Sunday, 8 June 2014

On Fiction, Part 3

In my first post on the subject of the fiction associated with the TransFormers brand, I noted that I felt no particular affinity for the comics and, by and large, this has remained true. IDW continue to publish stories, seemingly spanning several continuities, including a 'proper' conclusion to Marvel's efforts from the 80s, and I continue to ignore them. In recent years, I have watched the entirety of TransFormers: Prime, including Beast Hunters and the feature-length finale, Predacons Rising but I didn't bother picking up the comics, the novelisations of any of the movies (even though I gather the novelisation of Revenge of the Fallen actually had the plot that was missing from the movie), or any of the movies' comic book follow-ups.

The fiction just isn't as important to me as it was... I'm well past the age where I might play out variations on the stories using the toys I have to hand, but it's occasionally useful for giving me a context for the toys and, just occasionally, more of a reason to buy them.

Then, this year, I happened to be in Harrow doing some shopping with my girlfriend on Free Comic Book Day, and we found ourselves accosted by a person handing out fliers offering free comics from a local shop, Calamity Comics.

Now, first of all, I've been going to Harrow semi-regularly for most of my life, I've lived in an area of Harrow (admittedly not the town centre) for more than five years... and I'd never even heard of Calamity Comics.

So, our interest suitably piqued, we ventured off our intended path to visit this miraculous place...

Harrow isn't the most conveniently organised place, but I'd have to say that Calamity aren't in one of the prime retail areas... they're actually in a short parade of shops at the end of a residential street, in the shadow of the St. George's Centre - basically and area I'd never bothered to wander before.

To be honest, comic shops all tend to be fairly similar: racks of comics along as many walls as they can cover while still leaving room for the place you actually pay for stuff, with extra shelving units and tables wherever they can be usefully squeezed in. On a Free Comic Book Day, one can expect such places to be rather busy... any other day of the year, proportionally less so. Customers will tend to pop in only as often as needs be to ensure they always acquire the latest issue of their chosen comic book, though some will always tend to treat such places as social networking.

What I'm saying here is that Calamity will feel very familiar to anyone who's spent time in other comic book shops.

While I wasn't particularly interested in anything (that I could see) in the FCBD section (collections of three random comics, bagged together), my girlfriend picked up one bag. I cast a casual eye over the racks, perhaps looking more closely when I got to the bits with TransFormers and Batman. The former because, hey, you might have noticed I'm a TransFormers fan, the latter because I like Batman, and have a small collection of graphic novels, from the seminal Year One to the disturbing Arkham Asylum (the Morrison/McKean version) via the decidedly odd Child of Dreams. I honestly didn't expect to buy anything... and yet I saw the first issue of IDW's new Windblade story - created to bring an upcoming 'fan-designed' toy into their ongoing, heavily toy-based continuity. Furthermore, the creative team (that is, the writer and artist) is all female... which is apparently a bit of a big deal in the world of comic book production. Writer Mairghread Scott - formerly a writers' assistant and writer on the TransFormers: Prime TV series - recruited Sarah Stone, a freelance illustrator, to work on the project.

Now, I'm not going to lie... My interest in this project was hovering somewhere close to nil... I haven't even bothered reading the reviews or opinions floating around on the interwebs... But something compelled me to pick up the first issue and give it a try, even though it wasn't among the 'FCBD' selection.

...And, as a result, I picked up issue two yesterday.

The story is intriguing... considering my main reading material at the moment is Stephen Donaldson's Gap series, I'm surprised that the plot of this 'mere toy comic' is as deep as it appears, not least because it's only a 4-part mini-series. The first two parts have been too short by far - when I reached the last page of each, I found myself asking how they can possibly end so abruptly... I want more. The art is very stylish, not the usual overly-polished stuff you find in comics, and wholly without the stark black linework. I'm not entirely sure I like all of it - especially when I start looking too closely - but it keeps my attention, and it suits the story.

So, for the first time in ages, I'm reading - and enjoying - a TransFormers comic...

...Perhaps I should look into some of the others...

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