Reviews December 2010 week five

Undertow (£7-99, Little White Bird) by Ellen Lindner…

Ahh, partly due to being a massive fan of Walter Hill’s seminal classic film The Warriors, I’m a guaranteed sucker for all things Coney Island-related. And here we have a glimpse of what life was actually like for 1950s poor working class New York youth whose only respite from a pretty austere and rather tough existence was to head to the beaches and amusement parks of Coney every weekend and cut loose. Hard drugs, gang fights, unsafe sex all helped to temporarily assuage a general feeling of pointlessness to their lives. They could see the rich kids with all their advantages making good and moving onwards and upwards whilst they got left further behind and stuck, usually for life, in the poorest boroughs of New York with little real prospects of their own.

UNDERTOW’s main character is the sassy Rhonda, a smart girl already suffering emotionally and physically at the hands of her alcoholic parents, and on top of that now struggling to come to terms with the unexpected death of her best friend. At this uncertain time she finds herself strangely attracted to the rich Chuck who has come down to her neighbourhood to do some social work as part of his college education. It provides a stark contrast between the lives of the haves and have-nots at the time, and a poignant example that despite what successive governments throughout the ages may trumpet out, social mobility has never been an easy thing to achieve and if you really want to better yourself, it’s up to you to do something about it. Others may be able to provide help, albeit slightly pious and perhaps self-serving, if well meaning help, but you have to believe you can make the change for yourself. Rhonda is a typical example of someone smart enough to be able to help herself but, beaten down continuously by her surroundings, she’s finding it hard to believe she can actually do it. But as Rhonda’s budding romance with Chuck shows hints of blossoming further, is one of them perhaps using the other, or are they actually falling for each other across the social divide? Can a romance started on such shifting ground ever succeed at all or will the inevitable tides of class and money pull them apart again before it even really begins?

I loved UNDERTOW; this is great piece of period fiction, where the main protagonists all perfectly fit the time and place without feeling the slightest bit stereotyped or caricatured. Lindner expertly captures the simultaneously bleak and grubbily hedonistic feel of lower working class ‘50s New York. UNDERTOW isn’t merely a romance story, although it does deliver that key aspect of a good romance – you willing the characters to get together whilst they ebb and flow to and fro, towards then away from each other – but it’s also a great piece of social history too. Her art style is perfect for this story, as these characters aren’t people who hide their emotions but display them for all to see. She certainly does an excellent angry girlfriend and sheepish boyfriend! I loved the attention to period detail too, with the huge cars, the hair styles, the boys’ leather jackets and the girls’ skirts, and the ever-present, slightly worn but kitsch interiors. The palette of black and white with very light blue tones helps to convey the ‘50s Coney Island mood perfectly.

JR

How To Understand Israel In 60 Days Or Less h/c (£18-99, Vertigo/DC) by Sarah Glidden…

Quite simply, this is a work that anyone who has an opinion, informed or just shooting from the lip, on the ‘Palestinian situation’ ought to read. It’s a brilliant work for several reasons, underpinned by the fact that the author finds herself in a position familiar to many modern American Jews of a liberal (i.e. sane) political persuasion. She feels she should inherently be pro-Israeli because she’s Jewish, yet quite correctly believes that the average Palestinian is getting an extremely rough deal at the hands of the Israeli state. But like the vast majority of people who’ve never been to Israeli, Jews and non-Jews alike, she’s aware that her viewpoints are inevitably informed by the political spin and media she’s exposed to constantly, and that she therefore can’t really comprehend the day to day realities of life for Palestinians and Israelis, much less make a definitive judgement on who exactly is to blame for the lack of resolution of the ‘situation.’

As a young Jewish person she’s entitled to make a ten-day ‘Birthright Israel’ trip, wholly funded by the Israeli government, ostensibly to deepen the Jewish identity of Jews living outside Israel, and strengthen their ties to their religious homeland. Sarah’s expectations beforehand are that it’ll be a full-on propaganda blitz designed to convince her that all Palestinians are evil, but in fact the trip provides a rather balanced exploration of the history of the founding of Israeli with some subtle and, yes, a little not-so-subtle propaganda thrown in. Consequently she finds her prejudices challenged and the need to revise her preconceptions on more than one occasion.

