Reviews December 2010 week four

The Man Of Glass (£3-50, Accent UK) by Martin Flink.

“Page 45 Award of the Month for Flawless Reader and Retailer Resources goes to Martin Flink,” I wrote in the preview.

Those online pages were all I needed to buy in a bunch but the proof of the comic is in its consumption. Readers, it couldn’t be more palatable nor accessible to new readers. The layout is clear, the segues spot-on, the colouring warm and sympathetic.

Like Jordan Crane’s tiny masterpiece LAST LONELY SATURDAY, there must by necessity be little I can tell you, but it’s an equally poigant piece free from maudlin melodrama, about a young boxer who has it all: genuine friendships, a loving relationship full of tactile tenderness and a beautiful boy as a consequence. What, then, is his connection to the broken old man who drinks cheap beer in the park and carries his belongings in two plastic carrier bags?

It’s like a small holding of ESSEX COUNTY, highly recommended, with an improbably dignified ending.

Shop link:

Outside preview link: LINK

Odds And Sods (For Comics Bods) by D’Israeli D’Emon Draughtsman A.K.A. Matt Brooker.

Page 45’s copies of this are signed and sketched in at no extra cost!

From the creator of Timularo (the first print run of Page 45’s exclusive edition sold out in under a minute), the artist on Warren Ellis’ LAZARUS CHURCHYARD, and so much of Ian Edginton’s work (KINGDOM OF THE WICKED, SCARLET TRACES I and II etc.), this is a collection of rare gems which you’d otherwise struggle to encounter without actually hacking into D’Israeli’s computer. (Access code: fishpaste.)

Features include private commissions, covers and stories for various convention booklets (Oxford’s annual Caption gathering led by Jeremy Dennis features prominently), the five-page story for SPEAKEASY, house-moving calling cards (he does like his unicycles, does our Matt) and jokes galore like the 2000AD spoof 1900AD starring Constable Dredd:

“I is the law, if’n I might make so bold, Guv’nor.”

There are two pages of that. There’s a very fine single-page short called 2001: A Lot Of Faffing About, four whole pages of The Frightwig Factor: Space 1999 in which central Oxford finds itself blasted into space along with its convention attendees (note: “Jeremy Dennis’ hair is subject to change without notice”) and lots of notes about the creative process including Self-Portrait As A DIY Enthusiast in which the artist takes you through its several working steps.

By far the finest two pieces, however, are the full-colour, four-page silent strips commissioned by the Spanish Semana Negra gathering which book-end this collection. The second is a ludicriously ambitious yet wholly successful precis of the history of the Weimar republic from the close of WWI to the rise of the Nazis preceding WWII. In each successive panel two different Germans move slowly across the page sometimes in collusion, sometimes in opposition. The first piece, Reflector, is a devastating indictment of war across the ages or, more specifically, the bombing of innocent civilians inspired by and using some of the stylings of Picasso’s Guernica in angry reds and incendiary yellows before exposing the culprits in command, sheltered safely away from the preceeding obliteration.

Dresden, Coventry, Srebrenica, Halabja, Dafur… Such is the signpost and so it goes, I’m very much afraid.



Vertigo Resurrected Winter’s Edge #1 (£5-99, Vertigo/DC) by Neil Gaiman, Brian K. Vaughan, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan & Paul Pope, Dave Gibbons, Sean Phillips, Duncan Fegredo, Mike Zulli, Kent Williams, John Bolton and others.

“No thorn goes as deep as the rose’s,
 And love is more cruel than lust.”

Highly recommended 100 pages collecting VERTIGO WINTER’s EDGE #1-3 including the three original Endless stories by Neil Gaiman which were only reprinted in the ABSOLUTE SANDMAN editions, not the regular softcovers. Two star Desire, although all three feature Death or death in one form or another. What are you trying to say, Neil?

The first laments the wane of the very embodiment of desire, the Greek God Pan. Once the hooved one strutted and rutted to his libido’s content with all manner of women, naiads and dryads on an island of lush fertility. Now he is old, his horns are cracked and island is barren and cold. He craves one last boon from one of Morpheus’ sisters before another comes to collect him, and is granted his wish. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I have a thing for satyrs.

Death: A Winter’s Tale explains the whys and the wherefores of Death’s decision to become mortal once every one hundred years and is sparsely, delicately illustrated by Jeff Jones with Jon. J. Muth on colours, whereas Zulli’s on board for the third in which a nineteenth-century woman (Lizzie Siddal) overdoses on laudanum, and is shown the true heart’s desire of her husband (Dante Gabriel Rossetti). It’s not Lizzie, no.

