Reviews September 2011 week three

If our sorcerous six want to wassail, they must smite for their right to party.

– Stephen on Demon Knights.

Everything We Miss h/c (£12-00, Nobrow) by Luke Pearson.

“The words he refreshes for go unseen and remain unknown, for the letter of reconciliation slipped under the door… finds itself under the doormat.”

Are you aware of everything you’ve missed? Of course not – that’s why you’re still sane.

Missed signals, missed opportunities; things you don’t see and things you do see all too clearly in your mind’s eye: memories of what you once had, now lost. Signals sent out but never received, of a potential romance stillborn through oblivion; buses we never quite caught leading to meetings we then never made; deadlines that did us in; the profound effect words uttered in casual conversation may have had on the lives of others; the company of friends, family or lovers now dead or deserted. Youth.

It’s both these connotations – of failure and regret – that are explored here in a quiet, considered and elegiac fashion as a relationship fails through lack of attention: too little too late, and being too late too often. I’m constantly joking, “You’re just in time to be too late,” but it’s usually about a comic that’s just sold out, never about anything as profound as a relationship. So often I’ve seen that happen, though.

The key to the book’s success is that the narrator does see it all, and not just this single relationship. He rises above the metaphorical treetops to view a whole world of things that are missed, some of them heart-breakingly poignant, others comedically absurd. It’s the perfect balance and my immediate reaction on reading this prior to Dull Ache and Some People (our current Comicbook Of The Month) was to tweet that we have a new Kevin Huizenga. Far from implying Luke Pearson’s derivative, it’s indicative of its style and a testament to the book’s quality.

There’s one brief scene in a bar which is a brilliantly observed string of cause and effect, an ode to the unobservant which made me smile just as hard as much of it made me sigh. For Pearson employs a considered, spare use of language, and by elegiac I mean moments like this: “The moon creaks. A window cries.”

It’s lovingly printed on thick paper stock and gorgeously drawn with the richest of shadows – so many shadows, silhouettes and shades – and coloured in warm, sunset hues of orange and brown. There are moments caught in the confines of a handbag as a mobile phone lights up unnoticed, suburban shots of disconnection and loneliness presented to perfection, but nothing will prepare you for the final few shots of the cliff, sea and beach, its smooth stones lapped by the tide and an early morning sunrise.

In the modern age of the missed mobile phone call or email which, once sent, is almost always presumed successfully received then either read or ignored – certainly not unseen – I’m now a bit worried after reading as to what my computer has designated ‘spam’ for the doormat above is metaphorical. You might want to check out that folder.

Buy Everything We Miss h/c by Luke Pearson and read the Page 45 review here

SLH

Optic Nerve #12 (£4-25, D&Q) by Adrian Tomine…

At last! New OPTIC NERVE material! Ah, I have to start this review by saying whatever you do, do NOT miss the two-page auto-biographical strip which finishes this issue after the letters pages. It had me literally doubled-up, crying with laughter. It’s basically one long anecdote about Adrian’s love of the single-issue format and how he feels he’s fighting a losing battle in persisting with it. Absolutely hilarious from start to finish and he manages to name-drop about a dozen of his favourite creators and friends in the most amusing ways whilst continually poking fun at his own expense. This issue is worth the price of purchase just for this two-pager alone!

Right, on with the review. The main content of this issue then, comprises of two rather different stories in terms of their tone. First up we have Hortisculpture, which is as good a point as any to let Adrian take over…

“What is it?”
“This is just a proto-type. But it’s a sculpture that I made, with a live plant growing through it.
“In this case, sweet Myrtle, it’s a synthesis of nature and craft, a marriage of the wild and the man-made; a living breathing objet d’art.
“It’s my life’s calling.”

What it really is, is a rather bad idea which Harold the gardener has chanced upon whilst reading about Japanese horticulture in the bath. It’s an idea so bad in conception that everyone else except poor Harold can see it straight away. But with the type of deluded confidence in his invention you regularly see in the comedy round-up sequence of ridiculous ideas on Dragons’ Den, he presses ahead into fiscal oblivion. The story is told primarily as continuous four-panel black and white shorts, two per page and the occasional full-colour-page short, which works well given the story is spread over a number of years in an episodic manner. The art is wonderful as you’d expect from Adrian, though oddly, as Tom and I both commented, it looks far more like Sammy Harkham’s art in this particular tale.

The second main story is called Amber Sweet and here the full colour art is more typically Tomine, though the colour palette and odd side-profile facial expression can also make you think momentarily of Chris Ware. Our nameless female lead bares a rather uncanny resemblance to adult entertainment actress Amber Sweet, and it’s making her college experience rather unpleasant to say the least, as everyone seems pretty convinced they’re one and the same person and Amber Sweet is merely her stage name.

