Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vervet Monkeys Ignore Males

Scientists have discovered that Vervet Monkeys largely ignore what male monkeys do, only paying serious attention to what the lady monkeys are up to. This was shown experimentally by letting some monkeys find out how to access some food, then letting some other monkeys watch them getting at the tasty morsels and finally letting the watchers into where they could get at the food themselves. If the monkeys had been watching a female, then they were significantly more likely to copy her and find the hidden food.

Scientists have explained this behaviour by reference to the social setup of the Vervet Monkey. These little fellows live in matriarchal societies, where the males are marginal and inclined to drift from group to group. Vervets understand that it is best not to pay too much attention to anything a male is doing, as they do not really know much about anything.


An inuit panda production

Free State V

pshooom! I am actually on my way to Cuba, but through the power of forward dated posts I have set this to appear now while I am in transit. As future posts appear it should guarantee a certain kind of brief eerie longevity in the event of unfortunate unexpected travel events.

This was a concert by the Crash Ensemble, Dublin's leading contemporary music performance group. They were playing new pieces by Irish composers, with their artistic director resisting the urge to throw any of his own works onto the bill.

One piece was by Gráinne Mulvey, which featured a piccolo player interacting with a load of funny recorded electronic music. It was an odd combination – the electronic music sounded like something from a Jon Pertwee Dr Who episode. I may well have enjoyed that well enough on its own, but it was not obviously suffering from having an acoustic instrument played over it. There was also an interesting piece by David Fennessy in which a cellist played over a recording of a harmonium drone; I liked it, but I did wonder what would be the difference between this and having someone there playing the harmonium.

I liked all the pieces, including a stripped down composition for strings by my Facebook pal Benedict Schlepper-Connolly. Increasingly I find that contemporary music is what I most enjoy in the live context. But, sadly, all of the composers were present tonight, meaning that I could not stand up after a piece and pretend to have written it. One day I will.

If you fancy catching Crash live yourself, they are playing some concerts outside Ireland in the near future – check out their website for details of dates in London, Washington DC, and Montclair NJ (places very accessible to all inuit panda readers, I know).

An inuit panda production

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ian goes to the Opera

I recently attended an Opera Ireland concert performance of I Capuleti e I Montecchi by Vincenzo Bellini. It takes its story not from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, but from the same Italian sources that he mined for his play. So it has some elements in common (lovers from opposing sides, some of the character names, the somewhat improbable ending) while having many differences. For one thing, this story seems more political in tone – the Montecchi and Capuleti are not fighting some kind of familial feud but are leading families on opposite sides of the Guelph-Ghibbeline conflict that divided mediaeval Italy. Romeo here is also a general in the Ghibbeline army, and not some scaldy young lad like in Shakespeare's play.

Musically this is all much more like what I think of opera as sounding like than either the Ligeti or Wagner operas I saw last year. Particularly in the instrumental bits we get loads of rococo flourishes and the like. I liked the sung bits more, as they give more space for that kind of over the top emotionalism one associates with the form. Overall, though, this was musically not so much to my taste; I am beginning to think that only Wagner really does opera properly.

It was still enjoyable enough musically, and, as with the Rheingold, the acting was rather impressive (with Eric Martin-Bonnet as Capellio (Giulietta's father and the local head of the Guelphs) being my particular favourite). But I will not be back, for one simple reason. There was a plague of talkers in the audience, and having to put up with their yap did rather limit my enjoyment of the performance.

Maybe this is what you get from sitting in the cheaper seats. By this I do not just mean being among the lower orders but more the particular layout of the Gaiety theatre. The cheaper seats in the parterre are towards the back, partly underneath the dress circle. I could imagine this might make the more munterish members of the audience think that they are somehow back at home watching the performance on television and so it is alright for them to chatter away to each other. But whatever the reason, I am not exposing myself to this kind of behaviour again.

