Reviews April 2011 week three

“A not unexpectedly chilling book about a lethal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder that’s spread by telling its story. I am about to tell you its story.”

– Stephen on Stephen King’s N.

Mister Wonderful h/c (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Daniel Clowes.

“Dear God, could it be? Does she actually not loathe me?”

Almost an antidote to WILSON, this is a work from the great Dan Clowes which will confound your expectations. It’s as funny and acutely observed as ever, but for once it’s also very tender.

A hopelessly romantic, middle-aged divorcee, much out of touch with the dating game, awaits a blind date his mate’s set up for him. The thing is, she’s late… unless it’s that pretty young girl over there… nope! Marshall proceeds to wind himself up in advance, trying to guess who in the coffee shop might be his date, planning verbal strategies for retreat in case it’s one of its less attractive denizens. He does that a lot: practising conversational gambits in his head; also thinking when he should be listening because when his improbably attractive date does arrive, he barely hears a word she says, his boxed, internal monologue sitting squarely over Natalie’s speech balloons, obstructing her words so that we can’t hear either:

“Jesus, I’m plastered! Sober up!
“I really have to urinate, but I don’t dare leave the table. Mustn’t give her the chance to escape!
“My God, look at her. I don’t stand a chance.
“Most beautiful women turn so bitter when the realities of aging set in. Hard to blame them, I suppose. It must be kind of awful. But she seems so cheerful and good-natured and non-judgemental…. I wonder what Tim and Yuki told her about me?”

This is very familiar territory: Marshall spending his time second-guessing, trying so hard to judge how he’s coming across that he’s not necessarily giving the best first impression. He steels himself for her own strategic retreat, but no, it doesn’t come. This might actually be going somewhere…

As I said, this will confound you at almost every juncture, Clowes cleverly steering your expectations one way, playing on his reputation, only to surprise you.

There are a lot of neat tricks, like hiding parts of speech balloons in the panel gutters to reinforce the idea of Marshall operating on automatic pilot; the point in Nathalie’s marriage when she began to feel so alienated that her husband’s hollow, evasive laughter literally grows to fill the house so that she can no longer hear anything else; a moment of disappointment so profound that the world around Marshall on a double-spread landscape is reduced to small blocks of coloured light filtering through the street’s doors and windows in an otherwise total black-out.

One eventful evening in the life of a quiet man then, as well as the morning after.



Reunion (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Pascal Girard.

Car-crash comics you can’t help rubbernecking at as Pascal Girard is seduced to a school reunion he wouldn’t ordinarily attend but for an early crush who urges him there via email… but who never turns up herself!

Like John Cleese’s finest moments or Peter Sellers’ in The Party, Girard’s performance is excruciating to watch but compelling for that very same reason. And I cry “foul!” for he could not possibly be as socially inept as he’s portrayed himself here. Everything that could possibly go wrong does so. He dresses inappropriately then loses a shoe; he offends its organiser, those who casually enquire, and allows himself to be goaded into white lies that then turn far darker or at least impossible to extricate himself from.

He’s as uncomfortable throughout as Gordon Brown making small talk on meet-and-greet TV. Add in a gigantic wart on his thumb which Girard is at pains to hide, a jaw line his dentist makes him self-conscious about plus a genuine case of cramps, and you have a poor man vulnerable from the get-go before the competition sets in.

Even before reading this, you could not have paid me enough to go back: to attend a reunion at an over-privileged school which I loathe with a socialist passion; to hear so many ghosts define themselves by their stellar careers while I must appear to be making, still, plasticene dinosaurs in a playpen. I’m actually very proud of what Mark and I achieved here together with Dominique, Tom and Jonathan. So the last thing I’d welcome is a need to defend myself as Girard does here about his brilliant, self-effacing cartooning with the most fragile of lines.

But these aren’t even rich bitches or champagne charlies. Few of them are remotely offensive. It’s Girard who’s the madman, misjudging almost every encounter, and I want to give him a great big hug and slap him silly.

