Seconds h/c (£15-99, SelfMadeHero) by Bryan Lee O’Malley.
Katie had never liked cause and effect anyway.
“It’s a flawed system.”
Still, she had to admit that toying with the universe was a little unsettling.
“She did not. Katie admitted nothing of the sort.”
That will prove part of the problem.
If you enjoyed the authorial mischief of SCOTT PILGRIM then you will love chef Katie’s recalcitrant attitude towards this new, hands-on narrator and her wayward relationship with reality.
Katie used to run Seconds, a highly acclaimed restaurant just out in the country on top of a hill. Four years on and its imaginative menu and impeccable cooking makes it as popular as ever but Katie’s mentally moved on.
She has her heart set on starting a brand new restaurant in a very old building in town. Although empty for ages and dilapidated as hell, Lucky’s old stone building oozes character and Katie can picture exactly how it will look with a grand wooden staircase, an ornate central chandelier and an open kitchen run by bright, energetic and respectful staff serving the very best cuisine to an adoring public. Reality check: its condition is causing her grief.
It’s way behind schedule and gobbling up money but at least she is fortunate in her business partner Arthur’s practical optimism and seemingly limitless support. Even when she decides she wants to call it “Katie’s”.
“She’d fought for the location:
“Wrong side of the river. Tucked away under the bridge. It was an up-and-coming spot, she swore.
“She drove back and forth sometimes four, five times a day. As if one of these times she’d cross that little bridge and find a finished restaurant.
“The waiting was hell. Seconds had become her purgatory. At least purgatory had its perks.”
It does. Still its executive chef, Katie’s name remains on the menu and she basks in the adulation of diners; the waiters are lucky if they can get a word in edgeways. In addition, to save money, she’s still allowed to rent the restaurant’s top-floor apartment. She doesn’t know how good she’s got it.
But tonight two things go wrong: Katie’s ex, Max, comes out to eat in and although he smiles kindly Katie blows him off and stomps downstairs to argue with Andrew, the new head-chef with whom she’s having an affair; they make out in the store room and in Andrew’s absence there is a accident in the kitchen leaving waitress Hazel’s arms dripping in scalding hot fat.
Having left hospital late at night, Katie despairs. Then she remembers a dream she had about a strange, glowing girl with wide, haunting eyes hunched on top of her dresser. In that dresser she discover a little box which hadn’t been there before and in that box she finds a notebook titled “My Mistakes”, a single red-capped mushroom and a card printed as follows:
A SECOND CHANCE AWAITS.
1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4. Wake anew
EVENTS MUST OCCUR ON THESE PREMISES
She follows the instructions and awakes to find reality rewritten.
Katie never canoodled with Andrew so the accident never took place and quiet young Hazel is right as rain. Everything’s been corrected, everything is better. Lucky, lucky Katie. Time to move on.
Well. What follows is a cautionary tale about pushing your luck.
It’s one thing to hoard multiple saves in a video game; to go back and restart from more favourable junctures (though you could, you know, just move on?). It’s one thing to plan conversations ahead, steering them in different directions to see how they go most in your favour (I do). But although we might wish on occasion to reset the reality button, the ability to do so increases the temptation and that temptation comes with consequences. If you can reset reality as often as you like then why concentrate on what is important the first time?
This book is masterfully constructed with impeccable control under what must have been mind-frazzling circumstances. You’ll see what I mean as everything unravels, increasingly, over and over again.
Egotism becomes egomania and, unlike so many protagonists, Katie’s self-awareness doesn’t grow gradually over each page. Instead – after what was essentially a compassionate, altruistic revision to save Hazel’s skin – Katie loses sight of priorities, her sense of perspective, her sense of responsibility and her comprehension of cause and effect: of ripples and repercussion.
The strange glowing girl returns time and again with increasingly incandescent eyes that had me howling out loud. I’m glad I can’t see my dresser from bed. Her hair is spectacular. Nathan Faibarn’s colours are so warm that I cannot imagine this in black and white.
As well as the broad strokes and fine fashion of the characters you’ve come to expect from O’Malley (the designs are exquisite, Yana’s eyes shining a pale, milky blue like semi-opaque fishbowls), there’s a lot more intricate detail on the architecture. Rickety 22 Lucknow Street, the site of Katie’s second prospective restaurant, is a star in its own right. Its brown brick and beige stone climb precariously towards a fourth-storey, castellated tower. The aerial views of the town itself – rising on either side of the river before opening up to fields and foliage and Seconds sitting under its trademark tree in the distance – are breathtaking and again coloured beautifully in greens, browns and antler grey under a late-afternoon winter sky.
