SUPERHERO BATMAN ROUND-UP
With Christopher Nolan (ll/leniento. Insomnia) confirmed to direct the fifth instalment of the Batman franchise. and Christian Bale signed on as the becowled one. the Dark Knight's recent commercial and critical renaissance continues apace. Batman: Hush. Volume Two (00” [DC/"l itan Books. £19.99). collects the second part of the phenomenally popular run by the superstar tearri-up of Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee. Confronted by a gallery of rogues controlled by the sinister puppet master ‘Hush‘. Batman must confront his shadowy past to have any hope of a futureThis quality package screams 'high concept'. and Lee's art may be typically unsubtle. but an unexpectedly dark. sly wit from Smallvi/le producer loeb elevates this paranoiac nightmare from more showcase to mini-epic.
More disappointing though is Batman vs Aliens Two (.0 Dark Horse/ Titan Books. $310.99). curiously soporific for a tale combining DC's darkest hero and HR Geiger's exoskeletal
Wong's effortless recreation of Hong Kong's neon night
108 THE LIST 4
menaces. The promising touches. such as the Joker and his gang re- imagined as alien hybrids. are underdeveloped. and even an exquisite panel of head implosion can't distract from the predictable plotting and generally anaemic artwork.
Sharing similar narrative deficiencies is Batman: Harvest Breed (m DC/Titan Books. $10.99). which starts strongly, but ultimately lumbers towards a telegraphed ending through a trench of exposition masquerading as dialogue. The esoteric artwork is more than worthy of attention -- Eisner award-winning writer/artist George Pratt's haunting post- impressionism is let down by a tale which nods to weighty concerns. such as the cost of power and the nature of communal responsibility. only to be mired in a hackneyed denouement of devil worship and human sacrifice.
The only horrifying aspect of Batman: Terror (0. DC/Titan Books, 539.99). is the profligacy of writer Doug Moench and veteran inker Jimmy Palmiotti. Collecting issues
18 Mar 9004
with Catwornan against
with functional. but often
137—141 of Legends of the Dark Knight. this workmanlike tale finds Batman forced into an uncomfortable alliance
the fear-inducing denizens of Gotham.
flat artwork. and little
Ending on a high. Batman: Hong Kong (mo DC/ Titan Books. $219.99) sees a fallible and unusually gregarious Batman caught in a cross- cultural tale covering typical shonen themes of loyalty. violence and betrayal. Tony Wong's art leaves behind the character's traditional noir sensibility. bringing the titular colony to life with a riotous palette almost as colourful as his own past. Wong. often referred to as ‘the Jack Kirby of China'. made his comics debut at 13. had his self- publishing company Jademan listed briefly on the stock market. and was even jailed for forgery in 1991. His panels are a kinaesthetic feast. segueing from hyper-realism to stylisation without a beat. The lack of consistency may put off ‘ those unfamiliar with i rnanwa (Cantonese comics). but his pencils lend Moench's writing a dynamism that was sorely lacking in Batman: Terror. (Dave Martin)
ACOUSTIC INDIE THEONEWHO FLEW
Corporate Love Song (Wickerman) om
Not a band. but one man — Chris Roden. whose second release
is less songwriter- based than debut Still
Finding His Wings. That
was an apt title. a collection of lightly- sketched acoustic numbers which hinted at great potential. This nine—track follow-up confirms the promise.
and shows that he's at
home alone. or with a band setup. despite performing all the instrumentation himself.
With deeply melancholy
lyrics. it'd be easy to become buried in introspection. but the added musical nuances mean that any miserablist tendencies a la Smog are dispelled. and there‘s a
chirpy upbeat feel in the
flavour of Martin Stephenson or Roddy Frame. A perfect mix. in fact. (Stuart McHugh)
FUNK D’VOID Volume Freak (Soma) om
Sweden via Glasgow
' en route to Barcelona
as Funk D'Void (aka Lars Sandberg) drops his latest long player for Sorna. A greatest hits of sorts as remixes of ‘Jack Me Off‘ (first released in 1995) and ‘Diabla‘ (2001) appear alongside last year's 'Emotional Content' but when tracks still s0und as fresh as these feel- good techno cuts what’s wrong with a bit of self-congratulatOry nostalgia?
The other. original tracks that make up the
rest of the running time are no less invigorating, bringing an upbeatness to the techno form that often smacks of commercialisation. but here soars to new heights of exuberance. (Henry Northmore)
ECLECTICA FUTURE PILOT AKA
Salute Your Soul (Geographic) O”
‘I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar. then it meant that you were a protest singer.‘ as Morrissey had it. Future Pilot AKA. the brainchild of former Soup Dragon Sushil Dade. has got something a bit more complex in mind to make a musical anti- war protest. deploying an arsenal of everything from dub to classical to get the message across. And he's in good company: members of Teenage Fanclub. Orange Juice and Subway Sect join in on the upbeat 'Love of the Land‘. and Philip Glass even makes an appearance on spoken word track ‘Ravi Shankar'. A peaceful. tuneful demonstration. (Emma Newlands)
ROCK MONSTER MAGNET Monolithic Baby (SPV) m
. ['_¢_.h_“§ / \.
Stoner rock made flesh, Monster Magnet are the ultimate in power. party times and degradation. Psychedelia doesn't have to be light — it can rock like a bastard and take no prisoners on its growling descent into LSD-fuelled hell and high times.
These guys are
contemporaries of Queens of the Stone Age but taking a heavier path to amphetamine charged nirvana. Topics under discussion include drugs. dirty sex and war, ‘On the Verge' and ‘Unbroken (Hotel Baby)’ exemplifying the mix of raw strength with blissed out melody. All bow down to the power of the rift.
j THE FALL Live at the Witch Trials/Dragnet i (Castle Music) on
The sage of Salford. a psychedelic Percy Sugden. professional misanthrope — to suggest Mark E Smith is a one-off is to beg the question how bleeding is the obvious? His volume of
‘ work is so intimidating.
clocking in at some 26 LPs over as many
' years. that it is
impossible to keep up unless you choose to forego an interest in any
other aspects of human
life and become a committed Fall-o-phile. John Peel take a bow. Others probably have a favourite record or period of recordings (with the Brix era a common fave) but few can be unhinged enough to own the lot. 80 how good are these first two records. reissued here with a heap of bonus tracks? Well. this part—time fan still loathes ‘lndustrial Estate' in particular and some of MES' most
7 obscurantist haverings
in general. but even in 1979 the Fall were evidently a brilliant garage band with a bilious genius of a front man. (Rodger E Evans)