Oh, I understand your pain, Piotr Rasputin! However, instead of being embroiled in a storyline about a flimsy/offensive AIDS metaphor that makes my character one-note for the best part of a decade, I’m just feeling somewhat puggled at the sheer amount of comics I’ve read since the beginning of this month. In a way, I’m not like Piotr at all, apart from the fact I’m not especially great at Marvel vs. Capcom.
Also, CYTORRAK COMPELS ME TO REVIEW THE COMICS I HAVE READ
Batman Inc #8 by Grant Morrison and Burnham, plus Jason Masters assists (he comes on from the side to help when Granto presses the shoulder buttons)
Fully expected Robin to not die, due to covers always teasing things that don’t actually happen (and rightly so!), but y’know, he does. I’m not spoiling anything there, as it says so in this month’s ‘good-idea/bad-implementation’ DC news report thingy that’s in aw the comics that he in fact does. And aye, that cover?
Issue 8 is what I want from this title, right, it’s got the usual excellent Burnham art, and the brief fill-in from Jason Masters isn’t my preferred style, but I can’t deny he’s great at conveying movement (Tim Drake hitting someone with a mop is especially well rendered). With the Evil Damian Twin, there’s a real fight-or-flight sense of “oh fuck he’s going to fucking fuck you up” hopelessness that I’ve not reeeallly got from a Bat-villain since right before Batsy got his back broken by Bane. He was grown in a whale, you know, the Evil Clone, with the clammy, stained word balloons.
The scenes with Damian and Tim Drake are so much sad fun, laced with an upbeat hopeless melancholy, like the “Robyn/Kleerup feat. Marit Larsen/’Synchronised’ by Bextor” trifecta that just played on my itunes (I’m cool, me). To be honest, after that great Bat-sequence, I’ll be a bit annoyed if Damian doesn’t stay dead, as it’ll rob it of the impending sadness that makes it work.
Oh I do love this comic.
Dark X-Men TPB by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk
After writing about Remender and Aaron’s ability to take kinda duff concepts from the comics of my formative years and make them siiiing, I thought of other examples, and what came to mind was Paul Cornell’s Captain Britain and MI13 of a few years ago. Given that my copies of that were not to hand, and the library is without the trades, I instead opted to take out this Dark X-Men collection, by the same creative team. And it’s a nice wee treat!
A solid story about Norman Osborn’s team of X-Men, it is pleasingly downbeat without being gloomy and cynical. It’s got a lot of humorous touches (mainly due to Cornell’s dead-on take on that geneticist and moral void, Dark Beast), fun action, and bright, appealing artwork from Leonard Kirk that is kind of a timeless, classic style without being ‘retro’, if that makes sense? More ‘classic’ in the 80s comics sense than the 60s?
And, yeah, Dark Beast! It’s got X-Man, too, in a big elaborate coat, over a naked torso. I’m not sure why I like X-Man, but I do, and Cornell makes it not too embarassing for me.
Could do without the character intros in each issue that tries to sum them up with a song title, though (“Mystique. Shapeshifter. Eleanor Rigby” etc) as it’s a wee bit cute for my tastes.
Eternal Damnation by a whole host of people, such as Gordon Rennie and Colin Macneil, Andy Jones and Wayne England, Dan Abnett and David Pugh, Bill Kaplan and Jeff Rebner
This is a collection of Warhammer 40,000 short strips that I found in a charity shop. I have a lot of affection for ’40k’, as it was a big part of my early nerdo-life (worked perhaps-illegally on a farm as a kid for a pittance to earn money to buy lead-alloy gaming models), so figured I’d give this a shot. FROM SOME KIND OF LAS-GUN.
A LAS-GUN THAT REVIEWS THINGS
Nicely, it’s all in black and white, though some is still painted and muddy, making me wonder if it was originally in colour then put into B+W for publication? Dunno.
Ocht, I thought I’d maybe get a whole blog post out of this comic, write some stuff about Games Workshop’s place in my life – about how the fluid, disturbing, grotesque and darkly sexual art of Ian Miller and John Blanche was cast aside in the mid-90s in favour of the chunky, manly, now-the-norm action figure/video game stylings of the likes of Mark Gibbons (who I did love, it can’t be denied); about how I stopped playing 40k right before it became a bit tooo much about the hard-sell and progressivelly-less-interesting morality and psychology. Hard edges instead of malleable ones.
And the Dark Eldar are just pointless.
you may have gathered that this comic did nothing to excite me or interest me. The short story format mainly seems to be brief adverts for whatever new miniatures were coming out at the time, a display of the sort of stuff they can do, and there was very little cool ‘Future Shock’ twists or similar.
