Being: the first in a series of posts about John Smith and Edmund Bagwell’s top British horror comic Cradlegrave.

ONE – If you didn’t look past this cover-cum-promotional piece for Cradlegrave, you might think that it was telling a very specific sort of story, the sort of story you might describe as being either “tabloid shit” or “a bit Jamie Delano” depending on which of those two targets was more worthy of disdain.

When I first discussed Cradlegrave back in December, regular comments thread contributor Thrills said he was looking now that he’d got past his concerns that it would “be like that Denise Mina Hellblazer where ‘hoodies’ are ‘demons’.”

Ah, so it’s tabloid shit that smells like Jamie Delano.  The worst of both worlds.  Fuck.

TWO – Despite the fact that the “Fear they Neighbour” text is missing, the cover of the collected edition still aims to make a similar impression:

To my eye, there’s something less real about the four hooded figures in this reformatted cover though.  The overly harsh, pixelated light that gleams off of their shoulders is even more unnatural when set against an all-black background, a background that now seems to expand outwards from the empty spaces where four young faces should be.

These are absent phantoms, not flesh and blood monsters, and while I wouldn’t want to pretend that they’re being deliberately undermined here I still find it hard to imagine anyone taking them seriously.

The only fear in this image is the fear you bring with you, be it fear of “savage” yoofs or of dehumanising right wing rhetoric…

Click here to drink the black milk… IF YOU DARE!

Indigo Batman: Leviathan Prime

February 6th, 2012

1. Endtroducing

Flashback to 2011 and the world is ending. Again. The signs are easy to interpret now, when they require any interpreting at all: a news anchor blathers away on TV,  building up so much expectation that the large hadron collider, suffering from a fit of performance anxiety, unravels and takes reality with it; meanwhile, under the sea in a parallel Earth, an archaic supervillain announces that he has “hung a deadly necklace of deadly meta-bombs around the world like precious pearls; on the internet, or rather in a dated parody of cyberspace that resembles nothing so much as X-Box live for “edgy” business folk, a rapidly mutating program tries to take over everything.

Responses to this are equally typical: standing in a futile crowd beside a fatbalding awkwardman, a disinterested woman holds up a sign informing everyone that “THE END is NIGH!; a bloodied hero crawls forward, trying to save the world again, knowing that all he has to do is push a button, but that even this might be to much for him now; elsewhere, tough men decide to make tough decisions with predictable results.

I’m talking about Batman Incorporated and Indigo Prime here, because they were the two garish fantasies that played best for my (semi-informed, heavily solipsistic) sense of panic throughout 2011, that end of season finale of a year.

After all, if you feel like everything’s falling apart, sometimes it helps to be able dress these feelings up in twisted words and garish costumes instead of focusing on the garbled socio-economic truth.

Spacetime becomes jelly.

The walls of reality buckle and fold.

Higher Dimensions intrude into the supersymmetry.

Dark Matter condenses as worlds collide.

Mmmmm, yeah, that’s the stuff.

Come down with me.

With our gift giving over but spirits still high, Zom pipes up about the problems with continuity using X-Men Regenesis # 1 as a starting point.  Conversation drifts to many areas including DC’s New 52, 2000AD and more, ending with a whole lot of talk about just how great Judge Dredd is.  Speaking of which, here’s a panel by Garth Ennis and Glen Fabry from the Dredd tale, Talkback.

Click to download

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!

Welcome back to my bi-weekly review of the Galaxy’s Greatest/attempt to disprove that you can never go home… For a lengthy rationale for my return to Tharg’s bosom, go read the first post here.

Now let’s get busy with Progs 1752 & 1753…

Hey D’israeli? Nice cover!

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I come to you, a lapsed Squaxx.

I stopped reading the Galaxy’s Greatest in any sort of regularity a long time ago. More than 15 years ago I reckon. That wasn’t always the way though. For a long time 2000AD was the most important comic in my life. I don’t really need to list the reasons – you’ve heard it all before no doubt. English comics fans proudly informing their bored US counterparts that they don’t know shit son, cos they weren’t there. But fucking hell man sometimes it was hard not to gloat – Millligan & Ewins on on the scorching psychedlic war strip Bad Company; Morrison & Yeowell on Zenith;  Mills & O’Neill on the utterly original and frankly just plain crazy Nemesis; Mills & Bisley on the heavy metal nihilism of ABC Warriors; the incredible John Wagner (whose contribution alone to absolute fucking rock solid thrill power for the last 35 years means that, really, we should have a National holiday celebrating the man…); Brendan McCarthy; Mike Fucking McMahon; Bolland, Gibbons; Cam Kennedy’s incredible shattered war torn planetscapes that still absolutely kill it; Brendan McCarthy again; Halo Jones (Alan Moore’s best work, and it is so fuck off and it’s a proper tragedy but also kind of beautiful that it’ll never be finished); John Hicklenton (RIP); DR & Quinch; Big Dave;Dredd’s boots….JOHN MOTHERFUCKING SMITH….

