We’re moving!

You can find all the details of my new blog here.

Yes, it really is called Natterin’ Aboot Comics. Yes, it is going to be my focus from now on. But no, I won’t be abandoning this one. (In fact, I’ve hit yet another low as of last week and figure that’s something worth confessing to in a lengthier entry than usual, so look out for that.) Just give that introductory entry a read – it’s short and explains everything.

Done? Well, fuck it, I’mma pretend you went and read it anyway.

So, if you’re one of those mysterious people who seems to visit here somewhat regularly (I assume it’s the same people anyway) and you’ve enjoyed my reviews or big ridiculous readings of entire comic runs, like Grant Morrison’s Batman and over ten issues of the Judge Dredd Megazine, then maybe start checking the new blog out instead as it’s where all comic-related thoughts and material will be going from now on, and hopefully at a more consistent rate than my random entries here. But so this blog shall remain – plenty more random entries to come; just not at as often.

“The Black Glove”, Chapters 2 & 3: Now We Are Dead (Batman #668) and The Dark Knight Must Die (Batman #669)

Well, as I suggested I might do, I’ve merged these last two chapters of the first story arc of the book together as there isn’t that much to add to what I’ve already said.

In fact, I have very little to say about Now We Are Dead (Batman #668). We find out a little about the Club’s past, specifically a little fight that we get the full context of next issue, and then everyone’s attacked – the knight’s poisoned; a bunch of the heroes are shot at by robotic suits of armour; and Wingman turns up dead. But there’s nothing to really gather and talk about from the dialogue. There’s the artwork again, though nothing as significant as what I talked about in my last post. The story opens with a flashback and Williams’ artwork is made to look like some of the older comics that we read in The Black Casebook. What’s really cool, though, is that he makes the panels look like they’re actually set against the pages of a worn old comic – not just mimicking older artwork – by which I mean the pages are yellow and designed to look stained from use. Hell, the contents of the panels themselves even “leak” outside of their borders, I suppose emphasising how far comics have come in terms of production value. But the only other thing to point out in this issue, which I could’ve done last time, is that we see black and white tiles in use again, representing a chessboard of course. To be honest, I should have pointed this out sooner as there have been quite a lot of examples of this, even prior to The Clown At Midnight, but better late than never. It’s all a big game to Morrison, isn’t it?

With all that said in the one paragraph, I suppose we might as well get The Dark Knight Must Die (Batman #669) out the way too. Got a bit more to talk about this time at least. The story is wrapped up rather abruptly. Yes, it turns out their was a traitor – the Wingman we saw killed last issue turned out to actually be Dark Ranger, Wingman having stolen his disguise – and, yes, John Mayhew was involved. Both men’s motives are a little unusual, perhaps even quite cheap. The former makes a short speech about how no attention as a hero – which is Morrison’s way of pointing out these Club members were only in a few stories, and then completely forgotten – led him to become a villain instead, and the latter is just your typically bored rich man, which is a funny thing he points out to Batman of all people because he does understand the life of a rich man.  Anyway, it turns out that, a Jack of all trades after all, he made the clubhouse for the heroes for the sole purpose of creating a crime fighting team. Of course, like Wingman, this was forgotten, so he thought, “Fuck it”, and turned to villainy as well. But, boy, did he ever. There’s a brilliant scene where Robin and Meryl must keep pulling a rope, as letting their strength falter means Red Raven will fall into a tank of piranha fish. As Mayhew points out, this is a classic elaborate scheme of the old school bad guy, or even a James Bond villain that we’ve seen Morrison reference in this run. It certainly feels like he’s stating that he misses this kind of simple fun when Mayhew angrily says, “[…] now it’s all cocaine and a bullet to the head”. So I guess this means that we may well be seeing some of these goofy set-ups in the future, and that’s fine with me if it’s the case.

