Contemporary fiction, crime, sci-fi and spookiness fromTed Naifeh, Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini, Mark Millar & Sean Murphy, Sylviane Corgiat & Laura Zuccheri, Kieron Gillen & Adam Kubert and another Andy Poyiadgi gem! News as ever at the bottom!
Low vol 1: The Delirium Of Hope (£7-50, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini.
The crisp yet soft and lithe-as-you-like strokes here smack of the sort of 1960s’ / 1970s’ fashion and romance line art which Posy Simmonds was referencing in her MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS where the secretary loses herself in daydreams. Feed it through a futuristic filter then add more than a little John Bryne at his loose-pencil best in the figures, smiles and eyes and you have a very attractive package.
Early on Greg Tocchini delivers six pages of classy, unsensationalist and quite natural nudity, modestly portrayed with deftly deployed holograms and colours for modesty’s sake, all drawn in life-class poses then artfully arranged so they communicate with one another.
Plus there’s one panel in which Johl Caine playfully pokes his son Marik in the ribs and young Marik positively dances in response, one arm raised, his leg leaping up and away.
Oh yes, the first chapter is bursting with joy!
It’s very, very beautiful, with subaquatic, man-made leviathans which might put you in mind of Sean Murphy’s THE WAKE. Not only that but spectacle-orientated sci-fi should make you gasp and there are panoramas here which will take your recycled breath away – flourishes which don’t constitute a punchline but a moment of irresistibly prolonged awe before the drama resumes.
This is a book about maintaining hope in the wake of barely conceivable adversity.
Over and over again astronomer and loving mother Stel’s determined optimism isn’t just challenged by those who have given in to despair or feckless, ineffectual resignation but brutally contradicted by events outside her control. Up and down and up and down, the family’s fortunes undulate from the highest crests to the lowest troughs: the second chapter climaxes with Stel’s moment of wholly unexpected, delicious triumph juxtaposed with another’s fall from grace so far that it is devastating.
So it has come to this:
In the future our sun will expand then go supernova, at which point the Earth itself as well as its inhabitants will need more than Factor 500. We will be engulfed. Obliterated. And that will be the end of our story. This isn’t speculative, it is a scientific certainty.
Long before then the radiation levels on the Earth’s surface will have exceeded intolerable, so if we haven’t already escaped this solar system we’ll have needed to move underground or deep, deep, deep underwater.
In LOW humanity hasn’t yet found an alternative, habitable planet but Johl’s wife Stel remains optimistic and focussed.
Johl is focussed but more on the immediate: feeding the subaquatic city of Salus by way of hunting using vast, submerged vessels and personal, watertight exoskeletons keyed to family DNA. His son Marik has followed in his mother’s footsteps so Johl is keener than ever for his two daughters, Della and Tajo, to follow his and become pilots. Tajo is dubious but Della’s all for it and keen to take her first helm, so Stel reluctantly – yet with good humour – agrees: today will be the first family outing!
The problem is, the problem is, the future is not what it was. The problem is, the problem is, if you’ve killed their cat, they’ll kill your dog. And there is someone out there in the freezing, oceanic depths with a long-held grudge.
Ten years on – ten long years take place between chapter one and the main event – the enormity of the challenge gradually becomes clearer and clearer: probes were first sent out in search of habitable planets over 13,000 years ago. 13,000 years without success, 13,000 years of failure! Can you imagine maintaining hope in that terrible knowledge? Few others have and, now that less than a year’s supply of air remains for Stel’s deep-sea colony, its leaders have caved in to drug-fuelled, let’s-take-what-we-can-get hedonism. They won’t assist or in any way enable Stel’s action, even when she believes she’s successfully retrieved a probe at least to the Earth’s toxic surface.
As to her family, I’ve deliberately left the various other members’ plight alone, but that lolloping, grinning son isn’t doing much grinning now. Nor are any of the others.
The scope of this first instalment I’ve barely touched on for Stel is resolute and won’t take no for an answer. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and this is a book for those like me who believe there is always a solution even if it means discarding your comfort zone in favour of getting out there, going it alone and forging your own way forward.
Criminal vol 3: The Dead And The Dying s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.
I love a good structure, and they don’t come more cleverly crafted than this.
As with all six CRIMINAL books and the new CRIMINAL SPECIAL (also available at the time of typing as a CRIMINAL MAGAZINE EDITION complete with a fab faux letter column), this is completely self-contained but for regular readers it’s time for a history lesson because, as Jake ‘Gnarly’ Brown says right at the start, “If you want to understand the truth about anyone, about who they are and where they came from and what they might do, good or bad… you have to look back.”