The panel composition is much tighter with strict, straight-ruled borders – gone altogether are the bleeds – with some parts of the page unused altogether during moments of disorientation, waiting or “what’s happened now?”
There are some startlingly dark pages unlike anything you’ve seen from O’Malley, but SECONDS is also, as you’d expect, very, very funny in places even as things fall apart, and I like our new narrator enormously.
“I don’t like it back here anymore. The walk-in… you don’t feel that?”
“I don’t know. Never mind.”
But she did feel it. The shadow. She knew it was real.
“I don’t feel anything.”
Um, yeah, she did actually.
Dark Times (£6-99, self-published) by Robert M Ball.
That happens as you grow older.
“Some young men took him away for tests.
“He put a brave face on it but I could tell he was scared.
“They kept him in for the night.
“And I came back to a stranger’s home.”
Sometimes you notice what’s missing more than you notice what’s there. A gap in your familiar landscape can prove haunting.
I once had a cat that would race to the door. I was worried that whenever I opened it he would rush onto the road. I used to open the door gingerly, carefully, cautiously; and for weeks after I had Felix put down I would open that door in exactly the same tentative manner, expecting a cat to dash past. He didn’t.
Composed of six shorts, four of them silent, this is one of the cleverest comics of the year. I’m not even going to tell you the title of that one for fear of giving its game away, yet here is a clue: what you have read up above is but prose. Read the same sequence as a comic and you will realise what Rob has done. Read the same sequence as a comic and it is, as they say, a very different story!
‘Dump’ is its reversal, in which some unusually accommodating bin men take care of some no-longer-desired, discarded property and boasts two terrifying panels whose power lies in the implication of what will happen off-stage. A chisel is involved.
From the creator of WINTER’S KNIGHT, then, comes an assortment of mysteries – yes, that’s what they are – for you to decipher and devour. All of them are surprising and each is composed in a markedly different style, one of which unexpectedly as a tribute to Frank Miller’s SIN CITY. But then Frank’s SIN CITY was all about the shapes, just like Robert’s main output.
In ‘Jack’ our modern, spotty teenager in a tracksuit acquires some magic beans. From a supermarket. As per tradition, Mum is unimpressed and lobs those bobbins beans out of her council estate’s high-rise window. Jack will find treasure all the same.
‘Nest’ boasts two of the most blinding pages of all here: a double-page landscape of urban buildings stacked up a very steep hill, looking just like the back end of Nottingham’s Lace Market seen from the London Road roundabout. Their sloped roofs gleam brighter the closer they climb towards the full moon. In it a husband declares that “We can’t go on like this”. Why? His wife has an over-acquisitive nature, her objects of desire even curiouser than her means of obtaining them.
DARK TIMES opens with ‘Animal’.
“He’s here again” is the uh-oh signifier, coupled with the Indian waiter peering anxiously through a narrow, horizontal window at their recurrent, difficult diner whose take on their menu is perhaps wilfully misconstrued. He has… unusual appetites.
The wit there lies upon wordplay but even without that I would relish Robert’s art. It’s all about the shapes and the colours. In terms of shapes, the waiter’s face appears between a snapped-in-two poppadom, as crisply delineated as those thick wooden segments were sawn from then slotted into our Early Learning jigsaw puzzles. In terms of colour, the waiter is all greens and browns just like the curries he serves, while the diner is composed of cold, cold blues with top teeth protruding predatorily through saggy-jowls and a wan, worn, elongated face which screams “take this social-skills loser away”.
I’m thinking Norman Tebbit. It’s enough to make you queasy.
Signed: all our copies are signed.
R L #1 (£3-00, Sequential Artists Workshop) by Tom Hart.
And I suppose this comic is, in a way, but that’s not what I meant.
Much admired by Eddie Campbell and Scott McCloud, Tom Hart was one of Mark’s favourite cartoonists as well. Alas, all we have left of Tom’s output prior to Rosalie Lightning is NEW HAT STORIES.
I wouldn’t have recognised this as Tom’s work in a million years, so much have the events in this comic transformed him. Maybe the first image of Rosalie throwing her arms up in the air with joy and in emulation of Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ and its acorn growing through sapling “to a beautiful strong tree.”
Tom and Leela lost Rosalie Lightning before she grew to be two. There have been other depictions of bereavement in comics – Anders Nilsen’s DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW and THE END, Aidan Koch’s THE WHALE, and Nicola Streeten’s BILLY, ME & YOU – but this is the most effective and affecting I’ve read about losing your child and so much of your future.
“You best memories are your biggest torments.”
Imagine that. The cruelty of that.
