Reviews March 2011 week two

Hellblazer vol 1: Original Sins (£14-99, Vertigo) by Jamie Delano, Rick Veitch & John Ridgeway, Alfredo Alcala, Rick Veitch, Tom Mandrake, Brett Ewins, Jim McCarthy.

“First, tell me about your strange friend. Have you known him long? Do you trust him?”
“I trust John with my life.”


John Constantine is a trouble magnet; the problem is that deep down he enjoys it. Brash, rash and cocky, this streetwise trickster, this Laughing Magician with his nicotine-stained fingers and trademark trenchcoat relishes the war of wits – the blag, the bluff and the quietly palmed ace up his sleeve – and his insatiable curiosity drives him to places where no soul should go. That he somehow returns to enjoy his next pint is a miracle; that his friends rarely do is inevitable. Worse still, as John will discover, there is no such thing as a clean break…

Created by Alan Moore for SWAMP THING, Constantine was never callous, just careless. If he didn’t cherish his friendships he’d never mourn their loss; nor would he be so susceptible to their haunting him. Furthermore, under his glib exterior with its wry wit and pithy putdowns lies a fierce determination and a horror of social injustice which he spies almost everywhere he goes, be it a starving Africa where “there are flies drinking from the eyes of children” or the rain-soaked streets of London strewn with the dispossessed.

Under Jamie Delano HELLBLAZER immediately established itself as anti-establishment, and the title’s always been at its best when it combines the trappings of the occult with everyday fears, all too human weaknesses and the very real horrors that surround us all: racism, homophobia, domestic violence and fear-mongering itself; cancer, drug addiction, homelessness and hospitalisation; police brutality, the trampling of the masses and political abuse of power. Jamie was never shy of making the title an unapologetic rallying cry against the unforgiveable ravages that Thatcherism wrought on our communities, our personal liberties and the individuals left on the rubbish tip piled up in its wake.

Above all he communicated exactly how it felt to live in England at the time, and I’m not just talking about pollution, rags soaked in petrol stuffed through letterboxes or tribal football hooliganism. (Delano has an imaginative sense of humour: you’ll find Arsenal and Chelsea fans here conjoined at the hip here, moronically beating the living shit out of each other. “Strewth, the ultimate fascist comes apart at the seams – talk about divided loyalties.”) I’m talking about the weather!

“The traffic is barely moving and the back of the taxi still smells vaguely of last night’s vomit. I decide to walk the rest of the way.
“The thin, Sunday afternoon drizzle greases the tired streets. Ignoring the queasiness which quakes my stomach like an uneasy swamp, I turn up my collar against the toothless gnawing of the early November wind… and merge into the welcome anonymity of the city.”

It was such a shock to read a voice of Britain being published in America, and a geuine one at that. I can’t imagine any artist other than Ridgeway at the time representing us so well, either. He managed what Lark later did for Gotham Central or Campbell for FROM HELL, stamping the series firmly on the unsafe streets as John strode down pavements past old, brick terraces and corner shops set on fire or looked up into the bleak, lightless flats above. Texture, texture, texture…

Finally DC are making up for lost time and not just patching the holes in the HELLBLAZER library – which would require an awful lot of cloth – but starting again with numbered volumes, the first of which contains not just HELLBLAZER #1-9 like the original version but also SWAMP THING #76 and 77 so that you no longer have to buy SWAMP THING VOL 8 and VOL 9 to read the story’s conclusion.

The book kicks off with an insect demon let loose on America by drug-addled Gary Lester who’s flown in from Morocco to crash out in Constantine’s bath. Crawling with bugs, he’s in for one hell of a come-down but it’s not the worst fate to befall some of John’s friends here and, as ever, the spectre of Newcastle looms large.

“Yeah, well. Never look back’s a good motto in our line of business. Too many bloody ghosts following.”

Hubris and karma, John. You’re far from immune yourself.



Slog’s Dad h/c (£11-99, Candelwick Press) by David Almond & Dave McKean.

“One day late in August, Slog’s dad caught me looking. He waved me to him. I went to him slowly. He winked.
“It’s alreet,” he whispered. “I know you divent want to come too close.”
He looked down to where his legs should be.
“They tell us if I get to Heaven, I’ll get them back again,” he said. “What d’you think of that, Davie?”
I shrugged.
“I dunno, Mr. Mickley.”
I started to back away.
“I’ll walk straight out them pearly gates,” he said. He laughed. “I’ll follow the smells. There’s no smells in Heaven. I’ll follow the bliddy smells right back here to the lovely earth.”