This is a great little short story, which if the theory that everyone really does have a doppelgänger out there is true and that encountering them will only bring you misfortune, then having them be a porn actress certainly isn’t going to help matters! In the end, our Jane Doe feels the only way she can ever get closure is to take a road trip and confront Ms. Sweet.

All in all, issue 12 was well worth the wait (make sure you read the letter pages too) and despite the fact we know he will and love him for it anyway, let’s hope Adrian doesn’t make us wait so long for #13.

Buy Optic Nerve #12 by Adrian Tomine and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Birchfield Close h/c (£9-00, Nobrow) by Jon McNaught…

Fans of PEBBLE ISLAND will simply adore this sequel of sorts as McNaught employs the same beautiful mixture of light red and blue shading, dots and fine lines along with a little solid black here and there to tell another laid-back tale, as two boys climb onto a roof and simply watch the world go by. There’s some really clever little moments in the storytelling that take this work a notch up from PEBBLE ISLAND though, such as when a hot air balloon takes off, we first get a few panels with the boys sat on the rooftop hearing strange noises before the balloon itself appears, which is when we realise the noises must have been the sound of the balloon inflating, followed by a little compressed sequence of panels imagining an adventurous and arduous ballooning journey, before returning to the boys on the rooftop again.

This work is full of imaginative little segueways like that which adds considerably to its charm. The only negative comment once again is the price as, at £9-00 for a little book of relatively few pages, it does seem a bit pricey. I do appreciate that Nobrow, the publishers of this and other recent quality little gems like The Bento Bestiary, HILDAFOLK, Ouroboros and EVERYTHING WE MISS clearly don’t want to skimp on production values, but I can’t help wondering if they aren’t harming their own sales with their ambitious pricing structure.

Buy Birchfield Close h/c by Jon McNaught and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Ouroboros (£6-50, Nobrow) by Ben Newman.

A beautiful book with impeccable production values, an attractive palette of pale greens and rich orange-browns printed matte on a thick cream paper. It’s also a witty tale of transmogrification through mutilation and appropriation which comes full circle at the end of its 24 pages. Now two pounds less expensive than originally, if you’re feeling flush, this is an absolute joy.

Buy Ouroboros by Ben Newman here

SLH

Beowulf (£9-99, Walker Books) by unknown & Gareth Hinds.

“Absolutely splendid. Visceral, chilling, elegiac.”

– customer Chris Gardiner.

Chris Gardiner is something of a Beowulf buff. He’s read the original, come across countless adaptations and this is one of his absolute favourites. Its impact on him was immediate and arresting.

The dragon he called “incandescent” (and it seriously is in a purplish, painted, black-and-white double-page spread that almost sets the paper on fire), and the brutish confrontation between Beowulf and an obsidian Grendel – all muscle, sinew, claws, teeth and wet, globular hair – is a shocking affair after such formal rhetoric. It’s bone-cracking, beam-breaking, bludgeoning stuff which would have superhero fans wet themselves if they cared to look this way. There are three such confrontations as the pages go suddenly silent letting the images roar and bellow for themselves, and my one reservation about this entire adaptation was whether that silence robbed us of some of the best language. “No,” replied Chris, “I can read the original for that.” He’s right, I was wrong, for Hinds has considered his medium – and timing – very carefully.

So from the artist also responsible for adapting THE ODYSSEY, KING LEAR and THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, I give you the ancient legend of Beowulf whose first known manuscript after centuries of oral tradition is dated around 1000 AD. In it King Hrothgar builds a banquet hall full of good cheer and revelry until it’s invaded by Grendel, a moor-dwelling man-beast capable of cleaving a man’s head from his body with naught but his black, bare hands. No matter how well armed are King Hrothgar’s men, by morning they are no more than bloody mashed pulps and so for twelve long years the hall goes empty, the heroic King Hrothgar exiled from the heart of his own Danish dominion.

Then arrives Beowulf from a neighbouring territory, announcing his presence with due deference to the mighty Hrothgar but also a determination to rid him of this pestilence. For he has heard word of the accursed Grendel and, if he be so permitted, he would rout the abomination forever. Single-handedly, with neither arms nor armour, he prepares himself for the predatory Grendel to embark on his nocturnal assault. He is committed.

What may surprise those unaccustomed to the original (if you can call any one such) is that this is but the beginning, for Beowulf has an entire life of such challenges ahead of him. He has a kingdom to rule himself, and threats there too which he must stave off. Even in old age far past the peak of his physical prowess a final battle awaits him.

One of the things I love most about Hinds is that he employs a completely different style for each book he works on. THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, for example, is set out of doors and boasts both a line and colour scheme close to Dave McKean’s in CAGES. Similarly within this single book, there’s a startling demarcation between the sequences set in Beowulf’s youth elsewhere and his old age in his own kingdom.