I have learned that I have no tolerance for the sort of ‘zany’ and ‘working class oik’ antics that Orks and their pals get up to, though I remember really loving that shit in the old days.
Must be getting old.
The Geek: Corruption of the Innocent by Rachel Pollack and Mike Allred
Proper Vertigo one-shot from 1993, so it is. Found it in a “3 comics for £1″ box at a comics mart. I’ve read a few Pollack Doom Patrol comics, and haven’t really liked them all that much, but when I think back on them, I wonder why? I think I’m totally primed for them, now, as in retrospect they are totally the kind of shit I dig? You know, Dial H?
Maybe I’ll look them out next time I am near the comix pilez I left behind when I moved into the Adult World away from the hoose of my parents.
This comic is a pretty-darn-creepy thing about an old comic character (I gather he made only a few appearances, back in the 60s, maybe?) called ‘Brother Power, the Geek’, who is a doll that can possess inanimate objects or change in size. there’s a horrible Svankmajer edge to the comic, with the woozy quality of a sweaty bad dream that keeps developing, never quite reaching the “OH NO WAKE UP” moment.
Some particular bits that stand out are the sequence that is a critique of the whole Pretty Woman thing of a rich prick ‘saving’ a prostitute by bringing her into his world of yuppie etiquette and such, and also the scene of the naive Geek being co-opted by a white power group. Also, there’s a militant Feminist group that would seem offensive if written by a man (a focus on the epowerment menstruation provides, some righteously violent action, pagan earth-mother rituals and that), but as they’re written by a woman, they actually seem kinda cool.
This comic’s a treatise on what happened to the positive vibes of the hippy movement, I suppose? Bleak realism crashes in on the positivity and optimism, but maybe things will be okay, once we’re out of the 80s?
The early Allred art is rather delightful, and he especially sells the floppy, disjointed nature of The Geek’s movements.
Not sure what happened to Rachel Pollack, I’d definitely read more by her. I shall be hitting Google after this is done, yes.
I enjoyed this comic a lot, and feel almost bad I only paid 33p for it.
Happy! #4 by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson
So, yeah, I kept buying this, hoping it would somehow start appealing to me (faith in the creative team was strong), and though it did improve, it never really worked for me. Decent art, okay story, kind of just a bit dull. There’s a big “fuck yeah!” Morrisonian moment in this one, but it only made my heart glow slightly, unlike the similar scene in Final Crisis, which filled me with a full-on Party Glow.
Oh well. It passed about 8 minutes as I sat reading it at a train station platform, killing time before I met a pal to drink cream liquer and watch telly with.
Hellstorm: Prince of Lies by Rafael Nieves and Michael Bair
WHAT A GREAT NAME FOR A COMIC! Plus, classy brown-toned cardstock cover! 1993 take on the 70s Marvel Midnight Sons-y character!
These are all reasons I purchased this comic for 33p. The main reason, however, was that I thought it was from the Warren Ellis run.
Ocht, no big deal that it wasn’t! Hellstorm (that name!) is an atmospheric trawl through the seedy side of Supernatural Marvel with grimy, confident, inky art from Michael Bair which was a total overwrought blast (“Born to royalty. Bred to ascend a corrupted Throne of Power”) until it became a bit confusing.
This comic is notable for actually having someone point out that in a universe (the Marvel one) where Norse gods are definitely real, and folks are super-strong/stretchy etc, it would be a bit silly to not at least consider the existence of God and the Devil.
And for that piece of comics common sense, another 33p purchase is entirely justified.
House of Mystery #10 by Matthew Sturges and Luca Rossi
Also from that collection of cheap comics comes a random issue of this title from 2009, which I foolishly thought was a series of done-in-one stories.
It is, in fact, part 5 of a story. Ooooops.
I tried to enjoy the thing, but it’s not a great place to be jumping onto a story, and I’m an idiot, so didn’t get too much out of it. there were some nice turns of phrase, icky action and Vertigo art, and it all seemed to be a competent Books of Magic’ sort of Vertigo-by-numbers thingy?
There’s a short backup strip written by Bethany and Peter Keele, illustrated by the incredibly talented Kyle Baker, who is using his odd Uncanny Valley computer-model style from Deadpool Max, which lends this whimsical tale of “little girl goes to magical land with her toys but has to give it up for adulthood” a chilling edge that the writing lacks and probably never intended. Brrrrr.
