeling that Campbell, Capristo and co are trying too hard to shock you or that they’re fundamentally damaged in some way when you’re reading Sleeping Dogs, but it has a rude energy to it. It reminds me of Philip Bond comics, of Garth Ennis when he’s almost-but-not-quite being too much of a piss-taking arsehole, of a million silly alternative roads for British comics that could have been well-stomped post-2000AD and post-Deadline but which are perhaps a little more neglected than they could be.

It’s tempting for me to overdo this UK comics connection, so strong is the appeal of this book’s big faced hardmen to me…

…but for all that the shabby locale (a run-down tower block) and the clipped, action movie patter put me in mind of those comics, it’s worth remembering that Capristo is Argentinian. I know little of the man or his work, let alone of his living environment, but I think I know what he likes in his comics and I like it too.

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Material #1-4: Breaking Free

October 28th, 2015

A few thoughts on Material, a prematurely cancelled comic by Will Tempest, Tom Muller, Ales Kot and Clayton Cowles that feels like it’s worth not just reading but talking about – and maybe even continuing?


Like so much contemporary mass media, Material  seemed aware of its readers’ ability to act as biocapitalist broadcasting stations, trusting that they would work harder and smarter than Image comics’ marketing department – that its readers would talk about it on podcasts, write essays, send enthusiastic tweets, anything to try and share the experience of it. Its methods of going about this was somewhat obvious but effective: the comic lectured you, provided prompts for further reading, tried to link scenes in the comic to other texts, be they topical text pieces in the back of the comic or the names and references scattered in the margins.

Even while it was still being published, then, Material seemed to revel in its status as an incomplete text. The art echoed this approach, with with Will Tempest’s none-more-loose linework held together almost entirely by the carefully coded block colouring.  It looked and felt like work-in-progress, and with the action currently suspended, its characters’ lives have that feeling too.

Everything in this book is material for the reader; the question is, how much work do you want to put in?  How much do you want to let Material work with you?

As I’ve already said, by publicly engaging with the comic we become part of the marketing scheme, “self-facilitating media nodes” or some such Barley-bollocks.  Is that all there is to it though?  Value is fundamental to the idea of currency of course, and when you’re offering up cash on the promise of receiving a worthwhile experience it’s doubly hard to disentangle financial motives from your response, but that doesn’t mean that we should give in to the tautological worldview that says since everything can be sold it is best judged by its commercial worth.

Material‘s current status gives us pause to consider this question, temporarily free from questions of cash money and how to spend it.  It brings the other questions of trust – is this going anywhere?  is it just wearing the raw tragedy of the moment like a shiny new suit? – into the foreground.

All you need to spend right now is a little bit of time.

Flashback to… The Ultimates!

October 22nd, 2015

What I like best in art – and I like loads of stuff, I like jokes that I can’t help but laugh at, I like being able to just fucking marvel at someone doing something that seems impossible, I like that moment when something that didn’t seem like it could possibly come together does, and so on – is being put into difficulty.  Not in terms of being faced with something that’s hard to watch/read/look at/listen to necessarily, more in that I like it when I’m made to confront something that I can’t easily resolve or ignore or explain away.

The Millar/Hitch Ultimates doesn’t look like the most promising territory for this sort of experience, and for the most part that’s true. It’s probably the last Mark Millar comic I was able to enjoy without vomiting up qualifiers, and it definitely represents the last point where Bryan Hitch’s artwork looked good to my eyes, but if I like it at all then I like it in a fairly breezy way.  I laugh at the crude bits, I follow the fight scenes, I enjoy the brash, bratty character beats, and all of this is good.

The point of difficulty, for me, the point where I find myself getting really tangled up in the book, involves a cameo by the man who was President of the United States of America at the time the story was published:


Beast Wagon #1, by Owen Michael Johnson, John Pearson, Colin Bell, and Gavin James-Weir (Changeling Studios, 2015)

I have no idea what this comic is. I cannot it read it. It renders reading impossible. What is that smell? No, that’s too kind a word for it. Stench is too florid, too learned. This comic doesn’t smell, it hums. Is it glue? My mind tells me that it must be, glue or something like it, some aspect of the binding.

It’s not the staples though, staples could never smell like this. It’s the glue. That’s what my brain tells me, but there’s another reaction, a deeper one. Probably just a different function of the brain. Definitely that. And yet it also feels like it’s a function of the body. I know, I know, all parts of the same system, but it’s like hearing a lion scream at you in the zoo: you know there are physical and social constraints preventing the brute from eviscerating you but part of you is still howling to run!

