“My WHOLE BODY experiences Disasters And It's—I'm WORRIED About It Getting To Me.” COMICS! Sometimes I Should Just Shake My Head And Leave The Room.

So…The biggest names in comics! The biggest comics in comics! Several thousand words which can be summed up as, “Seriously? You jest, right? THIS?” Break out the bunting because the world’s sourest man is back! Nothing is good enough for him! He’s a big old stinker and no mistake! Comics by beloved creators spat at by a man with not a fraction of their talent! Oh, it’s good to be back. (We are back, right?) The following is dedicated to OKOliver who left OKComics without me having the chance to say goodbye. Good luck in your new life as a space gigolo! M-Wah! M-Wah!

 photo CasTOP_zpsz1oiejkb.jpg CASANOVA: NO JACKET REQUIRED #1 by Moon, Fraction, Harbin & Peter

Anyway, this…

Someone must have been telling lies about John K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he found himself blocked from The Savage Critics… Ho ho ho, a little bit of Kaf-KA! there. Actually, I have no idea what happened. At first I thought Cap’n Hibbs had sacked me but…wait, he hasn’t has he? Anyway, I don’t know because I’m writing this while the site’s still down, so I don’t know what happened because as I type it’s still happening. If you’re reading this we’re BACK! If you’re not, then we’re NOT!

CASANOVA: SUSSUDIO#1 Art by Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon Written by Matt Fraction & Michael Chabon Lettered by Dustin Harbin Coloured by Cris Peter Image Comics, £0.69 Digital (2015) CASANOVA created by Fraction, Moon & Ba

 photo CasCovB_zpsdt2dgdbs.jpg

I’m not really a Matt Fraction man, so if you are you might want to just skip this one. But, as little time as I can find for his work in my withered and bitter life I do have to give Fraction kudos for the unflinching portrayal of vacuous self-obsession embodied by the almost heroically oblivious buffoon, Jerry Cornelius, er, Casanova Quinn. Few are the authors who would dare be so upfront about the distasteful shallowness of their lead. We’re all grown-ups hereabouts (we skew “old” at the SavCrits, so I hear) so we all know that no one needs to actually like a lead character. Still to actually invite, nay, compel, readers to loathe so fiercely the focus of a work of fiction is a feat worthy of attention, nay, applause. Applause I imagine Mick Jagger, er, Casanova Quinn, would expect purely as his due for his mere existence. The book’s right upfront about it as well. So foolish a fop have we here that he openly declares himself to be “good at people” (and, oh, the attention that “at” so conceitedly coerces!) Obviously, it is a secret only to people who utter such self-serving bilge that people who feel they are good “at” people are never  anything of the sort, and that the people that they feel they are good “at” only endure their hilariously transparent horseshit (ugh, all that open body language, the direct gaze, the tilted head and, worst of all, the excessive interest in, no, really, you; how are you doing? Spare me.) with such forbearance because it would be cruel to just laugh in their patronising face as it swarms with smarm.

 photo Cas2B_zpsalzkep20.jpg CASANOVA: FACE VALUE by Moon, Fraction, Harbin & Peter

This total lack of self-awareness reaches a hilarious nadir when the book risks actually transmuting  into a substance composed of pure condescension as Casanova Quinn explains his own very poor joke about an elephant in case we missed how clever he was being. Like all his type Casanova Quinn understands that if you have to explain your own joke the fault is always (always) that of the audience.  There is no such thing as a bad joke just bad audiences. Just as there is no such thing as bad writing, just bad readers. Obviously. Cruelly, but understandably since he is so dulled by self-adoration, Quinn is made to inhabit a world as obsessed with surfaces as he himself is. His oleaginous self slithers through a slurry of outdated signifiers of alienation and joyless ostentation snipped from decades of pop culture (swimming pools, ladies flashing their knickers, gamines with balloons, joyless parties) all huddled together like confused refugees yanked without thought or feeling from other, better, works in the futile hope that their mere proximity will create fresh meaning. Casanova Quinn is the kind of person who has watched The Great Gatsby and thinks this is the same as reading The Great Gatsby. How can anyone know me, when I don’t even know myself?, thinks Casanova Quinn; so impressed with his own insight he practically shudders with the struggle not to climax. Casanova Quinn and his banal world are such flagrantly faux creations that it’s testament to the art of Ba and Moon and the muted citrus wash of Peters' colours that I kept coming back to the this series as long as I did. But enough. I shall find places where their art is better served, and inflict upon Casanova Quinn the, to him, ultimate insult of the snub. Postscript: Michael Chabon writes a strip in the back. This is a big deal because Michael Chabon not only won a Pulitzer Prize but, more importantly, wrote a whole book about old timey comics which was nice of him. Unfortunately his comic writing is very much exactly as good as you would expect someone his age trying to be H!pS@xyF*n would be. In short then, Casanova EH!

FCB: CIVIL WAR II©™ #1 Art by Jim Cheung & John Dell, Alan Davis & Mark Farmer Written by Brian Michael Bendis©™, Mark Waid Coloured by Justin Ponsor, Matt Hollingsworth Lettered by VC's Clayton Cowles, VC's Cory Petit Free! from Marvel Comics©™ All characters within created by human beings who had hopes, dreams and loves just like you, but they don't get a mention. You can look them up on Wikipedia if you want. I'm betting you don't want.

