Well it's noon on Sunday and here's Saturday's update.

*Last night I caught “Shaun of the Dead”, which was good stuff. Some surprisingly extreme gore given that it’s mostly a comedy, with the occasional dramatic interlude stuck in. Actually that was one of my favorite elements of the film: whenever there’s drama, it’s always hardcore eye-watering moral-dilemma gallows drama. And there’s not too much of it. But yeah, nice gut-munching, like he zombies ought to do. Apparently there’s a ton of references to “Spaced”, the tv series the creative team did, and I caught a lot of the references to other zombie flicks. It’s not too intrusive. I even giggled at a little tip of the hat to “The Office”, in which a second cast member of that already-classic program pops up (Lucy Davis has a substantial role, of course). Good bloody fun.

Popbot #4-6

It’s hard to imagine a more self-indulgent project than Ashley Wood’s “Popbot”, which saw the release of its sixth issue a few weeks ago from IDW. Reading through issue #4, I couldn’t help but note the six pages of generally irrelevant pin-ups displayed before the story got back in motion. Actually, quite a bit of “Popbot” seems like a collection of random Wood art pieces with the occasional word balloon and booming captions plastered on to approximate some sort of plot. I’m tempted to just refer to it as an unusually ambitious art book project, except that Wood already has a series of art books out (the “Fanta” series, recently compiled into the jumbo hardcover “Grande Fanta”), and “Popbot” seems to be at least trying to be an action sci-fi story at some level, underneath all the poses and naked girls and robots and (best of all) robots striking poses with naked girls. It might not stay this way. The first “Popbot” trade collected issues #1-3 with some significant changes made from the original printings (re-mixed, they say). The second trade, collecting these issues (due in December) might do the same.

Still, if you’re starved for Wood art after the typeset buffet that was “Lore” issue #4, these books will give you an oversized blast, 48 pages each. The plot (as it is) involves a pack of near-indestructible female sex androids called the Mortis who’ve teamed up with a bunch of robots to conquer humanity, setting off a wave of reactionary social conservatism across the globe. A talking cat named Kitty is also the front man(cat) for a popular punk band, and he’s being chased around by all sorts of strange types to whom he owes money, like a billionaire industrialist who might be the devil, a sentient ex-gangster sock-puppet, and world-renowned double agent Sherlock Holmes. Meanwhile, the original lead singer of Kitty’s band, The Forth, has been locked into the dream world after getting stabbed onstage (I think) and he’s the key to saving the world from mankind’s now-awry pursuit of mechanized pleasure by restoring the style to heroism. Or something. Also, Sam Kieth’s The Maxx turns up and there’s an epic war.

All of this stuff is executed in close to the most obscure fashion possible, with the clear emphasis on Wood’s design skills, and they are admittedly formidable. Attractive logos pop up to signify the brands that morality has transformed into, info dumps are displayed as text on a pure white background with images from history displayed on the opposite page like a classroom slideshow. The view rips from location to location, and across time. The feel is that of a series of intriguing introductions to something that never materializes. Despite over 250 pages having elapsed in the whole saga, it still feels curiously like we’ve barely gotten moving, perhaps another result of Wood’s pin-up deployment of sequential art, which doesn‘t exactly prolong the reading time. T.P. Louise of “Lore” is brought in for issue #6 to help out with the art and script (just as Kieth did some dialogue work in the first two issues), but there seems to be little change. “Popbot” looks great, and occasionally even manages the illusion of going someplace; certainly there’s enough ‘offbeat’ characters and plot elements to distract the reader from the wheel-spinning. And it’s not an unpleasant way to sit around (although at $10 a pop [sorry] it is a fairly expensive one).

Wood fans will surely at least like it. I’m a Wood fan, and on a purely visual level I felt good. But it’s also an exercise in obfuscation, and that will doubtlessly confine its appeal to the devout Wood fan base, tall price aside.

Adam Strange #1 (of 8)

And on the flip side, here’s a nice simple origin recap for the start of this new miniseries by writer Andy Diggle and artist Pascal Ferry (with lovely muted color by Dave McCaig). Adam Strange is sitting at the police station, trying to convince the amused authorities that he’s not a nutcase (you’d think that’d be easier to do seeing as how it’s the DCU and all). He tells them the familiar tale about how he came to become the defender of Rann, via the Zeta Beam. He then began to neglect his life on Earth as he raised his family on his adopted home, despite the fact that the Zeta Beam occasionally whisked him back to Earth for a temporary stay. But one day, the Zeta Beam left him on Earth, with no money or friends (who needs them when you’re the hero of Rann?), and never returned. It seems Rann is gone. And now a mystery attack on Strange’s apartment complex has gotten him in trouble with the law. What to do?

Well, stuff will kind of happen on its own, since this is the first issue of the series and we’ve got to get Mr. Strange into action while explaining where he’s been. It’s a simple setup, where pretty much anything can be spun out in future issues. A safe start. Diggle handles it well, but it would seem more typical if not for Ferry’s gentle, attractive artwork, and McCaig’s soft hues, which make Earth seem chilled, even frosty, while Rann remains colorful and cozy. I also picked up something of an "Aeon Flux" feel from that cigar chomping alien; must have been the latex corset. Anyway, a solid start.