It must be strange to be in Mogwai, and to read reviews that chastise you for sounding too much and not enough like yourself.  It’s a familiar pattern, but then Mogwai are a familiar band these days.  Perhaps that’s the problem: when they started out with the ten minute songs and the Blur: Are Shite t-shirts and the Bucky rage they were easier to idolise.  Eight albums in, they’re a more difficult journalistic proposition.  As comfortable noise merchants, opinionated men who are adamant that their music carries no pre-determined meaning, purveyors of defiantly mainstream art rock, what exactly are we supposed to make of Mogwai in 2014?

These concerns seem relevant in blog posts and in music magazines, but in the context of January’s show at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall they seemed utterly meaningless, even absurd.  It’s an observation that’s tired enough to seem trite by now, but Mogwai are one of those bands who you really need to see live in order to fully appreciate.  2010′s Special Moves is an excellent simulation of the band’s live dynamics that doubles as a testament to the quality of their later work, but even played at an absurdly high volume it never threatens to capture Mogwai’s true range.

There’s something in the grain of Mogwai’s live show that’s never quite made it onto their records.  It’s in that washed out, trebley guitar sound that starts out sounding like an inner ear itch and then grows until it batters you bodily.  The physical impact of this noise would be near-impossible to recreate without the help of plush PAs like the one in the Concert Hall, but you can hear an echo of it Mogwai’s quieter recorded moments – it haunts Happy Songs for Happy People and provides the undercurrent of barely controlled rage in their soundtrack to Douglas Gordon’s Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, for example.  You can hear it on Rave Tapes too, but what was merely a whispered rumour on the album version of opener ‘Heard About You Last Night’ is screamed loud enough to ruin hairlines and destroy reputations in concert.  

Speaking of damaged reputations, click here if you want to see me do more violence to my own!

Despite my seeming full mental breakdown after the first issue of Transformers: Regeneration One, I held on to my sanity well enough to continue buying it on a monthly basis.  Didn’t take long for a feeling to creep in that, beyond the initial shock, things were maybe… Off the boil? I continued to buy it more out of a sense of nostalgic loyalty than any actual engagement.  After all, who doesn’t want to see the creators of their childhood iconography still get paid, in this crazy work for hire world?

(assuming they haven’t espoused something morally dubious or engaged in something horrible)

PART 1: PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

For Christmas this year I was given the prospect of impending joblessness, a gift that has a fine Dickensian heritage, though unfortunately it’s not Dickens but Shakespeare who has a cameo in the comic at hand:

You don’t need a Shakespearean imagination to understand that redundancy is not the sort of gift I’ve always dreamed of receiving, or to appreciate that it’s not the sort of unwanted gift that you can easily pass on to an unsuspecting relative…

Not that I’m so lacking in compassion for others that I’d *want* to inflict that on anyone else. Even in this post-Monneygeddon age, there’s a limit to what I’m willing to admit in public!

A few weeks ago an alternative version of this present drifted into view, a hot air balloon that looked like it might be capable of taking me somewhere:

Click here to find out exactly where that cheeky chappy there thinks he’s going to take you!

Windowpane #1, by Joe Kessler 

 

There’s a point early on in this comic where you realise that you’re not so much watching characters describe a landscape as watching the landscape try work out how to describe itself. This might seem counter-intuitive but from the end of the first story onward the pattern repeats itself – Joe Kessler’s garish, pastel-hued compositions either  break down into their constituent lines after exhaustive exploration or sit there seemingly unaffected by the words and actions that have passed through them.

The best example of the latter category involves a wet-dream about a pig in a dress, whose fall through the night sky is contrasted against an unflinching cityscape with a moment-by-moment precision that does far better justice to the pithy punchline than this description:

In the former category, the Invisible Cities-derived third strip is as close to definitive as Windowpane gets.  The way it links its characters shared status as splashes of ink and colour on the page with their philosophising about the interconnected nature of reality — “…a cluster of atoms resembles a cluster of galaxies.”/”Well they’re both clusters” – might seem trite in isolation, but the surrounding stories make these philosophical observations feel more like a little bit of texture on a varied landscape.

All of this might  sound a bit chilly and distant, but Kessler’s human figures are depicted with a deceptive sort of ease, as a series of curving lines whose relationships to each other is nevertheless very carefully observed and delineated:

 

Still, in keeping with Kessler’s paradoxical thematic schemata it’s the backgrounds that are the focus here, existing as they do on the precise point where detail blurs into abstraction.  The interaction between text and territory here has a sly kinshsip with Dylan Horrocks writing on maps and comics, and perhaps also with Kevin Huizenga’s conception of the comics page as a place for exploration and discovery, but Kessler’s backgrounds have a forcefulness to them that resists his characters attempts at attaching meaning as much as it encourages them.

