Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Existential Ennui

is on a bit of a Christmas break at the moment, which is probably indistinguishable from all the other times I forget to update the bloody thing and there are no new posts for ages. I'm actually sitting here working, but I'm not at work, and therefore haven't been looking for something to distract me from some mundane task or other, which is how I usually end up blogging. But, as I mentioned, I am sitting here, at home, working, and what I'm doing is really fucking mundane, and so that's why I thought of Existential Ennui. And here we are.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

I don't

blog much about music, mostly 'cos I spent a good seven or eight years writing about music professionally and doubt I've got anything interesting or original to say about it anymore (not that I ever really did). But truth be told, I've not been listening to as much new music this year as I have previously. I tend to go for the indie side of things, and indieworld went electropop in a big way in '09. Which is fine – I got nothing against electropop; it's just I sort of did that in the 1990s (and the 1980s). And while guitarry artrock also isn't the most original of music forms, at least I wasn't really old enough to appreciate it first time round (i.e., post-punk/new wave), so artrock sounded fresh to me. But this year it's been largely subsumed by electropop, so for me, pickin's were slim.

There have been some ace albums though: Official Secrets Act, Maccabees, Horrors, Johnny Foreigner, Fanfarlo... probably more I'm forgetting. And a few bands have piqued my interest: Exlovers, Everything Everything... And with new albums due in January from Good Shoes and These New Puritans, there's still cool stuff around.

So... there.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Having now read

Invincible Iron Man #21, we can now increase the tally of Steve Rogers Captain America sightings in the Marvel Universe to three. Yep, there he is again, fine and dandy, and in costume once more. Sigh. Is it even worth the bother of reading the final two issues of Captain America: Reborn now?

Friday, 11 December 2009

Out of Whack

Well I must say, for someone who's purportedly not that interested in comics anymore, I've got rather a lot to say about them at the moment. This post was sparked by something the guy behind the counter at the comic shop said this week when I bought New Avengers Annual #3. He said there was something a bit strange about the comic, in particular the ending, and that Marvel seem to have got slightly out of whack with their continuity. Obviously I had to flip to the last page to see what he was on about... and here we should probably insert a

*SPOILER ALERT*

because there on the final page was Captain America. The Steve Rogers Cap. The one who's currently still got two issues to go of the miniseries (Reborn) bringing him back from the dead. Hurm. But actually, the guy behind the counter obviously hadn't read Dark Avengers Annual #1 from the week before, because on the last page of that, there again was Steve Rogers. Not in costume, but obviously him (Bucky, or rather the current Cap, was standing next to him, and called him "Steve"). I guess these aren't massive spoilers; it was fairly obvious Steve Rogers would be returned to the Marvel Universe at the end of Reborn. But it'd have been nice to actually see how that story resolved before we started seeing Cap running around New York again. Twice.

Reviews: Punishermax #2, Unwritten #8

I read both of these last night, and was surprised to find I enjoyed Punishermax more than Unwritten, particularly seeing as Punishermax was quite unpleasant. I mean, Garth Ennis' Punisher Max was often unpleasant, but that was all part of its bleak nature: the abiding theme of Ennis' run was the world is an awful, awful place and the Max version of the Punisher was exactly the kind of 'hero' the world deserves. It's hard to determine Jason Aaron's theme on Punishermax as we've only had two issues, but it seems to be more of a nastied-up version of Ennis and Steve Dillon's earlier, less X-rated Punisher comics. That's partly to do with the presence of Dillon on art duties on Punishermax, but I don't sense the bitter depth of Ennis' best writing in Aaron's. But, a clunky 'origin' scene for the Kingpin aside (I just didn't buy the rats sequence – this kid witnesses his dog being thrown out of a window so immediately starts keeping rats with which to torture his dad; felt a bit false and over-egged to me (although I liked the bit with the cheese – he's gonna use cheese to torture his dad??)), once I got into the swing of the comic, the machinations of the Kingpin, contrasted with the Punisher's investigations, really worked for me. So yeah: unpleasant, but oddly enjoyable.

As for Unwritten, it's still not clicking for me. It's well written, Peter Gross' art is as great as ever, but I think what I'm missing is any empathy with the lead character, Tom Taylor. The brilliant thing about Lucifer, Mike Carey and Peter Gross' previous series, was the title character was such an epic bastard that even when he wasn't in the comic his presence weighed on and distorted the story, shaping it around him. In Unwritten, I don't mind Tom Taylor, but he does come across as a bit of a dick, and although his presence is felt in stories in which he doesn't appear (as in this one, for the most part), other characters actually shine brighter, are more vivid than he's been so far. Which is a problem. I don't know if it's the comic's problem, or my problem (could be part of my general disillusionment with comics), but it is a problem. I'll give it a few more issues I think, but then I may have to call it a day. Shame.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Review Murderer #1

Just back from the comic shop, and on top of the comics I said I'd get (all of which I did get), I also got the third issue of Kevin Huizenga's Ganges, and the Murderer one-shot by Robert Kirkman. I read that on the train on the way back, and it was actually pretty good – it's part of Top Cow's Pilot Season, whereby Kirkman and a variety of artists produce five one-shot comics and then readers get to vote on which one gets turned into a miniseries. If I could be arsed (which I can't), I think I would vote for Murderer. It's the story of a guy who hears other people's thoughts, except he can't switch them off unless and until he kills someone. Then he gets a few hours' respite. There's an effective use of voiceover panels throughout – at first you think it's the main character, but it's a nice sleight of hand; you're actually reading other people's thoughts. And the art's not bad either: Nelson Blake II isn't your typical Top Cow artist; he's more akin to Cory Walker or Ryan Ottley, Kirkman's artists on Invincible – fairly clean lines, decent storytelling. I'm glad I picked it up.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

It occurs to me

that I have no more books on their way to me. Which is good. I've got quite enough to deal with as it is. But there's always that nagging hunger, the collector's blight: checking out eBay, browsing AbeBooks, maybe going for a wander round the Lewes bookshops. Surely, the craving calls, there must be something to buy.

Well there is. Comics! (Er, and presents for other people too, of course, what with it being nearly Christmas. But that's not as much fun as buying stuff for yourself.) Let's take a look at what's on my list this week, shall we?

Invincible Iron Man #21. Wait, didn't the last issue only come out two weeks ago? Hurm. And come to think of it, didn't I ask the exact same question about this exact same comic a month or so ago? Hurm. Well anyway, Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca continue to keep me interested in this. And in this current climate of culling comics, keeping me interested is enough.

New Avengers Annual #3. My passion for New Avengers has waned slightly (as has my passion for comics in general), but not enough to give up on it. It's still pretty smart, and pretty pretty. Apparently this Annual is about Clint Barton, who was banged up by Norman Osborn and has since been forgotten about. I don't really care what's happened to him to be honest, but I'll probably buy it anyway.

Punishermax #2. First issue of this wasn't too bad. I figure give it another issue. But always at the back of my head there's that nagging voice. No, not the nagging collector one; the other one. The one that whispers, "It's never gonna be as good as Garth Ennis's Punisher Max. Jason Aaron ain't no Garth Ennis. And that was then. That was the comics-passionate you. This is now." Shush, voice. One more issue. Then we'll see.