This book works on several different levels. Aside from anything else, it’s an excellent autobiographical travel memoir comparable to works by Guy Delisle or Joe Sacco, which is humorously written and wonderfully illustrated. It pokes fun at Israelis (as most definitely distinct from Jews), some of whose youth – if you’ve ever done any backpacking yourself you will know – can be some of the most abrasive individuals you could ever wish not to meet. And certainly, not more than once in any event. I was personally greatly amused that Sarah took the time to highlight this little, yet rather widely observed, national idiosyncrasy.

Secondly, it’s an honest and factually accurate lesson in the history of the formation and early years of the state of Israel. The early Israeli politicians like David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, were not your run of the mill two-faced politicos of the type we have to endure in most countries around the world today. They were first and foremost nation-builders who, as Ben-Gurion was actually brave enough to publicly state, quite regretfully knew what they were taking away from the Palestinians, and therefore knew what the likely consequences would be for generations to come. But to ensure the continued survival of the Jewish race, they simply didn’t believe they had another choice. Compared to some of the ‘difficult’ decisions our so-called politicians claim they have to make on a near daily basis these days, you can’t imagine the burden of having to make such a momentous decision as to found the state of Israel, knowing you were in effect declaring war on all your neighbours and also people living within your own borders.

The warm and even-handed presentation of Sarah’s own journey of discovery about the history of Israel would have actually been enough to make a great travel memoir, but then we also get something else which elevates this work even further in my opinion. Having presented the perceived rights and wrongs of both sides’ cases through the people she meets and talks with during her time in Israel, we then get shown the case for hope, real genuine hope that there are at least some people on both sides of the divide who want to put the conflict behind them. And that there is a way of looking at the conflict that is neither solely Israeli nor Palestinian. Although, unfortunately this clarity of vision for those concerned has come about through very painful and personal losses…

“One Day we got a call from the leader of Family Forum. He asked if he could come to speak to us at our new home.
“For us it was new to hear from an Israeli Jew. When he came it was shocking because he was religious but when he started talking about how his son was killed it didn’t matter than he was Jewish and we were Arab. We just saw that he was human and had our same pain.
“Now through activities with the Family Forum in Palestine we spread our messages of peace and reconciliation. We have to rehumanize the others. The main idea is that you have to talk to someone on the other side.
“We ask only one thing of you and that is not to be pro-Israeli or pro-Palestine, but to be pro-peace. And when you go back to your country explain to your friends about what we do here and help them be pro-peace too.
“Thank you.”

JR

Depresso (£12-99, Knockabout) by Brick…

DEPRESSO is best summed up as a very brutally honestly documented chapter in one man’s life. Unfortunately for Brick, or Tom Freeman as he’s called here, the period of his life he’s chosen to share with us pertains to some rather dark days indeed, during which there were times when he was figuratively and literally crippled with depression. On the one hand this is great for us, because it makes for a very fascinating and personal insight into the nightmarish depths where depression can take a person; on the other hand it was obviously not so good for Brick. Not so good at all…

I was rather unsure after the first few pages whether I was going to enjoy DEPRESSO as relatively little seems to happen initially, but I actually realised in retrospect what Brick is doing is providing an overview of himself before the disease strikes, which for those readers who’ve never come across him or his work before is actually quite essential in understanding just how much he is reduced by his illness, in so many different ways. Similarly, it took a few pages for me to warm to his art style and layouts which are heavily influenced by his years of political cartooning and lampooning of public figures. It’s an unusual style for a graphic novel for sure, but once you’ve settled into it, the energy and unreal elements one associates with a more cartoonish style in fact work extremely well in keeping the overall tone of the work light and humorous, even the when material is anything but. But rest assured, there’s plenty of genuine laughs in here too, primarily provided at Brick’s own expense.

Once Brick begins to document his downward descent into depression, initially being convinced by a rather strange psychosomatic pain in his testicles that he is suffering from cancer I was immediately engaged by his frankness, and obviously sympathetic to his suffering and sharing his frustration in his battles with the NHS to obtain any form of meaningful or helpful treatment. Why this book succeeds so well is because it is a very typical story, told without hyperbole or embellishment, of a struggle with an intangible and in many ways inexplicable disease, which blights a considerable number of us at some point during our lives. If you have ever personally experienced, or are close to someone who has or is experiencing this level of extreme depression, DEPRESSO will ring very true.

