Archive for November, 2010

Reviews November 2010 week four

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

ACME #20, PLANETARY VOL 4, WALKING DEAD VOL 13? It’s a very good week indeed!

 

Whores Of Mensa #5 (£6-99, self-published) by Sarah McIntyre, Tanya Milkkitten Meditzky, Jeremy Dennis Day, Francesca Cassavetti, Patrice Aggs, Ellen Lindner, Cliodhna Lyons, Maartje Schalkx, Howard John Arey, Emily Ryan Lerner, Peter Lally, John Harris Dunning, Richard Cowdry, Mardou.

Another very sharp package from one of Page 45’s previous Comicbooks Of The Month, this is the party issue whose wraparound cover comes complete with a Peter Blake-style bacchanal tagged inside so you can see who’s who, and it’s cool to see that after all these years Jeremy Dennis Day still has blue hair! ‘Larderella’ inside is yet another example of her inspired and deftly dealt lunacy, a riff on Cinderella with an Oyster Card for transport and a more swiftly slippered Prince Charming.

Francesca Cassavetti evokes pre-teen birthday parties to perfection (along with the hots for a French boy), Cliodhna Lyons is too pooped from preparation to party, and Tanya MILKKITTEN Meditzky (another of our previous CBOTMs there) is so convincing about the twin origins of the conga line and Speakers Corner at Hyde Park that I must inevitably call her bluff. The game is given away by this little known nugget of geophysical history:

“Interesting fact – Hyde Park used to contain many inactive volcanoes but these were all flattened at the behest of Queen Victoria.”

Ellen Lindner (our copies of Undertow are usually signed and sketched in for free – and believe me, the sketches are gorgeous!) made me reach for the Oxford English Dictionary to learn what an incunabulum might be and my French/English dictionary in order to translate the title ‘Scaphandre’. It’s a diving bell and I suspect its 1928 heroine might be the titular butterfly of the relevant book/film (Le Scaphandre et Le Papillion).

The stand-out piece for me, however, was Patrice Aggs’ ‘Grace Jones Has Left The Building’. How many times in comics or film do you hear conversations running in parallel? Patrice pulls it off with an almost casual dexterity down at the hairdressers as rumours of Grace Jones attending a party which they’ve all been invited to in three hours time spiral out of control at the expense of a bride-to-be’s hairdo and wedding dress. The portraits, body-language and line are all absolutely gorgeous.

Plus: what exactly lies within the adults-only Sachet Of Salaciousness? The sachet and my lips are both sealed.

Preview here (Jeremy Dennis Day is top right).

SHOP LINK

SLH

A Disease Of Language s/c (£11-99, Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell.

What did school do for you, then? We’ve one hell of a lot of teachers signed up to the Page 45 Mailshot – several of them personal friends – and I wish to God I’d been taught by them. But school as an institution – our education system itself…? I think Alan pretty much nails it:

“The flow of vital youth along school corridors like sheep towards a shearing. Frisking, unaware. The real curriculum is punctuality, obedience and the acceptance of monotony… those skills we shall require later in life. Oblique aversion therapy to cure us of our thirst for information and condition us so that thereafter we forge an association between indolence and pleasure. We confuse rebellion with a hairstyle.”

“A disease of language” was Aleister Crowley’s personal description of magic, an act of which has somehow allowed my original review of The Birth Caul, long lost, to resurface in time for this new softcover printing.

From the creative team of FROM HELL, then, this collects Eddie Campbell’s interpretations of Alan Moore’s classic stand-up performances, The Birth Caul and Snakes And Ladders, along with the enormously entertaining interview that originally appeared in EGOMANIA plus a new sketchbook.

The Birth Caul was staged at the Old County Court in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on 18th November 1995, Alan reading to music written especially for the event by Tim Perkins and David J of Bauhaus. Now we too have access to the performance, for one of the most remarkable aspects of Eddie’s work here is the context – the degree to which one feels oneself part of the original audience sitting in that Courthouse with the bearded shaman looming out of the darkness from the judicial throne, delivering his judgement. The balance between these atmospheric anchors and Eddie’s own visual interpretation of the words is perfect. The structure of each page is fresh and varied, with spots of photography amongst the grey wash well-chosen for relevant impact, and the whole thing charges ahead with a dynamism I could never have anticipated. Alan springs from personal reflections thrown up by his mother’s death, to ruminations on the various phases of an appallingly ordered and preordained cradle-to-grave experience, identifying those individual checkpoints with startling accuracy, then (with the aid Campbell’s familiar flair for humanity – for visual clue, cue and association) evoking them with a tenderness and poetry which brings both immediate recognition and empathy. Superb use of a child’s thought-language towards the end.

Meanwhile of Snakes And Ladders, my mate David Hart wrote this:

“Like the earlier collaboration, The Birth Caul, the roots of this book lie in a one-off performance given by Alan Moore, this time at Conway Hall on the subject of ‘Real Magic’. Covering a vaguely similar postcode at times as PROMETHEA, the book circles easily around the established compass of Moore’s poetic – the interinanimation of history and geography; the primacy of the symbol over the deed; the fact that snakes are really cool – before settling into an essay on the transformative and redemptive power of the imagination, loosely grounded in the life of early 20th Century fantastical writer Arthur Machen. Like The Birth Caul, the genesis of the book in a public performance helps lend a propulsive rhythm to the words, one that’s carefully choreographed and marshalled by Eddie Campbell. If anything, Campbell’s work here is better than ever before. Pages and sequences are built up by layer, collage grooved next to watercolour, photographs and sampled art tessellated with ink caricatures. At the centre of the book is a four page sequence of a woman dancing with a snake. The art here is possibly the best figure work Campbell’s ever done, and successfully fails to bring to mind Britney Spears at the MTV Music Awards. Where the book is most winning is when Moore leavens his essentially Romantic vision with historical and personal detail, earthing his flights of fancy. The space between Oliver Cromwell and Dante Rossetti, Windsor McCay and James Watson, a Westminster sandwich bar and Machen’s Baghdad, is broached to reveal previously hidden comparisons. While Moore’s language sparkles and binds as much ever, the book really comes alive when he focuses in on the brushstrokes rather than the picture, and more of this would be welcome. If the destination is one that’s been visited before, the interest of the book lies in the journey. Although perhaps neither quite as ambitious or as successful as The Birth Caul, Snakes And Ladders still provokes and prods in all the right places. As a primer to the mind of Northampton’s Greatest Ever Comic Book Writer, Snakes And Ladders rolls a six. I thank yew.”

In addition, this is what I made of the interview during a month which saw us flooded with more Alan than we thought possible:
None of these books, magazines or CDs were scheduled to appear at the same time, but since becoming a magician Alan Moore appears to have become one big nexus of serendipity as detailed here in the vast, faxed interview by Eddie Campbell. Having adapted two of Alan’s stage performances as well as working with him on FROM HELL, Eddie is particularly interested in discussing the former as they relate to Moore’s personal journey into magic, and the account their construction – or should I say, evolution – is as fascinating as you’d expect.

An eloquent communicator of even the most complex metaphysical concepts, Moore elucidates on his notion of a shared Ideaspace and its topography of hot-linked associated thoughts, as explored in PROMETHEA and which he convincingly offers as a possible explanation not only for telepathy, but for ghosts and the otherwise inexplicably synchronous arrival of thoughts or inventions in ostensibly unconnected minds like steam propulsion. Staying with the PROMETHEA title, Moore also details how #12 came together, where the history of existence and humanity is mapped onto the major Arcana of the Tarot whilst simultaneously having Aleister Crowley tell a joke beginning in his infancy and ending in old age, and – improbably – finding twenty-two anagrams from the word ‘Promethea’ pertinent to each particular page:
“I’d have to say that if someone were to put a gun to my head (Americans: note that this is a figure of speech and not an example of acceptable social behaviour) and demand to know what I thought was my single cleverest piece of work, I’d have to say PROMETHEA #12. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to share my exaggerated sense of self-satisfaction with everyone else.”

And in case you’d been thinking that this whole discussion was way too dry for you, Alan is similarly mischievous and entertaining throughout, as demonstrated when discussing stage magician James Randi’s desperate attempts to discredit Uri Geller:

“Having failed to do this by his preferred strictly rational means, Randi switched to the scientifically unusual tactic of branding Geller a paedophile for which, I understand, he was subsequently successfully sued by the psychic. And probably got his cutlery drawer thoroughly twatted into the bargain.”

Moore also displays a cheeky glee in knocking those for whom he has the greatest affection. On the subject of the Angel Passage performance/CD:

“I think Tim wanted to do something more epic and musically structured for the Blake piece, probably because he’d been mortally stung by a review of The Highbury Working that referred to his contribution as “fizzy ’80s electropop.” And if I’m honest, I probably didn’t help by constantly taunting him about it and saying that we should change our name to The Northampton Yazoo and become a tribute band, with me as the bulky yet somehow sultry Alison Moyet figure and Tim as the possibly-gay fizzy ’80s electropop keyboard wizard Vince Clarke type. So, in embittered revenge, he goes into the studio and concocts this fucking five-storey Jacobean wedding cake of a thing that I’m expected to put words to. No wonder Alison Moyet went solo.”

LINK

SLH / DH

Two CDs in stock here: and .

The Best American Comics 2010 (£16-99, HMH) by Jonathan Lethem, Farel Dalrymple, Gary Panter, Peter Kuper, Gabrielle Bell, Lilli Carre, Ben Katchor, James Kochalka, Jonathan Ames, Dean Haspiel, John Pham, David Mazzucchelli, Gilbert Hernandez, Mario Hernandez, Chris Ware, Derf, Jesse Reklaw, Robert Crumb, Peter Bagge, Fred Chao, Todd Brewer, Steve MacIsaac, Theo Elseworth, Michael Cho, Bryan Lee O’ Malley, Josh Neufeld, Lauren Weinstein, C. Tyler and edited by Neil Gaiman

Curated this year by SANDMAN’s Neil Gaiman, this annual anthology never lets us down. Fresh and eclectic, it’s all reprints to be sure, but a superb primer for those wishing to expand their horizons in search of comicbook excellence.

Some of stories you’re unlikely to have seen, like ‘Ceci n’est pas une comic’ from the Virginia Quarterly Review by political animal Peter Kuper (Stop Forgetting To Remember) based on Magrite’s famous ‘Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe’ already used with great wit by Scott McCloud in UNDERSTANDING COMICS but here taken right out of the garage and accelerated down the leftfield highway in a devastating indictment of the legacy left by George W. Bush. It’s an art gallery full of denials decidedly less convincing than Magrite’s:

“This is not a stolen election.
“This is not unimaginable [Twin Towers]
“This is not fear-mongering…
“This is not an invasion.
“This is not a lie.
“This is not torture.
“This is not for oil…”

Et cetera.

Whereas most of the Chris Ware material here is from Acme Novelty Library #19, Fiction Versus Non-Fiction has thankfully been plucked for posterity from Bookforum. In it Ware presents us with an autobiographical account of how he found a way to liberate himself from strict demands of historical detail in order to more accurately present his grandmother on the page using fiction. Typically Chris then messes with us by including an almost certainly fictional conversation with his very real wife about that very subject!

And if the majority of this anthology contains excerpts gleaned from works we’ve already promoted over the course of the year (Mazzucchelli’s ASTERIOS POLYP, Crumb’s BOOK OF GENESIS, Bagge’s EVERYBODY IS STUPID EXCEPT FOR ME – pop any of those creators into our search engine and see), it is as I say a grand introduction, as is Neil Gaiman’s during which he takes apart the title’s constituent parts (‘best’ ‘American’ ‘2010’) and confesses just how far he’s stretched the rules of selection… all as part of an undrawn comic script, of course, and a fiction posing as autobiography!

SLH

100 Months h/c (£19-99, Cutting Edge) by John Hicklenton.

“It’s beautiful and powerful and strong” – Neil Gaiman

Pat Mills joins Neil with an eloquent and impassioned tribute to his late friend and collaborator on 2000AD, comparing this bloody, brutal yet beautifully illuminated battle with man, beast and death itself to J.M. DeMatteis & Kent Williams’ BLOOD and I couldn’t agree more. That’s exactly what I was put in mind of during the very first pages and there’s little else like it out there. Words, there are few for it’s as close to poetry as BLOOD came for me when I was a teenager, but these are infinitely more palatable to my adult self.

I’ll tell you what this also is: it’s a dance. It’s a ballet choreographed meticulously across hundreds of full-colour landscape pages. The final act by a man liberated from the confines of a weekly work-for-hire comic, however much fun, by the fanboys who never got him.

Mills rightly rails against those early mediocre critics who failed to appreciate John’s vision, preferring instead more “insipid, dumbed-down, comic muzak to wild, intoxicating visual extravaganzas” and so pushed Hicklenton off the very books he would probably have stuck with, such was his love of JUDGE DREDD. Pat says they went for “Monoto-vision” instead, and this is certainly a far cry from the goth-o-vision of ASCEND whose parodied pretensions still make me smile.

In spite of the carnage it remains above all ebullient. Not even defiant though defiance there is. No, if you’ll forgive me, I think I got it right the first time: it’s a liberation.

SLH

If… Bursts Out h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Steve Bell.

Thatcher on the doorstep of No. 10:

“Where there is disco, may we bring New Romantic shit…
“Where there is error, may we bring a smacked bottom…
“Where there is doubt, may we bring foghorns
“Where there is despair, may we bring destitution.”

Mission accomplished, Mrs. T.

Steve Bell is one of our great political cartoonists, often found sharing a platform with TAMARA DREWE’s Posy Simmonds – literally one year when a train was so late they had took to the stage together for a unique performance at the Lowdham Book Festival I would give an original Caxton to have seen.

This stonking full-colour hardcover of strips from 2006 to 2010 comes in at exactly 400 pages and takes on the very worst of New Labour like the Department for Work and Pensions’ scare-mongering seen down a camera lens (“Ugly, low class people… We’re closing in. Royalty… We’re backing off” or first here the Speaker of the House of Commons and then Tony Blair: “Sad, useless old jocks…. We’re closing in. Simpering war criminals… Keep up the good work sir!”), Obama’s struggle with American Healthcare, the Royal Family (love the phonetics following the Lady Di inquest: “Fack me sideways. I’m in the clear!” “Philip! This is State Benquet. We dane’t read the papers and talk common at a State Benqet!” “But it’s official! I never done the slag in to stop ‘er shaggin’ Muslims!”) and, of course, George Dubya Bush:

Fancy! A goddamned tonguewart manages to write a book!
“So many words. So much paper. It says here in black and white that I ain’t stupid!
“It says I’m incurious. What does incurious mean?
“ …Do I give a shit?”

SLH

Percy Jackson & The Olympians Book One: The Lightning Thief (£7-50, Hyperion) by Rick Riordan, Robert Venditti & Attila Futaki.

Ridiculously affordable, this dense, witty and complex full-colour adaptation took me hours to read. Robert Venditti’s obviously had to make some hard decisions of what to leave on the cutting room floor, and he’s done a fine job of keeping it clipped and to the point so that it canters along at a cracking pace without once throwing you out of the saddle.

There be centaurs and satyrs, oracles spewing poisonous predictions, minotaurs to battle and petty rivalries to overcome; our young hero’s going to have to grow up very fast if he’s to survive not just the mythological threats to his contemporary life but the loss of his mother and revelations regarding his lineage.

“You should never have been born.”
“You really need to work on your delivery.”

Percy Jackson is a young man who should never have been born. His very existence threatens everyone around him. His mother was mortal – all too mortal – but his father was Poseidon, Greek God of the Ocean, giving him elemental control over water. Unfortunately Poseidon had sworn an oath on the River Styx with his brothers Zeus and Hades not to sire any more demi-gods after the catastrophes of WWII. Zeus being Zeus, of course, simply couldn’t keep it in his pants and soon fell off the good wagon Chastity. His new daughter paid the price.

All of which leaves Percy very vulnerable indeed. Hades has already dispatched a fury, the three Fates have cut the line, and there’s more than meets the eye to the rivalry between Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. Someone else is pulling some strings. Now he, Grover and Annabeth have to race across a modern-day America littered with treachery and traps before the Solstice is upon them to reach the entrance to the Underworld (current location: D.O.A. Records, Los Angeles!) and retrieve Zeus’ stolen thunderbolt. The outlook’s somewhat overcast:

“You shall go Wessst, and face the God who has turned.
“You shall find what was stolen, and sssee it safely returned.
“You shall be betrayed by one who callsss you friend.
“And you shall fail to sssave what matters mossst in the end.”

Perfectly suitable for early teens, this couldn’t be less patronising, making it a riot for adults as well. I honestly think fans of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods would get a blast. Some very funny unbelaboured visual gags like half-goat Grover’s diet, and the promise of Pan appearing further down the line…? You know I’m there! Also, Ares turns up on a motorcycle.

“Um… Deus Ex Machina, anyone?”

SLH

Howl: A Graphic Novel (£14-99, Harper Pernennial) by Allen Ginsberg & Eric Drooker.

Frames taken from the animated adaptation of Ginsberg’s howl against a dehumanising society, so you can see why the creator of BLOOD SONG, one of my favourite graphic novels of all time, would immediately hop on board.

Understandably the Ginsberg name has already drawn a lot of new people into the shop for their first graphic novel, but this has been conducted in a completely different style using computerised modelling and, personally speaking, I cannot bear to even look at it.

SLH

At The Mountains Of Madness (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by H.P. Lovecraft & Ian Culbard…

“Do you have a name for them yet?”
“Yes I do. Remember the book that Professor Armitage kept under lock and key in the university library? The Necronomicon?”
“I… I do.”
“Then you’ll understand when I speak of Elder Things.”
“Bill?”
“I’m here.”
“I think… err… think we should tone down reports to the outside world for now… until at least until we’ve substantiated these findings.”

Another title I’ve been very eagerly awaiting. On the face of it Ian Culbard’s well rounded style of art so ably demonstrated on the three recent SHERLOCK HOLMES adaptations is not perhaps the most obvious for adapting a classic horror story, probably one of the two finest works within Lovecraft’s Cthulhu canon along with (in my opinion) The Silver Key. Except in fact in this case, it is absolutely perfect, because MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is nothing to do with gore and everything to do with a very unsettling story that moves the reader inch by imperceptible inch nearer to an uneasy psychological state. This is classic horror, in that fear of the unknown, “What exactly is it lurking in the hidden depths?”-type horror. Or in this case, within the Mountains Of Madness, a virtually impenetrable mountain range right in the heart of the frozen Antarctic wastes.

I can certainly understand why they’ve picked this particular work for adaptation as it is in some ways the most straightforward and comprehensible of Lovecraft’s books, simply because whatever else it is, it’s also a great Boy’s Own adventure tale. To set the scene it’s September 1930 and an expedition from Miskatonic University is in the Antarctic taking deep geological samples when they make some rather puzzling and shocking finds. These inexplicable discoveries quickly change the planned intent and indeed course of the expedition, taking the learned explorers into hitherto unexplored and inaccessible territories. Discoveries and geography which start to seem disturbingly familiar to some of the explorers who have read the fabled Necronomicon, kept safely under lock and key by a colleague back at the university.

Indeed the marked similarities of what they find, compared to the widely considered fictional rantings of a madman suggest the world may have a rather longer, darker and most disturbing pre-history than current academic wisdom would opine. As things take a sinister and even more suspenseful turn with the disappearance of part of the exploration party, those that remain at base camp feel compelled, against all good sense and reason, ever nearer the soaring jagged mountain range ahead.

If you like clever horror, do take a look at this. It’s been very cleverly adapted by Culbard who works in the more fantastical elements in a manner than never seems completely outlandish or utterly unbelievable. Indeed his warm art style and vibrant colours perfectly counterpoint the bleak locale of the situation, where it’s all too easy to believe, in a time where the world still had some unexplored and remote regions, that such a place could just possibly exist. More good news for Lovecraft fans, as apparently Guillermo del Toro has confirmed he will be making a movie of this particular tale!

LINK

JR

My New York Diary (new edition) (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Julie Doucet.

As namechecked by Le Tigre on ‘Hot Topics’, Julie Doucet is one of the most acclaimed women who, uh, used to be in comics! There’s a full-colour, four-panel signed and numbered print hanging in our office right above our computer. Mark wrote:

“The ink seems to hang from the page as Doucet illustrates her dreams and wayward imagination. Her style develops through tales of periods, alcohol and sex. Backgrounds shimmer from panel to panel and household objects beg for attention. Powerful & disturbing.”

Here Julie packs her Canadian bags and moves to New York but is pursued by a jealous boyfriend. Insecurity about her own creative talent isn’t exactly helped by her propensity to self-medicate on alcohol and drugs.

LINK

SLH

What I Did h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason.

Reprints SSHHHH!, THE IRON WAGON and HEY WAIT…, that third book being one of the most affecting things I have ever read in comics. Like Shiga’s DOUBLE HAPPINESS, to speak about it at all would ruin any reading of it for you but, my word, what an incredible distillation of everything that is heartstopping about Moments That Matter. Perfect title. Mark reviewed it to perfection, giving nothing away, thus:

“Careful – think twice before you read this book. It is very, very beautiful, but it will utterly break your heart.” – Dylan Horrocks (HICKSVILLE)

And I didn’t expect it to because I can be a little arrogant when it comes to a new work. But it did. The first half tells of a pair of friends during their childhood without any of the sub-Spielberg mawk that’s been endemic over the past couple of years. The second instalment is the aftermath of an occurrence and the distance between your initial belief in the world and the outcome. Both parts use single pages to show little incidences, painting pictures of blissful innocence or blank daily trudge. Jason uses anthropomorphic figures to tell the story and strange little details are changed from our reality but, like Gilbert Hernandez’s similar devices in his later autobio tales, this never distances us from the emotions of the lead.

LINK

MS / SLH

h day (£22-50, Picturebox) by Renee French

Renée is definitely more at the abstract rather than adorable end of her approach to comics here, probably due to the fact that this work represents a period of time when she was struggling with bad migraine headaches and err… an Argentine ant infestation. As a consequence it’s actually a story told wholly in metaphor in two distinct parts, though in reality it is the same wordless story, told on opposing pages throughout the book. That it’s one story isn’t completely apparent though until the final page, when you realise you’ve been reading one of the two stories in reverse and in fact the correct reading order is to read half the pages forward, then the other half backwards. Oh, and rather cleverly it works as an illustrated flick-book too so you can, if you’re impatient enough, get the basic concept of the story in about 10 seconds in total.

Understanding precisely what it all actually means is likely to take you considerably longer though, and much thumbing back and forth of individual pages, to grasp the narrative behind the structure of metaphors that Renée is simultaneously building and dismantling, and stretching and distorting for that matter. The left-hand pages show a being that has some sort of growth or mass inside its head, which is gradually escaping and winding its way around a bed. The right-hand pages are much more elaborate with strange blank buildings and junctions that seem interspersed with tiny forms and beset by swirling winds that change shape. Plus there’s an interim sequence with some extremely odd creatures and cages that is genuinely disturbing. I’ll be honest, knowing the migraines and ants background provides some insight into interpreting what Renée has drawn, but if I didn’t know about the ants and the migraines, I’m not sure I’d really have a clue.

LINK

JR

Hatter M vol 3: The Nature Of Wonder s/c (£10-99, Automatic) by Frank Beddor, Liz Cavalier & Sami Makkonen…

Hmm, strangely my enjoyment of this series is diminishing apace with each passing volume, and I’m not sure completely why really. It’s well written enough, the art is rather good, but I just feel the story has completely lost its way somehow. It’s all got a little abstract on the one hand, and bogged down on unnecessary detail on the other. I also thought it was the concluding volume which it turns out it isn’t, this volume mainly just seeming to consist of well, plot filler really, without anything of any importance being added to the story, with the effect of it losing all steam. The ‘wonder’ is fast dissipating for me sadly.

JR

B.P.R.D. vol 14: King Of Fear (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis…

Finally, the conclusion to the Scorched Earth trilogy began in vols 10 & 11! Everything is brought full circle and we end with a new beginning… Other than that, I don’t really want to give anything at all away for those of you that haven’t yet embarked upon reading this, the most expansive BPRD story arc to date.

One word of advice though for folks who are up to date in your Mignolan monitorings, for maximum enjoyment go back and read at least vols 10 & 11 before reading this one. There are so many secondary characters and villains who get their little respective nods here and there, small half-forgotten sub-plots getting tied-in, -up or nudged along, and just outright oblique references to myriad minor matters in this volume, as the main plot itself also comes to a conclusion, that I found myself struggling to coherently remember everything that had gone before, which was rather a shame, given the amount of effort that’s clearly gone into the writing of this concluding part.

BPRD is still getting better and better for me in its storytelling, and there are plenty of hints dropped, some probably deliberately to mislead and misdirect I think, of what is to come next.

LINK

JR

Tim Burton: MoMa (£14-99, Museum Of Modern Art) by Tim Burton etc.

A couple of substantial essays precede the works exhibited at the Museum Of Modern Art which show the distinct influence of Gerald Scarfe. So don’t be thinking this is going to be all MELANCHOLY DEATH OF OYSTER BOY or NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. They’re here, but there’s also a great deal of more elaborate work in a variety of media from pastel and acrylic, oil and acrylic, pen, ink, watercolour and colour pencil. Polaroid too.

SLH

The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy And Other Stories (£8-99) by Tim Burton.

Well, I‘ve had a copy knocking about my house for a good ten years, but I can’t lay my scissorhands upon it today.

Why do we stock these illustrated nonsense rhymes when Tim has nothing to do with comics? Because Page 45 shamelessly panders to a public that can’t get enough Tim Burton, and it’s in the same mischievously macabre tradition as those beloved AMPHIGOREY books by the mid-century master himself, Edward Gorey.

Here then are the original and overwhelmingly doomed adventures of Oyster Boy, Stain Boy, Toxic Boy etc. who spawned a thousand models, Mugs and playing cards. My favourite was the Tragic Thoughts Journal which arrived one Christmas. I wrote, “Fully festive, this journal features tiny coloured lights on the cover concealed in the Pin Cushion Queen’s Crown which you can turn on and off up to 1,000 times. After that they stop working, like most things in life, and it’ll be just you and your thoughts all alone in the dark.” It’s really very good.

LINK

SLH

Superman: Earth One h/c (£14-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski & Shane Davis…

“I have spent the last twenty years searching for something. More accurately someone.
“My journey has taken us to a dozen worlds, but I still have not found the target.
“If he is hiding here, I will continue the attack until he is provoked into revealing himself…
“If it turns out he is not here, then I will leave your world and try elsewhere.
“But only after several million of you are dead, so that I will know that I have done everything possible to provoke a response…
“To my target, if you are listening, those are the terms. Reveal yourself and surrender. Or watch your world die around you.”

Free from the constraints of mainstream continuity J. Michael Straczynski has turned in a genuine epic with SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE. This work most definitely has the feel of a blockbuster film, in all the positive senses one can mean that, in stark contrast to the last actual Superman film, which began with a fine action set-piece and then was utterly boring drivel throughout its remainder.