There are at least three Constantine stories, one written by Ellis and, no, you won’t have those if you never bought WINTER’S EDGE. None of these stories appeared in their regular titles either as periodicals or trade paperbacks.

There’s a BOOKS OF MAGIC entry, a SWAMP THING tale, whilst Duncan Fegredo’s exhuberance ensures that quizzical dragon Gregory steals the show from Abel and Cain even whilst in the background. Fancy depriving the beast of his lollypop! Poor Gregory! Such a mean old Scrooge, our Cain.

Winter’S Edge


Vertigo Resurrected Hellblazer #1 (£5-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis, Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon, Sean Murphy.

Two 2-part Constantine stories from HELLBLAZER #57-58 and 245-246 never previously reprinted. Both are deliciously sick and twisted, the latter even more than the former; if I tell you that the first one features grave-robbing so some weapons technician can, in the name of ballistics research, get his rocks off watching his subordinates splatter their ill-gained cadavers with machine-gun fire, then I think you can glean some idea about just how gruesome the second one is.

A low-budget television crew documenting Mucous Membrane break into the out-of-bounds club where the band once played and to which they later, fatefully, returned in HELLBLAZER: THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. It was Constantine’s arrogance then that landed him in Ravenscar, well and truly sectioned. How well do you think a group of novice film makers are going to fare. Introduces a brand-new meaning to ‘dogging’.


Greek Street vol 2: Cassandra Complex (£10-99, Vertigo/DC) by Peter Milligan & Davide Gianfelice.

“Maybe oracles do not so much foresee the future – as create it.”

Brilliant, and here’s where it all pays off: here, on the final five pages all the disparate elements come together in the most unpredictable fashion to cement this work as a tragedy in its truest sense: inescapable and full of the most wretched irony. Almost every exchange is so loaded/laden here that it’s eminently quotable, such are its implications.

Milligan has gone for the far from obvious, carving out a modern disaster from traditional Greek Tragedy in the same fashion as Sir Jonathan Miller, only Milligan isn’t just directing a work extant, he’s creating a totally new cloth. He’s also taken one of Greek tragedy’s most enduring elements and woven it even more tightly together. I can’t think of another work where ‘keeping it in the family’ is so completely incorporated.

Also – and excuse me – but Muslim Detective Constable Rashid really is the star of the show, knocking Detective Inspector Dedalus off his unsustainable perch.

Meanwhile Gianfelice, an artist who sacrifices spectacular for downright spectacular-if-you-can-be-arsed-to-pay-attention knocks out libraries to make you wilt with envy, women’s curves to have you screaming with lust, and just-above-pubic male torsos which would have me rushing to the restroom if I even knew what that strange phrase meant.

“Take it easy! Jesus, where did you learn to smoke phatties like that?”
“Oh, Mummy and I used to get mashed and watch Eastenders together. That’s when my visions weren’t too bad and she wasn’t in one of her merry strops.”
“Didn’t think you posh types did things like that.”
“Get mashed? Or watch Eastenders?”

Trust me: we watch Eastenders. 😉

For an overview, please read the review of volume one.


Hellboy/Beasts Of Burden one-shot (£2-75, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin, Mike Mignola & Jill Thompson.

Perfect, self-contained stocking-filler featuring Hellboy during daylight! Hellboy in a verdant pasture and winter’s wood on a beautiful, sunshiny day! No graveyards! No Nazis! It’s Hellboy like you’ve never seen him before, and Jill Thompson nails him.

There is, however, an abandonned tunnel, a great many rats, Skull Golems, a meeting of minds between the big, red supernatural investigator and his new feline and canine compadres. Also a really poignant scene lesser writers and artists wouldn’t have even bothered with after Pugs grumbles once too often:

“God, would you quit bitchin’ already? No wonder your keeper got a new puppy…”

There follows a single panel cut across the page of Pugs’ face juxtaposed against a skull embedded in the wall wherein you can tell just how much that has cut him to the core, and just how long he’s been feeling the rejection himself.

Can’t buy it on-line so here’s the BEASTS OF BURDEN book instead back in stock now! (For more Jill Thompson this week, please see the MAGIC TRIXIE books below; they’re splendid!)



