No brains out of 5.

hellblazer266Hellblazer #266 by Peter Milligan and Simon Bisley

The Conservatives are coming!

Those words, the most truly terrifying any Briton with aspirations to humanity can possibly hear, are the impeccably timed coda to this, Migs’n’Biz’s latest 2-part shockah. It’s really quite brilliant, as near to the platonic ideal for a Hellblazer comic as you’re going to get, ever. Constantine as an aging occult chameleon, dusting off the punk character armour for one last (we pray) acid gob in the face of the oldest enemy. As a route to permanent rejuvenation of the character it’s quite promising, get him out of that nasty old mac (because they’re becoming in a left-bank kind of way quite fashionable again) and into dandy of the underworld drag rags, psychic hazmat suits for dangerous experiments in deep topography, strangling resurgent NFluent monsters back into death with a feather boa around the throat. A shame then that the issue ends with a disavowal of all that, rejecting that studenty activist ponce-sense, in favour of brass tacks Mirror-reading cynicism, the whirl of the 21st century now reasserting itself over the recurrent malignancies of the recent past, next month’s mortgage, that bloody big TV and the right to a sane, secure self the only political imperatives. Ultimately Constantine, old and broken many times over, bottles it like the Reading crowd watching Fiddy Cent. We can forgive him though, his return to self-contemplation, chipping ash into his navel, because next month:

Shade. Yip!

joetheb4Joe the Barbarian #4 by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy

How to Doom Patrol for kids: There’s a moment where the crazy-talking horse-skull doctor takes her head off, oh no it’s just a helmet after all, these are real things, with romance and heartache and everything. Grounding this kind of fantasy, creating that instant sustainable ecology of verisimilitude, or the failure thereof, is why I rarely like this kind of thing. Yes yes, but what do the flying monkeys do when they’re not chasing Dorothy? Who cleans out the poo? Who fetches the bananas and irons the red jackets? I shouldn’t care, but I do. Morrison does a trick here as smart and seemingly effortless, and oddly isomorphic to Murphy’s drawings – something suspended in the middle, and coming in from the left – creating a sympathetic reality for these unsugary hallucinations with a few simple lines of dialogue. It works as well as the close figuring of the house with Joe’s interior landscape, the physical structure of the house above the ground beneath your feet becoming, and this is probably the point, more and more an echo of the mind, instead of the widely assumed reverse. Joe’s physicality is stretching towards death (though not towards non-being – those emphasised Malkuth crosses and the implied grey meat below them in issue 1 are becoming more meaningful the further we get from them), and the psyche is swelling to fill the absences left behind by the retreating sensory world, asserting itself as the quasi-totality we too often ignore.

Suggest coming back to Joe the Barbarian in a year or so and looking at it very, very closely. It’s the new The Filth, and you heard that here first.

nemesis1Nemesis #1 by Mark Millar and Steve Austin, or someone.

Mark Millar, apologies to those of you who’ve heard me say this elsewhere recently, does ideas that are so obvious no-one else would be ballsy enough to do them. And does them. And becomes, rich, famous, stunningly handsome. So he rips off Fantomasmex, quite possibly inspired by the neat, old-skool supercop v. supervillain dynamic plot-core of the Death Note global pan-media sensation (subtracting the emoic supernaturality of it along the way), and adds his usual Bruckheimer-plus gloss. This, let the naysayers say nay elsewhere, I have no time for them right now, is a damn fine idea, and done with Millar’s usual assurance could be the action spectacle of this fighty new decade. Usual assurance? Have you drunk a dirty pint, one with that nast pipe-cleaning agent taste in it, this week? Why yes I have actually, and you are right. The usual assurance is actually wild tonal inconsistency, where we go from ultraslick, neatly timed and sharply executed super-action staging to an unfortunate (yes inevitable, the sanity in me says) tip towards the bathetic in the last handful of pages.

The thing is, a world where the President gets captured and executed on TV is a world I want to read about, but that world instantly becomes more interesting than the Diabolik rehash, and requires a different finesse, a whole different genre even, to explore. I would happily read the neo-cape dastard story, and I would happily read about the world where the superpower’s power is eclipsed by a strange and special loner. But I just know, because I have been thrilling myself off over Mr Millar’s comics for an embarrassingly long time, that he will not be able to pull off both books at once. This neat idea becomes a crap, overpriced prize, like the ones you win, several squid later, on the pier. They’re not kite-marked for safety you know, keep away from the children.

