Reviews November 2011 week two

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

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