To read this graphic novel is to feel instantly better about your own life, as indeed you should. If you’re signed up to comics and Page 45 then you’re already infinitely more adventurous than 99% of the comics-decrying public who could be lurking in wait if ever you give in to your past. For that, and the merriment, and for Pascal Girard’s craft, we owe a great debt of thanks.


Incredible Change-Bots Two: The Vengeful Return Of The Broken! (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Jeffrey Brown ~

Three years after their pointless bickering nearly destroyed Earth, the broken and jerry-rigged Change-Bots crash-land back on our planet due not to fate, but pure incompetence. Much to the annoyance of Shootertron who, after falling to death at the end of book one, had actually only suffered from amnesia. Discovered and adopted by a farmer and his wife, his world conquest is inevitable once he discovers he can shoot laser beams out of the large pipe on his arm, and only Big-Rig and his band of amazing new Change-Bots stand in his way.

This goes beyond parody at its finest and transforms into a satire of the entire money-gobbling franchise of toys as consumer products.

See you might think that these are the same old Change-Bots, why do you need a second book? Well, you would be wrong: in true ‘80s toy-marketing fashion half the cast have had re-dos! Hoser actually looks just like a snazzy fire truck my brother had when we were kids, but other Change-Bots weren’t so lucky. As an ‘80s child who saw many of the Transformers first time round seemingly devolve from shiny metal and plastic toys with intricate methods of transformation, to shoddy blocks of plastic with nearly no moving parts or skill set needed to transform them, the resemblance here is extremely well observed, reaching its pinnacle of lazy transformation with Afterburnerbot who is now just a head, a solid unmoving block. But when he falls on his face he becomes a small plane. His joy at this Incredible-Change mirrors the hyperbole of the ‘80s toy marketing. Afterburnerbot’s wing-man, Extra Battle Damaged Arsonal (sic), falls victim to the other vice of toy marketing: ridiculous over-descriptive names.

Stinky the garbage truck has an ethical re-do, with a giant recycling emblem adorning his galvanised rump, while Eject (the tape player, the tape player was always the coolest toy) faces a fate worse than a re-do: a shameless rip-off. And it is shameless. The way Rejector ejected his cassette-shaped foils makes all involved quite dejected. My favourite though, is Microwave. He doesn’t even get a decent name, and being a kitchen appliance he does a Mediocre-Change rather than an incredible one. But he’s not the most pathetic, Microwave’s two companion Bots, Popper and Soupy get that accolade.

What I love about Jeffrey’s Transformers send-up is how accurately he not only plots them much like the cartoon itself – more holes and loose screws than Mechano – but as if he’s a seven-year-old more playing with toys. The battles and plot twists are as convoluted and dogged as any my brothers and I invented as a child. It’s that sense of endearment to that age as well as the acute cynicism as an adult which imbues this book and its predecessor with real humour.



Strange Tales vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by various including Harvey Pekar, Jhonen Vasquez, Rafael Grampa, Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Terry Moore, Jeff Lemire, James Stokoe, Nicholas Gurewitch, Dean Haspiel, Dash Shaw, Gene Luen Yang, Kate Beaton, Shannon Wheeler, Kevin Huizenga, Jeffrey Brown, Paul Mayberry, Paul Hornschemeier, Tony Millionaire, Farel Dalrymple, Jon Vermilyea, Benjamin Marra, Tim Hamilton, Michael Deforge, Alex Robinson, Eduardo Medeiros…

“My, uh, hamster escaped and it me a while to get him back into his cage… He’s temperamental.”
“I don’t care what sick perversions you get into on your own time, this is my time. You’re a blight on this city and it disgusts me to employ you.”

It’s extremely unusual indeed for any humour collection that every single strip or gag will hit the funny bone like an unrequited love-tap from Mjolnir, but so it proves with this second collection of oddball ribaldry from a stellar cast of contributors making merry with Marvel’s Finest. Truly, this is high quality amusement, with no filler whatsoever, whether it’s J. Jonah Jameson disbelieving Peter Parker’s continual excuses for showing up for work bruised and battered, Thor throwing a temper tantrum after failing to ring the bell at the test-your-strength stall at a circus, or the Watcher lying on the ground and just letting dogs eat biscuits off his face, the laughs just keep coming thick and fast. There are far too many brilliant pieces to mention them all here, just suffice to say, for those of you who think that Deadpool is Marvel doing humour, you seriously need to cut down on the E numbers and read this instead.