“You remember anything and your heart races – you can’t believe – “
Painfully, Tom recalls some of those best memories along with what may or may not have been tell-tale signs either of Rosalie being ill or her being aware that she wasn’t long for this world.
I infer from elsewhere that there is a larger work being constructed – I could be wrong – but this is succinct and it did me in which isn’t its aim, I know.
Out Of Hollow Water (£8-50, 2D Cloud) by Anna Bonngiovanni.
If you think the cover bodes ill, you should see its extension on the back.
Told in three chapters – each followed by silent sequences, the central one like a constellation of mutating baby-body forms – this is grim stuff, deeply disturbing to read.
“It smells like dirt and self-pity. It reeks of regret.”
It’s a book of fear, helplessness and revulsion. Of things that cannot be undone. Of things you would like to bury, metaphorically and otherwise, but which cannot be got rid of so easily.
It’s all implication and the implications are terrifying.
‘Monster’ begins with a terrible shadow with black, rat-like claws looming a woman whose eyes gaze mournfully into the past while profoundly upset by her present. It follows wherever she goes.
“You made me an alien in my own body. A stranger. An unwelcome guest.”
Then there’s a tree hollow, a well and a bundle of something which certainly isn’t joy.
The single-panel pages have been scratched on so hard and thick with graphite that they are smudged and sullied and uncomfortable to touch.
Freddy Stories (£7-50, self-published) by Melissa Mendes.
She lives with her Mum, next door to Uncle Sully and downstairs from kindly Mrs. Medeiros who lost her husband in the war. There’s a photograph of him on the dresser.
Occasionally her Dad comes to collect Freddy, but she doesn’t want to go. It’s not her house, it doesn’t have her things. They eat on the settee. Later she sleeps there with a sodium street light streaming through the window.
In summer she stays with Aunt Maria for two weeks, but she doesn’t want to go. Freddy hates Aunt Maria (she doesn’t) and Freddy hates the countryside (she doesn’t). Her friends aren’t there, but at least her dog Frank is.
Without saying a word on the subject, Mendes evokes the unsettling prospect of staying with relative strangers: different smells, different routines, different television shows, different meals eaten in different places and different sleeping arrangements.
Also, kids at play. It’s a very quiet, understated little book and BERLIN’s Jason Lutes is a big fan.
In The Sounds And Seas (£9-99, Monkey-Rope Press) by Marnie Galloway.
Which means I haven’t a clue what this is about..
But I love a lot of its patterns: tree leaves at night, lit like chunky dragon scales; the birds and the bunnies and the fan-tailed goldfish filling three singers’ stomachs or lungs as they sit round a campfire and release these creatures in twisting torrents which swirl round each other and up into the sky and – oh, look, someone’s dived in (I missed that first time round; it’s reprised later on) – eventually form a still ocean.
I absolutely adore the whale and the ship’s skeleton which I have always associated with each other.
I’ve failed to mention the magpie. I think it’s a magpie.
Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s The Odyssey is quoted at the front. That never impressed me: too much effort expended in rhyming and cleverness at the expense of clarity. It might have helped me understand what this is about, but I couldn’t be arsed to disentangle its convolutions.
Seriously: that whale. Amazing.
Sunday In The Park With Boys (£7-50, Koyama Press) by Jane Mai.
Other than that, awful.
Autobiographical onanism with nothing to say annoys me intensely.
Jane Mai has absolutely nothing to say yet expects everyone to listen.
She’s depressed, she’s lonely and she knows – oh how she knows – that she’s wasted so much time! Well, she didn’t have to waste mine.
“Coming home during a thunderstorm is kind of nice.
“It’s good for thinking maybe you’ll wash away and become something new.
“If you walk really slowly you are reflecting on life and it is very serious.
“If you run then you are doing something drastic and crazy!”
Thank you, Miss fucking Confucius.
Please do everyone a favour and read Eddie Campbell’s ALEC OMNIBUS. Thank you.
Death Sentence h/c (£16-99, Titan) by Montynero & Mike Dowling.
Three young, disparate individuals have just contract the G-Plus virus: Verity, Weasel and Monty.
There is currently no cure for the G-Plus virus and within six months they will all inevitably die. If there’s a silver lining to their situation it’s that, give or take extreme mood swings, the symptoms are a lot kinder than any other virus known to man: they will begin to experience increased energy, physical fitness and a variety of metahuman abilities. On the negative side, this makes them a target for the British Intelligence and military.
Verity’s the most vulnerable because her readings are off the scale and nobody knows who she is. Oh, she’s a graphic designer – or she was (see mood swings; they’re terribly funny and her abusive boss gets the brunt of it) – but Monty is a smug-as-fuck media personality who knows how to play the game while Weasel is a talentless and so successful musician. Plus his PR people really know how to milk his wretched, risibly unproductive ass:
“How much is this sonic diarrhoea costing us?”
