Reviews May 2011 week three

The result is the most sublime swansong I’ve seen since Andi Watson’s SKELETON KEY: ROOTS. You can see the end is coming but it’s a bitter-sweet entanglement of threads coming together.

– Tom on Scary Go Round: Recklessly Yours.

Wolves (signed & numbered, ltd to 1,000) (£4-00, self-published) by Becky Cloonan.

A haunting tale of blood and lust that gives up its secrets slowly.

There is a naked man gone feral in the forest. A skilled hunter, he can down birds with a single stone then feast on them raw. But he is cursed – cursed by his king, cursed by what he has done, and cursed by its memory which won’t go away.

This is a lovingly hand-crafted, self-published mini-comic with 24 pages of black and white interior art under a swish, silk-screened, card-stock cover. From the creator of Minis (our copies also signed) and artist on DEMO, AMERICAN VIRGIN and PIXU etc., we have at the time of typing a mere 49 copies. ‘Cause I’ve just bought one myself.

It’s all in the eyes.


Minis (signed for free) (£11-99, self-published) by Becky Cloonan.

“You don’t understand. I’m stuck in a dead-end job at the age of seventeen.”
“You sound so jaded.”
“I try.”

Signed, hugged and kissed by Becky Cloonan with the occasional heart, this a collection of inspired mini-comics, previously unpublished shorts and ‘The Life And Death Of Corey Threats’, her 17-page try-out for Tokyopop in 2002.

Becky takes full advantage of the creative freedom which self-publishing enables her as well as its level of control, right down to choosing the paper stock. One of the many things I love about the woman is that, in spite of her huge commercial success with books like DEMO, AMERICAN VIRGIN and PIXU, she still self-publishes today, every single year. Wolves we have in stock right now, signed, numbered and limited to 1,000 copies (we have 50), but these are all drawn between 2000 and 2002.

Among Cloonan’s earliest published work, they’re full of sultry, disconsolate and iconoclastic young men in tight black t-shirts with coal-black eyes staring defiantly out from under a spiked mass of hair, or wistfully into space. But don’t mistake this for a tepid cauldron of teenage angst. These are witty, intelligent and often magical episodes infused with a revolutionary spirit. Shampoo Mohawk, with its perfectly poised skateboarders and mid-summer shadows, I found positively romantic.

There’s an autobiographical tale full of mischief as Becky sits bored in front of a computer for $7-50 an hour, empathising with a reluctant samurai who’d rather be fishing than become target practice for overenthusiastic archers. A vertical four-panel sequence guest-starring God made me grin my head off (samurai: “I hate flaming arrows”; God from the clouds: “I’ll get some water”).

It’s fascinating watching both the artist and writer experiment for the sheer joy of it on paper, the styles evolving towards some of several she uses today; but already by 2000 in ‘Something Perfect’ Cloonan was capable of drawing one of the best stomachs in comics and coming up with a sequence involving a marker pen and two pretty young women posing against high school lockers that is as startlingly unexpected as it is hilarious.

My favourite series, however, is the ‘Social Unrest’ single-page samples: miniature monologues from androgynous, maverick malcontent Johnny Awol. Towards the end I think Becky may have been drinking! Here’s a far earlier one I can relate to right now, having shaved a coin-sized hole in the back of my bonce last week. It’s called ‘Lightbulbs & Razorblades’ in which God unexpectedly answers through a shower curtain after Johnny nicks himself on the cheek and swears:

“God, why do I always cut myself shaving?”
“Because I Hate You?”
“But… I thought you love all living creatures?”
“Uh… You’re The Exception.”
“That’s fucked up, God.”



I Will Bite You! And Other Stories (£10-50, Secret Acres) by Joseph Lambert ~

Utterly beautiful, this.

Like Lucy Knisley, Joseph is a graduate from the Centre for Cartoon Studies and this, his debut book is largely a collection of his work leading up to and including his work at that esteemed academy. A rare mixed-bag with no duff flavours, Joseph’s style is loose. At times I’m reminded me of Al Columbia; others of Joann Sfar. But if those names mean zilch to you, that’s okay, what counts are the comics here, and the comics here count.

There’s a very fine common theme of duality throughout these stories, perhaps intentionally – I don’t know – but seemingly pointed as two of the stories deal with pairs of siblings. The eponymous opener is an abstract tale about a frustrated man-child biting everything and growling in thick, black scribbles; constantly overhead are the mocking presence of the Sun and the Moon, side by side, amused by the biter’s angst until he retaliates with fatal repercussions.

The tale feels old, even tribal. An urban Aboriginal tale of how the day and night find themselves as they are.

