“Eat The OTHER ONE!” Sometimes I Love The Craft Of Those Who Make Comics About Lovecraft!

My patience having finally reached its end with regards the odd susurrations which emanated nightly from the fireplace in the south library, I tasked the scrofulous fool who tends to my needs with the dismantling of said edifice. Within seconds the lumpen oaf had caused to be dislodged a stone possessed of enough heft to crack his simple-minded foot in twain.  Ignoring his repellent and startlingly blasphemous utterances I knelt to seize a now-revealed sheaf of papers adorned with runes and symbols which resisted my understanding even as the lower orders resist cleanliness. Shooing the shambling, nay, hopping, cretin of a manservant from the room I set about the package. And it is those contents which, together with their effects upon my quite febrile mind, I shall now proceed to relate.  photo RatTopB_zpsln44idr5.jpg RAT GOD by Corben, Corben, Corben, Corben-Reed & Piekos

Anyway, this… CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED #5 Art by Gabriel Andrade Written by Alan Moore Coloured by Digikore Studios Lettered by Jaymes Reed Avatar, $3.99 (2015) Crossed created by Jacen Burrows and  Garth Ennis

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CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED is a comic by Gabriel Andrade and Alan Moore which is notable for the effectiveness with which the pair of storytellers have, over these five issues, ratcheted up the tension, even though the ultimate result was never in doubt. If there ever was any doubt then issue 5 scrapes it all away with a sadistic thoroughness by leading us by the hand and simply and directly pointing out just how badly everyone has misjudged the situation thus far. I liked the thing with the ostrich rustling, that was sneaky. Sure, everyone knew the terrain we were in, everyone knew that things were going to turn to shit; the only question was the precise consistency and extent of that shit. Well, now we know. Now. We . Know. Shit! The only question remaining is the same as that on the old Chainsaw Massacre poster: “Who Will Survive? And What Will Be Left of Them?”

 photo CPHPicB_zpsx5voltgb.jpg CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED by Andrade, Moore, Digikore & Reed

The other thing CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED is is possibly the only comic which has the balls to treat Islam as a part of Western society like all the other parts of Western society; that is as a part just as likely to survive a catastrophic upheaval as, say, Christianity, ostriches or people’s libidos. But you know, don’t worry about it, let’s keep holding that golliwog thing against him, eh? (On second thoughts, since most comic book writers base their portrayals of Christians on John Lithgow in Footloose (CUT LOOSE!) maybe Islam’s better off as is). My only reservation with CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED (besides how long it takes to type) is the nature of the threat; if the Crossed are just us (well, you; I’m beyond reproach) without the social brakes on then conditioning those brakes back in will just make them, er, us again. Or maybe that’ll be Moore and Andrade’s point. In the meantime CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED is an intelligent and really quite frightening demonstration of the fatal consequences of complacency. VERY GOOD!

PROVIDENCE #1 Art by Jacen Burrows Written by Alan Moore Coloured by Juan Rodriguez Lettered by Kurt Hathaway Avatar, $3.99 (2015) Providence created by Jacen Burrows and Alan Moore

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If CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED is a tip-top exercise in feral terror then PROVIDENCE, er, isn’t. Yet. Fairness is my curse (it’s true!) and so it’s hard to judge one issue in; PROVIDENCE is paced for the long haul (12 issues) and the slow burn’s part of the deal and also part of the terrain. The terrain of CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED is scorched earth and brazen violence, while PROVIDENCE is set squarely in the more sedate and stately terrain of H P Lovecraft’s oeuvre. That is , a terrain which appears stolid and mundane but soon crumples under the weight of the Hell which exists without. Of course before all Hell cuts loose (FOOTLOOSE!) Moore and Burrows have to spend time convincing us of the stultifying and repressed normality shortly to be torn apart. And maybe, juuuuuuust maybe, they do too good a job of that.