Brick captures the feeling of helplessness, both in terms of coping with the ups and more frequent downs of depression day to day, and the vagaries of the medicine-focused NHS system. But as mentioned it is done with a dark humour, expressed particularly well in the sequences showing his regular visits with physicians, all too keen to try a different medication.  And encounters with various counsellors, who with the odd exception, seem to have no great wisdom to bring to bear on his plight except trotting out well worn refrains, that again will make this all too familiar to those in the know, and also probably not shock those who aren’t!

This is a very different book from Darryl Cunningham’s Psychiatric Tales, but in my mind succeeds just as admirably in humanising the suffering that mental illness brings. And not just to the individuals in question, but those around them too. Brick pays tremendous tribute to his partner Judy by objectively showing her side of the story too. She’s a tower of strength to him throughout his struggles, even though he can’t necessarily appreciate it or her at the time, you have to question whether he could have made it through to the better place he’s in now without her. As much as anything else to survive depression people need completely non-judgemental and compassionate support, and Brick is clearly very fortunate to have someone like that in Judy.

So, is there a happy ending to DEPRESSO? Yes of sorts, but as Brick very truthfully illustrates, escaping from depression and staying in a happier place is an ongoing process for sufferers.  Actually the first thing that sprang immediately to my mind upon finishing DEPRESSO was the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, ‘Life is a journey, not a destination.’ For people who are prone to bouts of depression, that’s particularly true; it’s just their journeys can be rather more arduous than most.

LINK

JR

Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Moebius…

“Before you pass any further judgement on me, I’ll give you a quote, the author of which you’re not worthy to learn: “There is no good or evil, only the divine presence under this or that trapping.”
“?!!”
“Those are the words of a saint!”
“?”
“Enough, you guys, this is a University not a temple.”
“Yeah, shut up, you ass-kissers.”

Finally Jodorowsky and Moebius’ masterpiece of religious and philosophical satire is available in its complete form in English. When Dark Horse first published this work in the UK many years ago, they only collected the first two-thirds (and then only in black and white), which culminated in a rather odd and abrupt ending. Given the nature of the work I personally – like many others at the time having chatted with a few customers about it – just assumed it was a deliberately oblique ending which possibly I hadn’t grasped the full meaning of. I now believe the only reason behind not publishing the third part at the time was it simply it hadn’t been translated yet.

Anyway, enough preamble. How best to describe MADWOMAN to those unfamiliar with the work?! Professor Alan Mangel is a charismatic and eminent Professor of Philosophy at Paris’ Sorbonne University. Whilst beloved by his students, some of whom have taken to wearing purple in reverence of him, Mangel’s private life is somewhat less successful, with a rather bitter (very soon to be ex-) wife who berates him for his impotence and inability to impregnate her. He’s somewhat ambivalent about the whole situation preferring to take solace in, and perhaps also hiding behind, his spiritual practice, until she actually leaves him taking every single possession he owns with her. This precipitates a crisis of confidence and his loyal students soon desert him in droves.

The only student who still believes in Alan in the beautiful Elisabeth, who appears to be completely insane in her belief that she has been chosen for a divine mission, to be impregnated by Alan and thus bring about the reincarnation of John the Baptist. And that’s just the beginning! What follows is a delightfully farcical and satirical romp as Alan, seemingly unable to take control of the situation and sensibly just bring things to a halt, gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble.

He soon finds himself on the run for a murder he didn’t commit which occurs in the course of helping a local drug dealer spring a girl from a Parisian asylum. Elisabeth is convinced they are the reincarnations of Joseph and Mary respectively, and that they will produce a child who will be the second coming of Jesus. Just to make things a little more complicated for Alan the girl in question is the daughter of a Columbian cocaine baron, who promptly dispatches a hit squad to track down his beloved child and deal with the people responsible for her disappearance. If that weren’t enough to deal with, Alan is also finding himself troubled by a rather lustful inner demon in the shape of his younger self, who chides him for not grasping the moment and making the most of his current situation, whilst continually making some distinctly suggestive suggestions. Oh, and the slightest bit of stress is now causing Alan bouts of uncontrollable, explosive diarrhoea.

