Comic Reviews (March 25th, 2015)
From worst to best of what I willingly paid money for. Also, the Mind Robber commentary will be coming out tomorrow afternoon – was going to edit it all tonight, but I’m falling asleep at the keyboard, so I’ll finish tomorrow.
Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1
The concept, of course, is just that of the classic The Monster at the End of this Book. But I want to raise a larger issue here – this is the issue of Multiversity that’s been most hyped – the “hypnotic induction” and “haunted” comic, which is literally dangerous to read. But if we take Morrison’s larger philosophical framework seriously – if, in other words, we accept his vision of how magic works and of what art is – then this is, I think, a flatly unethical comic. Morrison’s beliefs are such that parasitic and vampiric ideas are real things that can cause genuine harm and damage. Given this, unleashing one to feast upon the reader and making the reader’s infection by this idea a necessary part of the popular Multiversity crossover is at best ethically questionable, and worst monstrous of him. It’s clever, but it’s also borderline sociopathic.
The Black Vortex Parts 7-9
The rhythm of this continues to be frustrating – the Nova issue, in particular, felt like a complete digression to try to sell an issue of Nova, which was admittedly not an awful issue, but which is nevertheless frustrating, not least when Marvel’s scheduling means that three issues of this blob out at once. Whereas the “encase Spartax in amber so the Brood can eat people” twist is… thoroughly a delaying tactic and a direction I find myself spectacularly not caring about. Very much a “this is why I hate crossovers” moment.
This did nothing for me. Like, left me completely cold, no real comments to make on any front.
New Avengers #32
Man, remember when you could meaningfully tell the Avengers books apart? Still, this is a good issue, and kills off half the characters I couldn’t ever remember who were, so that’s nice too, because now I presumably don’t have to try. But this is probably the most lackluster beat before Secret Wars – too far before it to actually reveal much, but close enough that one feels impatient. This is a fine comic, but one suspects it is sound, fury, and a distinct lack of signification.
Gotham Academy #6
Interesting, and I like the last twist, but ultimately, the problem with being unable to remember any characters’ backgrounds I’ve had here is too entrenched, and I think I’m going to drop this in favor of trade-waiting.
Fun, nice twist at the end. One gets the sense Waid is working towards a conclusion to this, which is probably for the best, not least because they’ll want a new #1 sometime soon for the Netflix series, but it seems like a good conclusion. I quite like the Owl’s daughter. And Daredevil’s new costume, for that matter.
Uncanny X-Men #32
At last, Cyclops gets to the point where he’s been in Avengers, and things start to look interesting. Really quite excited to watch Bendis end this run, as he’s usually decent with endings, and the premise seems very interesting. And this sort of issue – one that’s basically just a series of conversations – is the sort of thing he’s good at. Quite fun.
Darth Vader #3
Kieron Gillen correctly intuits that what Darth Vader really needed was a wisecracking female archeologist sidekick. Astonishingly, he’s not even a Doctor Who fan. Plus, a homicidal protocol droid that obviously owes exactly the right amount of debt to Knights of the Old Republic. I’d been waiting for this comic to hit its stride and show what it’s going to be like, and for me, at least, it just absolutely nailed it this month.
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #10
A big arc reaches its finale, with loads of bits that amount to narrative restatements of many of the basic principles of TARDIS Eruditorum, and just plain right-on “yes this is what Doctor Who should be” stuff. Fantastic, fantastic stuff – this remains the best Doctor Who comic I’ve ever seen.
The Wicked & The Divine #9
The presence of Ananke on the cover always suggested this issue may be A Bit of a Thing, and sure enough, some serious fireworks kick off here, with an absolutely huge shift to the status quo. And, interestingly, an issue that largely doesn’t feature Laura, and instead makes big philosophical statements about the nature of gods. The book goes from strength to strength, and one kind of expects the next two issues are going to be a mite explosive. Not least because of the cover for #11. Also, love the Spider Jerusalem nod in “I feel an essay coming on.”
March 25, 2015 @ 6:15 pm
But if we take Morrison's larger philosophical framework seriously…
Thank heavens we are under no obligation to do so then, eh?
More to the point, it's a strong hint as to just how seriously Morrison takes it, which speaks well of him as a not-actually-insane person.