Steve McNiven, not Austin that’s it. Steve Austin’s that wrestler, that’s right.

Or (Hey!) was I more right before (Eh Readers?)

whowontwieldcapsshieldWho Won’t Wield Captain America’s Shield? By Matt Fraction and Brendan McCarthy
(I mean, and some other guys too – good luck to you if you were able to read the Forbush Man and Deadpool stories. Write a review of them or something, let me know how they went.)

Did you know: References to The Professionals or Jamie and his Magic Torch or Crystal Tips and Alister or Dempsey and Makepeace or kebab shops or Bernard Matthews or The Milky Bar Kid or Rothmans Royals or the Daily Star or Spangles or Razzle or all the rest of it, you know what I mean, old telly of the analogue variety and/or what we might call ‘newsagent culture’?

None. Pas une sniff. This, with heavy heart, is the most surprising thing about this comic. A nation mourns, for all sorts of reasons.

The problem is analogous, I suppose, to the challenges faced by wannabe comedians in the very early 1990s, faced with the looming spectres of Eddie izzard’s raised by wolves and monkey is in the tree sketches, and a nation chortling uncontrollably to the mere words ‘What’s on the end of the stick, Vic?’ The astute aspirant would perhaps – no blame to him for this, by the way, totally understandable – internalise the surface tics and quirks, the ‘random’ and ‘surreal’ elements, and try to reproduce them for the audience now begging for more of the same. But the funny, that sort of funny anyway, just wasn’t in their bones. They could fake it, and secrete mucal quids of fame and money from it, but it wasn’t really there. I remember there were plenty of them, in real life, stand-ups whose stories just trailed into forgettable incoherence who were all…
and then tried to redeem themselves by going ‘Remember The Banana Splits? Weren’t they weird?’ I do something similar myself now, and all over this review post.

Did you see what I did there? I’m not sure if I really did do it actually, it was a last-minute idea, just…

Intertextual. Self referential. Meta. Irony. Lolkittenz. The full pomo arsenal brought to bear. The result?


‘The art looked nice!’ he smiled, weakly. ‘They call this style “Vote-Fi!”’

To the streets, Kumrades! Remember Athens! Remember Alderaan!

(written by Bobsy, shame, posted by someone else, thanks)

53 Responses to “Election Night Reviews Special – Hellblazer #266, Joe the Barbarian #4, Nemesis #1, Who Won’t Wield Captain America’s Shield”

  1. Bill Reed Says:

    Disappointing? Hell no. Finally, Fraction realized all that post-Casanova potential in a Marvel comic, and McCarthy is, as always, McCarthy. It was the most fun six or seven pages this month, and Atomic Robo came out this month! That’s some fun.

  2. Faisal Says:

    I agree with Bill! But I also agree with Zom!

    I am so, so lost…

    Someone help…

  3. Faisal Says:

    Erm, Bobsy!

    see how lost i am.

  4. Zom Says:

    I thought that Captain America thing was arse.

  5. Zom Says:

    …I pretty much entirely agree with Bobsy’s assessment.

    Also, having the work self-consciously describe itself in big glowing letters as “glo-fi” is just prescriptive, hamfisted and irritating.

  6. amypoodle Says:

    i think writers like fraction do this thing that’s symbolic of FUN, but isn’t actually, when it gets down to it, the FUN itself. maps… territories…

  7. It Burns Says:

    Have y’all checked out Spiderman: Fever? It’s that McCarthy Spiderman/Dr. Strange book. Two issues out so far.

  8. The Satrap Says:


    The moment you read things like “…the impeccably timed coda to this, Migs’n’Biz’s latest 2-part shockah”, you know it’s Bobsy, hiding cravenly behind Zom’s good name.

    Month in, month out, “Hellblazer” is a dependably good read, isn’t it? I think I may have a –self referential, intertextual, ironic– crush on Epiphany. I’m such a –meta– loser.