Anyway, both men of course work for the Black Glove. Yet, as I said, the story ends suddenly, leaving us with no explanation towards there having been any spectators after all, or any clues as to who the members of the Black Glove could be. Which is fine, and unsurprising. Perhaps even less of a surprise is that the next chapter in this run doesn’t bother to follow on from this one’s ending. We’re back in Gotham and I don’t see any members of the Club in sight. We’ll see them again, I’m sure, but who knows when? We are getting closer to answers, though, or so it would seem. Although I’ll be talking about the first chapter of the next story arc in my next post, after I’ve read it, it would appear that Batman’s third “ghost” will finally be making a real appearance and my hope is that with him come some answers.

The last thing I’d like to talk about before wrapping things up for this post is J.H. William’s artwork again, though this time for good. No, I’ll no longer be doing a separate post on the guy, even though he certainly deserves one. Before I talk about the quality of his work in general for these three issues, I would point out one thing about this last chapter: the very first page, 55 of the hardcover and I presume trade paperback, is literally a window. You’ve got six panels, as I talked about in my last review, but this time they’re bordered by a wooden window frame, and bricks border that. So I was on the ball about the whole spectator thing, which I’d like to call my own intuition if it weren’t for the fact that this man is simply a genius artist. Where I’ll really be going crazy over his artwork is when I come to read Promethea but even over the course of the three issues we have here the man outshines, I suspect, everyone else on art duties on this run. What I don’t mean is that they’re terrible in comparison or anything. Quite the contrary for, at a glance, Frank Quietly, Frazer Irving and one Chris Burnham seem to do a wonderful job.

But Williams does things I don’t believe I’ve ever seen before, in any medium. Look at this, this and this to see what I mean. You know what all three of those gorgeous examples have in common? They’re all complicated images, taking advantage of panel composition and structure, yet so easy to follow. Sometimes he even throws in motifs of a certain character around a panel of whoever this, like wings bordering an image of a dead Wingman.  Judging from his artwork in Batwoman and the new Sandman, this guy must be a joy to work with. Just imagine you’ve written your script. Yeah, you’ve taken advantage of the fact that you’ve got Williams doing the art, so you make him do some fancy things. But imagine actually seeing the result of what he does and the additions he adds to your script. That must be something special. Yet, criminally, this is all we’re seeing of him in this whole run, a fact which makes me very sad indeed. So I might as well get this massive compliment out of the way, again judging by what I’ve seen from the other series’ I own in which he’s the artist: this man is very possibly the greatest artist I’ve ever come across in comics, and I love a lot of artists. Thankfully I won’t love them any less but those are favourites are over there in their own spotlight, huddled together, whereas William’s stands proudly on a pedestal. If I didn’t love all my books so much I would literally tear some of the pages out of these last three issues and use them as posters – that’s how amazing I think this guy is.

On that note, we’ll be moving on to an artist who takes up the remainder of our stories in this book and seemingly the only one on duty for R.I.P. – Tony S. Daniels. Let us hope he fares well. See you next time.

“Batman and Son”, Chapter 4: Absent Fathers (Batman #658)

Another interesting issue, though with less for me to say than the last couple of reviews. Following the cliffhanger ending of Wonder Boys, we find that both Alfred and Tim are doing okay. The latter’s naturally doing worse, but he’ll be all right. For this issue, though, he’s out of action, meaning Batman must go after Talia with Damian by his side.  But it isn’t the big battle you’d expect it to be. What basically happens is this: Talia explains that she wants to raise Damian with Bruce, her plan being to start a family that’ll last generations and rule the world; and when Batman says, “Hell naw!”, the submarine the three are standing on is destroyed by the British army (they’re off the coast off a British overseas island) just as Talia presses device on her wrist, which I’m sure saves herself as well as Damian. We then end with Batman having swam ashore, and I have not a scoobie where this series will be going from here.

