One upside of being pathetically weak and sickly is the ability to put work on one side completely and indulge in all the books, comics and dvds that have been piling up.
Actually, I didn’t get very far on the book front – I’m still wading through House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski. ‘Wading’ is perhaps the wrong term – I do love the book – but it is hard-going. It’s a very modern, scary, supernatural story, but written without a hint of familiar genre-isms, and designed to put the reader through as many torments as the characters. In the tale, a tattoo artist inherits the notes of an aged academic investigating a seemingly-famous Amityville-style house with an otherworldly labyrinth – except no one beyond the academic appears to know about it. In that description, you can already see the layered density of the story. Yet the design of the book has been created to mimic the house’s labyrinth, with footnotes sending you back and forth, appendices, upside down and mirror text, hidden codes and more. You wonder if the footnotes are even slightly relevant until you get to, say, number 313 and find buried away a one-line revelation that explains a character’s entire psychology. A great book, particularly for navel-gazers and self-styled intellectuals, but it does take time following that cord through the twists and turns.
Some comics caught my eye over the last few days. House of Mystery, the new release from DC’s Vertigo imprint, written by Matt Sturges and Bill Willingham with art by Luca Rossi, was very enjoyable. I was a fan of this title back in the seventies, when it was a straightforward horror (or ‘mystery’) anthology, with art by such greats as Neal Adams, Berni Wrightson, Alex Toth and Sergio Aragones. In Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, the house and its caretaker Cain was established as a residence that existed in dreams. In this incarnation, the house has been stolen and re-sited ‘somewhere else’. A group of strange characters are forced to live there telling stories to pay for their board while they attempt to find a way back to the real world. The first issue sets up lots of mysteries, so it comes across a bit like Lost, only creepier.
I also started a collection of the first five issues of The Exterminators, another Vertigo title (now cancelled) about a group of bug and vermin exterminators operating in the more sordid parts of Los Angeles. At first it appears a great slice of life story with strong characterisation, until a hint of fantasy arises like the first sign of one of the infestations – the bugs are becoming stronger? Smarter? Looks like there’s a war brewing. Great writing by Simon Oliver and suitably grimy art by Tony Moore, who made a name for himself on Image’s The Walking Dead. Highly recommended, as those critics like to say.
I also read the first issue of DC’s summer blockbuster Final Crisis by Grant Morrison and J G Jones. It’s early days yet, and there’s a lot of clear set-up for story to come, but again very enjoyable. Grant can do no wrong in my eyes, from Zenith for 2000AD to Doom Patrol, Animal Man and The Invisibles, which is why I name-checked his excellent Seven Soldiers series in The Burning Man.
On the movie front, my tastes have always been eclectic, but I can’t imagine many people reading this enjoying the early 1940s films of British comedians Arthur Askey and George Formby. Kept me happy, though. I also finally got round to seeing SF greats This Island Earth and Invaders From Mars. Ones for fans only, I think, though there’s a pleasantly creepy aspect to the latter.