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2011-02-21 17:49


It has been, which is to say, a grueling few weeks. (Flu, teething, ear-infections, throat infections. All treated with the Dutch cure-all that is paracetemol, which does not in fact actually cure anything but what can you do?)

Still, let's review Stuff instead of dwelling on all that.

1. Essential Super-Villains Team-Up (volume 1).

There are great thing about Silver Age (the 60s and 70s) Marvel comics: the art is often fantastic to look at, and the visual story-telling is also routinely brilliant in its deployment of "camera" angles and composition. The dialogue mines a rich seam of cod-Shakespearean over-wrought, and with Dr Doom and Namor, the "avenging son" of comatose Atlantis as the stars this is particularly apt.

But read in batches, the relentlessly high-octane plotting palls pretty quickly. It's all a bit one-paced, and that pace is frantic bordering on hysterical. And the celebrated Marvel Universe, in which stories cross over individual comic titles with abandon, means that you are forever being brought up to date with editors notes, and that you're never quite sure who the Avengers currently are or why.

And everything always gets settled by muscular gentlemen in tight clothes punching each other, which can get pretty stale after a while. A particular low point is when arch-villain Dr Doom finally succeeds in Taking Over The World with a hypnotic gas and immediately decides he is bored and duly frees Magneto to counter him, with inevitable success.

2. Blake and Mortimer La Marque jaune.

(We actually read the Dutch version, Het gele teken, but who reads Dutch?)

This is actually much more to our taste: the album (which has been in print for decades, and is by no means a collectors' item) takes about 70 pages to tell a single self-contained story, and the story that it tells is just the sort of Science Villain pulp we love the best. There is no rush to unveil the mystery, and the ligne claire artwork is spectacular with outdoor backgrounds, impeccable when it comes to characterisation and story-telling, and tolerable even in long stretches of expository indoors.

The lettering is a bit on the small side for our middle-aged eyes, but overall this is an immediate addition to our private canon of Franco-Belgian comics. (For the record we never saw any point to Tintin, so this is comfortably our favourite adventure-oriented title to date.)

3. Por Dios magazine

(Yes, more comics.) A newcomer to the Dutch magazine market, this specialises in reprinting complete stories and is therefore vastly preferable to sister-publication Eppo (which has recently been revived and performs an admirable role in commissioning and serialising new work; it's just annoying to read a fortnightly anthology of work we mostly don't really like very much.)

We read one with Agent 327, who is an uneasily mix of spoof and serious James Bond, and a rather better one of the first outing of De Partners, which at least has the decency to play it straight.

The rest of the leisure time we spend indulging our sick children's obsession with Iron Maiden; we have now broken down and ordered a few more albums from their glory days so that we can at least have a change once in a while. It is generally good stuff, but for us it is always going to sound a bit like paracetemol.

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