People Are Making Apocalypse Jokes Like There’s No Tomorrow

Alex watches too much TV and then thinks about it for longer than is healthy.

Picture the scene: A man kneels in the rubble of a broken future, surrounded by the shattered remains of once towering monuments to progress. Crumpled wrecks of hover-cars litter the streets of this sprawling metropolis. The guttural roar of hordes of re-animated, radioactive, cannibal corpses can be heard echoing in the distance. The man is dishevelled and wearing the tattered remnants of a futuristic jumpsuit, he clutches a bloodied child’s cap with an antenna on top to his chest and repeatedly whispers “His boy Elroy… His boy Elroy…” to himself whilst rocking back and forth.

This would be the opening scene of The Jetsons if it were rebooted today, as our thirst for all things post-apocalyptic is seemingly as unquenchable as a zombie’s hunger for delicious brains. This is by no means a complaint; I love a good post-apocalyptic setting in any entertainment format and this version of the Jetsons would be way better than the disturbingly pristine and non-multicultural future shown in the original. It is interesting though that the list of titles set in one wasteland/ post-apocalyptic world or other is an exceptionally long one at the moment, so the question is: Why are we so keen to see all that we know in ruins?

Visions of the future are a cornerstone of science fiction and have always been a reflection of how we see ourselves in the present, so with all this apocalypsing going on clearly we don’t think a whole lot of ourselves at the moment. Over the course of a century due to the effects of countless wars both hot and cold and an ever expanding and increasingly downbeat media culture our view of the future has changed radically; going from the outlandish and exotic visions of the Victorian age, through the utopian, swiftly into the dystopian and finally into our despondent apocalyptic certainty. Even a dystopian future dictatorship is too much to hope for today, as being constantly hammered by news coverage of the worst humanity has to offer and the burgeoning wealth of evidence that we have pretty much ruined the planet has drained us of what little hope we had.  Scary stories of the evil that men do sell papers and get precious mouse clicks but they leave us fairly certain that this whole sorry business will come crashing down within the hour leaving us scrabbling in the dirt wishing we’d paid more attention to Ray Mears. The future is no longer bright because we no longer feel we deserve it, perhaps we don’t and should hurry up and invent some sexy Cylons to destroy us.

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The second element to the popularity of the apocalypse is pure escapism. Our lives for the most part are mundane, easy and fairly rigidly structured; we work, we get drunk and moan about work, we wish we had done something more significant with our lives. Rinse and repeat. It is therefore unsurprising that a world without the structures that dominate our existence, in which there would be no need to read job adverts that dress mindless drone work up as something equating to Secretary-General of the U.N. or to reply with the soul destroyingly up-beat set of lies we call a CV ever again, is immensely attractive. A post-apocalyptic CV would be a good read though “I hunter-gather well as part of a group, I bring a can-do attitude to the murder and pillage of rival groups and I have a great deal of experience in the manufacture of homemade weaponry/ jewellery inc. ears on strings. Thank you for considering me for a role within your proto-society.”

A return to nature stripped of all our creature comforts and annoying bureaucracy has always been an appealing fantasy but fails to account for poor physical condition and complete lack of wilderness skills, let’s be honest a management consultant from Slough is not going to turn into some badass Chuck Norris-esque survivalist hero overnight. Suddenly becoming a brilliant woodsman is not the full extent of the fantasy though, both before and after an apocalyptic event humanity as a whole may act like a bunch of jerks but we still have some faith in the decency of the individual. The brilliant Walking Dead and astonishing The Last of Us are excellent examples of this key element of our apocalypse fetish, whilst the whole world might go to hell we are inherently good people and would manage to hold on to at least shreds of our humanity in the grey moral quagmire of a world without structure. The post-apocalyptic hero is the embodiment of our schizophrenic view of humanity, in broad terms humanity is a blight on the world and should probably be gotten rid of but on an individual level people are generally pretty decent and deserve to survive (except those who leave passive-aggressive notes). We hope that when faced with great adversity we would be brave and compassionate. However I doubt that we behave as paradigms of humanity in our daily lives, so it is perhaps depressing that it would take the end of the world to bring out the good person we hope resides in us somewhere.

Guilt perhaps also plays a part in our world ending desires. Our grandparents and great-grandparents faced war on a scale that is hard for us to imagine, our parents lived through the cold war and its constant nuclear paranoia, many people in the world at the moment face hardship we will never experience even a smidgeon of, the most devastating thing that will happen to most of us today is the internet not working briefly and we’ll still get irrationally angry about it. The wasteland would provide us not only with an escape from every day boredom and people who leave notes but also the chance to prove our worth as humans or at the very least to find out what we’re really made of.

We may continually envision the destruction of our future world in cathartic penance for the wrongs of our present one, or wish it would all end because life is monotonous, but our apocalyptic visions are not entirely without hope. In fact the very essence of every post-apocalyptic story is hope; after whatever monumentally stupid human action or act of nature destroys our world, where nothing should survive, there will somehow against all the odds still be humans left to continue being jerks to one-another. If that’s not hope for the future I don’t know what is. So get your pip-boys ready, keep your ears peeled for super mutants and pack your moral compass as it doesn’t look like we’re done working out our issues in the wasteland just yet.

 

Wasteland Essentials:

Film: A Boy and His Dog (1975)

Game: Fallout 3

Book: World War Z (Max Brooks)

TV: The Walking Dead (2010-)

 

Alex

Dan’s Nerdgasms: Superman Red Son

Each Monday Dan recommends a classic unmissable graphic novel. 

Today I’m recommending a DC trade paperback called Superman Red Son. Masterfully written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Dave Johnson and Killian Plunket. Instead of landing in Kansas as as a child, what could have happened if Superman’s rocket landed on a collective farm in the Soviet Union? What would happen if the Man of Steel was raised as a communist?