The next story is the prose piece, which is clearly centred on the Joker, so I have no idea how much time will have passed when we reach the next actual comic part, nor what will have happened. No doubt Morrison will surprise me by doing something rather unexpected, probably even unrelated to Talia for all I know.

Alas, I only have a few things to point out for this chapter. First of all, on the contrary of what I’ve been thinking, Damian doesn’t appear to have been a weapon at all, at least not to his knowledge. Although I have no doubt Talia knew he’d stir up some trouble, the boy seems surprisingly…innocent, you know, for a murdering little psychopath, which I think means that when he does return eventually, he won’t become the Robin we see on the covers of the three Batman and Robin trade paperbacks by murdering Tim; but, instead, by reforming into one of the good guys. That would seem quite suitable too as the first thing Talia says to Batman when he appears to save the day / fall into her trap is that he has one last chance to reform her. Alas, that didn’t go well and probably never will – but it doesn’t mean Damian has a good chance at changing. In fact, if there’s perhaps one redeeming quality of him so far, then it’s that he’s clearly desperate to be accepted by Bruce. D’awwww. Anyway, by the title of this issue, and Talia’s wish, it would seem I was on the ball about family becoming at least one big theme. It’s on hold until we see Damian again, I suppose, but it’s good to know we’ll be exploring it.

The only other thing to talk about is, once more, our weird and wonderful Batman. First of all, we see that he’s already worked out where Talia is and deduced what she wants from pollen residue on the blindfold he had Damian wear before coming to the Batcave. Like I said when comparing Jeph Loeb’s Batman, Morrison’s I’d heard, and now know, is the world’s greatest detective type of Batman. Indeed, with such a title, you’d expect him to be suitably equipped. So, um, it turns out he has a rocket underneath Wayne manor which he takes Damian up into the sky with for some halo diving to surprise Talia. How suitably over-the-top mental.

The last thing, again related to Batman, is that he continues his unusual choice of words, this time in addressing poor Tim. You’d think, when he finds him at the beginning of this issue, that he’d shout his real name, but he shouts Robin instead, only calling him Tim once shortly after this. Even when he’s passed on to Alfred it’s Robin he’s called, and it goes far enough that he shouts, “You almost killed Robin!” at Damian, as if he’s angry about the figure of Robin almost being killed rather than the young boy who plays his part. Which just sounds weird to me. There could be something there, or there could not. Time will tell.

The next issue, as I say, will be the prose story and I expect I’ll have much to say about it. From reviews I’ve read, just about everyone seems to hate this, and I’ll make that a subject of my review too, which should be up soon.

“Batman and Son”, Chapter 2: Man-Bats of London (Batman #656)

Welcome back. Having already read this issue, and knowing what I want to talk about that I couldn’t in our last post, hopefully it’ll be a shorter in length, so I can actually read the next chapter and begin reviewing them one by one at that point.

Before we pick up where we left off, however, I would like to talk about something that I neglected to mention last time, and that’s Andy Kubert being on art duties, an artist we last saw on this blog in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Unfortunately he doesn’t have the same inker or colourist as he did there, who I think did better jobs, but this looks good enough. Anyway, he’s the illustrator of all the stories in this book, except the prose one, and the reason that I didn’t bother to mention him until now is because that it’s in this issue where he does some particularly amazing things. Like I briefly mentioned in my last post, Morrison wants to do some fourth wall breaking stuff with the pop art exhibition, and Kubert frames these instances perfectly, especially combined with all the action that’s going. This is my favourite example of the kind of thing he does throughout this issue, but even his character designs fit with what Morrison was clearly going for, such as the attractive Jezebel Jet and the “Wow!” behind her. So bravo, Mr. Kubert – you hit the ball out of the park on this one.