From the same team behind THE SAVAGE, another tale of two boys, this time dealing with bereavement rather than bullying, and for something so short it’s remarkably rich, complex, and ambiguous throughout.

For a start the words and pictures tell separate stories running in parallel, the latter interrupting the former in silent sequences made from McKean’s customary mixed media of line, wash, colour photography and collage. They show a boy at play with a paper cut-out of a man in a flat cap, reenacting the fate of his dad by chopping his legs into pieces with scissors. Later the boy grieves at night and dreams of his father’s return, embracing the jovial angel while his best friend stands to one side, dubious. In another the cut-out, his legs taped back together, grows to full size and the man and the boy embrace. There are even two pages of a comic in which Super Dad descends from the sky to be greeted by his son in an African Eden of giants, fauna and flora; there’s also a local newspaper which anticipates young Davie’s doubts with an article about a man evidently suffering from amnesia married to a woman called Anne.

But the book begins with a view of the Earth from space, closing in gradually in an urban park and an old man sat on a bench; the green and blue watercolours, perhaps, seeping into his skull from above. It’s all open to interpretation.

Slog’s Dad was a binman in a coal mining town. One day he developed a limp, then a black spot on his big toenail. First they amputated the toe, then the foot, then swiftly the leg. They fitted a tin leg. Then took away his other leg. All the while, until he died, his wife Mary looked after him. But the last words he said to Slog was that he’d be back, and to watch for him in the spring.

Now it’s spring and Slog’s Dad is indeed back. He’s that old man sitting on the park bench. The one with the long, tangled hair, tattered clothes and cap. Slog knows it’s him.

“He looks a bit different,” said Slog. “But that’s just cos he’s been…”
“Transfigured,” said the bloke.
“Aye,” said Slog. “Transfigured.”

Is this a book about faith? Hope? Conning a free meal or the balm of white lies? As I say, it’s all open to interpretation right until the end. And I like that. Not every question should be answered. Not every question has an answer.

“Do you believe in life after death?”
Billy laughed.
“Now there’s a question for a butcher!” he said.



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

Some twenty years ago The Godfathers put out a thundering single called ‘Birth, School, Work, Death’.

The same sort of preordained, cradle-to-grave experience, set in stone and barely budging was a theme Alan Moore explored in THE BIRTH CAUL, adapted for comics by Eddie Campbell and reprinted in A DISEASE OF LANGUAGE. So it is here in this wordless black and white hardcover harking back to the traditions of Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward (Graphic Witness) as well as the Social Realism film movement.

Told in a series of full-page, expressionistic woodcut engravings, it’s a grim tale of two working class generations enduring a negative cycle of poverty, drudgery and hopelessness, devoid of opportunities that don’t come with a jail sentence, which turns into a downward spiral of misery, exhaustion, despair then death. Failing to endure, then.

The father works at Packit & Wrapit where his wife is a cleaner. An old brick building, three stories high and surrounded by industrial chimneys, it casts its own black shadow over the walled-in, cobbled courtyard as the workers trudge in through the iron gate then out and back home to their equally boxed in high-rise flats. When she’s not cleaning at work, the wife and mother is cleaning at home, heating meals for the kids who bicker and fight. So often the father returns home from the boozer to find his haggard wife passed out on the bed, the sofa, or right there at the kitchen table. She likes to drink too. They’re all bored out of their minds. At least crime comes with an adrenaline rush.

There’s a masterful consistency in the light or lack thereof, and a lot of work has gone into the various textures which never jar once. I can feel the thickness of the jumpers, the trousers and the bed blankets; I can feel the weight on their constantly stooped shoulders. The snarls and the sneers and the bags under their downcast eyes are as unremitting as the monotony of their daily existence.

I think I’m off for a walk down by the river now, over the fields to Holme Pierpoint. Thank God that I can. This work will stay with me, though.