Here we start with a familiar premise, Clark Kent leaving the comfort of Smallville and the bosom of Ma Kent and heading for the big smoke that is Metropolis. But then we’re presented with a rather different story to the one we’re used to, as instead of immediately assuming the persona of a mild-mannered reporter Clark investigates a number of different career options from American football to research scientist, and seems rather less reticent about using his abilities in everyday life, even in a low-key manner, than we’ve become used to. He does visit the Daily Planet, but leaves initially rather unimpressed with the bullpen and its cast of characters including the paternal Perry white, a rather abrasive Lois Lane and a somewhat more genial shutterbug Jimmy Olsen. Good to see Straczynski hasn’t changed everything! We even get the revealing information that Ma and Pa Kent always saw their adopted son as a hero that could inspire the world, even providing him with his costume, yet this Clark Kent seems very reluctant to consider, never mind embrace his eventual destiny. Or even try on his tights. So what’s going to change that then, I wonder?

Well, here again Straczynski takes a completely different route from the time-worn approach. No low-key introduction to hero-dom here for our reluctant youth, instead we’re thrown into the middle of a full-on alien invasion of Earth. It seems the invasion force is looking for a certain individual, the last survivor of Krypton, to complete their genocidal assassination contract to wipe out the entire Kryptonian race. What follows thereafter is an epic finale that would worthily grace any cinematic adaptation of old red-and-blue, as the villains get spanked and vanquished, and Clark realises that taking a considerably more low profile approach to civilian life, and a somewhat more flexible job, might be rather useful in maintaining a secret identity. Now, if only some genial editor had offered him a job as a reporter…

LINK

JR

Batman & Robin vol 2: Batman vs. Robin: The Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart, Andy Clarke…

“…That was for trying to blow up London. And this is for Batwoman. We’ve got a cell waiting for you, right across the way from your old mate Pearly Charlie English.”
“You heard him.”
“Squire and Knight! But… how did you track us doon? Through 400 feet of solid rock? Ah nivvor mind, I’ll tek the paira yez like! Just divennt tell wor missus aboot the lasses, that’s aal I’m saying.”
“Come on mate. That’s just asking for it.”

Another volume of consternating costumed capery from Mr. Morrison who once again pulls off that most difficult of tricks, writing overtly ridiculous yet hilariously clever superhero nonsense. It literally makes no sense in places, except probably to Grant, and yet it’s so, so dangerously addictive you won’t let a little thing like that stop you from turning the pages as fast as you possibly can. Even the bright red and yellow Frank Quitely cover reeks of E numbers somehow imbued into the pages to make your mind twitch and whirr ever more egregiously as you try to follow the frantic paced action to and fro.

It’s a genuine credit to Morrison that’s he so capably manages to capture the loveable camp fun of the old sixties Saturday morning TV show, whilst making it feel like you’re only one twirl of Pennyworth’s whiskers away from it all toppling into the total dada-esque cut-up insanity of his DOOM PATROL run. You get the sense he’s really letting himself go here in fabulous fizzing crescendo mode darlings, possibly before he has to rein himself in a touch on the new BATMAN INC. title. Mind you, given the first page of the first issue of that particular title starts with someone waking up to find their hands have been melted off with acid possibly not… Excellent art throughout, in turn slightly loony cartoony and then cuttingly crisp from Cameron Stewart and Andy Clarke.

I’ll leave the last word to Oberon Sexton the gravedigger, who is most definitely hiding an amusing little secret of his own.

“Well now. Would you pantomime poseurs like to introduce yourselves before we beat the sod out of you?”

JR

Batman: The Return one-shot (£3-50, DC) by Grant Morrison & David Finch.

Exceptional. The finest piece of writing on BATMAN by Morrison yet, and easily the most accessible.

David Finch, as you’d expect from the artist on NEW AVENGERS: BREAK OUT, does it full justice making it the finest-looking Batbook ever. And let’s face it, there’s some pretty impressive competition out there, especially since Bolland went and recoloured KILLING JOKE.

Bruce Wayne is back in residence and gathered his cohorts together at the manor. This the beginning of something new, fighting ideas with better ones and constructing a more coherent campaign against crime on a number of carefully coordinated fronts technologically, geographically, corporately. Just as well because Leviathan is rising from the deep and I don’t think it bodes well for Damian if the Yemen incursion is anything to go by.

Some great new designs (Grayson gets to keep the old costume, Bruce has upgraded), speaking of which there’s over a dozen pages of extra material from script to pencils and inks. Meanwhile early in Yemen a grateful father hugs his child rescued from a terrorist:

“The boy is my life. Take money… cars… j-jewels…”
“You have nothing I want, Farouk. What Hussain knows will destroy you.
“And I know what Hussain knows.
“You’re next.”

Not wrong.

Order from page45@page45.com

SLH

Batman Incorporated #1 (£2-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Yanick Paquette.

Hilarious. And pretty horrific too.

Here Grant Morrison is going for the old-skool Batman with its giant robot rats and death traps as Bruce hires Selina Kyle to slink alongside him and burgle a criminal mastermind. Then it’s on to Japan to find and train a new Batman but the man he’s set his sights on is dead, his hands and face melted away by nitro-hydrochloric acid by Lord Death Man, a sadist in a skeletal Halloween costume who seems one step ahead of everyone including the boy who escaped him earlier. Maybe Batman will have to settle for a Japanese Robin. You know, if Catwoman survives the giant, carnivorous octopus!

Sexy art under a stand-out cover of national flags. Is that JH Williams III? Love the way Grant and Yanick have threaded the climax through with teasers for next issue. Never seen it done quite like that before and it works like a dream.

Order from page45@page45.com

SLH

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali h/c (£14-99, DC) by Denny O’ Neil, Neil Adams & Neil Adams…

“Okay alien… you want a prediction, you got one!
“He’ll hit the floor in four! He’ll hit the floor in four! An’ furthermore… they’re all gonna tell me after this fight… Muhammad Ali is the greatest of all time-and-space!”

Well, there are a few different things that spring to mind upon re-reading this story which was first released back in 1978. Firstly I remember it being trailed very, very heavily for months ahead in every random DC publication that came into my local newsagents back then as a tender six-year-old. Obviously it was a massive ‘event’ at the time. Readers of a certain age will probably recall there really was no rhyme nor reason what particular comics you would find on the shelves of local newsagents back in the day, and absolutely no chance of there being any sort of consistent run of the same title. I mention this because I remember asking said newsagent about the possibility of getting this particular comic in, which looked like it was just going to be the most amazing story. Sadly it was to be a few more years before I actually got my hands on a dog-eared copy via a stall on Leeds market.

What I also remembered very vividly was the cover which appears to have a giggling Jimmy Carter sat in the front row next to Batman and Lex Luthor, who is stuffing his face with popcorn or something, whilst an alien armada is floating high above a battling Superman and Muhammad Ali in the ring. Quite what’s so amusing when the fate of the entire human race is at stake I’m not sure, but it probably pays to keep a sense of humour about these things in the face of such adversity eh?

I do also remember not being particularly impressed when I finally got to read it. I can’t honestly think of a single instance – and please enlighten me otherwise if you can, readers – where inserting a contemporary real-life person into a fictional work, even one as charismatic as Ali, has actually made for a decent story in any medium. Horrific examples such as the BA Baracus (okay, I know he’s fictional but it’s basically Mister T, let’s be honest) Saturday cartoon show where he had some kid side-kicks, or the equally horrific and ill-advised Space Jam featuring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny are all that come to mind. I’m sure there is an example where the conceit works, but I just can’t think of one off the top of my head.

Primarily though in this instance it’s because the whole premise of this story is so ridiculous, in so many aspects, it’s just completely unbelievable, even for a superhero comic. Yet strangely for that reason it’s actually a really hilarious retro-read, because we know that Neal Adams clearly knows he’s working with such a turkey of an idea passed across to him mid-project by Denny O’ Neil that he’s decided to go so far over the top it’s not true. At least I think he knows… Ali’s dialogue in particular is absolutely cringe-worthy, but always good entertainment value in that car-crash kind of way. 

In some ways this work is actually almost a perfect time capsule of what superhero comics writing was frequently like at the time, in terms of pure one-dimensional plotting, with some totally preposterous method of saving the day thrown in right at the end. Still, it would be churlish not to recognise this for what it was at the time, which was a genuine comics ‘event’ featuring a true superstar, and the art from Adams is very, very good. I particularly liked the sequences where Ali’s powerful punches are battering and distorting Superman’s face.

Actually those of you who are currently reading the bafflingly and brilliantly bonkers BATMAN ODYSSEY mini-series being penned by Neal Adams will immediately recognise the full-on writing (and art) style he’s employed here. It’s just with ODYSSEY the plot is several orders of magnitude more complex, sophisticated and gripping.

LINK or

JR

Thor: Siege Aftermath (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Stan Lee & Richard Elson, Doug Braithwaite, Neal Adams, Jack Kirby.

Conclusion to Gillen’s run in which Mephisto, Loki and Hela haggle their way into contracts before wriggling out of them via loopholes. They’d be brilliant at tax evasion. Expect a lot of red, demons and deceit.

Also reprints THOR #179-181 from 1970 with much the same cast only a lot less red.

SLH

Daredevil Ultimate Collection vol 3 (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev, Michael Lark, Bill Sienkiewicz.

With which Bendis wraps up the emotional rollercoaster ride that has been the tearing down of Matt Murdock’s public life, leaving him with no privacy at all.

THE GOLDEN AGE:

Alexander Bont is ninety-three years old. He’s finally just got out of prison to find that everything’s changed. His restaurant is a video rental, his wife Lucy is now a tombstone in the snow, Matt Murdock has been outed as Daredevil… and taken over as Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen. It was because of Daredevil that Bont was sent away for so many years in the first place – indeed he’s had unpleasant dealings with Murdock as well. Before that, he used to run Hell’s Kitchen. All of it was his, built on a reputation he gained from the blood of one masked man. If he wants it back, he’s going to have to spill the blood of another and kill two birds with one stone. And lord, does he want it back!

Bendis, who several books ago stole Frank Miller’s crown as the finest writer to work on this series, returns to the format of his first proper stint and sends readers backwards and forwards in time in a way that seamlessly links all the components while Murdock is beaten to a pulp. There’s a superb moment of transition towards the end of the second issue where Bont takes current revenge in a single punch for several pages of grief he suffered under Murdock’s caustic wit many years ago. Two panels, beautifully played.

And if that’s not enough the ramifications of the disastrous White Tiger trial finally come into play as one of the deceased’s relatives – an FBI agent on the case to prove Murdock’s identity and guilt – seeks answers and Melvin Potter, the reformed Gladiator, finds himself between yet another rock and a hard place.

Alex Maleev has been so lucky to find a writer with enough skill to make him shine, but Bendis has been equally fortunate to find an artist for this series who will make him look even better than he is. The rain, the architecture, the nigh-impenetrable shadows and low-lit glows… Superb texture, superb pacing. Great positioning of the “Dead End” sign. Things like that.

DECALOGUE:

A local priest offers some Hell’s Kitchen residents the opportunity to discuss in confidence their year-long lives in a district over which Daredevil has declared himself in charge, much like the Kingpin had, albeit with the opposite intentions. Gradually a connection emerges between some of the stories they tell involving a demonic baby/dwarf and a man who’s sitting amongst them, smirking. There aren’t many writers and artists who could fill six issues (of a title from which the majority of its readers expect at least some action) with one long conversation in a single room and still see the same number of copies sold, but that’s what happened, even though one customer suggested that they should, in all honesty, change the comic’s title to “Matt Murdock”. And I wish they would, because then perhaps a few of those potential readers who would lap up this sharp urban crime might actually forget that it ever had anything to do with spandex, and take the plunge. Although in this book, as it happens, it’s more of a chilling horror story. Here’s that entrance I promised you, towards the end, albeit without the timing which the art carefully affords, as anticipated by the sadist who’s been sitting quietly in corner, and is now trying to goad them with his potentially insane beliefs:

“There are religions and powers in this world that are tens of thousands of years old.  Hundreds of thousands of years old. Millions of years old.
“Matt Murdock? You were right to be scared of him. You should be scared of him. He’s a ninja. You know that? You know what a ninja is? Really? The dark arts of the ancient shadow warriors. You know how many people are left on this planet that know what Matt Murdock knows?
“Five. Maybe.
“And his master died with more secrets than he even told Matt Murdock. But Matt knows a lot more than he’s letting on.
“He knows aaaall kinds of ninja secrets and tricks. Like… he can sit in a room and he can make it so no one actually notices him. He can sit right next to you. And you wouldn’t notice him… until you noticed him.
“Isn’t that right, Matthew?”
“….”
“….”
“….”
Murdock: ”And you are?”

THE MURDOCK PAPERS:

It all began with Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, and that’s how it ends as the absolute bastard manoeuvres everyone from haggard Ben Urich (Daily Bugle reporter and Matt’s long-time confidant) and the FBI to Matthew himself into precisely the position he wants them: one with no possible exit.

For months now the public, the authorities and the press have “known” that Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer, is somehow Daredevil. But they’ve never been able to prove it. If they did, he’d go straight to jail for perjury. It’s not just that he’s another of those vigilantes in tights who are constantly taking and breaking the law, it’s the fact that during one particular trial he had the brazen gall to stand up and defend “Daredevil” whilst an impostor stood right there in the witness stand. Also, he’s counter-sued a newspaper for claiming he’s Daredevil. But now, in front of the press and the FBI, the Kingpin announces the existence of the Murdoch papers – the irrefutable evidence of Matt’s dark secret.

Two chapters and a single, seemingly innocuous gun wound later, Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin, pulls the rug out from under everyone’s feet. I can assure you, there are no happy endings for anyone, and only Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark could have followed Bendis and Maleev into the hole they’ve dug the title character into. Only they could have made things even worse. And they have, you know. You’ll be buying those books as well.

P.S. Also includes the three issues of ULTIMATE TEAM-UP so difficult to get hold of drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz.

LINK

SLH

X-Men: Siege s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way, Marjorie Liu, Kieron Gillen & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Niko Henrichon.

Really? Which bit did Gillen contribute to? I snoozed, I losed obviously [NEW MUTANTS – Ed.]. Anyway: the siege that was never a siege not even from the X-Men’s point of view for this features no X-Men, merely the NEW MUTANTS and Wolverine’s son Daken from DARK WOLVERINE.

How do you feel about being lied to, by the way? Does it impress you? Does your loyalty to such a company actually increase because they have successfully hoodwinked you out of money when they could have been honest instead?

LINK

SLH

Siege: Battlefield s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Reed, Sean McKeever, Kieron Gillen, Chris Gage, Jonathan Hickman & Marco Santucci, Mahmud Asar, Jamie McKelvie, Federico Dallocchio, Alessandro Vitti.

Individuals’ perspective on the SIEGE that was never a siege. They didn’t do any siegeing, either. They just sort of smacked each other around. Reprints the one-shot tie-ins.

LINK

SLH

Also Arrived:

(Use our search engine – reviews will still follow for some; most softcover editions of previous hardcovers will already have reviews up.)

Acme Novelty Library #20 (£17-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Chris Ware
Walking Dead vol 13: Too Far Gone (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard
Good Dog, Bad Dog Book 1 (£9-99, DFC) by Dave Shelton
Jesus On ThyFace: Social Networking For The Modern Messiah (£9-99, S&S) by Denise Haskew, Steve W. Parker
Greek Street vol 2: Cassandra Complex (£10-99, Vertigo) by Peter Milligan & David Gianfelice
Elmer (£9-99, SLG) by Gerry Alanguilan
Castle Waiting vol 2 h/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Linda Medley
The Metabarons vol 2: Aghnar & Oda (£10-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Juan Giminez
The Metabarons vol 4: Aghora & The Last Metabaron (£14-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Juan Giminez
Depresso (£12-99, Knockabout) by Brick
The Darkness / Pitt (£10-99, Top Cow) by Paul Jenkins, Phil Hester & Dale Keown, various
Witchblade: Redemption (£3-99, Top Cow) by Ron Marz & Stjepan Sejic
The Hunting Of The Snark h/c (£10-99, Melville) by Lewis Carroll & Mahendra Singh
Echo vol 5: Black Hole (£11-99, Abstract) by Terry Moore
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Ant h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by David Mack & Pascal Alixe
Chew vol 3: Just Desserts (£9-99, Image) by John Layman & Rob Guillory
Luna Park s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Kevin Baker & Daniel Zezelj
Dead Space: Salvage (£13-50, IDW) by Antony Johnson & Christopher Shy
Planetary vol 4: Spacetime Archaeology s/c (£13-50, Wildstorm) by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday
Thor: Across All Worlds (£22-50, Marvel) by Dan Jurgens & Andy Kubert, Eric Larsen, Stuart Immonen
Deadpool: Wade Wilson’s War h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Duane Swierczynski & Jason Pearson
Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 4: Realm Of Kings s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Brad Walker, Wesley Craig
Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 2: Chameleons h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Lafuente, Takeshi Miyazawa
Gotham City Sirens vol 2: Songs Of The Sirens h/c (£14-99, DC) by Paul Dini, Tony Bedard, Marc Andreyko & Guillem March, Andres Guinaldo
Sock Monkey: Little Maakies On The Prairie (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Tony Millionnaire
Charley’s War vol 7: The Great Mutiny (£14-99, Titan) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun
Farscape vol 2: Strange Detractors s/c (£9-99, Boom!) by Rockne S. O’Bannon, Keith R.A. Decandido & Will Sliney
The Littlest Pirate King (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Perre Mac Orlan & David B.
Taro And The Magic Pencil (£5-99, Viz) by Sango Morimoto
The Last Days Of American Crime (£10-99, Radical) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini
The Savage Sword Of Kull vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Roy Thomas, Glenn Lord, Steve Englehart, Lin Carter, Robert E. Howard, Fred Blosser, Gerry Conway, Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon & Bernie Wrightson, Glenn Lord, Howard Chaykin, Lin Carter, Barry Windsor-Smith, Ross Andru, Wally Wood, Marie Severin, John Severin, Roy G. Krenkel, Jess Jodloman, Walt Simonsen, Vicente Alcazar, Sonny Trinidad, Rick Hoberg, Bill Wray, Mike Ploog, David Wenzel, Sal Buscema, Tony de Zuniga, Jim Neal, Alfredo Alcala, John Bolton, Geof Isherwood, Val Semeiks, Art Nichols, Fraja Bator, Pablo Marcos
Powers vol 13: Z (£18-99, Icon) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming
Deadpool vol 4: Monkey Business h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Carlo Barberi, Dalibor Talajic
Realm Of Kings s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Scott Reed & Leonardo Manco, Mahmud Asrar, Pablo Raimondi, Wellinton Alves, Tim Seeley, Kevin Walker, Miguel Munera
Spectrum vol 17 (£22-50, Underwood) by various
Superman: Last Stand Of New Krypton vol 1 h/c (£18-99, DC) by James Robinson, Sterling Gates & Travis Moore. Julian Lopez, Pete Woods, Jamal Igle, Javier Pina, Bernard Chang, Eduardo Pansica
Batman: The Brave And The Bold: The Fearsome Fangs Strike Again (£9-99, DC) by J. Torres, Landry Walker & J. Bone, Eric Jones, Carlo Barberi
Marvel 1602: Spider-Man (£12-99, Marvel) by Jeff Parker & Ramon Rosanas
Fantastic Four vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Dale Eaglesham
Hetalia Axis Powers vol 1 (£8-50, Tokyopop) by Hidekaz Himaruya
Ninja Girls vol 4 (£8-50, Del Rey) by Hosana Tanaka
Real vol 9 (£9-99, Viz) by Takehiko Inoue
Vagabond vol 9 VIZBIG (£14-99, Viz) by Takehiko Inoue
Gantz vol 14 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku
Saturn Apartments vol 2 (£9-99, Viz) by Hisade Iwaoka

Oh, I think Tom will be reviewing that last one! The fold-out cover is magnificent! LINK

 - Stephen

Mark Millar & Frank Quitely appear at Plan B!

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

 

Page 45 in Non-Self-Serving Shock!

You read it right, Highlanders: both Mark Millar and Frank Quitely will be boozin’ and a-schmoozin’ at Plan B Books in Glasgow!

“Stephen, your geography is appalling!”

Hey, I’d travel miles to be with those two, especially in such an informal gathering. I’m sure they’ll be signing. Scrawling. Drunkenly.

“When?!”

26th November 2010. More details in a second!

Mark Millar wrote my favourite superhero series of all time:

ULTIMATES SEASON ONE volume 1
ULTIMATES SEASON ONE volume 2
ULTIMATES SEASON TWO volume 1
ULTIMATES SEASON TWO volume 2

Also, the best Wolverine story by a very wide margin:

WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN plus
AMERICAN JESUS
CIVIL WAR
MARVEL 1985
KICK-ASS
FANTASTIC FOUR: WORLD’S GREATEST
FANTASTIC FOUR: MASTER OF DOOM
WANTED
ULTIMATE X-MEN
Ultimate Fantastic Four
LIBERTY COMICS #1

Look, just pop him in our search engine, eh?

Frank Quitely drew the best-ever Superman ever:

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN vol 1
ALL-STAR SUPERMAN vol 2

Also amongst other things:

SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS
We3
BATMAN & ROBIN volume 1
NEW X-MEN ULTIMATE COLLECTION volume 1
NEW X-MEN ULTIMATE COLLECTION volume 2
BATMAN INTERNATIONAL
Vertigo Resurrected #1
Missionary Man
JLA: Earth 2

Whilst together they created:

AUTHORITY volume 2
AUTHORITY volume 3
AUTHORITY volume 4 

It’s all in the details! 

The time: 5pm until Tom calls it a day! Ah, but the man has stamina.
The date: Friday 26th November 2010. That’s this coming Friday!!
The place: Plan B Books, 5 Osborne St, Glasgow G1 5RB. Scotland, apparently.

Attendance is free! 

“Do I have to be Scottish?”
Of course you do.
“But in all honesty…?”
I seriously doubt it.
“Why are you even advertising this?”
I have absolutely no idea. 

Please buy your books from Plan B if you’re attending – it’s only polite. Email ahead for availability, I have no idea what they stock. Seriously, email ahead, ask for their number, buy with your card so they won’t waste stock if you don’t turn up, and then revel in Mark and Frank’s kindness and wit. shop@planbbooks.co.uk 

Otherwise feel free to go nuts on our website. 

Bonus! A letter: 

Sir, 

It has come to my attention that due to incredibly popular demand that the Page 45 advert is showing again – all this week on the very humble Cerebus TV. 

http://www.cerebustv.com/ 

Your mighty words on your illuminating blog have brought us a whole slew of viewers for which words are woefully inadequate, but needless to say we are eternally grateful. 

Sir, if I may be so bold to state, being one that is sound of mind and pure of heart that if this intrepid venture continues, you could well be moving beyond just being Semi Legendary to scale the plateau and become a complete legend… there’s even talk that you might get knighted (or was that knotted?!) 

I trust this meets with your whole-hearted approval. 

Yours, cordially

(Brave) Sir Robin 

I have no heart. 

CEREBUS is referenced in Mark Millar’s MARVEL 1985. Check out the review! 

Page 45 is a comic shop.
We are: 

Nothing to do with Plan B. 

They are: Tom Green and Pete Renshaw. And we like what they’re doing. 

 - Stephen 

Big shout-out to everyone at Thought Bubble in Leeds this weekend! I know for a fact that Jamie McKelvie, Bryan Talbot, Marc Ellerby and Ellen Lindner are there, all waiting to sign and sketch for you. Jeepers, I’ve just spotted Becky Cloonan and John Romita Jr. on their site. Someone grab me a Cloonan sketch if you can! DEMO rocks! And I know one of our customers would cry if you could find him three small lines approximating a head by young mister Romita. Wish I’d kept McKelvie’s early drawings and pretended I lost them.

Reviews November 2010 week three

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Solipsistic Pop #3 (£11-99) by Kristyna Baczynski, Becky Barnicoat, Adam Cadwell, Warwick Johnson Cadwell, Francesca Cassavetti, Faz Choudhury, David O’Connell, Darryl Cunningham, Rob Davis, Joe Decie, John Cei Douglas, Marc Ellerby, Sarah Gordon, Anne Holiday, Tom Humberstone, Daniel Locke, Lizz Lunney, Luke Pearson, Octavia Raitt, Edward Ross, Philippa Rice, Anna Saunders, Julia , Andrew Waugh.

Tom will be back with a full review of this shortly, but for now can I just say that this is a third very cool package indeed. Love the Beano-like cover with its free pencil and stickers; good old Ellerby – never puts a foot wrong. Apart from bearing his pubes in public.

Of course they get the top spot this week: individualistic, heartfelt, professionally organised, thinking outside the box and beautifully printed and packaged. This and BIRDSONG confound all the idle and ignorant stigmatic preconceptions that some old fanboys (fanmen? Makes them sound like gay fluffers!) have about self-published material: that it’s drawn in biro and printed on toilet paper. No, that was the suicide note you wrote to your mother which you tore up the next morning when sober.

Editions one and two back in stock as of the time of typing.

LINK

SLH

The Unsinkable Walker Bean vol 1 (£10-50, First Second) by Aaron Renier ~

Of course it starts as any really awesome adventure does, with a map and a legend, but from then on WALKER BEAN astounds with an unpredictable vitality rarely experienced let alone bound in a book. Jeff Smith’s BONE condensed that feeling, as does Kazu Kibuishi with AMULET, and I love those series but neither compress so much action, mystery and life into any one of their books as Aaron does in Walker Bean’s odyssey.

It seemed like only yesterday that Walker’s Grandpa put him to bed with incredible stories of Merwitches, Atlantean sailors and briny graves. Now Walker sits at his sick Grandpa’s bedside, and if half of what he says is true then the stories that used to keep Walker awake long at night might be what keep him out of a watery grave.

In a sack at home is irrefutable proof that the legend of Atlantis and its downfall at the claws of two sinister Merwitches is all true, for in that sack is a huge pearl in the shape of a skull that bestows infinite knowledge for anyone with thick enough blood. And, as Grandpa Bean found out, anyone who stares at it soon dies cursed by the knowledge that the pearl’s monstrous owners are hunting them down. The only cure is to return the terrible thing. Walker’s father, a Naval Captain, is less convinced by the skull’s power, but sure of its wealth. He finds a possible buyer through the creepy Doctor Patches, and together they plot to sail north and meet the Doctor’s benefactor. But Walker has other ideas. On the lam with the skull in tow, Walker (who initially is something of a milksop) has to evade every pirate, brigand, and even Captain Bean, his own greedy father, to deliver the skull pearl back to the watery prison in the Mango Island trench. But things go from bad to worse to catastrophic before he even gets to the sea! First he’s robbed by a funny-looking, pointy-eared girl then he’s captured by his father and the weird Doctor Patches, before Captain Bean’s ship is blown up by pirates and Walker, presumed dead, becomes a stowaway on the pirate ship.

And that’s only a very brief summary of the first thirty-five pages! Poor Walker, although he clearly hasn’t much in the wits department yet, a rather special box his Grandpa bestowed upon him before he left port makes up for it, and he has another 160 pages to get it together.

