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.