So, it finally happened. I’ve regularly reserved and borrowed and read so many comics from the local library that I am currently unable to reserve anymore, and I have to ‘see the staff for more information’. I envisage this meeting to go something along these lines:
“Please stop giving us so much work with all these reservations, when you’re clearly not enjoying yourself. You need to STOP. For us, and for you.”
So! To celebrate, here’s a quick round-up of the loads of comics I’ve read these last couple of weeks (the sheer amount of ones I don’t get around to reviewing is terrifying)! I’d list them all here, but perhaps just ‘Dive In’ like Toby Slater, and see if anything in this ‘article’ is for you?
This is Volume 2 of Jeff Lemire’s Vertigo thingy about a disease-ridden America, where every single newborn baby is an animal/human hybrid, and I enjoyed it! I haven’t read volume 1, what with the library not having it (I checked their online database and everything, as I AM ADDICTED TO THE LIBRARY), but that’s no bother. This comic gets you up to speed, and then carries on with the sad story of a deer-faced boy living in a trope-filled smashed-up America. It’s got what you’d expect: a jerkass militia, monstrous masculinity, a place that’s supposed to be a safe haven but isn’t, a crazed and sad scientist trying to work out what went wrong…
It’s better than The Walking Dead at this sort of thing, though, so it is (faint praise, perhaps!). Less relentless ‘one voice’ talking, actual distinct characters, and actual things happening (yeah, I know the appeal of TWD is that fuck-all happens for ages, then a cast member gets a bit grit in their eye, but it wears a bit thin). I know that in Walking Dead, I don’t care about the main cast at all, but I do care about the sadsacks here! Sad Deer Boy looks so sad! Sad.
I dunno, maybe it’s got more in common with Y: The Last Man? Frustratingly so, in places? It’s a ton better than that as well, though. None of the characters feel the need to reference pop culture, for a start. But then, there aren’t really any women in this comic, either? And the whole ‘horror of birth’ and ‘men will always rape women in a post-apocalypse society’ things’re pretty crappy if you think about them for more than a second and OH I DON’T KNOW.
Jeff Lemire’s art is consistently inconsistent, and is loose and not too bothered with any over-representational realism, and I can dig it. It reminds me in places of Phil Hester on Swamp Thing, perhaps? It’s a bit like a pretty swell indie comic in that regard, and I can only imagine how much that’d be ruined by adverts and shiny paper were I to be reading it monthly? I’m not, though. So don’t worry, me.
I like this little sad deer guy, and he’s refreshingly not a Mary Sue, and I want to know what happens to him. WILL READ NEXT VOLUME WHEN I CREEP BACK TO THE LIBRARY.
Marvel attempts a shoujo manga and it’s not half bad, once you get over the fact it’s a story about classically-attractive popular hetero white kids having sort-of-dull romance troubles and banal, frustrating misunderstandings. I’ve got a ton of affection for the Spider-man cast, and they’re repurposed well here to fit into the high school telly situation Sean McKeever puts them in. I admit I got a bit emotional in places, mainly the times that things seem to be working out for Mary Jane, who is as charismatic and decent as she should be, and you root for her, so you do.
It kind of suffers when Spider-Man and Peter Parker are anything more than just background characters, however, and it loses it entirely when it ends on the supposed BIG MOMENT of Gwen Stacy showing up.
Gwen has not been mentioned until the final page, and so we are expected to give a shit due to prior knowledge of her character from the regular Spider-Man comic. Except that she’s not been in that fucking comic for fucking years, and means absolutely nothing to anyone over 40. And why use her as a plot point in such a way, when your comic is pitched at a “don’t read superhero comics” sort of audience?
‘Tevs. Christina Strain’s solid, bright, ice cream colour work is outstanding, as is her guide to how she does it at the back of the book, and Takeshi Miyazawa sells the whimsical ‘a bloo hoo’ high school faux-dramatic over-emoting with clean, solid storytelling though sometimes people do look a tad similar.
PS Liz Allen is a jerk, IDST, pass it on.
THE AVENGERS/AVENGERS by Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr
Not sure of the actual title of this, as the spine and indicia say one thing, the cover another? There’s another comic at the library by Bendis with the same title, and different interior pages, so I don’t know! I don’t know!
This comic is a bunch of pleasingly-muddled time-travel nonsense and I found it rather a lot of fun. I can only imagine it would be improved immeasurably shorn of the relentless ‘banter’ from all the characters that are the same character, but I won’t let that detract from the meaty JR JR art, one-panel Death’s Head 2 cameo and general fast-paced timestream bullshit!
Fun, peppy Marvel japes!