After decades of playing this kind of adventure in computer games the thought of ever finding one as immersive as the many outings of LEGEND OF ZELDA or as hilarious and clever as MONKEY ISLAND became unlikely, but the world Aaron’s created here is so watertight you’d think he inked it with tar! It’s an intensely detailed world. Even bit-characters are given unique motivation and history. Fanciful inventions play a huge role in the story as Walker in a pure A-Team moment combines a Steamer and a Galleon to create a walking land ship Hayao Miyazaki would be impressed by. And in order to create such brilliant things Aaron’s clearly thought long and hard about how this world works: the Pirate ship itself is a microcosmic society wherein each crew member has a role, whether it be agitator or footstool. The complexity of Walker’s relationship with his father and in turn his grandpa is as sticky and conflicted as anything Philip Pullman created for His Dark Materials, while the subtle clues he drops into the art beg to be interacted with. Throughout the book appear rune-like glyphs, and along his travels Walker finds the means and the help to decipher them, and by proxy so do you.

Hoards of sinister manipulators do nothing to reduce the impact of seeing the almost Harryhausen-esque, 100-foot Merwitches rising from the waves, but it’s the flickering shadows in the creaky bowels of the nautical vessels which really set the tone for this accomplished adventure which rewards with each reread.

LINK

TR

Tonoharu vol 2 h/c (£14-99, Pliant) by Lars Martinson…

Seems forever since TONOHARU PART ONE came out but, dear reader, do take that as a measure of just how long I’ve been looking forward to part two! Dan Wells, teaching assistant on a Japanese placement programme in the rural village of Tonoharu is well, totally bored, quite frankly. Given that he doesn’t actually speak Japanese particularly well, he finds himself living a rather lonely existence, as his Japanese colleagues have, in his eyes at least, all but given up trying to communicate with him. His main social interactions are provided by a couple of ex-pats he’s made acquaintances with, and the rather odd older foreigners who inhabit the converted Buddhist temple, throwing the occasional arty party. In reality though he’s probably the one that’s given up trying to interact with the locals and even life itself as well somewhat, judging from the shoddy, unclean state of his flat, and just how long it even takes him to get around to changing a light bulb – i.e. not at all.

Part Two opens with Dan continuing his sporadic attempts to pursue his unrequited crush on American ex-pat Constance, who seems far more interested in the hard-drinking artist John Darley. Mr. Darley already has a Japanese girlfriend, although he does appear to be interested in Constance, in fact there might something going on between the two of them, Dan isn’t really sure. But who it is that Constance is planning a vacation to India with, if it’s not John? All Dan knows is, he feels like the third wheel whenever the three of them go out together.

Meanwhile there’s also Steve, the rather annoying chap who only seems interested in one thing to the point of bordering on obsession: Japanese girls. He’s absolutely the last person Dan should be getting advice on his social life from, not that Dan has a lot of choice as Steve seems particularly keen on imparting his own particular brand of wisdom over a drink or two, usually at Dan’s expense. This unsolicited advice leads Dan into a rather unexpected relationship with one of his Japanese teaching colleagues who, it turns out in no great surprise, are actually quite sociable once he actually starts making an effort. But is she just a sensitive girl, or a potential emotional basketcase he’s going to wish he hadn’t got involved with?

The motivations of the mysterious older foreigners for being in Tonoharu are also becoming clearer… they’ve just got more money than sense, given the way they’re handing out grants for chancers like John Darley to make art, and generally swanning around the village acting like slightly snobbish if extremely polite patrons.

TONOHARU is extremely well crafted storytelling, with engaging characters, plus the precise parallel and occasionally hatched, black-lined, pale blue-toned art has a real depth and weighty feel to it, frequently making you pause to take in the intricately simple detailing. My favourite panel probably being the bizarre parade float the well-to-do foreigners have sponsored the creation of, which I think is probably one of only the two or three times the equally regimented format of four boundless panels per page is broken in the entire book. Great stuff and once again, as soon as I’d finished this volume I wanted more! I don’t know how long it’s going to take Lars Martinson to get out the concluding volume, but I’m eagerly anticipating it already.

LINK

JR

The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 1: Pterror Over Paris & The Eiffel Tower h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi…

“I have just noticed something both extraordinary and troubling which I would prefer to disbelieve… Yesterday, walking through the museum, I paused before this 136-million-year-old pterodactyl egg, which I know as if I had laid it myself, and I realised it had hatched! Yes, hatched! Incredible as it may seem! Scientifically impossible, but the evidence is incontrovertible: it has hatched. Observe the hole in the roof.”

“Heavens! Might this have anything to do with the pterodactyl that is all over the papers? What do you think?”

I’d hazard a guess it’s quite likely, myself. Nice to see Fantagraphics going slightly off the wall with their next tranche of Tardi material. Apparently ADELE BLANC-SEC is one of Tardi’s own favourite creations and you can see just from this first volume, collecting together the first two of the nine published works featuring the character, that he’s really thrown himself into creating some wonderfully complex and bizarre stories for the eponymous and somewhat cynical protagonist Miss Blanc-Sec.

Indeed the series editor at Fantagraphics has commented that they were deliberately holding back on (re-)translating and releasing this material until after they’d put out what they perceived to be some of the more accessible Tardi material (for the American market) such as IT WAS THE WAR OF THE TRENCHES and WEST COAST BLUES. I can understand why they would have taken that route, but I’m pleased that this material is getting its turn, although that is very probably due to the well received Luc Besson-helmed movie The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec already released across most of Europe this year, and very shortly to be released in the UK and US.

The Adele Blanc-Sec material has some common themes running throughout with occultism, mysticism, mentalism and pseudo science-fiction of the Houdini-esque type prevalent in the pre-WWI era, frequently being the driving force behind the stories, but Tardi also takes the opportunity to take a few satirical swipes and occasionally make a serious point about themes such as corruption and nationalism. He also continues the great French theme in comics of portraying the police as a bunch of bumbling idiots which, let’s be honest, is always good amusement value when done well.

What is really great about this particular Fantagraphics release is we get Tardi in colour again for the first time, with a rather eclectic palette of colours (I’m not sure pterodactyls really were burgundy*) enriching some outstanding fine line penmanship. The ligne claire school of artistry, including the typically detailed backgrounds and slightly cartoonish aspect to the characters, is therefore considerably more evident here than on the more heavily penned black and white material released by Fantagraphics before now.

I’m not making a statement that one style is better than the other, far from it. What it does demonstrate though is that Tardi is obviously an extremely accomplished artist as well as writer. Still, one could spot his hand at a distance of a thousand yards, irrespective of the particular stylistic approach he has chosen to employ. The nice thing though for those of us who’ve come to appreciate his work, is that we know it to be the hallmark of quality.

* I was merely middle-aged at the time, but I can assure you that pterodactyls were indeed burgundy, as was my choice of vino – Ed. (Partial to a little of the blanc-sec myself.)

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JR

Gravel vol 3: The Last King Of England (£14-99, Avatar) by Warren Ellis, Mike Wolfer & Mike Wolfer…

“So… the case?”

“Look Bull, I’m not a criminal investigator. I wasn’t even comfortable calling myself an occult detective when I was in the Minor Seven. I can’t tell you why people do what they do. I’m just the chap you come to when you need to know how to pull a bloke’s larynx out with one thumb.”

The body count continues apace, and in ever-more inventive and unpleasant manners. Just to recap… so far in volumes one and two Gravel killed off the original Minor Seven magicians who were charged with overseeing the day-to-day magic-related matters of the United Kingdom, then the Major Seven who were involved in rather more esoteric matters, and then he set about replacing the Minor Seven with his own hand-picked new recruits. So far, so good. So maybe now he can take a rest from killing people and enjoy his new position as the King of British Magicians, and have a well earned pint or two?

Well, it seems someone isn’t happy with the new pecking order at all, because now they’ve decided to start the whole process again by killing off the Minor Seven. Blimey, there’s never a dull moment around Sgt. Major Gravel is there? I’m enjoying GRAVEL more and more with each volume now. I think I’ve finally adjusted mentally to the fact it’s not intended to be a HELLBLAZER clone per se, and thus not really to be compared to that title at all. GRAVEL is a more frenetic type of story, simply because William Gravel is a full-on in your face combat magician, not an occult investigator, or whatever the hell John Constantine actually is, besides being the sneakiest and most duplicitous bastard around. Gravel mind you, isn’t too shabby on that front, as the unofficial representative of Buckingham Palace, who’s ‘just popped in to make acquaintances’ with the new magician King might be in danger of finding out if he doesn’t behave himself.

There’s not quite as much intrigue and machinations as in HELLBLAZER for sure, but there’s certainly a lot more in-your-face magic going on here, which is great fun to read. Once again, I note there is a film in the offing, and apparently Warren is doing the screenplay himself, which has got to be good news. Oh and Michael Cera has apparently been signed up to play Gravel. Well, not really. No news on that particular piece of casting (see what I did there?) as of yet.

LINK

JR

Bad World reprint (£8-50, Avatar) by Warren Ellis & Jacen Burrows.

Highly entertaining, illustrated discourse on the skewed ways in which various manic-obsessive and strangely unsectioned members of the population interpret then react to the world around them. From those who would resurrect Christ using cloning techniques on DNA they hope to scrape off holy relics, to suicide cults planning to evacuate their bodies in order to board a spaceship to The Next Level; from The Christian’s Guide To Small Arms, to a man who considers America to be a desecration of God’s authority and whose secession movement would give the country three choices: ”1) Return to God’s plan for government; (2) allow a State or States to secede from the presently united States of America; or (3) enter a period of nuclear civil war”; and from Dennis Nilsen to Issei Sagawa, all these individuals, sects and manifestos Warren has researched before serving them up with a half-horrified, half-amused commentary and his usual flair for put-downs. Here’s one at random:

“Sometimes, the world goes bad for people through no fault of their own. They’re just born with bad wiring. I don’t know if there’s a better explanation for the sexual preference of the macroherpetophile. There’s a macroherpetophile community on the web. They seem like imaginative, pleasant, harmless people. But, well… a herpetophile is sexually attracted to lizards. Macro, of course, indicates great size.

“Macroherpetophiles want to f**k Godzilla.”

Bestiality is currently legal in 254 states of the U.S., apparently.

“These are not just funny stories. These are snapshots of life as it is actually lived. For them to be somehow unusual would indicate that they don’t happen often. And guess what? If they were rare, I wouldn’t have such a choice to cull from to write about to fill this book.”

SLH

RASL Pocket Book 1 (£13-50, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith.

The first thing to note is that this repacking of the first two album-sized editions of RASL isn’t really pocketbook-sized at all, just slightly smaller than the standard American comicbook size. You don’t appear to like the idea of album-sized editions because they haven’t sold half as fast as I would expect a book to sell from the creator of the magnificent BONE.

Although really the first thing to note is that this is excellent, transdimensional speculative fiction firmly informed by science which Tom and I fight over reviewing. Does the name Tesla mean anything to you? He experimented with electricity and, some would say in hushed whispers, with more. So here we go with our original reviews of both books!

Ah, le comicbook duet! Here’s Tom on issue one ~

Blistering new sci-fi series from the creator of BONE. Rasl is a pan-dimensional art thief. Want a Mona Lisa of your very own? For a price Rasl will use his spectral immersion suit to ride the light into a parallel dimension and nab one for you. Just be patient though, travelling at the speed of light between worlds is quite painful, so he’ll take a few days of drinking, gambling and womanising before he may get back to you. Inspired by the popular science theories of Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Brian Green, Smith’s new series sounds like something Grant Morrison might come up with, and looks more Paul Pope than his now familiar BONE style. The complete lack of anything cuddly isn’t a bad point though. As anyone who stuck with BONE to the end knows, Smith is almost too good at mixing dark and moody with pure pop. In short, this rocks.

Now here is me after issue three:

“No” is the answer to that most commonly asked question, “This is nothing like BONE“. You had nine books of that, so don’t you think it’s well past time for something completely different? This is about as refreshingly far from the brilliant BONE as Dave Sim’s JUDENHASS is different to GLAMOURPUSS. One-trick ponies there are aplenty, but Jeff Smith isn’t one of them.

This is a brutally noir piece of extrapolated science set over several fictional worlds in which the art-thief hero, I infer, stole the technology he’s been using to hop between dimensions because it could have been used as an electromagnetic weapon. Unfortunately someone or something is hot on his tail, has murdered his girlfriend and is on verge of murdering her counterpart if Robert can’t take the fight back to them. There’s a real physicality to the protagonist with slightly simian looks, his big mop of hair, his compacted, body-builder physique and the fountain of sweat that sprays off his face. Even the way he pulls up his slacks is sexually charged. You imagine he might have a growl like Tom Waits, and he sure likes his liquor bars and strip joints.

It’s too early to judge where this is going yet, but where it’s coming from involves parallel universes, conspiracy, Native American symbolism/spirituality and knowing your Bob Dylan. Well, it does for “Rasl” Robert, which is why he knows he made the wrong turning at the pandimensional traffic lights. Some clever scenes where he’s caught off his guard by the seemingly familiar, and finds it not so.

Now add this to the mix after issue six:

“Siberia. June 30, 1908, 7:14 AM.
“The villagers of this remote region near the Tunguska River are awakened by a huge ball of fire. Witnesses report a column of light brighter than the sun splitting the sky in two. The explosion that followed was a thousand times more powerful than the bomb that fell on Hiroshima.
“A century later, and scientists are still trying to figure out what caused the Tunguska Event. Most believe it was a comet that cleaved the atmosphere, bursting mid-air a few miles above the ground. Some believe the radiation found in the area can only be explained by the explosion of a nuclear powered UFO.
“Me? Even as a kid, I knew Nikola Tesla did it.”

When this was solicited I wrote that it was worth musing over the fact that both Jeff and Terry Moore have chosen to go the science route, here and in ECHO, that they seemed to be in-synch. As it happens both this and ECHO vol 4 turned up on the very same day.

Rarely have I been so fascinated by science, either. They’re both science-fiction thrillers involving potentially catastrophic experimental research the protagonists are trying to thwart, and both backed up with substantial research of the hard science and history they’re extrapolated from. Here the concentration is on Nikola Tesla and his former friend turned ruthless and vengeful enemy Thomas Edison, and Tesla’s monumental achievements in alternating current followed by the obsession and deception which proved his downfall and sent him down a different road altogether. All this from Robert’s early love of 1931′s Frankenstein film and its electrical divergence from Mary Shelley’s novel. An increasingly worn out Rob, in the meantime, successfully steals another Picasso from an alternate dimension and then gets careless.

LINK

SLH

Make Me A Woman h/c by (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Vanessa Davis…

“… And then I ran away, crying, and I tripped, and kind of tumbled down the mountain aways!”

“I swear, Vanessa. You tell the best stories, no one tells stories like you! You are always in the funniest situations! The craziest things happen to you!”

“Eh, funny stuff happens to everyone. I just remember it more.”

“No, I don’t forget stuff! I just think you have a cooler life than most people, where more fun things happen!

“Ha! Okay!”

I genuinely love autobiographical comics with a passion; they are in fact consistently my favourite genre in the entire medium. Biographical works far less so interestingly enough, but that’s an aside. So perhaps it’s the insight into other peoples’ lives, to see exactly what scurrilous details they’re prepared to reveal about themselves, or just humiliate themselves in Joe Matt’s case, their relationships to friends, family and significant others like in Chester Brown’s work, and usually for creators though not always, how they actually approach their own comics, both practically and emotionally, no one capturing this sometime tortuous process more imaginatively and engagingly than Eddie Campbell.

However, however, there is of course one major proviso… it has to be interesting. And this is where I just can’t understand the quote above. I really admire Vanessa Davis’ pencils and watercolours. She is a fine artist with a very nice style of her own. She does capture moments or conversations very well, conveying the content and emotion present in a situation. It’s just that as a whole this work reads like a rather bland diary, a presentation of rather mundane events with very little of interest actually happening to retain the reader’s attention. In fact upon finishing it, I couldn’t really tell you one significant thing that actually happened to her.

So in that respect this work doesn’t really succeed for me, but I am aware that is most definitely a personal opinion, as I imagine fans of John Porcellino’s easy-going style of autobiography will probably love this. It’s just for me there doesn’t seem to be any actual ongoing thread of narrative, unlike say Seth’s IT’S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON’T WEAKEN, which despite hardly being a thrill-a-minute action-packed read, has a rather gently meandering and intriguing undercurrent of a story that pulls you along with him as he investigates an element of his past. On the other hand if you want to read a truly ridiculous diary narrative packed full of humour, (which is actually fictional but nonetheless utterly completely believably) you should check out UNLOVEABLE vols 1 and 2.

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JR

Bent h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Dave Cooper.

Guillermo del Toro provides an exceptional two-page introduction I could never hope to match for linguistic dexterity or even accuracy as he nails the contents of this art book from the creator of CRUMPLE. My only regret is that Cooper does appear to have left the medium of comics for the lofty, more lucrative heights of Lowbrow. Here’s del Toro:

“The salient feature of all the artists I truly admire is one: compulsion – the feeling that whatever images pour out of them, ooze from a place that pulsates with unholy need…

“I am utterly convinced that, in the past, Dave Cooper mixed his oils with night sweat, and teeth grindings, the guilt monkey on his back riding him mercilessly, forcing him to stack his paintings like sandbags against the flood…

“These new landscapes remain unprecedented and hypnotic. At play here are both the innocence and wholesomeness of plastic toys and the sweaty, adult realities of desire.

“Polymorphic nymphs tempt or acquiesce to each other as they transform, pupate and ooze onto each other, fusing their bodies, contorting them in a never-ending search for pleasure.”

Dave Cooper has a very, very cool beard.

LINK

SLH

Fables Covers h/c new printing (£37-99, Vertigo/DC) by James Jean.

Covers and wraparounds from one of the most sought-after artists accompanied by preparatory work, alternative earlier visions and experimentations, and annotations by James Jean himself on his research, reasoning and compositions.

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SLH

Naruto Illustration Book (£14-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto.

The boy who made orange curiously cool. Album-sized, this boasts loads of full-page, full-colour illustrations, ‘The Tailed Beasts Scroll Unsealed’ revealing the name and home village of all nine hosts, and a whole sheet of stickers too.

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SLH

7 Billion Needles vol 1 (£8-50, Vertical) by Nobuaki Tadano…

“You died once.

“After I rebuilt your body, before you regained consciousness, I studied everything about this heavenly body, the Earth. I can only survive in the bloodstream of an Earthling.

“That’s why I cannot leave you.”

More finest-gauge, hard sci-fi, this time based on Hal Clement’s 1950′s seminal classic Needle. The basic premise is really quite simple, there’s a covert invasion afoot by a single alien of the body-snatching variety, but one with the potential capabilities for destroying the entire human race if left to get on with his dastardly mission unchecked.

Fortunately for all humanity the lifeform, known as Maelstrom, was being tracked across space by another alien deadly intent on stopping them. Unfortunately, however for our friendly extra-terrestrial, he has absolutely no idea which body the bad guy has taken over. And rather more unfortunately for all concerned, due to a somewhat untidy crash-landing on Earth, he’s stuck inside the body of a Japanese high school girl Hikaru Takabe he killed upon impact, and has been forced to reconstruct molecule by molecule and inhabit just to keep her alive. The only difference which somewhat comprises the urgency of his mission is that his moral code won’t allow him to simply take control of Hikaru, and she, in true difficult teenager style, is doing her utmost to just ignore him, and even deny he’s there at all inside her head.

What follows is a game of cat and mouse as both extra-terrestrial beings try and work out which body is hosting their arch-foe in order to strike the decisive blow first, and poor old Hikaru just tries to come to terms with her new state of being. People enjoying BIOMEGA should definitely take a look, even though this isn’t as out-there as that title; mind you what could be!

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JR

Serenity vol 3: The Shepherd’s Tale h/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Joss Whedon,

Zack Whedon & Chris Samnee.

Right, according to our Tom (he knows stuff), this is the story you’ve all been clamouring for: how Shepherd Book found God in a bowl of soup. Apparently it was hinted throughout the Firefly series that there was more to the pastor than was actually revealed… and then in the film they killed him. Whoops. Now they’re killing me with the price they’re charging for 56 pages – such jokers. Hasn’t stopped it shooting out, though.

LINK

SLH

Lenore vol 3: Cooties h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Titan) by Roman Dirge

Cute-but-dead was a thriving industry six years ago: LENORE, THE CAT WITH A REALLY BIG HEAD AND ONE OTHER STORY THAT ISN’T AS GOOD, SQUEE, JOHNNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC and, best by far, Jamie Smart’s BEAR.

The shop used be packed on a Saturday with Tweeny Goths (third-generation mascara addicts who added a fluff of pink to the night and actually smiled and laughed rather than morosed their way through the melancholy minefield that is life*). Dirge’s toys were always packaged with a magnificent wit to the extent that Mark even allowed them to pop up in the window.

So yes, Lenore: the cute-but-dead girl in comedy cartoon violence. A new issue and a reprint of the last one not included in the books is due from Titan in January 2011.

* New verb: morose. Probably best avoided in GSCE exams as anything other than an adjective.

LINK

SLH

Spider-Man Ultimate Collection vol 5 (£25-99, Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski, Joe Quesada & Ron Garney, Tyler Kirkham, Joe Quesada

Final repackaged Straczynski volume containing the CIVIL WAR issues, BACK IN BLACK and ONE MORE DAY. Tony Stark convinces a doubtful Peter to unmask on television as part of his pro-Registration Act campaign. At which point Peter swiftly decides he’s backed the wrong horse and ends up on the run. Without any legal or physical protection, and every one of his enemies now knowing his identity, it’s only a matter of time before his worst fears come true. Here are the individual components’ original reviews:

CIVIL WAR:

Well, it gave me a lump in my throat, but maybe I should have chewed first.

This adds some extra heart to the CIVIL WAR proceedings. Some humour as well when Peter gives up following reactions to his “big reveal” and puts the two phones together so that he doesn’t have to pass messages between Reed and Sue Richards on one line, and Mary Jane and Aunt May on the other. It makes the civil rights argument far more forcefully, for it’s here that Peter learns that internment is for life without trial: the only way out is to capitulate and sign the Superhuman Registration Act, and the internment in question isn’t on some off-shore legal loophole but in another dimension altogether.

I really don’t want to say much more, except that if anyone’s journey through the CIVIL WAR is the most troubling and complex, difficult and dangerous, it’s Peter Parker’s. I’d recommend you read this after CIVIL WAR and as well as, and I don’t often say that, do I?

BACK IN BLACK:

With Peter’s identity exposed to the world, his loved ones lie exposed to his enemies, one of whom follows the opportunity through with a bullet. Because Peter ended up on the losing side of the Civil War, he is legally now a criminal. That means he’s on the run with frozen assets, the medical fees are mounting just as Mary Jane’s money is dwindling, and every action he takes in a costume either to save his Aunt or to seek retribution adds to his tally of crimes – and this time they’re actual rather than merely perceived crimes. Add to that the number of felonies he starts to commit out of costume just to keep his dying Aunt in care but undetected by the authorities… I know it’s been done before, but never this “thoroughly” I don’t think: the gradual erosion of hope in a succession of false starts or failures and then a visit from a priest and…

Ron Garney shows a knack for the tired and the brittle as things grow increasingly bleak. As I wrote about the storyline currently following this, I don’t know how things work out yet, but it looks to me as if Straczynski’s setting up a tension here between Peter and Mary Jane which at the moment looks like mutual support – MJ with her love and instant generosity, Peter with his fervent optimism – but it boils down to MJ being realistic about the prospects while Peter remains in complete denial.

ONE MORE DAY:

Oh my God! Is that Bobby Ewing in the shower, being editorially interfered with?!

Emotional stuff, this, and darkity dark, dark, dark. Hardly a punch thrown either – it’s all about that terrible final kiss before you must say good-bye, and then some. No offence to Straczynski, because the script is smashing, but the finest sequences are the awful, silent ones as Joe Q tugs on your heart strings like nobody’s business.

Previously on Planet Parker: Peter unmasks on TV in CIVIL WAR. He then swaps sides, goes on the run, and fails to stop a sniper’s bullet from hitting Aunt May. It’s not a graze, either. Only one more day for little Aunt May whose life signs are faltering fast. Peter will do anything – absolutely anything – to save her, even if it means making a deal with the devil himself. But what is the deal that Mephisto is offering in exchange for Aunt May’s life, and why does Mary Jane have to agree to it as well?

As I say, emotional stuff, but not half as emotional as fans’ reactions until some of them actually read the subsequent BRAND NEW DAY episodes and realised that some of them are an enormous amount of fun.

Forty to fifty pages of extras include covers, annotated sketches, pencil work and interviews with JMS and Joe Q.

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SLH

Spider-Man: One Moment In Time h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Joe Quesada & Joe Quesada, Paolo Riveria.

“Oh God — Why didn’t you just let me forget too? I just wanted to forget.”

Far more imaginative and complex than anyone had anticipated, the past is finally revealed post-ONE MORE DAY.

In that final Straczynski story arc now reprinted in SPIDER-MAN: ULTIMATE COLLECTION VOL 5 Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker agreed to sacrifice their marriage to Mephisto in order to save Aunt May, and in the blink of an eye history rewrote itself: they had never been married. Instead they were estranged, and no one wanted to talk about what happened. Over the course of the year it became clear that no one other than Mary Jane remembered that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. Yet, as is revealed here, CIVIL WAR still happened, Peter had unmasked on television and Aunt May was, as a direct consequence, shot and hospitalised, fighting a losing battle for her life. In fact, at one point, she lost.

Mephisto, it transpired, changed none of that. So what actually happened? What happened to prevent their marriage? (I swear it is not the first, obvious hindrance so bear with it…) Who brought Aunt May back to life? (I swear, it is not some hocus pocus voodoo shit…) How is it that no one in the world remembers that Spider-Man is Peter Parker? (Err, that may be some hocus pocus voodoo stuff…) But more importantly why is Mary Jane the sole exception? That one… that one, and their subsequent conversation take the biscuit for heart-wrenching irony.

I wish Quesada could have found time to draw the entire book but that simply wouldn’t be practical as editor-in-chief of a now-bloated Marvel Comics. It was barely practical when Quesada had the company lean, healthy and under control. But at least he found time to write it, and at least he made the wise decision to be on hand to draw the present and the key conversation in the past just after Peter makes the wrong decision for all the right reasons (truth and love, not living a lie) because he nails the staccato timing in the dialogue and the awful silences as the implications dawn on the couple.

There are a few better writers at Marvel but only a few and only because Quesada invited them personally. But this is a triumph and a most unlikely one at that.

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SLH

Siege: Embedded s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Reed & Samnee.

With Fox News and their shout-a-likes egging on Osborn, the few Americans who could still be considered journalists are prohibited from covering the assault on Asgard. But when Ben Urich bumps into an old friend/anchorman and they both bump into a dazed Volstagg (and bounce back a couple of blocks), they decide to go on a road trip to Oklahoma. Don’t you think it’s a little strange that Volstagg’s been left to wander round Chicago unarrested?

Character studies, roughs, pencils and inks in the back. Urich oscillates from being anything from a smoker at sixty to a fit-as-fiddle forty, but that’s fine.

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SLH

Generation Hope #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Espin.