    I haven’t got my weekly batch of comics yet, but this blurb, by Mr. Fr-action! hisself:

    “Dr. Stephen Rogers, transformed by the Super-Satan formula into the pentagram-bespangled sentinel of the arcane, Doctor America. On behalf of the Undergovernment he goes mano eeeee mano with Richard Milhous Manson, aka the sinister Red Dick, and his genocidal assistant Bebe Rebeyonder to save the soul of the swinging, sinister, ’60s…”

    is exactly why I don’t like his comics that much. He does not say, “you know, Ditko and Steranko, the psychedelia, that stuff Mccarthy can do in his sleep, you got that with a side order of Captain America, this time”. Instead, he spells out very carefully just how awesome his pastiche is going to be. At least when Morrison gives a bullshit interview he mostly teases the reader, tries to intrigue. Fraction just rattles off the list of boxes he’s been checking on his po-mo connoisseur scorecard.


  9. The Satrap Says:

    BTW, let me extend my condolences to all Britons over the election results. Pity about the Libdems. At least it’s a hung parliament, although this could prove to be a liability in these days of financial turmoil.

  10. The Satrap Says:

    Also, and just to finish this short burst of posts –it’s Friday, people get excited at the prospect of spending the next 48 hours in a drunken haze, please be lenient oh M.O’s– thanks for the Sun cover, I wasn’t aware of it. It’s appropriate in a way, for the imagery of the Obama campaign to be co-opted by Rupert Murdoch’s attack dogs. After all, “change we can believe in” doesn’t seem to amount to much, now does it.

  11. Zom Says:

    Welcome back, Trappers. Always nice to have you around.

    I don’t think Fraction means to be condescending. His heart, I would contend, is in the right place, I just wish I enjoyed his comics more than I do. They hint at brilliant things, but they seldom deliver anything much, IMO.

    Gotta say, art aside I really didn’t like Fever either. McCarthy just doesn’t write anywhere near as well as he draws.

  12. It Burns Says:

    He seems to have a good idea. The storytelling is a bit too stiff though. I’m betting that most complaints (present company excluded) will be drowned out by the art, which is really exciting and different compared to your avg. Marvel book.

    My one defense is that Pugly and Fetch Doggy Fetch made me giggle.

  13. The Beast Must Die Says:

    If you think McCarthy can’t write as well as he draws, you need to read Solo 12 again. I think Fever is deliberately written in an old school fashion. Maybe that’s a bit passe but I like the simple cosmic fun of it all.

  14. Zom Says:

    Maybe McCarthy can write, maybe he can write certain things, maybe he wrote something uncharacteristically good in Solo 12, maybe he’s just inconsistent. Whatever, I do think that fever is bad. Not old skool. Bad.

    I should probably get into why but I’m using an onscreen keyboard because my laptop’s keyboard is fucked, and it’s all rather slow and annoying.

    Admittedly I haven’t HARRAH read the second ish HARRAH HARRAH.

  15. Zom Says:

    …Now I worried that I’m being unfair…

  16. It Burns Says:

    The actual “writing” as in words on the page doesn’t bother me. But there seem to be too many spots where the flow is interupted by art-explaining captions or dialogue.

    I second Solo 12 as bonerific.

  17. It Burns Says:

    Bonerific being good in this case.

  18. The Satrap Says:

    I’ve only read the first issue of “Fever” — the other is in the mail, in a batch that includes all the titles under consideration here except the Millarporn– and I had some problems with the writing too. I think Strange does not utter a single line of dialogue that isn’t clumsy exposition. Under Stan Lee, at least he got to say “by the Vishanti!” every now and again, which I guess is “oh shit!” for the magic(k)ally proficient. Otherwise, the whole thing feels weightless, and not in a good way. The key moment in the plot, which is kind of critical to get right because the issue is all set-up, is when the spider things intrude upon our reality thanks to Stephen’s dubious purchases on Ebay, and it’s only announced by a flaccid “I was careless.” Without exclamation marks !!!!!!!!!

    Solo #12 was good, indeed. It probably benefitted from the fact that it was short stories, vignettes and cut-ups and other assorted cutting edge stuff from the 50′s. In a more conventional, three-act story, the art cannot do all the heavy lifting and the stilted dialogue grates more.

    Or maybe it’s just that Solo was more unadulterated McCarthy, while “Fever” is a simple homage to Ditko.

  19. chiappini Says:


    Shame to see conservative Britons are just as gullible as liberal Americans when it comes to the whole “hope and change” propaganda.