 photo CWCovB_zpswsmdelql.jpg

This was sent unbidden by hands unknown, so don’t get the idea that I’ve gone out of my way to read this. It was stuck in the packing of an almost criminally flamboyant purchase, just in case you had the idea I had fans who send me stuff. I don’t have fans (boo fucking hoo), and if I did they’d have more sense than to give stuff away. Also, don’t get the idea that I have anything against Brian Michael Bendis©™ as a human being, as a sentient entity, as a carbon based lifeform. He seems like a nice enough man; he’s certainly a wonderful provider for his family and I don’t doubt he is a loving father, a rewarding partner, and I’m even willing to entertain (under duress) the notion that he’s a regular sexual tyrannosaur (although I think that’s his business really). He does use his exalted position to bring in talented new artists and he obviously has a lot of love for the medium of comics. He’s well into it isn’t he? What  with his perpetual tumbling  and incessant tweeting, and he’s dutifully repaid Marvel©™’s faith in him like a good little soldier. And who has a heart so hard that it can be failed to be moved by his child like glee when Marvel©™ put him, and a bunch of other White Hot Fan Favourites©™, in a room to harvest their brains for ideas, like they are interchangeable cogs in a hugely dull machine. Oh, I wish to be as happy as Brian Michael Bendis©™ is when he tweets a picture of himself holding a Name Brand Burger next to the literary colossus Matt Fraction. There, I say, there is a man who has built a life and is enjoying it. There, right there, is a successful human being. Unfortunately, having said all that I think his writing is terrible. Dreadful stuff. Quite disheartening. He is consistent though, to give him his due; with all his work running the gamut from gibberish to mediocre with much of it falling into that sweet spot of mediocre gibberish. However, we have a saying over here – tackle the ball not the man. Hopefully that’s what I’ll be doing. (Hopefully that’s what I always do, but I am a bit of a prick so sometimes I probably slip.) Know ye this then: I wish Brian Michael Bendis©™ no ill will; and anyway I have a sneaky suspicion that the millions of dollars in his bank account will soften the feathery blows from some anonymous dude who should really save his energy to provide for his own family one fiftieth as well as the tiny dynamo Brian Michael Bendis©™. But, uh, y’know, maybe, just maybe, I mean this, uh, comic, will make the preceding cowardly caveats redundant. (SPOILER: it doesn’t. It’s bloody awful.)

 photo CWAGHB_zpsbrhnc5tf.jpg FCBD 2016 (CIVIL WAR) No.1 by Cheung & Dell, Bendis, Ponsor and Cowles

Events, eh? Why are they so hard? You’d think it would be a slam dunk every time. A big threat, heroes band together, some character work, a few set pieces and a page shaking climax. I’m up for that, I was up for that from the first time they did it (because I am old, did I mention I was old?) but as bovine and intellectually listless as even I am,  the perpetually dreadful incarnations of this promising ideal soon withered my good will to naught. Tell you what, take a break from imagining punching  me in the face and let me know of a good Event comic. Whoa, hold up there, podna, not one you liked; one that was good. E.g. I liked FINAL CRISIS but it was not exactly good was it? So take your time – a good Event comic. In your own time. At your own pace. No rush. Ah, there they are: the sounds of silence. This time out the latest in the never-ending stream of comics to which the only sane reaction is to wonder, “Who is buying this crap?” comes CIVIL WAR 2©™ FCBD#1. In which Brian Michael Bendis©™ bring his intellect to bear on the thorny philosophical problem of if the market has been gamed to the extent that a comic is guaranteed to sell hundreds of thousands of copies no matter what’s in it, what does it matter what’s in it? Only joking, it’s really about the thorny philosophical problem of how to rip off Minority Report and sleep at night. Haw, Haw  I’m just joking! A regular jester I am with my fool’s cap jangling. Ting-a-ling! Ding-a-ling!

 photo CWUGHB_zps7wmihf5t.jpg FCBD 2016 (CIVIL WAR) No.1 by Cheung & Dell, Bendis, Ponsor and Cowles

Which is about all this…thing deserves. Because this…comic(?) is basically a bunch of painfully “cute” scenes which, uh, follow each other and kind of depend entirely on the generosity of the reader to pretend they are a coherent narrative. The first couple of pages set the tone as Brian Michael Bendis©™ takes a ridiculous amount of space to tell us that Cap’n Marvel©™ and War Machine©™ are an Item. Let me just pause to reassure any other crusty comics warhorses like myself that Cap’n Marvel©™ is now a lady. Marvel©™ may be chasing that progressive dollar like it made off with their car keys but they aren’t that progressive. Gays are a bit much, right? Sure, I mean a tip of the hat is in order for a white lady and a coloured man locking lips , but pernickety as ever I think this kind of Step Forward would be a lot better in a Good Comic. Call me Icarus, eh? Despite the fact that everyone in this scene is a grown-ass adult Cap’n Marvel©™ asks Black Panther©™ to turn round while she snogs War Machine©™. That’s not because adults behave like that but because Brian Michael Bendis©™ saw it in a TV programme, probably iCarly if I had to guess. Page wastage, “cute” scenes ported across from other media, adults acting like tweens, a narrative as taut as unset jelly (US: jello), so far so Brian Michael Bendis©™; all we need now is some of his Stellar Character Work©™ And whaddya know, as if on cue…Thanos©™ turns up! I know arguing about character consistency at this point in the history of North American genre comics just earns you pitying looks like you turned up at work with two jumpers on but sans trousers, but still…Thanos©™…Thanos™© just beams in bellowing and festooned with weaponry like he was just plucked from a particularly savage session of the new DOOM (VERY GOOD!) game. Does that sound like Thanos©™? Is that anyone’s idea of how Thanos©™ operates? Personally, and I’ve not really been paying attention so I could be wrong, I thought Thanos©™ was a master manipulator, a singular strategist, a regular Machiavelli of the Marvel©™ Universe. Apparently I was wrong, it seems that nowadays if Thanos©™ wants something Thanos©™ just covers himself in guns and bursts into view bellowing and fighting everything in sight until he gets what he wants. Stellar Character Work©™. Obviously, I’m guessing, this happens not because that behaviour is an accurate reflection of the established character of Thanos©™, but because that’s what the (ahem) plot demands. You could plug anyone into that role, you could even, maybe, and I’m just throwing this out there, plug someone suitable into that role. The only reason it’s Thanos©™ is because he appears for less time than it takes me to make sweet love, at the end of the credits of some Marvel©™ movie or other (I neither know nor care which, thanks). Of course it is possible behaving like a bear on fire might be Brian Michael Bendis©™’ idea of a regular Sun Tzu; I mean Brian Michael Bendis©™ is not exactly into that whole subtlety deal is he now. I mean, I know he thinks he is, but I think I’m fucking sunshine on legs so we can already see that self-perception isn’t always reliable.

