Archive for November, 2011

Reviews December 2011 week one

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011


No one is safe: neither stand-up comedians nor fall-down pensioners; the police, the obese or those now deceased. Prepare for pointless conflict! There are dozens and dozens of maniacal short stories here filled with frenzy, fury and fist-fights, all effortlessly insane with comedy. We’re talking ART D’ECCO on amphetamines, SUGAR BUZZ on a sugar buzz.

 - Stephen on Milk & Cheese (expanded edition)

Solipsistic Pop #4 (£10-00) by Takayo Akiyama, Kristyna Baczynski, Dan Berry, Joe Blann, Stephen Collins, Rob Davis, Paul Harrison Davis, Joe Decie, John Cei Douglas, Oliver East, Nick Edwards, Marc Ellerby, Paul Francis, Katie Green, Isabel Greenberg, Howard Hardiman, Ste Hitchen, Tom Humberstone, Joe List, Lizz Lunney, John Miers, Kathryn Newman, Luke Pearson, Philippa Rice, Jenny Robins, Edward Ross, Alison Sampson, Anna Saunders, Matthew Sheret.

Maps – on the subject thereof. Maps help us plan a safe journey, discover where we went wrong and work out a way to get ourselves right back on track; they put us in context – geographical or historical like a family tree – and when you think about it, comics themselves are routes mapped out in panels, telling a story like an album of photographs.

The epitome of “lovingly hand-crafted”, this is the finest British comics anthology I can ever recall with most luxurious production values which speak of a true love of comics. And what’s more it’s a fun artefact with several layers to be peeled away before you begin to approach the contents.

First there’s a folder screen-printed in two tones of blue, a précis or prelude to a story within of a planet in danger of destruction. Its inside flaps explain the symbols employed, and it’s vital you know that “Comicbook readers share ninety-seven percent of DNA with humans”. These same flaps house three postcards (officially – we’ve added another of the cover and a rum badge to boot): one is an “I Spy” game of outdoors bingo which will come to no surprise to fans of Oliver East’s TRAINS ARE… MINT and BERLIN AND THAT etc.; a second employs a secret layer of glow-in-the-dark ink which when suffused with lamplight reveals the full story; the third is printed on a pulpy paper packed with seeds. Soak it, plant it, and see what springs forth! Destination Inspiration, what will take root?

I’m ever so sorry but we’re not done yet, for there’s a fold-out dustjacket in the vein of Chris Ware’s to MCSWEENEY’S 13 in which Kate Green provides a free-flowing collage of her life and craft which is evidently inspired by classical facades, candle-lit baths, old electric cookers and bees, trees and tiny teapots. As to the actual cover underneath, it’s a Metro-style map re-routed by Stephen Collins so that casual thoughts and life experiences are now stationed at stops. When will you decide it is time to change platforms or get off completely? You may be in for a bumpy ride.

“If I Look In The Window
“I Can Check Her Out
“Without Looking Weird
“Shit
“Busted
“Probably Thinks I’m A Rapist Now”

No way am I getting off at Busted. They sucked.

So now we come to the contents themselves: some of our favourite creators like Lizz Lunney, Marc Ellerby and Philippa Rice, with new discoveries employing lime, olive and pistachio green. Stephen Collins is back in a quiet condensation of the life and times of one Phyllis Pearsall, invenstress of the London A-Z, while Joe Decie (ACCIDENTAL SALAD) explores the dual territories of Always and Never: early praise and prohibitions which prove that Never land is a much bigger and more cluttered country than its northern neighbour Always. Always share and never pull hair – quite right! Never leave a mate behind, either. But wander round the seemingly limitless sprawling suburbs and back alleys of Never land and amongst the scant sage advice are the doleful dead-ends of Never Say You’re Sorry and Never, Ever Dance!

Prohibitions breed inhibitions and those would have been my favourite four pages were it not for John Cei Douglas’ tour de force ‘Footnotes’. Each silent page from the creator of BUFFALO ROOTS is a perfectly balanced composition of light, line and colour, the first three of which each find focus by dint of a borderless spotlight on a young couple together on a train station platform over a period of time. These are surrounded by train journeys to and fro, some shared, some solo, gazing out of the window with dreamy optimism or more melancholic doubt. Rarely have I seen these scenes through a carriage window so well conveyed; similarly the station and platforms themselves which, when empty, echo with a real sense of space. The expressions are as subtle as they are economical – we’re talking Andi Watson at the top of his game – but alas I can say little more when I have a dozen more sentences in me which desperately want to explain why this tale is so super. SPOILERS etc.

Small World by Alison Sampson, by contrast, is startling for its precise line, meticulous detail and wide open space even in the most cluttered apartment. Arrestingly, it begins with the line, “We’re letting you go”. Jenny Robins is in memory mode, casting her mind back to old photographs and the excitement of opening the unknown quantity which was the packet you collected from the developers, while Isabel Greenberg is in a far more fanciful mood, regaling us with the tale of early cartographer Mancini Pannini and his Genius Monkeys who (may have) produced maps of elaborate beauty, each of which was functionally useless! There are some truly surreal journeys on offer including the aspirations of an egg, but Matthew Sheret and editor/curator Tom Humberstone bring things firmly back down to earth by taking sober stock of an evening’s recent riots, mapping the events precisely across each street.

With a total of twenty-six stories inside the front covers, there is of course far, far more to explore yourselves. The only disappointment was the scant legibility of the otherwise exemplary pages by Luke Pearson (EVERYTHING WE MISS) who details his creative environment and mindset in a diagrammatical fashion reminiscent of Chris Ware, but we’re most of us going to need a magnifying glass later in life so I went out and bought one now. Well worth it!

At the time of typing we have SOLIPSISTIC POP 3, 2 and 1 still in stock. Supplies very limited.

SLH

Buy Solipsistic Pop #4 and read the Page 45 review here

The Strumpet #1 (£5-00, self-published) by Ellen Lindna, Jeremy Dennis Day, Mardou, Kripa Joshi, Patrice Aggs, Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg, Tanya Meditzky, Mardou, Katie Haegele, Maartje Schalkx, Lucy Sweet, Katie Haegele, Emily Ryan Lerner, Megan Kelso.

56-page all-female jam-packed anthology (apricot, raspberry and plum) on the theme of dressing up, but do hold your horses for these laydeez do comics like nobody else and I wouldn’t expect anything straightforward. Jeremy ‘Dennis’ Day, for example, is away with the fairies, dressing paper dolls with her sister while being plagued by demands from the imaginary Little Folk to update wardrobes too:

“By comparison, the little people were ugly, thread-bare, hopelessly outmoded. Bad clothes, rubbish shoes, musty, fusty and dull as November dishwater.”

“November dishwater” – one artfully placed word makes all the difference. Her sister suggests Sindy Clothes. “I tried that,” replies Jeremy, “They said they don’t do hand-me-downs.” Jeremy had been labouring away on a Dorset farm and her self-image and body were suffering as a result, and I guess this is the story of how she first discovered glamour in more ways than one. I just knew that her pages in NELSON would feature her trademark blue hair!

Ellen Lindna falls in love with the sari, and Kripa Joshi tells a seemingly traditional fairy tale with words while her pictures portray an altogether more modern affair, but the two dovetail so neatly I smiled throughout. Patrice Aggs’ Three Graces are far from divine in a chaotic, half-hour photo-shoot delineated with the sort of crisp, delicate lines you’re more likely to find in a European album. Tanya Meditzky, on the other hand… well, it’s Tanya MILKKITTEN Meditzky, isn’t it? It’s a close-up commentary as if filmed for TV about a key moment in British history on 5th November 2003 as Prince William and Kate Middleton share a plate of fish, chips and peas, and turn it into a military campaign waged with knives, forks, and quick, coy glances. There’s even a map of their manoeuvres so that historians can follow their advances and retreats across the battered plate before Kate lets loose with a blitzkrieg assault which secures her immediate victory and, potentially, the royal throne.

Finally for now, WHORES OF MENSA founding member Mardou weighs in with a mischief-ridden guide to the prospects of finding a beau amongst the collectors at a comicbook convention who might still be in ‘Mint Condition’:

“There’s no shortage of interesting folk to draw. I mean – take this guy! He’s got his little “wish list”! Hey, buddy how ‘bout putting me on that list, heh heh!”

Really?! There’s an interview, reviews of books that they love and far, far more as our Strumpets dress to impress, shop ‘til they shop and regale us with their undoubted expertise… after a fashion.

“This head-band is cute.”
“I think that’s a tube top…”

SLH

Buy The Strumpet #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Everything vol 1: Comics From Around 1978-81 h/c (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry.

Lynda Barry seems much invigorated following her renaissance in PICTURE THIS and Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month WHAT IT IS, and provides an introduction for her earliest comic strips in much the same style. What’s fascinating is that as far back as 1981 in the GIRLS & BOYS collection reprinted here Lynda was already providing instruction for catalysing creativity in exactly the same fashion as her last two books.

Her own early inspirations included Dr. Seuss, and I don’t think that ever left her because one of the most striking elements of her work here is she is at play – just like her TWO SISTERS, their imaginations running wild much to the irritation of a nagging, hypercritical, “Don’t do this!” mother, constantly trying to stifle the stuffing out of them. The Dr. Seuss books play with words in a way that’s liberating, letting them lead the story and one of the revelations Barry writes about when reading the likes of Ripley’s BELIEVE IT OR NOT (about human and animal oddities) and Robert Crumb’s ZAP! is that there are no constraints in what’s fit for comics.

All of which goes a long way to explaining the totally unfettered nature of the early Ernie Pook strips complete with – yes, you guessed it – a nagging mother, off-stage as always. There also are quizzes (“Test Your IQ Now! Which one would you eat?? 1. The dice 2. Miss Tina’s Dentures”) and tests:

“Test Your Self-Respect – a scientific system of testing developed especially for Earthlings.
 Check one:
 A. I’m so awful
 B. I’m so awful
 C. I’m so awful
 Why? (In your own words)………..”

Once more with the interactivity used throughout for satirical purposes, her dense, 8-panel checklist about Finding Your Perfect Love-Mate being a veritable essay in female subservience from which:

“Is It Love? How Can I Tell?
 1. Which of these things can you no longer do? A. Anything B. Everything.
 2. Do you think about “him” all of the time? Yes. No.
 3. Do you think about “him” all of the time? Yes. No.
 4. If he wrecks your car through inexcusable carelessness you say: A. That’s okay. B. Gee. C. Oh just leave it there, would you like some dinner?
 5. Do your find yourself agreeing with everything he says? A. Well, he and I do have a lot in common. B. If he says so. C. I don’t know, ask him.”

By the time we come to that final section, BOYS & GIRLS, Lynda Barry has really let rip with mean mouths full of tiny, sinister teeth, thick black lips and wild, ugly punkish hair as the battle of the sexes erupts into a full-scale war, while school and home life both get a great deal grimmer. By comparison the TWO SISTERS episodes – at first starring Evette and Rita aged 9, then Shirley and Judy aged 16 – seem positively dainty with prettily patterned wallpaper, sofas and dresses… although if you look closely Rita aged nine once wears a dress printed with scissors and in another strip I’m pretty sure those are either matches or cigarettes! During either period Barry’s very well versed in the lies we pass off as truths to impress others, those we tell simply to get out of trouble or with the sole purpose of landing others right in it – like, err, babies don’t feel pain! It’s very, very violent, which makes the accompanying photo from 1981 of Lynda signing BOYS & GIRLS to a mother and daughter all the funnier. The book signing appears to have been held in a bar, just like Page 45’s own first signing with Roberta Gregory a week before we opened. We should do that again sometime.

SLH

Everything vol 1: Comics From Around 1978-81 hardcover

Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin.

“Gin makes a man mean!”
“Everyone booze up and riot!”

Massive, album-sized upgrade for barely more money, so much of this material has never been collected before, and the extras are unbelievable!

Love them with money or they’ll hate you with hammers! These dairy products gone bad are educating America – one moron at a time! This isn’t a review, it’s a misappropriation of Dorkin’s own comedy. If you love Jamie Smart (BEAR, UBU BUBU) then you need this book: scathing satire, mass destruction, immolation, incineration and if you’re an old-skool comic shop selling nothing more than superheroes to the painfully maladjusted, then you are in for a thorough kicking. No one is safe: neither stand-up comedians nor fall-down pensioners; the police, the obese or those now deceased. Prepare for pointless conflict! There are dozens and dozens of maniacal short stories here filled with frenzy, fury and fist-fights, all effortlessly insane with comedy. We’re talking ART D’ECCO on amphetamines, SUGAR BUZZ on a sugar buzz.

We used to have the gorgeous vinyl-figure set which included implements of devastation. On the back was the first new Milk & Cheese strip in yoinks although you could probably guess what happened (see “implements of devastation”). It’s reprinted here on page 214, concluding with the commendable exhortation, “You’re either buyin’ or you’re dyin’!”

On top of the previously collected strips, these are the upgrades:

80 pages of comics that have never been collected before. A 24-page section featuring all the colour M&C strips, a cover gallery (not just MILK & CHEESE but also DEADLINE, COMICS JOURNAL etc.), pin-ups, trading card an merchandise art. I have the beer mat that screams “Get that drink –“ “ – The @*#! Off of us!” A 24-page B&W supplemental section featuring pin-ups ups (neat Jill Thompson SCARY GODMOTHER crossover), t-shirt designs and more. The rare 1997 M&C Special Edition 16-page mini-comic featuring the expanded “Darth Vader Overdrive” strip and extras. A glossy new print quality that doesn’t suck!

You should also follow the man on Twitter. One of my favourites:

“Oh, comic book industry. You’ve gained so much experience, when will you level up?”

SLH

Buy Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Or else!

The Adventures Of Hergé h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Jose-Louis Bocquet, Jean-Luc Fromental & Stanislas Barthelemy…

Enjoyable biography of the creator of Tintin, frequently referencing the periods round the creation of each Tintin album. Hergé certainly had an interesting life, hobnobbing with Belgian royalty, attracting the ire of the likes of the Japanese government, glad-handing various celebs such as Andy Warhol and having many a dalliance with various ladies too along the way, often concurrently or even whilst married, the naughty boy. The art, appropriately enough, is very much a homage to his style.

JR

Buy The Adventures Of Hergé h/c and read the Page 45 review here

1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die (£20-00, Octopus) by various and edited by Paul Gravett.

You might imagine I’ve had a better head start than most. However, Paul Gravett is as ever so enthusiastic, so eloquent and persuasive that for every review that made me nod in agreement, having shared the same experience, another pops up which made me wonder how – after forty years of reading comics and twenty years promoting them professionally – I could possibly have missed out on that particular graphic novel! Admittedly not all books covered here are in print or in English, so there’s hope for me yet.

At 960 gloriously illustrated pages, this book measures over two inches thick, and on top of the reviews, Paul peppers most entries with extra nuggets of information from similar reads to original publishers, original language and awards garnered. What will relieve or frustrate certain readers is Paul’s admirable discipline: no review of even the most complex graphic novel is allowed to sprawl over its half-page limit. It couldn’t: this is two inches thick! If you want a more in-depth analysis of Urusawa’s PLUTO, for example, well that’s what our website is for: eight reviews for its eight volumes! On the other hand, however proud I may be of my review of Simone Lia’s FLUFFY, Gravett manages in a few short paragraphs to nail the essence of the book better than I did with much longer, rambling ones and several lines of quoted dialogue.

Paul, don’t forget, is the country’s ultimate ambassador for comics who gave us GRAPHIC NOVELS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE, MANGA: 60 YEARS OF JAPANESE COMICS and, with Peter Stanbury, GREAT BRITISH COMICS and THE LEATHER NUN AND OTHER INCREDIBLY STRANGE STORIES. He’s done it again: another beautiful book for us to sell which then persuades its readers to buy even more! I know my own wish list just got a whole lot longer.

The selections are arranged in order of publication date and run right up to Craig Thompson’s HABIBI which only arrived on our shelves three months ago! Almost every book mentioned is an absolute winner with the sole exception that I’ve spotted so far of WALKING THE DOG (pretend Paul’s right and I’m wrong, and please, please buy our only copy!) and although corporate superheroes are thin on the ground, I’m delighted to see my two favourites, Millar and Hitch’s ULTIMATES and Vaughan and Harris’ EX MACHINA, sitting proudly side by side. In fact, here’s a fun little game you can play: read what Gravett wrote then fire the same title or creator into our search engine in the shopping area (you can search by either, and neither needs be exact – best search engine ever!) and compare notes. Or buy. I do wish Paul had mentioned that!

SLH

Buy 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die and read the Page 45 review here

Derek The Sheep h/c (£7-99, Bloomfield) by Gary Northfield.

Signed and sketched in for free!

Yes, this book is now sold out at the publishers and we can only buy it directly from Gary himself, so I can assure you that all our copies now and in the future will have this demented man’s mark left indelibly inside the front cover.

From the pages of THE BEANO, then, thirteen full-colour short stories running at roughly half a dozen pages each in which Derek the sheep, surely one of the most sedentary animals alive, is traumatised by bees, bubblegum, bulls and bulrushes (oh, he finds a way!), forever tempted as he is by that grass which is always greener. “This is a really bad idea, Derek,” could come from any of these disasters waiting to happen wherein he digs himself deeper and deeper into doo-doo. Once quite literally.

Sheep are inherently funny as the eight-year-old in me instinctively discerned, for my own first comics featured a sheep called Shoop, for surely that it is its singular form? I only created Shoop because there was a void in the market back then. This is aimed squarely at eight-year-olds so, trust me, they want this! See also VERN & LETTUCE which won this year’s award as voted for by Leeds’ school children. Do you see what I’m saying?

SLH

Derek The Sheep hardcover

Batman: The Black Mirror h/c (£22-50, DC) by Scott Snyder & Jock, Francesco Francavilla.

As Grant Morrison pointed out in SUPERGODS, right from the earliest issues the Batman books featured a striking amount of drugs and mental illness. So it is here in a genuinely chilling story arc which spans the last eleven issues of DETECTIVE COMICS before the DC New 52 relaunch, and if you’re one of the thousands of readers who hopped on board with Scott Snyder’s BATMAN #1, I commend Scott’s work to you here in the strongest possible terms.

The Prodigal Son returns in the form of Commissioner Jim Gordon’s errant son James, dredging up memories and the nagging suspicion in his father – and the absolute conviction in half-sister Barbara – that he has always been “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. Now he returns with his cards on the table, confessing to his father that last year he admitted himself to Houston General’s Psychiatric Centre, was diagnosed as psychopathic, but is now on a clinical trial for a drug called Diaximyne. All early results indicate it’s a medical breakthrough, successfully stimulating peptide production in the part of the brain which experiences empathy. Barbara warns Gordon to go with her guts, but he cannot resist the glimmer of hope that she’s wrong. Is she?

The truth is far from straight forward. So well does Snyder play the evidence and exonerations, the memories and misdirections, that you’re in for some serious surprises as is Dick Grayson (still Batman alongside Bruce Wayne who’s busy recruiting internationally – hey, you do have to delegate). Indeed, one of the refreshing elements Snyder’s introduced here is Grayson’s own empathy which may prove his enemy – he’s not the same Batman that Bruce was. If that wasn’t enough, the subplot simmering steadily along boils right over when the Joker begins babbling and – like everything else here – it’s very far from random. Oh, how satisfying to read it in retrospect and see all the links laid early on!