The Light (£12-99, Image) by Nathan Edmondson & Brett Weldele.

“To hell with this day.”

Survivalist nightmare from the artist on SURROGATES, SURROGATES: FLESH & BONE, SOUTHLAND TALES, Antony Johnston’s JULIUS and Brian Wood’s COUSCOUS EXPRESS, yet another gorgeously illustrated book whose quality of light, for me, surpasses Ben Templesmith’s. The mist in the trees is beautiful.

What happens inside is not.

Coyle is a useless father and was a goddawful husband until his wife left him. Now he’s just been fired (again), but then he’s a rubbish welder drunk or sober. Are you getting the impression he’s a tit?

Yet the worst can bring out the best in us and when he’s accosted at night by a friend sprinting down the street, screaming about the lights… when his neighbours begin glowing, burning up from inside, their smouldering skeletons slumping to the asphalt… when his mother catches fire, and every single bulb from a bedside lamp to sodium street light to a television screen becomes a catalyst for combustion… He grabs his daughter and runs.

From thereon in wearing goggles and blindfolds they career down highways, evade planes crashing from the skies, and even those who’ve yet to succumb to the light prove as hazardous as the victims who left to their own devices explode. But when the crows on the powerlines start dropping like flies, that’s when the penny drops.

In the afterward Nathan Edmondson writes about the sort of issues he wanted to consider here, and it’s a shame he didn’t! Don’t get me wrong, his central proposition comes clearly to the fore and I find no fault at all with the writing which is perfectly naturalistic in its frenzy, fear and repetition. There’s just not much more going on underneath. Instead you’re buying it for the art which boasts composition after composition so perfectly positioned and gorgeously rendered and the covers are reproduced here in their full glory without any of the typography to distract you.

Recommended to pyromaniacs who like skeletons, crows and skeletons, and crows with 200,000 volts running through them.



Two-Step (£14-99, Wildstorm/DC) by Warren Ellis & Amanda Conner.

“Oh my God. It’s playing music.”
“The Ride Of The Valkyries. The Quarrys have a pathological need to be the best-endowed gang in town. The smaller their equipment, the quieter they are.”
“And the people who paid you like them quiet.”

That’s quite the endowment policy the Quarrys have going, ordering custom-made, preternaturally large penises. If you look closely there’s male tackle everywhere: buildings, monuments, cars, vases, lamps, pictures and chairs… Particularly in this book.

“You never ever ever shoot a Quarry man in the trousersnake.”
“Because they explode?”
“Because they explode. Delicate and volatile penile machinery and all that. And we are standing on ice in the middle of the Thames.”

So guess what Rosi Blade’s just done?

TWO-STEP is one long cock-up as the mismatched duo of Zen gangster Tony Ling and Rosi Blades, broadcasting all that she sees, desperately are chased, shot at and threatened with an unusual form of colonic irrigation after making off with a Quarry man’s member, an act which Rosi broadcast.

Amanda has enormous fun with the multicultural mayhem, its opening scene setting the tone with Bollywood chorus girls dancing through the streets in Kali blue, and the covers themselves tell a mini-narrative of as Ling and Blade slowly come to terms with one another.

It’s not Ellis’ most profound nor substantial work. In fact @ £14-99 for three issues padded with script and sketches, it’s the worst value for money I’ve come across in a very long time. Should surely have been another DC PRESENTS @ £5-99? Still, the decision had nothing to do with Warren, there are a lot of Ellis completists out there, and we love you all very much indeed.



Magic Trixie vol 2: Magic Trixie Sleeps Over (£5-99, Harper Collins) by Jill Thompson.

Fact: playing catch with a werewolf leaves both your ball and fingers all covered in slobber. Frisbees may be frazzled.

From the creator of SCARY GODMOTHER and the artist on BEASTS OF BURDEN, a further helping of hyperactivity as Trixie does what all kids do: avoids a bath, delays bedtime as long as she can, watches spell-vision programmes she really shouldn’t, and makes a mess of everything!

The first volume amused but this and volume 3 had me grinning from ear to ear and this one may in addition help parents in their sometimes seemingly uphill struggle securing a clean, tooth-brushed and bed-bound urchin of love. For Trixie, she just ain’t having it, and when she discovers that none of her friends have to go through the same nightly rituals she does, she unilaterally declares that she’s going to sleep-over elsewhere. Much to her surprise, however, Mum and Dad are all in favour. In fact, they seem a little too eager to be rid of her.

