Page 45 up-grade: you now have three options!
1) Read my own previews on this very page complete with external links to blogs, interviews and interior art, plus interior links to reviews of the books I mention in passing.
2) Read my own previews without links (we can’t link on that part of the site, sorry) but separated into digestible ‘bubbles’ with cover art instead:
3) Read Diamond’s own previews of comics and graphic novels in full and complete with cover art (that’d be 3,277 Marvel comics I’m not covering):
We’d be very, very interested to hear what you think of these options. Please, please, please tweet me or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Books For August 2011 Onwards
Habibi h/c (£25-99, Pantheon) by Craig Thompson.
From the creator of BLANKETS, the most eagerly awaiting release in the last couple of years in a cloth-bound, gold-stamped hardcover. If £25-99 sounds expensive, the book is 672 pages long! So no, not that expensive.
“Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fuelled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth – and frailty – of their connection. At once contemporary and timeless, HABIBI gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.
These are the covers that didn’t make the final cut, each one as exquisite as the others:
Blankets h/c (£29-99, Top shelf) by Craig Thompson.
New hardcover to coincide with HABIBI’s release, with yet another gorgeous design. BLANKETS still freely available as a softcover @ £22-50, in stock right now. Mark wrote:
Slightly overwrought but technically excellent autobiographical work from the creator of GOODBYE CHUNKY RICE.
Growing up in the Wisconsin countryside, Craig and his brother seem to be the only friends for each other but even then Craig, the older one, doesn’t keep his sibling safe as he should. The father is overbearing, occasionally violent and when the winter is around them the only sanctuary they have is a blank sheet of paper for their imaginations to go wild on. College and Christian winter camp prove to be problematic; Craig is too weak a flower amongst the sports-heads but there’s a chink of light in the form of Raina, a poet who turns to be his muse.
The art is just stunning. He’s studied Will Eisner and pushed it a little further, at times reminding me of a looser version of David B’s THE EPILEPTIC with all the fantastic metaphors coming to the surface and interacting with the characters. The blankets turn up as physical objects (the one the brothers sleep under, a gift from Raina, the snow that obliterates the landscape) and as the safety of religion, family and love.
A few pull quotes for you:
“I thought it was moving, tender, beautifully drawn, painfully honest, and probably the most important graphic novel since JIMMY CORRIGAN.” – Neil Gaiman
“Blankets officially confirms Craig Thompson’s place in the world of graphic novels as one of the true greats.” – Brian Michael Bendis
“In this book, Craig Thompson emerges as a young comics master. In the purest narrative form he tells a highly charged personal story, crammed with pain, discovery, hi-jinx, penance, religious conviction and its loss … and along comes self-loathing. In this story of family and first love, that which goes awry in life, goes well as art. Mr. Thompson is slyly self-effacing as he bowls us over with his mix of skills. His expert blending of words and pictures and resonant silences makes for a transcendent kind of story-telling that grabs you as you read it and stays with you after you put it down. I’d call that literature.” – Jules Feiffer, Pulitzer Prize-Winner
“Craig has documented his youth in the most honest of ways. Not too warm and fuzzy nor too harsh and cold, showing us the insecurities of growing up in what is often a strange and sometimes painful world. The perfect marriage of words and pictures. It’s as if François Truffaut had written and drawn his own comic with the artistry of Will Eisner. His sense of timing is impeccable, always knowing when not to hit you with a heavy hand. It’s the genuine article.” – Bob Schreck, Group Editor, DC Comics.
New York Five (£10-99, Vertigo/DC) by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly.
From the creators of LOCAL, this self-contained sequel to NEW YORK FOUR returns us to the lives of five young women handling life in the Big Apple with varying degrees of self-awareness, self-discipline and self-confidence.
Angie Wilder has her own band which has just struck it big on the gig circuit. She also has a boyfriend called Frank who is anything but: he anonymously seduced her younger sister Riley by text. Angie’s no longer speaking to Riley, Riley isn’t speaking to Frank, but Frank hasn’t done using Angie to speak to Riley as the first chapter’s cliffhanger makes clear.
Riley’s attending NYU with Merissa, Lona and Ren who all share an East Village flat roughly the size of a cupboard, their rent paid through part-time jobs evaluating PSAT/SAT tests. For this they need to undergo casual therapy sessions but the beautiful, outgoing Marissa’s stopped attending. In fact she seems to be spending an awful lot of time going back home to Queens. Lona’s less outgoing but still going out, if only to stalk her professor. We’re talking the breaking-and-entering end of stalking, dumpster-diving for dirt, and her boyfriend’s unimpressed. I really don’t know what Ren’s problem is. She doesn’t seem to have one right now. She likes older men. Is that a problem?
Like LOCAL, there’s an exceptional spirit of place here whether it’s the civic parks in winter, the city skylines at night or the chunky tenements with street-level steps rising up to their doors. The gigs are perfectly populated while the pavement outside is teeming with individuals hanging out on bikes, checking their bags or checking out each other. You can tell when an artist is trying to avoid drawing something; I couldn’t find a single instance of that here. Even the iron fire escapes and scaffolding have been lavished with so much attention that they have as much weight and character as the pedestrians passing them by. When you stop to take in just how many cityscapes there are on top of that…
Someone was on their way to New York the other day, and she asked if we had any comics that would act as a good guide. This would make the perfect guide, dotted as it is with insider titbits on every location featured including The Strand (used book shop), Washington Square, the Ukrainian diner Veselka, and St. Mark’s Place in The East Village:
“NY 101: St. Mark’s Place, as iconic and compelling as SF’s Haight Astbury, this enduring hang-out block is way more seedy and has much cooler rock and roll roots. But, in the end, both succumbed to The Gap. This author’s most-missed: the St. Mark’s Cinema.”
