Reviews April 2011 week four

“He gets by with a little high from his friends.”

– Stephen on Ziggy Marley’s Marijuana

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

A watercolour wonder as exuberant as Delirium herself!

From the artist on BEASTS OF BURDEN and the creator of MAGIC TRIXIE, SCARY GODMOTHER etc, this sees the return of the diminutive versions of The Endless from the mythological majesty that is Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN: Dream, Death, Destiny, Destruction, Desire, Despair and Delirium written and painted as children.

While settling down to bed one night with her pet pooch, Barnabas, Delirium is struck by the revelation that she has never seen one of her sisters smile: not Death, for she is always such kind and considerate company; nor Desire who smiles perhaps too much of the time and in very odd ways; but Despair! She has never seen Despair smile!

A poster child for Attention Deficit Disorder, once Delirium gets a bee in her bonnet she cannot stop buzzing and, undaunted by the pretty tall order, pulls out all the stops to plan and host a dazzling party for all her siblings to bring joy to heart of her sorrowful sister.

Delirium, as her name suggests, is totally crazy and you have to see the half-baked cake to believe it! Decorated in a flurry of whims with books and boats, garden plants and a doll’s house sticking out the side, I have no idea what flavours it might be. I really don’t think that’s sponge. Jill’s attention to detail throughout is staggering. Delirium’s get-up changes on every single page and I loved idea of representing Barnabas’ wish list of favourite things as paintings pinned to a cork board.

There’s even an art lesson in the back – a very useful art lesson if you enjoy using watercolours – and as the title suggests this is suitable for all ages, though I guarantee that 95% of the copies sold will be to adults, for adults.



Dark Horse Presents vol II #1 (£5-99, Dark Horse) by various.

“Hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved.” Russell Brand would find that a very familiar phenomenon.

Return of the anthology that first spawned SIN CITY, and indeed Miller returns here in not one but two capacities. There’s a two-page interview in which he talks in detail about the licenses he takes with meticulously researched history – or at least what’s reordered – in to better serve his story, and there’s a black and white preview of XERXES itself, his prequel to 300. I spent ages absorbing those pages, dreaming about what Lynn Varley will do to them with her colours.

Also: new Paul Chadwick CONCRETE and Carla Speed McNeil  FINDER stories in colour, Howard Chaykin on juggling armed robbery with marital mollification, Neal Adams on… I’m not sure what the hell Neal Adams is on these days… Richard Corben returning to his old DEN stylings for a black and white fantasy first-parter, a lovely David Chelsea story called ‘Snow Angel’, comedy strips from Patrick Alexander, somewhat incongruously a STAR WARS piece illustrated by Paul Gulacy, MR MONSTER which I confess I’ve never really ‘got’ from Michael T. Gilbert…

… And a Harlan Ellison prose short story from which my opening quote comes. It’s great. Of course it’s great, it’s Harlan Ellison. A scientist creates a tiny man, five inches tall. The tiny man is exceptionally bright, learning rapidly. The scientist asks a friend to make a few suits for him, and she is more than happy to do so. Everywhere he goes, the tiny man goes too, arms hanging out the side of the scientist’s pocket and everyone remarks, “How interesting: a tiny man.”

But “Hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved,” and public opinion reverses on the strength of one woman’s words:

“A woman I didn’t know started it. I didn’t understand why she would do such a thing. It didn’t have anything to do with her. Perhaps she was as mean spirited as everyone but her slavish audience said…
“She called him a monstrosity. Other words, some of which I had never heard before: abnormity, perversion of nature, a vile derision of what God had created first, a hideous crime of unnatural science.”

What happens next Ellison finds typical of human nature: the desire to be told what to think instead of trusting in one’s own considered opinion; the refusal to stand out from the crowd by sticking up for individuals against popular, media-fuelled outrage. The sort of thing that clogs the BBC switchboards: complaints from people who’ve not seen a programme or heard a particular radio show for themselves, but been incited to call by a tabloid’s skewed, self-serving propaganda. What happens is universal rejection and two radically different endings, one of which I never saw coming but makes so much sense. This time there’s no Ark.


2000AD Prog 1730 (£2-25, Rebellion) by Michael Carroll & Bryan Talbot, Alwyn Talbot; Ian Edginton & Steve Yeowell; more.

For the first time in many a moon Bryan Talbot has returned to Judge Dredd (and brought his son Alwyn along for good measure) for a single, self-contained story written by Michael Carroll called ‘Caterpillars’. Given that I can’t foresee where this would ever be collected, I’d get your orders in now. We certainly won’t have copies next time any of the Talbot clan come signing.