March 25, 2015 @ 6:19 pm
Gillen's Vader comic is pretty outstanding– the other two Star Wars comics really have been not quite up to what Dark Horse was making before they lost the liscense (Comparing the comics both titled "Star Wars" that cover the same territory is the best example here) but Darth Vader? Man. I'm on board.
The best bit for me is that we've had this great running theme of perversion: throughout the comic Gillen has laced it with things we're familiar with, and then made them "wrong." The very greatest example of this is that the emperor now has his palace in the Jedi Temple, his throne room in their former council chambers. Seeing him running the empire from there was sickening in all the best ways: casually strolling across the floor where children were murdered, where Jedi had been taught for millenia…
The evil R2-D2 and C-3P0 duo is just… A perfect encapsulation of the perversion theme, as it also ties into the other thing I've been noticing.
Gillen has really been merging Annikan and Vader in a way no one has done before– Vader has a clear life before this comic, and he maintains parts of his old self, including his love of droids– more than love, trust! Vader cannot rely on or count on people, but trusts machines he can fix and work on. His new sidekick knows how to work on droids herself, and despite their differences is a kindred spirit in her choice of associating with machines rather than people.
The machine trust thing seems certain to be a smoking gun to go off at some point (heck the released cover to issue #4 hints it might be soon) but the perversion seems to be a deeper thing, something that is only going to increase and get wronger. I'm loving every minute of it.
March 25, 2015 @ 7:20 pm
My current crazy theory: Laura winds up taking over Ananke's role at the end of the series.
I was slightly thrown by the "we just guaranteed our trans character is going to die" element of the story. Yes, that's a key part of the concept of the series; but this is the only time we've had an already established character turn out to be one of the pantheon and it felt different than being introduced to a character already knowing they're not making it out alive. I very much trust Gillen; but it still seemed a bit uncomfortable to me.
March 26, 2015 @ 2:40 am
Note for Aussie Who fans – ABC2 is showing all episodes from "Rose" through to "Last Christmas" weeknights from Monday.
Just finished "The Rescue" commentaries at last, and they were great – in the "I need to go out and buy "The Rescue" kind of way. Looking forward to Mind Robber, have that one on the shelf already!
March 26, 2015 @ 3:38 am
Well that's equal opportunities for you, in this case an equal opportunity to attain godhead and die in two years. Not to mention, there's a dearth of straight white men to kill off in WicDiv.
Also "attain godhead" sounds like the start of a Gillen-esq pun about oral sex.
March 26, 2015 @ 4:01 am
"with loads of bits that amount to narrative restatements of many of the basic principles of TARDIS Eruditorum, and just plain right-on 'yes this is what Doctor Who should be' stuff."
I've mentioned this in the comments before, but I've begun to suspect that the TARDIS Eruditorum has itself begun to influence the production of Doctor Who. It's a huge project that's put whole new ways to think about Doctor Who into the community of the show's followers. Because so many people involved with the production of various parts of Doctor Who are lifelong fans and talented creators, they'd like reading the Eruditorum and more explicitly weave the interesting ideas you work with into their own content.
The future volumes of the TARDIS Eruditorum may very well have to include an entry on itself as a material cultural force conditioning what Doctor Who becomes.
March 26, 2015 @ 5:12 am
Yes, this. I mean, seriously? Monstrous? Borderline sociopathic? Perhaps Morrison just recognizes that this comic isn't actually unleashing a parasitic and vampiric idea to feast upon the reader?
March 26, 2015 @ 5:22 am
Other note– 12th Doctor Comics shifted artists, and well, I think the writer is working much better with the new ones (though the colorist is return to the one the series started with, which is also nice).
March 26, 2015 @ 9:55 am
I suspect that Ultra Comics is not an attempt to infect readers with a psychic parasite, but rather it's an attempt exorcism of a parasite that Morrison believes already exists. Ultra comics can be read as an attempt to solve the problem, to free readers to see new things, move beyond old tropes and old characters and their old worlds. It's not an accident, I think, that it hits the shelves as DC moves from New York into some offices in LA near the rest of Warner Brothers.
I think there is a reading of Ultra Comics as an attempt to destroy comics in order to save them.
March 26, 2015 @ 12:13 pm
But can I be certain that this isn't all just part of the Oblivion Machine?
