Back in action!
*You know what else took a little vacation yesterday?
LAST WEEK’S REVIEWS!
True Story Swear to God: This One Goes to Eleven
City of Tomorrow! #2 (of 6)
Voice of the Fire (a more complete look at the only Alan Moore prose novel, with links to prior writing on the subject)
And - at Comic Book Galaxy:
El Largo Tren Oscuro (the short new book from Sam Hiti, of "Tiempos Finales" fame)
Enjoy them forever.
*Did some browsing through books at the store which I didn’t purchase. I was quite happy to find a copy of St. Martin’s Griffin’s brand-new softcover printing of Robert Mayer’s “Superfolks”, positively bedecked with comics industry plaudits, some of which I think appeared on prior editions of the book. It’s funny to see this 1977 satire openly embraced by largely a slew of comics professionals rather than the ‘outside’ literary critical establishment, but comics is where “Superfolks” has had the most impact anyway. Kurt Busiek and Stan Lee have lovely quotes on the cover. Mike Allred provides a swank new cover. Grant Morrison writes the forward, and it’s really fascinating to see his usual invective against ‘gritty’ superheroes toned down, presumably to accommodate a wider, not necessarily comics industry literate audience. Here, he seems almost pleasant about the darker works of contemporary superheroes. He also calls the book “silly wine” and invites Mayer to make some additional contributions to the genre, this time in comics form.
There is one extremely noticeable absence from quotes and cheers: Mr. Alan Moore is nowhere to be found, though considering the huge influence “Superfolks” has had on works like “Marvelman” and “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”. By ‘huge influence’, I of course mean ‘plot points directly transplanted’, like one particularly key twist near the end of the Superman book (granted, Moore goes in an alternate direction with the notion, tying things into Superman history with a literalist’s eye befitting the tribute nature of the work, while Mayer’s more ambiguous treatment points to the satirical nature of his own piece). I think the whole situation only strengthens my perception of “Marvelman” as a mirror image of Moore’s later run on “Supreme” (at least to the extent that it can, given that I've yet to read all of "Marvelman" - I'm also going on what critical analysis of the work I've read): both works involve Moore taking on a pre-existing character with origins as a chintzy commercial knockoff of a different established property (Captain Marvel and Superman, respectively). But the first work sees Moore taking the superhero into a realistic, gloomy, violent place, escorting the inherent themes of the genre to a logical conclusion. “Supreme”, on the other hand, features an older Moore seeking to revitalize the superhero genre with an injection of whimsy, a reflection on and embracement of the Silver Age past, truly the opposite direction of his examination of the House of Thunder (if you will). And both works liberally cite little-read works from the past! It's fitting that the citations of “Marvelman” would be from a satire from a different medium, while those fantasy sequences from “Supreme” would be straight out of Silver Age “Superman” books - the former knows the past and seeks to break it down, the latter desires to use the past to forge the new present.
But it would have been nice to hear Moore comment on the book.
*I also spent way too much time reading through “The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide”, written by employees and ‘friends’ of the famous video outlet, in popular capsule review format. It’s clever, opinionated stuff, although a huge chunk of pages are devoted to a difficult to navigate director-organized section, reviewing a bunch of selected films from noted directors in alphabetical order. Except, there’s no header to inform you as to when one director ends and another begins; you have to check the teensy text in the reviews themselves to fathom where you are (unless you instantly recognize every filmmaker’s work by title). And after that, the rest of the book is split up by genre. Good thing there’s a film index in the back, or the book would be an impossibly unfriendly reference guide.
Nice reviews though, including the occasional pair of conflicting takes, and sometimes a more sociological focus when warranted (the analysis of the perceived hypocrisy of the big “Titanic” backlash is particularly choice, positing that leagues of James Cameron fans, used to praising the man for creating somewhat dopey yet undeniably glossy fx-oriented blockbuster material, suddenly turned against him for putting out… somewhat dopey yet undeniably glossy fx-oriented blockbuster material, albeit stuff that then dared target young women as enthusiastically as young men).
There’s much talk of lateness in this issue. Creator/writer/artist/publisher Gary Spencer Millidge mentions right in his opening editorial that many fans have come to expect (even look forward to) an explanation from him each issue as to why the book is so late. Indeed, that very notion is forwarded in the letters column, including one such missive from no less than Dave Sim, who writes of his own fear of reader backlash should he have fallen too much behind on the monthly schedule of “Cerebus”. Millidge reports that no backlash has appeared for him. Later, a different fan comments on how the ease with which he can slip back into the story given the yearly (or so) schedule acts as “a testament to how well this book is put together.”
I certainly agree that it’s surprisingly easy to slide back into the world of “Strangehaven”, that mysterious English village full of secret societies and personal drama and vivid characters and mystic conspiracy. This issue, protagonist Alex Hunter feels the fallout from his recent encounter with the ominous Knights of the Golden Light, perhaps the masterminds of some brutal murders, and learns quite a lot about the significance of the town itself, and of the factions vying for its control. If what we hear of this issue is to be trusted (and there’s no guarantee of that!), well, some major secrets have been revealed. There’s even a cliffhanger ending. With a real cliff!
And yet, you probably want to pull out your old issues of this book and re-read them before getting to this one. Not because comprehension will be beyond you; it certainly wasn’t beyond me. But “Strangehaven” benefits greatly from the build of power, the crescendo of little mysteries into big action and revelation. And you just can’t get that feel from reading one issue out of months and months in the desert. You need build. That’s the problem with this book’s release, though it’s simply resolved by just re-reading back issues. If you haven’t purchased any back-issues, I strongly suggest you simply dive in and order the first trade, “Strangehaven: Arcadia”, or at least pick out some other issue as your sampler; the information in this issue must wait for later. All of this is available at Millidge’s own online store.
Whatever you pick, it’ll be a good read (or re-read); Millidge has captured a distinctly eccentric English flavor for the setting and characters of this book, his scripting is tight and often funny, and the mystery is intriguing. His visuals, by this point, have managed to avoid many of the common pitfalls of heavily photo referenced art (stiffness, poor ‘acting’ in character expression), and the atmosphere is excellent. It’s just a lovely book, but one that needs to be taken in chinks, not the bites offered by the pamphlet format.
Issue #18 is due in July; that would be great. After that, in late summer, the book’s third trade will be released, collecting everything released thus far. In the meantime, go look at the first two collections, and see if you want to scarf up the five loose floppies. The rest of us will be waiting.