Thursday, December 27, 2007

I don't think I read all that less of my precious comics, books, manga & so on, but it's odd that, when I sit down to consider a new entry, I'm racking my brain to recall what I've recently read. I don't think this means I enjoy it less. On the contrary, I'm getting a lot from them and there's a great deal of quality around.
It's my memory that's the problem. That, and laziness. I have to go check up on the titles & such of what I've read, and that's a big task.

Anyhow, I went and checked this time -_^
I took almost all of last week to finish (and I mean really finish) the newest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The Black Dossier has received plenty of press:
It's over a year late, it's had shipping restrictions outside of USA etc. etc. Hasn't stopped me from getting a copy (on the contrary, Amazon, Borders et al. must be quite pleased).
I won't be discussing all those fringes, there's plenty of places to catch up, if you want.

The book itself then. Moore's always been out to experiment with his ABC creations in general and LoEG in particular (remember the tourist guides, the mock ads etc. in the previous two volumes) to enhace the world-building he's doing and creating a kind of parallel culture which, though clearly based on our own, and using the paradigms of fiction and so on, but there's unmistakable joy and fun locked in every single page.
And there's plenty of them!
The framing story (I suppose) is the chase scene: we're in the '50s of the LoEG continuity, and the Big Brother phase has just run its course. Mina & Allan stole a Black Dossier containing all kinds of info on the previous incarnations of the League, harking back a long time.
It also reads as a dossier: different snippets and details on different, colourful characters in all sorts of media: files, reports, old cartoons, short stories, all in the style of whatever they are based on, with among them, a particulary hilarious diary-style story by a Brit ponce who's witness to a Ctulhu-invasion (or Cool Lulu, as he calls it) utterly ignorant to what is really going on as a version of the League dispatches the Elder Gods.
Good stuff.
The actual comics narrative has Moore's usual casual air, while still very much delivering a framework for all the supplements and a bridge (I assume) for the true vol 3 of LoEG, to be published by Top Shelf.
There's quite some new (and retro-actively new) characters introduced (or maybe they aren't, you'll understand) in those files, and a lot of ground covered, and you have to pace it.
If you do, it's more than a fun book, it's a rich source of all kinds of odd and wonderful titbits that take some figuring out.
This may help.

Be seeing you

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

For the love

Just a couple of weeks ago, I got re-aquainted with a long-time friend & kindred spirit by pure chance (as these things sometimes happen even to me). We got together and it was (besides the obvious catching up) as if no time at all had elapsed, even though the last time we talked was certainly 2 years ago and the last time we really talked must have been a small decade ago.
Strange, but in the best way possible.

Now, as it happens, (and this ought not to surpise you, intrepid reader) during our encounters that decade hence, we spent most of our time in the blissful light exuded by comics and other printed pages, as well as a solid dose of games and the like, as befits adolescents.

No suprise then, that that afternoon some weeks ago, we spent talking mostly about comics, exchanging experiences, memories and the like.
As should be even less of a surprise, your servant is at all times keen to impart his endless wisdom & impeccable taste upon the unsuspecting as well as the initiated (for he would never discriminate) so we leisurely drifted in and out of the available material, picking out interesting objects along the way.

As my tastes have been running (for a good while now) much more towards the U.S. comics & Japanese manga rather than the European BD, and this evidently being evident in my collection, my friend at one point remarks that "I seem to prefer the pulp-side of the medium".

At first, I was defensive towards this term, yet I quickly realised that it concerned merely a difference in definition (furthermore, the term was not meant as a derogatory).
As he'd been weening himself increasingly on BDs when our ways parted many years ago, he'd veered more and more towards what I'll label 'auteur'BDs. I.e. material by Joann Sfar, Blain, Trondheim, Boucq etc. Plenty of Casterman, single volumes rather than series and so on.
These are more often than not a book per year, conserving a certain style that is almost inherent to that section of the medium.
A lot of the material in my collection, then, has monthly frequency, a plethora of styles, ideas, and, I suppose where he was going with the comment: a lot of genre exercises.
Think Stray Bullets, Star Wars, Vagabond, X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman ...

I'd never considered those pulp (as that term evokes images of Tarzan, The Shadow, The Spider or Doc Savage) and certainly not as derivative or inferior in either content or form to whatever
my friend was comparing them to. As the discussion went on, it became clear that quite simply, our definitions differed.

And I could safely conclude that the one cohesive line one could draw through my collection, from Hellboy to Wolverine, from Scott Pilgrim to Doctor Doom & from El Borbah to The Infinty Gauntlet, I think they are good reading.
True, that also means my collection will forever lack Isaac Le Pirate, Donjon, Michelluzzi books and plenty of others besides. I have tried them (more than once) and the detail that they are BD is wholly incidental. A certain rapport between their geographical origin and the creators' influence could no doubt be made, but bottom line, I quite simply don't think they are as good as the tomes making up my own collection.
And the only gauge I use to come to that conclusion is my own taste, no more, no less.

