Thursday, 22 April 2010

Surviving the Comics Drought: Scott Pilgrim

Today, the Comics Drought started in earnest. Where there should have been lovely new comics in comic shops across the UK, there was only the taste of bitter ash. But, even ash clouds have silver linings (and other chipper sentiments). There's plenty of good stuff out there that didn't need flying in from the US this week, and now's the most ideal of all times to get into it.

So, if you haven't read Scott Pilgrim, in the name of all that is good and awesome, please do. Go down to your nearest comic shop and spit in the face of the volcanic prison cloud by getting Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, the start of one of the finest ongoing comics series this century. And if you already read it - well, you were probably planning on re-reading it before the last book and the film anyway, right?

Here's a review of Volume 5, Scott Pilgrim Vs The Universe, previously published in The Leeds Guide:

I had, literally, no idea. Until Scott Pilgrim Volume 3 came along nearly three years ago I was happily buying and loving comics week in, week out, loving the medium in all its variety like I loved nothing else in the world of entertainment, having somehow been missing one of the greatest new series to spawn from the brain of a comics creator in years. Another volume’s come and gone and, happily, Bryan Lee O’Malley has just unleashed volumefive5 - Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe (£9.99, Oni Press) - upon us.

Like many people, I initially glanced briefly at Scott Pilgrim’s round, black and white cuteness and dismissed it as more Oni Press fluff. Like many people, I was wrong. Scott Pilgrim might just be the best thing to happen to comics this millennium.

It chronicles the series’ namesake, Scott, in his battle to defeat the seven evil ex-boyfriends of his lady love, Ramona Flowers. Volume 5 doesn’t waste any time, and by page 14 Scott’s already fighting robots while Ramona, worryingly, stands in her Mexican Day of the Dead costume looking upsettingly indifferent. Video games, comics and music all take front and centre as Scott desperately tries to keep it together in the face of ever-mounting odds.

Volume 5, like its predecessors, is cool, smart, genuinely funny and steeped in pop cultural references. It is one of those truly rare artefacts in comics - a book that will actually make you laugh out loud as you’re effortlessly swept along by its breathless narrative. Reading it is like bathing in an entire vat of Original Source mint shower gel - so refreshing it could blow your head off.

If you won’t try out Scott Pilgrim on my say so, for God’s sake try it so you can look cool when the Edgar Wright film adaptation comes out some time in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future.

More Comics Drought suggestions here, here and on Twitter. If you've got some suggestions of your own, hit me up!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts in Your Telly

Trailer for a documentary about Warren Ellis from the chaps who made that Grant Morrison film that time. Yeah, I'll tell you their name. It's Sequart.

Surviving the Comics Drought: 45

As I mentioned earlier, there's a Comics Drought on. Survival instincts are kicking in and, lest our brains melt and we forget how to read, it's time to start digging into that to-read list. We Keepers of the Bright-ish Nerd Flame have to show Mother Nature that the titanic and ancient forces of geology aren't enough to keep us from comics! Comics are a big deal, guys. Anyway, another recommendation follows. Up today is another one from my Leeds Guide columns - Andi Ewington's 45. Here it is:

In a comics marketplace that has grown comfortable with the tried and tested capes and tights formula, it's increasingly rare to come across a superhero title that does something (dare we say it?) new. It comes as something as a surprise, therefore, to find Andi Ewington positively belching forth fresh air with 45 (Com.x, £11.99)

Not strictly speaking a graphic novel, 45 is a collection of interviews with super-humans (Super-S, for 45's purposes) conducted by an almost-absent protagonist, journalist James Stanley. The birth of his child is creeping closer and, unsure of whether it will be born Super-S, he sets out to discover what it means to live your life as a superman.

Each interview comes with a full-page illustration by a different artist from a line-up that reads like a who's-who of British comics – Trevor Hairsine, Sean Phillips and Frazer Irving are just a few of the big names lending their pencil to the project. The interviews are by turns funny, thrilling, thoughtful and tragic. The beauty of 45 is that all of them – despite the 'super' nature of their subjects – are brimming with humanity.

While these snapshots of supermen would be satisfying on their own, taken together they form an intriguing larger narrative – one that illuminates both a father already in love with his child and shadowy forces at work in the wider world. If you put 'man' before 'super' there's a lot to enjoy here.

Got something to add? Comment, send me a mail or hit me up on Twitter!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Oh My God, That Volcano Killed Comics!

UK retailers have been told that they will not receive US comics with their deliveries this week thanks to the volcanic prison cloud blanketing the UK. The delivery has not been able to make it to our island shores from the US. As you will no doubt be aware, US imports make up the vast majority of any given week's new comics. This is not very good news. This is even worse than the impending volcano-fuelled banana shortage.

No-one likes a pessimist, though, so I'm turning to the silver lining on that black, lightening-tickled ash cloud. I will be taking the opportunity to catch up on my reading backlog - namely the graphic novels and TPBs I've been meaning to get around to but haven't because I'm usually too swamped by singles. I've got The Beats, written by Harvey Pekar, to finish. I also want to try out DC's R.E.B.E.L.S., mostly because I've recently been turned on to Andy Clarke's art by Batman and Robin. I also intend to hassle Jared at OK Comics (my sometime workplace) to tell me about something good I haven't read. I've never really ventured into porn comics, for example.

But, enough about me. In the spirit of nerd camaraderie in the face of the Great Comics Drought of 2010, I'm also going to put up a series of posts recommending GNs and TPBs to fill the void. Many of them will be culled from my past Leeds Guide Columns, so if you read those already you should go back to surfing for pictures of Karen Gillan.

First up, awesome hipster douche comics (superhero stuff to follow). It's Asterios Polyp:

Anyone seen David Mazzucchelli anywhere? No? That’s because he’s been out in the comics wilderness, casting aside his superhero roots (Batman: Year One, Daredevil, both with the celebrated Frank Miller) and crafting a work that stands as his magnum opus.

Asterios Polyp (Pantheon, £24.99) is a beautiful, whimsical and highly intelligent original graphic novel recounting the life of its namesake (yes, that’s the name of a person). If I was forced to sum up what it’s about, I’d say that it’s about an architect who forged himself a career and reputation based on a series of designs for buildings that have never been built, before dropping out of his life to rebuild it from the ground up. If you caught me in a more reflective (or pompous, you choose) moment, however, I’d tell you that it’s an investigation of the point at which art intersects with life. It's about everything.

Mazzucchelli uses the space offered by his first OGN to probe the form of comics with an eye for storytelling that's both impeccably precise and warmly endearing. His panels flow seamlessly into one another with what appears to be casual ease, but closer inspection reveals that there's not a line in the entire book that isn't there for a reason. His art style and colour palette change constantly throughout the book, but the changes blend so perfectly with the story beats that, as with great special effects, you probably won't think to question them.

While Mazzucchelli has devoted painstaking attention to the mechanisms he employs to move us through the story, don't think that Asterios Polyp is a slave to form at the expense of content. As the cartoonist goes about enamouring us with a man who should be unlikeable, he takes us wandering down paths that effortlessly weave the 'real' with the decidedly surreal and cross the tracks of art, architecture, philosophy and religion.

If there’s a complaint to be made about Asterios Polyp, it’s about its length. It weighs in at a hefty 344 pages, but they’re 344 fast pages. Still, it's a read that justifies the asking price and won't soon slip out of your gently massaged brain.

If you have any recommendations of your own, please go nuts in the comments. Also: !!!

(Also: volcano pic from here).

Friday, 16 April 2010