For me this is what Brian Wood does best: compelling and thoroughly contemporary straight fiction with a young cast of real individuals – females with foibles, individuals with issues – gradually revealing bits of themselves as they contemplate, hesitate or override their better instincts. Because coming back to that cliffhanger, it really is one of those, “Noooo, don’t do it!” moments.
Here’s NEW YORK FOUR:
Frank Book reprint (£25-99 s/c £33-99 h/c, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring.
Frank is an anthropomorphic, purple-and-cream-skinned, white gloved, buck-toothed… bear of sorts. (Mark said cat, I say bear, though now that I think about it…) He’s a fallible being given to temptation and insatiable curiosity, but defended at every juncture by his loyal companions Pupshaw and Pushpaw. The stories are fantastical, phantasmagorical fables, mostly silent so that you can bring to them what you will and interpret them as you like, and if you were to sit down with someone else and discuss any given piece you might find it revealing – both of yourself and of your friend. I often describe them as “mind-altering, yet legal”. Enlightening too, as I say. Just don’t be taken in by how kid-friendly it looks on the surface: it isn’t. There’s all the cruelty that comes with real life, and all the unsettling strangeness of dreams. The man is a visionary, a veritable shaman with that rare ability to communicate with wisdom and skill.
Mark once wrote, and I completely agree, “I think the only quibble here is the inclusion of language. You’ve got the introduction by Francis Ford Coppola and an afterword by Jim, a little copyright information and so on. To keep the purity of the book it should have been on a separate booklet, something that would come with the book but you could keep in a drawer for reference. Then you’d have a somnambulant Rosetta Stone or maybe a Bible-thick version of one of those air-safety cards. Pure communication.“
Jim Woodring’s website:
Oil & Water (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Steve Duin & Shannon Wheeler.
More than a little topical as it will be, in all inevitably, about once every other year.
“OIL & WATER “follows 10 people into the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill. The contradictions of a disaster caused by the very industry that is the economic foundation of a community forces beliefs to be questioned when the volunteer clean-up workers come face-to-face with the diverse and pragmatic locals.”
The Crow special edition (£12-99, Titan) by James O’Barr.
Pain, Fear, Irony, Despair, Death. James O’Barr’s poetic tale of love and revenge: remorselessly bleak, deeply melancholic, it remains a beautiful book… I wrote over 15 years ago. Since when I have advised removing all razor blades from your household before even attempting this harrowing original to a film that was comparatively jaunty. Yes, it’s that grim. It’s over twenty years since I’ve read the single issues but, if I recall correctly, The Crow is a post-punk youngster who rises from the grave to avenge his fiancée’s murder which he failed to prevent. Cue Joy Division lyrics and maybe The Cure. As I say, it’s been a while.
This edition contains sixty pages of previously unseen material.
Horror Hospital Unplugged (£16-99, Harper) by Dennis Cooper & Keith Mayerson.
New edition of a book I confess I’ve never scene. Yes, it’s a gay coming-of-age story (I am trying to hold back to the puns) starring an L.A. indie rock band on the rise just as its lead singer is too. He confused! In spite of an art style I would imagine quite challenging to the Real Mainstream (love it myself) it managed to garner considerable and highly informed critical acclaim back in 1996 from the likes of Publisher’s Weekly. That, I have read. Well done, New York, by the way on the whole gay marriage thing! (The divorce lawyers are rubbing their hands already.)
Loads more info and a preview too here:
Killing Velazquez (£14-99, Conundrum Press) by Phillippe Girard.
Sounds frighteningly like WHY I KILLED PETER.
“On hearing a radio report of an accused priest, Philippe is thrown back to a difficult time in his youth. He is faced with his parents’ impending divorce, moves to a new city, goes to a new school, and needs to make new friends. To help him adapt to his new surroundings his mother urges him to join the “Snow Geese,” a youth group led by a nonconformist priest who challenges Philippe to rethink his values. But as Philippe becomes more acquainted with the group and its charismatic leader, masks begin to slip, and he finds himself plunged into the centre of an unexpected drama. With his life turned upside-down, he seeks comfort in reading, and manages to find his bearings again when he discovers the old-fashioned adventure series of Jack Bowmore. Killing Velazquez is an autobiographical tale that gives us a glimpse into the complexities of manipulation and reminds us that sometimes an old book can actually save a life.”
Supergod s/c (£13-50, Avatar) by Warren Ellis & Garrie Gastonny.
Gripping. Considering this is one long monologue – an elegy for the world and a post-mortem on the death sentence it imposed on itself – this is absolutely gripping, whilst Gastonny’s Krishna, the blue Messiah India built to save their country, is one of the most beautiful creatures I’ve seen.
What’s left of London is a choking mass of fire and smoke. A man in a lab coat sits on the steps of the Thames below the Houses of Parliament, lights a spliff and records the history of humanity’s meddling in evolution. Intelligent Design? Not so intelligent, no. Humanity, he recounts, has always been obsessed with religion but never before the last century has it attempted to build its own God. A God in man’s image. A superhuman like India’s, designed with the express and single purpose of saving their country.
“The one question no-one asked themselves was: How exactly would he do that?”
Let Warren have the pleasure of surprising you. It’s not an original premise (what if superhumans really existed?) but it is a completely different approach informed with the sort of recondite trivia that Ellis soaks up (mushroom spores can survive in space) and the geopolitical thoughts that occupy his mind. I preferred NO HERO to BLACK SUMMER myself (I relished the first issue of B.S. but lost a little interest after that) but this I have no reservations about at all.
Sanctum restocks (£14-99, Humanoids) by Xavier Dorison & Christophe Bec.