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Mind you, some of it is just super –enjoyable, particularly Moore’s insouciant use of decompression to pump up the suspense about the guy in the park and the tasty contrast between those spicily enticing parts with the dense pudding of exposition surrounding them. Look, there’s nothing wrong with decompression but using it for everything is like putting ketchup on every meal (Tip: don’t). So it’s nice to be reminded that when used well decompression can, uh, work well. Also of note is the classy way the book concealed the exact nature of the chink in our protagonist’s armour until the precise point at which it wanted it to strike home, and sent me spinning back to reconsider much of what went before. Burrows’ stiff and largely neutral art aids this particular appearances-can-be-deceptive reveal well, and while the mannered distance of the visuals may be quite in line with Lovecraft’s signature icy disdain I like a bit more life in my lines. The only really dud bit was the text at the end where Moore doesn’t seem willing to trust his readers and so flenses any uncertainty out of the preceding pages in a way which is both exhaustive and exhausting. Also, it’s clear the book is extraordinarily well disposed towards persons whose sexuality is other than the commonly accepted norm. Hey, I’m just saying, is all.  There's still everything to play for but, yeah, PROVIDENCE was GOOD!

RAT GOD #5 Art by Richard Corben Written by by Richard Corben Coloured by Richard Corben with Beth Corben Reed Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot Tingit Translations by Lance A. Twitchell Dark Horse, $3.99 (2015)

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Serendipity strikes like a panther (there’s one in the book; good words there, eh? Seriously, this is Patreon level shit, people) as Richard Corben also splashes gaily about in the eldritch and gibbous influences of the Great Dour One, H P Lovecraft (with a pinch of Poe to boot). Of course the unapologetically pulpy Corben does so to blatantly different effect than Moore and Burrows’ cool exercise in control. RAT GOD is far more playful than PROVIDENCE, and all the better for it because instead of merely playing at Lovecraft Corben plays off Lovecraft.

 photo RatPicB_zpsmspfi1sg.jpg RAT GOD by Corben, Corben, Corben, Corben-Reed & Piekos

In RAT GOD Corben has, over five feisty issues, brought the full plumminess of his fleshy and fecund style to bear on a tale of backwoods mutations, diseased family trees, pendulous breasts, Bombay Mix vegetation and splattery action. Corben’s approach to Lovecraftian lore is a far more red blooded and lusty one than the haughty reserve on display in PROVIDENCE. The collars are still starched but the necks within have a meaty quality suggesting the essential frailty their manners seek to mask. And the typically Lovecraftian catastrophic impact of dark forces on unsuspecting lives is hilariously played out in miniature every time violence sends our stiff protagonist into a burst of rag-doll-ish frenzy. As ever with Corben there’s a slapstick quality to the action which comically underlines the desperation of true violence. Sure, technically speaking writing wise Corben’s no Alan Moore, but as haphazard as his proceedings may sometimes appear, the irrepressibly antic tone of his approach can’t help but get him, and us, closer to the thing that truly scared Lovecraft - the animal in humanity. VERY GOOD!

In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits reading – COMICS!!!

"...A Fish Pedicure, Whatever That Was..." COMICS! Sometimes I Skull The Future Is Going To Brown In All Our Mouths, Hurrrm!

Okay, hurrmmm, I spent a lot of time writing a lot of words about some recent comics, but something happened there that means they won't be appearing. Bit unexpected that was, and it left me on the back foot. I've cobbled together a piece on Crossed Plus 100 which will, I hope, achieve several aims: 1) stop the site looking cobwebby over Easter, 2) bring attention to one of the many good books everyone doesn't talk enough about and 3) burn up any goodwill I've earned with you. I'm sure there's something wrong with that list but I can't quite put my finger on it. Anyway, I'm going to post this – what could go wrong?  photo CrossMovieC_zpsmrcmtr0p.jpg

CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED by Andrade, Moore, Reed & Digikore

Anyway, this... CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED #1 & #2 Art by Gabriel Andrade Story by Alan Moore Coloured by Digikore Studios Lettered by Jaymes Reed Avatar, $3.99 each (2014) Crossed created by Garth Ennis & Jacen Burrows

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In which the fascinating human being and talented author Alan Moore takes the reins of the less fascinating, but still very talented, Garth Ennis’ Crossed franchise and spurs it so hard it leaps one hundred years into the future. The book follow a group of scavengers as they attempt to avoid the titular scarred sadists in a bid to harvest knowledge and resources from the disaster site that was once civilisation. A sense of dread begins to creep in as The Crossed turn out to be not quite as nearly extinct as previously believed and a mystery involving pictures of serial killers, Jesus Christ, and offerings of salt begins to take shape. The clock is ticking until unutterable terror explodes all over our hapless protag...what? Can I help you? I'm trying to..yes, Alan Moore wrote this comic and I’d like to tell you about what a swell job he did , but I see it doesn’t work like that with Alan Moore. First I have to declare a bias – I once said (out loud) to my LCS owner that I felt “privileged to be alive and reading comics at a time when Alan Moore was producing them.” He just looked at me like I had said my bum was haunted, because for a long time now Comics has been treating Alan Moore like he was their own 'Trotsky in Mexico' or something. Folk have all kinds of reasons for this, the reasons vary depending on how seriously they want to be taken, but, really, let’s face it, it’s because Alan Moore upset a lot of comics fans a while back by saying he thought their entertainment choices erred on the juvenile. I don’t really know why there was an ocean of outrage in response to that. Alan Moore isn’t me and he isn’t you so, you know, sometimes all of our opinions on things are going to be a bit out of synch.