Then again, Morrison does too. The idea of the pop art displays taking the place of usual lettering is simply terrific and I’m surprised to have never seen anyone else try it until reading this. But he certainly seizes the opportunity, and I imagine was revelling in the fun of it all, most noticeably, I think, when Bruce claims that comics are “too high brow” for him, obviously quite a funny thing to read inside a comic. It’s also him poking fun at comics again, an “Ouch!” in the background perhaps meant to be the reader’s, and indeed other writers, hurt feelings at Bruce’s statement. Having this panel followed by one in which Bruce is concentrating on a weird sculpture, insistent that “there’s a message here somewhere”, is also kinda funny because there are messages hidden in this run already, so it’s as if Morrison is winking at the reader. But he’s also being kind of clever too. Having a comic book character try to understand a sculpture that’s 2D from our perspective feels like a joke. The biggest gag – and, yes, this chapter’s also quite humorous – has to be when Batman smashes a fire alarm to throw off the man-bats and thinks to himself, “More noise. Lots of it.” And when that doesn’t work several panels later he hilariously thinks, “Sounds great on paper”, a reference to the phrase on one hand but also another joke about comics because the sound effects of course make no noise at all, existing only a bunch of sheets of paper we hold in our hands that make no noise. Needless to say, you can almost picture Morrison with split sides as he wrote this issue.

It’s not all fun and games, however. The man-bats that we saw in the last chapter launch their attack and they do so hard, so much so that Batman loses. The guys put up an impressive fight, of course, but he’s completely battered by the end of it all, at which point he’s finally brought face to face with Talia. Their confrontation is actually quite unusual. She makes him recall the night they had sex – though Morrison indeed does this incorrectly, it taking place in a desert whilst Batman’s drugged; certainly not the case in Son of the Demon’s…um, wedding after party – and then explains her plan to raise an army of these man-bats for the apparent purpose of world domination, before leaving with the Prime Minister’s wife as a hostage, at which point Batman is “acquainted” with his son, Damian, to end the chapter…at sword point. Well, that’s certainly an interesting way to say hello to a father you’ve never met. By the abrupt way in which Talia just leaves him behind, I believe I am correct in my assumption that he’s a secret weapon of hers, trained to study and kill his father. Which should bloody well be interesting, I imagine.

But that last page is all we of him until next time. A character we do briefly meet for a bit longer is Jezebel Jet, someone who I am calling out now as Bruce’s love interest of this run. Although a Google search revealed to me that this is her very first appearance, she and Bruce already know each other by the time they meet here, more interesting structure from Morrison with the back story being filled in like that. On the other hand, she’s a character I don’t trust either. Though not personally religious, quite the opposite in fact, the name did ring a bell as one used in the Bible and, sure enough, an extra search on Google had me find what I’m looking for. Basically, it’s the name of the Israel queen who apparently manipulated her husband into worshipping another God, which of course was considered blasphemy and ended with her being killed, probably in quite a grisly fashion. It could be a coincidental choice of name, but fuck that: I’m taking everything in this run as nothing other than on purpose, and I would assume in this case that this story is a metaphor for the character making Bruce change his “God”, I guess being Batman. Another thing we’ll simply have to wait to find out.

Anyway, the only other thing I have to talk about is something that stands out from last time: the addition of inner monologue from Batman, which emerges as the man-bats attack (or, as Bruce says, “Ninja man-bats. Alarming twist.”). Why I point this out is because this Batman’s thoughts are…interesting, to say the least. As well as doing a countdown of the number of were-bats that are left the entire time, he’s comparing things like the smell of them to “wet carpet, dog breath and incense”, and the sound of their wings to a creaking Bible being opened (perhaps relevant in connection to Jezebel, I might add). And then the thoughts that we perhaps would expect to be more in touch, like what his Plan B, C and D that he mention are, are merely a quick succession of thoughts. It’s really quite strange and I wonder if it’ll remain this way, simply being the manner in which this Batman thinks. Or, again, does it connect to my theory that he’s a little loopy in the mind department? Questions!