Darkie’s Mob h/c (£16-99, Titan) by John Wagner & Mike Western…

From the battle log of Private Richard Shortland…

“This is the story of a madman. A hard, cruel son of Satan who led us into the very pit of hell – and laughed about it. Then he began to turn us into animals – the most savage fighting force the Japs had ever known.”

This is some of Wagner’s finest ever writing, and as someone who specialises in creating anti-heroes, here we have perhaps his most enigmatic character of all, Captain Joe Darkie. A man who shows up unexpectedly in the midst of a demoralised group of British infantry lost deep in the Burmese jungle, surrounded by the enemy who are calling out to them that they will die that very night… He promises to lead them to the safety of allied-held territory over the nearby river, but instead merely leads them even deeper behind enemy lines. When the men realise this and confront him, he then calmly informs them that there’s a war on and no squad of his will ever turn away from the fight…

What follows is one of the finest pieces of psychological war dramatisation in any medium, as Joe Darkie begins to turn his men into a fearsome fighting force waging a continuous guerrilla war against the Japanese at every turn. No opportunity is lost to strike fear into the heart of the enemy who appear to quake at the very mention of Darkie’s name. Little by little we, through the eyes of his men, find out more about this mysterious marauder, such as the shocking revelation heard over the radio only by Private ‘Shorty’ Shortland just before it’s destroyed, that in fact military high command has never even heard of a Captain Joe Darkie. What could possibly be the motivation for one man’s all-consuming and obsessive crusade against the enemy?

This really does take me back to reading BATTLE ACTION as a kid and, much like CHARLEY’S WAR and JOHNNY RED, you forget just how much depth the stories actually had, and indeed the near-physical impact the writing actually had upon you. Quite simply, you would not want to be where these people were, having to endure what they endured, and that is most eminently conveyed by Wagner’s plotting and Mike Western’s art. One other great thing to note about this particular work is that it is complete in one volume, so unlike, perhaps, JOHNNY RED, it never gets anywhere near the point where you felt it was being continued in perpetuity just for the sake of it. (Johnny Red ran for 14 years in BATTLE ACTION weekly – that’s a lot of strips.)

No, instead it’s short, sharp and brutal, just like one of Darkie’s precision raids on the Nips. Ah yes, there’s also an excellent introduction by Garth Ennis on which he touches upon the fact that modern sensibilities could cause one, if one were so inclined, to consider much of this dialogue from the ‘70s to be racist. And arguably the art in places too, at a push. Well, yes, but so what? The dialogue is in places as brutal as the action for sure, but to my 8-year-old, and 38-year-old mind, war is absolute hell on earth and not the place for verbal niceties, so why not reflect that fully? There’s no place for respecting the enemy when you’re facing a certain and no doubt painfully prolonged death by torture if you’re caught, so why bother being even polite about them? And as Ennis alludes to in his introduction without giving anything away (as I won’t here, either) you really need to read the whole work, particularly the revelatory concluding chapters to put things, including Darkie’s dialogue, into a certain perspective.

DARKIE’S MOB is as powerful for me as CHARLEY’S WAR is, albeit illuminating a rather different aspect of war, one of how all-consuming it can be become in literally every sense.



Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki…

“But you know, isn’t that how life is?
“It’s the will of nature! Life is the will of the gods! Anything that gets in the way of that leap is no good. Whether it’s a system or what have you, it’s evil.
“No, the fact is, as senior officer, I am going to go to the General…”
“Don’t get so worked up Doctor. Doctor, that’s outrageous. They think of us as worms and nothing more.”
“… and plead for the lives of the surviving eighty-one men.
“Regardless, it is the will of the universe for all living things to live.
“It’s wrong to get in the way of that.”
“But this is the army.”
“Army? This army is the most diseased thing humanity has ever seen. This is not the way human beings should be.”

