More comics reviews from goodreads.com
One of the nice things about the current rise of Image is the leeway it gives creators to do passion projects, in this case a pair of historical crime thrillers which stand or fall on how indulgently evocative they are of places long-established in other fictions. So The Fade Out is story set in the dream factory of 40s Hollywood, where fine movies are made by people of integrity who spend their time being nice to each other. ONLY JOKING! There’s a dead starlet pretty much on page one and after that it’s four issues of noir bingo, lovingly executed by the purring collaborative engine of Brubaker and Phillips.
“The biggest horror is that the whole world’s becoming suburban. I find it very worrying.” – Norman Mansbridge
The last thing on anyone at IPC’s mind, when they launched a comic, is that somebody might actually want to keep the thing. Comics were born on the production line, and landfill was their grave, and in that brief span between their urge was not to survive but to reproduce, to impel the reader to buy next week’s issue. So in May 1979 the second issue of Jackpot – “IT’S A WINNER” invited mutilation at front and end. On the cover, a free SQUIRT RING to lure buyers in, mounted with sellotape, which still sticks to my Ebayed copy, covering a gash in the paper like a badly sutured wound. On the back, a coupon to fill in, cut out and hand solemnly over to the newsagent: “PLEASE RESERVE A COPY OF JACKPOT FOR ME EVERY WEEK”.
It’s a loyalty game. There are only so many kids who want to buy comics, and most of those already do. A new title offers a raft of new stories, which may or may not wear better than the ones in the comic you already buy, whose formulae have begun to thin and fray. But with a squirt ring, too – who wouldn’t risk ten pence? Then once you’re snagged, the magazine urges you to the newsagent for next week. You don’t want to miss out.
So it is that the first comic you see in Jackpot No.2 is a three panel, silent strip, admirably clear, instructing you on the use and delight of your squirt ring. Panel 1: a girl shows off her ring to a passing boy. Panel 2: the boy leans in close to admire this fine piece of jewellery. Panel 3: SPLOOSH! A deluge – in the poor sap’s face. HAW HAW!
1978: The Shooting Star
It’s the spider I remember. In The Shooting Star, boy reporter Tintin is investigating an apocalyptic threat, a star on a collision course with our world. He visits an observatory, hoping they can tell him what’s going on. They can: the world is doomed. He is led to the telescope and through it he sees a colossal spider, clinging to the star.
The beast is only on the telescope lens. And the world is not doomed. But I was entranced. By that, by the panic in the streets, by the race to reach a new island formed in the wake of the star’s passing, and by the grotesque exploding mushrooms our hero finds there. Tintin is the first comic I can remember reading, and The Shooting Star is my first memory of Tintin. In many ways, I wish it was almost any of his other adventures.
Thermae Romae I (Yen Press)
Surely the greatest time travel/bathhouse design manga ever written, Mari Yamakazi’s charming Thermae Romae has the pace and pleasures of a culture-clash sitcom: each episode, down-on-his-luck bath architect Lucius Modestus is confronted with a bathing-related problem in 2nd century AD Rome, finds himself whisked away to modern Japan, and returns home full of inspiration. Along the way he invents the Roman Empire’s first reptile house, water slide and loyalty marketing scheme.
We promised we wouldn’t write about the Freaky Trigger #1 comic of 2014 any more, but luckily a MUCH MORE AUTHENTIC AND REAL comic has come along for us to write about instead, thanks to this interview falling through a dimensional gateway from the evil alternate world of Earth-3. Caution – contains implied spoilers for The Wicked And The Divine #5-#7.
Few comics in recent years have attracted quite as much attention and praise as THE SOULFUL AND THE ARCANE, the groundbreaking Gods as classic rock fantasy by writer Kieran Giggin and artist Jimmy McLP. Only seven issues in, it’s already built up a strong following and – like its protagonists – looks set for an immovable place in the canon.
We caught up with Giggin and McLP after the Q Awards, to talk about THE SOULFUL AND THE ARCANE: the series so far, the gods, and how it’s been received.
Avengers NOW! and Marvel in the 2010s
Marvel Comics’ announcement that its new Thor is going to be a woman has attracted plenty of froth and comment – especially since it turned out that this was part of a general refreshment of their core titles under the Avengers NOW! banner brand. Captain America is to be replaced by long-standing partner The Falcon (who happens to be a black guy), and Iron Man is going to become a dick (they may have trouble presenting this as a radical change).