An inuit panda production

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pet Myths Debunked

Astonishing news from the Guardian – apparently many things people believe about their pet animals are wrong. Dogs do not wag their tail to show they are happy, as tail wagging is used to display a complex range of emotions. Furthermore, cats do not just purr when they are happy – they also purr when they are in pain or dying. So if your cat is purring, watch out.

Particularly disturbing for people who like both cats and wild birds is the revelation that putting a bell on a cat does not stop them from catching birds – apparently the little scamps just learn to move more quietly, becoming even more efficient predators.

It nevertheless turns out to be true that hamsters run for miles and miles on their running wheels – apparently as much as six miles in a day.

An inuit panda production

Recent Amphibian Adventures

v/a Celestial Grass
v/a nlgbbbblth cd 09.06: Can You Travel In The Dark Alone?
v/a The Beat-Beat-Beat of the Tom-Tom
v/a La Classe de Danse
v/a Best of 2009 Disc 2: "MMIX"
v/a Best of 2009 Disc 1: MMIX
v/a The Doggie Daddies (somewhat unlistenable 2000s compilation)
v/a The Naughty Oughties (somewhat listenable 2000s compilation)
v/a nlgbbbblth: The Magic Garden
Ray Davies (Feat. His Funky Trumpet & The Button Down Brass) Part 3: (1975-1977)
Elvis Presley Dig Right In

And what are these? Why, they are TOADs. The acronym is one my pals in Frank's APA use. It comes from the early days of that august organisation. TOAD stands for Tape Once And Distribute, reminding us of a by-gone era where people in the APA distributed compilations on tape, and where people could be expected to make a copy of a tape and then pass it on. The name has stuck, even though now a TOAD might well be a CD you can keep or (*shudder*) something you "download".

Some might say that this is a surfeit of TOADs. There could be something to be said for some kind of TOAD rationing system – I am thinking maybe that no one in the APA should be allowed make more than two CD-R equivalents in one calendar year. Let us see if I am able to enforce this.

The one great winner of these discs is the third Ray Davies compilation. The second collection of music by this great trumpeter seemed to falter a bit, but here he is stormingly back on form. Maybe this is as much down to the track choices – you cannot really go wrong with parping versions of the theme from The Man With The Golden Arm, Magnum Force, The Big Boss, etc. Ray Davies' version of the theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is easily the best non-Morricone version of the tune, blowing away the lamer Hugo Mantanegra effort.

With the other CDs, it is random tracks here and there that stick in my mind. One of "MMIX" or MMIX features Art Brut's 'The Passenger' (about the joys of public transport), reminding me of how great this lot were at Indietracks last year. I remember this tune well from when I saw them live, but it seems a bit different here – different in an interesting way. Live, Art Brut seem to a bit more rock than art rock, but here they sound a bit more like some kind of complicated art project. I think maybe it is to do with the vocals being fairly high in the mix. Either way, this lot seem like an excellent band – I must seek out their records, and would love to see them again live.

La Classe de Danse provided an always-welcome opportunity to hear Robert Wyatt's recording of 'Stalin wasn't stallin'. I also liked the 'To Whom It Concerns' by Magic (or the theme music to the Late Late Show as you may know it).

The Beat-Beat-Beat of the Tom-Tom-Tom features many wonderful tracks, including rocktastic tracks by Pissed Jeans (who live up to their name) and A Place To Bury Strangers. The latter's track made me wish I had caught them at ATP last December.

I enjoyed all the others as well.

One thing I find Frank's APA TOADs good for is generating an enormous musical databank, such that if I hear about random musical figure and wonder what they sound like, it often turns out there are a couple of their tracks lurking on TOADs. I got that most recently with yer man Franco and TPOK Jazz – after reading the intriguing article about him in the Journal of Music, it turned out that I had a couple of his tunes on my iPod, all thanks to the magic of the TOAD. Fascinating.

Tall Toad

An inuit panda production

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Attention former members of Frank's APA!