March 26, 2015 @ 4:56 pm
But doesn't the comic's government/corporate overlord assure us "…don't worry about Ultra — he's only dreaming in bis tank"? Isn't this the irony of the "Out of his box" sequence? I have to chuckle…it may be that I'm just too dense to feel threatened by the sociopathic monstrosity that is Ultra Comics because — to put it bluntly — I don't really know what's going on!
March 26, 2015 @ 5:25 pm
Understandably though Dr Sandifer is looking at this through the lens of "The Last War in Albion", in which we are invited to assume Moore and Morrison take ideas such as this seriously.
March 27, 2015 @ 2:40 am
"Morrison's beliefs are such that parasitic and vampiric ideas are real things that can cause genuine harm and damage. Given this, unleashing one to feast upon the reader and making the reader's infection by this idea a necessary part of the popular Multiversity crossover is at best ethically questionable, and worst monstrous of him. It's clever, but it's also borderline sociopathic."
100% agree with this, forget all these Morrison apologists (For the record, I was/kinda still am a huge Morrison fan). I was pretty hyped for Multiversity back when it was announced, but then when he started doing all of these interviews talking about wanting to "fuck people up" with hypnotic induction? "Ultra Comics"? Might as well call it "MK-Ultra Comics".
I kinda think it's funny how people jump straight in to defend Morrison and even automatically assume that his motivations here are purely benign, although I probably the same reaction I would have had 5 years ago.
Looking back over some of the interviews he's done, one can build up quite a disturbing picture… [continued]
March 27, 2015 @ 2:41 am
"So by the end of The Invisibles I was kind of forced into a position where the dualistic simplicity of what I’d believed in before wasn’t holding up to actual scrutiny and to the reality of the life I was living. I found myself in a place where I felt I had to confront all the negative aspects of a lot of stuff I believed. I realized that as much as I believed in freedom, in saving the world from tyranny, something in me was also against that drive. A death impulse. The dark impulse. I’m a ‘nice guy’ but I can and have done plenty of hurtful things to other people. As an imaginative person, I can think detailed thoughts that are so appalling and perverse, it makes me squirm in my pants to have such things lying around in my head. I had to own up to my own potential for badness, and I assumed it was pretty much the same for everybody else because I’m not that unique."
"As a practicing magician for over two decades now, I reached a point over a year ago where I felt it was time to take the terrifying 'Oath of the Abyss' and ascend to the 'grade' of ipssissimus – as it's known in the Aleister Crowley Golden Dawn hierarchical system of magical attainment. This requires undergoing an ordeal, the nature of which amounts to a personality-shattering meditation upon and encounter with the incoherent forces of 'the Dark Side' of the so-called Tree of Life, that is, all the negative states of consciousness available to us as human beings – fear, guilt, shame, hatred, loneliness, sickness, pain etc.. The 7 Dwarves of Horror basically.
During the twelve months of actually writing The Filth scripts I was so overwhelmed by these 'dark' forces that I almost committed suicide on several occasions and spent most of the year in a state of intense psychological and physical distress. I can happily say that the ordeal is now over; I was able to process all this negative energy into my writing and emerge from the Land of Shadow changed forever and having attained the highest possible grade of Ceremonial Magic. Big deal. The Filth, then, is also a diary document of my willed descent into the Abyss of the Qabalists and readers with a passing knowledge of occult correspondences will recognize the Hand as a 'qlippothic' or 'dark side' agency"
(Additional info for Last War in Albion: you probably know this already, but Alan Moore apparently also claimed "Ipsissimus" status in an Eddie Campbell comic, "Egomania 2" [published in 2002, while Morrison in this 2003 interview says he attained Ipsissimus status "over a year ago"] – see Barbelith poster "glass onion" here: http://www.barbelith.com/topic.php?id=11433 ) [continued]
March 27, 2015 @ 2:43 am
So what happens when when takes the "Oath of the Abyss"?