    What’s that? Oh you still believe in the false left/right paradigm? That’s adorable. Conservative Britons hoping that their man Cam will “get the country back on the right track” are just as sad and typical as any quasi-thoughtful pop culture artifact is that, like the Hellblazer story, puts all the blame on the right-wing.

    Expect nothing more than cosmetic changes in the UK. But expect every little cosmetic change to be overblown in the press, so much so that you’ll think the train of events isn’t proceeding in the same exact way it’s been proceeding. Because we’ve all seen how Obama has ended Bush’s wars, haven’t we? Oh yes. And, on the other hand, government only started to grow wildly under Obama–Bush didn’t foster an expansion of gov’t bureaucracy at all. Nah.

    Now turn back to whatever fiction is given to you (Fox News broadcast or Hellblazer comic, it doesn’t matter), written by deluded people still living under false ideologies where “right” and “left” are “VERY different”!

  20. chiappini Says:

    By the way, I’m SO SOORRY if I “OFFENDED” anyone! Wouldn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable!

    And also, in a way, I actually support ALL these politicians. They’re great actors and the people behind them do a great job of herding the masses. These people DO earn the right to lord over humanity. I accept that. I’m honestly not even a malcontent about any of this, really. They deserve to rule.

    And the people deserve to get misled and screwed over, again and again and again. An alien looking down at the voters might actually be a bit shocked that the people of Earth don’t catch on to these scams after a while, after generation after generation sees the whole phony “left vs right” professional wrestling circuit go on and on and on. But…most of the people never really do catch on. They’re too gullible and they’re too cowardly to consider the implications of this stuff being–by and large, aside from cosmetic differences–a scam. Because that would mean they’d have to think for themselves, and toss aside all the pop culture garbage (including the mass media, by the way) that has reinforced this false dialectic to them their entire life. People also really enjoy feeling the stupid pride that comes with being on the “correct” side, and as can be seen so often, they LOVE HATING their fellow citizens who are fooled by the other side.

    But really, when you move beyond this, you don’t feel any egotism or pride about actually knowing more than the voters do. No. Instead you just feel really frustrated and sad for humanity. You try to wake them up sometimes, but it never really works. So the elite really do deserve to rule, and on that point I really admire them.

  21. The Beast Must Die Says:

    Wow. Please stop by and patronise us again.

  22. It Burns Says:

    So…are you planning to run for office, Chiappini, or…

  23. The Satrap Says:


    It seems you’re a bright young person –a man, in all likelihood– who’s still in the “I found out something very important about the world and I have to be loud about it” stage.

    I wouldn’t say that people aren’t aware that the right/left dichotomy in modern democracies is largely bogus. Or that “democracy” is reduced to political football with elections every four years, for that matter. You may have heard such things as “Bushama”, “New Labour is Thatcherism with a smile” and so on.

    However, the fact that the mainstream political parties in modern democracies are not too different, that they tacitly subscribe to a set of consensual policies, does not mean that those policies do not fall somewhere along a right/left spectrum. They do, quite neatly, the prevailing consensus of our age is clearly right-wing, more right-wing than it was, say, in the sixties.

    (And it is right-wing, even if, precisely because it does involve a growingly incestuous relationship between corporate interests and the state. I suspect you may have glibertarian tendencies, but we’ll leave the issue of why it is sheer idiocy to call the bank bailouts “socialism” for another post, if you don’t mind).

    So, when a “Hellblazer” screams “the Conservatives are coming” it is less a warning of impending doom than an exasperated expression of the fact that we’re as doomed as yesterday. Or perhaps a bit more, even.

    I don’t know, but the fact that the two main characters of this series are an unprincipled survival artist and the pampered daughter of a gangster may be a hint that the comic is not entirely unaware of the fact that leaning left does not amount to much these days.

    Bobsy is quite clear here, methinks:

    “…the issue ends with a disavowal of all that, rejecting that studenty activist ponce-sense, in favour of brass tacks Mirror-reading cynicism, the whirl of the 21st century now reasserting itself over the recurrent malignancies of the recent past, next month’s mortgage, that bloody big TV and the right to a sane, secure self the only political imperatives. Ultimately Constantine, old and broken many times over, bottles it like the Reading crowd watching Fiddy Cent.”

