Thursday 16 July 2009

GeoffJohnsGeoffJohnsGeoffJohns Say it Enough Times it Starts To Sound Weird

So after all my whining and wailing, Blackest Night #1 wasn't half bad. But it made me think. And what it made me think is this:

There are two Geoff Johnses.

No, wait! There are three Geoff Johnses. I forgot the one who sits at his computer cackling and stabbing at his keyboard while scenes of mutilation and dismemberment spew from his mind and fingers (plenty of that good shit in Blackest Night, mm-hmm).

But the other two Geoff Johnses, the main Geoff Johnses, not Leering Slasher Geoff Johns – those guys have two distinct personalities. One is Regular Series Geoff Johns, otherwise known as The Unremarkable Geoff Johns. Regular Series Geoff Johns writes ploddy run-of-the-mill stuff like the last eighteen months of Green Lantern or the quiet bits of Justice Society. Regular Series Geoff Johns isn't very strong on plot, or character, or anything really, although compared to the majority of writers writing for DC these days, he's a literary behemoth, so he gets plenny o' work.

The other Geoff Johns is GEOFF JOHNS: THE EVENT. GEOFF JOHNS: THE EVENT does stuff like Infinite Crisis (better than you remember, kids), or Thy Kingdom Come in JSA, or Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds (which, trust me here, is fantastic; when it's eventually finished and the gaps between its individual issues are forgotten, it will be appreciated for the giggling genius of its million-things-happening-on-every-page madness). GEOFF JOHNS: THE EVENT is really quite a lot better than The Unremarkable Geoff Johns, and it looks like it's the former wot we've got on Blackest Night.

I suppose that shouldn't really be a surprise; it is, after all, an "event". But I think The Unremarkable Geoff Johns lulled me into a semi-comatose state, so it's nice to finally wake up to a Blackest Night.

Ooh, bad pun there. Tragic.


J. Caleb Mozzocco has reviewed that All Select thing I mentioned below, with the Michael Kupperman story in it. Saves me a job anyway. This also highlights a problem with reviewing comics. In America, comics come out on a Wednesday. Here in the UK, they come out on a Thursday. So I'll never be able to beat the Yanks in getting reviews out first. I see this as justification for this blog being utterly rambling and generally pointless. Hooray.

Asterios Polyp, slight return: I've finished it now. There are reviews all over the interweb, and there'll be more all the time, so I'll just say it's a really satisfying, thought-provoking novel – that's novel, not graphic novel; it is the latter, but it belongs with the former – with some brilliant, memorable characters who I wanted to spend more time with. Oh, and the ending made me smile, but then I'm wrong like that.

This Week's Haul

All Select Comics 70th Anniversary Special
Agents Of Atlas
Blackest Night #1 (of 8)
Captain America #601
Dark Avengers #7
Incognito #5
No Hero #6
Rasl #5,
Walking Dead #63

And so the Green Lantern "event" Blackest Night begins, and as you can see, I did buy it, despite my almost completely losing interest in Green Lantern. It will be at the top of the to-read pile. (This, regular readers will know, is Not A Good Thing.) If it isn't any cop, I will stop buying it. No, really, I will. I will! Swear to God! Why won't you believe me??!!

Actually, in my defence, I did resist getting both the Blackest Night #1 variant cover (mostly 'cos it was five bloody quid) and Blackest Night Tales of the Corps #1. Usually I buy right into all this spin-offy shit, so that's an indication of my supreme nonplussedness.

Look – Agents of Atlas is out again. Didn't that come out two weeks ago? I'm sure that happened with Invincible Iron Man too recently. My life seems to be speeding up in a worrying fashion.

No Hero #6 was actually supposed to come out last week, but didn't. This often happens with Avatar titles, and in particular Warren Ellis-written Avatar titles. In fact sometimes my local comic shop doesn't get issues at all, usually a #2 or #3 in a series. This is annoying. I have my suspicions that Warren Ellis himself is fucking with me, instructing Avatar not to distribute random issues to the south coast of England. Sounds like the kind of thing he'd do.