 photo CWAGHB_zpsbrhnc5tf.jpg FCBD 2016 (CIVIL WAR) No.1 by Cheung & Dell, Bendis, Ponsor and Cowles

So, yeah, Thanos©™ is in it, but rather than have him act like Thanos™©, he just acts like a big violent idiot because the (cough) plot require someone to do that. Synergy’s on the whiteboard, so put The Thanos©™ in! Personally I don’t think this is pandering mindlessly enough at the cost of the internal consistency of the comic. They should have really blue-skied this one. I mean, sure people like Thanos©™ because he was at the end of that movie (nope, still don’t care), but they have also always liked chocolate, and even before chocolate they liked diddling themselves, so why not work that in? Have Thanos©™ turn up but instead of guns he could be studded with giant chocolate dildos. That should cover just about everybody. If you’re going to pander then don’t hold back, you know. Shame? Just a movie with Alan Ladd in, yeah? The Inhumans©™ are in it too, but the only interesting thing about The Imhumans©™ (outside of the work of Jack “The King” Kirby) is the big teleporting dog. Until Marvel©™ realise this The Inhumans©™ are just a dead loss. Al Ewing on LOCKJAW? I’d buy that! No, I wouldn’t, because I’m not paying Marvel prices. The fact this denies me access to Al Ewing’s work is a major thorn in my paw, but he’ll leave eventually. They all do. Except Brian Michael Bendis©™.  So, yeah, Thanos©™ shows up and there’s a regular wing-ding. So life-or-death, so savage, so brutal a fight is this that She-Hulk©™ comments on Thanos©™’ funny chin while they are whaling away at each other. I can’t be doing with these soul chafingly awful attempts at quippy humour which constantly puncture any sense of drama in modern comics. Worse yet, She-Hulk©™ upbraids Thanos©™ for his poor sentence structure. That’s right, Brian Michael Bendis©™ (BRIAN. MICHAEL. BENDIS.©™) writes a character that has the self-absorbed gall to criticise another character Brian Michael Bendis©™ is writing for their poor English which Brian Michael Bendis©™ has written. Let that sink in for a bit. Take your time. Christ, if She-Hulk©™ were really that keen on correcting the grammatical infelicities of everyone in Brian Michael Bendis©™ comics she…she’d be very, very busy, let’s just leave it at that. I mean, there’s irony and then there’s just heartbreakingly unaware. Of course why Thanos©™ is talking like The Hulk©™ (it’s almost as if it was The Hulk©™ in the first place but was ineptly changed to Thanos at short notice©™. As if!) anyway is not explained, because it’s all just so bloody hilarious, so who cares. Except it isn’t hilarious, it’s jarring. We get that all these writers want to work in TV and that they have a sense of humour apparently completely shaped by sub-par sit-coms but, look, Everybody Loves Raymond is not something to aspire to. I’m sorry, but there it is.

 photo HBeepsB_zpsuurtom75.jpg “Oh, Mr Robot!” is ©™ John K Inc.

Mind you I’m not exactly well disposed to the TV. This Golden Age of Television? Look, just because you can name three TV series you liked in the past 5 years doesn’t make it a Golden Age of anything, it means there’s some stuff you liked on Television. That’s kind of the whole raison d’etre for television: to put stuff on you like. I liked The Wire too but one program does not a Golden Age make. Because I have to work with people younger than I am (when you get to my age most people are younger than you are, except the dead) sometimes they puppyishly tell me to watch something. Well, setting my monocle firmly in place, I did just that: I had a pop at that there Mr. Robots people squeal so deliciously about. Alas, the charms of a program about a pill popping magic hacker who wants to fuck his sister and is haunted by Christian Slater eluded me. With a title like Mr. Robot it should be about Christian Slater made up like he’s in Heartbeeps moonwalking about a patently fake set, with his arms set at right angles and slowly turning his head, while learning important lessons about human behaviour from the wacky family of his scatty inventor with whom he lodges. The series’ catch phrase would be “Oh, Mr. Robot!”, at which the camera would unfailingly zoom in on Christian Slater in a tuxedo and slathered with silver paint, body popping in confusion at the latest mistake he’s made in aping these crazy humans. “Oh, Mr. Robot!” You’ll all be saying it tomorrow. Or you could just read that VISION comic. Ha ha ha! You didn’t like that punchline did you?!  No prisoners today! Oh, hey, thanks for sticking with this one; it’s gone a long way from the point hasn’t? It’s possible that the lack of focus was intentional and an indication of just how much serious critical consideration this comic(?) deserves, but on balance it’s more likely that I am a feckless twat. As a comic it was CRAP! Even as packing (remember that bit?) I think it was bettered by the polystyrene doohickeys it was stuffed in with. Nothing personal though, right? Oh, and it’s no good telling me it was free. So what? It should be shit? It’s supposed to be an enticement not a turn-off. Weirdly even if it's free I still turn my nose up at shit. Me and my high standards! Yes, the best thing about it was the art and we’re always told to say something about the art but why, seriously, why bother when the stench of the writing just makes any art at all an utter waste of talent. It’s pretty but unthrilling stuff, which given the stink of a script is a monumental testament to Cheung & Dell's professionalism. This is a flatulent jumble of dumb and it’s worth reiterating it’s CRAP! It’s like a poorly coded robot tried to write a comic – everything rings tinny and off. And cue:

 photo RoboBendisB_zpsquykx2nu.jpg “Oh, Mr. Bendis!” (Laughtrack annnnnnd roll CREDITS).

(N.B. There's also a story about The Wasp©™ by Waid and Davis & Farmer. I'm sure it's fine, but after the slackjawed pap I'd had just about enough of comics for a while.)

NEXT TIME: I burn even more bridges in "The Biz" as I take a “look” at some Brian Azzarello Bat-comics.

I was locked out in the dark but I never stopped loving – COMICS!!!

Wait, What? Ep. 91: Trip

Post1 Okay, super-super short here as I am in the process of, even now, packing and panicking like a full-fledged fool in preparation for the upcoming vacation to Portland. (And, yes, if it is not a waffle-filled one, I will be very, very pissed.)

We actually talk a little bit about that in this episode so I won't bore you with it now.  Instead, I will bore you with a fast list of the things Graeme and I talk about in good ol' ep. 91:  a long discussion about Casanova 3.4; Zaucer of Zilk by Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing; Matt Howarth, Lou Stathis, and Those Annoying Post Bros. (from which the above image has been lovingly nicked); why the song remains the same; copied characters, satire, and analogues; the point of a first issue in modern comics; Spider-Men #1; that old Parker luck and the Spider-Man movie franchise; the evolution of Marvel's edgier heroes; Saga #4, Avengers Vs. X-Men, and more!

It's....probably on iTunes?  In fact, hell, let's just go ahead and say yeah sure it's definitely on iTunes.  But let's also make an amazing leap of faith and say that it is also right here, just below, and available for your listening pleasure:

Wait, What? Ep. 91: Trip

As always, we hope you enjoy and thanks for listening!

Wait, What? Ep. 83: As Good As A Feast

Lovely Hoo boy.  Did not think I was going to make this particular deadline.  I won't bore you with the blah-blah-blahs, but let's just say: papa needs a new microphone and he needs one bad.  I apologize in advance for all the not-especially-discreet cracking and popping going on at various points in the background of this.  We are maybe two weeks away from a solution to both it and the mild echo chamber effect that's afflicted us ever since Graeme managed to transcend this corporeal realm.

Buttttttttt, anywayyyyyyy... Gotta keep this short and snappy so lemme just say this:  Wait, What? Ep. 83 is two hours and twenty-seven minutes long, and Graeme and I do not spend all that time trying to remember if the boss at the end of Crazy Climber was a gorilla or not!

No.  Instead, we do our best to cover a lot of lost ground by jawing about Iron Muslim and Zombies vs. Fanboys from Boom Comics, Kirby: Genesis, the current state of comics and the comics internet including Chris Roberson quitting DC and David Brothers' amazing article over at Comics Alliance, Before Watchmen, Grant Morrison, Brian Bendis and Avengers Assemble #2, as well as the Oral History of the Avengers.

Also?  The eighth issues of Wonder Woman Justice League, OMAC, and Batman, Casanova #3, The Shadow #1, The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, Alabaster Wolves, Saga #2, Archie Meets KISS, Prophet #24, more issues of Glamourpuss, and much, much more.

This show was pretty late making its way to iTunes, but if it's not there yet, it will be there soon.  But even so!  You can also listen to it here and now if you would prefer.  Behold:

Wait, What? Ep. 83: As Good As A Feast

As always, thanks for your patience.  I gotta go jump through hoops for the next ten hours or so, but we'll have more for you next week--and, of course, thank you for listening!

Wait, What? Ep. 82: The Problem With Problems

Photobucket Hola, chicos!

The above image is from Dave Sim's Glamourpuss #24, just one of many fine comic book hoohahs under discussion in episode 82 of the latest podcast from the brilliant (but presently ill!) Graeme McMillan and the generally slow-on-the-uptake (but mostly healthy!) yours truly.

I gotta say, we pretty much drove right in on this one, and ended up talking Action Comics #8 in the first three minutes of this two hour twenty-five minute blabapalooza, and also managed to hit topics like OMAC #8, the colorization of  Scott Pilgrim, the battles behind the TV show Community, a great blog post by Steve K. about the state of the comics Internet, Casanova #3, Supreme #20, Fatale #4, Strike Force Morituri, and that stunning issue of Glamourpuss mentioned above.

Also!  We have the first (and hopefully last) installment of Listen to Jackass, in which I respond to blog posts I haven't even read yet! It's a bit like that old Johnny Carson 'Carnac The Magnificent' sketch, except instead of cheap laughs it kinda goes more for the "feeling ashamed for Jeff and, in a way, the whole human race" kind of feeling.

iTunes?  Well, of course!  But also right here and now, ready to be cradled like a baby bird that has tumbled from its nest:

Wait, What?, Episode 82: The Problem with Problems

Oh, and I should warn you--because Graeme is feeling very under the weather, and I am feeling like I want to watch The Raid: Redemption over and over and over until they drag me kicking and screaming out of the movie theater, we won't be recording this week, so there won't be a podcast next week.  You understand, don't you?

In any event, we hope you enjoy this latest installment, and thanks for listening!

Wait, What? Ep. 61.1: Same As It Ever Was....

Photobucket (And look where my hand was.)

Hey, we are back! After a pleasant two week respite, Graeme McMillan and I have returned with the first installment of Wait, What? Episode 61. And as you can see, we have a nifty new piece of fanart to bring along with us, courtesy of the awesomely talented Garrett Berner (who some of us also know on Twitter as The Mighty Gar).

Well, that's all fine and good, you say, but what about the podcast?  And I am happy to report it should already be up on iTunes and making its way back into your heart, like it had never left, just like some kind of ringworm or intestinal parasite.  And in it, we answer your questions from Twitter, email, and the website, with topics like Daredevil #5, Legion Lost #2, Luther and Justified, Flash #2, Justice League Dark #2, Casanova: Avarita #2, Fear Itself #7, Occupy Oakland, and Marvel's business practices. (The latter of which continues into Part 2 but I had to break up the conversation somewhere...)

If this sounds like the sort of thing that interests you, by all means jump in and  start listening right here if you fancy:

Wait, What? Ep. 61.1: Same As It Ever Was

Part 2 is right around the corner, and it has us getting to (a few) of the many questions posed to us on Graeme's recent post, as well as the announcement of the winners of our latest contest.  We hope you come back for it!

And, as always, thanks for listening!

Wait, What? Ep. 60: Two Weeks. Notice.

Photobucket Hello! I must be going.

I have several days off in a row and I'm going to make the most of them with reading and watching stuff on Netflix and looking at comic books. So there will be a two week hiatus of good ol' Wait, What? But I imagine we will back before you know it (Graeme already pointed out the last issue of Fear Itself will probably come out during that time. Will I really be able to resist shooting my mouth off about it after six issues of whining?).

