Archive for January, 2011

Reviews January 2011 week four

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

 

Crickets #3 (£5-99) by Sammy Harkham…

“Awesome how much privacy we get in this house.”
“Uushuaptt!”
“What?”
SPIT.
“I said shut up you big baby.”
“Weird… I got three gray hairs.”
“My dad was gray by the time he was thirty…”
“I’m only twenty-seven!”
“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!”
“Sigh. He’s up.”
“EEGAH! What kind of kid is this? He wakes up at 4.30 for an hour then naps for forty-five minutes? He’s cursed.”
“It’s your turn.”
“No, yours!”
“WWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!”
“Shit.”

The first thing you notice with CRICKETS #3 is that, in a sense, it’s almost completely in reverse. Not in a manga right-to-left way, but the first page is actually a letters or more precisely letter page, also featuring an obituary of sorts to “Good Cartoonists Gone” with a thumbnail of which publication they were last seen in and when. Also, a brief gag strip. The letter is actually quite hilarious, from someone who seems to have had his mind blown by CRICKETS #2 and went from wanting to rip it up after the first read (“What the hell is wrong with this book? Why does it exist? Where did it come from? Whose fucking depths of subconscious were plunged to create something like this?”)… to absolutely worshipping it after a second subsequent read… (“I love this book now. It has confounded me, eluded my every attempt to understand, to even classify it as a traditional narrative. I don’t know what in the name of Christ it actually is… I probably never will.”).

Then we have two supplementary strips, firstly an excellent four-pager about a philandering professor, and then a one-pager about Sammy meeting fellow comics creator Frank S. Santoro, before we finally get to the main forty-two page story. Seems a strange way to me to go about laying out a comic, but who am I to argue with Mr. Harkham, the editor of arguably the most avant-garde comics anthology series in KRAMER’S ERGOT, volume 7 of which was so large it had to be hand-bound… and also required a bin bag to carry it in. Good grief, the man even persuaded Chris Ware to write a happy ending!! Well, sort of. There are rumours that volume 8, which I’m neither going to confirm nor deny starting, will come with fold-out legs to double as the world’s first true coffee-table book…

Hmm, I seem to be digressing like Ronnie Corbett on speed now, so I’d better get back to the review of the main story, which is entitled Blood Of The Virgin and features Seymour who works for the mildly odious Val Reed, owner of Reverie Inter Films, making very, very low-budget horror films indeed. There’s the first neat flourish of many as Sammy works the story-title splash-panel, featuring the film title, into the third page of the story, exactly as it would appear to a cinema-goer.

Seymour longs to be allowed to direct a film, any film, but deep down he knows Val’s promises of a bright future are hollow, and he’s going to be stuck splicing together bits of ad hoc footage for some time to come unless something drastic changes. Meanwhile his first child, born a fervent insomniac it would appear, seems to be causing friction aplenty in the marital household. Consequently relations are a little strained between Seymour and his wife, but that still doesn’t excuse his somewhat laissez-faire approach to his marriage vows. He has an eye for the ladies and it would seem at least one or two of them have an eye for him, despite his rather dodgy moustache. Still, it is 1973’s L.A. so I guess we can forgive him that, if nothing else.

CRICKETS is absolutely everything outstanding contemporary fiction should be: completely believable characters with understandable motivations, and also the situations that bring out the best and worst in them. And in the hands of a great writer like Sammy, all he needs is the everyday and indeed outright banality of a life (just a little bit) less lived and unfulfilled in Seymour, which is redolent of much of the world population’s I’m sure, to create a riveting story. Plus he artfully weaves in little frissons of the bitchiness and seediness of the movie world, particularly on its rather tattered fringes where Seymour operates. After all, horror this low-grade is barely one step up from porn in the cinematic pecking order.

I really like Sammy’s art style which reminds me in places of Chester Brown and also Daniel Clowes with its warmth and ever so slightly cartoonish aspect, particularly visible in people’s features. It demonstrates that you really don’t need that much detail to express every conceivable emotion. LOUIS RIEL in particular sprang to mind as a comparison with Chester Brown. He also masterfully shows other elements of compositional technique such as how changing the size of panels over a two-page sequence can really add an extra layer to the sense and pace of the narrative. Indeed one of my favourite sequences is Seymour quickly whipping up a chicken dish shown in miniature panels right at the bottom of a page, after having carrying his exhausted wife through to the kitchen, starting from a really large panel splash-scene of her lying near comatose on the lounge couch, in the midst of total toddler-related devastation on the opposing page.

The relative simplicity of the art means you frequently spot these devices as he’s employing them whereas sometimes with more complex art styles your attention is entirely focused on the pen and ink work. And I mean this as a compliment because it’s great to see someone so visibly expressing the story and bringing apparently mundane sequences to life and not just flatly presenting it panel by panel. Great stuff. I finished CRICKETS #3 wanting much more of Seymour’s story. I have no idea whether Sammy plans to continue it in future issues at some point but I rather hope so. We still have in stock POOR SAILOR by the same creator too.

JR

Tricked h/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Alex Robinson.

Warning: once you dive in, you won’t come up for air until it’s all over. It won’t let you, however hard you kick.

Ray, an ex-member of The Tricks, seems to be surfing on a wave of critical acclaim that has only swelled since the band dissolved and his solo album rocketed to the top of the charts. His fame is at an all-time high, and he has more money than he knows what to do with. But although his management guilefully plays the press to shroud Ray in tantalising secrecy, the stark truth is that he hasn’t written a decent song in five years, and any talk of a second album is a lie. Caprice is a lovely sort of girl working in a diner owned and run by Richard and Frank. She deserves a better class of boyfriend. Someone who’d really look after her, because that last guy was a nightmare, as everyone knows. Phoebe is a young girl embarking on a journey to find someone she barely remembers, but her fear almost forces her to turn back prematurely. Every morning, Nick leaves his wife and child to go to work. They think he’s rising up a corporate ladder, but he’s actually working at a small collectors’ shop dealing in signed sports merchandise, grubbily forging those signatures on demand, in the back. His boss isn’t all he appears to be, either, and what looks merely seedy is about to become dangerous. Steve’s one of those nightmare muso obsessives, who works in an office whilst secretly sneering at his peers. But behind his elitism is an altogether more worrying temperament, a complete lack of self-awareness, and a medical condition you’ll soon wish he took more seriously. And Lily works for the record company Ray is signed up to – and speaking of signing, Nick’s not the only forger. She works a machine which mechanically replicates Ray’s autograph on all the photos the team sends out to fans. But when the machine breaks down, a chance encounter with Ray outside his manager’s office will change everyone’s lives, one way or the other.

Fifty chapters count down to collision, as six seemingly separate threads tangle themselves in falsehood, bad decisions and, in one case, outright misanthropy. It’s a huge book (incredible value for money), orchestrated to perfection, with some clever visual tricks and far more surprises than I’ve even begun to let on. Plus we have a new contender for the most convincingly hateful character in comics, to vie with Chris Ware’s Rusty Brown from ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY.

Recommended to anyone who likes to see real relationships in play, and from the creator of BOX OFFICE POISON and MORE BOX OFFICE POISON, this brand-new cover is the best of three yet.

LINK

SLH

Orc Stain vol 1 (£13-50, Image) by James Stokoe ~

There’s the general consensus that Scott Pilgrim was the forerunner of a new wave of American comics and that his peers, Reyyy, Brandon Graham, James Stokoe, etc. were riding in the wake of Bryan’s success. But that just doesn’t wash with me, I prefer to think of Scott Pilgrim as the first hit in a powerful combo and if that’s the case then be ready for a pummelling with ORC STAIN. James’ art defies conventional analysis. I am aghast at the level of detail here, I don’t think I’ve ever read an artist’s work that can match the scale of this yet retain the nuances needed to distinguish his characters. James does, and with concepts which rip up the conventional trappings of fantasy genre. In fact there is little to relate James’ work to that of his peers until you read the dialogue, which is as fast-paced, imaginative, and rife with inventive references as anything by Brandon Graham or Bryan Lee O’Malley. If KING CITY was Hard Boiled Hip Hop, then ORC STAIN is a Spaghetti Conan by way of Terry Gilliam with a script by an early John Carpenter.

In the beginning there were Orc; an indomitable convulsing infection on the world. In a constant state of war and looting they were their own worst enemy, too motivated by base greed and lust for nymphs to be organized into a lasting empire. Until now. In the southern jungles an Orc with a bigger Gronch than any other has risen to unify the tribes and rule the world. He is the Orc Tzar, and he searches for the Ganga Gronch, a lost organ of a forgotten god, to ensure his dominance over all Orc kind. In the northern mountains a skilled thief called One Eye literally cracks safes with his unique skill to see the fault line in anything, wrecking untold damage with his small (yet perfectly crafted) hammer. And while he’s used to the double-crossing ways of his less gifted ilk, when a blood feud over a few chits descends into a rampaging mob cutting into his bath time, and mysterious, bearded ninjas begin throwing every one-eyed Orc in the Mountains into living death camps, One Eye’s salvation may lie in the biggest threat to his Gronch of all: Bowie Enocraz Yaramund, Poison Thrower, Swamp Ramba, She-Devil. You’re probably wondering what the hell Gronch and chits are. Well if it isn’t completely evident with the first few pages James has included a wonderful, illustrated glossary of Orc terms. Complete with a stomach-churning depiction of how chits are made from an Orc’s Gronch. You will wince.

LINK

TFR

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

“Fire up that Space Gas of yours — I want to get seriously abstract.”

Family squabbles overwhelm any attempt to maintain international law and order at the very top of the law-and-order chain, in a sci-fi/wry-guy/spy-die bacchanal that involves time, space, mail order brides (3) plus a lost relic of World War II in the form of a giant Japanese robot, its original creators and their horny young grandson.

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.

The first chapter was like six issues of Ellis’ NEXTWAVE compressed into one: bombastic, breathless, and without a care in the world for being credible – just clever and conceited, just like its protagonists. Brilliant, and he does still write them like he used to. Also: rude. Here’s the Japanese couple’s grandson, defending his honour, and that of his three brides:

“Ah-ah. my love. A man must be able to defend his wife.”
“Wife?! Awesome.”
“That’s right. All these women will be my brides. I met them on the internet and traded them my family robot for their maiden-heads.”
“Hope you kept the receipt, guy. Only Manhattan has bigger tunnels.”

He’s talking about his sister!

New series now started: see January Reviews week three.

LINK

SLH

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

“Not gonna lie… Going to one’s own funeral is a pretty fucked up experience. Especially when you don’t know anyone there.”

It’s that third sentence that clinches it. From the writer of Forgetless, EXISTENCE 2.0 / 3.0 and SHUDDERTOWN, yet another series rammed to the rafters with ideas. So often I’ve seen an intriguing concept let down by a failure to follow through, to extrapolate from that central conceit, but not here.

Mark lives in a world where you can buy your way into an infinite number of realities by trading with unlimited variations of yourself. You don’t change your body like you can in SURROGATES, you change its existence, its life: your environment, history and so potentially future, and Mark is a bit of an addict. He averages 9.7 life changes per day. He’s restless, thoughtless and indeed feckless, always ending up in the same dead-end job with ruined relationships and feels the need to press the virtual reset button again and so start afresh.

The only version of him that has ever found happiness is the one who ditched college to start a surf shop in Fiji, and even that was on his roommate’s advice. Mark knows this because he’s now met him on a ‘lifeshare’ – an Infinite Vacation where you don’t take over your counterpart’s life, you visit for a nose around and maybe a confab. Here they are, lying on the beach in front of the most spectacular sunset:

“I know what your problem is, dude.”
“You do?”
“Yeah, all you guys, it’s the same thing. I mean, hell, man, when’s it gonna be enough? You got yourself so hooked on infinity, this bullshit they feed you about how you can ‘have anything – live everything’. Fuck that, man – you’re so obsessed with having everything, you can’t enjoy anything! My advice? Just find one thing, dude. Find that one thing that makes your life worth more than you can put up for sale on your phone, and give that everything you got. You hearin’ me?”
“…”
“Ah, fuck it, man. What do I know? Come on, let’s hit a wave.”

Two days later, he’s dead, shot in a robbery gone wrong. You can’t take an Infinite Vacation from death, but one doubts that that version of Mark would have wanted to. At least he died happy. Unfortunately that single Mark is not alone. A lot of Marks seem to be winding up dead. You can keep track of that, you know.

“Google makes this really nice RSS news aggregator that helps you keep rack of what happens to you everywhere.”

Of course it does! However fascinating it may be keeping up to date on news fed from other people’s websites, you’d be riveted keeping track of what’s happening in your counterparts’ lives! Yeah, you would. They’re essentially you. And that’s what I mean about extrapolation. That and the fact that your ideal therapist would be a version of yourself (“No one knows you like you, right?”).

There’s so much going on here. I haven’t even mentioned the Deadenders – that rare 3% of the world’s population who haven’t given in to giving in and jettisoning the lives they’ve worked so hard at for the sake of any easy fix and a brand new existence they played no part in building. I love a work of art that makes me think: that makes me question its society and characters in a way that has implications for my own. And I admire the mind that can make me do that. I’m also a sucker for a ridiculously complex mystery like the film Memento, and when you hit the final page here I think you’ll be hooked as well.

I spotted Nick Spencer in the very first preview of EXISTENCE 2.0 long, long ago, but as I wrote up above, you just don’t know if someone can actually deliver on their promise. This is his finest, most sophisticated conceit yet and, several projects completed, I now trust Nick Spencer 100%.

Watercolour washes with a break for a photographic marketing pitch.

SLH

Age Of Reptiles Omnibus vol 1 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Ricardo Delgado.

Ah, the beauty of these beasts! And in full, lambent colour too!

Ever since I can recall dinosaurs have seemed to me the coolest, most thrilling creatures imaginable, and they actually existed! They weren’t invented by Giger, Ray Harryhausen or the Ancient Egyptians. Okay, some were invented by Victorian fraudsters but we know about those now. We’re not short of the exotic here in the present – though Lord knows we’re doing our best to fix that fast – but the creatures back then of land, air and sea were wondrous and majestic and scary as all get out. Bloody enormous too.

Here they’re brought to animated life and set at each others throats by Ricardo Delgado who choreographs the stories in a series of silent ballets over 350 clean-lined pages. The eagle-eyed predators hunt solo or swarm in vast packs, skittering and scampering and launching themselves in the air. Their eyes blaze with hunger, guile and the certainty that they are superior to their prey. Pterodactyls dive in dog-fights through clouds. Fully aquatic crocodiles of the deep rise to the surface to thrash it out against ambitious intruders, and Delgado’s keen eye for drama ensures that there are shocks aplenty.

The environments are awe-inspiring as well, and if my geology was better I could describe its variety in greater detail: giant arches throwing afternoon shadows, vast sandstone towers rising in front of a mushrooming cloud, or a gigantic, skeletal rib cage turned into a last-stand arena.

This isn’t Steve Bissette’s TYRANT. There’s no attempt to say anything more profound than dog eat dog, survival of the fittest or it sucks to be a herbivore. But there are few graphic novels which you can open up on any page – any page at all – and come away so immediately impressed. It’s basically a great big bag of shiny, multicoloured marbles. Take just one look and your eyes will be shiny too.

LINK

SLH

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

All-ages iconoclasm or – if I really wanted to worry you – South Park for kids.

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 and bedroom wall. The aliens running the videogame rental store think they have an impenetrable disguise; actually they wouldn’t even pass as scarecrows. Also: they’ve accidentally downloaded the secret code to their Deadly Device Of Doom into one of their games. Guess who rented it out?

Pilot and Huxley are in for one hell of a journey and a whole lot of snot as the Grim Reaper is dispatched to collect their fine for being a week overdue, whilst they are dispatched to another dimension swamping with bees (sic) where Huxley is the ultimate swearword, sea monsters cough up stray pirates and it’s possible to die of birth.

“Ignore my friend, he suffers from Stupid.”

So does this book – the kids will love it.

LINK

SLH

Battlefields vol 6: Motherland (£9-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun…

Following on from the reprise of the crew of volume 2’s TANKIES in BATTLEFIELDS VOL 5: THE FIREFLY AND HIS MAJESTY here we have a second outing for volume 1’s Night Witches, which despite sounding like it could be an yet another Andrew Eldritch side-project, refers to the female Russian pilots who became much feared by the German Luftwaffe for their daring exploits on late-night bombing raids often using slow moving, indeed near obsolete aeroplanes whose sole advantage was their manoeuvrability and stealth.

This volume follows the further exploits of Lieutenant Anna Borisnova Kharkova, one of the few survivors from volume one, as she adjusts to life in a new all-male regiment having been booted out of her own. The only things she seems have brought with her are the voice of a dearly departed comrade talking to her in her few quiet moments, and a near death-wish whilst up in the skies. The objective remains the same though: kill as many Germans as she can and defend the motherland at all cost. Still, as she warms to the kindly nature of her widowed commanding officer, who in turn gently rebuffs her advances saying he can’t think of romance until the war is over, and the Nazis who murdered his wife driven from the motherland’s soil, she finally seems to have a reason to take a little more care for her own wellbeing.

The inevitable of course happens, leaving Anna with more hate than ever in her heart for the Nazis. I could be wrong but I get the feeling there may well be another volume of BATTLEFIELDS featuring our fearsome female flyer yet to come, as this volume has more the tone of a bridging story rather than a concluding one. Top-notch war comics once again from Ennis, who understands a good story is mainly about the characters, not merely the action.

LINK

JR

Rat Catcher h/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Andy Diggle & Victor Ibanez…

“They think you killed their friends. Waving that gun around isn’t likely to convince them otherwise.”
“I didn’t kill any anybody. I was set up. It was an inside job. That’s why I ran, went underground. Tried to dig out the truth.”
“Then you’re talking to the right guy, but you know as well as I do, son, this thing isn’t going to get resolved right here and now. Come in with me. There’s a hot cup of coffee and a change of clothes for you in Washington. What do you say?”
“Honestly? I’ll be glad to stop running.”
“Attaboy. Now let’s get you…”

PTCHOWW

That was the sound of the FBI boss’ head exploding in case you’re wondering, courtesy of a high velocity sniper rifle which ensures Agent Lynch’s problems are going to continue for a little while longer at least. This is the ninth offering on Vertigo’s Crime imprint which still continues to baffle me like a clueless cop based on the inconsistency of the evidence presented to me so far.

After the truly excellent and original A SICKNESS IN THE FAMILY here we have a run-of-the-mill crime story from Andy Diggle about a mythical criminal figure talked about in law enforcement circles, called the Rat Catcher. This shadowy figure, who most people don’t believe actually exists, may well be responsible for several apparently ordinary deaths of various turncoats in the witness protection programme.

Of course the Rat Catcher is all too real and in fact he’s been covertly whacking people with the stealth and guile worthy of a master ninja for decades, but sadly we never get any real suspense built up because the perpetrator is revealed to us, the readers, all too quickly. Obviously it has to be an inside job, and clearly it’s not Agent Lynch whose been conveniently fingered by the real rotten apple when an attempt to silence yet another blabbermouth goes somewhat awry.

Diggle provides a competent plot, but given the pointlessly early reveal it’s become no more than the usual consequent set pieces, albeit stitched together neatly enough. So… good guy gets set up, good guy goes on the run, good guy tries to turn himself in but it all goes horribly wrong requiring him to go on the run again (see above); good guy realises he needs to confront the only person who conveniently has something on the Rat Catcher, brief interlude where disposable additional cop character realises who the Rat Catcher is and gets whacked, and then the final confrontation between the various parties.

It’s all right, but I know Diggle can write so much better stuff than this. And with a few more twists and turns and some rat-like stealth, this could have been great. Still, I think Vertigo has finally realised the ‘crime’ of its imprint shouldn’t actually refer to its quality of art, for Ibanez’s stands up very well compared to some of the truly awful work in one or two of the earlier volumes.

JR

Dark Ivory vol 1: Blue Blood (£10-99, Image) by Joseph Michael Linsner, Eva Hopkins & Linsner.

“Tranq you for the music!”

That one’s sat in drafts page for a good two or three years.

New work from Dawn’s Jo Michael Linsner. Let’s take a look at the warning signs which 17-year-old Ivory Fontaine, fluent in French, ignored:

1. He calls himself Xander. And it’s at that point you tell someone to piss off, but still…
2. They met in a Goth nightclub where instead of kissing her hand, he licked it.
3. He gave her an exclusive pass to a club called La Petite Mort which no one has ever heard of.
4. He takes her upstairs at La Petite Mort and offers her a pill.

It’s at this point in the create-your-own-story book which is your life that you either decline and move on to page 40, or you swallow the pill and skip to its tattered appendices. Ivory swallows the pill.

It’s only then that she notices there’s a disproportionate amount of neck-biting in evidence, but instead of Xander leaping on Ivory like a parched Klaus Kinski, he lets her bite him. A couple of days later and Ivory wakes from her nightmarish visions to find blood on her hands, blood on her face, and blood on the carpet. Along with her mother. Good job her best friend’s boyf is a vampire. He’ll know what to do.

Yeah, that leap lurched out at me too. Time for a secret origin, a chat about relative ethics and a drive back to La Petite Mort because Sally’s boyf, Esque, thinks it’s the key to his own vampire visions. It is, but he’s in for a big disappointment, whereas Ivory discovers that nothing in her life – including the last few days – has been anything like what it seemed.

Linsner fans know what they like, and what they like is Jo Michael Linsner’s art. The paint and pastels doesn’t rock my own Stygian rowboat but I can see its appeal, so there you merrily go. The dialogue, on the other hand, is in a melodramatic class of its own. It’s called 12b English, and you’ll find it three doors down from the Principal’s office.

LINK

SLH

Dawn vol 3: Three Tiers (£12-99, Image) by Joseph Michael Linsner. 

“In a post-apocalyptic Europa, Dawn leads New York warrior through wars, disasters and fire. His dangerous liaisons bring him up against the three faces of the Goddess. Is Dawn a virgin, queen or whore? Is Darrian the earthly manifestation of Death, the Horned God? On his quest for Dawn, Darrian faces dragons, duels and shatters mirrors.”