“Erm… £6000 a day.”
“Pull the plug.”
“OK… what do we do instead?”
“Well… we’ve done the supermodel… the blood stunts… prison… collaborations… a covers album… and reforming the old band. So the only fresh angle is the G+ virus.”
“He has developed some skills… though nothing reliable or useful yet.”
“Who cares! Just spin his ‘G+ Hell’ to the tabloids. How’s demand for the Valedictory Tour?”
“Strong. There’s an army of numpties buying into the ‘Misunderstood Genius’ crap who’d basically pay to watch him take a dump on the stage.”
“They have, actually.”
Mike Dowling lets rip with wild gesticulations like a young Duncan Fegredo. I love how Weasel instinctively protects his face with his arms as he plummets towards unyielding asphalt from way up above, as though that’s going to do him any good. But you would, though, wouldn’t you, instinctively? Turns out that the tarmac does yield – to someone intangible. Although sex proves problematic when he loses his concentration.
I also love all the design work that’s gone into the mid-chapter music paper interviews, newspaper posts and online medical health websites. The only thing I didn’t like were the covers, unrepresentative of the art inside or the story’s contents, but then I have an extreme aversion to that sort of glossy, 3-D modelling that Richard Corben used on DEN etc before ditching it in favour of texture. Good move.
Meanwhile, Montynero packs every page with immaculately thought-through ramifications, far from gratuitous profanity but the most blasphemous use of a crucifix I can conceive of. The scenes are short, sharp and slickly edited and the joke-per-page rate is astonishingly high. But then this is essentially a highly successful satire: on sex, sexism, sexual attraction, sexual action, politics, the comedy circuit, celebrity culture and the music industry. Weasel’s chart-topping band was called The Whatevers.
“Bono rang again. The Royal Charity gig.”
“Jeezus!! What’s the cause, his credibility?”
Most impressive initially was the trajectory of libertine wastrel Weasel and his outrageous self-indulgence: boozing, reckless sex and – it transpires – some very dodgy connections. He is, however, deliciously undaunted even in the wake of extreme adversity.
One stop, look and listen to egomaniacal Monty and there’s no mistaking which overrated and over-inflated vainglorious “Voting’s a waste of time” bell-end he’s supposed to be. (I could be projecting.)
I would just note that two-thirds of the way through the tone takes a turn for the unexpectedly dark as the book heads into MIRACLEMAN BOOK 3 territory and it becomes a superhero series. Oh there were always powers, but there were no heroes and villains, just many arched eyebrows and a great deal of sexual shenanigans. That will of course prove a plus point for many but it wasn’t what I saw coming.
Additionally I promise you one panel of pure political catharsis.
Montynero is a very naughty boy. I don’t think we’ve a hope of rehabilitating him, and that makes me very pleased indeed.
Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!
Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?
Pictures That Tick: Short Narrative Book Two – Exhibition (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean
Graveyard Book vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Kevin Nowlan, many more
Crossed vol 9 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Daniel Way, Simon Spurrier & Emiliano Urdinola, Gabriel Andrade
Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception – The Graphic Novel (£9-99, Hyperion) by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigiano
Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight: Bee Vixens From Mars / Prison Ship Antares (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Chris Peterson
White Lama h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess
Cape Horn h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Christian Perrissin & Enea Riboldi
Lust s/c (£14-99, IDW) by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith, Menton3
Deadly Class vol 1 Reagan Youth s/c (£7-50, Image) by Rick Remender & Wesley Craig, Lee Loughridge
Like A Shark In A Swimming Pool (£6-00, Other A-Z) by Verity Hall
Black Widow vol 1: Finely Woven Thread s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto
Teen Titans vol 4: Light And Dark s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Lobdell, Tony Bedard & Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, many more
Damian Son Of Batman h/c (£18-99, DC) by Andy Kubert
Adventure Time Candy Capers vol 1 s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Ananth Panagariya, Yuko Ota & Ian Mcginty
Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Team-Up (£7-50, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Brian Michael Bendis, many more & Josh Fine, Sal Buscema, many more
Soul Eater vol 21 (£8-99, Yen Press) by Atsushi Ohkubo
Fairy Tail vol 40 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima
Naruto vol 66 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto
ITEM! Oh my days, this by Ian McQue is one of the most beautiful images I have ever beheld. Eerie x 7,372
ITEM! Kickstarter for Vera Greantea’s new comic has some gorgeous art. It’s already exceeded its goal so it is going to happen!
Umm, that’s it this week. I’ve run out of time!