As to ‘Hungry City’, dead in the centre here, this was the first time in years that we had to restock DETECTIVE COMICS: page after page of stunning artwork from Jock (HELLBLAZER: PANDEMONIUM, LOSERS) so meticulously composed that they will blow your brains out and blend them in a mixer before serving them back to you in a heady cocktail that is 99% proof and 1% circumstantial evidence. I mean it: not just the panels-within-a-panel, free-fall composition I raved about when the relevant issue first appeared, but an opening Killer Whale shot that totally redefines the term ‘splash page’. I’m loathe to waste any review, so this is what I wrote:

“So. You love the company you work for and you turn up for work two hours early. It’s that kind of a bank (rare these days) that’s both beloved and a six-year success story. Then the doors finally open and you’re confronted with the gaping jaws of an oversized, dead female Orca, beached on marble and now swimming in its own saliva. #badforbusiness as you’d say on Twitter. It’s also an elaborate message to squeaky-clean bank chief Sonia Branch whose personal assistant flops from the Killer Whale’s belly. Talk about being consumed by your competitors. But is it the bank’s competitors or someone else responsible for the sea-themed sabotage? Dick Grayson is called in to investigate by Commissioner Gordon only to be told that Sonia’s changed her name of late. She used to be Sonia Zucco, daughter of Anthony “Fats” Zucco. That’s the man who killed Dick’s parents.”

Coming back to the wider story arc, top marks too to artist Francesco Francavilla for his quieter, more intimate style when reintroducing James to his family and jogging Barbara’s childhood memories. Precisely what it called for, and his annotations in the extensive sketchbook section in the back made a great deal of sense.

SLH

Buy Batman: The Black Mirror h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: Death Of Spider-Man Fallout h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Mark Bagley, Bryan Hitch, Eric Nguyen, Sara Pichelli, Salvador Larroca, Clayton Crain, Billy Tan.

“I once knew a young girl – a mutant – who could look at those clouds, and force them to part, just through the power of her own mind.”
“Yeah, well, where is she when we need her, right?”
Being lobotomised.”

The follow-up to ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN: DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN and Mark Millar’s Ultimate Comics Avengers: Death Of Spider-Man in which a funeral is held, Kitty Pryde, Bobby Drake and Johnny Storm move on, and Aunt May finally has her say when Captain America tries to apologise.

“The day he died… I told him he wasn’t ready. I told him he was a child and that he hadn’t yet earned the right to wear the uniform. And the… the gunshot… The… wound that eventually killed him… It was meant for me. He jumped in front of it to save me.”
“…”
“…”
“So after you emasculated him, even though he had proved himself a hero over and over and over again. After you told him he wasn’t worthy… He saved your life? Is that what you’re telling me?”

Aunt May frankly steals the show in the scenes that follow – she cups Steve Rogers’ chin in her hand in precisely the way that one does when giving a small child a real piece of your mind – but that’s far from all this is as the writers of the new line of Ultimate Comics join forces to set up their stalls for the future. The new, even younger Spider-Man makes his first appearance, Tony Stark receives a tempting if worryingly nebulous offer, Captain America reels from the wrath of Aunt May (there will be consequences, yes), Nick Fury and Hawkeye survey the growing unrest around Asgard and South-East Asia and… and Quicksilver goes into business.

“Tell me, Mister Hanstead – do you know what the most valuable good this country ever imported is?”
“Oil?”
“See, that is exactly what I thought myself. But no, actually – it’s slaves.”

Oh yes, and the biggest secret at the heart of Bendis’ ULTIMATE ORIGINS is about to be made public. I’d seriously pick that book up now, if you haven’t already!

SLH

Buy Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: Death Of Spider-Man Fallout h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Mighty Thor vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Oliver Coipel…

“You bald and glinting bastard! I am having yet another in a string of bad days, and you’ve just given me every excuse to take them all out on you…”
“Now now boy. Kill not the messenger. At least not until he delivers his message.”
“Your threats carry no coin with me, Asgardian. Nothing you can do scares me. For I have fed the great gaping maw of Galactus.
“Your little hammer and temper tantrums will not save you from the hunger that does not cease.
“I will show you bad black days and blacker nights where no light shines little Asgardian. Your imagination will shatter when cast into the churning sorrows of his wake.”
“By my beard, are you both finished? While you measure manhood, I actually feel myself grow older.”
“Of course All-Father. I meant no disrespect. The Seed, All-Father. Galactus seeks the Seed.”

So… Galactus has discovered that The World Seed, the cosmic energy equivalent of the veritable all-you-can-eat buffet, more voluminous than even Volstagg could manage, is in Odin’s possession, hidden until recently for safekeeping under the roots of the World Tree, and he’d very much appreciate Odin just handing it over for him to snack on.

Well… obviously Odin has other ideas about that, and the Surfer and Thor get chance to have their hand-to-hand dust up, whilst Odin and Galactus go quite literally tête-à-tête, as each seeks to take control of the other’s sense of reality. It’s a truly epic confrontation that is executed with exquisite precision by Fraction. Mind you, demonstrating that it doesn’t always have to be hammer time, Thor does place a most verily magnificent headbutt on the Surfer’s chromedome which actually leaves a dent!

Meanwhile, back in Broxton, the locals are starting to get rather fed up with yet another round of destruction being meted out to their previously sleepy backwater, and led by the local preacher, have resolved to drive the Asgardians out. That particular preacher, experiencing a crisis in faith due to the Gods on his doorstep, has absolutely no idea just how much his world is about to change. And, aware that sometimes things take a less… direct approach, little Loki is implementing his own scheme to save the day. The main event though is undoubtedly the cosmic confrontation, and I’ll leave it to Odin just to make it clear to the Surfer how his… request… is going to go down…

“It is power… energy… beyond the boundaries that even language and mathematics can explain. It is the eternal soul of the All-God. No disrespect to your paradigm intended.
“You see, this thing… by the reckoning of Galactus… this thing could sate him forever.
“This could end Galactus’ hunger. You sit on a treasure that means the cessation of a million billion genocides destined to occur. You horde a bauble that means the lives of uncountable worlds. The cooing of innumerable babies. The arts and sciences of species yet untold.
“So. He is coming for it. I may have given the impression I was asking for your permission. I was not.”
“He cannot have it, you great and gleaming gimp.”

JR

Buy The Mighty Thor vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Masterworks: X-Men vol 4 (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas & Roy Thomas, Don Heck.

Antagonists include the Juggernaut, Mole Man, Tyrannus, the Blob, the Vanisher, Unus The Untouchable, the dreaded Spider-Man (!), plus there’s an extended subplot featuring Banshee and Professor X in thrall to Factor Three. Now that we’ve destroyed the ozone layer we’re all in thrall to Factor Four Hundred.* As it transpires, it’s an even longer sub-plot than it seems. SPOILERS, though. Witness Warren and Jean trying to con Welfare off the State so they can buy plane tickets to the Alps… and then drive off in a Rolls Royce!!

* Okay, it was me: I went through more hairspray than Duran Duran

Just so you know, all our MARVEL MASTERWORKS s/cs at least feature the fresh, shiny black covers rather than the one depicted here. Never liked that design: so cold. But we’ve left this one on to remind you that you can order that version instead if you want. Just email us at page45@page45.com!

SLH

Buy Marvel Masterworks: X-Men vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Aliens: Fast Track To Heaven h/c (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Liam Sharp…

The first Alien film ranks just behind Richard Burton’s The Medusa Touch as what scared the bejesus out of me most as a young child. I should add that my parents weren’t aware I was watching Alien on the television upstairs very late one night, but it would be fair to say it was my first experience with true terror as I lay shaking under the sheets that night. Actually, the second film, Aliens, I still find a slightly uncomfortable experience these days! Obviously therefore I’m looking forward to the 3D prequel James Cameron is currently working on. If there ever was a movie monster that really deserves to take its 3D bow, surely it is the ‘facehugger’? In the meanwhile to keep you going here’s a new original graphic novel written and illustrated by Liam Sharp.

JR

Buy Aliens: Fast Track To Heaven h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up if they’re softcover of hardcovers. Regardless, you can now go straight to these books in the shopping area simply by clicking on their titles! Hurrah!

Blood Blokes #1 (£2-99) by Adam Cadwell

Chloe Noonan Colour Special (£3-99, self-published) by Marc Ellerby

Nobrow 6: The Double (£15-00, Nobrow) by various

Rasl vol 3: Romance At The Speed Of Light (£10-99, Cartoon books) by Jeff Smith

My Skateboard Life (£8-99, Blank Slate) by Ed Syder

BPRD – Being Human (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, John Arcudi & Karl Moline, Richard Corben, Ben Stenbeck, Guy Davis, Andy Owens, Jo Chen

Deadpool Max: Involuntary Armageddon h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by David Lapham & Kyle Baker, Shawn Crystal

Halo: Fall Of Reach hardcover (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Reed & Felix Ruiz

Batman: Hush Absolute Edition (£75-00, DC) by Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee

Monkey King vol 1 (£7-50, JR Comics) by Wei Dong Chen

Sonic Select vol 4  (£8-99, Archie) by various

Negima vol 32 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

MPD Psycho vol 10 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Sho-u Tajima

Maoh: Juvenile Remix vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Megumi Osuga

Bokurano Ours vol 4 (£9-99, Viz) by Mohiro Kitoh

Saturn Apartments vol 4 (£9-99, Viz) by Hisae Iwaoka

Bleach vol 37 (£6-99, Viz) by 0.195


…. Funny, that’s it’s weight!

Much shorter blog next week. Less time but also fewer titles. And let that sentence be a lesson to you in the King’s English!

- Stephen

Reviews November 2011 week four

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

“It stole everything from me. But it was worth it. I was worth everything. It proved that the future could be called forward into the present. All we had to do was think hard and care enough.”

 - Warren Ellis’ Captain Swing.

The Fracture Of The Universal Boy h/c (£20-99, Eidolon Fine Arts) by Michael Zulli.

“You all have to walk so far in illusion, hoping one path will be the right one. And, my friend, you will have to walk them all, and walk them alone.”

A middle-aged man sees his relationship fail and his wife drive off for good, leaving him alone with his thoughts. This we discover at the centre of a far more delirious journey as an old man remembers a baby being born, growing swiftly into boyhood then waking up in the grass as an adult. Harried by Harpies, lured by a she-leopard into the hope that love brings, then, clambering towards the heavens but rejected for his whining self-pity, he is cast from the mountain. Still he stumbles on through a swamp filled with grasping hands, threatening to drag him down and drown him. He’s running. All his life he his running, pursued by his angels, his demons, his fears, his past and futures selves.

“Oh God,” thinks the artist, labouring under lamplight, “this is all getting away from me.”

And the truth is that Michael Zulli, the esteemed and much-loved artist on PUMA BLUES, SANDMAN and so many more Neil Gaiman projects like CREATURES OF THE NIGHT, LAST TEMPTATION and THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF THE DEPARTURE OF MISS FINCH, felt very much the same thing, almost crumbling under the weight of this six-year project and throwing in the towel. There’s a couplet in David Sylvian’s ‘Orpheus’ that goes…

“I struggle with all the same worries as most,
 The temptation to leave or to give up the ghost”

… and that, for me is what this book is about: the universality of self-doubt. It’s about isolation, loss, feeling lost and bewildered, fear, sorrow, regret; self-recrimination and an anger that one’s faith in the promise of life and love in particular love is ill-matched by its actuality, yet finding the strength, the resolve to forge on. It’s a purge. Some will consider that the narrative has indeed gotten away from Zulli, others will find empathy in its tortuous path and perhaps derive hope in a life stripped down to a more peaceful simplicity and tranquillity towards the end.

But above all is it is a book bursting with beauty in the vein of Barry Windsor-Smith: neo-classical forms embellished with supple lines modelled to muscle, glades of grass where every blade counts, roses, tombstones, fields of poppies and tree-trunks whose bark has never been more knotted. Early on there’s an impeccable, full-page composition whose left, facing page is rightly left blank, in which a well worn path of light leads the eye up through the sylvan shadows to a boy silhouetted against the horizon, an aperture in the boughs and branches and banks of wild grass and the canopy of leaves above. Towards the bottom the question is asked,

“How small can you be and still have your heart broken?”

SLH

Buy The Fracture Of The Universal Boy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Depressed Cat: Nine Miserable Lives (£6-99) by Lizz Lunney.

Tweet: “Have been watching daytime TV all day in my pants… I sicken myself.”

The Twitter sensation that is @depressed_cat comes to comics as I knew it inevitably would given the mini-comic sensation at Page 45 that is Lizz Lunney. Little has made me titter on Twitter quite as much as Depressed Cat’s avalanche of gloom and doom as Ms. Lizz transposes our own shortcomings and self-pity onto this moribund moggie for who even the most radiant sunrise is a cause for deep-seated despair. Mind you, he’s no stranger to misfortune, either.

At the shop:

“Right, where did I put my shopping list?”
At home: shopping list.
“ACH! Well, I need milk for sure. Chicken, fish. Oooh, catfood on offer!”
“That’ll be £29.65.”
“Hmm. Where is my wallet?”
At home: wallet.

He’s constantly drawing a lemon, as is Lizz; so sit back, set your course to destination doldrums and soak in this kitty’s serial self-pity. You know it’s no different to your own.

Tweet: “Got fleas again.”

*sigh*

SLH

Buy Depressed Cat: Nine Miserable Lives and read the Page 45 review here

Captain Swing And The Electrical Pirates Of Cindery Island s/c (£13-50, Avatar) by Warren Ellis & Raulo Caceres.

“It stole everything from me. But it was worth it. I was worth everything. It proved that the future could be called forward into the present. All we had to do was think hard and care enough.”

Words to live by in any sphere, including the comicbook industry where I honestly think we’ve made significant progress.

It’s another gem for the steampunk buffs in which Warren reminds us that few relinquish power voluntarily. Take our esteemed Magistrates of the early 19th Century and their Bow Street Runners, mercenaries whom aggrieved parties would dispatch to track down other thieves and recover stolen valuables (an optimum C.V. should include casual murder, artful extortion, and “general experience in nicking stuff myself”). They weren’t exactly happy when Sir Robert Peel founded the London Metropolitan Police. However shambolic and ill-equipped the Peelers were (no walkie-talkies, just a football rattle!), they still posed a threat in that they were not answerable to the Magistrates, and those who weren’t hopelessly drunk might even care enough to do their job properly and see justice done.

All of which we learn in short breaks between the action which sees the dark London nights of 1930 crackling with electrical energy in the form of a flying rowboat, the boots of a roof-hopping Captain Swing whom they’ve dubbed Spring-Heeled Jack, and the bullets he fires, tipped with tiny lightbulbs. The police want to catch him for a murder he didn’t commit and one Bow Street Runner in particular wants him dead. The Magistrates, you see, have in their possession an object of power and with it the means of limiting the future and ensuring it stays in their hands. Captain Swing, on the other hand, has formed a cooperative of craftsmen he’s taught to fashion revolutionary scientific devices far in advance of their times which threaten the hegemony of the ruling elite, and the ruling elite are not happy.

Digikore’s rich green and electric blue colours over Raulo Caceres heavily rendered, midnight inks are an impressive combo, and Cindery Island hidden in the densely wooded Essex creeks – as seen from above the floating pirate ship – is the sort of thing that would make early Bernie Wrightson horror fans weep with awestruck joy. An elaborate, telescopic contraption scans the skies above. Towering pylons and windmill arms crackle with live electricity while chimneys billow smoke atop the tiled roofs of workshops on stilts whose windows glow orange from the raging furnaces within. Meanwhile the slate-blue waters of the twisting creeks ripple round tiny islands and under the bridges which link them.

This is the legend of Captain Swing: who he was and who he came to be. It is the sacrifice of one man to liberate the future for the many and from the past, and the determination of another to ensure that does not come to pass.

“The future is whatever in this world I have decided not to kill.”

SLH

Buy Captain Swing And The Electrical Pirates Of Cindery Island s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wasteland vol 6: Enemy Within (£10-99, Oni) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten, Remington Veteto.

Oh, the shrieks of disbelieving delight when I announced on Twitter that this sixth volume was finally out. One of those surprised was Antony Johnston himself, but he was completely outnumbered by his readership here.

Post-apocalyptic visions of our future are two-a-penny these days, but not one of them matches this, set during the biggest hosepipe ban in history.

You’ll find far more in Page 45’s review of WASTELAND VOL 1, but there’s a constant dread of danger in this catastrophically damaged world. The various factions and indeed a whole semi-industrialised, mountainous city teeter precariously on the verge of violence, under threat as they are from ruthless political power-play, religious intolerance, and the very terrain which is barren and broken. Whether it’s the environmental Armageddon we currently face, the lorry loads of immigrants smuggled then sold into slavery, the destructive politics of tyrants like Mugabe or wilfully ignorant racism that doesn’t even bother to lurk beneath the surface of our societies, Johnston has found novel ways of building them into his depraved new world, giving it far more bite than most.

SLH

Buy Wasteland vol 6: Enemy Within and read the Page 45 review here

Scalped vol 8: You Gotta Sin To Get Saved (£13-50, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera, Jason LaTour, Davide Furno.

And there’s a whole lotta sinning going on here, like the sheriff who – far from living the dream – is living all kinds of lie. A sorry specimen indeed. But as ever with SCALPED it’s the structure that satisfies with another one of those stories told from different perspectives which cross-cross, climax and then conclude with a single page which will inevitably make you smile. The murder of Gina Bad Horse continues to loom large just as Chief Red Crow – formally and formerly the villain – continues to surprise. Jason Latour’s chapter was more than a little frustrating (I couldn’t tell what was going on in places) but R.M. Guera continues to delight, especially his day out with young Dino and Carol. Poor lad.

SLH

Buy Scalped vol 8: You Gotta Sin To Get Saved and read the Page 45 review here

Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 6 h/c (£18-99, Vertigo/DC) by Alan Moore & John Totleben, Rick Veitch.

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.

SLH

Buy Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 6 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hip Flask vol 1: Unnatural Selection h/c (£22-50, Gold) by Richard Starkings, Joe Casey & Ladrönn.

A secret world of scientific excess in which anthropomorphised animals are being bred to serve their human masters, blindly, unquestioningly and, if necessary, violently. It’s surprisingly brutal and the art really does match any sci-fi you’ll currently find in Europe. It’s meticulous, solid, absurdly detailed, with vast spaces and epic interiors, all splendidly lit and coloured. Lush, album-sized reprint.

SLH

Buy Hip Flask vol 1: Unnatural Selection h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hip Flask vol 2: Concrete Jungle h/c (£22-50, Image) by Richard Starkings, Joe Casey & Ladrönn.

HIP FLASK vol 1 told of animals being bred, educated and brainwashed into becoming anthropomorphic killing machines, to fight for their human masters. This takes the story into the realms of anthropomorphic detective science-fiction twenty years on, as the liberated survivors are still trying to integrate themselves into society. The draw, if you’ll excuse the pun, lies in Ladronn managing to deliver the clarity of Cassady in the realms of Moebius, and those waiting for more BLACKSAD, NORDGUARD and GRANDVILLE (volume three due pre-Christmas 2012 and, let me tell, it is gorgeous!) could do a great deal worse than to look here.