Elsewhere, we got Gene Colan on art duties in Captain America (nice); we got the final issue of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips's Incognito (for now anyway – they're going back to Criminal, which I think I prefer; Incognito has been great, but Criminal is almost like the pure hit heroin version of the crime comic, with none of Incognito's distracting superheroics, fun though they are); we got Michael Kupperman doing a story in All Select Comics (Really? Michael Kupperman? Huh. Definitely coming back to that one); and we got Rasl. Now Rasl I like a lot. This is Jeff Smith of Bone fame's ongoing series, and it has three things in particular going for it: really nice art; a trans-dimensional plot; and a protagonist who's a bit of a cock. One or two of those things will usually put a smile on my face, but all three is like getting a reacharound into the bargain.

Wednesday 15 July 2009

So I'm

halfway through Asterios Polyp. And it's good. Really good. I mean, really good.

Monday 13 July 2009

Dark X-Men: The Beginning #1

See, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Right here: this is the problem with comics. The three stories in Dark X-Men: The Beginning #1 all subscribe to the prevailing orthodoxy, to a greater or lesser degree. It's the the default storytelling setting for American superhero comics in 2009, and we shall call it The New Boring.

None of the stories herein are particularly bad. They're competent, Paul Cornell's lead story being probably the most competent. But they all, like many, many current comics, bear the hallmarks of decompression, a style of storytelling that has tightened its grip on the imaginations of comics writers until they can no longer conceive of any other way of telling a story.

Now, decompression is no bad thing in and of itself. It was entirely useful when Warren Ellis rolled it out in The Authority (although in truth the style had been in use selectively for some time already), a way of getting past the torpor of the 1990s. And in the hands of a writers' writers like Ed Brubaker, it's been blended with other cinematic tropes – voiceovers for example, in the form of captions – to create a pseudo-realistic hybrid that strives for character depth and allows stories to wander where the protagonists take them.

And that's fine. I like those kinds of comics, when they're done well. But let's not lose focus here: this is superhero comics we're talking about. And fascinating as Matt Murdock's relationship woes and Bucky's identity issues are, if every comic is going to be as sedately paced and voiceover-heavy as Daredevil and Captain America I think I might stab myself in the fucking eyes.

A conversation between Norman Osborn and Namor does not have to last ten pages; you could get it done in two pages (maybe even two panels) and free the rest of the story up for, I dunno, Norman slipping Namor a mickey that sends the Sub-Mariner batshit and climaxes in a frenzy of fish-fucking. This is superhero comics. Let's see something insane happening every few panels, mad shit raining down on every page, a brain-busting "WTF?" cliffhanger at the end of every story. It doesn't all have to be so bloody pedestrian!

And while we're on this subject, can we not ever have a comic open ever again with a mugger or muggers menacing a generic man/woman followed swiftly by the hero leaping in to break legs/arms/noses/toes, etc. IT'S REALLY, REALLY TEDIOUS. I mean, come on: is that all you have in your head, Mr. Writer? Is that honestly the best you can do, Mr. Editor? Is that truly the kind of comic you want to publish, Mr., er, Publisher?

(Admittedly there is no such scene in Dark X-Men: The Beginning #1, but IT'S THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING.)

Grant Morrison recently made a stab at a more compressed style of storytelling in Final Crisis, particularly the Superman Beyond segment, although crucially he forgot to include the connective tissue stuff that would've made the thing actually make some kind of sense to anyone other than Grant Morrison. But still, he gave it a go. Fair play.

And now I'm slightly losing the will to live with this post, so let's leave it at this: Dark X-Men: The Beginning #1 isn't the worst comic ever made. It's not even the most ordinary comic ever made. But it is symptomatic of a wider malaise, and I for one would like to read some more comics that fire me up a little and don't just leave me thinking, Huh. That's all I'm asking.

Sunday 12 July 2009


I stood on a footbridge with Rachel as a train came down the tracks, and we waved at the train driver. And he waved back.