He could probably get into trouble trying to find marmalade in Asda. Fully painted rock goth fantasy, with a whole heap of soul searching.

LINK

SLH

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

The dark reign of Osborn is over. In the wake of SIEGE, former Captain America, Commander Steve Rogers, has been given carte blanche over U.S. national security and set up three teams of Avengers. This is the one he’s chosen to lead himself. With tactical operations run by former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and love interest Sharon Carter, this is the covert squad using stealth tactics for pre-emptive strikes, for taking out threats before they become unmanageable and removing items from the board before they are turned into Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Given the Avengers’ history with Roxxon Inc. that’s where Steve starts looking, sending the Black Widow and Valkyrie to infiltrate their Dubai operations by posing as call girls. In the past Roxxon’s 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, and it may be part of a set.

Time to assemble a much larger squad for a trip to Mars where Roxxon’s been drilling. The last Administration sold them mineral rights to the planet, but that’s not what they’ve been mining for. The operation went dead a month ago, their employees disappearing off the payroll without being made redundant. But someone else is there now, the Shadow Council, and one of those dressed in their dragon-decked uniform looks awfully familiar. What is the Shadow Council after? Why has Nova whom Steve sent ahead suddenly gone radio silent? Did he find what they were looking for first?

With his links to Captain America and his experience with superhero espionage (SLEEPER) it’s perfect that Brubaker’s on board. Plus Deodato (DARK AVENGERS) likes his shadows as much as his close-ups and there are plenty of both in evidence here. Their Beast in particular is a joy (“Once an Avenger and all that, right?”), and Steve, Sharon, Valkyrie and the Black Widow are backed up by Moon Knight, War Machine and the current Antman so Brubaker is following Bendis’ lead by giving us a fresh dynamic for a story absolutely steeped in Marvel history without getting bogged down by it, instead moving it along several stages.

Finally there’s a much wider mystery, a much longer game being played, as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s and Steve’s own histories comes back to haunt them in the form of someone or something who knows far too much.

LINK

SLH

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

So Steve Rogers has leapt back through the revolving door that is Marvel and DC’s death portal – largely through not being dead in the first place (see CAPTAIN AMERICA: REBORN) – but he’s not about to take back the uniform of Captain America from Bucky Barnes yet. Instead he’s caught up in a mystery leaked by Pete Wisdom involving the supposed abuse of the super-soldier serum that was lost when its creator died and never worked on anyone else again. But it seems the legacy lives on in the form of Professor Jacob Erskine, grandson of the formula’s original inventor, and Steve fights desperately to avoid the serum found in the bloodstream of Erskine’s bodyguards falling into the hands of the likes of Al Qaeda as it’s put on sale to the highest overseas bidder.

“Shall we start the bidding at one hundred million per vial?”

What is Jacob Erksine even thinking of? How is his young wife a dead ringer for one of Rogers’ old flames from WWII?

I’ll tell you this much (which I rarely do): it’s a set-up. But its mechanics and main goal are cleverer than you can conceive. With help from SECRET AVENGERS’ 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 Steve Rogers storyline either in Captain America or SECRET AVENGERS themselves. I never place bets with an empty hand.

LINK

SLH

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

From the writer of Daredevil comes more DAREDEVIL. Shouldn’t this be in DAREDEVIL?

Oh wait, Marvel have changed that to BLACK PANTHER, MAN WITHOUT FEAR, a move met with unanimous derision and contempt. Shame (and I really do mean, the shame!) because this is perfectly fine with a final page laid out like Frank Miller might have.

Matthew Murdock has fallen from grace, in his own eyes especially. He inflicted huge pain on a community he swore he’d protect so has left Hell’s Kitchen and the city altogether to wander The Badlands. Obviously (obviously) the town we now join him in is simmering with secrets and they don’t take kindly to strangers. Cue conflict and a quick internet search to discover the FBI is convinced Matthew’s Daredevil. They’ve just never been able to prove it.

Gianfelice bring a Vertigo sensibility to the art. I do like his waves of hair and as I say the final page silhouetted against a full moon leaps out at you. Whether Diggle can turn perfectly fine into anything new I don’t yet know.

SLH

Leviathan s/c (£13-99, 2000AD) by Ian Edginton & D’Israeli >

Even by 2000AD’s standards, the basic set-up for this one is ludicrous – the Leviathan is a ship several times bigger than the Titanic, from around the same period; essentially a floating city, which doesn’t just sink, but disappears. It has of course sailed into some form of Hell-dimension, and if the various upper crust caricatures in the luxury accommodation weren’t already scared of the lower orders, well, they’d have good reason to be now the forces of this dimension have started changing them.

And in so far as the writing addresses the class system, well, it seems to have come from My First Book Of Marxism. Proceedings are salvaged by glimmers of wit and bloodthirsty humour, and most of all by D’Israeli’s black & white art, which has the perfect blend of solidity and spookiness. He makes you believe in the impossible ship, the absurd characters, the predictable predicament, and more than that, he makes you care. Still a good job that they wrapped this one up, though; it worked as a one-off, but had it become an unnecessarily ongoing series, no artist on Earth could have rescued it.

Alex Sarll

Usagi Yojimbo Special Edition Boxed Set (£75-00, Fantagraphics) by Stan Sakai.

All seven of Fantagraphics’ softcovers collecting Stan Sakai’s earliest work in two big hardcovers set in a slipcase.

High-quality paper and printing, an extensive, illustrated interview, plus a complete cover gallery including those for ALEBEDO and CRITTERS. Also far cheaper than buying the softcovers separately which are rarely in print at the same time.

Usagi Yojimbo is a ronin rabbit wandering the feudal Japanese countryside and fighting for what’s right. I’m reliably informed by dojo botherers that it’s remarkably authentic in both terminology and tradition, except for the fact that feudal Japan wasn’t full of walking, talking bunnies, hippos and pigs.

One introduction by Stan Lee, the other from Stan Sakai.

SLH

Death Note Black Edition vol 1 (£10-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata.

First two books in one wider, taller, broader, better-value-for-money edition with a gorgeous new cover and black-stained fore-edge for maximum mortality!

Bored and pampered ace student Light Yagami takes it upon himself to clean up the world when he happens upon a demonic notebook – the Death Note. All he has to do is write down the name of his victim and picture them in his mind and within 40 seconds they die of cardiac arrest. A prospect that at first sickens him, but which he soon relishes as he starts a “righteous” crusade, offing hundreds of criminals in days. Which of course attracts the attention of Interpol who send their best agent to investigate, a man known only as “L”.

Life and death in the hands of a mere teenage boy, but how can Light guard against an enemy out to stop him if he doesn’t know his true name? Crisp art and a simple, solid concept make this horror-come-espionage twist the most original vigilante-themed series in a good long time.

TFR

Shaman King vol 32 (£7-50, Viz) by Hiroyuki Takei.

Last in the series.

LINK

SLH

(Hey, I’ll take credit for anything.)

Also Arrived:

(Oh, reviews will indeed follow for many of these, whilst some may already exist if they were originally hardcovers. Or, in the case of SWAMP THING, if they were originally softcovers. Just use our search engine!)

King Of The Flies vol 2: The Origin Of The World h/c (£13-99, Fantagraphics) by Pirus & Mezzo
The Technopriests vol 1 (£10-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Zoran Janjetov
The Technopriests vol 2 (£10-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Zoran Janjetov
Sandman vol 4: Season Of Mists (New Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Neil Gaiman, Kelley Jones, Harlan Ellison, Mike Dringenberg, Kelley Jones
The Killer vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon
The Last Unicorn h/c (£18-99, IDW) by Peter S. Beagle, Peter B. Gillis & Renae De Liz
Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Alan Moore & Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Stan Woch, Rick Veitch, Ron Randall, Alfredo Alcala, Tom Mandrake
Jack Of Fables vol 8: The Fulminate Blade (£10-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges & Tony Akins, Jim Fern
Blecky Yuckerella: Fuc* **u, *ss**le (£8-99, Fantagraphics) by Johnny Ryan
Stigmata h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Claudio Piersanti & Lorenzo Mattotti
Graveyard Book s/c (£5-99, Harper) by Neil Gaiman
Good Eggs h/c (£17-99, Harper Collins) by Phoebe Potts
Hulk: The End s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Peter David & George Perez, Dale Keown
New Avengers: Siege s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Daniel Acuna, Mike McKone, Bryan Hitch, Mike Mayhew, Marko Djurdjevic, more
Secret Warriors vol 3: Wake The Beast s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Alessandro Vitti, Gianluca Gugliotta
Avengers vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & John Romita Jr.
Avengers Academy vol 1: Permanent Record h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Mike McKone, Jorge Molina
Incredible Hulks: Dark Son h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak, Scott Reed & Tom Raney, Barry Kitson, Brian Ching
Spider-Man: The Gauntlet vol 4: Juggernaut s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Roger Stern, Fred Van Lente & Michael Gaydos, Lee Weeks
Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man: Spectacular (£7-50, Marvel) by Paul Tobin & Roberto Di Salvo, Jacopo Camagni, Ronan Cliquet
Batman Vs. The Undead (£10-99, DC) by Kevin VanHook & Tom Mandrake
Superman: Last Stand Of New Krypton vol 2 h/c (£14-99, DC) by James Robinson & Sterling Gates
Star Wars: Dark Times vol 4: Blue Harvest (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mick Harrison & Douglas Wheatley
Spice & Wolf vol 3 (£9-99, Yen) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume
No Touching At All (£9-99, Yen) by Kou Yoneda
XOXO Hugs and Kisses: 30 Postcards restocks (£7-50, Chronicle) by James Jean
Batgirl: Redemption (£14-99, DC) by Adam Beechen & J. Calafiore
Tank Girl: The Odyssey Remastered (£10-99, Titan) by Jamie Hewlett & Peter Milligan
Stargazer vol 1 (£10-99, Von Allan) by Von Allan
Bakuman vol 3 (£7-50, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata
D. Gray-Man vol 20 (£7-50, Viz) by Katsura HoshinoBlack Cat vol 2 (£5-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 3 (£5-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Highschool Of The Dead vol 1 (£10-50, Yen) by Daisuke Sato & Shouji Sato

Bit of a treat next week as we have a review from the most erudite amongst us, young Jhelisa Taylor. Took her six bloody months, mind! Ah, that first year at university…

First Hundred Days

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

 

Who’s been knock, knock knocking on our website’s door? That’s what’s had our Jonathan obsessed since October as, like some invisible yet benevolent spider, he tracks each pull on the virtual thread and finds we’re not yet banned in China. Must try harder. Welcome to our parlour.

 

By the Power Of Google Analytics!

Okay, it’s not quite as catchy as by the Power Of Greyskull, but hey, who really needs a catchphrase anyway?

So… on the 27th January the new Page 45 website will have been up and running for 100 days.

Whilst not quite as important an event on the world stage as Napoleon Bonaparte’s ‘Hundred Days’ grand hurrah in 1815 marking the time between his return from exile on the island of Elba to Paris on 20th March 1815 and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8th July 1815 (actually 111 days if we’re being pedantic), or indeed even the start of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 administration resulting in the so called ‘New Deal’ and actually leading to the adoption of the term ‘The First Hundred Days’ now used by the media to comment upon an incoming President’s early achievements, our own first hundred days of wondrous new webbery have thrown up some statistics I thought I might spin your way. Cue the Page 45 anthem as performed by Duran Duran, unfurl and hoist our leafy flag up the pole and let the propaganda commence…

So far, we’ve have over 12,000 unique visitors to our new site, with over a 100,000 page views in total. The typical time spent on the site is averaging out at approximately five minutes. And the percentage of the daily visitors which are first timers has remained almost exactly at a very respectable 65%. So the amount of total daily traffic is continuing to maintain a steady, almost linear increase. Not a bad start at all.

But it’s where some of our visitors (and orders) are coming from that’s raised a few chuckles.

Whilst, as you would expect, the UK is the most common place for someone to be viewing our site from, we have now had visitors from 127 countries. Now given that – depending on your political point of view (Tibet is a sovereign state in my mind) – there there are 193 countries in the world, this means we’ve had visitors to our site from almost exactly two-thirds of the world in merely our first three months, including some pretty obscure places: Albania, Botswana, the Philippines, Guatemala, Iraq, Mongolia… Yeah, you read that right, Mongolia.

In some ways it’s actually easier to say where we haven’t had a visit from. We’ve now had visits from every single state in the US with the high plains of Wyoming finally succumbing last week, but in Central and South America there is only French Guiana, in Asia only Burma, in Australasia only Papua New Guinea, and in the northern hemisphere pretty much only Greenland that haven’t paid us a visit yet! In fact when you seriously look at where we haven’t had visitors from yet, the vast majority of the countries are in the sub-Saharan African belt, which is quite understandable.

Looking at the ranking table of most visits by country throws up some interesting facts too. Whilst the UK is top by some distance, it’s followed by the US, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and Australia (in that order), and then comes… Bermuda. Stand up and take a bow, Marcus Cooper! Are you actually getting any work done, mate, or do you just spend all day browsing our website?!! Brazil and Italy then round out the top ten countries. And occasionally you can tie up a specific customer to a specific location which is nice. For example I could see that we had been getting a few visits from Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia for the geographically challenged amongst you), and it subsequently turned out that a long-standing Page 45 customer is currently living out there and still wants to put his custom our way!

In terms of visits from within the UK you might expect Nottingham to come in the top slot but – almost certainly due to sheer size – it is in fact London in first place, followed by Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham then Nottingham, with Glasgow, Bristol, Derby and Edinburgh rounding out the top ten. You know, I’m sure there are actually some comic shops in London and Leeds…

One of the healthiest signs for me in terms of future growth are the actual sources of traffic. Obviously when we first started it was almost 100% direct traffic, i.e. people typing www.page45.com directly into their browser, but we’ve seen a massive increase in the amount of search engine traffic and referred traffic from sites like twitter, facebook and creators’ own blogs. Thank you, one and all! And, err, please keep them coming. It now currently breaks down to 40% direct traffic, 40% from search engines and 20% referring sites.

Clearly there will come a point when this statistical set will hit equilibrium as new visitors come back directly to the site, but the amount of people finding us for the first time through searching for a specific product on Google is very, very encouraging and now in the hundreds per day. I probably don’t even need to add that Scott Pilgrim is the most searched-for term that’s led people to our website, although I am slightly disturbed to see how high “Jonathan Rigby” appears in that particular table! Seriously though, what’s with people in the US buying Scott Pilgrim posters from us?!

[Errr.. they’re exclusive to us..?  and - ed.]

But what’s really lovely to see is where someone from out there in the big wide world has searched for a specific graphic novel not riding particularly high on the cusp of current publicity and subsequently purchased it from us like Gary Spencer Millidge’s STRANGEHAVEN (that’d be New Zealand!) or a LIL’ ABNER collection (that’d be Spain!) or Dash Shaw’s THE UNCLOTHED MAN IN THE 35TH CENTURY A.D. (that be Germany!).

Obviously we want more traffic, more new visitors, and in the fullness of time more web orders, but still it’s a very positive start. If you’d have said two-thirds of the world would have come and had a look at the website of any comic shop after just one hundred days, I’d said you were mad, but then, as in so many many other ways, Page 45 is not a normal comic shop so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised after all.

Finally I’ve big plans afoot for some improvements and tweaks later on this year, which Dominique and I covertly refer to in hushed whispers (when Stephen’s around) as ‘Phase 2’, but all in all I think The First Hundred Days report is a positive one. Hopefully enough to get me re-elected anyway!

 - Jonathan

Reviews January 2011 week three

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

 

Upgrade: because the on-sale date for all comics and graphic novels is now Wednesday, we can now give you the full list of all the books which have arrived each week underneath the main reviews every Wednesday. Though obviously we can’t review them in the eight hours before publishing here: we’re getting them out of the boxes, putting them on the shelves and popping ‘em in customer order files! Reviews will follow, my lovelies, fret ye not!

 

Emitown (18-99, Image) by Emi Lenox.

“I’m useless, but not for long, the future is comin’ on…”

Exhuberance, self-doubt, crazy coffee attacks, sleepless nights, the comfort of clothes, accosted by wonky-eyed weirdoes who want to bum a cigarette, and getting served last at a bar. Don’t you just hate that? These are the sort of things young Emi Lenox encountered on a daily basis for a year between 2009 and 2010. She loses her mobile, loses her house keys, loses her rag when someone insults her friends, but she never, ever loses her courage, optimism or glee. Hey, we all have our black-hearted days and so does Emi, but that’s what the Gorillaz are for, no?

The cartooning here is a black, white and blue/grey joy, laid out with plenty of space as Emi endures, stoically supported by a pair of belligerent cats in Dad’s Army helmets on the battlefield of love. It’s easy to see why Jeffrey Brown, Jeff Lemire and Brandon Graham all fell for these daily diary entries. There’s something more immediate compared to structured autobiography, with room for random reactions and idle speculation but also secretly heartfelt truths.

“I LOVE getting text messages! It means someone thought of you! Except a mass text… you’re just one of the herd… Jealous? Mmmhmm.”

Half the fun is the comfort of recognition – a little empathy goes a long way. I smiled quietly to myself during the dilemma of applying a band aid or allowing a wound to scab over, then when she daydreamed about the next installments of her favourite graphic novels. She’s not short of original material, either!

“This morning when I got to my car there was a napkin under my windshield wiper that someone wrote “I’m sorry…” [on]. Who left it? Why are they sorry? Was it mistakenly put on my car? Oh the mystery.”

We owe yet another great debt to Top Shelf here for Lenox spent time as an intern there and it was Chris Staros’ co-publisher Brett Warnock who first persuaded her to pop these beauties online.

Indeed, there’s no substitute for seeing for yourself, so here’s a rare, external link: EmiTown: All is Well that Ends Well.

Shop link: LINK

SLH

Timularo: The Complete Collected Timulo (Page 45 2nd Special Edition, Sketched & Signed) by Molly Eyre & D’Israeli D’Emon Draughtsman A.K.A. Matt Brooker.

Oh, my days!

As I suspected, this paragraph has already required a substantial re-write because the first run of this special edition, exclusive to Page 45 and limited to ten copies, sold out in under a minute. One single minute! Here then, is our second edition expanded to 45 copies with a subtle change in colour scheme, a more revealing back cover and a brand new self-portrait for the frame surrounding the original sketches. We deliberately previewed this new edition in a letter column first then let it air on the shop floor for a week, so at the time of going to press there are already fewer than fifteen left. Please hurry!

Exclusive to Page 45, then: a brand-new variant cover set outside this very shop with Page 45 logos hidden all over the place. Inside, each signed and numbered copy comes with an original, hand-drawn sketch, and they are beautiful! I said to Matt, “Three lines approximating a face would be awesome” but Matt doesn’t actually do short-cuts, it seems. Let me repeat: a full-page, original sketch. D’Israeli D’one us proud and at no extra cost to you.

As to the contents, this is the first-ever collection of the classic, wit-ridden TIMULO strips that graced DEADLINE MAGAZINE some 20 years ago and helped it impress upon a music-loving world previously unused to comics exactly what they were missing out on. Possibly the finest reach-out programme of all time, DEADLINE was the indie music monthly which first played host to TANK GIRL, plus Nabiel Kanan’s EXIT also featured there.

For me TIMULO was in a world of its own – as, it seems, was Matt ‘D’Israeli’ Brooker, for there are so many comedic and sly slights of hand here which I will leave you to discover for yourselves. But right from the go it warned readers that it was blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, offering the surreal adventures of a doubtful Sheffield-based comicbook writer who’d retreated from the real world to one of his own imagination. There he was set at odds with Jehovah’s Witnesses visiting at 5am in his dreams then 7am in reality (charred) but backed up by a certain Mark E. DeSade (his pugilistic male power fantasy) and a Grim Reaper called Edgar who had “Here Is My Sting” engraved on his scythe in Runes.

Also in sporadic attendance: Hewie, Dewey and Glenys Nietzche, the same sort of Dadaist do-badders rendered in Cubism which would play so well for Grant Morrison in DOOM PATROL. They were destined to replace humanity, and dispatched only by extra-special delivery courtesy of a gun bearing the label, “In case of Darwinism, pull trigger!”

It’s like Roger Langridge (ART D’ECCO) meeting Paul Grist (KANE) in a Yorkshire coffee shop where they discover Grant Morrison serving Battenberg and that biting on a Bakewell Tart opens up an absurdist genie that no one can stuff back into the bottle. Thank goodness D’Israeli never cut back on the grilled cheese before bed time.

The strips are riddled with mischief, including extra text which circumscribes each individual page: first-hand advice from the artist to his individual readers making them aware of the fact that rotating the magazine (or here book) on a bus in order to read the inscriptions would make fellow passengers suspect that they were looking at pornography. Or lying about the eighth original sin. D’Israeli was a wealth of knowledge/disinformation again preying on the fine line between fact and fabrication and his own readers’ potential gullibility.

Also, who can forget the puns? Even the earlier, cruder and previously unpublished strips (do bear with it!) before the main event boast characters like Daffers D’Maurier and a planet called Dandeyre. I mean, who can argue with a title called ‘A Fistful Of Fingers’? Exhuberance is all, and this is that personified.

At £10-00 in any format this is ridiculously good value for your entertainment money: complete with so much previously unpublished material, it is dense rather than thick, bright whilst still being stoopid, and so many years ahead of its time at the time only readers of DEADLINE would get it, but got it they did. I got it then but I’ve got this too now. Now get it, got it?

Many, many thanks to D’Israeli for making Page 45 home to this special edition. It is everything we love: playing around with what comics can do, messing about with the minds of one’s readers, and doing so with a fiercely informed intelligence we sincerely wish we exhibited ourselves.

D’Israeli, you very much are D’a man!

SLH

Salvatore vol 1: Transports Of Love (£10-99, NBM) by Nicolas De Crécy…

I think perhaps this may well be Nicolas De Crécy’s finest work to date, once again featuring a whole host of anthropomorphic oddballs, including our central characters… the myopic, heavily pregnant sow Amandine and the reclusive kleptomaniacal canine mechanic Salvatore. Amandine’s short-sightedness provides us with frequent slapstick humour in addition to unexpected plot developments, whilst Salvatore’s pining for his distant love in South America provides us with the heart of our story.

