Friday, November 20, 2020

Comic Cuts - 20 November 2020

I'm now over 80 pages into the first issue of BAM! and still going strong. I spent part of the week writing a couple of reviews and trying to finish off the feature on the history of pocket libraries, which has proven to be a bit of a marathon as there are over 60 illustrations on that one feature alone.

It doesn't feel like a week since I was last writing this column. The days seem to fly by without any great variation, which is why I welcomed the chance to take a short break from doing layouts to write some reviews; I also managed to read a book on Saturday (Cover Me: The Vintage Art of Pan Books, reviewed below if you scroll down) and put some copies of Heavy Metal up on eBay on Sunday. All in the name of just doing something a bit different.

We are still able to get out of the house for exercise, but the hour gained by putting the clocks back is disappearing. We're up in the dark and usually starting our walks before dawn in the morning and in the dark in the evening. This may be why the month is slipping away — we're not getting to see the sunshine that we did in the summer and we're barreling towards Christmas and the New Year with no signs that we will be able to celebrate either in any normal way.

Getting out early does mean that we've been catching some spectacular sunrises. Other that that, I've not been taking too many photos of late, except when we saw a ginger cat wearing a bow tie... I mean, you've just got to take a photo, haven't you? Ditto if people have spray-painted large cartoon cocks on the road around potholes in the style of "Wanksy", the anonymous artist who began embarrassing Greater Manchester council into doing some repairs back in 2015. "Wivenhoe Wanksy" has been cocking a snook at authority for a few years now, although it hasn't always worked. The photo below (I'll put it at the end of the column to save some blushes if you're easily offended) is of a large hole in the bridge over the railway line, deep enough for some of the structure of the bridge to be visible. Eek!

Although I'd say the review below is relatively spoiler free, it does contain some details of events up to the half-way mark, so hop over the rest of the column if you prefer your TV to remain full of surprises.

This was recommended by a friend who considered it daft but fun. That pretty much sums it up. It's a subtitled Belgian TV series based on a Polish science fiction novel (The Old Axolotl by Jacek Dukaj), although it must be said that the series takes almost nothing from the novel outside of a global catastrophe wiping out the vast majority of people.

As the first episode opens, a nervous man — Terenzio — tries to book a flight at Brussels Airport. As broadcasters collapse in the middle of reports, he grabs a gun from a security man and boards a passenger flight for Moscow. He shoots the co-pilot, Mathieu, injuring his hand, and the plane can then only take off with the assistance of Sylvie, a one-time military helicopter pilot. Terenzio tries to explain that he is a NATO officer and he has overheard talk that the population is being wiped out as daylight arrives and that the only solution is to keep flying west ahead of dawn.

Daft but fun, remember?

Terenzio is disarmed by some of the passengers, but flying over an airport in Iceland they see chaos. Unable to land, they turn and fly to an RAF base in Scotland to refuel. There, three RAF servicemen are found alive who confirm Terenzio's claim. We begin to learn more about the passengers as they head for Canada — Sylvie confides to Jakub, a ground mechanic, that she has lost her boyfriend and wants to commit suicide; Zara is taking her son, Dominik, to Moscow for a life-saving operation; one of the passengers dies and another passenger, Turkish "businessman", Ayaz, is particularly disturbed by this turn of events.

We are, by now, about an episode and a half in. As you can see, the plot is fast-moving, with enough thrills to keep you on the edge of your seat and pace enough to cover up the cracks in the science. Is the problem a burst of gamma radiation from the sun? What is causing the food they find to taste of ashes? Can they continue their flight when their fuel starts to congeal? The story whooshes past flawed logic and barrels over gaps in credibility in an entertaining and, yes, daft way that is occasionally gripping, sometimes absurd, but always fun.

There is to be a second season, which makes me wonder whether the show will follow the storyline of the novel, which sees survivors of the cosmic catastrophe digitize and upload themselves into industrial robots, mechs and sexbots.

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