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CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED by Andrade, Moore, Reed & Digikore

Fundamentally, Alan Moore’s big sin was to forget that comic creators are required to pretend that they are just like us and share our hopes, wants, dreams and (crucial this one) entertainment choices, but with an understanding by all that parties that when it comes to the crunch they are better than us because writing corporate Trex and high concept TV auditions is a lot tougher and more worthwhile than whatever paltry shit you occupy your life with, you uncreative drone; and all done in that strange way that is both patronising and demeaning to all parties simultaneously. Seriously, I like Alan Moore a bunch but I could give one rich shit if Alan Moore enjoyed The Lego Movie as much as I did. Mind you, I can’t help thinking that if Alan Moore wore a t-shirt and jeans and pretended the children’s entertainment Star Wars was a fit use of a grown man’s mind he’d get a lot less stick.

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CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED by Andrade, Moore, Reed & Digikore

Meanwhile, back at the comics - Crossed +100 is work-for-hire which means rather than tell you how enjoyably unshowy and just plain solid it felt as a reading experience we have to go through the whole Alan Moore Work-For-Hire rigmarole. Alan Moore doesn’t mind Work-For-Hire as long as everyone understands that everyone is doing Work-For-Hire. He bangs on about Watchmen because he clearly believes there was some bad faith in there. He doesn’t bang on about John Constantine or the ABC Comics characters because they were all Work-For-Hire (LoEG excepted, natch) and everybody was super-clear about that. E.g. Apres Alan Moore the Tom Strong series has intermittently continued under Peter Hogan - with Moore’s blessing (so I understand). Nor did the The Top 10 stuff after he left elicit nary a peep from the disgruntled Magus. Look, just because he worships a sock doesn’t make him unreasonable.

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CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED by Andrade, Moore, Reed & Digikore

I am in fact quite chuffed Alan Moore is doing W-F-H in this case as Crossed is Garth Ennis' crazy baby and Garth Ennis is, rumour has it, a Comics Creator. The past couple of years have seen comics creators en-mass treat Moore with all the dignity and respect a crowd of teenage afternoon drinkers accord a Big Issue seller. (“Lookarrisbeerd! Pooshimovah! Oldcantoldcantcrazyoldstinkycantyman!”) Lest we forget Comics creators are perfectly content to turn a blind eye to all kinds of shenanigans on the part of their dreamweaving sect including, but I imagine by no means limited to, sexual predation. Ironically though they fail to bring this very united front to face towards bettering conditions for their vocation as a whole. But then why would you when you can take the Before Watchmen money and run? So, yeah, Crossed Plus 100...Despite being continually painted as a humourless curmudgeon Alan Moore possesses enough of a sense of humour to slip some pretty good jokes into what is in essence a comic about humanity staring down the deepest darkest anus of hopelessness yet imagined. His characters spend their time foraging for knowledge in libraries; the joke here being that the libraries are remarkably (but not totally) unscathed due to their having little appeal to the either the Crossed or other survivors (or even people before The Crossing). As we all know Alan Moore has publicly and vociferously campaigned on the behalf of libraries in real life. Actually, you might not know that because it’s possible that this and his other attempts to effect material change for the better in the real world (food hampers for the needy, benefit appearances, de-icing the walkways at old people’s flats, burning money on Dodgem Logic so that there was (briefly) an intelligent magazine out there) didn’t receive as much play in the comic press as someone getting a TV contract or piggybacking on the social concerns of the moment to raise their profile. But, yeah, Crossed Plus 100 is a pretty funny comic. Moore also has his band of survivors harvest old tech for video clips of The Oldy Times and we find that in the middle of an explosion of barbaric obscenity people will still pause to film someone having their cock torn off and fed to a snarling barista.

