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Friday, October 04, 2019

Comic Cuts - 4 October 2019

Unbelievably it's October already. Where did the summer go? I suspect I spent most of it stressing over the loss of internet and the subsequent drop in earnings I suffered. Thank goodness for the work I had to put into publishing And the Wheels Went Round, which is now officially out and available. The first few copies ran into some problems with the printer—not with the books themselves, but the age it seemed to take for delivery. I'm hoping that the problem is now solved, but if you are after a copy, it might take 8-12 days to arrive. Weirdly, copies sent to France seem to arrive a darn sight quicker than copies sent to the UK.

I've spent the week scanning stuff to sell on Ebay, finish off a commissioned piece (a stock obituary for The Guardian, delivered Monday) and do a few reviews that will be posted over the weekend. I posted some issues of Comic Marketplace on Ebay, which was a great mag. I didn't buy it often, but I did enjoy the articles on old Golden and Silver Age American comics. I posted them while taking a break from The Comics Journal (which will be heading Ebay-ward shortly), where I stumbled across a handful of contributions I made in the early 1990s.

My first contribution was a page of news: 'The Danes Buy Judge Dredd', the story of how Gutenberghus bought out the remainder of the company owned by Robert Maxwell, creating Fleetway Editions. If I remember correctly, I wrote this in late January following the purchase on the 16th and after meeting Gary Groth at Angouleme where I attempted to interview him about upcoming comics from Fantagraphics. It was an impromptu interview and he only had ten or fifteen minutes before a scheduled appointment. The idea was to pick up at a later hour, but it unfortunately never happened due to him being busy whenever I swung by or me being too sloshed to risk it.

(Simply put, I wasn't used to bars being open all day and was drinking at a pace that required bars to close after lunch; also, the hotel was too far away to sleep it off during the afternoon. The few hours between breakfast and brunch aside, I was drunk for most of the day, every day. The Arthur Ranson interview that appeared in Comic World was conducted while I was in my cups... Arthur was very surprised that I was able to turn it into a coherent feature.)

I didn't contribute a huge amount to The Comics Journal... a few obituaries and one or two other news items in 1992-95, but I was listed as one of their International Correspondents for years. I have a feeling that I gave up when I sent in a few pieces that they couldn't use (space was inevitably a premium). I know I sent them obituaries for Pat Nicolle (1995) and later Don Lawrence and Bob Monkhouse (2003) that were never used. I'll have to dig out some of the unpublished ones and see if they're worth publishing here.

I don't want to get into a row with anyone, so the following picture is a spoiler break. There are spoilers after the picture; if you don't like them, jump to the end of the column.

Let's get this out of the way first. I cannot understand why Carnival Row has such a row score on Rotten Tomatoes. 57% at the time of writing, meaning that critics have been divided roughly down the middle. The audience rating is 87% (for comparison, the audience rating for Killing Eve is 88% and 87% for the third season of Stranger Things), meaning that they found it far more satisfying.

As did I. I think the audience reaction is about right.

This is a meticulously created fantasy world in which creatures of folklore (the fairy-like fae, the horned-and-hooved puck) live alongside humans in Burgue, a city somewhat akin to Victorian era London.

Rycraft "Philo" Philostrate (Orlando Bloom, doing his best to channel Ray Winston) is a police officer tasked with solving the murder of the headmaster of an orphanage where Philo grew up. Philo links the murder to the death of a fae singer that the police have failed to investigate. Philo's sympathy for the fae does not go unnoticed by his fellow, bigoted officers, although they have no knowledge of how deeply involved Philo has been with fae-folk. Philo discovers that a magical creature, a darkasher, formed from the parts of other creatures, is responsible for the deaths.

The second strand of the story begins with a narrow escape for Vignette (Cara Delevingne), a fae who has been helping fae-folk escape from the Pact, an invading force that has taken over the fairy's former homeland. A boat hired to sail them to the Burgue is destroyed, leaving Vignette in debt to the owner, Ezra Spurnrose. Forced into his employ, she leaves after he tries to molest her; with no choice but to seek work in the city, she joins a fae gang, the Black Raven.

When Vignette meets Philo it is revealed that they were lovers, but he, a soldier at that time, had left her believing he was dead. She knows him to be a half-blood who had his wings removed when he was a baby, but continues to keep his secret.

A third strand involves the kidnapping of Jonah Breakspear, wastrel son of Absalom Breakspear, Chancellor of the Republic of the Burgue. Unbeknownst to him, the plotter is his wife, Piety, who uses the crime to frame Absalom's rival, Ritter Longerbane, in an effort to make a prediction that both her husband and his son will be great men. However, her actions lead to the rise of Langerbane's sly daughter, Sophie, and a conspiracy to oust her husband.

The plot darts back and forth to these and other characters (Philo's landlady and lover, Portia; a street performer named Millworthy; fae brothel owner Moira and her courtesans) and into other storylines (e.g. how Ezra Spurose's financial problems lead his sister, Imogen, to entertain a wealthy puck who wants to enter society) but, with a little care and attention, nobody should lose track of what is happening to whom. It is a busy and packed eight-parter and, if you came looking for a detective story, the central murder plot is fairly thin as a result. However, the world-building is fascinating—there are plenty of parallels with today's rising xenophobia—and with the set-up out of the way, future visits to the world of the Burgue will benefit.

And the good news is that there will be a second season, as Amazon has renewed the show.

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