“There’s no life in the city. Most of us just crawl around like… like caterpillars. Mindlessly, eternally consuming… oblivious to the rest of the world. Focusing only on where that next meal is coming from. I’m as bad as everyone else – never get involved. Don’t stand out. Keep your head down.
“We’re all capable of creating outstanding beauty. But the mob mentality doesn’t permit that. Four hundred million people – each longing to be individual, and most of us too scared. And no one cares. Especially not the Judges…”

A young artist is standing on the roof of a skyscraper in the sprawling urban nightmare that is Mega-City One. She’s teetering on the edge, in every respect. She’s been slapped aside, tossed about and now her apartment’s been destroyed along with the mural she’d spent over a year on in a raid by the Judges on her neighbours.

“If I can’t be who I really am, if I can’t truly live – then I no longer want this pathetic excuse for a life.”

Now you may be wondering, given the accomplishments of Bryan Talbot himself (ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, the two GRANDVILLE books which are up for a Hugo Award, LUTHER ARKWRIGHT etc.)… you may be wondering why he’d want his son tinkering with his inks.

Alwyn Talbot does not tinker. Judging by the pages themselves he’s probably expended ten times as many hours as Talbot Sr. on both the inks and the fully rendered colours and he is perfect for this dystopian, post-apocalyptic future given how clearly influenced he is by console games like Dead Space. His Mega-City One is unbearably inhospitable, billowing with cold, toxic fumes and rank with refuse. No offence to Bryan, but it was a good call; neat punchline, by the way.

Given the nature of 2000AD you’re inevitably thrown into the middle of the other stories, but it’s always cool to catch up on what’s current, and obviously I enjoyed seeing more pages by one of my all-time favourites Steve Yeowell. James McCay was quite the revelation, though: his Tyrannosaurus Rex is formidable; you can almost hear it roar is it writhes and ruts. Yes, it’s copulating and I should also mention r.e. ‘Caterpillars’ that there be boobage. Boobage in 2000AD! Jonathan would have loved that when he started reading this aged 5…


Dylan Dog Case Files (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Tiziano Sclavi & Angelo Stano, Andrea Venturi, Giampiero Casertano, Luigi Piccatto, Bruno Brindisi.

“You know what’s wrong with being superstitious? It brings bad luck.”

680-page bonanza we should already have been stocking, translated from Italian yet set in our very own London.

Dylan Dog is a nightmare investigator – or investigative nightmare; depends on who you ask – frequently troubled by zombies but all-too human monsters as well. He’s dashing, he’s daring, he’s a womaniser; but he’s definitely a New Man as evidenced by the caring, compassion and tears.

In ‘Johnny Freak’, for example, he’s dragged through a hedge backwards by a feral canine determined to lead Dylan to a park where one of its pack has been beaten to death. There he finds a young boy, beaten too, deaf and dumb and traumatised. He’s just escaped from a tool shed set on fire – a tool shed he’d been imprisoned in for years, fed in a dog bowl through a small hatch in the door. He has no legs, only one liver and only one kidney. But he’s no freak of nature: each organ and appendage was surgically removed.

As Dylan strives to keep the press at bay for fear of labelling the young lad yet another Elephant Man, he’s caught between high-cost lawyers, beatings from a mob of means, and a new romantic interest already attached.

That one’s illustrated by Andrea Venturi who seriously knows his Neal Adams. Several others are equally enamoured by the photo-realistic neo-classicist, and also by 100 BULLETS’ Eduardo Risso. Although that’s another of those arse-backwards comparisons Mark used to laugh at me for, because given the chronology Eduardo was far more likely to have been influenced by this than vice-versa!

Jonathan’s using the foreign-language version of a Dylan Dog casefile to help him learn Italian. “Unfortunately,” he said, “it’s the one about alien abduction. I don’t really see me being able to apply that sort of vocabulary on a daily basis.”

Don’t be so sure, matey. Don’t be so sure.



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

“Where to, buddy?”
“Now there’s a question. First, I want to walk into a bar and drink it. And then I’m going to start a fight with five men and win. And then I am going to make use of a truly staggering number of prostitutes. Some of whom I may have once been married to. Following which, I will buy drugs. I will, in fact, show them a large pillowcase, and tell them to fill it with drugs. And I’m putting it all on the goddamn expense account.”

That’s not who you think it is. It’s another member of the cast getting their unexpected moment in the sun, and triumphing.