As much an insight into the Japanese WW2 military psyche as a fictionalised memoir of the creator’s time spent serving in the South Pacific during the war, this book is very much a searing critique of the perversion of the honourable way of Bushido that had become all-pervasive in the Japanese military structure at the time, most exemplified in the gyokusai dictate that one must die at any cost for Japan, either in battle or if that was not possible, then by suicide.

This work is a straightforward look, nay stare, at the absurdity of not just one country’s military misadventures, but also at the absolute horror of war itself. In terms of how it portrays that particular facet of warfare, it has most in common with Jacques Tardi’s very moving IT WAS THE WAR OF THE TRENCHES, though the South Pacific setting and constant attritional demise of the cast of characters put me most in mind of the prose fictionalised memoir The Thin Red Line by James Jones (who also penned From Here To Eternity) about the battle for Guadalcanal. (Note: the 1998 film of said book, despite in my opinion being the finest film to come out that particular year, bares little or no resemblance, oddly enough, to the actual prose work, just in case you’ve seen the film but not read the book.)

But as in Tardi’s work there is considerable black, indeed gallows humour here, to off-set the bleak, relentless, waking nightmare of warfare. And once again the words and actions of the top brass in charge of the Japanese troops on the island of Kokopo where the action is set, neatly prove that the military is most definitely not always a meritocracy. The art is a Tezuka-esque blend of exquisitely illustrated backdrops and landscapes, and cartoonish, almost lampooning, characters populating the foreground of the panels, which works well in providing depth and realism to the locale, yet gently dissembling the darker elements sufficiently to ensure they don’t distract from the overall ebbing and flowing emotional tides of the work.

This is a rather moving work, at times – were it not for the fact we know it to be all too true – stretching the credulity of what could, or rather should, actually be possible. Real life is indeed, as the saying goes, stranger than fiction and where war or large-scale conflict is concerned just infinitely more disturbing and gruesome than fiction could ever be. As several of the characters discuss amongst themselves, it’s hard for them to understand why they are expected to engage in such brutal battles in the middle of the South Pacific on such small spits of land at all, given Japan itself was by then already well on the way to being bombed into submission. But, to return to the initial point of this review, the concept of death before dishonour for the Japanese military high command was so all-pervading, it was insidious.



Stephen King’s N (£14-99, Marvel) by Marc Guggenheim & Alex Maleev.

A not unexpectedly chilling book about a lethal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder that’s spread by telling its story. I am about to tell you its story.

I’d advise you to look away now. But you can’t, can you, such is humanity’s unquenchable curiosity, and that’s what happens here as various individuals, connected professionally or through personal history, each learn of the last person to become mesmerised by a crop of Stone Circles numbering 7 to the naked eye but 8 through a lens of a camera. Each in turn finds this disparity compels them to count, to go round the circle and physically touch the stones in order to fix their physical quantity in their minds. Then there are 8 and all is well with their world… until there are 7 again.

King does an exceptional job of narrating the disease taking hold as the carriers gradually succumb to what they once doubted but feel compelled to verify for themselves as the last victim’s delusion. As they do so they reactivate a process that has been passed like a baton across countless generations of keeping at bay an awful, malignant force that keeps seeping through a crack in reality; of occluding the aperture by rebooting the 7 as 8.

It’s told with ingenuity – and adapted with terrifying beauty by DAREDEVIL’s Alex Maleev – through the use of documentation: letters, newspaper articles, cards of condolence and, at its heart, a psychiatric case study of a patient called ‘N’ buried in a box marked “Burn This!”

This arrived one week after AARON AND ACHMED. What is it with verbal viral memes these days? They seem to be spreading.



Francis Sharp: In The Grip Of the Uncanny vol 1 (£7-50, Black Bottle) by Brittney Sabo, Anna Bratton & Brittney Sabo.

