Sign of the Hammer!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Falling Towards Apotheosis

So for all my banging on about Spencer Nero like he’s the second coming, it’d be remiss of me not to mention what else appears in Paragon #9. Matthew McLaughlin and James Corcoran contribute a prehistoric Jikan tale with a delightfully Hammer / Amicus sensibility, the art for which is truly lovely, Corcoran’s atmospheric swathes of black being a particular highlight. The same writer also teams up with the mad, bad and dangerous to know Louis Carter (that’s bad in the sense of Byronically wicked, not a critique of the art!) who illuminates this month’s outing with some wonderfully stylised robo-philosophical musings. And explosions. Carter’s art is lovely stuff – I could absolutely see his robots as animated figures in some peculiar cartoon. Meanwhile, Davey Candlish couples (ooer, missus) with Alan Holloway for a violent western outing, ‘No Compromise’. There’s something about the western genre that Davey just seems to excel at – crumpled gunslingers must be one of his favourite subjects. And the strip’s first line, about how a stranger ‘rowed into town’, is a very witty conceit.
And finally, there’s Dirk Van Dom and Stephen Prestwood’s ‘Icarus Dangerous’. There’s a lot to like here, not least the muscular,action-packed art, which plays around with perspective (as is suitable for a flying hero) and which has a real weight and power to it. Gorgeous stuff. Of course, I’m a sucker for mythology too, and the whole ‘Greek myths in space’ thing makes me think of 'Ulysses 31', the best cartoon ever. Meanwhile, little references like Icarus suggesting his dad would enjoy the local architecture give the science-fantastical fusion a charming grounding. And despite the fact that several months pass between issues of Paragon, somehow ‘Icarus Dangerous’ manages to keep up a breackneck pace, rattling along with all the vip and vigour of a weekly-scheduled strip, full of energy, pressure always piling onto the hero.

The strip also made me muse on the likeability of the lead character. One of things I enjoy about this series is that Icarus is a bit hapless. I love characters that screw up or aren’t entirely sure what they’re doing, particularly if it’s their own fault. I find it a trait that’s extremely easy to identify with: indeed, one of my all-time 2000AD favourites is Ace Garp, a past-master in the field of creative balls-ups. In the case of Icarus, he seems, to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, to be doing the best he can with what he has where he is, but that clearly comes with a few bumps along the way. So much the better – in my experience, readers love seeing characters on a learning curve. Look at how popular the teenage New Mutants were with Marvel fandom when they debuted in the 80s. For a character so strongly associated with the concept of ‘the fall’, it’s a sharp move by Dirk Van Dom to give Icarus this slightly blundering quality, whilst at the same time reminding us that we fall to rise.
Indeed, the whole notion of haplessness is one that’s going to become more apparent in my own character, Spencer Nero, in forthcoming stories. In his first outing, he’s uber-confident and doesn’t make many mistakes, but as I tease out the darker aspects of his character, you’ll see how his arrogance increasingly makes him put his foot in it. In a script I’m writing at the moment, set in India in the time of the British Raj, I take this to an extreme, and Spencer becomes pretty much sole architect of his own problems.
Anyway - Paragon #9. Go buy. Bye.

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