Friday 10 July 2009

Well well.

We have our first comment, a couple of posts down.

Shit, that means I really will have to write that Manifesto post.

And now

Existential Ennui is at number 9 in the google rankings. A remarkably rapid ascent that's probably the result of me googling my own blog.


A Manifesto

This has been boiling round my brain for a while, and it's not quite ready to come out yet, but just to warn you: I may at some point blog at length about why I think so many US 'mainstream' comics are so disappointing, and what kinds of comics I'd like to see being made. And I don't mean in the usual whiny sense of 'Oh there's too many bloody superhero comics and they're choking the market'. I mean in the sense of a paucity of imagination on the part of many comics creators and, probably more pertinently, on the part of many editorial and management bods.

So the gist of it will be: when the only limits are imagination (and we all know they're not, but this is part of the argument), why are so many superhero and adventure comics so pedestrian? And, conversely, if the only limits were imagination, what would superhero and adventure comics be like?

Discuss. Soon.

I know I vowed

to put the irritating navel-gazing behind me when I relaunched Existential Ennui, and to concentrate on something with more substance instead (that's comics, if you were wondering; keep up). But you'll have to allow me a little introspection I'm afraid. As anyone who read Off Message will know, it does come with the territory.

Yes, you guessed it: I googled Existential Ennui. Just those two words, nothing else. And we're currently at number 28 in the rankings. With a bullet. Woo hoo.

(And if you add a 'blog' after the 'Existential Ennui', we're at number 8.)

Not that I'm looking for validation or anything.

Thursday 9 July 2009

I caved.

I did buy the regular Bryan Hitch Captain America: Reborn #1 cover. I tried to resist, really I did, but it was too darn pretty. Look. Look how pretty it is:

Yes, I know. I need help. And on top of that, any indie cred (ha!) I might have gained by buying this

is instantly trampled on and pissed on and shitted in its mouth by my buying this

which, you'll recall, is a comic I already own, except with a different (and probably better) cover.


The eternal struggle twixt art and commerce, between my better and worser-er natures, between the falutin' and the fanboyish, neatly encapsulated in two covers:



Now then.

Here's something that turned up at the comic shop this week which wasn't on my list:

I feel a lengthy Mazzucchelli post coming on...

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Comics Then and Now


Stan "The Man! The Magical!! The Mystical!!! The Marvellous!!!! The Magnificent!!!!! The Mellifluous!!!!!! The Magnanimous!!!!!!! The Multitudinous!!!!!!!! The Multidimensional!!!!!!!!!" Lee!!!!!!!!!!


Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Mmmmmmmmmmmiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiichaaaaaaeeeeeeelllllllllllll Bbbbbbeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnndiiiiissssssssssssssss.

So my

timely and original thoughts on the back-up text piece in Justice League: Cry for Justice were, it transpires, neither timely nor original; Brian Hibbs said exactly the same thing at Savage Critics last week.


Possibly Maybe

Here's the list of what I'm thinking of getting this week:

Batman #688
Captain America Reborn #1 (of 5)
Dark X-Men Beginning #1
Green Lantern #43
No Hero #6
North 40 #1 (of 6)
Stand American Nightmares #4
Superman World Of New Krypton #5 (of 12)
Unwritten #3
Wednesday Comics #1 (of 12)
X-Men Legacy #226

There are a few titles there I'm not sure about yet. Dark X-Men I probably will give a try, but North 40, which is (I think) a new Vertigo miniseries about a community in America plagued by demons or something (I think), I'm really not sure if I'll buy or not. I'll probably flip through it, see if it's shiny enough to spend money on. World of New Krypton is in the relegation zone if it doesn't buck its ideas up soon, and The Stand is on thin ice too. Not because it's not competently done; it is – it's a very literal adaptation of Stephen King's novel (which I love). There's just one fatal flaw that kills it for me every issue: the captions are in the past tense. That may not seem like much, but it's an adapting choice that pulls me out of the story every time. I don't know if it's something Marvel didn't have any say in, but if they did, they slightly shot themselves in the face. Comics (or at least American comics) have a well established etymology, whereby captions describing or embellishing the action in the panels are written in the present tense, adding to the immediacy of the action. As soon as you go against that dictum, you risk losing that immediacy, and that's what's happened with The Stand. Which is a bugger, because Mike Perkins's art is decent enough, and I'd be happily enjoying the comic if it weren't for that one niggle.

