New site, new magazine, new review.

*You all should buy Chris Reynolds’ fascinating 1990 original graphic novel Mauretnia, a real forgotten gem of independent comics. I reviewed it a while back, and it’s great stuff. And now there‘s going to be even more great stuff, because Reynolds has launched a brand-new website, MetroPoppyfield Magazine, featuring paintings, photography, sparsely illustrated prose fiction, and an ongoing comics/text hybrid titled Jenny in Stringtown. It’s still very new, so content is light, but there will be fresh things every week. You should go visit often!

*Nothing of particular comics interest in the new Entertainment Weekly, though I really must second Sean Wilsey’s ‘The Book You Have To Read’ sidebar recommendation of V. by Thomas Pynchon. Few living authors have as formidable (perhaps intimidating) a reputation as Pynchon, but I thought his 1961 debut novel was beautifully accessible, though really simply beautiful. The book is nominally about two men: Profane, an aimless Navy bum, drifting through the bars and parties and sex of the American 1950’s, and Stencil, a man on a mission to uncover the identity of the mysterious woman known only as ‘V.’

But while it’s eminently easy to follow, employing a fairly simple back-and-forth timeline rhythm for much of its space, it’s certainly not simplistic. Characters are constantly emerging, several of them taking control of entire chapters with their individual voices, their pasts eventually creating a tapestry of the prior 100 years, with atrocity a pertinent recurring motif. Many of these chapters act as excellent little short stories on their own; indeed, one chapter is, in fact, an updated remake of one of Pynchon’s earlier short stories, told entirely though the perspectives of eight periphery characters, mere observers to the action of the original short, creating a radically different vision (well, that and the fact that Pynchon alters certain bits on a plot level too, if I recall correctly). And when it’s put all together, all of these viewpoints and tales and imaginings, all filtered through the dozens of characters, you get a sickly giddy feeling of possibility, coupled with a nagging suspicion that time will only repeat itself with fresh variations on our oldest crimes.

It’s one of my favorite books, and you really ought to read it.

Seven Soldiers - Guardian #3 (of 4)

Oh yes, we are hustling along. This is two ‘third issues’ in a row that have left me wondering how these things can be satisfyingly wrapped up as standalone stories; we seem to be rushing too fast, with too much left to cover to provide a complete tale. But Grant Morrison can do it; he’s done it before, after all.

That’s repetitious. I’ve said that before. I think I’ve also mentioned before that I don’t know of anyone who’s only buying one or two of these series, and not the whole shebang; I therefore may well be acting in pure hypothetical by analyzing how these books work as single miniseries, since very few would actually look to the individual series, keeping their eyes on the big picture. Maybe it’s the very structure of the project; there’s a good deal of comics fans who adore ‘big’ stories, earthshaking Events and mighty crossovers, and by maintaining the ‘blockbuster crossover in a bottle’ identity of the project in marketing and presentation, perhaps the individual series can’t help but become subordinate to the larger story. There are boundaries to the universe here, the smooth glass sides of the bottle, and that reinforces a notion of a single complete story above the presence of its individual parts, even if those parts act entirely independently. Can we help that? I suppose it’s worth trying anyway, just looking into the parts of the ship, seeing if the sail and the mast can exist on their own, kids moved out of the house.

So, in the interests of ripping things open and seeing how they run: I’m not sure if these books will work well alone, as individual trades, if that’s how they’re going to be collected.

And in the interests of keeping up with my own Big Picture obsession: no, the Sheeda don’t turn up this issue, so scratch that idea for a uniting inter-#3 storytelling technique.

But, in the interests of truth and single-issue enjoyment: this is the best issue of Guardian yet.

Having gotten the notion from Marc Singer, I now can’t imagine this book as anything other than a homage to the Lee/Kirby era Jack Kirby output of the swingin’ ’60s. And that means Stan Lee has to be present (sorta by definition), and I seriously cannot stop hearing Stan the Man behind those omniscient narrator captions.

Picture machine-like objectivity surrendering to the liquid fires of an all-too-human passion!”

Wrap your mind around the corners of a silly putty world where logic, reason and peer review must bow before the beat of aboriginal tom-toms!”

FACE FRONT. True Believers. And note that the omniscient captions are but half of the narration we’re treated to, the rest of it coming straight from the Kirby-like disembodied head of Guardian’s big boss. So we’ve got two familiar forces working together (duking it out?) to bring us this story. Has Morrison taken the opportunity to employ some old DC characters to present a homage to the salad years of the other side of that Big Two? Don’t put anything past this man; we still may not know what he’s capable of.

And as for the story our narrators are telling, it’s looking like Guardian is even getting a heated hard-luck hero hagiography in the Mighty Marvel Manner! He’s a celebrity, yet particularly suspect to familial discord. He tries to do the right thing, and he’s constantly punished. Folks die. Happy times wither. His first word this issue is “AARRH!” And yet he dispatches the villains with consummate skill. His head is low, and soon the good things he do won’t matter much to him anymore; he’s the suffering saint, susceptible to society, and no burnished icon, though he plays one in the papers.

This little character arc doesn’t really set Guardian apart from other classically-themed superheroes, though he does have a particularly fun world to romp through, one Morrison lavishes with attention. This time out, we have a robot-powered theme park set to act as a microcosm of the world; what educational fun! Unfortunately, the cynical husband half of the park’s spousal creative team decided to add a little real-world flavoring to the mix, injecting the notion of terrorism into each and every android. Eyes light up, the ‘00911’ command is issued, and things get crazy. Fortunately, tortured Guardian is pretty crazy himself right now, and with the learning-minded wife half of the founders by his side (“…t-today’s dramatic simulation conjured up the t-terrifying spectacle of a world where unchecked weapons proliferation goes hand in hand with social breakdown.”) and the absurd specter of the Newsboy Legion following close behind, he just might be able to fight his way to Cameron Stewart’s fantastic double-page title spread, the brooding hero offset by a backwards hat wearing youth toting a flamethrower. Don’t tell the super-surprise ending!

And tune in next issue for flashbacks and secrets, and maybe a good Small Picture ending. And maybe Guardian’s helmet and shield in a garbage can.

Wait… that was Ditko