Note: further stories in this series went under the umbrella title of ELEPHANTMEN.

SLH

Buy Hip Flask vol 2: Concrete Jungle h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Also available:

Unhuman h/c: The Elephantmen Art Of Ladrönn (£22-50, Image) by Richard Starkings & Ladrönn

Elephantmen vol 1: Wounded Animals Revised Ed s/c (£14-99, Image) by Richard Starkings & various

Elephantmen vol 2: Fatal Diseases s/c (£18-99, Image) by Richard Starkings & various

Elephantmen vol 3: Dangerous Liaisons s/c (£18-99, Image) by Richard Starkings & various

Elephantmen vol 4: Questionable Things s/c (£18-99, Image) by Richard Starkings & various

Mazeworld (£17-99, Rebellion) by Alan Grant & Arthur Ranson…

Late ‘90s meld of sci-fi and fantasy from Messrs. Grant and Ranson, which I do remember rather enjoying at the time it was being serialised in 2000AD. Our anti-hero Adam Cadman finds himself at the wrong end of a hangman’s noose after murdering his brother in a drunken rage, but unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, his execution doesn’t quite go as smoothly as intended and Adam wakes to find himself in Mazeworld, a labyrinthine mélange of mazes, jammed together, with a few pyramids for good measure, on top of what appears to be a huge floating rock. It’s populated by a much put upon rebellious rabble who find themselves being quite literally lorded over by a handful of Mazelords, in the absence of the much loved Emperor who decided to brave the mysterious maze at the very centre of Mazeworld and promptly vanished without such much as a trace. However, the appearance of Adam, complete with hood and noose he can’t remove, causes much consternation as there is a prophecy foretelling the return of just such a hooded man spelling much trouble for the Mazelords naturally. Meanwhile, back in our world, Adam’s unconscious body is now at the mercy of some rather unscrupulous medical professionals who plan to run some off-the-books experiments on him, as the authorities have decided it’d be rather less paperwork for them if they pretended his execution had been successful.

Which all sounds like complete hokum obviously, yet in the hands of Grant and Ranson actually turns into a very compelling and intriguing story. I was fascinated by Grant’s foreword in which he comments that he had the original intention of Mazeworld being a computer game, but after asking Ranson to do some concept sketches for him, and being blown away by an amazing double-page spread (which actually was included in the first episode), he was persuaded to make it into a strip for inclusion in 2000AD. I can well understand why as that spread, which is our very first glimpse of Mazeworld, is an absolute beauty. I’m a big fan of Ranson, and absolutely loved his work on the first three volumes of Wagner’s BUTTON MAN, also from 2000AD. So it’s always a pleasure when other less known work of his gets a well deserved reprint.

JR

Buy Mazeworld and read the Page 45 review here

Who Is Jake Ellis? vol 1 (£12-99, Image) by Nathan Edmondson & Tonci Zonjic.

Action espionage thriller with a psychic twist which means you don’t get the full picture, as it were, until page four when they rewind fifteen seconds and all becomes much clearer – to us! Very, very clever.

That was Barcelona, Spain, late at night on board an enormous yacht infested with criminales. Probably best if Jon Moore doesn’t go back there for a while. If nothing else they’ll be pretty pissed off about that terrible waste of whisky. Then we’re in Strasbourg, two days later, and you might be well be asking not just who is Jake Ellis, where is he? Because whilst drinking coffee over a copy of El Pays news, only Jon appears to be able to see or hear him. Handy for that hasty aquatic retreat and vital if he’s going escape those who’ve already tracked him to France. But are they Spanish or American – and what do the Americans want with him anyway? Chased from a waitress’ bed then trapped on a train, there’s been precious little time to find out, but Jon better figure it all out fast, including who else Ellis is speaking to.

Edmondson made a fine start with Brett Weldele on his combustible zombie graphic novel THE LIGHT and you may well know Zonjic from DAREDEVIL: LADY BULLSEYE. Here Zonjic shows he’s as much of a master of glorious sunlit aerial views as he is a Cathedral lamp-lit at night, and I love his economy of line. He does sunglasses as well as Mazzucchelli. I don’t quite know why Moore didn’t steal a cassock when he was down to his boxer shorts there – would have made a much better disguise at the station – but maybe he was a little distracted by the men with shotguns, the invisible man at his side and, err, being down to his boxers.

Sadly, whether it was the time it took to come out combined with my woefully bad memory, the book’s early promise wasn’t well served by the sort of satisfying resolutions Nick Spenser supplied with EXISTENCE 2.0/3.0 and Peter Milligan always pulled out of his hat with HUMAN TARGET.

SLH

Buy Who Is Jake Ellis? vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Mangaman vol 1 h/c (£13-99, Houghton Mifflin) by Barry Lyga & Colleen Doran…

I really thought I was going to love MANGAMAN, based on the conceit that a manga character called Ryoko has somehow become trapped in our real world, but it just didn’t really quite work for me sadly. The art from Colleen Doran is certainly fantastic, and she really captures the essence of both worlds and their unexpected juxtaposition. Unfortunately it was the story which I just found somewhat weak. Even though it borrows many typical manga clichés, and employs them to relatively humorous effect at times, the whole idea that the US Government would let a visitor from another dimension, with his various unknown abilities, attend the local high school, is just so utterly preposterous that I found myself struggling to get into the requisite state of suspended disbelief to enjoy this.

Plus, as mentioned, all the situations the character gets into, including stealing the heart of the most beautiful popular girl at school, Marissa, who just happens to be going out with the captain of the football team, have been done so, so many times in manga, I just found it all a little dull. I get that perhaps those references are probably meant to be part of the appeal, but it just seemed a bit lazy really. Some of the sequences where Ryoko shows Marissa how to break the fourth wall of her own universe, surmising that perhaps she also lives in a comic universe, just a western-style one where no one has actually realised they live in a two-dimensional world yet, are novel, and indeed fun, but overall, I think the premise has been wasted. Nice art though.

JR

Buy Mangaman vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Legend Of Zelda Box Set (£49-99, Viz) by Akira Himekawa.

Ten books in a special edition that saves you just nine pence shy of ten quid. Plus you get a box. What a great word. ‘Box’.

SLH

The Legend Of Zelda Box Set

Batman & Robin vol 2: Batman Vs. Robin s/c (£13-50, DC) by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart, Andy Clarke…

“…That was for trying to blow up London. And this is for Batwoman. We’ve got a cell waiting for you, right across the way from your old mate Pearly Charlie English.”
“You heard him.”
“Squire and Knight! But… how did you track us doon? Through 400 feet of solid rock? Ah nivvor mind, I’ll tek the paira yez like! Just divennt tell wor missus aboot the lasses, that’s aal I’m saying.”
“Come on, mate. That’s just asking for it.”

Another volume of consternating costumed capery from Mr. Morrison who once again pulls off that most difficult of tricks, writing overtly ridiculous yet hilariously clever superhero nonsense. It literally makes no sense in places, except probably to Grant, and yet it’s so, so dangerously addictive you won’t let a little thing like that stop you from turning the pages as fast as you possibly can. Even the bright red and yellow Frank Quitely cover reeks of E numbers somehow imbued into the pages to make your mind twitch and whirr ever more egregiously as you try to follow the frantic paced action to and fro.

It’s a genuine credit to Morrison that’s he so capably manages to capture the loveable camp fun of the old sixties Saturday morning TV show, whilst making it feel like you’re only one twirl of Pennyworth’s whiskers away from it all toppling into the total dada-esque cut-up insanity of his DOOM PATROL run. You get the sense he’s really letting himself go here in fabulous fizzing crescendo mode darlings, possibly before he has to rein himself in a touch on the new BATMAN INC. title. Mind you, given the first page of the first issue of that particular title starts with someone waking up to find their hands have been melted off with acid possibly not… Excellent art throughout, in turn slightly loony cartoony and then cuttingly crisp from Cameron Stewart and Andy Clarke.

I’ll leave the last word to Oberon Sexton the gravedigger, who is most definitely hiding an amusing little secret of his own.

“Well now. Would you pantomime poseurs like to introduce yourselves before we beat the sod out of you?”

JR

Buy Batman & Robin vol 2: Batman Vs. Robin s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman: A Death In The Family s/c (New Edition) (£18-99, DC) by Jim Starlin, Marv Wolfman & George Perez, Jim Aparo, Tom Grummett.

The book whose marketing inspired Rick Veitch’s gloriously diseased BRATPACK when DC readers were encouraged to vote on whether Jason Todd, the second Robin, should live or die. The result was overwhelming – particularly for poor Jason – for it was a resounding thumbs-up!* 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 and Batman singularly failed to avenge him eye-for-an-eye-stylee. The culprit’s the Joker and this extended edition reprints BATMAN #426-429, 440-442 and NEW TITANS #60-61.

* Fact: Roman emperors never used the thumbs-down gesture to dole out death to gladiators. It was a thumbs-up gesture, which makes you wonder what Paul McCartney really thought of photographers.

SLH

Buy Batman: A Death In The Family s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Flash: The Road To Flashpoint h/c (£16-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Scott Kolins, Francis Manapul.

Effectively volume two of the last FLASH series (volume one was DASTARDLY DEATH OF THE ROGUES), this is as it says the road to Flashpoint which itself was where everything changed in preparation of DC’s New 52.

It’s a one-way street with heavy congestion, and there are some pretty hefty roadworks ahead. By the time they’re over, traffic will be flowing in a whole new direction. Please note: parking restrictions apply and the wardens are on commission.

Err… I haven’t read it, no.

SLH

Flash: The Road To Flashpoint hardcover

Green Lantern: War Of The Green Lanterns h/c (£22-50, DC) by Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard, Peter J. Tomasi & Doug Mahnke, Tyler Kirkham, Fernando Pasarin, Ed Benes …

“All we have to do is choose.”
“Everyone knows the rings are the ones that do the choosing, Jordan.”
“I’ve used the yellow ring before, Guy… by my choice.”
“I thought you could tap into that power because you had experience with Parallax.”
“It’s because I have experience with fear, John.”
“I’m not saying this’ll be easy. Hell, we might not even get them to work but we have to try. To light them up, we just need to acknowledge our feelings. I know it’s not in our nature, but…”
“Tell that to Mr. Thoughtful over here.”
“Gee, thanks, Guy.”
“Relax Kyle, it’s a compliment mostly. All right, if we’re choosing I’m going first. I don’t wanna get stuck wearing a crystal thong. Pink ain’t my colour.”

So, once you’ve fought absolutely everyone else in every other Corps including the Black Lanterns, and made it through the BLACKEST NIGHT and BRIGHTEST DAY, what’s there left for our four favourite human Green Lanterns to do? Fight each other obviously!! Hence the title of this volume! Well, technically it’s actually them fighting the rest of the mentally enslaved Green Lantern Corps but Hal and Guy do find time for a quick mano-a-mano throwdown between the two of them as well just for good measure.

This is still top-notch stuff from Geoff Johns as a very old and very familiar enemy of the Guardians returns to wreak havoc one last time before everything gets wrapped in time for the DC reboot. (That isn’t a reboot of course…) Despite the title of this particular volume there aren’t endless pointless panels of fighting which rather marred the conclusion of BLACKEST NIGHT for me, instead there’s just lots of high-octane plot and snappy dialogue as the nefarious scheme is unfurled bit by bit and the dastardly villain revealed. Also, I have to say, this storyline which ran through the Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps and Emerald Warriors monthly titles has one of the most unexpected endings I’ve ever read in a superhero comic, I just didn’t see it coming at all! And thus neatly sets up the new Green Lantern #1!

JR

Buy Green Lantern: War Of The Green Lanterns h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up if they’re softcover of hardcovers. Regardless, you can now go straight to these books in the shopping area simply by clicking on their titles! Hurrah!

Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin

Solipsistic Pop #4 (£10-00) by Takayo Akiyama, Kristyna Baczynski, Dan Berry, Joe Blann, Stephen Collins, Rob Davis, Paul Harrison Davis, Joe Decie, John Cei Douglas, Oliver East, Nick Edwards, Marc Ellerby, Paul Francis, Katie Green, Isabel Greenberg, Howard Hardiman, Ste Hitchen, Tom Humberstone, Joe List, Lizz Lunney, John Miers, Kathryn Newman, Luke Pearson, Philippa Rice, Jenny Robins, Edward Ross, Alison Sampson, Anna Saunders, Matthew Sheret

The Adventures Of Hergé h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Jose-Louis Bocquet, Jean-Luc Fromental & Stanislas Barthelemy

Strumpet #1 (£5-00, self-published) by Kripa Joshi, Patrice Aggs, Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg, Tanya Meditzky, Mardou, Katie Haegele, Ellen Lindner, Maartje Schalkx, Jeremy Day, Lucy Sweet, Emily Ryan Lerner, Megan Kelso

Derek The Sheep hardcover (£7-99, Bloomfield) by Gary Northfield

Everything vol 1: Comics From Around 1978-81 hardcover (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry

Aliens: Fast Track To Heaven h/c (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Liam Sharp

1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die (£20-00, Octopus) by various and edited by Paul Gravett

Gotham City Sirens vol 2: Song Of The Sirens softcover (£13-50, DC) by Paul Dini, Tony Bedard, Marc Andreyko & Guillem March, Andres Guinaldo

Batman: The Black Mirror h/c (£22-50, DC) by Scott Snyder & Jock, Francesco Francavilla

Uncanny X-Force vol 3: The Dark Angel Saga Book vol 1 hardcover (£18-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Billy Tan, Mark Brooks

The Mighty Thor vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Oliver Coipel

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: Death Of Spider-Man Fallout h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Mark Bagley, Bryan Hitch, Eric Nguyen, Sara Pichelli, Salvador Larroca, Clayton Crain, Billy Tan

Ultimate Comics Captain America s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Ron Garney

5 Ronin s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Peter Milligan & Tomm Coker, Dalibor Talaji, Laurence Campbell, Goran Parlov, Leandro Fernandez

Marvel Masterworks: X-Men vol 4 (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas & Roy Thomas, Don Heck

Doctor Who series 2 vol 1: The Ripper (£13-50, IDW) by Tony Lee & Andrew Currie, Tim Hamilton, Richard Piers Rayner, Horacio Domingues

Star Wars Omnibus: At War With The Empire vol 2 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by various

Simpsons Comics Meltdown (£9-99, Titan) by various

Tesoro (£9-99, Viz) by Natsume Ono

Codename Sailor V vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Naoko Takeuchi

Sailor Moon vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Naoko Takeuchi

Ninja Girls vol 8 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hosana Tanaka

November Previews for January 2012

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

New Tom Gauld, old Warren Ellis! Racism and rough justice; at school with Jeffrey Dahmer! Colleen Doran, all-ages fantasy, and Grant Morrison’s take on TV’s The Avengers. Also, Kieron Gillen goes Gaiman and there are some ridiculously affordable Marvel h/s at the bottom!

These are my picks from the current crop with proposed publication dates, but you can read the whole of Diamond’s own comic and graphic novel PREVIEWS here.

Fatale #1 (£2-75, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

This will be the very first comic I read in 2012. Could the year possibly get off to a better start? I think not!

“GUNS! SEX! SECRET CULTS! AND MONSTERS! Nothing the creators of SLEEPER, CRIMINAL and INCOGNITO have done so far will prepare you for the explosive debut of FATALE! A reporter in 2012 stumbles on a secret that leads him down the darkest path imaginable… to a seductive woman who’s been on the run since 1935, a mobster who may be an immortal demon monster, and the stories of all the doomed men who’ve been caught in their decades-long struggle. FATALE blends noir and horror to tell a riveting epic unlike anything you’ve seen before.” Great big illustrated interview with Ed Brubaker on FATALE here.

If you want a cover with tentacles (that’s tentacles, not testicles) then Order Fatale #1 Here but me, I prefer Sean Phillips’ sultry ladies. (Ladies with guns, not testicles).

Pre-order Fatale #1 and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 04/01/12

Goliath h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tom Gauld.

Yay! New Tom ‘As Seen In The Guardian’ Gauld! All those petit packets of mini-comics are long out of print so here’s hoping some kind publisher collects them soon. In the meantime…

“Goliath of Gath isn’t much of a fighter. Given half a choice, he would pick admin work over patrolling in a heartbeat, to say nothing of his distaste for engaging in combat. Nonetheless, at the behest of the king he finds himself issuing a twice-daily challenge to the Israelites. Day after day he reluctantly repeats his speech, and the isolation of this duty gives him the chance to banter with his shield-bearer and reflect on the beauty of his surroundings. This is the story of David and Goliath as seen from Goliath’s side of the Valley of Elah. Goliath’s battle is simultaneously tragic and bleakly funny, as bureaucracy pervades even this most mythic of figures.”

Pre-order Goliath h/c and read the publisher’s preview here

Although blatantly you just did. It’s stuff we have to write.

Due: 25/01/12

Gone To Amerikay h/c (£18-99, Vertigo/DC) by Derek McCulloch & Colleen Doran.

Colleen Doran (Warren Ellis’ ORBITER, SANDMAN, THE BOOK OF LOST SOULS, and A DISTANT SOIL) has upped her game again for this period piece that may well appeal to Will Eisner fans of social history. You can see the cover and interior art to GONE TO AMERIKAY on Colleen’s own website as she shakes her head at one comic blogger getting the whole plot wrong. It is, in fact, as follows.

“This sweeping, century-spanning graphic novel explores the vivid history of Irish émigrés to New York City via three intertwined tales, from a penniless woman raising a daughter alone in the Five Points slum of 1870, to a struggling young artist drawn to the nascent counterculture of 1960, the year America elected its first Irish-Catholic president.”

Due: 28/03/12

Pre-order Gone To Amerikay h/c and read the publisher’s preview here

Is That All There Is? h/c (£25-99, Fantagraphics) by Joost Swarte.

Complete 1972 archive of this Dutch master much beloved by Page 45’s interior designer, the legendary Huw Feather (Soft Cell & early Marc Almond single and cover artist and video designer). First time in English. You need to see the ingenuity of this cover:

Pre-order Is That All There Is? h/c and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 25/01/12

The Silence Of Our Friends (£12-99, First Second) by Mark Long, Demonakos & Nate Powell.

Racism and rough justice: the American civil rights struggle in this semi-autobiographical tale set in 1967 Texas. Five students are charged with the murder of a policeman. They are black, yes, and they clearly did not do it.

Nate is a known quantity here responsible for SWALLOW ME WHOLE and ANY EMPIRE etc. but his art has grown softer (though the subject matter hasn’t) and there’s some seriously great lettering later on in this preview to THE SILENCE OF OUR FRIENDS. And isn’t that just one of the best titles to any graphic novel?

Pre-order The Silence Of Our Friends and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 18/01/12

My Friend Dahmer s/c (£13-50, Abrams Comicarts) by Derf Backderf.

Imagine if one of the mates you hung out with at school turned out to be a serial killer. That’d give you pause to re-evaluate all the time you shared together! So it is here with Derf and Jeffrey Dahmer. Derf’s very much of the old-skool underground style as you can see from his TRASHED web comic. You can also access his blog from there which might feature some interior art from DAHMER by the time you look at it. He may have switched styles if this cover is anything to go by:

Pre-order My Friend Dahmer s/c and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 15/02/12

The Sincerest Form Of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by various.

Mad Not Mad. Other comic work instead by the likes of Jack Davis, Will Elder, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Bill Everett, Al Hartley and Bob Powell.