Fuck, I did it anyway. Sorry…

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See you later, Aggro Gator

August 27th, 2009

  • Oh I know he doesn’ t need any more praise but Bryan Lee O’malley’s Scott Pilgrim site rocks as hard as  do all things SP related. You’ve gotta admire the fact that he’s turned himself into a one man franchise without sacrificing any ofthe comics inherent yumminess. If you haven’t read SP yet I presume you have no eyes, in which case you can’t read this which means you can’t see me sticking my fingers up at you. (tbmd)
  • I’ve really been enjoying Hip Hop Isn’t Dead recently. Max’s dedication to slogging through the entire Wu-related back catalogue is particularly rewarding (see: U-God and Cappadonna aka The Cab Driver). I don’t agree with him a lot of the time, but it’s a good site from a man with generally excellent taste in Hip Hop.  (tbmd)
  • Bit of a 2000AD flavour to my online reading this week – starting with Garth Ennis’ first contribution to Rich Johnson’s Bleeding Cool, When 2000AD was the Future. It’s an unabashedly nostalgic birthday tribute to the Galaxy’s Greatest, and although it feels a bit hacked-out, if you don’t get a lump in the throat or pants upon reading his list of standout moments, then, brother, you must have no pants. It’s also interesting for several other reasons – Bleeding Cool has been a bit of lame replacement for the much-missed Lying in the Gutters, having somehow managed to bring out a heretofore unimagined boring streak in Warren Ellis’ online columns, so if it’s giving us regular bulletins from Ennis now (the first time he’ll have done this kind of regular editorialising since, what, the Preacher letters page?) then all to the good. Secondly, funny to note the unfortunate truism ‘2000AD was better when I were a lad’ can be heard coming from even the most level headed industry professionals. Thirdly,  the revealing detail that Ennis does not count 2000AD as a significant influence on his career-best Punisher MAX run, although he does with nearly all of his other, far less essential US work. And finally, the general public acknowledgement of the debt he owes to Tharg, which will seem ironic to anyone who read Wagner’s Dredd story last week and noticed how much Jay Doubleyou appears to have been reciprocally influenced by Ennis in recent years. Five pages of unbelievable tension and gravitas balanced effortlessly across three simultaneous scenes, no action but lots of quiet political violence, in an episode of sheer comics storytelling perfection that displays the kind of tough yet elegant narrative engineering that Ennis has lately made his own.
  • This has been up for ages but I’ve only just stumbled across it: Cradlegrave, John Smith and Edmund Bagwell’s recently-concluded tale of alien body-horror and kitchen-sink drama on a Northern housing estate is being hailed by some Squaxx as the best story The Mighty One has put out since Halo Jones. A full Mindless report to follow soon, but in a rare move the excellent 2000AD Review site has put Smith’s script for an entire episode up for your perusal. Bloody brilliant.
  • Further happy proof that the world you live in is becoming more like Judge Joseph Dredd’s every day! (b)
  • Look, 5 posts for the price of one! Andrew Hickey’s hyperpost continues apace. The topics, which he’s attacking from multiple and diverse angles, are canon and continuity and other stuff that concerns those of us of a fannish bent. So far Andrew’s posts have focussed on Morrison’s concept of Hypertime, Cerebus via Oscar Wilde (or should that be the other way round?), and an ‘imaginary’ (in the Alan Moore sense) Dr Who audio story which doesn’t feature too much Dr Who but does feature a dying man. This kind of multi-pronged oblique criticism is exactly the kind of thing we try to do round here, and exactly what Andrew Rilstone did so fantastically in his recent fanzine Who Sent the Sentinels?. Looking forward to seeing what else Andrew can come up with.
  • Ah, its been ages since we’ve given some love to the boys at Funnybook Babylon. If you don’t listen to their podcasts you really should as they’re some of best pop-critics out there, and really don’t get the credit they deserve nearly often enough. The standout moment in the latest edition has to be Chris Ekert’s disembowelling of Ultimatum – to call it criticism would be to give Loeb’s writing too much credit, but it sure is funny as shit.

Bunyan would have blushed

August 11th, 2009

or Crisis? What Crisis? (part one)

This one:

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Think of him as 2000AD’s awkward cousin. He and Tharg used to get on great for a bit, but while The Mighty One went into his teens still drunk on the heady surge of Thrill Power, Crisis was always a bit serious. Self consciously so, you could say. You know the routine: went veggie. CND badge. Amnesty membership. Morrissey lyrics sung at high volume to that face in the bedroom mirror. Didn’t make friends that easily, and sometimes seemed to try hard not to be noticed at all, but on rare occasions he’d come out with something that would really be worth paying attention to.

You’d get such a shock you’d probably jump in the ocean