The Lovecraft Anthology vol 1 (£12-99, SelfMade Hero) by Ian Edginton, Dan Lockwood, Rob Davis, David Hine, Leah Moore, John Reppion & D’Israeli, Shane Ivan Oakley, I.N.J. Culbard, Mark Stafford, Leigh Gallagher, David Hatrman, Alice Duke…

“The most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate its contents.
“We live on a placid island of ignorance amidst black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.
“Yet, some day, the piercing together of disassociated knowledge will reveal such terrifying vistas of reality, we shall either go mad or flee in the sanctuary of a new dark age.”

No, not Stephen commenting on how re-editing over 16 years worth of Page 45 reviews (some 3,000 in total) for the website sent him further right round the veritable bend almost back to the starting point and yearning for simpler times, but the opening excerpt from the classic Lovecraft short story entitled simply ‘The Call Of Cthulhu’.

[Although aged 16 I did transcribe that first sentence into an exercise book at school. I was going through a difficult, and some may say definitive, period. – ed.]

After the fantastically successful and remarkably well done adaptation of AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, it isn’t at all surprising I suppose that the publisher would want to get something else out there onto the shelves. And once again, they’ve made a wise selection of source material and choice of adapters and artists. They’ve chosen a selection of tales which form a well balanced and neatly ordered anthology, as one moves seamlessly from story to story, something which I don’t actually think has often been achieved with prose collections of H.P.’s work.

The adaptations are all deftly done achieving that classic Lovecraftian sense of building suspense and unease moving swiftly through burgeoning horror before culminating in unimaginable, sweat-inducing nightmare. Leah Moore and John Reppion’s ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ would probably be my pick of the bunch. And the full colour art for me is absolutely excellent for every single story, though I can’t really pick a favourite, as they’re all wonderfully illustrated. For people who enjoyed AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, this is an absolute must. For people who would like a Lovecraft primer, or indeed just some exceptional horror short stories, it is also highly commended.



Baby’s In Black (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Arne Bellstorf…

This is a rather affecting and moving biography of Astrid Kirchherr and Stuart Sutcliffe, and their all too brief time together, from just before they first met in Hamburg whilst Stuart was touring with the Beatles in late 1960, through to his untimely demise in April 1962. You probably need at least a passing interest in the era, and also the Beatles, to really appreciate the careful nuanced reconstruction by Arne Bellstorf of the events that take place in this work, but it’s just a joy to read. Whilst we’re not learning anything new here of course, it does makes perfect emotional sense of Stuart’s decision to quit the band and pursue his art and a life with Astrid. And the rest of the Beatles – John, Paul, George and Pete (Best) as they were then –  are well rounded out and portrayed in their secondary roles that they rightfully have here, without detracting from the main story.

I did also on the whole love Bellstorf’s black and white, genteel, almost pastel-like art, though – and perhaps it is slightly churlish of me to mention it – there were a couple of minor things repeated in almost every panel of artwork which by the end somewhat did my head in. I won’t mention precisely what they were because I don’t want to plant seeds in anybody’s mind but it did detract from the work for me fractionally. Once anyone has read it, if you want to mention you have to me, I’ll reveal all and I would be intrigued to see whether you agree or disagree.



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

I know it was only last week that I was bemoaning the paucity of decent speculative fiction from western authors, so I was absolutely delighted to read this fluorescent little beauty. Yes, before we go any further, I feel duty bound to point out for those of a more nervous disposition that the cover does indeed glow in the dark. Something I discovered when I woke up in the middle of the night to see ‘an entity’ glowing on my bedside table a mere two feet from my un-bespectacled, and thus half-blind, face. It was probably the quickest I have ever actually exited my bed, compared to my usual requisite 5 snoozes as the appointed hour of rising approaches and then passes. Mind you, the fact that I had just finished THE LOVECRAFT ANTHOLOGY VOL 1 before dropping off probably didn’t help me assess the situation in a calm and rational manner in the midst of my sleep-ridden myopic haze.

So, what is GHOST PROJEKT vol 1 all about? The more canny of you, or at least those that can spell, might detect from the title that it is set in Russia, and also that it has a supernatural thriller flavour to it. It reminded me of The X-Files in a few ways actually, all good I hasten to add, but not least because of the cleverly convoluted and utterly improbable plot, which blends sci-fi and the supernatural like a champion cocktail maker. The two main characters of American weapons inspector Will Haley and Russian police investigator Anya Romanova provide the Mulder and Scully / amiable geek and aloof eye-candy combo, but Joe Harris goes quite a bit further with the character development actually, and throws in a few extra teasers for both of them, that presumably he will return to in future volumes. And, much like X-Files, there is always someone or some other agency just one step ahead of them, either swiping evidence or trying to help in the most unhelpful ways possible.