Thing is, she hasn’t thought it through. Her friends are Stitch, the Frankenstein’s boy-monster who keeps coming undone, the Egyptian daughter (kind of like an Egyptian mummy, only younger), Loupie the werewolf, and the albino twins with their tufty white hair and vampire milk-teeth dressed like little bats.

So why does Loupie not have to brush her teeth? Where does Naifi sleep? And what does Stitch soak in overnight? It’s the evening with the albino twins that really sends Trixie scuttling for home and straight to a big, comfy bed.

The watercolours here are to die for. The big stone bridge on page twenty-three, lit from below from the setting sun’s reflection and the houses above it bathing in that golden summer glow are gorgeous. Extra details like the cobbled path in the foreground are just magical. Highly, highly recommended to single-figure young ‘uns – oh, and to their parents, obviously!



Magic Trixie vol 3: Magic Trixie And The Dragon (£5-99, Harper Collins) by Jill Thompson.

“Dear Magic Trixie,
   I am sorry that I am just a plain old kitten. I really liked being your pet and I didn’t mean to get boring to you.
   I am running away to join the circus.
   Good-bye forever…

How much do I love Jill Thompson? Not just as a writer of wit and a watercolour artist of indescribable skill, but as a beautiful person full of love in her heart. She is kindness personified and her joie de vie tumbles out onto the page as exuberantly as Mimi beams from beneath her feathers, frills and those trademark sunglasses sitting on her hat.

‘Mimi’, you see, is Americanese for a grandmother that doesn’t like to hear the ‘g’-word for fear of feeling old. I met one in the shop just a fortnight ago and she absolutely rocked: pillarbox hair, post-punk t-shirt, leather jacket and the fountain of youth running through her veins. The secret to immortality is actually very obvious: enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm isn’t something that young Trixie could be accused of lacking; judgement, on the other hand, is something she’s have to learn. A trip to the circus – the only one I’ve ever enjoyed with its carnival of fish-bowled mermaids, big chick in an egg-mobile, yeti dangling from the tent top in its elevator of ice – really fires her up; specifically, the live Chinese dragons. So when she learns that her older cousin Tansy is dating a man who works at the Crypto-Zoological Institute Of Atlantis where they study such creatures, it sparks in her an obsession to own one herself regardless of domestic considerations or the feelings of her pet cat Scratches which packs up its playthings in a plain white handkerchief and sets off to see if it’s wanted elsewhere.

Trixie, you see has succeeded in obtaining a dragon, but it’s her baby sister transformed by a spell cast under distraction, and she is in one heck of a lot of trouble.

Much stands out from the anodyne crowd for safety-first parents and children here. Firstly Jill’s world is one in which granddads still smoke pipes even with a child in the room and the children are still allowed to eat both cakes and candy and actually enjoy themselves. Radical. Oh, don’t get me wrong, discipline is enforced in a reasonable and reasoned fashion. Have you seen some of the brats on Supernanny USA? Well, take a look at their parents. No resolve, no patience, and the quest for an easy life results in the very opposite. Oh yes, and Jill uses long words! One of my favourites, in fact, as regular readers will know: transmogrification. Literacy in children’s books – brilliant! But I digress.

My favourite scenes here involved the giant baby/dragon sleeping in the tiger’s cage, arms wrapped round the beast, the ferocious feline reduced to a smothered smoulder.

The lessons here, obviously, involve not taking your pets (or indeed friends) for granted – showing your appreciation – and as it happened I read this at home with the voracious Mr. Bob-san curled up on my lap, purring away as I tried to turn pages and vocally cursed the greedy gut-bucket for getting in the way. Also, don’t think of dragons while trying to change your baby’s nappy using magic!

Now you’ll never be able to get that thought out of your head, will you? Good luck with all the poop.



Adventures Into Mindless Self-Indulgence one-shot (£2-99, Image) by Jimmy Urine, Kitty, Lyn-z, Steve Righ?, Jess Fink & Jess Fink.

Jess Fink – always loved her art. Think Jill Thomspon at her most angular in penline.