Translated from Japanese (I’ve been practising), someone is making an exhibition of himself:

“I am becoming art. Art is ideas. Ideas aren’t real. Therefore… I am becoming art. Art is ideas. Ideas aren’t real. Therefore…”

“Mr. Kenji! Ah. I’m extraordinarily sorry I’ve disturbed you… I’m equally sorry if I’m stepping in you latest masterwork. ‘Black Noxious Goo’ certainly is a new direction. Everyone is going to be thrilled. What is it, actually? No, don’t tell me. I don’t need to know what taboo the enfant terrible of the Tokyo art scene is violating. But I do need to know when it’ll be ready. ‘The Future Is A Four-Letter Word’ has been booked for months. You promised new work. Major work…”

“Almost done. Almost ready. Almost finished. Everything finished everything finished. Becoming art. Art ideas. Ideas not real. Becoming art. Ideas aren’t real. Therefore: are you real? Is anything real?”

“Kenji… Are you all right?”

“I am becoming art. Want… a preview?”

Ugh. Someone just got a private viewing, and they didn’t even get a glass of wine first.

The first mutant born since HOUSE OF M, Hope has returned from the future and her presence in our present appears to have catalysed five further manifestations. Each has been violently unstable until Hope’s laying-on-of-hands and now the first four have joined her to track down the fifth in Tokyo, Japan, where Cyclops and Wolverine are about to see life hall-of-mirror art in a truly fucked up fashion. Because so far they’ve been lucky: so far these new mutants – these new Lights as Hope calls them – have just been physically unstable. This Light she might want to switch off then rip out its fuse box altogether.

It’s an unusually fine first issue for a mutant superhero series, each of the Lights on their way to Tokyo giving thought to their predicament. Although Teon is more instinct than thought for unlike Hank McCoy he really has been reduced to a beast (“When no one’s watching, he rubs himself against the furniture in a way I’m sure is improper.”) and when it comes to combat it’s all fight, flight or mate. Yes, there’s plenty of combat on offer because what they encounter on landing comes in the form of a great many tentacles, a self-made cyborg of muscle and metal then a massive purple-black dome of explosion.

Has someone been reading AKIRA? I fully expect to see Logan on a turbo-charged scarlet motorcycle next issue.

The art is a far cry from the neoclassical photorealism of Hitch, Finch or Lee. It’s closer to Cloonan or Kelly on a superficial level. But Espin does the horror particularly well and when you finally see Kenji in his full mutated glory… you’ll think AKIRA again!

LINK

SLH

Ultimate Thor #2 (£2-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Carlos Pacheco.

Oh. My. God. We don’t do second-issue reviews at Page 45. I’ve always thought it absurd that all those amateur sites like Newsarama and Comicbook Resources reviewed every single issue of every single Marvel Comic just so some fanboy can hope they get noticed by their favourite creator. We’ve got more important things to do. I, for example, have a button so sew back onto my cream summer jacket. But also reviewing ever so slightly more important books like DRAGONSLIPPERS or Psychiatric Tales which won’t even get a look-in there.

But almost everything Hickman (NIGHTLY NEWS, S.H.I.E.L.D., SECRET WARRIORS) touches turns to gold – even the least likely material – and although I enjoyed the first issue here, it was as nothing compared to the second which showed more cunning than Loki himself. Well, as much anyway for he makes an appearance here in a most unexpected guise (err, Loki, not Hickman, although I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if the creator of NIGHTLY NEWS did turn out to be Loki. Read the review – you’ll see what I mean.

Meanwhile the real source of discontent in Asgard is revealed, and that took me by surprise too. So who, we’re still wondering, is the Dr. Donald Blake of the Ultimate universe, here proclaiming that the man calling himself the Norse God of Thunder, and so sectioned in Europe, is neither lying nor deluded. MRI scans show activity in both the hippocampus and the neocortex: he’s remembering.

As in ULTIMATE COMICS AVENGERS VOL 1, Pacheco proves himself once more to be a worthy successor to Bryan Hitch, nailing Thor’s modern-day dejection as well as his Asgardian days’ humility.

SLH

Also Arrived:

(Use our search engine – reviews will still follow for some; most softcover editions of previous hardcovers will already have reviews up.)

At The Mountains Of Madness (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by H.P. Lovecraft & Ian Culbard
Hatter M vol 3: The Nature Of Wonder s/c (£10-99, Automatic) by Frank Beddor, Liz Cavalier & Sami Makkonen
Forgetless (£10-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & W. Scott Forbes, Jorge Coelho
Mice Templar vol 2: Destiny Part 2 s/c (£13-50, Image) by Brian J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming & Michael Avon Oeming, Victor Santos
Superman vs. Muhammad Ali h/c Facsimile Edition (£14-99, DC) by Denny O’ Neil, Neil Adams & Neil Adams
Superman vs. Muhammad Ali h/c (£14-99, DC) by Denny O’ Neil, Neil Adams & Neil Adams
Green Lantern Corps: Emerald Eclipse  (£10-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Thor vol 5: Siege Aftermath (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Doug Braithwaite, Richard Elson
Captain America: Two Americas s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Luke Ross, Jackson Guice
Spawn Origins vol 7 (£10-99, Image) by Todd McFarlane & Greg Capullo, Tony Daniel
Shaun Of The Dead new edition (£10-99, Titan) by Chris Ryall & Zack Howard
Black Butler vol 3 (£7-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso
Twin Spica vol 4 (£8-50, Vertical) by Kou Yaginuma
Soul Eater vol 4 (£8-50, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Christmas Shopping At Page 45

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Right, let’s talk Christmas presents again/already.

First off, DC and Dark Horse have already been soliciting books which won’t arrive until March so if in doubt as to whether they’ll be available before Christmas, do ask!

We know a lot of you have minimal time for Christmas shopping – you might even be serving behind a counter yourselves – so each year we revel in the military exercise that is finding the right book for the right person, using whatever time you have to hand. Here’s where Page 45 can help you on the shop floor…

Scenario A:

1. Make a list of the graphic novels you’d like to receive for Christmas.

2. Distribute this list to your friends and relatives.

3. Tell them they can present the list at the counter, and we’ll find the books for them. You won’t believe how relieved they’ll be at this service.

4. If they buy something someone else has bought you this year or at any other time, so long as you bring it back in prime condition you can exchange it for anything else later on. Absolutely no scowls that you have taken us at our word because it is our word, and here we’re renowned for sticking to it. We will thank you or your friends for having shopped with us in the first place.

Scenario B:

1. Ask your friends and relatives to surprise you. Tell them to come in and ask us for recommendations based on your own predilections, comicbook-orientated or otherwise. We do this over a dozen times each working day, let alone Christmas, and we absolutely love it!

2. We’ll give them four or five options to choose from, seemingly extemporised but actually memorised from each other’s fifteen years of written reviews!

3. See 4 above. Also if, for some unusual (but not unheard of) reason we’re wrong, just bring it back and swap as usual. Personal recommendations at Page 45 all year round come with a swapsies guarantee.

Scenario C:

1. If you want to convert your friends to comics, we also have God knows how many years experience between us in doing just that.

2. Come to the counter, tell us a little bit about what your friends and/or relatives are into in other media, and we’ll come up with several suggestions for what’s good as an introduction to comics based on their wider tastes. We understand the word “introduction” because we’ve been trying it on our own friends for years.

3. See 4 in Scenario A

4. See 3 in Scenario B.

5. Throw a 6 and move on to haberdashery.

Scenario D:

1. Page 45 has gift vouchers available in denominations of £5-00£10-00£20-00.

2. By ‘denominations’ we mean the smallest increments available, but £10,000 worth of Page 45 gift vouchers are easily purchased and popped in an envelope through credit card transactions or worldwide money laundering which we will happily take care of for you.

3. We cannot redeem book tokens, sorry: we’re not a book shop and do not qualify. Please ask for Page 45 gift vouchers before Christmas instead. Free card, free envelope, and free smiles and thanks to all.

4. You or your friends can now go on guilt-free spending sprees. Hurray!

Scenario E:

1. Do nothing at all and receive socks.

2. Wear socks, read nothing.

3. Wash socks, lose one of those socks in the wash and then grumble.

Page 45 is open:

Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm

December Sundays before Christmas only: 11am to 4pm

Tel: (0115) 950805

This has been a transparent marketing ploy on behalf of Page 45, posted in good time to be emulated by everyone else.

Letters November 2010

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Welcome to the first Page 45 online letter column!

Letters are brilliant!

I particularly love F, G, W and D.

That’s not an acronym, I genuinely love those letters. On the other hand I’m not keen on zzzs, so please remember when using our website search engine that we spell titles in English, e.g. ’armour’ with a ‘u’, and ‘realise’ with an ‘s’ rather than a ‘z’ (we have no comicbook titles with ‘realise’ in them; I’m just saying).

I will make an exception, however, for genius Jesse Niemz who recently shone in our shop during her Work Experience here. It’s a vitally important experience which I would have benefited from enormously had there actually been schools when I were a nipper.

Even as adults there’s always a sense of trepidation when you begin your first day at a new place of work, but when I took my first job as resident artist for Ralawise (I drew screen-printed- t-shirts and tea towels for Chester Zoo etc. @ £2-40 an hour) I was utterly terrified. I had never interacted as a semi-equal with adults, and can I just say that I wasn’t even semi-equal to Jesse’s remarkable knowledge of marketing. She’d been studying it at school. Nor was I equal to her mother’s powers of persuasion. Taking on a Work Experience pupil when you’re trying to run a shop and launch a brand-new website is suicide so at first I said no, but Jesse, brother Eric and her mother are all so bloody lovely that I happily fell on my sword. (Warning: don’t do that at home, kids! Or, if you do, make sure you have adult supervision and 999 on speed-dial.)

In the end Ms. Niemz was such a class act that she was an invaluable help when we needed it most. So yes, a really cool week with a very cool woman.

Unless I’m being perfectly insane both Emily Hubbard (she lives in no cupboard but builds Daleks for Doctor Who) and Jhelisa Taylor were our other most recent attendees, and both of them ended up working here professionally. Indeed Jhelisa’s Staff Profile has finally arrived so I’ve just popped it up on the website. In spite of her ludicrous self-deprecation, ignorance is not a quality Jhelisa suffers from as you will deduce from her favourite prose. She makes me look positively ill-read.

“You are ill-read, you moron!”

I’m really not rising to the bait.

Among other things you’ll discover that her favourite graphic novels are…

Mother, Come Home – Paul Hornschemeier
Gemma Bovery – Posy Simmonds
A Tale Of One Bad Rat – Bryan Talbot
Azumanga Daioh – Kiyohiko Azuma
Batman: Thrillkiller – Dan Brereton
The Ballad of Halo Jones – Alan Moore
Phonogram Singles Club – Kieron Gillan & Jamie McKelvie
Transmetropolitan – Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson
Astro City: Tarnished Angel – Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson
Fun Home – Alison Bechdel

LINK

Oh yes, and it’s just occurred to me that all three of our most recent Work Experience pupils were women. Women in comics. “Women Reading Comics” is the title of the new forum thread I kicked off the other night. Please visit the thread and comment or I will feel like a total loser: LINK.

Now then, now then (rattle jewellery, rattle jewellery), as it happens you all seem enormously entertained by the new www.page45.com website. Lots of lovely comments below and on the forums which have given us great encouragement after this marathon enterprise which would have driven any man lesser than our own Jonathan Rigby insane. I have a few words to say about that man’s endeavours as well as Dominique’s at the close of this salvo, but you want letters.

Hi Stephen,

Congratulations and well done! Looks great and easy to navigate.

Mary and I are recently back from the Gijon Festival where Alice In Sunderland won the Haxtur for “Best Long Story”. It’s only been published in Spain this year.

http://www.lavozdeasturias.es/culturas/Bryan-Talbot-corona-Gijon_0_355164508.html

Best,

Bryan

The trailer for Grandville Mon Amour is now online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdBnXHD3j7Q

My website: http://www.bryan-talbot.com

Congratulations mate, and many thanks for the kind words and web links on your own website last weekend. Can you persuade Mary to visit my virginal forum thread here? Also, Dr. Mel Gibson…?

While we’re on the subject of thanks, they go out indescribably also to Kieron Gillen (Page 45′s Comicbook Of The Month PHONOGRAM: SINGLES CLUB), Marc Ellerby (CHLOE NOONAN restocks in now!), Antony Johnston (WASTELAND), Warren Ellis (FREAKANGELS, TRANSMETROPOLITAN and, well, half our finest graphic novels, the mad bastard – pop him in our search engine and see what we mean) and indeed Kenny Penman of Blankslate books (publisher of BERLIN AND THAT and original partner at Forbidden Planet) for their early Twitterings.

Kieron Gillen called the new website “crushworthy”. He has a way with words, does our Kieron.

Indeed thanks to everyone else who’s bigged us up in public or in private, whether we’ve seen it or not, readers and creators alike. But we especially love the public. Here come the emails!

Hi,

I just wanted to say that I absolutely love the new website. It’s the perfect electronic alias for Page 45.

What a comic shop, What a website!

Thanks,

Emma [Halford]

Are you enjoying the new Page 45 website, dear reader? Then feel free to Twitter, visit our Facebook and click that ‘suggest to friends’ icon, pop a link on your website, and/or blog to your hearts’ content. (Mmm, not sure about that apostrophe, but maybe you’re a Timelord.) Especially if you’re a comics creator of stature (all comicbook creators are of stature to us) or an award-winning author of quality horror prose who’s sold millions and millions of copies worldwide, just as we now mention http://www.darrenshan.com/ because reciprocal links are cool!

Whoa! Nice one guys!

[Charlene]

Why not even add our website address to your email signature to puzzle your friends and relatives, dear readers? I know I have!

Brilliant!

[Vicky Johnson]

If you think I’m being outrageous here then pity the embarrassment of my poor sister Ali who signed into a hotel with me the other weekend for the wedding of our cousin, Sir Andrew of Parsonage-shire. The countryside grounds were gloriously landscaped including a sunken garden dedicated to Calliope, the Greek Muse of eloquence. I mention my approval to the manager. “Ah, that’s the name of my wife,” he replied, presenting his much better half and probably boss. At which point I couldn’t help but extol the virtues of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN: DREAM COUNTRY collection of short stories, including the tale of an author out of ideas who captures that same Greek Muse for inspiration only to find he gets far more than he bargained for.

She wrote the title of the book down on my business card. God knows how she got hold of one of those.

Hi Stephen and everyone…

The website is fucking fantastic. I’m really impressed. I can’t decide whether it’s encouraging me to try harder, or just makes me want to give up completely…

Seriously, this is a fantastic move. Well done.

Cheers, Jared [Myland]

OK Comics

Coming from you, mate, that means a lot.

Don’t you dare give up! Not after winning this year’s shopping award for Best Independent Retailer and Best Customer Service in Leeds. (They did!) Also, do not embark on anything like this unless you have a great deal of money and no life at all.

Love it! Looks good on my iPhone too.

Love you!

O[ssian Hawkes]

Ossian used to go to school with Dominique. Did you know that? That’s how he came to be Page 45′s first Work Experience Pupil.

Speaking of school, here’s David Hanks, award-winning English teacher (top three in the Midlands) with a love of our language:

Hello my friends,

First off I would like to congratulate all involved on the new website. There is so much I like and has impressed me that this could be a particularly long gush, so I’ll try to limit myself to the very best bits.

First off, Mark. Always a best bit of Page 45 and so great to see his picture and the tributes. Even better than that is reading his words again. It’s been so long and as I read I could picture him intoning from behind the counter. I had a bit of a moment and look forward to many more moments as other reviews of his go up.

Yeah, I had more than a few moments too, as did his parents Don and Pearl. The dear boy. Here’s our tribute to Mark (LINK) and here are the beginnings but not the end of his Magnificent Musings (LINK).

Speaking of words, it is great to see such a literate web site. So much to read and because I (and I’m sure all your other customers) can read I find it’s nice not to be patronised. And every so often I have to reach for a dictionary and I admire people who know more than me, think it’s great to learn stuff and, and I cannot say this enough, it’s nice not to be patronised.

As mailshot readers know some of the reviews can be scathing and I also appreciate that they too have gone up. Some may say it doesn’t make the greatest commercial sense but I think your customers are a pretty strong-minded bunch who value your opinion but also question it. Not that I’ll be buying Captain Britain anytime soon.

I love the fact that your ‘Always Recommended’ is so current and up to date. It’s great to see you’re not still wittering about books that came out in 1985 (you know which books I mean).

And the icon for “Always Recommended’ is brilliant and the superhero one is pretty funky. I think that you should turn them in to T-Shirts. In fact Nabiel Kanan owns the web site in a really significant way. He sets the tone and that tone is note perfect. Choosing an artist must have an incredibly difficult decision for you and the pressure to make the right choice huge. You got it exactly right.

There was one thing about the web site that foxed me slightly as I stood stroking my iPhone with the one finger, which usually works, and nothing was happening. Is it is a technical thing I’m going to hand over to Rich for the science bit:

“iOS devices such as iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch don’t display a scroll bars because scrolling is achieved with the swipe of a finger. On a website that has a box or frame containing scrolling text, iOS users have to swipe with two fingers – a little known trick! Here’s a link to a support page about it: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1484

“So either your customers will need to two-finger-swipe or perhaps the text could be placed on the web page, rather than in a frame, to avoid confusion.”

Thanks Rich. It’s just you might need to tell people that two fingers get results.

And thank you Page 45 for improving the world wide web. It’s now more interesting and fun than it was before.

XXX

Is it me or was David being rude or even filthy there?

Dear Page 45

I know I only ever email when I want to buy stuff and what not, but I just wanted to say that the new website is bloody brilliant. It’s what a website (comic-related or otherwise) should be – smart, fun, useful and a pleasure to visit.

Keep up the good work

Peter [Howell]

Jonathan, he da man! Can you imagine what level of smarts it takes to envisage something like that and how it should all work together? I can’t. He paid me good money to sign up as my business partner, and now look what he’d done for us.

Thanks so much for taking the time to type and let us know, mate. Truly, truly appreciated.

Great website. I really, really appreciate your touching tribute to Mark. Still missed. Thank you.

[Kirk]

Indeed.

Phew.

Well that took forever didn’t it? Initially I thought it a work of sprawling fiction; perhaps a false start or pissed-away hope; a failed attempt culminating in no more than crossed fingers and wishful thinking. But thankfully not. Nope, today I witnessed the spectacle that is the Page 45 website and boy, was it a wonder to behold.

Allow me to add at this point that I had surgery this morning and am currently still feeling quite battered. I hope you can excuse the horrid over-writing. I’d like to think I’m normally more to the point, but I’m quite enjoying pretending I have a floppy mop, scarf and limber enough wrists to roll them as I talk. Exquisite.

Anyway, the site is wonderful. It was nice to sit and devour a few reviews, read a bit of general info and marvel at the wonderful design and layout. You’ve really outdone yourselves, although if I’m perfectly honest I really should have expected the site to be up to this standard knowing how damn efficient you all are. I’ve been shopping with you on and off since the mid-‘90s and have been introduced to many of my favourite works thanks to yourselves. Interestingly I’d like to add that I just interviewed one of my all-time favourite comic folk, Mark Oakley of Thieves and Kings, a series I discovered thanks to Pg.45.

I wish you all the best and look forward to dropping in upon my next visit to Nottingham.

Regards and a massive wobbly thumbs up (I think it’s the drugs or blood loss),

Christian [Wigley]

Drugs are awesome! [No, they're not - ed.]

Drugs are awful, particularly alcohol and nicotine.

Also blood loss. So sorry, get well soon, and thanks for writing one of the most coherent receptions of the website. I know, I know, everyone thought we were bluffing. It did take forever, so sorry for the delay.

Well done all!! It looks very good and I’m impressed by the reviews on there :)

Sent from my iPhone

[Mark Berridge]

Well, thank you very much.

This isn’t a normal Page 45 letter column at all. Where’s all my faux attitude gone?

My God, it’s….beautiful….

[Jonathan Laidlow]

Nabiel Kanan is amazing, isn’t he? He’s currently reconfiguring his seminal EXIT for a second edition. EXIT sold in its hundreds under Mark, Dominique and I and it will soon sell in its thousands when Nabiel is good and ready. I think you can anticipate a bit of an exclusive offer here along with some free prize draws, for I have every single original Nabiel Kanan panel for the Page 45 website in my personal possession, including the early sketches. I will let some of them go to you. Some of them, mind. Have you noticed that he even includes the selotaped messages we leave ourselves behind/under the counter? He did the whole thing from memory, including his portrait of Mark!

Most of Nabiel’s work is cruelly out of print, but here’s one of our Page 45 Comicbooks Of The Months: LINK

Hi Stephen, Tom, Jonathan and all at Page 45.

I just wanted to say congratulations to you all on the new website!

I have only had chance for a very brief look so far but am eagerly waiting for a spare few mins (hours) to browse in more depth.

I think it looks great! It has a really nice feel to it in terms of navigation and style.

I also love Nabiel’s illustration of Mark… a really lovely touch to the site.

Well done guys, it was definitely worth the wait, a site to be proud of.

Hope you are all fit and well.

Kind regards,

Phil Martin

Thank you, Philip, and thank you again, Nabiel Kanan! I really hope it didn’t get too much in the way of his new version of EXIT. We need that book, and so do our customers.

Huzzah!

Congratulations on your new baby. It’s been a long gestation but it’s a sweet looking little critter. Worth all the pain and heartache in the end.

Now I can buy comics from you again without feeling guilty about leaving things on the pick up list for months on end.

Hope you’re all doing well, I’ll have to pop in if I’m ever in Nottingham again.

Keep safe up there,

Dan Xx.

[Daniel Edgar]

Dan was the man who created the stunning animation of the Page 45 logo with leaves as a tribute to Mark. I spent hours and hours daydreaming to it. Between us, we’re hoping to incorporate it into this site.

Tremendous! It’s so full of stuff! I knew there was a reason I took a sick day today (other than to watch Jeremy Kyle and eat doughnuts in me jimjams).

Nice one.

Jess x

Stuff! We love stuff. Stuff is awesome, and I’m full of it.

Congratulations! It looks wonderful.

I’ll sign up for the forums later!

Matt.

Good man! I can’t wait to read what you write.

And well done everyone – all of you – on getting stuck in there early. You’ve set the tone for the Page 45 forums with admirable aplomb, which is so very important. No angry, egotistical, thumb-sucking men-children, all welcoming sweet smiles and individuality bursting with enthusiasm. Truly an accomplishment when compared to other sites, so give yourselves a big round of applause!

Also, a very big thank you to Rhiannon for being the first to post on the Congratulations thread. Well, I guess you must have started the thread – it would be an arrogant member of Page 45 who started one called “Congratulations” and I’ve only just learned how to start one this week!

Yes, I’ve now received an evening’s remedial tutorial from Ryz a.k.a. Bettie Page 45 on how to use forums. Never visited one before in my life. You probably won’t believe me when I tell you that I just don’t write the blogs and material for About Page 45 and Fun & Resources, I actually format and post them all thanks to Chris Dicken’s exceptional teaching skills and Jonathan’s exceptional patience (formatting this one will be a learning curve).

So me and the 21st Century are at least beginning to make friends. I’m going to try changing a plug next week.

Dominique and Jonathan are in charge of moderation on t’forums (I’m not very good at moderation in anything let alone all things) but at least I can now start to pop in and say hello from time to time. Please keep the emails coming, though, or there won’t be many letter columns!

Hi All

Great news on the website launch – absolutely awesome and I know that one friend of mine has just joined the CBOTM club after looking through the site so an immediate positive result.

Just a quick query though. The “Your Reviews” section is a great idea, but it seems to limit the reviews to 300 characters. Is this a deliberate move to keep the reviews short (I only ask because I’m such a verbose buffoon).

Cheers,

Marcus [Nyahoe]

You’re talking to the worst offender, mate! Poor Dominique, having to populate all that long-winded purple prose…

Jonathan replies:

Hi Marcus,

I’ve just got the bloke who sold us the plug-in to tweak it up to 600 chars. Not an enormous amount I know, although there are some technical reasons for not allowing say 10,000 characters apparently. If it’s a real problem I can probably get him to knock it up a bit further though. But that should be enough for some cogent commentary hopefully. I think the idea is to allow a few people to make some salient points about a book, rather than real in-depth essay style reviews. However, if there are any books we haven’t got Page 45 reviews for, that you’d like to do a lengthy one on, feel free to email it in and subject to a bit of editorial butchery from Stephen we can pop it in the main area, with your name as reviewer for all to marvel at and admire… ;)

Kind regards, Jonathan

Actually I’m a massive fan of Marcus’ missives so I jumped at the idea and told him we’d print anything he’d care to offer on a book we hadn’t reviewed yet (there are more of our own reviews to come from the old Recommended Reading List but we kinda thought that you just wanted us to launch…?). Also so I could rip the piss out of him in our Reviewers’ Credits. It’s a tradition and I get the worst of it!

Marcus has already helped us out on the current LOVE AND ROCKETS. Thanks ever so much, mate. Tom’s well busy and is set to sort us out next week with another of his Key Note Speeches on SOLIPSISTIC POP vol 3 out now! Lord, but it’s a beautiful package and look who’s in it: LINK!

Love the site.

Easy, classy, stylish and just very good.

Who designed the site?

Will. (occasional buyer from leicestershire)

Will, the website credits are in the All About Page 45 section here: LINK.

If you meant “Whose are those gorgeous drawings?” then the answer’s Nabiel Kanan, one of our all-time favourite comicbook creators. See above.

However, almost all of the substantial design work throughout the entire site from shop top to Fun & Resources bottom was by our very own Jonathan with much help from Chris Dicken and a nudge here and there from Dominique Kidd.

I can only take credit for the front-page concept, colour scheme, texture and layout. I wanted it to be a comic telling a story: I wanted Mark to the left, people entering from outside and then queuing at the till with women at the front as they invariably are here. Jonathan and I worked out the proportions and placement of each section, then sent the brief to Nabiel. All the other illustration ideas were then Nabiel’s own, whilst the creation of the book itself was by Jonathan and Chris with Jonathan even providing the Scott McCloud / Krazy Kat concept, the books for the library, the Early Learning brick-bashing and pretty much everything else. It’s Dominique who has populated all the interior comicbook art etc.

Oh, I guess I’m also responsible for making sure it was Nabiel who drew it. No one else could have come close to representing Page 45 so perfectly, and it came to me the very same second that I envisaged the front page. One moment in time. Talk about satori!

Right, as intimated earlier, there are many more comments on the forum, and we thank you for those: LINK.

Also, thanks to the lovely Laura Millward who asked if she could come in and take some photographs just so she could add us to the Amazing Bookshops around the world website! Have a look here: LINK.

Very, very kind, all of you.

Pre-launch I wrote:

Soon enough it’ll be: ”Log On, Get Drunk, And Buy More Product!”

A celebratory £10 Page 45 gift voucher each to the first three people who can tell me which singer/songwriter used “Buy more product!” as an attack on subliminal advertising in one of his songs so early on that if it’s actually been released on CD now it would have to be part on the bonus features. I only have it on very rare, pre-album vinyl. Don’t need the song title, just the artist/group. Clue: it’s stuck with me for a good three decades. Not a clue: I’ve checked and if you google the quotation, even with “music” or “lyrics” in there, it still don’t show! You will actually need to know this and so fully deserve the reward.

I was quoting from memory there and was almost right. Thank goodness you were all wrong, but we relished every attempt as you tried to envisage my record collection!

Arroo!

Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass are very different! Phantom Hourglass has a Phantom and an Hourglass. Wind Waker merely has wind. Arf!