Nice art from Steve Rolston who really captures the mood, be it the toxic aspects of remote, deserted Russian research bases practically dripping in WMD, or the spooky goings-on that seem to be haunting participants of the long-abandoned Dosvedanya project. He helps Harris carry off what could otherwise merely seem a rather far-fetched tale, but like all good speculative fiction keeps just about within the bounds of possibility. Looking forward to volume two.



Bokurano Ours vol 1, 2, 3 (£9-99, Viz) by Mohiro Kitoh…

“How would you like to play… a little game?”
“A game?”

There are some people who might suggest that after a group of bored children bump into a strange man whilst exploring a secluded cave and agree to ‘play a game’ with him… and then suddenly end up transported into the cockpit of a giant robot fighting against other giant robots of ever more insidious design whilst their city gets repeatedly trashed in the ensuing melees … and that one of the children will always die after each successful confrontation because their life force is required to power the robot… that they’ve got precisely what they deserved for speaking to a strange man in a secluded cave in the first place, the daft buggers. Oh, and they’ve agreed a verbal contract of sorts with the mysterious man which means there’s no get-out clause, not even after the fatal consequences of their hastily made deal become all too evident to their shock and horror.

More quality sci-fi on the Viz signature Ikki imprint. It might not be as mysterious as 20TH CENTURY BOYS, or as hard-edged as PLUTO, or indeed as break-necked-paced as BIOMEGA, but BOKURANO OURS has a little something all of its own whilst actually having a good measure of all three of those qualities anyway. If Japanese giant robots trashing cities for no apparent good reason whatsoever is your thing, you will absolutely love it, but there’s a lot more to it than that of course. The kids are the usual collection of odd-balls, geeks, goody two shoes and of course the token really annoying one, but whilst it’s a relatively straight forward premise, on the surface at least, there’s a surprising amount of emotion wrung from the various protagonists, and their unsuspecting friends and relatives, as they all wonder who will be called upon next to sacrifice themselves to try and save their city.



Twin Spica vol 1 to 5 (£8-50, Vertical Inc.) by Kou Yaginuma ~

In the not-too-distant future Japan restarts its manned space program after a terrible and traumatic accident. The pilots of tomorrow will be trained today in a selective school program. Anyone can apply, but only the strongest will make it through the gruelling psychological and physical pressure. While not everyone is pleased with this new initiative, a generation has grown up in the aftermath of the accident looking to the stars. One girl, Asumi, a little short, a little odd, with ambition and heart is an aspiring astronaut. More than anyone else, Asumi has an uphill struggle getting into this school and the first difficulty will be telling her Father she applied. Twelve years previously Japan’s first manned spacecraft “The Lion” exploded just after take-off and crashed into a highly populated area, killing all on board and many civilians. Among the civilian casualties was Asumi’s mother who shielded her baby from the ensuring fireball. Her father was an engineer working on the mission, now just a simple builder living hand to mouth; Asumi knows her dream could break his heart and his bank balance.

TWIN SPICA is a complex mix of tensions. The science of space simulations, psychological extremes of isolation with the drama school, and the politics of post-tragedy society would be more than enough for most stories but TWIN SPICA surprises with its spiritual side in the form of Asumi’s ‘imaginary’ friend Mr Lion, who’s been guiding and inspiring her throughout her life. Clothed in a dressed-down space suit with a large, cartoon mascot head derived from his namesake, the aforementioned spacecraft, he makes an odd thing for a young girl to imagine. But it’s fairly evident early on that he’s actually the ghost of The Lion’s pilot, left in limbo, to help Asumi and those touched by the disaster.

TWIN SPICA along with SATURN APARTMENTS astounded me with its original twists on a typically – in recent years – action-oriented genre of science fantasy. It has a gracefulness and warmth all its own, like a perpetual autumn. Kou’s art has a melancholy that grounds the characters, coupled with clarity to the stories’ settings, whether they’re technological, natural or habitual, that binds with realism. My only criticism doesn’t even come from me directly but a customer, who mentioned the covers looked old-fashioned, dissuading him from trying it. I actually love the covers, although I think Vertical missed a trick when you compare them with the design of their Tezuka reprints. A cover juxtaposing TWIN SPICA’s varied elements on an exercise book design – maybe schematics of rockets against doodles of the characters – could have advertised the contents better, but whatever. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.