I do apologise to both Gareth Hinds and Walker Books that it’s taken me this long to discover their works but I’m now catching up and totally committed myself.

Buy Beowulf by unknown & Gareth Hinds and read the Page 45 review here

SLH

P.S. At the time of typing four of our five current copies are signed for free thanks to the monumentally helpful Philippa Morton from Walker Books. When ordering online you can leave us a note saying “make sure it’s signed”. We’ll guarantee it.

Wonder Struck h/c (£22-50, Scholastic Press) by Brian Selznick…

Fans of The Invention Of Hugo Cabret will be pleased to hear that Brian Selznick has most definitely adhered to the maxim of if ain’t broke, don’t fix it with this follow-up work, as once again we are treated to a beguiling mixture of short bursts of prose interspersed throughout a staggering 460 pages of full-page and the occasional double-page spread of black and white artwork. Selznick has stuck to the same illustration style too of heavily lined, cross-hatched pencilling which adds to the moody and mysterious atmospheric nature of the work.

In a change from Hugo Cabret though, here he ambitiously tackles two parallel stories, one of which is comprised entirely of the prose elements, the other of the artwork, so in fact you could read either independently. The prose story set in 1977 tells of a young boy called Ben, puzzled by something he spots in his mother’s room, whereas the wordless artwork story set in 1927, is of a girl called Rose who is intrigued by something she reads in a newspaper. Both children, who share some similarities in their lives including only having one parent, set out to investigate further and ultimately after some difficult adventuring all round, the two stories do come together in an enchanting manner.

The inherently different nature of this work and also Brian’s art may initially confound some comics purists for sure, but it’s worth persevering with, particularly if you are in the mood to try something a bit different, because above all Selznick is a great storyteller. The Invention Of Hugo Cabret won him myriad plaudits and awards, including achieving #1 status on the New York Times bestseller list, and I can certainly see that WONDER STRUCK is set to follow suit.

Buy Wonder Struck h/c by Brian Selznick and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Amulet vol 4: The Last Council (£8-50, Scholastic Press) by Kazu Kibuishi.

“I feel like I just showed up to a final exam I didn’t study for.”

Attention young ladies, this is early and pre-teen series I’m sure to show you first!

Breathtakingly beautiful fantasy informed by a love of Hayao Miyazaki which now goes sky high to the city of Cielis where Emily, her brother, mother and their anthropomorphic allies have finally secured an audience with the Guardian Council. It’s their aid they need to counter the invasion forces of the Elf King, but the Council don’t appear interested in helping or even listening. Instead they are keener to test Emily’s mettle and what she can do as an apprentice Stonekeeper. It is here, after all, buried deep in the catacombs, that the Mother Stone resides: the original source of the seemingly sentient crystals which grant their wielders such impressive telekinetic powers once they’ve learned how to wield them.

Isolated from Emily, her friends grow suspicious immediately: the once splendid city is now little more than a ghost town whose terrified population hides indoors for fear of arrest. Worse still, those implacable guards who sweep former friends or family away are those thought long-dead. Could it be that Emily’s last hope of help is an even worse nightmare than the one she is so desperate to prevent? Secrets and illusions: it will take new and the unlikeliest of allies – like the Elf King’s son himself – to survive the floating isle but even then, it may be that the enemy has planned further ahead than they thought.

As ever there are some magnificent visual flourishes. The city itself, floating high up in the clouds at sunrise, is a spectacular mix of Florentine Renaissance and Roman Baroque architecture. Miskit And Cogsley discover a secret lagoon with its homestead hidden through a cliff-face cave; Emily’s trial will take into misty, aquatic, Tombraider-like caverns and monumental, death-trap halls; and the final double-page spread at night is dazzling.

We learn a little more of the history of the Council and meet one of its former members who knew Emily’s great-grandfather well. We also get to see Emily really let rip, and I wonder if there’s a clue in the shape of a certain telepathic speech balloon. Hmm… I don’t know how long this series is projected to run, but it’s far from finished here. Nor is Emily.

Buy Amulet vol 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi and read the Page 45 review here

SLH

PS Magazine: The Best Of Preventive Maintenances Monthly h/c (£13-99, Abrams Comicart) by Will Eisner…

Humorous and rather zany collection of material from the great man that appeared in the US Army’s Preventative Maintenance magazine between 1951 and 1971, with a view primarily to teaching the soldiers how to get the best out of their equipment. You would think it would be tricky to make such a dry brief come to life, yet Eisner succeeds through his cast of comic characters like the sneaky Joe Dope, the lazy Sgt. Half-Mast McCanick and the improbably glamorous Connie Rodd.

I’m quite sure that was the secret to Eisner’s success with these strips actually, because every serviceman would have known someone like Dope and Sgt. McCanick in their own regiments and would, I’m quite sure, have loved to have a gal like Connie Rodd teach them how to strip down an engine!

This material put me much in mind of Mort Walker’s classic comic strip Beetle Bailey about lazy and inept G.I.s. and given that particular strip started in September 1950, I wonder whether Eisner drew any inspiration from it? Maybe, maybe not, but nonetheless this material has a charm all of its own and it’s easy to see why serving soldiers avidly lapped it up. It’s stood the test of time surprisingly well, and certainly serves to show how a little lateral thinking in the presentation of salient information can probably succeed in inspiring people to do something correctly, particularly when they’ve become inured to their Sgt. Major screaming and shouting at them all day long!

Ps Magazine: The Best Of Preventive Maintenances Monthly hardcover By Will Eisner

JR

Drawing From Memory h/c (£13-50, Scholastic Press) by Allen Say…

Somewhat self-indulgent autobiographical work, which is most definitely illustrated prose rather than comics, even though the prose itself is on the ultra-minimal side. This is in fact a collection of very different illustrations of vastly varying quality, plus some photographs which, in conjunction with a few appropriate comments and recollections, recounts the childhood and early illustrative career of Allen Say. I have no idea whether any of his other award-winning fictional works are actually comics, but sad to say this work probably wouldn’t make me too bothered to find out. Sure it’s a well put together, if a little dull, look back at various pivotal moments in Say’s early life that ensured he ended up becoming an artist, despite his father’s wishes. The favourite thing about it for me was actually the spot-gloss cover of a teenage boy, presumably Say floating in mid-air with a beatific smile on his face against a plain yellow background. If it’s autobiographical comics about a manga master you’re after, then look no further than Jirō Taniguchi and A ZOO IN WINTER.

Buy Drawing From Memory h/c by Allen Say and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Supergod (£13-50, Avatar) by Warren Ellis & Garrie Gastonny…

“In any other situation, Perun would have been a devastating field deployment. Not that the Indian deployment was what you’d call entirely unsuccessful. Astonishing piece of engineering really. Fitting all that inside a man.
“There wasn’t really a man inside there though. Not anyone you’d recognise as human.
“The chunk of the previous iteration’s brain that survived Grenada, the part that’d learned to interface with mechanical limbs and onboard computers… they’d managed to clone that part. A few times. Perun actually had four sub-brains scattered around the container of his body, running his systems or seated as back-ups.
“More than any of them, I think Perun represented the true beginning of the industrialisation of human intelligence.”

Excellently disturbing speculative fiction recounted from the viewpoint of a scientist recording his memories for posterity amidst the smouldering ruins of London – well, pretty much the smouldering ruins of the entire world, in fact. The new arms race for the 21st century turned out to be building superhumans, except this time around the doomsday clock hit midnight and the bells began to well and truly toll, potentially signalling the end of all humanity. It’s science gone barking mad and every Daily Mail reader’s worst nightmare…

Very clever stuff, this from Warren, as our surviving scientist details the various countries’ very different attempts to engineer themselves a superhuman weapon, using science so far beyond the cutting edge, it’s clear all the scientists to a hapless man haven’t got a clue about the potential outcomes of their own experiments. Inevitably, of course, one such experiment finds its way out of a highly secure (ho ho) research bunker and into the world at large, and from that point on the other countries feel they have little choice but to deploy their own superhumans, no matter what their current state of readiness.

I loved the fact that the story is told at breakneck pace as confrontation after confrontation between the various combatants occur, and I also loved the absolutely realistic aspect, to me at least, that were confrontations ever to occur between such highly engineered superbeings, that inevitably one protagonist will always hold an advantage over another, meaning any such conflict is always likely to be resolved in mere seconds. No ridiculously long, drawn-out slug-fests, this is competitive evolution writ large, as ultimately the world can only ever be big enough for one supergod. If the world’s not completely destroyed in the process of working out just who that top dog is, mind you. And once the conflicts are over, what then? Will the victor ultimately view its creators with compassion? Or is humanity now so far beneath them as to be completely insignificant?

Buy Supergod by Warren Ellis & Garrie Gastonny and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22 (£11-99, Harper) by MariNaomi…

Hmm, I did actually quite enjoy the first six pages or so of this, probably because I am a big autobiography fan and I thought, initially at least, that this was something which had great potential, but I have to say it all went rather self-indulgent after that, primarily because it is just so, so one-dimensional. It has the feel of a teenager’s diary, with all that promises (like the hilariously ludicrous UNLOVEABLE), but never rises above that premise at all. It’s just page after page of flatly presented… ‘then I did this, then I did that, then I kissed him, then I fucked this other guy, then I took some drugs and got randomly got fucked by someone else…’.

It just seems all rather childishly prurient to me (and I’m certainly no prude), and perhaps in places even a touch boastful. There’s virtually no attempt at insight, with the exception of about four panels in the entire book, just endlessly repetitive cataloguing of different sexual encounters split into chapter by the name of the relevant protagonist. So in that respect of chapter nomenclature it has one thing in common with Chester Brown’s PAYING FOR IT, but whereas the meticulous recitation of Chester’s sexual encounters are merely a mechanism for an intriguing excavation of Chester’s psyche, laid completely bare for us to explore in excruciatingly honest detail, and in some people’s cases be ridiculously judgemental over, this is just… crass.

If this were written by a man, the same idiots who criticised Brown would be screaming from the rooftops; instead no doubt they’re applauding. If you want to read something autobiographical by a female author that’s incredibly well written and indeed remarkably insightful, look no further than THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL by Phoebe Glockner. Profoundly moving, and also a touch heartbreaking, it is a deeply intuitive analysis of self-destructive teen behaviour.

What redeems this book somewhat though is the art. Yes, it is clearly very heavily influenced by PERSEPOLIS and FORGET SORROW: AN ANCESTRAL TALE (both tremendously powerful and sophisticated autobiographical works by female authors which we will be recommending to people at Page 45 for years to come), but there is also a touch of John Porcellino thrown in there too with the thumbnails of the boys’ heads that each chapter is titled after. Occasionally the style does wobble a bit, and some pages seem oddly jarring in respective to those immediately preceding / following stylistically, but still, the work is by and large, nicely illustrated. It’s just a shame it’s so deeply unimaginative.

Kiss and Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 To 22 By Marinaomi

JR

Moriarty vol 1: The Dark Chamber (£10-99, Image) by Daniel Corey & Anthony Diecidue.

As WWI dawns, Holmes has been dead for 20 years. But Moriarty is blackmailed by MI5 into finding Holmes’ brother Mycroft. Then it all gets a bit action / horror.

Buy Moriarty vol 1: The Dark Chamber by Daniel Corey & Anthony Diecidue here

SLH

Carbon Grey vol 1: Sisters At War (£7-50, Image) by Hoang Nguyen, more & Hoang Nguyen, more.

Before reading the book it felt like the sort of material Humanoids or Games Workshop would be interested in: big, painted sky fights with Zeppelins, futuristic rifles, Germanic insignia and head-shots clean through the skull. Okay, messily through the skull and leaving very little head on those shoulders. Shampoo is certainly redundant for some here.

I can see a specific appeal for Games Workshop fans too, but in reality although there is much barely contained, oversized boobage (and some knowing jokes about that) and a severing of heads, it’s a murky melange of artists and writers working so at odds with each other that the end result is barely decipherable without the aid of their original solicitation copy, to wit:

“At the birth of the industrial age a great war rages. Into chaos twins are born Mathilde and Giselle, the Sisters Grey. Beautiful yet deadly the sisters are sworn to protect the Kaiser, ruler of Mitteleuropa. When the Kaiser is found dead Giselle is accused of his murder. Pursued by her sister and hunted by the enemy Giselle must clear her name and unravel the prophecy of the Carbon Grey before history itself is rewritten.”

Thank Christ there are no prophecies in my life. I don’t know about you but mine’s quite complicated enough as it is without turning it into a cryptic crossword puzzle and second-guessing my way round Sainsbury’s.

It does boast some genuinely impressive, painted art and the odd flourish of the unexpected, but also the most monstrously mixed storytelling whereby the voice-over persuades you that you’re looking at the protagonist being addressed rather than one waiting around the corner. It’s impossible to tell who’s who, what’s happening or how. It jumps and jerks and lurches around like a golem with St. Vitus Dance. I suspect it was created in snippets over a period of time with no real conviction that it would ever be required to join up and present itself coherently. A bit like myself at 3am, massacring minstrels on Assassin Creed: Brotherhood and pretending that the morning will never come.

Basically, though: there should have been three Sisters Grey in any given generation but this one boasts four because the last to be born had a twin. That is Mathilde, and she is a force for revolution.

Buy Carbon Grey vol 1: Sisters At War by Hoang Nguyen, more & Hoang Nguyen, more and read the Page 45 review here

SLH

Crossed vol 2: Family Values (£14-99, Avatar) by David Lapham & Javier Barreno…

Of CROSSED VOLUME ONE I often tell customers that it was the sickest thing I read in 2010. And I mean that in a positive way! It is perhaps inevitable in the switch in writer from Ennis to Lapham with this volume, that Lapham was always going to try and take things even further. At this point I should therefore say he certainly succeeded as this is truly, truly vile. It might even, just possibly, be too much for me in the sense that in ramping up the shock element even further, it does begin this time around slightly to feel as though it’s all being done purely for effect. And that’s even allowing for the fact there was a man shouting “Horsecock!” whilst waving around a horse’s cock in volume one!