My guess – and this is guesswork rather than actual knowledge, so feel free to give the prize to someone who actually deserves it – is Momus. Or it could be The Associates or Billy Mackenzie. This is based on knowing Stephen rather than knowing music.

Barking up the wrong tree?

bye bye

o.

That’s Ossian again, commenting on my computer-game confusion. Momus certainly could have written a song like that…

Stephen

This rings a vague bell….Sounds like it might well be Jim Thirlwell (in one of his many guises)

Christopher Powell

PS Not sure whether you knew that Charlie Adlard of The Walking Dead fame used to go to the same school as you….

[Christopher Powell]

… as could Jim ‘Foetus’ Thirwell in any of his many guises (Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel, Clint Ruin, Flesh Volcano, Wiseblood etc. and indeed etc.). But nope, no cigar, yet yes I did know I went to school with Charlie Adlard for we sat opposite each other in art class. I seem to remember a giant cat attacking a skyscraper. Then Charlie drawing it.

Charlie Adlard is indeed the artist on WALKING DEAD after volume one, whereas I am just a till monkey. Which do you think drew the better pictures?! (Hint: he’s not a till monkey.)

Here’s David again:

Got as far as the letters but then had to stop and chance my arm with Billy Mackenzie?

Now, back to the last Page 45 Mailshot Preview. The end of an era. I’m a little sad. The silver lining to this cloud is that it might mean I get to see more of Steve.

Love to you all. XXX

[Dave Hanks]

Ah, dear Billy: voice of an angel, and with a closet as accommodating as Morrissey’s.

Did you know The Smiths’ ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’ was written about Billy MacKenzie? Its closing falsetto was a tribute to him. Billy retorted with ‘Stephen, You’re Still Really Something’ and a riff towards the end that mirrored one of Morrissey’s. ‘I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday To You’ off the top of my head, which is almost certainly intentionally ironic when you consider Morrissey’s lyrics. But we never heard it until Billy killed himself. <sigh>

Lastly former veterans/survivors of Page 45’s infamous letter columns will now recognise the following flood of email as belonging to one Andrew McGinty MyGodLetmego McGuire as he attempts to scramble around for a £10 gift voucher. He’s a very funny man. By which I do mean peculiar but also effortless funny.

Dear Stephen,

Unfortunately I can’t enter your competition because I don’t know the answer, but I thought you’d be pleased to hear from me, given that you haven’t had any letters this month. Nor have I, unless you count demands for payment. I also haven’t had much to eat, among other things. What a way to sign off.

Andrew

P.S.  Due to a sudden inspiration, I’m guessing Elvis Costello, but given your strictures, I ’guess’ a guess doesn’t count, even if correct.

No.

Is that ‘No’ as in ‘No, it’s the wrong answer’, or ‘No, I’m not pleased to hear from you?

Andrew

Yup.

Is that ‘Yup!’ as in ‘You are correct in inferring that the answer you submitted was incorrect’, or as in ‘Incredible as it may seem, I actually don’t want to hear from you ever again’?

Yup.

Andrew

P.S. Paul Weller?

Nope.

Hello again Stephen,

Not that I’ve been giving this any thought, or anything, but when a flash of inspiration comes to you simply have to follow it, and one such epiphany has led me to the truth: Musical Youth. I know I’m right, you know I’m right, and soon the world will know I’m right.

Andrew

Well, as I may have hinted earlier, I don’t actually care about either your piffling competition, or your opinion of me.

Um….Madonna?

A M

Like I said, effortlessly funny with beat-perfect timing. I recently told Andrew that he needed to write.

Just not to me.

The answer is Soft Cell, if you’re still reading. And I think you almost deserve a £10 Page 45 Gift Voucher if you are! (See what I did there? Buy more product!) The song was Persuasion, as evidenced here: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/s/soft_cell/persuasion.html.

I told you it was obscure.

Item! DC drops the price of $3-99 comics to $2-99 as of this January. Marvel and DC and both sheep in wolves’ clothing almost always following each others’ moves. Fingers crossed, then, that Marvel follow suit soon!

Item! Big-name guests for the next London meeting of Laydeez Do Comics include Hannah Berry, creator of the laugh-out-load private-eye spoof BRITTEN & BRULIGHTLY (LINK), and the lovely oh lovely Paul Gravett, writer of GRAPHIC NOVELS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW (LINK), GREAT BRITISH COMICS (LINK), MANGA: 60 YEARS OF JAPANESE COMICS (LINK) and the unforgettable LEATHER NUN (LINK). Monday November 29th 6.30pm to 9.30pm. It’s held here: LINK

Item! Many thanks for my mate Simon Armin, designer of The List in Edinburgh for my birthday present in the form of PS3′s western Red Dead Redemption. Ex-army sniper turned barber Geoff Savory, one of our most golden-hearted customers, has been nagging me about its brilliance since it first materialised but I’d been working too hard to shop. Let me tell you, it handles like a dream. Insanely I decided to kick off one morning at 2am and just couldn’t stop. The hunting-for-money side-missions are almost as wrong as Grand Theft Auto: me, a vegetarian member of Green Peace determined to make cougars extinct. I’m slaughtering my way through the environment like the Punisher with spurs. A hawk must have murdered my family or something.

Item! Congratulations to Top Shelf and Jeff Lemire, for ESSEX COUNTY has been deemed one of the top forty Canadian novels of the decade. Yes, that includes prose! LINK

Item! Congratulations also to returned customer Leigh Hobson and his missus who is now his missus! They’re married! I’ve seen the photos, and the tables with their individual comicbook themes were genius. Very tolerant, his missus.

Item! Congratulations also to customer Rob Lewis and his good lady who snuck off to New York to romantically tie the knot. They didn’t escape familial fuss completely however as they had a big party upon their return. Awww.

Item! Sign up to the First Second newsletter, especially if you’re a retailer! The brainchild of Gina Gagliano who moved heaven and earth to secure us copies of Eddie Campbell’s AMAZING, REMARKABLE MONSIEUR LEOTARD in time for us to launch the book in the UK with our Eddie Campbell and Paul Gravett signing, it’s exactly the sort of mischief I love. If you’re going to inform then entertain as well! Now will someone show me how?

Item! Mainly Tom and I have been twittering…

“Ah! The lovely Sarah McIntyre has said nice things about her Gamecity experience, including tea with me ;) http://bit.ly/45gamecity

“The lolly has landed! Rick & Linda in da house: biggest-ever purchase £1300. Tom may miss his tea today.”

“Our friends at Exquisite Things have interviewed comics’ own tattooed love boy, Brandon Graham – http://exquisitething.blogspot.com/

“Billy The Sink doing Dexter! http://www.slashfilm.com/2010/10/25/votd-dexter-webisode-dark-echo-comics-legend-bill-sienkiewicz/

“Already managed to kill the fresh basil I bought on Sunday. The aspidistra is eyeing me nervously.”

“The aspidistra has died. Now my *cat* is eyeing me suspiciously.”

“STRAY BULLETS: best crime fiction in any medium; worst self-publisher. Can you just get Vertigo to do it? We need the books!”

“Oh, Mr. Millar. It’s funny because it’s true http://bit.ly/poopmillar

“What I meant to say is that if you do not vote then you have no right to complain about anything. I may be dyslexic. How do you spell that?”

“This short from Sophia Wiedeman is very sweet, I like her witches ;) http://www.topshelfcomix.com/ts2.0/lettuce_girl/

“Woke up hungover to find front door ajar. Instead of sympathy, my barrista said, “Did someone need to leave in a hurry?” Cheeky monkey.”

“I am writing the next Page 45 Mailshot Previews, yes. I should not have had wine for breakfast.”

Sign up for our stupid stuff here: LINK.

Lastly, without wishing to detract from Chris Dickens’ remarkable problem-solving skills, I just want to talk once more about Jonathan and Dominique’s hard work this last year on the website, their stunning achievement, and Nabiel Kanan’s beautiful, beautiful images.

That Warren Ellis is prepared to dish out our website address and link directly to his own books here each time one of his UK readers asks where they can buy something is for a start incredibly generous and not something we take for granted. But Warren has always been about a more progressive comicbook retail environment, campaigning ceaseless in COME IN ALONE for the books he holds dear (Eddie Campbell’s ALEC being amongst his favourites) so it’s also a testament, I think, from one blindingly intelligent – if bludgeoningly brutal and frankly quite mad - comicbook writer to what Jonathan has created, Dominique has populated and comicbook creator Nabiel Kanan has so instinctively illustrated. Kieron Gillen, as I’ve mentioned, called it “crushworthy” which is exactly what Nabiel Kanan has brought to the table, rendering our customers on the front page just as chic, enthusiastic and aesthetically inquisitive as they are in real life.

That early description from Gillen was exactly what I needed to read, exactly when I needed to read it.

Your early days give you jitters, let me tell you. It’s almost like opening a brand-new shop. Well, it’s exactly like opening a brand-new shop and just because you lot have been kind enough to like what we’ve done on the physical, bricks-and-mortar front, didn’t mean you’d necessarily love what we created together on the website. Thanks for your feedback so far; please don’t be afraid to point out any glitches, difficulties you may experience or even outright errors. We need that sort of feedback too.

But let me tell you, I’ve been using the Page 45 website’s search engine for a good year now in order to access old reviews etc., and it’s been a joy. As much as it’s been a struggle for me to edit (decontextualise), rewrite or even write for the first time so many reviews and all that other editorial guff you see round the site, you cannot imagine the number of hours that Dominique has put in so carefully populating the pages with all those reviews, all that interior art and so swiftly too. An accomplished and much lauded website designer in her own right (her college tutor, to my face, called her the most brilliant student he’s ever taught), Dominique has invented programmes for data doo-dads and shit that you won’t even be aware of occurring in order for the website and its information retrieval to function so smoothly. (I have no idea what I just typed there, no. You saw through that immediately.) I don’t know which forces sent her back to us exactly seven years after she last left Page 45 at precisely the right time (yeah, my guess is Mark too!), but there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by since when I haven’t consciously considered my gratitude both to them and to her. I just wish she was back in the shop as well, working alongside me, but I will gladly take what I can gleefully get!

Jonathan… Again, you have no idea. This isn’t some off-the-peg website and until you attempt something on a scale such as this you cannot comprehend the technological know-how or man-hours it requires. The dedication and determination that everything will work in precisely the manner we (or rather you, really) require… The things that need sorting, the people who need contacting, the constant discipline in backing up, not settling for second best and refusing to take “cannot be done” for an answer. And then having to teach me of all people how to use the technology independently!

There have been days, weeks and months when the man has juggled this project and that, dropping no ball at all, meticulously planning then working his way through sheaves of notes whilst still selling comics and graphic novels on the shop floor. Reviewing them too. Tom and I have had it relatively easy, whilst Jonathan’s middle initial stands not for D’Arcy but for Diligence personified.

Jonathan has taken everything that Page 45 stands for, absorbed it, interpreted it and then respectfully reconfigured it for this brand-new incarnation. Mark, I know, would be so, so proud of him in his infinitely giant stead.

A round of applause then for Jonathan Rigby, if you will, creator of the Page 45 website and the only man other than Mark who could possibly put up with me as a business partner. And a round of applause to yourselves for waiting so patiently for it to arrive.

Can you all just blog & twitter it to death now, please?

- Stephen

www.page45.com

“Log on, get drunk, buy more product!”

November 2010 Previews for January 2010 onwards

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Books for January 2011 onwards

Email page45@page45.com to reserve your copies and we’ll let you know when they’re in.

Scenes From An Impending Marriage h/c (£7-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Adrian Tomine.

Brilliant! Autobiographical exasperation at his own wedding process from the man who brought you OPTIC NERVE (SHORTCOMINGS etc.). I don’t care how laissez faire you are when you begin your planning, it always proves more complicated than you think, and there’s nothing laissez faire about Adrian! So here he is brightly poking fun at things like scouting out a venue, hiring a DJ, suit fittings, dancing lessons and, here, designing the wedding invitations:

LINK

The Fracture Of The Universal Boy (£14-99, Olympian) by Michael Zulli

From many readers’ favourite SANDMAN artist and the creator of the much-loved PUMA BLUES, a semi-autobiographical self-exorcism two decades in the making which, if you read his blogs, was evidently quite the relief to get off his shoulders. It’s going to be emotional! Detailed, decorative and graceful, his art like Barry Windsor-Smith’s is enormously influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, its modern appearances rare. Take whatever you can get, I say, and I always do. He’s blogging quite prolifically at the moment (see Studio Updates):

LINK

Daytripper (£14-99, Vertigo/DC) by Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon.

Introduction by Craig Thompson (BLANKETS).

“I wanted to write about life, Jorge, and look at me now… all I write about is death.”

Bars is feeling old. Today he is 32, his father is such a successful Brazilian author that the literary community is throwing a great gala in his honour tonight, and he’s stuck writing obituaries for a newspaper. Oh yes, and neither his father nor mother have remembered it’s his birthday. So he’s feeling a bit morbid, he’s feeling a little dejected and he’s… well, he’s sulking. Nevertheless he hoists on the tuxedo and tie and makes his way tonight to the Theatro Municipal just early enough to grab some smokes and a beer from a local bar. That’s where a family argument ensures that his family will never forget his birthday again.

It’s quite the startling conclusion to the first issue of a twelve issue mini-series, the death of its lead character, but make no mistake, Bars is the main protagonist.

The second issue gives us a far broader idea of what the Brazilian brothers are up to in a series which is swiftly turning into one of the most delightfully surprising and free-flowing comics in many a year. Bras is much younger here – 21 in fact – and has arrived with friend Jorges in Salvador to find himself being called to the sea in his dreams. Sure enough when they hit the beach and Bras takes a dive he surfaces next to a rowing boat with a beautiful young woman reclined in it. Climbing into the other end, he finds his reflections on life challenged by the woman who may have a well of wisdom but is more than a little reluctant to talk about herself. All three of them venture into the market, then arrange to meet at the Rio Vermelo beach for the locals’ celebration of water spirit Lemanja. And that’s when the sea calls again…

I had presumed that, Bras having died at the end of the first issue, the rest would be filling in the blanks, but no. The last couple of pages will prove that it’s even more original than that, and will give you much pause for thought.

From the Brazilian brothers who brought us DE TALES and the artists on books like UMBRELLA ACADEMY and CASANOVA, this is an atypical title for Vertigo. We approve. It’s beautifully drawn, so thank goodness they’re doing the covers too.

LINK

Vietnamerica (£14-99, Villard) by GB Tran.

Autobiography which should appeal to readers of PERSEPOLIS and FORGET SORROW, as a return to Vietnam for his grandmother’s funeral rekindles his family’s memories of life in a country they’d fled and tried to forget after the fall of Saigon.

Get ready for a masterclass in double-page composition. It’s a very difficult feat to pull off, packing so much onto paper whilst retaining immaculate balance and crystal-clear narration. Just look at the first example here (click on the first image under the title – it’ll soon zoom out):

LINK

Lynd Ward: Six Novels In Woodcuts Slipcase (£52-99, Library Of America.) by Lynd Ward.

Graphic novels, that is, and silent and affecting at that. Introduction by Spiegelman, and more from myself here on an affordable introduction you can pick up today:

LINK

Love From The Shadows h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez.

Third in Gilbert’s original hardcovers (see CHANCE IN HELL and TROUBLEMAKERS) here furthering the story of LOVE AND ROCKETS’ B-movie actress Fritz.

“In this ‘movie’ a beautiful waitress and her brother visit their estranged father in order to find out why their mother committed suicide. The story weaves in and out of reality and possibly back and forth in time. To complicate things further, the sister is sexually obsessed with a mysterious man throughout the tale – is it her brother?”

LINK

Approximate Continuum Comics (£13-99, Fantagraphics) by Lewis Trondheim.

Original, full-length episode of LITTLE NOTHINGS which is Trondheim’s episodic, anthropomorphic series of diary entries, noting the absurdities of everyday life… if you are an internationally acclaimed cartoonist! Hilariously self-deprecating, this features a rebuttal section in which friends and family take issue with Trondheim’s various accounts.

LINK

Good Eggs: A Memoir (£17-99, Harper Collins) by Phoebe Potts.

More autobiography, this one of those issues close to many people’s hearts: infertility.

“For Phoebe Potts, the path to maternal fulfilment has not been easy. All her friends seem to get pregnant, but she can’t conceive for all her trying. As Phoebe and her husband, Jeff, navigate the emotionally and physically fraught world of fertility experts, she takes stock of what matters in the rest of her life and reflects on the winding journey to her true calling as an artist. From her days as an amateur union organizer in Texas to her spiral into paralyzing depression in Mexico; from her soul-shrinking, all-for-the-benefits stint as an administrative assistant at a fancy university in Cambridge to her flirtation with rabbinical school, Phoebe illuminates the bumpy road to vocational and personal contentment. Her wonderful, hilarious, and utterly original drawings capture the truly good eggs—an unforgettably nutty mother; a devoted husband; a team of therapists, hairdressers, and landladies; friends; and a sidekick housecat—that together expand the definition of what really makes a family.”

I struggled to find any interior art, but finally came across at least the front-page illustration of Phoebe’s website:

LINK

The Finder Library vol 1 (£18-99, Dark horse) by Carla Speed McNeil.

616 pages – an entire half of the material to date – for a mere £18-99. Beloved by Mark, Tom and Warren Ellis, this is exceptional stuff. Take it away, Mark -

Born to a paranoid, over protective, ex-military father and a mother with tendencies to retreat to the safety of her imagination, Rachael looks after her sisters as best she can. Brigham’s still away, locked up after the kidnapping of his own family, just about to get out though. Emma’s just got a good commission so they can move to a better part of the city.

“Weird place is Anvard.

Like any city.”

Under a dome of lost, crumbling technology sits Anvard, a busy metropolis with no sky, no day or night, hosting many different races and tribes. Re-entering its base walkways is Jaeger, the Finder of the title, armed only with his considerable charm and looking to pick up from where he left off.

“What you do…

…what you are…

…is a form of divination.”

Even though the city is an important player – in fact it’s the second character that we’re introduced to – the neo-Bladerunner atmosphere doesn’t detract from the human side. There’s enough Terry Gilliam in there with the Ridley Scott/Philip K. Dick.

McNeil draws some of the most sensual flesh I’ve seen in a long time – not overtly sexual just very warm, very human with great grace and poise. The politics between the different tribes (each with their own role in society) can, initially, be a little confusing, and the story is often shown in a non-linear fashion and hidden under a lot of surface noise, allegories presenting themselves for literal interpretation. Jaeger’s romantic, nomadic life gives him free reign to sway through the book, holding it all together, without bringing his morals up front and into question. You get to understand that McNeil, like Dave Sim, has the tapestry of the social history plotted out in her head and is (frustratingly) letting it out a piece at a time.

All in all a very difficult book to review and recommend because there’s so much going on.  Lots of invention, great little gadgets (Emma’s French-accented secretary/minder/Jiminy Cricket with binary digits as angel and devil on her shoulder springs immediately to mind).  The city feels lived in, at times halfway between San Francisco and Marrakech. Supporting characters breeze onstage fully realized. Background details in the art hint at other works in lots of different mediums. Quite dizzying, confusing and charming all in one.

Due March 16th.

LINK

Freakangels vol 5 (£14-99, Avatar) by Warren Ellis.

The finest in lo-fi sci-fi after 12 children now grown have flooded the world and it’s as much as they can do to get generators going again. With a maximum of four panels per page and usually fewer, this has a completely different feel to anything else out there. Be warned, it’s also a lot nastier than it looks. Far, far more here, for example:

LINK

Casanova vol 1: Luxuria (£10-99, Icon/Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Gabriel Ba.

In black, white and khaki, CASANOVA is a Morrison-esque monstrosity of bonkers plot-play if you can keep up. It’s a nuts and bolts, transdimensional, infiltration fire-fight with most of those bolts either missing or screw-loose. In effect, then: nuts. More, much more here:

LINK

Weapons Of The Metabarons (£14-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Travis Charest, Zoran Janjetov.

Ho, we’ve been waiting for this for nigh-on a decade! I even remember the dozen-page sampler we had on sale. I even talked about this with Jonathan last week. Self-contained European science-fiction, maybe this will entice you back to the rest of the METABARONS universe.

Travis Charest started off as little more than a Jim Lee clone but then Bryan Hitch started off as a substandard Alan Davis and look at the artist of ULTIMATES now: peerless, photorealistic dynamism and my favourite superhero artist in the business! By the time Charest had finished his final pages on WILDCATS he had leap-frogged over Jim Lee (which takes some doing) and become something entirely different as the link below will show you.

LINK

Human Target vol 2: Second Chances (£14-99, Vertigo/DC) by Peter Milligan & Cliff Chiang, Javier Pulido.

Christopher Chance is The Human Target, a man who lives other people’s lives in order to save them. So lost is he in his work that most recently he has to use his not inconsiderable skills of impersonation – and a lot of prosthetics – to even look like Christopher Chance, because underneath it all he now has the face and wife of dead Frank White.

Here he stumbles on a man who faked his own death in the chaos of September 11th, but who now wants his life back, his wife back, and to expose his old employers as the fraudsters they are. Messy. Chance is then persuaded to investigate the suicide of a baseball player who was being blackmailed into throwing games by high-stakes gamblers. To this end he has to take the identity of another baseball player, and although Chris is a crack actor, he’s never swung a bat in his life.

Complicating things even further he’s then persuaded into looking like Charlie Rivers who’s posing as John Charles and thinks Christopher Chance is actually Molloy, an active terrorist left-over from The Weathermen cell. Chance’s mission? Catch Molloy.

Yes, that is the sound of your brain shutting down. In terms of ingenuity of plot and slights of hand, this is one of the cleverest books currently on the market. I have absolutely no idea how he does it, but it’s recommended to all fans of 100 BULLETS, SLEEPER, and CRIMINAL.

Due February 16th. Here’s volume one:

LINK

Scalped vol 7: Rez Blues (£13-50, Vertigo/DC) by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera, Davide Furno, Danijel Zezelj.

Crime and grime on the Prairie Rose Reservation which just builds and builds to devastating effect. More here from books two and three:

LINK and LINK

DMZ vol 9: M.I.A. (£10-99, Vertigo/DC) by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchelli.

Due February 16th. My personal favourite was volume 4, but here’s vol 1:

LINK

Hellblazer: Pandemonium s/c (£13-50, Vertigo) by Jamie Delano & Jock.

Excellent! Here’s our review of the h/c in stock now:

LINK

Delirium’s Party: A Little Endless Storybook h/c (£10-99, Vertigo/DC) by Jill Thompson.

Just like THE LITTLE ENDLESS STORYBOOK (reprint also due March 10th), this is watercolours and prose featuring the pint-sized, younger versions of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN cast. Of the first one, I wrote:

A bright little children’s adventure in prose and pictures as the long-suffering pooch Barnabus searches for his vague princess, Delirium, trying all her brothers’ and sisters’ realms as he goes. It’s also watercolour heaven. There’s sunshine and woods and tarpaulin shadow; grass that is green, bleached white statues, waves that are flooded in watery blue. You can feel that ocean breeze in his ears. All that and a doggie to die for. I’m so fey.

LINK

Red Moon (£14-99, Cossack) by David McAdoo.

More canine adventures which seem a lot closer to BEASTS OF BURDEN than the KORGI series from Top Shelf (i.e. pretty dark). Oh, and by the way, the guy can really draw dogs. You’ll need to scroll past some excruciating photos taken at a recent comicbook convention (and that’s why I never go), but you will be rewarded by some seriously fine pencils if you can endure the rest of the Blog. Also, check out About here:

LINK

Zita The Space Girl (£8-50, First Second) by Ben Hatke.

Full colour adventures of an impetuous young madam which kick off on terra firma with the arrival of a meteorite. And what lovely colours they are! Scroll down and click on the interior art for a preview here which, once they get to the woods, convinced me that this may well have a very strong appeal for some readers of AMULET:

LINK

Pilot & Huxley vol 1 (£5-99, Scholastic) by Dan McGuiness.

All-ages iconoclasm and the sort of art and set-up that normally make me sceptical, but I really did smile. Huxley thinks his parents have gone missing; actually they just forgot to take him on holiday. Pilot thinks he has a hole in his wardrobe that leads to a fantastical dimension; actually he just has a hole in his wardrobe. What neither of them knows is that the secret code to the Deadly Device Of Doom has been downloaded into their latest rented computer game by mistake and the aliens are coming to get them. In disguise. Just not a terribly good disguise. Coming soon: a swamp of bees, sea monsters and the nose of a giant dragon. Preview:

LINK

Dork Tower vols 1, 2, 3 new editions (£11-99, £7-50, £7-50, Dork Storm Press) by John Kovalic.

Kovalic has reclaimed his spoof series from SLG after they let them linger out of print. I thought a lot them were really funny, particularly the character busy on eBay snapping up the toys he’d once jettisoned as childish: “Oh my God, I’m buying back my youth!” We’ve still a few copies left over, but if you want the second printings instead, just ask.

Fast food, sports sponsorship, DVD extras on re-re-released ‘ultra special’ editions, blog-posting, video game violence, cruelty to Ewoks (pro, not con) and internet quizzes – the sort where you can find out what sort of marmalade you’d be, after telling the site whether you prefer cats to quadratic equations or something. These are a few of the favourite things for John Kovalik to poke fun at when we pay them a little too much attention, and it’s done with a kind heart and understanding, rather than a mallet of self-righteousness [writes Stephen, the very wrecking-ball of self-righteousness - Ed.].

LINK

Lewis & Clark (£12-99, First Second) by Nick Bertozzi.

“In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark departed St. Louis, Missouri, for one of the greatest adventures this nation has ever known. Appointed and funded by President Jefferson himself, and led by a cadre of experts (including the famous Sacajawea), the expedition was considered a success almost before it had begun. From the start, the journey was plagued with illness, bad luck, unfriendly Indians, Lewis’s chronic depression, and, to top it all, the shattering surprise of the towering Rocky Mountains and the continental divide. But despite crippling setbacks, overwhelming doubts, and the bare facts of geography itself, Lewis and Clark made it to the Pacific in 1806.

“Nick Bertozzi brings the harrowing—and, at times, hilarious—journey to vivid life on the pages of this oversized black-and-white graphic novel. With his passion for history and his knack for characterization, Bertozzi has made an intimate tale of a great American epic.”

Scroll down for interior art then click on it to read a preview:

LINK

Cursed Pirate Girl vol 1 (£14-99, Olympian) by Jeremy Bastion.

Fairly sure this is the insanely detailed high-seas book which Terry Whiley showed me when he dropped off our copies of VERITYFAIR #1. Whimsical swashbuckling with giant octopi and the like:

LINK

Garth Ennis’ Battlefields vol 6: Motherland (£9-99, D.E.) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun.

More war stories. Sometimes they’re terrifying, sometimes they’re horrifying, sometimes they manage to squeeze in a little burlesque comedy, but they’re always excellent. This is a sequel to NIGHT WITCHES.

LINK

Nemesis h/c (£19-99 Icon/Marvel/Titan?) by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven.