I’m not going to go into any analysis of precisely what J & M are satirising with this work. That’s one of the pleasures of reading it in depth for yourself. Not that it is remotely heavy going, and can be enjoyed entirely for its farcical content which comes across in places like a surreal cross-over between Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and a particularly bawdy Carry On film. And I do genuinely mean that in a good way, I really do!!

The final third of MADWOMAN changes in tone as the humour is reined in considerably and things take an even more metaphysical turn out in the jungles of Colombia. It’s a path Jodorowsky has us taken down before in his various comic and cinematic works, perhaps once too often for it to have the same impact for me in all honesty, and it probably reveals more about himself and his own beliefs than simply continuing to entertain the reader with the same bonhomie as the first two-thirds of the work. Still, it doesn’t spoil the book and the plot is definitely still drawn to a very satisfactory conclusion. I do wonder whether there is a deliberate parallel to be drawn in terms of Mangel’s physical and psychological state at the very end of MADWOMAN, with the ending of the soon-to-be-reprinted THE INCAL material and its main protagonist John Difool, but maybe that’s me reading too much into it. I think I understand the point that’s being made, if there is a point that’s actually being made – and that the great thing about MADWOMAN: it will certainly get you thinking!

And of course we have the unique art style that we’ve come to know and love from Moebius, plus there is the added bonus of the truly wonderful conceit that he’s used Jodorowsky’s likeness for Professor Alan Mangel (unbeknownst to Jodorowsky at the time) which continually adds to the amusement as Alan’s circumstances get ever more ridiculous and fraught with danger. This is a genuine classic that stands reading and re-reading. It never fails to raise a smile for me, and still a quizzical eyebrow or two.

JR

The Summit Of The Gods vol 2 (£14-99, Fanfare) by Yumemakura Baku & Jiro Taniguchi…

“An image comes into my mind of me trapped like a piece of garbage in the middle of an endless rock wall. Here in this space between heaven and earth I live isolated, alone.”

Quite simply my favourite book of the year. A bold statement I know, but I’ve waited a whole year for this second volume of five to come out, due to a delay in the translation. I know it’s a year because customer Thomas Ranshaw, being one of the customers I eulogised about the first volume to when it came out initially, pointed out he bought that volume particular volume on his way home for Christmas last year. I’ve even pestered our contact at the publisher from time to time during 2010 for status updates, chuckling because he too was desperate to read the next instalment as well. It was worth the wait. In this volume we learn even more of the complex, intertwined back-histories of obsessed mountaineer Jouji Habu and his rival Tsuneo Hase, as the photographer Fukamachi plans his return to Kathmandu to relocate what may be George Mallory’s camera, which could finally reveal if he was the first man to conquer Everest, long before Edmund Hillary. Storytelling at its finest.

LINK

JR

Koko Be Good (£13-99, First Second) by Jen Wang…

Ah, a real heart warming story of a most unlikely platonic friendship between the shy, introverted Jon and the wild, impulsive Koko.

“S-so! I uh… I was at the bar last ni-”
“Listen STALKER, I don’t play intimidation games so whatever you’ve got you better believe I’m ready for it. Got it?”
“Oh good, you remember me. No need to introduce myself then.”
“Of course I remember you. Look at you.”
“Hey, all right, you know I came here to bargain nicely for something that’s mine, but maybe it’s not worth it.
“Bargain?!?”
“Look, I’m not looking for trouble. I don’t even care if you want to keep the player. I just want that particular tape back. Look, I’ll trade you for a new one.”
“This thing? What’s going on in here, your little espionage secrets?”
“It’s a recording someone – my girlfriend – sent me. She lives on the East Coast. I don’t get to see her often so it’s important for me to have it. What?”

Except of course Koko, whilst making an imaginary podcast with the tape recorder she stole from Jon, has taped over most of the recording…

And so begins our story proper. In reality it’s the same story told from two very different perspectives… what should I do with my life? In Jon’s case, it’s the decision whether to give everything else up and follow his heart to Peru to be with his older girlfriend as she goes off to work with a charity there, and for Koko it’s to try and find any sort of direction for her life at all! Koko’s flighty, effervescent character in particular amuses greatly as, in her own head at least, she’s already a legend in several different fields of entertainment, with the serious balance and counterpoint being provided to the story by Jon’s continuous worries about if he’s going to do the wrong thing and ruin his life.