Pre-order The Sincerest Form Of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 25/01/12

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes s/c (£8-50, Amulet Books) by Kazu Kibuishi & co.

From the creator of AMULET, the young ladies’ favourite, and editor of the Flight and FLIGHT EXPLORER fantasy anthologies, a collection of short stories edited and I think written by Kibuishi about a mysterious, floating cube. Can’t find any interior yet but here’s Kazu Kibuishi’s website with loads of AMULET art and a trailer.

Pre-order Explorer: The Mystery Boxes s/c and read the publisher’s preview here

Hardcover Available if you prefer.

Due: 15/02/12

The Avalon Chronicles vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Oni Press) by Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir & Emma Vieceli.

All-ages magical fantasy from the writers of THREE STRIKES (crime fiction I adored) and The Tomb with art by VAMPIRE ACADEMY and DRAGON HEIR’s Emma Vieceli.

Pre-order The Avalon Chronicles vol 1 h/c and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 21/03/12

Bone: Quest For The Spark book 2 novel (£8-50, Cartoon Books) by Tom Sniegoski & Jeff Smith.

Of book one, I wrote… First in a trilogy of BONE novels from Jeff’s Smith’s collaborator on BONE: TALL TALES with plenty of full-colour illustrations by Jeff Smith himself. I spy flying ships, Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures, and someone very familiar making a surprise appearance right at the end. Don’t actually have time to read it, sorry!

Pre-order Bone: Quest For The Spark book 2 novel and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 18/01/12

Undertow new edition (£14-99) by Ellen Lindner.

The previous edition direct from STRUMPET Ellen Lindner is out of print, but Jonathan fell in love with it and wrote this:

Ahh, partly due to being a massive fan of Walter Hill’s seminal classic film The Warriors, I’m a guaranteed sucker for all things Coney Island-related. And here we have a glimpse of what life was actually like for 1950s poor working class New York youth whose only respite from a pretty austere and rather tough existence was to head to the beaches and amusement parks of Coney every weekend and cut loose. Hard drugs, gang fights, unsafe sex all helped to temporarily assuage a general feeling of pointlessness to their lives. They could see the rich kids with all their advantages making good and moving onwards and upwards whilst they got left further behind and stuck, usually for life, in the poorest boroughs of New York with little real prospects of their own.

UNDERTOW’s main character is the sassy Rhonda, a smart girl already suffering emotionally and physically at the hands of her alcoholic parents, and on top of that now struggling to come to terms with the unexpected death of her best friend. At this uncertain time she finds herself strangely attracted to the rich Chuck who has come down to her neighbourhood to do some social work as part of his college education. It provides a stark contrast between the lives of the haves and have-nots at the time, and a poignant example that despite what successive governments throughout the ages may trumpet out, social mobility has never been an easy thing to achieve and if you really want to better yourself, it’s up to you to do something about it. Others may be able to provide help, albeit slightly pious and perhaps self-serving, if well meaning help, but you have to believe you can make the change for yourself. Rhonda is a typical example of someone smart enough to be able to help herself but, beaten down continuously by her surroundings, she’s finding it hard to believe she can actually do it. But as Rhonda’s budding romance with Chuck shows hints of blossoming further, is one of them perhaps using the other, or are they actually falling for each other across the social divide? Can a romance started on such shifting ground ever succeed at all or will the inevitable tides of class and money pull them apart again before it even really begins?

I loved UNDERTOW; this is great piece of period fiction, where the main protagonists all perfectly fit the time and place without feeling the slightest bit stereotyped or caricatured. Lindner expertly captures the simultaneously bleak and grubbily hedonistic feel of lower working class ’50s New York. UNDERTOW isn’t merely a romance story, although it does deliver that key aspect of a good romance – you willing the characters to get together whilst they ebb and flow to and fro, towards then away from each other – but it’s also a great piece of social history too. Her art style is perfect for this story, as these characters aren’t people who hide their emotions but display them for all to see. She certainly does an excellent angry girlfriend and sheepish boyfriend! I loved the attention to period detail too, with the huge cars, the hair styles, the boys’ leather jackets and the girls’ skirts, and the ever-present, slightly worn but kitsch interiors. The palette of black and white with very light blue tones helps to convey the ’50s Coney Island mood perfectly.

Pre-order Undertow and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 11/01/20012

Womanthology: Heroic h/c (£37-99, IDW) by various.

All female anthology with a creative line-up 140 women-strong (love to see Jonathan type those up on arrival!), with words on making and breaking into comics. If you’d prefer something a bit more anarchic, try the all-female STRUMPET,

Pre-order Womanthology: Heroic h/c and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 25/01/12

B.P.R.D.: Plague Of Frogs vol 1 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Geoff Johns, Michael Oeming & Guy Davis, Ryan Sook, Michael Oeming, more.

Alert! Collects the first four softcovers in one. Of the first, I wrote:

B.P.R.D. is the organisation Hellboy works for, so the main story here stars his co-workers Abe Sapien & co., and picks up and resolves threads previously left dangling in Mignola’s main book.

The bureau didn’t trust Roger, so they shoved a bomb inside the 500-year-old Homunculus, “just in case”. Unfortunately for the bureau, the other operatives found out. Hellboy resigned in disgust, and with amphibious Abe Sapien and the hapless Roger close to the end of their tethers, the only thing able to keep the bureau together is a fiery vision of ex-employee Liz Sherman, desperate for rescue. New recruit Johann joins their race to the Artic Circle, but it may already be too late. The scene setting’s anything but boring, there’s a chill in the air throughout, and Sook’s Ural mountains are luminous with snow against pitch-black rock. In fact his pencils and inks are as close to Mignola’s as Al Columbia’s were to Bill Sienkiewicz during Alan Moore’s tragically curtailed BIG NUMBERS.

Pre-order B.P.R.D.: Plague Of Frogs vol 1 and read the publisher’s preview here.

Due: 28/03/12

Atmospherics Colour Edition s/c (£5-99, Avatar) by Warren Ellis & Ken Meyer.

I definitely reviewed this once, but I think it was before computers were born.

“Warren Ellis and painter Ken Meyer unleash a totally re-mastered and fully-painted colour version of this terrifying alien tale! She’s in a hospital. Except it may be a police station. She’s been traumatized. Or she’s been arrested. She’s the only living witness of a cattle-mutilation style attack on humans. Or she’s a multiple killer who has a psychotic reaction to heroin use. Who may not survive discovering who she really is? This graphic novel also features a gallery of stunning paintings Ken Meyer produced for the series, a special section focusing on how Ken creates his work, and an introduction by Warren Ellis!”

Pre-order Atmospherics Colour Edition s/c and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 25/01/12

Steed & Mrs. Peel #1 of 6 (£2-99, Boom! Studios) by Grant Morrison & Ian Gibson.

Re-release of the Avengers mini-series from 20 years ago. Don’t really remember much about it except the English countryside. Nota Bene: originally a three-parter, each issue has simply been split in two.

Pre-order Steed & Mrs. Peel #1 and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 25/01/12

Mondo #1 of 3 (£3-50, Image) by Ted McKeever.

Still reeling from attempting to review Mr. McKeever’s META 4. Please…

Pre-order Mondo #1 and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 04/01/12

Whispers #1 (£2-25, Image) by Joshua Luna.

From one half of the fraternal collaborators on GIRLS (nekkid lady zombies), THE SWORD and ULTRA.

“A mentally troubled man is suddenly empowered with the ability to leave his physical body in ‘ghost’ form and manipulate people in strange and disturbing ways. With this incredible power, will he control his demons…or discover even more? Joshua Luna of the Luna Brothers makes a solo debut with a dark, supernatural thriller that questions free will and explores the obsessions, addictions and urges we all have and may not have control of at all.”

Here’s an interview and preview with Joshua Luna about WHISPERS. Not sure I like the more opaque colouring, but it’s brilliantly written and adds a completely new dimension to the solicitation copy.

Pre-order Whispers #1 and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 11/01/12

Prophet #21 (£2-25, Image) by Brandon Graham & Simon Roy.

From the creator of KING CITY and PILLOW FIGHT, ignore the #21 and imagine #1. <Sigh> I’ll let Brandon Graham explain in his blog with loads of interior art.

Pre-order Prophet #21 and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 18/01/12

Afrika h/c (£11-99, Dark Horse) by Hermann.

Fully painted art from the enormously popular Belgian artist. Something a bit different.

“A misanthropic European expatriate, Dario Ferrer, acts as guardian of a Tanzanian wildlife preserve. Accompanied by Charlotte, a naive European journalist, Ferrer discovers a village under fire from mysterious agents of the foreign-backed government. Ferrer and Charlotte must fight not only to protect the preserve, but to expose government corruption-and survive to see another day.”

Pre-order Afrika h/c and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 14/03/12

Axe Cop vol 3 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Malachai Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle.

Good God there’s more, and this is its first printed appearance. Witness 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 Malachi, but written up and then illustrated by his brother. See here for a full review of AXE COP vol 1 with interior art. Huge success here.

Pre-order Axe Cop vol 3 and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 28/03/12

Fear Itself: Journey Into Mystery h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Dougie Braithwaite, Rich Elson.

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

For this is Loki as a young boy who only now finds out what his elder self was up to after the last survivor of a flock of Magpies sets him on a most unusual treasure hunt. But after years as a trickster and revolutionary no one in Asgard trusts the young lad. Only Thor acts as his benefactor, his protector in a hostile environment. He’s like a kindly foster father and it’s this new dynamic which makes the book. Here Thor’s caught Loki texting on a Stark Phone he bought with the proceeds of gambling:

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

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

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

Thor ruffles the boy’s hair.

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

In the hands of Kieron Gillen of PHONOGRAM fame, Loki as a mischievous and eloquent tyke is infinitely more appealing than he was as a malevolent adult. There’s nothing else quite like this in comics right now and, no, you do not have to read FEAR ITSELF to get the most out of this. Illustrated interview with Kieron Gillen here, conducted as began work on the series.

Pre-order Fear Itself: Journey Into Mystery h/c and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 18/01/12

Ultimate Comics Hawkeye h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Rafa Sandoval.

From Jonathan Hickman, creator of NIGHTLY NEWS and writer on ULTIMATE COMICS THOR, the current, stupendously clever run on FANTASTIC FOUR and so much more. Quality, basically, but full review on arrival. In the meantime…

Pre-order Ultimate Comics Hawkeye h/c and read the publisher’s preview here

Due: 18/01/11

Uncanny X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga h/c (£6-99, Marvel UK) by Chris Claremont & John Byrne.

First of two ridiculously affordable Marvel hardcovers (the softcover is £18-99!) and you’re promised extras on top of the story itself, but it does say “introductory price” so I’d get your orders in now.

Jean Grey and Cyclops’ love is finally flourishing, but she’s being slowly corrupted by a charming man in her waking dreams. And that’s bad news for everyone because the true power of the Phoenix – virtually limitless – is not something Jean could control, hence the mental blocks Charles Xavier has carefully installed in her mind. Now these blocks are being chipped away at, and the result will prove devastating for everyone. Meh. This is a preview. More on arrival because it really is something special: some of the X-Men’s very best issues until Morrison, Whedon and Ellis came along.

These won’t be up online with our Diamond previews because for the moment they don’t list UK books, but you can always place an order with us by phoning 0115 9508045 or emailing page45@page45.com

Due: they don’t say

Iron Man: Extremis h/c (£9-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Adi Granov.

Best IRON MAN story ever told. The US hardcover (admittedly larger than the standard Marvel size) is currently £18-99, while the softcover is out of print. Rather than clog up this column, please, please read my review of IRON MAN EXTREMIS here.

Due: they don’t say.


Big love to DC comics for a) the whole new DC New 52 but also b) not soliciting anymore DC Universe #1s this month. For that they get the dedicated message that you can read about all DC’s January 2012 release comics here, but also all DC’s graphic novels for January 2012 onwards which I may not have covered here.

How do you think Marvel behaved? Quite well for once actually so go on, then: all Marvel’s January 2012 release comics here (take a quick look at Brian Woods’ new Wolverine And The X-Men: Alpha and Omega mini-series, and that mountain of Marvel January 2012 Graphic Novels which I will not have covered here.

Navigate through the whole of Diamond’s previews for comics and graphic novels from January 2012 here.

 - Stephen

Reviews November 2011 week three

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

For it seems that not only are those people who arrive at the sheltered cove on this lovely sunny summer’s day prevented from leaving by some unexplained force, but they also begin to age far more rapidly than is normal, at a rate of years over hours.

- Jonathan on Sandcastle

Nelson (£18-99, Blank Slate) by Paul Grist, Rob Davis, Woodrow Phoenix, Ellen Lindner, Jamie Smart, Gary Northfield, Sarah McIntyre, Suzy Varty, Sean Longcroft, Warwick Johnson–Cadwell, Luke Pearson, Paul Harrison–Davies, Katie Green, Paul Peart–Smith, Glyn Dillon, I.N.J.Culbard, John Allison, Philip Bond, D’Israeli, Simone Lia, Darryl Cunningham, Jonathan Edwards, Ade Salmon, Kate Charlesworth, Warren Pleece, Kristyna Baczynski, Harvey James, Rian Hughes, Sean Phillips, Pete Doree, Kate Brown, Simon Gane, Jon McNaught, Adam Cadwell, Faz Choudhury, JAKe, Jeremy Day, Dan McDaid, Roger Langridge, Will Morris, Dave Shelton, Carol Swain, Hunt Emerson, Duncan Fegredo, Philippa Rice, Josceline Fenton, Garen Ewing, Tom Humberstone, Dan Berry, Alice Duke, Posy Simmonds, Laura Howell, Andi Watson, Dave Taylor.

“It was never supposed to be this way. We were supposed to be a team. You and me against the world. You left me, Sonny. Left me to do all this on my own.”

Oh, just pick your favourite UK creators: they’re virtually all there. Yes, you read the credits right, even TAMARA DREWE’s Posy Simmonds has joined in and half the joy of this unequivocal masterpiece is anticipating which top-tier artist is coming next!

This isn’t, however, an anthology: it’s a single story told by a relay race of craftsmen somehow coordinated with remarkable precision and dexterity by original instigator Rob Davis (DON QUIXOTE) and the mighty Woodrow Phoenix of RUMBLE STRIP fame. Each artist has been allocated up to half a dozen pages to recount a snapshot day in the life of one Nel Baker from 1968 to 2011, and the variety of styles is as delightful as the baton-passing is fluid. Not one single transition jars. Sean Phillips, for example, has switched styles accordingly from his detailed twilight to a no-less-expressive burst of open summer sunshine for a family confrontation over a barbeque. It’s absolutely seamless.

What’s more it is even appropriate that this book shifts styles, for each of our own differing days are coloured by our mood swings, our environment, the company we keep, the opportunities that arise, the maturity we muster… the drugs that we take, whether medicinal or otherwise. Harvey James’ evocation of a first rave fuelled by ecstasy is sublime, whilst the choice of Philippa Rice (MY CARDBOARD LIFE) to illustrate Nel’s recuperative holiday on ‘happy pills’ after Fegredo’s dark watercolour washes is absolutely inspired.

Nel Baker was born on June 15th 1968. Her dad anticipated a son and heir he was going to call Nelson. He even bought a hollow statuette of the navy commander to commemorate the day. Turns out that Jim and Rita Baker had twins, so they divided the one name in two: Nel and Sonny. Unfortunately Sonny lasted all of five months, leaving young, rebellious and hyperactive Nel with a vacuum in her life – a feeling of loss – which she is instinctively aware of from an early age, compensating with an imaginary substitute she blames for her own misdemeanours and which, after a series of hard knocks, will return to plague her later. As Nel grows older her one dream, vital vein and passion for Art is rubbed raw against both the pressures to earn a decent living, the supercilious antipathy of her tutors towards true individuality, and finally her materialistic younger sister’s badgering to give up, “grow up” and compromise; to settle down and live a life like hers with a husband, two kids and an extension. Her mother doesn’t give up on the idea of more grandchildren, either.

“Just part of “Operation nail Nel’s feet to the floor.””

Nel’s journey, like anyone else’s, is no straight trajectory. Friendships flourish, then some wither away; others are rekindled later on. Sometimes it’s the least likely ones whose bonds are strongest. Tabitha, raised in relative seclusion by her domineering, hyper-religious parents would seem an odd match for Nel but some rebellions start later than others and it may be the very clandestine nature of their friendship, conducted whenever they can, which appealed to the rogue in Nel. Sex has a habit of complicating things, even early fumblings. There’s a great scene drawn by D’Israeli, set on some swings as a fifteen-year-old Nel buckles under the threat of extra maths tuition at the expense of her afternoon Art lesson and she falls against Les, stealing a kiss. Surprised, he returns the passion only to get smacked in the face and called “perv!” But as Nel walks away her sly satisfaction is obvious…

Moments which appear random turn out to be key when reprised later on. The big ones I’ll keep to myself, but one of my favourite moments occurs when clearing out Aunt Kitt’s house. Nel would be sent to stay there occasionally as a child – why, she only discovers as an adult – and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell does a bang-up job in four short pages of breathing a ridiculous amount of complexity into the seemingly strict old lady.

“Do you remember my rules?”
“I am very welcome here and I am not to touch your things.”

But this same Aunt Kitt – who makes Nel wash up, peel the spuds and then pluck a chicken – merrily chuffs on a pipe all day, falls asleep in her armchair after a bottle of booze and has a house filled with exotica including a lavishly illustrated, leather-bound copy of 1001 Arabian Nights. And (just as I defaced my early LPs with wax crayon) Nel can’t resist scrawling all over the two beautiful pages before hearing Aunt Kitt stomp up the stairs. Gasping, she quickly returns to the book to the shelf. Thirteen years later and Nel’s back in that bedroom, and there on the shelf is the book with her juvenile drawings. A note falls out in Aunt Kitt’s handwriting… which will certainly make you smile!

Bursting with social history, this is virtually the story of our own lives too. Anyone living in Britain during this period will recognise the political events and cultural artefacts that in so many ways informed our existence: the overt racism of a previous generation that found its way into the home; the first moon landing, an event of such significance that whole families would congregate around their first TV set; energy shortages and three-day week; space hoppers, Daleks, ‘I Spy’ books; taping the Top Twenty by microphone on early cassette recorders, dancing to Mud’s Tiger Feet; the Notting Hill Carnival whose sound pounds on the pages thanks to Paul Peart-Smith; horrible orange and brown wallpaper; “Coal Not Dole” stickers, the Socialist Worker and mass unemployment; the rise of the vegetarian movement; the fall of the Berlin Wall; raves and ecstasy; September 11th… Facebook!

It’s familiar, it’s funny and halting in places, and I loved every single page by every single artist.

It’s also a very special book in that all the profits go to Shelter, the charity for the homeless (http://www.shelter.org.uk/) – both the publisher’s and some retailers’ as well. We took no discount but paid the cover price ourselves. So why not give a little Christmas cheer to those who need it most, and discover a new favourite artist at the same time, then pop them into our search engine to see what else they’ve created? I know I have. I’ve then followed them on Twitter!

SLH

Buy Nelson and read the Page 45 review

Hark! A Vagrant s/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Kate Beaton.

