The Return

Clearly I left this blog much longer than I meant to. My last post was on the 31st of May and here I am two months later, despite having made clear plans of what I’d be doing once back from holiday. So apologies for that if you’re one of the less-than-ten people who seem to visit this blog irregularly, and apologies in advance for the entries I won’t be writing up as intended, such as a catch-up of the 2000AD issues I missed over my holiday in June.

The funny thing about that is that I actually did start and had very nearly finished it, at over 5000 words, a week after I’d got back before getting distracted by life matters, and it’s a bit of a shame because, now that I’ll probably not bother completing it (that would mean going beyond Prog 1887 that the post was meant to have finished with for another five issues), you’ll miss all the words I had to say about how fucking amazing Indigo Prime was. Did anyone not enjoy that? I hadn’t had the chance to read the two trade paperback collections of the series so far during my time in Greece yet I enjoyed it anyway, no idea what was going on in the background or not.

It also has what is possibly the best meta moment that I’ve ever seen. Weirdly, in the reviews I read for the particular episode that this happens, not one mentioned this, it apparently having gone over people’s heads. Let me state that I don’t really like when anything – books, films or games – tries to be meta because, nine times out of ten, it’s done for laughter’s sake, and not very well, often at the most inappropriate moment. Two examples of doing it right that immediately pop into my head are the TV show, Castle, and video game, Bioshock Infinite.

The former revels in being meta, the titular novelist played by Nathan Fillion – who dons his Firefly costume during a Halloween-set episode and makes several other references to that show – working with the NYPD to solve murders, his help usually coming in the form of ridiculous explanations that he borrows from other’s fiction or his own. It starts off innocently enough, I suppose, but gets progressively stranger to the point that they use their hundredth episode as a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and have one episode in the same season use clips from previous seasons for half its duration in which the characters talk about all the fun they’ve had. Fun is the very simple point here, and in a show about a crime novelist working with cops, why not embrace the silliness to such an extent that Star Trek references simply work by the time you get to them in an episode set in a science fiction convention? Why the hell not, it asks?

On the other hand, you could make a more critical point, which is what Bioshock Infinite sets out to do. Well, its time travelling and parallel worlds is also Irrational’s way of tying their two Bioshock games together, but mostly it’s making a point of video games, namely how your individual choice in matters, where possible, don’t actually matter at all, you and many other players ultimately arriving at the same destination, which is the same end of game. What’s infinite, it argues, is your journey there, which will be somewhat unique to you. So there’s that, which works too.

In the case of Indigo Prime, however, neither of these things happen. Its meta moment is not played for laughs nor does it make a point. In fact, one could argue that it’s not a meta moment at all, so hard is it to tell what it could mean for the future of the strip. It arrives suddenly and doesn’t draw attention to itself, perhaps the reason why some people missed it. But it’s genius, so I simply must talk about it briefly. This is it:

In my review of Perfect Day’s first episode I briefly mentioned how I loved that the mysterious villain, here seen literally pulling Mariah’s strings, is called The Nihilist in a strip about an organisation that watches over the multiverse, a world filled with infinite possibilities and life. You simply can’t get a more perfectly named bad guy than that. But here’s the genius of this scene: not only is The Nihilist shown to be the real agent of control as he warns Danny through Mariah for his own purposes (and I might add that this itself is sudden – there were glimpses of him behind the scenes in previous episodes but no outright appearance showing what he’s up to) but we also see that the puppet master of The Nihilist himself is none other than John Smith, the writer of the series, seen here -and note how he’s not transparent like Mariah or The Nihilist but completely whole, the only real being of the scene – looking over his shoulder at the reader, his scripts and the computer he works from in front of him.

It’s so perfect that I’m astonished to have seen no one talk about it, so there you go. Once I get round to reading all the previous stories in the series I’ll probably talk about it once again, but I had to get that off my chest for now. As it’s never mentioned once in either this same episode or the remaining few after, I’m praying that John is hard at work on the next story because there are so many things going on by the finale that you’re left demanding answers, and quickly at that.