And so it is that we turn back a whole generation to 1972 to discover how bartender Jake ‘Gnarly’ Brown became childhood friends with Sebastian Hyde, son of the city’s crime boss, through an act of faith on the part of Brown Sr..
We see him fall for beautiful Danica Briggs, step aside for Sebastian, and then lose his temper when he realises how Sebastian bragged his own way into losing a stash of $50k with fatal consequences.
In the second story we see Teeg Lawless (ah yes, that Teeg Lawless) return from Vietnam in body if not soul and you bet that Sean Phillips can do “haunted”.
Haunted, angry and out of control, drinking his way into blackouts, smacking his wife around in front of his son, being called on a debt he took out before the war, and making a single mistake which impacts on them all.
Lastly it’s time for Danica Briggs – she at the very centre of it all – and her own account of the power of her pussy. There’s a brief burst of monologue there which is so specific I wonder if it consciously or subconsciously paved the way for Brubaker and Phillips’ FATALE. This she discovers after you learn what awful means Hyde Sr. used to scar her soul, kill her inside and abort her relationship with Sebastian. I warn you, that chapter’s even nastier than the others.
I’ve talked about this before – though maybe it was on the shop floor – but I also love how Sean does “period”: subtle touches like sideburns and television sets. There’s never too much in a Sean Phillips panel. There is precisely what you need to stay focussed on what the cast is doing, what the cast is saying and tone in which these hard-pushed people are saying it. Everything is in service to the story.
The colours by Val Staples keep it period too, no more than a couple per sequence in various tones: brown and yellow, green and yellow, purple and yellow, blue and yellow or just plain blue. Between Phillips and Staples there is a discipline and orderly restraint letting the protagonists’ lack of either speak for itself. Then when a watercolour dream sequence kicks in it is startling.
As to the structure, each of the three stories informs the other like PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB: you think you know the score until each new perspective reveals a previously unseen aspect. I have a flow chart here (well, a series of criss-crossed arrows and some fifty names and incidents they link together) showing just how tight this is, and the central role that The Undertow bar plays.
Well, it’s where Gnarly winds up, after all.
He’s serving pints of bitter.
The Swords Of Glass h/c (£25-99, Humanoids) by Sylviane Corgiat & Laura Zuccheri…
The world is ending, the start of the death of its sun over a relatively rapid thirty or so year span is causing untold environmental catastrophes. Virtually everyone is oblivious to what is happening, but a select few people, such as mystics, scientists and astrologers are aware. There is also a prophecy that the disaster can be averted, a window opened to another world, allowing escape. But only if the prophecy, involving the reuniting of the four swords of glass, comes to pass, of course…
Enter Yama, the tomboy daughter of village chieftain Achard threatening rebellion against the yoke of local warlord Orland. A magical sword falls from the sky like a flaming meteor and embeds itself in the local sacred stone. One of Orland’s men, commanded to retrieve it, is instantly turned to glass, and then promptly shattered by his irate leader, incensed that he can’t get his hands on this shiny new bauble.
Then, sensing the ferment Yama’s father is trying to incite, Orland informs them he will return that evening to take Achard’s wife as tribute, simply to teach the villagers the lesson of what happens if they even think of challenging his rule. The villagers immediately fall into line and kill Yama’s father to prevent him trying to escape with his family.
Distraught and vowing revenge, Yama runs crying into the forest and thus the glass sword remains there for years, those who try to remove it sharing the same fate as the hapless soldier. Yama, meanwhile, is adopted by a mysterious man, a former general in exile, who trains her in the art of swordplay, and raises her as his daughter. He too knows of the swords and the prophecy.
I have to admit not being familiar with either of the creators. The writer Sylviane Corgiat has done various things for Humanoids before, but nothing that has been translated into English, I think, plus some prose books and also high regarded French television crime drama. Similarly the artist Laura Zuccheri has done loads of acclaimed work in Italy, and it is a constant source of frustration to me how little from that country gets translated into English.
Obviously, with a Humanoids book, much is always expected of the art, and whilst the writing of this work is wonderfully strong, the art is simply spectacular, ligne claire of the highest quality. I can see why Laura Zuccheri has won numerous European awards. Expansive, diverse landscapes, huge fortified cities, elaborately armoured and costumed characters, it’s all just so beautifully illustrated. When you see art of this quality you can’t help but admire the talent that’s produced it, and also be delighted that they’ve decided to work in the field of comics.
