What Are You Reading?
To find out what Mark and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
This was a good week for comics, at least for me. I’ve been reading Amazing Spider-Man and feel like they turned on the THX sound system in the story and artwork. The last couple issues have been dramatic and full of characterization and depth that I am going to wave my Spider-Man flag high, despite haters hating and fans who can’t let go of the past missing out on some truly beautiful storytelling.
I also liked Fantastic Four #588 and have indeed enjoyed the “Four” storyline leading up to this historic moment (PS: Marvel, don’t make me look like a fool by believing in you and rebooting the Fantastic Four in six months with a brand new #1). But I think you know all this and me waxing poetic on the above might get a little redundant.
Also redundant is my great and glowing adoration for Matt Fraction’s Thor, a fierce and powerful admiration that you can see from the blackest of infinite space. Thor #620 came out on Wednesday and my heart was full by reading the first sentence on the page. There is so much glory to this great and sweeping divine epic that Fraction weaves so well with the dreamlike and fantastic art of Pasqual Ferry, I know when I pick an issue, I am receiving the finest nectar of the Marvel gods. Nothing is going to sway me from my true and perfect trust that Asgardian Blood Colossus magic is older than the nine hills. That battle will be joined, and heroes will be be born and raised in a blood and bone brilliance of myth and power.
Now, all of the above might be telling as to why I did not enjoy Morning Glories vol. 1. Being rather cool and popular, not to mention well received, that doesn’t normally hit my pull list, I bought the extremely well presented first TP for a song and was looking forward to it. I read my way into this web of intrigue and social experimentation with the sharpest young minds on the planet with healthy helping of mystery and suspense to propel me through the book. And promptly get me struck about three-fourths of the way through. Keep in mind I never watched Lost either, so maybe it’s me. Maybe I prefer to have my protagonists to shout the the heavens in a rage that ecplises the moon against foes from another realm of thought rather that fight the system against an administration that can kill with a casual thought and some spectral presence in the basement. But on the other hand, I rather love Sweet Tooth, Jeff Lemire’s mysterious tale of a deer child and the complete unknowns he lives in, so maybe it’s not me. Maybe the high school setting? The lack of fantasy? The rather cheapness of death presented by hollow and stereotypical children in a cartoonishly oppressive environment? Disappointment wanes in the face Thor and a promised blade that could slice through time and space itself. Somethings are just not for me and others seem tailor-made.
It is a good week for comics.
I idly picked up Julia Wertz‘s Drinking at the Movies this weekend and quickly fell into it. I read it once before, and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Drinking at the Movies is an autobiographical comic about the author’s move from San Francisco to Brooklyn, told in single-page vignettes about different aspects of her life—her friends, her drinking, her terrible jobs. It’s absolutely the opposite of the self-indulgent indy comic; Wertz takes a clear-eyed look at her own failings but she makes you laugh when she describes them. She has been posting pages from it at her website, and they’re well worth a look. This was one of the best books of 2010, and it’s criminal that it didn’t get more attention.
Manga-wise, I’m reading Countdown 7 Days on Digital Manga’s eManga website. It’s set in the grey area between life and death, and it features just a handful of characters—Hanasuke, a young man who has just died but wants to go back to life, Mitamura, a cold-blooded teacher who is disliked by everyone for his emotionlessness, and Tsuru, a crazy girl who goes on a field trip to the world of the living and then escapes. Mitamura and Hanasuke team up to find Tsuru, but the clock is ticking—if they don’t locate her within seven days, she becomes an evil spirit. This is a fairly standard plot but it’s handled in a unique way, with real attention to the emotional conflicts of the characters and a polished, linear style, so it’s better than your average afterlife manga.
There’s something of a rebirth going on in comics publishing kicking off in the UK at the moment, at both periodical and graphic novel levels. I’ve been reading three stalwarts of the UK’s comics industry, 2000AD, The Dandy and Doctor Who Magazine. All three are magazines which, at one time or another, I probably thought I’d never read again.
2000AD remains like a religion for UK comics readers and creators. And, like Catholicism, even those lapsed from reading it still harbour strong opinions about it. I do occasionally see the odd sycophant online saying that 2000AD has never been better, but that’s far from the truth. It’s hardly the creative hothouse it was during the Steve McManus-era, and it probably isn’t even as consistent as it was under the recent Andy Diggle-era, but it is still damned good, a national treasure, current-Tharg Matt Smith is capable of pleasing me greatly with some inspired commissioning choices, and (like Diggle) has proven adept at enticing classic 2000AD creators back into the fold.
Speaking of national treasures, The Dandy is probably the classic UK comic for all sorts of reasons (even if Eric Clapton was reading its stablemate The Beano on the front cover of that Bluesbreakers LP). It is also most people over here’s first regularly read comic, and it’s also the first comic people have the experience of growing out of. In the last few months, however, it has staged a rather miraculous turnaround in fortunes. For decades creatively moribund, rehashing the styles and creations of artists either deceased or long departed (US readers: think if DC still published Superman by an endless line of uncredited Al Plastino ghosts), it has recently been re-energised by the hiring of a new generation of web cartoonists (Jamie Smart, Nigel Auchterlounie, Andy Fanton, amongst others), often producing new career-highs as they in turn are re-energised by the prospect of a whole new (and considerably younger) audience. I’d hate to jinx the magic that’s going on over there right now, but in many ways, I’d compare what is going on over there to when Kurtzman was running Help! In the Sixties, bringing lots of underground artists to prominence.
Doctor Who Magazine proudly announced itself on its latest front cover as “the world’s number one top-selling sci-fi monthly magazine”, and this isn’t terribly surprising. As any fule know, print magazines are dying on their ass, and the DWM is lucky in these times to be piggy-backing on the seemingly unfailing success of the reborn Doctor Who franchise. This success means that it is an extraordinary forum for comics, and the magazine has a hell of a history with the artform. It has published work over the years by the biggest and best creators of the last three decades (from Alan Moore and Grant Morrison to Dave Gibbons and Mick McMahon), and has tempted me back to buying it regularly for the first time in about twenty years by featuring work by creators of the calibre of Roger Langridge, Rob Davis and Dan McDaid. Whoever (arf!) is commissioning work over there is a man of good taste.
On a non-UK-tip, I got a big box of stuff from my regular comic shop recently, and the stand-out was easily the Daytripper trade paperback. I’ll just add my voice to the chorus of pundits raving about it. It held my interest on so many levels: a book about death that succeeds in being positively life-affirming (probably why I kept thinking about the Flaming Lips as I was reading it); a grown-up work in a market that steadfastly refuses to grow up; a great book about writing by two men commonly regarded as artists; and a work I’d recommend (like Asterios Polyp) to anyone who derisively thinks the term “graphic novel” usually applies to books that barely qualify as novelistic.