    And he certainly realises that the satire cuts close to home, that’s why it’s easy to “forgive him though, his return to self-contemplation, chipping ash into his navel, because next month: Shade. Yip!”

    At any rate, even if the literal-minded is to think that “Hellblazer” is Vertigo’s answer to Glenn Beck, it is considerably funnier.

    The only issue I may have with the comic is that it’s so caught up in its English/Britishness, specifically in that it seems to subscribe to the article of faith that it was Maggie’s crowd that changed the face of Britain, established the prevailing consensus, zeitgeist. This is of a piece with your hard-on about all-powerful elites that manipulate the sheeple (a strong indication that we have glibertarian, here). I think that Ronnie and Maggie just happened to be at the right place and at the right time to be regarded as epoch-making politicians. But the epoch was being made in Den Xiaoping’s China, in India and the crumbling communist block –newsflash: Ronnie did not “defeat communism”, it fell on its own dead weight– with reforms that altered the most fundamental parameter of social relations, on a global scale: the relative strength of capital and labour.

    (Digression: the fact that glibertarian “outsiders” are children of our zeitgeist is that they couldn’t fantasize about responding to recessions by simply “liquidating labour, liquidating stocks, liquidating the farmers, liquidating real estate” if labour weren’t so docile in this, the age of offshoring and globar wage arbitrage).

    The comic does try to come to grips with the issue of the relevance of nationhood, in the “India” storyline. Everybody goes on about the difference between London and Mumbai, the different mindsets associated therewith, and yet everybody behaves like a schmuck and the villain is a British chauvinist who looks like Krishna on a bad hair day. This is not a comic that invites us to take the characters at their word.

  24. The Satrap Says:

    Note to self: it is a fact that you are overly fond of the word “fact”.

  25. Zom Says:

    Thanks for doing the heavy lifting, Traps.

    Chiappini, please try and keep in mind, as a life rule, that smart people might actually have thought through a lot of this stuff for themselves – in fact might have spent years occupying a similar philosophical space to your own, before, you know, moving on…

  26. Smitty Says:

    I’ve said it before and I will again: someone’s misty eyed and romantic tommorow is also someone’s cold cup of coffee yesterday. Will be picking up some comics out of all this. Thanks!

  27. Faisal Says:

    I’m curious about your mindless stories.

    anonymity be damned.

  28. Zom Says:

    Easy for you to say!

  29. General 'Wicked Uh Wicked' Levy Says:


  30. Alan Says:


    I’m only joking – the chap above doesn’t seem to be the RonPaulAlexJones sort, but he’s close enough in his myopic and bathetic oh-so-above-it.

    We’ve come a long way – it used to at least be PepsiXCoke one would make fun of to poke at false dualities (and try to repeat the formula to the macro issues and to unexamined presumptions in the micro – coke vs pepsi, pepsi/coke vs sprite, soda vs juice, liquids vs solid, candidates, parties, institutional matters, the nation state, larger structural systemic issues, the corporation, family-school-church-military-market, alternatives to capital, the lingering anchors inside socialism and anarchism, the spectacle etc, Ontological and metaphysical dualities etc). Now all we got is “google Ron Paul” and its diluted fascist cousins, Beck and everything to the right of nanny-gobmint-fearin’ Tories (no tyrannical nannies! Prison guards of liberty for all!).

    Now it’s not even Coke-in-bottle X Coke-in-can (don’t you fucking dare to even mention a glass bottle, commie hippie pinko fag! we’re serious here!). It’s just coke-in-a-can in the two competing glass cups — and the “generation next” (“OFFENDED”! oh YEEEEAAH! You go, you maverick you!) now proposes a revolution of (get this, sheeple!) the unique plastic cup (it’s fatter so there’ll be more of it! Whatya mean “it’s much shorter, still one can and still coke?”) as the TOTALLY ABOVE THE FALSE DUALITY.

    A can. It’s you, mate, talking to the sheeple mirror.
    Yes, you can.