Axe Cop #1 of 3 (£2-75, Dark Horse) by Ethan Nicolle & Malachai Nicolle.

“Written by a six-year-old and drawn by his thirty-year-old brother!”

That’s Dark Horse’s selling sentence right there, and it works. Customer Andrew Jadowski – otherwise known to me as Tigger – bought it on the spot based purely on that sentence! Of course the fact that it’s been such a successful web strip reprinted now in the AXE COP trade paperback doesn’t hurt.

So what is the attraction? Witnessing the crazy, all-over-the-place result of a fertile imagination unfettered by any desire for artistic success, egged on by his brother at play and loving every second off it! That’s what’s transcribed here: hours of interactive play. It’s not actually ‘written’ as a comic by Ethan, but written up and then illustrated by his brother.

Of course it bounces off the wall! Ethan is bouncing off the wall and inventing on the fly – as did we all as we turned paving stones into imaginary transmats or time platforms; when plastic guns suddenly assumed new capabilities in the heat of the moment when put on the spot by our friends; or when one of us spontaneously came up with a new ‘plot’ development that turned the five-inch Aerofix spitfire model into an intangible space rocket and brought that big pile of bricks into fifty-foot life!

“No! No! Dracula’s behind you now, run!”
“But – but – I have a lolly stick and I stab him through the heart!”
“That’s his leg!”
“He knelt down to bite me!”
“And I chop off his head with my karate chop!”

We were only playing Doctors & Nurses that day.

So it is here, with Earth in danger of being squished by the Bad Guy Planet, but Axe Cop and Dinosaur Soldier have forgotten all that because they’ve just found a machine that turns Bad Guys into Good Guys and turned a crook into Handcuff Man who can throw handcuffs on a bad guy and electrocute him. Then they get their car fixed using Uni-Man’s Unicorn Horn and put Handcuff Man to bed because it’s night time. The Psychic Bad Guys from the Psychic Planet sneak in and decide to kill Handcuff man and steal the Good Guy machine, so one of them turns into a scorpion. After changing the Good Guy Machine into a Bad Guy Machine they turn into giants to steal the whole of the Earth’s army while they’re asleep and make them Bad Guys. Frustrated, Axe Cop lies down and takes his daily two-minute nap. He dreams about a T. Rex… that’s crying.

“The dinosaurs are in trouble! The need our help! We have to go back in time!”

Meanwhile, on a chicken farm…

It’s almost impossible to transcribe but I think I’ve done it justice enough: the way the story veers off on A.D.D. tangents and anything can happen. Did I think the storytelling was inventive, captivating, thrilling? Was I wowed by the art? No, no, no and no…

The story was inventive. Highly inventive. The project is inventive too. As an exercise and a reminder of all things six-year-old, it’s highly amusing and even informative for those studying such psychology. And in any case, as a bit of fun – to put your playtime adventures with your younger brother up on the web for you both to chortle over and entertain passers-by – it’s not just utterly harmless, it’s positively sweet. If you’re looking to me for permission to buy it then you’re just plain weird; on the other hand, if you’re looking to me to dissuade you from buying it then you’ve come to the wrong guy.

Something that proclaims itself to be a ground-breaking work of art that falls dismally short of being even mediocre is what gets my goat. Cyncial huckstering by comicbook corporations of yet another formulaic, barely literate load of same-old junk is what pisses me off. Neither Dark Horse nor the brothers themselves have done any such thing.

“Written by a six-year-old and drawn by his thirty-year-old brother!”

It does exactly what is said by the kin.

Here’s the book (review next week):


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

Before reading the book it felt like the sort of material Humanoids or Games Workshop would be interested in: big, painted sky fights with Zeppelins, futuristic rifles, Germanic insignia and head-shots clean through the skull. Okay, messily through the skull and leaving little head on the shoulders. Shampoo is certainly redundant for some here.

In reality, although there is much barely contained boobage and a severing of heads, it is a murky melange of artists and writers working so at odds with each other that the end result is something barely decipherable without the aid of their solicitation copy, to wit:

“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:

“Basil will be the bane of your life: all that you touch will wilt, wither then die. Buy it at leisure, you’ll repent your herb pleasure, then you’ll be barred from that aisle for life.”