Remember when the Alien property was still terrifying? When the crew set out, as tiny as dolls and so vulnerable in their environmental suits, to explore the ship so vast their lights could barely catch its ceilings? The hook was the half-seen, the completely unknown, and the claustrophobia of a limited air supply. Well, they’ve captured it here in the depths of an underwater cavern deep beneath the Syrian coast, where the crew of the U.S.S. Nebraska discover a 70-year-old Soviet submarine which shouldn’t have the capability to dive that far. It’s not the only thing down there.
Bec’s artwork boasts an awesome sense of scale. The temple they stray into is absolutely enormous, and there’s page after page of ancient, underground architecture that’s as vast as anything imagined by Giger or the creative crew behind the early Tombraider games. Before its potency was frittered away on several half-arsed outings and too much hand-holding, the Tombraider franchise was full of the most spectacular and exotic settings, from Escher-like labyrinths of staircases so high up I came down with vertigo, and treacherous stone temples with secret passages, hidden traps and demonic creatures lurking in the shadows… to rusting tankers abandoned under the ocean. That’s the scale we’re talking here, and that’s the sort of enemy we’re talking too: not the physical, but the demonic.
Almost from the outset things start to go wrong on the Nebraska, and Dorison manages to juggle several crises at once, all dependent on not enough time, keeping the tension taut and the crew confused. Readers too are kept in suspense for the length of the book as it’s never quite clear what the exact source of the plagues and insanity is, who will be next to succumb to them, and whether any of the very desperate measures on board the submarine will actually work out. In addition, this is no Hollywood ending.
There are, I concede, a couple of minor problems. Several of the cast look way too similar, and you can’t afford that in a medium without audible voices for identification. In addition, I swear a couple of the speeches are assigned to the wrong people or, if not, the artist wasn’t careful enough with the stripes on the sleeves denoting rank. Yeah, like I’m a military expert.
League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Omnibus h/c (£37-99, DC) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill.
Deliciously clever exercise in literary collage wherein Moore raids the library of Victorian fiction, steals what he wants and splices it back together to form a world of his own – a world where nothing exists but that which was invented.
In volume one, Dr. Henry Jekyll, Captain Nemo, Hawley Griffin and Allan Quartermain follow Mina Murray’s lead in saving Blighty from the threat of foreigners, giving Moore an excellent excuse to pay homage to and parody not only nineteenth-century fiction, but also the imperialist, patriarchal yet scientifically adventurous society which spawned it. This time: Mars attacks! Hawley Griffin is nowhere to be seen! And Mr. Hyde knows why…
Indeed the best realised character in this book is Mr. Hyde. He is the essence of animal distilled from Dr. Jekyll, and yet Moore imbues him with a certain sense of honour:
“Why are you ‘ere, anyway? You don’t strike me as the museum sort.”
“Huhuh. You’re wrong. Why, I’m obsessed with the past. I simply can’t let things go. Do you know what I mean?”
Includes scenes of invisible sodomy and Rupert The Bear – though not in the same panels.
The two original softcovers reprinted in one are available separately here along with their full reviews.
Greek Street vol 3: Medea’s Luck (£10-99, Vertigo/DC) by Peter Milligan & Davide Gianfelice.
“Sex, death, ambition, revenge and a reminder that some stories are too true and too dangerous to ever die… Crackles with Promethean fire.” – Grant Morrison
It’s also a reminder that as individuals we’re still all prone to the same vices, the same desires and the very same character flaws that made their way into Greek tragedies. Fate may not be on our side, but we’re more than capable of fucking things up for ourselves.
Onto the gang-ridden streets of sleazy Soho stroll a cast of characters you may find familiar. It’s not important that you do, for they each have their own stories ahead of them. Our modern Oedipus is Eddie, abandoned to a children’s home by his mother when he was five. Now a minor thief, he picks her up in a bar and before she discovers who Eddie is – before the morning after when she reads the letter which falls out of his pocket – there’s the night before during which they have sex. Then there’s an accident which propels Eddie into the arms of the Fureys, a gangland family caught in a self-fulfilling cycle of bloodlust and revenge. Lord Menon’s caught up in that too following the murder of his ex-lover whose body was found washed up on the banks of Thames. Investigating Inspector Dedalus appears to have lost an ‘a’ but gained a new monster of his own making: his labyrinthine closet. Meanwhile the prophet Cassandra here comes in the form of Lord Menon’s daughter Sandy, a fifteen-year-old girl hidden in the stately home’s attic and tormented by visions which no one believes. One nightmare in particular seems to grow increasingly vivid and urgent: Inspector Dedalus torn to shreds in a church. Now a new spate of murders has begun as an unholy creature shreds her victims leaving pages of a Greek text in their hearts: pages from Euripides’ Medea, “a play about arguably the bloodiest woman in all tragedy”.
Milligan’s reconfigurations here of already established conventions are as ingenious as they are semi-faithful (for example, Sandy’s prophecies are taken no more seriously than Cassandra’s were), and if you’re ever in danger of losing the plot each chapter is handily introduced by a modern Greek chorus in the form of a highly delectable stripper whom Gianfelice really goes to town on. Conversely his creature of vengeance is terrifying, her eyes burning with hellfire. It’s almost comical watching Dedalus trying to make pragmatic sense of what’s happening around him, unaware that the laws of physics have given way to the terrifying traps and trappings of Greek tragedy.
That was my review of volume one. Vol 2 here:
Saga Of The Swamp Thing Book 6 h/c (£18-99, Vertigo/DC) by Alan Moore & Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, John Totleben.
Cast out from Earth, the Swamp Thing drifts from planet to planet trying to find a way home through all the strange races and customs that he meets. Moore casts his magic over the home of Adam Strange, another man far from home, and we look again at various hawkmen and women as life & hope begin again. John Totleben takes over art & writing for one extraordinary issue that looks at a very alien mindset of biomechanical reproduction.
