What I thought of Absolute Carnage and other comics

In which this is the latest of a series of occasional blog talking about recent comics, and to start the big Marvel crossover event since the one they had in the spring, Absolute Carnage. Written by Donny Cates and drawn by Ryan Stegman this teams Spider-Man and Venom up against Carnage in a story that is virtually incomprehensible if you’ve not been reading Cates’s run on Venom, or dipped in and out of various Spider-Man titles over the years.

absolutecarnage1

If you don’t want to dive into Wikipedia, Cates does include pages of exposition in the first issue explaining what’s going on as Eddie Brock brings Spidey up to speed with what’s going on but it’s a scene that kills the story stone dead. Prior and post this scene, the comic is a pretty average superhero title with lots of fights as one would expect from a massive crossover event. The problem with these events now is they’re weighted down with so much continuity that they have to have these scenes to explain to reading just what the fuck is going on.

And what is going on is that Venom and Spider-Man have to fight loads of Carnage controlled symbiotes who are out to kill as many people as possible. It is basically what you’d expect, though Ryan Stegman’s art is nice, plus he can tell a story which is a sadly decreasing talent among many Marvel/DC artists. This is ordinary stuff, but there is one great scene at the end of the overlong exposition scene which shows Cates is capable of doing more than he is here.

Which brings me onto Silver Surfer Black.

silversurferblack1

Written by Cates and drawn by Tradd Moore, the story is a typically angst-ridden Surfer story, which most Silver Surfer stories are. Again this spins out of another Cates written title, The Guardians of the Galaxy, to tell this story of the Surfer fighting an old evil. There’s nothing spectacular about the writing but dear me, the art is extraordinary stuff.

ssb

Moore is a definite talent,  and his work here veers from surrealism to expressionism to whateeverism. It really is like watching a talent hit his prime, and Marvel need to be applauded for releasing this in the autumn in the same treasury format they released Ed Piskor’s X-Men work.

Meanwhile over at DC Comics, Brian Bendis is writing Event Leviathan, another crossover event wich also relies upon knowing lots of continuity but less so here as Bendis is crafting a detective story so much of the exposition flows better here, but it’s still a crossover that reliesupon characters stopping what they’re doing and telling others the plot.

eventleviathan1

Bendis is a good solid writer, but hasn’t bothered to push himself in over a decade and he doesn’t here, but this is still decent enough stuff though it is Alex Maleev’s art which drags this up from the usual DC crossover. I especially love his version of The Question.

The problem with crossovers in 2019 is they give publishers a healthy sales boost during the spring and summer when they’re traditionally fighting against other streams of entertainment. Quality tends to go out the window but here at least, there’s three examples of good to great artists showing what they can do.

And finally, The Wicked and the Divine #45.

watd45

Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s superb comic comes to an end with a sort of coda set in the future when the gods are old and can mourn their dead. It is a firm, definate end. Over the coruse of the run Gillen and McKelvie carved a story which criticised and celebrated modern culture, society and the comic itself  as an artform. As a comic it was one which did a lot but recently never quite got the plaudits it deserved but it was one of the best published this decade.

It is a shame the market goes wild for an uninspiring crossovers while comics which try new things build a solid audience without the aid of empty crossovers. As a comic I wish more tried to explore the medium as The Wicked and the Divine did.

And that’s it. Another blog soon about some of the stuff clogging up comics shop shelves…

Advertisements

The joy of diving into back-issue comics

Here’s a brutal fact. Most comics are crap and not worth the price on the cover. As a semi-occasional dealer this is breaking one of the rules of comic dealers which is not to downplay what you have, but no, really, most comics end up slowly rotting somewhere because they weren’t bought, or over-ordered, or just crap. Dealers who have been around a while however are a teasuretrove of delights as their over-stocks could be utter gems, or their crap something you find to be a diamond.

Back in the days of Bristol’s nearly remembered, semi legendary comic shop Comics and C.D’s, I’d spend hours upstairs in the warehouse raking through endless long boxes to decide the fate of many a comic from a Destroyer Duck to Alpha Flight through to Wild Dog as to whether they lived on in the back issues proper or ended up relegated to the 50p boxes. Today most shops sales stock tends to be New 52 crap and recent stuff which was over-ordered which might, one day, be worth a pound.

The below is a great video of Jim Rugg, Ed Piskor and friends searching through the dollar boxes of a local shop for diamonds and they find many a diamond for next to nothing.