Forced to resort to nefarious means to build the behemoth of a vehicle which will cross mountains and sea to reunite him with his love, always assuming her head hasn’t been turned by a handsome, Latin, canine lothario that is, Salvatore helps himself to vital parts from cars that customers have trustingly brought to him to repair. Unfortunately for Salvatore some of the parts he needs are rather rare, which in turn creates ever more elaborately ridiculous difficulties involved in acquiring them, and forces him to venture down from his mountain top garage into the city.

Meanwhile Amandine has given birth, not that she realises as she can’t even see the end of her nose never mind past it, after a rather spectacular journey of Clouseau-worthy clumsiness down from Salvatore’s garage, including her car ending up (briefly) on top of a flying plane. Sadly for Amandine one of her litter, Frank, subsequently goes missing, however happily for us it ensures he’ll have a story all of his own to tell, as he’s fortuitously found and adopted by a teenage Gothic feline.

This is whimsical story telling at its finest, always absurdly humorous yet supremely engaging.

Crecy’s loose art style allows him to create some truly crazy set-pieces with which to delight us, and also to warm our hearts. Will Amandine be reunited with her lost piglet Frank? Would she even be able to see him if she was!? And will Salvatore make it to South America into the waiting paws of his doggy damsel? Or will he arrive only to find she’s forgotten all about him, not unreasonably, given how inordinately long it’s taking him to build his transport de l’amour?!

JR

Casanova II: Gula #1 (£2-99, Icon/Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Fabio Moon.

“What the hell is “Zen Crime?””
“It’s like crime, only there’re no victims, and really, no crimes. It really just spreads a general sense of unrest.”

From the author of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN and one of the two Brazilian brothers responsible for DE: TALES and DAYTRIPPER, another blast of bombast and badinage so ridiculously dense in ideas and nomenclatural horseplay that you expect arch-neologist Grant Morrison to turn up any moment with a lexical injunction. Here be jargon, by George!

“I am the Supreme Director of E.M.P.I.R.E. – that’s why you’re handcuffed at the moment. My name is Cornelius Quinn. My son Casanova went missing from Timeline 919 while on a mission two years, two weeks, and two days ago. I’ve devoted what is, frankly, a ridiculous amount of time and energy following the breadcrumbs that led out of his disappearance. Breadcrumbs that led us to you, Miss Lisi. Missus Lisi?”
“Doctor. I have a PhD in Catastrophic Temporal Entropy Manipulation Theory.”
“What?”
“I’m a time traveller that loves to step on butterflies.”
“M.O.T.T.  – define it for me.”
“We’re the spacetime protectorate. We monitor the whole of the way things are and manipulate it for optimal results.”
“On whose authority?”
“In both literal and philosophical interpretations, I don’t think I’m qualified to accurately answer your question.”
“Why are you here?”
“There is a mystery in time – when is Casanova Quinn? – that we can’t answer. This cannot stand.”

I think they’ve just told you the plot. It took Fraction most of the first issue to get there, though, so don’t expect to be hand-held or patronised.

Meanwhile Casanova’s sister, Zephyr Quinn has been field tested by the bad guys (keep it simple, Stephen) for work on a hit list of everyone who knows of the H-Element Generator powered by the electromagnetic supercharge released upon dying, and the issue ends quite literally with a “Dum! Dumm! Dahhhhhhhh!!!” that may lead her to reconsider the gig.

Moon is on prime, Pope-esque form whilst Cris Peter (sic – no ‘h’) reserves colour for when it really counts, making you sit up and take notice. Lots of swagger, sex and the shooting of things. But when, exactly, is Casanova Quinn…?

Fascinating exchange between Fraction and Scott Pilgrim’s Bryan Lee O’Malley about the ways they’ve each changed over the last half dozen years, and the effect the last two books, a couple of moves and the Scott Pilgrim film itself have had on the poor Canadian. Imagine 30,000 followers on Twitter, all screaming at you at once. Probably not the best way to contact the man, and I’m never going to @ him again.

Review of vol one (back in stock!):

LINK

SLH

Chloe Noonan #3 (£3-99, self-published) by Marc Ellerby.

Meet Chloe Noonan: natural ginger, amateur ninja, professional whinger. Boy, does she whinge! On the other hand, she may have a point about tonight’s book launch as Zoe and Chloe sip steaming coffee and the Pozzy Pops wind down their gig. Here’s the author:

“I wanted to create a novella that isn’t read, rather you smell the scent of each packet and that creates the narrative derived from the connotation that each fragrance creates.”
“Is she serious?”
“Yeah, I think she is.”
“I don’t get it. They just smell like sandwich bags.”
“I heard she got a book deal out of this.”
“But it’s not even a book.”
“<slurp>”

Noonan has no powers but my God does she have a gob on her, so if she can’t hex monsters into submission she can surely berate them to death. This issue: The Kraken Awakes! Then promptly wishes it had stayed in bed.

Same goes for Noonan, actually, as Mewmins Attack!!! You read me right. They can be absolute beasts in a brat-ridden pack, hanging out by the slide and swings. Sooo intimidating.

Love the tones, love the recurring jokes (particularly zoned-out Zach’s clueless oblivion towards Chloe – even though she’s been his band’s keyboard player for nearly a year), love Marc Ellerby really.

For more Noonan nonsense, please see SOLIPSISTIC POP VOLS THREE and TWO. Then there are Marc’s daily diaries, Ellerbisms.

LINK

SLH

Chloe Noonan #3 (£3-99) by Marc Ellerby…

So soon into 2011 and already the benchmark for bombastic, self-published quality has been firmly set by Mr. Ellerby! This voluminous comic is a fat hat-trick of tales concerning our ginger-ninja and her hapless friends. For those in need of synopsis, you would be forgiven for thinking Chloe is just another hipster in black-rimmed glasses and fetching cardigans, but you would be wrong! If Chloe happens to walk into your local boutique looking for a copy of Vice it’s probably because there are Trolls creeping in the corduroy suit selection, or an incantation for demonic Smurfs stitched into that ‘70s throw. That’s right, folks, she’s a badge-carrying Monster Hunter, dispatching ghouls on (what I hope is) a commission basis, armed with sword, bus pass, and a bag of bitch.

First up is a short tale displaying the perils of accidentally feeding lack-lustre pop acts after midnight, or is it the perils of entering pretentious bars? This is followed by a blistering set by Chloe’s band, The Freudian Repercussions, whose take on Release The Kraken makes for a messier mosh-pit than anything Clutch could pull off. But when her aforementioned hapless friends, the Foxy Zoe Fox and Hard Core putz Doug are chav-blocked in a park by some rotund teenagers of Finnish decent, Chloe finds she may have met her match. Just remember Chloe, keep your cool and don’t call them hippos, it’s racist!

LINK

TFR

Who Is Jake Ellis? #1 fo 5 (£2-25, Image) by Nathan Edmondson & Tonci Zonjic.

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 fifteen seconds and all becomes much clearer – to us!

That was Barcelona, Spain, late at night on board an enormous yacht infested with criminales. Probably best if Jon Moore doesn’t go back there for a while. If nothing else they’ll be pretty pissed off about that terrible waste of whisky. Now we’re in Strasbourg, two days later, but you might be well be asking not just who is Jake Ellis, where is he? Because whilst drinking coffee over a copy of El Pays news, only Jon appears to be able to see or hear him. Handy for that hasty aquatic retreat and vital if he’s going escape those who’ve already tracked him to France. But are they Spanish or American – and what do the Americans want with him anyway? Chased from a waitress’ bed then trapped on a train, there’s been precious little time to find out so far, but Jon better figure it all out fast, including who else Ellis is speaking to.

Edmondson made a fine start with Brett Weldele on his combustible zombie graphic novel THE LIGHT and you may well know Zonjic from DAREDEVIL: LADY BULLSEYE. Here Zonjic shows he’s as much of a master of glorious sunlit aerial views as he is a Cathedral lamplit at night, and I love his economy of line. He does sunglasses as well as Mazzucchelli. I don’t quite know why Moore didn’t steal a cassock when he was down to his boxer shorts there – would have made a much better disguise at the station – but maybe he was a little distracted by the men with shotguns, the invisible man at his side and, err, being down to his boxers.

Four issues to go and a few copies left with a second print on its way in time for the second issue next month. That immaculate opening sequence is previewed here:

LINK

SLH

Mouse Guard: Legends Of The Guard h/c (£14-99, Titan / Archaia) by Gene Ha, Jeremy Bastian, Ted Naifeh, Alex Sheikman, Alex Kain, Sean Rubin, Terry Moore, Lowell Francis, Katie Cook, Guy Davis, Nate Pride, Jason Shawn Alexander, Craig Rousseau, Karl Kerschl, Mark Smylie, David Petersen, Dave Lanphear.

Short stories based on David Petersen’s furry feudal fantasies, MOUSE GUARD: FALL 1152 and MOUSE GUARD WINTER 1152, with only one exception the artists here are a perfect match for the established tone – especially David Petersen who provides the links, double-page spreads at the back and the promise of more this year.

In the same tradition as SANDMAN: WORLD’S END and the recent HOUSE OF MYSTERY, patrons of the June Alley Inn, each of whom have run up a hefty tab, settle down for an evening’s mug o’ mead and take their turn spinning yarns in the hope that their skills as an orator are enough to win them the prize of their debt being cleared.

Ted Naifeh you may know from COURTNEY CRUMRIN and DEATH JR, Terry Moore from ECHO and STRANGERS IN PARADISE, Guy Davis from SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE and BAKER STREET, Jason Alexander (here on a version of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’) from the HELLBOY spin-off ABE SAPIEN, Gene Ha from Alan Moore’s TOP TEN whilst Jeremy Bastian’s insanely detailed CURSED PIRATE GIRL is set to blow your socks off in a couple of month’s time.

LINK

SLH

The Spider Moon Book 1 h/c (£9-99, DFC Library) by Kate Brown.

“In the far North, there are ancient caves, with murals painted by long-dead hands… They tell a prophecy of our homelands being crushed by the falling sky.
“Then, a year ago, the stars began to fall just like the murals show.
“The end has begun… in my lifetime.”

In the Entopa Ocean and the vast Maal Sea there are islands. Most have beaches that are lapped by the tides, but one of them floats up above. Is that the key to survival?

This is the shared, desperate dream of young Bekka’s people and the Bird-Folk of Darthar. The Bird-Folk, you see, have lost their power of flight. They lost it years ago, even before the isle started floating. Their wings are just too small. But they’re building an engine to turn the floating island into a skyship fuelled by oil refined from the ocean’s spine-fish which Bekka’s tribe harvest from the clear waters below. Only now the oil has stopped shipping and in retaliation Ekli Lau, chairman of the divers’ council and mother of Becka’s instructor, has been arrested by order of the Bird-Folks’ masked king and queen. Surely there has been some misunderstanding? It’s in both their interests that the engine is fuelled in order to evacuate the land!

There’s a relaxing sense of space in this warm-coloured, album-sized, all-ages fantasy but just when you’re getting cosy there’s a sudden surge of danger.

The diving test, for example. It’s like a driving test, only fail it the first time and you don’t get a second chance. Bekka faces hers early on. Sent to fetch sand from the sea-bed below, dive she surely does but there’s no sign of the sand, just a shadow in the depths and then the looming presence of a gargantuan whale, its jaws open wide…

How does Bekka survive the experience never mind bottle enough sand to qualify? Why does the Bird-Folk’s Princess Sera, sister to the impetuous but well-meaning Prince Kaliel, lie in a coma? Who could possibly stand to benefit from the missing oil when the stars are falling from the sky? We have no idea yet. It seems Bekka’s journey is only beginning…

SLH

Brody’s Ghost vol 2 (£4-99, Dark Horse) by Mark Crilley.

“Not too often you get to extend your condolences to the person who’s already dead, huh?”

Brody is broke and broken-hearted. Talia is a girl five years in the grave, determined to hunt down a serial killer to earn her way to heaven. To physically stop them, however, she needs  Brody’s help but he’s more of busker than Batman. Time for some supernatural samurai training and a large leap of faith.

From the creator of all-ages AKIKO and now MIKI FALLS, a perfect blend of poignancy, humour and good old fashioned action with some exceptional cityscapes and a great big heart of gold.

For more see VOLUME ONE.

SLH

Junjo Romantica vol 1 of 12 (£7-50, Blu) by Shungiku Nakamura.

“I’m not your toy!”

Umm, you sort of are, Misaki.

One of our most popular top-shelf yaoi whose final Twelfth volume is now out and proud, I’d never taken the opportunity of poking about inside until now. I do hope it’s not a book responsible for much learned behaviour because it’s got the darnedest series of fucked up relationships whereby no one seems happy outside of subservience apart from self-assured novelist, rich kid and tutor Usami Akihiko. Oh wait, except later on he too acts out a fantasy blindfolded with a guy besotted with him to disguise the fact that it isn’t his best friend whom Akihiko is unrequitedly in love with. That would be Takahiro who’s just got married leaving his younger brother Misaki to fend off Akihiko’s advances instead.

To be fair, affluent Akihiko is supremely altruistic when it comes to straight brother Takahiro. He knows he doesn’t stand a chance, he doesn’t want to ruin their friendship, and so bites his lip even after being introduced to Takahiro’s surprise bride. Good on you, mate. So quite why he thinks it’s okay to molest younger brother Misaki as a substitute is unfathomable. Only in yaoi could Misaki then fall for Akihiko as he tutors him into university.

The thing with love triangles is that they have spiked edges, and even in the second half (Junjo Egoist) where a couple stand a real chance of finding happiness together it almost all goes horribly wrong when tongue-tied tutor number two goes about looking after his charge by looking in on him at work and from afar, then ‘accidentally’ bumping into one in every seven sessions. I don’t think he quite understands why he’s doing it, either.

So what we have here is a tangled succession of self-restraint and self-abandonment, self-sacrifice and self-gratification, self-flagellation (as in, excessive self-criticism) and self-serving seduction all wrapped up in the same, much fondled package. They should really self-medicate, especially when it comes to the sudden outbursts of jagged-toothed venom following months of sullen silence and stalking.

The strange thing is every single customer who’s bought a copy has been one of the shiniest, seemingly well adjusted men or women in the world. (Most yaoi is bought by women, but this has quite a high hit rate with guys too.) I bet by book two they’re all single, though, because this must surely do for relationships what the Gabriel Byrne and Dianne Wiest HBO series In Treatment does for psychotherapists: put you right off them for life.

SLH

Madame Xanadu vol 3: Broken House Of Cards (£13-50) by Matt Wagner & Amy Reeder, Richard Friend, Joelle Jones, David Hahn…

So MADAME XANADU has been cancelled then, despite not being the worst selling Vertigo title by some distance. It would seem the grand plan is to bring characters on the magical fringes out of Vertigo and more firmly into the DC mainstream. Sounds like a crap idea to me, and the exact opposite of what makes the most interesting use of characters like Xanadu, Phantom Stranger, John Zatara etc.

This includes canning a planned run on SWAMP THING I was very much looking forward to – and on which work was apparently already well under way on – by acclaimed British sci-fi novelist China Miéville as DC now have “big plans” for the mossy one in the fast-flowing part of the DC mainstream. Obviously someone at DC got very excited at how many extra copies of ACTION COMICS they sold the couple of months that Death was in it when Lex Luthor was apparently going to die. He didn’t, obviously. No doubt a Constantine/Batman team-up is in the works even as I type… <shudder>

Anyway, even given that MADAME XANADU isn’t anywhere nearly as good as Wagner’s much missed SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE, I am sad to see it go. I liked the fact that it gave readers an opportunity to wander some of the roads less travelled on the mystical side of the DC Universe. And also different eras in the case of MADAME XANADU, with this volume guest-starring the Silver-Era J’onn J’onzz, aka the Martian Manhunter, in his earlier gum-shoe detective guise, as Madame Xanadu investigates more curious goings-on from her home in Greenwich Village. Her sister Morganna Le Fey is involved somehow once again, with the usual attendant trail of chaos that follows in her wake.

LINK

JR

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

And so we start afresh. By snatching teenagers’ mobiles in Central Park.

“Hi. I need your phone. I’ll give it back or buy you a new one. I live right over there.”
“Here! Don’t hit me!”
“I’m not going to hit you.”
“Take it!”
[Mockingbird takes it.]
“Which one was she?”
“I don’t know.”
“She’s hot.”
“She’s insanely hot. I’m never going to see my phone again.”

“Right over there” is the Avengers Mansion, finally rebuilt after being trashed in AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED several years, one CIVIL WAR, and a SECRET INVASION ago. They really shouldn’t have bothered with the curtains and cushions, though, because it’s about to become somewhat ‘open plan’ again as the sky rips open, is set ablaze and vomits an unholy mass of glowing and indeed glowering demons that don’t know the first thing about introductory etiquette. Household insurance is about to go through the roof. As is the roof.

“Is there a Ghostbuster in the house?! You don’t need a degree in both psychology and paranormal psychology. Just the latter will do.”
“You know, I’ve never seen that movie?”
“You’ve never seen Ghostbusters?”
“I’ve been busy.”
“I can’t even talk ta ya right now. That is so upsetting.”
“Dude, I’ve been busy! You know, with stuff like this.”

The SIEGE has been lifted, Osborn’s been jailed and Steve Rogers, formerly known as Captain America, is back in charge with all his bases covered: 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. Instead Stark sells Luke Avengers Mansion for a dollar and Rogers gives him the right to pick a card – any card – with the full deck showing. Old friend Iron Fist is a shoe-in obviously as is his wife Jessica Jones, then there’s Spider-Man, Mockingbird, Wolverine, Carol Danvers and The Thing.

Dr. Strange is possessed to appear as well. Oh wait, Dr. Strange’s simply possessed, just like his Eye of Ago-whatthehey and that’s where the conflict begins. Someone wants the Eye Of Agamotto very badly indeed, and the sort of person that wants it is the last sort of person you need using it. FIGHT!!!

Artist Stuart Immonen is on such top form, but not just with the spectacle. With Bendis it’s as much about the quick-fire conversations as anything else, and Immonen’s breakfast scenes both here and in the next volume are full of subtle expressions and body language that will have the corners of your mouth twitching with mirth. Further guest-stars include Daimon Hellstrom and Brother Voodoo, the current Sorcerer Supreme, and Dr. Stephen Strange is going to have to do more than a little soul searching after the dust and debris settle here.

There is a slight lack of coordination 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, Agota motto too: it’s just a bit of fun!

Next: butlers and baby sitters. Who needs ‘em? Err, they do.

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

SLH

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

In which the author of Vertigo’s SCALPED and the modern John Buscema play beautifully with a certain DAREDEVIL storyline I deliberately haven’t linked to by Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli.

Pyongyang, North Korea, and there appears to be a highly successful Super Soldier Project on the go. With all the trouble Banner’s team had before they found Captain America on ice in ULTIMATES VOL 1, how is that even possible? Time for a little international intervention courtesy of the S.A.S. and the Triskelion’s finest. Who will they find when they get there?

“Subject A-17 is showing no signs of cellular degeneration. This serum appears to be a vast improvement over your previous batch. Dear Leader will be pleased.”
“Just make sure Dear Leader remembers the rules. First sign of aggression he shows toward his neighbours to the south, I cut off his supply. I’m not setting him up with Super Soldiers so he can conquer South Korea.”
“Ah, then way are you doing it, my American friend?”
“That’s my business.”

Ron Garney’s always been reliable for the physical stuff and beefs it up further here, with a brilliantly timed reveal.

“I’ll show you what America really stands for.”

Uh-oh.

SLH

Also arrived:

(Reviews may follow or already be up in the case of s/c versions of h/cs. Just pop the titles in our search engines and see.)

Crickets #3 (£5-99) by Sammy Harkham
Tricked h/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Alex Robinson
Juxtapoz Erotica (£22-50, Gingko) by various
Farscape Uncharted Tales: D’Argo’s Trial s/c (£9-99, Boom!) by Keith R. A. Decandido & Caleb Cleveland
Star Wars Legacy vol 10: Extremes (£12-99, Dark Horse) by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema
Battlefields vol 6: Motherland (£9-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun
Dark Tower vol 6: The Journey Begins (£18-99, Marvel) by Peter David, Robin Furth & Sean Phillips, Richard Isanove
House Of Mystery vol 5: Under New Management (£10-99, Vertigo) by Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham, David Justus, Paul Levitz, Alisa Kwitney & Luca Rossi, Jose Marzan Jr, Sergio Aragones, Farel Dalrymple, Sam Kieth, John Bolton
Pilot & Huxley: The First Adventure (£5-99, Scholastic) by Dan McGuiness
Usagi Yojimbo boxed set (£75-00, Fantagraphics) by Stan Sakai
Tank Girl: We Hate Tank Girl (£7-50, Image) by Alan Martin & Rufus Dayglo
Age Of Reptiles Omnibus vol 1 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Ricardo Delgado
Dark Ivory vol 1: Blue Blood (£10-99, Image) by Joseph Michael Linsner, Eva Hopkins
The Goon vol 10: Death’s Greedy Comeuppance (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Powell
Rat Catcher h/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Andy Diggle & Victor Ibanez
Dark Avengers: Siege s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato, Chris Bachalo
Mighty Avengers: Siege s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Khoi Pham, Neil Edwards
Secret Avengers vol 1: Mission To Mars h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker &Mike Deodata Jr., Will Conrad, David Aja, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano
Steve Rogers: Super Soldier h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Dale Eaglesham
Deadpool Classic vol 4 (£22-50, Marvel) by Joe Kelly, James Felder & Walter Mc Daniel, Pete Woods, Steve Harris, Yancey Labat
X-Factor: Second Coming s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Valentine De Landro
Spawn Origins vol 9 (£10-99, Image) by Todd McFarlane & Greg Capullo
After School Charisma vol 1 (£9-99, Viz) by Kumiko Suekane
Neko Ramen vol 3: A Cat After All! (£8-50, Tokyopop)
Dorohedoro vol 3 (£9-99, Viz) by Q Hayashida
Cross Game vol 2 (£10-99, Viz) by Mitsuru Adachi
Hyde & Closer vol 3 (£7-50, Viz) by Haro Aso
Full Metal Alchemist vol 24 (£7-50, Viz) by Hiromu Arakawa
Battle Angle Alita: Last Order vol 14 (£7-50, Viz) by Yukito Kishiro
Deadworld Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, IDW) by Gary Reed, Mike Raicht & Vince Locke, Dalibor Talajic, Federico Dallocchio, Rafael Ortiz, Sami Makkonen
The Chill s/c (£9-99, Vertigo) by Jason Starr & Mick Bertilorenzi
Three Thieves vol 1: Tower Of Treasure (£6-99, KidsCanPress) by Scott Chandler
Hack Slash: My First Maniac vol 1 (£7-50, IDW) by Tim Seeley & Daniel Leister
Halo: Helljumper s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Eric Nguyen
Batman: Joker’s Asylum vol 2 (£10-99, DC) by Landry Quinn Walker, James Patrick, Peter Galloway, Mike Raicht, Kevin Shinick & Keith Giffen, Bill Sienkiewicz, Joe Quinones, Andres Guinaldo, David Yardin, Cliff Richards, Kelley Jones
Claymore vol 17 (£7-50, Viz) by Norihiro Yagi
Twin Spica vol 5 (£8-50, Vertical) by Kou Yaginuma
NGE: Campus Apocalypse vol 2 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Mingming
K-ON! vol 1 (£7-99, Yen) by Kakifly

News & Letters January 2011

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Happy New Year!