Softcover still available:
Feeding Ground vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Swifty Lang & Michael Lapinski.
I love what Lapinksi’s done with both form and colour here for the series covers and interior art, incorporating Mexican iconography. Not your traditional schlock horror at all. And this is horror, for there be wolves in the dessert. Werewolves.
Crossed vol 2: Family Values (£14-99, Avatar) by David Lapham & Jacen Burrows.
Sequel to Garth’s Ennis’ CROSSED volume one which I described as “The worst nightmare you’ve never had” and which I read between my fingers, making turning the pages somewhat problematic. The zombies there were but a reflection of man’s basest desires untethered from the prospect of retribution. They weren’t after brainz but loinz, and no one was safe. Here a remote family-run horse ranch is invaded en masse with no warning, but it transpires that there was plenty of horror at home in the first place. Truly repulsive.
Here’s the 3-D one-shot:
The Raven And Other Stories h/c (12-99, IDW) by Edgar Allan Poe & Sam Kieth.
THE MAXX’s Sam Kieth doing Poe? That’s got to be good. Kieth created one of the most terrifying comics I have ever read, FOUR WOMEN, and yes we have it in stock. Also, other books by Poe.
Malinky Robot: Collected Stories & Other Bits (£12-99) by Sonny Liew.
Long-suffering street urchins Atari and Oliver “borrow” a pair of bikes and cycle far out of town to visit their friend Misha. Over Mcdonell’s (sic), conversation turns to local character Mr. Bon Bon. Each of the kids’ version of events surrounding Bon Bon is depicted as a different genre of comic, each reflecting not just the kids’ different stages of maturity but also their understanding of events. Misha’s tale of a shrill hack who built his success on the back of Mr. Bon Bon’s invention, the cantilever gear system, is like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil if it was published in Japanese underground comic GARU. Atari views him as a bike-riding, corporation-smashing vigilante DOCTOR MIDNITE, dishing out sage advice whilst pummelling corporate muscle. Oliver’s side is told as a children’s newspaper comics supplement. Underneath the parodies of CALVIN & HOBBES (Ming & Mange) and THE FARSIDE (a chicken on one side of a road shouts to a kid on a bike on the other “Oh Yeah? Why don’t you come on over and make me?!”) we learn why Mr. Bon Bon isn’t married anymore, and the tragic part he played in his own son’s death.
Liew keeps this all pinned down with a dark humoured but child-like sensibility. If Marc Hempel and Miyazaki collaborated, it would feel very much like this. His pencils jump around the page, vigorously pulling your eye from panel to panel with an energy and charm that lends his creations a vitality which ink simply couldn’t. His central characters, Atari and Oliver, take life one day at a time and if it doesn’t work out – hey, there’s always tomorrow. The back cover states “money buys things”. A sound revelation if ever I heard one.
Beautifully coloured solicitation art here:
Gon vol 1 Kodansha edition (£8-50, Kodansha) by Masashi Tanaka.
How much damage can one diminutive Tyrannosaurus Rex cause when left to his own devices in the modern-day natural world? The answer: unlimited. This isn’t David Attenborough on a cosy Sunday evening; it’s survival of the angriest. But it is also very funny and often quite touching in the moments when Gon steps out of his default surly-mode to stand square in front of the vulnerable or the underdog. Most of the time he just frowns, fights and trashes things, though. No words, just pictures in texture-heavy, photorealistic detail.
You may have fought as Gon in the Tekken 3 beat-em-up. I know I did. His tail swing was lethal.
Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Malachai Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle.
“Written by a six-year-old and drawn by his thirty-year-old brother!”
That’s Dark Horse’s selling sentence right there, and it works. Customer Andrew Jadowski – otherwise known to me as Tigger – bought it on the spot based purely on that sentence! Of course the fact that it’s been such a successful web strip reprinted now in the AXE COP trade paperback doesn’t hurt.
So what is the attraction? Witnessing the crazy, all-over-the-place result of a fertile imagination unfettered by any desire for artistic success, egged on by his brother at play and loving every second off it! That’s what’s transcribed here: hours of interactive play. It’s not actually ‘written’ as a comic by Ethan, but written up and then illustrated by his brother.
Of course it bounces off the wall! Ethan is bouncing off the wall and inventing on the fly – as did we all as we turned paving stones into imaginary transmats or time platforms; when plastic guns suddenly assumed new capabilities in the heat of the moment when put on the spot by our friends; or when one of us spontaneously came up with a new ‘plot’ development that turned the five-inch Aerofix spitfire model into an intangible space rocket and brought that big pile of bricks into fifty-foot life!
“No! No! Dracula’s behind you now, run!”
“But – but – I have a lolly stick and I stab him through the heart!”
“That’s his leg!”
“He knelt down to bite me!”
“And I chop off his head with my karate chop!”
We were only playing Doctors & Nurses that day.
“Written by a six-year-old and drawn by his thirty-year-old brother!”
It does exactly what is said by the kin.
Morning Glories vol 2 (£9-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma.
From the writer of EXISTENCE 2.0/3.0, so clever you’d think you were reading Peter Milligan’s HUMAN TARGET, and Forgetless, one of the funniest books of last year, a second instalment of kids trapped in High School hell. More than usual, I mean. When I reviewed book one I had no idea this series was going to be so expansive, so forgive any doubts I had then. Spencer has yet to put a foot wrong.
Due: summer vacation.
JLA vol 1 (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison, Mark Millar & Howard Porter, more.
From some 15 years ago, the core DC superheroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash) were finally lifted to the epic status they were supposed to possess all along. The rookies pay deference to their seniors as they learn to accept their own merits for it’s a young Kyle Rayner who’s Green Lantern here, Batman scares the hell out of them, Superman they find difficult to relate to, and Wonder Woman blows them away. Bold and bombastic with some classic lines, extraordinary concepts and moments of knowing melodrama.