This work collects the four original albums into one lovely hardback and would be highly appreciated by anyone who enjoys well crafted high fantasy or just gorgeous artwork.
Lost Property (£6-50, Nobrow) by Andy Poyiadgi.
Maybe you or your parents gave them up to a charity or a car boot sale?
Maybe you let them go reluctantly – oh so reluctantly! Or perhaps during your teens you felt them embarrassing or redundant before regretting their abandonment later in life. Buying back your childhood on ebay is far from unheard of, you know!
Maybe you simply lost stuff. I once left behind a cushion which was the equivalent of a comfort blanket in a caravan on an Isle of Anglesey holiday one early year. A sentence which I immediately regret typing like almost everything I say on Twitter.
Well, imagine that suddenly all those lost lovelies turned up, en masse, in toto, in a Lost Property Department…
From the creator of THE TEA COLLECTION which Page 45 popped together from its constituent parts comes this new Nobrow publication in its 17X23 imprint, so called after the comics’ size in centimetres. They’re all one-off spotlights for new creators to help kick-start their careers and hopefully herald longer works which is a clever and constructive strategy that I pray pays dividends.
This comes with the same “quiet” cartooning and soft, almost old fashioned colours – lots of sage greens and browns – so that when the really rich colours kick in at two key moments they stand out a mile.
Poyiadgi’s very subtle like that, and satisfying. He’s one of those creators who demand you linger longer and it invariably pays dividends.
His use of the beard in THE TEA COLLECTION’s ‘On Reflection’, for example, was so very clever, differentiating the man from his doppelgänger. The beard’s introduction, however, was equally sly and made sense.
Here all the connecting elements including the lost and found items are arranged carefully and ingeniously so that the final revelation in the form of a last lost item – an unopened letter – comes with maximum impact. And when one realises how they’re connected, one cannot help but smile.
Gerald Cribbin is postman, a job whose duty is to safely deliver items to their correct destinations. One morning, however, he accidentally drops a letter knife engraved with his name in a garden. Thankfully the resident repays Gerald’s diligence by handing it into a Lost Property Office down the road. When he goes to collect the knife, Gerald spies a boat in the office’s window which seems oh so familiar.
“I used to have one just like that.”
“It’s one of a set. Quite beautiful, really. Would you like to see?”
“Only if it’s no bother.”
And so it is that down in the basement it gradually dawns on the unassuming Gerald that every single item once belonged to him, from the boats which he would build with his uncle and which Gerald would then paint right down to the hat knitted by his mother who had sewn his school name tag inside. And when Agatha, the office’s assistant, sees the tag which reads “Ged Cribbin” rather than Gerald she realises she knew him at school. She can see he’s bewildered – it’s that same worried look on his face he used to have at school – but since the office is due to close she suggests he comes back the next day. When he does so, he learns that his old belongings had been handed in on various days over the last eight years and that another item had materialised that very morning: his old tool kit.
Now, I’m going to have to leave it there for what happens next must come as a surprise. But I can assure you that everything is connected – the school, his worried look, even the way when he receives the initial phone call that Ged idly arranges his fork, cup,coin and condiments into a lost, flailing man.
Courtney Crumrin vol 7: Tales Of A Warlock h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.
Yet you are breaking and entering into a warlock’s domain. What do you suppose the warlock will be fighting with, mate? Probably not bullets.
Have you noticed how Ted Naifeh’s characters in COURTNEY CRUMRIN have only three fingers? Three fingers and a thumb. I hadn’t. Their fingers curl, all elfin-like. It’s incredibly cute.
The saga of Courtney Crumrin herself runs for six volumes with a beginning, middle and somewhat emphatic end. It’s quite the emotional rollercoaster, highly recommended to those who love a little of the other side without the safety net necessarily of happy endings for anyone.
In COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 1, insatiable curious Courtney moves home. Her new classmates are snobbish and superficial bullies, her parents are clueless and indifferent… only the initially austere Great Uncle Aloysius breaks the spell of utter isolation Miss Crumrin feels now that they’ve moved into his creepy old mansion. Gradually, though, young Courtney finds she rather likes creepy, and although she has a knack for biting off more than she can chew she has a few key qualities on her side: resilience, pluck, and a practical approach to problem solving.
This is set decades early and stars her Great Uncle Aloysius as a young gentlemen, infiltrating a secret society dedicated to eradicating those who wield magic. He’s teamed with his employer’s daughter who falls under Aloysius’ spell and therein lies a conflict already.
There will be plenty more especially when the society sets its sights on his home town of Hillsborough, specifically Aloysius’ own mansion.
Now, do you think it’s likely to prove that straight forward? What’s the society’s true agenda?
Loved the moment when one of Aloysius’ grand portraits comes startlingly to life. Regular readers will be well rewarded by that!
This series is perfectly suitable for Young Adults as well as Adult Adults and we adore COURTNEY CRUMRIN so much we’ve reviewed every book. They’re luxuriously designed with silver inside and out, coloured with a hauntingly restrained palette and some of the darker entities within are pretty forbidding.
I’m particularly fond of Ted Naifeh’s brows and eyebrows which curl quizzically, tenderly and quite vulnerably in places and I’ve always been a fan of floppy hair so both Alice and Aloysius pleased me enormously here.
Expect transmogrifications and that gun to be useless.
Chrononauts #1 (£2-75, Image) by Mark Millar & Sean Murphy…
“How old did you say this was?”
“The temple? It predates Stongehenge by six thousand years. The oldest place of worship anywhere on the planet.
“But that’s not the interesting part. It’s what the megaliths have been built around that’s causing all the excitement.
“You have to remember this predates metal tools, Doctor Quinn. This was before man even had pottery…
“I told you it was worth the trip.”
As prologues go this one packs quite the punchline delivered by Sean Murphy to eye-stopping effect.
For what were those megaliths were built around, perched atop ornate columns inside that temple… is a fully armed F-14 Tomcat: a fourth-generation, supersonic, twinjet, two-seat, variable-sweep wing fighter aircraft first introduced in 1974. And, funnily enough, one of those did go missing back in the 1970s.
How did it end up in South-East Turkey six thousand years before Stonehenge was built?
That mystery – along with the fleet of sports cars found under Mayan temples and other strange temporal anomalies – convinces Doctor Corbin that he’s on the right track, that time-travel is possible, which is just as well because his prototype satellite equipped with a television camera is about to be bent through a time-stream tunnel to transmit 1863 AD live to a frankly astonished worldwide audience.
It’s quite the success.
Do you think it would have you attention?
Good, because Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly are planning their first manned mission in eighteen months time with their hi-tech – and indeed high-fashion – time suits. No point in travelling through time if you can’t look suave whilst doing it.
That our intrepid duo intend to take man’s bold first steps backwards through time, becoming the world’s first chrononauts in the process, all whilst televised absolutely live to the watching billions, possibly suggests an element of foolhardiness that doesn’t bode well for their smooth passage. Inevitably therefore, like in every good time travel yarn, something immediately goes awry, and with Corbin Quinn seemingly lost in time, there’s only one man up to the task of trying to retrieve him.
So given Danny Reilly seems like an egomaniacal jack-ass of the first order, again whilst raising our amusement value considerably, it doesn’t suggest his rescue mission is going to be remotely straightforward. Indeed, the spectacular climatic double-page spread leaves us absolutely no doubt as to where Danny finds himself. Deep in the proverbial temporal doo-doo, that’s where! The when is the siege of Kabul in Samarkand, 1504. Right slap bang in the absolute middle of it…
I can’t really imagine where, or indeed when, this is going to go next. Obviously there’s an extratemporal extrication that’s of paramount importance first and foremost, but how on earth do the misplaced modern day items factor in? Clearly there’s a high fun factor in what is basically a buddy caper, and whilst I certainly don’t think Millar is intending any hard sci-fi exploration of the nature of time, I think there’ll surely be a few crazy plot twists to come too.
Superb art from Sean THE WAKE / PUNK ROCK JESUS Murphy as Millar continues his own personal Pokemon quest to collect all the best artists in the comic industry for his Millarworld imprint before he expires. Fair play to him in that respect for it’d be very easy to stick with a winning formula, but I think given every yarn he writes is pretty distinct, they actually benefit from having very different artwork styles. That’s my theory anyway.
Note: being a retailer with common sense we still have stock of this issue at the time of typing. Let’s hope we still have some by your time of reading…
JR with SLH
Wolverine: Origin II s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Adam Kubert.
It really is. You won’t meet a single human being during the first chapter other than Logan himself, now entirely feral following the events in WOLVERINE: ORIGIN.
