Reviews August 2011 week one


Meet Cowboy Wally, the wobbling, gobbling disaster area and beer bucket that won’t shut up or – better still – go away. He’s a multi-talentless TV superstar, and has the incriminating photos to prove it.

 – Stephen on Kyle Baker’s Cowboy Wally Show.

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century 1969 (£7-99, Top Shelf / Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill.

Ravaged by time, the once-mighty League is now down to three members: Mina Murray, preserved by her vampiric hickie, Allan Quartermain who is also a lot older than his aspect would suggest, and the immortal but far from immutable Orlando who is back on the turn and once more growing breasts.

In CENTURY: 1910 we learned of Tom Carnacki’s disturbing premonitions of a sect driven by Oliver Haddo preparing to create both an anti-Christ and a Moonchild to usher in a new age under his control. But Mina was warned off intervening by Norton, a man trapped physically in London but free to roam through time, and that their very investigation will precipitate and perhaps exacerbate exactly what they’re seeking to avert.

Now they’ve returned to London in 1969 and immediately set about investigating even though Oliver Haddo supposedly died in Hastings back in 1947. Well, someone did, and it’s a scene which Moore and O’Neill play to perfection. Who then is the mysterious Charles Felton courting vain and gullible pop star Terner of The Purple Orchestra whose front man, Basil Thomas, was drowned in his swimming pool by robed monks in front of his pilled-up boyfriend Wolfe Lovejoy?

It’s a special Same-Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’Roll edition of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, as the once-prudish Mina strives to stay hip to the times but finds she’s not as au fait as they thinks. Indeed this second part of the third volume’s trilogy climaxes in a  stunningly bad trip by the Edward Hyde memorial statue surrounded by the art and artefacts of day from Spacehoppers and Daleks to Tony the Tiger and Robertson Jam golliwogs, after which Mina’s fate will genuinely shock you. Quite where Moore will now go with the conclusion set in 2009 I have no idea.

The title has always been a collage of borrowed fiction so although London does exist, none of its shops, clubs or inhabitants here have save in books, films, television programmes and songs. Half the fun is spotting what Moore has appropriated and where from, especially now that as the years progress the variety of media Moore can choose from expands. Michael Caine’s Jack Carter plays a pivotal role in tracking down Basil’s murderers, and although Get Carter didn’t actually appear at the cinema until 1970, cleverly here he has yet to head north on that family business in Newcastle. I’ll leave the rest of you to puzzle over yourselves, but I was particularly tickled to see Parker, Lady Penelope’s chauffeur from Thunderbirds as a petrol pump attendant.



The Cowboy Wally Show (£9-99) by Kyle Baker.

“Okay, I just got through talking to the judge about your case. I told him just what you said to. I go the judge and I say, “The evidence against my clients is circumstantial, and those girls brought their own drugs and Wally and Lenny didn’t know it was a Laundromat, and the pony was there when they arrived.”

From the creator of WHY I HATE SATURN, another piece of Quality Jollity ™ and, I believe, Kyle Baker’s first ever graphic novel which I first read some twenty years ago before Page 45 was even open, let alone reviewing comedy masterpieces.

Meet Cowboy Wally, the wobbling, gobbling disaster area and beer bucket that won’t shut up or – better still – go away. He’s a multi-talentless TV superstar, and has the incriminating photos to prove it. Basically, he blackmailed his way on stage. He’s recorded children’s programmes, game shows, soap operas, stand-up and news, each of them an unmitigated and inappropriate disaster. His early monster movie ‘Ed Smith, Lizard of Doom’ fared no better, and you should see his unique, digest version of Hamlet, filmed in prison with a certain degree of… improvisation. In fact you will see it. In full. Here.

He has his own brands of beer, beef and feminine hygiene products; also, an amusement park.

“I think the slow start was because of the bad press we got early on. People saying the park was too dangerous for children.”
“Well, is it?”
“No, no. Any permanent damage they suffer is usually just psychological.

Yes, he’s made it big. Very big. Belt-bustingly enormous.

“Not bad for someone who Dick Cavett once described as “the stupidest man on the face of this planet”.”
“Stupid? I don’t even know the meaning of the word.”

Now the legend that is Cowboy Wally is being interviewed for posterity, and this is that film, ‘The Cowboy Wally Legend’. Bonus extra: that special edition of Cowboy Wally’s Late Night Celebrity Showdown in which surprise guest stars attempt to exact their revenge, one by poisoning himself, the other with a gun pointed at Wally’s thick head and the actress he’s interviewing thinks it’s a skit.

“Is this a skit?”
“No, this is not a skit…. If this was a skit you would have just ruined it by asking if it was a skit.”
“Well, I was worried about you. Besides, if this were a skit, my ad-lib would have enhanced the realism of the bit.”
“Yes, and even if it were a skit, I would still have said, “No,” so as not to destroy the mood of the piece.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Now, Ed, you were saying?”
“I was saying that I have come to finally bring an end to your reign of hypocrisy! I…”
“So, Wally, is this a skit?”
“Come on guys. My arm’s getting tired.”

A man of many visual styles, this is similar to WHY I HATE SATURN only with the same inking techniques Baker used to employ so successfully on Marvel comics. It’s also one long gag-fest with clips from throughout Wally’s career including that daytime soap opera set in a hospital.

“Personally, I was shocked to discover our plastic surgeon was an alcoholic.”
“Yes, he raised quite a few eyebrows.”



Sanctum (£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.


Justice h/c (£29-99, DC) by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger & Dougie Braithwaite, Alex Ross.

With its constituent three softcovers out of print, this entire epic has been collected into a single mighty volume.

Superior to anything I was expecting, Braithwaite and Ross combine their singular skills to greater effect than the economy of having Ross paint over someone else’s art would suggest. Braithwaite has a different eye to Ross’ when it comes to layouts, so his pencils – including some epic double-page spreads that fully convey the awe of finding yourself for the first time inside or outside The Fortress Of Solitude – often come with angles that Ross wouldn’t ordinarily have considered. Ross remains on top translucent form while his pairing with Krueger on writing duties has produced a seasoned classic.

Lex Luthor has assembled a rogue’s gallery of supervillains plagued by the same nightmare of a Justice League defeated and their world ton apart. Individually they have incapacitated each key member of the team simultaneously to silence them, then together they have set about curing diseases, irrigating the deserts to form fertile land, and performing other acts of uncharacteristic benevolence like building utopian cities – doing things the supposed heroes had never even attempted before, and succeeding. Naturally Luthor is far from backwards in coming forwards.

“I know what you’re thinking. What can Lex Luthor of all people say to me? And is it true what I’m hearing? Are the world’s ills and humanity’s sicknesses being addressed and cured by known criminals and super-powered terrorists? This is being broadcast around the world, in every city, to every race, in every language. We know you’re wondering where the Justice League of America is right now. And so are we. But we’re also wondering why they never tried to do what we’ve been doing. Why they never attempted to use their powers and abilities to make this world a better place. I believe that their inaction is as criminal as those felonies we went to prison for. Preserving the world and not daring to change it means keeping food from the hungry. Keeping the crippled in wheelchairs. Bowing to the status quo of human suffering. And still they call us the villains.”

But there’s a slight chill in the air – in the Arabic deserts of all places – when Poison Ivy grants it the bounty of fresh fruit:

“Let spring come. Let the richness of summer reign… Until the arrival of the fall.”

You can safely assume that all is not what it seems and slowly the threads come together, but not in a linear fashion. What impressed me no end was how few of the Justice League’s predicaments are immediately solved. Instead they have to be revisited depending on which tools (knowledge, skill sets and powers) are available at any given time. In terms of superhero logic, it’s been very well thought through. I can’t give you specific examples without spoiling your fun, but some of those tools include Superman, Wonderwoman, his X-ray vision, her lasso; the sun, Shazam, and Batman.

You’ll see what I mean when they leave Batman where he is until one of those tools becomes available and why, later on, when Batman’s interrogating a prisoner he cannot be bluffing – indeed has no option to bluff – when he threatens to chop some of the guy’s fingers off. Also, lesser writers would have left Hal Jordan stranded on the outer reaches of space (so far out there are no stars to navigate home by) until the plot required his return, but as he retreats into his Green Lantern ring, its energy depleting, we’re constantly returned to his thoughts.

It seems I never reviewed the third and final segment but by the end of the second, things were looking rather worse than they did when it started. Each was substantial enough that I felt I’d read double the pages on offer and I – constantly carping, cynical old me – thoroughly enjoyed myself.


Ancient Reviews Recently Unearthed

We used to be so, so much briefer!

It’s A Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth –

Seth weaves his obsession with the illustrations of an old ‘New Yorker’ gag cartoonist with a drift through his past observing places that are gone. This really affected me when it first arrived in collected form. There was something about the way he drifts back to sites of from his childhood, observing the way that his view of the surrounding landscape had changed as he grew older. I’m a sucker for trees and foliage (see any of our recent window displays to see what I mean) and he’s drawn some wonderful scenes of woods on the outskirts of town. The two-colour format just adds to the atmosphere.