The slimmer versions are going out of print, replaced by this which reprints the whole of NEW WORLD ORDER and AMERICAN DREAMS plus JLA SECRET FILES #1.
Batman: Arkham City h/c (£16-99, DC) by Paul Dini & Carlos D’Anda, more.
Bridges the gap between the two console games, the first of which proved that if you actually put some thought and money into a licensed game, it would rock. The only thing wrong with it was that you couldn’t garrotte Harley Quinn and put her out of your misery. Voice worse than a minstrel’s.
Preview (click on arrows):
Batman: Death In The Family new expanded edition s/c (£18-99, DC) by Jim Starlin, Marv Wolfman & Jim Aparo, George Perez.
The book whose marketing inspired Rick Veitch’s gloriously diseased BRATPACK. How? DC readers were asked to vote on whether Jason Todd, the second Robin, should die! The result was overwhelming, particularly for poor Jason Todd! Fans of BATMAN: HUSH may want to check out the resurrected Robin’s beef (which isn’t as rude as it sounds) for this is where he copped it. Stars the Joker and reprints BATMAN #426-429, 440-442 and NEW TITANS #60-61.
Thunderbolts by Warren Ellis Ultimate Collection (£22-50, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Mike Deodato.
“All that matters are politics, psychology and ratings.”
Fortunately I rate the politics and psychology on offer here very highly indeed. It’s more chilling than a fridge which whiffs of rotting meat and whose light won’t work.
A government-sanctioned group of criminal super-psychopaths are coerced into joining a field team whose missions, post-CIVIL WAR, are to locate, capture and contain (or maybe even kill) any superheroes who for some reason or other don’t fancy working for a government that would endorse such a policy. Instead they still insist on defending the helpless from thieves, rapists and murderers in spite of the risks that now puts them under. Those volatile operatives (Venom, Moonstone, Penance, Radioactive Man, Swordsman and Bullseye – the last one unleashed only in extreme circumstances and beyond the public gaze) are, along with comparative angel Songbird, held in check by the manipulative cunning of one Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn, a bi-polar control freak inadvisably mixing his own medication, and only just managing to keep it together himself. He sweats, he mutters, he obsesses, but his grasp on spin is note-perfect, lying like crazy to a national media interested merely in story rather than truth or education.
Moonstone is equally manipulative, herself a fully qualified psychiatrist, and thanks to Deodato’ s darker, sultry and more textured artwork (along with Rainier Breed’s colours), she oozes coquettish charm when sidling up to her team mates, like a cat playing with its catch. You can almost smell the pheromones. Osborne, meanwhile, never more frightening than when almost in control of himself, is creased in close-up with age lines, as subtle and worrying expressions flicker across his leathery face.
There’s plenty of plot in the pot as the series simmers along, but when it’s brought to the boil in the second half reprinted here in this double edition, they’re going to get badly scalded. Of that second book I wrote…
“I’m going to be in therapy for the rest of my life.”
Second half of Ellis’ warren of wrong, wherein half a dozen of the world’s most fucked up psychopaths have been given Presidential license to subjugate unregistered superhumans and hold them for questioning in the twilight bowls of Thunderbolts mountain. They have… issues. Norman Osborn is in command – of the others if not himself – the neo-Nazi is in love with his dead sister, the alien symbiote is feeling hungry, and Bullseye’s been starved of target practice. Recently four previously unknown miscreants have more or less handed themselves in. Are they all telepaths?
I predict a riot.
FF Vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting, more.
You can spot a Jonathan Hickman design element in everything he writes, regardless of whether he’s the main artist as he was on NIGHTLY NEWS. So it’s been with SECRET WARRIORS, S.H.I.E.L.D., and now the double-page credit sequence of a sun rising behind planet Earth, radiating its white light across the vast blue reaches of space inside the new FF logo.
The Fantastic Four are no more. They have a man down, and some of them are coping better than others. The Thing has shut himself inside his room, cradling Johnny Storm’s nephew and niece against his orange-rocked hide. But Reed is taking Johnny’s holographic Last Will & Testament to heart and has asked Spider-Man to join their quest to build a better world:
“Franklin would love it, and Spider-Man is, after all, like the second-best superhero ever.”
It’s Johnny’s sister Sue who beckons Peter inside and shows him around. Things have changed. For a start they’re now called The Future Foundation with an extended family of waifs and strays, some more clever than others, studying under Reed Richards. Also, the costumes have changed and change further still, unstable molecules creating variations on a black and white theme of three honeycomb hexagons or, in Peter’s case, a spider. He’s very much a guest.
He’s not the only guest, either. Richards’ father has resurfaced from the timestream thereby altering the family dynamic further still, as evidenced over dinner when Reed proposes they terraform the moon.
“If you think that’s the right thing to do.”
“Well, I think it’s a terrible idea.”
“What, we don’t do dissenting opinions here? Reed just normally says something and everyone automatically agrees? That’s ridiculous.”
“… How refreshing. I’m glad you’re home Dad.”
“Clean your plate, son.”
He’s also brought with him knowledge from the future which has given Reed and Sue’s child-prodigy daughter a certain sense of purpose, of what she is meant to do. What she believes she is meant to do is introduce one further member to the family unit, and it’s the very last person you’d expect!
Epting’s art is a considered joy. The enormous gargoyle Dragon Man cross-legged on a comfy sofa and studying a book, spectacles perched on his purple beak looking like Sage The Owl, is an absolute hoot. But it’s clear that in spite of the relaunch Hickman has barely begun. You can hop aboard here quite easily – I’ve not read book four myself yet – but so many of the pieces he’s carefully position across the board are now coming back into play, and it’s as ominous as ever.