Witty jabs and stabs at history, science, art and literature, these anarchic strips always make me chuckle, whether its puncturing pomposity, mixing contemporary with ancient settings or having a full-blown go at our modern-day ticks and obsessions. Here Kate confounds a bewildered Jane Austen with her legacy:

“Dearest Jane! I found this today at the bookshop, I thought you would be most pleased.”

It’s a bumper book called Pride And Prejudice And Monster Trucks. Later:

“I saw this and thought of you!”

It’s Sense And Sensibility And Mister Darcy And Sharks In Space Riding Motorcycles Plus There Is A Time Machine. I’d take to the bottle too.

I loved the 15th Century Romance Comics (prospects limited), the extended Jane Eyre sequence (bad Mr. Rochester!), and the assorted attempts at judging a book by its cover. Meanwhile in Lindisfarne Monastery back in 793AD…

“Brothers, I fear an attack by the men of the north is upon us. We must hide. Save what you can. And pray.”

Two initially stern Vikings:

“Gyrth – come in here.”
“Like, I am busy setting this on fire.”
“Omigod no you have to see this. Illuminated manuscript.”
“Omigawd to die for. Did you even see the communion chalice I found?”
“Omigod omigod omigod.”
“Dear Diary – Lindisfarne trip…”
“SO AMAZING.”

SLH

Buy Hark! A Vagrant s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sandcastle h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Pierre Oscar Levy & Frederik Peeters…

Like a Roald Dahl penned television episode of Tales Of The Unexpected, this work starts with, on the face of it, a most mundane scenario – that of a typical family day out to the beach – and by adding only the slightest of twists, turns it into something far more sinister and horrifying. For it seems that not only are those people who arrive at the sheltered cove on this lovely sunny summer’s day prevented from leaving by some unexplained force, but they also begin to age far more rapidly than is normal, at a rate of years over hours. And as the various protagonists waste time, first pointing fingers at each other, then speculating increasingly wildly about outlandish theories as to why on earth this is happening to them, the sands of time keep moving ever more quickly, eventually with deadly results.

Penned by film-maker Pierre Oscar Levy, I really didn’t know what to expect from this work, as I’m not remotely familiar with his cinematic output at all, but this is great stuff, and perhaps his artistic background is responsible for making me think of Tales Of The Unexpected, thinking about it. Especially as sometimes with speculative fiction, it isn’t really about the ultimate ending, or indeed even getting to the truth of the matter of how exactly we arrived at the situation we find ourselves in, but about how the various characters react and interact with one another, that makes it so fascinating. That’s exactly the case here, as yes, we get some of the typical stereotypes sounding off to amusing effect, but also unexpected points of connection and tenderness, as the seriousness of the situation becomes ever more apparent.

Excellent art from Frederik Peeters, whose autobiographical work about his developing relationship with his HIV positive girlfriend (BLUE PILLS) we stock and highly recommend. I had forgotten how well he does facial expressions, and it’s certainly used to good effect here as the cast of characters goes through pretty much the full range of human emotions in what turns out to be one very long drama-filled day. I think this would probably appeal to those of you who enjoyed works like DAYTRIPPER and ONE SOUL as this is also something that’s a little bit different, but not too detached from the real world. As with those works, this is all about the people involved.

JR

Buy Sandcastle h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 2: The Mad Scientist And Mummies On Parade h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi…

The no-nonsense mademoiselle Blanc-Sec returns for another round or two of occult mentalism and monster-mash madness as first we have the Frankenstein-esque resurrection of a surprisingly suave and well spoken Palaeolithic man demanding vintage cognac and fine cigars upon his wakening, rapidly followed by the escape of all the mummies in the Louvre, plus the one Adele keeps in a display case in her lounge! Don’t expect it to make any sense, you clearly won’t if you read and loved VOLUME ONE of Adele’s extraordinary adventures as I did. Indeed much like, what seems an odd comparison on the face of it I’ll grant you, UMBRELLA ACADEMY you just have to enjoy the ever mounting sense of the ridiculous jammed in page after page, which Tardi is an absolute master at. I also now know why there was no sequel to the ARCTIC MARAUDER as I pondered after reading that fantastic work, as several characters make a brief Benny Hill-style chase reprise here, which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the plot, but did make me chuckle.

JR

Buy The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 2: The Mad Scientist And Mummies On Parade h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Metamaus: A Look Inside A Modern Classic h/c with DVD (£25-00, Viking) by Art Spiegelman.

“In a story that is trying to make chronological and coherent the incomprehensible, the juxtaposing of past and present insists that past and present are always present – one doesn’t displace the other the way in happens in film.”

 - Art Spiegelman, when asked “Why tell MAUS in comic form?”

Enormous resource for MAUS readers, those studying or wanting to learn about the Holocaust, or those looking to learn about the craft of comics in general.

The book itself features illustrated interviews about everything from the craft of MAUS – its panel composition, sentence compression, the materials used, early versions – to its and Spiegelman’s own reception in various different countries. Spiegelman’s asked why he chose to work in comics in the first place (early influences include the scribble game he played with his mother wherein she’d draw some random lines and he had to turn them into a coherent image with lines of his own; he also wanted to move into a zone that wasn’t his parents’ domain) and then why he chose this particular medium for this particular story (it would be opaque to his dad, so he could work on it without interference). Something he talks about which Bryan Talbot also insists on: that the images shouldn’t merely illustrate the words – why repeat what’s already there? – but tell stories in their own right. There’s a transcript of some of the recordings Spiegelman made of Vladek (his father), a chronology, interviews with Spiegelman’s children, his wife and RAW collaborator Françoise Mouly, and women who knew Anja in the camp. The illustrations themselves are worth the price of admission alone: complete comic stories published in The New Yorker, a wealth of preliminary sketches, photographs and publishers’ letters.

All that’s before we come to the DVD! This features the complete MAUS itself (fully searchable by page or phrase), thousands of preliminary drawings, essays, audio interviews with Vladek, two rare 1946 booklets of drawings and cartoons by death camp survivors, Art and Françoise’s Auschwitz home movie, 7,500 “barely sorted” sketches, drafts and documents… and more, more, more.

SLH

Buy Metamaus: A Look Inside A Modern Classic h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Vess: Drawing Down The Moon: The Art Of Charles Vess s/c (£22-50, Dark Horse Books) by Charles Vess.

At last master fantasist Charles Vess is given the art-book treatment he so richly deserves, and the production values could not be more lavish, each section introduced by a gold-framed translucent tracing of its initial full-colour reproduction.

Trees were never more knotted, fauns more nubile nor satyrs more shaggy and sylvan than under Vess. Fairies are never fey except in its truest sense, and there are few who can match Arthur Rackham’s visual successor when it comes to lighting up or casting the shadows of a wood. A particular treat for me was to discover the book-end illustration to A CIRCLE OF CATS (sadly out of print) blown up over a double-page spread and glowing with its newfound gloss. If you’re a fan of STARDUST then I must improbably inform you that almost every other illustration here is even more beautiful – although I could live without seeing the Spider-Man shots again.

Two hundred pages of enchantment, then, with the occasional comment and an introduction as astute as you’d expect from a writer of Susan Clarke’s calibre.

SLH

Buy Vess: Drawing Down The Moon: The Art Of Charles Vess s/c and read the Page 45 review

The Zombies That Ate The World vol 1: Bring Me Back My Head! h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Jerry Frissen & Guy Davis…

“Mr. Neard, you should know that Pop-Pop is my wife’s father and we are still very fond of him.
“But we can’t keep him here any longer. He’s incontinent!
“…And there’s our two children… how can I teach them the basics of healthy life and sound moral values with a dead… I mean a life-impaired man in the house, you see?
“Here’s the money, $500, like we agreed. And there’s an extra $100 for you to forget about it afterwards.”

In a world where zombies are returning from the dead with increasing rapidity, but not showing any interest in eating human flesh – just trying to continue their lives as before, albeit with rather less brain power – it’s been decided by the idiots in charge that they deserve the rights and respect given to living humans. There are, however, always those families who, having been rather happy to see an elderly relative finally shuffle off the mortal coil, are more than a little disappointed to see them spring right back up to undead life again. And so an underground service has sprung up for the illegal cremation of the… life-impaired. One such person who now makes a living performing this illicit service is Karl Neard, who likes to dress like a big game hunter, complete with safari suit and hat.

This is a very funny black comedy by Jerry Frissen, who I must admit I’m not familiar with, as the dubious services requested of Karl get ever more ridiculous, including tracking down the body of a famous zombie movie actress for a collector who is keen to add her to his harem of undead starlets when she rises from the dead. <SHUDDER>. It doesn’t go… quite as expected. But then it never seems to for Karl and his equally hapless crew as things get gradually more and more surreal and sublimely ludicrous. The art from Guy BPRD Davis, manages to add a suitably putrid feel to proceedings too, and believe me, this is one book that will leave you feeling decidedly less clean when you’ve finished it, given some of the rather necrophilic pursuits the more deranged characters – and that’s just the living ones – get up to!

JR

The Zombies That Ate The World vol 1: Bring Me Back My Head! hardcover

Princess Knight vol 1 (£10-50, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka…

“So then I wanted to add a velvet ribbon to the yoke of the blouse. What do you think?”
“Huh, interesting. That’d be like pouring curried rice onto a cream puff.”
“?”
“Well, if you’re going to babble nonsense I’ve no choice but to reply in kind.”
“Grrrr.”

Born with both spiritual girl and boy hearts in a female body after a cock-up in the angelic department responsible for dishing out tickers to new souls heading down to Earth, Sapphire is forced to pretend she’s a Prince in order to inherit her father’s kingdom and constantly thwart the devious Duke Duralumin’s dastardly plans to put his dimwit son Plastic on the throne instead. Having a boy heart as well as a girl one means that whilst she’s a feminine lady through and through, Sapphire is also a consummate fencer and brawler more than capable of holding her own against the most unpleasant ruffians.

What follows is a non-stop farce of mistaken identity and mischief aplenty as Sapphire manages to stay one step ahead of her foes, with the aid of guardian angel Tink who’s been sent to Earth to retrieve Sapphire’s boy heart, thus rectifying his own mistake. In fact God isn’t going to let him into heaven until he’s done so, but it’s just with trouble lurking around every corner requiring Tink to help keep Sapphire safe, there never seems to be a convenient moment for him to fulfil his divine mission. This is Tezuka on much more light-hearted, in fact positively whimsical form. So whilst it certainly doesn’t rank up there with his masterpieces like MW or ODE TO KIRIHITO for me, it is still jolly good fun. There are only two volumes, and it is possibly just as well, as it’s difficult to see how the premise could get stretched out much further without it becoming a little tedious.

JR

Buy Princess Knight vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Rachel Rising #3 (£2-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

“Okay, wow, you look freaky. It’s cool, though. You got the screw-me lips with the screw-you eyes. Totally bitchin’.”

They are pretty freaky eyes that Rachel has now. Also, it seems, the ability to see death looming. Well, she has been dead herself. Why is the silent blonde who’s shadowing Rachel causing so much corruption, death and destruction in those who should love each other? Best issue yet with at least three jaw-dropping moments of total shock, one of them the best action sequence from Terry so far. But it’s the silent gazes that are the most haunting.

All three issue currently in stock at the time of typing. Available to order by phoning 0115 9508045 or emailing page45@page45.com

SLH

Chronicles Of Wormwood: Last Battle s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Oscar Jimenez

Danny Wormwood: king of the American TV, worth a small fortune.
Danny Wormwood: now heavily in lust; it might even be love.
Danny Wormwood: owns a pet rabbit and is best mates with Jesus.
Danny Wormwood: is the Anti-Christ. And that rabbit is one filthy animal.

Danny won’t let his foul-mouthed rabbit mate for fear he’d make up for lost time and fill the flat with fluff – hundreds and hundreds of equally profane baby bunnies – while Danny himself, ecstatic to be back with his ex-girlfriend Maggie, is doing precisely that: making up for lost time and going at it… well, like a rabbit. So guess who’s pregnant? Uh-oh.

CHRONICLES OF WORMWOOD itself was a good start but this is infinitely better. Amongst all the horror and the laughter, Garth has some serious concerns well expressed by his cast about having babies, the responsibilities of raising children, self-determination versus indoctrination, capitalism, socialism and Americans’ propensity for taking words like oregano and murdering them. Also, the love of Jesus versus his probable reception by evangelical radio phone-in hosts. Funny. 

See, Danny and Jesus, who spend most of their time drinking in an otherwise empty bar, have both decided to ignore what’s expected of them and plough their own furrow. Danny’s actually a thoroughly decent human being, responsible and loving and determined to make this relationship with Maggie work. Regardless, however, how would you react to discovering you’re dating the Anti-Christ and pregnant with the son of the son of Satan? The horror (which will be the big draw for some) I can take or leave; it’s Ennis’ exceptional ability here to let his cast talk things through, thoroughly and with heart.

Meanwhile… one of Danny’s less successful media moguls has been outed in print and on television by his gormless, attention-seeking ex-wife as being into pre-op transsexuals after she’d gone post-op to please him. It didn’t. He kicked her out so she sued his ass off, taking the house and half his earnings. Now, just as he’s at his lowest ebb with a gun in his mouth, the TV starts sending him messages from a potential sponsor. It’s a very tempting offer.

Oscar’s rabid rabbit is enormous fun. His lines are crisp and detailed, while Juanmar’s lighting, when at its best, can be golden. You don’t have to have read the first book or CHRONICLES OF WORMWOOD: LAST ENEMY either (I haven’t read that, as it happens); this will work perfectly well for you on its own.

SLH

Buy Chronicles Of Wormwood: Last Battle s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Boys vol 9: Big Ride (£18-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun, John McCrea, Keith Burns.

“You see, what I did… my crime… was to give Butcher a war. A self-sustaining, never-ending conflict in which he can mete out the brutality and cruelty that lie at his core: forever. He can’t kill them all and he doesn’t want to. All he wants is to go on hurting the people that he believes hurt him.”

There’s a very funny opening splash to #58: a wall full of famous Marvel and DC covers with the protagonists pictured naked. Saucy! There’s also more of the sexual depravity you’ve come to expect from this series, and more than the odd bloodbath.

But some of this is sobering stuff as the tension mounts in an increasingly fragile stand-off between the Seven – the world’s most lethal team of superhumans – and The Boys who are determined to be their nemeses. There’s also division in the ranks as wee Hughie’s eyes begin to open and two of the Seven go off the deep end with catastrophic – truly catastrophic – results. If that wasn’t bad enough there’s a third force conspiring now to pit one against the other, and they’ve begun to make their move.

Also: what happened when Vought American Consolidated first foisted ill-disciplined superheroes without any military training nor comprehension of the chain of command on a tank regiment licking their wounds on The Line during the last winter of WWII? Garth Ennis knows his wars. And how will Annie react when she learns the truth about Hughie after he treated her so poorly himself? You’ve been worrying about that yourselves, haven’t you?

It’s a chunky one, this: twelve whole issues, #48-59.

SLH

The Boys vol 9: Big Ride

New X-Men vol 7 (Digest) (£10-99, Marvel) by Grant Morrison & Phil Jimenez.

“Xorn… why is that map upside down?”
“It’s a picture of the future, Charles… I call it Planet X. I’m teaching my students to imagine tomorrow, and giving them the tools to take them there…”

The penultimate volume of Grant’s inspired run on a previously brain-dead title before Joss Whedon then Warren Ellis took over in ASTONISHING X-MEN and raised the game even further.

Previously: the human race is dying out, replaced by mutants which themselves are evolving further; Cassandra Nova, Xavier’s twin, sends mutant-killing Sentinels to commit genocide in Genosha, wiping out Magneto in an instant; the school acquires a new teacher in iron-masked Xorn; Jean Grey begins manifesting the power of the Phoenix once more; Cyclops succumbs to the sexual charms of the sybaritic Emma Frost; Wolverine learns more about the Weapon X programme (it’s not the letter ‘X’ but the Roman numeral ten); Xavier comes out as a mutant (he is), the Beast comes out as gay (he isn’t); a new power-enhancing, lethally addictive drug surfaces; there’s a riot, a girl dies and now…

Xorn takes off his helmet.

“Logan… what’s happening here?”
“Get outta here, Jeannie! It’s a trap! Don’t you recognise this place?”
“Oh… Oh my God. Asteroid M!”

Yes, I’m very much afraid it is.

SLH

New X-Men vol 7

Punisher Max: Bullseye s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon.

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

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

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

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

JR

Buy Punisher Max: Bullseye s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Full Metal Alchemist vol 27 (£6-99, Viz) by Hiromu Arakawa

Final volume.

Which, I grant you, doesn’t really qualify as a review.

SLH

Buy Full Metal Alchemist vol 27 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up if they’re softcover of hardcovers. Regardless, you can now go straight to these books in the shopping area simply by clicking on their titles! Hurrah!

Depressed Cat: Nine Miserable Lives (£6-99) by Lizz Lunney

Hanuka: Overkill, The Art Of Tomer Hanuka h/c (£22-50, Gingko Press) by Tomer Hanuka

The Fracture Of The Universal Boy h/c (£20-99, Eidolon Fine Arts) by Michael Zulli

Juxtapoz: Illustration vol 2 h/c (£22-50, Gingko Press) by various

Scalped vol 8: You Gotta Sin To Get Saved (£13-50, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera, Jason LaTour, Davide Furno

Wasteland vol 6: Enemy Within (£10-99, Oni) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten, Remington Veteto

Captain Swing And The Electrical Pirates Of Condery Island s/c (£13-50, Avatar) by Warren Ellis & Raulo Caceres

Hi Fructose Collected Ed vol 1 h/c (£25-99, Last Gasp) by various

Unhuman h/c: The Elephantmen Art Of Ladrönn (£22-50, Image) by Richard Starkings & Ladrönn

Hip Flask vol 1: Unnatural Selection h/c (£22-50, Gold) by Richard Starkings, Joe Casey & Ladrönn

Hip Flask vol 2: Concrete Jungle h/c (£22-50, Image) by Richard Starkings, Joe Casey & Ladrönn

Elephantmen vol 1: Wounded Animals Revised Ed s/c (£14-99, Image) by Richard Starkings & various

Elephantmen vol 2: Fatal Diseases s/c (£18-99, Image) by Richard Starkings & various

Elephantmen vol 3: Dangerous Liaisons s/c (£18-99, Image) by Richard Starkings & various

Elephantmen vol 4: Questionable Things s/c (£18-99, Image) by Richard Starkings & various

Who Is Jake Ellis? vol 1 (£12-99, Image) by Nathan Edmondson & Tonci Zonjic

Mangaman vol 1 h/c (£13-99, Houghton Mifflin) by Barry Lyga & Colleen Doran

Mazeworld (£17-99, 2000AD) by Alan Grant & Arthur Ranson

Astro City: Dark Age Book 2 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson

Batman: A Death In The Family s/c (New Edition) (£18-99, DC) by Jim Starlin, Marv Wolfman & George Perez, Jim Aparo, Tom Grummett

Batman & Robin vol 2: Batman Vs. Robin s/c (£13-50, DC) by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart, Andy Clarke

Flash: The Road To Flashpoint h/c (£16-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Scott Kolins, Francis Manapul

Green Lantern: War Of The Green Lanterns h/c (£22-50, DC) by Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard, Peter J. Tomasi & Doug Mahnke, Tyler Kirkham, Fernando Pasarin, Ed Benes

Deadpool vol 7: Space Oddity softcover (£11-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Carlo Barberi, Sheldon Vella, Bong Dazo

Thor: The World Eaters s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Pasqual Ferry, Salvador Larocca

Ultimate Comics Doomsday s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Rafa Sandoval

Deadpool Team-Up vol 3: Bffs softcover (£11-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn, Rob Williams, Shane McCarthy, Rick Spears, Tom Peyer, Skottie Young, Stuart Moore & Tom Fowler, Matteo Scalera, Nick Dragotta, Phil Bond, Jacob Chabot, Ramon Perez, Shawn Crystal

X 3-in-1 Ed vol 1 (£14-99, Viz) by Clamp

Inuyasha vol 9 Vizbig Edition (£13-50, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Twin Spica vol 10 (£8-50, Vertical) by Kou Yaginuma & Kou Yaginuma

Fairy Tail vol 16 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

The Legend Of Zelda Box Set (£49-99, Viz) by Akira Himekawa

Reminder: I will be on stage and “In Conversation With” Bryan Talbot at 2.15pm until 3pm at the Bury Theatre in the Royal Amouries, Leeds, this Saturday 19th November. Both unrehearsed and uncensored, alarmingly the under 12s get in free.