"In December 1948, Parsons took “the Oath of the Abyss” in a ritual conducted before W.T. Smith. This is tantamount to willingly suffering the “long, dark night of the soul” that is common in artistic and psychological literature. While most occult initiations can be “given,” i.e., passed on through ritual and the laying on of hands or some other appropriate ceremony, the initiatory levels of the “Abyss” and beyond cannot be imposed by human intervention, according to the tradition of the western mystery schools. In this case, all of creation is seen as the Qabalists’ “Tree of Life,” a diagram containing ten spheres connected by twenty-two paths. The top three spheres and the bottom seven spheres are “separated” in this instance by the Abyss, a place where one’s ego is destroyed… or not. If not, then one becomes a “black brother,” or “magician of the left-hand path,” that is, an evil magician and source of pestilence. If one has successfully passed the Abyss, however, then one attains greater spiritual glory."
So did Morrison take the Left-Hand Path? All he says is he "emerged changed forever". So what does he do next?
"I spent months immersing myself in the thought processes of an evil, dying God who longed for nothing less than the degradation, destruction and enslavement of all of DC’s superheroes, along with every other living thing in the universe and beyond!"
So after an intense "Abyss" experience during which he allegedly almost attemted suicide on muliple occasions, he decides to… Allow Darkseid, the DCU's embodiment of pure "Capital E" Evil to take possession of his mind for a few months? Yeah, that sounds great. What next? Oh, right, an MBE, of course. [continued]
March 27, 2015 @ 3:29 am
Q: "Do you feel more chivalrous? This is supposed to be an honor of chivalry, right?"
"No, it actually made me feel more evil, I think. [Laughter] I mean, when a howling witch hunt turns up on cue to accuse you of "joining the Establishment" as if you’d signed up for the Secret Society of Super-Villains, what else can you do but cackle and rub your hands together?"
"Sporting a black long-sleeve shirt bearing the word “Evil” in cursive – and kicking off the presentation by declaring, “I’m the evil version of Grant from Earth-3” "
"I’m interested in the idea of religions of “the book”, that we have in this world. The way they thrive is an actual book, which is the god. It’s not just the word of god, the book itself is God. So people take instruction from it and it becomes a programming language that’s easy to go back and refer to like a manual. So I kind of wanted to do what with a superhero comic.
And you’ll see how it works. I’ve used a lot of hypnotic induction. There’s an old trick that Stan Lee used to do — it was quite popular at Marvel — of the comic talking to you. I took that and this thing, and I think we’ve actually created the world’s first actual superhuman being, which you’ll see how it works when you read this comic. Then the world’s first super human being on this earth has to fight the most malignant entity. So the bad guys in Multiversity who are attacking the entire multiversal structure are also attacking the real world, and this comic is their only way through right now."
Programming language? Hypnotic induction? He sounds like Sir bloody Miles Delacourt. I mean, you can practically see the Ericksonian commands emerging through his sentence structure.
March 27, 2015 @ 3:41 am
(for some reason my HTML was not "acceptable" so had to remove all italics and bolded words from last 2 posts. Grrrr)
"My favourite Los Angeles black spot has to be the corner at the Viper Rooms where River Phoenix died in 1993. As a modern Romantic “doomed youth” monument to fallen boyhood it’s hard to surpass this cryptic locale. It’s even more morbid than the bay of Lerici where Shelley died and it carries the same floppy-haired bishonen, sexy dead boy negative energy — but with a rock ‘n’ roll charge.
You can stand there and feast on the vampiric neon residuals of River’s death, where Sunset meets Larrabee. The steaming, nutritious afterglow is still strong enough to sustain generations of psychic vampires!"
"My magical experience in the Qabalistic “Abyss” of Daath in the early 2000s provided the fuel for most of my work during this last decade. The Abyss encounter is to my work in the 21st century what my Kathmandu “alien abduction” experience was to the work in the '90s. You can see this same obsession with holes and pits and graves in the Batman work that Annihilator grew out of."
"When the individual hate you briefly feel connects with the Hate that never dies, you are in touch with bleak divinity. A magical ritual designed to summon Hate into your heart would align your personal transient experience of hate with undying Cosmic Hate until nothing remained in your heart and soul but Hate. That’s what it means to summon a demon."
Did I just read that correctly? Did Moz really just admit he's a psychic vampire who enjoys feeding off residual energy from the death of River Phoenix?
"when next seen in Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, it was revealed that the Monitors weren't solely Multiversal overseers at all – they also fed off of it . Thus, their nature as supra-cosmic vampires was established, feasting on the Bleed like it was ambrosia and drilling massive pipelines into the Multiverse to sustain themselves."