Other than that, the only other thing worth pointing out is that we get another random panel at one point in the middle of all the fighting, like the one of Langstrom that I mentioned last time. Our Batman makes an inner comment on the man-bats’ meatiness, which suddenly makes him think of a Thanksgiving dinner with an Aunt Agatha that I’ve never heard of, someone else with him who I presume to be Dick Grayson, and then we’re back in the fight. But, unlike the Langstrom scene, which just felt like a piece of interesting structure, I wonder if this is maybe Morrison toying with Bruce’s memories. That would certainly blow my mind if it were the case, and perhaps we’ll find out if it is at some point.

But next we’ll see how Batman gets away from being at Damian’s apparent mercy, and in this issue onwards I’ll be reviewing them immediately after I’ve read them before going on to the next. Until then.

Comic Review: “Batman – Haunted Knight (TBP)”

Oh, I’ve been waiting eagerly for this. Ever since I picked up this book and The Long Halloween at the most glorious of comic book stores I’ve ever seen – which you can find in Times Square, New York, if you’re ever on holiday there – and ever since I bought the sequels, Dark Victory and Catwoman: When In Rome, I have been dying to read these. This collection of three stories that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale worked on during their stay under editor of Legends of the Dark Knight, Archie Goodwin, is actually a disappointing start, I must admit. Not terrible or anything, but compare the writing and art of this collection with their following work together, even just by skimming through a few pages, and you’ll see how much they improve.

The art especially just isn’t as incredible as it looks in The Long Halloween, next on my reading list. This is for two reasons, I think. First of all, Tim Sale notably changes his style in a small but significant way between here and his first “epic” with Loeb: by shrouding practically every page and panel in black, he creates a high contrast between characters and their backgrounds, between light and dark scenes, and so on, which looks bloody amazing. Likewise, he appears to use a lot more empty backgrounds where he can, another thing that looks amazing. Here, instead, he hardly ever uses empty backgrounds – they’re far more detailed. Likewise, the pages are consistently very colourful, leading to reason two. Although Gregory Wright, the colourist, would work with Sale again on the next three graphic novels, his colouring is a lot better there – more dark, less light. Of course, you might argue that the story’s collected here are more light-hearted than the tragedy of Harvey Dent that follows, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, stories with humour or not, I can’t ignore the fact that something seems off about the artwork compared to the noir look that comes next.

Still, like I said, it’s not terrible. In fact, there is some downright unforgettable art on display here. From terrifying depictions of Batman to open the book, to what’s possibly my favourite reveal of the Joker ever, the book has no shortage of amazing scenes and Sale illustrates many of them wonderfully. No doubt I’ll want to talk about every page of his once I finish the Harvey Dent origin story, but suffice it say: this guy has style like no other. The closest comparison to another artist I can think of is Frank Miller, but that isn’t really fair because, as you can see in this image of Poison Ivy, Sale has a very unique and identifiable approach to his character design. Probably the most unusual, though you can’t see it in the Joker reveal of all Joker reveals, is the way he draws everyone’s favourite villain with these huge piano-like teeth, stretching his iconic grin to something that’s impossible, yet amazing to behold. Hell, Batman’s very own cape seems hugely out of proportion with the man himself; impossibly so, but Sale pulls it off. What I wonder about all this if there are those who look at the art and think it looks terrible to the more realistic work of other artists, especially in Batman of all things. There most surely is, but I don’t personally see anything wrong with it. In fact, as of The Long Halloween onward, I bet Tim Sale will find himself as part of my list of favourite artists. Not that I have an actual physical list, mind you, but he will be an artist I’ll no doubt buy future books for alone.

It’s funny how that turned from a criticism of his art in this collection to all out praise, isn’t it? I guess that says something about this book because I have a similar thing to say about Jeph Loeb. Simply compare the quality of the writing here to what he does next, and you can spot the difference as well. Although there’s some moments I consider to be funny or playful on the Batman universe, like Commissioner Gordon inviting Batman to Bruce Wayne’s costume party, dressed as himself, the writing is as inconsistent as the art. The dialogue itself isn’t completely bad either, especially for the more unusual villains like Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter. It’s really just the story’s themselves that aren’t particularly complex or interesting in any big way, which is disappointing in hindsight of how complex The Long Halloween apparently is.