Unwritten #8. Still liking this. Still buying it. Sure, it's not Lucifer, but then what is? And I've just dropped Mike Carey's X-Men, so the least I can do is continue supporting Unwritten.

Walking Dead #68. For me, this has now turned into Chuck. Not in the sense that it's anything like Chuck; it's not. More in the sense that Chuck is the kind of genre show I'll happily watch every week, without feeling any great passion (there's that word again) for. It's like, for a while this year, on Tuesdays, Sky, Virgin and the Sci-Fi Channel were showing Stargate Universe, Chuck and Dollhouse one after the other. It was Sci-Fi Tuesday: a sci-fi sandwich, with Chuck in the middle. Except it was the bread – Stargate Universe and Dollhouse – that was really tasty, and the filling – Chuck – that was merely a perfectly adequate undefined 'meat'. And Walking Dead is kind of like that. Except, it being zombies, the meat's a bit off.

I think we'll leave that one there.

Books of Bond

I almost forgot: a couple of other books turned up in the post on Saturday, a job lot bought on eBay:










That's the James Bond Dossier (Kingsley Amis's literary critique of the Fleming novels, which I've been after for a while) and The Book of Bond (also by Amis, a guide to how to live your life like 007). The Book of Bond is missing the front endpaper, but the reversible jacket's complete:








The Dossier is in great condition apart from a couple of small tears on the spine. Neither book price-clipped, both for less than forty quid, which, considering individually they'd go for at least that each, isn't too bad. And, whilst browsing in the basement of the Needlemakers in Lewes on Friday, I came across the Pan paperback of The Book of Bond for £3.50.













Splendid.

Pantastic

Another AbeBooks acquisition:













This time the first re-set Pan edition of Moonraker, i.e. the, I think, first edition with that particular cover, from, I think (I don't have the book in front of me), 1959. I was actually watching an auction of a second printing of this on eBay, but it suddenly shot up to £18, so rather than pay nearly £20 for a copy (possibly more; one of the bidders was obviously keen), I went for a browse on AbeBooks, and came across a listing of what looked like the right book. It took a few emails fired back and forth with the owner of the bookshop to establish it was the right cover at least, so I bought it for a fiver (including postage). It turned up yesterday, and it seems to just say 're-set' on the imprint page, not second or third printing. I'll have another look tonight, but in any case, bit of a bargain.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Cutting Comics Cavalcade

Here's what I did getted this week:

Dark Avengers Annual #1
Mighty #11
Siege: The Cabal

Pretty pathetic, huh? Three comics. I passed on Blackest Night Wonder Woman #1 (as noted before, I've been giving Blackest Night a wide berth for various reasons, but the prospect of Greg Rucka – who penned an excellent run on Wonder Woman earlier this decade – writing this three-issue miniseries piqued my interest; a quick flick through at the comic shop extinguished said interest, as it just looked like one long underwritten fight scene); Marvels Project #4 (Ed Brubaker-written, but shockingly tedious thus far, and this issue didn't look any better); Torch #4 (I actually forgot to get this, only realising once I'd left the shop, but on reflection I doubt I'll miss it; Mike Carey's take on the Mad Thinker has been fun, but I think the Thinker – hey! – has now exited the series, stage left. As have I); and Uncanny X-Men #518 (I've simply lost interest).

All of which, combined with managing to read two of the three comics I bought on the fifteen minute train ride home and a chance stumble-across on the interweb, got me slightly nostalgic for, of all things, late-1990s superhero comics, specifically the post Heroes Reborn Marvel comics, more specifically the second Busiek/Perez Avengers run. Those were some great old skool comics, where loads of stuff happened every issue, or at least seemed to happen, or at least did in my memory of them. Whereas now, I can read Siege: The Cabal in seven minutes and be treated to what basically amounts to a board meeting for supervillains (and a boring one at that) interrupted by some half-arsed fightage and destructionage. Brilliant.

So now I want to go back and read some of those Busiek/Perez Avengers issues, but I have a feeling I flogged them a few years ago. Maybe I'll check next time I'm at my folks' (most of my comics collection is in their loft), but I don't think I'll find them.

Shit.

Well I Never Knew That Dept.

As noted on Bleeding Cool, a new biography of Patricia Highsmith reveals that Highsmith did a stint at the coalface of comics. Blimey. It's entirely possible that this information is in the biography of Highsmith I'm currently reading, Beautiful Shadow, but I haven't got very far with it yet. Anyway, a quick search on t'web (apart from bringing up Existential Ennui as one of the hits when you google "Patricia Highsmith comics" – not much bloody use to anyone there, including me) turned up this:

"Living in New York City and Mexico between 1942 and 1948, [Highsmith] wrote numerous comic book stories, turning out two stories a day for $55-a-week paychecks. With Nedor/Standard/Pines (1942-43), she wrote Sgt. Bill King stories and contributed to Black Terror. For Real Fact, Real Heroes and True Comics, she wrote comic book profiles of Einstein, Galileo, Barney Ross, Edward Rickenbacker, Oliver Cromwell, Sir Isaac Newton, Dr. David Livingstone and others. In 1943-45 she wrote for Fawcett Publications, scripting for such Fawcett Comics characters as Golden Arrow, Spy Smasher, Captain Midnight, Crisco and Jasper. She wrote for Western Comics in 1945-47."

Right then. A-hunting we will go...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Ooh,

I almost forgot. Also waiting for me yesterday when I got home was a 1958 Pan reprint of Casino Royale. Another eBay bargain. Here it is:

The Ripley Collection

So, I now have first editions of all the Ripley sequels. The final one, The Boy Who Followed Ripley, turned up yesterday, a really lovely Heinemann first edition purchased via AbeBooks for very little indeed. AbeBooks is quite the resource – it's an aggregate of online booksellers, and pretty much any book you care to name is on there. Anyway, here are those covers in full:

























And not forgetting my Pan paperback edition of The Talented Mr. Ripley:

Monday, 30 November 2009

Excellent.

Just filled two holes (ooer) in my collection by winning first editions of Kingsley Amis's James Bond Dossier and Book of Bond, a job lot on eBay, for less than it would've cost for one of the books on their own. Splendid.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

What I Done Got This Week

Ever felt like you're talking to yourself? That's what writing this blog is like. But if I am just writing it for myself, then I guess it can act as a diary of my various obsessions and how they wax and wane in comparison to each other. At present, as I've outlined more than once, book collecting is floating my boat more than comic collecting. But I did go to the comic shop this week, after giving it a miss last week, and here's what I got:

Criminal Sinners #2
Dark Avengers #11
Invincible Iron Man #20
New Avengers #59
Thor Giant Size Finale
Uncanny X-Men #517

Dark Avengers
is a holdover from last week, and having read it on the train, I wouldn't have missed it much if I hadn't got it at all. There were a few others from last week (and this week) I didn't but, either 'cos they'd sold out, or I couldn't be arsed:

Irredeemable #8
Ultimate Comics Avengers #4
Underground #3 (of 4)
X-Men Legacy #229

So that's four more comics I won't be getting anymore. And y'know what? I don't think I'll miss 'em. Little by little, I'm chipping away at my comics habit...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Tremor of Forgery