Instead in a breath of fresh mountain air the initial cast consists of a wolf pack which has adopted Wolverine, its new litter holed up in a den on the snow-swept Canadian Rockies, a prowling lone wolf and a gigantic polar bear which has strayed far from its natural habitat, so finding itself at a predatory disadvantage.
“It seemed to believe that covering its nose would disguise it from prey. It didn’t grasp fishing in the rivers, waiting for prey to emerge and being disappointed when it didn’t…”
Fish, unlike seals, don’t need to come up for air. Yes, it’s a long way from home. A very long way. Don’t you find that curious?
Image-driven, that first chapter was magnificent: sweeping landscapes, ferocious battles and some monumental, full-page flourishes all coloured to delicious perfection by… hold on – that isn’t Isanove?! I can assure you that colour artist Frank Martin is every bit as good.
What follows marks Logan’s first contact with the world he and we will come to know well: one in which man uses and abuses man, cages him and tortures him in the name of personal pleasure, medical research and military power. That polar bear itself was an experiment, the sinister Dr. Essex releasing a new alpha predator into the Canadian Rockies and in doing so snagging an even bigger one – Logan – who in turn attracts yet another: a lupine wildlife hunter called Creed who jealously guards his beautiful but disfigured companion Clara.
Memory plays an important part, Kubert’s silent snap-shots flashing through Logan’s mind like blood-stained daggers; but the more he experiences, the more he will want to forget and, as we all know, ultimately he does so.
One of the most pleasurable elements of the original ORIGIN was Paul Jenkins’ slight of hand, leading you up the (secret) garden path when it came to Logan’s true identity. Wickedly, Gillen has reflected this in his own game of powerplay and presumption, leaving it right until the epilogue to pull the rug from under you, but it all makes perfect sense, I promise.
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?
Lumberjanes vol 1: Beware The Kitten Holy (£10-99, Boom) by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis & Brooke A. Allen
Dark Ages (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard
Demo s/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan
A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel s/c (£10-99, Square Fish) by Madeleine L’Engle & Hope Larson
Yo, Miss: A Graphic Look At High School (£9-99, Microcosm) by Lisa Wilde
Brody’s Ghost vol 6 (£5-99, Dark Horse) by Mark Crilley
Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor vol 1: Revolutions Of Terror s/c (£12-99, Titan) by Nick Abadzis & Elena Casagrande
Empowered Unchained vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Adam Warren & Adam Warren, various
My Little Pony: Friends Forever vol 3 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by various
The Goon vol 14: Occasion Of Revenge (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Powell
DC Comics Zero Year s/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, various & Greg Capullo, various
Superman: Doomed h/c (£37-99, DC) by Greg Pak, Charles Soule, Scott Lobdell & various
Wonder Woman vol 5: Flesh s/c (£12-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang
Wonder Woman vol 6: Bones h/c (£16-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang
All New X-Men vol 6: The Ultimate Adventure (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mahmud Asrar
Avengers: Rage Of Ultron h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena
Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 4: Original Sin (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Ed McGuinness
Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ryo Suzukaze & Satoshi Shiki
Blade Of The Immortal vol 31: Final Curtain (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroaki Samura
Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 8 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima
Yamada-kun And The Seven Witches vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Miki Yoshikawa
ITEM! “The world is our oyster!” “Our oyster full of cats!” Dreamy comic by Carson Ellis, sadly abandoned.
ITEM! Swoon at the new CEREBUS print by Gerhard, comics’ greatest landscape artist! (Pictured above.) Look to the right at that link and there are some similarly gorgeous prints available to buy right now! *unfurls wallet* *watches moths fly*
ITEM! Fully, physically interactive create-your-own-adventure comics created by Jason Shiga – mind-boggling! Obviously those are ridiculously limited editions but we can sell this piece of Jason Shiga genius – MEANWHILE – which is also a create-your-own-adventure comic with genius use of interconnecting tubes.
ITEM! Did you enjoy JUPITER’s LEGACY by Mark Millar & Frank Quitely? Now would be a very good time to pre-order its prequel, JUPITER’S CIRCLE. A very good time! Before it swoops in and sells out. We haven’t transferred orders automatically because the art is radically different. Preview of Mark Millar’s JUPITER’S CIRCLE along with an interview. Includes men canoodling in bed! *gasp*
ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is running an under-17s art competition! Paint Poblin! Draw him! Make him! Cuddle him!