I used to love comics. As mentioned in my previous post on the subject, I started out with Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’ series and have been a dabbler in the genre ever since. But a strange thing happened around five years ago. I fell out of love with comics, and graphic novels, and visual storytelling in general. It wasn’t a matter of snobbery, or ‘outgrowing’ the form – I suppose it was more that I’d forgotten how to enjoy comics.
I credit ‘Saga’ with resurrecting my love for the genre. I think I’ve sung Saga’s praises before, and having just finished vol. 4 my opinion is no different – Saga is an amazing comic. The artwork, the characters, the story – everything is stunning, and original, and the humour is underpinned by a sense of urgency as you realise the story is being told in retrospect. What you’re seeing has already unfolded. And in some ways you’re reading through your fingers, especially in the latest volume as Alana and Marko’s beautifully developed and completely believable relationship starts to crack. They’re the star-crossed lovers of lore, and that kind of thing can quickly grow tiresome and even cheesy, handled badly, but that’s not the case here. You so badly want them to make it, even though deep down, you know that can’t possibly be so.
Also, there’s Lying Cat:
(You know a comic is good when the character who starts off ostensibly as the attack dog of the Big Bad ends up tugging at your heartstrings just as much as the heroes do – moral ambiguity abounds.)
In my quest to resurrect my love of comics, I’ve been revisiting Hellblazer – aka ‘the comic with John Constantine in it’.
The thing with Hellblazer is that it could very easily read as a relic – there’s a very real and very vivid undercurrent of 80’s Britain beneath everything, with references to Thatcher and fascism and AIDs, and the scariest thing of all is how horribly relevant all of this still is. The nouns might have changed but the themes are still present. Best of all, to me, is the definite Britishness of it all: it brings an otherwise fantastical story right back down to earth, grounding it in a reality that I still recognise. And so when Constantine – chain-smoking, trenchcoat-clad antihero – defeats a chimera-like monster born of a group of football hooligans by pointing out that half of them support Chelsea and half of them support Arsenal, I find myself sniggering in appreciation. I’m intrigued to catch up with the series and see how it’s evolved to fit ‘modern’ times. I suspect not a great deal will have changed.
From the tried and tested to the new and bizarre, then, and here I am in 2015 finding myself growing emotionally attached to a group of sentient alien robots. Sentient alien robots who transform. I hesitate to use the ‘t’ word because of the association with the utter abominations that are the Michael Bay Transformers films (my husband’s words, not mine. He’s rather attached to his sentient robots.) I myself have never been especially interested in Transformers beyond watching the show as a kid in the 80’s, and, for a brief stint, wishing I was Optimus Prime. I also wished I was Tina Teaspoon from Button Moon. Don’t judge me.
What does this have to do with comics? Well, this
‘More Than Meets The Eye’ is sort of a riff on the standard, slightly po-faced Transformers franchise. I can only describe it as Red Dwarf meets Firefly with a dash of Monty Python, only with sentient robots. In space. Trust me, I didn’t get it either until, after the joint insistence of my husband and a friend similarly enamoured with the series, I picked up the first volume.What MTMTE does right is that it doesn’t treat the robots as robots. What I mean by this is that, aside from the obvious biological references to gears and sparks and all the rest, the characters are completely human. They have distinct personalities, hopes and dreams and goals, and everything else you’d expect to see were they made of flesh and blood. And the comics are so adept at making you forget they’re robots – or perhaps, more accurately, making you not care that they’re robots – that before you know it you’re completely emotionally invested in everything. Laughing at the jokes, being fascinated by the ins and outs of politics and religion (the worldbuilding is superb) and, as is typical for me, falling utterly in love with a character who ultimately suffers a devastating fate. My new years’ resolution is to stop having favourite characters. They always seem to go the way of George R R Martin: