Partially due to my shock at the amount of stuff I had to box up and transport to Australia, and partially out of budgetary measures, I joined the library shortly after landing in Brisbane.

 

The city-wide system is pretty well-stocked with graphic novels and trade paperbacks, so I've been able to continue following some characters and teams that wouldn't have been quite worth buying the monthlies of.  I've also been able to dive into a few series that I've heard a bit about, but never got around to reading.  I've concentrated on books from the Big Two because there's a lot of stuff there that I haven't read.

 

Some of these books I'm only reading because they are part of the 'grand narratives' of their respective universes, and a lot of their deficiencies jump out at me.  See if you can spot when I get to those...

 

1 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000066490616
Alec : the King Canute crowd / Eddie Campbell.
Campbell, Eddie.
due:23/12/2008,23:59

 

It took me a while to start using the ordering system, so at first I was happy to pick up whatever was on the shelf that took my fancy.  Campbell is a creator I have huge respect for, even though I haven't shelled out too much of my dosh buying his stuff.  The last book of his I got was called The Dance of Lifey Death and one story was about a particular round-the world trip he made at one point to push his books.  I was amused to see that at the end he comes gratefully back to a little Queenslander style house in Brisbane and his Australian wife, so I have that much in common with him at least.

 

Anyway, The King Canute Crowd is a semi-autobiographical collection of anecdotes about Cambell's time amongst the colourful characters of the King Canute pub, outside the centre of London.

 

I found it fascinating, because Campbell was trying to do something that I've wondered about for a while.  How do you convert the experience of living and socialising into a comicbook?  People come and go from the story without much artistic 'sense' and the fact that these are mostly drinking stories mean that the actual characters and dialogue often don't make much sense.  Most of my own happiest times have been in the pub or 'enjoying a few' with friends, so it brought back a lot of memories.  Alcohol can add a lot of 'significance' to the most mundane of encounters and Campbell captures that too.

 

Then there is the fact that it is very autobiographical.  Campbell calls the main character Alec, but everything else seems pretty close to what happened.  This does mean that he has to respect the privacy and dignity of the characters in the story, so we see that some events with certain people are shown as important but we only have a sketchy idea of what is going on.  There is a woman that Alec becomes fascinated by, but she seems to have some kind of tragedy in her past that isn't expanded on.  Alec's best friend in the book, a highly intelligent charismatic working class forklift driver, has some kind of bust-up with Alec at the end, but again Campbell is too respectful of the real-life person to flesh it all out.

 

If you can stand a meandering slice of life that doesn't really go anywhere, this is a great book.  Campbell really pushes how far you can go to make a period of your life into some kind of shape that the feel of it can be translated into 'art'.

 

I think the sequel to this - the further adventures of Alec is contained in the collection 3-piece Suite.  I'll have to get my hands on it someday.

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The amazing Spider-Man. Brand new day. [Vol. 2] / writers, Bob Gale, Zeb
Wells ; pencilers, Phil Jimenez, Chris Bachalo, Barry Kitson.
Gale, Bob.
call number:GRAPHICNOV copy:2
24 February, 2009

This continues in much the same vein as the first book. We meet new villain Freak and get more great artwork, this time from Kitson, Jimenez and Bachalo.

The assassin Menace trying to kill the mayoral candidate, the new guy taking over the Daily Bugle and turning it into a tabloid and the Mr Negative subplot are all slow burners. They are the most interesting thing about this book, as what we have here is an extremely old-fashioned template for writing Spider-man’s world. Loads of sub-plots winding in and out and plenty of room to develop the soap opera of Peter’s life.

In the 70’s most creative teams had what was known in Irish history as ‘security of tenure’. That is, they were reasonably sure they could stay on the property for a long time and could build stories and plots gradually. Something has changed by the 21st century, and it is extremely rare for creative teams to stay long on a property. When it happens you do get quality runs, such as Brubaker’s Captain America, or at least interesting runs, like David’s X-factor.

This has been replaced by writers who have to hook readers with a sensational(!) development in the first issue or two and more shocks to follow. It’s rare to get this kind of world-building, sustained over 9-10 issues like these first two books. It also helps that Brand New Day’s thrice monthly format meant that Marvel could spend more pages on the non-sensational world-building stuff without readers complaining that nothing has happened for 6 months!

Brand New Day itself came about due to sensational “(!)his world will never be the same(!)” storylines, but the result is something so old-fashioned its new. The writers ‘security of tenure’ has been replaced here with another 21st century innovation – the well-managed writer/editorial team co-operating on a long-form story. Steve Wacker seems to have been poached from DC while he was in the middle of his much-praised editorship of DC’s 52, to get Spider-man’s Brand New Day off the ground. Brand New Day owes a lot to 52, not least in showing simply that such a strictly timetabled book CAN be done.

