Page 45 Review by Stephen
Chaos. Complete and utter chaos. There's chaos on our airwaves, there's chaos in the middle of a war on all fronts, and there's chaos instead of information in the multitude of signals that have become the proverbial noise. And what a bloody noise:
'"Hugely large alien spaceship attack whole big planet!!! Coming up next on Super Manga Giant Big News!!!"
Of course this book verges on the incoherent. That's Miller's point. The forms are big and blocky, the colours are a sensory overload, everything's reduced to spectacle and wild histrionics. Whilst Newsnight and Channel 4 news maintain consistent quality in their investigative journalism, the vast majority can stomach no more than the Channel 5 soundbites which I thought were the stygian pits until I stumbled across RI:SE's culpably vapid coverage of even the most crucial international events and their hearty juxtaposition against the latest Jennifer Lopez gossip. Miller's not making this up: this is his scathing dissertation on the way in which news is presented - with incessant, ignorant and amateur commentary - and the prurient rapture with which it's received. Form over substance is the state of play, entertainment is all, and such a slim percentage of the population is interested enough in the politics that effects almost every part of their lives to get off their arses and vote... that politicians are told it's their bloody fault for not being entertaining enough, for not sinking to the lowest levels seemingly necessary for anyone to give a damn.
So here we go: President Luthor's despotic rule by stealth is under fire. While the world is watching, Metropolis is being levelled by Brainiac in the form of an immense alien spaceship, in a ruse to lure out the remaining heroes. Everyone's falling, one has just sacrificed himself, and other parts of the planet are on fire. Yet the only thing able to crack the lethargy of a spoilt and pampered public is to deprive them of their celebrity floss, by banning the equivalent of a Spice Girls concert. And what of the coverage?
'"An eerie quiet enshrouds the shattered skyline of Metropolis -- even as the streets of Gotham City are rocked by gunfire -- and cries for Freedom! Tammy?"
"You're right as always, Fran! The outlawed Superchix concert has busted wide open! We're talking majorly major civil disobedience -- Aren't we, Marleen?"
"I'm, like, so with you Tammer. This is totally majorly major. We're talking Youth Power. We're talking Girl Power. We're talking Tights Power. Over to you, Flooz!"
"Marr, if this is treason, then treason rocks! Cloey -- You're all over the Superchix! And we're getting deep and meaningful sniff that there's trouble in paradise! Or am I totally wrong?"
"Wrong you aren't Flooz! Check this out:"
[Black Canary]: "We just want to thank all our fans for leaving us so deeply gratified. So very deeply."
[Batchick]: "I'd hope we've got more to say than that. We're looking at a seismic cultural shift here, with profound political consequences. That's why everybody's wearing the tights all of a sudden. It's in the Zeitgeist."
[Wonderchick]: "What's a Zeitgeist? It sounds like a disease?"
[Batchick]: "God, you are so ignorant."
[Wonderchick]: "And you are so totally a total bitch? And I'm, like, so totally out of this group?"
"OhMyGod!!! A Superchix meltdown!!! It's a total tragedy!!!"
"The President's like, smart and everything but totally clueless? I'm like, excuse me, but we're like, seriously serious artists? We are, like, totally expressing ourselves?"
"Who cares if the President doesn't exist? He's a great American!"
"...It hasn't hurt him in the polls."
"The American people are a drooling pack of Troglodytes. This is exhibitionism, pure and simple. Symptomatic of the coarsening of our culture," bemoans one fictional critic. And so is this. But it's parody! And any cries from the superhero pseudo-mainstream for a decent plot only add weight to his contentions.
I'm not here to talk about its accessibility, about the clutter of characters that the Real Mainstream is unfamiliar with and which will certainly prevent this ever achieving the widespread success the first book achieved. Because I don't care nor, I think, does Miller. I don't want the Real Mainstream, the average person on the street, focussing on this. I want them to read GHOST WORLD, HOW TO BE AN ARTIST, ETHEL & ERNEST, BREAKFAST AFTER NOON. I want them to pick up the JIMMY CORRIGAN hardcover en masse and tell Tom Paulin to fuck right back off into the traditionalists ranks of the conservative establishment he used to so fervently despise.* But for those of us with enough aesthetic curiosity to have already embraced this medium, for those of us who've been reading comics long enough to deal with the racket, this is easy enough to follow (if read in one sitting) and the media commentary - of which the above is one tiny slither - is reason enough to enjoy this magnificent, manic scream.
* FYI: regular Late Show pundit and Irish poet Tom Paulin used to be one of my lecturers at University. The last time I saw him he was slumped against a wall at one of my young friends' twenty-first birthday parties a decade or so ago; he didn't recognise me, but then I didn't recognise the shamefully ignorant, reactionary wanker I saw dismissing JIMMY CORRIGAN out of hand when it won the Guardian First Book Award.