As I say, on the face of it, Koko and Jon make for an extremely unlikely friendship, but perhaps they recognise in other a kindred spirit of uncertainty, and therefore someone in whom they can confide. I think the real heart to this book perhaps, is that many of us have had unexpected friendships at some point in our lives, often passing, maybe even fleeting like Koko and Jon’s, but we remember those people with great and fond affection many years later, even long after we’ve lost touch with them. That’s exactly how reading KOKO BE GOOD made me feel!

LINK

JR

Genkaku Picasso vol 1 (£7-50, Viz) by Usamaru Furuya.

“Hey, Picasso. Draw a picture of my heart.”
“I can’t draw something I can’t see.”
“I think your beloved Da Vinci drew some things the eye can’t see. Isn’t that what an artist’s eye is supposed to do?”

Nicknamed Picasso after a shoe-writing accident (personally I think it’s a bit Special Needs to write your name across the tops of your trainers aged 17, let alone to misspell it) Hikari Hamura is a boy so dim he doesn’t realise that his artistic skills are the perfect draw for new friends at school even when the beautiful Chiaki takes him under her wing. Like so many Japanese schoolgirls Chiaki is blonde (the last thing manga characters look is Japanese); she’s also the only other member of his after-school Riverside Club, studying psychology while Hikari noodles on about his hero Da Vinci. When he denies he can draw what lies inside, she sticks her heart in his top jacket pocket for later, just in time for a helicopter accident. A little bit random, yes. A helicopter crashes their teenage tête à tête, and only Hikari survives – or appears to. In actual fact he’s really quite dead, his right arm rotting in a state of putrefaction which can only be staved off through helping others with the aid of Chiaki’s pint-sized ghost found dawdling in his top jacket pocket. Specifically he must help them by venturing into the metaphysical: drawing what he sees in his classmates’ auras, decrypting these elaborate tableaux, then striving to help his subject sort his or her life out.

It’s not always easy when the patients are reluctant, Hikari’s interpretations prove too hasty and on approaching whichever subject he displays all the social skills of a Young Conservative at a Star Trek convention.

“Do you have any hobbies besides manga? Like S&M, maybe?”

A bit of a leap, that. In spite of his best efforts to alienated all and sundry, our pipsqueak Picasso does manage many a good turn whilst making new friends into the bargain. Whom he promptly ignores. Some people, you just can’t help.

LINK

SLH

Dodgem Logic #7 (£3-50, Knockabout) by various including Alan Moore.

Back strip and Christmas cover by Kevin O’Neil (LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN) plus interior articles by Alan Moore, Stewart Lee, Melinda Gebbie (LOST GIRLS), Savage Pencil etc.

LINK

SLH

Chopper: Surf’s Up (£19-99, 2000AD) by John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Alan McKenzie & Colin MacNeil, John McCrea, John Higgins, Martin Emond, Patrick Goddard…

“The old half-man had taught him a lot. He’d shown him how to survive, how to wring a living from the grudging heart of the radback. But there was one thing Smokie couldn’t teach him… and that was how to live with failure.
“A few surfers are still skylarking in the updraught from the city wall. No searchlights on them. No crack of laser streaking up. Oz Judges are more lax, he knows. Live and let live. Pity they couldn’t have been more like that in the Big Meg. Then he might have been living in a class hab like Jug McKenzie, beer and barbies on the terrace, laughing at the world.
“Might. He’d had his chance… he’d funked it.
“Bright lights, noise… a hustle and bustle all around… the city envelops him, rekindles memories… another time… another place…
“A boy, high above the streets, wind clawing at him, eager to rip him from his perch… defying the elements, the city… life itself.
“A young man… teeth gritted, eyes darting, body poised, twisting like a salmon through a torrent of traffic. Still flying in the face of the world. The voice of the city in his ears, calling HIS name.

“CHOPPER! CHOPPER! CHOPPER! CHOPPER!”
“You can cage me but you’ll never beat me! I’ll never lie down and die for you!”