And in the meantime: Episode 60! It's an hour and forty-five mins. of Mr. McMillan and me, talking Marvel's new digital incentive announcement, September's sales numbers, Apple, Steve Jobs, and Occupy Wall Street.

And for those of you who don't get rely on us for your knowledge of current events, we also talk comics: the second issues of OMAC and Action Comics, X-Men Schism, a very brief chat about the latest issue of Casanova, Love & Rockets Book 4, the winner of our first contest, the announcement of our second contest, and much, much more.

The auditory epic should be lying in wait on iTunes, but you can also find it loitering about at this very site, willing to bend your hour for a minute or two:

Wait, What? Ep. 60: Two Weeks. Notice.

As always, we hope you enjoy and thanks for listening! See you in a fortnight!


Wait, What? 56.2: Let's Go Backwards When Forward Fails

Photobucket As our old pal Reid Fleming used to say: "Ungawa!"

We've got the gripping ninety-two minute finale of Ep. 56 available for you, with Graeme and I talking Action Comics #1, G. Willow Wilson's Mystic, the Wolverine: Debt of Death one-shot, IDW's G.I. Joe: Cobra series, Kirby Genesis #3, our worries about the conclusion to X-Men: Schism, and a pretty sustained discussion (which will come as no surprise to long-time listeners) of Casanova #3 by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba.

In case you have no need for this thing puny hu-mans call "iTunes," you are hereby formally invited to listen to our fine audio programme right here, should you so choose:

Wait, What? Ep. 56.2: Lets Go Backwards When Forward Fails

And as ever, we thank you not just for listening, but also for the fine comments you contribute here at the website and at waitwhatpodcast [AT] gmail.com.  It is greatly appreciated!

Bewilderment Inc: Featuring The Malingerer!

After the break I’ll be not knowing what the Hell I’m doing with some comics you probably didn’t read. Remember, kids, if you want me to stop before someone gets hurt contact Mr. Hibbs.

First though, a vain attempt at professionalism (always worth a chuckle):

Key to abbreviations:

(w) Words

(a) Art

(c) Colours (NOT colors, coloUrs)

(l) Lettering

Now let’s me and you do The Do!

CASANOVA II: GULA #4 by Matt Fraction(w), Fabio Moon(a), Gabriel Ba(a), Criss Peter(c) and Dustin K Harbin(l) (Icon/Marvel/Disney, $3.99)

The guy who writes this usually gets all the tickertape and thrown knickers but, for me, it’s the art that makes this one essential. And by “art” I’m referring to the combination of pictures, colours and letters that coalesce to create a unified whole most pleasing to mine eye in that way that, surely, only comics can do so sleekly and satisfyingly. The writing’s good, don’t get me wrong. Heck, I’m all for Kirby/Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D, Morrison  etc. being mashed up and garnished with a fat old heap of Daddy Issues (Killing Daddy makes that gumbo sp-sp-spicy!) but it’s the art that sets this one apart. Also in this issue you get both the riper linework of Ba and the complementary gaunt contours of Moon;bargain!

I was excessively pleased when the backmatter was dropped as that stuff brought to mind some guy trying to get a girl’s attention by posting her parts of himself (It was a bad time for me, okay?). But I liked the one where he interviewed Mr. Howard Victor Chaykin. So, yeah, shocker! I guess you can ignore all my whining though as according to the sub(!ha!) text of the last story he isn’t writing it for “me”! (Maaaaaaaan!). All perceived authorial preciousness aside this was EXCELLENT!

FIRST WAVE SPECIAL #1 by Jason Starr(w), Phil Winslade,(a), Lovern Kindzierski(c) and Rob Leigh (l) (DC Comics, $3.99)

Starring my personal favourite character in the recent chart-topping record-setting FIRST WAVE fiesta of success: The Avenger! His wife’s dead and so is his face! He is totally old-school pulp madness. The kind of guy who if he existed I’d want gassing like a badger but when confined to fiction really lights up my life. Look, he just wants to help criminals, really. Help them to…(shouts:)DIE! Wow! That bit was just like a film wasn’t it!?!

Oh, the story? It’s basically a graphical dramatisation of that old “To kill, or not to kill. That is the (dodged) question!” routine. The Avenger wants to kill the Big Boss. The Bat Man and Doc Savage realise that there are “complications” and “grey areas”, y’know, all that moral relativism cockcobblers that’s served us all so well recently. The Avenger hears them out but things don’t go too well and hi-jinks ensue. “The guy’s completely demented.” The Bat Man says this of The Avenger. The Bat-Man! That’s how crackers for maracas The Avenger is. Mr. Jason Starr does a great job delivering the neurosis-ago-go and Mr. Phil Winslade’s brittle jitteriness gives good pulp; the stand out panel being the one of The Avenger lurching off into the city of night undeterred in his dementia despite the failure of his (admittedly really quite poor) plan. Despite a last page that seemed unsure what it was trying to do this was VERY GOOD!

PUNISHERMAX#14 by Jason Aaron(w), Steve Dillon(a), Matt Hollingswoth(c) and VC’s Cory Petit(l) (Marvel/Disney, $3.99)

While (“They Call Him…”) Mr. Hibb’s rightly ballyhooed the great work Mr. Jason Aaron is doing on this title I’d like to shine my love light on the work of Mr. Steve Dillon. It’s not often an artist pays such lavish attention to world building but we certainly have an instance here. See, the MAX universe isn’t like the Marvel Universe; a harsher harder place is this. In the MAX Universe death, maiming or harsh language could put a crimp in your day without warning. Men, women and children are all as likely to be minced by the frightful despair fuelled grinder that is the MAX Universe. In the MAX Universe the only “mercy” comes from the mouths of polite French people. Little wonder then that the residents of said place neglect interior decoration almost totally. In the MAX Universe the only difference between your home and an abattoir is that the abattoir has more cracks in the wall. Steve Dillon knows this. Steve Dillon shows you this. And despite this it is still VERY GOOD!