  31. tymbus Says:

    And I thought I was a cynical old git. You know sometimes even small differences between political parties can make a difference. Even in terms of the mass media there’s a world of difference between a hate generator such as the Daily Mail and the social concern expressed in THe Daily Mirror. Maybe its all political rhetoric, but as creatures of culture the rhetoric matters and has its own affect. The Blair generation, yes I am that old, have to an extent been spoiled. Welcome to a new decade of mass unemployment, ghost towns, impovershed lives, riots, wasted generations etc. And rest assured you will be blamed. Made redundent? Its your fault. Sick? Should have private insurance. Enjoy!

  32. Anonymous Says:

    i like the stilted dialogue in Fever.
    it’s like a puppet show.
    if they spoke naturalistically i’d be wondering about their other other goofy traits.
    i mean, think about what those characters are,
    look at the cunts.
    they do not need to seem real or be well written.
    bring on the custard!

    Fraction’s over-egged nostalgia-spasm grates.
    might as well be an in-house hand-out.
    fuckin superb artwork tho.
    and McCarthy can jolly well call it glo-fi if he wants to.
    he likes the word, it means something to him, and he is an arteest, d’accord.

  33. The Satrap Says:

    The problem is not that the dialogue is not “naturalistic”, the problem is that it’s inexpressive and dull, in stark, markedly incongruous contrast to the art which –we all agree on that, at least– is the usual generous helping of shiznit.

    Over the years, many writers have steered clear of the kind of dialogue that used to characterise the likes of Thor or the Silver Surfer. But Strange, with his shades of the seraphim and bands of Cyttorak and rings of Raggadorr and hoary hosts of Hoggoth, Strange should still be able to talk a florid line of shit.

  34. amypoodle Says:

    annymous: hello, yawn! heven’t heard those stacatto tones in some time!

  35. Zom Says:

    What Satrap said, Yawn.

    Plus it was almost certainly Fraction who wanted glo-fi written all over the strip, but either way ham+fist=fact

  36. Tucker Stone Says:

    Wield The Shield was a piece of shit.

  37. David Says:

    The “glo-fi production” bit was just so much tomato ketchup on a raw, juicy steak yes. Why anyone thought it was necessary, I’ll never know.

    Same goes for Fraction’s script. I like him & I think the second series of Casanova came close to synthesising his obvious enthusiasm into actual art, but this was like having all of his worst traits poured down yr throat. Which is real shame because Jesus-fuck-buggering-crikey, JUST LET ME EAT THE MEAT!!

    Having read the rest of that Who Won’t Wield The Shield comic, I really wish I could unread it – the smug wankery of the framing story made Fraction’s script seem like the some tasty old Kirby classic. (For those about to diss the King’s sumptuous scripting style — DON’T!!)

    Talking of tasty tricks, I’m broadly pro-Fever – it looks like like Rogan Gosh, but it’s actually a nice plate of mince’n’tatties in disguise. I think that’s why I find the dialogue amusing rather than annoying, because the whole thing’s both a guilt-addled trip to fuckybambooboo AND just “business as usual” for Doctor Strange. The declaratory exposition plays on this quite nicely, I think, but I get why it grates for some.

    Then again, as yer man Duncan said on twitter “I don’t think I will ever see Spider-Man do anything better than exit the Daathian portal and walk over a thousand chitinous corpses to kill”.

    So: not anywhere near as good as McCarthy’s Solo issue, but I’m still enjoying it, basically.

  38. Zom Says:

    I haven’t read the second volume of Casanova because the first one put me off. I honestly hate hating on Fraction, but I just can’t help it – he pretty much sums up everything I don’t like about the term joycore.

  39. The Satrap Says:

    …just “business as usual” for Doctor Strange…

    See, that’s precisely the thing. The moment you have something larger than life like the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth (or former sorcerer supreme, or whatever) stuck in a “business as usual” rut, is the moment you have to make an effort to freshen things up a bit.

    I have a theory, and it is that Strange is one of the characters that has suffered the most from the slow, painful transition of Marvel from an expansive collection of stories –note how I avoid the term “universe”– to a self-reflective, masturbatory one. Strange can still say “by the moons of Munnopor”, and I’m sure he must have visited them in a Roy Thomas comic, but if he were to add something like “by the seventh arm of Nefagaleth the Guileless” (or maybe, “the Beguiling”) to his collection of interjections, that would not go down well. I mean, really, what are those uppity writers thinking, trying to “leave their mark” on such venerable franchises.