So what have we here? True stories of on-the-road horror as told to Jess Fink by the band themselves: a catalogue of anarchic behaviour, on and off-stage, like flashing your dick and setting fire to your pubes (does not smell nice – I was caught naked in a house fire once), subsequently being charged for sex crimes, getting thrown out of your own gig by a bouncer (not for misbehaviour but through being sized up as a part of the audience rather than the drummer!), stage diving, sticking fireworks up yer arse and lighting ‘em, and cursin’ on live radio. Some of it’s puerile, some of it made me laugh (err, the puerile bits maybe) but all of it’s rendered with glee by Ms. Jess Fink. Here’s Kitty keeping it clean on daytime radio:

“So Kitty, how do you play such awesome drums with such crazing electronics? It’s like you’re the Bionic Woman!”
“Ha ha! Yeah, I fuckin’ Lindsay Wagner that shit!”


Superman: Secret Origin h/c (£22-50, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank.

Gary Frank: always a hallmark of quality. No one can do weightless yet physically present quite like Gary, and Geoff Johns has written the perfect vehicle for him. Another book then to add to the relatively short list in answer the customer’s question, “Which SUPERMAN books do you recommend?” Like Geoff and Gary’s SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES it’s a book about belonging; about being accepted for who you are and what you do, not where you come from.

“Why are you here?”
“To help people.”
“And do you expect us to bow down before you in return?”

And it’s a classic case of transposition there as Lex Luthor attributes his own motivations of self-interested hegemony to the most altruistic, benevolent being on the planet.

For when a young Clark Kent first arrives in Metropolis he finds the city in thrall to Lex Luthor, and its citizens beholden to him either because he’s already picked them from each morning’s crowd gathered outside his gates desperately begging to be aided, or because they’re still part of that crowd praying beneath him that they’re next. 78% of Metropolis’ real estate is owned by Lexcorp, the American military has derived most of its new hardware from the man, and the media is in his pocket and under his thumb. No wonder The Daily Globe is on the brink of bankruptcy: Lois Lane won’t let the real story go.

So when Superman finally reveals himself and the city’s focus shifts from Lex Luthor’s inventions and seeming philanthropy to the genuine beneficence of a flying man in a big red cape, the two are set on a collision course from here to eternity for as long as they both shall live. It’s personal.

It has nothing to do with Luthor’s overt protestations that the man is an alien, although that is precisely what’s been troubling Clark since childhood. As the story opens Clark’s powers are emerging in parallel with puberty. Indeed he almost sets fire to the school in a sudden spurt of heat vision catalysed by a kiss. It’s comically clear what that alludes to! But he feels so guilty about breaking the arm of a friend during American football that he makes all manner of lame excuses to avoid a rematch, and it’s his very consideration for them that alienates his once-tight circle of friends. As David S. Goyer perceptively identifies in the introduction there is a deeply affecting key scene which would both warm and break the heart of any father, adoptive or otherwise, after Clark is told the truth of his lineage and recoils, fleeing to the cornfield in under abjection. Joined by Pa Kent, he struggles through his tears.

“I don’t want to be someone else. I don’t want to be different. I want to be Clark Kent.
“I want to be your son.”

It’s something he’s going to have to live with, work his way through, then find a way to be both. Thankfully he has nothing to prove to his parents.

“Clark… you are my son.”

Old film fans will get a kick out of seeing Christopher Reeves resurrected by Frank in the bumbling reporter and his dopey, disarming smile (the ultimate in feigned innocence), whilst the young Lex Luthor’s optimism, confidence and ambition is every bit as inspiring as his supercilious superiority is repugnant. Other origins embellished here include Metallo and Parasite.


Powers vol 13: Z (£18-99, Icon/Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Oeming.

It’s ba-ack. Back with a new dynamic in the form of a new homicide partner for Detective Walker, Enki Sunrise from Internal Affairs who investigated his former partner. Just as much sex and swearing, however, so not one for you nippers no matter how much it may look like a Saturday morning cartoon.

Detective Christian Walker has lost Detective Deena Pilgrim to a powers virus that fucked her up no end. Instead he and Sunrise now work homicide, in particular crimes involving those with powers in a world where powers are illegal. Don’t tell anyone, but Walker has powers. He’s always had powers, in fact he’s an immortal who evolved from a grunting ape – which is vaguely Darwinian, except for the procreation/generation thing. He doesn’t remember everything from his past, which is kind of fortunate because you wouldn’t want to remember having sex with a monkey, now would you?

However, he is forced into reflection by the death of an old comrade called Z. Together they were part of the superhero Ratpack of the ’50s, living it loud and large and using their status as World War II veterans to lord it over diners and get their table of choice. Men behaving badly, basically. No one has seen Z in years. He wasn’t a particularly pleasant individual.

