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Frank Millers tinfoil hat seems to be malfunctioning...
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Having just finished reading Witches, I find myself in just the right frame of mind to get all enthusiastic about [ profile] britmandelo's new Fables re-read over on Tor. It should be interesting. I don't think I've been back to the early volumes since I learnt the truth about the Adversary, way back in Homelands.
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Until today I'd thought it a myth. But, browsing the shelves in Forbidden Planet, what should I discover but Planetary Volume 4. With four glorious English pounds sterling off its recommended price.

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I'm not watching tonight's debate between the party leaders. Rather, I'm getting all my news on the election straight from the source: I'm re-reading Transmetropolitan (I'm currently lagging a volume behind the Tor read-along).

And you know what? It's even more relevant than it was back in the late 90s. Scarily, presciently so. I suspect Warren must have done some kind of deal with the dark and twisted gods of gonzo journalism in order to be afforded a glimpse of the 2010 election campaign. Not something that bodes well for the future...
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After a brief pause — oh, alright, three years — I'm rereading Mike Carey's Lucifer. Since I've already mentioned the first three trades, I'm going to resume with the fourth, The Divine Comedy.

Inverting Dante's structure, the volume opens with Paradiso, which finds Lucifer opening the gates of his new cosmos to those who want to leave God's creation on condition that they renounce the habit of worship. Unfortunately, the devil's enemies — the Basanos, the living tarot deck he encountered in Hamburg, and Susanoo, the Japanese god of storms — are maneuvering against him, finally enacting their long ago laid plans.

Struck down in his pride, Purgatorio finds Lucifer helpless and near death, with only the ambivalence of the angel Melios for help. After a cameo appearance from Death of the Endless and some help from Elaine Belloc, Lucifer is able to put enough of himself back together to join forces with the Lilim-in-Exile and drive out the invaders. But this good, which comes coupled with Mazikeen's return, has come at the loss of Elaine.

In addition to the two main story arcs, the volume also contains two short stories. The Writing on the Wall is the touching tale of a young and proud centaur who, after dreaming of Lucifer's defeat at the hands of the Basanos, travels to earth to warn him only to find that a lifetime has passed in Lucifer's cosmos and her home has been lost to her. Living a second life and attempting to correct her mistakes, she finds herself old and uninterested in intervening in present events when her dreams finally become reality.

The second story, Breaking and Entering, follows the fallen cherbim, Gaudium and Spera, as they break into the House of the Sleeper to recover a mummified corpse that grants wishes, in the hope that they might be able to use it to help Elaine. After experiencing various disasters — unbreakable thread breaking, bringing the wrong sort of bird with them, that sort of thing — they're eventually rescued by the archangel Michael, apparently in return for a cup of tea...
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Glancing through the new releases from Dark Horse, I was rather take with the idea of Werewolves on the Moon, which sounds like it pushes the twisted logic of the whole fur versus fangs thing one stage further. From the blurb:

Ted, Jeff, and Stan, leave Earth and travel to the lunar surface in a quest to become kings of the moon! Unfortunately, Moon Patrol captain Maggie Pilgrim has other plans . . . as does the hive of vampires living on the dark side!

Skimming through the preview, I get the feeling it's not intended to be taken particularly seriously...

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A good, if initially rather tense, lunch at the Red Lion in Hunningham. The decor was particularly good: instead of pictures, they'd framed up hundreds of comics. The inevitable sortilegy of seating meant that I ended up sitting next to a copy of Fables fifteen, with Snow White and Bigby Wolf on the cover. Surely a sign, if ever there was one. But a sign of what? I'm not sure...
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While I was talking to my parents on the phone, my nephew offered the following fine off-stage Tintin reference:

Pater: ...and we still don't have a kitchen floor, despite the salesman promising your mother that it would be done by the weekend.
Me: I bet he didn't say which weekend though...
Nephew: [ in the background ] Grandpa, isn't the floor man just like Mr Bolt in the The Castafiore Emerald?

Both perfectly appropriate, wonderfully funny and supremely geeky. I just love the fact that he loves Tintin every bit as much as I did/do...

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In honour of the US elections, I've decided to re-read Transmetropolitan, Warren Ellis and Darick Robinson's masterpiece of politics, journalism, futurology, filth and fury, starting with Back on the Street.

Threatened with a lawsuit by his publishers, Spider Jerusalem reluctantly decides to come down from the Mountain and return to the City, the only place where he can write. In order to cover himself while he works on the two books his contract demands — one on politics, one on a subject of his choice — he finesses a job as a columnist out of his old friend Royce, who just happens to have risen to the dizzying heights of city editor for The Word.

While casting around for a subject for his first column, Spider learns of a plan by the human-alien hybrid Transient community to declare independence for the Angels 8 district. Trading on an old relationship with Transient leader Fred Christ — a former band manager turned alien love messiah — Spider pokes around and asks questions, concluding that the Transients aren't serious about their demands and will back down when the City authorities gets fed up and threaten violence.