    I have another, better theory, and it is that Strange incarnates the attitude of “spiritual materialism” which draws so many people to magic(k) and tantra and shit like that in the hopes of gaining personal power and skillz. This is why, when he’s not a plot device that spouts exposition, Strange is generally presented as a blasé rentier.

    (Needless digression: “spiritual materialism” is an accusation that is often leveled at westerners, but it’s a fairly timeless concern. Whenever an avatar of Vishnu has to tangle with a daemon who’s bloated with power after having spent an aeon or two fasting, he’s battling focus and discipline that’s been put in the service of unsavoury goals).

    Now, I have a firmly non-mystical attitude to life, and strongly suspect that mystics all through the ages have deemed altered states of consciousness to be superior and “true” simply by virtue of their being unusual. This I think is an unexamined assumption which I don’t buy into. However, this does not mean that such states are not worth exploring (even in the highly stylised manner of superhero comics), or that the dangers inherent therein are not a source of interesting conflict.

    Strange shouldn’t be a difficult character to write. His schtick is not that different from Batman’s, really: he should be a wise person trying to cling precariously to sanity amid mind-blasting experiences and unhinged/uncanny/otherworldly foes.

    To be fair to McCarthy, the premise of “Fever” is not bad, and the spider thingies are a simple but effective addition to the mythos, drawn with the usual panache. The bloodlessness of the whole thing undermines it badly, though.

  40. David Says:

    Satrap — Yeah, I get where you’re coming from re: the good Doctor & I mostly agree with you as to how he “should” be handled.

    I just find the contrast between the two characters funny in this one. You’ve got wibbly-wobbly Spider-Man stepping through the portal, chib in hand, forced to get murderous on some primal guilt shit. And then there’s Doc Strange, chilling out and talking plot with those goofy dog guys.

    It’s leaving. Down the drainhole! But it has taken Spider-Man’s soul.”

    Yeah, it’s obvious, but I laughed.

    Mostly, I just like those stupidly creep wee spider baistarts. Like you say, they work well as part of the mythos. Also: HARRAH HARRAH! HARRAH HARRAH!

    Zom — I enjoy Fraction’s work, couldn’t bring myself to hate it even if I do recognise Bobsy’s analogous comedian in there, & even if I don’t think his voice really integrates with his Marvel U work properly.

    S’fair enough, though, you not checking out Casanova vol.2. It’s not that different from vol.1, just more convincing.

    Bobsy — That write-up of Joe the Barbarian #4 was pure dead brilliant by ra way! I’d rushed through issues #3-4 when they came out, hadn’t thought too much of them, but yeah – this!

    Suggest coming back to Joe the Barbarian in a year or so and looking at it very, very closely. It’s the new The Filth, and you heard that here first.”

    Fuck, does that mean I’m going to have to blog myself dry on this one? Probably, because right now it’s got a hold on me. Though that said, you’re not the first to make this suggestion you cheeky wag you.

    Then again, neither was I!

    And yeah, I know, we said “for kids“. Still.

    Sean Murphy is turning out to be one of Morrison’s best collaborators, I think. He doesn’t get to actually talk it all over with the man like Quitely does, and he’s not got the sinister intuition of Cameron Stewart, who draws like he has just spent the day going over the script panel by panel with Morrison.

    Murphy’s good in the the same way that JH Williams is good. It’s almost like he’s trying to outdo Morrison, to see how much he can add to the script before the whole thing overloads. Which works in a book like this, where body and mind are intermingling on the page, the interior and exterior worlds seemingly far-too-detailed to overlap via “the square root of the eye of newt“.

    If I was going to do my usual thing and compare apples to bear-traps I’d say that it works a bit like another one of my current favourites, Owen Pallett’s Heartland. At first it seems like a collection of pretty scenes with a neat high concept, but eventually you realise that hey, those weird little throwaway concepts actually do add up to something!

    On my second read through my ‘Lewis Takes Off His Shirt’ moment came when I got to that bit in #4 where Joe’s getting grumpy & Snood’s trying to cheer him up. That one-panel cutaway to Snood’s dad getting his booze on… it’s broad stuff, but it really pays off because of all the “overzealous obscurantism” its couched in.

    “Though we’re divided, the forces of nature/Will put us all in the ground together” and all that.

    Yeah, I’ll shut up now.

