What I thought of Shade the Changing Girl #1

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I loved Pete Milligan’s Shade the Changing Man which was one of DC’s precursors to what became Vertigo, and this soft reboot from writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Marley Zarcone is part of DC’s Young Animal imprint overseen by Gerard Way. A sort of Vertigo-lite as it were.

Shade the Changing Girl’s brief is this…

Far away on the planet Meta, Loma’s going nowhere fast. She’s dropped out of school, dumped her boyfriend, and is bored out of her mind.  She longs to feel things. That’s where her idol, the lunatic poet Rac Shade, and his infamous madness coat come it. Loma steals the garment and makes a break across galaxies to take up residence in a new body: Earth girl Megan Boyer. Surely everything will be better on this passionate primitive planet with a dash of madness on her side and this human girl’s easy life. Only now that she’s here, Loma discovers being a teenaged Earth girl comes with its own challenges and Earth may not be everything she thought it’d be. Megan Boyer was a bully whom everyone was glad was almost dead, and now Loma has to survive High School and navigate the consequences of the life she didn’t live with the ever-growing and uncontrollable madness at her side. Not to mention that there are people back on her homeworld who might just want Shade’s coat back.

Rather than inhabiting the body of a serial killer, we now have a school bully which I suppose helps the intended audience identify with her more, but it seems on initial reading a bit facile.

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In fact like Gerard Way’s Doom Patrol reboot this also feels a tad forced. It’s trying too hard to be ”out there” that it’s forgotten to do anything original so is retreading old ground, though the scenes of Loma on Meta are promising the dialogue ends up being stinking of cliche.

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It’s alright but on the whole utterly unengaging. I don’t care about Loma, or the supporting cast or the American teen drama that’s going to unfold, it just isn’t interesting enough as it seems muted compared to Millligan’s insane, but brilliant work and here’s the problem with Young Animal. Trying to recreate what’s past isn’t enough. Being crazeee is no substitute for telling an interesting story, and there’s not enough going on here to make it work for me in future.

On the other hand Gilbert Hernandez’s back-up strip featuring Cryll, an old DC character who was the sidekick to another old DC character called Space Ranger.

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It’s actually not a solo GIlbert Hernandez strip, his daughter Natalia does most of it, but its nice to see a talent pass from one generation to another. This wee strip is more fun and has more joy and weirdness in it that both Young Animal titles so far, plus it isn’t trying to be Grant Morrison or Pete Milligan. It’s an Hernandez strip which is good enough for me.

What I thought of Doom Patrol #1

doompatrolAt a Reading Festival back in the 2000’s I watched a hailstorm of piss-filled bottles rain down on Gerard Way and his band, My Chemical Romance. It was a beautiful sight watching the constant stream of bottles rebounding off the performers and I thought it the most Punk thing I’d seen at Reading for some years.It was fresh, exciting and fun,

This brings me to DC’s latest Doom Patrol reboot, this time written by Gerard Way and drawn by Nick Derrington for the new Young Animal imprint which is a sort of Vertigo-lite and the blurb goes like this…

The atoms are buzzing. The daydreams crowd sentient streets, and the creative team has been warned, “Turn back now or suffer the mighty consequence of sheer, psycho-maniacal mayhem.” Generation-arsonists unite—this is DOOM PATROL, and the God of the Super Heroes is bleeding on the floor.

A blenderized reimagining of the ultimate series of the strange, DOOM PATROL combines elements from classic runs, new directions, and things that could not be. Our entry point is Casey Brinke, a young EMT on the graveyard shift to abstract enlightenment, with a past so odd that she’s not entirely sure what is real and what is not. Along with her partner, Sam Reynolds, the pair blaze a path through the city and its denizens, finding the only quiet that exists at 3am is the chaos of the brain. When the pair answer a hit-and-run call, they find themselves face to face with a familiar figure: Cliff Steele, AKA Robotman.

“It gets weirder from here,” writer Gerard Way had to say about the book, with artist Nick Derington gripping tightly on the wheel of the ambulance. The pair’s only communication? Shouting out of the open windows while at high velocity. Who needs a new roommate? Who names a cat “Lotion”? And when do we get to see all those muscles?

When did the blurb for new comics sound like someone trying a wee bit too hard? Make you miss the days of Stan Lee’s Bullpen Bulletins.

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The first thing that are apparent is that Derrington’s not a bad artist at all and that Way’s doing a Grant Morrison ‘homage’ in terms of writing, which does lead to panels loaded with dialogue trying to be ‘weird’ or ‘edgy’ but ends up just making panels look clustered. The one on the right above would work better if there were less captions or none at all, but this is about creating an internal narrative but this is comics. I get what the characters are doing from looking at the panels. I wish writers would break away from their fifth generation Alan Moore style and be confident enough to let the artists do their job.