I trust you all made New Years Resolutions? Only some 8,300 hours left to break them. I once resolved never to buy a car or a mobile phone. I then promptly bought a car and decided I needed a mobile phone in case of accidents.

I’ve never had an accident as such, although my car did once spontaneously combust and the number of times I’ve let the battery go flat through not using the beast during winter has made me a laughing stock all down my road. It’s either that or the karaoke… It’s the karaoke, isn’t it?

The next year I wised up and resolved to do as many u-turns as possible. Thankfully I already had a car in which to execute them.

But I’m not always that hopeless. Aged sixteen, I gave up organised religion for Lent.

Here’s Neil Gaiman’s New Year Benediction: LINK.

Time permitting I’m hoping to write a column on 2010 and 2011 this weekend. Our followers on Twitter have already sent us their favourite comic or graphic novel from 2010 for the blog. If you want to join in please do email us at page45@page45.com. No essays, please, just a couple of sentences with the subject heading “Best of 2010 for Stephen’s next blog”. And remember that liberal-leftie, wishy-washing saying, “There are no wrong answers”? Don’t you fucking believe it.

Item! Chris Ware mural in situ – quite, quite stunning: LINK

Item! A reminder that there is no VAT attached to comics, so there have been no price increases here since its rise this January to 20%. Reading material is one of the few exceptions to this stealth tax designed to rob retailers while fooling you into believing you’re not paying an extra 20% income tax. Which you are! On almost everything you buy!

“Page 45: Telling it like it is since 1994.” – Ian Craig on Twitter.

Item! Bill Sienkiewicz (STRAY TOASTERS etc.) finally talks about his experience on Alan Moore’s BIG NUMBERS some 20 years ago. And it’s not what you think. It’s not an attack on Al Columbia; it’s a mea culpa for the way in which the work overwhelmed him and a real revelation about the practicalities of using models as photo references for any length of time. You’ve got to feel for the guy. Thanks to my good mate and occasional Page 45 reviewer Alex ‘Velveteen’ Sarll. LINK

Item! Fans of Brian Wood’s & Ryan Kelly’s LOCAL, prepare to go green with envy at this gorgeous, Nottingham-based drawing privately commissioned by Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month Club member Dan Howard. Swoon at will: LINK.

Item! Jamie Smart (BEAR, UBU BUBU etc.) is now appearing in the new, improved DANDY! Lots o’ mischief on Jamie’s blog including a video of him drawing and that 9 Ways Guys Pee strip which you can now buy as a print for your loo, or simply view here: LINK

Item! Daren White is interviewed by The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon on THE PLAYWRIGHT illustrated by Eddie Campbell, my favourite book of 2010: LINK

Item! Here are Tom’s other seasonal interviews with the likes of Dan Clowes, Jaime Hernandez, Dylan Horrocks etc. Beware the migraine-inducing adverts at The Comics Reporter.

Item! Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s FLEX MENTALLO will finally be collected this autumn as a hardcover. Includes bonus material. You want to wait for a softcover? I really wouldn’t risk it: this could go straight back into legal hell it’s only just emerged from.

Item! Conversely DC has just cancelled the second half of its AUTHORITY: THE LOST YEAR. “This title will not be published.” That’s a bit final, eh? Also AZRAEL: KILLER OF SAINTS but no one gives a damn about that.

Item! Oh yeah, now that I think about it Steranko’s RIED TIDE has been cancelled yet again, as has Richard Sala’s HIDDEN for the moment. We’ll hang onto your orders, don’t worry.

Item! Two Bryan Talbot signings, one in Nottingham, one in Glasgow.

Nottingham Wednesday 2nd March 5.00pm

“Grandville and the Anthropomorphic Tradition.”

Slide-show presentation followed by signing (we will have books, don’t you worry; you just bring your lolly). Open to the public and free of charge. Room A46 of the Trent Building at the University of Nottingham on the University Park campus, NG7. The Trent Building is the great big white jobbie with the clock tower, overlooking the lake and next to the Student Union building. If in doubt, ask: everyone’s very friendly there since Tom Paulin left.

Directions and maps: LINK.

GRANDVILLE volumes one and two: LINK & LINK

Glasgow Saturday 26th March 4.00pm

Signing at Plan B Books, Glasgow
5 Osborne St, Glasgow G1 5RB. Tel: 0141 2371137

Plan B is the new shop I’ve been championing without ever having seen it purely because I trust its partner/managers Pete Renshaw and Tom Green, and I cannot believe how hard Tom Green works. Also, I like a man with a plan, and theirs is refreshingly different.

Item! Alas, ScreenLit at the Broadway is off this year so you can unbook that last week in March, but it’s thrown open all sorts of useful info (thanks to the magnificent Linda Pariser) like the film adaptation of one of my favourite graphic novels, Raymond Briggs’ ETHEL & ERNEST. Here’s the film’s blog: LINK.

Item! Antony Johnston’s WASTELAND is neither dead nor being side-shunted because of all his DAREDEVIL work. I told you that’d never happen and he’s free of DD now anyway. Here’s an update with news, news, news: LINK

Item! Tom Gauld (have you bought his new Comicbook Postcards?) is compiling his favourite maps. They’re cool. They’re very cool. This one’s for you, Dmytro! LINK

Item! April 9th and 10th: London comicbook convention called KAPOW! With top names like Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch, Frank Quitely, Kieron Gillen, Liam Sharp, John Romita Jr., plus people off the teevee. LINK

Item! Classic moment during Stephen Fry in America. He’s just spent hours in Alaska’s Barrow, the most northern town in America (see vampire gore-fest 30 DAYS OF NIGHT), following some traditional Inuit hunters on the frozen seas as they try to secure themselves a whale or two. Fortunately it’s the height of summer when it’s light 24 hours a day and the ice is beginning to crack. He asks, however, what do they do in the depths of winter when it’s pitch-black all day? Do they stay in? No, they go out to hunt Caribou.
“Do you navigate by the stars?”
“The stars, yes.
“Also, GPS.”

The ‘S’ stands for ‘system’ not ‘satellite’ – in case that comes up in a pub quiz.

And so to the letters!

On 28th June 2010 Ben Read placed a considerable order with us. Not unusual, that, bless ‘im. But he did make a rather rash promise when ordering…

Grandville: Mon Amour (if you can get it signed again, I will be prepared to kiss a member of staff).

I’m afraid we didn’t have Bryan to sign this Christmas (we were waiting for his GRANDVILLE presentation on 02/03/11, above) but Bryan is an awfully lovely man, Ben is an awfully loyal mail order customer, and I can’t resist a Steve’ll Fucking Fix It challenge. So one thing led to another and we sent him a little something free of charge for Christmas.

Oh sweet people of Page 45!

You are too kind. Really. I’ve finally gotten off my snowed-in hill, and over to my equally snowed-in mail drop, and opened my lovely present.

What, this? LINK

Wow. I honestly choked up a bit. Stephen, you did indeed fucking-fix-it and I’m enormously grateful. You guys rock and have my undying customer loyalty. (Which, to be fair, you had beforehand anyway but it’s nice to be appreciated.) 

Our pleasure.

Pucker up, sunshine.

Hello Stephen, Tom and Jonathan,

Please accept my almost too-fervent wishes that you all enjoy a happy New Year!

Thanks so much for your support in 2010…

love,

Ellen Lindner

Portfolio:  http://www.littlewhitebird.com
Sketchbook: http://ellenlindner.livejournal.com
Studio: http://fleecestation.co.uk/

You are very, very welcome, and right back at ya when it comes to support.

Ellen is one of the wonderful WHORES OF MENSA whose fourth issue we declared to be Comicbook Of The Month, and sole creator of Undertow. Each batch of UNDERTOW she sends to us comes with the most magnificent sketches free of charge. Well, they have done so far, but no guarantees. I’d buy now…

Hey guys,

Thanks for the wonderful newsletter format and the web site you’ve now created. So much easier to handle and enjoy!!!

And many thanks (with some apologies for tardiness) to Jonathan for picking The Summit of the Gods vol 2 as his favourite of the year. The following three volumes are now all translated and first edit completed and he and customer Thomas will not believe how much better it can get!! We will try our best to get another volume out mid year but, like all small businesses right now, we have to sell the stock to go pay for more. Simple!!

Enjoy the festivities everyone and let’s make 2011 the best it can be, J

All the best,

Stephen Robson

Fanfare / Ponent Mon

We’ll be grateful for what we receive whenever we receive it, mate!

Dear Stephen et al,

I see I have neglected thus far to partake in the traditional seasonal exchange of greetings, or at least that element relating to the alleged time of joy and goodwill known as Christmas, so, having lamentably failed to wish you all Merry Humbug, and having little else to do, I will now express my wishes for a minimally atrabilious new year, albeit in scant expectation that it will do any good whatsoever.  Still. it’s the thought that counts, apparently. (Speaking of which – £70, was it? Working on it).

Andrew J McGuire

Ditto.

New word: atrabilious.

I went into your shop on Monday, after dragging my friends into every comic book store we could find. Each time I asked if they had JTHM in stock [JOHNNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC – ed.] and each time the answer was an apologetic ‘No.’ But then, someone recommended me to go find your store, so with tired feet and lots of bags, I entered the shop and asked if you had it in stock. I expected the usual answer of ‘No, we haven’t had that in stock for years.’ But instead, I was met with a very friendly and helpful person who told me that they indeed had it in stock! I was so happy and I bought it right away. I’d just like to say thank you so much, I’ve been looking for the comic for months and now I’m happily reading it to my hearts content. I was also informed that you’re ordering the new printing of I Feel Sick, and I honestly cannot wait! Thank you again, 

One very happy Jhonen Vasquez fan! 

Jemma Briggeman

HOMICIDAL MANIAC fans are often very happy. Worryingly enough.

Jemma, you should seriously check out Jamie Smart’s BEAR etc. (see Item!s above). Vasquez and Dirge (LENORE) have made us an awful lot of money over the last ten years with their Cute But Dead material, whilst Jamie Smart has made us laugh over and over and over again. Warren Ellis too. Although that’s not so much an endorsement as a reflection of their shared sensibilities towards the sick and depraved.

Hey all,

Just thought I’d drop you lot a line to let you know that after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, we have finally opened our new entertainment retail store in the Victoria Centre. “That’s Entertainment” sells CDs, DVDs, and games, but the emphasis is on value for money – we want people to pop in with a fiver in their pocket and find something interesting and feel that they have got their hands on some bargains.

Would be delighted if you could spread the word to your loyal and rabid customers, as we hope we can replicate at least some of that famous Page 45 customer service, though it may take some time before our fresh-faced staff achieve “acerbic”.

Perhaps we should pay them in wine?

Anyway our website is at http://www.thatsent.co.uk/, we’ve got another store in Derby amongst others. We’re up near Tescos, and the doors are open!

Hope all is well,

Cheers,

Craig

I’d expect the blue dots online to spread over the country like German Measles in the next 24 months. One customer whose name I swear I wrote down but can no longer find came in with a stash of 13 DVDs for just £30.

It’s not as if they’re a new company, either: there’s an experienced online entity they keep as separate as possible but which trades in second-hand CDs and has made a fortune. I’ve spent a tonne of money there and every single CD arrived in immaculate condition (they’re treated and tested first), plus the sheer breadth of what’s available using their search engine is staggering.

But. The bricks and mortar shop ain’t that. I visited today and it’s very much a rummage-through process. Masses of stock, ludicrously cheap, but you will need time to a good old capurtle. Nor is there room for the Page 45 standard of service whereby we can put our hands on exactly what you want within seconds then leisurely tell you what you’re after. Or provide recommendations. What I can tell you is that it’s 100% professional and here to stay, its assistant manager used to work at Selectadisc and he bounces like Tigger (hello, Andrew Jadowski!), and Craig Dawson did once pay in wine when I got his wedding blessed by Alan Moore.

Okay, here is a letter that brought a genuine lump to my throat, made me take a deep breath, and had Dominique slightly tearful. You’ll understand in a bit. It’s a lovely, lovely, lovely letter and we’re both enormously grateful.

Hi Stephen and Dominique (and the new bugs),

You won’t remember me. Well, maybe you will, but it’s easier to assume that you won’t.

I haven’t been to Nottingham for many a year. I haven’t been buying comics for many a year (though someone kindly spent £70 on a volume of the Trigan Empire for me recently).

Tonight, I started rooting around a little, trying to find information online about modern comics with superheroes and spacemen and monsters in that would appeal to a sensitive 9 year old boy. My son loves comics and cartoons and exploding robots in space and all those other things that 9 year old boys love. But I look at the Transformer magazines we occasionally get down here in Essex, and I look at the superhero books in Waterstones, and I feel a bit sad, wondering why he doesn’t get to read stuff like the Fantastic Four or Spiderman in all their fantastic 60s, 70s, 80s glory like I did when I was kid. Why he can’t sit outside a petrol station in Polzeath in

Comics that I find now seem to be either rather pathetic sub-Beano things, or incomprehensible movie tie-ins, or just too damn adult. I’m an adult, and you know what? I’m fed up of “adult themes”. I don’t want death and sex and dysfunction (I get enough of that already) – I want a cracking adventure story with beautifully crisp artwork. And I don’t want  my son to be faced with page after page after page of product, at the expense of a good comic strip; or sex and violence before he knows how to handle it.

Anyway. I digress.Page 45?”. Silly me.

So, I’m flicking about, trying to find some website that might be able to recommend some contemporary stuff that my son could enjoy, when suddenly I think “hang on, why don’t I look up

I lived in Nottingham between 1994 and 1998 – 4 of the best years of my life – post-college, first job, great city, good friends, fun, fun, fun. And part of that fun was being around when Page 45 first opened. Stephen – I can’t remember the name of that previous shop where you and Mark worked (was it really Fantastic Store?), but I do remember how welcome you both made me feel, and how excited I was when you opened your new premises.

I loved visiting you guys – not just to pick up my regular dose of whatever I was reading at the time, but because I liked the place, and I liked you. Though I was just a customer, in my heart, I considered you chaps friends, first you and Mark, and then Dominique. It wasn’t just about the books, (and boy, you turned me on to many, many books), but about care and kindness and fun. And you knew how to make a shop feel genuinely EXCITING.Australia for a bit of fun in 1998-99, and never really returned, to my shame. I stopped buying comics because, well, for many years, I simply couldn’t afford them. But I popped onto your site today, to try and find some things for my son, and was confronted with the news (ok, not so new news) that Mark is no longer with us.Nottingham. But tonight, I am transported back 15 years, and I can see Mark’s smiling face, his raised eyebrow, hear his low soft tones, and I feel genuinely bereft. I loved bumping into him around town, in a pub, in Rock City, and exchanging a few brief, always funny words. He brightened my day whenever I encountered him. He was a fantastic man, kind, witty, switched on, and the world is a much poorer place without him in it. But you know this, and I have no doubt that he is there with you every day. I believe in teams and friendships, and Stephen, you and Mark had one of the best, to this passer-by. You were like a an extra little social network in one place, and you guys complemented each other brilliantly. Page 45 was a home from home for me – my favourite shop in Nottingham. More than a shop. And reading about Mark has made me realise how much I miss you, and your kindness, and your love of art (not just comic art, but all art).

I trotted off to

It’s been many a year since I have passed through your doors. Many a year since I came to

I hope you guys are thriving, and I send my love and good wishes to you all. And to Mark.

Stay well, and keep up the good work.

Much love
Alistair Bland
A ghost in the machine…

You can’t really follow that, can you?

Except with something like this from a reader who’s been with us forever…

Just to let all my friends know that my weekly blog “The Laughter Journey” went live this week. Drop in, tell your friends, buy me a drink, give me a job … ;)

I’m musing about the nature of laughter every Monday at http://blog.thelaughterjourney.co.uk

much love

Jo

Xxx

Send us some emails, folks. Twitter is one thing and the Forums are another, but the Forums are the one thing I regretfully leave in the more capable hands of J-Lo, Dominique and Tom because I cannot do everything so I rarely see them. Send us emails as well! The stoopider the better: page45@page45.com.

I leave you with news that Page 45 has just bought the publisher out of its last 69 copies of THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN, Tom’s favourite book of 2010 and our preceding Comicbook Of The Month. It could be their hard-sell but they claimed there were no plans to reprint it, and we just couldn’t take the risk.

Also, I finally watched Scott Pilgrim last week on Blu-Ray (cinemas don’t let me smoke). Hilarious stuff. The whole way through I was obsessed with the idea that someone should seriously make a comic of it, then discovered that they already had.

Wow, did we drop the ball on that one!

Reviews January 2011 week two

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

 

Pebble Island h/c (£10-00, Nobrow Press) by Jon McNaught.

<Swoon>

Jonathan stole this from me, the bastard, but promises to review it properly next week.

Silent, serene, see for yourselves why I was excited and decide whether you’re £10 excited yourself from this rare exterior link: LINK

SLH

Oh, hold on:

Pebble Island h/c (£10-00, Nobrow Press) by Jon McNaught…

I thought the name Pebble Island rang a bell. Back in 1982 as a ten-year old-boy reading – amongst other things – my weekly slice of BATTLE ACTION, and being generally fascinated with all things war-related, I remember Pebble Island being on the television as part of the Falkland Islands. This, then, is a 38-page wordless graphic novel on some of author Jon McNaught’s memories of growing up there. Nothing whatsoever to do with the war, I should add, instead two rather genteel stories (excepting one firework) about life on a very quiet island.

The art is truly beautiful, perfectly capturing the scenery and isolation, in black and primarily light shades of red and blue. A mixture of solid shading, dots and fine lines which make the simplicity of a bicycle ride through a sunny shower of rain just pure joy to witness.

The downside is the price. If it were £4.99 I’d be encouraging people to snap it up, but however lovely this book most certainly is, it’s a bit difficult to justify the price for 38 pages.

[Objet d'art, darling, objet d'art – ed.]

Shop link: LINK

JR

The Girl And The Gorilla (£7-99, Blank Slate) by Madéleine Flores.

“My story was rejected. I worked so hard on it. And in return I get a letter saying: Your submission was dreadful. Refrain from ever contacting us again.”

Which is less than encouraging, I grant you, but some times it’s unavoidable. You can’t go round publishing books just because the author is pretty.

Aurelie is an aspiring writer who’s just had a knock and is having a little wallow. Neil is a Gorilla unimpressed with self-pity. He is, in fact, a writing Gorilla from the town of Creativity where Aurelie now finds herself under the tutelage of Leonardo Da Vinci. In order to rekindle her courage and set her back on track it’s decided that a book hunting party is in order as part of a tour of the Literary Forest.

It’s at this point I should be describing Creativity in all its multi-faceted magnificence, and I would have been delighted to had Madéleine displayed any. This isn’t Lucien’s Library.

Instead it’s all so painfully thin and woefully lacklustre in execution. We meet but one writer and one artist briefly from the thousands Flores could have played with and a whole page, for example, is given over to a map of the Literary Forest which contains no more than Classic Forest, Short-Story Thicket, Poetry Lake, Fantasy Mountains and Mystery Jungle. That appears to be your lot for literature, I’m afraid; the names aren’t even alluring. There’s an ABC plot whereby Neil is supposed to have been kidnapped (he has been, but we’re given no evidence to back up the assertion – he could have just gone off in another huff) which we’re told spells doom for the town, and the culprit is quickly identified as Herr Schnurbad from The Artist Block which begins to take over, growing a whole inch tall. Terrifying.

There’s simply no grasp here of how to use the medium: how to attract the eye, impress the mind – even a little mind – or stoke the imagination. Would it have been too much trouble to show what should have been Writer’s Block looming large and eating up the page? Apparently so.

I regret writing a review so far from encouraging, but some times it’s unavoidable. You can’t go round publishing books just because the author is pretty.

SLH

Skibber Bee-Bye restocks (£12-99) by Ron Regé Jr –

One of those books that get tagged as the first great graphic novel of the new millennium, something that will still hold up in a decade’s time. His idiosyncratic renderings kow-tow to no style except his own.

It’s a chunky little book, about six inches square and about an inch thick, mostly black & white but with a couple of excursions into simple, pencilled colour for a few sections. Siblings housed high up in an extravagant treehouse are visited by a cake-baking pachyderm, intent on winning the affections of the highly inventive sister. She dreams up inventions for the apparently harmless, cycloptic fairies who populate the woods. Regé sticks with his formal design, allowing no space between the panel borders, and his monofilament clear-line style can take a while to penetrate as your eyes get used to the rhythm of his simple circle and square imagery. Regé, a happy resident of the space between Panter and Beyer without too much of the (here, unnecessary) edgy claustrophobia those two titans draw, has produced an unnerving tale that threatens to go anywhere but where you will it to. 