Here are Hickman’s four previous books in the series:
Invincible Iron Man vol 8: Unfixable h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick & Salvador Larroca with John Romita Jr., Andrea Mutti.
Doctor Octopus attempts to settle an old grudge by testing Stark’s scientific resourcefulness: can he repair the damage done to Otto’s wasted body? Warning: contains a great deal of extraneous material not in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN.
X-Men: Prelude To Schism h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & Robert De La Torre & Laurence Campbell.
In which nothing happens.
Cyclops stares at out of window, but that’s not something happening because he’s staring out the window as the book opens and almost certainly still staring out of it when the book ends. I don’t know for sure because I only read the first two issues in which, respectively, the X-Men asked each other why Cyclops was staring out of the window, then why they had spent the first issue asking each other why Cyclops was staring out of the window instead of doing something – like pushing his head through it. I don’t think he’s bird watching.
Something is approaching. They won’t say what. Just that it’s really not very nice and they wonder if they should do something about it. Like join Cyclops at the window.
Is that coal tit?
Due: At Ye Ende Of Dayes.
Silver Surfer: Devolution s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Segovia, Talibao, Coello.
“A brand new direction for Galactus’ former herald as he campaigns for Cornwall’s autonomy. But can a county whose income is generated solely from harbourside paintings and clotted cream teas really sustain itself in a such fractured economy? The answers may surprise you.”
Shadowland: Daredevil s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Andy Diggle, Antony Johnston & De La Torre, Checchetto.
“We always have choices, Foggy. And Matt just threw all of his away.”
The final few issues to Andy Diggle and Antony Johnston’s stint on DAREDEVIL which run in parallel with SHADOWLAND itself.
It kicks off straight after the SHADOWLAND’s opening shocker as Foggy Nelson, Dakota North and Becky witness CCTV footage of their best friend doing the unthinkable, albeit to his worst enemy. Desperately Foggy flails around, trying to find something – anything – that would at least explain if not excuse Matt’s actions. The man has faith and no friend could ask for more; but for the others it may prove too much.
Full review of hardcover, still in stock, here:
New Avengers By Brian Michael Bendis Just Like The Old Series Was So This Title Clarifies Nothing h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Mike Deodato, Daniel Acuna & Howard Chaykin.
The jokes stop abruptly halfway through the book as something for the team goes horribly wrong. Meanwhile back in Cuba, 1959… Was it Cuba? I think so. Anyway, Nick Fury’s hunting Nazis and enlists the aid of a frankly bizarre mob including Sabretooth. The connection between the two storylines? Eludes me so far.
Captain America: Prisoner Of War (£18-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, guests & Jackson Guice, guests.
Don’t want to give away the previous book’s ending, so let’s focus on Steve Rogers and Henry Peter Gyrich, bane of both X-Men and Avengers, occupying the same room for the first time in years. That never goes well, does it? (See Avengers: Nights Of Wundagore.) So what did happen to Bucky Barnes and what did Gyrich have to do with it.
Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy (£9-99, Razorbill) by Richelle Mead, Leigh Dragoon & Emma Vieceli.
“After two years on the run, best friends Rose and Lissa are caught and returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a private high school for vampires and half-bloods. It’s filled with intrigue, danger – and even romance. Enter their dark, fascinating world through a new series of 144-page full-color graphic novels. The entire first Vampire Academy novel has been adapted for book one by Leigh Dragoon and overseen by Richelle Mead, while the beautiful art of acclaimed British illustrator Emma Vieceli brings the story to life.”
Not something I have a clue about but here’s Emma’s DRAGON HEIR – which I do! – with the added bonus that we have six copies signed for free! Always end a section on a high note.
Prose & Art Books
Dracula illustrated novel h/c (£13-50) by Bram Stoker & Becky Cloonan.
Yes, it’s La Cloonan of DEMO, AMERICAN VIRGIN, PIXU, Wolves and Minis fame. We sold more copies of Becky Cloonan’s work last Thursday than we have of any other creator in a single day without a signing. The prose is unabridged.
Here’s some preparatory work including <gasp> naughty bits:
Have a gander at Becky’s original art exhibition. <swoon>
The Astonishing Secret Of Awesome Man (£13-50, Balzer + Bray) by Michael Cabon & Jake Parker.
From the writer of the winning Kavalier And Clay, the inspiration behind Brian K. Vaughan’s equally inspired THE ESCAPISTS, a comedy superhero picture book for kids. Shame it’s not a graphic novel. I love Jake Parker’s pencil art.
Comics for August 2011
Optic Nerve #12 (£4-25, Drawn & Quarterly) by Adrian Tomine.
Retailer gold, unequivocally recommended to everyone.
Against all expectations OPTIC NERVE returns as an affordable, self-contained, short story comic of beautifully observed straight fiction. It was so many of our customers’ first-ever comic, while the SHORTCOMINGS collection is in our Always Recommended section and was one of our Comicbooks Of The Month. This issue includes a “disconcertingly modern tale of mistaken identity”. All the books on Tomine’s site link to Drawn & Quarterly previews: LINK
Here are our own Tomine reviews:
Ganges #4 (£5-99, Fantagraphics) by Kevin Huizenga.
The most outstanding title so far from Fantagraphics’ Ignatz line, the purpose of which is to showcase some of the best, underrated or unheard of artists from around the world in a lavish, oversized, dust-jacketed comic. We need more lavish. Lavish is good.