These are fun stories at the end of the day, but nothing more. The first’s been explored enough times, and the other two are simply interesting ideas done in over-the-top ways. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if Loeb’s inspiration, besides the likes of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol for the last story, is older Batman comics, the ones part of that era typically called the Silver Age. Perhaps for readers who enjoy their crazy stories, this is worth a purchase. And I think it’s worth a purchase too, not even as a fan of those old comics, but only if you can get it at a cheap price. Sadly, out of all the books I could have bought from that Times Square comic book store, I think this is one I could have bought cheaper through Amazon, and picked up a different book in its place at the time.

But at least The Long Halloween is the other book I picked up. That, Dark Victory and Catwoman: When In Rome seem guaranteed to be stories that I’ll love. Indeed, I may cry if they’re not. The first two are the thickest books I’ve read yet as part of this blog, so I might actually split them into separate parts unless I can do a decent job summing them up. After all this, I think that I am indeed going to read Hush, Jeph Loeb’s other long Batman story with the art of Jim Lee, and after that finally move onto Grant Morrison’s long run. Or maybe I’ll take a break from Batman and read something else. Incidentally, a few more books that were supposed to have arrived have now done so, and I may have hilariously ordered some more. In the time it’ll take me to completely read The Long Halloween, I might actually write a post about those new books, so: until then.

On second thoughts, let’s not talk about why I bought so many graphic novels

So, I had a plan on how to do this, and it seemed quite neat. What I had been writing up until a short while ago was the first of probably four, maybe five, parts of the one whole post, intended to make for easier reading, discussing my reasons for buying this book and then that, and so on. But as I was closing in on finishing the first post, which was only about the Judge Dredd books I’ve bought over the course of the year, I realised that I was spending ages talking about each one, which will be better left for when I come to actually read and review them properly.

Here, instead, is a basic list of the books I’ve bought over this entire year, many of which are from the last few months, and all of which except Cradlegrave have gone unread until I hopefully start tomorrow. My intended order, if you’re wondering, is to begin with both Whatever Happened To…? stories, read The Killing Joke, then read Jeph Loeb’s four Batman graphic novels, then finally read Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, at which point I’m not sure what I’ll do. We’ll start with the 2000AD stuff to kick us off.

Judge Dredd: Volumes 6 – 15 of the Complete Case Files, as well as supplementary stories that I consider essential which are America, Tales of the Dead Man and Chopper: Surf’s Up; the Tour of Duty storyline; the Day of Chaos mega epic; Trifecta; and the Henry Flint collection, which I think is Dredd stories only. Although not Dredd, I also bought both volumes of Mega City Undercover set in Mega City One, featuring characters that cross paths with Dredd on numerous occasions.

Other 2000AD stories: The Ballad of Halo Jones; both volumes of Zombo; both volumes of Shakara (you should see a pattern in that I bought a lot of stuff with Henry Flint on art duties); Cradlegrave; both volumes of Caballistics Inc. (although the second volume doesn’t actually finish the series, I do have the remaining stories from when I collected the strip); and the recently released sequel of sorts, Absalom: Ghosts of London.

A lot of books already, eh? Well, prepare your pants because here is the list of DC stuff, and god fucking help me for this.

Batman: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sales’ run on the character (having bought Haunted Knight and The Long Halloween in Times Square during a sale, I decided to buy the other two as well); The Killing Joke; Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?; Grant Morrison’s entire Batman run, including the Black Casebook to help understand some of the events that take place; The Black Mirror; Scott Synder and Greg Capullo’s New 52 relaunch of the character, including Night of the Owls; The Joker – Death of the Family, also part of New 52; Batman: Hush (yet to be arrived); and, finally, Hush Unwrapped, which is basically the same book as the last but only with Jim Lee’s pencil work – no inking or colouring, except in the captions.