“One of a handful of cartoonists in the history of the medium to not only reinvent comics to suit his own idiosyncratic impulses and inspirations as an artist, but to also imbue it with his own peculiar, ever-changing emotional energy” – Chris Ware

“Lucid, meticulous, ‘authentic’, beautifully designed and slightly nuts” – Daniel Clowes

“This has left grown men feeling like steak under that tenderising mallet: raw.” – Tom Rosin

LINK

MAS

Dodgem Logic #7 (£3-50)

“Spawned from his hometown of Northampton in the English Midlands, based upon the reasoning that one recession-hit and rundown urban disaster area is much the same as any other, Alan Moore proudly presents his bi-monthly and counter-cultural extravaganza DODGEM LOGIC. Bringing the subterranean vitality and colour of last century’s underground press into the present day, each issue is a lovingly-produced haphazard masterpiece of seventy-two content-crammed full colour pages with no ads and no restraints imposed on its illustrious contributors. These include a number of expansive articles, new writings and even laboriously-rendered comic art from Moore himself, along with regular delights from more accomplished visual luminaries such as Kevin O’Neill, Savage Pencil, ace photographer Mitch Jenkins, psychedelic sybarites John Coulthart and Melinda Gebbie, and a host of others. The latest issue is scheduled to include Dick Foreman discussing the musician Michael Furley, The Alabama 3 covering R.D. Laing and his eccentric Therapy practices, Kurt Amacker talking about homelessness in New Orleans plus a whole lot more as well as contributions from regulars Josie Long, Alan Moore, Stewart Lee, Steve Aylett, Melinda Gebbie and Robin Ince. You cannot afford to miss a single issue.”

LINK

SLH (sort of!)

Buffy The Vampire: Tales oversized h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Joss Whedon, Becky Cloonan, Jane Espenson, more & P. Craig Russell, Leinil Francis Yu, Gene Colan, Tim Sale, Ted Naifeh, Vasilis Lolos, Sean Phillips, more.

Huge, heavy, bigger-than-A-4 hardcover collection of stories featuring vampires and Slayers throughout the ages, written and drawn by some not inconsiderable talent.

Joss Whedon pops up everywhere, for example, his short story ‘Stacy’ illustrated by Cameron Stuart, wittily elevating the Orcs of fiction from mindless brutes to hive-minded brothers as seen from the newly awakened perspective of a similarly connected young vampire.

Gene Colan’s pages in pencil, coloured by Dave Stewart, are among some of the finest I’ve seen whilst Vatche Mavlian as coloured with a refreshing restraint by Michelle Madsen presents us with a Jack The Ripper tale that’s positively Wrightson-esque.

But the first of two stand-out pieces for me comes from Jane Espenson and P. Craig Russell (Sandman: Dream Hunters, Gaiman’s MURDER MYSTERIES, and his swoonaway art book). Russell’s perfect for the stately home of lace, stucco and stuck-up aristos as a grand ball is held in Somersetshire, England, in 1813. It’s a pretty sharp stab at Jane Austen (certainly more successful than any of the actual adaptations!) complete with social boundaries, negotiated etiquette, precision dialogue (like precision bombing, devastatingly delivered) and, necessarily, the presumptions of character which turn out to be entirely at odds with what eventually transpires.

The second, scripted by Becky Cloonan and illustrated by Vasilis Lolos (half of the team behind the nightmarish PIXU), is set very much in the present or at least the near future when, post-SEASON EIGHT, vampires have been revealed to the public to the extent that one is a reality TV star! ‘The Thrill’ refers to the only kicks young Jacob can get in his black-hole town, getting sucked off (at the neck) by the local vampire gang. “I just want to feel something”.

There’s a neatly played opening scene in which you’re initially unsure whether Jacob is referring to the arcade game he’s playing or a real ass-kicking, but it’s another ass-kicking that’s going to change his life, perspective and part in the pecking order.

Overwhelmingly the tales here are far from obvious and, just so you know, the book reprints TALES OF THE SLAYERS trade paperback, TALES OF THE VAMPIRES #1-5, the BROKEN DJINN one-shot, ‘Dames’ from the DRAWING ON YOUR NIGHTMARES HALLOWEEN SPECIAL, THE THRILL one-shot and ‘Carpe Noctem’ from Myspace DHP.

SLH

Greysuit: Project Monarch (£13-99, 2000AD) by Pat Mills & John Higgins…

Hmm, I never read this first time around in 2000AD (from 2007-9), but it’s not bad actually, albeit a little rough around the edges as weekly serialised material can sometimes be. Essentially MACH 1 updated for our über-cynical, conspiracy-theory era, as we uncover the barbarity, and depravity, behind the British Government’s covert operative program. The Greysuits, as they are known, are emotionally damaged people plucked from the streets, and then damaged considerably further through a cocktail of drugs complimented by extreme psychological torture, all with the aim of inducing heightened physical and mental abilities. Oh, and also ensuring complete brainwashed obedience, of course. Except in our hero’s case, he’s starting to remember certain things his handlers would rather he didn’t. And he’s not too happy about it. Cue much destruction and payback all round etc. It’s Jason Bourne-esque, non-stop action throughout, though even more unbelievable, and occasionally reminded me in places of THE INVISIBLES and 100 BULLETS, though it certainly isn’t of that calibre. If 2000AD was more consistently full of strips like this, though, I’d certainly be reading it much more avidly.

JR

Zomnibus (£18-99, IDW) by Shane McCarthy, El Torres, Chris Ryall & Chris Bolton, Enrique Lopez Lorenzana, Yair Herrera, Ashley Wood…

Three rather different zombie tales making for an interesting if somewhat eclectic omnibus. The first story features a group of cops and chain-ganged-up bad guys forced to seek refuge in a sleepy town when their transport bus overturns in an accident. Cue zombies. I’m not sure who I’d rather have to bump into in a dark alley if I had to choose to be honest, the zombies or this bunch of bad guys: they’re both equally vile albeit in different ways. There’s one white-power prisoner in particular, replete with forehead swastika tattoo, who is so odious you’re just willing him to get munched on with every turn of every single page.

Story two features life in a survivor’s camp, post-zombie apocalypse. It’s pretty much what you’d expect, being one step away from anarchy and mob rule despite the presence of a few token soldiers. Inevitably zombies attack the camp and the soldiers decide to look after themselves making a very sharp exit indeed, leaving a most incongruous bunch of people to try and stop arguing long enough to make good their own escape.

And then we have the 150 pages of so of mayhem that is Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood’s COMPLETE ZOMBIES VS. ROBOTS. This omnibus is worth it for these pieces alone, rendered in Wood’s unique style. Obviously one can’t ever take zombies stories too seriously, but these definitely aren’t meant to be, as Ryall pits brainless undead versus surprisingly stupid artificial intelligence. And there are some very naive Amazons later on too just for good measure! Overall £18-99 represents excellent value for 380 pages of full colour horror with a good amount of black humour thrown in.

JR

Spider-Man: Origin Of the Species h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Paul Azaceta.

“You talk too much.”
“You should see my Twitter feed.”

Waid and Azaceta have already proved themselves fine collaborators on the BRAND NEW DAY series (THE GAUNTLET: ELECTRO) and this too swings along at an electrifying pace as Dr. Octopus and a Sinister man in silhouette hire a rogue’s gallery of spider-foes to abduct the newborn baby of Norman Osborn and his son’s girlfriend in order to extract its DNA.

Yes, you read that right. Harry Osborn fell in love with Lily unaware that his father had already got his hooks into her when she stumbled on a secret stash of the Green Goblin formula that turned her into a societal Menace. Less inadvertently Norman Osborn then sank his teeth in too by getting her pregnant: he shagged the woman due to marry Harry, which isn’t generally the role occupied by a loving father. (See SPIDER-MAN: AMERICAN SON.)

Now: Harry and Mary Jane are merrily embarrassing Peter in front of his potential new girlfriend when a heavily pregnant Lily in the form of Menace (think grey Green Goblin in desperate need of a pumice stone) crashes into the coffee shop followed by Electro, Sandman, Tombstone, the Rhino, Shocker, Mysterio, the Vulture and more. Not one of them gets served. Instead Doc Ock duly delivers the baby (hey, you’d go into labour too at that point, even if you’re a guy) which Spider-Man snatches and runs.

With New York’s finest under the impression that he’s kidnapped the child, Spidey spends exhausting hours mere seconds ahead of the posse in pursuit, desperately trying to place the kid into safer hands then lure the villains away with a decoy. Reversal after reversal as each super-creep uses their unique abilities in ways that fool Peter – and I suspect will fool you – each and every time. It’s excruciatingly tense, diabolically clever, and I have deliberately omitted one key villain who’s played a major role over the last year, who’ll really yank your chain now. Also, one key revelation.

Visually there are either conscious or sub-conscious nods to Ross Andru’s art, or maybe it’s pure coincidence. I always loved Ross Andru so I really don’t care. There’s also a Little Red Riding Hood riff on The Lizard that you’re left to spot on your own. Or maybe I’m really imagining things today.

For a reading order of all AMAZING SPIDER-MAN books post-Straczysnki, please see use the family tree by clicking on ‘superheroes’, ‘Marvel’, ‘Spider-Man’, then the relevant alphabetical pages. On the other hand all those previous books are summarized in thirty-two illustrated pages at the back, should you wish to make this your first. Also, big bunch o’ covers.

SLH

Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men vol 3 (£18-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & John Byrne.

“If that was a fist that hit me, I don’t think I want to see the body it’s attached to.”

Reprinting #111-121 in full, affordable colour, this is the real beginning of the finest X-MEN run until Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis hit town mere years ago. It’s where I started on the new team, anyway.

Finding the Mansion abandoned like the Marie Celeste, The Beast deserts his post at Avengers Mansion to discover that Cyclops, Phoenix, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and the Banshee have been brainwashed into working at a Carny. Defeated and finally abducted by their worst nightmare whom they’re completely unready for, the whole team finds itself trapped under a volcano in the Savage Land. Jean Grey and the Beast are then separated from the rest whom they believe to be dead, whilst the core team tries to make its way across the globe via Japan and Canada. Unfortunately this journey, forever impeded along the way, separates Scott and Jean for far too long, and someone starts getting a hold on her heart, mind and soul just when she’s at her most vulnerable. And powerful.

Byrne’s art is glorious here (give or take a zip-a-tone visor imposed on him by inker Terry Austin). He’s now fully absorbed his early influences (Neal Adams etc.), making him peerless at the time for neo-classical figure work. He also begins to incorporate the titles into ever more imaginative opening pages like Eisner (and later Cooke) did in THE SPIRIT and Bissette in SWAMP THING.

This new group of X-Men is still getting to know each other, work with each other and Logan in particular has a few secrets revealed in Canada whilst the extent of Jean’s capabilities grows increasingly worrying. The issue set under the volcano with the team unable to even speak let alone move or use their powers, humiliated by a mechanical nurse who treats them like babies, is torturingly tense, especially after each set-back; but when it explodes, it really explodes just like the volcano itself. What’s more Claremont had more subtlety and self-control back then, some scenes being left to speak for themselves as when Jean breaks the bad news to Charles. First appearance of Logan’s lady-love, Mariko. Also, guess who in Canada? Those surprises were beautifully played.

The only disappointing moments were the covers Byrne was passed over on in favour of Dave Cockrum, especially when Byrne drew covers like this one.

LINK

SLH

Essential Iron Man vol 2 reprint (£14-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas, Stan Lee, Archie Goodwin & Gene Colan, Johnny Craig, George Tuska.

The original Kirby design was a classic, wasn’t it? Broad tubes of metal and a bucket on the head. Quickly it went a bit spazmo with that yellow, twin-pointed, rivet-ridden faceplate, but here Colan presents a succession of villains with an Iron Man who really does look as if he’s made out of girders. It’s those thick, red shoulder hoops. The sheer weight of Colan’s figures leant the impression that he could probably lift or even eat steel girders if required.

And then there’s George Tuska… Unfortunately.

LINK

SLH

Avengers Assemble vol 1 (£25-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, John Ostrander, Joe Edkins, Len Kaminski & George Perez, Sean Chen, Andy Kubert, Derec Aucoin, Carlos Pacheco.

Mostly it’s Busiek & Perez, though.

Sorcery, secrets and sub-plots. Big rosters, big names, big villains, and a few friends falling out very early on. There’s a roll call in public, subtle shifts in the line-up, and then there is George Perez, the definitive AVENGERS artist – alongside John Buscema – of its classic, bygone era.

Clearly, there couldn’t have been a heartier attempt to rekindle the finest elements in Avengers history back in 1997 until Brian Michael Bendis came along several years later and rewrote the rule book completely in AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED. Marvel even gave it a new #1, which was somewhat more of a novelty back then.

The older fanboys squealed. In fact I recall Gordon Davidson declaring at the counter that if there was anyone on the planet who didn’t think this was genius, then they were almost certainly gay. Oh, how we laughed! We did actually, though I’m not sure Gordon knew why.

So no, not exactly genius (!), but still I did admire its fun and the flash of George Perez’s insanely detailed, brightly coloured costumes because I too am a fanboy and, in particular, an Avengers fanboy. Its early Ultron storyline was actually pretty intense but that’s further down the line. For the moment I give you way too much at once in the midst of which:

The resurrection of Wonder Man in ionic form, consequent marital strife between an involuntarily intangible Vision and the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye disgruntled by the chain of command, Ms. Marvel disgraced by her secrets and lies, Squadron Supreme, Morgan Le Fay, Ultron’s head as an ashtray, a big Kree crossover and Agatha Harnkess’ house in Whisper Hill. Yes, this first book’s focus is most definitely on Wanda, the extent of her powers and their origins. Beside her stand Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Firestar and Vance Astro. And, for the first few issues, almost every single Avenger other than the Hulk. As Henry McCoy asks, “What are we going to do with 39 Avengers?”

Sold like crazy back then.

Reprints AVENGERS #1-11, AVENGERS ANNUAL 1998, IRON MAN #7, CAPTAIN AMERICA #8 and QUICKSILVER #10.

SLH

Also arrived:

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

Emitown (£18-99, Image) by Emi Lenox. Autobiographical diary entries. Lovin’ it! Jeffrey Brown, Jeff Lemire and Mike Allred all agree. Afterword by KING CITY’s Brandon Graham. More next week!
Salvatore vol 1: Transports Of Love (£10-99, NBM) by Nicolas De Crecy
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 2: Chameleons s/c (UK Ed’n) (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Lafuente, Takeshi Miyazawa
Deadpool Team-Up vol 2: Special Relationship h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Rob Williams, David Lapham, Frank Tieri, James Asmus, Jeff Parker & Matteo Scalera, Shawn Crystal, Chris Staggs, Micah Gunnell, Steve Sanders
Deadpool Corps: Prelude s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Victor  Gischler & Rob Liefeld, Whilce Portacio, Jaime Mendoza, Phillip Bond, Kyle Baker, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco
Thor: Siege s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Billy Tan, Rich Elson, Doug Braithwaite, Jamie McKelvie, Niko Henrichon
Spawn: Endgame vol 1 (£10-99, Image) by Todd McFarlane, Brian Hoguin & Whilce Portacio
Magdalena: Origins vol 1 (£10-99, Top Cow) by Malachy Coney & Joe Benitez
Junjo Romantica vol 12 (£10-99, Blu) by Shungiku Nakamura
Gantz vol 15 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku
Starcraft: Ghost Academy vol 1 (£8-50,Tokyopop) by Keith R.A. Decandido & Fernando Heinz Furukawa
Starcraft: Ghost Academy vol 2 (£8-50,Tokyopop) by David Gerrold & Fernando Heinz Furukawa

Next week’s reviews to including brand-new second series of CASANOVA by Matt Fraction. Order #1 now direct from page45@page45.com. Err, please.

 

 - Stephen

January Previews for March 2011

Monday, January 10th, 2011

I see some student tosspots want to turn Quidditch into an officially recognised American sport, just as I’d like to turn sewing up their mewling mouths into a legal personal pastime. We can’t all get what we want so I’m sterilising my needles now regardless of how my petition to the European Court of Human Rights goes.

 - Stephen on The Taxidermist by John Wagner & Cam Kennedy, Steve Dillon


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

Books for March 2011 onwards

Mister Wonderful (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Dan Clowes.

Two new Dan Clowes books in under a year, with that last EIGHTBALL reconfigured as DEATH-RAY yet to come in the autumn. Oh my word, but we are made for 2011! From the creator of WILSON and GHOST WORLD, then…

“Meet Marshall. Sitting alone in the local coffee place. He’s been set up by his friend Tim on a blind date with someone named Natalie, and now he’s just feeling set up. She’s nine minutes late and counting. Who was he kidding anyway? Divorced, middle-aged, newly unem­ployed, with next to no prospects, Marshall isn’t ex­actly what you’d call a catch. Twenty minutes pass.
A half hour. Marshall orders a scotch. (He wasn’t going to drink!) Forty minutes. 
”Then, after nearly an hour, when he’s long since given up hope, Natalie appears—breathless, apologiz­ing profusely that she went to the wrong place. She takes a seat, to Marshall’s utter amazement.  
”She’s too good to be true: attractive, young, intel­ligent, and she seems to be seriously engaged with what Marshall has to say. There has to be a catch.  
”And, of course, there is.  
”During the extremely long night that follows, Marshall and Natalie are emotionally tested in ways that two people who just met really should not be. Not, at least, if they want the prospect of a second date.  
”A captivating, bittersweet, and hilarious look at the potential for human connection in an increasingly hopeless world, MISTER WONDERFUL more than lives up to its name.”

April 2011. Read for free here!

LINK

Other Lives s/c (£13-50, Vertigo/DC) by Peter Bagge.

Loved it. Satire explores the warped sense of reality and identity that living an online lie can give people. April 27th. Full review here:

LINK

Cyclops vol 1 (£14-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon.

From the creators of Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month THE KILLER: controversial private armies for hire and the pervasiveness of the media.

“2054. Douglas Pistoia is looking for work, but only a private security firm, Multicorps Security, has offered him a job. Soon after he signs up, the UN decides to outsource its peacekeeping missions, and Multicorps wins the first bid, propelling Douglas into a war that is not his own, a highly sophisticated war broadcast worldwide by the soldiers themselves, thanks to the micro-cameras in their helmets. They are called the Cyclops. Douglas plays the game, and slowly emerges as both a unit leader and a media celebrity. But how far will he go in exploring the boundaries between war and peacekeeping, news and entertainment?”

LINK

Empire State: A Love Story (Or Not) h/c (£13-50, Abrams) by Jason Shiga.

From the creator of MEANWHILE, the comicbook of choice (as in, you choose how it goes – a bit like life, really, unless you abnegate personal responsibility to determinism making you a tosser), a journey to New York City as a twenty-something, self-professed geek breaks his torpidity to follow his long-standing friend Sara there after sending her a love letter. She pretends she never received it. And presents him with a boyfriend instead. Reunions: always a bit dodgy.

Incredible Change-Bots vol 2 (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Jeffrey Brown.

It’s Fantasticons versus Awesomebots take-two in this ultra-low-budget sequel to the frankly-no-budget original as reviewed with relish by Tom: LINK.

You’d have thought Jeffrey’s visual sensibilities the very last likely to appeal to genuine, never-read-anything-that-wasn’t-an-action-comic TRANSFORMERS fans, but they lapped it up and laughed out loud just as hard as Jeffrey’s natural fans. You’ll find a special seasonal instalment linked to here:

LINK

Vignettes Of Ystov (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by William Goldsmith.

“Ubiquitous,
 Like shoe polish!
 Ubiquitous,
 Like brine!
 Ubiquitous,
 Like a pigeon!
 This ubiquity
 Of mine!”

Ubiquitous is a word I’m inordinately fond of too – I use it everywhere.

Above was the sort of poem read out on Eugene Tusk’s poetry nights when the occasional police raid or soccer brawl would precipitate a swift exit. He once left a briefcase behind stuffed full of his original poetry. I wonder what happened to that?

Ystov is a city as bleak as Bratislava yet with civic flourishes somewhat Russian in their monumentalism. It’s teaming with some very odd people: a janitor hoarding dustpan detritus swept up in the course of his job; young match breakers (not makers) on dutiful patrol, sabotaging courting couples in order to prevent future misery or stagnation; a pair of semi-scientists documenting the migration of battered furniture left out overnight for refuse collection the next morning, yet scavenged instead by a magpie community of thrifty old pensioners who would go on to claim they were family heirlooms. That same scientific team had previously investigated supposed coincidences in order to refute their existence, only to fall out over one. Yes it seems full of coincidence, does Ystov, but over the course of Goldsmith’s colour-coded two-page episodes which dip in and out of its inhabitants’ lives, a hidden trajectory of cause and effect is revealed in its stead through tiny glimpses of individuals criss-crossing each others’ paths.

Goldsmith originally came to editor Dan Franklin’s attention by entering the Observer’s annual Graphic Short Story Prize in association with Paul Gravett’s Comica and Jonathan Cape. I can’t recall whether he won, but it clearly pays to have a go! You can see his entry elsewhere on the website below, along with some sample pages of this extraordinarily original graphic novel. I’ve just read the whole thing, so you can consider this the review.

LINK

Pinocchio h/c (£19-99, Knockabout) by Winshluss.

Pinocchio through a glass very darkly indeed, this was the Grand Prize winner at Angoulême 2009, now given what little translation it needs. Pinocchio is a metallic weapon of war built by a greedy Geppetto, whilst Jiminy Cockroach squats in his skull. The squall of the ocean here is terrifying, monstrous and gloriously coloured whilst that full-page evocation of the horrors of war, like Eric Drooker thrown in a vat of acid, will char your brain.

LINK

Safe Area Gorazde Special Edition h/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Joe Sacco.

Reprint of the classic comicbook reportage from 2000 with additional sketches, photographs and transcripts. We still have the softcover permanently in stock as reviewed by Mark here:

LINK

Page by Paige (£7-50, Amulet/Abrams) by Laura Lee Gulledge.