The first tale also has the moon play a part, when two hyperactive brothers distress an older sibling with their rambunctious escapades and bring the moon pressing against their house, bending it at a right angle. The second story, ‘Too Far’, turns a minor spat between too brothers into a dimensional incident wherein the older eats everything, and in his now-metaphysical body his family, and indeed the whole of creation, forge on.

But by far my favourite is his assignment from CSS to retell the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. ‘Turtle, Keep It Steady!’ has the animals as drummers competing for the beat, the turtle playing a straight, no-nonsense steady beat, while the hare plays Keith Moon/Mick Fleetwood-style with a bottle and a bunny occupying his paws, leaving his ears free to freestyle with predictable results.

This is some fine comics.



Glister: The Family Tree (£4-99, Walker) by Andi Watson.

Under a startlingly attractive plum and custard cover comes a further tale of all-ages anarchy erupting round the grounds of Chilblain Hall, the semi-sentient, shape-shifting mansion that has been the ancestral home of the Butterworths for many generations.

It’s seen better days. In fact when it’s in a particularly despondent mood it just lets itself go like a sulky teenager, making its maintenance a full-time occupation for Glister’s Dad. It does, however have a lot of history and it’s that which causes the kerfuffle when Glister gets it into her head that they should have more family around in spite of her Dad’s informed and prescient warning:

“Those idyllic family dinners you’re imagining never happened. At least, when they did, they never reached pudding without a row or some disaster.”

Unfortunately Glister has been sticking her baby teeth in the Family Tree – an actual ancient oak – swapping the bounty of the Tooth Fairy for a single potent wish: that one day the Family Tree would bloom again. And so it does, bearing the fruit of her ancestors who fall to earth with a <thunk> and proceed to cause chaos. There’s Eliza and her flock of ravenous bunnies, American Scotty and his guitar of discord, an aloof butler, a pair of brothers still congenitally at odds ever since the English Civil War, an etymologist… and Charles. Charles whom Glister cannot account for in the family’s ancient records.

In every GLISTER book there are things to make or bake – in this case the Butterworth Brothers’ cannon (yes, that’s how riotous the story grows!) – but what I really appreciate, apart from the immaculate cartooning with its incredibly sturdy architecture, is that the language is far from patronising with a vocabulary that puts most superhero comics to shame: words like ‘dyspeptic’, ‘dissonant’, ‘atonal’ and ‘philately’. Also there are many moments of parenthetical, throwaway wit as when the new crowd stumbles upon one of Chilblain Hall’s many unusual features:

“It’s the Abyss, whatever you do, don’t look into it.”



Garden (£18-99, Picturebox) by Yuichi Yokoyama.

And now for something completely different…

You may have seen Yuichi’s previous books NEW ENGINEERING and TRAVEL listed in March’s News & Letters column as part of a list of wordless comics and graphic novels. The occupants of the bizarre garden here aren’t half so silent but the terrain they explore is as bizarre as anything you’ll have seen from Yokoyama so far: vast and complex artificial structures celebrated for their man-made origins. Which, if you think about it, is entirely at odds with the current cry against wind farms etc. I’m all for it, myself. I love a great Henry Moore sculpture standing out resplendently in its designated environment.

Far from geomorphic, then, the shapes here are geometric in nature (or rather nurture), the lines precise and the level of control is breathtaking. Also, hilariously, there is no preamble whatsoever… except round the wall for one panel! To Yokoyama there is evidently no point to that: like his cast, he’s interested in the constructs and constructs alone, and I’ll bet you anything you like that when you first pick this up you’ll wonder if there are pages missing. Those with an aversion to old windbags like me will also find the dialogue refreshing, averaging out at something like five words per person restricted purely to observation and conjecture about what they discover and its possible purpose/mechanism.

The first garden feature our crazyheaded crowd encounters after breaking in through a hole in the wall is a river of rubber balls which they follow upstream to a cascading waterfall. Thereafter they find not a footbridge but a bottom-bridge full of chairs. These they must navigate by sitting on their seats then swivelling in each before moving on to the next. Throughout the journey our impatient, empirical adventurers must solve similar riddles before progress is possible, like the rooms full of cracks which are mostly drawn-on. There they need to discern which cracks disguise a moveable panel which acts as a portal to the next room or corridor. At another juncture a giant chain-link fence is cut off below, affording them no way down so instead they climb. Negotiating the obstacles – some of them decidedly perilous for they are, after all, intruders – is like early Tombraider and its ilk, only with an economy that yields far more imaginative environments, and I would kill for a first-person adventure game dreamed up by Yokoyama.

