The Comic Book Club 1st Anniversary Limited Special Exclusive Variant Non-Slabbed Edition

A year ago today, I got together with a small bunch of friends who I knew had a passion for comics. I had an idea that if my wife was reading a book a month from her book club, I could do the same with a Comic Book Club.

Meeting up

The gatherings have been a tremendous success. We have had such a good time not just discussing the books we’ve picked but on comic book topics in general. So much so I’ve even started up a Slack team where we also discuss comics with more of our chums who live further afield.

Slack has given us a chance to chat about things like lamenting DC’s many, many failings or the latest controversies in the 4 weeks in between our meetups (by which time we’d normally forget to bring it up), and to hear more opinions (and jokes) from some very funny people

Several bowls full of chips with our drinks have also added to the pleasantness when we do meet IRL. We’ve turned into typical village life old men. Always going to our favourite pub, sitting in our favourite spot and always eating our favourite grub.

Meetup

“I absolutely hate it”

But the real fun is when we each have our say on the book one of us has picked for that month to read. We either gush over a brilliant choice or absolutely hate it while enjoying being able to express our views.

Choosing a book though can be slightly wrought with anxiety. For me it is at least. My club mates are clearly people of good tastes (musically less so maybe) with brilliant shortlists kept ready to pluck a great book from. I feel a pressure to pick a decent book and I am terrible at it. It doesn’t help that I am not as knowledgable with the comic book scene as the others. There was a time I was deep in it, when I worked in a comic book shop for my Saturday job as a teenager. But nowadays I avoid reading up on comics as it is full of spoilers or details of books I don’t want to read. Or worse: too many that I want to waste money on.

There’s more to life than Batman!

Otherwise though I am really lucky with this small group as we could easily have ended up all having terrible book choices as I do. And that would render the club slightly pointless in terms of reading. I can make my bad decisions on my own after all. What’s really great is that the club has opened me up to a whole world of books that aren’t just Batman or X-Men. These have been books that would not have been purchases I would have made otherwise. And though there have been some I have not enjoyed, the ones I did have been revelations to me.

The Metabarons is a clear example.

The Metabarons

Precious time

What started out as a slight excuse to buy myself a graphic novel a month has become the one point in my (quite barren) social calendar that I look forward to the most. Dan, Tom and Jake are great company and I am really pleased at how well this little idea I had has turned out.

Long may it continue.

Sing No Evil by JP Ahonen & KP Alare

With a face melting power chord, our first year of comicbooks is wrapped up by Sing No Evil (or Perkeros to give its original name), a Finnish OGN by creators JP Ahonen & KP Alare. This story of a metal group’s attempt to make it in a battle-of-the-bands scenario divided our members once more and showed how our personal experiences and tastes have a significant impact on what we like to read.

I discovered Ahonen during Inktober (the annual October drawing challenge begun a few years ago by Jake Parker). He had drawn chibi Metalhead comic strips and I loved them so much I had to see what else he had done. When I realised he had a wealth of comic art under his belt I immediately ordered the only one in the English language and it then waited over half a year for my next turn at picking.

sketch1 sketch2

The book begins with a terrific gig scene, an explosion of metal you can feel through the pages. Dan was transfixed and transported- like a mad teeth-gritted five-day speed fix, sweating in the moshpit of a Birmingham club. He said to him the book was everything Hip-Hop Family tree had been to Jake.

Sadly, the rest of us felt spoilt by the opening. Jake thought the band Perkeros were likely crap musicians and had no charm. The main storyline was over-familiar and he said he would have preferred it if the book had no words at all.

I would almost agree with that myself; Ahonen’s art was the main draw for me, I think he is a world-class talent. Each of the characters are unique and the world is expertly realised; albeit it’s a world where we have a bear and a badger as drummers. We all would have loved to see more animals! Bear was a standout character, being not anthropomorphised as such but simply a bear with a desire to rock out! We also liked Lily (who was handled better than the one-dimensional girlfriend), but the guru Kervinen wasn’t as profound as he thought he was, he was just annoying. New addition to the band Aydin was a very cool character, he quips at one point “you see worse on Kebab lines at 4am”.

words

The colours throughout are predominantly warm brown hues with accents of green (barring one tiny section towards the end). I liked the palette but Kelvin found it a dirge consistent with his opinion of the book as a whole. He felt he was “doing a Dan” by having an extremely negative reaction to the book (HATED IT!). He blamed it on his own youth as a raver not a goth and found the story and music pretentious. He wasn’t the only one to draw comparisons to Scott Pilgrim, another comic that mixes the story of a band with coming of age/self awareness and fantasy elements. But Kelvin said he was always able to forgive the Pilgrim character for his dickisness whereas Perkeros’ Aksel’s own self-loathing and destructive tendencies just painted him as an irredeemable twat.

bear

The book does feature some fantasy elements throughout and significantly changes gear in the last chapter, however I felt it did not earn the change in tone; that the build-up had been too thinly seeded. I understand the desire to shock and surprise but it just didn’t quite sit right for me. That said, the action itself was handled masterfully with wonderful touches like a pizza cutter as a melee weapon and some amazingly well choreographed punches. With all of Kelvin’s complaining, he had to give it up to Ahonen for the accuracy seen in the fight. Blocks, bodyslams and stabs. But then it all fizzles out again.