What emerges is the most bizarre mother/daughter relationship, the daughter I think goading Walker into confrontation with the mother in order to try to get her killed. But are either of them involved in the murder of Z? Also, is Enki Sunrise still working for Internal Affairs or someone else? Where do her loyalties lie now?

This chops along at a right old pace before it becomes readily apparent that the death of Z is just the first act in a book whose scope is about to grow a great deal bigger.

“I’m feeling very metaphysical tonight, detectives. Maybe it’s because I still haven’t gotten over the fact that we as a society had found ways to kill our heroes. But now, it seems, we know how to kill God.”



Excalibur Visionaries: Warren Ellis vol 3 (£22-50, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Casey Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Terry Dodson, Aaron Lopresti, Randy Green, Rob Haynes.

“Ssssh! Be very quiet. I’m hunting flying rats.”

In which Alistaire Stuart of W.H.O. runs from Black Air, Brian Braddock infiltrates the Hellfire Club of London simply by turning up, and a young Warren Ellis actually writes the phrase, “And nothing will ever be the same again”. More importantly Lockheed, the small purple dragon Kitty Pryde mistakenly believes to be her pet, is not at all happy that she’s dating Pete Wisdom. Cue increasingly funny running joke as Lockheed steals his clothes then cigarettes.

“First chance I get, I’m flushing you down a toilet.”

EXCALIBUR #s 96-103 are also informed by events leading up to the ONSLAUGHT saga so the X-Men will be popping round for tea and sympathy, then the book finishes off with the PRYDE & WISDOM mini-series with infinitely more palatable art from Terry Dodson and a rather disturbing premise involving a serial killer who believes he’s the son of Adam (as in Eve, figuratively speaking) writing a letter to God.


Uncanny X-Men: The Birth Of Generation Hope (£12-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction, Allan Heinberg & Whilce Portacio, Steve Sanders, Jamie McKelvie, Oliver Coipel, Leonard Kirk, Harvey Tolibao. 

Exceptional reboot post-Second Coming as Hope journeys to Alaska in search of her heritage and discovers her mother is dead (we kinda figured that since the entire town was razed to the ground in X-MEN: MESSIAH COMPLEX) but her father is unnamed on her birth certificate… More immediately, there appears to be a problem with the first five mutants mutating since Hope was born: they’re doing it later in life, it’s a traumatic process and their signatures appear different to others’ on Cerebro. I’m not surprised given the punchline to X-MEN: SECOND COMING. How did you interpret that, eh? Fortunately Hope appears to be able to ease their transmogrification, leading directly into GENERATION HOPE itself written by Kieron Gillen who will shortly be joining Fraction here.

Whilce Portacio isn’t quite so in-your-face as he used to be, thanks perhaps to inker Ed Tadeo. And hello, Olivier Coipel’s here delivering the second half’s art chores on the prologue to AVENGERS: CHILDREN’S CRUSADE written by that series’ scribe, in which Magneto first learns of the possibility that his grandchildren are alive and well in the form of Wiccan and Speed. Heinberg writes the X-Men rather well too.

Guest-stars Steve Rogers (pep talk and Presidential leg-up for Cyclops) whilst the Beast makes a forthright exit to join the Secret Avengers instead.



Generation X Classic vol 1 (£22-50, Marvel) by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza & Joe Madureira, Andy Kubert, Roger Cruz, Chris Bachalo.

Begins with that Phalanx Imperative crossover in the X-Books before culminating in Bachalo’s GENERATION X #1-4.

There Bachalo’s design work elevated what had previously been twee explorations of new mutants joining the School For Gifted Youngsters into something far alluring and mysterious. I seem to recall a great deal of leaves here or a little later, and you know what we’re like with leaves.



Fat Chunk Volume 1: Robot restocks (£9-99 SLG, Publishing) by Various…

“Finally after months of hard work, my creation is complete.”
“Urm… actually, it looks a little camp to me.”

A staggering 84 different strips, mostly one- or two-pagers, from different writers and artists all about robots. Ranging from straight sci-fi to farcical, really out there (and I mean really out there!) humour. If robots are your thing – and why not if you have no friends? – this is for you. I think my joint-favourites were probably ‘B.U.M. 5000 The Robo Hobo’ on page 50 and ‘Stalkerville, Fury of the Robotbastardmenance’ on page 90.



