Reviews, Comics, Gods, Numbers

Has Matt Smith managed to banish the memory of David Tennant? His hyperactivity seems somehow more alien, and I for one quite like a Doctor who smiles less. The line “I don’t want to speak to anyone human right now” was brilliantly cold and dignified. His performance – and that of new companion Karen Gillan – was so captivating that I almost – almost, I am a geek after all – overlooked the plot holes. Maybe that’s what the Crack actually is: a transdimensional sentient narrative lacuna. So, who invented the Smilers? Were the Winders (the half-human Smilers) actually necessary at all, given they only got a line of explication? When did Amy record her message to herself?   What was the Demon Headmaster up to? Why was the Queen being kept artificially young? Who actually cares, given it was smart, creepy and moving?

I re-read Blackest Night over the weekend, all 88 issues of it. There’s always a difficulty and difference reading comics in a gulp than at a drip: it’s in the nature of the cliffhanger that half its aesthetic pleasure is locked in the one hundred and sixty eight hours before resolution. When they’re bound together (actually that’s another pleasure of a comic event: deciding exactly what the reading order rather than publication order should be) the cliffhanger turns into the equivalent of Gloucester in Lear; you jump and there’s no whistle of air, just a whump into sand. So, in Blackest Night, events such as the “death” of Kyle Rayner – already the quickest dirt-nap in comic history – becomes ever so slightly bathetic. In fact, death generally was a bit bathetic in Blackest Night given its terminal resurrections. In the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, the much-loved Silver Age Flash died. In Final Crisis, Batman died (although even then, it was surrounded by so-many caveats it was only a matter of time before The Return of Bruce Wayne). So who bit the dust in Blackest Night? Er… Damage, Tempest, Hawk 2, Gehenna, Captain Boomerang 2, Yasemin Soze, Lord Redshirt, The Crimson Tunic, Poppytop, Incarnadine… I’m now kinda miffed that the DC April Fool solicit for Blackest Night: Funeral for Alan Scott was an April Fool, since Alan Scott (a character fairly central to the Green Lantern mythos) was woefully underused. On that topic, in a moment of utter fanboyness, I downloaded the Origins and Omens teasers that appeared in January 2009: there’s a very odd panel where Alan Scott, Torquemada (the other magical Green Lantern) and Mordru were chained in front of the Guardians that hasn’t, as yet, led anywhere. On the plus side, Geoff Johns has managed that rare thing, the creation of compelling new characters; in particular Larfleeze and Atrocitus. The knowing tone (such as references to Power Rangers) was smart. I whooped, then felt ever so slightly ill, at the “Origin of Everything” sequence: it’s maybe a flourish of cleverness too far to make Creationism and Evolution part of the same story. Or maybe it’s just covering your potential audience. The highlight though was the re-imagining of Black Hand – a minor villain, who used to be like this:

Way to reveal the plan, Hand

Oh no! Etch-a-Sketch-of-Doom!

This week’s Scotland on Sunday review was Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Plenty of writers (Michel Faber, Gore Vidal, Nikos Kazantzakis, John Milton, Jim Crace, Jose Saramago, Robert Graves, Norman Mailer and, er, Anne Rice) have written novels where Jesus is a character: Pullman’s must be unique in appealing to atheists and bishops in equal measure. I wish I’d mentioned in my review Michael Moorcock’s Behold the Man, the best version I know, and the most controverial and empathetic. After such a heady dose of theology, I read Alex in Numberland by Alex Bellos – somehow number theory fills me with far more wonder than elegant variations on the gospels. Did you know that no number has a persistence greater than 11? (The persistence of a number is the number of times the digits can be multiplied down to a single figure, so the persistence of 824 is three – 8 x 2 x 4 = 64; 6 x 4 = 24; 2 x 4 = 6). Take that, trinity!

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