Overall, I feel this is a great looking little book, let down by a tired concept that then isn’t lifted enough by its twist. However, I am certainly going to look out for whatever the authors do next.

:star::star::star:

Tom


:star::star::star::star::star:

I acknowledge its flaws but it really hit home for me

@dandineen


:star::star::star:

Great gigs, awful title. It was a Super-Cliché

@tygertale


:star:

It is my anathema. Neughhhhh! Bored.

@chao_xian

Patience by Daniel Clowes

A cosmic timewarp deathtrap to the primordial infinite of everlasting love.

This was Tom’s first taste of Daniel Clowes, and he loved it. He had no idea what to expect before reading, possibly a ‘slice of life’ thing, like Ghost World. What he got as he sat reading it in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 was a time travel murder mystery into the heart of darkness.

The surroundings of Terminal 3 added to the experience - being in a no-man’s land environment of an airport waiting room enhanced the feeling of dislocation experienced by the main character as he ricochets through time in an attempt to prevent the murder of his pregnant girlfriend Patience.

Tom sped through this book, admiring the ‘gorgeous colour pallette’ as he went before being taken aback by the shock ending.

He thought it was the best written story he had read this year and gave it the full five stars. Tom says he will definitely be reading more Clowes. I recommend he tries kinky murder mystery David Boring, or if feeling brave, the fully twisted Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron.

Kelvin was immediately excited that the Club was reading something brand new this month. Having read some of Clowes’ earlier books he was familiar with the representation of a very particular urban American milieu. So he wasn’t really expecting a bleak sci-fi comic.

He too enjoyed the colour, but it was Jack’s misanthropy that really worked for him - ‘I can relate to him,’ he said big laugh *. Kelv thought the theme of police injustice caught the zeitgeist, with Tom adding that he thought one of the villains was rather Trump like. I don’t know if these are deliberately drawn on recent events, but it’s clear that Clowes’ cultural radar is as well tuned as ever.

Having read (and enjoyed) Dan’s pick last month, the dense, epic Metabarons, Kelvin was relieved by the relative speed with which he read Patience. He rated it four stars. Brevity was a blessing for Dan too, not because he found it gripping but because he ‘hated every bit with a passion.’

By the time Dan had reached the opening spread he was suffering from ‘font trauma’, counting nearly ten different offending typefaces. He found the art malformed, misshapen and ugly. The colour palette of clashing pinks, reds, yellows and oranges he thought gaudy.

Worse was the storytelling. While the rest of us had been carried away by the narrative, Dan found it static, criticising the pacing as well as Clowes’ attitude and approach to the story. Where we had been surprised by the ending, Dan had spotted the murderer from their first appearance. Not that he cared - he was just glad it was over! Zero stars. Another winner for Dan!

Which left me, floating somewhere in the middle. I’ve read pretty much everything Clowes has written - he was the one author I continued to read after giving up on comics in the mid 90s. We debated whether Clowes was one of the ‘masters’ of the form (to rank alongside the likes of Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and R. Crumb. I think he is - he has a distinct aesthetic that has been widely imitated, and every one of his books is written in an instantly recognisable voice.

However I didn’t think Patience was up there with his best. Unlike Kelvin I wasn’t surprised to see him trying sci-fi as he’d done this brilliantly in 2011’s Death Ray. Like that book this is ohsobleak, and at times the misanthropy on display was a little too much, even for me.

Although I didn’t agree with Dan’s assessment of the art, it’s not as attractive as some of his other books. I loved the gaudy colours, but found the drawing style a little too loose, compared to the exquisite draughtsmanship of a book like David Boring.

I struggled to rate this one, but on the night chose to rank it alongside his other work, settling on three stars. That Patience elicited so many different reactions, from extreme love to total hatred and shades inbetween, I would have to conclude that Clowes has actually achieved something really great here. So sod it, I’m going to bump my rating up to a four.

Jake Hayes


The Metabarons

The Metabarons is something of an enigma. Spinning out a single character from one of the greatest works of comic fiction, The Incal, and creating an epic story spanning 100s of years seems like a risky thing to do.

