Wednesday, March 17, 2010



The Filth by Grant Morrison and Chris Weston (2002-2003): It's helpful to know that 'the Filth' is British slang for 'the police.' Morrison and Weston present a world in which a secret police force called The Hand works to preserve Status: Q, the normative state of affairs in which humanity remains blissfully unaware of all the totally fucked up shit going on under their noses, shit like flocks of flying, giant sperm laying waste to Los Angeles, or a potential nanomachine plague escaping from a tiny simulacrum of Earth. Greg Feely is a normal, somewhat perverted fellow who finds out he's really super-duper Hand operative Ned Slade. Or maybe he isn't. Or maybe he is and isn't. And what the hell is up with that foul-mouthed, former Soviet super-assassin talking chimp? That guy is a serious dick. A lot of things ride on whether or not Slade/Feely can save his ailing, 15-year-old cat, Tony. Highly recommended.

The Invisibles Volume 1: Say You Want a Revolution by Grant Morrison, Steve Yeowell and Jill Thompson (1994-95): As the jacket blurb says, all the conspiracy theories are real. Or at least most of them. It's 1995. The Invisibles are anarchist freedom fighters deployed in five-person cells across the planet. The Outer Church is the real and horrible power behind all authority on Earth. The Invisibles cell we follow throughout this series is down to four members as we begin the narrative -- King Mob, Lord Fanny, Boy and Ragged Robin. They're searching for the one man who may be the next Buddha, Dane MacGowan, a punk Liverpudlian teenager with a foul mouth and a hatred for authority. He needs to join the Invisibles so the world doesn't simply end with the Mayan calendar in December 2012. If Philip K. Dick had written X-rated superhero comics, this might be the result. Special guest appearances by the Marquis de Sade, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, and Percy Shelley. Highly recommended.

The Invisibles Volume 2: Apocalipstick by Grant Morrison, Jill Thompson and various (1995): Dane MacGowan's off wandering around London and then Liverpool, traumatized by killing a human soldier working for the secret rulers of the world who was about to take him into custody. MacGowan will not kill again, making him somewhat unique in the action-messiah department. But Sir Myles and the Archons have managed to capture Brazilian transvestite sorcerer Lord Fanny and Invisibles leader King Mob. Can Boy and Ragged Robin convince Dane to return and help them save Mob and Fanny? Highly recommended.

The Invisibles Volume 3: Entropy in the UK by Grant Morrison, Phil Jiminez and various (1996): The war between the Outer Church and the Invisible College continues, all in bright colours. Standalone side-stories add to our understanding of the conflict. The Moon Child waits, Great Britain's secret king, subsisting on human bodies, quite possibly the real Prince Charles. "It's all a game. Remember." Mysterious satellite Barbelith waits on the far side of the Moon. Time to get out of Great Britain until the heat dies down. Highly recommended.

The Invisibles Volume 4: Bloody Hell in America by Grant Morrison, Phil Jiminez and various (1996): In a secret underground base in America, the Roswell creature and a cure for AIDS are hidden. Secret trains carrying political prisoners arrive, departing empty. The Invisibles need to get into the base. Is the whole thing a trap? Does it matter? Highly recommended.

You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!: More Comics of Fletcher Hanks edited by Paul Karasik (1942-43; collected 2009): For about 18 months in the early 1940's, Fletcher Hanks was the weirdest comic-book writer/artist alive. He was also a 50ish alcoholic who had abandoned his wife and children in the 1930's, good for them given that he was also physically abusive. This second collection of Hanks' work finishes (I think) Fantagraphic Books' reprinting of all of Hanks' work in all its ragged, almost dadaesque glory. Hanks' two weirdest superhero creations, Fantomah of the Jungle and Stardust the Space Wizard, are here, as are a bizarre assortment of evil gorillas, space pirates, living alien skeletons and giant boa constrictors. Highly recommended.


Second Variety and Other Stories by Philip K. Dick (1953-54; collected 2002): At this point, critical opinion seems to place Philip K. Dick at the forefront of American science-fiction writers of the 20th century. He's also worked his way into the mainstream canon both here and abroad, while also becoming one of the most revered 'cult' writers in history. Pretty good for a guy who struggled to make ends meet throughout his writing career, and who's been dead for nearly 30 years.

Even early in his career -- as are the short stories in this collection -- imaginative sparks came flying off Dick and his work. He was always obsessed with two fundamental questions -- what makes a human being? and what is reality? -- as can be seen here. There are a few duds sprinkled throughout this collection, which collects about 20 stories written over about 14 months (!), but there are also dazzling mindbenders in the mighty Dick tradition. Those include "The Chromium Fence", in which American society has divided into factions obsessed with body odor and digestive cleanliness; the title story, a grim war tale adapted into the so-so Peter Weller movie Screamers; and "The Last of the Masters", an odd meditation on government and anarchists. Dick also found time to write what must be the first-ever parody of Scientology. Highest recommendation.

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