Sunday, 28 August 2011

Jalapenos and chocolate

Covered the local branch at work today and couldn't help going to the Co-op. It's okay because they're fair tarde, right? Ten minutes before fast opens. Jalapenos! Best eaten straight from the jar! Or with Dortios if you wish to feign normalness.

Good manga?! Doll by Mitsukazu Mihara

I love science-fiction as a genre, mainly due to focus-studying it when doing Media Studies A-level. Everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Man Who Fell to Earth, 1984, Blade Runner, War of the Worlds, Things to Come to Pitch Black (which has an especial place in my heart). My appreciation of science fiction is admittedly limited to the medium of film; I have a mental blockage when it comes to reading novels- they have a tendency to be densely descriptive and send my tiny mind into overload. Also I'm lazy and I prefer someone to visualise stuff for me.

Continuing my trepidous foray into manga world, I came across Doll by Mitsukazu Mihara. Amongst the blurb it contained the magic words 'what it means to be human', which as any self-respecting science fiction type knows is the central question-cum-theme of the genre. The premise is similar to that of Will Smith's I, Robot (with it's loose rendering of Asmiov's three laws); it's set in a future where robotic humanoid 'dolls' are part of everyday exsitence, fulfilling roles from hired help to family member to inevitable sex tool. The book consists of 6 short stories about human/doll interaction and realtionships, and the impact they have on people- even those who don't possess dolls.

The art is good and the stories have a surprising depth to them, considering the restraints of style and length. Doll is more a coomentary on human nature than a prediction of how machines will feature in our lives. My favourite is about a woman who becomes pregnant after a rape and decides to abort the baby. Flash forward 20 years and she is a domineering sort, who has accquired a doll, but forbids her from socialising with other people, allowing her only to go out to perfom chores and insisting she act and behave in certain ways. It turns out the doll isn't a doll after all, but actually her human daughter, who she prefers to act like a doll in order to safe-guard her against the evils of the world.
I don't think I'm really doing justice to it, so I'll  just say it's the first manga book I bought and then instantly bought the second volume, which was just as good. It's published by the defunct Tokyopop, and there are 6 volumes in total. The first is available on Amazon for a penny plus postage.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Fish Police: Hairballs review

Ok, so I feel absolutely terrible. A while back I was reading the Forbidden Planet Blog and came across Richard's (who I think I've mentioned is my favourite contributor over there) write up of a comic called The Fish Police. Having read the book when he was younger, he found it didn't quite measure up to his memories of it. So he  put out an offer-  he would post out the book to anyone who would like to read it- with fresh eyes- in exchange for a couple of paragraphs of their thoughts. So of course I offered- free book, animals, fish, criminal elements, humour- it all sounded interesting.

However, in between Ramadhan, the new job and other such minutae, it's taken me some time to assemble and put down said thoughts, so I'd like to sincerely apologise to Richard for that. But here goes-

For me, a comic is more about art than writing- it's primarily a visual medium. I don't mean at all that the writing isn't important, just that I can plough through a comic with poor writing, but not one with poor art. And that's purely subjective. It did, however, cause a problem with the Fish Police. With anthropmorphic art, there's usually two ways to go- you can give animals humanistic limbs and have them walk upright, a la Blacksad, or you leave them au naturel. In the Fish Police it's an awkward combination of the two, with the fish hobbling upright on their tils looking unbalanced and strange. Gill's top half looks too big for his lower half to support, and at times the bottom half appears curiously static and unmoving, as if it's detached from the rest of him:

It just looks spacially wrong. It doesn't help that they've been given what only appear to be, um, defined buttocks. I'm sure fish have muscles in their tails, but the prominent incorporation of a primate feature only serves to highlight the unsubstantial and preacriously balanced tail it tapers down into.

Fish buttocks: not something you see everyday.

Which brings me to the octopus. Why, if the fish are upright, is the octopus lying flat? Yes, it's an invertebrate, but why not have him floating, he is underwater after all. There are ways in which to use an animal's associated characteristics and representaions-for example, in Blacksad, a fox is a young journalist who acts as an informant, a bespectacled Alasation is the chief of police-small touches which help to elevate the narrative. It's possible that his horizantal-ness is an attempt to characterise him as a slimy, ink-exuding, mincing type, but the writing isn't strong enough to support such assumptions. It's strange that nothing is made of the underwater setting- you've got the whole wonder of the ocean world to subvert to your will, but it's just pure background here.

The story sounds quite promising. Gill is a detective with the fish police, investigating a drugs case in which he has a particular interest as he seems to be getting repressed flashbacks from a time when he used to walk on two legs. He believes the drug may be the catalyst that triggers the transformation from man to fish and vice versa. Accepted it's a first volume, but for the story to have been involving, there would have to be more focus on the apsect that is most interesting and sets it apart- the whole man/fish past life transformation. Instead you get a few panels in which Gill mentions possibly having a cat (the horror!) etc, and that's it.  The rest is just Gill attempting to get to the elsuive drugs baron and his dodgy organsiation whilst going through every hammy cop/baddies/spy cliche. And not in a so-bad-it's good way. There's nothing wrong with genre conventions, but if they're not done well, or given an added dimension, the story is going to fall flat.

I think it's obvious The Fish Police hasn't aged well- it came out in 1987, the year I was born(!) - and it shows. The humor and the charcterisation is dated and it suffers in comparision to newer comics which feature animal detectives- Beasts of Burden, Blacksad and Good Dog, Bad Dog which is more of it's vein. I feel a tiny bit bad for decimating a childhood favorite of Richard's, so all I can say is, read Dave Shelton's Good Dog, Bad Dog, Richard, it should make you feel warm and fuzzy again!

Fish with legs! From Invincible

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Hey, hey, look what I got!

I have finally managed to get the complete run (I think) of Gotham Central in hardback; the second one, Jokers and Madmen, is a bitch to get hold of. It gives me a tiny thrill every time I walk past the bookshelf and see them on there (don't look at me like that- I'm starved and working endless late nights). I stocked up like crazy on comics for Ramadhan to while away the hours, so I've only read the first volume so far and it was very, very good. Next up on the hardback list- the complete Freakangels. Warren Ellis has just this very week wrapped it all up and it's available in it's totality FREE online, but it's too good not to own.

Two books I've been meaning to buy- Groom Lake by Ben Templesmith- the cover of which the Pegg/Frost movie Paul seems to have taken it's inspiration from, and Beast by Marian Churchland. Marian  has illustrated for Elephantmen, which is recommendation enough for me. Also I do love my creature stories, even if they're figurative.