I don't suppose you fancy re-joining, even temporarily? I am guest CM-ing the next issue, and it would be nice to bring you back into the fold. The deadline will be the first Friday in May. Drop me a mail if you are interested.

Non former members of Frank's APA: move along, nothing to see here.

"Moby Dick", by Hermann Melville

I suppose I ought to say something about Moby Dick. I pathetically underestimated how long it would take to finish, only reaching the end the day after we met in the Lord Edward; the experience was chastening, and I will be more careful with future reads of the big books of the past.

But anyway, what did I think of Herman Melville's classic (in which, for those of you are unaware of these things, a whaling ship commanded by the monomaniacal Captain Ahab sets off on a doomed hunt for the titular White Whale who bit off the captain's leg)? Well, I thought it was incredible. I am not sure if I would be one of those people who say that it is the greatest novel ever written, but I can see why people would see it as that. There is an epic grandeur to it that you see in few works of fiction. One thing I have heard said about the book is that it prefigures the modern novel in certain respects, but I was struck by how gothic it was. As Ahab closes in on the whale, there is an almost palpable sense of doom clinging to the pages; rather than being a prototype 20th century anti-hero, Ahab seems more of a kind with Heathcliff or Melmoth as he races to his own destruction.

Moby Dick is also an odd book. The narrative chapters are interspersed with many discursive chapters on whales and whaling, the style of the narrative chapters themselves shifts from normal first person narrative to scenes described as plays, to scenes where we get interior monologues by characters other than the narrator. There are also some great comedy moments, like the whole Ishmael-Queequeg bed-sharing stuff, that run rather counter to the general gothic feel of the book. I could imagine some people finding all this a bit annoying, but they would be wrong to do so.

There might be a case to be made for an all-narrative abridged version of Moby Dick that leaves out the digressions – it could be useful for first time readers. I think, though, that they are part of what gives the book its power. They are certainly part of what will keep this book on my shelf – it is something that I will keep wanting to dip into.

One of the things with Moby Dick is its initially poor critical reception. Although it seems to have remained in print, albeit somewhat intermittently, it was only in the 20th century that it began to be seriously championed as a great novel. In discussion in the Lord Edward, Mr W---- suggested that it was the book's disjointedness that appealed to the modern critic, as it mirrors the stylistic innovations of the 20th century; he felt, however, that these critics were picking up on the failings of Melville's writing (his rambling inability to stick to the narrative, etc.) but hailing these as strengths. It is a view, but again I think the Melville's willingness to go where the narrative winds take him is a strength rather than a weakness.

I will leave you with an odd piece of Moby Dick related trivia. The well-known German far-left nutters the Red Army Faction were apparently obsessed with the book, and used it to give each other codenames for their internal communications. Andreas Baader picked Ahab for his own codename, something that seems not to have set alarm bells ringing.

Post your own thoughts on the book as a comment here. If you have already posted about Moby Dick on your own blog, post a link to that instead.

An inuit panda production

Friday, March 26, 2010

Desperados Waiting For A Train, Punctured Flapper

American Vampire #1, by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, and Stephen King*

This is somewhat intriguingly plotted and well drawn, but there is a fundamental problem here. Look at the title: American Vampire. Jesus, what was I thinking? Vampires are no longer interesting and there should be a law against anyone using them as a basis for a story.

I'm not quite sure where the image comes from. If it's yours, let me know and I will include a link.

*yes, that Stephen King.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Other travel related news

My beloved and I are going to Cuba over Easter! Cha cha cha! We are going independently rather than taking a package, so we look forward to lots of trouble about finding accommodation and finding out how to get from town A to town B in time to get our flight back home. I am in some ways expecting this holiday to be a bit of a trial, but it is imperative that we visit Cuba before it is flooded by US fratboys. At the moment our planned itinerary is something like Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus, Santa Clara, Havana again, Viñales, Havana, and home. But all this might change..