Like KICK-ASS this is set well clear of the Marvel Universe. There are no superheroes in this world, just one man in white with a great deal of money and time to kill. Time to kill people, specifically the finest Chiefs of police around the globe. He’s an inverse Batman, obviously, relishing the suffering and humiliation he inflicts on the mighty or noble with meticulous timing for maximum death and destruction by knocking down dominoes set at precisely the right angle to each other. Here Tokyo city is in for but a taster of what he has planned for America, its President and Washington DC’s Chief Blake Morrow. Nevertheless it’s a taster of the proportions compelling enough to convince Morrow – and indeed the reader – that there probably is no escape.

Truly I would advise you to steer clear of any other publicity concerning this title (other than the link provided whose interview was conducted months ago) if you want to enjoy the sheer scale of the spectacle ahead of you because even in the short space of the opening chapter your jaw will drop not once, not twice and not even thrice. McNiven you may know as Millar’s artist on CIVIL WAR and WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN. It’s not a team known to disappoint – except when it comes to schedules! I wouldn’t expect this as near as January. Interview:

LINK.

Gotham Central Book Four h/c (£22-50, DC) by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka & Steve Lieber, Kano, Gaudiano.

“Hell, maybe it’s suicide. The kid worked for Batman after all.”
“Great. You want to ask him if Robin’s been feeling depressed recently? “How’s he been sleeping? Any signs of drug use? Trouble at school?”"
“Aw, God… Can’t be sixteen, even. You realise that if this is actually him, then even if this is accidental, the Bat is at fault?”
“Endangering the life of a minor… unless the parents are in on it too, then they’re all to blame.”
“Maybe Batman is one of the parents.”
“There’s a scary thought.”

It’s also quite a scary Batman: Kano’s feral, spectral version all shadow and blur. When a boy who could well be Robin is found dead on the rain-sodden streets and the crime scene photography is leaked to press, the investigation follows all obvious lines of enquiry until the least obvious and in some ways sickest presents itself.

This is the final volume of GOTHAM CENTRAL, the superb police procedural drama in which the streets are made all the more dangerous by its more notorious inhabitants, and Batman, far from being embraced, is blamed for their existence and resented for the emasculation involved in having to fire up the spotlight and call for outside help. So they don’t tend to do that: they solve the crimes themselves. Like any precinct, it’s populated by a variety of individuals, and it’s as much about them as the crimes themselves, in particular Detectives Renée Montoya and Crispus Allen, whose stories don’t end well, for snaking his way through the pages has been bent forensics expert, Corrigan. It’s here that their paths finally converge and the subplot erupts to devastating effect, shattering the lives around it.

Psychologically this is so well written, and every artist they’ve chosen has kept it firmly grounded at street level. There’s also a terrifying sequence in which no mere battle but outright Armageddon erupts in the skies above them, anarchy is loosed below, and Allen and Montoya have no idea whether they will ever make it across the city to see their loved ones again.

“Metal tears as something crushes the engine block. The windshield explodes inwards, showering me with safety glass. I tumble out of the car and into air that stinks of sulphur and burning flesh. My sight catches on one word and a face… and I freeze for a moment, staring into the eyes of a sin.”

March 9th 2011, interior art from the smaller, o/p s/c line:

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Batman: Time And The Batman h/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison, Fabian Nicieza & David Finch, Tony Daniel.

Reprints the recent BATMAN #700-703. #700 was an ingenious set of stories from different points in time which impact on each other creating a whole; 701-702 filled in the gaps between BATMAN R.I.P. and FINAL CRISIS. March 2nd 2011

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Superman: The Black Ring h/c (£14-99, DC) by Paul Cornell & Pete Woods.

In BLACKEST NIGHT, Lex Luthor became an Orange Lantern and gained a real taste for power. But it might just push him over the edge and into the abyss because Morpheus’ sister’s here: Death herself. Pretty much quadrupled the title’s readership here, did Paul Cornell. Reprints #890-895 which ain’t even out yet. March 30th 2011

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The Authority: the Lost Year Book 2 (£13-50, DC) by Keith Giffen, Grant Morrison, J.M. DeMatteis & Brandon Badeux, Jerry Ordway, Kevin Nowlan.

Second half. Rather enjoyed the first half as evidenced here:

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Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by BMB & John Romita Jr.

In the end it turned out to be very clever indeed.

Not so much a temporal anomaly as a temporal catastrophe. Far in the future the Avengers have had children but the world they have inhabited has been devastated by a war between Hank Pym’s Ultron (A.I., housed in nigh-impenetrable metal, Oedipal Complex like you wouldn’t believe) and Kang The Can’t Conquer For Toffee. Kang lost (obviously, it’s there in his name) but being a time traveller and a really, really sore loser he simply sets the temporal reset, travels back in time and tries again. Over and over again. But the thing is, everything has an expiry date: carpets wear thin, as does Jonathan’s saintly temper with his booze-ridden business partner; plus metal experiences fatigue, as Uri Geller will show you.

And eventually, groaning at the strain of Kang’s relentless, bludgeoning misuse, time… Simply. Snaps.

That’s what lies in the middle of this devious tale with ominous foreshadowing for the life, times and in particular the inventions of Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man. But it all kicks off on the first day of the teams reformation, the brand new era for our Avengers and the cast simply depends on who’s there at the party when it all kicks off: Thor, Iron Man, Bucky as Captain America, Hawkeye as Hawkeye (at last), Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Wolverine and Nor-Varr.

Art on a scale of huge from Junior and perfectly accessible to first-time readers in spite of the extensive Marvel history being dug up like mud (good mud, fun mud) and thrown about here. What can I link to? Bendis’ first-ever AVENGERS book from way back when; it’s recommended:

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New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by BMB & Stuart Immonen.

Stuart Immonen on top form, and Steve Rogers has covered all the bases: there’s a flagship team to restore the Avengers’ reputation, a secret team to avoid any reputation at all, and because not every peg fits the same hole, there’s even a team for malcontents.

Luke Cage is malcontented. He cannot pretend that everything they went through whilst on the run under Osborn’s dark reign of terror or even Stark’s reign of error never happened.* He’s certainly not going to be giving man-love to Stark. So Stark gives Luke the Avengers Mansion and Rogers gives him the right to pick a card – any card – with the full deck showing. Iron Fist is a shoe-in obviously as is his wife Jessica Jones, then there’s Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Wolverine, Carol Danvers and The Thing.

Dr. Strange is possessed to appear as well. Oh wait, Dr. Strange is simply possessed, just like his Eye of Ago-whatthehey and that’s where the conflict begins. Oh wait, no, it begins when Luke and Jessica realise that they don’t get the services of Jarvis, they get ******** *** and instead of answering the door and announcing them like most polished butlers, she points a fucking gun at their baby and demands they stand down.

So it’s going to be that kind of book, and it made me smile. There is a slight lack of coordination at the moment on account of Stark somehow possessing the money to refurbish Avengers Mansion from the skeletal shell we last saw it in and then magnanimously hand it over to Cage for a dollar when in Fraction’s INVINCIBLE IRON MAN he can’t even afford to pay Mrs. Arbogast. But whatthehey, Agoto motto too: it’s just a bit of fun!

* Try saying “Stark’s reign of error never happened” after your second bottle of whisky.

Here’s the first series of NEW AVENGERS which follows directly on from the book linked to above; it’s stunning:

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Secret Avengers vol 1: Mission To Mars h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Mike Deodato.

This feels exactly like the Avengers we’ve been used to recently thanks in no small part of Mike Deodato (DARK AVENGERS, THUNDERBOLTS), and it’s perfect that Brubaker’s on board because so is Steve Rogers.

Dubai at night. The Black Widow and the Valkyrie have infiltrated Roxxon by posing as call girls and escorting one of their dirty old men back to his room. Twelve seconds later and the bullets start flying. They’re in need of extraction in ten:

“Couldn’t you have waited five minutes before blowing our cover?”

“I couldn’t stand his hands on me any longer.”

“I understand… but now this mission is a firefight.”

“Apologies.”

“And I’m not even going ask where you were hiding that sword.”

So here’s prong three of Steve Rogers’ attack: a covert team of stealth and power to perform pre-emptive surgical strikes on those harbouring items that could so easily be turned into Weapons Of Mass Destruction. And if I were Steve Rogers the very first place I would have looked is Roxxon. In the past they’ve wrecked havoc, particularly whenever they’ve gotten their hands on The Serpent Crown. Oh dear god, they’ve just got their hands on a Serpent Crown. It may be part of a set.

Montage:

The Beast: “These tentacles are… shifting… or uncoiling… as if it’s alive. But I can’t see it moving. Not even with video. As if it moves between moments.”

Moon Knight: “Teams and me, we don’t work… Too many voices…”

Ant Man: “Would everyone stop treating me like an incompetent, please?”

War Machine: “You have someone on this team who can just check out Mars for us?”

Steve Rogers: “I did… And I lost contact with him this morning.”

Nova: “We can regroup and contact the Avengers… and… what the hell…? What is that…?”

Sharon Carter: “Hey… Is someone there?”

Yes. Yes they are. How good is your history of S.H.I.E.L.D.?  ;)

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Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Dale Eaglesham.

Steve Rogers has run back through that revolving door that is DC’s and Marvel’s death portal, but he’s not about to take the uniform of Captain America back from Bucky. Not yet, anyway, though I’d keep any eye on that trial currently taking place in CAPTAIN AMERICA. Instead he’s caught up in a mystery involving the supposed abuse of the super-soldier serum that was lost when its creator died and never worked on anyone else anyway.

But the legacy lives on, or appears to, and Steve fights desperately to avoid the serum falling into the hands of the likes of Al Qaeda. I’ll tell you this much (which I rarely do): it’s a set-up. But its goal is cleverer than you can conceive. With help from Sharon Carter and the Beast, Steve leaves this mini-series thinking he’s won. He hasn’t, and I will bet you anything you like that this is a pivotal part of Brubaker’s extended storyline.

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Captain America: Operation Rebirth h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Ron Garney.

We have a copy of this decade-old thing (not to be confused with CAPTAIN AMERICA: REBORN) in stock as a s/c much cheaper:

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Spider-Man: Big Time h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos.

Collects #648-651, not a single one of which has been published yet! Kicks off the new season, if you like, following Brand New Day. Here’s the first Brand New Day, some thirteen or so books ago:

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What If? Classic vol 7 (£22-50, Marvel) by those in need of gainful employment.

More of a whatever than a what if, these were tales that asked you to care about what if Aunt May had gone to the corner shop and bought the Daily Planet rather than a copy of the Daily Bugle; what if Loki just got over it and moved on; what if Jean Grey hadn’t been quite so testy on a constellation scale; and what if Doctor Otto Octavius hired Gok Wan for a makeover rather than going for Giger (it seems). These issues and more should be the subject of your own imaginations, maybe even conversations between friends and perhaps the odd forum debate but not ours, please. You shouldn’t have to pay to see someone set your imaginations in stone.

I’d encourage you instead to wonder What If You Had Voted? Would the Liberal Democrats be not so indebted to the Tories that your local community centre and five regional nursing homes are about to close down? Would student’ fees potentially still be about to hit the £7,000 per annum mark? Or, had you voted Tory, would vagrants sponging off this society by receiving zero benefits let alone a roof over their heads have already been frog-marched into picking up the litter you dropped when some buy-one-get-five-free nightclub thrust into your palms a leaflet you never even read for fear of it being composed of the vomit their patrons spewed up on the pavement after being ejected legless at 9pm? After, you know, that nightclub had encouraged such behaviour, then taken their money and run?

I almost tripped over one such lady this Saturday night after seeing the latest Alan Bennett play at the Theatre Royale. Not that I’m a cultural snob, mind.

Avengers Academy: Permanent Record h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Mike McKone.

Hank ‘Whoever even am I today?’ Pym trains a new generation of metahuman kids who will never, ever make it into the Avengers whatever the title may say. Given their tutor, they’ll be in therapy their whole life.

Incredible Hulks: Dark Son h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Barry Kitson.

Banner’s gone green again, but his trademark has long since expired. #612-617.

Hulk: The End (£12-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Dale Keown, George Perez.

You may find this of some interest (and considerable beauty given the artists) if you want background information on AVENGERS BY BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS VOL 1 (above) for it features the future of the Marvel Universe focussing on the Hulk who plays a substantial role in Bendis’ storyline. Came out about 15 and 5 years ago: HULK FUTURE: IMPERFECT and HULK: THE END.

X-Factor vol 10: Second Coming s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Valentine De Landro.

Extricates the X-FACTOR issues from the following h/c should you simply be interested in following X-FACTOR:

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Amazing 3-D Comics h/c (£29-99, IDW) by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Al Jaffee, Alex Toth, more.

Hey, Al Jaffee in 3-D, eh? 176 pages re-mastered in a larger format in a special lenticular 3D cover. Includes 3-D glasses, obv..

Your Highness (£5-99, Dark Horse) by Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley & Sean Phillips.

Sean Phillips on full pencils here for this film prequel whose solicitation Sean handily publishes here:

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Jurassic Park vol 1 (£14-99, IDW) by Bob Schrek & Nate Van Dyke.

I loved the first Jurassic Park film. Every single second of it. It was a dream come true for a predator-obsessed child like me, so you can understand the wide-eyed enthusiasm of the scientists. Except…

I don’t know if you’ve ever considered how miraculous it was for the human race, its evolution and its chances of survival that the fiercest and most almighty carnivores this fragile planet has ever seen were rendered extinct long before we were first created by some God twenty-three years ago, out of thin air, and exactly as we are today give or take a modest fig leaf? So which stupid fucker thought it’d be a good idea to bring the dinosaurs back?! I don’t know why they didn’t resurrect the Megalodon into the bargain. That’d make snorkelling round coral reefs a little livelier. Wait for it…

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The Last Unicorn h/c (£18-99, IDW) by Peter S. Beagle, Peter Gillis & Renae DeLiz.

Neil Gaiman writes:

“For over forty years, Peter S. Beagle has been the gold standard of fantasy, one of the most elegant and genuine writers of fantastic fiction out there. His short stories are jewels. In Japan they declare their finest, most irreplaceable artists national treasures, and if there was any justice in this world Peter S. Beagle would be declared a national treasure and be left alone to get on with making magic.”

Unicorns are immortal. They live solitary lives in single places, usually a sequestered forest. But if they are immortal then why does this one believe she is alone – the last unicorn in existence – and why against her strongest, most primal instincts, is she driven to leave the sanctuary of the pines and waterfalls in search of her own kind?

Now… bearing in mind that doe-eyed unicorns that glow like irradiated My Little Ponies are not going to appeal to this haggard old brute… I can see how the original might well appeal. It’s not for me, and I don’t know what had to be chopped to compress this into six issues of comics. Nevertheless you instinctively fear for a unicorn out of its natural habitat in the land of men, and I thought the incoherence of the butterfly, able to speak only in snatches of old songs and poetry, rather a clever idea. For a start it leaves you wondering what if anything it says in answer to the unicorn holds any truth, and if so which bits. And the forest landscapes are great and they’ve done a fine job colouring the unicorn at least.

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John Carter Of Mars: Warlord Of Mars (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont & Gil Kane, Walt Simonson, Frank Miller, Sal Buscema.

Guess where John Carter lived? Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, this is basically Conan in space.

Robert Jordan’s New Spring (£18-99, Tor Books) by Robert Jordan, Chuck Dixon & Mike Miller, Harvey Tolibao.

Not really my thing but there’s quite a demand for this and if I recall former Work Experience Jamie Rowson correctly from yesterday (I may not) this is a prequel to the main prose work. WHEELS OF TIME is currently being serialised and I’m sure there’ll be a book along shortly.

Art and Prose:

The Strange Case Of Edward Gorey expanded edition h/c (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Alexander Theroux.

Rewritten and now twice its original size, this is an account of the life and times of the merchant of the mischievously macabre, enormously popular around the middle of the last century and who cannot possibly be anything other than one of the most profound influences on Tim Burton (see MELANCHOLY DEATH OF OYSTER BOY). Think Chas Addams, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear. Here’s a review of one of the anthologies we carry:

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The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art 1895-2010 h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by Jerry Robinson.

Jerry Robinson created the Joker and wrote a version of this that was originally published in 1974. Since then there have, of course, been an awful lot of new syndicated comic strips in newspapers, so this is a completely re-vamped edition from head to toe starting with the likes of Winsor McCay, Walt Kelly & co.. The Yellow Kid’s on the cover, as is Doonesbury.

Also scheduled:

Mome vol 21 (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by various

Prince Valiant vol 3: 1941-1942 h/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Hal Foster

Term Life OGN (£12-99, Image) by A.J. Lieberman & Nick Thornborrow

Greysuit: Project Monarch (£13-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & John Higgins

Dark Tower: Gunslinger: The Journey Begins h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Peter Firth, Peter David & Sean Phillips, Richard Isanove

X-Men Omnibus vol 2 h/c (£75-00, Marvel) by Many & more. 2nd half of original series.

MMW: Doctor Strange h/c vol 5 (£40-99, Marvel) by Englehart, Brunner, Friedrich & Brunner, Gene Colan

MMW: Fantastic Four vol 5 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Captain America: Forever Allies h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Roger Stern & Dragotta, Santucci, Rivera

X-Men: Fall Of The Mutants h/c (£75-00, Marvel) by many. Used to be £24-99 in s/c

Spider-Man/Fantastic Four h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Gage & Alberti. I swear these aren’t even worth writing about. You’re not missing anything.

Thor: The Warriors Three Unleashed h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by many

Captain America: Man & Wolf (£10-99, Marvel) by Mark Gruenwald & Rik Levins

Deathlok The Demolisher s/c (£14-99, Charlie Huston & Lan Medina

Hawkeye & Mockingbird s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by McCann & Lopez

Women Of Marvel s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by various. Recent one-shots like VALKYRIE

Lots of SIEGE tie-in softcovers

Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga vol 5 (£29-99, Marvel) by who even cares?

Thor Ragnarok (£10-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way, Roy Thomas & John Buscema

Deadpool Classic vol 4 (£22-50, Marvel) by nope I’ve lost the will to live

Fallen Angel Omnibus vol 2 (£18-99, IDW) by Peter David & J.K. Woodward

Air vol 4: A History Of The Future (£10-99, Vertigo/DC) by G. Willow Wilson & M.K. Perker

Justice League Of America: The Dark Things h/c (£18-99, DC) by James Robinson & Mark Bagley

R.E.B.E.L.S.: Son Of Brainiac (£10-99, DC) by Tony Bedard & Claude St. Aubin

Showcase Presents: JLA vol 5 (£14-99, DC) by various

Suicide Squad vol 1: Trial By Fire (£14-99, DC) by John Ostrander & various

Teen Titans: Hunt For Raven (£13-50, DC) by Felicia D. Henderson & Joe Bennett

Superman/Batman: Torment (£10-99, DC) by Alan Burnett & Dustin Nguyen

Superman: Mon-El vol 1 (£13-50, DC) by various

Chronicles Of Kull vol 4: The Blood Of Kings And Other Stories (£13-99, Dark Horse) by various

Creepy Archives vol 9 h/c (£37-99, Dark Horse) by various

Chester Gould’s The Complete Dick Tracy vol 11 h/c (£29-99, IDW) by Chester Gould

Torpedo vol 3 (£18-99, IDW) by Enrique Abuli

Off-Road (£13-50, IDW) by Sean Murphy

Deadworld Omnibus (£14-99, IDW) by Gary Reed, Mike Raicht & Vince Locke, more

Elephantmen: War Toys vol e: Enemy Species OGN (£7-50, Image) by Richard Starkings & Boo Cook.

Spawn: Origins vol 9 (£10-99, Image) by Todd McFarlane & Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane, Dany Miki

Angelus vol 1 (£10-99, Top Cow/Image) by Ron Marz & Stjepan Sejic

Magdalena vol 1 (£10-99, Top Cow/Image) by Ron Marz & Nelson Blake II

Soulfire: Shadow Magic (£10-99, Aspen) by Vince Hernandez & Sana Takeda

Pepper Penwell And The Land Creature Of Monster Lake (£10-99, SLG) by Steph Cherrywell

Dracula: The Company Of Monsters vol 1 (£9-99, Boom!) by Kurt Busiek, Daryl Gregory & Scott Godlewski

Book Of Lilah (£10-99, Kickstart) by Jack Monaco & Javi Fernandez

Ghost Projekt vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Oni) by Joe Harris & Steve Rolston

Street Fighter Gaiden vol 2 (£10-50, Udon) by various unnamed sources

Stargazer vol 1 (£10-99, Von Allan) by Von Allan

And dojo full of manga including BAKUMAN VOL 3, BIOMEGA VOL 5, 20TH CENTURY BOYS VOL 13, DEATH NOTE BLACK EDITION (vols 1 and 2 plus exclusive colour pages), and BLACK BUTLER VOL 4.

Comics for January 2011 onwards

The New York Five #1 of 4 (£2-25, Vertigo/DC) by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly.

More metropolitan, straight fiction from the team behind the monumental LOCAL, this too stars young women in a (self-contained) sequel to THE NEW YORK FOUR which I reviewed thus:

The point of any range should be quality and variety. If there’s no quality, there’s no point in reading it; if there’s no variety then you’re restricting the range of your potential audience and expecting the same people to shell out each time. The good news on both fronts is that, as you might expect from the creators of LOCAL, this an involving piece very different from the rest of the Minx line, and it’s as much about location as anything else. Kelly proved he could nail so many different, real urban environments as the series sailed across the States, and evoke their unique ambience as well as physical architecture. Here he does so once more, with Wood providing “NY 101″ tour-guide asides like the aquatic Circle Line “(NY 101: Ride it at the right time of year, and it’ll sail all the way round the island of Manhattan. Don’t let anyone tell you this is corny. The one tourist attraction every local New Yorker loves.)

Riley herself is a resident of Park Slope (“NY 101: As good as Brooklyn gets.”) who’s just joined New York University with all the potential that offers in terms of new friends and getting back in touch with Angie, her black sheep of a sister, ostracised by her overbearing parents some years ago for crimes unknown (being far too much fun by the look of it). Shouldn’t happen to Riley, she’s a top-grade student, but her sister’s more worried about Riley’s addiction to texting.

She’s not wrong, either: Riley’s no dweeb by any stretch of the imagination, but her journeys are made to an i-pod soundtrack and her social life is virtually all virtual, interrupting even the most personal or important conversations to answer messages that could so easily wait. She’s insular to say the least, and her three new friends she meets by accident through the need for employment and somewhere to live outside campus dorms. The employment Riley finds them involves road-testing PSAT prep courses (no idea) and requires them to be evaluated on camera by a therapist twice a week to make sure any stresses or strains aren’t affecting their scores. Cue sub-plots and lies, and my inference that this but the first of several volumes.

The main thrust of this one is Angie introducing Riley to adult social life in the form of gigs and with the aid of her warm, cool and gregarious boyfriend. And it’s at one of these gigs, the night of Riley’s life, that someone there slips an email address into her pocket, at which point the texts really begin to fly, much to the annoyance of anyone trying to get a real-world word in. As well as the bizarre priority Riley gives to someone she doesn’t know over those she should be caring about, there’s also the very real worry that Riley has no idea who she’s in communication with and has no idea what they look like – an imbalance of power over which she has no control.

Those familiar with Kelly’s art will already know that like Cloonan’s it’s heavily informed by Paul Pope but with a softer, more forgiving hint of Lapham and less of a tendency to burst out into cartoon caricature, and here he fills every single page with hair whose weight and body you can almost hold, masonry you could lean on and gusts of wind and snow in the parks that you can feel against your cheek.

That book’s dropped off DC’s website but Brian says it’s still available so we’re on it.

Preview:

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Who Is Jake Ellis? #1 (£2-25, Image) by Nathan Edmondson & Tonci Zonjic.

Oh, I relished the pages PREVIEWS printed. Action espionage thriller with a psychic twist which means you don’t get the full picture, as it were, until page four when they rewind five seconds and all becomes much clearer – to us! Terrible waste of whisky, though.

Zonjic you may already know from DAREDEVIL: LADY BULLSEYE.

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The Infinite Vacation #1 (£2-75, Image) by Nick Spencer & Christian Ward.

From the writer of MORNING GLORIES and exceptional thriller EXISTENCE  2.0 / 3.0, comes what looks like yet another idea clever enough to rival Jonathan Hickman on NIGHTLY NEWS or S.H.I.E.L.D..

“Mark lives in a world where alternate realities are up for sale, and buying and trading your way through unlimited variations of yourself is as commonplace as checking your email or updating your status.”

Here’s some monologue:

“See, the thing is, you can never take off your name tag. Ever. And trust me on this – you’re gonna want to. When that flight attendant with those amazing legs that just go on forever rips your shirt off in the plane’s bathroom – (cost: $3,999) When you’re the hero cop busting a serial child molester, and they want to pin a medial on that side of your shirt. Or just when you think it looks unbecoming attached to the front of your tux as you’re sworn in as President of The United States (cost: $500,000). Because if you do take it off – if you get careless or forgetful, or just sick of looking at it…

“You’ll end up married to a 400-pound woman with a history of sexually transmitted diseases and that annoying habit of trying to talk to you while she’s pissing in the bathroom.”

Watercolour washes and line. Here’s the artist:

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Memoir #1 of 6 (£2-75, Image) by Ben McCool & Nikki Cook.

I like the premise, which is that the entire population of a town in Midwest America wake up with complete memory loss: they’ve no idea who they are, where they are, what they do for a living or what they’ve been studying school. All except one man. He remembers it all…

As I say, love the premise. The question is has Ben thought it through? Is he going to explore the various ways different individuals might try to get a grip on their situation (you could find clues in who your friends are on Facebook; you could explore your emails both received and sent), or is it just going to be about this outsider? I don’t know, but I feel it’s worth finding out.

Oh, okay, maybe it’s about something else entirely:

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The Walking Dead Weekly #1, 2, 3, 4 (£2-25 each, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore.

Okay, interesting move. If you don’t like trade paperbacks, here’s your chance to start again at the beginning, but for goodness sake please put a standing order in with us because we don’t have room on the shelves. What you can also do is just tell us if you’re missing any individual issues and we’ll order them accordingly.

The finest in zombie comics. Also in January: WALKING DEAD OMNIBUS vol 3 h/c (£75-00) Here’s Mark:

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Batman: Europa #1 of 4 (£2-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello, Matteo Casali & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jim Lee.

Just as Alex Ross painted over Dougie Braithwaite’s majestic pencils in JUSTICE, so Jim Lee is painting over Camuncoli’s layouts here. Honesty dictates that I tell you Azzarello (100 BULLETS) is responsible for story only, not the script.

Batman catches a cold. No, it’s more serious than that, it’s man-flu; and the Joker is his only hope. Together they crisscross Europe in search of a cure, stopping to admire Caravaggio’s David in the Borghese Museum, sip a Bellini on the Grand Canal of Venice, and bask in the dappled sunshine under the canopy of leaves lining the central boulevard of Aix-en-Provence, people-watching from the cafés.

Okay, the cover suggests otherwise.

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Batman Beyond #1 (£2-25, DC) by Adam Beechen & Ryan Benjamin.

Ongoing series starring the Batman of the future in the future.

Weird Worlds #1 of 6 (£2-99, DC) by Kevin Van Hook, Aaron Lopresti, Kevin Maguire & Jerry Ordway, Aaron Lopresti, Kevin Maguire.

Anthology of three 10-page continuing serials starring Lobo, and new creations Garbageman and Tanga.