The penultimate volume of TRANSMET (as the Norwegians and the lazy reviewers know it) is finally here and Spider Jerusalem, outlaw journo, has been diagnosed with untreatable I-Pollen damage, a future version of Alzheimer’s, and has been given a year to live. Mortality is knocking on his door, but Spider is determined to take down the corrupt President, currently straddling the American people and pissing in their faces, before he checks out. But with time ticking away, Spider starts using extreme measures to get the information he needs to expose the President. Will he become as bad as his enemy before the end comes? Or will he forget his name and start flinging poo at his friends before he completes his crusade?

Ellis’ script is brimming with off-beat and off-colour humour and Robertson’s clear story-telling and background jokes make the future a fun place to be, even if there aren’t any flying cars.


Trickster: Native American Tales (£15-99, Fulcrum) by various.

One and a half dozen traditional Native American fables given the full-colour treatment in a variety of styles and aimed squarely at younger readers. That’s not to say they’re uninteresting to those of us masquerading as adults, but some a more than a little heavy-handed in their overt life lessons: don’t brag, do share your food and if you snooze you lose. Some also work better than others. The Trickster and the Great Chief’s moral, for example, is a non-sequitur: no one was turned into an owl regardless of whether they honoured or failed to honour the dead.

The tricksters here are mostly animals: ravens, racoons, and a great many rabbits. Some have a specific agenda; others see mischief as an end in itself. Interestingly, however, not all the stories here rely on the guile of the trickster or the gullibility of the victim. In so many instances it’s the victims’ ego or greed which gets the better of them. And so it very much goes.


Marijuanaman h/c (£18-99, Image) by Ziggy Marley, Joe Casey & Jim Mahfood.

48 pages for £18-99…? What the fuck are they smoking?!

Okay, it is an album-sized hardcover in full, trippy, Day-Glo colour as an alien with THC in place of DNA is woken by the weed to use the power of his Soul Almighty against a narcotics – sorry, pharmaceutical – corporation manufacturing medical practitioners’ favourite artificial drugs with much the same properties as ganja.

Inevitably blows are exchanged with a hired villain who resembles something out of Marshall Law, after which our main man is brought back with a blowback from love interest whatsherface. In other words he gets by with a little high from his friends.

The sage is called Wiggy as a tribute to Ziggy and I think I’m pretty much done with this review now.

There’s a point-by-point fact page in the back, which I am in no position to verify one way or the other, evangelising the beneficial properties of da ‘erb against those of the chalky pills which are not only legal but commercial gold-dust for big fat industrial giants. Heaven forfend farmers make any money from nurturing nature, eh?



Hitman vol 4: Ace Of Killers (£13-50, DC) by Garth Ennis & John McCrea, Steve Pugh.

“’Tis true that I am whole once more, rhyming in the days of yore…And yes, I had my wicked fun, bargaining with an empty gun… Why, you ask? To settle a score, ‘gainst Monaghan from times before. ‘Tis because I owed the man… And ‘tis because I’m Etrigan.”

All Hell is about to break loose in Gotham in the form of a gun-toting demon fixated on offing our telepathic Hitman, so Monaghan enlists the aid of Etrigan’s other half, Jason Blood (and by ‘enlists’ I mean ‘blackmails’), as well as Catwoman. Monaghan’s cat version of the Batsignal is… interestingly improvised! Also to his rescue, Sixpack and his Section Eight, the most bizarre ensemble you ever did see, and special mention should go to Bueno Excellente who gleefully molests all and sundry in order to fight crime. There’s no escaping him.

“Okay, team, let’s get outta here! We’re taking the back passage!”
“Heh heh heh.. Bueno…”

John McCrea is on magnificent, burlesque form. It’s a ludicrous title full of ludicrous characters doing ludicrous things to each other. Totally liberated. But the surprise here is Steve Pugh coming on board for a truly tender love sequence. Bueno!



Essential Thor vol 5 (£14-99, Marvel) by Gerry Conway & John Buscema.

Contains #196-220 and a pugilistic pantheon. Also The Absorbing Man, so you never have to buy kitchen towel again.



Avengers #12.1 (£2-25, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Bryan Hitch.

Ohhhh ho!

Prologue to something enormous a little later in the year. How enormous? I am dying to tell you, but pick this up and find out first-hand instead. It’s not the Intellencia, it’s what they’ve discovered which only becomes clear towards the end of the issue and only really becomes clear to Tony Stark. Because he’s already seen it happen.

Hopefully that’s cryptic enough. The real point of this review, however, is that there’s a preview online which I wanted to share: exceptional composition on the final double-page spread by Bryan Hitch, all lines including the spot-light sources converging on Jessica herself, and then the punchline text. This really is worthy of Caravaggio:


Wolverine: Enemy Of The State – Ultimate Collection restocks (£22-50, Marvel) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr. with Kaare Andrews.