Anyway, I am getting all fired up about Cuba's ever-welcoming Jinitero community. I will be very disappointed if they do not actually begin every sentence with "hey blondie!"

more Cuban poster action

An inuit panda production

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TV, Lisbon, Haiti, Earthquakes

And we watched some Portuguese TV. It was all in foreign, so we did not have a breeze what they were on about, but it was fun watching telenovellas and trying to work out how the characters related to each other. One great one kept cutting between some people doing one thing to these two women in a kitchen having a conversation. One of them was doing most of the talking, while the other kept being astonished by everything said to her. The astonished one was a wonder to behold – she seemed to have an endless array of non-verbal squeaking noises to draw on. We are still doing impressions of her whenever anything even slightly out of the ordinary occurs.

Ruined Churches
One other big TV thing while we were there was the Haiti earthquake. Lisbon had its own earthquake back in the 17th century, as big a deal across Europe in its own way as the Haitian earthquake now, if not bigger. It seems like the relief effort back then was exemplary, and the grandeur of the city now is largely a product of its rebuilding back then. So who knows, maybe a better Haiti will rise from the rubble*.

What was interesting about the TV coverage of the Haitian earthquake was the difference between how CNN and the European news networks covered it. The European channels seemed very factual – this is happening, here are scenes from Haiti, here is stuff about relief efforts, etc. The CNN coverage, on the other hand, was incredibly emo – lots of asking people how they felt about what was going on, with even the anchorfolk in the studio having to let us in on their emotional state.

It is easy to scoff at CNN here for its touchy feely response, but maybe an event of horror like this should not be dealt with as cold news. On the other hand, one problem with the CNN approach seemed to be an endless search for US-centric human interest stories – Americans whose relatives were caught up in the disaster, Americans who were themselves in Haiti, Americans who were trying to do something about the disaster, and so on.

Of course, Irish news is as bad. I think there was one Irish guy killed in the earthquake, and I bet he was all over the news here. Fortunately I was in Lisbon.

That is maybe it for Lisbon. I would love to go back, if only to check out the exciting modern bit of town that we never really looked at. Anyway, if you want to see pictures of Lisbon (and neighbouring Sintra), follow the links.

An inuit panda production

* Or maybe not – 18th century Lisbon was the capital of a world empire; Port-au-Prince is not.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Travels Continue: Lisbon and the magic of Jose Cid

FunicularMy beloved and I went to Lisbon in January. We largely succeeded in having a good time all of the time. One great thing about Lisbon is that the place is full of cake shops selling their wares for half nothing. If you like custard tarts* then Lisbon is the place for you.

Portugal has a reputation as something of a black hole when it comes to the general culinary arts. I cannot say we saw too much evidence of this, as we ate a great many tasty meals while we were in that country's capital. We did eat one total duffer, though, so perhaps the quality is a bit variable. One thing I would want to do if I was there again is explore the city's vegetarian options, as you could get a bit fed up of tasty fish.

While we were there we met people we know from the (now defunct) Bowlie forum. They bought us back to their place and regaled us with tales of having a future Nobel laureate as a neighbour. They also played us various pieces of Portuguese music. One fellow who sounded most fascinating was this Jose Cid chap. He released some prog rock madness album in the late 1970s called something like Between Venus And Mars (only in Portuguese). The excerpts we heard of this were amazing, though oddly familiar – basically the bits of Air that were not knocked off from Serge Gainsbourg come from here. Sadly this space-rock classic is out of print.

Jose Cid continues in music, but he seems to have mutated into some kind of weird Portuguese Joe Dolan figure. They played us some later single by him. This had our Portuguese hosts falling around laughing (the jazz cigarettes might also be a factor here), but it seemed like the lyrics (about how he loves to go picking up widows because they are always on for it and tend to have loads of money) were pretty rofflesome.

Oh yeah, do not do a Google image search for Jose Cid if you are easily shocked.

Our Portuguese friends also pointed us in the direction of this ginginha drink, some local cherry brandy. Brandy with prefixes is usually terrifying, but this stuff was the nom.