Speaking of Patricia Highsmith, I finished The Tremor of Forgery recently, and found it a really unusual book. It's not a crime novel really, although there is an unconfirmed killing in it. It's much more about one man losing his moral compass, or rather questioning what morality is. It's incredibly internalised: Howard Ingham, the 'hero', is in Tunisia writing a book, and there are long passages where he turns events (both 'real' and in his novel) over in his mind. The book isn't written in the first person – I don't think any of Highsmith's books are – but we really get inside Ingham's head, and, in that brilliant way of Highsmith's, start to accept a kind of amoral view of the world. You're almost lulled into it; the writing's so matter-of-fact that questionable thoughts and acts become somehow everyday, acceptable even. But what's really interesting about the book is that, essentially, nothing much happens. Ingham writes his novel, meets a few people, goes on a few trips, eats, drinks, and thinks. The one 'death' we witness impacts on Ingham's state of mind, but not in an obvious way. It's something he returns to, mulls over, but it's one of many things: his work, his relationships, his sexuality. It's a fascinating novel.

New Arrivals

Two treats waiting for me when I got home today:













A 1965 first UK edition of Patricia Highsmith's A Suspension of Mercy, and a first UK paperback edition of her debut novel, Strangers on a Train. Both nabbed on eBay for a very reasonable price. And in other Patricia Highsmith news, I should soon have a full set of Ripley first editions (with the exception of Talented, which I have a nice 1960 Pan edition of), with both The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Under Water hopefully winging their way towards me soon.

And at this point I should probably stop buying books for a while. I've got quite enough to be getting on with, and really the only book I'm currently keen to get is Kingsley Amis's The James Bond Dossier. I've got my eye on a copy of that on eBay, twinned with his Book of Bond. But then that's it. Really.

Well...

For a while anyway.

Maybe.

Ahem.

Oh sod it. I'm an inveterate collector. If it's not books it's comics; if it's not comics it's records; and if it's not records it's DVDs. At least with books I'm bettering myself slightly, expanding my horizons through fiction. Yes, I do actually read the books I buy, not just stick 'em on a shelf. Although they do look good on the shelf...

But yes. There are no local book fairs until next year, so it's time to regroup, take stock, and try and make headway with the books I do have. I'm nearly done on Stephen King's Under the Dome, and am also partway through Live and Let Die (James Bond has just had his first encounter with Mr. Big). Under the Dome has been great, although a strange thing: as with Cell, King hasn't really imparted a description of the ostensible hero, Dale Barbara. I've got a mental image of him as a black man, even though I'm almost positive he's not. It just feels right to me that he is, and King hasn't described him at all, so far as I can recall. Which is odd, as I'm pretty sure King's at least sketched the appearances of all the other characters in the book.

And after these two, I think I'll try Kingsley Amis's The Green Man and Highsmith's afore-mentioned Strangers on a Train next. And dip back into the Highsmith biography I started. Ah, sweet anticipation.

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Haywards Heath

book fair was another charming provincial affair. A decent-sized hall with maybe twenty dealers there. I got there early and stood in the short queue, and I recognised the two guys in front of me: they had a table at the Rye book fair the weekend before, selling rare children's books. One of them must have slightly recognised me too, because he turned around and asked if I had a ticket. I said no, and he gave me a spare one! Very nice of him. Once inside I did a few circuits, picked up something for Rachel for Christmas, and also bought a hardback first edition of the 1990 revised version of Stephen King's The Stand, which may well be my favourite ever book. I recall borrowing this version from the local library years ago, and reading it twice through. Flicking through it on the train on the way home I still remembered so much of it vividly, even King's introduction, where he explains why he decided to publish this extended edition (basically because lots of fans asked for it, and the original was only cut back in length because the accounts people wanted to keep the price down). So, another lovely book for the shelves.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Ripley's Claim

It's always nice to come home to a package from the postman (sounds a bit smutty, but anyway...), and waiting for me yesterday was a book I won on eBay for £3.50: the first Pan edition of The Talented Mr. Ripley. An actual 1957 first edition of this book (UK, that is; 1955 in the States) is somewhat out of my price range (hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds), but this 1960 paperback version is just as good really. It has a great, evocative cover:













by David Tayler, about whom I know virtually nothing, other than he used to take about a month to work up his covers. The large, dark head in the background is, I imagine, Tom Ripley, and the grinning smaller head Dickie Greenleaf. I can't find the Pan edition for sale anywhere online at the moment, but I suspect I got a rather good deal. The book's in lovely condition, with a bright cover and slight tanning to the pages, but nothing you wouldn't expect from a book that's nearly forty years old. A good find.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Spandex Mania!

The world and his wife seems to have gone crazy for my friend Martin's small press comic Spandex. Mart sent out a press release to various people and all of a sudden it's been picked up by the Sun, the Metro and is all over the interweb. Martin is now panicking slightly. Bless. It's all well deserved though.

A Momentous Decision

I think (I think) I have decided not to go to the comic shop this week. There are a number of reasons for this. The first two are interrelated – one reflects the other to the extent that I'm not sure which came first. They are: there aren't many comics out this week that I want (four, in fact: Dark Avengers, Irredeemable, Underground, and X-Men Legacy); and I'd quite like to save the expense of a trip to Brighton and the cost of four comics. On top of those two reasons, there are a couple of others, also interrelated: I don't feel a burning desire to buy any of those four comics (and indeed wouldn't lose any sleep if I didn't get, say, Underground, at all); and I'm still in the grip of a more general comics malaise – this in spite of drastically cutting down on my consumption.

So, for the first time in I-can't-actually-remember-how-long, I almost certainly won't be going to the comic shop this week. (Obviously I reserve the right to go anyway if the mood takes me.) This may not sound like a particularly momentous decision to anyone reading this (anyone? Anyone? Bueller?), but for me, it's a biggie. Or at least it would have been, not so long ago. Less so now. So clearly it's not a momentous decision for me either, thus making a nonsense of this entire post.

Anyway, on a not unrelated note, yesterday I strolled up to the amusingly named A. J. Cumming bookshop on the high street and emerged clutching this:













No, it's not a proper first edition; it's a Book Club edition. But it was only a fiver, and it's the same murky, moody cover as the first edition, and I haven't read it. Result.

Monday, 16 November 2009

To Rye-Aye

God that's a dreadful pun. Anyway, the Rye book fair was a fun affair, similar to the Lewes Book Fair, and with some of the same dealers too. A few circuits of the hall in Rye College produced a 1961 first edition of Gavin Lyall's The Wrong Side of the Sky for a fiver, sporting a cute jacket of a flier on a blue background. I can't find the cover anywhere on line, but it's a splendidly old fashioned wrapper. I shall look forward to reading that one (I also have a Pan edition of Lyall's subsequent novel, The Most Dangerous Game).