There are illusions, patrols to hide from, and some spectacular set pieces involving bubble distortion, camera flashes and a wave of wet photographs, plus the most bizarre bookcase imaginable: some books arranged open, others packed like a game of Tetris in odd configurations so that no single book can be moved. There’s even a furious climax which references previously passed checkpoints as the garden erupts into life – triggered, I think by all their actions to date – before an ending as abrupt as its kick-off.

This is one for those who relish a visual adventure, a treat for the eye from an artist who’s as much an inventor of objects and systems as anything else, and if console games really wanted to move into new territory, stylistically at least, they’d give this man a call right now.



Scary Go Round: Recklessly Yours (£10-99, Scary-Go-Round) by John Allison ~

School’s almost out and university beckons for Esther and The Boy. As Sarah Grote and Carrot Scruggs emerge from the periphery as fully realised characters, focus shifts from the mad-cap ramblings of previous SCARY GO ROUND stories, resting instead on relationship tomfoolery and even some form of social commentary. John’s developed here: temptations to escalate a ridiculous situation, throw in an even more outlandish deus ex machina and call it a story are quelled in favour of pacing, structure, and satisfying conclusions. The result is the most sublime swansong I’ve seen since Andi Watson’s SKELETON KEY: ROOTS. You can see the end is coming but it’s a bitter-sweet entanglement of threads coming together.

Even Des Fishman (he’s a fish-man), one of the more fantastic characters to find himself in Tackleford, finds a use for himself in this new way, inadvertently introducing the next generation of Tackleford tearaways in the foul-mouthed Charlotte Grote, tweeny-goth, and Shauna, estate urchin.

That particular story, ‘The Estate’, is a prime example of SGR’s magic. Des, dissatisfied with home life (being cared for by SGR mainstays, Amy and Shelley), runs away only to find himself in Swarbrick Estate after dark surrounded by hooded youths. I should point out that Des is little more than a man-child, illiterate, and really an amphibian. Lost, his fate unknown to Amy and Shelley, Des awakes to a life of chips for every meal and day-time TV, with Shauna’s mum quick to exploit the situation for the true-life gossip magazine circuit. Yes, that short greasy slide to the Jeremy Kyle Show. It’s a classic set-up with a ridiculous character, yet John manages to keep it vital and deliver some of my favourite moments from the series. I’ll never forget where ruses come from now.

As his self-depreciating chapter breaks attest, John was clearly wondering where he could go from this point. Although I think this volume, like Peloton before it, can be enjoyed independently, there were a lot of strange things in Tackleford’s past that, like Des Fishman, would be difficult to explain away, even on Jeremy Kyle. The last story here with its (un?)fortunately timed pastiche of Michael Jackson as the creepy villain neatly splits the SGR characters into three camps, with Shelley heading to London, the original cast settling down, the second generation heading for Uni, and the new set of pre-teens batting around the idea of solving mysteries as a viable way to pass the school holidays. The last scenario became John’s fantastic new web-comic BAD MACHINERY, while the adventures of Esther at Uni begin in GIANT DAYS, but I don’t think that’s the last we’ve seen of Shelley, you can’t keep a red-head down. That’s like a comic law or something.


Giant Days (£4-99, Scary Go Round) by John Allison ~

Free from the shackles of school Esther Le Groot thought, like any young goth, that university might be a place to find like-minded people. A place to swap corpse paint-tips and exchange existential banter into the night. Unfortunately being a headgirl in school brings an altogether more sinister clique into play, as the legion of drunken preppies try to steal her away. Now it’s up to sheltered Enya fan Daisy and insomniac beatnik Susan to save her from becoming a bff in the hardcore Freshers crowd. Be warned, there will be boxing, tutus, and come-uppance. Ah, Esther, the second most beautiful woman in Tackleford comes into her own in this punchy off-shoot from John’s fantastic SCARY-GO-ROUND web comic. If you’ve ever been the new kid in town the empathy rays will be drawing you to this like a student to £1 drinks.



Yossel s/c new edition/old review! (£10-99, DC) by Joe Kubert.

Subtitled “April 19, 1943,” I started reading this late in the evening after the first edition arrived in November 2003 and, although utterly exhausted, I could not and would not put this down until Joe had finished. At which point I wasn’t sure I wanted to read anything else for quite some time. Not, you understand, because it had put me off reading, but because that there seemed little else so worth hearing, absorbing, and thinking about.

How many books, films, documentaries have there been on The Holocaust? How many have you read and seen? Myself, probably fewer than many, but enough to make me wonder what more there is to say, until I see or read another one. Some things bear repeating, because some things do not bear repeating.