An inuit panda production

*Which the locals call pastéis de nata, unless said locals are in the Belem area, in which case they call them pastéis de Belem; as the nicest ones are in Belem they maybe have primacy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bound Man, Bloody Face

Criminal: The Sinners #5, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

This is the last episode of this story, in which Tracy Lawless started off investigating who was bumping off various thugs and low-lifes across the city, only to end up with some terrifying Chinese gangsters convinced that he has just killed their boss. Just to ensure his totally fucked status, his own boss has discovered that Lawless has been stirring his porridge and a military policeman is getting ever closer to hauling him back to Iraq.

I have thought before that maybe the Brubaker-Phillips team are not as good at ending their stories as they are at setting them up. On a first read I found myself thinking this is true of this one. Looking at it again, though, I am a bit more convinced by this. It has the same bleakness of what has gone before, just with a few more of the characters stuffed conveniently into coffins by the end of it.

And that appears to be it for Criminal for the next while. The two creators are doing other stuff for a bit, before they reunite to bring us another run of Incognito (the one where they combined a load of odd pulp stuff mixed in with superheroy stuff and the kind of crime tropes they are more usually fond of). Incognito returning is both good and bad. I found the story straightforwardly more satisfying over its length than any of the Criminal narratives, but it also felt like something that was more definitively finite in its appeal. It did not seem like it would gain from being a more open-ended story, but I have been wrong before.

Criminal Panda

An inuit panda production

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Classic Book Club: Awesome Developments

Two important pieces of information: where and when we will meet to discuss Moby Dick, and what book we will be reading next.

First things first – we will meet upstairs in the Lord Edward on Monday 22nd March at 7.00pm. I understand that some people cannot be there that early, but maybe they will be along later. I anticipate being there for a while.

And then the next book. Because I will be reading this on a trip to Cuba, I have picked one with a Latin American theme: Nostromo, by Joseph Conrad. Eh, I think this might actually have been written after 1900, but it is a book of the long 19th century. If you do not have a copy, it should be available from public libraries, and Chapters on Parnell Street have cheapo Wordsworth Classics editions for sale for nuppence.

Back to Moby Dick. I will post my own thoughts on it online in the future. At time of writing I still have over a hundred pages to go, so it will be touch and go whether I finish it in time.

Moby Dick image

Nostromo image

An inuit panda production

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Robin Beheads Kneeling Batman

Batman and Robin #10, by Grant Morrison, Andy Clarke, and Scott Hanna

When Bruce Wayne died a while ago, I remember wondering how long it would be before he came back to life again. Mainstream superhero comics are notorious for having characters who will not stay dead, with even Captain America's pal Bucky recently springing back to life in a story of unbelievable suckassness, though at least Marvel waited fifty or sixty years before reanimating the corpse. Bruce Wayne may not have to wait so long, for the cover of this issue proudly proclaims that "The Return of Bruce Wayne begins here!". Actually it begun last issue, when Robin and the new Batman realised that as someone had served up a fake Bruce Wayne body then the original had to be still alive somewhere, but let us not be pedants.

The good stuff here mainly focuses around Robin. Robin as a character is usually pretty camp, not matter which of the Robins we are talking about. I am not sure that is as true of this one, the boy Damian fathered by the original Batman on Talia, creepy lady daughter of sinister orientalist stereotype Ra's al-Ghul. Damian is possessed of an iron will and almost Nietzschean will to power, which, given his age, makes him pretty creepy too.

In a brief cameo we are also introduced to two bequiffed henchpeople of some villain that I have arbitrarily decided are some kind of rofflesome parody of Jedward (for all that one of them is female); I bet they are actually some stupid DC characters who previously only appeared in three issues of title that folded in 1964.