Anyhow, Casey Brinke is a paramedic, and is very good at her job because Way has to tell us often. As for the Doom Patrol, Robotman is still around.

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As is NIles Calder and  Danny the Street.

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Brinke is then brought into the weirdness when this happens…

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Eventually Brinke meets another new Doom Patrol member over the remains of Robotman.

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Doom Patrol works as a cover version of Grant Morrison’s run on the title back in the 1980’s and early 90’s. If you’ve read that run and want something which is sort of like that but not as original, witty or interesting then this is for you. This is sort of like the guy in the office that wears ‘zany’ ties for Red Nose Day. It is basically trying too hard which is a pity as Doom Patrol is a great concept. The original Arnold Drake written stories are bizarre while still playing it straight. This is too aware, too knowing, plus Way’s narrative captions become so painfully excruciating in it’s sixth form Morrison prose that it renders the comic a chore.

Which it shouldn’t be. The art is very good, and when Way turns off all the bollocks he thinks makes him Grant Morrison, Doom Patrol is fun. It isn’t as fun as watching Gerard Way being pelted with bottles but it could be a passable fun bit of superheroics if Way was told to dial it back. Seeing as Young Animal is his own imprint that isn’t likely.

 

Gerard Way’s reply to that Alan Moore Interview.

Gerard Way, lead singer of hilariously self-important noughties Emo boy band My Chemical Romance went and Tweeted this in response to the Alan Moore interview that’s causing a lot of angst online.

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I’m sure Way’s Photoshop skills are going to terrify the regulars at B3TA and other such sites and although this did raise a wee smile, not because it’s especially funny (it’s not) but because it drives home a point Moore was making in the interview that must have skimmed over Way’s head.

 I would also observe that it is, potentially, culturally catastrophic to have the ephemera of a previous century squatting possessively on the cultural stage and refusing to allow this surely unprecedented era to develop a culture of its own, relevant and sufficient to its times.

Now it may well be that Way is being ironic, but I somewhat doubt it having once endured My Chemical Romance at a Reading Festival in the early noughties, but being gladdened by the hail of bottles full of piss being aimed his way.

At least Way has the excuse of sticking up for his mate Grant Morrison in what has become a bitterly personal slagging match. Some of the responses to the interview have been utterly baffling in the way they’ve completely been unable to actually read Moore’s words and understand them. For example, here’s this excuse for ‘reporting’ at something called ”Nerd Bastards” with the headline Moore Blames Morrison for Terrible State of Modern Comics.

Except as anyone who’d read the interview will find out, Moore said nothing of the kind, but that headline gets the hits and hey, who needs to even try to discuss what Moore’s raised in the interview when you can get hits! Then there’s articles like this where it has to mention that the interview is a long one because one assumes their audience isn’t intelligent people who can hold their attention span for longer than it takes to breathe while stuffing your face full of crisps.

If it sounds like I’m being hard then you’re right as frankly, a large chunk of the reaction, including from places like The Beat which should know better, is proving several of Moore’s points. It’s saying something about this story that Bleeding Cool’s coverage is on the whole, the most even handed and reasonable while almost overwhelmingly everyone has mainly concentrated on the comments made by Moore towards Morrison and I firmly include myself in this as well as contributing to this imbalance in my own small way.

This is a story that’s far from over, but until the next eruption there’s a lot to discuss in this interview, and perhaps if comics journalism is to prove itself wrong to me, it’d be really, really nice if the established sites either did that, or stop trying to coax clicks by printing half arsed articles, or just plainly lie about what Moore’s said, which is fucking ridiculous. If you run a site saying you report the news, then report it fairly. Don’t make up headlines. If you want to create a discussion then grow a spine and engage the reader in that discussion with an informed viewpoint of your own. If you want to take the piss, then do it, don’t just sit there wheeling out the sad and tired meme of ‘oooooo, what if Moore and Morrison had a wizard fight?’ as if you were the first people to think of it.

Bring something to this debate because right now things are raw, which means there’s a genuine potential for honest debate about racism in comics, or sexual politics, and that comment Moore made about 21st century culture wallowing in the remnants of the past is a debate waiting to be had. Prove that people who read comics are intelligent people. Prove a point, rather than just stick Photoshopped images up to say ‘fuck you’ to someone rather than engaging the debate. Let’s be having a conversation, of any form, rather than what we’ve got now but this isn’t productive at all.