Alas, this is all I’ll be repeating here from that never-to-be-published blog entry. The only other strip I really talked about at great length in that partway complete post was Slaine but you can essentially read what I wrote in fewer and better words courtesy of this member of the official forums, who explains what the story was really about and why that ending, though abrupt, was perfection on Mills’ part. Where I’ll pick up on my 2000AD reviews without this entry, if at all, I do not know. That can be worked out another day, although I’m thinking of abandoning the format of reviewing each Prog as a whole and only talking about what interested me about the weekly episodes, even if that’s only one thing. Prog 1893 released today, for example, sees the return of both Walter The Wobot and Mrs Gunderson, neither of whom I’ve seen in Dredd for a long time; and, to respect her passing, sees the old Dredd logo of Jan Shephard used for the first episode of this story, which is nice; but nothing else really grabbed my attention.

So, with the possibility of me abandoning my weekly reviews of 2000AD altogether, that leaves the question of what will become of the blog since that’s been its sole purpose for quite some time now. And well, to be perfectly honest, it’s probably going to become far less review-focused in the strict sense that I talk about the writing and art of this or that as two separate things that must be mentioned, and instead become more of an all-purpose blog which I hope to keep more up to date, even if an entry only details some thoughts I had on this book I was reading or something that happened to me that day. Like more of a diary then, you might say.

That doesn’t mean comics will cease to be a big focus of the blog though. In fact, if anything, they’re going to become a bigger focus now that I’ve began to expand my interests further beyond 2000AD, having built a small collection of American comics that I’m really getting into. Those that I’ll especially have words to say about are several Image series’ that I’ve started collecting. That right there is an incredible publisher. Rarely an ad to be seen (unlike DC / Vertigo who frequently interrupt the story with their fucking adverts); no censorship at all that I can see; and complete creative freedom. Brilliant.

My book interests have also expanded and I’ll maybe have a few things to say about the rarer books I get my grubby mitts on. Indeed, I’ve now a small but good collection of hard-to-get graphic novels – mostly limited printings, but several are signed too, and I’ve a keen eye on for those sort of things on eBay.

In a moment of insanity I also bought my first Artist’s Edition, a signed copy of Hellboy In Hell’s version of that book. It’s not the SDCC Variant Edition that was limited to 100 copies but, for the same price, I’m having the standard book delivered to me signed by Mignola like that one, a shot glass that is limited (to 150, and I presume that’s also how many copies of the book were signed seeing as only this one seller has been selling them and with these glasses each time) and a mixed assortment of goodies, which will include some of the comics themselves. Oddly, the book itself is being published by IDW, who created the Artist’s Edition line, yet Dark Horse have just released the first of their versions of these books, Gallery Editions that are about half the price. This is something I’ll also probably be picking up – it’s Robocop V.S. Terminator by Frank Miller and Walter Simonson – and there a few more coming out this year and next that I simply must get my hands on. Who the fuck wants to miss out on The Dark Knight Returns in its original format before having being put together for release?

So by no means will I have a shortage of things to say about comics – just less frequently as I use the blog for other things (and yes, I mean it this time). Maybe you’ll see one such of these entries tomorrow depending on how my interview with the Job Centre goes. If it goes as I expect – being talked to in a patronising manner and practically ordered to search for jobs that I’d rather die than do – then believe me, I’ll have much moaning to do.

And that is the status of this here blog. Until next time.

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Prog 1880 Review

Damn, that cover’s a difficult one to assess. It’s certainly not what I expected our eventual Slaine cover to be – in my head I’d imagined some action-packed monstrosity of art too good to be true, whereas this is arguably a little dull looking, particularly with the unusual choice of colours. Most oddly of all for me is that Sinead’s profile combined with these colours actually makes the cover look startlingly similar to a Native American themed series of paintings I did back in high school, indeed based on how they would be portrayed on shields and cloths, etc.; though a few people on 2000AD’s forums also pointed out the resemblance of Sinead to the Queen as she appears on stamps and coins, not the last we’ll be seeing of her in this Prog if you can believe it. Either way, a strange cover. Not as exciting as what’s inside, but I do quite like it and think that’s it quite a memorable little thing.