It certainly makes us no less good friends, on the contrary, the criticism allows for a more animated dialogue & it will always be based purely on what we have read and can therefore consider fact, rather than assumptions we make based on not much of anything.

I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and feel the most rewarding was that we found more similarities in our arguments than differences.


Say hello to his many talents!

Be seeing you

Monday, December 3, 2007



I'd hoped for a score that was a little higher, but my answers were honest!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Alan Moore's horrible Thing!

You can never write enough good things about Alan Moore.
He's been cited as the best writer in (and out) of comics, with intelligent, imaginative, ground-breaking, pioneering &standard-setting work up the wazoo (and I mean this very literally) and unlike so many rave reviews that tend to... reek of greased palms (of which I am NEVER guilty, you may note: I always speak the truth, even when I lie!) whenever one of Moore's works are being praised, they're absolutely right.
Of course, he is a commercial writer. He'll write if you pay him (as should be considered no more than self-evident) and the work will be top quality. Yet! There's one series that is sub-par, to the extent where I genuinly wonder whether Alan Moore actually wrote it. It's one I uncovered recently in the Wild Worlds collection, i.e. the WildC.A.T.S./Spawn mini.

Now, as anyone reading me knows, I dislike commenting on bad comics, because I have better things to do with my time, but for a writer with a track-record like Moore's (his own WildC.A.T.S run, for instance, is WELL worth your time) this thing stood out. Badly.
may be a second one, but it has been too long ago since I read it, and there was a fairly negligent printing error ruining a big scene in the originals.
Anyway, enough bad words.
I could praise any other series he's worked on, from Halo Jones over 1963 to Killing Joke, From Hell, The Birth Caul, Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow? all the way to Top 10 & Promethea (and I believe on occasion, I have) thereby forgetting a ton of other stuff (so don't remind me)...

Today however (and in a bloody roundabout way) I want to share the greatness that is Swamp Thing, or not-Alec-Holland, as you should be aware. (You'll only get this if you read it, so please do!)
This title, between you & me, is what really started the line that would turn into Vertigo, followed closely by Sandman. (Don't know Sandman? Get outta here!)
It started off as a pretty straightforward weird superhero/horror title. (If you'd call that combination straightforward, of course. I would. Shut up.) You know, guy in industrial/corporate accident, changed/mutated, out for revenge etc. etc. Perfectly alright, by Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson (by the by, the former is one of the creators of Wolverine, but he ain't filthy rich. Go figure. Maybe some other post, I'll go into that sometimes? Dunno if I want to go all political.) But then they kind of killed Swampie off, and Alan Moore, more than ably abetted by Steve Bissette & John Totleben took over.

Nobody really remembers the original take by Wein and Wrightson, after Moore was done with Swamp Thing. The very first issue of his run redefined everything (and I mean really everything) about who & what Swamp Thing was. It set a new standard to imagination and to what can be achieved on the printed page.
That first issue is possibly also one of the finest stand-alone comics of the modern age, and at times, it only got better. From a perhaps predictable title, Moore rebuilt Swamp Thing into a creepy, mature, intelligent and organic (excuse the pun) story, creating a rich tapestry of wildly different characters interacting in a dark, desolate world, with only the merest sparks of hope hidden away, cowardly.
All the while, Moore & his artists experiment with page layout, storytelling tactics and methods, designs and art styles.
I know I've been laying on the superlatives a little thick (to counteract my earlier berating maybe?) but there really is so much to this series.
The only thing I feel bad about is not uncovering this gem sooner.

Be seeing you

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The appeal of the raven hue.

I love dark-haired girls.
People who know me will not find this to be a surprise.
After all, the most important woman in my life is one. I used to think light-hairs were the ones for me, but once more, even before reality, fiction showed me the error of my ideas.

The very first manga I ever consequently collected (and still consider a cornerstone to my and anyone's collection) is called 3x3 Eyes. A series that is very hard to define, as the scope & depth of the narrative shifts at several times over the course of its epic 40-volume run. Ultimately, its main appeal and the core of its being is the heart-warming relationship between Yakumo and Pai Ayanokuji. Their at times ambiguous relationship, though perhaps not the at the centre of the story, is at no moment forgotten by its hugely talented creator. The appeal of, on top of an intricately woven story-line (at times, it seems to me, even more intricately than originally envisioned) these identifiable characters in a thoroughly different world, was what made the series tick. And what made me come back for the full 40 volumes.
That, and Pai is a dark-haired girl.