Dark Panda

An inuit panda production

Friday, March 19, 2010

Superman Battles Robot Menace

Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #1, by James Robinson, Sterling Gates, and Pete Woods

You will recall that for a while there I was reading the New Krypton title, in which Kal-El gave up being Superman and went to live on a new planet with a load of his Kryptonian who had been freed from the bottle city of Kaldor. It started off well, with entertaining stuff about the internal politics of the Kryptonians and the rivalry between General Zod and Kal-El, but then it disappeared up into an arse of DC Universe wankology. This is the first of a short limited series following on from that title. In a development of almost unbelievable thrill power, New Krypton finds itself under attack – from Brainiac (the very same robot mastermind who shrank and bottled Kaldor in the first place).

This has lots of fites, lots of weird Zod character stuff, lots of Kal-El saying "This is a job for Superman!", and lots of OMG revelations, which makes for massive win… but it also has an annoying "To be continued in Superman #51, i.e. another title we are going to sucker you into buying, you sap" conclusion. Curse you DC.

Super Panda

An inuit panda production

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Things fall apart

Falling behind in my blog reading, I only registered recently that Momus has stopped writing his blog.

The good folk of Momus Lolz seem to have stopped updating their blog in sympathy.

Panda Lolz

An inuit panda production

Old Man, Young Man, Baby

Daytripper #4, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

You may recall me mentioning that in the last issue the main character died at the end of this, after doing the same thing an issue previously. And he does it here again. In this story he is faced with awkwardly coinciding life moments – the wife going into labour with their first child just as his (famous novelist) dad dies of a massive heart attack. It is all very atmospheric and quietly affecting.

This is a strange title – it is billed as an ongoing series, yet it strikes me as one that would work well if it finished after issue 12 or so and was then collected into a book. But let us see how it develops.

Young Panda

An inuit panda production

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So Not Gonna Happen v. Keggers of Yore

So Not Gonna Happen:

Keggers of Yore:
So Not Gonna Happen?

An inuit panda production

Swirling Pages Surround Man

The Unwritten #11, by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, & Jimmy Broxton

In an unlikely turn of events, Tom Taylor and his friends have travelled back in time to a strangely spectral version of the 1930s, where they find themselves up against the sinister Nazi Josef Goebbels. Although they manage to escape his clutches, Taylor next find themselves up against the story of Der Jud Süss - the story is in torment because of the way the Goebbels film studio has turned the original novel into a piece of anti-semitic propaganda. So, pretty run of the mill fare, I'm sure you will agree.

time panda

An inuit panda production

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fussy Faux Victorian Cover

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #1, by Warren Ellis and Raulo Caceres

This is an example of that popular genre known to the young people as steam punk, where you set something in Victorian England (typically London) and then ramp up the technology level. So this features members of London's new Metropolitan Police Force squaring up against Spring Heeled Jack and some weird electrical flying ship. It is somewhat interesting, but also somewhat underwhelming, so I may or may not bother with the second issue.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Man Eats

Demo #2 ("Pangs"), by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan

You will recall that Demo is one of those titles where each issue is self-contained story focussed on the paranormal. In this one, we have this fellow whose diet is… rather unique. And it seems to be not so much a matter of outré taste but his inability to digest anything else. I like it (the comic, not the guy's diet).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Yellow Eyes Look Through Cuts

Phonogram: The Singles Club #7, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson, and guest-starring Nikki Cook, Becky Cloonan, Andy Bloor, and Sean Azzopardi

The final episode of this run of the title about the people who use popular music to work magic. In this one, David K's pal Kid With Knife (an endearing skanger) becomes a temporary sorcerer and rampages around Bristol, largely using his powers for good rather than evil. I liked the Bristol locations. Is the club he goes to a real one? Wow, maybe I could go there next time I am in Bristol and meet all the characters from the comic. That would be awesome.