There’s an avalanche of kids’ books solicited these days, but the vast majority are vapid and bland. They’re dull, and that is a cardinal sin because kids don’t do dull. But I loved the cartooning here, and the cover is a flourish of fire-like briar while the interior art boasts some rustic evening skies with so much space up above.

Young Francis is an artist with a vivid imagination fuelled by his favourite radio plays like the sinister Occultist. He acts them out, all derring-do, even when he should be watching his father’s herd of cows for fear they escape and eat the neighbour’s crops. They escape. And eat the neighbour’s crops. Now the family, already suffering from a cashflow crisis, will have to pay compensation so they set out for Westfield to sell off treasured family heirlooms, and it’s all Francis’ fault. He’s left at home with strict instructions for chores around the farm but almost immediately his friend Harry arrives and its time for some more re-enactment, this time with the aid of his grandfather’s pocket watch as The Eye Of Mithridates which Francis stole back from the truck.

That in itself will land Francis in trouble, but when he spies a shadowy creature – half-hare, half-fox in the woods surrounding the pastures – he abandons his friend to follow it further and further into the darkness until he’s accosted by a shrouded spectre with an old oil lantern and it becomes swiftly clear that he ain’t in Kansas any longer.

What follows is one of those Addams Family scenarios in which the furry goblin folk in the nearby market town (it sells mostly tubers!) find Francis just as weird as the terrified boy finds Valleyghast, but when he seeks sanctuary in a book shop he’s befriended by its reluctant librarian and his unflappable friend who offer to help him retrace his steps. Unfortunately home is no longer where Francis left it…



Undying Love #1 (£2-99, Image) by Tomm Coker, Daniel Freedman & Tomm Coker.

“Let me guess. Boy meets girl, falls in love. But boy can’t take a vampire home to meet Mom. So what does he do? He loads his guns and fills the gas tank. Heads to a foreign land with the hopes of killing the vamp that made her – setting her free so the two of you can be together?
“Forgive my tone, Mr. Sargent, but the story is nothing new.”

No, but execution is all, and this is lovely.

Exquisite nocturnal art from BLOOD + WATER’s Tomm Coker. It’s like CRIMINAL’s Sean Phillips inked by SANDMAN’s Mike Dringenberg, Chris Bachalo or JOE THE BARBARIAN’s Sean Murphy (that was an external link, yes: he’s really that good). No, wait, as inked by Tim Bradstreet, maybe.

Young Tong has pretty much summed it up at the top there, except that Tong isn’t as young as he looks. He looks seven years old, hustling in a modern Hong Kong market which has quite the population of vampires. But there’s evidently a wider conflict at work as evidenced by the geisha, fox and samurai attempting to intercept the couple before they get anywhere near Hong Kong.

Interview with internal art here:


Dark Age vol 1: Dominion (£14-99, who knows?) by Mada Shaye, Vin Shaye & Mada Shaye.

Before we begin, caveat emptor: the pre-story pages are printed on black and if publishers aren’t careful that can destabilise the binding glue at the spine. Such is the case here.

Kicking off with the cover, it’s a snazzy affair with an embossed silver logo. Inside the opening credit section too is startlingly designed with yet more silver, black and yellow anti-trespassing stripes, biological hazard signs and I think this pair may well have read Hickman’s NIGHTLY NEWS. There’s a lot of scene-setting, a map and keys… in fact it reads a bit like a console game’s introductory sequence but typed too tiny for comfort.

“Knowledge and tech is everything! That’s why we, The Corp, banned it.”
“Remember, The Enforcers are your only protection. They maintain order and keep our civilisation safe.”
“Please note: we, The Corp, have exiled all undesirable humanity to the slums, to protect our civilization.”

Consider yourselves brought up to speed.

I did like the opening sequence with its burnished birds and spiralling galaxy, but then it lands on terra firma with a thud and although I appreciated the firelight colouring it immediately devolves into a cliché-ridden dystopian future with revolutionary gang members posturing laboriously on (and on) and angry Corp Colonels SHOUTING AT EACH OTHER endlessly. It’s so noisy even without all the side-captions and so very, very slow. I confess I gave up halfway through, defeated by the lack of any significant progress.