“It seemed then that he was invulnerable, that nothing they could do could ever crush his spirit. But he was young then, he’d never tasted defeat…
“Moonlight glints on the water in the bay. Harbour bridge alive with traffic. He stands unseen above the flow. Anonymous. Nobody notices a loser.”

So for those of you that don’t know already I guess I have to confess in advance that Marlon ‘Chopper’ Shakespeare is hands-down my favourite 2000AD character ever. And his triumph in Supersurf 7 (told in JUDGE DREDD: COMPLETE CASE FILES VOL 9) is one of my all-time favourite comics. Similarly his epic voyage to Oz on only a powerboard and subsequent narrow defeat in Supersurf 10 by loud mouth Australian Jug McKenzie (in JUDGE DREDD: COMPLETE CASE FILES VOL 11) is undoubtedly one of the great 2000AD epic-length storylines. Where critics are divided, however, is by much of the Chopper material that followed, and indeed whether some of it should even be regarded as canon. This is a collection of all that subsequent material, written by John Wagner, Garth Ennis and Alan McKenzie and illustrated by a host of 2000AD regulars.

I can remember very well indeed the amazing 4-parter ‘Soul On Fire’ that opens this collection when it initially came out in 2000AD, from the first issue of which the above long excerpt is lifted, telling the story of a disillusioned and disheartened Chopper hiding out in the radback, having been forced to leave Oz in a hurry to escape Judge Dredd’s gun sight at the climax of Supersurf 10. On an occasional late night visit back into Oz for supplies, he unexpectedly encounters Jug and persuades him to re-enact Supersurf 10. Whilst things don’t exactly go as Chopper intended, it’s an encounter that enables him to finally put the events of Supersurf 10 behind him, if not fully move on with his life. For me, it’s one of John Wagner’s best-ever 2000AD-related scripts, and Colin MacNeil’s solemn black and white art more than does justice to it. Thereafter follows Supersurf 11, also written by Wagner and rather more colourfully drawn once again by MacNeil, where the sponsoring, villainous Stig corporation and its eponymous chairman re-introduce a few obstacles more familiar to the early illegal Supersurf races… like snipers and laser cannons. This is much more of a full throttle action tale and, again, another very very worthy addition to the Chopper stories.

Much of what followed I can remember being rather disappointed by at the time it came out, however whilst they don’t hit the heady heights of previous material, I can happily say I enjoyed them considerably more this time around. I think what is greatly apparent is this material benefits from being read in such a collection, and in doing so it’s apparent Garth Ennis and then Alan MacKenzie, and finally Wagner once more have chosen to bring other aspects of the character to the fore and tell some rather different stories. The essence of what makes Chopper who he is remains the same though… he’s never, ever going to allow ‘the man’ to beat him down. And the final story in this collection, penned by Wagner, which I actually hadn’t read before, finishes with an amusing little internal monologue from Chopper which did rather made me chuckle. Even now, with the accumulated wisdom of a few more years under my belt, he still represents a character I’d secretly love to be!

LINK

JR

Hitman vol 3: Local Heroes (£13-50, DC) by Garth Ennis & John McCrea.

Third volume of Ennis’s lesser known work for DC in the mid ‘90s, irreverently tackling their superhero universe with shades and a sawn-off shotgun. This time Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner, in one of the worst superhero costumes ever) receives the unorthodox treatment when he’s duped by the government into bringing the Hitman in. Idiot. Also featuring an aquarium full of zombie seals, dolphins and penguins being blown (and clubbed) to bits. 

LINK

SLH

Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Maberry & Goran Parlov

Had no intention of reading this: it had the Marvel cast slavering like zombies on its cover and I’d grown bored of that years ago. But then Maberry wrote the Doomwar mini and contributed to the magnificent PUNISHER: NAKED KILLS collection, whilst Goran excelled himself on all things BARRACUDA-related including Garth Ennis’ mini-series and his appearances in Garth’s PUNISHER MAX books.

And it’s good.

Frank Castle is pretty much alone in the world. What happened beyond America, he’s not overly sure. The same thing that happened to NYC, he expects. After all, the pathogen stayed dormant for months before manifesting itself and that’s plenty of time for airplane passengers to spread it far and wide. No one knew there was a problem so no one attempted to arrest its development. Certainly it was spotted in blood tests but it wasn’t the cause of any illness being diagnosed – it seemed completely benign. That is, until the day that it wasn’t.