  41. terry Says:

    Yeah, I’m a bit iffy on Fraction’s writing. I thought the Brendan McCarthy drawn Dr America thing had pretty awful writing.
    I love FEVER! WTF are you critics saying here?
    I understood that McCarthy was writing in a 60′s pastiche style, with all that declamatory Stan Lee stuff.
    The second issue improves on the first, which had a lot of set up, but it’s really moving along now. Only one more issue to go though! I’d like to see a new Dr Strange series from McCarthy — I think this is the best version of Dr Strange since the Gene Colan run. And I liked BKV’s The Oath too, but found the art a bit low key. I love how McCarthy totally dives into the surreal Ditko-style dimensions and really celebrates the wigged out craziness of the characters. I thought the writing on Spider-Man was great, the bit in number 2 where the poisoned Spidey breaks down was excellent, especially the use of the old Ditko panel from Spider-Man Number 1.
    Fuck it, but I can’t see much stuff out at the moment that is anywhere near as good and original as this series. I think it’s excellent.
    Joe The Barbarian is good, but this is definitely Grant Morrison writing his “Hollywood movie pitch” storyline. I think it’s pretty good so far, but its presented imaginative world is a bit ‘safe’, sort of PG rated Grant Morrison.

  42. bobsy Says:

    David, must confess part of the reason I wrote that line was to tempt you into blogging your way through the whole series.

    I have very little problem with Fever – haven’t really noticed the problems with the dialogue or anything really. Standard superhero narrative, occasional supporting character quirks, functional speech bubbles, spectacular visuals, all in all perfectly plus good plus.

  43. Anonymous Says:

    that inexpressive dullness is a kind of cool.
    reminds me of paradax.
    “cute kid, have some candy.”
    i like how “i was careless.” has no exclamation mark.
    it’s kind of stoic, pragmatic.
    besides that, the flatness of it just works, for me, as a natural element of the McCarthy style.
    i do think the lettering should be less graphically regular, more hand-done, like in artoons.
    am not into fonts in comics, even if bespoke.

    “yawn” ??
    you don’t have to be rude, just because i don’t agree with you.
    weird. you know you’re on the internet, don’t you?.
    for curiosity’s sake, when did you last hear these “stacatto” tones. (i call it concision, look it up)

    don’t know about fractino, but BMcC has certainly been using the term “glo-fi” in interviews.
    anyhow, i prefer the less digi-fetishist colour in fever #2. better balance, more scrumptious.
    BMcC is so very good with the runny stuff.

  44. Zom Says:

    He’s not being rude, he’s being friendly. He thought you were Yawn, a mindless pal and old Barbelith board member with a *very* similar writing style. I suspect your name sounds a bit more like pie and flan, but I might be wrong.

    Yeah, maybe it was BM’s decision to bung glo-fi in there. Whatever, still felt like being hit by spongy fists of ham – McCarthy should have the courage of his own glo-finess. He’s the glo-fi king.

    You lot are making me want to check out Fever #2, you know. And there was I all resolute and steadfast…

  45. Anonymous Says:

    it’s good, the story moves along nicely, forwards and otherways (waze?) and spidey gets some great accessories.
    (he looks gorgeous at the insect gate)
    i found it more exciting than the first, by far enough.

    sorry, amy, bit of a mix-up.
    silly me. (insert “yeesh” emoticon)

  46. Zom Says:

    Okay, okay, I’ll buy it…

  47. bobsy Says:

    After struggling in my review there to capture the thread of ‘Newsagent Culture’ that heavily flavours McCarthy’s work, look what I should find on Saturday in a gallery mere yards from my house:

    Swifty’s (graf/graph chap who I would doubtless have heard of if I was just that teensy bit more urban) chosen/’found’ ephemera are aroughly a decade earlier than McCarthy’s, and around twenty ears older than my own would be, but the quality of the memory-plex is identical, and, to my relief, an *actual thing* wot them artists explore, not just a misreading of some throwaway details in a few of BM’s comics. Relief. Validation!

    It’s a cool exhibition, one I may be pilfering for birthday presents for chums. Check it out if you’re near.

  48. terry Says:

    Just got my Spidey FEVER 3 and man, I dig that ending… BMc pulled it off and wrapped it up in a bow and now I want MORE. Beautiful and sad and happy at the same time.

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