Journey Into Mystery #622 (£2-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Dougie Braithwaite.

A quiet and beautiful thing, this a sparklingly literate comic from a writer well versed in mythology and with such an evident love of storytelling that it put me in mind of Neil Gaiman. Loki’s quest, for example, to find himself – quite literally – was both wise and witty and far from obvious.

THOR reverts to its original title in time to tie-in to FEAR ITSELF, and ends at precisely the strange place as FEAR ITSELF #1, only with a more mischievous and strangely optimistic note. For this is Loki as a young boy who only now finds out what his elder self was up to after the last survivor of a flock of Magpies sets him on a most unusual treasure hunt. But after years as a trickster and revolutionary no one in Asgard trusts the young lad. Only Thor acts as his benefactor, his protector in a hostile environment. He’s like a kindly foster father and it’s this new dynamic which makes the book. Here Thor’s caught Loki texting on a Stark Phone he bought with the proceeds of gambling:

“… Were you cheating, Loki?”
“Yes! But they were too! Cheating was the game, and I triumphed unfairly most fairly.”
“I do not think I approve.”
“There was no harm! Unlike this! The humans of the internet are uncouth. When I said I was an Asgardian God, they called me a troll!”

Braithwaite’s judged the young lad’s expressions to perfection and Thor’s body language, leaning down conspiratorially as he points out Loki is a half-giant, is actually quite touching.

“Why did you buy a phone?”
“I want to learn. If Midgard is to be our home, I would know of it. I’ve primarily discovered that mortals like to rut, and chronicle the experience pictorially.”
“I’m not sure I approve of this eith – – “
“How do you know about Stark phones?”
“Stark is my comrade-in-arms. He does like to talk. While I play the stoic, some of it can’t help but sink in…”
“No matter how much you stare into the distance and imagine you’re smiting fire-giants.”

Thor ruffles the boy’s hair.

“You are not as wicked as they think.”
“I’d have to try terribly hard to be that terrible.”

From the writer of PHONOGRAM, Gillen has some seriously surprising plans for the book as evidenced by this interview:



Ultimate Comics Avengers vol 3: Blade Vs The Avengers h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Steve Dillon.

Sibling rivalry, eh?

“I see you’re flying last year’s helicopter, Tony. Has the credit crunch really bitten that hard?”
“No, I just gave my Chinook to a homeless man, Gregory. Because that’s the kind of guy I am. Now is it just me or have you lost a lot of hair since Uncle Freddie’s funeral?”
“Only because I donated the follicles to a cancer-stricken child. This is the cake she baked me as a thank you.”
“Ah, so that’s where those extra three pounds are coming from. Let’s hope my metabolism fares a little better when I’m as old as you.”
“I’m only older by twenty minutes as you very well know.”
“Still older.”
“Poor Tony. Even after all these years it stings that I won that race out of mother.”

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, largely because Dillon’s comedic prowess is virtually unparalleled.

Here it’s what if vampires actually exist in the Ultimate Universe; and they do although skepticism 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 and the fight is taken straight into the heart of the Triskelion before Fury can even begin his counter-assault.

Reminder: The Ultimate Avengers is Fury’s black-ops hit squad. He lost the Ultimates day team to Carol Danvers and Fury claims jurisdiction here on a mere technicality that infuriates her. Next volume their animosity takes on whole new proportions. In the meantime the Hulk clone is bored of being a secret but as Captain America tells him, “Going public with you would be endorsing illegal stem-cell activity”. In a teenage strop the Hulk jumps to the New York central anyway because his favourite comicbook writer’s in town. Guess who?

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, Stone, a much younger Daredevil, and a highly inventive solution.


Uncanny X-Force vol 1: The Apocalypse Solution h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Leonardo Manco, Jerome Opena…

 “The game is on… probably has been for some time. Which means we’re already out of time. God as my witness, Logan, one way or another, no matter what the cost… I’m going to kill Apocalypse.”