Over on 2000AD Covers Uncovered there’s a brilliant entry for this really worth checking out. There’s only one other idea that Davis had in mind for the cover, but the highlight of the post for me is seeing a couple of his roughs, particularly that of the two page spread in Prog 1877 that I loved so much. What I found really great about that was seeing his idea for the placement of lettering which, if you compare to the finished spread in part four of the story, you’ll see Elle De Ville has ignored, placing it all along the bottom, which I mentioned in my review at the time as letting us enjoy the art in its full glory. Was quite surprised to see that he paints the roughs themselves too. It’s not something I paid any thought to admittedly, but most artists just work it out by pencil first, don’t they? Must cost the guy a fortune in paints if you take into consideration that he probably makes several variations of those.

 

Ach, it’s a shame that this Judge Dredd tale is only going to be four episodes in length. Such quality writing from Wagner, though I suppose that’s always to be expected when it’s Dredd he’s penning. This week isn’t much cheerier than the last, though still incredibly tense in tone. Loved seeing Dredd making his way through Zane’s apartment – thought the baby itself had been killed too when we came to that panel, but thankfully there’s a small amount of mercy given there. Not sure what could happen in the next two parts of the story but I suspect it will be ending with as many flowers and daisies as Mega City Confidential did.

Loving John McCrea’s artwork on this for reasons that I briefly discussed last week. The interesting thing that came to my attention about his line work is that most of it – hell, most of everything – is done in the inking stage, as is best illustrated in this photograph he posted on his Twitter feed of his pencils for a page in the third episode of the story. Quite interesting to see just how much he leaves out, yet how brilliant the final pages are. Big thumbs up to colourist Chris Blythe who I somehow neglected to mention last week. As usual, he does bloody tremendous work.

 

First of two new series’ filling in the space left by Sinister Dexter and Jaegir is John Smith’s Indigo Prime, which has everything from crucifixion and a ghost hovering over a bed, to a stuffed version of our queen in a Britain ruled by Nazi lizards. In other words: what the fuck did I just read?

Yeah. In my review of Prog 1473, my jumping back on point for the comic, I actually mentioned having read the return of Indigo Prime in a story called Dead Eyes (which Tharg mentions here as being the last time Smith and artist Lee Carter collaborated), and how my dear ol’ father all but squealed in delight to see it, whereas it meant nothing to me. It still doesn’t, as I haven’t bought either in-print collection of that series, though if Wikipedia’s Prog numbers of the original run are correct (also re-learned from here that the revival in Dead Eyes in 2008 was the first Indigo Prime story since 1993, a year after I was born – that’s a long time! (plus: the follow up to Dead Eyes came three years later)), then the recent lots I bought collect them all. Still, probably best that I get myself acquainted with the series quite soon, because I have not a single scooby how these folk operate in their multidimensional policing or what the hell terms like “glancers” and “imagineers” could possibly mean.

That said, if all the weird shit that happens in this Prog is of any indication, then it doesn’t look like Smith cares much for making sense, preferring to throw out wild ideas at every opportunity, which I’m certain will make for one hell of a fun story (Osama Bin Obama pretty much confirmed it), not to mention give Carter the opportunity to go completely nuts with his art. Indeed, his work on Dead Eyes was gorgeous stuff – absolutely packed with detail – and this is too. There’s a few details that seem unimportant, though are very cool (there’s the graffiti of an eye behind Mickey Challis, and a tiny face behind Trixie, as he talks about feeling watched); but the ghost and a face on the large monitor behind Arcana seem to be when you consider the talk of the agency’s HQ being haunted. And I may have accidentally spoiled the reveal of who the “haunter” could be over on the forums, a few people mentioning a “Nihilist”, who I presume is the bad guy? If so, what a fucking great name.

But – gah! I’m going to have to buy the collections of the old and new series, aren’t I? What’s that? I already have?!? Well…shit.