Joe Kubert moved to America with his Jewish parents and sister when the boy was only a couple of months old. They’d tried earlier when his mother was pregnant, and in spite of being rebuffed then, they persisted.  As soon as he was able to hold anything, he began to draw, and during the events of April 1943 he was a teenager making more money than his father, through his obsessively honed craft. You’re most likely to know him from his thirty-year stint on Sgt. Rock, or through two of his five children, Adam and Andy.  It could all have been so different.

In YOSSEL Joe puts himself in the place of a boy the same age as he would have been during the Nazi invasion of Poland, but one who never managed to leave his country. His parents are the same, he has a sister too, and he spends every spare moment drawing out his fantasies imported from America: giant dinosaurs, barbarian warriors, girls in space. Even whilst studying for his Bar Mitzvah, he couldn’t resist a cartoon of the Rebbe, who smacked him for his sins. It’s a close and loving family, which Kubert makes real with the odd anecdotal quirk:

“Mama was always in the kitchen, unless she was helping Papa in the store. If he was alone and an attractive woman customer came in the store, she would join papa. He would look sideways at Mama, in mock anger. He loved it that Mama felt he was attractive.”

News of Germany begins to filter through, of Kristallnacht and Hitler’s wider policies towards Jews – preventing them from attending school, owning shops, shipping them out of Europe.  But the adult world is not a preoccupation for a young, imaginative boy, and in any case, no one could believe the stories were true.

This is a concept one now finds difficult to grasp, because we know – however unthinkable – that what was about to happen to millions of individuals could happen because it did happen. Before it did, who could believe it? Not Yossel nor his parents, and this is something Joe returns to over again when, although things have grown desperate beyond my personal imagination in the Warsaw Ghetto, they hear of worse from the labour camps. And it is not credible.

But begin it does, first with a knock on the door, and orders to leave. Whole towns and villages moved to a walled, dilapidated city. The Germans attempt to seem reasonable during the unreasonable. Starvation, deprivation – of comforts, communication, heating or clothes – a freezing endurance test without either hope or respite. And then it gets worse.

I could fill this e-shot with this single review, and it’s difficult to know which praises to sing.

The pictures, I suppose, because the entire book is drawn by Yossel, on whatever scraps of paper come to hand, and to evoke the immediacy, the roughness, the rawness of the experience Kubert has refrained from any inking. The sketches aren’t even fully realised in places, but boy can the man draw. If you want nothing more than a masterclass in pencils, you won’t see finer than here. Similarly the paper is off-white and thick, like the cartridge paper we used during life classes at school, and Kubert cleverly helps the lettering to sit well with the graphite by demarking the borders in lead.

It seems silly to pick out just one instance where Kubert has got it so right when there isn’t a wrong move in the book, but he manages to convey the humanity – if such is the right word – of the German soldiers whilst engaged in the very definition of inhumanity, with their unique affection for Yossel as a draughtsman. In spite of the remorseless cruelty they inflict upon an entire people, the security police watch, fascinated as Yossel sketches supermen for them, swastikas branded on their muscular arms. They praise him, “spoil” him, give him food and free pass – then send his family off to die.

This book begins at the end, as the resistance makes a brave but futile stand during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprisings. It ends moments after the beginning, with two final pages which are both thematically brilliant and completely harrowing.



Farm 54 h/c (£13-99, Fanfare) by Galit Seliktar & Gilad Seliktar…

Neatly observed, semi-autobiographical fiction comprising of three tales set in rural Israel in 1981, ‘83 and ‘89 respectively, as we see the central character of Noga pass from adolescence into early adulthood. Sadly there’s not a great deal that happens really in terms of story, in fact it seems that despite the obvious dangers in the region and the then war in Lebanon, ensuring the army including her father was continuously on active duty both home and abroad, that Noga (Galit) had a relatively peaceful upbringing. Which is good for her, I guess, but I’m sure Galit must have had more interesting episodes occur in her younger years to fictionalise than those she’s chosen to share here. Mind you, I was pleased to note in the afterword that the death of an infant in a swimming pool in the first story was one of the fictional aspects of this work, and the child in question, actually her brother who illustrates these works, Gilad, in fact survived.

The stories are pleasant enough, touching lightly upon the maturing of emotions and growing responsibilities, and how the way in which we view the world changes as we come to engage with, and comprehend it in a more complete, adult way. Consequently it’s certainly no How To Understand Israel In 60 Days, in fact these stories could be set anywhere in the world really, and unfortunately I wasn’t particularly engaged by them unlike any of the equally mild-mannered but much more endearing semi-autobiographical PAUL stories by Michel Rabagliati.