Monitors = DCU Writers/Editors = psychic vampires.
Anyway, sorry for spamming your blog with these posts, but as you can probably tell, this is a subject I have strong opinions about.
March 27, 2015 @ 4:36 am
Thanks for these quotations, Hobus! I'm a Morrison fan and will (re)read these interviews. Some of his remarks may be simply attributed to 2000-era Morrison connecting to his younger, more cynical "upstart" self — and to the fact that he likes to ramp up a nice phrase to such an extent that it becomes morbid . "…feast on the vampiric neon residuals" is an example for this. If Morrison really didn't mean well wouldn't it be kind of imprudent to put it out so openly? In other words, Morrison may have unsavory intentions — which "of course" I don't think — but quite suboptimal tactics.
March 27, 2015 @ 6:34 am
Taking an idea seriously as an artistic inspiration is somewhat different from taking it seriously as a guide to interacting with your fellow humans. If Morrison generally treats his real-world peers in a non-monstrous, non-sociopathic way, I don't think we're required to be alarmed or offended if he occasionally exercises his artistic "chaos magic" in a way that would be coercive or harmful if CM actually worked, which — key point here — it does not.
Or to cast it on its head: if we were required to take Morrison's philosophy seriously at this level, we should have long since been clamoring for him to be sent to jail since he has repeatedly told us that his success in his chosen field is the result of applying this philosophy and thus presumably suborning the will and intent of all of his various editors and publishers who otherwise would have ignored him.
March 27, 2015 @ 6:39 am
(Geeze, and then I scroll down and find that that reducto-ad-absurdum argument in my second paragraph is in fact being presented quite matter-of-factly by others. The Phoenix estate should sue!)
March 27, 2015 @ 7:24 am
"If Morrison really didn't mean well wouldn't it be kind of imprudent to put it out so openly?"
Aha, well, that's kind of the point, innit? His magickal glamour has become so strong over the years that he can pretty much openly tell us that he wants to "fuck people up" with a comic and everyone somehow thinks he really means the opposite of what he said?
I think the REALLY sinister implication of all this is, if you take into account all of Moz's comments about being a happy cog in "the system", it's possible to speculate that all of this stuff is being done with knowledge and approval of the higher-ups at DC/Time-Warner.
"We developed this hypnotic induction technique to really fuck people up. It has mental effects and psychic effects that I think are quite bizarre."
Who's the "we" being referred to here?
March 27, 2015 @ 7:48 am
Another one I forgot about:
"I guess as a writer you’re often drawn to characters like Nomax the rebel, because a lot of writers like to self-imagine themselves as rebels against society when in fact most of the time we’re just part of society. I’ve kind of tried to write about characters that I felt at least some connection with, but I think through my life I’ve always written about people who are slightly at right angles to society, and maybe that’s just… maybe I need to write more about kings and queens and dukes."
March 27, 2015 @ 11:09 am
"Who's the "we" being referred to here?"
It may fascinate you to learn that comics are a collaborative medium and are made by not only writers but artists as well.
In regards to your quotes: as with both sides of the war, read any interview with one eye on their mischievous, Cheshire cat grins.
March 27, 2015 @ 2:16 pm
Grant Morrison would look good on a black and white banner hanging in front of a courthouse with the caption "GRANT IS WATCHING YOU" under him, all I'm gonna say…
March 27, 2015 @ 5:32 pm
"It may fascinate you to learn that comics are a collaborative medium and are made by not only writers but artists as well."
I can't think of a sarcastic enough sentence to respond to that.
"I’ve used a lot of hypnotic induction. There’s an old trick that Stan Lee used to do — it was quite popular at Marvel — of the comic talking to you."
He's clearly referring to the CAPTIONS that "speak to the reader". Are you suggesting Doug Mahnke helped write those captions? How much does Mahnke know about developing "hypnotic induction techniques" and "programming language"? Bugger all, I'd wager.
…Now if we were talking about an artist like, say, J.H. Williams III… I may have a different opinion.
"In regards to your quotes: as with both sides of the war, read any interview with one eye on their mischievous, Cheshire cat grins."