For anyone interested, Steve Holland has a good piece on his website about Lyall here.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Ze List

Here's wot I done got this week:

Batman and Robin #6
Chronicles of Wormwood Last Battle #2
Punishermax #1 (Steve Dillon Variant Cover)
Supergod #1 (of 5)
Unwritten #7
Walking Dead #67

I also flicked through these:

Batman Doc Savage Special #1
Strange #1 (of 4)

but decided against them. And y'know, even the comics I did get I'm finding it hard to get excited about. The weekly trip to the comics shop is feeling more like a chore these days, like a habit. Just something to get me out of the office. I'm still feeling the books more than the comics at present. Just started on Stephen King's Under the Dome, and it's pretty gripping thus far, certainly more so than any comics I've bought. Should I stop going to the comic shop? Has it really come to that?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Oh,

and I was amused by the appearance (or rather non -appearance) in the The Anti-Death League of one L. S. Caton, who featured in Amis's first novel, Lucky Jim. How's that for a shared universe.

The Anti-Death League by Kingsley Amis (A Very Brief Review)

I finished reading Kingsley Amis's The Anti-Death League about a minute ago, and decided to Google the title and see what other people have said about the book. And blow me if the fourth hit wasn't this very blog. That gave me a start, I can tell you.

Anyway, it's a brilliant novel, not at all what I was expecting. The eponymous League barely features as such, but of course the whole novel is essentially about the League, even though it doesn't actually exist. Or rather, it's about death, and God, and love. And it has a wicked little kick in the gonads to finish it off.

(UPDATE: This post was written when I was still feeling my way around what Existential Ennui could and should be as a blog. If I posted it now, it would be more of a proper review and contain lots of nerdy information about the cover artist and so forth. I also wouldn't be so concerned with its Google ranking, although I can't say I've completely rid myself of that unattractively needy trait, as I did just notice this post currently lives on the second page of hits if you Google the book's title. Anyway, the novel has only grown in my memory. It is excellent. For more recent – and better – posts on Kingsley Amis, go here and here.)

Friday, 23 October 2009

Huh.

I thought Existential Ennui was the top hit on google today. It was when I googled it a minute ago. And then I checked again, and it was at #8, where it usually seems to be. Weird.

So, the copy of Sebastian Faulks's Devil May Care that I won on eBay turned up yesterday, and as I kind of half-suspected, it wasn't a first edition at all. It was a fourth impression. Bastard. Hardly worth complaining though; it was only two quid. Being the mentalist that I am, I've now ordered a proper first edition (at least I bloody well hope it is – I checked with the seller and they assured me it is) on ABE, for £1.50. I can flog the other copy at the next boot sale I do.

Yes, yes, I know. I'm hopeless.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Televisual Entertainment

Now that autumn (or fall, as the yanks have it) has kicked in properly, there's a fair bit of interesting genre telly on again. Three episodes in (I think), Stargate Universe has proved pretty compelling, most of which is down to Robert Carlyle's character, Dr, Rush, and the chubby one, Eli, who can be relied upon to deliver a couple of genuinely funny one-liners each episode, along with the odd impression (his Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes this week was ace). Meanwhile Carlyle has been producing some astonishing work for what is essentially a slightly above standard genre show, going through the emotional wringer and eventually having a complete breakdown (his character, that is). I've only ever dipped into the Stargate 'franchise' previously, but even going by a cursory familiarity with previous incarnations, Universe is, thus far, a cut above.

Elsewhere, Dollhouse season two kicked off with a decent enough opener, although it obviously didn't match up to the completely mental season one closer, which was set in the future and really drilled into the potentially cataclysmic ramifications of the personality-imprint process, with no one knowing for sure if other people were who they said they were. I also caught the first episode of Hung, starring Thomas Jane of Punisher fame (and the little-seen and rather good Stander). I knew nothing about it going in; not even the show's title tipped me off, so I was pleasantly (if that's the word) surprised when the thrust (ahem) of the plot was revealed later in the episode: Jane's character, something of a failure in life, love and work, determines that the only thing he has going for him is his huge cock, and decides to use it to make his fortune. As Michael Palin might say, "And what about you? Do you think there's anything amusing about the name... Bigus... Dickus...?"

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Listy Listy List List List

For some reason, when I was writing the last few posts, all I could see was the html version, with all the code for italics and whatnot. I've now worked out I simply had to switch tabs to 'Compose'. It's fine now. Panic over.

Fascinating stuff.

Aaaaaaanyway. Here is this week's list of the comics that I will be purchasing this week:

Dark Avengers #10
Ex Machina #46
Invincible Iron Man #19
Underground #2
X-Men Legacy #228

Underground is the Jeff Parker/Steve Lieber miniseries about a cave, and the small town it's close to. I don't think I was in the right mood when I read the first issue, and I wasn't intending to get issue #2, but unlike a lot of comics I read (or rather used to read -- I've dropped a fair few of them now), I can actually recall what happened in #1, and am intrigued enough to stick with it, for now. It has a similar feel to Whiteout, which, considering it's the same artist, isn't that surprising. I don't really know where it's going either, which is always good.

Apart from Ex Machina, all the other comics on that list could find themselves in the drop zone in the not too distant future. They're all reasonably enjoyable, well crafted comics, but I guess the ultimate test is, would I miss them if I didn't buy them? I suspect not. So beware, Dark Avengers, Invincible Iron Man and X-Men Legacy (and wasn't the title of that last one supposed to be changing at some point? What happened about that?): you could all be for the chop very soon.

Yeah,

that was pretty pathetic. I started that last post with the best of intentions, and actually typed more of a review (well, a sentence more anyway). But I bored myself. I lacked inspiration. And Another Thing... is a good book, but like I say, others have already written extensively about it, and said all there is to say about it. I'm sure I'll knock out a review of something at some point, but I'm not going to force myself.

Anyway. Next I'll be reading Kingsley Amis's The Anti-Death League. And I must say my first edition of Colonel Sun did look good on the shelf, snuggled between firsts of The Anti-Death League and The Green Man.

And Another Thing...

It occurs to me I should possibly, maybe, perhaps, be writing something here about the books I've been reading, rather than merely detailing the books I've been buying. Y'know, like reviewing them. But there are probably bazillions of blogs out there reviewing books, not to mention newspapers and magazines, and really, what have I got to bring to the table?

Still, let's give it a go at least. It's not like I haven't written plenty of reviews in my time.

So I've just finished Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing..., the sequel to Douglas Adams's five Hitchhikers books, and it was rather good.

How's that?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

For a medium size town,

Lewes does have an inordinate amount of bookshops. There are five second hand bookshops here (yes, including the Secret Bookshop), plus a bric-a-brac place called the Needlemakers (over which our offices were based until March this year) that has a big stock of old books, plus the flea market and the antique shops. There's also the British Bookshop for new titles, and WHSmiths of course, and also Rik's Disks, which sells old comics (many of them mine -- I flogged a load to them a couple of months back). If I'd actually planned to move to a books treasure trove of a town (which I didn't), I couldn't have picked a better place than here. Of course, I wasn't as interested in books when I first came here last year. So maybe it's that aspect of Lewes that's influenced me. Perhaps being surrounded by books, and having a thing like a regular book fair on my doorstep, is what's got me reading again (and collecting).

