A Review Asks Only Whether One Can Live With It Or Die Of It

I've been reviewing small press publications on www.bugpowder.com for a few years now. Totemic small presser Andy Luke recruited me; he'd been impressed with my essay, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll, and was convinced that I could restore some cheer to the reviews section.

Ostensibly a scoff-mixture, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll discusses the pathogenic presence in UK small press of comics creators eager to produce work sterilized by an ambition to be adaptable to the strictures of an intrusive company bent on 'product development', and who derive a vanity-buzz of satisfaction from tucking themselves into deadlines and knocked-off scripts. "This budding hack is fuelled by little more than the desperation for a sense of celebrity," I wrote, "and must be destroyed."

My muscular reviewing-style grated with small press enthusiasts' indulgence in self-satisfied congeniality and writer/artist shape-throwing, but I refused to conveniently dismiss creators with throwaway compliments, employing instead a reviewing discipline based on four simple tenets: 1, perspective is to be achieved; 2, the standards by which one is judging the work are to be made clear; 3, credit is to be given where it is due; and 4, one should not be such a fucking misanthrope, you above-being-human narcissist.

Regularly achieving three of the four principles with my aesthetic evaluations, and quickly developing an obsessive-compulsive urgency for production of symmetrically paragraphed reviews, the meaningless absurdity of opinionative writing soon revealed itself to me. I was not deterred.

John Robbins

Slow Science Fictions #16: (His) Story Of English Superheroes

Posted on June 4, 2008

In part the writing of Michael J Weller is characterised by the seductive refrain of worn-out superhero mythologies, which accrue into passages of mystical, mantra-like transcendence. In this spirit, Slow Science Fictions #16 is as much incantation as it is the retelling of the origin of The Cosmic Crusaders/The Invincibles and of the history attached to their creation and development. Here, in a break with the typed-prose presentation of the series, Weller provides hand-lettered texts and illustrations that reintroduce the visual dialect of Space Opera, and which dip into the key moments and milieu in the evolution of his English superhero team. The fluid, organic cartooning style manages an affecting luminescence due to its serenely innocent quality, and as the book's focus deviates from delving into the continuity associated with overlapping reality tunnels and elevating tensions between the temporal and the divine – towards superhero trope-laden pleasures – this beguiling issue should prove the most accessible to date for a comics audience curious to sample Michael J Weller's particular utilisation of escapist fantasy.

32 A5 pages, £2 inc p&p, available from www.homebakedbooks.co.uk