Of course, at that time (well over a decade ago, people) I hadn't detected the pattern yet. Also, there was not all that much available as far as manga went. You kids now, you have it easy. Us old-timers, we had to work for our entertainment.
Anywho, the next series of note is the infamous, stunning and nigh-flawless Gunnm. First published as a 9 volume hard-core cyber-punk romp, following a strong-willed cyborg girl on her quest to find herself in a world that has completely lost its way, I litterly devoured it.
It was funny, intense & uncompromising.
Also, the main character, called Gally... A dark-hair.
Recently her story was continued, and, despite the long break between the original and Gunnm The Last Order, the energy (for me) is still very much there.

Still, in my defense, there's more to it than that. Motoko, for instance, the cyborg-bombshell of Ghost in the Shell fame, could never reel me in as others did. So (as I was sneakily trying to prove in the above examples) the story and more particularly, the characters' personality was what effected its planetary gravitational pull on me.

Finallly, the synthesis of sorts, is a French series, called Sillage. Its perky star, called Nävis, is the last scion of the human race, recovered from her home planet by the Galaxy spanning starship Convoy and enlisted as secret agent/spy on a ton of missions. Her stubborn character, her unbending will and her immediate visual appeal won me over faster than you can say: "raven-haired beauty".

Be seeing you

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A train-ride... to Beyond!

There's a special feeling one gets from the familiar, combined with the new in just such a way where the new isn't jarring and the familiar isn't repetitive.
For me anyway.
I dunno about you.
Evidently. You see, the familiar for me may be the new for you, and what could give me a particular tingle down the back of my spine, may forever scare you away from the good stuff.

Anyway, it took me by surprise. The name Vasilis Lolos had blipped on my global comics radar. (yeah shut up, I'm tired, reading too much Ellis, and yes, I DO have a comics radar. Works better than yours any day.) But the work he'd been doing (a rock-influenced series for Image Comics) wasn't immediately floating my boat.
Turns out he apparently floats in the same cirlces as creators like Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan & the like. (see? Told you my radar works better.)
Their collaboration on Demo is still one of the high points of recent comics storytelling.
So the least I could do was give Last Call a try.

And that's where my special feelings comes back. In its most simplified form, this first volume reads as an urban Sento Chihiro no kamikakushin. Or Spirited Away, for the uninformed (and if you don't know what that is? Seriously...) Every one loves the Miyazaki.
Strange surroundings, weird, alien monsters and a train as big as a skyscraper. It picks up 2 kids, out for a fun time in their mom's car, and from there the surprises never stop.
The art is a good blend of Paul Pope, Cloonan and enough Lolos to keep the feeling just right.
Here's to volume 2!

Be seeing you

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back in... White?

It's been so long since I've done a serious post, the hardest part was deciding what to write about.
Yeah, l'embarras du choix, go figure...
Thank Crom & Bel I only read good stuff, then, huh?

So I picked up the definitive edition of Whiteout by Rucka & the immensely under-valued Steve Lieber.

Crime never sleeps, and even on the furthest edge of what could be called civilisation, even only because there's some people there, even on Antarctica, people get killed.
Carrie Stetko, the Marshall of those parts, may be as cold as the place she's guarding. She certainly puts the 'well-defined' into 'anti-hero' and makes this story really interesting, even if the actual plot had involved Polar bears knitting a sweater for 140 pages.
Of course, it's not, so that does help though.
However much one may setting the locale in such an unlikely place, it's more than a gimmick. The environment, the inhuman, unworkable & harsh conditions, the sheer white desolation of that cold place is as much a character as the bad guys, the victims & the protagonist.
The first volume is a true exercise in noir whodunnit and seems to have no more than a one shot potential. After all, there's not really any people living over there. So, for the next volume, the tone of the mystery heads more into spy territory, but the uniqueness of this series as opposed to say, Powers, Fell or any other similar noir/cop/crime genre series, is the location.
That couldn't have more perfectly chilled you to the very core of your being if you'd actually been there, developing frostbite in your fingers and losing feeling in your cheeks.
Steve Lieber, though by no means sporting any kind of remarkable, amazing art-style, is a cunning draughtsman. His linework, intense eye for details, shadows (and the lack thereof), shading, and obsessive patterning of his drawings complement the story so perfectly... Just click that link to see what I mean.
Good stuff.

More Rucka: I've not read everything he's done. I never much cared for Queen & Country (parhaps it was the art, I don't know) but I really enjoyed Gotham Central, so much so even, I wanted to follow up on Renée Montoya and gave 52 a second look. Those aren't all that bad, either. And the other characters featured, though not written by Rucka, are quite well-done as well.

Be seeing you

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hello, greetings, welcome (back)!

You may know me from my previous expoint as a rambler on comics & other graphic sequential works located here. That journal is now officially dead, for a number of personal & public reasons.
It was a nice chapter, but that is now closed.
Reading, however, is always ongoing, and sharing my experiences, feelings & thoughts on all sorts of works continues, right here.