It’s only a comic, just a mess of words and pictures on the page, just paper and ink. Ink doesn’t smell like this, does it?  Probably not even if you use it wrong. No, I can’t read it, I want to get rid of it, I need to get it out of my house, need to wash the smell of it off me.

I think this comic is planning to kill me.


Fight Club 2 #1, by Cameron Stewart and Chuck Palahniuk (Dark Horse, 2015)

Dear Mister Attack,

You will be unsurprised to hear that WOLF EMOTIONS was giving the new Fight Club comic the hard sell in the shop the other day. Apparently Cameron Stewart is coming in for a signing, in theory he’s only going to sign copies of Fight Club 2 but I’m sure we could get him to stretch to some Batman underpants if we ask nicely.

Probably best to take them off and wash them before we make the request, mind.

Anyway, the comic itself is pretty much as you’d expect given who’s involved. If the book worked like a generational confession that was just novelistic enough to cast doubt on its own world view, and if the movie existed in a more open sort of conflict with itself due to the fact that it couldn’t help but try to sell you Brad Pitts by the box-load, then this represents the final triumph of Fight Club as product.

It’s a sequel so that might seem like a statement of the obvious, but just like Buzzfeed and Vice are made more evil by the fact that they publish some genuinely worthwhile stuff, the fact that this is an actual comic – worse, that it threatens to turn into a genuine collaboration – just makes it worse and more obvious. I could feel Eddie Campbell getting eggy over my shoulder while I read it, the pair of us getting increasingly fucked off with the surface level tricks, the scattered pills and petals that obscure faces and dialogue throughout.

You could even argue that the comic acknowledges its readership, gives them a twisted identification figure in the form of Marla, so horny for the destructive thrills of the source material – because this does not feel so much like a continuation as it does part of an extended universe, like Kieron Gillen writing what Darth Vader did on his holidays – that she doesn’t give a shit what feeding that monster brings,  GamerGate: The Musical, Before Fight Club, the immolation of her own flesh and blood, whatever.

It’s still all very cleverly done, of course, but even that calls back to one of the movie’s more resonant exchanges:

How’s that working out for you… being clever?


So, this is a serious item. Material is, what’s it coming out fortnightly? I could look, sometimes it’s fun to have a conversation like you’re not a robot, too. It doesn’t look like something that belongs in comic shops, it just doesn’t.

It’s frill-less, raw, politically engaged, arch, brash, ripped from the headlines, you know?

Multiversity Guidebook #1, by Grant Morrison, Marcus To, Paulo Siqueira and a cast of thousands

This is where I part ways with most of my fellow Mindless: they felt the old thrill while reading the Multiversity Guidebook, with its comic book creation myth and its parade of endless (if by “endless” you mean fifty two) alternative worlds, whereas I mostly just felt exhausted.

It’s a clever mix of marketing material, series bible and actual story, and obvious as it might have been the “dark secret” at the heart of the universe with the Chibi superheroes still reinforced the series’ running theme of how shit it is to be confronted with your own fundamental nature. You could even read the list of junked pitches, elseworlds, prestige comics and parallel worlds that form the centrepiece as a critique, if you were so inclined.  As Marc Singer noted in his clipped and clear-headed review of the comic, some of these entries are quietly scathing, and someone with the right (as in “correct”? -Ed) biases could certainly read this endless parade of Batmen and Wonder Women as a critique of capitalism’s frantic grasping (“Empty is thy hand”) and ability to reduce complexity to a series of easily recognisable products.

Is that really enough though? Not for me. The “Guidebook” section of this comic reminded me most of all of Gary R. R. Lactus’ Time of Crowns (with its endless list of medieval clans, “with their tits out”) and the end credits of 22 Jump Street, but it’s neither as succinct as the former nor as merciless as the latter – in the end, it’s just business as usual.

Click here for more on the Guidebook plus Multiversity: Mastermen and James Robinson’s Earth 2!

It’s been something of a strange couple of weeks, which has ranged from various incidents, both little and large.  From a suddenly positive change in job security, to a negative change in job security, to discovering a co-worker dropped dead at the weekend, to the dropping of The Zero Theorem into cinemas.

Mister Attack caught a sneaky glimpse up the skirt of the abyss, and it made him feel…