Perhaps like me, at the conclusion of the excellent X-over Second Coming, you inwardly groaned at the prospect of yet another X-Force reboot (it’s never been the strongest X-title, let’s be honest, firstly because of the writing and secondly because of the art!) containing not only those hardy perennial fanboy favourites Wolverine, Deadpool, Archangel and Psylocke but also the – no doubt next to take the title of the most overexposed and overused X-character – Fantomex.

Happily though UNCANNY X-FORCE has completely confounded all my doubts and appears, at this very early stage, to have the potential to be a classic run in the making. The writing from Rick Remender is thankfully of the more speculative fiction approach successfully adopted by Ellis on his X-runs, with some delightfully choice splashes of dark Deadpool humour injected in suitably small doses here and there.

If future plot arcs compare to this first outing where the team decide that killing the recently reincarnated Apocalypse whilst he’s still an innocent, angelic schoolboy would be a rather sensible idea (albeit whilst he’s protected by his most extreme bunch of equine enforcers yet), then we could be in for a real treat. And gone too thankfully is the whirling dirge-ish art from the previous run. As I noted in X-NECROSHA, there were portions in the X-Force sequences where you really couldn’t tell who was who, it literally was so dark. Instead both Leonardo Manco and Jerome Opeña impress, and I should actually also compliment the two colourists whose choice of palette, in combination with the fine illustration, very much helps give this the feel of a different, more worthy X-title. Less superhero, more sci-fi. So far, so good.


Chaos War: Avengers (£14-99, Marvel) by Fred Van Lente, Michael Avon Oeming, J.M. DeMatteis & Tom Grummett, Stephen Segovia, Ivan Rodriguez, Brian Ching

Companion to the giddy Gotterdammerung which is CHAOS WAR itself. Here the fight is joined by Avengers resurrected like Captain Marvel, Swordsman, The Vision, Dr. Druid (never a good idea) and the female Yellowjacket.



Marvel Masterworks: Avengers vol 3 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Don Heck.

“It’s from Cap! He’s been imprisoned in a dungeon! Into your costume, Wanda… quickly!”
“Imprisoned, Pietro? By whom?”
“No time for that now!”

Or you could have just said “The Swordsman!”

Our Avenging Assemblers by now are Hawkeye, The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, led by a Captain America wrestling with self-doubt under the weight of such responsibility, desperate for some of the original members to return. Good news, then, as both the Wasp and Hank Pym return halfway through this volume, the latter as Goliath in a blue and yellow costume which my child-eyes adored, the former in a swimsuit to resume her former career as professional prisoner/bait. With Hawkeye still green with envy at Captain America’s leadership, they’re bickering among themselves incessantly. It’s like Big Brother in fancy dress, the Diary Room located somewhere in Steve Rogers’ head.

“Hello, Steve. How are you feeling today?”
“Hello, Big Brother. I’m feeling a bit low, to be honest. Hawkeye hates me. He’s keeps calling me Methuselah.”
“I’m sure he loves you really.”
“Yes, I can read that in his thought bubbles but it’s demoralising when all he does out loud is bitch, bitch, bitch. I think the Scarlet Witch has a crush on me. If Quicksilver found out, he’d skin me alive before I could say the word ‘incest’.”
“They are close, aren’t they?”
“Yeah, but I’m going to have to wait until Mark Millar’s ULTIMATES for readers to realise that.”
“How are you feeling about this season’s weekly tasks?”
“Well, Powerman and The Enchantress have framed us for city-wide property damage, so I’m worried we might be up for eviction.* Conquering Kang The Besotted might prove difficult since he’s fallen in love with a Princess under threat of execution, so we may have to form an alliance and that won’t go well with the viewers. The Collector seems to hoard all the food, and both the Swordsman and Black Widow know Hawkeye from old so, really, I think everyone’s going to gang up on me. If only one of the original housemates would return! Oh, and Attuma the Tuna is back but if I have to go underwater again then this costume is going to shrink. And pinch! I still haven’t had my suitcase back from 1944.”
“Big Brother is looking into that. Is there anything else you want to discuss with Big Brother?”
“Ummm. Can I have a flag?”
“A flag…?”
“I’d just like something to wave.”
“To wave…?
“There could be Commies.”
“Thank you, Steve.”