Even green leaves have rights.

It does boast some impressive, painted art but also the most monstrously mixed storytelling whereby the voice-over persuades you that you’re looking at the protagonist being addressed rather than one waiting around the corner. It’s impossible to tell who’s who, what’s happening or how.

Basically, though: there should have been three Sisters Grey in any given generation but this one boasts four because the last to be born had a twin. That is Mathilde, and she stands for rebellion. Revolution, ahoy!

This is the sort of art you’re in for.



Batman: Time And The Batman h/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison, Fabian Nicieza & Tony Daniels, David Finch, Cliff Richards, Andy Kubert, Frank Quitely…

“How am I supposed to follow your insane leaps of logic?”
“Exactly. Maybe when you do, you’ll be good enough to be Batman. Trust me. It’ll all make sense one day.”

Honestly it will. If Dick Grayson says so, I believe him anyway. Probably the superhero question we got asked most frequently in late 2008 / early 2009 was, “So how come if Batman dies when the helicopter blows up and sinks in the harbour at the end of BATMAN R.I.P. is he alive and well until he dies in FINAL CRISIS then?” Well, finally, all is revealed with the publication of the two-parter ‘R.I.P. – The Missing Chapter’ that explains exactly what happened to Bruce between those two events. Actually, Grant being Grant, it’s quite a bit cleverer than that, as we get some snippets of information, sly nods and cheeky winks here and there, that also make segments of FINAL CRISIS and The Return Of Bruce Wayne clearer and more coherent as a whole too, as well as finishing BATMAN R.I.P. off properly.

Of course Grant being Grant, those two issues are prefaced by a story called ‘Time And The Batman’, featuring Batmen of several eras past, present and future which I had to literally read three times to understand. It is most definitely a proper detective story though, with a classic ‘locked room’ case to crack… if you can follow it. The story as a whole is exceptionally well put together, with substantially different art from several quality contributors to help emphasise the jumps in time, and there are loads of amusing references for the Bat-literati to pick up on.

Oh, and yes, there’s a rather good Fabien Nicieza-penned story thrown in with this volume for good measure too.


Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond (£10-50, DC) by Adam Beechen & Ryan Benjamin, John Staniscl…
“Listen, did he say anything else?”
“Just one thing… I couldn’t stop crying… just… just before he raised the knife to cut my throat… he told me to hush…”

Okay, finally, I’m a convert to BATMAN BEYOND, because this is just really great fun! I can’t say I’m totally sold yet on McGinnis as Batman, a permanently angry Bruce as the somewhat unprofessional behind-the-scenes command figure, or indeed even Tim Drake and Dick Grayson as they are portrayed here, it’s just all a bit too different to what I’m used at the moment, but I suspect that is completely the point.

I felt much the same when I started reading Marvel Ultimate Universe material actually, until I made the mental separation between the two continuities, and I am sure that will happen with BATMAN BEYOND also. Because what it does do is allow the writers to create some unlikely scenarios and make use of a whole new set of future back histories for protagonists we are otherwise overly familiar with.

And speaking of characters we’re overly familiar with, you might think dredging up old Bat-villains fifty years past their prime might be a hackneyed plot device, but actually it works rather well as someone who bears a remarkable resemblance to Hush – not difficult given he’s swathed in bandages I suppose – is offing doddery old-schoolers such as Signalman, Armory and Calender Man purely just to send a message it would seem. A message intended for Bruce…

Given Bruce never definitively convinced himself that Hush a.k.a. Tommy Elliot was dead, even despite the presence of a body with all the right DNA, is it really possible Hush is still active and looking to cause problems for Bruce all over again? It’s not just old villains he’s looking to shuffle off to their graves either, he’s also after the new Catwoman, who despite being a rather different breed of feline from Selina Kyle, has this era’s Batman just as captivated by her as Bruce ever was by the original kitty-cat back in the day. If you’re an avid Bat-reader who is looking for some new material and hasn’t given any BATMAN BEYOND material a look yet, this would be a great starting point.



Takio vol 1 h/c (£7-50, Icon/Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming…

“We don’t have super skin and strength powers… We have Kung Fu Karate mind powers.”
“Kung Fu Karate mind powers.”
“Kung Fu telli…co…netflix.”
“Kung Fu telekinesis.”
“Kung Fu telekinesis.”