It’s just that whereas in volume one there was always an undercurrent of extremely dark humour to offset the sheer, mind-melting horror of this particular corner of post-apocalyptica, in volume two I didn’t find any humour at all. And that, perhaps, just tips things over the edge for me personally. A good comparison in my mind would be that the first Saw film, and arguably also the second, had an intriguing storyline that justified the extreme gore, whereas films three onwards were pure torture porn for the sake of it, and thus for at least unwatchable rubbish. I don’t know, I mean Lapham is a really talented writer who does love to go places other writers wouldn’t ever think of going e.g. YOUNG LIARS, and granted if there is one series in which a writer is entitled to be completely let off the leash it is this one, but even so… I suspect then, as I am rather broadminded and most definitely do enjoy a good dose of horror and / or violence in my entertainment, that this volume will divide those who enjoyed volume one. I‘m genuinely looking forward to hearing from customers who read this particular volume as to what their opinions are.

So… once again, it’s not the actions of the Crossed which are the most shocking, but the survivors: in this case Joe, the family patriarch whose relatives and also several other survivors look to for leadership and guidance, in the relatively idyllic valley hideaway they’ve managed to establish for themselves. Unfortunately for all concerned Joe isn’t adverse to abusing his position whenever the mood takes him, which seems to be pretty often. Eventually one family member finds the courage to stand up to him, then add the Crossed into the mix at the most inopportune moment and, of course, much carnage ensues.

I actually preferred the storyline in the CROSSED 3D short, also penned by Lapham, as there was some genuine plot to it compared to here, though even that also did stretch the realms of plausibility a touch too far towards the end of the story. I haven’t read any of the issues for volume three yet, also penned by Lapham, so I can’t make any comment on where things go after this volume… though judging by the covers I’ve seen as they’ve been coming in one dreads to think…

Buy Crossed vol 2: Family Values by David Lapham & Javier Barreno and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Secret Warriors vol 6: Wheels Within Wheels h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Alessandro Vitti.

Final volume, and I can promise you that all will be explained!

Alternatively: final volume, and all I can promise you is one long explanation. That’s all this is. The Secret Warriors do actually appear in one panel, though, so, you know…

<sigh>

Buy Secret Warriors vol 6: Wheels Within Wheels h/c by Jonathan Hickman & Alessandro Vitti here

SLH

Uncanny X-Men: Breaking Point s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Carlos Pacheco, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson.

“No, I think it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ‘smile for the camera’.”

From the fiercely funny writer of PHONOGRAM, DARK AVENGERS: ARES, THOR and JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, Gillen’s solo run kicks off with how you go about spin-doctoring a world-renowned supervillain and species separatist called Magneto whom the world once saw levelling New York now that he’s living with the X-Men on an island off San Francisco. Okay, it wasn’t actually Magneto in New York, it was an impostor, but you try telling New Yorkers that. The terrorist’s certainly responsible for plenty more, and his sense of humour doesn’t do him any favours. If he’s actually joking. Here’s Kate Kildare, a woman of quick wit who doesn’t do ‘intimidated’ in spite of Magneto’s distaste for the P.R. he calls propaganda. Or maybe he’s just irked that someone’s better at it than he’s tried to be. I like her already:

“’P.R.’ was coined by Edward Bernays in the ‘20s. ‘Propaganda’ had somehow picked up a bad reputation in the war. So he started calling it P.R. instead. Plain brilliant rebranding: something everyone with an ounce of sanity despises transformed into something just about palatable. Even necessary. That’s what we’ve got to do to you. We have to make this work. And if we don’t, you need to leave this island immediately. Because if you stay, everyone’s dead. Sooner or later, you’re going to attract something even you can’t stop.”

In all honesty rebranding Magneto would take a miracle: an Act of God – one that only Magneto could prevent. Now remind me, what exactly is the tectonic history of San Francisco…?

The first issue here is so well played with gloriously glossy art from Pacheco. After that Terry Dodson takes over a direct follow up to Joss Whedon’s final fourth volume of ASTONISHING X-MEN during which Colossus and co. toppled an entire alien civilisation called Breakworld. Now the warrior race is seeking sanctuary and the X-Men feel obliged to take them in. What could possibly go wrong with that?