Certainly one of the best Wolverine stories out there, even if Millar struggles to invest the regular Marvel universe’s Nick Fury with quite as much charisma as his ULTIMATES’ version. And this is a vast-cast military battle. Lured into contact with a nefarious arm of The Hand by the kidnapping of an old friend’s son, Wolverine is taken down and out. They actually manage to kill him! Thing is, he’s not their target, he’s their weapon for they resurrect him (oh, see Elektra in Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL VOL 3) and send him out to find and kill their second weapon of choice, Elektra (really – see Elektra in Miller’s DAREDEVIL VOL 3). And then the real slaughter begins: hundreds and hundreds of b-list heroes and baddies, all zombified and under control of The Gorgon, throwing the Marvel mainstays into a nervous bunker mentality. Next stop? S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.

Romita rises to the task – there are some huge battle scenes on offer – whilst Millar throws in the odd sweet reference to previous X-Men storylines, like Northstar’s crush on an oblivious Iceman.

Also included, Millar’s self-contained change of pace which I read before the afterword that explained it all. And the funny thing is, the exact two elements that I picked out that made this so special weren’t Millar’s at all: they both came from Will Eisner. The issue is dedicated to Will, and what makes it so special is that the silhouette that is Wolverine says not a word, thereby turning him into something of a phantom and a witness. Set in a Nazi Death Camp during World War II, it really does feel like an EC ghost story with a new commandant, arriving to replace a predecessor who has committed suicide, haughtily sneering at the ineffectiveness of the camp and seeking to make an example of the man who just stares at him through the fence. Of course that man will prove decidedly more difficult to exterminate than the thousands of Jews who perish alongside him, and that way may lie madness…  Superb, blizzard colouring by Villarrubia and, unlike its original printing, there are no cheap and gaudy adverts to break the atmosphere.



Godspeed: The Kurt Cobain Graphic new edition (£10-99, Omnibus) by Barnaby Legg, Jim McCarthy & Flameboy –

I know that it’s wrong to dismiss a book without reading it but this one just begs for it. The cover uses the Marvel/DC depiction of grief. You know, when Superman is cradling his dead sister or any superhero is shown crying over the loss of a friend, it’s over the top, amplified to match the tone of the other emotions well you get the same thing here. On the cover, Kurt has wings (excessive Red Bull consumption?), kneeling in a pool of his own tears. How do we read this? Even in heaven he’s suffering for us? Inside the colourist has turned the yellow up to eleven, the artist has half a dozen facial expressions and good is good and bad is bad. Tobi Vail from Bikini Kill has turned into Vampirella. Or maybe that’s an allegory. Duh. Head hurting now.



Blood-Stained Sword (£13-50, IDW) by Jan Wickline, Amber Benson & Ben Templesmith.

New Ben Templesmith tome reprinting both the titular one-shot and ‘Demon Father John’s Pinwheel Blues’ instalments from SHUNT.

The latter’s a sort of vampire Oliver Twist with added maniacal monkey mimicking the cries of the psychopathic date in Japanese horror film The Audition, just as she gets out the cheese wire. (Warning: do not attempt to watch that film alone. It may start off as a sprightly comedy about finding your widowed Dad a date, but you will need someone to cling to later on!)

The former sees a Japanese martial arts trainee called Kenji journey to Seattle where his father used to work for Horigome Enterprises, a Fortune Fifty stockbroker company. They claim he committed seppuku after embezzling millions of dollars and being confronted with the theft. Naturally Kenji is suspicious – of everyone including the police – but thankfully finds a willing ally in his father’s temporary fill-in secretary. Together they delve in the murky depths of a corporate cover up with the aid of a samurai’s armour and sword.

Backgrounds are minimal but there’s nothing you need to see missing and you’ll canter right through the book at a jaunty speed.



Silent Hill: Past Life (£13-50, IDW) by Tom Waltz & Menton3.

Bludgeoned nurses, elusive, sinister children and packs of live ammo left inexplicably behind domestic refuse bins; bewildered strangers, rabid dogs and stuff that drips from the wall. That’s my neighbourhood, anyway.

It’s also a list of staple ingredients found in the Silent Hill series of console games. Ben Templesmith provides the requisite mist and ambience (though an Aphex Twin CD alternating with the dubbed recording of a police siren, slowed down by a factor of 50 wouldn’t hurt), and you probably couldn’t find a more appropriate artist.