And if you think that’s insane enough…

Other DC Stuff: Scott Synder’s New 52 run of Swamp Thing (have never read Alan Moore’s popular run, so I saw this as a good joining point); the New 52 relaunch of Animal Man (unarrived), which ties into Swamp Thing and also happens to be one of the more popular stories in the New 52 line; Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? which I bought figuring that, since I bought the Batman equivalent of this, I might as well see Moore’s popular idea, even though I’m not a Superman reader at all; and, because I’m not a Superman reader, I decided to buy the massively popular All Star Superman by Grant Morrison which I’m actually dying to read because of that fucking amazing art.

“Is…is it over…?”, you might be asking. Well…no. There’s the first two Deluxe volumes of Fables that have yet to arrive but, thankfully, since those hardcovers are nowhere close to being as up to date as the trade paperbacks of each volume (the Deluxe editions collect two at once), I can take my time coming up to speed with that series. There is, however, one more book on top of the 50+ that I’ve listed above, and I’ve saved it for last because I figure that I might as well end this sad, sad post on a comical note. The last book I bought was Alan Moore’s Lost Girls. Look it up if you like. It’s a porn book.

Now Is The Time

NOTE: This post contains many spoilers for the Harry Potter series. 

So, I figured this was as good a way to actually bother starting this blog as any, especially as I find it kinda cool. This is a message I sent to a group of friends over Facebook earlier today:

“So, along with a bunch of graphic novels I ordered, the final Harry Potter book arrived a short while ago as, since bringing the rest down, I’m adamant on completing the series. It actually feels kind of weird to hold a book for once because, checking online, I realise that I was five when my mum bought me the first book, but didn’t buy this last book when it came out because it was spoiled for me when I was 15, which is a shame, as ten years later would have seemed quite appropriate. But this is too, I think. Here I am about to finish the series as a 21 year old, having read a ton of books since The Philosopher’s Stone which, alongside The Hobbit, was the first book that really drew me into reading. That’s kind of cool in my opinion.”

Hopefully I don’t sound too dramatic, but it really did feel a little weird to find it at the top of the package I opened and to actually just hold it because, although I’ve passed it in book stores on several occasions, I’ve never opened it to take a sneak peak. The reason I stopped at The Half Blood Prince is pretty simple, and probably wouldn’t turn off everyone if it happened to them. But you have the context in the above paragraph: the first book was one of the first few that really got me hooked on reading (cheers, mum!) and, shortly after I discovered that the idea of what, to me, was such an amazing world filled with wonderful characters just “simply fell into [J.K. Rowling’s] head”, I even did some creative writing of my own, even though I was very young at the time; and, of course, I’m positive that I wasn’t the only kid at that age who then went on to buy the rest of the series upon their release.

So I guess it’s not too hard to imagine how it felt when, shortly after The Deathly Hallows came out, a friend of mine completely ruined it for me. Hint: it felt shit, and I still don’t really understand why she did it. Here was me, fifteen years old, going to buy the final book in the series I loved so much exactly ten years after I was given The Philosopher’s Stones, and its whole plot is told to me as an apparently rather rubbish joke. Up to that point, I’d even watched the films when they all came out, but after this I neither so much as touched the book when I passed it, or sat down to watch the film at any point when it was on television.

Honestly, I think that there’s plenty of people  who had something similar happen (remember that the death of a major character in The Half Blood Prince was spoiled on a billboard, and in newspapers? (although my mother thankfully kept these away from me)), , and certainly those who would sympathise with that simply as massive fans of the series. In fact, here’s one friend’s response to my Facebook message:

“It is kind of cool. When I was younger my Dad would read them to me and my brother, a couple of chapters each night so when I see anything to do with the books I’m reminded of some of the better points of my childhood”

His last point about better times in his childhood is a little vague, but I think I get the picture. And it’s those people like him who grew up with the books and the actors of the films that probably wouldn’t find the way I paused today with The Deathly Hallows in my hand all that peculiar. It was a weird feeling but I think I can describe it.