When the City launches a crackdown on Angels 8, Spider smells a rat and rushes down to the district to document the police brutality. As the only journalist able to make it into the district, he takes up residence on the roof of a strip club and beams his text back to Royce at the The Word ready for the next edition. Never one to miss a trick, Royce arranges for Spider's word to be distributed out live throughout the City, triggering enough outrage to force Civic Centre to recall the police and returns Spider Jerusalem to peak of his journalistic fame.

Even if it isn't the best book in the sequence — I prefer the stories that concentrate on spat with the Smiler — Back on the Street launches the series rather well and gives a good feel for the weird future world of the City. A place where you can decide to hybridise your DNA with an alien. Where your semi-intelligent household appliances can be supplied by the mafia. And on drugs. And where two headed gecko eating cats are a possibility. Where you can buy Ebola Cola, the soft drink that eats you, and where monkey burgers and caribou eyes are the take out food of choice. And where the written word has power and a journalist can be worshiped as a God.

Like I said: weird.

And all of which weirdness Robertson manages to capture almost perfectly. From the squalor of Spider's mountain home — is it just me or does the exiled Jerusalem look like an untidy version of Alan Moore? — to the chaos of the streets, the art really goes the extra mile to pull in the strange details of life in crazed future where vast gaps exist between the rich and poor, and where almost anything is possible.

The book also does a decent job of setting up Spider as a character. We learn that for all his cynicism and casual violence, he really does care about people and particularly what happens to those who've been excluded and marginalised; his people, the New Scum, as the Smiler latter calls them. And while he's better with his filthy assistants to act as Watsonian foils to his crazed and rambling Holmes, he still pretty good fun on his own, baying out his fury like some sort of albino shouting gorilla. Except with less hair. And more tattoos.
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A Whedon heavy day, what with a re-read of Fray, a remind of Time of Your Life, Part 1 — the opening of monologue which, I belatedly notice, exactly mirrors than in the first issue of Fray — and finally part 2 of Time, which, I don't mind admitting, fooled me proper — I thought Master Whedon was going to zig but, instead, he zagged in a totally good and unexpected way.

And as if that wasn't enough, the fourth collection of Runaways is sitting at my left hand, waiting to be read and absorbed and drooled over. Truly, Joss Whedon is my master now.
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I've just finished Whys and Wherefores, the last trade in Brian K Vaughan's consistently excellent Y: The Last Man series. For obvious reasons, I'm not going to say too much about what actually transpires, but I think I've got room to make a few points without giving too much away.

The resolutions of the various plot lines seemed to me to be very much in keeping with the spirit of the rest of the story. There were no cheap attempts to force characters into strange poses; no dei ex machina to pull things back into shape, to resurrect all the dead men or to create a perfect (almost) completely female utopia; none of the hard decisions were ducked. But the underlying message of the series — something probably best summed up in Polonius' advice to Laertes: to thine own self be true — shone through it all.

For it seems to me that Y: The Last Man could be read as an argument in favour of the authentic life. Consider the main characters and their initial behaviour at the start of the plague. By living according to the rules imposed on them by society and by outside pressures, they're all living inauthentic and unhappy lives. Yorick is a slacker who feels like he's failing to live up to his family's expectations; Dr Mann is frantically trying to create a clone in a frantic attempt to excel her father; while 355 seems to have rejected her humanity in favour of her duties to the Culper Ring. Following the plague and the consequent removal of expectations, the character are free to grow and to become the people they truly are. Think of the metaphor of 355's scarf. The growth of the scarf is akin to the growth of 355's authentic self, with the unpicking and reknitting of sections akin to the slow process of self-perfection and self-understanding.

Anyway, that's my existential take on it and I'm sticking to it. Plus, I thought the bald Yorick Brown looked so like [ profile] drspleen it was scary...
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Now that the latest episode of Season Eight has put Wolves at the Gate to bed, this seems like an opportune moment to look back at the most recent sequence of Season Eights.

The arc, which starts when a group of transmogrifying Japanese goth vampires steal the Scythe. In light of the obvious similarities between their attackers and Dracula, Xander goes to visit his old friend, who confesses that he gambled away the secret to his powers in a game of pai gow. With Vlad in tow, the Slayers head to Tokyo only to fall into a cunning vampire trap. There is much with the killing, crushing and destroying. There is a battle of between a giant and a mecha. There is pain and there is loss. But there is also Resolution.

There was much crunchy goodness in Wolves although I was slightly uncertain about some of Dracula's somewhat racist comments. Although I suppose his comments are probably in keeping with the character and the period when Stoke wrote his novel, although I don't remember the novel being particularly racist — not when compared to, say, Sax Rohmer's novels — and, to be fair to the comic, Xander does call him on it. But still.