It’s a story about pride, dignity and trust; leadership, love and relationships. It focuses heavily on Colossus and Kitty Pryde whose own relationship has already twice been shattered by either one of them being presumed dead. Kitty herself spent an age alone stranded in space after Breakworld attempted to break planet Earth with a very, very big bullet. There’s a lot of healing to be done on all sides, and Gillen explores almost every aspect you can imagine of this complex new dynamic of a race now seeking sanctuary in the land of their conquerors.

“It must be hard for them. They never had to get used to being scared. By their rules, they probably think we’re about to slaughter them… Katya, what do we do? How can we even start?”
“Same as any relationship, big guy. We start by being interested. Being interested and listening.”

But if you think that sounds a bit heavy, I can assure you that all hell will break loose before very long, and Kitty will have to almost as much running as she did on her first night alone in the X-Mansion. Also Gillen is, as I’ve said, a very funny man so back to the opening chapter and here’s another recent recruit, King Namor The Submariner, getting pretty peeved at extortionists disguised as A.I.M. agents in their gauzed, honey-coloured hoods threatening to start an earthquake:

“Your arrogance sickens me, beekeeper. Only Namor has the ability to make the earth move. And reserves that privilege for one woman at a time. Unless they have experimental friends.”

What an imperious rex.

Buy Uncanny X-Men: Breaking Point s/c by Kieron Gillen & Carlos Pacheco, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson and read the Page 45 review here

SLH

New X-Men vol 5 (Digest) (£10-99, Marvel) by Grant Morrison & Keron Grant, Frank Quitely.

Emma Frost: “Hypercortisone D. They call it “Kick,” God bless the little dears. It makes them feel like movie stars, being directed by God, on location in Heaven… We found this dispenser outside the Common Room window. I’ve tried it, of course… in the interests of science. I felt angelic and violently insane for five hours. I foresee trouble if this becomes widespread.”

*

Quentin Quire: “You’re always encouraging us to dream… I just wondered what would happen if one of us had a dream you didn’t like?”

*

Charles Xavier: “These clothes, the angry slogans, are just the outward signs… he’s developing a small cult following. With a dangerous anti-human undercurrent. If any of our students were found to be involved in these latest killings… I’ve always feared something like this – trouble from within.”

*

When Jumbo Carnation, flamboyant clothes designer and mutant cause célèbre, becomes the latest victim of anti-mutant hatred, it’s one last nail in the coffin of tolerance for some of the younger students at Professor Xavier’s school. They’ve seen 16,000 mutants massacred in Genosha with human technology, their self-proclaimed mentor has been trying to win the battle for integration and peaceful co-existence for years, and to Quentin Quire, a bitter teenage with all the dopamine that comes with those years, the goal is no nearer to being accomplished than it was when Xavier began. All it takes is one profound emotional trauma and a blast of Kick, and it’s going to grow nastier than any of the students or teachers can imagine.

Morrison’s brilliance throughout this series has been to refine the spectacle, mechanics and melodrama of the superpowered mutant as outsider, and marry them to historical and contemporary social issues, popular youth trends, and throw in a lot of style while he’s at it. For the Genoshan genocide, read Holocaust; for the assault on Jumbo, read queer bashing; and then there’s always been that logic-defying racism within the football and music camp, when key players in both are quite patently black. All this and so much more – from reclaiming the language and imagery of bigotry, to recreational drugs, globalisation and modern evolutionary theory – has been tailored to fit this mutant soap opera and turn it into something refreshingly relevant and deliciously witty. And the icing on the cake, if you’ll excuse the pun, has to be the sybaritic Emma Frost, perpetually detached, self-important and superficial, whose complacent calm in the heart of the bloody storm is rendered by Quitely with total panache:

“It looks like you were right about Master Quire and his band of bad haircuts. This is quite appalling!”
“We told you, Miss Frost! We knew he’d ruin our Open Day! He wants to make a mess of everything.”
“I’m sure it’s just another petulant cry for help, girls. I don’t know what it is with young people these days, but I do miss the imagination and verve of the little zealots I used to teach. There was a wild, romantic light in their eyes and they threw themselves into the fray at every turn. Now it’s all bored stares, vague demands and a few broken windows. Hardly the stuff of mutant legend.”
“But weren’t they all killed, Miss Frost? The students you used to teach?”
“There were one or two fatalities, yes… but for heaven’s sake, Esme. Let’s try not to dwell on the down side.”

Imagination, flair and a keen fashion sense – when they’re on top form Quitely and Morrison make reading the X-Men a chic thrill for grown-ups rather than a guilty addiction for the undemanding.

[Editor’s note: this reprints material that was originally in RIOT AT XAVIERS which was once book four!]

Buy New X-Men vol 5 by Grant Morrison & Keron Grant, Frank Quitely and read the Page 45 review here

SLH

Demon Knights #1 (£2-25, DC) by Paul Cornell & Diogenes Neves.