In this book you’ll see all the familiar characters you know and love with a completely different twist. There’s a whole bunch of other DC characters that make an appearance, like Batman and Green Lantern — who you’ll both see in a whole new light. Don’t worry folks Batman is still bad ass in the story.

As always what would any Superman tale be without the devious Lex Luther opposing him every step of the way. In this story he is the head of S.T.A.R Labs and has been given the mission to destroy Superman at any costs.

This book came out originally in 2003 as a three part mini series . It’s collected together now in one book. If you’re a huge Superman fan or just after a really different take on the Man Of Steel, then this is the the book for you.

Happy reading boys and girls

Dan

Comic Review – Death Sentence Volume 1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Sometimes he reads graphic novels. This is a review of one of them. Minor spoilers possible.

This month I got the chance to read and review volume one of Death Sentence from Titan Comics, which came out this week. The script was written by Montynero (who did the issue covers as well), with art and colours by Mike Dowling and letters from Jimmy Betancourt.

Death Sentence largely takes place in London, and the story is framed around a new sexually transmitted disease called ‘G-Plus’, a virus that endows those infected with extraordinary powers but will result in their death within six months. These powers are unpredictable, idiosyncratic depending on the personality of the individual infected, and seemingly limitless until the untimely demise of the new super-being. Shady agencies are involved rounding up the most powerful and potentially dangerous, and bring them to a facility looking to test the limits of those infected, learn about the disease and possibly cure it. There is clearly more to the development of the virus, and hopefully the story gets the chance to develop further past this first arc.

The series focuses on three main characters who have recently found out that they are infected. The first is Verity, a struggling artist who is stuck at design job, and she is definitely the most likeable of the three. Weasel, the ex-frontman of a popular band working on his solo material whilst delving into a cornucopia of drugs and women, is based on pretty much every punk archetype you can think of and, while somewhat of an arsehole, is somehow tragic and a bit sympathetic. The last character is Monty. Monty is Russell Brand. This isn’t intelligent insight from me, he was clearly written to be a pastiche of Brand. You’ll see it in seconds and then you will only be able to read his dialogue in his voice. I had to try very hard not to let this bother me too much, because I really don’t like Russell Brand. I think he is a bit of an unfunny dick. I seem to be relatively unique in thinking this though, so I wouldn’t worry. And while I found Monty to be insufferable with really eye-rolling lines like “she played a faltering melody on my love trumpet”, he manages to become less of a dick when he starts to redefine nihilism by indulging in a myriad of temptations, even more so than before, culminating in wholesale murder (and the grisly end of a few well known public figures too). I won’t go into the details, as I don’t want to spoil too much of it. Suffice to say everything gets very big and entertainingly ludicrous in scope.

That’s where the story goes, and I actually found the core concept really interesting. When given potentially totally untethered power and a short, definite remaining lifespan, what do you do with your life? I think if presented as a thought experiment, most would say they would devote their remaining life to helping people or spending time with those closest to them. I think in reality, many would probably fall somewhere in between the actions of Weasel and Monty. Total or severe moral degradation and the pursuit of the basest desires. There are some interesting thoughts on the propagation of our genes being a true form of immortality, and there is a decent focus on art and creativity (two of the main characters are from that background) and the legacy and impact of art which I found to be a real strength. There is also a lot of sex in the book, a lot of sexual language, a few bits of rather graphic gore and a healthy amount of swearing, so if that isn’t your bag or you are easily offended then I would avoid this. But I think you’ll probably be fine.

I’ll be honest, I felt that the dialogue in the first issue was a bit clunky. But I think I may be reacting to the Monty scenes as an unfair representation of the rest of the issue*. It may also be the series finding its feet though, because it isn’t a problem I had in the later chapters of the volume at all. While the set up of the story and how the powers manifest could have seemed been a bit contrived, I found it to be a really original way of introducing powers into this world. I thought that the sometimes the need to be audacious with the amount of sex and sexual language bordered on getting in the way of the story, but it never quite got there and ultimately suited the plot, and I found this series to be very interesting. As I said before, it gets ludicrously big by the end. I found it to be almost a combination of the over-the-top finale of the Hellsing manga and Akira. They even even recognise the latter with a fleeting reference in the last chapter which was nice. The art by Dowling is really strong, in particular the visuals of Verity tapping into her powers as an extension of her creativity somehow managing to be equal parts horrifying and beautiful at the same time.

The collection itself is a nicely bound hardcover with one of Montynero’s covers on the front. Something I particularly enjoyed about the collection was the inclusion of a commentary at the end from Montynero and Mike Dowling for every chapter, giving a nice insight into how the book came about in more detail than I remember seeing in a graphic novel before.

Overall I did really enjoy Death Sentence, even though I sound negative in this review quite a few times. It revels in being over the top and silly, and that is absolutely intended and how it should be read. It is simply a lot of fun, so I recommend everyone pick it up. Check it out in your local comic book shop or a reputable online retailer if you live in some backwater without a comic book shop.

Score:  8 G+ Tests out of 10

 

*That is probably more a failing on my part. I don’t like Superbad because I find Jonah Hill’s character too annoying, or The Inbetweeners because the blonde kid pisses me off too much. I know these characters are supposed to be annoying dicks. That is how they are written and that is what is supposed to be funny about them, but I just can’t get past being too annoyed by them.

Dan’s Nerdgasm: Daredevil

Daredevil has to be one of my best loved Marvel characters. Daredevil: The Man Without Fear is a classic story on the origin of the old horn head himself. Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) brings us a gritty origin story that follows Matt Murdock’s life of love, pain disappointment and strength. A must read for Daredevil and Miller fans alike.

Dan