I’m also sure that having popular hardbacks and trades come out 6 times a year is much more profitable than having them come out twice a year…
Green Lantern : rebirth
Johns, Geoff.

I got this one at some stage last year, but I don’t have any record of the library HOLDing it for me, or REMINDing me to return it. I would have wanted to read it, as everyone was raving about it, but I must have been able to pick it off the shelf.

Green Lantern is so not for me! Certainly Hal Jordan isn’t. Where to begin? We’ll start with the cover of this book. There is Hal looking deadly serious, flying through the universe in his leotard, holding his hoaky Green Lantern, with his two fists curled up almost as tightly as his lips there.


God, Hal, loosen up, man! You’d think flying through the universe with a hoaky lantern and funky leotard would cheer you up! I’d swap it for my workdesk any day. Of course I love hoaky as much as the next Silver Age fan, but you have to see the joke too. Superman, who knows the score, occasionally winked good humouredly out of the panel at the readers.

Hal gets under my skin so much, that I was going to devote a whole thread to how much of a Gobsheen he is, but I guess I’ll just try to get my blinding rage into a few posts here on my library thread.

My big objection to Hal’s resurrection in this book, was that we’d already seen that he’d come back. It’s a comicbook. If you show me something, then it’s happened. No matter how implausible, I’ll believe it. It was around the time of Infinite Crisis and Superboy Prime was punching reality with his fists, so everything changed. If it worked for Jason Todd it could work for Hal. Why not just say Superboy’s fists did it, and save us from this tortured continuity-mired apologia for all Hal’s sins. This wasn’t a story, it was a long internet diatribe in comics form about how Hal was really still the greatest American hero, if this happened, and this, and this.

And it’s strange how Johns is at once determined to have Hal start with a clean sheet, just like he was in the bright and shiny 50s, yet he brings all his old baggage along with him. Despite the universe being unmade and remade a half a dozen times (at least) since Hal sodded off, he’s still the guy that killed Coast City or whatever, (and used to have gray hair)! I’d have loved if we got a shiny new Hal, free to have his own adventures and make his own mistakes as the upshot of this series, but instead we get grim and gritty Hal who has a lifetime of sins to make up for on his shoulders.

And this so isn’t the Hal Jordan in my Showcase collection. This is Geoff Johns’ Hal. Whereas the original Hal was a decent enough guy, but a bit daft, shall we say, this Hal is a violence-prone boor.

His arguments with Batman are like the snarling of two would-be alpha males in the room. It’s not pretty and really kinda pitiful. He’s supposed to be this great hero that everyone looks up to, but he can’t seem to rise above the urge to hit everyone on the chin. We’ve got the seriousness of Johns writing, and Van Scriver’s realistic, overworked art, but what’s so realistic about a guy who goes around slapping people? We have Joes like that out here, but they are hardly universally admired, or admired much at all.

This is a central problem of Johns’ Green Lantern. He wants us to take it so seriously, but it doesn’t take much thought to break it down into nonsense. A superhero as violence-prone boor would normally be acceptable as part of DCU’s rich tapestry, but it becomes laughable when we are asked to think that everyone looks up to him. There’s lots of the writer saying what we should think of his beloved character, but we're shown very little.
SPOILERS AHOY!

1 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000081319741 The amazing Spider-Man. 24/7 / writers, Phil Jimenez ... [et al.] ;artists, Phil Jimenez, Paolo Rivera.Jimenez, Phil.due:17/7/2010,23:59

Still keeping up with Spider-man from the Library. Interesting reading this in the same week as reading a 1980 back-issue that had the first mention of the macroverse in the MU. It was clever of them to have lots of developments happen while Peter was in the Macroverse that would have dragged on a bit in a superhero comic. Jonah's mayoral campaign, Harry's slide into being pathetic (again) etc.

Still fun comics. As I mentioned elsewhere, Slott doesn't use the "Worlds within worlds" concept in a philosophically interesting way, like Mantlo did in Micronauts, or Morrison did numerous times in his work.

2 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000081318842 The amazing Spider-Man presents. Anti-Venom / writers, Dan Slott, ZebWells ; pencils, Chris Bachalo, Paulo Siqueira with Chad Hardin.Slott, Dan.due:17/7/2010,23:59

This felt like a tossed off cash-in for the Spider-man fanbase. They gotta be careful with these, as that's what brought poor ol' Spidey low in previous years. Anti-Venom is kinda pathetic isn't he? In most senses of the word. The Punisher was very one-note, but good value all the same. Was surprised that Jenna the Junkie survived this. She had "corpse" written all over her during it!