What certainly does catch the attention, though, is brother Gilad’s art, almost entirely composed of three borderless landscape panels per page, illustrated with the lightest of touches and given a single colour wash of a gentle burgundy adding some real rich depth.  This gentle approach certainly complements the stories, and though the work as a whole is a pleasant enough read, I can’t say it’s something I’ll probably even remember in a year’s time it’s all so low key.



Emily The Strange vol 3: The 13th Hour (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Rob Reger & Buzz Parker.

Return of the scowling goth brat.

“I Want You TO LEAVE ME ALONE!” she once pouted, Lord Kitchener-stylee, on one of those things you used to hang outside hotel doors.

Since when almost everyone has.



Undying Love #2 (£2-25, Image) by Tomm Coker, Daniel Freedman & Tomm Coker.

“This is my job. What would you have me do?”
“I’d have you alert staff that an evacuation is imminent.”

Marvel’s vampire hunter Blade was never this cool. Gorgeous art with warm, flat colouring on glossy paper and highly recommended to fans of HELLBLAZER. Seriously: HELLBLAZER. Of # 1 I wrote:

“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:



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

“Aow, that’s harsh. And all because my nail polish doesn’t match my eyeshadow? You don’t know how tough it can be to get the right shade of poison these days.”
“…cut me… nnnaaa… hkk. Nah-ha. Ha-ha.”
“A smiling Robin! A laughing young daredevil! That’s the way I like it!”
“I didn’t think you had the potential to be funny at all when we first met, but even an old pro can sometimes get the wrong first impression.
“A Robin who lets me manipulate him into a locked room situation?
“A Robin who even brings his own crowbar to the party?
“You might just be the funniest one yet.”

After the shocking revelation of masked detective Oberon Sexton’s true identity at the end of volume two (I didn’t see it coming even if Dick Grayson did), it looks like Batman & Robin are going to have to put their trust in the pasty hands of their most devious enemy if they want to prevent Doctor Hurt’s master plan from coming to ripe fruition. If I’ve understood things correctly, not always a given with Grant mind you, then Doctor Hurt, the leader of the Black Glove, isn’t actually Thomas Wayne at all despite appearances; in fact he’s far, far older than that, and it’s going to take more than Dick and Damien have got between them to prevail against him. Happily then, we see the return of a certain other Batman to lend a fist, appearing through a secret passage in a Wayne Mansion fireplace just in the nick of time, without any warning, in a manner that will make precisely no sense whatsoever if you haven’t read The Return Of Bruce Wayne.  For yes, it is Bruce, returned home at last from his temporal odyssey.

Two Batmen. Hh. What are we dealing with here?”
“99 fiends… cartel assassins… Doctor Hurt. You don’t even know about Professor Pyg yet.”
“We need all the Batmen we can get, father.”

This is a most worthy climax to Morrison’s caffeine-and-candy-laced run on this title, with sumptuous art provided once again from Frazer Irving, David Finch and Cameron Stewart (plus some awesome action covers from Frank Quitely). But don’t panic just yet, Bat-fans: as Damien’s plaintive comment above neatly foreshadows, the wrap-up to this volume leads full pelt into Morrison’s new title BATMAN, INC. in which Grant is already setting up his next epic overarching storyline. Mind you, they’ll need to be a bit more choosy who gets offered membership in their new Bat-club because, of course, a certain little helper this time around just can’t stop himself from trying to have the last laugh…

“Oh… and the Joker. He’s on our side, kinda.”
“Except for the nuclear bomb he left in the Bat-bunker…”


Flashpoint #1 of 5 (£2-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Andy Kubert.

What has happened to Barry Allen and the world that suddenly surrounds him?

How is it that his mother’s alive, that Iris Allen is now Iris West, and that Atlantis and Amazonia are vying for control over the entire globe having already sunk Western Europe in the case of Emperor Aquaman or seized Great Britain as its own? 100 million people were killed during the former catastrophe after 32 million suffered under the hands of Wonder Woman et al.

How is it that Superman and the Justice League failed to intervene? Why has no one heard of the Flash? Above all, given the Batman who turns his back on the ragtag ensemble gathered together by Cyborg to draw the line under these atrocities, what happened to Bruce Wayne?

That one I now know the answer to, and so will you by the end of this opening salvo. The rest has yet to be made plain.

Not bad at all, and it may have meant more to me had I known anything of the Flash’s history. I don’t. There’s never anything to complain about when it comes to Andy Kubert’s art; just 21 forthcoming tie-ins, one-shots and mini-series, then being charged $3-99 after such a vociferous campaign during which DC swore they draw the line at $2-99. $3-99 is fine: just stop making promises you have no intention of keeping.


Birds Of Prey: End Run h/c (£16-99, DC) by Gail Simone & Ed Benes, Adriana Melo, Alvin Lee.