 - Stephen

Reviews November 2011 week two

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

It’s even funnier when you see the “OUR LOVE IS REAL” background poster of a sturdy bloke in a dog collar embracing man’s best friend from behind!

 - Stephen on Our Love Is Real

Neonomicon s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows.

“It’s not like that with Lovecraft freaks, though. They play these weird games. Like, there’s these fictitious books Lovecraft mentions, mostly this thing called The Necronomicon. Some people believe it was real, and there’s been at least three ‘real’ versions published… It’s like, see, Lovecraft himself, he liked blurring the line between what was real and his invented stuff. So do his followers, and so does whoever’s behind all this.”

I warn you right now that Alan Moore’s follow-up to The Courtyard is brutal. Truly horrific.

The Courtyard itself is reprinted here and it’s far from a walk in the park: more like a wrong turning down the world’s worst alley at thirteen o’clock in the morning. There, FBI man Aldo Sax investigated a string of identical mutilations by at least three disparate and unlikely murderers, each of whom willingly confessed to some but not all of the crimes, leaving several unsolved. An expert in Anomaly Theory, Sax’s search for what must be a connection takes him to a nightclub called Club Zothique (“I plunge into an amphetaminefield of concussive music and light, full of underage heat.”) where a seemingly innocuous drug is being pushed and the local punk band don’t just spit vocal bile, they spout what appears to be nonsense. Is it nonsense, or a bizarre, arcane language? And what risks will the agent take to decipher it? The answer: one too many.

That one is ably adapted by Antony Johnston for comics, but NEONOMICON has no such excuse and as it kicks off, Aldo Sax is now safely locked away but the serial killings have continued because the vital secret behind this viral horror has yet to be solved. Well, it was: Aldo solved it at the cost of his grip on reality – or his immersion in another one. Now Federal Agents Gordon Lamper and Merril Brears pay him a visit to see if he’s willing to help. Instead – neither ranting nor raving, merely amused at their missing the point – he laughs in their faces…

“Yhunnuc lloigor ch’h'k b’nugh r’leh… Fhtagen rhan-tegath ia mugg’rh hu’gnai.”

… Until they mention the Club Zothique. Then his face is a real picture.

There’s also a picture – a mural – on the wall of the Courtyard itself, and that too is real; far too real for the officers’ liking when they track the drug dealer Carcosa there. They find him, oh yes they find him… on or in the mural itself. Perfectly drawn by Jacen Burrows that, Carcosa angled just so as he could be two-dimensional or three-dimensional.

Just like Lovecraft, Moore plays on our fears and messes with our minds, blurring the boundary between reality and fiction, between cause and effect. The fears? The loss of sanity, loss of control, and for those of us who are short-sighted, the loss of our glasses or contact lenses! Also the fear of being naked amongst creepy naked people, because I haven’t even begun to touch on the real horror here, when Lamper and Brears attempt to infiltrate a disturbing Lovecraft cult who start to undress, but when you come to the swimming pool you face the same stark choice as they do: play along by gingerly dipping your toe in the water, or turn around and run like crazy. Knowing what I know now, I would probably put the book down and never open it again.

SLH

Buy Neonomicon s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ganges vol 4 (£5-99, Fantagraphics) by Kevin Huizenga…

I’ve only had the misfortune of suffering real insomnia once, after a rather foolish third post-prandial double espresso at a particularly good Italian restaurant in Bedfordshire following a ‘business’ meeting many years ago. Sadly for me, I wasn’t at home with a full range of distractions available to me, unlike Glenn Ganges in this latest instalment of his ongoing grapple with life in general. Instead I was staying at a quiet hotel in the middle of nowhere.

This was also in the days where ‘24 hour’ television consisted solely of Pete Waterman and Michela Strachan ‘aving it large on the Hitman and Her on a Saturday night. Unfortunately for me, however, it was a Wednesday, so I had the choice of the test card or teletext. And, as the clock ticked its merry way on throughout the night, I, sans reading material of any nature save my road atlas and meeting notes, just lay there as my sense of wakefulness moved gradually from initial amusement, on to mild despair, developing into full blown existential crisis, before neatly circumnavigating briefly through hysterical laughter at about six a.m. when I finally fell asleep. For all of an hour before I had to get up….

Amusingly enough Glenn seems to pass through most of the same stages, whilst also finding time to fret about the size of his book collection, accidentally let the cat escape from the house and then have to retrieve it, and also get rather spooked by some innocuous shadows whilst half-asleep. Great fun as always from Kevin, he certainly knows how to spin a yarn out of almost nothing.

JR

Buy Ganges vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Hellboy: House Of The Living Dead h/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben.

“You choose to live a man’s life – live and suffer like a man – you can do that… But you will never be a man… You will never know the peace of the grave… You were born from Hell… and bound for Hell in the end.”

Brand-new, original HELLBOY graphic novel never released as a comic, illustrated by horror maestro Richard Corben (HAUNT OF HORROR, House On The Borderland etc.).

Mexico, 1956, and Hellboy has fallen off both the radar and the wagon. He was sent there to investigate a series of mass killings only to end up adding to the number when one of the three masked Mexican wrestlers he befriended was street-mugged by vampires. Our hero had no choice but to kill Camazotz, but now the memory’s killing him. Reduced to monosyllabic grunts, he’s hitting the bottle after riding the ring as a masked wrestler himself, but now he’s received an invitation he cannot refuse. The invitation is to fight a mad scientist’s reanimated cadaver stitched together from multiple corpses; he cannot refuse or a young woman dies.

It is, of course, a riff on Universal’s House Of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff as the scientist rather than monster, and it’s not long before Lon Chaney Junior’s Wolf-Man and John Carradine’s Dracula join in the fun. In its more sombre moments it’s a meditation on mortality and failure, but it’s mainly one big monster mash of hit and smash with mass destruction galore. Also: one laugh-out-loud moment of off-hand anticlimax delivered at precisely the right moment.

Fun fact I learned as a young horror movie buff: when playing Frankenstein’s monster, Boris Karloff’s jacket sleeves were cropped to make his arms look longer. It worked!

SLH

Buy Hellboy: House Of The Living Dead h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Joe The Barbarian h/c (£22-50, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Sean Murphy.

“You heard all that, right? Make sure you eat your candy.”
“Uh-huh.”
“Wish me luck. And say hi to your father for me. If it wasn’t for him, none of this would be happening.”

In the Veteran’s Cemetery, where his father lies buried:

“Hey, Dad. You suck.”

Joe’s Mum is on her way to see if they can somehow keep the house. Joe is drawing in his sketchbook. The Veteran’s Cemetery is the location of the school field trip, and the double-page spread from Sean Murphy – with its senescent, desiccated leaves swept across the stormy sky, over the regimented rows of simple white crosses between the white Palladian monuments - will have you tucking your scarf back in. I love what he does in several scenic panels with the autumn trees themselves, the leaves all jagged and crinkled and brittle.

Sean Murphy (HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS) was a revelation. I’ve compared him to Chris Bachalo circa mid-SHADE or DEATH: THE HIGH COST OF LIVING, but here he proves to be entirely his own man when Morrison grants him as much space as he could want to delineate in uncluttered detail Joe’s well-appointed attic bedroom reached through a rope ladder, then the deluge outside, and those tell-tale beads of sweat on the sleepy boy who emphatically didn’t eat his candy. What follows is a delirium which anyone who’s woken to a disconcerting semi-consciousness will be able to relate to; when you’re not sure how much you dreamed is your current condition. Is Jack shifting between reality and a dimension populated by his toys made animate? Or is it just his hypoglycaemia kicking in?

Sean Murphy switches effortlessly between young Joe’s flight from danger in his fevered imagination, and his real plight alone at home as he stumbles from his attic bedroom in order to find the fridge, to find something, anything with glucose in it. It’s deliberately, excruciatingly slow: by the end of the second chapter he’s only made it as far as the bathroom. On his back is the white mouse he let out of its cage; in his less lucid moments it’s a battle-clad, anthropomorphic warrior he’s freed from his dangling prison and who’s engaged in a war between Joe’s toys made animate. Anyway, he’s running his head under a bath tap. The bath is filling up, and it’s having a knock-on effect on the battle within…

Dave Stewart brings bright dashes of colour to Murphy’s beautiful silver birches. The landscapes are dotted with the white crosses from the real-world cemetery, and if you look closely at the fantasy buildings, they’re made out of Lego bricks! Also, half the fun is spotting exactly which toys are being referenced and I did laugh when he received a Star Trek phaser (possibly a centimetre in real-life length) for protection. The final few pages are beltingly well orchestrated, the worlds merging on the page for one final moment of pure serendipity.

This is a larger format than usual, all the better for swooning over Sean Murphy’s art, plus there are scripts in the back, sketchpad ideas, character designs, and Sean Murphy takes you on a guided tour of the house, what he designed, how he drew it and why. For me, the architecture itself was the star of the show and well worth the price of admission; for any aspiring artist those notes are golden.

SLH

Buy Joe The Barbarian h/c and read the Page 45 review

Sandman: Absolute Edition vol 5 (£75-00, DC) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean, Yoshitaka Amano, P. Craig Russell, Teddy Kristiansen, Milo Manara, Miguelanxo Prado, Barron Storey, Bill Sienkiewicz, Glenn Fabry, Frank Quitely.

Fifth and final oversized slipcased hardcover (well, sixth if you count ABSOLUTE DEATH) which contains a long-lost Sandman story I had completely forgotten about: ‘The Last Sandman Story’ with art by Dave McKean was only ever printed in the DUST COVERS collection. That’s followed by SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS, SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS (illustrated prose), the second version of SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS (P. Craig Russell’s comicbook adaptation) and finally the two-part SANDMAN MIDNIGHT THEATRE which saw Morpheus interact with Wesley Dodds from SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE.

Other extras are slimmer on the ground than before, but include all the variant covers to THE DREAM HUNTERS, P. Craig Russell’s preliminary sketches and – best of all – some retail promotional posters by Mike Dringenberg, Vince Locke, Michael Zulli and Frank Quitely which used to grace our own walls at Fantastic Store in the years before Page 45. Lastly, there’s more merchandise and the complete script to the Morpheus story in SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS with preliminary sketches for it by Miguelanxo Prado.

SLH

Buy Sandman: Absolute Edition vol 5 and read the Page 45 review here

A Flight Of Angels h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Holly Black, Louise Hawes, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, Todd Mitchell & Rebecca Guay…

“It’s an angel, is he dead?”
“He’s still breathing.”
“Let’s kill him quickly before he wakes.”
“Kill him? But he’s so handsome.”
“Handsome like a snake. That thing’s dangerous.”
“I have a suggestion on how we might proceed. Let’s conduct a tribunal.”

So what follows are five rather different stories about the natures of various angels and their intentions towards other less celestial fellow members of creation, particularly humanity, and thus the case made for life or death for the unconscious and quite literally fallen angel our motley coterie of faeries, pixies, hags, fauns and spirits find themselves debating over.

The stories, from the likes of Holly (THE GOOD NEIGHBOURS) Black and Bill (FABLES) Willingham are lovely little turns, absolutely exquisitely illustrated by Rebecca Guay to a level that at least matches my appreciation of P. Craig Russell’s version of SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS, she’s that good. So, rather sadly, just when I suspected this work was going to be added to the list of books I strongly recommend to fans of SANDMAN, LUCIFER etc. looking for something else enchanting, I read the ending, which just didn’t work for me at all. I’ve reflected upon it over the subsequent few days, just in case it was purely because it’s an ending I personally didn’t like, and maybe that is the case, but it just rather spoilt the whole thing for me, it didn’t seem convincing at all. I’ll still be recommending it to people, as the stories and art are most definitely that good, but perhaps when some of you good folk out there have read it, you can tell me what you think, whether the ending works for you or not.

JR

Buy A Flight Of Angels h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gifts From The Gods h/c (£13-99, Houghton) by Lise Lunge-Larsen & Gareth Hinds.

Pride and punishment: so many of the stories recounted here stem from self-satisfaction, boastfulness and all-round hubris before dear old Nemesis, in one form or another, reverses their fortunes and brings about that aphoristic fall. The Sirens and their song, Arachne with her tapestries, Croesus wallowing in wealth, and Tantalus finding even the most basic food and drink far out of reach after the worst menu selection of Come Dine With Me on record: stir-fried son.

Subtitled ‘Ancient Words & Wisdom from Greek & Roman Mythology’, it’s a grand book for any school-aged readers interested in classical mythology and etymology, Lise spinning yarns then explaining precisely how contemporary words or expressions derive their meaning either from their protagonists or from the stories told. It was a prank played by Pan (over and over again) that originally instilled ‘panic’ in people; an ‘echo’ is all that’s left of the prattling wood nymph of that same name who infuriated Hera so much by stalling the goddess long enough with her non-stop jibber-jabber for Hera’s husband Zeus to slip out of the grove the rogue was playing away in, that she condemned Echo never to speak again except to repeat the last words spoken to her; ‘January’ is our doorway from one year to another because Janus was the God of doorways, hallways, bridges, beginnings and ends, always on the look-out for enemies. Hence also the ‘janitor’ who looks after buildings. Poor janitors.

There’s more from the author afterwards explaining the Roman’s love of Greek mythology, hence adopting so much of it themselves, and a table of corresponding terms in both Greek and Latin along with their definitions. It’s illustrated by Gareth Hinds (THE ODYSSEY, BEOWULF, KING LEAR etc.), and I should perhaps have mentioned earlier that it is illustrated prose rather than sequential art. It’s also a little slim which actually makes it perfect for schools but lacking for adults, and I could have done without the opening non-classical quotations to each chapter. The rest is right up my alley, though.

SLH

Buy Gifts From The Gods h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Merchant of Venice (£9-99, Walker Books) by William Shakespeare, adapted by Gareth Hinds.

Promises, promises, and exchanges of vows…

Had Shakespeare decided to apply rhetorical skills to law instead of theatre then English literature would be much impoverished, yet I fancy many lost causes would have been won. The legal debate in the Merchant Of Venice is perfect evidence of that for its oratory – guilefully staged and executed by a disguised, fair Portia – serves both.

There are two main plot threads which are wittily entwined: the courtships and the court case.  Antonio secures an interest-free loan from Shylock to be repaid within three months so that his friend Bassanio can woo Portia (though he will have to solve a riddle which all others have failed at in order to prove his suitability as a suitor; priorities are important). The collateral he stakes – the forfeit Antonio will pay – is that proverbial pound of flesh: if he fails to come up with the goods, Shylock will be entitled to quite literally carve out a pound of Antonio’s flesh from wherever he chooses. Guess what happens next?

What’s interesting is that it’s the Venetians’ very goading of Shylock and his (hmm…) “Jew heart” that prompts this unorthodox approach to money lending. The ensuing court case – to determine whether Shylock is indeed entitled to start slicing and dicing – is an equally loaded affair, but it’s so incredibly clever than one can’t help but grin throughout. Portia hasn’t finished, though. Just as she tested her suitors so rigorously before even considering their hand in marriage, so now she tests Bassanio’s verbal fidelity versus gratitude for legal services rendered. Will he part with his engagement ring he swore never to remove and give it to his very own missus (the ironies of disguise – Shakespeare really loved that one), to thank her for saving his friend? Not really fair, Portia!

Hinds has, once more, chosen a completely different style to draw in here, with black line and blue more reminiscent of Dave McKean’s CAGES than his own colourful take on THE ODYSSEY. It really opens the play out as the cast roam the meandering streets of Venice, crossing its old brick bridges and meeting off St. Mark’s. It’s a contemporary version, but I don’t mean that in the same way that Anthony Johnston’s JULIUS radically reinterprets the play with real wit and relish; I mean the setting is contemporary and the language to begin with has been made more accessible before easing us gradually into something more closely resembling the original text when it’s at its most important (the court scene). It’s also, I should add, substantially abridged, which would have delighted me during my school trips to Stratford aged thirteen!

All this is discussed by Hinds in the back along with the key question one cannot avoid given the treatment of Shylock, and the constant, disparaging use of the word ‘Jew’: is this an anti-Semitic play or anti-racist tract exposing the raging anti-Semitism in Shakespearean England? Well, no it’s more acknowledged than discussed, and I can only add that I winced every time Shylock was hailed as “Jew” rather than Shylock but at least Hinds left it there for, one would hope, much discussion in schools.

SLH

Buy The Merchant of Venice and read the Page 45 review here

Nordguard Book 1: Across Thin Ice (£14-99, Sofawolf) by Tess Garman & Teagan Gavet…

Anthropomorphic Arctic action as the Nordguard search-and-rescue elite head into perilous conditions following a distress call from a distant mine. What they don’t know is that the mine has been captured by rogue forces, and the miners slaughtered to a man, or anthropomorphic equivalent. And they’re not going to find out either as this volume focuses entirely on the Nordguard’s arduous and perilous journey just to get there through the frozen tundra. I really did enjoy this all-action work, as will fans of BLACKSAD, GRANDVILLE, GRANDVILLE II, BEASTS OF BURDEN and ELMER etc. Recommended.

JR

Buy Nordguard Book 1: Across Thin Ice and read the Page 45 review here

Our Love Is Real one-shot (£2-99, Image) by Sam Humphries & Steven Sanders.

“Vegisexuals were fun to crush. They made me sick. Feeding plants illegal growth Thylakoids. Manipulating them with ultra spectrum lamps. And fucking them. So nasty. Made me proud to be a zoosexual. At least you can love an animal.”

It’s even funnier when you see the “OUR LOVE IS REAL” background poster of a sturdy bloke in a dog collar embracing man’s best friend from behind!

Short, sweet and very, very neat, this made me chuckle right the way through to its table-turning end. CBGB writer Sam Humphries isn’t parodying vegetarians, crystal energy converts, gay rights activists or animal welfare campaigners: he’s merging all these movements, dragging them into a future where heterosexuality appears to be extinct and extrapolating several scenarios I never saw coming! It’s all a bit TRANSMETROPOLITAN, with more than a nod to Howard Chaykin in the art.