3 call number:994 KEN ID:34000079585345 Australians. Volume 1, Origins to Eureka / Thomas Keneally.Keneally, Thomas, 1935-due:17/7/2010,23:59

One of the very occasional prose books I've read lately. Did you know that the guy who wrote Schindler's List was Australian? A lot of his work relates to Australian history, which is a fascinating and unique subject, and well worth a look if you get the chance. It's colonial beginnings as a penal colony was a mind-boggling project.

4 call number:PICTURE-BK PIE ID:34000077772416 Faces / Jan Pie*nkowski.Pienkowski, Jandue:17/7/2010,23:59

My toddler loved this book. It's added "Happy", "Sad" "Jealous", "Tired" to her vocabulary amongst others. Also "Cheeky". More anon...

5 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000079195780 Final crisis. Revelations / Greg Rucka, writer ; Philip Tan, penciller ;Jonathan Glapion, Jeff de los Santos, Walden Wong, inkers ; Ian Hannin,Nei Rufino, colorists ; John J. Hill, letterer.Rucka, Greg.due:17/7/2010,23:59

Just finished this. Dr Light gets his at the start of it. God's vengence works in mysterious ways. Rucka's work with the Question and co is heavy, serious and dark. No bad thing. This could have done with a bit more action. Most of the 5 issues were set in a church during the Final Crisis. Everyone stands around discussing good and evil and free will a lot. A lot of Rucka's work is quite in step with Morrison's and this seemed to fit ok with the strange structure of FC. Also in agreement with FC was how Vandal Savage could be taken for the 'avatar' of Cain, the way Batman is the Avatar of Orion. That Vandal is actually Cain seems too literal and limiting to me, and Rucka sidesteps it.

Batwoman doesn't do much here, but reading this did make me very sad that DC lost Rucka and his Batwoman series. Rucka is a good writer and he was steering this group of characters in a steady thoughtful way.

6 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000081320228 Final crisis aftermath. Escape / [Ivan Brandon, writer ; Marco Rudy,Cliff Richards, Neil Edwards, pencillers].Brandon, Ivan.due:17/7/2010,23:59

Haven't read this yet. I only got it because it was on the shelf. It costs 80c to order a book from across town, and I'm not sure I'd spend even that on it. I'm worried that this will be a continuity-mired head-scratcher that doesn't have much to do with FC. It was really for fans of Checkmate, wasn't it?

I'll have to extend the loan on this one, and get back to you.

7 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000081293227 Justice League of America. When worlds collide / Dwayne McDuffie, writer; Ed Benes ... [et al.], pencillers ; JP Mayer ... [et al.], inkers ;Pete Pantazis, colorist ; Rob Leigh, Travis Laham, letterer.McDuffie, Dwayne.due:17/7/2010,23:59

Wow! This was car-crash comics. There was some good stuff here, and I can see Dwayne McDuffie might be a good writer, but this ship foundered on the rocks of editorial diktat. The post Final Crisis issue was mind-bogglingly bad, with Black Canary getting stiffed every which way she turned, and Red "Your Arsenal" Arrow crying in a graveyard because Hawkgirl doesn't like him anymore. (At least she didn't die, Arsey! Ha!)

The Shadow Cabinet and Icon were something a bit fresh and different, with their own history. Still there was a bit too much 'Mary Sue-ing' to build these guys up.

"How did you break into this channel?"

"I'm Wingnut/Hard-drive/Hardcore, whatever my name is" Puh-lease!

If he couldn't use the heavy-hitters, McDuffie was at least building up a nicely diverse team. Such terrible timing for DC to scrap this JLA team at that time. Not that they're racist or anything....

8 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000081300691 The new Avengers. [Vol. 11], Search for the sorcerer supreme / writer,Brian Michael Bendis ; pencils, Billy Tan.Bendis, Brian Michael.due:17/7/2010,23:59

Wow! Bendis got paid for this? So little happens in his comics, and this was only 5 issues long, so even less happened. The Hood is currently tied with Kenny Braverman as 'smallest supervillain in comcis ever.' He's a zero.

And all the stuttering and stammering is starting to grate on me, real bad. C'mon, finish that sentence. There's supervillains abroad.

9 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000081303166 The new Avengers. [Vol. 10], Power / writer, Brian Michael Bendis ; AlexMaleev, artist ; peciler, Billy Tan.Bendis, Brian Michael.due:17/7/2010,23:59

That's the thing about Bendis' Avengers. You read them and then forget what happened in them, if anything. I actually paid 80c for this one because I'd forgotten I'd read it before.

I think they sat around eating pizza a lot.

10 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000079175956 Secret invasion : X-Men / writer Mike Carey ; artists, Cary Nord ... [etal.].Carey, Mike.due:17/7/2010,23:59

I loved this! Invaders enter your home town with superior weaponery and some hogwash about being there for everyone's benefit, you hit them fast and hard.