What I’ve so far failed to mention is that amongst the household’s weekly tasks in order to ensure a shopping budget big enough to keep Hank Pym in Temazepam is getting Dr. Victor Von Doom struck off the medical practitioners’ list. His bedside manner is appalling and I swear to God, these are actual quotes:

“Here is a gold farthing for you, my boy! I, too, have known what it is to be… a cripple!”
“There is a great surgeon in the Zurich, across the border! He can cure our child! But he leaves for America soon!”
“We beg you, good master… open the dome, so we can bring our son the doctor before it is too late!”
“Impossible! It must remain sealed… until the four enemies of Latveria have been disposed of!”
“But what of the boy…?”
“Silence! This audience has ended!”

You’d ask for a second opinion, wouldn’t you? Frankly, I have no idea how Victor’s surgery remains open; he’s not exactly renowned for his patients, and his prescriptions are unorthodox to say the least. In FANTASTIC FOUR #57 he was even self-medicating: “Power Cosmic, 5 times daily.”

It’s all enormous fun, of course, as are the appliances of sciences: World-Wide Scanner-Scopes, Protecto-Shields, Vibra-Rays, Spectro-Waves, Visi-Projectors, Giant Plastithene Domes and a Temporal Assimilator which means it’s only taken you a tenth of the time to read this than I wasted in writing it.

* They really, really are.



Also Arrived:

Reviews to follow or may already be up if a s/c came out as a h/c

Duncan The Wonder Dog: Show One (£18-99, Adhouse) by Adam Hines
Dylan Dog Case Files (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Tiziano Sclavi & Angelo Stano, Andrea Venturi, Giampiero Casertano. Luigi Piccatto, Bruno Brindisi
Delirium’s Party: A Little Endless Storybook h/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Jill Thompson
Marijuanaman (£18-99, Image) byZiggy Marley & JimMahfood, Joe Casey
Blood-Stained Sword (£13-50, IDW) by Jan Wickline, Amber Benson & Ben Templesmith
Bullet To The Head (£14-99, Dynamite) by Matz & Colin Wilson
Trickster: Native American Tales (£15-99, Fulcrum) by various
Godspeed: The Kurt Cobain Graphic new edition (£10-99, Omnibus) by Barnaby Legg, Jim Mcarthy & Flameboy.
Hitman vol 4: Ace Of Killers (£13-50, DC) by Garth Ennis & John McCrea
Superman/Batman: Worship s/c (£13-50, DC) by Paul Levitz & Jerry Ordway, Renato Guedes
Ultimate Comics Avengers vol 2: Crime And Punishment s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Leinil Francis Yu
Red Hulk: Scorched Earth s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jeff Parker & Gabriel Hardman, Ed McGuiness
Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man: Sensational (£7-50, Marvel) by Paul Tobin & Matteo Lolli, Rob Di Salvo, Colleen Coover
S.H.I.E.L.D. vol 1: Architects Of Forever h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Dustin Weaver
Wolverine: Enemy Of The State – Ultimate Collection restocks (£22-50, Marvel) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr. with Kaare Andrews
Essential Thor vol 5 (£14-99, Marvel) by Gerry Conway & John Buscema
Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! (£8-50, Yen) by Fumi Yoshinaga
Silent Mobius Complete Edition vol 4 (£10-99, Tokuma) by Kia Asamiya
Neko Ramen vol 4: We’re Going Green! Kind Of… (£8-50, Tokyopop) by Kenji Sonishi
Highschool Of The Dead vol 2 (£10-50, Yen Press) by Daisuke Sato & Shouji Sato

Congratulations to customers Paul & Sooz and Helen & Phil on your weddings this Saturday! And thank you for inviting me to your receptions. Also, thanks for holding them in the city centre so I could actually make them.  Weird how many other customers were there – I learned a lot!

Further congratulations to Dave & Rich on passing their adoption panel unanimously. Basically, the boys are now pregnant. But with an undetermined gestation period.

 – Stephen

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