I can’t exactly remember when my mum first started reading to me. There’s a picture book still in the loft somewhere about a mother swan protecting her child, which I believe would be the first thing she read to me at least. As this was part of some kind of Pamper’s promotion, she had my name printed as the baby’s, so I guess I could have been as early as one or two. Anyway, picture books are simple enough to read, I suppose, since they’re generally only a few basic words per page. But I was having children’s books read to me regularly when I was four, and I believe I was five when I first started reading some – albeit, with some help – by myself. One old favourite that I still enjoy reading from time to time is Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and I do credit that as amongst the first books that got me really into reading. But I can’t remember the first line of The Hobbit. Yet I’ve always seemed to remember The Philosopher’s Stone’s opening line because I recall that it made me laugh aloud.

Of course, the book itself doesn’t really get off to a happy start, considering that it’s concerned with a boy whose parents were killed by a mysterious figure known as Voldemort, and who is then left with his mother’s sister’s family who treat him like shit for the next ten years of his life, where we finally meet him in the second chapter. After that, yeah, it is a lot cheerier and so are the next three books, despite some small dark bits. It wasn’t really until I believe a character called Cedric is murdered towards the end of The Goblet of Fire that I really felt the series had took a turn into some dark places. Which is fine because, although I didn’t enjoy The Order of the Phoenix (at least as a kid – I might now), The Half Blood Prince has been my favourite of the series for a long time. It’s of course simple coincidence, but I find it kind of neat that my taste for reading grew towards books that dealt with more mature themes (outside of a few authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz who certainly do have more adult themes going on) in the year before that one was released when I was twelve. It even seemed like an appropriate time for someone to have ruined the last book for me – at least I’d read the best book in the series, right?

But I have admittedly felt the urge to bring the books down from the loft in the years since I did have that last book spoiled. One of my friends even talked a bit about this on Facebook, as he didn’t think it was a particularly big deal that I should completely refuse to ever finish the series, and I partly agreed as I recall, suggesting I might one day cave in and finally buy it. And as it turns out, I did. A few weeks ago I was in the loft for the first time in the several months since climbing ladders had been impossible for me (I had something wrong with my right foot for a long while) and, although I never intended to bring the series down with me – I’d only gone up for a bunch of Stephen King books and a few others I’d perhaps never read (my loft is like a library, I should mention) – I ended up doing just that, and a few nights ago, after skimming through the series and being overwhelmed by nostalgia, I bought the last book for a fiver.

And it arrived today. And I held it in my hands without opening it for a while. And when I did open it I was met with a dedication that was different from the other books in the series because this time it was also dedicated to someone else. It read, after a list of names I believe the previous books are addressed to, “and to you, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end.”

I’m twenty one years old, an adult now. I’ve been reading, and writing I suppose, for a very long time, clearly due in great part to the wonderful J.K. Rowling. But let me really emphasise this more strongly, to give the significance of this to me the justice it deserves: I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books over the course of my life, and that really is something that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t read one book when I was five years old, one book that is still thousands of times better than a lot of the books I’ve read since then, and today, I felt like I came full circle and completed a chapter in my own life.

But I don’t want to stop there. Believe it or not, even the last line of the series has been told to me, and, after checking the end of my own copy to see if even this really was ruined for me all those years ago, I’ve chuckled and left myself a message on the first page, because quite frankly I can’t think of anything more appropriate. This message is for me to be faced with when I’ve reread the series, which I intend to do quite soon; at that moment when I really will open the book and finally read it for the very first time.

All is well.

 

– Jordan Smith