Sunday, October 29, 2006

Civil disturbance

I was lost to Civil War from the moment Captain America, the Mary Sues' Mary Sue, made his escape Han Solo-style from the SHIELD helicarrier in the teeth of hundreds of soldiers specially trained and armed to catch him, before hitching a lift on an Air Force jet and correcting the surprised pilot's mild cursing. If only, while Captain America was busy preening himself at this daring escapade, Batroc had bounced on his head, knocked him cold, and dragged him off to a Government torture chamber where Sayid from Lost could have made himself useful with a staple gun, a pair of pliers and a packet of caustic pencils.

What is Civil War? Is it allegory? Are Stark and SHIELD supposed to be Bush's America, trampling civil liberties with the willful glee of a herd of wildebeest cantering over the Serengeti? What does that make the other side, then? Al Qaida? But, utterly obviously, they're supposed to be the good guys, right? As the advertising says, which side are you on? Let me just think for a minute... should it be the cool ones in leather jackets who have secret hideouts and make tediously self-righteous speeches about liberty? Or should I root for the stormtroopers who laboratory-grow murderous Thor-clones and swoop in on innocents at four in the morning, beat them senseless and then cuff them and stuff them and push them without benefit of lawyers into a hellish extra-dimensional prison-fortress?

I don't know about you, but I'm with the fascists on this one. You can't mollycoddle these lawbreakers.

Obviously, even in the best of comic stories, you have to suspend a mound of disbelief to cope with the spandex and unfeasible powers, but the character changes in Civil War are so extreme it's as if Mark Millar is personally jabbing you up the nose with a drumstick yelling, "it's only a story, you fool, I just couldn't get it to fly without jimmying everything around".

Witness Reed Richards, who only a few months ago was knocking over a foreign country on moral grounds in the teeth of US government opposition, but is now happy to use the Negative Zone as an extrajudicial robot-manned dungeon. The Negative Zone, for God's sake, backyard of Annihilus - didn't you used to die if you hung out there too long? What if there's a power outage? What if Blastaar takes out the security bots and recruits half the world's superpowered individuals as his personal minions?

Yes I know it's a cypher for Guantanamo, but it's a ludicrous one. Richards has mutated into Josef Mengele, feverishly inventing ways to subvert human-rights while muttering non sequiturs. I should get your head seen to, mate. It's no wonder your wife left you.

Meanwhile Peter Parker is obviously wondering if becoming Tony Stark's mini-me was a wise career move as all the other superheroes are starting to bully him in the playground. When Civil War ends (if it ever does - perhaps these production delays are out of pure embarrassment?), if the resolution involves Parker having a fit of conscience and at the last moment betraying Stark then I shall gibber uncontrollably for a fortnight while watching 100 Funniest Comedy Double Entendres on looped feedback in a darkened room.

And there's so many of the damn books. Ninety-six. Dark Phoenix lasted nine. If you added up every single Howard the Duck Steve Gerber ever wrote you probably wouldn't get past forty, but any given page would have more thought and insight than the entire monstrous Civil War collection.

Some of the ninety-six are nonsensically flabby. Civil War Files is just typed reports about Marvel characters. Like I give a shiny shite who (to open a page a random) Falcon and Sally Floyd are supporting.

Front Line is probably the best of a bad job, since much of it is written by Paul Jenkins, a good writer who has somehow managed to avoid becoming a great one. But it is here that we find the most dreggy and absurd story. Put artists impressions of the Vietnam war on one side of the panels and superheroes on the other and then include excerpts from Goodnight Saigon, a Billy Joel song about Vietnam.

A bit of advice for you, Paul: superheroes aren't real. They're made up. Put them anywhere near real events and the result is not only in bad taste but glib and superficial. And horribly, squirmingly, buttock-clenchingly embarrassing. I went and hid under my duvet until the nasty comic went away.

Civil War is pompous and portentous and utterly without humour. It's this decade's Onslaught.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cor strewf stone the crows

Madonna is starting to sound like Dick Van Dyke. Why don't Americans who pick up an English accent sound like the English when they pick up Americanisms?