The arc also covered a lot of good character stuff, with the Buffy and Satsu thing handled rather tactfully in a way that added to both characters. There were a couple of nice Andrew moments — his determined efforts to play Margot Kidder to Willow's Christopher Reeve and his authentic Love at First Bite costume were great — and the dark hints from Kumiko, the psycho witch, about Willow's mentor must surely presage something bad.

All of which leaves me looking forward, breathlessly, to the next episode...
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Today's Guardian featured an interesting piece on the increasing numbers of women interested in comics. There were a few digs at the old school, with its tendency to treat women as victims or sex objects — the former detailed in Gail Simone's Women in Refrigerators list and the latter summed up by Mike Carey's comment about superhero art:

...a good friend of mine who's a comic book artist once told me that when you draw a woman in a superhero book, you basically draw her naked and then put the clothes on.

Which all goes to explain the general appeal of stuff like Sandman, where the hero is kind of nerdy (and when he's not nerdy, he's a cat!) and all the characters, both male and female, have genuine personalities and the women don't spend all their time waiting to die or waiting to indulge in gratuitous nudity.

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It's got to be match to Ned Beauman with this wonderful slapdown of The Amazing Spiderman. He starts off with a critique of the comic industry's general approach to long running series before concluding:

In any given year, only a vanishingly small number of superhero comics are worth your time and money. The Amazing Spider-Man, even since its recent change of creators, is still not one of them, and Mephisto's not to blame: rather, the quality of the writing makes it, at best, Barely Adequate Spider-Man.


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Alan Moore is one of the cleverest writers around. Don't let anyone tell you that, just because he writes comic books, he's not every bit as well informed and exquisitely well read as Umberto Eco. Take the latest — and last? — installment in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series.

It opens with Mina Murray drinking in a British pub, immediately after the fall of Big Brother's IngSoc society. After a brief run-in with a spy called Jimmy — Bond, presumably — she and the newly youthful Alan Quatermain snarf a copy of the eponymous Black Dossier. In it, they find details of their own histories and those of the previous incarnations of the league. These include:

  • The lost Shakespeare play, Faerie's Fortunes Founded.
  • Some 18th century pornography in the form of The New Adventures of Fanny Hill
  • A history of the first Murray League by Campion Bond
  • An account of Bertie Wooster's encounter with an squamous, eldrich horror from beyond the words
  • And much, much more...

The references come thick and fast. There are throwaway nods to writers as diverse as Charles Chilton and E.T.A Hoffman, to works of art as disparate as Tannhauser and The Beano, and so on. Even the background characters, perfectly executed by Kevin O'Neill, refer to fictional characters from the period.

A joy from start to finish.

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According to a piece in today's Observer, Ian Rankin is planning to write a graphic novel for DC. Interesting.
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Thanks to the flakiness of the HSM, I've managed to clock up enough overtime in the last week to cover the costs of a copy of Absolute Sandman Volume 2 and two new pairs of glasses to read it with. Three cheers for buggy software!


Oct. 28th, 2007 10:32 am
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I've just finished Fell by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith. Here is a quick overview and a few thoughts.

Detective Richard Fell has fallen. Formerly a big city cop, he has been exiled across the bridge to Snowtown, a decaying and crime ridden ruin of a city. A big fish in a small pond, Fell's analytical mind and strong drive stand him in good stead as he starts to deal with the bizarre crimes thrown up by the feral city.

Fell also finds himself struggling to deal with the locals. His colleagues in the police department are, by and large, insane and the crime scene guy is usually so bombed that he's unable to pick up bullets lying on the side walk. When he first meets Mayko, the owner of his local, she brands Fell on the neck with the Snowtown symbol in an attempt to prevent the city from killing him, but he soon forgives her. Fell also finds himself taking an instant, not entirely surprising, dislike to a sinister, silent nun wearing a Richard Nixon mask, whom he encounters on a number of occasions indulging in some very un-nunish behaviour.

I really enjoyed Fell and, in particular, Templesmith's art which complements the noirish atmosphere of the story as well as being a thing of beauty in itself. The minor characters are also rather enjoyable, leavening the dark horror of the crimes committed by the city's denizens. Particularly good are the addled Lt Beard, who is shown at one point reading the Necronomicon in a determination to solve the crime problem with magic, and Violet the secretary, whose husband left her for a poodle.
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Colleen Doran has posted a comparison of the original art for A Game of You and the new, improved version she prepped for Absolute Sandman Vol. 2.

Wow. Yet another reason to follow on from last year's indulgence and pick up Volume 2.
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I like Bucky Katt but, according to the Fount of All Knowledge:

Bucky is frequently depicted as possessing an abundance of disagreeable feline traits, such as anti-social tendencies, delight in random destruction and violence, hostility, and selfishness. He endeavours to wreck Satchel's optimistic outlook of life, but usually fails, because Satchel does not have enough intelligence for his rude, misunderstood sarcasm and is often unaware that he is being insulted

I fail to see how any of these traits could be considered to be disagreeable. And if anyone wants to dispute the issue, I'll consider it to be an act of hostility and put them down with my withering sarcasm...


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