Okay folks, here’s the drill. Each week Donald will serve up fresh comic book reviews. Listen to what he has to say or read the books yourself to make up your own mind.. What a novel concept!
by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows
It was H. P. Lovecraft’s narrator’s conveyance of terribilità in Dagon that made me sit up straight and realise that the unreservedly snooty presumption I’d had of Lovecraft as being little more than a writer of the pulpiest of fiction was patently wrong and in need of reform post-haste. This was dark shit; and even though, in that antiquated voice of his, Lovecraft’s roll call of the leitmotifs he’d imported from the Existentialists wasn’t anywhere near as abstract and European as I’d tended to like it, I dug the fact that a book I was reading by a guy known primarily for writing creepy-assed, occult-inflected horror was kicking off with a short story about a dude who decides that the only rational response to visions of comprehensive apocalypse is suicide. This gentleman was cool. And I was impressed.
Alan Moore’s 12-part homage to Lovecraft – Providence – impresses similarly. Commixing Moore’s affinity for esoterica and other recondite shit together with an abiding fascination for the disquieting illogic underlying psychotic and criminal behaviour, what your spare change gets you is a fanciful – albeit unsettling – comic historiography of the Rhode Island resident’s city at a time that saw the genesis of cultish zeal for the guy’s fiction. Throw in Moore’s regulation appendices of prose, and pencils by fellow traveller Jacen Burrows – and we’re all well on our merry way to the ninth fucking circle of Purgatory. In a good way.
by Doug Wagner, Daniel Hillyard and Laura Martin
Because this comic’s premise is positioned at the ridiculously improbable end of the behavioural spectrum – where, amongst other things, fetishism and psychopathology neatly intersect – you can be forgiven for finding it somewhat odd that Doug Wagner would presume you’d have no trouble sympathising with its protagonist – a former government spook whose Eternal Flame is a blonde haired inflatable sex doll named Virginia – before reaching the issue’s last panel. It’s here that the writer’s gambit pays off: Victor’s insanity is clear and present; and yet, juxtaposed against Plastic’s cast of bad, bad, bad guys – with the story’s absurdist-lite intonation all fixed – the main character’s frequent protestations of normality kind of warrant the reader’s credence. “This guy,” I hear you cry out in confusion, “believes that his Dutch Wife is a real woman, though?” Just don’t. Don’t make it necessary for me to point out that this is how some North American adult men conceptualise the machinery of black humour. Just run with it. And shut the hell up. It goes without saying that the prologue to Plastic is indeed as dumb as fuck; and the most earnest of its felicitations will only be sung by a confederacy of dunces. Still, there’s a part of me that, out of morbid fascination, desires to see this series through to the end – and end exactly the way it should: badly for everybody.
Aliens 30th Anniversary: The Original Comics Series
by Mark Verheiden and Mark A. Nelson
Mark Verheiden obviously understood that the inferences made by Dan O’Bannon’s and Ronald Shusett’s original script for Alien would necessarily exceed the genre’s simplistic topoi in a way that – conversely – James Cameron sought to essentially preserve. And to great effect. Aliens is unarguably the franchise’s pièce de résistance. Prometheus leaped boldly in the opposite direction, brandishing a narrative that Ridley Scott had calibrated in such a way as to differentiate the film from Aliens mythology proper – with the result that most of its audience went fucking splenetic over all that undue emphasis on Engineers and shit on the one hand; and the notable absence of the hissing, salivating, acid-pissing xenomorph on the other. Verheiden saw the franchise’s vanishing points in much sharper relief long before Prometheus hit the screen, however; and although the series and its two sequels were eventually rendered non-canonical by the arrival of an underwhelming Alien 3 in 1992, Verheiden’s architectonic trounced the approach 20th Century Fox took – if not by the measure of his evident ambition to broaden the franchise’s conceptual scope, then certainly by the commercial success and positive critical reception that proved so elusive to David Fincher’s film. This book is kind of schismatic in that sense. And if you caught wind of what Neill Blomkamp’s blueprint for Alien 5 entailed, there does indeed exist a constituency for which giving the most basic fuck about Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection isn’t a priority at all.