Monday, October 16, 2006


You wonder if Marvel has any idea why people read Thunderbolts.

I know there is only me and about fifteen others and it was probably heading for cancellation, but it was a last lonely little outpost of creativity in Joe Quesada's increasingly alarming flood of commerciality. Here's Mark Millar:

My idea for Thunderbolts, very simply, was that it should employ the same strategy as New Avengers and JLA in that if we have a team, why not make it the A-Team in the sense that they're all recognizable names?

Well, it's a fair question. Why would want a title of stiffs, nobodies and half-forgotten incompetents when we can have Norman Osborn, Venom and Thanos on the team? (I made one of them up, but I'm past caring which one.) We can have big personalities. Big fights, Big muscles. If this was 1995 we'd get big breasts as well, but I suppose, given it's Warren Ellis, it'll be raincoat-shrouded anti-heroes, malevolent aliens and gratuitous torture.

I had an idea for The Champions, I had an idea for a new Defenders book.

Oh, Mark, why couldn't you have done just that? The Champions were a joke even back when. The Defenders non-team concept ran out of steam long ago. Couldn't you have put Ellis to work on them? I wouldn't have minded. Admittedly, I wouldn't have bought them either, but you can't have everything.

We Thunderbolts readers, though few in number, are possessive and possibly a smidgen touchy about our book. We dislike, no hate, the way Marvel (led even then by Joe Quesada) ditched the entire cast and replaced it with a plodding Fight Club with sub-pornographic covers which was an exact copy of a simultaneously running Spider-Man plot. We dropped it, Marvel cancelled it and then (to my astonishment, frankly) revived it. Fabian Nicieza takes a few months to get all the multi-threads up and running, but with that achieved, we're back to having one of the top three Marvel books of the past decade.

But we don't love it because it has big well-known characters. We love it because it doesn't. Thunderbolts is Nicieza exploring redemption: those who desire it, achieve it, fall from it. Thunderbolts uses minor characters because they're sufficiently ill-defined not only that Nicieza can breathe life into them, but that we readers can't guess whether they will come or go or die or reform. Does anyone actually see that in Norman Osborn, written by Warren Ellis?

NEWSARAMA: Back to production Ellis on villains. One of the simpler decisions made at Marvel recently?

JOE QUESADA: Seemed like a no brainer to me. Let's face it Warren is a very evil, evil man, I’ve always suspected that he's behind all the evil acts in the world so who better to write this book?

Thunderbolts was never about the portrayal of evil. No wonder you keep shitting on our book, Joe. You don't have the slighest idea what it's about.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The bones of Jacob Forster

With every autumn storm, the clifftop nibbles closer to the bones of Jacob Forster.

He lies in the churchyard of All Saints in Dunwich, where he died in 1796.

(from Suffolkcam)

The church went a hundred years ago, and the only intact gravestone I could find was Jacob's. He's ten metres from the edge in a rabbity hawthorn thicket. Just along the cliff is a clearing where some thoughtful soul has left a plastic bottle and an aluminium tray of used charcoal briquettes. The cliff (30 metres high maybe?) isn't even stone. Just pure compressed sand.

(from Suffolk churches)

Jacob, rabbits, hawthorns and clearing should be tumbling over the edge in a decade or two. Does the council have someone to come and clear up mortal remains after a storm? Or do they just wait for the high tide to suck everything away?

I suppose they could give him another couple of centuries by digging old Jacob up and re-interring him in the new church in the grounds of the old leper colony. But, frankly, who wants to be digging six feet down on the edge of a crumbling cliff? Safer just to let him drop.

Anyway, that's where Jacob's family and friends must have ended up. If skeletons had thoughts, perhaps one thundery night, as his plot starts to slip, he'll be thinking, "about bloody time too".

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

There's a man down the corridor...

...who bellows into his mobile phone. Not shouts. Not screams. Bellows.

Shut up, you fool. Shut up.