Monday, 31 March 2014

I met Pat Mills, Simon Bisley and Glenn Fabry!!!!

Over the weekend I attended the Sci-Fi Weekender in North Wales and was lucky enough to meet three comic book legends; artists Simon Bisley and Glenn Fabry, and writer Pat Mills. Needless to say it was very exciting.

Simon Bisley was very friendly, if a little intimidating (he was swigging from a bottle of whiskey as he sketched). I toyed with the idea of asking him for a sketch of something from his 2000AD work, lest I come across as the stereotypical superhero loving fanboy that I am. But in the end I (somewhat ashamedly) asked him for a Batman sketch. What can I say? Batman/Judge Dredd: Judgement on Gotham had a big impact on me as a child. If Bisley disapproved of my request he didn't show it and cheerfully sketched me a fantastic Batman, without asking for a penny in return! I am very grateful for his generosity.

I asked Glenn Fabry for a sketch of the Reverend Jesse Custer. He must get so many people asking him for this, but there was absolutely no way I was going to ask him for anything else. Preacher, and Fabry's fantastic cover art for that series, means so much to me I would have regretted it forever if I'd missed this opportunity. Not only did he happily agree to sketch Jesse for me but he even gave me a choice of eye patch or no eye patch. Of course I chose eye patch.

The following day I attended a talk given by comics legend Pat Mills and later met Mills at the signing table. During the talk Mills discussed, among other things, the importance of authentic voices in comics, his love of British girls comics, and his thoughts on the failure of the British comics industry in recent times to attract young readers ("We blew it"). During the Q & A he was kind enough to answer my request for recommendations of comics he had recently enjoyed. He particularly recommended Wayne Vansant's Katusha - Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War, praising it for dealing with a chapter in history that's been overlooked in the West.

I was only really familiar with Mills' Judge Dredd work and so before the talk I purchased his and Kevin O' Neill's Marshal Law. Marshal Law is a dark, violent, over-the-top, and blackly funny satire about a futuristic cop clad in fetish gear who hunts and kills superheroes.  The heroes he kills are always revealed to have feet of clay. As Law says "I hunt heroes. Haven't found any yet." Being a massive superhero fan a book like Marshal Law, a complete evisceration of the superhero myth, wouldn't normally appeal to me, but I'd been meaning to read it ever since I read Grant Morrison's description of it in his book, Supergods.

In my head I actually remembered Morrison's description being kinder. When I had the chance to talk to Mills I told him it was Morrison's glowing praise that led me to Marshal Law. Reading Morrison's words again I find Morrison's description isn't quite as glowing as I remembered and now I'm getting anxious at the thought of having inadvertently misled Pat Mills! But regardless, Morrison's description undoubtedly sparked some interest in me and led me to check out the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Now that I've read Marshal Law I finally understand what writers like Garth Ennis and Mark Millar have been trying to do for years with work such as The Boys, The Pro, Punisher, Ultimates, The Authority and Kick Ass. They've been trying to write their own Marshal Law. But they haven't quite succeeded, and the reason for this is touched upon by Morrison when he describes Mills and O' Neill's work has having something "raw and real...that gave its cynicism a genuine, edgy authority". When Millar and Ennis try and satirize superheroes they come across like giggling sixth-formers trying to look clever, but there's a sincere anger that comes across in Marshal Law that's absent in Ennis and Millar's work. This anger makes Marshal Law feel much more authentic than other comics that rip the piss out of superheroes. When I read Marshal Law I get the impression that Mills feels genuinely let down by the people set up by society to be our heroes and he's pissed off about it. What makes Marshal Law different from The Boys or The Pro or Ultimates for me is that Marshal Law is the real deal, and I was very lucky to get the opportunity to tell Mills how much I enjoyed it.

I had a fantastic weekend, I discovered some new comics (new to me at least) and I had the rare opportunity to meet some proper comics legends (who were all lovely people). Not bad for a stereotypical superhero loving fanboy.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Green Arrow Vol 1: The Midas Touch - Review

I am currently enjoying the hell out of the Green Arrow TV series Arrow, and have recently purchased and thoroughly enjoyed Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's Green Arrow Vol. 4 - The Kill Machine. It's fair to say that I'm currently having a bit of a thing for Green Arrow. It was in this spirit that I purchased J.T. Krul, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen & George Perez' Green Arrow Vol 1: The Midas Touch. Unfortunately, not even the enormous amount of love and good will I'm feeling towards the Emerald Archer at the moment could compel me to give this very mediocre book a positive review.

Green Arrow's team of "hackers" party like it's 1995
In 2011 DC Comics relaunched their entire line of superhero comics under the banner of 'The New 52'. This collection is the first six issues of the relaunched Green Arrow. One of the intentions of the New 52 was to provide a jumping on point for teens to get into superhero comics. In this collection the writers have paid lip service to this notion by having a much younger than usual Green Arrow battle thoroughly modern baddies who upload videos of their crimes to the internet. And yet this attempt at a modern take on GA and his foes is completely undermined by the writers' frankly bizarre decision to have GA constantly moaning and griping about how kids today celebrate the bad guys in popular culture and play too many violent video games. The finale of the first arc is literally GA lecturing the audience from a podium about the perils of modern technology. DC Comics have handed Krul, Jurgens and Giffen a hip, funky, modern, young Green Arrow for the 21st Century and they've bizarrely chosen to portray him as an out of touch, Daily Mail reading type, trapped in a world he never made and harrumphing at the wayward youth of today, with their Youtubes and Playstations. 

"You kids with your Angry Birds and your apps...nobody talks to each other anymore!"
The unimaginative villains don't help the overall dated vibe either. The titular Midas for example, is a misunderstood, tragic, gloopy, scientist-cum- monster of the sort we've seen a billion times in comics over the years. There are some other villains too who are so uninspired I had too Google them as I'd actually forgotten what they were called. Apparently they're called Doppelganger, Dynamix, Supercharge, Rush, Stunner and Blood Rose, names that wouldn't look out of place in just about any 90s Marvel comic. In fact as I write this I'm remembering that Stunner, Blood Rose, and Supercharge(r) were actually the names of three 90s Marvel villains!

Dan Jurgens and George Perez' art is very good, but theirs is a style that, while easy on the eye, is very reminiscent of the 80s and 90s comics that made them big names. By itself this wouldn't be a problem, but add the old school art to the crappy villains and the writers' baffling decision to write GA as an elderly UKIP voter and you've got a recipe for a comic that's the complete antithesis of the New 52

Overall it's not a terrible collection but as a relaunch designed to pull in new readers it's just too old and stuffy in its outlook. If anyone's looking to get into Green Arrow comics I recommend you skip straight to the superb Green Arrow Vol. 4 - The Kill Machine. You will literally miss nothing.

2 out of 5 stars. **