What’s the plot? How would I know? I’m not sure I ever fully understood the games’ various scenarios. However, as with the original source, there are several alternate endings:

Read the book through once, save it on the shelf, then open again. Proceed to page 85 and instead of reading the incantation in the book provided, pick up the lighter at the bottom of the second panel and set fire to the comic. If you want to see the “House in Ashes” scenario, quit the room immediately and make your way to the local pub. If you want to see the “Ambulance Speeding through Congestion” scenario, wait until the “Time for a New Carpet” sequence kicks in, then attempt to put the combined items out with your bare hands. (As a special bonus there’ll then be a “Four Month Waiting List” feature ready to unfold, complete with a Wonky Diagnosis mini-game. Oh, if only this weren’t so true.)



Nobrow wrapping paper!

We’re not stocking this, I’m afraid – Nobrow are very expensive – but is gorgeous.

Take a look round the rest of their site too, then them pop it in your ‘favourites’. There’s some quality stuff there.



Old Reviews Newly Added To Website

This was a belter from my good mate David Hart who originally suggested our Want A Recommendation page.

The Metabarons vols 1, 2, 2 & 4 (£10-99, £14-99 variously, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Juan Giminez >

Castration, mutilation, military prosthetics, whore-priestesses, vast space battles and barely suppressed Oedipal relationships: it’s fair to say that the defining motif for THE METABARONS is ‘excess’. Starting with former pirate Othon Von Salza, THE METABARONS tells the story of a line of technologically supercharged and murderous fucks with relationship problems, each page super-pumped full of more ideas than most comics use in a year, the hysteria dial well and truly turned up to eleven.

Any attempt to summarize the plot is going to make it sound bonkers; which it is, but that’s not the point. While the future medieval setting is as familiar as the space opera genre, what sets this apart is that the opera is very much of the Wagnerian variety. The sets, the gestures, the plots, the characters, all strain their sinews towards the epic. This is opera where the high notes shatter glass and where the fat lady is a psychic ninja cyborg who turns out to be a reincarnation of your mum.

Giminez’ painted art, meanwhile, is a superb match for Jodorowsky’s grandiose vision, grounding even the most outré of events in a human reality. He combines draughtsmanship with a dynamic sense of scale and storytelling, able to move in a flicker from Olympian-scale space battles to the smirk on a father’s face as he pulps his son’s feet in a macabre initiation ceremony.  Ignore the two robots who narrate the book and whose sub-C3P0 witterings litter the text (“What happens next! Do tell before I burst another diode!” Blah and, indeed, blegh). Instead sit back and watch the speed and variety of invention, as bigger and bigger ideas flash across the stage. This first volume ends with Othon and his freshly mutilated son setting off for a new land; it’s worth noting that it’s after this that things start to get really weird… 

David Hart

Also Arrived:

Remake Special (£7-50, Adhouse) by Lamar Abrams
Love From The Shadows h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez
Sandman vol 5: A Game Of You (New Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot, George Pratt, Stan Woch, Samuel R. Delany, Shawn McManus, Colleen Doran
Slaine vol 6: Lord Of Misrule (£14-99, 2000AD) by Pat Mills & Clint Langley, Greg Staples, Jim Murray
The Bulletproof Coffin (£13-50, Image) by David Hine & Shaky Kane
Red Sonja Omnibus vol 2 (£22-50, Dynamite) by Michael Avon Oeming, Brian Reed, Ron Marx, Christos Gage, Joshua Ortega, Luke Lieberman & Homs, Lee Moder, Pablo Marcos, Fabiano Neves, Mel Rubi
The Flash: Rebirth s/c (£10-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver
X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & Brent Anderson
The Sensational She-Hulk s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by John Byrne
Doomwar s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Maberry & Scot Eaton
Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four vol 6 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Fantastic Four vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting
Captain America: The Trial Of Captain America (£18-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Daniel Acuna, Jackson Guice, Mitch Breitweiser
Invincible vol 14: The Viltrumite War (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley
Samurai Harem vol 8 (£9-99, Tokyopop) by Yu Minamoto
Kingyo Used Books vol 3 (£9-99, Viz) by Seimu Yoshizaki
House Of Five Leaves vol 3 (£9-99, Viz) by Natsume OnoSgt Frog vol 21 (£8-50, Tokyopop) by Mine Yoshizaki
Astro City: Shining Stars h/c (£18-99, DC) by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson
Itazura Na Kiss vol 3 (£12-99, DMP) by Kaoru Tada
Itazura Na Kiss vol 4 (£12-99, DMP) by Kaoru Tada
Finder vol 1: Target In The Viewfinder (£10-50, Yen) by Ayano Yamane
Finder vol 2: Cage In The Viewfinder (£10-50, Yen) by Ayano Yamane

Page 45  is open as usual on Friday the Rich Kids Getting Married Day from 9am to 6pm, but always closed on Bank Holiday Mondays.

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