Told from the perspective of dog-loving, riot-control-relishing Officer Jok, it centres around his close encounter with blonde-haired Brin, a mineralsexual who ‘communes’ with crystals, thereby adding a brand new meaning to ‘getting your rocks off’. Ironically for Jok, whose views on sexuality are so set in stone, it’s a life-changing experience – and you’ll never look at high-street jewellers in quite the same way again!

“Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.”

SLH

No Longer Human vol 1 (£8-50, Vertical) by Usamaru Furuya ~

Stuck for a new serial, manga-ka Usamaru Furuya comes across an online diary titled ‘No Longer Human’. Three pictures of the diary’s author adorn the site’s front page: one as a child, with a forced smile; the second of the author at 25, haggard beyond belief; the third is of the sharp-dressed and attractive 17-year-old he once was. What happened in the interim to turn that boy into such a haggard man, aged beyond his years, is what Usamaru discovers as he delves into these entries. The author, Yozo, once the well-to-do son from a rich family is a disillusioned and apathetic boy employing the facade of kindliness and sincerity in school. He feels no connection with his classmates, instead making observed and calculated responses to his interactions with them to camouflage himself as “ordinary.” But it frustrates Yozo; the act exhausts him so he finds recluse in an extracurricular art class, where he doesn’t have to play the same clown character from school. Instead here he pays the “cool guy” and befriends a genuinely nice man, Horiki, who is a true clown. Yozo finds his flippant attitude and outrageous stunts a welcome reflection, and with someone else playing that character, Yozo begins to slip further into his natural state. Their regular nights out, trawling brothels and bars, leads to Horiki considering Yozo a wingman, and together they attend a rally where Horiki hopes to score with this girl.

It’s as flippant a choice as anyone could make but Yozo drifting through life as if it’s an anthropological study finds himself engaging in tired political gathering. Horiki, surprised by Yozo’s sudden interest and spurned by the girl, drifts out of view now, such is Yozo’s attitude. It’s almost passively manipulative – you could argue all observers are – but Yozo’s opportunistic nature means that although he feels as detached as the title suggests, he can’t help but take anything and everything that comes his way. As the political agenda in the group turns into a hard-line terrorist cell, Yozo wilfully plays the hand which finds him in the core group. His absence from school finds his father stripping him of his fancy apartment and allowance, and the facade begins to become the reality. Yozo is no longer a rich spoilt brat slumming it with naive activists plotting to bomb corporations, including his father’s parent company. While before he was afraid of being found out, now disowned, he falls hard with no guilt to hold him back. And the one to pick him up is none other than the girl Horiki hoped to score with, and he doesn’t hold back when accepting her money, gifts, and advances. The shallow relief Yozo finds in her is quickly dashed when the leader of the group begins a campaign of jealously and revenge towards Yozo, cutting him off from his meagre digs with just the shirt on his back and his laptop in hand. It’s in this state he walks into a hostess bar with his last 1000¥ and a chance meeting with the first person he feels a true connection with, Ageha. In one month they will drown together along with their sorrow.

Based upon Osamu Dazai’s quasi-autobiography, this series transplants the harsh honesty of a young man’s downward spiral into despair from pre-war Japan into the modern day. Along the way it loses its historical context, its irreverence for society, and its punch. This bleak adaptation with its clean commercial art style feels more like a flaccid slap, it doesn’t even shock me let alone move my head.

TF

Buy No Longer Human vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Mr. Tiger And Mr. Wolf (£9-99, June) by Hiruno Ahiru.

Yaoi with cat ears. Not as niche as you’d think!

SLH

Buy Mr. Tiger And Mr. Wolf and read the Page 45 review here

Love Hina Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu -

Japanese teenage sex comedy. Don’t see many of those, do you? Well you see a lot really and this one sticks to the formula. Nineteen-year-old guy, not doing so well in college, finds himself trying to catch up on his grades while coming to terms with the new role of landlord of a girls’ boarding house. He’s nothing special (better for identification) but slowly all the girls (by turns brainy, domestic, trained-to-kill, tomboyish) fight their growing attraction while branding him a pervert. There are the usual mix-ups of ‘oops, I saw you naked’ and ‘oops, are these your panties?’ that crop up in all of them. I found myself laughing out loud as Keitaro falls prey to lady misfortune again and again. Easy to enjoy even tho’ you can hear the rustling of the man behind the curtain.

MAS

Buy Love Hina Omnibus vol 1 and read the Page 45 review

The Rinse #3 of 4 (£2-99, Boom Studios) by Gary Phillips & Marc Laming.

In which Page 45 opens its San Francisco branch: top panel, page two, and I do love our green-leaf variant logo! Along with Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING and David Lapham’s DAMAGE, it’s been one of three new crime series that have really endeared themselves to customers on the shop floor, and the full-colour art positively glows. Also: some of the best women’s hair!

For a full review of the first issue still costing an alluring 80 pence, please see Page 45’s comic reviews of September 2011 week one. For a look at the quality of colouring, the rain is really pouring down in this one-page preview of THE RINSE #4!

SLH

Batman: Noël h/c (£16-99, DC) by Lee Bermejo…

“Eggnog, sir?”
“KAFF KAFF. CAFF CAFF CAFF.”
“May I hazard a guess and say you’ve caught something of a cold running around outside in the freezing night, or would that just be too absurd an assumption?”
“I’m not sick, Alfred. It’s just the change in temperature and humidity of the cave…”
“Ah yes, most certainly. It is, after all, impossible for the ‘Dark Knight’ to get the sniffles.”

Ah, the good Noel, with his merry beard and jocular demeanour, dispensing cash presents to poor unfortunate folk on a daily basis, delighting many. Even so, Deal Or No Deal is a crap television programme; let’s be honest about it, it’s no Multi-Coloured Swap Shop is it? Which is my way of highlighting that purely for website search purposes, and to avoid the usual barrage of correspondence from the pendants amongst you (do you think we give out Page 45 No-Prizes or something?), we have listed this item as BATMAN: NOEL, rather than the correct version of e with a diaeresis, like so, indeed indulge me, if I may… voilàNoël – so that people will actually be able to find it on our website…

Right, grammatical niceties put to the sword, on with the review. What to make of this particular yuletide offering – only 47 days to Christmas as I type – from the artist responsible for frightening us all in illustrating Azzarello’s masterful statement that crime most certainly does not pay, well not if you’re employed by THE JOKER at least. Actually, we’re off to a slightly shaky start in my eyes as this is a very loose adaptation of A Christmas Carol, surely a story that’s been told and retold and reworked more times that there’s actually been Christmases no?

We have the usual three apparitions of past, present and future, the first two played by Catwoman and Superman, popping up to beguile and chastise an ill Batman, and various other characters assuming the roles of Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and even loveable Tiny Tim, bless him. Putting all the schmaltz aside, it is nicely done, and it does have a heart, and it does indeed also have a cameo from the Joker rendered from ear to grinning ear in Bermejo’s trademark slashed-cheek fashion as the ghost of Christmas future, so I can forgive the well worn conceit just this once, I suppose, and sit back and enjoy the mayhem. Otherwise, I guess it’d make me rather the humbug wouldn’t it?

JR

Buy Batman: Noël h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Justice League International vol 1 s/c (£13-50, DC) by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire.

“To this day, I can’t believe they let us have Batman.”

 - Keith Giffen, from the introduction.

Probably because they had no idea what you’d put him through! There’s so much squabbling – thanks primarily to recalcitrant Green Lantern Guy Gardner – that it’s a wonder they ever won. Giffen claims that he and DeMatteis never intended to be funny, but the cast forced on them (and on a perpetually infuriated Batman) made it pretty inevitable to any writers worth their salt, and Kevin McGuire’s mock outrage, bored yawns and petulant pouts played against an implacable, humourless and dictatorial Batman helped no end. Bruce here is like the stuffiest Dad in the world.

Who else is here, then? Martian Manhunter, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Dr. Fate, Mister Miracle, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, then Rocket Red and Captain Atom, all under the ‘supervision’ of Maxwell Lord, their self-appointed publicity officer. Yes, self-appointed! They don’t know him from Adam, but they will.

Now, I haven’t re-read it all to see how well it stands the test of time, but Mark was fond of very few superhero comics that weren’t written and drawn by Kyle Baker; this, twenty years ago, was a rare exception.

SLH

Justice League International vol 1 softcover

Preview Special. Review next week!

Before we begin, however, I do now have the book in my hand – it’s for sale on our site and on the shop floor – and it’s an absolute beauty! Half the fun is anticipating which top-tier creator’s coming next and I’ll tell you one thing right now: not only is the variety of art styles to die for, but not one of them jars: the baton-passing is completely fluid.

It’s also a very special book in that all the profits go to the charity for the homeless, Shelter – http://www.shelter.org.uk/  – both the publisher’s and ours as well. We took no discount on the book but paid the cover price ourselves.

So why not give a little Christmas cheer to those who need it most, and discover a new favourite artist at the same time?

Nelson (£18-99, Blank Slate) by Paul Grist, Rob Davis, Woodrow Phoenix, Ellen Lindner, Jamie Smart, Gary Northfield, Sarah McIntyre, Suzy Varty, Sean Longcroft, Warwick Johnson–Cadwell, Luke Pearson, Paul Harrison–Davies, Katie Green, Paul Peart–Smith, Glyn Dillon, I.N.J.Culbard, John Allison, Philip Bond, D’Israeli, Simone Lia, Darryl Cunningham, Jonathan Edwards, Ade Salmon, Kate Charlesworth, Warren Pleece, Kristyna Baczynski, Harvey James, Rian Hughes, Sean Phillips, Pete Doree, Kate Brown, Simon Gane, Jon McNaught, Adam Cadwell, Faz Choudhury, JAKe, Jeremy Day, Dan McDaid, Roger Langridge, Will Morris, Dave Shelton, Carol Swain, Hunt Emerson, Duncan Fegredo, Philippa Rice, Josceline Fenton, Garen Ewing, Tom Humberstone, Dan Berry, Alice Duke, Posy Simmonds, Laura Howell, Andi Watson, Dave Taylor.

Oh, just pick your favourite creator and they’re here.

Yes, you read right: even Posy Simmonds.

This isn’t, however, an anthology: it’s a single story told by a relay race of writers and artists somehow coordinated by Woodrow Phoenix who’s a bit of a legend at Page 45 on account of RUMBLE STRIP, SUGAR BUZZ and WHERE’S IT AT, SUGAR CAT? 250 pages.

“London, 1968. A daughter is born to Jim and Rita Baker. Her name is Nel. This is her story, told in yearly snapshots. Each chapter records the events of a single day, weaving one continuous ribbon of pictures and text that takes us on a 43- year journey from Nel Baker’s birth to 2011.

Part exquisite corpse and part relay race, Nelson spans decades of British history and a myriad of stylistic approaches in telling the story of one woman’s life by 54 creators, in 54 episodes, detailing 54 days. The result is a surprising and compellingly readable book that is sad, funny, moving, poignant, ridiculous, heartfelt, and real. This is a story like none you have seen before. All Profits from this book go to Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity.”

SLH

Buy Nelson and read the Page 45 preview

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up if they’re softcover of hardcovers. Regardless, you can now go straight to these books in the shopping area simply by clicking on their titles! Hurrah!

The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 2: The Mad Scientist And Mummies On Parade h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi

Metamaus: A Look Inside A Modern Classic hardcover (£25-00, Viking) by Art Spiegelman

Hark! A Vagrant s/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Kate Beaton

Vess: Drawing Down The Moon: The Art Of Charles Vess s/c (£22-50, Dark Horse Books) by Charles Vess

Sandcastle h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Pierre Oscar Levy & Frederik Peeters

Return To Perdition h/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Max Allan Collins & Terry Beatty

The Zombies That Ate The World vol 1: Bring Me Back My Head! hardcover (£18-99, Humanoids) by Jerry Frissen & Guy Davis

Kill Shakespeare vol 2 (£14-99, IDW) by Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col & Andy Belanger

The Boys vol 9: Big Ride (£18-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun, John McCrea, Keith Burns

Chronicles Of Wormwood: Last Battle s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Oscar Jimenez

Superman: Last Stand Of New Krypton vol 1 s/c (£13-50, DC) by James Robinson & Sterling Gates

Batman: Streets Of Gotham: Leviathan softcover (£13-50, DC) by Paul Dini, Mike Benson, Chris Yost & Dustin Nguyen

Punisher Max: Bullseye s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon

Spider-Man: Matters Of Life And Death s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Fred Van Lente & Stefano Caselli, Humberto Ramos, Marcos Martin, Ty Templeton, Nuno Plati

New X-Men vol 7 (Digest) (£10-99, Marvel) by Grant Morrison & Phil Jimenez

Incredible Hulks: Heart Of The Monster s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Paul Pelletier

Megaman Gigamix vol 3 (£10-50, Capcom) by Capcom

Maoh: Juvenile Remix vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Megumi Osuga

Tenjo Tenje 2-in-1 Edition vol 3 (£10-99, Viz) by Oh!Great

Princess Knight vol 1 (£10-50, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka

Bloody Monday vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ryou Ryumon & Kouji Megumi

We Were There vol 13 (£7-50, Viz) by Yuki Obata

Mameshiba: Winter h/c (£9-99, Viz) by Thomas Flintham

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys vol 17 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Urusawa

Rin-Ne vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Full Metal Alchemist vol 27 (£6-99, Viz) by Hiromu Arakawa

One Piece vol 59 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Blue Exorcist vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Naruto vol 53 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Bakuman vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Death Note Black Edition vol 6 (£9-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

A big round of applause for all the creators involved in NELSON previewed above, and to Blank Slate’s Kenny Penman for being so very generous himself in donating his publishing profits on what will surely be his biggest-selling book to Shelter.

- Stephen

Reviews November 2011 week one

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Nope, it’s not an Arnold Schwarzenegger / Walking Dead mash-up, though at the current rate at which the zombie virus is infecting modern culture, can that really be far away?

 - Jonathan on The Walking Dead Novel vol 1 Rise Of The Governor h/c

The Great Northern Brotherhood Of Canadian Cartoonists h/c (£18-99, D&Q) by Seth…

“I know that time is ticking toward twelve. But perhaps our day will dawn again. Maybe this graphic novel thing has some legs.”

There are some works which demonstrate their grand majesty, their epic qualities from immediately the moment you begin their first page; you just know you’ve struck gold as soon as you begin reading. And then there are those works which go quietly about their business, building their story, drawing you in little by little, encompassing your imagination further and further, until almost without realising it, you’re completely immersed in a marvellous and splendid world, on a journey that you never want to come to an end, and when you finish the final page and close the book, you’re already a little wistful for what you’ve just left behind.

This latest work from Seth is a classic example of the latter, though it actually almost never saw the light of day at all, as in its original incarnation in his sketchbooks, it started off as more of an essay on early Canadian cartoonists, and frustratingly for the author, wasn’t really progressing in the way he’d hoped. So instead he concentrated on the hilarious story of the world’s greatest comic collector, WIMBLEDON GREEN, and was apparently only convinced to return to this work after friends who’d seen the roughs convinced him there was a gem of a story waiting to told, and so he set to work. The first thing he did was completely revise his vision, and in fact ended up redrawing most of it, incorporating many fictional elements, to produce this finished work. So what exactly is the Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists?

Ostensibly it’s a story told on two levels, an actual tour of the headquarters of the said  club of luminaries by Seth himself, wandering round the various lounges, halls, corridors and studios, (several of which provide an art deco statement la Société des Artistes Décorateurs would have been proud of) whilst he narrates the great history of the club and regales us with examples of many of its famous members’ most outstanding and noted works, thus providing an elaborate illustrated history of the 20th Century’s most celebrated Canadian cartoonists. Except, of course, most of these people never existed and these stories were never told! For sure there are some nods to real-life greats like Doug Wright worked in there, clearly someone Seth has a lot of affection for, but on the whole it’s fictional stories about Eskimo astronauts, generational period dramas and flying ghostly canoes that capture the imagination. There are many, many tantalising tidbits of such stories shown to us, which I’d dearly love Seth to go back and expand on at some point, as they contain such wonderful ideas it seems a shame not to explore them further.

Even though Seth shows us a myriad of these creators throughout this book, the art style remains his own throughout, with only the most minor stylistic modifications employed to illustrate the many creators’ works. It’s a conceit that works extremely well actually, because otherwise it undoubtedly would lose the coherency that pins this work together, the sense of seamless progression through the ages as we wander deeper and deeper into the club itself, finally culminating in an appropriately wistful little rumination from Seth himself, quoted above, as he enjoys a quiet cigarette on the roof overlooking the city skyline. And if people can keep producing graphic novels as outstanding as this work, I don’t think we or Seth need worry about our beloved medium for a long, long time to come.

JR

Buy The Great Northern Brotherhood Of Canadian Cartoonists h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Manara Library vol 1 h/c (£45-00, Dark Horse) by Milo Manara, Hugo Pratt & Milo Manara.

“Milo Manara must live in a beautiful world. He certainly shares one with us. His work is not coy nor cute nor pretty. It is a joyous gift, a celebration.”

 - Frank Miller.

It is indeed a very, very beautiful world that Manara draws, and the vast expanse of frontier America where both these stories are set plays to his sense of space. Few are the artists who can make me linger so long on a humble shot of a wooden-beamed kitchen or seagulls that swoop in the sky. But both those tableux emphasise the space left unfilled, drawing your eye in, inviting you to look around at the unlaid table, the scene through the window or the clouds billowing up on the horizon. That isn’t, of course, why most read Manara. In his introduction Miller emphasises Manara’s sensuality, his eroticism, and he’s right. His women often flaunt it, raising their petticoats when they rarely have knickers, just as one does here just to feel the breeze. If that’s not sensuality, I don’t know what is. Nor is it just the women, for his nearly naked (then totally starkers) Native American youths are lithe of limb, their torsos twisting in the sea… before being shot. But then they have just raped a girl.

And this is where we come to the “thing” of it: Manara’s sex is often far from consensual and the mother in Indian Summer has already endured her fair share of it so her children have a very mixed lineage. She’s kept it to herself until now, but the opening sequence, entirely silent, is about to bring things to a head, and when the truth is revealed…

“Dear Lord, what manner of family is this. What are we?”

Complicated.

Manara’s world may be easy on the eye but not always so easy on its protagonists. The Puritans are usually the worst being so far from pure, and so it is here, but there’s a certain nobility and stoicism about Manara’s women. As a generality, I think that holds true, although I should point out that in this instance the writer is Hugo Pratt!

The second story’s written by Manara. The Paper Man is much more of a burlesque but, interestingly, it is the squaw – the only female protagonist – who alone retains her dignity in spite of spending most of it handcuffed by a chain to a deluded old English army (figurative) goat. Everyone else is buffeted about by a bonkers series of events/clinical conditions. She merely bides her time, making sly and spot-on, pithy rejoinders, confidently waiting for the lunacy around her to end.

SLH

Buy The Manara Library vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Drops Of God vol 1 (£10-99, Vertical) by Tadashi Agi.

Message In A Bottle.

“Ah, such demonic decadence! So sweet an inebriation!”

Connoisseurs will either love or hate this heady love affair with wine. It’s massive in France, won the Gourmand Cookbook Awards in 2009 and has been described by Decanter Magazine as “Arguably the most influential wine publication for the past 20 years”. Glass after glass is lifted to the light, assessed for colour and weight, and with each scent or sip our young wine tasters find themselves transported to flower-strewn strawberry fields, mixed orchards, or one “eternal parting” in a vineyard.