Jar Of Fools (£12-99) by Jason Lutes –

Still haunted by his escapologist brother’s death, Ernie Wiess looks after his mentor, Al Flosso. Both are magicians, one learning, the other forgetting. After being thrown out of Ernie’s apartment they drift into the life of con artist Nathan Lender and his daughter, Claire. Over the book Lutes outlines each character’s view of life.

From the creator of BERLIN.



End Of The Century Club by Ilya –

“Where else are we meant to go? What the hell are we meant to do!? There’s fuck-all left in this shit-hole of a town..
“No decent gig venues…
“No rep cinema…
“No crust fests in the park.
“Without funding even the city farm ended up in the knackers!
“All our fave haunts in the ghost town, shut… or shut down!”

Compiling and completing the first chapter of the story from the now dead DEADLINE. Young Londoners with no future plan a club for their millennium party. White dreads, bike messengers, piercings, tattoos, homeless, dispossessed, it’s all here.



Appleseed vol 1 – 4 (£10-99 each, Dark Horse) by Shirow Masamune –

The cities of Earth have been rebuilt after the flames of war broke out simultaneously in every corner of the globe. They are now overseen by the central governing body, Aegis. If the people aren’t perfect technology can solve that. Deunan Knute, former member of the L.A.P.D SWAT team and her cybernetic companion Briaros deal with the malcontents in an increasingly violent world. Shirow’s cyberpunk epic details the problems of Utopia.


Also Available To Buy Right Now:

Reviews to follow or up right now if softcovers of previous hardcovers.Those will be linked to below.

Meta 4 (£10-99, Image) by Ted McKeever
Judge Dredd: The Restricted Files vol 3 (£19-99, 2000AD) by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Mark Millar, Peter Milligan, Simon Furman, Dan Abnett & Cam Kennedy, Brett Ewins, Cliff Robinson, Colin MacNeil, John Burns, Ian Gibson
Repulse (£4-99, Image) by Szymon Kudranksi
The Marvelous Land Of Oz s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by L. Frank Baum, Eric Shanower & Skottie Young
The Stand: No Man’s Land h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Stephen King, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Mike Perkins, Laura Martin
Superman: Grounded h/c (£16-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski, G. Willow Wilson  & Eddy Barrows, Leandro Oliveira, Wellington Dias, Amilcar Pinna, J.P. Mayer, Walden Wong, Eber Ferreira
Gotham Central Book 2: Jokers And Madmen s/c (£14-99, DC) by Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Greg Scott, Brian Hurtt
Avengers vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & John Romita Jr.
X-Men Legacy: Aftermath h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mike Carey & Pal Davidson, Harvey Tolibao, Jorge Molina, Rafa Sandoval
Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Adam Kubert
Marvel Masterworks: X-Men vol 3 (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas & Werner Roth
Spider-Man: Big Time s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos
Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic (£29-99, Marvel) by Tom DeFalco, Mike Lackey, Howard Mackie, Todd Dezago, Glenn Herdling, Evan Skolnick, Dan Jurgens & Mark Bagley, Sal Buscema, Dan Jurgens,  Gil Kane, Paris Karounos, Scott McDaniel, Tom Morgan, John Romita Jr., Tod Smith, Joe St. Pierre, Patrick Zircher
Spider-Man: Blue s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale
Avengers Academy vol 1: Permanent Record s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Mike McKone, Jorge Molina
Spawn: New Beginnings (£10-99, Image) by Will Carlton & Szymon Kudranski
Tank Tankuro: Pre-War Works h/c Slipcase Ed’n (£22-50, Pop Press) by Gajo Sakamoto
Arisa vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Natsumi Ando
Twin Spica vol 7 (£8-50, Vertical) by Kou Yaginuma
Cross Game vol 4 VIZBIG Edition (£10-99, Viz) by Mitsuru Adachi
Negima! vol 30 (£8-50, Viz) by Ken Akamatsu
Naruto Omnibus vols 4-6 (£9-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto
Kobato vol 4 (£7-99, Yen) by Clamp
Gin Tama vol 23 (£7-50, Viz) by Hideaki Sorachi
Blue Exorcist vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kazo
Cardcaptor Sakura Book 2 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp

Absolutely no idea why we don’t have GOTHAM CENTRAL vol 1 s/c but I can promise you I’m on it!

Bless you, Linda Fuller for treating me to this weekend’s open-air Madness gig in Norfolk. Exceptional. Surprise bonus: The Specials’ and Fun Boy Three’s Neville Staple’s new band complete with two trombones, a trumpet and sax which gleamed gold in the early evening light. Several steps beyond!

 – Stephen

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