Book Club Lockdown / April

Hi everyone

So yeah – this was supposed to be a thing about Daredevil: Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli – but instead of that: we’re going to try something slightly different. While we’re all in lockdown this here is going to be a place where you can just post up whatever thoughts you have about whatever comic you happen to be reading at the moment. Doesn’t matter if it’s brand new or came out years ago – if you’re reading it in lockdown and you’ve got something you want to say about it then you’re very welcome to post about it here. Just make sure you include the title and the authors name in bold at the start so everyone knows what you’re talking about. If you’ve been reading Daredevil: Born again then of course you’re very welcome to post about that too.  Obviously don’t know how long this is going to run for – but once Lockdown ends I’ll post it all up on the website. 

I hope that’s all cool and all makes sense.

Stay safe and stay well.

Ok. I’ll start…

Punisher MAX  By Garth Ennis

We did talk about this series all the way back when at the start of 2018 but I always thought that I never really got to say all of the things that I wanted to say. Back then I brought the “collected editions” which give you whole run in 4 big chunky books – which are about 400 pages each. Cool – I thought: job done. But then at the start of the lockdown I decided to do something incredibly decadent (and I’m blushing slightly as I write this) and ordered all 13 of the original volumes instead (Volumes 1 – 10, Born, From First til Last and that Barracuda one-shot which is nowhere as good as I hoped). I mean yeah yeah – I put the collected editions up on ebay because I’m not that crazy but it still kinda felt a bit stupid to be spending so much on comics that I already fucking own. But here’s the obvious thing of it: a comic book is a physical object and as a dumb human you always kinda get fixated with how you first experience stuff. I mean yeah ok obviously there’s like the original single issues or whatever (but I kinda stopped doing all that when I quit reading 2000ad as a teenager) but for me a proper comic is an individual volume: and that’s very much how I first experienced Punisher MAX (reserving the next volume at the Library and then waiting with sweaty hands for it to arrive like a junkie waiting for his next fix). So I thought – fuck it. Why not? At least I know how good they are – right? And because the thing with the big chunky “collected editions” is that instead of reading something that felt light and agile and slightly disposable (which I think is how comics always work best – lulling you into this false sense of security and then WHAM! hitting you over the head and the heart with this cool thing that you don’t see coming) it kinda made it feel like a big chore or like trying to eat a whole week’s supply of dinners all in one go. I mean – even the weight of it in your hands kinda felt a bit unpleasant you know? I mean – I think it’s a great fucking series: but I don’t wanna be reading it and feeling like I’m holding a Bible you know? 

Having said that – if Garth Ennis ever wants to write a book called The Punisher Bible then I would definitely like to read it thank you very much.

But anyway – yeah. What I can I say about this comic that I haven’t said before? I mean: if you’ve never read it before and you’re looking for something to fill up your lockdown days then I’d definitely recommend it whole-heartedly. I mean yeah it’s full of the old ultra-violence and Frank Castle is depicted as less a human being and more like an unstoppable force of something beyond nature which is all good and feels almost dangerous to read but the thing that leaves me feeling most impressed is the way how in the main body of the thing – Volumes 1 to 10 – Ennis manages this beautiful graceful seemingly impossible trick of making each volume top the one that came before and finding new wrinkles and new angles on this guy who really shouldn’t be able to give you that much – after all his only thing is that he kills bad guys and wears a cool shirt with a skull on it (I mean – no offence Frank: but you’re hardly Dostoyevsky). And yet and yet: Ennis keeps finding new notes to play and new places to put him in – What if The Punisher was going to join The War on Terror? What if The Punisher was in an 80s action movie? What if The Punisher finally snapped? What if the Punisher took on sex traffickers? What if the Punisher fought corporate crime? What if The Punisher faced the one target that he couldn’t shoot back? And etc. And yeah maybe when I sum it up like that it sounds kinda lame or gimmicky – but when you’re reading it: it just feels – smooth and natural and as gripping as a bear-trap caught on the top of your head.

 

 

In a pretty uncharacteristic move for me, I recently read All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Jamie Grant.I’ve never been interested in Superman and I have an active and documented disinterest in Grant Morrison. (I read it to get ideas/intel for a comics quiz I’ve decided to run for some reason, which is tomorrow apparently, if anyone wants to participate.)

Imagine my surprise when I found I’d finished the first couple issues not begrudgingly but willingly. Contentedly, even. I actually looked forward to reading the rest of it.

In a pretty uncharacteristic move for Grant Morrison, the story is straightforward. I read this as a quick research exercise rather than as an in-depth probe and had no problem following along. At the level I was reading, the story is a delightful romp with retro vibes – it verges on cheesy, but in a good way (the prison interview issue is top-class, like, just masterful). The art is unambiguous and bright, with a colour palette drawing out the yellows/blues/reds, and the whole package is just so tidy. It all comes together in just 12 issues. 

It’s maybe uncommon for a superhero comic to work as both an easy breezy read and a specimen worthy of dissection. But I know spending more time and effort on All-Star Superman would reveal even more to it (the LGNN discussion on it gets into that territory – also, I think I’m a bit upset that I read the book before seeing Joel’s comment about how Zibarro probably sounds like Morrissey). I really appreciate it for that, on top of the unexpected joy it brought me for a couple days. 

So, in another uncharacteristic move for me, I will actually unreservedly recommend a Grant Morrison book.

 

Yeah, I really enjoyed All-Star as well – for me what made it enjoyable was that it really focused on the area where Superman isn’t an all-powerful god, on his personal life. It actually made him more than a cardboard cut-out, which is something I’d never seen before.  

The other thing that I loved was what the friend who showed it to me focused on – there’s a panel where Superman is standing in front of some Mirror of Truth thingy, and the art shows how Clark Kent works as a disguise – how slumping over makes a giant man look like a doughball, where the Mirror of Truth obviously shows him as his heroic self, standing tall. It’s one of my favourite panels in any comic, ever.   

(Sorry bout the horrible jpg artifacts, it’s all I could find online)

DAVE                    Twitter /                      Improvised Comics

 

I’ve read Isabel Greenberg’s new book most recently – “Glass Town”. I’m a big fan of her work – the folk art style, the stories-within-stories structure, and the sassy, chatty writing style that subverts the grandiosity of the stories it’s telling

Glass Town is a departure from her previous “Early Earth” books, set a bit more closely in this world. It follows the early lives of the four Bronte siblings – the three sisters who all became world-class writers (mostly posthumously), and their (mostly) ne’er-do-well brother. Much of it focuses on the imaginary worlds that they collectively created, and the schisms that grew in that joint creative process as they grew up. There’s scope for a lot of Greenberg’s usual strengths to play out here – the stories-within-stories in particular – and it does a good job of alluding to the unhappiness and restrictions in the real world that led to much of this creative outpouring

I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did “Early Earth” or its sequel, and her art style felt like less of a natural fit to this than it did to the Early Earth books. But I did enjoy it, and it’s great to see her stretching herself with something a little bit different.

Stay well, y’all

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