Like The Omega Man and so many other derivatives, the scenario is heavily based on Matheson’s I Am Legend, so unlike MARVEL ZOMBIES, this isn’t played for laughs. It’s told from The Punisher’s perspective which is rarely an optimistic one, but here he’s without any hope at all. The human population have long since brutalised then eaten each other, whilst the superhuman fraternity fractured, fornicated and then formed their own tribes. One by one Frank’s attempted to limit the damage he unwittingly unleashed on the planet by culling the last dregs of the infected. But who is still alive, baiting and setting traps for him?

SLH

Black Widow: The Name Of The Rose h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Marjorie Liu & Daniel Acuna

Possibly a better review of this to follow since I need to finish the book myself. But for the moment the first issue proved as slick as any spy thriller should be, and painful too as Natasha experiences the unthinkable: someone actually getting the drop on her. He then slices her open and surgically removes something. We don’t yet know what, nor does Natasha, but during the entire procedure and the subsequent exploratory operation she lay awake without painkillers – and let me tell you, that was excruciating to read so bravo to Acuna and Liu! James Buchanan is on hand (they may actually be falling in love), as are Tony Stark and Logan (on hand that is, not falling in love with each other), the last one appearing to know exactly who the assailant was:

“She’s going to find you. Natasha doesn’t give up.”
“I am counting on that.”

Infinitely superior to either recent mini-series in art and word and deed.

SLH

Good Dog, Bad Dog Book 1 h/c (£9-99, David Fickling) by Dave Shelton.

Slapstick sleuthing for two pedigree police officers, Bergman and McBoo, whose collars are more accidental than hard-won or slyly stalked. Full colour and an absolute hoot for younger readers, but there is, I concede, little of the depth, wit or sophistication required to make it a genuine all-ages book. If there was, I’d be quoting it.

LINK

SLH

Peter & Max: A Fables Novel s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & Steve Leialoha.

In the beginning, a long, long time ago, there was a sentence so twee it was sickening.
Then there was a moment of foreshadowing so blindingly obvious it was like being poked in the eye by a sparkler.
Somewhere in New York City, there’s a deathly dull explanation of what the comicbook series is about but since reading that is the only reason you’ll have been tempted to pick up the novel, it’s redundant.
Now for a sentence with “love”, “quaint”, “cosy” and “cottage” in it. Do have a muffin; here’s jam…

LINK

SLH

Also arrived:

(Reviews may still follow or be up there already in the case of s/c versions of h/cs)

The Lodger (£14-99, KSA) by Karl Stevens. Count on it.
Jeffrey Jones: A Life In Art (£37-99, IDW) by Jeffrey Jones
Viking vol 1: The Long Cold Fire s/c (£12-99, Image) by Ivan Brandon & Nic Klein
Sinfest: Viva La Resistance (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Tatsuya Ishida
Star Wars Omnibus: Quinlan Vos – Jedi In Darkness (£19-99, Dark Horse) by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema
Edible Secrets: A Food Tour Of Classified US History (£7-50, Microcosm) by Michael Hoerger & Mia Partlow
Marvels: Eye Of The Camera s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern & Jay Anacleto
Invincible Iron Man vol 4: Stark Disassembled s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca
X-Men Noir: Mark Of Cain s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Fred Van Lente & Dennis Calero
Peepo Choo vol 3 (£9-99, Vertical) by Felipe Smith
Chi’s Sweet Home vol 4 (£10-50, Vertical) by Konami Kanata
Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys vol 12 (£9-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa
I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow vol 2 (£9-99, Viz) by Shunju Aono
Children Of The Sea vol 4 (£10-99, Viz) by Daisuke Igarashi
A Single Match h/c (£18-99, D&Q) by Oji Suzuki
Stop Bullying Me (£9-99, June) by Natsuho Shino
Higurashi vol 9: Beyond Midnight Arc vol 1 (£8-50, Yen) by Ryukishio7 & Yoshiki Tonogai
Vampire Knight vol 11 (£7-50, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

 – And that’s all for reviews in 2010. Good going, J-boy!

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