Even as a bitter, old, entrenched old bastard like myself feels a spark when finding something gloriously cheap. I mean I’d kill to pick those Jack Kirby 2001 comics up for a buck each but on this side of the Atlantic it isn’t going to happen. Nobody over here is that public spirited!

I bring a few boxes of overstocks/crap to the bigger shows I do. I do throw some gems in there as a public service but you’ve got to be fast or you’ll miss them. Come along next year at the Edinburgh show and you’ll see what I mean. Til then buy more comics, and search out those diamonds in the rough…

A quick word about 9/11

Today is the 18th year since the 9/11 attacks in America. It has dawned on me that for a generation of adults from 18-25 have no real experience of the event itself being too young for it to register, and also they have no idea of a world where the global situation wasn’t as chaotic as this. Yet at the same time they’ve been shaped by those images of 9/11 easily found on YouTube and elsewhere so for me it isn’t a coincidence that things like found footage horror is so popular when much of it looks like footage from that day.

The thing about being glued to the TV that (the internet on that day was up and down, so messageboards were the only real way to pass on what little information there was) all it really was that first night was talking heads basically being stunned.

BBC switched into doing what they’re good at, ITV was a confused mess and Sky was a shitshow thanks to Kay Burley. This though was our transition from the 20th century to the 21st. It made all of us who lived through any of the Cold War, and who saw the end of that thinking the days of terror were over that it was back but this time we had no idea of where it’d lead us.

As it is it’s led us to Donald Trump, Brexit, a bloodbath in Syria, Yemen and much of the Middle East as well as an unending war in Iraq and Afghanistan as it slowly dawns on us we’re living in the sort of future dystopia we thought we’d never live through in our middle age.

So maybe it is better to be young enough not to be burdened by the memories of when there was a better time, or at least a time less fucked than this one.

Doing the work of Brexiters

This week has been a fucked week in politics. Boris Johnson has wiped his arse on British democracy. The Tory Party is split in two with the older, conservatives being flushed out the party to be replaced one assumes by UKIP/Brexit Party types, there are legal cases everywhere, fascism marches closer, the opposition is a mess and people are becoming scared assuming you’ve not had your life turned into hell over the last three and a half years thanks to Brexit.

But the thing you’ll remember the most about this week is Jacob Rees-Mogg lounging around on the benches of the House of Commons and the Tory Party’s insane attack on Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘chicken’ and handing out ‘JFC‘ packs to eager hacks. You’ve probably shared both stories on social media, or at the very least seen a Jacob Rees Mogg meme and had a laugh.

Problem is you’re helping these people spread their image to the masses and they don’t have to lift a finger. Their narrative & image are all important to Johnson and Mogg, as after all, both are narcissists, and both want their image spread far and wide as long as it plays to their narrative of course. These people are monsters and should be portrayed as so.

jrm

Remember, these people thrive from publicity. I’m as guilty as anyone doing this but don’t buy into the narrative of these people and don’t do the Brexiters work for them.

In praise of Batman: The Animated Series

In 1992 a new animated series hit American television and in doing so changed how animated superhero comic based material was done. It was basically a turning point, and it was (on the whole) bloody great and it was accessible for everyone, not just a core of fanboys. DC Comics take note.

Drawing from the Tim Burton films as well as the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1930s. There was also a lot of Golden Age Batman in there, plus a healthy influence from the comics of the 80’s and 90’s.

Over here in the UK it was first show on Saturday morning kids TV on ITV, which often meant crawling out of bed with a crushing hangover to watch the latest episode before going out on the afternoon for a bit of shopping and a hair of the dog. Over the years it’d turn out classic episode after classic episode but my favourite episode is he first Man-Bat one with this great moment.

So here’s to a great series that will remain a standard for years to come. You can buy it now on nice discs so no more need to watch those old VHS tapes with adverts and all that crap on it.

The UK is utterly fucked.

A kakistocracy according to Wikipedia means…

A kakistocracy is a system of government that is run by the worst, least qualified, and/or most unscrupulous citizens

Yeah, that pretty much sums up where we are today. This week has shown how fucked we are, which isn’t to say we weren’t warned. We were warned by people three years ago that the EU referendum would end is carnage as the government would be faced by whatever deal the EU would give us thanks to the red lines of the UK, or walking away with no deal. Of course, the Brexiters (and Lexiters because they’re also sharing responsibility for this)  lied about a ‘Norway type deal‘ they had no intention of pushing for if the referendum had been won.