You may recall

I toyed with buying the Kingsley Amis Bond novel Colonel Sun at the recent Lewes book fair; that's if you, or anyone really, is actually reading this blog. But let's assume you are. Anyway, I strolled up the road just now, intending to go in A & Y Cumming on the high street; I keep hearing there's a basement there with even more books, but once again this mythical basement either wasn't open, or just isn't there (and maybe never was). I had a look on the shelves anyway, and as usual didn't find much of interest (an Arthur C. Clarke novel apart).

And then on a whim I decided to go in the Fifteenth Century Bookshop, slightly further up the road. It's a funny, musty old place, laid out in a crooked fashion (and indeed in a crooked building), a wide variety of books piled high everywhere, with a usually scowling or at best disinterested French owner who sometimes sits outside on a stool puffing on a cigarette and reading the paper (I think his name's Pasqual). I've been in there lots of times, and always feel slightly guilty for doing so, like I'm disturbing his otherwise tranquil day. In fact I think that's how most people who visit the shop feel.

As a result of not feeling terribly welcome in there, it took me a fair few visits to notice the books he has behind his counter, a couple of shelves of modern firsts. And on this visit, what did I spy but a first edition of Colonel Sun. Bugger me. Had it always been there and I simply hadn't noticed it? Sitting there in the shop, waiting for me, for my interest in fiction to reignite? Maybe. In any case, it's a nice copy, clean pages, no inscription, and a bright jacket with only slight discolouration at the top and bottom where the plastic coating didn't quite reach – and not price clipped either. It was twenty quid less than the one I saw at the book fair, and I knocked him down a bit further too.

So now I have a first of Colonel Sun. And I even got a smile out of Pasqual. And the lesson here, as with the Secret Bookshop, is I should always turn to Lewes first when I'm looking for a book. Lewes will provide.

(P.S. I also won a first edition of Sebastian Faulks's 2008 Bond novel Devil May Care on eBay last night for two quid. So there.)

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Pevensey

Book Fair turned out to be a small but charming affair, held in Pevensey's community hall. Pevensey itself (or possibly Westham; I wasn't sure where one ended and the other began) is a little village (or possibly two little villages), with a high street consisting of the occasional hairdresser's, a pub or two and a post office/local store. But it does have a large, crumbling castle, or at least it looked large from the outside. In fact I discovered you can walk through the grounds of the castle when I headed back to the station after the fair, and rather nice it is too. I peeped into the keep but didn't pay to go in, being a cheapskate. Another day, perhaps.

As for the fair, there were maybe fifteen dealers there, and after one circuit of the hall I thought I'd be done in five minutes. But after another circuit I came across a couple of Dennis Lehane first editions (Mystic River and Shutter Island) and an Arthur C. Clarke Pan paperback (Childhood's End) we need for a book on cult books we're putting together at work. All three for a tenner, and a pleasant chat with the seller into the bargain.

Besides myself there were maybe twenty people circling round, mostly older folk. It kind of reminded me of a toy fair I went to once in Orpington (don't ask). So, worth going to this one time I guess, but I won't be making the trip again.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The List

This week, I shall probably purchase the following:

Anna Mercury 2 #2
Marvels Project #3
Uncanny X-Men #516
Unwritten #6
Walking Dead #66

Those are dead certs I reckon, although annoyingly two of them – possibly three – are $3.99 comics, rather than $2.99 ones. I really do need to cut down further on four dollar comics, so even though Marvels Project is Ed Brubaker, if it doesn't do something interesting or exciting this issue, it's for the chop. Anna Mercury is the other offender, but that's been surprisingly enjoyable.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

I believe

I might pop over to Pevensey on Saturday and have a mooch around the book fair there. It's only a small fair I think, but you never know what might be lurking there.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Also,

now that Matt Damon's older, someone should cast him as Tom Ripley again and film the sequels. There've been a few attempts at Ripley Under Ground and Ripley's Game (John Malkovich was rather good in the latter), but Matt Damon playing Tom in properly faithful, period adaptations... wouldn't that be terrific?

I've realised

that I would quite like to be Tom Ripley. Not the needy, rather unpleasant Tom from The Talented Mr. Ripley. The later, more settled Tom, circa Ripley's Game, pottering about in his big country house in France, reading books, collecting art and bits of furniture, going on the occasional sojourn with Heloise (or Rachel in my case), perhaps learning to play an instrument or doing a spot of painting. But without the forgery, or the murders. Well. Maybe. Let me think about that. Forgery and murder might be quite exciting. But definitely not the suppressed homosexual tendencies. Not that there's anything wrong with homosexual tendencies, suppressed or otherwise.

And in the 1970s, I think. Yes. That would be fine.

The Secret Bookshop

There's a secret second hand bookshop in the town I live in. It's hidden away in a narrow passage that runs up the side of the castle mount. I stumbled upon it a while ago but it never seemed to be open. Then one day it was open, and I went in for a look around. There wasn't a great selection there, or more likely at that point I wasn't as into books as I am now, and I promptly forgot about the place. (I think it's also the base of the local listings magazine – there's an office upstairs and they seem to advertise the magazine in the window.) But today I went for a stroll up the high street to look in a couple of the other bookshops in town, and was just heading back when I suddenly remembered it.

I doubled back, went in, and straight away saw a first edition of Kingsley Amis's Girl, 20. Price clipped, but otherwise in great condition. Seven quid. And then I saw a first edition of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley Under Ground, the second Ripley novel (and possibly the best, although my favourite is Ripley's Game – and yes, I do have a first edition of that). Now, I already have a first of Ripley Under Ground, but this was a nicer copy – my copy has a sunned (faded) spine, which is typical of this book, but this copy didn't. And it was twenty quid. And right next to it was a hardback of a Patricia Highsmith biography (Beautiful Shadow) I've had my eye on on eBay, for eight quid.

I bought the lot.

Why buy a book I've already got? Well, as I say, it's a nicer copy. I might sell my other copy; I might not. But I think it's more to do with knowing that there would have been another, better copy of Ripley Under Ground in my town, for someone else to pick up at what is a rather good price.

That probably makes me really weird.

Of course, they'd have to find the secret bookshop in the first place.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The occasional

Lewes book fair was on on Saturday. I was there early doors, spotted a fair modern firsts I'd quite like to read and own, and bought none of them. I'm not sure why. There were two Kingsley Amis novels, Girl, 20 and I Want it Now. The former wasn't in great shape, but it was only four quid. The latter was a nice copy, and going for twelve quid. I really don't know why I didn't buy them. I can't work myself out sometimes.

I do know why I didn't buy Amis's Colonel Sun (writing as Robert Marham, of course): it was sixty-five quid. But I did consider it.

Shiny shiny,

shiny new book, purchased today:













I'd sort of forgotten how much I loved the original Hitchhikers books. I read them when I were a lad (apart from the later ones, which I read as a young man). I probably borrowed them from the local library, a place I practically lived in for a number of years during boyhood and then a later period post-polytechnic when I was on the dole. Gawd knows how many books I borrowed from there. I had a habit of devouring series or particular writers, starting with Doctor Who novelisations when I was very young, then moving onto yer James Herberts and Stephen Kings and Richard Laymons, by way of the Fletch novels or the Beiderbeck books. And then, for quite a long time, I forgot I'd read so many books. Successive interests – music, comics, politics, wanking – largely kept me away from reading much in the way of novels, and my passion for them – and history with them – vanished.