Glen Ganges is to Kevin Huizenga what Alec was to Eddie Campbell – that’s no throwaway association. Both Glen and Alec are pseudonyms for each author to play and interact with the world created within their comics. Both deal with everyday life in a slow, evolving way. Where Alec reflects Eddie’s down-the-pub nonchalant view on life, Glen is Kevin’s hyperactive and overtly analytical coffee-shop casualty. Moments are stretched and replayed, tangents form around why things have come about, the way things could go. His body in the present, his mind jumping in and out of puddles of memories, through rainfalls of imagination. The comic closes on Glen, over-stimulated from a mix of caffeine and prose, climbing into bed long after his wife Wendy left for the Land Of Nod. He’s still going at 100 words a minute, stirring her from sleep as he attempts to get her attention with playful exuberance. Which fails, as he notes her breathing change back to the steady momentum of sleep, an empty white speech bubble punctuating the sound of her breathing in the dark still room, a blue hue accentuating the shapes of objects, that moment when your eyes begin to adjust to the darkness, perfectly capturing the ambience of a bedroom in the middle of the night. His brain unable to just turn off, he lies awake, the tangents of before becoming intrusive thoughts as he lies motionless, missing her when she’s right there.
Here’s the man’s blog.
Vertigo Resurrected: Jonny Double (£5-99, Vertigo/DC) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso.
From the creators of the outstanding 100 BULLETS, this is everything SIN CITY never quite became, a jaw-dropping urban crime thriller in which the paranoia becomes as infectious as the adrenaline rush.
Low-rent P.I. Jonny Double signs on to check up on Faith, the wayward daughter of Mr. Hart. He doesn’t mind that she won’t conform, but to him her recent decisions seem to have been made with the sole intention of pissing him off. When Jonny finds her drinking at a bar, the crowd she’s hanging with turn out to be both ambitious and stupid, which is a dangerous combination. Through the internet they’ve found a dormant account with $300,000 inside, belonging to an Al Brown, one of Al Capone’s aliases. And he’s dead. They’ve also been able to electronically forge all the credentials necessary for an Al Brown Jr. to walk through the door and relieve the bank of its duty. Naturally Jonny has absolutely no intention of being this Al Brown Jr., but Faith is very… persuasive.
Okay, so far, so good. You don’t expect it to work, though, do you? It works. It works better than they’d imagined, because Jonny comes out with a suitcase containing seven million bucks. Only one problem: the account was active.
The next three quarters of the book spiral out of control as the group disintegrates. People start turning up dead, Jonny receives threatening photographs of him and Faith, and then some severed hands in a brown paper bag, before getting the crap kicked out of him in a nightclub toilet. Apart from the consistently stylish renderings of Mr. Risso, the best thing about this book is Azzarello’s cunningly persuasive monologue through which you can’t help but see everything from Double’s knowing perspective.
Damaged #1 (£2-99, Radical) by David Lapham & Leonardo Manco.
Obligatory opening sentence reminds you that this is STRAY BULLETS and SILVERFISH’s David Lapham on writing duties, while Manco provided half the gritty fun on Andy Diggle’s exceptional HELLBLAZER trilogy beginning with HELLBLAZER: JOYRIDE. A perfect combo for a title whose solicitation begins in familiar territory than grows increasingly tantalising…
“After brutally massacring a criminal ring traditional lawmen have failed to stop, the lives of two policemen, brothers Frank and Henry Lincoln, are forced to diverge. Torn by conflicting reactions to the event, one brother, Frank, chooses to uphold justice through the law; the other sets out on a shady path to enforce the sort of justice the law cannot stomach. 35 years later, Frank Lincoln, now a veteran of the San Francisco PD and about to retire, takes his final case, investigating a string of vigilante killings that stir memories of his long-estranged brother. Meanwhile, Henry, too, approaches retirement, as he finds himself becoming too old to continue his violent lifestyle. With the ends of both brothers’ careers approaching, each attempts to train his replacement, hoping to remake his protégé‚ in his own image; however, the world around them has changed in ways neither could have foreseen, leaving them utterly unprepared for the true lawlessness and corruption they will soon be forced to face.”
Here’s Leonardo’s website:
Dark Horse Presents #3 (£5-99, Dark Horse) by Dave Gibbons, Carla Speed McNeil, Jim Steranko, Paul Chadwick, David Chelsea, more.
Brand new Dave Gibbons story plus more FINDER, CONCRETE etc. They also promise a preview of Jim Steranko’s RED TIDE (new version) but after 35 solicitations, five years waiting and even a Jonathan Ross interview in the Guardian two years ago, I have given up raising my hopes!
Baltimore: The Curse Bells #1 (£2-75, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Stenbeck.
Post-WWI vampiric fiction and the sequel to Baltimore: The Plague Ships which went straight of print a day after publication, though at the time of typing we still have copies.
Preview of book one here:
Flashpoint #5 of 5 (£2-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Andy Kubert.
BANG! BOOM! SCHHLWIP! That was the sound of a universe unwinding.
Unless you’ve been living in the real world, you cannot have helped hearing by now that in September DC is being rebooted. For days all I heard was “DC reboot”, “DC reboot”. I hoped that meant Obama disbanding Congress and filling the Houses with actual human beings, but alas it had nothing to do with Washington at all. Instead as a result of Flashpoint #5, the DC Universe will unravel and the vast majority of their comics will kick off again with 52 new #1s featuring new costumes, new hairdos, new neuroses and new secret origins in a whole new ‘continuity’. Apart from the ridiculous quantity of #1s – fifty-two in a single month! – I really don’t give a damn, but rest assured you will continue to receive the titles you’re down for unless you say otherwise, though you may want to order Geoff Johns’ and Jim Lee’s JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA right now at least!