Luckily the author of The Metabarons (and of The Incal), Alexander Jodorowsky, is nuts enough to give it all a real bash. With able assistance on art duties from Argentinian artist Juan Giménez, the duo have crafted a bizarre, sprawling epic that’s part Greek tragedy, part Dune, part Heavy Metal magazine and 100% operatic space weirdness.

Heads up kid!

Inspiration

Once again my Comic Book Club choice was inspired by ‘something I read on Twitter’, this time from the Batman screenwriter David Goyer. Can I find that tweet? Can I b*****ks. But it did happen. Honest.

Anyway, Mr Goyer has written a gushing introduction to The Metabarons hardback volume which should give you an idea of why I thought this might be interesting:

The Metabarons is truly passion writ large… and is, to my mind, the greatest work of graphic fiction ever produced – David Goyer

Wow.

Er, that might be pushing it a bit far Dave. But we’ll take a look and get back to you.

Note: Although we were supposed to be reviewing just the 1st volume of The Metabarons all four of us opted to purchase the hardback Humanoids edition containing all 8 volumes (and more). The book itself is lush and everyone’s glad they opted to go ‘real life’ over the cheaper digital editions.

It’s a tragedy

I opened with a broad comment about how much the Metabarons wanted to reference Greek tragedies. I mentioned that the tome itself felt epic (in length and duration) to which Jake pointed out that most Greek tragedies are pretty short in page length. Damn your classical training Jake :-)

As expected, it was pretty pervy and explored some rather complex, challenging themes over its 500 or so pages.

The bit where the first Metabaron prepares for take-off by plugging his protonic willy into the dashboard… – Dan

Jodorowsky is not afraid to casually toss in rape, incest, child-dismemberment, casual planetary genocide and torture with his already heady mix of ham-fisted political and social allegories and swashbuckling sci-fi clichés. His cohort Giménez is more than happy to render it all in highly-detailed painted art.

All in all it felt like a book that was squarely pitched at overly-hormonal 14yr old boys.

To be honest I don’t think Jodorowsky was aiming that low. I think he thought he was writing a literary masterpiece” – Jake

Princess Dona Vicenta

Subjective objectification

Kelv felt that the treatment of women throughout was very unpleasant, with them often reduced to minimally-clad ciphers or objects to be disfigured, remodelled or just used to further the story and the Metabaron bloodline. However, despite all our objections to the grating sexism on display most of us were rather taken with the depth of the story itself, drawn in to an epic narrative about the ongoing lineage of the Metabarons.

It’s so bad it is really quite good – Kelvin

Tom and Jake felt that the story might well have felt a bit more… epic had we read it in its original form (8 volumes released over the course of 12 or so years). Things do get a bit confusing and it’s easy to lose track of motives, origins and relationships as Jodorowsky merrily smushes characters together or erases them on a whim.

Although Jake wasn’t completely sold on the story, his interest in the universe and lore surrounding the Metabarons was piqued enough to read The Incal, which features the first appearance of the Metabaron character.

Othon, the first Metabaron, fights off space pirates

You write it, I’ll paint it

The art came in for some high praise across the board, with Tom identifying a very modern cinematic teal and orange palette. Giménez does a fine job throughout and the book looks gorgeous although the art does swerve into 80s Metal Hurlant territory with busty space-wenches and phallic spaceships aplenty.

There’s no shying away from depictions of some genuinely shocking imagery including the decapitation of an infant via psychic beam.

Heads up kid!

I struggled to put into words exactly how I felt about the event above. The best summary I’ve found so far was by Konstantine Paradias on his Shapescapes blog. I’ve made some small edits to the orginal quote to avoid spoilers:

I mean, dude, there’s comic book logic and there’s Metabarons logic. Whereas Marvel and DC have repeatedly killed off and brought heroes back in increasingly strange ways, Jodorowsky just shrugged and typed: baby’s head explodes, mad witch mama <redacted> onto <redacted>. Problem solved! – Konstantine Paradias

In summary

I’m slightly ashamed to admit that the 14yr old boy in me loved it, whereas the grown up me felt a bit sad and seedy.

I’m glad to dip my toe into this kind of stuff – Tom

Paleo-Christ! It’s the scores!


:star::star::star::star:

@dandineen


:star::star::star::star:

@chao_xian


:star::star::star:

@tygertale


:star::star::star::star::star:

@tomwe


So what now?

Eager for more paleo-insanity? Intrigued by techno-techno and concrete seagulls? There’s only one place you can go after The Metabarons and that, ironically, is back to the beginning.

The Incal

Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham

Sounds like a delicious combination does it not? A dark and gothic noir Batman in a loveletter to Lovecraft. And those Mike Mignola covers are enticing!