(Pause for a cuppa tea.)

Due to Austerity Measures I have been rooting around in my Archive (i.e. the garage) where I found these (i.e. they fell on my head when I was moving the dead guinea pig’s cage) issues which together form a story not yet collected between two covers:

WARLOCK#1-4 (2004/5) by Greg Pak(w), Charlie Adlard(a), Sotocolor’s P. Serrano(c) and VC’s Cory Petit(l) (Marvel,$2.99ea)

It’s about realising that if God is Dead (He is. I sent flowers.) then that effectively makes you God and how you might want to think about what kind of God you want to be if you don’t want to end up with a ball of dirt studded with piles of smoking offal instead of a world. Metaphorically speaking. It’s about growing up and working out how to live in a clearly insane world without going insane. Not so metaphorically speaking. Hey, I’m not claiming it’s Teilhard De Chardin (because I don’t know who he is, mostly) or anything but it does raise interesting questions and if the answers it gives are a little pat it’s important to remember it is a comic churned out by Marvel; the very fact it even raises questions (beyond the usual, “Why are these characters talking like morons?”) is pretty applause worthy in itself.

Mr. Pak does a fine job giving the story youthful protagonists which are neither cloying nor hateful (not an easy thing), an eventful plot and some good Warlocking all round. Alas, Mr. Adlard fares less well as his natural inclination artistically seems to be towards the mundane but Serrano’s colours link their fingers together and boost him up so his art does at least graze the necessary level of awesome Warlock demands! Okay, WARLOCK (2004) isn’t even close to Roy and Gil Kane’s (sexy sweaty space Jesus) or Jim Starlin’s (Evil = Purple Afro!) but it’s still VERY GOOD!


Ha! I can see your thoughts! But, no, unless my mother has led a far more eventful life than I have been led to believe, I am not related to Gil Kane.

Next time: More flailing in the abyss!

Wait, What? Episode 16.1: "Talk like a comic book."

Hey, everyone.  Jeff here, and I bring with me a new episode of Wait, What? Photobucket

Our schedule got a bit off-track, what with my time in New York and all, but we should (fingers crossed) be getting back into the rhythm of more episodes (and maybe slightly shorter ones? This one is a horse-choking 87 minutes, as it turns out) shortly. We hope.

But for now, sit back and listen to the masterly Graeme McMillan and myself talk Judge Dredd, Tucker Stone, and--at almost terrifying length--Matt Fraction.  You should be able to cop it on iTunes, or listen to it here:

Wait, What?, Ep. 16.1

As always, we appreciate your time and patronage and thank you for listening!

Wait, What? Ep. 12.1: The Bottled City of Candor

Photobucket I either need to get much, much better or much, much worse at my image searches for our podcast entries...

Anyway, Schrodinger's website situation notwithstanding, Wait, What? ep. 12.1 is on Itunes for you to peruse, and in it Graeme and I talk about many, many things--like "Busiekgate," Hickman, Fraction, and the influence of Grant Morrison on today's books, and (as you may guess from the image above) a big ol' discussion on Joss Whedon and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, seasons five through eight.

Or, should you prefer, you can listen to it here:

Wait, What? Episode 12.1

and we'll have Episode 12.2 for you tomorrow.

Hopefully, with a better image.

Or maybe a much worse one.

(p.s.:  Special thanks to the mighty Chad Nevett for helping iron some technical difficulties almost immediately after I posted this. As you probably know, he and Tim Callahan's Splash Page podcast is always terrific listening.  Thanks again, Chad!)

Some Indie Shit and Manga David Done Read

Yeah, so I haven't written about superhero comics for a while largely because - not to go all David Brothers in this piece - while I've been enjoying a lot of stuff coming out, I haven't been driven to write much about a lot of it. So instead, I've been dipping my uncultured, pervert-suit-loving self into the world of INDEPENDENT SMALL PRESS COMICS, not to mention the dangerous and exotic Orient of sequential art they call "man-ga."

Joking aside, here's some pretty great shit I read recently, and what I thought about it. (Obviously, there is more after the jump.)

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli, Pantheon Press

Yeah, I'm hardly the first person to come out and say that this is a pretty stunning artistic achievement. I've been putting off writing about it basically for that reason - after guys like Wolk and Mautner weighed in, what good is there in a schlub like me throwing his opinion horseshoe onto the post?

The thing is, I think it's easy to get lost in Polyp's shadow. The book is unmistakably a formalist masterpiece on first skim-through; Mazzucchelli's virtuosity with almost every aspect of sequential art is immediately evident. It's easy to get lost in symbolism and allusion with this book, since every single image seems weighted down with meaning, but there's a reason all of this symbolism and allusion is captivating in the first place: it's a good story, told astonishingly well. Yeah, Mazzucchelli's providing some incredibly stunning images and sometimes forcing you to read a comic in a way you're not used to, but it's all stunningly intuitive - Polyp somehow manages to be incredibly deep without being overwhelmingly challenging. It's not just this big stylistic monolith; it's also an engaging, emotional and entertaining story about two fully realized characters with dialogue that makes them easy to care about.

It's remarkable the balance Mazzucchelli was able to achieve here. It rewards each successive reading without requiring it; it can be a breezy, entertaining read if you want it to be and an annotator's dream if that's your thing too. It really is the kind of book you could hand to pretty much anybody. I've seen the comparisons to Ulysses thrown around, and considering the experimental storytelling on display combined with the penchant for alluding to Greek mythology, I can see where it comes from. But Ulysses is commonly seen as an undertaking or even a chore, while this is just a pure joy. Needless to say, utterly EXCELLENT.