Howard the Duck #5 by Steve Gerber and Phil Winslade
I’ll give any Steve Gerber a go, me. The Essential Howard the Duck omnibus I’ve got is a rambling, immensely readable collection of what are basically Gerber’s opinions on modern (well, the 1970s) culture, and his Infernal Man-thing comic is a beautifully illustrated (by Kevin Nowlan) and beautifully sad story about the growth and decay of the human imagination, the human body and just humanity in general? He’s good, is Steve Gerber.
Wasn’t too keen on this comic, though. Once again, it’s part 5 of an ongoing story, but that doesn’t seem tooo important, what with Gerber, as I say, being prone to a rambling bit of ranting. While this opens with a fantastic (but perhaps a few years too late?) pisstake of Vertigo comics (special laughs reserved for Dream of the Endless, who are here recast as ‘The Interminable”), it then moves onto a clumsy satire of the whole self-help/Oprah/betterment/wellness aspect of culture.
While this is a perfectly valid target, there’s a bit of a dodgy bit where there’s a Dr. Phil analogue, and, well, take a look:
He’s a guy we’re supposed to laugh AT, and while what he is saying is obviously supposed to be an exaggeration, there’s a bit of a “what about the menz?!?!” attitude from Gerber towards the whole thing. By expecting us to laugh at a guy who keeps pointing out that men should put women first, I suppose Gerber is taking an anti-’PC’ stance or something, but it kind of leaves a bad taste in my stinking, hyper-liberal mouth.
Does that mean I’m Randian? I don’t know what’s going on anymore.
Oh well! The art is great and sinewy and inky and I still can’t imagine ever not finding Gerber’s work at the very least interesting.
The Question Quarterly #2 by Dennis O’Neil and Denys Cowan
Never read any Vic Sage Question, but I know this era of his stuff is supposed to be good (1991?). And it’s a done-in-one story! At 33 pence, again! I could not say ‘no’.
It’s a decent action romp with well-drawn characters (even though I’ve never read about these people, I got a good feeling for who they are), which credits the reader with intelligence, but my main praise is definitely for the art. Denys Cowan’s work reminds me of Klaus Janson, and that makes my eyes very happy. He’s a bit better at facial expressions than Janson, though, and his work’s maybe not as gloriously pulpy? Anyway, yeah – excellent action, clear storytelling.
Also, it’s the earliest cultural reference to Capoiera I’ve ever seen! I wasn’t aware of it until perhaps Tekken 3? To think there were whole years before then that I could have known about it. Then when Tekken 3 came out, I would have looked SO COOL.
Spirits of Vengeance #1 by Howard Mackie and Andy Kubert
Wow! It’s this again! there is no escaping sweet, fiery vengeance, no.
Probably said all I can say about Ghost Rider for now, other than I was actually totally digging this comic, and actually wanted more when it ended. This current GR love-in from me obviously goes beyond mere nostalgia. I don’t know what’s going on, honestly.
I enjoy that though this is issue 1, it is also part 2 of a crossover.
Art: Andy Kubert is totally my formative 90s Marvel guy. He drew the first two non-Spidey American comics I read, and will always have a place in my heart.
Story: My favourite part (this comic’s got me all tegan and Sara, talking like a teen) was Blaze and the Ghost Rider both on their motorbikes, atop Brooklyn Bridge, hiding from the police. Gloriously ludicrous, but deadly serious. Like the band Muse, the Howard Mackie run of Ghost Rider stuff would not work if it had an ounce of irony.
I sometimes think that Ghost Rider is a bit stupid in the city, as he needs big, open spaces to really shine, but I dunno, the idea of him just driving over buildings and up bridges like he’s got cheat codes in a sandbox game is sort of stupidly appealing.
More importantly, I got this poster free with this issue.
I’m considering putting it up in the kitchen, or getting it tattooed onto my ruined, weakling, concave chest.
Guess how much this comic cost? That’s right, 33p (plus some decimal points, but please don’t worry about those).
S.W.O.R.D. : No Time to Breathe by Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders
A similar deal as with Cornell’s Dark X-Men, this. I’ve got the issues somewhere, but not to hand, so I got this out the library, wanting to luxuriate in another writer who plays well in the Marvel sandbox, hitting both my “actual good comics” and “hideous nostalgia” pleasure buttons.
See, this comic has the first chronological appearance of Death’s Head in it, and not just as a quick cameo. He’s there in all his Transformer-sized, amiable freelance peacekeeping agent mechanoid glory.
Thing about Death’s head, though, he was ALWAYS good. He’s not a dodgy 90s thing like X-Man that needs sort of cleaned up and overhauled to make interesting. Simon Furman’s original Death’s Head stories had a great mix of action, whimsy and humour that amused me as a child, and still amuse me now. death’s Head is just a brilliant character.