No, the referendum was forged on blood and soil nationalism mainly by the right, and the left leavers who in the end provided the thin majority Leave had. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and all the other bastards drooling right now about getting the supreme power no government should have are in a good mood because they’re weeks away from getting what they want, and what comes after that will be a living hell for many of us.

True, opposition parties did finally get together this week only to be outplayed by Boris Johnson proroguing parliament to force through Brexit without any debate, which again, was on the cards according to many months before Johnson became PM. It is a massive gamble, but we know that the last time Johnson was involved in a massive gamble, he won. However had Jeremy Corbyn not been clearly pushing for Brexit for years before realising where it would actually lead (and he still clearly thinks it to be a good idea, just not done by the Tories)  under Johnson, and Jo Swinson not acted like head girl and demanded everything, we might have had some unity when other opposition parties have been struggling to unite the opposition against Brexit.

And there’s also the point that every single MP that voted for invoking Article 50 knew no deal was the default, as well as they knew the UK’s red lines were impossible for the EU to budge on and that we’d end up with a real chance of leaving with no deal. Every one of those MP’s are responsible in part for where we are but the main culprits are those behind the leave campaign who are benefiting from this. We know the referendum was corrupt and we know the UK’s electoral commission is an absolute bag of shite just as we should know by now the UK’s democratic systems aren’t fit for purpose in the 21st century. Leavers knew that, hence why they’re winning and we’re still making twee signs to wave at demonstrations in the hope the Guardian prints the picture.

Fuck that. The time for niceness is over. We have unfit people running the UK leading us into a very British form of fascism based upon nostolgia of a time, and of a people, that never existed. I’ve mentioned Umberto Eco’s essay, Ur-Fascism before  but now if you read it, and tick off Eco’s 14 signs of fascism, the UK ticks every single one. This is where we are.

It will get worse. Johnson isn’t a final destination. He’s more of a Moses figure to bring what comes next because we know Johnson fails often, and that his allies now will happily cricify him when needed. Nigel Farage talks of a forthcoming Tory/Brexit Party alliance, which of course would place Farage in a safe seat, then a place at the cabinet table. Where do you think we’ll go when the UK government is effectively a UKIP government having its strings pulled by disaster capitalists and the likes of Putin and Trump?

Which is why the time for polite protest is over. Fucking fight. Take to the streets. Shut stuff down. Make it uncomfortable for those in power. Don’t go into the night quietly because we know where this sort of thing leads and right now, where we end up will be something many of us won’t survive.

A new Tarantino film means another media outrage about violence

The new Quentin Tarantino film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is due out in the UK this month.

once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood-poster

This means all across the UK, newspaper, TV news editors and media commentators are brushing off the same article they’ve written or broadcast since Tarantino’s first film, Reservoir Dogs back in 1993.  Here’s an example of a ‘journalist’ talking of the ‘blood-soaked film’.

So  since 1992 any film Tarantino has made or is associated with, is passed off by the UK as a violent frenzy and just something should be done! It’s got to the point where last time round Tarantino just stopped talking about it because it is enormously tiresome answering the same questions asked of you a few years earlier.  For example…

And we get to 2019 and first out the blocks is The Guardian with it’s usual anti-violence article wringing its hands desperately with lines like this.

His interest in savage violence against woman is, if we look back, a common thread in almost all his films.

The article does try to correct itself later by admitting that, actually, Tarantino has both sexes as the victims of violence as anyone who has actually watched his films will tell you. Yes, there’s violence towards women including rape, but there’s also violence against men, including rape. Tarantino isn’t discriminating; he’s using violence as a filmaker because that’s one of the tools at his disposal and no matter of middle class media handwringing is going to change that as it shouldn’t.

Violence has been in stories going back to The Bible and beyond. We are violent so having that explored with the horrible consequences is better than The Rock shooting people and a small spurt of computer generated blood awkwardly jumps across the screen, or the latest Marvel film which has endless amounts of bloodless violence but here we are, another Tarantino film and the UK’s media dribbles in excitment about being able to ignorantly go over the same ground while preaching to the same people who think Tarantino’s films as are violent as they are.

Violence will always upset people. It should, otherwise it fails to impact you as a viewer but this endless morality about something which is part of us, and part of storytelling, is pitiful and tireseome and we’ve got weeks of it to go yet.