Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century (2009 / 2011 / 2012)

Author: Alan Moore | Illustrator: Kevin O'Neill | Page Count: 240

Then maybe this magical landscape mirrors the real world.”
“Perhaps that’s why it’s so awful.

Century is split into three distinct parts, each 80 pages in length.  Whilst each book attempts a self-contained narrative, it makes sense to group them together for review because they’re really three parts of the same story.  It's only a matter of time before they get collected together in a single trade and sold as such.*

The majority of the original League members have been killed off by the ravages of time.  The few that remain have assembled a new collective to tackle new threats, one of which involves sleuthing up a magical cult on the basis of a premonitory dream.  You’ll need to have read The Black Dossier to get the back-story of the new members.  They aren't as alluring or as charismatic as the old team, but each brings something new to the table.

The number of literary references Moore slips into the first two parts threaten to overwhelm the plot.  It was at an acceptable level in Volumes One and Two, and it felt at home as part of the Black Dossier's expositional text sections and documents of people the League were involved with, but he’s arguably gone overboard this time.  If you’re not familiar with the characters he’s referring to, many of whom aren't in the public domain—forcing names to be modified, then  you’ll be wondering who the hell that guy was and why was he there?

Book One takes place in the year 1910.  It sets up the relationships of the new members, explores their validity and questions their necessity in an ever-changing world.  Moore again uses the work to comment on the monstrous deeds that some humans thrive on.  The violence, sexual and otherwise, is something he's explored before.  Expect big ripples in the League’s little pond.  As a standalone it’s less successful than the two that follow.

Book Two skips forward to 1969.  London has embraced psychedelic drugs, and the music culture that sprang up around it.  It's the perfect climate for a magical cult to exist in.  Kevin O'Neill appears to having a blast on art duties.  It takes twice as long to read a League book as any other because your attention is constantly drawn to background information and parodic in-jokes.

Book Three closes the story in 2009.  It was my favourite.  Moore streamlined it beautifully.  Perhaps he'd exhausted his stock of extraneous allusions.  I won't say anything more, but I don’t think any readers that have followed the League's adventures from the outset will be disappointed with the direction taken.

3½ eyeballs in your ankle out of 5

*EDIT: The three parts were collected in 2014 as one edition titled The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 3: Century with new cover art.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Through the Wire: Lyrics & Illuminations (2009)

Author: Kanye West | Illustrator: Bill Plypton | Page Count: 79

Huh? Y'all eat pieces of shit? What's the basis? 
We ain't going nowhere but got suits and cases.

I picked it up for 99p in clearance because it had Bill Plypton art. I left the store feeling like I’d cheated the owners by paying so little. I think we both got lucky and unlucky that day.

I’d heard the name Kanye West but had no idea what he did or didn’t do. He’s a hip-hop ‘artist,’ apparently. That places him very far from the field I normally graze in. I haven’t heard his music and I have no wish to. His lyrics are abysmal; fourth grade poetry has more meaningful content than this fucking drivel. See above quote for a very fine example of Mr West’s poetical talent.

Each song is briefly annotated with an autobiographical anecdote in what most of us call the English language, which is a mercy.

Celebrated artist Bill Plypton illustrates the lyrics of twelve songs that collectively tell the tale of Kanye’s rise from a college drop-out to a college drop-out that learned how to hold a microphone. Plypton illustrates with his usual distinctive style; the sketchy pencil lines, the crosshatched colouring pencils and the dynamic perspectives are are all here. The illustrations are often blackly humorous, full of religious motifs and political musings.

I console myself with the knowledge that I got some cool Plympton art to admire, and pray it won't be long until my ageing brain forgets the Kanye West portion.

0 points for trying out of 5 for Kanye. | 5 wicked grins out of 5 for Bill.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Star Wars Republic Commando: True Colors (2007)

Author: Karen Traviss | Page Count: 482
We have laws on how we treat animals and semi-sentients. We even have laws protecting plants. But we have absolutely no laws whatsoever governing the welfare of clone troops - human beings. They have no legal status, no rights, no freedoms and no representation.
The Clone Wars are wearing on all involved. Clones are becoming aware of the raw deal they have been given and non-clones wrestle with their moral failings at so easily accepting such an ethically indefensible option as a slave army. The republic commandos of Omega Squad are at the center of this dilemma as their exposure to civilians in previous novels has given them an appreciation for a normal life. They are conflicted as they want normalcy, but doubt if they or any clone would even know what to do with it if they did have any. But plans are in motion to try to make it better as a side mission to capture the main clone geneticist who has fled makes headway to a cure for the clones genetically engineered accelerated aging. As the war comes to a head and doubt is sown as to how the Republic doesn't have everyone's best interest in mind (even it's own), all dramatis personae may have to make hard choices.

The ethical quandary of cloning has now become the main focus with the action becoming secondary, but that is not a bad thing as it is much more engrossing and the characters much more interesting faced with such a problem among others that also involve secrets, espionage and exposed hypocrisy. It's what raises science fiction from average to above-average.

slow cooked grandma stew out of 5

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (2007)

Author: Alan Moore  |  Illustrator: Kevin O'Neill  |  Page Count: 200

"Um... B-Bread and tits to you, flashing Monsignor.

The Black Dossier fits chronologically between Volumes Two and Three of the long-running series.  It takes place sixty years after the events of the previous volumes.  If you didn't read the New Traveller's Almanac section at the end of Volume Two you’ll be confused.  I'd recommend doing so before dipping into TBD.

It differs from previous books.  Whereas they were traditional comics, the Dossier, as the title suggests, is a collection of documents relating to the League.  It’s a largely text-based sourcebook with some comic panels throughout.  The comic part tells the story of how certain characters acquire the Dossier, and the text is the actual Dossier that they have in their possession.
The text sections can be further broken down into prose works, letters, magazine articles and even a tiny Tijuana Bible insert.  There's a LOT of reading and not all of it is fun.  There's also a map, a cross section and a guidebook.  A 7” vinyl record of Moore singing was planned but sadly held back from the standard edition.

As usual it squeezes in a plethora of literary references, even more than before: George Orwell, Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Jonathan Swift, Shakespeare, Homer, Virgil, John Wyndham, Kurt Vonnegut, John Cleland, Ian Fleming, Orson Wellles, John Buchan, Margaret Cavendish, Aleister Crowley, John Dee and many, many more.  I could go on for the entire length of this Nut.  It ceases throwing influences and allusions at the reader just long enough to get some plot in.

O'Neill's art is the best the series has had to date.  It's vibrant and filled with the same level of background details as the prose.

A small part of the book is in 3D.  It includes a pair of 3D glasses for you to pop-out and assemble.  It’s a gimmick that I think is supposed to parody such gimmicks, but it’s asinine and really fucking irritating.  What next?  Scratch and sniff?  I imagine Alan Moore smells of ashtray, cabbage and marmalade.  Perhaps Kevin O'Neill smells of school erasers, Tharg’s sweaty leather and censor’s anger.

3 rocket-ships to another dimension out of 5