DC Comics Presents: Lobo #1 (£5-99, DC) by many.

Reprints SUPERMAN/LOBO, LOBO #63-64, DC INFINITE HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

Starman / Congorilla one-shot (£2-25, DC) by James Robinson & Brett Booth.

STARMAN enthusiasts please note, this is indeed James Robinson. The pair are off in search of the Fountain of Youth to save their fellow JLA members from the Omega Man’s toxic dark energy, but there are one heck of a lot of DCU characters to circumvent first. Ties into the JLA Omega storyline.

Daredevil: Reborn #1 of 4 (£2-99, Marvel) by Andy Diggle & Davide Gianfelice.

Given that Daredevil isn’t even in his own comic any longer (nor indeed in its title), and Diggle’s no longer on it, DAREDEVIL readers will probably want to pick up this which has both Diggle and Daredevil. None of which would have been necessary had Marvel editorial not decided to play silly buggers yet again.

Age Of X: Alpha #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Mike Carey & To Be Decided.

“Mutantkind’s final war starts here. If you don’t know what side you’re on, check your DNA.” I quite liked that! Much speculation there be as to what this is. A tie in to the X-Men Destiny game, another AGE OF APOCALPSE shenanigan where they revert to an alternate reality.

Ultimate Comics Captain America #1 of 4 (£2-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Ron Garney.

From the writer of SCALPED and the team responsible for WOLVERINE: WEAPON X VOL 1 more secrets of the super soldier project are revealed as the good Captain comes up against the Captain America of the Vietnam War which happened while he was snoozin’.

Captain America: Hail Hydra #1 of 5 (£2-25, Marvel) by Jonathan Maberry & various including Phil Winslade on one of the later issues.

Wouldn’t normally bother you with this, set across the ages, except that Maberry wrote the cracking DOOMWAR and one of the excellent stories in the even finer PUNISHER: NAKED KILLS.

Magneto one-shot (£2-25, Marvel) by Howard Chaykin & To Be Decided.

Here’s an idea: why don’t you wait until you know who the artist is before soliciting? It’s only a one-shot and it’s set during the early days, so it can’t be crucial to the schedule to get it out in January.

Wolverine & Jubilee #1 of 4 (£2-25, Marvel) by Kathryn Immonen & Phil Noto

Wolverine is a mutant. Jubilee used to be a mutant but now she’s a vampire. So that’s nice, then.

Infestation #1 of 2 (£2-99, IDW) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & David Messina.

Well, you can’t blame them given the example set by Marvel in particular, but here come IDW, publishers of the licensed properties STAR TREK, TRANSFORMERS, G.I. JOE and GHOSTBUSTERS, with a multi-title event that kicks of here then spreads its disease across the properties above in two-part INFESTATION titles of their own, so making ten issues in total. At least that way it’s clean – as clean as a zombie infestation is ever going to be – and easy to follow, plus writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are a known quantity as seen throughout Marvel’s cosmic titles.

True Blood #1 Legacy Edition (£3-50, IDW) by whomever

Yeah, actually we have copies of the first printing still available, and at cover price. Page45@page45.com or telephone 0115 9508045.

Page 45 Previews written by Stephen.

What do you think of Page 45’s new-look Previews with links both off-site to fresh art and on-site for evidence of past performances? Write to page45@page.com and become part of the second letter column due in December. Stephen’s a big boy and can take any knocks, but is evidently so needy that he also seeks approbation! Either way, we’d love your input!

Reviews November 2010 week two

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010



Footnotes In Gaza s/c (£16-99, Metropolitan) by Joe Sacco.

“Let us not today cast blame on the murderers. What can we say against their terrible hatred of us? For eight years now they have sat in the refugee camps of Gaza, and have watched how, before their very eyes, we have turned their lands and villages, where they and their forefathers previously dwelled, into our home. Beyond the border surges a sea of hatred and revenge. Revenge that looks towards the day when the calm will blunt our alertness… This is our choice: to be ready and armed, tough and harsh – or else the sword shall fall from our hands and our lives will be cut short.” – Moshe Dayan, April 30th 1956

Over fifty years on, and little has changed except for the concrete. Early on there are eloquent visual contrasts between the fertility of the land the Palestinians once toiled, the arid yet still clean and beautiful Gaza Strip to which 200,000 of them fled in 1948, the neat rows of early cottages, and the packed sprawl of multi-storey breeze-block buildings complete with roof terraces, water towers… and a great deal of rubble. In fact, even if you were a fan of Joe’s labour-intensive art before (and I was), you will be still be deeply impressed by this new level of intricacy on top of superb portraiture and the most solid of forms.

FOOTNOTES sees Sacco back in Palestine in search of its population’s account of the Khan Younis killings in November 1956 and in the neighbouring town of Rafah around the same time, barely recorded at all in history’s ever-evolving, relentless momentum. Not just the massacres themselves, either, but the events leading up to them in order to provide context and, for want of a better word, an ‘explanation’: the raids and retaliatory counter-strikes across the border by the Palestinian Fedayeen and the Israeli army; the ambitions of Jemal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt, to assume command of a pan-Arab state with himself as its leader; the collusion of Britain, France and Israel against Egypt in order to regain the Suez Canal; and the consequent war that left the people of Gaza trapped in the middle and paying the price. It’s these people that Sacco seeks out to give them a voice they’ve not had until now, and to do so he listens to the Fedayeen themselves, widows and orphans now grown old, and the Wanted – those on the run from Israeli soldiers, changing homes daily and rarely sleeping in their own bed for more than an hour at a time. Overwhelmingly Joe let’s them tell their story – to provide their own footnotes – and so will this reviewer. But Joe does have some sobering, wider reflections of his own about the interminable conflict:

“No one doubts who has the power and who is winning. The only question now is how far the Israelis will push their victory or how far the Palestinians can take their defeat.”

Or, as one Palestinian says:

“What’s a guy with a Kalashnikov going to do against an Apache [helicopter]?”

Undoubtedly one of my personal top-five graphic novels of the year, this isn’t November’s COMICBOOK OF THE MONTH purely because I think you need to want to read this sort of work to enjoy it, not have the material forced down your throat. I only took an interest in history after I left school. That it’s a personal craving now doesn’t mean it’s everyone’s. Also, there’s the question of John Porcellino’s new book this month, and Mark would never have forgiven me if Page 45′s CBOTM was anything else! But this is history at its most eloquent, Sacco combining individuals’ accounts seamlessly on the page whilst being profoundly eloquent himself.

“History can do without its footnotes. Footnotes are inessential at best: at worst they trip up the greater narrative. From time to time, as bolder, more streamlined editions appear, history shakes off some footnotes altogether. And you can see why… History has its hands full. It can’t help producing pages by the hour, by the minute.”

The future, if there’s to be any hope in it, does need the details, however, and that’s what Sacco provides:

“Another footnote, another page. Here, where the ink never dries.”

SLH

Northlanders vol 4: The Plague Widow (£12-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Leandro Fernandez…

“Most residents didn’t believe Boris and his theories on the disease. The sick were often outcasts, but the act of sealing the walls was almost too much to accept. Ours was a trading settlement, the river our lifeline. The doors and gates were open to all. The wilderness to the north bore pelts and iron ingots, reindeer antlers and slaves. The vast markets downriver returned silver and sword blades, fine fabrics dyed colours we could scarcely dream of. The forests gave us wood and meat, the rivers and streams bear fish, and the outlying farms grow apples and wheat. But the farms are looted and burned, the streams fouled by dead bodies. Firewood just out of reach, the waters of the Volga off limits. We are a city in self-exile, the decisions makers in bitter disagreement. And our winters last seven months.”

The finest NORTHLANDERS story yet in my eyes. Yes, there’s plenty of axe-wielding and head-crushing to satisfy the bloodlust of all you Viking lovers out there, but once again this is primarily a story of extreme privation and hardship, about doing what it takes to survive. Here the enemies are both outside and within the city walls, the plague having scourged the land and forced the inhabitants of the settlement to cast out those carrying the plague and then seal the gates, leaving those inside completely vulnerable to the greed and wickedness of the vile chief constable, in practice more the local crime boss, Gunborg.

Brian Wood scripts a completely believable and plausible tale of how, when times turn tough, some will choose to rise above the situation and help their fellow sufferers, whilst others will merely prey upon the weak for their own advantage and even amusement. Once Hilda’s husband, a prosperous iron merchant has succumbed to the plague, it’s up to her to fend for her daughter and try and survive as best they can. What comes across so strongly is the ability of humanity to tenaciously cling to life in even the most difficult circumstances such as those which were experienced widely across Europe during the times of plague, and also the greed, selfishness and cruelty of which some people are apparently so eminently capable of, almost without even pausing for thought.

You never know whilst reading this volume whether there’s going to be a happy ending for Hilda and her daughter, and I’m certainly not to going to spoil that for you here. What you do realise quite early on though, is that if they do somehow manage to make it through the long bitter winter, that life will have changed for them and the rest of the settlement forever.

Excellent art from Leandro Fernandez capturing the icy knife-edge upon which survival is balanced for the cast, and also a rare mention again for a colourist, Dave McCaig, who much like in volume 1 of NORTHLANDERS where the colours really do evoke coastal Scotland, here really manages to convey the grim and bitter nature of a hard winter by the Volga.

LINK

JR

Hellblazer: India (£10-99, Vertigo) by Peter Milligan & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Simon Bisley…

“These fine ladies and gentlemen in London and Shropshire… they read a few fucking Kipling yarns… and think they know what it’s like out here… They’ve no idea, Ma’am. They don’t know these people… this damnable country. They… they could never understand… what this place… does to a man.”

I have some sympathy with him actually, Colonel Burke of Victorian times, who ends up a tormented demon in our modern era terrorising the streets of Mumbai. It’s a funny old place, India, and indeed does odd things to your head, and body. After a few months there I personally could not wait to leave, yet within a week I wished I was back there in the midst of the madness.

Strangely enough, just after finishing this book – another perfectly spiced bite of Constantine excitement from Mr. Milligan (it’s now as consistently good as back is the Ennis era for me) – I literally came across a postcard on our huge and densely cluttered notice board in the upstairs office, which contains many a rum and uncanny item from the 16-year history of Page 45. I was looking at the postcard thinking it looked weirdly familiar, and I when I took it down and read the message on the other side I realised why. Now I would swear that it wasn’t there before but it must have been, maybe under something else that had recently been removed or fallen off.

You see, it was a postcard I had sent Mark, Stephen and Dominique from my visit to India some ten years ago. And I had carefully picked a design of Lord Ganesh, elephant-headed deity famed for being the remover of obstacles, an irony not lost upon those trying to navigate the Indian railway system, or indeed build a truly worthy website. Anyway, upon my return to the UK and very shortly thereafter Page 45, I was somewhat bemused by Mark showing me his Ganesh tattoo which he’d had done just a few days before my postcard arrived, possibly at exactly the same time I was writing it. A little piece of irony surfing the synchronicity highway as John would no doubt remark.

Still, it seemed strange this particular postcard would wait for this particular moment to make its presence known to me, after sitting not more than 3 feet away from it for the last two years whilst working on our website, in the very week it was launched. Who knows, perhaps the bearded one and Lord G were sat over somewhere over a cuppa having a little chuckle, and just making their presence felt about the last of the obstacles to the Page 45 website finally being ready removed. I enjoyed this volume of HELLBLAZER immensely by the way.

LINK

JR

Henry & Glenn Forever (£4-50, Cantankerous Titles) by Tom Neely, Scot Nobles,

Gin Stevens of the Igloo Tornado.

From the creator of THE BLOT, phenomenally successful here, something completely different and riotously funny. Henry & Glenn are housemates. Glenn’s on the road and sends Henry a postcard:

“Dear Henry,
“How are you? The tour is going ok. I miss you and the dog so much. Give her a kiss for me. Yesterday this lead singer slapped me. It hurt so much I wish you were there to have held me. Well I have to go there is a great documentary on about werewolves.
“Miss you,
“Glenn
“xoxox”

So much funnier when you realise that it’s Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig. As to neighbours Daryl and John… “Oh, I can’t go for that…”

66 pages of single cartoons, cry-fest diary entries, and the sort of notes you’d leave your housemate on the refrigerator. I’ve read the hatemail some humourless loons sent the creative crew, while Henry Rollins said:

“Has Glenn seen this? Trust me, he would NOT be amused.”

I rather think Henry might have been, though. In spite of the testosterone raging through his system, he’s a fiercely intelligent man whose NME interviews always made me sit up and take notice, while just the other evening/early morning I saw him on a panel of judges of some tranny talent contest (create outfit, perform song and dance routine; be inspired by a glowing Rue Paul). For all I know it was called the Y Factor.

LINK

SLH

Shuddertown h/c (£14-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Adam Geen…

“Fenner was the first. But four days later, Coleman. Then Wilkins. Frazier.
“Four open cases. Conclusive DNA. Four dead perps, all before the fact.
“You don’t just tell people things like this. People will think you’re crazy.
“People will assume you’re post-traumatic from the shot you took
“People will see the DNA evidence and assume you’re screwing something up at the scene.
“People will take a closer look at you.”

Much like the Red Monkey Double Happiness case, I was starting to wonder if my gumshoe radar wasn’t on the fritz. Nothing made sense, not even after a second investigation of the evidence. Sure, on the face of it I had all the facts, now I just had to work out why they didn’t add up.

Well, I’ve done it to myself again, no one else to blame, though at least I didn’t mistake fiction for fact this time… Upon finishing SHUDDERTOWN I’d thought that the final page was either a) some highly stylised surrealistic ending I just hadn’t grasped at all, b) I had missed something glaringly obvious half-way through the story which would make it all make sense, or c) I had finally melted my brain with too much cape-candy.

So I re-read it through paying a little more attention for hidden clues this time, once again revelling in the street sharp Sopranos dialogue, and the gritty arthouse cinema feel of the motion and colours of the artwork… and yep, once again the ending made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Had I finally come across a case I couldn’t crack? Had working on the Page 45 website 24/7 finally tipped me over the edge? Come to think of it, the barista in Cafe Nero had looked at me kind of strangely this morning when I asked for six shots of espresso in my soya latte. But no, something was clearly amiss, and in true Holmesian fashion having eliminated all other possibilities, I reluctantly arrived at the conclusion the answer had to be c)… when I then noticed the vol 1 emblazoned on the spine. You see, I was under the misapprehension this was a four-issue, open-and-shut case… What a sap. Suddenly it all made sense, the final page wasn’t an ending at all… in fact it was a doozie of a cliffhanger…

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JR

Bakuman vol 2 (£7-50, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata…

“Why do you have my notebook with you?”
“Come on, don’t look so serious, it’s not like it’s a death note…”

Nice little in-joke from the creators of the multi-trillion selling DEATH NOTE in this, their follow-up manga. And it couldn’t be more different from that psychological thriller as top ranking student Akito begs the artistic but far less academic Moritaka to help him achieve his secret dream of becoming a manga master. Well, blackmails him into it really with the aid of Moritaka’s notebook which has several sketches of their classmate he secretly fancies. I enjoyed this first volume enormously, because whilst it is a little heavy on teeny romance for my personal tastes, the basic premise is extremely well explored, with a serious look at just what talent, and good fortune, it takes to even carve the beginnings of a career in manga. And happily the second volume tones the romance element down considerably, concentrating instead on looking at just what ridiculous lengths are involved in even getting one single story published in SHONEN JUMP magazine. It’s a fascinating insight into the grindstone world of budding manga creators. I can see BAKUMAN fast becoming a regular guilty pleasure of mine alongside YOTSUBA&!

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JR

March Story vol 1 (£9-99, Viz) by Kim Yang…

I got about half-way through this and gave up out of absolute, complete and total boredom. Which, when you’re riding the tram into Page 45 Central with only your mobile phone bill you’ve received that morning as competing reading material, is rather a feat. Everything that is so cleverly explained in vol 2 of BAKUMAN as being formulated to appeal to the widest possible readership is exhibited here. Except there’s absolutely nothing clever or appealing about it whatsoever. Fans of certain mainstream manga will therefore love it until the day they finally discover things like 20TH CENTURY BOYS or CHILDREN OF THE SEA and anything by Tezuka or Taniguchi. Me, I’m still waiting for the next volume of SUMMIT OF THE GODS…

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JR

Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs. Zombies (£13-50, Wildstorm) by Ian Edginton & David Fabbri…

 “No, I don’t believe so. Look closer… at their clothes. They may not be à la mode, but neither are they ancient in apparel. The question is, who are they and why are they here in such numbers?”
“ Well frankly, I’m just relieved they are not ambulatory cadavers like that other creature.”

No, not the Stephen L .Holland Appreciation Society turning up in cowboy boots and ripped… sorry, ‘distressed’… leather trenchcoats en masse outside Page 45 to cosplay their semi-legendary hero’s capers along the length and breadth of Market Street, but Holmes and Watson eloquently expounding on the sudden appearance of the… gasp… undead upon the streets of London! Didn’t anyone tell them THE WALKING DEAD was being made into a tv show?!!

This is one of those strange mash-ups that just shouldn’t work, if just out of respect for classic literature, but in fact does so with spectacular aplomb, and that is entirely down to Edginton’s masterful storytelling and witty repartee, and Fabbri’s wonderfully clean yet appropriately revolting art. Never has a situation required so much exposition from our erudite detective to explain away to his dashingly devoted sidekick. And yet, it never ever strays into the bounds of ridiculousness, retaining all the while that peculiar sensibility of eerie Victorian creepiness, aided by a clever plot worthy of a Hammer House of Horror film (and I mean that in a fond way). And of course, there is a certain well educated nemesis at the dark unbeating heart of matters which never does any harm to the appeal of a Holmes story. This is as entertaining as HELLBOY or B.P.R.D. and would certainly appeal to fans of that particular brand of humorous horror fiction.

JR

[Okay, it’s more distraught than distressed, I grant you! – ed.]

Sense & Sensibility h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Nancy Butler & Sonny Liew.

A second of Jane Austen’s socio-political masterpieces, this one originally published in 1811, fifteen years after its early origins as a series of letters, and its title clearly announced the author’s intention of examining the antithetical traits found in the two sisters Elinor and Marianne: “a strength of understanding, and a coolness of judgement”, and an excess of barely controlled sensitivity and emotion. “Moderation in all things” might be a rather clumsy summary of the lesson to be learned, but certainly a consideration of others in deciding whether to speak your mind all the time and regardless of the consequences is no bad thing for the teenager which I was then to take on board.

If only I had, eh?

Anyway, I’m delighted to report that Sonny Liew is infinitely more suited to the task at hand that either the cover or interior artist on Marvel’s adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. For a start he actually comprehends the contemporary dress code, and secondly his cartoon characters can act. Obviously this is going to be a heavily expurgated version and I’d rather go back and read the original myself, but if it introduces a single mind to the majesty of Jane Austen’s wit and her acute powers of perception, then hurrah!

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SLH

Kill Shakespeare vol 1: A Sea Of Troubles (£14-99, IDW) by Connor McCreery, Anthony Del Col & Andy Belanger.

“What FABLES does for fairy tales, KILL SHAKESPEARE does with the greatest writer of all time,” says a hired hand.

Unfortunately they’re not wrong.

Hamlet is exiled from Denmark (there’s something rotten in the state of it), attacked by pirates (by the end of which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead), then washed up on the shores of Richard III’s England. Dick enlists Hamlet to kill Bill thus:

“Hamlet, do not damn my people to the terror of Shakespeare.”

His people being GCSE students, then

It’s… okay. I read the first issue, I can see a certain appeal, and the art is perfectly serviceable. The three witches adapt a quote or two and now it’s off to see the wizard – for that is how Shakespeare is described – and steal his magic quill.

FEEBLES sells in ridiculously high quantities as trade paperbacks here, and I invite you to make a mockery of my misgivings in this instance also. Collects #1-6.

LINK

SLH

The Boys vol 7: The Innocents (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson, Russ Braun, John McCrea, Keith Burns.

Seriously worried. More next week, probably!

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SLH

Astro City: Dark Ages Book 2 h/c (£22-50, Wildstorm) by Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson…

“That’s it there? The 1984 Crisis Point?”
“The secondary Crisis Point. If we’ve interpreted the data correctly, yes. Historical records barely exist for the era, and our scanners… you know the interference we’ve encountered. That node… that’s the point where the Crucial Technology comes into play. But there are other points through time, greater crises.”
“Yes, we’ve been through that.”
“Alert! Alert! New Data! Flux-pattern altering, primary Crisis Point… new data.”
“Fractal souls, what is that?”

Well that would be the concluding half of Mssrs. Busiek and Andersons’ latest epic of ASTRO CITY action, THE DARK AGE of course. Will Charles and Royal Williams put aside their fraternal differences and finally get revenge upon the petty criminal who callously killed their parents without so much as a second thought? The only problem is that these days he’s become a serious heavy hitter having risen through the ranks of the nefarious Pyramid organisation, but that’s cool because the boys are prepared to do whatever it takes to bring the man down. Now if the universe doesn’t come to an end, or at least Astro City get wiped off the map in the meanwhile, they might just have half a chance.

It never ceases to amaze me how what in essence began as part homage, part pastiche if you will, to the classic comics of the ‘60s and ‘70s has ended up being something that puts to shame most of the current Marvel and DC output. You can tell Kurt Busiek loves, really loves, writing this book. It’s apparent from the sheer density of material that he manages to cram into every panel of every page. Not so much non-stop as perpetual motion. Not one single panel is wasted in moving along any one of the myriad sub-plots, nor an opportunity missed for some snappy dialogue. I was particularly amused by one of the Royal brothers’ habit of referring to every supervillain as ‘kitten’ whilst in deadly expositive combat with them. Even the final panel has a lovely little punchline featuring a road sign right down in the bottom corner saying, ‘You are now leaving Astro City, please drive carefully.’

It is extremely impressive how the same book can make you think so wistfully of a bygone comic era whilst simultaneously raising the bar right up into the stratosphere for modern superhero comics. And once again Anderson excels on art providing panel after panel of frenzied action. I love how much work he puts into the characters’ faces too though, never content to just draw them, but always wanting to convey the emotions they’re going through in any given crazy and chaotic situation Kurt has dreamed up to put them through. I just hope there’s more material on the way soon.

JR

X-Men: Nation X s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Matt Fraction, various & Alan Davis, Greg Land, Terry Dodson, Whilce Portacio, Phil Jimenez and various…

“Are you alive?”
“No.”
“Are you a vegetable?”
“Yes.”
“You’re beer.”
“Dammit.”
“Wait a moment…”
“You consider beer a vegetable?”

Hmm actually, on re-reading this as a collected volume I did quite enjoy it, whereas picking through it piece-meal as the issues were coming out I wasn’t that bothered at all. Here collectively, Fraction’s wit and humour stand out, showing he can write an ensemble cast just as well as his excellent handling of Tony Stark in the on-going INVINCIBLE IRON MAN run. Whilst there’s nothing as dramatic happening as during the NECROSHA or SECOND COMING events, there’s plenty going on as the inhabitants of Nation X realise they’re all going to have to at least try the concept of getting along whilst living with one another. Which of course in true X-family style involves more than a few confrontations and cross words.

There are a few standout moments, mostly involving certain characters turning up at the new homestead by various random means or another, but it is all rather low-key including the return of ***** *****, which is all over and dealt with in the space of an issue. A shame really given how much effort Joss Whedon put into leaving them in a rather perilous predicament, and I am surprised Fraction didn’t take the opportunity to spin it into some rather more deservingly melodramatic. [Actually that took me completely by surprise plus, cruelly, it’s far from over, I promise you – read-ahead ed.]

The sidebar tales from various writers collected here are actually very entertaining. All of a similar vein, mostly taking a humorously askance look at life on Nation X (or in the case of Wolverine and Nightcrawler on a road trip) from different perspectives. Actually a fair few them could almost fit nicely into a STRANGE TALES collection they are that off-the-wall, particularly the Corey Lewis Cannonball one. Overall a nice change of pace from this collection compared to other recent ‘epic’ goings-on.

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JR

Siege s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Oliver Coipel with Michael Lark, Lucio Parrillo, Jimmy Cheung.

Please note: unlike the UK edition, this contains all the extra material originally published in the US hardcover. Full review here:

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SLH

Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man vol 5 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita Sr. with Don Heck.

“Face it, tiger… You just hit the jackpot!”

Ah, the immortal line is first uttered here by the beaming ray of beatnik sunshine that is Mary Jane Watson. For several issues Peter’s been swooning over Gwen whilst sweating it over his first meeting with MJ whom he’s convinced will turn out to be a dud. Err, no. She’s drop-dead gorgeous, up for some action and in marked contrast to the rest of the cast here she doesn’t worry about how she’s perceived nor second-guess others’ motives.

Speaking of which, one forgets how accurately Stan Lee used to nail neuroses. I don’t mean the melodrama of “What’s wrong with me? I’ve defeated some of the most powerful supervillains of all time – without batting an eye! But why do I have such trouble – just managing my own life…?”, I mean the little things like conversations that become unusually and unexpectedly awkward, stilted, and difficult to engage in as Peter’s does with former flame Betty Brant. They haven’t seen each other in ages and the connection is gone, Peter groaning his way through a casual cup of coffee, fully aware that neither of them is comfortable.

This is the point where I first came on board through the Marvel UK prints, spoiled on John Romita Sr.’s contemporarily hip art (and MJ’s ludicrously hip dialogue: “I never thought a tiger who wore his hair so short could be so dreamy! And you’ve got a bouncin’ bike too! Dad – you’re the end!”) and some of the most exquisite cover compositions in Marvel’s history. #50 in particular is that classic portrait of Peter walking towards us, face-down in dejection as above him looms the back-turned spectre of the Spider-Man identity he’s given up for good, whilst #42, #43, #45 and #46 boast perfectly arranged and thrillingly dynamic one-on-one confrontations between Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson’s son, the Rhino, the Lizard and the Shocker, respectively. And although the adult in me is no longer that interested in superhero fist-fights (I’m more about the relationships), John Romita Sr. manages to find a surprising variety of ways to choreograph them, even if throughout these early years a bizarre proportion end in the death of a brick chimney.

It’s also refreshing to see how smoothly the stories flow through each other over the course of several issues, one event catalysing another: J. Jonah Jameson’s son is exposed to space spores bringing about first but not last transformation; the Rhino kidnaps him so the spores can be analysed by foreign military scientists; Peter seeks help from scientist Curt Connors to dissolve the Rhino’s hide; Curt Connors once more transforms into the Lizard. There’s a lot of J.J. Jr here, whilst his dad struts about puffing on his cigar and glaring around like a manically mardy Groucho Marx:

“That blasted wall-crawler sabotaged your capsule himself, in order to make everyone think he’s a hero by later saving you!”
“Dad! Who told you such a ridiculous story?”
“Nobody! I made it up!”

There’s a similar tag-team trio of issues with Kraven and the new Vulture, and it’s all a very far cry from the turgid log-jam of sub-plots which UNCANNY X-MEN became under Chris Claremont after John Byrne left. Lastly there’s Spider-Man’s famous audition for membership in the Avengers wherein Captain America sends him out to capture the Hulk, and the Wasp brings all her customary wits to bear on assessing his potential as a team-mate objectively, scientifically and with good grace:

“I vote no! I hate anything to do with spiders!”