The only thing I was deeply disappointed about was the news that Barbara Gordon a.k.a. Oracle, wheelchair-bound ever since the Joker shot her in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s magnificent KILLING JOKE, will now walk again. As I wrote in SPIDER-MAN: THE GAUNTLET vol 3 that sort of miracle is deeply insulting to those who don’t walk freely and never will, a sentiment expressed so much more eloquently by Jill Pantozzi here: LINK. She knows what she’s talking about. Page 45 was designed from the start to have maximum wheelchair access (no steps, broad aisles), possibly because my oldest friend Anita suffered from multiple sclerosis for years. I like to think I was enlightened in the first place but I just don’t know.
Anyway, I’ve no idea yet which DC titles will be immune but you’d hope BATMAN INC. at least given how much work Grant Morrison has put into setting up its premise. I do hear he’s getting a new SUPERMAN title. [Ten minutes after typing that sentence I actually did some research and BATMAN INCORPORATED will go on hiatus after #10 then return a few month’s later with a new #1.] There’s a tonne of announcements on DC’s blog here:
The Spirit #17 (£2-25, DC) by Chaykin, Pfeiffer, Levitz & Brian Bolland, P. Craig Russell, Jose Luis Farcia-Lopez.
Rarely does Bolland venture beneath the covers these days! Self-contained, I believe, and in black and white.
DC Comics Presents JLA: Heavens Ladder (£5-99, DC) by Mark Waid, Ron Marz & Bryan Hitch.
If you prefer your comics standard-size, fair enough. Please note that this new version’s a floppy not a tpb, but at the time of typing we still have one copy left of the huge edition from 10 or so years ago, spectacularly showing off the sheer scale of Hitch’s extraordinary art:
Ultimate Fallout #1-6 of 6 (£2-99, Marvel) by Bendis, Hickman, Spencer & Bagley, Pichelli, more.
Once more the ULTIMATE line is in for an upheaval, its old titles swept aside in the wake of recent events and as the title suggests this is the book pulling the threads together to tie up loose ends from Millar and Bendis’ series.
Due: weekly until 17/08/11
Ultimate Comics Ultimates #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic.
Ultimate Comics Hawkeye #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Rafa Sandoval.
Okay, cool. Gimp suit gone. Don’t mention the wife and kids in the first ten pages and you’ll be fine.
Spider-Island: Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu #1 of 3 (£2-25, Marvel) by Antony Johnston & Sebastian Fiumara.
Over in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN New York City’s citizens have all developed spider-powers, which means scuttling about in their baths and frightening grown men who have to call on their wives or daughters to remove them. I’ve seen that in action. Here, however, Shang-Chi stumbles on a ”deadly mystery” (all Marvel mysteries are deadly; it’s not like “Which neighbour left that snarky note on my car windshield about my inability to park straight?”) involving Iron Fist and the Bride of Nine Spiders!” From the writer of post-apocalyptic WASTELAND, about the most severe hose-pipe ban in history.
Have an interview in with Antony:
Secret Avengers #16 (£2-99. Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Jamie McKelvie.
First of six self-contained stories by Ellis, this one featuring the Beast, Black Widow and Steve Rogers himself. From the writer of FREAKANGELS and the artist on PHONOGRAM, whose first volume’s copies are, at the time of typing, all signed here.
Ellis is on top form here, illustrated by ‘Kelvie:
Punisher #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Greg Rucka & Marco Checchetto.
Now this could be good: one half of the GOTHAM CENTRAL writing team hopefully bringing the same sense of street-level crime to the Punisher.
Here’s the artist. You like?
Driver: Crossing The Line one-shot (£2-25, DC) by David Lapham, & Greg Scott.
Okay, it’s another console game tie-in but it is STRAY BULLETS and SILVERFISH’s David Lapham on writing duties, so… A driver crosses the line in San Francisco. What lines are there left to cross there?!
The Bionic Man #1 (£29-99, D.E.) by Kevin Smith, Phil Hester & Jonathan Lau.
Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man: the TV programme single-handedly responsible for me going by the name of ‘Steve’ for fifteen years before realising that I wasn’t and never would be an all-American action hero. We spent hours when we were ten fist-fighting in slow motion while we juddered out “er-er-er-er-errrr…” to mimic the series’ sound effects. It would probably have only lasted minutes without the slo-mo. Anyway, here’s hoping the interior art is one hell of a lot better than the covers because they look nothing like Lee Majors.
Boy, theme tunes took a while to get going in those days:
Due: 40 years ago.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (£2-99, IDW) by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz & Eastman, Duncan.
Dear God, they’re back. Why?
Due: way too soon.
Finally, I no longer have to type out a long list of all the other books! In fact you can find out which other books and comics and softcovers of old hardcovers are scheduled for August 2011 onwards (and pre-preorder them too!) right here:
However, you might like to note the impending existence of…
Love & Rockets New Stories vol 4 (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Los Bros Hernandez. (August)
Mark’s Twain’s Autobiography 1910-2010 (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Michael Kupperman (August)
Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular & The New Land h/c (£22-50, Abram) by Harvey Pekar & Paul Buhle
Hellboy Volume 11: The Bride Of Hell (14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben, Kevin Nowlan, Scott Hampton (12/10/11)
iZombie vol 2: uVampire (£10-99, Vertigo/DC) by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (07/09/11)
Fables: Werewolves Of The Heartland original graphic novel h/c (£16-99, Vertigo/DC) by Bill Willingham & Jim Fern, Craig Hamilton (05/10/11)
Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales vol 2 (£13-50, DC) by Alan Moore, Steve Moore & Chris Weston, more (28/09/11)
Gate 7 vol 1 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Clamp. (12/10/11)
Oz: Ozma Of Oz h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Eric Shanowe & Skottie Young (07/09/11
Previews researched then written by Stephen. Hopefully a lot earlier next month!Please note: the only reason Drawn & Quarterly does not have its own book section this month is that there are no new books, but you’ll find Adrian Tomine’s brand-new OPTIC NERVE #12 at the top of the comic sections here. My summer is made!