I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason, Fantagraphics Books

I grabbed this one largely due to the strength of Jason's fantastic contribution to Marvel's Strange Tales, which is probably the least hip reason ever to pick up an indie cartoonist, but hey, whatever. The result: I really enjoyed it! I'd read strong reviews of this around earlier, and I was expecting something offbeat and madcap (and certainly wasn't disappointed in that regard), but I was also surprised by just how emotional Jason was able to make a story about an Anthro-dog murder society and time travelling hitmen. Yeah, the entire thing is patently absurd on every level - self-consciously and humorously so - but it's also a story about the impermanence of rage and the importance of forgiveness, alongside what a goddamn twat Adolf Hitler can be when all you want to do is shoot the bastard. The description on the back describes the book as "deadpan," and that pretty much nails almost every aspect of its execution, from the anthropomorphic characters' frequently emotionless expressions to the unexclamatory dialogue to, well, the entire concept of the book. It's a quick read and very rewarding, and something I imagine I'll come back to from time to time for a while. Smart, funny and surprisingly poignant, this was VERY GOOD.

Pluto v.1-5 by Naoki Urasawa with Takashi Nagasaki, Viz Signature

Yeah, so I really lied when I said no superhero comics, because Pluto is basically a far more talented creative mind attempting the "maturation" of traditionally kids' comics characters exemplified by the spandex rape celebration known colloquially as Identity Crisis. What separates the two? As far as I can tell, where half of the American comics industry and Naoki Urasawa split up is the topic of sensationalism. When something terrible happens in a Brad Meltzer comic, the record stops, everyone stands around and the buckets come out for ten pages of superhero weeping. When something awful happens in a Naoki Urasawa comic, the characters react in various ways and the plot moves on without fetishized close-up spreads of a dead body or rape victim.

On top of that, Urasawa is essentially - like Grant Morrison or Alan Moore - a humanist at heart, and his stories are all about the necessity of holding the high road and respecting the sanctity of life, even when shit gets tough. They're also about the idea that redemption's always out there, and the virtue of forgiveness. It's difficult to find a pure villain in an Urasawa story; even in Monster, where he most explicitly dealt with the concept of pure, unmitigated, unexplainable evil, there was always stress placed on the importance of believing in change. This absolutely extends to Pluto, a gorgeously drawn and masterfully paced murder mystery that reinterprets "children's entertainment" through the lens of adulthood and nostalgia to create a sci-fi whodunnit bereft of moral judgments, just people (and robots) pushed to emotional extremes by unexpected events.

Every character in an Urasawa story is fully fleshed out, and Pluto is no different; seeming bit characters always have considerable background, and every action a character makes is placed into context by the life experiences that drove him or her towards it. Urasawa might be one of the tightest plotters in comics today, with a supernatural skill for creating a fully-realized character even through the broadest of strokes, without resorting to base sentimentality.

In short, everybody working on Big Two shared-universe superhero comics should have this as required reading. This is how you fucking do it. EXCELLENT.

Yotsuba&! Vol. 1 by Kiyohiko Azuma, Yen Press

I got this at the recommendation of David Brothers, and it did not disappoint: this book is basically an elaborate creation developed by research scientists to make even the most cynical person smile. The titular Yotsuba, whose exploits form the book's content, manages to be the rarest of fictional children: precocious without being obnoxious. It functions more like an episodic sitcom than any sort of continuous narrative, although the episodes (at least in this first volume) definitely follow a loose thread - a girl who behaves very strangely has moved into a new town and house with her long-suffering father, and now each episode features her "tackling" a certain subject (hence the title - Yotsuba&Moving, Yotsuba&Global Warming, etc.), usually by taking something symbolic literally or misinterpreting a piece of advice. Her antics are always amusing because they're not random; there's always a piece of logic, no matter how twisted, that justifies her behavior, so the laughs, while considerable, never seem cheap. The end result is a comic that makes me smile every time I read a chapter, no matter what kind of mood I'm in, and that's assuredly VERY GOOD.

Casanova Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba, Image Comics

Man, I feel like a moron for not getting into this earlier, since it has pretty much everything I enjoy in a comic: parallel universes, time travel, hilarious use of the word "fuck", and the absence of the overwhelming distaste for humanity that seems to, for me, infect all the Warren Ellis stories that meet the first three criteria. Casanova manages to channel the far-out wackiness of a Nextwave and combine it with real characterization and something resembling a point, and as one of the five people on the Internet who didn't like Nextwave I'm incredibly grateful for that. Other than that: incredibly imaginative, gorgeously drawn, took me a second read to grab a lot of the basic plot structure (it's QUITE complex) but that second read was rewarding enough I can't complain too hard. I've heard that as good as this is, volume 2 is a significant improvement, and I would greatly appreciate it if Image Comics and Mr. Fraction could see to the publication of a hardcover of those issues so that I can read them without rooting through back issue bins. Is there somewhere between GOOD and VERY GOOD? Because that's where this is.

An Essay About Essays: Jeff Looks at Casanova #7 and Phonogram #5

Now that it's my turn on the wheel of "blog until you drop" here at SC, I probably can't get away with the whole "somebody someday should write an essay about so and so" that I just dump in the lines of one of the 3700 reviews we do every week--there's really no reason I can't take the time to actually take one of those ideas and expand upon it. So rather than getting Part II of my review of last week's books (and I'm starting to worry there may be a very paltry Part II if it ever does show since my memory of last week's books has faded radically), I thought I'd try something different and look at PHONOGRAM #5 through the reflecting prism of CASANOVA #7, and vice-versa. Casanova #7 came out a few weeks ago, the last issue in the first miniseries by Matt Fraction & Gabriel Bá about a reality-hopping super-spy dealing with hilariously complex family issues, and as I recall I left a placeholder in a blog entry in the hopes I'd get around to reviewing it. Phonogram #5, which came out just last week, is the next to last issue in the miniseries by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie about a music-based magician battling to keep his self intact as a group of other music-based magicians create a perversion of the Britpop movement to which he's tied. Phonogram utilizes a fatter version of Casanova's Image Slimline format, where the writer fills the page count in back with essays about the work in front; whereas Warren Ellis (who came up with the format) invented the idea I think out of money-saving necessity, Gillen piles on all the material on top of a full twenty-two pages of story & art.