But now the books are back, and with them my particular past, and now there's a new Hitchhikers novel, almost as a celebration of my return to the fold, although in truth merely a coincidence. How very Douglas Adams.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

After a few weeks

of austerity at the comic shop, this week I splurged slightly:

Astonishing X-Men #31 (Travis Charest Variant Cover)
Batman And Robin #5
Chronicles Of Wormwood Last Battle #1
Criminal The Sinners #1
Crossed #7 (of 9
Irredeemable #7
Mighty #9
Planetary #27
Torch #2 (of 8)

That's actually a nice list of (hopefully) well-written and -drawn comics I'll (again, hopefully) enjoy.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Whut You Reading For?

Getting back into novels has been a revelatory experience. I'd clean forgotten how rich and deep novels are in comparison to comics. Sure, there are some comics that manage a similar depth – Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp being a recent example – but in general, comics, or at least American adventure comics, provide a much pulpier, shallower reading experience.

I'm continuing to work my way through Patricia Highsmith's backlist, and I've got a few more Kingsley Amises lined up. I'm also currently midway through my first Bond novel, From Russia, With Love, and it's terrific. Why haven't I read any Fleming before? (I think we know the answer to that one – too busy poring over daft comic books.) I also picked up a Pan paperback of a Gavin Lyall book, The Most Dangerous Game. Kinglsey Amis was apparently a fan of Lyall, a writer I'd never come across before, so I'll give it a go.

Friday, 25 September 2009

I once

wrote a comics script.

Actually, that's not strictly true.

Once upon a time, in my callow youth, I both wrote and drew a number of comics, few of which I ever finished. They ranged from 'zany' comedy comics with titles like Invasion of the Killer Lampposts to supposedly more realistic stories about, er, alien invasions and Monty Python-style weights falling from the upper atmosphere onto my family's terraced suburban home (don't ask). A couple of them even saw print, after a fashion: the first part of a series called Invasion (I think) appeared in a friend of mine's horror fanzine when I was maybe sixteen; and for a time at college in Manchester I had a regular strip called Nothing Man running in the polytechnic magazine, Pulp. It was, I believe, universally loathed. Christ knows why they continued to run it. Presumably they couldn't think of anything else to fill the space with.

And then I stopped making comics. I carried on writing, but as a music journalist, not a writer of fiction. Later I moved into editorial, and that's where I've been ever since, editing genre magazines, and then books. A few years ago, however, my friend Martin was looking for contributors for an anthology issue of his superhero soap opera The O Men, and foolishly agreed to let me write a short strip for it. As it turned out the anthology never saw print, but I've just noticed Mart has put the script online.

And here it is.

Incidentally, little of my writing about music or genre stuff can be found online; I was freelancing before the internet became what it is today. There is one feature I wrote for Mixmag that's lurking online though, and it's also one of my better ones, on a subject that sent me off on a thrilling tangent in my life and which changed the way I thought about all sorts of things. Here it is.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

I've got a brand new combine harvester,

and I'll give you the key.

I don't know why The Wurzels were in my head just then, but they were, fleetingly, and they made me think of Chas & Dave for some reason. Who, shockingly, have split up. So now they're just Chas and Dave. No ampersand. Just two entirely separate blokes, one called Chas, one called Dave.

-----

In other news, a number of Marvel comics didn't get distributed in the UK this week, including New Avengers and Uncanny X-Men, which I've been collecting up to this point. Time was this would be cause for much concern, even consternation, on my part, but in fact I barely raised an eyebrow when I read about it, and it's given me an excuse to not buy Uncanny whenever it eventually makes an appearance (I'll still get New Avengers, mind). So thank you, Diamond Comic Distributors. You've saved me a bit of money there.

-----

So, as this week nears its end, two things to look forward to next week. On Monday FlashForward starts on Five (formerly Channel 5). Looks kind of interesting. And of course we have the Labour Party conference. Will there be another attempt on Gordon Brown's leadership? Exciting stuff.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

So,

the Marvel and DC solicits are up. The Marvel listings talk about a big Hulk event for next year. The DC listings talk about a big Superman event for next year. I'm starting to doubt whether I'll even be reading comics next year.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Ah.

Hello blog. I've been meaning to update you, but what with one thing and another, I, er, haven't. I intended to blog about this week's comics, and how I resisted buying things like Blackest Night #3, but the moment's passed now, and I told Mart anyway, and he's the only person who reads this shit anyway, anyway.

So there you go.

Friday, 11 September 2009

So, what have we learned this week?

Excellent question. Let me think.

Ummmm...

Well, I learned that Stephen King still delivers a right rollicking read. Cell has been great, utterly compulsive reading, and I'm inclined to try another recent King book (ably guided by Mart, who has recommended the good'uns and warned me about the bad'uns). I'd forgotten how much fun he is (I fell off the King bandwagon round about Desperation/The Regulators).

What else...

I've learned that my local WHSmiths have started stacking copies of Sight & Sound on the next shelf down from the one they used to, so that it's obscured from view unless I bend down.

Uh... I'm struggling here.

Ooh, I learned that Kick-Ass #7, which came out this week, doesn't bode well for Nic Cage's screentime in the movie.

And finally, I learned that I can function on three or so hours' sleep, but that by the end of the day I'm fucking knackered.

zzzzzzzz...

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Y'know,

this is daft. Existential Ennui is my blog. I can do what the hell I like with it. If I'm not feeling comics right now (and that conjures up one of my friend Mart's memorable drawings of me naked and covered in comics) and am more into books, then why not blog about books instead?

So yes, I am reading Stephen King's Cell at the moment. And yes, I am thoroughly enjoying it. And yes, it is a first edition I picked up in Eastbourne for a fiver. And yes again, I know first editions of Stephen King books run into the umpteen thousands. But even so. I like first editions. I like reading them. I like having them. I hesitate to say 'owning', because really, in the grand scheme of things, do any of us ever really 'own' anything? Many of these books may still be around by the time I die, so I certainly won't own them at that point. They're merely with me at the moment. Unless I burn them once I've read them, a kind of scorched earth approach to reading.

But anyway, I've drifted off the point. Which is, it's my bloody blog and I'll write what I like on it.

The List

Here, as if anyone cares, is this week's intended buys:

Adventure Comics #2
Dark Avengers Uncanny X-Men Exodus
Dark Reign The List Avengers
Irredeemable #6
Kick Ass #7
Marvels Project #2 (of 8)
Ultimate Comics Avengers #2
Unwritten #5

Once again, it's a restrained list, but unlike previous weeks I probably will get everything on it. I've simply left off any comics I wasn't sure about, with the exception of Adventure Comics, which I think I will flip through first. Oh, and Irredeemable, which didn't turn up last week, and if it doesn't turn up this week I may just give up on the damn thing.

Mind you, I've still only read two of last week's comics. Five more to get through. Damn that Stephen King book. It's been a while since I've read one of his, and I'd forgotten how much like crack they are. Once you start, it's damn hard to quit.

Monday, 7 September 2009

So,

Saturday's trip to Eastbourne was a slight wash. Despite spending a couple of hours in Camilla's (which, before you ask "Camilla's what?" is the name of the bookshop), thoroughly examining the goods across two visits (broken up by a fruitless trip to the old town to visit another second hand bookshop that turned out to sell mostly new books and some old charity shop-style tat in the back), all I came out with was Stephen King's Cell. Still, I've started that already, and it's a decent enough end-of-the-world romp so far. And it's not like I haven't got plenty of other books to read, not to mention comics, old and new.

Speaking of comics, only read a couple of last week's haul thus far, but the first issue of new Vertigo series Sweet Tooth was rather good. Seems to be a post-apocalyptic scenario, which I hadn't worked out from the preview, and I likes me a good post-apocalyptic scenario, as my enjoyment of Cell testifies. I'll give it another few issues. If nothing else, it'll be interesting to see how an indie creator – Jeff Lemire, whose work I don't think I've read before – copes with the demands of a proper monthly comic book.

Friday, 4 September 2009

I'm not

going to list the comics I got this week because, frankly, that's getting boring. Suffice to say I bought fewer comics than I have done on similar weeks. Well done me, think of the money I've saved, etc. etc. But of course, being an inveterate collector, I've merely been spending money elsewhere. Modern first editions have been floating my boat recently. Either first editions in hardback, or first paperback editions. I just picked up a copy of Kingsley Amis's The Alteration, for example. Rather nice cover it has too:













And I'll be heading to Eastbourne at the weekend to have a good look around a great old second hand bookshop there.

There's really no hope for me.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

This Week's Comics (Slight Return)

Well, I surprised myself there. Here's what I actually got:

Batman and Robin #3
Batman Widening Gyre #1
Dark Avengers #8
Detective Comics #856
New Avengers #56
Secret Warriors #7

Yes, I did pick up Batman Widening Gyre. Flicking through it at the comic shop the art looked a lot better than the previous Kevin Smith Batman miniseries, although I think it's the same penciller. Different inker maybe? Anyway, there was enough there to intrigue me – Nightwing, Joker – so I bought it. Secret Warriors, again the art looked good at first glance, although not so brilliant on further examination. I read this one on the train back... and I'm not sure I made the right decision in buying it. It was OK, but the debut issue of this series – with its revelations about S.H.I.E.L.D., revelations that, for once in comics, were a surprise to me – is still the best one. Then again, the big tussle over the last few issues between Fury and Hydra has been kinda fun... Then again again, is "kinda fun" good enough...? Then again again again... I'm losing you here aren't I? Oh comics, why do you vex me so?

I passed on these:

Flash Rebirth #4 (of 6)
Green Lantern #45
Hulk #14
Incredible Hulk #60

Rebirth I realised I'm finding it hard to care not only that Barry Allen's back, but why he's back. So that's that. Anyone wanna buy the Ethan Van Sciver variants of #1-3? Green Lantern looked full of action, but also bereft of interest. Hulk I was pleasantly surprised by Ian Churchill's artwork (I'd heard he'd left the Liefeld School of Multiple Lines, but on a quick glance this looked like he'd enrolled at the McGuinness School of Chunky Goodness), but not pleasantly surprised enough to carry on reading the series. And Incredible Hulk now features Hulk's son. Yes, Hulk has a son, which he apparently sired on that alien planet during Planet Hulk. Hulk having a son feels wrong to me somehow; I've studiously avoided the Son of Hulk series up to now and basically pretended it hasn't happened, I can't hear you, la la la la. So I can't exactly start reading Incredible Hulk now Hulk's son is in it, can I? I do have some principles.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

An interesting wrinkle

to the story about there being no new comics in Christmas week, which I blogged about here. The FPI blog points out that, in the UK, due to comics coming out on a Thursday instead of a Wednesday, there'll probably be no new comics the week after either.

Two weeks without new comics. Gulp. Could this be, like when you're ill and end up quitting smoking, an opportunity to give up comics for good?

An Excellent Point

Martin makes an excellent point in the comments in the post before the post before this one: if you buy too many comics, you'll be more jaded about comics because the more comics you buy, the more likely it is you'll buy ones you either don't like or that are essentially shit. I still feel somewhat nonplussed about superhero comics at the moment, and believe that's partly to do with the formulaic nature of the genre, but perhaps by cutting down I'll regain some of my enthusiasm. Here, then, is the list of what I'll definitely be getting this week:

Batman and Robin #3
Dark Avengers #8
Detective Comics #856
New Avengers #56

Considering it's the last week of the month, which is the busiest week for comics (lots of comics slip in the schedule, and so end up in the last week of a given month, as publishers still want to keep them in that particular month for cashflow reasons), that's an incredibly restrained list. But it may expand. Here are the comics I will consider buying:

Batman Widening Gyre #1
Flash Rebirth #4 (of 6)
Green Lantern #45
Hulk #14
Incredible Hulk #60
Secret Warriors #7

Some of these I probably will end up getting. But I'm pretty sure I'm jettisoning Hulk. I'll flick through it (and Incredible Hulk), but I almost certainly won't buy it. I actually haven't minded the Loeb/McGuinness Hulk run, but I guess the key phrase there is "haven't minded". Not exactly a ringing endorsement, and so, in the spirit of the new age of comics austerity, so long Greenskin.

Widening Gyre is the new Kevin Smith miniseries. I gave up on his last Batman miniseries, Cacophony, after one issue, so this one I'll have a look through and see what I think. As for Green Lantern, Flash Rebirth and Secret Warriors, it's touch and go with all of them. Flash I'll probably stick with – I've come this far after all. Green Lantern I think has Doug Mahnke art and is part of the Blackest Night event, so that's likely a keeper, for now anyway. Secret Warriors... it's been alright so far. But alright isn't really good enough, is it? Hmm. I think I've just talked (or typed) myself out of a potential purchase.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

There's been

a certain amount of consternation in comics circles over this news, whereby it's been revealed that there won't be a new delivery of comics from Diamond (the one and only comics distributor) in the week between Christmas and New Year because of the way the holidays fall in the US and UPS deliveries and some other boring shit. Tom Spurgeon points out that there might be lost sales and resultant cashflow issues for comic shops, and something of a glut of new comics the week after.

My immediate reaction, considering my current slight disillusion with comics, was, great! A week off from the comic shop! In fact, I'm thinking of campaigning for more 'skip weeks'. The way comics publishers' schedules work, there's always at least one week a month where there are less comics coming out, and those that are coming out are either utterly run of the mill or out-and-out pigeon shit. So let's skip those weeks too! Not just in terms of customers not visiting comic shops, but Diamond not shipping any comics, and indeed publishers (and let's face it, we're talking Marvel and DC here) not publishing any comics! Just think: the mean average of comics' artistic worth – the good to shit ratio – would improve dramatically. We'd have fewer rubbish comics. Result!

Well it's a nice idea.

Those Christmas in-between weeks are always a bit odd. You don't tend to get any 'big' comics coming out that week. I seem to recall DC throwing the odd short 'event' into that week; some sci-fi take on their characters around the millennium? Does that ring any bells for anyone? (Is there anybody out there...?) And comic shops tend to be pretty quiet; a lot of customers will obviously be away. It's a strange, half-dead week of mundane comics. And now it's completely dead. So it goes.