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SLH

For more hilarity from the air-head bint, please see MARVEL MASTERWORKS: AVENGERS VOLUME ONE. Stan Lee was not a feminist, no.

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SLH

Superboy #1 (£2-25, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Pier Gallo.

There’s something a little McKelvie about Pier Gallo’s art, only without the chic. Still, it’s sweet (as in perfectly inoffensive) as is the title itself, and given his love of the farming community (see ESSEX COUNTY – no, I mean do see ESSEX COUNTY, it rocks), I can see why Lemire might want to write a story set around Smallville. And he does use its arable and nature pointedly in the very first issue – the livestock suffer too. Everything clipped along at a swift pace, establishing relationships and power sets, and the cliffhanger certainly took me by surprise as did “Coming soon…”

I’m just praying that this is a brief excursion for Jeff into superheroes for his forte lies elsewhere in straight, melancholic fiction like ESSEX COUNTY, lateral thinking like the Invisible Man riff in THE NOBODY and in harrowing speculative fiction like SWEET TOOTH.

SLH

Also arrived last week:

(Use our search engine – reviews will still follow for some; other softcover editions of previous hardcovers will already have reviews attached.)

How To Understand Israel In 60 Days Or Less (£18-99, Vertigo) by Sarah Glidden
Cooper: Bent h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Dave Cooper
h day (£22-50, Picturebox) by Renee French
Whores Of Mensa #5 (£6-99, self-published) by Sarah McIntyre, Tanya Milkkitten Meditzky, Jeremy Dennis Day, Francesca Cassavetti, Patrice Aggs, Ellen Lindner, Cliodhna Lyons, Maartje Schalkx, Howard John Arey, Emily Ryan Lerner, Peter Lally, John Harris Dunning, Richard Cowdry, Mardou
Berlin #17 (£3-50, Drawn & Quarterly) y Jason Lutes
Batman & Robin vol 2: Batman vs. Robin: The Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart, Andy Clarke
Serenity vol 3: The Shepherd’s Tale h/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Joss Whedon,
Zack Whedon & Chris Samnee
B.P.R.D. vol 14: King Of Fear (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi
& Guy Davis
Punisher Max: Kingpin s/c £14-99 Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon
Batman: Battle For The Cowl s/c (£10-99, DC) by Tony S. Daniel, Fabian Nicieza &
Tony S. Daniel, Jamie McKelvie, Dustin Nguyen, Guillem March, ChrisCross, Alex
Konat, Mark McKenna
Green Lantern: Agent Orange s/c (£10-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Philip Tan
Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago vol 2 (£19-99, Dark Horse) by Archie Goodwin,
Chris Claremont, Larry Hama & Carmine Infantino, Gene Day, Mike Vosburg, Steve
Leialoha, Bob Wiacek, Carlos Garzon
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed vol 2 (£9-99, Titan) by Haden Blackman & Omar
Francia, Manuel Silva
Good Neighbours vol 3: Kind h/c (£12-99, Graphix) by Holly Black & Ted Naifeh
Dragonball Z vol 9 VIZBIG Edition (£14-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama
Panda Man To The Rescue (£5-99, Viz) by Sho Makura & Haruhi Kato
InuYasha vol 5 VIZBIG Edition (£14-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi
A Bloody Kiss Tonight (£9-99, Doki Doki) by Makoto Tateno
Gin Tama vol 20 (£7-50, Viz) by Hideaki Sorachi
Choco Mimi vol 5 (£5-99, Viz) by Konami Sonoda
Shaman King vol 31 (£7-50, Viz) by Hiroyuki Takei
Maoh: Juvenile Remix vol 3 (£7-50, Viz) by Kotaro Isaka & Megumi Osuga

This edition of the Page 45 Mailshot Reviews has been a Jonathan Rigby Special with only mild impertinence from the wretchedly attired and wizened old man called Stephen. Each review is now initialled underneath. You got that, right?

Page 45 on Cerebus TV

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

 

Okay, well this should make you laugh. At me.

Page 45 is on TV, right now, apparently.

It’s an internet-streamed thing (I have no idea what I’m writing) and we’ve just been sent the following:

Hi Everybody,  

Well what do you know Stephen L Holland is now a international superstar media darling and everyone is watching him right now deliver his outstanding performance as part of the now (semi legendary) Page 45 advert. This is showing as part of Season 2, Episode 2 which is on 24/7 until 13th November at

 http://www.cerebustv.com/

 So spread the good news! Sorry for lack of advance notice,

 - Robin Barnard 

 PS Stephen – Can I have your autograph… please?!

When forwarding it to me, Jonathan wrote:

PS I think you should change your first two names by deed poll to Semi Legendary. Semi Legendary Holland has a real gravitas and ring to it…

 PPS You’re a full legend in my book though! 

 JR x

Hmmm.

Cerebus TV is a curious project with Dave Sim (CEREBUS, GLAMOURPUSS, and the harrowing JUDENHASS – please take a look) talking to the likes of Seth, Harvey Pekar and superhero artist Steve McNiven. Also, Darwyn Cooke’s wife! It’s a relief to see Dave out and about and enjoying himself, but I do wish he’d eat more.

In spite of Robin’s mischievous hyperbolae it’s not an outstanding performance, but it still took a great deal of acting for it was filmed early one morning after I’d been up all night with a broken-hearted friend, and seen him off on a train. I was pretty dejected and can’t recall if either of us even went to bed.

Robin, however, directed and filmed it with great professionalism, unlimited patience and an enormous amount of courtesy. He’d organised it all, drove for several hours to be there by 9am, and the double-take of passers-by spying the window display then deciding to take a look inside the shop was pure serendipity.

I’d never filmed anything like it. Apart from a few extemporised interviews which I find a great deal easier, the last thing I was filmed in (with our own Ryz Glover) was a crazy, WWE -type stock car racing pilot called Carmageddon. I played one of the team’s burlesque managers, Frank Discussion, with a growling East London accent (“It’s time… for a Frank Discussion”). We shot it live in the middle of an arena with cars crashing into each with relentless ferocity, with no more protection that a thin sheet of corrugated iron! At one point a severed wheel hurtled about a foot over my head, and the look of stark terror took no acting on my part at all.

What I’m saying, basically, is have a good laugh – I really don’t blame you for I am indeed a buffoon – but I should add that it was commissioned and indeed funded by Cerebus TV (big thank you to Max Southall) and Robin gave his time driving, filming and editing (again with a ridiculous degree of courtesy) all for free. Exceedingly generous.

The film was scored and recorded by one of my best mates, James Holland (known in musical circles as The Sharp Foundry) along with the Wailingest Cats’ Jup and Alex who provided us with five different tracks to choose from. Thanks, guys, we owe you big-time. James is also an exceptional artist: http://www.graphicblandishment.com/.

 - Stephen

P.S. Working as fast as I can on the first on-line letter column. Not long now!

P.P.S. Here’s Robin Barnard’s blog: http://imagesdegradingforever.blogspot.com/. Thanks again, mate.

Reviews November 2010 week one

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Incognito: Bad Influences #1 (£2-75, Icon/Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

Second series of superhero noir this time dealing with the infiltration of a criminal organisation just like the creators’ magnificent SLEEPER. But the infiltrator here doesn’t have to switch sides. Actually he does, because Zack Overkill is now working for the good guys but before that he was idling in witness protection after switching sides from the bad guys. Now that he’s working for the good guys they’ve sent him to work for some other bad guys because the first person the good guys sent to spy on the bad guys switched sides. Will Zack switch sides too?

Meanwhile Zack’s now sleeping with the enemy (if you consider his original position, anyway) but it’s emphatically not a relationship so far as Zoe Zepellin’s concerned. Oh, and Zack is targeted by an aged bomber who mistakes him for one of the other bad guys who once sent him undercover with another lot of bad guys who sussed out that he was indeed a bad guy but not once of theirs. He was in fact a sleeper so they put him in a coma…

For sixty-six years! Can you even imagine? Going into a coma in your youth, then the next thing you know you’re waking up in the body that’s 80 years old?! That’d be such a dive that I’d start bombing too.

Confused? Buy the first book instead.

SLH

LINK

Hellblazer: City Of Demons #1 and 2 of 5 (£2-25, Vertigo/DC) by Si Spencer & Sean Murphy.

“’Smoking while pregnant may seriously harm your baby’s health.’
“I make a point of only buying packets with this warning… I figure the odds are it won’t affect me.
“Though with my lifestyle, I can’t rule it out.”

Si Spencer writes the best John Constantine outside of Moore, Ennis, Ellis or Diggle. It’s steeped in contemporary socio-politics whilst he’s impetuous, self-deprecating but doesn’t do intimidated. Not even with a knife to his throat. He’s had to pop outside the boozer for a fag on account of cirrhosis being more politically marketable (though no less taxable) than cancer. Here come a couple o’ hoodies:

“Yo blood, you got folding? Or do me and the Jizzman got to shiv you, innit?”
They talk Jamockney, that horrible bastard hybrid of all the laziest and worst of every culture. They’re wearing man-bhurkas, masking shame – dumb snot-nose kids brought up to believe they’re tenth-rate citizens. They’re not hard – they’re afraid.
“You on these man’s corner, you gotta pay Carlos and the Jizzman.”
“While I’d deeply love to adhere to your excise system, I’m afraid I’ve got a three-way planned with both your momma’s arses – but when I’m done you can collect the three pounds change.”
Right now they’ve got every right to be. Jesus, when did I become such a grumpy old man?
“That’s disrespec’, innit? You gonna get cut a squazillion ways now.”
“I’m thinking not, actually.”

No, but he does get smacked over the bonnet of a 4×4 woman driven to distraction by the ghost of her recently deceased daughter, and I cannot begin to tell you how clever that page is as subtly interpreted by Sean Murphy (see Grant Morrison’s JOE THE BARBARIAN) because John doesn’t realise to begin with just how serious it is. Nor can I tell you how clever Si Spencer’s plot is – how impressively each and every element folds in together – or it will ruin the whole out-of-body experience for you. Still, you may look around you with a new eye if ever you wait outside a hospital again.

Spencer has packed into the first issue more ideas and wit than most writers on do in their entire runs, because that’s just the beginning and as the repercussions of John’s stay in hospital – as his blood sample is analysed then utilised – it grows very brutal indeed.

Injury To Eye Motif? Frederick Wertham would turn in his E.C.-free grave.

Have a link to Diggle’s first book.

SLH

LINK

Guest Review by Marcus Nyahoe:

Love And Rockets: New Stories #3 (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Los Bros Hernandez >

The new annual format of LOVE AND ROCKETS has been both a blessing and a curse. Los Bros Hernandez fans get a great big chunk of their work all in one go, but then have to wait twelve months for another. To be fair Gilbert seems to be fairly prolific with work popping up for various publishers, but there’s precious little of Jamie outside of L&R. This is the third annual issue, and is far and away the best yet.

Maybe it’s because he seems to be keeping most of his work for this comic, but Jamie seems to dominate this issue both in terms of page count and quality. That’s not to denigrate Gilbert who provides the opening tale. Nominally a science fiction story set on an alien planet with strange, humanoid cat creatures, it shows the far-reaching, tragic consequences of one thoughtless, selfish act. The whole thing leaves the reader feeling faintly disturbed by the conclusion and it lingers in the mind for a little while after. It is quintessentially Gilbert, big-breasted females and plenty of sex.

Gilbert’s second offering is much weaker. “Killer * Sad Girl * Star” follows the travails of a young, big-breasted girl who wants to be a film star but gets used in exploitation pictures. Unfortunately it is fairly rambling, despite its short length, and somewhat confusing. Much worse than that though, is that it is boring. It is very rare that this accusation could be levelled at such an accomplished creator, but I found myself skipping it and then only coming back when the rest of the issue had been read and reread. It doesn’t detract from the overall strength of the issue too much, but it may be time for this particular character to be abandoned. There is always the chance that I’m being unfair and that this strip will read better when they are all collected together.

As I mentioned at the start, Jamie is very much the dominant talent in this issue, with a very strong set of strips focusing on Maggie and her family, and again takes up the theme of the far-reaching and tragic consequences a single, selfish act can have. Jamie offers up three strips here. The first two are satisfying in and of themselves, but the third strip brings together threads from the previous two and packs a huge emotional wallop, or at least it did for me.

It is difficult to go into the effect without spoiling the story, but suffice to say that once you have got to the end, you’ll go back looking for, and finding the subtle connections Jamie weaves into the panels. It’s in the body language of the characters, and in their facial expressions. Jamie really is on top form here. You just need to look at how he has his characters interacting, how he subtly directs the reader’s eye using the direction the characters are looking in.

Jamie really has never been better. There are so many examples of masterful storytelling here that is just a joy to read. Any aspiring comic creator would do well just to study his panel composition, how he foreshadows events without hitting the reader over the head with it (there’s a great example with Maggie’s little brother Calvin watching a marching band with the baton-twirling leader, then a full seven pages later playing on his own at being the baton-twirler before a fairly significant event happens; and the baton still has a leading role to play. The great thing is that the stuff with the baton is initially very much background.)

All-in-all this is a must-have for anybody who wants to see how great narrative comics can be. Despite the let down of the Killer strip, this is one of the best comics on the market. There is so much to see at a technical level that it will last for hours of study. Besides that though, it just packs an emotional punch that will keep you thinking about it for days, especially young Maggie repeating “I’m sorry” so pitifully you want to snatch her away and let her know it will all be ok, except real life is never that simple is it? And neither is LOVE AND ROCKETS.

MN

LINK

Fantastic Four vol 3 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Neil Edwards.

“It’s not the scientific method that got us here… it’s apostasy.”
“Take this, Mr. Whitman.”
“What’s this?”
“Providence.”

God, but this is some damn fine writing and you will need your dictionary which is a very fine thing indeed. So yes, providence provided by Reed Richards to his former rival, the Wizard, now being cared for in a metahuman psychiatric facility. He’s singularly interested in the creation of life, specifically through mitosis. There’s a lot of that this volume from some unexpected sources:

“And now for knowledge. The coming days are going to be dark… Dark and full of loss. It will feel like everything is going to break apart… that it will shatter and everything will end. Only you can hold us together. Can you be strong, mother? Stronger than you’ve ever been before? There will be a moment when you’re going to want to give up. You’re going to want to let go….
“When you reach that point, look into the sky. Look up… and remember the price that was paid.”

Looks like I was on the money and all of the previous volumes’ little chapters are converging – the past and the future – in an ominous way as evidenced by the super-evolved Molemen now in residence at the Baxter Building. They’ve just taught themselves to read, and swiftly moved onto the computer system:

“Did you know that a curved axis runs from the Forever City, through a place called Old Atlantis, to an Inhuman city-ship on the moon? The radius of that axis happens to mirror the frequency at which a portal to the Negative Zone opens.”

Oh dear.

Reed Richards has seen the light as well as the possible darkness ahead, and it’s expanded his ambition considerably. He’s here to educate, to provide the planet with a limitlessly positive future, and he won’t accept apathy, resignation or second-best. Quite right too. Class is now in session – but what’s the previously primitive Dragon Man doing at the back?! He’s been rewired by Reed’s daughter Valeria and together Reed’s new students have already thought well outside the box:

“So can I assume you have a new way of attacking a problem that I’ve personally failed to solve over the years?”
“Uh-huh. It deals with rejecting a binary endgame. The on/off nature of the problem that’s tripped you up in the past… I think we can win and lose at the same time, sir.”

The problem they’ve solved is Ben Grimm.

In addition Neil Edwards has now flowered into a worthy substitute for Bryan Hitch, particularly when it comes to the children’s faces, there’s a delightful trip out to a decidedly different toy store and Franklin’s learning judo!

Hickman’s work in this is completely accessible to newcomers yet conversely it’s also steeped in Marvel history and will reward any long-term fan with a modicum of intelligence by moving that history on substantially: by embracing it, extrapolating from it, and upgrading it in such a fashion that you’d think that Hickman was actually Warren Ellis. He might be, actually, only there’s no filthy swearing just a great deal of fun. Please pick up volumes one and two then move onto three.

SLH

Astonishing X-Men: Exogenetic h/c (14-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Phil Jimenez.

“They’re digging up mutants, Henry. They’re digging up dead mutants and making them into tools. … They’ve got reanimated mutants as tools and they’ve engineered living missiles from alien DNA and they used your theoretical work to get there. That’s what I’ve been trying not to say.
“They’re using your work to try and exterminate you.”

Agent Abigail Brand, the Beast’s girlfriend, is back so you know this will end up in space, plus Ellis’s Beast is as delightfully loquacious to my adult self as David Michelinie’s was to the twelve-year-old me:

“Have you gone completely mad?”
“My viridian sweetheart, I went quite insane many years ago. I assumed it was one of my more attractive features.”
“This isn’t good.”
“We’re doing fine. This vessel was designed by the most expensive Japanese sadists working in engineering today. … Okay, that’s not so good.”
“Oh, you think? With engines blowing out and no weapons. You have hair growing inside your skull, don’t you?”
“We don’t need weapons, my little angel of death. We have science.”

Quick-fire carnage with lots of snappy banter as the X-Men find themselves under attack by tailor-made mutations of their former foes: the Brood (Aliens without the slime), semi-organic Sentinels (giant purple robots with trade-mark looming hands – seriously, show me a picture of a Sentinel with its hand not looming large) and that living island Krakoa whose appetite first caused Xavier to found the second wave of X-Men.

Phil Jimenez enjoys himself mightily, and so will you. He’s George Perez’s natural and exceptionally worthy successor, he’s upped his lithe game even further, and every single panel is worth waiting for, particularly the one wherein Cyclops grows bored of “faffing around” and lets rip on the Krakoa/Brood hybrid:

“Good grief, that’s a little Damien Hirst, isn’t it?”

Interview in the back.

SLH

Hulk: World War Hulks – Hulked Out Heroes s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jeff Parker, Chris Eliopoulos, Kieron Gillen, Brian Clevinger, Paul Tobin & Ed McGuinness, Humberto Ramos, Gurihiru.

A series of one-shots spinning off from the godawful mess that is Jeph Loeb’s HULK these days. Seriously so awful that customer Gordon Davidson, who had every Hulk comic ever published, has finally dropped the title so I had to scurry round the counter to pick it up.

Marvel heroes “hulk out” and fight each other.

The one written by PHONOGRAM’s Gillen is going to awesome, obv., but I’d rather re-read PHONOGRAM: SINGLES CLUB about a single night on the dance floor from several different perspectives three hundred and seventy-two times than even look at this once.

I have actually read PHONOGRAM: SINGLES CLUB about six times and it just gets better and better and better. Warren Ellis famously wrote of it, “The bastard Gillen has outwritten me”. As usual, Professor Ellis was correct.

SLH

Supreme Power vol 3: High Command new edition (£14-99, Marvel Max) by J. Michael Straczynski & Gary Frank. 

The series which asks the harshest questions about what would really happen in a world where metahumans were on the geopolitical map, and offers equally unsettling and uncompromising answers. Not just about the individuals, either, but about power and control and research. 

But we’ve already covered Mark Milton, so what about the two black members of the cast? They don’t come more different than this. Stanley found himself in possession of super-speed and was adopted as a corporate mascot with all the sponsorship that came with it, and made his mother even prouder of him – were that possible – than she was already. He’s a man with a heart who can be relied upon. On the other hand, the man without powers who turned himself into the vigilante Nighthawk saw his parents slaughtered by members of the Ku Klux Klan. He doesn’t do authority in any shape or form, and here’s just one example of why I read this comic, as Stanley is sent out to get a paper before returning right at the end:

“You know what I can’t get over? Stan came from a family that was poor for most of his life. His dad died when he was born, and they had a hard time making ends meet… but he’s as friendly and honest and sympathetic guy as you could ever meet. A truly nice guy. And you — you got all this, a mansion, more money than you could ever spend in two lifetimes… where do you get off being angry all the time?”
“You really want an answer to that?”
“Yeah. I do.”
“A long time ago, my dad heard Malcolm X speak at a church in Memphis. He said that during slave days, you had the House Negro, and the Field Negro. The House Negro lived in the master’s house, ate the same food as the master, lived in a warm room, usually in the basement. If the master got a cold, he was right there to help out, all cheerful and friendly because he wanted his own life to be good, and that meant making the master happy. The Field Negro ate whatever scraps the dogs didn’t eat, lived out in a cold shack, was beaten and kicked — and when the master got sick, he prayed every day the master would die. Didn’t matter if the master was technically a nice guy or not. The master represented the system, and it was the system he hated. Our backgrounds may not line up, but at the end of the day, as much as I like Stan, he’s a House Negro. And I’m a Field Negro. And that’s never going to change…”
“….”
“….”
Stanley: ”Fuck.You.”

In the meantime, having made the mistake of lying to Mark all his life, using him covertly and then trying to kill him, the U.S. government pretend they knew nothing and set about destroying his reputation in order to disempower him, and anything that could ever have been good escalates completely out of control.

SLH

LINK

Doomwar h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Maberry & Scot Eaton.

X-Men / Black Panther / Fantastic Four team-up which I initially dismissed in advance as just another of the twenty new Marvel mini-series that month. I take a little of the blame for that but Marvel editorial must take most for the aforementioned, not remotely exaggerated reason.

It’s good, and Eaton’s art has a delicate, European flavour to it. Storm’s hair is particularly lovely. Storm’s predicament is not.

Wakanda, you see, the never-conquered nation at the heart of Africa ruled by T’Challa has been in receipt of a coup. Recorded delivery: they signed for it and everything. A revolution for the people by the people – that’s how they’re promoting it to the outside world. T’Challa’s bride, Wakanda’s deposed queen and astonishing X-Man Storm is on show-trial for her life. She’s convicted as a western poison. Let’s forget the fact that she’s African, and that the real power behind the coup is Doctor Victor Von Doom Esq., ruler of Latveria (black population nil). I wonder what he wants out of it. Can you spell Vibranium?

Maberry does a ridiculously good job of emphasising the heroes’ helplessness. T’Challa and the new Black Panther are stranded on the outside, desperately seeking the succour of a mutant strike force whose nation Utopia is so new and therefore fragile that they daren’t be seen to act like aggressors and illegally invade a foreign country (only old nations like America and England have that right, as well we all know), and in any case Wakanda has never been successfully invaded. That much was made abundantly, wittily and somewhat satisfyingly clear at the beginning of Reginald Hudlin’s first run of BLACK PANTHER, and is done so again. Storm, who was specifically on trial for attacking Wakandans, is forced by Doom to pick the Vibranium vault locks under Doom’s not-idle threat of slaughtering Wakandans, and Wakandan protestors are given no legitimacy because the new regime will not send in whatever passes for their tanks to suppress them.

Their names are taken, obviously, for when the protests subside. It would have been oh so obvious to many if not most writers to send in the shock troops because that’s what we see on the news. But no, Maberry decides that here it will be otherwise.

The first chapter’s last three pages displayed note-perfect timing from both writer and artist, utilising the one way possible to turn the tides in attempting to invade an unassailable country. I’m sorry…?

SLH

Doomwar

 Batman: Streets Of Gotham: Leviathan h/c (£14-99, DC) by Paul Dini, Mike Benson, Chris Yost & Dustin Nguyen

Reprints #’s 5 to 11. Look, there have been such a disproportionate number of superhero reviews this week that I’m not doing another.

SLH

LINK

Stray Cat (£10-99, Blu) by Halco.

Sweet relief! For our two boys here.

Not a psychobilly band biography, nor a pussy in sight [actually there are some cat strips in the back – ed.], for this is yet another hot-boy-on-boy-action set of steamy shenanigans which you should not be buying unless you’re a certain age and of a certain, err, bent.

We stock a lot of h.b.o.b.a. books you can find under ‘Yaoi’ in our manga section in solidarity with all the young ladies who buy them, as revenge after years and years of comic shops stocking so many superhero series starring women with boobies the size of the average watermelon slipped so skimpily into bras that their cleavage resembles the Grand Canyon and then ‘get it on’ with each other. Series like LADY DEATH spawned the term “tits and ass comics” and we will have nothing to do with their demeaning horrors.

No, we are a liberal-leftie, arty-farty comic shop, and the only one in the US/UK with a 50% female customer base. Partly because we relegate all the testosterone to the rear of the shop so that we don’t put women off, and partly because we pander so flagrantly to the ladies’ basest desires with all this young-guys-canoodling twaddle.

And it is utter twaddle unlike Tim Fish’s magnificent Cavalcade Of Boys but as Marc Almond once sang, “You’ve got eat the hamburger to appreciate the steak”.

Hypocrites, nous? Damn straight!

Err, gay.

[Dominique: for God’s sake, do not put up any interior art! – ed.]

SLH

LINK

Also arrived last week:

(Use our search engine – reviews may still follow for some; other softcover editions of previous hardcovers will already have reviews attached!)

Undertow (£7-99, Little White Bird) by Ellen Lindner
Northlanders vol 4: The Plague Widow (£12-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Leandro Fernandez
Dungeon: Monstres vol 3: Heartbreaker (£9-99, NBM) by Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim, others
Kick-Ass s/c now with comicbook cover rather than mooovie cover (£12-99, Titan) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.
Secret Warriors vol 4: Last Ride Of The Howling Commandos h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Alessandro Vitti
Ultimate Avengers vol 1: The Next Generation s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Carlos Pacheco
Ultimate Avengers vol 2: Crime And Punishment s/c (UK Edition) (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Leinil Francis Yu
X-Men: Nation X s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Alan Davis, Greg Land, Terry Dodson, Whilce Portacio, Phil Jimenez
Incredible Hulk vol 3: World War Hulks h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Paul Pelletier
Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man vol 5 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita
Superman: Earth One h/c (£14-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski & Shane Davis
Farscape Uncharted Tales: D’Argo’s Lament s/c (£9-99, Boom!) by Keith R. A. Decandido & Caleb Cleveland
Star Wars: Dark Empire Trilogy h/c (£24-99, Dar Horse) by Tom Veitch & Cam Kennedy
World Of Warcraft vol 4 h/c (£14-99, Wildstorm) by Walter Simonsen, Louise Simonsen, Mike Costa & Mike Bowden, Tony Washington, Pop Mhan

NGE: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project vol 6 (£7-50, Dark Horse) by Osamu Takahashi
Bakuman vol 2 (£7-50, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata
Return To Labyrinth vol 2 (£7-50, Tokyopop) by Jake T. Forbes & Chris Lie
Biomega vol 4 (£9-99, Viz) by Tsutomu Nihei
Kimi Ne Todoke vol 6 (£7-50, Viz) by Karuho Shiina D. Gray-Man vol 19(£7-50, Viz) by Katsura Hoshino
Samurai Harem vol 6 (£9-99, Tokyopop) by Yu Minamoto
dot hack slash slash link vol 2 (£8-50, Tokyopop) by Cyberconnect2 & Megane Kikuya
Arisa vol 1 (£8-50, Del Rey) by Natsumi Ando
Negima! vol 28 (£8-50, Del Rey) by Ken Akamatsu
Codebreaker vol 02 (£8-50, Del Rey) by Akimine Kamijyo
XXXholic vol 16 (£8-50, Del Rey) by Clamp
Hell Girl vols 7/8/9 (£16-50, Del Rey) by Miyuki Eto

See, I listened, and have already initiated the intitials initiative! See upgrade blog comments.

 - SLH