Wednesday, 22 March 2017

"Serial Killer" by Pat Mills & Kevin O'Neil



For anyone who recognizes the names at the top of the page, it wouldn't be unusual to expect this to be a review of a graphic novel of some kind, known as they are in the comics community as a first class writer and artist respectively. I picked this up at 2000AD's 40th birthday celebration, and it's quite obviously a bit of a labour of love for the veteran creators.

The story is set in the seedy world of 1970s comic publishing. Not the merry Marvel bullpen or anything like that, but instead the British humour machines that would crank out the likes of Buster, Whizzer & Chips and The Beano. Mills himself was a big cog in the UK comics machines, from kids comics to girls comics to war comics and beyond, so is well placed to satirize the industry.

Our hero, if he can be called that, is Dave. He works on a kids comic and hates every minute, loathing the stupid little imbeciles who get pleasure out of what he sees as a rubbish, unfunny comic. The most popular strip is the 'Caning Commando', a bizarre wartime tale that sees a headmaster behind enemy lines beating the Hun on the bum, basically. It's quite mental, and great fun to read Mill's episode descriptions. the strip is scripted by a bumbling old fool known as 'The Major', and Dave doctors those scripts so that they contain plenty of ways for kids to kill themselves, such as swimming at night in a disused quarry, making a pipe bomb or trying to breathe through a plughole to stop from drowning in a bath.

So we have Dave trying to kill kids from a distance, which is all well and good (and funny), plus his smarmy colleague Greg, a handsome Yin to Dave's hopeless Yang, and their shared love interest Joy, a rather strict girls comic editor. Add to this Dave's sexual interest in fur and the fact his dead mum wants her to solve her murder and you have a very bizarre story indeed.

What you should know about 'Serial Killer' is that it's funny. Many I time I found myself sniggering at the ridiculous characters, occasionally at the real life anecdotes such as the writer who claimed to make 'More money than the Prime Minister', such was his prolific output (names are obviously changed to protect the talentless). Dave works for a Fleetway type company, all the time envying the superior output of Angus, Angus & Angus, themselves a parody of DC Thompson, the legendarily miserly company behind The Beano and The Dandy. Aficionados of British comics will find much to love here, but the knowledge of such things is not essential to enjoyment of the tale told.

'Serial Killer' is the first in a series (with a cliffhanger finale), and after finishing it I hope Mills and O'Neil get a wriggle on with the next one, as it's tremendous fun to read. The whole thing comes across as similar in feel to Robert Rankin's 'Brentford Trilogy', set in an all to real 70s London, populated by characters who are all quite mad in their own way. If you have an interest in comics, laughing or having sex with a fur coat, this is the book for you, you dirty, dirty sod.

Millsverse Homepage (buy the book here)





Tuesday, 7 March 2017

LOGAN - Film Review




Saying that this film has been highly anticipated is certainly an understatement, but if I'm honest all superhero films are highly anticipated. It doesn't change the fact that whilst Marvel continue to pump out quality films everyone else is still lagging behind, and fingers have been desperately crossed that this would be the film to finally do cinematic justice to the character of Wolverine.

When the bods behind 'Logan' started going on about being inspired by Mark Millar's superb 'Old man Logan' story, my own ears pricked up, but cynicism stopped any real excitement because that particular story would be a nightmare to bring to the screen, not least because of various character copyright issues. Sure enough, all that is left is the fact that Logan is an Old Man, and that's it. Still, at least it's a try at something different, so kudos for that.



The film is set about 13 years in the future, although there's nothing to show that in the technology, it's more a way of distancing it from other films. Logan himself seems to have given up, working as a limo driver and looking worn down by the years and the asshole customers he has to ferry round. the adamantium that covers his bones has been slowly poisoning him over time, and his healing factor isn't what it used to be. This is a Wolverine with scars both mental and physical, one of the last mutants left alive as none have been born for thirty years. With the help of the mutant Caliban (Steven Merchant) he looks after an ailing Charles Xavier (now in his 90s) and dreams of living on a boat away from everything.


The plot revolves around :Laura (Dafne Keen - excellent), a young girl who rivals Wolverine for surly attitude, pointy claws and murdering abilities. It's a simple 'take the girl on a long but important trip' type of plot, with chasing bad guys to avoid/kill and new people to interact with along the way. So far, so standard, but 'Logan' isn't the film that it could have easily been, instead it's so much better.


Writer/Director James Mangold has really gone for it here, defying certain film conventions and reveling in several scenes of extreme stabby violence that finally shows audiences just how dangerous a man with metal coated claws can really be, even going so far as to introduce the comics legendary Berzerker Rage at one point. He's not afraid to have bad things happen to good characters, or even to allow mortal coils to be shuffled off, reflecting the real violence that the film's world is smothered in.


Suffice to say, 'Logan' is the Wolverine film fans have waited for. It's brutal, but compassionate, violent, yet empathetic. This is not just about good guys winning the day, this is about living with the consequences of what you are and what you have done. The only mis-step, for me, is the casting of Steven Merchant as Caliban. Whilst he looks the part, his broad West Country accent does not fit the character in any way. Perhaps some actual acting may have helped. Aside from that, this is a belter of a film, a fitting send off for Hugh Jackman, who has said this is his last rodeo as the character. Go see it, Bub.







Sunday, 19 February 2017

JOHN WICK PART 2 - Film Review


So John Wick is back, with a new job and a very short retirement. Thankfully no one's killed his goldfish or anything, but he is dragged back into the assassination game when total wanker Santino D'Antonio uses a marker Wick gave him when he got out of the game, and a hit man cannot refuse to honour a marker. Oh well, here we go again...



What follows is Keanu Reeves shooting lots of people and then shooting some more people and then shooting a few more for good luck. There's a reasonable plot in there somewhere, and it's all nicely set up for the next chapter in a way that really makes you want to see it. It's great to see Reeves sharing screen time with his old 'Matrix' mucker Lawrence Fishburne, and we also get a super cool mute assassin in the shapely shape of Ruby Rose. Ian McShane makes a welcome return as the boss of the Continental Hotel, as does Lance Reddick as the impeccably unruffled concierge. Rapper Common impresses as fellow assassin Cassian, and I look forward to seeing him again in the next one. All in all, it's a ridiculously solid cast.



'John Wick 2' is one of those films that could have easily been a straight to DVD duffer, but manages to be great thanks to everything being done in style. From the balletic gunfights to a final shootout that could have been a massive cliche but just ends up being a bit awesome. Keanu Reeves isn't required to actually do much acting, which is always a bonus, and he's helped immeasurably by the rest of the cast. Suffice to say if you enjoyed the first one this is a no brainer, and if you haven't seen the first one you really should. A wonderful example of a modern action film with total old school charm in abundance. Just don't hurt his dog...

Trailer