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: