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Friday, June 21, 2019

Comic Cuts - 21 June 2019

Last week I posted a couple of pictures taken at the UK Comic Art Convention and the Glasgow Comic Art Convention – the only two I have – along with a scan of some of the convention badges. I managed to find another, for UKCAC97, which I'll post here.

The other thing I've turned up is a broken run of the UKCAC and Glasgow CAC souvenir books dating from between 1987 and 1996. I suspect there are at least another three, which I may have somewhere.

Looking through these old convention books is like finding a looking glass that can open a portal into the past. The "Who's Who at the Convention" page for 1987 contained only two people that I knew – many more that I knew of, but only two that I actually knew. I did my first comics interviews at that convention (Richard Piers Raynor and Vincent Danks, about their comic The Solthenis) for After Image, the ACE Comics fanzine. And who knew that the shy, nervous Grant Morrison (my second interview that year) was about to become a Comics God. That Zenith, I think it's got potential to be popular with 2000AD fans.

Spoilers ahead as I look at Russian Doll, so skip to the end if you don't want to know what happened. There are some nice UKCAC and GLASCAC covers for this week's random scans.

I watched the first episode of Russian Doll not knowing what to expect other than that the premise was a Groundhog Day-style repeating of events for a woman who snaps back to life in front of a mirror in a bathroom. It is her 36h birthday and the frantic knocking on the door helps focus her. Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) talks to her friend Maxine (Greta Lee) as the noisy party continues around them. Soon after, while searching for a missing cat, she is killed in a car accident, only to snap back to life in front of the mirror in the bathroom.

Live, die, repeat, as the tagline for Edge of Forever said, and, as with that and other similarly themed movies such as Happy Death Day, the protagonist decides to explore this changing world and to see if she can break the cycle.

I'd watched two episodes and wasn't sure if I could be bothered with the rest. However, as I had the house to myself on Tuesday, I thought I'd give it another shot. The episodes are only 25 minutes long, after all. Episode three was where it grabbed me and I watched three episodes compulsively. Later that evening, I went back and watched the last three.

It's a byproduct of the plot structure that slows the first couple of episodes. Nadia thinks this is a hallucination or some side-effect of drugs, which is a logical first guess. Once she's explored these options and accepts that her death and resurrection is not drug induced, the show kicks off as Nadia tries to discover why this is happening... and meets a stranger who is also experiencing the same thing and who dies at precisely the same time as Nadia.

It has been pointed out that a lot of the show is about drug addiction: the repetition, the interaction with dealers, bad decision making, the steady loss of everything around you. The sometimes subtle changes mean that this isn't a Lost Weekend descent into hell but a blackly comic unpeeling of an onion-like plot with a pause at every layer.

The show is held together by Lyonne, who wise-cracks her way through some dark situations, ready with a caustic remark but somehow staying on the right side of likeability. Don't be put off by the first  two episodes – they need to happen to establish the situation, the world, the tone and to get some stuff out of the way before the storyline picks up.

While the announcement that there is to be a second (and possibly a third) season doesn't fill me with woe, it's hard to see why it's needed. The first season reaches a very satisfying conclusion and – with all due respect to the show's actors and staff, because none of them put a foot wrong – do we really need to revisit the characters so that Nadia can help out a different person each season? Anyone who has seen Taken will know how the law of diminishing returns works on a single-premise franchise. But maybe, like American Horror or True Detective, season two will have a whole new cast and a whole new situation. If the writing and characters are as good, who's to say a second season wouldn't work.

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