There have been a range of responses. Superhero comics are built on the “illusion of change”, but apparently have the most reliably troll-able audience in media history, so some people are upset at the idea of a status quo change. That it’s a status quo change away from a white guy in two cases – and those two cases are the ones drawing all the heat, nobody is saying “I love Tony Stark! How dare they make him even more of a jerk” – is not coincidental to the level of rage.
(Important disclaimer. I am something of a partisan, in that my brother is writing two monthly comics for Marvel. This partly explains why I’m so interested in their strategy, but I haven’t mentioned his titles in this piece. Oh, and Hazel Robinson writes for this site. And I’ve been to the pub with Kieron Gillen, but then so have a lot of people. Look, speculative Internet random, just assume I’m very biased. Sorry.)
POSTCARDS FROM THE DINERVERSE
Young Avengers ended well. If I say that my favourite issues were 6 and 7 and 14 and 15 it might seem like a terrible unintended slight to Jamie McKelvie, who drew only one complete issue of those four, along with everything else. But they were my favourites – the issues where the comic was most clearly about the parts between the adventures: shit jobs, cheap eats, parties. The stuff of late teenage life.
Avengers #1-17; New Avengers #1-8 by Jonathan Hickman et al.
Marvel’s Avengers and New Avengers comics at the moment remind me a lot of Dragonlance-era D&D, where the whole plot had been worked out in advance and the PCs moved through it with occasional nudging from the GM. It was designed as an immersive, epic, longform experience but also one with very little agency for the players. Their job was to move from set-piece to set-piece while mandated NPCs explained what was happening to them. Some of the NPCs would join their party for a bit, others were more explicitly a voice of the GM: explaining rules or simply telling the characters what they had to do next.
Longform storytelling is in fashion at Marvel at the moment – no surprise, when the most-discussed and praised form of storytelling has shifted from the widescreen movie (the form comics tried to capture in the early 00s) to the complex, multi-season TV series. Story arcs are discussed in terms of seasons; new launches explicitly compared to, for instance, Game Of Thrones.
These are not bad ambitions – comics, especially mainstream comics, have always been a cultural sponge, it’s part of the reason I can’t stop loving them. Even when the stories are crap you can be interested by the wider stuff they’re filtering, reflecting, getting right or wrong.
Marvel comics exist as part of a very extensive meta-verse, a plethora of multiplicities which, in canon, play out many scenarios and worlds. It’s extensive, pervasive mechanic to the way things work in the comics, affecting technologist and magic-using superheroes alike,
I know it’s by no means unique to Marvel but there is something fantastic about a fictional multiverse that embraces its own multiplicity, which throws itself wholesale upon the principle that every event is a branching, that there must be thousands of variants on every element of minutiae. It’s partly interesting to me because it makes fanfiction meta-canon and partly interesting because it gives creatives an excuse to go apeshit fucking ball-crazy.
Warning: some little spoilers for Young Avengers #8 ahead
One of the things you develop, over your lifespan, is control over your impulsive disclosure urge. Some people are naturally inclined to never tell anyone anything about what’s going on with them, some people can’t stop themselves; the middle ground is roughly what you move closer to, as you learn various, frequently incredibly painful lessons.
There’s massive connotation to either end of the spectrum; people who are too private are considered at best mysterious or shy and at worst suspicious, people who share too much are considered stupid, brash, outrageous or at best, naiive. ‘Trustworthy’ is a hard thing to learn to be, sometimes, especially with different standards in different contexts (trustworthy with your BFFs is a lot more detail than trustworthy at work) and getting a balance as well as a personality is something that takes time. And the aforementioned painful lessons.
Reading Charlotte Geater’s excellent piece on the diner motif and Grease in Young Avengers, especially in issue #7, I was earwormed by the Tell me more tell me more refrain from Summer Lovin’. Which was kind of the theme of this issue, in a way, being packed full of exposition and catch-up. The terrific Not-stagram page (more on this story later) showcases the full gamut of exaggeration, stolen stories, personal landmark documentation and social currency bank account statements and dodgy selfies that you’d expect from any healthy extrovert’s online presence- no need to ask Loki. Or more accurately, no point. But he appears to be so open and he’s sharing all his (and Kate’s) photos! Ah, lying by admission.