Another find! Look what this woman does with shop windows, murals and scenery! LINK, LINK and LINK. Mark would have swooned his socks off. This is the sort of thing that makes trudging through PREVIEWS worthwhile.

“Paige has just moved to New York with her family, and she’s having trouble adjusting to the big city. In the pages of her sketchbook, she tries out different identities, including the ultra-secret one: ARTIST. As she makes friends and explores the city, she starts to bring her secret identity out into the open, which can be great (new, fabulous friends, and possible boyfriend) and terrifying (fights with mom and vulnerabilities exposed).”

I think this may be one for Hope Larson fans. Early interior art ideas:

LINK

Walking Shadows (£14-99, Manic D Press) by Nick Bousfield.

“In this uniquely beautiful wordless graphic novel reminiscent of legendary expressionist artists Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward [see Graphic Witness], a working-class family struggles to make ends meet and raise their children in a relentless world of economic challenges. The story of WALKING SHADOWS is told through full-page woodcut engravings. Each page is a hyper-detailed Expressionist work of Social Realism suitable for framing.”

They’re not kidding, either, as you’ll see if you click on the image at the top here:

LINK

R.I.P.: Best Of 1985-2004 h/c (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Thomas Ott

From the creator of the strange and sinister THE NUMBER, a collection of his equally silent shock-ending horror stories involving murder, suicide, mutilation, marital strife and nuclear annihilation. They can feel quite similar, those last two, can’t they? Here’s his official website:

LINK

Eye Of The Majestic Creature (£13-99, Fantagraphics) by Leslie Stein.

“Marshy, I’m ho-ome!”
“Haha haha ha! How’d it go?”
“Well, Boris drank so much that he got very small so I have him in this envelope.”
“Mmm.”

Thoughtfully she makes Boris macaroni for when he wakes up hungry, then pops him between the pasta so he’ll also wake up covered. In cheese.

These are the decidedly bizarre adventures of a young lady in San Francisco, Chicago and NYC, always coming home to her best friend, Marshy, who’s a sentient guitar. Check out November 10th here and, if totally baffled, scroll down to November 4th to see how Boris became so small he had to be stuffed in an envelope. Fantagraphics calls these episodes “semi-autobiographical”. Which is worrying.

LINK

Moomin vol 6 h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly by Lars Jansson.

Younger brother Lars takes over from Tove as Moomin becomes vegetarian in time for spies and stolen diamonds in Moominvalley. Vol 1 back in print:

LINK

Rainy Day Recess: The Complete Steven’s Comics (£10-99, Northwest) by David Kelly.

With the unexpected return of David Collier and Matt Howarth to comics (see below) my neck was already crooked with double-takes, but here too is David Kelly in his infinitely better years when he evoked the quieter, more innocent moments of a sensitive boy growing up in the seventies. Alison Bechdel (FUN HOME) whom we love dearly insists on stamping the word “queer” on this and I’m all for taking back the English language but it’s just not appropriate here for it implies an active sexuality that’s merely nascent, a self-awareness that exists only in the respect that Steven knows he’s slightly different and that he shares something special with his best friend Christopher which he doesn’t understand but is grateful for. It’s the epitome of endearing, a pretty accurate evocation of bemused curiosity, and Mark was also a fan… before BOY TROUBLE reared its ugly, stereotypical head. Nothing to be frightened of here, I promise:

LINK

The Complete Wendel (£18-99, Universe) by Howard Cruse.

This, on the other hand, is a far racier affair and so less inclusive affair! Two-page comedy strips, with many moments of smile-inducing accuracy when Cruse lovingly pokes fun at some of the flightier aspects of the gay scene. As Wendel falls in love with Ollie there are also some great pieces on Wendel’s anxious reaction to Ollie’s ex-wife and son. Like Wendel himself, Cruse is exuberantly candid, and that can’t be anything but a positive force, but I do feel obliged to report that some of our customers may find certain scenes… a bit much!

LINK

Chimo (£12-99, Conundrum) by David Collier.

Wholly unexpected return to comics from the creator of the FRANK RITZA PAPERS. Jeepers. Here, aged 40, David re-enlists in the Canadian Army and leaves his family behind to undergo basic training again and serve in Afghanistan. For those unaware of Collier – and I’d be very much surprised if there are more than half a dozen of us who are aware of it because unlike Harvey Pekar (AMERICAN SPLENDOR) no one chose to make a film of his work – the man is a gentle giant of introspection. I once had dinner with his once-step-mum of sorts, as did a couple of our customers without knowing it.

LINK

Suddenly Something Happened (£14-99, Conundrum) by Jimmy Beaulieu.

Autobiography from seasoned French Canadian. “Jimmy ponders the difference between living in Quebec City and Montreal with its bohemian nightlife. He starts to publish other artists, travels to comic festivals around the globe, settles down and watches the neighbourhood change. Told in richly rendered pencil lines in front of masterfully drawn backdrops portraying Quebec’s urban and rural landscapes, these are the complete non-adventures of Jimmy Beaulieu, an easygoing artist with an appreciation for the finer things in life—such as the balconies of Montreal in spring time and station wagons with fake wood panelling.”

Features the only cover I don’t like out of a dozen here that I love:

LINK

Baby’s In Black: The Story Of Astrid Kirchherr & Stuart Sutcliffe (£14-99, Self-Made Hero) by Arne Bellstorf.

There are two musicians commonly referred to as “the fifth Beatle”: drummer Pete Best, and bass guitarist Stuart Sutcliffe who was always more of an artist than a musician. When the Beatles (or Silver Beatles) were playing in Hamburg in 1960 they were joined on a photo shoot by young Astrid Kirchherr, artist and photographic assistant. This is her story – hers and Stuart’s, thenceforth a couple until Stuart died in 1962. Originally published in Germany, last year, I think.

LINK

The Klondike (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Zach Worton.

“The Klondike gold rush shook the Yukon on the eve of the twentieth century and stands today as the defining era in the taming of North America and especially Canada’s Great North. The history of how a handful of colourful characters sparked the largest mobilization of gold seekers in history is brought vividly to life in this debut graphic novel by cartoonist Zach Worton. His stunning depictions of the Canadian wilderness are as much a part of the action as the key players: the prospector George Carmack; racist prospector Robert Henderson; “Skookum Jim Mason,” a Native American posthumously credited with discovering gold; “Soapy Smith,” a noted con artist; and Belinda Mulrooney, perhaps the first female involved in the gold rush to become rich; and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Worton draws the reader into an absorbing historical tale of political intrigue and personal adventure, played out amid the free-for-all atmosphere of the Wild West.
”Drawn in an inviting, engagingly detailed style, The KLONDIKE also features notes and introductory texts accompanying each chapter, and a thorough, illustrated index of all the key players in the gold rush, as well as a glossary featuring notes about “How to Pan for Gold” and tips on how to spot the differences between “fool’s gold” and the real thing.”

LINK

Clonk vol 1 (£14-99, Kettledrummer) by Ximo Abadia.

“A story of friendship, love and loss. Through elegantly crafted imagery and superb storytelling, artist Ximo Abadia explores the magic of childhood, its transitory nature and difficulties that come with growing up. Reminiscent of GOOD-BYE CHUNKY RICE and the work of Norwegian artist Jason, CLONK is sure to strike a chord in the hearts of all readers regardless of age.” That was the publisher, mind, but it does look sweet.

LINK

Yummy: The Last Day Of A Southside Story (£11-99, Lee & Low) by Greg Neri & Randy DuBurke.

A lot of schools in the US have commended this as suitable for ages 12 upwards.

“Eleven-year-old Roger is trying to make sense of his classmate Robert “Yummy” Sandifer’s death, but first he has to make sense of Yummy’s life. Yummy could be as tough as a pit bull sometimes. Other times he was as sweet as the sugary treats he loved to eat. Was Yummy some sort of monster, or just another kid? As Roger searches for the truth, he finds more and more questions. How did Yummy end up in so much trouble? Did he really kill someone? And why do all the answers seem to lead back to a gang—the same gang Roger’s older brother belongs to? A compelling dramatization based on events that occurred in Chicago in 1994, this gritty exploration of youth gang life will force readers to question their own understandings of good and bad, right and wrong.” Trailer:

LINK

Whirlwind Wonderland (£10-99, Sparkplug) by Rina Ayuyang.

“The life-altering exploits of a somewhat-normal Filipino American girl as she meanders through sleepy suburban sprawls, empty diners, fantasy-filled commuter traffic jams, misplaced football fanaticism, ethnic identity crash courses, and just good ole family hi-jinx.”

There are five sample pages to be gleaned by clicking on the cover here, each with a completely different tone, style and layout. The second-full-colour montage is bursting with joy and enthusiasm.

LINK

The Heavy Hand (£10-50, Sparkplug) by Chris C. Cilla.

Zak Sally (RECIDIVIST) writes:

“There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about comics– what they are, what they aren’t: “literary”, “Art”, etc etc. That’s all fine, but sometimes we get books like “The Heavy Hand” by cartoonists like Chris Cilla, and all of that talk is rendered moot– this book is a ridiculously potent distillation of Cilla’s singular comic book worldview: strange, dark, thick, big-nosed, slightly nightmarish and totally immersive– this is PURE COMICS, the real deal. I’ve long suspected that Chris Cilla is one of the best cartoonists around, and now the proof is here, for all to see. I know I will not read a better comic this year (and maybe not this decade). ‘The Heavy Hand’ is a fucking triumph.”

Do giant eggs worry you? They should. Here’s a broader synopsis and some preview pages if you click on the second link’s cover.

So peculiar I give you two links. One to a synopsis, the other to Cilla’s blog.

LINK & LINK

Shadoweyes vol 2: Shadoweyes In Love (£9-99, SLG/Amaze Ink) by Ross Campbell.

From the creator of WET MOON, second instalment off ‘MAXX in a ghetto’. Full review of vol 1 here:

LINK

Dragon Heir: Reborn (£7-00, Sweatdrop Studios) by Emma Vieceli.

Thoughtbubble attendees might already have stumbled upon this fully fledged fantasy with its delicate curves, long, flowing linen, inventive horizons and the odd band of George Perez texture (ah, you’ll know it when you see it!). The link below gives you the perfect preview and the cover is pretty special too.

“In this world, the Spirits govern all. You live by your spirit sign, you serve the Spirit World. Protus, one of four Dragon Heirs, sets out on a journey to gather the heirs and take them to the location chosen for Spiratu’s Ritual of Transcendence. This act will leave the four young men free of the dangerous dragon spirits they have harboured since they were born; free to begin their mortal lives with Spiratu’s blessing. However, in a world where fate has spawned not one but two sets of Dragon Heirs, what guarantee is there that a prophecy so ancient can be fulfilled at all? And just what could failure mean for the Dragon’s human hosts?”

LINK

An Elegy for Amelia Johnson h/c (£10-99, Archaia) by Andrew Roslan & Kate Kasenow, Dave Valeza.

“In her 30 years on earth, Amelia Johnson has touched many lives with her compassion, intelligence and spirit. Now, at the end of a year-long battle with cancer, she asks her two closest friends to take her final messages to the people who have touched her life the most. Henry Barrons is a cocky, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker whose demeanor hides deep insecurities. Jillian Webb is an acclaimed magazine writer with an inability to make long-term commitments. They set out across the country to fulfill Amelia’s dying wish…and end up learning more about her—and themselves—than they ever imagined.” I have no more info whatsover.

LINK

Elias The Cursed (£14-99, Humanoids) by Sylvanie Corgiat & Carrado Mastantuono.

Dear Humanoids, always a month behind being relevant on their site. Barbarian fantasy in which Elias is cursed by a wizard having stolen his face. Some us might actually benefit from such a swap.

Alexandro Jodorowsky’s Screaming Planet h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Jodorowsky & JH Williams III, Ladronn, Adi Granov.

Science-fiction shorts illustrated by three of the finest artists in the business. JH Williams III you may know from PROMETHEA, Batman: Black Glove or Batwoman; Adi Granov drew Warren Ellis’ Iron Man: Extremis (link there to s/c to show you his art but it’s out of print; h/c in stock here: LINK). Here’s a cover gallery with some insanely detailed art by Ladronn for HIPFLASK:

LINK

Driver For The Dead (£10-99, Radical) by John Heffernan & Leonardo Manco.

Architecturally impressive full-colour pages following flat-out coffin courier as he drives the body of voodoo priest Mose Freeman (hmmm, would those be portraits of Morgan Freeman? I think so…) to New Orleans with a resurrectionist hot on his fender. Download a preview if you fancy. Warning: Radical website can take yonks to load up. Go grab yourself a glass of wine.

LINK

American Vampire vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Vertigo/DC) by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque.

Thoroughly fresh and original vampire saga that moves on now from the Wild West and L.A. during the advent of talkies to Las Vega circa 1935 with Pearl and Skinner Sweet still in the saddle. May 25th.

LINK

Transmetropolitan vol 9: The Cure new ed. (£10-99, Vertigo/DC) by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson.

In this penultimate volume Spider Jerusalem steals Robert Smith’s fright wig, smudges on some lipstick and wails a rendition of Why Can’t I Be You? before sacking his Filthy Assistants and wiggling his fingers about in front of his mouth. 100,000 goths follow suit for the next 20 years, usually whilst dancing to Why Can’t I Be You?

Have a preview to vol 6: LINK

Buy vol 1 here: LINK

Absolute Promethea vol 3 slipcased h/c (£75-00, Vertigo/DC) by Alan Moore & J.H. Williams III.

Final edition featuring the most orgasmic apocalypse imaginable. Extras include Chris Sprouse’s version of the final events from TOM STRONG #36 and the Little Margie stories illustrated by Eric Shanower. More here:

LINK

Taxidermist (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner & Cam Kennedy, Steve Dillon.

I see some student tosspots want to turn Quidditch into an officially recognised American sport, just as I’d like to turn sewing up their mewling mouths into a legal personal past time. We can’t all get what we want so I’m sterilising my needles now regardless of how my petition to the European Court of Human Rights goes. But in the year 2116 2000AD’s Mega-Olympics came to Kathmandu, Nepal, and there the future’s finest aesthetes competed in staring, swearing, domestics, sex, mountaineering, mounting mountain goats and Human Taxidermy. Which brings me back to my first sentence.

LINK

Strange Tales II h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by various cool creators you would not expect to find anywhere near a Marvel comic (but who secretly love them).

Tom laughs. A lot. While bagging and taping each week’s delivery and reading the occasional comic in the process, Tom laughs. But I have never heard him guffaw so hard for so long as when reading each of these gems as they came out. See Jeffrey Brown, Lucy Knisley, James Stokoe, Alex Robinson, Dash Shaw, David Heatley, Dean Haspiel, Edu Medeiros, Farel Dalrymple, Frank Santoro, Gene Yang, Gilbert Hernandez, Harvey Pekar, Jaime Hernandez, Jeff Lemire, Jhonen Vasquez, Jillian Tamaki, Jon Vermilyea, Kate Beaton, Nick Gurewitch, Paul Hornschemeier, Paul Maybury, Rafael Grampa, Shannon Wheeler, Terry Moore, Tim Hamilton, Tony Millionaire tell untold and surely untellable stories of the Marvel Universe.

Avengers: Prime h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alan Davis.

Not a single tower of the once mighty Asgard is standing. Amongst the stone ruins there are fires ablaze as the timbers and fine linen of the more opulent halls crackle and spit out flaming-hot cinders, and the night sky is clouded with smoke. Steve Rogers in combats and a black, polar-necked sweatshirt comes straight to the point:

“Thor, tell us what you need and you will have it.”
“Just seeing it like this… my Father’s kingdom in complete ruin.”
“Hey, anything can be rebuilt. Anything. Every time I’ve had to rebuild this armour, I’ve always made it better every time. Wait till you see my new stuff.”

Good old Tony look-at-me Stark. Mr. Sensitive 2010. No wonder Steve is pissed off.

“We’ll see.”
“We’ll see what?”
“I’m not convinced letting you keep that armour is in the best interests of the country, Iron Man. I haven’t made up my mind.”

Just in case you’ve been holidaying on the moon these last five years, the three core Avengers – Thor, Iron Man and Captain America – have issues with each other. Or at least Thor and Steve Rogers have issues with Iron Man, and have had ever since CIVIL WAR. Then Tony Stark took the government’s position on the Superhuman Registration Act and endorsed the construction of a cyborg clone from Thor’s cell tissues. It killed one of their friends. Then he had Steve locked up for good measure.

Anyway, the destruction of Asgard in SIEGE comes with additional hazards like the Rainbow Bridge, a portal to other dimensions, being broken. But before they can contain the gateway, the gateway contains them, sucking them through to three different, otherworldly locations, none of them particularly hospitable. Stark is deprived of his armour and runs around naked, desperately trying to hide his genitals with rejoinders (he has a sympathetic letterer) and trying to wise-crack his way back into his old friends’ hearts. Lovely art from the ever-lovely Alan Davis.

Ultimate Avengers vol 3: Blade Vs The Avengers UK edition (£12-99, Panini) by Mark Millar & Steve Dillon.

Not, as the solicitation claims (and, therefore, several dozen websites, I imagine), drawn by Leinil Francis Yu but by Steve Dillon. And I love Steve Dillon – were I ever to write a comic he’d be in my top three artists to illustrate it – but not on big-action superheroes. Makes it seem like a sort of WHAT IF? comedy cartoon.

Here it’s what if vampires actually exist in the Ultimate Universe; and they do, although scepticism runs high. Unfortunately they’ve gone straight for the jugular by infecting the Hulk clone first and no one will let Blade, Vampire Hunter, do his job properly. As the Ultimate Avengers prove their own worst enemy, thousands become infected, swelling the plague which takes the fight straight to the Triskelion before Fury can even begin his assault. Someone recently asked what happened to Perun, The Liberators’ version of Thor from ULTIMATES SEASON 2 vol 2. Find out here. Also features the Ultimate version of Stick and a younger Daredevil.

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Kaare Andrews.

“How come we all have to wear your G.I. Joe uniform of the week and Emma gets to wear what she likes, Cyke?”
“Darling, if you were sleeping with the leader of the pack, I’m sure that you too could wear what you liked. Presumably a fresh animal skin of some kind.”
“There’s beer on the plane, Logan.”

The X-Men are off on a field trip to Mbangawi in Africa on the other side of Lake Victoria from the Serengeti plains where Ororo grew up. Her husband King T’Challa has reported a phenomenon of so-called mutant births, babies manifesting explosive powers straight out of the womb. Of course the X-gene only powers up at puberty, but still…

Possibly Ellis’ finest ASTONISHING story yet as we’re treated to a sobering history lesson courtesy of Logan and some magnificent African landscapes by one the most versatile artists in comics. For those interesting in the construction of – or even constructing – comics, there’s the bonus of the original script at the back. Also I think Ellis is the first person to amuse us with the blindingly obvious r.e. Emma Frost: her English accent is fake! Blindingly obvious now that he’s mentioned it, anyway. Not to be confused with Astonishing X-Men Exogenetic, also superb.

Captain America: The Captain (£29-99, Marvel) by Mark Gruenwald & Tom Morgan, Kieron Dwyer.

I would shoot myself if Page 45 was the sort of shop where this stuff sold.* Collects #332-350 from some twenty-odd years ago and IRON MAN #228 in which Steve Rogers refuses to become a government operative and is therefore stripped of his uniform, title and shield and a new Captain America is born: rightwing John Walker, later US Agent.

*Unique, leftfield marketing strategy: do you want to see Stephen drop dead? Why not reserve a copy now? Five hits and he’ll top himself, promise.

Punisher: Welcome Back Frank s/c new printing (£18-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon.

Ennis wrote the Punisher in two very different tones: politically aware, dark and dirty; and O.T.T. camp and hilarious. This is the first foray in the second mode, and highly recommended. See out-of print hardcover review here: LINK.

New Mutants: Fall Of The New Mutants h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells & Leonard Kirk.

Third book in the current series carrying on where X-Men: Second Coming left off.

Shadowland: Blood On The Streets h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Antony Johnston & Wellington Alves.

Mini-series that ties into SHADOWLAND and DAREDEVIL: SHADOWLAND written by the scribe of DAREDEVIL: SHADOWLAND. And, you know, WASTELAND. More on the schedule of that in News & Letters January 2011.

Silver Sable, Paladin, Misty Knight and the Shroud in a murder mystery as the battle for Hell’s Kitchen against its former protector ensures chaos on the streets and a lot of blood in the gutter. Please see Also Scheduled for further SHADOWLAND cash-ins written by people who aren’t mail order customers whose talent I actually rate.

Punisher Max vol 6 oversized h/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Hurwitz, Swierczynski, Gischler & Campbell, Lacombe, Parlov, Palo.

Stuff you’ve probably already bought as softcovers, it’s up to you.

Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Frank Cho.

Please see December Previews for my preview of the UK S/c edition @ £11-99.

Thor: First Thunder (£12-99, Marvel) by Bryan J.L. Glass & Tan Eng Huat.

To this comic’s credit, the first issue of THOR – or rather the eighty-third issue of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY in which Marvel’s version of Thor first appeared – wasn’t the most scintillating of secret origins, and that’s the full extent of the first issue here: a tweaking of the alien invasion that sees Doctor Donald Blake, on holiday in Norway, scuttling into a cave to avoid some giant rock-beasts. There, having lost his walking stick, he finds a gnarled branch of wood to serve the same purpose. Striking it in frustrated anger, it transforms him into the Mighty Thor, Norse God of Thunder, in body at least. It’s a while before he starts thee, thou, thying. In this new version he’s at it immediately, beseeching his all-father Odin not forswear him stuff out of disapproval. In fact the entire emphasis of the rewrite is on suffering the vocalised disapproval of a contemptuous, dismissive father: Blake’s. There’s also an indigenous couple to save, which Thor refuses to do even when the woman is dangling from a root at the top of a precipice, just out of reach. Somehow the good doctor does, however, even though, you know, she’s just out of reach. And I’m afraid that’s the way it goes throughout. It’s barely more sophisticated than the original, and the art is grotesque, uglier than Whilce Portacio’s worst excesses (Whilce’s art can be phenomenally striking or hideously overwrought). Whether it will go on to explore how a Norse God is greeted by the good Christians of the USA in a more plausible way than the original run remains to be seen, but on the basis of the first issue, I suspect not.