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CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED by Andrade, Moore, Reed & Digikore There are other jokes (Elvis' paean to tat, Gracelands, is admiringly described as “fuck class for definite.”) As you can see by that bit in brackets, Moore has even come up with a new Futcha-spikky, Which was a nice touch because language does evolve and Moore gets to build in some good jokes there too. Something of visual interest in real life is called “movie” and there’s a tiny sense of satisfaction which sparks when some of the more obtuse meanings click home. Although, none of it is too obtuse (that would be counter-productive) but I read my comics when I'm tired and it took me a full issue to figure out AFAWK was not a parrot like exclamation ,but the popular acronym. It's smart, inventive stuff and for a comic so soaked in a sense of impending doom I spent quite a lot of time laughing. This will surprise no one who has met me.

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CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED by Andrade, Moore, Reed & Digikore

But Moore's best joke (his towering edifice of hilarity) is an invisible one; it takes the form of an absence. The joke is that for a comic spent in such a degraded universe there's precious little sexual violence. There's some; there's a bit, but you have to really peer hard to find it. Which just isn't on. Where's my sexual violence? I demand some sexual violence? You know, the sexual violence about which we never speak, as there is a Conspiracy of Silence about this sexual violence. Except, obviously when we do speak of the sexual violence in Alan Moore’s work, which is every time there is sexual violence in Alan Moore’s work, which is quite a lot of the time, hence the discussion. On reflection as Conspiracies of Silence go, I have to say, it needs work. On the Silence bit anyway. This time out the silence surrounding sexual violence is the result of there being no sexual violence here, which beggars belief really. He can't not be taking the piss. Also, I'm afraid anyone holding out for a juicy bit of racism to get stuck into is going hungry tonight. I do share your trepidation, because thanks to Alan Moore’s relentless and, frankly, inexplicable attempts to reposition the racist marmalade totem of my youth I read this one with my face tensed as if for a slap. However, everybody braced for racism can stand down because this group of doomed fuckers contains only one clearly Caucasian male so, I think we can put our rocks back down on that one.

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CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED by Andrade, Moore, Reed & Digikore

An apology is due here. And I apologise unreservedly and wholeheartedly; I apologise sincerely and repeatedly. And I apologise to Gabriel Andrade. Because Gabriel Andrade draws Crossed Plus 100 and he hasn't had a sniff yet. Which is a shame because his work on Crossed Plus 100 is extraordinarily decent. His world is convincingly overgrown and decayed in equal measure; the rampant foliage spattered with the flaky remains of our white goods and furnishings. The Eden we built is replaced on these pages by The Eden of Nature, and it's clear who's getting the last laugh. Sometimes the overly lush colours swamp the art and confuse the perspective, but that's just a carp to show I was awake. Art wise Andrade takes Moore's script and puts it on the page with enough skill to ensure his own style is not swamped by that of The Moore. I particularly enjoyed the way the train our crew pootle about in looked like something from a fanciful children’s book but, ew, stuck in a world entirely the fault of adults.

Then, in issue #1, there's some backmatter. In this backmatter (“backmatter” being a comics term which I am beginning to think means it’s in the back and it doesn’t matter) Comics Softest Hearted Big Man Garth Ennis (who should never be described as Comics Biggest Hearted Soft Man) puts his metaphorical cap on the floor and starts playing the verbal spoons to drum up interest in either his Crossed webisodes (which is a word which should be stricken from the human record), a new Crossed series by Alan Moore (which is this comic) and one by Kieron Gillen (about how Bogshed fare in the Crossed world: Crossed C86), or an attempt to get Crossed on television because as any fule kno Television is the apex of human achievement. Oh, okay, I couldn’t really tell what he was trying to get me to invest in because the interview is conducted by Hannah Means Shannon (which apparently is a name and not the key to a particularly humdrum code) and contains sentences which actively repelled my interest. Speckling the thickets of time-share speak are the odd blooms of interest where burly Garth Ennis tells us what Crossed is about thematically (“how do you take charge of pure chaos..” Badly, I'm guessing, Garth.) Ultimately the world of Crossed is all a bit much for this tired old man who needs his illusions of decency and sanity just to make it through to his next biscuit, but when I was young I'd have snarfed this stuff down. So, yeah, I came for Alan Moore and that's what I got. Don't get me wrong, he's not perfect; he's just human but he does extend you the rare courtesy of not hiding that. He's Alan Moore, he writes comics and this one was VERY GOOD! But then again, like I said, I'm biaised.

Alan Moore is many things to many people but to me he's mostly - COMICS!!!