This is tricky relationship is most clearly explored in the final two strips.  In  the penultimate entry, words shrink on the page as Kessler depicts his precarious human figures parachuting in to kindle-worthy hillscape:

Thought and language here is reduced to a form of quaint annotation that is far less effective than the blocky symbols that line these panels in terms of providing a guide to this hazardous landscape.

The final story focuses on a burned lover who – uh, *SPOILERS* – tries to find solace in the freak resemblance between a man and a decapitated bull.  It plays out like a sneaky assurance that the process of muck sitting up and looking itself and trying to figure itself out isn’t totally meaningless, but it’s the sort of assurance that’s both underlined and undermined by the fact that,  unlike any given sunset, you know this resemblance was put there to be noticed.

Click here to read about more gud comics on the site that just can’t seem to quit you, no matter how many resolutions it makes!

For the second year running, the Mindless Ones will be hawking their tawdry wares at the Thought Bubble comic convention in Leeds.

We’ll be at table 46 in the recently renamed New Dock Hall, so feel free to stop by for headtouching and pishtalk if you’re at the convention!

Last year’s convention was generally agreed to be one of the best comics related gatherings that Team Mindless had ever attended, so we’re coming team handed this year.

Cick here to find out quite how many hands our team is likely to have!

*and Batwomen, obviously!

As anyone unlucky enough to follow me on twitter will know by now, I was at Dundee Comics Day yesterday with Botswanna Beast, Mister Attack, Ben Deep Space Transmissions and Ben Deep Space Transmissions’ mate (who was lovely, but whose name I never managed to remember for >>> 5 minutes because I am a cock) yesterday.

Comics journalist Laura Sneddon was working at the event too, so Team Mindless had a brief but enjoyable chat with her about The Singing Kettle, which… uh, probably isn’t something you know about outside of Scotland, I guess. I also apparently ignored at least one person I’m twitter friends with, so sorry Dan!

Anyway, Dundee Comics Day has been a fixture of the town’s Literary Festival since 2007, and this year’s event was focused on Grant Morrison and some of his collaborators.  What this meant was that me and the boyce were treated to a solid day’s worth of comics chat, in a setting that was designed to force Mister Attack and myself and especially the Bottie Beast flashbacks back to our time in higher education.

The conversation with Grant Morrison that kicked off the day was entertaining if short on revelation.  There wee a few routines in there that anyone who’s heard Morrison speak more than once in the past decade will probably have heard before (“more space combat!” etc), but the man’s still good company whether he’s discussing why Batman is the only character he keeps coming back to (“because he’s so sexy”) or making my teenage brain melt by mentioning that he’s met with the RZA re: the proposed movie adaptation of Happy!  Of course he would have gained extra points if he’d announced this by saying “Me and the RZA connect”, but so it goes.

During the Q&A part of the event, I asked whether Morrison was interested in writing something set closer to home – if not GRANT MORRISON: THE SCOTTISH CONNECTION, then maybe something close.   Morrison responded by saying that he’d like to write something set in Glasgow, which he reckons would be a good setting for a horror story.  He pointed to Bible John as being the work of his that comes closest to fulfilling this promise, but noted that he  probably won’t get around to doing something else set in his hometown until he’s in his dotage.  Morrison also added that he’d love to play a computer game set in Glasgow so he could drive a car through Princes Square, to which I can only say “I Want To Go To There!”

There was a definite break between Morrison’s panel and everything that followed, and the line between the two parts of the day was exposed when Morrison was asked a question abut the future of comics.  Morrison joked that he’s still hoping that the world is going end in December so there won’t have to be a future of comics, before describing how he reckons that the sort of comics that thrive on the variety of new platforms available to them will almost certainly have evolved to make use of the new dimensions available to them.  This idea was presented enthusiastically, but there was a subtext of melancholy that makes perfect sense when you think about how closely entwined Morrison’s personal iconography is with the physical properties of the comics form:

 

Click here to read more about the event that experts are calling Morrison Con for people who didn’t finish their computing degrees!

I hope you’ll forgive me a little bit of Mindless Self Indulgence here since we’ve already covered the comic in question in some detail, but just try to imagine my surprise when after reading pages and pages full of brilliant, moving stuff about growing older in a world that is indifferent to your bewildered perspective in LoEG Century, I came face-to-face with the young Antichrist and discovered that he was me.

Of course, he was also Harry Potter and Will Stanton and Kevin the Teenager, but as he peeled his way out of the page…

…and started rambling away at our heroes in that deadened voice of his, I began to feel like I was watching myself rip my way through the comic. A spoiled young man raging against the story he’s grown up in?

Fuck! Yeah, okay – guilty as charged!

Mmmmmyesss! Click here to initiate contact with a Mindless antichrist!

This review was fuckin’ tough to write. I mean that. I don’t mean just the usual typing and re-typing a section as you try to nuance a gag or make a point, although that was certainly part of it. No, what it entailed was something of a personal whirlwind akin to the opening of Apocalypse Now, but with less booze and more crying. Sometimes I would pause to reflect on how the fuck I got myself into this state over something so simple, because, really, the actual review was a breeze to write. It was what followed that was the problem.