“I come from an island where men are castrated – and the women are pleased.”

Ladies, I invite to you introduce yourselves in precisely that manner to someone at sometime this week, then advise me of your reception.

So old, we’re told, but if I may be so bold, here be something new: a dragon age of sword and sorcery Paul Cornell-style, irreverently puncturing its form with contemporary slang and slotting its recombined cast of DC’s immortal entities into new roles and a fresh environment. So it is that Jason Blood, Madame Xanadu and Vandal Savage find themselves reminiscing over a pint down the local tavern just as the locality finds itself the target of a queen’s invading horde. Sir Ystin, Al Jabr and the charming Exoristos – she of the gelded isle – have barely introduced themselves when the questing queen’s outriders burst in(n) through the doors which Savage has already vandalised and find themselves burned by the bad breath of Etrigan. If our sorcerous six want to wassail, they must smite for their right to party.

SLH

Red Lanterns #1 (£2-25, DC) by Peter Milligan & Ed Benes.

“What are you doing to my cat?”

Best line in the book as Atrocitus bursts through a spaceship’s hull to rescue his fellow feline Red Lantern. After that it’s mostly him raging about not being angry enough to successfully lead his legion of wrathful followers. Cue secret origin or something. Meh. Out of the three DC New 52s I read this week, two of them began with scenes of torture. Just saying.

SLH

Suicide Squad #1 (£2-25, DC) by Adam Glass & Federico Dallocchio, Ransom Getty, Scott Hanna.

This was actually one long torture sequence as the Suicide Squad – prisoners paroled to execute others – are tested to the limits in order to extract the name of their covert commander. We learn how Harlequin, Deadshot and El Diablo came to be banged up in the first place, and just how voracious King Shark’s appetite is. King Shark, by the way, is an anthropomorphic hammerhead of few words but much munching, and I anticipate this becoming a running joke. Him, I quite liked. The torture scene art had some fine light and textures; the visuals outside that arena of pain were horrible.

SLH

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up if they’re s/cs of h/cs etc. Regardless, you can now go straight to these books in the shopping area simply by clicking on their names

Habibi h/c (£20-00, Faber&Faber) by Craig Thompson

The Armed Garden And Other Stories h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by David B.

Don Quixote vol 1 (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Miguel De Cervantes & Rob Davis

The Man Who Grew His Beard (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Oliver Schrauwen

The Magic Of Reality h/c (£20-00, Bantam Press) by Richard Dawkins & Dave McKean

Evelyn Evelyn: A Tragic Tale In Two Tomes (Slipcased Ed’n) (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Amanda Palmer, Jason Webley & Cynthia Von Buhler

Prison Pit Book 3 (£9-99, Fantagraphics) by Johnny Ryan

The Astonishing Secret Of Awesome Man h/c (£13-50, B&B) by Michael Chabon & Jake Parker

Zahra’s Paradise h/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Amir & Khalil

Chew vol 4: Flambé (£9-99, Image) by John Layman & Rob Guillory

The Eye Of The World: The Graphic Novel vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Tor) by Robert Jordan, Chuck Dixon & Chase Conley

Ruse: The Victorian Guide To Murder (£10-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Mirco Pierfederici, Minck Oosterveer

Morning Glories vol 2 (£9-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma

Clive Barker’S Hellraiser: Pursuit Of The Flesh (£7-50, Boom!) by Clive Barker & Leonardo Manco, Stephen Thompson

Mass Effect: Evolution vol 2 (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Maac Walters, John Jackson Miller & Omar Francia

Demon City Shinjuku (Prose) (£10-99, DMP) by Hideyuki Kikuchi & Jun Suemi

Halo: Fall Of Reach: Bootcamp s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Reed & Felix Ruiz

Marvel Illustrated: Dracula (£12-99, Marvel) by Bram Stoker & Roy Thomas, Dick Giordano

Spider-Man: The Vengeance Of Venom (£25-99, Marvel) by David Michelinie, Peter David & Mark Bagley, Jim Craig, Paris Cullins, Erik Larsen, Ron Lim, Aaron Lopresti, Tod Smith

Ultimate Comics Thor s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Carlos Pacheco

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 3: Death Of Spider-Man Prelude S/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli, David LaFuente, Lan Medina, Ed Tadeo, Elena Casagrande, Chris Samnee, Justin Ponsor, Joleele Jones, Sunny Gho, Sakti Yuwono, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Scottie Young, Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Hayate Combat Butler vol 18 (£6-99, Viz) by Kenjiro Hata

Art Of Metal Gear Solid h/c (£18-99, IDW) by Ashley Wood

Blue Estate vol 1 (£9-99, Image) by Viktor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne & Viktor Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Robert Valley, Paul Maybury

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