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


Punisher Max: Bullseye h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon…

“But, how did you…”
“Your Russians should’ve never let me through the front door. Doesn’t matter if I’m unarmed or not. Hell I could kill you with this
toothpick. See?”
“Don’t be an idiot. I can’t kill you with a toothpick. But I can with this…”


After the über-intense retelling (thinking about the rats scene still gives me the shivers) of the rise to power of one Wilson Fisk in PUNISHER MAX: KINGPIN, this equally relentless and brutal volume opens with the new Kingpin of crime looking for some heavy firepower to take  Frank Castle out… before the Punisher gets the chance to take him out. Enter Bullseye, here reworked as an uncostumed and rather more disturbingly realistic – though no less psychotic – hitman for hire with a somewhat… unorthodox approach.

Rather like a method actor, Bullseye feels he can’t undertake the act of killing Frank until he understands what makes him tick, and to do so he needs to ‘become’ the Punisher. This includes kidnapping a mother and her two children (after having shot the father) and taking them to Central Park to be massacred by some of the Kingpin’s lackeys in front of his eyes whilst they’re all ‘enjoying’ a lovely picnic. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t work, and the Kingpin begins to increasingly question the wisdom of employing an even more unpredictable headcase to rid himself of the one who’s on his case. Mesmerised by Frank’s relentless killing ability, Bullseye begins to fall almost in spiritual love with his quarry, and becomes all the more determined he has to be the one to kill him.

Whilst no one should be surprised that someone writing something as downright mean and moody as the brilliant SCALPED can produce the incessant, ever more innovative violence that should always be on the menu for this title, it’s great to see Jason Aaron ladles out the sick humour with just as much gusto as Ennis ever did, which combined with the foil of Dillon’s artwork always serves to make Punisher Max a dish best served… from behind a bulletproof serving hatch.


Spider-Man: Matters Of Life And Death h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Fred Van Lente & Stefano Caselli, Humberto Ramos, Marcos Martin, Ty Templeton, Nuno Plati

Four, webbings and a funeral.

The Fantastic Four have suffered a casualty and it’s Spider-Man’s longest-standing friend in the superhero community. In a story much loved by readers, Peter visits the remaining members of Marvel’s First Family and they reminisce about the cheeky chappy’s mischievous pranks before listening to Johnny Storm’s Last Will & Testament. I wasn’t much enamoured myself – I preferred the new series of Jonathan Hickman’s FF in which you’re shown the situation from a different perspective in a very different tone – but it’s the best chapter in a book so far from amazing that it makes wall-crawling look pedestrian.

First there’s a singularly uninspired supervillains’ revenge in which J. Jonah Jameson and his nearest and dearest are all targeted by the son of the original Spider-Slayer (or the man Jameson first hired to build them) along with another of Jameson’s stooges, Mac Gargan AKA the Scorpion who’s returned to that role in a far less iconic costume after a stint as Venom. Blood is indeed drawn, hence the funeral, but the dialogue is so hackneyed and MJ’s reaction to Peter’s new girlfriend seems totally uninformed by Quesada’s script on the infinitely superior ONE MOMENT IN TIME. There is another casualty: Peter’s spider-sense, and the ramifications are far wider than you – or he – might initially anticipate. And then there is the Secret Origin By Numbers of the new Venom complete with added ordinance explication and oh my god but I’m bored.

Shame, because the cover, with its kneeling figure against so much white space, puts one in mind of one of Frank Miller’s from DAREDEVIL.


Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives (£14-99, Marvel) by Roger Stern, Glenn Greenberg & Rob Frenz, Luke Ross.

Apparently there was a three-issue HOBGOBLIN LIVES mini-series. No how on earth could I have forgotten that?

Also reprinted here: PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #259-261.

Features one Green Goblin or another. No promises.


Back In Stock

Some of these have been away awhile!

Salem Brownstone: All Along The Watchtowers (£15-00, Walker) by John Harris Dunning & Nikhil Singh.

“Victorian noir” is what The Guardian reviewer called it, recommending it to Tim Burton and Edward Gorey fans, and anyone over 12 who grew up on Lemony Snicket books. There is a little Beardsley in there if you squint hard enough (as well as Dame Darcy who shares a penchant for that era), but the reviewer is very much mistaken when he says that Uncle Alan Moore doesn’t give out that many endorsements. This is yet another of them.


Book Of Lost Souls (£12-99, Icon/Marvel) by JMS & Colleen Doran.

Spurned by his mother, his father, and the woman he loves, a young man throws himself off a bridge whilst clutching a book offered by a stranger to give him some weight. That was several generations ago; when he resurfaces, there are cigarette butts in the water, the bridge is clogged with a modern traffic jam, and a cat is nestling cosily in a nearby rock formation, waiting to bemuse him to death. Looks like he has a mission, to tip the balance of those “in-between”, those who could turn out good, and those who could turn out bad.