All superhero comics should be about good guys kicking the Arsenals of bad guys like this. Well-done Marvel. I'd given up on ever reading a good X-men comic again.

11 call number:PICTURE-BK ATW ID:34000076244870 Up in the tree / Margaret Atwood.Atwood, Margaret, 1939-due:17/7/2010,23:59

Did you know that Atwood wrote a picture book for childers? This one is very good. About two children who decide to live, well, "up in the tree".

Okay it's not Finnegans Wake, but...

At least no-one stammers in it, while sitting around eating pizza.
I've loved every Atwood book I've read -- thanks for pointing this one out!
Rob Staeger said:
I've loved every Atwood book I've read -- thanks for pointing this one out!

Sadly this is the only Atwood book I've read. Not that I'll ever admit it to the guys down at the local chinrubbers club!

6 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000081320228 Final crisis aftermath. Escape / [Ivan Brandon, writer ; Marco Rudy,Cliff Richards, Neil Edwards, pencillers].Brandon, Ivan.due:17/7/2010,23:59

Haven't read this yet. I only got it because it was on the shelf. It costs 80c to order a book from across town, and I'm not sure I'd spend even that on it. I'm worried that this will be a continuity-mired head-scratcher that doesn't have much to do with FC. It was really for fans of Checkmate, wasn't it?

I'll have to extend the loan on this one, and get back to you.

 

I found this to be a comic trying to be weird for weirdness sake, and kind of a snoozefest myself

 

And all the stuttering and stammering is starting to grate on me, real bad. C'mon, finish that sentence. There's supervillains abroad.

That something that has gotten on my nerves as well. My LCS gave me a copy of some issue of Dark Avengers, and all I could think was how could Norman Osborne be practically running everything with all of that stammering about? Who would follow a guy who can't get anyone to allow him to finish a sentence?

I suspect the unfinished sentences are the David Mamet influence. Bendis is a huge Mamet fan.
He's no Mamet.
Hey, nice marmot!

Here's two more pocket reviews:

call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000070746599 Fables. [7], Arabian nights (and days) / Bill Willingham, writer ; MarkBuckingham, Jim Fern, pencillers ; Steve Leialoha, Jimmy Palmiotti,Andrew Pepoy, inkers ; Daniel Vozzo, colorist ; Todd Klein, letterer.Willingham, Bill.due:9/7/2010,23:59

See what I thought of Arabian Nights - here. This isn't the story where one of the characters mentions Israel by name is it? If so, I missed it.

The last story, about the wooden couple who wanted to be human so they could get jiggy, was good. I like how sometimes Fables narratives just proceed in a straight line from A to B. They wanted to be human and they got their wish. Sure they have to kill people and that, but obviously the Adversary doesn't just hand out wishes for free.

2 call number:GRAPHIC NOV ID:34000079188355 The invincible Iron Man. [Vol. 1], The five nightmares / writer, MattFraction ; artist, Salvador Larroca ; colors, Frank D'Armata & StephanePeru.Fraction, Matt.due:9/7/2010,23:59\

Funny how a Marvel writer these days doesn't take long to get around to themes of replacements and copies etc. Tony isn't worried about someone creating something new and startling that will make him obsolete, but instead he worries about being duplicated and cheap copies being fobbed off on the public. Consider these stories have been in a neverending cycle, with writers reluctant to innovate, since the mid-60s and you can see his point.

I read the last half of The Order after reading this, so liked that Fraction had been able to lay some groundwork for this series there.
And another:

1 Superman : Camelot falls. [bk. 1] / Kurt Busiek, writer ; CarlosPacheco, pencils ; Jes*us Merino, inks ; Comicraft, letters ; DaveStewart, colors.Busiek, Kurt.

This is me starting to read Superman which I left off reading just after Up, Up, and Away. This was pretty good, Lois's hair notwithstanding. Superman is told of a future where everything goes t*ts up because he's been guarding us too closely. It's a suspect set-up, and the bad guy Khyber, is a bit of a lightweight to be the one who cooks the Big Red S's hash in the end.

I'd heard about the basic story idea, but I thought that the Earth would be doomed in a more subtle fashion than this. Busiek is very heavy-handed about how Superman fails us - He doesn't kill people enough, apparently! Still, I'm intrigued by it all and can't wait to see how Superman resolves his dilemma in the present.
Rob Staeger said:
I suspect the unfinished sentences are the David Mamet influence. Bendis is a huge Mamet fan.

Oh for certain. Yet there is a beat to Mamet, that is hard to duplicate when reading a comic. I just wish he would try something new (maybe he has and I haven't read it), but I have been reading the same conversation structure since AKA Goldfish in 1994!. It wouldn't bother me so much if his stories haven't gotten less interesting to me over the years.

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