 

Though Indigo Prime may have fried my mind (in a good way!), we at least have Slaine here to be as simple as its subtitle suggests. All that happens this week is this: Slaine crosses the causeway to Monadh, killing the most part of an army of Slough Thruc’s weird creatures along the way. The writing’s as top notch as ever, one particular highlight being that one of the Drune lords is actually quite clearly Sean Connery in dishguise, what with that schmashing voicesh. So, now that I’ve made that joke , let’s talk about that art, huh?

You know, I was pretty certain that Davis couldn’t possibly trump the beauty found in part four of this story in Prog 1877, which you may recall I named the best of his art I’ve ever seen. I was positive. Well, somehow, this chapter in our tale now ties with it. It was a nice surprise to see another map of the world, this time a closer look at Monadh, but an even bigger surprise to turn the page and find myself looking at an absolute belter of a spread, packed with all sorts of creatures making their way across the causeway. Oh, but then I turned the page again and found a lovely shot of a really pissed off looking Slaine; and a splash page opposite that that’s simply incredible, of our unhappy hero now making his way across the causeway alone, leaving total slaughter in his wake, the sky ahead cleverly imbued with an image of his fury. To finish things off Davis then has four panels up his sleeve – all positioned from the same overhead angle – of the waves clashing against the sides of the causeway as crows high above swarm the two pages as Slaine makes his way safely across for the next chapter.

I’ve quite liked a lot of Davis’ artwork that I’ve seen in the past. It’s not always been perfect, but the first Stone Island series (I can’t remember how good or bad the art may have been on the second), first Ampney Crucis series and some of his stuff on Sinister Dexter was astonishing looking. But has he secretly been waiting for this one job his entire life or something? I’m serious – the guy has poured has heart and soul into this, and I think it’s actually what I’ve been looking forward to the most each week.  I try not to spoil other stories but I cannot help but have a look at what madness he’s done this week. It would be a crime to let him amaze us like this and then have another artist take his place for the next series. For god’s sake, Mills, don’t do it! If not for us, then for him. It’d be like giving a child presents then stamping on them in front of him or her, so don’t you do it to the man!

 

Like my mind was read, the other story filling in for those finished last week is my first Tharg’s 3riller, a story called Colony by “Kek-W” (actually someone by the name of Nigel Long who seems to have been credited for stories long ago and then again fairly recently), with art provided by Vince Locke and colouring by Guy Adams. I’m very intrigued to see what the deal with the space capsule is, and why apparently coming in contact with it has driven at least one character insane. Looks like it’s going to be a Terror Tale-like twist of pure horror, which I wouldn’t mind at all.

The art is pretty good. The only time I can remember seeing Locke’s artwork was for a Dredd story about a serial killer who preyed on sex-meks, but it hadn’t been very amazing there, whereas here it looks pretty nice, especially with Adams’ suitably murky colouring. If I have one complaint, however, it would be the digital addition used to create realistic looking snow, which I found to be a bit of an eyesore against the dominantly normal colouring. Otherwise, it looked great, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next, particularly since these 3rillers are only three episodes long, meaning Kek-W / Nigel has only two more episodes to impress us.

 

Last and, um, least of all I care for is Outlier, which begins to limp to its end. Gotten bored of this by now and have sod all to say for this week’s episode – just hoping that Eglington has some little twist or other planned, anything redeeming in quality, that will at least make its ending good. In my catching up of the Megazine I’ve came across a few stories by Eglington (including a two-part prose tale that I loved) and the thing is, I actually quite liked them. There’s a story in the backlog of Progs that I bought recently called Gunheadz (a 3riller) that’s right up my alley too by the look of it, so reading this saddens me even more, knowing that he’s not a crap writer. Really hope that whatever he comes out with after this series ends will be much higher in quality.

 

Pick of the week is Slaine for that ridiculously amazing art, though I feel like Indigo Prime will become a quick week-to-week favourite, even if I don’t understand it. It’s just mental, and the little I’ve read of John Smith in the past (including one of my favourite Dredd tales, Jumped) has been brilliant, which I feel like this will be too. ‘Til next time.