You'll notice that Green Lantern is back again. And yes, I will be buying it. I am mentally unwell.

And in a further illustration of mental illness, Captain America: Reborn #1 actually came out last week, but I bought the John Cassaday limited variant instead of the main Bryan Hitch cover, and now I'm considering buying the Hitch cover as well.

It is a sickness.

Monday 6 July 2009

Agents of Atlas #7

I tend to sort each week's comics into reverse reading order, i.e., the ones I'm expecting least from at the top of the pile, to be read first, and the ones I'm most looking forward to at the bottom of the pile. Evidently I am a delayed gratification kinda guy. Well, relatively delayed. Anyway, Agents of Atlas has been steadily moving its way down the pile since the ongoing series launched at the start of the year. I liked the original miniseries, but I wasn't expecting too much from the ongoing. I figured I'd give it a few issues, see how it went. It's turned out to be quietly brilliant.

This latest issue is a case in point. We get a main story set underwater and involving Atlanteans, which, as any regular comics reader will tell you, traditionally spells tedium. Here, however, there are great jokes (Gorilla-Man's sarcastic quips), misdirection passed off as tentacle soft porn (the Venusian's fascination with a gigantic plant-creature relates back to his lascivious encounter with an anemone last issue, but is actually something else entirely), and a Namor who, for once, isn't a complete tool. We also get some really lovely art, courtesy of Garbriel Hardman and colourist Jana Schirmer. Hardman's very much in the Born Again Mazzuchelli/Michael Lark/John Paul Leon school: proper drawing, in other words. Writer Jeff Parker also manages to cram in a sub-plot harking back to the miniseries, some great characterization and character interaction, and a back-up story that dovetails neatly with the main feature.

So yeah – Agents of Atlas #7: a bloody good comic.


Well, possibly. Let's give it a go at least.

I've read maybe a third of this week's new comics, and there've been some decent efforts so far (Invincible Iron Man wasn't bad, Destroyer was dumb fun). But the only one that surprised me was Justice League: Cry for Justice. I really wasn't expecting a lot from that, but the artwork was the first pleasant surprise – a striking mix of drawing and painting, with some Jim Lee in there, some Gene Ha... certainly purty enough to linger over the occasional page. So well done that Mauro Cascioli.

On the writing side, despite a significant break from comics, James Robinson still seems to be doing that thing where he emphasizes all the wrong words. That aside, the story was OK, but the second pleasant surprise was the text material at the back, wherein Robinson writes about his reasoning for the characters he's picked, offers hints of what's coming up in the miniseries that actually made me really quite excited in a schoolgirlish sort of way (The Shade! The Shade!), and teases his forthcoming run on the main Justice League title, which, it transpires, Cry for Justice is a lead-in to. And the scant details of that made me a teensy bit excited. (In fact if I were a schoolgirl, I would have done a little wee in my knickers.)

He also talks about a childhood trip to a secondhand book shop in South Africa, gazing upon a treasure trove of old comics and being told by his mum he could have just one (he chose an old issue of The Atom). Robinson's documented his love of the past and of collecting previously (notably in the pages of Starman), but this kind of reminiscence always hits home with me, chiming with my own childhood (and, it has to be said, adulthood) trips to junk shops, flea markets, wherever, in search of comics.

So Cry for Justice #1 turned out to be a bit of a treat. If nothing else, I'll be getting the next six issues for the back-up material alone.