THE FIRST X-MEN by Neal Adams and Christos Gage
Yowsers, does this comic ever look and read like some pre-Quesada Marvel. Except that it takes liberally from the enjoyable X-Men: First Class film for a lot of the characterisation and events within. It’s not a bad place to build from, though, as it’s got some no’ bad character work in it? In the terms of this comic, however, it mainly just means that we meet the cast while they do things similar to what they do in that film (Magneto’s oot on his own killing Nazis n’that).
The comic itself is basically Chaykin’s Avengers story set in the past where the first Avengers team were actually made up of the characters you wouldn’t expect (Sabertooth), except it’s an X-Men comic (Sabertooth). It’s got some muscly, mushy ‘classic’ art from Neal Adams, who I appreciate but don’t actively enjoy apart from the odd sinewy hunk, and I suppose that’s the main selling point? It’s a fairly banal comic until the addition of the excellently horrible villain, who is sort of a human mixed with one of those creepy flame spider things from Dark Souls, who forces hosts to carry him about on their backs as he saps their life energy. Ewwww! He’s not nice, anyway.
That’s really all there is to say about this comic, I suppose? Neal Adams art, a distressing villain in a boring story, a John Byrneian Lost Years pointlessness that seems rather dated, but then I suppose it’s not 2002 anymore so I don’t know what’s dated and what’s new, anyway.
As mentioned ad nauseum, I’m all for that ‘Midnight Sons’ Ghost Rider pish, so this collection about the female Ghost Rider, Alejandra, seemed right up my alley, DRIVING RIGHT AT ME (because it’s about a motorbike person). It’s certainly readable, and Rob Williams seems to be having fun writing it?
It’s let down a bit by a peppy pop-culture-referencing Johnny Blaze, though, and he’s a bit annoying throughout? Alejandra herself is also rather annoying, and a headstrong jerk, but that’s cool as it’s part of her character and it seems to work at making her a more distinct Ghost Rider. Williams, in the backmatter, says he never really got a handle on her character, but I think he’s selling himself short there.
I like that the character has a magical handlebar she carries around which summons the bike, that made me laugh. Proper cool-image special effects action figure stuff, there. I don’t like the flames surrounding her skull, though, as they are drawn to look like a big mane of flowing, golden hair, you know, BECAUSE SHE’S FEMALE. Johnny Blaze and Dan Ketch actually have long hair a lot of the time, but their flames dinnae look like hair, do they?
And look at that hideous logo with the chains artlessly surrounding it! Gluk.
So there you go. Can’t really remember what happens, other than I was sad when a potentially-cool moment of Ghosty-on-Shinkansen (I mean the Japanese bullet train, not the twee record label, though it’s something to consider, certainly) was completely undersold by the artist.
80s/early-90s X-characters hang out together and mean very little to me though I do like the issue where they get drunk as it reminds me of the few John Francis Moore X-Force comics where they went to the Burning Man festival and shit and were drawn excellently by Adam Pollina and it was kind of a hipster superhero road movie?
It’s mostly set in Limbo (sadly not the place in Transformers continuity where robots get green creepy crawlies drinking their dreams from their brains) and I suppose this has resonance if you’re a fan of or have read the old Claremont/Sienkiewicz stuff (I haven’t read any). It’s mainly a generic ‘hell’ dimension, and there’s warring factions and y’know, who cares?
There’s some soldiers who’ve been stationed there for years and years, also, and this is where the depressing fun comes from. These soldiers are aw fucked up from trying to survive, and have also raised an indoctrinated team of Limbo-muties (oh I shouldn’t say ‘mutie’ as it’s like the ‘n-word’ except it fucking well isn’t) who fight the New Mutants and that’s all some so-so DV8/Gen13 stuff other than the compellingly depressing sidestory of this one dude with a gun for a face.
Illyana is properly creepy in this, like in that Kieron Gillen X-Men, and I like this version of her so much more than the one I’m familiar with from the early 90s (“Oh Snowflake you have died oh no and have served no purpose other than this, bloo hoo”).
There’s some Cthulhu stuff in it as well, which is nowhere near as powerful or cool as I’d have liked it to be.
PS has anyone ever brought up the whole Counter-X bearded mass-murderer version of Cannonball, yet?
This cover’s great as it’s an example of an artist finally having some guts and letting us know once and for all that Magneto has a fucking huge penis, unless he’s just wrapped it in tinfoil, Derek Smalls-style and is mainpulating it with his magno-powers?
Anyway, right, this is another incredibly readable Mike Carey bit of X-writing, wherein he makes chumps like me feel not so bad for having spent years reading about so many D-list X-jerks, as he writes them quite well. He does a Morrisonian thing of taking nobodies and giving them a line or two of dialogue that makes you feel like, y’know, maybe there IS a character there, under all the years of continuity bullshit?
Most importantly, it’s got a reference to Chamber being back to his gloomy explodey-headed self, and it also has Random in it. Oh, Random! Life must be tough for you, in these hideous times where the word ‘random’ has been debased so!
It also references Peter Milligan’s underrated run, so that’s cool. Mike Carey’s stories don’t feel ‘significant’, but he sure makes me feel better about my disgusting X-past. I suppose this comic is mainly just maintaining the useless inertia of the X-universe for sadsacks like me, but that’ sokay, I suppose. Comics! The soap that will not be cancelled.
So, aye, I enjoyed this? There’s a sudden jump where an entire crossover’s missed out, but I guess that’s explained okay and it doesn’t chafe too much. I suppose avoiding a crossover can only ever be a plus?
Still, fucking hell, there’s a lot of a dismemberment going on in the X-world, isn’t there? What is this, DC’s X-Men?!?! ETC
I’ve never enjoyed any Geoff Johns, but as I always go on about, I will take his comics out of the library in order to try and discover why people love his writing, and also sometimes just for a ‘so bad it is hilarious’ anti-thrill.
This comic’s not bad, though! It makes the mistake of setting Aquaman up as ‘the superhero everyone laughs at’, in order to subvert that, but, well, no-one outside some internet commenters really do think he’s a joke character, do they? It gives them too much credence, this comic. This comic doesn’t need to prove the character is ‘badass’ or whatever, y’know?
Still, it’s an enjoyable use of a sea-based character: he lives in a lighthouse, eats fish and chips (gasp! I guess), him and his sea-wife have japes on the mainland of the “What is this thing men call ‘dog food’?” variety, and Johns does the correct thing of pointing out that loads of scary shit lives in the sea.
Sure, it’s not especially gripping and I didn’t care too much about what happened, but I enjoyed the character’s setup and there weren’t too many Johnsian “I WILL TEAR OFF YOUR ARM, SPACE-COP” eye-rolly bits.
I’ll read more of this if I’m able (from the library), though I guess trade number 2’s probably not out for 18 years (hyperbole!) or something, knowing DC’s terrible release schedule. I hope for more creepy fish stuff, mainly? And more inadvertently hilarious bits like where Aquaman is all “the ‘A’ on my belt stands for ‘Atlantis’, not ‘Aquaman'”.
He’s got his home’s name’s intitial on his belt! Bless. Other than that, though, he has zero personality, which is a bit of a problem.
The bloated, confusing Hulk ‘family’ is all here, and they’re going to have to put a stop to some needlessly-elaborate science fiction evil kid who is related to stories I haven’t read, and whose backstory I mainly skimmed over as it was so gosh-darned dull.
Lots of use of the word “puny” and the phrase “strongest/smartest/whatever there is” in ways that did not make my chest swell as intended, and I don’t know, this all did nothing for me, really, even though it was packed full of the prismatic 90s-style Alternate Character crap I love.
There were no zany Greg Pak sound effects, though, so breathe easy, true believer.
I was going to be rather mean about this proficient, well-drawn comic for young people, in a number of ways, but I’ll leave the bulk of this review to my Significant Other, who said, upon seeing me reading this:
“That looks like it should be on sale in Urban Outfitters.”
Almost immediately put off this by the part where it claims to be “a Graphic Novel” (Jonathan Cape, eh), and the opening sequence where some cutesy bullshit happens involving lovers spelling their names in alphabet soup, I instead continued to read (like I had anything else to do except get my M. Bison up to Grade C, and lie on the floor screaming “ILLLYAAAANNNNNA”).
This comic is on excellent slightly-yellowed paper that smells nice and isn’t shiny. Is this what makes it a ‘graphic novel’? It centres around a town built on a Y-shaped estuary where a meteorite fell (I like this backstory!), and is a series of vignettes (as the title suggests) of the locals, and their eccentric behaviour.
There are slight inter-relations between the stories, as one whimsical person’s oddball melancholy will affect or influence the actions of another, and it’s all rather well put together and sort of charming. It transcends the first few pages that I complained about earlier, and many of the characters in it are quietly interesting, their stories just the right length.
I really like the art in it, it has a pleasant ‘minicomics meets bespoke greeting card’ faux-naivete, and oh god I realise that’s just made it sound like THE biggest piece of shit, but it’s not, honest.
I’ll source an image, it’s nice. Each chapter has its own limited palette, the people are varied, and there are good noses (which is also relevant to some of the plot).
Somewhere between a bleakly comforting 70s cartoon and fuck, I dunno, Amelie, this comic was a charming read that for the most part transcended my distrust of minicomics-style whimsy, and successfully portrayed a compelling, atmospheric setting with some interesting characters. Hooray!
Now to take all these back to the library. HOW CAN I LOOK THE STAFF IN THE EYE?!?