Venom by Daniel Way Ultimate Edition (£25-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & various

#1-18 of the symbiote’s previous series. See comic section for the new one.

Fantastic Four: Extended Family (£1-99, Marvel) by various.

Issues through the ages in which various members of the FF have taken a sabbatical after losing their powers, getting pregnant, lobotomising their children or contemplating divorce (it’s a fairly natural cause and effect situation there). See them replaced with Medusa, Crystal, Luke Cage, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, Ghost Rider, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Storm, Namorita and a Skrull.

Batman & Robin vol 3: Batman Must Die h/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart, Frazer Irving, David Finch.

The Joker and Black Glove cause more chaos than ever just as Wayne Manor’s favourite son returns. Reprints #13-16 then the RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE one-shot that then leads into BATMAN INC. May 11th. Yes, a Wednesday. From now on all comics hit the shelves on Wednesdays, not just the good ones.

Brightest Day vol 2 h/c (£22-50, DC) by Geoff Johns, Peter Tomasi & Ivan Reis, more.

Second third of the series following the twelve heroes and villains resurrected by the white light expelled from deep within the Earth’s centre. Deadman, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter etc. Due May 4th.

Birds Of Prey vol 1: Endrun h/c (£16-99, DC) by Gail Simone & Ed Benes, more.

First six issues of the recent relaunch starring Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress etc. May 12th.

DV8: Gods And Monsters (£13-50, Wildstorm/DC) by Brian Wood & Rebekah Isaaca.

Nifty little read that charges on at a cracking rate as Gem Antontelli, the crimson-haired Copycat, is debriefed on a mission that evidently went spectacularly wrong. Never well served by their commanders, it seems that the DV8 crew were dropped from a Shiftship onto a world they weren’t expecting. I think they were expecting it to be theirs. Instead it was a Stone Age populated by feuding tribes. Somehow Gem arrived much later than them and ended up being dropped into a war zone. Rescued by Leon “Frostbite” Carver, it’s only when she wakes up nine days later that she learns what happened to the rest of DV8 after they first landed: one by one they left or went missing, each establishing a relationship with the tribes. Never the most stable nor altruistic bunch of teenagers, those relationships weren’t necessarily healthy…

You need to know nothing about previous incarnations of this title which is fortunate because as far as I can tell the only book I remember (Warren Ellis’) is now out of print. Rebekah’s art is clean and spacious and if you don’t trust Brian (LOCAL/DEMO/DMZ/NORTHLANDERS) Wood by now then you probably never will. April 20th

Time Masters: Vanishing Point (£10-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens.

See Morrison’s BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRICE WAYNE mini-series from the point of view of Booster Gold, Green Lantern, Superman etc. April 6th.

Booster Gold: Past Imperfect (£13-50, DC) by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Chris Batista etc.

Booster travels back in time to fix things, only to come face to face with Justice League International and himself. He’s probably going to need to fix that. April 13th.

Hitman vol 5: Ace Of Killers (£13-50, DC) by Garth Ennis & John McCrea.

Catwoman and Etrigan journey to Hell. April 20th.

Our Army At War (£10-99, DC) by Darwyn Cooke, more & Darwyn Cooke, Phil Winslade, more.

All five 2010 war-torn one-shots.

Flash Omnibus by Geoff Johns vol 1 h/c (£55-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Angel Unzueta, Doug Hazlewood, Scott Kolins, Ethan Van Sciver more.

Inevitably DC emulates Marvel by reprinting inaffordably huge chunks of material in a single volume… FLASH #164-176, FLASH: OUR WORLDS AT WAR #1, FLASH: IRON HEIGHTS and FLASH SECRET FILES #3. May 18th.

Red: Better R.E.D. Than Dead (£10-99, DC) by Cully Hamner, more & Cully Hamner, more.

Sold a lot of Warren Ellis’ RED before the film; no one requested these recent cash-ins at all.

Superstar: As seen on TV (£10-99, IDW) by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen.

From precisely ten years ago when I wrote: One-shot/pilot giving superheroics the celebrity treatment as altruistic blonde-boy Cody finds he can trust no one. His father wants to make money from his status; his girlfriend sells his story in a book. The thing is, Cody relies on his fans’ bioenergy to power him. It’s donated like blood and collected like a VISA transaction, by inserting your hand into machines found in stores, at conventions and rallies, and if it doesn’t keep coming, he’s stuffed.  So although Cody’s reluctant to authorise Superstar toys and the like, his father’s strategies to market him as Superstar do actually pay dividends both financially for Dad, and biochemically for Cody. Now, that’s actually quite a neat concept, and Kurt and Immonen always tell a readable story, but formula (and there’s a lot of it) overtakes inventiveness as Busiek fails to make the leap from concept to extrapolation, settling instead for a history of superfoes, a race against time and a biff-bang-pow with a robot. There are no thoughts on the ethics of donating bioenergy to a single person, nor society’s attitude to it, and although it’s touched upon, there’s no real, hard discussion of the media manipulation necessary to maintain popstar status, nor the personal sacrifices/compromises required. And of course although Cody whinges for a couple of panels about the latter, he’ll keep on fighting the good fight because, well, he’s a hero. It was £4-50 ten years ago.

Danger Girl vol 1 (£14-99, IDW) by everyone other than J. Scott Campbell although he is in the credits anyway.

The three DANGER GIRL stories you don’t want, rather than the single one you do. Used to be at Wildstorm, yes. The Wildstorm imprint is gone.

Strange Science Fantasy (£18-99, IDW) by Scott Morse with Paul Pope.

Big bunch o’ stoopid with six hilariously succinct one-page shorts by Paul Pope.

Cowboys & Aliens h/c (£18-99, IT) by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg & Luciano Lima.

“The ultimate showdown between Cowboys and Indians is interrupted – by an alien invasion.”

LINK

Eternal Descent vol 1 (£18-99, IDW) by Lexi Leon & Jason Metcalf, Gabriel Guzman.

The road to hell is paved with heavy metal. As is hell itself. See real-life heavy metal bands like Static X mix it up with demons. But do it in another shop.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Six Sea Chanties (£7-50, Disney) by various.

Disney, of course, is way too arrogant to bother listing any individual creators, assuming instead that its brand names will draw young readers into these short stories strewn throughout the films’ timelines. I have managed to glean that Andy Kuhn, Tom Mandrake and Phil Hester should be involved in various capacities as well as Rob Kidd who isn’t an actual human being but a collection of staff writers. Classy.

Art & Prose for March 2011 onwards

Comics Journal 301 (£2-50, Fantagraphics) by various.

See, we told you it’d happen! 600 pages including an interview with Joe Sacco, a peak inside Jim Woodring’s sketchbook, a look at Robert Crumb’s GENESIS, and a conversation between MAD’s Al Jaffee (all those fold-out/fold-up features) and Michael Kupperman. The interviews are always in-depth and enormous, and the critiques employ very long words and a certain degree of snobbery. COMPLETE CRUMB VOLS 13 and 15 are also being reprinted @ £14-99 each.

LINK

Agonizing Love: The Golden Era Of Romance Comics (£199-99, HarperCollins) by Michael Barson.

Over 200 pages of colour covers in all their tearful trauma and swooning sexism, plus the woeful stories within, and adverts and advice columns. Advice columns! They’ll be awesome!

“[Michael Barton] lives in suburban New Jersey with his wife of 26 years, who hasn’t stopped weeping since tying the knot. They have three boys, none of whom know anything worthwhile about either love or romance.” Brilliant!

Genius, Isolated: The Life And Art Of Alex Toth (£37-99, IDW) by Alex Toth with others.

First of three volumes chronicling the life and art of Alex Toth. ZORRO, SPACE GHOST etc. Not my thing at all, but Paul Gravett wrote his obituary in The Guardian. Here you go:

LINK

Setting The Standard: Alex Toth (£29-99, Fantagraphics) edited by Greg Sadowski.

Or try this instead. 1952-1954 in the form of comics and analysis.

The Sky: The Art Of Final Fantasy 5-volume boxed set (£97-99, Dark Horse) by Yoshitaka Amano.

800 pages divided into five books by the illustrator of Neil Gaiman’s original SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS. The first three books contain the art to Final Fantasy I-III, IV to VI and VII to X, the fourth contains an interview and index, whilst the fifth is a flipbook showing two examples of Amano’s art in motion. Also included: acetate print and postcards. A more affordable FF art book here:

LINK


Also scheduled:
New Character Parade (£8-99, Pigeon) by Johnny Ryan.
Nick Cardy: Artist At War (£29-99, Eva Ink) by Nick Cardy
Captain Easy vol 2: Solider Of Fortune resolicited (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Roy Crane
Fables vol 15: Rose red (£13-50, Vertigo/DC) by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Mark Buckingham, JH Williams III, more April 6th
Sandman vol 5: A Game Of You new ed. (£14-99, Vertigo/DC) by Neil Gaiman & various. April 27th.
Essential Captain America vol 6 (£14-99, Marvel) by various
Stephen King’s N (£13-50, Marvel) by Marc Guggenheim & Alex Maleev
Iron Man: Rapture (£10-99, Marvel) by Alexander Irvine & Lan Medina
What If? Dark Avengers (£1899, Marvel) by various
Power Pack Classic vol 3 (£22-50, Marvel) by two Simonsons, Terry Austin & various
Thor The Mighty Avenger vol 2 (£10-99, Marvel) by Roger Langridge & Chris Samnee
Thor: Lost Gods (£19-99, Marvel) by Rom DeFalco & Deodato Studios, Sal Buscema
Marvel Adventures Thor: Bringers Of The Storm digest (£7-50, Marvel) by various
Marvel Masterworks: Iron Fist vol 1 h/c (£40-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas, Chris Claremont, Len Wein & Gil Kane, John Byrne, Larry Hama, Arvell Jones, Pat Broderick.
Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers vol 3 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Don Heck.
X-Men Origins II h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by various
Captain America: American Nightmare h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Waid, Busiek, Stern & Andy Kubert, Zircher
Dr. Strange: Into The Dark Dimension h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Roger Stern & Paul Smith, Blevins, Badger
Thing: Liberty Legion h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas & various.
Deadpool Pulp h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Adam Glass & Mike Benson
Deadpool vol 6: I Rule, You Suck h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Barberi, Dazo
Halo: Fall Of Reach – Boot Camp h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Reed & Felix Ruiz
Iron Man: Industrial Revolution h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Fred Van Lente & Steve Kurth
Shadowland: Power Man h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Fred Van Lente & Mahmud Asrar
Shadowland: Moon Knight h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Gregg Hurwitz & Doug Moench
Captain America: the Legacy Of Captain America (£11-99, Marvel) by various through the ages
Thing Classic vol 1 (£18-99, Marvel) by John Byrne & Ron Wilson
Heralds (£11-99, Marvel) by Kathryn Immonen & Tonci Zonjic
Hawkeye & Mocking Bird/Black Widow: Widowmaker (£11-99, Marvel) by some with others
Ages Of Heroes (£14-99, Marvel) by various
Klaws Of The Black Panther (£10-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Maberry & Gianluca Gugliotta
Girl Comics (£11-99, Marvel) by Jill Thompson, Amanda Conner, Lea Hernandez, Carla Speed McNeil, Ann Noccenti, more.
Lots of softcovers of previous hardcovers. Will let you know when they’re in.
Gotham City Sirens vol 1 s/c (£13-50, DC) by Paul Dini, Scott Lobdell & Guillem March. April 13th.
Doc Savage: Lords Of Lightnight (£13-50, DC) by Malmont, Starr & Howard Porter, more
Flash: Rebirth s/c (£10-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver. April 27th.
Jonah Hex: Tall Tales (£10-99, DC) by Gray, Palmiotti & Phil Winslade, more
Superman: Codename Patriot (£10-99, DC) by James Robinson, Greg Rucka, Sterling Gates & Pete Woods, more.
Superman/Batman: Worship (£13-50, DC) by Paul Levitz & Jerry Ordway
Showcase Presents: Green Lantern vol 5 (£14-99, DC) by Dennis O’Neil, Elliot S. Maggin & Neal Adams, Mike Grell etc.
Green Lantern Corps: Revolt Of The Alpha Lanterns h/c (£16-99, DC) by Gates, Bedard & Syaf, Decastro
Drafted (£18-99, IDW) by Mark Powers & Chris Lie, Rebekah Isaacs
Dead@17 vol 6: The Witch Queen (£9-99, Image) by Josh Howard
Savage Dragon: Emperor Dragon (£9-99, Image) by Erik Larsen
Skullkickers vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Jim Zubkavich & various
Spawn: Origins vol 10 (£10-99, Image) by Todd McFarlane & Greg Capullo, more
Witchblade: Redemption vol 2 (£10-99, Top Cow/Image) by Ron Marz, Phil Smith & Stjepan Sejic, Michael Gaydos, Alina Urusov
Darkness Origins vol 3 (£10-99, Image) by Garth Ennis, Malachy Coney & Marc Silvestri, Joe Benitez
Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet vol 2 (£14-99, D.E.) by Kevin Smith & Jonathan Lau
The Avenger: Justice Inc. Files (£13-99, Moonstone) by various
The Spider: Satan’s Murder Machines h/c (£18-99, Moonstone) by Norvell W. Page
Cornboy (£9-99, D.E.) by Joshua Dysart & George Edison
Mercy Thompson: Moon Called vol 1 s/c (£12-99, D.E.) by Patricia Briggs, David Lawrence & Amelia Woo
Widow Warriors (£12-99, D.E.) by Lloyd Chao, Christine Chi, Long To & Pat Lee
Amory Wars: In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth 3 vol 2 (£10-99, Boom!) by Claudio Sanchez, Peter David & Chris Burnham
Hexed (£10-99, Boom!) by Michael Alan Nelson & Emma Rios
Pale Horse (£10-99, Boom!) by Michael Alan Nelson & Christian Dibari
Excalibur (£8-99, Candlewick Press) by Tony Lee & Sam Hart
Nancy Hernandez & The Black Widows (£10-99, Diablo) by Scott Marcano, Jaime Zevallos & Juan Romera
Matt Baker: Art Of Glamour h/c (£29-99, Twomorrows) by Michael Eury
Le Morte D’Arthur (£12-99) by Malory, Matthews & Will Sweeney

Comics for March 20111 onwards

Night Animals (£5-99, Top Shelf) by Brecht Evens.

A middle-aged man in a business suit zips over it a bunny suit and waits for his date in the park. Evidently stood up, he doesn’t give up but rather gathers his bouquet, takes it to a bar and jumps down its toilet. Thereafter it’s a phantasmagorical, subaquatic journey through hell and high water down to the depths where only the angler fish see. Ride A White Shark is a song which Marc Bolan never quite sang, but he might have been tempted if he’d read this first. He did love comics, after all.

“Lush colors, wild imagination, and rich human themes collide in the Top Shelf debut of Belgian cartoonist Brecht Evens.” There are two stories here, and this is the one I’ve described. Will those flowers ever find the subject of their rejection? Click on ‘Preview’:

LINK

Caligula #1 of 6 (£2-99, Avatar) by David Lapham & German Nobile.

Caligula Syndrome: easily the best song Marc Almond’s done in 25 years: LINK.

Meanwhile, how can one possibly match the depravity of sex-strewn zombie comic CROSSED? You write the fully authorised biography of Emperor Caligula, and you just write it straight.

LINK

Carbon Grey #1 (£2-25, Image) by Hoang Nguyen, more, Hoang Nguyen, more.

Feels like the sort of material Humanoids would be interested in. Big sky fights with Zeppelins, futuristic rifles, Germanic insignia and head-shots clean through the skull. Okay, messily and leaving little head on the shoulders.

“At the birth of the industrial age a great war rages. Into chaos twins are born Mathilde and Giselle, the Sisters Grey. Beautiful yet deadly the sisters are sworn to protect the Kaiser, ruler of Mitteleuropa. When the Kaiser is found dead Giselle is accused of his murder. Pursued by her sister and hunted by the enemy Giselle must clear her name and unravel the prophecy of the Carbon Grey before history itself is rewritten.”

Thank Christ there are no prophecies in my life. I don’t know about you but mine’s quite complicated enough as it is without turning it into a cryptic crossword puzzle and second-guessing my way round Sainsbury’s. This is the sort of art you’re in for.

LINK

The Downsized (£3-99, Adhouse) by Matt Howarth.

“A parent’s 50th wedding anniversary gives old friends a reason to reunite and take stock of their lives. Mix in some porn, weed, unrequited love and a sick kitty cat, and you have THE DOWNSIZED. Think Big Chill for the new millennium. Matt (SAVAGE HENRY, POST BROS.) Howarth’s tale of modern life is sad and glorious while ringing with truth.”

Had no idea his KONNY & CZU was named after Can’s Holger Czukay until today. Complete change in style here:

LINK

Spontaneous FCBD edition (19 pence, Oni) by Joe Harris & Brett Weldele.

Pretty much the only At Cost Comicbook Month titles I’m remotely interested in this year (will Top Shelf please give it a rest with their toddler books?) largely due to Brett Weldele (SURROGATES, THE LIGHT, JULIUS etc.) and reader of THE LIGHT might be curious to discover Brett’s got spontaneous human combustion on the brain right now because that’s what this is about.

LINK

Vertigo Resurrected: Finals (£5-99, Vertigo/DC) by Will Pfeifer & Jill Thompson.

Four-issue mini-series I barely recall at all involving senior projects at Knox State college. Projects include time travel, armed robbery etc. As they do. Satire.

Hellraiser #1 (£2-99, Boom1) by Clive Barker, Christopher Monfette & Leonardo Manco.

From HELLBLAZER to HELLRAISER: Manco should be perfect for this. Boom! is making a big deal of Barker’s personal involvement in this new series (not a reprint of the old Epic editions) but I’m not sure I’d put too much faith in that claim. Anyway, yes, the return of Pinhead, the host with the most (nails sticking out of his bonce) who turned trepanation into a fashion statement, and who made successfully completing the Rubik’s Cube into a moment of some considerable trepidation.

Since you ask, however, Boom! is also reprinting that Epic HELLRAISER series @ £14-99 each including work by Neil Gaiman & Mike Mignola, Alex Ross, Kevin O’Neill etc.

Fall Of The Wolfmen (£3-95, Accent UK) by Dave West & Andy Bloor.

I’d say the title was pretty self-explanatory. The last time you’ll have seen Andy will have been in the back of PHONOGRAM, and Gillen calls this “a dark jewel in British I*die comics”. Page 45: responsible use of the English language.

LINK

Sigil #1 of 4 and Ruse #1 of 4 (£2-25 each, Crossgen/Marvel) by Mike Carey & Leonard Kirk & Mark Waid & Mirco Pierfederici, respectively.

Return of the Crossgen series which sustained public interest for all of three seconds before folding. A woman wields magic in the former; the latter stars an action-orientated Sherlock Holmes. Still, if this means reprints of Jimmy Cheung’s work on SCION, then fantasy merchants are in for a treat.

LINK

Fear Itself Prologue (£2-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Scot Eaton.

EVENT!!! Neatly playing into Marvel’s hands there. This is the prologue to FEAR ITSELF which will actually be written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Stuart Immonen and which Marvel are touting as an extinction-level event on a similar scale to CIVIL WAR. Other titles will tie-in, and the whole thing appears to spring out of the cliffhanger I just read in Ed Brubaker’s Captain America in which Sin, the Red Skull’s daughter, appears to have acquired something her father hasn’t even used yet even though The Red Skull has had it in his possession since WWII. Possibly. Lots for you to go on here:

LINK

Fantastic Four #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting.

Brand-new number one continuing exactly the same story from exactly the same team which will revert back to the original numbering when it is anniversarily expedient. One of the FF has been temporarily benched (or “died” in Marvel-speak). Who’s left, who’ll be new, how long will this last?

Ultimate Comics Avengers vs. New Ultimates #1 of 6, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #155, 156 (£2-99 each, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Leinil Yu and Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Samnee, Mark Bagley.

‘The Death Of Spider-Man’ crossover begins, but really you should be reading both series written by the Ultimate Universe’s co-founders anyway. Plus the return of Mark Bagley – hurrah!

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade – Young Avengers #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Allan Heinberg & Alan Davis.

Err, from the original writer of YOUNG AVENGERS and the current scribe on their current CRUSADE to find the Scarlet Witch, comes a story from before their past which will have ramifications for their future.

5 Ronin #1-5 (£2-25 each) by Peter Milligan & various.

From the writer of Vertigo’s HUMAN TARGET and GREEK STREET, a trip to Feudal Japan for five separate stories, each featuring a 17th Century version of either Wolverine, Psylocke, the Punisher, Hulk or Deadpool as ronin wronged by tyrants. Will Logan be steering a son in a wooden cart? Then I can use the Lonewolf & Bub joke again.

Captain America And Batroc one-shot (£2-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Renato Arlem.

One of five CAPTAIN AMERICA one-shots this month joining two issues of the regular title, several unwanted mini-series and that FEAR ITSELF PROLOGUE. But at least this one’s written by PHONOGRAM and UNCANNY X-MEN’s Gillen. Batroc’s the French chap what leaps a lot. McKelvie’s back with Gillen on GENERATION HOPE #5 by the way.

Age Of X Universe #1 of 2 (£2-99, Marvel) by Si Spurrier & Khoi Pham.

Ties into the AGE OF X crossover between X-MEN LEGACY and NEW MUTANTS written by Mike Carey. If you’ve already popped yourself down for the crossover and want this as well then please say so because it’s a tie-in rather than the crossover itself.

Venom #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Tony Moore.

It’s been a while since the over-utilised symbiote has proved able to muster sales in his own title, so here they’ve changed the man lurking inside the alien yet again and sent him out to work for the US government as a covert agent. It says here that this is Venom is his first ongoing series. It isn’t as the book section above makes clear; it’s just that it was cancelled after readers stopped buying it. Anyway, Remender you may know from the recently aborted PUNISHER series, Tony from early WALKING DEAD.