Last thing about him: Gillen writes him JUST RIGHT.
This S.W.O.R.D. tpb’d still be fantastic without him, though, and that’s an important fact that might be lost amongst my stupid ‘fanboy squeeing’.
It introduces a whole bunch of ideas about diplomacy and human-alien relations in the Marvel Universe, and ties them to a fast-paced plot which features subterfuge, romance, superheroics and space opera, and also uses the ‘Dark Reign’ crossover stuff well enough that it’s not just some rubbish crossover gimmick.
There are cosmic cameos abound, but these don’t intrude, and are a fun detail of the story that I’m sure’ll provide fun easter egg recognition-hits for a whole bunch of folks who have affection for the characters.
I think Gillen is definitely one of the best mainstream superhero people just now – he’s perhaps a positive combination of Joss Whedon (but with less dialogue tics) and Warren Ellis (but less cyncial), but he’s his own thing, though, Kieron Gillen, and he’s got his own voice, definitely.
Good stuff! And the Beast is so lovable here! I find sometimes he’s just like a kind of jerk’s idea of what a ‘smart’ person would be like, and ends up just being an annoying person who uses a ‘fancy’ word where a simple one will do? Gillen writes him as genuinely witty and charming and oh my stars and garters, people have criticised Steven Sanders’ “off-model” take on the character but I love it as it is just so adorable:
Vampirella: Masters Series Volume 1 written by Morrison and Millar, art by Amanda Conner, Louis Small Jr and Michael Bair
MORE LIKE “MASTURS” SERIES, AM I RIGHT?
Okay, I took this out of the library, having never bought or read it, despite being a disgusting Morrison completist. I mean, look at it. Just bullshit cheesecake nothing. I suppose there’s the hope that Morrison would somehow revamp (AHAHA) the character and make the cheesecake a point of the story that sheds some sort of light (NOT SUNLIGHT) on the allure of this sort of comic, while subverting it and taking it somewhere new?
I read it this afternoon, and it totally doesn’t do anything even vaguely interesting.
There’s Amanda Conner art, and while she is perhaps the modern heir to Kevin Maguire, what with being a really good straight-up superhero artist who is also great at the ‘acting’ required to sell emotion, there’s not much in this comic to make the art stand out besides a few nice facial expressions. I guess there’s not much of interest for her to actually draw, given that this is a clichéd and dull bit of by-the-book (NOT THE BIBLE) modern vampire fiction (of the non-sparkly variety).
It’s got all the ‘exciting’ stuff you’d expect from a ‘sexy’ vampire comic – a bit about vampires working out that places that a stay dark for months are good places to go, a bit about farming humans, the obligatory eye-rolly “don’t beleieve the movies, kid, here’s what REALLY does and doesn’t work” bit. There’s vampires taking over organised crime familes. There’s boringly-predictable male-gaze ‘lesbian’ scenes, lightly suggestive fetish stuff as a shorthand for “OMG DARQUE”, and modern weaponry adjusted for advanced vampire killing (bullets with crosses on them etc).
BORING. It’s boring in Underworld, it’s boring in Van Helsing, it’s boring here and I hated it.
There’re hints that the writers want to embrace (YOU KNOW, LIKE IN VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE) the whole ‘sexy fetish vampire’ trope, and make an honest fast-paced slick sleazebag adventure comic, but I suppose it’s all too restrained (HAR HAR AGAIN) and just plain dull.
There’s a tiny attempt at critique of the ‘erotic’ stuff, and the nature of cheesecake comics (Vampirella seated next to three photo-referenced-seeming female vampires in fetish gear, looking at the reader, saying “Does this give you some kind of sick thrill?”) but it’s all just too (horrible term) ‘vanilla’ to be anything actually subcultural or transgressive, to be anything more than just a lazy jerk-off comic for unimaginative teens who don’t have the internet yet as it’s 1997 or something.
Plus, it features a career-worst issue cover from Jae Lee.
I’d like to say the hand of Millar is strong in this one, but he can’t take all the blame. In fact, I’m going to hold Morrison responsible for all of it, this piece of interminable sub-Balent borecore dreck. It’s not even actively bad enough to be interesting? It’s just a boring, boring, boring, back-of-Previews, poster-at-a-comics-shop embarrassment.
KILL YR IDOLS
(then bring them back to life so they can finish Batman Inc and write more cool stuff)
What a rubbish way to end this ‘article’! Here’s a picture, to cheer us all up.