Sure. After all, isn't this just how the Ascended Ipsissimi (sp?) of the Great Cosmic White Brotherhood are supposed to behave?
Crowley trolled everyone with his "Great Beast 666" "Wickedest Man in the World" persona too. But he was clearly a good guy, he worked with MI6 and Churchill. Anyone who works for the system must be a good guy, right?
March 28, 2015 @ 2:11 am
I find it fascinating that you're trying to equate such a binary system on real people, who tend not to function that way, especially as that seems to be one of the points to The Multiversity. Crowley had some great insights into thinking and questioning the prevellant systems of his day, he was also a heroin addict and treated people abominably. Eric Blair had such faith in his political beliefs he went to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Less than ten years later he was telling the authorities about suspected communists in British society. Which was the real Eric Blair?
Morrison and Moore are both pranksters, seeking out truths through investigations into different philosophies and their own writings. And finding that each hunchback is followed not only by a soldier, but another hunchback.
Finally, forgive my sarcasm, but as a comic strip artist myself it always annoys me when comic's discussions become writer centric. They are a collaborative process, and for all the sound bite you provided discusses the caption boxes, other people are still designing the page so they are placed for maximum effect, lettered so they read clearly while getting across their importance, and coloured for clarification and meaning. Andthen, of course, there are editors, people the writer discusses story ideas with and the publisher, all of whom may have had an effect on the story in one way or another.
i think there is an argument to be made in The War in Albion (and I'm interested to see if Philip brings this up) that on the whole in their careers, Moore has had the benefit of collaborating with better artists than Morrison. But to say those artists had no say or understanding of what they are drawing is an insult to artists, in my opinion.
March 28, 2015 @ 7:50 am
Responding to your comments in reverse order:
"But to say those artists had no say or understanding of what they are drawing is an insult to artists, in my opinion."
Well, it's a good thing nobody said that then, isn't it?
Not sure why you're trying to turn my argument into being about artists somehow (because you are one?) but it relates solely to the captions in the script of this comic as written by Grant Morrison, and previous statements made in interviews by Grant Morrison.
"They are a collaborative process, and for all the sound bite you provided discusses the caption boxes, other people are still designing the page so they are placed for maximum effect, lettered so they read clearly while getting across their importance, and coloured for clarification and meaning. Andthen, of course, there are editors, people the writer discusses story ideas with and the publisher, all of whom may have had an effect on the story in one way or another."
Once more you continue to school me in the collaborative medium that is comics. I'm aware that people other than Morrison were involved in making this book. When I highlighted the "we" in his "we developed this hypnotic induction technique…" quote and asked who the "we" being referred to was, I was more cryptically referring to these types of people:
"The ruling elite employ teams of experts in social psychology and neuro-linguistic programming, trained in places like the Tavistock Institute, in order to keep the multitudes from recognizing their own interests in a movement of unified defiance."
Now that may seem irrelevant, but note the above quote is from Moz's pal, Daniel Pinchbeck. Later in the article he mentions Morrison:
"Grant Morrison once described it to me, we are in a time when the material and astral world, Malkuth and Yesod, are overlapping and merging. This situation makes it harder for materialists, as the physical world is increasingly psychically malleable, but it also presents challenges for magicians, as the astral is becoming more tangible and definite. In such a time, magicians need to prove their powers in the world as it is, the world of being and becoming. Finding balance and financial success in this time of accelerating turbulence and Illuminati manipulation is a great opportunity for magical work."
An interesting article to be sure. If you read the whole thing you can see Pinchbeck seemingly denounces the "experts in social psychology and neuro-linguistic programming trained in places like the Tavistock Institute" while then going on to propose a bunch of ideas that sound like they came straight off their drawing boards.
"Crowley had some great insights into thinking and questioning the prevellant systems of his day, he was also a heroin addict and treated people abominably."
Crowley, as I stated, was a secret agent who worked for Mi6. While he may have done much to cultivate the image of someone who "questioned the prevelant systems of his day", he was in fact, the exact opposite of that, he was just someone working for the system. Much like Grant Morrison admitted himself to be in the quotes I posted.
"I find it fascinating that you're trying to equate such a binary system on real people, who tend not to function that way, especially as that seems to be one of the points to The Multiversity."
No idea what you're talking about here… "binary system"? Siriusly?