This week's comics

Here's wot I got:

Daredevil #500 (Geof Darrow Variant Cover)
Dark Reign Hood #4 (of 5)
Ex Machina #44
Stand American Nightmares #5
Unthinkable #4
X-Men Legacy #227

An admirably short list, I'm sure you'll agree. It's a brave new world of restraint. The age of comics austerity, if you will. Of those, Daredevil #500 is Ed Brubaker's final issue, and thus my final issue too. None of incoming writer Andy Diggle's stuff's ever much grabbed me, and I need to cut back, so so long Matt Murdock. I'll also be bidding farewell to The Stand. Despite my problems with its past tense captions, I've liked the last few issues, but we're now moving past my favourite part of the King book, and it's still a top-of-the-pile comic, so sayonara Stu, Frannie et al.

Astonishingly, my local comic shop had the latest issue of Unthinkable (a great idea for a comic, but shoddily executed and, in my experience anyway, badly distributed), just a single solitary issue, so I had to grab it, if only to ruin some other customer's day. Bastard.

I passed on the following:

Big Questions #12
Blackest Night Superman #1
Invincible #65
Superman Annual #14

Big Questions I may pick up at some point down the line. I like Anders Nilsen a lot, but periodically is probably not the best way to appreciate this story, and I missed the first five or so issues anyway. A collection I would definitely acquire. Blackest Night Superman... I'm not digging the whole Blackest Night event as much as I hoped, so these spin-off miniseries are becoming less attractive. Superman Annual I flicked through, but it ended with a superhero crying a single tear. Fuck that shit. I've seen enough sobbing superheroes from DC to last me a fucking lifetime. Enough with the fucking blubbing. Man up, bitches. As for Invincible, I started picking it up again with the done-in-one crossover issue #60, stuck with it a few more to see what developed, was rewarded with some impressive gore, but it looks like business as usual now. End of.

And yes, I did get a variant of Daredevil #500. But it was only a quid more. And it's Geof Darrow. It's allowed. Look:













Sweet.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

One thing I am going to do,

or at least try to do, is buy fewer comics. This is another 'phase' that comics fans go through periodically, traditionally referred to as "cutting back". It's usually sparked by disenchantment, or lack of funds, or both, as in my case. Comics right now are pretty bloody expensive. With the way the exchange rate is, and with more and more comics being priced at $3.99, you're talking an average of nearly three quid a comic. Doesn't sound a lot in isolation, but if you're buying five, maybe ten comics a week... it adds up. And that's without the occasional graphic novel thrown in.

So yes. Fewer comics. But speaking of graphic novels, I finally caved and bought a copy of Darwyn Cooke's The Hunter adaptation (a.k.a. Point Blank). I've been wanting to read the original anyway, and Cooke is a great artist/writer, and I was up in London, and Gosh had some signed bookplate editions left, and I got a discount, and... and I guess I'm just going to have to deal with the past tense captions thing (see previous posts). It may well make more sense, be less jarring in The Hunter than in The Stand. I can see how that might be the case. I'll find out.

Nice looking book though.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Anyone

following this blog regularly – if there is anyone following this blog, regularly or otherwise – might notice it hasn't been updated in a while. Couple of reasons for this:

1) I've been on holiday. Oh, lovely, thanks for asking.

2) I've gone off comics.

Now, point one I'd imagine will be taken as read. Everyone needs a holiday now and again. Point two, however, is slightly trickier. Kind of negates the whole raison d'etre of the blog, n'est-ce pas? Well, yes and no. Note the "mostly" in the sub-header, but also understand that all comics "enthusiasts" go through periods where comics just aren't doing it for them, for whatever reason. At the moment, for example, I'm bang into novels, first editions and the like. And comics usually suffer when compared to a really good novel (the likes of Asterios Polyp aside). I'll still buy comics, probably on a weekly basis, but I won't enjoy them as much as I have previously.

But don't worry. I'm sure it'll pass. It usually does.

Unless, of course, it doesn't.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Reviews: New Avengers #55, Fantastic Four #569

There's a brilliant synthesis that happens sometimes in superhero comics, where you get the right writer and the right artist working together and it just clicks. The comic feels seamless, natural – dialogue and artwork are a whole, as if they've been made by one creator rather than two (or three or four or five – if the lettering and colouring are working too, all the better). This brilliant synthesis actually happens less often than you'd hope; there are plenty of comics where there's a good writer and a good artist working together, but for some reason – something to do with complementary creativity – they're not the right writer or the right artist.

There's a neat illustration of this in two comics that came out this week. Both New Avengers #55 and Fantastic Four #569 feature Stuart Immonen artwork. Immonen's a talented artist with a flowing line and natural storytelling abilities. And yet the two comics couldn't feel more different. Fantastic Four was scripted by the British TV writer Joe Ahearne from a plot by Mark Millar, and despite lots of gorgeous panels of stuff exploding and heroes clashing, it doesn't gel. There's a disconnect between the spectacle and the script and an awkwardness to the story progression, all of which only distances the reader. It's pretty, but uninvolving.

New Avengers, on the other hand, despite consisiting of long stretches where it's essentially large groups of costumed characters talking to each other, is almost magical. Writer Brian Michael Bendis' character work is beautifully augmented by Immonen's storytelling. For instance, Spider-Man's full face mask generally makes it really hard to have him express any kind of emotion, but in a sequence where the Avengers are discussing killing Norman Osborn, Bendis' dialogue and Immonen's staging lend Spidey a surprising level of emotional intensity. One panel in particular – Spider-Man saying he'll quit the team with a dismissive hand gesture – is simple and yet incredibly effective.

New Avengers #55 may not be an important or historically noteworthy comic like, say, Watchmen or Batman: Year One, but the creative partnership here is as strong as that of Moore and Gibbons, or Miller and Mazzucchelli. It's the right writer, the right artist. It's an alchemy that's unique to the comics medium, but yet also quite rare within that medium, and so something to be celebrated.

Mind you, the cover's a bit crap.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Ill-Gotten Gain

Well, not particularly ill-gotten; I did pay for the things. But anyway, here's the list of comics wot I got this week:

Dark Reign Hood #3 (of 5)
Detective Comics #855
Fantastic Four #569
Ignition City #4
New Avengers #55
Secret Warriors #6
Superman #690
Terror Inc Apocalypse Soon #4 (of 5)
Ultimatum #5 (of 5)

It strikes me that my posting of this information every week will be of little or no interest to anyone, even if anyone is reading this blog, but I guess it'll be something I can read back over and see what I was buying on a given week. Then again, it also strikes me even I might not be interested in doing that.

Aw fuck it. I'll carry on doing it. What the hell else am I gonna write about?

Not sure what I'm looking forward to most out of these. New Avengers maybe? Ultimatum I'm only buying 'cos I wanna see how it ends; it's been pretty appalling all the way through. Fantastic Four I'm quitting after this issue. Just wanna see how Mark Millar's run finishes (although he's only co-writing at this point). And on the danger list (as in, in danger of being dropped) we have Secret Warriors and Superman. I want to see socks being pulled up pretty sharpish with those two, or else they're gone. So there.