Annihilators #1 of 4 (£3-50, Marvel) by Abnett, Lanning & Huat, Green II.

Another cosmic mini-series from the writers of Marvel cosmic mini-series starring the Silver Surfer, Beta-Ray Bill, Quasar, Gladiator and Ronan The Accuser.

Green Lantern #64 (£2-25, DC) by Geoff Johns & Doug Mahnke.

As mentioned last month, War Of The Green Lanterns kicks off properly here then flows through G.L. CORPS (pronounced “core” – they’re not dead yet) and G.L.: EMERALD WARRIORS. It’s Lantern against Lantern. Wake up at the back, there.

Jimmy Olsen #1 one-shot (£3-99, DC) by Nick Spencer & RB Silva.

Good grief, it’s the writer of EXISTENCE 2.0/3.0 and Forgetless working for both Marvel and DC now. Reprints the first four parts from ACTION COMICS with an all-new 30-page conclusion. Jimmy tries to show off to an ex-girlfriend… by getting into a bar fight with a drunken alien etc.

Giant-Sized Atom #1 one-shot (£3-50, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Mahmud Asrar.

Concluded from ADVENTURE COMICS #521.

Butcher, Baker, The Righteous Maker #1 (£2-25, Image) by Joe Casey & Mike Huddleston.

Another filthy superhero comic to go with BOYS, this one stripped down to pure cartoon comedy as Dick Chaney and Bill Clinton attempt to enlist the aid of a former superhero far more interested these days in just getting his rocks off. Have a great big Tom Spurgeon interview with Joe Casey all about the death of Wildstorm and the current state of superhero comics:

LINK

Charismagic #1 (£2-25, Aspen) by Vince Hernandez & Khary Randolf.

Ancient magic… other realm… plague of evil… myth and magic. Formula one: not just a racing phenomenon.

LINK

The Kill Corps one-shot (£2-25/£3-99, Image) by Jim Krueger & Ben Templesmith, Dennis Calero.

Mercenaries battle their way through every brutal era in human history because. Just because and be grateful for it. The £2-25 version includes a download code for The Kill Corps first single, It’s A Wonderful Life; the £3-99 version includes a download code for the entire It’s A Wonderful Life 4-track EP.

Dollhouse: Epitaphs one-shot (£2-75, Dark Horse) by Maurissa Tancharon, Jed Whedon & Cliff Richards.

The TV show is finished but continues here, written by its series writers. “The wealthy and powerful could buy any kind of companionship at the Dollhouses, where the Rossum Corporation paid young people to have their minds wiped clean and be imprinted with computer-enhanced personalities and skills – all according to the buyer’s request. Then it went viral.” Dark Horse usefully prints a whole page preview in which a woman batters someone round the head with a fire extinguisher. From this we can learn that inside the comic a woman batters someone round the head with a fire extinguisher. The one line of dialogue reads, “No”.

The Guild: Tink one-shot (£2-75, Dark Horse) by Felicia Day & Kristian Donaldson, Jeremy Bastian, Tim Seeley, Adam Warren.

The offline lives of the internet role-players continues. VORK one-shot still available. Preview of the first collection here: LINK, available to buy here:

LINK

Emma #1 of 5 (£2-99, Marvel) by Nancy Butler & Janet Lee.

Dear God, no. Another of Jane Austen’s masterpieces reduced to another twee atrocity. There are over 450 pages of densely typed prose in this comedic masterpiece of marriage and mis-matchmaking, yet Nancy will reduce it to five short issues of tiny word balloons.

Emma Woodhouse is rich, exuberant and mischievous with a wit unchecked by social niceties or the wisdom of years. This makes her popular company and a little too influential for her charges’ own good because, in her self-assured assessment of character good or ill, she is as blind as a bat wearing blinkers. Lots of secrets will out by the end but also one too many jibes for one of the finest sequences here is when overwhelmingly kind-hearted Emma fails to recognise the fine line between a good-hearted ribbing and the sort of knock-‘em-when-they’re-down public humiliation which constitutes unintentional bullying. A picnic party has been assembled including Frank Churchill and Emma who are flirting madly, and modest Miss Bates, long established as a bit of an old prattler. Here Frank takes over from Emma to encourage some light-hearted banter from all, claiming that Emma…

“…only demands from each of you either one thing very clever, be it prose of verse, original or repeated – or two things moderately clever – or three things very dull indeed, and she engages to laugh heartily at them all.”
“Oh! very well,” exclaimed Miss Bates, “then I need not be uneasy. “Three things very dull indeed.” That will just do for me, you know. I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan’t I? – (looking round with the most good-humoured dependence on every body’s assent) – Do not you all think I shall?”
Emma could not resist.
“Ah! ma’am, but there may be some difficulty. Pardon me – but you will be limited as to number – only three at once.”
… “Ah! – well – to be sure. Yes, I see what she means, (turning to Mr. Knightley,) and I will try to hold my tongue. I must make myself very disagreeable, or she would not have said such a thing to an old friend.”

Genuinely upsetting, that. One private remonstrance from Mr. Knightley later and Emma is going to have to have a long, hard look at herself.


Page 45 Previews researched, written and linked far and wide by Stephen

Reviews January 2011 week one

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

The Lodger (£14-99, KSA) by Karl Stevens.

From the creator of WHATEVER which impressed me and Tom no end, a second instalment of autobiographical episodes and full-colour paintings. But this is autobiography the likes of which you have never before experienced in comics.

If I may indulge in a sweeping generalisation, autobiography in comics tends to be the province either of the fragile sketch-cartoonist fretting over the frustrations of our quotidian existence (girls, shop assistants, being a shop assistant), or those bringing something big to the table in the form of social history, geo-politics, medical issues etc. I love both. And of course that’s a load of old rubbish: comics is far too individualistic a medium for a whole genre’s worth of creators to be so crudely pigeon-holed. But you’ve got to start somewhere and I use it to emphasise how different Karl is.

For a start, he’s got a pretty cushy set-up here, lodging with his former fine art tutor, his wife, daughter, dog and being force-fed pancakes for breakfast before walking the beagle in beautiful parkland often with his beautiful girlfriend. Other girls pose for him, happily, naked. He has no difficulty in dealing with the world around him nor its inhabitants. Yet these are indeed tales of the everyday, mischievously mixed for maximum self-mockery, published each week in the local Phoenix… and rendered in a delicate cross-hatched, photo-realism that’s occasionally in colour. Here’s the dog, Cookie, first and last, staring at Karl eating on the bare floorboards:

“What if when we die we get re-incarnated as ourselves again? We just keep living the same life over and over. But say the mistakes we make won’t necessarily be the ones we made in the previous life though. Free will is still a factor…”
“Hey. Cookie’s freaking me out.”
“She just wants your plate.”
“sigh.”

He’s young, comfortable, talented and funny. Tom Spurgeon writes, “I think the thing I like best about Stevens is I have no idea what he’ll be doing five years from now”. I do hope that it’s comics, though I suspect otherwise. Did I mention he was a painter? That’s not a photographic cover.

LINK

SLH

Sleepyheads (£13-99, Blank Slate) by Randall Casaer.

“Do you think it’s because we don’t understand any of it… or because there’s nothing to understand?”

Rule Number One: never ask questions you don’t want to know the answer to.

Perfectly delightful journey-in-dream full of all the weird scene shifts, strange logics and transmogrifications that can take you so easily from a submarine bullied by sperm whales into floating vertically then sinking without trace, to a Portuguese whaler and thence desert isle. Unlike Phillipe Dupuy’s HAUNTED, however, I didn’t sense anything lurking beneath the surface and wish it hadn’t even tried because my hackles rose whenever it did.

“You want to say your hand starts at your wrist… But you bite your tongue because you know the next question. Where does the wrist start?”

My wrist starts at the bottom of my hand. Life can be a two-way system like that. Americans living on the Pacific coast will find the East to their West.

“Frustrating, isn’t it?”

No.

“Shhh… Let it go. Look carefully: THERE IS NO BOUNDARY. Boundaries are tricks of the mind. You create them yourself.”

You jump over that cliff, then.

“You think something can’t exist until you’ve bound it in a word.”

That was a non-sequitur if ever I read one. Bollocks too: you don’t come up with a name like an Aye Aye until you’ve established that the scruffy little lemur exists.

“There is but a blurry line between wakefulness and sleep.”

Now there, under some circumstances, I’ll grant you one. A guy in my year at school called Emir was prone to somnambulism. Unfortunately he only discovered that one evening after he leapt through a dormitory window on the second floor and onto the asphalt below. Unfortunately he woke up just as he leapt; fortunately by the time he’d hit the tarmac he’d dozed off again. He then proceeded to sleepwalk round to the eight-foot link fence and climbed over it into the courtyard. With a broken arm. I think he then tapped on a prefect’s downstairs window and, covered in blood, scared the living shit out of him. Emir slept on the ground floor after that.

Then there are those dreams you wake up from only to wake up from them again and again because you never woke up from them in the first place. Or waking to find your house being demolished, only to realise as you come fully round that it’s merely the dustmen. With a wrecking ball.

On the whole, however, “Life is but a dream” is the most lamentably, culpably irresponsible lyric ever composed, for to confuse the two is to ensure that your dreams stand no chance at all of coming true.

Maybe that’s why the woman on the cover, who never gets a word in edgeways over her companion’s pontification within, is looking so wide-eyed with trauma: she’s had to endure so many pages of cod-philosophy. Maybe that is the whole point in which case brilliant: a charming meander through the mysteries of the mind as played out in dreams, none of which will you understand for there is nothing here to comprehend except that life is not a dream. If you ever make the mistake of confusing the two, then please: wake the fuck up.

SLH

A Single Match h/c (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Oji Suzuki.

“Walk between rain drops and you stay dry.”

Over two hundred and fifty pages of black and white brooding, always at night, often in the rain and while wandering around the Japanese countryside. But please be advised (I think ‘warned’ may be too loaded), this is not Taniguchi. The environments here are to be endured, not enjoyed, whilst the paths taken are often arduous, ill-lit and devoid of signposts. Such is one outlook on life.

“Everyone called Kyoto a halfwit. ‘Street-Lamp Kyoto’ – they called her that sometimes, too.
“She lived with an old cat in a small, three-mat room behind the Southern Elementary School. She got by on the little money she received from the town hall and on leftover lunches from the school kitchen.
“As those old people – once found in any town – had done before her… she became a shadow lingering on the side of the mountain.”

The use of the word ‘lingering’ is devastating, for Highway Town is an eloquent evocation of an old age whose sole purpose now rests in recalling what came before, and sadly what didn’t. It’s also the most traditional and coherent narrative in a book whose stories are meandering and their meanings oblique, peppered as they are only by the sparsest of impressions in the way that the mind does indeed ramble, but they do give up their secrets after several considerations, in part if not in whole.

Overwhelmingly this is a book of memories; of loneliness, isolation, loss, fear, sacrifice and regrets. Childhood features prominently, its early impulses or obsessions occasionally contrasted with the practical responsibilities of being a providing adult, even if those responsibilities are consciously rejected by the compulsive gambler at the expense of feeding his family or boozed away blithely in spite of a young soul waiting up at night.

Nor is it easy on the eye, being raw and scratchy, but Suzuki’s ability to lead the eye down the roads ahead and into the next shadowy terrain beyond is undeniable. Lay this book open on almost any page and you will see one, two, or even three of those paths curving round a corner, snaking over the next hill or sweeping off into a fog-shrouded harbour.

Haunting, even harrowing, with many more clouds than silver linings, I don’t think it’s the work of someone fixated on a glass half-empty. I think it’s the work of someone who acknowledges that for some the glass was drained a long time ago, then left unwashed in the middle of the room.

LINK

SLH

Stop Bullying Me! (£9-99, June) by Natsuho Shino.

Yaoi of such an innocent bent here that racking it up with our Hot Boy-on-Boy Action would be mis-selling it by a mile. Nor is there any bullying in spite of Tomo’s constant protestations. Instead he’s being teased by his older brother’s best mate Izumi because Tomo has the most insatiable crush on said older brother Ei, following him everywhere like a star-struck groupie. So that’s… weird. Then Tomo and Izumi then fall for each other at which point Ei grows jealous, not of his younger brother Tomo, but of his best mate receiving all the attention from his younger brother which he was happily revelling in himself. There’s a bizarre scene in which Ei catches his younger brother romantically stuffing his mate with sushi and demands the same treatment.

“Will you feed me, Tomo?”
“Yes! [HEART] Of course! [HEART]”

Throughout it’s referred to a ‘brother complex’. So that’s all right then.

The book is backed up by Please Keep It A Secret in which two childhood friends bump into each other years after they’d last laid hands – sorry, eyes – upon each other.

“Listen! Don’t talk about our past to anyone, all right?!”
“Our… past?”
“The stuff we did as kids, moron!! (It’s too embarrassing to mention.)”

He’s not David Heatley, then.*

*See MY BRAIN IS HANGING UPSIDE DOWN – ed.

LINK

SLH

Edible Secrets: A Food Tour Of Classified U.S. History (£7-50, Microcosm) by Mia Partlow, Michael Hoerger & Nate Powell.

“The Jell-O Box was the only piece of material evidence presented by the prosecution, and it, of course, was fabricated.”

In 1953 Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed for conspiring to commit espionage. They confessed to nothing before, after nor during the trial, which must go down as one of the most arduously coached yet unconvincing performances until Jedward’s Oops, I Did It Again on X-Factor.* Jedward, it should be noted, weren’t actually executed for that crime even though there was plenty of evidence and more than a few eye-witnesses.

The first thing I should make clear is that this isn’t comics. This is political agitation illustrated by Nate Powell (SWALLOW ME WHOLE, PLEASE RELEASE and SOUNDS OF YOUR NAME) with the same sort of wit which TOO MUCH COFFEE MAN MAGAZINE mustered when reviewing the Top Ten Wars of all time, effectively reminding you what a lying piece of shit the FBI has been when framing individuals in order to discredit movements or scare the crap out of its citizens. The above was a Cold War Red Scare, whereas the first section exposes the extent to which the Black Panther Party was harassed, undermined and thwarted in its attempts to activate, educate, organise or even feed its fellow citizens by setting up the likes of Fred Hampton then finally throwing in the towel and simply bumping him off. Fred Hampson, you see, didn’t have a criminal record. They needed him to have one in order to get him into the system, and so created a scenario whereby he could be imprisoned for stealing $71 worth of ice cream from an ice cream lorry, which isn’t that easy while mowing your lawn at the same time.

Further chapters explore the attempts on Fidel Castro’s life using milkshakes, a brief history of subliminal messages, mind-control drugs tested by the CIA, and the Coca-Colonization of the world. They’re aided by documents original classified but now partially revealed, and the most compelling argument in each of these cases is that their targets have such unlimited resources to sue the authors right out of the water should any of their facts prove wrong. No movement yet…

*There was a recent poster campaign for travel tickets featuring the Jedward twins, one of whom was shown wearing an ear stud. “Identical,” it declared. “But this one’s cheaper”. I’m still rather fond of that.

SLH

Batman: The Dark Knight #1 (£2-99, DC) by David Finch.

Written and drawn by the exceptional superhero artist on Bendis’ NEW AVENGERS and the recent Morrison one-shot BATMAN: THE RETURN, I can’t actually think of a single thing that distinguishes this from any other Batman story other than the art. Which is exceptional.

Other than that a girl from Bruce’s parentally present past, sullen yet impetuous (capricious, then) is kidnapped and Batman follows the clues from one heavy-hitter to another. Maybe it’ll be like Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s BATMAN: HUSH, then: a console-game plot with a level-end boss at the end of each.

SLH

Sleeper: Season Two (£18-99, Wildstorm/DC) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

Had this in since 2009 but the review never found its way to our site, sorry. Probably won’t be many reviews this week (Christmas/New Year etc.) so here you go!

Hair-tearingly tense undercover espionage thriller deftly conducted by the creators of CRIMINAL, which doesn’t just avoid the pothole cop-outs of most superhero tales when it comes to crime and consequence, it pole-vaults over them and plunges the protagonist into a world where there’s no soothing alternative to ruthless expediency.

Holden Carver went deep undercover just as his boss went deep into a coma. Unfortunately a) the cover in question is hired thuggery for a ruthless powerbroker with a brain sharper than a meat slicer, b) his old boss at the agency was the only one who knew so c) there’s no one around to extract him. With no light at the end of the tunnel (that doesn’t turn out to be a train) Carver’s just got to carry out the missions for the slime he now works for without completely killing his conscience or the friends who think he’s defected. Not a lot of options there. How many innocents can Holden kill before the total begins to chime with his moral concept of “too many”? And how long can he keep this up before his new boss discovers the truth, Carver gives up completely or – worse still – throws in with the other side?

By this final train-wreck of a conclusion, Carver’s boss has emerged from his coma, Tao’s figured out the identity of his mole, but Miss Misery (for whom happiness is a life-threatening disease) hasn’t yet revealed where her loyalties really lie. It’s a battle of wits and nerve for all the warring factions, with one final chess piece coming into play from the pages of SLEEPER’s prologue, POINT BLANK (best read afterwards), and the ending… the ending is so, so clever and really rather apposite if you consider the comic’s title.

Brubaker excels where lesser writers would leave us with more monochromatic characters: Holden Carver, undercover amongst the world’s most dangerous criminals, actually makes friends with some of them. He can’t help himself. They spend time at the bar together, they watch each others’ backs in the firing line and, hell, the man has a sex drive. What’s he going to do about it, other than sleep with the enemy? Now, there was an accident several years ago that left Carver incapable of feeling pain. Instead he stores it up to inflict it on others. Miss Misery, on the other hand, discovered some time back that if she didn’t inflict pain she would fall ill and die. Before each mission, therefore, she charges up by dishing it out but she cannot allow herself to fall in love, and if she does, it’s a matter of practical survival to cause pain to the object of her affection by being unfaithful. And that’s the sort of pain Holden can feel. Isn’t that fucked up?

This is less about superpowers than about espionage, cunning and deceit, but every so often Ed provides little origins – parodies of standard superhero fare – to lighten the predominantly pitch-black tone, as characters reveal their past to their mates over drinks. Here’s Claudia talking about herself in the third person singular:

“All right, so where was I?”
“In High School.”
“Right, okay, so… in High School, Claudia was the girl all the gay boys came out to. (“– And no one knows, not my mom. No way about my dad, he’d kill me.”) She wasn’t gay herself, but she had always enjoyed the company of fags, the queenie-er the better, really. (“I was all snap! get out of my face, bitch, and he was all –”) They were funnier than most of the girls she knew, didn’t want to have sex with her, and rarely got jealous when she made out with some guy at a party. And so her early High School nickname was Faghag. Now one of her friends, one of the less queenie ones, was also a bit of a science geek, and one day she attended a demonstration with him. This kid was the most picked-on guy ever. Not only was he a nerd, but he was also openly gay, in a day where that really wasn’t accepted at school. So, at the demonstration, some jocks started pushing him, and accidentally shoved him right into the beam of this interspatial particle accelerator, and everything went crazy. Her poor friend was irradiated or something. She never understood exactly what happened. But in his dying moment, as he flailed for life, his teeth ripped right into her neck.”
“Wait. You were bitten by a radioactive homo –?”
“Can I please tell the story my way?”
“Oh, you go, girl…”

You’ll just have to pick up the book to find out the second half of that origin!
The art is shrouded throughout in a dangerous twilight, where neither you nor Carver can be sure who’s lurking round the corner, and delivers this second half’s climax with a relentless passion and rarely matched fluidity. Deliciously nasty.

LINK

SLH

And, strangely enough, the following until now contained my review of IDENTITY CRISIS!

Kingdom Come: Absolute Edition (£49-99, DC) by Mark Waid & Alex Ross.

Armageddon Days Are Here Again…

One of the first signs of real literacy that now hits the DC Universe with a little more regularity, this has so far been the work of Waid’s career, on another level entirely from anything I’ve read from him before or since. Set far enough in the future that Bruce Wayne has a silver mane and even Superman’s going grey (Wonderwoman is almost exactly as she is now, but with a sturdier frame), it begins when everything’s gone horribly wrong, and ends after it gets far, far worse.

The new generation of superheroes aren’t as altruistic or restrained as their predecessors – something that Superman cannot abide, will not condone and so wants no part of. But after living in self-imposed exile for so long, he’s joined by his peers in a terrifying final conflict with the more reckless upstarts, and you just know that there are some more familiar, positively malicious hands pulling strings from afar. What they do to poor Billy Batson is horrible, and what Captain Marvel (his superhuman counterpart) is capable of doing to Superman will have your jaw on the floor. I can promise you total carnage on an epic scale, and lots of grey to muddy the old black and white outlook about what is right and what is wrong and what may be some mistakes, like the gulag they set up.

Speaking of epic scale, have you seen the size of these slipcased Absolute Editions? If you thought Alex Ross’s paintings were magnificent before, they really benefit from this sort of reproduction, and you’ll be aghast at the level of detail that could almost use further enlargement. Where Ross stood out from most painters stodging their way through page after page of comicbook art, is the light. Not since Muth had there been such translucency: in spite of the level of detail I never thought the images overworked. The other thing about these editions is the tonnage of extras. Here each page is fully annotated in the back, there are sketches with commentary (dozens of pages), variant paintings from various productions and tie-ins, a who’s who and family tree, and although I think 99% of this was available with the original, limited, double hardcover slipcased edition (I haven’t had time to compare and contrast – we keep selling out of this!), if you didn’t pick that one up, this is very good value for money. If you can’t afford it, rest assured that we have the softcover version in stock at all times, which compared to most others is bafflingly good value for money!

LINK

SLH

Also arrived:

Gente: The People Of Restaurante Paradiso vol 2 (£9-99, Viz) by Natsume Ono
House Of Five Leaves vol 2 (£9-99, Viz) by Natsume Ono
Thunderbolts: Siege s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jeff Parker & Miguel Sepulveda, Wellinton Alves

-  A bit pathetic, I know! Basically, Diamond only discovered at the last minute that their current courier was refusing to deliver anything between Christmas and New Year, so gamely expedited as much as they had in the warehouse. Better than nowt, eh?