Well what a let down Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham is.

I was fairly ambivalent to the writing’s mediocrity, but the artwork is infuriating. Well I was furious because I could probably render faces better than this book’s depictions, yet these professionals were paid to draw the hallowed Batman.

Not the face!

Bad face

I mean look at this monstrosity. That’s not a Lovecraftian homage, that’s meant to be Bruce Wayne.

Oliver

Is this a homage to Lovecraft or the Bayeux Tapestry?


:star:

A heartbreaking disappointment. It made me sad.

@chao_xian


I just couldn’t get past how bad the artwork was and I’d given up reading it after a few pages. I had been so excited when the book arrived in the post and couldn’t wait to read another Batman book. The reviews for it were ok and nothing hinted at this being a disastrous pick. I had to force myself to finish reading it.

Although I don’t hate the book, I don’t like it in the slightest bit.

Who’re you calling ugly?

Tom didn’t hate it either but liked it far more than I did. He described it as, rather charitably in my opinion, “nicely ugly”. I don’t know if he meant the faces.

He noted that Ra’s Al Ghul’s portrayal as a bearded, ancient immortal attempting to awaken otherworldy monsters to bring about the destruction of the world was a carbon copy of Grigori Rasputin in volume 1 of Hellboy.

He thought it interesting but not a classic and felt that Cthulhu has been done to death now. Maybe back in 2000 it was a fresher theme.


:star::star::star:

I like the ugliness.

@tomwe


Laugh out loud

Dan loves a bit of Lovecraft and also felt a bit let down. He thinks that they didn’t have the courage to go full Lovecraftian. Where were the names of Lovecraft’s own monsters? It’s out of copyright surely? And he also thinks that this approach of making a thing with a specific treatment has been done better in Hellboy and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Dan bought Gotham By Gaslight the day it came out and although imperfect it’s a damn sight better than this.

Gotham By Gaslight

Dan liked the backstory of Gotham but felt that the creators realised too late that it’s far more interesting. Maybe this and Thomas Wayne’s history having an impact in modern Gotham inspired Scott Snyder today on his seminal Batman run?

He also enjoyed the interesting take on Harvey Dent where you felt rather sorry for his plight. He is cursed by what appears to be Poison Ivy. Half of his body explodes into a mutated grotesque mass. The acid in the face thing is a bit hard to swallow after all. He never got to be the villain that he’s meant to be.

Harvey

For me the tragedy and empathy is brief and I’m used to seeing the best depiction of Harvey through Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s version in The Animated Series. They were the first to make you sympathise with the character, although they hinted that the destructive monster was always within him. A theme that Frank Miller first introduced in The Dark Knight Returns when Harvey is finally “cured”.

Dan also made clear that he hates Jack Kirby’s demon Etrigan. He hates the yellow face and the pixie boots.

Yellow faced demon

When Dan finally got round to critiquing it, he said “the art is complete dick”. His “favourite” panel was the lack of depth or perspective in the pic of the policeman stood behind Gordon.

Bad policeman

“Why didn’t they get slapped and told to redraw?” Why indeed Dan. Why indeed.


:star:

The Mignola covers are lovely, the interior art is guff. I found it laughable. The star is for Harvey Dent.

@dandineen


I wish I had a wine cellar

Jake was also unimpressed. He did however pick out a few gems such as his favourite representation of Oracle.

Oracle

She’s a far cry from the feisty red head on a kitch motorbike.

He liked the restaging of the Wayne murders and the use of the belfry instead of the cave as Batman’s lair. With regards to the cave Jake thought it humourous when Bruce Wayne scolds Alfred: “Don’t call it a wine cellar!”

Jake normally enjoys Elseworlds stories. He’d brought along copies of Gotham By Gaslight and Batman Year 100 (which I wish I’d picked instead but Jake and Tom have read it). He likes how characters are deployed into a story from something else. But he also thought the faces were awful, as he’d said “it’s great when you can’t see the faces”.

Jake enjoyed that the Robins were killed off. Dan also made a particular comment about how they were indistinguishable from each other and lacked any stature. We all thought they were completely throwaway.

Lovecraftian

The story was too weak to succeed as a Lovecraftian tale. It could’ve done with more body horror (like Harvey). The worst thing for Jake was Bruce’s character. The creators had removed his origin - his essence - but replaced it with nothing. He was completely cardboard. What had Bruce Wayne been doing on a boat for 20 years???


:star::star:

Lovecraft has to be good to work. This is far from well written.

@tygertale


Something else

Well we pretty clearly didn’t like this much. I want to make up for this by buying myself Paul Pope’s Batman Year 100 and forget about The Doom That Came To Gotham. But before we end here’s a reminder of what could have been…

Why not this?