The back-up strips are entertaining enough. I liked the one where this guy has to be carried across a nightclub dancefloor – he could not set foot on it, as the DJ was playing Kula Shaker. The Phonogram people have a bit of a thing about Kula Shaker, it makes me feel almost sorry for that now largely forgotten band.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Man on chair, pools of liquid

Daytripper #3, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

So in this one this guy breaks up with his long time girlfriend and is very sad. His friend tries to cheer him up. Various things happen, and then at the end – he dies unexpectedly. But wait – didn't he die in the last issue as well? Is that the way this one works, he dies every time? Sucks to be him, though it is immortality of a kind. Whatever, I find this atmospheric and plan to keep reading it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Little boy, furry friend

Joe The Barbarian #2, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy

This, on the other hand, is only for people who have convinced themselves that everything Grant Morrison writes is genius. The art here is nice, but the story is a hackneyed tale of a young lad falling into a fantasy world where all his toys have come alive and he is a chosen hero who has to yadda yadda yadda etc. etc. etc.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Batman throwing Robin from tall building OMG WTF

Batman and Robin #9, by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart

The Dick Grayson Batman has resurrected what he thought was Bruce Wayne's body - but it was actually a duplicate psycho body substituted by some bad guy! Maniac faux Batman goes on the rampage.

The third best moment here is when Knight (an English Batman analogue) and Squire go to take out Old King Coal in his secret hide-out, where he is hanging out with some ladies of easy virtue. "I'll tek the paira yez, like!" exclaims Coal, "just divvent tell wor missus aboot the lasses, that's aal I'm saying". But then we cut back to Batman and Robin, with Batman revealing that all that corpse substitution malarkey means that Bruce Waynes is still alive. But then we have the teaser for the next issue: "Next in Batman and Robin: Batman vs. Robin". Feel the thrillpower.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Caped Warrior Looks Down On Town

Sparta USA #1, by David Lapham and Johnny Timmons

I found this one pretty confusing. I think it is set in a small town somewhere that is maybe isolated from the rest of the world in some mysterious way or something. It does have some interesting thread dangles, but I was disconcerted by my lack of understanding of what was going on here. Sometimes things that are disorienting and unclear are deliberately so (like recent David Lynch films, say), but this does not feel like that. So there are too possibilities here – either I am too stupid to follow what is going on, or this title is badly written. Neither of these makes me keen on checking out the second issue.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Heroic Threesome

First Wave #1, by Brian Azzarello and Rags Morales

This conceit of this one is that Batman, The Spirit (legendary early comics hero largely unknown outside the world of people who like comics) and Doc Savage (pulp hero from back when the pulps were big) get to team up to fight crime and stuff. It is quite good, reasonably thrill-powered, etc., but I suspect you would be better off seeking out reprints of original Spirit and Doc Savage stuff. Nothing here demands that I acquire the second issue.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Hybrid Children Look Through Fence

Sweet Tooth #7, by Jeff Lemire

This grim post-apocalyptic tale continues. Sweet Tooth begins to understand the full dreadfulness of his predicament. Meanwhile Jeppard is being confronted by unbidden memories of his past – not his life before the plague, but from afterwards when things went to hell for him. So yeah, a chirpy read, but still one I gamely recommend to the handful of people reading this.

There is also a preview of The Bronx Kill, some new graphic novel from Peter Milligan and James Romberger. It looks potentially interesting, but I only really read comics in issues.

Classic Book Club!

Oh yeah, non-Facebook readers may be unaware that the meeting to discuss Moby Dick is now down for Monday 22nd March. The venue is still undecided (possibly the Central Hotel, though I fear it might be too full and on that basis am thinking more of the Lord Edward), but the time is 7.00pm.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in the SF book club, contact me privately for further information.


Sunday, March 07, 2010

Gaze into the fist of Iron Man

The Invincible Iron Man #1, by Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca, Frank D'Armata, Stephane Peru

This is one of those free comics. It seems like some kind of relaunch of the Iron Man title, on the back of the popularity of the last film and its forthcoming sequel. It is pretty good as these things go (Iron Man comes to suspect that OMG someone has managed to replicate his armour suit technology and is using it for evil purposes), but it is a bit too straight superhero for my tastes.