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.
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.
2 Green Lantern. Rage of the Red Lanterns / Geoff Johns, writer ; Mike
McKone, Shane Davis, Ivan Reis, pencillers ; Andy Lanning ... [et al.],
Johns, Geoff, 1973-
call number:GRAPHICNOV copy:2
2 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000079210837
Green Lantern. Agent Orange / Geoff Johns, writer ; Philip Tan ... [et
Johns, Geoff, 1973-
Agent Orange seems to be a big hit with the fans. Having read the comics he appeared in, its hard to see why. There really doesn't seem to be much more to him than "Mine! Mine! Mine!"
It's hard not to read him as a satire on the worst type of fanboy, who is all about collecting all this stuff that doesn't seem to give him much pleasure. I'd say that superhero comics, like Lantern Rings, can be beautiful, wonderful things, but like Agent Orange and his coveted rings, lots of fanboys don't see anything in comics that helps them empathise with others or understand their place in the universe.
It's very tempting to see Agent Orange as a satire of the worst kind of fan much as Superboy-Prime was. Johns gets interesting when he gets a bit metatextual, like this!
That Agent Orange is the only Corps of One is an interesting twist. Maybe there is something of Johns in him too? Animating a whole corps from his imagination, and not allowing the various previous individual interpretations to break out of the story he has laid out for them. Johns eventually remakes the whole DCU in his own image, after all.
Green Lantern corps. Sins of the star sapphire / Peter J. Tomasi, writer
; Patrick Gleason, Luke Ross, pencils ; Rebecca Buchman ... [et al.],
4 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000081315178
Green Lantern Corps. Recharge / Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, writers ;
Patrick Gleason, pencils.
Johns, Geoff, 1973-
3 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000079210944
Green Lantern Corps. Emerald eclipse / Peter J. Tomasi, writer ; Patrick
3 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000079161758
Green Lantern corps. Ring quest / Peter J. Tomasi, writer ; Patrick
Gleason, Carlos Magno, pencils ; Drew Geraci ... [et al.], inks.
While reading Johns' GL, I also tried to keep up with the GL Corps tie-in series. I didn't really enjoy them. The plotting seemed very mechanical, in how the various male-female relationships were set up to be torn apart. I wasn't sure if Tomasi was actually parodying Johns' famous grand guignol bloodbath plot points at times. At one stage it starts to rain freshly removed eyeballs on our heroes, and thanks to their magic rings they are able to work out that they are the eyeballs of their murdered loved ones! Oh dear!
Another episode is set on a planet that is hip deep in bloody viscera and body parts which also rain from the sky.
Compared to the Tales of GL Corps collections which I mentioned earlier, everything here is very monotone, and that series' range of story styles, tones and art approaches is badly missing here. Comics have become very restricted lately in the range of what they can do, haven't they?
Perhaps what's missing in these stories are themes. Each story is just about what happens next to the GL Locker-room boys, rather than being about anything that might interest someone not a paid-up member of that fanclub.
1 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000083641662
Blackest night. Black Lantern Corps. Volume one / Peter J. Tomasi ... [et
al.], writers ; Ardian Syaf ... [et al.], pencillers.
2 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000083641878
Blackest night / Geoff Johns, writer ; Ivan Reis, penciller ; Oclair
Johns, Geoff, 1973-
These bring me to the happy end of my GL reading project. I read to the end of Johns big uber-story. I just read the first of the collection of mini-series as those had Superman and Batman, and also a horrible Teen Titans story. I don't know how even the pavlovian fanbase were able to read a whole 3 months of Blackest Night tie-ins. Hero is taunted and beaten by indestructible zombie version of their much-missed loved one, hero beats said zombie, rinse and repeat. And it's all so heavy and turgid and joyless.
I certainly couldn't read the second collection of the tie-ins. I'm a nerdy completist, but that would be a bridge too far for me.
As for the main Blackest Night series, DC has again shown that they are far more interested in cynically milking money out of the usual fanboys than putting out a good complete story that showcases why superhero stories should be read more widely. It was too obvious that many of the important beats in the story were taking place outside the pages of the issues collected here. So the story jumped forward in fits and starts. The biggest jolt was Hal turning up out of nowhere all chummy with a bunch of the galaxy's most notorious psychos and murderers. Presumably this follows on from somethig in the regular GL book? I'll never read it in any case. Even if DC thought it was expected of readers to have to read two series to follow this story properly, they delayed the printing of the GL collection until long after the Blackest Night collection hit the shelves.
Although I tried to read this series in good faith, there was nothing here to make me understand the Black Hand in any way, or understand why he was doing what he did. He didn't seem to have any motivation or personality. That's a terrible thing for an epic like this to lack.
So that's me and Hal. I really was interested in trying to fathom what everyone else was seeing there, but I'll have to admit defeat on this one. Hal is a charmless thug, and these stories are heavy-handed, lacking in subtelty and generally illustrated with too heavy a hand also.
For what it's worth, I find myself in agreement with Colin Smith about many of the comics he reviews, but he found quite a bit to admire in Blackest Night. He finds that Johns shows some control of comics technique in this series and also that Johns addresses well a heavy theme - our attempts to deal with the fact of death.
Be that as it may, I just didn't enjoy these comics. I'll have to try to be kinder to myself in the comics reading projects I embark on in future!
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