Mystery Society (£14-99, IDW) by Steve Niles & Fiona Staples.

“A symbol should never be a cymbal,” wrote Edward Albee once.

Nor should you ever be able to see a writer at his keyboard nor an artist at her easel/drawing board/tablet, no matter how wonky, yet I saw both through this thin and transparent claptrap.

“Intruder. You have three seconds to surrender or you will be terminated.”
“Really? Terminated? Who wrote your program? A comic book writer?”

Ah-ha ha ha. Ah-ha ha ha. Ah-ha. Ah ha. Ha.

That during an early Metal Gear Solid moment of such undisguised, unaugmented obviousness that I nearly threw the book across the room and knocked my cat out from under its cardboard box. Think you can stealth your way to the kitty cupboard and help yourself to Felix pouches unscathed, mate? Think again! That’s what IDW trade paperbacks are for.

[Editor’s note: here come the publisher rebukes. Again. Do you never learn, Stephen?]

So listen, a couple who investigate paranormal shit want new members. The Secret Skull A.K.A. Samantha Brooks applies, asks to wait for the man of the house/leader of the pack and his wife consequently bashes her into the living room mirror. Fight!

Remind me never to go round to Jonathan’s house while he’s out, smile sweetly to his beloved Joanna yet have the temerity to suggest that I wait until J-boy is back before explaining a glitch in Page 45’s HTML website coding. Joanna is a goddess (she really is, actually) but even she would be the first to concede that it’s not really her area of expertise and would be more likely to offer me a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio while I wait for her husband than force my face onto the electric stove while its rings are on 9.

Fiona Staples is not a bad artist but whoever is at fault – Steve or Fiona – the timing here sucks, and the faces – particularly the lead male’s – are hopelessly unconvincing, his jagged jumble of angular lines sitting so awkwardly upon his neck that it bears little approximation to animate tissue.

At the risk of coming on all Tom Paulin, this is awful. Simply dreadful.

Lovely cover, though. Seriously.


Also Arrived:

(Shove ‘em in our search engine etc.)

Big Questions #15 (£5-99) by Anders Nielsen
Chopper: Surf’s Up (£19-99, 2000AD) by John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Alan McKenzie & Colin MacNeil, John McCrea, John Higgins, Martin Emond, Patrick Goddard
Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Moebius
Sonic The Hedgehog Archives vol 14 (£5-99, Archie) by various
Mystery Society (£14-99, IDW) by Steve Niles & Fiona Staples
Bear vol 2: Demons restocks (£10-99, SLG) by Jamie Smart
X-Necrosha s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Mike Carey, Zeb Wells & Clayton Crain, Ibraim Roberson, Laurence Campbell, Clay Mann, Yanick Paquette, Diogenes Neves, more
X-Campus (£14-99, Marvel) by Francesco Artibani, Marco Failla & Denis Medri, Roberto Di Salvo, Alessandro Vitti, Gianluca Gugliotta, Marco Failla
Rob Zombie Presents El Superbeasto (£14-99, Image) by Rob Zombie & Kieron Dwyer
Street Fighter Legends vol 3: Ibuki (£10-99, Udon) by Capcom
Dark Stalkers vol 2: The Night Warriors (£9-99, Udon) by Capcom
Slam Dunk vol 13 (£7-50, Viz) by Takehiko Inoue
Arata The Legend vol 4 (£7-50, Viz) by Yuu Watase
Yotsuba&! vol 9  (£8-50, Yen) by Kiyohiko Azuma
Kamisama Kiss (£7-50, Viz) by Julietta Suzuki
Higurashi vol 10: Beyond Midknight Arc vol 2 (£8-99, Yen) by Ryukishio7 & Yoshiki Tonogai
Togainu No Chi vol 6 (£9-99, Tokyopop) by Suguro Chayamachi & Nitro+ CHiRAL
Seiho Boys High School vol 3 (£7-50, Viz) by Kaneyoshi Izumi
Honey Hunt vol 6 (£7-50, Viz) by Miki Aihara
Swans In Space vol 3 (£6-99, Udon) by Lun Lun Yamamoto
Detroit Metal City vol 7 (£9-99, Viz) by Kiminori Wakasugi
The Summit Of The Gods vol 2 (£14-99, Fanfare) by Yumemakura Baku & Jiro Taniguchi

Wishing you a ridiculously Merry Christmas, folks! Thanks for reading,


 – Stephen

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