You may well have ingrained in your brain by the end of TAKIO vol 1, that sisters Olivia (the younger, a motormouth, shares her name with Bendis’ daughter who was apparently involved with the creation of Takio) and Taki (adopted, Asian and I have absolutely no idea regarding her nomenclature) have the power of Kung Fu Telekinesis, as it is repeated rather a lot, usually by the somewhat excitable Olivia who is desperate to convince her older adoptive sibling that they should, of course, be superheroes. So, what to make of Bendis and Oeming’s new project then…

Well story-wise, it’s not really like their co-created title POWERS, at least yet, but neither is it really like the Bendis-penned ULTIMATE SPIDERMAN with which, on the face of it, TAKIO seems to closely share certain themes. e.g. superhero teens (and pre-teens). Instead at this point, it reminded me much more of Robert Kirkman’s INVINCIBLE, in its early stages, before that title got to the darker point it’s at today. (For those who don’t think INVINCIBLE gets darker in the later volumes, name me another title where someone gets superspeed head-butted to death by the main character over a multi-panelled double-page spread.)

My main issue is that after one volume of TAKIO, I don’t feel Bendis has done very much other than tell us the girls now have the power of err… Kung Fu telekinesis. There wasn’t much else in terms of character development or future plot setups, other than to show the mad professor / father of Taki’s friend, who loses his grip after getting fired from his research job, again, and inadvertently causes the explosion that gives the girls the power of… wait for it… Kung Fu telekinesis. The section of the story where the girls actually get their powers felt rather threadbare and glossed over in a couple of pages to me.

I’m probably being a little greedy and unrealistic in terms of what I expected from this first volume, purely because I love POWERS and ULTIMATE SPIDERMAN soooo much. I’m quite sure future volumes will indeed give me the plot development I’m looking for. And actually, what is brilliant most of the way through TAKIO is the dialogue, particularly between the two sisters, which gives glimpses of why this title could turn out to be yet another roaring success for Bendis. And I can already see the sisters’ relationship as dynamic teen and pre-teen duo being something Bendis can have a whole heap of fun messing around with in future stories.

Oeming’s art certainly will put you in mind of POWERS though, as he employs his trademark curving but jagged arcing power bolts to good effect to demonstrate the girls… here we go again… Kung Fu telekinesis. Trust me, you’ll be thinking the same by the time you’ve finished reading it. Though again, the sunny palette selection and general lightness of touch puts one more in mind of the sensibilities of early INVINCIBLE than POWERS. This, I should actually add I guess, is no bad thing to my mind.

Overall I did enjoy TAKIO considerably, but I can see how it is more squarely aimed at the ’all ages’ market than even say ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDERMAN.


The Thanos Imperative h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Brad Walker, Miguel Sepulveda…

More cosmic calamity comes crawling out from the Cancerverse with the return of the darker alter-ego of Adam Warlock, the Magus, and also a villainous version of a certain someone else who turns out to be really pulling the strings. I loved that particular reveal and its attendant consequences for the Magus, a very nice bit of misdirection there indeed, boys.

But let’s start with a question, rhetorical mind you: why oh why have Marvel cancelled, sorry… put on hiatus… Nova and Guardians Of The Galaxy? Sales, obviously, would be the reason presumably, but I just can’t understand why more people haven’t been picking up Abnett and Lanning’s excellent cosmic catalogue over the last few years compared to some of the Earth-based cack that apparently sells enough to warrant continue printing it.

Still, at least they get chance to finish things off with a big bang here if you see what I mean… before the ‘Cosmic Avengers by any other name’ spin-off mini-series THE ANNIHILATORS kicks off at least. It’s their version of SIEGE and unlike, for me anyway, that anticlimactic conclusion to the years of excellent build-up that had gone before, here we have a real chaotic crescendo with Nova, The Guardians Of The Galaxy, Quasar, the Silver Surfer, Galactus, Celestials, and pretty much everyone else who was involved with THE WAR OF KINGS making an appearance too, in the final confrontation with the corrupted versions of the Marvel Universe’s finest that inhabit the reality trying to subsume ours, known as the Cancerverse. The only problem being that as there is no death in the Cancerverse, that universe’s particular Death entity having been destroyed, as soon as our heroes knock somebody down, they’re right back up on their feet quicker than you can say ‘so they’re sort of like a Marvel Zombie, but not quite eh?’