Many of my earlier complaints about Casanova centered around these back page essays from Fraction; although very enjoyable reads, these essays threatened to overwhelm and overwrite the reader's impression of the issue he'd just read. By contrast, Gillen's essays have moved from explaining references the reader might not understand to explaining plot points the reader might have missed to, ultimately, being the point of the whole exercise--Phonogram's densely coded emotional autobiography, although terrifically illustrated by McKelvie, is far more obtuse and has far less drama to it than reading Gillen write about Britpop like a man possessed, alluding at several points about a very personal emotional event from which his ideas for Phonogram--and the bitter, arch protagonist at its center--sprang.

Now, here's where I reach the branching fork in my essay and tell you a little bit about the road I'm not going to go down. On that road, I talk about DVD commentaries, opening weekend box office numbers, Newsarama and these essays. I talk about how, for better or for worse, consumers of story-driven art today consume it in a very multivalent way, as both traditional spectators and informed contemporaries; and thus there are two fantasy experiences the audience goes through simultaneously, the fantasy experience of identifying with the protagonist and experiencing the story, and the fantasy experience of identifying with the creator of the story and experiencing the story's creation. And down this road somewhere I probably suggest that whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, it's something that isn't going back in the box anytime soon, but that eventually a more complex form of criticism is going to have to emerge, one which is going to be able to ascertain the extent to which a work succeeds or fails based on the dimension in which it's working. Because the DVD commentaries and the essays presented in both Casanova and Phonogram (among all sorts of other ways in which professionals interact with fans) are already working on how the fans receive the work, and is also in some weird way part of the work itself, but is either being excluded from the criticism of the work or else included with the criticism of the work incorrectly, leading to a lot of muss and fuss and bother and frustration on the part of everyone involved.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about, unfortunately, although I needed to say all that as justification for the stuff I am going to talk about, so you know where I'm coming from and hopefully can understand why, hopefully, what I'm going to say about the essay pages in both Casanova #7 and Phonogram #5 is worth talking about, and relates to more than just the essay pages of both works.

In the text pages of Casanova #7, Fraction talks quite movingly about his wife's pregnancy and miscarriage, and the ways in which both affected the work he did in Casanova and the way he perceived the work he did in Casanova.

For example, Fraction writes about suddenly quitting his regular job with the company he helped start:

Just like that, the whole I love my job theme that Cass fought throughover these seven issues took on a new context. I saw for the first time, what I really wrote about. Cass, me, the jobs and the identities we chose to identify ourselves with...I hadn't been writing about free-spirited Cass not wanting anybody to tell him what to do...I wrote about me. I dunno, maybe a shrink could nail that from 100 meters but it sure as shit blew my mind. 

Interestingly, to my eyes, the first issue of Casanova reads to me like that, but the series comes to be overshadowed by a completely different set of themes. In fact, Casanova spends most of the arc (Fraction uses the term "album" so I'll probably use that from here on out) caught between the demands of his controlling father and his vast government organization, the evil scientist who similarly has Cass under his thumb, and Cass's own complex desires to save his family. In short, I'd say that it's not I love my job so much as here's the life of a freelancer: telling people what they want to hear while I try to figure out how to get what I need out of the situation and also provide for me and mine.

Similarly, although Gillen writes extensively about Britpop in his back pages, it's interesting to me that The Afghan Whigs pop up repeatedly. It would be interesting to me, of course, because I'm one of those guys who played Gentlemen over and over and over, listening to it with gradations of awe and dread and shame and relief. (As Gillen perfectly puts it: "If you listen to Dulli's lyrics, it's like crossing the event horizon into the black hole of the male psyche.") The Whigs were not Britpop, unless there's some weird definition of the term that allows a band from Cincinnati to be included. Rather, Gillen keeps including them because it's central to understanding the psyche of his intensely male protagonist--the re-awakening of the Goddess that the protagonist fears is symbolic of the not-quite misogyny at the core of the protagonist--but it's a topic he can barely bring himself to address in all those thousands of words about The Manic Street Preachers and Oasis and Blur and Pulp (although I'm also a huge fan of Pulp's This Is Hardcore and can see how they fit into the protagonist's psyche as well). It's not fair to put all this on Gillen as I haven't seen his last issue yet (and, to be honest, my eyes glazed over at some of his earlier text pieces) but, like Fraction in Casanova, I wonder if Phonogram is really about what Gillen thinks it's about. Phonogram reads like it's supposed to be a dense, allusion packed meditation on the way pop culture, for better or for worse, matters, but it actually reads like a comic written by someone who would rather talk about anything other than what they're really there to talk about. (And although I can't quite get a grip on what that is, it has something to do with that event horizon of the male psyche and its relationship to pop culture--something beyond the stuff we find in Nick Hornsby's High Fidelity, where the pop fanatic uses his obsessions to hide from both responsibility, his fear of responsibility and his fear of his fear of responsibility. Phonogram has something even darker at its core and I can't quite get a handle on it.)

In the Savage Critic way of things, I'd give Phonogram an OK and put Casanova #7 on the high end of Good. But in this ultra-extended "how-the-hell-does Jog-do-it?" essay, what's more important is why both books aren't Great, even though I think they (and their creators) have the potential to be. They're both starting out, these guys, and it's easy and probably preferable to attribute a lot of it to just them learning the ropes, pacing problems, newbie blues, and there's a very good chance we won't see those problems as much or again as their careers go along. But there is also the chance--and that chance makes it worth putting all those words down, I think--that they might get tangled in the nets of their own essays, interviews, websites and commentaries, and let all their proclamations blind them from what's really going on in their work, and prevent them from taking those things and refining them. Because I do think the shit you can't bring yourself to talk about is precisely the shit that's most interesting in your art (and it's in your art precisely because it's so important to you and yet you can't bring yourself to talk about it). It'll continue to come up, of course, but whether or not it may or may not become fully realized and ferociously utilized--and every piece in an artist's work has to become fully realized and ferociously utilized if the work is to make itself indelible--is another matter altogether, a matter for which any number of essay pages, commentaries of blog entries may not be able to compensate.

Whew! Okay, now that's off my chest, let's see if I can remember anything all about GHOST RIDER: TRAIL OF TEARS #2...