Monday, 8 September 2014

Jenny Sparks

Mark Millar, John McCrea & others Jenny Sparks (2001)

Ordinarily I would cross the road to avoid an American comic so self-consciously saturated in Union Jacks and the Houses of Parliament in silhouette because such efforts so often feel either like someone is trying too hard or else may be hoping to pull an Alan Moore, who at least usually managed to get away with this sort of thing without looking too much of a berk; but this is written by Mark Millar who may well be the Jim Davidson of superhero comics, but is nevertheless often very entertaining, or at least he is to me.

I think the key to Millar's success - at least on the evidence of this and Red Razors - is that he doesn't seem to give a shit about what is likely to work in terms of story and is more concerned with cheap laughs. He jams together whatever raises either an initial chuckle or shiver of disgust or some related emotional response, and then finds a way to make it all work in spite of itself, and so here we have a superhero comic based around a chain smoking woman who is essentially a character from Viz and who once shagged Hitler. The details go out of their way to serve up peurile laffs and Vic Reevesisms whilst the whole is somehow smoothed over into something which, if possibly lacking anything you could describe as greater purpose, at least tells a decent story with unexpected apparent sincerity.

John McCrea's art still makes me think of all those early nineties fanzines done by overly earnest teenagers trying to remake the X-Men, but somehow it sits just the right side of caricature to work, or to at least to keep things moving with a straight face.

Jenny Sparks is hardly the most cerebral comic I've read, and it's ambitious almost to the point of absurdity, and yet it just about pulls off everything it attempts. With hindsight, it reminds me somewhat of Steven Moffet's version of Doctor Who Man Telly Time, except without insulting the audience or being hopelessly shite, the difference being that Millar bothers to go further than just serving up a list of ingredients and expecting you to be impressed. Surprisingly, this is very good of its kind.

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