Yes, it is a throw-the-kitchen-sink-at it battle extravaganza, with hot and cold taps running on full bore and the plug vanished somewhere behind the microwave, but it’s being fought on several fronts, and whilst Galactus and the other ‘high abstracts’ are holding the line at the point where the Cancerverse is literally pouring into our reality, the rift in spacetime known as The Fault, it’s up to Nova and The Guardians to lead a covert mission behind enemy lines to insert the one thing, or more precisely person, who can make a difference just by his very presence there. That’d be Thanos, avatar of Death then, and always ready to share the love. So will all our heroes make it back alive in time to put the plates away and join THE ANNIHILATORS then? Given that a certain two titles have been cancelled… sorry, are on hiatus… I wouldn’t bet on it.


Captain Britain vol 5: End Game (£15-99, Marvel) by Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, Alan Davis, Steve Craddock, Mike Collins, Grant Morrison & Alan Davis.

The return of Captain Gaudypants for his final flight over the Britain’s brick terraces. Here he’s wearing those white jodhpurs which – combined with the Union Jack – make him look like royalty all set for a polo match.

Actually it’s Davis and Delano who return him to our own parochial shores after Alan Moore’s done melting his brain over parallel Earths, a multitude of Captain UKs, Captain Albions and a fascist Britain with curfews and concentration camps for the undesirables – mutants, aliens and punks with spikey hair – run by reality-warping Mad Jim Jaspers. The series then was rich in language and psychedelia, and introduced several characters now far more familiar like Meggan, Saturnyne and the Crazy Gang, and there was the occasional attempt to link the British series with its American parent by name-checking Lady Farnsworth (Spitfire), S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers.

Meanwhile Alan Davis was working his way through his own early influences (page 10 for example is pure Jim Starlin in its forms, layout and texture which is no bad thing), and doing his best with the limited space available because they were very brief instalments. When let rip on the covers he was even more impressive.

But the series, beset over its several incarnations by mixed editorial messages and consequent shifts in direction, was always a bit of a mess. Alan Davis’ introduction is highly illuminating on that score. Really it should never have been – superheroes just aren’t British and the costumes were terrible, each and every one. We don’t bandy any of our flags about all over the place like America does.

Anyway, this was his Captain Britain’s solo swansong, taking you right up to Excalibur vol 1: The Sword Is Drawn.



Scott Pilgrim Mug – Level Complete (£8-99)

I am not reviewing a mug.


Also Arrived:

(Softcover reviews of h/cs will be already up; other reviews to follow.)

Freeway (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Mark Kalesniko
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Boom!) by Philip K. Dick & Tony Parker
Weapons Of The Metabarons h/c (£14-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Travis Charest, Zoran Janjetov
Axe Cop vol 1 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Malachi Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle
Death Note Black Edition vol 2 (£9-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata
Red Moon (£14-99, Cossack) by David McAdoo
Night Animals (£5-99, Top Shelf) by Brecht Evans
New Mutants vol 3: Fall Of The New Mutants h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells & Leonard Kirk
Deadpool vol 6: I Rule, You Suck h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Carlos Barberi, Bong Dazo
Deadpool vol 5: What Happened In Vegas s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Carlo Barberi
Ultimate Comics Thor h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Carlos Pacheco
Hulk vol 6: World War Hulks s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuiness, John Romita Jr
Wolverine Weapon X vol 3: Tomorrow Dies Today s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Ron Garney, Davide Gianfelice, Esad Ribic
Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor vol 1 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Robert Bernstein & Jack Kirby, Al Hartley, Joe Sinnott, Don Heck
Gotham Central Book 4: Corrigan h/c (£22-50, DC) by Ed Brubaker, Gred Rucka & Kano, Stefano Gaudiano
Arata The Legend vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuu Watase
Hayate Combat Butler vol 17 (£6-99, Viz) by Kenjiro Hata
Rin-Ne vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi
NGE: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project vol 8 (£7-50, Dark Horse) by Osamu Takahashi
Dogs – Bullets & Carnage vol 5 (£8-99, Viz) by Shirow Miwa
Detroit Metal City vol 8 (£8-99, Viz) by Kiminori Wakasugi
I See The Promised Land h/c (£12-99, Tara) by Arthur Flowers & Manu Chitrakar, Guglielmo Rossi

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– Stephen

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