When Simon Furman and Andrew Wildman announced their desire to resume the story of the Marvel Transformers comic, I have to confess I was curious, but I wasn’t burning to have it with never-ending desire. It did seem odd. Bin Generation 2? That odd beast of a comic with 75% more violent death and one of the most intriguing additions to Furman’s version of the mythology? Also, I’d not long finished catching up with Furman’s IDW run. A decidedly mixed bag that almost dips a toe into becoming brutally sublime when the cancellation kicks in and the steadily increasing pace that marked each limited series suddenly sees the last two issues ramp up into a fucking furious pace. Plot points not so much nailed as roadkilled. A tenuous reminder of the energies of past. Maybe he had the old ways in him, but I for one wasn’t sure.

Click here to find out just how sure of his own regression/regenration one adult can be! In glorious technicolour!

Talking Comics #1

April 1st, 2012

Don’t worry, despite the title, this isn’t an attempt to take on the SILENCE! boys at their own game – if I was trying to do that I would have sabotaged Gary Lactus’ spaceship while he was up visiting me in Scorchland, then suggested myself as a replacement for the podcast while “comforting” The Beast Must Die. What’s the point in playing if you’re not playing to win, right?

Right.

Talking Comics is an attempt to reanimate that stinkiest of walking corpses, the comics review post. Now I could have called in Mister Attack aka The Eurythmic King of Nowhere aka The Boy Fae the Heed aka Flippant She-Creature like I have the last couple of times in the hopes of making these grizzly bones dance, but I decided to place my faith in technology.

So: rather than writing reviews of last week’s comics the old fashioned way, with fists, I decided to speak my brains into twitter via my smart phone and see what happened.  Unfortunately, since I’m a Scottish, and since the Scottish are natural enemies of voice recognition technology, the results are a little scrambled:

Daredevil #10, by Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera, Javier Rodriguez and Joe Carmagna.

See, told ya!

More nonce-sense follows!

Illogical Volume: Okay, so the idea here is that we’re going to do another one of these shit-talky back and forths, this time on DC’s New 52 (I hate the whole Nu52 thing, smells like team Durst), with various diversions into non-DC comics for added flavour.  I don’t know, I guess I’ve just read a veritable CUMPKINLOAD OF COMICS in the last three-and-a-half months and I feel the need to share my thoughts on them with both you and the rest of the world. Do you feel like enabling me big man?

Botswana Beast: Yeah, the nomenclature is – it’s external, it is entirely New Metal (the first music I loved, forefathers: Faith No More, whose cassette album ‘Angel Dust’ was the first by a single band I owned, in fucking Christmas 1991/2, I did have Now 17 before that.) It should have an ümlaut ideally, because comics are nothing if not racist and utterly without taste.

But anyway, yes, I think I have some feelings about comics, still, in my one remaining nerve, the world passes me by in numb shock, but these – well, one can express oneself. Isn’t it wonderful now everyone can express themselves via this technological medium? Wunderbar.

Illogical Volume: FEELINGS ABOUT COMICS ARE THE ONLY TRUE FEELINGS! So long as we can keep that in mind, we should do just fine here…

2000AD Progs 1750 – 1763

If I was writing about 2000AD like The Beast Must Die is was doing for a while there (note to The Beast Must Die: please write about 2000AD again soon!) I’d have the slight problem of wanting to repeat myself every week – there are two strips in here that are regularly worthwhile, you know what they are (Indigo Prime and Judge Dredd) and I can’t think of much to say about the other strips.  Which is just another reason why TBMD >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> me, obviously.

I’d feel like a total dilettante trying to say anything clever about Judge Dredd, so I’ll focus on Indigo Prime right now, which… well, thanks for “making” me buy the Indigo Prime trade at Kapow!, Botswana Beast, because this is so exactly WHAT I WANT that I can’t believe I hadn’t read it all before.

The last strip in Indigo Prime’s previous incarnation, Killing Time, also happened to be the best one. It’s both From Hell as written by a skin-sick sensualist and (thanks to the bulgy brilliance of Chris Weston’s art) a warped precursor to The Filth, which is to say that it’s pretty close to comic book perfection.  This freshly relaunched series doesn’t quite have the same queasy feel to, but that’s okay.  If Killing Time was the blue meat you’d pick up from a bad butcher, these two new stories have had a sort of processed meat feel to them, more like something you’d buy from the local Spar on yr lunch break and instantly regret. Only, you know, good.

Regardless of the exact flavour of meat involved, it (the old and new incarnations of Indigo Prime) is (are) one (two) of my favourites. Yes.

Plus, also, Al Ewing and Brendan McCarthy are going to be working together on a new strip called Zaucer of Zilk for 2K, so you can consider me officially THERE for the New McCarthysim, as always…

Click here for more! An early Xmas Overload awaits, now with extra added Scottish!