“So where do we start?”
“We start with those who are lost.”
“Where do we find them?”
“Where do we not?”

Doran’s cat is a beautiful moggie and I did like that cigarette butt. On the other hand, Mr. Straczynski does have a persistent habit of recycling old material – even more so than Ryuichi Sakamoto or Lisa Gerrard in her film scores – so that once more it’s a matter of “Powers and Principalities” (third time out, that, at least) and, we are reminded, “All love is unrequited”.

That last bit, which a broken and bitter Susan Ivanova originally proffered in Babylon 5, appears to be the key to Jonathan’s salvation here, for in the Book Of Lost Souls itself he is asked to inscribe his name, what brought him here (the last thing on his mind, which is what his loved one told him, that “All love is unrequited”) and the words that will release him. “You can leave the last line blank for now,” purrs the cat. “That one will have to come laterMuch later.”

Well, not that much later. Seems it all wrapped up sooner than expected. On account of reader tedium?



Bizarro World s/c (£12-99, DC) by the last people you’d expect.

The second volume of Tales To Demolish, in which the likes of Dylan Horrocks, Carol Lay, Asaf Hanuka, Tom Hart, Tony Millionaire and Andi Watson are let loose on DC’s superhero universe with exactly the sort grotesque or ridiculous results you’d anticipate. Elizabeth Glass and husband Kyle Baker, for example, answer the question about what happens when Batman totals his Batmobile: he sends his butler Alfred to the local garage for a replacement. Here the confused mechanic thinks he’s summarising the total list of specifications:

“All right, you want a 200 MPH bullet-proof car with flaming wheelies. I guess I could go a bit lighter on the frame, if the point is speed. I mean, you’re not going to have anything heavy mounted on it.”
“Are rocket launchers considered heavy?”

He’s only just begun.

Half the fun here is seeing unusual creator combos: Eddie Campbell writing for Paul Grist dashes out a ‘Day In The Life Of The Flash’ (sample diary entry: “Yt an’th’r dy n th lf o’th wrld’s fstst mn.”) whose point is its punchline, whilst Paul Grist composes a staged performance of ‘The Batman Operetta’ for Hunt Emerson to illustrate (and great fun it is too!). At the other end of the “indie” spectrum come Dave Cooper’s sweaty visuals for the Johnny Ryan romance (you heard me: Johnny Ryan romance) when Wonder Woman becomes infatuated with a comicbook nerd. Naturally he’s cheating on her… with Supergirl. Also, Peter Bagge writes for Gilbert Hernandez, Chris Duffy for Craig Thompson, and Evan Dorkin for Ivan Brunetti. I concede that I find it odd that many of these individuals even know enough about the DC universe to do this sort of thing, let alone want to, but there you go.



Lonely Heart: The Art Of Tara McPherson (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Tara McPherson ~

Her exquisite style is perfectly in tune with the legions of gothites and indie kids who have grown up with Faruza Balk and PJ Harvey as style icons, gaining notoriety from the tour poster she designed for the former. She has since done the odd comic strip, covers for Vertigo’s LUCIFER, SANDMAN PRESENTS: THESSALY and THE WITCHING series. And, of course, more astonishing posters for everyone from French audio recliners Air to hairy metallers Mastodon. Tara’s original and visually immediate “Lonely Heart” theme appears in much of her work – including a short comic strip in last year’s PROJECT SUPERIOR – and has become synonymous with her name.



Outlaw: The Legend Of Robin Hood (£9-99, Walker) by Tony Lee & Sam Hart…

For me everything Robin Hood related in any medium can be measured on a very simple scale from the nadir (see what I did there, knowledgeable Hood fans?) of the recent BBC pantomime version to the flaming arrow soaring zenith of the Praed/Connery version. So does this particular adaptation rate a tourney-winning arrow splitting dead-centre bulls-eye or stray wildly, killing an innocent passing peasant? Probably wise to check there’s no archer nearby if you’re planning a trip to the local tavern, in all honesty. Well, it’s nothing special but it’s not that bad either,’ I guess. The plotting and dialogue never strays anywhere particularly off the well beaten Sherwood track, but is quite amusing and witty in places and there’s no sign of Keith Allen, either. Although I would raise no great objection to seeing him mortally gut-wounded with a longsword and left to die for his crimes against acting. The art is okay too. All in all probably of interest if you’re the one person left on the planet who has never heard of Robin Hood.