Shizuku Kanzaki is the son of wine critic Yutaka Kanzaki, famous throughout the world for his knowledge, eloquence and private collection, but he never followed in his father’s footsteps. Instead his childhood training in preparation – of being forced to smell everything from berries to leather belts – was so intensive it put Shizuku off wine for life. He’s never touched a drop. However, as the story opens his father lies dead after sampling one final bottle of red, and Shizuku is shocked to discover he won’t automatically inherit the estate. Instead he will have to compete for it with a cocky yet well informed wine critic his dad secretly adopted by blind-tasting wines, identifying them correctly, and matching their descriptions most accurately to the connoisseur’s own tasting notes.

The book is beautifully drawn with soft, crisp lines, silky hair and bottles that positively glow. When the pages open up to the landscapes evoked, it’s quite startling.

There’s intrigue aplenty as Skizuku embarks on various side-quests with the trainee sommelier whose job he saves with a spot of acrobatic decanting to breath air and life into a bottle of Richebourg… Indeed the discussion of the art, craft and history of wine making is far more extensive and detailed than I was expecting. It’s no wonder the French lapped this up.

Buy The Drops Of God vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

SLH

Bubbles And Gondola h/c (£12-99, NBM) by Renaud Dillies…

“Hello! Let me introduce myself. Mister Solitude at your service!”
“At my… what? But who are you?!”
“I told you: Mister Solitude. From now on, I’ll appear every time you feel lonely.”
“Every time I… What?!”
“Now, at this very moment when I’m talking to you, don’t you feel lonely?”
“Uh, no… well, yes but…”

Subtitled a ‘magical graphic novel’, I certainly found this work about Charlie the mouse, grappling with loneliness and writer’s block in his attic studio, a most charming affair. Fortunately for Charlie help is at hand in the form of a little blue bird with a battered top hat, who taps on his window and introduces himself. What follows is a breathless adventure amidst a madcap carnival, beautifully illustrated by Renaud Dillies. The morning after finds Charlie with a hangover, albeit content at having the mental cobwebs well and truly cleared, and whilst a weary-eyed accident might cost him his favourite coffee cup, that loss, along with the festivities of the night before provides the inspiration to get past his writer’s block in a wonderfully poetic ending to this story.

JR

Buy Bubbles And Gondola h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marzi: A Memoir (£13-50, Vertigo) by Marzena Sowa & Sylvain Savoia…

I had hoped for big things from this memoir of life growing up under Communist oppression in ‘80s Poland, but alas it’s no PERSEPOLIS. Marzena Sowa certainly captures the grim, boring, endless nature of life in such a strictured society, that is for certain. Possibly a little too well really, as I found this work a bit on the dull side to be honest. There’s only so much queuing up for rationed food you can take reading about, really. Plus there’s also a strong focus on exactly what she got up to as a child, just playing with her friends, and visiting her extended family mainly, and all too little social commentary for me. Plus it’s very, very heavy on narration, and just all feels like rather laborious going. So whereas PERSPEOLIS succeeds in captivating the imagination, I found rather the opposite going on here. Shame.

JR

Marzi: A Memoir

Spaceman #1 (80 pence, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso.

From the creative team that brought you the belting crime series 100 BULLETS and JONNY DOUBLE, an 80-pence introduction to something completely different.

Life on Mars is bleak. It’s ravaged by dust storms which threaten to breach the greenhouse. Our spaceman volunteers to brave the rocks which hurtle across the barren land… or is that just a dream? Orson is an ox of a man with a simian skull structure. He was genetically engineered to travel in space but instead forages in the debris-strewn waters which have engulfed our polluted planet. The air waves are flooded too – with celebutard gossip, so some things never change. A couple of film stars have boosted their career by collecting orphans from all around the globe who compete against each other on TV to join the happy family. One of the kids has been kidnapped. The police attempt to investigate but get no further than the stars’ publicist and lawyer: if the police want to speak to the stars, they’ll need to sign a contract! Orson, however, gets a great deal closer as, late that night, an expensive yacht explodes not far from his idling boat, and Orson finds himself with two new passengers and a whole world of trouble.

If at all possible, Risso’s shadows and silhouettes are more staggeringly beautiful than ever, and it doesn’t hurt that the colours are gorgeous, rich in reds and greens. Azzarello has invented some new slang and speech patterns you will need to adjust to, but you’ll get there. I haven’t a clue where this is going. I’m almost tempted to look at the next issues’ solicitation copy.

SLH

The Green Woman s/c (£13-50, Vertigo) by Peter Straub, Michael Easton & John Bolton

“Writers. Isn’t a writer born who doesn’t turn into a lying piece of shit the second he picks up a pen. Being good with words doesn’t exactly make you a fucking visionary, either.
“Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Fielding Bandolier. Of course, over the years I had to use some different names. Actually a lot of different names.”

For me this is the work of John Bolton’s fully painted, photorealistic career, although SHAME has just as much potential. I don’t always get on with his colour palette, but this is intense without being so dense and there are some fantastic pieces of foreshortening framed like Neal Adams used to. With one foot in the mantrap of crime, the other in the quicksand of horror, it’s also diseased and delirious, like a bad acid trip complete with subsequent flashbacks as first Fielding then Detective Bob Steele fall under the influence of the cursed Black Galleon and its Green Woman figurehead.

As Straub’s infamous serial killer, Bandolier is no stranger to death. It’s followed him from birth, and I don’t know how much of this has been detailed in the Blue Rose Trilogy prose, but his performance between Saigon and Long Binh in 1968 marked him out for a medal and flagged him for investigation by the C.I.A.. They saw right through him yet promoted the soldier anyway, giving him his very own army in Cambodia. It was there that he was married. That didn’t last long, but it’s stayed with him forever…

As the story kicks off Bob Steele and his partner are investigating a string of murders in which women as young as fifteen are being found in white dresses, marked out as virgins married to God. This and a necklace leads Steele to St. Mark’s Catholic Church where she’s identified by the priest:

“Sweet angel Rosanna Tucci, plucked from our congregation. These are trying times for men of the faith, detective. What with the, well, you know –”
“– Buggery and all.”
“– Decline in attendance. So perhaps you can empathise with my appeal for discretion in this matter.”

Is there a connection between Bandolier and the church, or is it more complicated than that?

It’s more complicated than that.

Indeed it will drive Steele abroad, then drive him mad, thence into the arms of the Green Woman herself. Rarely does a book tie up all its dangling threads so satisfyingly yet so surprisingly. Not for the squeamish, by the way.

SLH

Buy The Green Woman s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Walking Dead Novel vol 1 Rise Of The Governor h/c (£18-99, Thomas Dunne) by Robert Kirkman, Jay Bosinga…

Nope, it’s not an Arnold Schwarzenegger / Walking Dead mash-up, though at the current rate at which the zombie virus is infecting modern culture, can that really be far away? Instead we have the origin story of the most villainous character to appear in Robert Kirkman’s apocalyptic nightmare so far. Those of you up to date on reading the WALKING DEAD graphic novels will certainly be aware of the self-styled prison governor, but from chatting with customers in the shop it appears virtually none of you spotted the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it clue in a recent volume about precisely where he came from, because before he became the governor he was a happy member of the Washington survivors’ community. Then something happened, and he was ejected. This is that story. I have to say, I did wonder whether a prose work might be a step too far for this franchise, but actually, it is adds to the whole milieu and is excellently written. As ever with back stories for me personally, knowing the outcome of certain characters in advance tends to detract slightly, but that’s a small gripe.

JR

Buy The Walking Dead Novel vol 1 Rise Of The Governor h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Stitched #1 (£2-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Mike Wolfer.

Infinitely scarier than the film trailer I’ve seen which looks like late-period, first-generation Doctor Who. Some monsters are better drawn than filmed unless you have a far bigger budget.

An army helicopter crashes in high country, Eastern Afghanistan. Three soldiers survive it: two women and one man, walking wounded. Unfortunately they were the extraction team. Can they survive without food, water or medicine long enough to be rescued themselves? Unlikely: it’s not just the Taliban they have to worry about – the Taliban themselves are running scared… but from what? A little too short for my liking but one tiny detail in the final panel made all the difference and we shall certainly see.

SLH

Charley’s War vol 8: Hitler’s Youth (£14-99, Titan) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun…

“Hitler’s on his own again. He gives me the spooks sometimes.”
“Ja… He’s a weird one. He’s had a dozen escapes from certain death.”

Yes, it’s life on the front with Charley Bourne and his chums, this time around featuring an extended guest appearance from a certain young Austrian Corporal. The factual details given about Hitler in this volume, such as his much vaunted luck, including two incidents where he was the sole survivor of his entire regiment, are pretty fascinating in and of themselves. It’s pretty easy to see, actually, how his WW1 escapades probably engendered or at least enforced a sense of destiny in him. Or just drove him round the bend completely, depending on how you look at it! Still extremely high quality stuff from Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun at this point.

JR

Buy Charley’s War vol 8: Hitler’s Youth and read the Page 45 review here

Flashpoint h/c (£16-99, DC by Geoff Johns & Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope…

Everything has changed and only one man, Barry Allen, is aware of it. Well, two actually if you include Booster Gold, but presumably that will be tidied up in one of the many sidebar volumes collecting all the other stuff due for release shortly. So… in this world many of our beloved heroes are now villains, the villains themselves are even more villainous, and the world is at war as different factions like the Atlanteans and the Amazons vie for control of a partially submerged Europe. America isn’t under siege but the roster of heroes fighting the good fight there isn’t exactly like the real DC world either.

Confused as to whether he’s on a parallel Earth, or trapped in a different dimension, or just finally left his brain behind somewhere after one mad dash too many, Barry decides to turn to the one person he’s sure will have the answers, Batman. Except in this world it was poor little Bruce which died that traumatic night in Crime Alley, so who precisely is behind the cowl?

And that is where FLASHPOINT succeeds really well, in throwing up all sorts of weird and interesting differences and conundrums between the real DC world and this one. And much like BLACKEST NIGHT, many of the accompanying mini-series featuring these altered characters were actually rather good and did, by and large, add to the sense of scale of this particular ‘event’. Plus certainly as a read, this is far more fun that the ultimately anti-climatic let’s just all have a big fight that was the disappointing culmination of BLACKEST NIGHT.

Anyway, Barry has a theory why this has all happened, that the Reverse Flash is somehow responsible for rewriting history, because who else would it be, right? But is the dastardly Eobard Thawne really the one to blame this time? One thing for sure is Barry had better get a move on, as he’s only got five issues to sort it all out and restore things back to their proper state before the DC editorial team cancel every title in existence and then reboot* the lot from scratch! Begs the question why he’s even bothering then really, doesn’t it?

* Just to point out that every comic shop in the world was sent a rambling twelve-page email by the DC top nobs explaining why the DC New 52 malarkey was emphatically NOT a reboot. Eh?

JR

Flashpoint hardcover

Ultimate Comics X: Origins h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Arthur Adams…

Hmm, better Mr. Loeb, much, much better. Despite the truly protracted length of time it took to get the five single issues out, this is actually not bad at all, as post-ULTIMATUM, the remnants of mutantkind, hero and villain alike, are scattered and isolated, with a power vacuum at the top of the villainous pile after the death of Magneto. Clearly someone is going to try and fill that void and, in the absence of an obvious leader of the heroic mutants following the wholesale carnage and prodigious bodycount that Magneto caused with his impromptu surf safari, someone else is going to have to step up to that mark.

The current title Ultimate Comics X-Men penned by Nick Spencer (MORNING GLORIES, SHUDDERTOWN, EXISTENCE 2.0 / 3.0, Forgetless) follows directly on from this volume by the way. Excellent art, as per usual, from Arthur Adams, who I believe was the reason for the extreme delays with the single issues, bless him.

JR

Ultimate Comics X: Origins hardcover

Wolverine & The X-Men #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo.

In which a visit from the Department of Education school inspectors passes without incident. <snort> Everything that could possibly go wrong does go wrong on the first and possibly last day of term at the new Jean Grey School For Higher Learning, and teachers will surely empathise. There is, however, a great deal more that can go wrong in a school full of mutant misfits which boasts the most dangerous boys’ bathroom in history. That Kitty Pryde is headmistress is not unexpected; that Wolverine’s a headmaster is insane. The Toad is their janitor, by the way, and will be spending some considerable time cleaning up that bathroom later on.

Following directly on from the mini-series X-MEN: SCHISM (also by Aaron along with Vertigo’s SCALPED) wherein Cyclops and Wolverine stopped seeing eye to eye, there has been a mass evacuation from their island haven just off San Francisco, Wolverine opting to educate the children rather than have them fight. Joining their faculty is the Beast who stopped enjoying Scott Summers’ increasingly militant company quite some time ago plus Iceman, Gambit, Rogue, Rachel Grey, Cannonball, Chamber, Husk, Karma, Frenzy and Doop. Yes, Doop. He of the translatable alien language.

The schism was engineered by Kade Kilgore, school-aged son of a wealthy arms manufacturer who’s just inherited a fortune and multiplied it considerably by selling Sentinel technology on the back of the some pretty successful scare-mongering. It also secured him his seat as Black King of the Hellfire Club. His next move, then, is something of a surprise.

The whole of the first issue is played purely for laughs, and long may that continue. There’s even a school prospectus in the back complete with courses (Algebra Sucks: I Know, But You Still Have To Learn It is, of course, delivered by ‘Professor’ Bobby Drake who couldn’t even spell quadratic equation let alone solve one), extracurricular activities, special events and the proud school motto, “The best there is at what we do”. Chris Bachalo (DEATH, SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, GENERATION X) plays the perfect co-conspirator with cartoon comedy postures and expressions against backgrounds with an enormous attention to detail.

The Incredible Hulk #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Marc Silvestri.

Slight shift in style for Silvestri, possibly on account of the art assist from Michael Broussard and a trio of inkers. The forms are still gigantic, which is what you want for the Hulk – there’s plenty of smashing going down – but the lines are lighter and his monkeys are positively Leinil Francis Yu, he of ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS. ULTIMATE HULK which incidentally remains one of the best books on our superhero shelves. Sunny Gho’s colours whoosh all over the place as if they’re been applied by Magic Markers, too busy in places but very effective when dappling the island jungle with sunlight.

Brand-new start, then, and things have changed, though why remains a mystery. A fully cognisant, bearded Hulk with unkempt, shoulder-length hair, has taken up residence deep underground in the monstrously populated caverns of the… Moloids? Tyrannoids? Whatever. As ever, he just wants to be left in peace. He isn’t. Dr. Banner, meanwhile, has read one too many H.G. Wells novels and gone all Dr. Moreau. Also, he appears to be angry.

SLH

Venom s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10.99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Tony Moore.

Early release of the current VENOM series in which the man lurking inside the alien symbiote has changed yet again and been sent him out to work for the US government as a covert agent. It’s Flash – Flash Thompson, former bully now friend of Peter Parker – and keeping control of the ‘costume’ is far from easy. It may be enough to drive him insane. Remender you may know from one of the very many PUNISHER series, Tony from early WALKING DEAD.

SLH

Buy Venom s/c (UK Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

Sherlock Holmes: Year One s/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Scott Beatty & Daniel Indro…

After the excellent SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE TRIAL OF SHERLOCK HOLMES also published by Dynamite, I had high hopes for SHERLOCK HOLMES: YEAR ONE. But alas, whereas the former got not just a publicity pull quote but a two-page glowing afterword by one of the world’s foremost authorities on Holmes, particularly for the writers Leah Moore and John Reppion, your first clue that this work isn’t of the same calibre comes with the absence of any such praise. But then it is a completely different creative team this time around and it really, really shows. Certainly there’s the bristling bravado and requisite posturing from the main character, it’s just there’s very little mystery, and consequently not much sleuthing to delight us with. There’s a series of murders, and yes Holmes does guess the connection, but it hardly requires any effort, just a passing knowledge of history. Consequently this work reads more like an action story than a detective story, although the author does attempt to create a secondary plot strand with some of Holmes’ previously unknown back story, but it all seems rather shoe-horned in. I found the art pretty average too…

JR

Buy Sherlock Holmes: Year One s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up if they’re softcover of hardcovers. Regardless, you can now go straight to these books in the shopping area simply by clicking on their titles! Hurrah!

Sandman: Absolute Edition vol 5 (£75-00, DC) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean, Yoshitaka Amano, P. Craig Russell, Teddy Kristiansen, Milo Manara, Miguelanxo Prado, Barron Storey, Bill Sienkiewicz, Glenn Fabry, Frank Quitely

Nordguard Book 1: Across Thin Ice (£14-99, Sofawolf) by Tess Garman & Teagan Garet

Ganges vol 4 (£5-99, Fantagraphics) by Kevin Huizenga

Gifts From The Gods h/c (£13-99, Houghton) by Lise Lunge-Larsen & Gareth Hinds

30 Days Of Night vol 12: Night, Again (£13-50, IDW) by Joe R. Lansdale & Sam Kieth

A Flight Of Angels h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Holly Black, Louise Hawes, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, Todd Mitchell & Rebecca Guay

Joe The Barbarian h/c (£22-50, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Sean Murphy

Hellboy: House Of The Living Dead h/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben

Judge Dredd: Origins again! (£12-99, 2000AD) by Tess Garman & Teagan Garet

Superman: The Return Of Doomsday (£10-99, DC) by James Robinson, Jeff Lemire, Dan DiDio, Steve Lyons & Ed Benes, Philip Tan, Brett Booth, Miguel Sepulveda, Marco Rudy

Batman: Noël h/c (£16-99, DC) by Lee Bermejo

Justice League International vol 1 softcover (£13-50, DC) by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire

Justice League International vol 2 softcover (£13-50, DC) by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire

Love Hina Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

Cage Of Eden vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) byYoshinobu Yamada

Claymore vol 19 (£6-99, Viz) by Norihiro Yagi

Soul Eater vol 7 (£8-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Higurashi vol 15: Atonement Arc vol 1 (£8-99, Yen) by Ryukishi07 & Karin Suzuragi

Tokyo Mew Mew Omnibus vol 1 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Reiko Yoshida & Mia Ikumi

Yotsuba&! vol 10 (£8-99, Yen) by Kiyohiko Azuma

Spice & Wolf vol 5 (£9-99, Yen) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

No Longer Human vol 1 (£8-50, Vertical) by Usamaru Furuya

Air Gear vol 20 (£8-50, Kodansha) byOh!Great

Kimi Ni Todoke vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Karuho Shiina

Gunslinger Girl Omnibus vols 7-8 (£12-99, Seven Seas) by Yu Aida

Highschool Of The Dead vol 4 (£10-50, Yen) by Daisuke Sato & Shouji Sato

Black Butler vol 7 (£8-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso

Mr. Tiger And Mr. Wolf (£9-99, June) by Hiruno Ahiru

D. Gray-Man vol 21 (£6-99, Viz) by Katsura Hoshino

Tegami Bachi – Letter Bee vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Hiroyuki Asada

For those of you who do actually read this last bit but ignore our Previews, it’s just one more opportunity for me to hype one of next year’s biggest sellers (and I will take plenty more opportunities), DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES by Mary & Bryan Talbot due 02/02/2012. There be interior art indeed!

 - Stephen