Lobo: Portrait Of A Bastich (£14-99, DC) by Keith Giffen, Alan Grant & Simon Bisley

LOBO and LOBO’S BACK in a single book. Love of dolphins, cruelty to teachers. Or is that of teachers? I seem to remember chuckling at the first book as the alien immolator suffers long the clucking of an old lady on the back of his space bike. I could be imagining things.



Lobo: Highway To Hell (£14-99, DC) by Ian Scott & Sam Kieth.

Easily the finest artist to have worked on this mischievous metal-mutha-mayhem.

The script, however, is so lamentably full of signposts (laugh at me, please!) that I am vicariously offended on Sam Kieth’s behalf, whether he’d like me to be or not. Sam Kieth is the man who brought us FOUR WOMEN, Zero Girl and THE MAXX. His ocean liner later on is a veritable leviathan.

I’ve just taken a third considered look and I reckon that if you removed the script completely this would be a silent short story worthy – actually worthy unlike most corporate drivel awarded such distinctions – of an Eisner. As it is, it’s hand-holding for the comedically challenged.



Also Arrived

Several to be reviewed next week, s/cs of h/cs will already have their reviews up. Just pop parts of the title or creators into our search engine!

Glister: The Faerie Host (£4-99, Walker) by Andi Watson
Paying For It (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Chester Brown
Hellblazer: City Of Demons (£10-99, Vertigo) by Si Spencer & Sean Murphy
If ‘n Oof (£22-50, Picturebox) by Brian Chippendale
Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Joe Kubert
Liar’s Kiss h/c (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Eric Skillman & Jhomar Soriano
Shadoweyes In Love (£9-99, SLG) by Ross Campbell
Sonic The Hedgehog Archives vol 15 (£5-99, Archie) by SegaSega
Commando: Rogue Raiders (£15-99, Carlton) by various
The Little Prince h/c (£15-00, Walker) by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry & Joann Sfar
Batgirl: The Flood (£10-99, DC) by Bryan Q. Miller & Lee Garbett, Pere Perez
Ultimate Comics Doomsday h/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Rafa Sandoval
Deadpool Max vol 1: Nutjob h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by David Lapham & Kyle Baker
Ultimate Comics Avengers vol 3: Blade Vs. The Avengers s/c (UK E’dn)  (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Steve Dillon
X-Men: Age Of Apocalypse Prelude (£22-50, Marvel) by Fabian Nicieza, John Francis Moore, Todd Dezago, Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid, Jeph Loeb & Andy Kubert, Jan Duursema, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, Roger Cruz, Ron Garney, Ian Churchill
Incredible Hulks: Chaos War s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Paul Pelletier
Trouble h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Terry Dodson
Deadpool Team-Up vol 3: BFFs h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn, Rob Williams, Shane McCarthy, Rick Spears, Tom Peyer, Skottie Young, Stuart Moore & Tom Fowler, Matteo Scalera, Nick Dragotta, Phil Bond, Jacob Chabot, Ramon Perez, Shawn Crystal
Thor: The World Eaters h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Pasqual Ferry, Salvador Larroca
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 2: Chameleons s/c (UK Ed’n) (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Lafuente, Takeshi Miyazawa
Ultimate Comics Thor s/c (UK Ed’n) (£8-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Carlos Pacheco
X-Men: Curse Of The Mutants s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel) by Victor Gischler & Paco Medina
I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow vol 3 (£9-99, Viz) by Shunju Aono
Gantz vol 17 (£9.99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku
Higurashi vol 11: Eye Opening Arc vol 1 (£7-99, Yen) by Ryukishio7 & Yutori Houjyou
Higurashi vol 12: Eye Opening Arc vol 2 (£7-99, Yen) by Ryukishio7 & Yutori Houjyou
Black Butler vol 5 (£7-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso
Deadpool: Wade Wilson’s War h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Duane Swierczynski & Jason Pearson
Itazura Na Kiss vol 5 (£12-99, DMP) by Kaoru Tada
Finder vol 3: One Wing In The Viewfinder (£10-99, Yen) by Ayano Yamane
Gunslinger Girl Omnibus vols 1-3 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Yu Aida
Gunslinger Girl Omnibus vols 4-6 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Yu Aida
Saturn Apartments vol 3 (£9-99, Viz) by Hisade Iwaoka
Naruto Omnibus vols 1-3 (£9-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto
Biomega vol 6 (£8-99, Viz) by Tsutomu Nihei
Black Cat vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 13 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 14 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 15 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 16 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 17 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 18 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 19 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki
Black Cat vol 20 (£6-99, Viz) by Kentaro Yabuki

Hey, it’s started to sell really well! Review of BLACK CAT volume one here: LINK

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